828cloud

Data, Info and News of Life and Economy

Daily Archives: January 26, 2022

Chart: Lithium Reached an All Time High of 370,000 Yuan/tonne in January 2022

Source : Trading Economics

Historical Charts of Economy of Asian Countries

Source : Elsevier

Humour: News in Cartoons

2021是中國的監管年

作者: 趙耀華, 趙就琦 . . . . . . . . .

從中國經濟的角度而言,2021是具歷史意義的一年;若作一精簡總結,2021可謂中國經濟加強監管的一年。下文從三方面加以闡釋。

科網企業和數據安全

去年中國政府對互聯網的監管行動可追溯至2020年年底,阿里巴巴擱置旗下螞蟻集團的上市計劃後,隨即被有關當局約談整改,並付之實行。螞蟻集團手上最具價值的逾10億消費者數據庫,將成立錢塘徵信公司,由螞蟻、浙江省旅遊投資集團各持股35%,11月底已向人民銀行遞交申請。

2021年6月30日,滴滴出行在美國上市,兩日後卻傳來中國國家互聯網信息辦公室(網信辦)宣布對其啟動網絡安全審查的新聞,期間禁止新用戶註冊,應用程式下架。滴滴掛牌半年股價大瀉,最近決定從美國退市,轉來香港上市。

滴滴事件引起中國監管部門關注數據出境問題,網信辦10月底發布意見稿,數據處理者須申報數據出境安全評估。此外,數據處理者在境外上市亦需審批。

數據安全是新興的監管問題,對於互聯網平台的監管,亦包括對企業壟斷行為的慣常調查。阿里巴巴和美團先後因「二選一」壟斷行為,遭市場監管總局調查,阿里最終被重罰182億元人民幣。2021年7月,市場監管總局責令騰訊解除網絡音樂獨家版權,降低市場進入門檻,騰訊音樂的獨家版權時代隨之告終。政府施壓下,騰訊宣布旗下微信開放外部鏈接訪問功能,阿里旗下餓了麼、優酷等平台,已經接入微信支付等等。

教培雙減

教育部去年7月發布文件,提出「雙減」政策,一方面提升學校教育的品質,減少校內作業量,減輕學生負擔。另一方面是對校外培訓機構的全面規範。現有的學科培訓類機構重新審核登記為非營利性機構,一律不得上市融資。校外培訓機構不可提供境外的教育課程,不得佔用法定節假日、休息日,寒暑假期組織培訓。

據《信報》網上新聞報道,中國教育部最近表示,校外培訓機構治理取得進展,學科類培訓大減,線下和線上校外培訓機構都已減超過八成;其餘部分機構轉為非營利性機構,實行政府指導價,提供公益服務,不適合「營轉非」的將被註銷。明年將繼續把「雙減」督導作為教育督導「一號工程」,以取得新成效。此外,各地各校普遍制定了作業管理辦法,在規定時間內完成書面作業的學生佔比,由「雙減」前的46%,大大提升至目前逾90%。

由此觀之,「雙減」政策確實取得立竿見影的效果,不過世上沒有免費午餐這回事,雷厲風行背後是有代價的。限制補習活動,規定補習機構為非營利,被明令禁止的補習還是會出現的,比如由英語老師去做課外體育活動的導師,買一杯奶茶100元,送一小時與補習老師聊天等等。那些付得起錢的人仍然可以補習,然而,那些只能付出大眾化價錢的學生卻補習無門。換言之,交易成本上升了,教育的機會變得更不平等。再者,原本受僱於這個行業的補習老師和從業人員因而大批失業,對他們和他們家庭帶來的打擊,這都是「雙減」政策成效背後的成本。

傳播規限

根據「BBC中文網」,去年10月8日國家發展和改革委員會公布了《市場准入負面清單(2021年版)》(徵求意見稿)。

這份最新版的負面清單中,禁止進入事項的第六項:「禁止違規開展新聞傳播相關業務」,不准非公有資本在中國從事新聞採編播發業務,非公有資本不得投資設立和經營新聞機構。

2020年版的負面清單只是規定:「非公有資本不得介入互聯網新聞信息採編業務;任何組織不得設立中外合資經營、中外合作經營和外資經營的互聯網新聞信息服務單位」。是次公布的2021版則再經細化為以下六條:

  • 非公有資本不得從事新聞採編播發業務;
  • 非公有資本不得投資設立和經營新聞機構,包括但不限於通訊社、報刊出版單位、廣播電視播出機構、廣播電視站以及互聯網新聞信息採編發布服務機構等;
  • 非公有資本不得經營新聞機構的版面、頻率、頻道、欄目、公眾賬號等;
  • 非公有資本不得從事涉及政治、經濟、軍事、外交,重大社會、文化、科技、衞生、教育、體育以及其他關係政治方向、輿論導向和價值取向等活動、事件的實況直播業務;
  • 非公有資本不得引進境外主體發布的新聞;
  • 非公有資本不得舉辦新聞輿論領域論壇峰會和評獎評選活動。

中國的互聯網企業在傳媒領域有廣泛的布局,不知道這個更為具體的限制會為其帶來如何的衝擊,甚至有不得不退出這敏感行業的風險。事實上,中國政府對媒體的監管有增無已。去年8月有政府背景的中國公司入股字節跳動擁有1%的股權(「黃金股」),中國投資字節跳動的公司名為網球中國北京科技有限公司,該公司又為中國國家機構所擁有。具有國資背景的網球中國在字節跳動擁有一個董事會職位。同樣做法更早之前在微博亦已經出現。以「黃金股」入股的方式,是容許政府對公司的運營有更直接的參與與監管。滴滴出行最近也與北京政府協商,讓政府以黃金股方式入股滴滴,對關鍵營運策略亦有否決權。

除了對互聯網企業的影響之外,這個負面清單若嚴格執行,則會大大壓縮互聯網博客和自媒體的活動空間,並限制有關公共事務的討論。

對中國來說,2021年是監管之年,也是關愛之年,幾乎所有與老百姓息息相關的議題,都得到政府的關顧:從用戶數據安全,企業壟斷行為,教育開支太大,功課壓力,年輕人打機時間過長,有害新聞,以至要求藝人做到德藝雙馨等,一一得到政府的關愛。


Source : HKU

How Norway Popularized an Ultra-Sustainable Heating Method

Peter Yeung wrote . . . . . . . . .

When Karen Byskov Lindberg bought a house in Oslo in 2018, she set about a refurbishment that would drastically transform her energy consumption.

After removing the house’s old oil boiler system, she installed improved wall insulation, new window fittings, an air recovery system and, importantly, a heat pump. As a result, she says the structure’s average energy use has dropped from 35,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year to just 8,500 kWh – less than a quarter of what it was before.

“The energy use is extremely low,” says Lindberg, who is a 43-year-old university professor in the Norwegian capital. “It’s economically beneficial but also it reduces CO2 emissions.”

Like Lindberg, millions in Norway and across Europe are increasingly turning to heat pumps as a hyper-efficient, eco-friendly way to warm their homes. According to data from the European Heat Pump Association (EHPA), nearly 15 million households in Europe had heat pumps in 2020, up 7.4 percent from the year before.

But Norway is by far the leader of the pack. With 1.4 million units, it has 604 heat pumps installed for every 1,000 households. The next closest are Sweden with 427 per 1,000 and Finland with 408 per 1,000.

Heat pumps began appearing in Norway after the oil crisis of the 1970s, according to Rolf Iver Mytting Hagemoen, secretary general of the Norwegian Heat Pump Association, when a government-funded program to encourage their use was established. Yet for years they remained relatively niche, he says, with less than 10,000 heat pumps installed by 2005.

But Norway’s embrace of heat pumps eventually arrived, fueled by government subsidies, high fossil fuel taxes, low electricity rates and restrictions on oil boilers (which have been banned since 2020). “There was initially slow growth in heat pumps in households since 2000,” says Hagemoen. “But Norway was an early mover in the market. It’s now the leading country in Europe.”

While heat pumps are yet to become widespread globally, Hagemoen says they offer several benefits compared with traditional heating. Low maintenance and cheap to run, they work as both a heating and cooling system, and have a very efficient conversion rate of energy to heat. They’re also light on emissions if the electricity used is renewable. “If you want to be independent of gas, you need other solutions,” says Hagemoen. “And when it comes to electricity, heat pumps are hard to beat.”

Heat pumps, which can operate at external temperatures of -25°C (-13°F) and provide hot water at 65°C (149°F), come in several forms. The most common is the air-to-air pump, which looks similar to an air conditioning unit. It sucks in air and distributes it over a system of tubes filled with a refrigerant liquid, which warms and turns into a gas. The pump compresses the gas back into a liquid to release the stored heat, which is spread through radiators or underfloor heating, working like a refrigerator in reverse.

Nick Eyre, professor of energy and climate policy at the University of Oxford and director of the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions, says that heat pumps are one of the most effective options to decarbonize heating systems.

“Hydrogen is an option, but it’s some way off [from large-scale use],” he says. “In some countries, such as in Scandinavia, there’s biomass. But when it comes to electricity-powered energy, the heat pump is much more efficient.”

In most developed countries with temperate climates, about 30 to 40 percent of household energy consumption is used for heating, according to Eyre. “It’s a serious problem and it does need to be solved,” he says.

One issue, however, is that in some countries demand for energy is “strongly winter-peaked.” That can mean huge seasonal strains on the network. “In a climate like the UK, we basically use very little space heating for six months of the year,” he says. “In the other six months, there’s a big variation.”

Four times as much energy can be used at peak times when compared to a normal day –0 far more than current infrastructure would allow for. “The amount of electricity capacity and stations you would need would be very large, implausibly large,” he says. “That’s a conundrum for decarbonizing heating. That’s the long-term challenge, the generating capacity and the wires in the ground.”

Another obstacle is the upfront cost. According to Hagemoen, while air-to-air systems are the cheapest option at around €1,500 to €3,000 (USD $1,700 to $3,400), air to water heat pumps can cost up to €15,000, and geothermal systems, the most efficient, can cost over €25,000. At the same time, gas boilers remain very cheap in many European countries. “Most people are more interested in the investment costs,” he says. “So for the moment you need subsidy schemes and building regulations for people to choose heat pumps.”

But Lindberg says that while her initial investment of 2.3 million krone ($250,000) for the complete refurbishment is expensive, it will pay for itself in the long term, while being much better for the environment. “The reason people don’t invest in geothermal heating is because it’s expensive,” she says. “But the gains you make are through the lifetime of the investment. The house will stand for the next 60 years.”

As it stands, only six percent of Europe’s 244 million residential buildings have heat pumps installed, according to the EHPA. While the European Commission aims to phase out fossil fuels in heating and cooling by 2040, that means 40 percent of residential and 65 percent of commercial buildings will need to be heated with electricity by 2030. To achieve those goals, the EHPA estimates the number of heat pumps in use will need to increase to 50 million.

Meanwhile, technological advances could see heat pump use expand beyond households and into industry. Norway is developing a heat pump that can produce temperatures of up to 180°C (356°F), and according to research by Sintef Energy Research, the Norwegian University of Science & Technology, and industrial partner ToCircle, the technology could allow a fifth of all European industry to cut its energy use by 70 percent.

“As the technology gets more popular across Europe it will get cheaper and cheaper, just like solar panels have,” says Hagemoen. “It is the technology of the future.”


Source : Reasons to be Cheerful

‘Stealth Omicron’ Starting to Get Noticed, Setting Off Some Alarms

Frank Diamond wrote . . . . . . . . .

Initial data suggest that it appears to be more infectious than even the highly infectious original Omicron variant.

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” but it has nothing to do with Machiavellian political machinations that the quote alludes to in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The rottenness this time around has to do with the activity of what some experts refer to as the “stealth Omicron”—BA.2—that appears to be much more infectious than even the highly infectious Omicron—or BA.1.

The Statens Serum Institut, a Danish research institute dedicated to fighting infectious diseases, said in a press release that “the subvariant BA.2 accounted for 20% of all COVID-19-cases in Denmark in week 52 increasing to approximately 45% in week 2. During the same period, the relative frequency of BA.1 has dropped.”

The Statens Serum Institut notes that the strain seems to be spreading in other countries, notably the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Norway. But the spread in those countries at the moment appears much less intense than what’s going on in Denmark.

Not so slow, however, that the health officials in those counties aren’t concerned. The U.K. Health Security Agency just today updated its list “SARS-CoV-2 Variants of Concern and Variants Under Investigation in England” to include stealth Omicron. “Omicron also contains the clade BA.2,” the Agency states. “This is being separately monitored and assessed from a technical perspective and is included in overall Omicron case counts.” The Agency states that it has confirmed 426 cases of stealth Omicron in the UK.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) says that it has identified over 8000 cases of stealth Omicron in more than 40 countries including the US.

Statens Serum Institut also states that “initial analysis shows no differences in hospitalizations for BA.2 compared to BA.1. Analyses regarding infectiousness and vaccine efficiency etc. are ongoing, including attempts to cultivate BA.2 in order to perform antibody neutralization studies. It is expected that vaccines also have an effect against severe illness upon BA.2 infection.”

So, just how much of a threat does stealth Omicron pose?

Like almost everything else about COVID-19, it depends on which expert you ask, although all experts at this point say that it’s too early to tell what stealth Omicron might be up to.


Source : Infection Control Today

How the Timing of Dinner and Genetics Affect Individuals’ Blood Sugar Control

Michael Morrison wrote . . . . . . . . .

Blood sugar control, which is impaired in individuals with diabetes, is affected by various factors—including the timing of meals relative to sleep as well as levels of melatonin, a hormone primarily released at night that helps control sleep-wake cycles. In research published in Diabetes Care, a team led by investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and the University of Murcia in Spain conducted a clinical trial to look for connections between these two factors.

“We decided to test if late eating that usually occurs with elevated melatonin levels results in disturbed blood sugar control,” says senior author Richa Saxena, PhD, a principal investigator at the Center for Genomic Medicine at MGH.

For the randomized crossover study that included 845 adults from Spain, each participant fasted for eight hours and then for the next two evenings had first an early meal and then a late meal relative to their typical bedtime. The investigators also analyzed each participant’s genetic code within the melatonin receptor-1b gene (MTNR1B) because previous research has linked a variant (called the G-allele) in MTNR1B with an elevated risk of type 2 diabetes.

“In natural late eaters, we simulated early and late dinner timing by administering a glucose drink and compared effects on blood sugar control over two hours,” explains Saxena. “We also examined differences between individuals who were carriers or not carriers of the genetic variant in the melatonin receptor.”

The team found that melatonin levels in participants’ blood were 3.5-fold higher after the late dinner. The late dinner timing also resulted in lower insulin levels and higher blood sugar levels. (This connection makes sense because insulin acts to decrease blood sugar levels.) In the late dinner timing, participants with the MTNR1B G-allele had higher blood sugar levels than those without this genetic variant.

“We found that late eating disturbed blood sugar control in the whole group. Furthermore, this impaired glucose control was predominantly seen in genetic risk variant carriers, representing about half of the cohort,” says lead author Marta Garaulet, PhD, a professor of physiology and nutrition in the Department of Physiology at the University of Murcia.

Experiments revealed that the high melatonin levels and carbohydrate intake associated with late eating impairs blood sugar control through a defect in insulin secretion.

“Our study results may be important in the effort towards prevention of type 2 diabetes,” says co-senior author Frank A.J.L. Scheer, PhD, MSc, director of the Medical Chronobiology Program at BWH. “Our findings are applicable to about a third of the population in the industrialized world who consume food close to bedtime, as well as other populations who eat at night, including shift workers, or those experiencing jetlag or night eating disorders, as well as those who routinely use melatonin supplements close to food intake.”

The authors note that for the general population, it may be advisable to abstain from eating for at least a couple of hours before bedtime. “Genotype information for the melatonin receptor variant may further aid in developing personalized behavioral recommendations,” says Saxena. “Notably, our study does not include patients with diabetes, so additional studies are needed to examine the impact of food timing and its link with melatonin and receptor variation in patients with diabetes.”


Source: Massachusetts General Hospital