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Daily Archives: February 18, 2022

U.S. Existing Home Sales Up in January 2022

Source : Bloomberg

Chuckles of the Day

Free Oranges

A young teenaged girl was a prostitute and, for obvious reasons, kept it a secret from her grandma.

One day, the police raided a brothel and arrested a group of prostitutes, including the young girl. The prostitutes were instructed to line up in a straight line on the sidewalk.

Well, who should be walking in the neighborhood, but little old Grandma. The young girl was frantic. Sure enough, Grandma noticed her young granddaughter and asked curiously, “What are you lining up for, dear?”

Not willing to let grandma in on her little secret, the young girl told her that some people were passing out free oranges and that she was lining up for some.

“Mmm, sounds lovely,” said Grandma. “I think I’ll have some myself,” she continued as she made her way to the back of the line.

A police officer made his way down the line, questioning each of the prostitutes.

When he got to Grandma, at the end of the line, he was bewildered.

“But you’re so old… how do you do it?”

Grandma replied, “Oh, it’s quite easy, sonny… I just remove my dentures and suck ’em dry!”

* * * * * * *

Rape charges

Bill and Sam, two elderly friends, met in the park every day to feed feed the pigeons, watch the squirrels and discuss world problems.

One day Bill didn’t show up. Sam didn’t think much about it and figured maybe he had a cold or something. But after Bill hadn’t shown up for a week or so, Sam really got worried.

However, since the only time they ever got together was at the park, Sam didn’t know where Bill lived, so he was unable to find out what had happened to him.

A month had passed, and Sam figured he had seen the last of Bill, but one day, Sam approached the park and — lo and behold! –there sat Bill! Sam was very excited and happy to see him and told him so. Then he said, ‘For crying out loud Bill, what in the world happened to you?’

Bill replied, ‘I have been in jail.’

‘Jail?’ cried Sam. ‘What in the world for?’

‘Well,’ Bill said, ‘you know Sue, that cute little blonde waitress at the coffee shop where I sometime go?’

‘Yeah,’ said Sam, ‘I remember her. What about her?’

‘Well, one day she filed rape charges against me. At 89 years old, I was so proud that when I got into court, I pleaded guilty.’

‘The damn judge gave me 30 days for perjury.’

Can-Do: How China’s Canning Industry Preserved Local Tastes

Zou Zetao wrote . . . . . . . . .

You’ve probably heard of Cup Noodles, but what about canned kung pao chicken? To appeal to the country’s overworked, underfed young consumers, Chinese canned food brands have started marketing “meals for one,” a sort of TV dinner for the mandatory overtime era. Inside each can, you’ll find entire dishes, from kung pao chicken to fish-flavored pork.

The “meal for one” format may be new, but it’s just the latest in a long line of attempts to convince Chinese of the merits of eating out of a can. Interestingly, the most successful of these products haven’t been basics like tuna or fruit, but full-fledged regional delicacies: chicken stew from Shandong, ham from Yunnan, spicy yellow croaker from Liaoning, and black bean and dace fish from Guangdong. There are even desserts in a can, like peanut soup from Fujian and canned sweet coconut soup from the tropical island province of Hainan.

The dominance of local producers and products in China’s canned goods market is linked to how the country first came to accept canned goods — imported products initially viewed with deep skepticism. The first canned goods were imported into China by foreign merchants in the 1870s and 1880s, with local consumers treating them as curiosities rather than staples. By the early 20th century, only a few canned items — milk, coffee, and lobster, somewhat — had developed a market among a small subset of wealthy Chinese shoppers, most of who had ties to the West.

It wouldn’t be long, however, before a group of local Chinese canneries began to wonder if the problem wasn’t the cans, but their contents. Enterprising local business owners began to research and develop canned regional specialties, and by 1915, merchants from Yancheng in the eastern province of Jiangsu were selling canned Shanghai-style drunken fish and crab, produced by local companies to meet local tastes. Soon, popular family dishes like winter mushroom chicken were being canned and sold by Chinese companies, and over the course of the 1920s and 1930s, well-known brands like Shanghai’s Guan Sheng Yuan rolled out new canned vegetarian dishes, including the stir-fried favorite “Buddha’s Delight.”

Ads for canned goods during this period often emphasized their freshness and supposed hygienic qualities. The main form of food preservation for Chinese at that time was pickling, in which large amounts of salt were used to preserve meat or vegetables. Because canned food was fresher than pickled food, and because it did not sap the fresh flavor of the ingredients the way pickling did, cans soon caught on, at least where they were widely available. And because cans were also easier to transport, especially before the advent of cold chain logistics, their rise allowed dishes popular in one region to travel far more freely and widely than ever before.

Take Ningbo bamboo shoots, for example. A Ningbo specialty, once canned, the dish spread from this Yangtze River Delta port city through the rest of the region, before eventually hitting Shanghai. In the process, the cuisine of the entire Delta region was altered. After consumers and businesses in the increasingly international metropolis of Shanghai embraced the dish, it spread even further: Ahead of the 14th Summer Olympic Games in 1948, Shanghai-made canned bamboo shoots were issued as rations for the Chinese delegation sailing to London.

Between 1950 and 1953, China’s participation in the Korean war resulted in a boom in demand for canned goods. A number of canneries sprang up to supply the country’s volunteer armies on the peninsula, and the canning industry expanded rapidly. After the war ended, however, those manufacturers faced a problem: with domestic demand for canned goods still quite low, who would buy their excess stock? The answer came in the form of exports, as high-quality domestic canned goods from China were sold on international markets. From the late 1950s to the mid-1980s, Chinese-made canned goods became one of the country’s key export industries, reaching dinner tables in the Soviet Union, Western Europe, and Japan.

At home, however, the high cost of metal in pre-reform China, to say nothing of the fruit or meat inside, turned canned goods into a luxury item, one generally reserved for pregnant women, the sick, and others in need of concentrated boosts of nutrition. Although not necessarily popular, they were rare and costly enough that gifting canned foods during major holidays like the Lunar New Year or Mid-Autumn Festival became a way to give “face” to respected relatives or peers.

That changed after China’s economy took off in the 1980s. After successive waves of marketization, consumers began viewing the largely unregulated food industry with suspicion, and increasingly cheap canned foods, somewhat unfairly, became associated with the use of dangerous additives.

The industry still hasn’t recovered, though not from lack of trying. Recently, Chinese canned goods companies have embraced the trend toward “national chic,” attempting to woo consumers by increasing their offerings and playing up Chinese cultural elements in their packaging. Other firms have emphasized the convenience of canned goods, positioning their products as “healthy” alternatives to oily, salty takeout dishes.

Through it all, the industry has remained a patchwork of local companies and delicacies. Chinese consumers never quite embraced this revolution on the same scale as their counterparts in the United States or Europe, but there’s no denying that canned goods reshaped tastes and brought together once disparate local cuisines. That’s worth celebrating, even if you’re not yet ready to make a meal out of canned fish-flavored pork.

Source: Sixth Tone

Infographic: American Companies That Failed in China

See large image . . . . . .

Source : Visual Capitalist

California Adopts Nation’s 1st ‘Endemic’ Virus Policy

Don Thompson wrote . . . . . . . . .

California became the first state to formally shift to an “endemic” approach to the coronavirus with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement Thursday of a plan that emphasizes prevention and quick reaction to outbreaks over mandated masking and business shutdowns.

The milestone, nearly two years in the making, envisions a return to a more normal existence with the help of a variety of initiatives and billions in new spending to more quickly spot surges or variants, add health care workers, stockpile tests and push back against false claims and other misinformation.

“We are moving past the crisis phase into a phase where we will work to live with this virus,” he said during a news conference from a state warehouse brimming with pandemic supplies in Fontana, east of Los Angeles.

The first-term Democrat, who last year survived a recall election driven by critics of his governance during the pandemic, promised the state’s nearly 40 million residents that as the omicron surge fades, “we’re going to keep them safe and we’re going to stay on top of this.”

A disease reaches the endemic stage when the virus still exists in a community but becomes manageable as immunity builds. But there will be no definitive turn of the switch, the Democratic governor said, unlike the case with Wednesday’s lifting of the state’s indoor masking requirements or an announcement coming Feb. 28 of when precisely schoolchildren can stop wearing face coverings.

And there will be no immediate lifting of the dozens of remaining executive emergency orders that have helped run the state since Newsom imposed the nation’s first statewide stay-home order in March 2020.

“This pandemic won’t have a defined end. There’s no finish line,” Newsom said.

The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020, and with omicron fading in many parts of the world some countries have begun planning for the endemic stage. But no state has taken the step Newsom did and offered a detailed forward-looking plan.

Republicans have been frequent critics of Newsom’s handling of the coronavirus and were quick to disparage his latest effort. State GOP Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson called it “an extra-large helping of word salad” and renewed the call to “follow the lead of other blue states and end his state of emergency or lift his school mask mandate.”

Newsom’s plan sets specific goals, such as stockpiling 75 million masks, establishing the infrastructure to provide up to 200,000 vaccinations and 500,000 tests a day in the event of an outbreak, and adding 3,000 medical workers within three weeks in surge areas.

Newsom’s administration came up with a shorthand acronym to capsulize key elements of its new approach: SMARTER. The letters stand for Shots, Masks, Awareness, Readiness, Testing, Education and Rx, a reference to improving treatments for COVID-19.

Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, an epidemiologist at the University of Southern California, said while some may argue these should have come sooner, he believes “the timing is right on.”

“Surveillance, testing, vaccination and treatment make the context very different and make it appropriate to shift our response from a pandemic response of trying to do everything possible, to a more rational response to try to implement things that we have strong evidence that work,” Klausner said.

The plan includes increased monitoring of virus remnants in wastewater to watch for the first signs of a surge. Masks won’t be required but will be encouraged in many settings.

If a higher level of the virus is detected, health officials will determine if it is a new variant. If so, state and federal officials have a goal to within 30 days determine if it responds to existing tests, treatments and immunities from vaccines or prior infections.

California’s health secretary, Dr. Mark Ghaly, said one of the goals is to avoid business closures and other far-reaching mandates. However, he said the state’s requirement that schoolchildren be vaccinated against coronavirus by fall remains in effect.

The plan includes new education, including “myth-buster videos” to fight misinformation and disinformation and help interpret ever-evolving precautions for a confused public whiplashed by safeguards that seemingly shift by the day and vary across county lines.

In coordination with the federal government, it calls for a first-in-the-nation study of the pandemic’s direct and indirect impacts long-term on both people and communities.

All this will cost billions, much of it already outlined in the pandemic response package Newsom sought as part of his budget last month. That includes $1.9 million that lawmakers already approved to boost staffing at hospitals and increase coronavirus testing and vaccine distribution, as well as existing money and anticipated federal funds.

His proposed budget also includes $1.7 billion to beef up the state’s health care workforce, with more investment in increased laboratory testing capacity, data collection and outbreak investigation.

Newsom, who has faced criticism for sometimes failing to follow his own rules, defended keeping in place some of his executive emergency orders, which he said most recently have allowed the state to quickly bring in temporary medical workers and to quickly distribute more than 13 million home test kits to schools.

Those orders have dwindled from 561 to fewer than 100 in recent months, he said, and his administration is working with legislative leaders to eventually make them unnecessary.

Source : AP

HKU Electrical and Electronic Engineering Researchers Make MRI Technology Accessible to Large Populations Worldwide

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology is a widely used albeit costly tool for diagnosing brain injuries and strokes. Its high procurement, installation and operating costs, however, mean much of the developing world has no access to it.

Researchers from the University of Hong Kong (HKU) have successfully developed a new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology, the ultralow field (ULF) 0.055 Tesla brain MRI, which can operate from a standard AC wall power outlet and requires neither radiofrequency nor magnetic shielding room.

The research team was led by Professor Ed X. Wu, Chair of Biomedical Engineering and Lam Woo Professorship in Biomedical Engineering of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, HKU. The research output was published in Nature Communications, and also highlighted in Nature Asia and Scientific American.

The HKU team is one of the three leading ULF-MRI academic research groups worldwide, with one based at Harvard/MGH, dedicated to developing novel ULF-MRI technology. Their goal, as shared by researchers like Professor Wu, is to popularise and broaden the use of MRI.

As an MRI researcher for over 30 years, Professor Wu is delighted and derives a strong sense of fulfilment from the development of what he calls a “scaled down” MRI scanner that is far more affordable than what is on offer in hospitals. The human body is mostly made of water molecules, on which MRI thrives, said Professor Wu. “MRI is a gift from nature and we must use it more. Currently, it is underutilised as a diagnostic tool.”

It is estimated that currently more than 90% of MRI scanners are located in high-income countries, and two-thirds of the world’s population do not have access to them. The total number of clinical scanners is estimated at only about 50,000 worldwide.

Professor Wu’s team has made the design and algorithms of ULF 0.055 Tesla brain MRI open-source knowledge, available to all interested in developing the technology further or applying it in diverse areas.

This virtually opens the door to making advancement in various aspects of healthcare provision in terms of MRI applications. “This will be a big field; we have demonstrated the concept and shown the feasibility of a simplified version of MRI. There are many ways to move forward.”

With the use of a deep learning algorithm, Professor Wu’s team has removed the constraint in conventional MRI, namely the need to be shielded from outside radiofrequency signal, which results in a bulky, non-mobile set-up. The existing MRI scanners are essentially a giant magnet, and need a purpose-built room to shield them from outside signals and to contain the powerful magnetic fields generated by their superconducting magnets, which require costly liquid helium cooling systems.

“In short, it is our new computing and hardware concept that made the latest development possible,” said Professor Wu.

He is confident that a critical mass of researchers could push the frontiers of knowledge. “Open source approach is the quickest way to spread knowledge. We hope MRI can be used in more fields other than radiology, for example in paediatrics, neurosurgery or the emergency room. We welcome more people from the scientific, clinical and industrial sectors to undertake research to benefit healthcare,” he said.

In collaboration with Professor Gilberto Leung of Neurosurgery and other clinicians at Queen Mary Hospital, his team had validated the results of using ULF-MRI by comparing them with images obtained from a standard 3 Tesla MRI machine. They could identify most of the same pathologies, including stroke and tumors results, despite the lack of clarity and resolution required for precision diagnostics.

A conventional, typical MRI machine can cost up to US$3 million, yet the ULF-MRI scanner costs only a fraction of this price.

Professor Wu said: “I believe computing and big data will be an integral as well as inevitable part of the future MRI technology. Given the inherent nature of MRI, I believe widely deployed MRI technologies will lead to immense opportunities in the future through data-driven MRI image formation and diagnosis in healthcare. This will lead to low-cost, effective, and more intelligent clinical MRI applications, ultimately benefiting more patients.”

The paper, “A low-cost and shielding-free ultra-low-field brain MRI scanner” was published in Nature Communications.

Read the paper . . . . .

Source : HKU