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Daily Archives: May 9, 2022

Chart: China Export YoY Down and Import YoY Flat in April 2022

Source: Bloomberg

Chart: Bitcoin Down More Than 10% in Trading Today

Source : Trading Economics

Chart: China’s Services Sector Slumps Further as COVID Battle Intensifies

Source : Caixin

In Pictures: Food of Quintonil in Mexico City, Mexico

Fine Dining Mexican Cuisine

No.27 of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants in the World 2021

Apple Just Launched Its First Self-repair Program. Other Tech Companies Are About to Follow.

Apple Just Launched Its First Self-repair Program. Other Tech Companies Are About to Follow.

Maddie Stone wrote . . . . . . . . .

On Friday, Microsoft released the results of an independent study it commissioned exploring the environmental benefits of making its devices easier to repair. Its conclusions affirm what right-to-repair advocates have been saying for years: Fixing devices instead of replacing them reduces both waste and the emissions associated with manufacturing new ones.

Based on these findings, Microsoft will be taking actions to enable greater repairability of its devices by the end of the year, as stipulated in an agreement the tech company reached with investor advocacy nonprofit As You Sow last fall.

Microsoft’s study release came just two days after Apple launched “Self Service Repair,” a first-of-its-kind program that allows owners of recent iPhone models to order genuine Apple parts and tools to conduct basic smartphone repairs, like screen and battery replacements, at home. More such programs are coming: In late March and early April, Samsung and Google announced plans to sell genuine parts for smartphone repairs via partnerships with the repair guide site iFixit. Both of those programs appear on track to launch in the next few months.

From a consumer perspective, these actions are small steps toward a world in which tech titans actively facilitate repair of their products rather than standing in the way of it. Companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Google have not only historically designed products that are hard to fix, but also have a well-documented history of fighting bills that would support consumers’ right to repair them. For these corporations, repair audits and programs represent a major shift in policy that would not have come about without a mix of public and shareholder pressure, as well as the specter of looming laws and regulations aimed at curbing Big Tech’s anti-repair practices.

Companies are also changing their tune on repair because restricting it is increasingly at odds with their climate and sustainability goals, something shareholders have been keen to point out.

Microsoft’s new repair study affirms that independent repair has tangible environmental benefits.

Conducted by technical consultancy Oakdene Hollins, the study looked at how facilitating repair through design changes and an increase in repair options would affect the waste and carbon emissions associated with Microsoft Surface Pro, Surface Book, and Surface Laptop Studio devices. According to a summary Microsoft published today, repairing Microsoft products instead of replacing them can reduce waste and carbon emissions associated with manufacturing new devices by up to 92 percent.

The study found greater greenhouse gas emissions reductions when consumers had access to local repair options, underscoring the importance of supporting independent repair businesses and allowing capable fixers to repair their devices at home.

Tech companies aren’t waking up to the environmental benefits of repair all on their own. As As You Sow investor advocate Kelly McBee previously told Grist, when she first reached out to Microsoft about its restrictive repair policies last spring, the company told her it saw no connection between repairability and sustainability. When she met with Microsoft earlier this month to review the results of its study — which came about through a shareholder agreement As You Sow and Microsoft reached in October — Microsoft’s attitude had changed.

“They actually thanked us for bringing this to their attention,” McBee told Grist. “Which was a really different vibe from the first meeting — and they acknowledged that as well.”

McBee is optimistic that Microsoft will follow through with the second part of its shareholder pledge, to act on the results of its study by the end of 2022. She noted that the company has already taken a few steps toward enabling independent repair, including releasing a video showing how to disassemble its Surface Laptop SE in January, and launching a program in December that allows independent repair professionals to purchase Microsoft service tools from iFixit.

“By the end of 2022, we will have expanded options in place for customers to have their devices repaired,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Grist in an emailed statement. “Independent repair is one piece of this portfolio of repair options and, by the end of 2022, we will undertake a limited pilot program to enable repair of certain devices by qualified independent repair shops.”

As Microsoft was negotiating a shareholder agreement with As You Sow last fall, Apple was facing a similar shareholder resolution introduced by the mutual fund company Green Century — one that asked the iPhone maker to “reverse” its anti-repair practices in order to bolster its climate commitments. While Apple initially tried to block the resolution, it instead wound up announcing its plan to launch the Self Service Repair program just in time to prevent the resolution from moving forward with the Securities and Exchange Commision, the federal investor protection agency.

Apple has been tight-lipped about Self Service Repair since announcing it last fall, and before this week, Apple fans were starting to wonder if the company had forgotten about it. Now that it’s live, the repair community will be scrutinizing the program closely. Already, iFixit has raised concerns about how Apple parts are paired with individual devices based on their serial number — something that could allow Apple to restrict the use of those same parts to fix other phones in the future. Apple didn’t respond to Grist’s request for comment on this concern.

Over the shoulder view of man working on interior of smart phone with small screwdriver
Apple’s Self Service Repair program allows owners of recent iPhone models to order genuine Apple parts and tools to conduct basic smartphone repairs at home. Apple
The Self Service Repair program is also limited in scope, offering spare parts, repair tools and manuals only for Apple’s iPhone 12 and 13 lineups as well as the third generation iPhone SE — and only for U.S. customers. But Apple says it will be expanding the program to additional countries, as well as adding manuals and tools to repair M1 Mac computers, later this year.

Despite the limitations of Apple’s program, its existence is symbolically a big deal. “For good and for ill, Apple has a huge influence on the behavior of competitors,” Nathan Proctor, who heads the right-to-repair campaign at the nonprofit U.S. Public Research Interest Group, told Grist. Apple’s effective capitulation to the right-to-repair movement last year by agreeing to launch a self-repair store very likely “turned up the heat on other companies,” Proctor says.

That includes Google and Samsung, both of which now have self-repair programs in the works. The Samsung program, which the company says is slated to launch this summer, will allow owners of a Samsung Galaxy S20 or S21 smartphone or a Galaxy Tab S7+ tablet to purchase genuine display assemblies (screens with a glued-on battery), backglass, and charging ports via iFixit. The Google program, which will make genuine screens, batteries, and other parts needed for Pixel smartphone repairs available through iFixit, is also on track for the summer, iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens told Grist. The companies, Wiens says, have been enthusiastic partners on these programs, offering feedback on iFixit’s latest Samsung and Google repair guides in addition to developing the replacement parts pipeline.

Green Century shareholder advocate Annalisa Tarizzo, whose firm also filed a proposal with Google asking the company to increase access to repair, told Grist that Google has agreed to meet with shareholders twice over the next year to “talk through more details” of the program, something she sees as a “good-faith effort” to follow through with it.

All of these programs — if and when they come to fruition — are baby steps toward a world in which consumers are able to repair and maintain their devices indefinitely rather than being forced to upgrade every few years. Advocates say there is more each of these companies could be doing to bring about such a future. For instance, they could make parts and repair documentation available for more of their products: Tarizzo said she’d love to see Google expand its new iFixit partnership to include Nest thermostats. Tech companies could also come out vocally in favor of the right to repair at Congressional hearings and when submitting public comments to agencies, and distance themselves from anti-repair lobbying efforts.

Even industry leaders like Dell, which designs some of the most fixable devices out there in addition to regularly publishing repair manuals for, is still a member of trade groups that lobby against repair-friendly legislation, like TechNet and the Consumer Technology Association. If companies that lead on repairability within their own product lines took a more public stand by calling out their own trade groups or industry peers for retrograde positions on repair, Proctor told Grist, that could be game-changing for the industry.

“If we actually want to make a huge change in the sustainability of our electronics, we need leadership,” Proctor said. “We need companies pushing the boundaries of what can be done.”


Source : Grist

China COVID Lockdowns Revive the Ghosts of a Planned Economy

Li Yuan wrote . . . . . . . . .

Yang Wenhui should be a proud example of China’s rise from economic rubble to global powerhouse.

Growing up poor, he ate so much cabbage that he did not touch it again for many years. He worked as a farmer and a construction worker before joining the country’s nascent logistics industry. In 2003, he started his own freight logistics company, striking gold as online shopping took off in the 2010s and products moved swiftly between provinces.

Then the omicron variant started spreading in China. In the government’s zealous pursuit of its “zero-COVID” policy, dozens of cities along the 1,300 miles of highway between the capital, Beijing, and the southern province of Guangdong, his main freight route, imposed travel restrictions and lockdowns. Many truckers were grounded. Cargo prices rose 20% in a matter of weeks.

“I’ve been in the logistics business for 28 years,” Yang, 47, said. “But I’ve never seen a mess like this. There were numerous emergencies to deal with.”

He estimates that he lost tens of thousands of dollars in March.

China’s economy is a giant, sophisticated machine that requires numerous parts to work together. Behind its 1.4 billion consumers are 150 million registered businesses that provide jobs, food and everything that keeps the machine humming.

Also read |Explained: Why is China seeing a spike in Covid-19 cases, and should India worry?
Now, in the name of pandemic control, the Chinese government is meddling with the economy in ways that the country has not seen for decades, wreaking havoc on business.

Businesspeople worry that the country is going back to a planned economy, and the great COVID disruptions could last until after a Communist Party congress late this year when China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, is expected to secure a third term. A surge in cases in Beijing is amplifying global fears as well, prompting a sell-off in stocks on concerns that China’s economy could take another hit.

In the past two years, many governments around the world have sought a balance between controlling the pandemic and keeping businesses open. China was largely successful until recently when omicron, a milder, if more infectious, variant, caused a serious outbreak. As much of the world is opening up, the country is doubling down on its zero-COVID policy, making low death and infection rates central to its legitimacy.

Since March, China has reported about half a million COVID infections and 48 deaths through April 22.

Around 344 million people, or a quarter of the country’s population, are under some kind of lockdown, according to investment bank Nomura. The lockdowns have left China’s biggest city, Shanghai, a metropolis of 25 million people, a ghost town; farmers in the northeastern granary cooped up in the spring planting season; and many factories, shops and restaurants across the country suspending their operations.

The stringent measures are exacting a heavy toll on the economy. Nationwide consumption fell 3.5% in March, while spending at restaurants plummeted 16%, according to official data.

“This is not only making it impossible for many private businesses to survive, but also accelerating outbound immigration and quickly dampening willingness to invest,” said Zhiwu Chen, an economist at the University of Hong Kong. “Once people lose confidence in the country’s future, it will be extremely difficult for the economy to recover from the zero-COVID policy’s impact.”

Business owners and managers are complaining that the current disruptions are worse and more widespread than those of early 2020 when logistics, commerce and industrial production in much of the country quickly returned to normal. Back then, the government’s digital surveillance systems to limit the movements of vehicles and people were less extensive.

The business community is waiting nervously to see if the government will apply the Shanghai lockdown model to other cities. The approach has a strong element of a planned economy, in which the government controls business activities, rather than letting the market regulate supply and demand.

During the outbreak, the Shanghai government upended the commercial systems and tried to provide for 25 million people on its own. The results are familiar to Chinese of a certain age: scarcity of supplies and mushrooming of black markets.

Because of COVID restrictions, commercial trucks have a hard time delivering food and household goods to Shanghai. Inside the city, only vehicles with passes are allowed on the road.

On the black market, some operators are willing to pay $2,000 for a day pass. The cost is then priced into the groceries they sell to the residents.

Some neighborhood committees allow only government-organized grocery distributions; others do not allow their residents to purchase diapers, baby formula and toilet paper because they are not considered necessities. Elsewhere, fruit, beer and coffee are considered frivolous items.

Starting in the 1980s, China moved away from its planned economy because it left everyone poor. It did not work in the former Soviet Union nor is it working in North Korea.

John Ji, a real estate developer in Nanjing of Jiangsu province, is anxiously watching the lockdowns in Shanghai and other cities. He believes many people will lose their jobs and have difficulty paying mortgages. When nobody can afford housing, he asked, who will buy his apartments?

Ji also grew up poor. Before he turned 10, his staple was sweet potatoes. He ate meat only a couple of times a year.

“I’m worried whether we’re going back to a planned economy,” he told me. “If the economy keeps slumping, we might become poor again.”


Source : The New York Times

You’ve Likely Heard of the Brain’s Gray Matter – Here’s Why the White Matter Is Important Too

Christopher Filley wrote . . . . . . . . .

Who has not contemplated how a memory is formed, a sentence generated, a sunset appreciated, a creative act performed or a heinous crime committed?

The human brain is a three-pound organ that remains largely an enigma. But most people have heard of the brain’s gray matter, which is needed for cognitive functions such as learning, remembering and reasoning.

More specifically, gray matter refers to regions throughout the brain where nerve cells – known as neurons – are concentrated. The region considered most important for cognition is the cerebral cortex, a thin layer of gray matter on the brain’s surface.

But the other half of the brain – the white matter – is often overlooked. White matter lies below the cortex and also deeper in the brain. Wherever it is found, white matter connects neurons within the gray matter to each other.

I am a professor of neurology and psychiatry and the director of the behavioral neurology section at the University of Colorado Medical School. My work involves the evaluation, treatment and investigation of older adults with dementia and younger people with traumatic brain injury.

Finding out how these disorders affect the brain has motivated many years of my study. I believe that understanding white matter is perhaps a key to understanding these disorders. But so far, researchers have generally not given white matter the attention it deserves.

Figuring out the white matter

This lack of recognition largely stems from the difficulty in studying white matter. Because it’s located below the surface of the brain, even the most high-tech imaging can’t easily resolve its details. But recent findings, made possible by advancements in brain imaging and autopsy examinations, are beginning to show researchers how critical white matter is.

White matter is comprised of many billions of axons, which are like long cables that carry electrical signals. Think of them as elongated tails that act as extensions of the neurons. The axons connect neurons to each other at junctions called synapses. That is where communication between neurons takes place.

Axons come together in bundles, or tracts, that course throughout the brain. Placed end to end, their combined length in a single human brain is approximately 85,000 miles. Many axons are insulated with myelin, a layer of mostly fat that speeds up electrical signaling, or communication, between neurons by up to 100 times.

This increased speed is crucial for all brain functions and is partly why Homo sapiens have unique mental capacities. While there’s no doubt our large brains are due to evolution’s addition of neurons over eons, there has been an even greater increase in white matter over evolutionary time.

This little-known fact has profound implications. The increased volume of white matter – mainly from the myelin sheaths that surround axons – enhances the efficiency of neurons in the gray matter to optimize brain function.

Imagine a nation of cities that are all functioning independently, but not linked to other cities by roads, wires, the internet or any other connections. This scenario would be analogous to the brain without white matter. Higher functions like language and memory are organized into networks in which gray matter regions are connected by white matter tracts. The more extensive and efficient those connections, the better the brain works.

White matter and Alzheimer’s

Given its essential role in the connections between brain cells, damaged white matter can disturb any aspect of cognitive or emotional function. White matter pathology is present in many brain disorders and can be severe enough to cause dementia. Damage to myelin is common in these disorders, and when the disease or injury is more severe, axons can also be damaged.

More than 30 years ago, my colleagues and I described this syndrome as white matter dementia. In this condition, the dysfunctional white matter is no longer adequately performing as a connector, meaning that the gray matter cannot act together in a seamless and synchronous manner. The brain, in essence, has been disconnected from itself.

Equally important is the possibility that white matter dysfunction plays a role in many diseases currently thought to originate in gray matter. Some of these diseases stubbornly defy understanding. For example, I suspect white matter damage may be critical in the early phases of Alzheimer’s disease and traumatic brain injury.

Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia in older individuals. It can impair cognitive function and rob people of their very identity. No cure or effective treatment exists. Ever since Alois Alzheimer’s 1907 observations of gray matter proteins – called amyloid and tau – neuroscientists have believed the buildup of these proteins is the central problem behind Alzheimer’s. Yet many drugs that remove these proteins do not stop the patients’ cognitive decline.

Recent findings increasingly suggest that white matter damage – preceding the accumulation of those proteins – may be the true culprit. As brains age, they often experience gradual loss of blood flow from the narrowing of vessels that convey blood from the heart. Lower blood flow heavily impacts white matter.

Remarkably, there is even evidence that inherited forms of Alzheimer’s also feature early white matter abnormalities. That means therapies aimed at maintaining blood flow to white matter may prove more effective than attempting to dislodge proteins. One simple treatment likely to help is controlling high blood pressure, as this can reduce the severity of white matter abnormalities.

White matter and traumatic brain injury

Patients with traumatic brain injury, particularly those with moderate or severe injuries, can have lifelong disability. One of the most ominous outcomes of TBI is chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease believed to cause progressive and irreversible dementia. In TBI patients, the accumulation of tau protein in gray matter is evident.

Researchers have long recognized that white matter damage is common in people who have sustained a TBI. Observations from the brains of those with repetitive traumatic brain injuries – football players and military veterans have been frequently studied – have shown that white matter damage is prominent, and may precede the appearance of tangled proteins in the gray matter.

Among scientists, there is a burgeoning excitement over the new interest in white matter. Researchers are now beginning to acknowledge that the traditional focus on the study of gray matter has not produced the results they hoped. Learning more about the half of the brain known as white matter may help us in the years ahead to find the answers needed to alleviate the suffering of millions.


Source: The Conversation

中共中央政治局常务委员会召开会议 分析当前新冠肺炎疫情防控形势

中共中央政治局常务委员会5月5日召开会议,分析当前新冠肺炎疫情防控形势,研究部署抓紧抓实疫情防控重点工作。中共中央总书记习近平主持会议并发表重要讲话。

会议指出,新冠肺炎疫情发生以来,我们坚持人民至上、生命至上,坚持外防输入、内防反弹,坚持动态清零,因时因势不断调整防控措施,疫情防控取得重大战略成果。今年3月以来,经过全国上下勠力同心、并肩作战,我们经受住了武汉保卫战以来最为严峻的防控考验,取得了阶段性成效。实践证明,我们的防控方针是由党的性质和宗旨决定的,我们的防控政策是经得起历史检验的,我们的防控措施是科学有效的。我们打赢了武汉保卫战,也一定能够打赢大上海保卫战。

会议强调,目前全球疫情仍处于高位,病毒还在不断变异,疫情的最终走向还存在很大不确定性,远没有到可以松口气、歇歇脚的时候。我国是人口大国,老龄人口多,地区发展不平衡,医疗资源总量不足,放松防控势必造成大规模人群感染、出现大量重症和病亡,经济社会发展和人民生命安全、身体健康将受到严重影响。要深刻、完整、全面认识党中央确定的疫情防控方针政策,坚决克服认识不足、准备不足、工作不足等问题,坚决克服轻视、无所谓、自以为是等思想,始终保持清醒头脑,毫不动摇坚持“动态清零”总方针,坚决同一切歪曲、怀疑、否定我国防疫方针政策的言行作斗争。

会议指出,坚持就是胜利。当前,疫情防控工作正处于“逆水行舟、不进则退”的关键时期和吃劲阶段,各级党委和政府要坚定信心,深刻认识抗疫斗争的复杂性和艰巨性,坚决落实党中央决策部署,充分发扬斗争精神,坚决筑牢疫情防控屏障,坚决巩固住来之不易的疫情防控成果,做到守土有责、守土尽责。

会议强调,要加快局部聚集性疫情处置,应检尽检、应隔尽隔、应收尽收、应治尽治,协调联动核酸检测、流调、隔离转运和社区管控等重点环节,确保感染者和风险人群及时排查出、管控住。要加强防控能力建设,强化区域协防、省内统筹,把防控的人力物资备足备齐,做好疫情应对准备。要及时完善防控措施,加大对病毒变异的研究和防范力度,不搞简单化、一刀切,同步做好群众基本生活保障和生活物资供应,保障好群众看病就医需求。要从严落实常态化疫情防控举措,外防输入要把人、物、环境同防要求贯彻到位,压实行业责任和单位责任。要紧紧依靠人民群众打好人民战争,加强信息发布,主动回应社会关切,引导广大群众增强责任意识、自我防护意识,自觉承担防控责任和义务,落实个人、家庭等日常防护措施,推进加强免疫接种工作,筑牢群防群控防线。

会议指出,各级党委、政府和社会各方面要把思想和行动统一到党中央决策部署上来,自觉在思想上政治上行动上同党中央保持高度一致,克服麻痹思想、厌战情绪、侥幸心理、松劲心态,全面动员、全面部署,以时不我待的精神、分秒必争的行动抓实抓细疫情防控各项工作。各级党组织和广大党员、干部要继续冲锋在前、顽强拼搏,发挥战斗堡垒和先锋模范作用。对在抗疫斗争中涌现出来的先进典型和先进事迹,要加以宣传报道,以激励广大干部群众坚定信心、同舟共济、团结一心做好抗疫工作。


Source : 新华网