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Daily Archives: June 9, 2022

Chart: China Services Activities Contracted in May 2022 Despite Less Severely

Source : Caixin

Music Video: No Sugar Tonight / New Mother Nature

Scientists Make Paper Durable Like Plastic, Without the Pollution

Audrey Carleton wrote . . . . . . . . .

Researchers at the University of Tokyo have found a way to waterproof paper with biodegradable materials that also destroy bacteria. They’re calling it Choetsu, and they think it could make a dent in the global plastics crisis.

Detailed in a paper published Friday in the peer-reviewed journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, the researchers developed a silica-resin coating that can “compensate for paper’s weaknesses,” turning paper products, like single-use straws or forks, into viable alternatives to plastic by making them waterproof and durable.

“Using coated paper instead of plastic products can help to cut down on harmful waste,” Dr. Zenji Hiroi, professor in solid state chemistry at the University of Tokyo and co-author on the study, told Motherboard in an email.

“We can change the liquid composition to accommodate most materials,” he added. “The Choetsu coating will keep these materials safe for a long time.”

Choetsu is made out of titanium dioxide nanoparticles that, when dispersed in a silica-based film with a thickness of a few micrometers, can be coated on paper and degrade environmental pollutants like certain bacteria when exposed to light.

The exact ingredients that went into it were the result of countless trials by the paper’s first author, Yoko Iwamiya, who worked on it independently before Hiroi came by her side. “She has been working on it for a long time, but society’s recognition was low” due to a “lack of scientific evidence,” he told Motherboard. The team published a paper last year about the silica-resin coating, but without the addition of titanium dioxide and its associated antimicrobial effects.

Besides titanium dioxide, the liquid coating agent is composed of a cocktail of chemicals, like methyltrimethoxysilane, isopropyl alcohol, and tetraisopropyl alcohol, that harden when applied to paper and left to dry. Once dry, a layer of silica forms atop the paper, protecting it. The coating is porous, and has absorptive properties, so it captures pollutants and decomposes them via photocatalysis—a reaction that occurs when an object absorbs light—protecting them from the elements better than a paper product would on its own.

“Paper cutlery may be the most straightforward application,” Hiroi said. “We have already created some prototypes in collaboration with industry. The paper package can be reinforced and used even in the rain. Agricultural mulch for weed control can be made from coated paper and degrade in nature without harming the environment. Any paper product will gain more application options.”

He added that the substance shouldn’t just be used for paper. Should Choetsu prove scalable, it can be applied to ceramic, glass, and even plastic, he said.

“Once the coating liquid’s ingredients are determined, simply brush it on the materials and allow it to dry,” Hiroi told Motherboard. “Because the process is so simple, it can be applied to a wide range of products.”


Source: VICE

Chart: Cost of Regular COVID Test for 505 Million People in China

Source : Caixin


Read also at Sixth Tone

What Does it Cost to Test China for COVID-19? . . . . .

Stagflation Risk Rises Amid Sharp Slowdown in Growth

Compounding the damage from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has magnified the slowdown in the global economy, which is entering what could become a protracted period of feeble growth and elevated inflation, according to the World Bank’s latest Global Economic Prospects report. This raises the risk of stagflation, with potentially harmful consequences for middle- and low-income economies alike.

Global growth is expected to slump from 5.7 percent in 2021 to 2.9 percent in 2022— significantly lower than 4.1 percent that was anticipated in January. It is expected to hover around that pace over 2023-24, as the war in Ukraine disrupts activity, investment, and trade in the near term, pent-up demand fades, and fiscal and monetary policy accommodation is withdrawn. As a result of the damage from the pandemic and the war, the level of per capita income in developing economies this year will be nearly 5 percent below its pre-pandemic trend.

“The war in Ukraine, lockdowns in China, supply-chain disruptions, and the risk of stagflation are hammering growth. For many countries, recession will be hard to avoid,” said World Bank President David Malpass. “Markets look forward, so it is urgent to encourage production and avoid trade restrictions. Changes in fiscal, monetary, climate and debt policy are needed to counter capital misallocation and inequality.”

The June Global Economic Prospects report offers the first systematic assessment of how current global economic conditions compare with the stagflation of the 1970s—with a particular emphasis on how stagflation could affect emerging market and developing economies. The recovery from the stagflation of the 1970s required steep increases in interest rates in major advanced economies, which played a prominent role in triggering a string of financial crises in emerging market and developing economies.

“Developing economies will have to balance the need to ensure fiscal sustainability with the need to mitigate the effects of today’s overlapping crises on their poorest citizens,” said Ayhan Kose, Director of the World Bank’s Prospects Group. “Communicating monetary policy decisions clearly, leveraging credible monetary policy frameworks, and protecting central bank independence can effectively anchor inflation expectations and reduce the amount of policy tightening required to achieve the desired effects on inflation and activity.”

The current juncture resembles the 1970s in three key aspects: persistent supply-side disturbances fueling inflation, preceded by a protracted period of highly accommodative monetary policy in major advanced economies, prospects for weakening growth, and vulnerabilities that emerging market and developing economies face with respect to the monetary policy tightening that will be needed to rein in inflation.

However, the ongoing episode also differs from the 1970s in multiple dimensions: the dollar is strong, a sharp contrast with its severe weakness in the 1970s; the percentage increases in commodity prices are smaller; and the balance sheets of major financial institutions are generally strong. More importantly, unlike the 1970s, central banks in advanced economies and many developing economies now have clear mandates for price stability, and, over the past three decades, they have established a credible track record of achieving their inflation targets.

Global inflation is expected to moderate next year but it will likely remain above inflation targets in many economies. The report notes that if inflation remains elevated, a repeat of the resolution of the earlier stagflation episode could translate into a sharp global downturn along with financial crises in some emerging market and developing economies.

The report also offers fresh insights on how the war’s effects on energy markets are clouding the global growth outlook. The war in Ukraine has led to a surge in prices across a wide range of energy-related commodities. Higher energy prices will lower real incomes, raise production costs, tighten financial conditions, and constrain macroeconomic policy especially in energy-importing countries.

Growth in advanced economies is projected to sharply decelerate from 5.1 percent in 2021 to 2.6 percent in 2022—1.2 percentage point below projections in January. Growth is expected to further moderate to 2.2 percent in 2023, largely reflecting the further unwinding of the fiscal and monetary policy support provided during the pandemic.

Among emerging market and developing economies, growth is also projected to fall from 6.6 percent in 2021 to 3.4 percent in 2022—well below the annual average of 4.8 percent over 2011-2019. The negative spillovers from the war will more than offset any near-term boost to some commodity exporters from higher energy prices. Forecasts for 2022 growth have been revised down in nearly 70 percent of EMDEs, including most commodity importing countries as well as four-fifths of low-income countries.

The report highlights the need for decisive global and national policy action to avert the worst consequences of the war in Ukraine for the global economy. This will involve global efforts to limit the harm to those affected by the war, to cushion the blow from surging oil and food prices, to speed up debt relief, and to expand vaccinations in low-income countries. It will also involve vigorous supply responses at the national level while keeping global commodity markets functioning well.

Policymakers, moreover, should refrain from distortionary policies such as price controls, subsidies, and export bans, which could worsen the recent increase in commodity prices. Against the challenging backdrop of higher inflation, weaker growth, tighter financial conditions, and limited fiscal policy space, governments will need to reprioritize spending toward targeted relief for vulnerable populations.


Source : World Bank


Read the Global Economic Prospects report . . . . .

Study: Coffee Consumption Linked to Reduced Risk of Acute Kidney Injury

If you need another reason to start the day drinking a cup of joe, a recent study by Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers has revealed that consuming at least one cup of coffee a day may reduce the risk of acute kidney injury (AKI) when compared to those who do not drink coffee.

The findings, published in the journal Kidney International Reports, show that those who drank any quantity of coffee every day had a 15% lower risk of AKI, with the largest reductions observed in the group that drank two to three cups a day (a 22%–23% lower risk).

“We already know that drinking coffee on a regular basis has been associated with the prevention of chronic and degenerative diseases including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and liver disease,” says study corresponding author Chirag Parikh, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Division of Nephrology and professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “We can now add a possible reduction in AKI risk to the growing list of health benefits for caffeine.”

AKI, as described by the National Kidney Foundation, is a “sudden episode of kidney failure or kidney damage that happens within a few hours or a few days.” This causes waste products to build up in the blood, making it hard for kidneys to maintain the correct balance of fluids in the body.

AKI symptoms differ depending on the cause and may include: too little urine leaving the body; swelling in the legs and ankles, and around the eyes; fatigue; shortness of breath; confusion; nausea; chest pain; and in severe cases, seizures or coma. The disorder is most commonly seen in hospitalized patients whose kidneys are affected by medical and surgical stress and complications.

Using data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, an ongoing survey of cardiovascular disease in four U.S. communities, researchers assessed 14,207 adults recruited between 1987 and 1989 with a median age of 54. Participants were surveyed seven times over a 24-year period as to the number of 8-ounce cups of coffee they consumed per day: zero, one, two to three, or more than three. During the survey period, there were 1,694 cases of acute kidney injury recorded.

When accounting for demographic characteristics, socioeconomic status, lifestyle influences and dietary factors, there was a 15% lower risk of AKI for participants who consumed any amount of coffee versus those who did not. When adjusting for additional comorbidities — such as blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), diabetes status, use of antihypertensive medication and kidney function — individuals who drank coffee still had an 11% lower risk of developing AKI compared with those who did not.

“We suspect that the reason for coffee’s impact on AKI risk may be that either biologically active compounds combined with caffeine or just the caffeine itself improves perfusion and oxygen utilization within the kidneys,” says Parikh. “Good kidney function and tolerance to AKI — is dependent on a steady blood supply and oxygen.”

More studies are needed, Parikh says, to define the possible protective mechanisms of coffee consumption for kidneys, especially at the cellular level.

“Caffeine has been postulated to inhibit the production of molecules that cause chemical imbalances and the use of too much oxygen in the kidneys,” he explains. “Perhaps caffeine helps the kidneys maintain a more stable system.”

Parikh and his colleagues note that coffee additives such as milk, half-and-half, creamer, sugar or sweeteners also could influence AKI risks and warrant further investigation. Additionally, the authors say that consumption of other types of caffeinated beverages, such as tea or soda, should be considered as a possible confounding factor.


Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine