News, August 13th

China launches ‘Clean Your Plate Campaign’

China has officially launched a new version of “Clean Your Plate Campaign” flagged by Chinese President Xi Jinping, sparking speculation that the world’s most populous country faces food crisis following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Xi earlier said that food wastage was shocking and distressing, and that it is necessary to further enhance public awareness of the issue, cultivate thrifty habits and foster a social environment where waste is shameful, and thriftiness is good.

“Different from the previous campaign, which was aimed at putting an end to officials’ extravagant feasts and receptions, the 2.0 version calls for the public to stop wasting food,” state-run Global Times reported on Thursday.

“The initiative initially sparked speculation by some media over whether China is in a food crisis. Experts say the world indeed faces a food shortage, but for China, the real threat to food security comes more from food wastage than epidemic or floods,” it said.

After he took over power in 2012, Xi in an image-building exercise banned luxury banquets with liquor, especially for the military which has been asked not to waste food and feed on leftovers and keep away from fancy food during official banquets.

But with the passage of time, officials say, most of the old practices returned.

In 2014 Wu Zidan, deputy director of China’s State Administration of Grain said food wastage in the country amounted to USD 32.6 billion.

“Despite media hype that China is in a looming food crisis, which is worsened by the epidemic, floods in southern China, and food imports, Chinese agriculturalists said the above factors will not lead to a food crisis in China, but that wasting food is an issue that deserves more attention,” the report said.

Despite bumper crops, China has been importing essential grains like rice from south-east Asian countries, besides India and Pakistan.

China’s food security was not seriously affected by COVID-19, and China’s grain reserves are ample, Zheng Fengtian, said a professor at Renmin University of China’s School of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development.

Outside China, the pandemic had an impact on global grain production and trade. However, Zheng said China has adjusted its grain import strategy to make the sources of grain imports (especially corn and soybeans) more equal.

In an investigation by the Institute of Geographic and National Resource Research and the Worldwide Fund, tourist groups, primary and secondary school students, and official banquets were the top three causes of food wastage.

Per capita food waste in China is 93 grams per person per meal, with a waste rate of 11.7 per cent, the report said.

Wen Tiejun, a professor at the School of Agriculture and Rural Development at the Renmin University of China said that consumers are also responsible for food security and should be aware of it.

Wen said food wastage in the past few years has been shocking, as it was once reported that food wasted in China was enough to feed 200 million people a year.

He stressed the importance of food security education and guidance in forming rational consumption habits, which is crucial to reducing food wastage and ensuring food security.

Besides consumers, experts like Zheng said that food is also wasted in production, storage, and distribution up to 20 per cent due to technical problems, he said.

Policies during the epidemic, which encouraged separate meals and reduced dining out, actually reduced food wastage, Zheng said.

Negotiators ‘miles apart’ on Covid funding, with little hope for deal until September

White House officials and top Democrats concede that a coronavirus relief deal is still out of reach after six days without in-person meetings — leaving little hope that relief for millions of Americans will arrive by month’s end.

As of Thursday, Washington’s top negotiators have no plans to meet in the coming days, putting an indefinite halt to sputtering talks to assemble the next economic rescue package amid a pandemic that has infected over 5 million Americans. Democrats are now insisting they won’t sit down with White House officials until the GOP agrees to spend at least $2 trillion, double the size of the GOP’s initial proposal, while Republican officials remain unwilling to raise the overall price tag.

The Senate is now in recess until Labor Day, after technically remaining in session an extra week amid a burst of bipartisan talks, though most of its members went home last week. The House had already left for the rest of August and the first two weeks of September. Lawmakers in both chambers will be given 24 hours’ notice if they need to return to the Capitol to vote on any agreement.

Asked when she would next meet with Republicans, Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Thursday: “I don’t know. When they come in with $2 trillion.”

“When they’re ready to do that, we’ll sit down. We’re not inching away from their meager piecemeal proposal,” Pelosi said, pointing to a chart she presented that compared the Democratic and GOP plans for the relief package in areas like food assistance and coronavirus testing. On one line, it said Democrats wanted to put $100 billion for rental assistance. On the GOP side, it said “nothing.”

“The press says, ‘Why can’t you come to an agreement?’ Because we are miles apart in our values.”

Pelosi’s comments come one day after a brief phone call with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, during which the two sides simply reiterated their demands. In another sign that talks are not moving, two of the key negotiators, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), are both away from Washington.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday accused Democrats of “barely even pretending to negotiate.”

Speaking on the floor, McConnell scoffed at the Democratic leaders’ demands for Republicans to raise the price ceiling of their negotiations to $2 trillion from $1 trillion.

“The Speaker’s latest spin is that it is some heroic sacrifice to lower her demand from a made-up $3.5 trillion marker that was never going to become law to an equally made up $2.5 trillion marker,” McConnell said, referring to a mammoth Democratic package that the House passed in May. “That’s not negotiating. That’s throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.”

McConnell added Thursday afternoon that he still hopes “we’ll have some kind of bipartisan agreement here sometime in the coming weeks.”

The vitriol between Republicans and Democrats has been on full display as the two party leaders traded insults, even as they acknowledged the dire economic and health crises straining the nation.

Congress has been under intense pressure to deliver a deal but has already blown past the deadlines for key programs such as the federal $600 weekly benefit for out-of-work Americans and the small-business grant known as the Paycheck Protection Program. Federal protections for renters facing eviction has also expired.

The impasse over those programs — and more — led President Donald Trump over the weekend to issue executive actions in an attempt to circumvent Congress. The executive actions attempt to provide additional unemployment benefits to workers, defer payroll tax payment, extend the moratorium on most federal student loan payments until the end of the year and direct agencies to review how they can prevent evictions.

But Trump’s political move, in the face of mounting backlash over his response to the virus, will likely have a much different policy reality. Democrats have called the move blatantly unconstitutional, and it’s unclear what effect the orders will have without congressional backing.

The next looming deadline in Washington is several weeks away — the Sept. 30 funding deadline, and lawmakers are already speculating that the coronavirus negotiations could be dragged into that battle.

That would mean negotiations that began in earnest at the end of July could bleed into late September, with the American economy possibly hanging in the balance. And the pressure will only grow as millions of children begin the school year — whether in-person, remote or a hybrid — with many school districts increasingly desperate for help.

Pelosi has said the next package cannot wait six more weeks, and she does not want to tie the $1 trillion-plus relief talks to an already contentious government funding battle.

“We can’t wait until Sept. 30,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday. “Because people will die.”

It’s unclear whether a looming government shutdown is enough to break the impasse, with Republicans and Democrats each sticking to their corners and Congress already proving that it’s willing to shut down federal agencies over a prolonged political battle.

Instead, many Republicans and Democrats believe the sheer force of the virus itself — which has now killed more than 160,000 Americans and ravaged the U.S. economy — will force their party leaders’ hand.

The U.S. economy has also shown little sign of improvement despite the lifting of lockdowns across large swaths of the country: The Labor Department reported Thursday that 963,000 people filed for unemployment benefits last week, the first time weekly claims fell below 1 million since March, though it is still at historic levels. The unemployment rate in July was 10.2 percent.

The only thing that the two parties can agree on, it seems, is that there is no agreement.

“Treasury Secretary Mnuchin is working on that, but so far it’s a stalemate,” White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Thursday on CNBC. “No question.”

U.S. reports school-related COVID-19 outbreaks, putting world on alert

The U.S. state of Louisiana is tracking seven COVID-19 outbreaks tied to schools and colleges, sending an alert to other countries of risks of hasty school resumption.

Figures from the Louisiana Department of Health showed that four outbreaks were linked to colleges and three tied to primary and secondary schools. Data shows that 151 cases are connected to those college outbreaks, and 17 cases are being attributed to outbreaks at primary and secondary schools.

State officials said an outbreak is defined as two or more cases among unrelated individuals that have visited a site within a 14-day period, local TV station WBRZ2 reported, adding that the state started tracking groupings of coronavirus cases at schools this week.

School has resumed in many parishes across Louisiana within the past week, said the report. Some school systems are already holding in-person classes while others chose to stay completely virtual for the first several weeks of the semester.

As production gradually resumes across the world amid the COVID-19 pandemic, people are trying to push other sectors in their daily lives to return to normal. However, school reopening still poses a serious risk of the spread of COVID-19.

The number of COVID-19 cases among children in the United States has increased sharply recently as a new report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) showed a 90-percent surge in child cases over four weeks.

Experts have said that factors including high COVID-19 infections among adults, increasing gatherings among teenagers, and returning to school during the pandemic may contribute to the high infections among children.

“The sharp increase in the number of cases among children is mainly concentrated in COVID-19 ‘hotspots’ such as California, Florida and Arizona. The surge in adult cases in these states also led to an increase in children infections,” Zhang Zuofeng, a professor of epidemiology and associate dean for research with the school of public health at University of California, Los Angeles, told Xinhua.

According to the new report of the AAP and CHA, 179,990 new COVID-19 cases in children were reported from July 9 to Aug. 6, a 90-percent increase in child cases over four weeks.

Other analysts have warned reopening schools too early could spread COVID-19 even faster, especially in the developing world.

According to a study conducted by David Lagakos, associate professor of Economics of Boston University and Emilie Yam, head of Communications of International Growth Center, delaying school openings can be “a potent force for saving lives,” by reducing the risk of children getting infected at school, and in turn, spreading the virus within their households.

“Of course, any decisions about delaying school openings must weigh the potential lives saved against the negative impacts of keeping children out of school for a long period,” said the study.

A document of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization entitled Prepare for school reopening has suggested that school authorities need to ensure communities’ trust in the health and safety measures taken by schools to guarantee the well-being of returning students and to ensure that the risk of contagion is minimized.

“Establish conditions that must be met before schools are reopened,” said the document. “This will lessen the probability of a new outbreak and boost the confidence of parents, students, and teachers in terms of school safety.”

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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