China’s appetite for meat is fading…


VCG/Getty

Over the last couple of years, after many years of rising meat consumption by China’s expanding middle classes for whom eating pork every day was a luxurious sign of new financial comforts, the green shoots of a vegan meat revolution have begun to sprout. Although China still consumes 28% of the world’s meat, including half of all pork, and boasts a meat market valued at $86bn (£62bn), plant-based meat substitutes are slowing carving out a place for themselves among a new generation of consumers increasingly alarmed by food crises such as coronavirus and African swine fever.

China’s most cosmopolitan cities are now home to social media groups, websites and communities dedicated to meat-free lifestyles. VegeRadar, for example, has compiled comprehensive maps of vegetarian and vegan restaurants all across China. According to a report by the Good Food Institute, China’s plant-based meat market was estimated at 6.1bn yuan (£675m) in 2018 and projected to grow between 20 and 25% annually…

…In 2016, as part of its pledge to bring down carbon emissions, the Chinese government outlined a plan to cut the country’s meat intake by 50%. It was a radical move, and so far very few other governments around the world have included meat consumption in their carbon-reduction plans.

You can ignore the diet conservatives who say “It can’t happen here!” American consumers are also discovering the Yellow Brick Road to a healthier body…and climate. “Meat” based on plant protein isn’t something relegated to the curiosity counter in Whole Foods or Trader Joe, anymore. The phenomenon is spreading to the Targets and Walmarts of America. Guess what? The prices come down a bit more, as well.

Since the menu in my life has always been open to trying something new, our household was one of the first to trial – and then adopt – plant-based protein purchased at our local grocery stores. I’m impressed. Convenient packaging, great flavor as far as my own palate is concerned…costs equivalent to or less than ingredients walking around on four feet a week ago…have diminished our meat consumption by half…a portion still growing as producers catch on to a dynamic new market and offer consumers more alternatives..

Best Cars for Senior Drivers


No longer a collegiate clown car

So when we decided to poll our editors on their favorite vehicles for senior drivers, we started with safety…Here’s why: Longer life spans often mean people are driving well into old age, and statistics from IIHS back that up. According to IIHS, older drivers now keep their licenses longer and make up a bigger proportion of the population than in the past. That trend is expected to continue as baby boomers age, culminating in some 53 million U.S. citizens reaching age 70 or older by 2030, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

This, of course, leads to concerns about traffic safety. While older drivers have lower fatal crash rates than in the past, they still face a greater risk of injury or death due the inevitable increase in fragility that comes with aging…

To have a reasonable number of vehicles from which to choose for this endeavor, we started with model-year 2020 recipients of IIHS Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick Plus awards. These cars must meet stringent safety criteria to qualify. Knowing that many seniors live on a fixed income, we set a price cap of $35,000; that resulted in 30 qualifying vehicles out of more than 70. We then polled our editors, asking them to pick their top five from the list of 30…

The article is smartly analytical, brief in each category. I know I’ll refer to it whenever that vague time comes when we need to think about replacing one or both of our vehicles. We’d like to get rid of the pickup since we only use it 8 or 10 times a year…now we’re both retired. Coming up with a range that includes a trip to the transfer station with bagged household trash every now and then can be a puzzler.

The only distraction – sad at that – only 1 car from a US company made the group of 30…and no further.

The Punk in the White House is clueless over the damage he’s causing over the Post Office


Putting the USPS in a deep freeze benefits no one
Matthew T Rader/Unsplash

A country that doesn’t hesitate to drop $700 billion on its war machine now finds itself quibbling over $10 billion to run a very essential service. Of course, a lot of this talk about shrinking the United States Postal Service has nothing to do with its budgetary shortfalls. It is yet another example of short-term political opportunism. USPS might as well stand for United States Political Shitshow…

It might be hard for politicians and their lackeys to see, but the postal service brings more than ballots and postcards. USPS plays a significant role in the US economy. Any actions against it have ramifications for businesses of all sizes. If there was any doubt, the pandemic proved that USPS is an essential service. It kept the country’s almost moribund economy moving, albeit at a sputtering pace.

The pandemic has made online commerce an incredibly significant part of our society. People across the demographic spectrum are now using some kind of online shopping. And many of those packages are delivered by our postal service. According to The Washington Post, “Week to week, package deliveries increased 20 to 50 percent in April compared with the year-ago period, and 60 to 80 percent in May.” If the package volume stays 15 percent over average, the USPS might not need further cash bailout…

USPS is part of the new future of retail. Main Street is no longer just on the street. Thanks to tools like PayPal, Shopify, WooCommerce, and Square, it is also online. And it needs USPS to do business.

Amazon can — and is — building their own logistics and delivery system. Not everyone can do that. All those politicians who complain about Amazon’s monopoly forget that the only way to fight the giant is to arm many David’s with slingshots. USPS is that slingshot. Instead of thinking about shutting down or shrinking USPS, we need to really work hard in helping it adapt to Mail Service 2.0..

Everything Om writes is readable. He could do my grocery list and I’d probably get home from town earlier – with money left over.

There’s lot to learn in his post on the USPS. Dimbulbs like the Fake President will never get it. But, the voting public has time before the next election to understand more about a stupid decision made for the grimiest of political reasons.

Cities joining to offer quality, affordable broadband — pissing off today’s FCC!

❝ This is a story that defies two strongly held beliefs. The first—embraced fervently by today’s FCC — is that the private marketplace is delivering world-class internet access infrastructure at low prices to all Americans, particularly in urban areas. The second is that cities are so busy competing that they are incapable of cooperating with one another, particularly when they have little in common save proximity.

❝ These two beliefs aren’t necessarily true. Right now, the 16 very different cities that make up the South Bay region of Southern California have gotten fed up with their internet access situation: They’re paying too much for too little. So they are working together to collectively lower the amounts they pay for city communications by at least a third. It’s the first step along a path that, ultimately, will bring far cheaper internet access services to the 1.1 million people who live in the region.

Maybe cities can cooperate and save money without compromising their local autonomy. At this same moment, though, the FCC is on a march to smother local authority by blocking states from regulating any aspect of broadband service, supporting states that have raised barriers to municipal networks, deregulating pricing for lines running between cities, and removing local control over rights-of-way that could be used to bring cheaper access into town…the FCC would like to bar other regions from acting in just this kind of sensible way.

The FCC has never been allowed much freedom to aid advocates of modern tech. Overlap of interests doesn’t signify choice. With a reactionary creep in the White House, options narrowed a lot more. Just another good reason to fight hard enough to elect alternatives that are competent technically, moderate or better, politically…and keep on trying for better.

Breakthrough in cost and efficiency in “artificial leaf” technology


Only symbolism, folks – but, you get the idea 🙂

New research out of Melbourne has broken records and brought emission-less hydrogen energy a step closer to commercial production. Thom Mitchell reports.

Researchers at Monash University have published a breakthrough paper detailing their success in creating hydrogen and oxygen from water and sunlight in a process which artificially mimics photosynthesis, the source of most of the world’s energy, including the fossil fuels that currently dominate energy markets.

The research represents a new level of efficiency in this so-called ‘artificial leaf’ technology which scientists say could become commercially viable within a few years because researchers have managed to produce a record-high level of hydrogen using nickel as a type of conductor, rather than more expensive precious metals.

“The reason this technology has not been at the forefront [of the discussion around renewable energy] is that it’s not that efficient,” said Professor Douglas MacFarlane, one of the researchers behind the paper…“There are better catalysts and materials that people have been working on for probably 10 or 15 years, but what we’ve done is show that you can actually do this with cheaper materials that are [still, and in this case particularly, efficient ].”

The process the researchers followed involves taking water, sunlight, and some conventional wiring, and using them to produce oxygen and the hydrogen that can then be converted into a range of fuels, including electricity, and stored with relative ease…

“The idea of making a fuel directly from sunlight is rapidly becoming practical at a household and petrol station level, and even at the solar farm level.”…

‘Artificial leaf’ devices are considered to be effective if 10 per cent of the solar energy captured is converted into hydrogen and earlier efforts had resulted in a conversion rate of around 18 per cent.

However they required more expensive and rarer metals for use as catalysts, whereas the Monash researchers were able to achieve a conversion rate of solar energy to hydrogen of around 22 per cent using nickel instead.

And hydrogen is a simple clean-burning gas. Storable, usable in fuel cells, a replacement for fossil fuels and absent the storage questions required of direct conversion of solar energy to electricity.

The kind of Green Science bound to piss off fossil fuel-reactionaries like the Koch Brothers even more than the EPA or James Hansen do.

Thanks, Honeyman

Health care is getting more affordable — see that on the local news, yet?

Every two years, the Commonwealth Fund surveys Americans on how difficult it is to afford medical care. The 2014 survey showed something new: for the first time in a decade, the number of Americans who say they can afford the health care they need went up.

The Commonwealth Fund fielded the survey during the second half of 2014, meaning they captured the people who signed up for Obamacare during the open enrollment period earlier in the year. And it showed, for the first time in the survey’s 10-year history, a decline in the number of Americans who reported having difficulty paying medical bills or who carried medical debt.

The Commonwealth Fund also looked at Americans who said they put off care because it was too expensive. And there, too, they saw a decline: 36 percent of Americans reported delaying care because of the price, an all-time low in the survey’s history.

This also coincided with an increase in the number of Americans who reported having health insurance, a finding that lines up with other national surveys on coverage.

In a way, it seems obvious that more people with health insurance would mean more Americans able to afford care. But that notion hasn’t always been taken for granted with Obamacare. Some of the plans sold on the new marketplaces have had especially narrow networks that limit coverage to a smaller set of doctors. These plans have also had particularly high deductibles, often over $2,000.

So it hasn’t been totally clear whether these plans would make it easier for Americans to afford coverage: would enrollees with a $2,000 deductible, for example, still find it too expensive to go to the doctor?

The Commonwealth Fund survey suggests that the answer is no: that the plans sold on the marketplace are making it easier for the people who buy them to see the doctor — which is one of the main points of having health insurance to begin with.

Makes sense to me. My Medicare Advantage has gone up a very small percentage; but, I’m entering the second year with a new provider – and all the insurance companies seem to play the same game of lowballing the first year.

The few other folks and family members I chatted with on the topic – admittedly a short sample – all agree with the article.