Topic: In Britain, Rising Prices and Shortages Evoke 1970s-Style Jitters
Long lines at gas stations, rising fuel prices, empty shelves in supermarkets and worries about runaway inflation.
Britons have emerged from 18 months of pandemic-imposed hibernation to find their country has many of the same afflictions it had during the 1970s. There is nothing Austin Powers-like about this time machine: Unlike the swinging '60s, the '70s were, by all accounts, some of the bleakest days in postwar Britain; even contemplating a return to them is enough to make leaders of the current government shiver.
The sudden burst of doomsaying in Britain is rooted at least as much in psychology as economics. While there is no question the country faces a confluence of problems — some caused by the pandemic, others by Brexit — experts said it was far too soon to predict that Britain was headed for the kind of economic malaise and political upheaval that characterized that decade.
“It’s a combination of things that could, in principle, lead to that, but are quite survivable on their own,” said Jonathan Portes, a professor of economics at Kings College London. “We always talk about the 1970s, but it’s half a century later, and all sorts of things are different.”
Britain’s economy, he noted, has bounced back faster from the pandemic than many experts predicted. The shortages in labor and some goods are likely a transitory effect of reopening much of the economy after prolonged lockdowns. Rising wages and supply bottlenecks are driving up the inflation rate, while the fuel shortages that have closed dozens of gas stations reflect a shortage of truck drivers, not of energy supplies.
Nor does Britain have the aging industrial base and powerful unions it had in the 1970s. Labor unrest led to crippling strikes that brought down a Conservative prime minister, Edward Heath, and one of his Labour Party successors, James Callaghan, after what the tabloids called the winter of discontent, in 1979.
And yet the parallels are suggestive enough that the right-leaning Daily Mail warned that “Britain faces winter of woe” — a chilly welcome for Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he returned from the United States, having celebrated a new submarine alliance and rallied countries in advance of a U.N. climate change conference in Scotland in November.
“That is a very easy ghost to resurrect,” said Kim Darroch, a former British ambassador to Washington who now sits in the House of Lords. “But these are real problems. You can just see this perfect storm coming.”
英國駐華府前大使、現為上議院議員的達洛許說：「那是個很容易復活的鬼魂，但這些都是實實在在的問題。你可以看到這場完美風暴逼近。」Source article: https://udn.com/news/story/6904/5804159
Topic: British hospitals use blockchain to track COVID-19 vaccines
Two British hospitals are using blockchain technology to keep tabs on the storage and supply of temperature-sensitive COVID-19 vaccines, the companies behind the initiative said on Tuesday, in one of the first such initiatives in the world.
Two hospitals, in central England’s Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick, are expanding their use of a distributed ledger, an offshoot of blockchain, from tracking vaccines and chemotherapy drugs to monitoring fridges storing COVID-19 vaccines.
The technology will bolster record-keeping and data-sharing across supply chains, said Everyware, which monitors vaccines and other treatments for Britain’s National Health Service.
Logistical hurdles are a significant risk to the speedy distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, but have resulted in booming business for companies selling technology for monitoring shipments from factory freezer to shots in the arm.
Pfizer Inc and BioNTech’s shot, for example, must be shipped and stored at ultra-cold temperatures or on dry ice, and can only last for up to five days at standard fridge temperatures. Other vaccines, such as Moderna Inc’s, do not need such cold storage and are therefore easier to deliver.
Firms from finance to commodities have invested millions of dollars to develop blockchain, a digital ledger that allows secure and real-time recording of data, in the hope of radical cost cuts and efficiency gains.
Blockchain originated from Bitcoin, and it was created for the sake of Bitcoin — Bitcoin being blockchain’s first application. A blockchain is a growing list of records, called blocks, that are linked using cryptography. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp and transaction data. By design, a blockchain is resistant to modification of its data.
Source article: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/lang/archives/2021/01/25/2003751156
Topic: Plastic-Bag Charge in England Prompts Applause, Anger and Humor
Some critics predicted chaos, confusion and "bag rage." But while this week's introduction of a 5 pence charge for plastic shopping bags in England did not lead to a nationwide mutiny, as some had warned, it did prove polarizing.
Environmentalists, for the most part, praised the government initiative introduced on Monday（Oct.5）, saying it would reduce pollution and waste. After all, it can take 1,000 years for a plastic bag to decompose, according to an estimate by Nick Clegg, who was deputy prime minister at the time the step was announced. Last year, major supermarkets in England handed out roughly 7.6 billion single-use plastic bags, about 140 per person, the government has estimated.
The government hopes the fee, equivalent to about 8 cents, will help reduce the cost of cleaning up garbage by 60 million pounds, or about $80 million, over the next decade.
Stores and supermarkets are being encouraged to donate the proceeds from the bag charge to charitable causes, and are expected to raise 730 million pounds for such endeavors.
But critics of the new fee say it will stoke mayhem, given the long list of exemptions; shoppers can still get a free plastic bag if they are buying pet fish; raw fish, meat or poultry; unwrapped blades (including axes, knives and razor blades); takeout food; or loose seeds and flowers. There are also worries that customers might verbally abuse supermarket cashiers, and some retailers have provided members of their staff with training on how to cope with angry shoppers.
Then there were worries that shoppers would throng the British capital’s already harried streets, clutching, for example, jars of tomato sauce. One man who didn’t want to pay for a plastic bag for a single item was seen walking down a street in North London holding a package of wrapped salmon. Yet another fear is that there will be a glut of eating at checkout counters as wily consumers try to scarf down food before paying for it.
That similar plastic-bag charges exist in the other parts of Britain — Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland — seems to not influence the critics. In Wales, use of plastic bags has dropped 79 percent since a 5 pence charge was put in effect in 2011.
The new rules in England apply to retailers with more than 250 full-time employees. Retailers that fail to properly enforce the measure can be fined up to 5,000 pounds.
Similar efforts to regulate plastic bag have been put in place across the world.
In 2002, Bangladesh became the first country to introduce a ban on thin plastic bags amid concerns that they were clogging drainage pipes and contributing to devastating flooding.
In 2008, Rwanda banned plastic bags outright, helping to solidify its image as one of the most environmentally conscious nations in East Africa.
In the United States, many communities have regulated or even prohibited the bags. Since 2007, they have been banned in nearly 100 municipalities in California, including Los Angeles. In 2014, California banned stores from giving out free plastic bags. The law was to take effect in July, but after lobbying by opponents of the bill, including the bag industry, a referendum on whether to repeal the ban is planned for November 2016.
Only a tiny fraction of plastic bags are recycled, while many end up in kitchen cupboards, floating through the air or wasting away slowly in landfills. "Plastic bags end up everywhere — stashed in cupboards, floating down canals, littering our streets or killing wildlife," Friends of the Earth, a British environmental group, said in a statement welcoming the new measure.
However, the TaxPayers' Alliance, an anti-tax group, said the new measure would burden families who are already struggling to get by.
只有極小部分塑膠袋被回收再利用，卻有許多最後待在廚房櫥櫃內、飄浮在空中，或在垃圾掩埋場慢慢腐爛。英國環保團體「地球之友」在歡迎這項新措施的聲明中說：「塑膠袋落得到處都是 -- 藏身於櫥櫃內、飄流在運河中、散布在我們的街頭，或殺死了野生動物。」
A 2013 study by the Washington-based National Center for Policy Analysis, which champions laissez-faire economics, argued that paper and reusable bags were worse for the environment than plastic bags when it came to energy and water use, and to greenhouse gas emissions. "Every type of grocery bag incurs environmental costs," wrote H. Sterling Burnett, the author of the study.
Whatever the arguments, the rules have inspired a mix of applause, resentment, fear and no little humor. "Can England cope with the bag charge, or will there be a bagpocalypse?" Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett asked in the British daily The Guardian. "Plastic Bags Chaos Looms," read a headline in The Daily Mail. Chloe Metzger, a 21-year-old blogger and student, wrote on Twitter: "I understand the whole #plasticbags thing but it couldn't be more annoying."
Source article: https://paper.udn.com/udnpaper/POH0067/287605/web/