Thursday, August 9, 2018

Pakistan's pivot to coal: Plan to spend $35bn loan from China on new power stations looks set to continue under Khan

Pakistan’s pivot to coal to boost energy gets critics fired up. Kiran Stacey in Lahore July 31, 2018. Financial Times.
Plan to spend $35bn loan from China on new power stations looks set to continue under Khan

Pakistan believes it may have found a way out of its long-term energy supply crisis, thanks largely to more than $35bn worth of loans provided by China under the $60bn China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The country has experienced years of rolling blackouts that have left residents in the dark and stifled the country’s manufacturing industries.

But now it is investing in an energy technology that is fast going out of fashion in other parts of the region — coal.

Under the CPEC, Beijing is planning to spend at least $35bn building new power stations, which will be mainly coal-fired, using resources from coalfields at Thar, about 400km east of Karachi. The plans will mean building 9.5 gigawatts of new coal-fired capacity — a third of the total capacity the country has already built.

This is in stark contrast with India, which recently said it would not approve any more new coal power plants — not least because the unit price of solar power has dropped below that of coal.

The previous government has defended its energy policies. Shehbaz Sharif, head of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party, which lost power in last week’s election, told the Financial Times before the vote: “We have built 11,000 megawatts of additional capacity in the space of five years, compared with 18,000 over the previous 66 years.”

And the strategy looks set to continue under the new prime minister Imran Khan, head of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party. Again speaking before the election, Mr Khan told the FT he backed using Thar coal to boost the country’s electricity supplies. “Thar coal is in a desert, it’s near the coast, and there are new technologies which now make it possible that you don’t damage the environment,” he said.

Defenders of Pakistan’s build-up of coal point out that the fuel currently accounts for a very small fraction of the country’s installed electricity capacity. In India, that figure is around 75 per cent.

They also say that with tariffs higher in Pakistan than in neighbouring countries, encouraging cheap electricity supply is essential to help develop exporting manufacturers. The average electricity tariff for industry is around $0.13 per kilowatt-hour, compared with $0.12 in India and $0.09 in Bangladesh.

Pakistan exported goods worth 8.2 per cent of its gross domestic product last year, according to the World Bank, compared with 15 per cent by Bangladesh and nearly 19 per cent by India.

“Manufacturers in India and Bangladesh get cheaper electricity than those in Pakistan do,” says Ehsan Malik, chief executive of the Pakistan Business Council. “This is particularly problematic for the garment industry, especially since all three countries make clothes at the lower end of the sector, where energy prices account for a higher proportion of costs.”

Others, however, warn that while solar prices are falling, Pakistan is building a series of large power stations that will not only pollute the environment but could also saddle the country with high debts and could even become stranded assets in the long run.

Fiza Farhan, an independent development consultant and a former director of Buksh Energy, a solar power company, says: “I have banged my head against walls for years trying to get the government to launch solar projects on mega scales.

“But it was impossible to get projects into the final stage — every time we would get to the financing stage, the government would revise the tariffs.”

Economists warn, meanwhile, that the stress in the electricity sector is likely to become worse in the near term.

With the country’s stocks of foreign currency reserves rapidly declining, experts expect the new government to approach the International Monetary Fund for a bailout within months. The terms of that bailout, they warn, could include renegotiating or cancelling some of the projects backed by China and raising electricity tariffs.

Mohammed Sohail, chief executive of Topline Securities, a Karachi-based investment advisory company, says: “This government will also have to reduce expenditure in a major way through unpopular measures.”

Association between physical exercise and mental health in 1·2 million individuals in the USA between 2011 and 2015: More exercise was not always better

Association between physical exercise and mental health in 1·2 million individuals in the USA between 2011 and 2015: a cross-sectional study. Sammi R Chekroud et al. The Lancet Psychiatry, August 08, 2018. DOI:


Background: Exercise is known to be associated with reduced risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes, but its association with mental health remains unclear. We aimed to examine the association between exercise and mental health burden in a large sample, and to better understand the influence of exercise type, frequency, duration, and intensity.

Methods: In this cross-sectional study, we analysed data from 1 237 194 people aged 18 years or older in the USA from the 2011, 2013, and 2015 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System survey. We compared the number of days of bad self-reported mental health between individuals who exercised and those who did not, using an exact non-parametric matching procedure to balance the two groups in terms of age, race, gender, marital status, income, education level, body-mass index category, self-reported physical health, and previous diagnosis of depression. We examined the effects of exercise type, duration, frequency, and intensity using regression methods adjusted for potential confounders, and did multiple sensitivity analyses.

Findings: in the comments section

Interpretation: In a large US sample, physical exercise was significantly and meaningfully associated with self-reported mental health burden in the past month. More exercise was not always better. Differences as a function of exercise were large relative to other demographic variables such as education and income. Specific types, durations, and frequencies of exercise might be more effective clinical targets than others for reducing mental health burden, and merit interventional study.

By 2050, stringent climate mitigation policy, if implemented evenly across all sectors & regions, would have a greater negative impact on global hunger & food consumption than the direct impacts of climate change due to indirect impacts on prices/supplies of agri commodities

Risk of increased food insecurity under stringent global climate change mitigation policy. Tomoko Hasegawa, Shinichiro Fujimori, Petr Havlík, Hugo Valin, Benjamin Leon Bodirsky, Jonathan C. Doelman, Thomas Fellmann, Page Kyle, Jason F. L. Koopman, Hermann Lotze-Campen, Daniel Mason-D’Croz, Yuki Ochi, Ignacio Pérez Domínguez, Elke Stehfest, Timothy B. Sulser, Andrzej Tabeau, Kiyoshi Takahashi, Jun’ya Takakura, Hans van Meijl, Willem-Jan van Zeist, Keith Wiebe & Peter Witzke . Nature Climate Change, volume 8, pages699–703 (2018),

Abstract: Food insecurity can be directly exacerbated by climate change due to crop-production-related impacts of warmer and drier conditions that are expected in important agricultural regions1,2,3. However, efforts to mitigate climate change through comprehensive, economy-wide GHG emissions reductions may also negatively affect food security, due to indirect impacts on prices and supplies of key agricultural commodities4,5,6. Here we conduct a multiple model assessment on the combined effects of climate change and climate mitigation efforts on agricultural commodity prices, dietary energy availability and the population at risk of hunger. A robust finding is that by 2050, stringent climate mitigation policy, if implemented evenly across all sectors and regions, would have a greater negative impact on global hunger and food consumption than the direct impacts of climate change. The negative impacts would be most prevalent in vulnerable, low-income regions such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where food security problems are already acute.

Testosterone & self-perceived mate value increased following a manipulated “victory” in a sporting competition & were associated with heightened sociosexuality, & increased expectations toward approaching attractive women

Tandem Androgenic and Psychological Shifts in Male Reproductive Effort Following a Manipulated “Win” or “Loss” in a Sporting Competition. Daniel P. Longman et al. Human Nature,

Abstract: Male-male competition is involved in inter- and intrasexual selection, with both endocrine and psychological factors presumably contributing to reproductive success in human males. We examined relationships among men’s naturally occurring testosterone, their self-perceived mate value (SPMV), self-esteem, sociosexuality, and expected likelihood of approaching attractive women versus situations leading to child involvement. We then monitored changes in these measures in male rowers (N = 38) from Cambridge, UK, following a manipulated “win” or “loss” as a result of an indoor rowing contest. Baseline results revealed that men with heightened testosterone and SPMV values typically had greater inclinations toward engaging in casual sexual relationships and a higher likelihood of approaching attractive women in a hypothetical social situation. As anticipated, both testosterone and SPMV increased following a manipulated “victory” and were associated with heightened sociosexuality, and increased expectations toward approaching attractive women versus individuals who would involve them in interacting with children after the race. SPMV and self-esteem appeared to mediate some of the effects of testosterone on post-race values. These findings are considered in the broader context of individual trade-offs between mating and parental effort and a model of the concurrent and dynamic androgenic and psychological influences contributing to male reproductive effort and success.

Strong negative effects are attributed to sex dolls both in public & academic debates; sparse research points to strong positive outcomes as well: sex dolls can provide a lot of sexual & emotional satisfaction, create feelings of comfort, peace & even love

Sex toys, sex dolls, sex robots: Our under-researched bed-fellows. N. Döring, S. Pöschl. Sexologies, Volume 27, Issue 3, July–September 2018, Pages e51-e55.

Summary: In the 21st century, sexual products such as sex toys, sex dolls and sex robots are openly marketed on the Internet. The online retailer Amazon alone provides literally thousands of sexual wellness products. The Internet has done with sexual products what it has already achieved with pornography: it has expanded and diversified the market, made sexual products more accessible and affordable, and thus normalized their use. Research, though, is lagging behind: in comparison to the large body of pornography studies, research on sexual products, their users, uses and outcomes is scarce. The present paper therefore reviews both the state of technological development and the state of research regarding sex toys, sex dolls and sex robots marketed on the Internet. For each of these three groups of sexual product, we first present the range of products available and then provide data on their users and use. Finally, outcomes of sexual product use are discussed based on theoretical assumptions, available data and selected user experiences. Operating within a Positive Sexuality Framework (Williams et al., 2015) and a Positive Technology Framework (Riva et al., 2012), both rooted in the Positive Psychology Approach (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000), the paper argues that sexual products have the potential to improve sexual well-being in various populations. Health professionals working in the field of sexuality need to be well-informed about the ever-evolving market of more and more technologically advanced sexual products. It is their call to foster both, the health-related use of existing sexual products and health-related development of future sexual products.

Strong negative effects are attributed to sex dolls both in public and academic debates: men who buy and use female or even child-like sex dolls could be led to objectify and abuse real women and children just as they do their dolls (Ray, 2016; Valverde, 2012). Men who accept their dolls as social companions could harm themselves by no longer seek-ing for a human partner. Even innocuous sex doll use could lead to problems for the owner due to stigmatization by family and friends, leading to embarrassment, social withdrawal and guilt (Knox et al., 2017; Ray, 2016). However, the sparse research points to strong positive outcomes as well: sex dolls can provide a lot of sexual and emotional satisfaction, create feelings of comfort, peace and even love, as doll-owners report in surveys and interviews (Ferguson, 2010; Valverde, 2012).

In doll-owner forums, there are a lot of nuanced discussions about the pros and cons of sex dolls. While some owners confirm the problem of social stigmatization, others tell success stories about coming out as a doll-owner to their friends and family and finding acceptance. While some feel anxious about falling in love or becoming over-attached to a doll at the cost of real human contact, others describe the doll as a therapeutic tool that helps them to overcome a traumatic breakup or to cope with seemingly inevitable social and sexual deprivation due to physical and/or mental impairment.