There are no Muslim or Christian terrorists: Dalai Lama

Thanks;IANS in India

Published;Oct,19

There are no Muslim or Christian terrorists because terrorists are no more religious once they embrace terror, Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama said on Wednesday.

“People cease to be Muslim, Christian or any group the moment they became terrorists,” the Dalai Lama said at a public reception here on the second day of a three-day visit to Manipur.

The Tibetan leader also said that he does not like the “America first” slogan of US President Donald Trump.

A strong votary of non-violence, the Nobel Prize winner said violence does not solve any problem.

“India, which has a tradition of 1,000 years of non-violence, could ensure world peace by reviving the ancient knowledge.”

According to him, almost all the problems people face today were “our own creation”.

He underlined the need to control emotions. Anger weakens people’s immune system and as such was bad for health, he warned.

“Out of seven billion people on earth, six billion are children of god while one billion are non-believers.”

Problems around the world can be solved through dialogue, said the Dalai Lama, who has lived in India since fleeing his homeland in 1959 and who is hated by the Chinese Communist regime.

India with her ancient knowledge and education could ensure world peace, he said. “China has also potentialities except for the Communist ideology.”

The spiritual leader said that the widening gap between the rich and poor was morally wrong. “This gap is visible in India and Manipur also.”

In his speech, the Dalai Lama recalled how he came to India as a refugee 58 years ago. India is also home to some 100,000 Tibetans.

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Nobel Prize goes to behavioral economics pioneer Richard Thaler

Thanks;Barbara Kollmeyer

Published: Oct 9, 2017 6:09 am ET

Richard Thaler, professor of behavioral science and economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, has won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for 2017. “In total, Richard Thaler’s contributions have built a bridge between the economic and psychological analyses of individual decision-making,” said the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, in handing out the prize, according to a press release on Monday. See also Richard Thaler: Here’s the best investing strategy. Thaler is considered one of the founding fathers of behavioral economics. See six books recommended by Thaler.

 

***Behavioral economics, along with the related sub-field behavioral finance, studies the effects of psychological, social, cognitive, and emotional factors on theeconomic decisions of individuals and institutions and the consequences for market prices, returns, and resource allocation, although not always that narrowly, …

Mexico’s Long Wait for Building Inspections

Thanks;Whitney Eulich

Published;Sept. 27, 2017, at 11:01 a.m

Mexico City — Once Eduardo Mijares and his team of young architects and engineers completed their preliminary inspection of the vast public market Mercado Argentina following the Sept. 19 earthquake, the real work began.

When community members noticed the group of volunteers, decked out in neon work vests and hard hats, they didn’t hesitate to approach.

“Could you come to my house? It’s just around the corner,” one woman asked, poking her head out of the window of her natural foods stall. “When are you coming to look at the school? Can we send our kids on Monday?” a man called out as the group left.

Photos: Earthquake Rocks Mexico

Mexico City fared far better last week than it did on the same day in 1985, when a magnitude 8.1 quake leveled buildings across the city and left thousands dead. But there is still plenty of destruction, with some 40 buildings collapsing and trapping residents, and thousands more suffering damage, officials say. Some 194 people died in Mexico City alone – 27 of them children, according to the mayor. The total number of casualties has climbed to more than 330.

The city is just beginning the long process of deciding which structures will stay and which must go. Some residents have already learned their homes are uninhabitable, moving in with family or sleeping in temporary shelters, while others are trying to decide if they even want to risk a return to damaged – but possibly repairable – properties.

It’s not a quick process, and it’s taking a toll on jittery residents, on edge once again after a 6.1 aftershock swayed the city the following weekend. The inspections could result in many more families permanently losing their homes, and the process creates a test for public institutions that have historically been susceptible to corruption. Some estimate it could take months – or even a year – before at-risk buildings start to come down. Many see this as a dangerous proposition.

But for others, they’d rather avoid certain streets and leaning buildings if it means ensuring that they’re thoroughly checked for signs of building code violations before vital evidence is demolished into a pile of rubble.

When the earth started to shake on Sept. 19, employees in a fifth-floor office building in the Roma Norte neighborhood evacuated past broken support beams and shattered walls.

The asset manager for the building, Rafael Espeja, immediately put out calls for an inspection, he says. An inspector with qualifications recognized by the city arrived the next day, deeming the structure, built in 1962, in need of demolition. Several support columns were floating a few inches off the ground. The neighboring building is evacuated for the time being, due to the risk of the office falling.

“That’s why we are rushing with authorities and the insurance company to tear this down as soon as possible. If there’s an aftershock, it could collapse,” Espeja says.

But, according to Felix Villaseñor, the president of Mexico City’s professional association of architects, even pressing cases like this one may not see any concrete action in terms of demolition for at least a month. Others put the estimate, given the flood of damage and layers of paperwork involved, closer to a year.

Mexico City’s secretary of civil protection, Fausto Lugo, announced this week that there have been more than 10,000 buildings inspected so far, with at least 500 in need of demolition or major reconstruction, and another roughly 1,300 in need of repair. The city said it would initially make available some 3 billion pesos ($1.7 million) of its emergency response fund to help support victims of the quake and reconstruction efforts.

But the priority at the moment is putting resources toward search and rescue.

“We’re getting an impressive number of requests for inspections,” Villaseñor says. The majority are coming via an online form, which at one point had so much traffic that Google shut down the page, suspecting the deluge of requests were spam.

But for those living next door to damaged buildings, the idea of waiting even another day instills more anxiety. In the hard-hit Condesa neighborhood, Lorena Irita Ruiz, 52, looks up at a formerly eight-story building. Brass railings and window frames protrude over the sidewalk in a twisted pile of right angles after one floor collapsed onto another in the quake.

“And if we have a strong aftershock?” asks Ruiz, who is walking back from volunteering at a support center set up in the nearby Parque Mexico. “There are neighboring buildings, people on the street, we’re all in danger while this kind of building remains,” she says before a soldier patrolling the area asks her not to loiter.

After Mexico City’s 1985 quake, building codes were modernized, matching or exceeding global standards for quake-prone cities. But implementation isn’t always enforced.

A 2015 study of Mexico City building code compliance found that “It would appear that the regulator is not performing its duty” in ensuring the enforcement of building standards. Many of the mid-rise buildings evaluated in the study were found not to meet even minimum requirements of the capital’s strict – at least on paper – codes.

Although inspectors doing the first take on damaged structures after Tuesday’s quake say it appears that most buildings that fell or had significant damage were from prior to 1985, there were newer buildings in the mix, as well, underscoring the presence of corruption.

A brand new building in the Portales neighborhood crumbled in the quake, with engineers and architects at the building location reporting that the columns weren’t built to code, according to Mexican news site Animal Politico. Two people died in the collapse.

“Some people are noting the differences between today and 1985 and saying, ‘Look, there’s clear evidence of improvement,'” says Paul Lagunes, an assistant professor at Columbia University’s School for International and Public Affairs, who specializes in corruption and corruption control.

“That’s fair. But 1985 was an extremely low bar…. Yes, we are doing better, but not as well as we should be.”

In front of the Association of Architects, a line of nearly 100 eager volunteers fills the sidewalk. They’re mostly recent graduates or young professionals hoping to contribute their engineering and architecture skills to the earthquake relief efforts. But it’s also a professional development opportunity, as teams of less experienced volunteers are matched with experts like Mijares to conduct an inspection.

Back at the Mercado Argentina, Mijares hasn’t identified any structural damage. But he found the experience heartening. He served as a volunteer on a team like this one when he was a young architect in 1985.

“These kids know far more about building safety than I did at that point in my career,” he says. “I’m hopeful.”

New Lifestyles System Data: 2017 Global Consumer Trends Survey Results

Thanks;  Euromonitor Research

Published; SEPTEMBER 28TH, 2017

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We are excited to announce that the latest consumer survey results from the 2017 Global Consumer Trends survey are now live in the Lifestyles dashboard in our Passport database. Euromonitor International’s Global Consumer Trends surveys help companies stay ahead of a fast-changing consumer landscape by reaching out to internet-connected consumers from across the globe, then translating the results into comprehensive analysis and actionable opportunities.

Euromonitor International’s latest Global Consumer Trends survey data reveals a multitude of information about the 2017 consumer. With a global environment of rapid change and constant innovation, it is no surprise that consumer’s lifestyles are adapting quickly. The megatrend analysis enables Euromonitor International to identify emerging trends, while also monitoring how long-term megatrends are shaping the world. These megatrends are applicable to this year’s survey results.  Read on to learn more about the five key trends shaping consumer lifestyles.

Experience More

Millennials lead the way in trading the accumulation of things for experiences, particularly authentic, international travel opportunities. However, all consumers of all ages are looking for more time to relax.

Middle Class Retreat

Shopping preferences vary widely across markets and consumer segments, with some focused on buying fewer, high quality products and others succumbing to the pull of bargain hunting.

Connected Consumers

Consumers must now balance the benefits of ever-present internet access with added stresses and challenges to focus on “real world” activities.

Healthy Living

While consumers across the globe have nearly-endless access to health and wellness information, those with higher education are most likely to take advantage of tech advancements and opportunities to research and monitor their health.

Premiumisation

Meal preparation from scratch is often the first thing to go as consumers juggle priorities, particularly among younger consumers who are more likely to turn to meal preparation kits or delivery / takeaway options that offer convenience and premium ingredients.

To learn more about the latest Lifestyles trends, download our free survey extract or request a demonstration of Passport. If you’re a current client, the full system refresher highlighting key survey findings across all major consumer lifestyles areas can be found in the Lifestyles system in Passport.

 

These 6 books can make you a better college student

Thanks;Drew Housman

Published;Aug 27, 2017 8:18 a.m. ET

Understand statistics, gain financial literacy and get out of your comfort zone

I did very little reading the summer before I started college. I was focused on figuring out which roommate was going to bring the mini-fridge to the dorm, what posters to hang and what classes to take.

I wish I would have realized how many engaging, well-written, informative books there are that could have helped me get more out of my college experience. While none of them would teach me the finer points of suppressing the need to burp while chugging beer out of a funnel, they certainly would have helped me avoid some of the typical college pitfalls.

If had a time machine, I’d go back and have 18-year-old Drew put down the PlayStation controller and read the following six books.

“How to Lie with Statistics” by Darrell Huff”

This book is a fun romp through what I found, in high school, to be an interminably boring subject — statistics. I can feel my eyes glazing over just thinking about Mrs. Camacho, my junior year teacher, saying the words “standard deviation.”

Yet once I was in college, I was kicking myself for not having a better grasp of statistics. In almost all of my classes, I was faced with a dizzying array of studies to interpret, and I had no rules of thumb for figuring out what was good science and what wasn’t. Reading Huff’s book would have made me feel much more comfortable reading through all kinds of studies.

Huff excels at using real-world anecdotes to explain how stats can be manipulated, twisted and spun in order to influence or even trick the average person. A great example is when he takes on something as seemingly obvious as the word “average.” He details how, with a loose enough interpretation of that word, you can do some nefarious things.

For instance, a Realtor might sell you on the benefits of a particular neighborhood by proclaiming that the average income of the residents is $100,000 per year. But, unless you know whether she’s talking about the mean, median, or mode, you don’t know what to make of that seemingly impressive statement. As Huff puts it, using the word average to mean any number of things is “a trick commonly used, sometimes in innocence but often in guilt, by fellows wishing to influence public opinion or sell advertising space.”

Even though it’s over 60 years old, the book feels as relevant as ever. In a world where “fake news” is the phrase du jour, it’s critical to have an understanding of statistics. People from all sides of the political spectrum are going to try to spin jobs reports in their favor. Food companies are going to present nutrition studies so as to make their product look like the best choice. Your future boss might even try to skew your performance history so as to deny you a promotion. If you aren’t confident enough to form your own opinions that are rooted in a basic understanding of statistics, you’re going to be buffeted about by the winds of those who might see you as a sucker.

Furthermore, I think there’s a great benefit in reading books that make complex topics accessible by showing how your budding knowledge can be applied in the real world. When you have a broader understanding of why you’re doing what you’re doing, it’s easier to get through the boring parts.

“Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” by Cal Newport”

“Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” by Cal Newport

Cal Newport is a tenured professor and a best-selling author who churns out books at an impressive pace. How does he do it? By making room, every day, for what he terms “deep work.” These are chunks of time where he is singularly focused on one aspect of one project. He sits in a quiet room, sets a timer, and zeroes in on the task at hand.

The book is part an exploration of famous folks throughout history who embodied the “deep work” lifestyle, and part helpful tips on how to organize your life to make deep work more accessible.

It sounds simple, and it is. But that’s what’s so great about it. We are surrounded by tools, tech and apps that are all built to supposedly make life more efficient. Newport looks at things holistically, and understands that more important than any new app is developing the ability to sit down in a quiet room and just work.

Back when I started college, I was plenty distracted by my school email, my personal email, Facebook and my PlayStation 2. Now, that looks quaint. College freshmen have smartphones, Instagram, Snapchat, and a bevy of other time killers that are just a click away. If you can’t learn to harness the impulse to go down a YouTube rabbit hole, you’ll never be able to keep up with a full college workload.

My first semester of college was a whirlwind. It felt like every class was assigning an unsustainable amount of homework. And when faced with the siren call of emails and texts, it never seemed like I was making consistent headway on my tasks. Had I been better versed in the idea of deep work, I would have made it a priority to set aside a certain amount of time every day to do distraction-free work.

Cal Newport would have made me a firm proponent of living a life that minimizes the distractions that come from modern “conveniences.” I would be more likely to purposely limit my cellphone usage, eschew Flappy Bird for internal reflection while riding the bus to class, and to check my email only once per day. In a world where we check our phones upward of 46 times per day, staying on task while limiting access to technology is as important as ever.

Related: Deep Work and Deep Learning for Your Career and Your Life

“Early Retirement Extreme” by Jacob Lund Fisker”

My 18 year-old-self would have scoffed at reading a book with such a gimmicky title. But, I now know that this book is not espousing a lifestyle of Top Ramen noodles and living with roommates your whole life. It’s a philosophical treatise on the hows and whys of living a happy, sustainable life.

The author is a former physicist who left academia and retired in his early 30s. His book details how he was able to retire early even though he never earned more money than the average tollbooth worker, and he never inherited a windfall. This aspect of the book is particularly inspiring. Many luminaries in the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) world just happen to have tech jobs that pay them six-figure salaries, plus bonuses. It’s intimidating to try to follow in their footsteps. When someone shows you a path to financial freedom while earning $40,000 a year, it feels more accessible.

The book makes a point of convincing the reader that, with a little effort, they can become a “renaissance man” — the type of person who can insource a lot of tasks that we now reflexively pay others to do for us. We can save a lot of money by cleaning our own homes, doing our own taxes, cooking our own food and properly maintaining our clothing. Such tasks must be undertaken with the understanding that it’s inherently rewarding to be self-sufficient. Frugality does not have to mean sacrificing your happiness.

The book also serves as a way to gain basic financial literacy, an area where our K-12 educational system consistently lets us down. I entered college with no idea how to build credit, how to invest or how to balance a budget. “Early Retirement Extreme” covers all of that without dumbing anything down, and it also goes over everything from calculating the true cost of home ownership to the importance of using your savings rate as a way to monitor your financial health.

The book really shines in the way it addresses things through the lens of building robust systems and encouraging the reader to think outside the box. Had I read this before college, I may have been more inclined to try to start side hustles and think about ways I could build a wide range of skills so I’d never be jobless in a recession.

At my college, it often felt like success was defined by the number of zeros in your bank account, or whether you had lined up a prestigious job after graduation. It doesn’t have to be like that. It’s up to you to decide what path you want to take. Just because your parents and grandparents worked a 9-5 job until they were 65 doesn’t mean you have to. “Early Retirement Extreme” can help young people think about their career trajectories, and their lives, in a whole new way.

“Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand”

Eighteen-year-olds, my younger self included, can be a bit dramatic. A bad grade, or a fight with your roommate, can feel like the end of the world. But, obstacles like that will inevitably arise, and how you deal with them will be a major determinant in how much you get out of the college experience.

Reading a book like “Unbroken” can help you keep your problems in perspective. It tells the story of Louis Zamperini, a World War II veteran who faced being stranded at sea for a record period of time, only to be “rescued” and put into a Japanese prisoner of war camp. He faced conditions that would have made me think twice before complaining about how unfair it was that I got put in a dorm without central air conditioning.

Hillenbrand tells the story masterfully, with rich details and perfect pacing. You feel like you’re right alongside Zamperini as he battles through one hardship after another. I have always been a sucker for underdogs and come-from-behind stories, and this book is near the pinnacle of that genre.

Zamperini’s resilience, determination, and stoicism are constant reminders that I need to appreciate the simple things in life that are so easy to take for granted. Sure, your dorm food might not be great. But once you’ve seen the world through the eyes of someone like Zamperini, you eat it with a smile, happy to live in a world full of freedom and opportunity.

“How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie”

Again, my younger self would have been turned off from this book by the title alone. It sounds like a get-rich-quick manual for con artists. Plus, I had tons of friends — what use would I have with this weird book by a circus promoter?

But, had I taken the time to read it, I would have learned that it’s the ultimate guide to networking. I didn’t think I needed help with networking at the time, but I did.

I had a great crew of friends in high school, but I was never able to replicate that in college. This was partly because I was scared of the unknown. The unfamiliar people, the foreign landscape, the intimidating “career fairs” — I quickly found that I was much more comfortable staying away from all that. The world outside my dorm could be full of rejection and awkwardness.

Yet, once you read “How to Win,” you are better able to see those potentially scary events as opportunities. The book provides simple, easy-to-implement advice that can improve your confidence in social situations. The mere fact that it’s still being widely read, so many years later, should speak to its effectiveness.

If you can get out of your comfort zone and effectively network while in college, you’ll set yourself up to have better relationships and more lucrative career opportunities. It doesn’t have to be smarmy, and you don’t need to print business cards. You just have to realize the simple power of things like being a good listener, remembering people’s names, and avoiding arguments. If you develop a wide array of rich relationships while in school, you’re taking a tremendous step toward improving the quality of the rest of your life.

Related: How to Be More Likable, and Why That’s Financially Valuable

“Reading with purpose”

Not only do I wish I’d read all of the above before college, but I wish I’d digested them. I tend to read very fast. It’s a skill that serves me well, but also hindered me in ways. I was great at technically completing my college reading assignments, not so great at actually absorbing anything. I was much more focused on getting reading done just to say I did it. After all, there were videogames to be played!

So, that’s why I also wish I’d read “How to Read a Book” by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles van Doren. It’s a bit pedantic, but on the whole it offers good tips on how to get more out of the texts you read. It extols the virtues of slowing down, taking notes, and rereading passages to make sure you understand them.

If you’re an avid speed reader, using the methods from this book will be laborious at first, like trying to run underwater. But, with time, you’ll realize that reading in a more focused, deliberate manner will improve your ability to get concepts to stick in your brain. As with Aesop’s famous tortoise and the hare, slow and steady wins the race.

“Summing up”

If I had taken the time to slowly and methodically read the above books, I’m confident I would have had a better college experience. I could have made this list a hundred books long, but I think these six provide a nice base for those college students who want to be inspired while broadening their understanding of both themselves and the world.

Is the open office layout dead?

Thanks;April Kilcrease

Published;August 10, 2017

The open office layout is meant to foster an egalitarian work environment that inspires creativity and spontaneous collaboration among colleagues. Nearly 60 years since their invention, an increasing body of research is beginning to show what many employees already know—open offices often fall short of that ideal.

How we got here

A pair of German brothers developed the original open office in 1958. Gone were managers’ private offices and underlings’ rows of desks. Instead, the new design featured clusters of desks based on departments. By removing physical barriers, the designers were convinced that communication and ideas would flow freely.

Less than a decade later, Herman Miller chief executive Robert Propst invented the cubicle and the walls returned. Propst criticized the open office as a wasteland that “saps vitality, blocks talent, frustrates accomplishment.” He envisioned his cubicles as a way to liberate workers by providing them with privacy and personal space.

Unfortunately, most businesses downgraded his roomy, flexible designs to the depressing, but less expensive, warren of beige cubicles that we all know now. (In a 1998 interview, Propst himself accused companies of manipulating his original idea into “hellholes.”)

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Today, the open office layout is back with a vengeance. In a 2013 survey by CoreNet Global, an association for corporate real estate managers, more than 80% of respondents said their company had moved toward an open space floor plan. And once again, the backlash has begun. In the last five years, a slew of articles with alarmist titles like “Death To The Open Office Floor Plan!” and “Open-plan offices were devised by Satan in the deepest caverns of hell” have assailed the supposedly progressive design.

So what exactly is wrong with the modern open office layout and how can we create spaces that fulfill the promise of a happy and collaborative workplace?

What isn’t working

By design, colleagues are more accessible in an open office layout. The minute a question pops into your head, you can easily hop over to a co-worker’s desk, or simply swivel your chair to face them. Unfortunately, these well-intentioned intrusions can lead to real problems.

First among those is reduced productivity. According to a study on the cost of interrupted work, a typical office worker is interrupted every 11 minutes. Even worse, people often take up to 25 minutes to refocus on the original task.

And without physical barriers to block it out, noise may be the number one problem with open office plans. Together, loud phone talkers, gossipy co-workers, and that guy chomping on an apple every afternoon can frazzle your auditory system. Researchers have found that the loss of productivity due to noise distraction doubles in open office layouts compared to private offices, and open office noise reduces the ability to recall information, and even to do basic arithmetic.

As anyone who’s had to call their doctor from their desk knows, one of the worst parts of open office layouts is that you can’t control who you hear—or who hears you. In a 2013 study about the privacy-communication trade-off in open offices, 60% of cubicle workers and half of all employees in partitionless offices said the lack of sound privacy was a significant problem.

Along with these frustrations, open offices are actually making people sick. A study on the association between sick days and open office plans found that people working in open offices took 62% more sick days than those in private offices. And remember all those interruptions that workers experience in open offices? In a survey in the International Journal of Stress Management, employees who were frequently interrupted reported 9% higher rates of exhaustion.

The office of the future is here

Clearly, open office layouts aren’t the hotbeds of creativity designers originally hoped they would be. And with office space at a premium, private offices for everyone isn’t a realistic alternative, nor is it ideal. The ebb and flow of effective collaboration requires several types of spaces. As workplace experts outlined in the Harvard Business Review, employees tend to generate ideas and process information alone or in pairs, then come together in a larger group to build on those ideas, and then disperse again to take the next steps.

Luckily, the solution is fairly simple—design offices with a variety of areas to suit different kinds of work, including communal hubs and meeting rooms for group work, and smaller private spaces, where people can put their heads down and concentrate. Then give employees the freedom to choose between these places throughout the day.

The best place to start? Talk to your people. When companies understand what types of environments their employees need to do their best work, they can design better offices to meet these needs. Engineers who spend hours brainstorming in small groups don’t always need the same sorts of dedicated spaces for focused concentration as copy editors or financial analysts. Here are three of the more progressive ways to make your space suit your employees:

Privacy pods. Perhaps the most powerful and popular trend in the move away from open offices is an increased number of small private spaces. These include soundproof glass rooms, which provide quiet refuges, while keeping the airy feel of an open office layout, as well as so-called “phone booths,” closet-sized spaces for focused solo work and confidential meetings between two people.

Zoning. Along with building more private nooks, companies are now replacing traditional conference rooms with a greater range of meeting spaces. These include alcoves where groups of three to four co-workers can gather for a meeting on the fly, and team meeting spaces for five to eight people that can be booked in advance or saved for groups that meet frequently. Businesses can also cut down on unwanted distractions by dividing floor plans into neighborhoods based on expected noise levels and locating chattier departments, such as sales and operations, far away from quieter teams. Using desks, shelving, and large plants to create more labyrinthian configurations reduces auditory and visual distractions as well.

No designated desks. Today’s mobile communication tools allow people to work from anywhere, opening up the entire building as a potential workplace. You may want the buzz of energy that a cafe or atrium can provide. Other times, you may find that setting up shop in the fresh air can lead to fresh perspectives.

Moreover, according to the architecture and design firm Gensler, “employers who offer choice in when and where to work have workers who are 12% more satisfied with their jobs and report higher effectiveness scores.”

These kinds of setups—where people have the autonomy to work in the areas that best suit their tasks and temperaments at any given moment—may just be what offices need. With them, companies can finally achieve the freedom and exchange of ideas promised by the original open office of the 1950s. And that can give us something we can all agree on: workplaces that work for all employees.

Governments commit to promote a more resource efficient and pollution free Asia-Pacific

Thanks;Kavita Sukanandan

PUBLISHED;8 Sep 2017

Issued:

8 Sep 2017
News Number:

G/36/2017
Location:

Bangkok
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Environment ministers and high-level officials from over 30 countries in Asia-Pacific have committed to move towards a clean and green Asia-Pacific, one that is more resource efficient and pollution free at the first Asia-Pacific Ministerial Summit on the Environment that concluded today in Bangkok. This will advance global agendas like the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, the UN Environment Assembly resolutions and other global commitments.

The Summit culminated in a call for collaborative action to ensure that environment and development is approached in an integrated way, from promoting the sustainable management of natural resources, urban planning and spatial development, to fostering sustainable agriculture practices and advancing the green economy to reduce waste and pollution.

Participants at the Summit, jointly organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and UN Environment also highlighted the urgency of addressing environmental health risks associated with pollution, promoting resource efficiency measures and practices, and protecting natural capital and ecosystem integrity including wildlife, biodiversity and oceans.

United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Dr. Shamshad Akhtar said, “This is an important cornerstone of regional collaboration on sustainable management of natural resources in Asia and the Pacific. It underpins the agreement already reached in the regional roadmap for sustainable development and provides us with the vision of our member States on future cooperation.”

“There is a clear resolve to bring about a pollution free Asia Pacific. Political leadership, private sector engagement and citizen action is essential to ensure that people’s basic needs like access to healthcare, water and proper sanitation are met. At the same time, it is imperative that we step up efforts to reduce plastic waste and marine litter,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment.

Other issues addressed at the periphery of the Summit include gender and environment, oceans governance, climate geoengineering, investments in water infrastructure and the Astana Green Bridge Initiative.

Robotics in Rural Lithuania

Thanks:Nikolaj Ambrusevic

Published;AUGUST 31ST, 2017

One of our charity partners in Lithuania, Robotikos Mokykla (Robotic School), recently invited us to participate in a workshop in the tiny village of Karvys, 30km north of Vilnius. Robotic School is a charity working primarily with young people to foster an interest in STEAM subjects (science, technology, engineering, art and maths) through engaging and practical workshops. The project also aims to create a safe space for young people and help develop social and other skills.

The main idea of this session was to reach out to young people who cannot go to organised classes and who have little access to the internet at home. Robotic School’s enthusiasts Jonas and Evaldas told us not to expect much from the workshop as the majority of rural children are busy helping their parents with agricultural and other duties, so computers and other devices are mainly used just for entertainment.

Robotik-5.jpg

During the workshop, tools based on simple programming for creating animation and games were introduced to two groups of young people from 5-12 years, and 16-18 years. While the younger group were creating their very first cartoon, the teenagers had a chance to get familiar with micro bit programming. Although the majority of participants had little knowledge of computer technologies, they showed a huge interest in programming and shared positive feedback afterwards. It was good to observe how small achievements in a new digital environment changed their attitude, making them more focused and persistent.

The social workers of the club were amazed by the overall impact of our visit and were keen to run similar activities again in the future. I was so glad to be a part of it and am proud that Euromonitor is supporting Robotic School through our CSR programme.

 

UK Bans Card Surcharges, will Merchants Raise Prices?

THANKS ; Ryan Tuttle

Published ; AUGUST 28TH, 2017

Interchange and assessment fees were a fixture in UK news in mid-July as the UK Treasury declared merchant surcharges illegal, beginning January 2018. Heralded as a common sense move by many commenters, the ban does, however, beg the question of whether merchants will raise prices to cover card fees. The decision charts a contrasting course to that of both the US and Australia, which have both made headlines in recent years over challenges to surcharging laws but permit the practice, subject to limitations. The move may also prove valuable ammunition in the future for litigants looking to take up the charge of a recently rejected interchange fee lawsuit in the UK.

Going beyond PSD2

Surcharging – the merchant practice of attaching fees to card transactions – is a contentious issue. For merchants, it represents an opportunity to pass along the cost of card transactions that would otherwise eat into profit margins. For consumers, it is an added cost that can be confusing and at times excessive. In some cases, surcharges can far exceed the actual cost to the merchant of processing transactions, and can serve as a barrier to card usage. While a ban on surcharging under Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2) was already imminent for cards affected by the EU’s recent Interchange Fee Regulation (IFR), the UK government opted to extend the ban to all retail payment methods. This ban also includes transactions processed by government agencies. Merchants – now barred from surcharging, but still responsible for interchange fees and assessments – may respond by raising prices, a move which would affect all payment types.

Australia and the US: Surcharging context

The option to implement card surcharges has a long history and is far from universally settled. While the EU has taken steps toward a more unified approach under PSD2, other countries, such as Australia and the US, have taken completely different approaches. Interchange fees in the UK are significantly lower (capped at 0.3% for credit and 0.2% for debit under the IFR) when compared to Australia (which caps interchange on credit cards at 0.8%) and the US (which often features credit card interchange rates well in excess of 3%), but still represent a cost to consumers.

In Australia, surcharges have long been a point of conflict. In the early 2000s, the Australian government began allowing card surcharges, but was forced to set stricter standards for large retailers in 2016 and other merchants in 2017 to curb excessive fees on cards issued in Australia, limiting them to the actual transaction cost.

In the US, the situation is considerably more complicated. Merchants accepting cards are not only subject to government regulations, but also to differing agreements with the card networks. In 2013, a settlement with Mastercard and Visa went into effect which allowed merchants to apply a surcharge to certain transactions up to the actual processing cost as long they also apply it to American Express. This change does not, however, apply to American Express, so merchants that accept all three of these networks are left unable to apply surcharges.

In addition to card agreements, 10 states in the US ban card surcharges. In many of the states with anti-surcharge laws, merchants are permitted to charge a higher price for card transactions; however, they are prohibited from describing it as a surcharge but must instead describe it as a cash discount. Earlier this year, the law in the state of New York was challenged in the Supreme Court on First Amendment grounds, however the issue has been returned to lower courts for further litigation and no changes have been made.

IFR and interchange lawsuits

The timing of this announcement is intriguing, given that the British Competition Appeal Tribunal just two days later rejected a GBP14 billion class action lawsuit against Mastercard that centred on merchants passing along interchange fees to consumers that paid in cash. Difficulty proving that merchants passed on fees was a major reason for the Tribunal’s denial of the suit. The elimination of surcharging in the UK should thus prove an interesting study in merchant behaviour. While in some cases these costs may be more or less in line with the costs to handle cash and other payment types, some merchants may nevertheless choose to raise prices in order to bear the burden of interchange fees, leaving January 2018 as a key date in future arguments over interchange fees.

Most Americans can’t kick this habit, and it’s killing them

Thanks;Ilene Raymond Rush

Published;Aug 24, 2017 1:52 pm ET

*Should you give up sugar?

This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org.

With obesity on the rise and high rates of Type 2 diabetes, more people are attempting to give up sugar. It isn’t easy. Although scientific opinion is far from unanimous, there is tantalizing evidence that sugar can be as neurologically rewarding as some addictive drugs, helping to explain why it’s so hard to kick the habit.

Even figuring out how much sugar you eat is tricky. As Gary Taubes points out in his book, “The Case Against Sugar,” the sweet stuff appears in everything from breakfast cereals to tobacco. And sugar can evade even careful label-readers, masquerading as glucose, fruit juice concentrate, high fructose syrup and sucrose.

75 pounds of sugar a year

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, average consumption of added sugars amounts to about 75 pounds of sugar per person a year.

Taubes find the widespread idea of sugar as simply “empty calories” naïve. Instead, he sees sugar as having specific and possibly harmful effects in the human body.

“Different carbohydrates, like glucose and fructose, are metabolized differently,” he says, “leading to different hormonal and physiological responses. Fat accumulation and metabolism are influenced profoundly by these hormones.”

“People act as though all that matters is the dose, but when you talk about sugar like any other drug you have a paradigm shift,” says Taubes. “Why does Zoloft [an antidepressant] do something different than Lipitor [used to lower cholesterol]? No matter what dose we give a patient of Lipitor, it’s never going to be an antidepressant.

“We keep talking about what’s the right dose of sugar rather than how it works in the body,” Taubes says. “We need to look at it differently.”

Sugars for fats: a poor trade-off

“I think we’re just starting to understand the short- and long-term problems that increased sugar intake can cause to the human body,” says Dr. David Becker, associate director of the preventive and integrative heart health program at the Temple Heart and Vascular Institute in Philadelphia. “From the heart point of view, sugar raises [unhealthy] triglycerides, lowers [healthy] HDL and causes something called metabolic syndrome, a condition where the body can’t process things normally. As we get older, this is as powerful a risk factor as high cholesterol, which causes an increased risk of hypertension and hyperlipidemia and sets the body up to have [a heart attack] over time.””

The dilemma is that “we traded one problem for another,” says Becker. Over the years, in giving up cholesterol, people turned to processed foods that were low in saturated fat but high in sugar.

“But because cholesterol is bad, that doesn’t mean sugar is good. They’re both bad for you,” Becker says.

So what should people eat?

Becker suggests the Mediterranean diet — which is high in healthy fats, proteins and complex carbohydrates such as legumes or whole grains — as one option.

“Diets have been operating between polar extremes,” says Becker. “On one end, there is the Ornish plan, which cuts fats below 10%, which means people eat more junk carbs such as white breads, pasta and sugar, to make up for missing calories. Then there is the Atkins diet, which is very high in saturated fat. I believe we need some balance.”

‘Stepping down’ from sugar

“You can definitely live without sugar,” says Susan Renda, assistant professor of community and public health at Johns Hopkins Medical School. “Mainly, it’s a source of quick energy that rapidly raises blood sugar. If you’re running a marathon, you might need that burst of energy, but in most cases you don’t.”

For those who can’t go cold turkey, Renda advises a “step-down” approach.

“First, be aware of the foods you’re eating. Sugar is everywhere, even in bread, where high fructose corn syrup can be used to help the yeast grow. People aren’t aware of how much sugar they consume.”

Then, she recommends substitutions.

“Pick a processed or refined carbohydrate and substitute a food of the earth, something closer to its natural state,” says Renda. “If you eat ice cream every night, consider substituting a handful of grapes or a few nuts three nights a week.”

Her third step is to work hard to enjoy whatever food you select.

“We tend to eat things we like very quickly. Choose a corner of a bar of dark chocolate — which is healthier than milk chocolate — and eat it very, very slowly,” says Renda.

Skip the soda

Becker finds that the simplest tip for many people is to watch what you drink.

“Sugary sodas are the most harmful — you can have 10 teaspoons of sugar in a single can. And fruit juices aren’t much better,” he says. “Get back to water, and if you must, put a tiny bit of fruit juice in it. It’s something that cuts down the calories and makes a huge difference.”

Despite Becker’s best advice, he admits that not many of his patients abandon sugar completely.

Don’t miss: Still not losing weight? These may be the reasons why

“We need a lot of educating,” he says. “People like things that taste good. But this is a condition that can be cured. Try a sugar purge for a couple of weeks — people say that within two or three weeks they lose the taste for sugar really quickly.”

Ilene Raymond Rush is a health and science writer whose work appears in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Diabetic Lifestyle, Diabetic Living, Good Housekeeping, Weight Watchers Magazine, Philadelphia Magazine and many other publications. She lives in Elkins Park, a suburb of Philadelphia, with her husband and overweight schnauzer, Noodle.