Watch for a new Regional Director Canada for the JTB this spring

first_imgWatch for a new Regional Director, Canada for the JTB this spring About Latest Posts Kathryn FolliottEditor at TravelweekKathryn is Editor at Travelweek and has worked for the company since 1995. She has travelled to more than 50 countries and counts Hong Kong, Jerusalem, the Swiss Alps and the Galapagos Islands among her favourite destinations. Latest posts by Kathryn Folliott (see all) “They need to go where the bucks are”: Agents on ACTA partnership – April 18, 2019 As the cost of doing business climbs, host agencies, retail groups say they have options – April 4, 2019 As of 2021 Europe-bound clients will need to apply online for a visa waiver and pay a fee – April 3, 2019 << Previous PostNext Post >> Share Tags: Jamaica, JTB Posted by This story originally ran in the January 31st, 2019 issue of Travelweek magazine. To get Travelweek delivered to your agency for free, subscribe here.TORONTO — Now that Philip Rose has packed away his toque and taken up residence in sunny Fort Lauderdale as the Jamaica Tourist Board’s new Regional Director of Tourism, Northeast USA, the trade is wondering who will succeed him as the JTB’s new Regional Director for Canada.Dan Hamilton, the JTB’s District Sales Manager, says the target timeline for announcing the new Regional Director for Canada is early spring and specifically by April 1.For now Hamilton is keeping things under control by doing double duty as the JTB’s Acting Regional Director – Canada.Year over year Canadian arrivals to Jamaica came in just less than flat for 2018, making it almost equal to record-breaking 2017, when Jamaica welcomed 405,000 Canadian travellers. Worldwide arrivals to Jamaica topped 4.3 million.Looking back on 2018, the JTB’s Director of Tourism, Donovan White told Travelweek that arrivals remained strong despite a few challenges, not least of which was public perception following the State of Public Emergency (SOE) declaration for St. James Parish, including popular Montego Bay.The SOE freed up extra funds to get more police into the area in response to escalating crime and was seen as a positive and proactive move by the industry, however consumer media coverage prompted more than a few calls to the JTB from concerned travellers.Steady support from Jamaica’s tour operator partners, and a calm, level-headed response to the situation from the JTB itself, kept visitor numbers on an even keel.Back in October Jamaica had announced it was extending the SOE for St. James Parish until Jan. 31.“There’s a level of confidence for Canadians travellers with what to expect from Jamaica,” says White. “Jamaica is a tried and tested destination for Canadians.”Not only does Canada punch above its weight when it comes to visitor arrivals to Jamaica, it also has a return rate of about 42%.The priority now, says White, is to keep the experience fresh by emphasizing the island’s attractions, food, entertainment and culture. “Jamaica has experiences you can’t have anywhere else, from Chukka (with its long list of excursion options) to river rafting down the Martha Brae.”More news:  Transat calls Groupe Mach’s latest offer “highly abusive, coercive and misleading”And what about Jamaica’s hotels? As reported on Jan. 25, Both H10 Hotels and Princess Hotels & Resorts are coming to Jamaica, with a combined 3,000 new rooms set to open on the Caribbean island by 2021.Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett made the announcement at FITUR in Spain in late January. The total investment from the two hotel companies is worth US$750 million.H10 Hotels will construct 1,000 new rooms in Trelawny at a value of approximately US$250 million. H10 currently has more than 55 hotels in 18 destinations.Princess Hotels and Resorts, meanwhile, will construct 2,000 new rooms in Hanover, at a cost of US$500 million.The value of this latest investment from H10 and Princess “cannot be overstated as it will transform our tourism product and allow for heavier marketing of the destination,” said Bartlett.“More rooms mean more visitors and more visitors mean more foreign exchange earnings and ultimately more economic growth, which is in line with our 5x5x5 growth strategy.”Jamaica has made no secret of its goal to significantly boost its room stock.Currently Jamaica has about 32,000 rooms. As part of the Ministry’s 5x5x5 growth strategy, Jamaica is looking for 5 million visitors and $5 billion in revenues over 5 years. Jamaica also wants 15,000 additional rooms by 2022.The H10 and Princess mega projects “are ready to go”, adds Bartlett. “Funding is in place, lands have been purchased and development ready to begin following the requisite approvals being granted.”H10 will officially break ground on Feb. 6 and Princess Hotels will follow suit by mid-February.Other big-name resorts already opened or in the pipeline as part of Jamaica’s room stock surge are Excellence Oyster Bay and the new S Hotel Jamaica, now open on the site of the former Breezes Montego Bay.Meanwhile Sandals Resorts – practically synonymous with Jamaica and its stellar tourism product – is working on retrofits and refurbishments of its many properties on the island. Sandals Resorts International’s partnership with Marriott International to manage a new 220-room AC Hotels by Marriott property in Jamaica’s capital is moving ahead, with construction on the $50 million AC Kingston well underway. The hotel is currently eyeing a summer 2019 launch.More news:  Air Canada’s global sales update includes Managing Director, Canada & USA SalesOther new resort projects include a Hard Rock Montego Bay and a 5,000-room commitment from Karisma. RIU continues to bolster its Jamaica resort lineup, and Playa Resorts is now one of Jamaica’s largest resort owners thanks to its 2018 agreement with Jamaica’s Sagicor Group.Jamaica will need a lot of new rooms if it’s going to keep up with demand, and all the extra lift it’s getting. For this 2018-19 winter season Jamaica has more than 40,000 new seats out of Canadian gateways.“We believe we have to expand,” says White. “We want to expand the product and also diversify the product. And we want to achieve our objective of 50,000 rooms in the next few years.”Jamaica recently welcomed the world as host of the 2019 Caribbean Travel Marketplace, along with the Caribbean Hotel Tourism Association (CHTA) in collaboration with co-hosts the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association, the Jamaica Tourist Board and the Jamaica Ministry of Tourism. The event brought 576 supplier delegates from 147 companies to Montego Bay and also saw the official launch of the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre. The centre is designed to help vulnerable states across the world to recover quickly from natural disasters. Tuesday, February 5, 2019 Kathryn Folliott last_img read more

Centara Hotels Resorts welcomes a number of new General Manager

first_imgCentara Hotels & Resorts www.centarahotelsresorts.comCentara Hotels & Resorts welcomes a number of new General ManagersCentara has seen a great deal of positive change thus far in 2016 and with that has also brought in some new faces.  Centara Hotels & Resorts (CHR) is pleased to introduce a number of new members to the General Managers team.Mr. Dominique Rongé, Belgian national, is the new Area General Manager of Samui.  He first joined Centara Hotels & Resorts in 2012 as the General Manager for the opening of Centara Grand Phratamnak Pattaya where he was for two years.  He then was promoted to be Area General Manager responsible for Centra Avenue Hotel Pattaya and Centara Avenue Hotel for their pre-openings. Rongé has a short absence from CHR while working as the General Manager (opening team) at Keemala Phuket just before re-joining CHR.  With his extensive knowledge of CHR and the properties, and 5 star resorts background, Rongé will be a stronger leader at Centara Grand Beach Resort Samui, Centara Villas Samui and Centra Coconut Beach Resort Samui.Central Grand and Bangkok Convention Centre at CentralWorld Bangkok welcomes Mr. Eric Weber as their new General Manager.  Weber is a Swiss national with over 27 years of experience in hospitality industry, having worked for various properties with the Mandarin Oriental and Hyatt – Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, Grand Hyatt Dubai, Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill and Hyatt Regency Paris – Charles de Gaulle. Prior to joining CHR, he was the General Manager of the Hyatt Regency Mumbai in India.Centara Ceysands Resort & Spa, Sri Lanka is pleased to welcome Mr. Riaan Drever as General Manager.  Drever is a South African national with over 19 years of experience in the hospitality industry, having worked for various properties in countries across Africa, America, Middle East and Asia within groups such as Orient Express, Fairmont, Movenpick, Jumeirah and Six Senses Soneva. He was in the Maldives at Centara Ras Fushi Resort and Spa as Resident Manager before taking up the role in Sri Lanka.With an extensive background with Centara Hotels & Resorts, it is a pleasure to welcome Mr. Chaiphun Thongsuthum as General Manager for one of the newest properties, Centra Maris Resort Jomtien, which is just a few hours out of Bangkok.  Thongsuthum has more than 32 years of experience in the hospitality industry in operations and sales and marketing. He has worked for many Centara resorts such as Centara Grand at Central Plaza Lad Prao Bangkok, Centara Hotel Hat Yai, Central Hotel Myanmar and Centara Duangtawan Hotel Chiang Mai. Prior to the transfer to Jomtein, Thongsuthum was the General Manager at Centara Hotel & Convention Centre Udon Thani for the past seven years.Thirayuth Chirathivat, Chief Executive Officer of Centara Hotels & Resorts shared, “I offer my congratulations to all of the new members to the Centara team as well as to the friendly faces who are taking on new challenges in their new assignments.  I am pleased to see the progress of many of our people and am confident that they will continue to help drive their properties to meet their goals in 2016.” Source = Centara Hotels & Resortslast_img read more

GLENDALE Ariz – Go ahead and add rookie offensiv

first_imgGLENDALE, Ariz. – Go ahead and add rookie offensive lineman D.J. Humphries to the ever-growing list of Arizona Cardinals players slowed by injuries early in training camp.The first-round pick, drafted 24th overall out of Florida, suffered a right knee injury near the start of practice Tuesday.  After a brief examination by the training staff, Humphries walked off the field and into the locker room for further evaluation. Grace expects Greinke trade to have emotional impact Comments   Share   Top Stories Former Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson retirescenter_img “He stumbled on the turf and hyper-extended his knee, so it could be two-to-three days, it could be a week,” head coach Bruce Arians said.Humphries had knee issues in college.  In his sophomore season, he missed a total of five games because of MCL sprains, first in his left knee and then later in the right knee.Humphries was one of three offensive linemen to exit the second padded practice.  Guard Earl Watford (ankle) and tackle Rob Crisp (knee) both found themselves in the trainer’s room.  They were joined by running back Marion Grice (hamstring), who limped off the field within the first hour of the two hour and five-minute session.Hamstring trouble continues to sideline running backs Andre Ellington and David Johnson, linebackers Shaq Riddick and Sean Weatherspoon as well as tight end Troy Niklas.Tight ends Ted Bolser (knee) and Jermaine Gresham (back) plus linebacker Darryl Sharpton (hip flexor) and Zack Wagenmann (foot) are also out.All total, 13 players will miss Wednesday’s practice.None of the injuries, though, are considered serious.“One man’s injury is another man’s opportunity,” Arians said. Derrick Hall satisfied with D-backs’ buying and selling The 5: Takeaways from the Coyotes’ introduction of Alex Meruelolast_img read more

McCready votes to protect essential community services funding during historic PPT phaseout

first_img Categories: McCready News,News The Michigan House yesterday approved a package of ten Personal Property Tax (PPT) bills with the support of Rep. Mike McCready, R-Bloomfield Hills, to make sure schools and local communities don’t lose essential revenue during the PPT phase-out. Michigan’s PPT has historically been a detriment to business growth and will continue to be phased out as scheduled. Senate Bills 821-830 reform and simplify the personal property tax system, encouraging job growth in Michigan.“It is a responsible piece of legislation to ensure there will be no additional costs for Michigan’s hard-working taxpayers during this welcome transition,” McCready said. “100 percent reimbursement for our schools and local governments is a result of a revenue shift, not a new tax, which is why this package is a solid compromise for all.”Under PPT, Michigan businesses pay taxes on equipment, machinery and furniture among other purchases, which puts the state at a disadvantage when attracting and retaining additional jobs in comparison to surrounding states that lack a similar tax.“The last thing we want to do is give businesses a reason to set up shop outside our border,” McCready said. “We are making Michigan more competitive regionally, which in turn will foster job growth and encourage economic expansion.”The collaborative, job-growing bill package received no opposition in committee from state lawmakers or local governments, and garnered overwhelming bipartisan support on the floor. The bills now return to the Senate for consideration.### 26Mar McCready votes to protect essential community services, funding during historic PPT phase-outlast_img read more

IPTV services continue to develop and grow but ope

first_imgIPTV services continue to develop and grow but operators are keenly aware of the need for standardisation of the technologies that support them.One of the most pressing issues for IPTV operators is standards – the need for standards in delivering IP video to and around the home, and for greater interoperability of customer premises equipment. Some operators are enjoying considerable success in their respective pay-TV markets, yet appear frustrated at the lack of unifying standards that could cut lengthy (and expensive) integration battles, and lessen the risk of equipment obsolescence.IPTV operators by and large remain upbeat regarding the future of their services. At this year’s IPTV World Forum, Paul Berriman, chief technology officer of Hong Kong’s PCCW said that the benefit of its IPTV service Now TV in reducing churn is “huge”, adding that PCCW currently has around double the ARPU of its nearest broadband competitor, saying that it has “breathed a new lease of life” into the company’s broadband services. Solid subscriber additions have continued to be posted this year (AT&T alone added over 280,000 subscribers for its ‘U-verse TV’ service in the first quarter of this year), despite the ongoing problems with the global economy.Technical challengesRichard Griffiths, director of TV and entertainment at Irish telco Eircom, has seemed upbeat about the prospect of launching IPTV in Ireland this year: “This is a fantastic opportunity for Eircom, as the tier-one telco in Ireland, to be launching IPTV in 2009,” he said. “The supplier industry in the IPTV world is now sufficiently mature that the IPTV platforms have their bugs ironed out and can deliver a feature-rich service, and thus Eircom is not going to have to go through such an extensive product development phase as was the case in 2003 or 2004.”Nevertheless, the main challenges remain technology-related. Madeleine Forrer, vice-president of Video Services at the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC) in the US, said earlier this year: “Right now, the biggest challenge continues to be technical. The network must be able to successfully support at least one gigabyte of multicast traffic. Accomplishing that in an environment without standards and its own version of ‘plug and play’ makes the technology challenging.”Ben Schwarz, principal consultant at consultancy firm Farncombe Technology, concurs: “I’d say the big challenge for the industry – linked to the work of the Open IPTV Forum – is to integrate standards into the set-top box, rather than just on the server side.” He also believes that one of the major issues for IPTV operators is finding themselves in an increasingly HD world: “High-definition content seems to be a terrible threat to DSL-based IPTV services – the challenge for a DSL operator is ‘what do I do while waiting for a fibre network?’”The NRTC’s Forrer says: “It’s time for some common standards and interoperability of equipment. This is crucial to reducing the cost of delivering service and will ensure that a telco isn’t left out in the cold if one equipment provider goes out of business. And, finally, with standards should come the certification of solutions, which would give telcos a greater confidence and might enable more to move into video.”One content player seemingly determined to tackle the absence of standards is the BBC, via its Project Canvas initiative (in partnership with fellow public service broadcaster ITV and UK telco BT). The BBC’s presence at this year’s IPTV World Forum was notable, with Richard Halton, programme director of IPTV, delivering a keynote in which he said that one purpose of Canvas is to bring a standards-led approach to new delivery mechanisms, making content available without repurposing (which would have obvious benefits for the broadcaster). Halton also emphasised that Canvas is not an attempt to create new standards, but rather to bring together existing standards from the telecoms and broadcasting industries.Rahul Chakkara, controller of future media TV platforms at the BBC, added: “We strongly believe that, based on our success with Freeview and Freesat, a standards-based model is the most beneficial for the industry, the content publisher and – most importantly – for our audiences. Project Canvas is about setting a set of specifications for the IPTV industry which brings together the richness of broadcast with the power of broadband.”In the wider IPTV world, much remains to be done. Lisa Feliciantonio, head of content and IPTV regulation at Italian telco Fastweb, stated in an interview earlier this year: “In the medium to long term, I believe that a progressive standardisation of technologies, platforms and possibly market proposition is the key to turning IPTV into a mass-market proposition.” Her company together with Telecom Italia and Wind formed the Italian Association of IPTV Operators, with the intention of joining forces to “create awareness in the market and with the policy makers regarding the potential of IPTV and its role in the industry value chain”. Italian newspaper reports  have suggested that the three operators are joining forces to create a standard for IPTV set-top boxes across all three IPTV services as well as DTT and DTH , which would lower development and production costs. Giovanni Moglia, director for legal and regulatory affairs at Fastweb and president of the association, said in an interview in March: “As far as Italy is concerned, IPTV operators have to focus on developing an offer and a common strategy to take advantage of the upcoming switch-off of analogue television transmissions. The switch-off will represent a major disruption in the habits of TV viewers and force most families, even the less technologically advanced ones, to purchase a digital device to keep receiving television.” The development of a new set-top box based on common standards and capable of receiving DTT transmissions as well as IPTV from any of the country’s three operators would certainly help them achieve that goal.The need for standards is not just felt by operators. “We would love to have an interoperable standardised environment to work with. We want to stick to what we do best – telling wonderful stories,” Myles MacBean, vice-president of Disney Online, said earlier this year. There was “a major cost element in customising the experience for each ISP and for different CE devices – we would rather build these experiences on a pan-European scale.”CompressionIPTV technology suppliers could help operators through continuing improvement of compression and distribution solutions, according to Peter Li, vice-president of Shanghai Media Group’s IPTV service BesTV: “The first priority for the IPTV industry in a developing country such as China is to quickly scale up the subscriber base to move the industry to the self-sustainable stage. To accomplish that, we have to provide good enough services in many areas with bandwidth of around 2Mbps. Therefore, continuing improvement in compression technology to enhance picture quality at below 2Mbps bandwidth is important for us. Another area with strong consumer demand is the number of hours of on-demand content available to a subscriber at one given time…. We would like to see efficient distribution technology for a massive quantity of video content, in order for users to really enjoy the long-tail benefit of internet characteristics.”Also, there remains work to be done on data mining and on advanced content discovery engines, according to Eircom’s Griffiths: “There needs to be greater intelligence in data mining. For example, if children’s programming is known to be popular in home A, then it is likely that there will be children living in that household. But there is no point in running an advert for children’s products at ten o’clock at night, when they will be tucked up in bed. The platform needs to be able to do that…. A service also needs to have advanced content discovery tools or engines and sophisticated search tools, otherwise users won’t get beyond the A and B listings of the VOD service.”“I believe that a progressive standardisation of technologies, platforms and possibly market proposition is the key toturning IPTV into a mass-market proposition.”Lisa Feliciantonio, FastwebSignificantly, he adds: “An IPTV service also needs to have an open, easy-to-develop-for applications platform, where an operator can easily add such things as casual games and flight arrival times, for example. It has to be made cheap and easy to develop applications for the service and deliver them onto the set-top box. The strengths of an open-standards web browser as a platform facilitates this, as well as a sophisticated graphical interface through technologies such as Flash, Java and Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG). We need it to be cheap to develop applications for the set-top box, and need to be able to run them quickly and responsively.”PCCW’s Berriman reitirated this need for an enhanced user interface when speaking at the IPTV World Forum, stating that the more interactive services PCCW has developed, the more difficult it is for subscribers to find and use them. However, the move to a more sophisticated user interface has ameliorated this, he added, enabled by more advanced set-top boxes.Concerning the future of IPTV, Christopher Schläffer, chief innovation officer at Deutsche Telekom, said that “the future is soft”, and will be based on software and service delivery, rather than hardware. Schläffer added that content richness is “of the essence” when it comes to a successful IPTV service, and that he believes the categories of internet TV (Joost, iPlayer etc), web video (YouTube and other on-demand video) and managed network IPTV services such as Deutsche Telekom’s T-Home Entertain will eventually converge.This perception that “the future is soft” appears to be backed up by Orange, whose SoftAtHome initiative (set up last year with Thomson and Sagem Communications) is intended to enable service providers – including presumably Orange – to deliver convergent applications through an operating platform for the digital home environment. Orange certainly knows about IPTV, having passed 2.5 million pay-TV subscribers worldwide by the end of March 2009, up 75% year-on-year, with its domestic IPTV service nearing two million customers and its new Spanish IPTV service enjoying notable success, amongst other highlights.Most realise however that it is not just pin-sharp UIs and more advanced interactive services that make an IPTV service well-subscribed – fundamentally, it is about the content. Eircom’s Griffiths believes the content industry is now “much more aware” of what IPTV is and how it works, adding: “While the big boys such as the Hollywood studios are ever keen to license their content for healthy minimum revenue guarantees, we are finding that the smaller production companies also now see IPTV as another outlet for them to monetise their content.”From a major content provider’s point of view, Simon Amselem, senior vice-president of channel distribution (EMEA) at Disney-ABC-ESPN Television, says that the company likes “speaking to operators that have a content focus at the heart of their strategies, and that plan to use content to drive their business – the operators that place the consumer first. We think that the consumers don’t care about the technology; they want something that is simple to use and simple to understand.”Thomas Lemaire, senior director of business development in North America for Orange, backs up this need for operators to pursue a strategy of focusing on delivering strong content plus converged services.“Two things will make the IPTV value proposition stronger and more differentiating: original content and convergent services that blend the TV experience with broadband and mobile services,” says Lemaire. “To make this happen you need some scale but also experimentation, an understanding of how the TV experience will become interactive without replicating the PC experience and its hurdles.”Future visionAs far as the future goes,  Lemaire says: “We believe content everywhere is the future of the pay-TV industry. What that means is the best content, available at any time and on any screen (TV, PC and mobile). Customers don’t want to be constrained – they want to watch shows when they are ready so catch-up TV, rewind TV and VOD are important components. In addition, TV on the PC and mobile are growing in popularity. With our TV offer content is transferable between and available on all three screens.”MacBean of Disney Online adds: “The Web has taught us that it is not the technology that is king, nor content, but the consumer. We are getting to that point where every part in the chain is benefitting from IP delivery. The business models are still evolving, as is the content proposition, the platform’s capability, and consumers’ expectations and needs, but it is a non-linear situation as everything is affecting everything, which makes it exciting.”The industry currently finds itself in a situation of  continued healthy IPTV subscriber growth worldwide and new service deployments in all markets, with US research firm MRG finding in its recent IPTV Global Forecast Report that by the end of 2008 the number IPTV subscribers ended up around one million higher than its previous forecast in late 2008 and reached 21.3 million. This figure is forecast to increase from 26.9 million by end-2009 to over 81 million in 2013.Having got to this point through industry-wide experimentation with evolving technologies, business models and consumer expectations, it appears that what is needed now is a concerted focus on standards-based technologies and interoperability, allied to such things as more sophisticated content discovery engines and search tools, more efficient compression and content distribution technologies, and software that enables the delivery of increasingly advanced converged services, whilst cutting down on time-consuming and expensive integration battles.Yet paramount to all the above, says Terry Denson, vice-president of content strategy and acquisition at Verizon, is customer service: “Consumers are willing to give new providers and technologies a chance, provided the consumer’s experience with the provider is positive.”Written by Jamie Beach, online editor, IPTV News website (www.iptv-news.com; Jamie.Beach@informa.com). Paul Berriman spoke at the 2009 IPTV World Forum on March 23-25, and will also participate in the IPTV Forum Asia in Hong Kong on December 1 and 2. Richard Griffiths, Ben Schwarz, Richard Halton, Rahul Chakkara, Lisa Feliciantonio, Myles MacBean, Peter Li, Christopher Schläffer and Simon Amselem spoke at the IPTV World Forum in London from March 23-25 this year. Thomas Lemaire, Terry Denson and Madeleine Forrer spoke at the IP&TV Forum North America on July 21-22.last_img read more

Its a story that has stunned the publicLast week

first_imgIt’s a story that has stunned the public.Last week, a report by The Times of London found that in 2011, the national director for Oxfam in Haiti and senior aid workers hired local sex workers while working in the country. After an internal investigation, the Times reported, Oxfam accepted the resignations of three men and fired four for gross misconduct.At the time, the charity was providing relief efforts after the 2010 earthquake that killed 220,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless.Across social media, critics and Oxfam donors expressed their outrage.For staffers and researchers in the humanitarian sector, the incident in Haiti was disturbing — but not shocking. For decades, there have been reports of relief workers sexually exploiting the very people they are trying to help.”I wasn’t surprised by the revelations. This is a sector-wide problem,” says Megan Nobert, a human rights lawyer and founder of Report the Abuse, a project that researched sexual offenses by aid staffers from 2015 to 2017. “It’s one that’s affecting not just Oxfam but [also] the U.N. and small NGOs.”For this reason, most aid groups have ethical codes of conduct that explicitly prohibit sexual exploitation, which the U.N., in their own ethics handbook, calls a “catastrophic failure” to protect those they serve.In the past, when a scandal like this was exposed, “the world was horrified for a short period of time. Aid groups would say it’s terrible, we’re going to strengthen our systems and everybody is appeased,” says Paula Donovan, head of Code Blue, a campaign to end impunity for sexual exploitation and abuse by U.N. personnel. “Then it happens again.”Aid observers think that in this era of #MeToo — the movement against sexual assault in the workplace — momentum is finally building for a new commitment in the aid community to zero tolerance.For this reason, Donovan thinks that the Oxfam incident could trigger real change in the sector. “There’s a perfect storm now,” she says.A history of sexual exploitation The reports of sexual abuses in the aid industry cover a variety of victims, behaviors and organizations. Sometimes these incidents involve aid workers assaulting their colleagues. For two years, Nobert collected stories of staffer-on-staffer violence from more than 1,000 individuals for Report the Abuse, published in a report in 2017.But the Oxfam scandal focuses on a different type of problem: humanitarian workers who sexually assault aid recipients. The workers may be employed by an aid group or be part of the U.N. peacekeeper force.The forms of exploitation include range from sexual harassment to buying sex and bartering for sex to sex with a minor and rape, according to a document prepared by the U.N. in 2016.And for aid workers who have wondered whether hiring a sex worker is truly grounds for dismissal, a task force created by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee — whose members include U.N. agencies, the WHO and the World Bank — makes it clear: “In most communities, the vast majority of women in prostitution don’t want to be there,” it states in an FAQ on its website. “Exploitative sex [is] one of the few avenues they have for obtaining money to meet basic needs.”It’s hard to say how widespread this problem is. “Anecdotally, we know that this happens, though getting exact data collected and published has not always been common protocol,” says Nobert.In the wake of the Oxfam scandal, however, a number of cases involving some of the major aid agencies have emerged. World Vision told Reuters on Tuesday that there were 10 incidents with volunteers or staff in 2016 “involving either sexual exploitation or abuse of a child involved in one of the charity’s activities.”There have been incidents reported in the past as well.In 2002, after mounting concerns about sexual violence by aid workers and U.N. employees against children in West Africa, Save the Children and UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, investigated the issue in a report. In a survey of 1,500 adults and children, researchers collected allegations of abuse and exploitation against 67 individuals. They found cases of staffers who traded humanitarian aid, like cooking oil and bulgur wheat for sex with girls under 18.A few years later, spurred by a high-level U.N. meeting on sexual violence among staffers in 2006, Save the Children conducted another investigation, this time in Haiti, Sudan and the Ivory Coast. It found that aid workers from a number of organizations had asked children for “lesbian sexual displays,” filmed girls engaging in sexual activity in exchange for food rations or U.S. dollars.Other cases have centered around sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers, who travel to disaster and conflict zones to protect civilians. A U.N. report found that in 2014, U.N. peacekeepers in the Central African Republic, largely from a French military force, were sexually abusing children in exchange for food or money. Some of the children were as young as 8 years old.Donovan says that the peacekeepers also engage in sexual relations with women of child-bearing age — and there’s even a nickname for babies to women who become pregnant: “peacekeeper babies.”And just because it happens doesn’t make it OK. “That humanitarian aid workers assist them in the day and at night and exploit and abuse their extraordinarily unfortunate situation for their own pleasure — it’s appalling,” she says.Many Western charities and the U.N. have clear policies in place that prohibit such sexual exploitation. In a 2003 document, the U.N. states that acts of sexual exploitation are grounds for dismissal. Codes of conduct from Western charities like the Danish Refugee Council and the Lutheran World Federation, from 2007 and 2005, respectively, have similar language for its staffers.Unpunished acts So then why does this behavior persist?”We have the guidelines, policies, procedures in place to prevent this. That’s not lacking,” says Judith Greenwood, head of the CHS Alliance, a charity network based in Geneva. In 2016, her group hosted a conference in Bangkok to explore ways that aid groups could improve investigations into allegations of sexual exploitation.”What’s lacking,” says Greenwood, “is the application.”Studies and reports have shown that sex offenses committed by staffers often happen without serious consequences to the perpetrators and that justice is rarely brought to victims. A 2015 independent report on the U.N. peacekeepers’ sex crimes, for example, detailed a “gross institutional failure to respond to the allegations in a meaningful way.”Even Oxfam acknowledges its failings in a February 9 press release: “We have not done enough to change our own culture and to create the strongest possible policies to prevent harassment and protect people we work with around the world.”Seeking solutionsEven before the Oxfam outrage, there were signs of change. In 2015, Donovan’s campaign, Code Blue, was created to keep up the pressure to end sexual exploitation by U.N. peacekeepers and seek justice for the victims. Its name hearkens to the peacekeepers’ iconic blue helmets.In January 2017, just days after he took office, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres created a high-level task force to tackle the peacekeeper problem internally.Still, more needs to be done, says Greenwood.For one, aid groups need to do a better job of vetting employees, says Paul Spiegel, who directs the Center for Humanitarian Health at Johns Hopkins University. “Aid workers are recycled among different organizations because people are desperate to find staffers to go to these places at times.”As for offenders: “Maybe you need to be blackballed in the community,” he says. “This person could never be hired again.”Oxfam acknowledges that Roland van Hauwermeiren, the head of mission in Haiti who hired the sex workers in 2011, had also paid for sex while stationed in Chad in 2006. The charity had known about the allegation yet still hired him to work in Haiti four years later.Since the Oxfam story broke last week, the charity shared how it plans to regain the trust of the people it aims to help. It will hire an independent body to look through past cases of sexual abuse at the charity to see if they can be reopened. It has set up a confidential whistleblowing hotline. It promises to do a better at checking the background of potential hires.Oxfam’s deputy chief executive, Penny Lawrence, stepped down on Monday, taking “full responsibility” for the Haiti incident, which happened under her watch.And Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, told NPR that the group will work with local authorities in Haiti to achieve justice for the women who were abused by the staffers. “For some [victims], that might mean helping them find better jobs, or helping them find markets [where they can sell goods],” she says, with the ultimate purpose of “restoring dignity.”Both Greenwood’s group and Nobert have given credit to Oxfam for the steps it has taken.Meanwhile, there could be financial consequences, not just for Oxfam but for other British charities. The United Kingdom, which gives $45 million to Oxfam annually, threatened to cut funding to overseas aid agencies if they fail to address sexual exploitation by their employees and volunteers in the field.”Unless you safeguard everyone your organization comes into contact with, including beneficiaries, staff and volunteers, we will not fund you,” said Penny Mordaunt, U.K. secretary of state for international development at a conference in Stockholm on Wednesday.These “respectful demands for humanitarian organizations to do better has helped hold us accountable, has helped us move forward,” says Nobert, founder of Report the Abuse.But even a critic like Nobert, who in 2015, spoke publicly about being drugged and raped by a U.N. supplier while on a mission to South Sudan, stands by the work of these organizations.”Don’t stop funding these groups. Not every humanitarian is committing acts of sexual abuse,” she says. “The vast majority go to [the field] to alleviate poverty and help people.” Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.last_img read more

Theres no shortage of news and feature stories ab

first_imgThere’s no shortage of news and feature stories about addiction. Oftentimes, they follow a similar narrative — from painkillers overprescribed, to heart-wrenching family interventions, to challenging stints in rehab, to the happy endings of sobriety.But for people who have lived through addiction, a lifetime remains after initial treatment ends. What happens next?For many of those in recovery, the true test of sobriety comes not during the initial stages of treatment but in the months, years and decades to follow. After the addiction ends, the situational causes and contributors of it are likely to persist.Here’s what journalist Maia Szalavitz wrote in Scientific American:If we want to reduce opioid addiction, we have to target the real risk factors for it: child trauma, mental illness and unemployment…Many people would prefer it if we could solve addiction problems by busting dealers and cracking down on doctors. The reality, however, is that as long as there is distress and despair, some people are going to seek chemical ways to feel better. Only when we can steer them towards healthier—or at least, less harmful—ways of self-medication, and only when we reach children before they develop this type of desperation, will we be able to reduce addiction and the problems that come with it.Addressing the risk factors can help prevent addiction and help those who relapse.What happens after treatment ends?Show produced by Bianca Martin.GUESTSSam Arsenault, Director, National Treatment Quality Initiatives at Shatterproof, a national nonprofit; @PHwithSamBarry Grant, Director of Outpatient Services, Hope House Treatment Centers in the greater Annapolis, Maryland area; certified chemical dependency counselor; @risewithbarryBrooke Feldman, A person in recovery; social worker; writer; advocate; currently serves as the Philadelphia Center Manager for CleanSlate Outpatient Addiction Medicine; @BrookeM_FeldmanFor more, visit https://the1a.org.© 2019 WAMU 88.5 – American University Radio. Copyright 2019 WAMU 88.5. To see more, visit WAMU 88.5.last_img read more

The proportion of Department for Work and Pensions

first_imgThe proportion of Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff who say they have been victims of disability discrimination at work in the previous 12 months has risen by about 50 per cent in just four years, Civil Service figures have revealed.The annualCivil Service People Survey shows the number of DWP staff sayingthey had personally experienced disability discrimination at work in the past12 months rose by 150 (more than 10 per cent), from 1,462 in 2017 to 1,612 in2018.And theproportion of all DWP staff reporting disability discrimination rose by about12 per cent, from about 2.55 per cent of all employees in 2017 to about 2.85per cent in the 2018 survey.This was anincrease of about 50 per cent since the 2014 survey, when 1.91 per cent ofthose responding to the survey said they had experienced disabilitydiscrimination at work in the previous year.But thefigures are even more striking when compared with the number of disabled staff employedby DWP.The latestCivil Service figures, from November 2018, show that only 7.7 percent of DWP employees declared that they were disabled.Thissuggests, according to calculations by Disability News Service (DNS) – whichDWP has failed to comment on – that more than a third of disabled DWP staffexperienced disability discrimination at work in 2018.Theproportion of DWP employees who have experienced any kind of discrimination hasalso continued to increase in the last four years, from 11 per cent in 2014 to14 per cent in 2018.It is justthe latest evidence of worsening levels of discrimination within the governmentdepartment responsible for the much-criticised Disability Confident scheme and will further strain the scheme’s credibility.DWP itselfhas been awarded the status of Disability Confident Leader, the highest ofthree levels within the scheme, which aims to work with employers to “challengeattitudes towards disability” and “ensure that disabled people have theopportunities to fulfil their potential and realise their aspirations”.Lastweek, DNSreported how DWP repeatedly failed tomake reasonable adjustments for disabled people who were recruited to buildbridges between jobcentres and the local community through its CommunityPartners scheme.InNovember, thedepartment admitted failing to keep track of how many complaints by staffthrough its internal grievance system were based on allegations of disabilitydiscrimination.Earlierthe same month,new research showed that the EmploymentTribunal had dealt with almost 60 claims of disability discrimination takenagainst DWP by its own staff over a 20-month period.And last summer, figures provided to the work and pensions select committee by Sarah Newton (pictured), the minister for disabled people, showed that nearly 7,000 employers that had signed up to Disability Confident had promised to provide just 4,500 new jobs for disabled people between them, an average of less than one per employer.Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, declinedto comment on the DWP discrimination figures this week.But David Gillon, a prominentdisabled critic of the Disability Confident scheme, said: “IfDWP can’t even tackle a rapidly increasing disability discrimination problem,never mind resolve it, then how can they justify retaining their DisabilityConfident Leader status, and their leadership of the entire DisabilityConfident programme?”He said that a total of 1,612 incidents of disability discrimination wasmore than six per working day.He said: “A core responsibility of a Disability Confident Leader is beingan example to others, and teaching lessons learned across the DisabilityConfident community. “There is precisely zero evidence of DWP doing this, or evenacknowledging that they have a problem, so the justification for theirretaining Disability Confident Leader status appears absent. “In fact, their failure to acknowledge the issue argues strongly for theremoval of their Leader status.”He said it was “particularly disturbing” that the number of incidents ofdisability discrimination reported “far exceeds” those in areas such asethnicity and sexual orientation, which was “the reverse of the pattern seenfor harassment in the general population from police and Crown ProsecutionService figures”. He added: “This strongly suggests that the issue may be a cultural onerelated to views of disability within DWP or the Civil Service as a whole.”A DWP spokesperson refused to say if Newton was concerned about thefigures, why DWP thought the figures had risen so sharply over the last fewyears, and why it thought there had been another year-on-year increase in 2018.She also refused to say if Newton thought the figures suggestedcomplacency by ministers about discrimination, whether they suggested DWP was institutionallydisablist, and whether DWP should still be able to call itself a DisabilityConfident Leader.But she said in a statement: “We areabsolutely committed to ensuring all colleagues, including those withdisabilities or health conditions, get the support they need to thrive.“The department has a duty ofcare to its colleagues and aims to lead by example as a Disability Confidentemployer, following best practice in recruiting, retaining and developingdisabled staff. “We take very seriously any reports of disability discrimination from colleagues, while taking active steps to promote equality.”A note from the editor:Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations. Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009. Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…last_img read more

Marijuana and Parenting Study Finds They Go Well Together

first_img Yet another study has blown apart the age-old stereotype of cannabis users as lazy stoners who have trouble getting off the couch.A study released this month surveyed parents of children under the age of 18, of whom 77 percent had a household income of $75,000 or more–hardly the economic province of the lazy.The study found that of this group, 35 percent frequently use cannabis before doing that all-American activity with their kids: watching TV.And they aren’t doing so to “zone out.”  A majority said that cannabis enhances their TV time with the family, making them more engaged both with the kids and the content they are watching.Related: To Drug Test or Not to Drug Test?Altering the StereotypeThe study was conducted by Minor & Co. Studio, a New York City-based marketing research company. The findings undermine the way many continue to view those who use marijuana.“The stoner stereotype is so prevalent and persistent in TV and media that it continues to stigmatize those for whom cannabis is part of their active and healthful lifestyle,” Robert Miner, president of Miner & Co. Studio, said in a release accompanying the study findings.Eight out of 10 respondents, all of whom live in states where cannabis is legal for adult and medical use, said they “regularly” use cannabis before watching television with the family.  They also said that:Cannabis makes TV watching with kids more enjoyableThey spend more time with their kids watching their shows when using cannabisThey are more engaged to discuss the showsThey “bond” more with their kids and become more likely to seek out shows from their own childhood to watch with their kidsMarijuana and good parenting? That seems to be the case with the study’s findings.Related: California’s ‘Pot Desert’ ProblemPay Attention, Network ExecutivesMinor & Co. points out that the study findings should be of great interest to network executives. That’s primarily because parents who use cannabis said they watch more television, are more engaged and are more willing to try out new content.The study also shows that these parents have outgrown the very stereotypes that the media they watch depicts. Seventy percent said they use marijuana for medical purposes or to enhance their well-being or social experiences.They also don’t see themselves as stoners. Rather, the words they used to describe themselves included “mindful,” “present,” “active” and “professional.” A majority also said they do not relate to the forgettable, bumbling characters that movies and television often portray as being cannabis users.The respondents voiced hope that TV creatives would move past the stereotypes because how they present cannabis users has a significant impact on how people perceive them.Follow dispensaries.com on Twitter to stay up to date on the latest cannabis news. Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. Researchers say cannabis makes watching TV with the kids more enjoyable. Get 1 Year of Green Entrepreneur for $19.99 Guest Writer dispensaries.com News and Trends 3 min read Subscribe Now Easy Search. Quality Finds. Your partner and digital portal for the cannabis community. June 26, 2018 Marijuana and Parenting? Study Finds They Go Well Together. –shares Image credit: MoMo Productions | Getty Images Add to Queue Next Article Green Entrepreneur provides how-to guides, ideas and expert insights for entrepreneurs looking to start and grow a cannabis business.last_img read more

Bae Takeaway Skillset and Curated Top the List of Words Wed Like

first_img Next Article Add to Queue The only list that measures privately-held company performance across multiple dimensions—not just revenue. 2019 Entrepreneur 360 List Image credit: Pixabay As 2014 winded to a close, we were confronted with what seemed like an endless procession of “Word of the Year” pronouncements. “Vape” was crowned Oxford Dictionaries word of the year, “culture” nabbed Webster-Merriam’s top spot, while the Global Language Monitor went the unconventional route of selecting the heart emoji for its top word of 2014.I guess this is all well and good, but what about the words that, thanks to overuse, misuse, or down right blahness, we’d like to see expire along with the year? What words should be banned from entering 2015?Luckily, the folks at Michigan’s Lake Superior State University are on it. For the past 40 years, the institution has compiled an annual list of words — culled from nominations made through the university’s website and ultimately finalized by a committee — which should be “banished from the Queen’s English for mis-use, over-use and general uselessness.”Some of the selections for 2014 stemmed from overall frustration and fatigue with cultural terms. “Bae” was one of the most nominated contenders and deemed “the most annoying term of affection to show up in years,” while “foodie” was dismissed as “ridiculous.” But the majority of the words on the list are business-speak at its worst.Related: For the First Time, an Emoji Has Been Named the Most Popular Word of the Year”Skill set,” “curate,” and “takeaway” were all taken to task for, among other things, pretentiousness, over-use and general uselessness. As anyone who has a LinkedIn account or has attended any kind of corporate meeting can tell you, these works are everywhere (explore our site, and you’ll find we’re guilty of it here). The overarching reasoning behind their elimination is that they have become pointless, “jargon-y” fluff. “Skill set” just means skill (“A skill is a skill — that is it,” wrote Stephanie Hamm-Wieczkiewick from Litfield Park, Ariz. in support of getting rid of the word), “curate” is too often an unnecessarily pretentious way of saying “select” (“It used to have a special significance reserved mainly for fine art and museums. Now everything is curated,” wrote Samantha McCormick from Kirkland, Wash.) and “takeaway” has been overused into meaninglessness (“I have heard Jon Stewart use it. I’ve heard Charlie Rose use it, as well as countless numbers of news talking heads, usually for all the wrong reason,” wrote John Prokop from Oakland, Calif).Are there more pressing business terms that need to be eliminated for good? If you have some suggestions for corporate jargon that needs to go, tell us in the comments below.Related: Why ‘No’ is the Most Important Word You’ll Ever Say ‘Bae,’ ‘Takeaway,’ ‘Skillset’ and ‘Curated’ Top the List of Words We’d Like to See Banned in 2015 News and Trends 3 min read Guest Writer Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. Apply Now » –shares Laura Entis December 31, 2014last_img read more

Dogs trained to sniff out malaria

first_imgMalaria. Release of malaria parasites from red blood cell. Image Credit: Kateryna Kon / Shutterstock By Dr. Ananya Mandal, MDOct 31 2018It is already known that dogs with their sharp noses can sniff out a host of human diseases including cancers.A new study has now shown that dogs could possibly detect and diagnose a person suffering from malaria. Clues from this technology is now helping scientists to develop an accurate diagnostic technology that can detect the dreaded parasitic infection that kills thousands each year. Researchers explain that in patients with epilepsy, those with early stages of cancer and those who suffer from fluctuations of blood sugar levels, there is an alteration in the smell of the urine, sweat and breath. This minute change is often detected by the sharp noses of trained dogs.Malaria is a parasitic infection caused by Plasmodium species and can be detected by blood tests. It kills thousands yearly and there are no rapid non-invasive tests at present to detect the infection that causes high fevers with chills and may cause serious complications and even death if not treated adequately. According to public health entomologist Steven Lindsay from Durham University, developing technology that harness the principles of a dog’s nose to detect malaria could help develop and simple non-invasive test to detect malaria.Dr. Lindsay explains that people with malaria often produce a “distinct odour in their breath”. It is speculated that the mosquitoes can detect the presence of the parasites in a human and bite them to help spread the infection as they bite another healthy person. They scientists speculated that dogs too have top notch smelling systems and it is likely that they may also be able to detect these parasites in the humans thorough these distinctive smells.center_img Related StoriesProteasome inhibitors show potential for combating multidrug-resistant malariaSouthern Research team aims to discover new, safer antimalarial medicinesHuman liver cell protein aids development of malaria parasite, study findsProfessor Lindsay presented the results of his research at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene annual meeting this week at New Orleans and found that dogs (a Labrador and a Labrador-retriever cross breed) who were trained to smell out the malaria parasites from children’s worn socks were successful in sniffing out the parasite.They were correct in detecting an individual with the infection 70 percent of the time and were also correct in detecting is a person did not have the infection 90 percent of the time. Both being right about the infection or about the infection-free status are with high accuracy.Lindsay explained that the children of Gambia who participated in the study were provided with nylon socks to be worn overnight. The samples of these socks were then sent in air sealed packages to UK for identification of the smells by the trained dogs.According to the team of researchers, this is just a “proof of concept” stage of the study but it is a first step to find an alternative to blood tests. Each year hundreds of thousands of blood tests are conducted to detect malaria in the infected as well as non-infected individuals.According to Professor Lindsay, may be using this technique the dogs could sniff out malaria patients in large crowds as well. He added that the teams would work along with the national malaria control programs of various nations to develop safer and non-invasive alternatives to diagnosis. He said that the next step could be to develop chemical detectors that could detect malaria from odour markers.Source: https://www.abstractsonline.com/pp8/#!/4692/presentation/17373 and https://www.medicaldetectiondogs.org.uklast_img read more

DNA analysis finds that stethoscopes used in the ICU are teeming with

first_imgFor the study, Collman and team used DNA sequencing to investigate bacteria present on 40 stethoscopes found in an intensive care unit (ICU).Twenty instruments were reusable stethoscopes, 20 were single-use disposable instruments and 10 were single-use, disposable instruments that had not been used.As reported in the journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, all 40 of the stethoscopes that were in use were contaminated with an abundance of various bacterial communities, including those related to common infections, although it was not established whether the stethoscopes ever made patients unwell.Staphylococcus was found on all instruments, with more than half confirmed as being contaminated with S. aureus.Other infection-causing bacteria identified were Pseudomonas and Acinetobacter, although these were only present in small quantities.To compare cleaning methods, the team assessed 10 more stethoscopes before and after cleaning using the standardized method – cleaning with a hydrogen peroxide wipe for 60 seconds. They also assessed 20 more instruments before and after cleaning by practitioners who used their preferred method, including wiping with alcohol swabs, bleach wipes or hydrogen peroxide wipes for different amounts of time.The study showed that all types of cleaning reduced the number of bacteria, but failed to consistently make the stethoscopes as contamination-free as new, clean stethoscopes.The standardized method reduced bacteria to the clean level on half of the instruments, while only 10% of the stethoscopes cleaned using an individual’s preferred method met this level of cleanliness.Although the molecular sequencing allowed all types of bacteria to be detected, it could not determine whether bacteria were dead or alive, meaning it is unclear whether the instruments are responsible for spreading disease.Further research is now needed to establish whether stethoscopes are accountable for the spread of infection.Collman says those studies should also use similar molecular approaches, study bacteria found on medical devices and in the healthcare setting and also focus on antibiotic resistance.SourceDNA study shows stethoscopes loaded with bacteria, including staphylococcus. By Sally Robertson, B.Sc.Dec 12 2018Reviewed by Kate Anderton, B.Sc. (Editor)A study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania has found that stethoscopes carried by healthcare practitioners in an intensive care (ICU) setting are loaded with a wide range of bacteria. This study underscores the importance of adhering to rigorous infection control procedures, including fully adhering to CDC-recommended decontamination procedures between patients, or using single patient-use stethoscopes kept in each patient’s room.”Ronald Collman, Senior Authorcenter_img catshila | ShutterstockThe study also compared cleaning methods and found that the standardized approach is better at eliminating bacteria than various other methods practitioners chose to use.last_img read more

Increased activity of EHMT2 gene deficient neurons could cause autism in humans

first_imgReviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Feb 13 2019A novel investigation into the impacts of neuronal mutations on autism-related characteristics in humans has been described in the open-access journal eLife.Autism spectrum disorder, and autism patients’ responses to treatments, is increasingly studied using neurons derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) – immature cells that can give rise to an unlimited source of any type of cell needed by the body. But high costs mean that only a few iPSC-derived neuronal lines are typically tested in a single study, limiting previous autism research. New approaches are therefore needed to speed up developments in this area.A team of researchers from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), the University of Toronto and McMaster University in Canada set out to establish a scalable iPSC-derived neuron model to help improve autism research. They developed a resource of 53 different iPSC lines derived from 25 individuals with autism, who carry a wide range of rare genetic variants, and from their unaffected family members.Related StoriesRevolutionary gene replacement surgery restores vision in patients with retinal degenerationISTH introduces new global education initiative in gene therapy for hemophiliaEMBL study reveals uncoupling between chromatin topology and gene expressionUsing CRISPR editing, the scientists also created four ‘isogenic’ pairs of iPSC lines (cell lines with the same or similar genetic makeup) that either had or did not have a mutation, to explore the impacts of mutations on autistic characteristics.”We investigated the synaptic and electrophysiological properties of our iPSC lines using a large-scale multi-electrode array for neuronal recordings, as well as more traditional patch-clamp recordings,” explains first author Dr. Eric Deneault, Postdoctoral Fellow previously in the Genetics and Genome Biology program at SickKids, and now at the Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, Canada. “Our results revealed numerous interesting associations between the genetic variants and the neuronal characteristics that we analyzed.”Deneault says their most compelling find was a consistent, spontaneous network hyperactivity in neurons that were deficient in the CNTN5 or EHMT2 genes, which may cause autistic characteristics in people. This discovery of hyperactive networks is consistent with current views of autism and paves the way for further investigating their roles in the condition.”In fact, we have made our biobank of iPSC-derived neurons and accompanying genomic data openly available to help accelerate research in this area,” says Dr. Stephen Scherer, a co-senior author of the paper and Director of The Centre for Applied Genomics at SickKids, and of the McLaughlin Centre at the University of Toronto. “We hope this will in turn speed up the development of potential new therapeutic strategies for autism patients.” Source:https://elifesciences.org/for-the-press/52152f0a/scientists-provide-new-insight-on-gene-mutations-associated-with-autismlast_img read more

Indicators of despair rising among Americans entering midlife

first_imgReviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Apr 16 2019Indicators of despair–depression, suicidal ideation, drug use and alcohol abuse–are rising among Americans in their late 30s and early 40s across most demographic groups, according to new research led by Lauren Gaydosh, assistant professor of Medicine, Health and Society and Public Policy Studies at Vanderbilt University. These findings suggest that the increase in “deaths of despair” observed among low-educated middle-aged white Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) in recent studies may begin to impact the youngest members of Generation X (born 1974-1983) more broadly in the years to come.The study, The Depths of Despair Among U.S. Adults Entering Midlife, appears in the American Journal of Public Health. Gaydosh’s co-authors are Kathleen Mullan Harris, Robert A. Hummer, Taylor W. Hargrove, Carolyn T. Halpern, Jon M. Hussey, Eric A. Whitsel, and Nancy Dole, all at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.In 2016, U.S. life expectancy began to decline for the first time in nearly a quarter-century, and researchers theorized that this was driven by a marked increase in deaths due to drug overdose, alcoholic cirrhosis and suicide among middle-aged whites with low education or in rural areas. At the time, this was explained by a unique triple-punch of worsening employment prospects accompanied by a declining perception of socioeconomic status and an erosion of social supports for this group. But studies to better understand those mortality trends did not definitively show that low-income rural whites were actually experiencing more despair than other groups.”What we wanted to do in this paper was to examine whether the factors that may be predictive of those causes of death–substance use, suicidal ideation and depression–are isolated to that particular population subgroup, or whether it’s a more generalized phenomenon,” Gaydosh said.Related StoriesResearch sheds light on sun-induced DNA damage and repairAlcohol reduction associated with improved viral suppression in women living with HIVNew structured approach to managing patients with depression in primary careTo do so, they turned to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, or Add Health, directed by Harris at the University of North Carolina, which tracked the physical and mental health of thousands of Americans born between 1974-1983 from adolescence through their late 30s and early 40s in 2016-18.”We found that despair has increased in this cohort, but that increases are not restricted to non-Hispanic whites with low education,” Gaydosh said. “Instead, the increase in despair that occurs across the 30s is generalized to the entire cohort, regardless of race, ethnicity, education, and geography.”While patterns of drinking, drug use and mental health symptoms varied across races and education levels–whites were more likely to binge-drink in adolescence, while Hispanics and African Americans of all ages were more likely to report depressive symptoms, for example–the trends were broadly the same. Adolescence was, perhaps unsurprisingly, a rocky time for everyone, followed by a period of improvement in their twenties. By the time the teens were in their late 30s, however, indicators of despair were trending back up across the board, and in some cases were higher for minority populations than they were for low-educated whites or rural adults.Gaydosh and her colleagues say these findings should be cause for concern, as they suggest midlife mortality may begin to increase across a wide range of demographic groups. “Public health efforts to reduce these indicators of despair should not be targeted toward just rural whites, for example,” she said, “because we’re finding that these patterns are generalized across the population.”Source: https://news.vanderbilt.edu/2019/04/15/indicators-of-despair-rising-among-gen-x-ers-entering-middle-age/last_img read more

Apple to build new Austin hub expand in other tech hotbeds

first_imgApple employee Daniel Trevino poses for a photo with Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s Vice President of People, after an announcement about Apple’s new campus in Austin, Texas, Thursday, Dec, 13, 2018. Apple plans to build a $1 billion campus in Austin, that will create at least 5,000 jobs ranging from engineers to call-center agents while adding more luster to a Southwestern city that has already become a bustling tech hub. The decision, announced Thursday, comes 11 months after Apple CEO Tim Cook disclosed plans to open a major office outside California on the heels of a massive tax break passed by Congress last year. (Ricardo Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP) Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks about Apple’s new campus announcement in Austin, Texas, Thursday, Dec, 13, 2018. Apple plans to build a $1 billion campus in Austin, that will create at least 5,000 jobs ranging from engineers to call-center agents while adding more luster to a Southwestern city that has already become a bustling tech hub. The decision, announced Thursday, comes 11 months after Apple CEO Tim Cook disclosed plans to open a major office outside California on the heels of a massive tax break passed by Congress last year. (Ricardo Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP) The decision, announced Thursday, comes 11 months after Apple CEO Tim Cook disclosed plans to open a major office outside California on the heels of a massive tax cut on overseas profits, which prompted the company to bring about $250 billion back to the U.S.The company said it will also open offices in Seattle, San Diego and Culver City, California, each employing at least 1,000 workers over the next three years. Apple also pledged to add hundreds of jobs each in New York; Pittsburgh; Boston; Boulder, Colorado; and Portland, Oregon.”They are just picking America’s most established superstar cities and tech hubs,” said Richard Florida, an urban development expert at the University of Toronto.Apple’s scattershot expansion reflects the increasing competition for engineers in Silicon Valley, which has long been the world’s high-tech capital. The bidding for programmers is driving salaries higher, which in turn is catapulting the average prices of homes in many parts of the San Francisco Bay Area above $1 million. Many high-tech workers are thus choosing to live elsewhere, causing major tech employers such as Apple, Amazon and Google to look in new places for the employees they need to pursue their future ambitions. The spots where Amazon and Apple decided to expand were obvious choices, based on an analysis released earlier this year by CBRE Research. Washington, D.C., ranked as the third best place in North America for tech talent, behind Silicon Valley and Seattle. New York ranked fifth and Austin sixth. No. 4 was outside the U.S.: Toronto.The new Austin campus, with about 3 million square feet (nearly 280,000 square meters) of office space, will be about a mile from another large office that Apple opened five years ago. Apple currently employs about 6,200 workers in Austin, making it the company’s largest hub outside Silicon Valley even before the expansion.The new jobs are expected to mirror the same mix Apple already has at its Cupertino, California, headquarters, ranging from jobs in technology and research that pay well over $100,000 to lower-paying positions in customer call centers. Austin Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman Phil Wilson described jobs that Apple will be adding as “mid-skill” and “good-paying.”Virtually all of the jobs in Seattle and San Diego will be in technology—a field where six-figure paychecks plus stock options are standard. The jobs in Culver City, about eight miles from Hollywood, will also be in digital music and video, two areas Apple is expanding in to boost its subscription entertainment offerings.While much of the $250 billion overseas profits has been earmarked for buying back company stock and paying higher shareholder dividends, Apple pledged in January to finance more than $30 billion in capital expenditures in the U.S. over the next five years. It also committed to creating more than 20,000 more U.S. jobs during that same time frame. After adding 6,000 jobs, Apple said it now has 90,000 U.S. workers and is on track to fulfill its expansion pledge on schedule. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, center, speaks with Austin Mayor Steve Adler during an event about Apple’s new campus announcement in Austin, Texas, Thursday, Dec, 13, 2018. Apple plans to build a $1 billion campus in Austin, that will create at least 5,000 jobs ranging from engineers to call-center agents while adding more luster to a Southwestern city that has already become a bustling tech hub. The decision, announced Thursday, comes 11 months after Apple CEO Tim Cook disclosed plans to open a major office outside California on the heels of a massive tax break passed by Congress last year. (Ricardo Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP) This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. Apple plans to build a $1 billion campus in Austin, Texas, that will create at least 5,000 jobs ranging from engineers to call-center agents while adding more luster to a Southwestern city that has already become a bustling tech hub. “Talent, creativity and tomorrow’s breakthrough ideas aren’t limited by region or ZIP code,” Cook said in a statement.Cities around the country offered financial incentives in an attempt to land Apple’s new campus, but Cook avoided a high-profile competition that pitted them against one another, as Amazon had before deciding to build huge new offices in New York and Virginia.Amazon could receive up to $2.8 billion in incentives in New York, depending on how many it ultimately hires there, and up to $750 million in Virginia. Apple will receive up to $25 million from a jobs-creation fund in Texas in addition to property-tax rebates, which still need approval. The figure is expected to be a small fraction of what Amazon received.The government incentives offered to Apple seem “more in the line of normal business site selection” compared with Amazon’s public “shakedown,” said Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Center. Apple unveils plan for $1 bn campus in Texas, US expansion Explore further “There’s a growing backlash in the country against the entire process of subsides and relocation inducements,” Muro said. “That said, the Apple numbers for a very significant increase in jobs are much less eye-popping than the Amazon numbers.” Apple employees attend an event about Apple’s new campus announcement in Austin, Texas, Thursday, Dec, 13, 2018. Apple plans to build a $1 billion campus in Austin, that will create at least 5,000 jobs ranging from engineers to call-center agents while adding more luster to a Southwestern city that has already become a bustling tech hub. The decision, announced Thursday, comes 11 months after Apple CEO Tim Cook disclosed plans to open a major office outside California on the heels of a massive tax break passed by Congress last year. (Ricardo Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP) Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks about Apple’s new campus announcement as Apple employees listen in Austin, Texas, Thursday, Dec, 13, 2018. Apple plans to build a $1 billion campus in Austin, that will create at least 5,000 jobs ranging from engineers to call-center agents while adding more luster to a Southwestern city that has already become a bustling tech hub. The decision, announced Thursday, comes 11 months after Apple CEO Tim Cook disclosed plans to open a major office outside California on the heels of a massive tax break passed by Congress last year. (Ricardo Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP)center_img Apple employees attend an event about Apple’s new campus announcement in Austin, Texas, Thursday, Dec, 13, 2018. Apple plans to build a $1 billion campus in Austin, that will create at least 5,000 jobs ranging from engineers to call-center agents while adding more luster to a Southwestern city that has already become a bustling tech hub. The decision, announced Thursday, comes 11 months after Apple CEO Tim Cook disclosed plans to open a major office outside California on the heels of a massive tax break passed by Congress last year. (Ricardo Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP) In this Aug. 8, 2017, file photo, the Apple logo is shown at a store in Miami Beach, Fla. Apple released a statement early Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018, saying it plans to build a $1 billion campus in Austin, Texas. The company’s statement says its plans also include establishing locations in Seattle, San Diego and Culver City, California, with more than 1,000 employees at each. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File) Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s Vice President of People, speaks during an event about Apple’s new campus announcement in Austin, Texas, Thursday, Dec, 13, 2018. Apple plans to build a $1 billion campus in Austin, that will create at least 5,000 jobs ranging from engineers to call-center agents while adding more luster to a Southwestern city that has already become a bustling tech hub. The decision, announced Thursday, comes 11 months after Apple CEO Tim Cook disclosed plans to open a major office outside California on the heels of a massive tax break passed by Congress last year. (Ricardo Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP) In this May 31, 2018, file photo, customers enter the Apple store, in New York. Apple will build a $1 billion campus in Austin, Texas, break ground on smaller locations in Seattle, San Diego and Culver City, California, and over the next three years will expand in Pittsburgh, New York and Colorado. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File) In this Aug. 8, 2017, file photo, the Apple logo is shown at a store in Miami Beach, Fla. Apple released a statement early Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018, saying it plans to build a $1 billion campus in Austin, Texas. The company’s statement says its plans also include establishing locations in Seattle, San Diego and Culver City, California, with more than 1,000 employees at each. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File) Where U.S. companies open new facilities or plants has had the potential for public and political backlash.That potential intensified under the Trump administration, which has pushed companies to keep more of their operations in the U.S.While Cook has steered mostly clear of President Donald Trump’s ire, Apple received some pushback three months ago. Apple sent a letter to the U.S. trade representative warning that the burgeoning trade war with China and rising tariffs could force higher prices for U.S. consumers. Trump in a tweet told Apple to start making its products in the U.S., and not China. Apple uses plants in China and elsewhere to produce components and assemble its products.Cities have been eager to bring in more tech employers because their hires often make six-figure salaries. That can ripple through the economy, with new employees filling restaurants and theaters, buying property and paying taxes.But an influx of affluent tech workers can also drive up rent and home prices, making it more difficult for those in lower-paying jobs to make ends meet. “When tech companies invest in a place and try to hire thousands of workers, it is of course good news for tech workers who are already there and want to be there,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist for employment website Indeed.com. “But it can put a strain on the housing market and transportation.”Austin might not feel the stress as much as some other places, Kolko said, because it already has been building more housing in anticipation of more tech employment.Austin’s tech industries accounted for nearly 140,000 local jobs, or 14 percent of Austin’s total employment, about twice the national average, according to the city’s chamber of commerce.Apple opened its first office in Austin a quarter century ago, and Dell’s headquarters are in nearby Round Rock. Google, Facebook and IBM are among the other notable tech companies with satellite offices in Austin.Austin landed another coup in July when the U.S. Army announced plans for a “Futures Command” center to train soldiers and develop technology to combat threats from places like China and Russia.Texas Gov. Greg Abbott hailed Apple’s new campus as a milestone development that “truly elevates Austin as one of the premier technology hubs in the entire world.” Citation: Apple to build new Austin hub, expand in other tech hotbeds (2018, December 13) retrieved 17 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-12-apple-deepens-austin-ties-east.html Apple employees attend an event about Apple’s new campus announcement in Austin, Texas, Thursday, Dec, 13, 2018. Apple plans to build a $1 billion campus in Austin, that will create at least 5,000 jobs ranging from engineers to call-center agents while adding more luster to a Southwestern city that has already become a bustling tech hub. The decision, announced Thursday, comes 11 months after Apple CEO Tim Cook disclosed plans to open a major office outside California on the heels of a massive tax break passed by Congress last year. (Ricardo Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP) Apple employees attend an event about Apple’s new campus announcement in Austin, Texas, Thursday, Dec, 13, 2018. Apple plans to build a $1 billion campus in Austin, that will create at least 5,000 jobs ranging from engineers to call-center agents while adding more luster to a Southwestern city that has already become a bustling tech hub. The decision, announced Thursday, comes 11 months after Apple CEO Tim Cook disclosed plans to open a major office outside California on the heels of a massive tax break passed by Congress last year. (Ricardo Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP) © 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.last_img read more

Facebook to curb livestreaming amid pressure over Christchurch massacre

first_img French President Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern are to launch a new initiative aimed at curbing extremism online Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has been under intense pressure since March when a white supremacist gunman used Facebook Live to stream his rampage at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, which left 51 people dead.The California-based platform said it would ban Facebook Live users who shared extremist content and seek to reinforce its own internal controls to stop the spread of offensive videos.”Following the horrific recent terrorist attacks in New Zealand, we’ve been reviewing what more we can do to limit our services from being used to cause harm or spread hate,” Facebook vice-president of integrity Guy Rosen said in a statement.Ardern and Macron will later issue the Christchurch Call to fight the spread of hateful and terror-related content along with leaders from Britain, Canada, Norway, Jordan and Senegal, who will also be in Paris.The largely symbolic initiative is intended to keep up the pressure on social media companies who face growing calls from politicians across the world to stop their platforms being abused.”It’s an action plan, it’s the start of something,” Ardern told CNN in an interview on Wednesday. Explore further Facebook announced Wednesday it would tighten access to its livestreaming feature as New Zealand’s premier Jacinda Ardern and French leader Emmanuel Macron prepared to launch the global “Christchurch Call” initiative to tackle the spread of extremism online. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is not expected to attend the launch of a new initiative to curb extremism online ‘Horrifying new trend’In an opinion piece in The New York Times over the weekend, Ardern said the Christchurch massacre underlined “a horrifying new trend” in extremist atrocities.”It was designed to be broadcast on the internet. The entire event was livestreamed… the scale of this horrific video’s reach was staggering,” she wrote.Ardern said Facebook removed 1.5 million copies of the video within 24 hours of the attack, but she still found herself among those who inadvertently saw the footage when it auto-played on their social media feeds.Around 8,000 New Zealanders called a mental health hotline after seeing the video, she told CNN.”(We’re) asking both nations and private corporations to make changes to prevent the posting of terrorist content online, to ensure its efficient and fast removal and to prevent the use of livestreaming as a tool for broadcasting terrorist attacks,” she wrote in The Times.In Wednesday’s statement, Facebook acknowledged the inadequacy of its own systems. © 2019 AFP Many countries have already tightened legislation to introduce penalties for companies that fail to take down offensive content once it is flagged by authorities.”We need to get in front of this (problem) before harm is done,” Ardern added. “This is not just about regulation, but bringing companies to the table and saying they have a role too.” The political meeting in Paris will run in parallel to an initiative launched by Macron called “Tech for Good” which will bring together 80 tech chiefs to discuss how to harness technologies for the common good.The heads of US tech giants Wikipedia, Uber, Twitter, Microsoft and Google will attend, but not Zuckerberg who held private one-to-one talks with Macron last week.The social network giant will instead be represented by its vice president for global affairs and communications Nick Clegg, the former British deputy premier.”I’ve spoken to Mark Zuckerberg directly twice now… and he did give Facebook’s support for this call to action,” Ardern said. France and New Zealand see their joint initiative to curb extremism online as a global response to a global problem NZealand privacy tsar accuses Facebook of failing to cooperate This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. A self-described white supremacist used Facebook Live to stream his rampage at two mosques in Christchurch, which left 51 people dead “One of the challenges we faced in the days after the attack was a proliferation of many different variants of the video of the attack,” vice-president of integrity Rosen said.”People—not always intentionally—shared edited versions of the video which made it hard for our systems to detect.”New Zealand officials said Ardern found a natural partner for the fight against online extremism in Macron, who has repeatedly stated that the status quo is unacceptable.”Macron was one of the first leaders to call the prime minister after the attack, and he has long made removing hateful online content a priority,” New Zealand’s ambassador to France, Jane Coombs, told journalists on Monday.”It’s a global problem that requires a global response,” she said.A French presidential source said it was time for tech companies to “anticipate how their features will be exploited.”Firms themselves will be urged to come up with concrete measures, the source said, for example by reserving live broadcasting to social media accounts whose owners have been identified. The US government has not endorsed the Christchurch Call and will only be represented at a junior level at a meeting of G7 digital ministers which is also taking place on Wednesday in Paris. Citation: Facebook to curb livestreaming amid pressure over Christchurch massacre (2019, May 15) retrieved 17 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-05-facebook-tightens-live-streaming-crackdown-violence.htmllast_img read more

PFC to lend ₹30000 crore to Telangana irrigation schemesPFC to lend ₹30000

first_img SHARE SHARE EMAIL The proposed credit from PFC is to be deployed for motors, pumps and other electro-mechanical works of Kaleshwaram and other irrigation projects (file photo) COMMENTS State-owned public sector undertaking Power Finance Corporation has agreed to extend another credit line of ₹30,000 crore to Telangana to help complete some of the major ongoing irrigation projects, including Kaleshwaram, Sita Rama and Palamuru-Rangareddy schemes. Telangana delegationPFC Chairman Rajeev Sharma is learnt to have given the assurance to a delegation from the State government headed by Chief Secretary SK Joshi in New Delhi on Friday. Principal Secretary (Finance) K Ramakrishna Rao and Chairman and Managing Director of TS-Transco and TS-Genco D Prabhakar Rao were part of the delegation that visited Delhi. While making out a case for fresh loans, the delegation explained how the State’s Gross State Domestic Product and revenue collection were on the upswing. They also mentioned the State’s financial discipline, while seeking funding for electro-mechanical works of the ongoing irrigation projects. According to State government officials, PFC agreed to finance ₹30,000 crore on the basis of the State’s potential to repay the loan and the benefits that these projects could bring about to the State’s economy.Thus far, PFC has extended loans of over ₹40,000 crore to ongoing power and irrigation projects in Telangana. The break-up shows ₹23,000 crore has been extended for various power projects, including Yadadri and ₹17,000 crore for electro-mechanical works of irrigation projects. Focus on irrigation During the meeting, the PFC chief was briefed on how the State government is implementing major projects to facilitate irrigation over 1.25-crore acres in the next few years and has made an allocation of ₹25,000 crore for the irrigation sector in the budget every year. The proposed credit from PFC is to be deployed for motors, pumps and other electro-mechanical works of the irrigation projects. Published on March 15, 2019center_img Loan to be used for motors and pumps Telangana COMMENT SHARElast_img read more