Port of Vancouver faulted in graininspection dispute

first_imgIn the dispute over the lack of inspections at United Grain Corp., the Port of Vancouver is now coming under sharp criticism from the federal government. In a letter sent Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the agency said its safety experts have concluded “that the Port of Vancouver has not been enforcing its rules of conduct” to enable state or federal grain inspectors to safely move through a picketed gate to reach United Grain’s export facility.The letter, written by Lawrence Mitchell, an administrator for the U.S. Agriculture department based in Washington ,D.C., was in response to requests by United Grain to direct federal personnel to take over inspections in the absence of state officials. The U.S. Agriculture department has refused to do so but says it’s reviewing the matter.Citing threats from union pickets, Washington state Department of Agriculture inspectors have refused to enter a gate at the port since July 7. Their refusal has all but shut down the West Coast’s largest grain elevator.A similar labor conflict at the Columbia Grain facility at the Port of Portland has been managed better than at the Port of Vancouver, Mitchell wrote, “and does not present the same safety concerns for the (federal) inspectors” who examine grain in Portland.last_img read more

NASA farewell view of Ultima Thule shows a giant pancake

first_img NASA New Horizons spacecraft completes historic Ultima Thule flyby NASA New Horizons image shows weird Ultima Thule looks like a snowman NASA Space Tags “The new images are creating scientific puzzles about how such an object could even be formed. We’ve never seen something like this orbiting the Sun,” said principal investigator Alan Stern.NASA also offered up a short departure movie showing New Horizons’ view as it zipped by. The movie is compiled from 14 different images of Ultima Thule. Share your voice 15 Photos Enlarge ImageNew Horizons caught these crescent views of Ultima Thule as it was flying away from the oddball object. NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/National Optical Astronomy Observatory NASA must be hungry. The space agency shared the New Horizons spacecraft’s goodbye glance at weird Ultima Thule and decided it looked like a “giant pancake” attached to a “dented walnut.”Ultima Thule is an unusual object found in the Kuiper Belt. It’s located about 1 billion miles past dwarf-planet Pluto, which New Horizons visited in 2015. The pancake and nut comparison is a departure from earlier images that showed the two-lobed object looking more like a snowman.NASA released a graphic showing how our understanding has changed thanks to additional data from New Horizons. nasaultimaEnlarge ImageThis illustration shows NASA’s old and new views of Ultima Thule. NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute The rounded snowman images came within a day of New Horizons’ closest approach on Jan. 1. Images taken 10 minutes after the approach highlighted a view of the object’s crescent, giving scientists a better idea of its actual shape. The blue dashes in the illustration show NASA’s fudge factor. Ultime Thule may fill out those lines, or it may be closer to the flatter shape shown.  Post a commentcenter_img NASA contemplates Ultima Thule 0 New Horizons launched in 2006 and has since traveled billions of miles through space, with notable visits to Pluto and now Ultima Thule. The spacecraft is healthy and its handlers may look into sending it toward another interesting target. We’ll just have to wait and see what it finds out there so far from home. NASA turns 60: The space agency has taken humanity farther than anyone else, and it has plans to go further.Taking It to Extremes: Mix insane situations — erupting volcanoes, nuclear meltdowns, 30-foot waves — with everyday tech. Here’s what happens. NASA spots odd heart-shaped objects on Mars and beyond Sci-Techlast_img read more

Social media on fire as MS Dhoni fans slam Sachin Tendulkar troll

first_img MS Dhoni fans hit out at Sachin In an age where social media has allowed people from all quarters to offer their own comments and opinions, without any filters. Trolling, unfortunately, has become an accepted practice. After Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar offered his comments on MS Dhoni and said that the former captain should have played with more intent in the match against Afghanistan, the Dhoni fan brigade were up in and dished out comments trolling the master blaster.”I felt slightly disappointed, it could have been much better. I was also not happy with the partnership between Kedar and Dhoni, it was very slow. We batted 34 overs of spin bowling and scored 119 runs. This was one area where we didn’t look comfortable at all. There was no positive intent,” Tendulkar was quoted as saying by India Today. MS DhoniHannah Peters/Getty ImagesCommenting on the rather sluggish rate of scoring by Kedar Jadhav and MS Dhoni, Sachin also said that the partnership should have attacked the spinners more in the middle phase of India’s innings.Against Afghanistan, MS Dhoni had walked in during the 27th over, and then struggled to find momentum as his innings of 28 off 52 balls did not find any momentum as the Afghan spinners dominated him. He tried to break the shackles by stepping down the pitch and going after Rashid Khan, but was stumped. The comments make a lot of sense, not for Dhoni loyalists who have lashed out at Sachin for what they believe is just commenting for the sake of it. They also started comparing the stats to add substance to their arguments.Here are a bunch of reactions:last_img read more

Businessman killed in Sylhet

first_imgMap of SylhetPolice recovered the slaughtered body of a cloth trader in Konkolosh area in Beanibazar upazila on Friday morning, reports UNB.The deceased is Shaiban Ahmed, 55, owner of Aboroni Fashion at Jaman Plaza of the municipality area.Shahjalal Munshi, officer-in-charge of Beanibazar police station, said locals spotted the body of an unidentified man and informed police.Police recovered the body around 8am.Later, family members identified the body of Shaiban.last_img

Attending Large Public Events In Aftermath Of Las Vegas Shooting

first_img To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: 00:00 /01:14 Listen X It’s on the minds of operators of concert venues and sports facilities. The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion released a statement saying the safety of guests, staff and artists is a top priority. They’ll continue to implement heightened security at all events. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo says the Las Vegas shootings happened in an open area. Indoor events at Minute Maid or the Toyota Center allow for controlled access and metal detectors. But he says the public has to be vigilant. If you see something, say something.“When you know people that may be in possession of high-powered weapons. And when you know someone that is threatening violence or is having some sort of psychotic episode, let us know.”Lee Schexnaider teaches an active shooter survival class.“It’s situation awareness, to pay attention to what’s going on around you and where the exits are. You know, I don’t walk into a church and not know where the exits are. I, like most police officers, sit with my back to the wall at restaurants.”Schexnaider says this event may be different, and it’s not just the casualty count. He says the 22,000 concert attendees are from around the country, and they’ll be telling their survivor stories, and there’ll be funerals across the country. That makes these shootings even more of a national issue. Sharelast_img read more

Port Of Houston Back In Business After Harvey Cleaning Up Ship Channel

first_img X 00:00 /00:57 Share Listencenter_img Gail Delaughter | Houston Public MediaPort of Houston Chairman Janiece Longoria chats with Jim Teague, CEO of Enterprise Products Partners at Greater Houston Partnership’s State of the Port address on November 16th, 2017. To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: Port of Houston Chairman Janiece Longoria said on Thursday that they were back in business about a week after Hurricane Harvey, but the challenge now is dredging all the silt that collected in the Houston Ship Channel. She said that dredging is crucial to maritime safety.Speaking before the Greater Houston Partnership in its annual State of the Port address, Longoria told a packed house that they’re still dealing with what the floods left behind.  She said that silt makes it harder for ships to navigate because they don’t have the proper depth.“When vessels are not able to load fully, that causes increased costs within the supply chain that is ultimately borne by the consumer,” explained Longoria.And port officials are hoping that gets the attention of members of Congress. Longoria says they’re now seeking funds for preventative dredging, to prepare the Ship Channel for the next big storm.“The Ship Channel was closed only five days after Harvey,” added Longoria. “In that very brief time, we had jet fuel shortages. We had gasoline shortages.”Longoria said they need about $50 to $60 million a year to maintain the port’s channels. But they only get about $30 million from the federal government. And she pointed out that shippers are already paying a tax to fund dredging.Despite those challenges, Longoria says business at the port remains strong. She says they’re now handling about 70% of the Gulf of Mexico’s container cargo.last_img read more

Texas House Approves 202021 Budget Plan With Extra 9 Billion For School

first_img$2 million for state mental hospital improvements, which includes funding to plan the construction of new hospitals in the Panhandle and the Dallas area. Share Nearly $2 billion to reimburse school districts, state agencies and universities for costs they took on after Hurricane Harvey Emree Weaver / The Texas TribuneTexas House Appropriations Chairman John Zerwas, R-Richmond, talks with House Speaker Dennis Bonnen on March 27, 2019, as the House took up the budget debate.In Dennis Bonnen’s first major test as speaker of the Texas House, the chamber he oversees resoundingly passed a $251 billion budget Wednesday after a long but largely civil debate — a departure from the dramatics that have typically defined such an affair.Though lawmakers proposed more than 300 amendments to the spending plan, Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, and his chief budget writer, state Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, finished the night with their budget plan largely intact. After 11 hours of relatively cordial discussion, lawmakers agreed to withdraw the vast majority of their amendments or move them to a wish list portion of the budget, where they are highly unlikely to become law.The budget passed unanimously on the final vote. The legislation, House Bill 1, now heads to the Senate, whose Finance Committee was set to discuss its budget plan Thursday.“I’m proud of where we are in the bill that we are sending to the Senate,” Zerwas said at the end of the marathon debate. “Each and every one of you should be incredibly proud of the work that you’ve put in here.”The two-year spending plan’s highlight — a $9 billion boost in state funding for the public education portion of the budget — remained unchanged. Of that, $6 billion would go to school districts, and the remaining $3 billion would pay for property tax relief, contingent on lawmakers passing a school finance reform package.The budget plan would spend $2 billion from the state’s savings account, commonly known as the rainy day fund, which holds more than $11 billion.“I’m not here to compare it to previous sessions,” Bonnen told reporters after the House budget vote. “But I’m here to tell you we had a great tone and tenor tonight, and I’m very proud of the business that we did.”Some of the more contentious budget proposals floated by lawmakers never reached the floor. An amendment from state Rep. Richard Peña Raymond, D-Laredo, for example, would have asked members to vote on the issue of across-the-board pay raises for public school teachers. Such a proposal has divided the Legislature this session, with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s Senate in favor and much of the House opposed. Raymond withdrew his amendment Wednesday evening, saying he planned to bring up the issue again when the House debates its school finance bill.Bob Daemmrich for the Texas TribDebate on HB1, the House state budget bill, continues into its 12th hour as State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Dallas, shows the strain of a long night. March 27, 2019.A proposal from state Rep. Mayes Middleton, R-Wallisville, to prohibit disaster recovery dollars from benefiting noncitizens and “illegal aliens” was quietly withdrawn after sparking controversy earlier this week. Across the aisle, state Rep. Jessica González, D-Dallas, withdrew her amendment that would have required Gov. Greg Abbott’s office to prepare a report on domestic terrorist threats posed by white supremacists.Bonnen worked behind the scenes in the days preceding the vote, House lawmakers said, in the hopes of avoiding the discord that has erupted during the chamber’s marathon budget debates in past sessions. On Tuesday, top lieutenants for Bonnen met for a handful of informal gatherings to offer concessions in exchange for lawmakers dropping some of their more controversial amendments, according to people familiar with the meetings.The result was one of the shortest budget debates in recent memory. Lawmakers gave preliminary approval to the two-year spending plan minutes after the clock struck midnight. Under former House Speaker Joe Straus, lawmakers in 2017 and 2015 went home well into the morning, after several explosive exchanges between Straus’ allies and the chamber’s hardline GOP membership.“This budget night is unlike any other I have experienced in my time in the House — both in it’s shorter duration and civil tone,” said state Rep. Matt Krause, a Fort Worth Republican and Freedom Caucus member, in a text message after the debate concluded. “I think Speaker Bonnen deserves the bulk of the credit for creating an environment of civility and decorum. This is how the Texas House should operate when debating the big issues for the state of Texas.”Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas TribuneRep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, addresses the house floor during budget night at the State Capitol on March 27, 2019. About $1.3 billion to shore up a system that pays out teacher pensions, contingent on the passage of a pension reform bill, which includes $658 million from the state savings account to provide a one-time “13th check” made out to retired teacherscenter_img This piece was originally published in The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.  So while Bonnen’s first budget night as speaker was hardly free of controversy — an argument over the effectiveness of the state’s “Alternatives to Abortion” program, for example, derailed movement on amendments for nearly an hour — the occasional spats paled in comparison with those of years past. There were no discussions at the back microphone of lawmakers’ sexual histories, as happened in 2015, and no one had to physically restrain House members to prevent a fistfight over the fate of a feral hog abatement program, as happened in 2017.Still, state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, continued his long-running campaign against the feral hog program. And though the exchange ranked among the evening’s rowdiest, it was more than tame by last session’s standards.State Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, again opposed Stickland’s amendment to defund the program, which reimburses local initiatives to eradicate wild hogs. Stickland responded, “Members, although I respect the thoughtful words of Rep. Springer … let’s end this program right here, right now.”Stickland’s amendment failed, with just four votes in favor.In an earlier dustup just before 2 p.m., state Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, who led the House budget negotiations over health and human services programs, was seen in a heated exchange with state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano.A few minutes later, Leach proposed an amendment that would allow Texas to expand Medicaid coverage for women up to a year after they give birth. To cover some of the costs, Leach’s amendment recommended cutting $15 million from a program in Abbott’s office that reimburses film and video game makers who work in Texas.Extending postpartum Medicaid coverage “is simply more important and should be a higher priority” than the film incentives program, Leach said.Democrats gathered at the back microphone to oppose the motion, saying the funding should come from elsewhere.“I appreciate that you’re trying to help women’s health,” said state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, who said she supported the film incentives as a job-creation program. “If we found another source, would you create another amendment?”“I’m not going to agree to hypotheticals,” Leach replied. The amendment subsequently passed without a recorded vote after putting Democrats in the awkward position of voicing opposition to a Medicaid coverage expansion they otherwise supported.A more ambitious Medicaid coverage expansion, which would have provided publicly funded health insurance to low-income Texans under the Affordable Care Act, failed for a fourth legislative session. The Medicaid expansion amendment brought by state Rep. John Bucy III, D-Austin, was rejected with 66 votes in favor and 80 opposed.Still, Democrats saw some wins Wednesday. For example, an amendment by state Rep. Michelle Beckley, D-Carrollton, that would require the Department of State Health Services to conduct a study on vaccination rates among children at licensed child care facilities was approved in a 79-67 vote. Another successful amendment by state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, directs the state to come up with a transition plan for when a pot of federal health care safety-net funding, known as the 1115 waiver, dries up in 2021 and 2022.Complicating budget negotiations was news of an updated property tax reform proposal, which was expected to be laid out in committee before the House convened but was instead postponed until after the budget debate. Debate over that updated proposal, which drew opposition from Democrats and hardline Republicans, carried over onto the floor as its author, state Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, met with committee members to discuss the high-priority legislation.The debate on the HB 1 ended with a procedural move spearheaded by Turner and Burrows to wrap up the remaining amendments and send them to the wish list portion of the wish list portion of the budget. That section of the budget, known as Article XI, is considered a graveyard for most line items.Passing an amendment to the wish list is “just a way to get you off the main,” state Rep. Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas, said in protest earlier in the evening, shortly before one of her proposals was shot down.Emree Weaver / The Texas TribuneState Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond (right), speaks with Rep. Dennis Paul, R-Houston (left), in the House Chamber on March 27, 2019, the day the House will take up HB1, the 2020-21 budget plan.The two-year budget wasn’t the only spending plan advanced by the House on Wednesday.Lawmakers also approved a $9 billion supplemental spending plan to pay for leftover expenses that aren’t covered in the state’s current two-year budget, mostly for Hurricane Harvey recovery and health and human services programs.A $4.3 billion withdrawal from the state savings account covers the largest share of expenses in the supplemental bill. Another $2.7 billion comes from the state’s general revenue, and $2.3 billion are federal funds.The legislation, Senate Bill 500, returns to the Senate, whose stopgap spending plan approved earlier this month carried a $6 billion price tag.Lawmakers in 2017 underfunded Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor and disabled, requiring a $4.4 billion infusion of state and federal funds. The Legislature must pass the stopgap funding bill before the end of May if the Texas Health and Human Services Commission is to be able to pay health care providers on time.The supplemental bill also includes: Nearly $11 million for the Santa Fe Independent School District, which experienced a mass shooting last year that left 10 dead and 13 woundedlast_img read more

Intelligent mobile projects with TensorFlow Build your first Reinforcement Learning model on

first_imgOpenAI Gym (https://gym.openai.com) is an open source Python toolkit that offers many simulated environments to help you develop, compare, and train reinforcement learning algorithms, so you don’t have to buy all the sensors and train your robot in the real environment, which can be costly in both time and money. In this article, we’ll show you how to develop and train a reinforcement learning model on Raspberry Pi using TensorFlow in an OpenAI Gym’s simulated environment called CartPole (https://gym.openai.com/envs/CartPole-v0). This tutorial is an excerpt from a book written by Jeff Tang titled Intelligent Mobile Projects with TensorFlow. To install OpenAI Gym, run the following commands: git clone https://github.com/openai/gym.gitcd gymsudo pip install -e . You can verify that you have TensorFlow 1.6 and gym installed by running pip list: pi@raspberrypi:~ $ pip listgym (0.10.4, /home/pi/gym)tensorflow (1.6.0) Or you can start IPython then import TensorFlow and gym: pi@raspberrypi:~ $ ipythonPython 2.7.9 (default, Sep 17 2016, 20:26:04) IPython 5.5.0 — An enhanced Interactive Python. In [1]: import tensorflow as tfIn [2]: import gymIn [3]: tf.__version__Out[3]: ‘1.6.0’In [4]: gym.__version__Out[4]: ‘0.10.4’ We’re now all set to use TensorFlow and gym to build some interesting reinforcement learning model running on Raspberry Pi. Understanding the CartPole simulated environment CartPole is an environment that can be used to train a robot to stay in balance. In the CartPole environment, a pole is attached to a cart, which moves horizontally along a track. You can take an action of 1 (accelerating right) or 0 (accelerating left) to the cart. The pole starts upright, and the goal is to prevent it from falling over. A reward of 1 is provided for every time step that the pole remains upright. An episode ends when the pole is more than 15 degrees from vertical, or the cart moves more than 2.4 units from the center. Let’s play with the CartPole environment now. First, create a new environment and find out the possible actions an agent can take in the environment: env = gym.make(“CartPole-v0”)env.action_space# Discrete(2)env.action_space.sample()# 0 or 1 Every observation (state) consists of four values about the cart: its horizontal position, its velocity, its pole’s angle, and its angular velocity: obs=env.reset()obs# array([ 0.04052535, 0.00829587, -0.03525301, -0.00400378]) Each step (action) in the environment will result in a new observation, a reward of the action, whether the episode is done (if it is then you can’t take any further steps), and some additional information: obs, reward, done, info = env.step(1)obs# array([ 0.04069127, 0.2039052 , -0.03533309, -0.30759772]) Remember action (or step) 1 means moving right, and 0 left. To see how long an episode can last when you keep moving the cart right, run: while not done: obs, reward, done, info = env.step(1) print(obs) #[ 0.08048328 0.98696604 -0.09655727 -1.54009127]#[ 0.1002226 1.18310769 -0.12735909 -1.86127705]#[ 0.12388476 1.37937549 -0.16458463 -2.19063676]#[ 0.15147227 1.5756628 -0.20839737 -2.52925864]#[ 0.18298552 1.77178219 -0.25898254 -2.87789912] Let’s now manually go through a series of actions from start to end and print out the observation’s first value (the horizontal position) and third value (the pole’s angle in degrees from vertical) as they’re the two values that determine whether an episode is done. First, reset the environment and accelerate the cart right a few times: import numpy as npobs=env.reset()obs[0], obs[2]*360/np.pi# (0.008710582898326602, 1.4858315848689436) obs, reward, done, info = env.step(1)obs[0], obs[2]*360/np.pi# (0.009525842685697472, 1.5936049816642313)obs, reward, done, info = env.step(1)obs[0], obs[2]*360/np.pi# (0.014239775393474322, 1.040038643681757)obs, reward, done, info = env.step(1)obs[0], obs[2]*360/np.pi# (0.0228521194217381, -0.17418034908781568) You can see that the cart’s position value gets bigger and bigger as it’s moved right, the pole’s vertical degree gets smaller and smaller, and the last step shows a negative degree, meaning the pole is going to the left side of the center. All this makes sense, with just a little vivid picture in your mind of your favorite dog pushing a cart with a pole. Now change the action to accelerate the cart left (0) a few times: obs, reward, done, info = env.step(0)obs[0], obs[2]*360/np.pi# (0.03536432554326476, -2.0525933052704954)obs, reward, done, info = env.step(0)obs[0], obs[2]*360/np.pi# (0.04397450935915654, -3.261322987287562) obs, reward, done, info = env.step(0)obs[0], obs[2]*360/np.pi# (0.04868738508385764, -3.812330822419413)obs, reward, done, info = env.step(0)obs[0], obs[2]*360/np.pi# (0.04950617929263011, -3.7134404042580687)obs, reward, done, info = env.step(0)obs[0], obs[2]*360/np.pi# (0.04643238384389254, -2.968245724428785)obs, reward, done, info = env.step(0)obs[0], obs[2]*360/np.pi# (0.039465670006712444, -1.5760901885345346) You may be surprised at first to see the 0 action causes the positions (obs[0]) to continue to get bigger for several times, but remember that the cart is moving at a velocity and one or several actions of moving the cart to the other direction won’t decrease the position value immediately. But if you keep moving the cart to the left, you’ll see that the cart’s position starts becoming smaller (toward the left). Now continue the 0 action and you’ll see the position gets smaller and smaller, with a negative value meaning the cart enters the left side of the center, while the pole’s angle gets bigger and bigger: obs, reward, done, info = env.step(0)obs[0], obs[2]*360/np.pi# (0.028603948219811447, 0.46789197320636305) obs, reward, done, info = env.step(0)obs[0], obs[2]*360/np.pi# (0.013843572459953138, 3.1726728882727504)obs, reward, done, info = env.step(0)obs[0], obs[2]*360/np.pi# (-0.00482029774222077, 6.551160678086707)obs, reward, done, info = env.step(0)obs[0], obs[2]*360/np.pi# (-0.02739315127299434, 10.619948631208114) For the CartPole environment, the reward value returned in each step call is always 1, and the info is always {}.  So that’s all there’s to know about the CartPole simulated environment. Now that we understand how CartPole works, let’s see what kinds of policies we can come up with so at each state (observation), we can let the policy tell us which action (step) to take in order to keep the pole upright for as long as possible, in other words, to maximize our rewards. Using neural networks to build a better policy Let’s first see how to build a random policy using a simple fully connected (dense) neural network, which takes 4 values in an observation as input, uses a hidden layer of 4 neurons, and outputs the probability of the 0 action, based on which, the agent can sample the next action between 0 and 1: To follow along you can download the code files from the book’s GitHub repository. # nn_random_policy.pyimport tensorflow as tfimport numpy as npimport gymenv = gym.make(“CartPole-v0”) num_inputs = env.observation_space.shape[0]inputs = tf.placeholder(tf.float32, shape=[None, num_inputs])hidden = tf.layers.dense(inputs, 4, activation=tf.nn.relu)outputs = tf.layers.dense(hidden, 1, activation=tf.nn.sigmoid)action = tf.multinomial(tf.log(tf.concat([outputs, 1-outputs], 1)), 1)with tf.Session() as sess:sess.run(tf.global_variables_initializer()) total_rewards = []for _ in range(1000):rewards = 0obs = env.reset()while True:a = sess.run(action, feed_dict={inputs: obs.reshape(1, num_inputs)})obs, reward, done, info = env.step(a[0][0]) rewards += rewardif done:breaktotal_rewards.append(rewards)print(np.mean(total_rewards)) Note that we use the tf.multinomial function to sample an action based on the probability distribution of action 0 and 1, defined as outputs and 1-outputs, respectively (the sum of the two probabilities is 1). The mean of the total rewards will be around 20-something. This is a neural network that is generating a random policy, with no training at all. To train the network, we use tf.nn.sigmoid_cross_entropy_with_logits to define the loss function between the network output and the desired y_target action, defined using the basic simple policy in the previous subsection, so we expect this neural network policy to achieve about the same rewards as the basic non-neural-network policy: # nn_simple_policy.pyimport tensorflow as tfimport numpy as npimport gymenv = gym.make(“CartPole-v0”) num_inputs = env.observation_space.shape[0]inputs = tf.placeholder(tf.float32, shape=[None, num_inputs])y = tf.placeholder(tf.float32, shape=[None, 1])hidden = tf.layers.dense(inputs, 4, activation=tf.nn.relu)logits = tf.layers.dense(hidden, 1)outputs = tf.nn.sigmoid(logits)action = tf.multinomial(tf.log(tf.concat([outputs, 1-outputs], 1)), 1) cross_entropy = tf.nn.sigmoid_cross_entropy_with_logits(labels=y, logits=logits)optimizer = tf.train.AdamOptimizer(0.01)training_op = optimizer.minimize(cross_entropy) with tf.Session() as sess:sess.run(tf.global_variables_initializer())for _ in range(1000):obs = env.reset() while True:y_target = np.array([[1. if obs[2] We define outputs as a sigmoid function of the logits net output, that is, the probability of action 0, and then use the tf.multinomial to sample an action. Note that we use the standard tf.train.AdamOptimizer and its minimize method to train the network. To test and see how good the policy is, run the following code: total_rewards = [] for _ in range(1000): rewards = 0 obs = env.reset() while True:y_target = np.array([1. if obs[2] We’re now all set to explore how we can implement a policy gradient method on top of this to make our neural network perform much better, getting rewards several times larger. The basic idea of a policy gradient is that in order to train a neural network to generate a better policy, when all an agent knows from the environment is the rewards it can get when taking an action from any given state, we can adopt two new mechanisms: Discounted rewards: Each action’s value needs to consider its future action rewards. For example, an action that gets an immediate reward, 1, but ends the episode two actions (steps) later should have fewer long-term rewards than an action that gets an immediate reward, 1, but ends the episode 10 steps later. Test run the current policy and see which actions lead to higher discounted rewards, then update the current policy’s gradients (of the loss for weights) with the discounted rewards, in a way that an action with higher discounted rewards will, after the network update, have a higher probability of being chosen next time. Repeat such test runs and update the process many times to train a neural network for a better policy. Implementing a policy gradient in TensorFlow Let’s now see how to implement a policy gradient for our CartPole problem in TensorFlow. First, import tensorflow, numpy, and gym, and define a helper method that calculates the normalized and discounted rewards: import tensorflow as tfimport numpy as npimport gym def normalized_discounted_rewards(rewards):dr = np.zeros(len(rewards))dr[-1] = rewards[-1]for n in range(2, len(rewards)+1):dr[-n] = rewards[-n] + dr[-n+1] * discount_ratereturn (dr – dr.mean()) / dr.std() Next, create the CartPole gym environment, define the learning_rate and discount_rate hyper-parameters, and build the network with four input neurons, four hidden neurons, and one output neuron as before: env = gym.make(“CartPole-v0”) learning_rate = 0.05discount_rate = 0.95num_inputs = env.observation_space.shape[0]inputs = tf.placeholder(tf.float32, shape=[None, num_inputs])hidden = tf.layers.dense(inputs, 4, activation=tf.nn.relu) logits = tf.layers.dense(hidden, 1)outputs = tf.nn.sigmoid(logits) action = tf.multinomial(tf.log(tf.concat([outputs, 1-outputs], 1)), 1) prob_action_0 = tf.to_float(1-action)cross_entropy = tf.nn.sigmoid_cross_entropy_with_logits(logits=logits, labels=prob_action_0)optimizer = tf.train.AdamOptimizer(learning_rate) To manually fine-tune the gradients to take into consideration the discounted rewards for each action we first use the compute_gradients method, then update the gradients the way we want, and finally call the apply_gradients method. So let’s now  compute the gradients of the cross-entropy loss for the network parameters (weights and biases), and set up gradient placeholders, which are to be fed later with the values that consider both the computed gradients and the discounted rewards of the actions taken using the current policy during test run: gvs = optimizer.compute_gradients(cross_entropy)gvs = [(g, v) for g, v in gvs if g != None]gs = [g for g, _ in gvs] gps = []gvs_feed = []for g, v in gvs:gp = tf.placeholder(tf.float32, shape=g.get_shape())gps.append(gp)gvs_feed.append((gp, v))training_op = optimizer.apply_gradients(gvs_feed) The gvs returned from optimizer.compute_gradients(cross_entropy) is a list of tuples, and each tuple consists of the gradient (of the cross_entropy for a trainable variable) and the trainable variable. If you run the script multiple times from IPython, the default graph of the tf object will contain trainable variables from previous runs, so unless you call tf.reset_default_graph(), you need to use gvs = [(g, v) for g, v in gvs if g != None] to remove those obsolete training variables, which would return None gradients. Now, play some games and save the rewards and gradient values: with tf.Session() as sess: sess.run(tf.global_variables_initializer()) for _ in range(1000):rewards, grads = [], []obs = env.reset()# using current policy to test play a gamewhile True:a, gs_val = sess.run([action, gs], feed_dict={inputs: obs.reshape(1, num_inputs)})obs, reward, done, info = env.step(a[0][0])rewards.append(reward)grads.append(gs_val)if done:break After the test play of a game, update the gradients with discounted rewards and train the network (remember that training_op is defined as optimizer.apply_gradients(gvs_feed)): # update gradients and do the training nd_rewards = normalized_discounted_rewards(rewards) gp_val = {} for i, gp in enumerate(gps): gp_val[gp] = np.mean([grads[k][i] * reward for k, reward in enumerate(nd_rewards)], axis=0) sess.run(training_op, feed_dict=gp_val) Finally, after 1,000 iterations of test play and updates, we can test the trained model: total_rewards = []for _ in range(100):rewards = 0obs = env.reset() while True:a = sess.run(action, feed_dict={inputs: obs.reshape(1, num_inputs)})obs, reward, done, info = env.step(a[0][0])rewards += rewardif done:breaktotal_rewards.append(rewards)print(np.mean(total_rewards)) Note that we now use the trained policy network and sess.run to get the next action with the current observation as input. The output mean of the total rewards will be about 200. You can also save a trained model after the training using tf.train.Saver: saver = tf.train.Saver() saver.save(sess, “./nnpg.ckpt”) Then you can reload it in a separate test program with: with tf.Session() as sess: saver.restore(sess, “./nnpg.ckpt”) Now that you have a powerful neural-network-based policy model that can help your robot keep in balance, fully tested in a simulated environment, you can deploy it in a real physical environment, after replacing the simulated environment API returns with real environment data, of course—but the code to build and train the neural network reinforcement learning model can certainly be easily reused. If you liked this tutorial and would like to learn more such techniques, pick up this book, Intelligent Mobile Projects with TensorFlow, authored by Jeff Tang. Read Next AI on mobile: How AI is taking over the mobile devices marketspace Introducing Intelligent Apps AI and the Raspberry Pi: Machine Learning and IoT, What’s the Impact?last_img read more

Personal Travel Managers simply wowed by Queen Mary II

first_imgThe Queen Mary II’s visit to Melbourne this weekend gave these PTMs the opportunity to get up close. (From left) Nicole Edgar, Leonie Wilcock, Lisa King, Tanya Barker, Carli Hester, Joanne Haines, Frances Cochrane, Andrea Friend, Leanne PearmanPersonal Travel Managers simply wowed by Queen Mary IIOne of the most elegant and luxurious icons of the cruise ship world was moored at Melbourne’s Station Pier on Sunday, and a dozen of TravelManagers’ personal travel managers (PTMs) were more than happy to accept an invitation aboard.Cunard Line’s Queen Mary II underwent a spectacular refurbishment eighteen months ago, with an equally spectacular 90-million-pound price tag. TravelManagers’ Nicole Edgar, representative for Narre Warren South in Victoria, says the result of this record-breaking investment exceeded all her expectations.“I was blown away by how spacious, modern, light, bright, classy, elegant and stunning the Queen Mary II was: not old-fashioned, dated or stuffy like you might have expected. The money and attention to detail that has been lavished on her really shows – she is beautiful!”Cunard took advantage of the Queen Mary II’s presence in Melbourne to announce that her sister ship, the Queen Elizabeth, is going to be based out of Melbourne during the 2019/2020 summer season: something which industry heads describe as a major coup for the city’s tourism & cruising industry, and for Cunard’s sales and passenger numbers out of Victoria. She will then spend another month or more based out of Sydney.TravelManagers’ Executive General Manager, Michael Gazal, says the opportunity for PTMs to spend time aboard the Queen Mary II will lead to further growth for the company’s overall cruise sales figures, which have already risen by 15.5% over the past year.“Every cruise ship is unique and offers a different holiday experience to its guests: the more familiar our PTMs are with each individual ship through inspections and famils, the better they can match their clients’ needs and expectations with the right ship, and the more likely that they will become repeat cruise clients.”For more information or to speak to someone confidentially about TravelManagers please contact Suzanne Laister on 1800 019 599.About TravelManagersTravel Managers operates in all Australian States and is a wholly owned subsidiary of House of Travel, Australasia’s largest independent travel company which has a forecast turnover of $1.5 billion for 2017. TravelManagers is a sister company to Hoot Holidays, also owned by House of Travel, and has more than 500 personal travel managers throughout Australia with a dedicated support team at the company’s national partnership office in Sydney. TravelManagers places all customer money in a dedicated and audited Client Trust Account which is separate from the general business accounts, ensuring client funds are secure and only used for client purchases.Source = TravelManagerslast_img read more

In his book The Theory of Interest Irving Fisher

first_imgIn his book The Theory of Interest, Irving Fisher, whom Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman called “America’s greatest economist,” created the Fisher equation. It states that the nominal yield of a bond is equal to its real yield plus expected inflation. This equation serves as the pillar of all of macroeconomics and as the foundational tenet of the bond market. It has been reconfirmed many times by scholarly examination and by the sheer force of historical experience. If we examine periods of both low and high inflation, we’ll see how each variable in the Fisher equation affects the outcome. From 1871 to 1948, a period of relatively low inflation, the US Treasury bond yield averaged 2.9%, with the inflation rate 1.0% and the real yield 1.9%. From 1948 to 1989, a period of higher inflation, inflation jumped to 4.3% on average. The Treasury bond yield increased to 6.0%, but the real yield remained close to historical norms at 1.7%. More recently, the inflation rate has declined, but the real rate has remained close to historical averages. My point is that while average inflation and bond yields were volatile, the average real yield was far more stable. Over longer stretches, the real yield was never far from its post-1871 average of 2.2%. Thus, over long periods of time, bond yields fluctuated in response to rising and falling inflation. However, the real bond yield steadily reverted to its mean. Inflation While a host of factors caused inflation to vary in the aforementioned periods, two significant ones are easily identifiable. First, the 70-year span between 1871 and 1948 (excluding the World War years) was an extended global market era. A new paradigm of uninterrupted transcontinental railroad travel plus the completion of the Suez Canal ushered in this era of rapidly expanding global trade. By 1871, 10% of US railroad traffic carried globally traded goods. This era produced increasing returns to scale and minimized price pressures. Second, the 1871-1948 period encompassed two episodes of high indebtedness: the 1870s, and then the 1920s until the mid- to late 1940s. Both severely destabilized economic activity and produced minimal inflation, which in turn led to depressed bond yields that eventually reached slightly less than 2%. Those episodes roughly correspond with the two 20-year periods of that era when the total return on long-term Treasury bonds exceeded the total return on the S&P 500: one from the 1870s to the 1890s and another from 1928 to 1948. On top of that, the traditional demographic vibrancy in the United States ended during the 1930s as both the birth rate and total increase in population slowed dramatically. The period from 1948 to 1989 differs markedly. By 1948, a global market did not exist, and the excessive indebtedness of the 1920-1930s had been eliminated. In the late 1940s, the Iron and Bamboo Curtains imposed by Russia and China removed roughly 50% of the world’s population from global trade, reducing economies of scale. During the war years, from 1933 to 1948, the US ratio of public and private debt to GDP dropped from 295% to 139%, as the personal saving rate jumped from below zero to 28%. With normal and sustainable debt levels the US entered the post-war boom, a period of rapidly rising prosperity that produced greater returns on the S&P 500 than on long-term Treasury bonds. Additionally, the abysmal demographics of the 1930s gave way to the post-war baby boom as households became more optimistic about their economic prospects. Today, conditions resemble the 1871-1948 period. Global trade is once again less inhibited, and public and private debt is high and rising. The saving rate is greatly depressed. Demographics have soured. The birth rate in 2013 fell to its lowest level on record, and the rate of population increase was the slowest since the Depression-era year of 1937. Thus, fundamental conditions are now conducive to an inflation rate averaging 1% or less. Based on the Fisher equation, long-term bond yields should be comfortable trading at 3% or lower. Many factors influence the global inflation rate, but the current bout of low inflation and insufficient demand are both symptoms of extreme over-indebtedness. Price weakness is evident in numerous different measures. Over the last twelve months ending November, the durable and nondurable goods components of the US personal consumption deflator fell by 2.0% and 0.6%, respectively. Prices of imported goods fell 1.5% over the same period; excluding oil, the decline was nearly as large. Facing weak domestic demand, foreign producers cut prices on goods headed toward the US market, and this forced domestic producers to match those lower prices. A lack of pricing power is likely to continue in 2014, for three main reasons. First, the global economy continues to incur more indebtedness. Both public and private debt in the major economies of the world continue to rise further above the levels that depress economic activity. Second, monetary conditions moved in the wrong direction last year, partly as a result of misguided policy efforts at quantitative manipulation of reserves. Third, although the sequester of government expenditures will be less in 2014 than in 2013, fiscal policy in the broadest sense is not supportive of economic growth. Indebtedness Academic research shows that a public and private debt-to-GDP ratio above the range of 260-275% depresses economic growth. In 2000, the US debt level exceeded this range. Since then, the bond yield has averaged 4.6%, with inflation at 2.1% and the real yield 2.5%. By comparing growth and debt figures prior to 2000 with those afterward, we can assess the magnitude of the problem and likelihood of its persistence. From 1871 to 1999, private and public debt averaged less than 165% of GDP (well below the 260-275% critical level), and the trend growth in real GDP was 3.8%. From 2000 through 2013, GDP growth has faltered to just 1.9%. Based on the latest 2013 figures, total private and public debt amounted to $58.2 trillion, or 344% of GDP. If the debt-to-GDP ratio were currently the same as the average from 1871 to 1999, total debt would be only $30.5 trillion, or almost half of the existing level. The debt-to-GDP ratio declined since peaking in 2009, but not enough to reenter the normal range. Moreover, the ratio resumed its upward trajectory in 2013. Thus, the US appears to be following the Japanese example of trying to cure a debt problem by accumulating more debt. Scholarly research conducted in the US and Europe over the past three years indicates that the amount of government debt relative to GDP has reached levels that historically have produced a deleterious effect on economic growth. This effect has historically lasted two decades or longer. As termed by European researchers, the current levels have reached the “non-linear zone.” This means that the negative effects on growth are likely to intensify as this debt ratio moves higher. Ignoring this research is ill advised, especially since the debt levels are still advancing. Although the US budget deficit was smaller last year, the more critical debt ratio continued to rise. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), general US government gross financial liabilities as a percent of GDP reached 104.1% in 2013, the highest level since the early 1950s. (Gross, rather than net, government debt is the appropriate measure; netting out the government debt held in other government accounts is not appropriate since the social insurance trusts have far greater liabilities than they have government securities to fund those future commitments.) By the end of 2015, the OECD projects this figure to jump to 106.5%. And according to the Congressional Budget Office, over the next 25 years, government debt to GDP will move dramatically higher. Since European fiscal policies mirror those in the US, it is not surprising that European growth prospects remain dismal. According to the OECD, general government gross financial liabilities in Europe reached 106.4% of GDP in 2013, up from 95.6% in 2011, an even faster rise than in the United States. New research shows that the world average of total public debt, expressed as a percent of global GDP, is approximating its highest level since 1826 (IMF Working Paper WP/13/266, “Financial and Sovereign Debt Crises: Some Lessons Learned and Those Forgotten,” December 2013, by Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff). Private debt to GDP in the Eurozone and the UK (and interestingly, in Japan) are all higher than in the US and even further above the levels that research has identified as being detrimental to growth. Monetary Conditions Monetary policy continues to be a negative for growth. Three academic papers presented at the Jackson Hole conference last August determined that the present approach of quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve has actually slowed economic activity. Four considerations show that monetary policy is working against economic growth. First, monetary policy works primarily through price effects. The level of real interest rates determines the price of credit. In 2013, long-term Treasury bond yields rose 100 basis points, or 1.0%. The inflation rate, measured by the year-over-year change in the Fed’s targeted core personal consumption expenditure deflator, dropped 50 basis points. This pushed the real yield on the 30-year bond to nearly 3% at the close of 2013. Thus, real yields currently carry a significant premium to the long-term average. The effects of this rising price of credit are visible in the high-frequency housing data. Recently, pending and existing home sales fell below year-ago levels. Mortgage applications for home purchases in December were at their lowest level in more than a decade. Second, the money multiplier that reflects the conversion of bank reserves into deposits (money) by the banking system fell to a new 100-year low of less than 3 in late December 2013. This indicates that the Fed’s large-scale asset purchases (LSAP) are not currently producing real, tangible economic effects and are not likely to in the future. Since 1913, $1 of high-powered money has, on average, resulted in an increase of $8.20 of M2. The current multiplier constitutes an unprecedented historical gap. To accelerate economic growth from a monetary perspective, an increase in the multiplier would be necessary. The best indicator of whether this acceleration process is working would be the expansion of bank credit, which includes bank investments and bank loans. Unfortunately, for the past 12 months the expansion of total bank credit is only 2.0% higher than one year ago, and bank loans have expanded by only 1.9%. Third, in spite of the Fed’s LSAP, which was larger in 2013 than 2012, M2 expanded at a considerably slower pace of 5.3% in the 12 months ending December 2013, down from 8.2% a year ago. The reduced money growth is an indication that LSAP is becoming more counterproductive. Fourth, the velocity of money (V) continues to reject the argument that monetary policies are gaining traction. Velocity, or the speed at which money turns over, links M2 to the level of nominal economic activity. With the money supply expanding at 5.3% in the latest year, it would be reasonable to expect the same growth rate in nominal GDP if V were stable. Unfortunately, since 1997 velocity has been falling—and in the last 12 months it has dropped by 3.0% to 1.57, the lowest level in six decades. While a myriad of factors influence velocity, the rate of change of financial innovation and lending for productive purposes affect its direction. If debt generates an income stream that repays principal and interest and creates other activities, it will tend to expand economic activity and cause V to rise. Student, auto, and other loans for consumption (which represent the bulk of the increase in consumer credit in 2013) do not meet that criterion—those forms of debt are merely an acceleration of future consumption and tend to inhibit the borrower’s ability to increase consumption down the road. Further, new regulations on our financial industries are discouraging financial innovation, and this could bring further downward pressure on velocity. In 2014, if velocity erodes at a generously low (and unlikely) 2% pace and money supply continues to grow at its current rate, nominal GDP will expand at about a 3% growth rate. If 2013 growth rates in velocity and money persist in 2014, then nominal growth would be even less. Fiscal Issues Based on scholarly research, only half of the negative economic impact emanating from the $275 billion 2013 tax increase has been registered so far. Due to the recognition and implementation lags, the remaining drag on growth from the tax increase will occur this year and again in 2015. Carrying a negative multiplier of 2 to 3, this impact far outweighs the sequester (which is expected to be slightly less in 2014 than in 2013) since the multiplier for government expenditures is zero, if not slightly negative. An important fiscal policy event for 2014 is the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Health care is the largest US industry, comprising 17.2% of the economy in 2012. That’s more than twice as large as residential construction, oil and gas exploration, and the automotive sectors combined. The scope and scale of ACA may divert energy and activity away from more productive endeavors. The ACA’s employer mandate was waived in 2013, as were similar obligations of labor unions and others, but these waivers expire this year. Firms may have to cut full-time employees to part-time, reduce total employment, or cut benefits since they lack pricing power to cover these costs. As such, this will place the burden of adjustment on consumers. On January 1, health insurance premiums that target small businesses and individuals were raised. These groups create jobs and are vital for growth, so although the amount of the increase is small, this is not a positive development for the economy. While the ACA is an unprecedented event for which no historical point of comparison exists, history does confirm that substantial increases in government regulation are not a springboard for innovation, the lifeblood of economic activity. The slow nominal growth rate anticipated for 2014 should continue to put downward pressure on the inflation rate as insufficient demand continues to foster highly competitive markets. With slower inflation, lower long-term interest rates are a probable outcome. Dr. Lacy H. Hunt is executive vice president of Hoisington Investment Management Company ($4.5 billion under management) and author of two books, and articles in Barron’s, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Journal of Finance, the Financial Analysts Journal, Business Economic, and the Journal of Portfolio Management. Previously, he was Chief US Economist for the HSBC Group and Senior Economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.last_img read more

Recommended Link

first_imgRecommended Link Jeff Clark Editor, Delta ReportP.S. Another temptation investors should avoid worrying about is the crash I see coming this year. It’s only a matter of time before the bubble bursts again.I’m looking forward to it – because I know how to make money during the crash… and my technique could double or triple your money when it comes.I’m revealing how it all works tonight at 8 p.m. ET. There are only a few hours left – reserve your free spot now.Reader MailbagOne reader shares our excitement that the Crypto Winter is finally ending:I’m already in on the crypto bull run! I have about 42 open positions and in the last 24-48 hours my entire portfolio jumped up about 10-14%, with a little pullback today. Frankly I’m sad I’m not sitting on a bunch more cash because I would just keep throwing it down if I could. Particularly on Bitcoin when it pulls back. I not only consider it good speculation but a good way to store some wealth away.Thanks as always for these updates – they help keep my focus and confidence in a very volatile and difficult market. Yet it’s a market that I actually understand so I do much better in this space than in the highly manipulated circus of a “market” that is the stock market.– BrendanAs always, send any questions, comments, or concerns to feedback@caseyresearch.com.Your Early-Bird Discount for a “Mini-Vacation”The second annual Legacy Investment Summit is only a few months out… and you can save $300 if you take advantage of the early-bird discount by May 31.We don’t want you to miss out on the chance to join us in Southern California – at the five-star Park Hyatt Aviara Resort – for a net cost of less than $0.If you’re on the fence, check out what one of your fellow readers had to say about last year’s Summit in Bermuda:Superb, superb, superb in every way. Absolutely five-star! Been to many, many conferences over the years but have NEVER been to one that pulled out all the stops from a standpoint of the caliber of speakers and content, the venue selection, and the awesome manner in which Legacy Research hosted this event.But I would be so VERY remiss not to specifically mention and compliment on those incredible “spreads” of food and drink. The fact that you not only fed us breakfast and lunch but evening cocktail parties every day, with the most wonderfully lavish buffets, has to be one of the things that was over the top in excellence and that everyone we spoke with, without exception, raved about.This Summit wasn’t just a learning experience but turned into a lovely mini-vacation. Your organization’s effort and the unsurpassed result was truly first-class and sincerely appreciated. I can’t layer on any more superlatives to make my points and simply will end with, “Thank you all for a most enjoyable event.” See you next year!– Ann Don’t delay, reserve your seat right here. Click here to reserve your free spot TONIGHT at 8 pm ET, we’re publicly airing: — Click here to continue reading The ONE STOCK you absolutely must avoid at all costs… The ONE WORD that will set off the crash… (Hint: It starts with the letter “o”)Which sector will be a bloodbath… Which sector will be the SAFEST PLACE to keep your money… and how it could help you make 100% to 200% gains along the way… The exact day stocks could crash in 2019… It’s important to understand that longevity as a trader has nothing to do with achieving the maximum profit on any one position. It has to do with consistently taking profits on trades as they reach your price targets.You’re never going to consistently buy at the low and sell at the high. Trying to do so will eventually lead to missing out on good trade setups and holding on to trades longer than you should.So avoid the temptation of looking back at the trades you’ve exited. Be happy with your decision to get out of town. Focus on the future and don’t look back.Lot and his family left Sodom and prospered in the neighboring town of Zoar. Lot’s wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt.Regards, Once you’ve exited a position – whether for a gain or a loss – it doesn’t matter what happens to that trade anymore. There’s nothing to be gained by looking back at it. Focus on the future and the opportunities in front of you.If you look back, you run the same risks as Lot’s wife… Not that you’ll be turned into a pillar of salt, of course – but that you’ll be rendered fragile and immovable.Think about this…If you’ve taken a profit on a trade and then choose to look back at it, then one of two things will happen:The position will reverse. You will have sold at the perfect time. And you’ll expect to be able to do that consistently in the future. This leads to overconfidence and the belief that you’ll always be able to get out of town just before the market gods unleash their wrath. This is a dangerous thought process.Or the position will go on to even bigger profits. You will have sold too early. And even though you took a good profit on the trade, you’ll feel bad because you could’ve made so much more. This leads you to question every future trade. You’re more inclined to hang on longer than you should. And you may not be able to get out of town in time.If you’ve taken a loss on the trade and look back at it, then even if the position continues falling, you’ll still feel bad about having taken a loss.And if the position turns around and starts moving in your favor, then you’ll likely start hanging on to other losing trades longer than you should – hoping they’ll start moving in your favor as well.So traders have nothing to gain from looking back at trades they’ve already exited. You can’t change your decision whether it’s proven brilliant or stupid. All looking back will do is paralyze you – like a pillar of salt – on future trades. Recommended Link The Democrats’ Secret Plan to Take Down Trump in 2020?Have you seen this SHOCKING story yet? The struggle to take control of the White House in 2020 is now getting underway… And Government Insider Jim Rickards has uncovered a secret plan that could ruin Trump that could affect the bank accounts of millions of Americans… As early as June 30th. Justin’s note: No one can buy low and sell high all the time. But master trader Jeff Clark doesn’t get upset when he misses out on the absolute top or bottom. It’s all about making money – no matter the market environment.Today, he reveals why the key to investor longevity has nothing to do with making maximum gains on any single position.He tells us why it’s more important to focus on consistent profits – which you can only do by not looking back…By Jeff Clark, editor, Delta Report“Don’t look back.”That was the advice the angels gave to Lot and his family as they led them out of the city of Sodom, just before it was destroyed by the wrath of God.Whatever happened to the city after he fled was no longer Lot’s concern. It was no longer any of his business. He couldn’t do anything about it.So “don’t look back” was the angel’s way of saying, “Look forward. There’s nothing to gain by watching what happens behind you. Focus on your future and what’s ahead of you.”As the Bible tells us, Lot’s wife wasn’t all that good at following directions. She couldn’t resist the temptation to look back and see what happened to the city she just left. And she was turned into a pillar of salt.Why salt? Who knows? Maybe it’s because too much salt can lead to high blood pressure and heart problems. Maybe it’s because a pillar of salt is fragile, yet immovable.Whatever. The bottom line is: Lot’s wife shouldn’t have looked back. And neither should traders. —last_img read more

If you peer into Americans grocery carts youre

first_imgIf you peer into Americans’ grocery carts, you’re unlikely to see a mix of foods and beverages that make for an ideal diet. And this is true for many of the nearly 42 million people who receive food stamps, too.According to a 2016 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, sweetened beverages, including soda, are among the most commonly purchased items by recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — or SNAP.SNAP households spend about 10 percent of food dollars on sugary drinks, which is about three times more than the amount they spend on milk. In New York City alone, as we’ve reported, this translates into more than $75 million in sugary drink purchases each year that are subsidized by U.S. taxpayers.Given our biological attraction to sugar, perhaps it’s not a surprise. Our collective sweet tooth — which was shaped by evolutionary forces — extends far beyond SNAP households. In general, non-SNAP households spend almost as much on sweetened drinks — about 7 percent of food purchases, according to the USDA report.The health stakes are highHowever, since taxpayers foot the roughly $70 billion bill for SNAP each year, critics question whether it makes sense to support the purchase of sugary drinks, which have been shown to play a significant role in weight gain and the onset of Type 2 diabetes.”Low-income American adults now consume nearly two [sugar-sweetened beverage] servings a day, and for every one to two daily servings consumed, the lifetime risk of developing diabetes increases by 30 percent,” according to a paper published this year by Harvard adjunct public policy professor Robert Paarlberg and collaborators in the journal Society.The paper explains why the challenge of changing the SNAP program is so daunting.When the food stamp program was initiated back in the 1960s, some Americans did not get enough calories. Now, “partly thanks to SNAP, calorie and micro-nutrient deficiencies are a far less serious problem,” Paarlberg and his co-authors write. “But the obesity rate has soared, reaching 39.8 percent in 2015-16.”So how might lawmakers change the SNAP program to nudge people toward healthier choices? As Congress debates a new farm bill containing billions in SNAP funding, there’s an increasing appetite to overhaul the program while at the same time preserving the benefits it provides in keeping low-income Americans fed.One idea comes from researchers at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. In a paper published this month in PLOS Medicine, they’ve modeled the potential health effects and cost-effectiveness of a few approaches.One would incentivize the purchase of healthy foods, by offering a 30 percent subsidy for people to buy such things as fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains and fish. “People could still buy less healthy foods, but they’d get 30 percent less for their dollars,” explains Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School.The researchers estimate that over the course of a few decades, this approach could lead to billions of dollars in health care savings and help prevent hundreds of thousands of cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks.This approach may also help counter critics who argue that SNAP recipients should have the freedom to make their own dietary choices. “We would preserve choice, but nudge people towards healthier eating,” Mozaffarian says.But not everyone is convinced. “It really wouldn’t work,” says Robert Rector, a research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation. He points out that SNAP recipients use both SNAP benefits and their own money to purchase foods and beverages. “People would just use their own money for those [unhealthy] foods,” he says. Despite his skepticism, Rector says he would support a simpler approach: preventing the use of SNAP benefits to purchase sugary drinks and junk food items. “This would be much easier to implement,” Rector says.Time is tight for Congress to act, and elections are looming. It’s likely too late in the game to change the SNAP program during this go-round of farm bill negotiations. The bill is reauthorized every five years, and currently there is a bipartisan fight over other controversial provisions, such as work requirements for SNAP recipients. For now, the focus is not on improving diet quality. But Congress could support pilots or research into the effectiveness of change proposals.Credit incentives can workOne pilot, carried out in Massachusetts several years ago, offers some evidence that financial incentives for healthy food purchases can shift habits. Here’s how the pilot worked: SNAP recipients received a 30 cent incentive for every SNAP dollar they spent on fruits and vegetables. This included canned and frozen products, which can be just as healthy as fresh. The incentive was credited back to their account, so they had more money to spend on other foods. About 7,500 households participated in the pilot.What happened? Participants in the pilot consumed about 26 percent more fruits and vegetables. And they reported higher consumption of dark leafy greens, as well as nutrition-packed orange and red vegetables such as carrots and tomatoes. About two-thirds of the participants reported buying larger amounts and a greater variety of fruits and vegetables. Nearly three-fourths said they felt that vegetables and fruits had become more affordable, thanks to the incentives.There are some other real-world examples of how financial incentives can help shift grocery purchases among the population at large — not just SNAP recipients. For instance, a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2013 found that rebates on healthy food purchases can prompt significant changes in consumer behavior. Researchers found that a 25 percent rebate led to about a 9 percent increase in spending on healthy food.There’s growing evidence that obesity and poor nutrition are the epidemics of our day. An estimated 1 out of every 2 deaths from heart disease in the U.S. is linked to how we eat.In a recent opinion piece, former USDA secretaries who served in the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations respectively call for more focus on nutrition in the SNAP program.”There has never been a more important time to refocus the farm bill on nutrition. Diet-related disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, surpassing tobacco, drug, and alcohol usage. More than 1,000 deaths every day are due to poor diets,” Dan Glickman, Ann Veneman and Tom Vilsack wrote.The Cabinet secretaries argue that Congress should authorize another pilot program. “Once we have a more robust understanding of which interventions are most successful at encouraging Americans to make the healthiest choices, we can ensure that both SNAP and non-SNAP recipients have diets that lead to health and longevity,” they wrote.The politics challenging changeThere are roadblocks to change, as spelled out by Paarlberg and his collaborators in the Society paper earlier this year. “Among many reasons, one surprising answer is the joining of pro-poor liberal conviction and corporate lobby power, supported by institutional inertia,” they wrote.In other words, some anti-hunger groups have joined with industry groups, including the beverage industry, to fight back proposals to limit or block the purchase of unhealthy foods with SNAP dollars.This happened back in 2012, when a Florida state senator sponsored a bill to restrict the use of food stamps to buy soda and junk food in her state. “Should we give hungry kids food? Absolutely,” Ronda Storms, then a state senator, told me back in 2012. (She no longer serves in the state Senate.) “But I don’t think the goal is to provide Oreos and Mountain Dew,” she said, calling such purchases a misuse of public-assistance dollars.At the time, anti-hunger groups said the proposal would limit choice for low-income Americans, who sometimes face stigma by participating in SNAP. Anti-hunger proponents also argued that it would be hard for grocers to separate out what’s covered by SNAP, if new rules were put forth. The bill never passed, but even if it had, the state of Florida would have needed a waiver from the USDA to make the changes. This may not have been granted readily.In 2010, the USDA denied a request by New York City to place limits on purchases with food stamp dollars.It seems these obstacles are still in play. Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.last_img read more

The private sector has implemented the Equality Ac

first_imgThe private sector has implemented the Equality Act far better than central and local government a committee of peers has been told by a prominent disabled campaigner.The peers were told that the focus on disability discrimination had faded since the “generic” Equality Act replaced legislation such as the Disability Discrimination Act, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) had replaced the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) and other equality watchdogs.Fazilet Hadi, director of engagement at the disability charity RNIB, told the committee that she did not think the Equality Act was taken seriously enough by local and central government.She was giving evidence in the second public session of the Equality Act 2010 and Disability Committee, set up by the House of Lords to examine the impact of the Equality Act 2010 on disabled people.Hadi said: “I think we have seen better implementation of the act from the banks, the utilities, the John Lewis-es, the private sector, than we have ever seen from central or local government, and that is a bit of an indictment given that this is government legislation.“In 2015, there are still government departments that do not have proper mechanisms for giving blind and partially-sighted people and other people with disabilities info in accessible formats.“That’s not rocket science. They should have been doing it since 1999 and they are still not doing it.“We have got inaccessible websites, we have got inaccessible streetscapes, we have got inaccessible services.“Government really should be leading the way, they should be role models for this stuff, and they’re not.”Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, who also gave evidence to the committee, said that the sense of “moving in a positive direction seems to have slightly stalled” since the Equality Act was introduced, while “the hope that is attached to it is not as strong as it was”.She said the act could be “better promoted, used more systemically, and not just left to the individuals to pursue things”, for example, through the courts.Sayce said there needed to be more focus on the public sector equality duty (PSED), which imposes duties under the Equality Act on public sector organisations, including central government departments.She said: “I think we need a revived, high-level commitment to the PSED and to the principle of systemic change, not just reliance on individual redress.”Sayce said that DR UK was hearing frequently though its advice line that disabled people were “finding it very difficult to exercise their rights” in the workplace, and to access goods and services.She said: “It would be good to have a stronger, cross-government leadership on these issues… I don’t see the equality frame being used all that much and I think it would be really useful if it was.”Both Hadi and Sayce also criticised EHRC.Sayce said the EHRC had not been as active as the DRC in engaging with stakeholders, such as disabled people’s and business organisations and unions.She said: “As a stakeholder of the EHRC, I don’t see that kind of engagement.“The budget has gone down, the engagement has gone down, and although there are examples of good initiatives, I don’t see evidence of a systemic approach to really moving forward on disability equality that is strong enough.”Hadi added: “I, personally, as the director of a disability charity, have very little contact [with EHRC].“When the Disability Rights Commission was around, in those good old days, I would go there regularly, we’d talk to them regularly.”last_img read more

The government has ignored key evidence that demon

first_imgThe government has ignored key evidence that demonstrates widespread breaches of the UN disability convention, according to disabled people’s grassroots groups and organisations that are working together to expose its failings.They spoke out after the government submitted its response to concerns raised earlier this year by a UN committee, which described where it had questions about whether the UK may have failed in its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).The UK government’s 168-paragraph response to the “list of issues” produced by the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD) is the latest step in a process that will see it examined in public in Geneva next month on how it has implemented the convention.But disabled activists and campaigners who have been working to highlight the UK’s breaches of the convention said this week that the government’s defence of its position was “poor quality” and lacking in evidence.Ellen Clifford, a spokeswoman for the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA) – a national anti-cuts network of user-led organisations – said the government had claimed in its response that its policies were having a positive impact on disabled people, without providing any evidence for those claims.She said the government had claimed that the Care Act 2014 was “helping to overturn traditional approaches to disability in health and social care by placing greater power in the hands of service users, including disabled people”, when there was substantial evidence to show that the act was not being implemented.There is no mention in the government’s response of the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) own evaluation of the closure of the Independent Living Fund, in which it had found that some former recipients had experienced a loss of support, a greater reliance on unpaid care and a negative impact on their physical and mental health after it closed.Only last week, Disability News Service reported how leading figures in the disability movement had described how the concept of disabled people using personal assistants had been severely damaged by years of austerity and government policies that have “degraded” the support mechanisms designed to enable independent living.Clifford pointed also to the second paragraph of the response, where the government claimed that it “embraces the social model of disability”.She said there was substantial evidence to show the government was instead influenced by the discredited biopsychosocial model of disability in its welfare reforms, by the psychiatric model in mental health services, and by the medical model in the use of assessment and treatment units for people with learning difficulties, all of which had caused harm to disabled people and led to breaches of the convention.Clifford said the government’s response overall was “just a list of policies” and “doesn’t deal with any of the substantive issues” raised by the UN in its list of issues.She said: “It just doesn’t present a picture of the experiences of Deaf and disabled people in the UK in 2017.”Dr Rosalind Tyler-Greig, human rights policy and engagement officer for Inclusion Scotland, said the government’s response “once again demonstrates its refusal to engage with many of the most important issues affecting the lives of disabled people”.She pointed to “telling” omissions, including the government stating that it spent nearly £17 billion on personal independence payment (PIP) and disability living allowance (DLA) in 2015-16, compared to £11 billion in 2006-07, but ignoring new figures – reported last week by Disability News Service – that showed more than half of those previously eligible for the higher mobility rate of DLA had lost that eligibility after being reassessed for PIP.And where the government states that legal aid “continues to provide access to justice for people in the most serious cases”, Tyler-Greig said that many disabled people with housing, employment or social security concerns “now find themselves priced out of justice” because of the UK government’s legal aid reforms.She added: “The government claims to have embraced the social model of disability. “However, this statement is merely a case of lip service and there is little evidence to support it.”In Scotland, she said, there had been progress in dealing with the impact of austerity, with the Scottish government promising “a different and non-discriminatory approach to social security”.But she said the delivery of social care “remains a significant concern in Scotland, and there is little in the state response to address this.“Inclusion Scotland is working with a range of partners to ensure that this UN process provides the appropriate levers to drive progress for disabled people in Scotland as well as in the UK.”There is also anger about the government’s continued failure – repeated in its response to the list of issues – to address the recommendations made by the UN committee following a separate inquiry into breaches of the convention.That inquiry – taken under article six of the convention’s optional protocol – found last year that the UK government was guilty of “grave” and “systematic” breaches of three specific articles of the human rights treaty.Most of those breaches – under articles 19 (independent living), article 27 (work and employment) and article 28 (adequate standard of living and social protection) of the convention – were caused by policies introduced by Conservative DWP ministers between 2010 and 2015.The government said last November that the inquiry report presented an “inaccurate” picture of life for disabled people in the UK, and dismissed all 11 of its recommendations.And in this month’s response to the list of issues, it says only that it “maintains the position of its response” to the article six inquiry and planned to “further showcase [its] commitment to progressing the rights and lived experience of disabled people” through the examination of its overall record on implementing the convention.Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), which played a key part in persuading the UN to carry out the article six investigation, is to meet with the UN committee next month in Geneva to discuss progress in following up the results of the inquiry, which is a separate but parallel process to the routine examination.DPAC has already told the committee that it believes “rights are regressing even further” since the publication of the inquiry report, including through further cuts to social care, concerns about DWP’s new health and work conversation, and the “utter disaster of universal credit”.Linda Burnip, a DPAC co-founder, said: “The message is very much that this isn’t over yet, and I will be speaking about the UN inquiry in the European parliament in September to MEPs and hammering home how shamefully the Tories have behaved.”ROFA and other organisations that visited Geneva in March to give evidence to the committee about the UK’s breaches of the convention – including Inclusion Scotland, Disability Wales and Disability Rights UK – are now working on a joint response to the government’s response, and have until the end of this month to submit it to the committee.Picture by Natasha Hirst: Representatives of ROFA and DPOs including Disability Wales and Inclusion Scotland in Geneva in Marchlast_img read more

GreatGrandchildren of Aunt Jemima File 2 Billion Suit Against Quaker Oats

first_img Add to Queue –shares Next Article Enroll Now for $5 August 12, 2014 2 min read While the Aunt Jemima breakfast brand likely conjures images of cottony pancakes and cloying syrup, the name Anna Short Harrington probably doesn’t ring any bells.But a new lawsuit centered around Harrington — who was hired to portray Aunt Jemima after the brand’s acquisition by Quaker Oats in 1926 — alleges that her heirs never received any royalties from the earnings generated by her likeness and original recipes following her death in 1955.Harrington’s great-grandson, D.W. Hunter, filed a $2 billion class action suit — on behalf of all of Harrington’s heirs — against PepsiCo and its Quaker Oats subsidiary in an Illinois district court last week.Related: Franchisees Take 7-Eleven to Court for Alleged Racial DiscriminationHe alleges that Quaker Oats denied that Harrington had been an employee in the wake of her death so as to avoid paying the family royalties, reports the Chicago Tribune. The suit also names Pinnacle Foods, which licenses the Aunt Jemima brand for frozen foods, as well as Hillshire Brands, which previously sought to purchase Pinnacle.It was only after receiving her death certificate, which listed Quaker Oats as Harrington’s employer, that Hunter determined that he and his fellow great-grandchildren were rightfully owed a portion of the billions that the company raked in, according to the suit.Related: Ex-Subway Franchisee Concocts a Bizarre $35 Million Blackmail PlotWhile the origins of the Aunt Jemima character are said to have derived from a minstrel show (Harrington was the second woman to personify the role), the suit also “alleges a racial element to the exploitation,” reports the Tribune.Hunter claims that Quaker Oats exploited Harrington’s “lack of education and age” by discouraging her from hiring a lawyer to negotiate her compensation contract. In addition to stealing 64 original formulas and 22 menus from Harrington, reports the Tribune, Quaker has also licensed out her image for merchandise like mugs and clothing.Quaker, for its part, denies the claims. “People associate The Aunt Jemima Brand with warmth, hospitality and comfort,” the company said in a statement. “We stand by this heritage as well as the ways in which we do business.”Related: Sticky Fingers: Man Claims IHOP Stole His ‘Pancake Pile’ App Legal Fireside Chat | July 25: Three Surprising Ways to Build Your Brand Former Staff Writer Geoff Weiss Learn from renowned serial entrepreneur David Meltzer how to find your frequency in order to stand out from your competitors and build a brand that is authentic, lasting and impactful. Great-Grandchildren of ‘Aunt Jemima’ File $2 Billion Suit Against Quaker Oatslast_img read more

Acxiom Continues to Expand Global Data Offerings and Digital Capabilities

first_imgAcxiom Continues to Expand Global Data Offerings and Digital Capabilities PRNewswireJune 12, 2019, 1:44 pmJune 12, 2019 Strengthens Industry-Leading Global Data Capabilities in Global MarketsAcxiom, the data and technology foundation for the world’s best marketers, announced that it has expanded its digital and global data capabilities to Japan, Australia, Spain and Canada. Acxiom is building on its position as the industry leader in global data, with ethically sourced data offerings for 2.5 billion addressable customers across the globe. As a trusted partner for brands worldwide, Acxiom will continue to focus on expanding its global and digital data capabilities to enable clients to know more about their existing customers, find look-alike customers, and enable them to reach and engage audiences anywhere with relevant messages across channels and throughout the customer journey, resulting in a better experience for consumers.“Our top priority is to ensure that all of the data leveraged is both ethically sourced and privacy-compliant”Today’s marketers need to connect with audiences across the globe through a growing number of offline and digital touchpoints, while also navigating the data use and consumer privacy regulations that vary by region. Acxiom’s suite of global data products enhances what marketers already know about their target audiences with insights derived from ethically sourced data. Acxiom’s data products also help leading publishers, giving them a better understanding of their end-user and enhancing their analytics capabilities. The expansion of Acxiom’s global data products in Japan, Australia, Spain and Canada benefits multi-national companies who have audiences in those regions and are looking to create successful borderless marketing campaigns, in addition to providing support to marketers on-the-ground in those regions.Marketing Technology News: Tellius Named by Gartner as a 2019 Cool Vendor in Analytics“As brands, ad platforms, and publishers continue to expand their services worldwide, Acxiom’s global data and digital marketing capabilities enable marketers to anticipate their customers’ specific needs by proactively developing their next priority audiences,” said Karen Caulfield, Group Vice President of Global Data Products at Acxiom. “Acxiom is the only industry partner in the market that’s able to address companies’ offline and digital needs and take their unique customers on a global journey across the omnichannel ecosystem. Data fuels exceptional customer experiences, no matter where you are in the world, and today marks another step forward in our vision of borderless marketing.”Acxiom’s suite of global data offerings can be viewed through Acxiom’s Global Data Navigator catalog tool, which allows users to easily locate data elements by geography, category and service while also outlining which Acxiom identity and activation services are available in the marketer’s selected geographies. Acxiom’s global audiences are available on leading platforms, making it easy for marketers across the world to access and activate Acxiom’s rich set of data and digital segments.Marketing Technology News: BabbleLabs Raises $14 million Series A Financing from Dell Technologies Capital and Intel Capital to Accelerate Speech TechnologyAdhering to Acxiom’s global data ethics program, Acxiom’s data complies with ethical data use methodologies and data governance across each participating country. Acxiom maintains global privacy teams for every region to strictly maintain data protection rules, cross-border requirements and appropriate uses of data.“Our top priority is to ensure that all of the data leveraged is both ethically sourced and privacy-compliant,” added Caulfield. “Our Global Data Ethics Program is dedicated to upholding the rights of consumer privacy and data transparency along with abiding with data governance regulations. As we’ve done in the past and will continue to implement with all our supporting services, we’ve taken the necessary steps and processes to safeguard data across each new international market offering.”Marketing Technology News: Neongecko Inc. Launches “Neon AI SDK” – New “Software Development Kit for Artificial Intelligence” Supports AI Conversations in Multiple Languages AcxiomGlobal Data EthicsGlobal Data NavigatorKaren CaulfieldMarketing TechnologyNewsTechnology Previous ArticleFull Circle Insights Ready to Deliver Next-Generation User ExperienceNext ArticleRapidAPI Raises $25 Million Series B, launches RapidAPI for Teamslast_img read more

Rush University Medical Center joins campaign to bring safety equity and dignity

first_imgReviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Jun 24 2019Rush University Medical Center is increasing its efforts to bring safety, equity and dignity to the workplace as part of the TIME’S UP Healthcare (TUH) campaign.TIME’S UP Healthcare launched in March 2019. It is one of the five initiatives of Time’s Up Foundation started by a group of women in the entertainment industry following the emergence of the #MeToo movement.Rush is the first and only academic medical center in Illinois and among 29 signatories that pledged their commitment to address workplace discrimination, harassment and abuse; and create equitable and safe cultures with the healthcare industry.In addition to Rush, signatories include institutions such as Boston University, Brigham Women’s, Brown University, Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health and the Yale School of Medicine.Dr. Pringl Miller, a general surgeon and hospice and palliative medicine specialist at Rush University Medical Center, is among the 50 founding members of TIME’S UP Healthcare. The founding members are working with partners to advocate for and create change in the healthcare workforce by driving new policies and decisions that result in more balanced, diverse and accountable leadership.The core statements of TIME’S UP Healthcare state that sexual harassment and gender inequity have no place in the workplace and that the health care system must be committed to preventing sexual harassment and gender inequity, as well as protecting and aiding those who are targets of harassment and discrimination.Related StoriesMany healthcare workers often care for patients while sick, study findsFSMB releases new report surveying digital credentials in healthcareSafe sex an elusive target; STIs continue to rise in England”With our signature, Rush commits our alignment with the core principles of Time’s Up Healthcare,” said Dr. Sheila Dugan, professor and chair of the Rush Women’s Leadership Council. “We will continue to develop and set structures, processes, outcomes and policies of a safe respectful and equitable workplace.””Every employee should have equitable opportunity, support and compensation,” said Dugan. “We will measure and track sexual harassment and gender-based inequities occurring in our institution.””An important goal for TIME’S UP Healthcare is also to provide educational materials for training those in healthcare on how to combat gender inequity and sexual harassment,” said Miller.According to Miller, when a healthcare system becomes a signatory of TIME’S UP Healthcare, they pledge a commitment to the main tenants of the campaign.Part of the signatory letter signed by Dr. Ranga Krishnan, CEO of Rush System for Health, Dr. Omar Lateef, CEO of Rush University Medical Center, and Dr. Sherine Gabriel, President of Rush University states that “we cannot address an issue without understanding its scope and its impact.” In order to do this, they wrote, with our signature we commit our alignment with these outlined core principles of TIME’S UP Healthcare.”According to TIME’S UP Healthcare, one of the reasons that many of the initial 50 founders became involved in the initiative was the publication of a variety of high-profile manuscripts in top medical journals about gender equity and sexual assault within the healthcare industry. In mid-February, The Lancet, a weekly peer-reviewed medical journal, dedicated an entire issue to sexual harassment and gender inequity in the healthcare workforce. Source:Rush University Medical Center At Rush, it is essential that our diverse community of patients, families and employees all feel welcome, cared for and valued. We do not tolerate bias, harassment or discrimination of any kind. Supporting the mission of TIME’S UP Healthcare aligns with our core values, and we’re proud to endorse these efforts.”Dr. Pringl Miller, Rush University Medical Centerlast_img read more

Bacteria in the birth canal linked to lower risk of ovarian cancer

first_imgBacteria Lactobacillus, lactic acid bacteria which are part of normal flora of human intestine and are used as probiotics and in yoghurt production, 3d illustration Credit: Kateryna Kon / Shutterstock Related StoriesTrends in colonoscopy rates not aligned with increase in early onset colorectal cancerSugary drinks linked to cancer finds studyStructure of bacteria responsible for traveler’s diarrhea decipheredOn the other hand, the women in the low-risk third group had vaginal microbiomes which were predominantly composed of Lactobacillus.The study indicates a potential link between the loss of these bacteria and the risk of ovarian cancer. The mechanisms responsible for such a link are unknown currently. It could be that the imbalance in the vaginal microbiome reflects a disease process in other parts of the woman’s reproductive organs, including the site of origin of most ovarian cancers in the fallopian tubes. Or it may be true that microbiome imbalance causes inflammation which is a known predisposing factor for cancer development. It is equally possible that observed abnormalities in the vaginal bacteria are just a marker of another background change which is the real cause of the increase in cancer risk.If the findings are confirmed, then it is likely that new ways of introducing the Lactobacilli into the vagina will be devised to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. If so, this could be a very easy way to reduce the risk for a very deadly condition.The current population risk for ovarian cancer is about 2%, but in women with the BRCA1 mutation it is as great as 40% to 60%. The risk of developing breast cancer is also elevated in these women. As a result, many of them choose to undergo a preventive bilateral mastectomy (removal of both breasts) and bilateral ovariectomy (removal of both ovaries) at a very young age, as in their twenties. This has both psychological and physical impacts on their health, besides preventing any chance of normal conception and pregnancy.Such interventions could help women at high risk safely delay such decisions to a significantly later stage to reduce their sequelae. For instance, women could choose to try to complete their families naturally before opting for ovarian removal. As one patient, Hayley Minn, said after having a preventive mastectomy, “I do want children. So anything that buys me more time and reassures me that ovarian cancer isn’t developing, is a game-changer for me.”Martin Widschwendter, head of the department of Women’s Cancer at UCL, commented: “This is a novel approach and could revolutionize the way that we can intervene and change the implications of being at high risk of ovarian cancer development.” Source:https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/2019/jul/vaginal-bacteria-linked-ovarian-cancerJournal reference:Association between the cervicovaginal microbiome, BRCA1 mutation status, and risk of ovarian cancer: a case-control study, Lancet Oncology, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(19)30340-7,  https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanonc/article/PIIS1470-2045(19)30340-7/fulltext# By Dr. Liji Thomas, MDJul 11 2019A new study shows that something as simple as a cervical swab might have the potential to help hundreds of women who are at extremely high risk of ovarian cancer because they have a mutation in the BRCA1 gene.These women have been shown to have significantly fewer numbers of one type of protective bacteria, called Lactobacillus, in the birth canal, in addition to having a higher risk of ovarian cancer. Women who already have ovarian cancer are also known to have lower populations of these bacteria. The most marked reduction below normal bacterial counts is found in younger women in both groups.For the first time, this study showed a link between the presence of a gene mutation and the vaginal bacterial populations. Moreover, it suggests that a simple non-invasive test could help reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.The study, published in the Lancet Oncology, was carried out by researchers from the University College of London. The researchers looked at samples of cervical smears from 580 women across various countries in Europe, namely, Germany, Italy, Norway, the UK, and the Czech Republic. The age group varied from 18 to 87 years. The women belonged to one of three groups: those who had ovarian cancer, others who were BRCA1-positive and therefore at high lifetime risk for ovarian cancer, and women who had neither ovarian cancer nor the mutation.Among the women in the first group, Lactobacilli composed less than 50% of the vaginal microbial population (the vaginal microbiome) in 60% of patients. Lactobacilli are important because they produce lactic acid which reduces the pH of the vagina, preventing hostile bacteria from overgrowing and dominating the vaginal microbiome.Women in the second group (BRCA1 carriers), who had the high-risk BRCA1 mutation but not ovarian cancer, had on average a three-fold reduction in Lactobacillus numbers. In this group, over 25% women under the age of 30 years showed this sharp decrease in Lactobacillus population, compared to same-age women who lacked the mutation. Women with a close family history of ovarian cancer also showed fewer numbers of Lactobacilli.last_img read more

PM launches infra projects worth ₹ 4500cr in Odisha

first_imgPublished on SHARE SHARE EMAIL COMMENT Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday launched a number of central government projects in Odisha worth more than ₹4,500 crore.The projects were unveiled during Modi’s second visit to the eastern state in less than a fortnight.He had unveiled some projects in Bhubaneswar and addressed a BJP rally near the historic Khurda town on December 24.Describing the projects as a new year gift to the people of Odisha, the prime minister expressed hope that 2019 will steer the state on a path of rapid development.The projects inaugurated by Modi are related to road highways and transport, petroleum and natural gas, railways, culture, tourism and passport services.Some key projects include four-laning of three major national highways in Odisha, laying of a section of a key LPG pipeline and doubling of an important railway line.The prime minister also flagged off a new passenger train on a route, unveiled multi-modal logistics hub in Balasore as well as a project for restoration and conservation of historical site of Haripurgarh.Modi also inaugurated passport sewa kendras at post offices in Bhadrak, Cuttack, Jajpur, Aska, Keonjhar and Dhenkanal through video conferencing.Currently, people have to go to the regional passport office at Bhubaneswar, officials added.Foundation laying and inauguration of a host of projects by the prime minister comes ahead of general election, which is due in a few months’ time.The assembly polls in Odisha are also slated to be held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls.During his last visit to Odisha on December 24, Modi had unveiled a number of projects worth more than Rs 14,500 crore. File Photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.   –  BusinessLinecenter_img SHARE January 05, 2019 COMMENTSlast_img read more