Thursday, 26 April 2018

Thrive Global/Melanie Curtin: Science Says 1 Minute of This Kind of Exercise May Equal 45 Minutes of Jogging

Thrive Global

Well-Being
Science Says 1 Minute of This Kind of Exercise May Equal 45 Minutes of Jogging
It's time to step up your workout.

    by Melanie Curtin

chain45154/Getty Images

The short- and long-term benefits of exercise are absurdly well-documented. Exercise lowers your cholesterol, boosts your mood, decreases your stress, and increases your flexibility (plus about a zillion other good things).

In an increasingly packed daily schedule, though, carving out the time to fit in a workout can be a challenge.

Enter new research that shows you can get away with as little as one minute of effort.

Here's the deal: Scientists out of McMaster University conducted research on interval training, which is short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by periods of either rest or lower-intensity work. Put more bluntly: sprints.

To see just how little you can get away with when it comes to interval training for health purposes, the researchers brought in 25 less-than-in-shape young men (future studies will focus on women). They tested their levels of aerobic fitness and their ability to use insulin in the right way to control blood sugar, and biopsied their muscles to see how well they functioned on a cellular level.

Then they split them into a control group, a moderate-intensity-exercise group, and a sprint interval training (SIT) group.

The control group did nothing differently at all.

The moderate-intensity group did a typical I'm-at-the-gym routine of a two-minute warm-up, 45 minutes on the stationary bike, and a three-minute cool down, three times a week.

The SIT group did the shortest interval training ever recorded thus far by science. Participants warmed up for two minutes on a stationary bike, then sprinted full-out for 20 seconds, then rode for two minutes very slowly. They repeated this twice (for a total of three sets). The whole workout took 10 minutes, with only one minute being high-intensity.

All of the groups kept at it for 12 weeks, or about twice as long as most previous studies.

The results?

The control group, as expected, had no change in results.

The two other groups enjoyed results that were basically identical to each other's. In both, scientists found a 20 percent increase in cardiovascular endurance, good improvements in insulin resistance, and significant increases in the cells responsible for energy production and oxygen in the muscles (thanks, biopsies).

That is remarkable. By the end, the moderate-intensity group had ridden for 27 hours, while the SIT group had ridden for 6 total hours, just 36 minutes of which was arduous.

This means one group spent about 10 total minutes on each workout, while the other spent 50 minutes. The SIT group got the same benefits in a fifth of the time.

As Martin Gibala, the professor of kinesiology who oversaw the study, said, "If you are an elite athlete, then obviously incorporating both endurance and interval training into an overall program maximizes performance. But if you are someone, like me, who just wants to boost health and fitness and you don't have 45 minutes or an hour to work out, our data show that you can get big benefits from even a single minute of intense exercise."

The fact is, a lot of us spend more time at the gym because we think it's better for us. We jog while watching TV; we do the stationary bike while reading a magazine; we lift weights at a moderate level for 30-60 minutes.

But the hard scientific fact is that we could get the same results from one minute of flat-out exercise.

Convinced? Here are three sample interval workouts. None requires a gym:
1. Wind sprints

If you live near a hill (it doesn't have to be terribly steep; any incline works), walk or jog to it to warm up. Sprint up it for 20 seconds. Rest while you walk back down. Repeat at least three times (for a challenge, work up to six-plus sprints). At three sets, this will take you a total of only five to seven minutes.
2. Stairs

This is great if you travel for work a lot and stay in hotels. Run as quickly as you can up a few flights of stairs for 20 seconds (bonus points for skipping stairs). Again, start with three sets, but aim for six-plus. It'll take about seven minutes. (Note: avoid running back down the stairs; it's not great for your knees. Take the elevator down if necessary.)
3. Jump rope

Another good one for a simple, easy, portable workout: Do a short warmup, and then jump as fast as you possibly can for 20 seconds. Jump at an easy to moderate level for two minutes. Repeat three times.


Originally published at www.inc.com
— Published on April 19, 2018
Health and Wellness, Motivation, Performance, Movement
Melanie Curtin

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
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Care2 Healthy Living/Paula Jones: Cold or Allergies: How to Tell the Difference

Care2 Healthy Living 
Cold or Allergies: How to Tell the Difference
Cold or Allergies: How to Tell the Difference
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    By: Paula Jones
    April 25, 2018

    About Paula
    Follow Paula at @PaulaDJWrites

It’s springtime. Pollen is in the air. Lots of it. Your car is coated in it, and you can’t sit on your patio furniture without having a backside covered in it.

Many people deal with seasonal allergies every year. They know the drill. On the other hand, you may have never had outdoor allergies in your life. But don’t be fooled, adults are newly diagnosed with allergies on a regular basis.

“Maybe it’s just a cold,” you say to yourself. It seems a lot like a cold. The symptoms are awfully similar. And June from work has it, too. So how do you tell the difference between a cold and allergies?

It's difficult to tell whether your runny, congested nose is allergies or cold. You treat them the same but one is contagious and the other isn't. Here's how you tell the difference...
You Have Allergies If You’re Experiencing…
Clear, Watery Drainage.

In response to allergens, your mucous membranes become more productive. Allergens provoke your body to create mucus with histamine which leads to swelling of the nasal passage and production of clear, watery drainage.

This does not include gunky, green, globs. Yellow, red, or brown doesn’t count either.
Symptoms Past 7-10 Days

In the beginning, your symptoms will be really bad, but your symptoms will stay the same far beyond the normal window of a cold. In fact, they stay the whole entire time the allergen is in the air. For instance, ragweed or grass pollen can linger for six weeks.
Itchy, Watery Eyes

This may be the most uncomfortable allergy symptom for some folks. Your eyes release histamine when they come into contact with pollen floating in the air. Then they turn red and beg to be itched. Your lacrimal glands produce fluid to attempt to rid your eyes of the allergen.
Sneezing

It’s common to sneeze with colds, too, but you’ll notice that sneezing with allergies accompanies you going outside, and not necessarily inside.

If there’s an open window or door, then you’re likely to sneeze inside. But most of the time, your sneezing occurs when you’re in close contact with the allergens.
Symptoms that Worsen in Certain Situations

Like with sneezing, you know it’s allergies if your symptoms get worse depending on where you are. It’s not just sneezing, but all of these symptoms. If you’re out for a picnic and you notice your symptoms flaring up, then it’s allergies.
You Have a Cold If You’re Experiencing…
Fever

Although fever isn’t super common for most people, some individuals do get a mild increase in temperature. You know if you’re having a fever, then it’s definitely not allergies.
Body Aches

Again, not always common with colds but because it’s a viral infection, your body may experience aches and discomfort as it tries to heal. Mild aches is not a thing for allergies.
Thick or Discolored Discharge

What’s tricky here is that nasal discharge with a cold can be watery in the beginning, like allergies. But as the days progress, your discharge will become thick and, most of the time, green. That’s when a neti pot comes in handy!
Symptom Changes or Symptom Resolution

The average cold lasts seven to 10 days with varying degrees of symptoms. Usually your symptoms start with a sore throat that resolves and leads into congestion and nasal discharge.

The absolute maximum length of time for a cold is two weeks. Anything more than that is either allergies or more serious infection that needs to be addressed by your physician.
Final Thoughts

Despite the differences, you’ll treat a cold or allergies exactly the same way. Lay on the nasal decongestants, steroids, and antihistamines, or whatever natural remedies you favor.

If you have a cold, you’ll want to rest and heal. With allergies, you’ll simply need to be patient and avoid the allergen, which can be a bummer when it’s so beautiful outside this time of year.
Related at Care2

    Natural Cold and Flu Remedies Worth Taking
    12 Natural Allergy Remedies that Work
    12 Worst Cities for Allergy Sufferers

Images via Thinkstock
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The Week UK: Government launches £1bn bid to make UK an AI ‘hotspot’

The Week UK

Government launches £1bn bid to make UK an AI ‘hotspot’
Apr 26, 2018
Ministers believe the investment could boost the economy by £232bn

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A £12m facility will be set up to research the ethical concerns surrounding the technology

The Government has announced a £1bn investment drive aimed at making the UK a “hotspot” for artificial intelligence (AI) research.
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The funding includes £300m of private financing raised with the assistance of “US tech giants, European telecoms firms” and “Japanese venture capital”, Bloomberg reports. The Government is injecting an additional £300m in new spending, on top of the existing £400m of investment that was announced last July.

Around 1,000 new government-funded PhDs focusing on AI will also be created, The Daily Telegraph reports.

Ministers believe the AI push could bolster the UK economy by a total of £232bn, the newspaper says.

According to  Fortune magazine, the programme will include the creation of a £12m “data ethics and innovation” centre, in order to “address some of the ethical issues” surrounding the technology.

Some of these concerns have come from Tesla and SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk, who claimed last year that AI will be the “most likely cause of WWIII” if governments do not research risks associated with the technology.

Announcing the funding boost, Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “As with all innovation, there is also the potential for misuse which puts the whole sector under scrutiny and undermines public confidence.

“That is why we are establishing a new world-leading body, to ensure the ethical use of data in AI applications for the benefit of all.”
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Virgin: Help save the planet. Listen to Earth Unscrewed

Virgin
Help save the planet. Listen to Earth Unscrewed.      26 April 2018 at 16:12

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Earth Unscrewed
Introducing Earth Unscrewed
Virgin’s new podcast exploring the ways we can all help to save the planet.
Earth Unscrewed is all about the incredible (and often surprising) solutions that are providing some serious hope for the future of our planet. Join presenters Dr. Helen Scales and Seyi Rhodes as they take us on the journey to meet the innovators striving to make a change.

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EPISODE ONE
Driving Change

Helen and Seyi explore breakthroughs that are gaining traction and helping to 'un-screw' the planet. Our hosts delve into London's sewers in search of a surprising clean fuel and meet the innovators working hard to make costly and polluting cars a thing of the past.
EPISODE TWO
Eradicating the Ocean Plastic Plague

Helen and Seyi are joined by two very special guests, ocean plastics specialist, Dr. Lucy Woodall and Raw Foundation anti-plastic activist, Melinda Watson. This episode also features Hugo Tagholm from Surfers against Sewage giving some tops tips for the everyday things we can do to fight the plastic plague.
EPISODE THREE
What a Load of Rubbish!

What if we could reduce the amount of landfill? What if we could mine rubbish to save cash and the planet? What if we could turn supply chains into supply webs? Well maybe we can. In this episode, Helen and Seyi hear how one person’s rubbish is another person’s gold dust.
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SWI swissinfo.ch: Swiss army takes measures against right-wing extremism

Front page - SWI swissinfo.ch

Extremism
Swiss army takes measures against right-wing extremism

    Politics

 See in other languages: 4
This content was published on April 23, 2018 5:00 PM Apr 23, 2018 - 17:00
soldiers with rifles

Men aged 18 and over are conscripted for compulsory military service in Switzerland; women may volunteer.
(Keystone)

The Swiss army has disarmed or suspended a handful of its members linked to right-wing extremism. In total, the army checked on 49 people last year.

In 2017, the Swiss army followed up on 42 reports in connection with right-wing extremism. Nine people required precautionary measures such as a security check, suspension or the turning in of their weapons.

The figures are somewhat higher than the average of the past five years. About two thirds of the extremism reports last year had to do with right-wing extremism, announced the Defence Ministryexternal link on Monday. In total there were 21 such reports.

+ A year ago, a photo of Swiss soldiers saluting a swastika stirred controversy

There were eight reports of jihad-motivated extremism, about half as many as in the previous year. Ten had to do with non-violent extremism, and another three were regarding ethno-nationalist extremism.

Conscripts may be excluded from the Swiss army if they are considered to be at risk for violence. The screenings are carried out by the specialised military service “Extremism in the Army”.

SDA/ATS, swissinfo.ch, sm
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"Lynx commented on the content at 24 April 2018 10:06".
Lynx Lynx 24-Apr-2018 10:06
My tax money has been spent on training the army, so rather than kick out the undesirables, why not send them to conflict zones around the world, but never let them return home. OR, if any of them are Become-CH, rather than Born-CH, take their citizenship away and send them back to wherever they (or their family) came from. CH is a relatively peaceful country. Let's keep it this way.
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 "Ausländer replied to the comment of Lynx at 24 April 2018 23:40."
Ausländer 24-Apr-2018 23:40
The world need more people like you Lynx..
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SWI swissinfo.ch/Renat Kuenzi: Sovereign Money initiative in a nutshell

Front page - SWI swissinfo.ch

Vote June 10, 2018
Sovereign Money initiative in a nutshell
By Renat Kuenzi

    Politics
    Direct democracy
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    in depth: Vote June 10, 2018

 See in other languages: 4
This content was published on April 23, 2018 11:00 AMApr 23, 2018 - 11:00
Two hands holding a bundle of CHF1,000 bank notes

Switzerland would be the first country to introduce the so called sovereign money system. Not even the initiative promoters are certain about the practical consequences of the sweeping monetary reform.
(Keystone)

The initiative which aims at a sweeping reform of Switzerland’s monetary system is challenging not only for the banking industry and politicians but also for average citizens.

 What impact would the introduction of the so called Sovereign Money system have in the case of a – rather unlikely – approval by voters on June 10?

Here are some key points of the initiative:

The promoters of the idea are a small group comprising economists, financial specialists and entrepreneurs. Their initiative is aimed at minimising the risk of financial crises like the global economic downturn which began in 2007 when the subprime mortgage bubble burst in the United States.

This text is part of #DearDemocracyexternal link, a platform on direct democracy issues, by swissinfo.ch.​​​​​​​
end of infobox

Sovereign money is basically bank notes and coins issued by the central bank as a legal tender.

The proposal to reform the ability of private banks to create money is based on a theory of American economist Irving Fisher from the 1930s.
Difficult environment

So far, no country in the world is using the sovereign money system. The debate about the June 10 vote in Switzerland is therefore necessarily somewhat hypothetical.

The promoters regularly point out the innovative approach of that in their proposal.
Money creation

Today: Money is put into circulation by banks which grant individual loans, mortgages and credits to businesses. By doing so, it creates a debt with the creditor.

The initiative wants to give the central bank the sole right to create money. The commercial banks would only act as distributors, transferring the money of the Swiss National Bank to borrowers.
Bank run

Today: The credits granted by commercial banks exceed by far their cash reserves. A bank is doomed and collapses if all clients withdraw their deposits at the same time during a crisis.

Initiative: The created money is no longer based on a debt. The banks would simply manage the sovereign money accounts, which have a 100% coverage by the Swiss National Bank. It would be similar to the management of valuables held by clients in bank safe deposits. Such a system rules out the risk of bank runs.

In other words: The system would make deposits safe for clients and their money would always be fully covered whether it is in an account or stored in a mattress at home.
Money value

Today and with the initiative: The value of money is based on trust. CHF100 are only worth CHF100 as long as people are willing to believe this.

A loss of trust under the current system leads to the book money dropping in value, because the commercial bank collapses as a result of a bank run.

A sudden loss of trust is not impossible under the new system. If nobody is prepared to take sovereign money it becomes worthless too.


Adapted from German/urs, swissinfo.ch
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SWI swissinfo.ch/Armando Mombelli: Sovereign money: the answer to financial crises?

Front page - SWI swissinfo.ch

Vote June 10, 2018
Sovereign money: the answer to financial crises?
By Armando Mombelli

    Politics
    Business
    Direct democracy

    in depth: Vote June 10, 2018

 See in other languages: 6
This content was published on April 23, 2018 11:00 AMApr 23, 2018 - 11:00
Swiss franc bank notes and a cash machine

Bank notes and coins account for nearly 10% of the money supply in circulation. The rest is put out by commercial banks in so called "credit money" that exists only in transaction accounts.
(Keystone)

Today money is mainly put into circulation by the private banks and not, as is often thought, by central banks. This is claimed to cause speculation and financial crises. The “sovereign money” initiative is intended to restore stability to Switzerland’s financial marketplace with a radical reform of the monetary system. For the government and parliament, however, this would be too risky an undertaking.

Launched and supported by a number of economists, financial specialists and entrepreneurs, the people’s initiative “For crisis-proof money: only the National Bank to issue currency! (Sovereign money initiative)”,external link proposes to set up a more secure financial order in this country.

The text cites the world financial crisis that struck ten years ago, and which did not spare Switzerland: among other problems, the government and the Swiss National Bank (SNB)external link had to intervene to rescue the country’s biggest private bank, UBS.

The promoters of the initiativeexternal link base their argument on the fact that money is  created only partly by central banks, which issue banknotes and coins – in other words a ‘sovereign money’ means of payment with a legal basis.

In Switzerland, for example, the amount of cash in circulation amounts to CHF80 billion ($83 billion), which accounts for just 10% of the money supply in circulation. The rest is issued by commercial banks, generally by granting loans to to companies, individuals or other banks.
graph 1

Graphic showing amount of bank notes and coins in circulation between mid 1980s to 2017

The term used for this is ‘credit money’ or ‘bank money’, a kind of money that exists only in transaction accounts. To grant a loan, a bank does not need to have the actual amount available; it is enough that the amounts being loaned are credited to the recipients as demand deposits.

Today, credit money is therefore not a means of legal payment, just a promise to credit a certain amount to an account.

The recent expansion of this kind of money has been facilitated by computerisation, which has made payment transactions and other banking operations much more rapid than they were before.
Two hands holding a bundle of CHF1,000 bank notes
Vote June 10, 2018
Sovereign Money initiative in a nutshell
By Renat Kuenzi

The initiative which aims at a sweeping reform of the Swiss monetary system is challenging not only for banks, politicians and average citizens.

    in depth: Vote June 10, 2018

    Politics
    Direct democracy
    Business

See in other languages: 4

The use of credit money has clearly contributed to the growth of banking activity and indeed the whole economy, for example by channelling loans to companies. At the same time, however, it has favoured debt creation with nothing to back it up, speculative bubbles, insolvency of banks themselves, and finally, repeated financial crises.
What does the initiative call for?

The “sovereign money” initiative proposes a sweeping reform of the monetary system through a substantial amendment of the current Article 99 of the Swiss constitutionexternal link. In future the issuing of money – coinage and paper money, but also credit money – will be up to the government alone, through the SNB. Credit money would then become a true legal means of payment, issued and backed by the central bank.

Commercial banks would no longer be allowed to issue credit money, but just lend the money which had been put in circulation by the central bank. According to the proposal, on the day when the new rules come into force, credit money issued by the financial institutions is to be converted to sovereign money.

This conversion is to be made possible by the SNB granting equivalent loans to the banks – loans which are to be paid back within a “reasonable” transition period (say 15–20 years).
Billions more for government and cantons

The SNB is to remain an independent central bank, mandated to carry on monetary policy in the country’s general interests, to regulate the money supply, to guarantee the smooth functioning of the flow of transactions and the availability of money on loan to the private sector from the financial service providers. In this context, monetary policy would not be implemented primarily by means of interest rates, as it is now.

As previously, the net profits of the SNB would be paid back to government, one third at the federal level and two thirds to the cantons.

However, in future, the central bank is also to surrender to government all profits arising from the creation of new money, whether cash or electronic (the issue of a CHF1,000 banknote, for example, costs the SNB only a few centimes).

This money is to be distributed, unencumbered by debt or interest, to the federal government, the cantons, or directly to the citizens. Given the growth of the money supply in recent decades, this sum would likely amount to CHF5–10 billion annually.
chart 2

Chart showing annual SNB profit distribution to government and cantons 2008-2017

Sovereign money advantages?

According to promoters of the initiative, under the new arrangements the franc would be the safest currency in the world and Switzerland would be protected against many financial crises.

The banks would no longer be able to create money “out of thin air”; there would thus be fewer risky investments and the financial marketplace would become more robust, reliable and, accordingly, more competitive.

If the problem is attacked at the root, the initiative’s advocates say, the banks will not need to be so heavily regulated and the government will not need to intervene in order to rescue them.

Customers too would benefit from a system that is more transparent and secure.

Their accounts for transaction purposes will be covered 100% by SNB money. They would need to be managed by the banks apart from their own balance sheets and therefore not count as targetable assets in any bankruptcy. There would be less likelihood of  ‘runs’ on banks.
Banks would lose privileges

There will be benefits under the new monetary regime that will appeal to the government, cantons and ordinary citizens. The distribution of the considerable profits arising from the creation of money will help to bring down taxation and indebtedness, also to fund public infrastructure and social institutions.

According to the promoters of the initiative, the SNB could also transfer to the public coffers CHF300 billion arising from reimbursement of loans to the commercial banks to convert credit money into sovereign money.

The reform would be a shot in the arm for the real economy: money used to fund  infrastructure would mean business for many companies and would generate new jobs.

The banks would not be able to issue their own money and thus would not have unjustified competitive advantages over the other sectors of the economy.

Today, it is claimed, too much of credit money goes to feed financial speculation, instead of greasing the wheels of the real economy.
Government and the SNB against the initiative

The government says it recognises the importance of a stable financial marketplace, but thinks this goal can be achieved with the new international standards, beginning with the Basel Committee on Banking Supervisionexternal link, and the new national regulations regarding the assets of banks of ‘systemic relevance’ (too big to failexternal link).

According to the government, the sovereign money approach would mean a leap in the dark, since no other country has yet adopted such a system.

Implementation of the initiative would mean an unprecedented radical reorganisation of the nation’s monetary system, which would expose Switzerland to high risks and potentially high costs.

Legal uncertainty about the consequences of this reform could undermine the credibility of Swiss financial policy, which up until now has stood out in international comparison due to the stability of its framework conditions.

The Swiss financial marketplace would be put at a disadvantage compared to the competition, and the future of many banks and the jobs they provide would be set at risk.

Furthermore, the reform would in particular limit the commercial activity of banks. With a ban on putting out credit money there would be less resources for providing loans, from which the banks have a stable source of funding. To make up for losses in profitability, the banks would have to charge higher management fees and commissions to their customers.

The shrinking loan volume would have negative consequences for companies and thus for the real economy.
Independence of SNB at stake

Furthermore, according to the government, this initiative would hamper the independence of the SNB: as sole issuer of money it would be exposed to political pressure if it had to contribute on a regular basis to the funding of governments, paying them billions of francs a year.

The SNB might be forced to increase the money supply to get greater finances flowing to the government and the cantons. Under the new regime, the central bank would no longer have the freedom to follow an effective monetary policy – based on interest rates – to maintain price stability.

The SNB itself has come out against the initiative. Its president, Thomas Jordan, has said that in adopting such a reform, Switzerland would be taking a chance on a financial system that has never been tried and is radically different from anything done in other countries.

This would be likely to cause turbulence, even prior to its introduction, and the long-term consequences would be difficult to forecast.
What did parliament think?

The initiative has not convinced either of the chambers of parliament. A large majority of lawmakers are against it.

The committeeexternal link campaigning for a “no” vote has representation from all the main political parties.


Translated from Italian by Terence MacNamee, swissinfo.ch
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McKinsey & Company/Chu, Roy, & Dunn: Smart machines are giving storytellers and risk managers alike a helping hand

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Article - McKinsey Quarterly - April 2018
AI’s growing impact
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Smart machines are giving storytellers and risk managers alike a helping hand.

Burgeoning data analyzed by ever more intelligent machines are opening pathways to surprising applications and providing solutions to problems that have been out of reach. In the film industry, machines “watch” movies and videos, charting their emotional intensity and giving content creators clues about to how to make stories more appealing. And in banking, AI’s ability to detect anomalies among millions of transactions helps bank risk officers eliminate false positives that are a drain on productivity. For a growing number of industries, AI is tilting the playing field—you’ll need to understand how before your competitors do.
Using artificial intelligence to engage audiences
By Eric Chu, Deb Roy, and Jonathan Dunn

Machine-learning models can help screenwriters and directors fine-tune scripts and imagery. Company communicators should take note.

Master storytellers are skilled at eliciting our emotions, but even the best sometimes miss the mark. Could machines, using artificial-intelligence (AI) capabilities, collaborate with writers to improve their stories?

McKinsey and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab recently studied that question, focusing on movies and videos. We speculated that a story’s emotional arc—shifts in tension and emotion that shape a narrative as it progresses and develops—determines viewer engagement. To test our theory, we developed machine-learning models to “watch” small slices of video and estimate their emotional content. When the content of all the slices are considered together, the story’s emotional arc emerges. The models can evaluate audio and visual elements in isolation or together.

Consider the opening sequence of the movie Up, which provides the backstory for Carl, the main character. The visual valence—or the extent to which an image elicits positive or negative emotions—alternates throughout the opening sequence (Exhibit 1). The valence plummets, for instance, when Carl returns home after his wife, Ellie, dies.
Exhibit 1
A machine scored the emotional arc in the opening sequence of the animated film Up.

After analyzing data for thousands of videos, we classified stories into families based on their emotional arc. Some families had stories with extremely positive endings, and these tended to generate the most comments on social media (Exhibit 2). This finding supports prior research showing that positive feelings generate the greatest audience engagement.
Exhibit 2
Some story families provoke more audience engagement than others.

Our results suggest that AI could play a supporting role in video creation. As always, human storytellers would create a screenplay with clever plot twists and realistic dialogue. AI would enhance their work by providing insights that increase a story’s emotional pull—for instance, identifying a musical score or visual image that helps engender feelings of hope. This breakthrough technology could supercharge storytellers, and not just in the movie business. For example, AI insights could potentially improve the emotional pull of commercials or corporate communications.

About the authors

Eric Chu is a doctoral candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and conducts research at the Laboratory for Social Machines, part of MIT’s Media Lab, where Deb Roy is the director. Jonathan Dunn is a partner in McKinsey’s New York and Southern California offices.

The authors wish to thank Geoffrey Sands and MIT Media Lab’s Russell Stevens for their contributions to this article.

For the full report on which this article is based, see “AI in storytelling: Machines as cocreators.”
Monitoring money-laundering risk with machine learning
By Piotr Kaminski and Jeff Schonert

More robust algorithms applied to better data can reduce the false positives that drive up banks’ costs of policing risk.

Money laundering is a low-frequency event, but banks can pay a high price for missing an incident. To detect money laundering, banks deploy monitoring systems to alert them of atypical transactions. Based on certain criteria, a financial investigations unit then attempts to identify likely instances of money laundering from among the alerts, filing suspicious-activity reports with appropriate authorities as needed.
Visualizing the uses and potential impact of AI and other analytics Notes from the AI frontier: Applications and value of deep learning
Read the report

But anti–money laundering (AML) operations are often hampered by high levels of false positives—much higher than you would expect. Here’s why: a very effective transaction-monitoring system might be 95 percent specific for suspicious activity and 95 percent accurate in detecting it. This means that the control falsely detects suspicious activity in 5 percent of normal cases while flagging 5 percent of all activity as not conforming to the established criteria. In those cases, further work will be needed to determine whether they are legitimate or suspicious. If, after all, 0.1 percent of transactions truly meet the criteria for suspicious activity (one in 1,000 among the 50 in 1,000 falsely flagged), then this particular control will have produced a false-positive rate of more than 98 percent. Fewer than 2 percent of alerts will correspond to activity that upon further examination qualifies as suspicious.

At one large US bank, the false-positive rate in AML alerts was very high. The elaborate remedial process and meager result was overtaxing resources. To improve the up-front specificity of its tests so that AML expertise could be better utilized, the bank looked at the data and algorithms it was using. It discovered that databases identifying customers and transactions lacked key information. By adding more data elements and linking systems through machine-learning techniques, the bank achieved a more complete understanding of the transactions being monitored.

It turned out that more than half of the cases alerted for investigation were perfectly innocuous intracompany transactions. With a more complete database, the bank was able to keep its monitoring system from issuing alerts for these transactions, which substantially freed resources to fight actual money laundering and fraud (exhibit). Combined with better data, machine learning and other forms of artificial intelligence can also be used to combat false positives in a variety of banking activities—such as those that mine data for an individual’s creditworthiness or probe digital interactions for signs of cybersecurity threats.
Exhibit
One bank combined AI with improved data to reduce false positives dramatically in monitoring potential money laundering.

About the authors

Piotr Kaminski is a senior partner in McKinsey’s New York office, where Jeff Schonert is an associate partner.

For the full article, see “The neglected art of risk detection.”
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Africa: Open for Business! Canada to host The Commonwealth Africa Forum in July 2018

Convening over 250 delegates and a number of high profile speakers, the Canada Forum will offer unrivalled insight into business on the continent from the boldest innovators and decision makers in Africa

LONDON, United Kingdom, April 26, 2018/ -- Senior Government and Business Leaders from Africa and North America will gather in Toronto from the 5th – 8th July 2018 for The Commonwealth Africa Forum Toronto 2018 with the theme: Africa – Open for Business. www.CASevents.org/tafcanada2018 Past Speakers at CAFI EVENTS have included: HRH Prince Andrew The Duke of York, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (Former Nigerian Head of State); Rt Hon Baleka Mbete (Speaker of the Parliament of South Africa), Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (Former President of Nigeria), H.E John Dramani Mahama (Former President of Ghana), Amina J Mohammed (UN Deputy Secretary General) represented by H.E Bience Gawanas (UN Under Secretary for Africa), H.E Mrs Toyin Saraki (Wife of the Senate President of Nigeria), Dr. Hassan Ahmed Hilal (Minister of Environment Sudan), Chief Mrs Folorunso Alakija (Vice Chair – Famfa Oil and Richest Black Woman), and more. The Commonwealth Africa Forum is a premier event for those curious and excited about Africa. It is an excellent opportunity to learn about the challenges and opportunities on the continent. The Canadian edition of The Africa Forum is conceived as a high level thematic business-related event with the vision that Canada and Africa must move beyond donor/recipient relationship towards long-term cooperation based on principles of ownership, partnership and solidarity. “Africa is a continent of paradox. It has buckets of possibility and investment opportunity, and it is well on the path to achieving that full potential however if still faces a multitude of challenges”, says Adonis Abboud, Member of the Board of Governors of the Commonwealth Africa Initiative (http://CommonwealthAfrica.com) . Convening over 250 delegates and a number of high profile speakers, the Canada Forum will offer unrivalled insight into business on the continent from the boldest innovators and decision makers in Africa. A gala dinner will close the Forum which will focus on Doing Business in Africa, with the theme: Africa, Open for Business. Three of the five fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa. Africa has 300+ tech hubs in 93 cities across 42 countries. Increased internet penetration, mass urbanization and growth in smartphone adoption, combined with rapid population growth, and has made Africa extremely attractive to investors. Africa is the continent of the future: Africa is home to the world's youngest population. In 20 years, the number of sub-Saharan Africans reaching working age (15-64) will exceed that of the rest of the world combined. By 2040, less than 25 years from now, half of the world’s youth will be African or of African descent. “It is in light of this that the Forum will feature a High Level Youth Dialogue with participation from Young leaders from across Africa and North America. Conversations at the Youth Forum will consider how Diaspora and African Youths can collaborate to help Africa fulfil the aspirations of the AU Agenda 2063 and the SDGs” says Napoleon Jay, Co-Chair of the Local Organising Committee. The Forum will bring together African and North American business leaders representing multi-nationals, large corporations, small and medium-scale enterprises and confederations, civil society representatives and multilateral and regional institutions to discuss how to improve the business and investment climate between Africa, Canada and North America at large. TAF Canada will also be an opportunity to showcase that Canada is also open for business and investment and the forum will showcase Canadian opportunities to African investors. In the words of Prime Minister Trudeau at the World Economic Forum “We have a diverse and creative population, outstanding education and health care systems, and advanced infrastructure, we have social stability, financial stability and a government willing to invest in the future”. Come listen to distinguished speakers who are helping to shape the future and trajectory of the abundant continent called AFRICA. The event is organised by the Commonwealth Africa Initiative (CAFI) in association with Common Cause Africa Canada, YTI Canada, APO Group, Piety Inc, Pan African Diplomacy Center and other organisations. Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Commonwealth Africa Initiative. View multimedia content Media Contact: Joseph Hammond Media and External Relations Division Commonwealth Africa Initiative Media@CommonWealthAfrica.com Media enquiries should be directed at Media@CommonWealthAfrica.com. To register for the event, visit www.CASEvents.org/tafcanada2018 or for more information about CAFI’s global chain of events, visit www.CASEvents.org SOURCE Commonwealth Africa Initiative

Africa: Open for Business! Canada to host The Commonwealth Africa Forum in July 2018

Convening over 250 delegates and a number of high profile speakers, the Canada Forum will offer unrivalled insight into business on the continent from the boldest innovators and decision makers in Africa

LONDON, United Kingdom, April 26, 2018/ -- Senior Government and Business Leaders from Africa and North America will gather in Toronto from the 5th – 8th July 2018 for The Commonwealth Africa Forum Toronto 2018 with the theme: Africa – Open for Business. www.CASevents.org/tafcanada2018 Past Speakers at CAFI EVENTS have included: HRH Prince Andrew The Duke of York, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (Former Nigerian Head of State); Rt Hon Baleka Mbete (Speaker of the Parliament of South Africa), Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (Former President of Nigeria), H.E John Dramani Mahama (Former President of Ghana), Amina J Mohammed (UN Deputy Secretary General) represented by H.E Bience Gawanas (UN Under Secretary for Africa), H.E Mrs Toyin Saraki (Wife of the Senate President of Nigeria), Dr. Hassan Ahmed Hilal (Minister of Environment Sudan), Chief Mrs Folorunso Alakija (Vice Chair – Famfa Oil and Richest Black Woman), and more. The Commonwealth Africa Forum is a premier event for those curious and excited about Africa. It is an excellent opportunity to learn about the challenges and opportunities on the continent. The Canadian edition of The Africa Forum is conceived as a high level thematic business-related event with the vision that Canada and Africa must move beyond donor/recipient relationship towards long-term cooperation based on principles of ownership, partnership and solidarity. “Africa is a continent of paradox. It has buckets of possibility and investment opportunity, and it is well on the path to achieving that full potential however if still faces a multitude of challenges”, says Adonis Abboud, Member of the Board of Governors of the Commonwealth Africa Initiative (http://CommonwealthAfrica.com) . Convening over 250 delegates and a number of high profile speakers, the Canada Forum will offer unrivalled insight into business on the continent from the boldest innovators and decision makers in Africa. A gala dinner will close the Forum which will focus on Doing Business in Africa, with the theme: Africa, Open for Business. Three of the five fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa. Africa has 300+ tech hubs in 93 cities across 42 countries. Increased internet penetration, mass urbanization and growth in smartphone adoption, combined with rapid population growth, and has made Africa extremely attractive to investors. Africa is the continent of the future: Africa is home to the world's youngest population. In 20 years, the number of sub-Saharan Africans reaching working age (15-64) will exceed that of the rest of the world combined. By 2040, less than 25 years from now, half of the world’s youth will be African or of African descent. “It is in light of this that the Forum will feature a High Level Youth Dialogue with participation from Young leaders from across Africa and North America. Conversations at the Youth Forum will consider how Diaspora and African Youths can collaborate to help Africa fulfil the aspirations of the AU Agenda 2063 and the SDGs” says Napoleon Jay, Co-Chair of the Local Organising Committee. The Forum will bring together African and North American business leaders representing multi-nationals, large corporations, small and medium-scale enterprises and confederations, civil society representatives and multilateral and regional institutions to discuss how to improve the business and investment climate between Africa, Canada and North America at large. TAF Canada will also be an opportunity to showcase that Canada is also open for business and investment and the forum will showcase Canadian opportunities to African investors. In the words of Prime Minister Trudeau at the World Economic Forum “We have a diverse and creative population, outstanding education and health care systems, and advanced infrastructure, we have social stability, financial stability and a government willing to invest in the future”. Come listen to distinguished speakers who are helping to shape the future and trajectory of the abundant continent called AFRICA. The event is organised by the Commonwealth Africa Initiative (CAFI) in association with Common Cause Africa Canada, YTI Canada, APO Group, Piety Inc, Pan African Diplomacy Center and other organisations. Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Commonwealth Africa Initiative. View multimedia content Media Contact: Joseph Hammond Media and External Relations Division Commonwealth Africa Initiative Media@CommonWealthAfrica.com Media enquiries should be directed at Media@CommonWealthAfrica.com. To register for the event, visit www.CASEvents.org/tafcanada2018 or for more information about CAFI’s global chain of events, visit www.CASEvents.org SOURCE Commonwealth Africa Initiative

SWI- swissinfo.ch: Diplomats owe millions in unpaid Swiss traffic fines

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Fine mess
Diplomats owe millions in unpaid Swiss traffic fines

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This content was published on April 22, 2018 2:48 PMApr 22, 2018 - 14:48
Parking fine is left on windscreen.

Between 2014-2017, foreign diplomats in Geneva left unpaid fines worth CHF3.4 million.
(Keystone)

Foreign diplomats residing in the Swiss cities of Bern and Geneva owe millions of Swiss francs in parking and other traffic-related fines which go unpaid every year.

The SonntagsZeitung newspaper reported on Sunday that between 2014 and 2017, traffic fines of over CHF745,000 ($764,000) were issued to foreign diplomats in canton Bern, which hosts 90 embassiesexternal link. However, only CHF141,300 were paid.

In canton Geneva, home to the European headquarters of the United Nations and 33 diplomatic missionsexternal link, the situation is worse. During the same period, traffic fines exceeded CHF4 million. But the authorities were only able to collect just under CHF629,000, leaving a deficit of CHF3.4 million.

+ Read more about diplomats in Switzerland not paying traffic fines

Drivers of cars with diplomatic plates benefit from diplomatic immunity under the rules of the 1961 Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. In the case of non-payment of fines, traffic violation notices will usually be passed from the police to the Swiss foreign ministry which will in turn forward the notice to the embassies.

The payment situation appears to have improved slightly in recent years. In 2010, only 10% of diplomatic traffic fines in canton Bern were paid. This compares to 25% for last year, and around 20% in Geneva.

“The Swiss foreign ministry does not comment on the payment behaviour of the staff of foreign diplomatic missions in Switzerland," a Swiss ministry spokesperson told Sonntagszeitung newspaper on Sunday.

SonntagsZeitung/sb
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"VeraGottlieb commented on the content at 22 April 2018 17:28".
VeraGottlieb 22-Apr-2018 17:28
Absolutely no one should be above the law. Hiding behind 'diplomatic immunity' is a cowardly act.
Write an answer...
 "Gallus replied to the comment of VeraGottlieb at 23 April 2018 02:49."
Gallus 23-Apr-2018 02:49
Name and shame them, publish the list of the ones that think they are above the law.
Write an answer...
"TheDon commented on the content at 22 April 2018 20:29".
TheDon 22-Apr-2018 20:29
100 times worse in London, UK
Write an answer...
"Bill commented on the content at 23 April 2018 09:22".
Bill 23-Apr-2018 09:22
They have the same problem at UN HQ,New York. Diplomatic passports being abused, big time, and the New Yorkers are pissed off.
Write an answer...
"MathMan commented on the content at 23 April 2018 09:36".
MathMan 23-Apr-2018 09:36
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
Write an answer...
"Rafiq Tschannen commented on the content at 23 April 2018 09:41".
Rafiq Tschannen 23-Apr-2018 09:41
When I had diplomatic immunity in Jordan the authorities were kind enough not to issue me any tickets. Consequently they did not have to get upset about accumulated unpaid fines. On the way down from Amman to the Dead Sea the police officers, when seeing my number plate, just kindly advised me to slow down a bit. ...
Write an answer...
"HAT commented on the content at 23 April 2018 10:11".
HAT 23-Apr-2018 10:11
This is quite silly. Diplomats are guaranteed diplomat immunity when they are "on diplomatic" businesses.
If the police issues them tickets or fines during business hours, then the police are wrong.
If the offenses are committed outside office hours and non-business related situations, then the diplomats are obliged to pay the fines "personally".

No diplomat will pay these fines. And yes, they are indeed ABOVE the law in a country outside their own. It is guaranteed. Read it up.
Write an answer...
 "OLEG replied to the comment of HAT at 24 April 2018 11:22."
OLEG 24-Apr-2018 11:22
No civilised or well-educated diplomat must be deceiving himself that he is above the law!
Write an answer...
"Paul commented on the content at 23 April 2018 16:59".
Paul 23-Apr-2018 16:59
I thought CD means "cannot drive". Here in Geneva most people with a CD plates drive like lunatics and are a danger to other road users.

I know they have immunity but we can kick them out if they abuse this, it is within our right as a host country.
Write an answer...
"Lynx commented on the content at 24 April 2018 09:54".
Lynx Lynx 24-Apr-2018 09:54
No one should be able to ignore the law, no matter what their status is. However, the police could recoup the money owed in a few days by targeting other lawbreakers who are not diplomats. Cyclists - no lights, no helmets, disobeying every rule of the road. Drivers using the wrong (or no) indicators on roundabouts, using the wrong lane on motorways or slip roads, crossing solid white lines at the last second to by pass traffic queues, using phones or smoking (in case it is wacky baccy) while driving, speeding (I'm starting to think the speed limits are advice, given the number of speeders racing past me - and I'm not slow, just respectful of the limits). The list is endless.
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Why you should use compost, even if you don’t have a big garden

Sandy Lerner and farm manager Chris Damewood check out their mammoth compost operation at Ayrshire Farm in Upperville, Va. (Adrian Higgins/The Washington Post)
by Adrian Higgins April 25 Email the author

Compost piles have been a staple of gardening since Adam was handed that accursed apple, but compost itself takes many forms.

It might be a pile of windblown leaves, trapped in the ankles of a shrub to rot away over the winter with no help from the gardener whatsoever.

At the other end rests the large-scale commercial composting operation, which requires land, equipment, labor and a large, steady stream of raw materials.

What most gardeners discover in time is that there are two basic types of compost piles. In the first, the keen novice spends much effort assembling a bin of just the right proportions and then feeds it grass clippings, old cabbage leaves collected from the neighbors and other organic waste that will achieve the prescribed ratio of 30 parts carbon to one part nitrogen. The perfectionist monitors the moisture level, turns the pile as needed (when ambient temperatures aren’t too cold) and acquires a compost thermometer to gauge the pile’s vitality.

Then there’s the rest of us, who start off with lofty ideas about tending a “hot” pile but end up simply dumping material in a bin or a free-standing pile and getting on with our lives. This produces a cold pile, which decays at its own pace and comes with a couple of disadvantages. The first is that it may take a year to get compost that you can use as a soil amendment or for top-dressing beds and lawns. The other is that its lack of heat means that weed seeds survive, and you can end up salting your entire yard with devilish plants.

If I think compost is weedy, I’ll bury it in vegetable beds or at the bottom of containers.

If you had the foresight to gather, shred and stockpile leaves last fall, you can enliven the pile with all those grass clippings that the spring lawn is about to generate. Make sure you mix them thoroughly into the pile, and give it a watering. Waterlogged piles will go pungently anaerobic, at which point you must board up the home and flee to the hills. But a pile that dries out will mummify and need kick-starting with fresh material and a soaking.

Why do we need compost?

Beyond physically improving the water- and oxygen-holding capacities of the soil, compost contains a galaxy of beneficial bacteria and fungi. Once in the soil, these microbes make plants healthier and more vigorous, trees among them. Achieving all this while you’re keeping yard waste on your site is an obvious plus.

[The zoo beneath our feet]

Gardeners are getting the message that this soil biology is important in their plant beds. What isn’t so obvious is that — in a season when everyone is spreading, collectively, tons of synthetic fertilizer and herbicides on their lawn — a top dressing of compost might be a better way to go. Compost in itself is not a fertilizer, but it will feed the microbial web that indirectly makes for healthier grass. Conversely, synthetic fertilizers and fungicides degrade soil structure and harm the soil biology, according to organic lawn gurus.

One true believer is Sandy Lerner, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur turned organic farmer in Upperville, Va., who makes and spreads compost by the boatload. The finished product is laid on the livestock pastures that define her 800-acre Ayrshire Farm. The grass is more vigorous, better at crowding out weeds, and loaded with the natural nutrients needed by her animals. “We are basically grass farmers,” Lerner said.

Lerner co-founded Cisco Systems and later created the cosmetics line Urban Decay. But she moved to Virginia hunt country in the 1990s and has been organically raising rare breeds of cattle and swine along with chickens and turkeys. Her story has been told in these pages and others. But what isn’t as well known is her devotion to compost.

I met her recently with her farm manager Chris Damewood in a clearing of four acres where row upon row of aging compost — windrows — formed dark-brown stripes encircled with hills of more compost. I counted 25 rows each about 200 feet long, but Damewood told me that at peak production, he has 40 rows extending to 275 feet. Each is about five feet high and turned mechanically five times a fortnight. “The temperatures will get up to 165 degrees,” he said, “but we don’t want it to get too high. If it gets above 170 degrees, you can get a fire within.”

The heat is the natural byproduct of microbes at work converting raw materials into crumbly, dark, loamlike organic matter. It’s a phenomenon that never seems to stray far from alchemy, no matter how many years you have gardened.

The heat takes care of any nasty germs. “It’s enough to kill off pathogens,” Lerner said. “One hundred and sixty degrees is the temperature restaurants use to wash dishes.” To prove the point, she leads me to one of the far mounds, maybe 15 feet high, and we clamber up and dig around for worms. In spite of the cold, the compost is home to countless red wigglers.

Deep in my heart, these mounds of black gold provoke a little compost envy, but I tell myself that Lerner has what I don’t have — a legion of livestock to fuel the operation, not to mention the vegetable waste generated by the farm and four satellite farms, and the arrival of manure and bedding from 20 surrounding horse farms.

Unused parts of slaughtered animals add their own nutrients, and before the age of synthetic fertilizers, farmers and gardeners used blood meal as a nitrogen fertilizer and feeds made from “hoof and horn.” About a dozen cattle — from a herd of 1,800 — are slaughtered weekly to provide the farm’s grass-fed beef.

The farm generates as much as 1,500 cubic yards of compost annually, Damewood said.

A portion of it is sold, either hauled in bulk to customers or bagged and sold at Lerner’s restaurant and market in Marshall, Va., called Gentle Harvest.

Making mountains of compost seems such an incongruous pursuit for someone who helped launch the digital revolution. But Lerner says she grew up on an orchard farm in Northern California. (And if you enter farming, it helps to have an analytical mind.)

Lerner, an avowed Anglophile, said she decided to come to Virginia because of its links — visual and cultural — to the motherland. “The Southern ways are the closest we get to England,” she said.

@adrian_higgins on Twitter
Tip of the Week

Spring rains cause bare soil to crust, making it difficult for vegetable seeds to germinate and grow. This is a problem in particular for carrot seeds. The problem is avoided by backfilling the seed row with sand or a seed-starting soil mix. Make sure seeds don’t dry out.

— Adrian Higgins

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Adrian Higgins has been writing about gardening, landscape design and related environmental topics since the late 1980s. He joined The Washington Post in 1994. He is the author of several books, including the "Washington Post Garden Book" and "Chanticleer, a Pleasure Garden."
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The Washington Post/Elizabeth Leamy: Robot vacuums have cleaned up their act. Is it time to buy?

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Home & Garden
Robot vacuums have cleaned up their act. Is it time to buy?
by Elizabeth Leamy April 24

If you have always wanted your own personal R2-D2 of dust but couldn’t stomach the high price of early robotic vacuums, it’s time to take another look. Roomba, made by iRobot, was so dominant early on that it was fast becoming a generic term, sort of like “Hoover,” which is used as a verb in some parts of the world. However, by my count, at least a dozen companies now make robotic vacuums, including well-known brands such as Samsung, Sharp and Black & Decker, plus vacuum specialists such as Ecovacs, Neato and Bissell.

Here’s what I learned from interviewing a Consumer Reports expert, reading articles and reviews about the latest models and technology, and talking to people who own these dogged little appliances. The biggest takeaway: Don’t plan on replacing your traditional vacuum with a robotic one. Robotic vacuums have come a long way, but you’ll still need an upright or canister vacuum for deeper cleaning and for stairs.
Lower prices

Increased competition has provided more price points among robotic vacuums. “There’s a huge range,” said Haniya Rae, who participates in vacuum testing at the nonprofit Consumer Reports. Some models still cost $1,000, but you can also score a reasonably well-rated robot vac for as little as $180 — the Black & Decker HRV425BLP. Last year, when Consumer Reports tested 27 models, one-third of them cost $375 or less. Even iRobot makes a Roomba I saw online for just $318. Several of those less expensive models ranked in the CR top 10.
Higher functionality

At the same time robotic vacuum prices have come down, their functionality has gone up. Their “cliff sensors” have improved, so they almost never fall down the stairs anymore. Although robotic vacuums are typically round, some manufacturers have put a straight edge along one side or added side brushes that help them clean in corners. Most are now flexible enough to straddle area rugs and hard floors, though they sometimes get hung up on long carpet fringe. “The technology is great, and it gets better with each iteration of these things,” Rae said. “But there are still some glitches that need to be worked out.”
Where they're weak

Robotic vacuums did not perform nearly as well as traditional upright and canister vacuums in Consumer Reports’ tests of their deep-cleaning ability. A traditional vacuum picked up more than half of the sand and talc embedded in a carpet sample, whereas the robotic vacuum sucked up less than 20 percent. Some robotic vacuums’ infrared systems have difficulty navigating on dark floors. Check the manual before you buy. Plus, they still cost more than a well-performing canister or upright vacuum.
What they do best

So what are robotic vacuums good for? Light, automatic maintenance. “These are great at doing little jobs every day,” Rae explained. “They’re meant to reduce the amount of time you have to do other vacuuming. You set it and forget it.” You can program your robotic vacuum to run every day at a certain time. “Since it’s running every day, you don’t have the Goldfish from three days ago that you forgot to pick up,” said Rae. Many robot vacuums are WiFi-connected, so they can map and learn the rooms of your house and then find their way back to their dock when finished. (If you’re worried about privacy, these maps are very abstract.) Some are also smartphone-connected, so you can prompt them to vacuum while you’re away at work or before you come home from vacation.

The 14 most useful household products — and what you can do with them

Robotic vacuums work best for picking up loose dust and debris on hard floors or low-pile rugs. They can run on carpets, too, but a deep pile sometimes exhausts their battery power before they’re done. They can work well for staying on top of pet hair, as long as the fur is not overly long or plentiful.

Because they can’t climb stairs, robotic vacuums are most useful for one-story homes, although, now that prices are lower, some people are buying one for each floor of their house.

To give a robotic vacuum the best chance of doing a good job, you’ll want to have uncluttered rooms. One thing they do better than traditional vacuums: cleaning beneath furniture, ­because they can glide right under it. (Measure your furniture and compare to the height of different robotic vacuums when choosing.)
Top-rated models

Consumer Reports lists four vacuums as “best buys” for their combination of high functionality and low price. They are the Ecovacs Deebot M88 ($450), the iRobot Roomba 690 ($375) and 618 ($270), and the Eufy RoboVac 11. ($250). Note that I was able to find some of these models for less than the list prices cited by the magazine.

The Good Housekeeping Institute’s 2018 top pick for a robotic vacuum is the iRobot Roomba 560, listed for $300. And PC Magazine’s recent list of its favorite robot vacuums also includes five that cost less than $350.

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Weekly consumer columnist Elisabeth Leamy is a 13-time Emmy winner, a 25-year consumer advocate for programs such as “Good Morning America,” and host of the podcast “Easy Money.” Connect with her at leamy.com and follow her @ElisabethLeamy. href="http://elisabethleamy.com/home">leamy.com.
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Nation of Change/Donna Luca: Keep us on the frontlines of progressive change

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26 April 2018 at 12:36

The Trump administration is a disaster. But while Trump provides us with a convenient target, he is not the source of our troubles, he is a product of them.

Long before Trump, our country was being ravaged by fear, greed, and hate. And long before Trump, NationofChange was doing something about it.

The truth is, it’s not enough to attack Trump or his administration. We need to come together through truth and positive action to bring about progressive change in our communities.

NationofChange strives to do this, 365 days a year, through our fearless journalism and boots-on-the-ground activism.

Right now, NationofChange must raise $15,000 by May 1st to continue our vital opposition of Trumpism and the culture of fear and hate that made it possible.

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24/7 Wall St./Samuel Stebbins and Michael B. Sauter: 25 Most Polluted Cities in the World

24/7 Wall St.   

25 Most Polluted Cities in the World

By Samuel Stebbins and Michael B. Sauter    April 23, 2018 5:07 pm EDT
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The rapid industrialization across parts of Asia in recent years has been an economic boon. Unfortunately, industrialization and economic development are often at odds with environmental and public health concerns. In some parts of the world, a booming manufacturing sector and rapidly growing middle class have led to dangerous and potentially deadly levels of air pollution — often more than 10 times the safe standard set by the World Health Organization.

One specific type air pollution, commonly known as PM2.5 — shorthand for particulate matter 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller — is especially harmful. For perspective, the diameter of a human hair is 50-70 micrometers, so particles that are 2.5 micrometers or smaller are very fine and inhalable.

PM2.5 is typically generated by combustion — either from fires, automobiles, or factories — and this type of air pollution has been linked to a number of health issues, including asthma, lung infections, heart attacks, and premature death.

Heavy industrialization and a rising standard of living are the most common causes of high concentrations of air pollution in the cities on this list — though they are not the only culprits. In some of the most polluted cities, high concentrations of fine particulates in the air are the result of lacking or non-existent public works infrastructure, such as sewage systems.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed the average annual concentration of PM2.5 per cubic meter in nearly 3,000 cities around the globe to identify the world’s most polluted cities. The vast majority of cities with the highest concentrations of PM2.5 are in Asia, and a handful are in Africa. In each of the cities on this list, air pollution is at least 4.8 times worse than it is in the Visalia-Porterville, California, metro area, the most polluted metro area in the United States.

Click here to see the world’s most polluted cities.
Click here to see our detailed findings and methodology.
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