Category Archives: Business

The Plan to Make California Wet By Spreading Beavers Up and Down the State

 by Alissa Walker –
photo by Daniel Rose

Ending the drought in the West will require rain—not too much rain—and smarter ways to collect and store that water. But something else that can keep things moist? Believe it or not: Beavers.

According to a story in Water Deeply, a group of ecologists have a plan to help repopulate the Central Coast of California with Castor canadensis, the large beavers which once roamed the state in great numbers. (Not to be confused with their ancestors, giant beavers that were seven feet long.) The idea is that beavers are nature’s hydrologists, engineering the way that water travels through the landscape:

“Beavers aren’t actually creating more water, but they are altering how it flows, which creates benefits through the ecosystem,” says Michael Pollock, an ecosystems analyst and beaver specialist at the National Marine Fisheries Service Northwest Science Center.

Beavers were nearly eradicated by humans because they were interfering with our logging and fishing industries. But that’s exactly why beavers need to return. Rivers and streams that have been diverted by humans are designed to remove water quickly from the watershed, destroying local habitats for animals and making it more difficult for an ecosystem to recover from drought. Beavers build infrastructure which help to slow the flow of water, letting it recharge local aquifers, and preventing erosion which helps keep plants alive.

Not everyone is a fan of the Bring Back the Beaver campaign. Ecologists can’t agree where beavers originally lived, for one, so they aren’t sure where they should be reintroduced. And they don’t want to end up with an invasive species, which is what happened in South America. But some scientists aren’t waiting around for a consensus. The Yurok Tribal Fisheries Program is taking matters into its own hands, hiring humans to build their own beaver-like structures to mimic the rodents’ beneficial environmental impact. You can join a Facebook campaign for the plan here. It sounds like a dam good idea.




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Why cereal just doesn’t do it anymore for Millennials

by Katherine Martinko

bowl of dry cereal

CC BY 2.0 Minato

We’ve outgrown the cereal marketers, in knowledge and in taste. What once appealed no longer satisfies us for a number of reasons.

There was a time when Millennials loved breakfast cereal, and that was when we were small. It was the perfect combination of sugar, crunch, and cold milk, and it was easy for little hands to prepare while parents slept in on weekend mornings – our first fond memories of culinary independence. The arrangement of boxes on the dining table made a cozy, private fort in which to eat one’s cereal in peace while examining the pictures and indecipherable ingredient lists.

Cereal, however, has lost its appeal in recent years. Millennials are no longer racing to the cereal aisle, despite now being free to buy whatever garishly colorful box they wish. According to Mintel, a global market research company, sales declined from $13.9 billion in 2000 to $10 billion in 2015 (via New York Times).

So what’s going on?

On one hand, we’ve got people up in arms over the fact that Mintel’s report also revealed that 40 percent of Millennials surveyed claimed cereal was “an inconvenient breakfast choice because they had to clean up after eating it” – as in, they’d rather throw something in the garbage than wash a bowl and spoon. Yes, that’s pathetically lazy and embarrassing, but surely there’s more wrong with cereal than just that.

On the other hand, we’ve got a product that just doesn’t cut it anymore as people become more aware of the importance of good nutrition. I don’t buy cereal (other than the occasional box of Cheerios for my infant to practice picking up), nor do I feed it to my kids, and it’s not because I’m too lazy to wash dishes. No, there are other reasons why cereal has fallen off my radar while grocery shopping, some of which are listed in Kaitlin Flannery’s article, “This Is Why Millennials Actually Don’t Eat Cereal,” and to which I can relate:

First, it’s not healthy enough.

It’s loaded with sugar, it’s highly processed, it contains ingredients I don’t recognize. It doesn’t fill me or my kids up sufficiently. Inevitably, after eating a bowl of cereal, we’re starving an hour later. It’s better just to eat a bowl of stick-to-your-ribs oatmeal that will carry us through the morning much longer.

Second, it’s expensive.

For the big family-sized boxes, it can cost upwards of $8-10 for something that tastes like puffed air and sawdust. When that aforementioned box of Cheerios comes home for baby, it disappears in a flash because the older siblings can’t keep their hands off it. To my frugal mind, that $8 could go a lot further toward filling their tummies in the form of oatmeal, fruit, yogurt, or whole wheat bread.

Third, it has too much packaging.

My heart breaks a little bit every time I pull out a finished plastic bag, shake the remaining crumbs into the compost, and cram the bag into the garbage can. The local recycling facility won’t take it, so it goes to landfill. I prefer my zero-waste breakfast options like granola (made from local oats in paper bags and maple syrup), yogurt (homemade in reusable glass jars), buttermilk pancakes, and my loaves of slow-rise bread transformed into toast with jam made from local berries picked straight into my own reusable containers.

Finally, cereal is just plain boring.

Honestly, it takes minimal effort and planning to have a far more delicious breakfast than cold cereal – and I think that’s what a lot of Millennials are discovering. (Although, in order to enjoy some of those healthier, tastier options, some of my fellow Millennials will have to get their hands wet in the sink occasionally, which may be slightly traumatizing.)


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Want to feel happier? Think about what makes you absolutely miserable


Woman thinking about what makes her miserable

Thinking about what makes you unhappy actually gives you a road map to what will make you happier. (Photo: Dean Drobot/Shutterstock)

Forget the vision boards and the happiness meditations. A new book outlines exactly what you need to do to feel happier and it probably goes against everything you’ve ever heard. Want to feel happier? Think about the things that make you the most miserable.

This approach to happiness was inadvertently developed about 20 years ago by a group of severely depressed patients who were understandably pessimistic about their treatment options. They were all enrolled in an eight-week group therapy session at Changeways Clinic in Vancouver, Canada.

The sessions, led by clinical psychologist Randy J. Paterson, were not going well when Paterson had a sudden insight. Rather than asking his patients what they could do to feel better, he asked them what they could do to feel worse.

As Paterson describes in this interview for the Science of Us, “Suddenly the floodgates opened. People came up with all kinds of answers to that question,” and the therapy sessions became much more beneficial.

Paterson says the idea of focusing on what makes us miserable actually works to make us happier in two ways. First, it helps us create a reality-based road map toward happiness. Often, when people try to focus on what they think they need to do to achieve happiness, their goals are abstract or difficult to achieve, such as making more money or finding a life partner. But when we think about what we could do to be more miserable, we think about things like getting less sleep or eating less nutritious foods. It’s not long before the lightbulb moment hits: “If getting less sleep makes me miserable, maybe I should try getting more sleep if I want to be happier.”

“The path upward and the path downward are usually part of the same mental terrain,” said Paterson. “So if you can isolate the things that you do that would make you feel worse — like continuing a behavior that doesn’t help you — then you can similarly isolate the things that will make you feel better.”

Another way Paterson’s trick works is that it helps people see how much worse things could really be. It’s sort of the flip side of practicing gratitude or visualizing happiness. When you realize that things could be much worse, you tend to find happiness in the life you already have.

Want to learn more about “misery as the new happiness?” Check out Paterson’s book, “How to Be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use.”


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Ahead of Olympics, gunmen storm Rio de Janeiro hospital to free suspected drug trafficker

One patient was killed and a nurse and an off-duty policeman were wounded when 25 armed men stormed a Rio de Janeiro hospital in a brazen plot to free a suspected drug trafficker.

RIO DE JANEIRO — A group of heavily armed men stormed a Rio de Janeiro hospital Sunday to free a suspected drug trafficker, sparking a shootout with officers that left a patient dead and a nurse and an off-duty policeman wounded.

The attack took place at Hospital Souza Aguiar, one of the medical facilities recommended for tourists seeking emergency treatment during the upcoming Olympic Games.

At least five attackers stormed the hospital before dawn and freed the 28-year-old suspect, who was being treated for a gunshot wound, Rio police said in a statement. As many as 15 other gunmen were outside during the attack, witnesses told police.

Investigators were studying security camera footage, and Rivaldo Barbosa, head of the state’s homicide unit, said two of the assailants had been identified.

Brazil plans $849M bailout to fund 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics

“This was a carefully orchestrated attack,” Barbosa told reporters outside the hospital. “It was a bold action that will not go unpunished. It is unacceptable.”

Souza Aguiar is one of five hospitals designated by the city to treat tourists during the sporting event because of its proximity to the famed Maracana Stadium, site of the opening ceremony on Aug. 5. It’s also on a U.S. Embassy list of medical facilities recommended for travelers to the games.

Fabio Melo, a sergeant who was guarding the suspect in the hospital, said he feels vulnerable to attacks as Rio de Janeiro state is increasing officers’ shifts.

The state declared a financial disaster on Friday largely because revenues from oil royalties have plummeted as a result of low crude prices. The government wants more freedom to manage scarce resources in areas such as public safety, health care and education as it wraps up Olympic projects and beefs up tourist services during the games.

Rio de Janeiro cops push for charges in gang rape of 16-year-old

“People in our line of duty go through these kinds of different experiences. Thank God I was not injured and I was able to help my co-worker,” Melo told reporters. “But we are defenseless. I am defenseless, you are defenseless and the whole population, too.”

Later in the day, police acknowledged that they had received reports last week that about a plot to free the suspected drug trafficker. Col. Luiz Henrique Pires told journalists they reinforced security at the hospital but that they don’t have the resources “to deploy 30 or 40 police officers to police after every report that is made.”

Pires also said public hospitals are not prepared to admit prisoners and that it is necessary to have special medical facilities for such cases.


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DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz Is Finally Kicked to the Curb

Her replacement, a Clinton campaign hack, offers only a facade of progress

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (C) (D-FL) arrives for a closed briefing for members of the House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol June 14, 2016 in Washington, DC. Members of the House received a briefing on the latest information surrounding the recent attack in Orlando, Florida.

Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz has turned over her duties to Brandon Davis, National Political Coordinator for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), who was installed by the Clinton campaign. Wasserman Schultz will retain her title as DNC Chair until the Democratic Party votes on a successor.

While Democratic presidential nominees traditionally appoint election managers after the primaries end—as Barack Obama did in 2008—the alleged removal of Wasserman Schultz as DNC chair was nothing more than a publicity stunt. In effect, the move allows Clinton to tout an image of responding to Wasserman Schultz’s poor favorability without actually having to do anything about it.

This is not a sign of progress. Rather, the removal buys time and entertains the possibility of retaining Wasserman Schultz after the Democratic National Convention, once criticism for her poor party leadership dies down. In short, Wasserman Schultz protected Clinton with a limited primary debate schedule and now Clinton is returning the favor—which does doing nothing to fix the corruption Wasserman Schultz flooded into the Democratic Party as DNC chair.

On June 16, Senator Bernie Sanders called the Democrats a party of “wealthy campaign contributors” in a speech streamed to supporters. Wasserman Schultz opened the Democratic Party to wealthy campaign contributors by quietlyrescinding a ban on contributions from federal lobbyists and political action committees, initially enacted by Barack Obama in 2008. A giant step back from removing the influence of big money in politics, the move enabled the Hillary Victory Fund—a joint fundraising committee between the DNC and the Clinton campaign—to launder funds into the Clinton campaign under the pretenses of raising money for down-ticket Democrats. While the ban remains removed, Clinton continues to rake in millions of dollars in campaign contributionsfrom influences with interests contrary to progressive and liberal agendas.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz served as Clinton’s 2008 campaign co-chair and helpedHillary Clinton win the 2016 Democratic primaries to the greatest extent she could, even though her relationship warranted Wasserman Schultz recuse herself from the primaries. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, bravely spoke out against the undemocratic limited debate schedule coordinated by Wasserman Schultz, and eventually recused herself from her position as DNC vice chair in order to transparently support the Sanders campaign.

Wasserman Schultz’s false claims of impartiality employed a variety of mechanisms to rig the election for Clinton, including appointing several corporate lobbyists to serve as super delegates. Recently-leaked internal DNC correspondence illuminates strategies that were formulated with Hillary Clinton as the presumed nominee in mind—several months before the first primary state even voted.

Transitioning Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s duties to another Clinton surrogate will do nothing to reform the Democratic Party. In a recent address to supporters, Sanders noted his hope to work with Clinton to transform the Democratic Party into one that, “has the courage to take on Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, the fossil fuel industry and the other powerful special interests that dominate our political and economic life.”

With her insincere proposal to eventually remove Debbie Wasserman Schultz as DNC chair, Hillary Clinton proves she doesn’t take purging corruption from of the Democratic Party—a primary platform of Sanders’ campaign—seriously.


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About getting health advice on-line…

The death of Wei Zei, a student seeking cancer cures online, raises questions about the responsibility of tech companies for the health data they provide

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaking about the Apple Watch
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaking about the Apple Watch. Apple pulled a “health and wellness” app from the watch after it emerged it may have been based on false claims. Photograph: Stephen Lam/REUTERS

China’s equivalent of Google is under fire. Search engine Baidu has been criticised following the death of 21-year-old student Wei Zai, who used the search engine to research esoteric treatments for his cancer.

After Wei Zai’s death, the state-run People’s Daily attacked Baidu, claiming it was ranking search results in exchange for money. “There have been hospitals making profits at the cost of killing patients who were directed by false advertisements paid at a higher rank in search results,” the article claimed, adding, “profit considerations shall not be placed over social responsibility”.

The Chinese party newspaper may have its own reasons for wanting to control Baidu; a powerful search engine is a gateway to the outside world and a challenge to any repressive state. But does it have a point? Are search engines responsible for the health results they promote?

Professor Stephen Goldberg of the University of Miami school of medicine doubts that search engines such as Google make their health recommendations based on the accuracy of the health website: “They don’t really have the facility to do this and appear more concerned with number of hits on the website and key words associated with the website, regardless of what inaccurate information it may concern.”

Google declined to comment specifically on its policy, instead referring to a blogwhich says that one in 20 Google searches is for health-related information. In February, the company began using its Knowledge Graph, a tool to enhance search results, to give searchers instant and relevant medical facts: “We’ll show you typical symptoms and treatments, as well as details on how common the condition is – whether it’s critical, if it’s contagious, what ages it affects, and more.”

While the company insists the search results are not intended as medical advice, the move seems intended to cement Google’s role in the health tech market.

The rise of health apps

People don’t just turn to search engines for health data; there’s also a growing appetite for apps. The mobile health market is currently valued at $10bn and forecast to grow by 15% to reach $31bn by 2020.

But the hype for apps has caught out some companies. In 2013 Australian blogger Belle Gibson – who claimed she had cured her terminal cancer through diet and lifestyle changes – created The Whole Pantry, dubbed “the world’s first health, wellness and lifestyle app”.

Belle Gibson, the founder of the Whole Pantry
Belle Gibson, the founder of the Whole Pantry, claimed that she cured cancer with healthy eating Photograph: Supplied

Downloaded 200,000 times in the first month, it was one of the few apps to be pre-installed on the Apple Watch. When it emerged Gibson’s cancer was reportedly faked, Apple pulled the app and many customers demanded their money back.

The reliability of health apps is fundamentally dependent on the quality of databases and the algorithms that process the raw data. And many tech companies are wading into this hugely profitable health informatic field.

Tech giant IBM, for example, whose super computer Watson supports health apps, has recently gained access to the health data of 300 million people through its acquisition of Truven Health. Google-owned artificial intelligence (AI) company DeepMind has agreed a data-sharing deal with London’s Royal Free Hospital Trust to give it access to healthcare data on 1.6 million patients. In return, the trust will get an app to monitor patients with kidney disease.

These companies say they are committed to transparency and democratisation. But underlying all this activity is one overarching motive: profit. So can we have faith that companies are acting in our best interests to provide high-quality, evidence-based and validated information?

Just because companies are driven by profit doesn’t necessarily mean the information or rankings are not reliable. There has probably never been a time of greater scrutiny of health information. We live in a complex and interconnected world, where public healthcare providers and private companies work in parallel; Deepmind and the Royal Free is just one example of this.

If we are diagnosed with a frightening illness, we’re likely to Google it. A few of us will still buy a book to get an alternative or broader view. A growing number of us will download an app to help manage the condition, improve our wellbeing or cope with the anxiety that a scary diagnosis brings.

We may as well get used to the vast amount of health data now available to us. Some companies may commit to rigorously scrutinising their data but algorithms are so complex and potentially influenced by commercial factors, that the onus must remain with the individual to make their own judgement.

There is still no substitute for face-to-face conversations with health professionals who have your wellbeing rather than their own commercial interests at heart. And whatever the source of information that we access, a healthy degree of scepticism is important. Goldberg says: “Patients should be drawn into the medical decision-making process if they are interested.” He thinks we all need to learn how toevaluate health information for ourselves so that search engine rankings are not the only way we decide what’s good for us.


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5 ways to prepare for new white-collar overtime requirements

howtowhitecollarovertime-750xx2716-1530-0-176by Janet Flewelling –

Many companies are aware of the recent federal change to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) exemption rule that, according to the Department of Labor, will make 4.2 million additional salaried white-collar American workers eligible for overtime pay.

The FLSA does not provide an exemption from these requirements for small businesses. The new exemption rule generally applies to employees who perform executive, administrative or professional duties at most companies.

Here are some tips to help ensure company payrolls remain in control when the new overtime rules go into effect.
Here are some tips to help ensure company payrolls remain in control when the new… more

Under the old rule, white collar employees were required to receive overtime pay if they made less than $455 per week or $23,660 a year. Effective Dec. 1, 2016, the minimum salary level increases to $913 per week or $47,476 annually. It also establishes an algorithm based on economic factors which will be used to determine future adjustments to the minimum salary requirement.

As is the case with all salary issues, the opinions of business owners fall at both ends of the spectrum — from being supportive to seriously concerned about additional costs. However, one thing is true for all companies: With the implementation of this rule change officially on the horizon, now is the time to make certain that payroll costs can be tracked on a timely and accurate basis.

Following are some tips to help ensure company payrolls remain in control when the new overtime rules go into effect:

1. Determine the impact now
All companies need to be aware of how many employees on their payroll will be affected, review job duties of affected employees, and develop compensation plans to review the cost of increasing salaries and/or reclassifying any affected employees as non-exempt, which requires employers to track hours and pay additional overtime pay for hours over forty in a work week.

2. Consider time-tracking software
Companies without tracking systems will need to implement hourly tracking systems to manage new time-keeping responsibilities for employees reclassified to non-exempt status. Companies with hourly tracking systems that are less robust should consider electronic solutions that allow workers to clock in and clock out at their workstations or via mobile devices.

3. Revisit company overtime rules
Are employees required to obtain written permission from an authorized supervisor prior to working overtime hours? If not, management may want to change protocols and policies to better track and control overtime costs.

It should be noted that a policy requiring permission to work overtime is valid, but if an employee works overtime and the employer knew or should have known (or, as the FLSA says, “suffers or permits an employee to work,”) overtime must be paid, although the employee may be disciplined for not following the policy. For many businesses, new checks and balances will become crucial to ensure that productivity and costs are appropriately managed.

4. Communicate
Once a company determines if the new rules will have an impact and identifies the employees who will be affected, management should communicate with the affected employees and their supervisors to proactively explain any protocol or policy changes.

5. Consider some salary adjustments
Finally, some companies may decide to make pay adjustments for some employees whose salaries are near the cap. Doing so could reduce some of the timekeeping complexities the law might create. Employers need to know that a salary increase alone does not guarantee an employee is exempt from overtime because there are also duties tests that must be met for an exemption to apply.

Like it or not, the Department of Labor’s rule change is a reminder that all businesses should regularly review and refine timekeeping procedures and take advantage of new technologies that save time and money along with providing administrative relief. Doing so will benefit both workers and the company as a whole.

Janet Flewelling is a managing director of service operations for Insperity.

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