PEOPLE Hotel Association of Canada appoints new President

first_img Share Posted by OTTAWA — The Hotel Association of Canada (HAC) has named Susie Grynol as its new President. Formerly Vice-President, Federal Government Relations for the Retail Council of Canada, she has more than 10 years of experience managing political affairs and public relations with a track record in overseeing complex industry issues.Grynol takes over from Anthony Pollard who served as President for the past 25 years and retired this past September. She starts in her new role Oct. 17.“We are delighted that Ms. Grynol will be joining the HAC as President and are fortunate to have someone with Susie’s talents, experience and breadth of knowledge join our industry,” said Philippe Gadbois, Chair of the HAC Board. “I look forward to working with Susie to ensure the industry’s needs and goals continue to be reached.”The Hotel Association of Canada represents the more than 8,100 hotels, motels and resorts that make up Canada’s $17.5 billion hotel industry, which employs 288,000 people across Canada. [PEOPLE] Hotel Association of Canada appoints new President Tags: Hotel Association of Canadacenter_img << Previous PostNext Post >> Tuesday, October 11, 2016 Travelweek Group last_img read more

Winter discounts available now at Chelsea Hotel Toronto

first_img<< Previous PostNext Post >> Share Travelweek Group Posted by Thursday, January 17, 2019 center_img Winter discounts available now at Chelsea Hotel, Toronto Tags: Chelsea Hotel, Sales, Toronto TORONTO — Chelsea Hotel, Toronto’s new Winter Wanderer Sale takes 20% off the best available rate of the day.The booking window for the sale runs until Jan. 31 for travel through March 31.The hotel’s central location offers quick access to explore all of Toronto’s wintery activities, whether that means skating on one of the many downtown ice rinks in the city, including Nathan Phillips Square and Bentway Skate Trail, or checking out Ontario Place’s Winter Light Exhibition, on now through March 17.As an added perk, guests of the hotel have access to exclusive discounts to some of the city’s top attractions with the Show Your Key and Save program, such as Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, the Royal Ontario Museum and Ontario Science Centre.For more details see read more

Top Stories

first_img Top Stories “As an offense, we can’t give up two touchdowns,” Peterson said. “Coach Whisenhunt really hit that on the head today.”While Peterson and Arizona’s defense held Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in check (12-of-26 for 141 yards), the Cardinals were forced to play from behind all afternoon on Sunday, as a fumble return for a touchdown by Chicago’s Zack Bowman in the first quarter and an interception return for a touchdown by Charles Tillman in the third quarter put Lovie Smith and Co. in the driver’s seat at University of Phoenix Stadium.Although the former No. 5 overall pick had some harsh words for the offense, he didn’t limit his criticism to only one side of the football.“At the end of the day, we can’t let those guys score,” said Peterson. “We have to do a better when the offense does turn the ball over to hold those guys to three points.”The Cardinals’ defense limited Chicago’s offense to only 15 points, but they did allow over 150 yards on the ground.With a week left in their season, the Cardinals sit in the basement of the NFC West, and are much closer to a top 5 draft pick than they are to playoff contention. Despite a forgettable campaign in 2012, Peterson said the team would still try to grow together over their final 60 minutes of play next Sunday. Former Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson retires Patrick Peterson is only two years removed from his college career at LSU, yet the 22-year-old may be the only player on the Arizona Cardinals’ 53-man roster with the authority to call out any of his teammates.After all, he’s done just about everything in 2012. Peterson, who has served as a cornerback, running back, wide receiver, punt returner and gunner this season, displayed that rare cachet after Sunday’s 28-13 to the Chicago Bears. Grace expects Greinke trade to have emotional impact Comments   Share   Derrick Hall satisfied with D-backs’ buying and selling “We’re a team that never wants to give up,” said Peterson. “We want to play hard until the fourth quarter when that clock says 0:00. That’s our mentality coming into any game, win, lose or draw.”The Cardinals travel to San Francisco to take on the division-leading 49ers next weekend. The game still has plenty of meaning for Jim Harbaugh’s squad, as well. After being blown out 42-13 Sunday night, the 49ers still need a win or a Seattle Seahawks loss in Week 17 to clinch the NFC West. – / 30 The 5: Takeaways from the Coyotes’ introduction of Alex Meruelolast_img read more

In This Issue… A late morning rush to sell euro

first_imgIn This Issue… * A late morning rush to sell euros… * Spain & Italy to auction debt tomorrow… * China’s Trade Surplus narrows slightly… * The BOC’s bunker mentality… And, Now, Today’s Pfennig For Your Thoughts! Chinese Exports Holding Steady Eddie! Good day… And a Wonderful Wednesday to you! Each morning when I arrive, and turn on the TV’s and my computer screens (4!) I go quickly check out what’s on each TV for news, then after my email comes up, I go through all the “alerts” that I receive… This morning, the TV’s and my email box is full of stories on the outcome of the New Hampshire primary… Well, not that I don’t care about that stuff, but it’s not the stuff I’ll write about, so it doesn’t help me any! So, get it out of here! Also getting out of here is the risk asset rally that went on yesterday… The currencies are sliding a bit this morning, but Gold is up again, so it’s not all bad for the risk assets. Both Italy and Spain are auctioning a total of 17 Billion euros in debt/bonds tomorrow, and that is weighing heavily on the currencies at this point of the day. The price action of Italian & Spanish bonds before the auction was good though, with yields falling 11 & 20 basis points respectively. But… having to go to the markets and ask them to take on 17 Billion euros more of debt, is another thing, and so… the euro is weaker this morning, as it should be. The good news from the Eurozone this morning comes from Germany, where the economy is saying, recession? What recession? German GPD was weaker in 2011 than it was in 2010, but it still beat the consensus forecasts, coming in right at 3% for 2011… (2010 was 3.7%) Given all that Germany has had to deal with this past year, I find 3% pretty amazing. The bad news is that the ratings agency, Fitch, said yesterday that Italy faces a “significant chance of a downgrade”. Fitch also announced that they would make a decision by the end of the month on both Italy and Spain… So, tomorrow’s debt auction by these two becomes even more important! I see where U.S. Treasury Sec. Tim Geithner, not only has pressured Russia & China to not buy Iranian Oil, he’s now going to go to a full court press on the Chinese about their currency policy. And once again, a U.S. official will visit the Chinese leaders, they will smile and say they will seek a faster appreciation of the renminbi, shake hands and send the U.S. official home, his chest swelled with the pride that he got the Chinese to move faster, only to find out a couple weeks later that the Chinese have simply continued on with their gradual appreciation of the renminbi. Save the tax payers some dough, Mr. U.S. Treasury Secretary, and save yourself the time and effort that you’re going to put into this meeting… You know, if we had not ever made one trip to China by U.S. officials over the years to get them to move off their slow, gradual appreciation of their currency, we would have saved taxpayers a truck load of cash! None of the visits ever helped and we could have saved money… But since when has it ever occurred to U.S. officials that saving money is a novel idea? Ok… move on from here Chuck, you’re about to go down a road that won’t endear yourself to the authorities! Speaking of China… Chinese officials have to be smiling like Cheshire Cats with the latest round of data. First we saw home price inflation back off, then we saw the manufacturing index improve, and now Exports look like they are holding up very nicely, even with the slowdown in the U.S. and Europe. Chinese export growth in December rose 13.4% from a year earlier. It did slip a bit from November’s 13.8% increase, but it looks like the naysayers were wrong once again about China… It appears that with exports to the U.S. slowing down, shipments to Japan and the emerging economies remained Steady Eddie… The Chinese Trade Surplus widened in December to $16.5 Billion from $14.5 Billion in Nov. You’ve just gotta love a Trade Surplus! I think that given all the things / data we’ve seen recently from China that my call that it would be moderation for the Chinese economy and not “collapse” that a boat load of economists have called for the last two years! Closer to home… Canada printed a very nice and strong Housing Starts number for December yesterday. Housing Starts increased 7.9% in December from a year earlier… This is another flashing red light for the Bank of Canada (BOC) to hike interest rates… But the BOC is in their “bunker mentality” as they believe the rot on the vine from Europe and the U.S. will be too much for the Canadian economy to handle… Hmmm… I have to disagree with the BOC here… if your economy is in need of a rate hike now, then do it! If the rot does begin to show up later, then cut the rates, but don’t hesitate to hike them now! Inflation is a bad thing, BOC… please remember that! Yesterday, I referred to the now X-Swiss National Bank President, as Hildegard… Well, as my new friend in our Corp FX group, Agnes, (who’s Swiss) pointed out… his name is Hildebrand. Hildegard is a woman’s name! Geez Louise! I really flubbed that one, eh? Any way it doesn’t look like the Swiss franc is going to give us that “pop” I was thinking could happen if Hildebrand resigned… I gave the desk some numbers last week that were very interesting regarding Gold & Silver and their highs and lows for each year since 2001… One thing that was as evident as a man with a hatchet in his forehead was that each and every year since 2001, Gold & Silver booked their lows for the year in either January or February… Which indicates to me that unless the trend is no longer in place, the only months to buy are January and February… Which is NOW! And one of my chartist friends, sent me a note yesterday that his charts indicate that Silver is about to break out to the upside… This is technical talk that is difficult to understand until they tell you what they are talking about… here’s Scott… He is referring to a chart that you can see if you go to his blog… “The daily chart has now formed a Bullish “Inverted Head and Shoulders” pattern that I have noted on the daily chart on the right hand side below. The Bears seem to have run out of gas when they formed the “Head” on a decrease in volume from the left shoulder. The right shoulder showed a lack of commitment from the Bears again. A breakout and close above the neckline, which I have drawn with a dashed blue trend line, will put pressure on the Bears, especially those who are short from the prior Bearish “Head and Shoulders” pattern that has not gotten fulfilled yet.” Chuck again… You know, I’m a fundamentals guy… but every now and then the technicals play well with what I’m saying fundamental wise… and this is one of those cases! The euro is really getting socked right now, as I get ready to head to the Big Finish. I don’t see anything on the screens that would tell me the reason for the rush to sell euros… but it looks like the 1.27 handle for euros is about to be taken out on the downside… And, it was just taken out… this is something, watching this rush to sell euros, right here, right now… And if the euro is getting socked right now, you all know the drill… the rest of the currencies are getting socked too… UGH! Cheaper levels that’s the only silver lining… Then there was this… Last week, I briefly mentioned our new Corp FX or actually they are called Business FX Group… We have always dabbled in this going back to our days at Mark Twain Bank, but we now have a group of people dedicated to small & mid-sized Corporations and their currency needs, payment orders and hedging of future obligations. If you do currency payments in your Corporation, you should give us a call or send an email because I do believe we can save you money in execution costs. The phone number is: 855.417.4843. And the website is here. To recap… The risk assets rally that was so strong yesterday, has been reversed and then some, except with Gold. There’s a rush to sell euros this morning for no apparent reason other than the ones that have been already beaten to death. Italy & Spain will sell debt/ bonds tomorrow, but recent bond price performance has been good for both countries. China continues to book strong data, albeit a bit weaker. Canada also continues to book good data reports that warrant a rate hike, but the Bank of Canada has gone into its “bunker mentality”… That’s it for today… The guys over at the 5-Minute Forecast were kind enough to quote something I said in the Pfennig yesterday. The 5-Minute Forecast is one of my daily reads that I find to be chock-full-o-info that’s important to what I do! This is it for me this week, as I’m slipping out of town to warmer weather for a few days. I’ll be back next Wednesday. I don’t know if those of you who subscribed to the Currency Capitalist have noticed but I’m no longer writing for that publication. My friends at the Sovereign Society decided to go in a different direction with the letter… So my first “paid writing gig” has ended… Oh well, I gave it my best shot! And so, another chapter in my life comes to a close. Time to move along! No worries… I’ve always wondered why people would pay me to write any way! HA! And with that… let’s get working on making this a Wonderful Wednesday! Chuck Butler President EverBank World Markets 1-800-926-4922 1-314-647-3837 read more

first_img – But it’s not the only major warning sign. Earnings for companies in the S&P 500 have also fallen for five straight quarters. That’s the longest earnings drought since the 2008–2009 financial crisis. Stocks almost never rise during such prolonged periods of declining earnings. • To be clear, we aren’t saying the market has topped… Only fools make calls like that. We’re saying it looks like the market’s topped. And it would be just as foolish to ignore these red flags. Today, we’re going to tell you another reason why we think stocks may have peaked. This same warning sign flashed before the last two major stock market crashes. That’s the bad news. The good news is that you can still make money (possibly triple-digit returns) in the coming months if you make the right moves today. We’ll tell you how to do this at the end of today’s issue. But before we get to that, let’s take a close look at this new warning sign. • Last month set a record for deal-making… Bloomberg reported a week ago: October as a whole was a record month for dealmaking, with almost half a trillion dollars of mergers and acquisitions announced globally. CenturyLink Inc.’s $34 billion acquisition of Level 3 Communications Inc., as well as General Electric Co.’s deal to combine its oil and gas division with Baker Hughes Inc., pushed October’s deal volumes to about $489 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s the highest amount for at least 12 years, topping the previous record of $471 billion in April 2007, the data show. • You might not think this is a big deal… After all, what’s so bad about companies buying each other? But mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity spiked before the last two major stock market crashes…and that has many Wall Street analysts worried. USA Today reported last week: October’s frenzied deal activity has caught the eye of analysts who note that similar bursts of corporate M&A activity in 1999-2000 and 2006-2007 occurred near stock market tops.… The robust M&A activity is sending up a yellow flag, as the past two times deal activity has spiked in a cluster of back-to-back years was in the run-up to the 2000 dot-com stock crash and 2008 financial crisis. As you may recall, the NASDAQ plunged 78% during the dot-com crash. The S&P 500 fell 57% during the 2008–2009 financial crisis. • Most companies don’t buy other companies when business is good… They buy other companies when their business is struggling. You see, a company can make itself bigger, practically overnight, by buying another company. And that can boost sales or profits. That’s the reasoning behind the biggest deal proposed this year… As you’ve probably heard, telecom giant AT&T (T) offered to buy media powerhouse Time Warner (TWX) for $85.4 billion two weeks ago. According to The Wall Street Journal, AT&T hopes the blockbuster deal will help the company grow: In the U.S., AT&T lost 268,000 mainstream wireless phone customers. Phone additions are considered important because they provide more service revenue than tablets, and customers with postpaid phone accounts tend to stay longer.… In all, AT&T’s total wireless revenues dipped 0.7%, to $18.2 billion, which the company blamed on decreases in service and equipment revenue.… The Time Warner deal is seen helping AT&T potentially find new areas of growth as its core wireless business has become saturated and its share of the mobile market leaves little room for acquisitions. • AT&T isn’t the only major U.S. company that’s used M&A to grow… Bloomberg reported last week: Just eight transactions account for more than $300 billion of the October total as megadeals continue to find favor among dealmakers.… So far this year, 32 deals valued at more than $10 billion have been struck. That puts 2016 on track to beat every year since 2007 except for last year, when a bumper 52 transactions of that size or more were announced. Given that corporate earnings have been falling since 2014, it’s safe to assume that companies are using M&A to offset the poor performance of their “core” business. Recommended Links • We see the recent spike in M&A activity as a major red flag… But many investors don’t see it this way. That’s because takeovers can boost a company’s profits…at least in the short term. And that can lift a company’s share price. Legendary investor Carl Icahn thinks those investors are making a big mistake. Icahn, who has one of the greatest trading records ever, warned last year: [What companies] do with the money is almost perverse. They just go in and buy another company to show analysts on Wall Street that their earnings are going up so their stock will go up. It’s financial engineering at its height. Icahn is specifically referring to “cheap money.” He added: [I]t’s like taking a drug, borrowing money very cheaply, taking over another company. You feel good. It’s like steroids. The athlete’s jumping pretty high. And so those companies can show a huge EBITDA number that we all know is not going to be there in two or three years.… So, these earnings are fallacious. • You see, the Federal Reserve has held its key interest rate near zero for the last eight years… This has made it incredibly cheap for companies to borrow money. According to the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), U.S. corporations have borrowed $9.1 trillion in the bond market since 2010. That’s 55% more than they borrowed in the seven years leading up to the 2008–2009 financial crisis. Companies have racked up huge debts even though corporate profits have been falling since 2014. And now, corporate balance sheets are weaker than they were during the last financial crisis. The Wall Street Journal reported last month: Median debt at junk-rated companies is five times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or Ebitda, according to Moody’s data. That compares with 4.2 times in 2008. The debt ratio for investment-grade companies is 2.6 times Ebitda, compared with 2.2 times in 2009, Moody’s data show. • Icahn is betting U.S. stocks will crash… Icahn’s investment fund, Icahn Enterprises, had a “net short position” of 138% at the end of last quarter. This means the fund had 138% more bearish bets than bullish bets. For example, if you own $100,000 worth of stocks and also short (bet against) $238,000 worth of stocks, you’re 138% net short. Last week, Barron’s reported that “[m]uch of that position is in the equity market, including major indexes.” • Doug Casey is betting U.S. stocks will fall, too… Earlier this year, Doug made a HUGE bet on gold. He invested about $1 million of his own money in gold stocks. These stocks, as Dispatch readers know, are leveraged to the price of gold. In other words, the price of gold doesn’t have to rise much for them to soar. Consider the VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX), which tracks large gold stocks. It’s up 74% this year, or nearly four times the 21% jump in the price of gold. • Now, to be clear, Doug didn’t buy GDX or any fund like it… He bought tiny gold stocks with massive upside potential. Most analysts have never even heard of these stocks. But Doug found them because he’s spent four decades developing a secret method of finding gold stocks with huge upside. Doug’s approach, which we call “The Casey Method,” has handed him incredible gains on gold stocks. We’re talking returns of 487%, 711%, and even 4,329%. You can learn more about The Casey Method by watching this new presentation. You’ll also learn how to access nine gold stocks that Doug and his team recently found using this same method. Each of these stocks could double in the coming months. Some could go even higher. To learn about The Casey Method—and how to access the names of these nine stocks—click here. Chart of the Day The entire global stock market appears to have peaked. Today’s chart shows the performance of the FTSE All-World Index, which tracks stocks from all around the world. You can see this key index set an all-time high last year. But, like the S&P 500, it didn’t hold its new high for long. After rallying earlier this year, the FTSE All-World Index is “rolling over” again. This is a bad sign for investors around the world. It means stocks from Tokyo to London could be headed lower. If you’re nervous about stocks, we encourage you to own physical gold. As we often say, it’s the ultimate safe-haven asset. Investors buy it when they’re nervous about stocks or the economy. If stocks keep falling, investors across the world could take shelter in gold. And that could send the price of gold much higher. If you’re as wary of the broad stock market and the economy as we are, you might also want to own gold stocks. As we explained above, they’re the best way to profit from rising gold prices. — Regards, Justin Spittler Delray Beach, Florida November 7, 2016 We want to hear from you. If you have a question or comment, please send it to We read every email that comes in, and we’ll publish comments, questions, and answers that we think other readers will find useful. Doug Casey’s Urgent Prediction for Today Until tonight, the founder of Casey Research is sharing a prediction that could have a huge impact on your wealth in the months to come. According to Doug, thousands of Americans are overlooking a huge opportunity right now. The last time we saw this market opportunity, you could have doubled your money 15 times. Click here for details before tonight at midnight. Signs of a market top are popping up everywhere. As you probably know, the S&P 500 set a new all-time high in early July…its first since May 2015. Normally, it’s a bullish sign when an index like the S&P 500 sets a new high. But U.S. stocks didn’t keep rising after “breaking out.” Instead, they’ve fallen. Just take a look at the chart below. You can see that the S&P 500 has fallen nine days in a row, its longest losing streak since 1980. It’s now below the high it reached in early July. That’s not a good sign. Even if Hillary Beats Trump, She LOSES… Does it really matter if Hillary comes out on top in the election? Maybe not. Because, guess what… According to a new finding by an ex-advisor to the CIA and Pentagon… winning the White House may work out to be a DISASTER for Hillary. No, it’s got nothing to do with her husband’s scandals… or the unwinnable War on Terror. It’s a whole different kind of threat, one even she didn’t count on. Click this link and find out what it is. Hillary must be terrified…last_img read more

MONTGOMERY Ala AP – Alabama Gov Kay Ivey is e

first_imgMONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is expected to announce a gas tax proposal this week as infrastructure improvement takes center stage in this year’s legislative session.Ivey’s press office said she will have a Wednesday news conference to announce an infrastructure plan.A proposed gas tax increase to fund road and bridge construction is expected to be among the top issues in the legislative session that begins Tuesday.The governor is expected to disclose details of the infrastructure proposal that she first teased in her inaugural address.In her inaugural address last month, Ivey said Alabama must improve infrastructure to compete in a 21st century global economy.Wednesday’s news conference will be held in Maplesville.(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)2/25/2019 11:47:04 AM (GMT -6:00)last_img read more

Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has

first_imgWork and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has been accused of lying to his own party conference about the success of his campaign to encourage employers to be more “disability confident”.Duncan Smith (pictured) told last year’s conference in Birmingham that more than 1, 000 employers had “signed up” to the Disability Confident campaign, which was launched by the prime minister in the summer of 2013.But a series of freedom of information requests by Disability News Service (DNS) has exposed the truth: that fewer than 400 have signed up, while only 68 are currently “active partners”.It is the latest embarrassing revelation about the campaign, which was launched in July 2013 and aims to “debunk the myths around employing disabled people and encourage employers to take advantage of the wealth of talent available”.Duncan Smith has been criticised for the campaign’s “patronising waffle”, which activists say ignores “institutionalised disability discrimination” at a time when he and other ministers have been smearing disabled benefit claimants as “workshy”.And in July, DNS revealed that the minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson, risked ridicule after announcing that Swansea had become the country’s first “Disability Confident City”, even though he was unable to explain why it had been chosen.The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has already admitted – in a press release issued earlier this summer to mark the campaign’s second anniversary – that just 376 organisations had supported Disability Confident since it was launched in July 2013.But even this exaggerated the number of employers that have “signed up” to the campaign.DWP has now confessed that the true number of “active partners” is just 68.And of those 68, at least 33 are disability or diversity organisations, such as Arthritis Care Scotland, Essex Coalition of Disabled People and Mencap.This leaves just 35 mainstream “active partners”, including recruitment and training companies and a small handful of big corporate names such as National Grid, Marks and Spencer, Honda and Asda.When asked in a freedom of information request why ministers claimed that 376 organisations supported the campaign, when a link to the campaign’s partners lists just 68, the department explained that the figure of 376 referred only to those organisations that had supported the campaign at some point since its launch.DWP said in its freedom of information response that the 68 organisations were the campaign’s “most active partners”, those that have “contributed to events, shared stories and case studies, or published their own articles and blogs about work they do to support disabled people into work”.When asked why Duncan Smith had vastly exaggerated the success of his campaign last autumn, the Conservative party refused to comment.But a DWP spokeswoman claimed that the figure of 1,100 referred to the number of “representatives” who showed their support for the campaign by attending a Disability Confident event.She said: “To date, 376 employers have registered to be official supporters of Disability Confident. We are happy to make this clear.”Disabled activists have lined up to criticise Duncan Smith, following the latest revelations.A Disabled People Against Cuts spokeswoman said: “It comes as no surprise that Duncan Smith has been telling porkies yet again.“He has lied about his education, his career, he has misinformed the House of Commons on numerous occasions and regularly makes claims that have been exposed as lies years ago, in media interviews.“We will only be surprised on a day we discover he’s told the truth. DPAC’s own investigation has turned up a number of astonishingly bold outright lies, and we began cataloguing new ones as they appeared, only to find that the workload was too great to keep up.”David Gillon, a disabled activist and blogger, who has been critical of the Disability Confident campaign, said: “It’s worrying when a minister with disabled people’s lives in his hands has so cavalier an approach to the facts.“How can we trust anything he says, when even his statements to his own party ring false?“His entire ministry has been riddled with falsehood, evasion and deliberate distortion ever since he took charge.“Whether it be the figures for fit for work deaths, or claiming overwhelming support for policies disabled people have overwhelmingly rejected, or tabloid tales that 75 per cent of us are faking, DWP clearly takes its cue from its lord and master.“Massively exaggerating claims for Disability Confident support is simply more of the same.”Gillon said the number of Disability Confident supporters was “pathetic”.He said: “Even if we accept the figure of 376 companies associated with Disability Confident in some way (does this simply count every company to have attended an event? I wonder), this is still less than one company every two days over the course of the two years-plus that Disability Confident has been in operation.“You could probably get more expressions of interest just by stopping random passers-by outside DWP HQ.”He said the list of active partners included just one NHS trust, one big high street name, no pharmaceutical giants, one electronics company, and an absence of major recruiters, all of which showed “an astonishing lack of ambition and achievement”.He said: “What are these companies signing up to do? Are they simply expressing an interest? Ticking a box to look good on the Corporate Responsibility section of their annual report? Are they looking for business to come their way?“How many are signing up because they’re in business relationships with DWP? How many are actually doing something positive to challenge workplace discrimination and get disabled people into work in non-token roles?“How many are challenging the status quo to bring forward disabled people as the next generation of leaders and managers? How many are actually confident about disability?”He added: “In the end I’m left bitterly disappointed, as is usual with Disability Confident.“Disabled people face a massive structural problem in accessing employment and it is vital we challenge that, but Disability Confident is failing on every front.“It can’t get employers to sign up, it can’t get disabled people to sign up, and what messages it does put out serve to reinforce the problem, not challenge it, by their insistence on portraying us as ‘inspiring’.”Peter Beresford, co-chair of the national service-user network Shaping Our Lives and professor of social policy at Brunel University, said the figures showed “clear evidence of a senior minister repeatedly telling yet more lies about disabled people and his failed disability policy”.He said: “Iain Duncan Smith must be brought to book and with a new Labour leadership and shadow cabinet it is to be hoped we now have an effective opposition that will commit itself to acting to curtail such shenanigans.”Ian Jones, co-founder of the WOWcampaign, said the failings of Labour’s Positive about Disabled People scheme should have shown politicians that “it is not enough to simply tell people how wonderful disabled people are in the hope it would change attitudes”. He said that Disability Confident was another “chocolate teapot scheme” which would have no impact on closing the disability employment gap, which was “stubbornly fixed at around 30 per cent fewer disabled people (2008-2013) being in work compared to non-disabled people”. He said: “The time for talk and trying to convince people to change has passed. Now is the time for positive action to enable talented disabled people to join a workforce that prejudice actively excludes them from.“Disability Confident is just that, a con, and Iain Duncan Smith implying disabled people are abnormal (on 8 Sept 2015) will not advance the cause of inclusion.”Mark Harrison, chief executive of the user-led organisation Equal Lives, said: “This is a Mickey Mouse scheme from a Mickey Mouse minister.“We need enforceable action for employers who exclude disabled people because of the barriers to employment in their companies.“We don’t need cheap gimmicks – this is just an example of the emperor’s new clothes.”And Pat Onions, founder of Pat’s Petition, said: “We aren’t surprised that so few employers have signed up to Disability Confident.“We have no idea what Disability Confident means and we doubt if employers do.”last_img read more

Young people with learning difficulties are at ris

first_imgYoung people with learning difficulties are at risk of “significant social isolation”, with the risk increasing as they approach adulthood, according to a new report delivered through a ground-breaking research programme.The young people interviewed for the report “unanimously” said they needed practical help, emotional support and communication skills to maintain friendships.Eight young people with learning difficulties were employed and trained to take part as peer researchers for the Young People and Friendships report, which was due to be launched at the Welsh assembly today (Thursday).The peer researchers worked with 85 other young people with learning difficulties who were aged between 14 and 28 and lived in the Gwent region of south-east Wales.All the young people were at significant risk of social isolation and almost all did not see friends outside either structured activities or education settings, with friendships “dependent upon local segregated services”.They faced a “complex web of barriers” to having a full social life, including discrimination within the education system; inaccessible public transport; and difficulties in using communication tools such as mobile phones, with some prevented from using social media by their parents.In some cases, social media and online gaming increased isolation and disconnection with the local neighbourhood, particularly among boys and young men, but it also enabled some friendships to be maintained,About two-thirds of the 85 participants in the research had experienced bullying during the transition years from childhood to adulthood (14 to 25), with most believing they were picked on because they were disabled.One participant in the study said: “Sometimes bad friends upset me, they pull faces at me and I feel like they hate me. They sometimes used to pick on me in school, use bad language.”Another said: “They abuse you, harass you and use you. They put pressure on you and put you in the middle. Boys will fight you and bully you and pretend that it is all a joke.”Participants felt unable to do anything about bullying or hate crime in the local community, other than avoiding certain areas, not going out or only going out with their parents.The report says: “None of the participants wanted to criminalise other young people, but they did want non disabled young people to be better informed about hate crime, respect and [to be] more knowledgeable about disability.”They also wanted it to be easier to report disability hate crime.The report also found that young people with learning difficulties did not have the same opportunities to undertake work experience at the same age as their non-disabled peers.The peer researchers were clear that segregating young disabled people was “morally wrong and creates second class citizens”.One of the peer researchers said: “I feel that being referred to [as] ‘special’… is a derogatory term. But people have got used to it.”Among its conclusions, the report says that health and social care services should do more to fund support for building and maintaining friendships.And it calls for research into the effectiveness of the teaching of independent living skills “as a matter of urgency” because of difficulties highlighted by the research.The research was part of the five-year, £5 million Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning (DRILL) research programme and was led by the Swansea-based social enterprise CARP Collaborations, in partnership with The Building Bridges project.DRILL is funded by the Big Lottery Fund, and delivered by Disability Rights UK, Disability Action (in Northern Ireland), Inclusion Scotland and Disability Wales.It is believed to be the world’s first major research programme led by disabled people and should eventually fund about 40 pieces of research and pilot projects.Picture: One of the events held as part of the researchlast_img read more

The governments Office for Disability Issues is a

first_imgThe government’s Office for Disability Issues is apparently failing to take any action to address “worrying” concerns about disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) that are being forced to close because of funding problems.Earlier this month, two prominent user-led organisations spoke out about the “urgent” need for research into the falling number of DPOs across the country.Shaping Our Lives said it was seeking funding, and partners, for a major piece of research to uncover the scale of the problem, with its own figures suggesting that more than 60 user-led groups that were members of its network had been forced to close since 2014.And Inclusion London, which supports Deaf and disabled people’s organisations across the capital, also raised concerns and said there were now a number of London boroughs without their own DPO.But when asked if the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) was aware of and concerned about the problem, and if it was taking any action, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said it was concerned about closures but failed to suggest any measures it was taking to address the concerns.A DWP spokeswoman said: “The ODI is aware that DPULOs [disabled people’s user-led organisations] close on a fairly frequent basis, and are obviously concerned by this.“The government takes the opportunity to work with them and support their work wherever possible.”But when asked again whether it was taking any action to address the concerns about closures, another DWP spokeswoman said the department had “nothing to add”.Last month, Disability News Service reported that the number of staff working in ODI had plummeted by more than two-thirds under the coalition and Conservative governments.In March 2010, just before the Tory-led coalition came to power, there were the equivalent of 48 full-time staff working in ODI, but there are now just 15, while the ODI website has now not been updated in more than seven months.Professor Peter Beresford (pictured), co-chair of the national service-user network Shaping Our Lives, said it was “reassuring” that ODI was “aware of and ‘concerned’ about the loss of these much-valued organisations”.But he said: “It is very worrying that even though aware of what increasingly looks like a crisis, the [ODI] has no plans or even comment to make in response to the situation.“Given that the ODI was originally established as a central government agency to support the independent living of disabled people and the development of a strong network of disabled people-led organisations, this makes especially troubling reading.“There seems to be no plan A and no plan B. The only plan this government seems to have any confidence in is attacking the welfare rights of disabled people with its much-discredited welfare reform policies.“The loss of DPOs is part of an even bigger crisis facing disabled and older people who are increasingly being denied a voice.”last_img read more

Texas Legislature Overrules Austin Allows Uber and Lyft to Return

first_imgUber 2 min read When Austin citizens voted in May 2016 to require fingerprint-based background checks from ride-sharing drivers and ban passenger pickup in traffic lanes, Uber and Lyft promptly pulled out of the city. But both are scheduled to restart operations in the city next Monday thanks to legislation passed by the Texas Legislature this month. The bill overrides local ordinances like Austin’s that regulate ride-hailing services and only needs Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature to become law.Buckle up. Coming soon.— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) May 17, 2017While Lyft and Uber are celebrating, the city isn’t. The bill, HB 100, would override the state’s 20-plus local ordinances and require ride-sharing companies to conduct criminal background and sex offender checks for drivers — but allow them to use ones they prefer. Uber’s internal checks have failed to discover criminal records before, and when Massachusetts enacted tougher background research rules last month, over 8,000 current drivers were rejected for violent/sexual crimes or drunk or reckless driving. Doubtless these enhanced checks aim to weed out predatory chauffeurs — like Uber drivers who have sexually assault passengers, which the company has tried wiggling out of legal responsibility for.Once Lyft and Uber activate their drivers, both ride-sharing titans will have to compete with local operators that sprung up in the interim. Companies like Fare and Fasten along with the nonprofit ride-hailing service RideAustin complied with Austin’s rules, which were passed by the city to raise the standards of ride-sharing drivers to match taxi drivers (who are required to submit fingerprints and pass background checks). Whether the homegrown services retain their lead once the industry-dominating Lyft and Uber return depends on the passengers — and how they’ll vote with their wallet. David Lumb 42shares Image credit: Shutterstock May 26, 2017 Add to Queue Learn from renowned serial entrepreneur David Meltzer how to find your frequency in order to stand out from your competitors and build a brand that is authentic, lasting and impactful.center_img Fireside Chat | July 25: Three Surprising Ways to Build Your Brand Texas Legislature Overrules Austin, Allows Uber and Lyft to Return Next Article Contributing Editor They’re expected to open Monday right after the governor signs the bill into law. This story originally appeared on Engadget Enroll Now for $5last_img read more

Jeep Drops a Pickup Microsoft Tops Apple and Alexa Is All About

first_img gb00:0000:00omi Jeep Drops a Pickup, Microsoft Tops Apple, and Alexa Is All About That Bass (60-Second Video) The only list that measures privately-held company performance across multiple dimensions—not just revenue. –shares Add to Queue Next Article Jeep revealed the all-new Gladiator at the Los Angeles Auto Show yesterday, the brand’s first pickup truck in 26 years. Set to go on sale in 2020, the Gladiator will do battle in the hyper-competitive mid-sized pickup market.Microsoft is now the world’s most valuable publicly-listed company after passing Apple for first time since 2010. The software giant hits the mark as Apple’s share price continues to fall, possibly due to poor sales of the latest iPhones.The kitchy classic Big Mouth Billy Bass is back and ready to connect with Alexa. That means the wall-mounted singing fish will lip synch to Alexa’s responses and boogie to tunes from Amazon music. It will cost $39.99 and be released just in time for the holidays on Dec. 1. There’s nothing fishy about that.Watch the previous 3 Things to Know video: How to Achieve Your Goals Apply Now » Entrepreneur Staffcenter_img November 29, 2018 Here are three things entrepreneurs should know today. 3 Things To Know Special Projects Director Patrick Carone 1 min read 2019 Entrepreneur 360 Listlast_img read more

Amazon Expands Prime Now Service Offers Alcohol Delivery for First Time

first_img Free Webinar | July 31: Secrets to Running a Successful Family Business Amazon Expands ‘Prime Now’ Service, Offers Alcohol Delivery for First Time Next Article Register Now » August 26, 2015 Learn how to successfully navigate family business dynamics and build businesses that excel. Inc said on Tuesday it will begin delivering wine, beer and spirits to U.S. customers for the first time as part of its speedy delivery service, Prime Now.The online retailer is expanding Prime Now, its one- and two-hour service, to Seattle, where the company is headquartered, and offering alcohol deliveries there.Amazon Prime, the company’s $99 per year shopping membership program, offers free two-day delivery on millions of items. It is a key testing ground for the retailer’s new services, ranging from TV and on-demand video to fast delivery.Amazon has said it has “tens of millions” of Prime subscribers. Analysts estimate the program to have around 40 million users worldwide.The company has steadily expanded Prime Now since it launched the service in New York City last year. It facilitates integration of the retailer’s grocery delivery service, Amazon Fresh, which has been slower to expand to new markets.On-demand grocery delivery is a growing and competitive market in the United States. Instacart, a grocery delivery company, announced on Tuesday that it had expanded to Indianapolis, its 17th city. Other startups, like Postmates, which focuses on meal delivery, also deliver personal care goods and alcohol for customers using a network of couriers.Prime Now customers can order using an app available on both iOS and Android devices. Orders are shipped from smaller warehouses, or hubs. An Amazon spokeswoman said the company opened two facilities in Seattle and Kirkland, Washington, to handle Prime Now deliveries.(Reporting by Mari Saito; Editing by Dan Grebler) 2 min read Add to Queue This story originally appeared on Reuters Reuters –shares Amazonlast_img read more

MarTech Interview with Mike Myer Founder and CEO at Quiq

first_imgRecognized as a 2017 Gartner Cool Vendor, Quiq makes it easy for customers to interact with a company via Messaging. Customers can now engage customer service via SMS/text messaging, Facebook Messenger, Live Chat, and Kik for help with their Pre-Sales questions and Post-Sales support.Our mission is to improve the way customers communicate with companies. We believe mobile message-driven communications will replace a significant portion of the traditional phone and email interactions, reducing costs while improving customer satisfaction.Quiq makes it easy for customers to contact a business via Messaging, the preferred channel already in use with our friends and family. With Quiq, customers can now engage customer service via SMS/text messaging, Facebook Messenger, Live Chat, and Kik for help with their pre-sales questions and post-sales support. Quiq Messaging can be purchased as a stand-alone customer channel or companies can take advantage of one of our pre-built CRM integrations, including Oracle, Zendesk, and Salesforce. “Messaging is at the early stages of adoption and many of the brands that have adopted it have only scratched the surface of what is possible.” About Quiq The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick. About MikeAbout QuiqAbout Mike MarTech Interview Seriescenter_img Mike Myer is the Founder and CEO of Quiq. Before founding Quiq, Mike was Chief Product Officer & VP of Engineering at Dataminr, a startup that analyzes all of the world’s tweets in real-time and detects breaking information ahead of any other source. Mike has deep expertise in customer service software having previously built the RightNow Customer Experience solution used by many of the world’s largest consumer brands to deliver exceptional interactions.RightNow went public in 2004 and was acquired by Oracle for $1.5B in 2011. Mike led Engineering the entire time RightNow was a standalone company and later managed a team of nearly 500 at Oracle responsible for Service Cloud. Before RightNow, Mike held various software development and architect roles at AT&T/Lucent/Bell Labs Research. Mike has earned BS and MS degrees in CS from Rutgers University.Mike splits his time between two of the best (and most opposite!) places: Bozeman, Montana and New York City. Tell us about your role and journey into Technology. What inspired you to start Quiq?I have been in tech most of my life, having degrees in Computer Science and then beginning my career at Bell Labs. I spent a good portion of my professional life as the CTO at RightNow – a leading provider of SaaS customer experience software.I started Quiq because I saw a huge gap between the way consumers could communicate with companies and how they communicate with family and friends. Everyone has busy lives, and phone calls don’t always fit in with everything that’s going on at the moment. But, we need an answer right away, so waiting hours for an email response doesn’t work either. Texting is how we get stuff done in our personal lives. It should be the same for business communication too.What is Quiq and how does it fit into a modern Mobile Marketing Technology stack? Quiq is a messaging platform that helps companies and their customers engage in conversations at any stage of the customer journey. Customers are mobile and on-the-go. They want to interact and hear from companies at their moment of need. One way Quiq is used is by online retailers to deliver notifications regarding the order, shipping, and delivery status. Because Quiq is a conversational platform, if a customer has a question after receiving a notification, they can just text back and be immediately connected to a human or bot to have their questions answered.Quiq is also used in Pre-Sales conversations, when, for example, a customer needs advice on finding the right product e.g. a rug and a lamp to match a room remodel. Marketers can also use Quiq to communicate product promotions, with existing customers, like new home loan rates, discounts on a re-order for a subscription business, or an alert that a new brand/product is being carried, etc. Quiq is also often also used by our clients to replace the phone or email as a more efficient communications channel for customer service.Just to highlight some of the messaging channels we support: SMS/text messaging, Apple Business Chat, Google Rich Business Messaging (RCS), webchat, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, In-App, etc.Which businesses are fastest to the adoption of B2B/B2C Messaging platforms? How does it impact Branding and Marketing operations?The fastest adopters of messaging have come from three categories: 1) incredibly competitive industries like online retail which needs to build brand loyalty; 2) from innovative brands who like to lead with new technology; 3) creative individuals at brands who see technology and the customer experience as a differentiator. Messaging communications have been primarily adopted by B2C or businesses with a high number of customers and customer interactions.We work with our clients to understand their customer journey and touchpoints to find the best moments to use proactive messaging and to present the option for 2-way texting. The technical effort involved in adding messaging is low. It’s just a simple addition of a button or link to the website to invite clients to message or the invocation of our messaging API from existing campaigns or internal systems to send proactive messages. We have standard CRM connectors with Salesforce, Zendesk, and Oracle that make implementation easy.How have your customers utilized your technology? What marketing/business goals do you help them to achieve? Our clients span a number of industries/verticals. Our online retail clients use web chat and messaging to help shoppers do research and make a purchase, as well as for post-purchase customer service. Additionally, they use outbound notifications to deliver order status and shipping updates, as well as Product Promotions or Sales. When used during a purchase journey, our clients have seen a 33% increase in conversion rate. When used to support customers, our clients have improved customer satisfaction scores by 5-20 percentage points, while simultaneously decreasing the cost to serve their customers by 5X or more – a win-win!Our clients in the online and subscription services industries have used messaging to improve communication during the customer lifecycle. For instance, by delivering messages at key moments in the onboarding processes and being available to answer questions via text at the customer’s moment of need, one of our clients saved millions in potential subscription churn.Our banking and credit union clients use messaging in a multitude of ways, including improving loan processing velocity, serving existing customers, and for collections and other proactive notifications. Because text messages are read 96% of the time and are read within a few minutes, messaging is an invaluable way for financial institutions to communicate critical information and be better engaged with their customers.Every client we have is trying to grow their business and expand relationships with their customers. Whether that means attracting new members to a credit union or helping consumers select the right product, companies want to make the experience as convenient and frictionless as possible. Messaging is how it’s done!How can the Sales and Customer Support team better drive Digital Transformation using “Calls-to-Text” features?People often don’t want to make a phone call, but they feel that it’s the only way to get personal help right away. Because messaging is emerging, callers may not always be aware that texting with a brand is an option. Offering the option to text from within the IVR is a great way to promote the messaging option. For example, if you call a company and there is hold time, how cool would it be if you could get off the phone and text the company instead of waiting on hold? Since an agent can handle 5-10 messaging conversations at the same time, converting calls to messaging has a very significant ROI for companies.What brands are using your technology and how has it transformed their relationships with customers?Some of the brands using our messaging platform include Overstock, Pier 1, Men’s Wearhouse, Office Depot, Bissell, Brinks Home Security, Club Med, Jackson Hole Resort, and Thumbtack.Whether these brands are talking to shoppers, customers, travelers or members, messaging has transformed their engagement. Customers love the convenience and ease of messaging because it fits into their busy lives, allowing the customer to drive the communication and the pace of the conversation.We’ve repeatedly seen companies whose agents have worked on other channels receive much higher customer satisfaction scores when serving customers over messaging. Since it was the same agents who were giving the same answers, we know that it’s the messaging channel that is making the difference!Tell us about your technology integrations with other Marketing Technology platforms such as Contacts, Social Media, Automation, Contracts, Email, and Customer Service.Our list of standard integrations is long, including Salesforce, Zendesk, Oracle and Shopify. In addition, we have a state-of-the-art integration framework that makes it easy to trigger messages from other systems and to publish messaging conversation data into internal customer data master systems and reporting systems.In addition, our bot framework makes it easy for bots written in any conversation dialog tool to participate in a conversation in Quiq.Which Marketing and Sales Automation tools and technologies do you currently use?We currently use Marketo, Salesforce, and internally.What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in Customer Engagement technology for 2019-2020?Messaging is at the early stages of adoption and many of the brands that have adopted it have only scratched the surface of what is possible. The potential of messaging is so much more than just sending and receiving text messages.Conversational commerce and rich messages will change the way people shop and interact with a brand. Using rich messages, brands can send product cards and carousels, and purchases can be completed just by clicking on a message blurb – no credit card entry needed. Buying something through a message is the easiest way to complete a transaction!In the upcoming year, brands will feel pressure to adopt messaging on two fronts. First, consumer demand for messaging will increase as customers begin to expect to be able to message with all their favorite brands. Second. the focus of Apple, Google, and Facebook on business-to-consumer messaging is going to create awareness in the C-suite of large brands as the tech titans promote their business messaging capabilities. The savvy marketer needs to prepare now to be able to respond to both their customer’s and management’s messaging focus.What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now? At the moment, the most interesting thing to me is not startups, but it’s the messaging teams at Apple, Google, and Facebook. They are rapidly innovating on their messaging platforms, just like a start-up would. The possibilities of what is possible in a messaging conversation are rapidly advancing. For instance, Augmented Reality in messaging. A customer can text a picture of their room to a company and get back a special AR message that shows a piece of furniture that the customer is considering placed in the room. The customer can drag the furniture around in the room to see what their new decor will look like. This exists today!How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a Business Leader?I’m excited to be helping to lead business transformation with AI. But I’m also realistic about what can be accomplished in the near term using AI. Certain categories of interactions between companies and their customers can be automated with conversational AI now, such as order status or returns/exchanges. But current generation AI is not ready to replace humans for issues that require a question/answer dialog to understand the issue and then reasoning to reach an answer.We have brands using conversational bots today to gather input, verify the information and perform directed dialogs (e.g. identity verification). The Quiq platform is open, allowing our clients to use whatever bot platform they wish to build conversational dialogs even combining bots from multiple vendors seamlessly with human agents.How do you inspire your people to work with technology? At our very core, we’re a tech company, so tech is part of our DNA. No inspiration needed!One word that best describes how you work. Persistence.What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? My iPhone and the Apple Messages App (we are a messaging company!)What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack? Prioritize! Know what needs to be done now and what can be done later. Maintain a task list to organize the things to be done later.What are you currently reading?I don’t have big blocks of time so I tend to prefer to consume things that come in bite-size pieces – more blog and online content than books. I read the WSJ religiously to get an unbiased view of what’s happening.What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Manage both up and down.Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?Persistence (again)Tag the one person (or more) in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read: Rob Locasio, CEO LivePerson.  We compete with them all the time.Thank you, Mike! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon. MarTech Interview with Mike Myer, Founder and CEO at Quiq Sudipto GhoshJune 24, 2019, 1:30 pmJuly 23, 2019 AIinterviewsMarTech InterviewQuiqSaas Previous ArticleMarTech Interview with Vrahram Kadkhodaian, CEO at PROLIFIQNext ArticleThe Benefits of Empowering Agents to Go Omni-Digitallast_img read more

First modeling system developed for testing agespecific human immune responses to vaccines

first_imgReviewed by Alina Shrourou, B.Sc. (Editor)Nov 20 2018A team of scientists at Boston Children’s Hospital has developed the first modeling system for testing age-specific human immune responses to vaccines — outside the body. The practical, cost-effective new platform, using all human components, is expected to accelerate and de-risk the development, assessment and selection of vaccines.In a study published today in Frontiers in Immunology, a team from Boston Children’s Precision Vaccines Program, directed by Ofer Levy, MD, Ph.D., describes a three-dimensional human tissue culture construct that is able to reproduce immune responses of different populations and age groups in a laboratory setting. The platform is designed to enable researchers to test, evaluate and select human vaccine candidates for age-specific target populations, such as newborns and the elderly, before initiating costly human or animal trials.”By allowing us to select specific formulations based on individual characteristics, we can save time and money in the development of new, more effective vaccines,” says Levy, a physician-scientist in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Boston Children’s. “We believe this system could disrupt and galvanize the entire field of vaccinology and ultimately save lives.”New approach to an old problemImmunization is one of modern medicine’s greatest success stories. Yet we still lack vaccines for common diseases, such as HIV and respiratory syncytial virus — the number one cause of infant hospitalization in the United States — while other vaccines, such as those against tuberculosis or pertussis, are only moderately effective. Moreover, the average vaccine can take a decade or more to develop, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. The biggest stumbling block occurs late in development: Vaccines that worked flawlessly in mice regularly fail in clinical trials. Because of the high costs, many companies are reluctant to enter into vaccine development, despite the overwhelming need.”It’s simply not possible to conduct large-scale, phase 3, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies of every potential vaccine for every pathogen we want to protect against,” says Levy. “We need a way to rapidly assess the candidates earlier in the process.”In 2010, Levy and his colleague Guzman Sanchez-Schmitz, MSc, Ph.D. received a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to create an in vitro model of the human immune system to test vaccines. It was a “man on the moon” effort, says Levy. The team set out to create a system that would not only faithfully replicate human biology but would also enable the study of targeted age groups.”We were radically committed to being age-specific in our approach,” said Levy. “Vaccines work differently in kids, and yet they are the group that needs the most protection.”Infants and the elderly are most at risk from infection, suggesting broad age-based differences in immunity. And while infants receive the most vaccinations, many vaccines don’t provide sufficient protection initially, requiring multiple boosters to confer full immunity.Personalized modeling of immune responsesThe team designed the construct to replicate a human capillary vein and interstitium — the fluid-filled spaces that line the circulatory system. It consists of a layer of endothelial cells, which typically line blood vessels, grown over a three-dimensional network of human proteins. To model the immune system of a newborn or an adult study participant, the researchers apply the participant’s plasma and immune cells known as monocytes to the surface of the construct.Related StoriesGeorgia State researcher wins $3.26 million federal grant to develop universal flu vaccineMore effective flu vaccine begins clinical trials across the U.S.Scripps CHAVD wins $129 million NIH grant to advance new HIV vaccine approachThe monocytes naturally migrate down through the endothelium into the human proteins below. During this process, many differentiate to dendritic cells, immune cells that initiate specific immune responses from T cells. After two days, these dendritic cells rise back through the endothelial layer, just as in the body they would pass through the walls of lymphatic capillaries en route to the lymph nodes.When effective vaccines are added to this system, the emerging dendritic cells pick up the vaccine antigens. These cells are then harvested and cultured with T cells to gauge immune response to the vaccine.”We relied on only human components, ensuring that the only thing that is not human-derived is the vaccine,” said Sanchez-Schmitz, first author on the paper. “That’s what makes this platform powerful. You can detect small amounts of foreign material in a way that other systems cannot, because you lower the threshold of background noise. Just as nature intended it.”The team successfully validated the system using two common, licensed neonatal vaccines: Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), a live-attenuated bacterium widely used to immunize against child tuberculosis, and hepatitis B vaccine (HBV), containing inactivated fragments of the pathogen coupled with alum, added to boost immune response to the vaccine. “We started with vaccines that are recommended by the World Health Organization and given to newborns in resource-poor settings,” says Levy. “If we were going to model responses by age, it made sense to choose vaccines that are given to newborns, such as BCG and HBV.”The system will also enable researchers to model the immune systems of other vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women, the elderly or the chronically ill, and open the door to testing individual responses.”This construct is highly versatile. It can be newborn, if you use newborn cells and plasma. It can be your own cells and plasma. That’s how personalized this system can be,” says Sanchez-Schmitz.The system marks a major advancement for Boston Children’s Precision Vaccines Program, which was founded to bring precision medicine principles to vaccinology and catalyze collaboration between academia, government and industry, with the goal of accelerating vaccine development for vulnerable populations.”Our in vitro systems are part of a larger precision vaccines paradigm that also includes special adjuvant systems to boost immune responses in distinct populations, targeted clinical trials, systems biology and animal modeling,” says Levy. “This is an opportunity to bring molecular biology and innovative immunology to human settings, and to do science that not only is sophisticated, but has a real chance in the near term to enhance human health.” Source: read more

Graphic warning labels cancel out cigarettes appeal to young people

first_imgReviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Dec 10 2018New research from Cornell University suggests graphic warning labels on cigarette ads have the same anti-smoking effect as similar warning labels on cigarette packs.The labels – which contain images such as bleeding, cancerous gums and lips – also cancel out the effect of ads that prompt children to think of smoking as cool, rebellious and fun, according to the research.”This study suggests the value of graphic warning labels extends beyond just getting people to have more negative feeling about smoking,” said lead author Jeff Niederdeppe, associate professor of communication, who wrote the paper with a team of Cornell-affiliated researchers. “It also seems to have the added benefit of reducing the influence of ‘social cue’ ads that entice young people to want to smoke in the first place.”The paper, “Using Graphic Warning Labels to Counter Effects of Social Cues and Brand Imagery in Cigarette Advertising,” was published in Health Education Research.Researchers studied the graphic warning labels’ effect on 451 adult smokers and 474 middle schoolers in rural and urban low-income communities in the Northeast. Each participant was randomly assigned a set of six ads. Some saw ads with social cues – such as a group of smiling people taking a selfie with a graphic warning label covering 20 percent of the ad. Other groups saw ads with various combinations of text-only warnings, graphic warnings, the current surgeon general warning, brand imagery and social cues.Using Cornell’s mobile media lab, researchers tracked study participants’ eyes to measure what parts of the ad they looked at and for how long. After viewing the ads, participants reported the degree to which they felt negative emotions, including anger, fear and sadness. The graphic warning label drew viewers’ attention away from ads and toward the warning, regardless of whether the warning was graphic or text only, more than the current surgeon general warning.Related StoriesRepurposing a heart drug could increase survival rate of children with ependymomaResearch sheds light on sun-induced DNA damage and repairGuidelines to help children develop healthy habits early in lifeThe graphic warning labels also aroused more negative feelings than the text-only labels and reduced the children’s perceptions that cigarette brands are attractive and exciting.”That’s important, because there’s pretty good evidence that the visceral reactions to these warnings are a main driver of their effectiveness,” Niederdeppe said. “These ads are trying to create a positive brand image, and the graphic warning labels help suppress that.”The study also found participants felt the same levels of negative emotion whether they looked at a graphic warning label covering 20 percent of a full page ad or 50 percent of a much smaller cigarette pack.”We were pleasantly surprised that the levels of negative emotion were equivalent between those two conditions,” Niederdeppe said. “It suggests that 20 percent coverage on an advertisement is a high enough threshold to create the negative emotion.”The Food and Drug Administration, which funded the study through its Center for Tobacco Products, will consult this research as it considers revising the current surgeon general warnings – text-only warnings that have not been changed in nearly 40 years. Source: read more

Understanding imbalance in key neural pathway to help treat psychiatric disorders

first_imgReviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Apr 10 2019Researchers at the University of California, Irvine have identified for the first time an imbalance in a key neural pathway that explains how some people reactivate negative emotional memories. The finding could help scientists unlock new ways to treat psychiatric disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder.The study, “Multiplexing of Theta and Alpha Rhythms in the Amygdala-Hippocampal Circuit Supports Pattern Separation of Emotional Information,” is published today in the journal Neuron.For decades, scientists have viewed emotional memory as a double-edged sword: while the entire emotional event is highly memorable, details of the event are often fuzzy. This lack of detailed recollection may lead to faulty reactivation of negative memories. For example, if someone is bitten by a dog, he or she may become anxious around dogs of all breeds and sizes. Understanding the nature of emotional memory could have implications for the treatment of PTSD and other mental disorders.”Emotion exerts a powerful influence on how vividly we can remember experiences,” said co-senior author Michael Yassa, professor of neurobiology & behavior, UCI School of Biological Sciences; professor of neurology and psychiatry, UCI School of Medicine; and director of UCI’s Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory. “However, studies in humans have shown that the impact of emotion on memory is not always positive. In many cases, emotional arousal can impair a person’ ability to differentiate among similar experiences.”This neural computation is critical for episodic memory and is vulnerable in neuropsychiatric disorders, Yassa said.According to this new study from UCI, an imbalanced communication between the brain’s emotional center, the amygdala, and its memory hub, the hippocampus, may lead to the failure to differentiate negative experiences that have overlapping features. On the other hand, a balanced dialogue between the amygdala and the hippocampus allows one to separate overlapping emotional experiences and make distinct memories.Related StoriesTransobturator sling surgery shows promise for stress urinary incontinenceOxidative stress could play key role in the spreading of aberrant proteins in Parkinson’s diseaseNeural pathways explain the relationship between imagination and willingness to helpFurther, two types of brain rhythms – a faster (8 cycles per second) alpha oscillation and a slower (4 cycles per second) theta rhythm – diametrically regulate communications between the amygdala and the hippocampus. Overamplified alpha rhythms from the amygdala to the hippocampus lead to faulty extrapolation of memories among similar experiences while balanced theta rhythms between the two brain regions promote correct discrimination and accurate recall.”The teamwork between the amygdala and hippocampus is like a yin and yang and may be the key to disentangle overlapping emotional experiences and to overcome overreactions in a similar situation,” said Jie Zheng, a UCI alumnus and the study’s first author.”Our findings provide a neural mechanism underlying this phenomenon and propose a circuit-level framework for possible neuropsychiatric therapy, such as deep brain stimulation, transcranial alternating current stimulation, and transcranial magnetic stimulation,” said Dr. Jack J. Lin, co-senior author and professor of neurology, UCI School of Medicine, and professor of biomedical engineering, UCI Henry Samueli School of Engineering.Measurements were collected from electrodes implanted by UCI Health neurosurgeons in seven patients with medication-resistant epilepsy as part of an assessment of their seizure activity. Electrode placement was guided exclusively by these patients’ clinical needs, Lin said. Source: read more

Capacitorbased architecture for AI hardware accelerators

first_img Figure 6. Simulated test error of MNIST data set, assuming weights decay continuously with different RC time constant τ, 200ns training cycle length. Credit: IBM Figure 4. Parallel weight update on a 2×2 array. Credit: IBM Figure 7. Simulated structure for convolutional neural network. Credit: IBM We estimate the scalability of this capacitor-based array as a function of leakage for both fully connected and convolutional neural networks (Figure 9). Circle data points shows that the capacitor linearly scales with pass transistor leakage. Square data points show that when the leakage is large, the cell area is dominated by the capacitors; when the leakage current is small, the area will be dominated by FETs in the cell. For DRAM technology with leakage of 1 fA/cell requires capacitor < 1fF/cell for fully connected neural network and ~ 100 fF/cell for CNN. The scalability to larger input and more layers needs further study. Even though it may need larger capacitor when the input gets larger, our preliminary results (to be published) show that network/algorithm optimization could reduce capacitor requirement.IBM is now working on novel ideal memory with optimized analog behavior. These capacitors will allow analog AI core to be implemented on an accelerated schedule, since the technology and process are available. Figure 9. Scalability of this capacitor-based array as a function of leakage for both fully connected and convolutional neural networks. Credit: IBM In analog neural networks (NN), non-volatile memory (NVM) based cross-point arrays have achieved promising results for inference tasks. However, training NNs to high accuracy is difficult for NVM devices, since successful training depends on keeping the incremental changes in NN weight small (requiring roughly 1,000 update states) and symmetric (so that positive and negative updates balance on average). Such issues can be addressed by using capacitors. Since charge can be added or subtracted continuously if the number of electrons is high, analog and symmetric weight update can be achieved. We presented a capacitor-based cross-point array for analog neural networks at the 2018 VLSI Technology Symposium. The new architecture achieved record symmetry and linearity for weight update.Figure 1 shows the unit cell schematic of a capacitor-based cross-point array. The key component is the capacitor which is connected to a readout field effect transistor (FET). The charge on the capacitor represents the synaptic weight and the capacitor is charged and discharged with two current source FETs. Figure 2 shows the measured change in the conductance of the readout FET of a single cell, and corresponding capacitor voltage respectively, by applying ten cycles of 400 positive updates followed by 400 negative updates. Figure 3 compares the experimental non-linearity-update factors for our capacitor based analog synapse against other NVM technologies. The capacitor-based unit cell provides the best symmetry and linearity demonstrated to date. Figure 4 demonstrates parallel weight update on a 2×2 array. In addition to our capacitor approach, IBM is exploring other novel elements for analog memory and computation such as phase change memory (PCM) and resistive RAM (RRAM). These elements vary in term of cell areas, retention, symmetry, and maturity. Analog accelerators are one component of IBM Research AI's pipeline of AI hardware accelerators. The pipeline starts with getting the most from existing GPU accelerators, followed by innovative digital AI cores exploiting approximate computing. Explore further Even though capacitors are volatile, the leakage could be compensated during weight update. Since training repeatedly goes through forward, backward and weight update cycles, weights after decay in previous cycle are used in training for next cycle and get updated. Therefore, no intentional refresh cycles are needed. We tested the effect of retention time on training, using a fully-connected network. It has one input layer, two hidden layers, and one output layer (Figure 5) and was trained on the MNIST dataset by stochastic gradient descent and backpropagation. Assuming the training cycle length per layer (forward+backward+update) is 200 ns and synaptic weight decays with RC time constant τ, we found that penalty in training accuracy due to capacitor charge-loss becomes negligible when τ > 106 × the training cycle length (Figure 6). We also tested the retention time requirement for a convolutional network. Our test network has two convolutional layers with two pooling layer and two fully connected layers (Figure 7). Due to the weight sharing (reuse) in convolutional layers, the retention requirements for a convolutional neural network (CNN) are about 600 larger (Figure 8). Figure 4. Parallel weight update on a 2×2 array. Credit: IBM Figure 1. Unit cell schematic of a capacitor-based cross-point array. Credit: IBM Provided by IBMcenter_img Figure 5. Simulated structure for fully connected neural network. Credit: IBM The future of AI needs hardware accelerators based on analog memory devices Figure 9. Scalability of this capacitor-based array as a function of leakage for both fully connected and convolutional neural networks. Credit: IBM Figure 2. (a) Experimental results for updating single-cell with 8000 pulses. (b) Corresponding capacitor voltage change. Pulse width 50 ns, period: 500 ns. Credit: IBM IBM is reaching beyond digital technologies with a capacitor-based cross-point array for analog neural networks, exhibiting potential orders of magnitude improvements in deep learning computations. Analog computing architectures exploit the storage capability and physical attributes of certain memory devices not just to store information, but also to perform computations. This has the potential to greatly reduce the time and energy required by computers because data doesn’t need to be shuttled between the memory and processor. The drawback could be a reduction in computational accuracy, but for systems that do not require high accuracy, it is the right trade-off. Figure 8. Simulated retention time requirement for this capacitor-based array to train convolutional neural network. Credit: IBM More information: References:T. Gokmen, Front. Neurosci., vol. 10, 2016.G. W. Burr, IEDM, 2014.S. Kim, MWSCAS, 2017.T. Gokmen, Front. Neurosci., Oct. 2017.D. Chidambarrao, VLSI-TSA, 2003.P-Y. Chen, IEEE TCAD, 2018. Figure 3. Conductance non-linearity of this work compared with other NVM technologies. Credit: IBM Citation: Capacitor-based architecture for AI hardware accelerators (2018, July 10) retrieved 18 July 2019 from This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.last_img read more

Former The Hindu BusinessLine journalist Mony K Mathew passes awayFormer The Hindu

first_imgSHARE COMMENTS Senior financial journalist Mony K. Mathew, who retired as senior assistant editor at The Hindu BusinessLine, died of a heart attack here early Tuesday morning. He was 66.Mathew started his career as a trainee journalist at The Indian Express in Mumbai in the late 1970s and later moved to Hyderabad as senior sub-editor at the Express. He used to write on culture, cinema and sports before opting for financial journalism and moving to The Financial Express at Chennai.He was chief of bureau and later resident editor of The Financial Express, Chennai.He joined The Hindu BusinessLine at Thiruvananthapuram in 1995s where he excelled in reporting on public-sector undertakings, public finance and State budgets. After a long innings at Thiruvananthapuram, he moved to Kozhikode and retired from BusinessLine in 2012.Mathew is survived by wife Daisey Mony, who was an assistant registrar at Calicut University and sons Anish K. Mony (software engineer, Cognizant, Chennai) and Ajith K. Mony (electrical engineer, Daifuku India, Bengaluru) and daughter-in-law Dr. Shona Raju (KMCT Dental College, Kozhikode).The funeral will be held at St. Mary’s Church, Kohinoor, near the Thenjippalam campus of Calicut University, at 3 pm on Wednesday. August 07, 2018 COMMENT Published on SHARE SHARE EMAILlast_img read more