Mind out for mental health

first_imgMind out for mental healthOn 1 Jul 2001 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article A campaign to raise awareness of mental health problems aims to help stopdiscriminationThe Government has launched a campaign to raise awareness among employers ofdiscrimination against workers with mental health problems. The Department of Health’s Mind Out For Mental Health campaign isaccompanied by a document called Working Minds. The research, carried out bythe Industrial Society, is designed to show how people with mental healthproblems face discrimination in the workplace and what employers can do totackle it. Key findings include the fact that while some employers attempt to addressissues surrounding mental health problems for their staff, many more do not.Discrimination appears to be widespread. The issue is not just centred around recruitment of staff, but also hostilebehaviour towards those with mental health problems. Awareness of mental healthissues, appropriate language, symptoms and treatment is “disturbinglylow” among employers and employees, it found. There is also an absence of expert information, advice and help, andemployers and managers often lack the confidence to take action. The report recommends that employers need a specific mental health policy orto review their existing policies to integrate mental health better. Moretraining is needed on the awareness and understanding of discrimination aboutmental health. There should also be better access to expert help, advice, information andsupport, with Government, employers and unions needing to join forces. “There is a serious absence of expert information, advice or help foremployers and employees trying to address mental health problems at work,”it argues. There should also be a review of GPs and the role of other specialistservices in how they can support individuals and organisations, it recommends. A national standard framework for employers should be established and theGovernment should undertake more research into work opportunities,the reportconcludes. The report’s findings back previous research undertaken by mental healthcharity Mind which showed that 69 per cent of people with mental healthproblems had been put off applying for jobs for fear of unfair treatment. Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos.last_img read more

Bypassing the rental broker: Will agents get cut out as startups nip at market share?

first_img Share via Shortlink Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on LinkedinShare via Email Share via Shortlink (Illustration by Andrew Colin Beck)Being a New York City rental broker has always been a tough gig. But the job is getting even harder.It’s now been exactly one year since StreetEasy began charging a daily $3 fee to post a rental listing on its site — a move that hit brokers in the pocketbook at a time when margins were already thin.The fee — which does not seem to have dissuaded brokers from using the Zillow-owned site — is just one of several stressors that New York City rental brokers are facing.While Manhattan rental inventory actually dropped in May compared to the same time last year, it’s generally high and concessions for renters have been rampant. That’s not to mention the fact that landlords have been emboldened by new technology, allowing them to more easily advertise directly to renters.ADVERTISEMENTIn addition, startup websites like Naked Apartments, which Zillow bought for $13 million in 2016, Nestio, RentHop and Flip are all among those that smell opportunity in the long-opaque corner of the market.“It’s the perfect storm of disruption,” said Andrew Heiberger, who’s been vocal about the tight margins in the brokerage business since he stunned the industry and folded his firm, Town Residential, in April.And the pressures are not likely to ease up any time soon.Some predict that the sector will be drastically disrupted in the next five to 10 years, in ways that will only continue to marginalize brokers.In addition to landlords advertising directly to consumers, offerings like flexible leasing, furnished apartments, co-living and roommate matching — now in the early stages in New York — have the potential to collectively transform what it means to rent going forward.Clelia Peters, the President of Warburg Realty and a co-founder of the real estate tech venture capital firm MetaProp, said that in the under-$7,500-a-month range, there’s a serious question about how much value brokers will be able to add in the new landscape. That’s largely because renting an apartment at those lower price points has far more “limited life implications” than buying. Wealthier renters, she said, will always be more likely to hire a broker to do the legwork for them.“They’re facing pressures coming from a variety of places,” she said. “I don’t think the rental brokerage model will be protected anywhere but at the high end.”StreetEasy’s cut While the initial backlash to StreetEasy’s $3 rental fee was swift — the Corcoran Group and Citi Habitats said they would stop sending their feeds to StreetEasy —  many firms have covered the costs for their agents. (Even Realogy, the parent company of Corcoran and Citi Habitats, struck a multiyear deal with the site to cover the costs of posting rental and sales listings.)Nonetheless, many are still shelling out for the service themselves.While StreetEasy’s rental listings plummeted 55 percent to about 14,000 from nearly 31,000 shortly after the fee took effect, it has bounced back somewhat from that initial drop. As of last month, The Real Deal counted 19,000 listings on the site. “The reality is that StreetEasy, right now, is the biggest platform. As a broker, there’s no other choice,” said Keller Williams NYC’s Stan Broekhoven.Brokers, he said, are generally spending a few hundred dollars a month for listing fees. “You just calculate that in now,” said Broekhoven, adding that while he posts his rentals on StreetEasy, he now immediately removes a unit after it’s been rented.But while the industry has come to accept that new reality as the cost of doing business, it translates into less take-home pay for rental brokers, who are already hustling for every dollar and reeling in smaller commissions than their counterparts in the luxury sales space.As Mdrn.’s Zach Ehrlich noted, “it’s actually amazing how quickly it became an industry standard.”Direct dialWhile New York City renters have long publicly loathed having to pay brokers, landlords are increasingly catching on to the idea that they can go straight to renters.“It’s definitely a trend I see happening,” said Kobi Lahav, senior managing director at Mdrn. “They’re trying to … go directly to the client.”While it’s not a widespread practice just yet, more landlords are starting to list rental properties directly on consumer-facing websites. Or in some cases, they’re testing out these sites while simultaneously tapping brokers.Anna Krakowski, an operations manager at East Village Property Management, said her company has been using both brokers and direct listings as a way of casting the net wide.Posting units directly allows the company to appeal to renters looking to avoid brokers’ fees, she said, though she noted that the company still gets most clients through agents.“I’m not going to miss out on the opportunity; that’s what it comes down to,” Krakowski added. “The more exposure we get, the quicker we get these units off the market.”Last July, Nestio, which launched in 2011 as a platform to let New York City property owners manage and track their rental portfolios online, began offering custom websites for landlords to draw in potential renters without the help of StreetEasy or other third-party aggregators.Nestio CEO Caren Maio — whose firm has raised $11.9 million in venture money to date — told TRD last year that the impetus for creating a consumer-facing product for landlords was the discovery that more than half the traffic to their websites was occurring after hours, when leasing offices are closed.“As a landlord, management company or broker with exclusives, it gives you the ability to more effectively brand yourself and capture a consumer directly,” Maio said at the time.Last month, she told TRD that in less than a year Nestio has on-boarded almost 100 websites for landlords, including sites for two of Forest City New York’s Brooklyn rentals, DKLB BKLN and 38 Sixth Avenue. With pressure on margins, brokerages have had to be more strategic about investing resources and measuring results, Maio said. Many have been adopting new tech tools as a way to attract and retain agents. They’re also bringing on more experienced brokers to stay competitive, she said. “Is it harder than it was two, three, four years ago? Sure,” Maio said of being a broker. “The seeds have been planted for many years.”Meanwhile, other startups are targeting smaller niches of the market — like roommate matching, co-living and subletting.Roommate-matching startups, Peters said, could easily work directly with landlords and bypass brokers.One company, Roomeze, which raised $2 million in seed funding in May and is operating in Brooklyn, charges a flat $200 to connect potential roommates and provide support services to them in connection with their rental.Meanwhile, RentHop uses an algorithm dubbed a HopScore to sort listings by quality — weeding out listings without photos or with unresponsive landlords — rather than solely by factors like price and posting date. And Joinery, which deems the rental broker “a much-reviled relic from a bygone era,” connects outgoing tenants with prospective incoming ones. When a lease is signed, the new tenant pays the old one a fee that is “typically two-thirds less than a standard broker fee.” The departing tenant gets a 5 percent fee, and Joinery receives a smaller one.Other companies are banking on the fact that the traditional one-year agreement will soon be a thing of the past.One of them is Flip, which serves as a marketplace for subletting, allowing users to find tenants to take over their leases or sublet the unit. And Leasebreak, which has been around for five-plus years, has a similar concept.   Peters — whose firm MetaProp announced a $40 million fund last month to back startups — said she is expecting a shift away from yearlong leases.Citi Habitats President Gary Malin acknowledged that technology is changing the playing field, but said “we are first and foremost in a hospitality-based business.”He said forming relationships with rental clients feeds future business. “Citi Habitats isn’t a rental company,” he said. “We’re a dynamic residential brokerage company.”Brokers argue that their value lies in deciphering the complicated market and guiding renters through logistics.Bond’s Douglas Wagner cited a young lawyer — who had just joined a firm and was making a starting salary of $180,000 — as a case in point. The client first searched for a no-fee apartment but ran into hurdles with the income and work-history requirements.“There were all these little nuances to making a deal with that landlord that kind of shut him out,” Wagner said.Still, he conceded that “most consumers don’t want to have a middleman” and “want to be able to self-serve.”Sweet or sourWhile the rental business may be in flux for brokers right now, for renters it’s undeniably sweet.In April, concessions in Manhattan rose to the third-highest percentage in the past seven and a half years. The share of new leases with concessions climbed to 44.3 percent, up from 28.6 percent the same time last year, according to a Douglas Elliman market report. The median rent in Manhattan rose in May, after five straight months of declines, but the data was skewed by increased demand, fueled by the soft sales market, for larger apartments.The trend isn’t new. Last year, the Moinian Group’s Sky complex was offering two to three months of free rent on new leases. The Durst Organization offered the same, as well as covering broker fees, at Via 57 West. The building is currently offering one month free, according to its website.The outer boroughs haven’t been immune, either.Brooklyn incentives cracked the 50 percent mark for the first time in April, while 65.1 percent of new deals in Northwest Queens included concessions.In May, Manhattan rental units were sitting on the market for an average of 29 days. While that’s down significantly from 44 days in May 2017, brokers’ fees have been eroding over time.Over the past few years, a fee of one month’s rent — or a little over 8 percent — has become increasingly standard. That’s down from the historic 12 or 15 percent, said Heiberger, who founded Citi Habitats and sold it to Realogy in 2004.Given how much rents have risen over time, a one-month fee today is much higher than it was a decade or two ago. But it’s still a smaller percentage from the past and “seems here to stay,” he said.Bond’s Wagner said his firm has been beefing up new systems to adapt, including basic things such as consolidating listings onto its website and allowing some things to be done online instead of in the office. But it may be an uphill battle.“I don’t think there will be a vibrant rental brokerage business in New York in the next five to 10 years,” Peters said. “I would be very nervous if I owned Citi Habitats right now.”last_img read more

Revealed: the “hidden casualisation” of University staff

first_imgThey said: “At the end of my one-year contract, it was renewed – something that was due to my employer’s generosity, who knew that I couldn’t finish my PhD otherwise, because I wouldn’t have had enough money.”They added: “These people are the most academically qualified, yet they can’t afford to rent one room in one house.“I’ve seen people have to pack up boxes and walk out because they can’t afford to pay rent – they’ve had to give up on PhDs halfway through.”Neither does security seem to improve with age or experience. According to one academic, it is normal for academics not to obtain a permanent post until the age of 35, which is “insane in any other business”. He recalled a lecturer who had a series of five prestigious lectureships at a single college. However, once her contract expired she was left unemployed with no protection or provision.However, despite the promise of overwork and little pay, competition for contracts remains fierce, with one academic suggesting that 200 applicants for a single Junior Research Fellowship was not unusual.He continued: “My job won’t exist in June – there won’t be another Graduate Teaching Assistant. I’m going to have to apply for my own job, and we’ll see if I get it. But they can’t just keep me on forever – they are not allowed to.“I’ll apply for upwards of 20 jobs, and I might get one – even though I should be top of the pile, I have a lot of experience in teaching, I’ve been in the Oxford system, I’ve got a book contract with a well-known publisher.”Successful applications also frequently rely on references from current employers, meaning that employers will become aware as soon as academics begin looking for new posts.Speaking to Cherwell, one researcher said: “This also puts us in a very difficult position. A position where regardless of how badly you are treated, you still have to put up with that in order to make sure you get a half decent reference to secure another job.” In the April 2018 report, the University also promised that its quarterly review group would review those who had been on fixed term contracts for between 10-15 years.The report read: “We should expect through its questioning of contract intentions that some employees will be transferred from fixed-term to open-ended contacts.”However, Oxford UCU representative Patricia Thornton told Cherwell: “Open-ended contracts are not the same as permanent employment and do not necessarily confer job security, and the numbers of staff shifted to open-ended contracts did not represent a significant proportion of the total on insecure contracts in the end.”The percentage of academic and related staff moving from fixed-term contracts to open-ended contracts increased from 0.6% to 0.7% in the year to July 2017.There is no strict definition of a ‘precarious job’. The University Administration report only included percentages of those on fixed-term contracts as an indicator of precarity, while the HESA report also deemed ‘atypical’ jobs precarious.The 2016 HESA report recorded that 76.9% of Oxford University academic staff were in these ‘precarious’ jobs, in contrast to an average 50.9% for universities nationwide. The figure for Cambridge University was 64.8%.However, the precarity situation at Oxford and Cambridge is more serious than both the data collected by the University and HESA would suggest. As the data is based on statistics from the central University, college-only personnel, which include all college employees, Junior Research Fellows, and postdocs, are excluded from the findings.Cambridge UCU anti-casualisation officer, Sandra Cortijo told Cherwell that such “hidden casualisation” was endemic at both universities. She said that Oxford’s own higher precarity rating is indicative of the greater teaching co-ordination at Oxford between faculties and the central University, meaning that there are fewer college-only posts. “Most newly-minted academics that I know of— including my own DPhil students and recent graduates— can expect to spend up to a decade moving from fixed-term post to fixed-term post before landing a permanent job.”The number of fixed-term contracts available varies throughout the year, with posts often only open for a single term.One academic, who tutored at another college last Trinity to help with finals, said: “I was teaching 15-25 hours a week – at 15 hrs you start getting counselling because it is such mentally exhausting work, teaching.“In the end I got £1500 out of it and an exhaustion related illness.”Fixed-term contracts are notorious for their vagueness, and often it is up to the discretion of the employer what they will actually entail.One laboratory manager told Cherwell: “In some of our contracts it is stated that working hours are as many as necessary to perform the duties, which leads to abuse from some line managers regarding how many hours you work a week.“It is not uncommon to find people working 70+ hours a week as if they fail to do that, their short-term contracts won’t be renewed.”One academic spoke of experiences where jobs, despite being classified as ‘research’ posts, would actually involve teaching and supervision.One MPhil student revealed that he spent £6,000 a year on his degree despite only officially meeting his supervisor twice a year. In order to cover the costs, the same student was obliged to take on teaching posts at two different colleges, as well as tutoring A-Level students for six hours every Sunday. His monthly income is £800, and his rent costs are £625. However, Cortijo also added that some Cambridge colleges have tried to alter their model to assuage the prevalence of precarious jobs, in ways that Oxford has so far failed to emulate.She said: “A number of Cambridge colleges have moved away from fixed term College Lecturer posts in recent years, preferring permanent College Lectureships, whereas the direction of change may not have been the same in Oxford.“In Oxford, there is some evidence of tutorial teaching and other time-intensive contact with students being shifted away from permanent Tutorial Fellows and on to fixed-term early-career staff, or even graduate students.”While in Cambridge posts to cover for staff on paid research leave often “provide comparable work conditions to a permanent academic position”, despite being fixed-term according to Cortijo, Oxford’s equivalent positions fail to offer the same level of security.Cortijo added: “Oxford has in recent years advertised posts which involve — and pay — for only the specific teaching hours required, with no allowance for research time and no payment outside the teaching term.”Fixed-term contracts in Oxford vary enormously in duration. The majority of academics Cherwell spoke to were on three-year contracts, but some had contracts as short as one to six months.A current associate professor told Cherwell: “At the time that I received my doctorate, temporary positions were still relatively rare: the norm was that newly minted doctoral degree holders either applied for and received post-doctoral research positions for a year or two, or slipped right into permanent, tenure-track positions.“In my case, I succeeded in landing a post-doctoral research position for one year, and then moved right into a tenure-track position. However, within ten years of that, I discovered that the new norm had become not just one fixed-term contract following the conferral of degree, but several.center_img One academic also believed that attitudes to recruitment had changed in the university in recent years.They said: “There is no recognition of loyalty at this University. In any other profession – business, medicine, law – the biggest thing you can give to an employer is loyalty, and you are rewarded for showing that loyalty.“Here, loyalty is seen as the worst thing, a kind of waste product. They now value those who have taught somewhere else, they value experience from outside of Oxford.”Hiring in Oxford is still a highly opaque process however, with many positions still being awarded without being openly advertised.“I got a job at a college through knowing people. One of the professors was on leave for this term, and I got a call over the summer from a candidate who asked me if I wanted the job, without an interview, and without an application.“By the time the college had conducted an interview process, which would have cost them time and effort, they would have ended up selecting someone just because they ticked a few boxes.”The stress of continually looking for jobs in order to survive in one of the UK’s most expensive cities, has been suggested to have repercussions not only for academic staff’s own mental health, but also the quality of their teaching.One academic sighed: “It’s kind of ironic because you hear about mental stress from students on an undergraduate level, and you are supposed to be giving sympathy.“But you go home and you are single, underpaid, overstressed and fucked off about everything.”Although the Oxford UCU have made raising awareness of job precarity one of their key campaigns, academics complain that raising issues with the University is futile. Strikes, one academic admitted, “make absolutely no effect on anything at all”.The researcher said: “I haven’t complained about this as it is kind of our understanding that is how the university operates. I don’t think that it is a fair system but not sure what can we do to change it.“As many other things in this university, including bullying, equality and other policies, we feel that is a bit of façade to make the university appear as a wonderful employer but the reality is very different.“When we raise complains about any matter, we are quickly shut down, ignored or even mistreated. And as we are in a fragile employment situation we just have to shut up and carry on, otherwise we won’t be able to secure employment.”They said the University should be “making sure that these contracts are not legal”, and offering alternatives to HR for staff to report their concerns.Oxford UCU rep, Patricia Thornton told Cherwell: “The entire phenomenon is profoundly detrimental to what a university is and ought to be. It literally renders the notion of academic freedom irrelevant, as no one on a fixed-term contract can be guaranteed to be able to exercise their right to conduct and disseminate resource.“If the new norm across the University becomes precarious employment in academe, then the University will have failed to observe both the 1997 UNESCO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel, which charges universities with the responsibility of ensuring effective support of academic freedom.“We are not quite to that point yet, thankfully; but, personally, as time goes by, I’m getting more and more uneasy about how closely we are skirting that line in academic research.” Oxford University have failed to implement reforms to decrease the number of staff in ‘precarious’ jobs, despite the Higher Education Statistical Association reporting in 2016 that jobs at the University are the most insecure in the Russell Group.An internal report by the University Administration and Services distributed to Oxford UCU members showed that 87% of research staff held fixed-term contracts in July 2017, marking a 5-year high.55.3% of all academic staff above ‘Grade 6’, an Oxford job classification which includes all those who can act as supervisors, held a fixed-term contract in July 2017, compared to 54.6% in 2016.The percentage of academic and related staff moving from fixed-term to permanent contracts also dropped from 1.8% to 1.5% in the year to July 2017.The report was based on headcount rather than per contract as seen in the HESA study, in recognition that many staff members hold more than one fixed-term contract.A spokesperson for the University told Cherwell: “We recognise that the majority of our early career researchers are on fixed-term contracts and we take very seriously the need to do more to support them.“Our recently published Strategic Plan for 2018-2023 commits to enhancing the opportunities and support for early career researchers and we have established an Early Career Researcher Development Forum to find ways of improving their position, including doing more to build their skill sets and offer career support.“We would also note that these figures reflect Oxford being such a research-intensive university, because the way research is funded leads to this type of contract. The figure also includes a graduate students undertaking part-time teaching and this flexibility suits them because they can balance it with their studies.”last_img read more

2016: WHAT TO EXPECT

first_imgRaging Moderate by Will DurstIt’s hard to believe, but we’re on the brink of another presidential election year. Let us pray. Every quadrennial, the American political process plays out as a big-top carnival sideshow featuring moral contortionists, ethical geeks and fat sweaty white guys teetering on slack media wires.Fortunately, we Americans have become as resilient to this format as fourth-generation cockroaches are to watered-down insecticide. To show how familiar, we here at Durstco have compiled a political forecast of what to expect over the coming year. Clip and save. All dates are approximate. Your mileage may differ.FEBRUARY 1, 2016: The results of the Iowa Caucuses are dismissed by non-winning candidates as an irrational political stunt, much like a game of musical chairs without the music. And no chairs.FEBRUARY 9, 2016: Some type of victory in the New Hampshire primary, moral or otherwise, is claimed by no fewer than seven candidates.MARCH 1, 2016: Super Tuesday. So called for the quantity of primaries, not the quality.MARCH 11, 2016: A rumor about a low-polling politico having an affair with an aide is revealed to be a last-ditch cynical attempt to humanize him.MARCH 20, 2016: A flag factory in New Jersey bans all photo-ops by Presidential aspirants in an attempt to get some work done.APRIL 16, 2016: Ronald Reagan is reported to be in a Swiss spa getting transfusions of Keith Richards’ blood. “Draft Reagan” groups spring up in thirty-seven states.APRIL 29, 2016: A New York Times poll says 40 percent of the American public sees a need for a third party.APRIL 30, 2016: Ben Carson announces he will run as a third party candidate.APRIL 31, 2016: A USA Today poll says 43 percent of the American public sees a need for a fourth party.JULY 18, 2016: In Cleveland, the Republican National Convention outlines a platform that proposes hunting the homeless for food.JULY 22, 2016: After the Republican National Convention, the conservative wing accuses the nominee of selling out the party. Cleveland cab drivers express disgust.JULY 25, 2016: In Philadelphia, the Democrats float a platform that endorses good and condemns bad.JULY 26, 2016: Due to pressure from large donors, the platform is watered down.JULY 30, 2016: After the Democratic National Convention, the liberal wing accuses the nominee of selling out the party. Philadelphia Uber drivers express dismay.AUGUST, 2016: Absolutely nothing happens in August and it is reported upon at great length.OCTOBER 4, 2016: The Vice Presidential debate is beaten in the ratings by a Weather Channel special on topsoil. Two days later, the DEA rules it illegal to stream a recording of it while driving.OCTOBER 19, 2016: No Presidential candidate personally appears at the final debate. Instead, spin-doctors give detailed answers as to how the candidates would have responded if particular questions were asked in a certain way.NOVEMBER 8, 2016: In a concerted effort not to encourage these hypocritical tools, the public stays away from the polls in record numbers.NOVEMBER 9, 2016: The losing party’s Vice Presidential nominee calls the election an aberration and fires an opening shot kicking off the 2020 campaign. The collective national groan registers a 4.2 on the Richter scale.FacebookTwitterCopy LinkEmailSharelast_img read more

Video of Buoy Washing Ashore in O.C. Amid Big Nor’easter

first_imgLibby Liess passed along this video (above) of a navigational buoy beaching in Ocean City at 41st Street during the height of a massive nor’easter on Jan. 23 (2016). The video was shot from 38th Street.Karl Wirth submitted the photo (below) that shows flooding stretching from the bay to Asbury Avenue along Third Street.The two images show the power of the storm that hit Ocean City over the weekend and caused the worst flooding since Superstorm Sandy. This image was shot from roof of Ocean Court at 300 0cean Ave avenue at 8:45 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 24, a half hour after the weakest of three successive exceptionally high tides. Credit Karl Wirth.last_img read more

Dangerous heat

first_imgNew research from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) suggests that seemingly small changes in summer temperature swings — as little as 1°C more than usual — may shorten life expectancy for elderly people with chronic medical conditions, and could result in thousands of additional deaths each year. While previous studies have focused on the short-term effects of heat waves, this is the first study to examine the longer-term effects of climate change on life expectancy.The study was published online April 9 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.“The effect of temperature patterns on long-term mortality has not been clear to this point. We found that, independent of heat waves, high day-to-day variability in summer temperatures shortens life expectancy,” said Antonella Zanobetti, senior research scientist in HSPH’s Department of Environmental Health and lead author of the study. “This variability can be harmful for susceptible people.”In recent years, scientists have predicted that climate change will not only increase overall world temperatures but will also increase summer temperature variability, particularly in mid-latitude regions such as the mid-Atlantic states of the United States and sections of countries such as France, Spain, and Italy. These more volatile temperature swings could pose a major public health problem, the authors note.Previous studies have confirmed the association between heat waves and higher death rates. But this new research goes a step further. Although heat waves can kill in the short term, the authors say, even minor temperature variations caused by climate change may also increase death rates over time among elderly people with diabetes, heart failure, chronic lung disease, or those who have survived a previous heart attack.The researchers used Medicare data from 1985 to 2006 to follow the long-term health of 3.7 million chronically ill people over age 65 living in 135 U.S. cities. They evaluated whether mortality among these people was related to variability in summer temperature, allowing for other things that might influence the comparison, such as individual risk factors, winter temperature variance, and ozone levels. They compiled results for individual cities, then pooled the results.Within each city, years when the summer temperature swings were larger had higher death rates than years with smaller swings. Each 1°C increase in summer temperature variability increased the death rate for elderly with chronic conditions between 2.8 percent and 4 percent, depending on the condition. Mortality risk increased 4 percent for those with diabetes; 3.8 percent for those who’d had a previous heart attack; 3.7 percent for those with chronic lung disease; and 2.8 percent for those with heart failure. Based on these increases in mortality risk, the researchers estimate that greater summer temperature variability in the United States could result in more than 10,000 additional deaths per year.In addition, the researchers found the mortality risk was 1 percent to 2 percent greater for those living in poverty and for African Americans. The risk was 1 percent to 2 percent lower for people living in cities with more green space.Mortality risk was higher in hotter regions, the researchers found. Noting that physiological studies suggest that the elderly and those with chronic conditions have a harder time than others adjusting to extreme heat, they say it’s likely these groups may also be less resilient than others to bigger-than-usual temperature swings.“People adapt to the usual temperature in their city. That is why we don’t expect higher mortality rates in Miami than in Minneapolis, despite the higher temperatures,” said Joel Schwartz, professor of environmental epidemiology at HSPH and senior author of the paper. “But people do not adapt as well to increased fluctuations around the usual temperature. That finding, combined with the increasing age of the population, the increasing prevalence of chronic conditions such as diabetes, and possible increases in temperature fluctuations due to climate change, means that this public health problem is likely to grow in importance in the future.”Support for the study was provided by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.last_img read more

Spread the Word to End the Word’

first_imgNotre Dame students are pledging to “Spread the Word to End the Word” today to fight insensitivity toward those with disabilities as part of “End the R-Word Day.” “Spread the Word to End the Word [is] a campaign started by Soeren Palumbo, a 2011 graduate, and Timothy Shriver,” said Maureen Connelly, co-president of Special Olympics Notre Dame. “The ultimate focus of the campaign is to spread awareness and help people realize the hurtfulness of the derogatory use of the word ‘retarded’ and to encourage them not only to pledge to not use it, but to encourage other people to not use it as well.” This year marks the fifth “End the R-Word Day.” While Palumbo instituted the day at Notre Dame, the University is just one of hundreds of colleges and elementary, middle and high schools across the country participating in the campaign. Palumbo, a 2011 graduate of Notre Dame, founded Special Olympics Notre Dame his senior year with a group of students in an effort to increase engagement between students and disabled members of the community through athletics. Palumbo, who is pursuing a JD/MBA at the University of Pennsylvania, will be speaking at tomorrow’s “Spread the Word” rally at 7 p.m. in the Hesburgh Library’s Carey Auditorium. “I’ll be there to talk about where ‘Spread the Word’ came from, how did it start, how did it grow, what role did Notre Dame play in those two things, why is it important, where is it going [and] what is Notre Dame’s role in the future of the campaign,” Palumbo said. Students can commit to the cause by signing banners from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in both dining halls and LaFortune Student Center. Connelly said students are encouraged to not only pledge themselves to the campaign, but to solicit participation from friends. “Encourage others – truly spread the word to end the word. If you hear someone using it, it’s uncomfortable, but at the same time it’s so powerful to have someone tell you, ‘Hey, you really shouldn’t use that in that sense,’” Connelly said. “If you never really realized how offensive it was before, it kind of opens up your eyes. People are scared sometimes to speak out against it, but they don’t realize that some people truly don’t know that it’s offensive.” Palumbo said the campaign is about more than ending use of the r-word. “I think that it’s important to end the use of the r-word because language not only informs us, language transforms us,” he said. “When we use divisive words or exclusionary words or dehumanizing words, like retard or retarded, we not only build up barriers between people and isolate people and exclude people, but we ourselves become the barriers. We force others out when we define our world through exclusionary language.” Using these insensitive terms is not just hurtful to people with disabilities, Palumbo said. “At the same time, I think that it robs us without disabilities of that perspective, that dimension of the human experience that I think is very enriching and contributes to a more complete and more beautiful understanding of what it means to be human,” he said. “When we use the words retard or retarded, we embrace the attitude that it engenders and we prevent all of that.”,A few years ago, I had a conversation with my brother that changed my life. I was sharing a story about an autistic boy, Liam, with whom I had spent time as a camp counselor for people with special needs. My brother commented that Liam was a boy with autism rather than an autistic boy. Liam was a person first; autism should be used to describe, not to define. Before this, altering labels seemed like trivial semantics. That night, however, I realized that language matters.  While words inform and share, they serve another function. Whether consciously or subconsciously, our words define and limit our outlook on the world, our opinion of others and our understanding of how others should be treated. By defining Liam as an autistic boy rather than a boy with autism, I was also confirming my view that Liam was somehow different from me and somehow separate from me. Wednesday, March 6, was the fifth annual Spread the Word to End the Word Day, a campaign devoted to raising awareness about the dehumanizing effects of words such as retard and retarded. As stated by Special Olympics, these derogatory slurs promote “painful stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities being less valued members of humanity.” I believe the elimination of hurtful words such as retard and retarded will help fade the differences that seem to set people with physical and intellectual disabilities apart and allow humanity to emerge as the defining characteristic of us all. I am not asking for donations of time or Domer Dollars. Rather, I ask my classmates to recognize that words dictate how we view and understand others in our community and consequently influence our actions. Whether you joined the myriad of people around the world by signing the pledge on March 6 to uphold the dignity of all people, I encourage you, as a member of Notre Dame community, to do even more. I urge you to practice what you preach by extending the spirit of inclusion and love that is intrinsic to the Notre Dame family to everyone, regardless of ability. Rachael Palumbo senior Pangborn Halllast_img read more

Mistletoe Help

first_img R. Jarret, UGA CAES MISTLETOE, though good for kissing, can harm the tree it lives in and on. Though not a true parasite, mistletoe steals water and nutrients from the tree it grows in. “Mistletoe is actually an epiphyte,” said Jerry Walker, a plant pathologist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “It’s not a true parasite, because it produces its own chlorophyl. It draws water and other nutrients from the host tree.” Walker said mistletoe’s leathery green leaves contain chlorophyll that lets it make sugar carbon dioxide and water, like all other green plants. “Its root system invades the internal tissues of the host tree, extracting water and minerals, and anchors it to the host,” Walker said. “Basically, it grows on another plant at its expense.” Sharing its water and minerals with mistletoe is no problem for healthy trees. But unhealthy trees can sometimes fall to the added stress. “Weak, older and unhealthy trees are often hosts for mistletoe,” he said. The mistletoe found in the South is American mistletoe. “In the western states, they have dwarf mistletoe, which is very harmful to the host plant, especially conifers,” Walker said. Mistletoe may have gotten its link to the holiday season in part because it’s so noticeable in the winter. “You see it in trees this time of year because most of its hosts are deciduous and have lost their leaves,” said Walker. “It’s there year-round. You just can see it so easily now.” You see mistletoe in trees around homes and cities more often than in undisturbed forests. UGA wildlife scientist Jeff Jackson has his own theory as to why. “Mistletoe provides birds, especially mockingbirds, one of the few winter berries around,” Jackson said. “Where you see mistletoe in trees, you’ll most likely see mockingbirds perched on the branches.” Jackson says mockingbirds are very territorial. They tend to make their homes in areas where humans live. “They don’t feed from your bird feeder. But they’re in your yard driving other birds away,” he said. “They also perch high in trees, and that’s where mistletoe tends to grow.” The wind and several bird species spread mistletoe from tree to tree. The birds feed on the white berries, roost in the treetops and deposit the seeds on the branches. Birds aren’t the only ones that benefit from mistletoe. “It’s the sole host plant of an interesting butterfly called the great blue hairstreak,” Jackson said. “This butterfly is in the same family as the little blue butterflies you see in the spring.” In caterpillar form, the butterfly feeds on mistletoe. “Its wingspread is a little over an inch, and the wings reflect a metallic blue when open,” said Jackson. “If you want to see it in your garden, watch under the trees that host mistletoe.” Although birds and butterflies find the berries tasty, they’re toxic to humans. When decorating with mistletoe, keep it out of reach of children and pets. The stem and leaves are toxic, too, and can irritate skin. In most cases, mistletoe doesn’t damage trees. However, in rare cases of multiple infections, it may. Infected branches, and even the whole tree, may die. R. Jarret, UGA CAES For centuries, sweethearts have stolen kisses under the green branches and white berries of holiday mistletoe. Few of them know the plant is actually a type of parasite that draws part of its lifeblood from its tree host. MISTLETOE starts out as a tiny, harmless- looking plant on a tree, but can grow into a problem. “It’s an interesting plant. But it’s not desirable, unless you grow it for harvest at Christmastime,” Walker said. “There are no chemicals labeled in Georgia for its removal. But you can control it by cutting it out of the trees.” Cut out infected limbs 1 to 2 feet below the infection point. If you remove only the mistletoe, it will probably regrow. Removing infected limbs may not be easy when the mistletoe is in the treetop. “Years ago, people would shoot it out with shotguns,” Walker said. “But I don’t recommend that.”last_img read more

Dutch doctors’ scheme ditches commodities following review

first_imgCredit: Darko Stojanovic The Dutch doctors’ pension scheme has cut its allocations to Chinese equities and commodities“The divestment of the last and most complicated investments came with calculated losses, which we deemed acceptable relative to the profits generated by the initial allocation,” the scheme told IPE.The pension fund said it had now fully committed an €80m allocation to investments in care home properties as an impact investment, adding that the 10 assets it already owned had generated a result of 5.4%.The scheme has a hedge fund allocation of almost €5m. SPH has been divesting this position since 2016.The occupational pension fund posted an overall investment loss of 0.9%.Future plansLast year, SPH introduced a new framework for balance sheet management, focusing on its risk budget. An important part of the new setup was a funding level-based matrix for strategic asset allocation, which would direct its investment policy towards an increasingly defensive asset mix and interest rate hedge as the scheme’s funding level improved.At year-end, its interest rate hedge position stood at 69%. It said the cover had contributed 2.6 percentage points to its overall return. In contrast, it lost 1.6 percentage points as a result of its currency hedge.The board also said it had started evaluating its current arrangements in order to improve the sustainability of its pension plan. The outcome would be used as input towards a new administration system to be introduced in 2022, the board said, when its current provider provider PGGM aimed to replace its current system.Dutch pensions publication Pensioen Pro, citing SPH, reported that the reorientation could also lead to the pension fund taking its administration in-house, or co-operating with another self-administrating scheme.The occupational pension fund granted its participants additional pension rights of 3.1%, based on its coverage ratio of 138.6% at the end of 2018. However, it said the indexation bonus was still short of its target of 2.25% plus wage inflation, which amounted to 4.2% in total.Last year, SPH replaced PGGM with BlackRock as manager of its interest rate-matching mandate of government bonds and interest swaps. It said the change followed the appointment of Achmea Investment Management as “co-ordinating” manager.SPH reported administration costs of €598 per participant. It spent 28bps and 6bps on asset management and transactions, respectively.The GP scheme has 11,670 active participants, 1,288 deferred members and 7,095 pensioners. SPH, the €11bn Dutch occupational scheme for general practitioners, has divested its 4% allocation to commodities following an investment review.In its annual report for 2018, the scheme said it had concluded that commodities offered “limited value” to the scheme and that access to the risk premium was getting increasingly complicated.“As the market is getting smarter, it is necessary to keep on developing a clever strategy,” it said. “We have estimated that the risk premium of simply keeping a commodities allocation had become insufficient.”The pension fund reported a 15.2% loss on commodities for 2018, but this still represented a slight outperformance relative to its benchmark. SPH also cut its Chinese equity holidngs last year, preferring instead to focus on broader benchmarks and equity mandates.In its annual report, it said that it had lost 10.5% on emerging market equities, attributing the result in part to the performance of Chinese equity.The doctors’ scheme made a 22.4% loss on private equity in 2018, in the last phase of a gradual divestment of the asset class that began in 2011.last_img read more

Seabed Solutions Joins Subsea UK

first_imgNew marine services firm Seabed & Offshore Solutions (Seabed Solutions) has joined industry trade body Subsea UK.Launched in January 2019, Seabed Solutions is led by managing director Martin Sisley, a former board member of Subsea UK.He previously held senior positions at James Fisher Marine Services, Red7Offshore, and Ocean Installer.Seabed Solutions will work with the association to increase brand awareness, the company said.Martin Sisley said, “Joining Subsea UK is a great move for us. The network brings together operators, contractors, suppliers and key contacts from the sector, which for a new business is a huge help.”Seabed Solutions will provide total solutions for all seabed related matters during the life-cycle of offshore energy assets (offshore wind, wave, tidal, oil & gas, and associated infrastructure).Seabed Solutions has been formed through the collaboration of Martin Sisley, offshore energy consultancy Nautilus Associates and a group of specialist investors.last_img read more

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