Cellphone exposure: the next big contemporary health challenge?


A set of new public health guidelines released in California last year, which outlined the potential dangers of cellphone use immediately provoked public outcry from phone users worldwide. The guidelines suggested keeping cellphones at a distance from one’s body wherever possible so as to lower exposure to cellphone radiation. It wasn’t the first time an official body had warned the public about the potential risks of cellphone use either. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued similar warnings in the past, and the World Health Organisation has similarly made public its stance on the potential long-term health risks of excessive mobile phone use.

This is all happening despite the fact that scientific consensus has not yet been reached as to whether exposure to radiofrequency energy (RF) is in fact harmful to human health, leading me to wonder if the health experts know something we don’t. Admittedly, some studies have suggested that the long-term use of mobile phones may be linked to certain types of cancer and other health defects, including tumors of the acoustic nerve and salivary glands, brain cancer, headaches and lower sperm count, as well as have a negative impact on learning, memory, hearing, behavior and sleep. But according to the FDA, current data does not show a weighty enough correlation between exposure to radiofrequency from cell phones and adverse health outcomes to warrant stronger regulations surrounding cellphone use.

It’s understandable why people are panicking. On hearing the word “radiation”, people naturally find themselves associating the idea of cellphone radiation with “ionizing radiation” – in other words, the part of the electromagnetic spectrum that emits energies so powerful it is enough to cause ionization and possibly induce cancer. But the kinds of radiation being emitted from cellphones are not ionizing radiation, contrary to public belief.

The truth is, the question of whether or not there are health dangers linked to cell phone use remains unresolved. The jury is hung on the topic. Worryingly, though, scientists argue there’s enough preliminary evidence to warrant basic protective public health measures and further scientific research to address gaps in knowledge, such as the effects of cell phone use over the long-term and on pediatric populations. Let’s face it, mobile phones haven’t been around long enough for there to have been long-term evaluative studies analyzing how frequent cellphone use over the course of an entire lifetime can affect human health. Some kids today are being given their first phone at the age of 10, so not until they are in their eighties or nineties will we have an accurate understanding of the long-term impacts of such habits.

Concerning evidence relating to the health impact of cell phone radiation is on the rise, though. In 2011, the World Health Organization moved to classify radiation from cell phones as a “possible carcinogen” and acknowledged that more research needs to be done on the topic. In two separate studies conducted in 2007 and 2012, scientists concluded that individuals using cell phones for more than 10 years give rise to a “consistent pattern of an increased risk for acoustic neuroma and glioma,” with a higher risk of developing a tumor on the side of the head commonly in contact with a cellphone. In May 2016, the U.S. National Toxicology Program released preliminary results of a controversial two-year study that showed exposure to cell-phone radiation increased the risk of male rats developing brain and heart tumors. Last year, an Italian court ruled in favor of a plaintiff who argued his brain tumor was the result of excessive work-related mobile phone usage over a whopping 15-year period.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) cell phone guidelines were issued partly as a result of a lawsuit brought about by university professor and director of the Center for Family and Community Health Joel Moskowitz. He successfully sued the State back in 2009 because the Department of Public Health refused to release information about the dangers of cell phone radiation. Since, Moskowitz has gone on to further examine whether radiation from the Bluetooth technology in AirPods and other headsets poses health risks to humans.

The guidelines issued by the CDPH include keeping the phone at a distance from the body when not in use, reducing the use of cell phones to stream audio or video content, or to download or upload large files, and keeping the phone away from the bed at night.

“Although the science is still evolving, there are concerns among some public health professionals and members of the public regarding long-term, high use exposure to the energy emitted by cell phones,” said director of the CDPH Dr. Karen. “We know that simple steps, such as not keeping your phone in your pocket and moving it away from your bed at night, can help reduce exposure for both children and adults.”

In this day and age, where most of the developed world now has access to preventative medicine, where we have developed vaccinations for almost every disease, where anyone can walk into a hormone clinic to reduce the risks associated with aging – why have we not taken even simpler preventative steps in response to the perceived health risks associated with mobile phone usage? Changing our behavior seems far easier than paying to inject ourselves with a disease or undergoing estragon therapy, doesn’t it? Granted, the evidence regarding the long-term implications is inconclusive at this stage, but there is enough data to suggest a likely possibility of it being dangerous to human health. What will it take us to sit up and listen?

The Path to the Skaters’ Waltz

Professional ice skating of today is a world away from its origins of over 4000 years ago

The feeling must indeed be fabulous. As two-time Olympian and three-time US National Champion, American figure skater, Johnny Weir, said, “ I love skating and sparkling and flying around the ice, and people clap for you. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Ice skating is a professional sport today, as much as it is a leisure activity. Professional ice skating is featured in the Olympics and focused on Championships, perhaps leading people to bet on winners, through betting software. For instance, in 1927, Sonja Henie as a 14-year old, became a world renowned figure skater, earning dazzling titles like “the Ice Queen of Norway”, “the White Swan,” and “the Nasturtium of the North.” Since then she won 10 world championships consecutively. During the same time, she won gold medals in the Winter Olympics of 1928, 1932 and 1936. Immediately afterwards, she was snapped up by Hollywood, and she was an instant box office hit.Sonja shares the glory of winning 10 championships with Swedish figure skater Karl Emil Ulrich Salchow who preceded her.

Ice skating was neither sophisticated nor graceful at the point it originated in Finland. According to Dr. Frederico Formenti, researcher at the University of Oxford and expert in human locomotion, ice skating began around 4000 years ago. Dr Formenti believes that ice skating began in the southern areas of Finland, where lakes abound. In fact, every route in the area possibly includes a lake. And if people could skate over frozen lakes, they could economize on use of their energy. In Finland, by skating over a lake rather than walking on terrain, people were able to save about 10% of their energy. In Norway, the energy saved by skating was 3% and in Sweden, Germany abd the Netherland, it was 1%. Therefore, it was the Finnish people who benefited most from skating.

Archeological and historical remains from Finland indicate that bone skates were used as far back as 2000 BC. Similar evidence was unearthed in several Central and North European countries. Most of the remains of skates was from bones of horses and cows. The Oxford researchers believe people would have used the bones of whatever animals lived in their areas. The bone skates had flat bottoms to make it easy on the ankles, but people had used a stick to push on the ice.

King James II, following his brief exile in the Netherlands in the17th century, introduced ice skating to Britain upon his return. It was a new sport for the English aristocracy, but gradually it spread among all communities. The lakes of Scotland and the canals of Netherlands were great spots for skating matches, the first of which were held in the early 19th century. Also, when the water froze in the Fens or the Fenlands, the naturally marshy coastal plain of east England,there were skating matches held there, with prizes of money, food or clothing.

The bone skates of early times gave way to wood in the 13th and 14th centuries, whilethe first iron skates were produced in 1572. However, the first known skates came into being in the 1760s, and had its wheels in one line, which was the form for the next century. It was in 1819 that French inventor M. Petitbled patented in the first roller skate which had three wheels in a row. During the next 40 years, the roller skates produced had a set of wheels in a line, varying from 2wheels to six wheels. However, the design of the skates was such, turning was quite difficult.

It was in 1863 that the first practical roller skates were designed by American inventor James Plimpton of Medford Massachusetts. He cast aside the in-line wheels and instead created two parallel pairs of wheels at the front of the skate and at the heel. These became known as the “rocking skate”, now known as the “quad,” and allowed the skater easy navigational turns and other maneuvering movements. The quad skating style was in vogue for the next 80 years.

Renowned American skater Jackson Haines, developed a two-plate, all-metal blade directly attached to a pair of boots, in 1865. This allowed Haines to engage in fancy dance moves, jumps and spins. Subsequently, he added the first toe picks to skates in the 1870s, which made possible toe-pick jumps for figure skaters. In 1914, a blade maker from Minnesota, John E. Strauss, invented the first close-toe blade with a single strip of steel. This invention ensured lighter and stronger skates.

Following these groundbreaking invention, a recreational roller-skating mania whizzed across the US and Western Europe, and skating rinks mushroomed in big cities and smaller towns alike. In Chelsea, London, the first artificial ice rink called Glaciarium was constructed withmechanical refrigeration. The Fujikyu Highland Promenade Rink in Japan, built on 3.8 acres in 1967, is the largest, man-made outdoor ice rink. On the other hand, the Rideau Canal Skateway in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, is 4.8 miles long, and is equivalent to 90 Olympic-sized skating rinks. It is said to the longest maintained ice surface on a natural body of water anywhere in the world. It is categorized as an ice rink as its entire length is daily maintained by sweeping, and checking for ice thickness, with toilet and recreational facilities along its whole length.

American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson was succinct in his observation, “In skating over thin ice, our safety is in our speed.”

Information and silence in the healthcare industry


Turmoil is spreading through many universities in the US about what can be taught or said, the Internet has brought the issue of speech that harms people into the sphere of public debate and all the while, the issue of freedom of speech in medicine and healthcare lingers…

What is becoming evident is that patients as well as those in the medical profession need to begin making some important steps in the right direction.

With the right to have access to proper information whether it relates to off-label drug/prescriptions, alternative treatments or access to a hormone clinic, now, we are beginning to realize that there is a fine line between an authority figure telling someone to do something and actually dishing out medical advice or appealing to the emotions.

Let’s face it, a patient-healthcare provider relationship is a very specific type of contract.

In New Mexico, a complaint has been filed against three EXPO New Mexico officials for unconstitutional attempts to limit the company’s rights to display a cannabis educational and informative booth at the New Mexico State Fair in 2017.

Duke Rodriguez, CEO & President of Ultra Health® believes public education on this medicine is necessary and has said that Medical cannabis is 100 percent legal in New Mexico.

The British professor John Yudkin was silenced when he tried to warn us about sugar in 1972, causing it to take nearly 50 years for us to realize what he was saying.

The sad fact is that biases and conflicts of interest in virtually every field of medicine, especially those that rely heavily on devices and drugs.

The alarming part is that journals have traditionally been more likely to reject studies that find harm or no benefit in a treatment and to publish those that find benefit.

Medical journals not having enough clear-language critiques of hyped results or flawed science could arise due to healthcare professionals’ employment contracts which come with warnings about harming the brand as well as strong no-compete clauses.

Unfortunately, most of those in editorial roles are themselves clinician scientists and they depend on friendly editorial review in the future as well as industry funding of research.

If a researcher does a study and can find some benefit of a drug to publish, the researcher also has a much better chance of getting future grants from companies to do studies and to have his/her study published.

However, developments on the horizon seem to bring promise. Arizona’s legislature passed the Free Speech in Medicine Act, which has been signed into law and the U.S. Congress should be able to replicate this at the federal level via the Medical Product Communications Act (H.R.1703, aka the Griffith Bill). This legislature relates to “off-label” usage of drugs (when a drug is prescribed for other than the drug’s specific intended use).

Despite what you may think, off-label usage of drugs is important and common because certain drugs can actually be used for other ailments as well as the ones they are intended for.

Legislation can play a part in fostering greater communication on off-label usage of drugs in order to improve safety.

There have also been state laws elsewhere that require doctors to perform an ultrasound, describe the image of the fetus to the woman and tell her that the fetus can feel pain before providing her with an abortion.

Dozens of “crisis pregnancy centers” have sued the state of California over a law requiring them to publicly post or notify their patients that they can have state-funded/low-cost abortion services.

Denise Harle, legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom asks the pertinent question, “Can the government compel people to speak a message they don’t agree with and then punish them if they don’t?”.

The Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Bret Stephens wrote that “If you can’t speak freely, you’ll quickly lose the ability to think clearly,”.

Then, some might ask, what happens when you are being forced to speak?

To be educated and speak responsibly is a huge part of the basis for civilization’s progression in a democratic society however, freedom of speech does not mean that you are not going to face the consequences of what you say.

Letting the Shadows Fall Behind in Addiction Recovery

Addiction recovery means reaching the light at the end of a long dark tunnel

Living in a world where illusion is sought after with passion, it is so easy to let the boundaries blur. CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg said, “We are making a long-term bet that virtual and augmented reality will become a part of people’s daily lives.”

With a myriad opportunities in this age of technology to escape the nitty gritty of daily living, people are tempted to take the easy way out and allow their fantasies full play. American cartoonist Lynda Barry said, “We don’t create a fantasy world to escape reality, we create it to be able to stay.”

There are things people start doing just because they like them – for recreation. Thus, recreational use of substances or gambling do not get categorized as addiction, until the person is unable to give it up even when the pleasure of the activity has disappeared. What started out as a fun activity then becomes a cruel habit which takes over the person, compelling indulgence even though it brings no pleasure, but entails terrible consequences. The activity becomes a habit and then a deeply ingrained uncontrollable addiction, without which the person is unable to function.

Substance addiction is easily understood. The compulsion for cigarettes, alcohol, prescription medications and illicit drugs and the unspeakable ramifications of their uncontrolled consumption are shown time and again in movies and on TV. Harder to grasp are behavioral addictions, also known as process addictions. Even as people become addicted to sense-enslaving, isolating substances, they can also be lured by sense-enslaving, isolating behaviors.

However, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) only recognizes gambling addiction as behavioral addiction. APA lists internet gaming addiction as a condition to be studied further, but does not recognize it as an addiction. Nevertheless, the top behavioral addictions are known as food addiction, gambling addiction, sex addiction, love addiction, porn addiction, shopping addiction, Internet addiction, video game addiction and social media addiction.

Numbers lend strength to the total concept of addiction. For instance, 68% of the American population twenty years and older, is either overweight or obese. Director of Research for the National Institute on Media and the Family and development psychologist at the Iowa State University, Dr. Douglas Gentile, discovered through a recent research project  that 8.5% of young Americans between 8 and 18 years – amounting to around 3 million people – are addicted to video games. A University of New York study reveals that over 80% of American adults are lured into gambling annually, and that from 3 to 5 of every 100 gamblers struggle with addiction. Furthermore, about 750,000 young adults from 14 to 21 years are addicted to gambling. About 18 million Americans suffer from shopping addiction, and many have a tendency to engage in criminal conduct like shoplifting to satisfy their addiction. Researchers at the University of Hong Kong assess that 6% of the world’s population – that is about 420 million people – are addicted to the Internet. Statistics reveal that 40 million Americans are regular visitors to porn sites and the global porn industry is valued at $4.9 billion. However, Internet porn addiction and online sex addiction have not been officially diagnosed as mental disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Thus, addiction is a real problem the world faces, and especially so in affluent and materialistic societies where availability and accessibility add fuel to the fire of mental instability. However, even as a prisoner can only break out of prison when he realizes he is locked up, an addict needs to understand the existing mental disorder in order to go down the road of recovery.

Societies concerned about the wellbeing of their people, try to help curtail and eradicate addiction from their midst. China, for instance, is at the forefront of trying to eradicate internet addiction, and was one of the first countries to call it a clinical disorder. The Chinese government has created 250 boot camps with the aim of helping its teenage population overcome Internet addiction. Porn addiction is widespread and extensive the world over, even though most societies prefer to ignore the problem. Pretending, unfortunately, does not make the problem go away, only aggravates it and its overarching consequences for individuals, their families and society as a whole. Thankfully, there are organizations brave enough to take the issue head on and who have identified ways to help porn addiction recovery.

Recovery from addiction will inevitably be an arduous and slow process, with tumultuous highs and lows and relapses. Ultimately, it is the will of the individual, the family and the collective commitment of entire societies that will help to reduce and eradicate different kinds of addiction. Vibrant societies need to have responsible citizens who are in control of themselves and are able to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. No country wants to be burdened with “behavioral addicts” who continually need the support of rehab or therapy to be able to distinguish right from wrong.

Yet, for addicts who achieve complete recovery, they have seen the light at the end of the tunnel, and are out in the sunshine again. As former US President Richard Nixon once said, “Only if you’ve been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.”

Is It Feasible to Regulate the Marijuana Industry?

As more and more states around Canada and the US move to legalize both medicinal and recreational cannabis, the cannabis industry continues to grow. But this influx of growth is not without complications. The lesson we’ve learned from the states to legalise marijuana so far, is that very little has changed. None of the catastrophic predictions, surges in crime and traffic deaths, a rise in use amongst the youth, have come to pass. Likewise, none of the claims of booming economies or reduction in criminal activity have proven true either. While public support for legalization grows, and investors are showing interest, selling and supplying marijuana products is still something of a fuzzy area for business.

As part of a fledgling industry finding its feet, cannabis enterprises are faced with a host of unconventional problems, causing many experts to ask the question, is it possible to regulate the marijuana industry?

A major challenge facing the cannabis industry is the lack of consistent support from the banking sector. Especially in areas with legal marijuana, banks are increasingly coming under pressure to come up with more rigorous compliance and risk management controls. This has caused some banks to either raise costs to cover their own expenses, or drop cannabis companies entirely. Until the potential for profit begins to exceed the costs of meeting government compliance, the banking situation isn’t likely to change.

In some circles, bitcoin and crypto currency has been heralded as the solution to this problem. Using a digital currency for business transactions means marijuana businesses can accept payments from suppliers and businesses, while eliminating the need for a bank until the currency needs to be converted into dollars. With the prevalence of bit-coin based payment processing services, customers can purchase an amount of digital currency using their credit card or bank account, and then simply purchase a marijuana product with their acquired bitcoin. The idea of a specific new digital token, an appcoin or altcoin specifically for the marijuana industry has also been floated by some within the community. The goal here is to integrate blockchain technology into the needs and compliance of cannabis businesses.

Recently the government of British Colombia in Canada asked for submissions about managing the legal marijuana market within the province. IBM responded with a unique proposal, tracking cannabis with blockchain technology. In their filing, IBM made the argument that blockchain was the ideal mechanism the government could use to ‘transparently capture the history of cannabis through the entire supply chain…’

In IBM’s vision, every party within the network; growers, processors, distributors and vendors will produce their own ledger of transactions which regulators can then use to conduct spot checks. Retailers will be able to ensure compliance and customer safety by identifying the farms growing their supply, and records of the safety inspections conducted on their premises. Of course, this requires blockchain software operating within every marijuana based business in BC.

It isn’t just banking and regulatory requirements causing hiccups for the budding industry though. Real estate can prove to be another logistical headache.

The lack of federal legislation regarding legal marijuana in America means different laws exist regarding the issuing of permits to cannabis businesses from state to state, and even from city to city. Creating a nightmare for companies operating in multiple locations.

In Ohio, where the process of legalization is just beginning. Businesses are statutorily required to be 500 feet away from facilities like parks, churches schools, libraries, and day care centres. This presents more of an issue for retail operations like dispensaries than it does for cultivators and processors like seed banks. As a result, there has been a fight raging amongst businesses as they race to secure a spot in the Northeast Ohio market which is expected to make up 30% of the state’s businesses.

Californian businesses face unique challenges too. There are considerations for a full dispensary ban within LA’s Chinatown district, and rules such as a thousand-foot buffer between every retail outlet and the nearest school or child-care centre. There are also calls by some to impose a mandatory 600 feet between dispensaries. Restrictive zoning laws such as these dramatically reduce the areas where dispensaries can operate within cities. Leading to a concern about the rights of patients to easily access medical marijuana, as well as an issue of equity as small-businesses in low-income areas are effectively priced out by those operations who can afford to secure property in the north and south-eastern areas of LA.

It seems the biggest hurdle faced by the legal cannabis industry now is trying to establish feasible regulatory frameworks. The cost, time and complications currently faced by businesses in producing enough product, getting their facilities up to standardand meeting demand means that without some clear direction, the business of weed might never fully get off the ground.

The Internet and the Rise of Student Plagiarism

Thirty years ago, libraries were full of students trying to get the right book for their assignments. Now, libraries are not nearly as full as they used to be. Why? The Internet. Students now have the easy option of searching for exactly the information they need by using the Internet. All can be done from a click of a button, in the comfort of their homes. In a 2015 study conducted by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, the Family Online Safety Institute, and myCollegeOptions, 9.65% of students in the US say they need the Internet to complete home assignments.

The internet has revolutionized the way students complete their homework. In this modern era, students are demanded to be digitally savvy, with teachers all over the world assigning tasks that require internet access. With this, comes a change in student behavior in handling school assignments. With a growing number of 40% of the world having Internet access, there is no denying that this is the way forward in education.

The internet provides almost any information you need, from tutorials, news, biographies to academic essays. Students can easily search the information they need for their assignments. Previously, they had to get through the lengthy process of going to the library, manually look for the right book (out of thousands of books), and then scan that book to find information they needed. The benefits of the Internet for students are undeniable.

However, the ease of access to information has often led to the misuse of information. Because of the almost endless amount of information from various sources, students can sometimes fall into the mistake of using information from unreliable sources. Another issue that frequently occurs due to internet use in assignments, is plagiarism.

Plagiarism is the act of taking a person’s work and presenting it as your own without giving credit to the original author. With easy access to academic journals and papers, students can practically get their assignments online; thus, committing plagiarism. According to a survey conducted by the Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics, one in three students admit to using the internet and plagiarizing for an assignment. However, the number of plagiarism committed by students is still difficult to gauge, since most plagiarized works go undetected.

The rise of essay writing services has arguably opened the door to more acts of plagiarism.

Students from ESL (English as a Second Language) schools to prestigious universities have engaged in the practice of buying essays, but many are quite oblivious to how their purchased works were produced. While there are some review sites like Omnipaper which helps differentiate the quality of such services, many still fall victim to lazy commercial essay writers who succumb to the easy acts of plagiarism.

This problem has been a sore spot for dozens of years, and the concern has only grown tenfolds since the introduction of the internet into the realm of education. It is possible that these frequent acts of plagiarism happen due to a lack of understanding of plagiarism itself and how to avoid it.

So how do we prevent students from plagiarizing? First of all, students need to understand how serious a violation plagiarism is, especially in the academic world. Students need to realize that in the latter stages of their life, plagiarism can seriously damage their reputation and career. A sense of caution needs to be established early on in their education.

Secondly, students need to be made aware of how the Internet is used for educational purposes. With the understanding of which sources are eligible and how to properly use these sources, students will be able to quickly distinguish credible information from irresponsible opinions.

Finally, the best and most important step to prevent plagiarism is to educate students on how to write a proper research paper. Though it may seem rather simple, there are several details that must be understood. One of which is how to properly cite your sources. This can play a huge factor to whether your work will be considered an act of plagiarism or not. Another good tip to help prevent plagiarism is learning how to paraphrase. Paraphrasing is an act of expressing the idea of the author using different words. This will help students to be freer in citing their sources and sticking with the flow of their paper.

An additional step to prevent plagiarism is to instill into the minds of students that using more sources, referring to them and crediting them accordingly can help you design a better and more credible paper. Students tend to think that relying too much on sources can seem like they are hiding their ideas, when, in reality, strong and reliable sources can strengthen arguments and make for a better essay.

From all the talk around plagiarism, it is clear that it is an issue impossible to tackle without the support of the whole educational system. A strong stance and movement is needed to prevent plagiarism. Otherwise, it will continue to grow and be taken lightly by students, especially in this digital age.


Rethinking the 8-hour Workday

Lately, Japan has been under fire for its overtime culture, which is blamed for hundreds of cases of karoshi — death by overwork — each year. Karoshi deaths can be caused by heart attacks, strokes, and also suicides. In response to his, Japan’s government has been trying to encourage firms to let employees leave early and take more vacations. This phenomenon can be seen as an extreme case owing to Japan’s decades-old work culture. For most city dwellers who are forced to get used to powering through the mandated “9 to 5” in an office, the 8-hour workday is accepted as a gold standard.

In many other countries, working overtime on ordinary work days is common and often done without any extra wages. And although taking frequent breaks is good for your productivity, focus and creativity, Human Resource Departments often do not encourage it. With extra time spent commuting to and from work, one hardly gets enough time to exercise, prepare healthy meals, or spend time with loved ones.

How the 8-hour workday came to be

The 8-hour workday wasn’t achieved simply through negotiation and peaceful protests. Workers’ unions and labor rights activists have struggled despite violent suppression – one famous example is the 1886 Haymarket Riot in Chicago, in which police opened fire on a crowd of 80,000 demonstrators after a bomb exploded in the crowd.

The 8-hour day movement or 40-hour movement had its origins during the Industrial Revolution, where mass production in large factories transformed working life. The average workweek for full-time manufacturing employees in those days was around 80-100 hours. Although New Zealand and Australia succeeded in achieving an 8-hour day for skilled workers in the 1840s and 1850s, most employees had to wait to the early and mid twentieth century for the standard to be widely achieved through the industrialized world through legislative action.

Managing energy, not time

However, how many hours we work every day isn’t as relevant to our productivity as managing our energy – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Tony Schwartz, founder of The Energy Project, which helps companies fuel sustainable high performance by better meeting the needs of their employees, says, “Manage your energy, not your time.” It’s time to rethink how we work and how much time we should spend in the office.

In an experiment to see what habits set their most productive employees apart, social networking company Draugiem Group used time-tracking productivity app DeskTime and found that employees with the highest productivity surprisingly didn’t put in longer hours. They published their findings in the DeskTime blog: “The most productive people work for 52 minutes, then break for 17 minutes. The employees with the highest productivity ratings in fact for the most part don’t even work 8 hour days. Turns out the secret to retaining the highest level of productivity over the span of a work day is not working longer, but working smarter with frequent breaks.”

On breaks, completely take yourself out of the working zone and dedicate yourself to not working. The human body isn’t built to sit in front of the computer for 8 hours straight, so take a nap or a walk, do some exercises, read a book, grab some healthy snacks, play an online casino game on the phone, or talk to colleagues. Another strategy to manage energy is to schedule meetings strategically. Meetings, which often take up a chunk of our working day, can actually serve as a mental break from mentally-intensive tasks.

The 6-hour workday movement

Research done by technology startups Filimundus and Brath in Sweden has also shown that employees are happier, have higher energy levels and are more productive with a 6-hour workday. Both companies say that the benefits of a 6-hour working week also extend to their profits and growth.

When Maria Brath, CEO of a Swedish company that specializes in SEO for Scandinavia, instituted the 6-hour workday, many were skeptical and commented that it cannot possibly be profitable. The company’s revenue continued to double each year. The changes are also happening in the Swedish public sector, with nurses at a government-run retirement home switching to a six-hour day for the same pay.

“I think the eight-hour workday is not as effective as one would think. To stay focused on a specific work task for eight hours is a huge challenge. In order to cope, we mix in things and pauses to make the workday more endurable. At the same time we are finding it hard to manage our private life outside of work. We want to spend more time with our families, we want to learn new things or exercise more. My impression now is that it is easier to focus more intensely on the work that needs to be done and you have the stamina to do it and still have energy left when leaving the office,” Linus Feldt, CEO of Stockholm-based app developer Filimindus told Fast Company.

“The biggest response that I couldn’t foresee was the energy level I felt with my colleagues. They were happy leaving the office and happy coming back the next day. They didn’t feel drained or fatigued. That has also helped the work groups to work better together now, when we see less conflicts and arguments. People are happier.”

Author and researcher Alex Pang goes as far as to say, “four hours is actually the optimal amount of time to spend per day if your work is creative in nature, or requires a notable degree of thinking and concentration… if your job requires imagination, ingenuity, and above-average mental focus, you may be better off limiting that work to four hours per day, as opposed to eight or more.”

The Micro-Sized Answer to Hong Kong’s Housing Problem


Hong Kong’s housing prices are already the highest in the world, with second and third places taken out by Sydney and Vancouver respectively. On a basis of median house price to household income ratio though, Hong Kong is the least affordable by far, with an average resident having to save for 18.1 years (without spending on anything else) to buy a small home. And that’s using the median, not mean, income being $50 000. In comparison, Sydney’s is 12 years and London’s is 8.5. That amount of money doesn’t buy you a big home either. With the average living space per person at just 4.6 square metres, the disparity in living conditions between Hong Kong’s rich and poor is painfully visible. But how did this come to be in a city – known for its thriving economy – and sitting on the doorstep of China (the second largest economy in the world)? In short, too much demand and too little demand.

With a government possessing more than £100 billion in fiscal reserves, you’d expect Hong Kong’s housing state to be more stable and sustainable than its current predicament. Indeed, it was a key concern of previous Chief Executive CY Leung since he began office, but he was unable to derive a solution other than to allow the construction of more apartments by the same oligarchy of Hong Kong Property developers, with Sun Hung Kai Properties leading the pack in typical fashion. The new Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, has a different solution. Whereas CY Leung’s policies focussed on curbing demand to cool the city’s property market, Lam’s more familiar relationship with both Hong Kong developers and government officials has prompted expectations for more supply to be introduced. Where more public and private cooperation is needed for mutual benefit, namely in the New Territories farmlands, conversion rates are expected to be higher – with half a million apartments feasibly converted from the farmland owned by just three developers. Henderson Land Development Co., for example, owns 45 million square feet of land in the territory, currently for agricultural use. They are in negotiation with the government to convert the land for residential use.

Hong Kong’s skew toward demand overwhelming supply is explicable by its status as the world’s fourth most densely populated city, with more than seven million residents living across 1106 square kilometres. To give that scope, Sydney (in Australia’s) population density is million in 12367 square kilometres. But this area is not equally distributed, with huge living spaces curated for the upper middle to wealthy class across the area of Hong Kong Island compared to the much smaller in the Kowloon Peninsula. Financially, the incentives to live in Hong Kong are presented by its low tax rates and attractive commercial environment – being a de-facto access point to the most populous country in the world, China. Indeed, many who can afford to live in larger sized apartments are wealthy expats who are sponsored by their companies or leverage the lower tax margins to optimise their purchasing power. These can be seen primarily around Central’s bohemian district Mid-Levels, Stanley and Clear Water Bay.

Adding fuel to the effect of sky high housing prices has been enthusiasm of Chinese mainland developers, who are offered the scarcely available developable land by the Hong Kong government behind the scenes. Visible in online casino domains and offline gambling havens such as Macao, the Chinese are spend-thrifty. This land, as illustrated by the record sale of $2.17 billion for a residential plot exceeded market valuations by nearly 50%. In turn these exorbitant costs are passed on as high prices for buyers for the subsequent apartments built. Sadly, this is widely representative of a trend, driving housing prices up in all other districts. The market for super-luxury apartments costing more than HK $50 million each is dominated by mainland Chinese. In a somewhat relieving way, restrictions of capital outflow from the Chinese government has abated Chinese mainland investing interest, at least for now.

Recent government initiatives have aimed to cool the market. In November 2016, a 15 percent stamp duty was enforced on non first-home buyers to dampen the prevalence of speculation in the property market. This, in conjunction with the increased cost of the US dollar (to which the HK dollar is pegged) was predicted to curb property prices by up to 30 percent in 2017. Logically, this should, as the increasing USD value would lead to rising mortgage rates. However, (in the absence of sufficient regulation by the government) property development companies have been happy to hand out loans, which along with bank loans, have further increased pricing trajectory.

With government initiatives to increase supply whilst making housing prices more affordable, this gave way to the unintended consequence of driving demand for smaller apartments, as developers needed to meet government requirements of achieving supply targets whilst lowering prices for the average buyer. The result? Tiny shoe-box sized ‘micro’ apartments which are affordable, but few would say habitable. These truly humble abodes, accounting for 5% of the city’s newly developed housing in 2010, leaped to 27% in 2016, and are forecasted to rise to 43% in 2018. In an effort to increase home ownership prospects, Carrie Lam has promised to provide government help for people too wealthy for public housing but still without means to afford their own apartment. Whether or not these micro-apartments, sized at 15 square metres, are a sustainable way of living remains to be seen.

Is success definable?

The dream: to be rich and successful while one is still able-bodied and youthful. There must be a formula for success, especially since there are so many stories of teenagers cashing in as millionaires. How then, is it possible for others to achieve the same dream?

The first tip is usually not to earn more, but to spend less. Allocating an allowance for oneself and saving every other penny. This does not just mean ‘no lavish lifestyles’, but to live a frugal life. There are many things which constitute as a waste of money such as watching a movie at the cinemas, eating out, gambling away in a casino, down to spending change in an arcade.

Once being thrifty becomes second nature, it serves to recognize: salary alone is not enough. In 2014, Forbes released the statistics of how people make their richest list. A mere 8.6% of their income comes from wages, and the highest percentage goes to capital gains, sitting at 45.8%. However, merely starting a business is hardly enough to assure a healthy cash flow. One must be good at what they do.

However, it is now 2017, and technology has caused an upheaval in regards to how we interact with the world and therefore, generating countless possibilities when it comes to money making. Limited only by imagination and skill. Hence, it is beneficial to invest in oneself. Do not spend on anything that does not serve a higher purpose. Rather, choose instead to indulge in picking up a skill in which ones’ interest lies and then learn to be of service.

It is crucial in this digital era to know how to market oneself as a brand. Many young entrepreneurs use their skill and knowledge in wielding the latest technology to their advantage. Instead of long term investments or dabbling in real estate, they plunge into app or website building, utilizing the needs of a new market.

For those who are less inclined in technology, might find their niche in photography or blogging. There are numerous bloggers that focus on their area of expertise, such as fitness, makeup, travel or tutorials ranging from dieting to image editing. There is a whole slew topics one might specialise in. Believe it or not, there is even a youtube channel dedicated to unboxing toys with 4 million subscribers to date. Their daily revenue can be anywhere from a little more over $1,000USD to more than ten thousand.

One thing that these established entrepreneurs share is genuine interest and passion in what they do. Instead of mimicking successful businesses and hope their imitation will be as well received. It is as futile as a marketing a knockoff with expectations that exceeds the one set for the original.

Another tip is quite cliché, but as the saying goes: winners are people who do not give up. It pays to be resilient, and finishing what one has started. Regardless whether it is a new idea which has taken form, or a dying business, pushing against the current to accomplish what one set out to do is not only satisfying but might result in a good payoff.

Of course, one must also be intelligent and well informed regarding their determination. Many businesses have failed due to its extreme innovation. Back when the internet was new, there were a few pioneers whose companies never made any returns purely due being far to advanced for the market at that time. However, one might conclude that if only they had persevered, they would reap what they sowed. Much like the websites which survived during what is known as Web 1.0. Back in 1998, before the internet was truly utilized, one man had the foresight to start up a website regarding daily deals and coupons. Today, it is worth an estimated $1 billion USD. Unfortunately, due to financial constraints, holding on to something which did not seem promising at that time does not support its credibility as a logical decision.

To create a startup today requires more than luck and innovation, one needs to study trends and allow creativity to take the helm. We are in an age of convergence, where celebrities are no longer elusive and a complaint could be publicized to the CEO of a company rather than the regional manager who has less power. It is not enough to be contactable, one has to be present at all times. That is one of the many tactics Huffington Post employed to gain such traction. By generating hundreds of pieces of content daily, several of them were bound to go viral.

It serves to be two steps ahead of the crowd but anything beyond that is too advanced to be welcomed. Whether riches is waiting around the corner, what makes a person successful is drive, passion and the contentment to match.

An Economic Update on the Tourism Industry

Wanderlust is perhaps inherent to human nature- a legacy of the pre-historic ages when humans were predominantly nomads. Limited technology and access to information meant that for several millennia, the ability to travel was so severely limited that those who travelled far in ancient times, like Marco Polo or Faxian, are remembered to this day.

The advent of civil aviation, combined with easy access to information through the internet have transformed the travel and tourism landscape beyond recognition over the last few decades, to the point where today, even a common man can realistically dream of travelling to remote corners of the world in his lifetime. As a result, travel and tourism has become one of the most important industries in the world, providing a livelihood to 292 million people and accounting for 10.2% of global GDP.

The travel and tourism industry has displayed remarkable resilience in the current decade, despite factors like a global economic slowdown, political instability in many countries and the rising spectre of terrorism which has left few parts of the world untouched. Despite those factors, the growth of the industry has consistently outpaced that of global GDP since 2011. This astonishing phenomenon has been due to several factors, some of which are discussed in this article.

Tourism has traditionally been of the leisure tourism variety, where individuals go on a vacation unrelated to work. It may be in the form of a weekend getaway or a much longer stay away from home. The drivers of leisure tourism are many. For instance, sports buffs may indulge in sports tourism, which was a USD 7.7 Billion industry as of 2011. Food lovers in pursuit of new culinary experiences may indulge in food tourism.

Here is an interesting fact – There were as many as 56 million tourists who visited the US last year for gambling. Since many countries have a tight lock even on casinos online, people vacationed in places that allowed them to gamble without restrictions.

Leisure tourism can also be driven by negative factors. For example, consumption of alcohol is prohibited in most Middle Eastern countries, prompting citizens and expatriates living in those countries to seek indulgence in places where consumption is permitted. Similarly, individuals may indulge in recreational drug tourism, which allows them to obtain drugs that may be prohibited in their home country.

With increasing global interconnectivity, business tourism has become a very important segment within the travel and tourism industry. As of 2016, the global spending on business tourism was estimated at USD 1.3 Trillion- higher than the GDP of most countries in the world. Despite the advent of technologies like teleconferencing or online video chatting apps like Skype, Facetime or Google Hangouts, business tourism continues to thrive, with an estimated growth of 6% in 2017. With a global economic recovery underway, it is likely that this segment will experience significant growth over the next few years. The latest trend in this sector is a portmanteau called ‘bleisure’ tourism when business travellers extend their stay at their destination for leisure activities.

Medical tourism has emerged as another important segment within the travel and tourism industry in recent years. Valued at USD 10 Billion in 2015, this industry is expected to experience double-digit growth until the end of the current decade due to two factors, the significantly lower cost of medical treatment in developing countries (vis-à-vis developed countries) and the unavailability of local expertise in underdeveloped countries. Rising healthcare costs and limited insurance coverage- especially for orthopaedic surgeries- in developed countries are expected to further fuel the growth of this sector.

One of the oldest forms of tourism in the world, religious tourism remains a significant activity. The World Tourism Organisation estimated that major religious sites across the world, such as the Great Mosque of Mecca, Vatican City, Church or the Nativity, and Our Lady of Fatima attracted 300 million tourists as of 2016. Given the fact that religious belief is immune to political and economic downturns, this segment is likely to experience growth for the foreseeable future

One of the latest developments in the travel and tourism industry is the phenomenon of virtual tourism. Thanks to modern technology, it is now possible to experience a virtual tour of major tourist attractions without having to leave the comforts of home. The equipment required for a virtual tour could be as simple as an ordinary smartphone with the added option of a 3D headset. 

Counterintuitive as it may sound, virtual tourism could actually boost leisure tourism instead of supplanting it by giving would be travellers a preview of what they could experience- much the way a starter whets the appetite for the main course. While the concept is still in a nascent stage, with technological advancements it is likely that virtual tourism will grow into a full-fledged segment within the travel and tourism industry.

Several governments across the world to have formulated tourism policies to exploit the economic potential offered by the industry. The combination of higher disposable incomes, especially in developing countries, easy access to information and lower travel costs due to declining oil prices will contribute significantly to the growth of the travel and tourism industry over the next few years.

However, the industry continues to face significant challenges to growth. Apart from the factors mentioned at the beginning of this article, weakening currency exchange rates and barriers to entry in the form of visa restrictions could act as headwinds restricting the growth of the sector.