How To Become a Master at Talking To Strangers

A couple of years ago, I started to talk to strangers. That’s not to say I hadn’t talked to strangers before that, because I had. I’m the son and brother of highly social small-­business owners, and I’m a journalist, so talking to strangers has been both a way of life and a livelihood for me. And yet, a few years ago I noticed I wasn’t doing it much anymore — if at all. Between balancing a demanding job and a really demanding small child, I was often tired, distracted, and overscheduled. The prospect of striking up conversations with random strangers in coffee shops, or bars, or on the bus started to feel daunting. Eventually, I just stopped doing it.

This was a coping strategy, of course. I was overwhelmed, so something had to go. And talking to strangers can, as it turns out, be taxing. Psychologists have found that just making with a stranger can be cognitively demanding, tiring, and even stressful. That makes sense. You don’t know the person, you don’t know where the conversation is going, so you must pay closer attention than you would if you were talking to someone you know well. But psychologists have found that talking to a stranger actually boosts your mental performance — for that same reason: It’s a workout. I was saving myself a bit of effort, but I also noticed that my life was becoming less interesting, less surprising, maybe even a little lonely.

Related: 3 Ways to Make Memorable Small Talk That Gets People Interested In Working With You

After my epiphany, I got to wondering: Why don’t we talk to strangers more, what happens when we do, and how can we get better at it? It turns out, many researchers are asking the same questions. I started flying around the world to meet them: psychologists, evolutionary scientists, historians, urban planners, entrepreneurs, sociologists, and — you guessed it — a ton of fascinating strangers I met along the way. They all taught me that talking to strangers can not only be fun but also enhance our sense of well-being, make us smarter, expand our social and professional networks, and even help us overcome some of our most intractable social problems. (I detail this all in my new book, The Power of Strangers: The Benefits of Connecting in a Suspicious World.)

And as I researched the book, I kept coming back to the implications talking to strangers could have for entrepreneurs. Because I come from a family of small-business owners — and for a while served as executive editor at this magazine — I have seen firsthand how beneficial it is for businesspeople to hone those social skills. I have also spoken to a lot of college professors who lament that their students struggle to make the sorts of serendipitous social connections that will serve them so well once they start their careers. And, like all of us, I’m coming out of a year spent in relative quarantine. I’m rusty on these skills and need to get used to the sorts of fun, fruitful, and, yes, sometimes difficult freewheeling social interactions we were deprived of for more than a year.

All of which is to say, I decided that I needed to become an expert at talking to strangers. How? I signed up for a class unlike anything I’d ever taken before and bought a plane ticket to London.


Our journey begins on a bright day in a small classroom at Regent’s University. I’m sitting on a chair, limp with jet lag, clutching my third cup of coffee. There are four other people there, too. They appear to be functioning at a higher level than I am, thankfully. We have come to this classroom to learn how to talk to strangers.

Our teacher is an energetic 20-something named Georgie Nightingall. She’s the founder of Trigger Conversations, an acclaimed London-based “human connection organization” that hosts social events and immersive workshops aimed at helping people have meaningful interactions with strangers. Since she founded it in 2016, Nightingall has done more than 100 events and many training sessions — with strangers, companies, communities, universities, and conferences, both in London and around the world.

Related: How to Start a Conversation With Strangers at a Networking Event

Nightingall has learned that, for a lot of people, the hardest thing about talking to strangers is initiating the conversation: approaching someone, making them feel safe, and quickly conveying the idea that you don’t have an agenda, that you’re just being friendly or curious. She found that older people are much more likely to initiate a conversation, for instance, whereas younger people require a little more assurance. But she also found that in all her own attempts to speak to strangers, the vast majority of those interactions were substantial, and many went great.

She came to believe, too — and this is important — that making a practice of talking to strangers could offer more than a jolt of good feeling for an individual. There was joy in it, profundity, real communion. If practiced widely enough, she believed it could help repair a fracturing society. “We’re not just talking about a few individualized things,” she says. “We’re talking about a different way to live.”

Nightingall stands before our class, bright, engaging, and articulate, and walks us through what to expect over the coming days. She wants to take us “from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence, and from conscious competence to unconscious competence,” she says. In other words, we are currently bad at this and we’re unaware of why or how. We will learn what we are lacking. We will improve on it. And we will, hopefully, become so proficient that it will become second nature to us.

Our first lesson is small talk. A lot of people hate small talk, which is understandable, because a lot of small talk is deadly boring. Nightingall concedes the point. Yes, she says, small talk can be dull. But that’s because most people don’t understand what it’s for. It’s not the conversation. It’s the opener for a better conversation. It’s a way to get comfortable with one another and cast around for something you want to talk about. That, she says, is why it’s important to be aware of your response when someone asks something like “What do you do?” You are failing to understand what that question is really asking, which is this: “What should you and I talk about?”

Nightingall came to this insight via a couple of sources. She had done improve comedy in the past, and in improve, you start a sketch with something familiar to everyone in the audience — something relevant, timely, or present in the room — to bind the room together. Only then can you really take the audience on a ride. That’s small talk. But Nightingall has also followed the work of social anthropologist Kate Fox, who has studied, for instance, the seemingly inexhaustible English desire to discuss weather. While some critics have pointed to this affinity as evidence of a listless and unimaginative people, Fox argued that weather wasn’t the point. Instead, it is a means of social bonding, a greeting ritual. “English weather-speak is a form of code, evolved to help us overcome our natural reserve and actually talk to each other,” Fox writes. The content is not the point — familiarity, connection, and reassurance are. Once those are in place, a real conversation can happen.

When you recognize that small talk is just a door to a better conversation, Nightingall says, then it can be useful, because it’s structured in a way that naturally leads you toward common ground. We have all experienced how these conversations, if given the time, can move in ever-tightening circles until you both zero in on something you have in common and want to talk about. With that in place, you can wander, get a little personal, go deeper. But it’s probably on you to take it there, Nightingall says. “Everyone is interesting, but it’s not up to them to show you — it’s up to you to discover it.”

The best way to discover that interesting stuff, Nightingall says, is by “breaking the script.” That means using the techniques of small talk, but resisting the temptation to go on autopilot. For example, you go into a store and say, “How are you doing?” and the clerk says, “Fine; how are you?” and the conversation contains no information and goes nowhere. That’s a script. We use scripts to make interactions more efficient, particularly in busy, dense, fast-moving places like big cities. But in doing so, we deny ourselves the chance at a better experience and maybe a new contact, and we wall ourselves off from all the benefits that can come from talking to strangers.

Related: 10 Ways to Connect With Absolutely Anyone You Meet

So how do you break those scripts? With specificity and surprise, Nightingall says. For example, when someone says, “How are you?” she doesn’t say, “Fine.” Instead, she says, “I’d say I’m a 7.5 out of 10.” She briefly explains why she’s a 7.5, asks them how they’re doing, and then just waits. This is when mirroring kicks in; it’s a phenomenon where people naturally follow the lead of their conversational partners. If you say something generic, they will say something generic. If you say something specific, they are likely to as well. Thus, because Nightingall gave a number, her partner is likely to give a number themselves. If they say they’re a 6, Nightingall will ask, “What’ll it take to get you to an 8?” This specificity creates a light atmosphere and makes it harder for the other person to maintain the that you’re of a lesser mind, because it instantly demonstrates complexity, feeling, and humor: humanity, in other words. “Straightaway, they’re like, ‘Oh, you’re a human,’ ” Nightingall says. “You have that bond, and then, naturally, things open up.”

Here are other ways Nightingall suggests breaking a script. When a shop clerk asks, “Can I help you?” you can reply, “Can I help you?” Or instead of asking people at a party what they do, ask them what they’d like to do more of, or what they don’t do. Or instead of asking someone how their day went, ask, “Has your day lived up to your expectations?” All these things require a certain measure of confidence to pull off, Nightingall says. But they work. And when they do, they will reveal a little nugget of what it’s like to be that person. That is meaningful, because that nugget is indicative of what is beneath the surface. “How you do anything is how you do everything,” Nightingall says. That nugget tells you where to go next in the conversation.


Once you’ve established a little connection, what do you do? I normally start asking questions. Which makes sense: I’m showing an interest in the other person, and I demonstrate my interest by indulging my curiosity. But one paradox about talking to a stranger, Nightingall explains, is that while curiosity is indispensable, a barrage of questions out of the gate can feel like prying, or an interview. They don’t quite know where you’re coming from yet, and they don’t know if you have some kind of agenda. Even one personal question asked too early can create an uncomfortable dynamic because you’re asking something of someone. You’re making a demand.

Nightingall suggests that statements, not questions, can be a better way to open a conversation. A question compels an answer, whereas a statement leaves it up to the other person to decide whether they want to talk. It’s not a demand; it’s an offer. You notice something about your shared surroundings, offer an observation, and leave it to the other party to respond. If they do, you respond with another statement that builds on what they said.

These observations should ideally not be moronic — “I noticed that the sun came up today!” — but they can be simple. Like weather talk in England, the point is to indicate a shared experience. Nightingall has found that proximity helps, too. If you are at a museum, walking right up to someone looking at a painting and blurting out “What do you think?” is very different from making an observation about a painting after standing next to them for 30 seconds looking at it. That’s because you have been in their proximity. They have adjusted to your being there, and you have demonstrated a measure of self-control. Then you can speak. It feels less like an invasion.

Related: How to Become a Master Communicator by Following This One Rule

One day in class, my fellow students and I pair off to practice our technique. I’m partnered with “Paula,” who tells me that one of her favorite things is making a cup of good coffee for herself on the weekends and just sitting alone. I try to remember Nightingall’s advice about opening with statements, not questions, but now we’re in a groove — so I dig in. After four questions, Paula is talking about how resentful she is at having to work for other people. I’m obviously quite pleased with myself as I trot back to Nightingall with this pheasant in my mouth. But she is less impressed. She delicately explains that while “it’s clear you’re a person who asks questions for a living,” everything about my suggested I was looking for something to pounce on. I asked questions too quickly, she said. I was leaning forward. This wasn’t a conversation; it was an interview. Possibly an interrogation.

Nightingall suggested asking simpler and more open-ended questions. Instead of saying, “Do you think this was because you were a control freak?” just echo, or say, “Why do you think that is?” That is the opposite of what I usually do, but it’s what I must learn to do. In a good conversation, you must relinquish control. Your job is to help your partner arrive at their own conclusion and surprise you, not to ferret out whatever it is, slap a bow on it, and go, Next! There’s a powerful lesson there: If you’re interested only in things you know you’re interested in, you will never be surprised. You’ll never learn anything new, or gain a fresh perspective, or make a new friend or contact. The key to talking to strangers, it turns out, is letting go, letting them lead. Then the world opens itself to you.

Why don’t we talk to strangers? The answer I heard, over and over again from experts, is simply that we don’t talk to strangers. In many places, for many reasons, it has become a social norm, and social norms are really powerful. That is why Nightingall uses what she calls a foolproof method to not just violate the norm — but to openly acknowledge that you are violating the norm.

She asks us to imagine riding mass transit — which, as we know, is the last place anyone ever talks to a stranger. There is someone who strikes us as interesting. We can’t turn to that person and say, “Why do I find you so interesting?” because if you said something like that to a stranger on the subway, they’re going to assume this is the initiation of a chain of events that will ultimately conclude with their becoming crude homemade taxidermy. So Nightingall suggests something called a pre-frame. It’s an idea based in the field of neurolinguistic programming, which coaches people to “reframe” the possible negative thoughts of others — ­­in essence redefining their expectations for the interaction to come. Ordinarily, we might be wary if a stranger just starts talking to us. We don’t know who they are, or what they want, or whether they’re right in the head. What a pre-frame does is reassure them that you know all this.

To do it, you acknowledge out of the gate that this is a violation of a social norm. You say something like “Look, I know we’re not supposed to talk to people on the subway, but…” This demonstrates that you’re in full possession of your faculties. You’re not erratic, disturbed, or otherwise off in some way. It helps alleviate wariness and opens the possibility of a connection. Once that is established, Nightingall says, you follow the pre-frame with your statement — “I really like your sunglasses,” for instance. Then you follow that with a justification: “I just lost mine and I’ve been looking for a new pair.” The justification eases the person’s suspicion that you have some kind of agenda and allows you to talk a little more openly.

Related: What to Do When You Don’t Know Anyone in the Room

That’s when questions become more important, Nightingall says. Questions serve a multitude of functions, which is why, as I learned in my exercise with Paula, they can be so complicated. Yes, questions help you obtain information. And yes, on a deeper level, they help your conversational partner clarify the point they are trying to make. But they also help us emotionally bond with other people. In a series of studies in 2017, psychologist Karen Huang and her colleagues discovered that “people who ask more questions, particularly follow-up questions, are better liked by their conversation partners.” Those who ask more questions, the authors found, are perceived as higher in responsiveness — which is defined as “listening, , validation, and care.” In other words, people like us because we are interested in them.

And yet, the researchers noted, people tend not to ask a lot of questions. Why? Several reasons. “First,” Huang writes, “people may not think to ask questions at all…because people are egocentric — ­focused on expressing their own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs with little or no interest in hearing what another person has to say. Or they may be so distracted by other aspects of the conversation that they do not realize that asking a question is an option.” Even if a question does pop into someone’s head, they may not ask it, because they worry it’ll land badly and be “perceived as rude, inappropriate, intrusive, or incompetent.” In these cases, people will probably just talk about themselves, which studies show they do twice as often as they talk about other matters — ­which, ironically, makes people like them less. (Good work, everybody.)

But what’s a good question to ask? Nightingall has us complete an exercise in which we are given banal statements — the sort commonly offered in small talk—and tasked with coming up with good questions. For instance, one student says she ran along the Thames yesterday. There is almost nothing in the world less interesting to me than running, and usually I’d take this as my cue to begin plotting my escape. But, working from the idea that small talk is the means, not the end, the class brainstorms good questions to ask that might lead to something more personal or interesting: “Do you run every day?” “Is that a passion for you?” “What would you do if you couldn’t run every day?” I suggest, “What are you running from?” which is meant as a joke, but the class seems to go for it.

Then we move on to the flip side of question-asking: It is listening. When people do start talking, you must listen, make eye contact, and generally show you’re engaged. We know this, of course. But we are not always good at showing it. Two effective techniques to signal engagement are paraphrasing what people have just said — “It seems like you’re saying…” — and echoing — which is simply occasionally repeating things your partner just said—both of which are commonly used by therapists and hostage negotiators to foster connection and build trust. For instance, if they say, “I guess at that point I was frustrated,” you say, “You were frustrated.” This seems deeply weird and unnatural, and feels awkward to do, and if you overdo it, your partner is going to think something’s wrong with you. But I am here to attest that, done well, it is extremely effective. It’s like a magic trick. Researchers have concluded as much. According to the French psychologists Nicolas Guéguen and Angélique Martin, “Research has shown that mimicry…leads to greater liking of the mimicker” and helps create rapport during a social interaction.

Nightingall breaks down listening into three levels. There is listening for things you know about. That’s the most superficial level. That’s when someone says something about baseball and you jump on it and start talking about baseball. Then there is listening for information — you show curiosity about someone but your questions are about collecting factual data. That’s also more about you and your interests. And then there’s the deepest level of listening: listening for experiences, feelings, motivations, and values. That kind of listening is more than simply hearing, or self-­affirmation. It’s paying attention and endeavoring to understand. It is demonstrated with eye contact, echoing, and paraphrasing, and it can be deepened by asking clarifying questions —­ Why? How? Who? — that help the person get to the heart of the matter.

In other words, at this level of listening, you are not simply listening for something you want to talk about, or offering advice, or trying to think of something smart to say in response. It’s not about your agenda. It is a level of engagement that is about helping your partner get to what they really want to talk about, and you going along for the ride. You still want to talk about yourself a bit, Nightingall says — to give a little, and not leave the person feeling like you’ve just rummaged around in the bureau of their personal life and made off with a watch. But you want most of the focus to be on them. It is, again, a form of . You are hosting someone. You are surrendering a measure of control. You are giving them space. You are taking a risk. That risk opens you to the potential rewards of talking to a stranger.

During lunch and after class, I try out some of these techniques around London. I ask a 20-something bartender at a pub if the day has met her expectations, and she confesses with very little prompting that yes, it has. She’s about to quit her day job. She feels she’s been sold a bill of goods about the merits of a straight corporate career, and she’s going to empty her savings and travel the world. She hasn’t told anyone this yet, she says. But she will soon.

At lunch at a Lebanese takeout restaurant, I ask the owner what items he’s most proud of — because that’s what I want. He starts taking bits of this and that and dropping them into my bag. I tell him I grew up in a white neighborhood, and when I was a kid, a Lebanese family moved in behind us and used to hand us plates over the fence of what was at that time very exotic food. Since then, Lebanese food has always been among my favorites. Curiously, when I eat it, I think about home. This, as Nightingall instructed, was me opening up the conversation with a statement, not a question. The owner tells me that in Lebanon, that kind of hospitality is a big deal; people always make a lot of food for visitors. While he talks, he keeps dropping more food into my bag. When he’s done, the bag weighs about five pounds and he charges me for maybe a third of it.

Related: Here’s How to Strike Up a Conversation With Almost Anyone

At the end of the final day of class, Nightingall tells us that practice will be everything. Some encounters will go poorly, she says, and some will be great, but in time, we will get more comfortable with doing this as we internalize the techniques we have learned. We will be able to get a little bolder or more playful. Our confidence, tone, and body language will alleviate people’s wariness at the flagrant violation of a social norm of long standing.

Indeed, Nightingall is something of a wizard at this. She once started a conversation with a man on the tube just by pointing at his hat, smiling, and saying, simply, “Hat.” She will randomly high-five people in the street, she says. She smiles at people going the opposite direction down an escalator just to see if they’ll smile back. She doesn’t order an Americano; she orders “the best Americano in the world.” And people respond. During a break one day, I walked into the campus Starbucks to get more coffee. Nightingall was already in there, talking animatedly with a barista she’d never met before. When she and I walked out, she told me he gave her the coffee on the house.

Nightingall’s free coffee, my Lebanese meal — these were not coincidences. As I learned repeatedly while testing techniques of talking to strangers, I’d often be rewarded with free food. There are, of course, far more fruitful, meaningful, and valuable reasons to talk to strangers. But the food stuck with me. Then I realized why: When you start a good conversation with a stranger, it’s like you’re giving them an uncommon gift. And more often than not, they want to give you something in return.

Joe Keohane

By: Joe Keohane / Magazine Contributor

Source: How to Become a Master at Talking to Strangers

.

References:

“Micro review: ‘Talking to Strangers’ by Malcolm Gladwell – Times of India”. The Times of India. 5 October 2019. Retrieved 2020-04-07.v

Why You May Be Overly Optimistic About Your Social Security Benefits

Frank and Joan Shortland

As humans, we tend to be overoptimistic on everything from our driving ability to investment prowess. It’s perennial problem when it comes to money and retirement management.

A recent study found that people routinely over-estimate their Social Security benefits. Two researchers from the University of Michigan found that “Americans face the challenges of retirement with varying degrees of preparation. Evidence indicates that that many individuals may not be making the best possible choices with respect to their Social Security and retirement savings.”

Why do people expect more than what they actually receive in benefits? Here’s what the researchers found:

  • Most retirees find that the amount of Social Security retirement benefits they receive is lower than what they had expected before claiming.
  • Not appropriately adjusting for early or delayed claiming could contribute to expectation biases about retirement benefits. In particular, this would be most relevant for those with lower levels of education.
  • Current workers recognize that they do not have a good idea of what their future retirement benefits will be. Forty-nine percent of our survey respondents declare having no knowledge about their benefit amount.
  • The average expectation bias for monthly retirement benefits in our sample is $307, which equals 27% of the average forecasted benefit for this sample (in current dollars).
  • Men display lower expectation bias and are less likely to overestimate their retirement benefits.

How to avoid these misconceptions? You need to estimate benefits based on the age you intend to claim them and your earnings record. A good place to start is Social Security’s benefits estimator tool.

Since people are living longer and are generally healthier in older age, the Social Security Administration raised the full retirement age to 67 for people born in 1960 or later, up from 65. You can apply for benefits as early at 62, although your benefit would be reduced by 30%. On the other hand, if you can wait until age 70, you will get 124% of the monthly benefit because you delayed getting benefits for 36 months.

Consider how each scenario might impact your retirement planning. Preparing for different outcomes now is the best way to help protect your savings – and peace of mind – down the line.

Planning today can make a big difference in your retirement lifestyle tomorrow. Once you leave the workforce, the years that follow can be all that you want them to be—if you pave the way with a comprehensive financial plan that includes your Social Security income.

Your plan should be based on what you know today and flexible enough to adapt to any changes—like unforeseen personal circumstances or developments that come out of Washington.

Social Security can be a valuable tool to help bridge any gap you may have between your expected sources of income and your expenses.

POINTS TO KNOW

  • Social Security has features for retirees that other retirement savings plans don’t have.
  • When creating your retirement plan, be sure to include your Social Security benefits as an income source.
  • It’s important to have a retirement budget: Itemize your income sources and expected expenses.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here.

 

Source: Why You May Be Overly Optimistic About Your Social Security Benefits

.

Citations: 

 1, 5, 7, 8 AARP: “How is Social Security funded?” February 11, 2021 https://www.aarp.org/retirement/social-security/questions-answers/how-is-social-security-funded/

2 SSA: “Your Retirement Benefit: How It’s Figured” by Social Security Agency, January 2021 https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10070.pdf

3 SocialSecurity.gov: “My Account” information collected from www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount

4 AARP: “How much longer will Social Security be around?” September 22, 2020 https://www.aarp.org/retirement/social-security/questions-answers/how-much-longer-will-social-security-be-around/

6 Statista: “Number of retired workers receiving Social Security in the United States from 2010 to 2020” by Statista Research Department, January 19, 2021 https://www.statista.com/statistics/194295/number-of-us-retired-workers-who-receive-social-security/

9 SSA: “Retirement Benefits: Retirement Age Calculator” by Social Security Agency https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/ageincrease.html

10 SSA: “Retirement Benefits: Starting Your Retirement Benefits Early” by Social Security Agency https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/agereduction.html

11 SSA: “Retirement Benefits: How Delayed Retirement Affects Your Social Security Benefits” by Social Security Agency https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/1960-delay.html

12 IRS.gov: “Are Social Security Benefits Taxable?” February 13, 2017 https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/are-social-security-benefits-taxable

13, 14 SSA: “Retirement Benefits: Income Taxes And Your Social Security Benefit” by Social Security Agency https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/taxes.html 

15 Investopedia: “Do Earnings from a Roth IRA Count Toward Income?” By Denise Appleby, April 8, 2021 https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/05/iraearningsmagi.asp

Smartphones are Powerful Personal Pocket Computers – Should Schools Ban Them?

When the UK took its first steps out of national lockdown in April and schools reopened, education secretary Gavin Williamson announced the implementation of the behaviour hubs programme. And as part of this push to develop a school culture “where good behaviour is the norm”, he pushed for banning smartphones in schools.

Williamson claims that phones distract from healthy exercise and, as he put it, good old-fashioned play. And he says they act as a breeding ground for cyberbullying. Getting rid of them will, to his mind, create calm and orderly environments that facilitate learning. “While it is for every school to make its own policy,” he wrote, “I firmly believe that mobile phones should not be used or seen during the school day, and will be backing headteachers who implement such policies.”

The difficulty that teachers face is that there are often conflicting assessments of the risks and benefits of the constant influx of new devices in schools. As we found in our recent study, guidance for educators on how to navigate all this is limited. And there is no robust evaluation of the effect of school policies that restrict school-time smartphone use and there is limited evidence on how these policies are implemented in schools. So how can teachers approach this controversial subject?

We believe the best way to start is to reframe the smartphone itself. Rather than just a phone, it is more accurately described as a powerful pocket computer. It contains, among other things, a writing tool, a calculator and a huge encyclopaedia.

Join our readers who subscribe to free evidence-based news

Suggesting that children use smartphones in ways that help them learn, therefore, seems hardly radical. The perennial debate about banning phones needs to shift to thinking about how best to help schools better design school phone policies and practices that can enrich their pupils’ learning, health and wellbeing. And for that, we can start by looking at the evidence on phone use by young people.

We know that most adolescents own a smartphone. When used appropriately and in moderation, they can provide multiple benefits in terms of learning, behaviour and connection with peers. There is also evidence that technology use in classrooms can support learning and attainment.

The operative word here, though, is “moderation”. Excessive use of smartphones (and other digital devices) can lead to heightened anxiety and depression, neglecting other activities, conflict with peers, poor sleep habits and an increased exposure to cyberbullying.

Then there’s everything we don’t yet fully understand about the impact – good or bad – that smartphone use may have on children. No one does. This has been reflected in recent research briefings and reports published by the UK government: they recognise the risks and benefits of phone use, and report that it is essential that schools are better supported to make decisions about their use in school with evidence-based guidance.

Playing catch-up

To investigate existing school positions on phone and media use, we interviewed and did workshops with more than 100 teenagers across years nine to 13, along with teachers, community workers and international specialists in school policies and health interventions.

We found that teachers tend to be scared of phones. Most of them said this was because they didn’t know how pupils are using their phones during school hours. Amid pressures regarding assessment, safeguarding and attendance, phones are simply not a priority. Issuing a blanket ban is often just the easiest option.

Teachers too recognise the benefits, as well as the risks, of smartphone use. But, crucially, they don’t have the necessary guidance, skills and tools to parse seemingly contradictory information. As one teacher put it: “Do we allow it, do we embrace it, do we engage students with it, or do we completely ignore it?”

Different approaches

This is, of course, a worldwide challenge. Looking at how different institutions in different cultural settings are tackling it is instructive. Often, similar motivations give rise to very different approaches.

The mould-breaking Agora school in Roermond, in the Netherlands, for example, allows ubiquitous phone use. Their position is that teenagers won’t learn how to use their phones in a beneficial way if they have to leave them in their lockers.

By contrast, governments in Australia, France and Canada are urging schools to restrict phone use during the day in a bid to improve academic outcomes and decrease bullying.

Teachers need a new type of training that helps them to critically evaluate – with confidence – both academic evidence and breaking news. Working with their students in deciding how and when phones can be used could prove fruitful too.

Accessing information

Academic research takes time to publish, data is often incomprehensible to non-experts and papers reporting on findings are often subject to expensive journal subscription prices. Professional development providers, trusts and organisations therefore must do more to make it easier for teachers to access the information they need to make decisions.

New data alone, though, isn’t enough. Researchers need be prepared to translate their evidence in ways that educators can actually use to design better school policies and practices.

The children’s author and former children’s laureate Michael Rosen recently made the point that “we are living in an incredible time: whole libraries, vast banks of knowledge and multimedia resources are available to us via an object that fits in our pockets”.

That doesn’t sound like something educators should ignore. Findings from our study add to the current debate by suggesting that new evidence and new types of teacher training are urgently needed to help schools make informed decisions about phone use in schools.

Authors:

Senior Lecturer in Pedagogy in Sport, Physical Activity and Health, University of Birmingham

Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), University of Birmingham

Reader in Public Health & Epidemiology, University of Birmingham

Source: Smartphones are powerful personal pocket computers – should schools ban them?

.

Critics:

The use of mobile phones in schools by students has become a controversial topic debated by students, parents, teachers and authorities. People who support the use of cell phones believe that these phones are essential for safety by allowing children to communicate with their parents and guardians, could simplify many school matters, and it is important in today’s world that children learn how to deal with new media properly as early as possible.

To prevent distractions caused by mobile phones, some schools have implemented policies that restrict students from using their phones during school hours. Some administrators have attempted cell phone jamming, but this practice is illegal in certain jurisdictions. The software can be used in order to monitor and restrict phone usage to reduce distractions and prevent unproductive use. However, these methods of regulation raise concerns about privacy violation and abuse of power.

Phone use in schools is not just an issue for students and teachers but also for other employees of educational institutions. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, while no state bans all mobile phone use for all drivers, twenty states and the District of Columbia prohibit school bus drivers from using mobile phones.[38] School bus drivers have been fired or suspended for using their phones or text-messaging while driving.

Cellphone applications have been created to support the use of phones in school environments. As of February 2018, about 80,000 applications are available for teacher use. A variety of messaging apps provide communication for student-to-student relationships as well as teacher-to-student communication. Some popular apps for both students, teachers, and parents are Remind and ClassDojo. About 72% of top-selling education apps on iOS are for preschoolers and elementary school students. These apps offer many different services such as language translation, scheduled reminders and messages to parents.

See also

Say Goodbye To Bitcoin And Say Hello To The Digital Dollar

https://img.particlenews.com/img/id/2mPBQk_0aeawgZp00?type=thumbnail_1600x1200

Yesterday we talked about the prospects of a digital dollar coming down the pike. It seems clear that global governments will not allow non-sovereign forms of money to continue to proliferate.

The Senate Banking committee’s hearing on the digital dollar two weeks ago was not only a public exploration and introduction to the concept a central bank-backed digital currency, the hearing was also used as a platform to publicly assassinate the viability of the private (“bogus” in the words of Senator Warren) cryptocurrency market (bitcoin, stablecoins, etc.).

With this in mind, the Chinese government has continually tightened control over the crypto market in China, most recently cracking down on cryptocurrency mining in the country. The U.S. Justice Department announced a few weeks ago that it “recovered” $2.3 million in cryptocurrency of the ransom collected from the Colonial Pipeline hack. And today, it was reported that South Korea seized almost $50 million of crypto assets from citizens accused of tax evasion.

So the benefits of the private cryptocurrency market are being deconstructed by governments. Add to that, even after gaining traction, the private crypto market continues to be used primarily as a tool of corruption and speculation. With that, this chart set up argues for a typical bubble outcome (crash).

I founded billionairesportfolio.com — an online investment advisory site that gives the average investor access to sophisticated hedge fund analysis and strategies, all in an easy to understand format. I am also CEO of Logic Fund Management. I started my career with a London-based family office hedge fund that managed money for a French billionaire.

Source: Say Goodbye To Bitcoin And Say Hello To The Digital Dollar

.

Critics:

A pair of U.S. congressmen have introduced a bill that would require the Treasury Department to evaluate the digital yuan, digital dollar and the actual dollar’s role in the global economy.

The bipartisan bill, introduced by Reps. French Hill (R-Ark.) and Jim Himes (D-Conn.), seeks to ensure the U.S. dollar remains the world’s reserve currency and directs the Treasury Department to publish a report that evaluates current policy and governance around the currency. This report would include details around central bank digital currencies (CBDC), among other issues.

Under the terms of the bill, dubbed the “21st Century Dollar Act,” the Treasury secretary (currently Janet Yellen) would submit a report to the Senate Banking and House Financial Services committees that includes “a description of efforts by major foreign central banks, including the People’s Bank of China, to create an official digital currency, as well as any risks to the national interest of the United States posed by such efforts.”

The report would update these committees on the Federal Reserve’s current status in researching a digital dollar. The bill would also require the Treasury Department to develop a strategy for boosting the dollar’s reserve status.

The report would detail “any implications for the strategy established by the secretary pursuant to subsection (a) arising from the relative state of development of an official digital currency by the United States and other nations, including the People’s Republic of China,” the bill said.

Keeping the dollar as the world’s reserve currency would be “good for American companies and workers as well as U.S. global influence,” Hill said in a statement.

USD Coin (USDC) is a digital stablecoin that is pegged to the United States dollar and runs on the Ethereum, Stellar, Algorand, and Solana blockchains. USD Coin is managed by a consortium called Centre,which was founded by Circle and includes members from the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase and Bitcoin mining company Bitmain, an investor in Circle.

Circle claims that each USDC is backed by a dollar held in reserve. USDC reserves are regularly attested (but not audited) by Grant Thornton, LLP, and the monthly attestations can be found on the Centre Consortium’s website. USDC was first announced on the 15th of May 2018 by Circle, and was launched in September of 2018.

On March 29, 2021, Visa announced that it would allow the use of USDC to settle transactions on its payment network. As of June 2021 there are 24.1 billion USDC in circulation.

See also

The Health Benefits of Coffee

Americans sure love their coffee. Even last spring when the pandemic shut down New York, nearly every neighborhood shop that sold takeout coffee managed to stay open, and I was amazed at how many people ventured forth to start their stay-at-home days with a favorite store-made brew.

One elderly friend who prepandemic had traveled from Brooklyn to Manhattan by subway to buy her preferred blend of ground coffee arranged to have it delivered. “Well worth the added cost,” she told me. I use machine-brewed coffee from pods, and last summer when it seemed reasonably safe for me to shop I stocked up on a year’s supply of the blends I like. (Happily, the pods are now recyclable.)

All of us should be happy to know that whatever it took to secure that favorite cup of Joe may actually have helped to keep us healthy. The latest assessments of the health effects of coffee and caffeine, its main active ingredient, are reassuring indeed. Their consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of all kinds of ailments, including Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, gallstones, depression, suicide, cirrhosis, liver cancer, melanoma and prostate cancer.

In fact, in numerous studies conducted throughout the world, consuming four or five eight-ounce cups of coffee (or about 400 milligrams of caffeine) a day has been associated with reduced death rates. In a study of more than 200,000 participants followed for up to 30 years, those who drank three to five cups of coffee a day, with or without caffeine, were 15 percent less likely to die early from all causes than were people who shunned coffee. Perhaps most dramatic was a 50 percent reduction in the risk of suicide among both men and women who were moderate coffee drinkers, perhaps by boosting production of brain chemicals that have antidepressant effects.

As a report published last summer by a research team at the Harvard School of Public Health concluded, although current evidence may not warrant recommending coffee or caffeine to prevent disease, for most people drinking coffee in moderation “can be part of a healthy lifestyle.”

It wasn’t always thus. I’ve lived through decades of sporadic warnings that coffee could be a health hazard. Over the years, coffee’s been deemed a cause of conditions such as heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, pancreatic cancer, anxiety disorder, nutrient deficiencies, gastric reflux disease, migraine, insomnia, and premature death. As recently as 1991, the World Health Organization listed coffee as a possible carcinogen. In some of the now-discredited studies, smoking, not coffee drinking (the two often went hand-in-hand) was responsible for the purported hazard.

“These periodic scares have given the public a very distorted view,” said Dr. Walter C. Willett, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Overall, despite various concerns that have cropped up over the years, coffee is remarkably safe and has a number of important potential benefits.”

That’s not to say coffee warrants a totally clean bill of health. Caffeine crosses the placenta into the fetus, and coffee drinking during pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage, low birth weight and premature birth. Pregnancy alters how the body metabolizes caffeine, and women who are pregnant or nursing are advised to abstain entirely, stick to decaf or at the very least limit their caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams a day, the amount in about two standard cups of American coffee.

The most common ill effect associated with caffeinated coffee is sleep disturbance. Caffeine locks into the same receptor in the brain as the neurotransmitter adenosine, a natural sedative. Dr. Willett, a co-author of the Harvard report, told me, “I really do love coffee, but I have it only occasionally because otherwise I don’t sleep very well. Lots of people with sleep problems don’t recognize the connection to coffee.”

In discussing his audiobook on caffeine with Terry Gross on NPR last winter, Michael Pollan called caffeine “the enemy of good sleep” because it interferes with deep sleep. He confessed that after the challenging task of weaning himself from coffee, he “was sleeping like a teenager again.”

Dr. Willett, now 75, said, “You don’t have to get to zero consumption to minimize the impact on sleep,” but he acknowledged that a person’s sensitivity to caffeine “probably increases with age.” People also vary widely in how rapidly they metabolize caffeine, enabling some to sleep soundly after drinking caffeinated coffee at dinner while others have trouble sleeping if they have coffee at lunch. But even if you can fall asleep readily after an evening coffee, it may disrupt your ability to get adequate deep sleep, Mr. Pollan states in his forthcoming book, “This Is Your Mind on Plants.”

Dr. Willett said it’s possible to develop a degree of tolerance to caffeine’s effect on sleep. My 75-year-old brother, an inveterate imbiber of caffeinated coffee, claims it has no effect on him. However, acquiring a tolerance to caffeine could blunt its benefit if, say, you wanted it to help you stay alert and focused while driving or taking a test.

Caffeine is one of more than a thousand chemicals in coffee, not all of which are beneficial. Among others with positive effects are polyphenols and antioxidants. Polyphenols can inhibit the growth of cancer cells and lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes; antioxidants, which have anti-inflammatory effects, can counter both heart disease and cancer, the nation’s leading killers.

None of this means coffee is beneficial regardless of how it’s prepared. When brewed without a paper filter, as in French press, Norwegian boiled coffee, espresso or Turkish coffee, oily chemicals called diterpenes come through that can raise artery-damaging LDL cholesterol. However, these chemicals are virtually absent in both filtered and instant coffee. Knowing I have a cholesterol problem, I dissected a coffee pod and found a paper filter lining the plastic cup. Whew!

Also countering the potential health benefits of coffee are popular additions some people use, like cream and sweet syrups, that can convert this calorie-free beverage into a calorie-rich dessert. “All the things people put into coffee can result in a junk food with as many as 500 to 600 calories,” Dr. Willett said. A 16-ounce Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino, for example, has 51 grams of sugar, 15 grams of fat (10 of them saturated) and 370 calories.

With iced coffee season approaching, more people are likely to turn to cold-brew coffee. Now rising in popularity, cold brew counters coffee’s natural acidity and the bitterness that results when boiling water is poured over the grounds. Cold brew is made by steeping the grounds in cold water for several hours, then straining the liquid through a paper filter to remove the grounds and harmful diterpenes and keep the flavor and caffeine for you to enjoy. Cold brew can also be made with decaffeinated coffee.

Decaf is not totally without health benefits. As with caffeinated coffee, the polyphenols it contains have anti-inflammatory properties that may lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes and cancer.

Jane E. Brody

 

 

Source: The Health Benefits of Coffee – The New York Times

Contents to read:

Four out of five people say that they suffer from sleep problems at least once a week and wake up feeling exhausted. Here’s a guide to becoming a more successful sleeper.

Stretching and meditative movement like yoga before bed can improve the quality of your sleep and the amount you sleep. Try this short and calming routine of 11 stretches and exercises.

Nearly 40 percent of people surveyed in a recent study reported having more or much more trouble than usual during the pandemic. Follow these seven simple steps for improving your shut-eye.

When it comes to gadgets that claim to solve your sleep problems, newer doesn’t always mean better. Here are nine tools for better, longer sleep.

.

Critics:

Coffee is a brewed drink prepared from roasted coffee beans, the seeds of berries from certain Coffea species. All fruit must be further processed from a raw material—the fruit and seed—into a stable, raw product; un-roasted, green coffee. To process the berries, the seed is separated from the fruit to produce green coffee. Green coffee is then roasted, a process which transforms the raw product (green coffee) into a consumable product (roasted coffee). Roasted coffee is ground into a powder and mixed with water to produce a cup of coffee.

Coffee is darkly colored, bitter, slightly acidic and has a stimulating effect in humans, primarily due to its caffeine content. It is one of the most popular drinks in the world, and can be prepared and presented in a variety of ways (e.g., espresso, French press, caffè latte, or already-brewed canned coffee). It is usually served hot, although chilled or iced coffee is common. Sugar, sugar substitutes, milk or cream are often used to lessen the bitter taste. It may be served with coffee cake or another sweet dessert like doughnuts. A commercial establishment that sells prepared coffee beverages is known as a coffee shop (not to be confused with Dutch coffeeshops selling cannabis).

Market volatility, and thus increased returns, during 1830 encouraged Brazilian entrepreneurs to shift their attention from gold to coffee, a crop hitherto reserved for local consumption. Concurrent with this shift was the commissioning of vital infrastructures, including approximately 7,000 km of railroads between 1860 and 1885. The creation of these railways enabled the importation of workers, in order to meet the enormous need for labor. This development primarily affected the State of Rio de Janeiro, as well as the Southern States of Brazil, most notably São Paulo, due to its favorable climate, soils, and terrain.

See also

Organizations:

New Unemployment Claims Rise For First Time In Nearly Two Months, But Number Of Americans Receiving Benefits Falls Sharply

1

Last week’s new unemployment claims were higher than the previous week’s revised claims of 375,000, which marked the lowest level during the pandemic, and much worse than the 360,000 claims economists were expecting.

The number of Americans filing claims under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which extends benefits to self-employed workers not eligible for traditional state programs, also jumped, hitting 118,025, according to the weekly data released Thursday.

Despite the rise in new weekly claims, the total number of Americans receiving any form of benefit fell sharply to 14.8 million in the week ending May 29, about 560,000 less than the week prior and much lower than the 30.2 million weekly claims filed in the comparable week last year.

Crucial Quote

“What the claims information doesn’t tell us is how much faster the job market will heal or where so-called full employment will ultimately be because the latest data tells the story of more than 9 million job openings and an equal number of officially unemployed,” Bankrate senior economic analyst Mark Hamrick wrote in a Thursday email, referring to the Federal Reserve’s goal of full employment, which would mean the only people unemployed would be those unable to work. “The easiest part of putting people back to work occurred from May through August of last year, when more than a million jobs per month were added to payrolls.”

Big Number

5.8%. That was the unemployment rate in May, according to the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report, down from 6.1% in April.

What To Watch For

On Wednesday, the Fed said it wants to see more progress in the labor market, which is still down 7.6 million jobs since the onset of the pandemic, before it moves to raise rates and tighten policy. The Fed has long insisted the economy is still fragile and in need of assistance due to the ongoing pandemic, but the central bank is likely to change its messaging in light of expected job growth by the end of this year. Officials on Wednesday said they are looking ahead to two interest rate hikes by the end of 2023—sooner than previously expected.

Key Background

At least 26 states—including Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina—have announced they will stop participating in the federal government’s supplemental unemployment benefits program, which provides an extra $300 a week to jobless Americans, by July 3. Some officials are claiming the payments disincentivize workers to find jobs, but in a note to clients late last month, JPMorgan economists said the early end to the unemployment insurance, which is set to expire in September, looks “tied to politics, not economics.”

They argued that many of the states that have announced the early reduction are not showing signs of a tight labor market or strong earnings growth—two factors used to justify ending the enhanced benefits. Meanwhile, some states have moved on legislation that would authorize one-time “signing bonuses” for unemployed residents who find work.

Further Reading

Jobless Claims Hit New Pandemic Low, But 15.3 Million Americans Are Still Receiving Unemployment Benefits

Follow me on Twitter. Send me a secure tip.

I’m a reporter at Forbes focusing on markets and finance. I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I double-majored in business journalism and economics while working for UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School as a marketing and communications assistant. Before Forbes, I spent a summer reporting on the L.A. private sector for Los Angeles Business Journal and wrote about publicly traded North Carolina companies for NC Business News Wire. Reach out at jponciano@forbes.com. And follow me on Twitter @Jon_Ponciano

Source: New Unemployment Claims Rise For First Time In Nearly Two Months, But Number Of Americans Receiving Benefits Falls Sharply

.

Critics:

Unemployment benefits, also called unemployment insurance, unemployment payment, unemployment compensation, or simply unemployment, are payments made by authorized bodies to unemployed people.

The first modern unemployment benefit scheme was introduced in the United Kingdom with the National Insurance Act 1911, under the Liberal Party government of H. H. Asquith. The popular measures were to combat the increasing influence of the Labour Party among the country’s working-class population.

The Act gave the British working classes a contributory system of insurance against illness and unemployment. It only applied to wage earners, however, and their families and the unwaged had to rely on other sources of support, if any.Key figures in the implementation of the Act included Robert Laurie Morant, and William Braithwaite.

Across the world, 72 countries offer a form of unemployment benefits. This includes all 37 OECD countries. Among OECD countries for a hypothetical 40-year-old unemployment benefit applicant, the US and Slovakia are the least generous for potential benefit duration lengths, with PBD of six months. More generous OECD countries are Sweden (35 months PBD) and Iceland (36 months PBD); in Belgium, the PBD is indefinite.

The Unemployment Insurance Act 1920 created the dole system of payments for unemployed workers in the United Kingdom. The dole system provided 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to over 11 million workers—practically the entire civilian working population except domestic service, farmworkers, railroad men, and civil servants.

Unemployment benefits were introduced in Germany in 1927, and in most European countries in the period after the Second World War with the expansion of the welfare state. Unemployment insurance in the United States originated in Wisconsin in 1932.Through the Social Security Act of 1935, the federal government of the United States effectively encouraged the individual states to adopt unemployment insurance plans.

Job sharing or work sharing and short time or short-time working refer to situations or systems in which employees agree to or are forced to accept a reduction in working time and pay. These can be based on individual agreements or on government programs in many countries that try to prevent unemployment. In these, employers have the option of reducing work hours to part-time for many employees instead of laying off some of them and retaining only full-time workers. For example, employees in 27 states of the United States can then receive unemployment payments for the hours they are no longer working.

International Labour Convention

International Labour Organization has adopted the Employment Promotion and Protection against Unemployment Convention, 1988 for promotion of employment against unemployment and social security including unemployment benefit.

See also

Here’s What Could Happen When $300 Unemployment Expires, According To Goldman Sachs


1

Amid reports of labor shortages and fears of economic overheating thanks to what some view as excessive government stimulus spending, a total of 26 states are now planning to end the $300 federal unemployment supplement in order to spur hiring—here’s what analysts from Goldman Sachs expect to happen once payments stop.

Key Facts

Goldman’s analysts point out that since 25 of the states ending the benefit early only account for 29% of pandemic job losses, it’s likely that the pressures on the labor market—worker shortages and a depressed labor force participation rate—will continue until the benefits expire in every state at the beginning of September.

The analysts note that it’s too soon to say how the early end of benefits will affect official employment statistics—that insight will likely be contained in the July jobs report the Labor Department will publish in August.

That said, claims for regular state unemployment insurance benefits have fallen faster in states that have announced they will end the supplement early—the analysts say this is a “hint” that hiring will pick up once the benefits are phased out, but note that other data like the volume of job postings don’t yet support that conclusion.

The analysts say their “best guess” is that the expiring benefits will “provide a significant tailwind to hiring in the coming months,” spurring growth of more than 150,000 jobs in July and more than 400,000 jobs in September, though they note that the prediction is still uncertain.

Based on previous academic studies, the analysts estimate that a typical worker receiving regular state benefits will see those benefits drop by 50% once the $300 supplement expires in their state, and the duration of their unemployment would fall roughly 25%.

Crucial Quote

“The temporary boost in unemployment benefits . . . helped people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own and are still maybe in the process of getting vaccinated, but it’s going to expire in 90 days,” President Biden said during prepared remarks after the release of the May jobs report last week. “That makes sense.”

Big Number

$12 billion. That’s how much local economies in the 24 red states that had announced an early termination of the $300 federal supplement as of June 2 are expected to lose as a result of ending the benefit early, according to a report from Congress’ Joint Economic Committee.

Surprising Fact

On Thursday, Louisiana became the first state with a Democratic governor to announce the early expiration of the $300 supplement. The other 25 states have Republican governors.

Key Background

An emergency federal unemployment insurance supplement was first authorized in the amount of $600 per week as part of the CARES Act last year. A new supplement of $300 was authorized by executive order under President Trump after the first supplement lapsed. The $300 supplement was extended once by Congress as part of a stimulus bill last December, and again by Congress as part of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

Further Reading

Louisiana’s John Bel Edwards Becoming First Democratic Governor To Cut $300-A-Week Federal Unemployment Benefits (Forbes)

Biden: It ‘Makes Sense’ That $300 Unemployment Will End In September (Forbes)

California And Florida Are Sending Out More Stimulus Checks. Could Your State Be Next? (Forbes)

IRS Releases Child Tax Credit Payment Dates—Here’s When Families Can Expect Relief (Forbes)

Source: Here’s What Could Happen When $300 Unemployment Expires, According To Goldman Sachs

I’m a breaking news reporter for Forbes focusing on economic policy and capital markets. I completed my master’s degree in business and economic reporting at New York University. Before becoming a journalist, I worked as a paralegal specializing in corporate compliance.

.

Critics:

Several coronavirus relief bills have been considered by the federal government of the United States:

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, also called the COVID-19 Stimulus Package or American Rescue Plan, is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by the 117th United States Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, 2021, to speed up the United States’ recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing recession.First proposed on January 14, 2021, the package builds upon many of the measures in the CARES Act from March 2020 and in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, from December.

Beginning on February 2, 2021, Democrats in the United States Senate started to open debates on a budget resolution that would allow them to pass the stimulus package without support from Republicans through the process of reconciliation. The House of Representatives voted 218–212 to approve its version of the budget resolution.

A vote-a-rama session started two days later after the resolution was approved, and the Senate introduced amendments in the relief package. The day after, Vice President Kamala Harris cast her first tie-breaking vote as vice president in order to give the Senate’s approval to start the reconciliation process, with the House following suit by voting 219–209 to agree to the Senate version of the resolution.

Prior to the American Rescue Plan, the CARES Act from March and in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, from December were both signed into law by then-president Donald Trump. Trump previously expressed support for a direct payments of $2,000 along with Joe Biden and the Democrats. Even though Trump called for Congress to pass a bill increasing the direct payments from $600 to $2,000, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked the bill.

Additionally, the House voted on the HEROES Act on May 15, 2020, which would operate as a $3 trillion relief package, but it wasn’t considered by the Senate as Republicans said that it would be “dead on arrival”.Prior to the Georgia Senate runoffs, Biden said that the direct payments of $2,000 would be passed only if Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won; the promise of comprehensive Covid-19 relief legislation was reported as a factor in their eventual victories.On January 14, prior to being inaugurated as president, Biden announced the $1.9 trillion stimulus package.

See also

5 Essential Questions to Ask Before You Accept Any Job Offer

artistic image of two men shaking hands in an office space

You polished your résumé, dazzled them in interviews, and landed the job you’ve been chasing. You’ve finally received that coveted offer letter. But don’t get too excited yet.

“It’s sad to say that there are so many things you need to be aware of and careful of in something that should be very exciting for you,” says Kylie Cimmino, a consultant with HR consulting firm Red Clover HR. “But it’s about making sure that you’re covering yourself and you’re prepared for all of the minutiae that is included in that offer.”

So, before you answer your would-be employer with a resounding “Yes!” ask these five questions first:

Is this really the right position for you?

Paraphrasing actor Sally Fields’s iconic Oscar speech, it’s not uncommon to get caught up in the feeling of “They like me! They really like me!” and not think through whether this is truly the best job or offer for you. “Sometimes a job offer doesn’t fit, even though you applied for the role hoping it would. Take a moment and determine if this is really the job you are looking for,” says Paul Wolfe, senior vice president of human resources for Indeed.com.

Think about the role and how it fits into your career plans. And, if you haven’t already, look into the company and its culture to see if this is a place where you really want to work. Sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, and others have reviews by employees that give a glimpse into the strengths and weaknesses of the company. Use your personal and professional networks to get a sense of what it’s really like to work for the company. If you don’t know anyone personally, it’s likely you’re just a contact or two away from someone who can give you more insight, Wolfe says.

Are there contingencies or conditions?

Some offers are contingent on a variety of factors, including background or drug tests, reference checks, or willingness to sign a noncompete or other agreement. Review these contingencies carefully and consider whether any of them may surface issues from your past or may not be something to which you’re willing to agree, says Colleen Drennen Pfaller, founder of HR consulting firm A Slice of HR.

Sometimes, the contingencies are assumed and may not be in the offer letter, she says. “[If] it’s spelled out, great. But if it’s not, you want to follow up and ask,” she says. Certainly, have that conversation before you give notice at your current employer. For example, if there is a signing bonus, do you need to remain at the job a certain period of time to keep it or do you need to pay it back? These are all factors that you should understand before accepting the job offer.

If you suspect that something like a background check will reveal a potential issue, it may be a good idea to broach the topic first, or at least have an explanation ready if it comes up, Cimmino adds. For example, if you take a prescription medication that may show up in a drug test, be prepared to address the issue, she says.

Is everything you want in the offer?

Read the offer carefully to ensure that anything you negotiated is in it, Wolfe says. Or, if there are additional concessions or add-ons—for example, additional paid time off, moving allowance, subsidized parking, etc.—that you’re seeking, set up a time to talk with your prospective employer. “Negotiating terms of the offer is a standard practice. You want to ensure that everything you were promised or expected is in that letter before signing on the dotted line,” he adds. Once you’ve accepted the offer, it can be difficult to go back and claim that you’re due something that was previously discussed, but not formalized in the offer.

What is the timing?

In addition, be sure you understand details that will affect your transition from job to job, including timing, Cimmino says. If you’re not starting your new job for a few weeks or if there will be a gap between when you leave your old job and start the new one, think about how you will bridge any health insurance or payroll gap. Be sure you understand when you are eligible for benefits such as health insurance, 401(k), and time off at the new company.

What impact will this job have on my family?

If your new role will require changes in your lifestyle, salary, hours, or other factors that may affect your family members, include them in the discussion too. For example, if you’re taking a pay cut or if the job requires more travel or a move, such changes will affect your spouse and children. It’s a good idea to be sure everyone’s on board, Wolfe says.

“While ultimately, the decision whether to take a job is the candidate’s, in many cases, their decision impacts others around them,” he adds. “Take time to consider and talk with your family about how this new position impacts everyone.”


Gwen Moran is a writer, editor, and creator of Bloom Anywhere, a website for people who want to move up or move on. She writes about business, leadership, money, and assorted other topics for leading publications and websites. She’s been honored by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Small Business Influencer Awards, and a few others. Find her on Twitter @gwenmoran and on Instagram @bloom.anywhere.

Source: 5 Essential Questions to Ask Before You Accept Any Job Offer

.

Critics:

Job analysis is crucial for first, helping individuals develop their careers, and also for helping organizations develop their employees in order to maximize talent. The outcomes of job analysis are key influences in designing learning, developing performance interventions, and improving processes.The application of job analysis techniques makes the implicit assumption that information about a job as it presently exists may be used to develop programs to recruit, select, train, and appraise people for the job as it will exist in the future.[5]

Job analysts are typically industrial-organizational (I-O) psychologists or human resource officers who have been trained by, and are acting under the supervision of an I-O psychologist. One of the first I-O psychologists to introduce job analysis was Morris Viteles. In 1922, he used job analysis in order to select employees for a trolley car company. Viteles’ techniques could then be applied to any other area of employment using the same process.

Job analysis was also conceptualized by two of the founders of I-O psychology, Frederick Winslow Taylor and Lillian Moller Gilbreth in the early 20th century. Since then, experts have presented many different systems to accomplish job analysis that have become increasingly detailed over the decades. However, evidence shows that the root purpose of job analysis, understanding the behavioral requirements of work, has not changed in over 85 years.

.

References

Rogelberg, S.G. (2007). Encyclopedia of industrial and organizational psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Here’s Why Spiking Inflation And Labor Shortages Won’t Tank The Economic Recovery, According To Experts

New York City Reopens As Most Pandemic Restrictions Are Lifted

Spiking inflation, disappointing jobs gains and shortages of labor and commodities have investors wringing their hands over the state of the economy and the seemingly growing risk of overheating, but according to Moody’s chief economist, Mark Zandi, there’s no cause for alarm.

In a research note published Tuesday, Zandi emphasizes that all those factors are temporary.  “The recovery . . . may be uneven, given the considerable adjustments needed for the economy to fully reopen, but our outlook for a boom-like economy over the coming year has not changed materially,” he wrote.

The labor shortage and hiring difficulties will improve as students return to school and parents have more childcare options, he suggests, and he describes the evidence that federal supplemental $300 weekly unemployment benefits are keeping workers home as “thin.”

Zandi expects inflationary pressures to ease later this year once the economy returns to normal and businesses—especially those in the travel and leisure industry—get past the point where they are reversing their pandemic-era price cuts.

He suggested investor fears that stubborn inflation will force the Federal Reserve to hastily raise rates, thereby triggering a recession, are unlikely to materialize because of the significant slack still extant in the labor market.

Zandi also cites the ongoing semiconductor shortage as a major factor in the job losses and shortages in the auto manufacturing industry, but adds that he expects those pressures to abate by next year once surging demand and soaring prices for the chips prompt suppliers to boost production, thereby stabilizing the supply chain.

Crucial Quote

“Until the supply side of the economy wakes up and catches up with the fast-reviving demand side coming out of the pandemic, the economic statistics will undoubtedly hold more surprises—output and supply chains scrambled; labor, commodities and products in short supply; and price spikes,” Zandi wrote. “If history is a guide, when businesses can make a healthy profit, they will solve the problems,” he added. “Quickly.”

Key Background

Zandi isn’t the only expert looking beyond the risk factors to a robust recovery. Despite raising their expectations for one measure of inflation by more than a percentage point to a peak of 3.5% this year, analysts from investment giant Goldman Sachs believe the factors that caused them to hike the target for core CPI inflation—soaring used-car prices, production delays in the auto industry and changes in health insurance payouts—are temporary.

Not to mention, their impact isn’t as large across other measures of inflation that weigh prices differently. That sentiment is also beginning to make its way to Wall Street: “The inflation debate is not over, but the majority of Wall Street believes it will be transitory,” OANDA senior market analyst Edward Moya wrote in a Tuesday note.

Just as telling as the wage data, the share of working-age Americans who are in fact working has declined in recent decades. The country now has the equivalent of a large group of bakeries that are not making baguettes but would do so if it were more lucrative — a pool of would-be workers, sitting on the sidelines of the labor market.

Corporate profits, on the other hand, have been rising rapidly and now make up a larger share of G.D.P. than in previous decades. As a result, most companies can afford to respond to a growing economy by raising wages and continuing to make profits, albeit perhaps not the unusually generous profits they have been enjoying.

Chief Critic

But not everyone agrees. Larry Summers, an economist who served in the Clinton and Obama Administrations, wrote in a Monday op-ed in the Washington Post that while some of the recent inflation might normalize with time, “not everything we are seeing is likely to be temporary.”

Summers suggests that a handful of factors including demand that grows faster than supply, higher housing prices, inflation expectations and even higher minimum wages and more benefits for employees have the potential to push inflation even higher. Summer recommends that policymakers “explicitly [recognize] that overheating, and not excessive slack, is the predominant near-term risk for the economy.”

What We Don’t Know

When the Federal Reserve will move to tighten policy and raise interest rates. Atlanta Federal Reserve President Raphael Bostic told CNBC last week that given the 8 million jobs that have yet to be recovered, “I think we’ve got to have our policies in a very strongly accommodative situation or stance.” He added: “I don’t think we’re going to have answers on this until at least early fall, and it may take longer than that.”

One of the few ways to have a true labor shortage in a capitalist economy is for workers to be demanding wages so high that businesses cannot stay afloat while paying those wages. But there is a lot of evidence to suggest that the U.S. economy does not suffer from that problem.

If anything, wages today are historically low. They have been growing slowly for decades for every income group other than the affluent. As a share of gross domestic product, worker compensation is lower than at any point in the second half of the 20th century. Two main causes are corporate consolidation and shrinking labor unions, which together have given employers more workplace power and employees less of it.

I’m a breaking news reporter for Forbes focusing on economic policy and capital markets. I completed my master’s degree in business and economic reporting at New York University. Before becoming a journalist, I worked as a paralegal specializing in corporate compliance.

Source: Here’s Why Spiking Inflation And Labor Shortages Won’t Tank The Economic Recovery, According To Experts

.

References

Nelson 1995, p. 158. This Marxist objection is what motivated Nelson’s essay, which claims that labour is not, in fact, a commodity.

7 Types of Renewable Energy: The Future of Energy

Renewable Energy Types | The future of eco-friendlier energy

What Is Renewable Energy?

Renewable energy is energy that has been derived from earth’s natural resources that are not finite or exhaustible, such as wind and sunlight. Renewable energy is an alternative to the traditional energy that relies on fossil fuels, and it tends to be much  less harmful to the environment.

7 Types of Renewable Energy

Solar

Solar energy is derived by capturing radiant energy from sunlight and converting it into heat, electricity, or hot water. Photovoltaic (PV) systems can convert direct sunlight into electricity through the use of solar cells.

Benefits

One of the benefits of solar energy is that sunlight is functionally endless. With the technology to harvest it, there is a limitless supply of solar energy, meaning it could render fossil fuels obsolete. Relying on solar energy rather than fossil fuels also helps us improve public health and environmental conditions. In the long term, solar energy could also eliminate energy costs, and in the short term, reduce your energy bills. Many federal local, state, and federal governments also incentivize the investment in solar energy by providing rebates or tax credits.

Current Limitations

Although solar energy will save you money in the long run, it tends to be a significant upfront cost and is an unrealistic expenses for most households. For personal homes, homeowners also need to have the ample sunlight and space to arrange their solar panels, which limits who can realistically adopt this technology at the individual level.

Wind

Wind farms capture the energy of wind flow by using turbines and converting it into electricity. There are several forms of systems used to convert wind energy and each vary. Commercial grade wind-powered generating systems can power many different organizations, while single-wind turbines are used to help supplement pre-existing energy organizations. Another form is utility-scale wind farms, which are purchased by contract or wholesale. Technically, wind energy is a form of solar energy. The phenomenon we call “wind” is caused by the differences in temperature in the atmosphere combined with the rotation of Earth and the geography of the planet.

.

.

Is the Future of Renewable Energy Inevitable? Get Surfshark VPN at https://surfshark.deals/undecided and enter promo code UNDECIDED for 83% off and 3 extra months for free! With solar panels and wind turbines sprawling across the globe, clean energy is taking over fossil fuels, which seem to be dead and buried, but are they?
Is our renewable energy future really sustainable and inevitable? Watch Are Stirling Engines the Future of Renewable Energy Storage?: https://youtu.be/Be3FckQoDws?list=PLn… Video script and citations: https://undecidedmf.com/episodes/is-t… Follow-up podcast: Video version – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4-a… Audio version – http://bit.ly/stilltbdfm
.
.
.

source

Benefits

Wind energy is a clean energy source, which means that it doesn’t pollute the air like other forms of energy. Wind energy doesn’t produce carbon dioxide, or release any harmful products that can cause environmental degradation or negatively affect human health like smog, acid rain, or other heat-trapping gases.[2] Investment in wind energy technology can also open up new avenues for jobs and job training, as the turbines on farms need to be serviced and maintained to keep running.

Take the next step by selecting the best energy plan for your home! justenergy.com/

Current Limitations

Since wind farms tend to be built in rural or remote areas, they are usually far from bustling cities where the electricity is needed most. Wind energy must be transported via transition lines, leading to higher costs. Although wind turbines produce very little pollution, some cities oppose them since they dominate skylines and generate noise. Wind turbines also threaten local wildlife like birds, which are sometimes killed by striking the arms of the turbine while flying.

Hydroelectric

Dams are what people most associate when it comes to hydroelectric power. Water flows through the dam’s turbines to produce electricity, known as pumped-storage hydropower. Run-of-river hydropower uses a channel to funnel water through rather than powering it through a dam.

Benefits

Hydroelectric power is very versatile and can be generated using both large scale projects, like the Hoover Dam, and small scale projects like underwater turbines and lower dams on small rivers and streams. Hydroelectric power does not generate pollution, and therefore is a much more environmentally-friendly energy option for our environment.

Current Limitations

Most U.S. hydroelectricity facilities use more energy than they are able to produce for consumption. The storage systems may need to use fossil fuel to pump water.[3]  Although hydroelectric power does not pollute the air, it disrupts waterways and negatively affects the animals that live in them, changing water levels, currents, and migration paths for many fish and other freshwater ecosystems.

Geothermal

Geothermal heat is heat that is trapped beneath the earth’s crust from the formation of the Earth 4.5 billion years ago and from radioactive decay. Sometimes large amounts of this heat escapes naturally, but all at once, resulting in familiar occurrences, such as volcanic eruptions and geysers. This heat can be captured and used to produce geothermal energy by using steam that comes from the heated water pumping below the surface, which then rises to the top and can be used to operate a turbine.

Benefits

Geothermal energy is not as common as other types of renewable energy sources, but it has a significant potential for energy supply. Since it can be built underground, it leaves very little footprint on land. Geothermal energy is naturally replenished and therefore does not run a risk of depleting (on a human timescale).

Current Limitations

Cost plays a major factor when it comes to disadvantages of geothermal energy. Not only is it costly to build the infrastructure, but another major concern is its vulnerability to earthquakes in certain regions of the world.

Ocean

The ocean can produce two types of energy: thermal and mechanical. Ocean thermal energy relies on warm water surface temperatures to generate energy through a variety of different systems. Ocean mechanical energy uses the ebbs and flows of the tides to generate energy, which is created by the earth’s rotation and gravity from the moon.

Benefits

Unlike other forms of renewable energy, wave energy is predictable and it’s easy to estimate the amount of energy that will be produced. Instead of relying on varying factors, such as sun and wind, wave energy is much more consistent. This type of renewable energy is also abundant, the most populated cities tend to be near oceans and harbors, making it easier to harness this energy for the local population. The potential of wave energy is an astounding as yet untapped energy resource with an estimated ability to produce 2640 TWh/yr. Just 1 TWh/yr of energy can power around 93,850 average U.S. homes with power annually, or about twice than the number of homes that currently exist in the U.S. at present.[4]

Current Limitations

Those who live near the ocean definitely benefit from wave energy, but those who live in landlocked states won’t have ready access to this energy. Another disadvantage to ocean energy is that it can disturb the ocean’s many delicate ecosystems. Although it is a very clean source of energy, large machinery needs to be built nearby to help capture this form energy, which can cause disruptions to the ocean floor and the sea life that habitats it. Another factor to consider is weather, when rough weather occurs it changes the consistency of the waves, thus producing lower energy output when compared to normal waves without stormy weather.

Hydrogen

Hydrogen needs to be combined with other elements, such as oxygen to make water as it does not occur naturally as a gas on its own. When hydrogen is separated from another element it can be used for both fuel and electricity.

Benefits

Hydrogen can be used as a clean burning fuel, which leads to less pollution and a cleaner environment. It can also be used for fuel cells which are similar to batteries and can be used for powering an electric motor.

Current Limitations

Since hydrogen needs energy to be produced, it is inefficient when it comes to preventing pollution.

Biomass

Bioenergy is a renewable energy derived from biomass. Biomass is organic matter that comes from recently living plants and organisms. Using wood in your fireplace is an example of biomass that most people are familiar with.

There are various methods used to generate energy through the use of biomass. This can be done by burning biomass, or harnessing methane gas which is produced by the natural decomposition of organic materials in ponds or even landfills.

Benefits

The use of biomass in energy production creates carbon dioxide that is put into the air, but the regeneration of plants consumes the same amount of carbon dioxide, which is said to create a balanced atmosphere. Biomass can be used in a number of different ways in our daily lives, not only for personal use, but businesses as well. In 2017, energy from biomass made up about 5% of the total energy used in the U.S. This energy came from wood, biofuels like ethanol, and  energy generated from methane captured from landfills or by burning municipal waste. (5)

Current Limitations

Although new plants need carbon dioxide to grow, plants take time to grow. We also don’t yet have widespread technology that can use biomass in lieu of fossil fuels.

source

Renewable Energy: What Can You Do?

As a consumer you have several opportunities to make an impact on improving the environment through the choice of a greener energy solution. If you’re a homeowner, you have the option of installing solar panels in your home. Solar panels not only reduce your energy costs, but help improve your standard of living with a safer, more eco-friendlier energy choice that doesn’t depend on resources that harm the environment. There are also alternatives for a greener way of life offered by your electric companies. Just Energy allows consumers to choose green energy options that help you reduce your footprint with energy offsets. Add JustGreen to your electricity or natural gas plan to lower your impact today!

By

Electricity, Energy Resources, Renewable Energy

Source: http://www.justenergy.com

.

Sources:

  1. Energy.gov, Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy, Retrieved from: https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/advantages-and-challenges-wind-energy
  2. Energy.gov, Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy, Retrieved from: https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/advantages-and-challenges-wind-energy
  3. U.S. Energy Information Administration, What is U.S. Electricity Generation by Energy Source?, Retrieved From: https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=427&t=3 
  4. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Ocean Wave Energy, Retrieved From: https://www.boem.gov/Ocean-Wave-Energy/
  5. U.S. Energy Information Administration, Biomass Explained, Retrieved From: https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/?page=biomass_home

 

 

%d bloggers like this: