Trump’s Dangerous Views on Asbestos

Donald Trump will easily go down as one of the most polarizing Presidents in the history of U.S. politics. In the eight months since he has held the Oval Office his administration has been plagued with accusations of corruption and disorganization, and the ‘talk first, facts later’ attitude he had on the campaign trail has morphed into a reckless style of legislative governance that is both unpredictable and often, misinformed.

Amongst the many outrageous claims Donald Trump has made over the years, are a number of dangerously ignorant comments about asbestos.

Donald Trump’s pro-asbestos sentiment can be traced all the way back to 1997 and his The Art of the Comeback book, in which he claimed he believed the anti-asbestos movement was rigged by the mob.
Within the pages he also calls an anti-asbestos law “stupid” and inaccurately claims asbestos is “…100 percent safe, once applied.”

Trump also supported the 9/11 asbestos conspiracy theory. The conspiracy theory suggests that the Twin Towers would never have collapsed if asbestos had been used for the entire structure, rather than just the first forty floors. As recently as 2012, Trump was lending the conspiracy theory credence, tweeting “If we didn’t remove incredibly powerful fire retardant asbestos & replace it with junk that doesn’t work, the World Trade Center would never have burned down.”

Considering many 9/11 first responders have suffered respiratory complications due to the clouds of toxic asbestos dust which lingered over downtown New York City, these comments seem crass and insensitive. But many experts believe it is not just first responders who were at risk while the city was engulfed in the hazardous fumes, 90,000 everyday citizens showed up to assist with the search for survivors amongst the burning rubble of the twin towers. These people also inhaled the noxious fumes. Some experts have estimated that the death toll from 9/11 will rise into the millions over the next few decades, as symptoms related to the effects of exposure to asbestos and other poisonous chemicals begin to manifest in the population.

Trump has also been a proponent of “safe asbestos” or the chrysotile-defense. Which argues that it is the amphibole-containing products which are dangerous. This claim is widely disputed by health and medical professionals, as 95% of the products used in the United States historically were mostly chrysotile.

Countless scientific studies have linked the substance with various forms of cancer, a 2005 study from Yale University’s School of Medicine even linked asbestos with colon cancer. The World Health Organization has recognized the risks of asbestos for decades, stating “all types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs).” The carcinogen has been banned in over 50 countries.

Asbestos can be both inhaled and ingested, and the material has been used for everything over the years, resulting in citizens gulping down microscopic fibers in their water, as it ran through asbestos cement pipes. Or breathing it while they slept thanks to asbestos based ceiling insulation.

Court evidence has revealed that multiple companies contributed to a cover-up of the dangers of asbestos as early as 1929. A chilling example includes the largest manufacturer of asbestos based products in the USA, Johns Manville and company president Lewis H. Brown. Brown was made aware of the chilling effects of asbestos on his workers, by local physicians as early as 1949. However, Johns Manville continued to produce products containing asbestos up until the early 1980’s. The EPA did not classify asbestos as a hazardous air pollutant until 1971.

Donald Trump’s ill-informed views are a slap in the face for those sufferers of mesothelioma and other cancers caused by asbestos, who are now facing renewed concern about the toxic substance and the ban on its use in the USA. Thanks to a combination of Trump’s pick for the role of director of the USA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Scott Pruitt and the proposed budget cuts to the Agency’s funding.

Pruitt has been accused of a non-committal stance toward the banning of the product. When pressed for answers he’s cited the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act as a reason to spend three years reinvestigating the risks that asbestos may pose. In response to senators’ questions regarding his position, Pruitt suggested that “prejudging the outcome of that risk evaluation process would not be appropriate.” He’s also been accused of approving other toxic products with little regulation by several environmental groups, and members of the democratic party referring to his appointment as a disaster.

In the United States, asbestos litigation is the longest and most expensive mass tort in all of US legal history, involving over 8000 defendants and costing millions in legal fees. Analysts expect costs in the USA alone to reach over $200 billion. The lengthy proceedings and costs involved with Asbestos proceedings in the USA several firms dedicated to providing legal support to those affected like The Ledger Law Firm who provide legal advice to claimants and offer fee-free representation to those whose hearings are unsuccessful.

Today about 125 million people worldwide are still exposed to asbestos in the workplace, and occupational exposure to the carcinogen has been responsible for over 107,000 deaths. New cases of mesothelioma are constantly diagnosed each year, with over a thousand cases diagnosed in 2015 across America, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Safe asbestos may be an ‘alternative’ fact that Trump supports. But the risks and the science behind the dangers are clear, and to grave to be ignored in the name of profit, or convenience.

What’s Next For Malaysia’s Najib Razak?

 

The arrest of Najib Razak, the former prime minister of Malaysia, on Tuesday represents a clean break from the past for all of Malaysia. The end of one-party rule has opened up the possibility of a new era of good governance in the country.

The arrest of Najib Razak, the former prime minister of Malaysia, on Tuesday was widely expected. In fact, many Malaysians were hoping he would be arrested immediately after the ruling party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), was defeated in the May 9 election.

Najib was the main reason why UMNO lost – he was widely seen as corrupt and the main person behind the scandal at 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state investment fund.

US prosecutors have accused Najib of diverting US$731 million from 1MDB into his personal bank account. Many people assume Najib’s arrest is connected to this fund, but legally speaking, he faces charges relating to a company called SRC international, a one-time subsidiary of 1MDB.

SRC took a loan of about US$1 billion from a state-run retirement fund and Najib is alleged to have siphoned off about US$10.5 million from the top. The money allegedly ended up in his bank account, the same account that was implicated in the 1MDB affair.

Najib has denied any wrongdoing, and on Weddnesday pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Why was Najib not charged in the 1MDB probe?

The simple answer is that the 1MDB investigation covers multiple jurisdictions. At the last count, money involved in the 1MDB affair is believed to have passed through the following financial systems: the United States, United Kingdom, Singapore, Switzerland, Australia, Luxembourg, Hong Kong, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, among others.

It is simply not possible to put such a complex case together in such a short amount of time following the election of opposition leader Mahathir Mohamad two months ago.

The good news is that, under the new Mahathir administration, foreign governments will now have access to Malaysian documents related to the 1MDB probe. The US, Singapore and Switzerland are among the countries investigating the scandal. When Najib was in power, all financial institutions in Malaysia refused to cooperate with these foreign probes.

Why is SRC International different?

The key factor here is a star witness, a former director of SRC International who decided to come forward to testify for the prosecution. This individual was too afraid to come forward when Najib was prime minister. That is no longer the case.

There are several key witnesses in the 1MDB scandal who may be thinking along the same lines as the former SRC director. With Najib no longer in control, some of these witnesses may now turn against him, as well.

Top of the list is Jho Low, the accused mastermind of the 1MDB scam. He is believed to be dividing his time between Macau and Taiwan, both places where extradition to Malaysia is not possible.

Another important witness under tremendous pressure to come forward is Tim Leissner, the former Southeast Asia chairman for Goldman Sachs, the bank that handled most of the 1MDB bond sales. He was pushed to resign from Goldman Sachs in February 2016, and both Singapore and US securities regulators have banned him from working again in the financial industry.

An interesting side note is that he is better known in the US as the husband of Kimora Lee Simmons, an American model and fashion designer and the former wife of hip hop mogul Russell Simmons.

What’s next in the Najib case?

By charging Najib, the Mahathir administration is keeping an electoral promise to take action against the former leader. But more importantly, the new government is also sending a strong message to Malaysians and the international community that it is serious about cleaning up the mess left by Najib’s government, especially when it comes to corruption.

For Najib, this will likely be the first of many trials he will face, as more charges are expected in the 1MDB case. It’s also likely that Najib’s family members, including his wife, stepson and son-in-law will face charges, as they are alleged to be direct beneficiaries of the stolen funds.

And this will likely bring an end to the Razak political dynasty in Malaysia for the time being. Najib’s father was Malaysia’s second prime minister and many of his immediate relations used to hold political office. Until the election in May, Najib’s cousin, Hishammuddin Hussein, had been Malaysia’s defence minister.

UMNO will also need to shed its associations with Najib in order to rehabilitate its image among the Malaysian people. Last weekend, the party elected a new president, former Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

All in all, Najib’s arrest represents a clean break from the past for all of Malaysia. The end of one-party rule has opened up the possibility of a new era of good governance in the country, which was unthinkable just three months ago. In today’s “new” Malaysia, anything is possible – even calling to account a former prime minister who was just defeated.

More importantly, going forward, the Malaysian public will demand full accountability from their leaders, both past and present.

Authored by Professor James Chin

This article was originally published as “What’s next for Najib Razak, Malaysia’s disgraced former prime minister?” in The Conversation on 5 July 2018, and is republished with permission.

Merits and Value of Different Treatments for Chronic Pain Management

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It is a natural part of life that as we get older, our bodies begin to behave differently. Aches and pains sometimes begin to take effect, changing the way that we go about our lives. For some individuals, the disruptions of experienced pain to daily life are relatively mild (if they experience disruptions at all, that is), however for others what starts out as mild to moderate aches and pains eventually become more sinister, negatively impacting an affected individual’s life in undesirable ways. Over time, if not properly dealt with in due time, these progressing pains can become chronic, festering into debilitating pains that make life incredibly uncomfortable (to say the least) for the affected individual. Dealing with chronic pain is never a fun experience (to say the least). As one gets older, it is a natural part of life that pain begins to come into life sometimes, however it is also important that everyone acknowledges that there are ways to address chronic pain, each of which have merits.

There are multiple different treatments for chronic pain out there, each of which have their own merits and value. More than ever, it is important to not only pay attention to this fact but to work wholeheartedly towards a healthier future in regards to not only chronic pain management, but practically every other aspect of health, wellbeing, and overall quality of life. As individuals struggle with managing their own experiences with chronic pain, it helps to have even a basic understanding of how others handled chronic pain and if their approaches could possibly work. However, first and foremost, anyone experiencing chronic pain should always see their doctor so that they approach chronic pain from a professionally accredited and prescribed approach. Failure to do so can in fact make the chronic pain even worse. However, it never hurts to have an idea of your chronic pain management options.

Prescribed medicines and treatments are obviously one approach to handling chronic pain. For decades, this has been the primary approach that westerners have taken to addressing not only chronic pain but practically all other examples of health and wellbeing ailments and struggles. Whether it is a prescribed medication, a physio consultation, or even an acupuncture appointment, the underlying point is that these are all treatments and solutions for chronic pain management that are well practiced and strikingly familiar to the majority of individuals – especially westerners. While these traditionally recommended and prescribed methods and models of chronic pain management are highly effective for many individuals suffering with chronic pain, the simple fact is that they are not always entirely effective. This is why other treatments and solutions for chronic pain management are necessary. What does not work for one individual will be the perfect solution for another, and so the necessity for options is more predominant than ever.

This is where the relatively fresh (at least, by western standards) controversial treatments for chronic pain come into play. Said controversial treatments and solutions for chronic pain are not any less effective or genuine than the western medicines that we are so familiar with. The only difference is that there is a distinct gap in the level of understanding that we have surrounding alternative medicines and treatments. Over time, this gap will steadily close. These days, more and more individuals suffering with chronic pain are opting towards more natural treatments. From investing in the best CBD oil on the market and opting for ancient Chinese herbal medicines to investing in reiki healing sessions, the point is always the same. That point is that alternative approaches to adequately and appropriately treating and even healing chronic pain are becoming more popular over time. For so many individuals, these more alternative approaches are working their magic. At the end of the day, it essentially comes down to a case by case basis. 

As the human body ages, it inevitably begins to go through the motions of ageing, one of which is the aches and pains that sometimes begin to work their way through an individual’s body. While some individuals are fortunate enough to make it through their lives without experiencing little more than some mild aches and pains, for other individuals aches and pains can gradually become worse and worse over time, becoming chronically painful. This is exactly how, when, and where treatments and solutions become so important for affected individuals. And more and more these days, alternative medicines like CBD oil and other herbal medicines are quickly becoming more and more popular while traditional approaches to treatment for chronic pain are getting better and better all the time. Regardless of the approach that one takes to addressing their chronic pain, appropriately addressing chronic pain is necessary to both work through the pain and work towards a painless future.

Smart IoT Technology Is Changing the Hotel Industry for the Better

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Now that we live in the digital era, it goes without saying that we are immersed in and surrounded by modern marvels like digitalization and technological advancement. This is an entirely new frontier in life in which we are more interconnected than ever before. Quite literally every aspect of life as we know it and every thriving industry has found itself in the position of realigning with the way that the world is moving. We have driven ourselves to this point, and we are now beyond the point of return. We have become so digitally and technologically inclined that we are not only more inclined towards these ideals, but also more reliant on them. Even (and especially) the hotel industry has been significantly impacted – and continues to be so – by technological advancement and enhancement. As one of the most important industries in the world, this ought to come as no surprise. Take the advancements of IoT (i.e. Internet of Things) and their impact on the hotel industry, for example.

Today, smart IoT technology is revolutionizing the hotel industry from the ground up. It has only been in recent years that smart IoT technology has really kicked into high gear, positively revolutionizing the global hotel industry from the ground up in the process. Whether it is the smart thermostats and energy management system found in hotels’ operational systems, or the wireless control of hotel rooms via IoT itself, the point is always the same: smart IoT technology is changing the game in all the best ways. It is easy to state this, but it is quite another point to back it up with evidence as to why this is the case. There are several reasons that smart IoT technology is changing the hotel industry for the better. Each of these reasons are worth their weight in gold and are important in their own right, but at the end of the day, the most important underlying reasons are the ones that make the most impact on the hotel industry – and the general world around it, for that matter.

As far as technological advancements go, IoT is well and truly one of the most significant and highly efficient of them all. While it has yet to do so, it is not at all unlikely that IoT will one day shift into place as the replacing operational technology for the worldwide web. A byproduct of the internet in many ways, smart IoT technology works its magic by effectively nurturing the hotel industry operational processes and systems to function and thrive at their highest objective notion. Take the cost-efficiency of smart IoT technology, for instance. The cost-effectiveness of introducing smart IoT technology into a hotel’s landscape cannot be and should never be underestimated. This is a branch of smart technology that is designed and intended to function and thrive on the basis of limiting energy consumption while maximizing efficiency across the board and around the hotel’s property. When up to 60% of a hotel’s cost of running comes down to basic operations, the introduction and ongoing advancement of a technology like smart IoT technology can and does make all the difference in the world.

And then there is the resale value that incorporating IoT into a hotel’s operational landscape has. Successfully incorporating smart IoT technology into a hotel’s internal and external processes and systems is all about investing in the hotel not just in the immediate sense, but in a long-lasting sense. This of course comes into effect in many ways, but also in the event that the hotel in question is sold later down the road. Resale value goes up significantly when smart IoT technology is introduced into the framework of a hotel’s infrastructure. The digital era is well and truly here, and it is going from strength to strength all the time. Every aspect of life as we know it and every thriving industry that exists today has been fundamentally impacted from modern marvels like digitalization and technological advancement. 

In the hotel industry specifically, technologies like smart IoT technology have been working their magic by essentially revolutionizing the hotel industry from the ground up tenfold. It has been a work in progress – and continues to be so today – however it continues to flourish and thrive more and more all the time. Smart IoT technology in the hotel industry is specifically geared towards drastically improving operational cost efficiency, sustainability, and resale value. At the end of the day, there is no getting around the fact: smart IoT technology is changing the hotel industry for the better. There is a lot more where all this advancement and innovation came from. The future of convenience, efficiency, security, and sustainability in the hotel industry is here.

Are ‘Smart’ Portable Air Conditioners The Next Big Thing?

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For just over 100 years, air conditioning has been hailed as a revolutionary, life changing technology embraced by people living in subtropical conditions or in warmer countries. In the United States and Japan, more than 90% of households have air conditioning, and by 2050 it is anticipated that globally, the number of air conditioning units in use is expected to quadruple, increasing from 3.6 billion today to 14 billion in 2050, according to a new report published by the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. People can’t deal with the heat the old fashioned way, it seems, and air conditioning is just too simple a solution.

But now there is a competitor to challenge the traditional AC unit: that of the ‘smart’ portable air conditioner. Controllable via phone or remote, these quiet portable air conditioner models are small, compact and highly efficient, and can be integrated with intelligent home systems with the click of a button. To enable smart features such as remote control via WiFi and voice control with Google Assistant and Alexa, all that is required is the download of a smart compatibility app like SmartThinQ, and upon setup it is possible to control your air conditioner from afar. This means that on your way home from work in the evening, you can switch on your AC via voice control from your car, and by the time you return home your kitchen, office or bedroom will be cooled to a comfortable temperature.

In terms of energy efficiency, this is serious progress. We all know the environmental ramifications of excessive air conditioning use, particularly if your house is fitted with central air conditioning or a unit that isn’t energy efficient. The chemical compounds known as HFCs or hydrofluorocarbons that are responsible for keeping air conditioners and fridges running on hot days – or any days – represent a significant contribution to our planet’s global warming. In America alone, more than 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide are released every year because of inefficient air conditioning units. To be able to control a unit remotely, and switch it on only when needed rather than leaving it on all day and guzzling up unnecessary energy is a wonderful thing. Game changing, from an environmental perspective.

But newer models and devices aren’t only being designed with remote control in mind – they also offer features including a “follow-me” function, that can measure the temperature of both the unit and the remote control to get a more accurate estimate of the room’s temperature before setting the unit to the right temperature. Some also come with a ‘Sleep Mode’ feature, meaning that you can set it to turn off automatically after one to seven hours – making it ideal to use in your bedroom overnight. Others come with built-in air purifiers, or the ability to send you mobile alerts when it’s time to to clean the filter.

No longer is an old-school, energy guzzling air conditioner going to make the cut, it seems. People want new, they want efficient, they want affordable and they want smarter air conditioning, something that syncs with the rest of today’s smart home device offering and voice enabled assistants.

Science has even brought us to the point where retrofitted air conditioners could potentially convert carbon dioxide into renewable hydrocarbon fuel. The idea was pitched in a comprehensive piece published by the journal Nature Communications by Roland Dittmeyer of the Karlesruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, and has excited developers and researchers worldwide. Imagine if a seriously smart AC machine could – rather than perpetuate the problem – solve the problem of global warming instead?

The future of home living is smart. There is no doubt about it. With health sensors embedded in bathrooms to detect signs of illness, electric cars recharging in the driveway, automated smart-enabled shower heating systems adjusting shower temperatures according to the outside temperature, voice-controlled smart air conditioning and alarm clocks synced to users’ Google calendars, our homes will soon become highly evolved, highly intelligent technology hubs.

Swedish research firm Berg Insight predicts that 63 million American homes will qualify as “smart” by 2022, and, according to advisory firm ABI Research consumers will spend $123 billion on Internet of Things (IoT) products by 2021.  As consumers adopt more and more devices, most of which are compatible with the two most popular smartphone devices in the world (Samsung and Apple), and as global availability of products and services increases, homes will only continue to get smarter. It is as though we as humans can’t regress: once we have become used to a certain level of comfort and technological prowess, we can’t go backwards. Once we truly begin nailing artificial intelligence and robotics, there’ll certainly be no going back. We are truly addicted to ‘superior’ technology, and in future experts predict that homes will be built ‘smart’ from the outset, just like plumbing and electricity are today the first considerations in building a home or building.

Distribution Channels: Types and Examples

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A distribution channel is the route a product takes until it reaches the consumer. Definitely a key ingredient when thinking about what is a business model. It’s important for startup businesses to get their distribution channels right so that their products can be sold. Also known as the downstream process, distribution is critical as it puts your products in the hands of customers.

In this article, I’m going to explain the different types of distribution channels available to you, focusing on their advantages and disadvantages. You will then be better placed deciding on the right distribution channels for your business.

Distribution Channels: Overview

Before choosing your distribution channels, there are some important concepts you need to learn:

  • Two Way Process: Your distribution channels don’t just carry goods to customers, they also allow the flow of cash back to you the seller. A distribution channel that is only one way is usually useless and will only siphon finances and stock from your business.
  • Varying Length: The length of a distribution channel will vary depending on the number of steps through which a product must pass before reaching customers. For example, you may supply your product to a retailer instead of selling directly to consumers.
  • Complexity: The more complex a distribution channel is, the more oversight is required to ensure it runs smoothly. This is especially true when products change hands many times before reaching the public.
  • Multiple Channels: Depending on your business strategy, the number of distribution channels at your disposal will vary. Most of the time, the more ways you have to get your products to customers, the more you will sell. However, sometimes multiple distribution can become so overwhelming that errors creep into each channel.
  • Dilution: A rule of thumb is that the more steps there are to a distribution channel, the lower the profit margin. Each person or business that handles your product along the way will require a slice of the profits.

Two Categories of Distribution Channel

Although you’ll find many different distribution channels, all of them fall into one of two discrete categories. These are “direct” distribution and “indirect” distribution.

A direct distribution channel (also known as zero level channel) is when your business sells directly to the customer. For example, opening your own physical store, selling directly via your own website, door-to-door sales, or mail order. All of these require no third party intermediary.

Indirect distribution includes channels like selling your product through a wholesaler or retailer. There needs to be at least one third party intermediary for it to be considered indirect distribution. If your company is selling to a wholesaler who then sells to a retailer before your product reaches customers, this would involve two third party intermediaries.

As you can see, direct distribution gives you more control over how your products are sold and to whom. However, indirect distribution opens up your product to many more customers, which is why it’s better suited when you are hoping to ship large amounts of product.

Advantages of Direct Distribution Channels

Using a direct distribution channel for your product/service carries with it a number of advantages. These Include:

  • Cutting out the cost of using third party distribution.
  • Allows direct canvassing of customer buying habits which can be used to improve your product/service and sales pitch.
  • Distinguishes you from the competition by having personable and impactful interactions with customers. As Inc.com puts it: You can “make the customer the hero”.
  • Potentially gets products to customers a lot faster than other distribution channels.
  • Helps to build relationships with customers that will last, especially when interacting with them face to face.
  • Can make a customer feel that they are buying something that is rarer than mass produced items; something with cache, charm, or the feel of a hero product.
  • Can also make customers feel that they are supporting a smaller business which makes them feel good about the purchase.

Disadvantages of Direct Distribution Channels

Despite the large number of advantages associated with a direct distribution channel, there are also disadvantages as well. These include:

  • Paying for direct distribution can be costly in some instances if you have to pay for your own delivery trucks and storage space. Some third party indirect distribution channels like Amazon for example, will charge a minimum commission to sell products through their marketplace which may be preferential. Wholesalers will store the product for you as they sell to retailers.
  • Direct distribution can be ineffective when dealing with large shipping numbers, especially when you’re delivering physical items. The man hours required to carry out shipping can be exorbitant.
  • Direct distribution can also limit the amount of product you can deliver depending on the size of your business.

Advantages of Indirect Distribution Channels

Indirect distribution channels are a great fit for many businesses. They include a number of distinct advantages:

  • Smaller shipping costs as these are shared across the distribution channel with third parties.
  • If you are using a digital marketplace or physical retailer, then your products will be much easier to find, resulting in more sales and larger brand impact.
  • Reduces the need to manage distribution, meaning you can focus more on your product and business strategy.
  • Benefit from third party experience. They will know how to sell your product.
  • You’ll also benefit from the infrastructure your distribution partners have in place, saving you the startup costs of setting up your own infrastructure.
  • Many third parties will have a larger sales force which will improve your chances of selling units.

Disadvantages of Indirect Distribution Channels

Just like direct distribution, indirect distribution has its own disadvantages. These include:

  • Putting distance between you and your customers.
  • Customers may forge a positive bond with a third party distributor rather than with your brand, creating loyalty for the distributor and not for you.
  • It’s easy to get lost in the background noise of other businesses using the same third party marketplace. Even at a wholesalers, a product can very easily be swallowed up by what’s on offer around it.
  • Not being able to give customers a bespoke, high-quality and personal purchasing experience.

Learn More About Distribution Channels

If you would like to learn more about distribution channels and all aspects of making a successful business, check out The DealMakers Podcast. It’s a free resource exploring entrepreneurial successes and useful blueprints for both new and experienced business people

Current Trends in Educational Technology – Ready to Disrupt the Educational Field

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Technology often disrupts established fields, but there’s a common misunderstanding as to how that happens. People often think that the technologies that are transforming our world today were created recently, but the nature of technological development makes that proposition unlikely.

In most cases, new technologies are clunky, expensive, and hard to implement — which is why they start with a small user base and remain in that state for a while until the required leaps are made. Only then does a new technology gain mass appeal and start being adopted on a large scale. In other words, it’s only at this stage that a technology becomes capable of truly disrupting a field.

Take your phone’s screen as an example. It may feel like touch screen technology was invented and made popular by the 2009 iPhone, or maybe you think it was created for and popularized by the PDAs that were around in the 90s and early 2000s. But in truth, touch screen technology was invented in the 1960s. The HP-150 computer had touch-screen support — it was launched in 1983.

The reasons why those early renditions of the touch screen failed to realize the technology’s potential were due in large part to technical problems. The HP-150, for example, relied on a grid of infrared beams to detect touches on its screen. But the infrared sensors would collect dust, and required constant cleaning as a result.

Why bring all of this up? Well, it’s simple. For the past few years, a lot of interesting applications of education technology have been in the “collecting dust in the sensors” stage. They were clunky, expensive, and hard to implement; they looked bad and frustrated users. However, many of those new educational tools and ideas are now ready to be mass implemented and disrupt the educational field.

The Jill Watson case

Let’s consider a simple example: chatbots. You have likely already dealt with one of those. A lot of companies have started implementing chatbots as part of their customer experience efforts, and chatbots can now do everything from helping customers browse catalogs to setting appointments and even holding conversations.

Colleges have also started making use of chatbots. Back in 2016, Georgia Tech professor Ashok Goel used IBM’s Watson AI to build Jill Watson — a chatbot teacher assistant. The bot was trained using data from the course’s forum, and for one semester, Jill helped students with their routine questions and requests on the course forum. The best part was that the students didn’t even realize Jill was a bot, and she was helping computer science majors.

Jill is still active today. According to the Georgia Tech website, “Soon Jill will be able to answer about 40 percent of the 10,000 questions students ask each semester. And she doesn’t even need coffee breaks.”

Georgia Tech calls Jill an “artificially intelligent teacher assistant.” Other sources call her a chatbot. The truth is the line between the two is blurry in cases like this, especially when you throw machine learning into the mix. Regardless of what you call it, the result is that we are ever closer to creating an automated general learning assistance solution—one that can be customized and adapts to individual students’ needs.

This will result in software like Jill being present in every student’s phone and forum, helping people learn faster, more effectively, and in a more self-sufficient manner. It will be a personal digital tutor serving students content, grading essays—yes, bots can already do that—and overall, making students’ and teachers’ lives easier.

The rise of massive education

Before the printing press, each book had to be copied by hand. The cost in time and materials, combined with the technical knowledge needed to copy books, meant that books were expensive luxury goods for most of human history. But then came the printing press, and we went from awkwardly copying books page by page to mass-producing books by the truckload in a matter of weeks. Technology made the written word more accessible than it had ever been before.

College lectures are already undergoing the same type of revolution. Earlier, the only way to see a lecture was to be physically present in the room and witness the lecture being executed in front of you.

As cameras became cheaper and video storage tools more reliable, the rise of long-distance and correspondence courses gave us an inkling of what a future with mass-produced education could look like. However, mail was clunky, slow, and often unreliable. Those were still the early days of massive long-distance education.

In the present, those initial problems have been solved thanks to cloud storage, cloud computing, and streaming technologies. This is what made EdX possible.

EdX is a massive open online course (MOOC) provider launched in 2012. The platform is the result of a partnership between Harvard and MIT. Their approach is simple: every single course is open and free, and the curriculums are organized around weekly video lessons that are followed up with activities to help students review and deepen their understanding of the lecture. If you complete a free course, you can pay a fee to get a certified EdX accreditation.

As of 2018, EdX has served 18 million students through two thousand university-level online courses. In the same year, an estimated 20 million students were attending university in the US.

Right now, this form of education is an alternative to traditional learning. But when will it become a partial replacement? With the rise of video technology, making professors deliver the same lectures every semester is no longer necessary. It makes a lot more sense to simply record the semester’s lectures, edit them together, and then let students watch those lectures on their own time, at their own pace — which is what EdX allows.

Professors will then be responsible for updating the videos when needed. They will be able to dedicate the rest of their time to answering questions and helping students.

The personal benefits

The rise of mass video tools and AI teacher assistants will mean a surge in students’ ability to learn independently. This freedom will benefit college students while at university and post-graduation. After all, careers today require almost constant learning of new technologies, and the independent study skills students learn at EdX will help them as they continue their real-world studying. In addition to career benefits, constant study has also been linked to longevity and increased mental health.

Right now, we have to search and find information. The next step is having information come to us when we need it and at a manageable pace. While we wait for such tools to gain mass appeal, you can get young students’ attention using more traditional methods, such as math worksheets.

The Growing Number of People Shifting to Healthier Alternatives to Smoking

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When it comes to taking care of one’s health and wellbeing, it is fair to say that individuals unfortunately do not always have their priorities in order. Of course, your health and wellbeing should always be at the top of your list of priorities, but many people unfortunately do not hold the same regard for their health and wellbeing, as others do. There are many different ways that individuals choose to treat their bodies, not all of them ideal. One of the worst things you can do for your health is smoke, and yet there are millions of people around the world to practice this habit everyday. For some people, smoking is a stress reliever, while for others it is simply a bad habit they find challenging to kick to the curb after so many years of carrying it out. Regardless of the reason, the fact is always that smoking is an unhealthy practice that is not only irresponsible but inherently dangerous for one’s health and even their very mortality. So, what can smokers do to shift themselves away from this bad habit?

One of the biggest unhealthy practices that millions of individuals around the globe do everyday is smoke. This much is certain. Millions of individuals smoke every day, and while the practice itself is inherently and undeniably unhealthy, this does not seem to be enough of a fact to stop people from choosing to pollute their bodies with the toxic smoke inhalation that is the direct response of the practice. Even as the years have gone on and the health issues and unfortunate fatalities have continued to climb in many individuals who smoke, there has been little to no shift in the way that smokers approach their unhealthy habit from the onset. Yes, the rise in awareness and research has resulted in some individuals taking the active and consistent steps to quit, but for the most part, there has been considerably less impact that one might reasonably expect.

The biggest scope of impact – and the one that continues to make more and more of a positive impact across the board and around the globe – is the healthier alternatives to smoking that are now globally available to the market. Thankfully, there are more and more of them all the time, nearly all of which are constantly evolving and being driven to their next iteration where they function and thrive in even more healthier and wholesome ways. From the controversial e cigarette to nicotine gum and patches, and even switching out cigarettes for joints, there are many healthy alternatives to smoking available these days. And more to the point, they are always evolving. Whether it be the new flavours of e liquid available on the market, or the advancements in the latest nicotine-focused hypnotherapies, the fact of the matter is that the healthier alternatives to smoking are not only well and truly here, but they are getting bolder, better, faster, and stronger all the time.

This is a new era in the fight to shift smokers away from the toxic habit of smoking and towards healthier alternatives. We are gaining more awareness and insight than ever before, and it is a growing pool of awareness and related information that is driving the point home more cleanly and more vividly than ever. While the odds of getting the entire global population to quit smoking in the near future is slim to none, there is a growing number of smokers around the globe that are beginning to put down the cigarettes, instead shifting towards the healthier alternatives that are now so widely distributed across the international market. The fight is not over yet, but the winning side is steadily shifting to become the side dedicated to a healthier future for all – including, of course, individuals who smoke. This is just the start, and the best innovations and revolutions are yet to come.

When it comes to discussing issues of health and wellbeing, it is fair to say that there are many points that are decidedly controversial, to say the least. While health and wellbeing is indeed one of the biggest priorities for so many of us, not everybody holds that same standard and prioritisation that most of us reserve for these crucial points. There are many unhealthy practices that millions of people practice everyday, the most dangerous and even life-threatening being the habit of smoking. There are many reasons why people smoke, but at the end of the day there is always the weight of knowing what you are choosing to do to your body and put your health and wellbeing through. There must be a better way to approach this. And thankfully, there is. In fact, today there are multiple healthier alternatives to smoking available on the market around the globe. We are finally providing the much-needed healthier alternatives to one of the biggest contributors to poor health ever.

College Financing Avenues Available for Students with Disabilities

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College is usually one of the biggest expenses a person can face; however, it is an investment in their future and a way to achieve their goals. Importantly, college can even be more expensive for people with disabilities.

In many cases, accommodations to make their classrooms accessible have to be paid by the student. Furthermore, medical bills also take a toll on their finances, with higher costs than average, and their transportation needs can be more expensive than other students. Therefore, students with disabilities should be as well informed as possible about the options they have when it comes to funding.

Here, some of these options are presented, in the hope that students with disabilities can learn more about the resources available to them.

Scholarships

Students with disabilities should get information about the many scholarship options available to them.

Some of these are:

  • AAHD Frederick J. Krause Scholarship on Health and Disability.
  • Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell) College Scholarship Program.
  • Google Lime Scholarship Program.
  • Baer Reintegration Scholarship.
  • Flora Marie Jenkins Memorial Disability Scholarship.
  • National Center for Learning Disabilities Anne Ford and Allegra Ford Thomas Scholarships.
  • Hemophilia Federation of America (HFA) Educational Scholarships.
  • Microsoft disAbility Scholarship.

Some of these scholarships are available to any student who has finished high school, while others have more specific criteria. The scholarships offered by Google and Microsoft are for students with disabilities who want to declare a major related to technology. Meanwhile, the Baer Reintegration Scholarship is directed to students with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Federal Disability Benefits

The federal government has been instrumental in making more campuses accessible to students with disabilities. Furthermore, they consider this population as eligible for the Federal TRIO Programs. These are services that are offered to people from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as students with disabilities. There are eight different programs, and people are eligible from middle school until they finish their graduate studies.

Also, the Pell grant is available to all students, including those with disabilities. The amount of the grant will depend on several aspects, including how expensive the school the person wishes to attend is, if their education will be full-time or part-time, the depth of financial need, and more. Therefore, an extensive process is done to apply for this grant.

The amount depends on your financial need, costs to attend school, status as a full-time or part-time student, and plans to attend school for a full academic year or less.

The government also offers the Vocational Rehabilitation Program, which is focused on helping people with disabilities to find a job. During the assessment, they offer insight on what the educational goal should be for this person based on their aptitudes and vocation. After this, the program offers assistance with higher education options, including vocational training.

Other Financial Options

Loans

The first option for loans should always be federal loans. The amount students can borrow varies, but the interest rates are much better than loans from a private institution. Like any other student, students with disabilities must fill out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), where their eligibility is assessed.

Students with disabilities must do a correct estimate of the cost of attendance. As these are very likely to be higher than for other students. Therefore, it is important to have the necessary documentation to provide proof of these estimates. This means, being able to provide the bills and services the student will have to pay due to their disability.

On the other hand, there are personal loans for fair credit and private loans, that will take into consideration credit scores as well as other criteria, which will depend on the institution in question.

Grants

Unlike loans, grants do not need to be paid back. However, this usually translates into stricter criteria. Like with loans, financial need and family situation are assessed before a grant is awarded. Similar to scholarships, there are numerous grants offered every year to students with disabilities.

Some of these are:

  • The Foundation for Science and Disability Grant.
  • Gabriel’s Foundation of Hope Scholarships and Grants.
  • Alice Chavez Pardini Education Advancement Grant.
  • Michigan Scholarships and Grants for Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired.

Just like with scholarships, grants can be general or highly specific. The Foundation for Science and Disability Grant is offered to students who will be focusing on STEM careers, while the Alice Chavez grant is specifically for people who are legally blind. Furthermore, other grants are awarded to cover for any technological or accessibility issues that need to be paid by the student due to their disability.

Work-Study Programs

These programs are available to all students and the vast majority of them are funded by the federal government. However, there are limits to how much a student can earn through these programs. The hourly pay starts at the minimum wage, and it can increase depending on the job.

Summary

The federal government has implemented different bills and acts to ensure students with disabilities are not discriminated against in college. However, this goes beyond improving accessibility. Increased financial expenses mean that college, which can already be very expensive, can become a prohibitive dream for many. Therefore, financial aid becomes instrumental for most students with disabilities, and getting informed about the options available can make all the difference. It is thanks to these financial aid opportunities that many students with disabilities can embark on a successful college career.

 

Secrets to Successful, Lasting Businesses in The Digital Era

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Business is an industry that is constantly evolving from one iteration into the next. This is the industry that is responsible for the ongoing advancement of companies and entire industries. The term ‘business’ itself is quite broad, but the fundamentals that help the industry to not only survive but positively thrive, are more or less set in stone. Now, as we move further into the digital era, those fundamentals are modernising more and more. Reshaping and realigning with the way the world is moving. A successful business has always been about driving company fundamentals ever-forward to bring consumers the next experience, products, and services. That has not changed, but the ways in which companies and entire industries go about gravitating towards that experience have. So, what is the key to successful and lasting business in the digital era? Longevity and success in any business is always fantastic, but it is maintaining that longevity and success, and consistently growing it, that many businesses find difficult to nail down.

Growth Is the New Ambition for Businesses

Thankfully, there is a solution to a point, and it centres all around forging, building, maintaining, and growing human relationships in a professional setting. The decision to become an entrepreneur is one that should never be taken lightly, and nowhere else is this truer than in the case of modern business. Thanks to ongoing advancements in digitalisation and technological innovation, modern businesses are more focused than ever on achieving longevity and success not just instantaneously, but on an ongoing basis. It is more easily said than done, as well, as no business is without its challenges and hurdles. But there is one primary focus that ultimately has proven to be the key to ongoing longevity and success in modern business, time and again, across varying industries. Quite often, this is a business strategy that is crucial but too often overlooked, but what exactly is it, and why is it so important in the first place?

Catering to Your Target Market

First and foremost, no business and hope to survive past its first fiscal year (if it survives that long at all) without the loyalty and support of its consumers. Here’s the reality: no matter which industry a business thrives in, that business quite literally lives to serve a purpose. And in every case, across every industry, that purpose always centres around the consumers and giving them the best possible experience, product, or service available on the market. Keeping those consumers happy and drawing and maintaining their business, while continuing to grow your company, is no easy feat. It takes a lot of hard work, grit, and ongoing consumer communications both with consumers and within the company itself, to give consumers the best that you possibly can. But alas, that is the goal (and it always will be, for that matter). Your consumers are like your business’ family, so keeping them happy and loyal to your company is the most important foundational aspect of all.

Focussing on Your Loyal Consumers

Your business will thrive and excel if you take note of this advice, going on to become stronger and stronger all the time, on an ongoing basis. Consumer focus helps to ensure that all parties are getting the most benefit out of transactions, always. Everything else of course has its place (think everything from business meetings on a Webinar Software platform to industry networking events, and everything in between and beyond), but at the end of the day, consumer focus is the primary key because, without it, even the strongest business concept cannot hope to live a very long and healthy life at all. At the end of the day, your focus as an entrepreneur and business owner should always be on the consumers and what you can do to ensure that they have the best perception of your company and the best experience using the experiences, products, or services that your company provides. If you cannot achieve that, your business cannot hope to last very long at all. Harsh as it may seem, that is the unwavering truth of the matter.

Conclusion

The professional landscape of business is one that is literally always in the midst of its own evolution. Companies and entire industries are always working towards becoming bolder and stronger iterations of their former and current selves. Reshaping and realigning to move in the same pivotal direction as the rest of the world, modern businesses are realising the power of digitalisation and technological advancement and using that power to their distinct advantage. In a professional landscape that is more capable and more competitive than ever, there is immense power in modern business. The secret to unlocking that power? Consumer focus. More than anything else, consumer focus must be the prominent focus because at the end of the day, no business amounts to anything without resonating with consumers and making them see its value. Everything else will come in due time.

Technology and Wellbeing: Are They Totally Incompatible?

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The Global Wellness Summit just released its annual Future of Wellness list, and among their predictions of the biggest health trends anticipated for 2020 sits the increased integration of health (especially mental health) and technology. You know, the rise of things like virtual therapy, mindfulness apps, and wearable devices to decipher your moods, feelings and blood pressure. That kind of thing.

I am deeply worried.

On one hand, technology has provided the healthcare community with valuable tools for improving patient care, from apps for booking appointments and delivering appointment reminders, to more specific medical technologies that have improved the quality of healthcare delivery, increased patient safety, decreased the frequency of medical errors and strengthened the interaction between patients and healthcare providers. Technology has led us to where we are today, with access to new and better-than-ever diagnostic tools, cutting-edge treatments, access to remote consultations with specialists, and intuitive mobile apps that lead to better healthcare results overall. 

Without advances in technology we wouldn’t be celebrating the success of the world’s first robotic surgery in China last year, where a patient suffering from numbness received robotic surgery from robot Tinavi, the world’s only orthopedic robotic system capable of carrying out surgery on the extremities. The 42-year-old patient recovered in record time as a result – he was able to get up from bed the next day and had recovered within one week.

But on the other hand, when it comes to individuals rather than healthcare providers, there are now virtual reality apps that claim to help ease symptoms of depression and anxiety, and devices that can help people with their postoperative recovery process. There are sports and fitness apps that help you hit weekly fitness targets, pregnancy apps that help you along the journey and menstrual period trackers that can help couples conceive.

I am most certainly not denying that technology has disrupted the healthcare industry in the way it desperately needed to be, nor that technology should be celebrated for its remarkable capacity to save lives and prevent suffering. What I am saying, however, is that technology is a double edged sword when it comes to our personal health, and the two are – in my opinion – wholly incompatible.

Take the influx of health and wellbeing apps like sleep cycle analysis, and meditation apps, for example. Do people honestly expect that by closing their eyes and clicking START on a meditation app they will experience that same powerful, spiritual, yogic state of relaxation meditation promises its devoted practisers? Meditation is premised on using one’s breath to reduce the adrenaline, cortisol and other stress-related chemicals constantly pulsing through our body – but mobile phones themselves emit a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation capable of causing changes to brain activity. At the same time phones been proven to cause anxiety, frustration and impatience in mobile users.

To me, I am at a loss as to why anyone would think meditating via one’s mobile phone is a good idea. Not only are you being constantly tempted to flick open your phone when you see texts and emails coming in from friends, but you are also being tempted into distraction by pop up advertisements for white Label CBD products and PatPat outfit ensembles for you and your partner. It is surely impossible to get through a full meditation without sneaking a glance at the screen.

Studies have literally proven that the blue light on mobile devices and computers restrain the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep cycle or circadian rhythm. In other words, looking at a screen – even if dim – can physically have an effect on your body clock, in turn affecting our physiology and behavior.

Psychologically, overuse of mobile phones has been scientifically proven to increase anxiety, feelings of loneliness, and low self-esteem, as well as frustration, and impatience in instances where the technology fails. So, the polar opposite of the outcome desired from meditation and calming apps such as Buddhify and Headspace. Personally, I get a tight chest, feeling of shortness of breath, and the beginnings of a headache whenever I am even close to my phone. Having spent years trying to self-diagnose this ‘tech disorder’ I have finally concluded that while it mightn’t have yet been definitely proven, the mental anxiety that comes with cell phone addiction (which I clearly have) is manifesting physically within me.

Over to smartphones and exercise, and there are more studies proving that rather than helping people exercise in the gym, smartphones can have a negative effect on physical fitness levels. Recently researchers from Kent State University found that college students tended to be less fit when they spent as much as 14 hours a day on their phones, compared with those who spent just an hour and a half a day on their phones. The study, which was published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, followed more than 300 college students and studied the correlations between smartphone usage and fitness and body composition.

The evidence is there – technology (smartphones specifically) and mental health and wellbeing just aren’t meant to go hand in hand. Spending time in nature, on the other hand, has been proven to have measurable benefits on a person’s wellbeing, as well as provide symptom relief for health issues like heart disease, depression, cancer, anxiety and attention disorders. Spending 40 minutes walking in a cedar forest can lead to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is required for blood pressure and immune-system function. So rather than download that meditation app or fitness tracker, why not put down the phone and just for a walk outdoors instead? Let’s take a step back, in order to keep progressing as humans were intended.

Aviation Industry Vows To Reduce Net Carbon Emissions, While Upping Number Of Flights

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Activists and nonprofit organisations are up in arms over the fact that the UK aviation industry has pledged to cut its net carbon emissions to zero by 2050, while still planning to roll out 70% more flights over the next three decades.

This ambitious aim is mostly to accommodate the expanding middle class in their desire to explore beyond the borders they know – especially within the developing bloc of Brazil, Russia, India, and China. With rising income and cheaper airfares comes increased access to international travel, and boy does the aviation industry know it. In recent years international travel has simply exploded: in 2016, there were a whopping 3.8 billion air travelers, but the International Air Transport Association expects this will double by 2035 to 7.2 billion passengers.

But at the same time, members of the Sustainable Aviation coalition are signing an international commitment to reach net zero by 2050, with more than a third of the reduction in C02 emissions to be achieved through carbon offsetting on flights. The decarbonisation plan replaces a previous commitment that saw signatories commit to reducing future emissions to just half of what is currently emitted, and aims to do so through more efficient engine technology, smarter flight operations and better fuels. But no matter how efficient engine fuels can be, and no matter what routes airlines take, it simply won’t make up for the expected 70% growth in daily flights that industry anticipates over the next 30 years.

Without putting a cap on growth, how do they expect this will happen?

The science is very clear.

In 2018, commercial airlines burned 94 billion gallons of fossil fuel globally. Jet fuel produces around 21 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per gallon burned. The carbon intensity of flying an aeroplane is something that can no longer be debated. One round-trip flight between New York and California, for example, generates around 20 percent of the greenhouse gases that a car emits over an entire year. There are around 90,000 flights taking off a day in the U.S. alone. Need I go on?

When we found out eating red meat was perhaps the most carbon intensive human activity we could participate in, people began advocating that we eat less red meat. Why then, upon learning how carbon intensive flying is, are airlines and industry not advocating for less flights, and more efficient flights at that?

Oh, that’s right. Because money.

Signing this ‘net zero’ commitment is yet another empty promise from businesses, another sign of the greenwashing we have come to expect from industry in the increasingly capitalist world we live in.  How do they anticipate doing this, beyond charging customers more per flight to offset their emissions (or perhaps by forcing them to do so), and as a result investing in the planting of more trees elsewhere?

We’re making progress environmentally-speaking in so many other ways. Green Monday is making an impact on how much meat we as a society eat, we are lucky enough to have private companies like Clearabee making private waste collection easier than ever, and the cost of solar panels and access to renewable energies is lessening each and every year. Bit by bit, reusable coffee mugs and water bottles are becoming more widely used, people are walking more than they used to, and schools worldwide are integrating sustainable development into their curriculum. Thanks to young heroes and activists like Time’s Person of The Year 2019 Greta Thunberg, we are slowly coming to understand as a global society that changes need to be made. Aviation is the next big focus – we need to do things differently, asap.

Signing this commitment is certainly a sign that at last the need for change has been recognised, but we need to ensure this recognition is accompanied by solid actionable goals to reduce the CO2 emissions that result from all this flying. The plan is to develop new tech, like biofuels and electric planes. And while these technologies are in the process of being developed, they are in no way at the stage of development where commercial airlines can begin rolling them out. I don’t anticipate that an electric plane will be capable of carrying a full flight of passengers overseas for another 10 years at least, and by then, we will be inching dangerously close to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change deadline for cutting net human carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions 45% by 2030, as well as cutting emissions further to net zero by 2050.

We need to take more drastic steps to reduce our carbon emissions, and by that I mean to say that we need to reduce the number of flights we take. Is the answer a global ‘one flight a week’ per person policy, akin to that of China’s one child policy? Or is the answer to tax airlines so heavily that they will once again become too expensive for the middle class to afford? Neither seems fair, but perhaps these are our best options.