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.

Social media has changed the way we travel


When it comes to understanding how we experience travel, and how it in turn impacts us, it is fair to say that each of us have our own understanding of its vast expanses. We are lucky to call Earth home, and this is a notion that, more and more lately, is becoming abundantly clear to us. The best way to get to know this incredible planet, is by travelling it. As has been said before, adventure is in the pocket of the traveller, and that has never been truer than it is now. Travel has always been a wondrous adventure, and it has long called to all of us in our own way. While many of us experience travel from a unique perspective, there are also those that adhere to the broad viewpoints (at least, before they experience a destination for themselves). We thought we had travel all figured out. And then along came technological advancement, to prove yet again that just when we think we have reached a peak, technology can – and does – somehow reach higher.

Technology has changed the entire world. The modern world as we know it is one that is paved with digital intentions, and we are the masters, the creators of this world. If not for our stubborn insistence, we would not have the modern world that we do today. From the way that we work and the way we experience life at home, to the way we learn and even the way we travel, technological advancement has been an empowering ideal that has long been impacting us and the world that we have come to know and love over the centuries. We are a unique species in many ways, but it is our own self-interest and determination to push forward our own progression that is most prominent in this digital era. The way of the modern world is pivoted towards continuing to enhance all aspects of modern (and future) life, and travel is one of the most deeply impacted aspects of life, of all.

There have been many technological advancements that have changed the way we approach and experience travel, but perhaps the most influential of them all on a wide scale is social media. This is a virtual network of platforms that were designed to connect people in their social circles, in ways that allowed them to continue smooth, fluent communication from across oceans. Over time, people became more and more obsessed. By the time Instagram arrived, society was collectively hooked on social media. Instagram introduced a new way of sharing (yet again) that encompassed aesthetic programming and ideal photos and footage. This aesthetic promoted individuals sharing only what they wanted to, and travel has always been one of the most common trends the world over. So, travel quickly became a key hashtag on the social media platform. Today, the hashtag #travel has over eighty-four million posts on Instagram alone, and it is a number that continues to consistently climb by the second.

We all lust after travel and lifestyles that promote travelling to the core. From the urge to get out of the classroom on a beautiful day, to the steps getting onto a plane to somewhere exciting and new, travel evokes a sense of excitement and wonder in all of us. Now, as we stand amid a social media revolution that we are all positively obsessed with, we are more drawn to travel. Every time you look at your newsfeed on any social media account, or respond to a notification, you are bound to see someone you know (or even people you do not know, just follow online as if they are long-lost friends) travelling and experiencing somewhere exciting and new. So, people take screenshots of these travel posts, and they make new buck lists with the whole new world of exploration they have, right on their device screens. It is the new norm of travel, and it is one that is continuously evolving all the time, in all the best and brightest ways possible.

The world of travel is one that is constantly proving to us just how special and wondrous the world around us is. We are always endeavouring to see more of the world that is largely mapped out around us, that quite literally immerses us all. Humanity has spent generations exploring and adventuring around the world, and we thought that we had it all figured out. However, over time, what has become more and more obvious in recent times, is that while our peak may have been nearing possible completion, technology can always take us further. While technological advancement has changed the face of travel in many different ways, perhaps the most widely acclaimed is that of social media. Social media has given the world a new, unlimited perspective on travel, and it is one that is constantly elevating and updating. In short, social media has changed the way we travel, and it will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future (if not always). This is just the start, and it is sure to be a wild ride.

International surge in solo travel adventurers


Travel is something that we all want to experience, in some way, shape, or form. In travel, we often find the sense of adventure and excitement that sometimes tends to lack due to the necessity of balancing work and life in general. Travel can be the perfect solution to any problem. If you need to get your head out of the books for a long weekend, a road trip up the coastline could be perfect. If you want to backpack around the world, a global trip starting in Australia or Europe fits the bills. For adventures with family, or relaxing with friends, a camping trip can be the perfect anecdote to the chaos that is an inevitability throughout life. We all want to get away sometimes, and often the best way to do that is to literally pick up and get away. Of course, owing to the nature of the standard work/life balancing act we are all juggling, it can sometimes be difficult to etch out the perfect escape that suits everyone’s schedules. For this reason, there is an ongoing international surge in solo travel adventurers.

There is a growing trend in travelling solo that is capturing the hearts and the minds of eager adventurers the world over. While there will always be a unique magic to travelling, and experiencing life and all it has to offer with loved ones, there is an unparalleled sense of appreciation and achievement that comes with stepping outside of one’s comfort zone, and into the wild world that surrounds us all. Solo travel allows you the chance to see the world from a lens of your sole creation, and that is something that is at once empowering and profound. Seeing the world without someone else on your tail gives you a deeper sense of appreciation for all the world is, all that it offers, and all that is made possible by its very existence. We are but a small piece of a monumental planet, and travelling alone encourages and embraces the appreciation of that fact.

The world is a big, wide place that is full of adventure and promise, and those that take it upon themselves to travel it on their own – even if only once – experience not only the world to themselves, but the world within themselves as well. We are all driven to understand what it is about this big, wide world that we love so much, and solo travel gives you the chance to understand it on a deeper, more personal level. When you travel on your own, there is a keen, undeniable sense of understanding now just how the world around you works, but how you work as a piece of it, and as an individual that is finding their way through the world. This sense of self-discovery is one that is unrivalled, and it keeps drawing more and more adventurous souls into the throes of its reaches. And sometimes, solo travel is the push that even the most introverted people need to leap out of their self-imposed boundaries and embrace the unfamiliar in exciting and new ways.

The rise in solo travellers taking the world by storm is the result of a building sense of urgency to see all the world has to offer, in due course. There has never been a time where travelling the world solo has been such a coveted experience, and it is a motion that is likely only going to continue to bloom and flourish further and further as time goes on. In a world that is hinged on self-respect, love for the environment, adventure, and compassion, solo travel is the perfect solution for many of life’s big questions. There is little that cannot be put into perspective when one is travelling the road less travelled, in an entirely new place, with no company but the backpack on their backs and the phones tucked into their pockets. If nothing else, solo travel encourages us all to trust ourselves more, and to embrace the unknown in unprecedented and wild ways, always.

We all love to see the world in our own way. Whether that is through backpacking adventures or by the big blue sea, or any other manner of escapes in between, is never the point. The point of travel is to open our souls wide open to new experiences, to delve in the unexplored, to adventure in the great, wide unknown. And for more and more people, they are realising the potential in travelling the world on their own, on their own terms. Solo travel is a notion that has been steadily gaining traction over the years, and it is now in full swing. All over the world, more and more individuals are being driven to explore the great unknown solo, and it is no at all difficult to understand why. In solo travel, there is a sense of complete freedom that comes with travelling on one’s own terms, without having to cater to the needs or schedules of anyone else. There is power in travelling solo, and it is that power that has captured the hearts and minds of adventurers the world over.

Strong home design today centres on a flowing atmosphere


We want the spaces that we invest in and spend our time in to mimic what we love in life. This is a fact. So, when it comes to bringing in strong design strategies into the home, it pays to know exactly what the most effective and prominent home design strategy is. When it comes to understanding and orchestrating the perfect home designs in this modern era, it is all about creating spaces that feel comfortable, calming, warm, and inviting. Nobody wants to be in a space that feels boxed in, fractured, and out of sync with the rest of the property. So, it stands to reason that flowing home design strategies are most important, but why is that?

Understanding why a cohesive atmosphere is important

The modern home is all about creating a cohesive atmosphere throughout the property. This is a broad term, so it is important to understand exactly what is meant here before moving on. A cohesive atmosphere refers of course to the overall feel of the home, but more than that it is about creating an overarching design to the spaces inside the home that feel like they flow, rather than box people in. In essence, cohesive atmosphere is about knowing how to make the most of a space so that it does not feel like a cage. Nobody wants to live in a cage, and so it is important to avoid home design tactics that could embody that feel (think sharp edges and small, boxed in rooms).

Bringing in flowing home design strategies to elevate the living spaces

Home design today centres around flowing movements in the living spaces. What this means, is that it is important to incorporate sweeping construction models and organically styled and shaped furniture and features. These elevate the living spaces and allow for a strong sense of flow overall. Examples of this include minimalistic colour pallets with splashes of colour for emphasis, naturally-shaped furniture (think circular shapes, curving patterns, anything that does not appropriate a sharp edge). Using these types of home design trends in alignment with one another allows the living spaces to come to life in unique ways, while making them feel comfortable, familiar, and warm.

Using flowing home design tactics to bring the property together

The power in flowing home design strategies is that they work magic in not only bringing spaces together as individual rooms, but successfully bringing the entire property together as a collective space. It is easy to master the art of effective home design in one space, but it is more challenging to bring each room together in a collective representation of the entire property. For this reason, it is fundamentally important to map out your inspiration boards and the like for each space, pull them together on one giant board, and ensure that they each are unique in themselves, while working together to represent a flowing home design from the front to the back, and in between. 

How to successfully create a more energy efficient home


The world is becoming more environmentally conscious every day. On top of this realisation, is the necessity to become more energy efficient to create a more financially and morally sustainable lifestyle has been growing. All over the world, people are realising the impact that their decisions have on the world around them, and they are actively and consistently beginning to make better choices. This goes for the choices they make at the grocery story, when they travel, how they engage at work, and even how they live at home. Creating a more energy efficient home can be a challenge in the beginning, but it is entirely worth it as time goes on.

Why renewable energy is gaining traction globally

Renewable energies are becoming more popular around the world because of the growing awareness we have about the impact our homes have on the world. The energy used to power our homes has a significant impact on the world, and the fact is that fossil fuels and traditional energies are bad for the environment, and for the running costs. Renewable energy, on the other hand, provides solutions to both issues in one foul swoop. Not only is renewable energy better for the environment, but it is often cheaper after the initial installation costs, to run, making it a happy investment for homeowners the world over. So, how does one successfully bring renewable energy into the home, thus creating a more energy efficient home?

Bringing solar energy into the home

The answer lies in renewables. Renewable energy is all the rage these days, and people have been jumping on the bandwagon more and more in recent years. Solar energy, for example, is considered the leading renewable energy source, and it is such because of its growing value. In 2018, renewable energies generated more electricity than brown coal in the summer, as well as producing 40% more than gas, only being exceeded by black coal. This continued growth means that solar is fast becoming the dominant energy source, and bringing it into the home is a stroke of genius.

Ways to make the home more energy efficient

Solar energy is the single most impactful way to make the home more energy efficient. Finding the best solar company for the job can take some time and research, but it is well worth the effort. In doing the research to work through the options, homeowners can figure out which solar energy solutions have the most bang for their buck, and which have the most to offer their specific area and living circumstances. Energy efficiency is all about making the most of viable sustainable solutions, and solar energy is the most popular and impactful energy efficient solution there is. At the end of the day, solar energy is all about creating a more sustainable future on all fronts, and this is why it is the single most instrumental measure of energy efficiency one can bring into their home.

People Power and Policy – The Importance of Crowdsourcing in Public Sector Innovation


To respond efficiently to the needs of citizens, public sector organizations must constantly innovate on multiple fronts. However, factors such as limited resources, restrictive governmental regulations, and a rapidly changing technological landscape, can impede this process. What’s more, depending purely on traditional think tanks and census-taking methods is no longer a viable way to acquire the insights required to hone innovation. A more receptive, adaptive, and broad-ranging method is required to gather impactful insights and establish effective policy. This is why crowdsourcing is increasingly being deployed by public sector organizations throughout the world.

Channelling the Wisdom of the Masses: The Power of Crowdsourcing in Action

Leveraging crowdsourcing for public projects is not a new practice. As far back as 1849, Joseph Henry – the first secretary of the Smithsonian Institute – recruited 150 volunteers to observe storm activities across the USA. The research he acquired helped lay the foundations of the national weather service. Over the decades, with the rise of digital technology, the opportunities for public sector organizations to leverage the enormous potential of crowdsourcing has grown dramatically. 

A great case in point is provided by the city of Santa Cruz, California. Dealing with the hurdles of the recent recession, a budget deficit, and increasing public works deficiencies, the city adopted a bold crowdsourcing strategy. Members of the public would be able to analyze the city’s expenses, contribute opinions for where savings could be made, as well as lodge ideas for new public initiatives. The volunteers could also rate and comment on the suggestions put forward by other participants. As a result of this initiative, Santa Cruz was able to utilize the input of 10% of its citizenry to resolve a budget shortfall of almost ten million dollars. 

Capturing Creativity: How Idea Management Software Can Take Crowdsourcing to a New Paradigm

The enormous success of the Santa Cruz initiative would not have been possible without one key ingredient – the use of an online platform where new ideas could be assessed and developed. Idea management software can support a crowdsourcing campaign in a variety of ways. It enables ideas to be submitted, collaborated on, and upvoted in a secure, monitored environment. The ideas with the most potential can then be assessed according to key criteria (budget, resources, etc) so they can be implemented with greater certainty. 

Aside from having the potential to channel ingenuity to the government sector, innovation management software can also be used to improve government-citizen relations – that is, let the people know that their opinions matter. Major innovation management software providers offer brainstorming and gamification features, allowing project managers to incentivize citizen participation in government innovation initiatives. 

Crowdsourcing and the Future of Public Sector Innovation

According to a global study by Accenture, 60% of citizens believe that the private sector is more innovative than the public, and 70% want government leaders to innovate more. With new crowdsourcing technologies, public sector organizations can respond to this demand in a way that both reflects the will of the people and makes use of their talents. To quote Kathleen Sebelius, former United States Secretary of Human Services, “a healthy state encourages many voices – and lots of listening.”

The harrowing reality of the global opioid crisis


There are many threats to health that people are faced with every other day, but there is perhaps none more dangerously deceptive than opioids. The nature of opioid addiction is far more excruciating than anyone who has not experienced it, either themselves or from the sidelines, can possibly comprehend. While of course any kind of addiction is harrowing in its own right, opioid addiction is such because it can creep up on people, with many users not realising how dependent they are upon the drugs until their prescription runs out, or the effects begin to dissipate more and more over time. Every year, more and more people lose their lives to opioid addiction, with the problem becoming so common that it has now essentially bloomed into a full-blown epidemic of global proportions. In the USA alone, hundreds of thousands of people have died from overdosing on opioids. It is an uncomfortable truth, and it is one that is in dire need of attention and viable solutions. Finally, at long last, those solutions are presenting themselves.

Designed to be drugs to help with pain management and treatment of other illnesses, opioids are often deceptive from the onset. Because they are prescribed to individuals as a means of dealing with pain and other illness offsets, people take them as prescribed – often without being forewarned about the side effects of such medications. By nature, opioids are addictive, and so it is imperative that individuals taking them are aware of this fact, and keep an eye on their use. Sometimes, even the prescribed amount is too much, so taking the time to mentally check oneself along the road to recovery is crucial to ensuring that one is doing everything they can to avoid addiction. Further, opioids’ effects begin to dissipate over time. This means that oftentimes individuals start to seek out opioids that are stronger, oftentimes even being unaware of this key trait of the drugs, due to lack of awareness or lack of understanding.

Addiction is a terrifying ordeal, and once one has fallen down that hole far enough, it becomes exceedingly difficult to find their way out of the darkness. Opioid addiction has been treated with the same negative attitude that all other forms of addiction have been throughout the years. This stigma has arisen thanks to misunderstanding and a lack of willingness to be open and supportive in the face of such a dangerous health risk. More than anything else, it is important to remember that lives will continue to be lost as long as we continue to approach opioid addiction (and all forms of addiction, for that matter) from a point of negative approach. Quite simply, we must be willing and able to do the work to create a more positive approach in the future towards this health risk, or be willing to watch the death toll continue to rise exponentially, year after year. And is anyone okay with that?

The fact is that opioid addiction recovery is a long and challenging road. Successfully navigating its reaches demands a lot of energy, time, and even money. It is not at all uncommon for an individual struggling with opioid addiction to have to take the pathway multiple times before the approach sticks and they find their way out of the darkness (if they ever reach that point at all). The millions of lives that have been lost, and continue to be lost, around the world in the face of opioid addiction tell the harrowing tale of an attempt to better lives going horribly, even fatally, wrong. While there is movement to encourage a more positive approach to opioid addiction and the road to recovery now, there is still a long way to go, and much work to be done. We are amid the beginning of a battle that is going to take a lot of energy, money, and time to correct, but it is entirely worth it.

Addiction in any capacity, on any substance, or in any other form, is undeniably shocking and terrifying. This much is true. However, there is an additional layer to opioid addiction that makes it especially dangerous. That layer is the fact that opioids are often prescribed medications designed to help individuals overcome pain and other symptoms of illnesses or other health issues. Often, what occurs is that individuals do not even realise they are addicted to these medications until their prescription runs out or they start to realise that the effects are not as strong as they once were. That is the nature of opioids; unfortunately, they can be addictive, and this is where the trouble often (if not always) sprouts from first and foremost. A prominent form of addiction, opioid addiction has been treated with the same bad attitude as all forms of addiction – until now. Finally, the tides are turning, and we are creating a more honest, open, and supportive foundation for those suffering with opioid addiction to come forward.

The role of rehabilitation centers in the fight against the opioid crisis


Health is a multifaceted term with as many connotations as denotations. Some humans use the word health to describe their physicality while others reference their mental well being. For some, health is the type of diet someone has. But the word health is defined as the state of being free from illness or injury. The important thing about health is that it should be reasonable for all people who are suffering from a health related infliction to receive proper care or treatment.

Being healthy is not just eating fruits and vegetables or getting exercise; it is so much more about actually being health from mental all the way to physical well being. It is important to understand how to treat and manage illnesses with a chronic diagnosis. For the unfortunate patients who suffer from cancer or other diseases that are not always preventable, we treat them with medical care, and provide them with the necessary rehabilitation services to get cured. But unfortunately, for those suffering from addiction, we do not always treat them with the right care.

For many unfortunate reasons, some people with an addiction disorder are treated as though they somehow chose their condition. Addiction along with many other mental disorders are often pushed aside because they cannot be seen by the naked eye. The lack of empathy specifically for those suffering from addiction is disheartening.

Many media outlets and social media trolls aim to demonetize addiction because they simply have little understanding of how to treat the disorder. Some western media aims to act as if addiction is in someway a crime. Because some drug-related incidents lead to legal action and crime, people tend to associate drugs with crime, and in turn, associate addiction with crime. Suffering from an addiction does not necessarily constitute criminal activity.

The opioid crisis used to be in rural localized regions, but has since began migrating throughout the United States. Specifically, some of the poorest states like West Virginia and Kentucky have some of the highest rates of opioid addiction. In the southern part of the state of West Virginia, some maps showcase the number of opioid prescriptions per county or per doctor to give a visualized number effect of how over prescribing can lead to addiction. The worst part of the opioid crisis is finding a solution.

One of the first ways to fight the opioid crisis is providing rehabilitation centers that promote sober living. In states and locations with high economic disparity and disadvantage, the opioid crisis is also at an all time high. To combat this issue, it would be wise for local and federal governments to start thinking about a treatment plan with a bottom up approach.

Rehab centers that are focused primarily on opioid and prescription drug addictions will be helpful to combating the disease. It’s important that we treat addiction as a disease in society instead of continually acting like the people who suffer from addiction wanted to have an addiction. Instead, those with an addiction need to get to the root of the issue of why they chose to take the drug in the first place. Because having an addiction is a mental disorder, it should be treated as such. Rehabilitation center can provide patients with medical care as well as psychological care. Often these centers provide patients with group and individual therapy to help them find themselves and be resilient when entering back into civilian life.

The opioid crisis is often at the blame of pharmaceutical companies wanting to make more money, but it is honestly a crisis with many angles. Producing too much of the drug is one part of it, but also, over distribution is another negative effect in the industry. When taking inventory, pharmacists in charge of ordering them need to order only what is needed and not just have extras laying around. Another section of the crisis deals with the realm of doctors and physicians themselves. Physicians are not always completely competent when treating patients. Treating patients as though they have things wrong with them that they don’t or just treating pain in general instead of actually taking the extra step to find out what is wrong can be damaging to the patient’s health. Some patients with addictions will make doctor visits just to try and get more opioids. It is the doctor’s job to be the sleuth for  the opioid crisis and find out who truly needs the pain medicine and who does not actually need it. There are so many reasons that the United States suffers from opioid addiction, but each industry is willing to blame someone else for the problem instead of working together to do research on how to actually find solutions to the problem. The worst part about the opioid addiction is the amount of overdoses that are killing people. When lives are at stake, it is crucial for the government to step in and find answers to problems.

Better Education is the Key to Our Digital Defense Problem

The past several years have brought many changes to the educational and political landscape, but none are potentially so severe and world-changing as the comeback of internet espionage and digital warfare.

The vulnerabilities faced in today’s cybersecurity

Just within the past five years, cyber-attacks have had a massive impact on international and local affairs, including everything from independent hackers demanding ransoms from entire cities for the return of their municipal data to governments attacking other governments, spreading propaganda, and stealing political information through the use of phishing attacks and the like. It’s an uncomfortable truth but increasing amounts of almost cold-war style proxy battles are being fought in the digital realm, and many are beginning to agree that the solution lies within the hands of higher education institutions.

Education rushing to fill the gap calling for professionals

Many are already beginning to respond to the growing need for trained and educated cyber security professionals, offering cyber security courses at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Many experts and educational professionals are arguing that the only way to bolster national security in the digital realm is to focus more intensely on training and education, starting from the youngest ages possible.

For instance, in the United Kingdom, experts are talking about a proverbial “army of cyber kids,” thanks to a newly formed national program that intends to find and recruit young talent for the purpose of training these kids to be cyber security experts. Children are recruited around the ages of 14 to 18, then trained in a series of programs and educated about the possibilities of future employment in the field of cyber security. The aim is to build up a force of educated young people who can enter the field and bolster the industry, which at the moment is lacking in both quality and quantity of workers. 

The criticism faced by academic institutions

The focus on education has its detractors, however. Despite the fact that the number of jobs in the cyber security industry with no employees to fill them is expected to reach close to 2 million within the next few years, critics of the proposed expansions in the educational system to cater to cyber security needs point out that the overwhelming majority of current cyber security experts are, in fact, self taught. However, whether this is a result of a lack of opportunities for formal schooling in the discipline or for some other reason are still unclear. In any case, even the most fervent opposition presented by these critics is rather timid when all things are considered, and even they admit that a stronger focus on educational curricula focusing on cyber security would be beneficial for everyone.

Security risks start from the education system

In the meantime, the arguments for strengthening and funding a dedicated cyber security curriculum, along with attacks on various entities both public and private, have been increasing. Ironically, the education sector itself is a particularly vulnerable target for aspiring hackers looking for treasure troves of data to sell on the open market. The reasons are fairly simple: universities and colleges tend to have fairly relaxed cyber security protocols compared with similar targets like government institutions and hospitals, and universities store an incredible amount of data about their students, from social security numbers to home addresses, phone numbers, payment information, and even medical records obtained through the university clinics that are so common on today’s campuses. In 2014 alone, almost one million individual records were stolen from hacked university databases.

The value of data continues to fuel the hacking problem

Student information isn’t the only thing of value that can be obtained through hacks like these. The Equifax breach comes immediately to mind, whereby millions of Americans’ personal information was stolen and is likely still floating around, being sold back and forth. Universities are a massive target, however, and the more money there is in the university system, the more potential hackers stand to gain. Universities field millions of hacking attempts on a weekly basis, and potential targets (other than confidential student information) could range from test and homework answers to potentially sensitive research information.

Since the revelations that Russia had interfered in an election in the United States by providing hacked emails to a pseudo-journalism outlet called wikileaks, cyber security has become a much bigger focus of educational spending and discussions, while politicians grill the leaders of the tech industry on what they see as their role in the defense (or lack thereof) of critical institutions and demographics in the population. The hacked emails were obtained via phishing attacks that exploited human, rather than technical, weaknesses, impersonating official correspondence and tricking the target into clicking a link leading to malicious code.

It’s for that reason that many experts are targeting people who do not intend to be experts in the field, trying to form a base of general educational curricula that can be delivered as more of a life skill or as part of a continuing education program than a higher-level graduate or undergraduate degree focus.

How Crypto Currency is Changing FinTech

bitcoin-blockchain-jpmorgan-cryptoIn recent years, Financial Technology Companies have disrupted the traditionally slow and cumbersome financial system. From innovative money transfer processes to the increasing prevalence of mobile phone payments; FinTech companies have revolutionized how we handle financial transactions. This is why $11.8 Billion was invested in FinTech companies in 2018 alone. 

In the same breath, cryptocurrencies and blockchain have also had a profound effect on the FinTech sector. In particular, cryptocurrencies have disrupted how people transfer funds, make purchases and raise money. This means that blockchain technologies have profoundly influenced the FinTech sector, and you can expect to see new trends arising from this space soon. For example, commercial banks, credit card companies, and loan providers are adjusting their business models to adapt to the new wave of cryptocurrencies.

But how exactly is blockchain changing the FinTech sector? Read on to find out.

Using cryptocurrencies in daily bank transactions 

Many commercial and central banks are exploring the possibility of introducing their own cryptocurrencies into the blockchain system. Owing to the success of BitCoin, banks can see the benefits of having a stable, non-influenced, and secure cryptocurrency in the market. Indeed, cryptocurrencies are cheaper to manage, have lower transaction costs, and result in more streamlined transactions. Furthermore, these currencies will give financial institutions full control over their monetary policies and financial regulation practices.  

Recently, JPMorgan launched a new cryptocurrency called the JPM Coin. It’s intended to settle payments instantaneously between clients in a low cost, secure, and efficient manner. As more banks continue to explore cryptocurrency options, users can expect to spend less on banking transactions while having more access to FinTech services. The distributed ledger system of cryptocurrencies also makes it easier for people without bank accounts to access financial services using alternative channels (such as mobile phones). 

Verifying the identity of persons

Every year, FinTech companies spend millions of dollars on developing systems that can detect and prevent fraud. Top of the list is identity theft and money laundering, where people still manage to bypass security frameworks and infiltrate loan, investment, and other sensitive financial transactions.

The good news is that cryptocurrencies can be used to enhance transaction security by verifying a person’s identity. Indeed, cryptocurrencies that use a distributed ledger provide a detailed trail of how transactions occurred during a specific period. Any party cannot modify this distributed ledger, and thus will provide evidence of the identity, background, and nature of each transaction.   

Using cryptocurrency for efficient money transfer

A large portion of the FinTech sector is devoted to making money transfer more efficient across the world. By using cryptocurrencies, cross border payments can be streamlined to become cheaper, faster, and safer. Current money transfer processes are bogged down by physical currencies, cumbersome bank procedures, and complex exchange rates. 

By using cryptocurrencies as the primary means of money transfer, financial institutions will be able to save on costs while moving funds more efficiently. 

Increasing the availability of credit 

Just when the financial sector is choking up loans and the smooth flow of credit, cryptocurrencies are increasing accessibility to loans and other similar services. Blockchain technology makes it easier and cheaper for financial institutions to avail credit to customers at competitive rates.

How so? First off, a distributed ledger makes borrowing and repayment more secure. This reduces the prevalence of fraud, and financial institutions are more likely to get their money back (plus interest) after extending credit to a customer. And because the entire process is streamlined and efficient due to cryptocurrencies, banks and other creditors will have an easier time expanding their loan portfolios. 

Shifting payments to mobile phone platforms

Accessibility to FinTech services has long been a challenge for millions of people around the world. Cryptocurrencies are making access to digital payments, money transfer, banking, and other similar services more accessible. By bringing FinTech to mobile phones, cryptocurrencies can be used to pay bills, transfer money, access loans, and even purchase insurance. All these transactions can be done safely- thanks to the distributed ledger.

The accessibility of FinTech on mobile phones is also made possible via cryptocurrencies. This is because users don’t need to own a bank account, carry around physical notes/coins, or go to a specific location (such as an ATM) whenever they need to make a financial transaction.  

SOX compliance and cryptocurrency

As cryptocurrencies continue to disrupt the FinTech industry, the need for regulation and monitoring is at an all-time high. Indeed, financial transactions involving cryptocurrencies will need to be checked for compliance with SOX reporting standards.

SOX was initially implemented to control how financial reporting is done, especially with regards to assets, expenses, auditing, and management oversight. With cryptocurrencies and blockchain becoming more prominent, FinTech companies will need to develop a compliance model that falls in line with accounting and auditing best practices- particularly when it comes to recording crypto currency-related transactions.   

Technology is disrupting global airports more and more


Technological advancement and rapid digitalisation are two of the most profound innovations in the modern world. Through these two modern marvels, practically every aspect, every industry in the modern world has been fundamentally changed in some way. Consider the technological innovations revolutionising airports around the globe, for example. Any type of technology is designed and acutely aimed at providing viable and ongoing solutions to problems. In the case of airports, the problems lie in making the process from check in to boarding more convenient and efficient for travellers. Of course, there are always innovations that could make the entire airport experience smoother, but the one issue that comes up time and again is the issue of check in lines and boarding processes. This is not an issue that is limited to specific airports, either. It is an issue that is found in practically every airport in the world, and it is one that causes significant drama every time someone checks in and gets ready to board their flight (so, essentially, it is forever happening in an ongoing cycle).

Airport technology has been present for quite some time now, but never has this level of technological influence been felt in the industry before. For a while now, travellers have been able to check in online 24-48 hours prior to their flight taking off. This seems, to the untrained eye, like a victory. It should make the process faster. And sure, perhaps it does make it a little faster, but when one considers the fact that travellers still must go through those same check-in lines to check in their baggage, the time saved is miniscule, if anything at all. Couple this with the fact that while most airlines do in fact have separate check-in sections in airports (and especially in international airports), it is rare that all of them are open to accommodate and check-in travellers faster. While as many as ten check-in desks are there, only one or two, maybe even three or four on a good day, even have anyone there to help travellers check in their luggage and get through to customs successfully.

This is of course an issue. Understandably, airports cannot pay up to ten clerks, for multiple airlines, to be manning the service check-in desks 24/7. So, that is that, right? There is not much more that can be done? Wrong. So, what is the solution? Many people believe that the solution lies in technological automation. There has been a rising interest in automating the check-in process even more than it currently is. At the present time, travellers can often print out their airline tickets and baggage tags themselves. And then, if they have baggage (which, let’s face it, most people on an international flight do), they still must go through the check-in process to have their luggage processed. What many have suggested is getting rid of all but one or two service check-in desks, and turning the rest of them into self-service baggage check-in – even splitting each desk space to create two self-service counters. This would potentially speed up the process, cutting waiting times in half.

What this means is obviously a faster, more efficient process and happier travellers. The other important thing to note is also that a technological reconfiguration like this genuinely takes time to perfect. As is the case with any innovation, any new branch of technology, there will be a process of inevitable trial and error before the system is entirely smooth and efficient to a T. It is important that travellers can understand that this is normal, and bumps in the technology in its initial stages does not warrant panic, or a call for them to reverse the tech and take it back to human-run systems. Quite simply, these things take time. The technologically-driven revitalisation of global airports the world over is costing billions globally, but it is well worth it. From the IAD parking at Dulles International Airport, Washington, to the beginnings of automated self-service check-in desks being considered in airports around the world (and everything in between, for that matter), technological absolution is changing everything, in all the best and brightest ways possible.

When it comes to using digitalisation and technological advancement to advance and enhance amid an ongoing abundance of innovations that have changed our entire lives. Even the airports that help us get from point A to point B have experienced their fair share of transformation – and they continue to do so, as we head further and further into the digital age that we have comfortably created on an ongoing basis throughout recent history. For airports specifically, technological advancement and rapid digitalisation come in the form of revolutionising and advancing the convenience and efficiency of the check in and boarding processes that travellers go through as they prepare for their upcoming flights. There are many other instances in which technological advancement and rapid digitalisation are impacting airports and the flight industry in all the right ways, but the instances with check in and boarding processes are the most instrumental of them all. What seems like a rocky beginning now is set to become a much smoother process in due time.