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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Easy ways to improve your small business efficiency

By automating any monotonous tasks, you can then save your team time and you can also give them the chance to be far more productive with the tasks that have been assigned to them.

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The best way for you to make more money for your small business would be for you to focus on efficiency while also making sure that every one of your processes are streamlined.

Take a look below to find out more.

Automate what you Can

It doesn’t matter whether you automate your payment process or whether you invest in an automatic route software for your fleet because you need to make sure that you focus on efficiency as much as possible. By automating any monotonous tasks, you can then save your team time and you can also give them the chance to be far more productive with the tasks that have been assigned to them.

Encourage your Team to Talk Face to Face

Sure, sending a quick email to a co-worker may seem like an efficient way of communicating but sometimes it can hinder your efficiency. All the back and forth can easily take up way more time and you may even find that there are mix-ups too. This can really make it difficult for you to get something done, and the best way for you to avoid this would be for you to try and encourage face-to-face communication as much as possible. This will keep everything moving forward and it will also encourage your employees to work better with one another too.

Limit Interruptions

If your team are having a hard time completing tasks efficiently then this could be because they are having constant interruptions. One way for you to help yourself here would be for you to try and schedule all of your meetings for the same day rather than having them throughout the week. This will help your team to get everything they need clarified on the first day so that they can spend the rest of the working week getting everything done. If you want to take things to that next level then try and limit pop-ups, email alerts and notifications from your project management software.

All the back and forth can easily take up way more time and you may even find that there are mix-ups too. This can really make it difficult for you to get something done, and the best way for you to avoid this would be for you to try and encourage face-to-face communication as much as possible.
IMAGE SOURCE: Pexels (CC0 License)

Vehicle Management

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If you have a fleet of vehicles, it may be worth hiring a fleet management company. When you do, you can then spend more time focusing on the core aspects of your business. Little things like this can make a huge difference and you would be surprised at what an impact it can have on your team morale too.

Task Management

Task management software really is worth having and it can also help your team to stay focused throughout various projects. Another benefit of having it is that it will show you what needs to be done and when, so you can easily tell your team the tasks for the day. Some types of software even show you what your other team members are working on too, and this can really work wonders for your level of communication. If you want to take things to that next level, then consider creating a custom software. This will help you to really stay on top of everything and it will also make it way easier for you to manage your company.


Health & Wellness

Study finds more mental heath visits decreases risk of suicide among youths

Youths with psychiatric disorders, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, and substance use should be routinely assessed for suicide risk and receive high-intensity, evidence-based treatments for suicidality, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

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A multistate study of Medicaid enrollees led by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found that suicide risk was highest among youth with epilepsy, depression, schizophrenia, substance use and bipolar disorder. In addition, the odds of suicide decreased among those who had more mental health visits within the 30 days before the date of suicide.

Researchers compared the clinical profiles and mental health service patterns of children and adolescents who had died by suicide to see how they differed from the general population. The findings published today in JAMA Pediatrics.

“To the best of our knowledge, no studies have examined the clinical profiles and health and mental health service utilization patterns prior to suicide for children and adolescents within the Medicaid population,” said lead researcher Cynthia Fontanella, an associate professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral health at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. “Understanding how health care utilization patterns of suicidal decedents differ from the general population is critical to target suicide prevention efforts.”

This population-based case-control study merged mortality data with US Medicaid data from 16 states spanning all regions of the country and accounting for 65% of the total child Medicaid population.

The study looked at 910 youth aged 10-18 years who died by suicide between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2013 compared to a control group of 6,346 youth that was matched based on gender, race, ethnicity, Medicaid eligibility category, state and age.

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For both groups, researchers examined health and behavioral health visits in the six-month period prior to date of suicide. Associations between visits, clinical characteristics and suicide were examined.

Clinical characteristics included psychiatric diagnoses (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorders, depression, bipolar disorder and other mood disorders, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia/psychosis, substance use and other mental health disorders) and chronic medical conditions (diabetes, seizure disorders, cerebral palsy, asthma or cancer.)

“Our study found that 41% of youth who died by suicide had at least one mental health diagnosis in the six months prior to death, a finding similar to those of previous studies on adults,” Fontanella said. “Our findings suggest that youths with psychiatric disorders, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, and substance use should be routinely assessed for suicide risk and receive high-intensity, evidence-based treatments for suicidality, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.”

In the US, the suicide rate among people aged 10-24 years has increased by 50% since 1999. Suicide is currently the second leading cause of death in this age group, accounting for nearly 6,800 deaths in 2017.

“Suicide among young people is a major public health problem. Based on our findings, we believe that implementing suicide screening protocols for youth enrolled in Medicaid – targeted on the basis of frequency of visits and psychiatric diagnoses – has the potential to decrease suicide rates,” Fontanella said.

Members of the LGBTQIA community encounter more issues related to mental health.

In November 2019, for instance, a study noted that sexual minorities were around five times more likely to experience high depressive symptoms (54% vs 15%) and self-harm (54% vs 14%). They also had lower life satisfaction (34% vs 10%), lower self-esteem and were more likely to experience all forms of bullying (i.e. peer bullying 27% vs 10%) and victimization (i.e. sexual assault/harassment 11% vs 3%) .

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In September 2017, another study suggested that experiencing anti-bisexual prejudice, internalized heterosexism, and identity concealment appears to be related to feelings of loneliness and ultimately psychological distress and suicidality among bi individuals.

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Technology

In politics and pandemics, trolls use fear, anger to drive clicks

“As consumers continue to see ads that contain false claims and are intentionally designed to use their emotions to manipulate them, it’s important for them to have cool heads and understand the motives behind them.”

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Facebook users flipping through their feeds in the fall of 2016 faced a minefield of targeted advertisements pitting blacks against police, southern whites against immigrants, gun owners against Obama supporters and the LGBTQ community against the conservative right.

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Placed by distant Russian trolls, they didn’t aim to prop up one candidate or cause, but to turn Americans against one another.

The ads were cheaply made and full of threatening, vulgar language.

And, according to a sweeping new analysis of more than 2,500 of the ads, they were remarkably effective, eliciting clickthrough rates as much as nine times higher than what is typical in digital advertising.

“We found that fear and anger appeals work really well in getting people to engage,” said lead author Chris Vargo, an assistant professor of Advertising, Public Relations and Media Design at University of Colorado Boulder.

The study, published in Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, is the first to take a comprehensive look at ads placed by the infamous Russian propaganda machine known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA) and ask: How effective were they? And what makes people click on them?

While focused on ads running in 2016, the study’s findings resonate in the age of COVID-19 and the run-up to the 2020 election, the authors say.

“As consumers continue to see ads that contain false claims and are intentionally designed to use their emotions to manipulate them, it’s important for them to have cool heads and understand the motives behind them,” said Vargo.

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For the study, Vargo and assistant professor of advertising Toby Hopp scoured 2,517 Facebook and Instagram ads downloaded from the U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee On Intelligence website. The committee made the ads publicly available in 2018 after concluding that the IRA had been creating fake U.S. personas, setting up fake social media pages, and using targeted paid advertising to “sow discord” among U.S. residents.

Using computational tools and manual coding, Vargo and Hopp analyzed every ad, looking for the inflammatory, obscene or threatening words and language hostile to a particular group’s ethnic, religious or sexual identity. They also looked at which groups each ad targeted, how many clicks the ad got, and how much the IRA paid.

Collectively, the IRA spent about $75,000 to generate about 40.5 million impressions with about 3.7 million users clicking on them – a clickthrough rate of 9.2%.

That compares to between .9% and 1.8% for a typical digital ad.

While ads using blatantly racist language didn’t do well, those using cuss words and inflammatory words (like “sissy,” “idiot,” “psychopath” and “terrorist”) or posing a potential threat did. Ads that evoked fear and anger did the best.

One IRA advertisement targeting users with an interest in the Black Lives Matter movement stated: “They killed an unarmed guy again! We MUST make the cops stop thinking that they are above the law!” Another shouted: “White supremacists are planning to raise the racist flag again!” Meanwhile, ads targeting people who sympathized with white conservative groups read “Take care of our vets; not illegals” or joked “If you voted for Obama: We don’t want your business because you are too stupid to own a firearm.”

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Only 110 out of 2,000 mentioned Donald Trump.

“This wasn’t about electing one candidate or another,” said Vargo. “It was essentially a make-Americans-hate-each-other campaign.”

The ads were often unsophisticated, with spelling or grammatical errors and poorly photoshopped images. Yet at only a few cents to distribute, the IRA got an impressive rate of return.

“I was shocked at how effective these appeals were,” said Vargo.

The authors warn that they have no doubt such troll farms are still at it.

According to some news reports, Russian trolls are already engaged in disinformation campaigns around COVID-19.

“I think with any major story, you are going to see this kind of disinformation circulated,” said Hopp. “There are bad actors out there who have goals that are counter to the aspirational goals of American democracy, and there are plenty of opportunities for them to take advantage of the current structure of social media.”

Ultimately, the authors believe better monitoring, via both machine algorithms and human reviewers, could help stem the tide of disinformation.

“We as a society need to start seriously talking about what role the platforms and government should play in times like the 2020 election or during COVID-19 when we have a compelling need for high-quality, accurate information to be distributed,” said Hopp.

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Health & Wellness

COVID-19 linked to cardiac injury, worse outcomes for patients with heart conditions

COVID-19 can have fatal consequences for people with underlying cardiovascular disease and cause cardiac injury even in patients without underlying heart conditions.

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COVID-19 can have fatal consequences for people with underlying cardiovascular disease and cause cardiac injury even in patients without underlying heart conditions, according to a review published today in JAMA Cardiology by experts at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

Experts have known that viral illnesses such as COVID-19 can cause respiratory infections that may lead to lung damage and even death in severe cases. Less is known about the effects on the cardiovascular system.

“It is likely that even in the absence of previous heart disease, the heart muscle can be affected by coronavirus disease,” said Mohammad Madjid, MD, MS, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of cardiology at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. “Overall, injury to heart muscle can happen in any patient with or without heart disease, but the risk is higher in those who already have heart disease.”

The study authors explained that research from previous coronavirus and influenza epidemics suggest that viral infections can cause acute coronary syndromes, arrhythmias, and the development of, or exacerbation of, heart failure.

In a clinical bulletin issued by the American College of Cardiology, it was revealed that the case fatality rate of COVID-19 for patients with cardiovascular disease was 10.5%. Data also points to a greater likelihood that individuals over the age of 65 with coronary heart disease or hypertension can contract the illness, as well experience more severe symptoms that will require critical care.

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According to the study authors, critical cases are those that reported respiratory failure, septic shock, and/or multiple organ dysfunction or failure that resulted in death. “It is reasonable to expect that significant cardiovascular complications linked to COVID-19 will occur in severe symptomatic patients because of the high inflammatory response associated with this illness,” said Madjid, who also sees patients at the UT Physicians Multispecialty – Bayshore clinic.

The novel virus that causes COVID-19 was first identified in January 2020. This novel virus originated in Wuhan, China, and by March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization had declared it a global pandemic. The three most common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Other less common symptoms are muscle pain, sore throat, nasal congestion, and headache. Symptoms can appear as soon as two days after exposure to the virus to up to14 days after. There is a high viral load in both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients, meaning asymptomatic spread between person to person is likely.

Previously identified coronaviruses known to cause severe illness in humans include Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). SARS-CoV was first identified in southern China in 2002, and by 2003 it had killed over 8,000 individuals in 29 countries. Data suggests that SARS-CoV may have resulted in cardiovascular complications, such as acute coronary syndrome and myocardial infarction. MERS-CoV was first discovered in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. As of 2019, 2,494 cases have been confirmed along with 858 deaths in 26 countries.

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Current COVID-19 treatment options are being researched, and there is a large effort to develop vaccines for prevention and to test antivirals for the treatment of the disease. In the meantime, the study authors encourage all individuals to consult with their health care providers about being vaccinated against influenza and that at-risk patients seek advice on receiving a pneumonia vaccine from their primary care physician. While these vaccines will not provide specific protection against COVID-19, they can help prevent superimposed infections alongside COVID-19.

Study co-authors include Payam Safavi-Naeini, MD, of the Texas Heart Institute; Scott Solomon, MD, of Harvard Medical School; and Orly Vardeny, PharmD, of the University of Minnesota.

It is worth noting that cardiovascular issues greatly affect members of the LGBTQIA community.

A 2018 study in the US, for instance, noted that lesbian, gay and bisexual adults have a “disproportionately high risk” of heart disease and other cardiac problems when compared to heterosexuals.

Another 2018 study noted that trauma, including abuse and neglect, is associated with higher cardiovascular disease risk for lesbian and bi women.


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Travel

Colonial-era law criminalizing gay sex retained in Singapore

Gay sex is illegal in Singapore. The ban carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail for homosexual acts.

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Gay sex is illegal in Singapore.

That’s the gist in the decision made by Singapore’s High Court, which ruled that its colonial-era law criminalizing sex between men is constitutional and would be retained, overturning a bid by gay rights activists to scrap it.

Singapore is one of former British colonies still clinging to Section 377A of the Penal Code (the “anti-buggery law”), which came into force in 1938 after being adapted from a 19th-century Indian penal code. Though rarely enforced, that the law exists at all is an affront to equal treatment sought by the LGBTQIA people particularly of Singapore.

In Singapore, the ban carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail for homosexual acts.

The latest attempt to overturn the law was spearheaded by three gay activists who lodged court challenges seeking to prove that the law is unconstitutional. But the High Court dismissed all three after hearing them together behind closed doors. The High Court ruled that the law does not violate articles of Singapore’s constitution regarding equality and freedom of speech.

The High Court similarly stated that just because the legislation was not enforced, it did not “render it redundant,” stating: “Legislation remains important in reflecting public sentiment and beliefs.”

Speaking outside the High Court, M. Ravi, a lawyer for one of the complainants, said that the decision is “shocking to the conscience and it is so arbitrary. It is so discriminatory, this legislation.”

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This is not the first time that the law was challenged. In 2014, the first challenge to the law was also dismissed, highlighting that the city-state is still conservative.

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Why CBD is becoming so popular among migraine patients

Recently, many migraine-sufferers have started turning to CBD, one of the compounds found in the cannabis plant, as an effective treatment option for migraines.

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While many are alleviating the symptoms of migraines with over-the-counter and prescription medication, some are starting to use CBD as a natural way of dealing with this debilitating condition.

Migraine attacks can stop you in your tracks. Affecting over 38 million people in the United States, headaches account for around four million emergency room visits in the country annually. The condition, which often includes not just pain but also nausea, and sensitivity to light and noise, can be tricky to treat, with medication often causing undesirable side effects. Recently, many migraine-sufferers have started turning to CBD, one of the compounds found in the cannabis plant, as an effective treatment option for migraines.

Keep reading to find out more about this natural migraine treatment.

How Does it Work

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), cannabis has been used for the management of pain, neurological symptoms and inflammation for over 3,0000 years.

While there is a general lack of research about the effectiveness of CBD for migraines, many swear by this natural treatment. Some medical professionals have suggested that the symptoms of migraines are caused by the stimulation of sensory nerves, which is a direct response to the inflammatory agents released during a migraine. CBD may alleviate this inflammation, treating the harrowing symptoms of migraines. 

Is it Legal

Hemp and hemp-derived products with a THC content of under 0.3% have been legalized in the United States by the Farm Bill passed in 2018 (generally, CBD oil is legally required to contain less than 0.3% of THC). For comparison, recreational cannabis that can get you high contains between 8% and 35% of THC. If unsure, it is best to speak with your doctor to avoid any health or legal issues before using CBD for migraines, as state laws can vary.

How is CBD Used

CBD oil can be used in a variety of ways. It can be ingested in food or drinks, or in a capsule or drop form. It can also be inhaled, but this can have a negative effect on the lungs. As no specific studies on the use of CBD oil on migraines have been conducted to date, there is no set dosage for this condition. Once again, if uncertain, it is best to consult your doctor.

Potential Side Effects of CBD

Many people opt to use CBD oil for migraines rather than over-the-counter or prescription medication due to its minimal side effects. Some noted side effects associated with CBD use include fatigue, drowsiness and an upset stomach. In addition, inhaling CBD can cause lung irritation, as well as coughing and wheezing. CBD can also interact with some prescription drugs and supplements, such as antidepressants, antibiotics and blood thinners.

Other Migraine Treatments

While CBD seems like a viable option for treating migraines, it is certainly not the only one. Aside from taking pain relievers and anti-inflammatories, avoiding migraine triggers is a good place to start. This includes staying away from bright lights or other allergens, as well as stress management. Botox has also been used as a treatment for migraines, as it blocks the release of pain-transmitting chemicals that activate the brain’s pain networks.

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Health & Wellness

To stay positive, live in the moment – but plan ahead

Mindfulness is when people are centered and living in the moment, rather than dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. Proactive coping is when people engage in planning to reduce the likelihood of future stress.

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A recent study from North Carolina State University finds that people who manage to balance living in the moment with planning for the future are best able to weather daily stress without succumbing to negative moods.

“It’s well established that daily stressors can make us more likely to have negative affect, or bad moods,” says Shevaun Neupert, a professor of psychology at NC State and corresponding author of a paper on the recent work. “Our work here sheds additional light on which variables influence how we respond to daily stress.”

Specifically, the researchers looked at two factors that are thought to influence how we handle stress: mindfulness and proactive coping.

Mindfulness is when people are centered and living in the moment, rather than dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. Proactive coping is when people engage in planning to reduce the likelihood of future stress.

To see how these factors influence responses to stress, the researchers looked at data from 223 study participants. The study included 116 people between the ages of 60 and 90, and 107 people between the ages of 18 and 36. All of the study participants were in the United States.

All of the study participants were asked to complete an initial survey in order to establish their tendency to engage in proactive coping. Participants were then asked to complete questionnaires for eight consecutive days that explored fluctuations in mindfulness. On those eight days, participants were also asked to report daily stressors and the extent to which they experienced negative mood.

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The researchers found that engaging in proactive coping was beneficial at limiting the effect of daily stressors, but that this advantage essentially disappeared on days when a participant reported low mindfulness.

“Our results show that a combination of proactive coping and high mindfulness result in study participants of all ages being more resilient against daily stressors,” Neupert says. “Basically, we found that proactive planning and mindfulness account for about a quarter of the variance in how stressors influenced negative affect.

“Interventions targeting daily fluctuations in mindfulness may be especially helpful for those who are high in proactive coping and may be more inclined to think ahead to the future at the expense of remaining in the present.”

The paper, “Thinking Ahead and Staying in the Present: Implications for Reactivity to Daily Stressors,” is published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. First author of the paper is Melody Polk, an undergraduate at NC State. The paper was co-authored by Emily Smith and Ling-Rui Zhang, graduate students at NC State. The work was done with support from NC State’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

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