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Understanding the Nordic (also Scandinavian) Model of Social Democracy

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Sweden’s right-wing coalition, led by the Moderate Party, defeated the center-left bloc coalition led by the Social Democrats Party, despite remaining the single largest party. The formation of a new right-wing government in Sweden threatens the Nordic (also Scandinavian) Model of Social Democracy. The five countries: Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland, are collectively known as the Nordic countries.

What is the Nordic Model?

  • The Nordic model refers to the standards that Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland adhere to. These countries are known for their high living standards and equality.
  • The model is a one-of-a-kind blend of free-market capitalism and social welfare.
    • The Free Market is an economic system that is based on supply and demand.
    • Social benefits are funded by taxpayers and managed by the government on behalf of all citizens.
  • It is a mixed economic system that keeps the advantages of capitalism while reducing the gap between the rich and the poor through redistributive taxation and a strong public sector.
  • A defining characteristic of the culture is gender equality, which leads to high levels of male parental involvement and female workplace participation.
Nordic Model

What makes the Nordic Model effective?

  • Much of its success can be attributed to a shared history and societal development.
    • The history of this region of the world is largely one of family-driven agriculture, unlike regions that developed around the formation of large corporate-owned farms.
  • The end result is a country full of small, independent businesses run by people facing the same set of challenges. Solutions that help one member of society are more likely to help all members.
  • This collective mentality results in a population that trusts its government because the government is led by citizens who want to create programmes that benefit everyone.
  • As a result, publicly funded services such as healthcare and education are of such high quality that private enterprises see no reason to provide or improve them. This mindset persisted as capitalist enterprises grew.

What are the benefits and drawbacks?

  • Advantage:
    • The Nordic model promotes equality and social mobility.
    • Everyone has free access to adequate public services, including some of the world’s best education and healthcare, and people appear content to pay their taxes to ensure that this continues.
    • These collective benefits are combined with entrepreneurship to form an effective mix of capitalism and socialism (Cuddly Capitalism).
  • Disadvantage:
    • The model is criticized because of high taxes, a high level of government intervention, and relatively low GDP, productivity, and economic growth.
    • The Nordic model redistributes wealth, restricts the amount of money available for individual consumption and spending, and promotes reliance on publicly funded initiatives.

What problems does this model face?

  • Aging Populations:
    • The ideal situation for an aging population is one with a large base of young taxpayers and a small population of senior citizens receiving services. Benefit cuts are a likely result as the population balance swings the other way.
  • Immigration:
    • These nations welcome a sizable influx of newcomers looking to take advantage of the generous public benefits. These newcomers are frequently from countries that do not have a long, shared history of making decisions for the common good.
    • Newcomers can place a significant strain on the system, potentially leading to its demise.

Way Forward

  • There are concerns that an aging population, globalization, and increased immigration will gradually erode the Nordic model’s efficient welfare state.
  • Taxation can only go so far, and there is always the risk that a more individualistic culture will emerge.
  • Many critics underestimate the Nordic model’s ability to overcome obstacles. There are reasons to believe that the underlying values are so deeply embedded in these countries that they will always exist in some form or another.

Source: TH

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work culture trends

What are the reasons? 

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What is Work Culture? Attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors related to the usual atmosphere in a workplace.

Quiet firing, quiet quitting, moonlighting, hustle culture, 18-hour work debate, and work-life balance have appeared frequently in the past few months. 

Quiet Quitting refers to employees doing the bare minimum required of them. For example, leaving work exactly at the end of one’s shift, demanding additional pay for extra work, and/or setting clear work-life boundaries.

Reasons for Quiet Quitting: The pandemic allowed employees to reimagine what alternative work systems could look like, thus bringing about a change. Plus, the increased number of hours employees spend working and the apathetic attitude of employers contribute to increased levels of burnout. 

Quiet firing: It means when bosses, instead of properly managing an employee, assign menial tasks or have unrealistic expectations in the hope they will quit. Managers may purposefully exclude their employees from opportunities to advance their careers, such as preventing them from participating in special projects or limiting their chances of promotion or a raise. Quiet firing may be perceived as a reaction to employees’ quietly quitting their jobs, whereas employees may quietly quit because they suspect their boss is attempting to “quiet fire” them. 

Reasons:

  • If a manager does not believe a member of their team will be successful.
  • Managers who lack confidence in their leadership abilities may be more likely to fire employees quietly.
  • Busy or overworked managers may lack the time, patience, or emotional capacity to have difficult conversations with their employees about their job performance.

Moonlighting: It is the act of working an extra job outside of regular working hours, usually without the employer’s knowledge. It was referred to as “moonlighting” because the side job was typically performed overnight or on the weekends.

Why do people moonlight? The main reason is to earn more money. An individual may be able to learn new skills by taking on a different role at work. Employers frequently view this practice with suspicion because it could indicate that a worker won’t give their company the time it requires. 

“18 hours’ work” debate and hustle culture: “Hustle culture” is defined as one that encourages employees to work more than normal working hours. Even when they have free time or are on vacation, they are thinking about work.

A LinkedIn post by a company’s CEO advising young people to work 18 hours a day, at least for the first four to five years of their careers, sparked outrage and backlash.

Why is it important to have a work-life balance

  •  Work-life balance is critical.
  •  Put health before wealth. 
  • If you want your employees to work extra hours, create an incentive system. 
  • Success can mean different things to different people: Economic success is not the only yardstick by which to measure a human life’s success. 
  • The mindsets of entrepreneurs and employees differ: It is not a good idea for an employee to work 70+ hours per week for a basic salary. The employee may as well take the entrepreneurship path where there is an opportunity to create a company and to keep the profits.

Source: IE

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esim

What are eSIMs? Its Advantages and Disadvantages

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An embedded SIM (eSIM) is a SIM that is permanently embedded in the motherboard of a watch or smartphone. eSIMs were first introduced in 2012, but despite their futuristic applications, they have not completely replaced physical SIMs.

Apple Inc., an American MNC, has come up with a new Apple iPhone 14 without a physical SIM slot but an eSIM in order to access mobile networks.

Advantages

  • Because they are connected to the motherboard, they can also be reprogrammed, allowing users to switch operators without having to replace any physical SIM cards.
  • Convenience: Because your eSIM can store multiple SIM profiles, you can easily switch between them.
  • Security: There is no physical element to pull out and use on another device. An eSIM provides security against SIM theft. 

Disadvantages

  • Emergency: If your phone stops working, runs out of battery, or simply falls and cracks the screen, eSIMs bring your communication to a halt. Meanwhile, traditional SIM cards can be quickly removed from the affected phone and placed in another backup device or secondary phone.
  • You cannot use an eSIM phone in a country where telecom operators have not yet adopted the technology.
  • Only premium phones have support. eSIM support is currently only available on more expensive devices such as Apple iPhones and the Google Pixel series.
  • Telecommunications companies have more control.

Source: Business Standard

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SATURN RINGS

How the planet got its signature look

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Scientists have long struggled to explain how Saturn’s rings were formed and why its axis of rotation is tilted by a steep 27 degrees. In a new paper published, researchers hypothesize that the existence of a previously unknown moon could solve both of these mysteries at once.

Currently, four planets are known to have rings: Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus. Saturn’s rings, composed of water ice particles, are the brightest. Saturn has 83 moons, according to NASA.

A number of theories have been proposed to explain this feature, but none have proven to be convincing. According to a well-known theory, Saturn got its tilt due to gravitational interactions with its neighbor Neptune. However, researchers involved in the new study argue that Saturn is no longer under Neptune’s gravitational influence. 

Cassini-Huygens was sent on a mission to study Saturn and its moons. It was a joint collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency. It was launched in 1997 and entered Saturn’s orbit in 2004. The mission ended in 2017. In recent years, we have been repeatedly blown away by the discoveries made possible by the collected data.

Observations from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft suggest Titan, Saturn’s largest satellite/moon is migrating at about 11 centimeters per year, 100 times faster than previous estimates. Titan’s rapid migration caused it to tilt even more, reducing Neptune’s gravitational influence on Saturn.

Following that, the researchers ran simulations of the planet’s axis of rotation and how it has changed over time. The experts said that this revealed that a former moon, Chrysalis, could be involved. Removing the moon gives Saturn its tilt, according to the model.

Chrysalis likely orbited Saturn for several billion years. Roughly 160 million years ago, it became unstable and came too close to its planet. The study hypothesized that this encounter likely pushed the moon away or disintegrated it, leading to the formation of the rings.

It may therefore have contributed to Saturn’s escape from Neptune’s grasp and caused the tilt. Future research will be needed to further corroborate these claims.

Source: Downtoearth

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Eastern Economic Forum

What is the EEF (Eastern Economic Forum)?

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Russia recently hosted the 7th Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok. The forum provides a platform for entrepreneurs to expand their operations into Russia’s Far East (RFE).

The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) was established in 2015 to encourage foreign investments in the RFE. It displays the economic potential, suitable business conditions, and investment opportunities in the region.

The number of EEF agreements signed increased from 217 in 2017 to 380 in 2021, totaling 3.6 trillion roubles. The focus is on infrastructure, transportation projects, mineral excavations, construction, industry, and agriculture.

China, South Korea, Japan, and India are the key players in the region, where China is the biggest investor. China sees potential in promoting the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Polar Sea Route in the RFE. China’s investments in the region account for 90% of the total investments.

Aim:

  • Russia has strategically developed the region with the intention of connecting to the Asian trading routes.
  • With the fast modernization of cities like Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, Ulan-Ude, Chita, and more, Russia aims to attract more foreign direct investment to the region. 
  • Last but not least, with the assistance of China and other Asian powers, to survive the economic crisis and sanctions.

What is the importance of the RFE?

  • The region encompasses one-third of Russia’s territory and is rich in natural resources such as oil, natural gas, fish, wood, diamonds, and other minerals.
  • The small population living in the region is another factor in encouraging people to move and work in the Far East.
  • The region’s riches and resources contribute to 5 % of Russia’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product).
    • Despite the abundance and availability of materials, procuring and supplying them is a challenge due to a lack of personnel.
  • The RFE is geographically located in a strategic location, acting as a gateway into Asia.

There are benefits of being involved in the development of the RFE. Countries may not shy away from investing despite the current international conditions, where western countries impose sanctions on Russia. The coming together of countries like Myanmar, Armenia, Russia, and China for EEF seems like the forming of an Anti-Sanctions Group in the international order.

Source: TH

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ENERGY

Explained: What is windfall profit tax

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The 2022 price increase for fossil fuels has resulted in significant windfall profits for the energy sector. Many countries are considering policies to tax a portion of these profits.

A wave of countries, including the U.K., Italy, and Germany, have either already imposed or are considering imposing a windfall profit tax on supernormal profits made by energy companies.

Windfall taxes are intended to tax profits derived from an external, sometimes unprecedented event, such as an increase in energy prices as a result of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

These profits cannot be attributed to something the firm actively did, like an investment strategy or an expansion of business. Governments typically levy a one-time tax retrospectively over and above the normal rates of tax on such profits, called windfall tax.

The chief of the U.N. (United Nations) urged all governments to tax these excessive profits “and use the money to support the most vulnerable people through these difficult times.”

How are energy companies making so much money?  

Producers are the first point for energy, whether it is electricity generation through renewable measures or the extraction of crude oil and natural gas. These gains are recorded by producers as a result of supply and demand. When a commodity is in high demand, prices rise and in turn, so do profits. Furthermore, they do not simply produce and sell oil; they employ thousands of traders who buy and sell oil produced by other companies and profit from market price fluctuations. The more volatile the market – as has been the case throughout 2022 – the higher the potential earnings.

Refiners made significant gains by increasing fuel exports to deficit countries such as Europe, which has now boycotted Russian oil imports.

Retailers and Suppliers are distinct entities from producers, and as such, they are required to purchase Wholesale Energy at the market price, which means they are also dealing with rising costs. Retailers and suppliers are then forced to pass on these costs to households and businesses.

What are the Issues with Imposing this tax?

Companies are more likely to invest in a sector if the tax regime is predictable and stable. Because windfall taxes are imposed retroactively and are frequently influenced by unexpected events, they can create market uncertainty about future taxes.

It is unclear what constitutes true windfall profits or how to determine what level of profit is normal or excessive. It is believed that such taxes are populist and politically opportune in the short term.

Some rejected such a move, claiming it would “slow down growth” by discouraging investment in the energy sector. A energy giant insists a large amount of its profits are re-invested into green energy projects and improving existing infrastructure.

Source: TH

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La Nina

Third Consecutive La Nina Event Explained

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La Nina (known as “little girl”) is a weather pattern that occurs in the Pacific Ocean. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology confirmed the occurrence of the La Niña phenomenon for the third consecutive Year in the Pacific Ocean. It could lead to unusual weather effects in various countries.

This extended La Nina period in 2022 is the first time it had occurred since the 1950s when the event began to be recorded.

La Nina
La Nina
La Nina

El Nino and La Nina are diametrically opposed phenomena that cause abnormal warming or cooling of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America. They are known collectively as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation system, or ENSO for short.

ENSO conditions can affect both temperatures and rainfall globally due to their strong interference with global atmospheric circulations. El Nino and La Nina typically occur every four to five years. El Nino events occur more frequently than La Nina events.

Impacts of La Nina

  1. Europe: La Nina tends to lead to milder winters in Northern Europe (mainly UK) and colder winters in southern/western Europe, resulting in the snow in the Mediterranean region.
  2. North America: The majority of these conditions are felt here:
  • Stronger winds along the equatorial region, particularly in the Pacific.
  • Favorable conditions for hurricanes in the Caribbean and central Atlantic area.
  • Greater instances of tornados in various states across the United States.
  1. South America: Drought is caused by La Nina in the South American countries of Peru and Ecuador.
  • It normally has a positive impact on the western South American fishing industry.
  1. It also leads to heavy floods in Australia. 
  2. Some weather forecasters believe that the ongoing La Nia climate event is one of the causes of the floods in Pakistan.
  3. Temperatures have risen in the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean, and off the Somali coast.

Source: IE

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Human Development Index (HDI)

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Human Development index

Human Development Report 2021-22

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Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, 90% of the countries have fallen backward in human development, reversing much of the progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals.

  • The Index is part of the Human Development Report 2021-2022 released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
  • The HDI measures a country’s achievement in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, education, and a decent standard of living.
  • It is calculated using four indicators: life expectancy at birth, mean years of schooling, expected years of schooling, and the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated gender inequality, which increased by 6.7% globally.
  • Report of worsening mental distress since COVID-19 – the factor that can impede human development.
  • It claimed that humans were unprepared for a world with climate crises.
  • Insect Population Decline: Without an abundance of insect pollinators, humans face the mind-boggling challenge of growing food and other agricultural products at scale.
  • Plastics are now everywhere – in the ocean, protected forests, remote mountaintops, and people’s lungs and blood.

Source: downtoearth

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Slide in Global Oil Prices

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Impact of Global Oil Price

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Brent crude prices have dropped dramatically in the last ten days; the prices have fallen to under USD 90 per barrel while they were trading at around $110 per barrel in July 2022.

What led to the drop in Global Crude Oil Prices?

The crude prices fell sharply by around 4%, and the decline has come despite the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC+) plus announcement to cut supply by 100,000 barrels per day beginning October 2022 in a bid to prop up the prices.

While prices have been softening in recent months, the recent sharp drop is due to renewed fears of a European recession and a drop in demand from China, which brought in new Covid lockdown measures amid weakening factory activity.

There is concern that these factors will reduce future crude oil demand. According to market participants, OPEC’s decision to cut production indicates that it expects a decline in demand and further price softening.

Impact of the rise in Global Oil Price

The rise in import bills not only leads to inflation and a rise in current account deficit and fiscal deficit but also weakens the local currency against the dollar and hurts stock market sentiment.

A rise in crude oil prices also has an indirect impact as it leads to a rise in edible oil prices, coal prices, and also that of fertilizers as they use gas as feedstock. Gas accounts for a good percentage of all fertilizer production costs.

So, if a rise in crude oil prices could lead to a much-enhanced import burden, it also leads to a reduction in demand in the economy, which hurts growth.

It could also lead to a higher fiscal deficit if the government chooses to bear the burden by way of subsidies.

Impact of Fall in Global Price:

A drop in crude oil prices is welcome news for all stakeholders, including the government, consumers, and corporations. If oil prices remain low, it will lead to lower inflation, higher disposable incomes, and, as a result, higher economic growth.

On the one hand, it reflects expectations of a slowdown in global growth, which may have an impact on a country’s growth as well, but on the other, it is a welcome relief.

As companies across sectors are sensitive to crude oil prices, falling crude oil prices have also played a role in the index rise on equity and debt markets.

Source: IE

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A promising study 

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Vaccines have tremendously helped the world in its fight against COVID-19. However, the newer variants seem to create the need for different boosters to fight them. But now, scientists have discovered an antibody called SP1-77 that neutralizes all known COVID-19 variants,

Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and Duke University together discovered it during a mouse study, and the findings were published in the journal Science Immunology. 

The antibody was created after researchers modified a mouse model that was originally made to search for neutralizing antibodies to HIV, which also mutates, a report says. Mice have built-in human immune systems that mimic the way our immune systems develop better antibodies when we’re exposed to a pathogen. 

Infusible to patients, antibodies are so powerful in neutralizing the coronavirus they could eliminate the need for more vaccine boosters. 

The antibody, however, works in a slightly different way than the other antibodies that are used to make vaccines. However, the study was done on mice, so it isn’t clear what impact it might have. Experts say that the study is still in the early stages, but if it looks promising.

Source: Wionews

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Urban areas are experiencing record-breaking heatwaves as a result of climate change

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Urban areas are constantly subjected to periods of extreme heat, resulting in the formation of urban heat islands (areas in the cities that are even hotter than their surrounding areas).

Singapore has successfully cooled down parts of its cities, and other countries are now looking to adopt some of its strategies.

  1. Singapore has been looking to cut electricity usage and carbon emissions with district cooling networks. It refers to the centralization of cooling with central chillers. In traditional cooling, each building has its own chiller plant, but in district cooling, Chilled water is generated in a central cooling plant. A closed loop network of insulated pipes distributes the chilled water to each building.
  2. Wind Garden in Madrid (Spain): It is a spiral structure made of mosses and ferns, which catches the cool breeze above tree tops and draws them down to cool gardens and streets, acting like a giant air conditioner. It could lower the surrounding temperature by 4 degrees C.
  3. ‘Cool roofs’ feature bright coatings to reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat.
  4. ‘Sponge cities’ (China): It has transformed hard surfaces, such as roads and pavements, into permeable surfaces that can absorb, seep, purify and store water and thus also lower surrounding temperatures.

‘Cooling Singapore,’ a multi-institutional project launched in 2017 with funding from the Singapore government to build a computer model, or digital urban climate twin, of Singapore. This will allow policymakers to analyze the effectiveness of various heat mitigation measures before spending money on solutions that might not work.

Source: WEF

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mars

MOXIE, for the first time, utilized the resources in a planet’s atmosphere to meet human needs

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MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment) was sent with NASA’s Perseverence rover. It is made by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It has produced oxygen on Mars with resources from the planet’s atmosphere. Carbon dioxide makes up approx 96% of the gas in Mars’ atmosphere (Oxygen is only 0.13%).

MOXIE makes oxygen like a tree does. It inhales carbon dioxide and exhales oxygen. The lunchbox-sized instrument produced 6 grams of oxygen per hour, similar to a moderate-sized tree.

The project can be scaled up to continuously produce oxygen “at the rate of several hundred trees” before human missions. On this scale, it can also fuel the rocket to bring the astronauts back to Earth.

Source: The Guardian

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pakistan floods

About 110 of the 150 districts in the country are affected by the flooding

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Why are the floods in Pakistan so severe this year? One-third of the country is underwater, following an intense heatwave and a long monsoon that has dumped a record amount of rain. Several factors, according to scientists, have contributed to the extreme event, which has displaced 33 million people and killed over 1,200 people.

The catastrophe probably started with phenomenal heat waves. Warmer air can hold more moisture. Therefore, meteorologists warned earlier this year that the extreme temperatures would likely result in “above normal” rainfall.

The extreme heat also melted glaciers in the northern mountainous regions, increasing the amount of water flowing into tributaries that eventually flow into the Indus. The Indus is Pakistan’s largest river, running from north to south across the country.

The heatwaves were also accompanied by another unusual occurrence: a depression, or a system of intense low air pressure, in the Arabian Sea, which brought heavy rain to Pakistan’s coastal provinces.

Some weather agencies have also predicted that the ongoing La Niña climate event, which is typically associated with stronger monsoon conditions in India and Pakistan, will last until the end of the year.

Also, human-induced global warming could also be intensifying downpours. Climate models predict that a warmer world will result in more frequent and intense rainfall. 

Experts have said that the devastating floods in Pakistan are a “wake-up call” to the world on the threats of climate change. Although Pakistan contributes less than 1% of the greenhouse gases that warm our planet, its geography makes it extremely vulnerable to climate change. A sense of injustice is felt in the country. 

Source: Nature

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Japan nursing home hires babies

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babies in nursing homes

Pays them in milk and diapers

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A nursing home in southern Japan is “hiring” babies for a vital task: keeping its elderly residents company and making them smile.

Babies must be under four years old, and their guardians must sign a contract stating that the babies and toddlers may come to work “whenever they feel like it” and that they may take a break “when they feel hungry, sleepy, or depending on their mood.”

Babies’ main, and perhaps only, responsibility will be to “take a stroll” around the nursing home while accompanied by their guardians, it says.

Ichoan Nursing Home is located in Kitakyushu, a city that is aging and shrinking like the rest of Japan. As families have shrunk and older people have become more isolated, the nursing home’s baby worker program has enabled people to connect across generations.

According to studies, social interaction helps older people feel less lonely, delay mental decline, lower blood pressure, and reduce their risk of disease and death.

Source: Money Control

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UKRAINE NUCLEAR

How do these Pills Work?

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For most of August, the world’s attention on Ukraine’s war has been nervously focused on Zaporizhzhia, an important town in the country’s southeast that houses Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been under Russian control since early March, but an escalation of the conflict in the town has increased the likelihood of a nuclear disaster.

Ukraine has four nuclear power plants with a total of 15 reactors. The Zaporizhzhia plant has six reactors that can generate approximately 5,700 MW of electricity. Nuclear energy meets roughly half of Ukraine’s power needs.


Modern nuclear reactors are designed to withstand significant shock and impact. They have multiple layers of reinforced steel and concrete, as well as elaborate fire protection systems. The majority of these reactors can withstand earthquakes of magnitude 8 or higher. They are also programmed to shut down automatically when major natural hazards are detected.

Amidst the fear of nuclear disaster in Ukraine, the European Union has decided to pre-emptively supply anti-radiation pills to residents in the vicinity.  

How do these Pills Work?

Ki tablets, also known as anti-radiation pills, are known to provide some protection in cases of radiation exposure.

  • After a radiation leak, radioactive iodine floats through the air, contaminating food, water, and soil.
  • This radioactive iodine enters the body and accumulates in the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland, which uses iodine to make hormones that regulate the body’s metabolism, has no way of distinguishing between radioactive and non-radioactive iodine.
  • Ki tablets rely on this to achieve ‘thyroid blocking.’ 
  • Anti-radiation pills are taken a few hours before or shortly after radiation exposure to ensure that the medicine’s non-radioactive iodine is quickly absorbed to make the thyroid “full.”
  • For the next 24 hours, the thyroid becomes full and cannot absorb any more iodine, whether stable or radioactive.

However, KI pills are only preventative and cannot reverse any thyroid gland damage caused by radiation. Once the thyroid gland absorbs radioactive iodine, those exposed are at a high risk of developing thyroid cancer. Furthermore, the pills are not for everyone. They are recommended for people under 40 years of age.

Source: IE

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