Adonis Diaries

Archive for the ‘professional articles’ Category

Does the human eye prove that God exists?

Darwin was baffled by it; Christians see it as evidence of the divine. Will science ever unlock the secrets of the human eye?

When the body of Dr Yoshiki Sasai, an eminent Japanese biologist, was discovered in August this year, his death was widely mourned across the world of science.

Not just for the abrupt end to his glittering career – one which had seen him win several awards, including the 2010 Osaka Science Prize, and become the laureate of the 2012 Inoue Prize for Science.

Nor because of the tragic manner of his death: the 52-year-old was found hanged in his own laboratory – an apparent suicide after a scandal over a research paper he’d co-authored in January.

A close-up of the human eye

Flawless: a close-up of the human eye Photo: Dimitri Vervitsiotis/Getty
Chris Bell posted this  24 Sep 2014

Instead, the scientific world lamented what, perhaps, Dr Sasai was about to achieve.

As one of the directors at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, he was one of the world’s leading experts in stem cell technology. His team had pioneered incredible new techniques for creating organ-like structures – making giant strides towards a future where replacements for our failing human organs could be grown in a Petri dish.

And most tragically, the months before his death had heralded Sasai’s biggest achievement.

His team had already grown partial pituitary glands and even bits of the brain, but now he’d coaxed embryonic stem cells into forming the functioning tissue of arguably the most complex and scrutinised organ in the entire animal kingdom. Sasai had grown an eye.

And in doing so, he’d also helped resolve a scientific obsession that had lasted centuries.

In very basic form, the eye is thought to have first developed in animals around 550 million years ago.

But such is its perfect design – its infinite adaptability, and irreducible complexity – that many argue it is proof of the divine itself.

Darwin remarked that the whole idea of something so flawless “could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.”

The eye has become a focal point for biologists, ophthalmologists, physicists and many other branches of science ever since. So when the Spanish neuroscientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal made the first anatomical diagrams of neurons and the retina in 1900, it stoked a century of biologists attempting to unlock the eye’s secrets.

And there have been several discoveries. Unlike our ears and nose, for example, which never stop growing our entire lives, our eyes remain the same size from birth.

Then there’s the complicated process of irrigation, lubrication, cleaning and protection that happens every time we blink – an average of 4,200,000 times a year.

Dr Yoshiki Sasai, the late Japanese biologist who was building a human eye in his lab (Dimitri Vervitsiotis/Getty)

And there are other astonishing inbuilt systems too.

Take, for example, a little trick called the Vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR). In short, it’s our own personal Steadicam – an inbuilt muscular response that stabilises everything we see, by making tiny imperceptible eye movements in the opposite direction to where our head is moving.

Without VOR, any attempts at walking, running – even the minuscule head tremors you make while you read these words – would make our vision blurred, scattered and impossible to comprehend.

But while the inner workings of the eye continue to surprise scientists, the last decade has seen an unprecedented confluence of biology, technology and ophthalmic innovation. An international scientific endeavour that is not only finally unlocking the eye’s true potential – but also how to counter, and ultimately cure, its biggest weaknesses.

One scientist leading the charge is Professor Chris Hammond, the Frost Chair of Ophthalmology at King’s College London. “I’ve been working in ophthalmology for nearly 25 years,” he says. “And I think we’re at a key moment. The pace of our genetic understanding, cell-based therapies and artificial devices for the treatment of eye disease is advancing faster than ever.”

His personal crusade – treating common conditions such as myopia, cataracts and glaucoma, as well as eye diseases – is, he says, slowly becoming possible.

“For example, we’re finally starting to understand some of the mechanism of these diseases – how genetic and environmental risk factors, and not ageing, might be significant. And with some of the rarer diseases, we’re starting to look at actual cures.

“We are also understanding more and more about the processing that is already being done within the retina, before signals are sent to the brain. And with the amazing abilities we have today for imaging, the emerging technologies are exciting too.”

With much fanfare, the first bionic eye debuted last year.

Developed by Second Sight Medical Products, the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System consists of 60 electrodes implanted in the retina, and glasses fitted with a special mini-camera. Costing €73,000 (£58,000) to install, it then sends images – albeit very low-resolution shapes – to the user’s brain. Which means people with degenerative diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa can differentiate between light and dark, or make out basic shapes such as doorways.

“In terms of devices like these, we are still at the very crude technology stage,” says Prof Hammond. “They’re only really of use to people who are completely blind. But the thing about technology is that it evolves with amazing speed.”

Less invasive, “wearable” optic gadgetry is catching up fast.

Although still in its infancy, the ability to mount microelectronics within a contact lens is already offering huge potential. Take the Sensimed Triggerfish, for example – a curiously-named soft, disposable silicone lens with a micro-sensor that continuously monitors the shape and pressure of your eyeball, ideal for monitoring the progress of treatment or post-surgical health.

Other lenses are coming on the market too.

In January this year Google announced a lens that tests the level of glucose in the tears of diabetes sufferers, eliminating the finger prick test commonly used several times each day by many diabetics. Others are planned that actually secrete precise dosages of drugs continuously into your system via your eye – even when you’re asleep.

And then the barrier between technology and sci-fi begins to blur.

Already, millions of tiny miniaturised telescopes, known as intraocular lenses, are implanted in patients’ eyes following cataract surgery, to help with the focusing of light into the eye. But the launch of Glass, Google’s web-enhanced spectacles, has prompted research into mounting microelectronic elements onto the polymer of a contact lens itself.

Already mooted, again by the Google X development lab, is a contact lens camera – a boon for, if no one else, the paparazzi.

With enough digital storage capacity, we could record our entire visual experience in real time. But the new “wonder-material” graphene offers greater potential.

As University of Maryland researchers announced in early September, graphene’s broad wavelength sensitivity enables it to detect light frequencies 100 times broader than the normal visible spectrum. And when incorporated into a contact lens, it could allow the wearer to see ultraviolet and infra-red light.

And other scientists are working on mounting suitable optical elements to project information directly into your eyeball, like fighter-jet style “head-up display”.

A team at the University of Washington debuted a bionic contact lens with a single-pixel display in 2011;

by 2012 the display had increased to a whopping eight pixels. If we end up being able to project images and even videos directly into your eye, you may never have to leave the house for a business meeting or theatre production again.

If all this feels a bit like the futuristic Tom Cruise film Minority Report, then think again – because, well, aspects of that are already happening. Thanks to New York company Eyelock, the concept of scanning a person’s iris from afar for ID purposes is now a reality. As Jeff Carter, Eyelock’s Chief Technology Officer, explains: “Today your identity can be determined from across the room while you’re at a full run – even if you’re wearing a mask, or a wig, or sunglasses – to within a one-in-a-quadrillion certainty that you are who you say you are.”

The Eyelock works by photographing your eyes using a high-resolution camera, then combines 240 unique points on each iris to generate an encrypted code. “To authenticate your ID, our technology matches the code with your eyes,” says Carter confidently. “It’s roughly 2,000 times more powerful than a fingerprint. Only DNA is more accurate.”

The individual uniqueness of each eye’s iris – the pattern of lines, dots and colours that surround the pupil – was first noted by Hippocrates in 390 BC.

Even today, its infinite complexity still compels our interest. The plot of writer/director Mike Cahill’s new sci-fi film I Origins, for example, follows a biologist attempting to find an identical pair – and how his discovery has implications for his scientific and spiritual beliefs.

But it’s only with our modern concerns over security, access and identify fraud that the iris’ potential for a foolproof identification system has been realised. Already, for example, over half of India’s population have had their irises scanned as part of a groundbreaking nationwide identity scheme known as UIDAI.

“This year a report by Intel Security estimated the annual worldwide cost of cybercrime to be more than $445 billion,” says Carter. “But [iris scanning] could mean no more credit cards, no more driver’s license, no more passports, no more user IDs or passwords… our everyday lives can be made simpler, better, more seamless and secure.”

And now scientists are delving deeper into the eye than ever before. One widely held belief for decades was that the eye was just a basic, dumb camera. That light would hit the retina (the light-sensitive layer of tissue lining the inner surface of the eye), and electrical signals would then be swiftly transmitted back to the brain where all the heavy visual processing took place.

Science and spirituality meet in the new film I Origins

It’s only in the last few years that researchers have discovered the retina is doing a huge amount of pre-processing itself – and that as light passes through the retina’s several dense layers of neurons, a lot of detail like colour, motion, orientation and brightness are determined.

And so a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have started work on a formidable task: intricately mapping this vast network of millions upon millions of neurons to see how they connect and process visual information.

“A huge amount is known about optics and the muscles around the eyes,” says Claire O’Connell, an MIT fellow on the project. “But the retina is the great unknown territory. It’s one of the most complex tissues in the human body.”

And that was the problem: with retinal tissue resembling, well, extremely tangled spaghetti, much of this neuron mapping proved too complex for computers, and had to be done manually – a task estimated to take upwards of 15 years. And so, the team hit on an unusual solution: they made it into a game.

In December 2012, Eyewire was launched – a web-based puzzle game that now boasts over 120,000 players from 150 countries.

“Believe it or not, it was inspired by Angry Birds,” says O’Connell, who helped design Eyewire. “We wondered if the thousands of hours people put into games like that could be used to crowd-source how the retina works at a cellular level. And it turns out it can.”

So now, instead of killing pigs with a deftly placed parrot, players can register at eyewire.org for a different kind of challenge – examining 3D electron microscope scans of neural matter and tracing the path of neurons within it. A few clicks later, an entire neuron, plus its connections, can be identified. And better still, no medical knowledge is required. “There’s a regular player we have called Crazyman,” says Claire. “He’s 16 and from Bulgaria, and he sometimes spends 23 hours in a row helping us in this quest – it’s awesome!

“The game as a whole has been a huge success. Mapping out the precise synaptic connections from one cell type to another would take us two weeks in the lab, but now we can do it in a day. Already, Eyewire has identified the areas responsible for motion detection. The more we discover about the eye, the more amazing it becomes.”

And now scientists are stood at a new threshold: the creation of a biological eye itself, that most complex of all bodily organs. Despite the untimely death of Dr Sasai, his colleagues at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology announced a new scientific first on September 12: the successful implantation of new retinal tissue, grown for the first time from stem cells, into the eyes of a Japanese woman in her 70s suffering from encroaching blindness.

It could prove to be the first step in eradicating loss of sight in humans for good. But restraint is imperative, cautions Prof Hammond. “The hope is blindness will be a thing of the past in a few years’ time – but we have to be careful about overstating what we can do,” he says.

“The teams in Japan have done fantastic work which holds great promise in terms of creating replacement cells,” he says. “The big problem, however, is how we connect the eye to the brain, and to the relevant pathways in the brain. From that point of view, we’re still in very early days.”

But one thing is certain: in terms of solving the eternal mystery of the eye, and curing the frailties that its infinite complexities present, we have never been more focused. And the future, once dim, is significantly brighter – a sentiment that Dr Sasai echoed in one of his final interviews before his death. “We really don’t know where we are going with this,” he said then. “We really are at the final frontier, facing an unknown world.”

I Origins opens the Raindance Film Festival on September 24, and is on general release from September 26

01 Nov 2013

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This asymmetrical globalization process

Globalization and technologies have been modeled by politics, an asymmetrical globalization that weakened the value of work to the benefit of Capital.

The global value of products per year when exchanged is a mere $5 trillions, excluding financial transactions that amount to $5 trillion per day.

Mostly, the previous colonial powers swap their sovereign debts at 3% interest against 8% when lent to developing countries.

The developing countries are pressured to cough up, Not only the interest portion but also part of the principle, of their debts to the colonial powers, lest they pay dearly in political upheavals, military intervention, and economic sanctions.

(For example, Syria that was economically and financially autonomous had to be destabilized. The same goes for Iran)

The colonial powers merely accumulate sovereign debt and never care to repay any part of the principals: The parliaments just vote to raise the budget to cover payments on the interest.

All countries have national debt, and the colonial powers, including Japan and Germany, accumulated trillions of dollars each, and their citizens never hear of this financial situation.

So far, only China has enough surplus money to lent, and mainly because it is producing and exporting at 7% annual growth.

Countries that managed to regulate the flow of speculative capital acquired more stable economies.

The difficulty is “How to regulate and tame the monopoly of the Dollar in the world market of capital“?

States have to rely more on the politics of budget rather than on the monetary policies.

Taking the easy way for controlling monetary fluctuation is not the best remedy for long-term economic stability.

Philanthropic contributions are a pragmatic expression to the notion “taking care of the people around us is good for business”.

Am I a professional? Am I a generalist scholar? Who am I?

Do you think if you feel fully cognizant of the array of your emotions or your lack of talents (passions) in many aspects of the living that you are set for a boring death?

This post is based on facts that you can gleam in transcripts and documents…

With 14 years of university study, a PhD in Industrial/Human Factors, a couple of Masters in Operations research, physics and chemistry.

With taking many graduate courses in psychology, marketing, accounting,economy, higher education…

Can I consider myself a professional?

I still cannot claim this title: I didn’t work for a company for any substantial duration and just taught a few courses at universities.

Reading 3 hours per day at libraries, taking notes, reviewing books, writing posts and articles (about 7,300 articles on my blog in 45 categories), and keeping track of the political systems in countless countries, human rights performance, ecology…

Can I consider myself a professional?

At least, I should come to term that I am a generalist scholar

By mastering 3 languages, English French and Arabic (reading, speaking and writing), I’ll be a fool to deny myself knowledge of 3 cultures and civilizations

Most of all, I have an experimental mind and read and comprehend scientific papers in many fields and can evaluate the extent of their research or scientific validity.

I had to learn and get trained on various types of designing and conducting experiments with objects and subjects in many fields (engineering, psychology, marketing) and I am familiar with the particular statistical analysis packages that each of these fields feel comfortable applying and interpreting results. (That was some time ago)

Can I consider myself a professional?

And yet, I cannot claim to be a professional in the restrictive sense that hiring companies evaluate that term.

At least, I should come to term that I am a generalist scholar

I discovered that “professionalism” makes me physically sick, sustained stomach aches and recurring periods of catching cold… I would have died early on.

I am enjoying this freedom of expressing my opinions and feelings, and taking positions as a free man: Frequent confrontation with bullying people and the powers flaunting my rights and human rights

I don’t miss “professionalism”, excepting the retirement money

 

Workers on low salaries can claim FIS – Family Income Supplement

Title: Family Income Supplement (FIS) is a weekly tax-free payment for families, including one-parent families, at work on low pay.

Author: Citizen’s Information

Full Text & Source: http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/social_welfare/social_welfare_payments/social_welfare_payments_to_families_and_children/family_income_supplement.html
The Internet, Online, 21/01/2015

Writers/bloggers if you are on low salaries and have a child or children look into FIS, medical cards and back to school uniforms, free pre school year, free prescription drugs if you have a long term illness & other entitlements on the Citizens Information Database: http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/.

You would be strongly advised to meet your local welfare officer and bring all your bills: rent or mortgage, ESB, phone, Internet, car insurance, house insurance, food, clothes, property tax, water charges etc.

List your income and all the costs going out of your wages on a weekly basis. Ask her or him to help you fill in the FIS form and ask about medical card and help with school books & uniforms etc.

If you get FIS the minimum payment is €20, a €1,040 a year. The local welfare officer is an expert in helping people get their benefits, listen to them and do as they recommend.

If you have one child you must be earning over €26,312 not to qualify. If you are working odd hours your partner can go and meet the welfare officer for your family and bring your bank details. Of course, you can just print the form and apply for it yourself. Please include bank account details for them to pay you.

How much can I get?
Your FIS payment is 60% of the difference between your average weekly family income and the income limit for your family size, rounded up to the nearest euro. If you qualify at all you will get the minimum payment of €20 per week.

Form FIS1: http://www.welfare.ie/en/pdf/fis1.pdf

If you think you have been wrongly refused FIS you can appeal this decision, and please do. In many cases a lot will just walk from the hassle, pursue your rights.

Please Note They Are Other allowances for low earners:
Apply for medical card online or by post: http://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/1/schemes/mc/apply/

Child Benefit: Budget 2015
It was announced in Budget 2015 that the rate of Child Benefit will increase by €5 to €135 per month for each child from January 2015
Claim for your new baby: https://www.welfare.ie/en/pages/secure/eforms.aspx

Workers can claim rent tax credit: Who can Claim?
An individual, paying for private rented accommodation used as a sole or main residence. This includes rent paid for flats, apartments or houses. The tax credit for the years 2011 onwards applies to individuals who were renting a property on 7 December 2010. This tax credit will cease in 2017.
Form http://www.revenue.ie/en/tax/it/forms/rent1.pdf

Rent Supplement: (for those on welfare only)
http://www.welfare.ie/en/Pages/rent_faq.aspx#q2

Back TO FIS:
Complete application form FIS 1 (available on http://www.welfare.ie or at any local Social Welfare Office) and submit the following documents with it, if available:
your most recent payslip to show your income and hours of employment
your latest P60 (if you have one) and
your Certificate of Tax Credits for the current year (if you have one).
Even if you do not have these documents when you fill in the application form, send us the form straight away. You can send the documents or certificates as soon as you have them.
Send your application to: Family Income Supplement Section, Social Welfare Services, Government Buildings, Ballinalee Road, Longford

Example 3:
Single Parent, 1 child, recently commenced working 25 hours per week as a secretary
Gross taxable earnings to date €360.00
Total tax deducted €0.00
Employee PRSI €14.40
Total USC €10.54
Net assessable earnings €335.06
Number of weeks worked 1
Average weekly earnings €335.06
Other Income €0.00
Total family income €335.06
Income limit (1 Child) €506.00
Difference between income limit and earnings €170.94
FIS Payable (60% of difference rounded) €103.00

Married parent, 4 children working 41 hours per week as a manager
Gross taxable earnings 2012 €45,876.00
Total tax deducted €8,621.50
Employee PRSI €439.75
Total USC €2,833.68
Net assessable earnings €33,981.07
Number of weeks worked 52
Average weekly earnings €653.48
Other Income €0.00
Total family income €653.48
Income limit (4 Children) €824.00
Difference between income limit and earnings €170.52
FIS Payable (60% of difference rounded ) €103.00

Sample Text:
Family Income Supplement (FIS) is a weekly tax-free payment available to employees with children. It gives extra financial support to people on low pay. You cannot qualify for FIS if you are only self-employed – you must be an employee to qualify.

You must have at least one child who normally lives with you or is financially supported by you. Your child must be under 18 years of age or between 18 and 22 years of age and in full-time education.

To qualify for FIS, your average weekly family income must be below a certain amount for your family size. The FIS you receive is 60% of the difference between your average weekly family income and the income limit which applies to your family. For more information about average family income see ‘Rates’ below.

Your FIS payment is not taxed. If you are getting FIS you may also be entitled to the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance. Your income from FIS is not taken into account in the assessment for a medical card.

The new Back to Work Family Dividend (BTWFD) and FIS can be paid together and the BTWFD will not be taken into account in the means test for FIS.

FIS is a tax-free weekly payment for employees:

•Working 19 or more hours per week (or 38 or more hours per fortnight). You can combine the weekly hours you have worked with your spouse, civil partner, cohabitant’s hours to meet this condition. You cannot use time spent in self-employment (or on Community Employment, Gateway, Tús, JobBridge or the Rural Social Scheme) to meet this condition.
•Where the employment is likely to last at least 3 months
•Looking after one or more children and
•Earning less than a set amount which varies according to family size

Under EU regulations you may be able to claim FIS if your children are living abroad and dependent on you. Generally the payment continues for one year (52 weeks) and is not affected by, for example, an increase or a decrease in earnings.

However, in the following 2 circumstances, your weekly rate of FIS can be revised during the year:
•If you start to care for an additional child your FIS rate will increase (because your family size has increased)
•If you were getting a One-Parent Family Payment and your payment stopped because your youngest child reached the relevant age limit your FIS rate can be revised to take account of the loss of your OFP

If you lose your job or have reduced working hours

If your pay from work is reduced your Family Income Supplement (FIS) payment will stay the same. It will not increase. However, when your FIS payment ends you can re-apply giving details of your new reduced income. (FIS is usually paid for 52 weeks. At the end of the 52 weeks, you can re-apply for FIS.)

If the number of hours you work each week is reduced to below 19 hours (38 hours per fortnight) you are no longer entitled to FIS. You should notify the FIS section if your hours fall below the minimum requirement.

If you lose your job you are no longer entitled to FIS. You must notify the FIS section.

Getting FIS with other social welfare payments

You cannot get FIS if you are on one of the following schemes or social welfare payments:

•Community Employment Scheme, Gateway, Rural Social Scheme, the Tús scheme or JobBridge.
•Jobseeker’s Benefit, Jobseeker’s Allowance or Farm Assist
•State Pension (Transition) or Pre-Retirement Allowance

Your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant can claim FIS while you are getting one of these payments. However an Increase for a Qualified Adult (IQA) will no longer be paid and your social welfare payment will be assessed as income for their FIS payment. Any Increase for a Qualified Child will be affected. Similarly if your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant is getting one of these payments, you can qualify for FIS but an IQA will no longer be paid for you.

If you are parenting alone you may be entitled to FIS in addition to your One-Parent Family Payment, Deserted Wife’s Benefit or Widow’s, Widower’s or Surviving Civil Partner’s (Contributory) Pension.

You can get FIS while you are taking part in the Part-Time Job Incentive Scheme.

You can get Illness Benefit while you are getting FIS (for 6 consecutive weeks). If you are out of work for more than 6 consecutive weeks payment of FIS is suspended until you return to work and send a final certificate into the Illness Benefit section or until your FIS award period expires (whichever is the earlier).

Under the Maternity Protection Act 1994, a woman who qualifies for Maternity Benefit, Adoptive Benefit or Health and Safety Benefit is entitled to claim FIS (provided she meets the conditions of the FIS payment and has a family – a pregnant woman who has no other children does not qualify for FIS until the birth of the baby).

Your income must be less than the income limit for your family size. (If you are claiming Maternity Benefit your average weekly earnings are worked out using your gross earnings to date or your P60). Your FIS claim will then be paid for one year from the start of your Maternity Benefit payment (if you have a child already) or from the birth of your baby if it is your first baby.

You are not entitled to continue to claim FIS if you take additional unpaid maternity or adoptive leave, if you do not return to work following maternity or adoptive leave or if you lose your job after returning to work.

Maintenance
A separated parent can apply for FIS once he or she meets the qualifying conditions and

• Is living with the children or

• Is wholly maintaining the ex-spouse, ex-civil partner or ex-cohabitant with whom the children are living

Wholly maintaining means that maintenance paid by you, the FIS applicant, must be the sole income of your ex-spouse, ex-civil partner or ex-cohabitant.

Only one FIS payment can be made for a family

Paying maintenance
If you are a separated parent and paying maintenance you may qualify for FIS. To qualify you must be wholly maintaining the parent with whom the children are living. Only one FIS payment can be made for a family, the parent to whom you are paying maintenance must not be getting FIS.

If you are paying maintenance as a result of a court order or legally binding agreement for a second family, the amount of that maintenance payment will not be deducted from the income to be assessed for FIS.

Getting maintenance
If you are getting maintenance, your total maintenance payment will be assessed as income for FIS. Only one FIS payment can be made for a family. This means that the parent from whom you are getting maintenance must not be getting FIS.

A parent getting maintenance for a qualified child will also have that maintenance assessed for FIS.

Rates

FIS is calculated on the basis of 60% of the difference between the income limit for the family size and the assessable income of the person(s) raising the child(ren). The combined income of a couple (married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting) is taken into account.

Income from any source (excluding the disregards stated below) is assessed as means. However, though there are no rules excluding the assessment of capital, the Department of Social Protection generally does not assess capital or examine your bank account details when you apply for FIS.

The main items counted as income are:

•Your assessable earnings and your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant’s assessable earnings. (Assessable earnings are gross pay minus tax, employee PRSI, Universal Social Charge and superannuation (including the Public Service Pension Levy.) Income from working as a home help is included.
•Any extra income you or your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant have from employment (such as pay for overtime, bonuses, allowances or commission).
•Any income you or your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant may have from self-employment.
•Income from occupational pensions.
•Income you or your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant may have including social welfare payments.
•All family income from carer’s payments (Carer’s Allowance or Carer’s Benefit).
•Rental income from the letting of property or land (the capital value is not assessed). The gross rental income is assessed and you cannot deduct mortgage payments or other expenses.

The following payments do not count as family income:

•Child Benefit
•Guardian’s payments
•Supplementary Welfare Allowance
•Domiciliary Care Allowance
•Foster Child Allowance
•Rent Allowance for tenants affected by the de-control of rents
•Income from a charitable organisation
•Income from providing accommodation to students studying Irish in Gaeltacht areas under a scheme administered by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

Calculating income for FIS

The Department of Social Protection calculates your assessable income and your average income over a certain period of time.

If you are newly in employment, your average weekly income is calculated from when you started work. If you have been working for over a year, your average weekly income are calculated from your latest P60. Your P60 is also used to calculate your average weekly income when your claim is being renewed.

If your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant is self-employed, his or her income over the 12-month period before you lodge your claim is used to work out his or her average weekly income.

Again, to qualify, your average weekly family income must be below a certain amount for your family size. You can read examples of calculations on welfare.ie.

FIS income limits in 2015 (fact)

If you have: And your weekly family income is less than:

One child €506
Two children €602
Three children €703
Four children €824
Five children €950
Six children €1,066
Seven children €1,202
Eight children €1,298

It’s important to be aware, that no matter how little you may qualify for, you will still get a minimum of €20 each week. You can use the Benefit of Work Ready Reckoner from the Department of Social Protection to help you assess out the financial consequences of taking up full-time work.

The Reckoner works out the total amount you would receive on taking up full-time work (including any Family Income Supplement) and compares this to what you are getting in jobseeker payments (including Rent Supplement).

If you are getting FIS you may also be entitled to the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance.

How to apply

To apply fill in an application form for Family Income Supplement (pdf). You can get a copy of this form in your Intreo centre or social welfare local office. If you need help to fill in this form, the staff in your social welfare local office or Citizens Information Centre can help you.

To make sure that your application for FIS is processed as quickly as possible, you should include your latest P60 form, 2 recent payslips, and a copy of your Certificate of Tax Credits for the current tax year with your application.

If you think you have been wrongly refused FIS you can appeal this decision.

Where to apply

Send your completed Family Income Supplement application form to:

Family Income Supplement (FIS) Section

Department of Social Protection
Social Welfare Services Office
Government Buildings
Ballinalee Road
Longford
Ireland

Tel:(043) 334 0053
Locall:1890 92 77 70
Email: fissection@welfare.ie

Iran Presidential election: Any difference among moderate, reformist, conservative…?

Taking aim at Hassan Rohani: The reformist president of Iran faces a tough re-election

Face-off: Politician versus religious legal personalities

Hardliners are cracking down on social media

APPLICATIONS for the ticklish job of president of Iran opened this week, with more than 100 hopefuls vying to replace the incumbent, Hassan Rohani, a relative moderate, at the election on May 19th. (They were 1,300 candidates a couple days ago, including former President Najad)

The religious conservatives who loom so large in Iran are hoping they can unite around a single candidate, overcoming the divisions that doomed their prospects in 2013 and allowed Mr Rohani to win.

Their preferred man is Ebrahim Raeisi, the newly appointed head of one of Iran’s most important and best-endowed shrines, Imam Reza in Mashhad. In addition to income from the shrine’s holdings, which include car factories, he is a protégé of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

But to Mr Raeisi’s probable consternation, on April 12th a divisive ultra-conservative former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also entered the race, despite orders from Mr Khamenei not to stand. This makes it more likely that the hardliners will again see their vote split.

Still, the anti-Iranian rhetoric of Donald Trump, America’s president, is a big bonus for the anti-reformists, should they come together.

After a nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers was concluded in 2015, Mr Rohani’s re-election had seemed assured. But the promised fruits from the lifting of UN sanctions (in return for Iran curbing its nuclear programme) have been slow to arrive. Far from encouraging investment in Iran, America has tightened some sanctions, and continues to prevent Iran from trading in dollars.

With the army, Revolutionary Guards, judiciary and state television in their hands, as well as the power to approve candidates (which the Guardians Council they dominate has yet to do for the coming election), Mr Khamenei’s hardliners already wield huge power. They are now targeting social media, where pro-Rohani reformists have until now mostly operated freely.

Last month masked goons arrested 12 administrators of popular social-media news channels.

But the hardliners’ task is proving daunting.

First in their sights is a phone app, Telegram, that enables encrypted messaging between users, and also offers uncensored news channels. It claims 20m Iranian users and thousands of Persian-language channels, some claiming over a million subscribers.

Last year it helped the reformists get out the vote in parliamentary elections. Confounding the hardliners’ efforts to disqualify well-known reformist candidates, voters went to the polls armed with “lists of hope” of the lesser-knowns on their phones, and unseated the staunchest conservatives, some of Mr Khamenei’s relatives among them.

No sooner had Mr Raeisi’s candidacy been announced than they began tarnishing his squeaky-clean image with claims that, as a 28-year-old prosecutor, he had sentenced hundreds of leftist political prisoners to death.

Under a more reactionary government, censors might have banned Telegram.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the hardline former president, simply switched off the mobile network when protesters contested his 2009 re-election, and restricted internet bandwidth to such an extent that it took hours to access a page. Facebook and Twitter were banned.

But Mr Rohani’s government has made censorship harder. It has boosted bandwidth a hundredfold, compared with 2009. And it has expanded mobile coverage from 39% to 99% of Iran, including to 27,000 villages which the hardliners hitherto considered strongholds.

So Mr Rohani continues to get his message out. Recent signs of mild economic improvement may have given his continued support for Western engagement a boost, too. The hardliners will not have the campaign all their own way.

This article appeared in the Middle East and Africa section of the print edition under the headline “Taking aim at the president”
Note: Hezbollah in Lebanon is usually affected to some degree by these elections, even though it is directly linked to Khamenei

They are complementary with advantages: Optimists and pessimists

If I were in a position of power, I’ll surround myself with optimistic consultants, counsels and close assistants.

If I were in a position of power, I’ll appoint the executive and operators from the kinds of pessimists.

Many think that I got it wrong and not matching any logic or scientific research outcomes.

Power is assessed and evaluated by the number and quality of decisions.

Decisions considered almost impossible to undertake and eventually taken are highly ranked in your favor.

And these decisions require a climate of optimistic surrounding.

Pessimistic executives and operational personnel will achieve what has to be done and do the job most effectively: They are paid for a job well done. And they are better than optimists in considering the dangerous risks in health, safety and hasty execution in any project.

Pessimists may take longer to finish the job, but the job saves you many fold the delays from repairs, lousy maintenance tasks, accidents and near accidents.

The correct term is Effectiveness in the longer-term.

The Not so realist neural mechanism in the Hippocampi, amygdala, and anterior cortex Cingular are the center or source of optimistic activities. Otherwise, from our successive experiences, mankind tend to be at least slightly depressed as they observe the world as is.

Until we manage to communicate with various animal species, the conjecture is that pessimism is a typical mankind survival addition.

The magical thinking that reinforce our confidence allows us to adapt to contingencies contrary to our plans.

There are people with rooted pessimism tendencies. Prosper Merimee wrote in 1873:

Get rid of your optimism and start figuring out that we are in this world to fight one another

In general, people who survive calamities, particularly man-made catastrophic phenomena and genocide are mostly of the pessimist kinds. Once they decide on a line of actions, they don’t look back.

The active pessimist live side by side with the will-powered optimists.

Sane optimist needs the well-founded pessimistic arguments in order for his rational thinking to be useful and works for encouraging cooperation among individuals: The much needed guidance to getting out of the planetary obstacles.

What we need are the pessimists who circumvented their natural tendencies in order look optimistically into the future: What we can observe today that could guide us into a better future.

 

Environmental management practices in the Lebanese pharmaceutical industries

187(3):4290. doi: 10.1007/s10661-015-4290-3. Epub 2015 Feb 12.

Implementation strategies and challenges.

Author information

  • 1Department of Environmental Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, American University of Beirut, P.O. Box 11-0236, Riad el Solh, Beirut, 1107 2020, Lebanon, maymassoud@yahoo.com.

Abstract

This research attempts to provide an understanding of the Lebanese pharmaceutical industries’ environmental management strategies, priorities, and perceptions as well as drivers, barriers, and incentives regarding the implementation of the voluntary ISO 14001 Environmental Management System.

Accordingly, a semistructured in-depth interview was conducted with the pharmaceutical industries.

The findings revealed a significant lack of knowledge about the standard among the industries.

The main perceived drivers for adopting the ISO 14001 are improving the companies’ image and overcoming international trade.

The main perceived barriers for acquiring the standard are the lack of government support and the fact that ISO 14001 is not being legally required or enforced by the government.

Results revealed that adopting the ISO 14001 standard is not perceived as a priority for the Lebanese pharmaceutical industries. Although the cost of certification was not considered as a barrier for the implementation of ISO 14001, the majority of the pharmaceutical industries are neither interested nor willing to adopt the Standard if they are not exposed to any regulatory pressure or external demand.

They are more concerned with quality and safety issues with the most adopted international standard among the industries being the ISO 9001 quality management system.

This study highlights the aspect that financial barriers are not always the hurdles for implementing environmental management strategies in developing countries and underscores the need for regulatory frameworks and enforcement.

PMID:
25673269
[PubMed – in process]

adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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