Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Young cannabis smokers run risk of lower IQ, report claims

Young people who smoke cannabis for years run the risk of a significant and irreversible reduction in their IQ, research suggests.

The findings come from a study of around 1,000 people in New Zealand.

An international team found those who started using cannabis below the age of 18 - while their brains were still developing - suffered a drop in IQ.

A UK expert said the research might explain why people who use the drug often seem to under-achieve.

For more than 20 years researchers have followed the lives of a group of people from Dunedin in New Zealand.

They assessed them as children - before any of them had started using cannabis - and then re-interviewed them repeatedly, up to the age of 38.

Having taken into account other factors such as alcohol or tobacco dependency or other drug use, as well the number of years spent in education, they found that those who persistently used cannabis - smoking it at least four times a week year after year through their teens, 20s and, in some cases, their 30s - suffered a decline in their IQ.

The effect was most marked in those who started smoking cannabis as adolescents.

For example, researchers found that individuals who started using cannabis in adolescence and then carried on using it for years showed an average eight-point IQ decline.

Stopping or reducing cannabis use failed to fully restore the lost IQ.

The researchers, writing in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that: "Persistent cannabis use over 20 years was associated with neuropsychological decline, and greater decline was evident for more persistent users."

"Collectively, these findings are consistent with speculation that cannabis use in adolescence, when the brain is undergoing critical development, may have neurotoxic effects."

One member of the team, Prof Terrie Moffitt of King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry, said this study could have a significant impact on our understanding of the dangers posed by cannabis use.

"This work took an amazing scientific effort. We followed almost 1,000 participants, we tested their mental abilities as kids before they ever tried cannabis, and we tested them again 25 years later after some participants became chronic users.

"It is such a special study that I'm fairly confident that cannabis is safe for over-18 brains, but risky for under-18 brains."

Robin Murray, professor of psychiatric research, also at the King's College London Institute of Psychiatry but not involved in the study, said this was an impressive piece of research.

"The Dunedin sample is probably the most intensively studied cohort in the world and therefore the data are very good.

"Although one should never be convinced by a single study, I take the findings very seriously.

"There are a lot of clinical and educational anecdotal reports that cannabis users tend to be less successful in their educational achievement, marriages and occupations.

"It is of course part of folk-lore among young people that some heavy users of cannabis - my daughter calls them stoners - seem to gradually lose their abilities and end up achieving much less than one would have anticipated. This study provides one explanation as to why this might be the case.

"I suspect that the findings are true. If and when they are replicated then it will be very important and public education campaigns should be initiated to let people know the risks."

Prof Val Curran, from the British Association for Psychopharmacology and University College London, said: "What it shows is if you are a really heavy stoner there are going to be consequences, which I think most people would accept.

"This is not occasional or recreation use."

She also cautioned that there may be another explanation, such as depression, which could result in lower IQ and cannabis use.


Sunday, 26 August 2012

Russia calls time on alcohol adverts


Russia may be the home of vodka but its advertising industry is having to sober up. A new law banning alcohol adverts from print and online media comes into force next year. It's an attempt by the Russian Government to curb excessive drinking. Mike Gibson from Ark Connect advertising agency thinks his sector will adapt but the print industry could suffer.
"There's a highly emotional reaction to it, and like everything, it seems like it's not possible anymore, but if you actually, you know, take a deeper look, there's still a lot possible, and for some people it will actually be good for them. But if you're a magazine, I think it won't be so good for you, because you'll lose all of your alcohol print ads." In-store advertising IS still allowed. But TV and radio commercials were stopped last month along with outdoor billboards. Consumer group head Dmitry Yanin says it's a step in the right direction.
 "If the new generation does not see the image of success in beer and vodka, if they see it in some other things, and if hard liquor costs more, then we will stop being the country with the biggest drinking problem in the world." Russia currently drinks double the critical amount according to the World Health Organisation. And one-in-five men die from alcohol related causes. Not everyone's convinced the new measures will have an effect.
"Russian people will drink the way they always have. Nothing's going to happen."
"No, drinking less is not going to happen, people are going to drink more. They'll just start making home-brew instead." Annual price hikes are also part of the Government's battle with booze. The minimum spend for a bottle of vodka is now over 4 dollars.
Ivor Bennett, Reuters

Face2Face Pre-Int - Unit 4 - Quiz Present Perfect or Past Simple

The attraction of solitude

Living alone is on the rise all over the world. Is this bad news?

Aug 25th 2012
from the print edition

THE protagonists of “Sex and the City”, a once-popular American television show about single thirty-somethings in New York, are unlikely role models for Middle Eastern women. The second movie was partially set in Abu Dhabi, but the authorities stopped it from being filmed or even screened there.

Yet the single lifestyle appears to be catching on even in the Gulf. According to the latest statistics from the United Arab Emirates’ Marriage Fund, a government body that provides financial assistance to the affianced, about 60% of women over 30 are unmarried, up from 20% in 1995—a trend that Said al-Kitbi, a government spokesman, calls “very worrying”.

If it is any comfort, the UAE is far from alone. Singledom is on the rise almost everywhere. Euromonitor, a research firm, predicts that the world will add 48m new solo residents by 2020, a jump of 20%. This means that singletons will be the fastest-growing household group in most parts of the world.

The trend is most marked in the rich West, where it has been apparent for some time. Half of America’s adults, for instance, are unmarried, up from 22% in 1950. And nearly 15% live by themselves, up from 4%. But singles are multiplying in emerging economies too—and are changing consumption patterns. In Brazil annual sales of ready-made meals—much favoured by lone-rangers—have more than doubled in the last five years, to $1.2bn; sales of soups have tripled.

Although the phenomenon is global, the factors that drive it vary. Dilma Rousseff, the unattached president of Brazil, leads a country where rapid industrialisation has gone hand in hand with people getting married less and later. In Japan women are refusing to swap their careers for the fetters of matrimony. Even in Islamic Iran, some women are choosing education over marriage.

Three explanations apply in general, however. First, women are often marrying later as their professional opportunities improve. Second, thanks to increased longevity, spouses are outliving their partners for longer than the widows and widowers of yesteryear. And third, changing social attitudes in many countries mean that the payoffs of marriage—financial security, sexual relations, a stable relationship—can now often be found outside the nuptial bed.

The spread of singledom has drawbacks. One-person households have a bigger carbon footprint than joint dwellings and drive up housing costs. Singles tend to have fewer children, increasing the burden on the young to support an ageing population. And single people appear more vulnerable and thus potentially costlier to society than those who have a partner: numerous studies have confirmed the psychological and health benefits of stable romantic unions.

Yet these worries may be overdone. The term “single” lumps all unmarrieds into one basket, making it hard to distinguish between true loners and those who cohabit out of wedlock or live with friends or family. Even those who live alone are not necessarily solitary. “Living alone, being alone and feeling lonely are three different social conditions,” says Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist at New York University and author of a recent book, “Going Solo”.

Far from being loners, Mr Klinenberg argues, singles are more likely to spend time with friends and neighbours, and to volunteer in civic organisations. This explains why singlehood proliferates in places where such networks can crystallise, he says: in many urban centres and in Scandinavia, where strong social safety nets free people to pursue their own goals. By 2020, Euromonitor predicts, almost half of households in Sweden will contain only one person.

Some governments are now trying to stem the tide. The UAE’s Marriage Fund, for instance, has spent almost $16m this year in one-off grants to encourage couples to tie the knot. It also sponsors mass weddings, and publishes a regular information bulletin whose title translates as the Journal of Passion. In America the Obama administration has continued to fund the “Healthy Marriage Initiative”, a programme launched by George W. Bush, to encourage unmarried parents to get hitched, at a cost of $150m a year.

Such efforts may not work, or may even backfire. Recent studies of marriage promotion in America suggest that it is ineffective when directed towards non-white or poor families, for whom financial security seems to have a higher priority than improving intimate relationships.

More broadly, some of the things that make marriages today more unstable—their voluntary nature and women’s higher standards in relationships—also explain why, when marriages work, they are fairer and more intimate than ever before, points out Stephanie Coontz, the author of “Marriage: A History”.


Monday, 20 August 2012

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Why more Americans don't travel abroad.

The numbers tell the story: Of the 308 million citizens in the United States, only 30% have passports.

That's just too low for such a rich country, said Bruce Bommarito, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the U.S. Travel Association.

There were 61.5 million trips outside the United States in 2009, down 3% from 2008, according to the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries. About 50% of those trips were to either Mexico or Canada, destinations that didn't require a passport until 2007.

Despite the high number of American passports in circulation, 30% is still low compared to Canada's 60% and the United Kingdom's 75%.

Tourism experts attribute Americans' lack of interest in international travel to a few key factors, including: the United States' own rich cultural and geographic diversity, an American ignorance about international destinations, a work culture that prevents Americans from taking long vacations abroad and the high cost and logistics of going overseas.

"We're not a travel culture," he said. "Countries are travel cultures when they put more of an emphasis on leisure time, and Americans tend to choose money over leisure time."

Even those who do receive a vacation time don't use it all, and those who do seem to take shorter, more frequent trips, Arndt said.

"There are some differences in terms of vacation time that are hugely influential," Byrne said. Workers in Europe receive between six and eight weeks of vacation, while Americans average about 16.6 paid vacation days as of 2005, according to the Families and Work Institute. Thirty-six percent of those surveyed didn't plan to use their full vacation.



Kate Middleton's style reigns


For the third year in a row Kate Middleton tops Vanity Fair's international best dressed list. Known for her effortless style, the Duchess of Cambridge has dazzled in high-end looks and off-the-rack pieces. Although her royal status entitles her to a personal dresser, it is said she has refused the perk, opting to shop for herself. Her classic, yet trendy style is mimicked all over the world, which has caused many royal watchers to dub her influence on fashion as the "Kate effect". Middleton shares her title with her brother-in-law Prince Harry, who makes the list for the first time. The Princess shares the September cover with list newcomer actress Jessica Chastain. Alicia Powell,

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Signs - A short film

Directed by Patrick Hughes in conjunction with Publicis Mojo and RadicalMedia. (Sydney Australia - March, 2008)

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Emerging-market companies are trying to build global brands

Aug 4th 2012

AMERICANS can stop worrying about China’s plans to take over their country. The worst has already happened: on July 25th Lenovo, a Chinese computer firm, announced a deal to sponsor the National Football League.

Lenovo was founded in 1984 by 11 engineers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It spent years building its business in China. The company is now the second-largest PC maker in the world and hopes to grab the top spot from Hewlett-Packard soon.

Lenovo is one of several emerging-market firms striving to become global brands. They are no longer content to do the grunt work for Western firms, for two simple reasons: non-branded companies typically earn gross margins of 3-8% and are constantly at risk of being undercut by cheaper rivals. Branded firms enjoy fatter margins (15% or more) and more loyal customers.

Yet becoming a global brand is exceedingly hard. Emerging-market firms must struggle with limited budgets and unlimited prejudice. GfK, a consumer-research company, found that only one-third of Americans were willing even to consider buying an Indian or Chinese car. Only four emerging-market brands make Interbrand’s list of the world’s 100 most valuable: Samsung and Hyundai of South Korea, Mexico’s Corona beer and Taiwan’s HTC.

How can others make the leap? “The New Emerging-Market Multinationals”, a book by Amitava Chattopadhyay, of INSEAD, and Rajeev Batra, of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, offers some clues.

First, they must exploit their two basic advantages—economies of scale and local knowledge—to expand into new markets. Some have become so dominant in their home markets that they can hardly avoid expanding abroad. Turkey’s Arcelik, for example, controls 50% of the Turkish market for domestic appliances and is now expanding rapidly in Europe. Lenovo gets 42% of its sales from China and has 40 times more stores there than Apple has worldwide. Some firms use their understanding of local markets to expand globally: India’s Marico produces shampoo suited to the highly chlorinated water that flows from Middle Eastern taps. Others move swiftly to exploit opportunities: Turkey’s Evyap established itself as a leading seller of cheap soaps and scents in Russia when the Soviet Union collapsed.

Messrs Chattopadhyay and Batra argue that emerging-market companies need to add three more ingredients to these basics. The first is focus: they should define a market segment in which they have a chance of becoming world-class. Natura Cosm├ęticos, a Brazilian cosmetics-maker, zeroed in on the market for “natural” cosmetics with ingredients extracted from the rainforest. Lenovo focused on computers for corporate clients before expanding into the consumer market. Haier, a Chinese maker of dishwashers and fridges, focuses on consumers that many of its rivals neglect, such as students.

The second ingredient is innovation: firms need new products and processes that generate buzz. HTC produces 15-20 new mobile-phone handsets a year. Natura releases a new product every three working days. Haier keeps producing new ideas such as fridges with locks on them (to keep dormitory mates from snaffling your tofu), compact washing machines (for clothes for pampered Japanese pets) and freezers with compartments that keep ice-cream soft. Ranbaxy, an Indian drug firm, has developed controlled-release systems that allow patients to take only one pill a day instead of several small doses.

The third ingredient is old-fashioned brand-building. Emerging-market bosses must grapple with many traditional branding puzzles. Should they slap the company’s name on the product (as Toyota does) or another name (as Procter & Gamble does with its stable of brands, from Gillette razors to Pampers nappies)? How can they market themselves effectively in multiple countries without busting the budget?

Still, there is little doubt that emerging-world brands are on the rise. HTC is one of the biggest-selling smartphones in America. Huawei, a Chinese firm, has just overtaken Sweden’s Ericsson to become the world’s largest maker of telecommunications equipment. BYD, another Chinese company, produces 85% of the world’s lithium-ion batteries for mobile phones.

Emerging-market firms are evolving in much the same way as Japanese firms did in the 1960s and 1970s, from humble stitchers to master tailors. In 1985 Philip Kotler of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management observed that Japanese companies had shifted from “injuring the corners” of their Western competitors to attacking them head-on. The same pattern is beginning to repeat itself, but on a much larger scale.


Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Kindle ebook sales have overtaken Amazon print sales, says book seller

For every 100 hardback and paperback books it sells on its UK site, 114 ebooks are downloaded in 'reading renaissance'

Amazon.co.uk has said that sales of its Kindle ebooks are now outstripping its sales of printed books.

Underlining the speed of change in the publishing industry, Amazon said that two years after introducing the Kindle, customers are now buying more ebooks than all hardcovers and paperbacks combined. According to unaudited figures released by the company on Monday, since the start of 2012, for every 100 hardback and paperback book sold on its site, customers downloaded 114 ebooks. Amazon said the figures included sales of printed books which did not have Kindle editions, but excluded free ebooks.

In a surprise move in May, the company went into partnership with the UK's largest bricks-and-mortar books retailer, Waterstones.

Much to the consternation of the publishing industry, Amazon has refused to release audited figures for its digital book sales, something it does for printed books. It told the Guardian that the company would not discuss future policy on the matter.

The company said its figures also showed that British Kindle users were buying four times as many books as they were prior to owning a Kindle, a trend it described as a renaissance of reading.

"As soon as we started selling Kindles it became our bestselling product on Amazon.co.uk so there was a very quick adoption … [And they] are buying four times more books prior to owning a Kindle," an Amazon spokeswoman said. "Generally there seems to be … a love of a reading and a renaissance as a result of Kindle being launched."

Despite revealing that more than half a million Kindle books are priced at £3.99 or less, Amazon said a boost in ebook sales was not just about cheap books and argued that much of its printed range was also sold at a low price.


Studies have shown that not taking vacations is linked to health problems.

More brokers throwing in the towel.

Aug 6 - The number of brokers is shrinking according to a new study- a result of the recent tough times for the brokerage business and a signal of a very different future for the industry.

The baby boomers have been a bust for the brokerage industry- and more and more brokers are calling it quits. The total number of personal financial advisors fell for the third year in a row- down 2.3 percent or 7,000 last year according to Cerulli Associates. Senior Analyst Tyler Cloherty: "Everyone thought all the baby boomers were going to be retiring, there is going to be this big flow of assets that comes out, everyone is going to need advice. People are working longer. Their retirement hasn't been as lucrative." For that- investors have been blaming their advisors- and taking their business elsewhere:  "Coming out of the recession it was very much of a fire the incumbent approach- that whoever I was working with didn't work with me or didn't protect me so whether I was with a Morgan Stanley or a Merrill Lynch or whether I was with a Schwab, I am going to switch because whatever I was doing wasn't working." Back in 2007, the armies of brokers at big firms used to control close to half the market in terms of client assets. But their market share has been shrinking- and Cerulli Associates projects it will be down to 34 percent by 2014. A lot of that money is going to Registered Investment Advisors, who offer a more holistic approach to wealth management. Client assets there surged 14 percent last year. "They look at financial planning, estate planning and try to look at the life financial plan rather than just asset appreciation; looking at your market returns. I think coming out of the recession people are no longer as drawn to the big brand names as they were in the past." The ranks of RIA's are projected to rise 5 percent a year through 2016- more proof investors are more willing to buy advice than pay for commissions.
Bobbi Rebell, Reuters.

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