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LNN

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  1. This is what's happening in Lebanon right now. With dollars running low in Lebanon, ATMs are spitting back bank cards, and locals are panicking November 22, 2019 at 7:10 p.m. GMT+1 BEIRUT — Over recent weeks, ATMs in Lebanon have been spitting back bank cards, refusing to provide dollars to those who ask for them, though people here have long used the American currency alongside the Lebanese pound. Dollars have virtually disappeared. Panicked tenants have begun asking to pay their rent in pounds, but landlords are refusing to accept them as the local currency hemorrhages value. Some restaurants and bars have stopped taking credit cards, instead requiring cash to pay vendors. Other eateries have limited their menus, unable to pay for imported goods in dollars. Lebanon is facing not just political turmoil, with daily protests across the country, but a financial emergency as well. Even as demonstrators rail against the political elites they blame for the economic troubles, this deeply indebted country is facing an escalating liquidity crisis. The black market exchange rate has now soared to 1,900 pounds to the dollar, 26 percent higher than the official rate. The dollar shortage is reverberating across the economy, suppressing consumer demand and driving up costs for Lebanon’s all-important service sector, which must pay vendors in dollars. Service industry employees are being laid off or given only 50 percent of their wages. Banks had been closed altogether during a week-long strike called by the union representing banks staff over security concerns for employees. Many banks reopened Tuesday but have little to offer the public. A week ago, the Association of Banks in Lebanon set a $1,000 ceiling for withdrawals from U.S. dollar bank accounts and limited transfers abroad — which had been previously been halted altogether — to allow only for “urgent personal expenses.” Some banks are even refusing to give customers the $1,000 they are supposedly allowed to withdraw. At least one bank refused to give dollars to customers who had opened accounts in other branches. In downtown Beirut, spider web cracks have spread across the glass storefront of the Blom Bank, its walls and windows splashed with colorful graffiti echoing the chants of the protesters who have crowded into Lebanon’s streets: “Down with capitalism” and “We are not afraid.” Security forces began standing guard out front this week, as they’ve done outside many other banks across the country. One man stood in line to withdraw the remaining $300. He said he had taken his allotted $1,000 from another bank and was leaving for Canada to join his wife. “There is no future here,” he said, declining to give his name before shuffling off. 'Margin of tolerance' diminished Over the past month, about $3.8 billion has been withdrawn from Lebanon’s banks, according to Jad Chaaban, an economics professor at the American University of Beirut. These sizable withdrawals reflect a lack of confidence in the banking system and the wider economy, which is being undermined by a similar lack of trust in the political system. Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned Oct. 29 from his position after two weeks of nonstop protests against the political elite, and a new government has yet to be formed. To sustain the fixed dollar-to-pound rate, Lebanon’s central bank must maintain foreign currency reserves. The Central Bank governor, Riad Salameh, has repeated recently that there are sufficient reserves and no liquidity issue, but people do not trust the central bank, Chaaban said. He said Lebanon needs an independent authority to carry out an audit and restore confidence in the banks. Lebanon is one of the most indebted countries in the world, as measured by a debt-to-GDP ratio projected at 155 percent. After a 15-year civil war ended in 1990, the country’s rulers lowered corporate and income taxes and borrowed internationally to help resurrect the war-ravaged country. Lebanon later attracted foreign currency deposits by offering high-interest rates to maintain its stock of dollars. These practices, however, widened the gap between the rich and the poor and fueled a yawning government budget deficit. Lebanon’s economy and financial system have long been heavily dependent on remittances from the Lebanese diaspora abroad, which is larger than Lebanon’s resident population. In recent years, the flow of money into Lebanon has tapered off partly because of regional instability, according to Sami Nader, the director of Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs. More dollars have been flowing out of the country than into it, leaving Lebanon without enough dollars to cover its import bill and service its debt. Lebanon’s economy has suffered in part from the spillover from the civil war in neighboring Syria. The tiny Mediterranean country has struggled to deal with an inflow of hundreds of thousands of refugees, clashes near and across the border and a shutdown of vital trade routes. The role of the Iran-backed militia, Hezbollah, which has a significant presence in the Lebanese parliament, is also a complicating factor for the economy. Because Hezbollah supports the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who are engaged in a war with a Saudi-led military coalition, the “margin of tolerance” toward Lebanon among Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries has diminished, Nader said. “Gulf countries constitute our strategic economic depth,” he said. “Not because we love them, but because 55 percent of remittances, which are the linchpin of our economy, come from the diaspora who live there. “The international community has no reason to inject cash in the Lebanese market as long as Hezbollah is conducting Lebanon’s policies,” Nader said. “Why would Saudi Arabia step in to rescue a Hezbollah-dominated Lebanon that supports insurgents in the region who target Saudi with missiles?” 'They have ruined people's lives' The protests, which erupted in mid-October, have targeted public corruption, and the anger has been exacerbated by rumors that some influential, well-connected people have been able to withdraw more than the maximum $1,000 a week. “Banks are the lungs of the society. They are not just a company that is supposed to make money, but have a certain responsibility toward society,” said a real estate developer, whose name is being withheld because he fears reprisals. His company, which employed around 220 workers in 2017, now has only 15. “Banks have proven they are not worthy enough to be in such a position. They have ruined people’s lives,” he said. On the day the banks finally reopened earlier this week, employees watched the protests from behind the large glass facade of a bank headquarters, staring down at the hundreds of demonstrators banging pots and pans, chanting, “This country is for the workers; down with the capital’s authority.” Clad in expensive suits and shiny shoes, some bankers and other bank employees stood in front of the building, watching or taking pictures. One employee changed into casual clothes and joined the protesters. “We, bank employees, are not all enemies of the revolution,” the bank employee said on the condition of anonymity in order not jeopardize his job. “I changed into these clothes because the suit that I have to wear for work does not represent me or the class that I belong to.”
  2. A day of hiking alone in the Himalayas of Nepal in Langtang National Park near the village of Kyanjin Gumpa and the Tibet border. - I don't think I could handle this level of hiking danger personally.... but still impressive.
  3. Did it use MCAS software from $9/hr. software developers in India by any chance? You can't outsource quality and there are a few things you should never go cheap on.... guidance software is one of them.
  4. Soon they will be scanning our eyes before entering workplaces for information security. Another reason to prefer robot workers with no eyes over humans?
  5. How many social media account corporate heads will be pulled into corporate board rooms and fired over the next week for getting into this? Has Starbucks responded yet? McDonald's?
  6. That was the best you could think of to respond? LOL..... I get it.. All the major corporations have just lined up to get involved too:
  7. "...I've made up my mind.... I ain't wasting no more time"
  8. Sad song.... but still ended up being a holiday favorite worldwide....
  9. What an amazing talent for an 8 year old.... she has the 'sultry" voice down already. ;-)
  10. What a beautiful combination .... piano and cello together.... Love how this couple brings them together.... cello playing the melody and some of the early percussion.
  11. Very soulful music.... sounds like a great background music for an evening somewhere in Italy. I assume it is in Italian?
  12. He was a very talented artist.... and in this song he tackled a very deep problem of modern society.... even though he probably wrote it 50 years ago. Still very true after all these years! Sadly... the children don't play outside anymore.
  13. Di errori ne ho fatti ne porto i lividi ma non ci penso più ho preso ed ho perso ma guardo avanti sai dove cammini tu di me ti diranno che sono una pazza ma è il prezzo di essere stata sincera E' l'amore che conta non solo i numeri, e neanche i limiti è una strada contorta e non è logica, e non è comoda Nell'attesa che hai nell'istante in cui sai che è l'amore che conta non ti perdere, impara anche a dire di no Di tempo ne ho perso certe occasioni sai che non ritornano mi fa bene lo stesso se la mia dignità è ancora giovane di me ti diranno che non sono ambiziosa è il prezzo di amare senza pretesa E' l'amore che conta non solo i numeri, e neanche i limiti è una strada contorta e non è logica, e non è comoda Nell'attesa che hai nell'istante in cui sai che è… She is a talented singer / writer....
  14. Beautifully sung... but I don't quite understand the full meaning of the song. You?
  15. That has to be the best version of this song that I have ever heard. Thanks for sharing.
  16. Another thing for us to worry about. or.... why worry about Climate change when Polar change is a bigger deal? although...the earth’s magnetic field is always changing, both day-to-day and over long periods of time. The last large-scale change happened over 700,000 years ago! Because this was so long ago, nothing is known about how quickly it happened, and whether the field became very weak during the change. Life on earth continued, and the geological record of life does not show any disturbances during that or the many other changes.
  17. Imagine a sugar that has only 38 percent of the calories of traditional table sugar, is safe for diabetics, and will not cause cavities. Now add that this dream sweetener is not an artificial substitute but a real sugar found in nature and it tastes like, well, sugar. You’d probably want to use that in your next cup of coffee, right? This sugar is called tagatose. The FDA has approved it as a food additive, and there have been no reports to date of the problems that many sugar substitutes have—such as a metallic taste, or worse, links to cancer—according to researchers and the FAO/WHO, which certified the sugar as “generally regarded as safe.” So why isn’t it in all your favorite desserts? The answer lies in the expense of producing it. While derived from fruits and dairy products, tagatose is not abundant and is difficult to extract from those sources. The manufacturing process involves a conversion from more easily obtained galactose to tagatose and is highly inefficient, with yields that may reach only 30 percent. Nikhil Nair, an assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at Tufts, helped develop a way to produce tagatose using bacteria as tiny bioreactors. Photo: Alonso NicholsBut researchers at Tufts University have developed a process that may unlock the commercial potential of this low-calorie, low-glycemic sugar. In a recent publication in Nature Communications, Assistant Professor Nikhil Nair and postdoctoral fellow Josef Bober, both from the School of Engineering, came up with an innovative way to produce the sugar using bacteria as tiny bioreactors that encapsulate the enzymes and reactants. Using this approach, they achieved yields up to 85 percent. Although there are many steps from the lab to commercial production, yields this high could lead to large-scale manufacturing and getting tagatose on every supermarket shelf. The enzyme of choice to make tagatose from galactose is called L-arabinose isomerase (LAI). However, galactose is not the main target for the enzyme, so the rates and yields of the reaction with galactose are less than optimal. In a solution, the enzyme itself is not very stable, and the reaction can only push forward until about 39 percent of the sugar is converted to tagatose at 37 degrees Celsius (about 99 degrees Fahrenheit), and only up to 16 percent at 50 degrees Celsius (about 122 degrees Fahrenheit), before the enzyme degrades. Nair and Bober looked to overcome each of those hurdles through biomanufacturing, using Lactobacillus plantarum—a food-safe bacterium—to make large quantities of the LAI enzyme and keep it safe and stable within the confines of the bacterial cell wall. They found that when expressed in L. plantarum, the enzyme kept converting galactose to tagatose and pushed the yield to 47 percent at 37 degrees Celsius. But now that the LAI enzyme was stabilized within the cell, it could increase yield to 83 percent at the higher temperature of 50 degrees Celsius without degrading significantly, and it was producing tagatose at a much faster rate. To determine if they could push the reaction even faster, Nair and Bober examined what might still be limiting it. They found evidence that the transport of the starting material, galactose, into the cell was a limiting factor. To resolve that issue, they treated the bacteria with very low concentrations of detergents—just enough to make their cell walls leaky, according to the researchers. The galactose was able to get in and tagatose released from the cells, allowing the enzyme to convert galactose to tagatose at a faster rate, shaving a couple hours off the time needed to get to 85 percent yield at 50 degrees Celsius. “You can’t beat thermodynamics. But while that’s true, you can circumvent its limitations by engineering solutions,” said Nair, who is corresponding author of the study. “This is like the fact that water will not naturally flow from lower elevation to higher elevation because thermodynamics won’t allow it. However, you can beat the system by, for example, using a siphon, which pulls the water up first before letting it out the other end.” Encapsulating the enzyme for stability, running the reaction at higher temperature, and feeding it more starting material through leaky cell membranes are all “siphons” used to pull the reaction forward. Although more work is needed to determine if the process can be scaled up to commercial applications, biomanufacturing has the potential to improve yields and have an impact on the sweetener substitute market, which was estimated to be worth $7.2 billion in 2018, according to the market research firm Knowledge Sourcing Intelligence. Nair and Bober also note that there are many other enzymes that can benefit from using bacteria as tiny chemical reactors that increase enzyme stability for high temperature reactions and improve rates and yields of conversion and synthesis. As they look ahead to exploring other applications, from the manufacture of food ingredients to plastics, there will be a lot on their plate. Mike Silver can be reached at mike.silver@tufts.edu.
      Hello guest!
    How do we get in the business of producing and selling this stuff? Sounds like a real money-maker once Coca-Cola wants to order it for Coca-Cola Zero + good taste. ;-)
  18. Wikipedia notes: "The red pill, together with its opposite, the blue pill, is a popular cultural meme, a metaphor representing a choice between the "red pill", representing a life of harsh knowledge, desperate freedom, and the brutal truths of reality, and the "blue pill", representing a life of luxurious security, tranquil happiness, and the blissful ignorance of the harsh realities of life, basking in an (essentially dishonest) illusion. The terms, popularized in science fiction culture, are directly derived from a scene in the 1999 film The Matrix."

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