Category Archives: Society

HOW LOCAL GOVT CHOKES SMALL BUSINESSES TO DEATH

NYC culinary staple China Fun shutters, blaming over-regulation
www.nydailynews.com

For 25 years, China Fun was renowned for its peerless soup dumplings and piquant General Tso’s chicken.

What left a bad taste in the mouths of its owners and loyal patrons was the restaurant’s sudden Jan. 3 closing, blamed by management on suffocating government demands.

“The climate for small businesses like ours in New York have become such that it’s difficult to justify taking risks and running — nevermind starting — a legitimate mom-and-pop business,” read a letter posted by the owners in the restaurant’s front door.

“The state and municipal governments, with their punishing rules and regulations, seems to believe that we should be their cash machine to pay for all that ails us in society.”

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The Second Ave. restaurant became a beloved local mainstay, with customers bemoaning its unexpected disappearance. The Daily News hailed the soup dumplings as the best on the Upper East Side in 2015.

“So sad to learn @ChinaFunNYC closed,” tweeted fitness blogger Amanda Lauren. “I grew up on the UES and it was my fav Chinese restaurant. Pouring out a green tea for you, China Fun.”

(Howard Simmons/New York Daily News)
Albert Wu, whose parents Dorothea and Felix owned the eatery, said the endless paperwork and constant regulation that forced the shutdown accumulated over the years.

“When we started out in 1991, the lunch special was $4 a plate,” he recalled. “Now it’s $10, $12. The cost of doing business is just too onerous.”

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Wu cited one regulation where the restaurant was required to provide an on-site break room for workers despite its limited space. And he blamed the amount of paperwork now required — an increasingly difficult task for a non-chain businesses.

“In a one-restaurant operation like ours, you’re spending more time on paperwork than you are trying to run your business,” he griped.

Increases in the minimum wage, health insurance and insurance added to a list of 10 issues provided by Wu. “And I haven’t even gone into the Health Department rules and regulations,” he added.

(Howard Simmons/New York Daily News)
The de Blasio administration noted the city provides free help to small businesses. The “Small Business First” initiative helps owners save time and money while reducing the amount of paperwork.

Even the owner of Katz’s Deli is sad to see Carnegie Deli close

Free compliance advisors are available for on-sight consultation aimed at helping small businesses comply with regulations.

“The NYC Department of Small Business Services makes it easier for businesses to start, operate, and grow, including by helping businesses navigate important City regulations,” said spokesman Nick Benson.

But Adele Malpass, Manhattan Republican Party chairwoman, said the issues cited by the Wu family are common complaints.

“For smaller businesses like China Fun, each little thing that occurs makes it harder,” said Malpass. “Each regulation, each tax — you put it all together and it’s just a hostile business environment.”

ITALY AWAKENS

Italy aims to combat radicalization in jails, deport more illegal migrants
www.reuters.com

By Antonella Cinelli | ROME

Italy’s government said on Thursday it would try harder to combat Islamist radicalization in its prisons and on the internet and it defended plans to build more detention centers for migrants who have no right to stay in the country.

New Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni has come under increased pressure to tackle illegal migration and radicalization in jails after a failed Tunisian asylum seeker who spent time in an Italian prison drove a hijacked truck into a Berlin Christmas market on Dec. 19, killing 12 people.

Italy’s anti-terrorism chief said last week the suspect, Anis Amri, had been radicalized while in a Sicilian jail. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. Amri was shot dead by Italian police in Milan on Dec. 23 after fleeing Germany.

“Processes of radicalization today are happening above all in certain places: in prisons and on the web,” Gentiloni told a news conference after talks with an expert commission appointed by the government to study militant Islamists.

“Working on prisons and the web is one of the principal tasks the experts are asking for in this prevention effort.”

Italy’s Interior Minister Marco Minniti told the same news conference he wanted a “protective network against the malware of terror” online, but gave no details on how the government planned to address the problems in jails.

“FERTILE GROUND”

The national prison workers’ union said in a statement that jails had become “a fertile ground” for jihadists to recruit weaker individuals to fight for them and said union members should receive foreign language lessons and courses on religious awareness to better tackle the challenge.

“It is not by chance that many radicalized common criminals, especially of North African origin, who showed no particular religious inclination when they entered prison, are gradually transformed into extremists under the influence of other inmates who are already radicalised,” the union statement.

Italy tried to deport Amri after he served his four-year jail term, but Tunisia refused to take him back and he was released with only an order to leave the country.

Italy has not suffered the type of militant attack seen in France, Belgium and Germany, but has expelled 133 suspected militants in the past two years.

Of more than 27,000 expulsion orders handed out in 2015 to immigrants with no right to stay, fewer than 5,000 were carried out, according to Eurostat.

Italy is already struggling to deal with record numbers of boat migrants arriving mostly from north Africa.

“We need … more effective migration policies that combine the great humanitarian inclination to rescue and house people … and rigorous and effective repatriation policies,” Gentiloni said.

Commenting on plans to build more detention centres to hold people ahead of deportation, Minniti said he aimed to allocate smaller numbers of migrants to more locations, thereby reducing pressure on overcrowded sites where protests have broken out.

Opposition politicians have criticised Minniti’s plan to open more detention centres, a system repeatedly criticised for alleged corruption and human rights abuses.

“It would only slow down expulsions of illegal immigrants and would increase waste, illegality and mafia groups,” said the anti-system 5-Star Movement.

(Additional reporting and writing by Isla Binnie; Editing by Gareth Jones)

REALITY CATCHES UP TO HYPE

Tech’s latest innovations struggle to live up to the hype
www.google.com
The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas attracts thousands of exhibitors and attendees searching for the next big thing, with this year set to feature a cornucopia of technological innovation from connected fridges to drones, smartwatches and virtual reality headsets.

Yet as the annual gadget jamboree gets under way again this week, many in the tech industry are now facing the reality that there may never be another innovation like the smartphone. Apple’s original iPhone was unveiled by Steve Jobs the same week as the event exactly a decade ago — and the worry is that the industry’s most overhyped gadgets are failing to establish a similar connection with consumers.

“We are just not seeing huge swings of growth anywhere,” says Ben Bajarin, analyst at Creative Strategies. “We’re really not going to see a category that is a true ‘hockey stick’, and a long sustainable one, like the ones we’ve seen with phones and PCs.”

It is a puzzle that even Apple itself has not yet been able to solve. The iPad saw rapid growth soon after its introduction in 2010 but sales have declined year-on-year since the peak in 2013. New hardware such as Apple Watch and its TV set-top box were not enough to offset the iPhone’s decline last year as the smartphone market has slowed.

Hype around the Apple Watch when it was launched in 2014 set expectations racing that wearable technology was the next hot market, attracting established players including Samsung, Huawei and Motorola as well as start-ups such as Pebble.

Now, however, analysts are slashing their forecasts for wearables, as some manufacturers bow out of the market altogether. Pebble’s main assets were snapped up by Fitbit in a fire sale while Motorola has said it has no near-term plans to launch another smartwatch, saying wearables “do not have broad enough appeal”.

Ahead of the holiday sales season, researchers at IDC found the wearables market grew just 3.1 per cent in the third quarter, with basic, low-cost fitness trackers outpacing more sophisticated smartwatches.

James Park, chief executive of Fitbit, which is the market leader by sales, is more optimistic about the wearables industry. “Our point of view is there is room to further penetrate the market,” he says, pointing to Fitbit research that shows while 66 per cent of US adults who own a smartphone are interested in fitness, only 15 to 20 per cent own a wearable tracker.

Closing that gap will be a “multiyear story”, Mr Park says. “The next step in the evolution will be more personalised coaching and guidance. As we integrate more closely with the healthcare industry, the device becomes a need-to-have.”

Instead of pumping out more and more devices in the hopes that one will catch consumers’ attention, many technology companies are now focusing on improving the software and services behind the hardware.

At CES this week, many manufacturers will add virtual assistants from the likes of Microsoft, Amazon and Google to their products, while others will claim they have added “artificial intelligence” to everything from cars to toothbrushes.

We are just not seeing huge swings of growth anywhere

“Artificial intelligence could well be the story of the show,” says John Curran, managing director at consultancy Accenture’s TMT division. AI can “help jump-start some of the other categories that have met resistance in consumer adoption because the devices have been seen as hard to connect and hard to understand”.

Many manufacturers will be hoping to replicate the growing popularity of Amazon’s Echo, a voice-controlled speaker that can play music, turn on lights or hail a taxi.

“We expect an avalanche of smart speakers at CES,” says Ben Wood, analyst at CCS Insight, a tech researcher.

Yet even this promising new category is today far smaller than the hype surrounding it may suggest. In November, Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimated Amazon had sold just 5m Echo units in the US since its 2014 launch.

Last year, virtual reality was hailed as the breakout hit of CES. Yet this year, VR’s best-known pioneer, Facebook-owned Oculus, will have no stand on the show floor, after what is widely seen as a slow start for the category in 2016.

Analysts at IHS Markit expect consumers spent $1.6bn on VR last year, rising to $7.9bn by 2020. Senior executives at Silicon Valley companies warn that VR may not begin to offer the right consumer experience at an affordable price until 2018.

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Yet already, the CES hype machine is alighting on an even more ambitious and expensive kind of headset that can make “holograms” seem to appear in the real world. Augmented-reality goggles such as Microsoft’s Hololens are likely to draw crowds at many of the big chip companies’ booths this week.

Ten years ago, days before Mr Jobs unveiled the iPhone, Microsoft’s Bill Gates showed off a “home of the future” with kitchens, bedrooms and cars all outfitted with ever-larger Windows displays. “Hey, this is pretty neat,” Mr Gates said, as he changed the wall-sized screen of his mocked-up bedroom into a giant aquarium.

The demonstrations of AR and VR at this year’s show may also be neat, but there is little evidence yet to suggest these visions of the future are any more likely to tear consumers’ gaze away from smartphones than the digital aquarium in Mr Gates’ bedroom a decade ago.

“Many people in the industry have learnt the wrong lessons” from the last decade,” says Mr Bajarin. “The bottom line is, these markets just might never be as good as something like the iPhone.”

COMMENTS

HONESTLY SPEAKING

People who swear more often are more honest than those who don’t
www.dailymail.co.uk

Those who turn air blue with 4-letter words care less about social rules
People who swear are more honest, a psychological study has found.
Swearing is the ‘unfiltered, genuine expression of emotions’
When Rhett Butler said he frankly did not give a damn in Gone With the Wind, he was almost certainly telling the truth.

That is because people who swear are more honest, a psychological study has found.

It may appear that those who turn the air blue with four-letter words are less concerned about social rules like telling the truth and not hurting people.

It may appear that those who turn the air blue with four-letter words are less concerned about social rules like telling the truth and not hurting people

But swearing is the ‘unfiltered, genuine expression of emotions’ and those who do it frequently were found to be more sincere.

This perception may explain, the study suggests, why Donald Trump, who liberally uses the word ‘hell’ and promised to ‘knock the s*** out of Isis’, was hailed for his authenticity by some of those who voted him in as President.

Meanwhile suspects innocent of crimes have previously been found to swear more than those who are guilty.

The latest study, accepted for publication in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, found people who liked more swearwords and used them most often were least likely to lie. People who swore more on Facebook also lied less often online to make themselves look better.

Co-author David Stillwell, from the University of Cambridge, said: ‘There are two ways of looking at it. You might think if someone is swearing a lot, this is a negative social behaviour seen as a bad thing to do, so if someone swears they are probably a bad person as well.

‘On the other hand, they are not filtering their language so they are probably also not putting their stories about what is going on through similar filters which might turn them into untruths.

‘That is what we seemed to land on in this study, that people who use the language that comes to mind first are less likely to be playing games with the truth.’

The study cites ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn’, said by Rhett Butler to Scarlett O’ Hara in the closing scenes of Gone With the Wind, as revealing the conflicting attitudes of society towards swearing.

A classic line from movie history, it also saw the film’s production team fined $5,000 for violating the Motion Picture Production Code.

But the researchers note that it ‘profoundly conveys Butler’s honest thoughts and feelings’.

When surveying 276 people on why they swear, most said it was to express their true self and be honest, or to express negative emotions rather than to insult or intimidate others.

Donald Trump, who liberally uses the word ‘hell’ and promised to ‘knock the s*** out of Isis’, was hailed for his authenticity by some of those who voted him in as President

The participants’ honesty was measured using a test with questions including whether they had ever blamed someone for their mistake, cheated at a game or taken advantage of someone else.

How much they swore was measured by asking them to list their most commonly used and favourite swear words, and admit how much they used bad language in person, on their own and in writing.

Those who wrote down more swear words they frequently used, liked them more and used them most often were found to lie least.

A second experiment with almost 74,000 people on Facebook found those who swore more online were less dishonest. This was judged using telltale signs from previous studies, such as liars using fewer first person pronouns like ‘I’ or ‘me’ and more anxiety-driven words like ‘worried’ and ‘nervous’.

The kind of dishonesty looked at was ‘self-promoting’ deception aimed at making someone look better on Facebook, rather than serious unethical behaviour.

The research, also involving the universities of Maastricht, Stanford and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, says white lies or ‘social lies’ are the most common type.

Written before Donald Trump was elected, it adds: ‘Profanity has even been used by presidential candidates in American elections as recently illustrated by Donald Trump, who has been both hailed for authenticity and criticised for moral bankruptcy.’