Văn – 40/52: đừng… “nhỏ nhen”

Phần lớn các vấn đề của chúng ta đều có thể giải quyết khi có đủ thời gian để suy nghĩ thấu đáo, nhưng vấn đề chính là ở chỗ chúng ta thường dành quá nhiều thời gian để nghĩ, chúng ta có xu hướng xem xét các vấn đề đó trong lăng kính của “vùng an toàn” của chính mình… Mọi vấn đề đều ở chỗ “cân bằng”…

khi chúng ta càng tập trung vào bản thân vấn đề chúng ta càng khiến chính mình xa rời câu trả lời đang tìm kiếm…

Để nhìn nhận thấu đáo về các vấn đề, hay, về chính bản thân mình trong một bối cảnh quy về tiếp cận giá trị, việc chúng ta nhìn nhận giá trị đích thực và giữ chính mình luôn được lạc quan chính là tác nhân sẽ giúp chúng ta tìm được sức mạnh và giá trị của cuộc sống, thêm vào đó chính là kỳ vọng và gặp hái được những gì tốt nhất; thế nên, vấn đề cần được nhìn nhận một cách cởi mở, khách quan độc lập với bản thể của chúng ta – tách ra khỏi “vùng an toàn” của mỗi cá nhân…

Một cách nào đó, khi chúng ta náu mình trong “vùng an toàn”, chúng ta đã tự “coi thường” chính bản thân mình; vào chính khoảnh khắc đó chúng ta đã bước một bước thụt lùi và lún sâu vào trong vòng bi quan và cuộc sống trở nên không còn giá trị trân quý… Điều này cũng “giống như một người vì sợ gãy chân mà không dám đứng lên bước đi, mà không bước đi chẳng khác nào chân đã bị gãy…

Thế nên đừng “rụt cổ” vào trong cái lớp vỏ của “vùng an toàn”, đừng tự đè nén sức mạnh nội tại của tinh thần, chúng ta cần phải vùng dậy, can đảm bước ra ánh sáng, cởi mở chính mình để đi tim chân giá trị của mình – đó là sự vĩ đại. Khi chúng ta tiếp tục chơi trò “nhỏ nhen” trong “vùng an toàn”, cả thế giới sẽ tiếp tục nghiễm nhiên coi những biểu hiện bên ngoài đó là bản chất “nhỏ nhen”, và khi cứ giấu mình trong vùng an toàn, chúng ta một cách vô thức đã giới hạn bản thân trong không gian của quá khứ và ở đó “liếm láp” những nỗi đau của sự tiếc nuối… và,

chúng ta luôn ở sau “cái bóng” của chính mình…

Phải dấn thân,

bước vào vùng đất mới chấp nhận rủi ro có thể có, sáng tạo là con đường duy nhất nâng mọi thứ lên một tầm cao mới;

hãy biến những ý tưởng đó thành hành động nhất quán;

hãy phát triển tài năng và kỹ năng của chúng ta, và

quan trọng hơn cả là sự tin tưởng vào bản thân mình một cách trọn vẹn. Sức mạnh sẽ không thể sinh ra khi chưa từng qua những trải nghiệm đau đớn – luyện tập của sức mạnh tinh thần cũng chẳng khác mấy so với sức mạnh của cơ bắp…Nên,

câu trả lời sẽ chỉ xuất hiện khi chúng ta cởi mở vì chúng luôn ở đó và chỉ lóe lên khi chúng ta không tự bó hẹp vào chính vấn đề đó…

Nghĩ cho bản thân, bản lĩnh dám hân thưởng bản thân cũng chỉ là một hiện tượng nhìn nhận sự việc thông qua lăng kính của những trải nghiệm từ nỗi đau nội tại và cái tôi bản ngã mà thôi…

Hãy rộng lượng, bớt nhỏ nhen…

___

NPL

604 từ

Share – Chấp nhận một trải nghiệm tiêu cực là một trải nghiệm tích cực — Triết Học Đường Phố 2.0

(1580 chữ, 6 phút đọc) Chúng ta muốn có niềm vui mà không cần phải nếm trải sự chán chường, muốn có thành công mà không cần kinh qua thất bại, muốn có kỷ luật mà không cần phải thả lỏng lắng nghe, và muốn tận hưởng sự huy hoàng mà không cần phải đối…

Chấp nhận một trải nghiệm tiêu cực là một trải nghiệm tích cực — Triết Học Đường Phố 2.0

Cứ mở lòng chấp nhận, dù chuyện gì đang diễn ra và nó có vẻ tiêu cực đến thế nào: mất việc, bồ đá, sếp la mắng, bố mẹ không vừa lòng, hay một ngày bạn đột nhiên không cảm thấy gì với những điều bạn vẫn thường cảm thấy,… Bạn chẳng cần cáu gắt, cứ âm thầm chấp nhận. Chẳng cần hoảng sợ, cứ âm thầm chấp nhận. Chẳng cần khóc lóc, cứ âm thầm chấp nhận. Và cũng chẳng cần phải gồng lên và thêm bớt gì, sự chấp nhận tự nó sẽ xảy đến.

Xuống đáy tưởng là tồi tệ nhưng không hề. Ở dưới đáy rất bình an, như đáy đại dương thì luôn tĩnh lặng. Nếu bạn còn chưa thấy bình an tức là bạn còn chưa đi xuống tận cùng của vấn đề. 

“Cái hang bạn sợ bước vào đang cất giữ kho báu mà bạn kiếm tìm.” – Joseph Campbell  

Khi bạn ngưng quẫy đạp, xuống đáy sẽ trở nên là một hành trình thênh thang biết nhường nào. Và cuộc hành trình ấy sẽ dẫn bạn tới điều trọn vẹn. Vì phần đa ai cũng sợ những cái đáy nên khi bạn chạm tới đó, bạn hoàn toàn riêng tư với sự tĩnh lặng. Không ai tranh với bạn, không ai làm phiền bạn, và không ai đo lường được bạn.

Bình thường, không ít người trong số chúng ta vẫn còn ở trong những nỗi sợ rất cơ bản như: sợ sai, sợ thua, sợ mất mát, sợ tổn thương, sợ thiệt thòi, và sau cùng là sợ chết. Chúng ta cố gắng chống cự lại các trạng thái tiêu cực và làm mọi việc theo lực thúc đẩy của nỗi sợ. Nhưng điều đó không giúp chúng ta chạm tới sự tích cực là những điều đúng đắn, thành công, sung túc, chữa lành, ơn huệ hay sự sống. Để tìm kiếm ánh sáng và sự trưởng thành, chúng ta lại chọn cách trốn chạy phần bóng tối đang cần được soi rọi và tìm đủ mọi cách để không phải đối mặt với những khiếm khuyết của chính mình. Trong sự phản kháng, chúng ta đang ngăn chặn cả những điều tích cực, thứ mà bản thân hằng khao khát, có thể tràn vào. 

Ngoài kia, một cái cây trở nên khỏe mạnh cứng cáp hơn khi nó được tiếp xúc với nắng mưa, bão gió, thậm chí sâu bệnh. Còn một con người, trở nên khỏe mạnh cứng cáp hơn khi trải qua những lần ốm đau, cơ thể sẽ tự biết cách tăng cường thêm sức đề kháng. Những trạng thái tiêu cực là một sự rèn luyện cần thiết để đi tới sự tích cực. Nhưng những người nông dân đang làm những cái cây trở nên yếu đuối hơn bằng cách cho nó vào nhà kính và phun lên thật nhiều thuốc trừ sâu. Và không ít người chúng ta ngày nay, mỗi khi vừa bắt đầu hắt hơi sổ mũi là không để cho cơ thể đối mặt với bệnh tật. Chúng ta sốt sắng uống đủ các loại thuốc để không phải sốt hay ho nữa, dù đó là các phản ứng mà cơ thể tiêu diệt và đào thải các yếu tố lạ xâm nhập. Càng cố gắng chống cự và sợ hãi, chúng ta càng trở nên tiêu cực, yếu đuối và xa rời sức mạnh cổ xưa bên trong mình.

Cũng là bởi chống cự và sợ hãi nên có những người nghèo khó muốn giàu lên bằng cách tích lũy thêm từng đồng mỗi ngày, chứ không phải bằng cách sống rộng lượng với những người xung quanh. Những người tự ti sợ hãi muốn hết sợ thì lại càng tăng cường thêm những sự đề phòng và toan tính, chứ không hề bắt đầu tập sống dấn thân vô tư. Và một người mất ngủ muốn ngủ được thì lại càng lăn lộn trằn trọc ép mình phải thiếp đi, chứ không tự làm mình bình yên bằng cách thoải mái với việc mình vẫn đang còn thức vào giữa đêm hôm khuya khoắt. 

Ở đây, con đường hạnh phúc ắt phải là sự cho phép. Khi tâm trạng chùng xuống, hãy để cho nó được chùng xuống, đừng cố thay đổi nó hay tìm cách để kích nó lên. Khi bạn đứng trước trải nghiệm mới, hãy để cho bản thân được phép sai. Đứng trước một cuộc tranh tài, hãy để cho bản thân không phiền gì chuyện thua cuộc. Tương tự như vậy tới việc bị tổn thương, hãy cho phép cả điều đó. Thậm chí nếu tới ngày Chúa gọi bạn ra đi, thì cũng đừng chống trả. Tại sao bạn cần phải đeo thêm nhiều chiếc mặt nạ trong khi bạn hoàn toàn có thể sống là chính mình? Tại sao bạn cần phải cố gắng làm thêm đủ thứ việc cực nhọc trong khi bạn có thể hiện diện thảnh thơi ngay tại phút giây này?

“Quy phục hoàn toàn là không thể ngay từ đầu. Tất cả đều có thể quy phục một phần. Dần dần nó sẽ dẫn đến quy phục hoàn toàn. Nếu quy phục là không thể, thì có thể làm gì? Không có tâm trí bình an. Bạn bất lực không thể có nó được. Nó chỉ có thể được thực hiện bằng cách quy phục.” – Ramana Maharshi

Chấp nhận trải nghiệm tiêu cực chính là cách bạn khẳng định sự tích cực và khẳng định cái tổng thể. Ngược lại, chối bỏ trải nghiệm tiêu cực là bạn chối bỏ khả năng có thể trở nên tích cực và chối bỏ cái tổng thể. Tiêu cực và tích cực là những điều không thể tách rời nhau như hai mặt một đồng xu, nhờ cái này mà cái kia tồn tại. Nên cách duy nhất để đi lên tới đỉnh đó là đi xuống đáy tận cùng. Và cách để thoát ra đó chính là đi vào.

Có một hiện trạng dễ thấy đó là con người ngày nay bị ám ảnh với niềm vui bề mặt, cố kích thích bản thân để có thể cảm thấy vui vẻ tích cực trong ngày. Như thiền sư Thích Nhất Hạnh đã mô tả: 

“Nhiều người cho rằng sự phấn khích là hạnh phúc. Nhưng khi bạn phấn khích, bạn không bình an. Hạnh phúc chân thực lại dựa trên sự bình an.”

Chúng ta kinh sợ và bối rối trước nỗi buồn hay những trạng thái tiêu cực. Chúng ta được dạy rằng chúng là những thứ đáng ghét, chúng không làm nên thành công, chúng không giúp ta thu hút và chinh phục người khác. Hay chúng chẳng có giá trị gì ngoài sự hủy hoại. Nên chúng ta đã cố gắng tạo ra sự lạc quan giả tạo, như làm ra những đồng xu chỉ có một mặt và tin rằng đồng xu đó có tồn tại. 

Có bao nhiêu người đã rơi vào trầm cảm nhưng vẫn cố gắng cười đùa như thể họ đang dồi dào sinh lực. Họ không biết rằng việc cố gắng ấy sẽ càng khiến họ trầm cảm nặng hơn. Có bao nhiêu người giận dữ nhưng vẫn cố gắng đè nén như không hề có chuyện gì khiến họ khó chịu. Họ không biết rằng việc phủ nhận những cảm xúc bên trong lại càng khiến họ dễ nổ tung hơn sau này.

“Mong muốn một trải nghiệm tích cực là một trải nghiệm tiêu cực, chấp nhận một trải nghiệm tiêu cực là một trải nghiệm tích cực.” – Mark Manson, Nghệ thuật tinh tế của việc “đếch” quan tâm

Bạn hãy thử nghĩ mà xem, những bức ảnh tươi cười trên mạng xã hội được tung hô, nhưng những khoảnh khắc đối mặt với tiếng khóc liệu có đáng được ngợi ca? Người giàu có được đám đông cúi chào, nhưng những người nghèo với lòng tự trọng, đói cho sạch rách cho thơm thì liệu được mấy ai nhìn thấy mà tỏ lòng ngưỡng mộ? Những tính toán suy nghĩ rạch ròi được đề cao, nhưng còn những sự ngẫu hứng sáng tạo thường được thấy trong những chiều kích hỗn độn thì có lúc nào được chúng ta yêu mến?

Không, chúng ta cố gắng cắt đôi những thứ vốn dĩ đã đi với nhau thành cặp thống nhất để chỉ lấy một nửa mà mình thích hơn. Chúng ta muốn có niềm vui mà không cần phải nếm trải sự chán chường, muốn có thành công mà không cần kinh qua thất bại, muốn có kỷ luật mà không cần phải thả lỏng lắng nghe, và muốn tận hưởng sự huy hoàng mà không cần phải đối mặt với những gian lao vất vả. Hay theo cách nói thi vị của đại thi hào Mỹ Henry Thoreau thì:

“Như thể bạn có thể giết chết thời gian mà không làm chấn thương vĩnh hằng.”

Nếu bạn thật sự muốn hạnh phúc, thì đừng phá vỡ tổng thể cân xứng, đừng chối bỏ quy luật của Tự Nhiên, nơi hai thái cực đối lập đã được gắn kết thuận hòa. Chúc bạn đủ can đảm để có thể tận hưởng những trải nghiệm mà bạn còn đang chống trả.

Tác giả: Vũ Thanh Hòa

Collection – China’s digital yuan displaces the dollar

By DAVID P. GOLDMAN

Full link: https://asiatimes.com/2021/04/chinas-digital-yuan-displaces-the-dollar/?mc_cid=4b867e49d3&mc_eid=e81f6bb1ac

$16 trillion of US dollar deposits may disappear

In his annual letter to JP Morgan shareholders, bank chairman Jaime Dimon offered a startling admission:

Banks already compete against a large and powerful shadow banking system. And they are facing extensive competition from Silicon Valley, both in the form of fintechs and Big Tech companies (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and now Walmart), that is here to stay. As the importance of cloud, AI and digital platforms grows, this competition will become even more formidable. As a result, banks are playing an increasingly smaller role in the financial system.

Dimon was talking about a revolution in trade and finance. The combination of Big Tech transformation of global supply chains and fintech transformation of the global payments system will bypass the banking system. China’s digital yuan is one of the catalysts that will make this happen. That’s the financial dimension of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which I described in my book You Will Be Assimilated: China’s Plan to Sino-Form the World.

Since I warned February 6 that China’s “digital yuan could bust the United States,” a great deal of nonsense on the topic has filled the media, offset by some good sense from the economists at the US investment house Morgan Stanley. 

An April 11 Bloomberg report declared, “The Biden administration is stepping up scrutiny of China’s plans for a digital yuan, with some officials concerned the move could kick off a long-term bid to topple the dollar as the world’s dominant reserve currency.”

Either the Biden Administration or Bloomberg (or both) is confused. China has no intention of replacing the US dollar with its RMB within the framework of the existing world banking system, as People’s Bank of China Deputy Governor Li Bo said April 19. In fact, China has no incentive to this, and could not do so even it wanted to.

The $16 trillion of offshore dollar deposits at international banks won’t turn into the equivalent amount of Chinese yuan. Instead, that $16 trillion will shrink to a small fraction of its present volume, because the Big Tech/fintech revolution will make them redundant. Instead, as Morgan Stanley analysts explained this week, “banks will lose their deposit base” as digital currencies replace their most basic functions.

What Western analysts fail to grasp is that China is not trying to take the place of the United States. Rather, China is creating a new system of world trade and finance that will – as a byproduct – replace the methods of trade financing that have remained in place since the Venetian Republic introduced them in the 13th century.

The yuan won’t replace the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. Instead, the role of reserve currencies that began with the pound sterling under the Pax Britannica will atrophy over time, and with it tens of trillions of dollars in zero-interest loans that the world now extends to the United States.

Fintech is not the most important driver of this transformation. The epicenter of change is what Huawei calls “smart logistics,” the application of big data/artificial intelligence to supply chain management, as I explained on February 6. Huawei’s system – one among several competing offerings in the field –

seamlessly connects node operations and physical transportation, provides early warnings for active risks, and delivers the full-range of visible management, including the one-stream-of-materials concept. Through mobile apps, AIS, IoT, and other advanced logistics technologies, the system perceives the locations of vehicles, the operating status of warehouses, and other information in real time.

Big data can track a thimbleful of iron ore from a Brazilian mine to a blast furnace in Harbin to a roll of steel wire at a Tangshan steel mill, to a nail factory in Xingtai, to a warehouse in Shanghai, to a container ship en route to Long Beach, California, to a truck headed for a hardware distributor in Denver.

The production, storage, and shipment of goods will be verified every step of the way. The blast furnace will pay the Brazilian mine on delivery, and the rolling mill will pay the blast furnace, the nail factory will pay the rolling mill, and so forth. None of them will have to borrow money from an international bank and keep it on deposit for months while waiting to see whether the delivery arrives.

As Huawei advertises:

By transparently sharing information between all sections and visualizing material flows, the system better coordinates people, vehicles, goods, and warehouses. At the same time, it realizes real-time interconnections with external risk data, enabling early warnings and intelligent reminders of alternative options. In the distribution process, big data and AI make intelligent calculations on cargo storage plans and optimal transport routes to improve distribution efficiency and optimize asset use.https://securepubads.g.doubleclick.net/gampad/ads?iu=%2F339474670%2FAsiaTimes%2FAtimes_AMP%2FInArticle_House_2&adk=2972076488&sz=728×90&output=html&impl=ifr&ifi=4&msz=758x-1&psz=758x-1&fws=4&scp=slug%3Dchinas-digital-yuan-displaces-the-dollar%26category%3Dchart-of-the-day%26ID%3D610793&adf=1991192588&nhd=0&eid=31060071&adx=694&ady=4145&oid=2&ptt=13&gdfp_req=1&sfv=1-0-37&u_sd=1&is_amp=3&amp_v=2104170104001&d_imp=1&c=1884&ga_cid=amp-UtGigCdCJkjvvmwvgoXNjA&ga_hid=1884&dt=1619674213607&biw=2560&bih=880&u_aw=2560&u_ah=1040&u_cd=24&u_w=2560&u_h=1080&u_tz=420&u_his=1&vis=1&scr_x=0&scr_y=0&bc=7&url=https%3A%2F%2Fasiatimes.com%2F2021%2F04%2Fchinas-digital-yuan-displaces-the-dollar%2F&loc=https%3A%2F%2Fasiatimes.com%2F2021%2F04%2Fchinas-digital-yuan-displaces-the-dollar%2F%3Fmc_cid%3D4b867e49d3%26mc_eid%3De81f6bb1ac&bdt=228399&dtd=320&aet=n&__amp_source_origin=https%3A%2F%2Fasiatimes.com

There’s nothing conspiratorial or nefarious about the great transformation of trade and finance. The above description is quoted from Huawei’s website, and several other firms offer the same services. China is the leader in the field because it is the first country to build out a national 5G mobile broadband network, which makes possible real-time collection and processing of information about the world’s supply chains.

Every business in the whole variegated, complex supply chain will make a digital transfer from its central bank digital currency (CBDC) account. The People’s Bank of China is collaborating with the world’s main agency for international payments, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, to expedite financial transfers in digital yuan.

Exporters and importers keep bank balances in dollars and euro (mostly), because those are the currencies in which banks lend. The majority of offshore bank deposits are in US dollars – $16 trillion worth – even though the US accounts for just 8% of world exports. China accounts for 12% and its share is growing.

With the advent of smart logistics, just-in-time inventory management and just-in-time payments for goods in world trade, exporters won’t have to write contracts in foreign currency for payments due months ahead, and buy expensive hedges against currency market fluctuations. They will just receive payment in their own CBDC.

China’s dominance in digital currency will follow naturally from its position as the world’s top exporter. And because the digital yuan will be the largest currency in international trade, and China will have a market leader advantage in introducing CBDC’s, other exporters will use the digital yuan as a matter of convenience.https://securepubads.g.doubleclick.net/gampad/ads?iu=%2F339474670%2FAsiaTimes%2FAtimes_AMP%2FLeaderboard_4_Desktop&adk=2409911141&sz=728×90&output=html&impl=ifr&ifi=5&msz=780x-1&psz=780x-1&fws=4&scp=slug%3Dchinas-digital-yuan-displaces-the-dollar%26category%3Dchart-of-the-day%26ID%3D610793&adf=2297607507&nhd=0&eid=31060071&adx=672&ady=5737&oid=2&ptt=13&gdfp_req=1&sfv=1-0-37&u_sd=1&is_amp=3&amp_v=2104170104001&d_imp=1&c=1884&ga_cid=amp-UtGigCdCJkjvvmwvgoXNjA&ga_hid=1884&dt=1619674213608&biw=2560&bih=880&u_aw=2560&u_ah=1040&u_cd=24&u_w=2560&u_h=1080&u_tz=420&u_his=1&vis=1&scr_x=0&scr_y=0&bc=7&url=https%3A%2F%2Fasiatimes.com%2F2021%2F04%2Fchinas-digital-yuan-displaces-the-dollar%2F&loc=https%3A%2F%2Fasiatimes.com%2F2021%2F04%2Fchinas-digital-yuan-displaces-the-dollar%2F%3Fmc_cid%3D4b867e49d3%26mc_eid%3De81f6bb1ac&bdt=228400&dtd=319&aet=n&__amp_source_origin=https%3A%2F%2Fasiatimes.com

This would be of minor consequence to America’s world position, except for the fact that the United States now must borrow 15% to 20% of its GDP each year to finance its internal budget deficit, and also must attract about $1 trillion of capital inflows to finance its growing current account deficit with the rest of the world.

Morgan Stanley’s chief economist Chetan Ahya and his colleagues entitled an April 19 report “Digital Disruption: The Inevitable Rise of CBDC.” They observe:

  • “Even though central banks will try not to disrupt the banks, CBDC accounts will increase competition for customer deposits.
  • “Direct access to central banks will allow tech-enabled non-banks to offer payment services and digital wallets, capturing customer transaction data in the process.
  • “In combination with advances in AI, big tech will be able to use transaction data for credit assessment and cross selling.
  • “In the most disruptive case, banks lose deposit base, credit creation needs to be funded wholesale or by central bank.”

 The Morgan Stanley team argues that the digital yuan won’t threaten the reserve status of the dollar, which technically is correct but misses the point: The digital system will hollow out the deposit base of the banking system, most emphatically for international trade financing. Reserve currencies won’t disappear, but they will become vestigial. Chetan Ahya’s report focuses on the domestic implications of digital currencies, which may be extensive, rather than the global implications, which will be tectonic.

The United States will lose what economists call seigniorage, a term that derives from the difference between the value of gold or silver coins and the their bullion content. This amounts to about $25 trillion by my rough estimate (the $16 trillion in overseas dollar deposits plus the $8 trillion in US Treasuries owned by foreigners).

The US will lose this enormous volume of cheap credit from the rest of the world just when it needs it the most.

Tuần – Week: 19/04 – 24/04/2021

<For English version, please scroll down…>

Dân… số…

Các sự kiện chính – Main events:

Đại học Khoa học Xã hội và Nhân văn Hà Nội phối hợp với Đại học Justus Liebig Giessen (Đức) vừa công bố báo cáo quốc gia Việt Nam “một xã hội đang già hóa“. Việt Nam đang trong thời kỳ dân số vàng song đứng trước nhiều thách thức do số người già tăng nhanh và đa số không có lương hưu với bốn thách thức từ trình trạng già hóa dân số thuộc nhóm nhanh nhất thế giới của Việt Nam.

Bên cạnh đó, nhiều lao động bỏ chế độ hưu trí đã trở thành hiện tượng nóng trong xã hội – hơn 3,7 triệu người đã chọn hưởng chính sách nhận BHXH một lần thay vì chờ lương hưu trong vòng 5 năm kể từ thời điểm Luật BHXH 2014 có hiệu lực.

Giới kinh doanh cũng đang nhìn thấy dấu hiệu chững lại trong tốc độ cải thiện môi trường kinh doanh. Điều đáng nói là sự chững lại này không chỉ ở những lĩnh vực vốn khó cải thiện, mà ở cả những chỉ số đang có tốc độ bứt phá nhanh.

Tại sao nó ảnh hưởng – Why were it affected:

Đầu tiên, dự báo chỉ trong hai thập kỷ (2015-2035), tỷ trọng người già tăng từ 7% lên 14%, Việt Nam sẽ ở vào tình trạng “vàng chưa qua, già ập đến“; nghĩa là dự kiến đến năm 2035, Việt Nam được dự đoán mới kết thúc thời kỳ dân số vàng, nhưng từ năm 2015, tốc độ già hóa dân số đã tăng ngoài dự kiến. Cùng với đó, Việt Nam đứng trước nguy cơ “chưa giàu đã già“. Sau hơn 30 năm đổi mới, kinh tế Việt Nam phát triển nhanh chóng, thu nhập bình quân đầu người tăng lên, đời sống đại đa số người dân được nâng cao rõ rệt. “Nhưng phải nhìn nhận thẳng thắn là tốc độ tăng trưởng kinh tế chưa tận dụng triệt để cơ hội và động lực của thời kỳ dân số vàng“, GS.TS Phạm Quang Minh, Trưởng bộ môn Nghiên cứu Phát triển Quốc tế nhận xét và đơn cử những công nhân làm trong khu công nghiệp, mỗi tháng thu nhập trung bình từ 5 đến 6 triệu đồng, “mới chỉ đủ ăn“, không kịp tích lũy trước khi đến tuổi già. “Tốc độ già hóa dân số nhanh là thách thức lớn nhất đối với các nhà hoạch định chính sách an sinh xã hội nói chung và bảo hiểm xã hội nói riêng. Do tỷ lệ sinh giảm và tuổi thọ trung bình tăng, chúng ta phải tận dụng thời gian dân số vàng để tăng tốc phát triển, đồng thời phải dành nguồn lực để chăm sóc, đảm bảo an sinh xã hội cho người già“, TS Minh nói.

Lý giải về “làn sóng” lao động chọn nhận BHXH một lần thay vì chờ tới tuổi để nhận lương hưu, ông Nguyễn Thành Đô, Trưởng ban Chính sách Pháp luật, Liên đoàn lao động TP HCM, cho rằng công nhân trẻ ngày càng mắc nhiều bệnh mãn tính như tim mạch, tiểu đường, các bệnh liên quan đến rối loạn chuyển hóa chất dinh dưỡng với nguyên nhân một phần đến từ các bữa ăn không đảm bảo. Khi không đủ sức khỏe để làm việc, họ rời nhà máy và nghĩ rằng sẽ không tham gia BHXH nữa nên chọn “rút một cục“. Họ không có tiền tích lũy nên khi xảy ra sự cố như ốm đau, xây sửa nhà, mất việc vì Covid-19, họ phải tìm nguồn tài chính để bù đắp. Trong khi công nhân mất việc gần như không tiếp cận được các gói vay lãi suất tốt nên sẽ trông vào tiền BHXH một lần. Chính sách thụ hưởng BHXH đang thiếu tính linh hoạt, thời gian đóng, hưởng chưa hợp lý khiến lao động mất việc thấy quá lâu để chờ nhận lương hưu. Vị này đã đề xuất cần có các gói vay ưu đãi, lãi suất thấp, chính sách trợ vốn cho công nhân tự tạo việc làm khi thất nghiệp. Về lâu dài, tiền lương công nhân cần đủ đảm bảo cuộc sống và phải hướng tới có tích lũy. Chính sách BHXH cần linh hoạt hơn để lao động dễ tiếp cận, có sự tin tưởng.

Trong Báo cáo Chương trình Cải cách môi trường kinh doanh – góc nhìn từ doanh nghiệp do Phòng Thương mại và Công nghiệp Việt Nam (VCCI) vừa công bố, các lĩnh vực cải cách mà doanh nghiệp đánh giá là giảm điểm so với năm trước bao gồm thành lập doanh nghiệp, tiếp cận điện năng, tiếp cận tín dụng và cấp phép xây dựng. Điều đáng nói, đây lại là những lĩnh vực có tốc độ cải cách được cho là nhanh và ấn tượng nhất của môi trường kinh doanh Việt Nam nhiều năm qua. Các doanh nghiệp tham gia khảo sát theo Chương trình Cải cách môi trường kinh doanh Việt Nam cũng thừa nhận điều này. Họ nhắc đến thời gian làm thủ tục đăng ký, khởi sự kinh doanh đã giảm liên tục từ năm 2014 đến nay, dự đoán sẽ giảm tiếp khi năm 2020 và đầu năm 2021 có thêm nhiều văn bản mới về liên thông thủ tục hành chính. Thủ tục hành chính thuế, lĩnh vực bảo hiểm xã hội, thủ tục về đầu tư – xây dựng cũng có sự cải thiện liên tục nhờ sự vào cuộc của các cấp thực thi. Song những cải thiện này đang chậm hơn kỳ vọng của doanh nghiệp, thậm chí không theo kịp nhu cầu sử dụng dịch vụ trực tuyến gia tăng mạnh trong năm 2020. Đặc biệt, lĩnh vực đăng ký bất động sản và quản lý đất đai dù được ghi nhận là đã cải thiện khá tốt trong năm 2018-2019, nhưng lại khó hơn trong năm 2020. Trong phần này, các doanh nghiệp nói thời gian giải quyết hồ sơ lâu hơn quy định, yêu cầu minh bạch thông tin về quản lý đất đai được đề ra nhiều năm, nhưng không có cải thiện trên thực tế.

Xu hướng chính – Key trends:

Là một nước đang phát triển, chúng ta phải ưu tiên các nguồn lực đầu tư cơ sở hạ tầng thiết yếu. Có một thực tế là hiện số trại dưỡng lão, trung tâm chăm sóc người già trên cả nước rất ít“, TS Minh phân tích. Vì nhiều lý do, hiện số người già không có lương hưu hoặc trợ cấp xã hội ở Việt Nam rất lớn. Tính đến cuối 2020, trên toàn quốc có khoảng 14,1 triệu người sau độ tuổi nghỉ hưu (từ 55 tuổi trở lên đối với nữ; từ 60 tuổi trở lên đối với nam); trong số đó, chỉ hơn 3,1 triệu người đang được hưởng lương hưu. Nếu tính cả những người đang hưởng trợ cấp hưu trí xã hội (1,8 triệu người), tổng cộng khoảng gần 5 triệu người (chiếm 35%) được hưởng các khoản trợ cấp hàng tháng. Như vậy, cho đến nay vẫn còn khoảng 9,2 triệu người sau độ tuổi nghỉ hưu (chiếm 65%) chưa thuộc diện bao phủ của hệ thống bảo hiểm xã hội hoặc tầng an sinh xã hội nào khác. Số người già tăng nhanh và nhiều, nên khả năng chăm sóc, đảm bảo an sinh xã hội ngày càng khó khăn, rất nhiều người già ở Việt Nam đang gặp vấn đề về sức khỏe. Viện dẫn số liệu thống kê, TS Minh nói gần 90% tỷ lệ ca tử vong ở người cao tuổi là do bệnh không lây nhiễm; khoảng 36,5% người từ 60-64 tuổi bị bệnh cao huyết áp, đái tháo đường, phổi tắc nghẽn mãn tính, hen phế quản – những bệnh đòi hỏi phải được chăm sóc y tế thường xuyên. Tuy nhiên nhiều người già thuộc diện nghèo, không có thu nhập hoặc sống phụ thuộc vào con cháu, người thân, không có khả năng chi trả viện phí.  Với những người trong độ tuổi lao động, tính đến năm 2020, mới chỉ gần 33,5% tham gia bảo hiểm xã hội, vẫn còn gần 32 triệu người (khoảng 66,5%) trong diện này chưa tham gia.

Bảo hiểm xã hội Việt Nam cảnh báo rút BHXH một lần trở thành “Thực trạng đáng lo ngại ảnh hưởng trực tiếp quyền lợi người lao động và tác động đến an sinh của Nhà nước“. Sáu năm qua, hai lần sửa đổi Luật Bảo hiểm xã hội, các nhà làm chính sách đều muốn hạn chế điều kiện nhận BHXH một lần. Song quy định tại Điều 60 hồi năm 2015 đã không thể thực hiện khi vấp phải sự phản ứng dữ dội của công nhân phía Nam. Theo chuyên gia Nguyễn Quang Đồng, Viện trưởng Viện Chính sách và Phát triển truyền thông (IPS) đánh giá, rất nhiều công nhân coi sổ bảo hiểm xã hội là tài sản có giá trị lớn và duy nhất. Ông đề xuất, pháp luật nên xem xét thừa nhận đó như một tài sản giống sổ đỏ nhà đất để họ có thể thế chấp được khi cấp bách. Nhà nước có thể chủ trì để ngân hàng chính sách xã hội thí điểm một vài sản phẩm vay giải quyết khó khăn để công nhân lựa chọn. Việc này giúp công nhân có tiền để giải quyết khó khăn trước mắt mà vẫn bảo lưu được thời gian đóng BHXH, không rời lưới an sinh. “Dù quy định hiện hành không cho phép mang sổ đi cầm cố, nhưng những hoạt động mua bán vẫn diễn ra“, ông nói.

Trong những lĩnh vực được ghi điểm cao hơn so với năm 2019 (gồm phá sản doanh nghiệp, bảo vệ nhà đầu tư, xuất nhập khẩu và thủ tục thuế), thì thứ hạng của bảo vệ nhà đầu tư và phá sản doanh nghiệp đang đội sổ. Cũng phải nhấn mạnh, cải cách môi trường đầu tư, kinh doanh và phát triển doanh nghiệp có thể được xem là một trong những điểm sáng chính sách trong 5 năm qua tại Việt Nam. Ngay từ đầu nhiệm kỳ, Chính phủ đã coi đây là một trong những hoạt động trọng tâm, ưu tiên của các bộ, ban, ngành và thường xuyên có chỉ đạo, đôn đốc để các cơ quan cùng chung tay thực hiện. Chưa bao giờ, những từ khoá như “môi trường kinh doanh”, “đơn giản thủ tục hành chính”, “tạo thuận lợi cho doanh nghiệp”… lại được nhắc đi nhắc lại không chỉ ở cấp Chính phủ, mà còn ở nhiều cơ quan khác, ở nhiều diễn đàn chính sách khác. Không chỉ dừng lại ở những lời tuyên bố, Chính phủ đã có những hành động rất cụ thể. Có thể kể đến chương trình bãi bỏ và chuyển đổi hàng ngàn điều kiện kinh doanh ở cấp thông tư lên nghị định trong năm 2016; chương trình rà soát cắt giảm và đơn giản hóa các điều kiện đầu tư kinh doanh ở tất cả các bộ trong năm 2018; hoạt động cắt giảm và minh bạch các quy định về kiểm tra chuyên ngành hàng hóa xuất nhập khẩu…

Cái gì tiếp theo – What comes next:

Cũng theo TS Minh, giai đoạn 2005-2035, cứ hai người trong độ tuổi lao động phải “gánh” chưa đến một người ngoài tuổi lao động. Tuy nhiên, dự báo sau năm 2035, cứ 4 người trong độ tuổi lao động phải gánh 3 người ngoài tuổi lao động. Vì vậy, cơ hội để người trẻ tích lũy, đảm bảo thu nhập lúc về già bị ảnh hưởng; nếu không có chính sách can thiệp kịp thời, Việt Nam “sẽ luẩn quẩn trong vòng xoáy trẻ không có tích lũy, già nghèo khó, ốm đau, bệnh tật“. “Câu chuyện này đặt ra thách thức khác, đó là người trẻ dành thời gian chăm sóc ông bà thì sẽ giảm bớt thời gian lao động, cống hiến cho xã hội. Tức là sức lao động của toàn xã hội có thể bị ảnh hưởng, bởi phải dành một phần nguồn lực khá lớn để chăm sóc người già“, TS Minh nhìn nhận.  Để thích nghi với thời kỳ dân số già, GS Phạm Quang Minh đề xuất các nhà làm chính sách cần đặt ra những khái niệm mới, như: Vấn đề việc làm, hệ thống lương hưu, chăm sóc sức khỏe cho người già… Thay vì tính đến các giải pháp hỗ trợ khẩn cấp, Nhà nước cần có chiến lược tạo điều kiện cho người già có thể chủ động đảm bảo cuộc sống. “Ở các nước phát triển, người già lái taxi rất nhiều, nhưng ở Việt Nam công việc này hầu như chỉ người trẻ tuổi làm. Chúng ta có thể xây dựng chính sác để điều hướng công việc trong xã hội sao cho phù hợp“, GS Minh nêu quan điểm. Nhà nước cần có chính sách giảm tốc độ già hóa dân số bằng cách khuyến khích mức sinh, nhất là ở các đô thị đang có tình trạng mức sinh giảm sâu như TP HCM; nỗ lực tăng năng suất lao động thông qua nâng cao chất lượng nguồn nhân lực, áp dụng khoa học công nghệ, khoa học quản lý.

Trong khi chờ quyết sách, giai đoạn 2016-2020 “cứ hai người tham gia vào hệ thống BHXH thì một người lại rời đi. Xu hướng này tiếp tục gia tăng“, Bộ Lao động Thương binh và Xã hội thống kê. Một người lao động chia sẻ, chị không quan tâm nhiều đến thay đổi chính sách, chị xác định không đóng tiếp BHXH khi đã gần 40 tuổi và rất khó xin việc làm mới. Mối bận tâm duy nhất của chị bây giờ là “nhận được nhiều việc, mỗi tháng kiếm gần chục triệu đồng nuôi chồng con“. Cuốn sổ bảo hiểm màu xanh lá để trong tủ gần ba năm, chị chưa từng giở ra xem lại một lần…

Nhưng những lo ngại của doanh nghiệp cho thấy, cải thiện môi trường kinh doanh trong 5 năm tới sẽ khó khăn hơn rất nhiều so với những gì đã làm được. Âu cũng là quy luật tất yếu, bởi bước từ thể chế kém lên thể chế trung bình thì dễ, nhưng để bước từ thể chế trung bình lên thể chế tốt thì khó khăn hơn rất nhiều. Đây không chỉ là thách thức đối với Chính phủ, mà còn là thách thức đối với cả doanh nghiệp, hiệp hội, các chuyên gia trong nỗ lực thay đổi tốc độ các chương trình cải thiện môi trường kinh doanh.

Dấu hiệu rủi ro – Risk signals:

Theo báo cáo quốc gia Việt Nam “một xã hội đang già hóa“, trong số 13,4 triệu người già, khoảng 64,4% không có lương hưu và trợ cấp, phải sống dựa vào con cháu, người thân hoặc tiếp tục lao động mưu sinh; gần 46% người từ 60 đến 64 tuổi, gần 30% người từ 70 đến 79 tuổi và 10% người hơn 80 tuổi vẫn phải lao động để kiếm sống. Nếu dựa trên chuẩn nghèo quốc gia (thu nhập dưới một triệu đồng mỗi người một tháng ở nông thôn và dưới 1,3 triệu đồng ở thành thị), hiện Việt Nam có 16% người trên 60 tuổi thuộc diện nghèo.

Thời gian giải quyết hồ sơ và yêu cầu minh bạch thông tin đã trở thành yếu tố cốt lõi…

xxx – npl

<Week …>

Population…

Main events:

Hanoi University of Social Sciences and Humanities in collaboration with Justus Liebig Giessen University (Germany) had just released a national report of Vietnam “an aging society“. Vietnam was in a period of golden population but faced many challenges due to the rapidly growing number of elderly and the majority without pensions, with four challenges from Vietnam’s fastest aging population in the world.

In addition, many employees quitted their retirement benefits, which had become a hot phenomenon in society – more than 3.7 million people had chosen to receive a one-time social insurance policy instead of waiting for their pension within 5 years from the moment that The Law on Social Insurance 2014 took effect.

The business world was also seeing signs of a slowdown in the pace of improvement in the business environment. It was worth mentioning that this slowdown was not only in areas that were difficult to improve, but also in indices that were rapidly spurting out.

Why were it affected:

Firstly, it was forecasted that in just two decades (2015-2035), the proportion of the elderly would increase from 7% to 14%, Vietnam would be in a state of “gold is not over, the old coming“; this meaned that it was expected that by 2035, Vietnam was expected to end the golden population period, but since 2015, the population aging rate had increased unexpectedly. Along with that, Vietnam faced the risk of “not getting rich, getting old“. After more than 30 years of reform, Vietnam’s economy had developed rapidly, per capita income had increased, and the life of the majority of the population had been significantly improved. “But to be frankly admitted that economic growth has not taken full advantage of the opportunities and dynamics of the golden population period“, said Prof. Dr. Pham Quang Minh, Head of International Development Research Department. and for example, workers working in industrial zones, each month the average income was from 5 to 6 million dong, “just enough to eat“, not accumulating enough before reaching old age. “The rapid rate of population aging is the biggest challenge facing the policy makers of social security in general and social insurance in particular. Due to the declining birth rate and increasing average life expectancy, we must taking advantage of the golden population time to accelerate development, at the same time having to devote resources to care and ensure social security for the elderly “, said Dr. Minh.

Explaining the “wave” of workers who chose to receive one-time social insurance instead of waiting for their age to receive their pension, Mr. Nguyen Thanh Do, Head of the Legal Policy Department, the Labor Federation of Ho Chi Minh City, said that young workers were increasingly sufferred from many chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and diseases related to nutrient metabolism disorders, partly due to inadequate meals. When they were not healthy enough to work, they left the factory and thought that they would no longer participate in social insurance, so they chose to “withdraw one”. They did not have any accumulated money, so when there were incidents such as illness, house construction, job loss because of Covid-19, they had to find financial resources to compensate. While jobless workers had almost no access to good interest loan packages, they would look to social insurance money once. The social insurance benefits policy was not flexible, the time of payment and benefits was not reasonable, making workers lose their jobs too long to wait for their pension. This position proposed to have preferential loan packages, low interest rates, capital support policies for workers to create jobs when they were unemployed. In the long run, workers’ salaries needed to be enough to ensure their lives and towards accumulation. Social insurance policy needed to be more flexible so that employees could easily access and have confidence.

In the Report on Business Environment Reform Program – a perspective from business published by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), areas of reform that enterprises rated as decreased compared to the previous year including business establishment, access to electricity, access to credit and construction licensing. It is worth mentioning that these were considered the fastest and most impressive areas of reform in the Vietnamese business environment over the years. The enterprises surveyed under the Vietnam Business Environment Reform Program also acknowledged this. They mentioned that the time of registration and business start-up had decreased continuously from 2014 to the present, and was expected to decrease further when 2020 and early 2021 had more new documents on administrative procedures. Tax administrative procedures, social insurance, investment and construction procedures also improved continuously thanks to the involvement of enforcement at all levels. But these improvements were slower than business expectations, even failing to keep up with the rapidly increasing demand for online services in 2020. In particular, the field of real estate registration and land management though It was reported that it had improved quite well in 2018-2019, but was more difficult in 2020. In this section, enterprises said that processing time was longer than regulations, requiring transparency of information about governance. Land management had been proposed for many years, but there was no real improvement.

Key trends:

As a developing country, we must prioritize resources to invest in essential infrastructure. There is a fact that the number of nursing homes and aged care centers across the country is very small“, Dr. Minh analyzed. For many reasons, the number of elderly people who did not have a pension or social allowance is very large in Vietnam. By the end of 2020, nationwide, there would be about 14.1 million people after the retirement age (from 55 years old for women; 60 years old or more for men); Of those, just over 3.1 million were currently enjoying a pension. If including those who were enjoying the social pension (1.8 million people), a total of nearly 5 million people (accounting for 35%) were entitled to the monthly benefits. Thus, up to now, there were still about 9.2 million people after the retirement age (accounting for 65%) that were not covered by the social insurance system or any other social security layer. The number of old people was increasing rapidly and much, so the ability to care for and ensure social security was increasingly difficult, many old people in Vietnam were having health problems. Citing the statistics, Dr. Minh said that nearly 90% of the elderly deaths were due to non-communicable diseases; about 36.5% of people aged 60-64 years suffered from high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and bronchial asthma – diseases that require regular medical care. However, many elderly people were poor, have no income or depend on their children and relatives, and could not afford hospital fees. For people of working age, by 2020, only 33.5% participated in social insurance, still nearly 32 million people (about 66.5%) in this category had not participated.

The Vietnam Social Insurance warned that the one-time withdrawal of social insurance had become “a worrying situation that directly affects the interests of workers and affects the welfare of the State“. Over the past six years, twice amending the Law on Social Insurance, policy makers all wanted to limit their eligibility to receive one-time social insurance. But the provisions in Article 60 in 2015 could not be implemented when faced with a backlash from southern workers. According to expert Nguyen Quang Dong, Director of the Institute of Policy and Communication Development (IPS), many workers consider social insurance booked to be an asset of great value and unique. He suggested that the law should consider recognizing it as an asset like a real estate red book so that they can mortgage it when urgent. The State could assume the prime responsibility for the social policy bank to pilot a few loan products to solve difficulties for workers to choose. This helped the workers had money to solve immediate difficulties while still preserving time to pay social insurance, not leaving the safety net. “Although the current regulations do not allow the mortgage to take away, but the purchase and sale activities are still taking place,” he said.

In the sectors that scored higher than 2019 (including corporate bankruptcy, investor protection, import and export, and tax procedures), the rankings of investor protection and corporate bankruptcy were in book team. It had had to also be emphasized that the reform of the investment, business and business development environment can be seen as one of the policy bright spots in the past five years in Vietnam. Right from the beginning of the term, the Government had considered this as one of the key and prioritized activities of the ministries, departments and branches and regularly directed and urged the agencies to join hands in implementation. Words like “business environment“, “simplifying administrative procedures“, “facilitating enterprises” … had never been repeated, not only at the Government level, but also at many different levels. other agencies, in many other policy forums. Not only the statements, but the Government had also taken extremely specific actions. Including the program to abolish and convert thousands of business conditions at circular level to decrees in 2016; a program to review, reduce and simplify business investment conditions in all ministries in 2018; activities to reduce and make transparent regulations on specialized inspection of import and export goods …

What comes next:

According to Dr. Minh, in the period 2005-2035, for every two people of working age to “carry” less than one person outside the working age. However, it was forecast that after 2035, for every 4 people of working age to bear 3 people outside the working age. Therefore, opportunities for young people to accumulate and ensure income in old age were affected; If there was no timely intervention policy, Vietnam “will be in a vicious cycle of children with no accumulation, old poverty, sickness and disease“. “This story poses another challenge, that young people who spend time taking care of their grandparents will reduce their time to work and contribute to society. That is, the labor force of the whole society can be affected. Because it takes a sizable portion of resources to take care of the elderly “, Dr. Minh admitted. In order to adapt to the aging population period, Prof. Pham Quang Minh proposed policy makers to set up new concepts, such as: Employment issue, pension system, healthcare for the elderly. Instead of taking into account urgent assistance solutions, the State needs a strategy to create favorable conditions for the elderly to actively ensure their lives. “In developed countries, the elderly drive a lot of taxis, but in Vietnam this job is almost exclusively done by young people. We can build precision to navigate work in society accordingly“, Professor Minh stated his point of view. The State should adopt policies to reduce the rate of population aging by encouraging fertility, especially in urban areas where fertility declines deeply such as HCMC; strive to increase labor productivity through improving the quality of human resources, applying science, technology, and management science.

While waiting for a decision, in the 2016-2020 period, “one out of every two people participating in the social insurance system leaves. This trend continues to increase“, according to the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs. An employee shared that she did not pay much attention to changing policies, she determined not to continue paying social insurance when she was nearly 40 years old and it was difficult to apply for a new job. Her only concern now was “getting many jobs, earning nearly ten million dong a month to support her husband and children“. The green insurance book had been kept in the locker for nearly three years, she had never looked back and reviewed it once …

But the concerns of businesses showed that improving the business environment in the next 5 years woukd be much more difficult than what had been done. It was also considered as an inevitable rule, because it was easy to go from poor to medium, but it was much more difficult to step from medium to good. This was not only a challenge for the Government, but also a challenge for businesses, associations, and experts in their efforts to change the speed of business environment improvement programs.

Risk signals:

According to Vietnam’s national report “an aging society“, out of 13.4 million elderly people, about 64.4% had no pensions and allowances, had to depend on children or relatives or continue to work for living; Nearly 46% of people aged 60 to 64 years old, nearly 30% of people aged 70 to 79 years old and 10% of people over 80 years old still had to work for a living. Based on the national poverty line (earning less than one million dong per person per month in rural areas and under 1.3 million dong in urban areas), currently, Vietnam had 16 percent of people over 60 years of age classified as poor.

Processing time and asking for information transparency had become the core …

xxx – npl

Share – “Giang sơn dễ đổi, bản tính khó dời” — Triết Học Đường Phố 2.0

(1568 chữ, 6 phút đọc) Có muôn người dù tên tuổi khác nhau nhưng ở cùng một loại thực tại. Họ nói những câu giống hệt nhau, phản ứng giống hệt nhau, phát ra rung động giống hệt nhau và họ có những hoàn cảnh cũng không khác gì nhau.

“Giang sơn dễ đổi, bản tính khó dời” — Triết Học Đường Phố 2.0

“Giang sơn dễ đổi, bản tính khó dời.” Ông bà ta xưa nay đã nói thì chẳng sai câu nào. Quán tính của con người là một thứ rất khó suy suyển. Nó đã được tích lũy, củng cố qua nhiều năm tháng. Nó được khẳng định thông qua mọi sự kiện xung quanh để người đó càng tin vào quán tính ấy, tin rằng mình là một con người có một tính cách hay phẩm chất hữu hạn nào đó.

“Tôi là người hay nghĩ ngợi như thế này,” “Con người cầu toàn của tôi là như thế đấy,” “Tôi nhiều tuổi rồi nên vậy,” “Tôi quen với sự nóng nảy rồi, việc ngồi yên khiến tôi khó chịu.” Ngay đến cả lúc gặp khổ đau bởi những quán tính của bản thân, đa phần mọi người vẫn cố gắng bảo vệ tính hợp lý của quán tính ấy, coi nó là bản chất thực của mình và không chịu chấp nhận nó là một điều cần phải cải thiện hay có thể cải thiện được. Triệu chứng này được mô tả trong bộ phim kinh điển “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994), đó là những người ngồi tù trong nhiều năm, nếu không nói là gần hết cuộc đời, thì họ bị đồng hóa với môi trường tù ngục ấy. Và dần dà, họ không còn ý muốn đi ra khỏi nó nữa, hoặc khi được mãn hạn ra tù, người ấy không thể nào thích nghi được với thế giới bên ngoài và phải tự tử vì không chịu đựng nổi môi trường tự do. Hay như những người bị nhốt ở ngục tối lâu ngày, đôi mắt họ có thể bị tổn thương mạnh khi va chạm với ánh sáng bên ngoài lúc vừa được thả ra, như được mô tả trong bộ phim Ma Trận kinh điển.

“Tại sao mắt tôi lại đau?” Neo hỏi.

Morpheus trả lời, “Bởi vì anh chưa từng bao giờ sử dụng chúng.”

Nên đối với những người quen hung hăng thì việc sống chậm lại quả là khó khăn. Dù việc đó sẽ cứu rỗi linh hồn họ nhưng nó hủy hoại quán tính sâu đậm bên trong họ, thiêu đốt niềm tin rằng họ là một người vội vàng và khiến họ cảm thấy khó chịu vô cùng. Hay như đối với người ít vận động cơ thể thì chuyện đến phòng tập gym là một cực hình. Những thớ cơ được giãn nở, năng lượng tuôn chảy nhiều thêm sẽ khiến họ đau đớn mệt mỏi, dù rằng nếu cứ tiếp tục luyện tập thì họ sẽ có thân hình săn chắc, mạnh khỏe và tinh thần tự tin tươi tốt.

Với bất kỳ hành vi nào, bạn càng làm thân với nó, càng củng cố và bảo vệ nó, nó càng trở nên ăn sâu vào trong con người bạn, trở thành quán tính, lối sống và thói quen. Bạn sẽ càng khó thay đổi. Nếu đó là những thói quen tiêu cực thì bạn sẽ phải trả giá bằng nhiều sự đau đớn và mất mát hơn khi bạn muốn trở nên tốt đẹp hơn. Giống như khi bạn tích lũy đồ đạc thật nhiều trong nhà thì lúc chuyển nhà bạn sẽ càng phải vất vả, hoặc thậm chí, nhiều đồ quá bạn không còn ý muốn chuyển đi vì nghĩ đến cảnh thu dọn mệt nhọc. Còn đối với những thói quen tích cực khi đã bám rễ, nó sẽ giữ cho bạn ở trong sự cân bằng vui vẻ, bạn khó có thể sa ngã khỏi nó hơn, bạn khó có thể làm điều tiêu cực hơn. Người ở tần số nào sẽ có xu hướng duy trì ở tần số đó.

Có muôn người dù tên tuổi khác nhau nhưng ở cùng một loại thực tại. Họ nói những câu giống hệt nhau, phản ứng giống hệt nhau, phát ra rung động giống hệt nhau và họ có những hoàn cảnh cũng không khác gì nhau. Họ như những bản sao của nhau đang trải dàn khắp địa cầu. Ngay bây giờ, bạn có thể nghĩ rằng mình là một cá thể độc đáo duy nhất. Nhưng khi xem xét về rung động của bạn ở ngưỡng nào thì sẽ thấy trên đời này không thiếu những người cũng giống như bạn.

Nhưng bạn không cần nổi loạn và trở nên khác biệt, mà bạn cần ý thức được mình đang ở loại rung động nào, và rung động ấy sẽ tạo nên thực tại ra sao, thực tại ấy có giúp bạn thấy bình an và hạnh phúc. Việc của bạn là đi tới thực tại nào mà bạn thật sự mong muốn. Mọi thứ xung quanh xuất hiện trước mắt bạn đều có tác dụng như một tấm gương để bạn quan sát lại chính mình.

Những phản ứng rằng “tôi khó thay đổi lắm”, “chuyện ngồi thiền thật không dễ dàng gì”, “tôi chẳng thể thư giãn được đâu” mình đã nghe rất nhiều lần từ rất nhiều người. Và những cá nhân đó đều có nội tâm rối ren và đang chịu khổ sở từng ngày với tâm trí quấy nhiễu. Nhưng các bạn có biết rằng vì ở rung động đó nên bạn có sự phản kháng đó. Việc thay đổi sẽ trở nên là dễ dàng, việc ngồi thiền sẽ không phải là chướng ngại, hay việc thư giãn không còn là một sự gượng ép khổ sở khi bạn bắt đầu thay đổi tần số của chính mình, thay đổi dần dần cách mà bạn rung động và cư xử với thế giới. Nhờ sự thực hành, bạn sẽ dần bước vào một thực tại khác, mà ở đó cách nhìn của bạn với cuộc sống sẽ không còn như lúc bạn ở trong trạng thái nặng nề. Bạn sẽ không còn thấy những mối lo lắng ở đâu nữa, không còn thấy xáo động sợ hãi nào, hay không còn bận tâm về vấn đề mà trước kia bạn liên tục bị ám ảnh trong căng thẳng. Sự thay đổi là bước nhảy qua một rung động khác.

“Khi một cá nhân thay đổi, toàn bộ hệ thống thay đổi.” — Ram Dass

Khi đưa thông điệp này ướm vào những khía cạnh khác, bạn sẽ thấy điều tương tự rằng: khi một hành vi thay đổi, toàn bộ cuộc sống của một người sẽ thay đổi. Bất kỳ sự biến đổi nào, dù nhỏ đến đâu xảy ra bên trong bạn cũng sẽ tạo ra hiệu ứng cánh bướm đủ sức chuyến hóa cục diện của cuộc đời. “Hành trình vạn dặm bắt đầu bằng một bước chân.”

Nên trong số những ai gặp khó khăn vướng mắc trong cuộc sống, người tìm được lối ra, tìm được bình an và hạnh phúc đó là người bắt tay vào thực hành quan sát và cải tiến bản thân. Họ không tiếp tục ngồi ở đó và củng cố thêm thực tại khổ đau mình đã vun trồng bằng cách đấu tranh và phán xét nó. Họ muốn có một kết quả khác, nên họ đã hành động khác đi, họ gieo xuống một thứ hạt giống hoàn toàn khác so với thói quen trước đó.

Thay vì ngồi miên man suy nghĩ về chuyện người kia có yêu mình không, tại sao họ lại bỏ rơi mình, bạn bắt đầu quan sát những suy nghĩ ấy và tập sống trong hiện tại. Thay vì vội vàng tỏ ra giận dữ với người thân cận, bạn bắt đầu dừng lại và để ý đến sự nóng nảy bên trong đang diễn ra thế nào. Thay vì ngắt ngang lời người khác khi đang nói chuyện, bạn bắt đầu kiên nhẫn lắng nghe mọi thứ. Thay vì nghĩ ngợi chuyện ngày mai, bạn bắt đầu tập tin tưởng và phó thác vào sự dẫn dắt của Đất Trời. Thay vì hối hả đi làm mọi chuyện, bạn bắt đầu thao tác chậm lại cùng với nhịp thở đều đều… 

Dù bản tính là khó dời, nhưng nó không phải là không thể thay đổi được. Quan trọng là bạn có thật sự muốn thay đổi hay không mà thôi. Khi đã thật sự khao khát, thì sự kiên trì và nhẫn nại sẽ tự khắc xuất hiện bên trong bạn. Đứng trước khao khát cháy bỏng của con người, một quán tính dù đã bám rễ rất sâu cũng có thể bị nhổ phăng. Nhưng người đó phải bắt đầu hành động, bắt đầu hết lần này đến lần khác, bắt đầu mỗi ngày. Và khao khát được biến đổi của họ phải không được tàn lụi. Họ không ở đó và chỉ ngồi nghĩ về những lý thuyết suông, hay để cho các mệnh đề ngụy biện bắt đầu bằng chữ “nếu” cản chân mình. Khi hoàn cảnh đến, họ làm thật, họ làm những gì đã được người thông thái khuyên răn. Họ vâng phục và biết tin cậy vào lẽ phải. Và vì làm thật nên kết quả là thật.

Trong đời này, hiếm có ai có được hạnh phúc mà không phải trải qua khổ luyện tu tập. Đa phần con người chúng ta đều bị những quán tính tiêu cực che lấp Chân Tâm. Tuy nhiên, bản tính khó dời ấy không phải là để thử thách chướng ngại, mà là để khẳng định lòng tin và sức mạnh tinh thần của con người còn lớn mạnh nhiều lần hơn thế. 

Tác giả: Vũ Thanh Hòa

Ẩm thực – 9 Ways Bananas Can Help You Lose Weight, Say Dietitians

By KIERSTEN HICKMAN

Full link: https://www.eatthis.com/ways-bananas-help-you-lose-weight/?utm_source=nsltr&utm_medium=email&utm_content=news-costco-aldi-top-100-companies&utm_campaign=etntNewsletter

It’s the weight loss superfood you’ve always needed!

banana chia pudding

When it comes to weight loss, bananas don’t seem like the common fruit to turn to. Berries tend to be a superior fruit due to their low carbohydrate and sugar content—along with the high fiber content—while common fruits like bananas and apples sit on the shelf. Why? Because these fruits are higher in carbohydrates and sugar compared to the rest and many have deemed them to be the “unhealthy” fruit to eat. But this is a wild misconception. In fact, many dietitians say that bananas can help you lose weight quickly, making them one of the best fruits to eat for weight loss.

No matter the fruit or the vegetable, having a diet rich in these natural plant foods is key to weight loss success. The USDA My Plate Guidelines even suggest you fill half your plate with fruits and/or vegetables with every single meal. Bananas are certainly on that list of fruits to include on your plate.

“Fruits and vegetables form a crucial part of a healthy diet,” says Edie Reads, RD and chief editor at healthadvise.org. “This usually forms the basic part of my talks, meal plans, and advice to my clients. But given the misinformation in circulation about these fruits, knowing which fruit and when to eat it is crucial. I love bananas, they hardly miss on my and my patients’ grocery shopping lists.”

Here’s why you should consider reaching for a banana if you’re trying to slim down, and for even more healthy eating tips, be sure to check out our list of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.

1

Green bananas make your gut healthier and give you energy.

woman in pink shirt peeling banana
Shutterstock/Alliance Images

“If you eat your bananas whilst they are still a little under-ripe (the less ripe the better in this instance) you actually attain a dense source of gut-healthy prebiotic resistant starch,” says Kara Landau, RD and founder at Uplift Food – Good Mood Food. “This means that you are actually nourishing your gut, assisting with satiety, and helping your cells be more responsive to insulin. When your cells are more responsive to insulin, this impedes one of the usual fat storage mechanisms in your body, and instead, you are able to feel fuller for longer, and may even eat less at your next meal, ultimately supporting total energy intake.”

2

Bananas have fiber, which keeps you full.

banana
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“Bananas have gotten a bad rap in the nutrition world due to their higher carbohydrate content in a carb-phobic world,” says Theresa Gentile, MS, RDN, Owner of Full Plate Nutrition and a media spokesperson for the NY State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “But, bananas can actually help you lose weight if eaten as part of a balanced diet. A medium banana contains 3 grams of total fiber and 0.6 grams of soluble fiber, helping you to feel fuller longer. Unripe bananas also contain resistant starch, which escapes digestion in the gut helping to produce beneficial bacteria in the gut, which may help prevent obesity.”

“This fiber found in plant foods helps keep us fuller longer, which may lead to eating fewer overall calories throughout the day,” says Mackenzie Burgess, RDN, and recipe developer at Cheerful Choices. “To boost this satiety effect, try pairing bananas with a protein like Greek yogurt, peanut butter, or scrambled eggs.”

3

They’re sweet enough to be a healthy dessert.

chocolate dipped bananas
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“Bananas can help you lose weight by incorporating them into your eating habits as a good replacement for sweets/desserts,” says Ricci-Lee Holtz, RD and expert at Testing.com. “If you combine banana with a protein source like almondspeanut butter, or even a cheese stick, this allows your body to feel satiated and help your mind feel satiated by providing that sweet replacement. By replacing dessert treats with a choice like bananas, it can help you lose weight by providing your body with a more nutrient-dense option as opposed to a calorie-dense option that does not have good nutrition, which benefits your body as a whole.”

4

Bananas can help with overeating.

bananas
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“Bananas will help you feel full longer, which can lead to weight loss by avoiding overeating,” says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, a registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements. “Bananas are full of soluble fiber, pectin, and resistant starch, which reduce appetite and increase feelings of fullness post-banana.”

“Bananas are relatively low in calories but have a high fiber content, about 3 grams per medium banana,” says Megan Byrd, RD, from The Oregon Dietitian. “Fiber helps to keep us full because it’s difficult for our bodies to break down, so it stays in our GI tracts for longer periods of time. This gives us the sensation of fullness that helps to curb our cravings and prevents us from overeating later in the day.”

5

Bananas help with blood sugar levels.

oatmeal peanut butter banana almonds nuts
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“Bananas improve insulin sensitivity, which helps the body process glucose more efficiently, thereby reducing weight,” says Best. “Bananas are an excellent source of resistant starch, which has a positive impact on insulin resistance.”

6

Bananas can assist with sleep.

banana granola peanut butter
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“Improvements in sleep can help boost energy throughout the day for more efficient workouts and improved eating,” says Best. “Bananas contain melatonin, the natural chemical responsible for sound sleep, and can help to improve sleep quality.”

According to a study published by the journal Annals of Internal Medicinesleep loss can modify energy intake and expenditure, meaning that a reduced sleep causes a reduced rate of weight loss. Because bananas can help with your sleep quality, they can only benefit your sleep resulting in faster weight loss over time.

7

Bananas help with workouts.

banana slices
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“Your workouts may be more efficient due to fewer muscle cramps as well,” says Best. “Muscle cramps can be associated with an electrolyte imbalance, especially from potassium, and bananas are packed with this nutrient.”

Workouts are important for building muscle, and muscle is closely connected to having a faster metabolism—which aids weight loss over time. Bananas can help keep your muscles healthy and safe and give you that boost of energy you need for a workout.

8

They’re low in calories, but rich in nutrients.

Bananas on a tray
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“A medium-sized banana has about 100 calories and contains 3 grams of fiber,” says Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, and author of Finally Full, Finally Slim. “Bananas are full of fiber which helps keep you full and stabilize blood sugar making them a great food for weight loss. They are also rich in the minerals potassium and magnesium which help muscles relax and may even aid with sleep.”

“[The] pack of nutrients is what fascinates me the most,” says Reads. “It has a perfect balance of vitamins (B6 and C), fiber, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and carbs—a larger percentage of which consists of calories. The number of calories in bananas is often the reason most people associate bananas with weight gain. However, please note that a banana contains only 102 calories, 12% of your recommended calorie intake.”

9

Bananas help prevent belly bloat.

bananas
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“Banana is a great addition to a healthy diet as it has a wide range of important nutrients and fibers,” says Shannon Henry, RD for EZCare Clinic. “It doesn’t reduce weight directly but helps to prevent bloating, control appetite, and it is a good replacement for processed sugar.”

Ẩm thực – The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipes, According to Eater Editors

By Eater Staff 

Full link: https://www.eater.com/22276743/best-chocolate-chip-cookie-recipes-easy-baking?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NATIONAL%20-%2021721&utm_content=NATIONAL%20-%2021721+Version+B+CID_8fcc906125a41986b8779de24645c99e&utm_source=cm_email&utm_term=The%20best%20chocolate%20chip%20cookie%20recipes%20according%20to%20Eater%20editors

From tall and fluffy to chewy and dense, your next perfect chocolate chip cookie might be among this batch

Two hands pull apart a chocolate chip cookie.
Canna Obscura/Shutterstock

What constitutes the “perfect” chocolate chip cookie is an intensely personal calculus: a balance of your preference for chewiness versus crispiness, multiplied by your desired chocolate-to-dough ratio then divided by the ideal salty savoriness versus chocolatey sweetness (clearly, actual calculus is not our strong suit). But Eater editors’ go-to recipes run the gamut of cookie options, from tall and fluffy to chewy and dense, meaning your next perfect cookie recipe might be among this batch:


Rye chocolate chip cookies: The first time I encountered a rye chocolate chip cookie was at the Atticus Bookstore Cafe in New Haven, Connecticut. I fell hard and fast for the deep, savory hit from the rye flour, which balanced out the rich sweetness of a typical chocolate chip cookie. So, of course, I frantically looked for a recipe to create at home and stumbled upon this gem from Milk Street. Yes, the recipe is a little labor intensive, but toasting that rye flour and adding butter to it right off the stove is worth the final product. I’d take these cookies out on the earlier side of the recommended time since they firm up further on a cooling rack, leaving you with a crisp yet chewy and soft-centered cookie. If you, like me, enjoy a note of savoriness in your sweets, then this recipe will quickly become a keeper. — Tanay Warerkar, Eater NY reporter

BA’s best chocolate chip cookiesGrowing up, the only chocolate chip cookie I ever knew was the one baked from the recipe on the back of the Toll House bag. It wasn’t until recently that I started looking into different recipes; that’s when I stumbled upon Bon Appétit’s best chocolate chip cookie recipe by Chris Morocco. There’s something about browned butter that turns this classic cookie into something elevated. It doesn’t hurt that the recipe is also incredibly simple and works perfectly despite my lack of patience with butter softening. Pro tip: Throw in some toffee bits for an extra crunch and an even more nutty, buttery, decadent taste. — Alyssa Nassner, art director, Vox Media Editorial Networks

BraveTart chocolate chip cookies: Stella Parks is a baking genius and her chocolate chip cookie recipe is the BEST THING EVER. I’ve never made the base recipe by itself, but I swear by the brown butter version available in her bake book. It’s been fun experimenting with variations on certain ingredients. I’ve played around with adding varying temperatures of the brown butter to the cookie dough mixture, for instance: The still-hot liquid results in a crispier, saltier cookie, but I prefer the cooler brown butter version, which is softer. I’ve also experimented with chocolate quantities and varieties (I’m fond of adding more milk chocolate). I’ve even made a duck egg version, which resulted in a taller cookie. But, as always, the cookie is beautifully sweet and slightly salty, soft and chewy. It’s my go-to cookie for parties (when we used to have them) and now for socially distanced drop-offs. — Nadia Chaudhury, Eater Austin editor

Super-thick chocolate chip cookiesI don’t know if I’m the target audience for this recipe, given I have never visited Levain Bakery or tried one of its famous cookies (though apparently now I can locally), but I was intrigued by its decadence and sold on its relative simplicity. There are smart tips woven throughout (such as the suggestion to weigh the size of your cookie scoop to know if you’re getting the right quantity of dough, as well as the internal temperature guidelines to determine whether these giant cookies are actually done). I love making them as gifts, particularly hostess ones — there’s just something festive about showing up with a batch of gargantuan cookies when a single one could probably serve four. — Missy Frederick, cities director

Buckwheat chocolate chip cookies: Sister Pie in Detroit is best known for, well, pies, but when I visit the West Village corner bakery, I always make sure to order at least two of its buckwheat chocolate chip cookies. These gray beauties have a not-too-sweet flavor that goes perfectly with the chocolate chips and a little flaky salt on top. Bonus: These cookies are gluten free. — Brenna Houck, cities manager

Smitten Kitchen’s consummate chocolate chip cookie, revisitedI didn’t find this recipe until the start of the pandemic last year, but I’ve made them multiple times since, and to me, they truly are the consummate chocolate chip cookie. They’re huge, so rather than the kind of cookie you grow up eating, they’re more like the ones you’d get from a coffee shop or bakery as a treat. (They’d fall even further into this category if I actually bought the fancy chocolate feves the recipe calls for, but I’ve found they’re still very good with the slightly squat 60 percent chips Ghirardelli makes.) The best part about them is their size — you never feel cheated out of chocolate or crispy edges. My recommendation is to make a batch and freeze the 100-gram dough balls so you have the ideal amount of cookie, which is to say five inches of cookie, whenever the mood strikes. — Monica Burton, editor

Fluffy chocolate chip cookiesPatience, my pretty. For fluffy mounds of chocolate chip cookies, I turn to this recipe for a veritable muffin top of a sweet that uses cold butter and a little cornstarch to help it rise while baking. A 30-minute chill session before popping them in the oven, six at a time, prevents the cookies from spreading. Just consider the amount of time needed to chill the cookies before baking as a tradeoff for the minutes spent bringing butter to room temperature in traditional chocolate chip cookies. Cinnamon, almond extract, and two types of chocolate give them extra depth. — Susan Stapleton, Eater Vegas editor

Ẩm thực – The Architect Baking Bread Along the Border Wall

By XIMENA N. LARKIN

Full link: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/what-is-horno?utm_source=Gastro+Obscura+Weekly+E-mail&utm_campaign=94a174a0d5-GASTRO_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2021_02_16&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_2418498528-94a174a0d5-70327933&mc_cid=94a174a0d5&mc_eid=df51e46713

Ronald Rael just finished building his first horno with migrants seeking asylum.

Everyone celebrated the completion of the horno with a meal of chicken stew.
Everyone celebrated the completion of the horno with a meal of chicken stew. COURTESY OF ALIGHT

AT FIRST GLANCE, AN HORNO does not make much of an impression. Spanish for “oven,” it looks like little more than mounds of mud: Imagine a giant avocado pit halved and placed flat-side down with a window cut out of it. And yet, award-winning designer Ronald Rael wants to build hundreds of these centuries-old furnaces.

Pedacito de la Tierra, or A Little Piece of Home, in partnership with the humanitarian-aid organization Alight, is Rael’s third art installment in a series of projects along the U.S. Border wall. In 2009, he imagined a Burrito Wall, with an area to accommodate a food truck and built-in tables on opposite sides of the border wall that would allow Mexicans and Americans to share a meal. The project was never executed, so Rael reimagined the concept: In 2019, children bounced up and down on three pink seesaws that straddled the border wall. This was Rael’s Teeter-Totter Wall.

Rael’s most recent project, inspired by his grandmother, focuses on building hundreds of hornos for migrants waiting in Mexico to receive American asylum. He wants to honor their heritage and build community in the border shelters, and on November 11, 2020, he and migrant breadmaker Juan Carols Delgado slid loaves into the first horno, which they built together in Nogales, Mexico.

Rael and Delgado in front of the horno they built.
Rael and Delgado in front of the horno they built. COURTESY OF RONALD RAEL

“My great-grandmother was [often] called upon to cook for weddings, funerals, and church events,” says Rael. “The year I discovered that she cooked on an horno was the same year that her beautiful adobe-ruin home finally fell to the ground.”

Hornos are a traditional cooking method of Latin America and the American Southwest, including in Colorado, where Rael grew up and still lives. (They arrived in the Americas with the Spanish, who got them from the Moors.) But most have shared the fate of his great-grandmother’s house, whose collapse Rael viewed as a literal depiction of how history and culture can disappear without proper care or champions of their legacy.

As he got to work, Rael came to appreciate that an horno’s modest appearance belies the complex architectural skills required to build one. The difficulty arises from their domed roofs, which are made from sandstone cut into blocks, adobe bricks made of clay, straw, and sand, or lava rocks.

“It’s really hard work, to be honest,” Rael says. “An adobe brick is heavy and weighs about 40 pounds. And it’s several hundred of these you’re picking up.”

In it goes!
In it goes! COURTESY OF ALIGHT

Rael came up with the idea for Pedacito de la Tierra at the start of 2020. By November he was in Nogales, Mexico, building the first horno at Casa de la Misericordia. Upon arrival, Rael asked residents to raise their hands if they were familiar with adobe houses and hornos. Almost every hand went up. Rael realized he would be learning from the residents, and his project would be a collaboration. When they started laying bricks, one of the migrants stood out: Delgado.

Delgado hails from a family of breadmakers in Guatemala. The knowledge to build an horno was passed from one generation to another until it reached Delgado. While Rael had the architectural knowledge to create, Delgado had the experience to build. Alongside a handful of helpers, the two went to work.

Rael and Delgado leveled a mound of gravel, then placed bricks on top of the rock formation to create a drainage system. From there they stacked bricks, one by one, in the shape of a circle. (Each of the base’s six layers consisted of around 20 bricks.) They formed a cooking surface with dirt and rocks, threw sand into every hole for stability, and moved upward with precision to avoid collapsing the roof from asymmetries. A mortar of mud and straw helped bond everything together, and they gave the mixture time to dry and crack, so they could fill those holes and repeat the process until the tears disappeared.

Building the horno was a group project.
Building the horno was a group project. COURTESY OF ALIGHT

“When I’m building these hornos, part of me is transported back in time,” says Rael. “I’m thinking about the stories that are being made and shared around the horno.”

After three days of construction, the group gathered for their first meal using the horno. More than 60 people celebrated with estofado de pollo, a Peruvian chicken-stew dish. Rael says the food reflected the migrant culture currently represented at the shelter, but it also served a more utilitarian requirement. It fit the organization’s budget of 53 cents per meal.

Because so much of the material needed to build and operate an horno comes from the earth, Rael says food will taste different depending on where an horno is built. The clay and wood impart different flavors, and cultures use hornos in different ways. He compares this flavor complexity to terroir in wine.

Rolling out the dough before using the horno.
Rolling out the dough before using the horno. COURTESY OF ALIGHT

“In migrant shelters, there are people from many different countries, not just Latin America,” says Rael, who met migrants from far-flung places like Russia at Casa de Misericordia. “Something we thought would help bring them together was food—cooking and sharing recipes.”

Rael describes the first horno meal at Nogales as magical. People from different parts of the world set tables, cooked, and cleaned up together. Connections were made and stories were told. They were not just migrants, but mothers, fathers, comedians, teachers, builders. Rael hopes to build hundreds more hornos along the border.

“We forget about the movements of people, food, and trade that made [the U.S.] beautiful,” says Rael. “If we were more welcoming, we’d have more beauty.”

Kungfu – Speed Needs Strength: Fitness for Martial Artists

By Jason Kelly 

Full link: https://blackbeltmag.com/martial-arts-speed-training?utm_campaign=BBM%20FY21&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=122847596&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8BH_tm3gFZ9wcHSRSwml7Sj1Zd5CJs1AP1IOat1Kz2u1G5TcETLMJ1ObP23U0aZkXDBjURAnuRVN-10qnVwXOX5Vlg8A&utm_content=122847596&utm_source=hs_email

Speed Training for Martial Arts
www.themodestman.com

Doing speed and strength training together on the same day will not optimize your speed and power and make you slower. However, there are strategic ways to combine them. But first, understand the process.

If you want to get faster, you need to reduce the weight you are moving. As resistance and force goes up, speed goes down. Therefore, speed requires a reduction in resistance in order to move fast. You can simply see this by doing a 1-rep max in comparison to an 8-rep max. Just training strength and heavy all the time, will slow you down. Strength training, lifting heavy is good. It has a place and time. Lifting heavy, using 5 reps, for a 4-week training cycle is perfect start before implementing speed training because it increases the rate of force. However, there has to be a crossover, a transfer.

Strength training is required to increase the amount of force you can sustain. For example, strength training blocks are done to develop as much strength as you can before or incorporated with speed. For instance, speed training requires you to cut your max strength 30 to 70%. Let’s just use 50% for now to be simple for the equation. If your strength index is 50, then your speed training would be 25. Now, if your strength index increases to 80 after 4-weeks, the amount of force you can move for speed training is 40. You have to understand the trade off if you want to develop speed. It is essential to back away from heavy weights in exchange for lighter weights to develop speed effectively.

Your technique is what is most important and should be done before your speed training or drills. Speed drills should always be done second and strength last. So, doing strength before technique and speed will diminish the result. If you do strength training before speed, you will be cheating your speed development.

The Best Strength Training Method for Speed

In order to develop and maximize your strength and speed ability, you must optimize your potential. Slow Eccentric Training (SET) does this the best. To make a long, well not so long, but scientific story short, there are two proprioceptors that need to coordinate and synchronize force that is only accomplished through slow eccentric training. Resistance training does not really maximize strength potential and the difference in strength development is big! SET enhances strength instantly.

Mainly, SET develops the correct mechanisms for speed.

  • It synchronizes proprioceptors to activate and strengthen something called, the stretch reflex, for muscles to absorb force and not dissipate it. The more force it can absorb the faster and more explosive you can be. Resistance training dissipates the force more.
  • When you move fast, without proprioceptor synchronization, muscles will dissipate force. Muscles need to train to absorb force to use the stretch reflex appropriately for explosiveness and speed.
  • SET prepares the stretch reflex and muscles for faster movements.
  • And, it activates and recruits fast-twitch fibers needed for explosiveness and speed.

The slower the muscle stretches under a weight/load, the longer the stiffness will remain and muscle will absorb force. The proprioceptors synchronize and coordinate when done slowly.

  • Let’s use the deadlift as a practical example. When you perform a deadlift slowly, you can feel your hamstrings stiffen and stretch, through the whole eccentric lowering phase. This is the stretch reflex producing muscular stiffness, regulating and guiding your stretch right from the start because of lifting a heavy weight that adds force and tension. Also, the slower movement activates and recruits the fast twitch fibers. When force is high, fast twitch fibers kick on. And, that is the connection in the crossover of slow eccentric movements and speed; training and developing the stretch reflex and fast-twitch fibers to activate and absorb force. The stretch reflex, strongly stiffens the muscles during the eccentric loading phase to maintain control so your muscles are not lax during the motion. Any laxity would cause strain or injury.

The faster, the more ballistic the muscle stretches, the stronger, faster and stiffer the stretch reflex will occur. When you move fast eccentrically, you activate fast-twitch fibers as well.

  • The kettlebell swing is a great example for fast/ballistic eccentric motion. Visualize the downward phase of the kettlebell swing. As the bell swings down under your hips, the motion needs to be a fast-eccentric motion to generate a high amount of force to initiate the stretch reflex. If the weight is too heavy to swing or after a few heavy swings, the proprioceptors slow down the motion to reduce tension.

Another example is the vertical jump. When you use a fast-eccentric motion into the downward squat phase of the jump, it generates a high amount of eccentric force that gets loaded into the stretch reflex. The stronger the stretch reflex reaction, the more force it is capable of generating to propel you high in your jump. The stretch reflex is also initiated to return muscles back to their original shape and position after the stretch. If it did not do this, the muscles would remain lax, hence, the importance of muscular stiffening.

The stronger your stretch reflex, the more force can be loaded or sustained, making it the best factor to develop strength and prevent injury because of its enhanced force production capability.

So, the more effective and responsive the stretch reflex, the quicker, fast and more agile you can be.

Collection – 7 ways to avoid becoming a misinformation superspreader

By H. Colleen Sinclair PhD

Full link: https://ideas.ted.com/7-ways-to-avoid-becoming-a-misinformation-superspreader/?utm_source=ideasweekly&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ideasblog&utm_content=20210423-1

Angus Greig

The problem of misinformation isn’t going away.

Internet platforms like Facebook and Twitter have taken some steps to curb its spread and say they are working on doing more. But no method yet introduced has been completely successful at removing all misleading content from social media. The best defense, then, is self-defense.

Misleading or outright false information — broadly called “misinformation” — can come from websites pretending to be news outlets, political propaganda or “pseudo-profound” reports that seem meaningful but are not. Disinformation is a type of misinformation that is deliberately generated to maliciously mislead people. Disinformation is intentionally shared, knowing it is false, but misinformation can be shared by people who don’t know it’s not true, especially because people often share links online without thinking.

Emerging psychology research has revealed some tactics that can help protect our society from misinformation. Here are seven strategies you can use to avoid being misled, and to prevent yourself – and others – from spreading inaccuracies.

1. Educate yourself

The best inoculation against what the World Health Organization is calling the “infodemic” is to understand the tricks that agents of disinformation are using to try to manipulate you.

One strategy is called “prebunking” — a type of debunking that happens before you hear myths and lies. Research has shown that familiarizing yourself with the tricks of the disinformation trade can help you recognize false stories when you encounter them, making you less susceptible to those tricks.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed an online game called “Bad News,” which their studies have shown can improve players’ identification of falsehoods.

In addition to the game, you can also learn more about how internet and social media platforms work, so you better understand the tools available to people seeking to manipulate you. You can also learn more about scientific research and standards of evidence, which can help you be less susceptible to lies and misleading statements about health-related and scientific topics.

Badges identify ways misinformation exploits people's minds
Playing the ‘Bad News’ online game illustrates different ways information warriors can prey on people’s psychological vulnerabilities.

2. Recognize your vulnerabilities

The prebunking approach works for people across the political spectrum, but it turns out that people who underestimate their biases are actually more vulnerable to being misled than people who acknowledge their biases.

Research has found people are more susceptible to misinformation that aligns with their preexisting views. This is called “confirmation bias,” because a person is biased toward believing information that confirms what they already believe.

The lesson is to be particularly critical of information from groups or people with whom you agree or find yourself aligned – whether politically, religiously, or by ethnicity or nationality. Remind yourself to look for other points of view, and other sources with information on the same topic.

It is especially important to be honest with yourself about what your biases are. Many people assume others are biased, but believe they themselves are not — and imagine that others are more likely to share misinformation than they themselves are.

3. Consider the source

Media outlets have a range of biases. The Media Bias Chart describes which outlets are most and least partisan as well as how reliable they are at reporting facts.

You can play an online game called “Fakey” to see how susceptible you are to different ways news is presented online.

When consuming news, make sure you know how trustworthy the source is or whether it’s not trustworthy at all. Double-check stories from other sources with low biases and high fact ratings to find out who — and what — you can actually trust, rather than just what your gut tells you.

Also, be aware that some disinformation agents make fake sites that look like real news sources – so make sure you’re conscious of which site you are actually visiting. Engaging in this level of thinking about your own thinking has been shown to improve your ability to tell fact from fiction.

4. Take a pause

When most people go online, especially on social media, they’re there for entertainment, connection or even distraction. Accuracy isn’t always high on the priority list. Yet few want to be a liar, and the costs of sharing misinformation can be high – to individuals, their relationships and society as a whole. Before you decide to share something, take a moment to remind yourself of the value you place on truth and accuracy.

Thinking “is what I am sharing true?” can help you stop the spread of misinformation and will encourage you to look beyond the headline and potentially fact-check before sharing.

Even if you don’t think specifically about accuracy, just taking a pause before sharing can give you a chance for your mind to catch up with your emotions. Ask yourself whether you really want to share it, and if so, why. Think about what the potential consequences of sharing it might be.

Research shows that most misinformation is shared quickly and without much thought. The impulse to share without thinking can even be more powerful than partisan sharing tendencies. Take your time. There is no hurry. You are not a breaking-news organization upon whom thousands depend for immediate information.

5. Be aware of your emotions

People often share things because of their gut reactions, rather than the conclusions of critical thinking. In a recent study, researchers found that people who viewed their social media feed while in an emotional mindset were significantly more likely to share misinformation than those who went in with a more rational state of mind.

Anger and anxiety, in particular, make people more vulnerable to falling for misinformation.

6. If you see something, say something

Stand up to misinformation publicly. It may feel uncomfortable to challenge your friends online, especially if you fear conflict. The person to whom you respond with a link to a Snopes post or other fact-checking site may not appreciate being called out.

But evidence shows that explicitly critiquing the specific reasoning in the post and providing counterevidence like a link about how it is fake is an effective technique.

Even short-format refutations — like “this isn’t true” — are more effective than saying nothing. Humor — though not ridicule of the person — can work, too. When actual people correct misinformation online, it can be as effective, if not more so, as when a social media company labels something as questionable.

People trust other humans more than algorithms and bots, especially those in our own social circles. That’s particularly true if you have expertise in the subject or are a close connection with the person who shared it.

An additional benefit is that public debunking notifies other viewers that they may want to look more closely before choosing to share it themselves. So even if you don’t discourage the original poster, you are discouraging others.

7. If you see someone else stand up, stand with them

If you see someone else has posted that a story is false, don’t say “well, they beat me to it so I don’t need to.” When more people chime in on a post as being false, it signals that sharing misinformation is frowned upon by the group more generally.

Stand with those who stand up. If you don’t and something gets shared over and over, that reinforces people’s beliefs that it is OK to share misinformation — because everyone else is doing it, and only a few, if any, are objecting.

Allowing misinformation to spread also makes it more likely that even more people will start to believe it — because people come to believe things they hear repeatedly, even if they know at first they’re not true.

There is no perfect solution. Some misinformation is harder to counter than others, and some countering tactics are more effective at different times or for different people. But you can go a long way toward protecting yourself and those in your social networks from confusion, deception and falsehood.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

Watch H. Colleen Sinclair‘s TEDxTU talk here:

Collection – Grief, loss, burnout: Navigating a new emotional landscape at work

By Bryan Hancock, Bill Schaninger

Full link: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/the-organization-blog/grief-loss-burnout-navigating-a-new-emotional-landscape-at-work?cid=other-eml-alt-mip-mck&hdpid=cbc59a18-4b7c-4401-8393-bb4848f8d2be&hctky=2618809&hlkid=0f148947ee754ac78141c4d077de0372#

A discussion to help leaders address complex and uncomfortable topics in the midst of returning to offices.

April 19, 2021People have had to navigate an all-new emotional landscape amid the COVID-19 crisis. As we look with hope to the post-pandemic recovery, leaders must continue to address complex and uncomfortable topics such as grief, loss, and burnout that many employees will still experience for a long time to come. In extracts from a McKinsey Talks Talent podcast episode—“Grief, loss, burnout: Talking about complex feelings at work”—Bryan Hancock and Bill Schaninger discuss what they are hearing from leaders around the world and how they can improve their approach to organizational health.

Question: Let’s set the stage for this complex topic. What does the data say about the emotional landscape in the workplace?

Bryan: I recently saw an interesting study where more than 40 percent of folks surveyed described a decline in mental health during the COVID-19 crisis. Even more shocking, nearly 40 percent of respondents said no one had called to ask, “How are you doing?” No supervisor. No one. And the folks who hadn’t been checked on had a 38 percent higher likelihood of reporting that they weren’t doing well. Checking in on people is so important. It’s amazing, the extent to which it makes a difference—and also the extent to which it’s not being done.

Q: We don’t normally talk about topics like grief in the workplace. Why do leaders find it hard to open up about issues like grief, anxiety, and depression?

Bill: If you think of the past 25 years, there’s been a shift toward interactions becoming more antiseptic, more sanitized. “How are you doing?” isn’t asking for an honest response. It’s a genericized greeting. Now, we actually want to know how you’re doing. But for many leaders, that starting point is missing. They weren’t talking about it beforehand, which can make it harder now.

Bryan: We worked with a client who tackled organizational health during the pandemic. When we got back the scores and were discussing improvements, the leader decided to tell a very personal change story. She talked openly to the entire staff about what really mattered to her. Afterward, employees gathered in virtual breakout rooms and the quality of the conversation was great. My favorite comment was when one employee said to another, “What you said was amazing. But I didn’t hear the personal part of it, and we all need to hear that. I’m going to wait until you make it personal.”

Q: We understand the immensity of the pain of losing a friend or a loved one, but there are subtler kinds of grieving as well. What do we mean when we talk about grief and loss in the context of the workforce?

Bill: “Loss” is the right word. And yes, obvious and transparent loss involves the death of a loved one. But this crisis has been such a major disruption to our sources of identity and, in many cases, our interactions. For people who spend a lot of time at work, there’s a big gaping hole: What will they do outside it?

And for many, loneliness is real, full stop. Previous behaviors—for instance, going to the gym, going to a bar, or going to hang out at a friend’s house—are often no longer possible. That means the loss of previous sorts of connections, and loss of agency, our own sense of “This is what I do.” Lots of people long for how their lives were and aren’t sure what to do with their lives now. Just even opening with the willingness to have that conversation is a good start.

Q: Let’s talk about returning to the office, for those still working remotely. Some colleagues may be raring to get back; others, no way. How can leaders manage that transition in a way that protects psychological safety?

Bill: Leaders can’t be self-indulgent in calling for people to return. I know a leader who forced the issue of returning to the office, and employees who had reservations didn’t feel heard. That burns down the goodwill credit. This is the moment to anchor on what we stand for, how we know we’re going to have impact in how we run the place, and lean into that by acknowledging what people feel safe doing. We’re talking about lives and livelihoods, not just livelihoods.

Q: What happens once we’ve finally moved beyond this pandemic? Do you expect a more secular change in the way leaders interact with employees?

Bryan: I hope so. One of my favorite people leaders had a saying, “People have a lot of life going on.” That was true before the pandemic, it’s true now, and it’ll be true after. What the pandemic has done is amplified the amount of life going on and given us all a front row seat to it. I’m hoping we now have learned how to have the right conversations and we continue having them.

Landscape – Digital trade integral to East Asia’s recovery and dynamism

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

Full link: https://www.eastasiaforum.org/2021/04/19/digital-trade-integral-to-east-asias-recovery-and-dynamism/?utm_source=subscribe2&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=postnotify&utm_id=344006&utm_title=Digital%20trade%20integral%20to%20East%20Asia%26rsquo%3Bs%20recovery%20and%20dynamism

For decades, trade hovered confidently over the Asia Pacific region as its vital growth engine. As average tariffs fell from 17 per cent in 1989 to 5.3 per cent in 2018, regional trade multiplied — faster than the rest of the world — along with jobs and incomes. Deepening integration even helped the region to bounce back from shocks as severe as the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and the 2008–09 global financial crisis.

A worker walks on stacks of containers at the Tanjung Priok port in
Jakarta, Indonesia, 22 January 2021 (Photo: Reuters/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana).

Escalation of geopolitical tensions seems to have unsettled trade from its perch. As rivalries heightened and criticism of globalisation grew in recent years, the multilateral trading system on which Asia’s prosperity and security had been based was challenged and the WTO’s relevance called into question.

It took a global pandemic to shift the narrative. What the COVID-19 pandemic has done more than anything else is accentuate the importance of the digital economy in the future of the global economy, and how Asia is set to lead its rapid digital transformation.

Our latest issue of East Asia Forum Quarterly, ‘Reinventing global trade’, launched today, illustrates how the region’s economies have emerged from the COVID-19 crisis bruised but not defeated. Supply chains have proven surprisingly resilient, partly because of their greater interconnectivity within Asia. Lockdowns have accelerated digital transformation to the benefit of small and medium-sized businesses. Some countries such as Singapore, New Zealand and Chile have finalised partnerships aimed at expanding the digital economy. Even long-brewing mega trade agreements like the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) came to fruition in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis, highlighting the leadership of regional groupings such as ASEAN.

In our lead article from EAFQ this week, Homi Kharas and Meagan Dooley observe that ‘East Asian economies are famous for delivering growth with equity and for their export orientation, as reflected today in their participation in global and regional value chains’. In a world that continues to live with COVID-19, these features are likely to become more important.

‘East Asian trade will rise in global trade importance because the scale of the region’s economic recovery is larger and faster than anywhere else’, say Kharas and Dooley. ‘Asia was already the second most integrated regional trade network after the European Union in 2019’. ‘East Asia’s trading system is likely to become more inclusive and sustainable as it shifts to using digital platforms. Although there is still a digital divide in the region … new digital platforms are encouraging the participation of small farmers and small firms in international trade, including those owned by women, and opening opportunities for many near-poor people’.

East Asia already accounts for 40 per cent of the world’s middle class, Kharas and Dooley point out. In a decade it is likely to exceed the middle class in Europe, North America and Latin America combined. Increasing competition to serve this new consumer market is now driving East Asian innovation. Companies are quickly adopting new digital tools that expand consumer choice and shrink the distance between the producer and consumer. East Asia is leading the global e-commerce revolution, with Chinese tech giants like Alibaba and Tencent driving growth and the application of digital technologies in daily commerce. Of the estimated US$3.8 trillion in revenue generated worldwide on digital platforms (including e-commerce, online travel, advertising technology, transportation, e-services and digital media) US$1.8 trillion was in Asia. Nearly 60 per cent of global e-commerce business alone was transacted in Asia. China is at the forefront with 45 per cent of global e-commerce sales. In the next decade, according to Kharas and Dooley, the digital economy is expected to add US$1 trillion to Asia’s GDP.

East Asian recovery and growth beyond the COVID-19 pandemic will be powered by digital platforms. It’s likely to be strong and inclusive if countries continue to invest big in digital infrastructure and human capital. The challenge will be to coordinate on essential oversight and regulatory arrangements necessary to a flourishing cross-national border digital economy. There’s an urgency in the development of multilateral digital principles to guide international digital commerce and avoid a fractured global system. As the G20 and other groupings discuss ways forward, middle powers in Asia, such as ASEAN, can work to shape global outcomes through acting in Asia and the Pacific to build an inclusive and workable cooperation agenda.

Asia’s economic bruise from COVID-19 is real. Many countries are still struggling under fiscal pressures exacerbated by the pandemic. But speculation about China losing ascendancy is yet unproven. Even as investors pursue China+1 policies, foreign direct investment in China remains robust — it was the largest destination for global FDI in 2020, topping the United States for the first time. China is also increasing its investments across Southeast Asia, while ASEAN helps to shape the region’s new trade architecture. The modern high-octane fuel for resilient East Asian supply chains and tenacious economic integration is digital technology.

In anticipation of the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference this November, Asia’s eyes are on two key players whose roles are not yet clear: India and the United States. If India continues to forge its own separate way, that will certainly weigh down on the region’s future and the diffusion of economic growth. Similarly, where the United States heads, particularly in response to the new WTO leadership and on its posture towards competitors and partners in the Pacific, will influence how the digital economic revolution that’s sweeping across Asia is embraced across the world.

The EAF Editorial Board is located in the Crawford School of Public Policy, College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University.

Note – Blooloop’s Weekend News Roundup 📣

In the news

Squint/Opera brings immersive media to redeveloped Skydeck Chicago
Vingroup opens $2.8bn Phu Quoc United Center complex
Denver Art Museum opening renovated campus on October 24
Disney developing new solar facilities at Walt Disney World
ProSlide presents first family rafting MammothBLAST water coaster
Dynamic Attractions brings new flying theatre to The Island in Pigeon Forge
The Strong breaks ground on phase two of expansion project
Listen Technologies named on 2021 Shatter List
greenloop is proud to support to Earth Day
Modern storytelling at MCNY – The Museum of the City of New York
Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure set to open interactive Dippy’s Theatre
RWS’ sustainable gadgets provide eco-friendly operations
Arc Bristol glass viewing cabin plans approved
AIB’s FUTURES exhibit will feature AI-driven design experience
DOF Robotics presents new Tally Trade Model with Eximbank
Sunkid brings Lighthouse Lift-Off to Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
RocketRez welcomes new COO and new Vice President, Global Growth
HOLOGATE announces release of Blasters of the Universe: VR Bullet Hell
The Grand Egyptian Museum: everything we know so far
Crying wolf: is immersive art a forgery or the real thing?
Vivaticket provides facial recognition at major events in Dubai
San Antonio Zoo breaks ground on ‘jaguar catwalk’ expansion
Mad Systems celebrates success of ARC’s Learning Center this Earth Day
Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure seeks talented Marketing and Communications Manager
project:syntropy delivers flyDome AV system with full dome projection
Disney launches plastic-free boxes for dolls ahead of Earth Day
Harry Potter New York flagship store opening date set for June 3
London Resort unveils Base Camp dino land and attractions
Genting SkyWorlds Theme Park: adventure in the Malaysian mountains
3 inspirational lessons to take from Joe Rohde’s move to Virgin Galactic
Doctor Who: Time Fracture complete and preparing to launch in May
Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts on track to open in May 2022
Alterface celebrates 20 years in the business
Colliers highlights what makes a surf park a successful destination
Aardman Animation celebrates success of Shaun the Sheep’s Circus Show
Massivit to host launch webinar for Massivit 5000 large-volume 3D printing system
Universal Beijing Resort unveils hotels ahead of opening
Retro attractions: selling nostalgia and throwback experiences
Raven Sun Creative launches new website with case studies & industry insights
Treading Lightly with Extreme International

In depth

The Grand Egyptian Museum: what we know so far MORE
Genting SkyWorlds Theme Park MORE
Modern storytelling at MCNY MORE
Retro attractions: nostalgia and throwback experiences MORE
3 lessons from Joe Rohde’s move to Virgin Galactic MORE
Crying wolf: is immersive art a forgery or real? MORE

Note – McKinsey: Business building for banks: Now’s the moment to beat back competition

This week, how the banking industry can address a growing pack of challengers. Plus, what employees are saying about the future of remote work, and Denise Woods on the power of voice.

big blue arrow pointed up and littel pink arrows pointed down
Banking surge. A year ago, some of the biggest global banks were girding for trouble, socking away cash as a buffer against potential losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But Main Street’s pain has largely missed Wall Street, and many of those same banks are now reporting strong earnings, releasing part of their cash cushions and seeing economic recovery ahead.
Longer-range challenge. That positions the banking industry to address a decade of competition from digital technology, as well as from the growing pack of challengers with low barriers to entry. Fintechs are attracting millions of new customers—users who are overwhelmingly satisfied with incorporating digital borrowing, trading, or payment platforms into their daily financial activities. So for the industry’s incumbents, the need to take bold action is becoming more urgent.
Disrupting the disruptors. Options include buying a fintech or partnering with one. However, the best route to growth appears to involve building new digital businesses, and banks have an edge in resources to do so. They have the capital and expertise to turn the tables on new entrants and launch digital attacks of their own in consumer banking, wealth management, payments, and specialist services. Some banks have already shown that it can work: according to a recent McKinsey survey, 65 percent of financial-services businesses that made business building a top three priority saw revenue growth above that of their competitors.
Global gusto. Even before the pandemic, digital business models were ascendant, with banks and their digital challengers creating new customer interfaces, streamlining customer journeys, and modernizing middle and back offices. Asia in particular is primed for growth as the region’s regulators increase license allocations and set standards for the next wave of digital banks. And like the biggest global banks, financial institutions in Africa are also coming through the pandemic in better shape than they had anticipated, and partnerships with fintechs are among their paths to growth.
Deeper engagement. The transition to digital channels creates another opportunity for banks—access to the rich data sets that are required to fuel advanced-analytics and machine-learning decision engines. Decision-making capabilities powered by artificial intelligence can give banks a decisive competitive edge, which we explore in our Bank of the future series.
Europe’s innovation wunderkinds
The European start-up sector has long stood in the shadow of its US cousin. But now, European B2B start-ups are outperforming their US counterparts in funding efficiency—generating more revenue and valuations per dollar. While this activity is making Europe more competitive, start-ups, investors, and corporates will need to share expertise and work as partners to realize the region’s full entrepreneurial potential.
Europe's innovation wunderkinds exhibit

Will India get too hot to work?

There are recoveries, and then there are recoveries exhibit

the Shortlist

McKinsey & Company

Note – Fisher: Takeaways From China’s Historic Q1 GDP

By Fisher Investments Editorial Staff,

Full link: https://www.fisherinvestments.com/en-us/marketminder/takeaways-from-chinas-historic-q1-gdp?fiut=p

What the latest Chinese economic data reveal about what lies ahead.

China’s latest economic data dump received a lot of press, especially its eye-popping Q1 GDP growth rate. Many also noted China’s economic recovery would likely slow in the coming quarters—a return to its pre-COVID normal—which we think sounds about right and should be fine for stocks. In our view, Chinese economic figures remain a useful, albeit imperfect, preview of post-pandemic life in the US and other developed nations—a helpful way for investors to set their expectations for other major economies’ data.

Chinese Q1 GDP soared 18.3% y/y, a bit slower than some economists’ expectations, but still the fastest growth rate since the country began reporting quarterly GDP in 1992.[i] (Exhibit 1)

Exhibit 1: Chinese GDP’s Historic Q1

Source: FactSet, as of 4/16/2021. Chinese GDP, year-over-year percentage change, quarterly, Q1 2019 – Q1 2021.

However, the historic reading reflected last year’s events, not unprecedented economic output. We are referring to the base effect—a concept we have highlighted in recent commentary—which skews results when the year-over-year reference point has a large, temporary rise or fall. That reference point is the denominator in the year-over-year growth rate calculation, and since COVID lockdowns are about a year old, it is skewing data higher in a major way. Even if the numerator (the present) doesn’t change much, a sharply lower denominator will inflate the results for a spell.

This affects readings most in Emerging Markets like China that report most economic data on a year-over-year basis. Because China started implementing lockdown measures in January 2020—about two months before most of the developed world—the base effect showed up there first. Industrial production jumped 35.1% y/y in January and February before slowing to 14.1% in March, while retail sales soared 33.8% y/y in January and February and sped to 34.2% in March.[ii] (China’s National Bureau of Statistics [NBS] combines January and February data to remove the base effect skew from the Lunar New Year’s variable timing.) These huge growth rates mostly reflect a depressed, smaller base due to China’s most severe COVID restrictions in place from late January to early March. (Exhibit 2)

Exhibit 2: The Base Effect’s Impact on Monthly Data

Source: National Bureau of Statistics, as of 4/16/2021.

Many analysts acknowledged the base effect’s impact on the Q1 GDP reading, and looking ahead, they anticipate growth will slow in the coming quarters, continuing a longer-term trend. One research outfit estimates Q1 GDP grew about 5.4% after stripping out the base effect, somewhat slower than the pre-pandemic trend of 6%.[iii] Others cited Q1 GDP’s seasonally adjusted 0.6% q/q rise, a pretty marked deceleration from Q4’s 3.2% q/q.[iv] Now, many experts don’t trust these data, arguing the NBS has kinks to work out with its seasonal adjustment methodology. However, the focus on recent slower growth is notable, in our view.

We agree Chinese economic growth is likely to slow in the coming quarters—policymakers have telegraphed as much. The government set expectations for slower growth at March’s National People’s Congress meeting, aiming for “above 6%” annual growth for 2021—a target with plenty of leeway. The government also reiterated its desire to contain financial risks and maintain financial stability. That means tamping down on credit growth—and March data suggest this is happening.

Total social financing—a broad credit gauge that encompasses loans and funding to the private sector from state-owned lenders and the shadow banking realm—slowed by a percentage point in March to 12.3% y/y from February’s 13.3%.[v] While a high base effect from last year’s COVID relief measures played a role, the government has also been telling financial institutions to tap the brakes on credit growth and focus on stability. At the Financial Stability and Development Committee’s April meeting, the government told small, local financial institutions to avoid “excessive” growth—a message reiterated by the central bank to big lenders.[vi]

In our view, this isn’t a negative—nor does it mean growth in the world’s second-largest economy is about to halt. Rather, we think it signals a return to normal. The Chinese government has long sought to get the country’s opaque shadow banking sector in order while allowing greater financial liberalization—all while maintaining economic stability. This process has gone in fits and starts, and after a brief pandemic-related pause, policymakers appear to have reprioritized these efforts.

Consider a Chinese “bad bank”—i.e., a financial institution created to clean up bad debt of big state-owned lenders—in headlines recently. China Huarong Asset Management Co., whose former chairman was recently executed due to bribery, failed to release 2020 financial statements in early April. Some ascribed the delay to a possible restructuring, prompting speculation the government could allow the state-backed institution to fail[vii]—the most consequential default in over 20 years, according to some observers.[viii] Financial regulators’ comments last Friday seem to have quieted those concerns for now, but in our view, this saga highlights the government’s emphasis on getting financial bloat under control, whether among private or state-owned lenders. This return to the pre-pandemic priority of stabilizing the financial system suggests to us that the broader economic recovery is well underway. 

In our view, China provides a rough snapshot of what the Western world can expect the further we get from the pandemic. Now, most developed economies aren’t command economies. COVID experiences are different, too, as regions face unique outbreak challenges. But as developed countries begin to reopen thanks to a combination of recovered immunity, vaccine immunity and herd immunity, we expect them to soon return to their pre-pandemic trends. As China is now showing, that likely means slower growth ahead—not an acceleration—another sign this bull market is likely more late-cycle than early-cycle, in our view.

H/T: Fisher Investments Research Analyst Austin Fraser


[i] Source: FactSet, as of 4/16/2021.

[ii] Source: National Bureau of Statistics, as of 4/16/2021.

[iii] “Chinese Economy Grew More Than 18% in First Quarter,” Jonathan Cheng, The Wall Street Journal, 4/16/2021.

[iv] See note ii.

[v] Source: FactSet, as of 4/13/2021.

[vi] “China Flags Deeper Clampdown on Debt Growth at Local Banks,” Staff, Bloomberg, 4/8/2021.

[vii] We guess that would make it a bad-bad bank? Or is that what one would call the new bad bank that takes over the old bad bank’s assets? 

[viii] “Why China ‘Bad Bank’ Huarong’s Fall Is Big Bad News,” Rebecca Choong Wilkins, Bloomberg, 4/17/2021.

Editors’ Note: MarketMinder doesn’t make individual security recommendations. Any reference to an individual publicly traded firm herein is merely included to illustrate a broader point.

FISHER INVESTMENTS ® MARKETMINDER DIGEST

Note – Investopedia: The Market Sum: Unflappable

With Caleb Silver,

Image courtesy Getty Images/Joachim Röder/EyeEm

1/ 

U.S. Equities Rise as Investors Shake Off Tax Worries

Investors shook off their fears about the prospect of higher capital gains taxes and bought yesterday’s dip, sending all major indexes sharply higher for the day. The S&P 500 tacked on 1.1% and the Nasdaq added 1.6% as investors returned to risk, driving tech stocks and recovery-related sectors higher. Volatility, which blew in for the week, left town early as steady and orderly buying returned to the markets.

Perhaps investors know it will be a tall order for President Biden to pass such an aggressive capital gains tax hike, or that even if he does, it will be slimmed down to a more palatable percentage for high-net-worth investors. Only 0.3% of U.S. taxpayers would be impacted by his reported proposal, but given the amount of capital they own, the ultra-wealthy can raise a pretty big stink.

Or, perhaps investors have looked back into recent history to see how higher capital gains taxes have hurt the stock market over the past 50 or so years. The truth is, according to LPL Financial, they don’t, unless the economy is in a weak place like it was in 1969 and 1976. If you hadn’t noticed, the economy is pretty strong, and it’s getting stronger.

Chart courtesy LPL Financial

2/

Homebuying Bonanza

It’s spring, and Americans are buying up new homes at the fastest rate in 15 years.

The Commerce Department reported that new home sales in March rose to a seasonally adjusted rate of 1,021,000 annually, a 20.7% increase from February and a 66.8% jump over March of last year. One reason for the monthly gains was better weather after severe winter storms hampered sales in February.

The median price of $330,800 was just 0.8% higher than last year.

The month-over-month new home sales increase was fueled in part because of the lack of available existing homes. Sales of those homes have fallen in the past two months because not enough of them are on the market to match the demand. Still, the National Association of Realtors reported this week that those sales were more than 12% higher than they were last March. So even with the supply issues for existing homes, a post-pandemic bump is clearly being felt in the housing market.

3/

Toilet Paper Crisis Is Officially Over

Here’s one sign the COVID-19 pandemic could be nearing the end: The run on toilet paper is over.

Kimberly-Clark reported a disappointing 8% drop in organic sales in the first quarter. Its consumer tissue segment, which includes toilet paper, Scott paper towels, and Kleenex tissue, fared even worse, down 14%. 

Last year at this time, revenue from the tissue unit rose 13% as concern about lockdowns led people to flock to stores to buy its Cottonelle and Scott brand toilet tissue, in addition to paper towels and other cleaning products. That demand has waned, and CEO Michael Hsu said while the company anticipated slower tissue sales, the size of the decline in toilet paper came as a surprise.

Also dragging down the first quarter numbers was a continuation of revenue lost from sales to businesses and schools that remain closed or partially closed because of the pandemic. That unit saw revenue fall 13%.  

Adding to the coronavirus-related issues, Kimberly-Clark’s profits were hurt by rising commodity prices and higher transportation costs related to bad weather and the pandemic.

4/

What to Expect Next Week

After another choppy week for investors where we saw volatility make a spring visit, the intensity looks to ramp up next week. Earnings season is at full tilt, and we’ll get results next week from Tesla, Amazon, Alphabet, and Ford, to name a few of the headliners.

Crypto investors are hoping this recent selling spate comes to a stop. Bitcoin tumbled into a bear market this week on worries about higher taxes and potential rules coming down from regulators. Still, the popular digital currency is the best-performing “asset” so far this year, and big dips are par for the course when it comes to Bitcoin.

Here are the returns for major asset classes so far this year.

Earnings-a-Palooza

Earnings are coming in much better than expected, and expectations were high. But it’s the future outlooks that we care about more when these companies present their report cards.

Tesla reports on Monday, and while the electric vehicle maker is expected to show a doubling of sales of $10.48 billion, up from $5.99 billion a year ago, the company is under regulatory scrutiny for two recent fatal crashes involving the use of its Autopilot feature. CEO Elon Musk has defended the feature and safety of Tesla’s vehicles, but investors will want more details. Tesla also has a very long position in Bitcoin, having added $1.5 billion of the cryptocurrency to its treasury last quarter. With Bitcoin’s price in a tail-spin, it could have a material effect on its books.

FOMC Meeting

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve meets next Tuesday and Wednesday on interest rates and monetary policy. We should not expect the Fed to make any changes to the federal funds rate because it keeps telling us that will happen in 2023. Still, more FOMC members have tightened their timelines about when that should happen, given the strength of the economic recovery. Inflation is still lower than where the Fed would like it, even though almost everything we buy is more expensive today than it was six months ago. Investors will want to hear that the Fed will keep up its $120 billion of government bond purchases every month, which has laid a nice safety net under capital markets.

Personal Income and Spending

On Friday, we’ll get reports on U.S. personal income and spending. Retail sales spiked last month as the first round of stimulus checks hit bank accounts. Another wave went out in the past two weeks. Are consumers putting that back into the economy, or are we still not ready to spend again like its 2019? We’ll find out.

Alternate text

Note – DealStreetAsia: The Week That Was

Our exclusive reporting in the past week was dominated by the unicorns amid a flurry of fundraising and deal activity.

In Indonesia, two of the biggest unicorns, Gojek and Tokopedia, have been in talks to merge, and details of their union are still emerging. 

Our report this week says that Gojek is likely to hold a majority stake of up to 60% in GoTo. The combined entity, expected to be valued at some $40 billion, is expected to list on the Indonesian stock exchange first, amid talks of a second listing in the US. 

At the same time, Tokopedia is likely to divest its stake in Indonesian digital wallet OVO to Grab. OVO, in which Grab also has a stake, is understood to be a major sticking point in the merger talks with Gojek, which has its own payments platform. 

Having OVO in its fold would be a win for Grab, which had acquired a stake in the payments unicorn as efforts to obtain a payments licence in Indonesia failed.  

Elsewhere, Indian payments startup Razorpay said it raised $160 million in Series E funding for its expansion into Southeast Asia. The round involves existing investors Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC, as well as Sequoia India, and trebles Razorpay’s valuation to $3 billion in a space of six months.

In Hong Kong, fintech unicorn WeLab is said to be eyeing an initial public offering on the territory’s stock exchange that could value the startup at as much as $2 billion. WeLab, backed by tycoon Li Ka-shing, has seen the number of customers on its digital finance platform grow 20% from the year before. It was to have listed in 2018 but had scrapped plans to do so amid market volatility.
Fundraising in full force
US investment manager Blackstone Group has secured $3.1 billion for its second Asia-focused private equity fund. The first close of Blackstone Capital Partners Asia II has already exceeded the $2.4 billion raised for its predecessor in 2018. 

Blackstone is understood to be targeting $6 billion for the fund, whose LPs include US pension fund Washington State Investment Board.

The global funds targeting assets in Asia include KKR, which earlier announced the close of its fourth Asia fund at $15 billion, and Carlyle Group, which is raising a new Asia-focused fund.

Also raising is Qiming Venture Partners, which is in the market to raise $300 million for Qiming US Healthcare Fund III.

Singapore-based private equity firm Everstone is raising as much as $950 million for its fourth fund. Everstone Capital Partners IV is expected to back companies in India and Southeast Asia focused on healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and technology services. 

Asia Alternatives, the private equity fund-of-funds, has raised $63.1 million for a sidecar vehicle to a China-focused growth fund, filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission indicate. 
Other DealStreetAsia exclusives  
Cross-border payments firm Nium has raised about $21 million in fresh funding from Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings, regulatory filings show.

The transaction results in Temasek becoming the second-largest shareholder in the Singapore-based firm. The largest shareholder is Temasek-backed VC firm Vertex Ventures.

In Indonesia, edtech startup CoLearn raised $10 million in a Series A round co-led by Alpha Wave Incubation, a venture fund managed by Falcon Edge Capital and US edtech investor GSV Ventures

Healthtech platform Halodoc raised $80 million from a range of investors including PT Astra International, Temasek, and Bangkok Bank

Insurtech startup Fuse is understood to be raising $30 million in new funding. Likely investors include the family office of Jack Ma as well as existing backer EV Growth

Separately, Ma’s private equity firm Yunfeng Capital led a $600 million financing round in Xingyun Group, a Chinese digital supply chain services to small and medium-sized merchants. 

Meanwhile, there is a growing number of venture-backed startups in Indonesia seeing to digitalise the operations of the country’s myriad mom-and-pop shops. As we report this week, a few of them are set to secure additional funding, as investor interest in startups driving digital transformation continues. 

In a similar vein, in Vietnam, VCs are actively backing startups that are taking traditionally offline businesses across various sectors online.

Elsewhere in the country, private healthcare services providers who have made serious headway in modernising operations are also attracting major funding.
Marketplace dynamics
It has been just over a decade since the unicorns in Southeast Asia first emerged as startups looking to disrupt industry incumbents. And as they’ve scaled up and grown, their operations have begun to overlap – from ride-hailing to e-commerce and payments. 

One sector where rivalry is heating up is in the used car marketplace. Earlier this month, classifieds platform Carousell announced it was officially entering the fray; the secondhand car business is already a major moneymaker for the startup, accounting for a third of its revenues last year. This analysis looks at Carousell stacks up against its peers Carro and Carsome

To be sure, even as competition is intense, it would seem that the 650 million-strong market in Southeast Asia can accommodate more than one major player in each sector. 

DealStreetAsia’s reporters continue to track these developments and more across Asia, so check in with us again for further exclusive dealmaking news.
Michelle Teo  Managing Editor, DealStreetAsiaeditor@dealstreetasia.com

Note – AngelList: Feast and Famine

India produces record number of unicorns

Flipkart Bangalore

Following a decade of growth, India’s startup scene is producing billion-dollar companies at a healthy clip. At last count, 11 India-based startups raised money at $1B+ valuations already this year—more unicorns than the country produced in all of 2019 or 2018.

VC funding in the first quarter reached a two-year high and could be on pace to pass the $10B VCs invested in 2019 (up from $3.1B in 2012). Just this month, Amazon launched a $250M venture fund for India-based startups.

The increased activity is buoyed by marquee exits by companies like e-commerce giant Flipkart, consumer travel site MakeMyTrip, and hospitality group Oyo, as well as prominent Y Combinator alumni like Bikayi (e-commerce), Decentro (consumer banking APIs), and Farmako Healthcare.

The newest crop of unicorns includes a slew of fintech companies—Chargebee, CRED, Digit Insurance, Five Star Business Finance, Groww, and Y Combinator alumnus Razorpay—as well as Facebook-backed e-commerce platform Meesho. Sharechat, a social media platform featuring 15 regional languages, food delivery startup Swiggy,  and online pharmacy PharmEasy also recently closed large rounds.

Civil aviation has been a surprising bright spot, including two-year-old electric plane developer EPlane, which hopes to deliver people to work 10x faster, and ZestIoT, which builds IoT (Internet of things) tools for commercial airlines.

All indications point to the growth in venture funding continuing for the world’s second-most populous country.

Which is all great for news for superstar breakouts.

What about the other 79k+ startups created in the country in the past decade? As The Economist reported: “A decade of phenomenal growth has created 80,000 tech firms—and mounting losses.”

A survey of 29k startups found that an alarming number of founders were either out of funding runway or approaching the end quickly, many facing financial pressures from an ongoing “COVID tsunami.”

Funding and acquisitions

Tulipa San Francisco-based egg donor matching platform built by founders with previous experience in the space, closed a $1.7M seed round. The company offers a database of 20k egg donors that’s built on blockchain technology.

Pragmawhich helps game studios create live online games, raised a $12M Series A led by Greylock. Oculus founder Nate Mitchell participated in the deal. The company delivers what it calls “backend as a service” to game developers.

Seattle-based startup adyn raised its first $2.5M to develop personalized birth control in a round led by Lux Capital and M13. The company offers an at-home kit measure to hormone baseline levels and help women assess risk for common side effects of birth control, which range from acne and weight gain to blood clots and depression. The company plans to incorporate telemedicine visits as a future offering.

Social audio chat app Clubhouse closed a Series C round led by Andreessen Horowitz but isn’t disclosing the amount. The company raised $100M last year and recently reached 10k weekly active users.

AngelList Logo

Note – Bloomberg: The Weekly Fix: Taper Kicks Off, Junk Flouts the Credit Cycle

Taper Tiff

The dreaded taper is here… in Canada. Governor Tiff Macklem officially broke it to the market this week that the central bank is slowing the pace of its bond purchases. Which investors are being very cool about. No tantrums to discuss here — global bond yields barely fluttered, since there’s no real risk of that sort of thing catching on in the developed world’s largest markets*. The European Central Bank just said it’s not even on their minds.

The Bank of Canada got ahead of its major developed-world peers this week. Alongside sharp increases to its growth and inflation forecasts, the BOC cut its bond-purchase target to $3 billion a week from a minimum of $4 billion. And it said a rate hike may be warranted as soon as the second half of 2022.

While the loonie surged, Canadian bonds weakened only a touch. That said, investors do seem to expect rather a lot more from Canada. Check out this curve as a proxy for domestic rate expectations: Relative to six months ago, the outlook for tightening has ramped up aggressively.

The fact that traders have built in a full hiking cycle is astonishing given the shocking rebound in Covid-19 infections in Ontario. Not to mention spikes in cases around the world, which remind us the pandemic is nowhere near contained. (This piece from Bloomberg Opinion’s David Fickling makes that point with devastating clarity.)  

Against this backdrop the BOC’s step may seem foot-forward, but the central bank also has its eye on the dwindling slack in the economy as the rebound gathers momentum, and notably the country’s pressure-cooker of a housing market. Last month was the hottest ever for home sales, and prices rose again after February’s record. 

“While the resulting house price increases are rooted in fundamentals, we are seeing some signs of extrapolative expectations and speculative behavior,” Macklem said.

Hot Housing

Canada’s not the only one with problems on the home front. The Reserve Bank of Australia, which doesn’t expect to raise interest rates for at least another couple of years, has sounded a tad uncomfortable about home prices. The latest figures show the fastest gains since 1988. New Zealand’s government took matters into its own hands last month to rein in a sizzling property sector, including tax adjustments to curb investor demand, as the central bank signaled it’s in no rush to pull back stimulus.

The response in the local bond market was an 18-basis-point drop in the 10-year government yield, as investors cheered the removal of one key incentive for the central bank to raise interest rates. Which just shows what a game of Whac-a-Mole asset-price inflation targeting can turn out to be, unless it’s done with the brutally blunt instrument of monetary policy. 

Central banks and particularly the Fed have long been leery of anything that smacks of asset price targeting, and newly-minted Chairman Ben Bernanke dismissed the concept pretty soundly six years before the Great Financial Crisis. But prolonged periods of low interest rates and expanding debt will force policy makers to a reckoning with the destabilizing effects of soaring asset prices in the years ahead, says Janus Henderson portfolio manager Jay Sivapalan. 

“We’ve got inflated asset prices in equities, house prices, and infrastructure, how do you normalize that? You need revenue growth and you need inflation….But at some point in the future, growth may need to be traded off for financial stability. 

Not all countries have the luxury of being able to run a very large mount of debt. The U.S. does today — they didn’t have the inflated values in the housing market to begin with because they had the GFC, they had the great reset.

Perhaps in the U.S. where the vulnerabilities lie is how much debt junk companies have amassed. That’s not going to show up in the near term because we’re in the midst of a very strong econ recovery, but if not dealt with in the next downturn or crisis, that might be where it shows up for the U.S.”

*The Fed is in its blackout period now ahead of the April 27-28 meeting, but we’re not exactly expecting any major change of tack next week. Among those who’ve nailed their forecasts to the mast, Goldman’s David Mericle expects the Fed to drop hints of tapering in the latter half of this year. He sees the process starting in early 2022 and to take a full year, with a $15 billion reduction in purchases at each meeting. That would put a rate hike on the table around mid-2023, Goldman reckons.

Junkyard top-dog

So from inflated asset prices, to junk. Is the credit cycle dead? Lisa Abramowicz observed in her column this week: “Almost all fear of bankruptcy has been obliterated from debt markets even though the global economy is still struggling under the worst health crisis in a century.” 

We’ve written before about how high yield spreads have fallen to their lowest point since the leadup to the 2008 financial crisis.

More than $12 trillion of stimulus certainly appears to have heavily sedated the market for now. Whether or not that wave will simply lead to a steeper crash further down the track is yet to be seen. After all, as the recent debacles of Greensill, Archegos and Huarong remind us, firms can implode in the most benign possible conditions. (Bronte Capital’s John Hempton has a lot to say about this on the latest OddLots podcast.)

But clearly the shakier credits in the spectrum are far better off than most people would have thought only a few months ago. Just look at the Lazarus of the car-rental set, Hertz Global, which has emerged from almost a year in bankruptcy with its bonds trading well above par. Bloomberg Opinion’s Brian Chappatta wrote this week that an investor in Hertz’s 2022 and 2028 bonds at the lows has by now earned a return of roughly 1,000%.

And ratings companies are adjusting their rose-colored spectacles accordingly. Fitch Ratings now says high-yield corporate bond defaults could amount to just 1% this year, the lowest rate since 2013, our credit reporter Caleb Mutua notes. S&P Global Ratings also sees defaults declining, contradicting some bleak predictions from the depths of the pandemic last year. (Moody’s Investors Service expects defaults to fall to 4.2% over the next year, from an actual rate of 7.5% for the 12 months through March.)

These riskier balance sheets don’t seem to be losing their taste for leverage. Junk-rated U.S. companies set a record on Thursday for the most bonds ever sold in April, at close to $40 billion, Alex Wittenberg reports. This is the third straight banner month, and it’s taken this year’s volume to nearly $190 billion. That’s 44% of the full-year total for 2020 — which was the biggest year ever for junk issuance.

Earth Day

Kind of feels like we need more than one day on this one. And clearly many now have a similar view. 

President Joe Biden’s virtual summit for Earth Day kicked off Thursday with 40 world leaders — a pitch to show America’s renewed resolve to fight climate change, spurring the efforts of both its allies and adversaries. His opening pledge, to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels by the end of the decade.

But beyond the symbolism of the goal, it may have fallen flat. This target may not even be compatible with the Paris Agreement, according to an analysis published by Climate Action Tracker. The independent research group said that “an emissions reduction target of 57% to 63% below 2005 levels by 2030 would be consistent with” preventing the worst consequences of climate change.

And only two U.S. allied boosted previous pledges. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga raised Japan’s target to the equivalent of a 41% cut by 2030, based on a 2005 reference point. Canada’s Justin Trudeau raised his country’s target for greenhouse gas reductions to as much as 45% over the same period, exceeding a previous goal of a 30% reduction from 2005 levels. 

For more on the summit and its goals, see our reporting from Leslie Kaufman and Eric Roston, and check here for how the various pledges stack up.

Bonus Points

PBOC Governor Yi Gang has a plan for the central bank’s role in battling climate change 

Climate change will hit the world’s cities hardest

Bloomberg

Info – Which Asian Economies Have the Most Sustainable Trade Policies?

Full link: https://www.visualcapitalist.com/which-asian-economies-have-the-most-sustainable-trade-policies/

Hinrich Foundation 2020 STI

To say that Asia has benefited from international trade is an understatement. By opening its economies to the rest of the world, the region has become a leading exporter in many of today’s most important industries.

Trade has also improved Asia’s quality of life, lifting over one billion people out of poverty since 1990. Without the proper controls, however, such rapid growth could have harmful effects on Asia’s environment and society.

In this infographic from The Hinrich Foundation, we break down the results of their 2020 Sustainable Trade Index (STI). Since 2016, this index has ranked 19 Asian economies and the U.S. across three categories of trade sustainability: economic, social, and environmental.

What Exactly is Sustainable Trade?

International trade is an important source of economic growth, enabling domestic businesses to expand, reach new customers, and gain exposure to foreign markets.

At the same time, countries that focus too heavily on exports put themselves at greater long-term risk. For example, an aggressive expansion into manufacturing is likely to impair the quality of a country’s air, while overdependence on a single product or sector can create an economy that is susceptible to demand shocks.

“The primary principle which underpins sustainable trade is balance. Trade cannot be pursued solely for economic gains, without considering environmental and social outcomes.”
– MERLE A. HINRICH

Thus, sustainable trade supports not only economic growth, but also environmental protection and strengthened social capital. It involves finding a balance between short-term incentives and long-term resilience.

Measuring Sustainable Trade

The Sustainable Trade Index (STI) is based on three underlying pillars of trade sustainability. Every economy in the STI receives a score between 0 and 100 for each pillar.

PillarNumber of IndicatorsExamples of Indicators
Economic pillar21Use of trade tariffsLogistics performanceGrowth in labor force
Social pillar12Level of economic inequalityPresence of child laborEducational attainment
Environmental pillar14Level of air pollutionReliance on natural resourcesEnvironmental standards

The economic pillar measures a country’s ability to to grow its economy through trade, while the social pillar measures a population’s tolerance for trade expansion, given the costs and benefits of economic growth.

Last but not least, the environmental pillar measures a country’s proficiency at managing climate-related risks. Individual pillar scores are then aggregated to arrive at an overall ranking, which also has a maximum possible score of 100.

The Sustainable Trade Index 2020: Overall Rankings

For the first time in the STI’s history, Japan and South Korea have tied for first place. Both countries have placed in the top five previously, but 2020 marks the first time for either to take the top spot.Show 7102550100 entriesSearch:

RankEconomyOverall Score
1 (tied)🇯🇵 Japan75.1
1 (tied)🇰🇷 South Korea75.1
3🇸🇬 Singapore70.2
4🇭🇰 Hong Kong68.3
5🇹🇼 Taiwan67.0
6🇺🇸 U.S.66.2
7🇨🇳 China56.5

Showing 1 to 7 of 21 entriesPreviousNext

Advanced economies like SingaporeHong Kong, and Taiwan were also strong performers, each scoring in the high 60s. At the other end of the spectrum, developing countries such as India and Vietnam were tightly packed within the 40 to 50 range.

To learn more, here’s how each country performed in the three underlying pillars.

1. Economic Pillar Rankings

Hong Kong topped the economic pillar for the first time thanks to its low trade costs and well-developed financial sector. Financial services have increased their contribution to Hong Kong’s GDP from 13% in 2004 to 20% in 2018.

The region’s recently initiated national security law—which has resulted in greater political instability—may have a negative effect on future rankings.Show 7102550100 entriesSearch:

RankEconomyEconomic Score
1🇭🇰 Hong Kong69.6
2🇸🇬 Singapore68.7
3🇨🇳 China64.9
4🇰🇷 South Korea63.3
5 (tied)🇲🇾 Malaysia61.2
5 (tied)🇺🇸 U.S.61.2
7🇹🇼 Taiwan60.3

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China was also a strong performer, climbing to third for the first time. Asia’s largest economy benefits from a well-diversified group of trading partners, meaning it doesn’t rely too heavily on a single market.

The bottom five countries—India (16th), Myanmar (17th), Thailand (18th), Pakistan (19th) and Laos (20th)—suffered from issues such as payment risk, which is measured as the difficulty of getting money in and out of a country. This risk is especially damaging to trade because it discourages foreign direct investment.

2. Social Pillar Rankings

The social pillar features the highest average score, but also the largest gap from top to bottom. This gap has expanded over recent years, growing from 43.9 points in 2018 to 52.3 in 2020.Show 7102550100 entriesSearch:

RankEconomySocial Score
1🇹🇼 Taiwan88
2🇯🇵 Japan87.3
3🇰🇷 South Korea86.9
4🇺🇸 U.S.83.1
5🇸🇬 Singapore63.1
6🇵🇭 Philippines62.4
7🇹🇭 Thailand60.9

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Taiwan claimed the top spot for the second time, solidifying its reputation as Asia’s leader in human capital development. It performed well in the educational attainment indicator, with 93.6% of its population receiving a tertiary education.

China, despite its success in other pillars, only managed 16th. This was partly due to the effects of its now defunct one-child policy, which has been responsible for creating gender imbalances and a shrinking population.

3. Environmental Pillar Rankings

The environmental pillar has the lowest average score of the three. JapanSingaporeHong Kong, and South Korea were the only countries to score above 75.Show 7102550100 entriesSearch:

RankEconomyEnvironmental Score
1🇯🇵 Japan80.0
2🇸🇬 Singapore78.7
3🇭🇰 Hong Kong77.4
4🇰🇷 South Korea75.2
5🇨🇳 China54.5
6🇺🇸 U.S.54.3
7🇹🇼 Taiwan52.8

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The top four performed well in areas such as air quality and water pollution, and with the exception of Hong Kong, have all introduced carbon pricing schemes in the past decade. This doesn’t mean these countries are without their flaws, however.

Land-constrained Singapore, for instance, ranked 16th in the deforestation indicator. The city-state is one of the densest population centers in the world, and has cut down forests to clear space for further settlement and urbanization.

Building Back Better From COVID-19

Despite the damage that COVID-19 has caused, there are some silver linings. This includes the environmental benefits experienced by China, where lockdowns reduced carbon emissions by 200 million tonnes in a single month. It’s been estimated that after two months, China’s reduced pollution levels saved the lives of 77,000 people.

These temporary improvements are an explicit reminder of the environmental and social costs associated with economic growth. In response, governments in Asia are taking steps to ensure the long-term sustainability of their nations. Japan and South Korea both announced their commitments to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, while China set a similar goal for 2060.