The Government’s Special Early Retirement Plan (SERP) is an opportunity for public-sector employees to pursue their passion. Under SERP, public servants, ages 50 to 59 will be eligible for early retirement through application to the Public Service Commission. Deputy Financial Secretary, Strategic Human Resource Management, Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, Wayne Jones, notes that the incentivised arrangement targeting this specific group of persons is strictly voluntary, and is intended to be a “win-win”. Story Highlights The Government’s Special Early Retirement Plan (SERP) is an opportunity for public-sector employees to pursue their passion.This could include starting a business, travelling or spending more time with loved ones.Under SERP, public servants, ages 50 to 59 will be eligible for early retirement through application to the Public Service Commission.Deputy Financial Secretary, Strategic Human Resource Management, Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, Wayne Jones, notes that the incentivised arrangement targeting this specific group of persons is strictly voluntary, and is intended to be a “win-win”.He says it is an opportunity for employees to “make a humane transition from where they are in their own lives to somewhere else they might have the desire to be”.“This will allow some workers to realise some potential that had been asleep for a long time. They may have wanted the opportunity to do something that is more fulfilling and satisfying,” he opines.“Some people are at a point of their life journey where they need to make a decision as to where they could go; this provides an opportunity for them to retire with an incentive,” Mr. Jones adds.He notes that SERP will allow for faster and smoother processing of pension benefits.Persons will receive their pension four months after they have retired, providing that all the relevant documents have been processed.“We have included an incentive of two weeks’ pay for every year of employment, up to a maximum of one year’s salary, as well as pay for vacation leave not taken up to the time of retirement,” Mr. Jones explains.The Deputy Financial Secretary gives an example of someone working for approximately 25 years at a Ministry earning an annual gross salary of $1.6 million, with no allowance, no loans or indebtedness to the Government, with an accumulation of 40 days’ vacation leave.He outlines that under SERP this person would retire April 2018, and will receive as his incentive payment $1.54 million, plus $241,000 for the outstanding vacation, noting that this is tax-free.He notes, however, that each case would need to be assessed individually.“We encourage public-sector employees who fall within the age cohort to go to their human resources department with enquiries,” he says.Applications for the SERP opened on January 2 and will close on Friday, February 16, 2018.Interested applicants must have been vested with 10 years’ service, with at least one permanent appointment in a pensionable post during this period.For further information persons may email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the webpage at mof.gov.jm/serp.
Almost two dozen marine scientists from around the world have issued a warning about an often-overlooked side effect of climate change and pollution.In a paper published this week in Science, they say oxygen is disappearing from increasingly large areas of ocean and threatening marine life.The research, sponsored by an international body affiliated with UNESCO, finds the problem has been growing since the 1950s. Over the last 50 years, the amount of affected ocean has expanded by 4.5 million square kilometres to 32 million square kilometres of coastal and deep-sea water.That includes the St. Lawrence Seaway and oceans off Canada’s West Coast.“We feel this issue has to be looked at and deserves more attention,” said Denis Gilbert, one of the 22 co-authors and a scientist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.“All animals need to breathe oxygen and we know that regions of the ocean that are losing oxygen are becoming more and more common. We’re seeing the marine animals leaving those areas.”The paper, a summary of recent research, found oxygen-deprived waters off many of the world’s coastlines, especially those adjacent to large rivers and urban areas. Low-oxygen regions also exist in the high seas.The volume of ocean water completely devoid of oxygen has quadrupled since 1950, one study found. Marine animal populations and diversity are dropping at hundreds of coastal sites.In the Gulf of St. Lawrence, oxygen in the lower depths has dropped by 55 per cent since 1930.“It’s huge,” said Gilbert. “We’re already losing cod in the bottom waters.”Similar processes are further depressing naturally low oxygen levels along British Columbia’s northern coast, said Gilbert.He said several factors are at work.Agricultural and industrial residue flushes nitrates into oceans, creating algae blooms similar to those that can plague freshwater systems. But in the open ocean, climate change is by far the biggest contributor.Climate change, Gilbert said, delivers a “triple whammy.”First, warmer water can’t dissolve as much oxygen.Second, different layers in the oceans don’t mix as much as upper waters warm. Deeper layers don’t get ventilated by being exposed to the surface. Gradually, the oxygen they hold gets used up by bacteria.Third, warmer water forces marine animals to breathe more quickly, further using up available oxygen.“One of the reasons why (marine animals) cannot tolerate very warm waters is they need to breathe more,” Gilbert said. “In these waters where they need to breathe more, there’s less oxygen.”Gilbert said that, in comparison with other climate-change-related issues such as ocean acidification, the impacts of low oxygen on fisheries and natural ocean cycles are little studied.“It’s poorly understood.”The problem won’t go away any time soon.“Global warming models are predicting that the oxygen decrease will be even worse by 2100 and will keep getting worse,” Gilbert said.The models suggest oxygen will continue to decline in the oceans even with ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets. Still, Gilbert said, that doesn’t mean those targets shouldn’t be pursued.“Acting on fossil fuels will have benefit not just for sea ice and ocean acidification, but it will also have benefits for oxygen.”— Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at @row1960 read more
Annette FrancisAPTN National NewsTwo communities went before the Supreme court Wednesday to challenge whether Canada failed to uphold it’s duty to consult.One fo the cases has to do with a pipeline in Ontario, the other deals with fracking in Nunavut.The cases will have implications for Indigenous peoples across the email@example.com
Payment banks, which got in-principle nod from the central bank, are expected to offer over 1,500 jobs with pay packages as high as Rs 1.50 crore when they launch their operations in the next 18 months, according to executive search firms.In August, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had approved 11 entities, including Reliance Industries, Vodafone m-pesa and Airtel M Commerce to open payment banks.These entities can accept cash deposits, permit remittances and roll out “simple financial products”. They can accept savings deposits of up to Rs 1 lakh from a customer. However, a payments bank is not allowed to lend to customers, like commercial banks.The payment banks will hire nearly 150 senior executives, 370 mid-level executives and over 1,000 junior-level staff in the coming months, The Economic Times reported, citing estimates made by Vito India, a headhunting firm.So far, some of these entities — Cholamandalam, Department of Posts, National Securities Depository, Tech Mahindra and Dilip Shanghvi of Sun Pharma — haven’t hired the chief executives for their payment banks.The areas for which the payment banks recruit people include product, sales and distribution, merchant acquisition, strategic alliances, operations, and regulatory and compliance and they are expected to offer salaries between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 75 lakh for senior executives handling these functions.”Salary for CXOs (CEOs and other management-level executives) is in the range of Rs 1-1.5 crore while for a level below it is around Rs 70 lakh to Rs 1 crore,” said Kalyani Shastry, associate director at RGF Executive Search.However, the Birla group, which also got permission to start a payment bank, has already hired employees for its operations.”We have our people in place … we look for banking, consumer and technology-oriented people,” said Santrupt Misra, director of global HR & CEO, carbon black business, at the group.The entities are also scouting for talent outside the country, including Singapore and Silicon Valley, to rope in people with experience in disruptive products, said K Sudarshan, managing partner and co-founder of EMA Partners. read more
Map of ThakurgaoThe sweeping cold wave has claimed the lives of at least six children in Thakurgaon district over the last one week and affected many more, said acting civil surgeon Shahjahan Newaz.He said some 500 patients, mostly children, were admitted to Sadar hospital with cold-related diseases during the period, reports UNB.A moderate cold wave with mercury dipping at 5-8 degrees Celsius has been sweeping the district for the past seven days, according to the Met office.The number of patients, largely children, has started rising with the fall in mercury, forcing the hospital authorities to form two additional medical teams on Saturday to tackle the situation.Divisional director Amal Chandra Saha said physicians and nurses have been working round the clock to ensure proper treatment of the patients. “Two medical teams will be working till the patients’ growing pressure eases,” he said.Shahjahan said they have only 18 beds in the Child Ward of the hospital where a total of 163 children with different ailments, including diarrhoea, pneumonia and asthma are now being treated.Among the children, 79 have been suffering from diarrhoea while 36 from pneumonia, he added.”We’ve to keep patients on the hospital floors and corridors for lack of beds,” he added. read more
Poor sleep may be a sign that people who are otherwise healthy may be at the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study. Researchers have found a link between sleep disturbances and biological markers for Alzheimer’s disease found in the spinal fluid.”Previous evidence has shown that sleep may influence the development or progression of Alzheimer’s disease in various ways,” said Barbara B Bendlin from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US. Also Read – Add new books to your shelf”For example, disrupted sleep or lack of sleep may lead to amyloid plaque buildup because the brain’s clearance system kicks into action during sleep. Our study looked not only for amyloid but for other biological markers in the spinal fluid as well,” said Bendlin.Amyloid is a protein that can fold and form into plaques.Tau is a protein that forms into tangles. These plaques and tangles are found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.Researchers recruited 101 people with an average age of 63 who had normal thinking and memory skills but who were considered at risk of developing Alzheimer’s, either having a parent with the disease or being a carrier of a gene that increases the risk of Alzheimer’s called apolipoprotein E or APOE. Also Read – Over 2 hours screen time daily will make your kids impulsiveParticipants were surveyed about sleep quality. They also provided spinal fluid samples that were tested for biological markers of Alzheimer’s disease.Researchers found that people who reported worse sleep quality, more sleep problems and daytime sleepiness had more biological markers for Alzheimer’s disease in their spinal fluid than people who did not have sleep problems.Those biological markers included signs of amyloid, tau and brain cell damage and inflammation. While some of these relationships were strong when looking at everyone as a group, not everyone with sleep problems has abnormalities in their spinal fluid, researchers said.For example, there was no link between biological markers in the spinal fluid and obstructive sleep apnea.The results remained the same when researchers adjusted for other factors such as use of medications for sleep problems, amount of education, depression symptoms or body mass index. The study was published in the journal Neurology. read more
Alipurduar/Kolkata: An estimated 83.79 per cent of 34.52 lakh voters exercised their franchise in Cooch Behar and Alipurduar Lok Sabha constituencies in the first phase of polls in the state, an election department official said Friday. In Cooch Behar (SC), 83.88 per cent electorate cast their votes till 6 pm Thursday, while Alipurduar (ST) seat registered 83.70 per cent polling, he said. No incident of violence was reported from any part of the two constituencies and the first-phase of the seven-phase election in the state was largely “peaceful”, he said. Also Read – Rs 13,000 crore investment to provide 2 lakh jobs: Mamata The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) as well as the opposition BJP and the Congress, however, complained that polling was not undertaken in a free and fair manner in the two parliamentary seats. TMC leader and North Bengal Development Minister Rabindranath Ghosh alleged that EVMs malfunctioned in several booths and it could be part of the opposition’s conspiracy to manipulate votes. A presiding officer at Sitalkuchi area of Cooch Behar constituency has been showcased following complaints that he allowed some unidentified persons inside the booth, the election department official stated. Also Read – Lightning kills 8, injures 16 in state Asked about parties seeking re-poll in several polling stations in Cooch Behar constituency, he said the department is reviewing the reports of the presiding officers and a decision will be taken soon. With the conclusion of the first phase, the fate of 18 candidates in the two seats has been sealed in the Electronic Voting Machines. The ruling TMC and the BJP are the main contenders in the two north Bengal seats, while Left Front constituents – the Forward Bloc and the RSP – and the Congress are fighting to prove their existence. Polling in the remaining 40 Lok Sabha seats in the state will be held in six more phases. read more
Take any major conference that happened this year, Google I/O, Apple’s WWDC, or Microsoft Build. A major focus of all these conferences by top-notch tech leaders is improving User experience, smoothing out the process of how a user experiences their products. In present times, the user experience is heavily dependent on how a system interacts with a human. It may be either through responsive web designs, or appealing architectures. It may also be through an interactive module, such as a conversational UI, a chatbot, or a voice interface—essentially the same thing albeit with slight changes in their definition. Irrespective of they are called, these UX models have one fixed goal: to improve the interaction between a human, and a system, such that it feels real. In our recently conducted Packt Skill-up survey 2018, we asked developers and tech pros about whether Conversational User Interfaces and chatbots are going to be the future for web UI? Well, it seems yes, as over 65% of respondents, agreed that chat interactions and Conversational User Interfaces are the future of the web. After the recent preview of the power of Google Duplex, those numbers might be even higher if asked again today. Why has this paradigm of interacting with the web shifted from text and even visual searches on mobile to Voice, Natural language, and conversation UI? Why is Apple’s Siri, Google’s Voice assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon Echo, releasing new versions every day? Computing power & NLP, the two pillars Any chatbot, or voice interface, requires two major factors to make them successful. One being computational power, which makes a conversational UI process complex calculations. And natural language processing, which actually makes a chatbot conduct human-like conversations. Both these areas have made tremendous progress in the recent times. A large number of computational chips namely GPUs, TPUs, as well as quantum computers, are being developed, which are capable of processing complex calculations in a jiffy. NLP has also gained momentum both in speech recognition capabilities (understanding language) and artificial intelligence (learning from experience). As technology in these areas expands, it paves way for companies to adopt conversational UIs as their main user interface. The last thing we need is more apps There are already a very large number of apps (read millions) available in app stores and they are increasing every day. We are almost at the peak of the hype cycle. And there is only downfall from here. Why? Well, I’m sure, you’ll agree, downloading, setting up, and managing an app is a hassle, not to mention, humans have limited attention spans, so switching between multiple apps happens quite often. Conversational UIs are rapidly taking up the vacuum left behind by mobile apps. They integrate functionalities of multiple apps in one. So you have a simple messaging app, which can also book cabs, search, and shop or order food. Moreover, they can simplify routine tasks. AI enabled chatbots, can remind you of scheduled meetings, bring up the news for you every morning, analyze your refrigerator for food items to be replenished, and update your shopping cart, all with simple commands. Advancements in deep learning have also produced, what are known as therapist bots. Users can confide in bots just as they do with human friends when they have a broken heart, have lost a job, or have been feeling down. (This view does assume that the service provider respects the users’ privacy and adheres to strict policies related to data privacy and protection.) The end of screen-based interfaces Another flavor of Conversational UI is the Voice User interfaces (VUI). Typically, we interact with a device directly through a touchscreen or indirectly with a remote control. However, VUI is the touch-less version of technology where you only need to think aloud with your voice. These interfaces can work solo, like Amazon Echo, or Google Home or be combined with text-based chatbots, like Apple Siri, Google voice assistant etc. You simply need to say a command or type it, and the task is done. “Siri, Text Robert, I’m running late for the meeting.” And boy! Are voice user interfaces growing rapidly! Google Duplex, announced at Google I/O 2018, can even make phone calls for the users imitating human natural conversation almost perfectly. In Fact, it also adds pause-fillers and phrases such as “um”, “uh-huh “, and “erm” to make the conversation sound as natural as possible. Voice interfaces also work amazingly for people with disabilities including Visual imparities. Users, who are unable to use screens and keyboards, can use VUI for their dat-to-day tasks. Here’s a touching review of Amazon Echo shared by a wheelchair-bound user about how the device changed his life. The world is being swept over by the wave of Conversational UI, Google duplex being the latest example. As AI deepens its roots, across the technology ecosystem, intelligent assistant applications like, Siri, Duplex, Cortana will advance. This boom will push us closer to Zero UI, a seamless and interactive UI which eradicates the barrier between user and device. Read Next Top 4 chatbot development frameworks for developersHow to create a conversational assistant or chatbot using PythonBuilding a two-way interactive chatbot with Twilio: A step-by-step guide read more