WHO Lists 12 Deadly Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria and the Urgent Need for New Drugs

 

There are all sorts of diseases in the world, and every once in a while comes a certain ‘microorganism’ which creates havoc in the form of dangerous diseases like Ebola, Swine Flu, Bird Flu, and the like. Scientists have time and again come up with effective antibiotics to control the diseases and save lives, but the shocking part is that each year these microbes come back twice as more potent and resistant to the antibiotics. As such it is a constant struggle to reinvent and find effective cures. In such cases, intensive research is the only thing that can save lives as scientists discover more characteristics and behaviour of the triggers.

Recently, WHO published the first-ever list of antibiotic-resistant “priority pathogens” that included 12 families of bacteria that pose the greatest threat to human health. The intention was to spread awareness, as well as guide and promote research and development of new antibiotics. There is a serious concern on the growing global resistance to antimicrobial medicines.
(How Antibiotics May Make You More Prone to Infections)WHO Lists 12 Deadly Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria and the Urgent Need for New Drugs

What Did the List Include?

According to the global health body, the list is divided into three categories according to the urgency of need for new antibiotics: critical, high and medium priority.

“The most critical group of all includes multi-drug resistant bacteria that pose a particular threat in hospitals, nursing homes, and among patients whose care requires devices such as ventilators and blood catheters. They include Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas and various Enterobacteriaceae (including Klebsiella, E. coli, Serratia, and Proteus),” said a WHO statement.

It said that all the bacteria can cause severe and often deadly infections such as bloodstream infections and pneumonia.

“These bacteria have become resistant to a large number of antibiotics, including carbapenems and third generation cephalosporins – the best available antibiotics for treating multi-drug resistant bacteria,” said the report.
(Rare Disease Day: 7 Most Rare Diseases in the World and the Importance of Research)

bacteria

High- Medium Priority Type

The second tier includes antibiotics of high priority – for Enterococcus faecium, which is vancomycin-resistant; Staphylococcus aureus, which is methicillin-resistant; Helicobacter pylori, which is clarithromycin-resistant; Campylobacter spp, which is fluoroquinolone-resistant; Salmonellae, which is fluoroquinolone-resistant; and Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which is cephalosporin and fluoroquinolone-resistant.

The third tier includes medium priority antibiotics for Streptococcus pneumoniae, which is penicillin-non-susceptible; Haemophilus influenzae, which is ampicillin-resistant; and Shigella spp, which is fluoroquinolone-resistant.

“This list is a new tool to ensure research and development responds to urgent public health needs,” said WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation Marie-Paule Kieny in the statement.

Evelina Tacconelli, Head of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Tubingen and a major contributor to the list, said, “New antibiotics targeting this priority list of pathogens will help to reduce deaths due to resistant infections around the world.

“Waiting any longer will cause further public health problems and dramatically impact on patient care.”

gut bacteria

 

Starbucks is entering a new era and 4 jokes reveal the biggest problems haunting its business

 

  • Starbucks is sandwiched between inexpensive fast-food chains and high-end “Third Wave” coffee shops. 
  • While it built its empire on its cool, Euro-inspired image, Starbucks is increasingly known for “basic” drinks like the Unicorn Frappuccino. 
  • Moving away from the core brand sent Starbucks “over its skis” in the past, the CEO told Business Insider – and he’s well aware of past mistakes.
  • Starbucks’ new mission: to be everything to everyone. 

The other weekend I went with my family to a coffee shop that my mother deemed “the most beautiful” Starbucks she’d ever seen.

It was a sprawling, comfortable space on the main street in suburban Michigan, where we were visiting family. The exterior was covered in wood shingles and river rocks. Customers lounged in chairs outside and tapped away on their laptops at tables indoors. Chatty baristas were happy to help us with my mom’s low-cal venti iced-coffee order, my cold brew, my dad’s tea, and my brother’s request to use a bathroom.

Starbucks

It had little in common with the drive-thru Starbucks my parents visit in North Carolina or the crowded store where I pick up my mobile coffee orders in New York City.

These differences show the central tension of what Starbucks has become: all things to all people, and in the process, a brand that’s become intermittently muddled and decidedly middlebrow.

Once the chain persuaded Americans to spend $4 on a cup of coffee with Italian names for drinks and sizes that made coffee an elite experience bordering on pretentiousness, the Starbucks of 2017 is just as known for the super-sweet Pumpkin Spice Latte and the made-for-Instagram Unicorn Frappuccino.

Starbucks is sandwiched between low-end brands like Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s, which siphon off some of Starbucks’ customers with lower prices, and, at the other end, the “Third Wave” coffee chains such as Intelligentsia and Blue Bottle, with their precise pour-overs and baristas who make art out of latte foam.

As Starbucks enters a new era, with plans to open 10,000 locations in five years, and the move of longtime CEO Howard Schultz (the man behind the brand’s most revolutionary choices) from chief executive to chairman of the board, the company is trying to figure out if it can be everything to everyone.

The means serving Unicorn Frappuccinos for Instagram-obsessed college students, nitro cold brew for snobs, and a morning cup of joe for commuters on the go. All the while, it needs to fend off competition that its own success helped create at both ends of the market.

At Starbucks image is key. And, what some customers think about Starbucks has long been reflected by the jokes about the chain.

The “Venti” joke

Starbucks 1

When Chris Allieri visited Starbucks in Boulder, Colorado, as a freshman at the University of Colorado in 1992, he had to call his parents.

“It was magic, like a temple to coffee,” Allieri, the founder and principal of marketing firm Mulberry & Astor, told Business Insider.

The location, built in a former gas station, was modern, light, and airy. The smell of coffee wafted through the air, as employees ground beans in the store. Baristas – a new word to Americans back then – gave off a perfectly cool vibe, and the coffee options were seemingly endless. Everything about the store was different from the cafes and convenience stores where most people purchased stale-tasting coffee in the ’90s, if they even bought the beverage instead of just making it at home from Folgers Crystals.

On the phone from his dorm, Allieri told his parents he was convinced that Starbucks would be the next big thing.

“I kept saying, ‘This is bigger than coffee – you don’t get it!'” he recalls telling his father. “And I remember him saying, ‘Well, you should buy the stock.’ As if. I was a broke college student. If only I had the money, or the foresight.” If Allieri had purchased $1,000 in Starbucks stock back in 1992 – the year the company went public – he’d have $180,000 today.

The Starbucks experience

Starbucks has made billions of dollars by creating something that didn’t exist: a space where customers could not only treat themselves to fancy Italian-style beverages but also relax and socialize. It was a brand that immediately felt sophisticated and elite, making customers like Allieri feel as if they were joining an exclusive club.

When the first Starbucks opened in New York City, The New York Times had to define what a latte was and explain it was pronounced “LAH-tay.” Starbucks played up its exotic nature in everything it did, down to its sizes, with “grande” and “venti” providing a connection to the Italian coffee culture that inspired Schultz.

“Starbucks was an affordable way to get luxury,” Craig Garthwaite, an assistant professor of strategy at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, told Business Insider. While Starbucks was clearly pricier than your average cup of coffee, it was a small luxury in the grand scheme of things. Most people couldn’t afford to buy a BMW, but they could treat themselves with a “grande vanilla latte” as a small symbol of their expensive tastes.

In the 1990s and 2000s, the little details that set Starbucks apart and allowed it to charge a few extra dollars, were new and foreign – and ridiculed by many. As Starbucks expanded, the chain was mocked for calling its beverage sizes tall, grande, and venti instead of small, medium, and large.

In 2004, “Mr. Language Person” Dave Barry published an article in The Times that hit on the tropes of the venti joke:

Starbucks decided to call its cup sizes “Tall” (meaning “not tall,” or “small”), “Grande” (meaning “medium”) and “Venti” (meaning, for all we know, “weasel snot”). Unfortunately, we consumers, like moron sheep, started actually USING these names. Why? If Starbucks decided to call its toilets “AquaSwooshies,” would we go along with THAT?

Starbucks versus Dunkin’ Donuts

In 2006, the venti jokes were so common that Dunkin’ Donuts launched a campaign lambasting a “certain competitor” for using elitist words that were a perplexing mix of French and Italian. In the ad, which it called “Fritalian,” customers stand, slack jawed, looking at a coffee shop’s menu board filled with a nonsensical mishmash of words, such as “Limon Au Deau,” “Lattcapssreso,” and “Isto Cinno.”

“Delicious lattes from Dunkin’ Donuts – you order them in English, not Fritalian,” the narrator says in the commercial’s conclusion.

Dunkin’ advertising “lattes” shows how mainstream the beverage had become over the last decade, in large part due to Starbucks’ influence. As Starbucks grew, lattes had become a symbol of elitist liberals, out of touch with the average American. In 2004, a conservative PAC ran an ad during the Democratic Caucuses featuring an Iowa couple telling Howard Dean to take his “tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving left-wing freak show” back to Vermont.

Yet in 2008, Dunkin’ Donuts was selling more inexpensive versions of Starbucks’ semi-Euro beverages, while maintaining the brand’s all-American identity.

Starbucks didn’t want an all-American identity. For Schultz, confusing, potentially elitist naming conventions weren’t a bug; they were a feature.

“Customers believed that their grande lattes demonstrated that they were better than others – cooler, richer, more sophisticated,” Bryant Simon wrote in his book about Starbucks, “Everything But the Coffee.” “As long as they could get all of this for the price of a cup of coffee, even an inflated one, they eagerly handed over their money, three and four dollars at a clip.”

Starbucks’ strategy has long been different from that of McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts. While Dunkin’ Donuts attracts customers with low prices and convenience, Starbucks’ strategy has been rooted in attracting customers to what Schultz called the “romance and theatre” of the coffee-shop experience.

“Any retailer can throw a few ingredients in a cup and say here’s your latte, but Starbucks has differentiated themselves with the experience,” Melody Overton, the creator of the blog Starbucks Melody, said.

When customers are making venti jokes, Starbucks is at its best, as an aspirational brand that’s unlike any other. The chain’s problems come when the venti becomes the norm.

The Starbucks on every corner joke

Throughout the ’70s and much of the ’80s, Starbucks was a coffee roaster first and a coffee shop second. But in the early ’80s, Schultz joined the company and became convinced that Starbucks could achieve a seemingly impossible goal: remain premium while becoming ubiquitous.

Schultz had never wanted Starbucks to stay small, like other regional chains such as Peet’s. In fact, Schultz left the company for a brief period in the mid-’80s because he was unable to convince Starbucks founders that the company could be an international chain, not just a coffee roaster. In 1987, Schultz acquired the Starbucks’ brand and 17 locations from its founders, who decided to focus their energy on Peet’s. Then Schultz began planting the seeds for one of the most ambitious retail expansions in history.

Between 1998 and 2008, Starbucks grew from 1,886 stores to 16,680.

Starbucks stores

“From the beginning, what they were hoping to be is the third place between home and work,” Garthwaite said, referring to the chain’s sociology-inspired mission to become a meeting place. “To achieve that goal, you have to be everywhere.” And soon Starbucks was.

Even when Starbucks had just 700 stores, the chain seemed pervasive, with NPR’s “All Things Considered” announcing as an April Fools’ joke in 1996  that Starbucks’ was building a “transcontinental coffee slurry pipeline” as part of efforts to become omnipresent. In 2000, an Onion headline read “New Starbucks Opens In Rest Room Of Existing Starbucks.” That same year “The Simpsons” aired an episode in which Bart visits a mall in which every store was swiftly being turned into a Starbucks. Lewis Black had a joke in 2002  about seeing a Starbucks across from a Starbucks, which he declared a sign of the end of the universe and evidence against a loving god.

It wasn’t an exaggeration. Around that time, if you stood at just the right spot in New York’s Astor Place, you could see three Starbucks without moving your head.

But unlike the venti jokes, these jabs spelled trouble for the company.

Overexpansion

“The number of new stores got ahead of Starbucks’ ability to have the [employees] to staff those stores,” Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson told Business Insider. The company “got over its skis,” sacrificing training and upscale marketing for speedy growth and shareholder returns without thinking of the consequences.

As a result, Starbucks made decisions that would leave the company reeling as it moved away from its roots as a sophisticated, luxury brand.

Schultz had stepped down as CEO in 2000. While he remained on the board, new leadership was more focused on expansion than safeguarding Starbucks’ unique brand.

Opening locations across the US and beyond meant adding menu items that appealed to a wider swath of customers, from the failed cocoa-butter Chantico, which launched in 2005 and lasted a year, to the fruity Sorbetto, which launched in 2008 and was pulled after one year . To speed up operations, stores swapped high-end La Marzocco espresso machines for automatic machines. Starbucks no longer smelled like coffee as the chain had begun brewing from flavor-locked packaging.

On their own, each change would have likely gone unnoticed, but taken as a whole they were almost deadly.

“The damage was slow and quiet, incremental, like a single loose thread that unravels a sweater inch by inch,” Schultz says in his book “Onward.”

While customers may not have been able to pinpoint the changes, they noticed a different environment at Starbucks. “They lost a little bit of their luster – a little bit of their chutzpah, a little bit of their sparkle,” Allieri said of Starbucks in the mid-2000s.

As quality slipped at Starbucks, McDonald’s and other fast-food competitors smelled opportunity, adding lattes and other specialty coffee beverages to their menus at lower prices. Customers began buying their coffee elsewhere.

“More and more people were asking themselves, ‘Why am I paying $4 for a cup of coffee?'” said Oded Netzer, an associate professor of business at Columbia.

It was a grim situation. Starbucks had built a business on its sophisticated brand. Then, as it became ubiquitous, the chain became sterile and corporate. Further, in the recession, expensive coffee was no longer an affordable luxury.

The breaking point

The chain finally reached a breaking point in 2008 .

In January of that year, Schultz returned as CEO, with the mission of “re-igniting” customers’ “emotional attachment” to Starbucks . In February, Schultz closed all 7,100 US Starbucks locations for three and a half hours to retrain baristas on how to make the perfect espresso. And in July, Starbucks announced it was closing 600 underperforming stores.

As the company’s fabled “visionary,” Schulz began trying to bring the company back to his roots, a role he took with zeal. Beans were once again ground in stores, a new type of espresso machine was installed across all locations, and stores were redesigned to “recapture the coffeehouse feel,” adding touches like local decorations and secondhand furniture .

He righted the sinking ship financially. The company’s stock has increased by 1,140% from Starbucks’ low in late 2008, and the company has opened 10,000 new locations around the world.

But few would say Starbucks fully recaptured the premium image it had crafted in the ’90s. Instead, it entered a period of appealing to both the wealthy and the working class, serving the urbane and the moms in minivans who go through its drive-thrus. Shoppers expect a Starbucks to be nearby, and they no longer wince calling a drink “grande.”

This is a big reason Starbucks is stuck in the middle now, sandwiched between chains focusing on no-frills value, like Dunkin’ and McDonald’s, and the “third wave” of high-end shops. Some are independent; others are fancier chains, like Intelligentsia and Blue Bottle.

Starbucks’ ubiquity empowered rivals at both ends. Over the past year, these problems have once again reared their heads as Starbucks’ stock stagnated. Store traffic slowed after years of growth post-2008.

Instead of being mocked for being pretentious, Starbucks now finds itself with something like the opposite problem.

The “basic” joke

The story of Starbucks’ current place in Americana can be summed up in one drink: the Pumpkin Spice Latte.

The PSL, as it’s known, sometimes derisively, is a seasonal concoction of cloves, nutmeg, and other spices synonymous with fall. It’s been on the menu since 2003, when Starbucks decided it wanted to create an autumn drink.

According to lore, the PSL was created while brainstorming ideas for a new espresso-based seasonal beverage. The innovation team sat with a pumpkin pie on one side and an espresso machine on the other, alternating shots of espresso and bites of pie in an attempt to deconstruct how best to combine the two flavors.

The drink has become an autumnal tradition. Over the past 13 years, Starbucks has sold 200 million cups of its Pumpkin Spice Latte. It’s even created an entire category of PSL products, from breakfast cereals to Pumpkin Spice Peeps . It has a  Twitter account .

It also happens to be the defining drink of the “basic b—h.”

The dangers of being basic

If you are an American between the ages of 10 and 30, being basic isn’t necessarily a definable term; it’s a feeling you get about a certain kind of person, almost always female. To be a “basic b—h” is to buy into an unoriginal image of what is enjoyable and feminine, and to broadcast these uninspired tastes to the world. It’s the opposite of being edgy or cool – it’s behaving as expected, buying into a certain degree of groupthink. Wearing Uggs and leggings? Basic. Instagramming your fingers, coated in Essie nail polish, clutching a rainbow bagel at brunch with your girls? Basic. Pumpkin Spice Lattes? The most basic thing of all.

Thought Catalogue listed “liking Pumpkin Spice Lattes” as No. 2 on the list of “21 Signs You’re A Basic B*tch”  in 2012.

By fall 2014 the topic had exploded. Twitter was flooded with jokes about “basic white girls” loving PSLs. More than one group of white people released a parody rap video about Pumpkin Spice Lattes (“pumpkin spice latte rap” yields more than 2,000 results on YouTube). BuzzFeed published a think piece about PSL and class anxiety , “breaking down why we’re actually dismissive of all things pumpkin spice.”

For Starbucks, the onslaught of PSL jokes is good and bad. On one hand, the Pumpkin Spice Latte is incredibly popular – estimates suggest the chain has made a billion dollars selling the drink . On the other hand, being seen as a beacon for the basic is far from the upscale coffee-shop image that the Starbucks brand is built upon and that Schultz fought tooth and nail to win back in 2008.

“You can say tough luck, we’re going to go with the new customers because they’re the majority now,” Netzer said on Starbucks’ attempts to serve both mainstream teens and coffee snobs. “The problem with that is [the original] strategy is why Starbucks can charge $3 more for coffee than McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts.”

Schultz righted the chain after it became sterile – but he wasn’t able to regain the brand’s upscale “cool” factor.

“Something we all have to come to terms with as we get older is we’re all going to lose the it factor at some point,” Garthwaite said. It’s nearly impossible for a large corporation to maintain the “edgy, hip factor” that comes with being a small company doing something revolutionary, that Starbucks managed to capture in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

But Starbucks wants to try. For the past two years, Netzer says, the chain has realized that it was once again straying from its roots and doubled down on coffee to win back the “coffee connoisseurs” who were the brand’s base in the ’90s.

Beyond basic

The first result of that plan opened in Seattle in 2014. Called a “Roastery,” the 15,000-square-foot location combines coffee production, menu tests, and architectural whimsy. The Roastery has become a huge part of the company’s plans to roll out an upscale brand called Reserve.

“Ubiquity will create sort of a natural gravitation pull toward a commodity,” said CEO Johnson. Becoming a commodity is obviously something Starbucks wants to avoid, even as it grows. “Which is why our strategy really includes a key pillar to elevate the brand – which is why we’re building Roasteries.”

Globally, 1,000 Reserve stores will serve Roastery-style concoctions and food made in the stores. And 20% of all Starbucks locations will feature a Reserve Bar, to allow for more complex ways to prepare drinks.

Still, don’t count out the power of the Pumpkin Spice Latte-loving basics just yet. In April, as evidence grew that Starbucks was planning to open a third American Roastery in Chicago, the chain launched its most Instagrammable – and many would say most basic – beverage yet: the Unicorn Frappuccino.

The Unicorn Frappuccino is a brightly colored beverage that changes its color and flavor when stirred. Aesthetically, it’s remarkable, looking better when you photograph it yourself than in company advertising. Culinarily, it’s kind of gross – a sugar bomb that tastes like an Orange Julius married with Sour Skittles.

It was also an instant hit, flooding social media with customers’ photos of the drink, providing Starbucks with immeasurable free advertising. And nowhere was the drink more prevalent than on the “basic” hashtag on Instagram, where half of the posts are of the Unicorn Frappuccino. Scrolling through #basic, it’s as though the hashtag has been transformed into a Starbucks ad.

The everyone drinks Starbucks joke

Imagine walking into a Starbucks in 2022. The building is towering – an open space the size of a large auditorium. In one corner, there’s a bar with baristas mixing nonalcoholic coffee cocktails; in another, a roaster heating beans; in another, a full-service restaurant. Employees are clad in leather aprons and low-key hipster garb. Scruffy coffee roasters wear beard nets. The menu is made up of items that easily surpass the $10 mark – drinks that seem more fit for a classy Manhattan cocktail menu than a coffee shop.

Then imagine walking into another version of Starbucks five years down the road from today. Customers are staring at their iPhones, rushing in just as an employee greets them by name and hands them their drink. There’s no cash register, no workers taking orders, just baristas making drinks and handing off beverages to customers rushing in and out.

In fact, both of these Starbucks exist now, within just a few miles of each other in Seattle, Washington. One is the first Starbucks Roastery and the other is the first Starbucks’ test mobile-only store, which was launched earlier in April in Starbucks’ offices.

Looking at Starbucks’ history, it’s clear that the brand evolved – and will continue to evolve – out of necessity, as it is pulled in different directions.

“As our customer base has grown, sometimes our customer wants that third place experience, and sometimes they want convenience,” Johnson told Business Insider. “We’re not sacrificing one for the other, but it is a delicate balance.”

Striking a balance means drawing from all of Starbucks’ past eras – and the lessons Starbucks has learned from the jokes people tell.

The Roastery and Reserve stores are perhaps the obvious response to people mocking Starbucks. The new store formats, with their small-batch brews and siphoned coffee, are created to counter jokes about Unicorn Frappuccinos, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, and the increasingly basic nature of Starbucks. Schultz, who stepped down as CEO but will remain on the board, is at the helm of the project.

With the Roasteries, Starbucks has a chance to bring back the innovative, exotic Starbucks brand of the ’90s but at a much larger scale. Schultz told Business Insider in October that the Roasteries have shown Starbucks that there is a “real opportunity” for Starbucks to create a “super-premium brand.”

“As companies face the threat of e-commerce and mobile shopping, the burden of responsibility of the brick-and-mortar retailers is to create a very immersive, dynamic experience,” he said.

But Starbucks needs to be more than super-premium. It also needs to be convenient, basic, Instagram-worthy, and more.

Can Starbucks have it all?

Johnson says that the biggest reason you don’t hear jokes about “Starbucks in Starbucks’ bathrooms” as much any more is that the company has changed what a Starbucks looks like, rolling out new store formats in recent years and with more in the works.

“Take everything from an express store on Wall Street that is very small square footage, small menu, and it’s all for convenience. Customers walk up, we serve them their food and beverage quickly,” Johnson said, listing store formats. “Then, it’s our core Starbucks stores – the third place. Starbucks stores with drive-thrus. And now we’ve got Reserve bars and Reserve stores and Roasteries.”

In essence, Schultz and Johnson have realized that as Starbucks became ubiquitous it picked up new types of customers, from snobs to basics. Wedged between fast-food chains and hip coffee shops, Starbucks’ new strategy is to create different types of stores – all with an emphasis on customer service – that match up with different types of competitors. Express stores are as fast as any fast-food chain, while Roasteries serve beverages as complex as any indie shop.

“They’re bringing back the coffee and bringing back the service,” Nezder said about the proliferation of Starbucks formats. “I think it’s brilliant. I think it’s addressing the problem they’ve had for years.”

Others aren’t as convinced that Starbucks can pull of the balancing act.

“You can’t be everything to everyone,” said Gairthwaite, who is skeptical of Starbucks’ ability to compete with smaller brands like Intelligentsia and Stumptown while continuing to meet the needs of the majority of customers. “They’ve always struggled with this idea that some people want the artistry and some people just want a drink.”

Vlogger Bethany Mota may have best captured this Starbucks moment. Her video, “Types of People at Starbucks,” which describes customers including the Secret Menu Snob, the Instagram Addict, and the Rude Customer, has racked up more 1.5 million views on YouTube. Starbucks’ customers are increasingly visiting the chain for different reasons – and Starbucks is responding by trying to tailor its stores to all these needs.

“The problem with success is you get harder, more difficult problems to solve,” Garthwaite said.

Perhaps the next Starbucks joke will be, who wants a low-fat Nitro Unicorn Pour-Over to go for $10?

 

New Robotic System Can 3D Print Entire Buildings

 

MIT scientists have designed a new robotic system that can 3D print the basic structure of an entire building, an advance that would make building houses a faster, less expensive process.

The building could also be completely customised to the needs of a particular site and the desires of its maker.

Even the internal structure could be modified in new ways, researchers said.

Different materials could be incorporated as the process goes along, and material density could be varied for optimum combinations of strength, insulation, or other properties.

“Ultimately, this approach could enable the design and construction of new kinds of buildings that would not be feasible with traditional building methods, said Steven Keating, from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US.

The system consists of a tracked vehicle that carries a large, industrial robotic arm, which has a smaller, precision-motion robotic arm at its end.

This highly controllable arm can then be used to direct any construction nozzle, such as those used for pouring concrete or spraying insulation material, as well as additional digital fabrication end effectors, such as a milling head.

Unlike typical 3D printing systems, most of which use some kind of an enclosed, fixed structure to support their nozzles and are limited to building objects that can fit within their overall enclosure, this free-moving system can construct an object of any size.

The researchers used a prototype to build the basic structure of the walls of a 50-foot-diameter, 12-foot-high dome – a project that was completed in less than 14 hours of “printing” time.New Robotic System Can 3D Print Entire Buildings

For these initial tests, the system fabricated the foam- insulation framework used to form a finished concrete structure.

This construction method, in which polyurethane foam molds are filled with concrete, is similar to traditional commercial insulated-concrete formwork techniques.

The system can be adapted to existing building sites and equipment, and that it will fit existing building codes without requiring whole new evaluations, Keating explains.

Ultimately, the system is intended to be self-sufficient, researchers said.

It is equipped with a scoop that could be used to both prepare the building surface and acquire local materials, such as dirt for a rammed-earth building, for the construction itself. The whole system could be operated electrically, even powered by solar panels.

The idea is that such systems could be deployed to remote regions, for example in the developing world, or to areas for disaster relief after a major storm or earthquake, to provide durable shelter rapidly.

The ultimate vision is “in the future, to have something totally autonomous, that you could send to the moon or Mars or Antarctica, and it would just go out and make these buildings for years,” said Keating.

The research as published in the journal Science Robotics.

 

Real Estate Companies Waiting For Clarity On GST, New Law: Survey

 

New Delhi: Sentiment in real estate sector has improved post demonetisation but the industry is still in ‘wait and watch’ mode due to lack of clarity on reforms, including the new real estate law and GST, according to a study.

Property consultant Knight Frank India and FICCI today released its real estate sentiment index, based on a quarterly survey of key supply-side stakeholders, which include developers, private equity funds, banks and non-banking financial companies (NBFCs), “Post the policy intervention by the government in November 2016 that shook the real estate sector, the current sentiment score (53) has seen a substantial uptick from the drastic fall seen in Q4 2016 that had pushed the score to 41, which is the worst in the last three years,” the report said.Real Estate Companies Waiting For Clarity On GST, New Law: Survey

“This substantiates the transitory impact of the demonetisation policy initiative,” it added.

The “wait and watch mode” is still prevailing in the sector in the expectation of clarity on various policy measures by the government in the next six months.

The stakeholders are not very clear about the impact of the changing environment on account of policy interventions like Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Act, 2016 (RERA), Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act, 2016 and Goods and Services Tax (GST).

The real estate sector is facing a multi-year slowdown due to poor demand because of high prices. The sluggish demand has resulted in liquidity crunch to developers and huge delays in delivery of projects.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

For latest news on Business, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
Story first published on: May 26, 2017 08:39 (IST)

 

Walmart Takes Self-Service to a New Level With Giant Grocery Vending Machine

 

Walmart (NYSE:WMT) just developed a vending machine for groceries. And it thinks it can do the same for other retail items as well.

Walmart Self-Service Vending Machine for Groceries

The automated kiosk is currently being tested in Oklahoma City. Basically, customers purchase their groceries online. Then Walmart employees pick out the items and pack up the orders, which are then stored in a kiosk in the parking lot. When customers arrive at the kiosk to pick up their orders, they enter a code and their groceries appear in less than a minute.

This has a few different benefits for customers, including less time spent shopping and the ability to shop 24 hours a day. But it also offers plenty of potential benefits for Walmart and other businesses that plan to capitalize on this type of model.Walmart Self-Service Vending Machine for Groceries

For one, a self-service model could allow businesses to operate with considerably less staffing. It could also make businesses more competitive by offering customers those features of convenience that they value.

Walmart’s new offering is part of a larger trend of self-service kiosks and other services. Redbox, for example, has disrupted the movie rental market in a very similar way. So small businesses don’t have to sell groceries to learn something from what Walmart is doing.

There are innovative ways to offer a variety of products in creative and convenient ways. And if you’re able to come up with a system that works, you could please customers and save your business some valuable resources in the process.

 

Najma Heptulla appointed as new Jamia Millia Islamia chancellor

 

Najma Heptulla who has been a five time member of the Rajya Sabha and its deputy chairman for sixteen years served as the minister of minority affairs in Narendra Modi’s Cabinet before being appointed as the governor of Manipur. Photo: HT

New Delhi: Manipur governor and former minority affairs minister Najma Heptulla has been appointed as the chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia.

Jamia vice chancellor Talat Ahmad confirmed the development, saying she has been appointed for a term of five years. The 77-year old Heptulla succeeds Lt Gen (Retd) M.A. Zaki who completes his five-year term this monthNajma Heptulla who has been a five time member of the Rajya Sabha and its deputy chairman for sixteen years served as the minister of minority affairs in Narendra Modi’s Cabinet before being appointed as the governor of Manipur. Photo: HT.

“University will greatly benefit from her rich experience in both political and public life. It will be our privilege to work with her and to learn from her distinguished career in Parliament and internationally,” Ahmed said.

Heptulla who has been a five time member of the Rajya Sabha and its deputy chairman for sixteen years served as the minister of minority affairs in prime minister Narendra Modi’s Cabinet before being appointed as the governor of Manipur.

Heptulla has had the distinction of presiding over the women’s parliamentarians’ group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in 1993. She was elected President of Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), a Geneva-based international organisation from 1999 to 2002, and was nominated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as its human development ambassador.

 

Europe’s Galileo Satellite Navigation System to Get New Orbiters

 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The deal was signed at the International Paris Air Show
  • Galileo navigation constellation will gain an additional 8 satellites
  • Eighteen Galileo satellites have been placed in Earth’s orbit to date

The European Space Agency signed a contract with a German-British consortium Thursday to build eight more satellites for its Galileo satnav system, an alternative to America’s GPS, the agency said Thursday.

The deal was signed at the International Paris Air Show with German company OHB as the prime contractor, and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd in charge of navigation systems.

The ESA signed on behalf of the European Commission, which owns and funds the system.

“Europe’s Galileo navigation constellation will gain an additional eight satellites, bringing it to completion,” the ESA said in a statement.

Eighteen Galileo satellites have been placed in Earth’s orbit to date, with four more due for launch later this year.

With the last eight satellites to be built and tested by OHB, the EUR 10 billion ($11 billion or roughly Rs. 72,092 crores) constellation will ultimately comprise 30 orbiters.

Twenty-four will be operational, in three orbital planes, with the rest standing by as spares, in orbit and on the ground.Europe's Galileo Satellite Navigation System to Get New Orbiters

The European Commission expects Galileo to be fully operational by 2020.

The project has experienced many setbacks, including the placement of two satellites in the wrong orbit.

Galileo went live in December last year, providing initial services with a weak signal, having taken 17 years and more than triple the original budget.

The civilian-controlled service is seen as strategically important for Europe, which relies on two military-run rivals – GPS and Russia’s GLONASS.

Neither provides a guarantee of uninterrupted service.

In January, ESA said the system suffered another setback, with atomic clocks – claimed by the agency to be the most accurate ever flown for geolocalisation – failing onboard a number of satellites in space.

Each Galileo satellite has four ultra-accurate atomic timekeepers, but needs just one working clock.

The failure of nine clocks out of 72 launched so far, has not affected operation, the agency said at the time.

But it would necessitate a relook at clock design, meaning further possible delays.

Thursday’s statement said the eight new satellites are based on the approved design for the previous ones, but will feature “improvements based on lessons learnt.”

Once fully deployed, Galileo aims to pinpoint a location on Earth to within a metre – compared to several metres for GPS and GLONASS.

Clients of a paying service can get even more accurate readings – down to centimetres.

It will also offer search-and-rescue services.

 

Snapchat Introduces New Feature: Will it Help You with Marketing?

 

Introducing Snap Map

Snap Map, as it’s called, is a location based service that shows Snapchat users where their friends are hanging out nearby. So if someone is posting snaps from a local restaurant, you can see that on an actual map instead of just watching their snaps and wondering where all that great food is coming from. Of course, there’s also a ghost mode for people who don’t want everyone else to constantly know their location on Snapchat.

The feature is meant to help Snapchat users find more fun activities in their local area and make it easier to meet up with friends. But it could definitely have some benefits for local businesses as well.Snapchat Introduces Snap Map: Will it Help You with Marketing?

If Snapchat users are constantly sharing their location and inviting friends to meet up with them at your business, it could lead to lots of new customers. So you could encourage that type of sharing by putting up signage asking for customers to post on Snapchat, offering special events. Or you could even create your own location based Snapchat frame or filter to get people really interested in sharing on the platform.

It’s just one feature on a platform that offers limited benefit to marketers compared to other social media platforms. But for local businesses, especially those that target young, social customers, it could provide a bit of a boost.

 

GST impact on real estate: Will new tax system bring property prices down?

 

After demonetisation, the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act or RERA is being enforced to realise the ‘housing for all’ initiative by the government, and the implementation of the upcoming Goods and Services Tax (GST) will further streamline the real estate segment in India. GST is designed to encourage transparency and ease of doing business in the realty sector, but whether it will bring down property prices or not, is still debatable.

If we look at the current tax levels, these include 4.5 per cent service tax (with input tax set off available) plus 1 per cent value-added tax or VAT (in Maharashtra, without any set-off benefits). In the GST regime, the tax on under-construction projects will be 12 per cent. On the face of it, there is an increase of 6.5 per cent regarding the tax payable by apartment purchasers. However, there is the option of getting full input tax set off on all input side if GST is paid.

 Will GST bring property prices down

It is expected that the net effect of the credit set off benefit will leave the overall tax revenue to the government as neutral. However, the entire concept of GST is that the final consumer bears the overall tax and compared to the earlier regime, the tax rate to the end consumer is much higher. It is likely to lead to a reduction in the per-square-foot rate quoted by developers (since they will be able to get the benefit of input tax credit). On the other hand, the total cost to the end consumer may change slightly depending on the actual specifications, location and other details of the project.

However, GST is not applicable to ready-to-move-in properties. As a result, developers will either have to bear the tax burden since it cannot be passed on to end consumers or prices of apartments, which are ready for possession, will increase in step with the taxes. Again, it will lead to a change in the quoted price by the developer, but the overall cost to the end customer will stay largely unchanged.

Unfortunately, the government has not addressed the aspect of stamp duty, which continues to be extremely high for land and apartment sales. There is no input tax set off available for the stamp duty paid for the land, and this goes against the basic concept of GST. Hopefully, it will be addressed by various state governments shortly.

Never before in the history of the country, so many changes have taken place at the same time to impact the real estate sector. Demonetisation, RERA and GST are all critical changes, but when all of these are implemented within a period of eight months, it is nothing short of a tsunami for the entire sector.

Consequently, developers have to rethink their entire approach to business. For a long time, many developers followed the business model whereby profit was made by shortchanging customers, constructing houses illegally and using customers’ money without returning any value to them. Promises made to customers were not intended to be kept or at least, that was the norm. All this will change when developers are forced to define in writing what they will give to the homebuyers and by when it will be provided. The option of selling apartments without approvals is no longer available, and the capital requirements (for developers) will also go up. An industry, which has, for a long time, seen people with very little capital take up large projects, will have to change its current practices. Of course, all this would be excellent news for homebuyers.

(Rohit Gera is Managing Director, Gera Developments, and Vice President, CREDAI-Pune Metro)

 

1.6 lakh new businesses register on GSTN in 4 days

 

Navin Kumar, chairman of the GST Network.(Livemint)

As many as 1.6 lakh businesses that were previously not registered for either VAT, service tax or excise duty have enrolled for Goods and Services Tax (GST) in the past four days.

As the GST Network portal reopened for the third time registration for both new assessees and existing excise, service tax and VAT payers on June 25, businesses rushed to get themselves registered ahead of the July 1 rollout of GST.

“Since June 25, 1.60 lakh applications for fresh registrations have come in. Of this 53,000 applications have been completed with details of business. The rest are in process,” GSTN Chairman Navin Kumar told PTI here.

New businesses have 30 days for registering on the GSTN portal beginning June 25.

In first two rounds of registration window, about 66 lakh out of existing indirect tax payers of 80.91 lakh had registered with GST Network, the IT backbone for GST.

Kumar said there were many businesses in sectors like tax, sugar and diamond that were earlier not registered with the state tax department and are now registering.GSTN

Although businesses with turnover of up to Rs 20 lakh are exempt from GST and hence registration is not mandatory, traders and manufacturers are preferring to get themselves registered so that the input tax credit can be passed on in the supply chain.

Also, on an average, 40,000-50,000 applications from existing excise, service tax and VAT assessees have come in, taking the total enrolment figure to nearly 68 lakh.

This is against the 80.91 lakh existing excise, service tax and VAT assessees.

“We have already issued provisional IDs to the 68 lakh existing assessees. Of these, provisional registration certificate has already been issued to 10 lakh assessees. The remaining will be sent today,” Kumar said.

The 15-digit provisional ID would work as the Goods and Services Taxpayer Identification Number (GSTIN).

GSTN — the company readying the IT backbone for the GST regime — has been working overtime to ensure a smooth registration and all these assessees have been given a provisional ID, using which they can start transacting business from July 1.

When a business registers under GST, it is given a provisional GSTIN. After that, in the second stage, the business has to log in to the GSTN portal and give details of its business like the main place of business, additional place, directors and bank account details.

The government has done away with the requirement of verification of registration through digital signature or generating electronic verification code (EVC) through banks.

Businesses can just save these documents on the GSTN portal and an e-mail will be sent to them saying all their details are received and the process of registration is complete.

The biggest tax reform since Independence, GST will be rolled out at the mid-night of June 30 and make India a single market for seamless movement of goods and services. The GST subsumes 16 different levies, including excise, service tax and VAT.