The Lost Generation: Youth Unemployment in Greece and Spain Still Over 50%

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Greek and Spanish under 30 years old are doomed to be a lost generation.

It is a generation that, in general statistical terms, is left with the only prospect of living off their parents until they can live off their children.

A stark economic divide has opened in Europe. The core of Europe is enjoying record low unemployment, while peripheral Mediterranean countries suffer from some of the highest unemployment rates in recorded history.

European unemployment broken down by country:

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But the scariest data, once again, is revealed in the table of European youth unemployment. Here we see that both Spain and Greece now share the same youth unemployment figure above 50 %, while Italy has recently reversed its improving trend, and is now at 40 % and rising.

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For anyone asking why Europe’s politicians are terrified at the anti “austerity” wave that is just over the horizon, the table above should have all the answers.

Why Europe Lets Thousands of People Drown

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That Europe let almost 1000 people die in the Mediterranean in one night shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, at least not to those who are still occasionally awake.

The Club Med migrant crisis has been going on for a long time, and the EU’s only reaction to it has been to slash its budget and operations in the area, not to expand them.

So when the New York Times opens with “European leaders were confronted on Monday with a humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean..”, they’re a mile and a half less than honest. Brussels has known what was going on for years, and decided to do less than nothing.

The onus was put on Italy, Malta, Greece and a handful of private compassionate activists to handle the situation, as if it was some sort of local, or even tourist, issue, while Europe’s finest went back to festive gala openings of their €1 billion+ new head quarter of the Eueopean Central Bank, from where they can efficiently keep forcing more austerity on member nations. Somebody has to pay for those buildings.

The EU took over rescue operations from Italy late last year and promptly cut the budget by two-thirds. Saving migrant lives was deemed just too expensive.

To its south, the EU faces perhaps its most shameful -or should that be ‘shameless’? – problem, because it doesn’t do anything about it: the thousands of migrants who try to cross the Mediterranean to get to Europe but far too often perish in the process. The Italians spend themselves poor, trying to save as many migrants as they can (170,000 last year!), and there are private citizens – Americans even – pouring in millions of dollars, but the EU itself has zero comprehensive policy as people keep dying on its doorstep all the time.

The official line out of Brussels is that the EU polices only the European coastline, but the drownings mostly take place off the Lybian coast. At least Italy and others do sail there to alleviate the human misery.

Via The Automatic Earth blog

What Every European Country Needs to Improve

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The European Union has 28 member countries and they make for a pretty great place to live.

But that doesn’t mean each country is without its flaws.

Here’s some statistics about what every European country is the worst at.

Austria: Most youth smokers
Every day, 29.4% of Austrians age 15-24 inhale cigarette smoke. And smoking is rising alarmingly in Austria: the Eurobarometer found an increase of smoking prevalence in Austria from 31% (2006) to 33% (2012).

Belgium: Worst traffic congestion
In the time it takes to drive through a Belgian city, you could probably eat a dozen waffles. According to the INRIX Traffic Scorecard, the two most traffic-congested cities in the world, Brussels and Antwerp, are both in Belgium.

Bulgaria: Least freedom of the press
According to Reporters without Borders, and although closely challenged by Greece, Bulgaria has the least freedom of the press in the European Union, and it ranked 87th on a list of 179 countries in the world. The country with the most freedom of the press in the world? Finland.

Finland: Highest depression rate
Finland is really good at a lot of things–like freedom of the press and education. But depression is pretty prevalent. According to the EU Mental Health Report, it is the highest in Europe. Fortunately, Finland’s suicide rate is no where near Lithuania’s.

France: Lowest English proficiency
According to the EF English Language Proficiency Index, French people rank as the lowest in Europe for their English language skills. The countries where English is moat wiedly and proficiently spoken are Denmark and the Netherlands. Somewhere, a guy eating soft cheese and a baguette is saying, “I don’t care” in French.

Italy: Most tax evasion
Death may be certain in Italy, but taxes are another matter: the official Italian Government tax collector, Agenzia delle Entrate, estimated €285 billion remained unpaid last year, about 18% of GDP. Italy has the highest percentage of unreported economic activity of any European Union country.

Latvia: Highest percentage of prisoners
Eurostat Crime Statistics tracks the number of homicides and inprisoned population throughout the European Union. Latvia has the highest percentage of its population in prison, with 305 per 100,000 inhabitants locked up. And yet, despite that mind-boggling figure, it’s only half of the rate in the United States, which sits at 716 per 100,000.

Lithuania: Highest suicide rate
According to data from the World Health Organization, in which a country’s rank is determined by its total rate deaths officially recorded as suicides in the most recent available year, 65 of every 100 thousands Lithuanians commit sucide every year. Lithuania’s suicide rate is so high, it’s nearly ten times higher than Greece’s.

Luxembourg: Lowest education spending
In 2007 Luxembourg spent only 3.15% of its GDP to fund public education.

Malta: Hardest country to open a business
On a list of 189 countries compiled by the World Bank, Malta improves but remains the most difficult place to start a business in the EU. It ranked no. 161. It even outranked other countries notorious for disorganization like China, the West Bank, and Spain.

Netherlands: Highest percentage of cyclists killed in road accidents
It’s really hard to find anything wrong with the Netherlands.  Despite the stereotypes, though, the Dutch are far from the highest consumers of marijuana (that would be Denmark). But on the off chance you get into a car accident in any EU country, the odds of killing a cyclist are highest in the Netherlands.

Portugal: Lowest crude birth rate
Portugal has just 7.9 births per 1,000 inhabitants. That’s almost half of Ireland’s 15.0 births per 1,000 inhabitants. So basically, 21st century Europe is going to be populated by a lot of Irish people and not very many Portuguese people.

Romania: Fewest cinemas per capita
Romania has only 3.8 cinemas per million inhabitants. On the other end of the spectrum, the Czech Republic has the most cinemas per capita, with 49.2 cinemas per million inhabitants.

Slovakia: Lowest voter turnout
Who votes in Slovakia? Almost nobody. Actually, it’s 13.05% of the population, but that’s a very low turnout. Voter turnout was the highest in Belgium, with 89.64% of the population showing up to vote.

Slovenia: Most alcoholism deaths
It is definitely is a sad record.

Spain: Highest school dropout rate
For any Spaniard reading this, a dropout rate is the percentage of students who do not complete schooling. In Spain’s case, 23.5% of students in the country do not complete mandatory education.

Sweden: Fewest hospital beds per capita
Maybe Sweden has fewer sick people than other countries. Or maybe Swedish hospitals prefer patients bring their own sleeping bags.

UK: Highest cocaine usage
Here are three other drugs the United Kingdom uses more of than any other country in the EU: amphetamines, ecstasy, and LSD.

Continue reading about:

Croatia – Least Erasmus participation
Cyprus – Fewer 18 year old in School
Denmark – Fewest Zaras per capita
Germany – Lowest homeownership rate
Greece – Highest foreign debt
Hungary: Highest VAT (value added tax)
Ireland – Highest rate of cystic fibrosis
Poland -Fewest doctors per capita

On Thrillist.com

Gifted Education for Innovative Learners

By Ande Nokte

midtown The vision for Midtown International School began over seven years ago in an ambitious strategic plan designed for a dramatically new approach to early learning. It was an exciting and pivotal time in my life: we had just added twins to our family, we were fostering an international high school student, I was beginning to put together applications for my doctoral program, and I decided that starting a preschool would be just the right thing to add to my plate. As a mother of three, a traveler, a philosopher, an avid reader, and a teacher, I had a clear vision for what needed to happen in the first years of life to create lifelong patterns of successful learning. The research was all published; the science was sound; the theories were well-formed and cogent; there were even a few elementary schools beginning to embrace some of the key concepts. The struggle I had, then, was why is no one doing this stuff for preschoolers? So we did. International Preschools moved from a group of four students to 250 students in two campuses in just seven years. It has truly been an adventure and a reward to see those ideas become reality.

And here we are, at the seven year mark, bringing the next phase of the strategic plan to reality with Midtown International School. There are a number of things we know and believe about schools and learning:

  • small class sizes maximize learning opportunities
  • foreign language learning is more successful if it’s done early
  • science literacy requires lab time
  • music literacy improves dramatically when students learn to play an instrument
  • higher order cognitive skills (like analysis, evaluation) require practice
  • arts integration creates greater opportunities for many learning styles to interact with the curriculum
  • student-planned travel increases retention of knowledge (for language, social and cultural studies, and even math and science standards used in the planning process)
  • technology is a fantastic instructor for basic skills
  • accountability can be measured in narratives and projects (and what teachers are held accountable for is generally what they will teach)
  • primary sources go through fewer layers of interpretation and can be used to create a solid framework for understanding any subject matter
  • the degree to which international education is infused into the day to day culture of a school relates directly to the presence of values of tolerance, curiosity, and understanding
  • recess and daily physical activity during school hours create a healthier and more successful student population
  • subject-matter teachers are more effective when they are subject-matter experts
  • teaching via a child’s academic strength can improve upon his or her weaker areas
  • understanding and embracing each student’s learning style is as important as differentiating instruction based on sets of skills and abilities
  • enthusiasm for learning trumps all other indicators for academic success
  • environmental education and awareness are most effective when accompanied by time spent outdoors

I’m sure I could go on and on for pages! Just as I wondered years ago when I started my first school, I now wonder, where is this school? In reality, this laundry list of knowledge isn’t really critical for all, or even many, students. There are dozens of fantastic public and independent schools in the Atlanta area that embrace many of these ideas and do so exceptionally. The students who attend these programs receive an excellent education. Parents choose schools that are a great fit for their family, values, and educational philosophy, and often that means prioritizing the above ideas.

So what do we do for those parents, students, and educators who choose to embrace and expect all of these statements? My experience has been very firmly that if we commit to creating an environment that upholds and stands behind this vision for education, it will become the reality of our school. Some simple changes to the traditional model of independent schools gives MIS viability and sustainability in embracing this high-reaching vision.

First, MIS is committed to keeping tuition and fundraising dollars in the classroom. Avoiding the high costs of excess administrative staff and expensive supply vendors opens the budget 14-18%. Next, smaller class sizes reduce wear and tear on technology, facilities, and, frankly, our teachers. Using instructional technology to introduce basic skills frees up class and instructional time for the invaluable experiences that engage learners at a higher level.

Generating and facilitating community partnerships with Atlanta’s unique and diverse museums, gardens, foundations, and universities leverages resources for our students, teachers, and classrooms. Symbiotically, these partnerships build community awareness and appreciation for these incredible sources of expertise right in our backyard.

Thank you for sharing some of your time with me today. I am always happy to meet to discuss any questions you might have beyond what is covered here. If MIS sounds like it might be a match for your family, please reach out! We look forward to hearing from you!

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Midtown International School
500 Amsterdam Ave. NE, Atlanta, GA 30306
admissions@midtowninternationalschool.com

The Middle Eastern Quagmire

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Nowadays, the Middle East is, with great difference, the most troublesome region and the source of the most significant geopolitical risk for the entire world.

With overlapping civil wars in Syria and Iraq, a new flare-up of violence between Israel and the Palestinians, the Islamic State expanding and tense nuclear talks with Iran, Middle Eastern politics are more volatile than ever and longtime alliances are shifting.

The next diagram,  just published by The Economist, tries to sort friends and foes in this chaotic and increasingly beligerant region.

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The truth of the matter is that, given the high level of complexity,  the chart at the top of this post (in which Israel and Palestine were discounted for the sake of simplicity) is probably a more faithful representation of reality: beligerant chaos.

The relationship mosaic rises to insane levels of complexity if we move beyond sovreign states and include in the chart political groups and militant organizations in the Middle East. The rise of Islamic State has upended geopolitics in the Middle East and has drawn America’s military back to the region. Though ISIS is popular among militants, the group has no allies on the political stage, making it even more isolated than the official al-Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra.

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It provides a quick glimpse of who is friends with whom (albeit a simplified depiction of relationships; the “neutral” category, for instance, embraces a large number of possibilities). The Syrian government is disliked by many countries but supported by Iran and Russia. The Iraqi Kurds count numerous friends and no sworn enemies among the entities listed.

And the chart shows the degree to which America and Europe need to play a delicate diplomatic game in holding together allies that may not always be friends with each other, groups and militant organizations in the Middle East.

The People’s Front of Judea hates the Judean People’s Front

To end on a happy note, you can watch this hilarious clip from Mounty Python’s movie Life of Bryan.

Brian: Excuse me. Are you the Judean People’s Front?
Reg: Bug off! ‘Judean People’s Front’. We’re the People’s Front of Judea! ‘Judean People’s Front’.
Francis: Splitters! The only people we hate more than the Romans are the Judean People’s Front and the Popular Front of Judea.

Gamification, Psychology and Suitcases on Wheels

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By Juan J. F. Valera Mariscal

Making a connection between psychological theory and games is innovative in itself. It is at the same time something simple, a bit like inventing a suitcase on wheels: both the suitcase and the wheel had already existed for centuries, but the revolutionary -and surprisingly recent- idea was to combine both concepts.

In the fusion of psycholgical theory and games we find the foundation of the concept of Gamification: the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems.

In his book Gamification by Design, Gabe Zichermann writes that gamification is 75% psychology and only 25% technology. We can easily understand that technology may refer to programming and design, but what exactly can psychology bring to gamification? If we look at the most experimental psychology carried out in the 20th century, we can see that it actually is highly and widely relevant to gamification.

The first attempts to turn psychology into an objective experimental science, which would allow it do get away from its more traditional and speculative nature, led psychologists to focus on observing behavior. In order to study behaviour, they had to start from something simple: a reflex – stimulus and response. From this angle, the mind becomes a dark realm, a mysterious and impenetrable Black Box. It is possible to unravel this mysteriuos box by looking at the effects of external elements on it (the stimulus) and observing how these are reflected in the person’s behavior (the response).

The first experiments were carried out on animals: Paulov’s now famous dogs and his Classical Conditioning. Therefore, disciplines such as Behaviourism and the Psychology of Learning developed and became increasingly more complex.

It was also observed that behaviours could be associated with reinforcements. When the latter were well designed and implemented, it was possible to build a powerful system for behavioural change. Thousands upon thousands of experiments in the world’s most prestigious psychology faculties continuously refined and expanded these ideas related to behavioural psychology.

But the evolution of these ideas went further still, and the Black Box Model was criticised. New psychologists thought it necessary to look into this black box without straying to far from Behaviourism. They theorized that thinking was a behaviour in itself and continued with an experimental model that includes what’s called Cognitive Psychology.

Thanks to this line of research we can learn, for example, how our expectations influence our decision to take part in a game, to accept a challenge or to interact with somebody. We start seeing concepts like self-efficacy, modelling and self-esteem. They are aspects that are essential to bear in mind in order to understand why people play and more generally why they behave the way they do. Therefore, they are essentials in order to design any application that has the intention of influencing people’s behaviour to train them or motivate them.

The field of psychological reaserach and theory developed following a greate number of courses. Humanist Psychologists also appeared on the scene, studying motivation and what moves people to action – why they act. Studies in these areas include those by Maslow and Herzberg, which are nowadays considered almost as a classic cultural heritage. These scholars have also left behind them disciples who are continuing to delve into the minutiae of human motivation.

More recently, new studies have been published on the psychology of Positive Emotions. It is the field of psychology which explores the roots of what makes us feel good: why are people happy? What makes people feel good? Someone can work for one reason but, beyond that reason, there are factors that make one person feel better than another even if they are both in the same circumstances.

Alongside these studies, we can mention the research carried out by Seligman – which deals with the concept of optimism – and the body of research of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi that led to his Flow Theory. The theory of Flow is an attempt to explain happiness that curiously draws a connection between perfection and the experience of playing a game, whatever the game or culture. The “optimal experience”, he said, corresponds astonishingly with the experiences of people who play video games. The remarkable fact is that we can design almost any human activity in such a way that we can carry it our just as we would in a game.

The various conclusions drawn from the field of psychology give us a huge number of concepts, experiments, data and statistics that we can use to understand what makes Gamification work, and even how to make it work better. However, one of the most exciting aspect of this union between psychology and games is the simplicity it suggests. We can get closer to real motivation and genuine personal improvement if we look at the most comprehensive model of game mechanics and dynamics: here we’re talking points, badges, levels and challenges instead of reflexes, motives, reinforcement, feedback, complexity, competences and expectations. This makes it easier to spread awareness of gamified design and make it more understandable. Of course, we could just as well call it “psychologicized” design, but few would disagree that to use the word “game” is inherently more appealing.

On the other hand, another exciting aspect is that Gamification per se is an experimental design. That is to say, it is a process set within a controlled environment in which we can analyse variables concerning its subjects objectively. That allows us to research, compare and contrast theories continually – which will most likely lead to the generation of several new theories. With Gamification, we are bringing the idea of a laboratory into the wider world. The repercussions of this will hopefully be the broadening of knowledge and benefits for humankind.

Gamification joins Psichology and Game Theory. Just like the suitcase and the wheel, they are ideas and concepts tha have existed for a long time. The revolutionary idea was to combine both concepts. After all, who would ever think now of actually carrying their suitcase?

These Countries Block Social Media

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In 2014, Reporters Without Borders designated 19 countries as “enemies of the internet” for actions ranging from Britain’s distributed denial of service attack against Anonymous to North Korea having building its own internal internet and walling its citizens off from the global web.

However, despite the “enemies of the internet” moniker, only six countries actively block social media networks around the world, as shown by the graphic.

Of the six countries, Turkey is the largest exception. Opposed to the other five countries, Turkey is both a NATO member and a hopeful applicant to the European Union. Turkey is also a functioning democracy, a fact which makes its total blockage of social media all the more concerning.

However, also unlike the other countries, Turkey’s banning of social media is not a constantly enforced law. Instead, Turkey selectively enforces bans of social media based upon the current environment. The latest social media ban, which is starting to be lifted, was put in place after a Marxist terrorist organization that held hostage a state prosecutor started to distribute images of the crisis online.

The hostage situation ended with the death of the prosecutor. Turkey‘s government said that the republishing of the image was akin to supporting terrorism and that, as social media did not limit the distribution of the image, the sites had to be shuttered.

In March 2014, Turkey previously banned Twitter in the face of government corruption scandals. Ankara had also blocked YouTube for 30 months after a video insulting the founder of modern Turkey was uploaded to the site.

However, despite the bans, North Korea is the only country listed that is entirely closed off from social media. Although the other countries have bans in place, users can use VPNs to reroute their internet traffic and access websites that have been blocked.

North Korea, however, has effectively created their own internal internet that does that not connect to the wider worldwide web.

Via Business Insider

US Police Kill More Civilians In March Than UK Police Killed In 100 Years

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A new report by ThinkProgress.com unearthed disturbing figures when it came to the number of police-related deaths that occurred in America in the month of March alone.

Just last month, in the 31 days of March, police in the United States killed more people than the UK did in the entire 20th century. In fact, it was twice as many; police in the UK only killed 52 people during that 100 year period.

According to the report by ThinkProgess, in March alone, 111 people died during police encounters — 36 more than the previous month.

This high number in March increased the average for police killings from every 8.5 hours, to nearly 1 police killing every 6.5 hours in the US.

China, whose population is 4 and 1/2 times the size of the United States, recorded 12 killings by law enforcement officers in 2014.

On average, US police kill people at a rate 70 times higher than any of the other first world countries as they “protect and serve” the American citizens.

This is not what freedom looks like.

At Least 5600 Deaths since 2000

For those of you who are interested in more specific information, Vox’s Blog has created an interactive map with data from Fatal Encounters, a nonprofit trying to build a national database of police killings. It shows some of the deaths by law enforcement since 2000:

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A huge majority of the more than 5,600 deaths on the map are from gunshots, which is hardly surprising given that guns are so deadly compared to other tools used by police. There are also a lot of noticeable fatalities from vehicle crashes, stun guns, and asphyxiations. In some cases, people died from stab wounds, medical emergencies, and what’s called “suicide by cop,” when someone commits suicide by baiting a police officer into using deadly force.

The data is far from perfect. Some of it is incomplete, with details about a victim’s race, age, and other factors sometimes missing. D. Brian Burghart, head of Fatal Encounters, estimates that his organization’s collection of reports from the public, media, and FBI only captures about 35 percent of total police killings.

Unarmed and Shot 8 Times in the Back

And here you can find the shocking recent video that went viral where you can appreciate a policemen shooting 8 times in the back an unarmed civilian trying to escape. The event that originated this deadly incident was a search resulting fron a car traffic violation.