By: Ronan J O’ Shea of The Independent
Germany has been named the country with the best “brand image” according to a new study of 50 countries.
It has leapfrogged the USA, which previously held the title.
The Nation Brands Index, conducted in association with independent policy advisor Simon Anholt, conducts what it says is the world’s most comprehensive global nation branding survey, combining six dimensions: governance, exports, people, culture & heritage, tourism, investment and immigration.
It considers factors such as how people perceive a country’s quality of life, business environment, tolerance and the public image of a country’s products and services The survey measured “the power and quality of each country’s ‘brand image”, according to DW.com.
Speaking to The Independent, Anholt said: “There are over 50 statements about each of the 50 countries in the index, reflecting views on their landscape, people, tourist appeal, economy, government, educational system, products, culture, and much else besides. Each year since 2005, we’ve sent this questionnaire to around 20,000 people in 20 countries, chosen using UN statistics to select a typical sample of the general population. It’s used by more than 40 governments who want to keep track of their country’s international standing.”
By: Chris Morris of Fortune
Denver has taken a stand in the oft-controversial debate over declawing cats, with the City Council unanimously passing a ban on the practice Monday night. Critics have labeled the procedure, which is common in most states, as inhumane.
The city is the first municipality in the country outside of California to ban declawings. (Since 2003, eight cities in that state have prohibited the act.) Public opinion was strongly behind the bill, though some pet owners objected, saying any pain experienced by cats who underwent the procedure was temporary.
The bill applies only to elective declawing. Any medically required procedure is still permitted. The Colorado Veterinary Medical Association opposed the bill, somewhat surprisingly, saying it was an issue that should be left up to cat owners and their pets’ doctors.
By: Nina Chestney and Stine Jacobsen of Reuters
At least 15 countries have joined an international alliance to phase out coal from power generation before 2030, delegates at U.N. climate talks in Bonn said on Thursday.
Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland, New Zealand, Ethiopia, Mexico and the Marshall Islands have joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance, delegates said.
The alliance aims to have 50 members by the next U.N. climate summit in 2018 to be held in Poland’s Katowice, one of Europe’s most polluted cities.
But some of the world’s biggest coal users, such as China, the United States, Germany and Russia, have not signed up.
Powering Past Coal comes just days after U.S. administration officials, along with energy company representatives, led a side event at the talks to promote “fossil fuels and nuclear power in climate mitigation.”
The event triggered a peaceful protest by anti-coal demonstrators and jarred with many ministers who are working on a rule book for implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to move the world economy off fossil fuels.
The alliance was kicked off by Britain, Canada and the Marshall Islands, who urged other nations to join them in a letter seen by Reuters on Wednesday.
A source close to the matter said signatories to the alliance so far had been at least a dozen, in addition to some U.S. states, Canadian provinces and businesses.
“It is a rebuke to (President) Donald Trump from the UK and Canada, two of America’s closest allies, that his obsession for dirty energy will not spread,” said Mohamed Adow, international climate lead at Christian Aid.
By: Eric W. Dolan of Psypost
A new study suggests that differences in personality traits account for the link between marijuana use and enhanced creativity.
“I became interested in this topic upon the realization that a number of my favorite musicians and artists were well known for their cannabis use, and that this cannabis use was commonly thought to have been a cause of the creative success of many artists,” explained study author Emily LaFrance, a graduate student at Washington State University.
“I began to wonder about this commonly held idea – are cannabis users really more creative than non-users? And if so, is this because cannabis use makes them more creative, or is something else causing differences in creativity between users and non-users?”
For their study, which was published in Consciousness and Cognition, the researchers had 412 cannabis users and 309 non-users complete a series of psychological tests.
They found that cannabis users tended to be more extraverted and also tended to be more open to new experiences.
Cannabis users self-reported higher levels of artistic creativity than non-users, but they did not report a higher number of creative works or achievements.
Cannabis users also performed better than non-users on a test of convergent thinking — meaning the creative process of narrowing down potential solutions to find one correct answer.
But the statistical relationship between cannabis use and creativity disappeared when the researchers accounted for the effect of openness to experience. The results suggest that cannabis users’ higher levels of openness to experience are responsible for their enhanced creativity.
By: Lisa Brown St. Louis Post-Dispatch
The foundation arm of Enterprise Rent-A-Car is donating $30 million to The Nature Conservancy’s efforts to preserve and protect rivers and watersheds in the U.S. and
The Clayton-based rental car giant’s Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundatiwatershedson said the gift over five years is expected to benefit 150 million people.
The four areas of focus for the donation include supporting efforts to reduce the amount of excess nutrient runoff that enters the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. The donation will also help fund the restoration of and improve water quality on the Colorado River and in wetlands and major rivers in Canada and Europe.
Based in Arlington, Va., the nonprofit The Nature Conservancy operates in 34 countries and all 50 U.S. states. The Nature Conservancy will spend $60 million on river conservation globally for the next five years, said Shelly Lakly, the Nature Conservancy’s managing director of Saving Rivers Strategy.
“This donation will make a significant impact on us and our mission,” Lakly said. “We’re at a critical point in the development of the world with population increases and the need for people to work together. It’s truly a tipping point.”
By: The Associated Press
Comedian Louis C.K. released the following statement on Friday following allegations of sexual misconduct in a New York Times report. The statement is unedited except for explicit language:
I want to address the stories told to the New York Times by five women named Abby, Rebecca, Dana, Julia who felt able to name themselves and one who did not.
These stories are true. At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my (penis) without asking first, which is also true. But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your (penis) isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly.
I have been remorseful of my actions. And I’ve tried to learn from them. And run from them. Now I’m aware of the extent of the impact of my actions. I learned yesterday the extent to which I left these women who admired me feeling badly about themselves and cautious around other men who would never have put them in that position.
By: Thom Geier of The Wrap
The National Society of Film Critics joined the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Circle and the Boston Society of Film Critics in denouncing the Walt Disney Company’s media blackout of the Los Angeles Times announced last week in retaliation for critical stories by the paper.
In addition, all four groups voted to disqualify Disney’s films from year-end awards consideration until the blackout is publicly lifted.
On Nov. 3, the L.A. Times announced that its writers and editors had been blocked from attending advance screenings of Disney films in response to The Times’ news coverage of Disney’s business dealings with the city of Anaheim.
According to a joint statement by the four critics groups, “Disney’s actions, which include an indefinite ban on any interaction with The Times, are antithetical to the principles of a free press and set a dangerous precedent in a time of already heightened hostility toward journalists.”
The statement concluded, “Disney’s response should gravely concern all who believe in the importance of a free press, artists included.”
Compliments of the BBC
Scientists could have the secret. They have identified a chemical in the brain’s “memory” region that allows us to suppress unwanted thoughts.
The discovery may help explain why some people can’t shift persistent intrusive thoughts – a common symptom of anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and schizophrenia.
Researchers say controlling our thoughts is “fundamental to wellbeing”.
Prof Michael Anderson, from the University of Cambridge, who conducted the study, said: “When this capacity breaks down, it causes some of the most debilitating symptoms of psychiatric diseases – intrusive memories, images, hallucinations, ruminations, and pathological and persistent worries.”
Researchers found a particular chemical, or neurotransmitter, known as Gaba, held the key.
Gaba is the brain’s main “inhibitory” neurotransmitter. That means, when it’s released by one nerve cell it suppresses the activities of other cells to which it is connected.
They found people who had the highest concentrations of Gaba in their brain’s hippocampus (or memory hub) were best at blocking unwanted thoughts or memories.
“What’s exciting about this is that now we’re getting very specific,” said Prof Anderson.
“Before, we could only say ‘this part of the brain acts on that part’, but now we can say which neurotransmitters are likely to be important.”
New approaches to treatment
The discovery might shed light on a number of conditions, from schizophrenia to PTSD, in which sufferers have a pathological inability to control thoughts – such as excessive worrying or rumination.
By: ADAM GOLDMAN and NICHOLAS FANDOS of The New York Times
President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was indicted Monday on charges that he funneled millions of dollars through overseas shell companies and used the money to buy luxury cars, real estate, antiques and expensive suits.
The charges against Mr. Manafort and his longtime associate Rick Gates represent a significant escalation in a special counsel investigation that has cast a shadow over Mr. Trump’s first year in office.
The two men appeared in the Federal District Court in Washington on Monday afternoon and pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Separately, one of the early foreign policy advisers to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about a contact with a professor with ties to Kremlin officials, prosecutors said on Monday.
The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was assigned in May to investigate whether anyone close to Mr. Trump participated in a Russian government effort to influence last year’s presidential election. Monday’s indictments indicate that Mr. Mueller has taken an expansive view of his mandate.
The indictment of Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates makes no mention of Mr. Trump or election meddling. Instead, it describes in granular detail Mr. Manafort’s lobbying work in Ukraine and what prosecutors said was a scheme to hide that money from tax collectors and the public. The authorities said Mr. Manafort laundered more than $18 million.