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Air conditioning is one of the greatest inventions of the 20th Century. Its also killing the 21st – TechCrunch

Posted: August 29, 2021 at 1:52 am

When did indoor air become cold and clean?

Air conditioning is one of those inventions that have become so ubiquitous, that many in the developed world dont even realize that less than a century ago, it didnt exist. Indeed, it wasnt so long ago that the air inside our buildings and the air outside of them were one and the same, with occupants powerless against their environment.

Eric Dean Wilson, in his just published book, After Cooling: On Freon, Global Warming, and the Terrible Cost of Comfort, dives deep into the history of this field. It took more than just inventing the air conditioner to make people want to buy it. In fact, whole social classes outright rejected the technology for years. It took hustle, marketing skill, and mass societal change to place air conditioning at the center of our built environment.

Wilson covers that history, but he has a more ambitious agenda: to get us to see how our everyday comforts affect other people. Our choice of frigid cooling emits flagrant quantities of greenhouse gas emissions, placing untold stress on our planet and civilization. Our pursuit of comfort ironically begets us more insecurity and ultimately, less comfort.

Its a provocative book, and TechCrunch hosted Wilson for a discussion earlier this week on a Twitter Space. If you missed it, here are some selected highlights of our conversation.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Danny Crichton: The framing story throughout the book is about your travels with your friend Sam, who works to collect Freon and destroy it. Why did you choose that narrative arc?

Eric Dean Wilson: Sam at the time was working for this green energy company, and they were trying to find a way to take on green projects that would turn a profit. They had found that they could do this by finding used Freon, specifically whats called CFC-12. Its not made anymore, thank goodness, but it was responsible in part for partially destroying the ozone layer, and production of it was banned by the 90s.

But use of it, and buying and selling it on the secondary market, is totally legal. This is sort of a loophole in the legality of this refrigerant, because the United States government and the people who signed the Montreal Protocol thought that when they stopped production of it that it would pretty much get rid of Freon by the year 2000. Well, that didnt happen, which is kind of a mystery.

So Sam was driving around the United States, finding Freon on the internet, and meeting people (often people who are auto hobbyists or mechanics or something like that) who happened to have stockpiled Freon, and he was buying it from them in order to destroy it for carbon credits on Californias cap-and-trade system. And the interesting thing about this is that he was going to basically the 48 contiguous states, and meeting people that were often global warming deniers who were often hostile to the idea of the refrigerant being destroyed at all, so he often didnt tell them upfront that he was destroying it.

What was really interesting to me is that, aside from a cast of colorful and strange characters, and sometimes violent characters actually as well, was the fact that sometimes after establishing a business relationship first, he was able to have really frank conversations about global warming with people who were otherwise not very open to it.

In a time in which were told that Americans are more divided than ever politically, that were not speaking to each other across ideological divides, I thought this was a curious story.

Crichton: And when it comes to greenhouse gases, Freon is among the worst, right?

Wilson: I should be really clear that the main global warming gases are carbon dioxide and methane and some other ones as well. But molecule for molecule, CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) are thousands of times greater at absorbing and retaining heat, meaning that theyre just thousands of times worse for global warming, molecule for molecule. So even though theres not that many of them in terms of parts per million in the atmosphere, theres enough to really make a sizable contribution to global warming.

The irony is that the replacements of CFCs HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) for the most part, dont really do anything to destroy the ozone layer, which is great. But theyre also super global warming gases. So the ozone crisis was solved by replacing CFCs with refrigerant that exacerbated the global warming crisis.

Crichton: Now to get to the heart of the book, you focus on the rise of air conditioning, but you start by giving readers a wide view of what life was like before its invention. Why did you do that?

Wilson: This was a surprise I did not go into the book thinking that I was going to find this. Before air conditioning really took off in the home, there was a really different sense of what we would call personal comfort, and something that I really argue in the book is that what weve come to think of as personal comfort, and specifically, thermal comfort, has changed. What I argue in the book is that its really in part a cultural construction.

Now, I want to be really careful that people dont hear that Im saying that its entirely a construction. Yes, when we get too hot or too cold, then we can die, for sure. But whats really interesting to me is that theres a lot of evidence to show that before air conditioning began at the beginning of the twentieth century, people werent really hungry for air conditioning.

There was this greater sense that you could deal with the heat. I put that really carefully, because I dont want to say that they suffered through it. Certainly there were heat waves and summers that got too hot. But there was a real sense that you could manage the heat through analog ways, like sleeping outside, sleeping in parks, or designing buildings that incorporate passive cooling. The thing that really disturbed me was that through the twentieth century, we really kind of forgot all that, because we didnt need that knowledge anymore because we had air conditioning. So modernist architecture began to kind of ignore the outside conditions, because you could construct whatever conditions you wanted inside.

I think the question that nobody really asked all along is, is this good for everyone? Should we have a homogenized standard of comfort? Nobody really asked that question. And theres a lot of people that find that the kind of American model of an office or American model of comfort is not comfortable, both in the United States, and in other places.

Crichton: Even beyond a homogenized standard though, you want readers to understand how comfort connects all of us together.

Wilson: I think that one of the pernicious things about the American definition of comfort is that it has been defined as personal comfort. And the reason why I keep using that is because its defined as individual comfort. And so what would it mean to think about comfort as being always connected to somebody else, as more ethical that way? Because its true.

The truth is that our comfort is related to other people, and vice versa. Its really asking us to think interdependently, instead of independently, which is how were often encouraged to think, and thats a huge, huge ask. Actually, thats a huge task and a huge paradigm shift. But I really think if were really trying to think ecologically, and not just sustainably, we have to think about how were all connected and how these infrastructures, how they influence other people in other parts of the world.

Crichton: Air conditioning didnt take off right away. In fact, its inventors and customers really had to push hard to get people to want to use it.

Wilson: Air conditioning really got its start in the early twentieth century, in order to control the conditions in factories. I was surprised to find out that air conditioning was used in places to make things hotter, or more humid and slightly hotter in a place like a textile factory, where if its not humid enough, cotton threads can break.

Outside the factory, movie theaters were really the first time that thermal comfort was used as a commodity. There were all kinds of other commodifications of comfort, but this was really the first time that the public could go someplace to feel cooler. And the funny thing is is that most movie theaters in the 20s and 30s were freezing cold, they were not what I would call comfortable, because the people who were running them didnt really understand that air conditioning works best when its noticed least, which is a hard sell. In the 20s, though, it was a novelty, and the way that you caught peoples attention on a summer day was to crank the AC up, which felt good for like five minutes, and then it was terribly uncomfortable and you had to shiver through an hour and a half of the rest of the movie.

Crichton: Im jumping ahead, but what does the future look like as global warming persists and our cooling increases in line with that heat?

Wilson: In so many cooling situations, there are major alternatives, like redesigning our buildings so that they require way less energy and way less cooling. There are really amazing architects who are looking to things like termite mounds, because the colonies that they build sort of have brilliantly engineered rooms with different temperatures.

That said, I was surprised how much our opinion on comfort could change by simply understanding that it could change. I think that we have to make the world of tomorrow desirable, and we can take a nod from the commercial advertising industry. We have to sell this future as one that we actually want, not as something that were giving up. And I think the narrative is always like, Oh, we have to stop doing this, we have to lower this, we have to give this up. And thats certainly true. But I think if we understand that as not something that were giving up, but actually something that were gaining, then it makes it a lot easier. For people, it makes it feel a lot more possible.

After Cooling: On Freon, Global Warming, and the Terrible Cost of Comfort by Eric Dean Wilson.

Simon & Schuster, 2021, 480 pages

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Air conditioning is one of the greatest inventions of the 20th Century. Its also killing the 21st - TechCrunch

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Rock Hall Mayor and Council argue over public access to Municipal Building – MyEasternShoreMD

Posted: at 1:52 am


United States of AmericaUS Virgin IslandsUnited States Minor Outlying IslandsCanadaMexico, United Mexican StatesBahamas, Commonwealth of theCuba, Republic ofDominican RepublicHaiti, Republic ofJamaicaAfghanistanAlbania, People's Socialist Republic ofAlgeria, People's Democratic Republic ofAmerican SamoaAndorra, Principality ofAngola, Republic ofAnguillaAntarctica (the territory South of 60 deg S)Antigua and BarbudaArgentina, Argentine RepublicArmeniaArubaAustralia, Commonwealth ofAustria, Republic ofAzerbaijan, Republic ofBahrain, Kingdom ofBangladesh, People's Republic ofBarbadosBelarusBelgium, Kingdom ofBelizeBenin, People's Republic ofBermudaBhutan, Kingdom ofBolivia, Republic ofBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswana, Republic ofBouvet Island (Bouvetoya)Brazil, Federative Republic ofBritish Indian Ocean Territory (Chagos Archipelago)British Virgin IslandsBrunei DarussalamBulgaria, People's Republic ofBurkina FasoBurundi, Republic ofCambodia, Kingdom ofCameroon, United Republic ofCape Verde, Republic ofCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChad, Republic ofChile, Republic ofChina, People's Republic ofChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombia, Republic ofComoros, Union of theCongo, Democratic Republic ofCongo, People's Republic ofCook IslandsCosta Rica, Republic ofCote D'Ivoire, Ivory Coast, Republic of theCyprus, Republic ofCzech RepublicDenmark, Kingdom ofDjibouti, Republic ofDominica, Commonwealth ofEcuador, Republic ofEgypt, Arab Republic ofEl Salvador, Republic ofEquatorial Guinea, Republic ofEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFaeroe IslandsFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Fiji, Republic of the Fiji IslandsFinland, Republic ofFrance, French RepublicFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabon, Gabonese RepublicGambia, Republic of theGeorgiaGermanyGhana, Republic ofGibraltarGreece, Hellenic RepublicGreenlandGrenadaGuadaloupeGuamGuatemala, Republic ofGuinea, RevolutionaryPeople's Rep'c ofGuinea-Bissau, Republic ofGuyana, Republic ofHeard and McDonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)Honduras, Republic ofHong Kong, Special Administrative Region of ChinaHrvatska (Croatia)Hungary, Hungarian People's RepublicIceland, Republic ofIndia, Republic ofIndonesia, Republic ofIran, Islamic Republic ofIraq, Republic ofIrelandIsrael, State ofItaly, Italian RepublicJapanJordan, Hashemite Kingdom ofKazakhstan, Republic ofKenya, Republic ofKiribati, Republic ofKorea, Democratic People's Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwait, State ofKyrgyz RepublicLao People's Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanon, Lebanese RepublicLesotho, Kingdom ofLiberia, Republic ofLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtenstein, Principality ofLithuaniaLuxembourg, Grand Duchy ofMacao, Special Administrative Region of ChinaMacedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascar, Republic ofMalawi, Republic ofMalaysiaMaldives, Republic ofMali, Republic ofMalta, Republic ofMarshall IslandsMartiniqueMauritania, Islamic Republic ofMauritiusMayotteMicronesia, Federated States ofMoldova, Republic ofMonaco, Principality ofMongolia, Mongolian People's RepublicMontserratMorocco, Kingdom ofMozambique, People's Republic ofMyanmarNamibiaNauru, Republic ofNepal, Kingdom ofNetherlands AntillesNetherlands, Kingdom of theNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaragua, Republic ofNiger, Republic of theNigeria, Federal Republic ofNiue, Republic ofNorfolk IslandNorthern Mariana IslandsNorway, Kingdom ofOman, Sultanate ofPakistan, Islamic Republic ofPalauPalestinian Territory, OccupiedPanama, Republic ofPapua New GuineaParaguay, Republic ofPeru, Republic ofPhilippines, Republic of thePitcairn IslandPoland, Polish People's RepublicPortugal, Portuguese RepublicPuerto RicoQatar, State ofReunionRomania, Socialist Republic ofRussian FederationRwanda, Rwandese RepublicSamoa, Independent State ofSan Marino, Republic ofSao Tome and Principe, Democratic Republic ofSaudi Arabia, Kingdom ofSenegal, Republic ofSerbia and MontenegroSeychelles, Republic ofSierra Leone, Republic ofSingapore, Republic ofSlovakia (Slovak Republic)SloveniaSolomon IslandsSomalia, Somali RepublicSouth Africa, Republic ofSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSpain, Spanish StateSri Lanka, Democratic Socialist Republic ofSt. HelenaSt. Kitts and NevisSt. LuciaSt. Pierre and MiquelonSt. Vincent and the GrenadinesSudan, Democratic Republic of theSuriname, Republic ofSvalbard & Jan Mayen IslandsSwaziland, Kingdom ofSweden, Kingdom ofSwitzerland, Swiss ConfederationSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwan, Province of ChinaTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailand, Kingdom ofTimor-Leste, Democratic Republic ofTogo, Togolese RepublicTokelau (Tokelau Islands)Tonga, Kingdom ofTrinidad and Tobago, Republic ofTunisia, Republic ofTurkey, Republic ofTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUganda, Republic ofUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited Kingdom of Great Britain & N. 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Rock Hall Mayor and Council argue over public access to Municipal Building - MyEasternShoreMD

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Opinion | The Cyber Apocalypse Never Came. Heres What We Got Instead. – POLITICO

Posted: August 3, 2021 at 1:47 am

What we got was neither the unbridled promise of digital cooperation nor a fiery cyber apocalypse. Instead, todays cyber reality seems simultaneously less scary and more of a hot messa series of more frequent, less consequential attacks that add up not to a massive Hollywood disaster but rather to a vaguer sense of vulnerability. This can make it hard to understand whats going on and how bad it really is. Are all these high-visibility cyber events more of the same, or are we living through a new era of cyber warfare?

In some ways, the events of the past few months arent that surprising given the trajectory of cyber activity over the last decade. Theyre the evolution of a steady, somewhat inevitable shift toward using digital tools as a means of international statecraft and political contestation. However, what we are seeing is also subtly different from the way experts had previously thought cyber would affect the international landscape. Over the last decade, authoritarian governments have embraced digital tools and leaned on shadowy gangs of cyber criminals to do some of their dirty work, while the pandemic has made the world reliant on the internet and created a rich world of targets for those seeking money and leverage. As a result, cyberspace may be less apocalyptic than predicted, and more like a termite infestation, eating at the very foundations of our increasingly digital societies. The good news, though, is that the long-sought international consensus on appropriate uses of cyber means within foreign policy may be finally coming togetherwhich means theres hope that todays cyber disorder may eventually abate.

Its true that Russian cyber espionage, cyber criminals, Chinese intellectual property theft and private actors in cyberspace have been with us for years. Hackers affiliated with the Russian government have long used Ukraine as a testbed for hacks on critical infrastructure and governance and military capabilities, all while the Kremlin looked aside at burgeoning cyber criminal activity. Over the past few years, Xi Jinpings China has also built up its cyber capabilities, embarking on large-scale espionage hacks (like the 2015 Office of Personnel Management data exfiltration) and courting widespread economic sanctions for its illicit efforts to steal intellectual property via cyberspace.

At the same time that Russia and China became more capable and more audacious in their cyber campaigns, non-state actorswho have always played an outsize role in cyberspacewere changing the balance of power in the cyber spyware competition. Companies like the Emirati-based DarkMatter recruited talent from across the globe (including former NSA employees) to develop cutting-edge software that can track targeted users phones, monitor their communications and even geolocate them. These commercially created spyware applications were then provided to governmentsmany authoritarianto track dissidents, journalists and international leaders. Most notably, claims have been made that the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi was linked to spyware that the Israel-based NSO group provided to Saudi security officials, who purportedly used it to monitor Khashoggis movements and influence the investigation after the murder (both the Saudi government and NSO deny their involvement).

So, to an extent, Russian-linked ransomware attacks, the collective callout of China for the Microsoft hack and the revelations about the NSO group are more of the same. But theres also something new going on.

First, the geopolitical context in which cyber battles are fought has changed fundamentally. The early Obama administration was relatively restrained in cyberspace, relying on deterrence, limited sanctions and efforts to establish cyber norms through the United Nations. This approach changed under Trump, whose foreign policy adopted a zero-sum view of the world, characterized by great power competition, trade wars and transactional relationships with allies. Accordingly, the Trump administrations cyber efforts put more focus on defending forwarda more aggressive strategy that emphasizes preemptively entering adversaries networks before they launch cyber attackswhile sidelining efforts to create international consensus on cyber warfare. Meanwhile, the simultaneous rise of personalist regimes across the world ushered in a golden age for digital authoritarianism, with dictators embracing artificial intelligence, disinformation, deep fakes and hack and reveal campaigns to cement their power both domestically and in the fracturing international order.

Add to this digital tinderbox a pandemic that not only drove countries apart (physically and ideologically), but also forced them to become more digitally dependent as they turned to automation, remote work and digital bubbles to protect from the physical threat of Covid-19. As court systems, physicians, classrooms and local governance all went virtual, societies struggling with the pandemic became rich targets for cyber criminals. Ransomware attacks increased exponentially, both in scope and in economic cost.

Pandemic-induced vulnerabilities werent just lucrative cyber targets for criminals. They also created new access points for states looking to add more vulnerabilities to their cyber arsenals. Many of the critical infrastructure companies that went fully digital in response to the pandemic are also potential targets for states like North Korea or Iran that want to coerce the more militarily capable United States. The concern is that these states may use cyber vulnerabilities to attack power supplies, data centers or health and human services as the first salvo in a broader geopolitical crisis. This idea of using cyber attacks against critical infrastructure as signals to deter further escalation has been a major concern for onlookers worried that the uptick in cyber intrusions could not only create economic costs, but inadvertently escalate into violent conflictthus creating exactly the situation these cyber attacks were meant to avoid.

A more competitive geopolitical landscape, the rise of digital authoritarians and Covid-induced vulnerability have helped create a final trend: the blurred line between state and non-state actions in cyberspace. Authoritarian governments have looked aside (sometimes purposefully) as groups of cyber criminals with loose or unclear ties to the state became cyber headliners. North Korea has always used cyber criminal campaigns to generate revenue for the regime. Russia has pursued strategic and willful ignorance about criminal cyber activity originating within its borders, and used cyber criminals as a patsy to avoid retribution for state-sanctioned hacking activities. Even China, which a few years ago made a concerted effort to clamp down on its cyber militia of patriotic hackers, seems to have rediscovered the value of state-sanctioned cyber side hustles. The White Houses recent statement on the Microsoft hack accuses China not just of ignoring cyber criminal activity, but actually contracting such criminals to pursue official foreign policy goals.

Governments are now using cyber criminals the way they use other non-state actorslike maritime militias or un-uniformed special operations forcesto achieve foreign policy objectives without engaging in outright conflict. This murky middle is what international relations scholars call the grey zone. Most directly, states can sanction cyber criminal activity to bring in revenue, use non-affiliated organizations to propagate disinformation, or lean on civilian companies and criminals to create technologies and exploits that states can then buy to use against adversaries. More indirectly, non-state actors can generate chaos, confusion and cost all while introducing enough uncertainty about whos really responsible to dissuade states from retaliating. Scholars have frequently viewed these more shadowy cyber actions as less dangerous than traditional war, but they come with the risk of accidentally pushing too far and escalating into conflict.

So the post-pandemic cyber world has more vulnerabilities, more opportunities for economic and political exploitation, and more actors that blur the line between state and non-state involvement. The convergence of these bad-news trends certainly helps explain the battery of recent cyber headlines. However, there is some reason for optimism. The Biden administrations announcement accusing China of the Microsoft hack noted that an unprecedented group of allies and partners including the European Union, the United Kingdom, and NATO are joining the United States in exposing and criticizing the PRCs malicious cyber activities. This is a remarkable achievement given the difficulty of creating international consensus on what states should and should not do in cyberspace. Outside observers might be surprised to learn just how tough it is for states to agree on something even as basic as what a cyber attack is.

The joint callout of China comes a few months after a UN report signed by 25 countries (including China, Russia, and the US) emphasized the need to prevent cyber attacks on critical infrastructure. While this might seem like an obscure report, it was a diplomatic coup, reflecting a hard-fought, multi-year effort to create consensus among countries about how responsible states should behave in cyberspace. This agreement (and the recent US-NATO-EU statement against Chinese hacking) would not have been possible had pandemic-induced cyber vulnerabilities not galvanized international action. The succession of high-visibility cyber events in recent months, paired with a U.S. administration that is prioritizing cyber threats within its foreign policy, may have provided the impetus for the international community to slowly start agreeing on ways to punish problematic cyber activity.

Cyber attacks on hot dog plants or virtual elementary school classrooms may not look like the dystopian end times Panetta and Clapper warned about. But they insidiously eat away at the foundations of digital economies, societies and, ultimately, state power. Today, with these foundations crumbling, we may not need cyber Pearl Harbor analogies to understand the danger of cyber attacks. But can the U.S. and its now-energized allies build on this momentum to reverse the shifts wrought by authoritarian governments, the pandemic and the rise of non-state cyber criminals? Fingers crossed.

CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to include a more recent estimate for the number of companies hackers were able to access through the Solarwinds breach.

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Embracing hopelessness: Getting over our faith in reason is the only path forward – Salon

Posted: June 6, 2021 at 1:54 am

Over lunch with a high school buddy, I mentioned a college classmate's death from pancreatic cancer, not long after he had receiveda Nobel prize for his own groundbreaking cancer research." My friend, a successful advertising executive, visibly shaken, asked, "How could he have died? He must have known everyone."

"You're kidding," I said. "Pancreatic cancer is the very definition of bad luck hard to detect early, hard to treat, a generally grim prognosis." I was quickly drowned out by his rapid-fire follow-up questions: "Are there any good screening tests? Biomarkers?dietary precautions I can take? Surely there must be something."

Annoyed that yet another lunch was being ruined by health anxieties, I blurted out, "It's nothing personal, but pancreatic cancer is just one of a zillion sneaky diseases lurking in the wings. At our age, we would both be better off embracing hopelessness."

"Wonderful," said my friend."My condescending doctor friend feels obliged to enlighten me by arguing that the key to life is to admit defeat. And to think you once actually took care of patients." He pulled out some change to cover his half of the lunch and left me to pay the tip.

Alone with my coffee, I wondered why I would have intentionally provoked my friend. I wouldn't wish the feeling of hopelessness on my worst enemy. After all, feeling hopeful is purpose's handmaiden, an involuntary mental state, like love orjoy, that softens reality's sharp edges. But the state of hopelessness the sober, evidence-based recognition that nothing further can be done now that's another story.

Years ago, in a book on pathological altruism how believing that you are helping others can result in unanticipated harm I described a brilliant oncologist who, hell-bent on prolonging the life of each of his patients, often turned a deaf ear to their pleas that "enough is enough." On numerous occasions I tried but failed to dissuade him from pursuing what I and others thought was overly aggressive intervention. The final straw was his insistence that I perform a lumbar puncture on a clearly terminal patient. I argued that the procedure was certain to cause the patient discomfort, with a negligible chance that it would affect his outcome. He countered that if I refused, he would do the puncture himself. I gave in; the patient suffered a post-spinal tap headache that persisted for his last three days. That was adual cognitive blunder: the oncologist's unwillingness to accept his patient's imminent death was rivaled by my persistent inability to acknowledge the utter hopelessness of trying to convince him otherwise.

To get a sense of how difficult it is to fully embrace obvious hopelessness, I'm reminded of the time I "went broke" in a high-stakes poker game in Las Vegas. Fresh out of residency and still burdened with debt, I'd squirreled away enough winnings from our small-stakes home games to pony up a single buy-in in the "big game" held during the annual World Series of Poker. Shortly after sitting down, I found myself involved in the largest pot I had ever played. When all the cards had been dealt, I had an almost sure winner. I bet, my opponent raised, I re-raised, and my notoriously conservative opponent, after a dramatic pause, shoved in the remainder of his chips.

I realized that he had to have the one hand that could beat me. Though it was obvious that I hadno chance of winning, if I folded I'd never know for certain. Having never been in this spot before, I couldn't shake the remote possibility that he had misread his hand or was making an uncharacteristically high-level bluff. For what seemed like forever, I sat motionless as unemotional probabilities jousted with wishful thinking. Of course, reason eventually failed; I called and lost.

"Sorry, kid, but you had to call," the winner said as he scooped up my chips. "You had too much money invested in the pot." He patted me on the back. "I suppose you're right," I said, getting up and starting for the door. When I was presumably out of earshot, the winner said to the other players at the table, "Throwing good money after bad what a fish." The others laughed.

* * *

I'm watching a panel of TV talking heads outline the various reasons why Republicans and Democrats are constitutionally incapable of finding common ground. The pundits glumly acknowledge that the two parties exist in alternative universes governed by incompatible principles and diametrically opposed facts. Nevertheless, despite being unable to suggest any practical steps forward, they conclude with the self-canceling phrase, "Even so, I remain hopeful."

Really? Hopeful of what? Given their convincing skeptical arguments, why on earth should we share their unjustified sense of optimism? Imagine a simple litmus test:a national betting forum in which experts were forced to place wagers on their opinions. If they were unwilling to bet any of their hard-earned dollars, we would have an independent measure of their actual degree of hopefulness.

Moving down to the personal level: would you be willing to bet that we will soon see major improvements in our educational system, stricter gun control, a revitalized power grid, highwaysand bridges, high-speed transit systems, an improved health care system? That additional evidence or more convincing lines of reasoning will alter the views of creationists, atheists, climate change and Holocaust deniersor anti-vaxxersor, conversely, dissuadehardcore rationalists who insist that we will one day understand how consciousness arises, and that a foolproof "theory of everything" is imminent? Though none of my politically savvy friends and colleagues have bitten on this proposition,no matter how favorable the odds I've offered, they continue to passionately debate and argue the nuances of a better future they do not doubt will occur.

The point is obvious but bears repeating: To recognize the myriad ways in which so-called rational discourse has failed us, and yet to act as though change is just around the corner, is the same type of misplaced hope that propelled the oncologist to deny that his patient was beyond treatment and why I lost my Las Vegas bankroll because I could not fold what I unequivocally knew to be a losing hand.

As a practicing physician, I have witnessed this conflict between emotional optimism and a dispassionate recognition of futility contribute to many of medicine's onerous excesses. Case in point: unnecessary back surgeries performed because the surgeon cannot overcome his gut feeling that the procedure might work despite the lack of objective evidence. The same dynamic applies to failed interpersonal relationships. You glumly conclude that your spouse is serially unfaithful, abusiveor hopelessly addicted to alcohol or drugs, but persist with the belief that perhaps he or she will change. Ditto for dealing with a troubled, persistently rebellious teenage child:When a therapist deems your child incorrigible and recommends commitment to a rehab program, you are forced to choose between tough love and false hope.

Admitting defeat is antithetical to our default tendency to delude ourselves when times are bad, even when the negative data is indisputable. Wherever measurable, from life expectancy and quality of health care to literacy in math and science, the world ranking of the United States is in free fall. The logical conclusion: It's time for a societal hard love project.

No, you might counter; things will be better when cooler heads prevail. Perhaps we can gather better evidence, generate more convincing arguments, work harder toward bipartisan compromise, wait for better and more widespread educational opportunities to kick in This commonly held bedrock belief in the power of reason to shape public opinion is understandable; our founders, fully steeped in the Enlightenment-era emphasis on rationality, could not have anticipated future cognitive science advances revealing the many deceptive ways in which conscious experience arises from perceptual illusions. We are in the process of learning that our sense of self, our agency (so-called free will), and, most importantly, our sense of thinking and assessing or judging our ideas are purely involuntary mental sensations that paradoxically create the illusion of being in conscious control of our thoughts and actions.

* * *

I confess to a certain discomfort in arguing that conscious deliberation is strictly an epiphenomenon that plays no role in our decision-making. In the past I have been willing to accept that there may be a small conscious component to our thoughts that we can use to improve critical thinking. I no longer feel, however, that clinging to this unprovable fanciful notion is even a useful fiction. As the distinction between conscious versus subliminal control over our behavior is critical to mankind's future, a few words of explanation are in order.

We readily accept that perception occurs involuntarily, but tend to view reason, though arising from similar subconscious processing, as at least partially in control of its origins and premises. As we experience the flow of thought via symbols such as language or numbers, it is only natural that we assume they are the building blocks of our thoughts. Not so. As we can see from preverbal infants and other animals, language is not necessary for thought. What we experience as conscious thought the vocabulary of reasoning is at best a rough translation of poorly understood non-linguistic brain processes.

In my 2008 book "On Being Certain," I offered the artificial neural network (ANN)-based analogy of decision-making as the product of a subliminal committee weighing various alternatives and then sending the most appealing of them into consciousness. To highly simplify this idea, imagine each committee member as a set of neural connections representing a single genetic or innate biological predisposition, personal experienceor cultural influence. Each committee member gets one vote either approving or disapproving of a piece of incoming information. The committee's final tally is a function of its inherent open-mindedness, the prevailing strength of its already-acquired opinions and beliefs, motivations of the various committee members, and the degree to which the members of the committee value evidence-based reasoning over other modes of decision-making, such as reliance on trusted authorities and prevailing dogma. The power of conviction of this new information to sway committee members will determine whether this new information reaches awareness.

Decide whether to take your family vacation in the mountains or at the seashore. No matter what reasons you may provide and your spouse or children counter with, they are post-hoc rationalizations for personal tastes no different than the preference for chocolate over vanilla ice cream. Traditional modes of discourse from polite debate to high-decibel exhortations are no more likely to change another's tastes than trying to prove that Brussels sprouts taste sweet or bitter (a distinction that has recently been shown to be genetically determined). The essential stumbling block of modern discourse: Your reasoning may not be my reasoning any more than your tastes are my tastes.

* * *

I cannot imagine a more impossible assignment than changing how we view our thoughts. And yet, if there is to be real hope for a better collective future, we need to come up with fresh approaches that are both scientifically plausible and generally palatable. Though I have no ready suggestions, we can draw a few hints from observing nonhuman ways of thinking. Two tantalizing examples come immediately to mind: artificial intelligence deep learning and insect swarm behavior.

To begin with AI, consider the rudimentary necessities for an artificial neural network (ANN), using algorithms inspired by the human brainto learn to play chess. No advance knowledge of chess is necessary. Given a clear designation of purpose (winning) and an immense amount of training data (games played) providing appropriate feedback as to the best moves, the initially ignorant ANN will soon beat the world's greatest chess masters. (Of course, AI can only address those problems for which there is sufficient objective data; subjective issues such as human character, ethics and morality remain beyond its reach).

These two basic requirements a large amount of uncensored data and clarity of purpose highlight major differences between human and machine thought. Unlike machines, our unique predispositions and different cultural influences generate highly personal hunches, intuitionsand beliefs that collectively prejudge the potential value of any incoming piece of information. By contrast, the ANN initially considers every possible move, no matter how seemingly ridiculous and nonsensical to an outside observer, until it has been empirically tested.

The second prerequisite of a deep learning AI system clarity of purpose points out a different version of the same problem. Unlike single-purpose algorithms designed to win at chess or poker, human motivation is multifaceted, inconsistentand often contradictory. Even when we believe in the single-mindedness of our goal winning at our Friday night poker game we often play sub-optimally, submarined by contrary urges such as making a low-probability bluff to humiliate an irritating opponent, or playing a bad hand with the low=probability but highly appealing possibility of making a straight flush. Unfortunately, as introspection and self-reflection arise from the same opaque circuitry that we are trying to examine, our self-knowledge boils down to trust and acceptance of those subliminally generated self-narratives that make their way into consciousness. (As I've written previously, our assessment of the motivation of others, based upon putting our own often-inaccurate sense of self into the shoes of another, is even more suspect).

Some successful features of AI in comparison to human thought are worth emphasizing: There is no censoring of incoming information, reliance upon gut feelings, pride in untestable intuitions and unreliable claims of motivation the bitter fruits of mistakenly believing that we can objectively judge our thoughts. But there's more than observing thinking at an individual level; we also need to consider group influences. For example, witness the dramatic behavioral shifts in locusts when subjected to crowded conditions.

During the dry season, locusts lead isolated relatively antisocial lives, shying away from contact with others and living off a limited plant diet. Then, when the rains come and vegetation blooms, they breed and their population soars. While the food supply is plentiful, they remain solitary vegetarians. When the rain stops and the vegetation dries up, the increased number of locusts crowd together in areas of remaining vegetation. This increased contact triggers a variety of stunning behavioral changes. They abandon their normally solitary behavior to seek out one another's company, and then start reproducing explosively to form massive swarms. Their leg muscles enlarge, and they begin marching movements in time with the other locusts. Their brain size increases by 30 percent, primarily in areas of visual processing necessary to cope with the group foraging rather than solitary food finding. Even their external appearance and color changes. Within hours the locusts are transformed from solitary plant eaters to synchronized, swarming cannibalistic devourers of their brethren.

Though we cannot know what if anything a locust experiences consciously, imagine what it might be thinking if it had a mind capable of self-reflection. Might it question what came over it to go from being a loner to suddenly seeking out crowds and wanting to mate like crazy, or why it has forsaken its healthy plant diet for gross eating of its brethren'sflesh? How would it interpret its radical shift in social behavior, sexual promiscuityand indifference to the plight of others?

Science to the rescue. Researchers have shown that this shift in locust behavior is triggered by stroking small tufts of hair located on the locusts' hind legs the region that most frequently comes into contact with other locusts when they are in close proximity. Stimulation of these hairs creates an outpouring of the brain neurotransmitter serotonin; blocking the serotonin release prevents the swarming behavior.

How extraordinary that, in a Rube Goldberg-like sequence of events, increased population density leads to physiological brain and muscle changes that alter perception and behavior. Have you ever wondered what the crowds converging on Miami Beach during the height of the pandemic were thinking when they shunned mask-wearing and social distancing, caught up in the moment of seeking the company of others, perhaps even with the possibility of getting lucky and "hooking up?" Or the frenzied behavior at a political rally or international soccer game? Closer to home, have you ever been exiting a crowded stadium or theater and found yourself taking short marching steps to accommodate the milling crowds surrounding you? You are sure that you have voluntarily chosen to take smaller steps to avoid others. But what if you and the crowds at Miami Beach or the stormers of the Capitol on Jan.6were responding reflexively to a sudden shift in their levels of neurotransmitters? As agency is a perceptual illusion, how are we to distinguish between personal choice and indifferent biology? That crowds can structurally change brain anatomy and behavior should be a both a cautionary tale and a clue as to how we should reconsider human thought going forward.

* * *

The above comments are not intended to in any way denigrate the value of reason, only to relocate its site of origin. Though there is no conscious control center for the mind, this does not mean that we cannot change our minds by appealing to our senses. One photo of a fatal car crash carries more weight than hours of traffic-ticket-school lectures on the evils of speeding. The smell of bakedgoods can enhance our desire to be charitable.A close reading of ancient Stoicism evokes an unexpected personal epiphany of acceptance of life's circumstances.

But learning the appeal of an elegant line of reasoning runs into the more basic problem that critical thinking, like any skill, is easier and more enjoyable for some than others. At one extreme, there are those for whom a lifetime of rumination and cogitation offers an unparalleled sense of meaning.For others, hard thought is a deeply unpleasant slog that cannot hold a candle to gut feelings, the warm comfort of communal beliefsand the unfettered promises of propaganda and demagoguery.

Even the best reasoning skills are not enough to arrive at a consensus opinion on the major issues of the day. Once we fully accept that critical thinking develops outside of conscious control, it becomes self-evident why the smartest among us, even when presented with the same evidence, prefer different lines of reasoning that often result in conflicting arguments and conclusions. Case in point: the widely disparate theories cluttering the field of philosophy of mind, from the diametrically opposed views of free will to the underlying nature of consciousness. We are better off seeing different modes of thinking in the same aesthetic light as personal tastes for or against Brussels sprouts, preferring Scotch to boxed white wineor switching from being a Yankees fan to rooting for the Mets.

For a moment try to imagine the utter chaos of a world that fully accepted that our thoughts occur to us rather than being consciously generated. There would be no agreement as to what constituted good science, expertise, real versus fake news, correct logic, unequivocal proofor degree of personal responsibility for our thoughts and actions. Thefundamental tenets of democracy freedom to choose, equal value of each vote, what constitute theinalienable rights of the individual would all be profoundly challenged. In short, it would look just like today's world.

But with a difference. We have been sold an unwarranted bill of goods as to our uniqueness in the animal kingdom. Like all other creatures, we are decision-making organisms, not rational agents. Our use of language and numbers and the ability to think about our thinking (metacognition), no matter how spectacular and profound, is as subliminal in origin as a termite's ability to build a termite mound.

Forget hostile debate and impassioned oratory. A willingness to change our minds requires a deeply felt acceptance that our decision-making arises out of impossible-to-fully-unravel subterranean inclinations. To get to a "we're all in this together" communal spirit, we must fully abandon our sense of pride, defensivenessand certainty in our thoughts, or even our conviction that our thoughts are solely of our own choosing (think of the locust example). My unwarranted wishful thought: perhaps stepping back from our favorite arguments will allow a glimpse of a shared humanity lurking beneath conflicting urges and ideologies. It's hard to imagine, and even harder to bet on, but just maybe and the slightest perhaps is still better than nothing, which is why I retain a modest bit of hope in the face of the utter hopelessness of our times.

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Part Three: 2021 Primary Election Candidate Q&A Ellwood City, PA news –

Posted: May 13, 2021 at 1:52 am

This is the third in a three-part series featuring a Q&A with the candidates for Ellwood City Borough Council and Ellwood City Area School Districts Board of Directors. Todays Q&A features Ellwood City Area School Districts Board of Directors candidates Barbara Wilson and Claire Fauzey. Yesterdays Q&A featured candidates Kathleen McCommons, Renee Pitrelli, and Kathy Tillia. (Candidates Norman Boots, JoEllen Eichler, and Kathy Pansera did not participate).

Primary Elections are just around the corner. Residents will be able to place their votes on May 18. To find your polling location,click here. To learn more about the voting process and how to cast your vote,click here.

Take a moment to get to know the candidates running for Ellwood City Area School Districts Board of Directors.

Former Experience, Roles, and Years Serving onEllwood City Area School District Board:

Why are you running for School Board? If elected, what will be your priorities?I am running for re-election because I truly believe in public education. Over the last few years, I have been able to give valuable input into very important issues in our community. My top priorities are security, equity, and mental health. I would like to continue to serve my community in this capacity.

Is there a particular issue that motivates you to serve on the board? Yes, several. When I was running four years ago, my biggest issue was equity in our schools. I believed then, and now, that all of our children deserve to become their best self. It is up to us to provide ways for them to achieve this. For some, its academics, for others its sports, clubs, choir, band or the musical. Maybe its not an activity but a person that makes them want to come to school each day. Whatever their reason, we need to provide this in the best way possible for them. This opportunity needs to be available for ALL our children no matter what. Every child, with no regard to race, religion, gender, socio-economic status, deserves to receive the tools that they need to be successful. Now, in addition, I have become very interested and involved in school security. Our students cannot learn if they are worried about being hurt in school. So, I find it extremely important to do everything that can be done to keep them safe and secure so they can focus on learning.

What particular experiences or skills have prepared you to serve as a board member? I hold an Associates and a Bachelors degree in Elementary Education. I completed a Masters-level Reading Specialist program. I taught for 7 years including 2 years of RTII (Reading Interventions) for the ECASD at North Side Primary. We have 5 children, the youngest being a Senior this year, so I have many years experience as a parents of a school aged child. In addition, I am employed as the Director of a non-profit and work with and report to a Board of Directors, therefore also having that perspective.

In what school district or community activities/organizations have you been involved? My most recent project is planning this years After Prom with a few of my fellow board members and a great group of parent volunteers. I am the current President of the Ellwood City-Shenango Soccer Boosters and have spent the last 4 years working to make the soccer program successful through the boosters and by co-coaching the 2017 season. I have chaperoned many school fieldtrips. Whatever activity my kids were involved in, I tried to help or volunteer including school musicals, dance recitals, and athletics. When my children were younger, I was active on the PTO and as a Classroom Mom. Outside of school related activities, I volunteer regularly at The Ladle Soup Kitchen and participate in many local social justice and food justice programs.

What differentiates you from the other candidates and/or board members? Each candidate is unique and voters look for candidates that reflect their values. My life experiences are individual to me and they have shaped who I have become. I am hardworking and honest. I champion for each and every student in our district to be successful. And I am always open to having a conversation with anyone who has an idea to improve our district.

What issues do you believe your district needs to address in its academic program and offerings? What changes would you recommend? I would love to see more practical hands-on offerings in the areas of Technology/Computers, Family & Consumer Science and Tech Ed (Industrial Arts). I would also love to see ECASDs gifted program grow. I am proud of our partnerships with other educational institutes and would like to see those programs grow as well.

What should your school district do to better prepare students as citizens? Academic skills are important but equally important is teaching kids soft skills such as: communication, cooperation, ethics, teamwork, social skills, creativity, and reliability. Students need to learn higher level thinking to be able to problem solve in the real world. They also need to learn to be kind and helpful and how to be a contributing member of their community.

As a board member, where would you look to make budget cuts? (see next question as I am answering both together)

How does a school board balance the need to provide a quality education with the need to respond to the local taxpayer burden? This is a tough question(s) because I never want to cut from any program that benefits our children. Most of our budget is fixed. Payroll including insurance and PESERS (retirement) building costs, and state mandates comprise the majority of our budget. We actually have a very small percentage that is discretionary. So, I look at what I think our most important issues are at the present time and each year that may change. As with everything, you have to prioritize and ultimately, you have to look at ROI. Are the students benefitting enough for the amount of money that we are spending on this item? I am a huge fan of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle & Repurpose so if we can incorporate these thoughts into our budget, that will help. I find myself looking at the schools budget in the same mind frame as my home budget. We have this amount of money coming in so how do I think it is best spent? What are wants and what are needs? I also am a big proponent of finding grant money and/or business sponsorships. I would rather take those routes verses making cuts.

What attributes are essential for successful school board members? Being a school board member requires a lot of different skills. You must be willing to listen with an open mind. Its important to work as part of a team and keep personal feelings aside when debating topics. You also need to be flexible at times and compromise if needed, but also to know when to stick to your convictions when you feel a topic is important. It also requires a lot of balance. It can be a very time-consuming position, so knowing how to budget your time is important.

How would you handle the requests, if approached, by an individual? Special interest groups? When this happens, I listen to the individual or group. You can learn so much by listening to someones concerns. Sometimes, they just want to know how things work and I happily explain to the best of my ability. Sometimes, they have a complaint. If that is the case, then I make sure they know the proper channels to go through. There are steps to take before bringing a concern to the school board. If they have not received results to their satisfaction (after taking the proper steps) then I encourage them to come speak to the board as a whole at a meeting. I am always careful to let them know that a board member cannot take action alone but only as a group.

How can you contribute to a successful board meeting? First, I always come prepared to discuss the issues at hand. I read all the emails and attachments and the paper packets that are sent to us, which can be quite substantial at times. If necessary, I research the topic further to develop an understanding of the item at task. I ask questions to ensure that I understand the topic before I vote. Then, I do my best to listen to all of the comments on the issue, even if they are different than my own thoughts. You never know when you may learn something new or hear a different perspective that helps you understand another persons position. I try to be kind with my words and how I treat my fellow board members. Its important to discuss the issues and not the person speaking. Last, I have played moderator during many discussions. People come at issues with either one opinion or the opposite. Many times, there is a middle ground that can make both sides comfortable with the final decision. I like to be the person to help brainstorm alternative ideas and find acceptable solutions to our problems.

What do you see as the current challenges facing public education in our state? In our country? There are so many challenges facing public education at this time. I think our biggest challenge is funding. With adequate funding ECASD would be able to better meet these challenges head on. For example, I feel that we need to make students mental health a priority. Our children have faced so many challenges over the last 14 months and they need coping skills. Appropriate funding would allow us to bring in social workers and mental health specialists to support our children and families. When academic materials become outdated, funding would allow us to replace them in a timely manner. We could also update and modernize our facilities with better funding.

What are 2-3 strengths of which our district can be proud? Why do you see these as strengths? Our community is certainly a strength that we can be proud of. I see so many community members cheering on our sports teams, making donations for student events, providing activities to keep our youth engaged; we have such a wonderful library and many youth leagues. I also cherish the ECASD teachers and staff. They do so much for our children, way beyond what their job requires. Some kids do not have positive role models at home and having someone at school that cares for you can make such a difference in a childs life.

What are 2-3 needs that must be priorities for our district to address? Why do you see these as needs? Our needs have changes so much over the last 14 months. Through the pandemic we have seen such major changes in education. Our teachers and staff made a major pivot with no notice. We were able to feed our children, provide Chromebooks and instruction at home, and learned how to use technology to instruct, learn, and communicate better. Now that we are able to begin to return to some aspects of normal, I see mental health as a major area of focus for the foreseeable future. Many students have lost loved ones, faced social isolation, were unable to participate in their favorite activities or see their friends. I believe that keeping the students physically safe and healthy was the priority over the last year and now we will need to address the issues that stemmed from it, such as depression, anxiety and social behaviors.

If elected, what would you hope would be key accomplishments of the board during your years of service? I am so proud of all of the security improvements that the district has made in the past few years and I hope to be re-elected to see these projects through to the end.

Former Experience, Roles, and Years Serving onEllwood City Area School District Board: I have not yet had the opportunity to serve as a director on the Ellwood City Area School Board

Why are you running for School Board? If elected, what will be your priorities?I hope to use my experience as a public school educator and my degrees in education to make educated decisions that not only will benefit our students in a positive way but also promote our district. My main priority is making sure that the district is providing a quality education to our students. We have some of the best teachers and students around and they are deserving of a top-quality education. I will be an advocate for all students.

Is there a particular issue that motivates you to serve on the board? I believe a good board is based on communication, transparency, and always serving to promote the best interest in the kids. As the pandemic is an important issue, a seat on the board lasting four years will outlast issues concerning children returning to school, both academically and in sports. I believe that it is a current motivating factor, it will not be a permanent concern as we continue to return to normalcy. We need to focus on setting our district apart from others, making our curriculum, academics and technology stand out to provide an excellent education for our students. Preparing our students for the future should always be an objective. I believe that being a leader is not standing in front of the people, I believe that being a leader is standing behind the people you serve.

What particular experiences or skills have prepared you to serve as a board member? First and foremost, I think being a parent of school aged children in the district. Nothing is more motivating than wanting the very best for education. I was raised by a 28 year school board member and an Ellwood City school teacher, Tony & Mary Ann Celli. I know the importance and value of those positions firsthand, a director on the board is not something to be taken lightly. I have spent my entire life in Ellwood City, I believe in this town and attend almost every function that it has to offer. I think that is important to not only find the changes that need made, but also to find the goodness and support and promote positivity that already exists.

In what school district or community activities/organizations have you been involved? Before the PTO was renounced, I was a member for the years that my daughter was in school. I also volunteer my time for the ECLW Termite Cheer Squad. I am a member of Holy Redeemer Parish and in years past have volunteered during the parish bazaar. Prior to COVID, I participated in the Ellwood City Library Activities with our daughters and attend our community events to support our town. Also, this past year I had a fundraiser 5k race planned and approved by Ellwood City Borough Council, the plan was to host the Holiday Hustle in November and donate all proceeds to Catholic Charities for our local families for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Due to COVID it was cancelled but I am hoping to host it this coming November. Educationally, I am a member of the International Educational Honor Society, Kappa Delta Pi.

What differentiates you from the other candidates and/or board members? I have a multitude of degrees in education; Secondary Teaching Certificate, Master of Education Degree in Professional School Counseling, and a Master of Education Degree in Special Education. I am also currently completing courses for my Doctorate in Education Degree in Educational Leadership & Administration. I am a current public school teacher and have been in public education for the last thirteen years. I also understand the importance of a sound school board from a parent and tax payer point of view with two children who are and will be attending ECASD.

What issues do you believe your district needs to address in its academic program and offerings? What changes would you recommend? As the pandemic fades away and we resume some normalcy, there is still going to be a need for an online cyber program through the district to serve those students who learn best in that modality. Adjustments can be made to our cyber program to be more user friendly for both students and families. The goal should be to retain our students and not have students unenroll to attend other cyber charter schools due to frustration in our district. What are the parents and students looking for in a cyber program? What are they looking for in our district? That is what we should be offering. When we lose students we are losing thousands of dollars in funding to our schools. Another ongoing purpose is to keep up with the latest curriculum. Education is everchanging and we need to be changing along with it, offering our students the best. Also, not only are core academics important, but also do anything in our power to keep the arts our musicals, promote art programs, and allow students to excel in each of their own areas.

What should your school district do to better prepare students as citizens? We need to focus preparing students not only for four and two year colleges. Trade schools, the work force, and everything in between should be celebrated and supported just as much as traditional four year college choices. There needs to always be an emphasis on preparing those students for those options as well. I think that our district does a good job at this and it should always be important. Students need to be prepared for every day living outside of high school and they need to be learning soft skills. How to handle situations that dont go as planned, how to handle the unexpected, better coping and soft skills can not only help with life challenges but are great for students mental health as well. Also, encourage students to participate in extracurricular activities, whether it be a sport or club. This helps build responsibility, team building, resiliency, and social skills that can be used far beyond high school.

As a board member, where would you look to make budget cuts? I think that overall, as a board director we need to look at the funds we have to deal with and see how we can use them most efficiently. I think that cuts would be a last call solution to budget issues. It is important to utilize grants, make sure that our students are staying in house to guarantee our tax dollars are staying in our district, and that our hires are not only beneficial for our students but also that contracts are within our realm of appropriate spending.

How does a school board balance the need to provide a quality education with the need to respond to the local taxpayer burden? Look into grants. There are grants provided for resources, especially during this time that are underutilized and can benefit our students. Spending money efficiently and in the necessary areas is important. Also, it is important to keep our students in ECASD and not transfer to a charter school. When our students are unenrolling, not only are we losing the importance of students and families in the district, but there is large dollar amount of our tax dollars that leaves our district to go to the charter school. With a better cyber plan, our students can have the option of a quality online education in house. We keep our students and we keep our tax dollars.

What attributes are essential for successful school board members? I believe that you not only need to have the education and knowledge, but you need to be able to listen to understand. You need to hear the parents and teachers and know what is going on the good and the bad. It is important to not be a yes man and if you need to stand alone because you are willing to fight for what is in the best interest in the kids, then so be it. In addition, being transparent without hidden agenda or goals is a necessity. Being able to work together and collaborate with other board members allows for goals to be reached together and successfully. I think having a background in education is important as well. We are serving in the field of education, the more educational background one has the better informed decisions can be made.

How would you handle the requests, if approached, by an individual? Special interest groups? Regardless of who or what, it should be given the same attention as any others. Listening to the request and more importantly the reason why behind the request. If the request is necessary and beneficial for the students, it is then not about if it is feasible or not, its about how to we make it happen.

How can you contribute to a successful board meeting? I listen to understand and listen before responding. It is important that before an informed decision is made, all information must be presented and all situations are analyzed as to what is the best for our students. I know how to agree to disagree, nothing should be taken personally as I hope that we all have the same goals in mind to have the best school district for our students. Choices should not be taken lightly and should not be made to benefit the few but the majority.

What do you see as the current challenges facing public education in our state? In our country? Both locally and nationally mental health is becoming a crisis in our youth. We are on the upswing of a global pandemic that no matter what situation you are in, it uprooted your world and created instability and the unknown. For children this is even more significant. Recently I attended an education webinar, Teacher Toolbox Series: 6 Strategies to Social-Emotional Care for COVID-19 and Beyond. As we see school days looking more normal, it does not mean that all students emotional and mental wellbeing are also going back to normal. We need to take care of our students, only when a students social and emotional wellbeing is in good standing, can the best learning take place. I think that it is also important to emphasize individual strengths. Not every students strongest subject is Math or English Language Arts. Our district needs to always utilize courses in all areas so students can excel in their areas.

What are 2-3 strengths of which our district can be proud? Why do you see these as strengths? Number one is our students, all of the time you see our kids in the newspaper for their accomplishments. Whether they are academic, sports, or any other extracurricular I think that these accomplishments should never go unnoticed. The kids have worked hard especially this year, they have adapted and accommodated in ways that sometimes adults cant fathom. Our kids are the future of our town and our most prized possession. Our students should be praised and recognized for their accomplishments big and small. I am proud to say that both of our daughters will be students in ECASD, this is the school district we chose for them. Just as proud of our students, I think that we should be proud of our teachers and faculty. They are the backbone that make our school what it is. I am fortunate to have graduated from ECASD and was able to be a student of some of the teachers. I am also lucky to know these teachers on a personal level, as well as professionally. They are hands down some of the best people in the world.

What are 2-3 needs that must be priorities for our district to address? Why do you see these as needs? I think that one thing that has taken a back seat of school safety, as students were at home or in a hybrid model, there was little need but that does not make it less of importance. Security and/or police presence is important in all buildings in the district. As mentioned earlier, I think that with the push of in person learning and sports for mental health, I think that additional resources need to be available for those who need it. What can be done to provide our students with the supports that they need to succeed? Do we need additional guidance counselors to ensure that there is always one in every building if needed?

If elected, what would you hope would be key accomplishments of the board during your years of service? I think it is important to look far beyond this year, the pandemic will not be the issue in years to come (we hope) and issues need to be addressed as they evolve. How can the school improve its academics, what extracurriculars and sports can be added or incorporated to what we already have? Can we increase and improve our technology? I hope that open communication is something that becomes a norm and that parents feel are not only heard but also respected when approaching the board with questions or concerns. The only way we can achieve goals successfully is if we are all working together. I would also like to see the district gain money and resources through grants, they are out there and would be beneficial to receive. We can use these resources to always be updating and improving curriculum and technology. Most importantly, I want to see that students are staying in our district. That they want to be here because they enjoy the education, the enjoy participating in sports, and they enjoy the activities that are available. In turn staying in Ellwood and raising their own families to also attend our district and watch our town grow. I will be an advocate for all students, regardless of the situation and will fight for them to always have the best education and experience possible in the Ellwood City Area School District. I believe in leaving something better than when you found it.

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Part Three: 2021 Primary Election Candidate Q&A Ellwood City, PA news -

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Community joins together to help someone in need – Brunswicktimes Gazette

Posted: April 15, 2021 at 1:55 am

To the Editor:

Thank you to everyone that helped make the Brunswick Stew fundraiser for Philip Kallam a HUGE success on April 3, 2021. All supplies and ingredients were donated/paid for along with extra donations.

With everyones support we were able to donate $6,508 to them. We know this will be a help to them during these challenging times. This would not have been possible without the support of these generous friends and businesses of our community: Emory Samford, Len Hobbs, Randy and Melinda Clary, Debbie Douglas, Craig Martelle, Kell and Nancy Fleshood, Ed and Judy Carroll, Rebecca Yonker, Robbie Pecht and Becky Akers-Pecht, PL Baisey, Employees of Benchmark Community Bank (Lawrenceville Branch),Virginia Pallets, Rozier Termite and Pest Control, Commonwealth Exterminators, Lake Country General Store, EE Vaughan, Alberta General Store, Virginia Custom Thinning, B&J Cash & Carry, and Parker Oil Company.

The following people helped prepare, cook and sell 617 quarts! Tracey Powell, PL Baisey, Hubert Moore, Scott Martin, Austin Elmore, Jerry Clary, Colby Elliott, Norby Nelson, Lynda Elmore, Rhonda Elmore, Linsey Carroll, Jinx Baney, Amy Williams, Kay Clary and Anne Rylands.


Thank you to all involved!

Please keep the prayers coming for Philip and his family!Rodney Elmore


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If India was socialist all these 70 years, how is 73% of all wealth owned by 1% Indians? – National Herald

Posted: February 14, 2021 at 3:53 pm

Editor ji goes hyperbolic over one budget speech to sweep away the miasma of failed economic policies, and horrendous disasters, to hail the dawn of a new era. Amit Shah continues to termite his way through the nations foundations in West Bengal. The Chinese have won their argument and reinstated their 1959 claim to our territory which we have contested for last 60 years. And probably won it as Lt Gen. Panag explains. We have a pandemic ongoing, and hundreds of thousands of farmers at the borders of Delhi, clamoring for a hearing.

Is there a case to consider Editor jis rather pernickety vision of el Dorado as an elaborate diversion from objective reality to something more phantasmagoric in order to distract and amuse the gullible?

The point is Editor ji pulled a similar trick in the run up to 2014, lending the emperor robes of reform that he never had. So, this would not be the first time.

SG: Indian politics, generally since 1947 but particularly since Indira Gandhis hard Left-turn in 1969, has been unipolar economically. First Nehru serendipitously got rid of the Right in his party and then his daughter carried out a full purge. In the same period, using her brand of social-populism soaked in nationalism, she destroyed the one opposition party of the libertarian Right, Swatantra.

SR: The cheap rhetorical legerdemain of using straw man arguments need not detain us. The proper context for Modis alleged reformist impulses is the 90/91 package of economic reforms put into place by PVNR and Dr Manmohan Singh. Has Modi moved the process forward? Or diverted it from the beginning of a road to market-based reforms, to crony capitalism.

Much water has flowed down the Ganges since Indira Gandhi left the scene. Fact is Editor ji would have a rather hard time showing how Modi has moved the needle forward since 1990/91. So, he sets up a straw man to beat to show his messiah in better light.

One expects this kind of chintz dodgery from party quacks, not erudite editors, with some claim to objectivity and relevance.

SG: Her most vocal rivals since were also various socialists, Lohiaites and Communists. She was so smart, and the Communist parties so torn between Moscow and Beijing, she split them as well. The pro-Moscow CPI backed her fully, even over the Emergency.

SR: Irrelevant gibberish. Indira Gandhi is the straw man here for the Editors argument.

SG: There was little scope left for an ideological polarisation in Indias political economy. It was essentially a challenge of which side could be more socialist. This pull became so irresistible even the Jana Sangh, and later BJP, walked into the same tent.

SR: Continuation of the rubbish straw man argument. If have the courage, try comparing Modi with Dr Manmohan Singh, and Modis reforms with those of 90/91. And let us see if your contrived thesis holds up.

SG: For five decades each side fired at the other from its own socialist trenches. Meanwhile, they all talked of reform. Reform with a human touch, inclusive reform, reform with socialist flavour. Mostly reform by stealth.

SR: What is Modis Farm reform Bills if not reform by stealth and deception, carried out in the middle of a pandemic, without discussion or consultation, and rammed through parliament without a proper vote?

Has Modi dared explain why prices of cereals must be brought down to reduce cereal production and diversify into other crops? Or has he plied lies upon lies? How is deception & outright lies better than stealth?

SG: Or, as the late Sitaram Kesri had said to me in an interview why he thought the Chinese communists were like DTC bus drivers: They signal left and turn right. The sad fact is, we were not even turning. We were moving straight, at a crawling pace, straddling multiple lanes, which is typical of driving with Indian characteristics. This also describes Modis first six years. If anything, he had put the clock back on even the post-1991 reform. Indias economy had stalled, as did its politics.

SR: This also describes Modis first six years. If anything, he had put the clock back on even the post-1991 reform. Indias economy had stalled, as did its politics. I marvel at the persuasive powers of Modi. One speech, and the Editor ji is gushing all over the place in awed reverence.

SG: Thats now changed. One side has declared itself to be an unabashed backer of private enterprise and the other socialist. Lets not be confused by whataboutery in terms of whos coming from where. Lets pick up the thread from this session.

SR: Hallelujah. Here is the moment of chamatkari epiphany!

One speech that says private sector has a role to play in development of the economy makes Modi the Capitalists champion, never mind the fact, that India has always had a robust private sector since Nehrus era. In fact, Nehru even went & created developmental banks, that Modi has only thought of now, so that the private Capitalists could borrow long term public funds to finance their businesses.

Capital goes to the credible. The sad fact is faith in Govt in Nehrus era was high, and private sector low. Since the British were anything but socialists in India, the lack of faith in private sector had nothing to do with ideology. Tycoons for the most part then, with the exception of a Ghanshyam Birla, largely were happy to do business with the British and made their fortunes under them in such diverse things as opium trade with China, to textiles mills in Mumbai.

Consider the close connection between Capital, tycoons, all invaders since the dawn of history, you couldnt blame the public for not trusting them. Capitalists will always back power, and all power will back Capitalists. Even Xi will do so, his problems with Jack Ma notwithstanding. The crucial thing is how does power control the Capitalists.

When you use free markets, based on open competition among them, to control the excess of Capitalism, the system works fine. On the other hand, when you use power to insulate Capitalists from the discipline of competition, you get crony capitalism - a run-away, predatory sort of Capitalism, where firms gouge consumers to make profits and depend on the state to make business cozy for them.

Modi is doing both: protectionist tariff walls to protect firms from competition, and using coercive power of the state to make farm produce available cheaper to trade.

SG: First of all, the budget talked of privatisation and not disinvestment. I said on budget day that it was the first time an Indian government had unapologetically used the word privatisation instead of disinvestment or some other euphemism. For the record, Yashwant Sinha messaged me to say that he had also used the word in his 2001 budget speech. But still, it wasnt stated as a formal policy and used in that sense.

SR: A rose by another name is still a rose. But I will concede the point. The word privatization was used. So what?

Most of the public sector in the last 6.5 years, and even earlier, has been systematically not only denied additional capital, but has also had its internal surpluses drained, to finance Govt. regardless of where they were need to be deployed. This shows in the pathetic PE multiples that these firms command even at the top of a booming market.

Policy has been to kill off the public sector by stealth for a long time. Many have been allowed to perish unsung, starting with Scooters India & the famous Bicycle Corporation of India.

But the rapturous Editor ji forgets his history. Modi has used the word privatization. And more importantly RG as opposition leader, opposed him. So that makes Modi pro-Capitalism and RG the detested socialist. Why should facts come in the way of a rhapsody to the Messiah?

SG: Second, the prime minister made the most forthright case for the private sector. He said it needed respect and the days when calling entrepreneurs names got you votes are over. He said if the whole world is gratefully buying Indian made vaccines, it is because of the private sector. He also gave us a view on the public sector hitherto not spoken by anybody at top levels in power. Why should IAS officers run businesses, he asked? If they are Indian, so are private entrepreneurs. They also contribute to building the nation. Dont diss wealth creators, he said. Because, if wealth is not created, what will you distribute?

SR: When Gorbachov came visiting to India in the 1980s, he had a specific query for Rajiv Gandhi. Show me how and why the private sector works so well in India. So, presentation on the topic was arranged for him by two people. One was the Chairman of Hindustan Lever. The other was an upstart entrepreneur named Narayan Murthy.

So, forgive me if I cast a skeptical eye over the editorial balderdash. Such gobbledygook belongs in political rhetoric not an editorial column.

Private sector has always enjoyed the respect it deserves. In fact, Indias socialism was always more crony capitalism in its real treatment of capital. Redistributive justice was mostly lip service, largely because crony capitalism never produces sufficient economic surplus, [as opposed to profits that can be siphoned away abroad & recycled back as capital in another firm] to enable effective redistribution.

Instead, price controls & black markets went hand in hand, making empty socialistic rhetoric possible in tandem with much money making in black markets by Capitalists.

It is this duality that was ended by 90/91 reforms. And the duality will be duly back under Modi as the protectionist tariffs & PLI kick off smuggling, over & under invoicing, linked deals abroad etc. But who can explain economics to an editor who is determined not to remember?

Has there been a Narayan Murthy under Modi? How many Narayan Murthy have been chased away to Singapore under Modi?

Editor ji should ponder such deep questions before selling us the same old poisoned chalice of crony capitalism as the new Capitalism. If one looks carefully, the same old Bombay Club has changed its name. Nothing else has changed; except that under the old dispensation, all comers were welcome, but now only two are.

SG: Now, you might argue with good reason that while saying this he is taking enormous taxes out of the pockets of the middle class by way of petrol-diesel taxes and distributing it to the poor. But that is a secondary argument in the larger debate today.

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If India was socialist all these 70 years, how is 73% of all wealth owned by 1% Indians? - National Herald

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Modis inability to critically think matters is satanic revenge from hell – Global Village space

Posted: February 9, 2021 at 6:50 pm

There is no balance of wisdom in PM Narendra Modi. Either he is facilely imitating for the physical appearance of Swami Vivekanand to celebrate some anniversary in the future or trying to stage a retreat into a monastery, as it is his wont. Foot and mouth disease of cows exciting unlettered and obscene reply not from him alone but the horde, which follows up in its misplaced zeal of his. There is no mizanehikma or balance of wisdom, which you find in al-Biruni. His satraps like the chief minister of MP Suraj Pratap Singh and Pragyasingh Thakur go to the verge of making a laughing stock of India. It contrasts with the pioneering invention in the vaccine against the coronavirus by Poonawala.

A fanatic would sabotage such a premier center of relentless endeavor. The prime minister leads from the front as the laboratory is bellowing smoke as if Israel has bombed Syria or Beirut. The Sabarmati Express was burnt from within but he invented that it was burnt from outside. In the background is a strange venture that government buildings would be sanitized by cow urine phenyl. That is a great advance made by the cow cabinet. This is antipodal to the quintessential of critical thinking.

Read more: Op-ed: Will a more informed citizenry nibble the bait of Hindu rashtra?

There is notafakkuror contemplating,tadhakuror taking of heart,tadaburor pondering,tafaququ or contemplating or nadhar or considering, ittibar or ranking a lesson, tawassum or reflecting. Asking questions is a means of precise comprehension. Modi never held a press conference. He passed it to his lieutenant Amit Shah, the so-called chankya of the termite era.

He is made of the stuff of prevarication. He was unable to clean his image and suffered dehydration. He refused to throw light on what transpired in the meeting at his official residence. He hid from the public that he had a wife until the right to information at filing nomination form at election forced him to name her. What he spoke to Ahsan Jafri is still Gordons knot to cut. He challenged Sonia Gandhi to prosecute him for killing Sohrabuddin beating his 56-inch chest. Essentially he is gloomy, saturnine, and forbidding!

There is of course consistency in the violence in the Gujarat genocide and the fake encounters. They are the two sides of the same coin made in Hindutva mint. Bajrangi was so awed by the bold step Modi had taken for such a daredevil work that he called his chief minister a real man (mard aadmi hai). Like master like a servant. His most trusted cop was Vanzara who has been now known for having killed many in fake encounters for which he was in jail for several years and proudly says that he had performed manly work (murdowala kaam).

Like master like servant. Modi has been performing fasting session full ten years later. There is no atonement nor is there any remorse for what he did. Vanzara was busy with Gita program. He passed an examination in Gandhian philosophy of nonviolence and is propagating grey cloth for the people. Gandhi used to weave grey cloth or khaadi on his spinning wheel and so he is doing it as a penance, perhaps. He got distinction in the examination, as he stood first with seventy marks scored in the same examination. Is this a section of rajdharm?

Read more: Op-ed: Modi sponsors militant outfits in India

Modi was never honest with himself. Prevarication is the stuff he is made of. He never tried to tell the truth of the meeting at his residence preceding the pogroms in 2002 or what he spoke to Ahsan Jafri.

Yes, plastic surgery was in the Hanuman era. There was no logic when a glass of water lying on the table and still he demanded one from Karan Thapar.

Al-Biruni worked with several rulers and was meritorious and objective and scientific because of critical thinking while Gujarat rulers of yore invited Mehmud Gaznavi to plunder the Somnath temple.

Modi government has introduced bills and passed them into law that discriminates against Muslims. For example, a Muslim landlord cannot evict his premises if Hindus occupy them. Transportation of animals or meat is forbidden. The new regulations also stipulate how transactions of property should take place in disturbed areas. In all this, the priority is to secure control of Hindus over the property. In contrast, it has violated many human rights of the people who were victims of the genocide.

Read more: Modi bound to face legal mesh over leak of military secrets

The showbiz of the Gujarat chief minister Modi inviting Chinas president to visit was that Gujarat has left even India behind in its march of development. That he can have a direct talk with the Chinese leaders in order to earn a fast buck. This proved disastrous for India. His reckoning shows he has no critical thinking.

Critical thinking is objective and scientific while Modi using Newtonian law as justification is satanic revenge from hell. Equally so is sacrificing innocent Ishrat Jahan: it proved to sacrifice of her at the altar of Hindu Moloch.

Mustafa Khan holds a Ph.D. on Mark Twain. He lives in Malegaon Maharashtra, India. The views expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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Modis inability to critically think matters is satanic revenge from hell - Global Village space

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ACROSS THE BAYOU: There’s an art to killing time – The Daily Iberian

Posted: February 1, 2021 at 9:54 am

Todays Tuesday and my columns due Thursday and I have nothing to write about. How can I when most of my hours are spent tossing expired medicine and hiding from the mailman and making sure the labels in my pantry are all facing the same way.

But then Ted Viator called early morning and we exchanged belly laughs and talked about what we just ate. I had just eaten a bowl of smothered pork and rice and gravy and a hunk of lemon Doberge cake from Guidrys and Ted had just finished off a whole King Cake from Pouparts. We were both very nauseated. But what I really like is that Ted knows when to hang up. His signature closing is, We Shall Talk. On one of our phone conversations I was making him laugh when he said, A cop just pulled me over, and hung up. He called back and screamed, Dont ever call me again. I was laughing so hard I got a speeding ticket.

Then after that I got to visit with The Cox Communications fella and I got to watch the termite fella perform his yearly treatment. I also roamed around Hobby Lobby in a hypnotic state until I ran into Ginger Comeaux. She asked me what I was doing and I said I was killing time. Then she asked again and I told her the same thing. I also ran into Francine Garzotta in the fabric department where I leaned against a column that had a phone any Tom, Dick and Phyllis could answer. I was very tempted to pick up and say, Notions Department, just because I never hear that word anymore. Then after that, I just hid from people.

Then I went to Rouses and introduced myself to Audra, the operator of the floral section where I bought four glittery and sequined Mardi Gras porch cushions, one candle named Back Porch and another one named Orleans Tea. I gave Back Porch to Brother Bo because I hate tea. Audra even walked me through how to make garland out of some grapevine and I told her that wont happen unless she comes along with it. Yall should swing by and tell her I sent you. We arent offering any discounts though. Then a nice girl who saw me talking to Audra thought I worked there and asked where she could find the Velveeta. I told her I was just chatting with Audra but she could find the elusive Velveeta on the refrigerated cheese aisle or near the #7 Luxury Brand Macaroni. As she walked away I heard her say, Youre gonna have glitter all over the place.

Then when I got home two KATC TV3 cars were in front of my house and I thought maybe I had forgotten to pay for my artificial flowers at Hobby Lobby so I casually asked, What yall doing? She said, I just spoke with your husband Jason about Main Streets Yardi Gras Project, as she pointed toward Jason Bayards house. I simply said, Quite the age difference, huh? She was at a loss for words. Then a few days ago I sat in a closet lit by a small lamp because the fluorescents were out, and you know what they say about changing the fluorescents, and for three hours I rummaged through two gargantuan garbage bags of beads separating the ones I hate, like the white ones and the ones that are broken from hitting some parade goer in the mouth and nose area. I couldnt help but mumble, Thats what you get for your annoying shouting of, Throw Me Something Mister, then I questioned my sanity and how I was going to get up from the floor.

PHYLLIS BELANGER MATA was born at the old Dauterive Hospital and grew up on Wayne Street. She is a 1974 graduate of Mt. Carmel Academy and is a chili dog without the wiener aficionado.

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ACROSS THE BAYOU: There's an art to killing time - The Daily Iberian

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Method Statement for Anti-termite Treatment

Posted: January 27, 2021 at 2:53 am

One important activity on site is the application of Anti-termite. By the way, this is always written in the specification.

This activity shall be done before the Blinding Works. But before we submit a Method Statement for this activity to the Engineer we should first read again the specification in order to comply with the specific requirements being written on it.

Here is the Method Statement for Anti-termite Treatment.

Method Statement for Anti-termite Treatment

So I am hoping that the above Method Statement has brought information to the Engineers and if you have any comments please put your comments below. You may subscribe to get a new post in your inbox. Thanks for visiting this site.

Hi! Welcome to my blog. My name is Noel Mades and Im the author of I am a Civil Engineer by profession but Ive specialized and taken the journey in the field of Quality Engineering. Ive worked as a Quality Engineer in the well-known companies in the United Arab Emirates for almost eleven years.

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Method Statement for Anti-termite Treatment

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