Coney Island

Nina Kharazmi || Photography, Photography, Travel

A quirky playground of sights and sounds,

where the subway ends and the city meets the beach

with vibrant, tattered streets. 

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Humor, Anger and Incivility

Advocacy, Editorial

Techniques for using laughter for emotional transformation.

6-reasons-why-laughter-is-the-best-medicine

Photo: The Chopra Center

Feeling swamped, burned out and frustrated at work? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. In this fast paced society, overworking is common and even socially acceptable. Today, job expectations involve long hours slaving over a full plate of responsibilities that only seem to move from excessive to moderately tolerable. If you’re not stressed out then you must not be working hard enough, right? Wrong. At some point, this view became acceptable as genuine dedication was replaced with corporate hustling. But at what cost?

Burned out employees are more likely to experience emotions that can negatively impact work performance and overall well-being. This includes feelings of stress, frustration, disappointment, annoyance and resentment. If left unchecked, these emotions can easily spiral into anger with disastrous consequences. When acting from a place of rage, the outcomes can be devastating.

HUMOR FOR BETTER HEALTH

Humor provides an outlet for better health in a stressful work environment. When demands are high, people are more likely to be on edge. For those with a low tolerance for stress, this may lead to a reduction in creativity and innovation. In the worst cases, interpersonal conflicts arise, collaborative efforts demise, and frustration and anger ensues.

There are many ways in which humor serves as an effective tool for stress reduction and anger management. On a physical level, it minimizes the effect of cortisol, which is the “fight-or-flight” hormone released during highly stressful situations. Additionally, humor relaxes the body and releases more of those “feel good” hormones. Beyond that, humor also benefits mental health by promoting community bonding, solidarity and even creativity.

HOW TO LAUGH MORE

Laughter can effectively defuse rage by using opposite emotional states. On one end, anger is a rigid and serious emotion that occurs when expectations are not met. In contrast, humor is a flexible emotion that requires out of the box thinking. Therefore, in order to transform anger into humor, you must remember to not take life too seriously. This can be done through visualizations or drawings. For example, if you think of a colleague as a “dirt bag”, try to imagine an actual bag of dirt sitting on a desk, attending meetings and making calls. While it may appear “silly”, using humor in this manner can help to reduce tension and allow you to later address problems more constructively.

Next time rage is on the rise, take a step back and try to examine the situation in a lighthearted manner.

When events are taken lightly, humor has the opportunity to seep into the lives of even the most stressed out individuals. For example, in a 2017 study presented in the Journal of Managerial Psychology, researchers found that business executives, lawyers and doctors admitted to swearing in the workplace. While profanity is generally unacceptable in this environment, positive outcomes were still reported at the individual, interpersonal and group levels. As a result of not taking swearing too seriously, professionals and their colleagues were able to react to profanity with humor rather than anger. Numerous positive results were reported, including stress-relief, as well as enriched communication and social interactions. Overall, this study illustrates the benefits of experiencing life from a lighter and more humorous state of being. While I am not condoning profanity at work, I am endorsing life with more laughter.

 

    … …..      bskgwfrcmaa9grn


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Reference
Featured Image: http://www.tipsywriter.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/laugh-quotes.jpg

Millennial Workforce

Advocacy, Editorial

Spoiled, Lazy & Conceited – Shifting Perceptions to Engage Millennials

Stress-free strategies for cultivating passion in business.
millennials

Photo: Times Jobs

By 2030, millennials or Gen Y will account for 75% of the global workforce. (1,2) Engaging this young and technologically savvy group requires innovative tactics. What worked for past generations may not necessarily produce the same outcomes for Gen Y. Currently, 72% of U.S. employees are disengaged or actively disengaged. The high cost of employee turnover is estimated at 1.5 to 3 times an employee’s salary. This is due to the cost of recruitment, loss of institutional knowledge, training new hires, loss of member relationships and impact on morale. Therefore, it is vital that employers understand generational differences in order to implement effective interventions that foster employee commitment and retention. While the media has often painted Gen Y unfavorably—entitled and self-absorbed—the truth behind the millennial mindset is likely more complex. With increased attention, researchers are now examining the motivations of Gen Y for the purposes of cultivating corporate environments for the modern age.

 

Table 1. Definitions of Generations

Name Span of Birth Years
Baby Boomers 1944-1964
Gen X 1965-1980
Millennials (Gen Y) 1981-1995


In a 2016 study by Indiana University, 1,798 retail workers were surveyed in order to examine generational mindsets and whether a positive work environment was associated with employee loyalty. (1) Researchers found that when compared to Gen X or Baby Boomers, millennials had drastically different perceptions of work, especially in regards to the concepts of duty, drive and reward. Additionally, millennials did not conceptually link organizational commitment with workplace culture. Therefore, having a positive workplace environment is not enough for millennials to stay committed to a particular company. Instead, they seek organizations that meet their needs for contribution and fulfillment.

Based on the findings in this study, numerous strategies are recommended to engage millennials in a manner that minimizes stress. For example, managers could adjust their performance appraisal process by showing millennials how their work positively supports organizational objectives and goals. Doing so cultivates a greater sense of meaning and commitment to the team. It also addresses three traits that researchers have found to be prominent in the millennial mindset: teamwork, communication with superiors, and frequent feedback. Reframing concepts of duty, drive and reward can ultimately facilitate a more productive environment, with a workforce that is committed, passionate and loyal. By embracing differences and acting with empathy, corporate leaders are shaping workplace environments that foster employee well-being.millennial-workforce-2020

Recommendations for engaging millennials:

Cultivate Duty

Show how individual work connects to the larger team goals.

Encourage Resilience

Frame failure as a positive learning experience that encourages alternative actions.

Support Innovation

Position work requests in terms of the larger organizational context.

Increase Communication

Promote frequent interaction with superiors through a performance evaluation plan that increases organizational communication.

Provide Feedback

Frequently assess activities and provide tangible evidence of appreciation.

 

learning-to-love-the-millennial-workforce

Photo: Metro Fax

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REFERENCES

  1. http://www.inderscienceonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1504/IJBSR.2017.080832
  2. https://www.wired.com/insights/2013/08/the-rise-of-the-millennial-workforce

NYC

Nina Kharazmi || Photography, Photography, Travel

Where geometry meets industry

CHINATOWN

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Covert Killer

Advocacy, Editorial, Uncategorized

By 2020, cancer cases in the United States are expected to increase by 24% in men and 21% in women.

Some of the most common types of cancer expected to rise include melanoma, prostate, liver, kidney, lung and breast cancers.

The Modern Paradox – Luxury is Toxic

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The modern lifestyle is one of luxury and convenience. From beverages to beauty products, todays consumers have a vast array of options to choose from to satisfy their daily needs. Freedom of choice in a competitive marketplace, that is the beauty of living in the United States.

In a minimally regulated system, overconsumption in the pursuit of luxury has become toxic. Companies now use chemicals to enhance products, reduce costs, and increase profits. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are supposed to regulate exposure to toxic chemicals. However, the system has failed. There are approximately 85,000 registered chemicals, but only 200-300 have been tested for safety.

Chemicals are “innocent until proven guilty” in the U.S.

Laboratory Glassware

In America’s free marketplace, consumer products are considered safe until proven otherwise. The 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was enacted to regulate potentially hazardous exposures. However, the act does not require chemicals to be tested for safety before being released to the public.

On June 22, 2016, the TSCA was updated with the passing of the Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (LCSA). The intention is that the EPA will improve the screening of active chemicals used today for toxicity in humans. Whether or not this will actually work is unknown.

The number of chemically engineered goods has and continues to rapidly surpass the regulatory systems in place. Each year, approximately 2,000 new chemicals are introduced into consumer items. Personal care products, foods, and household cleaners are just a few places where they are present. We are all eating, drinking and using toxic products everyday. However, with the backlog in toxicity testing, we may never know what is killing us before it’s too late.

The Covert Killer: Caramel Color

Glasses with cola and ice cubes

Caramel coloring types III and IV in carbonated beverages contributes to 25% of the U.S. population’s exposure to the carcinogen, 4-Methylimidazole or 4-MEI (1). The U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) conducted experimental studies on rats and found that exposure to 4-MEI led to increases in leukemia, as well as adenomas and carcinomas of the lung. While no human data is available yet, these findings were enough to categorize 4-MEI as a carcinogen.

This manufactured caramel color has no other purpose than to make beverages appear darker. Companies believe that by including this chemical into soft drinks, it will ultimately lead to an increase in sales. Apparently, people prefer soda that’s brown not yellow.

CA Proposition 65: Labeling Toxic Consumer Goods

toxic-products

In 2011, California listed 4-MEI as a carcinogen under Proposition 65 of the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. Proposition 65 requires warning labels for any carcinogen exceeding a “no significant risk level” (NSRL). A no significant risk level is the lifetime average daily exposure associated with a 1-in-100,000 cancer risk (1). This amount for 4-MEI is equal to 29 μg/day. In response, soft drink manufacturers announced that they would lower the concentration of 4-MEI in products sold in California.

Years later, did they really follow through?

In a 2015 study by Johns Hopkins University, researchers tested the concentration of 4-MEI in 110 soft drink samples from stores in California, New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York (1). Various brands were tested, including A&W Root Beer, Diet Coke, Malta Goya, Diet Pepsi, Pepsi One and Regular Pepsi. The average and maximum amount of 4-MEI concentrated in beverages varied dramatically across brands and states. The highest and lowest concentrations across all locations was found in Malta Goya (mean: 945.5μg/L; maximum: 1104μg/L) and Diet Coke (mean: 9.8μg/L; maximum: 10.4μg/L).

A&W Root Beer Diet Coke Malta Goya Diet Pepsi Pepsi One Regular       Pepsi
Mean

4-MEI (μg/L)

CA 68.2 9.5 963.3 78.4 119.7 75.9
NY 61.8 10.2 915.8 304.5 501.5 291.2

Researchers found that 4-MEI concentrations were overall higher in samples purchased in the NY area compared to those purchased in CA. This is evidence that Proposition 65 and other state-level interventions can incentivize manufacturers to reduce chemical exposures and associated risks among consumers.

Soda Consumption: A Social Epidemic

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The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) calculated the average daily consumption of carbonated beverages in the United States (1). The highest consumption of soda was found among adolescents (ages 16 to 20 years old) and young adults (ages 21 to 44 years old), with approximately 57% of this population consuming 2-3 cans daily. However, this trend varied by beverage type. Colas were found to be the most popular beverage consumed, regardless of age. In contrast, root beer and pepper colas were the least popular.

Soft Drink Consumption A& W Root Beer Diet Coke Malta Goya Diet Pepsi Pepsi

One

Regular Pepsi
Mean               4-MEI (μg/L) CA 68.2 9.5 963.3 78.4 119.7 75.9
NY 61.8 10.2 915.8 304.5 501.5 291.2
 Age Range  (years old) Soft Drink Consumption (% pop.)
Children (3-5) 30.1%
Adolescents (11-15) 56.5%
Young Adults (16-20) 57.1% 1.6 – 3.2 cans daily
Adults (21-44) 57.9% 1.5 – 3.5 cans daily
Adults (45-64) 48.4%
Older Adults (65-70) 34.9%


Cancer Risk

For this study, risk is defined as the lifetime excess risk of developing cancer associated with the consumption of soft drinks. United States federal regulatory agencies set an acceptable cancer risk goal for consumer products as 1 case per 1,000,000 exposed individuals.

Based on average daily consumption patterns and the concentrations of 4-MEI found in soft drinks, researchers identified which beverages posed the greatest risk for consumers. Malta Goya, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi and Pepsi One resulted in 4-MEI exposures with associated risks exceeding 1 excess case per 10,000 exposed individuals.

The lifetime risk of developing cancer is 100 times greater for consumers of caramel colored soft drinks with 4-MEI (Malta Goya, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi and Pepsi One)

soda

Acceptable Risk: 1 case/1,000,000 exposed individuals

Current Risk: 1 case/10,000 exposed individuals

 

Cancer Burden

The consumption of soda is contributing to rising rates of cancer. But to what degree?

Burden is the lifetime (70 years) excess cancer cases associated with the consumption of beverages by the U.S. population. The number of people who will develop cancer in their lifetime from Pepsi One is approximately 1,000 in California and 4,000 in New York. Comparatively, the number of Malta Goya consumers predicted to develop cancer in their lifetime is roughly 5,000 in both states.

Average Exposure Pepsi Pepsi One Diet Pepsi Malta Goya Coca Cola Diet Coke
CA 1,044 958 628 5,011 167 76
NY 4,009 4,014 2,437 4,764 156 82

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What Can We Do?

1. Federal Regulation

Advocates, NGOs and constituents should pressure policy makers to increase regulation on consumer goods with 4-MEI. Toxic exposure to this carcinogen is unnecessary and should be eliminated.

2. FDA Intervention    

The FDA could set a maximum 4-MEI concentration level for beverages sold in the United   States.

3. Avoid Drinking Soda  

Individuals should avoid drinking soda with caramel coloring, especially Malta Goya, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi and Pepsi One.

Ultimately, relying on political regulations is not enough. The process of creating and implementing restrictions on carcinogens is too slow to keep up with the rapid pace of chemical engineering. Everyday, new toxins are being introduced into consumer products. Chemicals are continuously being modified and exposures are on the rise.

However, advocates should still pressure regulatory bodies to progress towards a system that more effectively minimizes harm to the population’s health. California’s Proposition 65 is one example of success where other states should follow.

People have power as consumers. By avoiding the consumption of soda, individuals can make a statement to companies about the quality of products desired. By choosing healthier alternatives to chemically enhanced products, people are shifting trends that influence what businesses produce in the future.

The most effective way to limit toxic exposure is with you. You have the power to create an immediate impact towards a healthier life. You choose what you eat, drink and use everyday. While our products may be toxic, our choices don’t have to be.


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REFERENCES

1) Caramel color in soft drinks and exposure to 4-methylimidazole: a quantitative risk assessment, Tyler Smith, et al., PLOS One, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0118138, published online 18 February 2015.

2) Another reason to cut back on soda, Consumer Reports, news story accessed 20 February 2015 at consumerreports.org.

3) Popular soda ingredient poses cancer risk to consumers, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health news release accessed 20th February 2015 Via EurekAlert!

 

Maternal Mortality

Advocacy, Editorial, Nina Kharazmi || Photography, Travel

 830 women die from pregnancy or childbirth each day around the world.

99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries.

(World Health Organization)

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united-nations

Photo by: United Nations

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

March 8th, International Women’s Day (IWD), offers a great opportunity for people to champion gender equality as they celebrate the historical achievements of women in the social, economic, cultural and political fields (1,2).

For over a century, IWD has been recognized as a time when governments, industry, and NGOs collectively act to better women’s rights through rich and diverse activities, such as political rallies, business conferences, networking events and artistic performances. Today, we need this involvement more than ever as we move forward on a foundation of past historical success.

As we celebrate the past, we must look towards the future and continue to fight for women’s equality. There is still progress to be made, especially in regards to education, health, positions of power in business and politics, and the prevention of violence against women. The truth is clear: every girl deserves a future that is equal, safe and rewarding.

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Photo by: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

 

medium

Photo by: Medium

WOMEN’S EQUALITY AND HEALTH 

One way to close the gender inequality gap is to focus on reducing preventable maternal deaths. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 830 women die from pregnancy or childbirth each day around the world (3). Nearly 75% of all maternal deaths are due to delivery complications, severe bleeding, infections, high blood pressure during pregnancy and unsafe abortions (5). In 2015, approximately 303,000 women died from maternal health complications, most of which could have been prevented (3).

Solutions to avoid or treat pregnancy complications are well known. It is vital that women receive prenatal and postpartum care, as well as skilled care during childbirth. However, women are unlikely to receive adequate care in remote areas and in regions with minimal skilled health workers, such as sub-Saharan Africa. In 2015, only 40% of pregnant women in low-income countries had received the four recommended antenatal care visits (3). Other factors that inhibit women from seeking or receiving care include poverty, distance, inadequate services, cultural practices and lack of information. These barriers must be addressed at all levels of the health system in order to tackle maternal mortality. The timely diagnosis and management of pregnancy related complications is a matter of life or death for the mother and baby.

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Photo by: Erin Goodrow

 

new-security-beat

Photo by: New Security Beat

THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS 

On September 25th, 2015, member states of the WHO adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with 15-year targets to end poverty and ensure prosperity for all (4). One objective is to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio (MMR) to less than 70 per 100,000 births (3). However, 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries, reflecting the inequities in access to health services. For example, the MMR in 2015 was 239 per 100,000 live births in developing countries versus 12 per 100,000 live births in developed countries. Additionally, over half of the global maternal deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly among rural and low-income communities. Overall, women in developing countries have many more pregnancies and have a higher risk of death due to pregnancy. The probability that a 15-year-old woman will die from a maternal cause is 1 in 180 in developing countries versus 1 in 4,900 in developed countries (3). In order to achieve the SDGs, women need greater access to reproductive health services, especially those in low-resource settings.

PRIORITIZING MATERNAL HEALTH 

WHO and numerous organizations have been working to reduce maternal mortality rates by increasing research, providing evidence-based clinical guidance, setting global standards and delivering technical support. During the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2016-2030) was launched as a road map for the post-2015 agenda presented in the SDGs. The aim is to end all preventable deaths of women, children and adolescents, as well as provide an environment for health to thrive. In order to implement this strategy, WHO and partners are working on the following regarding reproductive, maternal and newborn health care: addressing inequalities in access to services, ensuring universal health coverage, addressing causes of maternal mortality and morbidities, strengthening health systems and ensuring accountability for quality care.

For efforts to succeed, the world must unite in prioritizing maternal health. Advocates, organizations, and governments need to take a stand against women’s inequality and provide greater agency, support and resources towards tackling maternal mortality.


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REFERENCES

  1. https://www.internationalwomensday.com/About
  2. http://wd2016.org/speaker/jill-sheffield/
  3. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs348/en/
  4. http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/
  5. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(14)70227-X/fulltext

* Cover photo: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Pegasus

Nina Kharazmi || Photography, Photography, Travel

Sights from the Pegasus building in downtown Los Angeles.

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Light

Nina Kharazmi || Photography, Photography

A manipulation of light in space.

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Freedom

Nina Kharazmi || Photography, Video

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Freedom, Poverty and Human Rights

Poverty is the failure to acquire certain fundamental freedoms, including the freedoms from disease, hunger, and illiteracy. In order for people to have the freedom to live a healthy life, there cannot be obstacles preventing the legitimate pursuit of good health and well-being. Simultaneously, society must support individuals by creating an environment that allows for the achievement of good health. Once these basic freedoms are acquired, an individual attains a level of minimal human dignity. According to the human rights approach, people have inalienable rights to these freedoms. It is a human right to be free from hunger and disease. Once people attain a minimal level of human dignity they are then able to gain something greater – the freedom of choice and the power to create a better life.

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Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. (2004). Human Rights and Poverty Reduction: A Conceptual Framework. Retrieved from http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/PovertyReductionen.pdf

Reality

Nina Kharazmi || Photography, Video

Alice: Modern Tale of Wonder

A surrealist portrayal of a young adult’s struggle in search of truth beyond the realm of her preconceived reality

As human beings age, they become increasingly constrained by the social world. Innocence and curiosity from childhood escapes, as our understanding of reality becomes solidified over time. At a point of transition in life, many people find themselves questioning their purpose. This is especially true of young adults moving from the role of dependency to the independent world of professionalism. Who am I? What should I be doing? What will I become? These questions are often answered with a false sense of certainty and limited within supposed normalcy.

Throughout life, external influences have shaped our perceptions of the world. The media, parental pressures, and peer judgments have all contributed to these views. In the process of socialization and learning, we often lose touch with the ability to question our perceived truths. What is reality? What is the ‘real’ world?

This film presents these concerns through surrealist experiences of a young adult in an urban setting. The story begins by presenting a world void of color. This black and white realm is symbolic of the preconceived notions of the world based on our own knowledge and experiences. In this universe, everything has a place and manner of being. People move rapidly throughout their daily lives, which represents the idea that we are always running out of time. As a result, people are forever chasing the future while forgetting to be present in the moment.

The delusional black and white world is shattered once events take place that disrupt the norm. The young girl then follows her own curiosity in search of truth. By opening her mind, an alternate universe of color is exposed. She is then led to contemplate her own beliefs and identity, which is portrayed through the use of masks. Through self-discovery, she learns that she had been blind to the color of her own world all along.

The themes of time, curiosity, and identity are presented and inspired by the works of Lewis Carroll.