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Ten interesting things we read this week

Some of the most interesting topics covered in this week's iteration are related to 'Musical chairs in Private Equity', 'Why complaining alters our brain' and 'first generation hybrid hominin specimen'

Published: Sep 29, 2018 07:02:41 AM IST
Updated: Oct 5, 2018 03:23:55 PM IST

Image: Shutterstock
At Ambit, we spend a lot of time reading articles that cover a wide gamut of topics, including investment analysis, psychology, science, technology, philosophy, etc. We have been sharing our favourite reads with clients under our weekly ‘Ten Interesting Things’ product. Some of the most interesting topics covered in this week’s iteration are related to ‘Musical chairs in Private Equity’, ‘Why complaining alters our brain’ and ‘first generation hybrid hominin specimen’

Here are the ten most interesting pieces that we read this week, ended September 28, 2018.
1) Private equity plays risky game of musical chairs [Source: Financial Times ]
Gala Bingo Hall, which merged with rival Coral in 2005, was at the epicentre of one of Europe’s least successful and controversial leveraged buyouts as it was passed around private equity firms in a financial game of pass the parcel that lasted over a decade. Successive owners would pay themselves high dividends, aided by easy financing, before selling to the next private equity house. Through the whole process, the levels of debt the business carried, measured as a multiple of its earnings, kept creeping up. As business condition toughened post 2008 crisis, the debt burden became unsustainable and Gala Coral nearly went bust, before the business was eventually acquired by rival Ladbrokes in 2016. While the Gala Coral story might have proved a salutary experience about the risks of such pass-the-parcel dealmaking, the opposite has been the case. Last year, the industry did a record 576 so-called secondary deals, when a company or a stake in a company is sold by one private equity firm to another compared to 394 such transactions in the peak of the deal boom in 2007, just before the financial crisis.

Private equity advisers are increasingly worried that the sector could see a repeat of Gala Coral’s experience as interest rates start to rise, increasing debt payments and raising the chance of a recession. A recent analysis of the performance of 2,137 companies owned by 121 PE firms by Saïd Business School at Oxford University showed that secondary transactions have lower returns than other deals when done by a firm that is under pressure to deploy capital. “Every time a company is sold between private equity funds there is a risk that you are taking off some of the potential upside as the business may have been optimized through acquisitions or operational improvements,” says Neel Sachdev, a leveraged finance partner at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, which advised Apollo in acquiring the debt of Gala Coral in 2009. “So there may be less potential upside every time you pass it on.”

Recent examples of pass-the-parcel deals include Cinven’s acquisition this year of laundry services business JLA from peer HG Capital, and KKR’s sale of roses supplier AfriFlora to Sun European Partners last year. “Buyout groups like secondaries because they are buying an asset from a peer and it feels like there is not much work to do,” says Per Stromberg, a professor of finance and private equity at the Swedish House of Finance, a research centre. “But often this leads to them paying too much.” Secondary deals often increase the incentives for private equity owners to load more debt on to a business. “If you buy a company that has been improved by one or two previous private equity owners and if there is not much to do to improve it, then one way to get returns up is to add more leverage to it,” he says.
Defenders of pass-the-parcel deals argue that the key is to work out why the house is selling – due to pressure to return the money back to investors or unfavourable market conditions ahead. They argue that buyout groups bring much-needed injections of capital to fund the growth of a business through acquisitions or expansion. Secondary buyouts, they argue, are part of the evolution of an industry that owns more and more companies and is awash with cash to deploy on deals. Buying the businesses already owned by other private equity firms has become an attractive way to invest their funds, especially as these firms also face growing competition from corporations hungry to find new assets.
In the case of Gala-Coral, the high debt levels were key to the company’s travails. Sebastien Canderle, author of The Debt Trap, a book on how leverage affects the performance of private equity deals, writes that “what brought Gala to the brink of bankruptcy was. . . [that it was] absurdly overleveraged compared to its peers”. While the other large companies in the sector suffered in the period after the financial crisis, none faced the risk of default or administration. “As Gala’s competitors demonstrated, without that much debt laden on the balance sheet the business would not have needed a financial restructuring.” The private equity industry is now in overdrive, buoyed by record fundraisings. However, some senior figures in the industry say they are shying away from secondary transactions. Lionel Assant, the European head of private equity at Blackstone, said only 1% of his firm’s global deals represent secondary transactions because of concerns that they may deliver meager returns.
2) Science explains what happens to someone’s brain from complaining every day [Source: educateinspirechange.org ]
Within the last 20 years, thanks to rapid development in the spheres of brain imaging and neuroscience, we can now say for certain that the brain is capable of re-engineering. In many ways, neuroplasticity – an umbrella term describing lasting change to the brain throughout a person’s life – is a wonderful thing. So why is it so helpful? Because we can: 1) increase our intelligence (IQ); 2) recover from certain types of brain damage; and 3) “unlearn” harmful behaviors, beliefs and habits. Also, on the other side of the coin, we can redesign our brain for the worse! Neuroplasticity can be both the problem and the solution. The topic of this post – complaining is one such behavior. We all know that one person who is continually negative. The person who never seems to be satisfied with anything or anyone. Negative people are almost always complainers, without fail. Worse, complainers are not satisfied in keeping their thoughts and feelings to themselves; instead, they’ll seek out some unwilling participant and vent.

Complainers generally fall into one of these three groups: 1) Attention-seeking Complainers: People who seek attention through complaining; always dwelling on about how they’ve got it worse than everyone else. 2) Chronic Complainers: These folks live in a constant state of complaint. If they’re not voicing about their “woe is me” attitude, they’re probably thinking about it. 3) Low-E.Q. Complainers: ‘E.Q.’ is short for emotional quotient, and constituents within this group are short on E.Q. What I.Q. is to intelligence, E.Q. is to emotional understanding. These people aren’t interested in your perspective, thoughts, or feelings. So, is the brain to be blamed? Mostly, it is, yes. Most negative people don’t want to feel this way. Harmful behaviours such as complaining, if allowed to loop within the brain continually, will inevitably alter thought processes. Altered thoughts lead to altered beliefs which in turn lead to a change in behavior.

Our brain possesses something called the negativity bias. In simple terms, negativity bias is the brain’s tendency to focus more on negative circumstances than positive. Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuroscientist and author of Buddha’s Brain, explains negativity bias: “Negative stimuli produce more neural activity than do equally intensive positive ones. They are also perceived more easily and quickly.” Repetition is the mother of all learning. When we repeatedly focus on the negative by complaining, we’re firing and re-firing the neurons responsible for the negativity bias. It’s not possible to be “happy-go-lucky” all of the time. We should, however, take concrete steps to counteract negative thinking.
Research has repeatedly shown that meditation and mindfulness are perhaps the most powerful tools for combating negativity. Positive psychology researcher, Barbara Fredrickson, and her colleagues at the University of North Carolina, showed that people who meditate daily display more positive emotions than those who do not. Following a three-month experiment, Fredrickson’s team noted that “people who meditated daily continued to display increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support, and decreased illness symptoms.” After learning the basics of meditation, which involves focus on the breath, it’s advisable to create a daily meditation schedule that works for you. 15-20 minutes of daily meditation may just make a huge difference in your life – and your brain!

3) One big problem with how Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos are spending a small share of their fortune [Source: The Conversation ]
What happens when someone perceived as not so generous suddenly donates a huge amount for good cause? Yes, people question the decision. And here it’s Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, recently announced a plan to spend US$2 billion of their $164 billion fortune on homeless shelters and preschools. But as a political theorist who studies the ethics of philanthropy, Ted Lechterman, the author of this piece, thinks Bezos’s charitable turn raises grave concerns about the pervasive power of business moguls. The Bezos family’s philanthropy is following an unsettling pattern in terms of its timing. Amazon’s market value had recently topped $1 trillion, raising more questions than ever around Amazon’s overwhelming size and power.

This wasn’t the first time that Bezos effectively redirected attention from Amazon’s immense clout with a big announcement about philanthropy. When news broke in 2017 that Amazon was acquiring Whole Foods, raising new concerns about the company’s retail domination, Bezos made a dramatic public appeal through Twitter for advice on how to focus his giving. The timing may have been coincidental both times, but the suspicion that philanthropy distracts the public from questionable conduct or economic injustice is a familiar worry. Since the days of robber barons like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, social critics have charged that philanthropy is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. This cynical view holds that magnificent acts of generosity are nothing more than cunning attempts to consolidate power. Like dictators who use “bread and circuses” to pacify the masses, the super-rich give away chunks of their fortunes to shield themselves from public scrutiny and defuse calls for eliminating tax breaks or raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

Dramatic acts of charity by the ultra-wealthy may reduce pressure on governments to tackle poverty and inequality comprehensively. Depending on private benefactors for access to basic necessities can reinforce social hierarchies. And when the elite spend their own money on essential public services like housing, the homeless and education for low-income children, it lets the rich mold social policy to their own preferences or even whims. In other words, even if Bezos has great ideas, no one elected him or hired him to house the homeless and educate kids before they enter kindergarten. The tax deductibility of the donations made by the richest Americans can exacerbate these concerns because it effectively subsidizes their giving. Some scholars argue that the point of tax incentives is to encourage donations for things the government can’t or shouldn’t support directly – like maintaining a church property. Observers, including MarketWatch reporter Kari Paul and Guardian columnist Marina Hyde, have noted that if people like Bezos and the businesses they lead were to stop fighting for low tax rates, democratically elected officials would have more money to spend tackling big problems like homelessness and other urgent priorities.

Bezos’s behaviour as a businessman has raised other questions about his generosity and respect for democracy. When Amazon’s hometown of Seattle proposed to tackle runaway housing costs with a tax on the city’s largest employers, Amazon resisted. The city backed off after the company threatened to scale down its Seattle operations if the bill passed. It may seem odd that someone who opposed a tax intended to help cover housing costs for his low-income neighbours would want to spend part of his fortune on housing. But to Ted it makes sense, because in his view, Jeff Bezos’s beef isn’t with his duties to help the least fortunate, but with the limits on economic power that democracy requires.

4) JP Morgan widens blockchain payments to more than 75 banks [Source: Financial Times ]
More than 75 of the world’s biggest banks are turning to the blockchain to fight the threat of new payments rivals in what will be the regulated banking industry’s largest application of the distributed ledger technology underpinning cryptocurrencies. More than 70 additional banks, including Société Générale and Santander, are joining the Interbank Information Network (IIN) which JPMorgan, Royal Bank of Canada and ANZ have been trialing for 11 months to see if blockchain technology can speed up payments that have errors or require additional compliance checks. The idea is that a mutually-accessible ledger across banks would allow them to quickly resolve issues such as compliance checks, faulty addresses or missing data, which can lead to payments being held up for weeks. The banks expect to put about 14,500 US dollar-denominated payments a day through the enlarged network. “Payment is one of the segments banks worry most about in terms of ceding to non-bank competition,” said Jason Goldberg, banks analyst at JP Morgan. “Blockchain is a way to keep more of that (payments business) in-house.”
There is no comprehensive data on how much market share has been won by payments start-ups leveraging technology to offer cheaper services, but individual players have achieved significant scale, including UK-based TransferWise, which processes more than £3bn every month. Emma Loftus, global head of global payments and receivables at JPMorgan Treasury Services, said the IIN would help protect their businesses. “One of the complaints that the non-banks have been pointing out [relates to] these frictional processes in the existing cross-border payment mechanism,” she said. “Given that things like blockchain are addressing some of these age-old problems, we’re able to solve the problems ourselves.” Ms Loftus said only a “small percentage” of total payments instructions get held up but it can take up to two weeks to resolve any issues, making it a “significant pain point” for clients.

Apart from facilitating seamless payments ecosystem, the IIN also facilitates secure peer-to-peer messaging. The number of transactions put through the IIN will likely expand exponentially as the number of participating banks increases. JP Morgan plans to continue adding banks, and also hopes to expand the IIN offering into other payments in non-US currencies.

5) Sex and the village: The sexual lives of rural Indian women. [Source: Livemint ]
This article throws light on how the women in rural villages deal with their sexual desires. The women in villages are known to live a routine life. A life circled around family, kitchen and house. But, in this article, the author shows how the rural women go out of their way to satisfy their desires. Sex, sexuality, desire and sexual needs, particularly those of woman, are not topics that make for easy conversation in a country that seems to believe in sexually regulating one half of its population more than the other. Yet behind the closed doors of homes in the heart of our rural idyll lie undiscovered stories of female desire. This is backed by the Union Government’s National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4), published in December. The survey has a number of findings. Compared to urban women, rural women have sex earlier in life (urban women begin having sex almost two years later than rural women); the frequency of sex is higher; and they have more sexual partners in their lifetime.

While researching for this article, the author came across a village, Charan, where women discuss about using brinjals and other things to pleasure themselves. There was a woman who tried to pleasure herself by inserting a stone pestle used to ground spices into her vagina. Conversations around desire are so normalised in these villages that people discuss what someone did, rather than why they did it. “It is very deeply understood in rural areas that sex is a basic need,” says Archana Dwivedi, director of Delhi-based non-profit Nirantar: A Centre for Gender and Education. “From wherever they are getting or providing it, no one makes a big deal about it.” Nirantar conducted a workshop for three years, beginning 2005-06, where they brought together four organisations and tried to explore how rural women in north India perceive sexuality. One of their findings was that rural women are much more open about sexuality than urban women, despite differences across caste, class and religion. In one workshop, a group of rural women were asked to list sexual acts. Some 64 acts were listed, including fisting, inserting the penis in the armpit, or even something as simple as playing with the hair.

Researchers have even found that village life, in some settings, allows for freedom from boundaries and definitions concerning sexuality. Maya Sharma, a Vadodara-based feminist activist, found two women living together in a village. The people of the village referred to the couple as a miya-biwi-ki-jodi (husband and wife couple). While such associations in rural India are often ignored or forgiven, there are cases where too many people find out, or when certain lines are crossed. Punishment can then turn harsher than it would be in a city. Penalties include age-old forms of rural justice: parading women naked, or exiling them from their village. It is inevitable that in a hierarchical society like India, the way sexuality is expressed by women is also dependent on the caste, religion, and class they belong to.

A great deal of Dalit literature points to how upper-caste men have for centuries exercised a sexual “right” over Dalit women when male members of these women’s families are in their employ. Yet only some of these relationships find high caste sanction. For example, an upper-caste married man can have a physical relationship with a Dalit woman, but an unmarried upper-caste man cannot, because he could potentially marry her. Hunger and sexual desire are universal, visceral, and primal. Perhaps this is why hunger has long been used as a metaphor for sex across cultures. These villages in the heart of India are no exception. With hardly any access to sex education, navigating desire is a fraught enterprise. A lot of the women this reporter met spoke about watching porn after marriage mostly because their husbands wanted them to watch it along with them—as a way to legitimize desire.

6) The blob that tells a story about the origins of life [Source: Financial Times ]
In 1946, a geologist rummaging in the Ediacara Hills in Australia found curious pancake-shaped, finely ribbed imprints on the underside of rocks. Reginald Sprigg named the fossils medusoids because they resembled jellyfish. These fossils, and similar specimens found nearly all over the world, have puzzled palaeontologists ever since. They look vaguely animal-like but predate the Cambrian Explosion, an abrupt event 541m years ago that heralded the rise of the major animal groups. Taxonomic guesses for so-called Ediacaran fossils, which feature palmlike fronds and spindles as well as ridged discs, have varied wildly: were they fungi, giant single-celled organisms, marine worms or maybe even category-defying life forms lying somewhere between plant and animal? Now, a chemical analysis has offered clues. Scientists in Australia have found ancient traces of cholesterol in Dickinsonia, one such species. Cholesteroid, which is left behind as cholesterol decays, is a biomarker thought to be unique to animals.

This makes Dickinsonia, which lived between about 570m and 540m years ago, officially the oldest macroscopic animal in the rock record — in other words, the oldest animal that can be seen with the naked eye. The research, led by Ilya Bobrovskiy at the Australian National University, was published in the journal Science. The animal has been imagined as a “flat, inflated bag” with the consistency of a thick jellyfish; it is likely to have clung to the sea floor, grazing on microbes and absorbing food through its quilted skin. It was, basically, a living blob. It has no recognisable surviving descendants. The latest finding adds to previous research suggesting Dickinsonia, with its ribbed pattern, was an animal.

A team of researchers, led by Renee Hoekzema at Oxford University, looked at specimens of different sizes and wondered if Dickinsonia grew like a worm, which adds segments as it develops. Larger specimens, presumed to represent older organisms, seemed to have more “ribs” than smaller examples, with the ribs appearing fatter. In other words, Dickinsonia seemed to grow just like animals do, unfurling to a developmental template still common today. The facts feed into an intriguing picture: creatures, even if only bloblike, existed close to 570m years ago and then seemingly vanished. It was the Cambrian explosion 30m years later that marked the beginning of animal life as we know it. Along came skeletons, shells, legs and other mobility-boosting appendages, compound eyes and teeth. Humans belong among the chordates, which include vertebrates (animals with backbones). Arthropods include insects and crustaceans.

The trigger for such frenetic evolutionary activity in the Cambrian period has long been debated, but one possibility is a sudden abundance of oxygen. Such an environmental change could have fuelled the development of energy-intensive adaptations such as muscles and nervous systems. This fresh revelation of the world’s oldest macroscopic animal provokes new thinking on the evolution of life. There could be more archaic beasts to come: animals may have been languishing in the seas 700m years ago.

7) Can Mark Zuckerberg fix Facebook before it breaks democracy? [Source: New Yorker ]
If Facebook were a country, it would have the largest population on earth. More than 2.2 billion people, about a third of humanity, log in at least once a month. That user base has no precedent in the history of American enterprise. Fourteen years after it was founded, in Zuckerberg’s dorm room, Facebook has as many adherents as Christianity. A couple of years ago, the company was still reveling in its power. By collecting vast quantities of information about its users, it allows advertisers to target people with precision—a business model that earns Facebook more ad revenue in a year than all American newspapers combined. Zuckerberg was spending much of his time conferring with heads of state and unveiling plans of fantastical ambition, such as building giant drones that would beam free Internet (including Facebook) into developing countries. He enjoyed extraordinary control over his company; in addition to his positions as chairman and C.E.O., he controlled about 60% of shareholder votes. His personal fortune had grown to more than $60bn. Facebook was one of four companies (along with Google, Amazon, and Apple) that dominated the Internet; the combined value of their stock is larger than the G.D.P. of France.

For years, Facebook had been pulled into issues concerning its privacy and its ability to shape people’s behavior. The company’s troubles came to a head during the US Presidential election of 2016, when propagandists used the site to spread misinformation that helped turn society against itself. Some of the culprits were profiteers who gamed Facebook’s automated systems with toxic political clickbait known as “fake news.” In a prime example, at least a hundred Web sites were traced to Veles, Macedonia, a small city where entrepreneurs, some still in high school, discovered that posting fabrications to pro-Donald Trump Facebook groups unleashed geysers of traffic. Fake-news sources also paid Facebook to “microtarget” ads at users who had proved susceptible in the past. At the same time, former Facebook executives, echoing a growing body of research, began to voice misgivings about the company’s role in exacerbating isolation, outrage, and addictive behaviors. One of the largest studies, published last year in the American Journal of Epidemiology, followed the Facebook use of more than 5,000 people over three years and found that higher use correlated with self-reported declines in physical health, mental health, and life satisfaction.

Later, Facebook was confronted with an even larger scandal: the Times and the British newspaper the Observer reported that a researcher had gained access to the personal information of Facebook users and sold it to Cambridge Analytica, a consultancy hired by Trump and other Republicans which advertised using “psychographic” techniques to manipulate voter behaviour. In all, the personal data of eighty-seven million people had been harvested. Moreover, Facebook had known of the problem since December of 2015 but had said nothing to users or regulators. The company acknowledged the breach only after the press discovered it. On July 25th, Facebook’s stock price dropped 19%, cutting its market value by $119bn, the largest one-day drop in Wall Street history. Nick Bilton, a technology writer at Vanity Fair, tweeted that Zuckerberg was losing $2.7 million per second, “double what the average American makes in an entire lifetime.”

While privacy is an important issue, Facebook and Mark have been involved in other issues where they took a beating. Zuckerberg is not yet 35, and the ambition with which he built his empire could well be directed toward shoring up his company, his country, and his name. The question is not whether Zuckerberg has the power to fix Facebook but whether he has the will; whether he will kick people out of his office—with the gusto that he once mustered for the pivot to mobile—if they don’t bring him ideas for preventing violence in Myanmar, or protecting privacy, or mitigating the toxicity of social media. He succeeded, long ago, in making Facebook great. The challenge before him now is to make it good.
8) Prehistoric girl had parents belonging to different human species [Source: newscientist.com ]
A sliver of bone from a cave in Russia is at the centre of what may be the biggest archaeological story of the year. The bone belonged to an ancient human who had a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father. “Denny” is the only first-generation hybrid hominin ever found. “My first reaction was disbelief,” says Viviane Slon of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. The find is either a stunning stroke of luck or a hint that hominins interbred more often than we thought. It may even suggest that extinct groups like Neanderthals did not die out, but were absorbed by our species. In prehistory, members of our species interbred with at least two other ancient humans: the Neanderthals and the mysterious Denisovans, who are known only from fragments of bone and teeth discovered in Denisova cave, Russia. Neanderthals and Denisovans interbred too, and Denisovans carried genes from unidentified hominins. These interbreeding events were thought to be rare.
“The likelihood of actually finding a [first-generation] hybrid has always been considered infinitesimally low,” says Katerina Harvati-Papatheodorou at the University of Tübingen, Germany. A few years ago, archaeologists found a 90,000-year-old bone fragment in Denisova cave. Samantha Brown, then at the University of Oxford, discovered that it came from a hominin by examining the proteins preserved inside it. Her team nicknamed the hominin “Denny”. Based on the structure of the bone, Denny died at about 13 years of age. Slon and her colleagues have now examined Denny’s DNA, discovering that Denny was female – and that she had astonishing parentage. Her DNA was almost 50:50 Neanderthal and Denisovan, arranged in a tell‑tale way. Our DNA comes in paired strands called chromosomes, one from each parent. In Denny’s case, each pair had one Neanderthal and one Denisovan chromosome, with very little mixing. She was the daughter of parents from different species.
Denny’s mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited only from mothers, is Neanderthal. Therefore, her mother was Neanderthal and her father Denisovan. Experts contacted by New Scientist all accept the finding. “They nail it,” says Pontus Skoglund of the Francis Crick Institute in London, UK. “There seems to be no uncertainty at all.” Denny is an enigma, says Harvati-Papatheodorou. “Since her known remains consist of an unidentifiable bone fragment, it is very difficult to say anything about her daily life, activities, health or subsistence.” Only 23 ancient hominins have had their genomes sequenced. Yet Denny is not the first with recent shared ancestry. There is also “Oase 1”, a member of our species who lived 37,000 years ago in what is now Romania. They had a Neanderthal ancestor just four to six generations earlier. If interbreeding were rare, we should not have found these individuals so easily, says Svante Pääbo, also of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. “It suggests that these groups, when they met, mixed quite freely with each other.”
This doesn’t mean Neanderthals and Denisovans were constantly interbreeding. Their genomes show they were “quite distinct populations”, says Pääbo. They controlled separate territories – the Neanderthals in Europe, the Denisovans in east Asia – and occasionally met at the boundaries. He says the Denisova cave was “a unique area where they met, and then they had no prejudices against each other”. “The evidence is growing that interbreeding among different human lineages was more common than previously thought,” agrees Harvati-Papatheodorou. They had good reason. “Human groups were very small and vulnerable to drastic mortality,” she says. Interbreeding may have been a good way to find a mate. Pääbo argues that when modern humans expanded from Africa into Europe and Asia, they often interbred with Neanderthals and Denisovans. This could be why these groups vanished. “Neanderthals and Denisovans may not have become violently extinct, but may have become absorbed into modern human populations.”

9) Perplexing side effects of xEVs proliferation: Underappreciated risks [Source: Inc42 ]
Under the new ‘electrification’ theme, there seems an entry of flurry of new players of foreign origin and homegrown start-ups specially in 2Ws and 3Ws segment busy developing and launching products, aspiring consumers to queue up to buy digital feature enabled automobiles, while several established automotive firms have chosen calibrated wait-n-watch approach. However, in the backdrop most of the incumbent players have their cards ready to jump on to EV bandwagon. The Indian government plans to help the renaissance of xEVs and help it gain a market foothold, with a subsidy outlay of Rs5,500 crore under FAME II which just got cleared. While the government is doing quite a bit to enable electric mobility, when it comes to entire xEVs ecosystem, there seem uncoordinated efforts at several fronts including: 1) CAFÉ & BS-VI norms; 2) Vehicle scrap policy at the cabinet; 3) March 2018 E-waste regulations; and 4) FAME- II Rs5,500-crore subsidy outlay, none of which talks about what to do with batteries when they retire and have completely overlooked repurposing and recycling of depleted xEV batteries.
The risk associated with “Repurposing or Recycling of Batteries”, get further exacerbated by lack of limited availability of natural resources for LiB battery manufacturing in India in a deterrent to growth of xEVs. This might not seem pressing today- the industry itself is in the infancy and most of xEVs still have young and healthy batteries. However, it’s likely that first batch of batteries from India’s first electric car Mahindra Reva NXR M1 (aka Mahindra e2O) launched sometime early 2013 will soon hit the retirement age and in absence of any appropriate policy framework in the country for repurposing or recycling of batteries, it’s bound for landfills. Left unattended, it will turn out to be a huge problem for the industry. The dilemma of what to do with those batteries, once they are discarded will only grow with time.

As of today, EV battery recycling barely exists as an industry. However, according to the author, beyond 2025 the techno-commercial economics is likely to improve significantly with the emergence of several factors (e.g., high volume of used batteries, decline in cost, new battery compositions). There are some signs of progress with global players like Belgian Umicore, US-Retriev & Tesla planning to have an onsite recycling facility in Nevada, USA. In the short term, used lithium-ion batteries can be used for lower cyclic requirement of stationary applications in which diminished capacity matters less. The economics and business viability of second life use cases is compelling. China is precisely encouraging the same and has issued new guidelines to become the Detroit of depleted car batteries in the world. A recent article by Bloomberg also mentions Chinese refurbishers paying $4.0 per kilogram for batteries with reuse potential; a battery more suited for recycling will go for as little as $1.50 per kilogram.

10) This is your brain on the internet [Source: Medium ]
In this piece, the author talks about how the Internet has changed the functioning of our brain. Humans have always been good at learning and adapting to new environments. So given the internet’s dramatic impact on life in the developed world, it is no surprise that we have adjusted our thinking and behavior. The biggest impact has perhaps come from companies like Google, which make all knowledge available to us at a few keystrokes. Our internet usage has “Googlified” our brains, making us more dependent on knowing where to access facts and less able to remember the facts themselves. This might sound a little depressing, but it makes perfect sense if we are making the most of the tools and resources available to us. Who needs to waste their mental resources on remembering that an “ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain,” when the internet can tell us at a moment’s notice? Let’s save our brains for more important problems.

Photographs also have transformative effects on the way our memories work. Photographs can be a great way to physically save a moment into your collection, and cameras may help visual memory if used as a tool to enhance how you engage with an experience. But don’t let them come at the expense of your own enjoyment and natural memory of the real thing in front you. It’s counterproductive and a little bizarre to take photos of the world’s wonders, but forget to look at them while they’re actually there. A 2009 study showed that people who heavily engage in multiple forms of media at the same time (e.g., talking on the phone, while working on an essay, while listening to music, while watching TV), perform worse in standardized cognitive tests that measure memory, attention, and task-switching. A 2013 study suggested the opposite effect for task-switching.

Recent studies even suggest that children who use the internet excessively may develop less gray and white matter volume in certain brain areas, and may harm their verbal intelligence. It is not yet clear if internet usage directly causes these effects or if children who are predisposed to the effects are just more likely to overuse the internet. For now, the evidence provides notes of caution and attention rather than conclusive insights.

The advantages of using the internet correctly are enormous, so we need to be careful about making any concrete recommendations on usage limits. However, as with practically everything in the world, moderation and thoughtful consumption are likely to go a long way. When we pay careful attention to what the internet is doing to us in our own lives — how happy or sad it is making us, and how much it is helping or hindering our progress — we can make better decisions about optimizing our well-being. The internet is amazing, but the beautiful world outside is also waiting for us to directly experience, learn from, and appreciate it. The whole wide world and the world wide web may well compete for our time and attention. It is up to us to maximize the benefits in our own lives by choosing the right “www” when it matters.