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by Jerry Mooney
As the year winds down, it’s impossible not to breathe a sigh of relief. It has, after all, been a year of Trump and Brexit negotiations. And, the tempestuous political climate has certainly taken its toll. While we can’t be sure what the next year has to bring, it seems at the moment as though things couldn’t get much worse.
The main political issue on our minds is, of course, North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. Not a day goes by without some terrifying update on the situation. Most recently, a missile has been released which would be capable of reaching as far as Washington. While the test run led to some issues on re-entry, the fact that such a missile exists is enough to send fear through most of our hearts.
Of course, it’s taken awhile to get to this point. Tensions between North Korea and the U.S. have been brewing all year. While some of us initially hoped Trump could calm the situation, we were bitterly disappointed by his improvised and provocative speech, where he promised that North Korean threats would be “…met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”. Since then, the situation has only worsened, with Trump’s national security advisor declaring this week that the potential for war is growing each day.
Indeed, from the outside, the situation seems pretty hopeless. Neither Trump nor Jong Un look willing to back down. It’s no wonder, then, that many of us are left wondering just what the threat levels are. Despite blown up statements from various members of Congress, many of us are left wondering how real the North Korean threat is. Should we be preparing bunkers and stockpiling food?
While it’s difficult to judge what two such impulsive figures will do, it seems safe to say that we’re not on the brink of war just yet. We seem to be in an antagonistic stage, which has yet to turn into anything more sinister. Bear in mind, too, that no country WANTS to use nuclear weapons. Doing so would spell mutually destroyed destruction, and has kept us safe from large-scale warfare since the days of the cold war.
It’s also fair to say that most of our fear comes from the unknown entity of North Korea. This is the most secretive nation in the world. In fact, it’s near enough impossible to gain an accurate representation of life here. Tourists are shown a very slanted idea of North Korea. The closest picture we can gain is from defectors, like Yeonmi Park, who have come forward and shared their stories.
Kim Jong Un has built his personality by feeding into that mystery. It’s thought that even his age (33) is just an estimate. While many of us fear the unpredictable behavior of Trump, at least we know facts regarding his lifestyle. The same just can’t be said for the North Korean leader. Hence, we have no real way of knowing if he’ll follow through on his seeming provocation.
That said, research can help us gather a picture of Kim Jong Un which may help to put some people’s minds at ease. By unraveling the mystery, we can certainly understand his motivations a little better. Here are some of the facts that you may not have been aware of.
Few of us think of Kim Jong Un as an educated man. Certainly, the media often depict him as someone who doesn’t use logic when making decisions. But, like many world leaders, Jong Un’s education was top notch. During his teen years, he studied under a pseudonym at one of Switzerland’s top private schools. On top of which, he also has two degrees to his name, one in physics, and another as an Army officer.
In short; this isn’t a trigger-happy man who doesn’t know what he’s doing. While some reports claim that Jong Un leads his army with no training, it just isn’t true. Plus, anyone with a physics degree will be fully aware of the risks related to nuclear weapons.
There also seems to be a general idea that Kim Jong Un doesn’t really travel anywhere. Perhaps it’s because North Korea seems like a whole world away. Many of us have this idea of a leader who hasn’t seen much of the world and has lived a sheltered existence. Again, it isn’t true. As mentioned above, Jong Un spent most of his teen years living abroad. There are also reports of young visits to China and Japan. In fact, Jong Un even has a favorite jet; the Ilyushin IL-62, as featured on this list of the top five Ilyushin aircraft. Admittedly, there have been no reports of his leaving the country since becoming leader in 2011. Plus, planned UN visits haven’t come to fruition. Most people suspect this is down to fear. But, it would be incorrect to assume that travel has never been on this leader’s cards.
To demystify the persona a little more, it’s worth noting that Kim Jong Un is a massive basketball fan. When he was younger, he was an avid supporter of Michael Jordan. He’s even developed a close friendship with retired NBA player, Dennis Rodman, who he’s met on various occasions. He’s also rumoured to have an extensive collection of Nike shoes. These are hardly hobbies you would automatically associate with America’s enemy number 1.
The history of North Korean weapons
It’s also worth finding out a little about North Korea’s nuclear past. While no one can deny that tests have come more to the fore this year, that doesn’t necessarily mean that nuclear warfare is a completely new concept for North Korea. In fact, the country’s missile program was initially developed in the 1970s, with the help of the then Soviet Union. But, in 1985, North Korea signed a little something called the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Still, things haven’t been plain sailing since then. As early as 1993, The International Atomic Energy Agency had questions over North Korea’s dedication, nearly resulting in their pulling out of the treaty. Jump forward to 2002, and Bush highlighted North Korea as a country which was ‘seeking weapons of mass destruction’. Later that same year, he revealed that North Korea had admitted to a secret nuclear arsenal.
In 2003, North Korea withdrew from the NPT agreement and declared its nuclear weapons. Testing then started in 2006, and North Korea and America have been involved in disputes on the matter ever since. While North Korea did originally accept a settlement of $400 million to close its main nuclear reactor, this doesn’t seem to have solved anything, with more tests taking place in 2009. In fact, as it stands, there have been six nuclear tests, only two of which were conducted this year.
So, what does it all mean?
A look at the facts does prove that things are getting worse. After all, the two tests from this year have been on intercontinental missiles. But, remember, Kim Jong Un is an educated man with a degree in physics. More than even Trump, this is a man who knows the risks of a nuclear arsenal. And, if North Korean spokespeople are anything to go by, this is more about defence than attack. That said, it’s still worth noting that, as things heat up between the two leaders, our futures look increasingly uncertain. All we can do is keep an eye on the news, and hope the two countries find a way to settle their differences.
Jerry Mooney is co-founder and managing editor of zenruption and Jerry Mooney Books and the author of History Yoghurt and the Moon. He studied at the University of Munich and Lewis and Clark College where he received his BA in International Affairs and West European Studies. He has recently taught Language and Communications at a small, private college and owned various businesses, including an investment company. Jerry is committed to zenrupting the forces that block social, political and economic justice. He can also be found on Twitter.
By Brian McKay
Software, electronics, and the internet have changed the entire world, and continue to keep doing so. How we work, how we socialize, and how we live changes faster than ever. Not always for the better. Other industries shrink as tech makes it easier for machines to do our jobs than us. So, what’s the solution? If you want job security, then you need to work with that tech. Here are a few different ways you could do that.
More and more of the products created today use electronics in them. It’s not just computers, phones, TVs, and the like. Toys, household appliances, lighting systems, they are everywhere. So, learning to design and create electronics could get you a place in an industry that only seems to keep booming. Start with a PCB design tutorial if you want to know how to get started. You’re going to need some real qualifications in order to find employment in this field, but you also have to be able to direct your own learning as it continues to evolve.
Manufacturing has changed a lot. Much of manual operating needed on the line no longer exists. But, the rise of automation has actually led to more career opportunities than you might believe. The skills needed to operate automated machines tend to be of a higher skill level than in the past, and there are still plenty of people needed to help repair, maintain, and optimize machines on the factory floor. Working with automated machinery can be much more lucrative than the factory jobs of the past.
What about in the world of software? Of course, design and implementing software is a booming market, but so is being a consultant to the data that software provides. Data analyst courses teach you how to capture and read the data that most companies produce without even realizing it. But it’s more than just a technical job. It’s about deduction and problem solving within that data. Not only does it provide a challenge, it provides real workable solutions for companies to help them better understand their processes, their customers, where they’re experiencing loss. For that reason, it’s a very highly compensated position you can do full time for one employer or as a freelance consultant.
If you’re not the most technically minded and more of people person, there’s still a place for you in the modern world. It still takes some training to learn in fields like social media, SEO, and online advertising. But at the end of the day, it’s all about understanding the market and using the tools available to help businesses and brands better connect with their potential customers.
The rise of the robots (and the software that powers them) is a real concern for a lot of jobs. Automation has already made huge swathes of employees in manufacturing redundant. It’s thought that this trend is only going to have a bigger impact in other industries as time goes on.
By Lina Martinez
The skills you need to develop if you want to become an entrepreneur
At some point in their life, every entrepreneur will have asked him or herself the question “do I really have what it takes?” It’s true that to succeed as an entrepreneur you need to have a certain set of skills, some of which can be learnt and some that are already a part of your personality.
As a business owner, you need to know how important it is to improve your strengths and develop these skills to make it in your chosen industry. By following our list, you shouldn’t have any trouble becoming successful.
If you’ve got as far as wanting to be an entrepreneur it’s likely that you’re already someone who is, in general, quite a motivated person. For some, self-motivation can be a challenge, especially when you no longer have anyone working above you, setting your goals and deadlines. To become a good business leader, you need dedication, time and practice. Start by making a detailed professional plan, establish routine, set reminders and, when you’ve achieved a goal, set a reward.
Resilience is a key ingredient for success. Why? As an entrepreneur, you’re bound to come across many challenges and make a lot of mistake along the way. Failure can be a devastating thing to experience, affecting not only your motivation but your mentality but the secret to success is to have the humility to confront your errors and the resilience to get yourself back on track.
How to develop a personal brand
The term ‘personal brand’ might seem daunting to some, but in an economy that’s booming, you want to be the one that stands out from the crowd. You need to create a strong message about you and your brand and make this clear throughout your online presence, your professional contacts and your customers. You want to avoid a negative reputation at all costs.
Identifying strengths and weaknesses
Just because you’re an entrepreneur, this doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect at everything you do. On the contrary, it’s important that you’re able to identify your own strengths and weaknesses so that you can build a strong team. Knowing where you need to improve will inform you which skills and characteristics you need to look for in a potential business partner. Be selective and smart when choosing new members for your team. You don’t want members of staff that drain your budget without gaining enough revenue in return.
How to communicate and network
In today’s business world social currency is becoming increasingly important. It’s no secret that you need people to make progress, and professional networking allows you to give the referrals, endorsements and recommendations that you need to expand your relationships and thus your opportunities for the future. When communication lacks purpose, it’s not unusual for a business to go bad which is why a lot of psychologists believe that this is the most valuable skill for all entrepreneurs. Take Apple’s Steve Jobs as inspiration.
The ability to manage
Entrepreneurial management isn’t just about managing people. As well as the management of the overall business you’ll also need to know how to manage money, time, clients and sales. To do this, you’ll need to know how to effectively multi-task and plan for the business both in the short and the long term. Formulate your strategy by breaking bigger goals into smaller, more manageable wins, and you should be able to achieve everything that you had in mind.
Alongside a good level of management come impeccable organisational skills. It’s incredibly difficult to start your own business but the more organised you are, the less pressure you should feel. In the beginning, you’re going to need to consider the big questions such as budget, how many employees you need, where your business premises will be and what insurance you need. All of these are incredibly important factors that need to be dealt with before you even think about opening your doors to clients. Luckily, Be Wiser Business Insurance can help you get ahead.
How to close a sale
After everything, it’s sales that keep a business going so as a business owner you’ll need to know exactly how to sell. Whether you’re selling your ideas to investors or selling your product or service to clients, knowing how to close a deal is paramount. The trick here is to be confident in what you have to offer without fearing that you’re being assumptive or rude. Persuasive writing is also a good skill to learn for the generation of leads in email marketing, blog posts, web copy and business proposals.
Knowing how to be authentic is a soft skill that every business owner should know because being labelled as disingenuous is not something that’s taken lightly by clients. To achieve authenticity, take time to connect with your audience on social media and through other marketing efforts. This way you’ll demonstrate that you’re genuinely there to help.
A desire to improve
The best motivation is the desire to make a positive change in your business. Every year you should look back on your performance and detail areas that you can improve so that you can meet, and maybe even exceed, your goals.
By Kyle Pennell
At present, the dominant sources of electricity in the United States are largely fossil fuels. Petroleum, natural gas, and coal continue to make up nearly 85% of energy consumed in this country with nuclear power and renewables like biomass, hydroelectricity, solar, wind and geothermal accounting for the rest.
The times, however, are changing. Advances in technology, driven by demand for cleaner fuels, are producing huge drops in the price of renewable energy sources and batteries. Read on to find out why solar is poised to be the fuel of the future.
The end of coal and the heyday of natural gas
The era of coal is nearing its demise. In the past 10 years alone, coal-derived energy consumption in the US has dropped from 23% to 15% of the market share. The reasons for this are primarily economics-driven. Coal is simply becoming too expensive relative to alternative sources.
For one, the advent of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling has led to a natural gas boom. The US is now the top natural gas producer in the world. At the same time, advances in renewable technologies like wind and solar are beginning to make inroads into the coal market as the threat of global warming and environmental regulations ramp up.
At present, the rise of natural gas is the biggest contributor to coal’s loss of market share. Natural gas’s status as an on-demand resource makes the transition simple. Solar and wind, while offering cleaner energy, continue to face intermittency challenges as their production fluctuates with the sun and wind. But this too is soon to change.
Figure 1. The decline of coal and the rise of solar, wind and natural gas. Source.
Renewables will trump natural gas
Natural gas too, however, will sunset. Natural gas pricing has bottomed out, while that of solar and wind continues to drop. Since 2009, solar photovoltaic (PV) module prices have fallen by 80 percent and wind turbine prices have fallen by around 30-40 percent. Now, a new report suggests a continuation of this trend forecasting a 59% drop in the price of solar and a 35% decline in the price of wind energy by 2025.
The past few years have also seen dramatic advances in lithium ion battery technology with accompanying massive price drops. The price of a lithium ion battery has dropped 70% in the last 18 months as huge producers like LG Chem, Samsung, Panasonic and Tesla ramp up their production capabilities. This trend is predicted to continue over the next several years while battery energy density, or the amount of energy that can be stored, further improves. The availability of affordable large scale battery storage means solar and wind power supplies can be transformed to on-demand resources rendering them competitive with natural gas on all fronts. Research enterprise Bloomberg New Energy Finance declares that batteries capable of storing power at utility scale will be as widespread in 12 years as rooftop solar panels are now and predicts that over the next 25 years, small-scale battery storage will become a $250 billion market.
Figure 2. Battery technology will boost small-scale solar installations. Source.
The renewables revolution will be led by solar, not wind
Both wind and solar power provide viable alternatives to our planet-warming addiction to fossil fuels, but solar offers greater potential for the future. At present, large scale wind installations are slightly cheaper, but the places where windmills can be profitably installed is limited to a small number of high wind areas. Off-shore wind farms have more promise, but are also more expensive to build and maintain. In contrast, the opportunities for solar are boundless due to the possibilities of distribution. You can have large scale solar farms in remote locations, small-scale rooftop generation on buildings and homes, and off-the-grid installations on islands or in emerging economies. As Elon Musk famously stated, “you could take a corner of Utah and Nevada and power the entire United States with solar power.”
As our dependence upon fossil fuels becomes more and more difficult to sustain, both financially and environmentally, it is clear that a practical alternative energy source must be available. While there is a market for a diverse mix of generating sources, from nuclear to natural gas to geothermal, it is becoming increasingly apparent that solar energy coupled with battery storage is the best all-around solution to meet the world’s energy demands. As other sources fall victim to price increases, supply depletion and environmental regulations, the coming energy era promises to be dominated by the sun.
By Jerry Mooney
It’s easy to believe that if you want to start your own business and become an entrepreneur, you have to head to a big city. The successes of Silicon Valley and the power in New York City will always make you feel that way. But, packing your bags and head for the bright lights doesn’t have to be on the agenda for you if you’re a country bumpkin at heart. Because even small towns and rural countrysides need businesses too. In fact, they may often need your ideas, talent, and passion more than some big city does. So if you do want to start up on your own, and you really don’t want to leave your hometown, here are five rural business ideas that could be worth your dime.
Business idea number one is always going to be farming. It’s what a lot of agricultural land and rural areas thrive off of. So don’t discount it. You also don’t have to assume that you have to run a working farm in any particular way. You could choose to go into any kind of farming that you’d like; crop farming, cattle farming – even growing produce or farming fish. You just have to consider what your local area would be great at producing, and what it needs.
Next up, you could consider running a hunting business. Hunting is a huge part of country life, and it can be fascinating to those not used to it. So why not get into the business yourself? By getting your hands on a suitable property, such as those sold by Ranch Marketing Associates LLC, you can get started. Regardless of the kind of hunting you’re used to, you could set it up as an activity style business, with lodge and board included.
The last point leads us nicely onto this one – because a lot of tourists and visitors do want to head out to the country for a mini break or a long vacation. And most of them want a picture-perfect idyllic kind of spot to stay in. So, that makes cabin rentals a hot topic to consider – especially if they’re by a lake and you can offer water sports as part of the deal.
If you live in a town that does see a lot of tourism, or you want to move to one, then you might want to open up a coffee shop. This can also work for a town that has a lot of hustle and bustle about it naturally. Because busy towns are full of people that need refueling. If you can come up with your own quirky USP, it will always go down a treat too.
And finally, what about a luxury spa? Again, we’re thinking lakeside here, ideally in a remote location, where guests can come to be pampered and switch off under the stars with the sounds of the quiet countryside to soothe them. It might require a bit of an investment, but you should be able to charge a pretty penny for something like this too.