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Taiwan Partners with Baltic States in Quantum, Biotech – OpenGov Asia

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The Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) stated that Taiwan will engage in cooperation and exchanges with the Baltic states in the areas of quantum technology and biotechnology. The two countries are expected to lead to future bilateral academic and research exchanges. Both countries will discuss technology development, biomedicine, semiconductors and technology parks.
The natios have concluded that the plans for future cooperation between Taiwan and the Baltic states – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – will focus on academic and research exchanges in the quantum technology and biotech areas.
This direction was chosen after considering the Baltic states’ position as members of the European Union, with varying levels of technological development and expertise, and Taiwan’s current policy on science and technology research. The ministry added the delegation, which includes the parliamentary representatives Matas Maldeikis of Lithuania, Janis Vucans of Latvia and Juri Jaanson of Estonia showed positive interest in supporting bilateral cooperation and exchanges in the field of technology.
Taiwan believes that quantum technology is coming and the country is investing to become a leader. Taiwan will invest NT$ 8 billion – about US$ 282 million – in the development of quantum technology in the coming five years with a view to becoming a tech hub that boasts more than semiconductor manufacturing prowess.
The initiative is much broader than just building a quantum computer, according to the story. The country will invest in quantum devices, quantum computers, quantum algorithms and quantum communication technologies. The new technologies will be employed to develop applications for areas spanning cybersecurity, finance, national defence and more. Taiwan must invest in quantum research before it can secure a place in the competitive world of advanced technologies.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s biomedical industry has grown from strength to strength in recent years as a result of farsighted government policymaking, spotlighting her administration’s commitment to developing high-growth sectors of the economy.
Biomedical technology has been a top priority in Taiwan’s national development strategy. Over the past few years, the country has conducted over 300 clinical trials, 80% of which involved multinational firms, while local biomedical industry revenues grew 8.7% in 2019, with total investment exceeding NT$55.1 billion (US$1.84 billion).
Taiwan’s biomedical industry includes three major sectors: applied biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices. Research institutes have played an important role in the development of Taiwan’s economy, and today no less than nine institutes are involved in the development of Biomedical Innovations in the country’s biomedical industry.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, MOST announced that 20 tech startup companies would showcase Taiwan’s Biotech capabilities to the world connect with the global ecosystem, resources and industries in the forum organised by Taiwan Tech Arena (TTA). There are 20 TTA startup teams are selected by industrial experts and focused on global bio-industrial market potential startups.
Taiwan has demonstrated how to democratically tackle the COVID-19 threatening and how to be a truly global partner by utilising technologies. Taiwan’s efforts and commitments have drawn international attention and the relationship between Taiwan and the U.S. has become stronger than ever before in the past year. The U.S. is leading the trends of advanced science and technology development and has a vivid startup ecosystem, while Taiwan has renowned semiconductor and ICT industries and long supported technology startups.
By working together, Taiwan can speed up the transition from scientific findings into practical technology applications and create a win-win situation and achieve future possible collaborations in the US. The companies presented disruptive biotech innovations such as vocal implant systems, AI Video-based telemedicine solutions and detection of respiratory function with ultrasound technology.
The country’s central bank received three applications for mobile money services and has licenced all of them, namely, Vietnam Post and Telecommunications Corporation (VNPT), MobiFone, and state-run group Viettel. Pham Tien Dung, the Deputy Governor of the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV), noted that SBV granted Viettel the mobile money service rights after VNPT announced it would pilot this service in Vietnam.
According to a press release, last January, the government urged the pilot use of telecommunications accounts to pay for services of small value and pilot new payment service models as management regulations are lacking. To promote Vietnam’s economy, the Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung made several recommendations, including piloting mobile money in the first quarter of 2020. He stated that if mobile money services are licensed to telecommunications operators, the coverage of e-payment services will quickly reach 100% of the population. This promotes e-commerce, agricultural commodity exchanges, especially in remote areas, promotes online public services, fintech companies, innovative start-ups, and economic growth. In all countries that allow mobile money, this service generates economic growth of up to 0.5%.
The CEO of Viettel Digital, Pham Trung Kien, noted that if the government allows mobile money to pay for services and goods of small value, the number of users of electronic payments will be large as the coverage of mobile networks is much wider than banks, even in remote areas where people do not have bank accounts. He explained that for small value goods, for example, a cup of iced tea, parking tickets, soap, or a pack of instant noodles, users will not use their bank accounts to pay but pay by phone. However, they will use electronic payments with bank accounts to buy motorbikes, houses, or goods of high value.
“Some studies estimate that in Vietnam, only about 30% of the adult population have a bank account, and when we create a habit of using electronic payments, the remaining 70% will be customers of banks. Thus, mobile money not only competes but also promotes the use of bank accounts when they are familiar with electronic payment methods,” said Kien. He added that the government’s policy of allowing pilot mobile money is the right trend. When implementing electronic payment services, people will see the practical value created by payment digitisation like saving time and costs.
Around 85% of Vietnamese banking consumers are more likely to use online and digital banking services compared to 18 months ago, according to a recent report. Globally, nearly two-thirds (61%) of consumers have made greater use of digital banking services over the last 18 months. Two in five (41%) have started using digital banking services for the very first time because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Vietnam, these numbers are higher, at 70% and 54%, respectively. Approximately 90% of respondents use online and digital banking services mostly to pay bills, transfer money, and check account balances. 87% of local banking customers agreed with the importance of online and digital banking services in a bank or financial institution.
The Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), Malaysia’s lead digital economy agency, is ramping up its efforts in enabling a digital learning landscape for youth through strategic collaborations with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Yayasan Peneraju Pendidikan Bumiputera.
With the aim to fortify digital talent amid the COVID-19 recovery, both collaborations were secured via MDEC #mydigitalmaker Movement, a joint public-private-academia partnership launched in August 2016. The initiative, which is part of the agency’s #SayaDigital agenda, has benefited more than 2.2 million children through the integration of computational thinking into the national school curriculum and co-curricular activities organised by MDEC and its ecosystem partners.
The Chief Digital Skills and Jobs Officer at MDEC stated that the fast-changing talent market brings many new opportunities for young people. Strong fundamental and transferable skills fostered from their early years will be key in nurturing them to become an agile and digitally competent workforce.
This strategic collaboration with UNICEF and Yayasan Peneraju marks MDEC’s continuous effort in ensuring that Malaysia continues to produce a pool of digitally innovative and creative talents in line with the goals of the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint (MyDIGITAL), she said.
UNICEF
Through the collaboration, MDEC and UNICEF aim to create opportunities and better career outcomes for marginalised young people by bringing them together with industry leaders and experts on the same platform for career guidance and mentorships.
The partnership entails on-the-job training and industrial experience opportunities for young people via apprenticeships as well as skill-building opportunities.
Strategic partnerships such as this will accelerate the delivery of inclusive opportunities in education, employment and entrepreneurship. It is in our interest to build the skills of young people so that no one is left behind, according to the UNICEF Representative to Malaysia and Special Representative to Brunei Darussalam.
Through the partnership, both parties will be focusing on joint and independent programmes that are academic and career-oriented developed by MDEC and UNICEF. The programmes include:
Yayasan Peneraju
Focusing on developing a forward-looking digital landscape for Bumiputera’s youth, MDEC has partnered with Yayasan Peneraju to provide a knowledge-enhancing programme, Yayasan Peneraju High Impact Programme – Competition (Technology), for school students nationwide via a virtual platform.
Fully funded by Yayasan Peneraju, the series of online sessions began in early 2021 and has been benefiting more than 1,000 young Bumiputera students, aged 13 to 17 years old, through learning and exploring digital technology skill sets via online competitions.
The strategic cooperation with MDEC is an important factor in responding to the challenge of nurturing human capital, especially the Bumiputera talent, to the highest potential in deepening technological expertise. As an agency under the Prime Minister’s Department, the organisation’s mandate is to increase the quality of professional Bumiputera talents in the high impact sectors.
“We must ensure that our beneficiaries are also equipped with skills and technological knowledge so that they can excel in their career and life,” said the CEO of Yayasan Peneraju.
U.S. President Joe Biden has been vocal about his goals to boost federal investment in electric vehicles and EV infrastructure since the start of his administration. His proposed American Jobs Plan includes $174 billion for promoting the domestic production of EVs and notably electrifying the entire federal fleet.
The American Jobs Plan will create incentives to continue to lower the cost of and support market demand for electric vehicles. These incentives are a proven policy to support the growing market for EVs, which then drives down the purchase price as the auto industry scales up production and creates incentives for domestic production.
The administration plans to grow the number of charging stations in the U.S. from 42,000 to 500,000 by 2030. Yet even then, perceived upfront costs may deter some state and local governments from purchasing EVs — even those who see EV adoption as an ideal solution to reducing the environmental impact of public fleets.
State and local government leaders interested in electrifying their fleets but put off by the upfront costs of purchasing EVs should take into account the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of these vehicles throughout their lifetime. Running a TCO calculation may reveal that an electric fleet can actually present greater long-term savings, thereby easing the path to adoption.
Looking at the TCO equation alone, it may seem like the costs outweigh the returns. But there are aspects to operating EVs that are far more cost-effective than their internal combustion engine counterparts. For example, EVs require less maintenance because there is no need for oil changes or transmission repairs.
Whereas an ICE car has more than 2,000 different moving parts — many of which will need service or replacement at some point — an EV only has 20 moving parts. A study finds that annual maintenance costs for an EV are $330 less than that of an ICE car, and the Department of Energy finds that the average cost of driving an EV is about half the expense of an ICE vehicle.
Certainly, TCO calculations provide essential projections that can facilitate the first steps to adoption. But once purchased and deployed, how can state and local leaders, as well as government fleet managers, know if their electric fleets are truly providing savings over time? This is where vehicle telematics can be hugely beneficial.
Telematics solutions can capture and share detailed, real-time information about how each EV performs, in addition to its location and battery and charging status. These metrics provide valuable intelligence for fleet managers, helping to more accurately measure TCO, improve daily fleet management and even proactively detect issues to enable preventative maintenance. Notably, some of the metrics that managers would be monitoring for can be unique to an electric fleet, including:
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) recently launched the India-ITU Joint Cyberdrill 2021. The cyber drill is intended for Indian entities, especially critical network infrastructure operators. It is a four-day virtual event for several high-level speakers, panellists, and experts from ITU, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), INTERPOL, the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) and the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In).
ITU, an agency under the United Nations, annually conducts cyber drills worldwide where cyberattacks, phishing, and other information security breaches are simulated to test organisational capabilities to thwart or minimise the impact. According to a news report by The Economic Times, the drill aims to spread awareness among various public sector departments and agencies so that their strategies and procedures can be validated for response mechanisms, prevention recovery and business continuity.
During the first half of this year, more than 600,000 cyber-attacks were reported in India that included nearly 12,000 incidents in government organisations, as per data from CERT-In, which tracks and monitors cyber security incidents in the country. Last year, around 1.1 million cybersecurity incidents were reported.
Speaking at the inaugural event, the Special Secretary of DoT emphasised the need for safe and secure cyberspace given the large networks in India. Cybersecurity is a collective responsibility, and it calls upon all stakeholders – government, the cybersecurity community, and businesses – to participate in building a resilient cyber environment, she added. Panellists and experts from organisations, industries, and agencies made presentations on best practices and highlighted the policy initiatives of cybersecurity in India as well as across the globe. More than 400 participants attended from critical sectors, including power, insurance, finance, industry, academia, telecommunications and field units of DoT.
In October, the ASEAN-India Track 1.5 Dialogue on Cyber Issues was held to enhance cooperation on cybersecurity and narrow the digital gap. Speaking at the event, the Secretary of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs Riva pointed out that ASEAN has been proactive in the region’s efforts to tackle cybersecurity challenges and has undertaken various cyber confidence-building measures.
OpenGov Asia reported that she affirmed ASEAN’s emphasis on cybersecurity and cyber connectivity following international laws that resonate deeply with India’s approach towards cyberspace. The country has been working domestically to address cybersecurity challenges by developing platforms to secure the country’s cyberspace as well as by adopting comprehensive policies like the New National Cyber Security Policy.
Cybercrime often has a transnational dimension and there is a crucial need for international cooperation to exchange experiences and share best practices for the protection of information infrastructures. Equitable access to cyberspace and its benefits is another important area that India-ASEAN engagement on cyber issues discussed. The government has stated that India is committed to bilateral and international cooperation on cybersecurity and is dedicated to an open, secure, free, accessible, and stable cyberspace environment. With technology initiatives such as IndiaStack, Aadhar, and the United Payments Interface (UPI), the country has successfully leveraged the tremendous potential of cyber technologies in implementing Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda and improving governance.
University of Queensland researchers are collaborating with an extensive range of health professionals to re-design and improve strategies to prevent childhood obesity. Aware of the powerful role played by digital technologies, Dietitian and UQ Research Fellow Dr Oliver Canfell is part of a team developing an online tool kit that can be used to prevent obesity in the young.
He noted that obesity is a chronic condition that’s difficult to reverse, which is why prevention is important and most effective in the early years. There have been real-world impacts recently – people with obesity who contract COVID-19 often have worse outcomes than people with a healthy weight. It was also noted that children and families look to health professionals for support but are commonly not receiving care until it is too late. Clinicians need new ways of working so they can focus on prevention, and digital health can help enormously.
The first step towards achieving that goal is the Precision Support for Preventing Childhood Obesity (PRECISE) program, a partnership between UQ and Health and Wellbeing Queensland (HWQld). Almost 20 health professionals including GPs, child health nurses and dietitians have been recruited from across Queensland to design the digital solutions to focus on prevention in routine practice.
The tools designed in the PRECISE program will be available via Clinicians Hub, a central digital platform created by HWQld to help health professionals effectively prevent and manage childhood obesity. The Chief Executive of HWQld noted that obesity had many causes which made it a particularly complex problem to address.
It can be a challenging topic to raise with families, and research shows many doctors feel ill-equipped to manage this complex and sensitive health issue, the expert noted. Clinicians Hub offers a variety of clinical tools, resources and training to help health workers identify, prevent and talk about childhood obesity with confidence and impact.
One-in-four Queensland children and two-in-three adults live above a healthy weight range. These patterns are usually well established before five years of age – so there is a need to get in early.
The UQ Global Change Institute has established a Digital Health Research Network to support PRECISE and other digital health initiatives.
About the Global Change Institute
The Global Change Institute draws together research excellence and expertise from across UQ, industry, government and the community to address grand challenges which deliver impact to society, the economy, the environment, and culture.
Addressing global challenges requires strong transdisciplinary teams to deliver pathways to impact. With the help of the UQ research community, the Global Change Institute is developing multiple Collaborative Research Initiatives (CRIs) to address global challenges.
For example, The Healthy Kids and Families Collaborative Research Initiative (CRI) focuses on addressing the importance of community-based, co-designed interventions to address the needs of children, adolescents and their families in the health system and ensuring they have a healthy, productive and long life.
Examples of the challenges this CRI will address with stakeholders include:
Industry experts and financial-technology service providers called for the upgrade of homegrown financial-technology capabilities to further elevate the financial sector and boost the digitalisation of other industry sectors.
The insurance industry is likely to be a forerunner in terms of digital transformation. The operation efficiency and sophistication level of service in the insurance sector should be further enhanced despite initial progress in the realm, as digitalisation is becoming a prerequisite for all insurance service providers. There is also a basic demand to leverage financial-technology measures to counter potential cybersecurity risks, as large amounts of data are leveraged for daily operations and business decisions.
The digitalisation of financial services would help resolve financial imbalances and further serve underfinanced groups. The digitalisation of financial services offers tailor-made solutions for small and micro businesses and helps mitigate risks for commercial lenders.
Fintech solutions should focus more on small and micro businesses at the grassroots level. Fintech service players serve a positive role to help avoid the mismatch of financial resources, and they should stick to serving the grassroots financial and consumption market in the long run.
– Zhang Jun, dean of the Fudan University School of Economics
Technologies have already helped expand wealth management products’ customer base and enhanced its risk-control schemes. China’s asset management industry was valued at 12.1 trillion yuan (US$1.89 trillion) in 2020, but the sector still lags behind in terms of predictive algorithms to mitigate risks. Further efforts in smart data technologies are needed to meet risk control and regulatory compliance requirements.
Moreover, China plans to build pioneering fintech hubs nationwide, focusing on the research and development of blockchain technology and digital currency to boost investment in financial infrastructure. Beijing ranks top among eight cities around the world, thanks to its huge consumer market, advanced technology application and fast development of the fintech ecosystem. Other cities that China aims to develop as global fintech hubs are Shanghai, Shenzhen in Guangdong province, and Hangzhou in Zhejiang province.
The People’s Bank of China (PBOC), China’s central bank, published a three-year fintech development plan. So far, some results have been achieved and major projects are proceeding as scheduled. Issuing the central bank digital currency was included in that blueprint, which also involves developing fintech services based on blockchain, big data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and financial security technology. The three-year plan aims to promote China’s fintech industry to an international leading level.
The basic technology framework of the digital currency designed by the central bank has almost been completed, with sophisticated top-level design, and trials are ongoing in some application scenarios. The fast progress will give the PBOC a leading position among its global peers in officially launching a digital currency. Regulations on fintech technology development will focus on protecting personal privacy, expanding fintech services to benefit more individuals, and streamlining regulations.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, China has urged a digital transformation in the financial industry in response to the increasing uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic. The volatility has also created unprecedented opportunities for digitalisation across the world, and the financial industry continues to explore openings to embrace technology and uncover new areas of growth.
Chinese fintech strategies combined with current digital transformation trends will likely produce the following footprints:
3D-printing technology has found a surprising application in customised shoes that protect birds of prey in Singapore from potentially fatal foot disease. Jurong Bird Park’s avian veterinary team and the Keio-NUS CUTE Center at the National University of Singapore (NUS) jointly embarked on a two-year effort to create silicone shoes cast from 3D printed moulds for the wildlife park’s birds of prey. This collaboration has achieved an effective treatment plan for a medical condition known as pododermatitis or ‘bumblefoot’ in birds.
While pododermatitis can be treated with traditional bandages, we wanted a more bespoke and innovative solution to treat the patient. We decided to look into 3D printing because it provided a more precise way of distributing the force the feet have to bear away from the affected area. The possibilities are far-reaching when the engineering and veterinary sciences come together to work on real-world solutions.
– Dr Xie Shangzhe, Acting Deputy Vice President, Conservation Research and Veterinary, Mandai Wildlife Group
The Keio-NUS CUTE Center started to research and design of the shoe two years ago. After 2 months of intensive creative development, the final shoe design was completed and a custom-made protective shoe was developed for its first patient.
Associate Professor Yen Ching Chiuan, Co-director of the Keio-NUS Cute Centre, noted that another advantage of 3D printing is the flexibility to customise shoes according to the size, shape and condition of each bird’s feet. The team at the centre worked closely with Jurong Bird Park to create shoes that were appropriate in terms of measurement, material and usability according to the bird type and its unique usage behaviours.
3D technology has been a new approach to building and evaluating ideas through prototyping. This collaboration with Jurong Bird Park has given the opportunity to experiment with interesting ways to incorporate the Center’s existing 3D capabilities and processes like 3D printing, silicone casting, and material explorations such as better elasticity, durability, and more, to achieve truly unique outcomes.
Earlier in the collaborative design process, the team at Keio-NUS CUTE Center had to design the shoe based on photos and measurements of the birds’ feet provided by Jurong Bird Park. This task became more challenging as the team had to incorporate several design considerations.
For example, the shoe had to serve its main purpose of relieving and distributing pressure on the weight-bearing foot, and it also had to be comfortable for the bird to remain active while wearing the shoes. In addition, the shoe needed to be easily removed and cleaned. The material used must be non-toxic and durable as the patients may pick at the shoe with their sharp beaks.
The team went through multiple iterations, experimenting with designs of different shapes, and fabrication methods, while improving shoe durability, material type and comfort, before successfully arriving at a shoe design that was suitable for treating the foot condition, while allowing for the best fit and comfort for the avian patients.
This is not the first time Jurong Bird Park and the Keio-NUS CUTE Center have worked together to use 3D-printing technology for veterinary care. In 2018, the Keio-NUS CUTE Center designed and fitted a 3D-printed prosthetic casque for the great pied hornbill, who had his casque removed due to cancer.
Singapore has been utilising 3D printing technology for various purposes, including surgery. As reported by OpenGov Asia, Singapore’s National University Hospital (NUH) and a medical manufacturing company have jointly opened a 3D printing lab to produce personalised anatomical models for preoperative planning and surgical simulation.
The collaboration e aims to push the boundaries of surgical 3D printing in Singapore, elevate the standard of care for patients and deliver better patient outcomes. This initiative is supported by the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) to accelerate healthcare innovation in Singapore.

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Returning online buys to Amazon, Walmart and your favorite brands causes problems – CNET

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Returns burn fuel and might end up in the dump. They also lose companies money, which is prompting changes.
A US postal worker prepares to deliver packages on Cyber Monday in 2021. E-commerce buys have a return rate up to five times higher than goods bought in stores.
Record online shopping this holiday season has fueled another record for e-commerce companies: returned goods.
Prompted by a clogged supply chain, millions of shoppers began browsing Amazon, Walmart and other online retailers even before Black Friday, when holiday discounts traditionally start. Cooped up at home because of the pandemic, people didn’t stop clicking. Online sales reached $205 billion in the US, according to Adobe, a new holiday season high. 
Not all of those purchases worked out. Not having been able to see or try products, many people shipped those gifts, as well as their own online purchases, back to retailers. The process creates headaches for companies, which have to sort and store the items and decide if they have any resale value. Returns also take a toll on the environment, requiring additional fossil fuel to ship and creating tons of trash.
Returns are a normal part of retail. Clothes don’t fit, appliances have manufacturing flaws or shoppers just change their minds. Schlep that janky blender back to the big box store and a refund to your credit card is usually quick and simple. 
Online shopping has turbocharged the process because consumers often plan to return some of the goods they buy. That’s especially true of clothing, which shoppers buy in multiple sizes to try on as they might in a dressing room. The mindset contributes to an estimated return rate for online purchases that’s as much as five times higher than for brick-and-mortar purchases, according to Optoro, a company that manages returns for online retailers. Holiday returns this year are projected to hit $120 billion, Optoro says. 
UPS expects to handle more than 60 million holiday returns this season. In a survey, more than one in four people told the carrier they planned to make a return over the holidays. One in five said they’d already done so before Christmas.
Retail giant Walmart, bespoke women’s suit maker Koviem and other companies that want to reduce waste have invested in online tools designed to help you find the right size without trying clothes on. Additionally, some companies track customers who make a great deal of returns, potentially banning them from returning purchases if they cross a certain threshold. Finally, some companies have even found it’s easier to let you keep the item along with your refund in order to save on resources. 
The bottom line is that even though allowing returns can increase customer loyalty, companies don’t want returns to eat up too much of their holiday revenues, said Audrey Guskey, a marketing professor who teaches consumer behavior at Duquesne University.
“They really feel like it’s money in their pocket,” she said.
To handle returns, companies run their fulfillment process in reverse. It isn’t as efficient as getting goods to customers in the first place, says Tamar Makov, a researcher at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev’s business management school. One reason is that companies haven’t invested in the returns process to the same degree they have for deliveries of your purchases. Sorting through them is also a hassle.
“Unlike products that come from a factory, returned products are not homogeneous, and vary in terms of condition, packaging, tags, or even how long consumers held onto them,” Makov said in an email.
Retailers simply dispose of low-cost items if that’s cheaper than reselling them, Makov says. An Amazon facility in the UK sent returned items to a “destruction zone” that disposed of millions of items in a year, according to ITV News. (Amazon has said it tries to donate or recycle goods.)
Optoro estimates that about 5.8 billion pounds of goods returned to all retailers in the US end up in the landfill in a year.
A return ending up in the dump is an environmental worst-case scenario. Trashed items require even more fuel for transportation because they make the additional trip from a return facility to the dump. Rather than reselling your item, the retailer will send a new item to another shopper, meaning more resources consumed. If a retailer sends your return to overseas recyclers, reclaiming the materials can release harmful chemicals.
You can reduce the environmental impact of your return by taking it back in person if there’s a store near you. Of course, that isn’t always an option. 
A more effective approach is to reduce the number of returns you need to make. Retailers are trying to help.
Companies like Gap and Walmart are investing in software that helps shoppers find the right fit so they won’t “bracket,” the industry term for buying the same item in multiple sizes and returning what doesn’t fit. The practice is standard, with 58% of shoppers saying they’ve done it, according to a 2021 poll conducted by e-commerce customer service company Narvar. That number has grown from 40% in 2017.
Services like Drapr, acquired last year by Gap, let you create 3D avatars to see how a piece of clothing is likely to look on your body. Zeekit, acquired last year by Walmart, also lets you upload a photo or choose a model that looks like you to see how clothes fit (Walmart said it’s still building the service for its shoppers). Alternatively, algorithms like Fit Predictor and True Fit estimate what size you should order based on personal information, your order history or your size from another retailer. Koviem, the women’s suit maker, uses software from 3DLook that lets customers see how their made-to-measure suit will look on them.
More customers are also finding that a company will offer a refund without asking them to send a low-cost item back. AlixPartners, a management consulting firm, estimates retailers will refund $4.4 billion in goods without getting anything back from customers for purchases from 2021. One such company that allows a “return” with no actual return is Jockey, which confirmed its customer service workers can approve this type of refund.
“We trust their real-time judgment when helping customers,” said Jockey spokesperson Matthew Waller.
If you find yourself with such a returnless refund, you can give it to a friend or family member or offer it up on a free items exchange like FreeCycle or Buy Nothing. You might also consider donating it. 

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How to deal with the Kremlin-created crisis in Europe – Atlantic Council

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December 30, 2021
By Eurasia Center
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Editor’s note: Moscow’s buildup of troops on and near Ukraine’s borders and bellicose rhetoric have raised the prospect of a major conventional war in Europe. The phone call today between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin underscores the dangers of this Kremlin-manufactured crisis. Below is a statement by twenty-five distinguished experts and former senior officials offering their ideas on how to deter Moscow from escalating its current war of aggression against Ukraine and more broadly to discourage Moscow from future provocations. The statement represents the views of the signatories and not of their institutions.
Since President Biden’s virtual summit with President Putin on December 7, Russia has increased its troop presence on or near Ukraine’s borders. Having created this crisis, the Kremlin has demanded security guarantees for Russia that the United States and its allies cannot possibly provide. It has made provocative statements at high levels, including outlandish claims that US private military contractors intend to launch a chemical weapons attack in eastern Ukraine. Moscow wrongly asserts that NATO enlargement has created a military threat to Russia; the Alliance has fully abided by its commitments in the NATO-Russia Founding Act to refrain from deploying nuclear weapons or permanently stationing substantial combat forces on the territory of new member states, despite the fact that Russia has violated many of its own Founding Act commitments, as well as the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, the Paris Charter, and the Budapest Memorandum.
In short, Moscow appears to be setting the stage for launching a major conventional assault on Ukraine, even though the United States and NATO have shown a willingness to sit down and discuss Kremlin concerns.
We believe the United States should, in closest consultation with its NATO allies and with Ukraine, take immediate steps to affect the Kremlin’s cost-benefit calculations before the Russian leadership opts for further military escalation. This means raising the costs that would ensue should the Russian military launch a new assault on Ukraine, building on the excellent set of measures the Biden administration has already laid out: enacting punishing sanctions on Moscow, sending major military supplies to Ukraine, and strengthening NATO’s force posture on its eastern flank.
The administration should continue its good work with the European Union and other partners to ensure agreement on the elements of a response to any Russian assault on Ukraine, regardless of the extent or form of Russia’s escalation. Such a response would include a package of major and painful sanctions that would be applied immediately if Russia assaults Ukraine. Ideally, the outline of these sanctions would be communicated now to Moscow, so that the Kremlin has a clear understanding of the magnitude of the economic hit it will face. In particular, Washington should consult with Berlin and secure German agreement that it would prevent Nord Stream 2 from going into operation in the event of a Russian attack, making clear that otherwise the administration will not again waive sanctions on the pipeline.
The most important thing that the West can do now is to enhance the deterrent strength of Ukraine’s armed forces by providing military assistance and equipment on an expedited basis. For the Kremlin, a large invasion of Ukraine works only if Russian forces are able to seize and hold Ukrainian territory without sustaining significant and constant casualties. Western countries should act now to equip Ukraine’s military and territorial defense units with additional capabilities that can impose such costs.
Western military officials should consult urgently with their Ukrainian counterparts as to what assistance and equipment the Ukrainian military needs and could most quickly integrate into its operations to bolster its defensive strength. Such assistance might include additional Javelin anti-armor missiles and Q36 counter-battery radar systems as well as Stinger and other anti-aircraft missiles. The Biden administration should also encourage NATO allies to do more to enhance Ukraine’s defensive capabilities, making clear that the entire NATO Alliance stands together in opposing Russian aggression.
We believe that NATO should act now to begin bolstering its military presence on its eastern flank and communicating to Moscow that Russia’s escalation would bring a substantial number of US and Allied forces and a permanent presence in the Baltic states and Black Sea region. NATO should also signal to Moscow that any additional deployments could be reconsidered if/when the current crisis abates.
The West should also widen its political counteroffensive to retake the initiative from Moscow as it tries to use the threat of force to intimidate Ukraine, Europe, and the United States into acquiescing to its demands, many of which are plainly unjustified and unacceptable. The Biden administration should seek a Group of Seven (G7) statement at the head of state level condemning Moscow’s threat of wider war against Ukraine and work with allies and partners to use other fora, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and possibly the United Nations, to highlight the unacceptability of Russian military action and coercive threats.
The Biden administration should consult with NATO, the European Union, Ukraine, and key allies such as Poland on extensive preparations for dealing with the humanitarian crisis that a major Russian invasion would create.
Finally, the United States and its allies should continue to make clear their readiness for dialogue with Russia, to include concerns of NATO and other parties about Russian military and other aggressive activities. They have indicated that some elements in the Russia-proposed US-Russia treaty and NATO-Russia agreement may offer a basis for discussion and possible negotiation. The United States and NATO should make clear to the Kremlin that it must de-escalate the threatening military situation around Ukraine before there can be any substantive negotiation, and any negotiation must involve all parties whose security interests will be affected. These issues cannot simply be resolved in a bilateral US-Russia channel. Moreover, any negotiation should be consistent with the principles agreed to by all NATO members, Russia, and Ukraine, such as those in the Helsinki Final Act and the Charter of Paris.
Signed,

Dr. Stephen Blank
Senior Fellow
Foreign Policy Research Institute
General Philip Breedlove, USAF ret.
17th Supreme Allied Commander Europe
Distinguished Professor, Sam Nunn School, Georgia Institute of Technology
Ian Brzezinski
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO Policy
Senior Fellow
Atlantic Council
Debra Cagan
Former US State and Defense Department official
Distinguished Energy Fellow
Transatlantic Leadership Network
General Wesley K. Clark
US Army (ret.)
12th Supreme Allied Commander, Europe
Senior Fellow, UCLA Burkle Center
Dr. Larry Diamond
Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution
Mosbacher Senior Fellow in Global Democracy
Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Stanford University
Ambassador Paula Dobriansky
Former Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs
Vice Chair, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security
Atlantic Council
Senior Fellow, Harvard University Belfer Center
Dr. Evelyn Farkas
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia
Ambassador Daniel Fried
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and US Ambassador to Poland
Weiser Family Distinguished Fellow
Atlantic Council
Dr. Francis Fukuyama
Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow
Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law
Director, Ford Dorsey Masters in International Policy
Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Stanford University
Melinda Haring
Deputy Director, Eurasia Center
Atlantic Council
John E. Herbst
Former US Ambassador to Ukraine and Uzbekistan
Senior Director, Eurasia Center
Atlantic Council
Lieutenant General (Ret.) Ben Hodges
Former Commander US Army Europe
Dr. Donald N. Jensen
Director, Russia and Strategic Stability
United States Institute of Peace
Dr. Andrea Kendall-Taylor
Former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Russia and Eurasia
Senior Fellow and Director, Transatlantic Security Program
Center for a New American Security
Ambassador John Kornblum
Former US Ambassador to Germany
Senior Adviser (Non-resident), Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program
Center for Strategic International Studies
Robert McConnell
Former Assistant Attorney General, US Department of Justice
Director External Relations, US-Ukraine’s Foundation’s Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN)
Ambassador Michael McFaul
Former US Ambassador to Russia
Director, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Stanford University
Ambassador Steven Pifer
Former US Ambassador to Ukraine
Willian Perry Fellow
Stanford University
Herman Pirchner, Jr.
President
American Foreign Policy Council
John Sipher
Former Officer and Chief of Station, CIA Clandestine Service
Nonresident Senior Fellow, Eurasia Center
Atlantic Council
Strobe Talbott
Former Deputy Secretary of State
Distinguished Fellow
The Brookings Institution
Ambassador William Taylor
Former US Ambassador to Ukraine
Vice President for Strategic Stability and Security
United States Institute of Peace
Ambassador Alexander Vershbow
Former US Ambassador to Russia
Former Deputy Secretary General of NATO
Distinguished Fellow, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, Eurasia Center
Atlantic Council
Ambassador Kurt Volker
Former US Ambassador to NATO and US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations
Distinguished Fellow
Center for European Policy Analysis
UkraineAlert Dec 11, 2021
By Peter Dickinson
One depressing aspect of Russia’s latest military build-up on the Ukrainian border has been the flurry of headlines posing the same question: will Putin invade Ukraine? In reality, Russia has already invaded Ukraine and the war is now in its eighth year.
UkraineAlert Dec 3, 2021
By Oleksii Reznikov
The international community must urgently demonstrate its resolve to punish Russia in order to deter a full-scale invasion of Ukraine that would plunge Europe into chaos, warns Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov.
UkraineAlert Dec 23, 2021
By Andriy Zagorodnyuk, Alina Frolova, Hans Petter Midtunn, Oleksii Pavliuchyk
Ukraine’s military has undergone a major transformation since the outbreak of hostilities with Russia in 2014 but the changes that have taken place are still not fully assessed or understood.
Institutional affiliations are for purposes of identification only. This post was updated on 1/5/2022 to include an additional signatory.
Related Experts: John E. Herbst, John Sipher, Daniel Fried, Alexander Vershbow, Ian Brzezinski, and Ambassador Paula J. Dobriansky
Image: Russian grenade launcher operators take part in combat drills at the Kadamovsky range in the Rostov region, Russia December 14, 2021. REUTERS/Sergey Pivovarov
© 2021 Atlantic Council
All rights reserved.

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Get More Out of Your Small Business Website with These 10 Tips – Small Business Trends

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Your small business website can be one of your biggest assets. But there are so many elements that go into creating a successful site. There’s your content, SEO, marketing, and special features like blogs and ecommerce sections. To make the most of your site, learn from the experts in the online small business community.



Create a Killer Homepage Explainer Video

Your homepage is the perfect spot to give potential new customers an intro to your brand. And video is an amazing way to accomplish this. Learn how in this Pixel Productions post by Natasha Lane. Then head over to BizSugar to see what members are saying.

Niche Your Business and Fix Your Marketing

Your website and other marketing materials are more likely to be effective if you have a clearly defined niche. In fact, many business websites are ineffective because they fail to speak to a specific customer. Learn how to fix your marketing materials with a niche in this Duct Tape Marketing post by Sara Nay.

Improve Your Web Positioning

Web positioning involves creating a digital strategy that includes valuable content on your website and other online content. If you’re looking to improve in this area in 2021, read the trends in this SMB CEO post by Ivan Widjaya.

Get More Opt-Ins from Your Website Content

Content marketing on your website can be an effective way to get opt-ins from potential customers. You may already employ this strategy. But if you’re looking to improve, check out this Content Marketing Institute post by Tom Treanor for tips.

Focus on SEO

Your website can’t make a major impact if no one can find it. So SEO is a must. This concept is especially important for new business websites that want to grow quickly. Tommy Connors elaborates in this Smallbiztechnology.com post.



Learn These Essential Blogging Lessons

A blog can be a major part of your small business website. Or it could even be your main source of content and revenue. If you’re just starting out with this concept, you’ll quickly learn some lessons. Ryan Biddulph shares some in this Blogging From Paradise post.

Consider the Importance of Backlinks

Your website can grow exponentially if other sites link to you. This strategy can be especially effective if you can get backlinks from sites with authority. Even B2B businesses can grow with this strategy. Learn more from this UpCity post by David J. Brin.

Reap the Benefits of Owning an Online Store

Plenty of businesses operate online stores. But even if you’re not specifically running an ecommerce business, an online store may be beneficial. Lisa Sicard of Inspire to Thrive shares why in this post. And BizSugar members offered their input here.

Use IaaS to Grow Your Ecommerce Site

Infrastructure-as-a-service, or IaaS, offers a way to use cloud technology to improve your website. This can be especially beneficial for ecommerce businesses. Read about this concept from Neil Patel here.



Use Website Data to Discover Missed Sales Opportunities

Your website isn’t just a marketing tool. You can also use it to learn more about your customers. In this Search Engine Watch post, Joe Dawson goes over how to use data from your website to make more sales.
If you’d like to suggest your favorite small business content to be considered for an upcoming community roundup, please send your news tips to: sbtips@gmail.com.

Image: Depositphotos 6 Comments ▼


Hello Annie,
Thanks for sharing these helpful tips to grow a small business website. In this competitive online world we need to be vigilant about new techniques and strategies.
Regards,
Vishwajeet Kumar
Hi
This is an excellent post. Every small business must strive to upgrade their knowledge in the ever changing competitive internet world.
These tips are amazing, thanks for sharing. I would like to add one micro tip which is not even in the checklist of many developers but adding this will definitely increase the session time of the user is website view mode, yes you can provide an option for dark mode and light mode that will let them see the wat they wan to see. I hope this will help 🙂
wow excellent post. small businesses must read this to understand and gain an edge in the world out there. thanks for sharing this article
So much useful information in your article. This is going to help me a lot. Thanks for these very informative posts about the business website.Good Luck with the upcoming update!
Valuable information in your post, This is a great way to grow your small business, Thanks for this impressive post.
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