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Alexander Salas an award-winning learning experience designer, Storyline expert and Chief Creative Officer at a project based online learning experience for teachers, veterans and students looking to transition into eLearning design. He specializes in the integration of instructional science with popular authoring tools, custom web design, game design, virtual and augmented realities for L&D purposes. Among his professional achievements, Alex is certified as CPTD, CompTIA CTT+, A+, Microsoft Certified Professional and Agile ScrumMaster. He was a designer of learning programs for Fortune 100 companies such as Centene Corporation, Philips and Dell Technologies. Alex is a regular speaker and contributor at major ATD, Learning Guild and Training Magazine conferences and publications.

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Will there be a nuclear war in the U.S senate? | ticker VIEWS



Australian subs are going nuclear – so will we have nuclear war in the United States senate?

The Commander-in-Chief has his eyes cast across the horizon.

From getting Congress to pass his $3.5 trillion program to rebuild America, to keeping the government from shutting down at the end of September, to maintaining the United States from defaulting on its debts in October, to advancing the chess game with China following the unveiling of AUKUS; and the deal for nuclear-powered submarines for Australia last week and his meeting with the Quad leaders, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, this week.

Not to mention, the CiC has nuclear threats to manage in Iran and North Korea too.

President Biden has a nuclear war to wage and win in the United States Senate beginning this week

Woven into the Biden agenda are a series of social and racial equity measures that Democrats across the country, and in every walk of life, view as essential:  

  • Protecting the right of women to access abortion services. Texas has virtually outlawed abortion and a major test case from Mississippi, which prohibits abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, will be heard by the Supreme Court in October. 
  • Gun control, at least by providing effective background checks on gun purchasers.
  • Police reform, to change policed practices ager the murder of George Floyd by officers in Minneapolis.
  • Voting rights, to ensure that all voters can vote freely and easily, in every State

As key Democratic priorities, Democrats in the House have passed several bills on all these issues (save abortion, which the House will consider in the coming days) and sent them to the Senate — where they have died, even though Democrats control the chamber.

These bills die because the Senate, over the past 30 years, has become trapped in the partisan quagmire of the “filibuster” – a Senate rule that enables any Senator to require a supermajority of 60 votes to pass any legislation.

In a 50-50 Senate, this leaves Biden 10 votes short on any bill Republicans oppose.  And so the Senate has blocked all gun control proposals, all legislation to support police reform, anything significant on immigration, anything to expand Obamacare.

However, it is voting rights that are at the heart of the Democratic agenda. 

Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen has induced Republican-controlled states to limit access to the ballot box. 

In Georgia, voters must show more ID when they vote by mail and there are fewer ballot drop boxes.  Florida has made it harder to vote by mail and also limited ballot drop boxes.

Texas makes it a criminal offence to assist voters at the polls and limits drive-through voting and extended voting hours.

The entire point of these new laws is to keep voting turnout down and to make it harder to vote by post – because too many people voted in 2020, and that record turnout denied Trump a second term.

Australians, who embrace the virtues of mandatory voting, are astonished that the “greatest democracy in the world” (as Americans see themselves) has a bias against universal voting.

The struggle for voting rights goes back to the end of the Civil War, the passage of the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution to ensure that the freed Black slaves, and all citizens (except women until 1920) could vote. 

A fight that continued in the civil rights marches of the 1960s with Martin Luther King and John Lewis, and the passage of civil rights laws in the 1960s.

Winning this fight now coincides with a determination that it is time the filibuster died in the Senate – not progressive legislation

For the filibuster to be eliminated or reformed, it takes a simple majority vote to change the Senate’s rules.  

Killing the filibuster is seen as “going nuclear” because it would change the Senate as we know it.

In a 50-50 Senate, each individual Democrat has the power to stop the Biden-Democratic agenda.

On voting rights, it has come down to Sen Joe Manchin of West Virginia. He supports the filibuster – and voting rights too.  He knows how crucial voting rights are to his president and his party. He also believes in the Senate and in working with Republicans.

Manchin has put together a voting rights bill that has every other Democrat on board. It makes Election Day a public holiday, requires same-day registration at all polling locations by 2024, and provides a minimum 15 days of early voting for federal elections. It also has strong voter ID requirements.

Many Democrats wanted much more – such as public funding for campaigns – but have agreed on a simpler bill with core voting rights protections that could pass the Senate if the filibuster is gone.

This week, if Manchin can find 10 Republicans, this bill can pass, and it would show that the Senate can still work even with the hurdles imposed by the filibuster.

If Manchin fails, it will mean the Senate is broken, and the fuse to go nuclear in the Senate will be lit.  The pressure on Democrats to end the filibuster as it stands today will be excruciating.

If the heart of the Biden-Democratic agenda is in the legislation for economic recovery, jobs, infrastructure, climate change, health care, seniors, education and kids, the soul of Democratic ambitions are with the protection of their most fundamental constitutional rights – for all Americans, not just the privileged

More over, voting rights are the soul of the Democratic Party.

If voting rights die in the Senate, a higher measure of enthusiasm among Democratic voters to step up again in next year’s midterm elections for control of Congress dies with it.

Worth going to nuclear war over.

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Ecodownunder’s transformation from retailer to successful online store



Inspired to find the naturally better way: conversation with Russell Lamb, founder of Ecodownunder.

The world seemed focused on synthetics and creating “new” plastic textiles which flooded the market from China. By the mid-90s, thanks to technology and the growth in demand for cheaper man-made fibres, it was virtually impossible to find good quality, pure cotton sheets in Australia.

Born at the foothills of the mountains backing onto Fiordland in New Zealand, it’s no surprise that Russell wasn’t comfortable with the synthetics boom. He and his three brothers grew up by the ocean, disappearing when the school bell rang on a Friday, to explore the beaches and bluffs of this remote and rugged coastline, returning home only to get some sleep before school on a Monday.   Long summer holidays were spent working on a cousin’s farm. Some of his earliest memories conjure up images of collapsing exhausted, hot and sweaty, in the hay bales after a long day shearing sheep. To him, at times it feels like yesterday and the memories are vivid.

Those heady days came to a sudden end when school finished and he had to work full-time so that he could study at night. With a degree under his belt, he arrived in Australia 25 and broke. It didn’t take long to land his first job with the NZ founder of wool underlays. A few years later, he joined a business which imported lower quality, synthetic products from China but he didn’t feel right about it.

The freedom to roam the bush and beaches of the southern tip of South Island, had left Russell with a strong connection to the natural world and it seemed clear to him that natural fibres were the way to go. “Everyone was focusing on synthetics and the fastest way to turn products around at the lowest cost. Australia was being flooded with low quality, chemically coated sheets from China. It was a no brainer to me. Sleeping in synthetics just didn’t feel comfortable”.

Never afraid to follow his instincts, which he confesses has got him into some interesting situations over the years but concludes “things invariably work out when you’re true to yourself.”

 And Ecodownunder was born. 

Just a concept at first, “eco in our name meant to be naturally better, to use no synthetics, no harsh chemicals, nothing made in China. Australian made where possible” and the start of a long journey with a string of failures along the way!

The dream seemed simple: to create homewares from natural fibres, grown without harsh chemicals and pesticides, made into products using natural processes. But organically grown cotton was virtually unheard of at the time. Mention of it was generally met with no interest or raised eyebrows at best. But he was not deterred as he was certain it was the right path to take.

The hunt began for organic cotton which didn’t exist on a viable scale in Australia. The search took them to remote farms in northern NSW and Queensland, to an anthropologist working with farmers in Peru who had discovered naturally coloured cotton seeds in mummy wrappings. The trail moved to another farmer in Northern California, who was growing naturally coloured cotton and producing cotton fabric. They trialled organic cotton from Turkey, talked to cotton producers in Pakistan and India.

 “The concept of organic was not deemed commercial and we were viewed as time wasters. I’ve always been determined to find what I’m looking for and this was no exception.”

Research around the world was followed by a string of time-consuming failures! They partnered with a farmer in NSW to grow their own cotton crop in Australia. 6 months later, the crop failed, and a lot of money went too!

They then found naturally coloured Australian cotton, which of course was reddish brown. But it was evident that no one liked the colour! And the fact that the towels were made without using toxic dyes was clearly not enough to help sell the towels back in the 90s!

They decided to try making sheets, with naturally coloured cotton from Queensland which they sent to a cotton factory in Pakistan, but the colour failed again and just looked washed out and dirty.

Their long search continued for naturally coloured cotton and ended successfully in the middle of where Russell describes as “nowhere!” They found darker naturally coloured cotton in Arizona, which they were optimistic could be spun and woven to make sheets! They bought some cotton, shipped it to Pakistan to have it spun and woven. It made beautiful sheets which customers loved, at first. But the pigment in naturally coloured cotton is not stable and the cotton faded in the sun, although the colour returned when the fabric was washed.   

“We spent 3 years getting this far but realised these sheets were just not going to be good enough.”

Finding desirable naturally coloured cotton unearthed an interesting correlation between cotton fibre length and colour. Russell explains “the brighter coloured cottons seemed to have shorter fibre lengths, which made sense when you look at the traditional rich, bright colours used by the Mayans which created a coarser fabric. We needed long staple fibres to create quality cotton in desirable colours!”

“These failures made them more determined to give people better sleep, naturally. 

To do this we just needed to create bedding without using synthetics and harsh chemicals.”

Like many things, their no 1 bestselling eco cotton sheets happened by accident. People wondered why these sheets were so wonderful to sleep in.  It was because of the things they didn’t do; they weren’t coated in chemicals so they could breathe, and they were made without blending the cotton with polyester. By eliminating harsh chemicals, they had inadvertently created what has become their most popular sheet! The soft smooth finish of eco cotton became their signature. 

“We knew we’d created great sheets when people came back to buy more.”

The search for quality organic cotton ended in India where they finally found a partner who was able to produce Ecodownunder’s organic cotton bedding and maintain the quality they had committed to at an affordable price. In producing organic cotton sheets, they again had a lucky break, as they were the perfect alternative to eco cotton sheets. As Russell explains “our eco cotton has a soft, smooth, almost silky feel but some people prefer a crisp hotel finish which is why they choose our organic cotton sheets.”

The eco in Ecodownunder continues to be at the heart of the business as they develop their natural range of bed and bath linen which uses either organic or eco cotton.

“We know we’re not perfect, but we continually assess and look to improve the way we do things at every level of the business. A high for us was eliminating single use plastic from our stores. We redesigned our packaging and our bedding is now delivered to customers in organic cotton reusable shopping bags.  

We’re a family run Australian business, and live, work and spend any spare moments by the sea. It’s why we’re so passionate about alternatives to synthetics and plastics. Between us, we’re on the water most days, surf boat rowing somewhere between Palm Beach and Manly, depending on surf and wind conditions!  Every day we become more determined as we see particles of plastic stuff floating in the ocean and washing up on our beaches.

Downunder – we produce within Australia when it makes sense to do so. Our comfort range uses the finest natural fibres, made in Australia, which we believe grows the best wool to be found anywhere in the world.

Ecodownunder | Since 1997

25 years ago we couldn’t find luxurious pure cotton sheets that were not blended with synthetics and produced without harsh chemical treatments. Frustration at the poor quality of bed and bath products available in Australia was the impetus for Ecodownunder, and the creation of the best quality bed and bath collection made without harsh chemicals and synthetics.

For more information, head to their website.

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IT skills shortages hurting Australia & New Zealand



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Using OutSystems, customers can Build applications Fast, Build them Right and Build them for the Future.

Engineers with an obsessive attention to detail crafted every aspect of the OutSystems platform to help organizations build enterprise-grade apps and transform their business faster. OutSystems is the only solution that combines the power of minimal coding with advanced mobile capabilities, enabling visual development of entire application portfolios that easily integrate with existing systems.

OutSystems has offices worldwide.

Visit them on their website.

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