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Devin D. Thorpe

Devin Thorpe

Monthly Archives: July 2018

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GSK Consumer Healthcare Announces Partnership with Leading Cleft Lip and Palate Organization Smile Train to Bring Comprehensive Care to Children Born with Clefts

Press Release – NEW YORK, NY (19 July 2018) – GSK Consumer Healthcare, one of the world’s leading providers in specialist oral health, today announced a new five-year partnership with Smile Train, an international children’s charity with a sustainable approach to a single, solvable problem: cleft lip and palate. Smile Train empowers local medical professionals, by providing training and education, to provide 100%-free cleft surgery and comprehensive cleft care to children all over the world. Every year, one in 700 children are born with a cleft lip or palate globally. Clefts are the leading birth defect in many developing countries, and it is estimated more than 200,000 children are born with a cleft every year.

The announcement of this partnership comes at a pivotal moment for a baby girl in Chennai, India, Jaya*, who is the recipient of the first GSK-funded cleft surgery. Jaya was born in December 2017. Her mother, Sudha, was seven months pregnant when she was told by doctors at her local hospital that her child would be born with a cleft lip and cleft palate. Like many parents, Sudha and her husband Arun knew nothing about this condition. Jaya was born with a complete unilateral cleft lip and palate and Sudha struggled to feed her.

Jaya was four months old when she underwent her first, successful cleft surgery performed by Smile Train’s local partner, Dr. Jyotsna Murthy at Sri Ramachandra Hospital, in April 2018 and the transformation has been extraordinary. Today, Jaya is thriving. Jaya faces further surgery to fully correct her cleft palate. Her next surgery is scheduled for when she is nine months old.

Image courtesy of Smile Train

Announcing the partnership, Brian McNamara, CEO GSK Consumer Healthcare said:

“With GSK Consumer Healthcare’s heritage in specialist oral health, we know the importance of a healthy mouth. Our five-year global partnership with Smile Train will help provide thousands more surgeries for children with clefts and help increase medical training in local communities. I’m delighted that our partnership is already having an impact and we’re inspired by the difference we’ve been able to make to Jaya and her family. However, this partnership will go far further than our financial support alone.

“We’re excited by the prospect of bringing together GSK’s expertise and strength in oral health with Smile Train’s knowledge and reputation in local communities to help increase awareness about cleft among both consumers and experts, and to provide vital support in oral health and hygiene for patients as part of the overall care pathway.

“We’ll also be encouraging our employees to give their time, skills, and donations to support Smile Train. Together both organisations are united in a shared vision and commitment to help transform more children’s lives, one smile at a time.”

Children in developing countries with untreated clefts often live in isolation due to how they appear to others in the community. However, cleft lip and/or palate is much more than a cosmetic issue. Children with clefts often experience trouble eating, speaking and breathing correctly – which can be extremely detrimental to their overall health.

Susannah Schaefer, Executive Vice Chair and CEO of Smile Train said:

“These are exciting times for Smile Train and we’re delighted to welcome GSK on board as a major corporate supporter of our work. Smile Train’s unique, sustainable model provides training and funding to empower local medical professionals to provide 100%-free cleft repair surgery and comprehensive cleft care at local medical facilities in the heart of their own communities. Our local medical partners are on the ground 365 days a year, continuously working to raise the level of care for all patients.

“Cleft repair surgery is safe, and the results are immediate. Coupled with comprehensive cleft care services, like speech therapy and orthodontics, children who have access to this care then have the opportunity to go on to lead healthy lives. Combining the expertise of GSK and Smile Train will strengthen our model, allow us to tap into a new network of experts, raise much needed awareness for children with clefts, and ultimately help us ensure more children like baby Jaya receive life-transforming cleft treatment.”

Over the next five years, GSK and Smile Train will work toward the goal of ensuring children born with clefts can lead full and productive lives, achieving their own potential and contributing to their community. A recent independent study quantifies the economic value of global cleft repair surgery, using patient data from Smile Train. For every $250 invested in a single cleft repair, as much as $42,000 is put back into the local economy as former cleft patients go on to contribute to economic productivity and lead full, productive lives in their communities.

For more information on this partnership, visit

*Patient name changed for privacy purposes

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JTS Board Of Trustees Elects New Members

Board of Trustees expands with four new trustees

Press Release – The Board of Trustees of The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) has elected four new members: Julie E. Greenblatt, Aaron Malinsky, Yoni Saposh, and Emily Scharfman.

“We are pleased to welcome these new members to our distinguished Board of Trustees,” said Alan Levine, chair of the board. “They bring wide experience in business, law, philanthropy, and community service and we look forward to their contributions to the JTS leadership. We are also delighted to introduce our Next Generation category, which identifies young Jewish communal leaders who will undoubtedly benefit the future of JTS and the wider community.”

Julie E. Greenblatt received a BA from SUNY Binghamton, a JD from Boston University Law School, and an MSW from Adelphi University. She previously worked at Milbank Tweed, has served on the board of Harlem Success Academy 3, and currently serves on the board at Temple Beth Israel in Port Washington, New York. At Temple Beth Israel, she has been actively involved in developing programs for teens and adults.

Aaron Malinsky received a BA from Franklin & Marshall College and completed coursework for a master’s degree at the NYU School of Public Administration. He is principal partner, president, and chief executive officer of Curbcut Urban Partners, a real estate development company he founded in 2012, specializing in retail and mixed-use projects in the metropolitan region of New York City and New Jersey. He has developed more than 100 shopping centers throughout the region. Mr. Malinsky serves on the Advisory Board of the Park Avenue Synagogue and the Middlebury College, School of Hebrew, and is also a member of the board at the Jewish Museum.

Yoni Saposh has been with the global investment firm BlackRock since 2001, and is currently a managing director. Mr. Saposh graduated from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania with a BS cum laude in Economics with concentrations in Finance and Decision-Making Processes. He is a trustee of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County (New Jersey), an active board member of Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, and a former treasurer of the Kesher Synagogue of Tenafly and Englewood, New Jersey. Mr. Saposh will serve as a Next Generation board member.

Emily Scharfman is a graduate of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Westchester, Ramaz Upper School, and received her BA cum laude from Yale University and her JD from New York University. This past year, Ms. Scharfman joined Parachute Health, a healthcare technology company, as their general counsel and head of HR. Previously, she was the general counsel and global head of HR at Persado and an associate at Latham & Watkins LLP, where she practiced as a finance and restructuring lawyer. She is the first president of the newly appointed Board of Trustees of Kehilat Hadar and became a Wexner Heritage Fellow in 2016. Ms. Scharfman will serve as a Next Generation board member.

About The Jewish Theological Seminary

JTS is a preeminent institution of Jewish higher education, training thoughtful, innovative leaders—rabbis, cantors, educators, lay leaders, and scholars—who strengthen our communities with a vision of Judaism that is deeply grounded in the Jewish past and thoroughly engaged with contemporary society. JTS also provides high-caliber lifelong learning and professional development to our alumni, adult learners, and Jewish communities throughout North America. Through its Library, JTS preserves and makes accessible to students and scholars throughout the world the greatest collection of Judaica in the Western Hemisphere.

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Office Depot Unveils Hot New Supplies, Tech and Furniture to Help Students Go ‘Back to School Proud’

Shopping and Giving Back to Local Schools is More Convenient than Ever with Wide Product Assortment, Low Prices All Summer Long, New Online Capabilities and Charitable Programs

July 18, 2018 08:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time BOCA RATON, Fla.–(BUSINESS WIRE)Office Depot, Inc. (NASDAQ:ODP), a leading omnichannel provider of business services and supplies, products and technology solutions, is helping students and teachers, from kindergarten to college, go “Back to School Proud” this year with the ultimate assortment of products, furniture and tech that let their personality and individuality shine through as they head back to the classroom.

This year, shoppers can give back to local schools through two different programs and learn about Start Proud!™, Office Depot’s new philanthropic program created to make a substantial difference for deserving students, parents and teachers. Additionally, customers can take advantage of Office Depot’s omni-channel shopping options via from any device and opt to buy online, pick up in-store or have their haul delivered straight to their front door via next-business day delivery.

As part of the “Back to School Proud” campaign, Office Depot is teaming up with singer, songwriter and actress Sabrina Carpenter to offer exclusive content and an option to enter a sweepstakes1. One lucky fan, along with three guests, will kick-off the new school year with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a trip to meet the “Almost Love” singer in September. In addition, Sabrina will feature her top back-to-school products on Office Depot social media channels and on

“Education is something I’m a firm believer in, it gives us the tools to be able to learn and decide what we want to do with our lives,” said Sabrina Carpenter. “It’s important to be prepared, which means having the right school supplies. I’m so excited to be partnering with Office Depot on their Back-to-School Proud campaign!”

This Sunday, Office Depot is launching its new back-to-school advertising campaign that reinforces when customers are serious about supplies, they need to go to the place that takes supplies seriously. The two customer-centric spots infuse a dose of humor coupled with the reality and sometimes stress that any parent feels at the beginning of every new school year. Whether mom and dad are dropping their daughter off at the first day of college or looking for a quick and easy way to purchase their son’s school list online, Office Depot and OfficeMax deliver all the supplies they need, and the prices they want, all summer long.

Shoppers will enjoy low prices all summer long on a great selection of top-brand school supplies, exclusive product assortment and convenient shopping options, all while giving back to their local schools, including:

Core Supplies, Furniture & Tech

  • Fashion Essentials & Accessories: Studious meets stylish with a wide variety of unicorn, floral, glitter or palm motifs on the Office Depot® exclusive assortment of notebooks, composition books, binders and folders. For those who want to personalize, students can complement their core gear with accessories like charms, keychains, patches and puffy stickers.
  • College Dorm Furniture: To make those college late night cram sessions a little more comfortable, Office Depot has a number of Brenton Studio® seating and desk furniture options, including colorful task chairs to plush seats and a sleek achiever desk set that will help make their dorm room study session-ready.
  • School Tech: Find the latest technology like the Dell Inspiron 15, perfect for multi-user households where the laptop is shared across the family, that offers a built-in DVD drive, USB 3.0 port, Waves MaxxAudio and much more.
  • Tech Services: Students, parents and teachers can choose from two tech support plans that give them access to 24/7 expert support needed to stay up and running no matter if they are home or in school. Additionally, customers purchasing a new laptop or PC for the new school year can protect their investment for just pennies a day with a Square Trade Accidental Damage Protection Plan.
  • Brand Name Backpacks: Quality backpacks are a necessity to make it through the school year, and brands like COLUMBIA, PUMA and THULE feature bold colors and fashionable patterns for students of all ages – from grade-school to college. Starting July 1 to Aug. 25, all school backpacks and lunch accessories are 25% off.

Education and Organization

  • National PTA: As part of Office Depot’s commitment to education, the company has teamed up with National PTA and become the association’s newest Proud National Sponsor, helping power key programs and initiatives to further family engagement, strengthen family-school partnerships, improve student success and share relevant resources.
  • STEAM Kits: New Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math experience subscription kits are fun, engaging, ready-to-use projects delivered monthly at a great, low price. Created for children aged eight and up, the kits are filled with hands-on activities and experiments.
  • TUL™ Organization: Exclusive to Office Depot, TUL now offers teacher and student planners. A customizable planner will help teachers keep their schedules and lesson plans in order, including teacher stickers, page markers, ruler, pocket divider, weekly lesson plans, monthly calendar pages, seating charts and grade book. High schoolers and college students can get their own customizable student planner that comes with stickers, page markers, ruler and pocket divider or opt for a 3-subject TUL notebook in a variety of colors.

Give Back

  • Start Proud!™ Program: Office Depot associates will fill 20,000 backpacks with essentials like notebooks, folders, pencils, and glue and will distribute them to students at Title 1 schools during 10 celebratory assemblies to help them go Back to School Proud this season. In addition, Office Depot will honor and recognize one very special teacher at each Start Proud! assembly with approximately $1,000 worth of premium supplies to celebrate their extraordinary efforts in the classroom.
  • Pay it Forward: Parents, students and teachers can feel good about back-to-school shopping at Office Depot by simultaneously supporting their local schools through the company’s Give Back to Schools program, which gives 5% back in credits to local schools on qualifying purchases2 when shoppers provide their school name or ID number.
  • School Supply Drive: Customers will have an additional opportunity to give back by purchasing extra supplies at their local Office Depot or OfficeMax retail location, which will be donated to a deserving local Title 1 school at the beginning of the 2018 school year (please visit a local store for additional details).

Convenient Shopping & Savings

  • Rewards on Everything: Office Depot OfficeMax Rewards Everything loyalty members will receive even more savings when purchasing back-to-school supplies with 2% back on all qualifying purchases. Additionally, customers can redeem rewards instantly at checkout whether they are purchasing in-store, online or on the go.
  • Teacher Savings: All Rewards members can take advantage of Teacher Appreciation Days and receive 30% off qualifying, regularly priced in-store purchases of $30 or more and receive triple bonus rewards July 15 – 21 and Aug. 12 – 18.
  • School List with a Click: Office Depot’s digital platform is now integrated with an online database of over 1.2 million teachers’ school supply lists from across the country to offer convenient ‘one-click’ purchasing functionality that makes back to school shopping a breeze at

For more details on how to go “Back to School Proud,” visit an Office Depot or OfficeMax retail location near you, download the Office Depot app or find us online at

About Office Depot, Inc.

Office Depot, Inc. (NASDAQ:ODP) is a leading provider of business services and supplies, products and technology solutions through its fully integrated omni-channel platform of approximately 1,400 stores, online presence, and dedicated sales professionals and technicians to small, medium and enterprise businesses. Through its banner brands Office Depot®, OfficeMax®, CompuCom® and Grand&Toy®, the company offers its customers the tools and resources they need to focus on their passion of starting, growing and running their business. For more information, visit, download the Office Depot app on your iPhone or Android and follow @officedepot on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Office Depot is a trademark of The Office Club, Inc. OfficeMax is a trademark of OMX, Inc. CompuCom is a trademark of CompuCom Systems, Inc. Grand&Toy is a trademark of Grand & Toy, LLC in Canada. ©2018 Office Depot, Inc. All rights reserved. Any other product or company names mentioned herein are the trademarks of their respective owners.

[1] No purchase necessary. Open to legal residents of, and physically located within, the 50 U.S. states or Washington, D.C., who have reached the age of majority in their State of residence. Ends 11:59 PM ET on 9/2/18. Void where prohibited. Visit for Official Rules.

[2] Qualifying purchases exclude technology and consumer electronic products, accessories, media and software that is not education or reference related; furniture and furniture accessories; ink and toner; gift and prepaid cards; postage stamps and purchase from print and copy centers; and purchases made to contract business accounts and by resellers. Visit for details.

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Thomson Reuters Foundation Launches Resource To Help Financial Institutions Tackle Human Trafficking

Financial Institutions, NGOs, and Law Enforcement Join Forces to Fight the Business of Trafficking in Human Beings

Press Release – New York (07/19/2018) – The Thomson Reuters Foundation launched today a powerful new Toolkit designed to help financial institutions fight human trafficking using data. The Toolkit is the product of the United States Banks Alliance, a multi-stakeholder working group convened in 2017 by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The Alliance includes leading financial institutions operating in the region: American Express, Bank of America, Barclays, BNY Mellon, Citi, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, PayPal, Standard Chartered, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, and Western Union. The Alliance, which worked closely with FinCEN, also includes Homeland Security Investigations, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Barry M. Koch PLLC and expert anti-trafficking NGOs Polaris and Stop The Traffik.

The Toolkit responds to rising concerns about the growth of human trafficking operations across the United States and around the world. According to estimates by anti-slavery NGO Walk Free Foundation and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), 40.3 million people are trapped in modern slavery worldwide. The trafficking and exploitation of men, women and children is a vast, complex, and highly profitable global business generating illegal profits of $150 billion a year (ILO, 2014).

“Follow the money and you will get to the traffickers. Financial institutions have a crucial role to play in the fight against modern slavery,” says Thomson Reuters Foundation CEO, Monique Villa. “Banks have a lot of data and can provide evidence that will help law enforcement to prosecute those responsible for the most shameful of crimes. Cyrus Vance and I launched the first Banks Alliance in 2013 and we have updated all the potential indicators of human trafficking to make them more relevant to the world today. Traffickers exploit the most vulnerable among us with almost total impunity. This needs to stop.”

“There is perhaps no greater disruptive impact on traffickers than through their wallet,” says Polaris CEO, Bradley Myles. “The financial fight against human trafficking must be a collective undertaking between diverse stakeholders. Polaris is honored to participate in such a collaborative and interdisciplinary initiative like the United States Banks Alliance. Through this exemplary leadership, traffickers’ motivating force – greed – can be turned into a powerful weapon against them.”

The Toolkit will be shared on a confidential basis with financial institutions, expert anti-trafficking NGOs, and other key stakeholders, including financial crime compliance standard-setting bodies, national Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs), and law enforcement agencies. It includes a set of potential indicators of human trafficking tailored specifically to different types of financial institutions operating in the United States. The Toolkit also contains an extensive collection of case studies of human trafficking-related investigations and additional resources designed to help financial institutions detect suspicious patterns in financial transactions, customer data and behavior that may be linked to human trafficking and to report them to law enforcement (consistent with all applicable data privacy laws).

“The global economic cost of financial crime is estimated to be in the trillions of dollars, and there’s also the incalculable toll on human lives,” says John Panagopoulos, US Head of Financial Crime Compliance, HSBC. “Banks have the ability to spot indicators of human trafficking, and that ability is enhanced when banks work together and in collaboration with law enforcement and other organizations. The United States Banks Alliance Against Trafficking Toolkit will help us take action collectively and to greater effect.”

“Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) understands the importance of dismantling criminal organizations by tracing and seizing the profits earned from their illicit activities. By preventing these groups from laundering the lifeblood of their criminal schemes, HSI can protect victims of trafficking and, in many cases, provide restitution and offer support services,” says Mark Selby, Special Agent in Charge for HSI in Miami. “Partnerships with the private sector and expert non-profit organizations – like the United States Banks Alliance Against Human Trafficking – are crucial to these efforts. Through information sharing and assisting with anti-money laundering efforts, HSI can help the financial sector build typologies focussed on activities associated with human trafficking, which greatly enhances prevention, prediction, and enforcement efforts”.

The United States Banks Alliance Against Human Trafficking builds on the success of the original Banks Alliance, established in 2013 by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in partnership with Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., and a subsequent European Banks Alliance established in 2015. The original Banks Alliance published a set of red flag indicators in 2014 which provided the basis for an influential Advisory by FinCEN and led to an increase in the number of suspicious activity reports filed by financial institutions relating to human trafficking. In 2017, the European Banks Alliance launched a similar Toolkit which was widely endorsed by industry standard setters, including the Wolfsberg Group.

“This Toolkit empowers financial institutions to leverage the vast amount of data at their disposal to identify red flags and help end human trafficking. Instead of allowing the proceeds of these despicable crimes to move through their institutions unchecked, these banks are choosing to tackle trafficking proactively in what could be a life-saving act of good corporate citizenship. Together with our law enforcement and advocacy partners, I am thrilled to work alongside these institutions to stymie the flow of illicit profits and put traffickers out of business,” says Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.

About the Thomson Reuters Foundation

The Thomson Reuters Foundation acts to promote the highest standards in journalism and spread the practice of legal pro bono worldwide. The organisation runs initiatives that inform, connect and empower people around the world: access to free legal assistance, editorial coverage of the world’s under-reported news, media development and training, and the Trust Conference.

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Starkey Hearing Foundation Bestows Global Humanitarian Award Upon Bayat Foundation Co-founders Dr. Ehsan Bayat And Mrs. Fatema Laya Bayat

Afghanistan’s Most Renowned Philanthropists Honored For Their Efforts To Bring Hearing Healing And Hope To Afghans

Press Release – KABUL, Afghanistan, July 16, 2018 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Bayat Foundation (, Afghanistan’s largest, private, non-profit Health, Education and Social Development Organization, announced today that Dr. Ehsan Bayat, the Bayat Foundation’s Co-Founder and Chairman, and Mrs. Fatema Laya Bayat, Bayat Foundation Co-Founder and President, received the 2018 global humanitarian award from Starkey Hearing Foundation (

The award, Starkey Hearing Foundation’s most prestigious honor, was presented to Dr. and Mrs. Bayat during the annual So the World May Hear Awards Gala on July 15, 2018. Previous recipients of the global humanitarian award include Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner and Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The So the World May Hear Awarda Gala—among the most popular and successful events of the philanthropic year—was attended by an audience of the world’s most influential, successful and beloved artists, entertainers, philanthropists and political leaders.

Starkey Hearing Foundation, a public charity founded by William F. Austin, gives the gift of hearing to people in need throughout the world. The global humanitarian award—Starkey Hearing Foundation’s highest commendation—celebrates two of the Bayat Foundation’s most vital initiatives: the joint Bayat-Starkey Afghanistan Hearing Care Missions, which have brought the gift of hearing to over 4,000 Afghans over the past four years, as well as the Bayat Foundation’s tremendous success in providing Education, Healthcare, Clean Water, Emergency and Family Assistance to millions of Afghans since 2006.

Since 2014, The Bayat Foundation and Starkey Hearing Foundation have conducted an annual hearing care mission in Afghanistan. Working from specially constructed mobile care centers in Herat, Mazar-I-Sharif, Kabul City and other Afghan cities and regions, joint teams of Bayat-Starkey Hearing Care Specialists, have restored the hearing of over 4,000 Afghans, who were affected by hearing loss or other forms of hearing impairment.

In addition to the annual hearing care missions, teams of hearing care specialists, based in Afghanistan, provide essential follow up care services to patients.

“Receiving this award from Starkey Hearing Foundation is a great honor for my wife, Fatema Laya, and myself,” said Dr. Ehsanollah Bayat, the Chairman of The Bayat Foundation. “In 2006, when my wife and I started The Bayat Foundation, we had a simple, but powerful wish—we wanted to nourish the lives of Afghans by providing essential healthcare, education, and clean water—the basic necessities of life,” Dr. Bayat said.

“The strong and steadfast partnership between The Bayat Foundation, and The Starkey Hearing Foundation, has brought the Gift of Hearing to thousands of at risk Afghans,” Dr. Bayat said. “And these missions are a beautiful example of how, by working together with committed partners such as the Starkey team, we can help Afghans live better and healthier lives.”

“Together, The Bayat Foundation and Starkey Hearing Foundation have brought hearing, healing and hope to thousands of Afghans, living in every part of the nation,” said Bayat Foundation President Mrs. Fatema Laya Bayat. “When we nourish people by helping them to hear, to learn, and to live healthier lives, then, people are able to flourish and build a better tomorrow—not just for themselves—but for their families and for Afghanistan,” Mrs. Bayat said.

About the Bayat Foundation:

Since 2005, the US-based Bayat Foundation, a 501 c (3) charitable organization, has promoted the well-being of the Afghan people. Founded and directed by Ehsanollah Bayat and Fatema Bayat, the Foundation has contributed to more than 300 projects dedicated to improving the quality of life for the youth, women, poor, and elderly of Afghanistan; including construction of 13 maternity hospitals that have now treated over 2,000,000 mothers and babies.

Projects have included the construction of new facilities and sustainable infrastructure in needy regions, and the promotion of health, education, economic, and cultural programs. In addition to his charitable initiatives, Ehsanollah Bayat founded Afghan Wireless (AWCC) in 2002, which was the first GSM wireless and Internet Service Provider in Afghanistan, and later established Ariana Radio and Television Network (ATN), which includes Ariana Radio (FM 93.5). For more information, please email

About Starkey Hearing Foundation:

Starkey Hearing Foundation, a public charity co-founded by William F. Austin and Tani Austin, gives the gift of hearing to people in need in the U.S. and around the world. Disabling hearing loss affects more than 466 million people, including 34 million children, yet many do not have access to the hearing devices that improve lives and promote understanding. Since origination, Starkey Hearing Foundation has provided more than 1.1 million hearing health care services to patients. Starkey Hearing Foundation focuses on hearing health missions, hearing loss education and hearing aid recycling. Connect with Starkey Hearing Foundation on Facebook and Twitter, or visit

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Terra incognita: missing maps in the tropical forestry sector hamper efforts to combat forest loss

ZSL finds lack of transparency in tropical forestry sector restricts monitoring of corporate commitments

Press Release – Efforts to monitor and manage the impacts of the tropical forestry sector are being hindered, due to many companies failing to accurately disclose where they operate – leaving biodiverse forests at risk of unsustainable exploitation. This is just one finding of an in-depth evaluation of forestry companies, published today on 18 July 2018 by ZSL (Zoological Society of London).

In assessing 50 of the world’s most significant tropical timber and pulp producers, ZSL’s SPOTT (Sustainability Policy Transparency Toolkit) found that most are failing to publish accurate maps of their operations. With 2017 the second worst year on record for tropical tree cover loss, the forestry sector must now move to publish maps that support independent monitoring of corporate commitments targeted at addressing risks to forests.

ZSL’s SPOTT assessments cover timber and pulp producers with combined land holdings of over 350,000 square kilometres, an area the size of Germany. In the latest annual assessments, only eight companies were found to publish clear and comprehensive maps of their forestry operations, while 27 companies disclosed incomplete information. A further 15 companies do not provide any suitable maps of their operations, meaning the location of over 45,000 square kilometres – or over six million football pitches – of forestry operations remains unclear.

To increase accountability, the tropical forestry sector should freely publish digitised maps that allow the exact locations and boundaries of their operations to be identified. Certification schemes such as the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and PEFC (Programme for Endorsement of Forestry Certification) should also take steps to encourage the publication of certified companies’ mapped boundaries.

Chris Eves, ZSL Forestry Officer said: “A lack of spatial data pinpointing where forestry companies are operating makes it difficult for third parties to fully assess their impacts on the world’s remaining tropical forest. Certification schemes including the FSC and PEFC have a vital role to play in ensuring forest products are sustainably sourced. They can lead the way by making the publication of such information a requirement.”

As the only forestry sector assessment of its kind, SPOTT scores companies against over 100 environmental, social and governance (ESG) indicators that measure company transparency. Issues covered by the assessments include biodiversity conservation, greenhouse gas emissions, land conflicts, and labour rights. The 2018 results emphasise the pressing need for improved transparency across the board: on average, companies scored just 31%. Only five of the 50 companies assessed, demonstrated higher levels of transparency (scoring more than 66%).

Other key findings from the 2018 SPOTT assessments include inadequate commitments to conserve biodiversity within company concessions, putting Critically Endangered species such as the Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) and Western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) at risk. Over a third of forestry companies assessed by ZSL lack a full commitment to conserve biodiversity, whilst over half are failing to disclose whether they have set aside any of their land for the benefit of wildlife.

Robert-Alexandre Poujade, ESG Analyst at BNP Paribas Asset Management, said: “Responsible investors and banking institutions are increasingly aware of the impact that unsustainable commodity production can have on forests globally. Tools relying on satellite imagery are already proving crucial in tracking deforestation, but the loop can only be closed when companies publicly disclose the exact location of their operations.”

A summary of the latest SPOTT timber and pulp assessments can be found here: Full details of all 50 timber and pulp producers assessed on SPOTT can be found here:

This press release can also be read in French here :

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Play Labs, a Summer Accelerator at MIT, Announces 2018 Class of Playful Startups and Demo Day

2018 Class on the MIT Campus to Showcase 10 Startups Across a Mix of Esports, Blockchain, VR/AR and Ed-Tech

Press Release – Cambridge, MA – July 18, 2018 – Play Labs, a summer accelerator hosted at the MIT Game Lab, has announced its second batch of startups that have been admitted to the program. The current batch runs from June-August, and the Demo Day will be on August 14, 2018 at 6:00 pm EDT at MIT in classroom E51-115.

The Demo Day will be open to investors, members of the MIT community, and the general public. In addition to the physical event, Play Labs Demo Day will be streamed live on the web for those not in the Boston area.

Sign up to watch Demo Day in person at MIT or online at

The overall focus of the accelerator is on startups that employ “playful tech” in a variety of industries. This batch of startups was selected with a concentration on esports, gaming, blockchain and educational technology.

The first batch consists of startups spanning a wide breadth of categories, including:

  • eSports (2 startups)
  • VR/AR (2 startups)
  • Educational Technology (2 startups)
  • Blockchain (2 startups)
  • AI & Machine Vision (2 startups)
  • Voice Applications (2 startups)

“We are excited at the quality and depth of startups that we have in our summer, 2018 batch,” said Rizwan Virk, Executive Director of Play Labs @ MIT. “Being on campus at MIT gave us access to many innovative entrepreneurs and technologies, and while we had many applicants, the startups we selected in this class represent the best applications of playful technology. I’m personally inspired to help the next group of MIT startups go on to great success.”

Scot Osterweil, Managing Director for Ludus, the MIT Center for Games, Learning, and Playful Media, said: “MIT students thrive on innovation and creative exploration. We are pleased that through Play Labs we will help them move their most imaginative ideas into the realm of the possible.”

The following is a list of the startups in the 2018 batch (in alphabetical order):

  • BitMovio is a blockchain enabled video entertainment marketplace, connecting forward-thinking content creators with passionate consumers. (
  • BlocksCAD 3D modeling software fills a critical need for teachers in elementary and middle schools seeking ways to leverage engaging 3D printers with teaching math and coding fundamentals. (
  • BUTTON WALLET is developing a multi-crypto-currency wallet called BUTTON and crypto exchange which works inside Telegram (the key messaging platform in the crypto/blockchain industry). ( )
  • InTheGame creates apps gamifying the viewing experience of esports and live broadcasts, powered by our computer vision & ai technology. (
  • LUI – LUI is a new Human-Computer Interface for interactive media on large screens and AR/VR platforms. It utilizes voice and gestures to naturally control UI elements such as Maps, Photos and Youtube using interfaces like those featured in Minority Report and Iron Man. (
  • PlaySpark is creating the next generation of social gaming in Augmented Reality. (
  • Realism is a 3-d science simulation platform that teaches secondary school science concepts through real world labs and engages students through gamification. (
  • SitNPlay Games is an E-Sports platform that connects players all around the globe providing ad-hoc competitions for real prizes that can be cashed out by the users trough PayPal, Bitcoin, Rixty Credits or even Steam Gift Cards. (
  • Toucan AI is the only platform that allows you to create conversational AI characters with their own memories and personalities. (
  • Whetstone Technologies is a software company building a platform to enable easy creation of voice applications for Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home and other voice technologies with a specific focus on the healthcare vertical (

To learn more about these startups, to attend Demo Day or view it online, visit .

About Play Labs

Play Labs ( is an incubator/accelerator at MIT which invests and mentors startups that are utilizing playful technology in a variety of industries. This includes VR/AR, esports, 3D modeling, streaming, gamification, artificial intelligence, and blockchain.

Play Labs is run by Bayview Labs (, and its executive director, Rizwan Virk, an MIT alumnus (MIT ‘92 BS Computer Science & Engineering), and a prolific Silicon Valley angel investor, advisor and mentor, in conjunction with the Seraph Group (, a seed stage venture capital investment firm founded by Tuff Yen.

About Ludus, The MIT Center For Games, Learning, and Playful Media

Ludus, the MIT Center for Games, Learning, and Playful Media, coordinates the efforts of MIT labs and research groups exploring games and play with a community of member practitioners. Research groups include the MIT Game Lab (; The Education Arcade (; the Imagination, Computation, and Expression Laboratory (; the Trope Tank (; the Creative Communities Initiative (; and the Open Documentary Lab (

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N/Core Announces Three-Year Partnership With Mphasis To Incubate Nonprofit Startups

~ Investment of over INR 4.5Cr over three years | ten incubatees selected for second open cohort

Press Release – July 17, 2018, Bangalore: N/Core, an incubator exclusively for nonprofit startups, today announced its three-year partnership with Mphasis, a leading IT services and solutions provider specializing in cloud and cognitive services, to incubate nonprofit startups in India. With this partnership, Mphasis will invest over INR 4.5Cr to incubate upto 26 nonprofit startups over the three-year period. N/Core also announced the ten nonprofit startups that they have selected for six-month incubation in their second batch of Open Cohort. This cohort is supported by Mphasis, Omidyar Network and DE Shaw & Co.

Announcing the partnership, Meenu Bhambhani, Vice-President and Head – Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Mphasis said – “When talent meets funding, amazing things happen. The technology sector has benefited immensely by investing in top talent to drive innovation. At Mphasis, we believe that this way of thinking should apply to CSR too. This collaboration with N/Core helps us to make a meaningful difference in solving challenging problems in the social sector.”

The organisations selected for N/Core’s 2nd Open Cohort were picked from a pool of 1177 applications at a 0.8% selection rate. The applicants include graduates from top educational institutions and 60% of the organizations selected for incubation have women co-founders.

One of the selected nonprofits, BillionBricks who builds “PowerHYDE”, is the world’s first solar home for the homeless which finances itself by the energy it produces and sells. Anthill Creations, who won Social Business Champ award 2018 from Yunus Social Business, mobilizes communities to create low-cost and sustainable playscapes for children from scrap tyres and recycled material. Another nonprofit, Mijini Research, is building an Urban Financial Intelligence Platform (UFIP) – a cloud based reporting, analytics and scenario planning tool to assess financial performance of Urban Local Bodies.

Talking about the partnership with Mphasis, N/Core CEO Sudha Srinivasan said, “Mphasis CSR is known to make bold bets in their grantmaking. This partnership with N/Core is an emphatic vote of their faith in nonprofit entrepreneurship as a means to nurture innovation in the development sector. We are excited to make the most of this support and accelerate our cohort’s journey towards meaningful impact.”

Each select nonprofit will receive an innovation grant of INR 10 lakhs. These nonprofits will work closely with dedicated mentors, namely: Sanjay Purohit, ex-Chairman of Infosys Consulting; K R Lakshminarayana (Lan), Chief Endowment Officer of Azim Premji Foundation, and Ujwal Thakar, ex CEO of Pratham and GiveIndia. Ms. Kamakshi Rao,Senior Investment Director at Capital Advisors and Dr. Madhav Chavan, Founder of Pratham have also joined as mentors. N/Core mentors invest their time and expertise to provide in-depth support to the startups throughout the six months of incubation, and beyond.

N/Core, started in January 2017, has already incubated nine startups and 18 more are now undergoing incubation, including this new cohort.

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Kenya’s First National Crop Monitor Set to Strengthen Food Security

Press release / 2 July 2018 / Group on Earth Observations : Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, Livestock and Fisheries has issued the country’s first national crop monitor, with support from NASA SERVIR, Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD), and the Group on Earth Observations Global Agricultural Monitoring Initiative (GEOGLAM). Information on crop conditions from across Kenya was made publically available in the first edition of the crop monitor in May 2018.

Proven value

Crop failure can be devastating for farmers and for food security, but national-level crop monitoring enables countries to better predict and prepare for fluctuations in agricultural production, in order to mitigate loss and damage.

Drought in particular is an issue that has impacted food security in Kenya in recent years. The Kenyan Crop Monitor will provide early warning of crop failure related to drought and other risks, giving the government time to take preemptive action to protect livelihoods and ensure food security during food crises.

The value of GEOGLAM crop monitors has already been demonstrated elsewhere in Africa. In 2017 a crop monitor alerted Ugandan authorities to a coming crop failure due to drought. This early warning triggered the country’s Disaster Risk Financing fund, which provided US$4 million to support 31,386 households (roughly 150,000 people) during the crisis.

Global support for national agricultural monitoring

In order to strengthen national capacity to prevent food insecurity and food price volatility, GEOGLAM has supported the development of national crop monitors in Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and Vietnam. The goal is to help as many countries as possible.

GEOGLAM provides national partners with the methods and tools to develop and manage national crop monitors, and then transitions the tools to be managed nationally. The information produced by the governments then informs global assessments for food security and markets.


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Mastering the Art of Negotiation, Seven Guides for Creating your Journey

“Illustrated with beautiful and compelling visuals, Geurt Jan de Heus has created an insightful and practical guide for negotiating win-win solutions. Very useful indeed!”

                    – William Ury (Co-author, Getting to Yes and author, Getting to Yes with Yourself)

Press Release – You are negotiating every day, whether it’s with business partners, colleagues, in the community or at home. The challenge isn’t to get as much for yourself as you can at the other’s expense. It’s in the art of searching together for possibilities that serve as many interests as possible. The premise of this book is that it’s both possible and necessary to create value together, distribute the consequences fairly, while strengthening the relationship. In times where ‘win as much as you can’ is on the rise worldwide, this is a refreshing alternative. Creating a journey together towards #winwinwin partnerships is essential!

Mastering the Art of Negotiation goes beyond deal-making situations. It covers decision-making, solving problems together, leading and cooperating, creating partnerships, handling difficult situations, and managing the games people play.

The book gives seven practical guides that help you prepare and manage negotiations at moments when the complexity and uncertainty increase. These guides create a comprehensive framework for your ongoing learning and development as a negotiator.

About the author:

Geurt Jan de Heus is a medical doctor by training. After several years in management positions in the pharmaceutical industry, he changed his life and career to join RoutsLaeven. This small agency in the Netherlands, founded 30 years ago, specialises in negotiation training, coaching and consulting. Geurt Jan is passionate about making the world a better place through more ‘constructive dialogues’. These dialogues are grounded in an open and exploratory mindset, with respect for others and yourself, aiming for fair distribution and fair processes.

Helping others to live out these principles with confidence and agility even when confronted with the oppositional win-as-much as- you-can style is an important part of his mission. His 20-plus years of experience mean that he is frequently asked to act as an advisor during difficult negotiation processes involving the public sector, larger corporations and family businesses.

ISBN: 978 90 6369 431 9
Author: Geurt Jan de Heus
Format: Paperback with flaps
Dimensions: 19 x 24 cm
Pages: 240


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