THE BICYCLE THIEF
FLANDERS, BELGIUIM — Cycling has become a popular cause for many politicians focused on environmental and physical health. But Belgian minister Ben Weyts found his dedication tested recently when he arrived by bike to a news conference to promote cycling — only to find his bike stolen when he left the presentation, according to Reuters. Minister of mobility for the region of Flanders, Weyts had unveiled a plan to invest €300 million (C$415 million) in cycle lanes until 2019. “We left the bike in the racks at the station and locked it,” said a spokesperson for the minister. “When we got back half an hour later, it was gone.” The minister had to call his driver to pick him up.
AUSTRALIA — Nine minutes might not sound like a lot, but when they add up to an extra 4.5 working days per year, they’re sizeable. Which is why staff at the Australian Tax Office (ATO) protested when their government asked them to finish work at 5 p.m. instead of their usual 4:51 p.m. The government was looking to get in line with other departments, and to boost productivity, according to ABC News in Australia. However, the backlash from workers was so strong, the “highly contentious” idea was dropped. “What’s inefficient and out-of-step with community expectations is the (Malcolm) Turnbull government cutting thousands of jobs from the agency that polices multinational tax avoidance and demanding the staff, who are left (to) cover for that hole while spending three years pursuing a long list of cuts to their rights, while sticking them on a wage freeze,” said Nadine Flood, national secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union.
‘HANDY’ NEW DEVICES
BELGIUM — Losing your pass card, and being barred from entry, is always a pain, so here’s a solution: Have a microchip implanted into your hand. That’s what one Belgium company is proposing for its employees, according to the Daily Mail. Marketing firm NewFusion is offering to have the tiny devices implanted between the thumb and index finger of employees’ hands, which would then provide access to the company’s IT systems and headquarters. The radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips are about the size of a grain of rice and store personal security information. Known as “biohacking,” the practice is becoming more common, as seen in 2015 when Swedish company Epicenter implanted microchips into its staff. “Today, it’s a bit messy — we need pin codes and passwords. Wouldn’t it be easy to just touch with your hand?” said Hannes Sjoblad, chief disruption officer at the Swedish biohacking group BioNyfiken: “We already interact with technology all the time.”
CATCHING MORE THAN FLYBALLS
TAMPA BAY, FLA. — Money isn’t everything. That seems to be the motivation behind Nick Franklin’s decision to drive for Uber. The Tampa Bay Rays infielder earned about US$305,000 in 2016, according to the Tampa Bay Times, but during the offseason, he made some extra cash as a driver: “I wanted to do something on the weekends because I never really do anything.” While the ballplayer did get a speeding ticket during his first trip, Franklin has since earned a driver rating of 4.9 out of five. He makes about 25 trips in his truck, and said no one has recognized him as a professional ballplayer — aside from former high school friends in his hometown. “I told them I’m just doing it for fun,’’ he said. “I ended up meeting some pretty cool people along the way.’’
SLEEPLESS IN CHINA
CHINA — It can be hard to stay alert in a meeting at the best of times, but sometimes you have to try that much harder. Six officials in China found that out recently when they were punished after dozing off in a meeting about how to motivate lazy bureaucrats, according to Reuters. Pictures of the workers went viral in the Chinese media at a time when President Xi Jinping has been trying to crack down on corruption, extravagance and dereliction of duty. The Communist Party discipline bureau said the officials have had to write self-criticisms and make public apologies.
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