Guns and poses – With America on its way out, the Taliban seem more interested in fighting than peace talks | Asia

TO REACH THE front line in Afghanistan’s civil war, you do not need to go far from the capital, Kabul. At a police outpost in Wardak province, about 20km outside the city on the main highway leading south, the Taliban’s encroachment is evident. The outpost is little more than a ring of concrete blast walls perched on a hill overlooking the road. Around a dozen men, dressed mostly not in fatigues but in shalwar kameez and trainers, stand around. Some hold their guns; most do not. A few look like teenagers. Seated by a small vegetable patch, the 25-year-old in charge, Omedullah Khanjar, who commands six outposts along the highway, explains the situation. During the days, things are mostly quiet, he says. But at night the local Taliban shoot at the soldiers from a ridge a few hundred metres away. Unlike the cops, they have night-vision goggles and laser sights.

Not everything goes the insurgents’ way, says Mr Khanjar. Recently they tried to blow up another outpost along the road, but the police got wind of the plan in advance. They retreated and then ambushed the fighters. On his phone, Mr Khanjar shows your correspondent a picture of the unexploded bomb and the phone the Taliban would have used to detonate it. But such victories are rare. The local Taliban live in the villages nearby, which they run as fiefs, unmolested by the troops. Mr Khanjar complains that the locals protect them, but he says he understands why. “There is so much unemployment,” he says. “The government here provides no opportunities.” The Taliban do provide some. As well as jobs shooting at government outposts, by night they also operate checkpoints on the road to extort tolls from passing motorists.

In September negotiations started in Doha, the capital of Qatar, between the Taliban’s political leadership, envoys from the Afghan government and leaders of civil society. The talks have been years in the making. They followed the conclusion in February of an agreement between the United States and the Taliban, under which America was to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan provided the Taliban cut all ties with international terrorists and started a sincere dialogue with the government on a ceasefire and a political settlement. The Afghan government did its part by releasing 5,000 Taliban prisoners. The sight of bearded, turbaned insurgents, most of whom only a few years ago would never have shown their faces in front of a camera, at a negotiating table, brings hope that over 40 years of conflict may come to an end.

But progress has been slow. The two sides are still arguing over the agenda and format of the talks. Big questions, such as what form of government Afghanistan should have, have not yet been broached.

Over the past year the number of American soldiers has duly fallen by more than half, from over 9,000 to around 4,500 now. Although the agreement foresaw a complete withdrawal only by June of next year, and only if the Taliban kept its side of the bargain, President Donald Trump is in a hurry. In October he said he wanted all American troops “home by Christmas”. Now the Pentagon has announced plans to reduce the American force to 2,500 by the end of Mr Trump’s term, in mid-January, over the objections of NATO. Air strikes, which in 2019 reached the highest level in the two decades of the American intervention, have since been limited.

Yet instead of stepping back to foster dialogue, the Taliban have seized the opportunity to strengthen their position militarily. On October 26th the United Nations announced that civilian casualties have not fallen since the start of talks. In some parts of the country violence has escalated. In recent weeks the Taliban have launched attacks to try to take control of districts such as Panjwai, near the city of Kandahar. On October 12th insurgents attacked Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, the first big assault on a city in over a year. The Afghan army retreated en masse, and the Taliban were eventually beaten back only by American air strikes—the first in months. Several hundred Afghan soldiers have died just in the past month (and probably a similar number of Taliban). The Taliban have also increased attempts to assassinate government officials, many of them successful.

The sense of siege comes from more than the violence. The Taliban first took power in the 1990s, when Kandahari merchants paid them to provide security on the roads, for which they charged less than the warlords of the day. They seem to be applying that method again. At the edge of Kabul, the boss of a company which imports cooking gas says the security of his tankers has actually improved over the past year, because the Taliban control more roads. They charge 35,000 afghanis ($455) for every lorry travelling from Herat, on the Iranian border, to Kabul. “In the past there were no Taliban taxes,” he says. “But they used to shoot us with RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades]. So we are happy with the taxes.”

In Taliban-held territory there is a shadow government. Per Muhammad, a 38-year-old farmer who lives in Zabul province, in the south-east, says that in his village of 134 families each pays a flat tax of 2,500 Pakistani rupees ($15) to the Taliban annually, as well as zakat, which is proportional to wealth. In exchange, they get access to the Taliban’s brutal but efficient justice. If a dispute arises, the local Taliban leader solves it. Big disputes—over land, say—go to the Taliban’s district chief. He does not have an office, says Mr Muhammad, but he can be reached easily by phone. “He is always with five mullahs and some armed Taliban.” They hear both sides’ claims and make a decision immediately. “Nobody can reject a ruling,” he says, because it is enforced by armed men.

In Taliban-held territory, government-funded schools and clinics often continue to operate, says Ashley Jackson, a researcher at the Overseas Development Institute, a British think-tank, especially if local residents are keen on it. In some areas the Taliban insist that teachers, who are paid by the government, actually turn up to work. Some NGOs operate in Taliban territory quite happily, working with “NGO co-ordinators” appointed by the local commander. “It is the government we are afraid of,” says one employee of an aid agency. “With the Taliban, we can co-ordinate.”

This ambiguous arrangement means that children can still get an education and the sick can receive health care in areas occupied by the Taliban. But it also helps to legitimise the insurgents, who take the credit for providing services paid for by foreign donors. On October 14th Britain’s Foreign and Development Office had to remind NGOs not to pay taxes to the Taliban.

What might happen next? Afghan government officials say that the Taliban think they have defeated America and see the talks in Doha as the negotiation of the government’s surrender. Yet outright military victory is unlikely. The Afghan army is demoralised but not yet defeated. It has a new air force of its own. Trying to conquer big cities would be risky for the Taliban. Indeed, it could well bring America back into the war. The attack on Lashkar Gah, many in Kabul suspect, was not approved by the Taliban’s political leadership in Doha.

Yet the longer talks go on, the weaker the Afghan government gets. Attrition—from deaths, injuries and desertion—is sapping the army. In August Ashraf Ghani, the president, revealed that over the preceding six months over 12,000 soldiers, police and civilians had been killed by the Taliban. The government does not report casualty figures, but American estimates published last month showed they increased by 5% this year in the quarter to August compared with a year earlier. And the siege is only accentuating political divisions within the Afghan state, says Timor Sharan, who served as deputy local-government minister until last year.

That heightens the likelihood that the talks in Doha will produce a deal that favours the Taliban, especially if America’s withdrawal is as precipitous as Mr Trump would like. With their shadow government and growing assertiveness, the Taliban act as, and would like to be seen as, a government in waiting. In Doha they style themselves the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”, as they did when in power in the 1990s.

In urban Afghanistan, their return would be fiercely unpopular. Najia Sadat, a doctor who works at a government clinic in Herat, a thriving city near the Iranian border, says she is deeply concerned that the Taliban might return. She remembers their rule: “We were not allowed to go out of the home.” Their fall made her training and career possible. The clinic where she works is supported by foreign donors, including USAID and International Rescue, a charity. If the Taliban came back, all that could disappear. But it seems increasingly likely.

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Mass testing blitz in Melbourne suburbs; NSW ‘poses greater risk’ as Victoria reopens; Pfizer vaccine ‘more than 90 per cent effective’

Utah joins more than 30 other states that have implemented statewide mask orders since the pandemic began.

Governor Gary Herbert gives a thumbs up as he walks to a COVID-19 briefing Monday (US time).Credit:AP

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts announced new restrictions Monday (US time) requiring masks in certain circumstances to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but he continued to reject the idea of a statewide mask mandate.

Under the new restrictions that take effect on Wednesday, masks will be required at businesses where employees have close contact with customers for more than 15 minutes, such as salons and massage parlours. At bars, masks will be required when people aren’t drinking or eating.

“I think mask mandates just breed resistance from people,” Ricketts said. “I think what we have to do is continue to educate people about when you use a mask.”

Meanwhile, in the country’s east, more than 700 people in Maryland were hospitalised with the coronavirus as of Monday morning (US time) – the highest since mid-June.

Of the 707 people in the hospital, the state reported 168 were in intensive care.

The US has confirmed more than 10 million coronavirus cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, as infections continue to rise in nearly every state. The US hit the milestone on Monday.

New daily confirmed cases are up more than 60 per cent over the past two weeks, to an average of nearly 109,000 a day. Average daily cases are on the rise in 48 states.

The US accounts for about one-fifth of the world’s 50 million confirmed cases.

Coronavirus deaths are up 18 per cent over the past two weeks in the country, averaging 939 every day. The virus has now killed more than 237,000 Americans.


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Russia Poses Greater Election Threat Than Iran, Many U.S. Officials Say

Officials say Russia’s ability to change vote tallies nationwide would be difficult, given how disparate American elections are. The graver concern is the potential effect of any attack on a few key precincts in battleground states.

Russian hackers recently obtained access “in a couple limited cases, to election jurisdiction, an election-related network,” Christopher C. Krebs, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said on Thursday. But he was careful to note that the breaches had “nothing to do with the casting and counting” of votes.

The hackers, believed to be operating at the behest of Russia’s Federal Security Service, the F.S.B. — the successor agency to the Soviet-era K.G.B. — infiltrated dozens of state and local computer networks in recent weeks, according to officials and researchers. But Mr. Krebs said the attacks appeared to be “opportunistic” in nature, a scattershot break-in of vulnerable systems rather than an attempt to zero in on key battleground states.

But officials were alarmed by the combination of the targets, the timing — the attacks began less than two months ago — and the adversary, which is known for burrowing inside the supply chain of critical infrastructure that Russia may want to take down in the future.

The officials fear that Russia could change, delete or freeze voter registration or pollbook data, making it harder for voters to cast ballots, invalidating mail-in ballots or creating enough uncertainty to undermine results.

“It’s reasonable to assume any attempt at the election systems could be for the same purpose,” said John Hultquist, the director of threat analysis at FireEye, a security firm that has been tracking the Russian group’s foray into state and local systems. “This could be the reconnaissance for disruptive activity.”

Mr. Krebs said so far Russia was not as active as Iran, and its targeting was imprecise. “They’re broadly looking to scan for vulnerabilities, and they’re working opportunistically,” he said.

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COVID-19 Poses Added Risk for People With Addiction Disorders: Study

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FRIDAY, Sept. 18, 2020 (HealthDay News)

People with addiction disorders are at greater risk for COVID-19 and more likely to become seriously ill if infected, a new study finds.

The researchers analyzed non-identifiable electronic health records of more than 73 million patients in the United States. People with addiction disorders accounted for just over 10% of those in the study, and nearly 16% of COVID-19 cases.

People with a recent addiction disorder diagnosis were more likely than others to develop COVID-19, and the connection was strongest among those with opioid and tobacco use disorders, the findings showed.

The study also found that people with an addiction disorder were more likely to be hospitalized with or die from COVID-19.

Study co-author Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, said people with addiction disorders often have compromised lungs and cardiovascular systems, which may contribute to their heightened susceptibility for COVID-19.

“Another contributing factor is the marginalization of people with addiction, which makes it harder for them to access health care services,” she said in a news release from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Black people with a recent opioid use disorder diagnosis had more than four times the risk of COVID-19 than white people, the study found. High blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease — all risk factors for COVID-19 — were more common among Black patients than whites with opioid use disorder.

The NIH-funded study was published Sept. 14 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. The authors suggested that health care providers closely monitor patients with addiction disorders and take steps to protect them from coronavirus infection and severe outcomes.

“It is incumbent upon clinicians to meet the unique challenges of caring for this vulnerable population, just as they would any other high-risk group,” Volkow said in the news release.

— Robert Preidt

Copyright © 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.


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SOURCE: U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, news release, Sept. 14, 2020

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Swimmer Elena Krawzow poses topless, Paralympian

Swimmer Elena Krawzow has become the first Paralympian to star on a Playboy cover.

Krawzow — who has only three per cent vision — posed topless for the German version of the famous magazine.

The 26-year-old pouted at the camera and held her hair in her hands as she stripped down for the photo shoot.

She said afterwards: “I couldn’t turn down this opportunity.

“The two days of shooting that I had were great. I’ve always wanted to experience a day as a professional model and I did that. I had a lot of fun.

“After it became known that I was on the Playboy cover, there was, of course, a lot of excitement.

“Some were very shocked but I have to say that I have been pleasantly surprised by all the great feedback and many compliments.”

The Kazakhstan-born athlete, who has Russian roots, was diagnosed with Sargardt disease — a genetic eye disorder — aged seven and has continued to progressively lose her sight ever since.

Krawzow moved to Germany aged 12 with her family and took up swimming as a 16-year-old in 2009, having been invited to join a training session at a club in Nuremberg.

Krawzow specialises in breaststroke as well as freestyle and three years after taking up the sport, she medalled at the 2012 London Games.

The five-time European gold medallist won silver in the 100m breaststroke and qualified for the Rio Olympics four years later, but missed out on a podium finish in Brazil.

The visually impaired star hopes to compete at the delayed Tokyo Games, which have been pushed back to 2021 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But she took time out of training to shoot for Playboy and attended an after-party event at the publication’s headquarters in Munich.

Krawzow said: “I got to know a lot of new people and also the Playmates from previous years. We got on well and had a great evening.

“I have really been very busy organising interviews and filming in the swimming pool and at home.”

This story originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission

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Uneven rebound poses risk for entire economy, Bank of Canada governor says

The governor of the Bank of Canada warns the slower rebound facing women, youth and low-wage workers could pose a threat to a broader economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Tiff Macklem says uneven recessions that affect some workers and sectors more than others tend to be longer and leave a larger mark on the labour market. 

He notes in a speech to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce that women and young people are more likely now to be permanently laid off from their jobs due to the pandemic. 

People permanently laid off take on average twice as long to return to work as people on temporary layoff, Macklem says, risking long-term damage to their jobs prospects and a lasting drag on earnings specifically for youth. 

Macklem says the central bank is doing everything it can to support growth and get people back to work. 

He adds that getting people back to work is the best way to improve economic outcomes over time, noting that uneven outcomes for some can lead to poorer outcomes for all. 

“Striving for equality of opportunity is simply the right thing to do. It’s also good for growth. The loss of jobs for women, youth and low-wage workers is a problem for us all,” reads the text of his speech, provided in advance to journalists. 

“If these workers become discouraged and leave the labour force or lose valuable skills over time, their reduced economic participation will lower our potential growth, limiting living standards for everyone.” 

Monetary stimulus

The noon-hour speech put more details in the thought process that went into the statement from the bank’s governing council on Wednesday that kept its policy interest rate at 0.25 per cent. 

The rate won’t move from near-zero until a recovery is well underway, and inflation sustainably back at the bank’s two-per-cent target. Although Macklem didn’t put a timeline on that in his speech, experts suggest the rate could stay where it is until late 2022 or even into 2023. 

He also says that the bank’s bond-buying spree, known as quantitative easing, will be adjusted as required to deliver some monetary stimulus as the economy requires.

Macklem says the bank is watching how the unconventional policy tool affects wealth inequality. 

Low price of oil

Low-wage earners and women were among the hardest hit when lockdowns in March and April led to three million job losses, and cut hours for 2.5 million more. 

The unemployment rate rocketed to a historic high from a four-decade low. 

The country has gained back nearly two million of the jobs lost, but the pace of gains for women, youth, Indigenous people as well as workers from diverse communities have not seen as sharp a rebound.

A global drop in oil prices will continue to hurt the resource sector, Macklem says, which had been an important source of employment in many regions of the country and contributed to boosts in incomes. 

“We know that monetary policy is a broad macroeconomic instrument that cannot target specific sectors or workers. But growth and how it is shared are not independent,” Macklem says in the speech. 

“The stronger and more durable the recovery, the more opportunity there is for everyone. And the more opportunity there is for everyone, the stronger the recovery, and the more durable is growth.”

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Canberra’s healthcare system is under strain and it poses an enormous challenge to whoever wins the ACT election


September 06, 2020 09:04:40

Five-year-old William McLennan is well-acquainted with the treatment handed out in the children’s ward at the Canberra Hospital.

William has spinal muscular atrophy, a condition estimated to affect about one in 10,000 children.

And, after falling out of his wheelchair earlier this year, William spent 10 weeks in the Canberra Hospital with a broken leg.

His mum, Naomi Taylor, said from the minute William was admitted, to the time when the family left, the staff at the hospital were brilliant.

“To be honest, I can’t really fault them at all,” she said.

“They were fantastic.

“They work extremely hard, and I think we’re blessed to have a good team of nurses and doctors.”

Naomi’s sentiments are echoed by many, particularly within Canberra’s community of children with high-needs, who regularly interact with the hospital.

Patients often praise the hard work of doctors, nurses and specialists — caring for them in moments of incredible grief and joy.

But, early in William’s stay, one of the hospital’s shortcomings became clear.

Staff doing what they can, with what they’ve got

There were concerns William’s condition may worsen, and he would need to be transferred to intensive care.

The ACT has no public, paediatric intensive care beds — and William would have been flown to Sydney.

Naomi said at times like those, the lack of paediatric-specialist services was worrying.

“They had to get one of the doctors from the adult hospital to come down and do the surgery and everything,” she said.

“So there is a need for more paediatric specialists.”

Data tells a difficult story

Canberra’s population has grown rapidly over the past decade, and the demands placed on the city’s hospitals have grown too.

Demand for ACT public hospital care soared more than 50 per cent in the six years to 2020, before dropping off significantly during the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic also relieved the mounting pressure on the city’s emergency departments.

In early 2020, less than a third of patients considered “urgent” were being seen on time, but that figure improved as the number of patients presenting fell rapidly.

While the pandemic also blew out elective surgery waiting lists, they were already significant.

Just before the COVID-19 health crisis hit, 889 people were overdue for surgery. Less than four years ago, that figure was 157.

‘Chronic underfunding’ at the core

Many doctors suggest those figures are simply symptoms of larger, structural problems.

That includes the age of Canberra Hospital — the original Woden Valley Hospital was opened in 1973, and took on a range of primary services when Royal Canberra Hospital was closed in the 1990s.

But for Antonio Di Dio, the current president of the ACT branch of the Australian Medical Association, the primary issue is money.

“It is not unreasonable to describe a great deal of the problems in ACT Health as coming from chronic underfunding,” Dr Di Dio said.

And, he argues, demand has far outgrown capacity.

“The number of operating theatres has not changed significantly, and the number of hospital beds is almost completely unchanged, in the last decade,” he said.

“That is putting an enormous strain on the system.”

Both major parties recognise the strain and, no matter who wins government in the ACT on October 17, there are policies to address the state of the city’s healthcare system.

In particular the ACT Government wants to begin construction on a $500m expansion of the Canberra Hospital next year.

The expansion would add 148 inpatient beds, 39 emergency beds, and double the intensive care capacity from 30 beds to 60.

It would also add four paediatric intensive care beds, for the first time.

Dr Di Dio said after years of discussing an expansion, the work would be very welcome.

“I think that plan can be described as a very good start, but it’s not going to solve all of the challenges,” he said.

Both major parties have committed to expanding the hospital, and health experts are hoping the current plans stick.

Healthcare isn’t all hospitals

But an expansion to the hospital will not solve all of Canberra’s medical woes — it certainly will not help people like Donna Trucillo, who is tired of driving the Hume Highway.

Donna has spent years trying to manage her serious reflux, but while the issue is extremely common, she often finds she cannot get the treatment she needs in Canberra.

“I’ve seen a number of gastroenterologists here in Canberra, but, unfortunately, what I need in terms of treatment and investigation means I have to travel to Sydney,” she said.

While Canberra boasts a top-tier medical school and a wide array of specialists, complaints of having to seek treatment in Sydney and Melbourne are common.

Donna spent much of her life in Sydney, and was surprised at the challenges she found seeking care in Canberra.

“I often think that it’s amazing that I live in Australia’s capital city, and it’s difficult for me to find specialists and therapists,” she said.

But she recognises the problems with Canberra’s healthcare system are complex, and various governments have dedicated significant time and money to fixing them.

Emergency departments have been expanded, and nurse-led walk-in centres have opened to relieve pressure.

Early works for the $500m Canberra Hospital expansion have already been completed, and contracts are all but signed with the builder.

Now, with both major parties promising change over the next four years, patients like Donna and William hope it might just come.

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September 06, 2020 08:28:50

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Working from home poses serious dangers for employers and employees alike

A few years ago, when I, as an outside consultant, was leading a time management workshop at an all-virtual company’s in-person annual retreat, I noticed something: these people were working a lot. Time logs chronicled late night email sessions. One employee—who’d mentioned wanting more time to play with her dog—had hired a dog walker because, despite working from home, she didn’t think she could take a break to go outside with her pet. As I began doing workshops with more all-virtual companies, I noticed this same phenomenon. Many remote workers had no boundaries protecting non-working time. Needless to say, their stress levels reflected this.

I was thinking of that forlorn dog owner as the COVID-19 pandemic forced whole organizations to go virtual overnight in March. Remote work has grown rapidly—up 159% in the last 12 years, per an early 2020, pre-lockdown report from FlexJobs—but there’s long been resistance to it. Push managers for an explanation and you’ll eventually get some version of this: How do I know people won’t watch Netflix all day?

But Netflix isn’t the real danger. The real danger is that without a physical separation between work and the rest of life, people won’t ever stop working—risking burnout, which has huge costs for employees and their organizations. Wise managers address this, rather than worrying that people will slack the second they aren’t being watched. 

It’s hard to quantify this fear of slacking, but consider this: One Gallup poll in mid-March found that only 31% of U.S. workers had ever worked remotely, despite a majority of workers saying in various polls that they would like to do so occasionally. By the beginning of April, the proportion of workers who’d ever worked from home had risen to 62%. Clearly, many more jobs could be done from home than were. 

This fear of slacking is also reflected in which work-from-home requests are granted. I’ve studied thousands of time logs over the years for my books and time diary projects, and I found that, pre-COVID, Friday was by far the most common work from home day. When people ask to work from home one day a week, Friday is generally the day managers agree to. One survey from Accountemps found that Friday is seen by HR managers as one of the least productive days of the week. I don’t think this isn’t a coincidence. If we assume that people who are working from home aren’t really working, best to minimize the opportunity cost. 

I wish the pandemic had removed this fear, but even after COVID sent everyone home, I began hearing from listeners to my podcast (which is about working from home) that a number of teams began doing daily check-ins at 9:00 a.m., making sure everyone was at their desks.

Employees are aware of this suspicion. And so there is a tendency to leave Slack open all day, respond to emails instantly, and skip breaks, lest anyone think silence implies the binge watching of Stranger Things. With no commute, people don’t know when to declare the day done, and so they half work into the night. Long hours with no breaks are pretty closely linked to burnout. One poll finds that burned out employees are 2.6 times as likely to be actively seeking a different job, and 63% are more likely to take a sick day.

But this lack of boundaries isn’t inevitable. When I was reviewing time logs from employees at all-virtual companies as a time management consultant, I noticed that people with children or other caregiving responsibilities were far better at creating a stopping point, which makes sense. Someone has to send a sitter home or pick up the kids from day care. 

Wise managers can encourage people without kids to come up with other personal commitments that end the work day. Years ago, when I realized that I was half working and half surfing the web until 10 p.m. every night, I joined three community choirs. On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, I had to stop work around 6 p.m. to go to rehearsals. I became much more efficient—and happier. 

Of course, choirs might be out these days, but here’s an idea. Any organization that institutes a 9:00 a.m. virtual check-in needs to also have a 4:45 p.m. virtual goodbye ceremony. This gives people a stopping point so they live to march again the next day—and maybe spend some time with their dogs too.  

Laura Vanderkam is author of The New Corner Office: How the Most Successful People Work From Home, which publishes on July 21, as well as Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done and Juliet’s School of Possibilities. She speaks about time management and productivity for organizations across the U.S. and Canada. 

More opinion in Fortune:

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Disney World ‘bubble’ poses awkward sex question

There are all sorts of frustrations that are expected to come with the NBA’s “bubble” plan for the season restart in Orlando, Florida at the end of this month.

The league shut down in early March after Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 but the competition will resume with 22 teams playing games without spectators in a quarantine bubble located at Walt Disney World.

American sportscaster Stephen A. Smith argued on ESPN’s First Take Tuesday that NBA players might not be able to last three weeks — let alone three months — without being able to have sex.

“Do we really think the ‘recreational activities’ that these guys are accustomed to are going to be compromised for three months?” Smith asked. “I mean, somebody’s gotta say it.

“You really, really think somebody’s gonna be without their wives or their woman? The guys that are married without their wives, the guys that ain’t married without their woman.

“You really, really think they’re honouring a bubble for three months?”

Under the NBA’s safety protocol, players aren’t allowed to bring a plus-one until after the first round of games in order to keep risks of a coronavirus outbreak to a minimum.

Family members who are permitted after the first round will have to quarantine for three days in another part of Orlando before they can enter the NBA’s Walt Disney World bubble, per the New York Times.

Players are not prevented from leaving the campus, but they would have to quarantine upon returning, so it is not expected that they will do so.

The NBA’s 113-page health and safety protocol guidelines say families can do the three-day quarantine in their home state, but it must be overseen by the team and all immediate family members must be tested for COVID-19.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said plentiful testing and contact tracing within the bubble should help the NBA contain positive tests within an isolated campus even as COVID-19 cases spike in Florida.

“If cases are isolated, that’s one thing,” Silver said. “But if we had a lot of cases, we’re going to stop.

“We are left with no choice but to learn to live with this virus. No options are risk-free right now.

“We’re looking to find the right balance between health and safety on one hand and economic necessity on the other.

“And what we think is we’ve found what makes sense for the NBA and that is a safe and responsible way to play.

“Our best understanding of this virus is that it’s not going away anytime soon so we feel we have to find a way to move forward and this is our way.”

The 2019-20 season is slated to resume on July 30, with the finals going no later than October 13.

This article first appeared on the New York Post and was reproduced with permission

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