Bananas at Risk

One of the most important crops on Earth, bananas, are at risk. They are a top source of food and money for millions of people. But all around the world, banana plants are dying. They’re being attacked by a form of Panama disease called Tropical Race 4 (TR4).

For years, farmers and experts have been afraid that TR4 would hit Latin America and the Caribbean, where about 85% of bananas exported worldwide are grown. On August 8, 2019, those fears came true. Cases of TR4 were confirmed at six banana farms in Colombia. The country declared a national emergency. “In Colombia, [TR4] is incredibly difficult to control,” scientist James Dale said. “Everybody is absolutely petrified about what’s going to happen.”

TR4 is a fungus that lives in soil. It infects banana plants through the roots. It moves into the stems. There, it stops water and nutrients from entering the plant’s leaves. The plant turns yellow. Then it dries up and dies. TR4 spreads easily, from plant to plant and farm to farm. “No country is immune to the disease,” says Fazil Dusunceli of the Food and Agriculture Organization.

Part of the problem is that 99% of exported bananas are of the same type: Cavendish. This lack of variety is not good for nature. Why? All Cavendish bananas are very similar. So when a disease like TR4 strikes, they are all equally at risk. “Eating Cavendish (bananas) is making the situation worse,” says Altus Viljoen, a professor who studies plant diseases.

People in the banana industry are coming together. They want to save the tropical fruit. James Dale, for example, is working with a team of scientists in Australia to introduce a new type of banana. It is resistant to TR4. But some people are against scientists creating new types of plants in a lab. They say people shouldn’t mess with nature.

Not everyone is worried about the fruit. “I think there’s a great future for bananas,” Andrew Biles says. He’s an adviser to Chiquita, one of the world’s biggest banana companies.

This isn’t the first time bananas have been in trouble.. Even if we find a solution to today’s banana crisis, will history repeat itself, yet again, in decades to come? “Oh, I’m certain it will,” Dale says.

Before the 1950s, nearly all the bananas sold in the U.S. were one type. Then Panama disease hit. The banana industry needed a replacement. It chose the Cavendish. This was similar to the banana popular at the time. But it was resistant to Panama disease.

In the 1990s, a new kind of Panama disease, called TR4, hit crops. This put the fruit at risk again.

Colleges Inspire Business Design

Suburban office campuses are borrowing design concepts from universities for indoor and outdoor communal spaces in hopes of appealing to more young professionals entering the workforce.

For example, in Warren, N.J., an office campus is building an indoor-outdoor, 20,000-square-foot amenities hub that mimics some universities’ student recreation centers. It features patio dining, exercise equipment and a basketball court. It serves as a place for professionals to connect and collaborate.

In Holmdel, N.J., Bell Works redesigned its office campus and took some inspiration from university libraries to cater to its younger employees who are transitioning from college life. The company created Holmdel Library with 18,000 square feet of space, offering a plethora of books for those who might miss the library setting.

Offices are also offering dining venues like you’d find at colleges. Vision Real Estate Partners in Parsippany, N.J., is opening one called Latitude to offer a variety of food options, from Chicago-style deep dish pizza to New York-based cuisine.

“The term ‘amenities’ does not do justice to what we are creating in the office campus setting,” Ross Chomik, managing partner at Vision Real Estate Partners, told

“We’re not simply putting a cafeteria or a gym in one of our buildings and expecting that to change the course of the workday for our tenants. What companies really want is a customized, hospitality-based experience – an environment that is thoughtful about how much time people actually spend at work, and what they really need from the workplace to perform at their best. That means creating spaces that cater to different work styles and infusing wellness-, food- and recreation-based services integrating with people’s daily lives.”

10 Best Places To Retire Abroad

Have you long dreamed of someday retiring to a quiet, sandy beach, or a lively city with friendly locals and deep historical roots? You can make that dream a reality – there’s a literal world of possibilities. Live your best expat life in a beautiful, affordable destination.

Retiring abroad can be a cost-effective option for your golden years, as many foreign countries have lower costs of living. It’s not as risky or unconventional as you might think. The U. S. Social Security Administration sent checks to nearly 700,000 retirees living abroad as of December 2019.

Each year International Living compiles its Annual Global Retirement Index and spotlights the best places to retire abroad based on factors such as housing, benefits and discounts, cost of living, health care, development, climate and more.

Here are the 10 best places to retire abroad in 2020, according to the latest index.

  1. Portugal – Portugal took the top spot as the best place to retire abroad thanks to its year-round pleasant weather, low cost of living and rich culture. Locals are also extremely welcoming to visitors and expats. And the gorgeous landscapes don’t hurt, either.
  2. Panama – The weather is warm and tropical in Panama, but it’s outside of the hurricane belt. The U.S. dollar is the local currency and many citizens speak English, so acclimating to your new surroundings is easier. The country’s Pensionado Program is known as one of the best retiree programs in the world, offering generous discounts to pension-holding retirees on expenses ranging from medical expenses to entertainment.
  3. Costa Rica – Costa Rica is also known as the “Switzerland of Central America” thanks to its neutrality, safety and stable banking system. The locals are warm and welcoming, living according to the Pura Vida lifestyle. There’s a rich outdoor culture with plenty of hiking, diving, fishing, yoga and other healthy activities. Plus, the country boasts a progressive government and is LGBTQ+ friendly.
  4. Mexico – Mexico stands out as a top retirement destination because of its low cost of living, national health care plan, vibrant culture and diverse landscapes. Whether you want to live along the coastline or in the midst of a bustling city, Mexico has something for virtually everyone.
  5. Colombia – As the second-most biodiverse country in the world, there’s an environment to suit just about anyone’s preference, from warm beaches to temperate mountain communities. Even big cities have a small town feel because of the friendly, welcoming locals. Cost of living varies depending on what part of the country you live in, but it’s generally quite affordable.
  6. Ecuador – Ecuador is home to all-around amazing weather, with varying climates depending on its region. The cost of living is highly affordable; local mercados sell high-quality produce at low prices, services like haircuts and pedicures cost only a few dollars and you can even hire household help for just $10 to $20 a day.
  7. Malaysia – Malaysia is home to hundreds of white, sandy beaches, as well as warm weather and plenty of outdoor actives. Living is very affordable, including health care costs. And because Malaysian law is based on the British system, you’ll find plenty of English speakers and signs.
  8. Spain – Thanks to Spain’s warm Mediterranean climate, the nation’s beach life and food options are above par. Transportation is also a breeze, with a vast rail and bus system, plus inexpensive ride-sharing options. There are plenty of expat beach communities where you can rely on English to get settled, though venturing out of these areas will require you to pick up a bit of Spanish.
  9. France – If vineyards and meadows are more your speed, consider retiring in France. Despite what you might think, the country is an affordable place to live. Home to amazing wine, cheese, freshly baked baguettes and other culinary delights, foodies will feel right at home. And with an excellent health care system, a thriving fashion scene and abundant culture, you shouldn’t ever feel isolated or bored.
  10. Vietnam – The nation ravaged by war several decades ago boasts an exceptionally low cost of living and one of the strongest economies in Asia. It’s home to both rapidly developing urban areas and ancient temples and tombs. Plus, the people are exceptionally friendly and English is widely spoken.