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Tokyo elementary school is so EXTRA AF with Armani uniforms for students

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A public elementary school in Tokyo’s upscale shopping district of Ginza has raised parents’ eyebrows with a plan to adopt uniforms designed by Italian fashion brand Giorgio Armani for its students, media said on Thursday.

Taimei Elementary School is introducing the uniforms for incoming pupils, each costing more than 80,000 yen ($729), including optional items, or more than three times as much as current ones, the Huffington Post said.

Armani’s Japan head office, located in Ginza, is just 200 meters (219 yards) away from the grade school.

“I was surprised, and wondered why such luxury brand-designed uniforms have been picked for a public elementary school,” an unnamed mother was quoted by the Huffington Post as saying.

“I’m worried that a wrong notion that something expensive is good and something cheap is bad could be imprinted on children,” said the woman, whose child is set to start at the school in April, when a new school year begins.

In a letter to parents last November, headmaster Toshitsugu Wada said Taimei was a landmark in Ginza, and the decision to adopt the Armani-designed uniforms aimed at creating an atmosphere suitable for such a school, the Huffington Post said.

Taimei officials were not immediately available for comment, but Wada posted a statement on the school’s home page, promising to provide sufficient explanation on the plan for new uniforms.

“With humility, I take the criticism that explanation has been insufficient and not well-timed. I will go on explaining carefully to those concerned.”

(Reporting by Kiyoshi TakenakaEditing by Clarence Fernandez)

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Say hello to the iCar? Volkswagen turns to Apple for help making electric cars

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By Andreas Cremer

Volkswagen is looking at Apple products for guidance on how to style its new generation of electric cars, its top designer said, as the automaker aims to turn profits on battery-powered vehicles when they launch in 2020.

The U.S. tech giant has brought about a design aesthetic with its iPhone and iPad that set it apart from rivals such as Samsung Electronics Co Ltd; and Sony Corp and helped make it the most valuable company in the world.

For Europe’s biggest automaker, adopting simplicity as the guiding principle for future styling of electric vehicles (EVs) marks a departure from the era before its 2015 “dieselgate” emissions scandal, when vehicle design conveyed the German group’s engineering prowess and technological ambitions.

“We are currently redefining the Volkswagen values for the age of electrification,” Klaus Bischoff, head of VW brand design, said in an interview. “What’s at stake is to be as significant, purist and clear as possible and also to visualize a completely new architecture.”

With regulators slashing emissions on a fast timetable, dieselgate has also energized the costly shift to EVs that is necessary to compete in China, VW’s largest market, and to avoid future fines in Europe.

Previously a laggard on electrification, VW has pledged 34 billion euros ($42.45 billion) of investment in EVs, self-driving technology and digital mobility businesses across the group by 2022.

The core namesake brand alone will spend 6 billion euros on a new modular platform dubbed MEB designed to underpin over 20 purely battery-powered models such as the I.D. hatchback, I.D. Crozz crossover and the I.D. Buzz microbus.

Bischoff said VW will use the Geneva auto show on March 5-7 to give early guidance on what the post-I.D. generation of EVs might look like, but declined to elaborate.

Bischoff belongs to VW’s old guard, having worked a quarter of a century in VW’s design operations and the past decade as head of the core brand’s design.

He became famous through a video shot at the 2011 Frankfurt auto show that has since drawn over 2 million hits on YouTube.

It showed Bischoff being yelled at by former CEO Martin Winterkorn, who was inspecting a model by South Korean rival Hyundai and had discovered something that had displeased him.

“In the past everything was very centralized, very narrow boundaries were set on the road of success,” Bischoff said. “Today is the most exciting time of my career because I’m allowed to do things that didn’t use to exist that way.”

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‘People would die for Olympic medal, I nearly did’

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Canada’s Mark McMorris described his comeback from life-threatening injuries to the podium at the Pyeongchang Olympics as a “miracle” and said inspiring others with his story was worth more than the slopestyle bronze he won on Sunday.

Snowboarding near his home in British Columbia with his brother Craig in March, McMorris caught an edge as he took off for a jump and spiraled into a tree.

Feb 11, 2018; Pyeongchang, South Korea; Mark Mcmorris (CAN) competes in the snowboard slopestyle during the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Phoenix Snow Park. Mandatory Credit: Guy Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

He broke his jaw and left arm, ruptured his spleen, suffered a pelvic fracture, rib fractures and a collapsed lung.

“People would die for a medal at the Olympics and I nearly did,” he said on Monday, a day after his medal-winning run at the Phoenix Snow Park.

“It’s definitely a miracle and I’m really thankful… to be able to motivate and inspire others – that’s bigger than any medal, right?”

Feb 11, 2018; Pyeongchang, South Korea; Mark Mcmorris (CAN) reacts after his run in the snowboard slopestyle during the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Phoenix Snow Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 11, 2018; Pyeongchang, South Korea; Silver medalist Max Parrot (CAN), left, gold medalist Redmond Gerard (USA) and bronze medalist Mark McMorris (CAN) celebrate their victories in the snowboard slopestyle event during the medals ceremony in the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Medals Plaza. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

McMorris’ remarkable comeback drew praise from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who tweeted: “What a journey back to the podium for @MarkMcMorris. Mark – your tenacity and courage inspire so many of us.”

McMorris tweeted two photographs on Monday, one of him in the hospital following his crash and the other on the medal podium. They were accompanied by a caption: “Thank You Life.”

The Canadian could add yet another chapter to his success story before the end of the Games, as McMorris is seen as a gold medal contender in the new Olympic discipline of Big Air.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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After the tax cut, which employee perks are best?

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By Beth Pinsker

If you were choosing from a menu, which would you pick: a $1,000 bonus, an extra percentage point match on your 401(k) or higher pay?

Hundreds of American companies are handing out goodies like these in the wake of the new tax bill. But, so far, workers cannot choose what perk they get.

“It may come, but not quite yet,” said Neil Lloyd, head of U.S. DC and financial wellness research at Mercer, a leading benefits consultant.

Companies seems to understand that happier and healthier employees are more productive, and improving their benefits helps retain a stable workforce, said Lloyd. But still, “raising wages will be a much slower affair,” he added.

If your company announces an extra benefit, or gives you an option of what benefit to take, here is how to evaluate what it means to your bottom line:

*Cash bonus

Many companies jumped in right away after the tax bill passed, announcing cash bonuses to employees – typically $1,000. Walt Disney, AT&T, Best Buy, Home Depot and JetBlue are a few of the companies handing out cash bonuses.

Bonuses are easy to process once a company has cash on hand.

For employees, however, the perk ends up to be slightly less, because of taxes. For somebody in the new 12 percent tax bracket, that $1,000 is $880. For individuals in the new 22 percent bracket, it is $780.

A short-term infusion of cash could have a long-term impact on workers concerned about debt if they use it to pay down credit card balances. Chris Whitlow, CEO of Edukate, an online financial wellness platform, said when he surveys workers, their biggest concern by far is debt. Even a few hundred dollars could take a bite out of debt, when you factor in compounded interest.

* Bigger 401(k) matches

Take that same $1,000 and make it part of an increased 401(k) match, and you could double it in less than ten years. But that is only if you are an employee who is participating in the company’s retirement plan up to the match level.

“Longer term, the 401(k) match has a bigger impact,” said Lloyd, adding the caveat that this only applies to the people who are investing already.

Some companies are adding cash to 401(k) accounts and some are increasing the percentage of the employee match, Lloyd added.

Companies like Visa double an employee’s contribution as a match. It recently announced it was upping the ante – to 5 percent from 3 percent. That means, if you put in $500, the company will put in $1,000 on top of it.

Of course, workers will still pay taxes on the match, just not until they withdraw the money in retirement.

* Pay increases

On the hierarchy of benefits, perhaps nothing is better for workers than a real raise in annual salary.

While some companies have announced increases, expect raises to come slowly.

“It’s not a simple answer, and it depends on demographics,” said John Bremen, managing director of human capital and benefits at Willis Towers Watson, a benefits consultant.

Some companies have increased their hourly minimum wage, mostly to $15, including banks like Capital One and SunTrust Banks. Other companies added money to their salary increase pools, but may not have announced raises yet because it is harder to explain in a press release, Bremen notes.

“If the salary increase pool was 2.8 percent and now it’s 3 percent, that’s huge dollars for a company with 20,000 employees,” Bremen said, noting that the charge for one company he knows is $5 million.

For Bremen, figuring out which benefit is best comes down to an individual’s situation.

“The lower a person’s wage, the more each dollar means to them,” he said.

More perks are coming to workers, and they will last a while. “They will build this in. Not all, but many of these, could last for years,” Bremen says.

(This version of the story cuts paragraph six which repeats paragraph five.)

(Editing by Lauren Young and Andrew Hay)

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