To overcome decades of mistrust a workshop aims to train Indigenous researchers

first_img Any community demanding that researchers slow down, change their questions, destroy samples, keep data private, and perhaps not even publish their results is bound to face skepticism from Western scientists. Some Indigenous communities, such as the Navajo Nation, decline to participate in genetic research at all. And many tribes don’t permit research on their ancestors’ remains. Such opposition can feel like a hostile stumbling block to Western scientists, some of whom have gone to court to gain or maintain access to Indigenous samples. Not being able to study at least some early samples would “result in a world heritage disaster of unprecedented proportions,” the American Association of Physical Anthropologists said in 2007 in a debate over an amendment to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.To understand why so many Indigenous people distrust Western scientists, consider how intertwined science has been with colonialism, says SING co-founder Kim TallBear, an anthropologist at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate in North and South Dakota. “While the U.S. was moving westward, stealing land, and massacring Indians, you had contract grave robbers coming out onto the battlefields and immediately picking up the dead—Native people—and boiling them down to bone, and sending their bones back east,” she says. Many of those skeletons were displayed and studied in museums by researchers who used them to argue for the biological inferiority of Indigenous people. Some of those skeletons are still there.”Science was there, always. It’s part of that power structure,” TallBear says. Just 20 years ago, researchers sued for and won the right to study the Ancient One, also called Kennewick Man, a 9000-year-old skeleton from Washington, over the objections of Indigenous groups. (The Ancient One Indigenous to five tribes who claimed him in 2017, after DNA testing suggested a genetic link between him and living tribal members.)Many Indigenous communities see echoes of this painful history reverberating in the 21st century. In 2003, the Havasupai Tribe in Arizona discovered that samples taken for a study on diabetes had been used for research projects they had never consented to, including on population genetics and schizophrenia. They sued Arizona State University in Tempe, which eventually returned the samples and paid $700,000 to the tribe. Missteps by Western researchers have even hampered work by Indigenous scientists. For example, in the 1990s, Francine Gachupin, a member of the Pueblo of Jemez in New Mexico, was working on a Ph.D. in anthropology at The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. She wanted to collect genetic samples from speakers of Athabaskan languages, who range from some Alaska Native groups to the Navajo Nation and the Apache in the U.S. Southwest, to see how they might be related. “When I was meeting with tribes to tell them about the project, they were very enthusiastic,” Gachupin remembers. “Every tribal community that I went to gave approval on the first visit.” Kim TallBear says this history of Western science is intertwined with colonialism. NATALIE FOBES “I HAD NOT LEARNED ABOUT ANTHROPOLOGISTS GOING TO COMMUNITIES, TAKING SAMPLES, AND JUST LEAVING.” Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country RENE BEGAY “IF YOU’RE GOING TO WORK WITH INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES ON GENETICS, YOU HAVE TO BE WILLING TO MAKE LIFELONG RELATIONS.” Email Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) To overcome decades of mistrust, a workshop aims to train Indigenous researchers to be their own genome experts The Indigenous researchers SING aims to foster understand that history better than almost anyone. They are likely to remain a small minority, at least in the near future: In the United States, less than 1% of doctorates are awarded to American Indian and Alaska Native students, according to NSF, a statistic that has held steady since 2006. But SING offers them the chance to collectively think through whether and how they want to use genetic tools to study their own people. “If you’re working with your own community, you’re less likely to back out when you hit a wall,” says Anežka Hoskin, a graduate student in genetics at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, and a member of the Māori tribes Ngāti Porou and Ngāti Kahu. “And you’re going to hit walls.”Martin says doing research with Indigenous people has prompted difficult reflections. She’s studying the biological effects of racism and historical trauma on tribes in the Pacific Northwest—work she hopes will include searching for epigenetic changes linked to that history. But she was wary of what might happen if a university or a granting agency demanded access to her samples. Going to SING for the first time in 2015 helped her figure out how to present data protection as a priority in grant proposals. “SING made me feel a lot more comfortable with pushing back against Western institutions,” she says.The tribes she works with have full control over their samples and data—and will decide whether the results are published. If not, “That’s it, I don’t get my Ph.D.,” Martin says. “I’ve made my peace with that … Indigenous sovereignty is more important to me than three letters after my name.”SING faculty member Keolu Fox, a postdoc in genetics at UC San Diego and a Native Hawaiian, sees a future in which genomics supports Indigenous self-governance rather than undermines it. “Our genomes are extremely valuable,” he says. For example, he’s starting to study a genetic variant first identified among Polynesian populations, including Native Hawaiians, that may protect against heart disease and diabetes, especially in people with high body mass indexes. It should be Polynesian communities who profit from that research, he says.SING faculty member Rene Begay, a geneticist at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora and a member of the Navajo Nation, is excited about her role in building this bridge. “I want to be at the table, to advocate for my people, to advocate for research,” especially studies that may improve health care, she says. “I want us to … have the advancements and the technologies that the world outside the Navajo Nation has. But I want to do it in a way that’s on our terms.”*Correction, 27 September, 12:35 p.m.: A previous version of this story stated that the Navajo Nation banned genetic research in response to the Havasupai case. The ban was enacted a year before that case began, and they are unrelated. Participants in the Summer Internship for Indigenous Peoples in Genomics study DNA extraction techniques at the University of Washington in Seattle this summer. SING aims to train Indigenous scientists in genomics so that they can introduce that field’s tools to their communities as well as bring a sorely needed Indigenous perspective to research. Since Malhi helped found it at UI in 2011, SING has trained more than 100 graduates and has expanded to New Zealand and Canada. The program has created a strong community of Indigenous scientists and non-Indigenous allies who are raising the profile of these ethical issues and developing ways to improve a historically fraught relationship.SING grads and professors say the experience has profoundly affected their work. At SING, “you can exist as your authentic self, as both Indigenous and as a scientist, without having to code-switch all the time. It’s like coming up for air,” says Savannah Martin, a Ph.D. student in biological anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and a member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians in Oregon.SING participants are beginning to make waves in the broader scientific community. This year, SING alumni and faculty published ethical guidelines for genomic studies in Science and in Nature Communications. Echoing discussions at the workshops, those guidelines call for intense community engagement, especially in areas where Indigenous priorities may clash with those of Western science: questions of which research questions to tackle, when—or even whether—to publish, and how to handle samples and data.”SING is so important,” says geneticist Rasmus Nielsen of UC Berkeley, who is not involved in the program. Those who have taken part say it has equipped them with increased awareness of Indigenous concerns and how to prioritize them in research. In response to new attitudes, some communities say they might now consider working with geneticists. SING is also building what may be the best kind of bridge, one that is “the obvious solution” to the problem of mistrust, Nielsen says: creating “a new generation of geneticists within Indigenous groups.” Savannah Martin, Washington University in St. Louis But at the same time, researchers working for the Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP), a major international effort, were collecting samples from around the world to build a public database of global genetic variation. The project publicly emphasized the importance of collecting DNA from genetically isolated Indigenous populations before they “went extinct.”That rationale “was offensive to Indigenous populations worldwide,” Gachupin says. “Resources for infrastructure and for the wellbeing of the community were not forthcoming, and yet now here were these millions and millions of dollars being invested to ‘save’ their DNA.” The message from the scientific establishment was, she says, “We don’t care about the person. We just want your DNA.” Some activists dubbed the HGDP “the Vampire Project,” believing the only beneficiaries would be Western scientists and people who could afford costly medical treatments.In the United States, Native American support for genetic research “changed overnight,” Gachupin says. She put her research on hold because tribes became so worried about data protection. She eventually finished her work, but the tribes “were not going to give permission for anything more.”Meanwhile, the HGDP database, which includes more than 1000 samples from 51 populations worldwide, went on to become a key genetic reference panel.What happens after data are collected can also lead to conflict. Many granting agencies and journals require scientists to make data public, so others can check their work. But that makes scientists the custodians of data, and it’s scientists who decide what research questions to ask and how to present the results. Many Indigenous people don’t want to cede such control to researchers they don’t know and don’t trust, let alone to the entire scientific community.Gachupin, now an epidemiologist at The University of Arizona in Tucson and a SING faculty member, represents tribes when scientists want to work with them, to make sure the tribes’ wishes are respected.Another such pioneer is Nanibaa’ Garrison, a member of the Navajo Nation. She was in college when her tribe passed its moratorium on genetic research. (According to an article in Nature last year, the tribe may lift the ban.) But Garrison went on to earn a Ph.D. in the field. “I wanted to find a way to do it better. To do things right,” she says. She’s now a bioethicist at UW and the Seattle Children’s Research Institute, developing ethical approaches to research with Indigenous communities. When Malhi got in touch about SING, she signed on right away. “I wanted to see more people like me,” in genetics, she says. “And I wanted to change the story.” Malhi’s experience was one small manifestation of the ongoing tensions between Western scientists and Indigenous communities around the world. (“Indigenous” is an internationally inclusive term for the original inhabitants, and their descendants, of regions later colonized by other groups.) Scientists have used Indigenous samples without permission, disregarded their customs around the dead, and resisted returning samples, data, and human remains to those who claim them. Indigenous communities have often responded by severely restricting scientists’ sampling of their bodies and their ancestors, even as genomics has boomed, with increasing relevance for health.But today, more than 2 decades after his wake-up call in California, Malhi, now a molecular anthropologist at the University of Illinois (UI) in Urbana, is part of an effort to change the relationship between these communities. On a recent morning, Malhi listened as about 40 students and faculty introduced themselves at the Summer Internship for Indigenous Peoples in Genomics (SING), a weeklong program funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation (NSF), and held this year at the University of Washington (UW) here. About half of participants spoke in Indigenous languages spanning the globe from Alaska to New Zealand. NATALIE FOBES Deborah Bolnick, University of Connecticut Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe —Kim TallBear, University of Alberta SEATTLE, WASHINGTON—When Ripan Malhi started graduate school in anthropology in 1996, his lab at the University of California (UC), Davis, housed what he saw as a valuable scientific resource: a freezer of Native American blood samples. Burgeoning genetic tools offered a chance to study the population history of these groups, especially the still-mysterious timing of their ancestors’ arrival on the continent. Malhi began to extract and sequence DNA from the samples, which his adviser had collected over many years. As his research went on, however, Malhi realized there were few other Native American samples to compare with those on hand. So, he decided to collect more.He kicked off his effort with a lecture at a reservation in Northern California. It was the first time he had spoken with a Native American community, despite years of studying their genetics. Expecting to gather dozens of DNA samples, “I brought a bunch of cheek swabs with me,” he recalls. But at the end of his talk on DNA variation and the importance of filling in sampling gaps, the room fell uncomfortably silent. “Then one person stood up and said, ‘Why should we trust you?’” Malhi remembers. “That’s a formative memory. I had not learned about anthropologists going to communities, taking samples, and just leaving.”He got no samples that day. At SING this year, each day’s activities began and ended with Indigenous stories, songs, and prayers. In between, participants spent 6 days extracting and analyzing their own mitochondrial DNA, getting a crash course in bioinformatics, critiquing informed consent forms, and talking about the questions DNA can and can’t answer. Students spanned the educational spectrum, from undergraduates to public health professionals.”We’re not trying to shelter [anyone] from Western mainstream thought,” Malhi says. The bioinformatics workshop even uses the HGDP reference panel—once so controversial—because it allows students to learn about both its uses and its fraught history. But this year’s program ended with an exercise that reminded participants of the complex social backdrop of such research: a drama about a fictional project to look for genetic links to suicide in an Indigenous community.As students and faculty adopted roles such as researcher or at-risk youth, conflicts quickly arose: At-risk teens refused to offer blood samples for research that might stigmatize them. Public health workers pressed for holistic programs. Pharma reps gave proforma lectures. Before long, the university researchers who proposed the study quietly disappeared. Overwhelmed, they decided to go back to their labs and work on something easier, they admitted at the end of the exercise. Laughs of recognition rang through the classroom, as participants noted just how complicated ethical research with Indigenous communities can be.In real life, everyone at SING aims to be the researcher who won’t disappear. Lessons gleaned from the workshop may help. One key, TallBear says: “If you’re going to work with Indigenous communities collaboratively on genetics, you have to be willing to make lifelong relations.”Malhi, for example, has spent years building relationships with the First Nations of British Columbia in Canada, particularly the Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams. He has shifted away from focusing solely on his original questions about ancient migrations to questions that matter to the communities themselves, such as their relationships with their ancestors. His study of ancient DNA published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2017, for example, showed at least 10,000 years of genetic continuity in the region, supporting Indigenous oral traditions.Malhi’s graduate student Alyssa Bader, an Alaska Native with ancestors from British Columbia, is now studying the oral microbiome of these communities’ ancestors by sequencing DNA preserved in their dental plaque. That’s less destructive than sampling bones or teeth, and can reveal what these ancient North Americans ate, a subject their contemporary descendants are interested in because their traditional diets have been altered by Western foods.SING has helped forge new research relationships. Through the program Deborah Bolnick, an anthropological geneticist at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, has established a collaborative research project with Indigenous partners in the southern United States. It took 4 years of conversation before they collected a single sample, but now they have nearly 150. One project is to see whether maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) corresponds with the communities’ matrilineal clans. If so, mtDNA analyses might be able to restore clan identities to community members who had that knowledge stripped from them by colonization.Malhi and Bolnick both say the communities they work with will always have absolute control over their samples and data, and even whether and how they publish their results. That’s because many Indigenous people, still facing racism, worry that certain types of studies—such as the one on genetic risk for suicide in the SING role play—may further stigmatize them. As a non-Indigenous researcher, “You have to be willing to know that history and put in the labor to get beyond that,” Bolnick says. “To do this work you have to be willing to not see yourself as the authority, but rather as somebody who is going to listen to other authorities.” By Lizzie WadeSep. 27, 2018 , 11:45 AM Members of the Havasupai Tribe, shown in 2010 looking at blood samples previously taken from them, had to fight for access to their samples, in an episode that fueled suspicion between scientists and several Native American communities. [At SING], you can exist as your authentic self, as both Indigenous and as a scientist, without having to code-switch all the time. It’s like coming up for air. Ripan Malhi says deeply engaging with Indigenous communities has improved his research. —Ripan Malhi, University of Illinois To do this work you have to be willing to not see yourself as the authority, but rather as somebody who is going to listen to other authorities. JIM WILSON/THE NEW YORK TIMES/REDUX last_img read more

Airplane with no moving parts takes flight

first_img When Wilbur and Orville Wright’s famous airplane, the Wright Flyer, first flew in 1903 it must have made quite a racket, with its crude gasoline engine spinning twin propellers via drive chains. Nearly 115 years later, another type of plane has taken flight as quiet as a ghost, without a single moving part. The new type of aircraft could usher in silent drones and perhaps far simpler planes—if researchers can overcome the daunting task of scaling up the technology.Instead of relying on a propeller or a jet engine, the plane, about the size of a single-person kayak, pushes itself through the air using electroaerodynamics (EAD). This form of propulsion uses electric effects to send air backward, giving the plane an equal push forward.Aeronautical engineers have long theorized that planes could be powered by EAD, says Steven Barrett, an aeronautical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge. But no one had ever constructed an EAD plane capable of lifting its own weight. When Barrett and colleagues finally succeeded, they stood in awed silence, he says. “It had taken about 7 years of work just to get off the ground.” MIT Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) By Frankie SchembriNov. 21, 2018 , 1:00 PM The Massachusetts Institute of Technology–designed airplane’s flight is a landmark moment for electroaerodynamic propulsion. Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwecenter_img Airplane with no moving parts takes flight Email In an EAD propulsion system, a strong electric field generates a wind of fast-moving charged particles called ions, which smack into neutral air molecules and push them behind the plane, giving the aircraft a push forward. The technology—also called ion drive, ion wind, or ion propulsion—has already been developed for use in outer space by NASA, and is now deployed on some satellites and spacecraft. Because space is a vacuum, these systems bring along a fluid, like xenon, to ionize, whereas Barrett’s aircraft is designed to ionize nitrogen molecules in the ambient air.It’s far easier to deploy ion drive in space than in the atmosphere, however. Gravity guides a satellite around the planet, with ion drive applying small course corrections. In contrast, a plane must produce enough thrust to keep itself aloft and to overcome the constant drag of air resistance.After running multiple computer simulations, Barrett’s team settled on a design for a plane with a 5-meter wingspan and a mass of 2.45 kilograms, about the weight of a chicken. To generate the needed electric field, sets of electrodes resembling Venetian blinds run under the plane’s wings, each consisting of a positively charge stainless steel wire a few centimeters in front of a highly negatively charged slice of foam covered in aluminum. The plane also carries a custom battery stack and a converter to ramp the voltage from the batteries from about 200 volts to 40 kilovolts. Although the highly charged electrodes were exposed on the plane’s frames, they could be turned on and off by remote control to avoid safety risks.The team tested the airplane inside a gymnasium at MIT, working at odd hours to avoid running into sports teams. “There were some pretty epic crashes,” Barrett says. Eventually, the team devised a slingshotlike apparatus to help launch the aircraft. After hundreds of failed attempts, the aircraft was finally able to propel itself enough to remain airborne. Over 10 test flights, the plane flew up to 60 meters, a little farther than the Wright brothers’ first flight, in about 10 seconds, with an average altitude of half a meter, the researchers report this week in Nature.“This is a great first step,” says Daniel Drew, an electrical engineer at the University of California, Berkeley, who is working on EAD microrobots and was not involved with the study. However, he cautions “if they try to go much bigger with the plane size, they’re going to run into a lot of issues.” The basic problem comes down to scaling, Drew says. As the size of the plane increases, its weight will grow faster than the area of its wings. So to stay aloft, a bigger plane must produce much more thrust per unit of wing area, he explains, something that “would be extremely difficult to achieve from a physics standpoint.”Barrett isn’t ready to rule out the possibility of one day transporting humans. “We’re still a long way off obviously, and there’s a lot of things we need to improve to get there,” he says, “but I don’t think there’s anything that makes it fundamentally impossible.” Thrust could be improved by making the power converter system and the batteries more efficient, testing different strategies for creating ions, or integrating the thrusters into the plane’s frame to reduce drag, he says. Franck Plouraboué, a fluid mechanics researcher at France’s national research agency CNRS and the University of Toulouse, says one way to power EAD aircraft could be through ultralight solar panels attached to the top of the plane.Drew thinks we’re more likely to one day see a swarm of smaller EAD aircraft. In that context, Barrett thinks the biggest advantage of EAD aircraft will be the lack of noise. “If we want to use drones all around our cities for delivering things and monitoring air quality, all that buzzing and noise pollution would get quite annoying.” Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Countrylast_img read more

A wave of graduate programs drops the GRE application requirement

first_img Related content A wave of graduate programs drops the GRE application requirement GREs don’t predict grad school success. What does? GRExit snapshot Percent of programs at 50 top-ranked U.S. research universities that didn’t require GRE general scores in 2018. (Programs in some disciplines weren’t offered at all universities.) By Katie LanginMay. 29, 2019 , 4:25 PM 35 2 (GRAPHIC) K. LANGIN/SCIENCE; (DATA) K. LANGIN/SCIENCE Others worry that the GRE may hinder diversity and inclusion efforts. ETS data show that women and members of underrepresented racial and ethnic minority groups score lower on the GRE than white men and Asian men do. (ETS argues that this reflects educational background and unequal access to opportunities, not bias against these groups per se.) Paying for training and taking the test—which costs $205 a pop, plus travel in some cases—can be a burden for low-income students. The timed test can also present a challenge for students who don’t speak English as a first language.Payne and others argue that scoring well on the GRE can help students who might otherwise go unnoticed, including students who had fewer opportunities because of structural disadvantages. But GRExit proponents disagree. “The problem with looking at a strong GRE score is you don’t know what the student did to get that score,” such as whether they took the test many times, says Linda Sealy, director of the Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity at Vanderbilt University. “Having a high GRE score alone shouldn’t necessarily be a factor that pushes someone over the edge for a Ph.D. program,” agrees Hall.Dropping the GRE “just seems like a no-brainer,” says Arthur Kosowsky, chair of the physics and astronomy department at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, which eliminated the GRE requirement in 2018. “This test is both not really measuring something useful … and at the same time discriminating against students who we are trying to work very hard to increase the numbers of in our program.”Many Ph.D. programs that have dropped the requirement give students the option of submitting GRE scores, but Posselt recommends against that approach. Applicants who submit GRE test results will, on average, have higher scores, and “this might skew the way that faculty look at people who don’t submit scores,” she says. Programs should “either look at scores or don’t look at scores.”  Whether dropping the GRE requirement will diversify applicant pools is far from certain. But Jon Gottesman, director of the Office of Biomedical Graduate Research, Education and Training at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis, hopes to find out. He and his colleagues sent out a survey to biomedical graduate programs last month, asking for information about their admissions process and data on their applicant pools, such as the total number of applicants and the percentage from underrepresented groups. “We’ll have to see,” he says. “I have a feeling we’re going to have to be looking at this for more years to really get a sense.” 8 8 0Molecular biologyNeuroscienceEcologyChemistryComputer sciencePsychologyPhysicsGeology For decades, one standardized test has been key to admission to U.S. science graduate programs: the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test, a nearly 4-hour marathon of multiple-choice and written questions that test quantitative, verbal, and writing skills. But the long reign of the GRE may be drawing to a close. In response to recent studies showing little correlation between GRE scores and success in graduate school and concern that the test puts underrepresented groups at a disadvantage, a growing number of programs are dropping the GRE as an application requirement.Science examined Ph.D. application requirements for eight disciplines at 50 top-ranked U.S. research universities. The life sciences have led the so-called GRExit push: In 2018, 44% of molecular biology Ph.D. programs stopped requiring GRE scores. That number will rise to at least 50% for the 2019-2020 application cycle. In neuroscience and ecology, roughly one-third of programs dropped the GRE requirement between 2016 and 2018, and more plan to do so this year. The movement has yet to take hold in some disciplines—more than 90% of the chemistry, physics, geology, computer science, and psychology Ph.D. programs that were surveyed by Science required general GRE scores in 2018. But a few programs in those fields have also joined the exodus. 44% Student performance measures that don’t perform “It’s such a time of flux right now,” says Joshua Hall, director of graduate admissions for the biological and biomedical science program at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, who keeps a list of life science programs that don’t require GRE scores. A year ago, only a handful of institutions were on his list; now there are 74. One impetus for the change, he says, was a 2017 decision by the University of Michigan’s biomedical sciences graduate program to stop requiring GRE scores in 2018. A few other programs followed, and “as more and more schools dropped it, it created a little bit of a peer pressure situation” because schools worried that they’d miss out on applicants if they required the GRE, Hall says.GRE supporters say the change is misguided. They say the recent studies that have questioned the GRE’s value are flawed and that it remains a useful predictor. And although schools have other tools for comparing prospective students—such as grades, recommendation letters, and research experience—few are as convenient as the GRE.“The scores are an easy thing to sort to find people who are plausibly more or less admissible,” which can be particularly appealing for scientists who are accustomed to looking at quantitative data, says Julie Posselt, a higher education researcher at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles who has studied the use of the GRE in admissions. Posselt has also found that many faculty members view GRE scores as a measure of innate intelligence. “They associate a high GRE score with somebody who is more likely to be successful,” she says.But “those are faculty members’ assumptions,” she emphasizes; the reality is different. For example, Hall authored a 2017 study showing that for 280 graduate students in his program, GRE scores weren’t correlated with the number of first-author papers the students published or how long it took them to complete their degree. A study published in tandem with Hall’s, looking at 495 biomedical Ph.D. students at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, found that applicants with higher GRE scores tended to get better grades in their first-semester grad courses. But GRE scores didn’t predict which students passed their qualifying exams or graduated, how long they spent in the program, how many publications they accrued, or whether they received an individual grant or fellowship. Other recent studies come to similar conclusions.However, those studies only sampled admitted students, most of whom had relatively high GRE scores, notes David Payne, a vice president at the Educational Testing Service (ETS)—the company headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey, that runs the GRE. “What they don’t really have is the full experiment that you would really, from a scientific research methods perspective, want to do: Randomly admit students over the full range of abilities, as reflected in GRE scores, and see what you find.” Payne argues that GRE scores should be considered as part of a holistic review process. “When programs drop the GRE, they’re throwing out data.” 29 4last_img read more

Whos More Dangerous the Sexual Predator or the Enabler

first_imgI’m not arguing we should leave the perpetrators alone.I’m suggesting the people we should focus on bringing to justice and removing from the labor pool are those who encourage or cover up bad behavior, because it is their actions that have made much of the damage possible and ensured that what initially was questionable evolved into something truly unacceptable, maximizing the harm.If we can eliminate the enablers, I believe we can minimize the crime. If we don’t, all we’ll do is drive the behavior underground and once again put the victims at the highest risk.If we truly want to eliminate sexual harassment, we need to target the enablers. Generally speaking, super predators like Harvey Weinstein can’t exist without them. A Case Against Enablers For me, this question goes back to when I was in internal audit at IBM. I would go into an area that was out of control and often conclude that the reason it was out of control was that the function wasn’t staffed or funded adequately.Some executive nimrod would try to save costs by putting one poor sap, often a woman, into a job that typically would require a department. Without any support, her efforts wouldn’t work out, and then he would hang her out to dry.Some of the people put in those impossible positions were working 18-hour days, six or seven days a week, on salary. By any definition, it was abuse. I always wanted to go after the nimrod executive in a case like that and give the poor employee an award, but that wasn’t allowed. Often the overworked employee was shot — though not by me, because I’d refuse (didn’t make for a long audit career).As a result, I’m a big fan of looking at a problem and going to the root cause so you can put in place a process that will fix something. You see, firing overworked employees who are performing at a near-supernatural level and replacing them with other soon-to-be-shot employees doesn’t fix anything. It just looks like you did something.The same is true when removing bad-acting executives and politicians. If the enablers are still there, they will continue to enable (and they likely are enabling others). That means the harassment not only will recur, but also might be ongoing with someone else at the very moment of firing the politician or executive who was unlucky enough to get caught.However, if you fire the enablers, then you send a message that enabling this behavior also is a career-ending practice, and you’ll likely get more support for the victims and have a better chance of catching and correcting the bad behavior early.If you catch it early, then you might end up with just a note in someone’s employment jacket and not have the termination circuses that seem to be occurring almost weekly now. Catching the problem early, rather than punishing the victim and covering it up, would result in a massive reduction in the potential for a catastrophic outcome. Wrapping Upcenter_img Rob Enderle has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2003. His areas of interest include AI, autonomous driving, drones, personal technology, emerging technology, regulation, litigation, M&E, and technology in politics. He has undergrad degrees in merchandising and manpower management, and an MBA in human resources, marketing and computer science. He is also a certified management accountant. Enderle currently is president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group. He formerly served as a senior research fellow at Giga Information Group and Forrester. Email Rob. There are three groups of people involved in sexual harassment: the victims; the perpetrators/predators; and those who cover up or enable the perpetrators.Historically, we have put more pressure on the victims — either forcing them to shut up to protect their jobs and careers, or forcing them out of their jobs (with or without compensation), which was totally wrong.There’s been a recent move to focus on the perpetrators/predators, generally forcing an end to their careers or even shuttering of their businesses, often with massive collateral damage in terms of lost jobs for people who had nothing to do with the harassment and might even have been victims of it.That also seems wrong, at least in part, because the penalties hurt a large number of innocent or already hurt people.The folks I think we should be targeting far more are the enablers and cover-up artists who have been allowing what initially could have been small, correctable behavior problems to grow into career and company killers. As a result, it seems possible that behaviors that may have caused minor damage to a few initial victims were allowed to evolve into behaviors that caused major harm to hosts of victims.If this did happen, it could be because we tend to focus way too much on blame and way too little on understanding and preventing problems like this.Which behavior is worse — perpetrating sexual harassment or enabling it?last_img read more

Fitbits Health Alliance With Google Could Be a Risky Experiment

first_imgRichard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology. Email Richard. Fitbit and Google on Monday announced a new partnership on healthcare. Fitbit will develop consumer and enterprise health solutions that will use Google’s new Cloud Healthcare application programming interface.Fitbit also will move to the Google Cloud Platform to innovate and advance its products and services.Most Google Cloud products support HIPAA compliance; the move will allow Fitbit to leverage Google Cloud’s infrastructure and security features, as well as Google’s artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities, and its new predictive analytic algorithms.One possible use is connecting user data with electronic medical records, or EMRs, to provide both patients and healthcare professionals with a more comprehensive view of a patient’s profile, which would facilitate more personalized care.Another possible use is helping better manage chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension by using services such as Fitbit’s Twine Health — the health coaching platform developed by Twine, which was acquired by Fitbit in February. Twine will let healthcare professionals and patients more easily collaborate using Google’s Cloud Healthcare API.Fitbit pledged to maintain its commitment to protecting consumer data. The Google Cloud Healthcare API uses standard schema to simplify taking in and storing healthcare data, said Joe Corkery, Google Cloud’s head of product healthcare and life sciences.It then provides connectors to Google Cloud’s analytics, such as BigQuery, and machine learning, such as Cloud ML Engine, he told TechNewsWorld.There are a few components essential to making healthcare a successful offering, according to Ray Wang, principal analyst at Constellation Research.One of those components is massive capture of consumer data, which “is where Fitbit comes in,” he told TechNewsWorld.Another is massive cloud operations to crunch artificial intelligence, Wang said, noting that “this is where Google’s compute power and AI skills and team come into play.”Integration to EMRs also is an essential component, he said, as it “helps with bringing the devices — IoT data — and patient records into one place and makes it easy to monetize with insurance in the future.”In a nutshell, the current state of EMRs is “sh*tty,” Wang said.The Fitbit-Google Cloud partnership “is mostly upside,” because “players like Epic have destroyed the market with a monopoly on legacy tech,” he continued.”It costs (US)$250,000 for a hospital to add a button on Epic; they’ve destroyed innovation in the market and enslaved the physicians,” Wang observed.Still, EMR adoption has been on the rise, as both health insurance providers and the United States government have been insisting on them, remarked Michael Jude, research manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan. Google Cloud and Healthcare center_img Partnership Pros and Cons “There are two drawbacks to this deal,” suggested Ian Campbell, CEO of Nucleus Research.”One, Fitbit customers will have privacy concerns, and partnering with Google increases the anxiety around that,” he told TechNewsWorld.”Two, Google’s history with wearables isn’t exactly positive. For example, Google Glass is now the poster child for creative ideas that never translated into a good, or even viable, product,” Campbell said.”Fitbit’s challenge is to overcome today’s cloud privacy concerns beyond HIPAA, especially after the recent uproar around Facebook,” he pointed out. “A lot of very private information goes into the cloud, and it isn’t always clear how anonymously this data is preserved.”However, Google Cloud does not have access to user data collected by Fitbit or stored in the Cloud Healthcare API, Google’s Corkery said. “Data brought to Google Cloud by its customers and partners is controlled by [them] and is not used for any other purposes. Security, privacy and compliance are of the highest priority to Google Cloud.”Healthcare “is a touchy subject and the opposite of health is, potentially, death,” Frost’s Jude told TechNewsWorld. “Once you realize that, you’ll realize that personal portable telemetry is a really bad idea. That’s why the Apple Watch abandoned its health monitoring apps prior to its release.”What if the telemetry isn’t perfect? Jude asked. “If a sensor fails to register a life threatening condition and someone dies who’s responsible? This is a morass… Fitbit and Google may live to regret this partnership.”last_img read more

Sonys Aibo Resurrected From Robot Pet Cemetery

first_imgAibo’s Shortcomings “Aibo’s nice in the sense that you remove all the burdens of ownership and gain the benefits,” observed Ray Wang, principal analyst at Constellation Research.”You don’t have to take it out for a walk and deal with pooper scoopers; you don’t have to feed it,” he told TechNewsWorld. “The only thing you really have to do is charge its batteries.” Easy to Have Around Cute or Creepy? Aibo may be easy to care for, but having one may not be completely worry-free.”There are tons of privacy issues in general related to connection back to the Internet,” remarked Constellation’s Wang.Among them are “the subscription that’s required, photos stored in the cloud, the algorithms for learning, and other information in the cloud,” he said. “The vendors better have their act together.”Even if robot pets like Aibo should become commonplace in the home, it’s not likely that other domestic robots would follow, said Jude. “You might trust Aibo to come when called, but that doesn’t necessarily extend to trusting a humanoid robot to handle a knife in the kitchen.” Aibo will be available in January from the Sony store — but only in Japan. Its priced at about US$1,730 exclusive of tax.Purchasers will have to pay for a basic three-year subscription plan as well, at $790 up front or $26 a month.Sony also will release the My Aibo app in January. Getting an Aibo of Your Owncenter_img Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology. Email Richard. So Long, Old Yeller Sony on Wednesday revived its robot dog, Aibo, which it put down, so to speak, in 2006.The autonomous entertainment robot brings fun and joy to the entire family, Sony claimed.Among other things, it can bond emotionally with people and give them love and affection, the company said.Aibo also lets them experience the joy of nurturing and raising a companion, according to Sony.Aibo has ultra-impact 1- and 2-axis actuators that let it move smoothly and naturally along 22 axes.The eyes have OLEDs to allow for diverse, nuanced expressions, Sony said. Aibo also shows “emotions” through tail and ear movements. Robotic pets increasingly are viewed as an option to help improve quality of life for the aged and ailing.In a recent study, nursing home residents showed the strongest reactions to visits from a person with a live dog or a Paro robot harp seal, researchers at Denmark’s Aarhus University found.Hasbro offers Joy for All companion pets, a line of animatronic cats and dogs that many senior living facilities offer to their residents.Though not as complex as Aibo, the much less expensive Hasbro pets are said to provide valuable benefits to patients, helping to soothe agitation and stem loneliness. Aibo has an awareness of its environment, thanks to sensors that can detect and analyze sounds and images, and deep learning technology.Its eyes are fisheye cameras that use simultaneous location and mapping (SLAM) technology. It also has a front camera.Aibo has a speaker and four microphones.It can detect words of praise and smiles. Capacitive touch sensors in the head, jaw and back enable it to respond to petting and scratching, too.When given love and affection, it gives it back through AI technology that interfaces with Sony’s cloud.However, “robots can only simulate the appearance of love,” noted Michael Jude, research manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.”You wouldn’t expect an Aibo to throw itself in front of an oncoming car to save your life, while a real dog might,” he told TechNewsWorld.Aibo can collect data from interactions with owners and collate it with data on the cloud about interactions between other Aibo devices and their owners to enhance its repository.Aibo’s data periodically will be backed up in the cloud. The goal is to make it available to load onto a new Aibo in the future.Aibo communicates over LTE or 802.11b/g/n WiFi. It comes with charging pins and a SIM card slot. The battery lasts about two hours, and recharging takes three hours.last_img read more

Kent State professor receives grant to study role of oxytocin in the

first_imgReviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Oct 12 2018Heather Caldwell, Ph.D., a professor in Kent State University’s Department of Biological Sciences, recently received a $450,000 grant to study the role that oxytocin plays in the developing brain.Labeled by some as “the bonding hormone,” oxytocin is well known for helping pregnant mothers with uterine contraction while in labor, milk letdown while breastfeeding and a feeling of euphoria when cuddling with their infants. But, there is still much that researchers do not know about how this hormone works in the brains of children.The grant, which came from the National Institutes of Health’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, will enable a study on the three-year project titled “Sex differences in the developing oxytocin system.” The study will provide insight into how oxytocin affects the development of the female and male brain and contributes to the neural regulation of social behavior. Dr. Caldwell’s lab group will be the first to examine the function of oxytocin signaling during early development. Liz Aulino, a Kent State Ph.D. student in Dr. Caldwell’s lab, will focus on this topic for her dissertation.”This research has relevance to public health because many of the neural chemicals, neural substrates and circuits that underlie social behaviors are evolutionarily conserved,” Dr. Caldwell said. “Using an animal model, we hope to improve our understanding of the contributions of oxytocin to the development of social behaviors in humans.”The researchers aim to determine how the developing oxytocin system differs between female and males and also to identify how it differentially impacts their neurochemistry.The brain hormones do not themselves cause behavior, but they modulate it. The key is how they interact with a receptor, in this case, a protein in the cell’s membrane. The developing mouse brain does not make oxytocin early in development, but it has oxytocin receptors ready to signal.Related StoriesRush University Medical Center offers new FDA-approved treatment for brain aneurysmsMercy Medical Center adds O-arm imaging system to improve spinal surgery resultsWearing a hearing aid may mitigate dementia riskEmerging evidence shows that, during early brain development, oxytocin helps to organize neural circuits in the brain and that these organizational effects may help the brain develop the capacity to execute sex-specific and context-appropriate social behaviors later in life.”We think these experiments will reveal a novel role for oxytocin in organizing sex-specific brain circuits that are critical for typical displays of social behaviors,” Dr. Caldwell said. “Across mammalian species, oxytocin is important for social cognition and social functioning, and deficits in social behaviors are characteristic of several neurodevelopmental neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia.”This type of National Institutes of Health grant, an R15, is an Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) and specifically supports the research, education and training of future scientists through undergraduate research support for students interested in a career in biomedical/behavioral science. Dr. Caldwell will recruit students to collaborate with her and Ms. Aulino, as well as a technician who she plans to hire for the three-year term.Dr. Caldwell developed an interest in the effect of hormones on behavior after doing fieldwork with sea turtles and working on mouse chemical signals as a student at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, where she earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees in biology. Her interest in how hormones affect behavior led her to pursue a doctorate at Georgia State University, which has a large National Science Foundation-supported Center for Behavioral Neuroscience. She spent four years as a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institutes of Health and joined the Kent State faculty in 2007. Dr. Caldwell has been studying how neurochemistry regulates behavior such as aggression, and her primary research focus has been on the closely linked hormones oxytocin and vasopressin.​​Source: read more

Radiotherapy combined with androgendeprivation therapy improves overall survival up to 10 years

first_img Source: Reviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Oct 23 2018The long-term follow up of the NRG Oncology trial RTOG 9408, studying the addition of short-term androgen-deprivation therapy (ADT) to radiotherapy (RT) for men with early, localized prostate adenocarcinoma, indicated that RT combined with ADT is superior to RT alone for overall survival (OS) up to 10.4 years following treatment. However, when researchers assessed these results up to 18 years, the benefits of adding ADT to RT dissipated. The results were presented at the American Society for Radiation Oncology’s Annual Meeting in San Antonio, TX on October 22, 2018 during the Genitourinary 2: Long-Term Updates of Prospective Prostate Cancer Clinical Trials session. The study was also awarded a “Best of ASTRO” designation.Related StoriesBacteria in the birth canal linked to lower risk of ovarian cancerResearchers use AI to develop early gastric cancer endoscopic diagnosis systemStudy reveals link between inflammatory diet and colorectal cancer riskThe primary aim of NRG-RTOG 9408 was to determine if the addition of four months of ADT before and during RT would improve the overall survival of men with prostate adenocarcinoma. Secondary objectives included determining the difference in disease-specific mortality (DSM), biochemical failure (BF), incidence of distant metastases (DM) and local progression (LP). 1974 men were randomly assigned to either receive RT alone (990 patients) or RT plus four months of ADT (984 patients).”After concluding that the addition of ADT did provide benefit for both primary and secondary aims, we continued to survey results up to 18 years from treatment. The median follow up for surviving patients was 14.8 years. Our study team noticed that overall survival data began to favor the radiotherapy alone arm over the experimental, androgen-deprivation therapy arm following the first ten years after treatment. However, disease-specific mortality, biochemical failure, incidence of distant metastases and local progression continued to show long-term benefit,” stated Dr. Christopher U. Jones of Sutter Cancer Centers and Lead Author of NRG-RTOG 9408.The incidence of late grade 3, 4, and 5 genitourinary and gastrointestinal toxicities was low and similar between the ADT and RT arms.last_img read more

Mechanisms that govern HIV latency differ in the gut and blood finds

first_imgRelated StoriesHIV persists in spinal fluid even after long-term treatment and is linked to cognitive deficitsHIV DNA persists in spinal fluid despite treatment, linked to cognitive impairmentScripps CHAVD wins $129 million NIH grant to advance new HIV vaccine approachAvailable antiretroviral drugs significantly prolong life expectancy in people living with HIV. However, the virus can escape host defenses and drug treatment by establishing a reversibly silent infection in immune cells that produce a protein called CD4 (i.e., CD4+ T cells). This latent infection, which is characterized by inactivated HIV transcription, represents the major barrier to a cure. While much of the research to date has highlighted the importance of CD4+ T cells in the blood as reservoirs for latent HIV, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the gut may play an integral role as a major tissue reservoir for the virus. To compare the mechanisms that inhibit HIV transcription in the gut and blood, Yukl and his colleagues quantified HIV transcripts in cells from the blood and rectum of HIV-infected individuals effectively treated with antiretroviral drugs.The researchers found that different mechanisms block HIV transcription and underlie HIV latency in CD4+ T cells in the blood and gut. Moreover, the findings suggest that the rectum may be enriched for latently infected cells, or cells in a deeper state of latency. These differences in the blocks to HIV transcription are important to consider in designing therapies that aim to disrupt HIV latency in all tissue compartments. In particular, infected cells in the rectum may be less susceptible to agents designed to reverse latency or may require different types of therapies. Scanning electron micrograph of HIV-1 budding (in green) from cultured lymphocyte. This image has been colored to highlight important features; see PHIL 1197 for original black and white view of this image. Multiple round bumps on cell surface represent sites of assembly and budding of virions. Credit: CDC / C. Goldsmith, P. Feorino, E. L. Palmer, W. R. McManus. CC BY 0 Source:https://www.plos.orgcenter_img Nov 16 2018Mechanisms that govern HIV transcription and latency differ in the gut and blood, according to a study published November 15 in the open-access journal PLOS Pathogens by Steven Yukl of San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues. According to the authors, the findings could inform new therapies aimed at curing HIV.last_img read more

Mapping fiber layers of mammalian cerebral cortex reveals clues to their evolution

first_imgReviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Dec 20 2018[Background]The cerebrum plays the most important roles in the higher functions of the brain. In particular, the cerebral cortex, among other parts of the cerebrum, is essential. Humans have by far the most developed cerebral cortex among animals and it is thought that we have acquired specific abilities thanks to this. In addition, the cerebral cortex has received special attention, since various parts are involved in various brain diseases, psychiatric disorders and others.The developing cerebral cortex of higher animals like humans contains two axonal fiber layers that transmit neural information and are, therefore, considered to be important in brain functions. The cerebral cortex of the mouse, the most commonly used model animal in research, was not found to have equivalents of the axonal fiber layers, which made mouse research on this subject very difficult. Thus, research on these fiber layers has been much retarded.The present research group at Kanazawa University has been promoting studies using the ferret, since it is important to conduct research using higher animals with a more developed cerebrum, closer to that of the human than the mouse. Research techniques for the ferret were previously not available, so in 2012 and 2013 the group developed an appropriate technique, in utero electroporation, for use in ferrets at the gene level. They have thus led research into the brains of higher mammals including the development of disease model ferrets in 2015 and 2017.[Results]In the present study, the Kanazawa University group has mapped the fiber layers of the developing cerebrum of a higher mammal, the ferret, using its own unique research technique. They have also found an important clue to the evolution of these fiber layers. More specifically, the following three points have been established: A trace of axonal fiber bundles is found in the mouse brain. So far, equivalents of the two fiber layers were not described in the mouse cerebral cortex. The group applied the same technique, used to reveal the two fiber layers in the ferret brain, to the mouse brain. Unexpectedly, they found one fiber layer as well as a trace of axonal fiber bundles. This trace pathway is thought to have later evolved to become the second axonal fiber layer of higher mammals. This raises the possibility that it is this second axonal fiber layer, i.e. the outer fiber layer, which is important in the development of higher brain functions. The two axonal fiber layers have different destinations in the brain. Upon investigation of the destinations of the two fiber layers, the one on the surface side of the cerebral cortex has destinations in the proximal areas of the cerebral cortex; i.e. it represents a short-distance pathway (Figure 1 lower panel, indicated with an arrow); on the other hand, the other in the deep side of the cerebral cortex has destinations in the cerebral cortex of the opposite hemisphere and to the other brain regions; i.e. it represents a long-distance pathway. Thus, selection of the axonal fiber layers takes place depending on their destination. The two axonal fiber layers found in the human and monkey brain also exist in the ferret brain. By introducing GFP (green fluorescent protein) into neurons in the ferret cerebral cortex, it was found that axons in two fiber layers are derived from the neurons of the cerebral cortex .center_img [Significance and future prospects] In this study, the Kanazawa University group has elucidated the destinations of the two axonal fiber layers in the cerebrum and the process of their evolution with the use of their unique research technique for the ferret. This finding is of major significance, since there have been very few studies on these two fiber layers. This study should contribute to our understanding of brain evolution in higher organisms up to the human, which has been very difficult with the mouse, a conventional model animal. Further, it should help reveal causes of various brain disorders. Source: read more

Ebola virus identified in a West African bat

first_imgReviewed by Alina Shrourou, B.Sc. (Editor)Jan 24 2019The government of Liberia, in partnership with the Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and EcoHealth Alliance, announced the discovery of Ebola virus in a bat in Liberia. This is the first finding of Zaire ebolavirus in a bat in West Africa, adding to other evidence suggesting bats serve as a natural wildlife reservoir for Ebola and other related viruses. Scientists found both genetic material from the virus and ebolavirus antibodies in a Greater Long-fingered bat (Mineopterus inflatus) in Liberia’s northeastern Nimba District. CII has been working to identify and characterize novel viruses at the intersection of humans and animals, on a global scale, for more than three decades. This work is a part of the USAID PREDICT project, which aims to better understand the animal reservoirs, seasonality, and transmission of viruses that can cause epidemic diseases.This is the first identification of Ebola virus in a bat in West Africa. There are six species of Ebola virus and Zaire ebolavirus is the one responsible for causing the West African Ebola epidemic which infected nearly 30,000 people between 2013 and 2016. Researchers at CII are working to determine whether the strain found in the bat is exactly the same one associated with the 2013-2016 outbreak. The evidence so far from about 20 percent of the virus’ genome suggests that it is closely related. Zaire ebolavirus is also responsible for the ongoing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is now the second deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.No human cases of Ebola are linked to this discovery and Liberia has remained free of any new human cases since the 2013-2016 outbreak. However, this finding brings us closer to understanding where human Ebola cases come from.”There have been unanswered questions about the source of Ebola outbreaks. There was speculation that they may have originated from bats, but there was no direct evidence,” says Simon Anthony, D.Phil, assistant professor of Epidemiology in the Center for Infection and Immunity at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, who led the laboratory discovery. “A critical element in this discovery, was VirCapSeq-VERT, a tool invented at the CII that improves the sensitivity of next generation sequencing 1,000-fold. It is possible that there are also other bat species that carry Ebola. Going forward, we will be analyzing additional specimens to fill in the picture.””This discovery is a major step forward in understanding how Ebola outbreaks happen,” says EcoHealth Alliance Vice President for Science and Outreach Jonathan Epstein, DVM. Epstein also serves as the lead for USAID-PREDICT in Liberia. “The West African Ebola epidemic was devastating, and it began with a single transmission from an animal to a person. It’s critical that we identify which animals naturally carry Ebola and related viruses – without knowing that, we can’t truly understand and reduce the risk of another outbreak occurring in the region.”The search for wildlife hosts for filoviruses like Ebola is a part of USAID’s PREDICT project, an international initiative to conduct surveillance and build local capacity to detect novel and known zoonotic viruses in nature so that countries are better prepared to prevent and respond to outbreaks. Partners in the discovery include EcoHealth Alliance; the Society for the Conservation of Nature, Liberia; the National Public Health Institute of Liberia; the Forest Development Authority; the Liberian Ministry of Agriculture; and Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health; and the University of California, Davis, which leads the PREDICT Consortium.Ebola is a zoonotic disease transmitted from wild animals to humansRelated StoriesVirus employs powerful strategy to inhibit natural killer cell functionPhoseon exhibits KeyPro KP100 UV LED instrument for virus inactivation at World Vaccine CongressResearchers compare American, Pacific and Southeast Asian subtypes of Zika virusEbola virus belongs to the Filoviridae family which also includes the Marburg and Cueva viruses. Like other zoonotic diseases (SARS, influenza, and rabies), Ebola virus is harbored by a natural animal reservoir, in Ebola’s case believed to include one or more species of bat, based on previous scientific studies. Prior Ebola outbreaks in Central Africa have been associated with deforestation and bushmeat hunting, where human cases were linked to contact with and consumption of chimpanzees, gorillas, and duikers that were infected. These animals were also victims of Ebola virus and it’s still a mystery as to exactly how they were infected. However, there is substantial evidence that filoviruses, such as Ebola and Marburg virus, are carried by bats. Marburg virus was recently discovered for the first time in Sierra Leone in its known bat reservoir, but it has historically been difficult to identify bats infected with Ebola virus.Bats play a critical role in ecosystems around the world, by removing pest insect species and pollinating fruiting trees, for example. The finding of Ebola virus in a bat should not be taken as a reason to exterminate, remove or harass bats in their natural environment. In fact, previous work shows that efforts to remove wildlife populations can lead to enhanced disease spread.”The government of Liberia has been not only a committed partner, but is working proactively to prevent further Ebola infections in the country,” says EcoHealth Alliance President Dr. Peter Daszak. “When we shared this discovery with them, they mobilized immediately to share these findings with their citizens. For the government to now be able to offer specific guidance so as to protect people’s health is critical. Past experience has shown that simply telling people not to eat bats is neither practical nor effective. Helping them live safely with bats is.”Keeping local communities safeGreater Long-fingered bats are found in parts of West Africa and other regions. They are an agriculturally important species in the area, as they eat insects which do damage to crops. Additionally, they do not tend to roost in homes or buildings, as some bats do. Instead they are found in forests, caves, and mines which makes preventing contact with them easier by avoiding entering caves or mines. The Liberian government is working to engage local communities about this finding to help reduce the possible risk of exposure and educate people about the positive impacts of bat species on pest control and the environment.Moving forwardFurther testing is underway to determine whether or not the virus detected in this bat is the same strain which caused the West African Ebola epidemic. The PREDICT team is also working with partners to understand how commonly these bats or other bat species may be infected with Ebola virus and whether there are any seasonal patterns to infection in bats, all of which helps understand risk to people and will inform public health strategies designed to prevent another Ebola outbreak.”This discovery is the result of an extraordinarily productive partnership between the government of Liberia, CII, EcoHealth Alliance, and UC Davis,” says Ian Lipkin, MD, director of CII. “It builds on years of investment and methods established under the auspices of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in biodefense and emerging infectious diseases.”Source: read more

New cancer drug that acts as Trojan horse shows promise in patients

first_imgReviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Feb 11 2019A brand new type of cancer drug that acts as a ‘Trojan horse’ to get inside tumor cells has shown promise in patients with six different cancer types.In patients with advanced, drug-resistant cancers, over a quarter with cervical and bladder tumors, and nearly 15 per cent with ovarian and lung tumors, responded to the new treatment.The innovative new drug, called tisotumab vedotin (or TV for short), releases a toxic substance to kill cancer cells from within. The results have been so positive the drug has now moved forward to phase II trials in cervical cancer and will be tested in a range of additional solid tumor cancers.A team at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust led a phase I/II global clinical trial of nearly 150 patients with a variety of cancer types who had stopped responding to standard treatments.The study was published in The Lancet Oncology and funded by Genmab and Seattle Genetics.The researchers found that a significant minority of cancer patients responded to the drug, with their tumors either shrinking or stopping growing.They saw responses in 27 per cent of patients with bladder cancer, 26.5 per cent with cervical cancer, 14 per cent ovarian cancer, 13 per cent with oesophageal, 13 per cent with non-small cell lung and 7 per cent with endometrial cancer (although not in any men with prostate cancer).Responses lasted an average of 5.7 months, and up to 9.5 months in some patients.The main side effects reported from the study were nose bleeds, fatigue, nausea and eye problems – but halfway through the trial the researchers adjusted the protocol to reduce these eye-related effects.TV is made up of a toxic drug attached to the tail end of an antibody. The antibody is designed to seek out a receptor called ’tissue factor’ – present at high levels on the surface of many cancers cells and linked with worse survival.Binding to tissue factor draws the drug inside cancer cells, where it can kill them from within.The trial initially recruited 27 patients to assess safety and establish the right dose, before expanding to a further 120 patients primarily to look at whether the drug was hitting the right target but also at what effect it had on tumors.The majority of patients in the early trial had advanced stage cancer (spread locally or around the body) that had already been treated with, and became resistant to, an average of three different types of treatment.Related StoriesResearchers use AI to develop early gastric cancer endoscopic diagnosis systemNew protein target for deadly ovarian cancerSugary drinks linked to cancer finds studyTV is now being trialed in other cancer types including bowel, pancreatic, squamous cell lung and head and neck, as well as in a phase II trial as a second-line treatment for cervical cancer.Biopsy samples taken at the start of the trial are currently being analyzed for expression of tissue factor on tumor cells to see if it could be used as a marker to select patients most likely to respond to the drug.Professor Johann de Bono, Regius Professor of Cancer Research at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said:”What is so exciting about this treatment is that its mechanism of action is completely novel – it acts like a Trojan horse to sneak into cancer cells and kill them from the inside. Our early study shows that it has the potential to treat a large number of different types of cancer, and particularly some of those with very poor survival rates.”TV has manageable side effects, and we saw some good responses in the patients in our trial, all of whom had late-stage cancer that had been heavily pre-treated with other drugs and who had run out of other options.”We have already begun additional trials of this new drug in different tumor types and as a second-line treatment for cervical cancer, where response rates were particularly high. We are also developing a test to pick out the patients most likely to respond.”Professor Paul Workman, Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said:”We’ve seen major advances against cancer in recent decades, but many tumor types remain very difficult to treat once the cancer has begun to spread. We desperately need innovative treatments like this one that can attack cancers in brand new ways, and remain effective even against tumors that have become resistant to standard therapies.”It’s exciting to see the potential shown by TV across a range of hard-to-treat cancers. I look forward to seeing it progress in the clinic and hope it can benefit patients who currently have run out of treatment options.” Source: read more

Five international leaders appointed as CoChairs for HIVR4P 2020

first_imgFeb 25 2019The International AIDS Society (IAS), secretariat for the 4th biennial HIV Research for Prevention (HIVR4P 2020) conference, has announced the appointment of five international leaders in HIV prevention research, implementation and advocacy as Co-Chairs for the meeting.The conference Co-Chairs will guide the development of HIVR4P 2020, to be held in Cape Town, South Africa, on 11-15 October 2020. The IAS assumes the role of HIVR4P conference secretariat as part of its collaboration with the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, which organized the first three HIVR4P conferences. The IAS is excited to take on the role of secretariat for HIVR4P 2020 at this critical moment in HIV prevention research and implementation. These co-chairs represent expertise across prevention research, science, and community that will advance the evidence-informed, human rights-based approaches that can help make the enormous promise of biomedical HIV prevention available to all.”Kevin Osborne, IAS Executive Director Related StoriesNovel vaccine against bee sting allergy successfully testedHIV DNA persists in spinal fluid despite treatment, linked to cognitive impairmentHIV persists in spinal fluid even after long-term treatment and is linked to cognitive deficitsThe HIVR4P 2020 Co-Chairs announced today are:Linda-Gail Bekker – Deputy Director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre at the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, University of Cape Town, and Chief Operating Officer of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation.Pontiano Kaleebu – Director of the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) and Director of Medical Research Council (MRC)/UVRI and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Uganda Research Unit.Sheena McCormack – Senior Clinical Scientist at the MRC Clinical Trials Unit at University College London.David O’Connor – Medical Foundation Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Chair of the Global Infectious Diseases division of the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center.Mitchell Warren – Executive Director of AVAC: Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention.Together, the Co-Chairs will guide the HIVR4P 2020 Programme Organizing Committee to: develop the conference theme, vision and programme; review research abstracts and scholarship applications; select conference award winners; support the meeting’s outreach and fundraising efforts; and ensure that HIVR4P continues to move the global HIV prevention paradigm forward. Since 2014, the biennial HIVR4P conference has brought together leaders in every field of biomedical HIV prevention – from vaccines to PrEP to emerging, long-acting strategies – to address both cross-cutting challenges in the field and the research, policy and implementation issues specific to each prevention approach. Guided by these outstanding Co-Chairs, HIVR4P 2020 will continue to be one of the most innovative, integrated and collaborative conferences in the field.”Anton Pozniak, IAS President Source: read more

Particle receivers to get first commercial trial—in Saudi Arabia

Testing heats up at Sandia’s Solar Tower with high temperature falling particle receiver This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. Provided by SolarPACES What is the advantage of particle receivers?Particle receiver technology has the potential to reduce the cost of tower CSP, because it can nearly double today’s power tower temperatures, which top out in molten salt technology at 565°C.High temperatures increase efficiency, making particle receivers a good fit with high efficiency supercritical CO2 and air-breathing Brayton power cycles, and enable solar to replace fossil fuels in high-temperature thermochemical processes like splitting water to extract hydrogen at 800°C or make carbon-neutral solar fuels like jet fuels at 1,300°C.Researchers have investigated many materials for the particles. The advantage of sand is cost. At 5 MW, this particle receiver design would cycle more than 2000 tons of sand through its system.”We’re excited about sand because it doesn’t matter how much you need, the cost is almost nothing,” he pointed out. At scale, some materials, particularly engineered particles, could become a considerable fraction of initial costs. “When you are talking about thousands of tons of an engineered material, that can become prohibitive at some point.”Al-Ansary presented the paper on the results of the red sand tests in particle receiver tower CSP at the 23rd SolarPACES Conference in Chile.How the particle receiver worksAt a 20 MW-electrical scale, the receiver aperture would be about 10 meters wide by 10 meters tall and sand would be fed from the hopper to fall in a curtain a few cm thick through a 10 to 15 meter wide slot, exposing the sand particles to the heat of 1000 suns of intensely focused sunlight from a solar field of mirrors reflecting sunlight into the receiver aperture.Unlike the energy storage tanks in molten salt CSP, the hot and cold storage tanks could be stacked right inside the receiver tower along with the heat exchanger, so there is much less pumping of storage material, reducing parasitic costs.For a 20 MW plant, the tower would be about 150 meters tall and about 30 meters in diameter with the storage tanks stacked vertically inside. The discharge point of the cold tank would be about half way up the tower, “so we only need to lift the particles from the middle to the top to heat them.”The sand particles never fall fast, thanks to chevron-shaped obstacles that slow their descent, an innovation previously tested at Sandia in the US by the international research group. Without the obstacles, sand accelerates to 5 or 6 meters per second, even in just a 1 meter drop height.The obstructed flow maintains a dense curtain of particles everywhere in the receiver, so that all the concentrated radiation is absorbed by the falling particles.With particles slowed by the chevrons, Al-Ansary’s group got results of about 1,000°C in the lab without the sand agglomerating, and even out in the field, attained temperatures above 700°C.”The world’s first commercial particle receiver will be in 2018In a research field filled with innovation in much needed solar technologies, but not nearly equally visionary commercial support, the particle receiver research group is very fortunate to have backing ready to go.The Saudi Electricity Company is banking on building the world’s first commercial particle receiver, with the planning phase expected to start in the middle of 2018, following final prototype testing in January and February.”They said they are actually preparing for the next phase which is maybe around 5 MW. They would like it to be generating and they would like to sell that electricity,” he said.”Once we complete testing on KSU’s small 100 kW-electrical facility, and as soon as the results from this facility are confirmed, they are ready to go.”Saudi Electricity Company engineers have even been involved in helping with the research, and there will be an opportunity to tweak the engineering at scale.”We’ve actually had some engineers from the utility working with us on a daily basis on this project so it is really a joint effort, just making sure that we have a mature design such that when we go to the third phase it will be fully commercial.”Sandia has a much larger solar field, which was crucial and very useful in early testing, but the Riyadh test facility was small enough to be dedicated to a complete demonstration as a fully integrated power system with a heat exchanger and a gas turbine system – and a first adopter.Remote Arabian settlements need 1 GW worth of small projectsAway from Riyadh, parts of Saudi Arabia have an ideal solar resource for CSP (annual DNI of 2,600) the form of solar which needs clear skies. And many remote regions lack grid power.”Our national utility is excited about this idea because they have many remote areas that are not served by the grid, where 5 or 10 MW is more than enough,” said Al-Ansary. “They told me that the potential just within Saudi Arabia for those areas is roughly a thousand megawatts (1,000 MW). So they can build about 200 of these plants.”A 5 MW gas turbine that is adaptable to operation with hot compressed air, not steam like a molten salt system, is available commercially. This type of turbine has been tested in the EU using a direct gas heating receiver. This proven design is compatible with the PHR-CSP concept with little modification.The calm confidence with which Al-Ansary described each step from research to the impending commercialization was unusual. Even though clean technology innovation is absolutely crucial to a livable planet, such access to easy transition is rare. Al-Ansary confirmed it.”Indeed, we are lucky to have this support,” he agreed. Citation: Particle receivers to get first commercial trial—in Saudi Arabia (2018, January 22) retrieved 18 July 2019 from Explore further Particle receiver diagram. Credit: Sandia A new solar technology is twice as efficient, cutting the cost of solar thermal energy, by raising operating temperatures to 1,000°C, almost twice the 565°C molten salt temperature in current concentrated solar power (CSP) tower plants. For most innovative research in clean energy, the dreaded “Valley of Death” after lab scale success is the sad place where great innovations go to die for lack of commercial trials.But that will not be the case for particle heating receiver technology (PHR) that was first conceptualized at Sandia National Laboratories and is now being researched worldwide.PHR is cutting edge technology for tower CSP, a form of solar that converts the sun’s heat to power. CSP with thermal energy storage is an important key to powering a carbon-constrained future, because its thermal storage enables solar generation at any time of day or night.PHR skips the “valley of death”There is an unobstructed path from lab to commercialization for Hany Al-Ansary, Professor in Mechanical Engineering at King Saud University (KSU) and international collaborators investigating one alternative approach using a red sand abundantly available near Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.The KSU approach relies on the sand flowing through a cavity receiver in the tower, while other promising approaches use different particles in free fall, or in an enclosed receiver.Saudi Arabia will be first to commercialize particle receiver technologyThe Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) is funding and assisting with the research into using the red sand approach for heat absorption in PHRs, and intends to enter the planning phase of a commercial trial in 2018. This sort of commercial support and trial is essential to developing technologies.Like molten salts, sand loses less than 1% of its stored energy daily, but it can achieve a temperature almost twice as high. This is the main reason for the interest in particle receivers, according to Al-Ansary, who holds 15 patents and has published in peer-reviewed journals.”Molten salt is limited to around 565°C,” he said. “but depending on which type of particles, you can get much higher temperatures, up to 1,000°C. Our group worked on different containment structure designs, and with simple masonry materials and a well-insulated tank, we reduced heat loss to under 1% per day, similar to molten salt.” read more

Air France shares nosedive after CEO bails Update

Citation: Air France shares nosedive after CEO bails (Update) (2018, May 7) retrieved 18 July 2019 from Air France shares went into a tailspin on the Paris stock exchange Monday after the strike-hit company’s CEO resigned and the government seemed to worry about the carrier’s very chances of survival. Air France-KLM boss Jean-Marc Janaillac announced his resignation Friday after staff at the carrier’s French operations rejected a pay deal aimed at ending months of walkouts.In late morning Paris business Air France stock was down 12 percent at 7.13 euros, having earlier traded as low as 6.93.Societe Generale analysts said the company’s employees “have not only forced the group CEO to resign, but also made the investment case obsolete”.Switching to a “sell” recommendation from a previous “buy”, Societe Generale said the staff vote “not only puts the cost efficiency targets at risk in our view, but even the integrity of the group”.Janaillac, who had been in the post for under two years and staked his future at the company on staff accepting the deal, deplored their decision as a “huge waste”.Staff and management at the carrier have been locked in a dispute over pay since February.Intermittent strikes in recent weeks have prompted the cancellation of a quarter of flights on average.Unionised staff are set to walk out for the 14th day on Monday as they press for a 5.1-percent salary increase this year as the company recovers from years of losses and restructuring. The carrier’s chairman staked his job on the staff vote—and lost © 2018 AFP Who’ll want his job?”Air France-KLM is now without a boss and will find it hugely difficult to attract a high-level manager,” analysts at French brokerage Aurel-BGC said.France’s economy minister on Sunday warned that the survival of Air France was now in the balance.”I call on everyone to be responsible: crew, ground staff, and pilots who are asking for unjustified pay hikes,” Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire told the BFM news channel.”Be responsible. The survival of Air France is in the balance,” he added.He warned that the state, which owns 14.3 percent of the group, would not serve as a backstop.”Air France will disappear if it does not make the necessary efforts to be competitive,” he warned.The announcement of Janaillac’s departure came as Air France-KLM released its first-quarter earnings, which showed a net loss of 269 million euros ($322 million), weighed down by three days of strikes which cost about 25 million euros per day according to the company.The group warned the dispute would shave at least 300 million euros off its operating profit for the full year, pulling earnings “notably below” last year’s 1.9 billion euros.Societe Generale analysts warned the weaker earnings performance could lead to a rift between Air France and its profitable Dutch partner, KLM.”KLM might (rightfully) ask why the profits are being generated in the Netherlands but the losses being made in France,” they said.”The situation is neither healthy nor sustainable, in our view,” they said. Explore further This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. Heavy turbulence for Air France, including on the stock market Air France’s future in the balance, warns economy minister read more

France to run driverless mainline trains within five years

first_imgSoon there won’t be a driver to wave out the window Explore further “With autonomous trains, all the trains will run in a harmonized way and at the same speed,” SNCF chairman Guillaume Pepy said in a statement. “The train system will become more fluid.”The operator hopes that the switch will allow it to run more trains on France’s busiest mainlines, and cut energy consumption.Many cities, including Paris, already run driverless metro trains but driverless long-distance travel presents a new set of challenges, Pepy said.”Railways are an open system, and the unexpected is the rule,” Pepy said.SNCF will be partnering up with rolling stock specialists Alstom and Bombardier who will each be heading up consortia for freight and passenger traffic, respectively.The shift to driverless trains is to happen in stages, Pierre Izard, who runs SNCF’s rail technologies division, told AFP, “up to the most extreme of automatisation, when there is no human presence onboard”.Pepy said that autonomous trains “are clearly the future”, but he also said it may take time before passengers accept boarding driverless trains.Although Australia, China and Japan are already experimenting with driverless trains, France is not coming too late to the game, said Carole Desnost, head of innovation at SNCF.SNCF said it was talking to German operator Deutsche Bahn about promoting a European standard for driverless trains. Citation: France to run driverless mainline trains within five years (2018, September 12) retrieved 17 July 2019 from Hydrogen-powered trains to run on German rails from 2021center_img © 2018 AFP This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. French railway operator SNCF said Wednesday it was planning to introduce prototypes of driverless mainline trains for passengers and freight by 2023, and include them in scheduled services in subsequent years.last_img read more

Ryanair announces preliminary deal with Italian staff

first_img Citation: Ryanair announces preliminary deal with Italian staff (2018, September 14) retrieved 17 July 2019 from © 2018 AFP Ryanair workers are demanding better working conditions and want their contracts to be based on the law in their country of residence rather than in Ireland Budget airline Ryanair announced on Friday that it has reached an agreement with flight crew unions in Italy to provide employment contracts under Italian law. Explore furthercenter_img Ryanair recognises cabin crew union in Ireland In a press release, Ryanair said agreements had been signed “in principle” with unions FIT-CISL, ANPAC and ANPAV in Rome on Thursday.Also on Thursday, Italian crews, alongside their Belgian, Dutch, Spanish and Portugese counterparts announced a 24-hour stoppage on September 28 that unions said would be the biggest strike in the Irish carrier’s history.With confirmation of the agreement between Ryanair and the Italian crews—set to come into effect on October 1 for a period of three years—their participation in the forthcoming strike is unclear, with union leaders currently leading consultation on the matter.According to unions, the agreement will allow for crews to work under contracts composed under Italian law rather than Irish legislation, addressing a key demand from staff.Provisions are also in place for salary increases and a pension scheme.Ryanair and union leaders have yet to fine-tune some details for the collective agreement expected to be signed by the end of September.”This agreement is a further sign of the significant progress Ryanair is making in reaching agreements with our people and their unions in different EU countries”, Ryanair’s chief of personnel Eddie Wilson said in a statement.Ryanair has already reached an agreement with cabin crew in Ireland and the United Kingdom, but negotiations remain mired in difficulty in other countries.On Wednesday, the company faced strike action from German pilot and cabin crew unions that resulted in the cancellation of 150 flights.Wilson said that “smaller unions” outside the negotiations process are threatening strikes that “will either not take place or be unsuccessful”. This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.last_img read more

France unveils new tax for global internet giants

first_imgFiscal justicePresident Emmanuel Macron came to power in 2017 promising to increase levies on global tech and internet groups, seeing their often minimal tax rates as part of a backlash in France and Europe against globalisation.Having failed to persuade his European partners to introduce an EU-wide tax—because of objections from low-tax jurisdictions such as Ireland and fears of provoking US President Donald Trump—France will now go it alone with its own new mechanism. French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire says about 30 companies will be affected And Manon Aubry, a leader of the France Unbowed party, told France Inter radio it was like “putting a plaster on a wooden leg”.The government hopes the move will catch on abroad despite an earlier failure to reach consensus at the European Union level.Britain, Spain, and Austria have said they too intend to unilaterally tax the giants, while Japan, Singapore and India are also working on such schemes.Paris says it is now seeking “common ground” on the issue with fellow members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in order to reach a worldwide accord.Talks are ongoing among 127 countries at the OECD in a bid to reach “a consensus-based, long-term solution in 2020,” the international organisation said in a statement in January.An interim report should “be presented to the G20 during 2019,” it added, speaking of the group of industrialised and emerging nations. France on Wednesday introduced a bill to tax internet and technology giants such as Google and Facebook on their digital sales, putting it among a vanguard of countries seeking to force the companies to pay more in the markets where they operate. France unveils new tax for global internet giants The new levy is known as the “GAFA tax” in France—an acronym for US giants Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon—who have until now routed their sales in France through subsidiaries in low-tax EU members.In one of the most best known cases, the European Commission concluded that Apple had paid an effective corporate tax rate of just 0.005 percent on its European profits in 2014—equivalent to just 50 euros for every million.In 2016, it was ordered by the commission to pay 13 billion euros in back taxes to Ireland which were judged to amount to illegal state aid.Under EU law, internet giants can choose to report their income in any member state, prompting them to choose low-tax nations such as Ireland, the Netherlands or Luxembourg.Only digital companies with global annual sales of more than 750 million euros and sales in France of at least 25 million euros will be taxed under the new French law.About 30 companies from the US, China, Germany, Spain and Britain as well as France would be affected, he said.France’s move comes after aggressive action from tax authorities to pursue the companies in the courts, with mixed results.Apple said last month it had reached an agreement to settle 10 years of back taxes, reportedly for nearly 500 million euros. Explore further © 2019 AFP Citation: France unveils new tax for global internet giants (2019, March 6) retrieved 17 July 2019 from Lawmakers worldwide have struggled over how to effectively tax internet giants France wants to lead the way in making internet giants pay taxes on digital sales where they take place The French bill was discussed at cabinet level and will be submitted to parliament in early April.Speaking to reporters, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire described the levy as “a first step” in setting up “a 21st century taxation system”.”It’s a question of justice for our fellow citizens” and for “our businesses”, he said, adding “no one can accept that big digital firms pay 14 percent less tax than our small and medium firms”.”If we want to be able to continue to finance our public services, our day nurseries, our hospitals, our schools, we must tax value where it is created,” he added.The tax, to be applied retroactively from January 1, sets a three percent levy on digital advertising, websites and the resale of private data by internet giants.It should bring in 400 million euros ($452 million) to the public purse this year, and 650 million by 2022, according to Le Maire—an amount the Le Monde newspaper called “a small sum” but “highly symbolic.”Left-wing politicians denounced the measure as too feeble.”Bruno Le Maire is taking on these giants with a water pistol,” Ian Brossat, a leader of the Communist party, told Liberation newspaper. This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.last_img read more

Streaming to subscriptions Video games enter new frontiers

first_img This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. In this Nov. 20, 2018, file photo Leslie Hatch of Rusk shops with Rylan Hatch, 7, and Bailey Hatch, 6, at GameStop at Broadway Square Mall in Tyler, Texas. The video game industry is entering new frontiers. In the past, you plunked down $60 at GameStop for a copy of Grand Theft Auto or Madden NFL and played it out. Now, you’ll increasingly have the choice of subscribing to games, playing for free or possibly just streaming them over the internet to your phone or TV. (Sarah A. Miller/Tyler Morning Telegraph via AP, File) © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This Wednesday, March 6, 2019, photo shows a “Level up!” screen as a gamer plays “Apex Legends” in Jersey City, N.J. Electronic Arts’ “Apex Legends” got 50 million players worldwide in its first four weeks. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane) Penfield loves that Fortnite is free and says he can’t see himself spending $60 again for a game upfront. He estimates he spends about $10 a month on in-game purchases—meaning he’s spending twice as much in just one year.The trend started a few years ago with Candy Crush and other mobile games that appealed to casual gamers looking to pass the time on a subway or doctor’s waiting room. The success of Fortnite shows that this model works with more sophisticated styles of games, too. Despite being free to play, it raked in an estimated $2.4 billion in 2018, according to SuperData.And there are many signs Fortnite isn’t a one-hit wonder. Electronic Arts’ Apex Legends got 50 million players worldwide in its first four weeks. While it doesn’t have a mobile component—yet—its style of game play and revenue model are similar to Fortnite. Meanwhile, Activision Blizzard is working with Tencent on a mobile version of its popular Call of Duty first-person shooter franchise.But it’s a gamble if users don’t spend enough money in the game itself.”Even though we can start to see the shape of things to come, it will take a while before they come into focus,” van Dreunen said. The video game industry is entering new frontiers. Explore further Game retailer GameStop’s shares fell Wednesday, a day after it projected a revenue drop of 5% to 10% in 2019. And major video game publishers Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard have announced layoffs.Responding to changing consumer behavior, video game makers and new entrants like Google are offering new ways to play.GAME STREAMINGBig players are entering the arena: Google announced Stadia , a console-free game streaming service due out this year. The platform will store a game-playing session in the cloud and let players jump across phones, laptops and browsers with Google’s software.Google didn’t say how much its new service will cost, whether it will offer subscriptions or other options, or what games will be available at launch —all key elements to the success of a new video-game platform. Google will be hoping to avoid the fate of OnLive, which debuted in 2010 and streamed high-end video games over the internet. The service had promise, but failed to garner a big enough user base. It shuttered in 2015. In this Sept. 11, 2018 file photo, Nick Overton, a professional video game player, plays “Fortnite” while engaging with his fans online from the game room at his home, in Grimes, Iowa. “Fortnite,” a free-to-play game that has become a massive hit with its “battle royal” mode winning over millions of fans. (Bryon Houlgrave/The Des Moines Register via AP, File) In the past, you plunked down $60 at GameStop for a copy of Grand Theft Auto or Madden NFL and played it out—after which you could trade it in or let it gather dust.Now, you’ll increasingly have the choice of subscribing to games, playing for free or possibly just streaming them over the internet to your phone or TV.Welcome to a new world of experimentation in an industry that hasn’t been seriously shaken up since Nintendo launched its home gaming console in the U.S. in 1986 or when mobile gaming surged in popularity a decade ago.”We’re in an environment where people want content and media when they want it, how they want it,” CFRA analyst Scott Kessler said. “You can play a great video game with a console or on a computer or with a mobile device and you might not have to pay anything. That’s a dramatic departure from even a few years ago.”Of course, people will still buy and use traditional video games and consoles for years to come. But as games have become more accessible online and on mobile, it is becoming harder to convince people to spend a chunk of money upfront, said Joost van Dreunen, co-founder of research company SuperData. SUBSCRIPTIONS Citation: Streaming to subscriptions: Video games enter new frontiers (2019, April 4) retrieved 17 July 2019 from Has ‘Fortnite’ peaked? As season 8 arrives, research suggests revenue dipped in January In this Oct. 6, 2018, file photo Henry Hailey, 10, plays one of the online “Fortnite” game in the early morning hours in the basement of his Chicago home. “Fortnite,” a free-to-play game that has become a massive hit with its “battle royal” mode winning over millions of fans. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine, File) Apple announced a subscription service that some are calling the “Netflix of Games .”Apple Arcade subscribers will get to play more than 100 games, curated by Apple and exclusive to the service. Games can be downloaded and played offline—on the Apple-made iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV. Notably, Apple says players won’t have to pay for virtual weapons and other extras—something free mobile games typically charge for. The company didn’t say how much Arcade will cost when it launches this fall.FREE-TO-PLAY GAMESAnd then there is Fortnite, a free-to-play game that has become a massive hit with its “battle royal” mode winning over millions of fans. In this mode, 100 players battle one another for weapons and armor until only one player is left. Created by Epic Games, which is backed by Chinese mobile behemoth Tencent, a key aspect of the game is being able to play it on anything from your phone to a decked-out gaming PC.”I like the interactiveness and being able to play with your friends,” said Patrick Penfield, a Syracuse University student. “There are infinite possibilities.”Free-to-play games such as Fortnite make money from in-app purchases. In Fortnite, for instance, players use real-world money to buy for their characters outfits, gear or “emotes”—brief dances that have become a cultural phenomenon performed on playgrounds, in social media posts and in the scoring celebrations of professional athletes.last_img read more

Researchers charge ahead on battery storage

first_img Credit: Queensland University of Technology “A battery industry for Australian can go from mining, to usage and even to export,” Professor Talbot said.”Battery technologies give you energy security. Storage capability allows you to call on renewable energy any time of the day or night.””The CRC will be looking at doing it all in Australia – mine it, value add it, produce the components, make the batteries as I’ve shown in the example at QUT with our plant, put together the storage packs and then integrate it all with the power companies. QUT researchers will lead key research projects in expanding Australia’s battery industry from mining to manufacturing, with the announcement of the Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre. Explore further Citation: Researchers charge ahead on battery storage (2019, April 11) retrieved 17 July 2019 from The Future Battery Industries CRC will involve 58 industry, government and research partners, and has the backing of a $25 million grant from the Federal Government and more than $110 million in support from the research centre’s partners.The CRC, which will help tackle industry-identified gaps in the battery industries value chain, will focus on three research programs: battery industry development; the processing of minerals; metals and materials for batteries and the development of a new battery storage system.Professor Peter Talbot from QUT’s Institute for Future Environments, who last year produced Australia’s first lithium-ion battery at QUT’s pilot plant precinct at Banyo, will lead the research program into battery materials and storage system development.The QUT Power Engineering Group will also be involved in activities around development of batteries into the grid and connecting to remote communities and industries.QUT will also contribute relevant research expertise in business innovation, industry transformation, socio-economic research.Professor Talbot said battery technology was vital, giving the examples of a $2000 smartphone that was just a brick without a battery or an electric car that could not leave the driveway without an energy storage system.Professor Talbot said Australia had the resources and skills to produce the “whole picture” of battery technology. “It’s about a whole industry.”The CRC, which will fund 40 Ph.D. students, will be based at Curtin University.Future Battery Industries CRC Chair Mr Tim Shanahan said the consortium had a six-year plan to address industry-identified gaps in the battery industries value chain.”Given Australia’s abundant resources of battery minerals and world-class resources sector, the potential to promote the nation’s premium-quality, ethically sourced and safe battery minerals and metals through forensic-accredited and traceable sources will also be investigated, paving the way for Australia to position itself as a global leader in the international battery value chain,” Mr Shanahan said.Australia is the world’s largest miner of lithium. Exports of lithium have risen from $117 million in 2012 to $780 million in 2017, and are expected to rise to $1.1 billion by next year.Nathan Cammerman, executive director of Queensland-based company Multicom Resources Ltd, said the research centre “sends a clear signal to our international partners, and the broader global market, that when it comes to raw material supply, battery technology development and its subsequent manufacture and deployment, Australia is clearly open for business.”center_img Professor Peter Talbot will lead the CRC’s research program on battery materials. Credit: Queensland University of Technology Making green cars greener with battery recycling Provided by Queensland University of Technology This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.last_img read more