Former USS deputy CIO to lead in-house team at West Midlands

first_imgHe replaced Mark Chaloner as head of the investment team.Fletcher had been at USS since 1995, having joined from British Airways Pension Fund.He started at USS as head of Asian equities (ex Japan), before moving to the scheme’s Americas desk in 1999.This included responsibility for a Latin American portfolio before it was transferred to another team.Between 2007 and 2012, Fletcher also shared the role of deputy CIO at USS in addition to leading the Americas equities team.The deputy CIO roles were devolved in 2012, when Fletcher became deputy head of equities in addition to his role as head of North American equities.WMPF has been restructuring its portfolio and last year introduced an in-house actively managed global equities portfolio.The fund is one of the eight local government pension schemes (LGPS) forming the £32.6bn Central asset pool.Drever is WPMF’s programme director for investment pooling, with Fletcher expected to have some involvement in this, too. The former deputy head of equities at the UK’s largest pension fund has joined the £11.5bn (€15.7bn) West Midlands Pension Fund to lead the local government scheme’s in-house investment team.Jason Fletcher joined WMPF as assistant director of investments on 16 September.He joined from the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), where he was head of North American equities and deputy head of equities until April.At WMPF, Fletcher reports to Geik Drever, the head of the pension fund.last_img read more

The strongest man of BIH goes to China

first_imgAdin Arnaut, officialy the strongest man of BiH, will attend the World Strongman Tournament which will be held on 27 May in China,Arnaut said that the sport he trains is a sport of food and without careful intake of nutrients and supplements it would be impossible to achieve good results, and added apart from hard training is also necessary.He trains for several hours a day, and even more when preparing for the competition. In his gym he lift the weight, and he tows trucks in some companies.The competition will be held from 27 May to 5 June and Eurosport will report the entire event.(source: source.ba)(photo: strongman.ba)last_img

Board vote not aimed at students

first_imgIn one of its first official acts, the board voted on Resolution 42, introduced by President Monica Garcia, and co-sponsored by Yolie Flores Aguilar and Richard Vladovic with the Orwellian title “Healthy Families, Healthy Students.” The resolution, carefully couched in the terms of being for the benefit of students, mandated that all cafeteria employees in the district work at least a four-hour day and 800 hours per year, ostensibly “to enable the last child in line to have 20 minutes to eat their lunch.” On its face, the resolution seems innocuous; the cafeteria workers will work a little longer, the lines will be a little shorter, and the kids will have at least 20 minutes to eat. Neither the resolution nor the board discussion illuminated how mandating longer hours for all cafeteria employees was necessary for shortening lines from which, presumably, only a few employees would be serving food. But that wasn’t the real purpose of the action – not even close – so why even pretend to make it seem to make sense? The real reason for the resolution was to extend full medical benefits to the cafeteria workers who are members of the Service Employees International Union Local 99 (the same local whose former president pleaded guilty to conspiracy and embezzlement in the Martin Ludlow case). The resolution was not aimed at developing “healthier students,” but rather at generating financial benefits for SEIU’s members. In short, to offer to part-time employees, who have worked an average of three hours a day, that which millions of full-time workers in California and throughout the country don’t have – full health insurance. The vote was couched in terms of being one for “social justice,” a matter of fairness to those unskilled workers who serve our children food, and who would like medical insurance and health benefits. There is no doubt that California’s and the nation’s health-care systems are broken, and that millions of people deserve medical insurance. But fixing that ill of society isn’t the LAUSD’s job. If “social justice” is the criterion for board action, why not give those employees raises, rent subsidies, transportation allowances, etc.? In the real world beyond the Never-Never Land of government, employees who work three hours a day don’t get full medical coverage anywhere. IN the aftermath of Sen. Larry Craig’s bathroom adventure, the word “hypocrisy” has been pretty much worked over by pundits, late-night talk-show hosts and water-cooler conversationalists. The absurdity of a Bible-thumping politician, who has a long record of railing against the gay lifestyle, being caught in flagrante delicto, was so transparent that the easy jokes flew across the political spectrum. But we needn’t look over the Rockies to Minneapolis or north to Idaho to discover political hypocrisy that would be laughable if it weren’t so disappointing and disheartening. This July, a slate of candidates took office at the Los Angeles Board of Education committed to effecting serious change. Committed to making education and kids’ success the primary focus of their attention, they were to be Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s partners in “shaking up the system.” How troubling then that at one of the first meetings of the new board, the same mentality of assuaging and satisfying nonstudent constituencies that has prevailed at the LAUSD for eons seems to be holding sway once again. The faces may have changed, but the dysfunctional practices remain. The president of SEIU Local 99, who came before the board to argue for Resolution 42, intimated that to vote against the resolution would be racist since it benefits primarily “black and brown” workers. As if craven political machinations weren’t enough, the race card was thrown in for good measure. Fiscal responsibility and limited resources weren’t up for discussion. So what did most of the new “reform” slate do? You remember, the one committed to putting kids first, the one committed to husbanding the resources of a school district that is perpetually low on funds, the one that railed about schools with textbook shortages. All but one voted for the resolution and its $37 million annual (at least for now) costs. One of the new members had the chutzpah to comment, when told that the funds weren’t in the budget, “We’ll find the money.” In a multibillion-dollar budget like the LAUSD’s, they probably will find it. But it will probably come at the price of a program such as art and music education (already nearly gutted) that doesn’t have a well-organized union behind it. Or the funds will be looted from a program that only affects kids and their achievement, not one that has organized minions who can promise campaign workers and funds for the next election that board members are inevitably contemplating in an era of term limits. It is a sad commentary that only two board members – Marlene Canter and Tamar Galatzan (one of the newly elected members) – had the backbone to stand up to the tidal wave of demagoguery and political payback that overwhelmed the board. These events suggest that we are back in the same boat that we’ve been in before, with a board majority that cares less about kids than about lots of other things that have very little to do with kids or the quality of their education. There isn’t any humor in our local display of hypocrisy, and it will damage many more lives than a meeting in a Minneapolis restroom. David A. Lehrer and Joe R. Hicks are the president and vice president of Community Advocates Inc. (www.cai-la.org).160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

Peering Into Paley’s Black Box: The Gears of the Biological Clock

first_imgWilliam Paley’s famous “watchmaker argument” for the existence of a Designer, though intuitively logical to many, has been criticized by naturalists on the grounds that one cannot compare mechanical devices to biological ones. Biological “contrivances” might operate on totally different principles than mechanical ones made by humans we know. Michael Behe’s 1996 book Darwin’s Black Box was built on the theme that, until recently, the living cell was a “black box” to biologists: i.e., a system whose inner workings lay hidden from us. But now with the rapid advances in molecular biology, we are finding the cell to be a complex factory of molecular machines. These themes of Paley and Behe seemingly converge in a commentary by Susan S. Golden (Texas A&M) in PNAS about biological clocks.1 Golden works at the Center for Research on Biological Clocks in the Texas A&M Biology Department, and was struck by recent findings in two other papers in PNAS on the circadian rhythms of “primitive” blue-green algae (cyanobacteria). To her, they suggested we are opening the black box of biological clocks, and finding treasures that look remarkably familiar to the clocks we know:A physiological black box is to a biologist what an ornately decorated package is to a small child: a mysterious treasure that promises delightful toys within. With fitting elan, a small community of scientists has ripped open the packaging of the cyanobacterial circadian clock, compiled the parts list, examined the gears, and begun to piece together the mechanism. Over the past 2 years, the 3D molecular structures have been solved for the core components of the cyanobacterial circadian clock: KaiA, KaiB, and KaiC. In a surprisingly literal analogy to mechanical timepieces, the protein that seems to be at the heart of the clock mechanism, KaiC, forms a hexameric ring that even looks like a cog: the escape wheel, perhaps. Previous work has shown that KaiC has an autophosphorylation activity, and that the presence of KaiA and KaiB modulates the extent to which KaiC is phosphorylated. In this issue of PNAS, Nishiwaki et al. biochemically identify two amino acid residues on KaiC to which phosphoryl groups covalently attach, and show the necessity in vivo of a phosphorylation-competent residue at these positions. By searching the crystal structure for evidence of phosphorylated sites, Xu et al. pinpoint a third residue that may “borrow” the phosphoryl group dynamically. Together, their work contributes richly to our understanding of what makes the gears mesh and turn to crank out a 24-h timing circuit…. Because each of these components (at minimum) is a dimer [composite of two molecular chains], KaiC is known to be a hexamer [composite of six chains], and other proteins may be present as well, the cyanobacterial clock can be thought of as an organelle unto itself: a “periodosome” that assembles and disassembles during the course of a day, defining the circadian period. (Emphasis added in all quotes.)The term “periodosome” means “time-keeping body” – i.e., clock. Her diagram shows KaiC as a six-sided carousel to which phosphate groups and other subunits attach and detach during the diurnal cycle. The feedback between the units provides the periodicity of the clock, similar to the back-and-forth pendulum in a grandfather clock or the escape wheel in a wristwatch. How is the clock tuned to the day-night cycle? Where do the parts come together, and how do the clock gears mesh with other cellular machines? We don’t know yet; the box has just been opened. The clocks examined in these papers are the “simple” clocks of blue-green algae, compared to the much more complex biological clocks in eukaryotes. Even about these relatively simple systems in cyanobacteria much remains to be understood, but our initial glimpses into the inner workings of a biological clock at the molecular level remind her of the delight of opening a chest of toys for the first time:Identification of other potential components of the periodosome, intracellular localization of the clock parts, and elucidation of other potential modifications all may yield gears that are required to smoothly tick away the time and ensure that daughter cells do not run fast or slow. The cyanobacterial clock box, no longer black, is a chest filled with bioluminescence and attractive toys. Putting together the pieces to design a clock is a tedious task, but S. elongatus is a gracious host, and the guests at the party are hard at work.1Susan S. Golden, “Meshing the gears of the cyanobacterial circadian clock,“ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0405623101.Green makes no mention of evolution in this commentary, and has no need of that hypothesis. Even granting her some poetic license in her use of the clock metaphors of gears, cogs and escape wheels ticking away, who could deny that Paley, after so many years of ridicule, has been vindicated? Yes, Dick Dawkins, a watch indeed demands a Watchmaker, and if anyone is blind, it is the one ascribing blindness to the Artificer.(Visited 10 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Understanding Creationists (and Evolutionists)

first_imgA historian tells science teachers that “To Teach Evolution, You Have to Understand Creationists.” Should that advice apply both ways?In The Chronicle of Higher Education last month, Adam Laats seemingly advised a kinder, gentler treatment of creationists than the usual outrage from the secular Darwinian camp. There was no name-calling of them as ignorant, anti-science flat-earthers (or worse) from this historian and author from Binghamton University: instead, he urged that science teachers try to “understand” them. Cool your jets, he advised; attack-dog responses to creationist comments are uncalled for, as are the even milder (but no less virulent) comments from the likes of Bill Nye the Science Guy (see 8/27/2012).Laats’s reasons for moderation seem open-minded. He acknowledges that some creationists are not ignoramuses: U.S. Rep. Paul C. Broun Jr., Republican of Georgia, for instance, who took a “ferocious” beating after criticizing Darwinism and the Big Bang (he called them “lies from the pit of hell”), has a bachelor’s in chemistry and is an M.D. (Secular scientists are up in arms that he sits on the Science, Space, and Technology Committee of the House). A number of leading creationists have scientific credentials, Laats pointed out. He even praised William Jennings Bryan as a well-travelled man of letters with many degrees, who remarked that he had never been called an ignoramus “except by evolutionists.”The “snarky” remarks by some scientists who are “flummoxed by the durability of creationism,” he says, can’t on the one hand claim Broun is unqualified for his position, and on the other “demand that an elected official not fight for the ideas in which his constituents believe”. It’s time for carrot, not stick, Laats advises:As it stands, scientists’ blundering hostility toward creationism actually encourages creationist belief. By offering a stark division between religious faith and scientific belief, evolutionary scientists have pushed creationists away from embracing evolutionary ideas. And, by assuming that only ignorance could explain creationist beliefs, scientists have unwittingly fostered bitter resentment among the creationists, the very people with whom they should be hoping to connect.Laats also rejects the notion that creationists belong to a right-wing fringe. “As Berkman and Plutzer demonstrate, the creationist beliefs of teachers embody the creationist beliefs of Americans in general,” he said. “The teachers are not ignorant of evolution, yet they choose to reject it.” Remarkably, Laats is also willing to concede that some students who turn to embrace evolution might have done so not because of the facts of biology, but for personal moral failings or other motivations. Here, though, Laats reaches the limit of his tolerance for creationists:If we hope to spread the science of evolution, it does not help to charge forward in blissful ignorance about the nature and meanings of creationism. Broun may be wrong about evolution, embryology, and the Big Bang. But his scientific errors do not instantly disqualify him as a representative of the American people. Nor can they be explained away as a product of ignorance.Rather, those of us who care about promoting evolution education must admit the hard truth. It is not simply that creationists such as Broun have not heard the facts about evolution. Broun—along with other informed, educated creationists—simply rejects those facts. Evolution educators do not simply need to spread the word about evolution. We need to convince and convert Americans who sincerely hold differing understandings about the nature and meaning of science.So in the end, Laats continued to hold that evolution is a matter of science, facts, and being right. Even if he allows that creationists are not ignoramuses, he implies that they hold “differing understandings” (by implication, misunderstandings), about the nature and meaning of science. More of the same presentation of the “facts” of evolution, therefore, is not going to convert those who reject “facts”. He didn’t go any further, but others have suggested forms of mind control to influence those with false beliefs (see 9/27/2012). Given the limits of his toleration, others could well propose such measures as more effective than name-calling; for example, see 12/21/2005, “How to Overcome Student Objections to Evolution.”If you are a Darwin doubter, as you read this, you must guard against the tendency to want to leap up and hug Adam Laats for his tolerant attitude. Yes, it is refreshing to see someone in the secular journals actually say that Darwin doubters are not all ignoramuses. After being hit by that rock on the head for so long, it does indeed feel good when it stops. Your response, instead, should be, Why were you hitting me with that rock in the first place? What right do you have to call me an ignoramus when you believe everything in the universe, including your reason, emerged from nothing by an unguided process?This is not just tit-for-tat. You need to reason with the evolutionist that his very use of reason shows that evolution is self-refuting. The evolutionist believes that reason emerged in the human mind by an unguided natural process; it did not exist before that. Therefore, he has no basis for trusting its validity (some very good treatments of this “argument from reason” in the new book The Magician’s Twin discussed in the 11/20/2012 entry). Laats needs to see that evolutionists are the ones who have denied the facts. They are the ones who have misunderstood the nature and meaning of science.That being the situation, there is no reason that an articulate creationist could not write the very same article in inverted form: “To Teach the Science of Creation, You Need to Understand Evolutionists.” That spokesperson could employ the same arguments: admitting that not all evolutionists are ignoramuses, and that some who believe simply reject the facts of creation. Some even believe it for non-rational reasons. The person who should be cowering in shame for promoting a self-refuting worldview (which, by definition, cannot possibly be true), is Adam Laats and his fellow science teachers who promote it.If, and only if, Laats is willing to acknowledge, “you have a valid point there,” and that evolution could be the view that is factually wrong and unscientific, could there be a true meeting of the minds toward progress in mutual understanding. Anything less is a mere feint in a pitched battle. It just means the evolutionists will be kinder when they take creationists prisoner. Demand the evolutionists drop their arms and surrender the castle they have unrighteously usurped. (Visited 61 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Author, 16, is SA’s youngest

first_img“I didn’t really sit down with the intentionto write a novel,” says Andy Petersen,South Africa’s youngest published author.“I thought it might be something but Ididn’t think it would become so big.”Wilma den HartighNot many 16-year-olds can say they have written a book, let alone had it published. But that’s exactly what Andy Petersen has done, but at the time he didn’t know he would become South Africa’s youngest published author.In fact, Andy was only 14 when he first started writing his debut novel, Daniel Fox and the Jester’s Legacy. He was studying for his November school exams and needed a distraction.“I didn’t really sit down with the intention to write a novel,” he says. “I thought it might be something but I didn’t think it would become so big.”The first script of the fantasy novel was completed over eight months, but the book currently on the shelves is very different to the first draft. When the manuscript was first submitted to publisher Penguin Books, it was rejected. But this didn’t discourage Andy: “It didn’t really bother me because I agreed with their decision. It wasn’t good enough.”So he started from scratch with new ideas. The second script maintained the plot, but with far more depth to the story. Existing characters were developed further and new ones added. Halfway through the writing of the second draft, Penguin Books asked to meet Andy with a view to securing a contract.“I was so excited but also very surprised because the email came out of the blue,” he says.The revised manuscript was submitted to Penguin in April 2008, and accepted for publication. Although he wrote the novel with a young adult audience in mind, he thinks it would also appeal to readers of all ages who enjoy the fantasy genre.The novel setting is the afterlife and underworld. The story starts with Daniel Fox waking up on Monday morning in his house in New York. He expects an ordinary day, but it is in fact the day he will die. After witnessing the murder of an old man and being kidnapped from the Museum of Ancient History, Daniel Fox ends up in a waiting room. This leads to the capital of the underworld, the great city of Arison, where more adventure awaits.Andy says his life has become a lot more busy since the book was launched earlier this month. As an author he has a number of new commitments, such as attending book launches. He is also visiting schools across the country to promote not only his book, but also a culture of reading.It has been a fine balancing act to not neglect his schoolwork. He still wants to perform well academically and keep up his involvement with debating and drama at St John’s College.Then there is his busy social life – Andy certainly doesn’t fit the stereotype of the reclusive writer. He’s also a musician and plays keyboard in a band called Little Red House.“It is a fairly new band but we are all pretty serious musicians,” he says. On weekends when he’s not playing in the band or writing, he likes to watch music gigs with his friends.This won’t be Andy’s only novel; he hopes that it will be the first in a trilogy. In fact, he’s already got some ideas for the sequel. Daniel Fox and the Jester’s Legacy has been well received and has been short-listed for the Exclusive Books One Club Prize. It will also be the face of the award this year.He is quick to point out that he isn’t a whizz-kid. “I don’t posses any extraordinary skill that enabled me to complete the book,” he says.He adds that his interest in literature and writing all began with his love of reading. “I’ve always loved reading and when I was a child my parents always read to me.” He particularly likes fantasy literature such as The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.“The book was published because I finished it, and because I kept at it when I started,” he says. Andy encourages other young writers not to give up writing. “You are never too young to start writing. Often young people are deterred because they only see writers who are much older. Maybe wisdom of age does help, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do it.”Do you have queries or comments about this article? Email Mary Alexander at marya@mediaclubsouthafrica.com.Related articlesCommonwealth nod to SA writerNew life for indigenous classics SA remembers Es’kia Mphahlele South African literatureUseful linksPenguin South AfricaExclusive Bookslast_img read more

New study identifies genetic basis for western corn rootworm resistance in maize

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Farmers are stuck. Western corn rootworm can destroy cornfields — and profits — but populations of the “billion-dollar bug” have stopped responding to insecticides and the genetically modified corn hybrids designed to resist insect attacks. But there may be hope. In a new study, University of Illinois researchers uncover the genetic basis of resistance to western corn rootworm, paving the way for development of non-GM corn hybrids that can withstand the worm.“Our previous research showed that there is no inherent resistance in the elite hybrids grown by most farmers in the Midwest,” said Martin Bohn, corn breeder in the Department of Crop Sciences at U of I. “We want to improve native resistance to western corn rootworm in maize, without using transgenics.”The work was done within the context of a large, longstanding project called Germplasm Enhancement of Maize (GEM), which aims to diversify the tools available to corn breeders by tapping the genetic resources of maize accessions from all over the world.“Some of my colleagues look into lines that yield more, some look into nutritional characteristics. We were screening for insect resistance. There were not that many, but we found some. We had to look into lines from Argentina, Brazil, and the Caribbean Islands to find it,” Bohn said.The resistant corn lines can’t just be released here in the United States. For one thing, the plants are massive, leggy giants compared to the elite hybrids Midwestern farmers are used to growing. They’re also adapted to very different environments, and wouldn’t flower at the right time to produce reasonable yields.By crossing exotic and elite lines, GEM created plants with a quarter of the genes of the exotics. Several of these lines remained promising with regard to their level of resistance.But the team still didn’t know why the new lines were resistant.“What is the genetic basis of resistance? If you find that, then you can screen other exotic materials for resistance much more efficiently and effectively, with a more targeted approach,” Bohn said.The researchers haven’t found the gene for resistance — Bohn says the trait is likely too complex for it to boil down to a single gene — but the group has identified regions of the genome that appear to contribute to resistance, using a technique known as QTL mapping. There were some common themes among the regions.“When we look at other genes in these regions, one of the common denominators is ascorbate biosynthesis,” Bohn said.In other words, one mechanism explaining western corn rootworm resistance might be the manufacture of ascorbate in the plant. The ascorbate synthesis pathway produces free radicals that injure feeding insects.The analysis turned up another set of genes that may be involved in resistance, but this one is a little more complex. When western corn rootworm larvae are feeding on roots, some corn plants release a compound into the soil that calls nematodes to attack the larvae. The second set of genes appears to be related to the manufacture of compounds that attract those nematodes.“This is very important because plants can’t uproot themselves and go somewhere else, so they have to use other mechanisms to protect themselves,” Bohn said.The results are a first step in introducing native resistance mechanisms into new elite hybrids, but much more research is needed before that happens. And Bohn cautions that the level of native resistance found in the study is no match for the power of transgenic insect-resistant corn, at least not yet.“The idea is when you know where the genes with these small effects are located, perhaps it is possible to bring them into one common genetic background. If we can accumulate these genes, over time we might increase the level of resistance so that it makes sense for farmers to grow them.”The article, “Quantitative trait loci mapping of western corn rootworm (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) host plant resistance in two populations of doubled haploid lines in maize (Zea mays L.),” is published in the Journal of Economic Entomology. Bohn’s co-authors include J. Marroquin from U of I, S. Flint-Garcia and B. Hibbard from USDA-ARS, K. Dashiell from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria, and D. Willmot from AgReliant Genetics.The work was partially supported by funds from the USDA-ARS “Germplasm Enhancement in 477 Maize” Project by Specific Cooperative Agreements and the Hatch Project ILLU-802-315.last_img read more

Now, singer wants to mark Goa opinion poll jubilee at airport

first_imgPANAJI: The protests over BJP national president Amit Shah’s controversial meeting at Dablim Airport continued on Sunday, with singer-composer Sidhanath Buyao seeking permission to hold celebrations of the golden jubilee of Goa’s opinion poll on the airport premises on January 16, 2018.In a letter to the airport director, Mr. Buyao said, “This is a historic moment for every Goan to celebrate. On this occasion, we Buyao Theatres Goem, a prominent cultural organisation since 1967, wish to hold golden jubilee of opinion poll celebration meeting at Dabolim airport, with musical performances and the launch of a music album [of songs that were] used to canvas against the merger.” The letter goes on to say, that as Dabolim Airport has historic importance to Goa’s liberation, it would be a befitting venue for the occasion. “So we are approaching you to grant us permission for setting up stage, pandal, sound system and 1,000 chairs for our guests … Kindly allot us the same place where BJP national president Amit Shah’s meeting was held on July 1,” it says.The referendum to decide if Goa would merge with Maharashtra or remain a Union Territory — and if Daman & Diu would merge with Gujarat or remain part of the Union Territory of Goa — was held on January 16, 1967. Meanwhile, the petition filed by activist-lawyer Aires Rodrigues, seeking action against those responsible for Mr. Shah’s meeting, will come up for hearing at the Bombay High Court at Goa on Monday.last_img read more