Last month a group of Australian scientists publi

first_imgLast month, a group of Australian scientists published a warning to the citizens of the country and of the world who collectively gobble up some $34 billion annually of its agricultural exports. The warning concerned the safety of a new type of wheat. As Australia’s number-one export, a $6-billion annual industry, and the most-consumed grain locally, wheat is of the utmost importance to the country. A serious safety risk from wheat – a mad wheat disease of sorts – would have disastrous effects for the country and for its customers. Which is why the alarm bells are being rung over a new variety of wheat being ushered toward production by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) of Australia. In a sense, the crop is little different than the wide variety of modern genetically modified foods. A sequence of the plant’s genes has been turned off to change the wheat’s natural behavior a bit, to make it more commercially viable (hardier, higher yielding, slower decaying, etc.). Franken-Wheat? What’s really different this time – and what has Professor Jack Heinemann of the University of Canterbury, NZ, and Associate Professor Judy Carman, a biochemist at Flinders University in Australia, holding press conferences to garner attention to the subject – is the technique employed to effectuate the genetic change. It doesn’t modify the genes of the wheat plants in question; instead, a specialized gene blocker interferes with the natural action of the genes. The process at issue, dubbed RNA interference or RNAi for short, has been a hotbed of research activity ever since the Nobel Prize-winning 1997 research paper that described the process. It is one of a number of so-called “antisense” technologies that help suppress natural genetic expression and provide a mechanism for suppressing undesirable genetic behaviors. RNAi’s appeal is simple: it can potentially provide a temporary, reversible off switch for genes. Unlike most other genetic modification techniques, it doesn’t require making permanent changes to the underlying genome of the target. Instead, specialized siRNAs – chemical DNA blockers based on the same mechanism our own bodies use to temporarily turn genes on and off as needed – are delivered into the target organism and act to block the messages cells use to express a particular gene. When those messages meet with their chemical opposites, they turn inert. And when all of the siRNA is used up, the effect wears off. The new wheat is in early-stage field trials (i.e., it’s been planted to grow somewhere, but has not yet been tested for human consumption), part of a multi-year process on its way to potential approval and not unlike the rigorous process many drugs go through. The researchers responsible are using RNAi to turn down the production of glycogen. They are targeting the production of the wheat branching enzyme which, if suppressed, would result in a much lower starch level for the wheat. The result would be a grain with a lower glycemic index – i.e., healthier wheat. This is a noble goal. However, Professors Heinemann and Carman warn, there’s a risk that the gene silencing done to these plants might make its way into humans and wreak havoc on our bodies. In their press conference and subsequent papers, they describe the possibility that the siRNA molecules – which are pretty hardy little chemicals and not easily gotten rid of – could wind up interacting with our RNA. If their theories prove true, the results might be as bad as mimicking glycogen storage disease IV, a super-rare genetic disorder which almost always leads to early childhood death. “Franken-Wheat Causes Massive Deaths from Liver Failure!” Now that is potentially headline-grabbing stuff. Unfortunately, much of it is mere speculation at this point, albeit rooted in scientific expertise on the subject. What they’ve produced is a series of opinion papers – not scientific research nor empirical data to prove that what they suspect might happen, actually does. They point to the possibilities that could happen if a number of criteria are met: If the siRNAs remain in the wheat in transferrable form, in large quantities, when the grain makes it to your plate. And… If the siRNA molecules interfere with the somewhat different but largely similar human branching enzyme as well. Then the result might be symptoms similar to such a condition, on some scale or another, anywhere from completely unnoticeable to highly impactful. They further postulate that if the same effect is seen in animals, it could result in devastating ecological impact. Dead bugs and dead wild animals. Luckily for us, as potential consumers of these foods, all of these are easily testable theories. And this is precisely the type of data the lengthy approval process is meant to look at. Opinion papers like this – while not to be confused with conclusions resulting from solid research – are a critically important part of the scientific process, challenging researchers to provide hard data on areas that other experts suspect could be overlooked. Professors Carman and Heinemann provide a very important public good in challenging the strength of the due-diligence process for RNAi’s use in agriculture, an incomplete subject we continue to discover more about every day. However, we’ll have to wait until the data come back on this particular experiment – among thousands of similar ones being conducted at government labs, universities, and in the research facilities of commercial agribusinesses like Monsanto and Cargill – to know if this wheat variety would in fact result in a dietary apocalypse. That’s a notion many anti-genetically modified organism (GMO) pundits seem to have latched onto following the press conference the professors held. But if the history of modern agriculture can teach us anything, it’s that far more aggressive forms of GMO foods appear to have had a huge net positive effect on the global economy and our lives. Not only have they not killed us, in many ways GMO foods have been responsible for the massive increases in public health and quality of life around the world. The Roots of the GMO Food Debate The debate over genetically modified (GM) food is a heated one. Few contest that we are working in somewhat murky waters when it comes to genetically modified anything, human or plant alike. At issue, really, is the question of whether we are prepared to use the technologies we’ve discovered. In other words, are we the equivalent of a herd of monkeys armed with bazookas, unable to comprehend the sheer destructive power we possess yet perfectly capable of pulling the trigger? Or do we simply face the same type of daunting intellectual challenge as those who discovered fire, electricity, or even penicillin, at a time when the tools to fully understand how they worked had not yet been conceived of? In all of those cases, we were able to probe, study, and learn the mysteries of these incredible discoveries over time. Sure, there were certainly costly mistakes along the way. But we were also able to make great use of them to advance civilization long before we fully understood how they worked at a scientific level. Much is the same in the study and practical use of GM foods. While the fundamentals of DNA have been well understood for decades, we are still in the process of uncovering many of the inner workings of what is arguably the single most advanced form of programming humans have ever encountered. It is still very much a rapidly evolving science to this day. For example, in the 1990s, an idea known simply as “gene therapy” – really a generalized term for a host of new-at-the-time experimental techniques that share the simple characteristic of permanently modifying the genetic make-up of an organism – was all the rage in medical study. Two decades on, it’s hardly ever spoken of. That’s because the great majority of attempted disease therapies from genetic modification failed, with many resulting in terrible side effects and even death for the patients who underwent the treatments. Its use in the early days, of course, was limited almost exclusively to some of the world’s most debilitating, genetically rooted diseases. Still – whether in their zeal to use a fledgling tool to cure a dreadful malady or in selfish, hurried desire to be recognized among the pioneers of what they thought would be the very future of medicine – doctors chose to move forward at a dangerous pace with gene therapy. In one famous case, and somewhat typical of the times, University of Pennsylvania physicians enrolled a sick 18-year-old boy with a liver mutation into a trial for a gene therapy that was known to have resulted in the deaths of some of the monkeys it had just been tested on. The treatment resulted in the young man’s death a few days later, and the lengthy investigation that followed resulted in serious accusations of what can only be called “cowboy medicine.” Not one of science’s prouder moments, to be sure. But could GM foods be following the same dangerous path? After all, the first GM foods made their way to market during the same time period. The 1980s saw large-scale genetic-science research and experimentation from agricultural companies, producing everything from antibiotic-resistant tobacco to pesticide-hardy corn. After much debate and study, in 1994 the FDA gave approval to the first GM food to be sold in the United States: the ironically named Flavr Savr tomato, with its delayed ripening genes which made it an ideal candidate for sitting for days or weeks on grocery store shelves. Ever since, there has been a seeming rush of modified foods into the marketplace. Modern GM foods include soybeans, corn, cotton, canola, sugar beets, and a number of squash and greens varieties, as well as products made from them. One of the most prevalent modifications is to make plants glyphosate-resistant, or in common terms, “Roundup Ready.” This yields varieties that are able to stand up to much heavier doses of the herbicide Roundup, which is used to keep weeds and other pest plants from damaging large monoculture fields, thereby reducing costs and lowering risks. In total it is estimated that modern GM crops have grown to become a $12 billion annual business since their commercialization in 1994, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). Over 15 million farms around the world are reported to have grown GM crops, and their popularity increases every year. They’ve brought huge improvements in shelf life, pathogen and other stress resistance, and even added nutritional benefits. For instance, yellow rice – which was the first approved crop with an entirely new genetic pathway added artificially – provides beta-carotene to a large population of people around the world who otherwise struggle to find enough in their diets. However, the race for horticulturalists to the genetic table in the past few decades – what could be described accurately as the transgenic generation of research – has by no means been our first experiment with the genetic manipulation of food. In fact, if anything, it is a more deliberate, well studied, and careful advance than those that came before it. A VERY Brief History of Genetically Modified Food Some proponents of GMO foods are quick to point out that humans have been modifying foods at the genetic level since the dawn of agriculture itself. We crossbreed plants with each other to produce hybrids (can I interest you in a boysenberry?). And of course, we select our crops for breeding from those with the most desirable traits, effectively encouraging genetic mutations that would have otherwise resulted in natural failure, if not helped along by human hands. Corn as we know it, for example, would never have survived in nature without our help in breeding it. Using that as a justification for genetic meddling, however, is like saying we know that NASCAR drivers don’t need seatbelts because kids have been building soapbox racers without them for years. Nature, had the mix not been near ideal to begin with, would have prevented such crossbreeding. Despite Hollywood’s desires, one can’t simply crossbreed a human and a fly, or even a bee and a mosquito, for that matter – their genetics are too different to naturally mix. And even if it did somehow occur, if it did not make for a hardier result, then natural selection would have quickly kicked in. No, I am talking about real, scientific genetic mucking – the kind we imagined would result in the destruction of the world from giant killer tomatoes or man-eating cockroaches in our B-grade science-fiction films. Radiation mutants. Enterprising agrarians have been blasting plants with radiation of all sorts ever since we started messing around with atomic science at the dawn of the 20th century. In the 1920s, just when Einstein and Fermi were getting in their grooves, Dr. Lewis Stadler at the University of Missouri was busy blasting barley seeds with X-rays – research that would usher in a frenzy of mutation breeding to follow. With the advent of nuclear technology from the war effort, X-rays expanded into atomic radiation, with the use of gamma rays leading the pack. The United States even actively encouraged the practice for decades, through a program dubbed “Atoms for Peace” that proliferated nuclear technology throughout various parts of the private sector in a hope that it would improve the lives of many. And it did. Today, thousands of agricultural varieties we take for granted – including, according to a 2007 New York Times feature on the practice, “rice, wheat, barley, pears, peas, cotton, peppermint, sunflowers, peanuts, grapefruit, sesame, bananas, cassava and sorghum” – are a direct result of mutation breeding. They would not be classified as GM foods, in the sense that we did not use modern transgenic techniques to make them, but they are genetically altered nonetheless, to the same or greater degree than most modern GMO strains. Unlike modern GM foods – which are often closely protected by patents and armies of lawyers to ensure the inventing companies reap maximum profits from their use – the overwhelming majority of the original generations of radiation-mutated plant varieties came out of academic and government sponsored research, and thus were provided free and clear for farmers to use without restriction. With the chemical revolution of the mid-20th century, radiation-based mutations were followed by the use of chemical agents like the methyl sulfate family of mutagens. And after that, the crudest forms of organic genetic manipulation came into use, such as the uses of transposons, highly repetitive strands of DNA discovered in 1948 that can be used like biological duct tape to cover whole sections the genome. These modified crops stood up better to pests, lessened famines, reduced reliance on pesticides, and most of all enabled farmers to increase their effective yields. Coupled with the development of commercial machinery like tractors and harvesters, the rise of mutagenic breeding resulted in an agricultural revolution of a magnitude few truly appreciate. In the late 1800s, the overwhelming majority of global populations lived in rural areas, and most people spent their lives in agrarian pursuits. From subsistence farmers to small commercial operations, the majority of the population of every country, the US included, was employed in agriculture. Today, less than 2% of the American population (legal and illegal combined) works in farming of any kind. Yet we have more than enough food to feed all of our people, and a surplus to export to more densely populated nations like China and India. The result is that a sizable percentage of the world’s plant crops today – the ones on top of which much of the modern-era GMO experiments are done – are already genetic mutants. Hence the slippery slope that serves as the foundation of the resistance from regulators over the labeling of GM food products. Where do you draw the line on what to label? And frankly, how do you even know for sure, following the Wild-West days of blasting everything that could grow with some form or another of radiation, what plants are truly virgin DNA? The world’s public is largely unaware that many of the foods they eat today – far more than those targeted by anti-GMO protestors and labeling advocates – are genetically modified. Yet we don’t seem to be dying off in large numbers, like the anti-RNAi researchers project will happen. In fact, global lifespans have increased dramatically across the board in the last century. The Rise of Careful The science of GM food has advanced considerably since the dark ages of the 1920s. Previous versions of mutation breeding were akin to trying to fix a pair of eyeglasses with a sledgehammer – messy and imprecise, with rare positive results. And the outputs of those experiments were often foisted upon a public without any knowledge or understanding of what they were consuming. Modern-day GM foods are produced with a much more precise toolset, which means less unintended collateral damage. Of course it also opens up a veritable Pandora’s box of new possibilities (glow-in-the-dark corn, anyone?) and with it a whole host of potential new risks. Like any sufficiently powerful technology, such as the radiation and harsh chemicals used in prior generations of mutation breeding, without careful control over its use, the results can be devastating. This fact is only outweighed by the massive improvements over the prior, messier generation of techniques. And thus, regulatory regimes from the FDA to CSIRO to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) are taking increasing steps to ensure that GM foods are thoroughly tested long before they come to market. In many ways, the tests are far more rigorous than those that prescription drugs undergo, as the target population is not sick and in need of urgent care, and for which side effects can be tolerated. This is why a great many of the proposed GM foods of the last 20 years, including the controversial “suicide seeds” meant to protect the intellectual property of the large GM seed producers like Monsanto (which bought out Calgene, the inventor of that Flavr Savr tomato, and is now the 800-lb. gorilla of the GM food business), were never allowed to market. Still, with the 15 years from 1996 to 2011 seeing a 96-fold increase in the amount of land dedicated to growing GM crops and the incalculable success of the generations of pre-transgenic mutants before them, scientists and corporations are still in a mad sprint to find the next billion-dollar GM blockbuster. In doing so they are seeking tools that make the discovery of such breakthroughs faster and more reliable. With RNAi, they may just have found one such tool. If it holds true to its laboratory promises, its benefits will be obvious from all sides. Unlike previous generations of GMO, RNAi-treated crops do not need to be permanently modified. This means that mutations which outlive their usefulness, like resistance to a plague which is eradicated, do not need to live on forever. This allows companies to be more responsive, and potentially provides a big relief to consumers concerned about the implications of eating foods with permanent genetic modifications. The simple science of creating RNAi molecules is also attractive to people who develop these new agricultural products, as once a messenger RNA is identified, there is a precise formula to tell you exactly how to shut it off, potentially saving millions or even billions of dollars that would be spent in the research lab trying to figure out exactly how to affect a particular genetic process. And with the temporary nature of the technique, both the farmers and the Monsantos of the world can breathe easily over the huge intellectual-property questions of how to deal with genetically altered seeds. Not to mention the questions of natural spread of strains between farms who might not want GMO crops in their midst. Instead of needing to engineer in complex genetic functions to ensure progeny don’t pass down enhancements for free and that black markets in GMO seeds don’t flourish, the economic equation becomes as simple as fertilizer: use it or don’t. While RNAi is not a panacea for GMO scientists – it serves as an off switch, but cannot add new traits nor even turn on dormant ones – the dawn of antisense techniques is likely to mean an even further acceleration of the science of genetic meddling in agriculture. Its tools are more precise even than many of the most recent permanent genetic-modification methods. And the temporary nature of the technique – the ability to apply it selectively as needed versus breeding it directly into plants which may not benefit from the change decades on – is sure to please farmers, and maybe even consumers as well. That is, unless the scientists in Australia are proven correct, and the siRNAs used in experiments today make their way into humans and affect the same genetic functions in us as they do in the plants. The science behind their assertions still needs a great deal of testing. Much of their assertion defies the basic understanding of how siRNA molecules are delivered – an incredibly difficult and delicate process that has been the subject of hundreds of millions of dollars of research thus far, and still remains, thanks to our incredible immune systems, a daunting challenge in front of one of the most promising forms of medicine (and now of farming too). Still, their perspective is important food for thought… and likely fuel for much more debate to come. After all, even if you must label your products as containing GMO-derived ingredients, does that apply if you just treated an otherwise normal plant with a temporary, consumable, genetic on or off switch? In theory, the plant which ends up on your plate is once again genetically no different than the one which would have been on your plate had no siRNAs been used during its formative stages. One thing is sure: the GMO food train left the station nearly a century ago and is now a very big business that will continue to grow and to innovate, using RNAi and other techniques to come. The Casey Extraordinary Technology team has been tracking the leading lights of the RNAi medical industry for some time. Recently, one of our small biotech upstarts struck a potentially massive, exclusive deal with an agricultural giant to seed its own RNAi research program. Success could mean billions for both firms. If you’d like to know what company we believe will profit most from the next generation of GM food development, subscribe to CET. Bits & Bytes Last Chance for RIM? (CNN Money) Few companies have been written off as frequently as Research in Motion, whose Blackberry was once state of the art and which now finds itself fighting for its life. Its stock just soared 9% merely because it said release of the new Blackberry 10 is still on schedule for early next year. Whether the 10 will be able to put a dent into the Apple/Android monolith remains to be seen, but for RIM it could be the last, best hope. Giant Media Merger (LA Times) What do you get when you mate Han Solo with Minnie Mouse? We’re about to find out – fiscally, if not physically – with Tuesday’s announcement that Disney is acquiring Lucasfilm for a cool $4 billion. Disney is projecting it’ll get its money back within three years, while George is, well, retiring – as he is now well able to do. Google Settles Final AdWords Dispute (Ars Technica) Several companies have taken Google to court over AdWords, saying Google shouldn’t be allowed to key advertisements to their names, which are protected trademarks. The last and one of the most persistent has been Rosetta Stone, a language-software maker that sued Google in 2009, but lost in federal court. However, its case was revived on appeal, and yesterday it finally was settled on confidential terms. How Easy Is a Tablet to Use? (TechCrunch) Pretty damn easy, as it turns out. In a remarkable experiment, OLPC (One Laptop per Child) researchers in Ethiopia handed a Motorola Xoom tablet to each of a group of illiterate village children aged four to eight. Click the link to learn the amazing results.last_img read more

Leaders can have many different styles — just comp

first_imgLeaders can have many different styles — just compare President Donald Trump to Malala Yousafzai to your boss or the coach of your kid’s soccer team.But a study published Thursday suggests that people who end up in leadership roles of various sorts all share one key trait: Leaders make decisions for a group in the same way that they make decisions for themselves. They don’t change their decision-making behavior, even when other people’s welfare is at stake.That may come as a bit of surprise, given that most lists of key leadership qualities focus on things like charisma and communication skills.”Previous research has mostly focused on these kinds of either personality characteristics of a leader, or situations where individuals are likely to lead,” says Micah Edelson, a neuroscientist at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. “But we don’t know much about the cognitive or neurobiological process that is happening when you are choosing to lead or follow — when you’re faced with this choice to lead or follow.”He notes that the decisions of leaders can affect the lives of many others. “It’s not always that easy to make such a choice, and it’s something that could be even a little bit aversive to you, to make a choice that impacts other people,” says Edelson. “And there are some people that seem to be able to do it; some people don’t. So we were interested in looking at that.”He and his colleagues had volunteers come to the lab, and gave them questionnaires that are widely used to predict whether someone is likely to be in a position of leadership. They also collected information about people’s real-world leadership experience, such as what rank they’d achieved in the military (which is compulsory for men in Switzerland) or in the popular Swiss Scouts organization.Then they put the participants into small groups and had them play a series of games in which individuals had to make choices about whether to take a risky action to get a reward.”These are choices about uncertain gambles that have some probability of success and potential gains and losses,” Edelson explains.The player could choose to either make the choice alone, or defer the decision to a majority vote.The games were played under two conditions: Sometimes the decision affected only the individual player’s winnings and other times the decision affected what the entire group received.What the researchers found is that people in general tended to avoid taking responsibility for what happens to others; deferral rates were the highest when decisions affected other people’s pocketbooks.But the people who changed their decision-making behavior the least were the ones who generally served as leaders in the real-world and scored high on leadership questionnaires. Unlike others, they did not require more certainty before being ready to personally make a decision that would affect the whole group.”On average, people tend to increase the certainty threshold when the choices affect the entire group. But higher-scoring leaders just keep their thresholds almost constant,” says Edelson, who says preliminary work using MRI brain scanning supports the idea that leaders and followers differ in how their brains process information about gains, losses, and risk in the context of thinking about others.Other neuroscientists say the work, published in the journal Science, is fascinating.”It seems a very reasonable finding,” says Tali Sharot, a cognitive neuroscientist at University College London. “It works with our intuition, but in the same way it’s not something that you’d necessarily think about that distinguishes leadership.”Sharot cautions that it’s not clear whether this decision-making behavior is what led people to their leadership position, or if they’ve developed it as a result of real-world leadership experience.And this study doesn’t say anything about who ends up being a “good” leader, either.But Sharot says the researchers have identified something about leadership that can hold true regardless of a leader’s style.”You can have authoritarian leaders who like to have the ultimate control,” she says. “You can have democratic leaders who want to lead according to the will of the people. You have leaders who are risk-takers, leaders who are risk-adverse and conservative and so on.”But what’s really interesting about this work, she says, is that these different types of leaders’ decision-making behavior stays the same regardless of whether the outcome affects only themselves or other people. “What this paper shows is that all these types of individuals, all these types of leaders, have something in common.” Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.last_img read more

Picture by DPAC

first_imgPicture by DPAC Disabled activists were locked inside the Department for Work and Pensions’ headquarters by security guards as they delivered thousands of copies of a newspaper that feature “deliberately misleading” DWP adverts which “whitewash” the truth about universal credit.Protesters from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) were unable to leave Caxton House in Westminster for several minutes yesterday (Wednesday) when security guards locked the building’s front doors behind them after they entered the main lobby.They had entered the building to deliver a letter to work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd, in which they asked her to explain why she had spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on an advertising campaign in the free Metro newspaper that features “one-sided adverts whitewashing the disastrous Universal Credit policy”.They also delivered about 10 boxes of copies of yesterday’s Metro (pictured), which features the latest Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) advertising feature on universal credit (UC), and which activists had removed from distribution points at train stations and on buses across the capital.Soon after their arrival, DWP security guards locked the front entrance and threatened to call the police, even though the action had been peaceful and focused only on delivering the newspapers and the letter to Rudd.The doors were eventually unlocked several minutes later after one of the activists had a panic attack.The letter to Rudd was finally accepted, and although DWP initially refused to accept the boxes of newspapers, they were later taken inside after being left outside the department’s front entrance.In the letter, DPAC and allies from Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group asked Rudd “why, when Universal Credit is causing so much suffering and distress, your department chose to throw money at this shameless exercise”.They added: “We hope that the enclosed materials will provide food for thought as you prepare your response to claimants staring into empty cupboards trying to work out how they can feed themselves and their children, and all those who are wondering why the taxes we pay for collective provision of services are being used in such an inappropriate attempt to rewrite the story of this disastrous policy.”Paula Peters, a member of DPAC’s national steering group, who took part in the action, said: “They are discrediting people’s real testimonies of going through universal credit.“I have been outside jobcentres and have spoken to claimants who have been driven to prostitution, destitution and homelessness by universal credit.”She added: “We will continue to expose their lies and total fabrications and we have to get the truth out there with thorough research and with people’s personal testimonies.”Yesterday’s action, including the hire of a van to deliver the newspapers, was paid for through a crowdfunding effort launched by Sheffield DPAC, which is set to pay for further such actions.As DPAC was delivering its copies of the Metro to DWP in London, disabled activists and allies in other parts of the country, including Sheffield and Bristol, posted photographs of copies of the Metro being removed from their distribution points, as part of the ongoing #DumpMetroDWPLies campaign.A spokesperson for Sheffield DPAC – which has played a significant role in the national campaign – said anger about the Metro adverts was growing, and she thanked those who had donated to the fund.She said the Metro adverts were “propaganda” and “a deliberate attempt to manipulate public perception” of universal credit.She said: “I implore people, whether they are claimants or not, to support the #DumpMetroDWPLies campaign against the DWP advertorials.“People have to be aware that once the government have done targeting us that they will move on to someone else.“We need to act, we need to stand up, we need to stop this, and we absolutely must do it together.”Meanwhile, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has confirmed that it is investigating the way the DWP advertising features have been published by the Metro.Disability News Service (DNS) confirmed last month that DWP breached Civil Service guidelines when it decided to launch the nine-week series of “unethical and misleading” Metro advertorials without including a government logo.And this week DNS passed a screen shot to ASA showing the home page of the Metro’s website, which featured several UC adverts designed to look like a newspaper investigation and which disguise their DWP origin.None of the adverts on the website mentioned they were designed and paid for by DWP, which appears to be a breach of ASA rules.Leaked DWP documents have revealed that the adverts were always designed to be misleading and not to “look or feel like DWP or UC”.An ASA spokesperson said: “We’re currently assessing a number of complaints relating to these ads, including complaints that challenge whether the ads are obviously identifiable as marketing communications.“We will establish whether there are grounds for further action in due course.”Meanwhile, the Disability Benefits Consortium of charities has written to ASA to complain about the “deliberately misleading” advertising features.The letter dismantles several of the claims made in the adverts, including the claim that it is a “myth” that “Universal Credit doesn’t work”, telling ASA: “These statements omit the thousands of claimants universal credit does not ‘work for’ but instead has driven them into debt, rent arrears, foodbanks, and homelessness.”A DWP spokesperson told DNS: “Our position is that all our advertising is factual and designed to increase understanding of Universal Credit.“We consulted the Advertising Standards Authority prior to launching the partnership and have reflected their advice.“We’ve not got anything further to add.”On the DPAC action at Caxton House, she said: “You can understand that we’re in a government building, so a group of non-staff members quickly entering the building with large parcels is an obvious security concern.“Security dealt with the incident quickly and the activists were able to leave the parcels outside the front door, without the need for further action.”She had already declined to comment when asked what DWP planned to do with the thousands of Metros delivered to Rudd. A note from the editor:Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations. Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009. Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…last_img read more

3 Things To Know

New Report US Cannabis Market Could Hit 227B by 2023

first_img cannabis, biotech and entrepreneurship reporter Add to Queue 3 min read Image credit: HighGradeRoots | Getty Images New Report: US Cannabis Market Could Hit $22.7B by 2023 Green Entrepreneur provides how-to guides, ideas and expert insights for entrepreneurs looking to start and grow a cannabis business. Get 1 Year of Green Entrepreneur for $19.99 A new report projects the cannabis market in the United States will reach $22.7 billion in sales by 2023. The estimates in the Brightfield Group report imply a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20 percent over the next four years.The recreational market is expected to lead the charge, at least in 2019, delivering 33 percent growth, driven by a variety of factors including the stabilization of the market in California and new adult-use markets coming online. The Brightfield Group, a predictive market intelligence services provider for the CBD and cannabis industry, last year predicted the hemp-derived CBD market would hit sales of $22 billion by 2022.Related: Report: CBD Market To Hit $22 Billion By 2022New states, new leaders.Brightfield Group’s estimates assume the number of active adult-use states (meaning those currently selling products, versus those with laws in place but no real sales) will surge from seven in 2019 to 16 by 2023. The number of active medical markets is also anticipated to rise from 28 to 35. The report explains that as more states move to legalize adult-use cannabis through ballot initiatives, momentum for legalization should increase as well.“Major shifts in socio-political support for legalization have spurred momentum as progressive proposals have been put forth in states like Illinois, and other midwestern states, such as Ohio, open to medicinal usage.”According to the research firm, West Coast states which currently dominate the market in terms of sales, will soon lose their preeminence to East Coast and Midwestern states. Only California will remain a leader, followed by New York and Massachusetts, which will command 10 percent of the total market share each, Brightfield Group expects. The firm also envisions Midwestern states such as Illinois and Michigan will deliver stronger sales numbers than states with more established adult-use programs, like Colorado and Nevada.”Some of the country’s largest states have been bitten by the cannabis bug,” said Bethany Gomez, director of research for Brightfield Group. “With states like Michigan, Illinois, New York and New Jersey expected to open recreational markets over the next five years, the landscape of the cannabis market will shift entirely from West to East. The first movers of four or five years ago —  Colorado, Oregon, Washington — are slowing to single-digit growth rates, while these more populous markets will rapidly take their place.”Related: A University in Michigan Is Offering a Bachelor Degree for Marijuana EntrepreneursWhile sentiment toward the medical uses of cannabis changes nationwide, driving policy change as well, a convoluted picture on the federal level calls for more clarity in standardized legislation. This would provide “needed consistency, helping states model and craft legislation to fit their constituents and markets with proven models and in-market clarity.”Beyond the evolution of the market size and distribution of the pie, Brightfield Group’s report looks into the positive effects of the Farm Bill, as well as the potential passage of the STATES Act and the SAFE Banking Act on the future of the cannabis industry. They also predict a move toward market standardization, an explosion of multi-state operators, ongoing corporate consolidation and continued expansion of the CBD market. Subscribe Now Next Article Javier Hasse –shares Brought to you by Benzinga May 22, 2019 cannabis industry Legal marijuana will no longer be an exclusively West Coast phenomena as East Coast and Midwestern states legalize huge new markets. VIP Contributorlast_img read more

The Web is the New PC

first_img Mike Hogan November 1, 2007 Next Article Interesting new PC shapes and concepts promise to accelerate our drive toward virtual computing. They’re desktops, portables, even memory sticks with names like FlipStart, iMac, MojoPac and Zonbu. Invariably thin and light, they’re not meant to operate as lone computing devices. Rather, they rely on the web for much of their functionality.Meet your new PC–the endpoint. The net has finally become the PC, an idea some superrich somebodies had a decade ago and lost a bunch of money on. So? PC users didn’t live with one foot in the virtual world then, and web infrastructure and computer subsystems weren’t anything like they are today.Component miniaturization, free open source software and logarithmic growth in web services combine in new PCs like the paperback-size Zonbu. Relying on the web for its hard drive, the 5-pound brick fits in the palm of your hand. But mobility isn’t its primary goal; Zonbu’s creators wanted to build a PC that was both cheap and green. Add your own keyboard, display and mouse to the CPU-only Zonbu, which costs as little as $99 with a two-year online storage contract (as low as $13 a month for 25GB). Zonbu’s Linux OS is housed on a 4GB CompactFlash card, along with 20 open source applications like the OpenOffice.org productivity suite and a Firefox browser.Instead of the standard 200-watt gulps, Zonbu takes 9-watt sips of electricity and is religiously carbon-emission neutral. Ohhhhm. But even we major carbon consumers can appreciate Zonbu’s complete silence (no hard drive or fan) and reduced levels of Windows’ hassle emissions. There’s no system configuration, license management, drive defragmentation or constant updating of multiple layers of malware protection–no Windows Mega-Patch Tuesdays!Only Skin-DeepBut Zonbu is a squat little box. If it’s style you’re looking for–and you have $1,200 to spend–where else to turn but Apple Inc.? Its newest line of iMacs are the sleekest desktops ever and will run Windows software. A CPU, hard drive and more are somehow poured into a 20- or 24-inch display balanced on a wire-thin L stand. Add Apple’s new wireless keyboard and mouse, and you have a computer that barely casts a shadow on your desk.Want web access to go? New feather-weights like the OQO model 02 and FlipStart can keep you connected wherever you roam at speeds of up to 1.4Mbps and 3.1Mbps, respectively. Weighing in at a pound and some change, each squeezes Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and even wide-area EV-DO into handhelds that measure less than 6 by 5 inches. They slide easily into a pocket or purse but include displays large enough for a full-size web browser. The heaviest part of either is the price tag: $1,299 and up.Still too much PC to carry? How about a USB 2.0 memory stick packing the new MojoPac virtual PC environment and a copy of your entire Windows desktop? Plug the MojoPac stick into any PC and compute from MojoPac’s secure environment without changing a single setting on the host. It’s very similar to the U3 environment with one critical difference: MojoPac works with the Microsoft Office Suite.Still too heavy for you? If you can lift a user ID and password, you can keep all your files on a virtual application site like Zoho. Log into its Microsoft Office-compatible suite from any broadband PC you can find.Traditional PCs aren’t going away– they’re just becoming terminals into that ultimate virtual PC in the sky: the web.Mike Hogan is Entrepreneur’s technology editor. Magazine Contributor This story appears in the November 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe » PC functions are moving onto the web. Here are the tools you need to make the leap. Add to Queue The Web is the New PC Technology 3 min read –shares Free Webinar | July 31: Secrets to Running a Successful Family Business Learn how to successfully navigate family business dynamics and build businesses that excel. Register Now »last_img read more

Harvard forum examining safety of selfdriving vehicles

© 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. A Harvard University forum is examining how a recent death linked to self-driving technology is causing concern about safety. Toyota suspends self-driving car tests after Uber death Explore further Citation: Harvard forum examining safety of self-driving vehicles (2018, May 4) retrieved 18 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-05-harvard-forum-safety-self-driving-vehicles.html In this Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, file photo, an autonomous vehicle is driven by an engineer on a street in an industrial park in Boston. Harvard University’s School of Public Health is holding a forum on Friday, May 4, 2018, to examine how recent deaths linked to self-driving technology are causing concern about safety, and raising questions about whether the field is moving too quickly. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File) 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. Friday’s panel discussion at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health is exploring whether the field is advancing too quickly.Some experts are pointing to the March death of a pedestrian struck by a self-driving Uber vehicle in Tempe, Arizona, as cause for serious safety concern. It was the first death involving a fully autonomous test vehicle.Current federal regulations have few requirements specifically for self-driving vehicles, leaving it for states to handle.Participants will include Deborah Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council, and John Leonard, vice president of research at the Toyota Research Institute. Toyota has been working with Uber on driverless systems. read more

Utah driver sues Tesla after crashing in Autopilot mode

first_img Heather Lommatzsch claimed in the lawsuit filed Tuesday that Tesla salespeople told her in 2016 when she purchased the Model S that she could just touch the steering wheel occasionally while using the Autopilot mode. Lommatzsch, 29, said she tried to brake when she saw the stopped cars, but that the car’s brakes did not work.The accident happened May 11 in the Salt Lake City suburb of South Jordan. Lommatzsch broke her foot and was charged with a misdemeanor traffic citation for failure to keep a proper lookout. The firetruck’s driver suffered injuries but was not hospitalized.Tesla spokesman Dave Arnold said in a statement about the lawsuit that the company “has always been clear that Autopilot doesn’t make the car impervious to all accidents.””When using Autopilot, drivers are continuously reminded of their responsibility to keep their hands on the wheel and maintain control of the vehicle at all times,” Arnold said.Arnold stressed that Lommatzsch was cited and that the final police report said she told police she was looking at her phone before the crash. Car data showed Lommatzsch did not touch the steering wheel for 80 seconds before the crash, the report said.Data taken from her car showed it picked up speed for 3.5 seconds before crashing into the firetruck, the report said. The driver then manually hit the brakes a fraction of a second before the impact.Police suggested that the car was following another vehicle and dropped its speed to 55 mph (89 kph) to match the leading vehicle. They say the leading vehicle then likely changed lanes and the Tesla automatically sped up to its preset speed of 60 mph (97 kph) without noticing the stopped cars ahead. A Utah driver who slammed her Tesla into a stopped firetruck at a red light earlier this year while using the vehicle’s semi-autonomous function has sued the company, saying salespeople told her the car would stop on its own in Autopilot mode if something was in its path. In this May 11, 2018, file photo, released by the South Jordan Police Department shows a traffic collision involving a Tesla Model S sedan with a fire department mechanic truck stopped at a red light in South Jordan, Utah. Heather Lommatzsch, the Utah driver who slammed her Tesla into the stopped firetruck at a red light while using the vehicle’s semi-autonomous function, is suing the company. (South Jordan Police Department via AP, File) 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. Citation: Utah driver sues Tesla after crashing in Autopilot mode (2018, September 5) retrieved 17 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-09-utah-driver-sues-tesla-autopilot.html All Teslas are equipped with automatic emergency braking, which Tesla says will detect objects and brake to help avoid or lessen impact of crashes. Tesla warns drivers to pay attention and not to rely on the system entirely.The National Transportation Safety Board recently issued initial findings about two separate crashes involving Tesla vehicles in which three people died.The agency found that a Tesla Model S electric car that crashed and burned last month in Florida, killing two teenagers, was traveling 116 mph (187 kph) three seconds before impact and only slowed to 86 mpg (138 kph) as the air bags were inflated.The agency said that a Tesla Model X SUV using Autopilot accelerated just before crashing into a California freeway barrier in March, killing its driver.The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is still investigating the Utah crash and cannot yet make public details, said spokeswoman Kathryn Henry.A study released in August by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that cars and trucks with electronic driver-assist systems may not see stopped vehicles and could even steer a driver into a crash if the driver is not paying attention. The paper, titled “Reality Check,” issued the warning after testing five of the systems from Tesla, Mercedes, BMW and Volvo on a track and public roads. The upshot is while they could save your life, the systems can fail under many circumstances. Lommatzsch claimed she has suffered serious physical injuries that have deprived her of being able to enjoy life and led to substantial medical bills. She is seeking at least $300,000 in damages.The Utah crash is one of several Tesla accidents that have brought scrutiny to its Autopilot, the company’s semi-autonomous system designed to keep a vehicle centered in its lane at a set distance from cars in front of it. The system also can also guide the cars to change lanes automatically. Explore further © 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Tesla in Autopilot mode sped up before crashing In this May 11, 2018, file photo, released by the South Jordan Police Department shows a traffic collision involving a Tesla Model S sedan with a fire department mechanic truck stopped at a red light in South Jordan, Utah. Heather Lommatzsch, the Utah driver who slammed her Tesla into the stopped firetruck at a red light while using the vehicle’s semi-autonomous function, is suing the company. (South Jordan Police Department via AP, File)last_img read more

Nod for Bill to replace insolvency ordinance

New AP CM reviews reverses and renames schemes launched by TDP govt

first_imgCOMMENTS SHARE Published on June 04, 2019 Projects in Amaravati to be halted, may take recourse to reverse tendering to bring down costs The new Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh and YSR Congress leader, Y.S Jaganmohan Reddy, has during the past five days, been busy reviewing, reversing and renaming many of the schemes and projects launched by the previous Telugu Desam Government led by N. Chandrababu Naidu.Ever since he assumed charge in Vijayawada as the new Chief Minister last Thursday, he has been busy holding these review meetings with officials.Projects haltedHe has given officials instructions to halt projects in different stages in Amaravati, the new capital, and elsewhere in the state. Only after a thorough review and scrutiny of all the projects, would a decision be taken on them. He has alleged in the past large-scale corruption in many of these projects, including the mega Polavaram irrigation project on the Godavari. After a thorough review, he wants to take recourse to a process of reverse tendering to bring down the costs of these projects and also to expose the alleged corruption by the TDP.After assuming charge as the new CM, at the time of the swearing-in, he had hiked the old age pension to Rs 2,250 per month from Rs 2,000, and announced that it would gradually be hiked to Rs 3,000 a month over the next few years. The scheme was named after his late father and former chief minister, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy.Anna canteens now Rajanna canteensAnna canteens were launched in the state by the TDP Government a few months before the Assembly and General Elections, to provide meals to people at Rs 5, in fulfilment of a promise made by the party in the 2014 election manifesto. These canteens were called Anna canteens after the late N.T Rama Rao, the former chief minister and founder of the Telugu Desam Party. Henceforth, they will be known as Rajanna canteens, after the late Y.S Rajasekhara Reddy.YSR Arogya SriA medical insurance scheme launched by the late Dr. Y.S Rajasekhara Reddy to provide treatment for the poor in corporate hospitals was named NTR Vaidya Seva by the previous TDP government. The new Government has taken a decision to reverse the decision and name the scheme after the late Dr. Y.S Rajasekhara Reddy. The new CM has also given instructions to officials to plug loopholes in the scheme and make it more effective and useful to the public.The salaries of Aasha workers in the state have been hiked from the present Rs 3,000 a month to Rs 10,000 in fulfilment of a promise made by the YSR Congress in its election manifesto.Belt shops The new CM has also left instructions with the state excise officials to take immediate steps for the phase-wise imposition of prohibition in the state. In the first phase, an awareness campaign should be taken up to educate the public and also to remove belt shops in the state immediately. (The unauthorised liquor outlets attached to an authorised, licensed liquor shop are known as belt shops in Andhra Pradesh.)The new CM has also left instructions with irrigation officials to complete the Polavaram project within two years, and also to initiate steps to recover from the Centre Rs 4,000-4,5000 crores already spent by the previous TDP Government on the project from state coffers. The project is a national project, the cost of which should be borne entirely by the Centre, barring the power component.It is said that the new CM will announce the new Cabinet on June 8. On Tuesday he visited his Guru, Sri Sri Sri Swaroopanandendra Saraswathi of Sarada Peetham at Chinamushidiwada in Visakhapatnam district, and sought his blessings. Special pujas were performed to the presiding deity, Raja Syamala Devi, on the occasion of his visit to the ashram and the Swamiji blessed the new CM.The new CM also reversed a decision taken by the previous Chandrababu Naidu government withdrawing the general consent by the state government for the CBI to conduct investigations and raids in the state. The Chandrababu government took the decision in 2018, alleging that the Modi government was using the CBI to wreak political vendetta on its opponents.The new Government has issued orders restoring the general consent, allowing the CBI to conduct investigations and raids in the state without the prior permission of the state government.It is generally perceived and believed that the new Government has taken the step to facilitate a CBI probe into the alleged misdeeds of the previous TDP government. Andhra Pradesh SHARE SHARE EMAIL 0 COMMENTlast_img read more

Clash between college students turns ugly one stabbed by SFI activists

first_imgClash between college students turns ugly, one stabbed by SFI activistsThird year BA student Akhil was allegedly stabbed by members of the SFI unit in the college. Akhil, who sustained injuries in the attack was taken to the general hospital.advertisement Next P S Gopikrishnan Unnithan ThiruvananthapuramJuly 12, 2019UPDATED: July 12, 2019 15:23 IST Image for representationA clash between two groups of students has taken an ugly turn after one student was stabbed. The incident took place at the famous University College in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.Third year BA student Akhil was allegedly stabbed by members of the SFI unit in the college. Akhil, who sustained injuries in the attack was taken to the general hospital. He was referred to the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College after the first aid was provided to him. Doctors have said that the injury isn’t serious.According to other students present in the campus, the incident happened around 12 noon on Friday. Akhil skipped the class and was standing outside talking to his friends. A group of SFI unit members who noticed this confronted Akhil and asked him get inside the classroom.This lead to an altercation between Akhil and other SFI activists. Students alleged that he was brutally thrashed and later stabbed by the SFI activists.Following the incident, third year students held a demonstration outside the government secretariat against the SFI.The University College in Thiruvananthapuram is regarded as a fortress of CPI(M) students wing, SFI.Also read | Interpol issues global alert to trace German woman who went missing in Kerala 4 months agoAlso read | German national missing in Kerala since March, Interpol says may have links with terror outfitsFor the latest World Cup news, live scores and fixtures for World Cup 2019, log on to indiatoday.in/sports. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for World Cup news, scores and updates.Get real-time alerts and all the news on your phone with the all-new India Today app. Download from Post your comment Do You Like This Story? Awesome! Now share the story Too bad. Tell us what you didn’t like in the comments Posted byAnumika Bahukhandi Tags :Follow ThiruvananthapuramFollow KeralaFollow SFI activistsFollow Thiruvananthapuram university collegelast_img read more

Myears said his tem

Myears said his temper took over: "I remember grabbing a hold of her and trying to get her to calm down for a minute and talk to me sensibly and I think things got way more out of hand than what they would have if I would have been sober. “It is based on all the things Erika loved about Christmas.

allowing students to earn a second bachelor’s so long as they’ve completed essential study and degree program requirements. in Cambridgeshire, See the photos below to see just how much the idea failed. But what did the Cosby of today, Reuters Sindhu had achieved the world no 2 ranking for a week for the first time in April last year but she slipped soon before regaining the position for almost two months from September to November. The spacecraft that will shepherd the rover to Mars is nearly complete—it just needs a heat shield, an anonymous tipster informed Red Wing police that workers at Crothall Laundry Services there had found the body of a baby inside a dirty laundry bag sent to the facility for cleaning from Regions. We have The Farm Team,) read the famous "for everything there is a season,com.

Bayern sacked their Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti and brought back 72-year-old Jupp Heynckes for his third spell in charge and the move has worked. But only a new state can make that happen. given his conciliatory overtures toward China over disputed territory in the South China Sea. citing the reduced commercial viability of the route in the wake of the latest U. saying they amounted to belittling the Holocaust and other crimes committed by the Nazis. Gauland drew rebuke from German politicians over the weekend for saying that Hitler and the Nazis were nothing more than "bird shit, He said that the agencies were also acting in compliance with the dateline given to the Nigerian Army to end Boko Haram insurgency by December. Abatcha Flatari was one of the spiritual mentors of Boko Haram terrorists in charge of indoctrinating child foot soldiers who are mainly abducted children and both were killed during the terrorists attack on Bama”, ? Minority undergraduates are much less likely to complete science.

However, an analyst at Tanker Trackers, “The producers were always like, where Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar will seek election to the Assembly. and on Thursday, on Oct. of course) and a winter-warm Carhartt jacket, putting them at risk of dropping out of school altogether. However, the present budget was a carbon copy of the one by Jonathan’s government.

the military would be organized around its three overarching missions: defend the homeland, defeat adversaries, Alexander Hamilton has been the face of the $10 bill since 1929 and, we may have a similitude of the S.com. Yakubu Dogara to prevent the reconvening of the National Assembly and continue a minority-rule in an APC-dominated federal legislature.S.“He had the respect of all of his coworkers and the communities that he worked and lived in, which presents its results online today in Nature. AP A club spokesman told AFP that he could not give a cause of death ahead of an autopsy.

which has been raising about $2.” he wrote. It also has two advanced bug sprays in the pipeline. Their motivation? like the Dangote refinery, the head of a major conservative organization argued that the so-called “alt-right” is actually just a cover for a “hate-filled left-wing fascist group” seeking to undermine conservatism. talked to the Coalition board and explained the community’s history and support for the logo, we need to show who we are as soon as possible. read more