Smoke ConnectFX: Damage and Deform Nodes

first_imgThe transform options in the Deform Node, are unique. You can transform the position of the deform effect over the clip, as well as transform the clip through the distortion.  Moving the clip through the distortion provides a slightly different feel than transforming the distortion itself, especially when using Scale. The third transform option is the ability to move the clip along with the distortion as a whole. This is something to play with when working with motion graphics, as you can create some interesting effects.[Click for larger image]Depending on the amount of warping and bending, you might need to add some extra Anti-Aliasing to smooth the edges of the warp.  When you active the AA you can then set the sample amounts and any additional softness.  This AA is software anti-aliasing and is not processed via the GPU.  CFX does have hardware anti-aliasing in the CFX setups menu.One thing to note about the Matte input: in other nodes like the Color Warper or Blur, the Matte input would act as a mask.  This would restrict the effect to the mask shape.  Deform’s Matte input doesn’t do that.  The effect is applied to the entire image, but the matte is affected by the deform as well and then passed on to the output.  So you can feed a Front and a Matte Source and deform both channels simultaneously.[Click for larger image]The Deform Node can also be used as a CFX Adjustment Layer on the timeline.  You can place the effect over 2 clips and setup an effect to create a quick warp transition.[Click for larger image]The Deform node in Smoke is a great tool when used with other nodes like Blur and Glow.  You can create some very unique transitions and effects for video or text.If you have an questions or comments about the Smoke ConnectFX Nodes covered in this blog series, I’d love to hear from you in the comments! Each of the deform styles will alter the menu settings slightly to customize the look of the warp. Damage and Deform nodes in Autodesk Smoke!  In this post we continue our exploration of the ConnectFX nodes with two that were created specifically for video effects.Autodesk Smoke provides a unique post production toolset for the video compositor and effects artist. The following Smoke ConnectFX nodes can be modified to create unique effects in your video projects, from the destructive results of the damage node to the ripples and warps of deform.Smoke’s Damage Node:Who hasn’t wanted to turn the their nicely shot video into old film or create that bad TV effect!  For the Smoke user, the Damage Node can help you achieve this look, as it has many settings and is quite flexible. There are 3 effect styles to choose from: Film, Analogue, and Digital.When you choose one of the 3 effect styles the sub menus change to bring up adjustable options that pertain to the effects for each style. Let’s look at the Film Effect to see how you can use these settings.The Film Effect divides the look settings into 2 areas, Film Defects and Projection Defects.[Click for larger image]The effect settings are pretty self explanatory based on their names. In order to use a setting you need to activate it by pressing the blue LED next to the setting name. You can then click the setting button which will open up an expanded menu to further tweak the look. The numeric slider next to the setting name will quickly adjust the most obvious parameter. For example, Scratches will adjust the amount of scratches. So you can make quick adjustments without having to expand every menu. However, to really customize your looks, you will want to explore each of these settings.[Click for larger image]A few notable options for the film effect is the Splice Menu. When you set the Splice to Manual, the Create Splice and Delete Splice options are available. With this option you can create a “splice” effect at a specific frame. The default is an automatic setting which will create the splice based on the seed value and other related duration settings. But obviously, being able to manually set a splice damage effect at a specific point can really increase the impact of the effect in relation to your edit.[Click for larger image]The Damage Film effect also contains a quick vignette option, so you can generate a simple darkening vignette, with setting for softness, and falloff.[Click for larger image]The Analogue Effect help you create that bad TV effect in Smoke (seen prior to 2009 with the DTV switch in the United States). Analogue uses Static, Interference, Ghosting, and Scanline effects to create that unique TV look. The look settings are broken down into VTR effects and Broadcast.[Click for larger image]The activation and menu settings work like they did for film. You can activate and then expand the menus to adjust the settings in more detail.Under the Broadcast Color settings, you can adjust the weight and X-Y positions of the individual RGB channels. This is similar to the same type of color separation that was found in the Blur Node.[Click for larger image]By keyframing the amount of ghosting or TV Distort you can ramp up and ramp down the effect to create a Bad TV or Videotape distortion transition if you use the Damage node as a GAP CFX clip on the timeline as an adjustment layer.[Click for larger image]The Digital Effect brings us to the here and now and gives you the ability to take you clean digital files and artifact them on purpose. Digital gives you Compression, Chroma, and Temporal effects to distort your clips.By using just the Pixelation setting, you can use it has a way to add a mosaic effect to your clip, unrelated to the look of damaging it.[Click for larger image]There are 2 global settings that affect the Film, Analogue, and Digital damage looks. Under the effect chooser, is a numeric slider for Random Seed and Timing Offset. The Random Seed value will, as the name implies, create random variations in the effects. If you don’t like the way the film scratches are scratching, then adjust the random seed value.The effects when played are always constant and repeatable. But that repeatability is defined by the seed value. So even the variation adjustments in the controls will always vary the same amount based on the percentage set in relation to the seed number.  The Timing offset will offset or slide the points at which effects like blur or ghosting occur.Smoke’s Damage Node has several presets to get you started. You can start with those, and then turn off portions by deselecting the blue LED to see how the preset is built.[Click for larger image]There is a lot you can do with the Damage Node in Smoke.  It works great as an adjustment layer on the timeline and can be used for many creative effects within ConnectFX.Smoke’s Deform Node:If you have the need to warp, ripple or wave your video clip, then one option might be to use Smoke’s Deform Node. There are other ways to warp and bend clips inside of Smoke – Displacement Maps, Bicubics, and Pixel Spread.  However, the Deform Node gives you the “classic” ripples and warps, with some very nice distortion effects like Crumple.[Click for larger image]last_img read more

Cinema 4D Tips for Beginners

first_imgFast-track your 3D skills with these awesome Cinema 4D tips.Cinema 4D can be a very intimidating program to learn if you are new to 3D software. Unfortunately, this learning curve keeps many people from ever developing the skills to use Cinema 4D correctly – but not you.You are a motivated individual that loves learning new things. And this quick video tutorial is full of new things for anyone interested in learning the necessary basics of Cinema 4D. Notable hints covered in the video include:Importing Photoshop PathsImporting Background ImagesFixing Broken SplinesUndoing Camera MovementUsing EmittersHiding a Cloner ObjectComparing Renders in the Picture Viewer The video was first shared by the good people at Rate My Funeral. Thanks for sharing, guys!Interested in learning more Cinema 4D hints and tricks? Of course you are. Check out these resources:Cinema 4D Tips and Tricks – PremiumBeatFree Cinema 4D Textures and Materials – PremiumBeatOver 20 New Cinema 4D Tips and Tricks – GreyScaleGorillaHave any other must-learn tips for Cinema 4D beginners? Share in the comments below.last_img read more

The Right Way to Give and Receive Feedback on a Script

first_imgNo (good) script exists in a vacuum. Giving and receiving feedback is essential for successful screenwriters. So what’s the best way to go about it?We all know that writing is re-writing. It’s a process. You have an idea, and that idea evolves and ends up on paper. It gets revised, reshaped, and re-crafted yet again. At some point, you need a fresh perspective — a trusted pair of eyes to delve into the story for the first time and give you honest feedback.This can make the writer feel vulnerable — and the reader uncomfortable. How can you navigate these choppy waters, so both people feel it was worth the effort? Just look to screenplay structure as your guide. Everything said and received should be goal-driven, specific, and moving toward an honest conclusion.Giving FeedbackImage via Wonder Boys (Paramount).When you’re reading someone’s work, you are not a critic. Your role is as an adviser, and your ultimate goal is to help the writer improve the screenplay. It’s easy to think the best course of action is to point out flaws. That doesn’t create trust in relationships. Why would it work in art?Focus on suggestions for improvements rather than pointing out flaws. Anyone can see the broken fence; it takes knowledge to offer ways to mend it.  And remember, there are many choices — patch it, secure it, replace it. The same principle applies to a screenplay. You won’t have the one right answer to fix a story issue. However, if your feedback is honest, if you take the time to read carefully and lovingly, if you ask smart questions and offer encouragement, you can help the writer craft a better draft.Be SpecificBe concise with feedback. Use a scalpel, not a sledgehammer.  And choose wisely so you don’t over-burden the writer.For example, if the format is off, don’t point out every flaw — that can be overwhelming. Tell them you’ve noticed a few format mistakes and suggest they brush up on the rules. If they then solicit specific advice, feel free to point it out. Now, you’re being helpful and reducing stress — pointing out every one of their mistakes would have simply added stress.Image via Adaptation (Columbia Pictures).However, don’t be general with story issues. It is unhelpful to simply say, “This doesn’t work” or “I don’t believe this character.” Go back to the first piece of advice. Goal-driven suggestions. If your goal is to help the writer to make the script stronger, how does vague feedback help?You may not have the answer, but if you put your response in the form of a question, you and the writer can brainstorm together. At the very least, you’re giving the writer something to ponder for the next draft.To be goal-driven and specific, look to the facts of what you’ve read. Instead of saying “This doesn’t work,” for example, you might say “You’ve set up this character as someone who is very confident. Why would she defer to others in this scene?” You’ve now taken an astute observation and used that detail to ask a smart question that will guide story development.Be HonestNobody improves by hearing that nothing needs to change. Every artist knows a painting is never finished; at some point, you simply put down the brush. If you’re in a position wherein a writer has asked you to read the script and wants feedback, that means it’s not time to put down the brush.Giving honest feedback is your obligation when you agree to read the screenplay. The thing to remember is that it is facts, not your opinion, that the writer is soliciting. Who cares if you liked it, or it’s not your preferred genre. You can hate horror films, but as a professional, you should know the elements that are necessary to produce a successful horror script.Image via The Exorcist (Warner Bros.).Every screenplay is going to have some aspect that works; look for that and point it out to the writer. That could be the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down when you address significant story and character issues later.If you read with a purpose, use structure and character as your guide; give honest feedback with an eye for discovery and opportunities to improve. You’ll be a smart advisor. And if you know the writer well, you’ll also be able to preserve your friendship!Receiving FeedbackNobody sets out to create bad work. Sometimes we get attached to a specific idea or element in the story that isn’t working, but we can’t let go. Sometimes that attachment makes us blind to seeing any issue. I call this the “key syndrome.”Image via Get Out (Universal).I know I put my keys in the kitchen. I can’t find my keys. I look all over the kitchen. Still can’t find them. In a panic, I’ll search other places, but I often fly through that search — quickly hit the bedroom, bathroom, and come back to the kitchen, where I am sure I left the keys. I may have a moment of inspiration! Check the car! Then I get mad at myself. Idiot — how did you get into the house if you left the keys in the car?Enter a neutral party. This person doesn’t own the keys, is not crazed with finding them. This person only wants to calm you down and be helpful. They often ask questions.“When did you last see them?”“Were you carrying anything else in your hands at the time”“What pants were you wearing?”All of a sudden, smart questions that yield facts are solving your problem. You realize you changed clothes and that the keys are in your jeans on the bathroom floor. That is what you need to remember when getting feedback. The goal is to help you find the key to the story, to strengthen it and fulfill the promise of your initial idea.Remain open, ask questions, and don’t feel obligated to accept every note as direction. It’s still your story. You don’t need to incorporate someone else’s feedback if it doesn’t resonate with you. What you do need to do is take it in, and if that note is consistent among other people who read your script, you should examine it. Perhaps it was the suggestion of a solution that didn’t appeal to you. Maybe you only need to focus on the story issue the reader pointed out and find a way to fix it that makes sense to you.Focus on the goal — a better draft. Be open to specific feedback, and embrace the truth of what you have now. The work ahead is to make it better.Cover image via gerasimov_foto_174.Looking for more information on scriptwriting? Check out these articles.7 Reasons You Should “Script” Your Documentary Projects5 Tips from the Pros for Adapting Books into Film ScriptsPro Insight: Highlighting ScriptsHow to Break a Script Down Into a Shot List6 Free Scriptwriting Resources for Your Next Screenplaylast_img read more

You Are Defined by the Events of Your Life

first_imgYou are defined by the events of your life. The good news is that you are the one who defines what those events mean.You can choose to believe that negative events define your life in negative ways.You may decide that the circumstance of your birth defines you in some negative way.Maybe you were poor, you grew up in the wrong neighborhood, went to the wrong schools, and didn’t make the right connections. You might choose to believe that makes you a “have-not.”Maybe you made mistakes when you were younger, some of them serious. Those mistakes hurt other people, including people you loved and who loved you. You might decide that makes you “not a good person.”You had a relationship that was important to you fall apart. It wasn’t the first one. Some of it was surely your fault, and now you judge yourself. You might choose to believe that you are unworthy.These are all decisions you make. They are the frames you decide to put around events. They only define you if you invest that power in these events, events that you have in common with billions of other people, many of whom don’t believe they are negative.You can choose to believe that negative events define your life in positive ways.You can believe that you have (or that you will) escape the circumstances of your birth. You may believe that serious adversity provided you with the initiative and the intestinal fortitude to out-smart, out-work, and out-last those who were born with a silver spoon in their mouth and never met “the hustle.”You could view your misspent youth as the set of experiences that shaped your values, that taught you right from wrong. There are millions and millions of people who “grew up,” some of them later than others, who have gone on to make a tremendous contribution.Almost no one lives without the experience of losing an important relationship. Making mistakes is part of being human. Remaining vulnerable and open to the next relationship, even when you risk being hurt, is faith and confidence in the power of relationships.The meaning you give events can either empower you, or they can disempower you. You choose the frame. Get the Free eBook! Learn how to sell without a sales manager. Download my free eBook! You need to make sales. You need help now. We’ve got you covered. This eBook will help you Seize Your Sales Destiny, with or without a manager. Download Nowlast_img read more

This Is How You Really Learn to Sell

first_imgAdversity is what makes and shapes you. Without adversity, without having to push through something difficult, your development is stunted. Difficulty requires that you grow. If you are going to learn to sell, specific roles may seem better than others because they have a product that is in high demand, incredible awareness in the market, more leads than you need to succeed, and a cool culture. You might learn to sell in a company like this, but as it pertains to your development, you would be better off selling door-to-door.How to GrowIf you are going to learn to sell, you are not going to accelerate your development by having a product that is in high demand or working for a company that happens to have a hot hand now. The short term advantage of selling something that is in demand is that it diminishes the need to sell. By selling something where there is such low resistance to buy, you don’t develop your skills or your mindset.Learn Anthony’s core strategies & tactics for sales success at any level with The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever NeedThe best role for someone who genuinely wants to learn to sell is in a highly commoditized industry, where there is little to no differentiation. Better still is working in an industry with many competitors, including gargantuan companies that seem to have every advantage when it comes to acquiring clients or customers.Because there is no real and compelling differentiation in a crowded and commoditized market, you are forced to learn to create value through the sales conversation. Without being able to rely on some factors outside yourself, you are forced to learn how to sell.Win customers away from your competition. Check out Eat Their LunchNo Leads, No ProblemThe feral cat doesn’t have the same cushy life of the declawed house cat. Instead, the wild cat has to feed itself, and it has to be tough enough to survive its environment, as well as the many predators that inhabit its world. The well cared for house cat has no need to hunt.It might seem nice that your company provides you leads, and it may seem even better to have those leads qualified for you by an SDR or BDR, or some other acronym used to describe one of the many roles we’ve carved out of “salesperson.” However, you stunt your sales growth and development when you rely to your detriment on leads to create new opportunities. You are very much like the house cat who cannot feed himself. Worse still, relying on a mother human being to identify, qualify, and schedule appointments for you will prevent you from developing the fundamental skills of great salespeople.Those who have never been provided a lead have the advantage of having learned to target their dream clients, prospect effectively, and schedule their own meetings, all the while still focusing on managing their deals (something I assure you is quite possible). Much like the feral cat, these salespeople can take care of themselves, one of the things that knowing how to sell provides those who learn the craft.School, Not CoolIf you want to learn to sell, don’t look for a fresh company with a cool culture. Don’t look for ping pong tables and other ridiculous perks. Especially don’t look for a role where you can work for home, something that will stunt your growth and make it more difficult for you to learn how to sell. The factors that make a company cool have an inverse relationship with your sales development.To learn how to sell, find a company with a sales culture. The best place to learn how to sell is working for a company that values and prioritizes sales. There are several reasons to work for a sales culture.First, a company that believes it is a sales organization is likely to provide you with a good sales manager, one who is going to work with you every day. Second, and maybe even more importantly, you want to be surrounded by salespeople. A lot of what you need to know to sell well is going to come from listening to other salespeople, something you cannot do if you work from home. You don’t want to deprive yourself of tribal knowledge.Finally, you want to work for a company that cares enough about sales to invest in training and development. It’s essential that you learn to understand the game, so it slows down for you.Don’t Make It Too EasyThe desire to make things easy and comfortable weakens your heart and your mindset. You are better learning to sell where it is difficult and where you are forced to be uncomfortable. The people whose first job in sales is door-to-door builds an immunity to the word “no” and are not sensitive to rejection, making prospecting much easier for them than their pampered peers who take easier jobs. Essential Reading! Get my 2nd book: The Lost Art of Closing “In The Lost Art of Closing, Anthony proves that the final commitment can actually be one of the easiest parts of the sales process—if you’ve set it up properly with other commitments that have to happen long before the close. The key is to lead customers through a series of necessary steps designed to prevent a purchase stall.” Buy Nowlast_img read more

‘Act East policy promoting ties with Asia-Pacific region’

first_imgIndia’s “Act East” policy aimed at reviving age-old ties with the Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) nations has strengthened trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region and encouraged manufacturers to create value chains with these countries, Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman said here on Monday.Ms. Sitharaman said India and the CLMV countries could deepen each other’s manufacturing capabilities, learn from each other’s experiences and create a stronger regional platform for trade and commerce. India’s trade with the CLMV nations has grown ten times from 1.5 billion U.S. dollars to more than 10 billion U.S. dollars during the last 10 years.Addressing the 4th India-CLMV Business Conclave organised by the Department of Commerce and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Ms. Sitharaman said if the Indian manufacturers set up businesses in countries such as Myanmar, they would get benefit under the generalised system of preferences (GSP) for export to the U.S. and European Union.Less duty for exportsThe GSP gives the benefit of zero or less duty for exports from least developed countries to the U.S. and E.U.The Minister invited both governments and business communities of the CLMV countries to actively partner in “Make in India” programme, while affirming that India would participate in the Asia-Pacific region’s manufacturing growth and develop a strong India-CLMV vertical within the ASEAN market.Ms. Sitharaman said the land and sea connectivity with the South-East Asian nations was being enhanced to boost trade, with the work having started on projects such as Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport connecting Kolkata with Sittwe seaport in Myanmar.The Union Cabinet had last year cleared a proposal to create a ₹500-crore project development fund to increase economic presence in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, which can act as gateways for market access to China and E.U. Ms. Sitharaman said action was being taken for establishment of the fund.Chhuon Dara, Secretary of State, Ministry of Commerce, Cambodia, said an increased regional connectivity, reduction in transaction cost of trade and skill development were imperative if the India-CLMV trade and tourism were to reach their potential.Vietnam Vice-Minister of Industry and Trade Cao Quoc Hung, Myanmar Commerce Minister Than Myint, CII president Naushad Forbes and Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje also addressed the conclave.last_img read more

Stone-throwing in Kashmir on the wane: CRPF

first_imgKashmir police officers advocate ‘soft approach’ to tackle Valley unrest Summer in Kashmir: Trenches in the apple orchard  Several political parties have asked for the complete withdrawal of pellet guns for crowd control. Thirteen people were killed last year and more than 250 were injured after being hit by the pellets, with a some losing their vision.Mr. Bhatnagar said though there was resistance from people during anti-militancy operations in the form of heavy stone-throwing at security forces, this had not disrupted any operation.Non-lethal options“No anti-militancy operation was aborted due to stone pelting. While we have showed lot of restraint, we did not let them run riot. We have revised our standard operating procedures and are increasingly using non-lethal options like tear gas shells and plastic bullets,” he said. Also Read There has been a sharp drop in the number of stone-throwing incidents in the Kashmir Valley this year, Rajiv Rai Bhatnagar, Director-General, Central Reserve Police Force, told The Hindu.Attacks on security forces by stone-throwing youth escalated in the Valley after July 8, 2016 when Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) “commander” Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter. “Last year, around 1,600 incidents were reported when CRPF personnel were attacked with stones. This year, the number has fallen to fewer than half, around 700 incidents maybe. There are days when there is no such incident,” Mr. Bhatnagar told The Hindu. The 1,600 incidents were reported in five months after Wani’s killing, while the 700 incidents were recorded from January to June in 2017.Around 30,000 personnel of the CRPF are deployed in the Valley to assist the local police in maintaining law and order and conducting anti-militancy operations. The government faced severe criticism over the CRPF’s use of pellet guns to disperse crowds and protesters. Also Read  The DG said around 300 vehicles, including buses and vans were being made bullet-proof.Bullet-proof vehicles“The number of militants being killed has gone up sharply and this has led to desperate attacks on security forces. We would bullet-proof all the vehicles that are used for patrolling duties,” he said. “Recently, six of our jawans were saved as their armoured vehicle protected them when they came under heavy fire from terrorists. A sub-inspector sitting at the front was killed; we are getting the vehicles 100% bullet-proofed now,” the DG said. The CRPF is also providing pre-induction training to jawans at their training centre in Lethpura in Pulwama on how to handle the crowd through non-lethal means, Mr. Bhatnagar said.last_img read more

Jawan killed as Pak. violates ceasefire

first_imgA Border Security Force (BSF) jawan was killed in a fresh ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops on the International Border in Jammu on Thursday morning.In separate militancy-related incidents in Kashmir, a militant, an Army jawan and a BJP youth leader were killed and five CRPF jawans injured.A BSF spokesman said constable Tapan Mondal suffered serious injuries when Pakistan Rangers “suddenly fired on a BSF patrol in the Samba Sector” around 9:30 a.m. He later succumbed to his injuries. The 25-year-old jawan was a resident of West Bengal.“In response, the BSF carried out calibrated retributive action against Pakistani Rangers in Samba Sector and caused serious damage to a few Pakistani posts and caused grievous injuries to at least two Pakistani Rangers,” said the BSF spokesman.He said the retaliatory action continued till 2 p.m. when “the Pakistani side silenced their weapons”.In Pulwama’s Pampore, a militant and two Army jawans were killed and at least two others were trapped inside a residential colony on Thursday evening. A police spokesman said the militant was killed in the initial exchange of fire when a search party arrived in Samboora area in Pampore.CRPF men injuredSix CRPF personnel were injured in a militant attack on a convoy in Anantnag. “The CRPF patrol was going to their camp near Pahalgam. Three jawans received bullet injuries and two were hit by shards of broken glass,” Inspector General, CRPF, Zulfikar Hassan said.The body of BJP youth president was found in Shopian on Thursday evening. A police spokesman said Gowhar Ahmad Bhat, a resident of Shopian, was found with his throat slit. The body also bore torture marks.BJP leader’s body found Police said the body of BJP youth president was found in Shopian on Thursday evening.A police spokesman said the throat of the victim, Gowhar Ahmad Bhat, a resident of Shopian, was found slit when his body was recovered in Kiloora village.The body also bore torture marks too, according to the police.“We have started investigations into the incident,” said the police.last_img read more

Uttar Pradesh, where 3.22 crore voters are set to elect their local governments

first_img The BJP’s opponents have tried to counter the narrative by highlighting issues like demonetisation, inflation, unemployment and the Goods and Services Tax (GST), apart from the negligence of municipalities over the years since they have been controlled for long by the BJP. While there is visible anger against the BJP on these issues, how much of it will translate into votes is the challenge for its opponents.What about the Opposition?Unlike previous years, there is a four-cornered fight among the top parties: the BJP, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Samajwadi Party and the Congress. After their alliance flopped in the 2017 Assembly elections, the Congress and the SP are contesting the local elections separately, perhaps in a bid to consolidate individual vote bases and to mobilise cadre. The SP chief, Akhilesh Yadav, has stayed away from campaigning and delegated the task to his party workers and leaders. The SP would be at a disadvantage given that its core Yadav vote is not found in urban areas. The Congress State leadership is campaigning extensively as the party enjoys an urban base. With the BSP in the mix, things have got interesting this time, as the party fielded candidates on its symbol after a gap of two decades. But the BSP’s campaign has been largely silent, though it could be the dark horse in many seats as several Dalit castes are city-based. The Aam Aadmi Party is also contesting from several seats.How is the BJP taking it?As for the BJP, which rules the State with an overwhelming majority, the elections will see it defend its strongest turf where its core vote bank, including the Banias, reside. The BJP, led by Mr. Adityanath, has gone all out campaigning, showing that it takes every election seriously. “We enter every election like it is an examination,” Mr. Adityanath has said. He has been holding at least two rallies every day. The polls are the first big test for Mr. Adityanath as well as the economic policies of the Central government, such as the GST and demonetisation, which have created havoc and confusion in the informal sector, the backbone of Uttar Pradesh.In a sign that the BJP was not taking the polls lightly, the party released a centralised manifesto for civic areas, unusual for any party. Any loss of ground for the BJP, which won 10 of 12 mayoral seats in 2012 and which has a strong urban base, would reflect badly on Mr. Adityanath, besides denting the image of the Narendra Modi government. A repeat of 2012 is the least that the BJP would hope for. Anything less would be interpreted as conceding space since the BJP is the strongest in urban areas, especially in a four-way fight.What does it mean for 2019?Each election has different dynamics, and voter mood changes depending on the scenario and issues. However, the psychological and political significance of a win in the urban body elections for the Lok Sabha cannot be overstated. If the BJP sweeps the municipal polls, it will get a strong footing in 2019 to consolidate its vote share and push its economic policies. After assuming office in March, the Yogi Adityanath government gifted Ayodhya, which has a dismal infrastructure, the status of a municipal corporation. Ayodhya will elect its first mayor on December 1. The fate of 651 other municipal bodies in Uttar Pradesh will also be sealed that day. The reach of the urban local body polls in the State is immense: 3.32 crore people are eligible to vote.What are campaign issues?The BJP is relying on showcasing development work by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mr. Adityanath, who launched his campaign from Ayodhya. In his speeches, he talked about his government’s action in shutting down slaughterhouses while promising to open new gaushalas in every major urban centre. The results in Ayodhya as well as Gorakhpur, the home turf of Mr. Adityanath, will be the most politically reviewed, as the 25th anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition and the hearing of the case of the disputed site in the Supreme Court follow a few days later. last_img read more

Kovind clears Assam Bill against witch-hunt

first_imgPresident Ram Nath Kovind’s assent to the Bill against witch-hunting that the Assam Assembly passed three years ago has rejuvenated the campaign of a barely literate 65-year-old woman against superstition that has claimed scores of lives.“We can now tell the people that they cannot get away with killing or maiming people in the name of witchcraft,” Birubala Rabha told The Hindu from her village Thakurbhila in Goalpara district on Monday. Ms. Rabha has been campaigning against witch-hunting after a quack almost killed her son in 1996. She stood her ground despite the threat of excommunication by the local shaman and went on to rescue over 50 women from being branded as witches before launching Mission Birubala against the menace.On Sunday, Principal Secretary (Home and Political) L.S. Changsan said the State received the President’s approval for the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2015, on June 13. The State has already notified the Act. Ms. Rabha’s inputs had gone into the legislation, making every offence under the Act “cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable.” The Act prescribes a prison term of up to seven years and up to ₹5 lakh in fine for calling a person witch. It also has provisions to come with Section 302 of the IPC (punishment for murder) if someone is killed after being branded a witch. The punishment for leading a person to suicide may be extended to life imprisonment and up to ₹5 lakh in fine. Another important person behind the legislation is Director-General of Police Kuladhar Saikia. As Deputy Inspector-General in Kokrajhar, he launched Project Prahari in 2001, which blended normal policing with social campaigns to check the menace.last_img read more

J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik scraps Reliance contract

first_imgJammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik on Saturday scrapped a State government contract given to Reliance General Insurance Company (RGIC) and directed the Anti-Corruption Bureau to review the entire process in relation to the granting of contract.“Taking a well-informed view on all aspects and the concerns about the process involved, the Government is of the opinion that in the interest of the government and for enhanced transparency, it would be judicious not to proceed further in the contract with the insurance firm,” said a spokesman for the State government. “A decision has been taken to foreclose the contract,” the spokesman added.The J&K government had picked RGIC to provide a group health insurance policy to its employees and pensioners.last_img read more

Latehar lynching case: Eight get life term for double murder in Jharkhand

first_imgA court in Latehar on December 21 awarded life term to eight men convicted in a case related to killing and hanging of two persons, including a minor, in March 2016.The court of First Class Judicial Magistrate Rishikesh Kumar pronounced the sentence and slapped a fine of ₹25,000 on each of them, public prosecutor Balram Prasad said. In case of default or non-payment of fine, he said, the convicts would have to spend one more year in prison.Majlum Ansari (32), a cattle trader, and Imitiaz Khan (12) were found hanging from a tree between Jhabar and Chetan areas under Balumath police station limits on March 17, 2016. They were reportedly taking their cattle to a village fair for sale when they were attacked. The police had said that they were beaten to death and then hanged from the tree. Five men — Manoj Sahu, Pramod Sao, Awadhesh Sao, Mithilesh Sao alias Banti and Manoj Kumar Sao — were arrested shortly after the incident. The remaining three — Arun Sao, Sahadev Soni and Bishal Tiwari — had surrendered before a local court later.last_img read more

Implant Injects DNA Into Ear, Improves Hearing

first_imgMany people with profound hearing loss have been helped by devices called cochlear implants, but their hearing is still far from normal. They often have trouble distinguishing different musical pitches, for example, or hearing a conversation in a noisy room. Now, researchers have found a clever way of using cochlear implants to deliver new genes into the ear—a therapy that, in guinea pigs, dramatically improves hearing.The most common cause of deafness is loss of the tiny hair cells within the cochlea, a hollow, spiral structure in the inner ear that translates sounds into nerve impulses. Hearing aids that merely amplify sounds don’t help people who have lost these hair cells. So since the 1970s, more than 320,000 children and adults around the world who are deaf or severely hard of hearing have received cochlear implants. Instead of relying on hair cells, the device converts sounds into electrical impulses, then uses electrodes to relay these signals to the auditory nerve leading to the brain. But because the auditory nerve lies buried within tissue, the implants don’t work as well as they could if the electrodes were closer to the nerve.Some researchers have spurred new neurons to grow inside the cochlea using a protein called a growth factor. They have pumped the growth factor into the inner ear, or used a virus to deliver a gene that codes for it into cells. But pumped-in growth factor doesn’t work for long unless it is replenished. And viral gene therapy doesn’t always put the gene in the right cells and carries risks, such as a reaction from the immune system to the virus.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Graduate student Jeremy Pinyon and colleagues in the laboratory of neuroscientist Gary Housley at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, tested a different kind of gene therapy on guinea pigs made deaf with a drug that kills cochlear hair cells. The researchers created loops of DNA encoding a gene for a growth factor called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). While inserting a cochlear implant into the animals, the team injected the cochlea with a solution of BDNF DNA, then used electrical pulses from the device to create pores in the cells lining the cochlea and coax the DNA to enter the cells. The loops also included a gene for green fluorescent protein so that the scientists could see if the inserted DNA was taken up by the cells and translated into protein.In the next few days, the cells began pumping out BDNF, which, in turn, spurred the growth of long, spiky neurons toward the electrodes. Two weeks after the treatment, the researchers tested how sensitive the animals’ brains were to sounds of various frequencies. The results were closer to those for normal animals and much better than those seen in animals that had only a cochlear implant.“We’ve closed the neural gap,” Housley says. Although it’s hard to precisely measure sound perception in guinea pigs, if applied in humans, “we’re hoping that tonal colors and richness will be improved,” says Housley, whose team’s report appears today in Science Translational Medicine.One caveat is that the improved hearing didn’t last long—the cells stopped producing BDNF after about 6 weeks and the new nerves began to die. The DNA loops will have to be modified to work longer in cells, Housley says. Another potential problem is that it’s not known how long the cells that received the DNA last before they die and their BDNF-making ability is lost. Housley thinks these issues can be addressed, however, and he hopes to start a small clinical trial to test the procedure in people within 2 years.”The idea [of using BDNF] has been around. But this is the first study to put this idea together with cochlear implants,” says neuroscientist Jeffrey Holt of Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. The technique is “ingenious,” says hearing researcher Yehoash Raphael of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, whose group has used a virus to insert the gene for BNDF into cochlear cells. Housley hopes other implanted devices could also deliver gene therapy, such as small electrical devices sometimes inserted into the brains of patients with Parkinson’s disease to relieve their symptoms.last_img read more

How to Turn a Star Into a Supermagnet

first_imgAstronomers have figured out how to make the universe’s most powerful magnet. All you need is two massive stars orbiting close to each other so that one swipes gas from the other, causing the thief to spin so quickly that its magnetic field dwarfs that of Earth by 100 trillion-fold. The finding offers fresh insight into how some of the galaxy’s smallest but most extraordinary stars arise.Magnetars are a special breed of pulsars, which are fast-spinning neutron stars that form when a massive star explodes as a supernova: The star’s outer layers shoot off into space, while its core collapses to become the pulsar. Magnetars are as rare as they are extraordinary. Known pulsars number in the thousands; known magnetars, only a couple of dozen.Astronomer Simon Clark of the Open University in Milton Keynes, U.K., and his colleagues observed a young star cluster named Westerlund 1, which sports one of the few known magnetars. The cluster is only 5 million years old and lies 16,000 light-years from Earth in Ara, a constellation just south of Scorpius.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)The astronomers identified a peculiar blue supergiant—a star much hotter and more luminous than the sun—that they believe once orbited the star that later became the magnetar. Named Westerlund 1-5, the blue supergiant dumped large amounts of gas onto its partner, speeding up its spin the way falling water makes a water wheel twirl. As Clark’s team reports online this week in Astronomy & Astrophysics, this spin-up amplified the star’s magnetic field so that when it exploded and collapsed, it became a magnetar rather than an ordinary pulsar.Furthermore, the blue supergiant saved its partner from a bleak fate. The premagnetar star was so massive that it should have collapsed into a black hole. But before it exploded, it began to expand, as aging stars do, and its partner grabbed enough gas back that the premagnetar star slimmed down, becoming a magnetar rather than a black hole. This removal of material also kept the premagnetar star spinning fast; normally, expanding stars spin more slowly, just as spinning ice skaters do when they extend their arms.The evidence? First, the blue supergiant is racing away from the cluster, suggesting that another star recently kicked it away when it exploded. Second, the blue supergiant has odd abundances of carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen.For most of their lives, blue stars generate energy via the CNO cycle, in which carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen serve as catalysts to convert hydrogen into helium. During the CNO cycle, carbon and oxygen gradually get transformed into nitrogen. Sure enough, the blue supergiant Westerlund 1-5 has lots of nitrogen and little oxygen. But it also has lots of carbon—which it shouldn’t. Clark’s team believes the star received this carbon recently, before the other star became the magnetar. Late in its life, that star burned helium into carbon, sprayed some of the carbon onto the blue supergiant’s surface, and then exploded, so that the two stars went their separate ways.”It’s not a slam dunk, but it is a reasonable argument,” says Bryan Gaensler, an astronomer at the University of Sydney in Australia who was not involved in the discovery. He notes that massive stars usually have companions, yet the magnetar and the blue supergiant are both single. Moreover, a pulsar is a magnetar for only the first 10,000 or so years of its life—and the carbon on the blue supergiant should survive for only about 10,000 years before it slips beneath the star’s surface and out of sight. Thus, Gaensler says, each object had a partner recently, suggesting “they were each other’s companion.”If the new work is correct, it explains the long-standing mystery of how a stellar corpse can acquire such an enormous magnetic field: At least some magnetars owe their superlative qualities to another star they booted away, a cosmic illustration of the dictum that no good deed goes unpunished.last_img read more

These U.S. communities are most at risk from ocean acidification

first_imgThe rising acidity of the world’s oceans could devastate coastal communities around the United States over the next century, according to a new analysis. And because ocean acidification is exacerbated by other water quality problems such as agriculture and urban runoff, regions along the Gulf Coast and Atlantic seaboard, which were formerly considered less vulnerable, now look to be among the most at risk.To date, most ocean acidification research has focused on better understanding which organisms will be the most vulnerable to rising acid levels, without considering the economic role those organisms play. The new work makes this link explicit, at least with shellfish, an industry that generates nearly $1 billion in the United States annually. The new work is “outstanding,” says Jeremy Mathis, director of the Ocean Environment Research Division at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, Washington, who was not involved with the study. “This is exactly what we have been missing.”The acidity of the world’s oceans has increased by roughly 30% over the past several decades, driven primarily by the burning of fossil fuels. As carbon dioxide levels rise in the atmosphere, about one-quarter of it dissolves into the top layer of the ocean. There it reacts with water to form carbonic acid, which in turn lowers the pH of the water. By doing so, it lowers the availability of carbonate ions, which oysters and other shellfish use to build their shells. Even more insidious, the drop in carbonate ions reduces a measure called the aragonite saturation state, which refers to the level of a mineral form of calcium carbonate called aragonite that oyster larvae need to form their growing shells. Laboratory studies on many shellfish have shown that if the aragonite saturation state falls below about 1.5, shellfish larvae are not able to build their shells and die before ever getting a toehold on life.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Numerous ocean chemistry and modeling surveys have shown that ecosystems along the West Coast of the United States are already vulnerable to high acidity levels. Part of this is natural: Cold water from the deep ocean upwells along the West Coast, and cold water is able to dissolve more carbon dioxide. Add in the rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and the combination is already wreaking havoc among oyster fisheries in the Pacific Northwest.Conventional wisdom in recent years was that shellfish farmers in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, which is naturally also surrounded by cold water, have the greatest risk of losing their livelihood due to ocean acidification, says Julia Ekstrom, a social scientist who studies coastal communities at the University of California (UC), Davis. But that conclusion centered solely on acidity levels rising due to increasing atmospheric CO2 levels.Ekstrom and her colleagues at the  environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council, UC Davis, and 10 other institutions decided to look more broadly. They added in other factors that can impact acidity levels on a regional basis, including the discharge of water from large rivers and eutrophication in estuaries. Eutrophication occurs when agricultural and urban runoff boosts the levels of nitrogen and phosphorus that triggers algal blooms. When the algae die, they are eaten by bacteria that release carbon dioxide into the water as they respire. Large rivers, meanwhile, can either reduce acidification if they carry large amounts of minerals that buffer the acidity, or increase it if they hold few such minerals.In addition to evaluating this broader set of physical factors, Ekstrom and her colleagues also analyzed the economic dependence of coastal communities on shellfish farming and their likely ability to adapt if ocean acidification threatens their current livelihood. Together those measures made up what they refer to as a social vulnerability score. The researchers then combined the physical and social risks to rank U.S. coastal communities to the threat of rising acidification, though only to shellfish farming.The map they produced was very different from that considering the risks to ocean chemistry alone. As they report today in Nature Climate Change, they found that 16 of the 23 coastal bioregions around the United States are highly vulnerable to ocean acidification. Topping the list wasn’t the Pacific Northwest, but Massachusetts, due to the relatively high percentage of income that’s at risk due to shellfish farming and the moderately high acid levels expected in the region because of its latitude. Also at high risk were the Pacific Northwest, mid-Atlantic, and several regions along the Gulf Coast. For many of the regions along the Eastern Seaboard and Gulf Coast, the problem wasn’t the immediate threat of acidification due to atmospheric CO2 per se, but rather the added effects of nutrient runoff and rivers that raise regional acidity levels.In a somewhat backhanded way that’s potentially good news, says Chris Gobler, a marine biologist at Stony Brook University in New York, because unlike rising atmospheric CO2 levels that require a global response to fix, those issues can be addressed by local and regional actions. That could give policymakers identifiable ways to reduce, or at least delay, the impacts of ocean acidification. “That makes this a great advance in the policy arena,” Gobler says, who wasn’t involved with the work.But making those local and regional changes won’t be easy. The annual occurrence of an extensive dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, due to agricultural runoff throughout the Midwest, has already been linked to modern farming practices. That hasn’t changed farming practices yet. Now the question is whether adding the risk of contributing to ocean acidification will make any difference. If it doesn’t, oysters, clams, and other shellfish could disappear from wide swaths of U.S. waters over the next century and with them the communities that depend on them for jobs and a way of life.last_img read more

India is willing to snub the Dalai Lama to please China

first_imgOn March 17, 1959, a 23-year-old Buddhist monk disguised as a soldier fled Tibet, travelling for three weeks across the Himalayas before reaching the border with India. Since then, the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, has run a government-in-exile from India, which is also home to some 95,000 Tibetan refugees.So, to mark the 60th year of his arrival, the Dalai Lama and his Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) had planned a series of events this year, starting March 31. “Tibetans will thank India for promoting its rich ancient culture and unique identity, assuring the viability and sustainability of Tibetan leadership and Tibetan communities..,” the CTA said in an invitation sent out in January.Read it at Quartz Related Itemslast_img read more

Investing in Gold

first_imgGold has a timeless allure — especially if you worry about stock market volatility, inflation, a decay of ordinary currency or the collapse of civilization. Yet not everyone agrees that gold offers the safe haven its promoters describe. After soaring for a dozen years, it has plummeted in 2013.After all, while gold has some practical uses in electronics and a few manufacturing processes, most of it ends up as jewelry on people’s wrists and necks — or rests quietly as stacks of ingots in rooms with thick doors and strong floors. How reliable can demand be for a commodity that very few people actually need? What is the proper role for gold in an investment portfolio? Why has its price been falling?“People call it an insurance policy. I call it a very expensive insurance policy,” says Wharton finance professor Jeremy Siegel.“I would never recommend a specific investment in gold,” adds Kent Smetters, professor of business economics and public policy at Wharton, who adds that investors have better ways to hedge against inflation — one of gold’s presumed benefits.A Spotty RecordThere is no denying that gold has held value for humans for thousands of years. It is found in the graves of the elite all over the world. The search for it drove much of the exploration of the New World. Treasure hunters risk their lives pursuing chests of it lost at the bottom of the sea.But its record as a store of wealth is spotty. From early 2001 to late summer 2011, the price of gold soared from just under $300 an ounce to nearly $1,900, confirming gold proponents’ view that the metal is a terrific investment. But there have been long periods of disappointment, too. Gold peaked just shy of $700 an ounce in 1980, then fell and did not again hit that level for 27 years. It started this year at $1,657, and has fallen about 18% to around $1,355, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has gained about 18%.The cause of these ups and downs is always open to debate. When the price of steel rises or falls, the reason can usually be found in the pace of world economic growth. Grain prices are heavily influenced by the weather. But gold rides waves of emotion.Most gold becomes jewelry. In fact, among the largest consumers of gold are jewelry buyers in India, says Wharton finance professor Franklin Allen. “India has not been doing well, so that may be a factor” driving gold prices down, he notes. “There may also be some selling by central banks and hedge funds that we aren’t aware of.” Big sales, perhaps to raise money for economic stimulation, would increase gold supply, undercutting prices.Gold prices are also affected by the ebb and flow of demand for other investments. If stocks look good, some investors will switch from gold to stocks, and falling demand will help drive gold prices down. Gold’s fall this year coincides with a fast climb in stock prices. “Gold and silver are suffering because people are moving money to the stock market,” Smetters says.Siegel maintains a long-run chart of real returns for various asset classes — returns adjusted for inflation. Because of inflation, a dollar acquired in 1802 would have been worth just 5.2 cents at the end of 2011. A dollar put into Treasury bills at the same time would have grown to $282, or to $1,632 had it gone into long-term bonds. Held in gold, it would have grown to $4.50. True, that’s a gain even with inflation taken into account. But the same dollar put into a basket of stocks reflecting the broad market would have grown to an astounding $706,199.As an investment, gold has some flaws. Anyone who owns it in significant quantity would be wise to ante up for secure storage, which creates a cost that drags on the return, says Siegel. And, unlike bank savings, bonds or dividend-paying stocks, gold does not provide income. “It’s a very volatile asset with no yield,” according to Allen.Nor does gold provide rights to share in corporate profits — a perk enjoyed by any stockholder. Investors who want safety can use government bonds, knowing the government can use its taxing power to make good on its commitments to bond owners. No one stands behind the price of gold.Paying a ‘Big Price’In a period of hyperinflation, when currency becomes virtually worthless, or a time of great distrust in the economy or banking system, gold may indeed become a safe haven, Siegel notes. “There isn’t anything that’s clearly better if you’re concerned about those sorts of events.” But he adds that people who turn to gold tend to be “overly concerned” about catastrophe. Putting a large portion of one’s wealth into gold would therefore mean sitting on the sidelines waiting for an unlikely event while other assets, such as stocks, produced better long-term returns. “I think you would be paying a big price,” Siegel says.Currently, inflation is very low, which eliminates that factor as an immediate reason to hold gold, Smetters points out. Investors who want a guaranteed hedge against any future inflation have better options in inflation-indexed U.S. savings bonds, he adds. I-bonds guarantee a modest return on top of the inflation rate, while also insuring against loss due to deflation, or falling prices.According to Smetters, there is another option: Treasury inflation-protected securities, or TIPS. These U.S. government bonds provide annual interest earnings plus a rise in principal, or the face value of the bond, tied to the inflation rate. (TIPS are best held in retirement accounts like IRAs and 401(k)s to avoid annual tax on “phantom income” from the inflation adjustments, Smetters notes.) Allen agrees. “I would say TIPS are a better strategy [than gold] to protect against inflation, unless things are very bad indeed in the U.S. Swiss francs would also be a good bet.”A well-diversified investment portfolio can also help guard against inflation, says Smetters. “I generally believe in a multi-part investment process that starts with a safe layer of bonds, internationally diversified.”Another option, of course, is stocks, which, as Siegel’s data show, have a good long-term track record against inflation. A key reason: Companies can increase prices for goods and services as inflation drives up costs of raw materials and labor. Inflation can also lift customers’ incomes, enabling them to pay higher prices.Real estate investment trusts, or REITS, also offer an inflation hedge, Allen adds. REITS are a form of mutual fund that own residential, commercial or industrial real estate. Property values and rents generally rise with inflation, making REITS a good hedge. For those worried about a collapse in the stock market, he suggests “put options,” which hedge against loss by giving their owners the right to sell at a guaranteed price a block of shares or a broad index like the S&P 500. To minimize costs — the premium paid for an option — the investor can buy “out of the money” puts. These are cheaper because they require the investor to accept some loss before the protection kicks in — similar to getting an insurance policy with a very large deductible.Investors who worry deeply about other asset classes can put a small portion of their holdings into gold for peace of mind, so long as they are willing to pay a price in storage costs and weak returns, Siegel says.Buy the Mine InsteadMost experts caution against investing in jewelry and collectable coins, because it’s hard to assess the artistic or collectable value that comes on top of the value of the raw gold. Professional investors trade gold on the futures market — but this is very complex, and futures are generally used for short-term bets rather than long-term investments.As a compromise, investors can buy stocks in gold mining companies, says Allen. These stocks give shareholders the right to share in cash flows, and they tend to benefit when gold rises, though investors must also assess the quality of management, the firm’s competiveness in the market and any other factors typically involved in a stock purchase.To avoid the cost of storing gold, investors can buy shares in exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that own physical gold kept in vaults in places like Switzerland. ETFs are a kind of mutual fund that trades like stocks, making buying and selling of gold very easy. They are a good way of speculating on spot prices, or holding gold for the longer term to diversify a portfolio. Gold ETFs might not be so good, however, as a hedge against financial, social or political chaos, because ETF trading depends on the financial markets, and the gold itself is inaccessible.What’s a better remedy than gold for investors worried about social crisis? “For those worried about social chaos, a move to Canada might be advisable,” Allen quips. Related Itemslast_img read more

Mind and Body Take Center Stage at This Year’s London Design Biennale

first_imgNever before have our emotions lurked so close to the surface.This is the era of emojis, a time when our emotional lives are played out on social media and when a nation’s happiness ranking is treated as a serious socioeconomic indicator. The first World Happiness Report was published in 2012 by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a project of the United Nations.Since then, Britain has appointed a minister for loneliness, and the United Arab Emirates, Nigeria and India have appointed minsters for happiness — with varying degrees of success.Emotional States is the theme selected by organizers of this year’s London Design Biennale, which takes over Somerset House on Sept. 4. During the Biennale, 40 pavilions representing nations, territories and cities will explore the relationship among design, social needs and our emotional responses.“At its core, the Biennale is about how design can create emotions, play off emotions and learn from emotions,” said John Sorrell, president of the event. “I want to make people think about the challenge that designers have to try and make things better, and how emotional response fits within this.”The result is a broad interpretation across design disciplines. While some participants examine emotional response at its most visceral, such as the Latvian pavilion’s interactive exhibit exploring the joy of doodling in condensation, many participants take a more intellectual tack, creating immersive experiences that deal with heavy-duty political and social issues. Design is viewed as an agent for positive change, rather than simply the process of creating objects.The British representative is Forensic Architecture, a Turner Prize-nominated organization that gathers architectural evidence in cases of war crimes or other human rights abuses. Brazil offers a poignant and visually arresting snapshot of the effects of deforestation. Israel’s offering will take the form of a “rapid response” design studio called Exposed Nerves, intended to show the challenges faced by designers working in Israel. Everyday life is characterized by a lack of security, and political and social upheaval. The result is “fast, ever-changing with sometimes unfinished outputs,” explained the curator, Hila Shaltieli. “This is all as a result of the emotional, stressful and complicated everyday reality in Israel.”Matthew Malpass, a research fellow in critical design at Central Saint Martins, said the concept of what a designer produces was changing. “There is a perception that a designer is someone who comes in to design graphics in your corporate brochure, or there is a tangible creative output like a chair,” he said. “The idea of the designer as someone with the ability to manage complexity is why we’re seeing design shifting to address broader complex societal issues, but it is a similar process, the way you manage complexity in a design problem.” He cited the British government’s Policy Lab, which was set up in 2014 to bring in designers to think about organizational change.At the Biennale many contributions have been produced by collectives and interdisciplinary teams rather than by star brand names. The power of community activism and a citizen-centered approach to design recurs throughout the pavilions. Sorrell said he believed that there was a discernible shift away from the idea of the designer who commands singular authorship. “Engaging a community in the design process is important to creating a positive emotional response — you can give them a sense of identity through design for the community, for civil society,” he said. “What designers need to be really good at is understanding the minds and the desires of the people they are ultimately designing for.”But this does not mean endless focus groups and market research. “It’s not a matter of saying to people ‘what do you want?’ because often they won’t know what’s possible,” he said. “That is something the designer must understand in the conversation — that’s where great creativity comes.”Guatemala’s pavilion showcases a handmade textile installation that represents Santa Catarina Palopó, a community where inhabitants use art and design to improve their physical environment by painting dazzling murals inspired by nearby Lake Atitlán on their houses. Initially spearheaded by CNN correspondent Harris Whitbeck in 2017, the aim of the project is to make residents feel more at home. It has been credited with a reduction in crime and a rise in tourism, which has improved the economy. The project offers a direct, visual example of design as a force for social and economic change.Austria’s pavilion, After Abundance, tackles climate change. “It’s not about presenting a complete solved problem, but using design practices as a way to investigate complex social, political and cultural issues,” according to the project’s curator, Thomas Geisler. “We are interested in issues that confront the future generations of designers.”The pavilion offers a glimpse of a future Alpine landscape, where the natural and human worlds are inseparable. Visitors are transported to a traditional Austrian farmhouse where a future local community tackles climate change by combining new technology and traditional crafts. Members share renewable energy and genetically modify their own corn to survive. “We don’t want to create a linear emotional response,” said the project’s leader, Anab Jain, professor of industrial design at the University in Applied Arts in Vienna. “Some might find it dystopian but there is hope — we have the tools, tactics, resilience and ingenuity to address these challenges.”“I don’t think that designers will stop designing products, but the new generation of designers is much more socially aware,” Jain added. “Designers are uniquely placed to explore complex issues.”Designing products that generate long-term happiness is a focus for Paul Hekkert, head of Industrial Design at Delft University of Technology. Creating a happy moment is easy, he said, but designing for sustained, prolonged happiness presents a greater challenge.Hekkert said that he believed that in the last five to 10 years, the Western world consumerist reliance on instant gratification — the belief that buying new shiny stuff made us happy — was losing its luster. “The whole well-being movement has made us more aware that what truly makes us happiest is to have good relationships, to be healthy and to be mindful.”Exercise, enjoying an active social life and having a sense of purpose are all important to long-term happiness, he added. “We know the general mechanisms that create long-term happiness, so the question is, how can we design services and products that will ultimately make people more happy?”The car industry is quickly adapting to this shift in consumer mindset, Hekkert said: “People buy an electric car because it makes them feel good, they are contributing to a bigger purpose, they are creating a cleaner world.” The sharing economy — another trend triggering huge change — has also shifted the role of design, he added, because ownership of products is no longer an aspiration. “Products are increasingly a means to an end, and if your end is no longer showing off and having status, you start to see the design in a totally different light.”Malpass said “normal” product designs jobs — such as consumer electronics or furniture — were all but disappearing. “Many of my students say, ‘I am never going to design industrial products, I’m going to use my design practice as a form of social commentary, political critique or activism,’” he said. “ We are in a very complex moment so there are lots of problems to solve — and designers love a problem.”This, in part, is the purpose of the Biennale. “I want to dispel the idea that design is simply about how things look,” Sorrell said. “What we need right now is designers in the Civil Service,” members of Parliaments and “on boards of businesses.”© New York Times 2018 Related Itemslast_img read more