The Center for Financial Empowerment is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable agency whose mission is to educate underserved youth and families in the principles of personal finance. The Center partners with schools and community organizations in Southern California and Southern California to offer financial education, assistance, and improvement programs, giving people the power to make better financial choices and achieve an improved quality of life. SCE Federal Credit Union is the primary supporter of the Center for Financial Empowerment.
News Article | June 29, 2017
Researchers from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) publish results of a large-scale, field-realistic experiment to assess neonicotinoid impacts on honeybees and wild bees across Europe, in the peer-review journal Science on 29 June 2017. The experiment - undertaken in the UK, Germany and Hungary - exposed three bee species to winter oilseed rape crops treated with seed coatings containing neonicotinoid clothianidin, from Bayer CropScience, or Syngenta's thiamethoxam. Neonicotinoid seed coatings are designed to kill pests such as the cabbage stem flea beetle, but were effectively banned in the EU in 2013 due to concerns regarding their impact on bee health. The researchers found that exposure to treated crops reduced overwintering success of honeybee colonies - a key measure of year-to-year viability - in two of the three countries. In Hungary, colony number fell by 24 percent in the following spring. In the UK, honeybee colony survival was generally very low, but lowest where bees fed on clothianidin treated oilseed rape in the previous year. No harmful effects on overwintering honeybees were found in Germany. Lower reproductive success - reflected in queen number (bumblebees) and egg production (red mason bee) - was linked with increasing levels of neonicotinoid residues in the nests of wild bee species buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) and the Red Mason Bee (Osmia bicornis) across all three countries. According to the CEH lead author, Dr Ben Woodcock, "The neonicotinoids investigated caused a reduced capacity for all three bee species to establish new populations in the following year, at least in the UK and Hungary." He suggests the differing impacts on honeybees between countries may be associated with interacting factors including the availability of alternative flowering resources for bees to feed on in the farmed landscape as well as general colony health, with Hungarian and UK honeybees tending to be more diseased. In contrast, the hives in Germany happened to be larger, showed little evidence of disease and had access to a wider range of wild flowers to feed on. Dr Woodcock suggests that this may explain why in this country alone there was no evidence of a negative effect of neonicotinoids on honeybees. The study spanning 2,000 hectares, equivalent to 3,000 full scale football pitches, took account of bee disease and surrounding landscape quality in addition to colony growth rate, worker mortality and overwinter survival. Dr Woodcock explains that, "Neonicotinoid seed dressings do have positive attributes: they target insects that damage the plant, can be applied to the seed at low dosage rates but protect the whole plant and reduce the need for broad spectrum insecticide sprays. Their use as an alternative chemical control option is also useful in controlling pests where insecticide resistance to other pesticides is already found, so play an important role to play in food production." In Dr Woodcock's view, "There may be opportunities to mitigate negative impacts of neonicotinoid exposure on bees through improved honeybee husbandry or availability of flowering plants for bees to feed on across non-cropped areas of the farmed landscape. Both these issues require further research. He adds that, "The negative effects of neonicotinoids on wild bees may also be the result of diverse mechanisms of exposure that include persistent residues of neonicotinoids in arable systems due to their widespread and often very frequent use." Co-author Professor Richard Pywell, Science Area Lead, Sustainable Land Management at the Centre of Ecology & Hydrology, said, "Neonicotinoids remain a highly contentious issue with previous research on both honeybees and wild bees inconclusive. "This latest field study was designed, as far as possible, to reflect the real world due to its size and scope. We therefore believe it goes a considerable way to explaining the inconsistencies in the results of past research, as we were better able to account for natural variation in factors like exposure to the pesticide, bee food resources and bee health for different bee species. "Our findings also raise important questions about the basis for regulatory testing of future pesticides." Bayer CropScience and Syngenta funded the research assessing the impact of neonicotinoids on honeybees. The Natural Environment Research Council funded the analysis of the impact on the wild bees. The experiment, including design, monitoring and analysis, were scrutinised by an independent scientific advisory committee chaired by Professor Bill Sutherland of Cambridge University. *Please note Dr Woodcock is unavailable for interviews between 22 June and 2 July. Woodcock, B.A., Bullock, J.M., Shore, R.F., Heard, M.S., Pereira, M.G., Redhead, J., Ridding, L., Dean, H., Sleep, D., Henrys, P., Peyton, J., Hulmes, S., Hulmes, L., Sa?rosspataki, M., Saure, C. & Pywell, R.F., 'Country-specific effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on honeybees and wild bees,' Science, VOL 356, ISSUE 6345, DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa1190, published online 30 June 2017. Once the embargo is lifted it will be available as an open access document from http://science. A companion paper by the same authors on the impacts of neonicotinoids on bees 'Impacts of neonicotinoid use on long-term population changes in wild bees in England' is available here: http://www. Photos and video can be accessed through Dropbox here: http://bit. For more information visit CEH's project page 'The impacts of neonicotinoids on honeybees.' The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) http://www. is the UK's Centre of Excellence for integrated research in the land and freshwater ecosystems and their interaction with the atmosphere. CEH is part of the Natural Environment Research Council, employs more than 450 people at four major sites in England, Scotland and Wales, hosts over 150 PhD students, and has an overall budget of about £35m. CEH tackles complex environmental challenges to deliver practicable solutions so that future generations can benefit from a rich and healthy environment. You can follow the latest developments in CEH research via @CEHScienceNews on Twitter
News Article | June 27, 2017
-- Northeastern New MexicoEducational Foundation, Inc.130 PARK AVENUEPO BOX 1712RATON, NM 87740A New Collaborative Plans Feasibility Studyto Investigate Pathways Toward Energy IndependenceToday, The Center for Sustainable Community (www.sustainraton.org)located in Raton, NM, announced that it has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Raton Public Service, Springer Electric Cooperative (Springer), and Santa Fe Community College (SFCC).In the MOU, these parties agreed to "collaborate upon the design and acquisition of funding for a study that will recommend the optimal configuration of an independent, cost efficient, and resilient electric energy system to serve the area, including an evaluation of renewable energy sources using locally available resources." The partners are now preparing a request for proposal to fulfill the project's objective.Geoff Peterson, Executive Director of The Center, said "our region has a long history of energy independence and the MOU represents a concrete step towards bringing back jobs and reversing an enormous economic leakage."For the past two years, The Center and SFCC have been working in various ways to forge a pathway for improving the local economy by forwarding a new vision of energy and food independence. Among other projects facilitated by The Center, SFCC has introduced a broader range of dual credit programs and the concept of a project-based curriculum in the Raton Public Schools. The Center and SFCC have also collaborated on a project to recruit and train employees for Miners Colfax Medical Center in Raton.Luke Spangenburg, Director of SFCC's Biofuels Centers of Excellence, said that SFCC supports the efforts of RPS to review different energy technology scenarios to benefit Raton and its neighboring communities for the long term. "RPS and its regional partners have a unique opportunity to lead the way in New Mexico with energy resiliency,"Spandgenburg said. SFCC stands ready, he added, to provide training in sustainable technologies and micro grid applications that will generate local power and keep resources in the community.Peterson said that The Center's efforts to take a leadership role in creating energy independence and resiliency have been greatly supported by the Energy Conservation Division (ECD) of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD). Louise Martinez, Director of the New Mexico ECD, traveled to Raton in May to endorse this collaborative in a meeting with RPS and The Center. She was accompanied by ECD staff members who described how alternative energy sources can greatly reduce the cost of electricity in the near future.The Center recently represented the MOU partners in the "Energy Roadmap Project" sponsored by the New Mexico ECD. The Roadmap is funded by a $300,000 U.S. Department of Energy grant. A press release issued by EMNRD stated that "With the roadmap, the Department will analyze future environmental requirements, policies, supply, demand and resiliency and future measures needed for a more diverse energy portfolio." SFCC is also a participant in the Roadmap Project.David Spradlin, Manager of Springer Electric, said "The Cooperative is very pleased to be part of this partnership to evaluate the energy needs of Colfax County from a holistic, sustainable approach as this offers great potential for more innovation and economic efficiencies for all citizens of the County than what could be achieved as singular entities."The Center for Sustainable Community is a non-profit New Mexico corporation established in 1997 to promote educational opportunities for northeastern New Mexico.
News Article | June 29, 2017
Neuroethics: Neurotech experts call for new measures to ensure brain-controlled devices are beneficial and safe Wyss Center, Geneva, Switzerland - As brain-controlled robots enter everyday life, an article published in Science states that now is the time to take action and put in place guidelines that ensure the safe and beneficial use of direct brain-machine interaction. Accountability, responsibility, privacy and security are all key when considering ethical dimensions of this emerging field. If a semi-autonomous robot did not have a reliable control or override mechanism, a person might be considered negligent if they used it to pick up a baby, but not for other less risky activities. The authors propose that any semi-autonomous system should include a form of veto control - an emergency stop - to help overcome some of the inherent weaknesses of direct brain-machine interaction. Professor John Donoghue, Director of the Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering in Geneva, Switzerland said: "Although we still don't fully understand how the brain works, we are moving closer to being able to reliably decode certain brain signals. We shouldn't be complacent about what this could mean for society. We must carefully consider the consequences of living alongside semi-intelligent brain-controlled machines and we should be ready with mechanisms to ensure their safe and ethical use." "We don't want to overstate the risks nor build false hope for those who could benefit from neurotechnology. Our aim is to ensure that appropriate legislation keeps pace with this rapidly progressing field." Protecting biological data recorded by brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) is another area of concern. Security solutions should include data encryption, information hiding and network security. Guidelines for patient data protection already exist for clinical studies but these standards differ across countries and may not apply as rigorously to purely human laboratory research. Professor Niels Birbaumer, Senior Research Fellow at the Wyss Center in Geneva (formerly at University of Tübingen, Germany) said: "The protection of sensitive neuronal data from people with complete paralysis who use a BMI as their only means of communication, is particularly important. Successful calibration of their BMI depends on brain responses to personal questions provided by the family (for example, "Your daughter's name is Emily?"). Strict data protection must be applied to all people involved, this includes protecting the personal information asked in questions as well as the protection of neuronal data to ensure the device functions correctly." The possibility of 'brainjacking' - the malicious manipulation of brain implants - is a serious consideration say the authors. While BMI systems to restore movement or communication to paralysed people do not initially seem an appealing target, this could depend on the status of the user - a paralysed politician, for example, might be at increased risk of a malicious attack as brain readout improves. The article: Help, hope and hype: ethical dimensions of neuroprosthetics by Jens Clausen, Eberhard Fetz, John Donoghue, Junichi Ushiba, Ulrike Spörhase, Jennifer Chandler, Niels Birbaumer and Surjo R. Soekadar is published in Science. For more images, high res video or to arrange interviews please contact: An electroencephalography (EEG) cap for measuring brain activity on study participant 1: https:/ An electroencephalography (EEG) cap for measuring brain activity on study participant 2: https:/ An electroencephalography (EEG) cap for measuring brain activity on model head: https:/ The plug through which brain signals travel from the brain to a computer https:/ More information, including a copy of the paper, can be found online at the Science press package webpage at http://www. . You will need your user ID and password to access this information. The Wyss Center provides the expertise, facilities and resources to accelerate the development of creative neuroscience research into clinical solutions for human benefit. Based at Campus Biotech in Geneva Switzerland, the Wyss Center offers competitively awarded project funding for innovative neurotechnology research projects that have the potential to make substantial impact. The Center provides access to advanced neuroscience and engineering facilities, as well as the integrated clinical, regulatory and business resources required to guide high risk, high return projects on their complex journey from research to product. The Wyss Center's unique interdisciplinary team of specialists, including research scientists, engineers, regulatory experts, business development specialists and clinicians, help to develop the products that will prevent, diagnose or treat nervous system disorders, or will lead to useful technology with the potential to improve lives. The Center will support highly innovative neurotechnology projects from anywhere in the world as long as they fit the core mission to accelerate the development of neurotechnology for human benefit and make full use of the Center's capabilities and resources. A major goal is to ensure that innovative neurotechnologies advance until they are sufficiently mature to attract corporate partnerships, venture funding, or other mechanisms necessary to make them broadly available to society. Established by a generous donation from the Swiss entrepreneur and philanthropist Hansjörg Wyss, the Wyss Center is a partner in a progressive new neuroscience hub at Campus Biotech in Geneva.
News Article | May 30, 2017
David Nieper Ltd has been one of Alfreton's largest employers for 55 years and one of the few British fashion houses that has never taken production overseas, but has instead prioritised creating jobs for local people and more recently prioritised educating local children. By becoming the first UK fashion business to sponsor a school and investing significantly in broadening skills across the community, the business is tackling both education failure and worklessness, two of the most detrimental social issues identified by CSJ in their 'Breakthrough Britain' report, making this visit from Iain Duncan Smith and Andy Cook especially poignant. The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) was established as an independent think-tank in 2004 to put social justice at the heart of British politics and make policy recommendations to tackle the root causes of poverty. The CSJ is best known for its major Breakthrough Britain reports which identified five pathways to poverty - family breakdown, educational failure, worklessness and dependency, addiction and serious person debt. "The David Nieper Academy is exemplary in the way it has tackled the skills shortage in its local area by training up young people in readiness for employment. "Not only does the British manufacturing industry benefit, people living in the community have the opportunity to gain the skills they need to get a job and progress with their career. "It is well known the best route out of poverty is through work. Work also provides a regular routine, a means of interaction with a community, a stake in society and a sense of purpose. "I hope many other businesses see the enormous advantages in investing in our young people so they can fulfil their potential and British manufacturing can thrive in the years to come." Christopher Nieper, Managing Director of David Nieper Ltd and the founder of the David Nieper Education Trust, believes the only way to secure the future of the business and the town's economic future is to invest in skills. Alfreton is a former coal mining town and within the 'travel to work' area of Derby, which has been identified by the Government as a social mobility cold spot - i.e. an area with a higher concentration of low paid jobs, low skilled jobs and lower school attainment standards. The David Nieper Education Trust aims to develop the methodology to turn around a persistently underperforming secondary school (historically in the bottom two percent for attainment) whilst delivering career ready, employable young people for jobs, apprenticeship and further education. The ultimate goal is to ensure that young people in Alfreton have as much opportunity to progress in life as those living in other parts of the UK. "We are delighted to welcome Iain Duncan Smith and Andy Cook here today, and appreciate their recognition of our endeavours to help secure the future of Alfreton through education and skills. All young people regardless of background should be capable of living fulfilling and productive lives - we are hoping to help them achieve this through our work at the school. "Similarly, through the development of skills within our own business we are equipping local people with all the skills they need to find gainful employment both within our own company and further afield." David Nieper works with education at every level, supporting primary schools, secondary education at the David Nieper Academy (built for 850 pupils), sponsoring university bursaries, chairing the government's Trailblazer for the National Apprenticeship standards in sewing and garment technology and their own in-house sewing school. For further information on David Nieper visit https://www.davidnieper.co.uk/ For further information on The Centre for Social Justice visit http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/
News Article | May 30, 2017
More than one hundred students at Duarte High School in California put their personal finance skills to the test during the Center for Financial Empowerment’s “Mad City Money,” a real-world simulation event for teenagers. During Mad City Money, students are assigned a life scenario, complete with career, debt and insurance payments – even a spouse and children. They also received unexpected windfalls and had to visit stations to pay for housing costs, just as in real life. “Fate Cards” with different monetary expenses were distributed at random to teach students to prepare for bumps in the road. “I had to learn what I could have and what I couldn’t. It was all a matter of if we could afford it,” said Duarte High School senior Lizbeth Lidstrom. “In real life, I work two jobs. This helped out a lot – I learned where I could put the money I work hard for.” Lidstrom said that one of the take-away points from the Mad City Money event was that she plans to start putting more money into her savings for college. Other stations were set up to simulate additional expenses – including food, cars, electronics, clothes and childcare costs. A credit union station was available to help teens make better financial decisions and show them the importance of budgeting effectively. Additionally, students were taught to be on the lookout for fraud by keeping track of their simulated belongings. Players who dropped items, like their debit cards, fell victim to fraud and were penalized. “I think it’s important because it gives the students real life financial planning experience,” said Duarte High School career technical and small business entrepreneurship teacher Amy Bustos. “The students get the exposure of what it is like in real life – how to spend and budget their money correctly for basic survival in order to provide for their families.” While financial education courses are not currently a prerequisite for high school graduation in California, studies have shown that students who’ve taken economics and personal finance courses are more likely to save money and pay off credit card bills in full each month. These teenagers are less likely to be compulsive buyers, max out credit cards and make late payments. “We realize the importance of providing students with a solid education about personal finance before they enter the workforce or go off to college,” said Abby Ulm, manager of the Center for Financial Empowerment. “Interactive courses like Mad City Money teach them financial literacy as a means to better help them prepare for real world expenses.” For more information about the Center for Financial Empowerment, visit http://www.center4fe.org/. ABOUT CENTER FOR FINANCIAL EMPOWERMENT (http://www.center4fe.org/) The Center for Financial Empowerment is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable agency whose mission is to educate underserved youth and families in the principles of personal finance. The Center partners with schools and community organizations in Southern California and Southern California to offer financial education, assistance, and improvement programs, giving people the power to make better financial choices and achieve an improved quality of life. SCE Federal Credit Union is the primary supporter of the Center for Financial Empowerment. SCE Federal Credit Union was founded in 1952 and currently has approximately 50,000 members, $650 million in assets, several Southern California and Southern Nevada branch locations, thousands of shared branch locations across the United States, and nearly 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs available to members. SCE FCU serves Southern California and Southern Nevada, with membership open to individuals and businesses, and is a not-for-profit entity committed to improving the financial well-being of the communities it serves, especially people underserved by mainstream financial institutions. With a strong commitment to volunteerism, employees donate hundreds of hours to local community causes each year. Additionally, the creation of the Center for Financial Empowerment provides much-needed financial education to the underserved and high schools in Las Vegas, Nevada and in Duarte, Baldwin Park, Boyle Heights, Ontario and Lynwood, Calif.
News Article | August 7, 2017
Exclusive: series of emails show staff at Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service advised to reference ‘weather extremes’ instead Staff at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have been told to avoid using the term climate change in their work, with the officials instructed to reference “weather extremes” instead. A series of emails obtained by the Guardian between staff at the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a USDA unit that oversees farmers’ land conservation, show that the incoming Trump administration has had a stark impact on the language used by some federal employees around climate change. A missive from Bianca Moebius-Clune, director of soil health, lists terms that should be avoided by staff and those that should replace them. “Climate change” is in the “avoid” category, to be replaced by “weather extremes”. Instead of “climate change adaption”, staff are asked to use “resilience to weather extremes”. The primary cause of human-driven climate change is also targeted, with the term “reduce greenhouse gases” blacklisted in favor of “build soil organic matter, increase nutrient use efficiency”. Meanwhile, “sequester carbon” is ruled out and replaced by “build soil organic matter”. In her email to staff, dated 16 February this year, Moebius-Clune said the new language was given to her staff and suggests it be passed on. She writes that “we won’t change the modeling, just how we talk about it – there are a lot of benefits to putting carbon back in the sail [sic], climate mitigation is just one of them”, and that a colleague from public affairs gave advice to “tamp down on discretionary messaging right now”. In contrast to these newly contentious climate terms, Moebius-Clune wrote that references to economic growth, emerging business opportunities in the rural US, agro-tourism and “improved aesthetics” should be “tolerated if not appreciated by all”. In a separate email to senior employees on 24 January, just days after Trump’s inauguration, Jimmy Bramblett, deputy chief for programs at the NRCS, said: “It has become clear one of the previous administration’s priority is not consistent with that of the incoming administration. Namely, that priority is climate change. Please visit with your staff and make them aware of this shift in perspective within the executive branch.” Bramblett added that “prudence” should be used when discussing greenhouse gases and said the agency’s work on air quality regarding these gases could be discontinued. Other emails show the often agonized discussions between staff unsure of what is forbidden. On 16 February, a staffer named Tim Hafner write to Bramblett: “I would like to know correct terms I should use instead of climate changes and anything to do with carbon ... I want to ensure to incorporate correct terminology that the agency has approved to use.” On 5 April, Suzanne Baker, a New York-based NRCS employee, emailed a query as to whether staff are “allowed to publish work from outside the USDA that use ‘climate change’”. A colleague advises that the issue be determined in a phone call. Some staff weren’t enamored with the new regime, with one employee stating on an email on 5 July that “we would prefer to keep the language as is” and stressing the need to maintain the “scientific integrity of the work”. The USDA has been contacted for comment. Trump has repeatedly questioned the veracity of climate change research, infamously suggesting that it is part of an elaborate Chinese hoax. The president has started the process of withdrawing the US from the Paris climate agreement, has instructed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to scrap or amend various regulations aimed at cutting greenhouse gases, and has moved to open up more public land and waters to fossil fuel activity. The nomenclature of the federal government has also shifted as these new priorities have taken hold. Mentions of the dangers of climate change have been removed from the websites of the White House and the Department of the Interior, while the EPA scrapped its entire online climate section in April pending a review that will be “updating language to reflect the approach of new leadership”. “These records reveal Trump’s active censorship of science in the name of his political agenda,” said Meg Townsend, open government attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “To think that federal agency staff who report about the air, water and soil that sustains the health of our nation must conform their reporting with the Trump administration’s anti-science rhetoric is appalling and dangerous for America and the greater global community.” The Center for Biological Diversity is currently suing several government agencies, including the EPA and state department, to force them to release information on the “censoring” of climate change verbiage. While some of the changes to government websites may have occurred anyway, the emails from within the USDA are the clearest indication yet that staff have been instructed to steer clear of acknowledging climate change or its myriad consequences. US agriculture is a major source of heat-trapping gases, with 15% of the country’s emissions deriving from farming practices. A USDA plan to address the “far reaching” impacts of climate change is still online. However, Sam Clovis, Trump’s nomination to be the USDA’s chief scientist, has labeled climate research “junk science”. Last week it was revealed that Clovis, who is not a scientist, once ran a blog where he called progressives “race traders and race ‘traitors’” and likened Barack Obama to a “communist”.
News Article | August 7, 2017
EL CERRITO, Calif. (AP) — In some ways, Rainbow Day Camp is very ordinary. Kids arrive with a packed lunch, make friendship bracelets, play basketball, sing songs and get silly. But it is also unique, from the moment campers arrive each morning. At check-in each day, campers make a nametag with their pronoun of choice. Some opt for "she" or "he." Or a combination of "she/he." Or "they," or no pronoun at all. Some change their name or pronouns daily, to see what feels right. The camp in the San Francisco Bay Area city of El Cerrito caters to transgender and "gender fluid" children ages 4 to 12, making it one of the only camps of its kind in the world open to preschoolers, experts say. Enrollment has tripled to about 60 young campers since it opened three summers ago, with kids coming from as far as Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. - even Africa. Plans are underway to open a branch next summer in Colorado, and the camp has been contacted by parents and organizations in Atlanta, Seattle, Louisiana and elsewhere interested in setting up similar programs. On a sunny July morning at camp, the theme was "Crazy Hair Day," and 6-year-old Gracie Maxwell was dancing in the sunshine as a Miley Cyrus song blasted from outdoor speakers. The freckled, blue-eyed blonde wore her hair in a braid on one side, a pigtail on the other and snacked on cereal as she twirled and skipped. "Once she could talk, I don't remember a time when she didn't say, 'I'm a girl,'" said her mother, Molly Maxwell, who still trips over pronouns but tries to stick to "she." "Then it grew in intensity: 'I'm a sister. I'm a daughter. I'm a princess,'" Maxwell said. "We would argue with her. She was confused. We were confused." Living in the liberal-minded Bay Area made it easier. The Maxwells found a transgender play group, sought specialists, and at 4 years old, let Gracie grow her hair, dress as a girl and eventually change her name. "I see her now, compared to before. I watch her strut around and dance and sing and the way she talks about herself. If she was forced to be someone else," the mother trails off. "I don't even want to think about that." Gender specialists say the camp's growth reflects what they are seeing in gender clinics nationwide: increasing numbers of children coming out as transgender at young ages. They credit the rise to greater openness and awareness of LGBT issues and parents tuning in earlier when a child shows signs of gender dysphoria, or distress about their gender. "A decade ago, this camp wouldn't have existed. Eventually, I do believe, it won't be so innovative," camp founder Sandra Collins said. "I didn't know you could be transgender at a very young age. But my daughter knew for sure at 2." Collins' experience as the mother of a transgender girl, now 9, inspired her to start the camp, and another for 13- to 17-year-olds called Camp Kickin' It. "A lot of these kids have been bullied and had trauma at school. This is a world where none of that exists, and they're in the majority," Collins said. "That's a new experience for kids who are used to hiding and feeling small." Fourth-grader Scarlett Reinhold, Collins' daughter who was born a boy, says at camp she can be herself. "I feel comfortable for being who I am and who I want to be," says Scarlett, a confident 9-year-old in a frilly skirt who wears her dark hair long and wavy. There is little comprehensive data on young children who identify as transgender, but experts say as the number of young people coming to their clinics increases, the prevailing medical guidance has shifted. The favored protocol today is known as the "gender affirmative" approach, which focuses on identifying and helping transgender children to "socially transition" - to live as the gender they identify with rather than the one they were born with until they're old enough to decide on medical options like puberty blockers and later, hormone treatments. The Center for Transyouth Health and Development at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, started a decade ago with about 40 patients, now has over 900 people, ages 3 to 25, enrolled in its program, with 150 on its waiting list, said Johanna Olson-Kennedy, the clinic's medical director. "I just think there's a lot more openness to the understanding that trans adults start as trans kids," Olson-Kennedy said. "When people say, 'Isn't this too young?' my question back to them is, 'Too young for what? How young do people know their gender?' The answer to that is some people know it at 3, and some people know it at 30." Diane Ehrensaft, director of mental health at the University of California, San Francisco's Child and Adolescent Gender Center, says enrollment there has tripled over the past few years with a "sea change - maybe we can even call it a tsunami - in the number of little kids showing up with their families." She fields a growing number of calls from families overseas, including South Africa, Ethiopia, Hong Kong, Belgium, England and other countries that lack resources. Studies show transgender adults have higher rates of suicide and depression than the general population. A 2016 study by the University of Washington's TransYouth Project, published in the journal Pediatrics, found trans children who live as their preferred gender and are supported by their parents have the same mental health outcomes as other kids their age. At Rainbow Day Camp, a therapist is on hand to talk if kids want. Therapy sessions are extended to parents at a support group after morning drop-off. Many counselors are transgender, which offers campers upbeat role models. "I want to show these kids what a confident, happy, successful trans person looks like," said camp director Andrew Kramer, 30, who goes by AK and came out as a transgender man at 26. "We teach them they are normal, deserving of love, and not alone." One family traveled from Africa to enroll their son in the camp for its full three-week summer session. The 9-year-old goes by the name Nao at Rainbow but has not publicly come out as a transgender girl. The family asked that their last name and the country where they live be kept confidential, fearing repercussions there. Nao's mother, Miriam, said she watched her child blossom at camp. Nao was happier and less prone to outbursts, made friends, opened up about school bullying, and wants to return next summer. "I think for the first time, (Nao) feels like just a normal kid," Miriam said. Before flying home, she said, Nao wrote a note to the camp's counselors. It read: "Thank you, for making me feel so happy."
News Article | August 8, 2017
There are nearly 2 million youth who spend at least one night homeless each year in the United States. An estimated 7 percent of homeless youth are likely to be HIV positive. Researchers from the USC Center for AI for Society (CAIS), a joint research initiative between the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, have developed algorithms that are over 150 percent more effective in spreading public health information than methods currently used by many social service agencies. These algorithms help identify the most influential peer leaders to share important HIV prevention information in real-world peer networks and facilitate peer-to-peer interventions among youth who are homeless. Influence maximization is the science of how people spread information. This particular project was adopted by a team of computer scientists and social work researchers affiliated with USC CAIS in order to improve the reach of social service agencies that had limited budget and reach for distribution of important public health communiques. The interdisciplinary team was focused on the goal of changing behavior via in-person friend-to-friend influence versus online social media networks--which the researchers believed would be less likely to change behavior versus the in-person suggestion of a friend. The results of the study, were published in "Influence Maximization in the Field: The Arduous Journey from Emerging to Deployed Application," presented at the 2017 International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multi-agent Systems. The study by Amulya Yadav, Bryan Wilder, Eric Rice, Robin Petering, Jaih Craddock, Amanda Yoshioka-Maxwell, Mary Hemler, Laura Onasch-Vera, Milind Tambe, and Darlene Woo, built upon previous work by the same team of researchers to maximize the impact of peer leaders from a Los Angeles homeless youth program. In this particular study, the researchers created algorithms and tested how successfully these algorithms performed in predicting which peer leaders would be most effective at spreading public health information among 173 homeless youth. Their two predictive tools known as HEALER (which stands for Hierarchical Ensembling-based Agent which pLans for Effective Reduction in HIV spread) and DOSIM (which stands for Double Oracle for Social Influence Maximization) were field tested over a seven-month period. Both algorithms HEALER and DOSIM were successful in changing behavior of those individuals who received public health messages about HIV prevention. HEALER, the first algorithm that the team developed, assumed that youth participating in the study would rate all their friends in terms of closeness and their willingness to confide in them about their sexuality and/or HIV status, and this information would be incorporated into HEALER. However, in many real-world settings, getting this information is infeasible. DOSIM removes this assumption and works even if youth participating in the study do not rate their friends at all," says the study's lead author, Amulya Yadav, a PhD student in the department of computer science at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. Existing methods used by many social service agencies are akin to selecting the individuals perceived to be most popular to serve as peer leaders to share information. In doing their analyses, the researchers surmise that this popularity strategy (or centrality as the researchers call it) is less effective in getting the word out. The researchers found that this strategy spread health information to approximately 27 percent of the population. They found that among those in the center there was too much overlap--those youth who were more central remained in the same, fixed social circles so information didn't go far beyond their social groups. In contrast, applying the USC CAIS algorithms HEALER and DOSIM helped social workers to select peer leaders who spread public health information to around 70 percent of non-peer leaders compared to the nearly 27 percent reach of the current methodology. Beyond sharing information about HIV, the key to prevention is getting tested for HIV status. Existing methods of selecting the most popular or central individuals to be peer leaders did not seem to convince individuals to make an effort to get tested. The algorithms creating by the USC team did encourage testing. Youth selected by HEALER convinced 37 percent of their peers to get tested for HIV, and DOSIM selected youth convinced 25 percent of their friends to get tested for the HIV virus. Milind Tambe, a computer science professor at USC Viterbi School of Engineering who co-founded USC CAIS and an author on the study said, "This paper shows the power of interdisciplinary research. AI algorithms for influence maximization were tested in the field to show the great benefits that accrue for low resource communities--research that would not get done without AI and Social Work researchers coming together to conduct it." Eric Rice, an associate professor in the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, at USC who co-founded USC CAIS with Tambe, said, "It was inspiring to train these youth and watch them become such effective advocates in their community. We saw real changes in conversations about sexual health and HIV testing." Rice added, "The change in health behaviors and communication we saw were inspiring. But perhaps even more inspiring, was watching the youth who acted as peer leaders grow and thrive. For several of them, this was a turning point in their lives and they are now off the streets and have jobs." In addition, to the important real-life, human impact, the researchers are excited about the work from an academic standpoint, "It is really exciting because this is the first time algorithms for maximization has ben deployed in the real world, said Yadav. The researchers are now in the process of doing a more extensive study of these algorithms and additional variations. The study will look at the information flow among 900 homeless youth. The Center for Artificial Intelligence in Society (CAIS) is a joint venture between the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. Founded in 2016, CAIS conducts research in artificial intelligence to help solve the most difficult social problems facing our world. The newly formed center has received accolades for its work to apply AI to address HIV prevention and to deter wildlife poaching. For more information, please visit cais.usc.edu. The University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work ranks among the nation's top social work graduate programs. A recognized leader in academic innovation, experiential learning, online education and translational research, the school prepares students for leadership roles in public and private organizations that serve individuals, families and communities in need. Its Hamovitch Center for Science in the Human Services was the first endowed research institute for interdisciplinary social work research and remains a pioneer in translational science--the acceleration of research findings into practice settings. https:/ Engineering Studies began at the University of Southern California in 1905. Nearly a century later, the Viterbi School of Engineering received a naming gift in 2004 from alumnus Andrew J. Viterbi, inventor of the Viterbi algorithm that is now key to cell phone technology and numerous data applications. One of the school's guiding principles is engineering +, a term coined by current Dean Yannis C. Yortsos, to use the power of engineering to address the world's greatest challenges. USC Viterbi is ranked among the top graduate programs in the world and enrolls more than 6,500 undergraduate and graduate students taught by 185 tenured and tenure-track faculty, with 73 endowed chairs and professorships. http://viterbi.
News Article | August 1, 2017
Thousands of patients suffering from invasive fungal infections in intensive-care units or after organ transplantation will benefit from the latest insights into diagnostic and therapeutic interventions, published today in the prestigious journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases. Fungal infections invading the bloodstream, lungs or other organs can cause prolonged illness and in extreme cases can lead to permanent disability or even death. A new review paper has outlined the gold standard for identifying at-risk patients who are critically ill, or in receipt of organ transplants, for preventing, diagnosing and treating invasive fungal infections, potentially saving countless lives across both the developed and developing world. Senior author, Professor Tania Sorrell from the Westmead Institute for Medical Research and the Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity, said that invasive fungal infections can have serious consequences for patients and their families. "These new insights into diagnosing and treating invasive fungal infections are significant because early and correct treatment clearly leads to better outcomes for the patient. "These infections are uncommon but potentially life-threatening. Blood infections such as candidaemia and lung infections such as aspergillosis have high mortality rates of up to 85% in critically ill and immune-compromised patients," Professor Sorrell said. Professor Sorrell added that invasive fungal infections, overall, are a major problem in both developed and developing nations, killing more than 1.5 million people annually. The cost to the global healthcare system runs into billions of dollars each year. "This is an important problem in Australia, but an even more serious issue in developing countries where mortality is unacceptably high despite the best available therapies and care. "The research that has informed the recommendations in this paper will play an important role in educating doctors in both developed and developing countries about these diseases and outlining available diagnostic and therapeutic options in different medical contexts. "It will allow clinicians to tailor their approach to managing these infections in different countries or when working with specific at-risk populations. "This is vital, because rapid and accurate diagnosis, together with the right treatment, will significantly increase the chances of recovery for a patient. "A significant proportion of these infections are preventable. We are also working to improve capability to identify patients at high risk of contracting these infections. The Westmead team is now expanding their research in prevention, new diagnostic strategies, and therapeutic approaches towards infectious diseases of significant public health importance. The paper, which was written collaboratively by Australian and Brazilian researchers, was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases today as one of a first-of-its-kind series on fungal infections: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(17)30304-3/fulltext The series is intended to provide new insights into the breadth of serious fungal diseases and as a call to world health bodies to prevent millions of infections each year. Authors of papers in the series have been brought together from 6 continents to address fungal infections in AIDS, cancer, the critically ill, post- organ transplantation, after TB, major abdominal surgery and two "neglected tropical diseases" called mycetoma and chromoblastomycosis. Collaborators in the work on invasive fungal infections in the critically ill are based in: Westmead Institute for Medical Research The Centre for Infectious Diseases and Microbiology Laboratory Services, Westmead Peter MacCallum Cancer Center, Melbourne Royal Melbourne Hospital at the Peter Doherty Institute Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity, University of Sydney Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Escola Paulista de Medicina, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, Central Laboratory Division (LIM03) and Laboratory of Medical Mycology (LIM53), Hospital das Clínicas da Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de São Paulo
News Article | August 2, 2017
Albert Bierstadt (1830 – 1902) is best known as America’s premier western landscape artist. But he was also a renowned history painter, a rarely discussed element of his legacy. In 2018, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West partners with Gilcrease Museum of Tulsa, Oklahoma, to produce a major exhibition focusing on Bierstadt’s depictions of Plains Indians and bison, whom he approached as key subjects for his art. "Albert Bierstadt: Witness to a Changing West" features some 75 objects from more than 30 private and institutional lenders. Both the Center and Gilcrease are contributing masterworks from their collections. In addition to signature paintings by Bierstadt, also included are works by artists of Bierstadt’s time—and before—depicting both American Indians and bison during a period of dramatic change in the West. On view at the Center, June 8 – September 30, 2018, and at Gilcrease, November 1, 2018 – February 10, 2019, the exhibition is accompanied by a peer-reviewed catalogue published by the University of Oklahoma Press. Both venues plan symposia on the subject. The Center of the West’s Director Emeritus, Dr. Peter H. Hassrick, a leading scholar in his field, serves as exhibition curator. Co-curators are Karen McWhorter, Scarlett Curator of Western American Art at the Center, and Laura F. Fry, Senior Curator and Curator of Art at Gilcrease. With his history paintings, Bierstadt endeavored to convey moral messages, and his works demonstrate the ways in which he engaged the conservation and aesthetic issues of his day. He attempted to honor the dignity of Native peoples in the West like the Sioux and Shoshone, and to inspire empathy for the remnant herds of buffalo in Yellowstone National Park as the species neared extinction. Today, amid ongoing concerns around Native American sovereignty and environmental conservation, this timely exhibition addresses how these subjects have historically been treated by artists, the American people, and government. For more information about the upcoming exhibition, contact Karen McWhorter at the Center of the West and or Laura Fry at Gilcrease. Since 1917, the award-winning Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, has devoted itself to sharing the story of the authentic American West. The Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is currently operating its summer season, open daily 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. For additional information, visit centerofthewest.org or the Center’s pages on Facebook and Google+. #100YearsMore The Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art, commonly known as Gilcrease Museum, located in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is one of the country’s best facilities for the preservation and study of American art and history. The museum houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of art of the American West, including an unparalleled collection of Native American art and material. For additional information, visit Gilcrease.org.