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 | 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 | June 21, 2017
A series published this week by the Center for Public Integrity cites numerous internal reports and other documents outlining federal regulators' concerns about safety lapses at Los Alamos National Laboratory over the years, including spilled plutonium and workers positioning plutonium rods in a way that could have been disastrous. In an internal memo obtained by The Associated Press, Los Alamos officials took aim at critics and reassured employees of the safety of the lab's facility for making plutonium cores used to trigger the explosions in nuclear bombs. "As employees, you should be proud of your laboratory's accomplishments over the past decade to strengthen our ability to operate safely and securely," according to the memo, dated Monday. "While there will often be external organizations and individuals which advance a misleading narrative, it is not an accurate reflection of our work." It said the plutonium facility's operations and safety programs have successfully undergone more than a dozen independent external reviews and that it's close to being fully operational after safety problems forced work to be suspended in 2013. Safety at the nation's aging nuclear research labs is under scrutiny as federal officials grapple with issues that have been decades in the making. Aside from Los Alamos, U.S. Energy Department officials recently said inadequate funding and the inability to clean up millions of gallons of toxic waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state will likely lead to future accidental radiation releases. The probe of Los Alamos by the nonprofit journalism organization caught the attention of top officials at the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the lab, and members of New Mexico's congressional delegation, who say safety should be the top priority given the lab's role in maintaining and modernizing the U.S nuclear stockpile. "There have been acknowledged mistakes that this report shines a light on that must be addressed," U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat, said in an email to the AP. The birthplace of the atomic bomb, Los Alamos has struggled for years to address management and oversight issues along with more recent safety concerns about the handling of radioactive waste and plutonium. Members of an independent federal oversight panel confirmed during a public hearing earlier this month that many of the alarm and fire suppression systems at the plutonium facility date to the 1970s, raising questions about the ability of the decades-old concrete building to accommodate the increase in plutonium pit production ordered by the Energy Department. The Center for Public Integrity also pointed to a June 2016 incident in which technicians spilled several tablespoons of liquid containing plutonium, sopped it up with organic cheesecloth and threw away the cloth in waste bins with other nuclear materials. Federal rules prohibit using cheesecloth in such cleanups because contact with plutonium can trigger chemical reactions and fires. The center also uncovered details about a 2011 incident in which lab technicians placed eight rods of plutonium side by side for a photograph, which could have caused the material to spark a nuclear chain reaction. Keeping bits of plutonium far apart is a cardinal rule for nuclear scientists. Another chemical reaction stemming from Los Alamos inappropriately packaging a barrel of radioactive waste caused a 2014 radiation leak at the government's only underground nuclear waste repository. That misstep resulted in costly recovery work and a backlog in the multibillion-dollar program for cleaning up waste from decades of research and bomb-making. The company managing the lab is losing its contract next year in part because of the history of safety lapses, Sen. Tom Udall's office said Tuesday. Spokeswoman Jennifer Talhelm said Udall sees the contracting process as a chance to make improvements at the lab, which she called an invaluable research center. "It's also true that Los Alamos has the top scientists and researchers in the world, as well as infrastructure, decades of history and experience with no parallel anywhere, period," Talhelm said. Frank Klotz, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, reiterated in a statement this week that safety is paramount and that his agency withheld more than $82 million in contractor payments over safety and operational issues between 2013 and 2016. Still, agency officials have acknowledged that more trained engineers are needed in the plutonium facility to ensure problems are not repeated. Watchdog groups have long complained about a sense of arrogance by lab management. They say recent reports show that federal and congressional oversight must be intensified. "The lab seems to spend a lot of energy fighting back against the advice of external experts," said Greg Mello, director of the Los Alamos Study Group. "If they only spent as much attention on fixing the problems as they do on fighting back, it would be a big help." Explore further: Five workers exposed to radiation at Japan nuclear lab
News Article | June 14, 2017
Leicestershire, UK, 14-Jun-2017 — /EuropaWire/ — Work officially began yesterday (12th June) on the new multi-million pound National Centre in Combustion and Aerothermal Technology at Loughborough University. Representatives from the University, the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), Rolls-Royce, Charnwood Borough Council and Leicestershire County Council got construction work underway by turning the first turf. The National Centre will put Loughborough at the heart of UK aerospace engineering and technology development. It will focus on the development of future low emission aerospace combustion systems that will reduce the environmental impact of aircraft. Rolls-Royce will be a lead partner in the project, building on the existing relationship between Loughborough University and Rolls-Royce. The Centre will allow industrial problem-owners to visit and work closely with academic researchers to ensure that new technologies are translated from theory to practice as quickly and as efficiently as possible. It will also become a training ground for current and future aerospace engineers in a critical skill area for the UK. The new building will include laboratory and office space, which will sit alongside the existing Unsteady Fluid Mechanics Laboratory – part of the Loughborough-based Rolls-Royce University Technology Centre (UTC) – on Loughborough University Science and Enterprise Park. The facilities will be available to a range of users from a variety of industrial sectors. Professor Robert Allison, Vice-Chancellor of Loughborough University, said: “We were delighted to welcome our partners to campus to mark the commencement of work on the new building. The National Centre of Excellence will be a significant addition to Loughborough University Science and Enterprise Park and reinforces our commitment to provide a world-class research and development base, skilled graduate supply and innovation partnership opportunities.” Dr Simon Weeks, Chief Technology Officer at the ATI, said: “The aerospace industry has a vision to reduce the environmental impact of aircraft, and the Aerospace Technology Institute is fully supportive of programmes that support the development of technologies that will achieve this aim. We are proud to support Loughborough University’s National Centre in Combustion and Aerothermal Technology. The facility will be key to the UK’s development of future low-emission aerospace combustion systems, which will reduce the environmental impact of aircraft, and it will also provide supply chain opportunities and spill-over benefits into other sectors.” Paul Stein, Chief Technology Officer, Rolls-Royce, added: “I was delighted to attend the ceremony marking the beginning of work on the new National Centre in Combustion and Aerothermal Technology. This new Centre will strengthen the existing strategic partnership between Rolls-Royce and Loughborough University. The new Centre will also help develop the next generation of highly skilled engineers and scientists who will play an important role in developing the advanced technologies needed by Rolls-Royce and the aerospace industry to meet international environmental performance targets.” Last year the Government awarded £10.8 million of funding towards the new facility. The funding is being delivered through a partnership of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the ATI and Innovate UK. Additional financial support is being provided by Rolls-Royce and Loughborough University. It is expected that the Centre will be operational in 2019.
News Article | June 21, 2017
TORONTO, June 21, 2017 - A new brain imaging study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) shows for the first time that brain inflammation is significantly elevated - more than 30 per cent higher - in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) than in people without the condition. Published today in JAMA Psychiatry, the study provides compelling evidence for a new potential direction for treating this anxiety disorder, which can be debilitating for people who experience it. "Our research showed a strong relationship between brain inflammation and OCD, particularly in the parts of the brain known to function differently in OCD," says Dr. Jeffrey Meyer, senior author of the study and Head of the Neuroimaging Program in Mood & Anxiety in CAMH's Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute. "This finding represents one of the biggest breakthroughs in understanding the biology of OCD, and may lead to the development of new treatments." Inflammation or swelling is the body's response to infection or injury, and helps the body to heal. But, in some cases, this immune-system response can also be harmful, says Dr. Meyer, who holds a Canada Research Chair in the Neurochemistry of Major Depression. Dampening the harmful effects of inflammation and promoting its curative effects, through new medications or other innovative approaches, could prove to be a new way to treat OCD. In an earlier study, Dr. Meyer discovered that brain inflammation is elevated in people with depression, an illness that can go hand in hand with OCD in some people. A novel direction for developing treatments is important, since current medications don't work for nearly one in three people with OCD. About one to two per cent of adolescents and adults have OCD, an anxiety disorder in which people have intrusive or worrisome thoughts that recur and can be hard to ignore. The study included 20 people with OCD and a comparison group of 20 people without the disorder. Doctoral student Sophia Attwells was first author of the study. The researchers used a type of brain imaging called positron emission tomography (PET) that was adapted with special technology at CAMH to see inflammation in the brain. A chemical dye measured the activity of immune cells called microglia, which are active in inflammation, in six brain areas that play a role in OCD. In people with OCD, inflammation was 32 per cent higher on average in these regions. Inflammation was greater in some people with OCD as compared to others, which could reflect variability in the biology of the illness. Additional investigations are under way to find low-cost blood markers and symptom measures that could identify which individuals with OCD have the greatest level of inflammation and could benefit the most from treatment targeting inflammation. Another notable finding from the current study - a connection between resisting compulsions and brain inflammation - provides one indicator. At least nine out of 10 people with OCD carry out compulsions, the actions or rituals that people do to try to reduce their obsessions. In the study, people who experienced the greatest stress or anxiety when they tried to avoid acting out their compulsions also had the highest levels of inflammation in one brain area. This stress response could also help pinpoint who may best benefit from this type of treatment. The discovery opens different options for developing treatments. "Medications developed to target brain inflammation in other disorders could be useful in treating OCD," says Dr. Meyer. "Work needs to be done to uncover the specific factors that contribute to brain inflammation, but finding a way to reduce inflammation's harmful effects and increase its helpful effects could enable us to develop a new treatment much more quickly." The study was supported by a Canada Research Chair from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Grant family, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Ministry for Research and Innovation. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital and a world-leading research centre in this field. CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion to help transform the lives of people affected by mental illness and addiction. CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre. For more information, please visit camh.ca or follow @CAMHnews and @CAMHResearch on Twitter.
News Article | June 19, 2017
HONG KONG, June 19, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- The Hong Kong Corporate Governance Excellence Awards 2017, jointly organized by The Chamber of Hong Kong Listed Companies ("CHKLC") and the Centre for Corporate Governance and Financial Policy ("CCGFP") of Hong Kong Baptist University is open for nominations starting today (June 19) till August 18, 2017. "The Chamber is pleased to continue to organise this event to promote a strong corporate governance culture of our market. In recent months, the market is marred by companies with excessive share price volatility and other corporate behaviours that jeopardize shareholders interests. This award programme serves as a reminder of the importance of corporate governance that honour sharehoders rights. By giving recognition to the success of leading companies in corporate governance, we showcase the benefits it will do to the companies and all shareholders, thus encouraging more companies to follow suit," said Mr. Francis Leung, Chairman of the Chamber. "Ultimately, we wish to spread the message that corporate governance is key not only to the success of individual companies but the reputation and well-being of the entire market," said Mr. Leung. The nomination for the 2017 Hong Kong Corporate Governance Excellence Awards begins today and ends on August 18. The Hong Kong Corporate Governance Excellence Awards recognizes companies that exhibit a holistic approach to corporate governance and sustainability and demonstrate excellent achievements. Nominations for the Awards are open to all companies listed on the Main Board and GEM Board of the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong. In addition to the existing three categories: Hang Seng Index Constituents Companies; Hang Seng Composite Index Constituents Companies and Others and GEM Board Companies, from this year onwards, two new award categories will be created, namely Chinese Enterprises and Newly Listed Companies. The former category is opened to companies who are constituents of the Hang Seng China (Hong Kong-listed)100 Index while the latter is for companies listed on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong within three years prior to the year of nomination. "The creation of the two new categories is to enable a wider spectrum of companies to get recognition," said Mr. Leung. "There will also be simplified application procedures to encourage more companies to come forward." As part of the overall assessment in giving Corporate Governance Excellence Awards, the Judging Panel would consider giving an award on Sustainability Excellence to companies whose performance and achievements in sustainability measures achieve an excellent standard. No separate submission is required. The panel of judges will choose the winners using a model of eight key corporate governance and sustainability aspects respectively, developed by the CCGFP. Special attention will be given to companies that demonstrate innovation and significant improvements in corporate governance and/or sustainability made over the last three years; efforts made to internalize and pursue the highest principles of corporate governance and/or sustainability over-and-beyond compliance with requirements; and the ability to show positive business impact of the corporate governance and/or sustainability spirit and practices. About the Chamber of Hong Kong Listed Companies Incorporated in September 2002, CHKLC is a non-profit organization serving listed companies in Hong Kong. The Chamber strives to promote sound corporate governance, function as an effective communication channel between listed companies and regulatory authorities, strengthen the commercial linkage and foster co-operation among listed companies from Hong Kong and China and uphold Hong Kong's position as an international trade, commercial and financial centre. Since 2007, the Chamber organises the annual "Hong Kong Corporate Governance Excellence Awards" jointly with the Hong Kong Baptist University to advocate best practices of corporate governance and recognize excellence. About the Centre for Corporate Governance & Financial Policy of Hong Kong Baptist University The Centre aspires to be a "Centre of Excellence" on corporate governance in the region. It promotes quality policy and academic research on corporate governance and related financial policy issues covering Hong Kong, Mainland China and the Asia-Pacific economies, with the aim to improve the quality of corporate governance practices. Additionally, the Centre provides professional executive education activities to disseminate knowledge and advance the highest ideals of responsible business leadership. Through consultancy projects, the Centre also assists organizations to design, improve and assess their corporate governance systems and structures. The Hong Kong Corporate Governance Excellence Awards are conferred annually since 2007 by the Chamber of Hong Kong Listed Companies and the Centre for Corporate Governance and Financial Policy, Hong Kong Baptist University and are designed to promote and award excellence in corporate governance of listed companies in Hong Kong. The Awards Programme provides recognition and prestige for listed companies in achieving outstanding commitments to shareholder rights, compliance, integrity, fairness, responsibility, accountability, transparency, board independence & leadership, and corporate social responsibility. From 2017, there are five award categories, namely the Hang Seng Index Constituent Companies, Hang Seng Composite Index Constituent Companies, Hang Seng China (Hong Kong-listed)100 Index, Others & GEM Board Companies, and Newly listed Companies (those listed on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong within three years prior to the year of nomination). The 2017 Awards Programme is sponsored by BDO as Bronze Sponsor and supported by the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau, Securities and Futures Commission, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited, Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Hong Kong Chinese Enterprises Association, and the Hong Kong Investment Funds Association. Hong Kong Economic Times is Sole Chinese Newspaper Sponsor of the event; Metro Finance is Exclusive Radio Partner; Quamnet, irasia.com and EQS TodayIR are Online Media Partners, and PR Newswire as Regional News Release Distribution Partner. Any Hong Kong listed companies can self-nominate or be nominated for the Awards. Entry forms can be downloaded from www.chklc.org. Results of the awards will be announced at the prize presentation gala dinner to be held on December 14, 2017.
News Article | June 23, 2017
One year from its conception, the European Commission's Knowledge Centre on Migration and Demography (KCMD) has made significant progress and has provided EU policymakers with valuable instruments to access information and data about migration. On the 1-year anniversary of the KCMD, let's have a look at the main achievements and future plans of the Knowledge Centre, as well as at a new migration profile of Mali. Globalisation, climate change, inequality, conflicts and war will continue to push people to move in search of safety, a better life or to be reunited with their families. Estimates show that the number of international migrants worldwide could almost double by 2050. By that time, a total of 405 million people worldwide are expected to live in a country other than their country of origin, compared to 244 million in 2015. The EU will remain an attractive destination and as a result, international migration will continue and will also have an impact on the EU. Understanding these migratory flows and the root causes of migration is essential for the EU's capacity to anticipate future population trends and the impact of migration - in terms of challenges but also opportunities - on our economy, health, welfare, education systems, and our society as a whole. One of the major challenges for policy-making linked to migration is the lack of comprehensive data and information on migration and refugees. Many data sources exist already, but the information is often fragmented or not easily accessible. To tackle the issue of fragmented and incomplete data, the European Commission set up a new Knowledge Centre on Migration and Demography (KCMD) in June 2016. Its daily activities are run by the Joint Research Centre but its work is jointly steered by the main Commission's services responsible for migration policies. The Knowledge Centre aims to exploit the developments in data science that allow for new ways to collect data from many different sources. "Our objective is to provide the necessary data and information to support EU-policy-making on migration. Our work supports the implementation of the European Agenda on Migration, a comprehensive approach to address current and future migratory challenges jointly on a European level. We also look at migration-related issues at global scale, analysing their impact on the EU in the medium to long term", explains Alessandra Zampieri, Head of Demography, Migration and Governance Unit at the JRC in charge of managing the KCMD. The Knowledge Centre has been tasked with building a comprehensive evidence base on migration and refugee flows and with conducting analyses and studies on their impact on the EU economy, welfare, education system, and society as a whole. In the first months of operation, researchers working for the Knowledge Centre created an inventory of the international and EU-wide data that already existed on migration, and launched the first two data tools which bring together this wealth of data in one place. The Migration Data Catalogue is an inventory of more than 100 existing datasets linked to demography and migration, made available by international organisations, the European Commission, EU agencies and administrations of some Member States. The second tool, the Dynamic Data Hub, is a web-based application which builds on the data catalogue and gives direct access to the datasets through an interactive platform. "These tools combine data on migration and the drivers for migration from different statistical and other type of data sources, and therefore provide a more complete image of the situation. In practice, they provide all migration-related data in a single glance", explains Alessandra Zampieri. These tools also allow carrying out analyses that provide new and important insights for managing migratory flows. The KCMD is now working to create new generation migration profiles to support the development and monitoring of the new Partnership Framework with third countries. The migration profiles describe potential causes for migration, indicate where migrants and refugees go, and illustrate the evolution of migration and development topics. They provide harmonised and comprehensive analyses, covering the current knowledge gaps in terms of sub-national coverage and regularly updated information. The use of a combination of research approaches and data, including open source intelligence and structural and operational data, provides unique information in a user-friendly format. Apart from supporting the EU to anticipate future developments, the migration profiles also aim at facilitating the identification of relevant development priorities for countries of origin. For its 1-year anniversary, the KCMD is launching the migration profile of Mali. Work is ongoing to finalise the migration profiles for the four remaining priority compact countries: Nigeria, Senegal, Niger and Ethiopia. Others will follow, in line with the EU priorities which are being defined. KCMD is currently working on the Atlas on Migration, which will contain the migration profiles and include a section devoted to regional analysis e.g. to illustrate the evidence on migration and mobility within Africa, how different indicators vary across the different African regions, and how they could potentially impact migratory flows towards the EU. The Centre is also working on mapping migrant communities within European cities, which will for the first time provide an indication of how population groups are distributed within cities. The maps will support the Action Plan on the Integration of Third-Country Nationals and authorities to better target policy response at the local level related to social cohesion, housing, public services, labour market or education. To better anticipate future migratory trends, the KCMD will create Migration Inclination Indexes, which will be issued by the end of 2018. They will provide reliable information on the root causes, incentives and determinants of migration. The aim is to help quantify the relevance of the different drivers of migration towards Europe and the effects of migration-related policies.
News Article | June 22, 2017
The holdup has been battery weight. To bleep the signals that reveal an animal's location, transmitter tags require power. But for birds that weigh no more than a few pennies, even a watch battery can be too much to bear. Add in the need for recapture every few days to replace those batteries, and the dream of automated animal tracking becomes a logistical nightmare. Now, new, lightweight tracking tags are making small animal tracking feasible. During field testing at the NRS's Hastings Natural History Reservation, it's given scientists a whole new perspective on the acorn woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus) they've watched for decades. The birds turn out to be a lot more sly and strategic than researchers had long believed. "You'd think that after almost 50 years of study, we'd know all there was to know about acorn woodpeckers. But this technology is helping us to answer questions we couldn't answer before," says Eric Walters, a biology professor at Old Dominion University, Virginia. These scarlet-capped birds are head-scratchers, all right. For starters, their family structure is among the most peculiar in the avian world. Several related birds of one sex (often sisters), typically breed with an unrelated set of several related birds of the opposite sex (often brothers). Another puzzler surrounds the life choices of young woodpeckers. Where most fledglings leave the nest to found their own families, young "helper" woodies may linger at home for a decade. "The question we had is, why? There must be some benefit to staying at home," Walters says. "Do they spend their time at home helping to feed their siblings and store acorns? Or are they like teenagers in the basement watching TV all day and doing nothing?" Walters suspected the answer lies in a young woodpecker's thirst for territory. Like the fictional nobles in "Game of Thrones," birds will do anything to conquer their own kingdom. Their goal is to secure a good granary tree, which houses the acorn stash critical to a woodpecker family's survival. A massive granary tree affords a woodpecker family plenty of advantages. They're more likely to survive harsh winters, raise surviving chicks, and ensure the triumph of their own bloodlines. Good granaries are tough to come by. It takes an age to build one—the hole for one acorn might take ten minutes to excavate, and large granaries may hold tens of thousands of acorns. Competition to secure the biggest granaries and their surrounding territory is fierce. A granary goes up for grabs only after all breeders of one sex in a family group have died or left. When a breeding spot opens up, birds from other families battle over the succession. Successful combatants don't show up alone. Instead, groups of siblings from other territories duke it out. "It's like a gang war," says graduate student Natasha Hagemeyer, who is studying woodpecker dispersal at Hastings with Walters. Clashes may last for days, with foes hunting one another through the trees, grappling in midair, falling to the ground, and hammering one another with their powerful bills. Grievous injuries aren't uncommon. "One had a toenail torn out and bled profusely. Another got some of its wing feathers ripped away; it disappeared within a week," Hagemeyer says. But the potential spoils—the chance to breed—are worth any cost. When a rare vacancy does open up, aspiring replacements are ready. "When we caught a breeding bird to band, other birds thinking it was gone would move in and start challenging for that territory within ten minutes," Walters says. How neighboring birds figured this out was a mystery. "We almost never see them off territory," Hagemeyer says. Previous studies done with radio transmitters indicated young birds do go on longer forays off their own family's domain. "But when you radio track on foot with handheld antennas, you can only follow one bird at a time. To follow a set of siblings, you need a one-to-one ratio of people and birds. It rapidly becomes infeasible. And if an animal wants to be sneaky, like going into an enemy's territory, you can spook them, making tracking just about impossible," she says. The solar powered tracking tags, which don't require real-time monitoring, seemed tailor made for the problem. The size of a postage stamp, they consist of a silicon chip, a solar panel, and an antenna. Tags are attached to the woodpeckers via a backpack harness. Each tag weighs half a gram—the same as a Tic Tac. That's light for a 70 grams acorn woodpecker, and could even work for finer-boned birds such as swallows and warblers. Pings from the tags are picked up by an antenna connected to a minicomputer. Walters and Hagemeyer placed these base stations next to woodpecker granaries. When a tagged bird comes within 130 meters of a base station, its computer records the identity of the bird and the time of its arrival. Hagemeyer downloads the data from the computers every few weeks. The wealth of new field data quickly turned into a flood, she says. "Over the first five months, we got more than 5 million tag detections. Computer programming is a major part of what I do now." With those data points, Hagemeyer is able to generate network diagrams indicating which birds associate with each other on the landscape. The resulting picture is of a bird with an astonishingly complex social life that includes dropping in on kin for friendly visits, foraying with siblings, and rallying the family to seize richer digs. The original system was developed by a team of engineers and biologists led by professor David Winkler of Cornell University, who did initial field tests on tree swallows. Over the past several years, the Hastings crew has pioneered a number of improvements to the system. Some were inspired by the woodpeckers themselves. "We soon realized their long, powerful beaks could rip the antennas right off the original design. We went through several designs as the woodpeckers destroyed them," says Hagemeyer. The current incarnation is considerably more rugged. Some are still working after three solid years on a bird. The base stations are also greener thanks to Hastings reserve director Vince Voegeli. "The old systems required eight high-end AAs every couple of weeks. We were throwing out buckets of batteries," Voegeli says. He devised a way to power the base station's computer with a solar panel wired to a rechargeable battery instead. Growing up on a farm, plus years spent running a field station on a remote island in the Bahamas, gave Voegeli the necessary appetite for tinkering. "When you live in the middle of nowhere you can't run down to Home Depot, so you learn to do things on your own," he says. Down the road, he hopes to apply these new solar skills to take much of Hastings off the power grid. The tag system has worked so well that 48 base stations are now deployed across the reserve, each covering the territory of one woodpecker family. The system could be a boon for other scientists as well. Already professor Janis Dickinson of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology wants to deploy the tags on the western bluebirds she's long studied at the reserve. A whole lotta spying going on The solar tag data has been a revelation to the woodpecker researchers. Not only has it demonstrated just how often the birds foray and where they travel, it's revealed a decidedly sneaky side to woodpecker ways. Rather than babysitting siblings and guarding the granary, many helpers spent up to 90 percent of their time outside of their own territory. "They're not just wanting to spend time with mom and dad, but are actually spending a lot of time cruising the landscape looking for vacancies," Walters says. Hagemeyer has another term for them. "They're a bunch of busybodies," she says. "They're much more connected and spend way more of their time traveling and keeping tabs on each other than we would ever have thought. We had no idea until these tags." The purpose of these forays is clearly spying, Hagemeyer says. "We monitor groups a lot, and only rarely catch sightings of birds that don't belong there from other territories. They are not sitting on high perches, catching insects, or approaching the granary. It seems they're hiding out in the periphery in dense vegetation." This new information shows just how strategic young woodpeckers are with their time. They know they must follow one of two routes to breeding success. "You either help at home and look to inherit, or sleep at home but spend all your time out looking for a place to take over," Hagemeyer says. Birds don't visit all territories equally, either. They are keenly attuned to levels of acorn wealth. "Both helpers and breeders direct their forays at high-quality territories with the biggest granaries. Those from low- and medium-quality territories go and look wistfully at high-quality territories," she says. Birds also seem to make friendly visits to the territories of kin. "She's uncovering social networks for woodpeckers with reads from these tags," Walters says. Walters and Hagemeyer plan to outfit all 250 or so woodpeckers that reside at Hastings with tags over the next few years, to augment the data from the 30 birds they're tracking now. They already band all woodpecker hatchlings on the reserve; adding a tag takes just a few extra minutes. The tags can transmit much more information than merely the identity of its wearer. For example, they could monitor blood oxygen levels and heartbeat rates, which correlate with exercise; and the angle of a bird's body, which indicates whether it's flying or perched. Wilder still are the possibilities for long distance migration studies. One idea is to conscript large animals such as turkey vultures or deer as mobile detection stations. As the vulture or deer moves across the landscape, it can pick up pings from tagged animals nearby. In the meantime, Hagemeyer is gleaning all the woodpecker insights she can from the big data delivered by the newfangled tags. "We're really excited to have this system. It gives us a wealth of information that is simply impossible to get any other way."
News Article | June 19, 2017
Excitons are formed when light is absorbed by molecules or crystals. But they can also emit light, after they are created electrically in things like light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Although we're just beginning to understand their potential, excitons could help us harness solar energy more efficiently, and drastically reduce the energy and environmental cost of lighting. By name and by nature, it truly is exciting. The Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science is a new Australian Research Council research centre led by the University of Melbourne, in partnership with other top universities and organisations from around Australia. The multi-disciplinary team of chemists, mathematicians, physicists, computers scientists and engineers are focused on manipulating the way light energy is absorbed, transported and transformed in advanced molecular materials. And they want their work to ultimately translate into everyday life. Excitons aren't new, they are around us all the time. The reason we see light and colour, the reason our TVs and phones light up, and the reason animals like fireflies can produce light, is because of excitons. But what is new is that we now understand and can manipulate excitons on a molecular level. "We are interested in controlling and harvesting the energy," says Centre Director Professor Paul Mulvaney. "So we harvest not the light directly, but we harvest the excitons as they are formed." Professor Ken Ghiggino is a photochemist and his focus is on characterising the lifetime of the excitons. "Excitons don't last very long," says Professor Ghiggino. "It might be from femtoseconds [one quadrillionth of a second], up to nanoseconds [one thousand-millionth of a second] - but you can measure that time. We use very short pulses of light, and extremely fast 'cameras' to create graphs in femtosecond time scales. " Professor Ghiggino says that each material has a unique exciton signature, that is characterised by how the electrons get excited, how long it takes for the energy to be released, and what happens after that. "And right now, we can't predict their behaviour well." The race is on to find new materials with the perfect mix of exciton properties. New synthetic materials are created in the lab by researchers such as Dr Wallace Wong at the School of Chemistry and the Bio21 Institute at the University of Melbourne, who is developing high-efficiency, flexible solar cells. These are then sent onto Professor Ghiggino to be characterised. "We find out what sort of excitons are formed, how long they last for, and how is it related to the structure of the material," says Professor Ghiggino. "Then we feed that information back to Dr Wong and he changes the structure of the molecule according to what we have found, and we go through this cycle again until we get the optimum properties." But saving energy, and money, is just as much a part of the equation as harvesting energy. "We want to know how to use sunlight better," says Professor Paul Mulvaney. How energy is hidden in colours "We want to develop new materials for photovoltaics, to bring the cost of solar energy down. And we want to look for new ways to use solar energy, in particular flexible solar cells, so we have more architectural possibilities for exploiting these technologies, not just the rigid roof model." The technology could also play into reducing our emissions. "We are also looking at the possibilities for next generation LEDs. At the moment, they are hard to manufacture at the scale, durability and quality that we need. But LEDs are the most efficient form of lighting that we know and if we could convert all the light bulbs in Australia into LEDs, then we would probably meet our emissions reduction targets," says Professor Mulvaney. For his undergraduate honours project, Professor Mulvaney worked on renewable energies. He was trying to use solar energy to make hydrogen as a fuel. But it became very clear, very quickly that is was an area that couldn't be pursued because our understanding of materials was just not good enough. Twenty years on, and Professor Mulvaney believes the time has come to relaunch this area of research, thanks to advances in the area of new materials, particularly nanoscale materials. "We had to wait for the materials science to catch up," says Professor Mulvaney. "We understand the materials that form excitons a lot more now, so we want to go back and look at those big problems such as renewable energy and see if all that knowledge that we have built up over the last 20 years can help us to make breakthroughs." While Professor Mulvaney has plenty of ideas for how we can exploit excitons, he is hoping some of the younger members of his team can come up with novel ideas that take the science in a whole new direction. "Interestingly, around 50 per cent of Nobel prizes are given to the work scientists do before they are 35. So if we want Australia to do breakthrough science we have to give young people the resources needed to go for those big dream goals, and we need to give them a bit of freedom to do that," he says. "I think one of the beauties of this scheme and one thing I am looking forward to, is seeing some of the whacky ideas being tried and hopefully a few converting into something successful." Explore further: Hybrid materials could smash the solar efficiency ceiling
News Article | June 5, 2017
UMD study shows people receiving HUD subsidized housing assistance were more likely to have medical insurance and less likely to have unmet medical need than those on HUD waitlist College Park, Md. - A new study examining the impact that access to affordable housing has on health showed that people receiving subsidized housing assistance were more likely to have medical insurance and less likely to have unmet medical need than other low income people who were on a US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) wait list for the housing assistance benefit. Approximately 31 percent of the recipients of housing assistance were uninsured, as compared to about 37 percent of the future recipients. Led by University of Maryland School of Public Health researcher Dr. Andrew Fenelon, the study analyzed data on adults ages 18-64 from the National Health Interview Survey that were linked to HUD data for the eight years from 2004-2012. The findings are published in Health Affairs, June 2017. "We found that the benefits of giving people subsidized housing go beyond simply having access to affordable housing. Housing is good in and of itself, but even better is that with improved access to housing, you get improvements in access to health care, and ultimately better health outcomes," said Dr. Fenelon, who is an assistant professor in the UMD SPH Department of Health Services Administration. He conducted the study in collaboration with researchers from HUD, the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Center for Health Statistics. Housing assistance programs funded by HUD provide low-income people with access to safe and affordable housing. People receiving public housing subsidies are often in poor health, with increased need for mental health and chronic disease care. Access to health care has been shown to improve health, and housing instability is correlated with poor access to health care. Still, there are few studies that have explored whether housing assistance programs may lead to improvements in health. The results of this study are particularly relevant given the Trump administration's proposed $6 billion cut to the Department of Housing and Urban Development budget for 2018. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan research organization, estimates that the Trump proposal would result in the elimination of 250,000 rental vouchers. The center also warns that proposals in the budget would "significantly raise assisted tenants' rents and cut voucher subsidies in various ways." Even with current funding levels, qualified individuals may wait many years to receive assistance in the form of housing choice vouchers, which may be used towards any housing arrangement. "There are many reasons why having access to housing may enable people to obtain health insurance and access needed care," said Dr. Fenelon. "With the increased stability that comes from having a home and reduced financial burdens, and being introduced into the social service system and the access to other support services it provides, people receiving housing assistance are getting improved access to primary care health services. This is a clear demonstration that housing is one of the so-called 'social determinants' of health. The value of this program should be carefully considered in light of the far-reaching benefits it may have beyond its face value."