News Article | April 25, 2017
WASHINGTON, April 25, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Pew Charitable Trusts called today on the 25 member governments of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to continue their efforts to establish a network of marine protected areas (MPAs)...
News Article | April 19, 2017
WHO: Peggy Lillis Foundation, the preeminent organization working to combat Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections through education and advocacy. Founded in 2010 in memory of a single-parent mom and kindergarten teacher who lost her life to a C. diff infection, the foundation has become the most-consulted source for patient-focused information on C. diff infections in the nation. WHAT: The 2017 C. diff Advocates Summit & National Strategy Meeting, which will feature panel discussions on strategies to minimize the harm caused by C. diff. Topics include C. diff Advocacy Across Sectors, Antibiotic Stewardship Across The Healthcare Spectrum, and C. diff and Patient Rights. The discussion will draw from the expertise of speakers and panelists from various public health, healthcare, and infection control-focused organizations, including: WHY: The Summit will bring C. diff survivors and caregivers together with leaders in C. diff prevention and treatment, healthcare policy, patient advocacy, and grassroots organizing to examine one of our nation’s most urgent public health threats and identify ways to increase awareness of and minimize harm caused by C. diff. CONTACT: For more information about the Summit or to register to attend, please contact Christian John Lillis at 917.364.4658 or christian(at)peggyfoundation(dot)org The Summit is generously sponsored by Cepheid, Crestovo, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and Sanofi Pasteur.
News Article | May 3, 2017
Top Thought Leaders Will Discuss the Most Pressing Issues of the Moment Including Climate Change, Refugee Crisis, Criminal Justice Reform and Mental Illness -- and How Private Philanthropists Can Make the Most Impact; #TandCPhilanthropy NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - May 03, 2017) - Town & Country announced Michael Bloomberg, John Legend, Glenn Close and more will participate in its fourth annual Philanthropy Summit on Tuesday, May 9, 2017. Taking place at Hearst Tower, this invitation-only event will tackle hot-topic issues such as climate change, criminal justice reform, mental health, the global refugee crisis and the importance of philanthropy as a family value. The 2017 Summit coincides with the magazine's June/July T&C 50 Philanthropy issue (on sale nationwide May 16), which will feature Michael Bloomberg, John Legend and Cate Blanchett on three separate covers. The issue highlights a venerable group of 50 academics, business tycoons, entertainers, political leaders and tech giants who are currently shifting the philanthropic landscape. "Now in its fourth year, this is our most ambitious and exciting Philanthropy Summit to date," said Stellene Volandes, editor in chief of Town & Country. "I can't think of a better time in our nation's history to highlight a group of individuals dedicated to helping others, and we hope that both the Summit audience and our readers can be moved to realize that we all can make a difference." Michael Bloomberg will kick off the day with a keynote address on climate change and the responsibility to improve the world around us. NBC News correspondent Cynthia McFadden will moderate a discussion on The Case for Arts Philanthropy with Sarah Jones, Oskar Eustis and Elaine Wynn, followed by a live interview with the grandchildren of Elizabeth Taylor, together for a rare public appearance, to share how they are continuing their grandmother's philanthropic legacy. Jerry Storch, chief executive officer of Hudson's Bay Company, and president of HBC Foundation, will introduce a panel on mental illness featuring Glenn Close. ABC News Anchor David Muir will lead a panel discussion on the global refugee crisis that includes David Miliband and Zosia Mamet. Chef Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern, a champion of Wellness in the Schools, is catering the lunch, which will feature John Legend in conversation on criminal justice reform with former White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett. The T&C Philanthropy Summit is presented by U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management (Title Sponsor), HBC Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Frédérique Constant and The TreadRight Foundation. "Town & Country's Philanthropy Summit celebrates thoughtful leaders across varied fields upholding a deep commitment to giving back," said Jennifer Levene Bruno, Town & Country VP/publisher and chief revenue officer. "We are grateful to our sponsors who help underscore our annual event highlighting the importance of philanthropy in our world today." Attendees of the Philanthropy Summit will also have the opportunity to experience the Tribeca Film Festival's Virtual Reality (VR) Arcade with a special viewing of The Protectors: Walk in the Ranger's Shoes, a new virtual reality short film from director Kathryn Bigelow and VR creator Imraan Ismail. The eight-minute film highlights the African elephants' race toward extinction at the hands of ivory-seeking poachers. For more information on the summit, visit TownandCountrymag.com and follow along at #TandCPhilanthropy Town & Country (www.townandcountrymag.com) has chronicled American life since 1846, always putting an emphasis on people of style and accomplishment who give something back to the world, whether in service, philanthropy or creative endeavor. Combining the highest level of reporting with the very best photography, Town & Country is an acute observer of the broader social landscape, documenting notable weddings and parties, chronicling the pastimes and passions of leading figures and families everywhere, and casting an anthropological eye on the lives of the rich and powerful. The magazine is a trusted source of privileged information, taste and unpretentious fun -- in short, an irreplaceable guide to the very best that the world has to offer. Follow Town & Country on Twitter at @TandCMag. Hearst Magazines is a unit of Hearst (www.hearst.com), one of the nation's largest diversified media and information companies. With 21 titles in the U.S., Hearst is the leading publisher of monthly magazines in terms of total paid circulation, reaching 78 million readers and 80 million site visitors each month (comScore), with a social media following of 88 million. In addition, the company publishes close to 300 editions and 200 websites around the world. Hearst Magazines Digital Media includes 21 websites for brands such as Cosmopolitan, ELLE, ELLE DECOR, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, Marie Claire and Seventeen and Delish.com. The company also includes iCrossing, a global, full-service digital marketing agency. ABOUT U.S. TRUST, BANK OF AMERICA PRIVATE WEALTH MANAGEMENT U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management is a leading private wealth management organization providing vast resources and customized solutions to help meet clients' wealth structuring, investment management, banking and credit needs. Clients are served by teams of experienced advisors offering a range of financial services, including investment management, financial and succession planning, philanthropic and specialty asset management, family office services, custom credit solutions, financial administration and family trust stewardship. U.S. Trust is part of the Global Wealth and Investment Management unit of Bank of America, N.A., which is a global leader in wealth management, private banking and retail brokerage. U.S. Trust employs more than 4,000 professionals and maintains 93 offices in 31 states. As part of Bank of America, U.S. Trust can provide access to a broad range of banking solutions for individuals and businesses, and an extensive retail banking platform. Established in Canada in 2005 and in the U.S. in 2017, the HBC Foundation is the North American charitable arm of Hudson's Bay Company, one of the fastest-growing retailers in the world. The foundation is a Canadian registered charity and a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in the U.S. dedicated to improving lives by enhancing physical and mental health through education, access, research, and empowerment. By channeling the collective power of HBC's banners in North America, including Hudson's Bay, Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, Saks OFF 5TH and Gilt.com, the foundation helps to transform the mental health landscape. The Pew Charitable Trusts works with philanthropists to make long-lasting, powerful, positive change -- always based on solid research and tangible goals. As a global nonprofit, we find the facts and use them to inform the public, improve public policy, and invigorate civic life. For nearly seven decades, we have produced measurable results addressing the most pressing challenges of the day across the United States and around the world. If you are interested in exploring how facts can drive innovation and improve people's lives in tangible ways around the globe, we invite you to learn more at www.pewtrusts.org/invest. Frédérique Constant is a watch manufacturer based in Plan-les-Ouates, Geneva, Switzerland. The company is involved in all stages of watch production, from initial design, to final assembly and quality control. Frédérique Constant develops, manufactures, and assembles in-house calibers, 21 different versions since 2004. In 2015 Frédérique Constant introduced the first Swiss made Horological Smartwatch, powered by MMT SwissConnect and entirely displayed with an analog dial, thereby creating an entirely new watch category in the Swiss watch industry. Frédérique Constant watches are defined by their high quality and differentiation and precision in design and manufacturing. Their perceived value, through quality of design, materials, and manufacture, is a key component of their success. Each watch is assembled by hand, with the latest equipment and extensive controls, to ensure maximum quality and durability. The company embraces innovation to offer creativity and exceptional value. Its 32,000 square foot facility in Geneva is ultra-modern and offers the best environment for its passionate watchmakers. For more information, please visit www.frederiqueconstant.com. Created as a joint initiative between The Travel Corporation's (TTC) family of brands, the TreadRight Foundation is a not-for-profit that works to help ensure the environment and communities we visit remain for generations to come. Founded by Brett Tollman, Chief Executive Officer, TTC, to date TreadRight has supported more than 40 sustainable tourism projects worldwide. As an official Diamond Sponsor of the UN International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017, TTC is dedicated to bringing the industry together with a shared goal of benefitting local communities and the environment. To learn more about our past and current work at TreadRight, please visit us at www.treadright.org.
News Article | February 22, 2017
UW's Kristin Laidre awarded Pew marine fellowship to study effects of climate change, subsistence hunting on polar bears Polar bears depend on sea ice for essential tasks like hunting and breeding. As Arctic sea ice disappears due to climate change, bears across the species' 19 subpopulations are feeling the strain. But even as scientists try to quantify just how much melting sea ice is affecting polar bears, another group that depends on the iconic mammal for subsistence also is at risk of losing an important nutritional and economic resource. Indigenous people throughout the Arctic harvest polar bears each year. How that activity ? combined with climate change over the long term ? will impact bear populations in the future requires more science and monitoring. A new, two-part University of Washington project aims to explore the interacting effects of climate change and subsistence hunting on polar bears, while also illuminating the cultural value of the species to indigenous peoples and the role they play in conservation. Led by Kristin Laidre, a marine biologist at the UW's Polar Science Center and the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, the three-year project will include a public art-science exhibition that combines photography, storytelling and science focused on polar bears, climate change and local Inuit communities in Greenland. "Broadly, people know polar bears are negatively affected by loss of sea ice, so they are understandably upset to hear polar bears are also being hunted," Laidre said. "The reality is, the reason for the projected decline of polar bears is a much bigger, global problem related to human-caused climate change and is largely unrelated to harvest. Managing and conserving polar bears in a changing climate has to include working closely with local Arctic communities and respecting subsistence needs." Laidre's project is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, which today awarded her and 10 other international researchers prestigious fellowships for marine conservation. Pew chooses fellows based on their past contributions to marine science and their projects' potential to protect ocean environments. In the first half of the project, Laidre will work with researchers and agencies in four Arctic nations to compare data across all studied polar bear subpopulations and compile the most comprehensive assessment to date of population status. Specifically, she will look at generation length ? or the average age of females with new cubs ? as a metric for monitoring how each population is faring under climate change and subsistence hunting. Laidre will also examine for the first time the potential this metric has for assessing population status. Good data exist for bears in about half of the 19 subpopulations, but this information is rarely shared among agencies to broadly forecast changes for the entire species. Laidre's analysis will combine these data for the first time, and resulting models will help inform researchers on the status of less-studied subpopulations. For the project's artistic component, Laidre will partner with Finnish photographer Tiina Itkonen and Seattle-based writer Susan McGrath to document in photos and stories the lives of indigenous people in Greenland who rely on subsistence hunting of polar bears. Laidre will conduct a series of interviews in remote subsistence communities to gather perspectives on the importance of polar bears harvests, observed changes in the bear population and climate and reflections on their lives as hunters, considering the large changes occurring in the Arctic. The exhibition, paired with Itkonen's intimate portraits of polar bear hunters, will be on display in Seattle, then travel to Finland and Greenland. "Part of the goal of this project is setting polar bears in the context of not just being calendar icons, but also resources for others," Laidre said. "We are trying to clarify misinformation about polar bear hunting by capturing sensitive images and stories largely focused on the polar bear hunters themselves." Each Pew fellow receives $150,000 for a three-year project designed to address ocean conservation issues. Other projects in 2017 include collecting information on African manatees, and investigating mass bleaching and mortality of corals due to warmer ocean temperatures. Since 1996, the Pew Marine Fellows Program has recognized 156 marine experts in 37 countries. For more information, contact Laidre at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @KristinLaidre Contact Elizabeth Striano at Pew for information about the fellowship: email@example.com or 202-540-6837.
News Article | November 3, 2016
In this election season science and health have taken a backseat. Worse, presidential candidate Donald Trump dismissed climate change as a Chinese hoax. His opponent, Hillary Clinton, vowed to dig up what the government knows about UFOs. Science is hardly getting its due. Meanwhile in labs and institutions around the country, scientists are hard at work: inventing technologies to make guns safer, developing antibiotics to quell treatment-resistant infections and searching for more efficient forms of renewable, clean energy. This research addresses complex scientific and social issues that require thoughtful policy-making and debate. The country's next Congress and president will have much to consider. To that end, Scientific American corralled some of the key scientific issues that U.S. politicians should be paying attention to, but aren’t—from the threat of nuclear Armageddon to the ethics of medically assisted suicide. We spoke with top thinkers in each field—policy experts at universities, members of foundations and nonprofits, and the scientists themselves. What, our reporters asked, should government be doing to keep Americans healthy, safe and productive? To learn the answers, read on. We hope those who would be our leaders will do the same.—Emily Laber-Warren Tuberculosis. Gonorrhea. Pneumonia. All these infections were once readily cured but overuse of antibiotics has created “superbugs”—bacteria that are resistant to even last-resort medicines. Twenty-three thousand people die in the U.S. each year from antibiotic-resistant infections, and by 2050, experts estimate that rogue bacteria will kill more people than cancer. The United Nations recently held an unprecedented conference on how to combat superbugs. Here in the U.S. experts endorse a three-pronged approach: Congress should invest in drug development, ban the wanton feeding of antibiotics to cows and pigs, and attempt to reduce the number of patient infections. Hopefully, says Kathy Talkington, director of the Antibiotic Resistance Project at The Pew Charitable Trusts, “we can move something in the near future through Congress while the iron is hot.” Unlike medicines for heart disease or diabetes, a good antibiotic is usually used by patients for just a single occurrence of an illness, which makes pharmaceutical companies reluctant to pour money into developing new ones. Congress could help by funding some of the research as well as by enacting legislation that eases the economic burden of testing new antibiotics. Meanwhile 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are given to cattle and other food animals, so legislators like Rep. Louise Slaughter (D–N.Y.) are turning their attention to the farmyard. Antibiotics make animals grow faster, and poultry, beef and pork farmers include regular doses in their animals’ feed. Slaughter has proposed legislation that would prohibit the use of antibiotics in healthy animals. Experts say we should also try to prevent the spread of infections in the first place—by encouraging hand washing and safe cooking practices.—Elyssa Bernfeld In Flint, Mich., thousands of children live with brain damage because lead from aging pipes leached into their drinking water. More than 360,000 underground water reserves have been polluted by waste from industrial processes. Severe droughts in the western states threaten water supplies for some 43 million people. Of all the services Americans depend on, clean drinking water is the most precious. But crumbling infrastructure, contamination from fracking and farming, and climate change–related drought are depriving many Americans of this essential resource. Experts say Congress must take a range of actions—from helping cities identify toxins in their water systems to setting stricter limits for the dumping of industrial waste. “Drinking water is a basic human need,” says Erin Derrington, a Pacific Northwest–based environmental consultant who specializes in wetlands. “Without wise management—a goal that does not seem to be at the top of either the Republican or Democratic nominees’ agenda—we face real risks of degraded drinking water quality.” Experts say Congress should close a loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act that allows energy companies to inject wastewater into the ground, where it contaminates underground water supplies that could be useful in the future. In addition, they say, the federal government needs to invest more than the $5.4 billion it spent in 2014 to help states replace old water mains and pipes—an investment that will pay off by preventing costly public health crises like the recent one in Flint.—Nicole Lewis When the automobile was introduced, it was a death trap. But in the 1950s universities began crash testing—research that ultimately led to safer cars, better driver education and speed limits—and that slashed vehicular fatalities by 90 percent. Now public health experts—including the American Medical Association, which put out a statement in June—want the government to take a similar approach to gun violence, which is responsible for more than 30,000 deaths a year. The question of whether to regulate guns has become polarized, quelling progress on reducing deaths. But scientific research could liberate the issue from politics. Instead of debating whether people should have guns, science can suggest ways to make people safer: For example, how to prevent accidents and suicides in the 22 percent of U.S. homes where there are guns—by understanding how to best keep loaded guns out of the hands of children and distraught people who might act impulsively. Everytown.org, a leading gun violence prevention organization, wants Congress to fund research into technology such as biometric gun locks and safeties that would make it impossible for anyone but a gun’s owner to fire it. “The truth is, whether you want gun rights or you support gun control, you should want these kinds of detailed academic, scientifically rigorous studies,” says Adam Winkler, a constitutional law expert at the University of California, Los Angeles. “That is what a public health approach takes.”—Stephanie Daniel U.S. scientists and engineers produced the defining technologies of the modern era: the car, the airplane, the atom bomb, the iPhone. But the nation is quickly losing its edge. Foreign-born scientists and engineers are filling key slots at universities and in private labs, in part because of a dearth of qualified Americans. Most experts trace the problem to the U.S. educational system. Our students rank far below other industrialized countries in math and science. The average American 15-year-old has difficulty solving an equation using pi. But there is a huge variation in how students fare depending on the state they live in; some Bible belt states shirk teaching evolution science or present it as a competing theory with religious creationism whereas states like New Hampshire offer excellent math and science instruction. The solution, policy experts say, is for the federal government to create uniform, up-to-date requirements for the science and math concepts students should know at each grade level, as is done in other countries. But recent attempts at implementing national curricular conformity such as the Common Core have met resistance. For now, experts say, the best approach is to suggest, not require. The Next Generation Science Standards, led by educators from nonprofits, philanthropies and state governments, are an attempt to codify a national baseline of math and science achievement. But so far only 18 states and the District of Columbia have signed on. The standards are optional but their authors hope that more state legislatures will sign them into law.—W. Harry Fortuna America’s national parks and forests are facing many challenges. In recent years legislators have stymied attempts to increase park funding and pushed for privatization of publicly owned lands. The National Park Service is some $11 billion behind on repairs and maintenance. Meanwhile, Arizona’s congressional representatives support new uranium mines on public land near the Grand Canyon—and legislators from other states have similar projects such as oil and gas development in the lands around Arches National Park in Utah. “There’s constant pressure to develop the land surrounding parks,” says Kristen Brengel, vice president of government affairs at the National Parks Conservation Association. But Pres. Barack Obama has taken steps to protect public lands. Earlier this year the U.S. Bureau of Land Management created a plan to protect Utah’s public landscapes from energy developers. The Department of the Interior also recently canceled an oil-and-gas lease that threatened wildlife-rich regions around Montana’s Glacier National Park. Meanwhile private groups are taking their own steps to protect the nation’s public lands. The nonprofit Trust for Public Land recently worked with a philanthropist to add 282 acres to Arizona’s Saguaro National Park. But whether the money comes from Congress or private pocketbooks, some advocates say it would be better spent readying parks for the impacts of climate change or fixing trails and roads at heavily-visited sites like Yellowstone. “We shouldn’t be expanding our parks. We should be maintaining them,” says Bonner Cohen, senior fellow at The National Center for Public Policy Research.—Samantha Lee Last year in Paris the U.S. was one of 191 countries to sign a global agreement to slash the emissions that fuel climate change. It was an historic moment, but the hard work is yet to come: figuring out how to reduce the country’s greenhouse gases to at least 26 percent below 2005 levels within the next nine years. Climate change has gotten little attention during this presidential election season. Although Democrat Hillary Clinton has called climate change an “urgent threat” and pledged to carry on Obama’s climate initiatives, GOP candidate Donald Trump has openly denied climate change and said he would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement. Part of the Obama administration’s solution—dubbed the Clean Power Plan—would require power plants to limit their emissions, but it has been blocked both by the Republican-controlled Congress and the Supreme Court. Most policy experts agree that Obama’s power plan is the best tool to meet the nation’s emissions reduction target. If Democrats win the presidency and control of both houses of Congress, the Clean Power Plan might get new legs. Other solutions include taxing carbon or allowing companies to profit when they reduce emissions more than required, says Daniel Fiorino, director of the Center for Environmental Policy at American University. If Republicans remain in control, experts say, Congress might do better to focus on investing in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, an approach that might appeal to the GOP because it could stimulate the economy by adding new jobs.—Suzanna Masih Scientists are inching closer to the holy grail of genetic engineering—the ability to add or remove DNA from an organism to change specific traits. Genetic engineering, also known as gene editing, has been used for years to enhance agriculture and treat disease. But a new technology that harnesses the CRISPR–Cas9 gene–protein complex makes it possible to add and remove genes with unprecedented speed and precision, bringing designer babies and other sci-fi capabilities closer to reality. Scientists are testing whether gene editing can help treat diseases such as HIV and hemophilia. But CRISPR opens the door to editing for human enhancement—such as adding genes for bigger muscles or whiter teeth—possibilities that are “soon to be on the horizon,” says Fyodor Urnov, a geneticist at the University of California, Berkeley. There are as yet no laws regulating gene editing for enhancement. Bioethicist Jonathan Moreno of the University of Pennsylvania says that’s proper, because the technology is not yet developed, and “once you legislate, it’s very hard to unlegislate [sic].” For now experts are wrestling with the ethical implications of gene editing and making recommendations: In December a committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, comprising specialists in health, science and bioethics, will publish their recommendations on how to legislate as the technology develops.—Michael R. Murphy Nuclear war is no longer a two-player game, as it largely was during the cold war, with the U.S. and NATO facing off against the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. The geopolitical nuclear landscape has grown more fraught and complex than ever. China, India, Pakistan and Israel all have nuclear weapons. North Korea’s dictator is conducting missile tests with great fanfare. These new configurations multiply exponentially the rivalries and passions, global and regional, that could ignite a regional or global nuclear conflict. Experts are divided over how the U.S. should act to minimize the threat. Some say we should publicly embrace a “no first use” policy, solidifying our implicit vow never to be first to push the button. But Obama’s advisers maintain that any change of policy could upset the status quo—and hence the safest action is no action at all. Another issue is how to respond to a perceived nuclear attack. The current policy is “launch on warning,” meaning that we will fire as soon as we learn that another country has attacked us. This policy has led several times to near-catastrophe, when our warning systems were mistakenly tripped by a satellite, a faulty computer chip and even the moon. A safer doctrine, say experts including former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, is to avoid mistakes by retaliating only after being struck. Once nukes have been launched against us, there’s nothing we can do to stop them. But we can strike back—even after being hit—using our fleet of nuclear subs and bombers. “We’re not going to change,” Perry says, “until people understand what those dangers are.”—Michael O’Brien Two years ago, a 29-year-old woman named Brittany Maynard who was dying of brain cancer decided to end her life. But she did not want to swallow a bunch of pills. She wanted to die safely and without pain, under a doctor’s supervision. That meant Maynard had to move from California to Oregon, one of the few states where medically assisted suicide was legal at the time. Maynard’s story made the cover of People magazine. Suddenly the “right to die” had become a national issue—a far cry from the 1990s, when physician Jack Kevorkian was nicknamed “Dr. Death” and convicted of murder for helping his dying patients end their lives. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that the right to medically assisted death is not constitutionally protected, leaving legislation up to the states. Assisted suicide is now legal in Montana, Vermont, Washington State and California as well as Oregon—and 20 other states and the District of Columbia are considering the move. But as right-to-die legislation gains traction, it is becoming as polarizing as the abortion debate, raising similar religious and ethical questions about an individual’s rights and who should have authority in matters of life and death.—Alyssa Pagano In 2013 the U.S. threw away more than 32.5 million tons of plastic waste, up from around 390,000 tons in 1960. Much of this plastic litter reaches rivers and makes its way to the sea. Plastic bags, balloons and six-pack rings pose known dangers to birds, sea turtles and other wildlife. But recent research suggests that once in the ocean, plastics degrade into microscopic particles that can be hazardous not only to animals and the environment but to humans as well. These so-called microplastics—particles smaller than one fifth of an inch—are ingested by fish, then by people if they eat the affected seafood. A new study by researchers at Plymouth University in England found that a single washing machine cycle can release hundreds of thousands of microplastic particles from fleece and other synthetic fabrics. The U.N. has singled out microplastics for their potential to cause infertility and other health issues. One approach to the problem has been to institute bans or taxes on plastic shopping bags, but only three of 77 such proposals have passed in recent years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Similar efforts are being made to ban so-called microbeads—tiny plastics manufactured for use in soaps and cosmetics. Conservation groups also organize beach and road cleanups, to prevent plastics from lingering in the environment.—Michael H. Wilson Obesity now affects more than a third of American adults. It’s associated with myriad diseases—the treatment of which costs over $147 billion a year. And almost one in five children are now obese, detracting from their self-esteem, emotional well-being and health. “If we continue on this course, this generation of children could be the first in U.S. history to live shorter, less healthy lives than their parents,” Donald Schwarz, vice president, Program, of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest public health philanthropy, said during a telephone press conference. Experts say there is no single way to reduce obesity, because so many factors can impact weight—income, education, access to healthful food, physical activity. This is confounded by the fact that weight is not necessarily an indicator of overall health. States and even city governments have introduced policies aimed at changing people’s exercise and eating habits and fighting the hold fast food has on the U.S. diet. For example, the cities of Philadelphia and Berkeley, Calif., recently instituted a tax on sugary sodas—something that New York City tried and failed to do several years ago. Critics reject such programs as government overreach, calling them behavior taxes, but a similar program in Mexico has curbed soda consumption substantially. “We know it works,” says spokesperson David Goldberg of Healthy Food America, a science-based nonprofit.—Kazi Awal Hurricane Matthew, which devastated Haiti and deluged huge swaths of North Carolina earlier this month, was the latest in a barrage of catastrophic storms to hit U.S. coastlines in recent years. With storms and flooding along the coasts intensifying due to climate change, experts say it is time for a paradigm shift in how we think about our coasts, home to nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population. “I wouldn’t put my money in investing in real estate at the coast, certainly not in the long term,” says Jeff Williams, a coastal marine geologist and scientist emeritus at the U.S. Geological Survey. The most sensible strategy, however difficult to stomach, is for the government to buy damaged property so that it never gets built on again, and people need to move inland. “Basically coastal communities in this country are staring down the loaded gun of climate change,” says Shiva Polefka, an ocean policy analyst with the liberal-leaning think tank, the Center for American Progress. “Due to sea level rise, we’re going to have to pull back from the coast.” Instead, the approach that towns and cities have been taking, with financial support from the federal government, has been to build walls around their shorelines or dump tons of sand on eroding beaches. Experts say Congress should reallocate money into large-scale programs to buy property from coastal homeowners. Buyout programs do exist, but they are tiny. After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, for example, New York City helped rebuild more than 10,000 houses, but bought fewer than a thousand.—Meaghan Lee Callaghan The next president will inherit a national patchwork of renewable energy policies. Only 30 states mandate renewable energy. Top on the list are Maine and Idaho, which derive 100 percent of their energy from renewable sources such as biomass and hydropower. But Pennsylvania produces a paltry 4 percent of its energy from renewables. And the states that have set no requirements lag even further behind. Wyoming, for instance, generates less than 1 percent of its energy from renewables. The U.S. has around 4 percent of the world’s population but emits some 25 percent of global CO , the main driver of climate change. Yet only about 13 percent of the nation’s electricity comes from renewable sources like wind, solar, hydropower and biomass. Many believe it is high time for Congress to create a national standard. The Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit advocacy group, points out that half of U.S. wind production between 2001 and 2006 was the result of state energy standards. Others contend that, given the huge differences in natural resources around the country, it makes sense for states to retain flexibility on how to meet their energy needs. A Great Plains state like Iowa, for example, may be well situated to harness energy from windmills whereas sunny Arizona would do better to rely on solar. Most attempts at national renewable energy policy take this geographic variability into account, allowing states to develop individualized portfolios while adhering to strict standards that increase over time. Standards aside, experts say the federal government needs to modernize the energy grid. Renewable energy is not evenly distributed across the country. For example, lots of wind is collected in the western plains, and most solar energy is generated in the Southwest, but the areas with highest energy demand are on the coasts. Territorial battles among the states hold up necessary permits, leading to delays in connecting the isolated segments of the energy grid, according to policy expert Jules Kortenhorst, CEO of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit research center in Colorado. Kortenhorst suggests that a future president could institute a “federal override” that would allow the government to step in and force the integration of various regional grids, as it currently does with pipelines.—Roshan Abraham The reporters are students in Emily Laber-Warren's science journalism class at the C.U.N.Y. Graduate School of Journalism.
News Article | February 22, 2017
It's not every day that you're congratulated in a full-page ad in The New York Times. That's a special recognition University of Delaware professor Catherine Leimkuhler Grimes received on Tuesday, Feb. 21, when she and other selected scientists were announced as Sloan Research Fellowship winners. The prestigious two-year, $60,000 fellowship is awarded annually to 126 early-career scholars from the U.S. and Canada whose accomplishments mark them as the next generation of scientific leaders. "The Sloan Research Fellows are the rising stars of the academic community," said Paul L. Joskow, president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. "Through their achievements and ambition, these young scholars are transforming their fields and opening up entirely new research horizons. We are proud to support them at this crucial stage of their careers." Grimes, assistant professor in UD's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, will use her fellowship to investigate how chronic inflammatory diseases, such as asthma and Crohn's disease, arise. Her work focuses on organisms you can't see and can't live without -- bacteria. Each of us carts around about three pounds of bacteria, in our stomachs and intestines, on our skin and lots of other places. Most are beneficial, helping with myriad functions, from digesting lunch to healing a bruise. Some are harmful, causing infections and disease. Bacteria naturally shed tiny fragments of their cell wall as they grow, like lint from a jacket. If these fragments come from harmful bacteria, your immune system responds accordingly by waging war on the nasty invaders. Sometimes, however, a case of mistaken identity occurs -- the cell wall fragments may have been sloughed by beneficial bacteria, but the immune system misreads them and winds up attacking healthy tissue. That scenario has been implicated in Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and cancer. Grimes hypothesizes that these diseases erupt from a discrete set of bacterial cell wall fragments and that the body has mechanisms to sense such molecules. To test this hypothesis, she and her laboratory group are enlisting a full-court press of scientific techniques, from synthetic organic chemistry, to molecular biology, immunology, biochemistry and microbiology. "I feel extremely lucky to have such a diverse group of research students who are just as dedicated to these projects as I am," Grimes said. "Together we are unveiling how our immune systems keep track of both the good and bad bacteria." As a Sloan Research Fellow, Grimes is in prestigious company. In her own department at UD, she notes that her colleagues Joel Rosenthal, Doug Taber, Thomas Beebe and Klaus Theopold -- all past winners of the fellowship -- provide excellent examples of dynamic research programs. In the wider scientific community, past awardees include such towering figures as physicist Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann and game theorist John Nash. Forty-three former fellows have received a Nobel Prize in their respective field, 16 have won the Fields Medal in mathematics, 69 have received the National Medal of Science, and 16 have won the John Bates Clark Medal in economics, including every winner since 2007. Grimes was named a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences by The Pew Charitable Trusts in 2014, won the Cottrell Scholar Award in 2015 and received the National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development Award in 2016. She graduated summa cum laude from Villanova University, earned her master's degree in chemistry from Princeton University and her doctorate in chemistry from Harvard. She joined the UD faculty in 2011. Established in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr., then-president and chief executive officer of the General Motors Corp., the Sloan Foundation makes grants in support of original research and education in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and economics. The foundation is based in New York City.
News Article | February 28, 2017
529 college savings plans stand out as popular and effective planning and saving tools that both encourage and enable American families across income levels to prepare for the costs of higher education. New research released by Strategic Insight, an independent financial research and data analysis organization, shows that a large majority of 529 users – 75% -- have household incomes of $150,000 or less. Most participants represent solidly middle-income families – and lower-income households also recognize the benefits and need for targeted college saving, with a full 17% of 529 families having household income of $50,000 or less. “529s are a valuable savings tool for all American families, from two-income households of teachers and firefighters, to families putting aside $25 a month for a first-generation college student,” said Richard Polimeni, Chair of the College Savings Foundation. “These new numbers show strength in 529 ownership in every income bracket from $25,000 to $150,000,” said Paul Curley, Director of College Savings Research at Strategic Insight. A recent national survey by SI indicated that 32% of 529 users have household incomes of less than $75,000, 49% have incomes below $100,000, and as stated before, 75% have incomes below $150,000. Not only are 529 plans embraced by families as affordable options, but they also are an efficient tax-advantaged vehicle for families. According to a recent report from The Pew Charitable Trusts, federal tax benefits for current expenses are much more costly than those which incentivize planning and saving, with 529 plans and other savings incentives coming in at less than one-tenth the cost of the largest tax incentive, the American Opportunity Tax Credit. http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/assets/2017/02/how-governments-support-higher-education-through-tax-code.pdf Only 529 plans involve a long-term commitment by families to plan for the future cost of higher education through saving and investing and future planning, vital factors in tackling the nation’s current $1.3-trillion in student loan debt. All college savings plans are sponsored by nonprofit state agencies which work with families on goal setting and financial education in addition to providing college savings investment options. “College and career planning are life decisions as well as financial ones,” Polimeni said. “Plan sponsors and advisors work with individuals and families over the course of many years as they aspire to higher education, learn about college funding strategies, and reduce dependence on crippling debt.” Demonstrating the current interest in college savings in Congress, U.S. Representatives Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and Ron Kind (D-WI) recently introduced H.R. 529, known as the 529 and ABLE Account Improvement Act of 2017. It encourages more college savings by eliminating perceived barriers, encouraging more participation by employers and further enhancing program flexibility. On March 14-16, CSF will address innovations in college savings at its conference in Charleston, SC, “College Planning Challenges and the Role of 529 Plans.” President of Washington College Sheila Bair will present new initiatives she is advancing to encourage savings, reduce college debt, and free up students for brighter futures. Speakers will present tools to help families assess their child’s preferred higher education path - including affordable community college and vocational training programs through graduate school - and how to start early to build the strategies to fund their goals. The Strategic Insight data is based on a nationally representative survey of over 1,000 parents or legal guardians with children under the age of 18 earning over $25,000 fielded in February 2017. The data corroborates CSF’s findings from its annual State of College Savings survey of 800 parents across the country and income levels, which in 2016 found that 67% of all parents were saving for college and 32% of all parents owned a 529 plan. To learn more about CSF, see http://www.collegesavingsfoundation.org To learn more about Strategic Insight, see http://www.strategic-i.com
News Article | March 24, 2016
Last week, San Francisco residents found that their regional rail service, the BART, was experiencing systemwide delays and thwarting commutes. Such service problems aren't unusual. In response to the news, for example, one rider tweeted, “we've come to expect rush-hour equipment problems and train delays from you [BART]. What you're saying is that today ends with '-day'.” What was uncommon was the response from @SFBART, the service's official Twitter account, which happened to be run that day by employee Taylor Huckaby. Instead of merely apologizing, Huckaby explained. “BART was built to transport far fewer people, and much of our system has reached the end of its useful life. This is our reality,” he tweeted. “We have 3 hours a night to do maintenance on a system built to serve 100k per week that now serves 430k per day. #ThisIsOurReality” While Huckaby’s response was taken by many as a refreshing bit of candor from a public agency, others were more cynical. SF Weekly's Chris Roberts equated Huckaby’s BART sanctioned “real talk” to a long con on the part of BART designed to raise enough political will to pass a $3.5 billion dollar bond measure which BART says it needs to overhaul the system and make critical maintenance changes. The problems that Huckaby highlighted are real, however, and they aren’t limited to BART or to San Francisco. Nationwide mass transit systems are faltering. Washington, D.C. shut down its Metro for 29 hours last week, citing the need for critical repairs after an electrical fire halted its rail system. The shutdown left 700,000 commuters scrambling for alternative transportation and exacerbating the city’s already awful traffic. Over the next year, New York City's MTA is closing 30 subway stations to fast track overdue repairs. Boston’s T is plagued with maintenance problems that became particularly acute during the winter of 2015 when snow and cold crippled service for a month. And all of this is happening at a time when more of us are riding public transportation than ever before. In 2014 Americans took 10.8 billion rides on mass transit—the highest number of rides in 58 years, according to the American Public Transit Administration (APTA), a mass transit advocacy group. APTA’s data reflects much of what Huckaby tweeted: Between 1995 and 2014, mass transit ridership increased 39 percent nationwide, while driving peaked in the mid-2000s. This shift to mass transit isn’t happening just in cities with established mass transit systems like New York and San Francisco. It’s also happening in cities that we don’t necessarily equate with mass transit—cities like Atlanta, Houston, and Salt Lake City. If BART and Huckaby are trying to manipulate riders into voting for increased financing—and they claim they're not—you can hardly blame them. Mass transit is starved for cash. The money that funds mass transit, whether it's bus, train, light rail, or trolley, comes from a mix of four sources: riders, federal subsidies, state subsidies, and local transit support, usually through property taxes. And all of them are shrinking. On the federal side, most of that money comes from the federal gas tax: 18.4 cents on a gallon of regular gas 24.3 cents on the gallon for diesel, with 81-percent going to fund highways and the remaining 19 percent going to mass transit. That’s right—mass transit depends on people driving cars for a significant portion of its federal funding. Unfortunately the Highway Trust Fund is perpetually on the brink of bankruptcy. The fund was designed to collect the gas tax and dispense it to states and municipalities to spend on their transit projects. The money collected was to roughly equal the money dispensed minus reserves. Since 2008, however, the fund has spent more than it's received. The issue is that while costs, partly due to inflation, have increased the gas tax has remained the same since 1993, not keeping pace with inflation. At the same time, cars become more efficient, which means people are buying fewer gallons of gas. The end result is less funding for transit, and a find that's only managed to stay afloat this far through congressional dispensation. “There have been substantial declines in the gas tax between 2002 and 2012,” said Phil Oliff, a manager at The Pew Charitable Trusts and an author on a 2014 Pew study that looks at transportation funding. “When you adjust for inflation, the gas tax has declined about 31 percent at the federal level and 19 percent at the state level.” This leaves little money for the maintenance necessary to keep mass transit systems going, nevermind the expansions necessary to move increasing numbers of riders. This isn’t a problem just for mass transit, but when you’re drawing from a smaller pool of money in the first place, its impact is more acute. When combined with the fact that, at every level of governance the percentage of dollars we direct to highways exceeds what we spend on mass transit, it becomes apparent that not only does mass transit receive a smaller percentage of the pie, but that pie is shrinking. This isn’t just a problem for mass transit riders, it's a problem for drivers too. Quality mass transit trumps road building when it comes to reducing traffic. In fact, planners and economists call road building “induced demand” because it encourages people to hop into their cars instead of walking or taking mass transit. Cities like New York don’t have high rates of mass transit ridership simply because they have broad comprehensive systems, but because driving in New York City is frequently more expensive and slower than alternatives. “Bringing cars off of the roads, both saves money in terms of road building and road requirements,” said Glen Weisbrod, whose company, Economic Development Research Group, Inc., researches the economic impact of a range of development projects including mass transit. Each time mass transit proves itself be less reliable, however, it creates an incentive for people to take to the roads. Why not simply have the riders bear the full cost of the system? After all on average, the cost of a BART fare covers 68 percent of the cost of a ride, more than that of most transit systems. Subsidies make up the rest. But even if riders bore 100 percent of the cost, this would only cover the cost of daily ridership, not long-term maintenance and capital improvements. Additionally, there’s a tipping point at which transit costs will push people back into cars, and road building as already mentioned does nothing to combat traffic while also being still more costly. Finally, there’s the issue of fairness: Drivers don’t bear the full cost of roadways, so why should mass transit riders bear the full cost of mass transit? A 2015 US PIRG study found that user revenue only covered 48 percent of the costs of roads. General taxpayers, and bond dollars filled in the remaining 52 percent. The way we talk about mass transit funding could leave one with the distinct impression that it’s a burden, not a boon. “Public transportation is seen as having three kinds of benefits social, economic, and environmental,” said Weisbrod. Socially, mass transit benefits the many people who can’t (or shouldn’t) drive: children, the elderly, the blind, and St. Paddy’s day revelers. Environmentally, it reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and economically, Weisbrod found that for every $1 billion of annual investment in public transportation leads lead to more than $1.7 billion of net annual additional GDP, most of which stays in the local community. To get those benefits, we need to have mass transit that’s reliable and responsive to people’s needs. And for that, we need proper funding. “It’s important to understand financing isn’t funding,” said Oliff. “Financing measures like municipal bonds, infrastructure banks, and public private partners are not by themselves the solution to the country’s transportation funding challenges. Financing is an important tool, but at the end of the day they need to be repaid using revenue sources like taxes tolls or fees.” And that means getting serious about funding mass transit.
News Article | January 5, 2017
Big news is coming from Japan about the New Year tuna auction at Tokyo's Tsukiji market. The auction on Thursday saw a bluefin tuna sold for a mind-boggling 74.2 million yen ($642,310). The top bidder for the 212kg (467.38 pounds) fish was Kiyoshi Kimura, president of Kiyomura Corporation, which runs the Sushi Zanmai restaurant chain. In the auction, Kimura outbid all rivals for the sixth year straight. The man-sized fish was caught off the coast of northern Japan's Aomori prefecture. The price is obviously quite high compared to the 14 million yen posted in 2016. Still, the current price is a dwarf compared to the record 155 million yen paid by the Kimura in 2013. After winning the bid, a jubilant Kimura posed with a big knife in front of the dark-silvery fish. He said that the bid was "a bit expensive, but I am happy that I was able to successfully win at auction a tuna of good shape and size." Thanks to the passion for costly tuna auctions, Kimura is known by the nickname "Tuna King". The Tsukiji market's first auction in the New Year is a big business as it draws hordes of restaurants which are keen to convert the publicity into a marketing opportunity. Even as big bucks are chasing bluefin tuna, the outlook on the fish, also known as the King of Sushi, is grim. "This tuna is being fished at rates up to three times higher than scientists say is sustainable," said Amanda Nickson, director of global tuna conservation at The Pew Charitable Trusts in a recent report. Many environmental groups including Pew have called for a two-year ban on commercial fishing of the bluefin tuna. Japan tops the charts as the biggest consumer of Pacific bluefin tuna, where 80 percent of all bluefin tuna caught worldwide is consumed. Data show bluefin tuna population has ebbed 97 percent from its historic levels because of overfishing. According to the International Scientific Committee for Tuna in the North Pacific Ocean, the current "unfished" population is just 2.6 percent, down from an already low 4.2 percent shown in a previous estimate. Bluefin tuna has many unique characteristics including a larger life span of 40 years. Moving across oceans, bluefin is a fast swimmer and can dive more than 4,000 feet. In terms of movement, bluefin tuna acts like torpedoes with retractable fins and sharp vision. They are huge predators and eat up schools of fish such as mackerel, eels, and herrings. There three kinds of bluefin tuna — Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern. The bulk of the Atlantic bluefin tuna is caught from the Mediterranean Sea. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | October 6, 2016
Such an agreement would be binding and include more countries than a non-binding agreement that the U.S. entered into with Norway, Denmark, Russia and Canada last year to avoid fishing in the area. Adm. Robert Papp, the U.S. special representative for the Arctic, said a binding, multinational agreement would prevent fishing in the Arctic high seas before scientists can determine what is sustainable. He said the issue is especially important as Arctic ice melts, making the area more open to potential commercial fishing. "We don't want people fishing in there until we have the science of what's happening," Papp said. "It's a pre-emptive effort to be able to sustain fisheries into the future." The U.S. would like to get nations such as China, Korea, Japan and members of the European Union on board with the fishing shutdown, Papp said. He estimated that such an agreement is most likely a couple of years away. The issue of Arctic Ocean fishing was one of many Arctic issues discussed this week at a diplomatic meeting of the Arctic Council's Senior Arctic Officials in Portland, Maine, that ended Thursday. Arctic fishing also is on the radar of environmental organizations, such as The Pew Charitable Trusts, which has argued for a binding agreement signed by many nations to shut down fishing. Pew has called the current non-binding agreement "laudable" but also said a broader deal is needed because unregulated fishing could do damage to the Arctic Ocean's ecosystem as waters continue to warm. The U.S. State Department said last year that the non-binding agreement, signed in Oslo, acknowledged that commercial fishing in the central Arctic Ocean—an area bigger than Alaska and Texas combined—is unlikely to happen soon. But it also acknowledged that the reduction of Arctic sea ice and the limited scope of scientific knowledge about marine life in the area make it necessary to prevent unregulated fishing. Signers agreed not to fish in the area until international fishing management measures are in place for the Arctic's high seas. More than 200 species of fish thrive in the Arctic, some of which have commercial value, such as the Arctic cod.