More than 100 kids and their families celebrate science in Allston

first_imgMore than 100 children and families recently came together at the Gardner Pilot Academy for the first-ever Family Science Night. Co-sponsored by Harvard University, the event brought students from kindergarten through seventh grade and their parents together to explore the endless possibilities of science.Families gathered to listen to Heather Olins, a fifth-year doctoral student in the Girguis Lab at Harvard. Having just returned from a research verification cruise aboard the ALVIN submarine, Olins engaged the crowd with her firsthand accounts of what life is like on the ocean floor. She also provided the children with tips on how they can pursue science.“If there is something, anything, that you are really curious about, keep asking questions and looking for answers until there don’t seem to be any out there. That’s pretty much what it means to be a scientist,” Olins said.The night continued with a range of interactive activities throughout the school. In a kindergarten classroom, children and parents worked to construct more than  25 towers made of raw spaghetti and marshmallows. In a second grade classroom, students were charged with building race car models and testing their distance. Additionally, a number of middle school students analyzed human cheek cells as well as their own hair under microscopes.“It was great to celebrate science and see so many students with their families so engaged and enthusiastic. We hope this becomes an annual event,” said Barbara Gates, science specialist K-2 for the Gardner Pilot Academy in Boston.last_img read more

Grad families seek cheaper healthcare

first_imgFor some Notre Dame community members, a minor infection or fever can be a major source of anxiety. Angela Campbell, a Canadian citizen whose husband is a graduate student in political science, has lived without health insurance since the couple arrived at Notre Dame five years ago. Campbell was recently sick for six weeks, and put off medical care for as long as possible. “I just kept saying, ‘I just have to get better, I don’t want to go to the doctor,’” she said. “In the event that something really bad would happen, I would probably just get in my car and drive [nine hours] to Canada.” Notre Dame’s health insurance premium for spouses of students is over $4,000, and Campbell doesn’t qualify for state healthcare. The cost for insuring a spouse and all children this year under the University’s health plan is nearly $7,500 for each family. And with graduate students making as little as $17,500 per year, Campbell said purchasing University health insurance is almost impossible. The Campbells’ situation is not unique for graduate student families, both international and American. With the University’s high premiums for dependents, and difficulty finding alternate coverage, many graduate student families must resort to paying out of pocket for routine medical care. Greg Sterling, Dean of the Graduate School, said the University has been working for a long time to find a better solution for these families. “This is an issue that keeps me up at night; I feel terrible about it. And there’s nobody who doesn’t want to help in the central administration — the challenge is the cost,” Sterling said. “Right now, sometimes people say, well, ‘the University has money.’ Well, the University does have money, but it’s all committed. And so you make choices.” But the costs, he said, are staggering—up to several million dollars each year. “It would take several million dollars per year. It’s not one time. If we could come up [with] $2 million to fix the problem — it’s not just for one year; it is every year,” he said.  Since becoming Dean in 2008, Sterling has been addressing two main priorities for graduate students — their stipends, which have gone up, and their health insurance. Health insurance for the individual student has become more affordable. Healthcare affordability for the families of graduate students, however, has been an issue since University Health Director Ann Kleva came to Notre Dame in 1994.   “It’s just been a very sensitive issue for all the years that I’ve been here, the cost of family health,” she said. “Health insurance for any family today is very, very expensive…especially when you’re on a limited income.” At The Village: Ways of Coping Campbell said healthcare issues are almost a fact of life within the University Village community, Notre Dame’s student family housing. “Everyone, every one of my neighbors has major issues with health insurance or they’re uninsured,” Campbell said. What she said really scares her is the prospect of needing emergency or long-term medical care. “I always hope that if something really bad happens it’s in our car, because our car insurance covers the medical cost,” she said. “[I think] ‘if I have to break a leg, please let it be in my vehicle.’” Campbell’s husband is insured by the University plan, and the Campbells’ two sons are American citizens, so they qualify for Hoosier Healthwise— Indiana’s state Medicaid plan. But the Campbells’ first daughter, 6, is a Canadian citizen and only qualifies for emergency healthcare under the state plan. “It’s very stressful,” Campbell said. Nathan Elliot, rector of University Village, said international children are the most vulnerable under the current healthcare setup since they only qualify for emergency care under the state plan. “Here at the Village we have a pretty good network of people who share what they do with others, that’s fortunate,” Elliot said.  “[But] at least the way I think about it is it shouldn’t have to be that complicated, I think we could do better.” Why are the premiums so high? Sam Rund, president of the Graduate Student Union (GSU,) said every time someone asks him what issues are most important to graduate students, insurance for dependents is at the top of his list. “It could literally be a life or death issue for someone,” Rund said. “There’s this extra special obligation I feel to fight for insurance coverage for these people.” The question many graduate students have is: why can’t Notre Dame, a well-endowed University, make healthcare for families more affordable? Some graduate schools of comparable universities offer much lower premium rates for families. But Sterling said comparing Notre Dame to other schools wouldn’t be comparing “apples to apples,” because universities with lower premiums may not have as comprehensive a plan as Notre Dame. “A lot of the differences you see in the price will depend on the level of services the insurance provides,” he said. He said that Yale University, which provides a very reasonable health plan for families, also has a much greater endowment per student than Notre Dame does. Ricky Klee, a graduate student in theology, said by making it difficult for graduate students to have families at Notre Dame, the University is going against its Catholic background that promotes family life. Klee has participated in protests outside the Main Building the past few years and helped coordinate a petition to the administration in the spring of 2010. “Doing the numbers it is expensive, it’s almost a million dollars a year,” Klee said. “But [comparing that] to varsity athletics teams, increases in executives’ salaries…the question is, which is imperative. It’s more important to make sure the kids can go to the doctor.” Sterling said a significant amount of the University budget has gone to the Graduate School in recent years, and much of that money has contributed to the rise in student stipends—something that is beneficial for every student. Even within the Catholic faith, Sterling said, some students say it’s the University’s responsibility to provide healthcare for families, while others think it’s a personal responsibility. “Another factor which people will ask and debate is the role…the extent to which the University is responsible, versus which the student is responsible for their own family,” he said. Future Effects of Healthcare Reform Sterling said he recognizes graduate student families have an immediate need for healthcare coverage. But there’s no “magic wand.” “I do think that we would like to find a far better solution to this than what currently exists because what currently exists is not good,” he said. Sterling said with the stipulations of healthcare reform, which will be phased in next year and eventually require the University to provide unlimited coverage, premium prices will continue to rise. He said the Graduate School has been looking at different ways to cut the cost of healthcare for dependents. One solution would be to provide discounted clinical service at the new Wellness Centerthat will open in July. “We’ve lobbied, and with a great deal of sympathy from the Provost, and the Executive Vice President, and the President, to have the spouses and dependents of graduate students receive healthcare from the Wellness Center,” Sterling said. But right now, there are no specifics. Kleva said she anticipates the situation to remain difficult for graduate student families until healthcare reform passes in Washington, D.C. “Personally, I believe [healthcare reform] truly will be a benefit for lower income families that need healthcare insurance, because they’ll have options and the government will be offering subsidies for those that meet income levels,” Kleva said. “Again, you don’t know when all this is going to pass.” With University premiums projected to rise over the next few years, government subsidies that come with healthcare reform may be the only promising option for many graduate student families at Notre Dame. “I have to say, I love ND for so many reasons, it is really a wonderful place to be,” [Angela] Campbell said. “[But] being in the Village we’re quite forgotten and health insurance is just another thing on the list.”last_img read more

Student Government promotes discussion of campus issues on online platform

first_imgNotre Dame student government created Onward, an online platform where students could send in university issues they considered in hopes of initiating change, two years ago. However, since its inception student participation with Onward has fallen off dramatically, but the current student government administration is trying to change that.Junior and director of campus technology Sean McMahon said Onward is being moved to Facebook to make it easier for students to use.“[The previous form] was through a strange website that students didn’t know how to find, and the effort of the student government tapered off — it wasn’t nearly as accessible as it was supposed to be,” McMahon said. “So, we’re making it more accessible by moving it to Facebook.”Senior and campus technology board member Jamie Maher said the new platform will allow student government to reply directly to comments and promote discussion among students more efficiently than before.“The old Onward system was less clear and there was potentially not as immediate feedback, but with this Onward page you can see the post immediately show up on the Facebook page,” Maher said. “[For students,] you can immediately comment on it or react to it, which was not available in the previous incarnation.”McMahon said Onward gives students the ability to ensure their problems are being seen and considered by their representatives.“By submitting to Onward you are guaranteeing that your issue is going to be looked at … Our primary concern is that students know that this is always around and always and option for them,” McMahon said.McMahon said student government sees Onward as an opportunity to consistently engage with the student body and understand what is important to them.“It’s great that we’re working really hard on policy initiatives and things that absolutely need to get done,” he said. “But at the end of the day in terms of making sure we’re getting students what they need, sometimes we need to hear back from them, too. So, the purpose of this is to make sure [communication] is not just during the election season but continually part of the process.”A Facebook account is not required for students to use Onward, as comments can be submitted through a Google survey found in the page’s biography or accessible through QR codes on posters across campus, McMahon said. Students can also submit comments anonymously through that same survey.While participation on the platform may vary over time, junior and campus technology board member Sean Scannell said the success of Onward is measured by how aware students are of its availability.“The metric of success is the awareness of this being there,” Scannell said. “We’re not trying to be the most popular page on campus — we’re trying to be the most helpful.”McMahon and Maher said although some issues students have may be more serious than others and not all students will agree on what should be done, Onward is still an important tool for encouraging discourse on campus.“We want any issue, no matter how big or how small, to be able to be discussed and displayed for everyone,” McMahon said.“We’re not just getting an idea and assuming everyone feels one way, we can have a discussion on Onward and can help facilitate a student discussion on both serious topics and something maybe less important but still meaningful to the student body,” Maher said.McMahon said Onward hopes to give every student the opportunity to make the University better.“If we can publicize successes and show that there is potential to create change here just from five seconds of submitting online, then that’s our goal: to know that that’s always an option and they have that outlet to let their voice be heard,” McMahon said. “Complain. Please complain as much as you want. This isn’t just complaining to a friend and mutually agreeing something stinks — this actually gives you the capability to go do something.”Tags: campus technology, Onward, Student governmentlast_img read more

More Than 7,000 Toys, Coats And School Supplies Distributed This Holiday

first_imgJennifer Shirar / DVIDS ALBANY – A statewide holiday toy, coat and school supply drive has collected and distributed more than 7,000 items to help New Yorkers in need this holiday season.New York State officials say collections took place across the state over the past several weeks.Members of the Governor’s administration organized collections across the state and are distributing 7,348 toys, coats and school supplies to communities in need.For the first time, donations were also collected by mail to provide another option to participate amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “During this trying year, New Yorkers have shown up for each other like never before, and I am proud that our annual toy drive tradition continues to bring hope to those who need it the most,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement. “I am grateful to those who volunteered and donated this year, many of whom face hardships of their own due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the spirit of the holiday season, and this is the spirit of New York.”A number of state agencies and organizations collected new unwrapped toys, coats and school supplies that were provided by businesses and individuals and either mailed in or brought to drop-off locations across the state.Walmart provided a donation of $15,000, which purchased 1,211 toys which are being distributed across the state.Volunteers from the China General Chamber of Commerce also participated in collecting 420 toys for New Yorkers – the third year in a row that the group has participated. Share:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Cattle Consuming Cotton

first_img“With the market situation and low calf prices, we’re looking for ways to cut ourproduction costs,” said Robert Stewart, an animal scientist with the University ofGeorgia Extension Service. “It’s good feed for them,” he said. “And it comes in at a time when the pastures aregoing out and before we have winter grazing. So the timing is excellent.” “There are some economic benefits to using these crop residues,” he said. “Theprimary benefit is to lower production costs by using feeds that otherwise may not beavailable.” If a farmer gets 30 days’ grazing (in a harvested cotton field), Stewart said, he mayrealize $20, and maybe as much as $30, savings per cow. “Once the cotton is picked, there is quite a bit of residue out there,” he said. “The lintand cottonseed that’s left, as well as a lot of the grass around the field edges, makepretty good cattle feed for this time of year.” Stewart tells farmers to use common sense when putting cows into cotton fields. Thecows need access to a free-choice mineral block, he said. And to know when they’veeaten all the good leftovers, just put a round bale of hay in the field. Many Georgia cattle farmers are choosing to keep their cows until they will bring moremoney at the market. Keeping cows costs about 50 cents to 70 cents per day for each. “One of the practices we recommend,” he said, “is to take advantage of crop residues.”Cotton fields, in particular, provide low-cost feed for beef cattle. Field residue provides about the same nutrition as low- to medium-quality hay, Stewartsaid. So it does more than just fill their stomachs. It provides enough nutrition for evenpregnant cows expected to calve later this winter. Beef prices are just coming out of an 18-year low, Stewart said. Because of that,farmers must manage costs carefully to keep making a profit. That includes usingalternative feed sources. Stewart tells cattle farmers to make sure the cotton field is fenced to keep cows wherethey belong. The cows also need a good supply of fresh water, he said. One acre of residue provides enough feed for one cow to graze for two to four weeks. Wilcox County farmer Don Wood put his cows into harvested cotton fields around themiddle of December. They aren’t calico cows, and it’s not cotton candy. But many Georgia cattle are grazingcotton fields, quietly munching leftovers. “When they eat up the hay,” he said, “it’s time to move them into another field.”last_img read more

Snake calls

first_imgBy Willie ChanceUniversity of GeorgiaSomeone recently came by my office and brought a harmless mud snake for me to see. I thought I would show the secretaries the snake, too. Big mistake!University of Georgia Cooperative Extension county agents seem to get a lot of snake calls in the late summer and fall. What can be done to prevent snake problems?First, be more watchful this time of year. Snakes usually avoid people. Don’t do things to corner them or put them in a defensive mode. Take care walking in the woods or tall brush. In dry weather, snakes also have to find water. Be careful working in areas around water.Put out the unwelcome mat for snakes. Snakes need food, water and cover to live. Clean up brush and trash piles, mow tall grass and weeds and remove things snakes hide under. Clean up clutter in yards, open garages, on porches and in open storage buildings. Remove shrubs and other things close to the ground. This is especially important around buildings. Snakes like damp, cool and dark spots. Look for and change these sites if you can.Leave snakes alone! Many people are bitten trying to catch or kill a snake. Know your venomous snakes. There are only a few in Georgia. If it isn’t a venomous snake, then you have much less to worry about. For information on how to identify snakes, see the UGA Savannah River Ecology Lab’s Herpetology Web site at www.uga.edu/srelherp/.If you can identify the snake you can determine what it’s eating. This may tell you what attracted it to the area. If possible, do not let pet or bird food sit out. This attracts rodents, which in turn attract snakes. Clean food storage areas regularly and keep food and trash sealed.Insects attract some snakes. Identify the insects that snakes eat and control them. Frogs and lizards are another food sources. Controlling moisture will reduce frogs. With less food sources available, perhaps the snakes will leave.Snake repellents have been shown to be unreliable. Even if they work, they must be reapplied regularly.Some snakes are climbers and will crawl into houses. The shed skins of these snakes are sometimes found in attics. To prevent snakes from entering your home, seal holes around and under the house. Fall is a good time to exclude snakes since they may be looking for warmer temperatures or a place to spend the winter.Despite your efforts, if a venomous snake gets inside your home, seek professional help. The most likely venomous snake I would expect around homes would be the copperhead. This does not rule out finding one of the other venomous snakes near a house. (Moccasins may be found around wet areas.)To remove a nonvenomous snake, pile damp towels or burlap in the area where the snake was seen. This will attract the snake. Then remove the snake and take it far from the house for release. You may also trap a snake on a glue board available at hardware and other stores. Once you catch the snake, take the snake and board far from the home and pour vegetable oil on the snake and trap. The oil should counteract the glue and allow the snake to eventually escape.Several companies remove wildlife for a fee. They can evict wildlife house guests and take measures to prevent them from returning.Evicting unwanted guests requires hard work and perseverance. However it is important for your family’s health and safety. For more information on how to responsibly handle wildlife damage problems, see The Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management Web site at http://wildlifedamage.unl.edu/.last_img read more

The Goods: Yakima Hold Up Bike Carrier Review

first_imgA few months into using the Yakima Hold Up, I am left wondering why everyone is not using this bike rack. Rarely do I feel this confident that a product outshines its competition to the degree that the Hold Up does. The rear mounted bike rack can be installed in less than five minutes. It literally takes longer to read the directions than it does to mount the rack onto a hitch.Once in place, it securely transports two 29er mountain bikes or 700 cc road or cross bikes. Having utilized roof racks in the past, which result in tired arms and frustrations after a long ride, not to mention the ever present danger that you just might drive into the garage forgetting your bikes are up top, I find the Hold Up to be the perfect solution. It also outperforms other rear mounting racks that function by suspending bikes by the top tube. In my experience, that style of bike rack allows the bikes to bang together and can also result in worn out bearings if the wheels are not secured for long trips.Perhaps the best feature of the Hold Up is the mindless simplicity it lends to bike loading, unloading and transport. The rear tray sports a cradle for the back tire with an adjustable security strap. The front wheel of the bike is secured in its tray with a moveable arm that locks in place over the front of the tire. The front arm also has a built-in cable lock to allow you to secure your bikes if you decide to stop by your favorite watering hole or brewery post-ride. An additional feature for SUV’s and minvans is the easy to use built-in pivot system of the rack. Even fully loaded, the rack can be easily lowered to allow you to access the cargo area of a minivan or SUV. The rack can then be raised back up once you are finished loading or unloading your bike accessories. If you are still not convinced that the Hold Up is the best bike rack on the market, did I mention it sports a bottle opener? That’s right, pop a top on a cold one while you watch your poor riding companions struggle to load their bikes on top of their car long after you’ve loaded up your ride on the Hold Up.MSRP $439.00 (Extension for 2 more bikes $329.00); yakima.comlast_img read more

‘Adopt a Senior’ Facebook group brings local high school seniors a new memory

first_img“They’re in a little bit of a dark place and they’re trying to figure out where is the light? Is there light? So this has brought a little bit of light to them,” said Shelly. Arianne De’Angelo and her mother Shelly LoGerfo are giving back to the community with a Facebook group called “Adopt a Senior,” which unites high school seniors with sponsors who can provide an act of kindness. “Like” Nicole Menner on Facebook and “Follow” her on Twitter. The group was created over the weekend, and already has over 1,400 members. Shelly said “we wanted to make an unforgettable moment they were supposed to have, even more unforgettable, and it blew up,” with Arianne adding the highlight of the group has been seeing it rapidly grow. SHERBURNE (WBNG) — While local seniors deal with the news they won’t be able to return to school to finish out their high school careers, one mother-daughter duo came up with a way to spread some cheer. Arianne said every senior on the page has been adopted at least once, and there has been a ton of positive reaction from parents and seniors in the community. The adoption process is simple. A parent or senior posts their bio in the group, and a sponsor can choose to “adopt” any given senior. The sponsor will then message the senior, and send a gift or sentiment to brighten their day. last_img read more

NZ’s Ardern, ministers take 20% pay cut for six months due to coronavirus impact

first_img“This is where we can take action and that is why we have,” Ardern said in a news conference announcing the decision.”We acknowledge New Zealanders who are reliant on wage subsides, taking a pay cut, and losing their jobs as a result of the global pandemic,” she added.New Zealand on Wednesday recorded 20 new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases to 1,386. It has recorded nine deaths so far.The government is expected to decide next week whether it will extend its current “Level 4″ shutdown. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, ministers in her government and public service chief executives will take a 20% pay cut for the next six months amid the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.New Zealand’s offices, schools and non-essential services have been closed for the last three weeks, and economic activity is at a standstill as the country undertakes one of the strictest lockdowns globally.The government has forecast joblessness to surge because of the global and domestic slowdown. In a speech to New Zealand’s business community earlier in the day, the finance minister said that if the government decided to ease restrictions, the emphasis would be to permit economic activity that is safe.Grant Robertson also said the annual budget, to be announced on May 14, would focus on recovery.”It will include funding for the cost pressures that are necessary part of keeping our country ticking over. But we will devote much of our resources to kick starting this recovery,” Robertson said in his speech streamed to business leaders. center_img Topics :last_img read more

New Estonian pension provider crowdfunding start-up capital

first_imgBy Tuleva’s reckoning, the management company, once established, will be sustainable once 3,000 members join and transfer their existing second pillar savings.The mandatory second pillar currently has close to 685,870 member and €2.7bn of assets.As of 23 August the association was half way past its target, with €1.53m of capital collected since the end of April, and a membership of 1,700 acquired entirely by social media and word-of-mouth.Members pay an up-front fee of €100 and pledge to bring in their second-pillar savings.The first 3,000 members can also make an additional voluntary contribution of between €1,000 and €10,000 to the start-up capital, fully returnable if the fund management company is not established by the end of next July, in return for a higher profit share.According to Pekk, a former chief executive of GA Fund Management who has also worked for PwC and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 0.05% of the Tuleva’s AUM will be distributed among the members according to the size of their pension account in Tuleva funds, while the rest of the profit – both from the business as well as investment income of the start-up capital – will be distributed among all members according to their contribution to start-up capital.In addition to the novel ownership structure, Tuleva intends to charge lower management fees, a contentious issue in the Estonian pensions market. According to Pekk, management fees currently average 1.26%, while the total expenses ratio is some 1.5-2%.Tuleva will initially charge a management fee of 0.5%, reducing this when the membership increases.It intends to achieve the lower costs through a fully passive investment strategy – 75% invested in the MSCI All Country World Index and 25% in the Barclay Capital Global Aggregate Index – using mostly BlackRock as its provider.Pekk told IPE that Tuleva hopes to have the necessary documentation ready by September and the finances in place by the end of October, with the pension fund launching next year pending regulatory approval.Estonia’s finance ministry, meanwhile, which itself called for greater competition and fee transparency, is incorporating two of Tuleva’s proposals into forthcoming amendments to financial legislation.The current exit fee for pension fund members switching providers is to fall from 1% of assets to 0.1%, while the minimum share capital will be cut to €1m.Tuleva is not alone in turning to passive investment to cut fees.This week LHV announced that it plans to launch two new passive index funds – a second-pillar fund 75% invested in equities, and a third pillar one fully invested in equities –  each of which will charge a management fee of 0.39%.LHV plans to receive the regulatory go-ahead for its new offerings later this year. Estonia’s shrinking pension fund landscape may soon have a new player, operating on a profit-sharing cooperative model.Tuleva, started up by 22 prominent Estonian financial and business individuals, has been established as a commercial organisation, a collective of members with similar interests, with each member holding one vote, in contrast to the four existing bank-owned market players.“The market for the second pillar fund system is uncompetitive, and returns since its launch in 2002 have been poor,” Tuleva board member Tõnu Pekk told IPE.The association is building up capital to set up a second-pillar pension fund management company, which under current Estonian law needs a minimum capital of €3m, as well as funds to finance costs such as regulatory, legal and depositary expenses.last_img read more