Can Giants, Bryce Harper agree on a contract that makes sense for both sides?

first_imgSCOTTSDALE, Ariz.–At the beginning of the week, the home clubhouse at Scottsdale Stadium had about a half dozen empty lockers.Slowly but surely, the Giants have added to their roster, requiring clubhouse attendants to fill out nameplates for the new signees. On Sunday, nearly all the vacant lockers will be filled as position players report to camp.Bryce Harper, a 26-year-old free agent and one of the game’s biggest stars, won’t be among them.At the beginning of February, a Giants contingent …last_img read more

Brain Synapse Machinery Is Finely Tuned

first_imgThe New York Times published a brief article on brain facts that is astonishing, when you think about all that goes on in thinking.  Nicholas Wade reported on a new inventory of the proteins involved in the synapses, the key junctions between neurons.  The research team, led by Seth Grant of the Sanger Institute near Cambridge, England, compiled the first exact inventory of all the protein components of the synaptic information-processing machinery.  No fewer than 1,461 proteins are involved in this biological machinery, they report in the current issue of Nature Neuroscience….    Each neuron in the human brain makes an average 1,000 or so connections with other neurons.  There are 100 billion neurons, so the brain probably contains 100 trillion synapses, its most critical working part.    At the side of a synapse that belongs to the transmitting neuron, an electrical signal arrives and releases packets of chemicals.  The chemicals diffuse quickly across the minute gap between the neurons and dock with receptors on the surface of the receiving neuron.    These receptors feed the signals they receive to a delicate complex of protein-based machines that process and store the information.    The 1,461 genes that specify these synaptic proteins constitute more than 7 percent of the human genome’s 20,000 protein-coding genes, an indication of the synapse’s complexity and importance.    Dr. Grant believes that the proteins are probably linked together to form several biological machines that process the information and change the physical properties of the neuron as a way of laying down a memory.Lest one think there is a lot of leeway in the system for evolution, the article went on to describe what mutations do.  Single mutations in 169 genes, the Sanger team found, cause 269 different human diseases.  “The tolerances of these machines seem to be very fine because almost any mutation in the underlying genes leads to a misshapen protein and, consequently, to disease,” the article said.  Science Daily reported that a single gene deletion leads to the most common form of adult brain cancer.    See also the 11/19/2010 entry on brain-boggling facts.Are you thinking that Darwin doesn’t have a prayer explaining this?  Look: machines made of other machines, information processing, fantastic complexity, very fine tolerance.  If you are thinking rightly, you will be thanking the Maker of your designed brain.    This is the 700th “Amazing Facts” entry in Creation-Evolution Headlines brought to you in over 10 years of reporting.  Putting all of them together would make a sizeable book.  If you appreciate this amazing information made available here for free, consider supporting our site with a year-end donation.  Click the Donate button on the right-hand column.(Visited 14 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Intolerance Grows for Skeptics of Consensus Science in Spite of Data

first_img(Visited 22 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0 If you question evolution or man-caused global warming, be prepared for a smear.  If you are a Christian, be prepared for hate.  But the skeptics may have the facts on their side.Bill Nye was at it again (see 8/26/2012), smearing creationists on MSNBC.com, arguing (again) that U.S. science is threatened by those who don’t embrace evolution.  He targeted Bible-believing Christians in particular.  According to AP reporter Dylan Lovan, “The man known to a generation of Americans as ‘The Science Guy’ is condemning efforts by some Christian groups to cast doubts on evolution and lawmakers who want to bring the Bible into science classrooms.”  No examples were cited: only the vague fear that “Nye, 56, also decried efforts in recent years by lawmakers and school boards in some states to present Bible stories as an alternative to evolution in public schools.”   Aside from the fact that academic freedom laws try to allow scientific criticisms of Darwin in science class, not the Bible, the article refers to Christian as believers in the Genesis account, ignoring the fact that many Jews and Muslims do also.  While strongly urging Christians to “question your beliefs,” Bill Nye appears unready to question his own.  In a photo, Nye is shown shaking hands with President Obama.  Some of the comments after the article are filled with unmitigated vitriol against creationists.Live Science took aim at Fox News, a cable TV news service that advertises itself as “fair and balanced” because (unlike its competitors) it presents both conservative and liberal viewpoints.  The headline shouts, “Fox News Climate Coverage 93% Wrong, Report Finds.”  The evidence cited by reporter Stephanie Pappas, though, consisted of little more than circular reasoning: “The researchers found that Fox News and the Journal were consistently dismissive of the established scientific consensus that climate change is happening and that human activities are the main driver.”  This is akin to a syllogism: “a. Everybody who is somebody agrees with me.  b. You don’t agree with me.  c.  You are not somebody.”  Ignoring specifics, Pappas referrred to “established science— in this case, the overwhelming body of evidence that human-caused climate change is occurring.”A look at the literature, though, fails to establish it as established science.  As seen in leading journals, scientists – even though they agree with the consensus – are often the very ones pointing out flaws in their models and doubts about the sweeping conclusions.Recently, for instance, the Editors of Nature (19 Sept 2012) warned, “Better models are needed before exceptional events can be reliably linked to global warming.”  Tying visible effects to the theory require “enormous research effort,” they said, considering the political and economic fallout that may ensue from claims that particular events or threats (“event attribution”) are of man’s doing.  At a recent workshop, “some speakers questioned whether event attribution was possible at all.”   Here’s how indecisive the evidence is: “One critic argued that, given the insufficient observational data and the coarse and mathematically far-from-perfect climate models used to generate attribution claims, they are unjustifiably speculative, basically unverifiable and better not made at all,” they said.  “And even if event attribution were reliable, another speaker added, the notion that it is useful for any section of society is unproven.”  How does that jive with the certainty Stephanie Pappas exhibited?  The editors of Nature, certainly a pro-warming fountainhead, had more subdued advice: “when communicating their results, scientists must be open about shortcomings in the models used.”  The editorial generated some lively comments.Just a week earlier, in a letter to Nature Sept 13, two scientists (who agree with the consensus) noted causes for public skepticism of the climate alarmists.  “The public-image problem of current models stems partly from scientists’ failures to identify the limitations openly,” they said, suggesting that the public is often given bold pronouncements without proper scientific caution.  “It is important to distinguish between questions for which current models are useful as prediction engines and those for which the models merely probe possibilities. The role of science is to reflect on the plausibility and relevance of such possibilities.”  Memories of fraud seem to have faded into the background.It’s not even clear that warming is bad.  “Rather than kicking off the expected cycles of extinction, periods of warming in Earth’s history were accompanied by increased biodiversity, according to a report published this week,” Nature News wrote.  The article hedged its bets that human-caused warming could be worse.  Such reports of significant past warming, though, such as the inference about climate from the redwoods in northern Canada kimberlite (9/19/2012) make it difficult for skeptics to get worked up about what is going on now.  The researcher was actually surprised by what he found: “given that climate change is generally viewed as disruptive, Mayhew admits it was a ‘big surprise” to find that eras of warming were accompanied by increases in biodiversity.’”  His out was to say that the current warming is happening too fast for nature to cope.  By the time that can be proven, however, we will all be dead from old age.In another example of surprise, researchers studied the effects of global warming on migrating cormorants (Gienapp and Bregnballe, “Fitness Consequences of Timing of Migration and Breeding in Cormorants,” PLoS ONE 7(9): e46165. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046165).  They didn’t find what they expected. They thought the birds would be disrupted by the climate shifts, but “the increasing selection pressure on timing seems to be unrelated to climate change as the climatic variables that were related to selection strength did not increase during the study period.”  They tossed the ball to previous papers in footnotes to allege that climate change has disrupted other organisms, but they did not find disruption in their own work.Researchers using a submarine in the North Sea expected to find methane reservoirs locked in ice to be coming loose as the climate warms, unleashing more of the  greenhouse gas that is more potent than CO2.  What they found, Science Daily reported, was that the submarine vents have been spewing out methane for centuries, long before the industrial revolution.  “[T]he fear,” therefore, “that the gas emanation is a consequence of the current rising sea temperature does not seem to apply.… the observed gas emanations are probably not caused by human influence.”Beneath the permafrost of Bylot Island in Canada’s arctic, dead leaves,  tree trunks and pollen tell of a time when a diverse forest thrived there, filled with willow, pine and spruce.  Can a frozen forest rise again?  Live Science reporter Jeanna Brynner investigated this fossil forest, said to be 2.6 to 3 million years old.  The actual wood is preserved, bearing tribute to a much warmer and pleasant past – a surprise, considering how the trees would have had to live in a land of the midnight sun and months of darkness.   Certainly man was not to blame for a significant climate shift.  And that’s not all: even farther north, “Fossil forests of a similar age have also been found on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic, where so-called ‘mummy trees’ were uncovered in the wake of a melting glacier.”  (See 3/17/2011.)What exactly, then, are pro-consensus advocates worried about?  Biblical creationists deny these fossil forests are millions of years old, a seemingly more reasonable interpretation of the evidence.  Darwin skeptics at school boards are not trying to insert religious texts into the science classroom; they generally want to get the lies and distortions about Darwin evolution corrected in textbooks, and mitigate the scare tactics in presentations of global warming.  Meanwhile, the U.S. remains the scientific leader in the world despite millions of his creationist bogeymen.  What precisely is Bill Nye worried about?By all accounts, the hard-core warmist alarmists and Darwin bulldogs are far left in their politics (8/22/2012, 7/26/2012) .  It’s just like leftists to divide people into us-vs-them and use fear and hate to denounce their critics.  It’s just like them to use glittering generalities to advance their view, and associate themselves with “science” (a.k.a. scientism), while sidestepping the uncooperative facts that undermine their position.  They don’t want a reasoned discussion; they want power.  Once you understand their propaganda tactics and how to refute them, your timidity will subside.  Then, learn how to use evidence and logic to put the proud boasters in their place.Project:  Encourage Bill Nye to take his message to Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Syria.last_img read more

Southern Africa is running dry

first_imgForty one million people in the SADC region of Africa are in need of humanitarian food aid. The worst drought in 35 years is a result of a changing climate and Africa will need to adapt to this new normal. Africa needs to start planning for a world where extreme weather is the new normal. (Image: World Vision)Sulaiman PhilipAcross the Southern African Development Community (SADC) fields are barren, rivers have long dried up and livestock is left neglected and bedraggled as the territory suffers the worst drought in the last 35 years.Four SADC states – Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland and Zimbabwe – have declared national emergencies. Mozambique has declared a 90-day red alert in some areas. Seven of South Africa’s nine provinces are drought disaster areas. According to a recently released SADC report, Vulnerability Assessment Results, 2.7 million children are suffering from acute malnutrition; 41 million people face food insecurity and of those, 21 million people need immediate assistance.In June, Botswana’s president and SADC chairperson, Ian Khama, called on the international community to provide humanitarian aid. At the beginning of August he will begin the formal process of declaring the region a disaster area.The designation as a disaster zone unlocks substantial humanitarian aid and funding from the international community. This shock funding allows governments to pay for disaster relief without tapping into national reserves or borrowing.In a statement released by SADC he said that the 2016 harvest would not feed the region and 23 million people faced imminent starvation. Khama will appeal for $2.7-billion (R38-billion) worth of humanitarian and drought relief, and to help strengthen the region’s safety net.“The appeal will be a formal request to the international community to provide assistance to affected member states,” he said. “The severe drought conditions have already taken [their] toll on lives and livelihoods and the situation could deteriorate further if urgent assistance is not provided.”Drought effectsIn 2015, South Africa – traditionally the bread basket of the region – received the lowest rainfall since records began in 1904. It has been a century since South Africa’s pastures have been this dry. In Malawi half of all children under five are malnourished and President Peter Mutharika has declared a national disaster.Despite the drought, South Africa produces more grain than it did two decades ago but harvests are half of what they were two years ago. The last harvest was 9.9 million tons, this year it is expected to be even lower, with just 7.4 million tons available.Maize, the staple food of the region, is now so expensive it is a luxury. The region has also depleted its stockpile of grain reserves. For landlocked countries such as Zimbabwe and Malawi, food costs will double as a result of transport costs from ports in South Africa and Mozambique.In villages in Zimbabwe’s Chivi District and the Neno District in Malawi families are resorting to desperate measures to fill their empty stomachs. A story in Britain’s The Guardian newspaper highlighted the plight of Chidyamakondo High School in southern Zimbabwe. For three years the schools girls’ football team have been national champions. Now Morrison Musorowegomo, the school’s head teacher, told the newspaper’s correspondent: “Students are fainting, struggling to concentrate in lessons, dropping out of school… We’re having to shorten our assemblies and cut back on sport.”Students are also dropping out of school to help families scavenge for food. Even more heart-breaking for Musorowegomo, his students are vulnerable enough to be coerced into exchanging sex for food or cash.Food is a human rights issue, says Malawi’s deputy director for school health and nutrition, Virginia Kachigunda. “We are really at a point where we need support. This is a situation which will eventually recycle poverty in these families. It’s a serious problem.”Climate changeAfrica faces challenges caused by the changing global climate. The environment of SADC is especially fragile and is being affected by higher land and ocean temperatures. In coming decades these changes will alter the weather and will affect when the rainfall season begins; in turn, this will change the agricultural cycle.Historically there was one regional drought every decade, then every five years. The cycle has now sped up and SADC countries are affected every three to five years. Mary Robinson, UN special envoy on El Niño and climate, says El Niño affected by climate change is the new normal. She believes that humanitarian disasters will get worse as the climate changes.Aid workers say that the response should be built on longer term planning. World Vision’s Beatrice Mwangi says this latest drought has shown the need to help affected communities plan for the new reality. Communities need food aid, she adds, but more importantly they need help adapting to the changing climate.The leaders of SADC countries understand that economic development will be hamstrung by more frequent floods, droughts and cyclones. They understand that climate change will damage agricultural infrastructure and that they need to adapt to preserve the progress the region has made. SADC has signed commitments with the World Food Programme that recognise adapting to climate change is an area of co-operation.The African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (Amcen) has developed a framework for the region to deal with the challenges it could face. The aim, it says in the report, is “to unlock resources for promoting strategic interventions that sustain productivity and livelihood improvements for millions of climate-vulnerable people in the region”.last_img read more

Summer Davos yields positive outcomes

first_imgBrand South Africa chief executive, Miller Matola, said that health and education needs to be improved if the country is to be globally competitive.(Image: Shamin Chibba) Executive chairman of J&J Group, Jayendra Naidoo, said South Africa’s competitiveness will improve if local businesspeople stopped pondering too much and made decisions quicker.(Image: Lucille Davie)MEDIA CONTACTS • Brand South Africa +27 11 483 0122RELATED ARTICLES• African integration on Brics agenda• Obama African trip: a trade boost• Gordhan: we can do better• Country brings in offshoring businessLucille Davie and Shamin ChibbaNineteen South African delegates who attended the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) 7th Annual New Champions Meeting returned with optimism for the country’s economic future as the event yielded a number of positive outcomes.Held between 11-13 September in Dalian, China, the event provided delegates the opportunity to network with government leaders, business representatives, and civil society, and to position South Africa as a competitive, developed economy that offers investors good returns on investment.The meeting, otherwise known as the Summer Davos, is the most important global business gathering in Asia. It brings together leaders from top multinational companies as well as key decision-makers from government, media, academia and civil society.More than 1 500 participants from 90 countries shared strategies and solutions, and discussed global issues ranging from climate change to labour policy. The New Champion communities – including Global Growth Companies, Young Global Leaders, Young Scientists, Technology Pioneers, Social Entrepreneurs and the World Economic Forum’s youngest community, the Global Shapers – engaged with the WEF members and partners.Jayendra Naidoo, executive chairman of J&J Group, an investment holding and management company, attended the meeting. He said: “It is a stimulating environment, with lots of cutting edge thinking. It is a blend of subject matter experts, talented leaders from all over the world, and excellent business leaders. It makes you feel optimistic about the world, recession or not – there are so many people doing lots of interesting things.”This meeting follows the WEF’s release of the Global Competitiveness Report 2013-2014, which assesses the competitiveness of 148 economies, giving insight into their productivity and prosperity. China opening its economyAccording to Brand South Africa chief executive, Miller Matola, who was one of the delegates, the most positive outcome was China’s announcement of their plan to open up their economy to the world, improve the environment of doing business and introduce some regulatory reforms, which would bode well for South Africa. “We would have to look at the specifics of those reforms to see what opportunities there are for us.”Naidoo was hopeful that foreign investment in South Africa will improve in coming years. He added that the country has become more of an “investment launch pad” in the last five years, especially when it comes to trade with China. “Chinese companies seem to have identified South Africa as a good place to do business, and are setting up offices here.”Naidoo’s claims are not unfounded. According to a Mail & Guardian report in June this year, South Africa is China’s biggest African trade partner. It also stated that China is the primary destination for South African exports with total foreign trade reaching $45-billion (about R443-billion). The report added that China imports approximately 12.7% of South Africa’s total exported goods and services, while Chinese goods and services make up 14.3% of South Africa’s total imports.Earlier in September, South Africa’s top 10 value-added products and services for export to China, as well as the country’s top 10 investment areas that includes agro-processing, chemicals, and automotive steel and aluminium, were showcased at the Beijing Exhibition Centre. The event was the last of three South African expositions, the first of which was held in Xiamen, followed by one in Shanghai. According to deputy trade and industry minister, Elizabeth Thabethe, the expos were South Africa’s attempt to foster a more balanced and sustainable trade relationship with China.SA’s competitiveness can be improvedAccording to the WEF’s 2013-2014 Global Competitiveness Report, South Africa dropped by just one position on the Global Competitiveness Index, coming out 53rd out of 148 countries. However, the index showed it has improved in four of the 12 pillars – institutions (41), goods and market efficiency (28), business sophistication (35) and innovation (39). It is the leader in five criteria including strength of auditing and reporting standards, efficacy of corporate boards, protection of minority shareholders’ interests, regulation of securities exchanges, and the legal rights index.South Africa also made progress on the innovation pillar, improving by three positions to 39 this year. It is hoped this will be harnessed to drive the National Development Plan as the country’s blueprint for economic and social development by 2030.But despite these positive statistics, Naidoo said the country is not always as competitive as it should be, mainly because it is not as fast at taking up opportunities. Instead South Africans ponder things too much and take too long to make decisions, he added. “The Chinese have a saying: ‘First do, then do better’. We do it right before we do.” Health and education Matola said that to be more competitive, South Africa would need to focus on further improving innovation and entrepreneurship. “In the panel they agreed that skills and education need to be sorted out and we need to get innovation and productivity up. We also thought that we need to focus on entrepreneurship at a very early age.”He also noted that to attract investors to the country, the health sector needs mending as businesspeople look for a healthy workforce. Matola referred to the United Nations Human Development Index for positive signs of a health sector on the mend. He said the country   improved upon its infant mortality rate and had significantly reduced the number of mother to child transmission of HIV/Aids.Matola also touched on education’s role in South Africa’s competitiveness, saying that vocational education programmes, particularly further education and training (FET) colleges, are critical for the economy to move forward. He said government had spent R20-billion for further education and training colleges last year. “There is a very serious move from the [higher education and training] minister Blade Nzimande to make vocational training attractive for students.”He said plans are in place to develop more FET colleges that can enrol as many as 250 000 students. “Inequality will be reduced through improving our education.”AfricaWhile Naidoo believed South Africa needs to improve its global competitiveness, he admitted that within Africa, the country has a competitive advantage. Naidoo said South Africa has made huge investments across the continent in the last two years. “South African companies are starting to get much better in Africa. This is our strong competitive advantage. We are a formidable player in Africa.”Matola agreed, saying that South African companies had realised the continent’s value years before the rest of the world did and are therefore leading the way when it comes to investment in Africa.Innovation and entrepreneurship opportunities in Africa formed a large part of the discussions at the meeting, which Matola said was an indication of the continent’s importance in the global economy. “There is a huge focus on the continent. There is a strong realisation that Africa is the growth fountain.”last_img read more

First time voters in South Africa speak out

first_imgShe was motivated to register to vote in the upcoming local elections because she hoped South Africa would be a better country than it was today, said 19-year-old Sisipho Luyanda Stuurman from King William’s Town in Eastern Cape. She will be voting for the first time.“It is important to vote because if you vote, you will be involved in the development of your country and voicing your choices,” she said.Stuurman is studying tourism and events management at the Central University of Technology in Free State.While she said services in her home town were efficiently delivered, she felt service delivery in the country needed improvement. “South Africa’s service delivery needs to be worked on because people with disadvantaged backgrounds are supposed to be taken care of, and not only be thought of once elections are around the corner.”Magauta Ntsoeu from Welkom in Free State said those who were proudly South Africans should vote. “Voting isa way to speak your mind and let your voice be heard,” she said. “I am going to vote so that I effect change. That’s what motivated me to register.”She said the municipality in her area provided efficient services. “Spending money on education and providing jobs for those who are unemployed, as well as improving infrastructure, I think our government is playing an important role in our lives,” she said.According to the Independent Electoral Commission, about 48% of all registered voters are under 40 years old.By age, +- 48% of all voters on #2016MunicipalElections voters’ roll are under 40 years of age (12.7 million). pic.twitter.com/D4XtKwf9ux— IEC South Africa (@IECSouthAfrica) June 2, 2016 Source: South African Government News Agencylast_img read more

Missing boys remains found along North Saskatchewan riverbank near Melfort

first_imgThe Canadian PressMELFORT, Sask. – Police say they have found the remains of a little boy who disappeared in Prince Albert, Sask., in the spring.Sweetgrass Kennedy was last seen on May 10 and Prince Albert police had said evidence suggested the four-year-old fell into the North Saskatchewan River.Hundreds of volunteers looked for the boy in the community at the time, covering 160 kilometres of riverbank.His body was found Saturday after Melfort RCMP received a report of human remains along the North Saskatchewan riverbank near James Smith Cree Nation.Evidence at the scene was sent to Saskatoon for examination by a forensic pathologist and forensic anthropologist.Police say the coroner confirmed the boy’s identity.news@aptn.calast_img read more