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Championship lottery opens to students

first_imgThe Notre Dame Athletic Ticket Office sent an email to the student body Sunday night detailing the process for entering the ticket lottery for the Notre Dame vs. Alabama BCS National Championship Bowl Game in Miami, Fla., scheduled for Jan. 7. 2,500 tickets will be randomly allocated to eligible full-time undergraduate, graduate and professional students at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College, according to the webpage linked in the email. Students may enter the ticket lottery for a single ticket and must pay the $150 student price as well as a $20 service fee upon entry. Unsuccessful applicants will be reimbursed the ticket price but will not be refunded the service fee. This student ticket rate comes at a steep discount to regular tickets with a face value of $300. The email attributed the lowered price to an anonymous donation. “Due to the overwhelming generosity of a concerned alumnus, student tickets for the BCS Championship will be half-price, $150 each,” the email stated. Unlike other away game student ticket lotteries, tickets will only be redeemable by the winning students and may not be used by others, including other Notre Dame or Saint Mary’s students. “Tickets are non-transferrable and may only be used by the winning student,” the email stated. “The winning student must present their valid ND/SMC student ID at the pickup location beginning approximately 36 hours prior to kickoff.” There is no grouping process available and seating will be assigned at random. Unlike the faculty and alumni lotteries, there is no weighting in the student lottery and all entrants stand an equal chance of attaining tickets.last_img read more

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Tomato Size Regulator

first_imgEver wonder how that slice of tomato on your summer BLT got to be so perfectly bread sized?Geneticists at the University of Georgia have found the gene variants that control a tomato’s size. They published their findings recently in the open-access journal PLOS Genetics.  Professor Esther van der Knaap — who has spent much of her career working to understand the genetic shifts that have occurred between ancestral, wild tomato varieties and modern, cultivated tomatoes — has helped to pinpoint another gene that regulates the size of the tomato’s individual cells, which in turn helps to regulate the size of the overall fruit.“The knowledge of the gene will now open up avenues of research into how fruit size can be increased further without negatively impacting other important qualities such as disease resistance and flavor,” said van der Knaap, a professor in the department of horticulture and the Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics at UGA.When humans first began cultivating the wild tomato in the Andean mountain regions of Ecuador and Northern Peru, they continually selected plants that produced larger fruits.Now, thousands of years later, tomatoes on the market can weigh 1,000 times more than the fruits of their ancestors. Van der Knaap and her research team investigated a gene they named Cell Size Regulator, or CSR, that boosts fruit weight by increasing the size of the individual cells in the fleshy part of the tomato.Compared to wild tomatoes, domesticated varieties carry a mutation in the CSR gene that affects the way tomato cells develop before they ripen and fall off the plant. The variation originated in the cherry tomato but now appears in all large cultivated tomato varieties.The new study expands on previous research that had identified the location of CSR at the bottom of chromosome 11 as only a small genetic contributor to tomato weight.The transformation of the tiny, berry-like fruit of wild tomatoes into the beefsteaks or Roma tomatoes grown by farmers today involved the development of a new mutation to support the change in function of the CSR gene. Large fruit required many more mutations in other genes to allow the plant to carry and support its new bounty.“There was slow selection for large fruit by people because, of course, if the tomato fruit grew too big for the plant, it would collapse the plant and that would be a dead-end plant,” said van der Knaap. “If the fruit is too large for the plant then it can only make that one fruit before it collapses. Any farmer would say, ‘That’s no good,’ and toss it out.”It took thousands of years for farmers to breed tomato plants to produce the fruit we know today because they were selecting plants not only for large fruit but also for the structure needed to support the fruit. Van der Knaap and other researchers are still looking for the genes that contributed to the mutations that led to plants that could support larger tomatoes.“For fruit weight, I think we have just scratched the surface — there’s still a lot that we don’t know,” van der Knaap said.Van der Knaap’s team’s journal article in Plos Genetics is available at http://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1006930. Other collaborators are graduate student Qi Mu; postdoctoral scholars Zejun Huang, Manohar Chakrabartiand and Eudald Illa-Berenguer; visiting research scholars Xiaoxi Liuand and Yanping Wang; and graduate student Alexis Ramos.(The staff of PLOS Genetics contributed to this release.)last_img read more

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Micro branch, the next big idea for credit unions?

first_imgWhat makes a financial institution’s branching strategy successful? Many experts point to “more locations and branding.” Agreed; however, what if the target community doesn’t have any suitably sized site options within the desired market? Or, what if there is not a lease space available in this market? This brings up another question as well: What about branch network density? Should a financial institution continue to invest in branch density given the advent of new technologies that may lead to a decreasing need for branches?  On the other hand, what if these new technologies such as digital channels, interactive teller machines (ITMs), and smart ATMs don’t decrease the number of branches, but rather enhance the capability of the branch to better serve consumers? Is it possible the micro branch can be a solution for these facility questions?What is a micro branch? It can be whatever you dream up! As long as it has a small footprint, is heavily branded and uses smart technology. For instance, it can be a shipping container converted into a permanent freestanding branch, equipped with an ATM and a universal banker office. Or it could be a 1,000 to 1,500 square foot freestanding branch equipped with ITMs, ATMs and staffed with a few universal bankers. These imaginative facilities can contribute to branch density through a downsized, refined package while still offering similar services as larger branches. We have the technology; let’s use it!The micro branching movement is putting the spotlight on a new way of thinking about service facilities…Here’s how:Speed to market – Micro branches provide financial institutions the opportunity to enter the market quicker because design and construction durations are much shorter.Cost does matter – Because of the reduced branch size, these facilities require less real estate, and the cost to build and maintain is lower compared to a more conventional cornerstone (hub office) or community branches.Staffing – Micro branches typically have a reduced staff. The staff is focused on services and sales – the high value customer interactions – while technology handles the more mundane transactional activities.Resiliency – Micro branches provide agility in decision making for financial institutions needing to quickly adapt to market changes. For example, a container facility can be converted to a cashless-transaction location, or, possibly due to a shift in market dynamics, the micro branch can be converted to a loan or mortgage facility.Dream big with less – Micro branches give financial institutions opportunity to venture into markets that previously were not considered possible due to lack of site options. For example, in a highly dense retail area where room is snug and will not accommodate a community size branch, a permanent container facility or small pre-fabricated facility may be a quicker and more effective solution for market entry.Deliver the deliverables – Micro branches are outfitted to deliver the intended service solutions for targeted communities. In fact, these facilities give greater flexibility for branching density strategies by providing the financial institution greater access for entry into specific markets of interest.It’s on the menu – Micro branches can have full-service capabilities such as ATMs, ITMs, and even drive-up lanes. And micro facilities can be constructed “your way” with the same high construction quality and architectural brand identity as seen with a traditional branch.The beauty of the micro branch, besides its lower cost, is that it can meet the desired financial needs of a community, creating better opportunity for customer loyalty and satisfaction. Obviously these facilities are targeted for certain market and community conditions to enhance the financial institution’s ability to provide product and service offerings to a community while contributing to branch density. The micro branch is an option that gives financial institutions greater flexibility to enrich its intended branching goals and improve its presence in those communities once thought to be out of reach! 132SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Anargyros Antonopoulos Web: www.level5.com Detailslast_img read more

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Cleaning agents

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Refugees to the rescue? Germany taps migrant medics to battle virus

first_imgFive years ago the arrival of a wave of refugees caused much consternation and fuelled support for Germany’s far-right. Now, the country is turning to its migrant community to plug an anticipated shortage of medical staff battling the coronavirus.The German government says it can double its number of intensive care beds, and even produce more ventilators but a medical staffing crunch is shaping up as the Achilles heel of its strategy to fight the coronavirus.In Saxony, the heartland of the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD), the regional medical board is advertising for migrant doctors to help tackle an expected rise in cases. Topics : But the coronavirus epidemic means medics of all backgrounds are in demand.Saxony’s regional medical board reported on Monday that 300 volunteers had responded to its appeal for help, including “many foreign doctors whose licensing procedures are not yet completed, whose help is very welcome.”As of Tuesday, there were 31,554 cases of coronavirus in Germany, with 149 deaths, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said. The government says Germany is still at the beginning of the epidemic.Shadi Shahda, 29, is one migrant medic ready to help.He came to Germany last April on a visa for highly-qualified job seekers and with three years’ experience as an ENT (ear, nose, throat) medical resident in Syria. But a language exam he needed to take this month to work as a doctor in Saxony was cancelled due to the coronavirus.He jumped at the medical board’s Facebook post and says: “I am waiting for their call … I was very happy when I saw that I could do something in the country where I am living.”center_img “Foreign doctors who are in Saxony but do not yet have a license to practice medicine can help with corona[virus] care,” read a Facebook appeal. The push to tap migrant medics in Saxony comes despite the AfD enjoying a surge in support in a regional election there last year, harnessing voter anger over refugees to come second behind Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives.Merkel’s 2015 decision to open Germany’s borders to some 1 million migrants fleeing war in the Middle East – the defining moment of her chancellorship – was widely criticized by the AfD and even many of her own conservatives.A new film, ‘Merkel – Anatomy of a Crisis’, also takes a critical look at her handling of the refugee influx.last_img read more

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US to spend $625 million on super-computing research centers

first_imgThe US on Wednesday said it will spend $625 million over the next five years on centers to research artificial intelligence and quantum computing.An additional $340 million will be contributed by the private sector and academic institutions, bringing the total planned investment close to $1 billion, according to a release by the Department of Energy.The money will go to establishing a dozen research institutes focused on artificial intelligence and quantum computing, the DOE said. During a presentation at that time, DOE officials issued a report laying out a strategy for the development of a national quantum internet, using laws of quantum mechanics to transmit information more securely than on existing networks.The agency is working with universities and industry researchers with the aim of creating a prototype within a decade.”The foundation of quantum networks rests on our ability to precisely synthesize and manipulate matter at the atomic scale, including the control of single photons,” David Awschalom, a University of Chicago professor and senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, said at the time.Not included in the US announcement Wednesday were Google and Honeywell, which have claimed strides in quantum computing research.US manufacturing and technology group Honeywell earlier this year said it would bring to market “the world’s most powerful quantum computer” aimed at tackling complex scientific and business challenges.The company said it had achieved a breakthrough in quantum computing, which uses subatomic particles to speed up processing.Quantum computing is based on the use of quantum bits or qubits, which can perform trillions of calculations per second and in some cases outperform the fastest traditional supercomputers.The Honeywell announcement came after Google claimed last year to have achieved “quantum supremacy” by developing a machine outperforming the world’s fastest supercomputers.Google said that its Sycamore quantum processor solved a computing problem within 200 seconds which would have taken 10,000 years on a traditional computer.IBM  runs its own quantum computing program. “These institutes will be world-class hubs for accelerating American innovation and building the 21st century American workforce,” said US Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios.The US invests more than $500 million annually in AI research and is building on that effort to “advance American competitiveness,” according to National Science Foundation director Sethuraman Panchanathan.A Google official warned in January that in a technological race to the future, China could pour “enormous resources” into developing super-computers with quantum technology. US officials and scientists in July began laying the groundwork for a more secure “virtually unhackable” internet based on quantum computing technology.center_img Topics :last_img read more

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Real assets, bonds boost performance at Swiss pension fund APK

first_imgIt also argued that the lifting of the euro/Swiss franc peg at the beginning of the year and the introduction of negative interest rates on banks’ deposits by the Swiss Nationalbank (SNB) had made a challenging investment environment even more difficult.“The challenge to generate the necessary interest rate at a justifiable risk level has been further exacerbated,” the fund said.Meanwhile, the CHF2.5bn Schaffhausener Pensionskasse (PKSH) published its first annual report as an independent entity.The Swiss government recently forced cantons to sever ties with their pension vehicles to increase transparency on the financing of retirement provision, and some of these new entities have struggled to achieve full funding.But the PKSH has already reached a 105.8% funding level, boosted by a 10.5% return last year – well above the market average of approximately 7%.At the beginning of the year, the SNB’s surprise move to cut the peg to the euro cost the fund 350 basis points in funding, although strong equity markets helped to make up for the losses by the end of February.In the Pensionskassen’s annual report, Rosmarie Widmer Gysel, chairwoman of the supervisory commission, drew attention to a “much graver” problem than the SNB’s decision.She warned that, “after a fat bond year, we are now looking at many lean years, as bonds have already realised the major part of their performance over the remaining duration in 2014”.Swiss government bonds returned around 9% in the PKSH’s portfolio last year.For 2015, the pension fund wants to continue to sell certain assets from its real estate portfolio in order to exploit the “very good” market environment.Additionally, further purchases “at competitive prices” are to be made.For more on how other Swiss pension funds are reacting to negative interest rates, click here The CHF9.3bn (€8bn) Aargauische Pensionskasse (APK) has reported an “unexpected” return of 5.3% for last year, pushing the funding level further towards 100% after the 97% reported in 2013.In a statement, the fund said it was surprised to see all asset classes, except commodities, make a positive performance contribution over 2014, given the market environment.At the APK, bonds returned almost 8%, making them the third highest performing asset class, just behind infrastructure (10.4%) and equities (12.9%).The pension fund said it was able to “profit from booming equity markets as much as our risk-bearing capacity allowed”.last_img read more

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PensionsEurope defends financial-stability role of pension funds

first_imgPensionsEurope has mounted a robust defence of the role of pension funds in the global financial system in response to claims from asset managers that they pose a risk to international financial stability.The association was responding to the consultation paper from the Financial Stability Board (FSB) on proposed policy recommendations to address structural vulnerabilities for asset management activities.In its paper, the FSB made a number of recommendations to address what it sees as four main ways in which asset managers are structurally vulnerable, with two of the four – liquidity mismatch and leverage – considered the most important.             But a fifth area – which the policy proposals do not address – concerns the potential risks to financial stability that stem from pension funds and sovereign wealth funds. Previously, BlackRock, Vanguard and industry groups had suggested pension funds should not be exempt from being classed as ‘global systemically important financial institutions’ (SIFIs).And the FSB has hinted that pension funds could yet be considered systemically important.But PensionsEurope, in its response to the policy proposals, said: “We agree with the FSB statement that pension funds contribute to the stability of the financial system thanks to their long-term horizon and due to the fact their investment choices are not significantly affected by temporary fluctuations of the markets.”It said some asset managers seemed to “generalise or overestimate” the risk that pension funds could pose to the financial system, in requesting the FSB/IOSCO to also include pension funds in the NBNI-work.And it noted that pension funds – as opposed to asset managers – were subject to extensive regulatory (prudential) oversight, based on the European IORP Directive, and on national regulations.“Controlling the assets does not mean pension funds reallocate assets in a non-prudent manner or are a source of systemic risk,” PensionsEurope said.It added that the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) – in its first European IORP Stress Test Report of 2015 – recognised that IORPs posed no systemic risk.On the contrary, “they are able to mitigate financial shocks and work as a stabilising factor for the financial sector,” PensionsEurope said.In terms of specific investment risks, the industry group dismissed references to “unproved potential for liquidity risk in some types of defined contribution (DC) pension funds”.Apart from a situation where the IORP allows a member to transfer the capital value of the accrued benefit to another IORP or insurance company, it said, “the member cannot withdraw his benefits from the plan – moreover, there is a requirement for the assets of an IORP to be invested predominantly on regulated markets”.And in relation to the use of derivatives by IORPs, PensionsEurope said: “We would like to reiterate that pension funds can only use derivatives to hedge risks and not to speculate – hence, the potential build-up of leverage is limited.”It concluded with a stern warning for regulators.“Regarding the use of less liquid assets, we recommend to authorities to refrain from over-regulating the pension funds sector, as requirements decrease the liquidity in the markets, making them more rigid,” it said.“A more rigid market may prove not to be resilient in times of crisis.”last_img read more

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Largest UK pension scheme names new investment chief

first_imgSimon Pilcher, incoming USS investment chiefBill Galvin, USS group CEO, said: “The CEO role at USS Investment Management is critical to the success of our investment strategy and in ensuring we continue to deliver financial security and flexibility in retirement to our members.“I am delighted to welcome Simon to USS, who not only comes to us with deep expertise of leadership at the highest level in asset management, but also with a firm emphasis on building a strong culture of inclusion as well as a focus on innovation.”Pilcher added: “I am pleased and honoured to be joining USS, the leading pension scheme in the UK. USS has a long history of progressive thinking and an outstanding record of delivering strong risk-adjusted returns.” The majority of USS’s assets are invested in-house on behalf of more than 400,000 members. The scheme recently put forward a range of new options to try to break a deadlock in discussions over the future of the fund, but these were criticised by the trade union for higher education staff. The UK’s pension scheme for the higher education sector has announced the appointment of M&G Prudential’s former head of institutional fixed income as the new chief executive officer of its investment management business.Simon Pilcher will formally join the £64.4bn (€74.4bn) Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) in October, subject to regulatory approval.He will replace Roger Gray, whose intention to retire after a decade as chief investment officer was revealed earlier this year.Pilcher will be joining USS – the UK’s largest defined benefit pension scheme – after more than 30 years in the asset management business. The bulk of this was at Prudential, which he joined in 1998, a year before it acquired M&G Investments. He had previously been at Morgan Grenfell for more than 10 years. At M&G Prudential, Pilcher led the fixed income and alternatives businesses for two decades, adding on the role of chairman of M&G Real Estate early last year. He stepped down from these roles earlier this year in connection with structural changes to pave the way for M&G Prudential’s demerger from its insurer parent.last_img read more

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Greensburg clergyman nominated to national board

first_imgWashington D.C. — Reverend Dr. Michael Layne has been selected to serve on the 2018 National Association of Nonprofit Organizations and Executives, Board of Governors. Layne will help refine, improve and strengthen the second edition of New Guidelines for Tomorrow’s Nonprofit.National Director, Tracy Ebarb, said, “Dr. Michael has joined a working group that will peer-review a new set of capacity-building guidelines rooted in principles of moral agency, stewardship, freedom of speech, freedom of peaceful assembly, ethical practice, and transparency that supercharge charity. Dr. Michael is one of society’s guardians who use their expertise to ensure everyone experiences a life worth living.”Dr. Layne is the senior pastor at the FaithPoints Church, Diocese of East Indiana, Lutheran Orthodox Church.The National Association of Nonprofit Organizations and Executives is the only nationwide membership organization in the country for executives seeking credentials in the art of nonprofit capacity-building. The organization is dedicated to developing new ways to advance the common good.last_img read more