Summer Camp, Day 10! Cher Sings Every Role in West Side Story

first_imgWe’re gonna be honest: Things around the Broadway.com offices have gotten really boring the last few weeks. It’s sweltering, it’s humid, and worst of all, no new Broadway shows open until after Labor Day. But never fear, dear readers, we’ve got a great way to spice up the month of August: Broadway.com Summer Camp! Each day for 31 days, we’re highlighting the campiest, craziest, wildest—and did we mention campiest?—videos we can find. Put on your gaudy bathing suit and dive in! View Comments MOST GIF-ABLE MOMENT WHY WE LOVE IT Um, because Cher singing every part in West Side Story is 12 minutes and 43 seconds of complete, unadulterated bliss, what’s why. Way back in 1978, Cher had a special on ABC that was called Cher…Special. (You know, obviously.) Anyway, it included this gem, and we have so many questions. How long did this take to film? Where did all those costumes and wigs come from? Isn’t Tony supposed to be in a gang, not trying out for J.V. baseball?center_img LOOK OUT FOR… 3:34, when Cher gives up trying to sing soprano and resorts to yell-talking. “Such a PRETTY ME!” OVERALL CAMP FACTOR 10 out of 10 bullets left in this gun, Chino.last_img read more

Irrigation Study.

first_img Photo: Dan Rahn The DNR figures its nearly 20,000 agricultural water use permits closely reflect thenumber of irrigation systems out there.”Agriculture is the second-largest user of water statewide,” McLemore said. “It’s the single largest user of groundwater.” Nobody knows how much water Georgia farmers pumped into their fields over the drysummer of ’99 — or, for that matter, over any summer.”We can make some educated guesses,” said State Geologist Bill McLemore ofthe Georgia Geologic Survey, a branch of the Environmental Protection Division of thestate Department of Natural Resources. “But there’s no question that’s the weak spotin our water use information system.”With demands on water resources mounting, it’s a weakness the state can’t afford tocarry into the next millennium. So the DNR is funding a University of Georgia projectcalled Ag Water PUMPING (Potential Use and Management Program in Georgia).Agricultural Water Use HighIndustries and cities meter their water use, McLemore said. That allows for fairlyaccurate accounting. Farmers, though, don’t keep track of the water they use. Photo: Dan Rahn County Extension Service agents like David Curry (right) of Toombs County work with local farmers who volunteer to participate in the UGA study. Here, former ag engineer Tony Tyson installs an hour meter to enable technicians to monitor this irrigation system. Farmers water during the growing season. For their biggest crops, that’s about sixmonths. “For that period, they may be the biggest water user overall,” he said.”Some big farms use as much water as medium-size cities.”Ag Water PUMPINGThe need to measure ag water use was clear by the mid-’90s, McLemore said. So the stateasked the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences to devise a project tomonitor a statistical sample of the irrigation systems.”The U.S. Geological Survey had tried to get farmers to volunteer in a projectlike this,” he said. But the USGS approach didn’t get the needed data. “USGS hasgood planners in Atlanta. But doesn’t have a local presence close to the farmers.”The CAES, through its Extension Service, does. Agents in every county work daily withfarmers and have close links with CAES engineers and other scientists.Monitoring 400-plus Irrigation Systems”We put together a proposal to measure 400-plus systems across the state over fiveyears and develop (computer) models to accurately estimate total water use,” said UGAengineer Dan Thomas.Thomas, a CAES professor of biological and agricultural engineering, heads a UGA teamthat began setting up the monitoring system this summer. UGA technician Jason Mallard checks the flow rate on a southeast Georgia center pivot rig, one of the 400-plus irrigation systems to be monitored over the next five years. This story is another in a weekly series called “Planting the Seed: Science for the New Millennium.” These stories feature ideas and advances in agricultural and environmental sciences with implications for the future. Using the state permits, the team came up with a sample of irrigation systems tomonitor. They work through county agents to contact each farmer on the list.Farmers Take Part VoluntarilyTo include an irrigation system in the study, UGA engineers and technicians first checkits water flow rate. If the rig doesn’t already have an hour meter, the team installs one.Then technicians will check the meter monthly to see how long it pumped.The project still requires farmers to volunteer. But so far, that hasn’t been aproblem. “Most of our farmers understand the need for this study,” said DavidCurry, an Extension agent in Toombs County.Thomas said getting the monitoring part of the project in place will take two years.”About 170 systems are completed now,” he said. “We have three groups, andat times four, doing the installation.”Southwest, Southeast Areas FirstWater disputes in southwest Georgia and saltwater intrusion in groundwater along thecoast make water-use data from those areas more critical. They were the first areas to beincluded, Thomas said.The work will soon expand. In 2000, the team will not only put in the rest of themonitoring sites, but will start checking the ones already installed.As the data begins to flow, the work on the computer models will grow. The models willprovide accurate water-use data on many levels — by county, drainage basin, etc.”Statewide, we’ve got pretty reasonable water-use estimates now,” he said.”This will give us more precise data in local areas.”That data, McLemore said, is essential. “Natural resource management is based ongood science and good engineering,” he said. “And those depend on accuratenumbers.”For more information on the project, contact Thomas or research coordinator CathyMyers-Roche at (912) 386-3377 or agricultural engineer KerryHarrison at (912) 386-3442.last_img read more

Big berries

first_imgWhen it comes to choosing fruit, most people reach for the biggest piece. Titan™, a new blueberry variety bred by a University of Georgia scientist, makes that an easy task. It produces berries two to four times the size of average blueberries.“People like big strawberries and big blackberries. Now they can get big blueberries,” said Scott NeSmith, the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences researcher who bred the new variety. The UGA Research Foundation has applied for a plant patent for Titan™.For commercial and homeowner useTitan™ was designed for both commercial and homeowner use. NeSmith says backyard growers will like the berry size and so will visitors at pick-your-own farms. “Common sense tells you that picking blueberries by hand takes a long time. Not with Titan™,” he said.Average blueberries are usually a little smaller than a dime. NeSmith has seen Titan™ berries grow as large as a quarter. A rabbiteye blueberry, Titan™ is well suited for growing in Georgia and produces well in USDA hardiness zones 6a through 9a. Released in 2012, Titan™ hasn’t been added to Georgia blueberry farmers’ fields yet, but it is available in limited supplies for homeowners.“Right now, most nurseries have waiting lists for Titan™ plants. That’s how popular it is,” Nesmith said. “They have more orders than they do plants.”Ask stores to stock TitanHe encourages homeowners to contact their local garden center and request the variety. “If enough people ask for it, hopefully the big box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot will start carrying it,” NeSmith said.Titan™ is officially available through the following licensed nurseries: Ken James Greenhouses (www.jamesgreenhouses.com); Cornelius Farms (corneliusfarms.com/nurserydivision.html); andOregon Blueberry (www.oreblueberry.com).No matter which blueberry variety you add to your home landscape, Nesmith says to set aside the first year as a growing year for the plant. “You may see a small amount of fruit the second year, but the third year will bring a good blueberry crop,” he said.While some varieties are self-fruiting, NeSmith advises planting two or more varieties to insure good pollination and fruit set. Two additional homeowner varieties that have been recently released are Summer Sunset™ and Blue Suede®.Award-winning blueberry breederBased on the UGA campus in Griffin, Ga., NeSmith has been researching blueberries in Georgia since 1990. He was recently awarded the UGA Inventor’s Award for his research efforts that include the release of 10 new patented commercial blueberry varieties and two patented ornamental blueberry varieties. The award is presented each year by the UGA Researrch Foundation to recognize an inventor for a unique and innovative discovery that has impacted the community, state and/or world. UGA-developed blueberries are grown around the world on all continents except Antarctica. Blueberry production has surpassed peaches as the No. 1 fruit crop in Georgia. “Nationally, we may be close to number one in acres now, and we are second or third in production,” NeSmith said. Georgia farmers use about 21,749 acres for blueberry production, and the farm gate value was more than $254 million in 2011, according to the Georgia Farm Gate Value Report.For more information on how to add blueberry plants to home landscapes, visit the UGA CAES publication website at caes.uga.edu/publications.last_img read more

Trauma Tuesday: Christmas Tree Fail Edition

first_imgThis Christmas tree fail goes out to all the Clark Griswolds out there. Setting up the Christmas centerpiece can be a trying, dangerous experience. And even once you set it up straight, there is always the chance it could come crashing down around you at any moment. Probably the worst possible moment.Happy Christmas Eve!Stay away from the tree.last_img

Honduran Air Force, 86 Years of Service

first_imgBy Kay Valle/Diálogo June 14, 2017 Honduran aviation first took off in 1921 with the acquisition of its first warplane. Its time as a military aviation school began in 1931 when the Ministry of Navy and Aviation was founded. “The history of the institution is illustrious, and combat aviation in the Honduran Armed Forces (FAH, per its Spanish acronym) began in 1936. Conflict during the Second World War triggered the purchase of more airplanes that would be used to fly over the Pacific and Atlantic coasts,” Honduran Air Force Colonel José Luis Sauceda Sierra, general commander of FAH, told Diálogo. Aerodromes used to be more common because there was little highway infrastructure. Thus, when Honduras joined the war against the Axis powers, FAH’s functions were diversified and reconnaissance patrols were increased along the borders. “From 1942 to 1944, the aerial patrols carried out by the Stinson F2 were increased to three times per day. On July 24, 1942, a submarine was detected, which FAH troops bombed,” Retired Honduran Air Force Captain Jurgen Hesse Joya, a historian at the Honduran Aviation Museum, told Diálogo. “This confrontation made Honduras the only Central American country to participate in combat during the Second World War,” he said. Sustained development Edgardo Mejía, a security analyst and professor at the National Police University, told Diálogo that although FAH is the smallest branch of the Armed Forces, it has had continuous and sustained development since its founding. “The training of its personnel, to include specializations like handling rotary-wing aircraft, fixed-wing, combat pilot, airplane maintenance, radars, aerial intelligence, and other activities, have improved the institution’s operational readiness,” he said. For him, FAH had several golden ages worth highlighting. The first was in 1977 – advancing from the turboprop to the jet era with the acquisition of its still-active F86 and A37B Dragonfly aircraft. Later, in 1983, the Air Defense Squadron was created, allowing for a defense shield which is used in the fight against international organized crime. “The last [stage] arises from the need to lay the foundation for what today is the Training School of Intermediate Command. And of course, their most significant achievement has been the acquisition of the F5,” Mejía said. Gender equality To join FAH, a person must be over 18 years of age, and no gender difference exists. In terms of study, that means that choosing the flight cadet, technical officer, or air safety tracks are open to anyone. “Since 1996, female students began to be accepted, and FAH became the first air academy in Central America to allow their access. Currently, there is a total of 198 students. Of these, 23 are women,” Col. Sauceda said. Young people who are admitted obtain their degree in Aeronautical Sciences in four years, and the military rank of second lieutenant with their chosen specialization. “At the end [of the program], those who choose flight cadet will become FAH pilots,” he said. These cadets can begin their careers at any of the four FAH bases. The transport squadron, helicopters and VIP, and the presidential squadron are assigned to the “Hernán Acosta Mejía” Base in Tegucigalpa. The Military Aviation School and the Officer Squadron are located at the “Enrique Soto Cano” Base in Comayagua. The “Armando Escalón Espinal” Base, founded in 1969 as the Northern Command, is located in Lima. The “Héctor Caraccioli Moncada” Base in La Ceiba, Atlántida is the headquarters of the supersonic F5E and F5F airplanes. Rescue-and-assistance work It is also important to highlight the acquisition of helicopters as an important achievement because they support civilians and institutions that send aid, especially to places affected by natural disasters. The delivery of provisions to flood-stricken areas, the rescue of missing persons, the patrols to determine the location of areas that have been damaged by illegal logging, the extraction of cultural heritage objects, and the location of clandestine landing strips are everyday tasks for FAH. Other work highlighted by Col. Sauceda includes the fight against forest fires. The most recent one occurred in Tegucigalpa in March 2017. That fire consumed over 200 hectares of pine forest. FAH deployed several helicopters to fight it. They supported the firefighters for three days until it was extinguished. Aerial rescue is another FAH task. During this interview, Col. Sauceda received an urgent request to initiate a search for two Honduran citizens and one Italian who were reported missing in the Caribbean Sea. FAH immediately started the search, found the shipwrecked individuals a few hours after they began tracking them, and proceeded with the rescue work. Wings for Health In 1962, FAH began “Wings for Health,” a program created to transport civilian and military patients with medical emergencies. The transport to hospital centers is conducted by the directors of these institutions, and it is not only for areas without access but for the entire country. “To conduct this mission, FAH uses two Cessna 208 Grand Caravan airplanes that were donated by the United States government, with a value of $4 million. The doctors and nurses belong to FAH. They are specialized in transporting patients by air, where conditions are different than on land,” Col. Sauceda said. “Decade after decade, FAH renews itself as an institution. The partnerships with air forces throughout the Americas are productive. They also offer young people a place to become more professional, to demonstrate their love for their homeland, and to serve the people,” Col Sauceda said.last_img read more

Bar to study the need for unbundled legal services

first_imgBar to study the need for unbundled legal services June 1, 2001 Regular News Bar to study the need for unbundled legal services Mark D. Killian Associate Editor Facing an ever-increasing number of pro se litigants in family courts, the Supreme Court has asked the Bar to study the possible need for “unbundled legal services.” If the committee finds the need exists for unbundled legal services, Chief Justice Major B. Harding, in an administrative order, asked the Bar to submit a proposed rule amendment to facilitate the use of such services no later than March 1, 2001. “This is a very significant committee that will be investigating an important subject to most attorneys,” said Bar President Edith Osman, noting any changes could have a profound impact on lawyers who bill by the hour. The unbundling of legal services — also sometimes known as discrete task representation — would allow the client to select which activities will be performed by the lawyer and which will be performed by the client, if they are performed at all. The client may also specify the extent of each service the lawyer is to perform. Osman said the study committee also must investigate how unbundled legal services might transcend family law or if it can be limited to family practice. That, she said, is why she intends to appoint lawyers who practice in the areas of real property and commercial litigation as well as members of the family bar to the study committee. “The purpose of unbundling legal service is to provide greater access to the legal system to more people,” Osman said. “For example, middle class clients could obtain a lawyer for just those parts of a case they are concerned about.” Family Law Section Chair Ky Koch said limited representation in a divorce case could be as simple as helping decide who gets to keep the cat or as complex as handling child custody matters while the couple works out the financial split, or the lawyer drafts a qualified domestic relations order and the divorcing couple handles the of rest the case. Looking into unbundled services responds to the proliferation of pro se litigants in family cases, particularly divorce, and the Bar needs to consider unbundled legal services to accommodate the needs of people who use the system, Koch said. “Pro se litigants are a majority of our customers in the divorce arena and we have to be responsive to them,” Koch said. “What we have been faced with is how do we respond to that need, both to the people who don’t have lawyers and to make sure that legal rights and representation are provided when needed.” Looking at the pro se problems is a balancing act, he said. “We can’t go into this with the sole perspective of protecting lawyers’ pocketbooks, but we have got to also recognize that things are changing within the family law division and we have to meet those needs,” Koch said. As it now stands, Koch said, providing limited representation is not precluded by Bar rules, “it is simply that there are all kinds of problems related to it.” Is it ethical for a lawyer to involve himself or herself only in a limited portion of a case? From a legal malpractice perspective, what is the response from the insurance carrier about limited representation? Will judges permit lawyers to take part in one aspect of a case and not another? “Most judges take the position, and I think reasonably so, that if you are on this case, you are on this case,” Koch said. “It is not like you are kind of pregnant — you are either on or off.” Bar Ethics Counsel Elizabeth Tarbert said the Supreme Court has generally declined to adopt rules that apply only to lawyers in a specific practice area. In 1969, Tarbert said, the court rejected a rule intended to govern the conduct of in-house counsel for insurance companies. More recently, Tarbert said, the court declined to adopt a rule that would address the conduct of family law practitioners. “Specifically, the court said `the petitioners have not demonstrated that there is a need to treat those members of the Bar who practice family law differently than other members of the Bar,’” Tarbert said, citing Amendment to Rules Regulating the Florida Bar — Rule 4-1.18, Client-Lawyer Relationships in Family Law Matters, 662 So. 2d 1246 (Fla. 1995). Tarbert said the Professional Ethics Committee has followed the court’s general precept. As an example, the panel published Florida Ethics Opinion 90-4, which indicated the rule prohibiting communication with represented persons applies to Department of Justice attorneys when the DOJ argued otherwise. “Florida was at the vanguard of states that declared that DOJ attorneys could not just try to exempt themselves from state rules,” Tarbert said. Tarbert said there is now only one rule approved by the Supreme Court which specifically addresses one type of practitioner — Rule 4-3.8, Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor, which deals with the conduct of prosecutors in criminal cases. Colorado’s new limited representation rules went into effect last July. “Colorado lawyers and judges supported the idea that some lawyer help to pro se parties is better than none,” Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey told that state’s Judicial Conference last year. “The rules are meant to achieve candor to the court and to allow citizens to obtain legal services without having to hire an attorney for the entire litigation or go without.” The rules require a pro se party to disclose on the pleading the name of the attorney who assisted in drafting the pleading. An attorney must advise the pro se party of that requirement and also to explain the risk involved in obtaining limited representation in contrast to full representation in litigation. Under the revised civil rules, limited representation by an attorney does not constitute an entry of appearance, and the court and opposing parties are not required to serve the assisting attorney. The Colorado rules also provide: “Whether these rules will function as intended depends on the willingness of bench and bar to have them work,” Justice Mullarkey said. Koch noted Arizona also has similar unbundled legal services rules; however, it is difficult to compare the Arizona and Colorado experiences to Florida because Arizona’s rules differ sharply from Florida’s, and Colorado’s rules have been in place for less than two years. “In Arizona when pro se litigants come in, they have people at a desk that answer questions, and if there is a feature of their case these pro se litigants need assistance with they have a list of lawyers who will assist them — on an unbundled basis — as to particular topics,” Koch said, noting, too, that Arizona has no UPL rules. Anyone interested in serving on the committee or providing comments to the panel may contact The Florida Bar, Office of the Executive Director, 651 E. Jefferson Street, Tallahassee 32399-2300. The attorney/client privilege applies to limited representation as it does to full representation under the ethical rules. The appearance of the attorney’s name on the pro se pleading is not the occasion for other parties or the court to question the assisting attorney regarding the case or the actions of the pro se party. The rules do not contemplate the opposing party questioning the pro se party about the preparation of the pleading or inquiring into or discovering the attorney’s versus the client’s own drafts of the pleading. If the matter of sanctions should arise because the client did not disclose the name of the attorney, or the attorney did not advise the client to make the disclosure, the matter should be handled by the court apart from the merits of the pro se party’s case and include confidential in-camera treatment of papers, conversations or other matters that implicate the attorney/client privilege. last_img

Long Island Reps Call For Investigation Into Alleged Russian Hacking

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Several Long Island congressional representatives have joined a growing chorus of elected officials urging an investigation into Russia’s purported interference in the presidential election and alleged hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee, even as disagreements remain regarding the veracity of recently leaked intelligence assessments.The calls for a probe come amid news reports of a secret CIA assessment concluding that Russia interfered in the election to boost now President-elect Donald Trump’s chance of winning—instead of simply undermining the United State’s electoral system—and on the heels of his announced pick for secretary of state, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who has close business ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.The reports in the Washington Post noted that the agency has not yet uncovered evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin directed the attack. The paper also acknowledged “minor disagreements among intelligence officials about the agency’s assessment, in part because some questions remain unanswered.”Shortly after the publication of the explosive WaPo story, The New York Times reported that Russia had infiltrated the Republican National Committee during the election campaign but did not publicly release any documents from that purported hack.Further muddying the intelligence assessment are disagreements between the federal intelligence agencies, such as the CIA and FBI. The latter has said it has yet to find evidence supporting the notion that the Russian hack was intended to support Trump. Underscoring the contrasting points of view, the CIA, WaPo reported, told several U.S. Senators in a private security briefing that it was “quite clear” Russia interfered to improve Trump’s chances of winning.Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle now say they support an investigation into allegations that Russian interfered in the 2016 presidential election.“Congress’s national security committees have worked diligently to address the complex challenge of cybersecurity, but recent events show that more must be done,” a group of senators, including incoming Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), said in a statement. “While protecting classified material, we have an obligation to inform the public about recent cyberattacks that have cut to the heart of our free society.”Long Island Reps. Peter King (R-Seaford), Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), Gregory Meeks (D-Queens) and retiring Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills) all said they welcome a probe into potential Russian intrusion. The office of Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) did not respond to a request for comment. For his part, Trump says he has scrutinized the intelligence reports and does not believe the Russians interfered, calling the analysis “ridiculous.”Questions regarding how Russia was able to hack into the Democratic National Committee’s system, and, perhaps most consequential, who directed the alleged intrusion into the DNC, as well as Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta’s email, are high on the list for politicians aghast at the brazen pilfering of correspondences passed along to WikiLeaks during the election.The constant drip of leaked emails prior to the Nov. 8 election, many of them mundane but others more damaging to Clinton, contributed to public concerns that the former US Secretary of State and First Lady was dishonest.“Russia’s reported interference in our elections—regardless of whether their motivation was to undermine the integrity of the process or, as the CIA has concluded, to help a specific candidate—is a direct attack on the foundation of our democracy, and it demands a rigorous bipartisan investigation,” said Rice, a minority member of the House Homeland Security Committee, in a statement.King, also a member of the House Homeland Security Committee and Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, told the Press that there’s little doubt that the Democratic National Committee was hacked by Russians. But he remains unconvinced that Russia was behind the breach into Podesta’s email or that the series of election-related attacks were managed by top officials inside the Kremlin in an attempt to swing the election in Trump’s favor.“It’s the pretty solid consensus that they did hack into the Democratic National Committee, also that they attempted to hack into the Republican National Committee but did not succeed,” said King, adding that the recent disclosures amounted to “selective leaking” by people with an agenda.Still, King acknowledges that intelligence agencies may not have all the facts yet, thus he supports an investigation, which he said should be conducted by the Homeland Security Committee because special select committees often take months to get off the ground.As for Trump’s outright rejection of the intelligence agencies’ assessments, King said he disagreed.“I’m no expert on cyber security or hacking, I try to be an expert on knowing who to rely on,” he said, adding that there’s consensus the Russians hacked the DNC. “Why Donald Trump doesn’t accept that, [he’d] have to explain that.”The intelligence leaks came just hours after President Barack Obama ordered a full review of the Russians’ hacking efforts during the presidential election.Trump’s choice of Tillerson, who received Russia’s “Order Of Friendship” from Putin in 2013—one of the highest honors that country can bestow upon a foreigner—has also received growing criticism. Sen. McCain called Putin “a thug and a murderer” on CNN Monday, repeated the description on NPR, and said, “I don’t see how anybody could be a friend of this old-time KGB agent.”(Top Photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin/Courtesy Maria Joner)last_img read more

H1N1 FLU BREAKING NEWS: Antivirals by phone, coordinating South American response, usefulness of vaccine contracts, first case in Haiti

first_imgJul 16, 2009Britain prepares to launch phone service to supply antiviralsFollowing a surge of flu-like illnesses, a British system that will allow people to report symptoms by phone and obtain antiviral drugs will be launched very soon, The Times newspaper reported today. Data from general practitioners indicated that the rate of people reporting flu-like illnesses rose to 73 per 100,000 last week, from 50 per 100,000 the week before, the newspaper said. Using the phone service, people will get reference numbers that friends can use to collect antivirals for them.[Jul 16 Times report]South American health ministers meet to coordinate pandemic responseHealth ministers from six South American countries met yesterday in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to coordinate responses to the H1N1 pandemic, according to a report from TerraDaily, a business and technology news Web site. Besides Argentina, the meeting included Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Ministers said the countries need to share medicine and supplies, and they voiced concern about access to vaccines. Argentina has had 137 deaths, second highest toll after the United States.Vaccine contracts might prove worthless in severe pandemic, experts sayExperts warn that if the H1N1 flu pandemic turns severe, countries that have vaccine factories might seize vaccine supplies, rendering contracts that promise doses to other countries meaningless, the Associated Press reports. Many vaccine contracts that countries have signed involve doses made outside their borders. In a severe pandemic, countries with vaccine plants might decide to seize all doses and ban their export, said David Fidler, a law professor at Indiana University, and other experts.Haiti reports its first pandemic H1N1 casesHaiti has confirmed its first three novel H1N1 flu cases, according to a Xinhua report published yesterday. Two cases are in Chilean soldiers serving in the United Nations Stabilization Mission for Haiti, and the third involves a 23-year-old Haitian who has not been outside the country. The two soldiers entered Haiti early this month. All three patients were in stable condition. Samples from 61 people are being tested in foreign laboratories, Health Minister Alex Larsen said.National Biodefense Science Board to hold teleconferenceThe National Biodefense Science Board will host a public teleconference tomorrow to allow the public to participate and comment in a session on findings from an H1N1 countermeasures and decision-making forum held last month by the board’s pandemic influenza working group. Members of the public are invited to call in to listen to and comment on the board’s deliberations. Call-in information is listed on the board’s Web site, listed below.NIAID seeking H1N1 patients for studyThe National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said today that it is seeking patients with pandemic H1N1 influenza to participate in a study of how the disease affects those with chronic illnesses and impaired immune systems. The study is taking place at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md. Findings will be used to develop new prevention and treatment strategies against the new flu strain.last_img read more

US investments push Varma returns to 7.1%

first_imgThe average nominal return on investments over the past 10 years is now 5.5% per year.Varma said its investment returns developed strongly during the first half of the year, but uncertainty in investment markets caused the result to fluctuate considerably during the second half.The last quarter in particular was very turbulent.Reima Rytsölä, CIO at Varma, said: “The investment result was improved by a fairly strong focus on the US markets. Instead of a stagnant Europe, we were involved in a growing economy.”Returns were generated consistently across the different asset classes.Equities – which make up 41% of the portfolio, including 32% in listed stocks and 6% in private equity – were the best performers, with a 9.1% return (21.8% in 2013).The decline in interest rates ensured the return on fixed income investments was also good, at 5.5% (compared with 1.2% in 2013).At end-2014, fixed income made up 30% of investments.Returns were also boosted by hedge fund investments, which returned 7.8%, compared with 8.8% in 2013.The weighting had been increased early in 2014, taking the allocation to 17% by end-2014, compared with 13% the previous year.Real estate returned 3.8% over 2014, increasing from 3.1% the year before. The asset class made up 10% of the portfolio at end-2014.Rytsölä said: “It is realistic to expect lean times for investors. Interest rates are hovering around zero, and if economic growth does not pick up, the return on equities might also remain modest.”The company warned that the economic environment remained challenging for Finland.It said the change in the value of the euro and the drop in the price of oil would promote growth this year and next.But growth forecasts remain moderate with respect to recent history, and for investors, the interest rates especially are dramatically low.Risto Murto, president and chief executive at Varma, said: “We are used to a situation where low interest rates reflect a strong economy and stable currency, but that is not the case now. The record-low interest rate levels indicate economic problems, not strengths.”Meanwhile, during 2014, the company wrote premiums totalling €4.3bn and paid pensions of €5bn. Varma Mutual Pension Insurance, Finland’s largest earnings-related pension insurer and private investor, has announced a return on investments for calendar 2014 of 7.1% (€2.7bn), taking its solvency to a record high level.By the end of last year, its investment portfolio had reached €40bn – again, a record high – from €37.7bn the year before, while solvency capital was at €10.3bn, compared with €9.1bn at end-2013.This meant solvency capital amounted to 34% of technical provisions (31.6% in 2013).However, returns were lower than the previous year’s €3.2bn (9%).last_img read more

OSV oversupply overstated, the market is tightening, MMA Offshore says

first_imgOffshore Energy Today StaffSpotted a typo? Have something more to add to the story? Maybe a nice photo? Contact our editorial team via email.Also, if you’re interested in showcasing your company, product, or technology on Offshore Energy Today, please contact us via our advertising form, where you can also see our media kit. Oversupply of offshore vessels in the market is overstated, and the market is tightening, Australian OSV player MMA said Thursday. The company also expects an increase in demand for its services in its key regions of operations.Illustration: MMA Pinnacle; Source: MMA OffshoreIn a statement prepared for its AGM of shareholders, MMA said its returns on assets, while significantly below the company’s historical average, are gradually improving. The company is seeing higher utilization and increasing charter rates, particularly in the multi-purpose and platform supply vessel segments.In its FY 2019 highlights, the company reported a 50 percent increase in EBITDA which was $27.8 million, and 72% vessel utilization (up from 68% pct last year), with higher weighting to larger vessels.“These trends support our view that the offshore vessel market is in the early stages of a recovery,“ MMA said.“On the supply side, our view is that the market is tightening and that the oversupply of vessels is overstated, with many vessels which have been laid up during the downturn facing prohibitive reactivation costs and lower demand due to their age and condition. Industry experts predict that a large portion of the laid-up fleet will not return to service,” MMA said.According to MMA, which owns 30+ offshore support vessels, the company is seeing signs of the market improving with increased tendering activity and longer contract durations, fewer available vessels, and improved rates in some regions and vessel segments.“At a macro level, the fundamentals for a continued recovery remain positive. We are seeing a significant number of oil and gas projects being sanctioned globally, with this trend expected to continue. Importantly, a large number of projects are scheduled for development in our key regions of operation, which will translate into increased demand for offshore services and vessels in our markets,” MMA said.MMA Offshore’s Key Regions / Source: MMA OffshoreAlso, the company has been working to grow return on assets, with its growth strategy based on expansion higher-margin services offering such as specialized offshore services, Subsea, and Project Logistics. For this reason, MMA has recently acquired Neptune Marine Services.Related: MMA cheers Neptune takeover as key step in subsea expansion strategy“The recent acquisition of the business of Neptune Marine Services, which completed earlier this month, is a key platform in our strategy to expand our subsea business. The acquisition will enable us to package a range of subsea services on the back of our vessels, enabling us to capture additional margin as we move up the value chain,” MMA said.According to MMA, the acquisition is expected to deliver a number of strategic benefits including an improved service offering to both Neptune’s and MMA’s clients, increased asset utilization, increased return on assets as well as revenue and cost synergies associated with combining the two businesses.“With the acquisition undertaken at a low point in the cycle, we expect the combined business to benefit from increased offshore and subsea investment as the market continues to improve. With the acquisition now complete, our focus is on integrating the two businesses to ensure that we gain the maximum benefit from the acquisition,” MMA said.In related MMA Offshore news, the company last Friday said it had been awarded three contracts for its vessels, with the total revenue across the contracts estimated at $38 million for the firm contract periods only. Read more on that MMA Offshore’s new contracts here.last_img read more