Scientists discover most important target of MRSA bacterial toxin and ways to

first_imgReviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Sep 27 2018For patients diagnosed with a Staphylococcus aureus infection, often referred to as a staph or MRSA infection, every minute counts. The bacteria create havoc in the body. The immune system goes into overdrive. The heightened immune response can lead to sepsis, which kills 30 to 50 per cent of the people who develop it. Sepsis leads to an estimated 6 million deaths worldwide annually.Scientists have known for some time that one of the reasons a staph infection is so deadly is that the bacteria send out a toxin, known as Alpha Toxin (AT), which quickly worsens sepsis. University of Calgary scientists at the Cumming School of Medicine’s (CSM) Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases have discovered the most important target of the toxin and how to neutralize the danger.”For years, we’ve been looking at the effects of the toxin on cells inside a test tube, but we really didn’t know what was happening inside the body at the height of an infection,” says the study’s first author Dr. Bas Surewaard, PhD, a postdoc in the Department of Physiology & Pharmacology and alumnus of Utrecht University in the Netherlands.Using a process that allows scientists to see what’s happening inside living animals, called intravital microscopy, researchers discovered that the toxin causes platelets to respond abnormally in mice. Platelets’ primary role is to help stop bleeding in mammals after injury. What’s relatively unknown is that platelets also play a role in the body’s defenses against bacteria. Normally, platelets coat bacteria to prevent the spread of a microbe throughout the patient. However, during sepsis caused by staph infection, as the amount of toxin in the bloodstream increases, the platelets aggregate to form clumps. Those clumps deposit in the liver and kidneys, causing serious damage and eventually organ failure.Related StoriesNew sepsis detector uses photonics to make accurate diagnosis in less than thirty minutesNew research defines the chain of molecular events that goes awry in sepsisScientists identify mechanism that makes babies more likely than adults to die from sepsis”Once you understand exactly how an infection is impacting the body, you can target treatments to mitigate the infection so that the body can begin to heal,” says Dr. Paul Kubes, PhD, professor in the Department of Physiology & Pharmacology and director of the Snyder Institute. “We knew clots were forming in the organs during sepsis from staph infection. Now we know where and why these clots are forming.”Next, the team wanted to know whether an antibody that targets the toxin could be effective in preventing platelets from clumping. The researchers started working with MedImmune. The drug company is conducting a phase ll clinical trial where an Alpha Toxin antibody that they have developed is given to intensive care unit patients prone to develop pneumonia caused by staph due to long-term use of a ventilator. Early indications are the antibody is effective in preventing lung damage.”When we introduced the antibody to the bloodstream of the mice during sepsis, we saw an immediate reduction in the amount of clotting,” says Surewaard. “A single dose of the antibody reduced liver damage by 50 per cent. By knocking out the toxin, the platelets could begin flowing in the blood stream again.”The findings, published in Cell Host & Microbe, help explain why some people who are taking antibiotics to kill staph infection still die from sepsis, because the antibiotics do not neutralize the toxin.”Knowing how the toxin created by staph target platelets, we can now start looking at other bacteria that cause sepsis to see whether we can uncover a similar pattern and find antibodies that can be effective in those cases,” says Kubes. Source: read more

New naturally lowcaffeine option for tea drinkers

first_imgReviewed by Alina Shrourou, B.Sc. (Editor)Nov 8 2018Tea drinkers who seek the popular beverage’s soothing flavor without its explosive caffeine jolt could soon have a new, naturally low-caffeine option. In a study appearing in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, scientists report that a recently discovered wild tea plant in China contains little or no caffeine and, unlike many industrially decaffeinated products, could potentially provide many of the health benefits of regular brewed teas.In 2017, Americans drank nearly 4 billion gallons of tea, according to the Tea Association of the USA. The association estimates that up to 18 percent of those drinks were decaffeinated. To decaffeinate tea, manufacturers often use supercritical carbon dioxide or hot water treatments. However, these methods can affect the brew’s flavor and destroy compounds in the tea associated with lowered cholesterol, reduced risk of heart attack or stroke, and other health benefits. Recently, scientists discovered hongyacha (HYC), a rare wild tea found in the mountains of southern China. Local residents believe it can it can cure colds, soothe stomach pain and relieve a host of other ailments. But little is known about its structural makeup or its chemical composition. Liang Chen and colleagues sought to close that gap.The researchers used high-performance liquid chromatography to analyze HYC buds and leaves collected during the growing season. In addition to finding several potentially health-promoting compounds not found in regular tea, they determined that HYC contains virtually no caffeine. Digging deeper, they found this was because of a mutation in the gene encoding the enzyme tea caffeine synthase, which promotes caffeine production in most tea plants. The researchers conclude that naturally low-caffeine HYC could possibly become a popular drink because of its distinct composition and unique health benefits.Source: read more

Study finds elevated cholesterol levels after Christmas break

first_img Source: Reviewed by Kate Anderton, B.Sc. (Editor)Dec 30 2018Large quantities of rich Christmas food appear to boost Danes’ cholesterol levels. Right after the Christmas break, levels are 20% higher than in the summer. So says a new study carried out by researchers from the Department of Clinical Biochemistry at Copenhagen University Hospital and the Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Copenhagen.All that butter and cream in Christmas food may possibly boost cholesterol levels more than assumed up to now. In a new study of 25,000 Danes, researchers conclude that cholesterol levels after the Christmas holiday are 20% higher than they are in the summer.Related StoriesLDL-cholesterol does not predict future cardiovascular events in high-risk heart patientsStatins’ potential to treat MS unrelated to the drug’s cholesterol lowering effectsNew imaging modality identifies presence of cholesterol in arterial plaqueSo the study by researchers at Copenhagen University Hospital and the University of Copenhagen shows that the risk of having elevated cholesterol is six times higher after the Christmas break.”Our study shows strong indications that cholesterol levels are influenced by the fatty food we consume when celebrating Christmas. The fact that so many people have high cholesterol readings straight after the Christmas holiday is very surprising,” says Dr. Anne Langsted, M.D., who is one of the authors of the article.Nine out of ten of the people participating in the so-called Copenhagen General Population Study had elevated cholesterol after Christmas. People who already have high cholesterol should perhaps be even more alert to their cholesterol levels during the Christmas holidays.”For individuals, this could mean that if their cholesterol readings are high straight after Christmas, and they could consider having another test taken later on in the year,” says another of the article’s authors, Dr. Signe Vedel-Krogh, M.D.”In any event, there is a greater risk of finding that you have elevated cholesterol if you go to the doctor and have your cholesterol tested straight after Christmas. It is important to be aware of this, both for doctors who treat high cholesterol and those wishing to keep their cholesterol levels down,” she concludes.​​last_img read more

Specialized memory T cells in the lungs cause attacks of allergic asthma

first_imgReviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Apr 29 2019According to a current study of the Medical University Vienna, specialized T memory lymphocytes in the lungs that react to inhaled allergens, cause attacks of allergic asthma. These T-helper 2-tissue resident memory cells, which are located in the lungs for a lifetime are known as Th2-TRMs, and are responsible for asthma sufferers having asthma attacks shortly after they come in contact with allergens that they are allergic to and that these attacks can occur throughout their entire life.Allergic asthma and allergic rhinitis are chronic allergic conditions affecting approximately 70 to 100 million Europeans. (Source: European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology EAACI). Allergic asthma is a defense reaction in the lungs triggered by allergens such as grass, tree and ragweed pollen and leads to wheezing breath, coughing and shortness of breath.Head of the study, Michelle Epstein of the Experimental Allergy Laboratory of the University Clinic for Dermatology of MedUni Vienna explains: “Allergic asthma can be a chronic condition, but often occurs only intermittently, when people come into contact with allergens to which they are sensitized. Seasonal asthma, for example, might be caused by tree pollen in the spring when the pollen are in the air, leading to asthma attacks in people who otherwise exhibit no problems with their lungs”.”Our study shows for the first time that Th2-TRMs are found in the lungs for over 600 days and proves that once memory is established in lungs after the first episode of allergic asthma, memory T cells are maintained for a lifetime.”, she adds.Related StoriesPET/CT can aid in earlier diagnosis and treatment assessment of tuberculosisResearchers identify new subtypes of motor neurons and microglia present in ALS patientsNew target identified for treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosisUp to 200,000 memory cells in the lungsThe MedUni Vienna team examined the Th2-TRMs in the lungs of mice with allergic asthma during remission and tracked them after contact with the allergen. Once most T-cells in the animal were eliminated, the immune cells were blocked to prevent them from migrating out of the lungs.The researchers discovered that approximately 150,000 to 200,000 memory cells were in the lungs, which represents a mere fraction of the 100 million lung cells, and that these cells did not migrate from the lung, but were activated to react to the inhaled allergen.These results could explain why the majority of the patients with allergic asthma remain allergic throughout their entire life and that, if the patients are constantly exposed to the allergen, the number of Th2-TRMs possibly increases upon further contact with the allergen, leading to more severe asthma.Co-author Sahar Kazemi, PhD-Student in the Experimental Allergy Laboratory of the University for Dermatology, explains: “Targeting these memory cells may possibly lead to therapies for patients suffering from allergic asthma. New strategies could be aimed at the Th2-TRMs. However, a method has to be found to selectively eliminate only these cells without affecting other memory T cells which protect us from bacteria and viruses.”Asthma as a health policy issueThe annual economic burden due to allergic asthma in the EU is estimated at an amount between 55 and 151 billion Euro. Therefore, new innovative treatment methods would help to reduce these costs significantly.Source: read more

Most studies into impact of technology use on psychological wellbeing rely on

first_imgThe researchers discovered weak relationships between how much people think they use their smartphones and how much they actually do.Miss Davidson added “Our results suggest that the majority of these self-report smartphone assessments perform poorly when attempting to predict real-world behavior. We need to revisit and improve these measurements moving forward.”High smartphone usage has been previously linked to anxiety and depression but Dr Ellis said there is insufficient evidence to support these conclusions.”Scales that focus on the notion of technology ‘addiction’ performed very poorly and were unable to classify people into different groups (e.g, high vs low use) based on their behavior.” Reviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Jun 13 2019Most studies into the impact of technology use on psychological wellbeing rely on flawed measures say researchers.Surveys are often used to understand how people use their smartphone, but these are poorly related to actual smartphone use when measured with an app.This means that existing evidence suggesting that screen time is “addictive” cannot be used to justify any change of policy.The UK Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee recently held an inquiry into social media use including the effects of screen time on the health of young people.Related StoriesPesticide exposure may increase risk of depression in adolescentsIndividual variation in genes alters our ability to regulate emotionsPerinatal depression screenings may overlook women having suicidal ideationBut Dr David Ellis of Lancaster University and Brittany Davidson from The University of Bath say official policy should not solely rely on existing studies using self reports.Dr Ellis said “Knowing how much someone thinks or worries about their smartphone use leaves many questions unanswered”The team examined 10 “addiction” surveys for measuring people’s technology use such as the Smartphone Addiction Scale and the Mobile Phone Problem Use Scale, which generate scores that determine use.They then compared these self-reports with data from Apple Screen Time which provides an objective measurement of: How many minutes people used their phones How often they picked it up How many notifications they receivedcenter_img Sources:Lancaster UniversityJournal reference: Ellis, A. et al. (2019) Do smartphone usage scales predict behavior? International Journal of Human-Computer Studies. read more

1 in 6 insured hospital patients get a surprise bill for outofnetwork

first_imgReviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Jun 20 2019About 1 in 6 Americans were surprised by a medical bill after treatment in a hospital in 2017 despite having insurance, according to a study published Thursday.On average, 16% of inpatient stays and 18% of emergency visits left a patient with at least one out-of-network charge. Most of those came from doctors offering treatment at the hospital, even when the patients chose an in-network hospital, according to researchers from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Its study was based on large employer insurance claims. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)The research also found that when a patient is admitted to the hospital from the emergency room, there’s a higher likelihood of an out-of-network charge. As many as 26% of admissions from the emergency room resulted in a surprise medical bill.”Millions of emergency visits and hospital stays left people with large employer coverage at risk of a surprise bill in 2017,” the authors wrote.The researchers got their data by analyzing large-employer claims from IBM’s MarketScan Research Databases, which include claims for almost 19 million individuals.Surprise medical bills are top of mind for American patients, with 38% reporting they were “very worried” about unexpected medical bills.Surprise bills don’t just come from the emergency room. Often, patients will pick an in-network facility and see a provider who works there but isn’t employed by the hospital. These doctors, from outside staffing firms, can charge out-of-network prices.”It’s kind of a built-in problem,” said Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation and an author of the study. She said most private health insurance plans are built on networks, where patients get the highest value for choosing a doctor in the network. But patients often don’t know whether they are being treated by an out-of-network doctor while in a hospital.Related StoriesStudy: Two-thirds of pneumonia patients receive more antibiotics than they probably needStudy analyzes high capacity of A. baumannii to persist on various surfacesRaw meat can act as reservoir for bacteria associated with hospital infections”By definition, there are these circumstances where they cannot choose their provider, whether it’s an emergency or it’s [a doctor] who gets brought in and they don’t even meet them face-to-face.”The issue is ripe for a federal solution. Some states have surprise-bill protections in place, but those laws don’t apply to most large-employer plans because the federal government regulates them.”New York and California have very high rates of surprise bills even though they have some of the strongest state statutes,” Pollitz said. “These data show why federal legislation would matter.”Consumers in Texas, New York, Florida, New Jersey and Kansas were the most likely to see a surprise bill, while people in Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Maine and Mississippi saw fewer, according to the study.Legislative solutions are being discussed in the White House and Congress. The leaders of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee introduced a package Wednesday that included a provision to address it. The legislation from HELP sets a benchmark for what out-of-network physicians will be paid, which would be an amount comparable to what the plan is paying other doctors for that service.That bill is set for a committee markup next week.Other remedies are also being offered by different groups of lawmakers. This article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.last_img read more

5 questions for Mark Zuckerberg as he heads to Congress

Citation: 5 questions for Mark Zuckerberg as he heads to Congress (2018, April 9) retrieved 18 July 2019 from Who owns what is a difficult question to answer, and Facebook clearly hasn’t been good at explaining it. While you can download everything the company knows about you, it doesn’t really allow you to take “your” data to a rival.Sandberg told Today’s Savannah Guthrie that given Facebook’s ad-driven business model, you can’t currently avoid data mining of your public profile information. (You can opt not to see the resulting targeted ads , though.) Allowing that, Sandberg said, would effectively require Facebook to turn into a “paid product” that charges users.POSSIBLE FOLLOW-UP: Don’t other businesses allow some users to opt out of ads? Why can’t Facebook charge users who want ad-free experiences the way Hulu and YouTube do?___QUESTION: Facebook has made connecting with others and sharing information dead simple. Why haven’t you put similar effort into making your privacy controls equally easy to use?CONTEXT: Facebook has updated its privacy settings seven times in the last decade, each time aimed at making them simpler to use.The latest update was on March 28. On April 4, the company announced new technical changes designed to close loopholes that allowed third parties overbroad access to user data.Facebook makes many pieces of information your profile public by default; to lock them down, you have to change those settings yourself.POSSIBLE FOLLOW-UP: Does this legacy suggest the government needs to step in with clear and universal privacy rules?___QUESTION: Did Facebook threaten legal action against the Guardian newspaper in the U.K. regarding its reporting on the Cambridge Analytica scandal?CONTEXT: John Mulholland, editor of the Guardian US, tweeted in March that Facebook had threatened to sue to stop publication of its story that broke the Cambridge Analytica scandal in mid-March. Neither the Guardian nor Facebook have commented further.POSSIBLE FOLLOW-UP: Do you still stand behind Facebook’s actions here?___QUESTION: Have you spoken with critics, including some former Facebook investors and colleagues, who argue that the company’s service has become an addictive and corrosive force in society?CONTEXT: Sean Parker, Facebook’s first president, said Facebook specializes in “exploiting” human psychology and may be harming our children’s brains. An early investor in Facebook, Roger McNamee compared Facebook to an addictive substance such as nicotine and alcohol.Brian Acton, a co-founder of WhatsApp (acquired by Facebook in 2014), recently recommended that people should delete their Facebook accounts . Chamath Palihapitiya, an early vice president at Facebook, said Facebook’s tools are “ripping apart the social fabric.”POSSIBLE FOLLOW-UP: If not, why not? Facebook is struggling to cope with the worst privacy crisis in its history—allegations that a Trump-affiliated data mining firm may have used ill-gotten user data to try to influence elections. Zuckerberg and his company are in full damage-control mode, and have announced a number of piecemeal technical changes intended to address privacy issues.But there’s plenty the Facebook CEO hasn’t yet explained. Here are five questions that could shed more light on Facebook’s privacy practices and the degree to which it is really sorry about playing fast and loose with user data—or just because its practices have drawn the spotlight.___QUESTION: You’ve said you should have acted years ago to protect user privacy and guard against other abuses. Was that solely a failure of your leadership, or did Facebook’s business model or other factors create an obstacle to change? How can you ensure that Facebook doesn’t make similar errors in the future?CONTEXT: Zuckerberg controls 59.7 percent of the voting stock in Facebook. He is both chairman of the board and CEO. He can’t be fired, unless he fires himself. “At the end of the day, this is my responsibility,” he told reporters on a conference call last week. He also admitted to making a “huge mistake” in not taking a broad enough view of Facebook’s responsibility in the world.Zuckerberg, however, has been apologizing for not doing better on privacy for 11 years . In the current crisis, neither he nor chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg have clarified exactly how Facebook developed such a huge blind spot, much less how it can prevent history from repeating itself.POSSIBLE FOLLOW-UP: Does Facebook need a chief privacy officer with the authority to take action on behalf of users?___QUESTION: Who owns user data on Facebook, the company or the users? If it’s the latter, why shouldn’t Facebook allow people to opt out of being targeted by ads?CONTEXT: Facebook collects data on its own (your likes, which ads you click on, etc.); keeps data you share yourself (photos, videos, messages); and correlates data from outside sources to data on its platform (email lists from marketers, and until recently, information from credit agencies). This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. Firefox maker Mozilla to stop Facebook advertising because of data scandal © 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Congress has plenty of questions for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who will testify on Capitol Hill Tuesday and Wednesday about the company’s ongoing data-privacy scandal and how it failed to guard against other abuses of its service. Explore further read more

Women listed as inventors in third of global patent filings UN

China to become top patent filer within three years: UN New data from the World Intellectual Property Organization showed that women were listed in 31 percent of the some 224,000 international patent applications it published last year Citation: Women listed as inventors in third of global patent filings: UN (2018, April 26) retrieved 18 July 2019 from New data from the World Intellectual Property Organization showed that women were listed in 31 percent of the some 224,000 international patent applications it published last year. That compares to just 23 percent a decade earlier, the UN agency said.WIPO chief Francis Gurry celebrated in a statement “the innovative, creative accomplishments of women around the globe.”He pointed out that “international patent applications are an important benchmark for measuring innovative activity in the contemporary, global economy,” stressing that “anything less than the achievement of full parity between men and women is a missed opportunity.”The agency’s data showed that South Korea was best in class on gender, with at least one woman listed among inventors in more than 50 percent of all international patent applications.China, the world’s second largest filer of international patents, also came in second when it came to including women inventors in its filings, at 48 percent.The world leader in international patent applications, the United States, meanwhile only listed women among the inventors in 33 percent of its filings, placing it fifth, WIPO said.International patent applications in the fields of biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and chemistry showed the highest inclusion of women, with female inventors listed in a majority of patents in these disciplines, WIPO said.Biotech topped the ranking, counting women inventors in 58 percent of all filings, while patents related to mechanical elements was at the bottom of the list, with just 14 percent. © 2018 AFP The UN on Thursday hailed a significant increase in women listed as inventors in global patent filings over the past decade, but warned a pronounced gender gap remained. Explore further This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. read more

Rideshare companies embrace election frenzy

first_img They say they are aiming to remove what many consider a barrier to voting: lack of transportation.Midterm elections are often marked by low voter turnout, but political watchers are expecting voter angst over which party will control the U.S. House and Senate, as well as lingering anger by both major parties over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, to drive more Americans to cast votes.”This midterm election season has gotten in the bloodstream of the American people in a way that has not happened before,” said Stephanie Young, spokeswoman for When We All Vote, a nonprofit that has partnered with Uber and Lyft to get voters to the polls.When We All Vote is co-chaired by Michelle Obama and helps people register and vote. The organization is technically nonpartisan, but several on its list of celebrity co-chairs such as Tom Hanks and Chris Paul have been vocal critics of President Donald Trump.Lyft is also working with Voto Latino—whose co-founder Rosario Dawson has urged voters to choose Democrats to combat Trump’s immigration policies—as well as nonprofit organizations that help blind people and student veterans to distribute discount codes and identify where free rides are needed. Lyft’s efforts have been promoted on social media by celebrities such as actor Samuel Jackson, another Trump critic.Uber is offering $10 off rides to the polls across the country and added a feature in its app that helps customers find their polling stations by typing in a home address.”In this critically important election, we want to do our part and use Uber’s technology to help drive the vote,” said Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi in an email. “Decisions get made by those who show up and we believe Uber can help voters show up like never before.”Zipcar, which allows members to rent cars on an hourly basis, is offering a $20 credit on election night, enough to cover about two hours of driving, said spokeswoman Katelyn Chesley. Zipcar has been offering discounts for election-related rides since the company was founded in 2000, Chesley said.”There’s a lot of people who have really busy schedules during the daytime, and we just really want to make sure every last voice is heard,” Chesley said.This is the second time Lyft has offered discounted or free rides to the polls and Uber’s first.In 2016, 15 million eligible voters cited transportation as a key reason why they didn’t vote, according to The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, so “we want to use our platform to eliminate that pain point from the voting process,” said Mike Masserman, head of social impact at Lyft, in an email.Motivate, which operates most of the bike share programs in the U.S., is offering free day passes to ride bikes on Election Day in nine of its markets for the first time. Lime is offering free rides on its bikes and scooters.Uber is cleaning up its public relations image in preparation for an initial public offering next year, and the Election Day promotion is “a clear sign of extending goodwill to consumers while deploying clever marketing tactics,” said Rohit Kulkarni, managing director of private investment research at SharesPost.”Let’s not forget that these companies have had a lot of clashes with communities, and this is sort of a nice way for then to show their support for communities,” said Mike Ramsey, senior research director at Gartner. “They’re probably touching into the Zeitgeist that these elections are very important to a lot of people on both sides.” Ride-share companies are capitalizing on voter enthusiasm ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections by offering free or discounted rides to the polls in shared cars, bikes and scooters. © 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. In this July 22, 2014, file photo parked Citi Bikes line a street in New York. Ride-share companies are capitalizing on voter enthusiasm ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections by offering free or discounted rides to the polls in shared cars or on bikes. Bike share company Motivate, which operates Citi Bike, is offering free bike rides. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File) Explore furthercenter_img Lyft and Uber out to be everyday rides with passes Citation: Ride-share companies embrace election frenzy (2018, November 5) retrieved 17 July 2019 from This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.last_img read more

Robots in the field farms embracing autonomous technology

first_imgJoe Allnutt, lead roboticist at British startup company the Small Robot Company, inspects a farming robot named Tom as part of a trial in East Meon, southern England, Friday Nov. 30, 2018. The “agri-tech” startup company is developing lightweight autonomous machines that can carry out precision “seeding, feeding and weeding” in the hope of transforming food production. (AP Photo / Kelvin Chan) Meet the farmers of the future: Robots Faced with seesawing commodity prices and the pressure to be more efficient and environmentally friendly, farmer Jamie Butler is trying out a new worker on his 450-acre farm in England’s Hampshire countryside. Citation: Robots in the field: farms embracing autonomous technology (2018, November 30) retrieved 17 July 2019 from The aim is to drastically cut down on fertilizer and pesticide use to lower costs and boost profits for struggling farmers. As such, it not only helps economically, but it also lowers the environmental impact of farming.”What we’re doing is stuff that people can’t do,” said Ben Scott-Robinson, co-founder of the Small Robot Company . “It’s not physically possible for a farmer to go round and check each individual plant and then treat that plant individually. That’s only possible when you have something as tireless as a robot and as focused and accurate as an AI to be able to achieve that.”Commercial sales of the full, multi-robot system is still years away, with larger-scale testing planned for 2021. They represent the next step in the evolution of automation for farms. Self-driving tractors and robotic milking machines have been in use for years and, more recently, unmanned aerial drones that monitor crops have gone into service. A farming robot named “Tom” produced by Small Robot Company as part of a field trial to develop new farm technologies, in East Meon, southern England, Friday Nov. 30, 2018. The “agri-tech” startup company is developing lightweight autonomous machines that can carry out precision “seeding, feeding and weeding” in the hope of transforming food production. (AP Photo / Kelvin Chan) Joe Allnutt, left, lead roboticist at British startup company the Small Robot Company, with robotics engineer Thomas Burrell operating a farming robot named “Tom” as part of a trial in East Meon, southern England, Friday Nov. 30, 2018. The “agri-tech” startup company is developing lightweight autonomous machines that can carry out precision “seeding, feeding and weeding” in the hope of transforming food production. (AP Photo / Kelvin Chan) Florida’s Harvest Croo Robotics , Spain’s Agrobot , Britain’s Dogtooth Technologies and Belgium’s Octinion are all developing berry-picking bots. California startup Iron Ox and Japan’s Spread grow vegetables in automated indoor farms. Bosch startup Deepfield Robotics is working on a weeding robot that punches them into the ground. Last year, British researchers planted, monitored, tended and harvested a barley crop using only autonomous machines, in what they said was a world first.A more fundamental problem “will be the cost of building those robots and the research that has to go into making them,” Chambers said. The low cost of air freight could still make it cheaper to, for example, fly in fruit from other countries where labor is cheaper, he said.To ease financial pressure on farmers reluctant to make big one-off investments in equipment, the Small Robot Company plans to sell its services as a monthly subscription, charging 600 pounds ($765) per hectare a year.With a bright orange 3D-printed body, and beefy all-terrain wheels, Tom resembles an oversized roller skate. Their light weight means these robots won’t compact soil the way tractors do, Scott-Robinson said. British farmer Jamie Butler where he is letting British startup company the Small Robot Company test out agricultural robots on his fields as part of a trial in East Meon, southern England, Friday Nov. 30, 2018. The “agri-tech” startup company is developing lightweight autonomous machines that use GPS positioning and artificial intelligence to digitally map fields to carry out precision “seeding, feeding and weeding”, in the hope of transforming food production. (AP Photo / Kelvin Chan) Methodically inspecting Butler’s winter wheat crop for weeds and pests, the laborer doesn’t complain or even break a sweat. That’s because it’s a four-wheel robot dubbed “Tom” that uses GPS, artificial intelligence and smartphone technology to digitally map the field.Tom’s creator, the Small Robot Company, is part of a wave of “agri-tech” startups working to transform production in a sector that is under economic strain due to market pressures to keep food cheap, a rising global population and the uncertainties of climate change. Most robots are still only being tested, but they offer a glimpse of how automation will spread from manufacturing plants into rural areas.”If we can keep our costs to an absolute minimum by being on the leading edge of technologies as one method of doing that, then that’s a really, really good thing,” said Butler, one of 20 British farmers enlisted in a yearlong trial.Next year, the British startup plans to start testing two more robots controlled by an artificial intelligence system that will work alongside Tom, autonomously doing precision “seeding, feeding and weeding.” Explore further This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. On Butler’s farm, Tom trundles along crop rows taking hundreds of thousands of high-resolution pictures during the growing season. The images are fed to Wilma, the artificial intelligence platform, which is being trained to tell the difference between wheat and weeds.In 2019, the company will start trials for two more robots, Dick and Harry. Dick will deliver fertilizer directly to soil around roots, instead of wasteful blanket spraying, and use a laser or micro-spray chemicals to kill weeds. Harry will insert seeds into the earth at a uniform depth and spacing, eliminating the need for tractors to plow furrows. Eventually, farms “will be able to automate virtually everything,” said Tim Chambers, a fruit farmer who’s not involved in the trial. Some jobs are harder to automate, such as harvesting delicate raspberries or strawberries by hand, but even that is coming, said Chambers, a member of Britain’s National Farmers Union. © 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.last_img read more

Proquota Maratha group calls off Mumbai bandh

first_imgRELATED Published on Protesters from Maratha groups at Goregoan in the western suburbs of Mumbai on Wednesday during the bandh called by the community in support of reservation for themselves.   –  BUSINESS LINE SHARE SHARE EMAIL COMMENTS Fadnavis announces grants for Marathas as lakhs protest in Mumbai Maratha Morcha takes to streets demanding jobs reservations The Maratha Kranti Morcha, an outfit spearheading the agitation for quota for the Maratha community in jobs and education, called off its Mumbai bandh today. The bandh in the financial capital of India, which began this morning, was called off just before 3 pm after various parts saw violence.“We only wanted to prove that we are together and proved it. We never wanted protests to get violent and therefore we are calling off our bandh in Mumbai for today,” Virendra Pawar, leader of the Morcha told presspersons here.The Maratha Kranti Morcha had given the call for the bandh, demanding an apology from Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for alleging that some members from the community were planning violence at Pandharpur town in Solapur district.Fadnavis, who was scheduled to perform puja at a temple on ‘Ashadhi Ekadashi’ on Monday, cancelled it after the Maratha outfits threatened to disrupt the event. Quotas for the Marathas, a politically influential community that constitutes around 30 per cent of the state’s population, has been a hugely contentious issue.The community leaders had earlier taken out several rallies in various districts to highlight their demands. Last year, a huge rally was organised by the Maratha Kranti Morcha in this connection in Mumbai.Attempt to disrupt bus, train servicesEarlier in the day, protesters attacked buses and stopped local trains in Mumbai and adjoining Thane city today during the bandh called by Maratha outfits over their demand for reservation.The police in Mumbai, Thane, Palghar, Raigad and Satara districts were on their toes to prevent any law and order problem during the bandh. In Aurangabad, a man, Jagannath Sonawane, who had consumed a poisonous substance yesterday during the protest, died today at a local government hospital.Nine public buses were attacked by agitators in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai, a transport official said. Agitators threw stones on some buses in Mumbai, including Kanjurmarg and Bhandup areas, shattering window panes.In view of the stone-pelting on buses, the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) partially suspended its services in some areas and expects to resume it when the situation improves, an official of the transport body said.Protesters tried to block a road in Mankhurd suburb, but the police stopped them. They tried to burn a tyre on a road in Chandivali area and block roads in Jogeshwari and Kandivali, but the police dispersed them, an official said.In some areas such as Bandra, Matunga and Mulund, protesters marched on the roads and were seen requesting shopkeepers with folded hands to close their establishments. They also hurled stones on two public transport buses in Wagle Estate area of Thane city and burnt tyres on its arterial Ghodbunder Road, but the police removed them.Agitators blocked some areas there, including the key Teen Hath Naka junction, resulting in huge traffic jams at the city’s main entry and exit points. A bus was attacked in Ghansoli area of Navi Mumbai, following which the city transport authority suspended its services in the area, an official said.Contrary to their previous peaceful agitations, this time protesters tried to stop local trains on the Central Railway (CR) and the Western Railway (WR) corridors. “A few protesters stopped trains on the Up fast line at Jogeshwari at 9.16 am, however, they were removed from the tracks and train services resumed at 9.24 am. All lines were working normally on the WR suburban section,” the Western Railway said in a tweet.Agitators also threw stones at trains passing through Thane and Ghansoli (located on the trans-harbour line in Navi Mumbai) stations and services were halted briefly. “There were isolated incidents at Thane and Ghansoli after 9.59 am. The situation normalised at 10.24 am,” CR’s chief PRO, Sunil Udasi, said.Around 70 lakh people travel in local trains daily in the Mumbai region. In view of the bandh, fewer auto-rickshaws and taxis were seen on roads.At some places, protesters raised slogans against Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Public Works Department Minister Chandrakant Patil for allegedly insulting the sentiments of the Maratha community, an official said.APMC at Turbhe closedThe Agriculture Produce Market (APMC) at Turbhe in Navi Mumbai was also closed as a union of ‘mathadi’ workers (who carry loads on their head) supported the bandh.Security has been deployed at various places to avoid any untoward incident, a Mumbai Police spokesperson said. Some pro-reservation activists led a ‘jal samadhi’ protest in the Krishna river in Sangli district to press for their demands. Commercial establishments remained shut in some areas of Ahmednagar city.The Maratha Kranti Morcha, which is spearheading the agitation for reservation in jobs and education, has called for a shutdown in Mumbai and some neighbouring districts. Another outfit, the Sakal Maratha Samaj, called for a bandh in Navi Mumbai and Panvel areas.They have exempted schools, hospitals, medical and other essential services, including vegetables and fuel supply, from the bandh. No school buses were attacked or stopped in any area.Ambulance services were also running normally, a senior official of the public health department said. The pro-reservation groups also kept Solapur district out of the bandh because of the rush of devotees to the Lord Vitthal temple in Pandharpur town there.The Shiv Sena has been supporting the Maratha community’s demand for reservation, but decided not to participate in the protest. Yesterday, large-scale violence marred a state-wide protest by Maratha outfits demanding reservation for the community.A constable died and nine other policemen were injured amid a suicide attempt by three agitators during the violence. Agitators had clashed with the police and torched vehicles at several places, while Internet services were suspended in rural areas of Aurangabad district to prevent any untoward incident. In Jalna, the police had fired in the air to quell protests.Quotas for Marathas, a politically influential community that constitutes around 30 per cent of the state’s population, has been a hugely contentious issue. Fadnavis had cancelled his visit to a temple in Pandharpur on Monday after protesters threatened to disrupt the event.Despite assurances from the Chief Minister, nothing concrete has been done till now over the demands, community leaders have claimed. “We will continue our agitation until the CM apologises to the Maratha community (for alleging that some members from the community were planning violence at Pandharpur),” Morcha coordinator Ravindra Patil said yesterday. COMMENT SHARE Buses damaged, trains stopped in Mumbai, Thane during protests earlier in the day July 25, 2018 Mumbai Maratha quota stir turns violent Protest Maratha morcha brings Mumbai to standstill Maharashtralast_img read more

Maharashtra invites global tenders for Dharavi slum redevelopment project

first_imgreal estate The Maharashtra government has invited global tenders to redevelop Dharavi, one of the largest slums in Asia, into an integrated township under a Rs 22,000-crore project.Maharashtra’s Slum Redevelopment Authority (SRA) put out advertisements in newspapers, stating that the last date for submitting the bids for the Dharavi Redevelopment Project (DRP) is December 28.The state government has been planning Dharavi’s redevelopment since 2004, but nothing has materialised so far due to the multiplicity of stakeholders occupying the 535 acres of prime land in the heart of Mumbai.According to the guidelines, the selected lead partner will have to form a special purpose vehicle (SPV) with 80 per cent equity (Rs 400 crore) and the Maharashtra government will hold the rest of the equity in the project.The SPV will construct free houses for eligible slum dwellers and will also be entitled to construct houses for sale in the open market. The state government has fixed a Floor Space Index (FSI) of 4 for the project. FSI is the ratio between the built-up space to the area of land on which a building stands.According to Anuj Puri, Chairman, Anarock Property Consultants, “Building affordable to mid-range housing projects here would completely reinvent the residential real estate equation of Central Mumbai and also make a major contribution to the Central Government’s Housing for All by 2022 target.”However, it will not be easy for the Maharashtra government to go ahead with the plan. “Dharavi is not an area of contention and confusion on the basis of costs alone. The biggest question is of land ownership and relocation of its existing inhabitants. In terms of land ownership, almost one-fifth of the land here is privately-owned,” he added.Over 60,000 families live in Dharavi currently. The DRP, when completed, can change the entire real estate scenario here. “Dharavi rubs shoulders with upmarket Bandra and is right next to the avant-garde Bandra-Kurla Complex. This makes Dharavi an incredibly attractive proposition for home-buyers, investors and developers alike,” he said. Maharashtra November 24, 2018 SHARE Last date for submitting bids for integrated township project is Dec 28 COMMENT SHARE SHARE EMAIL Mumbai Published on COMMENTSlast_img read more

HC stays NGT penalty on TN govt

first_imgjudiciary (system of justice) COMMENT April 09, 2019 SHARE SHARE EMAIL COMMENTS Published oncenter_img Tamil Nadu water pollution SHARE The Madras High Court on Tuesday granted an interim stay on the ₹100-crore penalty imposed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), South Zone, on the Tamil Nadu government for its failure to restore the Adyar and Cooum rivers and the Buckingham canal.Directing the government to pay the penalty to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the tribunal said the money shall be used for restoring the water bodies.A division bench comprising Justice R Subbiah and Justice Krishnan Ramasamy was hearing a petition of the government against the NGT order dated February 13 this year.The government submitted that despite details handed over to the tribunal over the restoration of the waterways, it had passed the order directing payment of ₹100 crore.The order lacks non-application of mind and was based on mistake of facts and contrary to the principles of natural justice and was arbitrary and unreasonable, the government said.The NGT had passed the order on a batch of pleas, including one moved by social activist Jawahar Shanmugam seeking direction to the state to restore and revive the water bodies.Adyar and Cooum are two of the most polluted rivers to flow through any major urban agglomeration anywhere in the world and the Tamil Nadu government is accountable for the situation, the tribunal had observed in its order.last_img read more

Why govt thinks farmers inferior to rich businessmen Rahul Gandhi in Lok

first_imgWhy govt thinks farmers inferior to rich businessmen: Rahul Gandhi in Lok SabhaAttacking the Modi government over the “suffering” of farmers, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said it has given them no relief and wondered if it considered them “inferior” to businessmen who have been given concessions and loan waivers running into lakhs of crores.advertisement Press Trust of India New DelhiJuly 11, 2019UPDATED: July 11, 2019 20:56 IST Rahul Gandhi. (PTI File)Attacking the Modi government over the “suffering” of farmers, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said it has given them no relief and wondered if it considered them “inferior” to businessmen who have been given concessions and loan waivers running into lakhs of crores.Union minister Rajnath Singh countered Gandhi’s charge in Lok Sabha, as he blamed the long rule of the Congress for the plight of farmers and asserted that no prime minister has done as much for peasants as has Narendra Modi.Taking up the issue in the Zero Hour, Gandhi in his brief maiden speech in the 17th Lok Sabha mostly focused on Kerala and made specific mention of problems facing farmers in Wayanad, from where he has been elected to Lok Sabha.No relief has been given to farmers by the government, he said, claiming that businessmen have been granted tax concessions of Rs 4.3 lakh crore and waivers of Rs 5.5 lakh crore.He asked why the government thinks farmers are “inferior” to rich businessmen.In his reply, Singh said the government’s move to give Rs 6,000 to farmers annually will lead to a rise in their income by 20-25 per cent and claimed that more farmers committed suicide before the BJP-led dispensation came to power.”It is not that the condition of farmers deteriorated in the last one, two or four years. Those who ruled the country for a long time are responsible for their state. The amount of increase in MSP (minimum support price) that our prime minister has effected has not been done by anybody in independent India’s history,” he claimed.Gandhi said farmers are suffering throughout the country and are in terrible condition in Kerala. One farmer ended his life in Wayanad on Wednesday due to crushing debt, he added.Farmers have been facing threats of immediate eviction from their properties, he said, as banks from which they had taken loans have have pressing them hard for recovering their due.In Wayanad alone, bank notices for non-payment have been given to almost 8,000 farmers and they are facing the threat of immediate eviction under certain Acts, the Congress MP said.Their properties are attached against their bank loans. This is resulting in a spate of farmer suicides, he said, adding that 18 farmers in Kerala have committed suicide due to this.”The Kerala government has announced moratorium on repayment of farm loans for all Kerala farmers till December 31. The government of India is refusing to direct the RBI to consider this moratorium and get it implemented. In the last five years, the BJP government gave Rs 4.3 lakh crore in tax concession and waived Rs 5.5 lakh crore for rich businessmen. Why is this shameful double standard,” he asked”Why does the government act as if our farmers are inferior to the rich? I was sad to see that no concrete step was taken in this budget to provide relief to the farmers,” he added.Gandhi said Modi made certain commitments five years ago to the farmers on prices and on farm loans among other issues and added that a terrible situation for the farmers exist in this country.He requested the Union government to fulfil these promises.As soon as Gandhi finished his speech, other Congress leaders wanted to raise the issue of desertions of MLAs from their party’s ranks in Karnataka and Goa, for which they have blamed the BJP.With the Speaker not permitting them to speak on the matter, they staged a walkout and were joined by other opposition parties such as the TMC and the BSP.ALSO READ | Vaiko, Anbumani Ramadoss elected unopposed to Rajya Sabha from Tamil NaduALSO WATCH | In Depth: The big Congress churnFor the latest World Cup news, live scores and fixtures for World Cup 2019, log on to Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for World Cup news, scores and updates.Get real-time alerts and all the news on your phone with the all-new India Today app. Download from Post your comment Do You Like This Story? Awesome! Now share the story Too bad. Tell us what you didn’t like in the comments Posted byAnupriya Thakur Tags :Follow Rahul GandhiFollow Lok SabhaFollow farmers Nextlast_img read more