Tough opponents ahead for the 49ers

first_img 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Freshman Bridgette Pagano has three of the team’s four victories, with 28 strikeouts in 44 2/3 innings and an earned run average of 2.82. LOS ANGELES – The Long Beach State softball team, 4-10 after the first three weekends of the season, faces No. 19-ranked Florida today at 12:30 in the Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament at UCLA, and almost immediately follow that game up with a clash with the 12th-ranked host Bruins at 3 o’clock. The 49ers play a single game Saturday at 3 p.m. against Illinois State. They play the Redbirds again Sunday at 11:30 a.m., followed by their tournament finale at 4 p.m. against Loyola of Chicago. last_img read more

‘It makes a change from the abuse’ – United fans applauding their ‘future boss’

first_img1 Ryan Giggs’ career as a Man United first team player began on this day (02/03/91) 25 years ago and fans have been celebrating the winger.He was 17 when he came on for Denis Irwin against Everton in a 2-0 defeat, but by the time he finished playing in 2014 he was a total winner.He scored 168 goals in 963 appearances and won 13 league titles, four FA Cups and the Champions League twice.Many fans hope to see Giggs as a Man United manager one day – watch his fantastic volley against West Ham in 1991 here. Ryan Giggs made his Man United debut on 2 March, 1991 last_img

Donegal Harriers raise €1000 for Raphoe’s Riding for the Disabled

first_imgDonegal Harriers made a cheque presentation to members of the Raphoe and East Donegal branch of Riding for the Disabled on Sunday last.Joanne Houston, Donegal Harriers, presented the group with a cheque of €1000 over the weekend.The groups annual Hunt Ball recently took place in Jackson’s Hotel in Ballybofey. All proceeds awarded to the Donegal branch for the Disabled was raised at the ball in January.Donegal Harriers raise €1000 for Raphoe’s Riding for the Disabled was last modified: March 13th, 2019 by Shaun KeenanShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Tags:Donegal Harrierslast_img read more

Your Linemen at Work: DNA Search and Rescue Machine Imaged in Action

first_imgDNA is amazing enough, but its automatic error-correction utilities are enough to stagger the imagination.  There are dozens of repair mechanisms to shield our genetic code from damage; one of them was portrayed in Nature1 March 31 (see also analysis by Sheila David in the same issue2) in terms that should inspire awe.    Imagine a huge encyclopedia written on beads, in strands many miles long.  The words of the book are inscribed in letter beads along the strand.  Now imagine that, tied to the primary strand, is a twin strand with beads representing the “negatives” of the primary beads, such that when the strands are separated, exact copies can be made.  Every once in awhile, the strands are separated by a machine.  Floating beads are attracted to the negative beads, lining up to form exact copies of the book or portions thereof.  This is a simplified view of DNA transcription and replication.  What happens, however, if the wrong bead, or a defective bead, becomes attached to the negative?  For books, that could misspell a word or produce gibberish, but in living organisms, the consequences could be disastrous.    Now picture little machines that regularly traverse the string of beads.  Because the shapes of the beads differ according to the letters on them, this machine is able to find typos.  Let’s say that a letter “C” is always supposed to pair with a letter “G” on the strand.  The proofreading machine feels every bead, and if it finds that particular mismatch, it ejects the incorrect bead so that another correct one can be fastened on by another machine.  This is a simplified view of “base-excision repair” (BER) that actually takes place in your body, all the time.    The strands in a cell are, of course, DNA, and the beads are called nucleotides, or bases.  Of the four bases in DNA (C, G, A, and T) cytosine or C is always supposed to pair with guanine, G, and adenine, A, is always supposed to pair with thymine, T.  The enzyme studied by Banerjee et al. in Nature is one of a host of molecular machines called BER glycosylases; this one is called human oxoG glycosylase repair enzyme (hOGG1), and it is specialized for finding a particular type of error: an oxidized G base (guanine).  Oxidation damage can be caused by exposure to ionizing radiation (like sunburn) or free radicals roaming around in the cell nucleus.  The normal G becomes oxoG, making it very slightly out of shape.  There might be one in a million of these on a DNA strand.  While it seems like a minor typo, it can actually cause the translation machinery to insert the wrong amino acid into a protein, with disastrous results, such as colorectal cancer.  This little machine has an important job.3  How does it work?    The machine latches onto the DNA double helix and works its way down the strand, feeling every base on the way.  As it proceeds, it kinks the DNA strand into a sharp angle.  It is built to ignore the T and A bases, but whenever it feels a C, it knows there is supposed to be a G attached.  The machine has precision contact points for C and G.  When the C engages, the base paired to it is flipped up out of the helix into a slot inside the enzyme that is finely crafted to mate with a pure, clean G.  If all is well, it flips the G back into the DNA helix and moves on.  If the base is an oxoG, however, that base gets flipped into another slot further inside, where powerful forces yank the errant base out of the strand so that other machines can insert the correct one.    Now this is all wonderful stuff so far, but as with many things in living cells, the true wonder is in the details.  The thermodynamic energy differences between G and oxoG are extremely slight – oxoG contains only one extra atom of oxygen – and yet this machine is able to discriminate between them to high levels of accuracy.  David says, “DNA-repair enzymes amaze us with their ability to search through vast tracts of DNA to find subtle anomalies in the structure.  The human repair enzyme 8-oxoguanine glycosylase (hOGG1) is particularly impressive in this regard because it efficiently removes 8-oxoguanine (oxoG), a damaged guanine (G) base containing an extra oxygen atom, and ignores undamaged bases” (emphasis added in all quotes).  The team led by Anirban Banerjee of Harvard, using a clever new stop-action method of imaging, caught this little enzyme in the act of binding to a bad guanine, helping scientists visualize how the machinery works.    Some other amazing details are mentioned about this molecular proofreader.  It checks every C-G pair, but slips right past the A-T pairs.  The enzyme, “much like a train that stops only at certain locations,” pauses at each C and, better than any railcar conductor inspecting each ticket, flips up the G to validate it.  Unless it conforms to the slot perfectly – even though G and oxoG differ in their match by only one hydrogen bond – it is ejected like a freeloader in a Pullman car and tossed out into the desert.  David elaborates:Calculations of differences in free energy indicate that both favourable and unfavourable interactions lead to preferential binding of oxoG over G in the oxoG-recognition pocket, and of G over oxoG in the alternative site.  This structure [the image resolved by the scientific team] captures an intermediate that forms in the process of finding oxoG, and illustrates that the damaged base must pass through a series of ‘gates’, or checkpoints, within the enzyme; only oxoG satisfies the requirements for admission to the damage-specific pocket, where it will be clipped from the DNA.  Other bases (C, A and T) may be rejected outright without extrusion from the helix because hOGG1 scrutinizes both bases in each pair, and only bases opposite a C will be examined more closely.How many linemen does it take to repair your strands?  The researchers explain, “Only 50,000 molecules of hOGG1 protect the entire 6 x 109 base-pair nuclear genome of a diploid human cell, hence the enzyme must have developed an efficient mechanism for distinguishing oxoG from the four nucleobases in normal DNA.”  50,000 repairmen for 6 billion bases: that’s one repairman for every 120,000 letters, comparable to a skilled proofreader checking every letter of a 20,000 word document for one specific kind of typo.  Then there are all the other proofreaders that look for other kinds of mistakes.41Banerjee et al., “Structure of a repair enzyme interrogating undamaged DNA elucidates recognition of damaged DNA,” Nature 434, 612 – 618 (31 March 2005); doi:10.1038/nature03458.2Sheila S. David, “Structural biology: DNA search and rescue,” Nature 434, 569 – 570 (31 March 2005); doi:10.1038/434569a.3See “Life without DNA Repair,” in PNAS, 1997.  It lists 13 BER enzymes including this one.  Studies on mice are described: “mutants show various combinations of defective embryogenesis, tissue-specific dysfunction, hypersensitivity to DNA-damaging agents, premature senescence, genetic instability, and elevated cancer rates.”4The authors mention another paralogous enzyme, 3-methyladenine DNA glycosylase (AlkA), which is not as “fastidious” as hOGG1, because it “does occasionally excise adenine residues from undamaged DNA.”  But there may be reasons for the differences in fidelity; some may have to work under stressful conditions, and repair as much as they can within constraints of time or other factors.  JBC Online says that AlkA has “a remarkably versatile active site.”  This reminds us that intelligent design does not mean perfection of every detail, but “constrained optimization”: achieving the combination of features that produces a “sweet spot” with best overall performance.  The proof of the pudding for DNA repair is in the performance itself: no one watching a race horse, cormorant (05/24/2004) or champion triathlete in action could argue with the assertion that the suite of repair enzymes in living things appears optimized to achieve an extremely high degree of fidelity under a wide range of conditions and stress factors.OK, Darwin Party: checkmate.  Natural selection cannot act without accurate replication, yet the protein machinery for the level of accuracy required is itself built by the very genetic code it is designed to protect.  Explain that!  If the Darwinists cannot provide a plausible mechanism whereby nonliving chemicals, by chance, hit upon a means of replicating information-bearing molecules accurately, there would have been no evolution, because any gains would have been drowned in the errors of subsequent generations.    It would have been challenging enough to explain accurate translation alone in a primordial soup, but now throw in some free radicals and radiation, and any information gained would have quickly been destroyed through accumulation of errors.  So accurate replication and proofreading are required for the origin of life.  How on earth could proofreading enzymes emerge, especially with this degree of fidelity, when they depend on the very information that they are designed to protect?  Think about it.  This is a catch-22 for Darwinists.  No wonder none of the authors of these two articles dared whisper the word evolution.  The gig is up; we might as well not even waste any time arguing about Hobbit man (03/25/2005), peppered mice (04/18/2003) and what IMAX films to show (03/23/2005).  Proofreading codes by chance?  And a complex suite of translation machinery without a designer?  Anyone with a head screwed on is not going to want such nonsense taught in public schools (03/24/2005).    If we can just sweep away the cobwebs of musty Darwinian thinking out of our minds for a moment, we can begin to enjoy the wonder of these incredible mechanisms.  If the ancients could understand that creation demands a Creator by looking at the sun, or a bird, or a baby, how much more we today with all the revelations about cell biology and molecular machines?  The grand oratorio of creation is being unveiled, a little at a time, into a hallelujah chorus that deserves our most worshipful applause – indeed, a standing ovation.(Visited 13 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

SA’s airports gear up for 2010 influx

first_img6 November 2009 To make sure the country can handle the expected massive influx of visitors for the 2010 Fifa World Cup™, South Africa’s airports have been undergoing major upgrades, and with seven months to go until kick-off, the final touches are being applied. However, the upgrades go far beyond catering for the fans during the football World Cup. With R19.5-billion having been ploughed in, South Africa is set to benefit from extensive improvements to air travel and tourism post-2010. “Transport is the heartbeat of the South African economy,” Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said at the opening of the revamped Wonderboom Airport in Tshwane/Pretoria this week. “We must continue to intensify our work towards improving the social and economic development of our people.” Though not normally used as a commercial airport, Wonderboom will provide a service to fans in Tshwane during the World Cup, and has had its arrival and departure lounges refurbished and parking facilities extended for this purpose. At South Africa’s major airports, upgrade work has included the following.OR Tambo International As the main International airport in South Africa, OR Tambo International Airport is a transport hub for the country, handling around 16-million passengers (and growing)on a yearly basis. The airport’s new R2.2-billion central terminal building is well on its way to completion, with parts of it already in public use. The new atrium at international arrivals, opened in September 2008, is proving to be a popular area for people waiting for passengers. With additional retail facilities and an enlarged and refurbished food court, there is now no shortage of things to do while waiting at OR Tambo. Seventy-five additional check-in desks were commissioned in the enlarged departures area in April 2009, along with an additional six baggage carousels, allowing passengers to be processed and put on their flights more efficiently. The addition of a second multi-story parking bay, which will see an additional 5 200 bays in place in time for the World Cup, will go a long way towards accommodating the increase in passengers. The introduction of bay detection technology has also vastly improved the ease in which passengers can find parking, with green or red lights indicating whether bays are open or not. Cape Town International Over six-million passengers pass through Cape Town International Airport each year, and this a figure is expected to double by 2015. Construction of a new R1.5-billion central terminal building is progressing well, with the new departure facilities currently being commissioned. A new multi-level, 4 000-bay parkade, built at a cost of R400-million, is due to open in December 2009, with the first 400 bays already open to the public. The last phase of Cape Town International’s development, due to be complete in March 2010, is the extension to the existing arrivals terminal, with pedestrian connectivity to the central terminal building. Durban / La Mercy Work is going well on the brand new R7.5-billion airport which will eventually take over the services of the existing Durban International Airport. With progress now standing at 72%, the landscape on which the new airport is developed has undergone dramatic changes. The 3.7-kilometre runway will be capable of accommodating the largest carriers, such as the A380, while 6 500 parking bays are under construction.Bloemfontein Airport As one of South Africa’s smaller airports, Bloemfontein Airport handles around 250 000 passengers per year. The runway has received attention, with a R121-million upgrade to the tarmac which should see a significant increase in usage from next year. Work on the refurbishment and expansion of the terminal building, to the value of R46-million, is progressing well, and revamped check-in and departure facilities are already in operation. A new arrivals area and a public concourse has been commissioned, and construction is under way. Port Elizabeth Airport As a World Cup host city, with a number of group games as well as one of the quarterfinals being played at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium, the Eastern Cape coastal city can expect a big spike in visitor number during and after the World Cup. To accommodate the expected increase in traffic, the airport’s runway has undergone a R68-million upgrade.East London Airport Although East London is not hosting any World Cup matches, it will act as an important gateway to Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth. A R98-million expansion and refurbishment of the airports terminal building is progressing well, with some of the revamped areas already open for public use. An R8-million upgrade of the parking facilities has also been completed. Other airports Other airports in World Cup host cities have also been preparing for an increase in passenger numbers. With a new terminal, Polokwane International Airport will handle around 400 passengers per hour. The addition of new parking facilities and passenger pick-up zones have also been included in the upgrade plans for the airport, which will service passengers arriving for matches at Peter Mokaba stadium. Nelspruit, with two airports – Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport and Nelspruit Airport – already caters for a large number of tourists wanting to visit the Kruger National Park. Hosting a number of opening round games at Mbombela Stadium, the two airports will be in full use over the months of June and July 2010. Source: 2010 Fifa World Cup South Africa Organising Committeelast_img read more

South Africans off to summit Kili for Caring4Girls

first_imgEach step to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, no matter how slowly it is taken, will be for beneficiaries of Caring4Girls, says Melissa Rehbock. She is one of about 40 participants of the 2016 Trek4Mandela Kilimanjaro Expedition. The expedition takes place annually.She is aiming to take it slowly, one step at a time. The Capetonian and others left South Africa for Tanzania on Wednesday, 13 July to start the expedition up Mount Kilimanjaro. Kili, as it is known, is the highest mountain on the African continent. It rises approximately 4 877 metres from its base to 5 895 metres above sea level. Melissa Rehbock says she will take it one step at a time to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. She and others aim to fundraise to assist thousands of girls with sanitary pads. (Image supplied)The aimThe target of the initiative this year is to help 350 000 South African girls who are not able to buy their own sanitary towels, says the Trek4Mandela website. According to research, girls from impoverished backgrounds could miss up to 50 days of school each year as a result of these challenges.“Trek4Mandela aims to create awareness of the Caring4Girls programme and give much-needed accessibility to sanitary towels. This, together with effective hygiene education, will ensure the development and growth of thousands of young South African and African women. Our ultimate goal is to reach two million girls by 2020,” reads the site.In a video on YouTube, a teacher says that some of the girls at her school are afraid to ask for a sanitary pad. This is one of the reasons she is happy that the Caring4Girls initiative was created by the Imbumba Foundation.Watch the beneficiaries of Caring4Girls explain how this project affects them:Nerve-racking expedition“It’s the altitude that is the biggest factor [on the expedition] and not always how fit one is,” Rehbok explains, although she thinks she is fit enough for the expedition. “No-one knows how their body is going to react to the altitude, so that’s a little nerve-racking.“We will be going slowly as one does on Kilimanjaro. The term is ‘pole pole, slowly slowly.’”Training started six months ago. It included hiking, running and strength training in the gym.A morning spent on @LionsHeadCT to send @millydoeskili on her way for her summit pic.twitter.com/97MoQctYob— Stace (@StaceyRehbock) July 3, 2016Rehbock says she learned about Caring4Girls in May last year. “When I heard about the Trek4Mandela climb, I immediately said I wanted to do it. I knew I wanted to be part of something so special and raise as much money as I could for the initiative. The dream has become a reality.”On a Skype call recently with women from Saudi Arabia, she learned lack of access to sanitary pads was a wider problem. “This cause [girls having the lack of access of sanitary towels] does not only happen in South Africa.”Freezing conditionsCarmen Cupido, who lives in Johannesburg, says the idea of summiting Kilimanjaro in the middle of the night by walking 1.5 kilometres over three hours in freezing conditions and little oxygen, terrifies her. “But I am a brave person. That’s what I tell myself.”Her last physical challenge was running a marathon (42.5km) in 2010. She is looking forward to the camaraderie, fitness and rediscovering her deeper reserves of determination. “I want to achieve new goals with my body, mind and spirit.”Cupido is one of six in Seacom’s team. The company is a submarine cable operator.As part of their training, in the last five months they had five group training sessions. “Two of the sessions were Drakensberg 18km hikes. The other three were Suikerbosrand 12km hikes, which were followed the next day with two hours of Westcliff stairs training,” explains Cupido. “Individually, hikers are doing their gym training, running and/or cycling, strength training and Pilates. This varies from person to person.” Albie Bester, Suveer Ramdhani, Carmen Cupido, Kelly Crofton, Sibusiso Khanye and Lizaan de Jongh make up the 2016 Seacom Kilimanjaro team. (Image supplied)Kelly Crofton, one of Cupido’s colleagues, says she is looking forward to meeting new people, sharing stories and learning more about herself.The Kilimanjaro expedition is something completely out of her comfort zone.Happy to be part of a team to raise funds for Caring4Girls, Crofton adds: “Quite frankly, no girl should not have no option but to stay absent from school because they have their period. Nor do they have to face the humiliation of not having a sanitary pad when their period is due.”She hopes their fundraising will give a few girls the opportunity of having one less stress in their lives.Sibusiso Khanye, another Seacom employee, says to summit Kilimanjaro has always been his dream. A Comrades runner, he is proud to be touching lives and making a difference by helping Caring4Girls.Watch an interview with Samantha Pillay, who was diagnosed with lupus disease. She spoke to the SABC about why she is doing this year’s expedition:Promoting Mandela MonthRichard Mabaso, founder of the Imbumba Foundation, started the Caring4Girls initiative in 2012, shortly after he overheard that one of his nieces did not have access to sanitary pads.He told Sello Hatang, the chief executive officer of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, about Caring4Girls and that fundraising for it was the reason for summiting Kilimanjaro.Speaking to the SABC, Mabaso says: “One thing we owe to Madiba is to start taking a leading role as South Africans to educate people about Mandela Day… in terms of what it means and to really go beyond 18 July.”Madiba is Mandela’s clan name.The pillars of Mandela Day 2016 are: education and literacy, food security, shelter and the environment. The Nelson Mandela Day website encourages South Africans and international supporters to “Make every day a Mandela Day” by taking action and inspiring change. The annual day is on Madiba’s birthday, 18 July.The oldest person to summit Kili was 80, according to Mabaso. “Sometimes it’s not about your fitness, but your discipline. You have to be disciplined: drink water, take one step, take a rest and then take another step.”Supporters flooded Twitter with their well wishes for the expedition:Good luck To all the 2016 @Trek4Mandela climbers! @PennyLebyane @sibueverest pic.twitter.com/Zen61mcvx4—Mpumi Mbethe (@MpumiMbethe) July 11,2016Tothe team, Safe travels, clear perspectives and fresh insights all for a worthy cause,@Trek4Mandela @ubuntubami https://t.co/lfZcHnoaWE—Masire-Mwamba (@mmasekgoam) July 11,2016Advice on climbing KiliSibusiso Vilane, their expedition guide, gave him the following advice, Mabaso says: “He told me to internalise the climb when you get to the mountain. It must be a personal journey.“So one: set up your summit. Break down your summit into mini summits. Your first day you should be about: ‘I want to get to the gate. I want to do the first hike and I want to get to the next camp.’“The minute you step down, it becomes easier. People are more challenged by their mental fitness.”SouthAfrica.info reporterWould you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See:Using SouthAfrica.info materiallast_img read more

Terabytes Missing From The National Archives: Would the Cloud Be Safer?

first_imgTags:#enterprise Cloud computing might strike fear in the hearts of some, but at least your employees can’t walk off with your hard drives. Since May, the National Archives and Records Administration has offered a $50,000 reward for a missing Clinton-era hard drive. As of Sunday, it’s been revealed that thousands of electronic devices containing sensitive and historically important data are missing from the nation’s most important public repository. While IT tends to have a knee-jerk reaction in favor of traditional data centers, the situation at the National Archives shows the sense of false security they impart. The Back StoryIn May of this year, the National Archives issued a press release that admitted an external hard drive with two terabytes of data had gone missing. Within days of the disappearance, the agency was offering $50,000 dollars for its return. Months later the money is unclaimed and the hard drive is still missing. Now, a criminal investigation by the inspector general of the Archives has revealed that thousands of electronic storage devices have been lost or stolen. From external hard drives to entire servers, exactly how many devices and how much data has been compromised is unknown. Conclusion: It’s Hard to Steal A CloudWhat is clear is that if the most important archival system in the country can’t protect its data centers, it’s likely that the enterprise is going to have problems too. The similarities between enterprise data management and the agency run deep. With facilities in 20 states, the National Archives deal with the entire spectrum of nightmare situations when it comes to data security.What if, instead of a chaotic jumble of devices and data centers, the Archives simply put everything in the cloud? True, it would be vulnerable in many ways. But they’d be different ways than what plagues them now. It’s hard to steal the server holding someone’s social security number when you have no real idea where it is. At this point, it might be ludicrous for anyone to put their most sensitve data in the cloud as a security measure. But the dire straits at the National Archives should stand as a warning for those who think traditional data security measures are without vulnerability. steven walling IT + Project Management: A Love Affair 3 Areas of Your Business that Need Tech Nowcenter_img Cognitive Automation is the Immediate Future of… Massive Non-Desk Workforce is an Opportunity fo… Related Posts last_img read more

A lifeline called Jan Soochna: How Rajasthan’s public information portal is empowering people

first_imgAn e-mitra plus operator in Bhim tehsil, Rajsamand district, Rajasthan.  | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy  “There is not enough signal for the Internet to work properly,” Khatik says apologetically. “Imagine, if it is so bad in Bhim town, it’s much worse in the village panchayats. At least, with the urban machines, they can be connected to Wi-Fi even if the speed is slow. Rural machines must be connected to Rajnet [the State operator].” Data available with the government show that in one year, only 10 transactions have been made on this particular machine. Of the 14,440 machines installed across the State over a year ago, 914 have never been used.Khatik adds that all 37 of the kiosks installed in Bhim block have private operators who act as middlemen anyway. “There is no incentive for the operator to even login to the machine in many areas, because he can charge more for the same services without using it,” he says. DoITC data show that the kiosks are used more frequently in urban areas mostly to print out digitally signed certificates and pay for phone and electricity bills. The Jan Soochna portal itself has been accessed only 16,000 times on these machines over the last month.Little informationAlthough the Jan Soochna portal was launched with much publicity, information about it is still to reach many people in Rajasthan. “No one outside our office has heard the name of this Jan Soochna. But it is a new scheme, it will take some time to become popular,” explains Khatik.In the villages of Rajsamand and Bhilwara district, there is no visible publicity regarding the portal as yet. Even villagers who have personally benefited from the expanded database access are yet to hear the term Jan Soochna.“We have put out advertisements in papers and are planning awareness programmes. So far, the entire expenditure on Jan Soochna has come from our own internal budget, but the DoITC has now proposed a budget of ₹5 crore over the next five years to maintain the software and popularise the portal,” says Sharma. He sees the Jan Soochna initiative as the next step of the government’s integrated service delivery efforts, a natural evolution of its franchisee-based e-mitras or service centres. He argues that e-mitras are the ideal facilitators for the Jan Soochna portal.According to the MKSS activists who helped evolve the concept of Jan Soochna, e-mitra operators are often part of the problem, acting as middlemen who have a vested interest in blocking access to information. “We see Jan Soochna as a natural evolution of the RTI movement. This information is meant to back up an accountability and grievance redressal framework, and as such needs government-run information and facilitation centres,” says Dey.MKSS wants training on Jan Soochna usage to be imparted to front-line government workers at anganwadis and panchayats as well as grassroots social workers. Local databases need to be made visible offline as well, says Dey. “Specific data on ration beneficiaries should be painted on the walls of the ration shop itself, so it can be seen even by those who cannot go online,” he says. The DoITC is also seriously considering an MKSS suggestion that printouts of information from the Jan Soochna portal should automatically come with a digital signature, giving them the same legal validity as RTI responses. At the Jan Soochna launch, the Chief Minister gave a big boost to the point of view that the portal is part of a wider RTI framework rather than a mere service delivery, reminiscing about his engagement with the early RTI movement. “About two decades ago, I reached the sit-in protest organised by social worker Aruna Roy and her companions demanding RTI. I agreed to their demands. Then, fortunately, we formed the government and Rajasthan became the first State of Indian to initiate for this law,” he said.As the Rajasthan experiment evolves, other States are already making plans to follow suit and are thus closely watching these debates. Just five days after the launch of Jan Soochna, the Karnataka government directed all departments with beneficiary schemes to begin sharing datasets in preparation for the launch of a similar portal. The real success of the story will depend on how well the Rajasthan government can help empower the marginalised with the biggest tool at its disposal: information.  For example, in 2017, MKSS activists got access to a list of 10 lakh people across the State who had been excluded from the government’s pension scheme when the payment system switched from the post office to Aadhaar-linked bank accounts. Overnight, the number of pensioners dropped from 68 lakh to 58 lakh. According to the government, almost three lakh of the excluded names were dead, while another two lakh were fake or duplicates. By painstakingly tracking down names from the list of the supposedly dead, activists like Baluji found that thousands of people like Tolaram had been wrongly excluded. “We sent in the papers to show he is alive, and finally they restarted his pension three months ago,” says Baluji. He navigates search queries and Excel sheets on his phone with a fluency that is enviable in a 62-year-old who has only studied till Class 8. “See, he got ₹8,000 worth of back pay, pensions unpaid for 11 months, on July 25, 2019,” Baluji points to the screen. Tolaram cannot read the information there, but nods vigorously with a gap-toothed smile. “Overall, I have helped people who were denied pensions get more than ₹80,000 worth of unpaid pensions,” says Baluji. In the neighbouring Bhim tehsil alone, more than 1,300 wrongly excluded names were added back to the pension scheme after a re-verification exercise. “It is only possible because we are able to see this information in detail,” Baluji says. Digital Dialogues, the beginningOver the last five years, Rajasthan has been digitising and integrating databases, including flagship social sector schemes, using Aadhaar-based verifications and payments. In 2017, the Department of Information Technology and Communication (DoITC) began to host ‘Digital Dialogues’. Bimonthly meetings were held with interested citizens including activists from MKSS and the wider collective of the Soochna Evam Rozgaar Adhikar Abhiyan, to discuss how to open access to such databases and present them for public use. In early 2018, Tolaram Kumhar, 73, suddenly stopped getting his pension of ₹750 per month. “I went to the bank after a while, but they didn’t have any answers. I didn’t know what to do until Baluji came,” he says, holding a creased booklet that documents the saga of his pension payments. Tolaram gestures to the man sharing the charpoy with him on a breezy October evening. “Baluji looked up information on his phone and found that I had been removed from the government’s pension list,” he says. Why? “Because they said I was dead.”Tolaram, who wears a torn blue T-shirt and a dirty white dhoti, spends most of his days in a small hut located high above the fields and grazing grounds of Thana village in Bhilwara district of Rajasthan. The land looks lush, but excess rainfall in this typically water-starved region has destroyed the maize crop this year, leaving marginal farmers and agricultural workers like him on the brink of destitution and deeply dependent on the government’s pension scheme for basic sustenance.It is people like Balulal Gujjar, popularly called Baluji, who have come to the rescue of people like Tolaram. Baluji is dressed in an intricately tied white dhoti, pleated white kurta-jacket, a silver neckband, and a red turban. He has been a social activist with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) for half of his 62 years. Now an elected ward member in Thana, Baluji with his faded pink jhola is a familiar sight to villagers for 30 km around. Baluji carries a well-used Samsung smartphone in his pocket, through which he accesses the Jan Soochna (public information) portal, which is the Rajasthan government’s latest effort to offer wider and easier access to the State’s increasingly digitised databases. The single window portal aims to increase transparency and accountability in governance. It has 82 different information request options for 32 schemes across 13 departments. It not only explains the schemes but also provides real-time information on beneficiaries, authorities in charge, progress, etc. Jan Soochna was launched with great fanfare by Congress Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot in Jaipur on September 13. Different elements of the portal have been on trial for more than two years, with gradual public access to databases being provided under the previous regime of BJP Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.Also Read Effort worth emulation: On Rajasthan’s public information portal After she recovered from the operation in June 2017, Devi made several visits to the hospital, but failed to recover her money. “I took all my papers, but they told me they have applied to the insurance company and nothing has come yet,” she says. “Only when Vineet bhai looked on his computer, he found that the hospital had already got the money.” Devi also says that after her operation, she put her fingerprint on a form that she could not read. Later she found out that the form falsely stated that she had not paid any money to the hospital as she was covered by the cashless insurance scheme. In March 2018, Bhambhu, armed with information from the Bhamashah database, accompanied Devi to the hospital and recovered ₹19,600.“After that, my husband got cancer, so we had to use up the money for my husband’s treatment. He died last year,” Devi says, as her two remaining goats enter the courtyard along with her youngest child, 13-year-old Radha. “I never went to school, but my daughter has finished Class 8 and I want her to study till Class 12 at least. Without education, there is nothing,” she says. Strength of unityFor unlettered villagers, the Jan Soochna portal is of little use without facilitators like Bhambhu and Baluji. However, in Gomaka Badia village in Thana panchayat, villagers have also discovered the strength of unity when armed with information. On a hot evening in May 2017, Baluji set up a projector in an open area in front of a small shop owned by Chun Singh, 67. Suddenly, the shopkeeper saw his own face flashing on the makeshift screen. “They had all the details about my ration card. For the first time, I found out that I was getting less foodgrain than I should have. There were five names on my card, so I was owed 25 kg of wheat every month, but I was only getting 10 kg,” he says, sitting on a steel drum in his shop. The information obtained through Digital Dialogues showed that almost every family in the village was getting cheated by the local dealer, Paras. Outraged, a delegation of 22 villagers took their complaint to district authorities in Bhilwara. Following an investigation, the dealer was suspended and the 400-odd quintals he had swindled were distributed among the villagers.Also Readcenter_img Rajasthan launches information portal “Digital Dialogues was the real beginning of the Jan Soochna portal,” says R.K. Sharma, an additional director who oversees the project. Sharma joined the DoITC in 1988, the year it was formed, and can speak at length about the State’s efforts to use “technology for integrated service delivery” over the last three decades. “Through our discussions with citizens and activists, we developed this portal to share whatever real-time, individual-level data are needed by the common man, to reduce corruption and to increase transparency of governance.”In the month since its official launch, the Jan Soochna portal (jansoochna.rajasthan.gov.in) has had 3.3 lakh visitors and almost 15 lakh information hits. Apart from this, there have been another 50,000 information hits from the Jan Soochna mobile app.The portal provides information in Hindi and English on universal social security, health and education schemes as well as welfare schemes specifically aimed at farmers, construction workers, miners and students. Land revenue records, case listings, and grievance redressal databases are also available. While some categories, such as forest rights, have very limited data, some others have a lot of detail — on individual beneficiaries and specific details of payment, for instance. “This is a much-needed step inspired by the spirit of Section 4 of the Right to Information Act, which mandates governments to maintain computerised records and provide this information suo moto to the public, so that there is minimal need to file RTIs,” says Nikhil Dey, an MKSS activist who has been at the forefront of the RTI movement. A recent NGO study of orders by the Central Information Commission in 2018 found that 70% of the original RTI applications requested information which should have been put out in the public domain already. “You have made people go through so much pain for digitisation, getting multiple cards made, giving their biometric data… At least, let them get some benefits from it. Through Digital Dialogues, we argued that the public has a right to all the information the government collects about them. There should be no password-protected login barring access to these databases,” says Dey.The role of facilitators “It was activists like Baluji who gathered initial information on what data are most needed by marginalised villagers,” says Vineet Bhambhu, earlier a U.S.-bound software engineer and now a grassroots activist, who helped lead MKSS conversations with the DoITC for Digital Dialogues. “We found that people mostly needed data on their own entitlements: food, pensions, job guarantee, educational scholarships, labour welfare benefits, health insurance, treatment for occupational diseases such as silicosis, land rights, etc.,” he says. Bhambhu points out that many poor people had no way to track what happened if payments had been diverted to a different bank account or if forest rights applications had been rejected. In other words, they had no way of finding out what happened to payments if they could not access the databases and processes that form the backbone of a particular scheme or law. Take the case of Sovani Devi. A 45-year-old widow in Bherukeda Amner village in Rajsamand district, lack of information cost her a flock of goats, a loss she could ill-afford. Sitting in her bare courtyard, Devi is flanked by her sons, both disabled. Ram Singh, 18, cannot use his legs and drags himself around on his knees, while his 16-year-old brother Kishore can neither hear nor speak.“Two years ago, I was diagnosed with a tumour in my uterus and I went to the hospital because I had Bhamashah [health insurance],” says Devi. The Bhagwan Mahavir Hospital, a private hospital, is empanelled as part of the State’s cashless health insurance scheme, the Bhamashah Swasthya Bima Yojana, and should have treated a card-holder without payment. “But they said I would have to first pay for the operation and that I would get the money back only later,” Devi says, showing the folder from the hospital. which is located in Deogarh town, 40 km away. Faced with a demand for ₹15,000 for the operation plus additional charges for medication, Devi saw no choice. “I used up all my savings. I went back home and sold 12 [out of 16] goats for ₹30,000 and used that to pay the hospital,” she says. Apart from the operation, Devi says she paid ₹8,600 for medicines, of which bills were provided for only ₹4,600. The rest of the money from the goat sale was soon gone too, in paying for food and travel, with a one-way trip to hospital by taxi costing ₹600. A milestone in greater transparency, accountability  “I got one bori [100 kg] of wheat. Now, we all know we must ask for the receipts every time we get ration,” says Singh. Although an FIR was filed against Paras, villagers say that his proximity to the local MLA means that no further action is likely. “The Jan Soochna portal is not about simply getting information for information’s sake. It must be built into a wider ecosystem of accountability,” says Bhambhu. Over the last two weeks, he has been part of a social audit of a welfare scheme for construction workers. Using their access to the government’s database, teams visited workers across the Bhim tehsil of Rajsamand district, gathering complaints which were presented at a stormy jan sunvai, or public hearing, in Bhim town on Monday. Confronting the labour commissioner, senior police officials and the local MLA under a swaying tent, hundreds of workers testified to a corrupt nexus of agents and government officials swindling them. They said they had been denied thousands of rupees worth of benefits. “We did not know our rights. We had no other option, so we paid the agent, but he cheated us,” said Ambalal, a worker from Sameliya village in Rajsamand district.No middleman, yes middlemanIn the Bhim block office, adjacent to the public hearing sit two expensive kiosks branded as e-mitra plus machines, which are meant to cut out the corrupt middleman and provide services and information directly to the user. The sleek orange and grey machines, which also host the Jan Soochna portal, look like ATM machines and cost ₹2 lakh each. Nearly 15,000 have been installed across the State.However, neither of the machines in Bhim works during the public hearing. One sits amidst coils of wires which have not been connected. The block’s informatics assistant Dalvir Khatik manages to switch on the other machine, but jerks his hand away as he gets an electric shock every time his finger meets the touch pad. Using a piece of paper as a makeshift protective glove, he manages to reach the Jan Soochna portal, but it fails to cough up any information. It gets stuck on a ‘loading’ page.Also Readlast_img read more

JD(U) names 12 more candidates

first_imgThe Janata Dal (United) on Saturday announced its second list of 12 candidates including the party’s Jharkhand unit president Salkhan Murmu and a son of former Congress leader Bagun Sumbarui.Mr. Murmu has been fielded from Majhgaon (ST) while Vimal Kumar Sumbarui has been nominated from Chaibasa (ST). Mr. Sumbarui is a son of former Bihar Minister and Congress leader Bagun Sumbarui, who died last year. The senior Sumbarui had also been a member of the Lok Sabha between 1977 and 1989 and 2004 and 2009. He represented the Lower House from Singhbhum (ST). The other 10 candidates of the JD(U) are new faces. The JD(U) headed by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, which is contesting the Assembly elections on its own, has so far announced candidates for 25 of the total 81 seats.last_img

Kings vs Rangers Isnt a Huge Mismatch

In the lead-up to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night, NBC’s television coverage noted on several occasions that the Los Angeles Kings were “overwhelming favorites” to beat the New York Rangers in the series. And if you pay attention to informal straw polls such as this one, it seems like that’s the case. As FiveThirtyEight’s Eric Tulsky pointed out in this preview, the media have been near-unanimous in predicting the Kings will win the Cup. Indeed, the Kings prevailed in Game 1.But they didn’t dominate, and the percentage of respondents who predict a certain outcome is not equivalent to the predicted probability of that outcome — especially when there’s little to no accountability for failed predictions, and the real possibility that herd behavior will produce non-independent picks. The most accurate and unbiased predictor of a given sporting event is usually the Las Vegas betting line, not a pundit. And according to Vegas, the Kings did not enter the series a markedly dominant favorite relative to other pre-series Stanley Cup front-runners.Unfortunately, archived futures odds like these, which gave the Kings a 59.6 percent probability of winning the Cup, are not available for past seasons. But the useful site SportsDataBase.com does offer money lines for individual NHL playoff games going back eight postseasons. Using those for Game 1 of every final since 2007 (combined with the assumption that, in the NHL, a home team will beat an evenly matched road opponent about 55 percent of the time), we can infer the probability of each team winning a game at home and on the road — and thus the probability of winning the series.Prior to the Kings’ Game 1 victory, they had a -146 money line in Vegas, and the Rangers were listed at +135. Converting those numbers to probabilities and accounting for the “juice” that bookmakers add to each line to make a profit, Vegas thought that Los Angeles had a 58.2 percent chance of beating the Rangers on home ice. Armed with that number, we can rearrange Bill James’s log5 formula to extract the implied probability that the Kings would beat New York at a neutral site (53.3 percent), on the road (48.3 percent) and in the series (58.7 percent). (The difference from the 59.6 number listed earlier is due to using data from different sportsbooks.)Using SportsDataBase.com, we have data for eight Stanley Cup Finals played. If we apply the method above to them, the average expected win probability for the favorite in those eight series was 61.3 percent — higher than the Kings’ pre-series odds this year. Here’s the rundown of all eight series:Instead of being “overwhelming favorites,” the Kings were actually less favored than the typical Cup front-runner. I expected them to be favored before the series began, and their odds have certainly improved after winning Game 1. The idea that this is a notably one-sided matchup, though, just isn’t supported by the market. read more