Long Island School Budgets Mostly Pass

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Long Island voters overwhelmingly voted Tuesday in favor of their school districts’ budgets by a margin of nearly 98 percent since almost all stayed under New York State’s 2-percent property tax cap.Voters in three districts that tried to exceed the limit—Bridgehampton, Sayville and West Babylon—failed to reach the 60 percent threshold required by state law and the Hempstead vote is reportedly being challenged for alleged irregularities. All across the Island, turnout was reportedly high, like in Syosset, where 70 percent of the district’s voters backed the proposed tax hike of 1.33 percent.Syosset School Board member Josh Lafazan called the increase “our lowest budget-to-budget increase in 20 years.” That also happens to be the same amount of years that the state’s youngest school board member has been alive.Now in his second year on the board, Lafazan plans to attend Cornell University this September as a junior transfer student from Nassau Community College. When he was first elected, he was still a senior at Syosset High School and told his constituents that he hoped to transfer to Columbia University, so he wouldn’t be so far away. Now, he plans to participate at all the board’s executive sessions via Skype and appear at every monthly school board meeting in person, unless an occasional test interferes.“I will continue to strive to help improve the school district and bring new ideas to the board for financial savings, even from a distance,” he told the community in a recent email. He plans to run for another three-year term next May.The community supported the budget Lafazan backed, but not enough of them apparently followed his recommendation that Bill Weiner replace incumbent Laura Schlesinger, who “comes from the old school board mentality of her predecessors,” Lafazan wrote. Weiner “came up short,” as Lafazan put it Wednesday morning after the final results were in.Before Lafazan ran for the school board, the district, which has 6,500 students, had achieved some unwanted statewide notoriety because its school superintendent, Carole Hankin, had the distinction of earning the second-highest salary for that job in the state. She got $506,000 in compensation, a sum that drew some criticism in 2011 from Gov. Andrew Cuomo for its exorbitance. After serving 23 years, Hankin retired last July and was replaced by Ronald L. Friedman, the former Great Neck schools superintendent, who agreed to fill in only for a year.This July, Thomas L. Rogers, the district superintendent of Nassau BOCES, will become Syosset’s new superintendent. Rogers will get $279,000 a year; his BOCES salary was reportedly $166,000, which is capped by the state at $166,762.U.S. News & World Report named Syosset High School a “gold medal school” and ranked it 32nd in New York, and 194th nationwide in its recent list of top American schools. It placed 184th nationwide in The Washington Post’s latest rankings.Lafazan had clashed with Hankin in his attempts to put the school budget online—it now is—and to promote more transparency. He had nothing but enthusiasm for Rogers.“He’s just a rock star when it comes to the issues,” Lafazan said. “We’re in very capable hands.”As for the rest of LI, homeowners can expect an average property-tax levy increase of only 1.57 percent, and, if they qualify, they won’t feel any pain because they’ll receive tax-rebate checks set to be in the mail right before the governor runs for re-election in November.last_img read more

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On Compliance: The strangling of overdraft protection

first_imgHistorical, recent and expected new rules may eventually kill these programs.Credit union overdraft protection programs have endured a long, slow strangling for years. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s recent grip on overdraft programs is sure to squeeze these programs further. Is it time to just return NSF items and abandon member convenience and protection? Not yet, but credit unions will continue to feel increased regulatory and legal pressure that will cut off consumer benefits and diminish fee income. This article examines the historical and recent regulatory and legal pressures that are slowing killing these programs.Interagency GuidanceSince 2001, the federal banking agencies have expressed concerns about overdraft programs. At that time the agencies, acting individually, issued letters or guidance to their regulated institutions. The agencies chose not to issue regulations for overdraft services; rather, they opted to issue guidance, which then was truly voluntary. With interest rate margins crushing institutional profits, fee income from overdraft programs was a lifeline. Consequently, consultants and providers heavily marketed analytical software and overdraft programs to maximize credit union overdraft fee opportunities.By 2005, the regulatory agencies began to collaborate on the common compliance issues and risks of the industry. They became more concerned with misleading marketing, weak disclosures and questionable overdraft features. For the first time, they issued interagency guidance on overdraft practices. This guidance identified historical and traditional overdraft programs, and addressed (1) safety and soundness concerns, (2) legal risks, and (3) best practices. The best practices provided positive examples of how overdraft program features should be marketed and communicated, as well as disclosure and program features. continue reading » 2SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

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Missing Links Found: Walking Seal, Teen Tyrannosaur

first_img1.  Natalia Rybczynski, Mary R. Dawson, and Richard H. Tedford, Nature 458, 1021-1024 (23 April 2009) | doi:10.1038/nature07985.2.  Makovichy et al, “A giant ornithomimosaur from the Early Cretaceous of China,” Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Published online before print April 22, 2009, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2009.0236.We need to coin a new law of nature: evolutionary hype is inversely proportional to the empirical data available.  Write in your suggestion for the person whose name should grace this law.  The Darwiniacs went into a frenzy inventing ways to take a few millimeters of bone here, or a slight proportion there, into trinkets to offer their idol, Charles Darwin.    You should know that Creation-Evolution Headlines strives to give each scientist a fair hearing.  Scanning the hyperbole in the headlines, the initial reaction was to think, “Well, it seems the Darwinians may have scored some points.”  Unlike the majority of lay people who lack the time, patience and access to the original papers to investigate the grounds for the claims, we take the time and show you, in their own words, how solid it is.  As you can see, the grand picture looks more like a hologram, full of light and color, but low on substance, or like the shadows of a man’s hand making animal silhouettes projected onto hundred-foot monsters of shadow and light on the walls of a skyscraper.    You saw what they did: assume evolution, observe a fact, and make up a story to fit the fact into the assumption of evolution.  That’s how they always do it.  Nothing about these discoveries jumps up and says, “Charlie was right!”  Even a young-earth creationist paleontologist would have no heartburn over this.  You could take living animals – a skunk, an otter, a beaver and a seal – and arrange them into a phylogenetic tree.  One little detail we found in their own tree was that they used the same shape for Puijila, Potamotherium and an outlier unrelated to them all.  What kind of evolution is that?  The dinosaur fossil storytellers had even less data to connect their scattered bones with the headlines.    As usual, the original papers are full of uncomfortable little details that undermine their story.  The damages are glossed over with highfalutin euphemisms, ad-hoc stories, and promises that it will all become clear someday in the future.  This is how Darwinian science is done.  Hire an artist to do a little visualization for you, give it to the press, and they will be overjoyed to dish it out to the masses as proof that King Charles is still on the throne.  The peasants are revolting because the King’s protectors are so revolting.(Visited 34 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0 Science news media are abuzz with reports that two missing links have been found.  One is a fossil seal (pinniped) with four legs, the other a smaller presumed ancestor of the famous Tyrannosaurus rex.Seal:  National Geographic News calls it a seal with arms, and features artwork of an otter-like animal doing a kind of dog paddle with webbed fingers on the way to becoming flippers.  The BBC News announced, “Missing link fossil seal walked,” and said “the 23 million-year-old proto-seal would have walked on land and swum in fresh water.”  The discoverers named it Puijila darwini in honor of Charles Darwin, “who wrote with his usual prescience, ‘A strictly terrestrial animal, by occasionally hunting for food in shallow water, then in streams or lakes, might at last be converted into an animal so thoroughly aquatic as to brave the open ocean.’”    Analysis of the paper in Nature revealed several problems with these claims.1  For one, it’s not news.  Another fossil from Europe, Potamotherium, is very similar in body proportions to this one, and no one was claiming that was a missing link to pinnipeds.  Another problem is that the authors’ own phylogeny chart shows this animal as a contemporary with Potamotherium and Enaliarctos, the oldest known pinniped fossils, which already had flippers and the body proportions of modern seals.  In fact, the “more highly derived” pinniped Enaliarctos dates to the Oligocene, the period prior to the Miocene in which Puijila was discovered, “and not long before a significant radiation of other early marine pinnipeds.”  This seems to represent an abrupt appearance of fully-flippered pinnipeds alongside if not before the appearance of Puijila.  If anything, Puijila represents an extinct sister lineage of extant seals.  “Puijila itself appears to be a relict stem pinniped,” the authors stated in the paper.  A third problem is that these sister fossils are found from different parts of the world.  Puijila was found in the Arctic near Greenland, Potamotherium in Europe, and Enaliarctos on the northwest shores of North America.  It seems implausible these contemporaneous creatures migrated to such distant parts of the world on their evolutionary path.  Finally, other mammals were found in the lake bed habitat: a rabbit, a shrew, an artiodactyl and a rhinoceros.  None of them seemed to be evolving into swimmers to adapt to the aquatic habitat.    The discoverers of a new fossil often have a difficult time classifying it.  That was the case here: “Taken together,” they said after describing the bones, “the dental, cranial and postcranial characters of Puijila suggest that a phylogenetic analysis including Amphicticeps shackelfordi, Potamotherium valletoni and Enaliarctos would be appropriate.”  This is usually followed by some tweaking and fitting of the animal into a phylogenetic tree.  They chose to run a parsimony analysis using PAUP software (Phylogenetic Analysis Using Parsimony), version 4.10b.  It gave them a cladogram based on the eight most “parsimonious” trees.  The software also avoided an undesirable processing artifact called “long branch attraction” that often doesn’t yield the desired evolutionary relationships – suggesting that a fair amount of subjectivity entered into the conclusions; after all, nature may not be so parsimonious at times.  Even then, the resulting tree did not suggest any kind of ancestral relationship between the three stem lineages, one of which was already a “more highly derived” pinniped from earlier in the fossil record.    It seems the authors got a little carried away with the missing-link interpretation in an effort to patch up an embarrassing gap.  “With Enaliarctos considered the earliest pinniped, there exists a major transformational gap between a terrestrial ancestor and the appearance of flippered pinnipeds,” they admitted in the introduction.  “Indeed, most studies of pinniped relationships and evolution do not consider the critical first evolutionary stages that ultimately gave rise to this successful group of marine carnivores.”  Enter Puijila, a “small mammalian carnivore,” to the rescue: “Puijila is a morphological intermediate in the land-to-sea transition of pinnipeds and provides new evidence concerning the evolution and biogeography of the earliest pinnipeds.”  Notice they said morphological intermediate, not temporal intermediate.  Sisters do not ancestors make.    Nevertheless, the news media overlooked these problems and hyped the “missing link” angle, aided by the artwork, movies, audio files, Flash multimedia and Powerpoint slides provided by the authors.  National Geographic News announced “Evolution at Work” in the Arctic, the new “hotbed of evolution.”  Andrea Thompson, senior writer for Live Science, was swept off her feet.  She announced, “Walking Seal Called Missing Link in Evolution” and quoted the senior author saying, “This discovery supports the hypothesis that the Arctic may have been a geographic center in pinniped evolution.”  Like the authors of the paper in Nature, Thompson decorated her triumphant article with the imprimatur of Darwin (see quote above), suggesting his prediction has now been vindicated.Tyrannosaur:  The news media are also celebrating a missing link of T. rex.  The BBC News announced, “Ancestor of T rex found in China” and used the suggestive evolutionary catch-phrase “missing link.”  Similarly, Live Science said the new fossil “Fills Evolutionary Gap.”  What was found?    The original paper was published in the Proceedings B of the Royal Society.2  Makovichy et al named their new ornithomimosaur Beishanlong grandis.  Initially, it might seem odd that the ancestor of a North American giant was vacationing in China, but the authors noted that strange evolutionary things were going on there and then.  The five-foot-tall creature that is said to have lived 125 million years ago “provides evidence for the parallel evolution of gigantism in separate lineages of beaked and possibly herbivorous coelurosaurs within a short time span in Central Asia.  Clearly, size matters, and China was the place to be if you wanted to evolve or perish.    The skeleton was not complete.  No head was found.  Only a scapula and parts of the legs and arms from two individuals were available for study.  It appears one of them was a juvenile, since growth rings show it was still growing when it died.    The usual forcing and fitting into an evolutionary tree was conducted.  These authors relied on a “strict consensus of the results of a larger analysis of 293 characters in 72 theropod taxa conducted with the program TNT.”  The new fossil has many similarities to another named Harpymimus.  Since no one can observe the lifestyle of extinct creatures, nor the morphological developmental changes during their growth (think of flatfish), nor the range of variation within species, there is inherent subjectivity in their classification from fossils alone.  To see this subjectivity in the original language, consider this paragraph (focus on the reasoning, not the technical terms):Beishanlong and Harpymimus are very similar throughout the preserved skeletal parts common to both, although many of these traits are plesiomorphic [i.e., prior to the last common ancestor].  Both retain ginglymous distal articulations on metacarpal I (inferred from phalanx I-1 in Beishanlong), a deep ligament pit on metacarpal III and a strongly curved pollex claw, but straighter claws on other digits.  Both taxa possess a subarctometatarsal foot with the diaphysis of metatarsal III pinched dorsally and exhibits a wedge-like exposure on the ankle, although this condition persists in Garudimimus (Kobayashi 2005) and the feet of Pelecanimimus and Shenzhousaurus are unknown.  Of considerable interest in this regard is the keeled condition of two of the caudal vertebrae of Beishanlong and the near-keeled condition of caudal vertebrae in a juvenile ornithomimosaur specimen possibly referable to Harpymimus (Y. Kobayashi 2002, unpublished data).  In the latter specimen (IGM 100/960910KD), the preserved caudals bear relatively taller neural spines and transverse processes compared with the mid-caudals of Beishanlong, so it is possible that the lack of haemal groove may be related to their position in the caudal series rather than representing a taxonomic difference.  Although mid-caudal vertebrae of Garudimimus are unknown, those of other ornithomimosaurs do not exhibit a ventral midline keel or keel-like anatomy, so this trait could represent a possible synapomorphy [i.e., trait present in the last common ancestor] uniting Beishanlong and Harpymimus as sister taxa.(Read this Cladistics reference article about the terms and decisions paleontologists make.)  It is evident that the skeleton does not jump out and announce its ancestry.  Presumably other researchers, with other software and other outgroups and other lists of taxa to include, could arrive at different conclusions.  This team chose to emphasize the differences between the new fossil and the older one – though they mentioned that theirs was from an actively growing subadult, and the other was from a mature individual.  And lest anyone believe evolutionary trends are straightforwardly apparent in the fossil record, they examined various lines of evidence that “suggest that this lineage did not follow a directional trend of body-size evolution such as has recently been shown for some paravian lineages.”  In biology, real data are messy.  One other surprise was noted: “It is remarkable that such body-size shifts in three different coelurosaurian lineages are so tightly clustered geographically and stratigraphically.”  Was something else going on?    And where did the tyrannosaur missing link idea come from?  The authors did not draw that conclusion in their paper.  In fact, they said, “The holotype of Beishanlong co-occurs with therizinosauroids, hadrosauroids, turtles and tyrannosauroids in the lower mesic faces of Xinminpu Group…, and a strong and remarkably invariant degree of faunal association between these particular clades persists in mesic environments throughout the Cretaceous….”  Here again, if tyrannosauroids were living alongside this creature, it seems unwarranted for the BBC News and Live Science to call Beishanlong an ancestor to T. rex.  Linguists might note with interest that the suffix “-long” in Chinese means “dragon.”last_img read more

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Kenyans thrive on local plants

first_imgChewed or dissolved in a warm drink, Mondia tonic is a natural root powder used as an anti-depressant and anti-oxidant; it helps clear hangovers and is also an appetite stimulant. (Image: Irin Photo) A project developing medicinal products from plants found in Kakamega forest in western Kenya has transformed the livelihoods of nearby communities over the past few years, according to the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE).A unique tonic that stimulates the appetite and clears hangovers, as well as working as an antidepressant and antioxidant, is developed from one of the plants. A group of farmers who have domesticated the “highly threatened” medicinal plant, known locally as mkombela (scientific name Mondia whytei), used to collect and sell the roots locally.Another group of farmers are involved in the domestication of the medicinal plant Ocimum kilimandscharicum. A leaf extract from the plant is used in the manufacture of a balm and an ointment used to treat flu, cold, chest congestion, aches, pain and insect bites.“We believe the project has a major role to play as a model for conservation or biodiversity and in the improvement of the livelihoods of communities living near the forest,” said Wilber Lwande, ICIPE leader of the applied bioprospecting programme.“It is also one of the ways of enabling indigenous traditional knowledge to be useful to humankind before it is entirely lost.”Communities living near the forest relied on it for firewood, building materials and various herbs. But since commercial cultivation and processing of the medicinal products began about eight years ago, reliance on the forest has decreased, allowing better forest conservation.Community enterpriseJames Ligare, assistant administrator of the Mondia community enterprise, said a group of 30 farmers, known as the Muliro Farmers, were involved in the initial domestication of the plant, which takes six months to mature. These farmers have since encouraged “outgrowers” to cultivate the plant, which is processed into powder form in a factory built with financial assistance from international donors.“The farmers harvest the plant three times a year and most say they earn more from Mondia than they did cultivating crops like maize and tea,” Ligare said. “On average, a farmer makes 35 000 to 40 000 Kenya shillings [US$437 to $500, or R3 900 to R4 460] when they cultivate the plant on a small plot, ranging from an eighth of an acre to half an acre.”Ligare said the bioprospecting programme had raised the status of the communities involved. Those who previously lived in grass-thatched houses now have better homes. More than that, awareness about environmental conservation has improved and many of local people are seeking computer and business management skills in efforts to improve production.Frederick Nduguli, a consultant in ICIPE’s bioprospecting and conservation programme, said the products from Mondia and Ocimum kilimandscharicum – with approvals from the Pharmacy and Poisons Board of Kenya, the Kenya Industrial Property Institute and the Kenya Bureau of Standards – are available in most supermarkets across the country.BioprospectingICIPE – a non-profit organisation – has a dozen programmes aimed at helping to alleviate poverty and ensure food security and improved health.Lwande said biosprospecting was increasingly being recognised for its potential to uplift economies. Effective bioprospecting, he said, would allow African nations to have a stake in the global industry of naturally derived products.ICIPE projects in Coast Province are helping communities living near coastal forests to undertake the commercial collection and processing of seeds from the neem tree and aloe plant.Neem (Zadirachta indica) thrives in the semi-arid region of Kwale, while aloe is cultivated by communities near the Shimba Hills forest.Neem oil and other neem plant-based products are used in the manufacture of medicines, cosmetics, pesticides and agricultural products. Aloe is used in making soap.Lwande estimated that up to 30 000 Kenyans benefit from the bioprospecting and conservation projects undertaken with ICIPE’s help in Kenya’s western and coastal provinces.Do you have queries or comments about this article? Email Mary Alexander at [email protected]: Irin NewsRelated articlesGreen charcoal to save forests Mount Mabu yields hidden bounty Paprika farming boosts economy 2009 – the Year of Natural Fibres Corking carbon emissions Useful linksInternational Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecologylast_img read more

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Microsoft: All Your Cloud Belong To Us

first_imgWith a slew of announcements surrounding its Windows Azure ecosystem on Tuesday, Microsoft has more clearly defined its cloud computing positioning. And that position is: Manage the bejeezus out of everything in the enterprise.Microsoft’s crack PR team may not have put it quite that way, but the focus of today’s announcements, kicked off with a press webcast this morning, brought Microsoft’s goals with its cloud offerings into sharp relief.System Center 2012 Service Pack 1The centerpiece of the announcements is the general availability of System Center 2012 Service Pack 1, which can now work with Windows Server 2012 to manage cloud apps and resources wherever those apps happen to be running. That means a datacenter, a hosted service provider’s datacenter or out on Windows Azure, Microsoft’s answer to Amazon Web Services and OpenStack-based cloud-hosting services.The capability to shift virtual server instances to different locations using what Microsoft calls a “single pane of glass” is intriguing, and gets Microsoft into a place it really needs to be: a provider of cloud management services that starts to rival the capabilities of competing cloud/infrastructure providers.This kind of management is available already for other cloud ecosystems, but typically customers have to use multiple vendors working with whatever cloud provider they favor. There are third-party vendors in the Azure space, too, but if anything was made clear today in today’s press event, it’s Microsoft’s keen desire to provide a end-to-end solution for a customer’s cloud solutions.That won’t come as any surprise, of course, but what might surprise enterprise CIOs is that if these services work as advertised, they would be a attractive tool for any company moving towards cloud computing and hesitant to work with multiple vendors and heterogeneous platforms.Happy, Homogenous Days Are Here Again?Microsoft is betting big on the fact that in the days before Linux and, well, Windows, many IT managers preferred homogeneous shops. Recall the days of UNIX servers and dumb terminals. Sure, you put all your eggs into fewer (or one) vendors’ baskets, but you sure had less service and support headaches.Microsoft is hoping those happy, homogeneous days are here again, betting that IT administrators who recognize the value of cloud and elastic computing will also want to keep things managed by a single set of vendor tools.Staying IntuneRedmond is so sure about this angle of attack in the enterprise and cloud marketplace, it’s doubling down on centralized management with another general release: the latest version of Windows Intune, a cloud and device management tool that, with Service Center, enables deep management of Windows-based devices, as well as management of Android and iOS devices.By folding the single-pane approach into Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) management, Microsoft is declaring that if you want one-stop-shopping for enterprise management, you’d better check out its product line.It’s not a bad bet – if the price is right and the services are indeed worthy. Microsoft has traditionally eschewed notions like keeping prices in check, but with a highly crowded cloud marketplace, it’s unlikely it wouldn’t at least try to remain competitive on prices. The only thing left will be how the tools function, and time will have to tell there.The rest of the cloud marketplace has become a smorgasbord of services and tools, many of them very good, but also scattered across multiple vendors. While some IT vendors will prefer stitching together tools for the optimum solution, there will always be a market for end-to-end stacks like Microsoft announced today.It’s an alternative to which the rest of the cloud-computing ecosystem had better pay attention.Image courtesy of Shutterstock. Tags:#Microsoft brian proffitt Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting Serverless Backups: Viable Data Protection for …center_img How Intelligent Data Addresses the Chasm in Cloud Cloud Hosting for WordPress: Why Everyone is Mo… Related Posts last_img read more

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