Reader question: What’s a good framework for a fundraising plan?

first_imgToday, I’m answering another reader question. Beth asks:Can you provide a basic (simple) framework to create a fundraising plan (or resources to do so) – for a brand new nonprofit and their completely new to fundraising staff? Thanks!Here’s what Network for Good recommends in our Fundraising Campaign in a Box. (You can get the whole free kit here. It has worksheets, templates, etc.)1. Figure out what you’re trying to accomplish.Any campaign worth its salt is about getting results. What results are you and your organization looking to achieve? When you’re planning your outreach, remember these three tips:There is no such thing as “the general public”…Instead, you need to segment your communications to be effective and targeted.Some audiences are more important than others. Think about your goals and who holds the key to your success. Lack of participation from primary groups can cause your campaign to falter or fail.2. Determine how you’re going to accomplish your goals (tell a great story).So – you have groups of people and actions you want them to take. How are you going to tell your story in a compelling manner? What themes, messages and ideas are you going to take from your arsenal of content to encourage action? Need inspiration? Read How to Tap into the Heart and Soul of Your Organization When You Write.3. Determine which communications channels you’ll use.There are a variety of online and offline channels that you can use to send the right message to the right audiences. Examples of online channels include your website, search marketing, email marketing and social networking. Offline channels include things like direct mail, paid advertising and public relations.4. Decide which resources you need to get the job done.Ensure that you have all of your tools and resources in place to make your job-and the jobs of your audience(s)-as easy, effective and cost-effective as possible.Is email an important part of your plan, but you’re still communicating with supporters via Outlook? (eek! Stop what you’re doing and read 5 Steps to Choosing the Ideal Email Service Provider)Is your website well-branded and easy to use, with a clear way to donate?Is your website set up to take safe, secure online donations? (I of course recommend Network for Good!)5. Determine who will execute your campaign steps.Accountability will make or break the success of a campaign. As much fun as it is to pass the buck, now is as good a time as any to decide which members of your organization, board or volunteers are responsible for the different portions of your campaign.6. Lay out how you will measure your success.In the case of holiday fundraising, this could be as simple as a dollar sign with a number after it. But take a moment to consider what other goals you may have. Wow your organization’s Board and leadership with conversation rates, list-building, website traffic and any other number results into which they can sink their teeth.7. Set your timeline and benchmarks.One of the defining features of a campaign is that it has a defined start and end. Now that you have planned out the ‘who, what and why’ questions of your campaigns, it’s time to determine the when. Continue to build your campaign plan by setting ownership and deadlines for the associated activities. Begin with the end in mind – if your campaign will run from 11/1 – 12/31, work backwards to be sure that all activities will happen in a smooth manner. Don’t use magical thinking to set deadlines! Run activities in parallel if you are worried about compression time-wise.Good luck!last_img read more

Over 28,000 Deaths in the First Day of Life in Bangladesh Reminds the Urgency of MNH Services Integration

first_img ShareEmailPrint To learn more, read: Posted on November 6, 2014June 23, 2017By: Mohammod Shahidullah, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Neonatology, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical UniversityClick 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 email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)This post is part of the Maternal and Newborn Integration Blog Series, which shares themes of and reactions to the “Integration of Maternal and Newborn Health: In Pursuit of Quality” technical meetingA new mother and her six-day-old baby receive a postnatal check up at the new government clinic in Badulpur, Habijganj, Bangladesh. Photo: CJ Clarke/Save the ChildrenThe continuum of care has become a rallying call to reduce the maternal deaths, stillbirths, neonatal deaths, and child deaths. Continuity of care is necessary throughout the lifecycle (adolescence, pregnancy, childbirth, the postnatal period, and childhood) and also between places of caregiving (including households and communities, outpatient and outreach services, and clinical-care settings). Within the continuum, all women should have access to care during pregnancy and childbirth, and all babies should be able to grow into children who survive and thrive.Unfortunately in the modern era of medical science, the program efforts addressing the health of mothers and newborns are often planned, managed, and delivered separately; though, from a biological perspective, maternal and newborn health are intimately linked.Integration of maternal and newborn health is an important approach to avoid separation between a mother and her newborn baby, places of service delivery, or at any event of health services. A persistent divide between training, programs, service delivery, monitoring, and quality improvement systems on maternal and newborn health limits effectiveness to improve outcomes. But it is evident that at the public health level, even with scarce human and financial resources, integrated service packages can maximize the efficiency for health services.In the last two decades Bangladesh has demonstrated extraordinary progress in reducing maternal and child deaths, but unfortunately, newborn mortality declined in a much slower pace and reduction of stillbirths was not even on the agenda. Fortunately, the country recently prioritized newborn survival and incorporated some priority interventions to reduce neonatal death. Improved delivery care services became one of the key strategies for improving child survival in addition to overall development of the health service delivery system.The following newborn-specific interventions are prioritized to achieve the commitment of ending preventable child deaths by 2035:Ensure essential newborn care, including neonatal resuscitation and application of chlorhexidine in the umbilical cordIntroduce and promote kangaroo mother care (KMC) for premature and low birth weight infantsEnsure proper management of newborn infection with antibiotics at the primary care levelsEstablish specialized newborn care unit at the sub-district and district levelEnsuring delivery by skilled birth attendants at the community levels and establishing an effective referral linkage to ensure continuum of care from community clinics to the sub-district, district and higher level hospitals—which can provide round the clock emergency obstetric and newborn care—are actions incorporated in the declaration. These give a clear indication of the government vision on integrated approaches to improve maternal and newborn health.Intra-partum complication, prematurity-related complications and newborn sepsis are the major causes of newborn death is Bangladesh. Without integration of maternal and newborn health we cannot reduce mortality especially due to the fact that intra-partum complications and prematurity-related complications together cause 67% of all newborn deaths in the country. Bangladesh recently scaled up the Helping Babies Breathe initiative and that is a unique example of integration of maternal and newborn health.Every year in the first day of life, 28,100 newborns of Bangladesh die indicating the importance of integration of maternal and newborn services in pursuit of quality of care.This post originally appeared on the Healthy Newborn Network Blog and has been lightly edited.Share this:last_img read more

How to Train Providers Where Maternal Mortality is Highest

first_imgPosted on February 13, 2015October 28, 2016By: Atziri Ramírez Negrin, Geneva Foundation for Medical Education and ResearchClick 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 email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)In Mexico, maternal mortality continues to be a public health problem. Throughout the country, the burden of maternal mortality varies greatly between different locations. The three states with the highest maternal mortality ratio are Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Chiapas. The main causes of maternal mortality continue to be hypertensive pregnancy disorders and postpartum haemorrhage.Medical interns practice management of postpartum hemorrhageIn order to help meet the needs of these underserved and high-burdened states, newly graduated medical students are required to oversee a low-income community for an internship year after completing medical school. However, this means that the most inexperienced clinicians are caring for the most vulnerable with restricted access to other medical assistance.Based on these worrisome facts, the director of community service at the National University and I decided to organize a three-day course covering pre-eclampsia and postpartum haemorrhage (PPH) for the soon-to-be doctors of the most affected areas in Mexico. We hosted 160 students, which was a big challenge, but an encouraging one.The first day a very important question was posed to the medical students: “How many of you have seen a woman die from postpartum haemorrhage?” The answer was shocking: half of the medical students had witnessed a maternal death caused by PPH during their short practice.The students were trained using both e-learning modules and hands-on experience. The PPH and pre-eclampsia/eclampsia e-learning modules were created by the Oxford Maternal and Perinatal Health Institute and Geneva Foundation for Medical Education and Research (GFMER). The three hands-on PPH simulations were key to solidifying knowledge presented in the e-learning modules.At the first station, students practiced risk factor assessments and bleeding measurement. A series of clinical cases were posed where risk factors were reviewed. Also, students were handed gauzes and compresses soaked in red liquid to practice assessing what different quantities of blood looked like.At the second station, students learned how to build a low cost balloon for uterine tamponade with condoms and Foley catheters. They then practiced inserting the balloon in a pelvis model to treat simulated PPH.At the last station, participants were faced with a delivery patient model where they assisted a delivery, practiced shoulder dystocia maneuvers, implemented the active management of the third stage of labour and followed a PPH protocol, which included pharmacological strategies.Students were asked if they considered the training course interesting and useful and the answer was an overwhelming, yes! Ninety six percent considered it very useful and interesting. One of the most curious comments during the feedback was that although students considered the training adequate for their skill level, 50% thought it should have been given much earlier, since the skills were needed for many cases during medical school.Overall the course participants and staff had a great time. Hopefully this will become a routine course every year and perhaps available to all medical school students before they finish their career!Any comments or suggestions, please feel free to e-mail the author at:atziriok@yahoo.comShare this: ShareEmailPrint To learn more, read:last_img read more

3 Reasons Your Grantmaking Strategy May Not Be Working

first_imgPictured Here: Central Alabama Community Foundation – what they’re doing is working.It’s understandable. Programs, not payroll nor paperclips, create excitement and enthusiasm among your board, grant committee, and community when it comes to awarding grants. However, if you are in the philanthropy business, you are in the capacity-building business. We can’t create the type of long-term, lasting change we seek without strong organizations. As grantmakers, we’re dependent on nonprofit leaders that can sustain and scale their impact without applying for more grant dollars.To borrow an example from our for-profit friends, have you ever seen the show “Shark Tank” on ABC?If so, you know that the first questions asked after the entrepreneur’s pitch will be, “What are your sales for the last year?” and “How much do you plan to sell this year?”The sharks dig into the company’s ability to effectively market, sell and scale their product, before digging into its competitive advantages or how it’s manufactured.The sharks know that investing in sales and marketing isn’t a separate strategy. It’s an integral part of their investment strategy. More precisely, it’s the path to their return.I have never met an investor that restricts their funds from sales and marketing. That would be foolish. Investors (funders) depend on a company’s revenue growth, increased profits and sales multipliers to create a return on their investment (impact).In the same way, nonprofit capacity and sustainability are not separate or standalone strategies. They are critical components of all grants and to ensuring our philanthropy creates long-term, lasting impact.Yet, we reverse this order all the time. We ask the nonprofit about its programs, outcomes, and impact, and then maybe (not always) we’ll dive into a sustainability plan.Now, you may be thinking, why don’t we just fund sustainable nonprofits and stop this article here? We can just reject nonprofits that need to build their capacity, right?Well, we wouldn’t have many eligible applicants. According to Network for Good’s 2017 research across 10,000 nonprofits, the overwhelming majority heavily relied on single‐source funding.A startling 78 percent of nonprofits applying for grants have no written or specific fundraising plan to sustain their program, after the grant period (on the other hand, 85 percent view their funders as credible, go-to sources for technical fundraising assistance). Further, according to a new report released by GuideStar, approximately 50 percent of U.S. nonprofits are operating with less than one month’s cash reserves.Therefore, if we want to create long-term change and lasting good, we must stop referring to the capacity building as a standalone strategy. We must view it as part of a comprehensive, holistic strategy – as being implemented by the Central Alabama Community Foundation.[CLICK TO WATCH VIDEO]Nonprofits Must Respond to Emerging Needs, Not Live by ContractsDo you believe the environmental challenges we face today are the same as 50 years ago? Do you believe child development and education is unaffected by the growth in social media?As our communities’ complex challenges evolve, we must ensure that the nonprofits we fund have the resources they need to stay nimble and responsive.Nonprofit leaders operating with razor-thin margins, no process to measure success or retain talent will be caught flat-footed during times of emerging needs or a shifting landscape.So, practically speaking, what can you do?As part of The Walton Family Foundation’s Environment Grant reports, nonprofits are asked, “What notable obstacles did you face during this grant period?” as well as, “What changes to the project were made?”The program staff is interested in knowing how work plans, staffing, and timelines may shift throughout the grant period. This enables them to coach the grantee on navigating unforeseen challenges, re-allocating funds from the original proposal or calling in additional support, instead of using the report to rigidly enforce grant contracts.What would happen if you asked your grantees these questions in your reports?Short-Term Strategies Don’t Fix Long-Term ChallengesDo you believe that racism has been wholly eradicated? Do you feel all Americans have affordable health care? No, of course not. These issues are multifaceted and will, undoubtedly, continue to evolve in the foreseeable future.If we wish to confront longstanding issues plaguing our communities, grant strategies must be designed with the long-term in mind. However, grant funding is inherently short-term in nature (do you know any funders that make 10-year commitments through an annual grant cycle?).Yet, how often do we measure outcomes created 10 years after the grant period ends? Do we know if those dollars are creating the same impact today? Has the program declined?Hopefully not.Shifting to multi-year commitments is not sufficient. We must ensure with greater certainty that our grantees have the capacity to self-fund their programs, long after the grant period.So, practically speaking, what can you do?The YouthBridge Community Foundation is an emergent, three-staff member foundation in St. Louis, Mo. The foundation’s CEO, Michael Howard, regularly educates YouthBridge donors and donor-advised fundholders on how to make gift decisions with the long-term in mind.“You’ve proven your commitment to lasting good and meaningful change,” was the headline phrase from a recent newsletter, educating stakeholders on why the foundation is building the capacity of local nonprofits. This education is enabling YouthBridge to increase their investment in the fundraising capacity of nonprofits serving children and youth in the St. Louis area.Do your board members and donors understand the importance of nonprofit sustainability? How might you educate them in your next communication?Community Needs Outweigh Grantmaking BudgetsWill you be able to fund 100 percent of the letters of inquiry or grant applications you receive this year?Most likely not.This is where we derive the phrase, “competitive grantmaking.” Grantmaking is competitive because needs (generally) always outweigh grant dollars available.Because grantmaking is a zero-sum game (a dollar here can’t be invested there) we need to measure the “impact-per-dollar” of each grant. We must ask ourselves, “Will we create more outcomes if we invest a dollar into this program or that one?”To expand this metric with confidence, grantmakers should pair grant dollars with an investment in an organization’s fundraising capacity. Network for Good has found that, on average, every $1 invested into a nonprofit’s fundraising capacity produces $10 in the program or general operating funding. These are dollars that can be used to amplify and expand the nonprofit’s impact—without tying up additional grant dollars from the funder.So, practically speaking, what can you do?The Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation recently revamped its annual grants process to provide community impact staff with greater depth and insight into the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses.During this process, nonprofits are asked to express any concerns about their ability to financially sustain their programs, and some even take a comprehensive assessment. For a group that identifies fundraising as a core challenge, a micro-grant for fundraising services is bundled into their award, ensuring that the organization not only diversifies revenue but also increases the impact of each grant dollar over time.Have you considered bundling a micro-grant for fundraising capacity alongside a restricted or program grant? Could you pilot this concept with a handful of your grantees?Please comment.  We would like to hear from you.last_img read more

Happy Valentine’s Day: Donor Love Infographic

first_imgLooking for a new way to show your donors some love this Valentine’s Day? Look no further! Let our Donor Love infographic show you the way. We’re here to help you with all your nonprofit fundraising and marketing needs, including:Campaigns & AppealsThank YousResults & ReportsDonor RelationsCommunicationsCheck out our donor love infographic today. Plus, hover over each image for a special surprise!Donor Love InfographicRead more on The Nonprofit Bloglast_img

Use Our New Organizations Search!

first_img ShareEmailPrint To learn more, read: Posted on May 14, 2015August 8, 2016Click 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 email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)We are excited to present a new feature on the MHTF website: the organizations search.We have created a database of maternal health organizations to help foster connections and build partnerships between groups working on similar issues. There are many diverse organizations around the world working on maternal health, and this new tool will help you connect with them!The organizations database grew out of the maternal health mapping project, part of phase 1 of the MHTF. As more and more organizations added themselves to the map, it became difficult to find anyone! The new search-based interface enables easy access to the information.We want to hear from you! Test out the new organizations search feature and let us know what you think. If your organization is not included in the search, but you would like it to be, please fill out the information form. We would be happy to add you!Share this:last_img read more

Gwyneth Paltrow Addresses Congress On GMO Labeling On Foods

first_imgGwyneth Paltrow joined her mother, Blythe Danner, at Capitol Hill this week to campaign against a bill allowing states to pass individual laws regarding GMO labeling on foods.“My kids are normal American children and they eat everything everybody else eats,” said the Goop founder in her speech. “I’m a home cook and I’m a cookbook author, and I’m a proponent of organic food and healthy food when I can, but we all eat genetically modified food. It’s in the food supply. I also believe I have the right, and we as Americans all have the right to know what’s in our food,”Despite the fact that nine out of 10 Americans support mandatory GMO labeling, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 1599, otherwise known as the Deny Americans the Right to Know – or DARK Act. Not only would it block all states from labeling genetically engineered foods, but it would also make it much harder for the FDA to ever mandate national labeling. If we’re going to stop this reprehensible bill from becoming law, we need to show the Senate and President Obama how serious we are about GMO labeling.Gwyneth Paltrow also presented a petition on behalf of the Just Label It campaign.Just Label It is a project of Organic Voices, which was formed in 2011 to educate and empower consumers by promoting the benefits of organic food and advocating for mandatory GMO labeling. Without labeling, the public cannot make informed choices about what they eat and the marketplace lacks the information needed to make decisions about innovations that meet consumer demand.Celebrity Moms including Sara Gilbert, Jillian Michaels, Jordana Brewster, Constance Zimmer, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Sarah Michelle Gellar have released a PSA to illustrate the concerns moms everywhere have on this issue.Video: Conceal or Reveallast_img read more

Paul Simon Tour Reaches Halfway Point In Support Of HalfEarth Project

first_imgGrammy-winning singer-songwriter Paul Simon has reached the midpoint in his month-long tour to raise awareness of the importance of protecting the planet’s biodiversity.Last month, Simon plugged the tour on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Simon is inspiring audiences across the U.S. with new and beloved songs, and donating tour proceeds to the Half-Earth Project, an initiative of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation.Simon first met E.O. Wilson at TED over a decade ago. In 2016, Simon reviewed Wilson’s book, Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight For Life, for The New York Times, saying, “Half-Earth is compulsory reading if we care about the lives of our children, our children’s children and all of the species alive today.”Simon has talked about Half-Earth at each of his shows, often donning a Half-Earth cap. According to the CincyMusic website: “Throughout the show, a baseball cap with a small ‘e’ rested on his mic stand. Simon returned for Encore No. 2 with it atop his head for the first time. He explained, ‘This cap that I’m wearing…it represents an organization called Half-Earth that was started by a scientist, E.O. Wilson… his book, Half-Earth – which I recommend to anyone who is interested in ecology and the planet and saving what we’ve got – had a great effect on me.’”Wilson said of the tour: “I am delighted that Paul Simon is helping raise awareness of Half-Earth. Paul believes strongly in our work to save the planet’s biodiversity.”“Species are the basic units of biodiversity, yet we are driving them to extinction up to 1,000 times faster than before the coming of humanity,” said Wilson. “If we do not move quickly to reverse our negative effects on the rest of life, its diversity will be diminished drastically to our loss and even endangerment.”Remaining concert cities include: Billings, Missoula, Spokane, Bend, Lake Tahoe, Denver and Milwaukee.The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation fosters stewardship of our world through biodiversity research and education initiatives that promote and inform worldwide preservation of our biological heritage. The Half-Earth Project has science at its core and our moral obligation to the rest of life at its heart. To learn more about Half-Earth, visit www.half-earthproject.org.last_img read more

Under pressure over single 7B budget vote Liberals make a tweak

first_imgOTTAWA – The federal government is announcing a slight change to its plan to streamline the spending-approval process into a single $7-billion vote after complaints earlier this week from the parliamentary budget watchdog.Speaking to a House of Commons committee, Treasury Board President Scott Brison says the Liberals’ plan to make the process more transparent will now ensure that the detailed spending allocations laid out in the budget plan are also listed in the bill that MPs will actually vote on.Brison is making the announcement following warnings from parliamentary budget officer Jean-Denis Frechette that the plan to simplify the budgeting process through a single vote could mean $7 billion in new spending commitments from the February budget could technically be spent elsewhere.The PBO warned this week that there was nothing in the wording of the new law to compel Ottawa to spend according to its budget plan — and political opponents, meanwhile, have attacked the plan as a way for the government to open up a $7-billion slush fund.Responding to the budget office concerns, Brison says the argument that budget promises would not be legally binding under the new law is false because straying from the detailed items would be considered an unauthorized use of public funds.Nonetheless, Brison says to add more clarity to the process he will now ensure the full, line-by-line spending table is repeated in the bill that MPs will vote on, rather than just a reference to it.last_img read more

Worst intersections in Fort St John

first_imgFORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – ICBC has released their numbers for the worst intersections in Fort St. John.Data posted by ICBC is as of March 31, 2018, and includes all crash types including casualty crashes resulting in injury or fatality and property damage accidents.#100 crashes – 100 St & Hwy 97N & Turning lane#91 crashes – 100 Ave & Hwy 97N & Old Fort Road & Turning lane#76 crashes – 100 Ave & 100 St#67 crashes – 93 Ave & 96 St & 96A St#63 crashes – 108 St & 109 St & Hwy 97 N & Turning lane#60 crashes – 100 St & 93 AveTo view the crash scale; CLICK HERElast_img

Protests erupt in West Bengal over BJPs LS poll candidate selection

first_imgKolkata: Protests erupted in various parts of West Bengal after the BJP, in its first list of 28 candidates, nominated its veterans and defectors from the ruling Trinamool Congress to take on Mamata Banerjee’s party in the state. With old-timers being overlooked in favour of turncoats and newcomers, protestors gathered outside BJP offices in various parts of the state and, in some places, put up posters of rejected ticket aspirants outside the offices. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari Puja BJP state vice-president Raj Kamal Pathak submitted his resignation after he was denied a party ticket. The saffron party, which bagged two Lok Sabha seats in the state in the 2014 elections, is now targeting 23 of the state’s 42 constituencies. Of its 28 candidates, nearly 25 are new faces, with a thrust on active political workers rather than greenhorns from the glamour world. Unlike the TMC which had 18 new faces and a mix of old-timers and greenhorns, hardcore politicians and personalities from the film industry, the BJP has put faith on its own leaders and defectors from other parties. Also Read – Bengal civic volunteer dies in road mishap on national highway “If after serving the party for three decades and holding the post of vice-president do not make me qualified to get a party ticket, it is better to resign from the post,” Pathak said. The veteran BJP leader wanted to contest from Hooghly district, but he was overlooked in favour of a newcomer in the party. BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said efforts will be made to pacify the dissidents. “There can be resentment in some places, but everything can be sorted out through discussions,” BJP state secretary Rahul Sinha said. This is not the first time the BJP has faced such protests. During the Kolkata Municipal Corporation polls in 2015, several ticket aspirants staged protest rallies outside the party office. Of the candidates, five had recently defected to the saffron party from the Trinamool Congress and one from the CPI(M). Union minister and BJP MP from Asansol Lok Sabha constituency Babul Supriyo has been renominated from the same seat and is pitted against actor Moon Moon Sen of the TMC. State BJP president Dilip Ghosh will contest from Medinipur seat against TMC leader Manas Bhunia. BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha will take on TMC heavyweight Sudip Bandopadhyay in Kolkata North Lok Sabha seat. State BJP vice-president and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s grandnephew, Chandra Kumar Bose will contest from Kolkata South Lok Sabha seat. Former IPS officer Bharati Ghosh, once known to be close to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, will be fighting against TMC candidate and actor Dipak Adhikary, popularly known as ‘Dev’, from Ghatal Lok Sabha constituency. The BJP has fielded former Trinamool Congress MLA Arjun Singh from Barrackpur Lok Sabha seat. Singh, who had recently joined the saffron party, has been pitted against TMC’s Dinesh Trivedi. In Coochbebar Lok Sabha seat, the party has fielded former TMC youth leader Nishith Pramanik, while in Jadavpur, expelled TMC MP Anupam Hazra will contest against TMC’s Mimi Chakraborty, an actor by profession. Another former TMC MP Soumitra Khan, who joined the BJP in January, has been given ticket from Bishnupur (SC) Lok Sabha seat. Former CPI(M) MLA Khagen Murmu, who too had switched over to the BJP, will contest from Malda North seat against TMC’s Mausam Benazir Noor, who had recently defected to the party from the Congress, in Malda Uttar seat. Former TMC leader Sreerupa Mitra Chowdhury, who had contested elections on a TMC ticket from New Delhi, is the BJP candidate from the neighbouring Malda South seat. There are four women candidates and one Muslim nominee in the first list. The BJP in minority-dominated seats such as Malda South, Malda North and Basirhat did not field any candidate from the community. “We do not believe in giving tickets just on the basis of religion. For us winnability is the biggest criteria,” said a state BJP leader. The Lok Sabha elections in the state will be held from April 11 till May 19 in seven phases.last_img read more

Tunisia resorts tense but tourists shrug off attacks

first_imgSOUSSE – Failed suicide bombings in Tunisian resorts sparked fear Thursday among residents concerned for their livelihood, but tourists largely brushed off the attacks as they flocked to the beach.A day after Wednesday’s attacks police, national guardsmen and soldiers descended on the coastal town of Sousse, patrolling the streets and stopping motorists to search their cars.Security forces were also deployed outside supermarkets and shopping centres as part of a formidable operation to safeguard the country’s vital tourism industry. “These controls will be round the clock from now on all over Sousse,” an officer, who declined to be named, told AFP.The heightened security is evident as one approaches El Kantaoui, a luxury resort and port for yachts, where national guardsmen are deployed at roundabouts to check vehicles.El Kantaoui is north of Sousse and only 10 kilometres (six miles) from the beach where a suicide bomber blew himself up in a botched attack before authorities foiled another suicide bombing in neighbouring Monastir.Wednesday’s attacks have fuelled fears about the future of the country’s tourism sector, still struggling from the 2011 revolution, which resulted in a 30-percent drop in revenues.Already reeling from political instability sparked by the murders this year of two prominent politicians and a rise in violence attributed to jihadists, the Islamist-led government has repeatedly insisted that tourism is safe.On Thursday tourists appeared to agree with that assessment as they jogged along the beach, took rides in horse-drawn carriages, sunbathed or practiced waters sports, enjoying the warm October weather.“Yesterday I was scared, frankly. But I think such incidents are mostly a threat to Tunisia. The weather here still attracts us, and I’m determined to finish my holiday,” Aurelie, a French tourist, said as she walked her dog.Michele, another French holidaymaker lying on the beach, was also determined to see out her holiday. “I don’t want to think too much and ruin my vacation,” she said.Waiter Billel Toumi said he could not forget Wednesday’s events that easily.“Tourism has been targeted. We have been targeted,” he said. “We are not afraid for our own lives, but we must be able to work to feed our families.”Tourism accounts for a sixth of the workforce in Tunisia, according to the head of the National Tourism Office Habib Ammar, who was promoting his country at the Berlin tourism fair in March.But Tunisia has been struggling to woo tourists put off by the political turmoil across northern Africa.Figures released by the tourism ministry in mid-October showed the hotel occupancy rate for the first nine months of 2013 was 1.4 percent less than in 2012 and 15.7 percent lower than in 2010.The head of the French travel operator Selectour Afat (AS Voyage) Jean-Pierre Mas told AFP it was too soon to say if the attacks will have consequences on tourism in Tunisia.“Yesterday’s attacks… did not have measurable consequences. There are no cancellations. We cannot yet say today if the attacks affected bookings,” said Mas.“Globally the situation in Tunisia is worrisome from the economic point of view: tourism has dropped by 30 percent since the Arab Spring, it did not take off this summer, the political instability and now the attempted attacks targeting tourist zones are not favourable to the redeployment of tourism in Tunisia.”The porter of the four-star Riadh Palms hotel, the apparent target of the first attack, agreed.“We were already living through very tense times, and since yesterday’s incident we are living in fear,” said the porter, who declined to be named.“We are scared to death.”last_img read more

Princess Lalla Salma Chairs Board Of Directors Of Lalla Salma Foundation

first_imgRabat- Princess Lalla Salma, Chairwoman of the Lalla Salma Foundation for Cancer Prevention and Treatment chaired, Thursday in Rabat, the Board of Directors of the Lalla Salma Foundation.On this occasion, the Council examined the 2013 accounts and the reports to be submitted to the Annual General Meeting of the Foundation.According to a statement of the Foundation, released at the end of the Council, the 2013 results were marked by the completion and launch of two Gynecologic Oncology centers in Rabat and Casablanca, and the launch of four reproductive health centers for the diagnosis of breast and cervical cancer in Hay Mohammadi, Ain Sbaa, Mohammedia, and Tangier. The Foundation stated that the rehabilitation of the National Oncology Institute, in collaboration with the University Hospital of Rabat, is ongoing and work is continuing on schedule, adding that the construction works of the regional oncology center of Meknes are completed to 99 pc and that the center is set to open in April 2014.According to the same source, all cancer patients treated in cancer centers, and public RAMED cardholders have access to 100 pc of the anticancer drugs available. It also notes that 2013 was marked by the consolidation of cancer research, with the call for research projects that resulted in the selection of 11 projects that will be funded for 3 years starting 2014.The Foundation hailed the tobacco-free high schools project which currently covers 93 pc of schools throughout the country, noting that the tobacco-free businesses project now comprises 45 companies and has yielded meaningful results.Concerning international cooperation, the Lalla Salma Foundation is currently considered a pioneering platform in the fight against cancer in the region of the Eastern Mediterranean and Africa (MEA) through the leadership role played by HRH Princess Lalla Salma at the international level and the support of the Lalla Salma Foundation in the fight against cancer in Africa.At this meeting, members of the Council welcomed the personal commitment of Princess Lalla Salma and the quality of management of the Foundation.In a statement to the press after the meeting, Secretary General of the Lalla Salma Foundation, Latifa Labida, stressed that 2013 was marked by the significant expansion of the Foundation’s activities in all areas of intervention, and the growing confidence of donors and national and international partners in the Foundation.last_img read more

Magic Campaign Lands 17 Black Women on Houston Courts

first_imgBy JUAN A. LOZANO, Associated PressHOUSTON (AP) — Houston’s courts are going to be a lot more diverse thanks to a group of 17 African-American women and their “magic.”The women, who were part of an effort dubbed the “Black Girl Magic” campaign, were all elected Tuesday to be judges in various courts in Harris County, which includes Houston.This photo provided by the Harris County Democratic Party shows a group of 17 African-American women whom are part of an effort dubbed the “Black Girl Magic” campaign. It is the largest number of African-American women on any ballot in the history of Harris County, where Houston is located. In the photo are the 17 women who won election and two others who are currently judges in Harris County but lost bids on Tuesday to win seats on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Tuesday’s election brings to 19 the number of African-American women who will be judges in Harris County. Front row, leaning against the podium from left, are Maria Jackson and Ramona Franklin. Back row, from left, are Lucia Bates, Erica Hughes, Sandra Peake, Cassandra Holleman, Germaine Tanner, Ronnisha Bowman, Linda Marie Dunson, Angela Graves-Harrington, Dedra Davis, Shannon Baldwin, Latosha Lewis Payne, Tonya Jones, Sharon Burney, Michelle Moore, Lori Chambers Gray, Toria Finch and LaShawn Williams. Maria Jackson and Ramona Franklin in front row are the two women who are currently judges but lost bids to win seats on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. (Christin Mcqueen/Harris County Democratic Party via AP)Lori Chambers Gray, a Houston defense attorney who among those who was elected, says she hopes the “Black Girl Magic” campaign’s success inspires other women to run for office.Those behind the campaign say it was part of an effort to broaden the diversity of the area’s judiciary and ensure that more racial minorities can bring their backgrounds and life experiences to the bench and better reflect the diversity of the nation’s fourth largest city.last_img read more

Russian social media leader Vkontakte has tapped l

first_imgRussian social media leader Vkontakte has tapped local interactive TV technology specialist SPB TV to provide an app for the smart TV portals of LG and Samsung in the country, according to local reports.SPB TV’s Vkontakte app will allow users of the platform to view personal media, including photos, video and audio clips on the main TV screen.last_img

ShareTweet

first_imgShareTweet A5 dual roadELISHA MCCALLIONFoyle MPMake your voice heard on A5 upgrade consultation – McCallionNorth West regionSinn Fein “This essential infrastructure project will also boost connectivity, cut journey times and improve road safety. “This is the latest stage towards work beginning on this important project and I am looking forward to seeing progress being made.” Make your voice heard on A5 upgrade consultation – McCallion was last modified: May 14th, 2019 by John2John2 Tags:center_img SINN Féin’s Elisha McCallion has encouraged people to have their say on the A5 redevelopment before a public consultation closes on Friday. The Foyle MP said: “The public consultation on the A5 road upgrade project is set to close on Friday and I would encourage everyone to have their say. “The A5 upgrade is vital for stimulating the economy of the entire north west region it passes through. last_img read more

Subject to inflation increase

first_img *Subject to inflation increase Age 65 65 65 Benefit Period 3 years 3 years 6 years Many advisors would recommend the first policy with the 30-day elimination period, because you might not require care for long periods of time. The 180-day elimination period means you pay for an additional 150 days out of pocket before the insurance company kicks in. The additional cost is $22,500 (150 days x $150/day), and many argue it’s a poor investment because the probability of needing care for three years or longer is small. On the other hand, the 180-day elimination period (quotes #2 and #3) gives you a lot more coverage for the same premium. In effect, #2 and #3 cost $22,500 more out of pocket in exchange for $54,750 or $208,050 in additional coverage. The only way to turn the policy premium and additional out-of-pocket costs into a good investment is to require expensive, long-term care. Most of us would prefer to never have to collect a dime. Families with a member requiring years of expensive care would tell you it was one of the best investments they ever made. But insurance is not an investment; it’s a transfer of risk.The Risk of Leaving Your Spouse Penniless If a couple has enough assets to be ineligible for Medicaid coverage, a week or two in a nursing home is not the risk they should be transferring. That’s a big nuisance, not a catastrophe. The risk they should transfer is financial ruin for the surviving spouse—in other words, 90 or 180-plus days of care. Paying insurance premiums for short waiting periods is like buying a $100 deductible on your car instead of a $500 deductible. If you have an accident, you have to make up that gap out of pocket. Your insurance dollars are better spent insuring against the catastrophe, not avoiding the deductible. Today, Jo and I would opt for door #3. I have two policies: one with a 90-day waiting period and the other, 180 days. I would not recommend anything less than 90 days. My primary concern is leaving Jo with enough assets to live comfortably for the rest of her life, which could easily be 20-plus years. Paying for 90 days of care would not undo that.Family Is Not Always the Answer Why have long-term care insurance? To make sure you have enough money for the best care right until the end without depleting all of your assets. Whether your final days are at home, in an assisted-living facility, or in a nursing home is secondary. If you can pay for the most appropriate care, that decision will be based on your health and comfort, not your wallet. Many advocates of long-term care insurance actually call it “avoid nursing home insurance” because it helps pay for in-home care. Jo’s parents never thought about nursing home insurance. They could tell you every detail about their fire insurance, auto insurance, or crop insurance, but long-term care insurance was not part of their world. Without realizing it, they were committed to self-insuring. When Jo’s mom died, she was in an assisted-living facility and able to do some of her ADLs, but not all. Which reminds me—assisting with three of the ADLs requires caregivers to do heavy lifting. Don’t make the mistake of thinking a family member, particularly an aging spouse, will be able to do the job even if he or she is willing. We have a dear friend whose husband is nearing the end. She asked Jo to look at nursing homes with her since soon she’ll be unable to care for her husband without around-the-clock help, which can be more expensive than a nursing home. They have some tough financial and emotional decisions ahead. No one wants to feel they’ve let their spouse down at the end, but logically she knows he’ll receive better care than they can afford at home.No, I Do Not Sell Insurance There is a reason they call it “long-term care insurance” and not “short-term.” The exorbitant cost of health care over the long haul can wipe out a nest egg and leave a family penniless. After publishing a recent missive on annuities, several subscribers wrote kind notes saying it was the first time they’d read something on the topic not written by annuity salesman. That’s because our mandate is education—education to help you retire rich and stay that way.Money Forever gives you the tools to build, protect, and preserve your nest egg over the long haul. Without adequate planning, long-term care costs and a slew of other threats could wipe you out. Tumultuous markets aren’t the only menace. For guidance on how to protect yourself from financial jeopardy and unique investment opportunities geared to seniors and savers, sign up for a no-risk subscription to Money Forever today. A newsletter that might not fit your needs is one risk you don’t have to worry about. Try us out, and if we’re not your cup of tea, we’ll refund 100% of the cost without hassle or headache.On the Lighter Side This season marks the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field. They’re celebrating a different decade with each home stand, and this week it’s the 1930s. In 1932 the Cubs and the New York Yankees were in the World Series. Of course, the Cubs lost. Babe Ruth came to bat, and the pitcher got two quick strikes on him. The team and fans were giving him a hard time. He pointed his finger—some say at the pitcher, but legend has it he was pointing out to center field. The next pitch came whizzing in to the plate, and he hit a blast deep into the seats where he’d pointed. The mighty Babe had struck again and became even more famous for calling his shot. What a treat it was last week when the Cubs invited his daughter, who’s in her late 90s and legally blind, to come lead the fans singing Take Me Out to the Ball Game. Listening to her was a real treat. And finally… Over the last few weeks, young men and women all dressed up for prom enjoyed themselves at local restaurants. Now the graduation season is upon us. I wish all the graduates the best of luck as they pass this important milestone. It seemed like the blink of an eye before we were celebrating our 50th class reunion. My oldest grandson Justin is celebrating his 10th-year reunion this year. For this week’s funnies, I thought I would pass along a cute cartoon. Until next week… Risk Class Preferred Preferred Preferred We’d all been waiting for the big day, but the chapel the ceremony took place in was very small—just a room with Christian symbols and a few chairs. Jo’s father was waiting for us in his hospital bed, grinning from ear to ear. Despite the feeding tube, he still managed to devour a few bites of our wedding cake. Parkinson’s is a powerful disease; it can take the sturdiest tree in the forest and wilt it like an aging rose. Yes, Jo and I got married in a nursing home chapel. Little did we know that we would spend the better part of the first 18 years of our marriage dealing with nursing homes and assisted-living facilities for both sets of parents. Constant care is expensive. Jo’s father didn’t have long-term care insurance, and in 1988 his care cost close to $3,000 per month. Fortunately, he and my mother-in-law had the money to pay for it. It’s frightening to imagine a time when you can no longer bathe, dress, eat, transport yourself, or hold your bladder and bowels. In insurance-speak, those are called “activities of daily living” (ADLs). Mercifully, not everyone reaches that point. However, two out of three Americans over age 65 will need some form of long-term care during their lifetime. That might mean home health care or moving to an assisted-living facility or a nursing home. Regardless, it’s pricey. Nationwide, the average cost of a single-occupancy room in a nursing home is $6,653 per month. Home care averages $3,432 per month; assisted living, 3,300; and adult day care (which sounds just awful), $1,322. Years of paying those costs can spell financial ruin for an aging couple—the surviving spouse in particular. My aunt spent close to 10 years in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s disease before she passed away. Her long stint is not at all unusual. While most patients live an average of 4-8 years after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, many live as long as 20.Medicaid Is Not the Solution While Medicaid will pick up the tab for lower-income people, the income and asset limits to qualify are quite stringent. While the rules vary from state to state, a helpful rule of thumb is that an individual must make less than 300% of the Supplemental Security Income limit, or $2,130 in 2013, and have less than $2,000 in countable assets to qualify. Although your home (up to a certain amount of equity) is not normally a countable asset, many if not most of our readers don’t fall in this camp. After a recent chat on long-term care insurance with financial guru David Holland on his radio show, David told me anyone choosing to self-insure should have at least $2 million in liquid assets. Even then, it’s risky. One of my biggest fears is needing long-term care, having the ability to pay for it, depleting our assets, and leaving Jo flat broke. So where does that leave people unlikely to qualify for Medicaid but unable or unwilling to self-insure? Long-term care insurance, of course.Opt for the 180-Day Elimination Period Buying any type of insurance means transferring some type of personal risk to an insurance carrier. Clearly defining the risk you want to transfer and then tailoring a policy to best accomplish that goal is critical to getting the best value. David Holland generously shared some quotes to help illustrate this point. While there are countless long-term care options available today, we’re going to keep this example simple. Mary Sample is age 65. She wants a policy paying $150 in daily coverage with some inflation protection. Name Mary Sample Mary Sample Mary Sample Total Premium $6,415.20 $6,415.20 $6,375.51center_img Benefit Amount $150* daily $200* daily $170* daily Policy Limit $164,250 $219,000 $372,300 Home Care Benefit $4,500 $6,000 $5,100 Elimination Period 30 days 180 days 180 days Benefit Selection Quotation 1 Quotation 2 Quotation 3 Inflation Option 5% compounded 5% compounded 5% compoundedlast_img read more

Marian Smith somehow missed getting a flu shot thi

first_imgMarian Smith somehow missed getting a flu shot this year, which is unlike her — in the past, she always got one.The 58-year-old Washington D.C. resident says it was easier to remember to get it when the vaccine was provided at a clinic at work. But now the clinic is a bus ride away, and getting the shot wasn’t at the top of her mind.”Of course, I could get it right here at the grocery store,” Smith tells NPR, as she rushes to pick up her lunch. “But I just didn’t get it — I don’t know, I can’t tell you why.”Maybe a reminder from her doctor would have been the nudge she needed. A review study published by the Cochrane Library this month suggests that reminding people when their vaccinations are due or overdue increases the number of people who get immunized.The team of researchers reviewed 75 studies from 10 countries. Fifty-eight were performed in the U.S.; the remainder were conducted in Australasia, Europe and Africa.The research looked at reminders — via phone calls, texts, email, or post cards — for routine immunizations in infants and children, including MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and polio. The scientists also reviewed 24 studies of influenza vaccination in adults, and several studies of vaccination rates for routine adult vaccines against other illnesses, such as tetanus and hepatitis B.Overall, the scientists say, about 8 percent more people got their vaccination after getting a reminder compared with those who got no reminder. Similar results were found among studies of children and adults.That may not sound like a lot, the researchers say, but when you consider the population of the U.S., it means many, many infants, children and adults might benefit from a reminder.”All types of patient reminders and recall are likely to be effective,” says Julie Jacobson Vann from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Nursing, who led the Cochrane review.But the most effective reminder, she says, was the “old fashioned telephone call — where somebody personally calls someone and lets them know about the benefits of vaccinations, and invites them to come in and be vaccinated.”The next best reminder? Snail mail or a text message.Reminders might be particularly useful for flu shots. While about 90 percent of children are immunized against the most common childhood diseases, that rate sharply drops when it comes to annual vaccinations again influenza. And roughly a third of adults over 65 don’t get the annual shot; they can be at even greater risk of severe complications from the flu than kids.The vast majority of flu-related hospitalizations and deaths occur among people 65 and older, Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., points out.Fortunately, Schaffner says, there are now two vaccines specifically formulated for older adults.”They give more punch to the immune system,” he says, “stimulating it to work better and therefore you get more benefit from the vaccine.”Medicare also covers the cost of the flu vaccine. “All you have to do is roll up your sleeve,” Schaffner says. “Nobody reaches into your wallet — it doesn’t cost you a penny.”But you do have to remember to get the shot before you’re exposed to the flu.Schaffner suggests that the findings of this new analysis, along with the increasing use of electronic medical records, which can make it easy to keep track of vaccinations and send out reminders automatically, should encourage more doctors and healthcare providers to give their patients the helpful nudge many need. Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.last_img read more

One of the enduring mysteries of biology is why so

first_imgOne of the enduring mysteries of biology is why so much of the DNA in our chromosomes appears to be simply junk. In fact, about half of the human genome consists of repetitive bits of DNA that cut and paste themselves randomly into our chromosomes, with no obvious purpose.A study published Thursday finds that some of these snippets may actually play a vital role in the development of embryos.The noted biologist Barbara McClintock, who died in 1992, discovered these odd bits of DNA decades ago in corn, and dubbed them “jumping genes.” (She won a Nobel prize for that finding in 1983.) McClintock’s discovery stimulated generations of scientists to seek to understand this bizarre phenomenon.Some biologists have considered these weird bits of DNA parasites, since they essentially hop around our chromosomes and infect them, sometimes disrupting genes and leaving illness in their wake. But Miguel Ramalho-Santos, a biologist at the University of California, San Francisco, doesn’t like that narrative.”It seemed like a waste of this real estate in our genome — and in our cells — to have these elements and not have them there for any particular purpose,” Ramalho-Santos says. “So we just asked a very simple question: Could they be doing something that’s actually beneficial?”He and his colleagues focused on a jumping gene called LINE-1; all told, copies of it make up a whopping 20 percent of our entire DNA. Ramalho-Santos’ lab studies embryos, so the team wondered whether LINE-1 played any role in prompting a single fertilized egg to develop into an embryo.Normally, when biologists want to study one bit of a cell’s genetic material, they find a way to eliminate it to see how the cell behaves in its absence. That’s impossible to do in the case of the LINE-1 genes, since that would mean editing out 20 percent of the entire genome, notes postdoctoral researcher Michelle Percharde.Instead, the scientists devised a way to silence this abundant DNA inside the cells of a mouse embryo to see what would happen.”What we found was that, instead of it being good for the cells,” she says, “the cells did very poorly.”In a series of experiments published in the journal Cell, the scientists conclude that LINE-1 seems to be essential in the earliest stages of an embryo’s development.”That’s a very key role,” says Ramalho-Santos, “because, as you can imagine, if you can’t make a tiny little embryo — if you can’t make embryonic stem cells, which are the cells that give rise to the entire body — you don’t have any body.”His team’s discovery hinged, in part, on developing new lab techniques, but Ramalho-Santos says that’s not all.”I think the biggest advancement here was actually a mentality shift.”What’s been commonly dismissed as “junk DNA” does clutter the genome, and it’s clear that it can also cause harm. But Ramalho-Santos argues that biologists should also think harder about its function.Nels Elde, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Utah, agrees — up to a point.”I might be a little old-fashioned, but I’m still holding onto this notion of junk DNA,” Elde says. “Think of it this way. If you come into my office and look at the desk, you’ll look at it and say, ‘This thing is strewn with junk.’ And I may say to you, ‘Actually that’s a very customized filing system that you’re looking at.’ In fact, I think we’re both right.”Elde believes that these repetitive bits of DNA (known technically as transposable elements) exist primarily because they cut and paste themselves throughout the genome. They reproduce. And in that sense they are parasites.Sometimes they cause disease by disrupting the DNA where they insert themselves. But sometimes the mutations they cause can lead, for example, to new varieties of crops and new breeds of dogs.”You can make massive genetic jumps — just in single events — that can really change the course of an entire species,” Elde says.From the point of view of an evolutionary biologist, that’s enough reason for them to exist. But it’s increasingly clear that there’s even more to the story of these jumping genes.”These things may be repurposed” to perform other functions in the cell, Elde says. “And that’s what we’re starting to discover, and that’s what [the new research] paper begins to tackle as well.”Ramalho-Santos is pursuing these questions as he moves his lab to the University of Toronto, and Percharde says she plans to keep exploring these questions, as well. Her postdoctoral fellowship is now at an end, so she’s moving back to London to continue her research career.The two are not alone in finding this a fruitful line of research. Elde says this idea is starting to gain momentum, as scientists figure out new ways to explore this fascinating realm of biology. Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.last_img read more

A close look at the brains of 40 US Embassy work

first_imgA close look at the brains of 40 U.S. Embassy workers in Cuba who developed mysterious symptoms has found no evidence of injury. The State Department has said the employees were hurt by some sort of attack.Advanced brain imaging techniques did reveal some subtle differences in the workers’ brains, says Ragini Verma, a professor of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania and an author of the study published in this week’s JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association.But those differences “do not reflect the imaging differences that we see in [traumatic brain injury] or concussion,” Verma says.”All you can say is something happened, which caused their brain to change,” she says.And even that conclusion was challenged by brain scientists who have been skeptical that any diplomat was attacked or injured from what became known as “Havana syndrome.”The differences could have been random or simply the result of different life experiences that can change the brain — like learning a foreign language, says Sergio Della Sala, a professor of human cognitive neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh in the U.K. He called the study in JAMA “half-baked.””There is no evidence of any pathology,” says Douglas Fields, a neuroscientist who has investigated and written about the events in Cuba. “And when you look at the data, there’s no coherent syndrome, no pattern.”The new results should end speculation that embassy workers were injured by a sonic weapon or something even more exotic, Fields says. “The physical evidence to support the idea that there was some sort of an energy beam is completely lacking,” he says.The study is the latest development in a mystery that began in 2016, when dozens of people associated with the U.S. Embassy in Havana began reporting strange, high-pitched sounds or sudden changes in air pressure. Shortly after these events, they began experiencing dizziness, headaches, sleep problems, hearing problems and foggy thinking.The State Department began referring those workers to the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Brain Injury and Repair.In 2018, doctors there reported in JAMA that 21 workers had symptoms that resembled those of a traumatic brain injury or concussion.As part of their evaluation, people sent to the University of Pennsylvania also got MRI brain scans, which appeared normal.”Just a traditional read of the images did not reveal much,” Verma says.Verma and several colleagues decided to take another look using advanced imaging techniques usually reserved for scientific research.They studied brain scans from 40 government workers who had reported symptoms. Then they compared those images with brain images from groups of healthy people.This time, the team did find something.”The most important thing is that there were differences,” Verma says.The differences were subtle and involved measures of brain volume, brain networks and the fibers that carry signals around the brain. They were most apparent in an area called the cerebellum, which is involved in balance and movement, and were also found in areas of the brain that process sound.Differences in those areas, Verma says, might help explain why the workers reported symptoms involving balance and hearing.But Fields says even that is a reach.”First of all, these techniques are not diagnostic, they are descriptive,” he says. “And they don’t provide any clinical evidence of any kind of abnormality or pathology. What they show are minor differences between two groups.”And the existence of some differences is hardly surprising, he says.”These methods are used to find differences that are associated with being left-handed or right-handed, male or female, low IQ [or] high IQ, whether you are a musician or not,” he says. “They’re all within the normal range.”And 12 of the workers had a history of concussion, which also could account for some of the differences.The real importance of the study is in what it did not find, Fields says.”If there’d been brain injury, that would have been evident on the clinical brain imaging studies that were done before,” he says. “There was no evidence of any pathology, and these more sophisticated measures confirm that.”The State Department did not respond to requests for comment on the study. Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.last_img read more