Including South Africa’s disabled

first_img“Here is a tree rooted in African Soil, nourished with waters from the rivers of Africa. Let us come and sit under its shade to share common dreams. The leaves of the same branch and the branches of the same tree,” says David Matlakala, an intern at the National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities in South Africa (NCPPDSA), quoting an ambassador.The words brought tears to NCPPDSA Casual Day project leader Vinassa Celeste’s eyes.The NCPPDSA is a non-profit and a non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in Edenvale, Johannesburg; it aims to build a society that values equality and helps disabled people, focusing on poor and rural communities.“We are going throughout the country providing programmes such as public education, social empowerment, economic empowerment and corporate disability governance; these help us raise awareness and are part of the workshops we host nationwide,” says Celeste.The National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities wants to help include disabled people in day-to-day societyOver the past two years the organisation has helped more than 120 000 people.It visits schools, communities and companies, alerting people to the need for rehabilitation services, accessible vehicles, access to facilities and assistive devices for disabled people in those environments. The organisation raises awareness of disabled people’s experiences and the challenges they face living in an able-bodied world.The NCPPDSA also runs a children’s programme, teaching disabled children how to engage with able-bodied peers; it includes support groups.FUNDINGWith funds raised from initiatives such as the Nappy Run and Casual Day, the NCPPDSA provides assistive devices to more than 700 children each year.Casual Day raised a record-breaking R22-million this year, benefitting organisations such as the QuadPara Association of South Africa; the National Institute for the Deaf; Autism South Africa; Down Syndrome South Africa; and the National Association for Persons with Cerebral Palsy. Since its inception 18 years ago, the Casual Day project has raised more than R170-million.The NGO also receives funding from corporates; leading fashion retailer Edcon has signed a three-year contract as principal sponsors aiming to raise R6-million from Casual Day sticker sales at all Edcon stores, and contributing some R11-million over the sponsorship period.David Matlakala is an intern at the National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities in South AfricaBUILDING EMPLOYMENT SKILLS“Often we find that the unemployment amongst persons with disabilities is at high level because most of the youth come from a special school system where they were in a very protected environment and they now have to learn how to live amongst others; not to forget that most employers view them as ‘sick’ and therefore they are often left behind,” says Celeste.The NCPPDSA helps disabled person enter into and succeed in the workplace by assisting with compiling resumes, building interview skills and helping entrepreneurs enter formal work.They also work with the Association for the Physically Disabled (APD), which helps families tackle the psychological effects of living with disabled people. The organisations have held more than 70 workshops, resulting in some 2 500 disabled people finding jobs.INCLUDING DISABLED PEOPLE“We want to have a common dream for everyone to live in a world where people are viewed as just that; people, and not have to treat someone differently because they don’t look a certain way,” says Celeste.The organisation believes that spreading this inclusive attitude helps people with disabilities be seen as part of society, rather than living on the edge of it, and to date has reached around 57 291 people, 4 900 of which are disabled.“We would love to make it easier for everyone to enter their places of employment through one entrance and not be separated as that will show a much more inclusive approach and everyone will be able to see each other as one,” says Celeste.For more information visit the NCPPDSA website.last_img read more

R1-billion investment in science for the people

first_imgA malaria sporozoite inside an infected cell. A UCT research team led by Professor Kelly Chibale have identified a compound that may be the building block for a single-dose treatment for malaria. (Image by Ute Frevert; false color by Margaret Shear; source Plos Biology) • Matile Malimabe Chief information officer Department of Science and Technology +27 12 843 6626 • Massive funding injection for Square Kilometre Array • South African research funding fourth-highest in the world • UCT professor wins science award • Cosmic proof of comet strike on Earth • Bloemfontein becomes city of stars Sulaiman Philip Publicly funded scientific research aimed at improving the lives of ordinary people got a major boost last week when the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) announced 54 new funded research chairs, bringing the Department of Science and Technology’s total investment to well over R1-billion, so far, in 157 research chairs at universities across the country.Established in 2006 as a way to strengthen South Africa’s knowledge economy, SARChI’s original aim was to have identified and funded at least 200 research chairs by 2010. At the announcement of the new chairs on Friday 7 March, science and technology director-general Phil Mjwara said it had been a struggle to find suitable projects, particularly ones headed by black Africans and women. But, he told the room of academics at the Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria, 157 out of 200 was still good progress: “My math may be a little off, but 78 % is still above a distinction.” Blue-sky research Public-sector research funding will allow South Africa to benefit from what deputy president Kgalema Mothlante, at the announcement in Pretoria, called “blue-sky research”. This research is flexible and curiosity-driven, with the potential to lead to outcomes not even contemplated at the outset. Unlike research in the private sector, which remains informed and driven by competitiveness, socioeconomic benefit is the driving force behind the SARChI programme.From an original list of 400 submissions and a shortlist of 206, the numbers were whittled down to the 54 new research projects announced. The biggest influence in the decision was how the research best fit with improving people’s lives. The Department of Science and Technology was looking specifically for research in education, healthcare, fighting crime and corruption, rural development and job creation.One example of successful blue-sky public research is that of Soraya Seedat of Stellenbosch University, who studies post-traumatic stress disorders. A SARChI chair since 2008, she spoke of the benefits the sciences gain from public funding: “This has given me carte blanche to be a science dreamer. It allows me to take risks by giving me the tools and funding to develop my research.”South Africa is not looking to build a multibillion dollar Large Hadron Collider, the biggest example of basic “blue sky” research, but previous funding has included work done on the Square Kilometre Array, one of the largest and most ambitious telescope projects in the world.Diverse disciplines SARChI’s funding supports innovative research in disciplines as diverse as rural agronomy, chemistry, human sexuality and mathematical modelling.The newly appointed chairs include:Professor Paramu Mafongoya of the University of KwaZulu-Natal: With a primary discipline of rural agronomy and development, Mafongoya’s research aims to devise and implement innovative, science-based technologies to increase incomes and food security by increasing soil fertility and improving crop production in the impoverished soils of low-input subsistence farmersProfessor Chris Wolkersdorfer of the Tshwane University of Technology: Using hydrogeology and archaeology, Wolkersdorfer’s research into and monitoring of the mine flooding process has led to a theoretical treatment for acid mine waste water.Professor Catriona Macleod of Rhodes University: MacLeod’s research on adolescent sexuality will be used to design and implement public-sector interventions in a range of health initiatives, ranging from HIV programmes to barriers in accessing reproductive health care.Professor Gerhard Walzl of Stellenbosch University: Walzl’s research identifying the biomarkers for tuberculosis addresses one of the major healthcare challenges facing South Africa. His approach, beginning with basic molecular biology to clinical application, will be an important step towards combatting the disease.Professor Jean Lubuma of the University of Pretoria: Lubuma is building mathematical models to help identify and track engineering and medical challenges and the best responses to them. His research also includes infectious disease and ecology of species modelling, with the hope that outbreaks and extinction can be prevented through early warning.Science funding for new growth Science and technology minister Derek Hanekom stressed that all the new research chairs received funding only if their research furthered the aims of South Africa’s New Growth Path. The funding, he added, would help the country become a leading research destination, and build a more knowledge-based economy. “An investment in knowledge bears the best returns,” Hanekom said. “To now we have created 1 000 research jobs and want to build on the human capital we will require going forward.”Identifying the programme’s biggest success to date, he argued the potential benefits far outweighed the simple math of money spent and returns in jobs created. A UCT research team led by Professor Kelly Chibale, collaborating with the Swiss-based Medicines for Malaria, have identified a compound that may be the building block for a single-dose treatment for malaria. Pre-clinical testing will begin soon this cure for a disease that infects 3.3-billion a year – and kills up to 830 000 Africans a year.“We want to create a vibrant culture of excellence in research, thus strengthening research capacity to advance the frontiers of knowledge,” Hanekom said. “This new knowledge will afford South Africa a competitive edge internationally and contribute towards growing the economy of the country and improving the quality of life of South Africans.”Motlanthe stressed the importance of public funding of research in these areas, which were underserved in the private sector. “The imperative for the research chairs to derive research-driven solutions that ultimately contribute to a better life for all South Africans still remains, and cannot be wished away.”last_img read more

Patnaik campaigns for Bijepur candidate

first_imgChief Minister and Biju Janata Dal president Naveen Patnaik on Thursday campaigned for party nominee Rita Sahu in the Bijepur Assembly seat in western Odisha where bypoll is scheduled to be held on October 21. Hundreds of supporters stood along the roads when Mr. Patnaik undertook a roadshow and addressed people at several locations urging them to vote for Ms. Sahu for the all-round development of their constituency. Many senior party leaders were also present. Overnight stayMr. Patnaik is scheduled to stay overnight and campaign in different areas on Friday. Ms. Sahu had won from Bijepur as a BJD candidate when a bypoll was held in the constituency in 2018 following the death of her husband and then Congress MLA Subal Sahu. As campaigning will come to end on Saturday evening, other major contenders for the seat – Sanat Gartia of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Dillip Kumar Panda of Congress – have also intensified campaign in the constituency. Many senior leaders of the BJD, the BJP and the Congress have been camping in Bijepur to canvass for votes in favour of their respective candidates. Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who campaigned in the constituency a few days ago, is scheduled to campaign again to seek votes in favour of Mr. Gartia on Friday. The bypoll was necessitated after Mr. Patnaik, who had won from both Bijepur and Hinjili constituencies, vacated the Bijepur seat.last_img read more

Michigan House committee approves school employee retirement reforms

first_img Categories: Albert News,News 14Jun Michigan House committee approves school employee retirement reforms A state House committee today approved legislation to help improve the future finances of Michigan’s public schools by fixing a broken school employee retirement system.The legislation sponsored by Rep. Thomas Albert of Lowell provides an enhanced 401k-style plan for current and new public school employees. It also gives employees an annuity option through the 401k-style plan, if they desire a guaranteed portion of retirement income. The plan will give new school employees more control and freedom to manage their own retirement savings because the money will follow them throughout their careers, even if they change jobs or professions.New school employees will have the option of selecting a revised hybrid plan – with elements of a 401k and a pension — that is more stable, predictable and less risky than the current version. The current hybrid plan created in 2010 will be closed to new entrants.The plan keeps a promise to Michigan’s retired and current school employees, whose benefits don’t change – with one notable and positive exception. Current school employees who already have opted for a 401k plan will get the new, more lucrative defined contribution plan along with new hires.“Today is an exciting day for the future of Michigan,” said Albert, who worked as an investor for the state pension system before his election to the Legislature. “This bill gives new hires control of their own financial future, protects the Michigan taxpayer from a growing liability, and helps move toward focusing school spending on education — and not services rendered decades ago.“This proposal is one giant step in the right direction for our school system,” Albert said. “Our schools are drowning in debt, with more than a third of school funding going to pension liabilities. We can shore up this system and get out of this hole dug over the past several decades. But we’ve got to act now, make tough decisions and do the right thing.”The legislation affecting the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System advances to the House floor after its approval by the House Education Reform Committee.Michigan’s public school employee pension and retiree health care system is buried in debt, with an unfunded liability approaching $40 billion – including $29 billion on the pension side alone. The debt costs the state and local schools nearly $2,000 per student annually, and the debt has been rising each year.“The debt has hurt teacher salaries and taken resources out of the classroom that would be far better spent directly educating our children,” Albert said. “The state’s previous attempts to fix the system have not gone far enough. It’s time to make real change, with real numbers and real certainty.”center_img ###The legislation is House Bill 4647.last_img read more

Pregnant women can lower risk of stillbirth by sleeping on their side

first_img Source: Reviewed by Alina Shrourou, B.Sc. (Editor)Apr 8 2019RESEARCH spearheaded by a University of Huddersfield lecturer has shown that pregnant women can lower the risk of stillbirth by sleeping on their side and NOT on their back.Now the finding forms part of official NHS guidance designed to bring about reductions in the number of babies who are stillborn in the UK – amounting to nine a day, or one in every 225 births.Dr Tomasina Stacey is Reader of Midwifery Practice at the University. She carried out her doctoral research while based at Auckland University in New Zealand, investigating whether sleeping position was a factor in stillbirth. She concluded that the small proportion of pregnant women who sleep on their backs did run a higher risk, because the weight of the uterus can reduce blood flow to the baby.Her findings from this initial exploratory study were described in an article published by the British Medical Journal. It was the first study to report maternal sleep-related practices as risk factors for stillbirth. It triggered further research, culminating in a large-scale international project that gathered data from New Zealand, the UK, Australia and the USA.This study included 851 bereaved mothers and 2,257 women with ongoing pregnancy and has now resulted in a multi-authored article available in EClinical Medicine, published by The Lancet.The chief finding is that going to sleep lying on the back from 28 weeks of pregnancy increased the risk of stillbirth by 2.6 times. This heightened risk occurred regardless of the other known risk factors for stillbirth.The UK charity Tommy’s, which funds research into miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth, has included Dr Stacey’s findings about sleep position in its advice to pregnant women. And now the NHS has incorporated them in its Saving Babies’ Lives care bundle – a dossier of advice issued as part of a push to halve the rate of stillbirths in the UK.Related StoriesExercise during pregnancy can promote bone health of both mother and childUnpleasant experiences could be countered with a good night’s REM sleepMaternal obesity may negatively affect children’s lung developmentThe care bundle states: “In later pregnancy (after 28 weeks), it is safer to go to sleep on your side than on your back”. It advises practitioners to “encourage women to settle on their side when they go to sleep or have a day-time nap, rather than on their back. A woman who wakes up on her back shouldn’t worry, but should settle to sleep again her side”.Sleeping position remains an important strand of Dr Stacey’s research. It originated when she and a team at the University of Auckland – including her PhD supervisor Professor Lesley McCowan – were investigating the relatively high rates of stillbirth in New Zealand.”We decided to look at a range of modifiable risk factors and this was one of them,” said Dr Stacey.”The next phase is to ensure that there is consistent advice from healthcare professionals and we will be looking to see if there are ways of helping to support women to sleep in the side position.”Only a small proportion of women will be affected,” continued Dr Stacey. “But the studies that we did following the first findings suggested that women were quite happy to change their going to sleep position if it was better for their babies.”last_img read more

Adults with family history of Alzheimers have learning impairments study finds

first_imgReviewed by Alina Shrourou, B.Sc. (Editor)Jul 10 2019Adults with a first-degree relative with Alzheimer’s disease perform more poorly on online paired-learning tasks than adults without such a family history, and this impairment appears to be exacerbated by having diabetes or a genetic variation in the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene linked to the disease.The findings, published on Tuesday in eLife, may help identify people who have increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease and could uncover new ways to delay or prevent the disease. Having a family history of Alzheimer’s disease is a well-known risk factor for developing the condition, but the effects on learning and memory throughout a person’s life are less clear. Some studies have been conducted in this area, but most have been too small to draw significant conclusions.To enable a larger study, Talboom and colleagues created an easy-to-use website,, that participants could log on to and complete a memory test. Participants were asked to learn 12-word pairs and were then tested on their ability to complete the missing half of the pair when presented with one of the words.The 59,571 individuals who participated were also asked to answer questions about their sex, education, age, language, country and health, including a question about whether one of their parents or siblings had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Those with a family history of Alzheimer’s were able to match about two and one-half fewer word pairs than individuals without a family history. Having diabetes appeared to compound the learning impairments seen in individuals with a family history.Related StoriesResearchers identify gene mutations linked to leukemia in children with Down’s syndromeAn active brain and body associated with reduced risk of dementiaDiet and physical exercise do not reduce risk of gestational diabetesA subset of 742 participants who had a close relative with Alzheimer’s submitted a sample of dried blood or saliva that the researchers tested for a genetic variation in the APOE gene linked to the disease. “The APOE genotype is an important genetic factor that influences memory, and we found that those with the variation performed worse on the memory test than those without the variation,” Talboom explains.Some characteristics, however, appeared to protect against memory and learning impairments in people with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease. Participants with higher levels of education experience less of a decline in scores on the learning and memory test than people with lower levels of education, even when they have a family history of the disease. Women also appear to fair better despite having Alzheimer’s disease risk factors.”Our study supports the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, properly treating diseases such as diabetes, and building learning and memory reserve through education to reduce the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease risk factors,” concludes senior author Matthew Huentelman, Professor of Neurogenomics at the Translational Genomics Research Institute, Arizona. Source:eLifeJournal reference:Talboom, J.S. et al. (2019) Family history of Alzheimer’s disease alters cognition and is modified by medical and genetic factors. eLife. Identifying factors that reduce or eliminate the effect of a family history of Alzheimer’s disease is particularly crucial since there is currently no cure or effective disease-slowing treatments.”Lead author Joshua Talboom, PhD, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Arizona, US.last_img read more

Spotify to give family plan subscribers a free Google Home Mini speaker

first_img Pay less, get more: Spotify to bundle Premium service with Hulu Citation: Spotify to give family plan subscribers a free Google Home Mini speaker (2018, October 31) retrieved 17 July 2019 from This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. Credit: CC0 Public Domain ©2018 USA Today Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.center_img The music streaming service said Wednesday it would give master account owners of Premium for Family plans a free speaker that uses the artificial intelligence-infused, voice-driven Google Assistant. Spotify Premium for Family subscribers can have personalized Spotify accounts for up to six family members for $14.99 a month.You can already ask Google Home devices to play music on Spotify, but this deal—which starts Thursday—aims to increase the reach of both the music service and the voice-friendly speakers.”With the advent of voice and smart speakers this now becomes a key context where people are listening to music. So teaming up with Google to invest in voice and to bring a Google device to all our Spotify families is a holy smokes moment,” said Alex Norström, Spotify’s chief premium business officer. “Our goal is ubiquity. We want to be everywhere where our users are.”At its simplest, Spotify listeners can say, “Hey Google, play Spotify” and ask to skip all or part of a song. Beyond that, you could ask questions such as, “Hey Google, when did this song come out?”This is just the latest move by Spotify to solidify its spot in the growing battle over smart speakers. Earlier this month, Spotify announced it was among the initial partners—along with others such as iHeartRadio and Pandora—on Facebook’s upcoming voice-controlled, video-calling Portal speaker due in November. Spotify also has a deal with Samsung to have the music service on its phones and other devices, as well as the in-development Galaxy Home smart speaker.Google and Spotify will work together to make it easier for users to access the music service on the tech giant’s smart speakers, Norström says. That means “things like making the on-boarding experience and the activation experience much, much more seamless than it has been before,” he said.Spotify, which went public in April, has upgraded the free tier of its service to give those users the ability to skip and pick songs. Overall, Spotify has 180 million monthly active users, with about 83 million of those being paying subscribers.Spotify family plan subscribers can claim their Google Home Mini (regularly priced at $49) beginning Thursday hrough Dec. 31 on the service’s web site at . Spotify is giving a Google Home Mini speaker to family plan subscribers for a song—free. Explore furtherlast_img read more