Breakthrough in cell reprogramming

first_imgA group of Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) researchers has made such a significant leap forward in reprogramming human adult cells that HSCI co-director Douglas Melton said the institute will immediately begin using the new method to make patient- and disease-specific induced pluripotent stem cells, known as iPS cells.“This work by Derrick Rossi and his colleagues solves one of the major challenges we face in trying to use a patient’s own cells to treat their disease,” said Melton, who is also co-chair of Harvard’s Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology. “I predict that this technique will immediately become the preferred method to make iPS cells from patients, and, indeed, at the HSCI we are turning our entire iPS core to using this method,” said Melton, who did not participate in the work.The findings were published online by the journal Cell Stem Cell.Rossi’s group, based at the Immune Disease Institute, at Children’s Hospital Boston, used synthetic mRNA to reprogram adult human skin cells, called fibroblasts, turning them into cells that are apparently identical to human embryonic stem cells, the initial building blocks of the body’s organs. They then used other mRNA to program the new cells, which they are calling RiPS (RNA-iPS) cells, to develop into specific cell types. In the current study, they created muscle cells.Because mRNA carries genetic instructions but does not enter the DNA of the target cells, the resulting tailored cells should be safe to use in treating patients, Rossi said, unlike the iPS cells now being created around the world.“The new report provides a substantial advance,” National Institutes of Health director Francis S. Collins told The Washington Post. “But this research in no way reduces the importance of comparing the resulting iPS cells to human embryonic stem cells. Previous research has shown that iPS cells retain some memory of their tissue of origin, which may have important implications for their use in therapeutics. To explore these important potential differences, iPS research must continue to be conducted side by side with human embryonic cell research.”“Our findings address three major impediments to clinical translational use of iPS cells,” Rossi said in an interview. “The method does not in any way breach genomic integrity, as it does not necessitate integrating genes or viruses into the target cells’ DNA; it is orders of magnitude more efficient at producing iPS cells than conventional iPS methods, which were notoriously inefficient; and it gives us a way to directly program and direct the development of the iPS cells toward clinically useful cell types.”The three problems the Rossi group indeed appears to have solved in one fell swoop are those with which stem cell biologists have been wrestling ever since Japanese researcher Shinya Yamanaka announced in 2006 that he had used four genes to convert fully developed adult skin cells into ones with all of the properties of embryonic stem cells. Those cells, which Yamanaka dubbed induced pluripotent stem cells, could, like embryonic stem cells, theoretically be directed to become any human cell type.But Yamanaka used viruses to insert the genes into the genome of the target cells, and that created at least two major impediments to using the iPS cells to treat human disease, which is the main goal of stem cell researchers.First, the use of the integrating viruses raised the real possibility that cancers might inadvertently be triggered. Second, inserting the genes into the genome could lead to changes that would alter the properties of the resulting iPS cells so they would not be identical to human embryonic stem cells.Ever since Yamanaka’s discovery, scientists have been looking for other ways to turn adult cells into iPS cells, both to study diseases by creating cell lines carrying the genes of diseased patients, and to create patient-specific cell lines to treat individual patients. Now, with Rossi’s RiPS cells, they may have found what they’ve been seeking.The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Yamanaka stated in an email he plans to try Rossi’s technique, and said “the standard method to generate [iPS cells] for clinical applications has yet to be established. I think this method has the potential for it.”“Most approaches for generating iPS cells involve some sort of integration into the genome, usually viral,” Rossi said, “so clearly the development of a technology that does not breach genomic integrity is very important. Gene therapy trials unfortunately taught us the danger in leaving viruses in the genome, as some patients developed cancers that were driven by the integrated viruses. So when one thinks about strategies for regenerative medicine, you need to envisage utilizing cells whose genome has not been breached. We believe that utilizing RNA to generate transplantable cells and tissues is an ideal solution because, to the best of our knowledge, RNA is completely nonintegrative.”Rossi and his team created mRNA that carries the instruction sets from the four genes used by Yamanaka. So the mRNA tells the adult cells to reprogram, just as the Yamanaka genes do, but it does so without disturbing the integrity of the adult cell’s genome. The resulting RiPS cells may be more identical to human embryonic stem cells because their genomic integrity is maintained. When Rossi and colleagues compared the RiPS cells they made to human embryonic stem cells, they found a much closer match than when iPS cells were generated with viruses.Next comes the question of how to turn the RiPS cells, cellular blank slates, into the kind of cells that researchers need to treat patients — for example, the insulin-producing beta cells destroyed in diabetics, or the motor neurons that degenerate in the brains of patients with Parkinson’s.Here again Rossi and his team turned to mRNA. “Up to this point, it’s been extremely difficult to direct cells to differentiate towards particular fates, or cell types,” Rossi said. Current methods for directing cellular differentiation usually rely on tightly controlling the environment in which the cells are developing, tailoring the growth media and other factors to coax the iPS cells to develop into a particular cell type. “We thought to use mRNA encoding … factors in order to drive the fate of iPS cells to the desired cell fate. We are beginning to know more about what factors are needed to create certain types of cells. A great example was the demonstration by Doug Melton’s group that they could use just three specific factors to turn adult pancreatic exocrine cells into insulin-producing beta cells.”But those experiments again required the insertion of gene-carrying viruses into the target cells, said Rossi. To demonstrate that mRNA might be used to direct iPS cell fate, Rossi and his colleagues synthesized mRNA with the instruction set for making muscle cells, and showed that they could use this method to efficiently drive the fate of RiPS to muscle cells, without compromising the genome of these cells. “These results provide us with a new experimental paradigm that might safely be used in regenerative medicine,” Rossi said.Rossi’s group also reported it has found a method that is far more efficient than previous ones in producing iPS cells.“Up until now, iPS cell generation has been an extremely inefficient process,” Rossi said. “Our technique allows for iPS generation that’s significantly more efficient than conventional approaches.” It used to be that only 0.001 to 0.01 of starting cells could be reprogrammed to iPS cells. The study by Rossi and his colleagues, however, reported iPS conversion efficiencies in the range of 1 to 4 percent of starting cells. What that means practically is that iPS cells can be generated even if few starting cells are used. This efficiency may prove important for patients from whom only a few starting cells can be obtained.Another finding has implications far beyond stem cell science. The Rossi group reported that it found a way to overcome the natural cellular immunity to the insertion of foreign RNA.“I am sure we’re not the only lab to have the idea of using RNA for cellular reprogramming,” said Rossi. “The problem is that when you introduce RNA into a cell, the cell thinks it is being infected by an RNA virus and retaliates by producing a massive interferon response that effectively shuts down cellular function and can prompt the cell to altruistic suicide as it tries to stop the ‘virus’ from replicating. In order to use RNA for cellular reprogramming, we clearly needed to overcome this problem,” he said. “Our approach was to modify the RNA so that it no longer set off antiviral responses when introduced into cells. The modified mRNA enabled us to efficiently express proteins in cells for days and weeks without causing any adverse reaction in the cells.”“Although we developed this technology for cellular reprogramming, it actually has utility far beyond that,” said Rossi, who has patented the technology and is forming a company to develop it. “Basically our technology provides a means of transiently expressing any protein in a cell without eliciting the cell’s antiviral response pathways. This could have potential therapeutic benefit in patients suffering from protein deficiencies.”This work was supported with funding from Rossi’s “startup package,” the money that newly hired faculty receive to establish their labs, and with a seed grant from the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.Said Melton, “It’s wonderful to see that HSCI seed grant funds given to outstanding, innovative, and imaginative young scientists like Rossi can so quickly and dramatically change a field.”last_img read more

Saint Mary’s hosts annual Memory Walk

first_imgSaint Mary’s was a sea of purple Sunday as it hosted the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual Memory Walk. This was Saint Mary’s second year hosting the event. Community members, students and faculty gathered in order to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s Disease, a brain disorder that destroys cells and leads to memory loss and death. According to Michael Sullivan, the director of Public Policy and Advocacy of Indiana’s Alzheimer’s Association, this year’s event attracted more walkers than last year, gathering around 150 people. “Alzheimer’s was declared the sixth leading cause of death,” Sullivan said. “Even if a cure cannot be found, just slowing the progress of the disease will be beneficial.” Sullivan is a strong supporter of raising awareness, as well as advocacy for federal funding of Alzheimer’s treatment. The course of the Memory Walk ran throughout Saint Mary’s campus. “I always teach my children that education is key. It is the one thing that cannot be taken away from you.” Regional Director Melissa Barile said. “No. We are all wrong. Alzheimer’s can take all of our education — no matter when we learned it — away from us.” For this reason, Barile stressed raising awareness and funding for Alzheimer’s research is just as vital as education of the disease. “My biggest hope is that [the event] does raise awareness. I’ve been working with the Association for many years now and have visited many places, but each time it’s like I’ve just begun,” Barile said. “Awareness needs to increase. Education, education, education and support are key.” Sullivan said he hoped the event would raise awareness about the Association, as well. It provides educational services, support groups, a 24-hour help line and more, all free of charge. The Association is the largest support group of the disease nationally and internationally. Many Saint Mary’s students gathered to help provide support and to remember loved ones who had the disease. Juniors Jessica Cross and Laura Wilkerson walked to remember their grandmothers. “I used to always do this with my family, but it’s my first time walking in South Bend,” Cross said. “It’s so nice to see a good turn out.” Joi Pugh, a Saint Mary’s sophomore, walked to remember her great-grandmother. “I’m walking to raise awareness. It’s my first time participating in the Memory Walk, and I’m very excited,” Pugh said. “I posted it to my Facebook, and I even signed up my roommate to walk with me.” Barile said she hopes to see the event grow bigger and bigger every year. “If you could see the impact of the disease on the family — the children, grandchildren, no matter the age group, you would see just how many lives this disease affects and why it is so important to raise awareness now,” she said.last_img read more

Library showcases Shakespeare’s First Folio

first_imgFour hundred years ago, in 1616, William Shakespeare died. As his legacy, he left behind 37 plays and more than 150 poems that still capture the attention of modern readers. In celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death, the Folger Shakespeare Library is allowing a few of its 82 copies of the First Folio to tour the U.S., and Notre Dame was selected as Indiana’s only host site. “There was a gigantic campus-wide effort here with Shakespeare ND, Rare Books and Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries and the important people over in the Dome, who recognized this would be a wonderful opportunity given Notre Dame’s tradition with Shakespeare and the performance that happen every year and Shakespeare ND,” Julie Tanaka, curator of special collections, said. “We made a sales pitch for why we were interested and why we were a good host site, and we were selected as the site in Indiana to host.” The First Folio contains 36 of Shakespeare’s plays. Tanaka said Shakespeare was one of the first English dramatists to have his work published as a folio.“A folio is when you take a piece of paper, and you fold it in half; Shakespeare’s plays previous to this — 19 of them had been printed — were published in what are called ‘quarto,’ where a piece of paper is folded into fourths,” she said. “Those were meant to be passed around, read and discarded, so they were printed on cheaper paper, kind of like a newspaper. The folio was reserved for important works. They were reserved for government documents, theological treatises, some high literary things.”Shakespeare’s First Folio is especially crucial because without it, 17 of his plays — including “Macbeth,” “Measure for Measure” and “Julius Caesar” — may have been lost forever. According to Tanaka, Henry Clay Folger, an oil mogul, started a “buying spree” of Shakespeare’s First Folios in the late 1800s. Approximately 750 were printed in 1623. Today, the locations of 233 are known; 82 of them are at the Folger library, making it the largest collection in the world. The second largest, in Tokyo, Japan, has 12. “This is one of the 82 copies the Folger Library holds. It’s opened to the famous soliloquy in Hamlet, ‘To be or not to be.’” she said. “It’s printed in two columns and there are approximately 900 pages in this volume. It’s easier to read that way.”Folger spent anywhere from a “couple hundred” dollars to around $68,000 for each of his folios, depending on the quality and condition. According to Tanaka, the folios would cost between $5 and $6 million, based on the last two sales in 2006 and 2008. “This [particular one] came from Washington D.C. It was packed up in a nice container with other wrappings around it, not only to protect it, but to allow it to adjust to the different climates as it came out here, slowly,” she said. “When you have a book like this, and you go from 80 degrees to 12 degrees, it puts a lot of stress on the book itself, and it causes the binding to do funny things, so the book wouldn’t last another 200 years. It was unpacked, allowed to adjust to our climate and then put into display in a case.”Two of Shakespeare’s friends and fellow actors in the King’s Company helped compile his plays for the folio. While 19 had been previously printed, Tanaka said there’s some “sketchiness” regarding the remaining 17 and how they were included, since accounts are vague and few. “That adds to the charm of Shakespeare,” Tanaka said. “There are some things we’ll never know, and it lets you imagine things. That’s what’s nice about his plays too. They’re written for an audience not only for the 17th century, but the 21st century as well. There’s something in all of his plays that appeals to everyone. You can see them performed as we think it happened in the 17th century, or you can see how it’s reinterpreted for the 21st century, in very loose terms. You can see a combination of both, in movies, in comic books, in literature.” Tags: Hesburgh Libraries, Rare Books and Special Collections, Shakespeare NDlast_img read more

Senate Confirms Judge Amy Coney Barrett Supreme Court Nomination

first_imgShare:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window) WASHINGTON – The Senate has voted to confirm judge Amy Coney Barrett to the US Supreme Court, solidifying the court’s conservative majority.The vote was 52-48.Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who is in a tough re-election fight, was the only GOP senator to cross party lines and vote with Democrats against the nomination after having expressed concerns that it’s too close to Election Day to consider a nominee.Trump’s appointment of a new Supreme Court justice will mark the third of his tenure in office, giving Republicans a historic opportunity to deliver on the key conservative priority and campaign promise of transforming the federal courts through lifetime appointments. Barrett, who is 48 years old, is likely to serve on the court for decades and will give conservatives a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court.The confirmation vote comes after Senate Republicans, who hold a majority in the upper chamber, pushed ahead with one of the quickest nomination proceedings in modern times following the death of the late Justice and liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month.last_img read more

Legislature passes credit card bill to help retailers

first_imgSenate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin and Majority Leader John Campbell today announced passage of legislation that will curb predatory practices by credit card companies and protect both Vermont businesses and consumers.“Almost every Vermont family and store owner has a story to tell about one of the major credit card companies charging them exorbitant and unfair fees or leveraging unjust fines,” said Senator Peter Shumlin. “This legislation will help the Vermont consumer and store owner by prohibiting these abusive practices.”The legislation will allow merchants to set a minimum amount for credit card purchases and offer discounts for cash payments, and prohibit credit card companies from fining merchants for their pricing displays.”This is a huge victory for small businesses against the Goliath Master Cards, Visas and the American Expresses of the world,” said Majority Leader John Campbell. “For too long, these companies have been determining how much money our local small businesses can make.”The legislation includes three key provisions:Prohibits credit card companies from fining merchants for their pricing displays or for offering a discount to customers who use a credit card with fewer fines on the merchant.Allows merchants to set minimum transaction amounts without being fined or penalized by the credit card companies as long as it is displayed appropriately.Prohibits credit card companies from forcing a store owner to accept their credit card at all of their store branches if they choose to use it at one. S.138, An Act Relating to Credit Card Fees, will now go to the Governor for his signature.Source: Shumlin’s office. 5.5.2010###last_img read more

Aiming High to Give LaGuardia a Lift Will Help Our Region Take Off, Too

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Thanks to a just-announced overhaul plan, LaGuardia International Airport could be transformed from Third World to first rate. The impacts of this massively ambitious project could resonate well beyond Queens and those 680 worn-out acres between Flushing and Bowery Bays, because it marks the welcome return of large-scale thinking to our region.LaGuardia is notorious to travelers who have had the misfortune of navigating its cramped hallways and crowded gates. Speaking last Monday at the Sheraton Hotel in midtown Manhattan where the plan was unveiled, Gov. Andrew Cuomo repeated the obvious when he said the airport “is a terrible front-door entranceway to New York. It is a lost opportunity.”For what it’s worth, LaGuardia has the distinction of being voted as the worst airport in the nation by Travel & Leisure, which wrote:“The airport has the dubious honor of ranking the worst for the check-in and security process, the worst for baggage handling, the worst when it comes to providing Wi-Fi, the worst at staff communication, and the worst design and cleanliness. If there was a ray of hope, its location, which ranked 16th, was considered superior to six other airports.”According to The New York Times, the airport is one of the busiest and tardiest for its size, having a 70 percent on-time departure rate, which ranks last out of the 29 largest American airports. Yet despite its many, many shortcomings, the airport is still an economic juggernaut. The current airport employs 11,000 workers and contributes more than $15.6 billion to our region’s economy.“Praise” of the airport reached its zenith last year when Vice President Joseph R. Biden remarked that a blindfolded passenger at LaGuardia might think he’d landed in “some Third World country,” as the Times reported in February 2014.Since then, it seems like the Vice President and the Governor have inspired private developers and the Port Authority of NY & NJ to create a workable plan that seeks to demolish the present Central Terminal Building and start anew. Instead of the four separate terminals today, a rebuilt airport would feature a unified passenger facility that is much closer to the Grand Central Parkway allowing for two miles of new taxiways to help clear up some of LaGuardia’s notorious congestion issues.The project also would improve access to LaGuardia, which is too heavily auto-centric. Talk of an AirTrain extension from Willets Point, finally linking the airport to New York City Transit and the Long Island Rail Road, is also being revisited, as is launching high-speed ferry service from the Marine Air Terminal to Manhattan. Also on the table is additional investment in John F. Kennedy International Airport: the T.W.A. Flight Center, a historic landmark considered by many to be the architectural embodiment of the spirit of air travel (and where the Beatles landed in America for their first tour here), is poised to become a first-class hotel.There is no doubt that Biden’s involvement helped usher the project past the many logistical and financial hurdles that normally hold back something of this scale and cost. It seems that once again large-scale capital investment is coming to New York – and it couldn’t have come soon enough.As a general rule of thumb in the planning world, a city that moves is a city that grows. Whether it be roads, rails or runways, any investment in New York’s decrepit infrastructure should be celebrated. Each day, our old, deteriorating systems bear additional burdens they simply weren’t designed for. Yet, to our shame, they’ve been neglected for decades. LaGuardia is currently providing a level of service that is well out of sync with the region’s needs.After the LaGuardia project was announced, many critics cried foul that the airport is the site of billions of dollars’ worth of new capital investment, citing the sorry state of the rail network.Although they are correct, that doesn’t mean investment shouldn’t be made in other vital components of the region’s transportation system, especially when a new airport is just as critical, if not more so, in driving economic activity for New York City and the tri-state area as a whole. And that certainly includes Long Island.Vice President Joe Biden previously compared LaGuardia International Airport to one you’d see in a “third-world country.”While transit advocates argue that the money should be put toward the city’s rail and subway systems, which are getting worse by the day, the fact of the matter is that if the state has the ability to rebuild LaGuardia, it is wise to pounce.The price of this ambitious project was first announced to be $4 billion, but shortly after the fanfare died down, analysts realistically assessed that figure to be $8 billion. They also cast doubt about the Governor’s target for completion in the year 2021, saying that 2026 is a more manageable timeframe for a project of this magnitude. The financing is to be sourced from a public-private partnership among the state, private developers and Delta Airlines. The costs are huge, but so is the project’s scope. Essentially, we’re poised to place a brand new airport a mere eight miles from Midtown Manhattan, one of the most expensive places in the world.The benefits of a new LaGuardia are likely to include much more than just adding to the convenience of tourists as some have claimed. The airport served 27 million passengers last year, and when the overhaul is finally completed, that number will definitely increase. And it will include millions of people doing business here as well as seeing the sights.On Long Island, the Town of Islip will come under even more pressure to attract flyers to its struggling Long Island MacArthur Airport. A reorientation may be in order so MacArthur doesn’t try to compete with LaGuardia, but rather complement its services. Both Nassau and Suffolk counties should actively step up their tourism campaigns to make our assets more attractive to visitors and draw additional economic activity that the new LaGuardia will surely bring.Our political leaders should lobby to streamline the LIRR’s operations to Willets Point so Long Islanders can easily get from points east to the eventual AirTrain. Policymakers and planners should also conduct an analysis of how increased transit ridership to LaGuardia might further justify the need for the LIRR’s proposed double-track from Farmingdale to Ronkonkoma, and its triple track from Floral Park to Hicksville.This is the time for thinking big like Robert Moses did, and who better to put that notion into words than Robert A. Caro, his Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, who wrote The Power Broker about the master builder. Caro made a rare public comment about the creation of a new LaGuardia in the Governor’s press release on the overhaul project, which nicely sums up how much of a big deal the new airport will be upon completion.“To say we’re going to take it from being a ‘third-world airport’ to being one of the greatest and newest airports, if you think about it, that’s quite a heroic vision,” Caro said. “It’s not an improvement; it’s a transformation – and it’s a transformation that, of course, New York needs. Just as the first LaGuardia airport took New York into the modern age of the 1930s and ’40s, now we have this new airport which will take New York into the 21st century.”Rich Murdocco writes about Long Island’s land use and real estate development issues. He received his Master’s in Public Policy at Stony Brook University, where he studied regional planning under Dr. Lee Koppelman, Long Island’s veteran master planner. Murdocco is a regular contributor to the Long Island Press. More of his views can be found on www.TheFoggiestIdea.org or follow him on Twitter @TheFoggiestIdea.last_img read more

New era of regulatory relief

first_img 7SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Debbie Matz Debbie Matz was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as the eighth board chair of the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). After confirmation by the U.S. Senate on … Web: www.ncua.gov Details Grow small businesses, by providing capital that entrepreneurs may not be able to obtain from other institutions; and Blanket Waivers—I also heard loud and clear that the provision for blanket waivers was not working as intended. Applying for blanket waivers covering loan-to-value limits, construction-and-development limits, and non-member participations, in addition to personal guarantees, resulted in massive amounts of paperwork. The waiver process had become a burden, both for credit union officials and NCUA staff. Instead, we’re providing relief through this new rule, and removing the waiver process altogether.Preserving States’ RightsCommenters also agreed on another important issue: state member business lending rules. Our proposed rule sought comments on three options for states that currently have MBL rules approved by NCUA, as well as other states that may want to write their own rules in the future. We also invited comments on any other options.Clearly, the majority of commenters preferred the option to grandfather the seven states with pre-approved rules—while also allowing all states to submit new rules for NCUA approval. So our new rule is designed to serve as a floor, or a baseline minimum safety and soundness standard. States have flexibility to impose a higher standard, but not a lower standard.As we’ve done in the past, when reviewing proposed state MBL rules, NCUA’s rule will guide our decision. But our interpretation will not be rigid. As long as the state rule includes all of the core risk management principles of NCUA’s rule and is consistent with the Federal Credit Union Act, NCUA will determine the state rule is no less restrictive.The vast majority of states follow NCUA’s rule as prescribed. So in addition to training all NCUA field staff on our new rule, we have also committed to train state examiners on this rule.Empowering Credit UnionsIn addition, before the final implementation date, supervisory guidance will be designed for examiners and distributed to all federally insured credit unions at the same time.Our modernized and flexible rule, implemented by well-trained examiners, will empower federally insured credit unions to safely and soundly serve more of our nation’s growing and thriving small businesses. And as a result, it will allow those credit unions to grow and thrive, providing jobs and economic resources in their communities, in a new era of regulatory relief. Strengthen communities, by creating jobs and fostering local economic development.Entrusting Credit Union BoardsWhether to engage in business lending is a strategic decision for each board of directors. If you decide to engage in business lending, under this new rule, your board of directors and management team will have the freedom to develop your own policy governing how you will do business.For example, your policy can set guidelines for personal guarantees, loan-to-value ratios, and construction-and-development thresholds you feel are most appropriate for your credit union.Addressing Unintended ConsequencesThis new rule also addresses two unintended consequences I heard from credit union officials:Personal Guarantees—I heard loud and clear that when credit unions are required to place a personal guarantee on every business loan, they lose business from some of their best members. Members who have well-established, strong businesses often take their business to other lenders who don’t require personal guarantees. That’s why I insisted on removing the personal guarantee requirement as soon as possible, even before the rest of our new rule is implemented. So beginning on May 13, credit unions—not regulators—will determine whether or not to require a personal guarantee on each business loan. NCUA’s new rule on member business lending marks a new era for NCUA and for credit unions. This new era will be defined by principles-based regulations, not by prescriptive limits on credit unions.The new MBL rule removes the prescriptive limits that were needed when many credit unions were just entering the business-loan marketplace. Today, the vast majority of credit unions making these loans have well-established business lending infrastructures and solid risk management in place.The results have been remarkable. Over the last 15 years, credit unions’ total business lending portfolio has grown 14 times larger, from $4 billion in 2000 to more than $56 billion today. And the portfolio has grown in a safe and sound manner. Credit unions’ delinquencies and charge-offs on business loans have been steadily reduced.It is now time to transition away from prescriptive limits, toward over-arching principles that provide greater flexibility for credit unions to serve more business owners.Producing Tangible BenefitsSafely expanding business lending will produce three tangible benefits:Diversify loan portfolios, thereby improving credit unions’ ability to withstand economic downturns;last_img read more

UDC overhaul aims to ease planning load

first_imgTo access this article REGISTER NOWWould you like print copies, app and digital replica access too? SUBSCRIBE for as little as £5 per week. Would you like to read more?Register for free to finish this article.Sign up now for the following benefits:Four FREE articles of your choice per monthBreaking news, comment and analysis from industry experts as it happensChoose from our portfolio of email newsletterslast_img

Govt bolsters hospital capacity, treatment standards to tackle COVID-19 crisis

first_img“This standardization is important so that doctors in remote areas can follow standardized medical procedures and have a reference for [treating] patients with mild, moderate or severe symptoms.”In addition, Erick said, the committee was encouraging domestic pharmaceutical companies to provide medical devices and essential medicines.Two Indonesian pharmaceutical companies, Indofarma and Kimia Farma, were currently working to produce antiviral drugs, which Indonesia had been importing from other countries, he added.The government has been stepping up efforts to secure vaccines through bilateral and multilateral channels. Erick said that, in addition to collaboration with Sinovac and G42, as well as partnerships with Genexine, CanSino and AstraZeneca, the government was talking with Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Novafax.“Coupled with the cooperation with UNICEF within the COVAX facility to guarantee the availability and delivery of vaccines, our efforts to expedite the availability of vaccines are on the right track,” he said.Erick pleaded for collective action by citizens to help prevent further transmission by strictly adhering to health protocol. Topics : He said that, to improve the recovery rate, the government would ensure the availability of isolation facilities for patients with mild symptoms, including the provisional Wisma Atlet hospital in Jakarta and two- and three-star hotels in other regions.“This will ease the burden on hospitals as well as on medical personnel, so that they are not overwhelmed and exhausted. And, what is also important is to limit virus transmission from patients without symptoms,” added Erick.Erick said his committee had been coordinating with state-owned hospitals to encourage standardization of clinical management in treating COVID-19 patients.Read also: Jokowi calls for equal vaccine access in UNGA address The government has made strides in expanding hospital capacity and improving treatment standards for COVID-19 patients, the COVID-19 Response and Economic Recovery Committee said on Thursday.“We have taken various strategic steps to increase the capacity of specimen testing, increase hospital beds and isolation rooms, increase the standardization of case handling and supply of medicines and accelerate the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine,” committee head Erick Thohir, who is also the state-owned enterprises minister, said on Thursday.The efforts had seen positive results, Erick claimed, as the daily examination of specimens had reached 38,181 as of Wednesday, exceeding the World Health Organization (WHO) standards, with the ratio of patients having recovered reaching 73 percent.last_img read more

Governor Wolf Requests Federal Disaster Aid for Western PA Landslide Damage

first_imgGovernor Wolf Requests Federal Disaster Aid for Western PA Landslide Damage InfrastructureThe Commonwealth’s infrastructure was also severely impacted by this disaster emergency.  Transportation route closures affecting both state and local highways and roads through both urban and rural areas of the Commonwealth additionally taxed emergency management efforts at state and local levels.Pennsylvania counties used crews from local roads and public works departments for traffic management. These crews incurred additional costs and severely depleted local supplies of road closure signs, and other materials.IV. IMPACT ON THE COUNTIESAllegheny County (See Enclosure D for Allegheny County Impact Statement)Overall: The prolonged, heavy rainfall in Allegheny County caused embankment failures, landslides, and flash flooding which severely impacted transportation infrastructure and washed away roadways, berms, and guiderails, making roadways either a single lane or totally impassable.  Drainage infrastructure was overwhelmed and compromised; specifically, numerous sanitary sewer lines were damaged or destroyed. Many of the thirty (30) affected local municipalities have a small number of households, but experienced relatively high amounts of dollar damages.  Examples include: Pitcarin Borough which has 1,675 households, and experienced over $3.5 million in damages; Reserve Township which has 1,575 households, and experienced over $3.3 million in damages; and Kennedy Township which has 2,917 households, and experienced over $1 million in damages. Allegheny County has a per-capita threshold of $4,501,921, and experienced over four times this amount with $20 million in damages.Road Systems: Forty-three separate roadways were severely damaged or destroyed making travel routes impassable or dangerous.Residential Structures: Over 50 residential structures have been affected by the embankment failures and landslides, with 14 being destroyed.Actions Taken: In Allegheny County, local officials and emergency responders evacuated citizens from at-risk embankment failure and landslide areas, and monitored and compiled preliminary damage estimates.  Emergency responders closed impassable roads.  A local disaster emergency was declared in Allegheny County on April 17, 2018, due to the prolonged precipitous conditions beginning on February 15, 2018. See Enclosure E.Westmoreland County (See Enclosure F for Westmoreland County Impact Statement)Overall: Prolonged, heavy rainfall caused embankment failures, landslides and flash flooding in Westmoreland County.  Flash flooding severely impacted transportation infrastructure; washed away roadways, berms and guiderails; and undermined roads making them either a single lane or totally impassable.  Drainage infrastructure was overwhelmed and compromised; specifically, drainage culverts were damaged or destroyed, and drainage pipes were damaged and destroyed.   Westmoreland County has a per-capita threshold of $1,343,822, and experienced over $1.4 million in damages, with additional municipalities now reporting un-assessed damages that can contribute to this event.Road Systems: Ten separate roadways were severely damaged or destroyed making travel routes impassable or dangerous.Actions Taken: Westmoreland County officials monitored and compiled preliminary damage estimates.  Emergency responders also closed impassable roads. A local disaster emergency was declared in Allegheny County on May 30, 2018, due to the prolonged precipitous conditions beginning on February 15, 2018. See Enclosure G.V. STATE AND LOCAL RESPONSE TO THE DISASTERPEMA coordinated with the National Weather Service, local jurisdictions and state agencies concerning the event forecasts and potential impacts on the escalating embankment failures and landslides associated with anticipated/actual flash flooding.  In addition, PEMA’s CRCC did the following: monitored the storm(s) and landslides, interfaced with local governments and state agencies impacted by the event; disseminated the necessary information and guidance to the public; responded to media inquiries; mobilized and pre-staged resources to effectively respond to local and regional requests for assistance; and responded to other requests for assistance, as required.The CRCC logistics section coordinated requests for unmet needs, such as site visits and damage assessments; and supported CRCC operations with information technology services, communications, provisioning of meals, security, and safety.The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) conducted operations to evaluate and begin immediate repairs on critical highways and other roadways.  District incident command centers were activated, and roads were closed or allowed only limited access.  PennDOT monitored road conditions; coordinated the closure of designated roads; activated variable message signs (VMS) with emergency messages; and responded to accidents and emergencies.  In addition, PennDOT has requested over $12 million in emergency relief funds from the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) to assist in the critical repairs of the devastating embankment failure to Federal-aid highway Route 30 in Allegheny County.  PennDOT has not been notified if its request for FHA emergency relief funding will be granted.  If PennDOT does not receive these requested FHA funds, the Commonwealth will be responsible to fund the repairs.  PennDOT is also responsible for over $9 million in damages to other federal highways within Allegheny and Westmoreland counties that are not eligible for any emergency relief funds from the FHA.The Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) responded to police incidents, assisted with highway closures, and established detours around closed roads.VI. RECENT DISASTER HISTORYOver the last six months, I issued two proclamations of disaster emergency related to severe weather events. This is the first time that the Commonwealth has requested a major disaster declaration this year.  The last major disaster declaration request for the Commonwealth was filed in May of 2017.  Since then the Commonwealth has responded to several local flooding, snow, and ice events that did not meet the Commonwealth’s per-capita threshold for supplemental federal assistance.  Two of these severe weather events were declared disasters by the Small Business Administration, making loans available to residents and businesses, but no federal supplemental assistance was available to municipalities for the damages these events caused to public infrastructure.VII. CURRENT DAMAGESThe Joint Preliminary Damage Assessments (JPDAs) were conducted with local governments, counties, state agencies and FEMA. These JPDAs provided cost information to PEMA from the local governments, authorities, counties, and state agencies. The information contained in the JPDAs included, but was not limited to, equipment costs, force account labor costs, material costs, and other information that is consistent with FEMA’s Public Assistance Policy.Currently, all damages and costs currently appear to be in all categories of infrastructure costs. The current total amount of damages is approximately $22,347,548. SeeEnclosure B. The Commonwealth’s per capita threshold is $18,545,473. The Commonwealth is unaware of infrastructure costs eligible for insurance coverage or insurance reimbursement.Finally, I have designated Mr. Jeffrey A. Thomas, PEMA’s Executive Deputy Director, as the State Coordinating Officer for this request.  Mr. Thomas will work with FEMA to provide further information as needed on my behalf.Sincerely,TOM WOLFGovernor6.22.2018 – Letter to President Trump Requesting Disaster Aid for Western PA by Governor Tom Wolf on Scribd Press Release,  Public Health,  Public Safety,  Weather Safety Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today sent a letter to the President requesting federal disaster aid for Allegheny and Westmoreland counties to help offset the financial burden of the result of severe weather that caused multiple landslides and infrastructure damage during February, March and April.“The string of severe storms across much of western Pennsylvania was unprecedented,” Governor Wolf said. “The severity and magnitude of this extended severe weather stretched our commonwealth resources well beyond their limits, which is why supplemental federal assistance is now necessary.”The major disaster declaration through the Federal Emergency Management Agency would provide federal funding to local, county and state governments, as well as certain eligible non-profits in those counties through the Public Assistance program. Applicants can be reimbursed up to 75 percent of the costs incurred on eligible expenses, which can include but are not limited to: payroll, contracts, repairs to damaged or destroyed infrastructure, equipment rentals and materials.The overall total costs associated with this request, as validated by the Joint Preliminary Damage Assessment conducted by PEMA, FEMA, along with county and local officials are $22 million.The governor signed a Proclamation of Disaster Emergency, which is a required step in order to request federal aid, for this incident on June 4, 2018.You may read the letter below, view it as a PDF or see it on Scribd.Letter to President Donald J. TrumpJune 22, 2018The Honorable Donald J. TrumpPresident of the United StatesThe White HouseWashington, DC 20001Through: Ms. MaryAnn TierneyAdministratorFEMA Region IIIPhiladelphia, PA 19106Dear Mr. President:Under the provisions of Section 401 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. § 5170 (Stafford Act), and implemented by 44 CFR § 206.36, I request that you declare a major disaster for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (the Commonwealth) as a result of meteorological conditions that established a nearly continuous series of storms with an anomalously high moisture supply during the period of February 15, 2018 through April 24, 2018.  The excessive precipitation caused over fifty (50) devastating embankment failures and landslides in the Commonwealth’s Allegheny and Westmoreland counties. The official recording site at the Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) tallied 12.55” of liquid precipitation resulting in an oversaturation of soils, which is 187% of average precipitation measurements for the Pittsburgh region during the same period, February 15, 2018 through April 24, 2018.The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) continues to conduct initial damage assessments to gather data.  To date, the damage totals for this event have reached $22,347,548.  See Enclosure B.  I have determined the disaster is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the Commonwealth, and supplementary federal assistance is necessary.  I am specifically requesting a major disaster declaration for a “Severe Storm,” “Landslide,” and “Flood,” including all categories of work available under Public Assistance for Allegheny and Westmoreland counties.  The requested counties in the Commonwealth have met the per capita threshold for supplementary federal assistance. The Commonwealth reserves the right to add additional counties to this request.  Finally, I request that all sixty-seven (67) counties be considered for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.I. STATE OF EMERGENCYOn June 4, 2018, I declared a disaster emergency in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties located in the Commonwealth due to an active weather pattern creating a series of storms that produced snow and rapid, heavy rainfall, over a nearly continuous and pro-longed period of time, resulting in devastating embankment failures and landslides.  As part of this emergency declaration, I directed appropriate response action be taken, and the Commonwealth’s Emergency Operations Plan be executed.The active weather pattern, February 15, 2018 through April 24, 2018, resulting in devastating embankment failures and landslides generated significant life-safety issues requiring a variety of critical resource and support needs, such as: rescue and evacuation of stranded residents from their homes to emergency shelters; support of local shelter operations; transportation of emergency workers; and emergency communications.II. HEAVY RAIN, SNOWMELT, SEVERE FLASH FLOODING, AND LANDSLIDESAn active weather pattern established a nearly continuous series of storms with an anomalously high moisture supply during the period of February 15 through April 24, 2018.  During this period the official recording site at the PIT tallied 12.55” of rain and melted snow – a staggering 187% of average precipitation measurements for the region during the same period, February through April.  This excessive precipitation with limited breaks between storms allowed for oversaturation of soils in the Pittsburgh region – a significant trigger for devastating embankment failures and landslides.The antecedent conditions to the emergency declaration period were rather wet.  January 2018 recorded 4.28” of rain and melted snow at PIT, all of which melted and began saturating soils in western Pennsylvania.  This rain amount is well above the 2.70” January average and resides in the top 15% of the wettest January in the 147-year record period for PIT.  In addition, the first fourteen days of February tacked on 1.84” of rain and snowmelt, with measurable precipitation falling on all but three of these dates, further saturating soils.February is typically the second driest month on average for the Pittsburgh area, so record precipitation is notably unusual.  Regardless, February 2018 continued exceptionally wet, ending with a record 7.04” of rain and melted snow – which is 295% of the average for February.  The new record exceeds the previous record set in 1887 by over 0.50”.  Of the 7.04” of rain, 5.19” fell in the second half of the month with two significant multiple day events of rain and snow:February 14-17: 3.14”February 22-25: 2.04”Dozens of devastating embankment failures and landslides were triggered following each of the multiple-day February precipitation events.   Prior to 2018, no three-day or four-day rainfall event exceeded 3.0” during the month of February.  Historically, PEMA found these rare heavy rain events spanning at least three consecutive days correlate with similar occurrences, specifically embankment failures and landslides in December 1942, January 2004, and January 2005.  The most recent previous occurrence of numerous embankment failures and widespread landslides in February is in 1891, which is Pittsburgh’s third wettest February on record at 6.09”.  This illustrates two points:Embankment failures and widespread landslides are rare during the winter months.There is a high correlation between extreme precipitation and devastating embankment failures and widespread landslides in the Pittsburgh region.March featured several freeze and thaw cycles which allowed the surplus moisture to remain in soils.  Then, the active weather pattern continued from late March through mid-April, with additional storms maintaining elevated soil moisture values which correlate with additional embankment failures and widespread landslides.  During the 29-day period from March 27 through April 24, 2018, only five days had no measurable precipitation.The unusually wet pattern for the Pittsburgh region over the first few months of the year correlates with dozens of embankment failures and widespread landslides that resulted in damages.  Although severe storms or tropical systems may cause shallow embankment failures and landslides in a short period, the soil moisture conditions which lead to deep-seated, devastating landslides can require a longer time to form.  The record precipitation in the first part of 2018 for the Pittsburgh region shows a slow development due to a relentless weather pattern which had a cumulative impact.III. IMPACT ON THE COMMONWEALTHThe impact on the Commonwealth from this event can be examined from different perspectives, for example, human resources and infrastructure.Human ResourcesThis event required state and local resources, including state and local road crews and equipment, and countless hours of staff time to ensure the health, welfare, and safety of Commonwealth citizens and property.  The closure and slowing of transportation routes caused a ripple effect in the lack of access to timely emergency service response and access to other basic facilities.In addition, Voluntary Organizations Active in a Disaster (VOAD) provided resources and conducted activities in response to this event. For example:American Red Cross, Salvation Army, United Way, and local fire departments provided shelter support to over 10 Allegheny county residents displaced by the embankment failures and landslides. To date, four residents still require sheltering assistance.Pennsylvania VOADs provided material and personnel support to Emergency Support Function 6 (Mass Care) and Emergency Support Function 8 (Public Health) with shelter support and clean-up crews for residential properties. Additionally, these volunteers maintained communications and interagency coordination between PEMA’s Commonwealth Response Coordination Center (CRCC) and member organizations for delivery of emergency assistance. June 22, 2018 SHARE Email Facebook Twitterlast_img read more