I am off to Canberra as a keynote/guest speaker to talk with our Politicians

Next Monday 14 July 2014 PGARD (Parliamentary Group on Asbestos Related Diseases) have organised a luncheon at Parliament House, Canberra for various party politicians to be present. Also ASEA (Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency) are also supporting this important event to raising awareness about the dangers of asbestos. I have been invited to be a keynote/guest speaker. It is an honour to have been asked and I am looking forward to this event.I will be flying up on Sunday afternoon and staying with good friends for the night rather than an early flight on the Monday morning that could leave me feeling exhausted and a bit short of breath.Our winter weather has well and truly set in today. We were lucky to get above 4 degrees celcius. …

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Looking to have fun during March madness? Don’t bet on it!

Planning to enter an office pool during this year’s NCAA March Madness tournament? Be careful. You might not enjoy the games very much if you bet, says a researcher at Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis.”Predictions become more aversive when the outcome of the event is highly uncertain,” as in the upcoming basketball tournament, says Stephen M. Nowlis, PhD, the August A. Busch, Jr. Distinguished Professor in Marketing.Nowlis is co-author of a 2008 paper in the Journal of Consumer Research titled “The Effect of Making a Prediction About the Outcome of a Consumption Experience on the Enjoyment of That Experience.”The current popularity of office pools, spoiler message boards and online betting sites seems to suggest that the act of prediction increases enjoyment of watching a sporting event.However, in a series of four experiments, Nowlis found that consumers who make predictions about uncertain events experience significantly less enjoyment while observing the events than those who don’t make predictions.”We thought the opposite would be true,” Nowlis says. “We explain our results in terms of anticipated regret. In fact, removing the source of anticipated regret eliminates the negative effect of prediction on enjoyment.”Even if you think you are absolutely sure you know the team that will win this year’s tournament, you may still not have much fun if you lay down some money.”One compelling finding from our studies was that, among those who made predictions, participants who were correct enjoyed the event no more than those who were incorrect,” Nowlis says.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Washington University in St. Louis. …

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Window Cleaners Fined Over Compensation Failings

Home » No Win No Fee » Latest Personal Injury News » 2014 » 2 » Window Cleaners Fined Over Compensation FailingsWindow Cleaners Fined Over Compensation FailingsJason Mawson, the boss of a County Durham window cleaning company, has been fined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) over compensation insurance failings.Darlington Magistrates’ Court was told that Mr Dawson operated a window cleaning company that traded as We-aredale Cleaning and offered local residents their services on a door-to-door basis.Part of his role as an employer required him to hold insurance against injury or disease liability.This would enable his workers to claim compensation for any industrial accident that took place, but his failure to have cover in place left his workers at risk.An inspector from the HSE asked Mr Mawson to produce his insurance certificate a number of times, but he repeatedly failed to do so, even when presented with a formal notice in September 2013.For failing to have adequate compensation cover in place, Mr Mawson was fined £100 and told to pay £755 in costs after he pleaded guilty to breaching the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969.This statute dictates that employers must, at all times, have a relevant insurance policy in place to allow staff to claim redress in the event of an accident.”As well as being a legal requirement, Employers’ Liability Compulsory Insurance offers important protection for employers and employees alike,” HSE inspector Victoria Wise said.”Without it, if a worker becomes ill or is injured at work, they will not be able to claim compensation from the employer. For employers, insurance covers the cost of legal fees and compensation payouts in the event of a claim by a worker.”In 2013-14 some 148 workers in the UK died as a result of injuries at work and thousands more suffered industrial diseases caused by issues their employer was liable for.But despite this, many small businesses neglect their obligation to arrange Employers’ Liability Compulsory Insurance, leaving workers out of pocket and at risk of financial insolvency.By Francesca WitneyOr Call freephone 0800 884 0321SHARE THIS

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Determining Liability in Trucking Accidents

Trucking accidents account for a fraction of all traffic-related accidents. Furthermore, they have the potential to be much more dangerous than motor vehicle traffic accidents, due to the sheer weight and size of most trucks. Many trucks also haul hazardous loads that can pose additional risks in the event that they are spilled or otherwise compromised during an accident. Additionally, large trucks are much more likely to be involved in fatal multiple-vehicle crashes compared to fatal single-vehicle crashes.According to 2010 statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,675 people were killed and 80,000 injured in crashes that involved large trucks (of which there were 276,000 such crashes). These statistics represent a 9% increase in fatalities and an 8% increase in the number of injuries compared to statistics from 2009.Like motor vehicle accidents, trucking accidents can occur as a result of a variety of factors. Most trucking accidents are caused by driver error, and fatigue and sleep deprivations are the leading contributors to such error. Another common cause is equipment failure, which might occur in the form of brake failure due to improper maintenance, tire blowouts as a result of wear and tear, defective lighting, or an improperly attached trailer. Other factors can also contribute to trucking accidents, including adverse weather, road conditions, and traffic signal failure.Determining liability in trucking-related accidents can be much more complicated than doing so for everyday motor vehicle accidents. Large trucks are not always owned by their driver, or even the company for which are hauling cargo. As a result, multiple parties may need to be included to determine their role in the accident. …

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Sustaining Injuries on Construction Sites

Work in the construction industry is physically demanding and incredibly dangerous. Varied terrain, unpredictable weather, and ever-changing surroundings are a few of the many factors that can predispose to a construction-related injury. Falls from scaffolding or ladders, injury from falling debris, machinery accidents, and electrocution are all examples of what can happen when something goes wrong on a construction site, either as a result of an accident or due to negligence.It goes without saying that the injuries in the construction industry can be severe. Sprains, strains, broken bones, and even death can occur. When occupational injuries and illnesses are reported, one of the key measures of injury severity is the median number of days spent away from work per each injured case. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011, the construction industry ranked third, with a median number of 14 days spent away from work due to injury. Only the mining and transportation industries ranked higher.In addition, for many years, construction workers have experienced the highest number of fatal occupational injuries among workers in all industries. Despite a 42% decline in the number of fatal injuries in the industry since 2006, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the private construction industry had the highest number of job-related fatalities in 2010, with a total of 774 deaths reported.It is possible that these numbers do not accurately represent the full scope of fatal accidents that occur in the construction industry. For example, many experts believe that the 42% decline in construction-related deaths is likely due to adverse economic conditions that have lowered recent demand for the services of the construction industry. In addition, a recent report from the Center for Construction Research and Training noted that the data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not include self-employed or federal workers, who comprise roughly 25% of the U.S. …

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Mesothelioma Claim

Mesothelioma ClaimMesothelioma Claim – Things You Need to File Your ClaimYou have a right to file for a mesothelioma claim if you have been diagnosed with any asbestos-related injury. Mesothelioma is a debilitating illness and most of the people who have been inflicted with this illness find themselves bed-ridden and no longer able to work. This results in a drastic change in lifestyle and financial situation that is always too much for the patient and his family to carry on their own. Not to mention the pain and physical suffering that go with it. A successful processing of mesothelioma claim will help alleviate most of that.What is involved in the filing of this kind of a claim? The following are the steps you will have …

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The Hard Reality of Birthing Injuries

The unfortunate reality of childbirth is that not every baby is born strong and healthy. While some infants may be born with birth defects (structural or functional abnormalities that are present at or before delivery), others may actually sustain a physical injury during the birthing process. These children often go on to face a lifetime of disability, and in severe cases, may even die as a result of their injury.A recent study suggests that birth-related injuries occur in 29 out of every 1,000 births in the United States, although published rates have historically varied widely. Birth injuries can occur for a number of reasons, including factors related to the baby (size or positioning in the womb), the mother (difficulty or prolonged labor; small pelvis), or even the decision-making of the medical staff assisting with the birth (e.g., negligence).Head and brain trauma, bleeding, nerve damage, and bone fractures are common examples of birth injuries. Severe swelling of the baby’s scalp can occur as the head bears the brunt of the pressure during delivery, and bleeding between the skull and its fibrous covering can also occur. Babies who are delivered with the help of vacuum extraction or forceps may suffer from bruising or even cuts to the head and face. If the positioning of the baby during labor and/or delivery causes facial nerves to be compressed and/or injured, the baby may suffer from facial paralysis. Nerve damage in the arms and hand or fractures to the baby’s collar bone can occur when the mother has difficulty delivering the baby’s shoulder. Under some circumstances, a baby may not receive adequate amounts of oxygen during labor and delivery, which can lead to a wide range of problems. While some babies may be resuscitated quickly and suffer no lasting injuries, others may suffer organ damage, seizures, or even a coma. …

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You have Disability Insurance – What about your Business?

You have Disability Insurance – What about your Business?Posted onAugust 26, 2013byRichard ReichBusiness Overhead Expense Disability InsuranceYou may have purchased a disability insurance policy for yourself, but what about your business?  The bottom line is, your personal bills might be covered by an individual policy, but if you own a business, those expenses need to be covered by a separate policy, typically called a business overhead expense policy.The health of your business is closely tied to your health, but what would happen to your business if you became too ill or injured to work?How would you meet the everyday business expenses like rent and utilities? Without you providing your services, how will new revenue for the company be generated? Would you have to take on …

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Just 21 Days to the 2nd Annual 5k Walk/Hike for Mesothelioma

In just 21 days the Pacific Meso Center (PMC) will host the 2ndAnnual 5K Walk/Hikefor Meso at the Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills. Worthington & Caron, PC is proud to once again be the title sponsor of the event which seeks to raise money for mesothelioma research and increase awareness about mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos.Last year’s inaugural event was attended by over 200 walkers, hikers and runners. Many of the teams were organized by families and friends of mesothelioma sufferers. The event proved to be a source of inspiration and hope for those fighting the disease. For those who have lost loved ones to the disease, the event was an opportunity to heal through remembrance, camaraderie and working together to support research that will benefit …

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Boating Accident Statistics

There is arguably nothing more relaxing than spending an enjoyable sunny day aboard a boat. Whether it is in the ocean, on a river, or on a lake, recreational boating is a pastime enjoyed by millions of people in the U.S. each year.Unfortunately, the enjoyment of boating can suddenly be disrupted by unpredictable factors, such as severe weather or strong currents, both of which can compromise the safety of those aboard a boat. Other factors can also impact safety, including operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, and machinery failure. In fact, those factors represent the top five primary contributing factors in boating accidents, according to statistics from the United States Coast Guard.In 2011, the Coast Guard recorded 4,588 recreational boating accidents, the majority of which occurred to motorboats, personal watercraft, and cabin motorboats. These accidents resulted in 3,081 injuries and 758 deaths. The corresponding fatality rate was 6.2 deaths for every 100,000 registered recreational vessels, which represented a nearly 15% increase over the 2010 rate (5.4 deaths per 100,000).Among fatal boating accidents, alcohol was the leading contributing factor as well as the leading factor in 16% of all fatalities. Drowning was responsible for 70% of all boating fatalities in 2011, and 84% of those deaths were to individuals who were not wearing life jackets. Furthermore, only 7% of all fatalities occurred on vessels where the operator had received boating safety instruction from an instructor approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators.In addition to recreational boating, maritime accidents can also occur to commercial and government marine vessels. Collisions can occur between large cargo ships, tankers, barges, and recreational vessels. …

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Wishes benefit seriously ill children and their parents

Sep. 10, 2013 — New research has shown that schemes that grant children with a life threatening illness a special wish have a positive impact on their and their family’s wellbeing.The research also demonstrates that seeing the child experience their wish was positive for the parents, while often it provoked bittersweet feelings.The study, published in Acta Paediatrica and led by Dr Anne-Sophie Darlington, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Southampton, Professor Passchier and Dr Heule at the Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands, interviewed and surveyed 235 parents of children who had been granted a wish by the Make-A-Wish Foundation in the Netherlands.Parents were asked about their general impression of the wish and whether they felt it improved wellbeing and coping after the event. Parents who had sadly lost their child before the study were asked if the wish had influenced their bereavement.Results showed that almost all parents (92 per cent) indicated that the experience was a positive one and the majority agreed that their child momentarily did not feel ill during the event. Parents also said their child was distracted from their situation.Parents said that it was an important memory for them, although a minority thought their child’s quality of life had increased after the event.Parents (47 per cent) admitted that they often felt sad and conflicted as well as happy; they were happy their child received their wish but sad that they were eligible for a wish.For those parents whose child had died before the start of the study, 21 per cent felt the wish fulfilment helped with bereavement.Dr Darlington comments: “There has been a growing interest in the influence of positive events on wellbeing, especially of those people who are ill. Many organisations organise events with the hypothesis that these events improve the lives of the recipients. However research on such activities and their impact has been fairly scarce.”Our study has shown that on the whole the experience is a positive one with children experiencing more energy and parents being distracted. However, longer term effects were only found for a small group of parents and children. We are very grateful to the parents for taking part in our study.”

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PTSD after traumatic events: Which teens are at risk?

July 29, 2013 — While most children cannot be shielded from emotionally traumatic events, clinicians can target those who are most vulnerable to developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a large study from Boston Children’s Hospital. Findings appear online in the August issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, accompanied by an editorial.Share This:Researchers led by Katie McLaughlin, PhD, of the Departments of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at Boston Children’s, analyzed data on 6,483 teen-parent pairs from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, a survey of the prevalence and correlates of mental disorders in the United States.Overall, 61 percent of the teens (ages 13 to 17) had been exposed to at least one potentially traumatic event in their lifetime, including interpersonal violence (such as rape, physical abuse or witnessing domestic violence), injuries, natural disasters and death of a close friend or family member. Nineteen percent had experienced three or more such events.Risk factors associated most strongly with trauma exposure included:Lack of both biological parents in the home. Pre-existing mental disorders, particularly behavioral disorders like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and oppositional defiant disorder. Of all teens exposed to trauma, 4.7 percent had experienced PTSD under DSM-IV diagnostic criteria. Risk factors for PTSD included:Female gender: Of the total sample, girls had a lifetime prevalence of PTSD of 7.3 percent, and boys 2.2 percent. Events involving interpersonal violence: the lifetime prevalence of PTSD was 39 percent for teens who had been raped and 25 percent for those physically abused by a caregiver. Underlying anxiety and mood disorders (also a risk factor for exposure). Risk factors for lack of recovery from PTSD included underlying bipolar disorder, exposure to an additional traumatic event, living in poverty and being a U.S. native.Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:|Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by Boston Children’s Hospital, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS. …

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Greening of the Earth pushed way back in time

July 22, 2013 — Conventional scientific wisdom has it that plants and other creatures have only lived on land for about 500 million years, and that landscapes of the early Earth were as barren as Mars.A new study, led by geologist Gregory J. Retallack of the University of Oregon, now has presented evidence for life on land that is four times as old — at 2.2 billion years ago and almost half way back to the inception of the planet.That evidence, which is detailed in the September issue of the journal Precambrian Research, involves fossils the size of match heads and connected into bunches by threads in the surface of an ancient soil from South Africa. They have been named Diskagma buttonii, meaning “disc-shaped fragments of Andy Button,” but it is unsure what the fossils were, the authors say.”They certainly were not plants or animals, but something rather more simple,” said Retallack, professor of geological sciences and co-director of paleontological collections at the UO’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History. The fossils, he added, most resemble modern soil organisms called Geosiphon, a fungus with a central cavity filled with symbiotic cyanobacteria.”There is independent evidence for cyanobacteria, but not fungi, of the same geological age, and these new fossils set a new and earlier benchmark for the greening of the land,” he said. “This gains added significance because fossil soils hosting the fossils have long been taken as evidence for a marked rise in the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere at about 2.4 billion to 2.2 billion years ago, widely called the Great Oxidation Event.”By modern standards, in which Earth’s air is now 21 percent oxygen, this early rise was modest, to about 5 percent oxygen, but it represented a rise from vanishingly low oxygen levels earlier in geological time.Demonstrating that Diskagma are fossils, Retallack said, was a technical triumph because they were too big to be completely seen in a standard microscopic slide and within rock that was too dark to see through in slabs. The samples were imaged using powerful X-rays of a cyclotron, a particle accelerator, at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.The images enabled a three-dimensional restoration of the fossils’ form: odd little hollow urn-shaped structures with a terminal cup and basal attachment tube. “At last we have an idea of what life on land looked like in the Precambrian,” Retallack said. “Perhaps with this search image in mind, we can find more and different kinds of fossils in ancient soils.”In their conclusion, the researchers noted that their newly named fossil Diskagma is comparable in morphology and size to Thucomyces lichenoides, a fossil dating to 2.8 billion years ago and also found in South Africa, but its composition, including interior structure and trace elements, is significantly different.Diskagma also holds some similarities to three living organisms, which were illustrated microscopically in the study: the slime mold Leocarpus fragilis as found in Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness; the lichen Cladonia ecmocyna gathered near Fishtrap Lake in Montana; and the fungus Geosiphon pyriformis from near Darmstadt, Germany.The new fossil, the authors concluded, is a promising candidate for the oldest known eukaryote –an organism with cells that contain complex structures, including a nucleus, within membranes.”Researchers at the UO are collaborating with scientists from around the world to create new knowledge with far-reaching applications,” said Kimberly Andrews Espy, UO vice president for research and innovation, and dean of the graduate school. “This research by Dr. Retallack and his team opens new doors of inquiry about the origins of ancient life on Earth.”

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Chimpanzees and orangutans remember distant past events

July 18, 2013 — We humans can remember events in our lives that happened years ago, with those memories often surfacing unexpectedly in response to sensory triggers: perhaps a unique flavor or scent. Now, researchers reporting in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, on July 18 have evidence to suggest that chimpanzees and orangutans have similar capacities. In laboratory tests, both primate species were clearly able to recollect a tool-finding event that they had experienced just four times three years earlier and a singular event from two weeks before, the researchers show.Share This:It seems we have more in common with our primate cousins than we thought, specifically when it comes to our autobiographical memories, the researchers say.”Our data and other emerging evidence keep challenging the idea of non-human animals being stuck in time,” says Gema Martin-Ordas of Aarhus University in Denmark. “We show not only that chimpanzees and orangutans remember events that happened two weeks or three years ago, but also that they can remember them even when they are not expecting to have to recall those events at a later time.”The chimpanzees and orangutans in the study could also distinguish between similar past events in which the same tasks, locations, and people were involved, she adds. “This is a crucial finding since it implies that our subjects were able to bind the different elements of very similar events — including task, tool, experimenter. This idea of ‘binding’ has been considered to be a crucial component of autobiographical memories.”When presented with a particular setup, chimpanzees and orangutans instantaneously remembered where to search for tools and the location of a tool they had seen only once. The researchers note in particular the complexity and speed of the primates’ recall ability.”I was surprised to find out not only that they remembered the event that took place three years ago, but also that they did it so fast!” Martin-Ordas says. “On average it took them five seconds to go and find the tools. Again this is very telling because it shows that they were not just walking around the rooms and suddenly saw the boxes and searched for the tools inside them. More probably, it was the recalled event that enabled them to find the tools directly.”She says the new findings are just the beginning of a completely new line of research on memories for past events in non-human animals.Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:|Story Source: The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Cell Press, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS. …

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Earth’s gold came from colliding dead stars

July 17, 2013 — We value gold for many reasons: its beauty, its usefulness as jewelry, and its rarity. Gold is rare on Earth in part because it’s also rare in the universe. Unlike elements like carbon or iron, it cannot be created within a star. Instead, it must be born in a more cataclysmic event — like one that occurred last month known as a short gamma-ray burst (GRB). Observations of this GRB provide evidence that it resulted from the collision of two neutron stars — the dead cores of stars that previously exploded as supernovae. Moreover, a unique glow that persisted for days at the GRB location potentially signifies the creation of substantial amounts of heavy elements — including gold.”We estimate that the amount of gold produced and ejected during the merger of the two neutron stars may be as large as 10 moon masses — quite a lot of bling!” says lead author Edo Berger of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).A gamma-ray burst is a flash of high-energy light (gamma rays) from an extremely energetic explosion. Most are found in the distant universe. Berger and his colleagues studied GRB 130603B which, at a distance of 3.9 billion light-years from Earth, is one of the nearest bursts seen to date.Gamma-ray bursts come in two varieties — long and short — depending on how long the flash of gamma rays lasts. GRB 130603B, detected by NASA’s Swift satellite on June 3rd, lasted for less than two-tenths of a second.Although the gamma rays disappeared quickly, GRB 130603B also displayed a slowly fading glow dominated by infrared light. Its brightness and behavior didn’t match a typical “afterglow,” which is created when a high-speed jet of particles slams into the surrounding environment.Instead, the glow behaved like it came from exotic radioactive elements. …

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Mysterious radio flashes may be farewell greetings from massive stars collapsing into black holes

July 5, 2013 — Mysterious bright radio flashes that appear for only a brief moment on the sky and do not repeat could be the final farewell greetings of a massive star collapsing into a black hole, astronomers from Nijmegen and Potsdam argue.Radio telescopes have picked up some bright radio flashes that appear for only a brief moment on the sky and do not repeat. Scientists have since wondered what causes these unusual radio signals. An article in this week’s issue of Science suggests that the source of the flashes lies deep in the early cosmos, and that the short radio burst are extremely bright. However, the question of which cosmic event could produce such a bright radio emission in such a short time remained unanswered. The astrophysicists Heino Falcke from Radboud University Nijmegen and Luciano Rezzolla from the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam provide a solution for the riddle. They propose that the radio bursts could be the final farewell greetings of a supramassive rotating neutron star collapsing into a black hole.Spinning star withstands collapseNeutron stars are the ultra-dense remains of a star that has undergone a supernova explosion. They are the size of a small city but have up to two times the mass of our Sun. However, there is an upper limit on how massive neutron stars can become. If they are formed above a critical mass of more than two solar masses, they are expected to collapse immediately into a black hole. Falcke & Rezzolla now suggest that some stars could postpone that final death through fast rotation for millions of years. …

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Researchers announce discovery of oldest-known fossil primate skeleton

June 5, 2013 — An international team of researchers has announced the discovery of the world’s oldest known fossil primate skeleton representing a previously unknown genus and species named Archicebus achilles. The fossil was unearthed from an ancient lake bed in central China’s Hubei Province, near the course of the modern Yangtze River. In addition to being the oldest known example of an early primate skeleton, the new fossil is crucial for illuminating a pivotal event in primate and human evolution — the evolutionary divergence between the lineage leading to modern monkeys, apes and humans (collectively known as anthropoids) on the one hand and that leading to living tarsiers on the other.The scientific paper describing the discovery appears today in the journal Nature.The international team of scientists who studied the skeleton of Archicebus was led by Dr. Xijun Ni of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. Ni’s collaborators include Dr. Christopher Beard of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh; Dr. Daniel Gebo of Northern Illinois University; Dr. Marian Dagosto of Northwestern University in Chicago; Dr. Jin Meng and Dr. John Flynn of the American Museum of Natural History in New York; and Dr. …

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Change, conflict cue memories of life’s milestones

May 29, 2013 — What will your kids remember about the life stories you tell them? New University of Alberta research shows that they’re likely to be able to recall transitional moments you share with them, be it promotions or pets. The research offers strong evidence that societal values significantly affect how people think about and recall events in their lives — and how we potentially carry old values and beliefs forward in a new country.

Psychology researchers Connie Svob and Norman Brown conducted interviews with two groups of participants, split evenly between people born in Canada and people whose parents emigrated from a country in upheaval. Each group was asked to identify the 10 most important events in their lives, when they occurred and whether the event had a psychological impact on them.

The results paint similar pictures of what people considered important, but showed striking differences in terms of the milestone events that often served as a backdrop.

“We were mainly interested in the historical context and how that gets transmitted,” said Svob. “When a parent has lived through a historical event, how does that get passed on to the next generation — and to what extent does it get passed on?”

Marking transitions: Dogs and divorce

Education, birth, death and marriage were among the top five major events mentioned by both groups, and most other major types of life events were separated by only a couple of percentage points.

What separated the groups were distinct elements or life markers that only appeared within one group. Seven per cent of what was labelled the conflict group recounted historical events their parents lived through, or their military service. Among the non-conflict group, six per cent cited attendance at a major sporting event, or the acquisition or loss of a family pet.

“We seem to be positively predisposed to detect and remember change,” said Svob. “This cognitive capacity appears to extend to higher levels of cognition — specifically, the ways in which we remember our lives and our histories.”

Tying life to historical context: The Cup and coups

The researchers also asked participants to tie the events in their parents’ lives to historical events. Svob notes that 25 per cent of the events mentioned by the conflict group were related to wars or other strife. For the Canadian contingent, the respondents anchored the memories to another type of conflict: sporting events.

“That’s our history — the Stanley Cup, the riots, the Olympics — that’s probably what we’re going to remember,” she said.

Thanks for the memories: Remembrance and public impact

Svob says Edmonton and the U of A were ideal places to undertake a research project like this, noting the city’s rich and open ethnic diversity, and the institution’s diverse international student base.

She says determining what people retain from their cultural history has benefits in terms of helping them retain their identity. But she notes that it also identifies lingering cultural issues related to ethnic out-groups — issues that become important to manage, especially in Canada’s ever-expanding cultural landscape.

She hopes the results from the study can be used to develop ways of bridging these narratives to the Canadian context, ensuring that newcomers thrive in adopting the peace and harmony of their new home.

“We were able to collect data that explore potentially contentious issues,” said Svob. “It implies that the conflict-knowledge — and its related attitudes and beliefs — are carried forward among first-generation Canadians.

“To minimize xenophobia in Canada, interventions in schools and within other transition-related immigration programs could happen at the level of parental narratives concerning their war experiences.”

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Rare species perform unique roles, even in diverse ecosystems

May 28, 2013 — A new study, published 28 May in the open access journal PLOS Biology, has revealed the potential importance of rare species in the functioning of highly diverse ecosystems. Using data from three very different ecosystems — coral reefs, tropical forests and alpine meadows — a team of researchers led by David Mouillot at the University of Montpellier 2, France, has shown that it is primarily the rare species, rather than the more common ones, that have distinct traits involved in unique ecological functions. As biodiversity declines, these unique features are therefore particularly vulnerable to extinction because rare species are likely to disappear first.

“These unique features are irreplaceable, as they could be important for the functioning of ecosystems if there is major environmental change,” explained Dr Mouillot.

Biodiverse environments are characterized by a large number of rare species. These rare species contribute to the taxonomic richness of the area, but their functional importance in ecosystems is largely unknown. Represented by few individuals or distributed over narrow geographic areas, rare species are generally considered to have little influence on the functioning of an ecosystem compared with more common species. Indeed, it is often assumed that they fulfill the same ecological roles as those of common species but have less impact because of their low abundance; a phenomenon known as ‘functional redundancy’. This redundancy suggests that rare species merely serve as an “insurance” policy for the ecosystem, in the event of an ecological loss.

To test this, the team of researchers analyzed the extent to which rarer species in the three different ecosystems performed the same ecological functions as the most common ones. They examined biological and biogeographical information from 846 reef fish, 2979 alpine plants and 662 tropical trees and found that most of the unique and vulnerable functions, carried out via a combination of traits, were associated with rare species.

Examples of such species supporting vulnerable functions include the giant moray (Gymnothorax javanicus), a predatory fish that hunts at night in the labyrinths of coral reefs; the pyramidal saxifrage (Saxifraga cotyledon), an alpine plant that is an important resource for pollinators; and Pouteria maxima, a huge tree in the rainforest of Guyana, which is particularly resilient to fire and drought. Not only are they rare but they have few functional equivalents among the more common species in their respective ecosystems.

“Our results suggest that the loss of these species could heavily impact upon the functioning of their ecosystems,” said Dr Mouillot. “This calls into question many current conservation strategies.”

The work emphasizes the importance of the conservation of rare species, even in diverse ecosystems. Rare species are more vulnerable and serve irreplaceable functions, explained Dr Mouillot: the preservation of biodiversity as a whole — not just the most common species, but all those who perform vulnerable functions — appears to be crucial for the resilience of ecosystems.

“Rare species are not just an ecological insurance,” he said. “They perform additional ecological functions that could be important during rapid transitions experienced by ecosystems. The vulnerability of these functions, in particular biodiversity loss caused by climate change, highlights the underestimated role of rare species in the functioning and resilience of ecosystems. Our results call for new experiments to explicitly test the influence of species rarity and the uniqueness of combinations of traits on ecological processes.” This line of research will also inform the lively debate about the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.

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