Major water companies still divining to locate leaks

With the most advanced technology in their fingertips, modern water companies ought to be fantastic at finding and fixing leaks. But as it happens most of them are using a less leading edge method – magic.

Ten from 12 major water suppliers within the United kingdom accepted to presenting “dowsing” or “divining rods” to identify subterranean water, a technique that has been broadly discredited by modern science. The rods were once thought to twitch at the disposal of a “diviner” to suggest to subterranean reserves, a technique that is thought to go as far back towards the 15th century.

The practice can be used by engineers employed by the majority of the largest water companies, including Severn Trent, U . s . Utilities and Thames Water.

Northern Ireland Water and Wessex Water were the only real major suppliers which stated they didn’t depend on esoteric powers to locate their leaks.

Companies confirmed that a few of their workers prefer this process despite getting 
access to hi-tech digital mapping, drones as well as satellites, after science blogger Sally Le Page started making enquiries on Twitter.

“It’s a classic technique utilized by individuals who’re experienced,” stated Stuart White-colored, chief spokesman for Thames Water. “We don’t train or instruct our engineers to make use of divining rods. They may rely on them to assist look for a pipe, however it would then be confirmed using other modern techniques,” he added.

A video submitted to YouTube by U . s . Utilities this past year demonstrated certainly one of its inspectors within the north Cheshire area monitoring the power flows inside a customer’s garden to assist discover the water mains. Within the caption U . s . Utilities stated “you do not need special powers” to understand the process and advised viewers to “try yourself to it with a few bent coat hangers”.

The inspector stated he’d used divining rods for around six many seems to find “a large amount of mains through water divining”.

A spokesman for U . s . Utilities stated: “We don’t issue our teams with divining rods. However, a couple of in our engineers were interested enough to understand cooking techniques within their free time.Inches

The industry regulator cautioned companies to “think very carefully” about whether magical sticks are the best and price-effective tools.

“Ultimately, any organization which fails to get results around the commitments it’s designed to its customers will face an economic penalty,” an Ofwat spokesman stated.

Detroit: From Motor City to Housing Incubator

DETROIT — Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, the country’s two largest banks, trace their roots in Detroit back decades, when they helped finance the city’s once-booming auto industry.

These days, Detroit is still struggling to recover from the 2008 financial crisis, and the two banks have pledged to help resuscitate the city and its crippled housing market. So, guess how many home mortgage loans these two enormous banks made last year in this city of 637,000 people.

Bank of America made 18. JPMorgan did just six.

Detroit’s hometown lender, Quicken Loans, made the most — a mere 90.

Midwestern cities like Detroit have long embodied the American can-do spirit. Over the course of a century, Motor City melded assembly-line prowess with freedom-of-the-road ideals to help define a nation. In the postwar years, Detroit became the epitome of the American dream, a place where factory workers without college degrees could make enough money to buy a house of their own.

Yet as home prices soar across the United States — particularly on the coasts — Detroit remains a poster child for the economic crisis and housing collapse of a decade ago. Boarded up homes and rubble-strewn fields litter the landscape.

Today, a house can be bought here for the price of a used Chevy Caprice.

What is truly surprising about that, though, is how difficult it still is for buyers to actually buy. Basically, prices are too low for lenders (who see the deals as too small or risky) but too high for buyers (who may be cash-poor). There aren’t enough houses in move-in-ready condition — and not enough money to fix them up.

This strange situation has turned Detroit into an unlikely petri dish for experiments into how to kick-start a housing market that is, depending on your perspective, either slumbering or comatose.

Will a neighborhood of “tiny houses” for the poor help fix things? Or how about rehabbing city-owned homes, and selling them at a loss, to jump-start the action? Other more conventional — if risky — ideas involve providing no-interest financing to fix up tumbledown properties. Or offering mortgages for homes that normally would be too small to be worth a banker’s trouble.

One local financier is even trying to beautify bulldozed neighborhoods by planting thousands of trees on 160 acres of vacant land his firm has gobbled up.

And while Detroit is worse off than most big cities, housing-policy makers nationwide are keeping a close eye to see what lessons can be learned.

To understand how far Detroit has fallen, consider the statistics. In the mid-2000s, banks were writing some 7,000 mortgages a year. Then, the financial crisis nearly destroyed the American automotive industry, Detroit’s economic heart. Jobs disappeared; citizens fled. Last year, there were more than 700 mortgages made in Detroit, up from 200 at the depth of the crisis but barely 10 percent of the level a decade earlier.

Graphic | Mortgages Are Slowly Coming Back, In Pockets

Those bleak numbers, however, do not tell the whole story. Behind the scenes, nonprofit groups, foundations, local officials and a dozen banks including JPMorgan, Bank of America and Quicken are trying to varying degrees to reanimate the mortgage market in Michigan’s largest city.

Success, however, often comes achingly slow.

At 15455 Winthrop Street, on one of Detroit’s better manicured blocks, there is a freshly rehabbed three-bedroom home. The bungalow-style house was fixed up by the city itself, through its land bank, which acquired the house a year ago after the county foreclosed on the owner for failing to pay taxes. The land bank did a gut renovation with money provided by a grant from Quicken.

Since August, the land bank has been trying to sell the house, with a price tag of at least $79,900. More than 80 people have come to check it out. But so far there have been no takers.

“We have never not sold one,” said Craig Fahle, a former radio host who today is the communications director for the Detroit Land Bank Authority. “Detroit likes to do everything kicking and screaming,” he said. “But we get there eventually.”

Even happy stories are the product of a slog. Erica Wyatt struggled to pay down her debts and then searched for two years before she managed to get a mortgage from Fifth Third Bank to buy a four-bedroom home for $92,000. The transaction happened only because Ms. Wyatt, a single mother with four children, received $15,000 in down payment assistance.

Ms. Wyatt, who grew up in Detroit, said she was determined to move back into the city after renting a home in a suburb. “I wanted to make sure my children saw that not all of Detroit is bad and there are some beautiful neighborhoods,” said Ms. Wyatt, 39, who works for an insurance company.

Some of the ideas seem like stopgap measures. A social services group’s community of “tiny homes” — 400-square-foot structures with nothing more than a bedroom, a bathroom and small kitchen — is being erected to provide housing to homeless and handicapped people. The project, led by Reverend Faith Fowler, executive director of Cass Community Social Services, is taking place on a plot of vacant land the charitable organization bought from the city.

The dollhouse-like structures — seven so far — are near the organization’s main social services facility, in a rather desolate area of Detroit off Rosa Parks Boulevard. In all, Ms. Fowler hopes to build two dozen small homes, which will be rented for as little as $250 a month and eventually deeded over after seven years to a select group of homeless or poor individuals.

Tiny-house living can take adjustment, even for people with no roof over their heads at all. Ms. Fowler said that one homeless veteran told her the homes were too small to compete with a traditional homeless shelter.

Still, for some, the homes are perfect. One of the first tenants to move in this past summer is a former Methodist minister, David Leenhouts, who was forced to give up his ministry near Cleveland because of health issues that make it difficult for him to walk and talk.

Mr. Leenhouts, who grew up in the Detroit area, said his college-age son told him the small home, with a steepled ceiling, was all he needed because everything is within just a few steps. Mr. Leenhouts, 59, said, “I have no idea where I would be living if I was not chosen for a tiny house.”

That said, a cluster of tiny homes hardly seems scalable in a city as big as Detroit. And almost by definition, a tiny home isn’t a viable option for a family with children.

It’s also an example of why the long-term prognosis for Detroit’s housing market remains uncertain at best. Much of the work underway is taking place block-by-block — much like the tiny-home homeless experiment — and there are a lot of blocks in this 139-square-mile city.

“The pilot programs help some people, but they are on the margin,” said Gregory Markus, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Michigan and executive director of Detroit Action Commonwealth, an advocacy group for low-income residents. “‘The root problem is that Detroit is the poorest big city in America.”’

The national poverty rate is 14 percent, and Detroit’s is 36 percent. Mr. Markus said that, without more jobs, home buying will remain a largely unattainable goal.

Detroit’s population peaked in the 1950s at nearly 2 million and has been falling ever since. The financial crisis and the city’s bankruptcy filing in 2013 hollowed out what was left of its once large, middle-class African-American community. Over the past decade there have been more than 150,000 home foreclosures here.

Detroit lacks “a functioning housing market,” a report last year bluntly declared.

Things are so difficult that simply finding a contractor to rehab a home can be an ordeal. “We had several contractors who didn’t want to do work in the city,” said Heather McKeon, 35, who along with her husband, Matthew, recently moved into a fixer-upper in Detroit’s up-and-coming Corktown neighborhood. “They would say, ‘I don’t trust that I can keep my tools here.’”

She added: “It is still sort of flabbergasting to be laughed at.”

Ms. McKeon, an interior designer, said many insurers wouldn’t sell them a homeowner’s policy on an unoccupied home under renovation. Ultimately, they got a policy from a subsidiary of Munich Re Group of Germany.

Detroit’s Largest Property Owner

Many of the efforts to resuscitate the housing market begin with the Detroit Land Bank Authority, a government agency that is the city’s single largest property owner. The land bank owns some 25,000 vacant homes in various stages of disrepair, another 4,200 occupied homes and 65,000 grass-covered lots where homes once stood before the city tore them down in an effort to fight blight.

Mr. Fahle, the land bank’s communications director, likes to drive around and point out once-abandoned houses that his employer sold to people who then fixed them up.

But on a rainy September day, he was particularly interested in showing off the refurbished three-bedroom house at 15455 Winthrop, which the land bank spent $98,000 to renovate. The asking price for the home — with its restored hardwood floors and a new granite kitchen countertop — was reduced by a few thousand dollars in early September from $83,000 to spur more interest.

Throughout Detroit, the land bank has sold 44 homes under its “Rehabbed & Ready” pilot program. The program is funded with a $5 million grant from Quicken. At the closing, the buyers get a $1,500 gift card from Home Depot to buy appliances.

The program, though, is losing money — an average of $21,000 for every home sold.

Mr. Fahle said the goal wasn’t to turn a profit, but to get more move-in-ready homes into the marketplace and to boost property values in the process. In all, the land bank has sold more than 2,700 houses, many in online auctions.

The land bank’s operations are not without controversy. Housing advocates have complained it has focused too much attention on rehabbing homes in just a few neighborhoods, and on tearing down dilapidated homes elsewhere. A federal grand jury has been investigating the awarding of contracts to tear down more than 12,000 dilapidated homes as part of a war on blight led by Detroit’s first-term mayor, Mike Duggan. The investigation is looking into why costs soared under the demolition program, with almost $140 million in mostly federal money being spent.

Mr. Fahle said the land bank is cooperating with the investigation. He said criticism that the rehabbed and ready program has focused on a just a small part of the city is misguided. Mr. Fahle said a decision was made to select homes for renovation in four neighborhoods early on, but over time it is expanding to other parts of the city.

Homes are certainly worth more in Detroit now than they were a few years ago. Citywide, the median value for a house here is $47,700, a 40 percent gain over the past two years, according to Zillow. Stately homes in the Villages, a group of neighborhoods with tree-lined streets, located not far from the posh suburb of Grosse Pointe, Mich., have sold for more than $400,000.

But progress is largely limited to a small cluster of neighborhoods. About half of the mortgages written in Detroit last year were for homes purchased in just six ZIP codes, according to data from the real estate information firm RealtyTrac, part of Attom Data Solutions. There are 25 ZIP codes in Detroit.

One question is whether the money that banks are providing — a combination of grants and loans — signifies a long-term commitment or an effort to score points with federal regulators. Banks are expected under the federal Community Reinvestment Act to make loans in communities with large numbers of poor- or moderate-income residents in order to spur economic activity.

The downpayment-assistance program that helped Ms. Wyatt buy her home, for instance, was financed by a settlement Wells Fargo reached a few years ago in a housing class-action lawsuit. The settlement money is drying up, though, and the bank said it was not sure if it will renew the program. So far, it has provided assistance to 180 home buyers in the city.

Bank of America said it was committed to working in Detroit and is providing up to $4 million to fund no-interest loans that have enabled 400 homeowners to fix up properties. The bank, working with two nonprofit groups, also has said it was willing to finance $55 million worth of mortgages in Detroit. So far this year, the bank has issued 23 mortgages in Detroit — up from 18 in 2016 — and has increased the number of loan officers in the city.

JPMorgan said it, too, was here for the long haul. Jamie Dimon, the bank’s chairman and chief executive, regularly promotes its Invested in Detroit program, which includes up to $150 million for housing and commercial development and funds for research by the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., to study ways to revive Detroit’s economy and housing market.

Quicken, which moved most of its operations in 2010 to downtown Detroit from nearby Livonia, Mich., recently committed $300,000 to a new government program that will give 80 tenants living in homes that face tax foreclosure a chance to buy the houses for as little as $2,500.

Still, the money shelled out by the banks pales in comparison to the estimated $2.5 billion that Dan Gilbert, Quicken’s founder, has spent buying and renovating over 95 largely vacant properties, including old department stores, in Detroit’s downtown. Now most of those buildings are filled with new businesses. A company backed by Mr. Gilbert brought high-speed internet to downtown and Quicken paid $5 million for the naming rights for a recently opened streetcar system called the QLine that makes 12 stops along its 3.3-mile path.

The mayoral election on Nov. 7 is to some degree a referendum on Mr. Duggan’s efforts at reviving both downtown and the city’s housing market. Mr. Duggan is seeking a second term and is opposed by Senator Coleman Young II. Mr. Duggan said one of his top priorities as mayor was getting home prices up in Detroit.

“Home-sale prices have climbed far faster than anyone could have predicted,” Mr. Duggan said.

Perhaps the most vexing issue is the reluctance of banks to give loans to people to buy cheap homes. It’s simple business: The costs of underwriting a $50,000 mortgage — doing all the paperwork, the credit checks and the inspections — are the same as for much larger mortgages that can generate more bank revenue. Plus, when homes are in such disrepair, often they are appraised for much less than the amount the borrower needs to fix it up.

That means the collateral on the loan — the house itself — is worth less than the amount the bank is owed. In today’s risk-averse banking culture, that’s a big no-no.

The winners in this environment are speculators with lots of cash. Many local residents, by contrast, are turning to risky seller-financed transactions such as contracts for deed. Evictions are common after just a few missed payments. Over the past five years, at least 5,400 homes in Detroit were sold through a contract for deed and 34,500 in all-cash deals, according to RealtyTrac.

One alternative is the Detroit Home Mortgage project. Launched in early 2016, the program works with a handful of banks to get an appraisal for a house that’s based on the “true value” of the home after it’s been renovated, not in its current dilapidated state. The process effectively involves two loans — one to cover the purchase of a home, and a second mortgage that effectively covers the renovation work. The second loan is backed by a bank and various foundations involved with the program.

“DHM wants to be an ambassador for lending in the city,” said Alex DeCamp, the mortgage community development manager for Chemical Bank, a local lender that has funded 15 loans through the program. The program can take months to complete. Applicants go through a careful screening and most also complete three mortgage workshops to be eligible for a loan.

So far, 54 home buyers have bought homes through the program, among them Ms. McKeon and her husband. So did Ashley and Damon Dickerson, who are about to move into a renovated two-family home.

The Dickersons, both of whom are architectural designers, closed in March. But their search began months earlier when they submitted a $45,000 bid during one of the land bank’s daily online property auctions.

Winning the bidding for the 107-year-old home was just the start. The couple found it would cost at least $180,000 to fully renovate the six-bedroom, three-story brick structure with a large porch. They were attracted to the home’s hardwood floors, bay windows and potential to reshape it by knocking down some walls.

In all, they got two mortgages from Chemical Bank, according to property records: one for $37,692 to cover the purchase from the land bank and another for $207,000 to cover the rehab costs. The Dickersons, who both graduated from the University of Michigan, said they never would have been able to pull the deal off without the mortgage program. But the process was a bit of an eye-opener because it took longer then anticipated to close on the home. As with any new program, the couple said, there were “growing pains.”

The Detroit Home Mortgage project is now looking to get banks to provide low-interest loans directly to local contractors, so they can renovate more homes and get them into move-in-ready condition.

But for now, the lack of move-in ready homes means home buyers like the Dickersons and the McKeons need to be something of urban pioneers — fixing everything from broken water lines to antiquated electrical wiring.

The prospect of people moving into Detroit from the suburbs or city residents getting mortgages is of course sweet music to local real estate agents. Until now, much of the business for them has been handling all-cash deals. But several said they are looking forward to getting local residents into homes with traditional financing.

Dorian Harvey, a Detroit native and the incoming president of the Detroit Association of Realtors, said he would like for the city and land bank to move quicker to get vacant homes into the hands of local residents. Mr. Harvey, a Morehouse College graduate, said he came from the camp that the rebirth of Detroit is going to have to happen from the ground up with everyone taking part — contractors, real estate agents and local investors.

But he isn’t necessarily waiting on government largess. “There are untapped resources in the city and we need to tap them and the city needs to tap them,” said Mr. Harvey, who added there’s money to made in Detroit. “My heart is liberal but my money is conservative.”

Education Disrupted: Inside Silicon Valley’s Playbook for Wooing School Superintendents

BALTIMORE COUNTY, Md. — They call it the “Church Lane Hug.”

That is how educators at Church Lane Elementary Technology, a public school here, describe the protective two-armed way they teach students to carry their school-issued laptops.

Administrators at Baltimore County Public Schools, the 25th-largest public school system in the United States, have embraced the laptops as well, as part of one of the nation’s most ambitious classroom technology makeovers. In 2014, the district committed more than $200 million for HP laptops, and it is spending millions of dollars on math, science and language software. Its vendors visit classrooms. Some schoolchildren have been featured in tech-company promotional videos.

And Silicon Valley has embraced the school district right back.

HP has promoted the district as a model to follow in places as diverse as New York City and Rwanda. Daly Computers, which supplied the HP laptops, donated $30,000 this year to the district’s education foundation. Baltimore County schools’ top officials have traveled widely to industry-funded education events, with travel sometimes paid for by industry-sponsored groups.

Silicon Valley is going all out to own America’s school computer-and-software market, projected to reach $21 billion in sales by 2020. An industry has grown up around courting public-school decision makers, and tech companies are using a sophisticated playbook to reach them, The New York Times has found in a review of thousands of pages of Baltimore County school documents and in interviews with dozens of school officials, researchers, teachers, tech executives and parents.

School leaders have become so central to sales that a few private firms will now, for fees that can climb into the tens of thousands of dollars, arrange meetings for vendors with school officials, on some occasions paying superintendents as consultants. Tech-backed organizations have also flown superintendents to conferences at resorts. And school leaders have evangelized company products to other districts.

These marketing approaches are legal. But there is little rigorous evidence so far to indicate that using computers in class improves educational results. Even so, schools nationwide are convinced enough to have adopted them in hopes of preparing students for the new economy.

In some significant ways, the industry’s efforts to push laptops and apps in schools resemble influence techniques pioneered by drug makers. The pharmaceutical industry has long cultivated physicians as experts and financed organizations, like patient advocacy groups, to promote its products.

Studies have found that strategies like these work, and even a free $20 meal from a drug maker can influence a doctor’s prescribing practices. That is one reason the government today maintains a database of drug maker payments, including meals, to many physicians.

Tech companies have not gone as far as drug companies, which have regularly paid doctors to give speeches. But industry practices, like flying school officials to speak at events and taking school leaders to steak and sushi restaurants, merit examination, some experts say.

“If benefits are flowing in both directions, with payments from schools to vendors,” said Rob Reich, a political-science professor at Stanford University, “and dinner and travel going to the school leaders, it’s a pay-for-play arrangement.”

Close ties between school districts and their tech vendors can be seen nationwide. But the scale of Baltimore County schools’ digital conversion makes the district a case study in industry relationships. Last fall, the district hosted the League of Innovative Schools, a network of tech-friendly superintendents. Dozens of visiting superintendents toured schools together with vendors like Apple, HP and Lego Education, a division of the toy company.

The superintendents’ league is run by Digital Promise, a nonprofit that promotes technology in schools. It charges $25,000 annually for corporate sponsorships that enable the companies to attend the superintendent meetings. Lego, a sponsor of the Baltimore County meeting, gave a 30-minute pitch, handing out little yellow blocks so the superintendents could build palm-size Lego ducks.

Karen Cator, the chief executive of Digital Promise, said it was important for schools and industry to work together. “We want a healthy, void-of-conflict-of-interest relationship between people who create products for education and their customers,” she said. “The reason is so that companies can create the best possible products to meet the needs of schools.”

Several parents said they were troubled by school officials’ getting close to the companies seeking their business. Dr. Cynthia M. Boyd, a practicing geriatrician and professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine with children in district schools, said it reminded her of drug makers’ promoting their medicines in hospitals.

“You don’t have to be paid by Big Pharma, or Big Ed Tech, to be influenced,” Dr. Boyd said. She has raised concerns about the tech initiative at school board meetings.

A Makeover Is Born

Baltimore County’s 173 schools span a 600-square-mile horseshoe around the city of Baltimore, which has a separate school system. Like many districts, the school system struggles to keep facilities up-to-date. Some of its 113,000 students attend spacious new schools. Some older schools, though, are overcrowded, requiring trailers as overflow classrooms. In some, tap water runs brown. And, in budget documents, the district said it lacked the “dedicated resources” for students with disabilities.

In a district riven by disparities, Dallas Dance, the superintendent from 2012 through this past summer, made an appealing argument for a tech makeover. To help students develop new-economy skills, he said, every school must provide an equitable digital learning environment — including giving every student the same device.

“Why does a first grader need to have it?” Mr. Dance said in an interview last year. “In order to break the silos of equity, you’ve got to say that everyone gets it.”

The district wanted a device that would work both for youngsters who couldn’t yet type and for high schoolers. In early 2014, it chose a particularly complex machine, an HP laptop that converts to a tablet. That device ranked third out of four devices the district considered, according to the district’s hardware evaluation forms, which The Times obtained. Over all, the HP device scored 27 on a 46-point scale. A Dell device ranked first at 34.

Document | How One School District Chose Its Laptops The district’s hardware evaluations for HP, Dell, Apple and Lenovo devices. The winning device: HP.

The district ultimately awarded a $205 million, multiyear contract to Daly Computers, a Maryland reseller, to furnish the device, called the Elitebook Revolve.

Mychael Dickerson, a school district spokesman, said, “The device chosen was the one that was closely aligned to what was recommended by stakeholders.” Daly did not respond to inquiries.

With the laptop deal sealed, Silicon Valley kicked into gear.

In September 2014, shortly after the first schools received laptops, HP invited the superintendent to give a keynote speech at a major education conference in New York City. Soon after, Gus Schmedlen, HP’s vice president for worldwide education, described the event at a school board meeting.

“We had to pick one group, one group to present what was the best education technology plan in the world for the last academic year,” Mr. Schmedlen said. “And guess whose it was? Baltimore County Public Schools!”

An HP spokesman said the company did not pay for the trip. He said the company does not provide “compensation, meals, travel or other perks to school administrators or any other public sector officials.”

Interactive Feature | Education Disrupted A series examining how Silicon Valley is gaining influence in public schools.

The superintendent later appeared in an HP video. “We are going to continue needing a thought partner like HP to say what’s working and what’s not working,” he said.

Microsoft, whose Windows software runs the laptops, named the district a Microsoft Showcase school system. Intel, whose chips power the laptops, gave Ryan Imbriale, the executive director of the district’s department of innovative learning, an Intel Education Visionary award.

Recently, parents and teachers have reported problems with the HP devices, including batteries falling out and keyboard tiles becoming detached. HP has discontinued the Elitebook Revolve.

Mr. Dickerson, the district spokesman, said there was not “a widespread issue with damaged devices.”

An HP spokesman said: “While the Revolve is no longer on the market, it would be factually inaccurate to suggest that’s related to product quality.”

Asked what device would eventually replace the Revolve in the schools, the district said it was asking vendors for proposals.

Mr. Dance’s technology makeover is now in the hands of an interim superintendent, Verletta White. In April Mr. Dance announced his resignation, without citing a reason. Ms. White has indicated that she will continue the tech initiative while increasing a focus on literacy.

A Baltimore County school board member, David Uhlfelder, said a representative from the Office of the Maryland State Prosecutor had interviewed him in September about Mr. Dance’s relationship with a former school vendor (a company not in the tech industry).

The prosecutor’s office declined to confirm or deny its interest in Mr. Dance.

Mr. Dance, who discussed the district’s tech initiatives with a Times reporter last year, did not respond to repeated emails and phone calls this week seeking comment.

Courting the Superintendents

In Baltimore County and beyond, the digital makeover of America’s schools has spawned a circuit of conferences, funded by Microsoft, Google, Dell and other tech vendors, that lavish attention on tech-friendly educators.

Mr. Dance’s travel schedule sheds light on that world.

Between March 2014, when the laptop contract was announced, and April 2017, when he announced his resignation, Mr. Dance took at least 65 out-of-state trips related to the district’s tech initiatives or involving industry-funded groups, according to a Times analysis of travel documents obtained under public records laws — nearly two trips per month on average. Those trips cost more than $33,000. The Times counted only trips with local receipts, indicating Mr. Dance set foot in the cities.

At least $13,000 of Mr. Dance’s airline tickets, hotel bills, meals and other fees were paid for by organizations sponsored by tech companies, some of which were school vendors, The Times found. The $13,000 is an incomplete number, because some groups cover superintendents’ costs directly, which means school records may not include them.

Another way tech companies reach superintendents is to pay private businesses that set up conferences or small-group meetings with them. Superintendents nationwide have attended these events.

One prominent provider is the Education Research and Development Institute, or ERDI, which regularly gathers superintendents and other school leaders for conferences where they can network with companies that sell to schools.

ERDI offered several service levels this year, according to a membership rate card obtained by The Times. A $13,000 fee for Bronze membership entitles a company to one confidential meeting, where executives can meet with five school leaders to discuss products and school needs. Diamond members could pay $66,000 for six such meetings.

Document | How Much It Costs to Meet With Superintendents The Education Research and Development Institute, known as ERDI, charges membership fees to school vendors to arrange small-group meetings with superintendents who can provide product feedback.

ERDI has offered superintendents $2,000 per conference as participating consultants, according to a Louisiana Board of Ethics filing. And there are other perks.

“Because we are asking for their time and expertise, we commonly offer to pay the cost of their food, transportation and lodging during their participation,” ERDI’s president, David M. Sundstrom, said in an email.

Mr. Dance’s calendar indicated that he had attended at least five ERDI events.

Mr. Dance received payment last year as an adviser for ERDI, according to his most recent district financial disclosure. It lists Dulle Enterprises, a company that owned ERDI in the past, as an employer from which he earned income.

Last February, at an ERDI conference in New Orleans, Mr. Dance met with Curriculum Associates, which makes reading software, as well as DreamBox Learning, a math platform.

At the time, both companies had contracts with the district. A few months after the event, the school board approved additional money for both companies. Each contract is now worth about $3.2 million.

A DreamBox spokeswoman said there was no connection between the meeting and its contract. “Even the appearance of impropriety is something we take very seriously and take steps to avoid,” she said.

A Curriculum Associates spokeswoman said: “These panels are not sales presentations, but rather focus-group opportunities to solicit feedback on products under development.”

Ms. White, the interim superintendent, has been involved with ERDI since 2013, according to Mr. Dickerson. He said Ms. White used vacation time to attend events, where she “provided guidance to education-related companies on goods, services and products that are in development to benefit student performance.”

Asked whether Ms. White had received ERDI payments, Mr. Dickerson said, “Participation in ERDI is done independently of the school system.” In an email, Ms. White said she found ERDI to be a “beneficial professional learning experience.” She didn’t respond to a question about ERDI compensation.

She added, “I do not believe there are any conflicts of interests” related to the district’s tech initiative.

Mr. Sundstrom, ERDI’s president, said education companies pay a fee to attend events “not to meet school leaders or make a sale,” but to get meaningful feedback on their education products from knowledgeable school leaders. He added that school officials do not make purchases at ERDI sessions and that it is their school boards that approve district purchases.

Baltimore County’s travel rules say, “No travel expenses will be paid by those seeking to do business with the Baltimore County Public Schools prior to obtaining a contract.” Mr. Dickerson explained that applied to companies currently bidding for contracts.

A Foundation’s Big Fund-Raiser

Beneath crystal chandeliers last April, politicians, school leaders, vendors and community members gathered in a banquet hall. The occasion was State of the Schools, an annual fund-raising luncheon arranged by the Education Foundation of Baltimore County Public Schools.

The foundation was created in the early 1990s and raises money for schools. Tech companies have made significant donations, and have directors sitting on the foundation’s board. The directors include employees from Discovery Education, Pearson and Microsoft, all vendors with multimillion-dollar district contracts.

Daly, the laptop provider, was the biggest donor, giving $30,000. McGraw-Hill, Discovery Education, Pearson and Microsoft each donated $1,500 to $15,000. Of the $211,500 in publicly listed donations for the event, tech companies gave about 43 percent.

“You have these huge contracts, and then you donate all this money, and the foundation puts up a banner advertising your company’s name,” said Michael J. Collins, a former Maryland state senator and former school board member. “I just didn’t think that passed the smell test.”

Discovery Education said it trained employees to avoid potential conflicts of interest. Microsoft said its policies followed government gift and ethics rules. Pearson said its donation had been nominal and vetted to prevent conflict of interest. McGraw-Hill said it was committed to integrity and transparency.

Deborah S. Phelps, the foundation’s executive director, said it awarded scholarships and gave schools grants for projects in culture, science, technology and other subjects.

When asked if the foundation had policies governing donations from vendors or potential vendors, Ms. Phelps said no. “‘There’s not necessarily a policy,” she said. There is also no policy prohibiting foundation board members who are vendors from reviewing grants involving their or competitors’ products, she said.

Mr. Dickerson said the focus of Baltimore County Public Schools was on “supporting students, teachers and their learning environments.” He added: “We are unapologetic for engaging with our Education Foundation, business partners and community stakeholders in an effort to close known achievement gaps.”

Mr. Reich of Stanford suggested school districts establish clearer rules governing their relationships with vendors, particularly with tech companies racing to win over the gatekeepers to America’s classrooms. Otherwise, parents could lose trust in the system.

“School leaders should be just as concerned about the perception of corruption as actual corruption,” he said.

ExxonMobil is spending $1bn annually researching alternative energy

Among the world’s greatest oil companies is pumping greater than $1bn (£763m) annually into alternative types of energy from algae engineered to blossom into biofuels and cells that turn emissions into electricity.

The funds from Exxon Mobil are for over a hundred of studies on eco-friendly technologies in five to 10 key areas, based on V . P . of Development and research Vijay Swarup. While any commercial breakthrough reaches least ten years away, Exxon’s support for clean energy suggests the world’s best openly-traded oil clients are searching toward the potential of the next where non-renewable fuels are less dominant.

“These areas are massively challenging, and when we are able to solve individuals, they’re going to have huge impacts on the business,” stated Mr Swarup inside a phone interview. “We bring greater than money. We bring the science, the dedication to research.”

While Exxon has discussed a number of its work before and runs advertisements about its operate in algae, the remarks from Mr Swarup may be the first symbol of the breadth from the oil company’s interests in alternative powers.

Exxon joins an increasing listing of oil majors hedging from the wider adoption of renewables, that could displace some 8 million barrels of crude have to have a day, based on Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Some companies, like France’s Total SA, make acquisitions to go in the company. Others, like Royal Nederlander Covering, are utilizing encounters from running offshore rigs to build up wind farms within the North Ocean.

Located in Irving, Texas, Exxon stated its approach differs because of its concentrating on science, Mr Swarup stated. It’s became a member of about 80 universities and it is collaborating with smaller sized companies on research.

Projects it’s focusing on include:

  • Algae biofuels: Exxon is intending to harvest algae in ponds or oceans all over the world and process it right into a biofuel for regional distribution. Mr Swarup expects that it’ll first be combined with diesel and jet fuel, however the goal would be to eventually sell one hundred percent algae-derived fuel.
  • Biodiesel produced from farming waste. The organization is dealing with Alternative Energy Group to make use of microbes to transform inedible crop residue like corn husks into biofuels. The 2 companies started their collaboration in 2016 and lately extended their joint research programme.
  • Carbonate fuel cells: Most fuel cells generate electricity by reacting chemically with gas or hydrogen. These ones use co2. Exxon and FuelCell Energy are researching the way the devices may be used in carbon capture and storage and also to generate electricity simultaneously. It’s creating a pilot plant inside a couple of several weeks and it is focusing on the engineering from the facility now.
  • Process intensification: Exxon is dealing with Georgia Institute of Technology to build up a far more efficient method of refining oil into plastic. It calls for utilizing a membrane and osmosis instead of heat. Exxon is targeting co2 emission reductions up to half using the process.

“We continue to be 10 plus years away” for the algae biofuels and carbonate fuel cells to become deployed at scale, based on Mr Swarup, who stated their been focusing research on algae for eight years.

Mr Swarup’s greatest priority is finding and developing projects that may be scaled to Exxon’s global achieve. The organization runs using six continents coupled with revenues of $198bn this past year, larger than the combined economies of Qatar and Kuwait, two people from the Organisation of Oil Conveying Countries.

“The common denominator when we’re searching at from the research perspective is that we believe our role like a corporation and that’s scalable solutions,” Mr Swarup stated.

“Oil and gas companies have a tendency to consider additional factors of the investment beyond only the short-term revenue potential,” stated Ron Wheatley, executive v . p . of recent growth at Xynteo, a consultancy that advises Covering, Statoil and Eni Health spa on sustainability and lengthy-term planning.

“They might be more prone to see technologies as pieces that may be combined into bigger products or solutions and for that reason have greater tolerance for initial phase and experimental ideas.”


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Trumps set to produce two property projects in India, despite conflict-of-interest concerns

President Trump’s oldest boy, Jesse Junior., is anticipated to produce two residential projects in India for that Trump Organization within the coming days, ongoing the family’s promotion from the Trump empire despite concerns within the president’s potential conflicts of great interest with foreign governments.

The Trump Organization vowed in early stages there’d be “no new foreign deals” during Trump’s tenure as president both of these projects in India were inked before his election.

However the high-profile launches show the pledge posseses an asterisk — contracts made years back can move ahead or perhaps be revitalized, like the Trumps’ 2007 deal to construct an extravagance beach front resort in tobago which may be elevated, based on an Connected Press report.

Obama didn’t divest his assets after he was elected and rather placed his business empire right into a trust controlled by sons Don Junior. and Eric, that has traveled to Uruguay and supported Don Junior. introducing a Trump-branded luxury course in Dubai along with a hotel in Vancouver.

The Trump Organization has licensed its name to 5 projects in India despite a pokey marketplace for high-finish luxury residences. The brand new Trump-branded tower within the eastern town of Kolkata may have apartments costing $765,000 and within project within the capital suburb of Gurgaon will feature units beginning at $1.8 million and course access. Another projects include two residential towers within the quiet town of Pune, a 75-story tower still being built in Mumbai that have a shimmering gold facade, along with a suggested office in Gurgaon.

Trump company’s partners in India aren’t any other people to legal entanglements]

“We are lengthy-term, very bullish on India,” the Trump Organization stated within an emailed statement. “The success in our existing projects and also the strong queries the teams are seeing from approaching projects before launch continues to be incredible. We’re positive concerning the future and incredibly happy with our existing presence on the market.Inches

The Mumbai tower has been built through the family company of Mangal Prabhat Lodha, a effective condition legislator and condition v . p . from the governing Bharatiya Janata Party. The Lodha Group was investigated for $30 million in untaxed revenue and fined $1 million the organization eventually settled the goverment tax bill to have an undisclosed amount. Captured, a Lodha spokeswoman, speaking on the health of anonymity, declined to discuss the situation, saying it had been “old” and it was not associated with the Trump project.

Basant Bansal, co-founding father of M3M India, among the developers from the Gurgaon high-rise, caught the interest of tax investigators two times, records show, once in 2008 and again this year, when government bodies grabbed cash worth $48 million inside a raid around the company’s offices. A tax investigator stated Bansal ultimately compensated the required taxes he owed. M3M and something of their employees happen to be billed with bribing forest officials to obvious-cut land inside a situation that’s still pending a spokesman for the organization has denied wrongdoing. Siblings Basant and Roop Bansal established M3M, which means “Magnificence within the Trinity of males, Materials and cash,Inches and declined further comment.

“A company of obama from the U . s . States should not be risking potential corruption investigations and dealing with foreign government officials who might be corrupt,” stated Richard Painter, a regular critic from the president who offered because the ethics lawyer for that White-colored House throughout the George W. Plant administration. “They should not be attempting to do each one of these deals around the globe. It simply isn’t working.”

Critics on Capitol Hill and elsewhere also have asked the truth that citizen-funded Secret Service agents accompany the Trump sons on these private business excursions, accumulating thousands in hotel bills and straining the agency’s budget. Don Junior. lately eschewed security on the private moose-hunting visit to the Yukon, the brand new You are able to Occasions reported, after asking to become taken off Secret Service protection. It’s unclear whether he’s rejected a Secret Service detail altogether and whether he’ll get one on his visit to India within the coming days. But people near to him say they’ve recommended he keep your detail for their own safety as well as for those of his family.

Trump’s licensing plans in India have introduced among $1.six million and $11 million in royalties since 2014 — including royalties mentioned inside a vary from $100,001 to $a million this past year in the Kolkata project, Trump’s financial filings show.

The Trump scion will arrive to some luxury housing market in India that’s decidedly moribund, analysts say. Already sluggish sales happen to be slowed with a double whammy of latest alterations in the tax system along with a proceed to combat tax cheats by demonetizing high-value currency. Pinched developers took to luring high-dollar investors with one year’s free rent and gifts of luxury cars and jewellery.

“The luxury market has been around distress for around 3 years now,” stated Pankaj Kapoor, the md of Liases Foras, a Mumbai property rating and research firm. “Prices during the last 4 years haven’t increased, inventory is continuing to grow and purchasers happen to be terrible. There is a big gap between prevailing prices and just what buyers are able to afford.Inches

Kolkata has about 428 unsold units within the $460,000 to $1.5 million cost range, a 3-year backlog in inventory, while Mumbai has 17,478 unsold units, a backlog of six years, Kapoor’s analysis shows.

The Trump-branded qualities have faced slow sales that belongs to them within the lower market, complicated because the apartments are frequently listed at greater prices than nearby property due to the name — about 30 % greater within the situation of Trump Tower Mumbai, that is about 60 % offered, the organization has stated. Property experts in India have offered differing thoughts about whether Trump will still attract affluent Indians after his immigration stance along with other controversies. Branded qualities — for example individuals endorsed with a sports team or Bollywood stars — don’t always succeed, Kapoor noted.

Kolkata, also referred to as Calcutta, is really a place aside from glittering Mumbai or even the power enclaves of recent Delhi. It’s a town of 5 million, chaotic, vibrant, lined with colonial-era mansions and abandoned factories switched mossy black from humidity. There’s money here, to be certain, largely from old mercantile families, but it’s a really specialized niche, experts say.

“Kolkata, frankly speaking, is among the poorest performing markets in India,” Kapoor stated. “I have no idea why he’s thinking about Kolkata — he is not being advised well.”

The Trump Organization has lengthy isolated itself in the vagaries of foreign areas by choosing lucrative ­name-licensing deals over its very own investment, and it has previously earned money even if ventures falter or fail, analysts say.

The Indian developer who helped orchestrate the 2 latest projects, Kalpesh Mehta of Tribeca Developers, touts themself on his company’s website as Trump’s “exclusive India representative” coupled with promoted his link with the Trump family, while using president’s photo along with a “welcome message” in the elder Trump to advertise the company online until May. Mehta didn’t return calls or emails for comment.

In Kolkata, developer Unimark Group is recasting existing plans for any residential tower within the eastern area of the city, that has recently gone through a modest boom in technology companies. Harsh Patodia, the chairman of Unimark, stated the launch from the new tower happens before December.

The building’s foundation is being built on the small parcel of land that sits from a towering, half-completed luxury high-rise known as Forum Atmosphere somewhere, and also the government’s Science City planetarium park alternatively, which is stuffed with uniformed students most days. The work will overlook a rather fetid lake that’s ringed by concrete apartment blocks, slum camping tents and open-air tea stalls.

One recent evening, worshipers in a small mosque put bread to fish flashing from the lake and stated they was clueless that the U . s . States president’s company was investing in a tower over the water.

The work manager was more forthcoming.

“We’re very proud,” stated Sandip Ganguly. “It’s every Indian’s dream to go to America, so it’s an aspiration project to construct a Trump Tower here.”

Kalpana Pradhan in Kolkata and Carol Leonnig in Washington led to this report.

$20bn of research cash in danger if United kingdom turns its back on foreign workers, PwC warns 

Britain’s valuable position like a major development and research center might be put in danger when the Government slams the brakes on immigration, a PwC study of major investors finds.

Big worldwide companies depend on open borders to employ researchers from around the globe – and to stock United kingdom universities using the brightest minds.

Britain’s open position helps it attract almost $20bn (£15bn) of “imported corporate R&D” spending each year from global companies. This will make up greater than 80pc of corporate R&D in the united states.

But when it might be tougher to obtain top groups of analysts over the border, then a lot of that may be in danger.

“To deliver innovation, a lot of world’s largest companies depend on shifting talent, money, and concepts across borders. If policies within the major global economic forces begin to focus more inwardly, however, this could cast uncertainty over companies’ innovation plans as well as their current models will have to evolve,” stated PwC’s John Potter.

“Uncertainty only serves to slow innovation. Considering that R&D activities ultimately assistance to produce the jobs, growth and insightful our communities, we have to ensure clearness over policy to help keep innovation centres all over the world working effectively.”

The USA, that has probably the most foreign business-funded R&D, is easily the most vulnerable to “economic nationalism”, based on the study from the greatest 1,000 listed companies on the planet along with a survey of 562 R&D executives.

Britain may be the next most in danger, while China may be the third-most susceptible, the research found.

“With the Brexit negotiations arrived, it’s still not obvious just how much the pending withdrawal in the Eu will hinder the recruiting ability of British companies and universities,” the report stated, noting that sectors for example engineering have lengthy cautioned of lack of skilled workers.

“British college officials have cautioned that applications from EU students is going to be lower in 2017, after getting risen continuously in the past years.”

This is another serious risk towards the condition of innovation within the wider continent, as Britain is really a leader within this work – and there’s no guarantee any fall in spending within the United kingdom would proceed to neighbouring countries.

“Weaker R&D programs within the United kingdom could in addition have a ripple effect over the region,” the report stated.

“Although the finish consequence of Brexit within the United kingdom is unclear, the ecu executive quoted above expressed concern when the United kingdom gets to be more isolated, ‘the economic power and talent from the United kingdom might deteriorate, and Europe in general – not always the EU – will become less strong in contrast to Asia and also the Americas.’”

From 2007 to 2015, Europe fell lower the rankings when it comes to attracting global R&D investment, shedding in the top continent towards the third-most widely used.

However you will find signs this risk might not materialise.

Theresa May stated Brexit negotiations are within “touching distance” of reaching an offer around the legal rights of EU citizens presently within the United kingdom, and British citizens in other EU countries.

May 'ambitious and positive' following Brexit talks at EU SummitMay ‘ambitious and positive’ following Brexit talks at EU Summit 00:21

In the situation of america, the report discovered that immigrants are particularly focused in high-tech and innovative jobs – migrants constitute 16.9pc from the whole workforce but 32pc of workers in computing and maths jobs and 24pc of individuals in science and engineering, the report stated.

Most postgraduate students during these areas will also be from overseas.

Policies to slash immigration could put this in danger and applications from foreign students to universities are falling.

“Other countries have taken care of immediately such developments within the US by courting worldwide students for his or her own universities, publicising their more welcoming and transparent immigration policies,” the report stated.

“Both Canada and Australia have revamped their policies for worldwide students, offering streamlined application processes, simpler visa and work-study rules, and much more certain pathways to citizenship for college students who wish to remain after graduation.”

Donor eggs, sperm banks and searching for ‘good’ genes

utilization of aided reproductive technologies has bending previously decade. In 2015, these procedures led to nearly 73,000 babies — 1.6 % of U.S. births. The speed is even greater in certain countries, including Japan (five percent) and Denmark (10 %).

Most couples use their very own eggs and sperm, embracing doctors to facilitate pregnancy through techniques for example in vitro fertilization (In vitro fertilization treatments). But using donor gametes is rising. The donor-egg industry, particularly, has had off previously decade with the introduction of a secure and reliable egg-freezing process. The amount of attempted pregnancies with donor eggs has soared from 1,800 in 1992 to just about 21,200 in 2015.

Yet within the U . s . States, the remains largely self-controlled. Questions abound concerning the recruitment of contributors the ethics of screening deciding on embryos for physical characteristics the possession from the believed countless unused eggs, sperm samples and embryos in lengthy-term storage and also the emerging capability to tinker with embryos through the gene-editing tool CRISPR.

Captured, several donor-created adults documented numerous ethical lapses in the market, including contributors who lied to prospective parents regarding their health histories along with other qualifications, and clinics that claimed to possess limited donations from a lot of people — while permitting individuals visitors to submit countless samples. They known as around the Fda to supply more oversight from the “cryobanks” that gather, store then sell probably the most precious goods in the market — sperm and eggs.

The company stated it’s reviewing the problem, but cannot predict when it’ll have an answer “due to the presence of other Food and drug administration priorities.”

President’s Council on Bioethics under George W. Plant. “But it’s difficult to think on which basis to stop that.”

And thus, Dresser stated, “what we now have is prospective parents making judgments by what they believe ‘good’ genes are” — decisions which are literally altering the face area of generation x.

Selecting baby’s traits

When little Louise Pleasure Brown, the world’s first test-tube baby, came screaming in to the world at 5 pounds 12 ounces in 1978, her birth was welcomed with just as much fear as hope. In vitro fertilization treatments success were low, and a few doctors expressed worry about possible injury to the infant and mother. The Roman Catholic Church worried that In vitro fertilization treatments would result in the development of “baby factories.”

Nearly 4 decades and 6.5 million aided births later, the procedures are thought mainstream medicine. And also the fundamental foundations of human existence — sperm and egg — are available for purchase online having a simple Search.

Prospective parents can filter and type potential contributors by race and ethnic background, hair and the color of eyes, and education level. They can also get a lot more private information: audio from the donor’s voice, photos from the donor growing up so that as a grownup, and written responses to questions that read like college-application essays.

Would like your sperm donor to possess a B.A. in political science? Would like your egg donor to like creatures? Want the genes of the Division I athlete? Many of these are possible. Prospective parents at a loss for all of the choices can allow the celebs and choose a donor by astrological sign.

A prescreened vial of sperm costs less than $400 and could be shipped via FedEx. Some donor eggs — as much as 30, with respect to the donor — may cost $10,000 or even more to pay for that dangerous and invasive surgical procedure needed to reap eggs in the donor’s ovaries.

Fertility companies freely admit that examples from attractive contributors go fast, but it’s intelligence that drives the prices: A lot of companies charge more for contributors having a graduate degree.

Talent sells, too. One cryobank, Family Creations, that has offices in La, Atlanta, Austin along with other large metropolitan areas, notes that the 23-year-old egg donor “excels in calligraphy, singing, modeling, metal art sculpting, painting, drawing, shading and clay sculpting.” A 29-year-old donor “excels in softball, tennis, writing and dancing.”

The San antonio Sperm Bank categorizes its contributors into three popular groups: “top athletes,” “physicians, dentists and medical residents,” and “musicians.”

And also the Fairfax Cryobank in Northern Virginia, among the nation’s largest, typically stocks sperm from about 500 carefully vetted contributors whose profiles read like overeager suitors on the dating site: Donor No. 4499 “enjoys swimming, fencing and studying and writing poetry.” Donor No. 4963 “is an easygoing man having a quick wit.” Donor No. 4345 has “well-developed pectorals and arm muscles.”

Some companies provide a face-matching service that finds contributors who look probab the mark mother or father. Or, when they prefer, like Jennifer Lawrence. Or Taye Diggs. Or other celebrity they need their offspring to resemble.

Shady Grove Fertility, they found the clinic offered a large range of payment options, nicely outlined inside a nine-by-six grid, 54 options in most. If Schlomer split the eggs with another mother, the price would go lower to $39,000. If she split the eggs with two other moms, the price could be $30,500.

Schlomer’s husband observed they could cut the price much more, to $24,500, when they decided to only use some eggs and forgo the authority to request more.

Schlomer initially was delay by the thought of discussing she feared that her offspring could unknowingly meet one half-brother or sister and fall madly in love. But more research reassured her that this type of meeting was in past statistics unlikely, for half-brothers and sisters residing in exactly the same geographic area.

What sealed the offer was the cash-back guarantee. If Schlomer didn’t conceive or they opted to prevent, they’d obtain a refund.

This guarantee may be the hallmark of Shady Grove. Clinic co-founder Michael Levy, who now can serve as their president, came critique as he pioneered the model decades ago. “People were calling it ‘contingency medicine’ and saying it’s dishonest,” he remembered.

Today, he stated, around three-fourths of programs across the country offer some type of guarantee, adding, “I think it’s most likely been our most significant contribution towards the field.”

The Schlomers drained their checking account, lent $10,000 using their 401(k) retirement fund and offered a Toyota Prius. They put aside a basic weekend to consider a donor.

Schlomer had two primary criteria: One, the donor needed blue eyes. While her eyes are eco-friendly, she was charmed by the thought of a young child with blue eyes.

Second, the donor needed a graduate degree. While neither she nor her husband studied past the undergraduate level, she described, “Who doesn’t want smart children?”

She found 12 matches and checked out their profiles. A couple of of these, she observed, used horrible grammar within their written responses with a standard profile questions. Individuals were the first one to go. She also entered off contributors with hereditary health problems.

That left two. Within the finish, they opted for the main one whose personality spoke most to Julie.

The donor stated she would be a “homebody” who loves taking photos and being with family around the beach. Her personal goals, she authored, include being “the most effective mother I’m able to be in my children. I wish to be ‘present’ after i am together and invest to their lives. . . . I would like my existence to matter.”

Schlomer make the order, also it wasn’t lengthy prior to the clinic found two more women to participate her group. Inside a couple of days, the eggs were harvested in the donor, fertilized and implanted.

Alyssa and Logan were born in 2013. Have very blue eyes — “beautiful, big, giant blue eyes,” Schlomer stated — and also have been very healthy. “They have no idea get common colds,” she stated. She’s grateful that there isn’t any chance they inherited lupus, a significant autoimmune disorder where the body attacks its very own organs and tissue, that they inherited from her mother.

Within the years since, Schlomer had the idea on how to let them know the storyline of the birth.

“I believe babies choose their moms,” she stated. “So I have a similar children which i might have had when they had originate from my very own eggs. They simply possess a couple of different physical characteristics.”

“I’m thrilled using the results, actually,Inches she added.

The Schlomers purchased two books for that twins: “Before You Had Been Born: Our Want a Baby” and “A Small Itsy Bitsy Gift of Existence, An Egg Donor Story,” which their father from time to time reads at bed time.

When it’s about time, Schlomer thinks she’ll explain that they’re “high-tech babies” and impress in it the significance of memorizing their donor number, in situation they occur to “run into another donor-egg kid.”

“I know it’s a very slim chance,” she stated. “But I would like them to keep yourself informed, just in situation.”

Manley & Manley granted new trial over $417m ovarian cancer award

The court on Friday thrown out a $417m jury award to some lady who claimed she developed ovarian cancer by utilizing Manley & Manley talc-based baby powder for feminine hygiene. 

La County superior court Judge Maren Nelson granted their request a brand new trial, saying there have been errors and jury misconduct in the last trial that ended using the award two several weeks ago. 

Nelson also ruled there wasn’t convincing evidence that Manley & Manley acted with malice and also the award for damages was excessive. The choice is going to be appealed despite the fact that Avoi Echeverria has died, stated her attorney, Mark Robinson Junior. 

“We continuously fight with respect to all ladies who’ve been influenced by this harmful product,” he stated inside a statement. 

Echeverria alleged Manley & Manley unsuccessful to adequately warn consumers about talcum powder’s potential cancer risks. She used their baby powder every day starting in the 1950s until 2016 and it was identified as having ovarian cancer in 2007, based on court papers. 

Echeverria developed ovarian cancer like a “proximate consequence of the unreasonably harmful and defective nature of talcum powder”, she stated in her own suit. Her attorney contended that documents demonstrated that Manley & Manley understood concerning the perils of talc and ovarian cancer for 3 decades. 

The organization stated it had been happy with Friday’s ruling. 

“Ovarian cancer is really a devastating disease – but it’s not brought on by the cosmetic-grade talc we’ve utilized in Johnson’s Baby Powder for many years. The science is obvious and we’ll still defend the security of Johnson’s Baby Powder once we get ready for additional trials in america,Inches spokeswoman Carol Goodrich stated inside a statement. 

Similar allegations have brought to countless lawsuits from the Nj-based company. Jury awards have totaled vast sums of dollars. However, on Tuesday a Missouri appellate court put out a $72m award towards the group of an Alabama lady that has died, ruling the condition wasn’t the correct jurisdiction for this type of situation. 

A legal court reported an american top court ruling in June that placed limits on where injuries lawsuits might be filed, saying condition courts cannot hear claims against companies not located in the condition where alleged injuries happened.

The race in order to save coffee

Centroamericano, a brand new number of coffee plant, hasn’t sparked the excitement of, say, Starbucks’s latest novelty latte. But it might be the best factor in brewing: a tree that may withstand the results of global warming.

Global warming could spell disaster for coffee, a crop that needs specific temperatures to flourish and that’s highly responsive to a variety of unwanted pests. So scientists are racing to build up more tenacious strains of among the world’s most beloved beverages.

Additionally to Centroamericano, seven other new hybrid varieties are progressively trickling to the market. Which summer time, World Coffee Research ­— a business-funded nonprofit group — began field tests of 46 new varieties it states can change coffee-growing because the world is aware of this.

“Coffee isn’t ready to adjust to global warming without help,” stated Doug Welsh, the v . p . and roastmaster of Peet’s Coffee, that has committed to WCR’s research.

(Kolin Pope/TWP)

Climate scientists say couple of coffee-growing regions is going to be able to escape the results of global warming. The majority of the world’s crop is cultivated round the equator, using the bulk originating from South america, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia and Ethiopia.

Rising climate is likely to shrink the accessible growing land in a number of these countries, stated Christian Bunn, a postdoctoral fellow in the Worldwide Center for Tropical Agriculture that has examined the transfer of coffee regions. Warmer air basically “chases” coffee as much as cooler, greater altitudes — that are scarce in South america and Zimbabwe, among other coffee-growing countries.

Temperatures are not climate change’s only forecasted impact in coffee-growing regions. Servings of Guatemala are anticipated to determine greater rain fall and shorter dry seasons, which are necessary to harvest and dry beans. In Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, rain fall is forecasted to lower, potentially sparking dry periods.

These kinds of changes will pose trouble for many crops. But coffee is especially vulnerable, scientists say, because we have an abnormally shallow gene pool. 3 types of coffee, arabica and robusta, are presently grown for people to drink. And maqui berry farmers typically haven’t selected for diversity when breeding either plant — rather, basically, they’ve been marrying generations of coffee using its close cousins.

Consequently, you will find precious couple of types of arabica that may grow in warmer or wetter conditions. Additionally, illnesses and unwanted pests that could be exacerbated under global warming could get rid of entire fields of plants.

An illness of particular concern — coffee leaf rust, or “la roya” in Spanish — devastated coffee plantations across Guatemala this year. It effectively halved El Salvador’s coffee output and price the location an believed million jobs.

Coffee maqui berry farmers often see their livelihoods threatened, noted Aaron Davis, an english coffee investigator, because coffee trees are perennials having a 20- to 30-year life time: If your field is broken with a bad season, maqui berry farmers aren’t always capable of immediately replant it. And since coffee takes 3 years to mature, maqui berry farmers face many years without earnings after new trees are grown.

“Under each one of these scenarios, maqui berry farmers spend the money for greatest cost,” Davis added.

While couple of experts expect these 4 elements they are driving coffee to extinction, they might seriously lessen the global supply — while increasing the difficulty for coffee maqui berry farmers.

“The major concern of the profession would be that the quantity, as well as the long run, of excellent coffee is threatened by global warming,” stated Benoit Bertrand, an agronomist using the French farming research group CIRAD and among the world’s respected coffee breeders. “So the issue becomes: Exactly how should we address this with new technology and new innovations?”

Despite coffee’s global recognition, couple of growers have risen towards the challenge. There’s in the past been no real marketplace for improved coffee plants, Bertrand and Davis stated: Unlike such major commodity crops as corn or soybeans, coffee is grown mainly by small maqui berry farmers with low margins who can’t covering out for that latest seed or growing system.

Consequently, coffee is originating late towards the intensive breeding programs which have revolutionized other crops. But previously ten years, interest around plant improvement is growing, driven partly through the development of the niche coffee market.

Plant breeders have started cataloguing the countless strains of arabica around and cultivating them in various growing areas. They’ve also begun to test out robusta, which grows in greater temperatures and fares better against illnesses but frequently tastes bitter. There’s some hope that new types of robusta, or robusta/arabica crosses, could capture that resilience with no bad flavor.

Recently, there’s been a specific rush of curiosity about a kind of plant known as an F1 hybrid, which crossbreeds two different strains of arabica to make a unique “child” plant. They may be produced from the countless types of arabica and bred for characteristics for example taste, disease resistance and drought tolerance.

Since they’re the very first generation, F1 hybrids also demonstrate something scientists call “hybrid vigor” — they produce abnormally high yields, like a kind of super plant.

Since 2010, eight such F1 hybrids happen to be released towards the commercial market. Bertrand is presently testing a category of the additional 60 crosses using the support of World Coffee Research.

They state that the very best 2 or 3 — that are likely to become open to maqui berry farmers when 2022 — will offer you taste, high yields and resilience to a variety of coffee’s current and future woes, from greater temperatures to nematodes.

“These hybrids deliver a mix of traits which were nothing you’ve seen prior possible in coffee,” stated Hanna Neuschwander, the communications director at World Coffee Research. “It’s the traits that maqui berry farmers need using the traits that markets demand. People once thought the 2 were mutually exclusive.”

However the hybrids’ success remains largely untested at scale. From the eight F1 hybrids available on the market at the moment, just one — Centroamericano — continues to be grown in almost any significant volume, Neuschwander stated. The range is presently growing with an believed 2,500 acres in Guatemala for context, the U.S. Agriculture Department reports that Honduras alone grows coffee on greater than 800,000 acres.

Maqui berry farmers who’ve grown the brand new trees are seeing success. Starbucks has offered coffee produced from F1 hybrids included in its small-lot premium brand. Last spring, a load of Centroamericano grown on the Nicaraguan family farm scored 90 from 100 points for the reason that country’s esteemed tasting competition, which some in the market heralded like a major victory.

But the road to adoption is going to be steep. Breeders allow us these plants, Neuschwander stated, however, many areas around the globe do not have the seed industries and infrastructure in position to really distribute them. That’s particularly so within the situation of F1 hybrids, which — because of their unique genetics — are only able to be grown from tissue samples.

F1 hybrids will also be costly — around 2½ occasions the price of conventional plants. That puts them well outdoors the plethora of most smallholder maqui berry farmers, stated Kraig Kraft, an agroecologist and technical advisor with Catholic Relief Services’ South America division.

Kraft, that has labored with World Coffee Research to check F1 hybrids in Nicaragua, stated that in the region, a minimum of, only midsize and enormous plantations have switched for them.

“I think our position is the fact that we have to really comprehend the needs for those maqui berry farmers so that you can begin using these technology,Inches Kraft stated. “My problem is that small maqui berry farmers don’t have the capital to cover these investments.”

Even when they did, however, some experts caution the new coffee varieties are a bit of a significantly bigger adaptation process. To handle the results of global warming, maqui berry farmers might need to adopt other farming practices, for example shade-farming, cover-popping and terracing, stated Bunn, the investigator.

In certain regions, individuals practices will not be economical. As well as in that situation, policymakers should concentrate on helping maqui berry farmers transition with other crops or any other livelihoods altogether, researchers stress.

“People sell [F1 hybrids] like a silver bullet,” Bunn stated. “To be obvious, individuals vegetation is indispensable, and that i don’t question the need for the job . . . but we want more to adjust to global warming. And we have to accept hard reality that certain areas will have to leave coffee production.”

China’s Reform Hopefuls Watch out for Names. Just One May Matter.

GUANGZHOU, China — About ten years ago, this city in southeastern China were built with a status among the country’s grimmest, with smoggy skies, chronic congested zones and streams so foul that they to become paved to retain the stench.

Today, Guangzhou represents one possible vision of China’s future. Although it still grapples with pollution along with a wide wealth gap, the town has cleared up a lot of its earlier problems, enjoys a contemporary, 192-station subway system and it has a glittering cultural district, including an acclaimed opera hall. The cleaned-up bed of the items used to be certainly one of its vilest streams has become lined with coffee houses and souvenir stores.

“The water quality here is much better than ever before,Inches stated Zhang Kun, a close noodle vendor. “Before, reeking water would pour from storm drains whenever there is huge rain.”

Its progress cheers some advocates of reform as China prepares because of its greatest leadership shake-in 5 years. One of the candidates who may join the Communist Party’s top body in a few days is Wang Yang, the official credited with fostering greener, more sustainable economic development in Guangzhou and elsewhere in southeastern China as he was the very best party official in Guangdong Province.

But it’s much less obvious that Mr. Wang’s voice could be heard within the voice from the party’s supreme leader, Xi Jinping, that has accumulated power unseen in China since Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

If named towards the Politburo Standing Committee, Mr. Wang would “be among the seven,” stated Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a political researcher at Hong Kong Baptist College. “But Xi Jinping calls the shots, and he’ll be in control.Inches

By official figures, China’s economy does all right. On Thursday, China’s National Bureau of Statistics announced the economy increased 6.8 percent within the third quarter from last year.

Economists broadly believe individuals figures mask much deeper problems. China’s economy, the world’s second largest, is burdened by debt from the borrowing-fueled binge of creating rail lines, highways, bridges and apartment towers. Still it depends on dirty industries of history, like steel and coal.

Mr. Xi has spoken about economic reform, but debt ballooned under his watch. His policy measures have tended to pay attention to helping condition-owned enterprises while retaining as well as tightening Communist Party charge of the whole economy, including private companies.

On Wednesday, speaking in the opening from the Communist Party’s two times-per-decade congress, Mr. Xi stated the party would “support condition capital in succeeding as more powerful, doing better and growing bigger.”

Willy Lam, a professional around the Beijing leadership in the Chinese College of Hong Kong, stated: “It’s hard to imagine Xi Jinping on your journey to a reformist position, because Xi Jinping is really a pre-modern person. He’s essentially a guy from the 1950s.”

Mr. Xi’s dominance has complicated the studying of tea leaves surrounding selecting the Communist Party’s new leaders. On economic matters, he’s assumed a lot of the duty typically held by China’s premier, who’s presently Li Keqiang.

Still, once the party’s congress closes in a few days, world economic leaders may glean some clues about China’s direction based on who’s named towards the Politburo Standing Committee, the seven-person group which makes its top decision.

Should Mr. Wang be named towards the committee, that may advise a slightly greater emphasis within the next 5 years on economic reform, for example giving private enterprise more freedom or curbing reliance on condition-directed lending.

However the party could send another signal whether it appoints Chen Min’er, the party boss from the less developed province of Guizhou. Mr. Chen’s development strategy there trusted building plenty of tall bridges, a huge telescope along with other government-brought projects, in addition to using official influence to assist persuade large the likes of Apple and Oracle to discover extensive data centers there.

Another possible participant, experts say, is Hu Chunhua, who been successful Mr. Wang as Guangdong’s party boss. Mr. Hu has an infinitely more careful status on economic changes than does Mr. Wang, though he permitted a lot of Mr. Wang’s policies to carry on. Outdoors of financial aspects, Mr. Hu has had a significantly tougher method of dissent, crushing a test in democracy inside a Guangdong village known as Wukan that Mr. Wang had tolerated.

The final party congress, 5 years ago, offered an indication of China’s debt-fueled approach under Mr. Xi.

Joining him after that time the standing committee was Zhang Gaoli, who ran the big metropolis of Tianjin. Mr. Zhang was most widely known for leading a government effort to construct a “New Manhattan” — a forest of immense office towers and apartment structures not even close to downtown Tianjin, erected with the hope of making a brand new financial center. The vast satellite city has started attracting some residents recently but has yet becoming a financial hub.

By comparison, Mr. Wang was the mayor of the obscure town in south-central China, Tongling, as he authored a professional-reform essay in 1991 for any local newspaper. The essay — with lines like “History won’t ever let us slumber on” — trigger a extended discussion in Chinese newspapers, giving him a nationwide status at age 36.

Mr. Wang increased rapidly next, by 2007 took over as Communist Party secretary running Guangdong Province. Before he showed up, the province was certainly one of China’s wealthiest and many entrepreneurial, and much more lately it’s taken advantage of a boom in high-finish technology manufacturing and also the country’s thriving internet scene.

Still, experts say Mr. Wang helped improve Guangdong. Mr. Wang’s administration enforced stringent ecological roles that forced old and dirty industries to provide method to new development. Mr. Wang oversaw the making of the opera hall along with other cultural attractions.

Polluting of the environment within the province peaked in the newbie there and it has been falling steeply since, based on satellite imagery examined in the Hong Kong College of Science.

In Guangzhou, the 14 million-resident hub of Guangdong, certainly one of southern China’s greatest steel mills once loomed within the Gem River. Now twelve 42-story apartment structures stand there. A couple of old furnaces are going to participate a historic park.

Over the river lies a stream misleadingly named Lychee Bay.

It once reeked using the effluent from nearby homes and from the nearby bronze foundry. A concrete covering unsuccessful to retain the smell.

During Mr. Wang’s tenure, the bronze foundry moved away and Guangzhou expanded its sewage processing capacity. The region grew to become so clean it now attracts vacationers.

“Guangzhou is moving faster in working with water and air pollution,” stated Peng Peng, the v . p . from the Guangdong System Reform Research Society, an open policy group. “Guangzhou relies more about consumption, which appears relatively healthy, and gives creedence to the caliber of economic development.”

After 2012, as Mr. Xi pressed his government-centered economic strategies, Mr. Wang was named smoking premier and largely disappeared inside Beijing’s paperwork. There he was handed responsibility for mitigating damage from earthquakes and floods and replanting forests.

Should Mr. Wang, now 62, finally join the party’s standing committee and have a more senior position in government, he’d convey more influence but nonetheless could be applying an idea drafted by Mr. Xi.

“Perhaps with Wang Yang,” stated Mr. Lam, from the Chinese College of Hong Kong, “they could possibly perform a a bit more inside the orders from Xi Jinping.”