Daily Archives: July 12, 2017

Arc of East Ascension holds landmark DFC fundraiser – Donaldsonville Chief

Posted: July 12, 2017 at 12:45 pm

Greg Fischer Editor-in-chief @AscensionEditor

Local Ascension professionals and pro dancers entertained a large crowd at the Lamar Dixon 4-H building on Saturday, July 8 with a parish version of the popular TV show Dancing with the Stars.

The fundraiser, coined Dancing for a Cause (DFC), was a huge success according to Arc of East Ascension’s Public Relations and Marketing Director Sharon Morris and also Sheriff Jeff Wiley in his opening remarks. The night was full of cheers and laughter.

“What [people] can expect tonight is hard work and dedication from some business employees in the community who have dedicated their time and raised money for the Arc,” Arc of East Ascension President Allison Hudson said. “They will be dancing. They have had six weeks of practice with professional dancers, and they have enjoyed raising money. We are thankful for all of the funds that they raised, obviously for the Arc, that will go towards our individuals.”

Louis LeFebrve III of Main Street Dental Care stole the show. He had an enormous group cheering on he and his partner, Alyssa Babin. Besides winning the competition, he outsold the runner up more than twice. His business raised $14,990 for the Arc of EA. In second place was Jackie Baumann with $7440, and in third place was Jackie Tisdell with $6650.

Coincidentally, the judges picks coincided with the top three fundraisers. Tisdell was also the fan favorite.

“I would like to thank the community and all sponsors for their generous and support,” Morris said. “Special Thanks to Alsie Dunbar for getting some of the gifts donated for the Star Dancers.”

Food and drink was abundant. This year’s DFC event ran from 6-10 p.m.

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Long-term financing for new Ascension courthouse annex in Gonzales inches forward; court fees may increase – The Advocate

Posted: at 12:45 pm

GONZALES Jason Verdigets, senior judge of the 23rd Judicial District Court, said Tuesday the court’s judges and other local officials are seeking expedited approval of new civil court fees to pay for a new parish courthouse annex in Gonzales.

Legislation signed into law June 26 establishes an additional $150 fee for new civil filings, such as lawsuits and divorces, and an another $30 fee for additional pleadings. The fees will pay off long-term debt to build a bigger, more secure courthouse annex on the parish’s east bank. The parish courthouse in Donaldsonville, the parish seat, will not be affected.

GONZALES The judges of the 23rd Judicial District and other court officials are eyeing a n

Verdigets told the Parish Council recently that overcrowding and the poor safety design of the Gonzales courtroom annex finished in August 2003 is forcing the move. Criminal defendants awaiting court are housed in the same area as courthouse staff and judges.

Though the new civil court fees, proposed by state Rep. Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, is set to take effect Aug. 1, the law requires that the Louisiana Supreme Court’s 17-member Judicial Council first approve the new fee structure.

“We’re hoping it’s not going to delay it, but we’re not sure yet,” Verdigets said of the Judicial Council’s pending decision.

Verdigets made his comments minutes after the Parish Council took another step on the courthouse annex financing: agreeing to seek State Bond Commission approval for $26 million in revenue bonds.

The proposal is set to go before the Bond Commission next week, said Jim Ryan, the parish’s financial adviser. The revenue bonds, to be repaid by the proposed new fees, are scheduled for final approval by the Parish Council on Aug. 3.

It’s unclear, however, if the Bond Commission would give its OK to the bonds if the Supreme Court has not yet approved the court fees to repay the debt.

If the Judicial Council acts quickly enough on the proposed fees, Ryan said, the parish could have funds available for construction as soon as September or October.

Ryan said the project has mitigating circumstances in its favor for speedy approval, including rising interest rates and the safety of the existing courthouse annex.

An attempt to reach a spokesperson for the Supreme Court in New Orleans late Tuesday afternoon was unsuccessful.

Verdigets said the parish government is still working on hiring an architect to design the courthouse annex; rough plans so far envision a four-story, 80,000-square-foot building with as many as eight courtrooms, twice as many as the current number inside the courthouse annex along South Irma Boulevard. The proposed new courthouse annex would be built on vacant parish land next to the new parish administrative complex finished in late 2015.

The existing courthouse annex would get taken over by other local agencies, possibly the Sheriff’s Office; the proposed new court fees also could be used to finance renovation of the annex.

When Verdigets appeared before the council in mid-May, the courthouse annex idea came as news to some members, who responded with some hesitancy.

But council members Teri Casso and Bill Dawson talked Tuesday about a recent visit they made with Verdigets and Parish Clerk of Court Bridget Hanna to the new Livingston Parish Courthouse.

Casso, the Finance Committee chairwoman, said the tour helped her and other council members learn about the intricacies of a modern courthouse and why one costs so much.

Dawson, the council chairman, said the tour taught him a lot about the importance of security and isolating criminal defendants from jurors and judges.

“I was one of those that had doubts about (the new courthouse annex), but I see the need for that isolation situation, and I am very supportive this,” Dawson said.

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.

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Long-term financing for new Ascension courthouse annex in Gonzales inches forward; court fees may increase – The Advocate

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5 Top Nanotechnology Stocks to Buy – Motley Fool

Posted: at 12:44 pm

Scientists like to joke that realizing the promise of nanotechnology has been five years away for the last 35 years. That would imply that there isn’t a single nanotech stock available to investors. But while we don’t yet have quantum lightbulbs or graphene-based water desalination, this list of nanotechnology stocks proves that nanotech products actually touch our lives every day:

Company

Market Cap

2016 Revenue

Dividend Yield

Thermo Fisher Scientific (NYSE:TMO)

$68.9 billion

$18.3 billion

0.3%

BASF (NASDAQOTH:BASFY)

$84.6 billion

$57.6 billion

3.6%

PPG Industries (NYSE:PPG)

$28.3 billion

$14.7 billion

1.1%

Chemours Co. (NYSE:CC)

$7.5 billion

$5.4 billion

0.3%

Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC)

$163.8 billion

$59.4 billion

3.2%

Data Source: Google Finance.

You may not think “nanotech” when you see the big names in the list above, but a closer look reveals how they’re leading the evolution of the field.

Image source: Getty Images.

First, let’s start with a simple question investors might want to ask: What is a nanomaterial? There’s no universally accepted definition, but regulators around the world have generally defined a nanomaterial as a product that (1) has at least one dimension of 100 nanometers or smaller and (2) gains unique properties from that dimension. The second part of the definition is often forgotten, but it’s what gives such tremendous potential to nanotechnology.

Some materials become more magnetic or better able to kill pathogens at the nanoscale, while others can access different physical phases entirely. It all depends on the material, which is what guides applications and product development for the top nanotechnology stocks.

All that research and development needs equipment, reagents, and services — all of which are provided by Thermo Fisher Scientific. The company is most closely associated with life-sciences research, a growing area of the nanotechnology field. Whether enhancing MRI contrast agents or using DNA origami to build nanostructures that deliver therapeutics to specific locations in the body, the company has played a pivotal role spurring innovation from the earliest stages of research.

TMO data by YCharts.

Last summer Thermo Fisher Scientific boosted its ability to serve the nanotechnology field by acquiring FEI Company for $4.2 billion, incorporating high-powered transmission electron microscopes (TEM) — the only way to image nanomaterials such as metals, living cells, and semiconductors — into its expanding empire of analytical lab services. In case investors are wondering how it’s going, fully 90% of the company’s backlog increase from 2015 to 2016 comprised rising orders for analytical instruments. Only 20% of total sales last year came from the segment.

Of course, the point of R&D is to turn discoveries in the lab into real products. How else would companies make money from nanotech? It may not always be obvious, but you use products enhanced with nanomaterials each and every day. Here are a few examples:

Nanotechnology isn’t usually associated with these businesses — it’s just part of the table stakes for competing in today’s coatings and microchip industries — and doesn’t comprise a majority of product sales for most companies. Chemours Co. may be the sole exception, as it derived 43% of total sales last year from titanium dioxide, and another 42% from fluoroproducts such as nonstick Teflon coatings.

Still, these companies are the best nanotechnology stocks to buy today. Furthermore, they have the size and financial flexibility to make big moves quickly, should major advances allow the field of nanotechnology to deliver on its science-fiction-like potential.

Maxx Chatsko has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Berkshire Hathaway (B shares). The Motley Fool recommends Intel. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Taking a Look Under the Hood at Industrial Nanotech Inc (INTK) Shares – Stock Rover

Posted: at 12:44 pm

Industrial Nanotech Inc (INTK) shares have experiencedbearish momentum as the Average True Range of the shares have trended downward over the past 10 sessions. Based on a recent trade, the current level of the equity stands at 0.0026.

Lets view some additional technical levels on shares of Industrial Nanotech Inc (INTK). Presently, the 14 day Williams %R is -100.00. Readings may range from 0 to -100. A Williams %R that lands between -80 to -100 is typically seen as being in strong oversold territory. A reading between 0 to -20 would represent a strong overbought condition. As a momentum indicator, the Williams R% has the ability to be used with other technicals to help define a specific trend.

Industrial Nanotech Inc (INTK) presently has a 14-day Commodity Channel Index (CCI) of -100.79. Typically, the CCI oscillates above and below a zero line. Normal oscillations tend to stay in the range of -100 to +100. A CCI reading of +100 may represent overbought conditions, while readings near -100 may indicate oversold territory. Although the CCI indicator was developed for commodities, it has become a popular tool for equity evaluation as well. Checking on another technical indicator, the 14-day RSI is currently sitting at 42.69, the 7-day rests at 35.79, and the 3-day is presently at 29.41.

The Relative Strength Index (RSI) is a highly popular technical indicator. The RSI is computed base on the speed and direction of a stocks price movement. The RSI is considered to be an internal strength indicator, not to be confused with relative strength which is compared to other stocks and indices. The RSI value will always move between 0 and 100. One of the most popular time frames using RSI is the 14-day.

Moving average indicators are commonly tracked by technical stock analysts. Many traders will use a combination of moving averages with multiple time periods to help spot stock trend direction. One of the more popular combinations is to use the 50-day and 200-day moving averages. Investors may use the 200-day MA to help smooth out the data a get a clearer long-term picture. They may look to the 50-day or 20-day to get a better grasp of what is going on with the stock in the near-term. Presently, the 200-day moving average is at 0.00, and the 50-day is 0.00. The 14-day ADX for Industrial Nanotech Inc (INTK) is standing at 41.96. Many chart analysts believe that an ADX reading over 25 would suggest a strong trend. A reading under 20 would suggest no trend, and a reading from 20-25 would suggest that there is no clear trend signal.

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Nanotech Security Corp. (TSXV:NTS): A look at Yield & Technicals – Union Trade Journal

Posted: at 12:44 pm

The EBITDA Yield is a great way to determine a companys profitability. This number is calculated by dividing a companys earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization by the companys enterprise value. Enterprise Value is calculated by taking the market capitalization plus debt, minority interest and preferred shares, minus total cash and cash equivalents. The EBITDA Yield for Nanotech Security Corp. (TSXV:NTS) is -4.08%.

As we move into the second half of the year, investors may be focused on portfolio performance over the first part of the year. They may be trying to put all the pieces together in order to create a solid plan that will provide sustained profits, even if market conditions deteriorate. This may involve introducing more diversity into the portfolio. One investor may evaluate a stock completely different than another. It may be important to do the necessary research on the overall industry when searching for the next big winner. As the next round of earnings reporting gets underway, investors will be watching to see which companies are positioned for growth over the foreseeable future. Investors will optimally have all their requisite boxes checked when scouting out the next portfolio moves.

Another useful indicator to assist in detmining rank is the ERP5 Rank. This is an investment tool that analysts use to discover undervalued companies. The ERP5 looks at the Price to Book ratio, Earnings Yield, ROIC and 5 year average ROIC. The ERP5 of Nanotech Security Corp. (TSXV:NTS) is 14453. The lower the ERP5 rank, the more undervalued a company is thought to be.

Looking further, the MF Rank (aka the Magic Formula) is a formula that pinpoints a valuable company trading at a good price. The formula is calculated by looking at companies that have a high earnings yield as well as a high return on invested capital. The MF Rank of Nanotech Security Corp. (TSXV:NTS) is 13226. A company with a low rank is considered a good company to invest in. The Magic Formula was introduced in a book written by Joel Greenblatt, entitled, The Little Book that Beats the Market.

Piotroski F-Score

The Piotroski F-Score is a scoring system between 1-9 that determines a firms financial strength. The score helps determine if a companys stock is valuable or not. The Piotroski F-Score of Nanotech Security Corp. (TSXV:NTS) is 3. A score of nine indicates a high value stock, while a score of one indicates a low value stock. The score is calculated by the return on assets (ROA), Cash flow return on assets (CFROA), change in return of assets, and quality of earnings. It is also calculated by a change in gearing or leverage, liquidity, and change in shares in issue. The score is also determined by change in gross margin and change in asset turnover.

Gross Margin The Gross Margin Score is calculated by looking at the Gross Margin and the overall stability of the company over the course of 8 years. The score is a number between one and one hundred (1 being best and 100 being the worst). The Gross Margin Score of Nanotech Security Corp. (TSXV:NTS) is 57. The more stable the company, the lower the score. If a company is less stable over the course of time, they will have a higher score.

Price Index

The Price Index is a ratio that indicates the return of a share price over a past period. The price index of Nanotech Security Corp. (TSXV:NTS) for last month was 0.96124. This is calculated by taking the current share price and dividing by the share price one month ago. If the ratio is greater than 1, then that means there has been an increase in price over the month. If the ratio is less than 1, then we can determine that there has been a decrease in price. Similarly, investors look up the share price over 12 month periods. The Price Index 12m for Nanotech Security Corp. (TSXV:NTS) is 1.07826.

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Alameda author’s new book examines psychedelic drugs’ medical use – East Bay Times

Posted: at 12:42 pm

ALAMEDA Drug policy debate has raged for decades. And it only has intensified lately with states that have legalized recreational or medical marijuana pitted against formidable opposition, especially in the federal government with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling to double down on enforcement.

At least thats the narrative presented to the public. A much different story unfolds behind the scenes, one that extends far beyond marijuana. It involves research into the medicinal use of psychedelic drugs such as MDMA (aka ecstasy or Molly) and psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) to treat patients suffering from such struggles as depression, severe anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Noted Bay Area journalist, author and Alameda resident Don Lattin sheds much light on the subject in his new book, Changing Our Minds: Psychedelic Sacraments and the New Psychotherapy.

This book is about whats happening right now with government clinical trials, Lattin said. The government is open to treatments such as this very controlled. The (Food and Drug Administration) and (the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration) have signed off on this.

Lattin, 63, a former longtime writer for the San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle, has spent years researching the subject.

I interviewed research subjects, researchers and neuroscientists, Lattin said about gathering information for the book. These drugs have a unique quality to help people psychologically or spiritually if theyre so inclined with therapy. Were getting a much better idea of how the brain works.

Changing Our Minds is Lattins sixth book. It serves nicely as a follow-up to his previous two books, The Harvard Psychedelic Club (2010, a California Book Award winner) and Distilled Spirits (2012).

This is really the third book in a trilogy about sacred medicines, he said. The Harvard Psychedelic Club started it, a look at the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s. Distilled Spirits is a prequel.

In Distilled Spirits, Lattin blended his own memoir with his research into the lives of three men: English essayist Aldous Huxley, forgotten philosopher Gerald Heard, and Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill Wilson. The three got together in the 1940s and 1950s, when, as Lattin wrote, Wilson began a series of little-known experiments to see if LSD could be used to help diehard drunks discover a power greater than themselves.

Changing Our Minds fast-forwards readers to more current times. Of course, Changing Our Minds at the title suggests links to the past too, as psychedelics gained a foothold on the streets in the 1960s. Perceived by many as backlash against the hippie culture, the federal government outlawed the drugs despite arguments for their potential benefits based on earlier research. By the early 1990s, though, the FDA at least partially reversed course and allowed research to resume but without government funding.

The goal (for research advocates and those in favor of reforming drug laws) is for careful, cautious use there has been success working with people with PTSD, for treating psychological trauma, Lattin said. The goal is to reschedule these drugs, not so they can be legal (as over-thecounter medicine and/or for recreational use) but so they can be prescribed by a doctor.

Lattin, who largely covered transportation and the East Bay beat for the Examiner from 1977-88, went on to the Chronicle, where he became best known as a religion writer an experience that dovetails nicely into some of the themes covered in the book. He left the Chronicle through a buyout in 2006, the same year a U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed limited use of illegal drugs for religious purposes.

Changing Our Minds explores a transformational movement that advocates the use of mind-altering plants and medicines to promote mental health and spiritual growth, Lattin wrote in the books introduction. It is part of a larger shift in Western culture of people searching for new ways to connect mind, body and spirit. Some seekers make these conscious connections through meditation, yoga, chanting, drumming, ecstatic dance and deep breathing techniques. Others prefer LSD, ayahuasca, ecstasy, magic mushrooms or various combinations of any or all of the above.

Whats happening in many of these circles is the coming together of psychology and spirituality. Even the self-proclaimed secularists in the psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy movement employ rituals that draw from Native American shamanism and the sacramental rites of the Roman Catholic Church. Atheists pound on drums and ring Tibetan Buddhist bells. Medical doctors present MDMA and psilocybin pills to patients with the hushed decorum of Orthodox priests.

Changing Our Minds might not change the minds of those wanting to escalate the war on drugs, but aside from a receptive audience of research and reform advocates, it provides food for thought for those sitting on the fence.

Everyone is taking a different look at psychedelics, that theyre not just for hippies from the 1960s, Lattin said.

For more information about Don Lattin and his work, go to http://www.donlattin.com.

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Alameda author’s new book examines psychedelic drugs’ medical use – East Bay Times

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Making Cyberpunk: when Mike Pondsmith met CD Projekt Red – Eurogamer.net

Posted: at 12:39 pm

By Robert Purchese Published 12/07/2017

“We had Communism and we had Cyberpunk.”

Mike Pondsmith would hear those words 25 years after he’d joked about how few people would play a Polish translation of his American paper role-playing game Cyberpunk in a country behind the Iron Curtain. They would be the words spoken by a company offering him the deal of his life, and the words responsible for him signing it. Now nearly 30 years after Mike Pondsmith first published Cyberpunk, we’re about to see the fruits of the seeds he once inadvertently sowed: Cyberpunk 2077.

With The Witcher series resting in the wings, CD Projekt Red is ready to bring this new collaboration centre stage, and as the spotlight of attention on Cyberpunk 2077 swivels closer, Mike Pondsmith is naturally caught in the glare. Who is this man behind the game CD Projekt Red’s near future will be based on – and how is he helping shape it? I followed Mike Pondsmith to Spanish conference Gamelab to find out.

Face to face, Mike Pondsmith is a storyteller. You’ve seen him before in a video promoting Cyberpunk 2077, but he’s embarrassed by it. It was four years ago and he isn’t anywhere near as moody in real life. If anything he’s sassy, relishing in a story’s build up before dropping his head and looking over his pencil-narrow specs for the punchline. He’s easy company and seems to know everything, as game designers do. “You need to read everything; you will use everything,” he says. “You eat mozzarella, you eat dough, you eat tomatoes and you spit out pizza.” He’s got a million silly sayings like that.

He grew up a “service brat”, always moving home with his US Air Force dad, spending time living in Germany as well as all round the States. It gave him an eclectic perspective, a never-ending string of teachers and influences, and who knows? Perhaps not a regular crowd of friends to entertain himself with. By 11 he’d discovered science fiction, and by 11 he’d also made his first game: a chess-like creation played on a rectangular board with raised squares representing different stages of hyperspace. The idea was to get your ships to the other side, dodging the enemy ships by dropping in and out of hyperspace.

He tells a memorable tale about his first run-ins with Dungeons & Dragons. “This was way the heck back,” he begins. “One of the guys in our circle brought back a copy of the original Dungeons & Dragons and came back and we made characters and played, up all night. And we were loud with it.

“[My friend’s] apartment was down in a fairly seedy part of Berkeley, and one of the nights we were making so much noise that one of the ladies of the evening actually came by to find out what we were doing and… she got into it! So we had this woman who, when she wasn’t turning tricks, was basically playing our cleric.”

He was into sci-fi, comics and war gaming but also played in bands. “I wasn’t exactly a geek,” he says, “because there weren’t geeks then,” and by university he was even positively “obnoxious”, as his future wife would once describe him – he’d asked her friend out instead of her. “That was during my weird ‘big man on campus days’,” he explains, “when I was dating a lot of people and being, ‘Hey, here I am!'”

To get another shot he’d have to pick up gaming again and join an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons group she was in. “And I got invited into a game that was currently being run by her old boyfriend,” he says, “who proceeded to try, in every way possible, to kill my character!

“You’ve gotta understand, back then I had a big afro, I wore mirrorshades, a ratty army jacket, motorcycle boots and carried a six-inch knife – I’d been working in West Oakland which is a real rough neighbourhood. I did not look like the person you wanted to bother! And so there I am in his game and we’d all be on the wall somewhere, fighting some orcs, and he’d send a balrog after me.”

But the balrog didn’t work – do they ever? – and Mike and Lisa are now living happily ever after. But more importantly back then, Pondsmith was back in gaming, and back in gaming shops, where one afternoon he bumped into Traveller, a science fiction role-playing game. “I was stoked,” he says. “I got it back and I whipped out my black books and I started working.”

He was around 20 years old when he made what would become his first commercial game, Mekton, inspired by Japanese comic Mobile Suit Gundam. A game about big robots fighting each other. He used the type-setting machine at the University of California, where he was working, to make it, then took Mekton to a conference nearby to try it out. Six people played the first day but 40 people turned up the next, and they wanted to know when they could buy it. Pondsmith borrowed $500 from his mum in 1982 to start R. Talsorian Games and fulfil their wishes. “I was now a game designer whether I planned to be one or not.”

The idea of Cyberpunk came to Pondsmith while crossing the San Francisco Bay Bridge at two o’clock in the morning roughly five years later. Blade Runner was his favourite film and he really loved how the city looked that night. “Hmm I wonder…” he thought.

He wanted to create a future – the first edition was set in 2013, jarringly – where society didn’t work but access to technology and information allowed normal people to overcome the barriers and restrictions usually held in place by a powerful and influential elite. “And that access,” he says, “is rebellious, it’s dangerous, it takes risks.”

Cyberpunk was the 1980s: the bottled excitement of where all the rapidly evolving technology – mobile phones and personal computers! – would lead, mixed with a blaring screech of punky nonconformity. A game of “big guns, rock and roll, drugs and craziness”. “All the bad things you’re supposed to not do in other role-playing games – not supposed to rob, not supposed to steal, not supposed to bust into buildings and say, ‘Give me your cyberware and all your chips!’ – you do that in Cyberpunk.” He would give people “a wonderful opportunity to do bad things”.

“I figured it would do well,” he says, “but I didn’t expect I would be riding a cultural wave. It sold just ridiculously. It was a life-changing release.”

The success of Cyberpunk, released in 1988, moved R. Talsorian Games out of Pondsmith’s house and into a proper office, and would dominate the company’s output for years, producing numerous supplements as well as a second edition, Cyberpunk 2020, in 1990. A third edition would have arrived earlier than 2005, but was delayed when Pondsmith’s self-described knack of predicting the future threw up a problem.

“I blew up the Arasaka twin towers in Night City with a nuclear weapon,” he says. “I’d written it. I was sitting there, finishing off, doing a sequence where a full-body cyborg is running around – she’s basically part of the recovery team getting bodies out of these gigantic buildings that have been blown up. I finish this, I walk out, and I look at the TV and I go: ‘Is that a movie or something?'”

It was September 11th, 2001.

“This is too chilling,” he thinks. “I’m watching the World Trade Center going, ‘Not only am I horrified about this but I’ve just done this entire sequence, including the fire and rescue people going in, pulling people out of the building, the wreckage. I’m going, ‘Oh no, no no – this is just ridiculous.’ This is why Cyberpunk third was late.”

But no amount of success and forecasting could keep the paper gaming market from crashing and burning in the late ’90s, and Pondsmith, now with dozens and dozens of releases under his belt – including new series Castle Falkenstein – was forced to put Talsorian on ice and look for another job. “I had a kid to raise,” he says.

Then the phone rang. “And Microsoft showed up out of leftfield and said, ‘Hey you want a job?’ And I went, ‘I already have a job – I have a whole company.’ And they went, ‘Oh you can keep your company, that’s fine.’ And I went, ‘Okay… How much are you paying me?’ And they gave me a number and I went, ‘That’s more money than God.'”

His Microsoft job was running a concept team, coming up with ideas for big teams to move onto when their projects wrapped. He worked on games like Crimson Skies, Blood Wake (an Xbox launch title) and the Flight Sim series, and “oversaw a bunch of other teams that did things that never made the light of day”. Microsoft even sent him to pitch a Matrix game idea to the Wachowskis, but despite bonding over a love of kung fu/wushu, and enjoying each other’s company, he didn’t get the gig.

He would go on to work on The Matrix Online at Monolith, though, “a very odd project I never quite figured out what was going on with, except that the directions kept changing”. By the time The Matrix Online came out and sunk, Pondsmith was freelance and eyeing a teaching post at DigiPen Institute of Technolog in Redmond, Washington – and The Matrix Online remained, for a long time, the closest he came to making a Cyberpunk video game.

Then in 2012, in the midst of an R. Talsorian Games reformation, the phone rang again. It was a call from Poland, from The Witcher studio CD Projekt Red. “CDPR drop out of the sky and say, ‘Hello we’re a bunch of guys from Poland and we want to do Cyberpunk.’

“We’re cracking up,” he says. “When we did the licence my comment was, ‘Well there will be six guys who play it in Polish,’ and it turned out they were the people who did!”

He was sent The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings as a kind of convincer and, “holy crap”, he thought it was great. But he was also sceptical. It wasn’t the first time someone had asked to do a Cyberpunk video game. “It’s been pretty much under licence since its inception,” he says, and several major publishers had had a shot. The closest it came was contract negotiations “but the problem was they wanted to change almost everything involved” and so the negotiations fell apart.

He’d also seen Eastern European development studios during his several years at Microsoft, where he also worked as a studio sorter-outer – a fixer. “I had been to a lot of countries that had just come out from the Iron Curtain and worked with dev houses over there, so I figured CDPR was a bunch of guys in a little sweatshop somewhere,” he says. “In one place in Hungary they produced beautiful stuff but it was literally a broom closet with 25 guys crammed over overheated monitors. That’s what I expected.”

Yet, intrigued, he took the offer of a trip to Poland – and his mind began to change. “I get over there and they set me up in this really nice hotel and give me this driver who looks like he should have been driving spies around. He was almost as wide as he was tall, had heavy accent like ziss, spoke very little English, wore a severe black suit and drove a Mercedes.

“‘This is pretty posh for a bunch of guys working in a broom closet,'” he thought – but he was still preparing to let CD Projekt Red down. It wasn’t until he got into the studio and cast his Microsoft-trained eye over tools, procedures and general set-up that he thought, “Wow. This works.”

What impressed him most, however, was how much CD Projekt Red knew about Cyberpunk. “They knew more about a lot of the things we did in the original Cyberpunk game than anybody we’d ever talked to,” he says. “There were points where I was going, ‘I had forgotten that,’ and I wrote the damn thing! I realised these guys are fans. They loved it because they had grown up playing it. Nobody had really looked at it from that standpoint before.”

CD Projekt Red shrugged and explained: “We had Communism and we had Cyberpunk.”

“And that,” Pondsmith says, “sealed it for us.”

When he struck his deal with CD Projekt Red, Mike Pondsmith had many advantages over the studio’s other major licence partner Witcher author Andrzej Sapkowski, who openly bemoans his lot. Sapkowski had no faith in games and no faith CD Projekt Red would actually make one. A decade later, Pondsmith – who had plenty of faith in games already – could play The Witcher 2 and see development of The Witcher 3. He had also spent time working on intellectual property at Microsoft so he knew what kind of deal he wanted to cut. “Suffice to say we made a lot more money in this deal than Sapkowski,” he tells me. “I don’t want to retire but I could.”

The deal took around six months to strike. “It was a longer process because we were thinking in terms of a series and a franchise,” he says, “so we had to figure out ‘how is this going to work five games from now?'”

The deal declares CD Projekt Red the rights to “Cyberpunk 2077-backed stuff until the end of time and hell freezes over” – and exclusively, from what I can tell. “The way we operate is we do everything up to the 2077 period and they do beyond. Part of that was to allow everyone a little room.

“When I write new stuff for Cyberpunk now, I talk to them so what I do in 2030 matches up with what’s going to happen in 2077. It allows them the ability to move forward and I can still create new stuff as long as we stay coordinated.”

For instance: “A couple of weeks ago I went over the current story script and was going through it, ‘okay okay this is great this is great – oh by the way that person is dead’,” he says. “We’re constantly going back and forth, we work really hard on the timeline. We want people to have that sense that there’s a coherent universe. They mesh together surprisingly well.”

CD Projekt Red didn’t realise Pondsmith had a decade in video games until a few meetings in. “That’s when the deal shifted from being an IP deal to my being actually pretty involved,” he says, and the collaboration began with getting the Cyberpunk feel and concepts in place.

“Most people tend to look at it as ‘if it’s grim it’s Cyberpunk’,” he says. “I really believe that there should be something that’s kick out the jams, rocking it, raising hell – the rebellion part of it. That’s what we’ve been aiming for, to get that feeling. I want people to feel like it’s a dark future but there are points you can have fun in it.”

Cyberpunk also has to be personal. “You don’t save the world, you save yourself,” he says. “That’s a very important thing. You’re usually not the hero, you’re absolutely downtrodden, you’re usually the people who are not going to be up top but access to technology, knowledge, and ‘what the hell I’m going to do this’ gets you through.”

Concepts and feeling aside, there’s just a sheer mountain of Cyberpunk data to get through, spanning three sourcebooks and numerous supplements with them. Cities are mapped right down to minutiae – use your own technology access to find scans of Cyberpunk sourcebooks and you’ll see what I mean. The amount of data swamps what CD Projekt Red had to work with for The Witcher, and while it’s a gift of a resource, laying all of it down takes time.

But time they’ve had. There’s been a small team beavering away on Cyberpunk 2077 ever since the game was announced in 2012 – an announcement done to attract talent to the studio, which isn’t something CD Projekt Red has to worry about now. When I visited CD Projekt Red in 2013, to learn the studio’s history, there were roughly 50 people working on the game. I don’t know how large the team grew after that because when I returned as a fly on the wall during The Witcher 3’s launch, I wasn’t allowed to see. This is because of CD Projekt Red’s reinforced silence surrounding the game, a way of managing expectations in a post-Witcher 3 world. Simply, CD Projekt Red is not talking about Cyberpunk until it has something to show.

Since The Witcher 3 launched, Pondsmith says CD Projekt Red has grown. “The number of bodies there has at least doubled,” he says, “and now they’re pretty much all on Cyberpunk. It’s an impressive ton of people. I remember one trip I met the entire team in Warsaw and then went to Krakow [CD Projekt Red’s smaller, second studio, opened in 2013], met the team and then went back to Warsaw again. The team has grown tremendously.”

Pondsmith visits three or four times a year, hand-delivering paperwork and data – to avoid any “disasters” like the recent Cyberpunk 2077 asset theft – and spending days in endless meetings with every team. One of the reasons he believes his paper Cyberpunk game was so successful was the “tremendous” amount of research poured into making it feel real. A ranger paramedic, who had put people back together in combat situations, advised on the damage system, and a trauma surgeon explained exactly what happened when you drilled into someone’s head for an implant.

As for guns: there’s nothing like firing the real thing. “I just bought some new hardware,” Pondsmith happily tells me, but it’s as much for his Talsorian team as for him. “You’re not going to write about shooting guns without knowing how to shoot guns,” he tells them. “You need to go down and find out because otherwise you’re going to be talking about silly things like, ‘Yeah I one-handedly picked a .357 [Magnum] and fired it.’ Yeah, and you broke your wrist.”

How many guns he owns he won’t tell me, which makes me think he owns a lot. He’s got a Broomhandle Mauser, the vintage gun Han Solo’s Star Wars pistol is based on, and he’s got an H&K MP5K, his favourite. “It’s the shorty equivalent of the Uzi and it’s a beautiful gun,” he assures me. “When we go down to Vegas I go out and shoot them then because they’re illegal as hell in most of the United States.”

His son is also a fan of weaponry, albeit medieval, and owns several swords and bows. “The joke is that if someone broke into our house, the biggest pause would be everyone in the house deciding what they were going to kill them with, between the swords, the guns, the crossbows…” he laughs.

Pondsmith has cast his fastidious eye for authenticity over Cyberpunk 2077 development from the beginning. And it’s that, coupled with the wisdom imparted from more than a decade of making games, which makes his contribution an entire world away from the snooty indifference Andrzej Sapkowski showed CD Projekt Red during Witcher development. And all the hard work is paying off.

“We saw some gameplay stuff when I was over there last time and I went, ‘Yeah this feels like I’m doing a good Cyberpunk game here; I’m in the middle of a run I would have set up,'” he says. “It’s pretty flashy I tell ya. We go, ‘Yeah. Yeah. Yeah! You told me this is good – but this is really cool.'”

One unexpected off-shoot of the Cyberpunk 2077 collaboration is the Witcher 3 paper role-playing game, which wasn’t part of the original deal but arose after yet another phone call. “We want to do a Witcher tabletop,” said CD Projekt Red, “you know anyone?”

Pondsmith was busy and doesn’t do fantasy, but staring him in the face was someone who did: his son Cody, who popped his head around the door and said, “I want to do Witcher.”

“My son is actually a pretty damn good designer,” Mike Pondsmith proudly tells me now. “I don’t know that he was paying attention when the old man was doing stuff – I didn’t know he was in my classes! – but at any rate he’s got a knack for it.

“The first time I realised it we were on one of the trips over to Warsaw and he was bumming along with me and I look over and he’s in a bar and he’s talking to Damien [Monnier – former Witcher gameplay designer and Gwent co-creator], the systems guy – a really good systems guy – and he and Cody are sitting there going at it hammer and tongs on how to implement something. They’re going at it,” he says for emphasis. “I don’t know where he learned it but he learned it. He looks at games the way I do: he will tear them apart.”

Mike entertained Cody’s idea but said if Cody wanted it, he had to go and get it. “You have to do the pitch, you have to put it together, you have to convince CDPR to let you do it, the whole nine yards.”

Months later they travelled to Poland, Mike for Cyberpunk 2077 meetings, Cody to make his pitch. Mike was running here, there and everywhere, but every time he passed the cafeteria where Cody was pitching, he saw a different member of CD Projekt Red on the receiving end, nodding enthusiastically. This carried on until it was company co-founder Marcin Iwinski doing the nodding, which was a good sign and Cody got the gig. He has been immersed in Witcher lore ever since. He’s even apparently heading off to Witcher School – I hope he is prepared!

The Witcher paper RPG was supposed to be released in the middle of 2016, but wasn’t because CD Projekt Red couldn’t spare anyone to look over it. “CDPR is pretty exacting making sure it’s good,” Mike Pondsmith says. It’s written, though. “It’s actually in editing now getting cleaned up.”

It’s funny to think what the future now holds for Mike Pondsmith, a man who plied a trade imagining it. Perhaps what he saw in Night City scared him, because there he was, nearly 60 years old, out of the public eye at his house hidden by forest, “raising hell” with his corgi Pikachu, when CD Projekt Red landed like a meteor in his life and put he and Cyberpunk squarely, unequivocally, back on the map. At 63 years old he may be about to become more famous than ever, and like a surfer surveying the sea, he’s preparing for the wave. “We’re sort of expecting things to lift off,” he says.

“I was actually in the process of doing Cyberpunk Red when CD Projekt Red showed up,” he tells me, so he will continue with that. He’ll also “probably” do a 2077 version for pen and paper in addition to the Mekton Zero game he’s way behind on. In other words he has no intention of slowing down. “Lisa says I’ll retire when they pry the keyboard out of my dead hands,” he says.

But first, of course, there’s Cyberpunk 2077. When it will be out, we don’t know – ‘not before 2017’ is all CD Projekt Red has ever said. My guess is 2019, but then what do I know?

“Think of me!” blurts Pondsmith. “I know a bunch of stuff and I can’t tell anybody. Lisa and I are likening it to the first Indiana Jones movie years and years ago. We went to a midnight showing before it was a mass release. We’re in there, it’s this midnight showing at this rinky-dink little theatre in Davis, California, and we watch and we’re two of 12 people in the theatre, and we walk out and we go, ‘OH MY GOD!’ We were frothing. And it’s the same thing here.”

“As Lisa likes to say: ‘We backed the right horse.'”

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Making Cyberpunk: when Mike Pondsmith met CD Projekt Red – Eurogamer.net

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Neurotechnology: 5 braincomputer interface innovations – Red Bull – Red Bull

Posted: at 12:38 pm


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Neurotechnology: 5 braincomputer interface innovations – Red Bull
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Meet five main players in the race to connect computers directly to your brain using everything from high-tech headbands to tiny implantable chips. Long before …

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Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Opens Door to Anthera Speeding Up Trial of Digestive Disorder Therapy – Cystic Fibrosis News Today

Posted: at 12:36 pm

Anthera Pharmaceuticalshas received news that could help it accelerate patient enrollment in aPhase 3 clinical trial ofSollpura (liprotamase)as a treatment for a digestive disorder known as cystic fibrosis-triggered exocrine pancreatic insufficiency.

The news is that a key Cystic Fibrosis Foundation committee approved the companys trial design. The sign-off from the foundationsTherapeutics Development NetworkProtocol Review Committee could lead to additional medical facilities taking part in the trial. And more facilities could mean stepped-up patient recruitment.

Depending on the speed of patient enrollment, results of the study are expected by years end or in early 2018, the company said.

Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, a common feature of CF, makes it more difficult for a person to digest food. It stems from the thick mucus associated with cystic fibrosis blocking the discharge of enzymes the pancreas creates to facilitate digestion.

Sollpura isa pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy, or PERT. It contains the enzymes lipase, protease and amylase in the same concentrations that are found inthe stomach.

Most PERTs are derived from pigs. Sollupura isnot, which means it overcomes risks associated with obtaining enzymes from the animals. Those risks include viral contamination and limited supply.

The Phase 3 RESULT clinical trial (NCT03051490) that Anthera has just started will build on results of the Phase 3 SOLUTION trial (NCT02279498). SOLUTION demonstrated that Sollpura was as effectiveat treatingexocrine pancreatic insufficiency asPancreaze (pancrelipase), a pig-derived PERT.

A key finding of the SOLUTION trial was that both Sollpura and Pancreaze maintained patients height and weight, an indication their bodies were getting enough nutrients.

TheRESULT trial will further assess Sollpura capsules ability to overcome CF patientsexocrine pancreatic insufficiency, compared with Pancreaze. Researchers will adjust doses individually to try to achieve the best results.

We are very pleased to leverage the CFF TDN [Cystic Fibrosis Foundation] clinical trial network and are excited by the progress made with the implementation of the RESULT study, William Shanahan, chief medical officer of Anthera Pharmaceuticals, said in a press release.

Researchers are hoping to enroll 150 adults and children for the RESULT trialin the United States, Europe and Israel.

For more information about the trial and how to participate, please visit this link. Or you cancontact Monica Gangal by calling 1-510-856-5600 in the United States or email her atmgangal@anthera.com.

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Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Opens Door to Anthera Speeding Up Trial of Digestive Disorder Therapy – Cystic Fibrosis News Today

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Know the dark side of North Carolina eugenics – The Daily Tar Heel

Posted: at 12:33 pm

Claude Wilson | Published 14 hours ago

Alongside the benefits of our growing understandingof genetics, theres been the dark shadow of its pseudoscience.

More than just an unfortunate chapter of history confined to Nazi Germany, eugenics the practice of selective breeding has long had a foot in American politics. North Carolina provides a perfect example of the wretched history of eugenics in the United States.

The focal point of the Old North States relationship with eugenics over the years was the Eugenics Board of North Carolina, a state board formed in 1933. It forcibly sterilized citizens, many of whom were black and impoverished.

The stated targets of sterilization of the Eugenics Board were the so-called feeble-minded, which was bad enough, but they also sterilized the blind and deaf, expanding to the sterilization of any welfare recipients social workers chose to single out. Over the course of more than 40 years, about 7,600 people were sterilized by the state until 1977, when the Eugenics Board was formally abolished. However, laws allowing involuntary sterilization remained in place until as late as 2003.

The driving force behind the forced sterilizations authorized by the Eugenics Board after World War II was the so-called Human Betterment League, an organization made up of Winston-Salems wealthy elite for the purpose of furthering the cause of eugenics in North Carolina. Founded in 1947, the efforts of the League led to an 80 percent increase in forced sterilizations in the state and continued to promote forced sterilizations until the early 1970s, eventually disbanding in 1988.

Beyond thousands of forced sterilizations administered under the authority of the Eugenics Board, countless more were carried out by local clinics in the state. While a bill passed in 2013 provided compensation to victims of involuntary sterilization by the Eugenics Board, no compensation has been instituted for victims of these clinics.

North Carolina is only one of many states that have sanctioned forced sterilization. Beyond the already horrible history of American eugenics, the American model of eugenics and forced sterilization would provide a direct model for similar programs implemented in Nazi Germany.

Harry Laughlin, one of the leading American eugenicists of the 1930s, would brag to colleagues about how Nazi Germany was adapting his compulsory sterilization law models, and in 1936 was awarded an honorary degree by the University ofHeidelberg for his contributions to the science of racial cleansing.

Despite the repeated debunking of eugenics by respectable academics and researchers, Social Darwinist thinking and support for eugenicist thought remainfar more prevalent than they should. The most prominent example is Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murrays1994 “The Bell Curve,” a perniciously ignorant, poorly researched and deliberately misleading book which claims human intelligence is linked to race. The book was published without any peer review, based itself on flawed statistical methods and faulty assumptions and has been torn to shreds by a number of prominent scholars.

But Charles Murrays pseudo-research is still taken seriously in certain circles. The majority of Murrays research came from the Pioneer Fund, a non-profit foundation that has funded prominent white supremacists, such as Roger Pearson and Jared Taylor. Among the founding members of the fund was Harry Laughlin.

The original eugenicists saw themselves as philanthropists who were helping the world, and future neo-eugenicists will probably view themselves that way as well. This is why it is important we dispel the pseudoscientific, white supremacist myths that are perpetuated by people like Charles Murray and organizations like the Pioneer Fund.

opinion@dailytarheel.com

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Know the dark side of North Carolina eugenics – The Daily Tar Heel

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