Plant power

first_imgTake a breath, and give thanks to photosynthesizing bacteria. Look at the trees, grasses, birds, and squirrels and think of the early plants, which paved the way for the life around us.“Plants have a wonderful way of reminding us how lucky we are to be here, how lucky we are to sit on 3.5 billion years of evolutionary history and be here to have this conversation,” William Friedman, director of the Arnold Arboretum, said Monday during a talk at the Hunnewell Building.The world we live in was produced by many evolutionary steps, and some of those steps have been taken many times by different organisms. Arborescence — changes in plants that create towering trees — evolved five times over 20 million years, for example. But there were two important changes that have occurred only once in the evolutionary record, and we have the precursors of plants to thank for both, Friedman told an audience of about 100.The first happened early in Earth’s history, when the atmosphere contained no oxygen. Bacteria used photosynthesis to harvest energy from the sun, but the process was different from what we see today in plants, Friedman said. Early photosynthesis used hydrogen sulfide instead of water and gave off sulfur instead of oxygen. The key evolutionary step, Friedman said, was the switch to a process that used water and released oxygen into the atmosphere. The switch eventually created oceans full of photosynthetic bacteria — cyanobacteria — that pumped oxygen into the atmosphere.Algae from Rwandan water lilies is examined under a microscope in one of the Arnold Arboretum’s labs.“That was a major event in the history of the Earth,” Friedman said. “Cyanobacteria, they set the agenda for everything that comes afterward.”The second major evolutionary jump, Friedman said, was the leap of an aquatic plant onto land, some 475 million years ago. Microbial life had colonized the land earlier, but it was the movement of plants onto land that created a food source that allowed animal life to follow. That movement occurred just once, Friedman said, when a single lineage of green algae survived on the ocean’s edge. It evolved into primitive plants like today’s liverworts and mosses, and gave rise to the large variety of land plants we know today.“Our history is tied to these rare, extraordinary events,” Friedman said.Friedman’s talk was the first in the Arboretum’s spring Director’s Lecture Series. He showed slides of some of the diversity of microbial photosynthetic life and also talked about the importance of another process, symbiosis, in complex plant life.Modern plants owe their existence to an ancient act of symbiosis, when an early single-celled ancestor engulfed a photosynthesizing cyanobacterium. In this instance, the cyanobacterium was not digested and instead became part of the cell. It eventually became the chloroplast that performs photosynthesis in plant cells today.“All the acquisition of photosynthesis in eukaryotes was not an innovation in chemistry, it was an innovation in symbiosis,” Friedman said.The next talk in the Director’s Lecture Series, “Biodiversity 2013: Crisis and Opportunity” by Harvard Professor of Biology and Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology James Hanken, will be held on Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. The lecture is free, but registration is requested. Visit the website to register and view upcoming lectures.last_img read more

Read More

A first for Caricom – Region now has two serving women prime ministers

first_img Tweet Share 10 Views   no discussions Share NewsRegional A first for Caricom – Region now has two serving women prime ministers by: – January 6, 2012center_img Share Sharing is caring! BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — When Portia Simpson Miller took the ceremonial oath yesterday afternoon from Governor General Sir Patrick Allen as Jamaica’s new prime minister, it was a history-making event for the rest of the Caribbean Community (Caricom).For, along with her Trinidad and Tobago counterpart, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, it would mean that for the first time in Caricom’s 38-year history two women prime ministers will now be among the heads of Government in the 15-member Community.Of quite different cultural and political background, what the 66-year-old Simpson-Miller, leader of the People’s National Party (PNP) and Persad-Bissessar, leader of the United National Congress and dominant partner in her People’s Partnership Government, would have in common is an evident commitment to expedite the process of ending all forms of discrimination, and most certainly elevate the rights of women.They have triumphed over male colleagues of recognised political expertise and long history in multi-party parliamentary democracy to reach the zenith in leadership of party and government. Now it would be most instructive to follow how, separately and together whenever possible, they make their impact on regional policies and programmes of immediate and longterm interests to Caricom.The popular ‘Sister P’ in Jamaican politics had her baptism as prime minister in March 2006, after she succeeded the retired PJ Patterson, by defeating all her male challengers for the PNP’s leadership. By September 2007, her PNP was defeated by the Jamaica Labour Party, then under the leadership of Bruce Golding who chose to walk away from the challenge to lead it into a new general election before last year end.And with Golding’s successor, 39-year-old Andrew Holness as new JLP leader and prime minister for some two months, Simpson-Miller triumphantly took the PNP to the ‘mountain top’ by capturing 42 of the now 63-member House of Representatives. Following her official appointment as prime minister yesterday afternoon, it would be reasonable to expect the initial shape of her Cabinet, if not the complete composition before weekend.At the same time, in the last internal election of Trinidad and Tobago’s UNC, prior to the national poll that took place within months of each other in 2010, the result was the historic emergence of a woman for the first time in the history of electoral politics in that twin-island state.The woman of such fame was Persad-Bissessar, first female attorney general under the Government of Basdeo Panday, her former political guru who she had convincingly defeated for the party’s leadership and went on to secure, some three months later, a stunning national victory when her coalition of parties swept to State power with 29 of the 41 parliamentary seats.Before the rise and fall (at different election periods) of Simpson Miller and Persad-Bissessar, party politics and governance within Caricom had the opportunity to assess and benefit from the separate leadership provided by the indomitable Janet Jagan of Guyana and Dame Eugenia Charles of Dominica — both now deceased.CCJ among challengesAmong current political challenges facing both Prime Ministers Simpson Miller and Persad-Bissessar would be how they deal with an issue of regionwide interest that cannot be expediently brushed under the carpet — accessing the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the institution of last resort in their respective jurisdictions.When the UNC was in power, and Persad-Bissessar was in Panday’s Cabinet, the government of Trinidad and Tobago was quite supportive of arrangements to operationalise the CCJ with headquarters in Port-of-Spain. During last year, the Persad-Bissessar PPG administration did nothing to encourage hope for accessing the CCJ as the country’s final court. Instead, it had raised more uneasiness about an improved relationship with the CCJ, beyond a current original jurisdiction on settlement of disputes.In Jamaica, on the other hand, the then opposition JLP kept frustrating efforts by the PNP to cut the constitutional apron string with the London-based Privy Council and access instead the CCJ — both as the court of original jurisdiction and as a final appellate institution.Now, within days of the PNP’s landslide victory, former attorney general A J Nicholson, chose to signal the determination of the Simpson Miller-led administration to push ahead with plans to access the CCJ as Jamaica’s final Court of Appeal.Nicholson has since also dismissed a call for a national referendum on the issue, pointing out that there were no precedent of a former British colony having to first secure a referendum mandate to sever ties with the Privy Council. He has stressed that as Jamaica proceeds with arrangements to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year as an independent nation, the Government would be advancing plans to have legislation in place to end the relationship with the Privy Council.As citizens of our Community wait to assess the commonality and differences in leadership styles of Prime Ministers Simpson Miller and Persad-Bissessar and, of more relevance, their policies and programmes on regional developments, there are reasons to think that both of these women leaders can be assured of much political goodwill across the region, even as they face domestic challenges.They would meet for their first encounter in regional politics when they participate in Caricom’s forthcoming scheduled Inter-Sessional Meeting in Suriname, which will be hosted by new chairman of the Community, President Dési Bouterse.BY RICKEY SINGHJamaica Observerlast_img read more

Read More

Lottoland Nigel Birrell slams DCMS for ‘judgement with no evidence’ on EuroMillions betting

first_img Submit Camelot under fire for exploiting National Lottery age limits July 20, 2020 StumbleUpon Cross-party think-tank calls for £100 monthly limit on gambling August 5, 2020 Nigel Birrell, the Chief Executive of online lottery operator Lottoland, has slammed the UK government’s decision to ban betting on non-UK EuroMillions’ games. “We believe that today’s decision is unjustified, and sets a dangerous precedent for policy-making on the basis of no evidence,” he said. “It will do nothing but stifle innovation in the sector.”Yesterday, remote lottery operators were handed a shock as the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) moved for an outright ban for betting on EuroMillions lottery draws by third-party operators.In its industry update, DCMS stated that it wanted to safeguard the EuroMillions game, and protect its funding for UK national causes and charity initiatives.  DCMS states that its decision follows an industry consultation launched in March 2017, in which it has gathered wide support to restrict betting on EuroMilllions draw.Gibraltar-based Lottoland was one of the five remote lottery operators considered by DCMS to have ‘run counter to the spirit’ of the National Lottery and its mandate for helping good causes.Issuing a media update, Birrell defends Lottoland’s services stating DCMS lottery review is flawed with ineffective evidence against remote lottery stakeholders.He added: “DCMS itself recently stated in the FOBT consultation that any decisions on the outcome must be based on clear evidence. In today’s consultation response from the Government, they clearly state that the current evidence base is not conclusive.“We believe a review period was a proportionate and a responsible way forward that would have allowed for a final decision to be made on real evidence. Given the significant impact to our UK business of this decision, we are reviewing all available options before determining our next steps.” UKGC launches fourth National Lottery licence competition August 28, 2020 Related Articles Share Sharelast_img read more

Read More