Warm weather wakes snakes

first_imgSANTA CLARITA – Spring promises warmer days and budding blooms, but beware: Unseasonable weather has awakened rattlesnakes early from their winter snooze. The local nature center has documented several sightings. “When you have strange, erratic weather patterns, you have strange, erratic emergence of animals,” said Ian Swift, director of the Placerita Canyon Nature Center and supervisor of the 350-acre park. “Things like temperature, rainfall, humidity are all these cues they respond to when it’s time to emerge.” Gauges at the nature center measured just 2inches of rainfall since July, one-tenth of the norm. Winter days when temperatures rise above the low 70s are considered warm. November tallied 10 such days; December had eight; January had five; and February had eight, said Stuart Seto of the National Weather Service. Southern Pacific rattlesnakes are the species indigenous to Southern California. About 200 snakebites are reported each year statewide. This month, a sixth-grader at Leona H. Cox Elementary School in Canyon Country was bitten by a juvenile rattlesnake that found its way into a classroom. The school backs up to a rugged hillside, and staff members are reviewing animal-safety precautions with students, Principal Laura Banda said. Swift said the recent cold snap, where temperatures dipped lower than in decades, probably killed many snakes, especially babies. Snake season typically ranges from mid-March to late October. “Snakes are a natural rodent control,” Hoffman said. “They’re part of nature’s checks and balances.” Experts caution against handling rattlesnakes and urge people to call the department of animal control for removal. If you are bitten, call 911, immediately lower the area of the bite below your heart and remove any jewelry or clothing that might constrict blood flow. [email protected] (661) 257-5255 During winter, rattlers become inactive, imbedding themselves deep underground in abandoned animal burrows where the thermostat is pretty constant. Snakes are cold-blooded and unable to control their inner warmth. “Warm temperatures and extended daylight causes reptiles to become active,” said Russ Smith, general curator of reptiles at the Los Angeles Zoo. “They start crawling around looking for food, and in early spring they start looking for a mate. This month, we’ve already had 90-degree weather, and that’s gotten the little guys active.” If snakes had hands to set their ideal thermostat, they would fix it between 75 and 85degrees. Frank Hoffman, education director at the nature center, attributes the flurry of sightings before the first day of spring to warm weather and lack of rain. According to the National Weather Service, southwestern California has experienced a very warm year, in part because of strong northeast winds blowing lots of warm, dry air. last_img read more

Google’s SMS internet for Uganda

first_imgThe Google SMS Health Tips response to the words “pregnant HIV”. The Google SMS Search response to the words “NEWS Michael Jackson funeral”. Mary AlexanderFind out more about using MediaClubSouthAfrica.com materialInternet giant Google has launched yet another innovative new product, this time using a fairly old technology: an SMS-based information service for people without access to computers or high-end phones in the more remote parts of Africa.Set up in collaboration with MTN Uganda, the local subsidiary of South African’s multinational cellular service provider MTN, is a suite of mobile-phone applications which will allow people to access information, via SMS, on a number of topics. These include health and agriculture, news, local weather, sport and more, as well as Google Trader, a SMS-based marketplace application.“At Google we seek to serve a broad base of people — not only those who can afford to access the internet from the convenience of their workplace or with a computer at home,” Joe Mucheru, head of Google sub-Saharan Africa, and Fiona Lee, Africa project manager, said in a blog announcing the service on Monday.With Africa having the lowest internet penetration coupled with the highest mobile growth rate – and with most of those phones having only voice and texting capabilities – the most efficient way to give people access to information is via SMS.“It’s important to reach users wherever they are, with the information they need, in areas with the greatest information poverty,” Mucheru and Lee said. “In many places around the world, people look to their phones, rather than their computers, to find information they need in their daily lives. This is especially true in Africa.”Initially launched only in Uganda, the service is effectively a limited, SMS-based form of the internet, with Google SMS Tips providing a simplified search function. Here users enter a free-form text query, which Google’s algorithms restructure to identify keywords, search a database of answers, and return the most relevant answer.Google SMS Tips includes Health Tips, which provides information on sexual and reproductive health; ClinicFinder, which helps users find a clinic near them, as well as the clinic’s telephone number and the services it offers; and Farmer’s Friend, which provides weather forecasts and information on planting, pest management and disease control.“If a pregnant woman has a question about prenatal services, she can text her question to 6001 and get a response right away,” said Rachel Payne, Google’s Uganda country manager. “Now people in any part of Uganda can easily find the information that is most critical to them.”Texting the words “pregnant HIV”, for example, produces the following SMS response: “If a pregnant woman has not got HIV/AIDS then her baby will not have HIV/AIDS. If the mother gets HIV during pregnancy her baby is at risk of getting  infected. If your partner has HIV/AIDS you could catch it from them. To prevent this ALWAYS use a condom when you have sex. If you think you might have HIV/AIDS GET TESTED.” The user may then receive additional information by selecting a number of options.Google SMS Search, which in Uganda uses the number 6006, provides information on news, sports scores, definitions, translations, currency conversions, bible texts and a lot more. Texting “Michael Jackson funeral” produces an AFP report under the headline “Jackson funeral takes shape as drug probe widens”.The third service, Google Trader, uses the number 6007 to connect buyers and sellers.“We hope to help alleviate some of the information and access to markets barriers for the poor, especially those in rural areas,” said Payne. “So, when farmers in Iganga want to sell their maize, they can list their crop on Google Trader and a miller in another trading center can find and contact them to buy their goods.”Google SMS comes out of a partnership between Google, the Grameen Foundation, the Busoga Rural Open Source and Development Initiative, the Straight Talk Foundation and Marie Stopes Uganda.It’s the result of the Grameen Foundation’s AppLab, or Application Laboratory, which has been working for more than a year to develop mobile applications for those who have limited access to information and communications technology.“This launch also represents an important milestone, as our first major initiative in Uganda, one of the newest locations where Google is setting up operations,” Payne said.“As the East African fibre optic cables begin to connect Uganda to the global internet community, it is vital that the foundation for a thriving internet economy also be established.”Do you have queries or comments about this article? Email Mary Alexander at [email protected] articlesMobile money grows in Africa Better farming with mobiles Facebook says ‘hakuna matata’ Early African fossils found SA Google Earth layer is tops Google to put Africa online MTN in new empowerment deal Useful linksGoogle SMSMTN GroupMTN UgandaGoogle BlogGoogle Africa Blog Grameen FoundationBusoga Rural Open Source and Development InitiativeStraight Talk FoundationMarie Stopes Ugandalast_img read more

Ntando Makwela: The Dynamic Kid

first_imgPhoto supplied by Ntando MakwelaPlay Your Part Ambassador, Ntando Makwela is a 16-year-old author and motivational speaker from Mulbarton, Gauteng.  He co-hosts a  show on an online radio station called Brand Live, where he motivates and inspires young South Africans to build their future now by focusing on growing and developing their talents.Published in December 2017, his book “The Dynamic Kid: 9 Keys to Unlock Your Future” is a self-help book  providing the reader with step-by-step guidance to becoming a dynamic person.Ntando is an aspiring physicist and spends a lot of his time reading, researching and writing books. He believes Africa is the future as it has more than 200 million young people between ages 16 and 24. He believes that young people can do anything they set their minds to.Ntando has partnered  with another young author, Megan Werner,  to build a sling aeroplane supported by 20 teenagers who will be selected from High Schools around Gauteng. Together they plan to fly the aeroplane as co-pilots from Cape Town to Cairo. The group will land in various countries throughout the continent where they will have public speaking sessions, sharing the stage with other leading young people to inspire, motivate and challenge young Africans from the South to the North of Africa. Prominent historic and tourist attractions will be visited to add adventure, fun and flavour to the trip. This adventure will be aired on a television series called “Molo Africa: From Cape to Cairo” (http://moloafrica.co.za/).Keep track of Ntando’s endeavours on Twitter at @NtandoMakwela15last_img read more

Principles for Effective Financial Education

first_imgBy Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, [email protected] post is part of an ongoing series to support our annual upcoming three-day learning event. The Personal Finance Virtual Learning Event will be held June 5-7 and this year will focus on the soft skills financial professionals need to effectively meet the needs of their clients and students. Learn more and register for sessions here: https://militaryfamilies.extension.org/personal-finance/virtual-learning-event/In June 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) held a webinar called Principles for Effective Financial Education. In the webinar, the CFPB provided key insights that were gathered through its research and other best practices. The focus was on financial education that results in changed knowledge, skills, and attitudes of program participants and, ultimately, actions that they take to achieve greater financial well-being.The CFPB defined financial well-being on the webinar as “A state of being wherein a person can fully meet current and ongoing financial obligations, can feel secure in their financial future, and is able to make choices that allow enjoyment of life.” According to CFPB research, there are four elements of financial well-being:Control over day-to-day, month-to-month finances (Present Security)Capacity to absorb a financial shock (Future Security)Financial freedom to make choices to enjoy life (Present Freedom of Choice)On track to meet financial goals (Future Freedom of Choice)According to CFPB research, financial education programs should contain seven key features. High-quality programs must: 1. Remain unbiased, 2. Be accessible, 3. Be evidence-based, 4. Have quality standards, 5. Define and monitor success, 6. Be appropriate in duration, and 7. Help learning stick.The five CFPB financial principles for effective financial education are as follows:Know the Individuals and Families to be Served– Financial education programs can be more effective if they are matched to an individual’s specific challenges, goals, and circumstances rather than using a “one-size-fits-all” approach for all learners. Using this approach (e.g., starting with a needs assessment and focusing on client-driven goals) can help financial educators tailor programs according to learner needs and develop realistic expectations about the potential impact of programs.Provide Actionable, Relevant, and Timely Information– Personal finance information should be delivered in a way that translates knowledge into real life decisions and actions. For example, housing counseling programs have been shown to be effective by relating knowledge to a home-buying decision or goal. Ditto for financial education for Individual Development Account (IDA) program participants. The CFPB noted that technology can be effective to deliver information in small and timely increments.Improve Key Financial Skills- The CFPB found that people need three key skills to put financial knowledge to use: 1. Knowing when and how to find reliable information, 2. Knowing how to process financial information to make sound financial decisions, and 3. Knowing how to execute financial decisions. Financial educators should provide opportunities to practice financial behaviors and develop “if-then” plans and simplified, memorable, and actionable guidelines (e.g., Set a goal, Make a plan, Save automatically).Build on Motivation– Financial educators should frame financial decisions to highlight their connection to an important financial goal of learners. Two other key strategies are to provide people with opportunities to achieve small victories (i.e., successful outcomes) with tangible results and to assist with implementation planning (i.e., spelling out the specifics of successive steps that are needed to accomplish a financial goal).Make it Easy to Make Good Decisions and Follow Through– People’s decisions and actions are influenced by their environment and the way choices that are presented. Financial educators can help tilt external factors in consumers’ favor with strategies such as setting up automated reminders and text alerts to save, spend wisely, and save automatically and helping align consumers’ recurring bills with paydays.For more information about CFPB research about effective financial education, read the full report.last_img read more