Monthly Archives: January 2019

Katsande explains Middendorp’s approach at Chiefs

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Kaizer Chiefs captain Willard Katsande


Kaizer Chiefs captain Willard Katsande says that coach Ernst Middendorp and his assistant Shaun Bartlett encourage players to give their opinions before a common ground is agreed upon.

Katsande remains a key part of the Glamour Boys set-up under Middendorp despite recently turning 33.

Chiefs appear to have gained some stability in the Premiership since the German’s arrival although they were not quite at their best in getting knocked out of the CAF Confederations Cup by Zesco United.

Nonetheless, since his arrival in early December to take over from Giovanni Solinas, Amakhosi have cut the gap on PSL leaders Bidvest Wits from 12 to seven points.

The Soweto giants occupy fifth place in the table on 27 points from 18 matches played.

The Zimbabwe international told reporters: “They [Middendorp and Bartlett] are giving us a structure and telling us to think about it, after which they always want to hear submissions from us.

“It’s a lot nicer because it allows the players to also express themselves, because we have so much talent and we can also benefit out of this.

“I think we are on the right track, and I trust the process. We can’t say we are there yet, but we are improving with each game.

“Every day at training we are learning, and it pushes us to put everything into our DNA to understand what it is that the coach wants.

“He’s a guy who opens the door to you, asking, ‘What do you think?’ You then share opinions and he also submits his, and you find a common ground. I think that’s helping us a lot.

“Also, the player management is good because they give us energy when the chips are down, which makes the players always want to give their best and for the mood to be high.

“We’re headed in the right direction and there’s still room for improvement.”

Chiefs are next in action in a Nedbank Cup Round of 32 tie against minnows Tornado FC on Sunday at the Sisa Dukashe Stadium in Mdantsane. Kickoff is 15:00.

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Are microbes causing your milk allergy?

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Millions of Americans suffer from food allergies. Albina Glisic/Shutterstock.com

In the past 30 years, food allergies have become increasingly common in the United States. Changes to human genetics can’t explain the sudden rise. That is because it takes many generations for changes to spread that widely within a population. Perhaps the explanation lies in changes to our environment, particularly our internal environment. Shifting lifestyle practices over the last half-century – increasing antibiotic and antimicrobial use, surface sterilization, air filtration and changes to diet – have changed our internal environment and wiped out important bacteria with beneficial health effects.

Bacteria (red) reside among the epithelial cells (blue) and the mucus (green) of a mouse small intestine.
UChicago, [email protected], CC BY-SA

For many years, my research group at the University of Chicago has been exploring the role that intestinal bacteria play in preventing allergic responses to food. Bacteria, together with viruses, fungi and other small organisms living in and on our bodies, collectively make up the microbiome and play a critical supporting role in health.

The microbiome is our internal environment. Humans and microbes have “grown up” together: As humans evolved, so did their microbes. We tend to think of health practices as changing slowly, but from the perspective of the bacteria in our guts, changes in their composition and function have happened more quickly – and the results are dramatic.

Intestinal bacteria and allergies

Several years ago, my research group, together with a collaborator in Italy, Roberto Berni Canani, was comparing the bacteria present in infants with a diagnosed cow’s milk allergy to those without. We found some remarkable differences between the two groups. This led us to wonder whether the different bacteria present in each of the two groups are sufficient to protect against allergy. And if so, could we figure out why?

To test this idea, we transplanted the entire microbiome of the two different groups – the healthy infants and those allergic to cow’s milk – into special laboratory mice that were bred in a completely sterile environment, with no bacteria of their own. The idea was simple: If we transplant the different groups of bacteria into mice, will the mouse become allergic to cow’s milk or not?

When we did this, we were stunned by the results: The bacteria from a healthy infant could protect the mouse from developing an anaphylactic response to a cow’s milk protein, while the bacteria from a cow’s milk allergic infant did not.

A new diagnostic?

When we cataloged bacteria present in the mice colonized with healthy bacteria and those present in the mice colonized with the cow’s milk allergic bacteria, we were able to calculate a ratio of protective to nonprotective groups. This ratio could accurately predict whether or not the infants had an allergy. We also learned that the two different groups of bacteria activate different genes in the mouse gut.

These genes influence a variety of processes in the intestine, such as metabolism and permeability. We identified one bacterial species in particular, Anaerostipes caccae, as the key. When we put only this species into a germ-free mouse, the mouse was protected from food allergy.

These studies show a health-promoting role for the microbiome in food allergy. It’s clear that the internal environment of the intestine is very different in infants with and without food allergy, and that this internal environment changes the biochemistry of the intestine.

Our study also suggests a way forward to harness these protective bacteria, and the molecules that they produce, as therapies to prevent and to treat food allergy. They could also work well as a diagnostic tool for predicting allergies and allergy risk. Therapies based on this idea remain 5 to 10 years away, but I am excited for their prospects. Such therapies may provide relief for children, parents, caregivers and patients living with food allergy.

The Conversation

Cathryn Nagler is the President and Co-Founder of ClostraBio, Inc.

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Why paper maps still matter in the digital age

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Which is the right map for you? Icatnews/shutterstock.com

Ted Florence is ready for his family trip to Botswana. He has looked up his hotel on Google Maps and downloaded a digital map of the country to his phone. He has also packed a large paper map. “I travel all over the world,” says Florence, the president of the international board of the International Map Industry Association and Avenza, a digital map software company. “Everywhere I go, my routine is the same: I get a paper map, and I keep it in my back pocket.”

With the proliferation of smartphones, it’s easy to assume that the era of the paper map is over. That attitude, that digital is better than print, is what I call “technochauvinism.” In my book, “Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World,” I look at how technochauvinism has been used to create an unnecessary, occasionally harmful bias for digital over print or any other kind of interface. A glance at the research reveals that the paper map still thrives in the digital era, and there are distinct advantages to using print maps.

Your brain on maps

Cognitive researchers generally make a distinction between surface knowledge and deep knowledge. Experts have deep knowledge of a subject or a geography; amateurs have surface knowledge.

Digital interfaces are good for acquiring surface knowledge. Answering the question, “How do I get from the airport to my hotel in a new-to-me city?” is a pragmatic problem that requires only shallow information to answer. If you’re traveling to a city for only 24 hours for a business meeting, there’s usually no need to learn much about a city’s layout.

Physically handling a map can help you remember a route better.
Veles Studio/shutterstock.com

When you live in a place, or you want to travel meaningfully, deep knowledge of the geography will help you to navigate it and to understand its culture and history. Print maps help you acquire deep knowledge faster and more efficiently. In experiments, people who read on paper consistently demonstrate better reading comprehension than people who read the same material on a screen. A 2013 study showed that, as a person’s geographic skill increases, so does their preference for paper maps.

For me, the difference between deep knowledge and surface knowledge is the difference between what I know about New York City, where I have lived for years, and San Francisco, which I have visited only a handful of times. In New York, I can tell you where all the neighborhoods are and which train lines to take and speculate about whether the prevalence of Manhattan schist in the geological substrate influenced the heights of the buildings that are in Greenwich Village versus Midtown. I’ve invested a lot of time in looking at both paper and digital maps of New York. In San Francisco, I’ve only ever used digital maps to navigate from point to point. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know where anything is in the Bay Area.

Our brains encode knowledge as what scientists call a cognitive map. In psychology-speak, I lack a cognitive map of San Francisco.

“When the human brain gathers visual information about an object, it also gathers information about its surroundings, and associates the two,” wrote communication researchers Jinghui Hou, Justin Rashid and Kwan Min Lee in a 2017 study. “In a similar manner to how people construct a mental map of a physical environment (e.g., a desk in the center of an office facing the door), readers form a ‘cognitive map’ of the physical location of a text and its spatial relationship to the text as a whole.”

Reading in print makes it easier for the brain to encode knowledge and to remember things. Sensory cues, like unfolding the complicated folds of a paper map, help create that cognitive map in the brain and help the brain to retain the knowledge.

The same is true for a simple practice like tracing out a hiking route on a paper map with your finger. The physical act of moving your arm and feeling the paper under your finger gives your brain haptic and sensorimotor cues that contribute to the formation and retention of the cognitive map.

Map mistakes

Another factor in the paper versus digital debate is accuracy. Obviously, a good digital map is better than a bad paper map, just like a good paper map is better than a bad digital map.

Technochauvinists may believe that all digital maps are good, but just as in the paper world, the accuracy of digital maps depends entirely on the level of detail and fact-checking invested by the company making the map.

For example, a 2012 survey by the crowdsourcing company Crowdflower found that Google Maps accurately located 89 percent of businesses, while Apple Maps correctly found 74 percent. This isn’t surprising, as Google invests millions in sending people around the world to map terrain for Google StreetView. Google Maps are good because the company invests time, money and human effort in making its maps good – not because digital maps are inherently better.

Fanatical attention to detail is necessary to keep digital maps up to date, as conditions in the real world change constantly. Companies like Google are constantly updating their maps, and will have to do so regularly for as long as they continue to publish. The maintenance required for digital content is substantial – a cost that technochauvinists often ignore.

What to do when your map doesn’t match up with the real world?
kanvag/shutterstock.com

In my view, it’s easier to forgive the errors in a paper map. Physical maps usually include an easily visible publication date so users can see when the map was published. (When was the last time you noticed the date-of-last-update on your car navigation system?) When you are passively following the spoken GPS directions of a navigation system, and there is, say, an unmarked exit, it confuses the GPS system and causes chaos among the people in the car. (Especially the backseat drivers.)

The best map for the job

Some of the deeper flaws of digital maps are not readily apparent to the public. Digital systems, including cartographic ones, are more interconnected than most people realize. Mistakes, which are inevitable, can go viral and create more trouble than anyone anticipates.

For example: Reporter Kashmir Hill has written about a Kansas farm in the geographic center of the U.S. that has been plagued by legal trouble and physical harassment, because a digital cartography database mistakenly uses the farm’s location as a default every time the database can’t identify the real answer.

“As a result, for the last 14 years, every time MaxMind’s database has been queried about the location of an IP address in the U.S. it can’t identify, it has spit out the default location of a spot two hours away from the geographic center of the country,” Hill wrote. “This happens a lot: 5,000 companies rely on MaxMind’s IP mapping information, and in all, there are now over 600 million IP addresses associated with that default coordinate.”

A technochauvinist mindset assumes everything in the future will be digital. But what happens if a major company like Google stops offering its maps? What happens when a government shutdown means that satellite data powering smartphone GPS systems isn’t transmitted? Right now, ambulances and fire trucks can keep a road atlas in the front seat in case electronic navigation fails. If society doesn’t maintain physical maps, first responders won’t be able to get to addresses when there is a fire or someone is critically ill.

Interrupting a country’s GPS signals is also a realistic cyberwarfare tactic. The U.S. Navy has resumed training new recruits in celestial navigation, a technique that dates back to ancient Greece, as a guard against when the digital grid gets hacked.

Ultimately, I don’t think it should be a competition between physical and digital. In the future, people will continue to need both kinds of maps. Instead of arguing whether paper or digital is a better map interface, people should consider what map is the right tool for the task.

Meredith Broussard is the author of:

Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World

MIT Press provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

The Conversation

MIT Press provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

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It’s cold! A physiologist explains how to keep your body feeling warm

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It’s all about holding on to the heat you have. Jason Rosewel/Unsplash, CC BY

Whether waiting for a bus, playing outside or walking the dog – during the colder winter season, everyone is looking for ways to stay warm. Luckily, the process your body uses to break down foods serves as an internal heater.

But when the weather is cold, some defensive strategies are also necessary to prevent your body from losing its heat to the surrounding environment. As the temperature difference between your warm body and its frigid surroundings increases, heat is lost more quickly. It becomes more of a challenge to maintain a normal body temperature.

And two people with the same exact body temperature in the same exact environment may have very different perceptions. One may feel frozen while the other is completely comfortable.

But beyond the subjective experience of coldness, researchers do know that natural physiological responses to cold as well as behavioral adaptations – like bundling up! – can help keep your body around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit and make sure you feel warm.

Some jobs necessitate being out in inclement weather, and your physiology has some defenses against cold conditions.
U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Cody Rowe, CC BY-NC

What your body does

Your blood courses through your body carrying nutrients, oxygen and other biological important substances. And this delivery system also brings heat produced in the muscles to the skin, where it’s released.

When you enter a cold environment, your body redistributes blood to the torso, protecting and maintaining the warmth of the vital organs there. At the same time, your body constricts blood flow to the skin. Narrowing the roads to the skin means less heat can make the journey, and so less is lost to the environment. And minimizing how much blood goes to the skin – which is in closest proximity to the cold – means you can hold onto more of your internal heat longer.

Another defensive strategy the body uses to stay warm is cranking up muscle activity. This in turn increases your metabolism and creates more heat. Think of a brisk winter walk when the mercury has really plunged – your teeth may chatter and your arms and legs may shake uncontrollably in shivers. This seemingly nonproductive use of the muscles is actually an effort to increase body temperature by breaking down more nutrients to stoke your internal furnace.

Differences in body size, body fatness and metabolic activity influence how different individuals experience cold. Smaller people with lower levels of body fat lose more heat to the environment than larger people with more body fat. A bigger individual may have increased muscle mass, which is a producer of heat, or elevated body fatness, which functions as an insulator to reduce heat loss. These differences are not easy to change.

Things you can do

In order to maintain a feeling of warmth, you can manipulate your clothing, your activity and your food.

The most common thing people do to stay warm is wear a coat, hat and gloves. Obviously increasing clothing thickness or piling on the layers helps. Winter clothes serve not to warm you up, but more as a means to keep the heat you are producing from dispersing to the surrounding environment.

Contrary to popular belief, the head is not a greater source of heat loss than any other adequately covered body part. If you were to wear a warm hat and no coat, your torso would contribute the most to heat loss, thanks to how your body redistributes its blood in cold conditions. If you can keep your torso warm, you’ll maintain blood flow to your limbs and can often keep the arms, legs, hands and feet warm.

Secondly, being physically active causes your muscles to contract, breaking down more nutrients, which generates additional heat. This additional heat production can help maintain body temperature and the feeling of warmth. Maybe you’ve noticed this in your own life if you’ve run in place for a bit or done a quick set of jumping jacks when you’re out in the cold.

Unfortunately, physical activity or layers of clothing can tip the balance past what you need to offset heat losses. In that case, you’ll experience an increase in body temperature – and your body will start sweating in an effort to cool down. This is a bad outcome, because the evaporation of sweat will lead to greater rates of heat loss.

Take some tips from those who enjoy the great outdoors even when the mercury falls.
Serhii Danevych/Unsplash, CC BY

Finally, eating increases the body’s production of heat. The process of breaking down food is going to slightly increase body temperature. Sometimes campers will have a snack before bed in an effort to stay warmer through the night. While the metabolic impact of a small snack may not be huge, the tipping point between heat balance and heat loss is pretty small.

You may also notice the urge to urinate – what physicians call cold diuresis. It’s a side effect of constricting blood vessels and the resulting increase in blood pressure as the same amount of blood has a smaller space available to travel through your body.

And if you’re the type who tends to feel cold and leave your coat on even inside, you might want to rethink the habit. Your skin will be flush with blood as your body tries to dissipate excess heat inside. Worst of all, you may start to sweat. Once you head back out the door, you might feel even colder initially than you would have as the cold air saps the heat from your skin and your sweat evaporates. To stay comfortable, your best bet is dressing appropriately, whether inside or outdoors this winter.

The Conversation

JohnEric Smith has received research funding from multiple sports nutrition companies. He is a member of Dymatize Nutrition’s Advisory Board.

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The Trump administration wants to tighten SNAP work requirements, bypassing Congress

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Fewer people getting SNAP benefits can lead to more skipped meals. maradon 333/Shutterstock.com

The Trump administration wants to tighten even further longstanding restrictions on who is eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

The farm bill, which gets updated every five years or so, spells out who can participate in SNAP, the assistance program previously known as food stamps. The most recent version of this legislation, which President Donald Trump signed into law on Dec. 20, 2018, left out new limits on the eligibility of adults without children. Those limits were part of the House version, but Congress dropped them prior to the bill’s passage.

But that same day, the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed a rule that would restrict access anyway.

Having researched food assistance programs, I’ve seen that the consequences of having too little to eat are daunting. When people can’t afford food, they may skip meals, which leads to increased stress and poor nutrition. For people with chronic diseases like diabetes, meal-skipping can even make them more prone to hospitalization when their blood sugar gets too low.

Trying for decades

When President Bill Clinton and the Republican-led Congress overhauled the welfare system in 1996, they imposed some work requirements for SNAP participants.

To get these benefits, non-disabled adults between the ages of 18 and 49 without children are required to do paid work or be enrolled in a job training program for at least 20 hours a week. If they fail to find work or enroll in training, they can only participate in the program once every three years for up to three months.

Despite these rules, which block access to millions of adults, nearly 40 million poor Americans in roughly 20 million households rely on SNAP. Even though the average SNAP recipient just gets about US$1.40 per meal, research indicates that this program reduces food insecurity by nearly 30 percent.

Policymakers argue that these restrictions improve economic security by encouraging people to join the labor force. And most do join the labor force. A report the White House Council of Economic Advisers released during the Obama administration found that work rates among SNAP recipients had risen steadily since the 1990s.

However, does joining the labor force really improve economic security? The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank, found that requiring safety net program recipients to work did not make them better off. In some cases, work requirements have plunged people deeper into poverty.

Additionally, researchers at Stanford and Johns Hopkins universities have observed that the jobs poor people take have remained largely low-paying. This means they still need SNAP because they don’t earn enough to keep food on the table.

Bypassing Congress

Although SNAP is federally funded, the states administer the program. Currently, state governments can request waivers for SNAP time limits on benefits for people with work requirements for multiple reasons, including if their local jobless rate is at least 20 percent above the national average for a recent 24-month period. Based on the current national unemployment rate, the proposed new rule would bar states from applying for this waiver unless their unemployment rate is at least 7 percent.

Among other changes, the federal government would limit the flexibility states now have to exercise a degree of discretion in exempting non-disabled adults without kids from the three-month time limit.

The public will get two months to comment on these new rules. If this rule were to go into effect as is, more than 750,000 people could lose SNAP benefits, according to the draft language. For now, people who rely on SNAP can still use their benefits – as long as the government shutdown doesn’t go past February. After then, unless Congress passes legislation specifically funding SNAP, the program’s fate is unknown.

This administrative route to bypassing congressional consensus is not how American democracy is supposed to work – nor is it the norm, as Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, explained when the USDA proposed this rule.

“Congress writes laws and the Administration is required to write rules based on the law,” she said, “not the other way around.”

This democracy works because of the checks and balances between the three branches of government. When one branch chooses to override this separation of powers, I believe democracy – just like SNAP participants’ benefits – is jeopardized.

The Conversation

Lindsey Haynes-Maslow receives funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-Ed).

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Shutdown’s economic impact is a forceful reminder of why government matters

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One of the more visible impacts of the shutdown is garbage piling up in parks. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

As the United States endures the longest shutdown in its history, Americans are getting a taste of life without government.

The absence of some services are clearly visible, such as a buildup of trash at national parks or longer lines at airport security checkpoints. Others, like those felt primarily by businesses, are less noticeable but arguably more important, such as an inability to get a small business loan or limited service from the IRS, Securities and Exchange Commission and other key agencies.

Collectively they show that government matters. But once the shutdown ends and the memories of the pain and discomfort it caused begin to fade, the visceral reminder Americans got of this message may fade with it.

As scholars of business and policy, we believe it’s essential that Americans not forget. In fact, the shutdown provides a good opportunity to reflect on the government’s vital role in the free market and find a better balance between regulation and business.

How the shutdown is affecting business

The partial shutdown, in its fifth week, has left about 800,000 government employees either furloughed or working without pay, affecting more than 10 agencies.

This has resulted in the slowing or halting of a great deal of activity, including food safety inspections, initial public offerings on the stock market and the approval of new craft beers.

And these costs are felt by citizens as the risks grow to their food, the environment and other things. Economists warn that long-term impacts could also undermine confidence as businesses, consumers and investors lose faith in political leaders’ ability to make constructive policies.

The White House’s own economists estimate that every week of shutdown reduces growth by 0.13 percentage point, meaning the economy has already taken a hit of half a percent. If it goes for another week, total costs could exceed US$6 billion, which is more than what the president is demanding for his border wall.

And yet Americans won’t even know the actual impact because many of the government workers whose job it is to collect and measure economic activity have been sent home.

The shutdown has meant the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau can’t approve new beer labels.
AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger

Hamilton and public goods

While the shutdown crystallizes what the absence of government feels like, the debate over its proper role in business is as old as the American Republic.

For example, Alexander Hamilton, the nation’s first Treasury secretary, wrote eloquently about the need for the government to get involved in markets, specifically through the establishment of a national bank. He called it a key public institution that “facilitates and extends the operations of commerce among individuals. Industry is increased, commodities are multiplied, agriculture and manufacturers flourish: and herein consists the true wealth and prosperity of a state.”

Beyond a central bank, “public goods” often require the protection of a set of laws. Examples include the environment, national defense, national parks, consumer protection and advanced research that helps seed inventions and create the industries of our future.

Author Michael Lewis, in his book “The Fifth Risk,” details many of the important yet little-noticed functions that government agencies handle better than private industry, such as the protection of food safety or the oversight of spent nuclear resources. Further, he shows how a functioning economy depends on civil servants using the best data and science available to provide vital services to all Americans.

To offer just one example of the federal government’s positive role in fostering innovation, its creation of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in 1957 gave us the internet, GPS, stealth aircraft and countless other technologies used in non-defense sectors today.

On the flip side, the absence of proper regulation can lead to serious economic and personal damage, as we saw during the global financial crisis a decade ago. And only government – through regulatory agencies and smartly designed laws – is in a position to prevent another crisis. Indeed, fears are growing that another one may be on the horizon as a result of Wall Street excesses or financial bubbles in housing or debt.

The point is that in all these cases, the question is not about “no government” but about how much, what kind and which level (state or federal).

Americans’ evolving views

It’s good news in our opinion that Americans seem to be increasingly abandoning the view that government should stay out of business and the market. And more are embracing an expanded role.

In 2011, half of Americans polled by Gallup said there’s “too much” regulation. The latest survey, taken in late 2018, found that just 39 percent felt that way – the lowest in a decade – with a growing share saying that the balance is “just right.”

This comes at a time when the Trump administration is boasting about the number of regulations it has eliminated. Yet these surveys suggest Americans don’t simply want fewer regulations, they want better ones.

Even more encouraging in our view is a Cato survey from 2017 that found that large majorities of Americans “believe regulations, at least in the past, have produced positive benefits” and that “regulations can help make businesses more responsive to people’s needs.”

One area where people see a value in government regulation is the financial sector, which is seen as rapacious and in need of more monitoring.

And 1 in 4 Americans surveyed by Gallup said there’s “too little” regulation, a figure that hasn’t changed much in recent years. This suggests that a notable number of Americans don’t trust the private sector and think that government is necessary to curb market excess and other problems.

Toward a better balance

But instead of a debate over the right balance for government, American politicians and others have denigrated government as “the problem” or, more recently, “the swamp.” The terms are meant to say that government is alternatively inept, obstructive or corrupt.

They do this to take advantage of the still too widespread view that government has no role in markets and that regulation represents an unwarranted intrusion on business. This is a misperception that dismays both of us, motivating the very article you are reading.

While there certainly are problems with special interest influence in government and bureaucratic inefficiency, the enterprise as a whole remains central to the operation of capitalism and the markets. After all, capitalism is a set of institutions designed by government in concert with business and civil society.

As National Affairs editor Yuval Levin points out, even Adam Smith, the Scottish economist who wrote the foundational texts on capitalism, argued that “the rules of the market are not self-legislating or naturally obvious.” Rather, Smith said, the market is a public institution that requires rules imposed on it.

So we believe it is time to return to the basics and launch a new effort at reinventing government to improve how the various branches and levels interact with each other and the market.

At the same time, it’s important to provide more public education on what government does, and why, and solicit feedback from citizens on how to do it better – including at the ballot box.

The Conversation

Ellen Hughes-Cromwick receives funding from Sloan Foundation to fund student scholarships to attend our Transportation, Energy, Economics, and the Environment Conference. Ellen is affiliated with American Economic Association, National Association for Business Economics, Board of Trustees of Clark University, NABE Foundation, WorkingNation, and a Senior Advisor for Macro Policy Perspectives, LLC.

Andrew J. Hoffman does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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NBA Betting Preview: Portland Trail Blazers at Oklahoma City Thunder

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Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers head to Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder in a matchup of top Western Conference foes. These teams have met once this season in early January, where the Thunder won 111-109 in Portland. I think that this game and the total are likely to be compared that game in Portland. That is why we see a -5 spread in favor of the Thunder and an over/under of 227. Both teams shot below average in that game, which is why the total is slightly higher than the previous result.

Repeat of Past Meeting?

The previous meeting tells a lot of stories that I think are indicative of the better side in this game. Both teams should have basically the same rotation in this game without injuries. There was also virtually no foul trouble in the last game either. These very similar games can often allow us to analyze potential regression in shooting stats. Shooting varies a ton from game to game, so analyzing which team will shoot better than the last time is really the biggest edge in this game.

The last game was very even throughout, and I believe that these are two of the most even teams in the NBA. They both have a dynamic scoring duo and a good center with 2 starters that are simply role players on a star-heavy team. Comparing Westbrook, George, and Adams to Lillard, McCollum, and Nurkic isn’t really necessary, but I think that they are similar enough to consider them relatively close to equal. In the previous game, Damian Lillard shot 1-8 from the 3-pt line, and the team as a whole shot 29% from the 3-pt line. This is not common for this team, and I expect them to shoot better in this game. Just one more shot in the previous game makes the Blazers a winner, and I think that changes the line here from -5.5 to -4 or even less.

The Thunder shot relatively poorly as well, but they are worse than the Trail Blazers are, coming in at 27th in the NBA compared to the Blazers 8th. The biggest note about the Thunder side of this game is that Russell Westbrook shot 0-2 from three in this game. We saw a less talented Lakers team force Russ to take 3-pt shots and force him to pass within the arc. If the Blazers can implement this proven strategy after seeing someone else do it, I believe that Russell Westbrook’s 31 points on 28 shots may not be what he puts up tonight. I also do not think the Thunder can hold McCollum to 10 points again. McCollum is averaging 20.5 points per game this season. You cannot expect the Thunder to consistently keep him at 10 points.

The Trail Blazers bench was much better in this game, but what did you expect? The Thunder have one of the worst benches in the league, and I believe that their second best bench piece doesn’t play enough. Nerlens Noel is a productive NBA player when he is healthy and on the court. The Thunder do not believe that Noel and Adams can coexist on the court, which I believe hurts their overall bench production. I expect the Thunder bench to be outplayed once again because that is what should happen. When we can identify reasons for the outcome to be different than the first result, that is such a nice edge but sometimes what happens is what was supposed to happen.

Trail Blazers vs. Thunder Prediction

I think this game is incredibly close, but the line just gives too much value to the Blazers. I think the Blazers are very live in this game, so I have to take the 5.5 points and the road team. I also like the moneyline for the Blazers here.

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NFL News and Notes: January 22, 2019

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So it begins, the long, two-week wait until the Super Bowl. In the meantime, there is plenty of news from all around the league to catch up on, so let’s get to it.

Number 53

In case you haven’t heard, Super Bowl 53 will be played between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams. For the Patriots, this will be their third straight Super Bowl appearance and fourth in the last five years. Meanwhile, the Rams haven’t been to the Super Bowl since the 2001 season when they called St. Louis home and lost to the Patriots 20-17. Early betting odds have the Patriots favored by 1.5 points.

Admit It

Both conference championship games had plenty of controversial calls, but a no-call on an obvious pass-interference late in the Saints-Rams game will have people talking for years to come. Nickell Robey-Coleman, who hit Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis without any thought of playing the ball, even admitted after the game that it should have been called pass interference. He said he had been beaten and was just trying to save the touchdown. If the penalty had been called, it would have been highly likely for New Orleans to get the game-winning score before the game went to overtime.

Taking A Look

As a result of the missed call that decided the NFC Championship Game, the NFL has pledged to discuss whether or not to make pass-interference penalties reviewable this offseason. Several coaches, including New Orleans coach Sean Payton, have supported such a measure in the past, so there could be enough momentum heading into the offseason to make a change.

Do Better Next Time

Few Rams had reason to apologize for their performance in the NFC Championship Game, but that’s exactly what running back Todd Gurley did. For whatever reason, Gurley had just four carries and one catch for 13 total yards against the Saints while backup C.J. Anderson got far more touches. Gurley missed time late in the season but insists that he’s not hurt, only saying “I was sorry as hell today.” Sean McVay also indicated that Gurley is healthy and implied that he will try to get him more touches in the Super Bowl.

One More Ride (At Least)

Sunday’s loss to the Rams was no doubt a crushing blow for 40-year old Drew Brees, but he made it clear after the game that he isn’t done yet. “I plan on being here next year and making another run at it,” said Brees, while acknowledging that he’s “not getting any younger.” Despite his age, Brees had one of the best seasons of his career. He also has one year left on his contract, so while he looks like he has plenty left in the tank, it’s also possible that next year is his last.

In the Hunt

Despite being released by the Chiefs after a horrifying and unacceptable video of him striking a woman was released, Kareem Hunt’s NFL may not be over. According to reports, several teams have expressed interest in signing Hunt, although the Bears are the only team to publicly state their interest. Keep in mind that Chicago head coach Matt Nagy was Hunt’s offensive coordinator with the Chiefs in 2017. However, the NFL will surely suspend Hunt, meaning that if he does play in 2019, he probably won’t be playing in Week 1.

The King of Charm City

After much speculation, the Baltimore Ravens have agreed to an extension with head coach John Harbaugh. The exact terms of the deal have not been released, although it’s believed to be a long-term extension for the coach who helped the Ravens turn things around and win the NFC North in 2018 after a three-year playoff drought. There were previous reports of Harbaugh perhaps being traded to one of the eight teams with a coaching vacancy. However, with the NFL coaching carousel all but complete this offseason, Harbaugh appears to be staying in Baltimore for the long run.

The Fight Begins

One storyline to watch closely this offseason involves the Jaguars and running back Leonard Fournette. The team is using his suspension for fighting with Buffalo’s Shaq Lawson as a reason to void the guaranteed money left on his rookie contract. Fournette has officially challenged that decision with the NFL. An arbitrator will decide later this offseason whether the Jaguars will be able to legally justify such a move based on Fournette’s contract. In the meantime, Fournette has met with the team to discuss the situation and his disappointing season. After the meeting, head coach Doug Marrone said he believed Fournette was “in a really good place.”

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This Saints Lawsuit Is Trash But The NFL Has Another Integrity Problem

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Why chase ambulances when you can sprint behind the New Orleans Saints and their broken-hearted fans? After all, the fans are much easier to catch.

You know the story: obvious blown call, Saints lose, Saints coach complains, social media follows, apocalypse now. Less than 48 hours later, disgruntled Saints fans channeled their anger into digging up a lawyer willing to sue Roger Goodell and the NFL.

Saints fans Tommy Badeaux and Candis Lambert filed the lawsuit on behalf of The Who Dat Nation. They want to force Goodell to reverse the outcome of the game or restart it from the missed penalty. Seriously.

Read the entire suit here. Please remember we warned you first because the more attention we give this farce, the more we encourage it. (And yes, we’re aware this is another article about it. That’s only to point out its ridiculous nature.)

What the Saints lawsuit claims

Frank D’Amico, Jr., a Louisiana personal injury attorney calling himself “the strong arm of the law”, filed the Saints lawsuit. It makes the following logic-bending arguments:
As a direct result of the said incident, plaintiffs herein, have been left bereft and with no faith in the National Football League for fairness despite the leagues own rules to correct such errors, along with emotional anguish, monetary loss for ticket holders, who purchased tickets with the presumption of integrity and fairness.
The Saints lawsuit first bemoans the injustice of the missed call, then proceeds with baseless accusations of two Los Angeles-based officials deliberately cheating. It continues by calling Goodell and the league negligent, with these claims:
  • “Failure to maintain proper lookout”
  • “Failure to properly call penalties and infractions during game play”
  • “Failure to review plays to correct field oversight after the fact”
  • “Failure to exercise the rights afforded to the commissioner to correct extraordinary unfair actions”
  • “Failure to enforce the rules of the game”
  • “Failure to properly train and supervise referees”
  • “Any other act of negligence shown at the trial of this matter”

But wait, there’s more …

Did your coffee remain in your mouth after that section? Well it’s certain to be spit out once you check out the alleged damages:

  • “Past, Present and future loss of enjoyment of life”
  • “Present and future loss of entertainment”
  • “Distrust of the game which has become the National pastime”
  • “Other damages itemized at the trial of this matter”

Go back and read the entire Saints lawsuit above if you need. Picking apart the dubious contentions throughout it do not merit the attention that its underlying point does.

Integrity, you say?

Start with the caveat that the NFL stands alone among pro sports leagues in not seeking integrity fees from lawmakers. Given what happened Sunday in New Orleans, that might be for the best.

This Saints lawsuit wants to bring legitimacy to doubts about the integrity of the game. Whether it succeeds in that goal is its own question. It brings up another important question, though: do pro sports leagues really want to put their hands directly into sports betting?

In a world …

Of course the NFL and other leagues are involved already. Pretending that sports betting does not drive a great deal of fan interest is silly.

Imagine the reaction, though, if the NFL received something called an integrity fee from states and operators. Picture if Nickell Robey-Coleman laid out a receiver without a ref throwing a flag while casinos are required to give money to leagues.

The NFL wants control over what types of bets operators can offer and required purchase of its official data. The league cites “ghost games” as an integrity threat, but not the perception of it rigging its games — however misguided the concept is.

Laugh off this no-chance lawsuit because it deserves that. Just don’t ignore the salient point that sits below: integrity is a volatile asset that requires vigilance.

The post This Saints Lawsuit Is Trash But The NFL Has Another Integrity Problem appeared first on Legal Sports Report.

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Pearl River Resort Plans to Launch First Mississippi Sports Betting App

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Mississippi‘s only tribal casino property, Pearl River Resort (PRR), will launch the state’s first sports betting app.

The app only will function while patrons are physically on-site at the resort. This limitation stems from Mississippi gaming regulations, which prevent online wagering outside the host property.

However, casino management says the app’s chief value will be to reduce the need for patrons to occupy the physical sportsbook or wait in line to place wagers. Last week, the sportsbook director, Chris Hopwood, told WTOK:

“It’s very busy in here on a college football Saturday and Sunday, before the games kick off and the mobile app will allow guests to not have to wait in line if they want to come inside for that and the other option is the in-play betting. They will be able to sit there at the counter or their table or any hotel room, wherever they want to go, and make bets.”

Details about the app remain scarce

So far, PRR management has not divulged many details about the app. Even its name and launch date remain unclear at this point.

However, we do know a few tidbits about the app. For one thing, both iOS and Android devices will be able to download and use it.

The app will also allow in-game proposition betting:

“We’re also hoping with the in-play, we’ll have prop bets on the game,” said Hopwood. “So the guests will be allowed to vote on their favorite props that we have throughout game.”

Presumably, the app will also allow standard wagering, like point spread bets and moneylines.

Pearl River Resort a unique property

PRR’s debut of the app may come as a bit of a surprise. The tribal property will beat its larger competitors, like Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts, to the online market in Mississippi.

However, the PRR is one of the unique casino locations in the United States. For one thing, the property is not just one casino — there are actually three on site.

Within the property, the Golden Moon Casino, the Silver Star Casino and the Bok Homa Casino all operate as separate entities. The sportsbook itself was born from the converted Timeout Lounge, a sports bar facility in the Golden Moon.

The resort also features a golf course and a water park. With so many places that sports bettors could be on-site, a sports betting app here makes sense.

Nevertheless, Mississippi will join NevadaNew Jersey and West Virginia as the only states with sports betting apps.

The post Pearl River Resort Plans to Launch First Mississippi Sports Betting App appeared first on Legal Sports Report.

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