Complete mitochondrial genome of the Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella).

first_imgThe Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella) is an abundant Antarctic otariid. Here, we present the complete mitochondrial DNA sequence of this species, which includes 13 protein-coding genes, 22 transfer RNA genes, 2 ribosomal RNA genes, and the control region for a total length of 16,156 bp. A phylogenetic analysis including all 25 publically available pinniped mitogenomes nested the Antarctic fur seal within the Otariid clade, which was clearly resolved from the Phocidae and Odobenidae.last_img read more

It’s time for change

first_imgThree months ago I launched this blog as a German press review. Well, ideas have moved on, and I’m now re-launching it with a view to comment on everything and anything going on in Germany — from current affairs to media to culture, or just whatever crops up. Keep posting comments below too!last_img


first_img× BREAKFAST WITH SANTA — Kim and Argante prepared pancakes at the recent Breakfast with Santa held at St. Vincent de Paul parish under the direction of the Men’s Club.last_img

EXCLUSIVE: Jimmy Herring Talks New Band, This Year’s Losses, And The Unknown Future Of Panic

first_imgJimmy Herring is a contemporary American guitarist whose storied career continues to grow with the debut of his new band, The Invisible Whip. As a founding member of The Aquarium Rescue Unit, Project Z, and Jazz is Dead – in addition to playing with everyone from The Allman Brothers Band to The Dead to Widespread Panic – Herring has made an indelible impact on improvised music.Widespread Panic is about to take over Red Rocks Amphitheatre for three nights and will play various festivals throughout the summer. Then, Herring will spend most of the next couple of months with Jeff Sipe, Matt Slocum, Kevin Scott, and Jason Crosby touring as The Invisible Whip, searching for the musical spirit of Col. Bruce Hampton, and honoring his legacy in what Herring describes as jazz “except with improvisation leaning toward the unknown.” The later part of his year will be spent touring with John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension — a string of shows that Herring is particularly “scared to death” for, in a good way.The last couple of months have been especially difficult for Jimmy Herring, losing his musical mentors and fellow collaborators, Butch Trucks, Col. Bruce Hampton, and Gregg Allman. We caught up with him to better understand, in the grand scheme of things, how this has all affected him and what this means, musically.Kendall Deflin: The last time I saw you was at Butch Trucks’ memorial service after I gave my speech about “Eat A Peach.” Since then, Gregg has passed on, and we officially have to accept the death of the Allman Brothers Band. Given your personal and professional associations with the ABB — your brief tour with the band, your son-in-law Duane Trucks, and the overall umbrella of southern rock family — how has the process of acceptance been for you?Jimmy Herring: It’s just a very firm reminder of your own mortality in one way, and in another, it’s just like, these guys are kings and they’re royalty and you don’t think they’re ever going to go away. They’ve laid down the path that we all walk on everyday, and they paved the road. I can remember listening to them before I even played a guitar, and my brothers would listen to them all the time. It was surreal to ever get to meet them and then to play with them. And then of course, now it just makes you go “what?”Their legacy is very strong of course, and it will be forever. They’ll be listening to At Fillmore East two-hundred years from now. It just makes you go, “god I must be getting old.” Of course, there’s all that too. It hits you on a lot of levels. It makes you wake up and go “damn.” You know, we are only here for a minute, and it’s really important to go out and do what you wanna do and be who you wanna be with and experience the things you want to experience, because it goes by fast. The next thing you know, the ride is coming to a close. It’s a quick reminder of that stuff, don’t you think?KD: Absolutely, and given your unique experience with these people, starting as a fan, then gaining these intimate relationships, it becomes emotionally confusing. Now that they’re gone, we’re reminded of how big of an influence they were on a much greater scale. I keep saying, it’s not just my loss but it’s our loss, and music’s loss in general. Like you said, At Fillmore East will play forever.JH: That’s just one example. They left a lot of examples for us to listen to and enjoy for many years to come. It is our loss, and it’s a huge loss to the music community.KD: Then we lost Col. Bruce Hampton at what was probably the greatest “family reunion” of all time. As one of his many students, how did Col. Bruce influence your life?JH: I can try, but some of it’s hard to put into words. He was like your mentor and your coach, and not just in music — music is such a small part of it. It’s about life with Bruce. He affected all of us in such a way that he altered the course of our lives in a positive direction. I have no idea what I’d be doing right now if it hadn’t been for him.Stranger Than Fiction: The Cosmic Curtain Call Of Col. Bruce HamptonHe just made you look at yourself and think about things that were really important. Playing music is a by-product of life, you know what I mean? If you experience nothing, then you’re not going to play anything either. Being with him . . . [Laughs] He gave you a lot to play! He always used to say, “music is a reflection of life, and if you’re having a bad day, then you shouldn’t sound the same as if you’re having a good day. If a tragedy happens in your life, you should play it.” He was like a musical father-figure. He was our mentor and our muse. He was our adviser in all things.It’s not just me, there’s a lot of people that feel that way. I would call him just about for any kind of advice I might need, and he always gave great advice. And he’d tell you, “do as I say, not as I do.” [Laughs] He has so many of those . . . But, yeah, what I learned from Col. Bruce Hampton just can’t be measured, and it’s really difficult to put in words. Oteil Burbridge, Jeff Mosier, those two guys are really good at putting it into words. They know how to articulate the Bruce thing in words in a way that’s really good, and I’ve always had a hard time explaining it. But it’s different for every person that he encounters, you know?To say we were close would be a huge understatement. He was everything to us. I feel like there are two kinds of musicians — I’ve said this a lot — there are those who got to play with Bruce and those who haven’t. And I really don’t mean that to mean one is better than the other, but definitely different. So as a result of that, most of the people I end up playing with have played with Bruce in one way or another — because we have that in common, and it gives us a common place to start. You know, I still wanna play with the same people I played with coming up through his band, and all the bands he had after that. We were like one big family. And even the bands he had before that! Some of those people have passed on now, but when we got to meet people that played with Bruce before we did, we revered them as being our elders. We respected them and listened to them and wanted to learn from them because everybody has something unique to say about the Bruce experience.Listen To Jon Fishman, John Bell, And More Talk About Col. Bruce From Hampton 70, His Surreal Final ShowKD: It’s that notion of “no boundaries” that seems to tie together and resonate with these “Col. Bruce” musicians. And you are hitting the road with many of them next month as Jimmy Herring and the Invisible Whip. The timing is remarkable for what seems to be a band dedicated to and not possible without Col. Bruce Hampton.JH: These guys I’m playing with are guys I’ve played with a long time. I was in the ARU with Jeff Sipe. Matt Slocum we met through Oteil who he’d met in Birmingham, and he became a family member almost immediately. Bruce loved him, he played with Bruce quite a bit. Kevin Scott is a bass player here in Atlanta, and he played with Bruce quite a bit. He grew up listening to Bruce even before we met him. And then you got Jason Crosby. Every time Jason would fly into rehearsal for this new band, he would go eat breakfast with Bruce in the mornings. Bruce would call me up and go, “you’re rehearsing today…” and I’d think, “how do you know that?” [laughs]. He always kept tabs on his children, and we think of ourselves kind of like his children. He wanted to know how everybody was all the time, and he would find out and call you up and tell you things that were happening in your life, and you would be like, “wait a minute, how do you know that?”So yeah, all of us are close with Bruce and even the band name — I don’t know who said that first, it could have been Roland Kirk or someone like that — but Bruce used to talk about the “invisible whip.” And every time it’d be time to name a band, we would all call Bruce up and we’d go, “Bruce, help us out. We can’t think of a name.” He just always came up with unique things. I didn’t call him about this, I just took the liberty to go ahead and use it, even though I heard him say it a million times. It’s just basically an invisible motivational force that drives you, and I’ve kind of always heard it used in that context.Col. Bruce Hampton possessed the kind of power where he could walk into a room, and the music would change. Like, some of us were in the studio a few years ago and we were making a record. We were all playing when he walked through the door. We could see him from our spots in the studio — he was behind the glass, but we all saw him walk in, and the minute he walked in, the music changed direction.On a good night, when we were in his band, he would play us. If we could get out of the way enough and you could get out of your own way and let it come through you, his presence could actually play you as if we were an instrument — just by his mere walking into the room. Probably not that different from Sun Ra or Miles Davis. That’s the kind of power he possessed. You just wanted to devote yourself to him and open yourself up. He had that kind of thing, and it was incredible.KD: What can we expect musically from the band’s debut?JH: Some of it is going to be stuff that I’ve done on a couple of previous records, and some of it will be new. New compositions that haven’t been recorded yet. And then some of it will be covers from the music that we all love. This thing is leaning towards — well, I don’t want to call it jazz. It’s definitely going to have elements of jazz, more so than the other bands that I typically will play in, just because there’s no vocals. And all of us as musicians love jazz, so there’s going to be some leanings towards that. It’ll still be rock though. It’s instrumental, so I guess that’s what its going to be. Instrumental, blues, rock, jazz, funk, American roots music with improvisation leaning toward the unknown. Hopefully, we can get out of our own ways and have Bruce come visit us. He would do that!Sometimes crazy things would happen on stage, like somebody would play something that they’ve never played before, and all the other musicians would notice it, and they would say, “man, what was that you played the other night?” Then the other person would go, “I have no idea.” Then, the next day, Bruce would call and go, “well, did you enjoy my visit last night?” He always heard about it somehow. We were always looking for logical explanations, and sometimes there just wasn’t one.So, we hope that Bruce will come and get in there with us. But we do know that the more complicated the music is, the less chance of that happening, so we want to have some simple music. The simpler it is, the easier it is to crack open, and the simpler it is, the easier it is to get out of your own way and let the music just come through. Sometimes with complicated music, that doesn’t happen because there’s too much going on, and you can’t get out of your own way. Hopefully we’ll have a combination of both.KD: Are there plans to take this band beyond the tour and into the studio?JH: I think we have plans to go in the studio, we just don’t know when it’s going to be. If we go in the studio, it’ll probably be easier next year. There’s just too much going on this year.KD: With this upcoming tour, you’ll play a set with The Invisible Whip, John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension will play a set, and then you and John will collaborate?JH: Yeah, that’s the plan. I’m pretty excited, but I’m scared to death, you know? It’s real hard to think of your heroes as being friends — the same way with Butch and Gregg. These guys are my heroes. They’re not my friends, but they did become my friends after years. I had to calm down a little bit and stop being so starstruck. You know, you really never lose that. I guess that’s going to be more of the same when playing with John McLaughlin.KD: How did that come together?JH: There’s a guy called Souvik Dutta. He’s the record label president from Abstract Logix. Through my work with him, I slowly got to know John McLaughlin over seven years or more. We played a couple of shows with John’s band back in 2010, I think. We opened for him at the House of Blues in Boston, and we played New Universe Festival in Raleigh. It was really fun, and he was so cool and so open. He said then, “we need to do something more together,” and I was like, “man, I’d love to.” He’s one of my idols. Then, Paul Reed Smith had this event celebrating his 30th year in business with his guitar company. It was a private event, and he called and ask if ARU could play. I just busted out laughing, and I was like “you really want ARU to play at your guitar company event? Are you sure you’re understanding what you’re getting into?” Everybody thought it was funny, but he did want it and knew what it was. At that point, Souvik contacted John and asked him if he’d like to come play with ARU at this event. And that was mind-blowing, just mind-blowing. John McLaughlin was a pioneer. He was sort of on the ground floor, and one of the architects of melding rock and jazz together. So for us to get to play with him, I just can’t even explain it — especially to get to play with him and Bruce at the same time. I mean it was just amazing. So that’s how it came together.KD: Do you think it would be possible for Aquarium Rescue Unit to play more shows without Bruce?JH: I have mixed feelings about that. When Bruce left the band sometime around ’95, we didn’t know what to do. We had this band, and Bruce left, and we ended up getting Paul Henson in the band, and we continued to go out and play. We wrote a bunch of new music, but at the same time, the music was vastly different than what we did with Bruce. We continued to do Bruce’s songs too. You know, with Bruce not there, I . . . I mean, Bruce was still alive back then, and we got his permission to continue. I just . . . I have mixed feelings about it. I’d have to talk to the other guys. It’s hard to imagine playing that music without him unless you’re going to get someone else to sing it, and once you get someone else to sing it, I don’t know how that feels now that he passed away.KD: It’s such a unique situation because of course when people pass on, musicians gather, they play tributes, but it feels like that already happened, and Bruce was there. He got to sing his parts, he already played his tribute show, and that’s the unique part of his passing. He already played his memorial service. You could never top that, ever. It’s the greatest story of rock and roll. Ever.JH: It’s unbelievable. Wow.KD: Now you head to Colorado for three nights of Widespread Panic with Red Rocks Amphitheatre. The band is playing a handful of multi-night runs at various venues this year, but have decidedly chosen against the traditional tour cycle. What does the future look like?JH: I don’t know. I love the multi-night thing — they’ve been doing that since I’ve been there. It makes touring a lot of fun because instead of zipping around from place to place, you’ll play three nights at a venue, and you’re there for four days. Then you go do it again in another place. Now, we’re just going to do the multi-night thing and then come home for a while. I think people wanted to do things — they wanted to plant stuff in their garden, be with their families, do some writing, and stuff like that.I know that JB continues to write all the time. I just heard something he wrote a couple of weeks ago and it was great. It was like, “man, there’s a new Panic song right there.” So, I know we’re not going to go away, but I don’t know if we’re going to tour like we used to anymore. It wouldn’t surprise me within a year or two if everybody was like, “yeah, let’s go out and go do a tour. We haven’t done that in a while.” If they want to do that, that’s great by me. I think we’re still going to write music, we’re still going to go to the studio. I don’t know when — none of that stuff’s written down — but we’re still gonna play. Every now and then, Panic will just take a year off. After thirty years, they deserve to be able to do that if they want to.We’re not super young anymore, but we love playing. That’s what it really comes down to. When they say, “yeah, let’s get back on the road,” I’ll be right there. If they don’t, that’s cool too. We’ll continue doing what we’re doing now. I wish I knew exactly what was going to happen, but I know either way it’s going to be fine. I’ll just do whatever comes my way.KD: And you’ve got a lot of different projects that you can put your energy into. It’s really cool from a fan’s perspective to experience your playing in all of these different musical settings. Varying from The Aquarium Rescue Unit, Project Z, and Jazz is Dead, then other bands like Widespread Panic, The Allman Brothers Band, The Dead, and Phil Lesh and Friends, how do you approach each project?JH: Some things, you can just go in and go play, and then other things you have to prepare. If I’m going to go play with a band that has a large catalog of music —like in the case of the Allman Brothers or the Dead or Panic — I’ll listen to their music for days without even trying to play any of it, and I’ll get it in my head and get a feel for it. Listening is just as important as anything else; it’s probably the most important thing. I’ll listen and after a bit, I’ll grab a guitar and start finding some of the things that I’ve been listening to — the melodies, the chord changes of the songs — and practice playing over the solo sections and stuff like that. That’s my general approach, though you have to have the luxury of time to do it that way. There’ve been a couple of situations where someone comes to you, and they go, “hey, we’re starting next week,” and you go, “wait, you have 260 songs in your catalog. What do you mean we’re starting next week?” You know, something like that could happen. If that happens, you just kind of hang on and do the best you can.KD: There are so many periods of evolution for these greater bands. With bands like Widespread Panic, when you choose to play a song that maybe hasn’t been played in twenty years, how do those bust-outs come into the conversation on a random night in St. Augustine, for example?JH: Usually somebody in the band will go, “what can we do that that’s going to be a surprise?” or “what can we do that’s going to be a little different?” Then people kick around ideas about either bringing out some old songs that the band hasn’t played in years or covering a song that the band’s never played before. That’s generally the way that it comes up.KD: And Widespread Panic have a pretty extensive rehearsal period before each show, correct?JH: We didn’t used to, but we’ve kind of started doing that, which I’m always into, because it’s better to rehearse before the gig than it is to rehearse on the gig. We didn’t used to do that, we used to just get out there and go, but it has been a tremendous help.KD: I’m sure it’s helpful to have everyone in the same room, especially for Duane [Trucks] — who of course is very well-versed — but it’s nice to have a refresher.JH: Duane is a musicologist. He knows as much about music as anybody I’ve ever met. He knows a lot of music — he’s gotten that from his brother — and, you know, he’s studied all this music that came along before he was born. He’s just a great, great musician. And he’s a complete musician. He’s not just a guy who plays his instrument — he understands the music on a deeper level than that. That’s important.Head over to Jimmy Herring’s website to catch him with one of his various bands in a city near you![photo by Erik Kabik]last_img read more

O, hear the bells

first_imgA joyous peal of bells will ring throughout Cambridge today.In celebration of the city of Cambridge and of the country’s oldest university — and of our earlier history when bells of varying tones summoned us from sleep to prayer, work or study — this ancient yet new sound will fill Harvard Square and the surrounding area with music when a number of neighboring churches and institutions ring their bells at the conclusion of Harvard’s 361st Commencement Exercises, for the 24th consecutive year.The bells will begin to ring at 11:30 a.m., just after the sheriff of Middlesex County declares the Commencement Exercises adjourned. They will ring for approximately 15 minutes.The deep-toned bell in the Memorial Church tower, for years the only bell to acknowledge the festival rites of Commencement, will be joined by the set of bells replacing the 17-bell Russian zvon of Lowell House returned in 2008 to the Danilov Monastery near Moscow, the bell of the Harvard Business School, the historic 13-bell “Harvard Chime”of Christ Church Cambridge, the Harvard Divinity School bell in Andover Hall, and the bells of the Church of the New Jerusalem, First Church Congregational, First Parish Unitarian Universalist, St. Paul Roman Catholic Church, St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, University Lutheran Church, Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church, and St. Anthony’s Church.Bells were already in use at Harvard in 1643 when “New England’s First Fruits,” published in London that year, set forth some College rules:  “Every Schollar shall be present in his tutor’s chambers at the 7th houre in the morning, immediately after the sound of the bell … opening the Scripture and prayer.”Three of the 15 bells known to have been in use in Massachusetts before 1680 were hung within the precincts of the present College Yard, including the original College bell and the bell of the First Parish Church.Of the churches participating in the joyful ringing today, one, First Parish, has links with Harvard that date from its foundation.  The College had use of the church’s bell, Harvard’s first Commencement was held in the church’s meetinghouse, and one of the chief reasons for selecting Cambridge as the site of the College was the proximity of this church and its minister, the Rev. Thomas Shepard, a clergyman of “marked ability and piety.”    Another church ringing its bells in celebration is Christ Church Cambridge.  The oldest church in the area, it houses the “Harvard Chime,” the name given to the chime of bells cast for the church in anticipation of its 1861 centennial.  Two fellow alumni and Richard Henry Dana Jr., author of “Two Years Before the Mast,” arranged for the chime’s creation.  The 13 bells were first rung on Easter Sunday, 1860; each bell of the ‘Harvard Chime’ bears in Latin a portion of the “Gloria in Excelsis.”Referring in 1893 to the “Harvard Chime,” Samuel Batchelder wrote, “From the outset the bells were considered as a common object of interest and enjoyment for the whole city, and their intimate connection with the University made it an expressed part of their purpose that they should be rung, not alone on church days but also on all festivals and special occasions of the college, a custom which has continued to the present time.”The old Russian bells of Lowell House, in place for 76 years, rang on an Eastern scale; the newly cast bells give out a charming sound as do the bells of the Cambridge churches joining in concert today.  A thoughtful student of bells in 1939 wrote, “… Church bells, whether they sound in a tinkling fashion the end of the first watch in the dead of night, announce the matins a few hours later, or intone the vespers or angelus, have a peculiar fascination.  Chimes affect the heartstrings …”last_img read more

Biologist receives research grant

first_imgNotre Dame biology professor Zachary T. Schafer received a Research Scholar Grant from the American Cancer Society (ACS) to further his research on breast cancer treatment.The grant is funded by Lee National Denim Day, a program sponsored by Lee Jeans, in which people donate $5 for an opportunity to wear jeans to work. According to the website, the program has raised more than $91 million dollars for the fight against breast cancer, and $792,000 of that total will go toward furthering Professor Schafer’s research project, “The Evasion of Detachment-Induced Metabolic Defects in Breast Cancer.”“[It is] great to be part of the Department of Biological Sciences here where there is a significant track record of obtaining substantial extramural funding in spite of the difficult funding climate,” he said. “I’m very grateful for the support from the ACS and for the funds from National Denim Day.”Schafer said his research primarily deals with exploring the metastatic cascade, or the molecular mechanisms that cancer cells use to survive while traveling from the site of the primary tumor to distant sites in the body.“We have data demonstrating that pathways involved in cellular metabolism are critical for the survival of cancer cells during metastasis,” Schafer said. “[We] hope that better understanding how cancer cell metabolism is regulated will open up new targets for the development of drugs that target metastasizing cancer cells for elimination.”Schafer said gaining this understanding could greatly enhance how breast cancer patients are treated and potentially reduce mortality rates.“This type of chemotherapeutic strategy could be particularly helpful in that it could inhibit metastasis. Most patients that die from cancer die due to metastasis,” he said. “In excess of 90 percent of cancer mortalities are due to metastasis.”His research also explores how cancer cells shut down anoikis, a programmed cell death that inhibits cancer cell growth, and ways in which cancer cells use nutrient consumption to survive in an abnormal environment.“As we accumulate more information about breast cancer biology and technology improves over time, we will move towards individualized cancer treatment,” he said. “Using this information, physicians may be able to personalize therapies to target each person’s cancer most effectively.”The funds will help Schafer maintain the supplies, staff and scope his research requires.“The grant  will go mostly towards salaries for laboratory personnel and supplies for our experiments,” he said. “It also supports travel to conferences to disseminate the results of our research.”Schafer also believes that the fight against breast cancer and other diseases is a team effort.“Get involved in research,” he said. “There are a number of possible research-related careers that students can pursue, and all can contribute in unique ways to helping fight diseases like breast cancer.”Tags: American Cancer Society, cancer, Lee National Denim Day, Research Scholar Grant, Zachary T. Schaferlast_img read more

Toni Braxton & Babyface Visit After Midnight Before Taking the Stage

first_img After Midnight Related Shows Toni Braxton and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds had a late-night date with the cast of After Midnight on February 6! The pair, who have racked up a total of 16 Grammy Awards between them, will take the stage as celebrity guest soloists in the toe-tapping tribute to Duke Ellington this spring. Before it’s their turn to croon with the Jazz at Lincoln Center All Stars Orchestra, Braxton and Babyface took in the extravaganza at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, and after the show, the stars stopped backstage to snap a photo with their new castmates. Check out this Hot Shot of the stars, then catch their Broadway guest appearance in After Midnight from March 18 through 30! View Comments Show Closed This production ended its run on June 29, 2014last_img read more

Biotech Association warns legislation would make VT least friendly state for biotech and life sciences

first_imgIn testimony to the Legislature, New England Biotech Association (NEBA) has warned that a bill under consideration by the Vermont Legislature will create the most restrictive and onerous regulatory environment for biotechnology growth and development in both New England and the nation. The bill, 48/H. 270, would established stricter controls on interactions between the biopharmeceutical industry and health care professionals.      The legislation would eliminate existing protections of trade secrets, create an unneeded new state bureaucracy, and drive away research funding by mandating additional disclosure of expenditures, said NEBA spokeswoman Paula Newton, adding that four other states have rejected similar legislation.”Plain and simple, this legislation will harm Vermont’s biotechnology and life sciences sector and drive jobs away,” Newton said.NEBA serves as the regional policy and public affairs voice for the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical community, representing state biotech associations, companies, academic institutions, and other organizations consisting of more than 800 entities.”Vermont already has one of the strictest pharmaceutical marketing disclosure laws in the country, so the onerous regulatory regime contemplated by the Legislation is wholly unnecessary and should bedefeated,” continued Newton. “Physicians are trusted professionals, and introducing unreasonably broad controls and prohibitions on the interactions between the biopharmaceutical industry and doctors is unwarranted and contrary to health interests of Vermonters who stand to benefit from miracle drugs.”Four other states, including New England states Maine and Rhode Island, have recently rejected marketing restriction legislation far less extreme than the Vermont bill, declaring the measures as bad policy with negative consequences for the life sciences industry and the jobs it produces. An overly restrictive disclosure law recently passed in Massachusetts — less strict than the Vermont proposal — has resulted in a drop in clinical trials and the cancellation of a major medical convention and the associated tourism and tax revenue.NEBA is a non-profit, member-driven organization comprised of state biotech associations, companies, academic institutions, and other organizations with a collective mission to support and grow the biotechnology industry in New England.MONTPELIER, Vt., April 24 /PRNewswire/ –olast_img read more

Anstead: Court funding moving in the right direction

first_img Anstead: Court funding moving in the right direction Senior EditorA potentially troublesome concept for revamping the courts that was floated in the Florida House has been dramatically changed for the better, but lawyers still need to be vigilant in the closing days of the legislature, according to Supreme Court Chief Justice Harry Lee Anstead.Anstead addressed the Bar Board of Governors earlier this month about legislative efforts to deal with Revision 7 to the Florida Constitution. That 1998 voter-approved amendment mandates that the state assume from counties a larger share of operational funding for trial courts by July 1, 2004.His impassioned speech sparked a standing ovation from the board, which also approved a recommendation from the Communications Committee to set up a special committee to educate the public about Article V issues.“The [House] legislative committee yesterday released [its proposed] legislation that, I can tell you, I’m very appreciative of. It has moved in the right direction toward the position that was taken by the Senate,” Anstead told the board. “There is some movement, and that movement would have not occurred without the help of all of you and the lawyers you represent back in the home communities.. . . “I’m pleased. And I’m optimistic. Well, I can’t afford to be optimistic,” he added, noting there could be more changes as House and Senate representatives work out differences in a conference committee.“Keep your eye on the ball for the entire ball game. We cannot afford to not leave everything out there on the playing field if we are going to preserve Florida’s court system in the next two years,” he said. “We are now moving in the right direction this year, but this is crunch time.”Anstead recounted that he had visited 15 newspaper editorial boards, and most followed up with editorials supporting the court system. And he said Senate leaders worked closely with the courts to carry out their interpretation of Revision 7.He also recounted the history of the funding issue. It began in 1972, he said, when the unified state court system was approved by voters, doing away with municipal and local courts. The agreement was the state would fund the entire court system, but that never happened. Counties found themselves paying a high proportion of court costs, a bill that became more costly as county revenues became increasingly strained.In 1997, the Constitution Revision Commission approved as part of its recommendations an amendment mandating the state take over more of the court system funding, and specifying how that would be done. Former Chief Justice Alan Sundberg played a major role in drafting the amendment, Anstead said, and also an explanatory statement from the CRC that the amendment was intended to be a straight, simple funding transfer. The CRC also built in a six-year window, so the switch could be accomplished in steps.But because of budget concerns in past years, little was done, leaving a compressed two-year time frame to figure out exactly what costs the state would pick up and where the money was coming from. Initial ideas during the 2003 session, he said, would have left Sundberg spinning in his grave.Even members of the House committee said they didn’t know where some of the lower chamber’s initial ideas came from or who was backing them, Anstead said. But representatives also noted those were only ideas and general concepts, and were never drafted into an actual bill.Thanks to continued efforts from judges, the Bar, lawyers, and others, the bill finally presented to the House Select Committee on Article V was much improved from some of the initial concepts.And the courts were able to determine that the actual cost to the state for the judicial part of Revision 7 would be $190 million, unlike some estimates that ranged up to $500 million or more.While the Revision 7 issues have been and will continue to be challenging, board members are lucky they have a chance to make such a positive contribution, Anstead said.“How many people are actually privileged to be there at a time of crisis in our society and can get in on it and preserve or make better a value in our country?” he asked. “And that value is our form of government, and that is what is being threatened.”He quoted Shakespeare from Henry II and a comment on the Battle of Hastings, which shaped English history: “Old men will weep that they weren’t there that day.”Board member David Welch, chair of the Communications Committee, said that the committee approved a recommendation from board member Ervin Gonzalez to create a task force to educate the public about the importance of providing adequate funding for the courts.“We’ve got to take charge and go forward and make whatever efforts are needed to coordinate the message with the Supreme Court,” Gonzalez said. “If we don’t do this, if we don’t have a good plan, we should plan to fail and lose the judiciary as we know it. No one is as well suited to take on this issue as The Florida Bar.”Added Welch: “It will be a Florida Bar task force to ensure proper implementation of Revision 7.”He and others said details about what the task force will do still have to be worked out. Board member Chobee Ebbets, a member of the Communications Committee, said there should be a member from each circuit, and the panel should focus on getting word out at the circuit level and to local lawyers.“The desire of many members on the Communications Committee is exactly what Mr. Ebbets said, to provide greater resources to our circuits around the state,” said board member Jennifer Coberly. “We very, very strongly agree with what the chief justice said today. It is time for the Bar to step up today.”The board approved the recommendation unanimously. April 30, 2003 Gary Blankenship Senior Editor Regular News Anstead: Court funding moving in the right directionlast_img read more

Copiague Man Sentenced for $30M Mortgage Scam

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York A Copiague man was sentenced Friday to 12 ½ years in federal prison for conning banks out of more than $30 million in a mortgage scam over a six-year span.Aaron Wider had been convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud last year following a month-long trial at Central Islip federal court.“Wider’s scheme won him millions of dollars in profits and delivered a crushing blow to the financial institutions who became unwitting players in this game,” said William Sweeney, Jr., assistant director of the FBI’s New York field office. “But as we know, banks aren’t the only victims in these types of fraud-for-profits scams. A compromised banking system, which threatens both the stability of our economy and the safety of our assets, is a risk to us all.”Authorities said the 50-year-old man, the owner and CEO of the Garden City-based mortgage bank HTFC Corp. from 2003 to ‘08, and his co-defendants engineered a series of sham transactions to artificially inflate the prices of homes in order to secure funding from other banks and financial institutions known as “warehouse lenders.”Those lenders in turn relied on HTFC to ensure that the home buyers were financially able to pay the mortgages and that the homes were properly appraised, prosecutors said. But the fraudulent loan applications and appraisals to the warehouse lenders nearly doubled the true sales prices of the homes, according to investigators.Wider and others also inflated their own personal assets, used straw purchasers and sham trust entities and concealed significant liabilities to get loan approval, authorities said. HTFC sold each of its mortgages in the secondary market, but it wasn’t until HTFC’s mortgages went into foreclosure beginning in ’07 and ’08 did investors discover that the actual value of the collateral was far less than the amount borrowed for each home, prosecutors said.In addition to prison time, Judge Arthur Spatt also ordered Wider to serve five years of supervised release and pay $22,487,799 in forfeiture and restitution.last_img read more