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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Good Vibrations

Newly Established UCLA Scholarship Named for Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys
UCLA Wednesday announced a new scholarship named for Brian Wilson, the co-founder of the Beach Boys.
According to a statement released by the university, the two-year award “will be presented every other year to a junior in the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music whose career aspirations include any combination of composing, arranging and producing popular music.”
The scholarship was funded by a gift of $100,000 from David Leaf, a UCLA adjunct professor in musicology, writer and filmmaker. The music school has launched an online crowdfunding campaign with a goal of raising another $100,000 to match Leaf’s initial gift...
Music at:

Napolitano Resigns

From the LA TimesUniversity of California President Janet Napolitano, who has championed immigrant students and sexual abuse victims but whose management of the UC system has sparked criticism, announced Wednesday she was resigning.
Napolitano, who has battled a recurrence of breast cancer, made the announcement at the UC regents meeting at UCLA.
Since she became the first woman to lead the 10-campus system in September 2013, Napolitano has enrolled historic numbers of California undergraduates. She has aimed to increase the number of qualified community college students who transfer to UC and expanded efforts to support California high school students from all backgrounds in their pursuit of a higher education...

UPDATE: Below is a video of her announcement:

Additional CRISPR

Patent Office: 1924
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today awarded the University of California (UC), University of Vienna and Emmanuelle Charpentier a patent for CRISPR-Cas9 that, along with two others awarded this month, brings the team’s comprehensive portfolio of gene-editing patents to 14.
On Sept. 10, the USPTO issued to the UC team U.S. patent 10,407,697 covering single-molecule guide RNAs or nucleic acid molecules encoding the guide RNAs. And on Sept. 3, the patent office issued U.S. patent 10,400,253, which covers compositions of single-molecule, DNA-targeting RNA (single-guide RNA, or sgRNA) and a Cas9 protein or nucleic acid encoding the Cas9 protein.The newest patent, U.S. 10,415,061, covers compositions comprising single-molecule DNA-targeting RNAs or nucleic acids encoding single-molecule DNA-targeting RNAs, as well as methods of targeting and binding a target DNA, modifying a target DNA or modulating transcription from a target DNA with a complex that comprises a Cas9 protein and single-molecule DNA-targeting RNA.
Another patent is set to issue next Tuesday, Sept. 24, bringing the total U.S. patent portfolio to 15. Three other patent applications have been allowed by the USPTO and are set to issue as patents in the coming months, which will raise the total to 18. These patents and applications span various compositions and methods for the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology, including targeting and editing genes and modulating transcription, and covering the technology in any setting, such as within plant, animal and human cells. The methods and compositions covered in UC’s CRISPR-Cas9 portfolio come together to comprise the widest-ranging patent portfolio for the gene-editing technology.
“This month, we have seen exponential growth of UC’s U.S. CRISPR-Cas9 portfolio,” said Eldora Ellison, Ph.D., lead patent strategist on CRISPR-Cas9 matters for UC and a director at Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox. “We remain committed to expanding our robust portfolio to include additional methods and compositions for CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing so that the range of applications can be fully utilized for the benefit of humanity.”
The team that invented the CRISPR-Cas9 DNA-targeting technology included Doudna and Martin Jinek at UC Berkeley; Charpentier, then at Umea University in Sweden and now director of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Germany; and Krzysztof Chylinski of the University of Vienna. The methods covered by today’s patent, as well as the other methods claimed in UC’s previously issued patents and those set to issue, were included among the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology work disclosed first by the Doudna-Charpentier team in its May 25, 2012, priority patent application.
The 14 CRISPR-Cas9 patents in this team’s portfolio are 10,000,772; 10,113,167; 10,227,611; 10,266,850; 10,301,651; 10,308,961; 10,337,029; 10,351,878; 10,358,658; 10,358,659; 10,385,360; 10,400,253; 10,407,697; and 10,415,061. These patents are not a part of the PTAB’s recently declared interference between 14 UC patent applications and multiple previously issued Broad Institute patents and one application, which jeopardizes essentially all of the Broad’s CRISPR patents involving eukaryotic cells...

The Price of Admission

From the LA Times: A Chinese woman was arrested in Spain and charged with paying the mastermind of the college admissions scandal $400,000 to ensure her son was admitted to UCLA as a phony soccer player, federal authorities in Boston said Tuesday.
Xiaoning Sui — a Chinese national and resident of British Columbia — was arrested by Spanish authorities Monday night, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Massachusetts, which is seeking Sui’s extradition. Sui, the 35th parent to be charged in the college admissions scandal, has been indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and honest services mail fraud.
To guarantee her son a spot at UCLA, prosecutors say Sui turned to William “Rick” Singer, the Newport Beach college admissions consultant who earlier this year admitted to overseeing a sprawling, decade-long scheme that defrauded some of the country’s most selective universities with rigged college entrance exams, fake recruiting profiles and six-figure bribes to college coaches and administrators.
Sui, 48, paid Singer $400,000 to have her son admitted to UCLA as a recruited soccer player, despite that the boy had not played the sport competitively, according to an indictment returned by a grand jury in March. The indictment was sealed until Sui’s arrest...

The Changing Climate

UC investments are going fossil free. But not exactly for the reasons you may think

Jagdeep Singh Bachher and Richard Sherman, Sept. 17, 2019, LA Times

Our job is to make money for the University of California, and we’re betting we can do that without fossil fuels investments.

We are investors and fiduciaries for what is widely considered the best public research university in the world. That makes us fiscally conservative by nature and by policy — “Risk rules” is one of the 10 pillars of what we call the UC Investments Way. We want to ensure that the more than 320,000 people currently receiving a UC pension actually get paid, that we can continue to fund research and scholarships throughout the UC system, and that our campuses and medical centers earn the best possible return on their investments.

We believe hanging on to fossil fuel assets is a financial risk. That’s why we will have made our $13.4-billion endowment “fossil free” as of the end of this month, and why our $70-billion pension will soon be that way as well...

Full op ed at https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2019-09-16/divestment-fossil-fuel-university-of-california-climate-change

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The University of California declares a climate emergency

Carolyn McMillan, UC Newsroom, Sept. 17, 2019,

The University of California has joined forces with more than 7,000 colleges and universities around the globe to declare a climate emergency and commit to urgent action to address the crisis.

UC President Janet Napolitano and all 10 UC chancellors have signed a climate emergency declaration letter that recognizes “the need for a drastic societal shift to combat the growing threat of climate change.”*

In signing the declaration, UC leaders agreed to a three-point plan that includes increasing action-oriented climate research; expanding education and outreach on environmental and sustainability issues; and achieving climate neutrality, a goal UC expects to achieve by 2025, five years ahead of the declaration’s pledge.

“We have a moral responsibility to take swift action on climate change,” said UC President Napolitano. “This declaration reaffirms UC’s commitment to addressing one of the greatest existential threats of our time..."

Full media release at https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/university-california-declares-climate-emergency

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*Letter at https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/press-release/higher-and-further-education-institutions-across-globe-declare
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Note: The timing of the op ed and the media release coincides with the Regents meeting this week and follows a "fossil free" resolution by the Academic Senate. This timing coincides, but is unlikely to be a coincidence. Although yours truly doesn't want to rain on the parade, it seems unlikely that academic finance types would buy the rationale offered in the op ed above by UC's chief financial official and the chair of the Regents' Investments Committee, essentially that because fossil fuels are facing a declining market, they are risky and thus should not be included in a broad portfolio. All equities have a degree of risk. And financial markets are aware of the particular risks entailed in fossil fuel securities and presumably price related equities accordingly. In short, the divestment is a response to the changing university climate rather than a strictly financial decision. Whether over any given future period, the endowment and pension portfolios will gain or lose from the decision is unknown, but it is a deviation from the finance idea of having lots of different eggs in the portfolio basket.

PS: Fear not! Yours truly is downloading and archiving the audio of the sessions of the Regents occurring this week including the session of the Investments Committee. But, as usual, it takes time to go through the recordings.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Possible Trump Jam Today

President Trump will be landing at Santa Monica Airport today and going somewhere from there. Usually, the somewhere is fundraisers in places like Beverly Hills and Bel Air - which means potential traffic disruptions around UCLA.

President Trump to Use Santa Monica Airport Tuesday: Military presence expected around SMO

By Sam Catanzaro, 9-16-19, Santa Monica Mirror
https://smmirror.com/2019/09/trump-to-use-santa-monica-airport-tuesday/

President Trump is expected to use the Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO) on Tuesday, September 17 and in preparation for his visit, the City of Santa Monica anticipates military helicopter activity at and around SMO on Monday, September 16 and Tuesday.

Trump is in California Tuesday for several fundraisers in both Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Geoff Palmer, the real estate developer and one of the president’s biggest donors, is hosting a Los Angeles fundraiser for Trump.

Very few details have been made public about Trump’s visit to California, a state where his approval rating is under 40 percent according to a poll released by the Public Policy Institute of California.

As Airport staff release additional details about potential street closures as a result of the visit this article will be updated.

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Apart from possible disruptions from the presidential visit, the Regents are meeting at the UCLA Grand Hotel starting today and continuing Wednesday and Thursday. So there could be some on-campus traffic issues.
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UPDATE: The Trump visit largely will be felt this evening in areas near UCLA, possibly affecting some late commutes:

7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday

The area around Bundy Drive between Airport Avenue & West Pico Boulevard
The area around Sunset Boulevard between South Sepulveda Boulevard and Bedford Drive (Beverly Hills)

8 to 9 p.m. Tuesday

The area around Sunset Boulevard between Bedford Drive and South Sepulveda Boulevard (Beverly Hills)
The area around West 9th Street between the 110  Freeway and South Flower Street
The area around South Figueroa Street between Olympic Boulevard and West Sixth Street

Beverly Hills street closures
5-9 p.m. Tuesday

Sunset Boulevard between Ladera and Beverly Drives will be intermittently closed (suggested alternative east/west routes: Santa Monica, Wilshire and Olympic boulevards
Benedict Canyon Drive between Sunset Boulevard and Mulholland Drive will be intermittently closed (suggested alternate north/south route: Coldwater Canyon Drive)

Source: https://www.dailynews.com/2019/09/17/trumps-la-visit-is-closing-these-downtown-streets/

Monday, September 16, 2019

Distressed Governor: Telescope Saga Continues

Gov. David Ige said Friday he and other state employees received death threats amid the heated debate over building a giant telescope on the state’s highest peak.

Ige disclosed the threats as he and his cabinet members held a news conference asking people on all sides of the issue to be careful with their language.

Attorney General Clare Connors played a voicemail recording in which an unidentified man told a state employee, “I hope you die.”

She showed reporters a social media post offering a $5,000 reward for the identity of a law enforcement officer involved in last week’s demolition and removal of a small wooden house built by demonstrators near the camp where they are blocking the telescope’s construction.

“I hope that we can all agree that putting a bounty on the head of law enforcement officer is disturbing and deeply concerning,” Connors said. “It’s dangerous. This law enforcement officer showed up to work that day and was doing his job when he found himself in an untenable situation.”

The issue of the Thirty Meter Telescope issue has engulfed Hawaii since mid-July when the state announced construction would begin after a decade-long permit and appeals process. Protesters have blocked the road to Mauna Kea’s summit for the past two months, preventing the building from getting underway. They oppose construction because they believe the top of the mountain is sacred.

Ige said there’s been improper language on both sides, noting he’s seen “terrible and racist” things written about protesters in the comment sections of news sites online...

Full story at https://www.apnews.com/9d933d05c5614c9a993d1995d4ff74ab