German public broadcast corporation Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) recently announced that it will not sponsor former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters’ upcoming concert at Cologne, Germany’s Lanxess Arena on June 11th, 2018. WDR pulled its sponsorship of the Roger Waters concert following a public petition led by a German Jewish woman, Malca Goldstein-Wolf, that urged the local public broadcast network to “not to grant support with public money for…an antisemite” received 1,500 signatures.Before 2013, the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that fights against antisemitism in the United States, defended Waters, a leading figure in the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, against accusations of anti-semitism. However, after the former Pink Floyd frontman, in an interview, compared Israel to Nazi Germany, the Anti-Defamation League changed its stance, stating that Waters’ “comments about Jews and Israel have gotten progressively worse over time. It started with anti-Israel invective, and has now morphed into conspiratorial anti-Semitism.”Tom Burhow, head of WDR took to social media to explain the broadcast company’s sponsorship pull, noting, “I tell you, since it’s important to me that you should know how important your feelings are to me: sponsorship of the concert is cancelled. Please regard my clear decision as a personal message of trustworthiness and understanding.”[H/T JTA; Photo: Chad Anderson]
Be my valentine? For couples therapist Shiri Cohen, Valentine’s Day is a big commercial scam: “I have this strong feeling that on Valentine’s Day people should rebel against it — go out with good friends or do something really self-indulgent,” she said. Photo by Melanie Rieders Their friends at the Graduate School of Design call fellow students Marissa Angell and Ian Brennick “disgustingly in love.” Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer Cohen helps couples sort through the lows of their relationships: sex/romance or lack thereof, commitment issues, and imbalances between life and love.“Relationships are always a balance between your individual self and your relationship self and everyone defines that differently, and oftentimes partners aren’t on the same page,” said Cohen. “But by far the most common complaint walking in the door is poor communication, which is a catchall for a lot of things. But in my experience that’s code for ‘we’re just not connecting,’ or an underlying desire for more emotional intimacy.”For Marissa Angell and Ian Brennick, students at the Graduate School of Design (GSD), connecting has never been a problem.The two met last Valentine’s Day while dancing at Ryles Jazz Club.“There was a pole-dancing demonstration,” Angell started to say before Brennick chimed in with, “We bonded over our immature sense of humor.”Their GSD friends describe them as “disgustingly in love.”The two insist they never get sick of each other and never even fight. “He’s the least annoying person I know,” said Angell. Her parents have been married for almost 30 years, so she believes that sustained, romantic love is totally possible.“My dad still does cute things for my mom, like practical jokes, buy her flowers, or go to costume parties where she dresses like Lady Godiva and he dresses like a strawberry,” she said.The bar is high, but Brennick is excited to treat Angell for Valentine’s Day. What, exactly, she’s in for is anyone’s guess. “I’ve always tried to do something a little bit different,” said Brennick. “I’ve been planning. I took some time over Christmas break. I have some things in the works.”Not everyone is as lucky as Brennick and Angell, and if you’re lonesome this Valentine’s Day, Cohen can empathize.“I have this strong feeling that on Valentine’s Day people should rebel against it — go out with good friends or do something really self-indulgent,” she said. “I think the concept of Valentine’s Day is very commercialized and a set-up for people who both are and aren’t in relationships. It’s this built-up thing that sets these crazy expectations that oftentimes creates conflict when they’re not met. And if you’re not in a relationship, you can’t even find a restaurant to go to!”If you’re looking for love, Cohen advocates online dating, though be warned: “People are not always honest about how they present themselves,” she said. “How they describe themselves or what they’re looking for is usually the version of themselves they want to be, or the partner they think they want. You’re only as good as how well you know yourself.”After establishing a connection, it’s always good to meet in person, she suggests, though something low-pressure is best — just drinks, or a simple activity, like going for a walk.Or, you could be more laissez-faire, as Colakoglu is. “I don’t think love is something you look for,” she said. “I always find it when I don’t look.” In the words of Canadian songster Bryan Adams, love “cuts like a knife, but it feels so right.”And whether it’s the pursuit of it, the loss of it, or the yearning for it, there’s never a more polarizing and pressurized day to celebrate — and scrutinize — your love life than Feb. 14.Cansu Colakoglu ’16 isn’t part of a couple, but she’s not sweating it. She’s been busy prepping for Valentine’s Day with her Singles Awareness party to be held the same night. “Boys are boys — kind of immature,” she said of the local dating scene. “They’re more interested in the other parts of dating, but not really dating itself.”Her friend Aleja Jimenez-Jaramillo ’16 will probably be in attendance. But Jimenez-Jaramillo sees coupledom as a bit of a hindrance. “There’s a social element to being single that’s not there when you’re dating,” he said. “At mixers and stuff, if you’re not eligible, you’re almost of a lesser value.”Being of a lesser social value is just one of love’s many tricks. And it’s no secret that love can make us think and act irrationally, bring out our neuroses, give us depression, or, conversely, sweep us away with giddiness.According to Edison Miyawaki, an assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School (HMS), “A lot of brain function in love and lust seems to pause.”“Large areas of the brain — parts involved, for example, in planning or problem-solving — aren’t uniquely engaged; in fact, they’re deactivated,” he explained. “I don’t want to give the impression that love or lust is like a coma, but it’s interesting that you learn a lot about brains by what turns off.”That can be oddly comforting, especially for anyone who’s ever asked him- or herself “What was I thinking?” after some awkward or embarrassing behavior in front of their beloved. So, excuse yourself, because you probably weren’t thinking.Falling in love often means throwing caution to the wind, but the odd flip side is that developing relationships requires thought and effort, said Shiri Cohen, a couples therapist and an instructor in psychology at HMS. “Who’s paying for stuff can be a big issue,” Cohen said, “as well as who’s pulling their weight with tending to the relationship.” Aleja Jimenez-Jaramillo (left) will likely attend fellow sophomore Cansu Colakoglu’s Singles Awareness party on Valentine’s Day. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer
The Center for Public Leadership (CPL) at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) has named humanitarian Eric Greitens, founder and former CEO of The Mission Continues, as this year’s recipient of the Gleitsman Citizen Activist Award, which he will receive during a ceremony in Cambridge on Wednesday. The biennial award, which includes a $125,000 prize, is given to a change agent who has used unique and powerful insights about solving society’s toughest problems to shape strong, successful programs that are truly transformative.A Rhodes and Truman Scholar, Greitens served as a U.S. Navy SEAL officer and was deployed four times during the global war on terrorism. His military awards include the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. After his deployment to Iraq in 2007, Greitens donated his combat pay to found The Mission Continues, a national nonprofit organization that partners veterans with nonprofits to use their skills to serve communities across America. Through The Mission Continues, veterans begin to transform their own lives while building stronger communities at home.“I’m honored to receive the Gleitsman Citizen Activist Award. It’s humbling to be recognized among so many strong leaders who have taken on tough issues and created real results,” said Greitens.Greitens has been resolute in his commitment to create a solution to a deeply rooted social problem: finding a way to help veterans continue their strong tradition of service upon returning home, while helping them recover their sense of purpose and employing their expertise toward community development. Opportunities to get involved with the organization are made available to veterans of all eras, and include Fellowships allowing selected veterans to volunteer part-time for six months at the community organization of their choice; community service opportunities aimed at solving specific challenges in their communities; and community-wide “day of service” activities open to both veterans and non-veterans.“I am delighted that the Gleitsman judges, acting independently, have selected Eric Greitens for this prestigious award. Eric has a dazzling record of achievement: a philosophy major at Duke, a Ph.D. in economic development earned on a Rhodes Scholarship, amateur boxing champion, international humanitarian, Navy SEAL, founder of a great veterans nonprofit, and best-selling author [‘The Heart and the Fist’],” said CPL co-director David Gergen. “The consistent thread through Eric’s life is a moral and practical commitment to the advancement of humankind. Eric epitomizes the type of leader that Alan Gleitsman originally sought to honor with this award, because his initiative continues to inspire others to act. I am sure that Alan would have loved this choice!”Greitens has worked as a humanitarian volunteer, documentary photographer, and researcher in places such as Rwanda, Cambodia, and Bolivia, and was recognized as one of the most innovative leaders in America. In 2013, Time magazine named Greitens to its list of the 100 most influential people in the world, and most recently, Fortune magazine recognized him as one of 50 greatest leaders in the world.
At first glance, Mike Levin’s lab looks like any standard biology lab with its shelves of petri dishes containing small, brown, semitransparent flatworms called planaria, one of the organisms his lab studies. Look more closely at the bodies of the tiny worms swimming and stretching under the plastic, however, and you might notice something strange — instead of a head and tail, each worm has two fully functional heads.Planaria are the champions of regeneration: Chop one into multiple pieces, and each fragment will regrow exactly the parts it needs to transform into a perfect tiny worm, no more, no less. How do the cells in each worm fragment know what’s missing, and how to rebuild the organs it needs, and when to stop growing? Levin’s group at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering is trying to answer these questions, because he believes that doing so is the key to future advances in regenerative medicine and synthetic bioengineering. While biology has started to identify the genes and proteins involved in regeneration, how and when cells use those tools to build complex anatomical features remains unknown.Levin and his team are tackling this challenge by trying to figure out how cells within a worm fragment coordinate to create a specific structure, and then manipulating those cellular conversations to change how the fragments regenerate — with a head at each end, for example. Remarkably, their research has shown that just one brief, conversation-changing treatment is enough to make regenerating planaria continue to produce two-headed worms in subsequent rounds of regeneration, without any further manipulations. Surprisingly, this permanent change in anatomy is produced not by editing the worms’ genes but by targeting a different aspect of biology that is attracting renewed attention after being long ignored: bioelectricity.A normal planaria flatworm (top) chopped into pieces normally regenerates fully complete worms from each fragment, but delivering precise bioelectrical signals can make them grow two heads (middle) or two tails (bottom) instead. Credit: Mike Levin/Tufts UniversityAs far back as the 18th century, scientists realized that applying electrical currents to dead animals could make their muscles twitch, and the idea that electricity was the literal “spark of life” caught on. It was such a pervasive theory that it made its way into literature and the arts, exemplified by Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel “Frankenstein,” in which a lightning storm inspires the young Dr. Frankenstein to bring the dead to life. But the actual scientific study of bioelectric signals proved to be extremely challenging, because the moment an organism is plucked, dried, fixed, or preserved, the electricity vanishes.“When cells and tissues are alive, there’s a bioelectric potential between the inside of a cell and the outside,” Levin said in a recent interview in his lab. “As soon as that potential collapses, the cell is dead. So, I think it’s fair to say that bioelectricity is the spark of life. But more importantly, the bioelectric potential is not just a byproduct of living; it is a medium that cells exploit to communicate with each other and to form networks that are much more than the sum of their parts.”Because bioelectrical studies can be performed only on living cells, other analytical methods that work in fixed tissues and fractionated cells surged ahead in popularity during the 20th century, as techniques like biochemistry and molecular genetics began to reveal the complex choreography of molecules that direct cellular behavior. Electricity remained a central focus in niche fields such as neuroscience and cardiology, as the transmission of electric impulses was known to be the signaling method of choice along neurons and in the heart’s “pacemaker” nodes, but the idea that cells outside the nervous system communicate and are regulated by electrical signals fell out of fashion.The body electricWhen Levin was growing up in the 1980s, the boom in digital technology was ushering in a resurgence of interest in electricity in the form of personal computers. Levin was fascinated by the physics of electricity, and how it could be so readily harnessed to build circuits that perform computational functions. “The more I studied the use of electric circuits to implement memory and perform computation aimed at creating artificial intelligence, the more I thought that surely evolution must have found a way to exploit electricity for its capabilities long before brains showed up; cells and tissues had to start making a lot of complex decisions all the way back at the beginning of multicellular life,” he said.The thought remained just an idea until a day in 1986 when Levin attended the Expo 86 World’s Fair in Vancouver, British Columbia. But the moment that came to define his career didn’t happen in one of the pavilions showcasing the world’s newest technologies — it happened in a used book shop, where Levin happened to pick up the “The Body Electric,” published the previous year by orthopedic surgeon Robert O. Becker.“What was remarkable about that book was that it cited all these older research papers in which people had actually found evidence of electrical signaling outside of the nervous system during embryogenesis and regeneration, not only in animals but also in plants and fungi and other organisms,” Levin recalled. “I had never seen it in any modern textbook, but the fact that these studies were out there suggested that evolution really did discover how good the biophysics of electricity is for computing and processing information in non-neural tissues, and that might be a very interesting direction for understanding how cells cooperate to make decisions about constructing and repairing complex body parts.”Levin has been moving in that direction ever since, earning dual B.S. degrees in computer science and biology at Tufts University and a Ph.D. from Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, followed by postdoctoral work at Harvard Medical School, where he began to uncover a new bioelectric language by which cells coordinate their activity during embryogenesis. He has continued and expanded that work in his own lab, first at Harvard’s Forsyth Institute, and now at the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University and the Wyss Institute.“My lab is looking at not only the mechanisms by which cells receive and transmit electrical signals, but how groups of all kinds of cells form distributed electrical networks that implement information processing,” Levin explained. “We’re interested in how tissues and organs compute using electrical signals — storing pattern memories and regulating large-scale anatomical remodeling. You can think about these groups of cells doing all the same things as a neural network, but everything goes at a much slower pace and is aimed at controlling cell behavior and anatomy, not muscles and body movement.”Cracking the bioelectric codeRather than the rapid-fire signals that travel through neurons to convey information like “this stove is hot” or “step on the brake,” the types of cellular bioelectric networks Levin studies direct much more complex processes, like “create an eyeball here,” “this side is your left,” or “heal this wound.” Over the last few decades, neuroscientists have developed techniques for recording the electrical signals that propagate through individual cells, which is very useful for studying neurons in the brain, but not sufficient for analyzing electricity on the scale of tissues or organs. In the last 15 years, Levin’s lab has been studying bioelectricity in a veritable zoo of animal models, including bacteria, slime molds, algae, frogs, human cultured cells, and of course, the planaria, to address that need.“Understanding how tissues and organs encode and propagate anatomical information in electrical signals to fix or create very complex, specific structures is a fundamental challenge that we call ‘cracking the bioelectric code,’” said Levin. “It has the potential to advance not only biomedicine but multiple fields including robotics and AI, akin to how insights from neuroscience are being used to drive the development of neural nets and other computational tools, but in a much more general context.”The discipline that could see the biggest benefit from cracking that code is the still-fledgling field of regenerative medicine — if scientists can figure out what series of electrical signals carries the instructions “build a leg here,” it could one day be possible to direct a human body to regrow a limb just like the planaria can regrow heads. “The ability to build a specific anatomical structure from different starting conditions, and stop when precisely the right pattern is finished, is one of the big, unsolved problems of developmental biology and regenerative medicine today,” said Levin. “Salamanders can regrow eyes, jaws, limbs, ovaries, and portions of their heart and brain. Deer — a large, adult mammal — regenerate antlers made of bone, nerve, and skin every year at a rate of about 1 centimeter of new bone per day. I believe the capacity to create and repair specific structures is evolutionarily ancient and highly conserved across the tree of life, and that there is no reason it can’t someday be activated in human patients.”Levin’s lab has been able to cause limb regeneration in a variety of animals, including developing tadpoles. Credit: Mike Levin/Tufts UniversityTrue to his background in computer science, Levin is incorporating machine learning and artificial intelligence into his lab’s efforts to uncover meaning in the vast amounts of functional data his research generates about anatomy and shape. His team builds AI-based tools that can mine those data to build models that help them understand how cells and tissues make decisions to repair and create specific structures, and to discover interventions that can manipulate that complex process. Recently, they created an AI system that analyzed hundreds of papers about planaria, digested information about the experiments that were performed on the worms, and discovered a novel way of thinking about the circuits that allow planaria to repair themselves, resulting in a new model of planarian regeneration — the first in this field that was not discovered by a human scientist.Reorganizing the “lightning” in our cellsNow that innovations in recording and writing bioelectric information into living cells are making it feasible to study how electrical signals function in living organisms, there is renewed interest across many disciplines in how electricity interacts with other biological phenomena, such as genetics, metabolism, mechanobiology, and immunology. Since joining the faculty of Tufts University in 2009 as the Vannevar Bush Professor, Levin’s expertise has been sought for a number of multidisciplinary projects. In 2016, he was tapped to become the director of the Allen Discovery Center, recruiting 12 other investigators around the world who are combining their disparate backgrounds to understand and ultimately rewrite the “morphogenetic code” by determining where bioelectric patterns originate, how they map the organization of cells, and how their code is interpreted by cells’ genetic and molecular machinery to build and maintain an organism’s anatomy.“We think that if we’re able to figure out these high-level controls of body plan and shape, we will be able to induce limb regeneration, birth defect repair, and tumor reprogramming, first in frogs and similar model systems, and later in mammals,” said Levin. “I would be incredibly excited if in the next decade we can move some of our discoveries toward the clinic, where they can actually help people.”While Levin has collaborated with faculty at the Wyss Institute for more than a decade, his path to official membership also began in 2016, when the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) funded called Technologies for Host Resilience (THoR), a multicenter project led by Wyss Institute Director Donald Ingber to investigate why some organisms tolerate pathogenic infection, and to uncover which biological mechanisms are responsible for their resilience. The Wyss Institute was chosen to lead the interdisciplinary project, and Levin was invited to join as an associate faculty member in 2017. His role in this project was to investigate bioelectricity’s impact on immunity, collaborating with Ingber, core faculty member James Collins, and lead senior staff scientist Michael Super.Early results of his research revealed that administering drugs that target ion channel proteins to make cells’ interiors more negatively charged strengthened tadpoles’ innate immune response to E. coli infection and injury, suggesting that the immune system is regulated by non-neural bioelectricity. The change in voltage altered the expression of genes in the tadpoles that are also involved in human immune responses, indicating that modulating bioelectric charge could be a new clinical approach to reducing infections.Most recently, Levin has started working on the Wyss’ Biostasis Project, a similarly large, cross-functional and interdisciplinary effort also led by Ingber whose goal sounds like something out of science fiction: find a way to slow down biological time. “A lot of my lab’s prior work has focused on looking at how organisms arrange themselves in 3D space, but time is equally important to living creatures,” Levin said. “With this new project, we’re shifting to ask how the different physiological, genetic, and anatomical structures in an animal keep time, and how we might alter the rates of these various processes for improved survival, repair, and health.”,To answer those questions, his lab is developing new constructs that can report biological time, such as fluorescent molecules that indicate metabolic, proliferative, bioelectric, and circadian cycles during development and regenerative healing. The researchers are also testing candidate compounds that could potentially halt or slow biological time, and in the future they will be mining some of the novel model systems they have developed for new compounds that cells and organisms use to regulate their own and each other’s experience of time.Levin’s research has come a long way from his initial fascination with electrical circuits in computers, and the diversity of projects he’s involved in reflects how bioelectricity is reclaiming its place alongside genes, proteins, and mechanical forces as an important piece of the puzzle that is figuring out how life works.“I think all the different projects that my lab is working on link together in an effort to answer the question, ‘How do biological systems store and process spatial and temporal information to behave adaptively, build large functional structures, and resist challenge?’” said Levin.
On Oct. 28 the Faculty Council previewed the Dean’s annual report to the Faculty and heard a presentation regarding the spring term calendar. They also met with the President to ask and answer questions as representatives of the Faculty.The Council next meets on Nov. 18. The next meeting of the Faculty is on Nov. 3. The preliminary deadline for the Dec. 1 meeting of the Faculty is Nov. 10 at noon.
Tyler Langdon, a 2008 Notre Dame graduate, hopes that winning a 2010 Yahoo Hollywood Movie Award will jumpstart his acting career. Langdon is currently one of 10 nominees for Yahoo’s Hollywood Discover Award, in which aspiring actors submit monologues for voters to view and vote on the Hollywood Movie Award website. “The award is for up-and-coming talent in Hollywood,” Langdon said. A resident of Dillon Hall while at Notre Dame, Langdon studied business and thought his performing career was over. “I did a lot of acting before I came to Notre Dame.” Langdon said, “I absolutely loved speech, but as fun as it was, I had to be practical, so I went to business school.” However, Langdon couldn’t shake the acting bug. After graduation, he moved to California to attend a management program through Hillstone Restaurant Group. “All the servers and cooks in the restaurant were actors and they were always talking about auditions and roles they had,” Langdon said. “Everything I had done before rushed back.” Langdon decided to pursue his dream and quit his restaurant job after two months to begin auditioning for acting roles. “It takes a very long time to make it in this industry,” he said. “Most actors you recognize have been doing this for seven or eight years.” Even though his career has not followed a traditional path, Langdon said his parents support his decision to try and make it in the acting business. “My parents always support whatever I do that makes me happy as long as it brings respect to myself and my family,” Langdon said. “They just don’t want me to compromise myself for Hollywood.” His film credits include roles in “Pushing Daisies” and “The Pacific,” according to his website. He also hosted two different shows about Thai food. Langdon eventually hopes to act on a sitcom and work in both comedic and dramatic films. “I love the comedy on ‘The Office’ and ‘30 Rock,’ with more subtle humor and good writing and natural actors,” he said. Langdon recently landed a role for an upcoming movie about a man suffering from social anxiety disorder and his relationship with a female friend who studies his disorder for her graduate work. “He’s just a really dynamic character,” Langdon said. The transition from acting on stage and for speech competitions was different and a challenge for Langdon. “The speech and debate gave me confidence, but it’s just so big,” Langdon said, “Acting teachers kept telling me to relax my face and think and play my emotions.” Langdon hopes that someday he could work with Leonardo DiCaprio, his favorite actor. “He’s a fantastic actor and has had some amazing roles,” Langdon said. While still in the restaurant business, DiCaprio came into the restaurant Langdon managed and the servers sent him out on the floor acting like a bus boy so he could see him. “I was nervous just cleaning the table next to him,” Langdon said. Online voting for the Yahoo Hollywood Movie Awards started on Oct. 5 and closes Thursday.
Tveit will play a Buffalo dad who is just scraping by until he gathers a band of buddies to start a stripping troupe. OK, enough with the charade… Sadly, we’re just kidding! HAPPY APRIL FOOLS’ DAY! View Comments Broadway hottie Aaron Tveit is finally giving fans what they want, taking it all off as a working-class stripper in a revival of the musical The Full Monty, which is planning to play a limited engagement on the Great White Way this summer.
Landscape irrigation can be tricky, especially in the summer. During the month of July — Smart Irrigation Month — University of Georgia experts have advice on how to use irrigation as efficiently as possible.Be aware of the conditions of the landscape Typical lawns and plants require 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week, said Rolando Orellana, an urban water management agent with UGA Cooperative Extension.Consider the water source, air circulation, slope, drainage and other conditions of the landscape when creating an irrigation plan.“Make sure you know the plants in your garden,” Orellana said. “Not all plants have the same water requirements. You can ask your Extension agent to find out more information about plant water requirements.”With this understanding, individuals can ensure that the root systems of plants are in top shape. It is best to apply deep and infrequent watering to establish strong root systems and healthier plants. Applying small amounts of water frequently will create a shallow root system and more water evaporation. It is ideal to have an irrigation schedule and system that replicates rainfall to ensure landscapes are not overwatered and plants stay healthy and beautiful, Orellana said.Where, when and how? The best time to water landscapes is between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m., keeping in mind that deep, infrequent watering is best to avoid waste, run-off and evaporation, Orellana advises, adding that gardeners should water by hand when possible, as it is the most effective method of ensuring that water is delivered only where needed.Using irrigation equipment While hand-watering is preferred, it is not always practical. When using irrigation equipment, be thoughtful about how, where and how often to turn on your sprinklers. Before setting up portable sprinklers, soaker hoses or an in-ground irrigation system, consider the following:How much of the landscape needs to be watered?Where can the equipment be placed to reach the maximum amount of area and provide even coverage? Where are the outdoor water sources located, and where can one be added if needed?From there, choosing between systems such as soaker hoses, a drip irrigation system or a sprinkler system becomes easy, Orellana said.To reduce waste and get the most efficiency out of irrigation equipment, Orellana suggests installing rain and moisture sensors. He also recommends making a periodic inspection of irrigation part of a regular landscape maintenance routine.“Most people experience issues with plant growth,” Orellana said. “Sometimes irrigation systems have broken parts, occasioning water leaks and waste. These problems are often left unattended due to lack of irrigation system monitoring and auditing. Check system pressure and flow and make regular inspections to help save water and dollars in the process.”For more helpful tips and tricks about landscape irrigation, visit your local UGA Extension office, go to extension.uga.edu or call 1-800-ASK-UGA1.
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“If the pandemic continues in the next few months, the bad loan ratio could increase because economic activities would be disrupted for a longer period of time,” he told The Jakarta Post.Such a warning was reflected in the Deposit Insurance Corporation’s (LPS) latest data showing that loan-at-risk stood at 11 percent, chairman Halim Alamsyah said during a hearing with the House of Representatives Commission XI overseeing financial matters. The figure is higher than the 10 percent rate last year.Private-owned Bank Mayapada Internasional president director Haryanto Tjahjariadi echoed the sentiment, admitting that he expected to see an increase in bad loans as the coronavirus disease hampered economic activities in all sectors.“However, we will try to maintain our NPL ratio at around the 3 to 3.5 percent this year,” he told the Post.The rise in bad loan ratio is also expected to increase pressure on banks’ profitability, even on Indonesian banks, which are considered to be some of the most profitable in the world.“Rising NPL will increase banks’ credit costs while their margins will also decrease due to the central banks’ low interest rates,” Tarzimanov said.Bank Indonesia (BI) in March cut yet another 25 basis points off of the benchmark seven-day reverse repo rate to 4.5 percent. It also lowered the deposit facility rate to 3.75 percent and lending facility rate to 5.25 percent.Read also: COVID-19 batters Indonesia’s loan growth to record lowThe lower rates are expected to transmit into lower banks’ interest rates, affecting consumer loans, corporate loans and mortgage interest rates. This will then translate to lower net interest margin (NIM), which usually determine a bank’s profitability.Senior economist Aviliani said on Friday that banks’ NIM had already decreased in the past few years due to tight competition since the digital era.Data from the Financial Services Authority (OJK) showed that banks’ NIM ratio stood at 4.91 percent in 2019, lower than the 2016 figure of 5.63 percent.Given that the OJK has allowed more relaxed restructuring among debtors amid the pandemic, Aviliani said she expected banks’ NIM would further decrease.Last month, the OJK issued a new regulation that relaxed debt quality assessment and restructuring requirements for debtors that are hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, allowing them to assess the quality of a loan worth up to Rp 10 billion (US$637,795) based on only the debtor’s timeliness in paying the loan’s principal and interest.“I think the NIM will significantly decline from April to June as the COVID-19 pandemic continues,” she said during an online discussion.Despite the bleak outlook, she still expressed optimism that some banks could still record profits amid the less-than-favorable conditions.“Banks that don’t rely heavily on interest income as their main revenue stream and have strong fee-based income can still book a profit despite today’s conditions,” she said.Read also: Small banks could be forced to merge under new regulation, OJK saysAlthough Moody’s expects bank profitability to decrease as they needed to increase their provision, Moody’s vice president senior credit officer Alka Anbarasu also said Indonesian banks could still survive during the challenging climate as she believed they could absorb the increase in credit costs while still supporting internal capital generation.David of BCA echoed the sentiment, saying that Indonesian banks were among the strongest in the emerging market due to the high capital adequacy ratio (CAR) percentages.“Our banks’ CAR currently sits around the 23 percent level. The rise in NPL and credit costs may cause the banks’ CAR to decline, but overall it is still stronger than most other banks in the emerging market,” he said.Topics : Its vice president senior credit officer of financial institutions group, Eugene Tarzimanov, further added during a webinar on Tuesday that the disruptions were expected to increase the bad loan ratio in the region, including Indonesia, as they weakened cash flows of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and corporates in exposed industries, such as airlines, oil and gas and global shipping.Read also: Rating agencies downgrade Indonesian companies on debt repayment concerns amid COVID-19Although Bank Central Asia (BCA) economist David Sumual said on Wednesday that he could not determine how big the rise in the non-performing loan (NPL) ratio would be this year, he admitted that the ratio could increase further if the pandemic continued.The Financial Services Authority (OJK) recorded gross NPL ratio at 2.79 percent in February, the highest level since May last year. Loan growth, meanwhile, stood at 5.93 percent in the month, reflecting the lowest expansion since November 2009, as demand plunged. The spread of COVID-19 is expected to hit Indonesian banks’ performance this year, but analysts remain hopeful that the industry will still be resilient enough to face the challenges the pandemic is bringing to the economy.Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded Indonesia’s banking industry outlook, along with 11 other countries in the Asia Pacific region, to negative from stable over concerns of rising credit costs and declining profitability as the pandemic is disrupting the global economy.“The coronavirus outbreak has weakened global demand and is increasingly disrupting domestic economic activity,” Moody’s wrote in a report published on April 2.