Fender is already a well-known name in the music world, with their guitars, amps, and other instruments widely used at home and on stages around the world. However, Fender has just recently announced that it’s expanding its reach with a brand new online guitar lesson service dubbed Fender Play. The online subscription service launches today, with a monthly cost of $19.99 per month (luckily, interested parties can try out Fender Play for a free one-month trial before committing to the service). Fender Play lets its users pick a playing style, such as rock, pop, country, blues, or folk, and then uses its ever-expanding catalog of songs of that genre to teach the fundamental of guitars playing (or advance the skills of those who already know their way around an acoustic or electric guitar).Ableton Launches New Website That Teaches You The Ins And Outs Of Making BeatsFender Play is a win-win for the guitar company. With the well-recognized name of the company behind it, it’s likely to draw in a number of users. However, Fender acknowledges that the service is a good business move outside of the service as a standalone. After gathering some data, the company found that while many people pick up the guitar, not many stick with it — A recent article in Forbes notes, “Fender found that 45% of guitar sales are from brand-new players, 95% of people who start to play guitar drop it within the first year, if not the first 90 days.” Thus, Fender is addressing this abandonment rate, ideally helping these beginner players continue on with their guitar playing, and hopefully upgrade to new instruments as they progress. In the same article, Ethan Kaplan, the general manager of Fender Digital noted, “We’re nothing if people don’t play. There are a lot more guitars out there than there are people playing them, so we just want to get new guitarists playing quickly, and people sticking with the instrument.”[H/T Forbes]
If you read only one book about Cumberland Island, this is it: Carol Ruckdeschel’s A Natural History of Cumberland Island is the authoritative guidebook and encyclopedia for Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island. This book tells the story of everything that lives on Cumberland Island, from coyotes and bobcats to the ticks that feed on them.Cumberland Island is a national seashore, wilderness, and global biosphere reserve—recognized internationally because it shelters so many rare and endangered species. Ruckdeschel has observed and studied every one of them, and her detailed accounts in this book contain breathtaking first-hand encounters and notes from the field.It’s filled with insightful details into island life, including the diets of the first aboriginal people to live on Cumberland (mussels, clams, mullet, shrimp, deer, and the occasional alligator, sea turtle, and manatee, along with abundant berries, nuts, and leaves). It’s filled with other fascinating facts: Cumberland Island’s shoreline was once 78 miles east of its present location and Whitney Lake is the largest natural body of freshwater on the Georgia barrier islands (and it almost completely dried up during a 1981 drought).No one knows more about Cumberland Island than Carol Ruckdeschel. She has lived on the island for the past 45 years, and she has devoted much of her life to researching and writing this book. For over four decades, Ruckdeschel has been studying the wildlife of Cumberland Island—wading into alligator dens, climbing trees to survey bald eagle nests, and autopsying endangered sea turtles that wash ashore.Ruckdeschel also powerfully and definitively describes the geology and ecology of Cumberland with lucid, lively, and engaging prose. She also tells the island’s human story, from the earliest indigenous inhabitants to the Carnegie and Rockefeller families today. The influence of their agriculture, timber harvesting, and expanding development on natural communities has been profound. The introduction of feral animals and the suppression of fire has also significantly altered the diversity and health of island ecology.The opening chapters provide sweeping summaries of the island—from a spit of sand 40,000 years ago to the 18-mile barrier island today. Most of the book is dedicated to species accounts, which provide incredibly detailed, first-hand, extraordinary insights into every fish, amphibian, reptile, bird, mammal, and parasite that inhabit the island. Her accounts are supported with authoritative research from leading scientists in every field.This is not necessarily a light read for summer vacation, but it is an essential companion for anyone visiting the island or seeking to understand its living community. A Natural History of Cumberland Island is a groundbreaking, landmark publication for Southern ecology, and it provides powerful new insights into the natural and human history of the South’s wildest island.
Dec 28, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – Before adjourning last week, the US Senate passed and sent to President Bush a bill providing $3.8 billion for pandemic influenza preparedness and a controversial liability shield for those who produce and administer drugs and vaccines used in a declared public health emergency.The preparedness funding and liability protection were part of the fiscal year 2006 defense spending bill passed by the Senate on the evening of Dec 21. The bill had cleared the House 2 days earlier.The $3.8 billion for pandemic preparedness is a little more than half of the $7.1 billion Bush had requested in early November. House Republican leaders said last week the measure would fund roughly the fiscal year 2006 portion of Bush’s request.As reported previously, the amount includes $350 million to improve state and local preparedness and directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to use most of the rest on “core preparedness activities,” including increasing vaccine production capacity, developing vaccines, and stockpiling antiviral drugs.The liability provision offers broad legal protection for the makers of drugs, vaccines, and other medical “countermeasures” used when the HHS secretary declares an emergency. The provision says people claiming injury from a medical countermeasure can sue only if they prove “willful misconduct” by those who made or administered it. The bill calls for Congress to set up a compensation program for injuries, but it provides no funds for that purpose.Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and other Republican leaders argued that the liability measure was necessary to induce biotechnology companies to develop products to counter pandemic flu and other disease threats.In a news release issued after the bill passed, Frist said the measure “extends limited protections to manufacturers, distributors, and first responders, so that life-saving countermeasures, such as an H5N1 avian flu vaccine, will be developed, deployed and administered.”He added that the bill “strikes a reasonable balance where those who are harmed will be fairly compensated and life-saving products will be available in ample supply to protect and treat as many Americans as possible.”But Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and some other Democrats, along with consumer groups such as Public Citizen, derided the liability provision as a giveaway to the drug industry. Kennedy said the bill makes it “essentially impossible” for injured parties to sue for damages. He also argued that the measure allows the HHS secretary to use many common diseases as a reason to activate the liability shield.”Without a real compensation program, the liability protection in the defense bill provides a Christmas present to the drug industry and bag of coal to everyday Americans,” stated a Dec 21 news release issued by Kennedy and Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Chris Dodd, D-Conn.The liability protection language, called the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, was tacked onto the end of the huge defense-spending bill (H.R. 2863).It gives the HHS secretary authority to trigger the liability protection by declaring an emergency if he or she determines that a disease or other health threat represents an emergency or may constitute an emergency in the future. The act does not list any criteria for determining the existence of an emergency. The declaration would have to list the diseases, populations, and geographic areas covered and when the emergency would end.Such an emergency declaration is not subject to court review, and it preempts any conflicting laws or regulations of states or local communities, the act says.The measure says those who make and administer medical countermeasures covered by an emergency declaration are immune to lawsuits unless the plaintiff can provide clear evidence of willful misconduct that resulted in death or serious physical injury. “Willful misconduct” is ruled out if the party who administered the treatment followed HHS recommendations and notified health authorities of the relevant injury within 7 days.In addition, the act instructs the HHS secretary to write regulations “that further restrict the scope of actions or omissions by a covered person” that constitute willful misconduct.A party alleging “willful misconduct” can file suit only in US District Court in Washington, DC. The plaintiff must have an affidavit supporting the suit from a physician who did not treat the injured person. Before any suit can go to trial, a three-judge panel will consider any pretrial motions.The act says that an HHS emergency declaration will trigger the establishment of a fund to provide “timely, uniform, and adequate compensation” to anyone injured by covered medical countermeasures. However, the measure does not appropriate money for the fund.A person claiming injury from a covered treatment may not sue without first trying to collect from the compensation fund. But that requirement applies only if the compensation program has been funded. A person can sue if HHS fails to act on the request for compensation within 240 days.If a plaintiff accepts an award from the compensation fund, he or she is barred from suing anyone, the act provides.In arguing that the liability shield is too broad, Kennedy said in his news release, “The Bush administration could identify Vioxx as a needed countermeasure to treat the arthritis epidemic or to treat pain associated with flu, and completely immunize Merck [the manufacturer] from lawsuits currently pending against it.”See also:The Library of Congress’ Thomas site for the text of the liability shield (search “Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act,” part of HR 2863)http://thomas.loc.gov/