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Intel announces winner of Science Talent Search 2014

BY Ryan Chavis

WASHINGTON — Intel and the Society for Science and the Public recognized winners of the Intel Science Talent Search, a pre-college science and math competition.  

Eric S. Chen, 17, of San Diego took home the top award of $100,000 for his research of potential new drugs to treat the flu. His approach combined computer modeling with structural study and biological validation, with a focus on drugs that inhibit endonuclease — an enzyme essential for viral reproduction. Chen said he hopes his work will lead to a class of new medications to control flu outbreaks during a pandemic.

“Society for Science and the Public proudly joins Intel in congratulating Eric Chen for his impressive research toward potential new drugs for influenza,” said Rick Bates, interim CEO and chief advancement officer of SSP. “By linking technology and science to the problems of the world they see around them, Eric and all the Intel Science Talent Search finalists are tomorrow’s problem solvers.”

 Eric S. Chen, 17, of San Diego, Calif. (center) wins the first-place prize of $100,000 in the Intel Science Talent Search.

The honor of second place (along with $75,000) went to Kevin Lee, 17, of Irvine, Calif. Using a mathematical model, Lee described the shaped of the heart as it beats using the principles of fluid mechanics. His model could provide insights into arrhythmia, which might mean better treatments for the disease.

“We at Intel celebrate the work of these brilliant young scientists as a way to inspire the next generation to follow them with even greater energy and excitement into a life of invention and discovery,” said Wendy Hawkins, executive director of the Intel Foundation. “Imagine the new technologies, solutions and devices they will bring to bear on the challenges we face. The Intel Science Talent Search finalists should inspire all of us with hope for the future.”

The Intel Foundation awarded $1.25 million for the Intel Science Talent Search 2014. This year’s finalists come from 33 schools in 14 states. Out of the 1,794 high school seniors who entered the talent search, 300 were announced as semifinalists in January. Of those, 40 were selected as finalists and invited to Washington to compete for the top 10 awards. The finalists join the ranks of some impressive company. Science Talent Search Alumni have have gone on to win eight Nobel Prizes, two Fields Medals, five National Medals of Science, 11 MacArthur Foundation Fellowships and an Academy Award for Best Actress.

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AANP urges legislators to follow FTC lead against practice restrictions

BY Antoinette Alexander

AUSTIN, Texas — The American Association of Nurse Practitioners, a national professional membership organization for nurse practitioners of all specialties, is calling on state lawmakers to consider the consequences of undue restrictions on APRNs, or nurse practitioners, as recommended by the Federal Trade Commission.

On March 7, the FTC released a policy paper that states, "limiting the range of services APRNs may provide and the extent to which they can practice independently … may reduce competition that benefits consumers." The Commission goes on to recommend that state legislators exercise caution when evaluating proposals that would limit nurse practitioner practice and direct patient access to nurse practitioner services.

The paper, “Policy Perspectives: Competition and the Regulation of Advanced Practice Nurses,” is part of the FTC’s ongoing work to protect consumer choice and competition in the healthcare marketplace.

AANP points to the paper as a valuable new resource for legislators weighing the impact of state licensure laws on patient populations.
"Like the FTC, we believe that competition among healthcare providers results in greater access, lower costs and quality improvement," said Kenneth Miller, co-president of AANP. "Full patient access to high-quality nurse practitioner services is essential for making such competition a reality."

"State legislation that prevents full and direct access for patients has the potential to further hamper our healthcare delivery system," said Angela K. Golden, co-president of AANP. "It is our hope that legislators pay close attention to the analysis of the FTC and honor the health care needs of their constituents."

The FTC paper included additional statements in support of nurse practitioners, such as:

  • Research demonstrates that nurse practitioners provide safe and effective care;
  • Nurse practitioners might help alleviate health care access problems across the United States if undue regulatory burdens on their practice are reduced;
  • Effective collaboration among healthcare providers, including team-based care, does not always require physician supervision of nurse practitioners; and
  • Fewer restrictions on nurse practitioners would be good for competition and America’s health care consumers.

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Dollar General sees Q4 sales increase of 6.8%

BY Mike Troy

GOODLETTSVILLE, Tenn. — An unrelenting Dollar General continues to push forward with plans to open 700 stores this year despite reporting weak financial results and a 1.3% same-store sales increase for the fourth quarter.

Sales during Dollar General’s fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, increased 6.8% to nearly $4.5 billion and were driven mainly by the addition of new locations as same-store sales increased just 1.3%. The comp increase was due to growth in customer traffic and average transaction amount with tobacco and perishables singled out as key contributors, according to the company. However, growth in those categories negatively affected the company’s gross margins as did an increase in the shrink rate, which caused gross margins to decline to 31.9% from 32.5%. Expenses were essentially flat with the prior year at 20% of sales.

Profits in the fourth quarter increased 1.6% to $322 million or $1.01 a share, compared to a profit of $317 million, or 97 cents a share, in the fourth quarter the prior year.

“Sales in the fourth quarter were impacted by severe winter weather, including many days with significant store closures, an aggressive competitive retail landscape and our customers’ uncertainty about spending in the current economic environment,” Dollar General chairman and CEO Rick Dreiling said. “In spite of these headwinds, both customer traffic and average ticket increased in our same-stores in the fourth quarter. In addition, we controlled our expenses well and successfully managed the business to deliver a gross margin rate that was better than we anticipated. Although some of the severe weather impact has continued into the first quarter, we are pleased with our sales performance on days when weather is more normalized.”

The impact of weather can be seen in Dollar General’s expectation for a first quarter same-store sales increase in the range of 2% to 3%, compared to a 2.6% comp increase in the first quarter of 2013. For the full year, the company expects sales to increase in the range of 8% to 9% and same store sales to rise between 3% and 4%, which implies an acceleration of comp growth later in the year. Earnings per share are expected to range from $3.45 a share to $3.55.

The key contributor to those results will be the company’s breakneck pace of expansion which calls for 700 new stores as part of a $450 million to $500 million capital expenditure program. The new store construction program, the most ambitious in the retail industry, follows a record year of square footage expansion in 2013.

“Among our other many accomplishments for the year, we successfully opened 650 new stores, ending the year with 11,132 stores serving customers in 40 states,” Dreiling said. “Dollar General is a strong and growing business with high return store growth opportunities that we intend to capture. While we remain cautious on the current operating environment and the many challenges our customer is facing in 2014, we have a business model that generates significant cash flow, putting us in a position to invest in these growth opportunities, while continuing to return cash to shareholders through share repurchases.”

Dollar General will come close to surpassing $20 billion in annual sales this year if its same-store sales and expansion goals are realized. Last year, the company’s sales increased 9.2% to $17.5 billion from $16 billion and full-year same-store sales increased 3.3%. As in the fourth quarter, those results were driven by an increase in customer traffic and average transaction size and strength in categories such as tobacco, perishables, candy and snacks.

 

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