Month: September 2019

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It Looks Like The Baseball Is Behind MLBs Power Surge

The great home run mystery of 2015-17 has been solved. Maybe.Yesterday, former FiveThirtyEight writer Ben Lindbergh and prominent sabermetrician Mitchel Lichtman published a piece at the Ringer with evidence showing that alterations to the ball might partially explain the spike in home runs over the past two seasons. By physically testing the balls, they found that in addition to changes that make the ball come off the bat faster, the seams were made flatter in a way that could affect the ball’s aerodynamics. With their findings in mind, I examined the rate of home runs per fly ball and found further evidence suggesting that the ball itself may be the culprit.Just after the All-Star Break in 2015, MLB’s home run rate increased without warning or explanation. Since then, it has continued rising, and it now threatens the all-time record set in the heart of the steroid era. In a series of articles at FiveThirtyEight, Lindbergh and I ruled out various explanations for the home run surge, including weather, a wave of young talent, and steroids, leaving alterations to the ball as the most likely answer. It’s either that, or 750 MLB players woke up one morning in 2015 with more pop in their bats. Despite MLB’s repeated denials, Lindbergh and Lichtman reveal that the 2016-17 baseballs have different physical properties — and those changes could explain the record-breaking home run rates. The primary alteration to the ball affected its bounciness, making it come off the bat faster. But Lindbergh and Lichtman also uncovered evidence that the ball’s seams are lower and that its circumference has decreased. Those changes should decrease the ball’s air resistance, so that a new ball should go farther than an old ball that leaves the bat at the same speed.And it turns out the new balls do tend to travel farther. I built a model to predict whether a given fly ball would go over the fence in 2015, based on the launch angle, exit velocity and stadium.1I defined a fly ball as one hit with launch angle greater than 20 degrees. Then I used that model to predict how many home runs there were in 2016.2I used a random forest to produce the results discussed in this article. I also ran a logistic regression, which produced similar findings.If the ball stayed the same, the model should be able to forecast the right number of homers. Instead, the league hit about four percent (201 total) more home runs hit than expected in 2016, even accounting for the higher exit velocities and better launch angles. That’s significantly more than you’d see by chance.3The p value was less than 0.01. The changes can also be seen in the trends of the last few years: If you focus on balls hit with launch angles of between 20 and 40 degrees and exit velocities higher than 100 miles per hour (roughly corresponding to the league’s definition of “barreled balls”), 72.9 percent of those flies ended up over the fence in 2015, compared to 74.7 percent in 2016 and 76.4 percent so far this year. Of course, another possibility is that MLB recalibrated Statcast, the radar tracking system that maps the trajectory of every batted ball, which could cause the same ball to be listed with different exit velocities in 2016 to and 2015. But even if that did happen, it would not resolve the mystery, it would only shift responsibility for the home run spike to inexplicably harder hitting, instead of more favorable ball aerodynamics.It’s possible that weather (temperature, wind or humidity) could be affecting home run rates, but when I examined only domed stadiums, I found the same increase in dingers. I asked baseball physicist Alan Nathan to calculate what effect the new balls could have, and he found that the changes in the seam height and circumference would increase average batted-ball distance something like 1 or 2 feet, raising home run rates by approximately 4 percent — identical to what I observed.Reached for comment, Major League Baseball noted that the league regularly tests baseballs to ensure that they meet established standards, and that recent tests have found that the balls are within those standards. MLB also said that an outside consultant has examined their results and found no reason to suspect that the baseballs in use today would cause an increase in offense.To be sure, the league-wide impact of tweaking the ball’s aerodynamics is small. According to Lindbergh and Lichtman, who note that their experiments are not definitive, the seam height and circumference changes only appeared in 2016, well after the midyear adjustment in 2015 that kicked off the home run surge (that part of the increase is likely attributable to increases in the balls’ bounciness). It’s likely that many factors are contributing to the ongoing spike in home run rates, including hitters adjusting their approaches and favorable weather conditions, but we now have a compelling explanation for the bulk of the spike. read more

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Its Never Too Early For Gregg Popovich To Call A Timeout

No other team is closeMost total timeouts within the first two minutes of a game, 2009-18 Chicago Bulls17 San Antonio Spurs30 In a way, the numbers highlight the degree to which this has been an unusually trying year for a Spurs club that’s widely considered the gold standard for consistency in pro sports. San Antonio has reached the playoffs in 20 consecutive seasons — a span in which it won five NBA titles — largely because of its unparalleled injury prevention and perhaps also its ability to enjoy peace and quiet from the drama that threatens so many other franchises.But that hasn’t been the case this year — particularly with injuries. It’s no coincidence that San Antonio, after a rough 6-11 patch over the past 17 games, finds itself in an unfamiliar battle for one of the West’s last playoff spots.4As of Monday morning, FiveThirtyEight’s NBA projection model gave the Spurs — who are on a three-game win streak — a 78 percent probability of reaching the postseason, a vastly improved position from just a week earlier, when the model gave them a 54 percent chance. All this while being unsure of when and whether franchise cornerstone and two-time Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard will come back from a troubling quad injury that’s kept him out nearly the entire season.“If you have different lineups every night and different players, it’s going to be more challenging,” said Popovich, whose team still boasts the third-best defense in the NBA this season. “But you know, quit your crying and just play. And that’s what we’ve done. No one’s crying. No one’s making any excuses. Everybody has problems they have to overcome with their teams.“With us, it’s been the injuries. And it’s very disappointing because we wanted to pick up where we left off last year after 61 wins and going to the conference finals. We had really high hopes. Even without Tony and Kawhi to start, we did very well. Then we kind of hit a wall.”Popovich attributes some of that stagnation to “running out of fuel,” a nod to the less-experienced players he’s had to lean on more than he expected to heading into the season.The surplus of youngsters — and the challenging nature of the season — may explain why Pop has been so quick to call timeouts this season compared with others. Aside from having a military-like focus on the details, he has seemingly felt more of a need to point out veteran players’ miscues so they aren’t repeated by reserves who could someday replace them as the team’s leaders.“He expects us, as veterans who’ve been here long enough, to know these things. To lead more, and to do more,” Green said. “Our leash is exactly the same as everyone else’s. Maybe even shorter. So it’s on us to get those (younger) guys in gear as well. The timeouts are kind of designed to say, ‘If these (starters) can fall in line and take the criticism, you better fall in line, too.’”Popovich said there was no true rhyme or reason to the nature of his timeout calls, other than something looking out of place. “It’s just by the seat of my pants,” he told me. “If I see something that’s particularly egregious based on what our game plan was supposed to be, then I try to do something to get them focused a little bit quicker. It mostly depends on the level of execution deficit, I suppose.”5In fairness to Popovich, while the timeout against the Cavs might have seemed a tad quick, it is unusual for a team to hit a three in the game’s first 10 seconds. Crowder’s three against the Spurs is the only such play in the NBA this season, per Basketball-Reference.com’s Play Index.Popovich’s dedication to precision and his highly choreographed style haven’t always gone over perfectly with his players, of course. Creative playmakers Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, both of whom figure to reach the Hall of Fame someday, have said it took time for them to adjust to Popovich.But the 69-year-old has never been shy about deviating from established coaching norms — sometimes in ways that aren’t immediately recognizable. In the past, Popovich would call timeouts a minute or two ahead of first-quarter commercial breaks that were scheduled to happen anyway — a practice that allowed him to sit his starters and buy them a little bit of extra rest. He’d then bring those players back much earlier in the second quarter than most opponents would, often allowing the Spurs to dominate second periods as a result. (Something easier to recognize: He isn’t afraid to sub all five of his starters out at once if he’s unhappy with effort or execution.)Popovich also doesn’t hesitate to let his players do some of the coaching from time to time. He allowed Parker to walk into the coaches’ huddle during a timeout, then sent Parker to relay the plan to his teammates on the bench — an occurrence that wouldn’t have been that unusual had it not been during the NBA Finals.6Popovich also gives his players quizzes about current events and world history in hopes of having them connect with one another better. TeamQuick timeouts Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/pop_new.mp400:0000:0000:54Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.“You want the clean version or the unedited version of what he’s telling us?” a smiling Green asked me after a recent practice. “In a nutshell, when he calls us over that quickly, it’s to say: ‘Wake up — get your head out of your butt. This is a big game. You can’t fall asleep on defense and fail to execute on the very first play of the game.’ He uses language that’s a little stronger than that, but if he has to call timeout that early, it’s pretty much to chew you out for not really being in the game mentally yet.”Popovich, the longest-tenured coach in American professional sports, has never been shy about burning an early timeout to get his point across. In fact, the Spurs have called 50 percent more timeouts during the first two minutes of games than the next closest team over the past 10 regular seasons, according to analysts Vincent Johnson and Ken Woolums of ESPN Stats & Info. Popovich has called an NBA-high five timeouts within the first two minutes of a game this season — an eye-popping number given that more than a third of the teams in the league haven’t used even one such timeout — and is currently on pace to call more than he ever has in a single season.3As of Monday morning, the Spurs had 12 games left in their season. Golden State Warriors18 Philadelphia 76ers18 SAN ANTONIO — The game against the Cleveland Cavaliers had tipped off only 10 seconds earlier, but as soon as Jae Crowder’s 3-pointer fell through the basket, San Antonio guard Danny Green knew what was coming. The Spurs hadn’t even run an offensive play yet, but as soon as he crossed half-court, Green began walking toward the bench, knowing that his coach would call a timeout.To most watching that nationally televised game in January, the stoppage 14 seconds in seemed out of place. It marked the quickest timeout in an NBA game in almost three years,1Interestingly, Cleveland was the last team to call a timeout this quickly. In March 2015, during a matchup with the Brooklyn Nets, the David Blatt-led Cavs called a timeout just 11 seconds after the game started, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group. according to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group. But to Green, it was nothing new. He’s come to expect this sort of thing from Gregg Popovich, who’s called more abrupt timeouts than anyone in recent years — in some cases to shout at Green specifically.2The Spurs’ timeout in January marked the fastest Popovich has called for time in the 21 full seasons he’s been on the job. Prior to this one, you’d have to go back to the 2011-12 season, in which he called a timeout 18 seconds into the action to yank DeJuan Blair, who committed a bad defensive foul after being out of position. Dallas Mavericks20 Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group Popovich’s tinkering this season may have been for naught if Leonard doesn’t return. The Spurs have begun to look like a car that had just enough gas to get home but then had to make a run to the store while still on fumes. Similar to last season, Leonard was the difference between San Antonio potentially contending in the playoffs and simply being another solid NBA team.But regardless of whether the Spurs make the playoffs, one thing is clear: Popovich will always get his points about precision across to his players — even if it means calling a timeout 14 seconds into a game to do so.Check out our latest NBA predictions. read more

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The Rockets Love Launching 3s From Way Past The Line

Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group The Rockets shoot from (way, way) downtownNBA teams with the most 3-point attempts from 28-35 feet, 2017-18 Miami Heat70– Houston Rockets178– Portland Trail Blazers108– Cleveland Cavaliers93– DALLAS — The Houston Rockets, who at the moment seem to be the only team worthy of challenging the defending champion Warriors, just might be the NBA’s most unapologetic club.The team set fire to the record books last season by launching more than 40 3-point attempts per night, which shattered their own record from 2014-15 and was over six 3s a night more than the team with the second-most attempts. Yet entering this campaign, reigning Coach of the Year Mike D’Antoni still wanted more, saying that Houston could realistically take 50 per game. Houston may not be quite that extreme so far, but they are on pace to become the first team in history to shoot more 3s than 2s — which is mind-boggling in its own right.Yet for all the attention paid to how many 3s the Rockets are taking, there’s been less attention paid to where, exactly, the club is hoisting them from, and the positive difference it’s making for their offense even if the shots don’t all go in.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/andersonspace.mp400:0000:0000:10Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/gordonhorse.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Going into their nationally televised matchup Friday night with the Pelicans, the Rockets were spotting up from a different zip code far more than any other team. Houston’s taken a whopping 178 three-point attempts from the 28-to-35 foot range, according to data from James Jackson of ESPN Stats & Information Group. For context, the teams right behind Houston on this list, Portland and Indiana, have taken just 108 and 107 attempts from this distance which is at least 4 feet behind the line. But after those three teams, no one else has even managed to crack 100 so far. This number is unusually high for the 3-point-obsessed Rockets, too: They’ve already taken more 3s from that range in 46 games this season than they took during last year’s entire 82-game slate. Boston Celtics93– Golden State Warriors84– Charlotte Hornets78– Indiana Pacers107– Team3-point Attempts Of course, it’s not like Houston — which entered Friday as the No. 2 seed, at 34-12 — is regularly canning these looks. The Rockets are connecting on just under 30 percent of their shots from that deep,1When the Rockets take 3s from above the break, their average shot distance is 25.8 feet from the basket, the second-farthest in the NBA. a far cry from the 36 percent league-average mark from 3-point range in general.Still, there are several reasons that those shots help the team even if they don’t go in, and just about all of those reasons stem from the spacing these long shots create. Chris Paul and James Harden certainly benefit from the extra room, and they already rank among the NBA’s best playmakers, even without the help.Watch this pick-and-roll play against Utah, where Paul comes down and finds big man Clint Capela for a dunk. Jazz swingman Joe Johnson was prepared to help at the rim, but began scrambling back toward sharpshooter Ryan Anderson, even though he was standing nearly 30 feet from the basket. Johnson’s recognition that Anderson can make shots from that distance was enough to send him rushing away from Capela.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/spreadpr.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Capela, who’s in the middle of his best season and is currently leading the NBA in field-goal percentage, has been perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the additional spacing. Harden and Paul, two of the best no-look passers, have had a field day throwing him lobs (He’s second in the league in dunks). His average shot attempt this season is coming fewer than 2 feet from the basket.“Having all that extra space definitely enhances Clint’s game,” said D’Antoni, who told me he gave a handful of players (namely Anderson, Harden and Eric Gordon) the green light last season to experiment with the longer 3-point tries.The importance of Capela’s vertical floor-spacing role within the offense can’t be overstated. For starters, the Rockets run an NBA-high 62 direct2Meaning an action that led directly to a shot, foul or change of possession. pick-and-rolls per 100 possessions, according to Second Spectrum and NBA Advanced Stats, meaning he’s involved in dozens of scoring opportunities each game, with both Paul and Harden. One thing worth noting about this trio: Paul, Harden and Capela have led the Rockets to a 19-0 mark this season when all three suit up and play. The team is just 15-12 when one or more of them doesn’t play.When I asked Paul what it’s like playing in an offense with so much space, he explained that he’s still learning to adjust to how open some of his teammates are. “My friends joke with me and tell me I’m a new player now, but it’s a cool way to play,” he told me. “Nobody argues about shots or anything. When you see us get frustrated, a lot of the time it’s because we’re not defending. The offense is free-flowing, and guys just let (long shots) go.”Giving players like Paul and Harden more space to work with is almost cruel. A weak-side defender’s inability to help leaves primary stoppers on an island, and the star point guards are happy to take their chances with those matchups. The result so far: The Rockets go 1-on-1 more than any other NBA team and are the league’s most efficient isolation team by a wide margin.3Their current scoring rate is the highest on record in the Synergy Sports database, which goes back 14 years. Similarly, Harden and Paul rank No. 1 and No. 2 in isolation efficiency among those who go 1-on-1 at least three times per contest. (Harden is somehow scoring nearly 53 percent of the time in iso scenarios to this point.)But the isolation plays are just one way the extra spacing has helped Harden this year, after he showed himself to be perhaps the NBA’s best passer last season. The extra room has also enabled him to toy with defenses at times. In this first video of the Rockets playing against Sacramento, Harden draws three defenders at once — two of whom run into each other — and feeds the ball to Capela after the Kings fail to account for him in the paint. Less than two minutes later, knowing that the defense won’t make the same mistake and leave Capela open again, Harden makes it look as if he’s going to throw the ball back to his center but instead swings the ball to a wide-open Anderson, who’s waiting 5 feet above the top of the key.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/capelakings.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/andersonkings.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.In just those two plays, the Rockets illustrate how easily they can break a defense. If you pay too much attention to Harden or Paul, they’ll simply go over the top to Capela. Pay too much attention to someone cutting through the paint? There’s a good chance it’s going to cost you 3 points, given the caliber of shooters they have lining the perimeter. And it goes without saying that if you neglect Harden or Paul driving into the paint, Houston will either score or draw a shooting foul, which the Rockets do better than anyone.All of this explains why Anderson likes to stand so far off the line: It forces the defender to make a choice: Am I going to come out and guard him up to 30 feet from the basket and be too far away to provide help on James or Paul, or do I want to be in position to guard against the drive and risk letting Anderson or Gordon get an open 3 from basically another county?“I kind of like shooting it from that deep. Most times, no one wants to come out that far, so it feels kind of like a free throw, where there’s no pressure,” said Anderson, who was prodded by D’Antoni to start taking that shot based on what his coach had seen in shootarounds and practices. “And if they do hug up on me, like Harrison Barnes was doing tonight, all it does is leave room for James and Chris.” (Harden finished Wednesday’s game with 25 points, 13 assists and one turnover.)You might think this sort of dilemma might send a defense scrambling, but opposing teams sometimes treat the court like a minefield: Often they’re a bit too confused about who they should shade toward and wind up unwilling to make a definitive step in any direction. Houston’s opponents move at the league’s seventh-slowest rate on defense, according to Second Spectrum. On the flip side, the Rockets know exactly what they want to do when they have an open look, regardless of how far away they may be from the basket.“They’re really comfortable out there,” D’Antoni said of his players, who get more wide-open 3s per game than any other team. “If it’s just as comfortable [as a shorter 3], why not shoot it? I’m willing to live with that.” Brooklyn Nets70– Detroit Pistons77– read more

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Penn Is Historys Best No 16 Seed Can It Pull Off The

2015ManhattanMAAC164364-74 vs. Hampton* Penn is the best No. 16 seed ever (according to Elo)Highest Elo rating for No. 16 seeds going into the NCAA Tournament, 1985-2018 2008Portland StateBig Sky169861-85 vs. Kansas 2010Vermont1619Syracuse1986-366 There are only a few things left in sports that have never happened: five homers in a game, a sub-two-hour marathon, a quintuple double. Probably the most famous, though, is the knocking off of a No. 1 seed by a No. 16 seed in the men’s NCAA Tournament. (A 16 vs. 1 upset has happened once on the women’s side, when Harvard beat Stanford in 1998.) It’s actually kind of weird that it hasn’t happened yet; although No. 16 seeds are usually pretty bad, you’d think at least one would have broken through over the course of 33 years and 132 tries. The 133rd No. 16 to take a crack at it will be the Ivy Leaguers from the University of Pennsylvania, which faces Kansas on Thursday — and Penn’s chances of beating a No. 1 are among the best a No. 16 seed has ever had.For starters, Penn is a lot better than the usual No. 16 seed. According to our Elo ratings — which measure a team’s strength based on (among other factors) who it’s beaten and by how much — the Quakers rank 76th in the country, with an even 1700 rating. How good is that? By definition, the typical D-I team rates around 1500, and since they first became a thing in 1985 (excluding this season), No. 16 seeds have had an average Elo rating of 1483.1This number includes No. 16 seeds that lost their play-in games before the round of 64. By the way, if that number seems strangely close to average, remember that there are a ton of teams in Division I — 351, to be exact — so even lowly No. 16 seeds are around the mean for all D-I schools. Before Penn this year, the highest-rated No. 16 seed of all time was Portland State, which carried a 1698 rating heading into the 2008 tournament. (It ended up losing, to Kansas of all teams, by 24.) Penn is officially the first No. 16 seed ever to break the 1700 barrier in Elo: 1990Arkansas-Little Rock1607UNLV1990-382 1985SouthernSWAC163659-83 vs. St John’s (NY) 2018PennsylvaniaIvy1700— 2006Oral Roberts1629Memphis1931-302 2006Oral RobertsMidCont162978-94 vs. Memphis 2017South Dakota State1621Gonzaga2029-408 2011UNC-Asheville1594Pittsburgh2008-415 2012VermontAEC162958-77 vs. North Carolina YearTeamConf.Elotournament loss 2017S. Dakota StateSummit162146-66 vs. Gonzaga No. 16 seedNo. 1 SEED Is this the 16-vs-1 matchup we’ve been waiting for?Smallest differentials in pregame Elo ratings for No. 16 seeds against No. 1′s in the NCAA Tournament, 1985-2018 * Play-in gameSource: Sports-Reference.com 2010VermontAEC161956-79 vs. Syracuse There is one big catch, however. The game will be played in Wichita, Kansas, just two-and-a-half hours down the road from the Jayhawks’ campus in Lawrence. Because our full-blown tournament model — which contains many accuracy-boosting bells and whistles that pure Elo differential ignores — takes travel distance into account, it gives Penn only a 5 percent shot at the historic victory. That’s still really high by 16-seed standards — the best chance since the current iteration of our model rolled out in 2013 — but comparing that to the typical No. 16’s win probability is like saying the Cleveland Browns had a better winning percentage in 2016 than in 2017. Sure, it’s true, but neither number is especially good.In other words, the Quakers probably won’t win. Unlike practically every other 16-vs-1 matchup, though, this one should give you a millisecond of doubt when filling out your bracket. We always say that, eventually, a No. 16 seed will beat a No. 1 seed. For Penn, there might be no time like the present.Check out our latest March Madness predictions. 1985Southern1636St John’s (NY)1948-312 YearTeamEloTeamEloElo Diff. 1985North Carolina A&T1544Oklahoma1963-420 2012LamarSouthland163559-71 vs. Vermont* It’s also worth noting that Ivy League schools are usually not relegated to being first-round cannon fodder. According to the NCAA, the Ivy’s 43 all-time NCAA Tournament wins makes it the most successful conference outside of the six major conferences and the top mid-majors.2Specifically: the American Athletic, Atlantic 10, West Coast, Mountain West, Missouri Valley and Conference USA. Ivy teams have won three of their last five games in the round of 64 (and that doesn’t even include Cornell’s Sweet 16 bid in 2010). And the two first-round losses were by a combined 4 points. Some of that is a function of seeding, but that’s also the point. The last time an Ivy League team was seeded as low as 16th was 1989, when (coincidentally enough) Pete Carril’s Princeton squad came the closest to knocking off a No. 1 seed of any 16-seed ever, losing by only 1 point to Georgetown:Of course, even if Penn is the best No. 16 seed ever, the Quakers aren’t playing another No. 16 seed on Thursday; they’re playing Kansas, which just earned its 14th No. 1 seed in program history. KU has wiped the floor with No. 16 seeds by an average margin of 25 points per game, with only one (Western Kentucky in 2013) keeping the final score within single digits.One piece of good news for Penn, however, is that this year’s Jayhawks aren’t quite as strong as they’ve tended to be in their other top-seeded seasons. With an Elo of 1985, Kansas is well below the historical average (2071) for No. 1 seeds in the 64-team-bracket era. Only nine other No. 1 seeds have had a lower pre-tournament Elo in that span than KU has this season.So Penn-Kansas might be the perfect storm we obsessive 16-over-1 hopefuls have been waiting for: a combination of the best No. 16 seed in history and one of the weaker No. 1 seeds. According to Elo, the 285-point gap between the Quakers and Jayhawks is the smallest for any 1-vs-16 game in tournament history. 2013James Madison1574Indiana1986-412 2012UNC-AshevilleBig South161965-72 vs. Syracuse Source: Sports-Reference.com 2008Portland State1698Kansas2102-404 2018Pennsylvania1700Kansas1985-285 read more

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Can The Thunder Keep Their Comeback Rolling

By Neil Paine and Kyle Wagner More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed Embed Code Welcome to The Lab, FiveThirtyEight’s basketball podcast. On Thursday’s show (April 26, 2018), Neil and Kyle talk about two Western Conference series: Oklahoma City vs. Utah and Golden State vs. New Orleans. Russell Westbrook helped the Thunder force Game 6, but can his team really win two more consecutive games against the Jazz? And can the Pelicans take advantage of the Warriors while Golden State is without Stephen Curry?The Lab will be back with another episode next week. In the meantime, keep an eye on FiveThirtyEight’s NBA predictions, which are updated after every game. read more

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Mens soccer OSU loses to Akron on Senior Night

OSU junior forward Nate Kohl (27) fights for a ball during a game against Akron on Oct. 26. Credit: Harrison Reber | For The LanternComing off a big win over Michigan in Ann Arbor, the Ohio State men’s soccer team looked to take down a rival of a different sort on Senior Night in-state foe Akron.The Buckeyes would not be as fortunate in this one, however, dropped a 2-0 contest against the Zips in their final regular season home game.“Akron is an explosive team with very good athletes and a lot of pace,” said OSU coach John Bluem. “We knew that would trouble us going in. We conceded a couple of bad goals early on. It put us in a hole that, against a team like that, you are probably not going to get out of.”Akron opened the scoring early in the first half.In just the 5th minute, Zips freshman forward Jonathan Lewis received the ball on a deflected pass and fired it into the back left of the net from 12 yards out, giving the Zips an early 1-0 lead.Later, in the 24th minute, freshman defender Nick Hinds received a pass at midfield and beat the keeper from the right wing, extending the Akron lead to 2-0.The two goals proved to be more than enough for the Zips, as they were able to hold the Buckeyes scoreless through 90 minutes. Akron outshot OSU 15-8, with both teams garnering five corner kicks apiece.The Buckeyes were without sophomore midfielder Abdi Mohamed and senior forward Danny Jensen, who both sat due to injury.Despite the loss, coach Bluem felt good about the intensity the team played with until the final whistle.“Its senior night and we just asked our guys to give it the best effort we possibly can and make sure we don’t give up,” Bluem said. “I think this team has given us that all year through a lot of adversity and a lot of challenges. We have never given up hope and always give it our best effort.”As part of the Senior Night festivities, the eight seniors on the roster were honored with their families before the start of the match, giving them time to reflect on their time at OSU.“It is crazy,” senior defender Tyler Kidwell said. “I just think about all the memories I’ve made in this stadium. I’ve had a little bit of success, but the friendships I have made have been awesome. I’ve met some lifelong friends. That’s the biggest part of it.”Senior defender Austin Bergstrom echoed his classmate.“It has been great,” Bergstrom said. “Coming in as a freshman I looked at the seniors and didn’t know how I was ever going to get to where they were. Now that I’m here, it’s pretty strange but it was really nice.”For the Buckeyes, there is only one game remaining on the regular season schedule: an away match against Wisconsin. For OSU, a win in the game could mean capturing a top-four seed in the Big Ten tournament.“We have a lot to look forward to still,” Bergstrom said. “The season isn’t over. I think we will go up to Wisconsin and give them a run for their money. We should come back with a win.” read more

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Tuesday Take Ohio State mens basketball reaches lowest point

Ohio State junior forward Jae’Sean Tate loses the ball heading toward the rim against Nebraska on Feb. 18 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorIt had been trending in this direction for a while, but now it seems the Ohio State men’s basketball team has truly hit rock bottom.Since the conclusion of the 2013-14 season, the Buckeyes had been in a downward spiral toward the bottom of the Big Ten Conference. With Saturday’s 58-57 home loss to Nebraska, dropping OSU to 15-13, 5-10 in the Big Ten, the Scarlet and Gray have reached their lowest point in the 13 years coach Thad Matta has been in charge of the program.“I’m like you — dumbfounded,” Matta said.OSU led by seven at the final media timeout with 2:52 remaining on the clock. Over that stretch, Nebraska outscored the Buckeyes 11-3 and forced four OSU turnovers. OSU led by five with 32 seconds left. But a turnover off a jump ball and a 3-point play conversion by Nebraska sophomore guard Glynn Watson Jr. quickly turned the tide against the Buckeyes.The final punch was when senior guard Tai Webster blew up junior forward Jae’Sean Tate’s attempted handoff to senior forward Marc Loving, and Tate threw up a wild shot that missed.With that loss, the 2016-17 season effectively became the first time under Matta that the Buckeyes will finish below .500 in the Big Ten, and the first time OSU will miss the NCAA Tournament in consecutive years — barring a miraculous run to a Big Ten tournament championship.When told in the press conference that OSU would finish below .500 in conference, redshirt junior center Trevor Thompson let out a deep sigh, his anguish showing through. So, what was the mood like in the locker room following the loss?“I don’t know,” Thompson said.Understanding the nature of the descent of the basketball program for fans is puzzling, and definitely is also the case for Thompson. Nebraska was just a sliver of the decline, and was all the more perplexing.“That little stretch right there, it wasn’t just the shot — that last war, you know,” Tate said. “Sending him to the line, getting the jump ball, turning it over, not communicating. When you do things like that back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back, the outcome is going to be difficult to swallow.”Since the 2013-14 season, OSU has won just one NCAA Tournament game and has finished as high as fifth in the conference over that span. Gone are the times OSU competed for a conference titles and were consistent participants in NCAA regionals. Now records are scarred by home losses to Northwestern and Nebraska — not to mention nonconference home losses to Texas Arlington, Louisiana Tech and Florida Atlantic the past two years. Northwestern’s win in Columbus was the team’s first since 1977, and Saturday was Nebraska’s first-ever win in Columbus.OSU currently sits in 13th place of 14 teams in the Big Ten.Matta couldn’t answer why OSU struggled against the zone on Saturday, when tearing it apart the first time around against Nebraska. Tate attributed it to a lack of thinking and not being on the same page — something that has become commonplace for a program rich in history.“We got to be smarter,” Tate said. “We beat ourselves (Saturday). And we deserve it.” read more

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Five questions to ask about Ohio State – Purdue

1. Can Ohio State control its emotions? Common sense suggests the Buckeyes were already fired up to play Purdue after their embarrassing 26-18 loss last Oct. 17 in West Lafayette. Ind. Now, following a loss at Wisconsin after only one week ranked at No. 1, the team will be chomping at the bit to take the field. Coach Jim Tressel preaches a communal mentality to his team, but obviously, he doesn’t know what each player is thinking. “We talk a lot about what we should be collectively thinking,” Tressel said. But “I’ve never pretended to know what every individual is thinking.” 2. Will the OSU offensive line handle Purdue’s version of J.J. Watt? Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt wreaked havoc at times last Saturday against the OSU offensive line, finishing the game with four tackles and two sacks. The men who man the trenches will get no off-day on Saturday against Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan. In last season’s game, Kerrigan tortured the Scarlet and Gray offense for nine tackles and three sacks. So far this season, Kerrigan has six sacks despite being the focal point for opposing teams’ offensive lines. 3. Is ‘Boom’ Herron ready for a No. 1 running back role? Even though Dan Herron and Brandon Saine continue to be listed as co-starters on the team’s depth chart, make no mistake about it, Herron is now the featured back. In the last three games, Herron has carried the ball 54 times. In that same span, Saine has rushed the ball eight times, including no carries in the past two games. As OSU heads into its eighth game, the offense seems to be more comfortable with Herron carrying the load on the ground and using Saine as a hybrid wide receiver. 4. After a subpar showing last week, will the OSU defensive line rebound? Before the Wisconsin game, the OSU defensive line had held its own through the first six games of the season. Things changed Saturday night. Wisconsin manhandled the OSU defensive line at times and surrendered 184 yards on the ground to the Badgers, 104 of those to 2009 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year John Clay. In most years, OSU rotates about eight players along the defensive line to keep fresh legs in the game and create a solid push on the line. In the first quarter, Wisconsin embarked on a 19-play, 89-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown. The only player substituted for one of the starters on the defensive line during that drive was freshman Johnathan Hankins. “I can remember many times we’ve talked since last February that one of the concerns was that five of our eight in our eight-man rotation were graduating or going out early,” Tressel said. “What you get into in a ball game like (last Saturday) is, is it the right time and the right place to put someone in?” 5. Are injuries becoming a serious concern for the defense? The “Silver Bullets” have quickly become the walking wounded. They are already without safety C.J. Barnett and hybrid linebacker/safety Tyler Moeller for the season. Barnett’s replacement, Orhian Johnson, is banged up. Moeller’s replacement, Christian Bryant, has a foot infection that requires hospitalization until at least Friday, Tressel said. Starting linebacker Ross Homan will be out a few weeks with a foot injury. His backup, Dorian Bell, suffered a concussion against Indiana and is still out. Although Tressel essentially said the next man in line needs to step up, the injuries are not only depleting the defense but also the special teams, where many of the backups play. The last thing a struggling OSU special teams unit needs is new and untested faces. read more

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Whos paying for Terrelle Pryors lawyer

Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor’s lawyer would not disclose who is paying the quarterback’s legal bills, but he did tell The Lantern on Thursday that he does not anticipate any further sanctions for his client regarding the cars he has driven while at OSU. Larry James, a Columbus attorney who represents Pryor, explained the quarterback’s vehicle history and said his client did not commit any infractions. “In order to have infractions, he would have to receive something of a benefit that other students or the public would not normally receive,” James said. James said Pryor’s mother, Thomasina Pryor, purchased a Hyundai Sonata in 2008 for her son, then a high school senior in Jeanette, Pa. James said the car died sometime during the first year and a half, and was traded in for a Dodge Charger, for which Thomasina also paid. When the Charger began having problems, Pryor traded it in for about $7,800, and purchased a Nissan 350Z for about $11,000 after trade-in. “The monthly payments are $289,” James said. “That is about a nickel difference between the Charger and the 350Z.” Pryor drove three or four loaner cars while the Charger was being serviced, James said. “The idea of getting a loaner when your car is being serviced is pretty standard,” he said. James would not identify who is paying for his client’s legal bills. “I can’t tell you and wouldn’t tell you, and it’s inappropriate to tell you,” James said. “The public does not get to know that.” OSU spokesman Jim Lynch, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, would not say whether the university is funding Pryor’s legal counsel. “Student-athletes can get their own counsel when their eligibility is at issue,” Lynch said, “but NCAA rules also allow us to provide legal representation.” James said Pryor had his license reinstated since receiving a ticket for running a stop sign Feb. 17. “He has his license as we speak,” James said. “He went down (Thursday) to show proof of insurance.” James said he doesn’t understand the current media scrutiny. “Particularly for a young student-athlete, I think it’s been awful,” James said. “If you look at allegations about the cars, they have been anything but factual. It has been punitive and I don’t get that.” Multiple reports have indicated that Pryor, who is facing a five-game suspension, is the subject of an independent NCAA investigation for receiving deals on cars and other improper benefits. Lynch, citing FERPA, could not specifically comment on Pryor’s involvement. “We have an active investigation with the NCAA,” Lynch said, “and we will be working cooperatively with them until the investigation is resolved.” The NCAA and OSU’s compliance department are conducting a separate investigation into allegations that Pryor received discounts on cars, and are questioning his relationship with Ted Sarniak, a 67-year-old business man from Pryor’s hometown of Jeanette, who has been described as Pryor’s mentor. Pryor has been connected with the purchase of as many as eight vehicles since he arrived at OSU in 2008. He has been stopped three times while driving cars owned by car salesman Aaron Kniffin, or a Columbus dealership where Kniffin worked. In a sworn affidavit released by OSU on Tuesday, Kniffin said there were no special deals. “The deals that I did for Ohio State student-athletes were no different than any of the other 10,000-plus deals that I’ve done for all my other customers,” Kniffin said in the affidavit. Pryor, along with teammates Dan Herron, DeVier Posey, Solomon Thomas and Mike Adams, was suspended for the first five games of the 2011–12 regular season for receiving improper benefits, but was allowed to participate in OSU’s 31-26 victory against Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. It later was revealed that Tressel knew about the infractions and failed to report them. Tressel resigned Monday. A Sports Illustrated report published Monday night said Pryor personally took more than 20 items, including helmets, Nike cleats and game pants to Fine Line Ink tattoo parlor. In 2008, Pryor was investigated for the ownership of a vehicle before he arrived on campus for his freshman year. He later won the starting quarterback job from then-senior quarterback Todd Boeckman, becoming the first true freshman quarterback to start at OSU since Art Schlichter in 1978. In 2009, Pryor raised eyebrows for his defense of Michael Vick after the NFL quarterback was accused of participating in illegal dog-fighting rings. “I mean, everyone kills people, murders people, steals from you, steals from me, whatever,” Pryor said at the time. “I think that people need a second chance, and I’ve always looked up to Mike Vick, and I always will.” Pryor won the Rose Bowl MVP in 2010 and passed for 266 yards and two touchdowns as the Buckeyes defeated Oregon, 26-17. read more

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Ohio State dodgeball team set to host national tournament

A national tournament is coming to Ohio State. The sport involves throwing a round ball. If you guessed baseball, you’re wrong.The Ohio State club dodgeball team is set to host the sport’s national tournament at the RPAC Saturday and Sunday.Ohio State (6-5) is a founding member of the National Collegiate Dodgeball Association, which started in 2002. OSU has attended every national tournament and has two championships, 2005 and 2006.The Buckeyes have played in three tournaments so far this season including the Round Robin tournament at OSU, the Redhawk invitational at the University of Miami University (Ohio), and the Ohio Dodgeball Cup at Kent State University.Jeff Starr, a second-year engineering student and club dodgeball member said OSU should have won more games this year and that the team is better than its record reflects. He is expecting a good result this weekend at nationals.“I think that we will actually do amazing,” Starr said. “We’ve been really close with a lot of the top teams and a lot of those tournaments, we didn’t have all of our guys. We weren’t all 100 percent. I think everyone is going to be ready to go, 100 percent.”Currently there are between 25 and 30 active members, coach, and OSU alumnus, Jude DuPart said.DuPart said not all members travel to tournaments because of midterms or scheduling conflicts, which is the reason some teams play more matches than other teams.“It really varies on how much traveling you can do. So the teams up in Michigan that are a stone’s throw away … there’s four teams up there that are all about two hours to 30 minutes away from each other,” DuPart said.DuPart said the biggest benefit of having the tournament at home is getting more players involved.“We’ll definitely be able to see a lot more kids get out there and play,” DuPart said. “A lot of kids have other obligations and can’t make the travel commitments to be able to play and see a large competitive style game.”Aside from not having to travel, Starr said another advantage of hosting the national tournament in Columbus comes with team members having the comfort of sleeping in their own beds.“Last year, we were sleeping on a motel floor, so having our own beds will be nice,” Starr said.OSU team captain Josh Connor, a second-year in logistics management, agreed with Starr that home court advantage is a big deal, especially in a big tournament.“With any sport you’re playing in, having the crowd behind you will win you the momentum. Having your friends and family behind you goes a long way,” Connor said.Starr added it’ll be nice to hear cheers for the home team.“We definitely get a lot more home fans cheering for us and not for the other teams, that’ll help,” Starr said.DuPart said OSU finished fourth in the national tournament last year. This year he is hopeful for a good result despite the more experienced teams.“Despite being a younger squad I think we’ve picked up (play) well. We’re looking pretty good,” DuPart said. “I do think there are a lot more mature teams and a lot of other teams that play pretty well, especially Grand Valley and Kent (State) is looking good this year.”Connor expects to do better at nationals than last year with a young but confident squad.“We had a pretty good season last year, I think we’re going to do better than that,” Connor said. “We’ve grown a lot, I can speak for myself I’ve become a lot more aggressive and that carries across the board. I think we have a lot more guys who feel comfortable. I think the camaraderie is even strong than it was.”The tournament is set to begin Saturday with group play from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the lower RPAC courts. It continues Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with single elimination tournament style play. read more

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Down the rink Columbus Blue Jackets recap – Week 7

Right wing Cam Atkinson signed a seven-year contract extension on Nov. 17 with the Blue Jackets. Credit: Courtesy of TNSThe Columbus Blue Jackets bounced back from three straight losses the week before to take two games against quality opponents.Defenseman Zach Werenski buried an overtime goal against Montreal and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky had a 36-save, 2-0 shutout victory for his 21st career shutout with Columbus against the New York Rangers.Before the Jackets face off with Buffalo in New York on Monday night, here’s the rundown from this past week’s three major storylines.Tortorella searching for answers defensivelyAs expected, the top defensive line of Seth Jones and Zach Werenski have continued to be the force carries the Jackets in their own zone. Past that, the defense remains largely unsolved. The difference this week, head coach John Tortorella is sending a message.He surprisingly made David Savard a healthy scratch Friday against the Rangers due to his play. Savard has been a defensive staple for the better part of four seasons, but the blue-liner certainly hasn’t played up to par to this point. Rookie Gabriel Carlsson replaced Savard on the second line.The second defensive pairing of Jack Johnson and David Savard gave up the only goal the Jackets allowed this week in a continued downward spiral from two of Columbus’ most consistent defenders last season. The two have the lowest plus-minus rating of any defensive fixtures in the lineup. Both recorded career-highs in plus-minus last year — Savard plus-33, Johnson plus-23.Savard will be back in the lineup Monday with Carlsson being sent back to Cleveland, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Blue Jackets.Zach Werenski finding offensive rhythmIt’s no secret the Blue Jackets have struggled on offense this season, despite having some of the best young talent in the Metropolitan division. Even for defensemen, that can be frustrating. But Werenski found the back of the net twice, both in game-winning fashion. His overtime goal against Montreal then a second-period wrister against New York.His offense from the blue line is arguably just as important as getting the forwards onto the scoring sheet. If Werenski can carry his two-game goal streak over to the power play, the Jackets can return to offensive prominence as many expected before the season.Atkinson signs seven-year extensionThe next two offseasons are going to test the front office, with 15 players listed as an unrestricted or restricted free agent in the 2018 and 2019 offseasons. But team president John Davidson and general manager Jarmo Kekalainen can cross one off the board with a huge seven-year deal, reportedly in excess of $40 million to Cam Atkinson. The new deal also includes a no-move clause.Atkinson, 28, has led the Jackets in scoring the past two seasons and should remain a big part of the franchise’s offense for years to come.He failed to record a point in his first game on Friday since his signing, but fired a team-high seven shots and moved furiously through the Rangers defense, attacking the net on each shift.Injury reportThird-line left wing Matt Calvert was placed on injured reserve on Nov. 6. Calvert is expected to miss three to four weeks with an upper body injury.Fourth-line center Lukas Sedlak is on injured reserve with ankle injury retroactive to Oct. 23.Alexander Wennberg has missed the past two games with unknown injury.Looking aheadCurrently on a three-game winning streak, the Blue Jackets are tied atop the Metropolitan division with Pittsburgh and New Jersey with 25 points. After Monday, they have four of their next five games at home against four teams that have winning records.Top performers (skaters)Zach Werenski – two goals (6), two points (12), +2Brandon Dubinsky – two assists (6), two points (8), +1Josh Anderson – one goal (7), one point (10), +1Artemi Panarin – one goal (4), one point (14), 1 power-play goalGoaltending:Sergei Bobrovsky – 2-0-0 (11-4-1), 0.50 goals allowed average (2.02), 64 saves, .985 save percentage (.933)In the circle (faceoff record, faceoff win percentage, EV record, PP record, SH record)Brandon Dubinsky – 34-16, 68.0, 29-14, 0-0, 5-2 Nick Foligno – 16-19, 45.7, 12-19, 3-0, 1-0Pierre-Luc Dubois – 7-7, 50.0, 0-0, 0-0, 0-0Jordan Schroeder – 8-3, 72.7, 7-3, 1-0, 0-0Overall: 569-636 (47.2 percent), ranked 28thSpecial teams units:Powerplay – 0-for-2 at Montreal; 1-for-3 vs. New York RangersOverall: 6-for-57 (10.5 percent), ranked 31stPenalty kill – 2-for-2 at Montreal; 3-for-3 vs. New York RangersOverall: 42-for-51 (82.3 percent), ranked 12thUp next:11/20 – at Buffalo (5-11-4)11/22 – vs. Calgary (11-8-0)11/24 – vs. Ottawa (8-5-6) read more

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Girls need to be more like Shakespeares Cleopatra than Kim Kardashian says

first_imgTeenage girls need to be more like Shakespeare’s Cleopatra rather than reality star Kim Kardashian, a leading headmistress has said.Jane Lunnon, head of Wimbledon High School, argued girls today grapple with the same issues as female characters in Shakespeare’s novels – including issues around body image.Mrs Lunnon said girls should be aspire to be like other role models beyond the likes of Kim Kardashian, “who is a lot to do with inches – either column or physical”.Image and mythSpeaking at the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) annual gathering, held in the Bard’s birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon, Mrs Lunnon said: “I think Shakespeare was saying with Cleopatra that you are allowed to be flawed and powerful and brilliant and still have enormous influence.”The thing about Cleopatra is it’s … about image and how she sells the myth of Cleopatra. Kim Kardashian is selling the myth about Kim Kardashian.”Shakespeare’s Cleopatra did the same thing … a lone female voice when all the other women in Antony And Cleopatra are basically powerless.”It sounds trite to say she had enormous self-confidence, but that’s what you would be getting kids to recognise – how I see myself and what I project.”Mrs Lunnon has launched a pilot scheme – known as Women of Will – at her school where pupils will study Shakespearean characters and re-imagine them in contemporary surroundings in an effort to channel some of their more desirable characteristics.Paucity of role modelsPupils at the all-girls school said they more likely to consider Kardashian, who was robbed of her jewelry in Paris this week, and pop star Taylor Swift to be their role models, rather than education campaigner Malala Yousafzai and US First Lady Michelle Obama.Mrs Lunnon, who has two teenage daughters, said: “I have nothing against them but I wonder to what extent Kim Kardashian as a role model is a lot to do with inches – either column or physical.”It”s well documented there is a paucity of role models that are speaking to girls at the moment in Western society and it made me think where else can we look for them? “As an English teacher I’m very used to using Shakespeare as a great source for intellectual stimulation and exploration – but really probing and using Shakespeare as a pastoral educational tool I thought was really interesting and, in particular, Shakespeare’s characters as role models.”Rosalind, Beatrice and ViolaPupils will now study protagonists from comedies As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing and Twelfth Night in an effort to learn from the way they deal with adversity.Mrs Lunnon said: “Look at Rosalind, look at Beatrice, look at Viola, the capacity in challenge and dilemma and pain, to love, to be vivacious, to be resourceful, to be resilient – they embody it so vividly, and that is a really powerful message.”It’s not that terrible things happen to them, it’s how they respond.”Jacqui O’Hanlon, director of education at the Royal Shakespeare Company, said: “You don’t have to work very hard to get young people to engage with the contemporary relevance of Shakespeare’s work.”As soon as you start putting them in the shoes of the characters and getting them to speak the text and think about the dilemmas those characters are in, there is automatically making reference to their own lives.”  Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.last_img read more

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Boring women including barbed wire collector and brown sign fan allowed in

first_imgIt is arguably the world’s dullest calendar, its glossy pages celebrating traffic cone collectors and roundabout enthusiasts instead of rippling muscles and celebrity status.But avid buyers of the Dull Men’s Club calendar might notice something a little different this year as, for the first time ever, “boring” women will also be gracing its pages. We are pleased to have these ladies who are passionate about every day, unglamorous things in the calendarLeland Carlson The couple have also made a 60ft-long underground station with curved walls so Mr Searle can display all of his signs.”I have always found Stuart’s signs and merchandise fascinating and the way he sets everything out in their correct settings,” Mrs Searle said.”We have people come to visit the collection and I like seeing the look on people’s faces when they see the station in our garden. I’ve helped Stuart to paint the station and it looks wonderful, we’re really pleased with it.”Meanwhile, Ms Gottfried admits mini golf is an “addiction” as she revealed she has visited 716 courses in the last nine years with her husband Richard, 36.“We’ve sometimes played on 50 courses in one week. We’re both quite competitive and we always try to see who can get the most holes in one,” she said.It was a 2001 trip to Texas that inspired Jacky Smith’s barbed wire passion. A visit to the Devil’s Rope Barbed Wire museum led to her wanting to find out more about the fencing and she new buys new varieties from dealers and attends barbed wire conventions. Mini golf fanatic Emily Gottfried, 34, who is obsessed with the game Mini golf fanatic Emily Gottfried, 34, who is obsessed with the gameCredit:Leland Carlson/Geoff Robinson Photography Dawn Searle, 59, who has embraced her husband Stuart 's (left) passion for collecting advert and railway signs, and helped him to build a life-size railway station in their back garden Admitting that her family find her hobby “rather strange”, Ms Smith claims she could “talk about barbed wire all day”.The women are joined in this year’s calendar by a number of “dull” men, including village pump spotter Dick Williams, 68, from Cheltenham; Wilfred Maw, 60, from Cumbria, who makes cutlery sculptures and Dave Shaw, 61, from Stockport, Cheshire, who repairs vintage radios.Mark Dabbs, 41, from Walsall, West Midlands, is also pictured. He has spent £50,000 and 25 years travelling to 45 countries visiting tombstones.The other men in the calendar include Ian and Stuart Paton who grow award-winning giant pumpkins near Lymington and Mark Leigh, from Surrey, who photographs lost gloves.The Dull Men’s Club was started in New York in the 1980s before branching out to the UK and elsewhere in the world.The Dull Men’s Club Calendar Great Britain 2017 is now available to buy from Stanfords bookshops in London and Bristol and on their website. Speaking after the launch of the £9.99 calendar, the women all revealed how they came to love their mundane hobbies.Ms Hone, a restaurant and pub manager who is married and has a young son, said she first started taking an interest in brown signs at university.“Soon after leaving university I quit my job, saved up some money and spent a year travelling around Britain following brown signs,” she said. She now also runs a website where she has compiled a list of all the brown signs in the UK.Ms Walker, 49, found her love for pencils – a “humble tool” – while working at the Cumberland Pencil Museum in Keswick, Cumbria, five years ago. “People are unaware of all that goes into the manufacture of the pencil and it is remarkable,” she said.Prefabs caught Ms Blanchet’s eye after she moved from France to London in 2002. She regards her hobby as “like recording a British national treasure”, while Mrs Searle embraced her husband Stuart’s passion for collecting advert and railway signs and helped him build the 62ft-long station in their garden. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. British buyers will be able to peruse pictures of Miss March, also known as pencil enthusiast Dawn Walker, and Miss August, a 72-year-old barbed wire collector from Dorset.Amanda Hone, 36, who has an obsession with brown tourist signs, Elisabeth Blanchet, who loves prefabricated houses, Dawn Searle, 59, who has built a life-size railway station in her back garden, and mini golf fanatic Emily Gottfried will also be featured.They were all discovered after Leland Carlson, the assistant vice-president of the club, spent a year travelling around Britain to find the women with the dullest hobbies.“We are pleased to have these ladies who are passionate about every day, unglamorous things in the calendar,” he said. “They are truly celebrating the ordinary.” Dawn Searle, 59, who has embraced her husband Stuart ‘s (left) passion for collecting advert and railway signs, and helped him to build a life-size railway station in their back gardenCredit: Leland Carlson/Geoff Robinson Photography last_img read more

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BBC and Sir Cliff Richard agree monthlong truce on sexcase settlement

first_img Cliff Richard Mr Justice Mann also announced he would not be making any remarks on the size of legal bills run up by Sir Cliff Richard during his High Court proceedings against the BBC at this stage.BBC bosses have criticised the singer over his spending on lawyers, claiming the singer has already run up legal costs of more than £800,000.The BBC could be ordered to pick up Sir Cliff’s lawyers’ bills if court proceedings continue and it loses the battle. The broadcaster’s represenatives had invited the judge to “record” his views, but yesterday (FRI) Mr Justice Mann told lawyers representing both sides: “I am not minded to make any particular remarks about the level of costs.”  Cliff RichardCredit:AFP Sir Cliff Richard and the BBC have put their legal battle in the High Court on hold in the hope of reaching a settlement.The singer has sued over reports naming him as a suspected sex offender, arguing his right to respect for private life was infringed and wants “very substantial” damages.Lawyers representing all sides told a judge on Friday that parties had agreed to a one-month ceasefire so negotiations could take place.Mr Justice Mann, who has been overseeing the latest in a series of preliminary hearings at the High Court in London, indicated that he would review the position in the near future.center_img Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. The singer has taken legal action against the BBC, and South Yorkshire Police, over coverage of a raid at his apartment in Sunningdale, Berkshire, in August 2014.His lawyers say he suffered “profound and long-lasting” harm and should get damages.But BBC editors have said they will “defend ourselves vigorously”.A spokeswoman said the BBC had reported Sir Cliff’s “full denial of the allegations at every stage”.South Yorkshire Police have apologised “wholeheartedly for the additional anxiety caused” by the force’s “initial handling of the media interest” in its investigation into the singer.Lawyers say in late 2013 a man made an allegation to the Metropolitan Police, saying he had been sexually assaulted by Sir Cliff at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane football stadium when a child in 1985.Metropolitan Police officers passed the allegation to South Yorkshire Police in July 2014.Sir Cliff denied the allegation “as soon as it was brought to his attention” and in June 2016 prosecutors announced that he would face no charges.last_img read more

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Church bans yoga because it is nonChristian and villagers threaten a boycott

first_imgOne local, who asked not to be named, said: “Over the last 12 months it became obvious that the Church was tightening its grip on what activities would be allowed to take place.”I think the Church sees the community centre as a way of keeping the church going, but they are going against what residents want. With the best will in the world it will not be a proper community centre – it cannot be.”A Church in Wales spokesman said: “The Blaenporth PCC is keen to broaden the use of St David’s Church as a facility that will bring much-needed opportunities for the community it serves – however, the church will continue to be a place of Christian worship. “Therefore, it is felt that activities that might be seen to be in conflict with Christian values and belief would not be appropriate.”What do you think? Join the debate by leaving a comment below. A Church in Wales spokesman said the PCC is “keen to broaden the use of St David’s Church”, but it will continue to be a place of Christian worship.”Therefore, it is felt that activities that might be seen to be in conflict with Christian values and belief would not be appropriate”, he added.The PCC minutes on approval of restrictions of community use reads: “It is agreed that it is important that all the PCC members know what is going on and that people cannot come in without the approval of the PCC and that the Canolfan comes under the auspices of the PCC.”There is no problem to have alcohol in the building, but alcohol is not to be sold. Pilates is allowed, but not yoga. Also no activity of non-Christian activity.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Parishioners have threatened to boycott a church that banned yoga from its premises because it is “non-Christian”.Church bosses said the discipline that originated in ancient India “might be seen to be in conflict with Christian values and belief”.Part of St David’s Church, in Ceredigion, Wales, is being converted into a community centre after complaints that the village of Blaenporth lacked facilities.However, some locals were shocked after the Parochial Church Council (PCC) ruled that, while pilates would be allowed in the planned centre, yoga would not be – along with other “non-Christian activities”. Those who say that yoga is non-Christian often claim to hold the viewpoint because it “teaches participants to focus on oneself, instead of on the one true God”.In a letter to Aberporth Community Council seeking its support, one resident wrote: “I would like to make you aware of the intended community activity restrictions that have been imposed once St David’s Church, Blaenporth is part-converted into a well-needed community centre.”I and no doubt some Blaenporth residents are not at all happy with the view the church has on community activities like yoga, tai chi, taekwondo, cash prize bingo and the like. It is supposed to be a community affair where old and young can enjoy a better quality of life.”I, for one, will not be dictated to as to what activity events are open to me. Therefore, I will not be visiting this establishment for recreational enjoyment until a fair and non-bias community centre is built.” It is felt that activities that might be seen to be in conflict with Christian values and belief would not be appropriateChurch in Wales spokesmanlast_img read more

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Grieving families are splitting up the ashes of their relatives and funeral

first_imgUndertakers are being forced to divide ashes, set up password systems and supervise visits to funeral homes because of warring families who can’t agree on funeral arrangements. According to the National Association of Funeral Directors, their members are increasingly having to mediate between conflicting family members. A survey found that 57 per cent of the association’s 4,000 members had seen a rise in conflict in the past year. Members reported clients “shouting and screaming” in front of other bereaved families, and clients threatening to go to the press over the choices made by their relatives. The main reason cited by members was the conflict caused by estranged families being forced together following the death of a relative.It warned that directors were being targeted by aggressive and threatening clients because of the difficulty of pleasing multiple family members with sometimes conflicting wishes. Alison Crake, president of the National Association of Funeral Directors, said that modern discomfort with talking about death meant people were dying without telling their families what they wanted at their funerals was one of the other main sources of conflict. “More and more people say they are willing to talk about the end of their life, but this isn’t necessarily translating into practical planning and it is leaving families with uncertainty that is increasingly exacerbating fault lines and turning into conflict.“As well has having a terrible impact on families this is also exposing funeral directors and their teams to aggressive behaviour and increasingly leaving them with unpaid debts too,” she said. Paul Cuthell, a Stirlingshire-based funeral director, said he thought complex families were behind some of the conflict. “There seems to be an increasing number of broken families within society nowadays and as a result the emotions seem to come to a head when the bereaved are forced together to arrange a funeral,” he said.According to the ONS, multi-family households, single-parent households and cohabiting couples have all grown in number in the past two decades. The fastest growing family type over the past 20 years was the cohabiting couple family, which doubled from 1.5 million families in 1996 to 3.3 million families in 2016.Figures show that unmarried couples are more likely to split than married ones. Mr Cuthell said that he has been instructed not to let a person into the funeral premises on the day of a funeral, and has watched a family become embroiled in an 18-month legal battle over a deceased person’s ashes. Abi Pattenden, who has been a funeral director for 10 years and works at Freeman Brothers in West Sussex, added that people were unwilling to talk about death. “We’re seeing an increase in these problems for a variety of reasons – families becoming more complicated is one of them. “I’ve had situations where you’ve got the children from the first marriage and the person’s second wife organising the funeral together.”People are also less willing to talk about their plans. There’s a general lack of concern with death as a concept,” she said. Ms Pattenden said she had also been forced to “sit in” as a deceased person’s half-sister visited a body because other family members said they did not trust her. “Something like that does stay with you because you want people to feel they have enough time to grieve in private. I felt I was intruding on her grief. “Sometimes people say ‘when a certain person comes to the chapel of rest, I want to know about it’. But how do you know when is a suitable time to phone someone and tell them something like that?” she said. Her staff had also been forced to draw up a list of approved relatives for another family to stop certain people from visiting. In another case two sisters failed to agree on what should happen to their father’s ashes, so they were split so that half could be buried and the other half scattered.  Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.last_img read more

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Scottish Government accused of ignoring shortage of doctors in NHS

first_imgThe Scottish Government has been accused of ignoring a “critical” shortage of doctors as the British Medical Association called for urgent action in several areas to tackle problems in the NHS.The intervention came on a day when new figures revealed 12 out of the country’s 14 health boards had missed the cancer treatment time of 62 days, and an official report raised concerns over staff shortages in a report on the “unnecessary” deaths of six babies at one hospital.Dr Peter Bennie, chairman of BMA Scotland, said urgent action was needed on areas including the underfunding of the service, a shortage of doctors and a lack of resources to deliver an “integrated health and social care service”.He also highlighted the lack of time available to doctors to “keep themselves up to date, to teach others, and to make joint decisions with patients”. He said doctors felt increasingly stressed and overburdened and patient care was suffering as a result. Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour health spokesman, said the figures were an “absolute disgrace”.Elsewhere, a review was released after six babies died died in so-called unnecessary deaths at Crosshouse Hospital, Kilmarnock, since 2008. The report called for improvements in training and better family engagement.The Scottish Government ordered Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) to carry out the review last year after families whose babies died during childbirth at Ayrshire Maternity Unit spoke out about their experiences.The most recent review into “adverse events” from December 2013 onwards found staff were unsure how to respond to such an event once it was initially reported.NHS Ayrshire and Arran apologised to the families involved and said it is committed to continuous improvement. Shona Robison, the Health Minister,  has promised bereaved families that improvements will be made following the review.She told Holyrood the “substandard” practices uncovered within NHS Ayrshire and Arran were “unacceptable” as she gave a personal commitment that action would be taken.On the cancer figures, she said average waits were still “longer than we would expect and I want to see further improvement”, adding: “We will continue to ensure timely access to diagnostics and treatment for the remaining patients who did not receive their treatment within 62 days. He said: “Good health services cost money and health spending is a political choice. The UK spends a smaller proportion of its national wealth than the average levels spent by comparable leading European nations, and the BMA is calling for that to change, in all four nations.”We want the Scottish public to be consulted on what they need from the health service, and they must be told honestly how much it will cost.”Politicians must then decide if this is affordable, and if not, how they are going to bridge the gap – through additional funding, or by being honest with the public about what they are prepared to fund.”Meanwhile, cancer charities called for urgent progress on waiting-times as new figures reveal only two health boards – NHS Dumfries and Galloway and NHS Lanarkshire – had met the 62-day target for cancer treatment.Only 88.1 per cent of patients with an urgent referral for a suspicion of cancer started treatment within the time period between January and March, falling short of the Scottish Government’s target of 95 per cent.Cancer Research UK said the figures painted an “all too familiar picture”. Gregor McNie, the charity’s senior public affairs manager in Scotland, said: “It’s clear some patients in Scotland are still waiting far too long for diagnosis and treatment.” “To fund this work, yesterday I announced an additional £2.85 million investment for NHS boards.”Ms Robison responded to the BMA’s warnings by claiming the government had delivered an all-time record number of NHS staff, with “an increase of more than 12,0000 since taking office, as well as record high funding for Scotland’s health service”.She added: “We are increasing the NHS revenue budget by £2 billion by the end of this parliament, by which point more than half of frontline spending will be in community health services.” He also used his speech to the BMA’s annual meeting in Bournemouth to say that a report by Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer called Realistic Medicine in Scotland had embodied “the way we have all been taught to practise, and that we all try to practise”. It was about sitting with a patient, giving them information about their own responsibilities for their health, discussing all the options, and helping them to decide what is best for them.But he added that it would only work if doctors and patients had enough time together to make joint decisions. Dr Bennie added: “The Scottish Government repeatedly says that there are more doctors than ever before, but this is simply ignoring a major risk to the health service, and it is demoralising and frustrating for doctors to hear time and time again. shona robisoncenter_img doctors “We need a realistic approach to workforce planning in Scotland which is based on an honest and shared understanding of the current medical workforce numbers, and an evidence based view of what future healthcare demand will mean for the number of doctors required. We need a clear and agreed approach to delivering and retaining this future workforce.”We need to be able to fill vacancies so that we can look after our patients properly and take care of our own health, reducing the risk of burnout.”Government and employers need to work with us, to listen to the opportunities we have identified for improving the working lives of doctors, and to take urgent action now.” Shon Robison is under pressure over NHS problemsCredit:PA Doctors do ‘not have enough time’ to do their jobs properlyCredit:PA Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.last_img read more

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Student celebrates Alevels swigging from hip flask live on Good Morning Britain

first_imgWhile some Twitter users speculated he may have had disappointing results, the student told The Telegraph he was actually celebrating results of AAB – plus a B in his extended project.“I knew it was going out live, and was filmed opening my results live on air,” he said. “It was all planned.” A level student on @GMB in the background of an interview of a girl revealing her results seen taking swig from a hip flask! 😂— JOEY (@JoeyLDN) August 17, 2017 @GMB full marks to the student in the background swigging from a hip flask just now— WerdnaRetral (@WerdnaRetral) August 17, 2017 Some student celebrating A-levels the only way he should live on @GMB #GMB #alevelresultsday #swig pic.twitter.com/F3OzeXmwvp— David Filipe (@david_filipe) August 17, 2017 Getting your A level results can be difficult, this young man appears to be drinking from a hip flask live on @gmb lol. pic.twitter.com/SS1bcUMHjP— Ne.i.l (@Neil_Carter) August 17, 2017 Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. That lad on GMB with his hip flask just in case his A-Level results didn’t go so well. Love it!— Sadie (@sadielou79) August 17, 2017 A-level results day is here and one student decided to start the celebrations very early by swigging Amaretto from a hip flask on live TV this morning.Good Morning Britain was speaking to students from Winstanley College in Wigan about their A-level results when he was spotted drinking behind the reporter at 7am.Teenager James White admitted it was him on TV, joking on Twitter: “Thanks you everyone. I needed it.”He added: “Proudest moment all day.” Fantastic to see Wigan students from @winstanleycoll on @GMB this morning. Showing the nation how brilliant they are! #ALevelResultsDay pic.twitter.com/w2aHjrREpr— Wigan Council (@WiganCouncil) August 17, 2017 19 of the funniest tweets about the stress of A-level results day  He added: “The flask was full of Amaretto – my favourite drink.”The student is going to study law at the University of Liverpool – once celebrating his A-level results is over.How Twitter reactedlast_img read more

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New mothers could be bribed with £200 shopping vouchers to breastfeed children

first_imgOnly one third of British women breastfeed for the recommended six monthsCredit:Anthony Devlin Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. In areas where the vouchers were trialed breastfeeding rates at eight weeks old were just 28 per cent, but that rose to 34 per cent with the incentives. Researchers estimate that raising breastfeeding levels could save the NHS £17 million each year, because it protects babies from infections.However experts warned that there were major problems with the study.Andrew Whitelaw, Emeritus Professor of Neonatal Medicine at the University of Bristol, said: “The trial design could not avoid the possibility that an economically deprived mother would be tempted to report she was breastfeeding (when she was not) in order to receive a 200 pound reward.“This trial is worth publishing because it highlights the difficulties in researching this problem but is not a justification for a general policy of economically rewarding mothers who reporting breastfeeding in areas with low breastfeeding rates.”The NHS has previously spend funds on cash payments of up to £425 for those who lose weight, and shopping vouchers for teenage girls who walk to school.The trial findings are published in JAMA Pediatrics. New mothers could be ‘bribed’ with £200 in shopping vouchers to breastfeed their children, following a major five year trial part-funded by Public Health England.More than 10,000 women living on South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire were offered £120 in vouchers for stores such as Argos, Debenhams, Tesco, Asda and Morrisons, if they signed forms declaring they had breastfed their child for six weeks.They received a further £80 if they were still breastfeeding at six months to ‘acknowledge the work’ involved in breastfeeding.Although fewer than half of women took up the offer, and breastfeeding rates were raised just six per cent, the University of Sheffield declared the results as ‘significant, making it more likely to be rolled out nationally.However critics have argued that there was nothing to stop women using the vouchers for cigarettes and alcohol. They also warned that signing a form did not mean women were actually breastfeeding, and claimed that it penalised women who could not breastfeed.In an ongoing poll on the Telegraph website asking whether women should be paid to breastfeed, 72 per cent of readers said no.center_img Principal investigator Dr Clare Relton, from the University of Sheffield’s School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), said: “Our scheme offered vouchers to mothers as a way of acknowledging the value of breastfeeding to babies and mothers and the work involved in breastfeeding.“The trial found a significant increase in breastfeeding rates in areas where the scheme was offered.“It seems that the voucher scheme helped mothers to breastfeed for longer. Mothers reported they felt rewarded for breastfeeding.”The NHS recommends that mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies during the first six months.Research has found that breastfed babies have fewer health problems, such as chest infections, and are less likely to develop health problems such as diabetes, or become obese, when they are older.But currently only one third of children are breastfed at six months, and that just one per cent only receive breast-milk by this stage. A two-day-old baby girl being breastfedlast_img read more

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Blood test which confirms prostate cancer could prevent 70pc of biopsies

first_imgA simple blood test which confirms the presence of prostate cancer could prevent 70 per cent of painful biopsies, scientists believe.Researchers at Nottingham Trent University and University Hospitals Leicester NHS Trust have discovered that the immune system changes when cancer is present, and that difference can be picked up in the blood.Nearly 50,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in Britain, while many thousands more will develop symptoms which will turn out to be harmless.“This test has the potential to spare men with non-cancerous disease or low-risk cancer from unnecessary invasive diagnostic procedures and tests,” said Professor Masood Khan, consultant urologist at University Hospitals Leicester NHS Trust and Visiting Professor at Nottingham Trent.Men are currently screened for the potential presence of prostate cancer using a blood test which look for prostate specific antigen, a biomarker which rises when the disease is present in the prostate.However readings vary between individuals and naturally rise as people age.The current test is further complicated by the fact that elevated levels of the antigen do not necessarily mean that the man has prostate cancer, while a normal reading does not exclude its presence. Many men are forced to undergo needless biopsies following PSA tests  The new test, which has so far been trialled using samples from 72 men,  would be used following a PSA test to help doctors decide whether a high PSA reading really does mean cancer. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. As well as being able to discount cancer altogether, it has the potential to spare men with no cancer, or low-risk cancer, from having to undergo biopsies and other diagnostic procedures and tests.“Although the PSA blood test is commonly used to test for the presence of prostate cancer, it can be relatively non-specific,” said Professor Graham Pockley, Director of Nottingham Trent University’s John van Geest Cancer Research Centre.“A particular challenge to the clinician is diagnosing the presence of prostate cancer in individuals who do not have symptoms of the disease, but do have a mildly elevated level of PSA in the blood. This study highlights the value of collaborations such as these.”The new test monitors white cells in the blood, which are responsible for protecting the body against infection and cancer. Scientists have developed an algorithm which determines whether cancer is present based on how the cells are reacting.center_img Many men are forced to undergo needless biopsies following PSA tests  Currently, under current government guidelines, men aged between 50 and 69 who have a PSA reading of 3 more are usually sent for a biopsy. But the new test could prevent 70 per cent of operations, which would also bring savings for the health service.The researchers also warned that it is essential that men with low-risk prostate abnormalities are not diagnosed as having prostate cancer which can have adverse psychological and financial consequences and assign these men to unnecessary life-long surveillance. Prostate biopsies are also associated with a five percent risk of urosepsis, a dangerous condition, a severe infection of the urinary tract which can be fatal.The research team is now looking for funding for the next stage of the project, which would involve confirming these results in a larger number of patients and determining whether the same approach can be used to distinguish aggressive from non-aggressive disease.Charities said the research was a step in the right direction.Dr Richard Roope, Cancer Research UK’s GP expert, said: “This research could help spare people who don’t have prostate cancer from further tests.”But it can’t yet tell the difference between life-threatening cancers or harmless ones that can be left alone. This is a step in the right direction, and we look forward to more results from this kind of research.”The work is reported in the international journal Frontiers in Immunology.last_img read more

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