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Gerard B. Hawkins
Passionate Chemical Engineer, Gemologist, Jewelry Designer, Martial Artist, and Scuba enthusiast
Passionate Chemical Engineer, Gemologist, Jewelry Designer, Martial Artist, and Scuba enthusiast

Gerard B.'s posts

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Gerard B. Hawkins
Director of Catalyst and Process Technology
M Chemical Company
Oct. 1, 2015

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The Senior Ballerinas of Buenos Aires

For 20 years, members of Ballet 40/90 have entertained audiences in Argentina’s capital, rediscovering a passion many assumed they had outgrown

Many girls dream of becoming dancers when they grow up. In reality, few do.

But in Argentina, some fulfill this dream when they are more than grown up—when they’re between the ages of 40 and 90.

The person who made it happen was Elsa Agras, a dance and performance arts teacher. In 1995, when Agras was 70, she decided to teach women her age to dance.

“Thin, fat, tall, short, young, not so young: We’re all stars,” Agras used to say.

Initially, her group Ballet 40/90 had only two members. There are now 54 women who perform every week in a theater in downtown Buenos Aires, just a few blocks from the Argentine National Congress. The youngest is 52; the least young is 85.
They are housewives, grandmothers, lawyers, retirees. But they are also dancers. Sometimes their knees hurt. A couple of them suffer from migraines. But as soon as they step onto the stage, the pain is gone.

“When I am on stage, I feel like a different woman,” says María Pagliano, 77. “It’s pure glory.”

“I was a frustrated dancer. When I was a girl, dancers didn’t have a good reputation. I wasn’t allowed to dance. This group, and dancing, brought me back to life.”

Cristina Sobrero, 62, was also a frustrated dancer who worked as a lawyer.

“I used to think that I had missed the boat. If I couldn’t become a dancer when I was a girl, there was going to be no other chance. I was looking for something to feel passionate about for years,” Sobrero says. “Until I found this.”

Agras died last year at the age of 90. It was a hard blow; the group had lost only one other member, and Agras was involved right up to the last moment, when she was hospitalized. The group is now directed by a new choreographer and dancer, Gabi Goldberg.

“Elsa realized their dream, and they decided not to let go of it,” she says.

Despite its name, the group does not focus on classical dance. It does tap dance, folk dance (such as Italy’s Tarantella), tango, and choreographies set to contemporary songs, like “Besame Mucho” and other Spanish-language hits.

The show, which lasts two hours, is a sort of tongue-in-cheek musical comedy. It includes a couple of sketches, some singing, but above all a lot of dancing in colorful set pieces.

It is the product of months of work. The group begins in March and they train two or three times a week, in the evening. Between August and November, the show is every Friday, and the entire day is dedicated to rehearsal and prepping.

Ballet 40/90 advertises the show in retirement centers, and Friday has become a night out for senior clubs, who fill up buses to attend.
The theater is often full of family members, including proud nieces and nephews, and many seniors. Ballet 40/90 advertises the show in retirement centers, and Friday has become a night out for senior clubs, who fill up buses to attend.

The energy is high as the ladies, fully dressed up, greet audience members and show them to their seats.

“It is a party,” says Darío Doria, a documentary-maker who filmed the group for a year and a half. The final product, Elsa y su Ballet (Elsa and Her Ballet), came out in 2011. “It is exemplary. These are women who wanted to dance, and now they do it. They are an example of how to be alive.”

According to Doria, the show is unique because it is a senior group whose work was directed by a senior, and has had continuity over two decades. He says it has lasted because everyone takes it seriously, not just as a hobby. “It is not a dance workshop, or fun. They are committed to the show and to the rehearsals.”

Cecilia Scardamaglia, 57, agrees. “We are no amateurs,” she stresses. “We don't make our living out of this, but we are a professional group, that trains seriously and has a show on every year.”

Scardamaglia, who joined in 2001, is a key figure in the group. When Agras could no longer perform the steps, she acted as her assistant to demonstrate what Agras showed with her hands.

“There is no negotiating here. If you can’t commit to working hard, you can’t join,” says Scardamaglia.

The show has precise choreographies and impeccable costumes, which Agras herself designed. There is no shyness: legs are on show, and many acts include flirtatious moves.

“Elsa taught us that we should never look down at the floor, because it was horrible on the stage, and in life, too.”
“Elsa taught us that we should never look down at the floor, because it was horrible on the stage, and in life, too,” says Zulma Pereyra, 54, who decided to join two years ago after seeing a show.

“It changes their lives when they join the ballet,” says Doria, the filmmaker. “In such a macho culture, these women leave their men at home, go out, get made up, create a group they feel they belong to.”

Goldberg, who is 51, says the group has taught her a lot as a woman.

“This group is a guarantee of health. These women look after each other, when there are losses or one is sick. Some of them are alone and here they have found their family,” she says. “Here you forget there is an end.”
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MIT: Analysis sees many Promising Pathways for Solar Photovoltaic Power

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This Big Publicly-Traded Company Might Be Worth Nothing
Caterpillar (CAT) is the latest victim of the commodities crash…

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If We Can't Hold These Levels, We'll Have a Bear Market

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Dear Colleague:

It has been 50 years since the group now known as the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) cautioned President Lyndon B. Johnson that continued accumulation of atmospheric carbon dioxide resulting from fossil-fuel burning would “almost certainly cause significant changes” to our climate and “could be deleterious from the point of view of human beings.” 

Since then, the reality of human-caused climate change has been affirmed by virtually every leading scientific organization, as well as the vast majority of individual climate scientists worldwide. 

Yet, widespread public skepticism persists, and comprehensive policy responses have remained elusive. As members of the science community, we have to reach out to the American people, to policymakers, and even to other countries about what science is showing about the dangers of climate change and the severe outcomes that could occur through our inaction or continued resistance to change.

We must send a strong, clear message: The threats to human well-being and our planet are mounting. The time to act is now. For our part:
AAAS launched the “What We Know” report in 2014 that has now reached tens of thousands of Americans. We have trained hundreds of scientists to be better skilled at leading evidence-based conversations to improve the national dialogue about climate change.

On October 29, 2015, we are hosting, with the Carnegie Institution for Science, a daylong symposium and Capitol Hill briefing to address what scientists have learned about climate change, the questions that remain unanswered, and the promise of science and technology to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.

Just this month, we named three prestigious climate scientists to serve among our first class of fellows of the Alan I. Leshner Leadership Institute for Public Engagement, where they will continue this work to promote meaningful dialogue about climate change.
The PCAST anniversary and the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference represent important opportunities for inspiring positive change. But we have to work together, and we have to act now. 

As the world’s largest multidisciplinary science association, AAAS is uniquely positioned to mobilize the science community to lead this charge. To promote such initiatives in advocacy, science education, and setting standards for scientific responsibility, we need the flexibility that financial independence allows. 

A gift today to our Flexible Action Fund will play a pivotal role in moving this debate. 

Won’t you join us?


Rush D. Holt 
Chief Executive Officer and
Executive Publisher, Science Family of Journals 

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Distressed Debt: Profit or Peril? The Capital Provider’s Conundrum

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A $38bn Deal Creates One Of The Top Midstream Companies In The U.S.

Energy Transfer Equity announced Monday that it is acquiring Williams Companies for $37.7 billion, thereby gaining control of pipelines and other midstream infrastructure that handle nearly a third of rising US natural gas demand. The deal transforms billionaire Kelcy L. Warren's company into one of the largest US midstream operators, after Kinder Morgan and Enterprise Products Partners.

Deal Rationale, Context

According to a Monday statement, Williams shareholders will receive $43.50 a share either in cash or stock of Energy Transfer Corp. LP, an affiliate of Energy Transfer Equity. Williams canceled its offer in May to purchase all stock it does not own in its affiliate, Williams Partners LP. The $43.50 a share price represents a 4.6% premium to Williams' closing price on September 25.

The agreement brings to a conclusion a nine-month effort by Warren that became public in June when Williams rejected Energy Transfer’s first offer as too low, and then sought other potential buyers for an auction of the firm.

Energy Transfer Equity Chairman Warren said in the Monday statement, “The combination of Williams and ETE will create substantial value for both companies’ stakeholders that would not be realized otherwise.”

The acquisition comes as a record amount of natural gas flows out of the Marcellus shale play in Pennsylvania, which is currently the largest and most prolific gas field in the US. The rise in production from the region has upended the US's gas markets, as well as most of the US pipeline network that was previously designed to deliver gas from the Gulf Coast, Bloomberg reported.

Commenting on the deal on Monday, Forbes' Antoine Gara noted, "There’s good reason behind Energy Transfer’s pursuit of Williams. Pipeline companies have turned into favored stocks among energy investors because they are seen as a good way to bet on the rise in shale drilling in North America without taking commodity price risk. Promising shale oilfields that are prized assets for drillers like Hess, Devon Energy and Chesapeake Energy rely on oil and gas pipelines to transport their production to hubs. And volumes from onshore oilfields have grown at a steady clip even as energy prices have gone through booms and busts, minimizing the volatility of pipeline stocks."

Williams’ most important asset is Transco, the largest US gas pipeline system. It links the Marcellus region to populous US markets. According to the company’s May investor presentation, Williams currently has contracts underwriting at least $2.5 billion to enlarge Transco. Its lines connect with some Energy Transfer businesses.

One Of The Largest NAM Midstream Deals
The deal is among the largest in the North American midstream sector, which last year saw Kinder Morgan merge its partnership assets into one company via transactions with an enterprise value of more than $40 billion, according to Bloomberg. Kinder Morgan’s market cap is now approximately $64.5 billion.

Energy Transfer intends to sell $6 billion of new debt to finance the deal, and will take on $4.2 billion of Williams debt. The combined company will hold $16.6 billion in debt.

Williams investors will own a 52% stake in Energy Transfer Equity after closing.

Williams and Energy Transfer Equity are set to emerge as one of the top six largest US energy companies. As of September 25, the two companies had a combined market value of over $60 billion. According to a separate statement, Williams will pay a $428 million termination fee to the partnership.

Deal Narrative: From June To Today
On June 21, Energy Transfer said it had offered $48 billion in stock for Williams. Following the rejection of the offer, Williams started taking bids in a process overseen by Barclays Plc and Lazard Ltd. In July, Energy Transfer agreed to participate in the bid.

Energy Transfer’s initial offer was contingent on Williams jettisoning a consolidation of its partnership the company had announced in May. Williams had proposed purchasing the remainder of Williams Partners LP units it does not already own for $14 billion.

Williams previously said the deal would reduce taxes, simplify its structure, and produce funds for expansion projects. According to the Monday statement, merger savings will improve Energy Transfer Equity earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization by $2 billion per year by 2020. The combined companies project a $5 billion incremental capital investment to realize the synergies.

The Monday statement said: "During the course of its diligence process over the last ten weeks, the Energy Transfer family has identified significant commercial synergies. These synergies run across a broad spectrum, ranging from new revenue opportunities, improved operational efficiencies and performance, new capital opportunities and prioritization of existing capital projects. ETE expects that the anticipated EBITDA from these commercial synergies will exceed $2 billion per year by 2020 (or more than 20% of the estimated current pro forma EBITDA for the combined company) and will require overall incremental capital investment of more than $5 billion to achieve."

Management Comments
Kelcy Warren, ETE’s Chairman, said, “I am excited that we have now agreed to the terms of this merger with Williams. I believe that the combination of Williams and ETE will create substantial value for both companies’ stakeholders that would not be realized otherwise.”

Frank T. MacInnis, Chairman of the Williams Board of Directors, said, “After a comprehensive evaluation of strategic alternatives, including extensive discussions with numerous parties, the Williams Board of Directors concluded that a merger with Energy Transfer Equity is in the best interests of Williams’ stockholders and all of our other stakeholders. The merger provides Williams stockholders with compelling value today as well as the opportunity to benefit from enhanced growth projects.”

Alan Armstrong, President and Chief Executive Officer of Williams, said, “Williams’ intense focus on connecting the best natural gas supplies to the best natural gas markets will be a significant complement to the ETE family of diverse energy infrastructure. As a combined company, we will have enhanced prospects for growth, be better able to connect our customers to more diverse markets, and have more stability in an environment of low commodity prices. Importantly, Williams Partners will retain its current name and remain a publicly traded partnership headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma.”
Source: Jeff Reed 
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