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05 July

Tennessee amends its UI law on various subjects

Tennessee amends its UI law on various subjects

Tennessee has amended its Employment Security Law as follows:

Electronic means. Any notification, notice, decision, or correspondence may be sent to or received by the Department through electronic means if an individual or entity agrees to send or receive such notifications, notices, decisions, or correspondence through electronic means.

Reconsideration. The agency has removed the provision providing that there will be no one-year limitation on the agency representative reconsidering a decision if a claimant is subsequently convicted of a misdemeanor or felony that caused the separation from the employer; provided, however, the employer gives notification of the conviction in a reasonable time to the agency. In addition, the provision stating that any overpayment created as a result of a reconsideration because a claimant is subsequently convicted of a misdemeanor or felony that causes the separation from the employer will be determined to be fraud and the administrator will not waive repayment of the overpaid amounts has been removed.

Offsets. The agency also has removed the provision limiting its right of setoff if the obligation of the debtor was the result of fraud or the claimant debtors failure to report earnings, or if it was due to any penalties and interest assessed by the Department on a debt.

Wage and premium report. The agency has revised its requirements for filing wage and premium reports to provide, effective January 1, 2016, that each employer with 10 or more employees, and every person or organization that, as an agent, reports wages on a total of 10 or more employees on behalf of one or more subject employers, must file that portion of the wage and premium report that contains the name, Social Security number, and gross wages of each individual in employment electronically in a format prescribed by the Commissioner.

Note that if an employer with at least 10 but not more than 99 employees, or a person or organization that, as an agent, reports wages on a total of at least 10 but not more than 99 employees on behalf of one or more subject employers, is required to file the wage and premium report electronically, and submits an affidavit to the Commissioner containing a statement made under the penalty of perjury that the employer would suffer an undue hardship by filing the wage and premium report electronically, the Commissioner will allow the employer to file the wage and premium report in a hard copy or paper format. This affidavit must be submitted within the first quarter, beginning January 1, 2016, and annually thereafter.

If IRS regulations are amended or superseded to reduce the threshold number of employees required from 10 employees to a lower number of employees, this law provision will remain consistent with those regulations.

For reports due for the quarter beginning July 1, 2016, and each quarter thereafter, any employer, person, or organization that fails to file electronically will be assessed a penalty of $50 for each month, or portion of a month, the report is past due; however, the total penalty for each report will not exceed $500. Penalties assessed will cease to accrue as soon as the subject employer, person, or organization complies with the requirements to report electronically.

Fees and expenses. Instead of fees, penalties, and interest collected under the Treasury Offset Program, all fees and administrative expenses collected under the offset and repayment provisions set out in the states UI law will be deposited in the Unemployment Compensation Fund for use by the Commissioner.

Repayment. Moneys received by the Department in repayment of unemployment benefits and payment of penalties and interest due to fraud and misrepresentation will first be applied to the unemployment benefits received, then to any penalties due, and then to any interest due. Prior to amendment, the provision did not cover the application of this money to penalties.

05 July

Go Play: Choose your Colorado camping companions wisely

There are many ways to camp. There’s car camping, which does not necessarily entail camping in a car, as the name suggests. There is backpacking, which can take place over one night or extend for several days. There is close-to-home camping and travel-to-a-destination camping. However, though there are many different types of camping, there is one element that is crucial for a successful trip: your camping companions.

These are the folks who will not only make sure that you eat but that you eat really well. It’s the person who not only knows where to hike, but where to find the most beautiful, unpopulated trails or campsites. And the individual who may have no other discernible talent other than doing silly things and bringing the beverages. To ensure a most successful camping experience, be sure that the following cadre of companions accompany you on your journey: the campfire gourmand, the Boy/Girl Scout, the good-time Charlie, the gear junkie and the llama whisperer.

The Campfire Gourmand

Man cannot live on bread alone, and plain old hot dogs won’t cut it, either. For a tasty and fulfilling camping experience, there must be a campfire gourmand in your group. This is the person who says, when asked about dinner plans, “oh, I was planning on flank steak with chimichurri, grilled asparagus and couscous.”

Don’t know what chimichurri is? Don’t worry — your campfire gourmand is more than happy to explain.

Those that are culinary inclined seem to effortlessly produce great meals, using tips and tricks that mere mortals may not realize. Planning and prep is extremely important. Cutting up vegetables before you leave the house is easier than doing it at the campsite. Flank steak is great for a backpacking trip if you cut it and marinate at home and then freeze it, then it will thaw out on your hike.

For those who are a little less comfortable in the kitchen, a helpful resource for elevating camping cuisine is Pinterest.

“For me, cooking in general is not something that I’m a master at,” said Kelly Allen, who lives in West Vail and works at Christy Sports. “Pinterest has become that easy tool to find recipes. There are a lot of really clever ideas on there to make it simple.”

Allen has tested many ideas that she’s found on Pinterest, from making single use coffee pouches with filters and dental floss (not a winner) to easy recipes like nachos and pizza rolls that can be cooked over the campfire.

“The pizza log roll was awesome,” Allen said. “It was one of those things that was big enough to feed a lot of people and didn’t take a lot of prep to make.”

After your group has enjoyed the culinary stylings of your foodie friend, remember the cardinal rule of cooking: Those who cook don’t have to clean up.

The Boy/Girl Scout

When you’re exploring the wilderness — or car camping in a posh spot complete with showers — you need someone who practices the Boy and Girl Scout motto, which is “Be prepared.”

“My emergency kit has duct tape, those flexible rubber ski straps and baling wire,” said Cedar Davidson, who works at Alpine Quest Sports in Edwards. “Also, 50 feet of parachute cord. You can help rig a tarp, tie down a tent or repair a backpack strap. It’s high-strength cordage so it’s versatile: You can replace a shoelace if it breaks, repair part of a tent fly or make a drying line for wet clothes. It’s always nice to have little bits of string.”

Davidson also recommends carrying dental floss and a sewing needle.

“Floss is stronger than any commercially available sewing thread,” he explained. “You can repair a tent, a backpack or a piece of clothing, and it’s high strength and waterproof. It doesn’t weaken when it gets wet.”

Having someone in the group who is prepared for the small mishaps that inevitably come up is crucial. After all, there’s nothing worse than sleeping in a drippy tent that could have been easily repaired with a bit of floss and a needle.

No camping trip is complete without a fire. While there are many schools of thought on how to start the perfect fire, the most important part is the end product: a cheerful fire on which to cook your meals, warm your hands and break out into a round of “Kumbaya.” Allen had a fail-proof tip for this necessary demonstration of mild pyromania.

“Take cardboard toilet paper rolls and fill them with cotton balls or dryer lint,” she explained. “Then cover them in Vaseline and they make awesome fire starters. It’s really easy and it makes you feel like a champ, even if you’re not an outdoor expert at all.”

The other important element of camping is your location. Many people who fall into the Boy/Girl Scout category are wizards about finding the prettiest overlook or the most deserted trail. However, if you’re venturing into unknown territory, then call your local US Forest Service and pick their brains about recreational campsites as well as off-road spots that are still allowed. They’ve got the tools to make your camping experience a bit easier, and they’re happy to help.

The Good-Time Charlie

Just as there must be someone who ensures that the group makes it safely home, there will always be someone who keeps everyone on their toes. This is the person who brings a bottle of Everclear to perform fireballs at 2 am This is the person who, while attempting to catch a cutthroat with their bare hands, falls into the lake and spends the rest of the night in an assortment of borrowed clothing because they didn’t pack any spare clothes. This is the person who regales the crew with stories of his last camping trip, when he woke up to find a snake cuddled up next to his sleeping bag because he forgot to zip the tent up completely.

This person will also provide the impetus for entertaining the group, especially if the weather turns foul and everyone is huddled under a tarp to escape the monsoon. In this situation, Charlie will pull out a deck of cards for drinking Uno or perhaps Banagrams — a good backcountry game, according to Davidson.

The Gear Junkie

There are necessities for living: food, water and shelter top that list. But many things fall into the category of “unnecessary but totally awesome” and that’s where the gear junkie comes in.

No, it’s not necessary to have gourmet coffee for your morning pick-me-up, but it sure is nice for one of your camping companions to pull out an Aeropress and ask, “Would you like an Americano?”

Some of these items might actually save your life, like waterproof speakers and an iPod, according to Davidson.

“I once spent 36 days on a glacier in Alaska,” Davidson said. “(The speakers and iPod) maintained our sanity during a 12-day storm when we couldn’t leave the tent.”

Your gear junkie friend could also be the one that provides a better night sleep, like packing an air mattress and Egyptian cotton sheets, or a camping hammock for those long lazy afternoons after you set up camp.

There are all sorts of items that are being made for camping, from tent chandeliers (these actually exist) to a backcountry carbonator like the one from Pat’s Backcountry Beverages (available at Alpine Quest). The size of a Nalgene, this device carbonates just about any beverage, including beer.

“It’s a cool gift item,” Davidson said. “You can buy the beer kit at the store and make your own backcountry beer. You can also make soda to make mixed beverages or just plain soda.”

Continuing under the category of unnecessary but totally awesome, enter the llama whisperer.

The Llama Whisperer

While car camping means that you can pack up the trunk with everything that you might need and pull right up to the site, backpacking trips take more consideration as to how much gear weighs and what you really want to carry on the trail.

Traveling with llamas can allow you to hike farther because you’re not as loaded up with heavy gear, said Karen Peck, a manager at Paragon Guides in Edwards. You still carry your daypack, but the larger items, like tents or cook stoves, can be carried by a llama — they can carry anywhere from 60 to 80 pounds, depending on the llama.

Paragon Guides offers several options for llama trekking and is the only outfitter offering this service in Eagle and Summit counties. If you know what you’re doing, where you’re going, can function in backcountry and have all of the gear and just want llamas to carry it, then a llama lease is the best bet. This requires going through some training, which includes learning how to function around them, how to care for them and how to manage different scenarios. After this four-hour course and a $150 fee, then you’re certified with Paragon Guides and can take a llama on your next camping trip.

Hiking with llamas is a unique experience because these Andean ungulates are quite unlike your human companions.

“Llamas will walk at a calm pace, will hum in your ear as you’re walking and have amazing eyesight,” Peck said. “You’ll notice that they’ll hum and their head will turn — if you look that way, you’ll see something that you may not have known about — a fox darting into the trees or a baby elk in a meadow.”

If taking a llama on your own sounds daunting and you want to leave the planning to someone else, Paragon Guides can take care of that as well.

“It is really nice to go with a guide service because we have all these little tricks,” Peck said. “We’ve been doing this for more than 30 years and we’ve got this planned out.”

Because the llamas can take some of the extra weight, Paragon is able to bring along some extra amenities, like a covering for the eating area or additional food and beverages.

If you want to check out the llamas ahead of time, then head up to FAC on Vail Mountain on July 10. Paragon will be there with the llamas and will be doing short hikes to the backcountry center.

Happy Trails to You

Camping is a great way to spend a night or a weekend just enjoying nature and making memories with family or friends. Having these types of camping companions with you can make the experience more streamlined, but perhaps the most important thing is finding people who are looking for a similar experience.

So find your group and collect your perfect combination of friends. And if you’re missing one of these camping companions, then these tips and tricks can help you be that person. Next thing you know, you’ll be starting the fire or leading the llama on the next trip.

04 July

People of various religious beliefs pelt stones as violence erupts yet again …

Jul 2, 2015 5:19 PM

People of various religious beliefs pelt stones as violence erupts yet again in Ballabhgarh

An incident of stone pelting was on Thursday reported from Atali village of Ballabgarh town. People pelted stones at each other regarding religious issues. As per information, women were attacked by the people of other religion. However, the situation was brought under control by the officials. Atali village witnessed large scale of communal violence in May, as scores of families were forced to take shelter in police station.

04 July

Blues Plans Can Use Various Tactics to Mitigate Generic Drug Price Inflation

In a recent Evercore ISI webinar, Howard Wild, vice president of generic strategies for pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) MedImpact, Inc., said the generic inflation rate has been “astronomical.…We’ve seen some drugs go up in excess of 2,000%,” he said, adding that price increases exceeding 100% “are not unusual.” And while the inflation eased up a bit at the beginning of 2015, it started going up again in April, although to a lesser degree.

There are various reasons behind the generic drug price inflation. “With some generics, it is due to scarcity of raw ingredients,” explains Robert “Ned” Giles, Jr., PharmD, manager of formularies at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. According to Patrick Gill, director and chief pharmacy officer for Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, “Raw materials can be constrained by many different influences, from the political climate of the source country to weather patterns, which can affect price.”

“Manufacturer consolidation has been a key driver, as it has reduced competition and, thus, increased prices,” maintains Gill. “Related to this trend is that drugs with low sales volume or low margin of profit may have been discontinued after consolidation. Price increases can also be attributed to drug shortages. If one manufacturer of a given generic encounters production issues, the rest of the manufacturers cannot immediately backfill the volume.”

Randy Vogenberg, PhD, principal, Institute for Integrated Healthcare, notes that the FDA has cited “quality and manufacturing issues” as “a major reason for drug shortages.” Gill explains that “the FDA has issued sanctions for some key generic manufacturers (due to their failure to adhere to Good Manufacturing Processes), limiting their ability to manufacture certain drugs.”

“But much of it is due to the economic law of supply and demand,” Giles asserts. “As generic dispensing rates (GDR) go up, manufacturers realize there is more market for their products.” Steve Johnson, senior health outcomes director at PBM Prime Therapeutics LLC, points to “the decrease in the remaining blockbuster brand drugs anticipated to lose patent protection.”

Gill also contends that “drug price inflation can be driven by lawsuits and the six-month exclusive period. The first generic on the market for many blockbuster drugs often has a very high price, as it is the only generic available on the market. There have also been instances in which litigation between the brand and generic companies delays the introduction of a generic.”

What Drives Drug Price Inflation?

The kinds of generic drugs that have experienced price hikes are “older, very inexpensive and easy-to-manufacture medications,” says Giles. “Due to lack of competition, market dominance came into play, and pricing soared on some of these products. While shortages of raw materials may have been a factor in some of these cases, that certainly was not the root cause for the situation as a whole.”

One pharma industry expert, though, notes that the issue is broader than simply prices of generic drugs increasing. “While there are a number of generic drug products with very large price increases, this is not a new phenomenon,” maintains Stephen Cichy, founder and managing director of Monarch Specialty Group, LLC, a partnership firm and investment company within the specialty drug space. He says his company “see[s] the debate surrounding the price of generics as part of a much larger issue relating to escalating drug prices, especially specialty drugs, that are widely viewed as unsustainable. In 2014, specialty drugs accounted for over 20% of the average employer’s overall pharmacy costs, and are projected to make up to 40% of an employer’s total pharmacy spend by 2020. Price inflation is a leading driver of this trend, with prices of many specialty drugs growing at double-digit rates.”

Nevertheless, generic price inflation doesn’t show any sign of slowing. For one thing, said Wild, the FDA’s Office of Generic Drugs “has at least a two-and-a-half-year backup on approvals,” which he said is “unheard of.”

“Generic prescriptions represent well over 80% of all prescriptions, and the average cost has increased over the past 18-24 months, and this is expected to continue and possibly even accelerate in the years to come,” says Johnson. “We could reasonably anticipate generic prices will continue to rise especially for highly prescribed products, those with a limited number of manufacturers and those made from ingredients that are in short supply,” Giles tells The AIS Report.

So with these expectations, what can Blues plans do to mitigate the financial impact of these high-cost generic drugs?

Owned by 13 not-for-profit Blues plans, subsidiaries or affiliates of those plans, Prime Therapeutics works with its owner plans, as well as with employers, managed care plans and other PBMs, to coordinate care for more than 26 million members, including managing drug costs. Johnson tells The AIS Report that “tactics Prime is considering and/or implementing include developing new cost-share tiers for high-cost and low-cost generics, increasing the use of preferred pharmacy networks and implementation of utilization management programs or exclusion strategies targeting high-cost generics.”

Prime co-owner Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas has “not implemented any policies to address high-cost generics, nor have we pursued a two-tier approach to generics, as some plans have done,” says spokesperson Mary Beth Chambers. “We continue to educate our members about choosing generics when they are available because we still believe generics offer a cost savings over their brand name counterparts. We, in partnership with Prime, will continue to monitor the costs of generics and will adjust our philosophy if we deem necessary.”

At the Tennessee Blues plan, says Giles, “We will continue to closely monitor generic drug pricing to provide the best care and value to members. In some cases, this could mean particular generics either aren’t added to our formulary, or some could be removed if there are alternative products with more reasonable pricing.”

“Ongoing monitoring of the supply and pricing channels is critical,” asserts Horizon’s Gill. “In some cases where a therapeutic alternative is available, we will consider utilization management strategies to encourage utilization of lower-cost alternatives. Where permitted, we consider new cost-share tiers for high-cost and low-cost generics, increasing the use of preferred pharmacy networks and implementation of utilization management programs.”

Some of those utilization management strategies are “prior-authorization and step-therapy protocols, generic incentives, consumer education and physician outreach,” Cichy says.

“Most plans continue to focus on contracting and rebates with manufacturers along with consolidating volume where possible with a single generic manufacturer,” says Vogenberg. He cautions that tiered systems that shift more costs to members create “an additional patient cost burden. How such shifting of costs to consumers impact adherence, persistency, and abandonment remain to be seen. However, past history does not bode well for just shifting more cost onto the plan member or patient.”

Cichy maintains that payers should be vigilant about monitoring the market because “manufacturers may change the dosage form of their product — for example, tablet to capsule, or tablet to tablet extended-release — as a means to drive improved product access and limit generic substitution, since different dosage forms of the same drug cannot be substituted without the doctor’s express written permission. Generic drug products that are associated with unique dosage forms will often have pricing behavior more consistent with a brand-name drug product.”

 2015 by Atlantic Information Services, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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04 July
Comments Off on World of Warcraft Patch 6.2 Addresses Various Issues, Fixes the Gara Quest …

World of Warcraft Patch 6.2 Addresses Various Issues, Fixes the Gara Quest …

So many years after its original release, and “World of Warcraft” is still being supported by its developer Blizzard very actively. The company has been hard at work resolving various issues that have been pending in their pipeline for a while now, and they have specifically addressed an issue with the “Gara” quest, something that has been bothering players for quite some time.

04 July
Comments Off on Love wins if we care about each other’s stories

Love wins if we care about each other’s stories

I was in seminary before I ever remember hearing about the concept of white privilege. It was in an ethics class with Dr. Glen Stassen, a remarkably bright professor with an open mind and great heart. In our assigned readings I came face to face with what I knew to be true in my own experience. Though from a moderate income home, with blue collar workers for parents who did not have the advantage of a college education, I was a privileged person simply by the color of my skin.

When I came home from seminary to visit in the late ’70s, I was inspired by my new found understanding of the need to examine my own life and become aware of racist thinking I had unwittingly internalized. Challenging my conditioning and privilege was at first perceived as threatening by my parents. It certainly could have been my delivery. But to their credit and my own betterment, we were able to begin processing what I was learning in divinity school.

About six years ago at a staff training at Big Bend Hospice, I invited one of my mentors in ministry, the Rev. Charles Scriven, a black pastor, to speak to us on how best to relate to our patients and families who are African-American. To begin his presentation, he passed around several items and asked us to identify them. One was a steel comb that was devised to straighten black hair. Another was an ointment used to bleach dark skin. It was poignant to hold these products designed to identify the minority community with the majority community and imagine the implicit indignity in their use.

The Rev. Scriven spoke to us employees, black and white, about the importance of beginning our efforts of relating better with people of color, by recognizing our own history and bias. It had the same sort of impact on me as did that seminary class years ago. If we are going to make gains in understanding each other, if we are going to find ways to live with each other in meaningful relationships of mutual respect and justice, we are going to have to be honest and open with ourselves and with each other. We have to care about each other’s stories. As Quaker Parker Palmer writes, “The more we know about another’s story, the harder it is to hate or harm that person.”

It is exactly what some of the families of those who were gunned down at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, have done. They have offered forgiveness to the white shooter, even welcoming him back to Bible Study. Their ministers have spoken of the systemic issues that perpetuate such deep-seated hatred. They have prayed for Roof and his family and cared about the story of the one who has radically, painfully altered their lives forever. Gerald Seib of the Wall Street Journal reports, “The people of Charleston have by their example started a potentially healthy national conversation about race and violence.”

I pray so. There is opportunity for all of us to not underestimate what happened at Mother Emanuel, to not reduce it, but rather to search our souls and ask for grace to truly love each other as people and as faith communities. The granddaughter of one of the victims, Rev. Daniel Simmons, told the shooter that hate won’t win. May we do our part to ensure the victory of love.

The Rev. Candace McKibben is an ordained minister who serves as the director of faith outreach at Big Bend Hospice and as pastor of Tallahassee Fellowship.

03 July
Comments Off on Lawrence Co. sheriff: 2 arrested on various drug charges

Lawrence Co. sheriff: 2 arrested on various drug charges


The Lawrence County Sheriffs Office arrested two people on various drug charges.

Lawrence County Sheriff Gene Mitchell said that 32-year-old Misty Nicole Collier and 33-year-old Joshua Robert Reynolds after drugagents witnessed a transaction between the two.

Sheriff Mitchell said that Reynolds approached Colliers car and handed her cash in exchange for pills. Once drug agents approached Reynolds, they discovered the pills in his front pocket.

Collier was arrested and charged with distribution and possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. She was booked into the Lawrence County Jail on $12,000 bond but has since been released.

Reynolds wasarrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia. He was also booked into the Lawrence County Jail on $12,000 bond. He remains in jail on a probation violation stemming from a prior felony drug charge.

Copyright 2015 WAFF. All rights reserved.

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03 July
Comments Off on Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward On Chocobo Companions, PvP, And Building A …

Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward On Chocobo Companions, PvP, And Building A …

Siliconera talked with Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward producer and director Naoki Yoshida about the latest patch changes, going into dungeons with your chocobo companion, and using cloud computing to power the MMORPG.

The latest Final Fantasy XIV patch adds an option for undersized parties to travel together, but the three Crystal Tower raids are excluded from this.

Naoki Yoshida, Producer/Director: All of those dungeons were designed for alliances. We would need to go in and change the way things are made for smaller parties and add a lot of adjustments to get those ready for non-alliance parties. It would take a lot of work.

There are also level mechanics which require three parties to proceed. Because of that you cannot throw a small party in there because they wouldnt be able to proceed in the game because they were designed for three parties to do three things at the same time. But, we do hope to have something like that some day. Its just going to take some time.

Have you thought about any plans to expand the Chocobo Companion feature? Maybe undersized parties can bring their chocobo with them to make a party of four people and four chocobos or allow players to bring their chocobo to dungeons.

[Laughs] If we could do that it would be in the patch notes. System-wise this isnt too difficult to implement into the game. The chocobos AI is programmed kind of like gambits [from Final Fantasy XII]. To get that to work with the battle mechanics and battle gimmicks in the dungeons is something that we havent debugged yet so we dont know what will happen there. Its a good idea and its something we want to do in the future. We would probably start with something instead of four players and four chocobos maybe you could go into a dungeon solo you can call your chocobo buddy and go from there.

When I mentioned debugging before, there are things we havent checked. Like in the Coil there are attacks that are shared damage among the party. We dont know if this will share damage with chocobos because we havent checked that yet. That would be one of the things we need to check. We would have to check all of the dungeon content again with chocobos and thats a lot of work.

If you get into a situation where Titan puts you into a granite jail and everyone is trapped in there, but all of the chocobos are still living you a players would say But, the chocobos are still alive! Why did I fail? They can fight for me! Its one of those things we want to gradually bring in, but its going to create a lot more work for our testers. It might take a little longer because of that.

We do understand that there are players out there that want to challenge a dungeon themselves and with their chocobo companion and try to defeat a full dungeon. Because we realize that an Instance Dungeon could be a good starting point.

What player vs. player advantages do the new classes have?

Starting with the Astrologian, its pretty much the same with PvE and PvP. Because they have two stances, being able to choose a stance that matches the situation, whether youre going to go with the pure healer stance or barrier heal stance, is going to be a way theyre going to help out their teammates.

As for Dark Knight, even though its a tank job it has attacks that can get a lot of DPS. If you dont care about using all of your MP there are ways to deal a lot of damage. Even though its a tank it can be a high DPS character too.

Machinists depend on how players will use their auto turrets. Placing those turrets in strategic locations where they can affect a greater number of enemies or stopping characters from casting in addition to dealing a lot of damage since it is a DPS class.

Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward has flying mounts and did this present a challenge for level designers to fill the space with sights for players to see? Was this part of the reason why experience point earning sightseeing landmarks were added in the sky?

The most challenging aspect, more than level design, was working with the technology. The biggest thing is when you have an area where you can travel in three directions instead of just two is players can keep flying up and up they can see the whole map without any obstructions. That is a lot of stress on the system and when designing it we had to find ways to relieve this stress. That comes down to designing the ground and rocks. Its a different design than in A Realm Reborn. To get our engine ready to handle this, we spent over a year getting it ready. Getting all of this to run for low end PCs and PlayStation 3 consoles without hammering those systems was a challenge.

If you get all of the adventure log areas in the sightseeing log you get about 20% of the experience to go up one level. Its a long way from level 50 to 60.

Weve been talking about server processing issues and low spec PCs. Have you ever thought of using Shinra Technologies cloud computing solutions?

Weve been in communication with Shinra Technologies, this is what we tell them. Currently, with Final Fantasy XIV we have game servers and players with PS4, PS3, PC or Mac. Data goes back and forth between the servers and players. There is a data threshold and we do not want it to be over 0.2 seconds.

What were mostly worried about with Shinras cloud gaming is you have input from home and graphics rendered on Shinras servers, thats for a normal game. For Final Fantasy XIV to use this technology, you have home, graphics rendering servers as well as the game servers. If there is any lag here and it goes over those 0.2 seconds thats going to create a bad gaming experience for the players. We dont want that. Weve sent our source code to Shinra Technologies told them this is what we need, this is our data, can we get similar data transfer times especially on the graphics rendering end?

I have a very good relationship with Wada-san. He is my friend, but I also a businessman and I need to think of my players and their play experience. If they can provide something that can maintain my players experience I want to use that, but they first must prove they can do this.

Yoshida-san, you worked on Dragon Quest X which is a different style of online RPG than Final Fantasy XIV. Since we may not see Dragon Quest X in the West, what feature from Dragon Quest X would you like to bring over to Final Fantasy XIV?

In the third season of Dragon Quest X there is a dungeon that is like [Chunsofts] Mystery Dungeon where everyone starts at level one and the dungeon changes. Everyone that plays is put together in the same position and play together at the same level and evolve within the dungeon. It would be something like a Deep Dungeon for Final Fantasy XIV.

Because I was the chief planner for Dragon Quest X, I know their original plan was not to create a MMORPG, but a Dragon Quest game that you could play online. On the other hand, Final Fantasy XIV was designed to be a global standard for MMORPGs. Because the design is so different its hard to bring over features and have them feel natural.

Another thing is in Dragon Quest X is they have Coin Bosses where you collect coins that you can trade to battle older bosses in the Dragon Quest series. However, in our game when it comes to borrowing older bosses from other Final Fantasy games sometimes directors dont want you to use their creation. It comes down to right to use those even within our own company.

The other reason is story consistency. Whereas in Dragon Quest people dont care, it is what it is. In Eorzea, people expect there to be a story. Oh, Kefkas here? Why is he here, whats the story behind this? What dimension did he com through? Creating that is actually kind of difficult. Again, because players want and expect that we cant throw in everything from every Final Fantasy. We have to make each one specific for Final Fantasy XIV and that takes time.

Actually, the Dragon Quest X producer Saito-san is here as well as the IP manager Miyaki-san are here and tell them you want it!

03 July
Comments Off on OC Register’s Real Estate section wins gold in annual competition

OC Register’s Real Estate section wins gold in annual competition

In awarding the first-place Gold Award to the Register in the Best Newspaper Real Estate or Home Section category, NAREE judges praised the Sunday section for its attractive front pages, great use of color and for its photography. The articles are well written on interesting topics and serve readers well, NAREE judges wrote. It is a very timely section. THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
03 July
Comments Off on DNA tests to unravel mystery of Peruvian priestess and burial companions

DNA tests to unravel mystery of Peruvian priestess and burial companions

About 800 years ago, a high status Peruvian woman was buried with seven people and a llama. Some theorize that her burial companions were her relatives, while others maintain they were servants. Now Harvard University will test DNA from the remains to settle the dispute regarding the woman who has come to be known as the ‘Chornancap priestess’.

Andina news agency reports that the tests will determine whether the people are related, and whether they came from the part of Lambayeque in which they were found, or from another part of South America.

In 2011, archaeologists with the Hans Bruning National Archeological Museum of Lambayeque, Peru, found her mummified remains while excavating the Chotuna-Chornancap pyramid complex on the Pacific Coast. They later reconstructed her face. Based on the wealth of her burial, researchers said she was one of the most powerful people in the Lambayeque region. They estimated her age at 25 to 30 years.

Facial reconstruction of the ‘Chornancap priestess’ (Screengrab from YouTube video, NTDTV)

The Peruvian priestess was found propped in a seated position. She was adorned with a copper mask, an elaborate crown and gold earspools, and her body was clothed in textiles woven with copper plates, necklaces made of carved shells and colored beads. She also had with her a gold scepter with the image of a Lambayeque god, which suggests the womans importance. She had with her artifacts from the high Andes Mountains region and from even farther away, Ecuador. These gifts, archaeologists say, show that her influence was felt across the region.

Researchers speculated she was a priestess because of inscriptions and because during the final period of the Lambayeque civilization females were in positions of high religious authority, according to the blog Bones Dont Lie.

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The woman of high status was buried in a seated position above the people buried below her. (Drawing by Carlos Wester La Torre)

The woman had ceremonial urns with icons and objects, including the gold scepter.

“This is all extraordinary information for us because it clearly places the woman within the power structure of a complex society, and reveals that power and religious hierarchy were not the sole province of men, since there is no reason to think there were not more women just like her,” Carlos Wester La Torre told Hispanically Speaking News in 2012.

He compared the woman to priestesses exhumed 20 years ago at San Jose de More. These were women who held religious authority among the Moche people of northern Peru between 100 BC and 700 AD. He also compared her to the Lady of Cao, who was believed to have had supernatural power and was the only woman known to have ruled ancient Peru.

Pyramids at Túcume, a Lambayeque city (Photo by Antonio Velasco/Wikimedia Commons)

“Curiously, it was in the last years of both cultures that women were seen in religious life and positions of power. We still have to see whether this female presence was a political response of society at a time of crisis in order to regain stability, or was a conscious response to the need to have females in power,” Wester said.

The Lambayeque culture dated from about 800 to 1375 AD. Because few artifacts of these people have been recovered little is known about the beginnings of the civilization. Bones Dont Lie says there is a debate as to whether they replaced the Moche people or are descended from them.

Based on burial practices, they appear to have been a highly stratified society and apparently had several ranks of nobility. People of high status were buried deep in shafts, seated and had with them different types of exotic grave artifacts.

Spectacular gold ware from the Lambayeque culture (Wikimedia Commons)

Scholars dont think the Lambayeque rulers attempted regional conquest. The Chimú empire defeated and assimilated them beginning about 1375 AD. Artisans were made to relocate to Chan Chan, capital of the Chimú. This propagated a continuity in Andean art.

Earlier in June 2015, researchers excavated the tombs of 14 ancient Peruvians at an ongoing archaeological dig in the Lambayeque area. The researchers also are excavating a temple there. The tombs and temple are considered pre-Inca, a civilization that came later in Peruvian history.

Archaeologists Edgar Bracamonte LÃvano and Walter Alva Alva found the 14 tombs and valuable artifacts at Bola de Oro-El Triunfo. Most of the tombs are of the Sican or Lambayeque culture or civilization and the rest from Moche and Chimu periods, according to El Comercio.

Featured image: Gold earrings, two knives, a collection of shells, and ceramic containers were uncovered from a flooded Lambayeque tomb. (Photograph by Carlos Wester La Torre)

By Mark Miller