Trojan fan base lacks energy

first_imgThis weekend, I’m continuing a long-standing tradition.Please excuse the hyperbole, but treating it with humor is the only way I can make myself feel better about this. I’m headed home for a few days to start what, in all likelihood, will be another basketball season during which I will attend more San Diego State games than USC games.No Enzone · Men’s basketball head coach Andy Enfield wants to bring excitement to USC, but attendance at the Galen Center is still flagging. – Ralf Cheung | Daily TrojanBoth of my parents graduated from SDSU and my dad is just about the most intense fan you can imagine. Over the course of three seasons (2009-2011), he attended 104 of 105 games — both home and away.Because of him, I grew up watching San Diego State basketball, and I must admit I got spoiled. The Aztecs continued to improve over the years, at one point climbing to No. 4 in the nation, and as they improved, they developed a pretty incredible fan base.San Diego State’s student section, which shows up in huge numbers to every game, calls itself “The Show,” and they’re a ridiculous group of people. They hold up newspapers when the opposing starting lineup is being announced, then crumple them up and throw them in the air when the lights go out before the Aztecs’ starting five come out. They get the whole stadium to participate in the “I believe that we will win” chant. They wave around signs with weird celebrities’ faces on them during opponents’ free throws. One guy used to always dress in a banana suit. It’s just wild.On Twitter, The Show has 8,558 followers and describes itself as follows: “The San Diego State Student Section. Often imitated, never duplicated. You won’t like us. We don’t care.”Guess how many followers USC’s basketball student section, “The Enzone,” has on Twitter? If you guessed a measly 340, you were right. What’s perhaps worse than that is that The Show has more than twice as many followers as USC’s actual men’s basketball Twitter page (4,131), which really goes to show how little we value basketball here at USC.I can’t really blame our students for not going to basketball games. The team went 11-21 last year and finished dead last in the conference, which is certainly not fun to watch. But — and this isn’t rocket science — maybe if more students showed up, the team would be more successful. This idea might hold more weight in basketball than in any other sport, with the close quarters and ability for players and fans to interact. USC averaged just 4,370 people in attendance through its 16 home games last year. That’s less than half the capacity of the Galen Center.But me sitting here preaching about going to basketball games is hypocritical. I personally didn’t go to a single game last season. In my defense, they played a lot of Wednesday and Thursday night games, when I was stuck in the Daily Trojan office laying out pages. And the one time I got close to going, I was coming from work and they wouldn’t let me in because of my backpack.But I’ll get off of my pedestal when talking about USC’s men’s basketball games, because like I said, I’ll be down in San Diego this weekend watching the Aztecs play Cal State Northridge rather than watching our Trojans host Portland State in their home opener on Saturday night.I’d argue that USC’s miniscule student section at basketball games is a microcosm for the school’s whole fan base. This year, I’ve come to a sad realization that I’ve been trying to fight off my whole time here: USC’s fans just aren’t that impressive.During the few football games I’ve covered from the press box, I’ve stared across the Coliseum at the student section as it thins out to half its amount by halftime. About a week ago, Scott Wolf of L.A. Daily News reported that USC returned about 4,000 of its 15,000 tickets allotted for the Trojans’ game against UCLA at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 22 because they went unclaimed.I understand that the Trojans have disappointed some fans this season by losing three games that most can agree they could have and should have won, but true fans should stick by their team. When I decided to come to USC, I fully bought into the idea that USC was a football school. Since I’ve been here, fewer and fewer students have truly embraced that idea, and I’d love to see that change.I’d love people all over the country to consider USC’s student section a formidable one. It shouldn’t even be a conversation. USC has one of the best athletic programs of all time, across the board (the Trojans just won their 100th NCAA championship in May). I urge those who call themselves a part of the Trojan Family to make an effort this year.Go to all the remaining football games. Stay the whole time. Head out to the Galen Center for men’s and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball. Try to catch USC’s six-time defending national champion men’s water polo team play at home for the last time this season on Saturday. Make USC proud.Don’t have anyone to go with? My email is below.Aubrey Kragen is a senior majoring in communication. Her column, “Release the Kragen,” runs Fridays. To comment on this story, visit dailytrojan.com or email Aubrey at [email protected]last_img read more

Flu study highlights risks of banning dangerous research investigators say

first_img Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe A lab at the center of a longstanding controversy about dangerous virus research has engineered heartier influenza viruses that could streamline vaccine production. The researchers contend that their findings may help bring future pandemics under control faster—but the study also demonstrates the risk of curtailing so-called gain-of-function (GOF) studies, in which viruses are made more transmissible or more pathogenic, the researchers argue.The U.S. government suspended funding of GOF studies last year and ordered a review of their risks and benefits. The current work, by Yoshihiro Kawaoka’s group at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, was performed before that happened; it’s not clear whether its funding would have been stopped.The team set out to address a perennial problem in the production of influenza vaccines. To keep up with the ever-mutating flu virus, researchers each year create new vaccines tailormade to combat the strains they expect to dominate. Every year, it’s a scramble to produce the vaccines in time for the flu season. Email Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Countrycenter_img The viruses used to make vaccines typically contain a “backbone” of six genes that remains the same, plus two variable genes that code for proteins that stud the viral surface. These surface proteins are critical for infection and transmission, but when used in the vaccine, they teach the body how to make antibodies that can thwart the disease. Every year, vaccinemakers build viruses that have the standard backbone plus the surface proteins currently in circulation.Most companies then grow these viruses in eggs, but more recently, some have started using mammalian cells—like those from dog or monkey kidneys—as a growth medium. The viruses are killed and purified to make the vaccine.In the new study, Kawaoka’s team randomly mutated the genes in the backbone of the virus to create a large library of variants and then tested them with a wide variety of different surface proteins. As the investigators explain online today in Nature Communications, they found a novel backbone that dramatically increased the yield of the viruses, both in eggs and mammalian cells—in some cases more than 200-fold. The researchers did extensive studies to unravel the molecular mechanisms that led to the improved replication, but they came up with more hints than clear-cut answers.The new backbone could help streamline annual vaccine production, which could be especially relevant during a pandemic, notes Kawaoka’s group, when the sudden emergence of novel strains forces companies to rapidly make millions of doses of a new vaccine. When a novel H1N1 strain emerged in 2009, for instance, most vaccine doses didn’t arrive until after the ensuing pandemic had hit its peak.The study “tackles a question that is of great pragmatic importance for vaccines,” says virologist Gary Nabel in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who is the chief scientific officer at Sanofi, which makes influenza vaccines. “If you can’t make enough vaccine at an acceptable cost, it won’t be available to many who need it. The Kawaoka paper takes a logical and systematic approach to achieve this goal.”Kawaoka’s group conducted its study in part with funding from the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Last October, the U.S. government paused funding of all GOF experiments with influenza that could be “reasonably anticipated” to increase transmissibility or pathogenicity, and asked researchers to halt ongoing work. Kawaoka, who had completed his study at that time, says the policy would have brought the research to a halt because the team was specifically looking for viruses that reproduced faster. “I don’t think people who are seriously concerned about [GOF studies] are concerned about this type of work,” he says. “The net was cast too wide.”But NIAID Director Anthony Fauci says “it is very likely” that Kawaoka’s group would have been granted an exemption and continued to receive funding because the study specifically aims to improve vaccines against influenza. “In the past, we have granted exemptions for similar studies,” Fauci says. He notes that the new study is especially relevant because it worked in mammalian cells, which ultimately are a better way to grow the virus than eggs: It’s a faster production system and avoids mutations that occur when the virus adapts to chicken eggs, which can compromise vaccine effectiveness.Kawaoka stresses that the experiment did not create dangerous viruses or give out clues about how to engineer them. Flu viruses with the new backbone only marginally increased the severity of disease in mice, the team found. And even if they were more dangerous than common flu strains, it would not make any difference because manufacturers kill the virus as part of the vaccine production process, notes the group. Kawaoka also says he doubts that anyone could glean information from their paper that could help construct more deadly human influenza viruses. “We have no idea whether these mutations would make other influenza viruses more pathogenic or transmissible,” he says.The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), which advises the U.S. government on GOF research policies, is awaiting a risk/benefit analysis being done by Gryphon Scientific. As part of this assessment, the Infectious Diseases Society of America on 10 August submitted recommendations urging NSABB to narrow its definition of GOF research so that “low risk studies” such as Kawaoka’s can proceed.Former NSABB member Arturo Casadevall, an immunologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, describes Kawaoka’s new work as “tremendously important” and says it should give the policymakers pause. “Moratoriums and pauses are blunt instruments,” Casadevall wrote in an email. “I worry that even if exclusions are made for certain experiments so that they continue, the GOF controversy combined with its pauses/moratoriums has already created an environment where scientists may be discouraged from experimental work that is clearly in the public interest. I hope that the NSABB takes notice of this paper as an example of the potential value of these experiments.” Click to view the privacy policy. 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