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Remembering S. Allen Counter

first_img S. Allen Counter with President Drew Faust following his Phi Beta Kappa oration (2015). File photo Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer The Harvard Foundation organized Cultural Rhythms, honoring stars such as Laurence Fishburne, with Counter in 2007. File photo by Gail Oskin As part of his public service, Counter tested lead levels in South American Quechua Indians. Courtesy of S. Allen Counter Counter played a major role in the Harvard Foundation’s Portraiture Project. Richard T. Greener, the first African-American to graduate from Harvard College, is pictured. File photo Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer S. Allen Counter, the founding director of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations and a noted neurophysiologist, educator, and ethnographer, died on July 12.“Harvard has lost a great champion of inclusion and belonging in Dr. Allen Counter,” said President Drew Faust. “Through his leadership of the Harvard Foundation, he advanced understanding among members of our community and challenged all of us to imagine and strive for a more welcoming University and a more peaceful world. We remember today a campus citizen whose deep love of Harvard, and especially our undergraduates, leaves a lasting legacy.”“During my years as president of Harvard, no one did more than Allen to make minority students feel welcome and at home at Harvard, to promote fruitful interaction among all races, and to serve as understanding adults to whom many undergraduates could turn in order to register their concerns, answer their questions, and have their legitimate problems communicated to the Harvard administration so that they could be understood and acted upon in appropriate ways,” recalled Derek Bok, who led the University from 1971–91 and from 2006–07. “Much of what he accomplished was unrecognized, but his contributions were invaluable, and I will always feel a great debt of gratitude for his service to the University.”Counter did his undergraduate work in biology and sensory physiology at Tennessee State University and his graduate studies in electrophysiology at Case Western Reserve University, where he earned his Ph.D. He earned his M.D. at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. He came to Harvard in 1970 as a postdoctoral fellow and assistant neurophysiologist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. Early in his University career, Counter lived in a student residence hall as dormitory director, resident tutor, and biological sciences tutor.In the early 1970s, the U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (now the Department of Health and Human Services) named him to the National Advisory Mental Health Council of the National Institute of Mental Health. In 1975, several proposals came before the council requesting funding for projects involving psychosurgery and electrode implants in human brains. At that time, the government’s rules protecting human subjects were still evolving, and Counter believed the projects were inherently racist. He insisted the council not approve them, and they were not acted upon.In the same decade, Counter taught inmates at MCI Concord with the Massachusetts Correctional Concord Achievement Rehabilitation Volunteer Experience, where he said he gave inmates the same advice his grandmother had given him: “Read a book. Develop your mind.” A later study showed that participants in the program had a lower recidivism rate than prisoners who did not take part.After a sabbatical fellowship at UCLA with neuroscientist Alan D. Grinnell in the late 1970s, Counter returned to Cambridge, where his research at Harvard Medical School focused on clinical and basic studies on nerve and muscle physiology, auditory physiology, and neurophysiological diagnosis of brain-injured children and adults.In 1981, the University established the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, which promotes peace and education and supports civility, intercultural understanding, and racial harmony on campus. Counter was its first and has been its only director.In an interview with the HistoryMakers a decade ago, Counter outlined his and the University’s vision for the foundation. “It was a new concept,” he said. “Harvard didn’t build race centers. Harvard didn’t build an Asian Center or Hispanic center, or an African-American center. We decided that we wanted a philosophy that was uniquely Harvard that we could present to our students, and then hopefully, have the rest of the country adopt it.”That philosophy held that all Harvard buildings should be race-relations centers.“Every building belongs to our black, our Latino, our white, and our Asian students,” Counter said in the interview. “Our students have equal ownership in them, so we don’t need to build a separate building. We want the University to respond in a way to make students feel both in Harvard and of Harvard.”center_img Malala Yousafzai received the Harvard Foundation’s 2013 Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award from Counter. File photo Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer S. Allen Counter, a young scientist at 20. Courtesy of S. Allen Counter Counter was raised in a segregated section of Boynton Beach, Fla. Deeply committed to Civil Rights, he said he attended his first protest when he was a boy, as the youngest participant in a “swim-in” at a whites-only beach. He said his work with the Harvard Foundation was a product of his upbringing.“In some respects, I am uniquely positioned to write about race,” he wrote in a yet-to-be-published book on the subject. “My own journey from a racially segregated Southern village, where race rules governed daily life, and white, state-sanctioned deprivations and circumscription prevailed, to level interaction and engagement with the white elite of the United States and Europe has given me an exceptional perspective. I have witnessed the arrogance of race. I have observed imagined white supremacy. And I have experienced the suffering of persons of color from individual and institutional racism.”Senior admissions officer David Evans, a member of the foundation’s faculty advisory committee, said that when Counter accepted the position at the Harvard Foundation, “race relations was viewed as a no-win position, not just at Harvard, but across the nation.”“But Allen felt someone had to do it, and so he took it on. In his work, Allen was able to win over people on conflicting issues and convince others to join in this work through his own perseverance. He was able to work magic. He gave himself to Harvard. And we are poor in his passing.”People in the Harvard community reacted Wednesday to news of Counter’s death.Counter’s interns at the Harvard Foundation said the director was a role model from whom they learned how to set goals and execute them, how to bring people together around a cause, and how to respect others and their opinions. Counter addressed students and everyone else by their formal titles to show individual respect and admiration.“Dr. Counter believed in every member of the Harvard community,” Cengiz Cemaloglu ’17. “He believed in Harvard’s potential and believed in its conviction. He welcomed everyone to Harvard and taught Harvard how to welcome everyone. He cared for Harvard and taught Harvard how to care.”“Harvard has lost an important moral leader and voice of positive change,” said the Rev. Jonathan L. Walton, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister to the Memorial Church. “In terms of making Harvard a more welcoming place for all students, faculty, and staff, Dr. Counter worked tirelessly for decades. And whether you were from New Orleans or New Delhi, from Guatemala or Ghana, Dr. Counter and the Harvard Foundation affirmed your humanity and your dignity. He wanted all who entered Harvard’s gates to say ‘I, too am Harvard,’ as well as ‘Harvard is me!’”“In a world that often values self-absorption and a laser focus on one’s own priorities, Allen Counter stood out as a scholar who also cared deeply about others, both as individuals and as a community,” said Robert Lue, the Richard L. Menschel Faculty Director of the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning. “This commitment to fostering a diverse community at Harvard was beautifully expressed in his tireless work leading the Harvard Foundation, and I never saw his passion for this mission wane over the 20 years that I knew him.”“Dr. Counter devoted his life to advancing the vision of the Harvard Foundation, and many of us at Harvard College, including myself, felt personally Allen’s uncommon dignity and gentleness,” said Danoff Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana. “Allen has been a thoughtful teacher, leader, and mentor to many in our community, and we are grateful for the legacy that he has left for our College.”“Over the many years that I worked with Dr. Counter on the advisory board of the Harvard Foundation, I came to admire him for his persistent efforts at realizing one of his most passionate ideals — creating an inclusive atmosphere on campus, one that made students from diverse backgrounds feel welcome,” said Ali Asani, professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic religion and cultures. “A strong advocate for students engaging with each other’s differences through the arts and community service, he was an untiring champion for pluralism at Harvard and beyond.”“Dr. Allen Counter lived his life as a citizen of the world,” said Robin Gottlieb, professor of the practice of mathematics. “[He was] always on call for the celebrations and the crises, big and small, that have accompanied the increasing diversity that has been so important both personally to Dr. Counter and more generally to the health of the College.”“It is difficult to muster words that convey a sense of what Allen’s unflagging commitment to diversity and opportunity has been, a commitment that stands at the core of the mission in the undergraduate community,” said Thomas Conley, the Abbott Lawrence Lowell Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and of Visual and Environmental Studies. “By virtue of what he has done with the foundation, over the years we have witnessed a greater and greater embrace of diversity and outreach at Harvard College. Always smiling, always upbeat, Allen brought to us boundless, energy, enthusiasm and compassion to improve the human condition.”“Dr. Counter truly instilled a light in the hearts of the people he mentored. We called that the foundation light,” Cemaloglu said. “It is the light of illumination about the value of diversity in our daily lives. It is the conviction that one can and should never turn a blind eye and should actively work to bring people from across communities together and address injustices. It is that firm stance that even though opposition is out there, one should move with conviction to care and act upon that care. It is that foundation light that Dr. Counter created, and instilled upon the hearts of everyone at the foundation and at Harvard.”Named a member of the prestigious Explorer’s Club for his scientific research studies that led to the discovery of African-descended people in the rain forest of Suriname and the Andean mountains, Counter was also the author of several books: “I Sought My Brother: An Afro-American Reunion,” with Evans; and “North Pole Legacy” and “North Pole Promise,” about the North Pole explorations of Robert Peary and Matthew Henson, and the progeny they left behind.To his students and others, Counter himself often repeated the advice given to him by his parents, Samuel Counter Sr. and Anne Johnson Counter: “Learn to speak the language of your nation and to perfect it. You learn the techniques and the underlying sort of economic structure of the nation, which means get some kind of trade or profession and pursue this with the idea of reaching perfection. And I think I’ve done that.”Counter is survived by a wife and daughters. A memorial service to celebrate his life and contributions to Harvard will be held in the fall.last_img read more

Chile Seeks to Boost its Space Program

first_imgBy Guillermo Saavedra/Diálogo December 09, 2020 The Chilean government is boosting its space program with a new National Satellite System. The project, which Chilean President Sebastián Piñera announced in October, will include the launch of three satellites and will also have three ground stations to receive data and information.The initiative, led by the Chilean Air Force (FACh, in Spanish), coordinates and integrates activities of the Ministry of Defense, the FACh, and the Ministry of Sciences to promote scientific research and national industry development, and also to support search and rescue systems, maritime surveillance, the protection of natural resources, and climate and environmental monitoring.“This network of three satellites will enable us to observe the Earth and our country with a broad spectral range, not only visual, but also with infrared. In addition, its orbit will be under our country’s sovereign control,” Piñera told the press.“With these new satellites, ‘we will be able to pierce the clouds’ to analyze the captured images with different frequency ranges, even to detect objects larger than one meter, as well as [to detect] whether they have caloric emissions, or whether it’s an organic or inorganic matter, for example,” Colonel Claudio Alcázar, FACh Communications chief, told Diálogo.The first satellite will be launched into space and will be operational within a year, replacing the functions of the Fasat-Charlie satellite, which completed its life span, the Chilean newspaper La Tercera reported. Launched in 2011, the Fasat-Charlie put Chile at the forefront of space presence in Latin America. But the country soon fell behind, overtaken by Peru, Bolivia, and even Venezuela, Héctor Gutiérrez, president of the Chilean Space Association, told the newspaper.The project also envisions the manufacture and launch of two new satellites, one of which will be built in Chile. The three satellites will form a national satellite constellation. The program will also complement the information these satellites receive with access to other satellite constellations, Air Force Brigadier General Francisco Torres, head of FACh Space Affairs, explained.“It’s crucial for our country to have autonomy over the information gathered with our own satellites […]. At the same time, it’s important to set up agreements with other countries that place their satellites over Chile when ours are in other parts of the world,” Brig. Gen. Torres told Diálogo.Three ground stations located in Antofagasta, Santiago, and Punta Arenas will receive the information from these satellites and will provide information and data to an advanced geospatial data processing center. The center of operations will be located at the FACh’s Cerrillos Air Base, in Santiago.The new system will also lead to the creation of seven micro-satellites with the participation of the defense sector, the academic arena, and the national industry, to contribute to Chilean technological development.last_img read more

February bar exam results posted

first_imgFebruary bar exam results posted April 30, 2006 Regular News February bar exam results postedcenter_img Graduates from Florida State University had the highest passage rate for those taking the February Florida bar exam.The Florida Board of Bar Examiners released the results from the February bar exam April 17.A total of 1,035 people took the exam, 538 from out-of-state and the remainder in-state graduates. The FBBE also said 899 took the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam in March, 360 from out-of-state and the remainder from the 10 Florida law schools.FSU topped those who took Part A and Part B of the general bar exam; 31 of the 34 FSU grads passed, or 91.2 percent. The University of Florida was next, with 131 of its 150 graduates passing, or 87.3 percent. Next was Florida International University, where 19 of 22 graduates passed, or 86.4 percent.Of the other law schools: 81 of the Stetson University’s 101 students passed the exam, or 80.2 percent; 45 of 58 graduates from Florida Coastal passed, or 77.6 percent; 18 of 26 students from the University of Miami passed, or 69.2 percent; 14 of 22 graduates from Barry University or Orlando passed, or 63.6 percent; 8 of 14 from Florida A&M passed, or 57.1 percent; 22 of 39 from Nova Southeastern University passed, or 56.4 percent; and 11 of 31 from St. Thomas University passed, or 35.5 percent.Three hundred and seventy-eight of the 538 applicants from out-of-state law schools passed, or 70.3 percent. Overall, 73.2 percent of those who took Parts A and B passed.That figure was 80.9 percent for the MPRE portion of the exam. Passage rates by school were 93.1 percent for UF; 91.8 percent the FSU; 91.2 percent for UM; 90.3 for Stetson; 90 percent for FIU; 78 percent for Florida Coastal; 74.6 percent for St. Thomas; 72.7 percent for FAMU; 61.3 percent for Barry; and 59.1 percent for NSU. The rate was 77.2 percent for out-of-state test takers.last_img read more

Why the credit union industry needs small credit unions to stay

first_img“What are you going to do in 10 years when small credit unions are gone and you are out of a job?”This is what a prominent leader in the credit union industry said to me five years ago when I told them I was hanging up my hat as a Vice President at a credit union and starting a marketing consultancy business to serve the small credit union market. Many people think small credit unions are going away and that they aren’t the ones making the impact in our market.  That they are irrelevant and have no place in today’s market. I have heard this from various trade associations, vendors, and even other credit unions.  Today, small credit unions make up over 70% of the credit union industry.  As of April 1, there were 5,492 total credit unions in the US. 3,881 of them are under $100 million in assets, what our industry categorizes as “small.”  What does it mean when people are wishing away a large majority of the market? I want to argue that these “small” credit unions have some of the largest stories to tell, largest impact on their members, and greatest brands of any in the industry.  Five years after starting TwoScore, small credit union leaders across the nation regularly contact me saying how empowered and excited they are to tell their brand story and see the success of ALL small credit unions catch fire.  The financial landscape truly is an ecosystem.  By definition, an ecosystem is something (such as a network of businesses) considered to resemble an ecological ecosystem especially because of its complex interdependent parts.  The credit union industry is an ecosystem within itself. There are large credit unions, small credit unions, large community credit unions, small community credit unions, large SEG-based credit unions, small SEG-based credit unions.  Credit unions focused on supporting small businesses. Credit unions focused on underserved communities. The important part of an ecosystem is the balance achieved by al of these interconnected elements being in place.Want to help the credit union industry succeed?  Don’t discount the small credit unions, their impact and their leaders who work tirelessly every day to build communities, serve members and their employees.  Support them as their peers. We are one industry with thousands of these interconnected parts. Smaller ones succeeding will help all credit unions. 118SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Amanda Thomas Amanda is founder and president of TwoScore, a firm that channels her passion for the credit union mission and people to help credit unions under $100 million in assets reach … Web: www.twoscore.com Detailslast_img read more

3 MS-13 Gang Members Charged With Murders

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Three reputed MS-13 street gang members were charged with allegedly killing three men on Long Island less than a month apart four years ago and trying to kill four others, authorities said.Edwin “Scarface” Acosta-Martinez, 26, of Huntington Station, 31-year-old Sergio “Taz” Cerna and 22-year-old Arnolvin “Momia” Umanzor Velasquez, both of whom are from Brentwood, were indicted on federal charges of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy and racketeering.“MS-13 is a scourge on our communities,” said Diego Rodriguez, assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office. “The three defendants charged today with murder demonstrate the extraordinary violence of this gang.”Federal prosecutors said Cerna, who was also known as “Lechon,” and Velasquez, who was also known as “Lito,” fatally shot brothers Ricardo and Enston Ceron “execution-style” in the head in the victims’ hometown of Brentwood on Dec. 18, 2011. The gunmen killed Eston because he was distancing himself from the Brentwood clique of the gang, whose members feared that he would become an informant, authorities said. They allegedly killed his brother, who was member of another MS-13 clique, to pre-empt his presumed retaliation. The victims were giving the suspects a ride home from a party at the time.When the suspects got out of the car, Cerna and Velasquez allegedly shot at another car that stopped at the scene, hitting the driver in the chest, authorities said. The second driver survived.One month prior to the double murder, Acosta-Martinez allegedly gunned down 23-year-old Brandon Sotomayor of Central Islip when the alleged gunman and another MS-13 member, who was then a juvenile, set out to kill a rival gang member in Baywood on Nov.2, 2011, according to investigators.Acosta-Martinez believed that Sotomayor, who was wearing a red hat, was a member of the rival Bloods street gang when, prosecutors said, the alleged gunman shot the victim in the neck and torso, killing him, while the victim sat in a car.The same 9mm and .22 caliber semi-automatic handguns were used in both shootings, authorities said.Aside from those shootings, Acosta-Martinez is accused of shooting at two suspected members of the Latin Kings in Brentwood, wounding one of them on Dec. 22, 2011. In addition, Cerna was charged with shooting and wounding two suspected rival gang members Oct. 23, 2011.FBI agents apprehended Velasquez on Tuesday in Georgia. He was arraigned in Atlanta and is expected to be transferred to face the charges on LI. Cerna and Acosta-Martinez, who were already in federal custody, will be arraigned at Central Islip federal court.last_img read more

COVID-19: Online fund-raiser seeks to provide protective gear supplies

first_img“This is far from enough,” Mesty said in a statement on Wednesday. “We will continue to ensure that protective equipment is accessible and well-distributed to support healthcare workers in their fight against COVID-19.”She went on to say that the campaign was also supported by a number of major companies, including homegrown e-commerce unicorn Tokopedia.Read also: Manufacturers ramp up capacity to produce protective gearMesty encouraged the public and potential donors to access the fund-raising data on the campaign’s official webpage to ensure transparency and accountability of the initiative. Topics : “We know that it is a long journey, which is why we invite everyone to contribute to distributing the PPE to Indonesian health workers,” Mesty said.Shortages of protective gear supplies remain a major issue amid nationwide efforts to stem the rapid spread of COVID-19.As of April 14, as many as 206 health workers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to data from the Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI) and the Indonesian Nurses Association (PPNI). Of those who contracted the virus, at least 24 doctors and 12 nurses have died of COVID-19. National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) chief Doni Monardo, who helms the country’s COVID-19 task force, said on Tuesday that the government had responded to supply shortages by distributing 725,000 pieces of protective health gear, 13 million surgical masks and 150,000 N95 masks.center_img Online health fund-raising platform WeCare has initiated a campaign that aims to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare personnel working around the clock treating COVID-19 patients across the country despite the apparent scarcity of safety apparatuses.The campaign, under the hashtag #APDuntukNegeri (#PPEfortheCountry), has raised Rp 8.1 billion (US$512,904) as of Thursday, which will be allocated for the distribution of face masks, goggles, face shields and caps, among others, to around 1,700 hospitals across the archipelago.WeCare cofounder Mesty Ariotedjo said the campaign had managed to distribute protective gear supplies to more than 400 hospitals and health clinics in several regions.last_img read more

Society right to discriminate – Craig

first_imgNZ Herald 23 Jan 2013Conservative Party leader Colin Craig says homosexuality is a choice and society is right to discriminate against gay relationships.Mr Craig, a Christian, backed church groups who called at a select committee hearing in Auckland yesterday for a royal commission and a referendum on any change to the definition of marriage.He said the debate about Manurewa MP Louisa Wall’s bill to define marriage as the union of any two people regardless of gender was about the value the country placed on its history and traditions.“It asks whether the history and tradition of marriage as an institution uniting a man and a woman for the benefit of children and society deserves our protection,” he said.“Changes like this should not be made lightly. I am not convinced that there is a compelling reason for change.“Yes, we are discriminating between relationships. We are saying that marriage between a man and a woman is recognised. We are saying that a relationship between a man and a man, for example, goes down the path of a civil union.”http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10860840last_img read more

Raymond Noble – Sunman

first_imgRaymond Noble, of Harrison, Ohio and formerly of Sunman, Indiana was born on October 18, 1944 in Ison, Kentucky a son to Bent and Perlecy Jean Combest Noble.  He moved to Sunman as a young child, graduated from Sunman High School and later married Gloria Jeanne Kuhr on July 20, 1968.  Ray worked for and later retired from Cummins Engine Company after 32 years.  He served his country with the United States Army and the Army National Guard.  Ray was a member of the New Testament Baptist Church at Penntown, the Sunman American Legion Kenneth Diver Post #337, the Sunman Masonic Lodge #590, and the Ripley County Fraternal Order of Police William Rayner Lodge #177.  In his spare time he enjoyed tracing the family tree, watching sporting events and more than anything he cherished spending time with his family and making memories.  On Sunday, April 12, 2020 at the age of 75, Ray entered his eternal life, surrounded by his family.Those surviving who will cherish Ray’s memory include his wife of over 51 years, Gloria (Kuhr) Noble; sons, Steve Noble of Sunman, and Brian (Amanda) Noble of West Harrison; grandchildren, RayAnn Noble of Greensburg and Tayler Noble of Terre Haute; one brother, Corbett Noble; two sisters, Nova (Bob) Rutherford and Daisy Collins, and several cousins, nieces and nephews.  He was preceded in death by his parents and a brother, Robert Noble.Due to the current governor’s mandate regarding public gatherings, the services will be private for the immediate family and burial will be in St. Paul Cemetery. A celebration of life will be planned at a later date by the family.Please visit www.cookrosenberger.com to utilize the online guestbook for Ray and to share personal memories with his family. Memorial contributions can be forwarded to Sunman Rescue 20 at PO Box 55, Sunman IN 47012; Sunman American Legion #337 at 412 Eastern Ave. Sunman, IN 47012; Sunman Masonic Lodge #590 at P.O. Box 87 Sunman, IN 47012.  The staff of Cook Rosenberger Funeral Home is honored to care for the family of Ray Noble.last_img read more

Bale left out of Real Madrid squad to face Man City

first_imgRelatedPosts Vidal lands in Milan to complete move from Barca to Inter EPL: Son fires four past Southampton Barca president Bartomeu says he won’t go to war anymore with Messi Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale has been left out of their 24-man Champions League squad for Friday’s last-16 tie at Manchester City, casting doubts on his future at the club.Bale, 31, last played for Real in June when they beat Mallorca 2-0 and did not feature in their final seven league matches, as they pipped Barcelona to the La Liga title, while he watched from the bench. Bale, who has scored over 100 goals for the Spanish side since his record-breaking move in 2013, has endured his worst season at the club with only three goals in all competitions.The Welshman has a contract until 2022 and was set to make a lucrative move to the Chinese Super League last year before the transfer was scuttled, when Real made a last-minute decision to insist on a transfer fee rather than terminate his contract.Bale has since divided opinion among the club’s fanbase with some supporters frustrated by a perceived lack of commitment from the Welshman.His poor injury record has not helped his cause, while his agent said he would not leave the club despite falling down the pecking order in Zidane’s team.Midfielder James Rodriguez has not been called-up either by Zidane,  while forward Mariano Diaz will miss the trip after he tested positive for COVID-19 last week. Real Skipper, Sergio Ramos, is ineligible after he was sent off in the 2-1 loss in the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, but the club confirmed the defender would still travel with the squad.Reuters/NAN.Tags: FC BarcelonaGareth BaleManchester CityReal Madridlast_img read more

Wenger questions match scheduling

first_imgArsenal manager Arsene Wenger has questioned the “conflicting” scheduling of Saturday’s Barclays Premier League showdown between Chelsea and Manchester United in direct competition with their FA Cup semi-final against Reading at Wembley. Arsenal have a near full-strength side to choose from this weekend, with midfielder Jack Wilshere having returned to full fitness, although captain Mikel Arteta is not yet back in contention from his injury lay-off nor is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Wenger feels the fierce competition for places can only be positive. He said: “Everybody feels that it is difficult to get in the team, all the players have top, top quality. “Of course it’s difficult for me as well to make these kind of decisions. “You do not ask anybody to understand that he doesn’t play because they all deserve to play. “They have to accept it and to respect the decision, that is what you want from the players.” One player who has watched from the bench in recent weeks is Theo Walcott, his last appearance as a substitute in the 2-0 Champions League win in Monaco on March 17. The 26-year-old is out of contract at the end of the 2015-16 season, and speculation has already begun over his future with talks over a new deal still to be finalised. Wenger, though, hopes that will be at the Emirates Stadium. “Yes I am confident because I believe that Theo has a great future,” said the Arsenal boss. “He is just coming back from a very, very difficult injury. Every week he is getting better. “Theo is very young and I believe he will have a great goalscoring record in the future because of the quality and intelligence of his game, and therefore I would like him to stay with our club.” Wenger also confirmed he expected veterans Arteta and Tomas Rosicky to agree contract extensions before the end of the season. Arsenal needed penalties to get past Wigan in last season’s semi-final, before going on to beat Hull on their return to Wembley after being 2-0 down early in the final. “We know that it (semi-final) is always tricky. We have learnt from Wigan last year,” he said. “The urgency level will be quite high in our team.” Wenger added: “Reading have many players who have the experience in the Premier League. “They have a very efficient style, who go a lot for crosses, so for us they can be a danger going forward.” Press Association The Gunners take on the Royals at 5:20pm which will be shown live on the BBC. However, only some 10 minutes later, the Premier League leaders will kick off on Sky Sports against third-placed United at Stamford Bridge. Under Premier League broadcast deals, the selection of Chelsea versus Manchester United was set back in February, when the FA Cup semi-finalists were still unknown. The Football Association and rights holders BBC and BT Sport decide independently on the weekend slots for their competition. Despite the fixtures timings not playing out as all broadcasters may have first hoped, Wenger still feels more consideration should have been made to keep the two high-profile games separate. “I am a bit surprised that a (Premier League) game of the same stature is played at the same time. There is a bit of conflict there that is difficult to understand,” said Wenger at his pre-match media conference on Thursday morning. “Something should be done about it. “I am surprised that they did not analyse that in television deals because basically what happens there, it is something that should have been planned, that two television channels who pay a lot of money for football have conflicted interests in promoting games. That inside the country shouldn’t happen.” Wenger added: “You would like it (FA Cup) to be the unique competition that is played, especially a semi-final and a final, you would want it not to conflict with other competitions.” Chelsea could extend their lead over Arsenal to 10 points should they beat United, but also remain just seven ahead and level on matches if they are defeated by Louis van Gaal’s in-form side. Arsenal host Chelsea next weekend, but Wenger is not looking any further ahead than Saturday’s cup tie at Wembley. “Mathematically yes (defeat for Chelsea would open up the title race again), but we have to win our games. That is all we can do,” Wenger said. last_img read more