About the authorFreddie TaylorShare the loveHave your say Ex-Man Utd striker Van Persie: Pogba played out of positionby Freddie Taylor24 days agoSend to a friendShare the loveFormer Manchester United striker Robin van Persie thinks Paul Pogba should be playing further in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.The World Cup winner has lined up primarily as a defensive midfielder under the Norwegian this season.Speaking after Monday’s draw with Arsenal, van Persie said: “For him, the coach, for us, for everyone, it’s just important to choose a position.”I would play him not as a defensive midfielder, and not as a number 10 but in between – [the] number eight position. “So, he still has his freedom, he’s not judged then on 20-plus goals a season, if he scores 10-plus goals, makes assists, everyone will look differently at him then, but it needs to be clear for everyone.”
The reactivation of the tourist rail service from Montego Bay to the Appleton Estate in Siloah, St. Elizabeth, will soon become a reality.Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, who made the announcement at the official opening of the Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience (formerly the Appleton Estate Rum Tour) on January 18, said plans are being fast-tracked “to get the train up and running” as quickly as possible.He was responding to concerns raised in an earlier presentation by Chairman of J. Wray & Nephew, Clement ‘Jimmy’ Lawrence, that the absence of rail services between Montego Bay and St. Elizabeth was hurting the prospects of Appleton to bring much-needed traffic to its US$7.2-million upgrade to its rum tour facility and visitor centre.“This is a facility that has the potential to accommodate in excess of 200,000 visitors annually,” Mr. Lawrence noted.“We really appreciate all the support we have received from the Government, but we need the return of the train to truly maximise the potential of this facility,” he added.The Minister said the concerns raised will soon be appeased, as the Government is fully committed to get the South Coast leg of the rail services back on track “in very short order”.“I know your projections are to increase your visitor arrivals to 200,000, but my commitment to you is that we will take it to 250,000 by 2020,” Mr. Bartlett told the audience.“The last discussion I had before I went to Spain last week was with a team of entrepreneurs who are putting the dollars together. They were able to tell me that $40 million is now on the table to start the first leg of the programme and also the second leg which will take us into Appleton,” the Minister said.Mr. Bartlett further pointed out that Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, has also been actively involved in the discussions and is “personally committed” to ensuring that the “Appleton experience is fully maximised”.Rail service between Montego Bay and St. Elizabeth, known then as the ‘Appleton Express’, ended in the 1990s.It offered visitors a scenic view of the South Coast region and a chance to tour the Appleton Rum Estate and factory by train.Also, visitors were able to make stops in communities along the way, where they interacted with residents while making purchases of food, clothing and craft items.“Our local vendors, including the craft people, have been hit hard by the continued absence of the rail services. This will be music to their ears, knowing that the Government is committed to get the train rolling on the South Coast once again,” Mr. Lawrence said.
Members of the OSU women’s volleyball team during a game against Michigan on Nov. 14 at St. John Arena. OSU lost 3-0. Credit: Lantern file photoA third-set Buckeye effort wasn’t enough to stop the Indiana Hoosiers from swiping a win from the Ohio State women’s volleyball team on Saturday. Indiana took home the 3-1 victory on their home court, while No. 22 OSU fell to 15-11 overall on the season and 5-9 in the Big Ten. The loss tallies two in a row for the Buckeyes, dropping a match to Wisconsin prior to their faceoff with the Hoosiers. OSU has just six remaining matches in the regular season. The Buckeyes will see three of those teams for the first time this season. A week ago, junior outside hitter Luisa Schirmer said that allowing teams to go on three or four-point runs is ruinous for the Buckeyes. In the first set alone, the Hoosiers went on three three-point runs and created a hole for OSU. Near the conclusion of the first set, the Buckeyes pulled within two points but it was the deadly three-point deficit that came back to haunt them. The Hoosiers took the first set, 25-22. The second set was anchored offensively by sophomore outside hitter Audra Appold, who swung for 10 kills. Even with impressive statistics, the Buckeyes were doomed to play catch-up nearly the entire set. However, OSU rallied and tied the score at 23-23. Then, Indiana’s Deyshia Lofton secured a kill and an assisted block for the second Indiana set win. By the third set, the Buckeyes had had enough, and jumped out to an 8-0 lead, assisted by multiple attacking errors from the Hoosiers. It wasn’t long before sophomore setter Taylor Hughes set foot on the service line and led the team on another three-point run to make the score 14-4. The OSU kills kept rolling, as senior middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe racked up three in a row, and junior outside hitter Ashley Wenz led the set-winning attack. The Buckeyes headed into the fourth set trailing 2-1. Down for nearly the entire set, OSU gained its first lead at 14-13. The advantage changed hands briefly before the score was mirrored at 22 each. It was the Hoosiers’ Allison Hammond who slammed down two attacks in the final minutes to take the match, 25-23. Appold and Sandbothe combined for 37 kills during the match, while freshman Madison Smeathers assisted with five blocks. OSU will have a chance to redeem its loss to the Hoosiers at the final match of the regular season in front of a home crowd. Before then, the team will first face Rutgers at 7 p.m. on Friday at St. John Arena.
The Ohio State field hockey team will now be waiting on the edge of its seat Tuesday night when it will be finding out if it claimed one of the at-large bids into the 2011 NCAA Championships. The Buckeyes (12-8, 4-2) fell to the host-school, Penn State, 1-0 in a defensive battle on Friday afternoon. By losing in the semifinals of the 2011 Big Ten tournament, the Buckeyes will now need their season resume to make their case as they now stand on the bubble of being a tournament team. The Scarlet and Gray advanced to the semifinals after they defeated Michigan State, 2-1, just the day before when they scored two second-half goals against the Spartans to pave their road to their eventual loss to the Nittany Lions in the next round. The Buckeyes’ play was hindered by the strong Nittany Lions defense, which ranks at the top of the conference. “It’s tough when you are going against a goalie like theirs (Ayla Halus), who was just selected as First Team All-Big Ten this season,” senior captain Ally Tunitis said. “They are a really good team, but we played to the best of our ability.” It was clear heading into the Big Ten tournament that the team truly needed to capture the title as the No. 2 seed and a frontrunner to make it a lock to be in the NCAA Championships. “The automatic bid is what we are going for,” head coach Anne Wilkinson said prior to the tournament. All the Buckeyes can do now is sit and wait as they will be unsure of the future of their season until the selection show, which is scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday, with a live stream on NCAA.com. “It was unfortunate it had to end on one stroke,” Tunitis said. “If we don’t get the bid to the tournament, we will still be proud of how we played.” Penn State will now face top-seeded Michigan at 2 p.m. Sunday in the championship game as the Buckeyes will await their destiny.
Former Arsenal’s midfielder Jack Wilshere left Arsenal to Chelsea a few days ago and his former boss Unai Emery has revealed why Wilshere ended his 17-year stay at Arsenal.After Wilshere moved to West Ham, he revealed his thoughts in an emotional message to fans on social media while admitting that Emery had made it clear he won’t have him in his plans for next season.However, Emery on his own revealed how the England international star departed, describing it as a ‘tactical and technical decision’.“The conversation with Wilshere was a very good conversation,” said Emery via Football London.“I explained to him my opinion and how I want to create the team and that I’m not sure he would play in the 11 players.Merson believes Arsenal should sign Sancho Manuel R. Medina – September 14, 2019 Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho might be the perfect player to play for the Gunners, according to former England international Paul Merson.“And also he explained to me that the decision was not easy for him but he wanted to choose the best option for him.“I know this player is important for the supporters and he grew up here in Arsenal, but I don’t give him one spot in the eleven who start.“So for that, he chooses to leave and I respect this.”When asked if Wilshere’s past injury record had played a part in his thinking, Emery added simply: “It was a tactical, technical decision.”
The French professional football league have announced that two more matches have been postponed due the ongoing civil unrest in FranceThis comes in light of protests and demonstrations going havoc due to president Emmanuel Macron’s eco-tax policy on fuel.The riots, which have mainly occurred in Paris, have now become a major issue for the police with several sporting events having been impacted on as a result.PSG ultras sent a warning letter to Neymar Manuel R. Medina – September 14, 2019 Brazilian superstar Neymar might play today his first game of the season for Paris Saint-Germain and the team’s ultras have warned him.The Ligue 1 website announced that Montpellier, who currently sit third in Ligue 1, had their match away to Nantes postponedPatrick Vieira’s Nice side’s game against Saint-Etienne on Friday is also being put on hold at the request of the local authorities.The likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Bordeaux, AS Monaco, Marseille and Lyon have all had fixtures rescheduled in light of the protests.
Dan Cohen AUTHOR It’s looking more and more that any negotiations between GOP congressional leaders and the White House over lifting the Budget Control Act spending caps will not start until the new fiscal year approaches.On Wednesday, Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan said the White House has no plans to reach out to Republican leaders as its opening offer was its fiscal 2016 budget request delivered in February.“We’ve actually put our cards on the table, if you will, to say ‘Here’s what we want. Here’s how we would pay for it,’ and the next step really needs to be Republicans coming to the table to say, ‘Here’s our proposal on that,’” Donovan said in an interview with CQ Roll Call.Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, have bristled at President Obama’s criticism of this year’s spending bills, noting the president’s veto threat against all measures that stick to the statutory caps essentially blocks Congress from following existing law. The GOP, similarly, believes the president should make an overture regarding any new agreement to provide defense and non-defense agencies limited relief from the caps.“Sequestration was the White House’s idea in the first place, and if they want this committee to have more ability to fund the programs they desire, I would think they’d want to come to the Hill and meet with House and Senate leaders,” House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) said earlier this month.Clearly, neither side is listening to the other.“The idea that they would say even though they’ve laid out a budget that doesn’t end sequester that it’s up to us to take the next step, it doesn’t make sense,” Donovan said. “What we need is a plan for the other side that we could then actually negotiate around.”For his part, the OMB director predicted the GOP would be forced to the negotiating table when they run into trouble passing spending bills for domestic agencies as a result of their austere funding levels.“The process will break down. I can’t tell you exactly what week or month it breaks down but it will,” Donovan told CQ.
Arjun Kapoor, Malaika AroraVarinder ChawlaArjun Kapoor and Malaika Arora have been painting the town red with their romance and their several public outings have sparked rumours of their impending wedding which believe that it will happen this year. So when Arjun was asked about the marriage speculations with Malaika, he cleared the air saying that he’s not getting married his ladylove.Revealing the reason why Arjun is not marrying Malaika, the actor told Mumbai Mirror, “Usually men lose hair after getting married and not before (laughs). To put things in perspective, as an actor, why would I want to get married when I am sporting a bald look? There would be pictures of it everywhere! On a serious note, I am not getting married. I have not hidden anything from anyone and I think my personal life deserves respect and dignity for that.”Arjun further said that he is happy in his life and doesn’t want to add more adjectives to it. “My personal and professional lives help me sleep well at night and I would like it to remain like that,” he added.A few days ago, when Arjun’s close friend Parineeti Chopra was asked about the actor’s marriage by Anaita Shroff Adajania on her chat show Feet Up With The Stars season 2, the Kesari actor brushed off the question under the carpet.”I don’t know if he is getting married,” Parineeti said when she was asked if she was aware about Arjun’s rumoured wedding with Malaika Arora.Although Malaika and Arjun have denied getting married anytime soon, fans are having tough time believing what the lovebirds have been saying.
A red alert has been issued in Coimbatore where the suspected terrorists might be holed up.IANSThe Tamil Nadu Police has sounded a high alert across the state after information was received that a group of six Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists have infiltrated into Tamil Nadu through Sri Lanka.There was an intelligence input that a group of terrorists, including a Pakistani national and five people from Sri Lanka, were planning to carry out a possible terror attack. Security has been beefed up at all important installations and public places like bus stands, railway stations, temples, markets, malls and all government offices.With a heavy deployment of patrolling forces at every nook and corner of prominent places in Tamil Nadu, extensive checking was carried out using a metal detector and sniffer dogs. Police personnel across all-district in the state have been asked to stay vigilant to prevent any untoward incident.A red alert has been issued in Coimbatore where the police suspect the terrorists might be holed up. The Coimbatore police are scanning the city railway station with the help of sniffer dogs and also checking all departing trains. It has been reported that the Coimbatore city police have released photographs of two possible terrorist suspects who have intruded Tamil Nadu. The Coimbatore city police have released photographs of two possible terrorist suspects.ReutersSpeaking to news agency IANS, Chennai Police Commissioner AK Viswanathan confirmed that an intelligence alert has been received that six Lashkar terrorists have entered Tamil Nadu, adding that storming operations may be carried out to nab the infiltrators.Based on the alert, the Chennai Commissioner of Police has said that deployment of police personnel have been increased and necessary precautions have been put in place. Jaish terrorist, Mudasir Ahmad Khan who masterminded Pulwama attack killed in Tral encounter Close IBTimes VideoRelated VideosMore videos Play VideoPauseMute0:01/0:59Loaded: 0%0:01Progress: 0%Stream TypeLIVE-0:58?Playback Rate1xChaptersChaptersDescriptionsdescriptions off, selectedSubtitlessubtitles settings, opens subtitles settings dialogsubtitles off, selectedAudio Trackdefault, selectedFullscreenThis is a modal window.Beginning of dialog window. Escape will cancel and close the window.TextColorWhiteBlackRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyOpaqueSemi-TransparentBackgroundColorBlackWhiteRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyOpaqueSemi-TransparentTransparentWindowColorBlackWhiteRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyTransparentSemi-TransparentOpaqueFont Size50%75%100%125%150%175%200%300%400%Text Edge StyleNoneRaisedDepressedUniformDropshadowFont FamilyProportional Sans-SerifMonospace Sans-SerifProportional SerifMonospace SerifCasualScriptSmall CapsReset restore all settings to the default valuesDoneClose Modal DialogEnd of dialog window. COPY LINKAD Loading …
Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain and Moudud AhmedFollowing the party’s disastrous defeat in the 11th national election, two BNP standing committee members on Friday suggested a change in the party leadership through holding a council, reports UNB.Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain and Moudud Ahmed came up with the suggestion at a discussion organised at the Supreme Court Bar Association auditorium to celebrate the 83rd birth anniversary of party founder Ziaur Rahman.Speaking at the programme as the chief guest, Mosharraf Hossain said BNP must stage a comeback. “We must stage a comeback and reorganise the party…the party will have to be revamped through holding a council.”He also said the tested party men will have to be put in the leadership.Earlier, Moudud Ahmed said, “Today, the party will have to be reorganised newly. Those who worked for the party in its tough times should be at the helm. If necessary, we, who have become old, will take a leave. But, the party should survive. The only way for it is to arrange a council which should be held within months.”BNP’s last council was held on 19 March 2016.Presiding over the discussion, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir claimed that democracy has been ‘assassinated and ruined’ completely in the country.He said it is time for the youth to come forward to save the country.Fakhrul also underscored the need for forging a strong movement together with the country’s people to free BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia and ‘democracy’.The 83rd birth anniversary of BNP founder Ziaur Rahman will be celebrated on Saturday.
×Actors Reveal Their Favorite Disney PrincessesSeveral actors, like Daisy Ridley, Awkwafina, Jeff Goldblum and Gina Rodriguez, reveal their favorite Disney princesses. Rapunzel, Mulan, Ariel,Tiana, Sleeping Beauty and Jasmine all got some love from the Disney stars.More VideosVolume 0%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard Shortcutsplay/pauseincrease volumedecrease volumeseek forwardsseek backwardstoggle captionstoggle fullscreenmute/unmuteseek to %SPACE↑↓→←cfm0-9Next UpJennifer Lopez Shares How She Became a Mogul04:350.5x1x1.25×1.5x2xLive00:0002:1502:15 On paper, Wednesday’s revenue miss wasn’t actually all that dramatic: Facebook generated revenue of $13.23 billion during the quarter ending June 30, compared to $9.32 billion during the same quarter last year. The company’s net income for the quarter was $5.1 billion, compared to $3.89 billion in Q2 of 2017. Diluted earnings per share came in at $1.74, compared to $1.32 the year before.Analysts had expected $13.34 billion in revenue, and earnings of $1.71 per share.But the market wasn’t just reacting to Facebook generating less revenue than expected. The company’s growth numbers also slowed down notably: Daily active users only increased 11% year-over-year, to the tune of 1.47 billion on average during the month of June. A year ago, that growth rate was still at 17%.What’s more, daily active users have effectively been flat in the U.S. sequentially, and even declined in Europe when compared to Q1 — the first time the company has seen such a decline in recent quarters.Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had warned in the past that the company may see some impact on its revenue as it aims to curtail abuse on the platform. “We started to see that this quarter,” Zuckerberg said during Wednesday’s earnings call, while promising to keep investing in fighting fake news, especially around elections.“We run this company for the long-term, not for the next quarter,” he added.Wehner blamed Europe’s new privacy laws for the decline in daily active users in the region, but Facebook CFO Sheryl Sandberg said that this hasn’t affected the company’s bottom line thus far. “GDPR has not had a significant revenue impact,” she said.Other factors that impacted the company’s revenue were global currency fluctuations, Wehner said.Wehner also mentioned another aspect of the decline that likely contributed to investors’ anxiety: Stories, a format that Facebook has been aggressively embracing across all of its apps, just isn’t monetizing yet as well as Facebook’s traditional newsfeed-based advertising business.Asked by an analyst if Stories would ever become as profitable as the company’s other ad formats, Sandberg remained cautious: “Will this monetize at the same rate as newsfeed? We honestly don’t know.” Popular on Variety Facebook executives have long warned investors that the days of double-digit growth wouldn’t last forever. Investors have just as long shrugged off those warnings, driving the company’s stock up to record highs. On Wednesday, those same investors suddenly woke up to the realization that the good times truly won’t last forever.A miss on user and revenue growth sent Facebook’s stock down around 9% in after-hours-trading immediately following the company’s release of its Q2 2018 earnings report. Then, during the company’s earnings call, Facebook CFO David Wehner told investors that the company’s revenue growth would decline significantly over the coming quarters, and that Facebook’s operating margin would sink from currently 44% to the mid-30% range.Those stark warnings sent Facebook’s stock off a cliff, with share prices declining 24% in after-hours trading.
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. Journal information: Cell Reports Explore further (Phys.org)—Every organ strikes its own balance between self-renewal and differentiation. At one extreme is the brain, where only a few isolated outposts are known to contribute to a largely quiescent population. At another extreme are the testes, where at least in males, prolific germline turnover is maintained amidst a protracted and deliberate multi-month creation cycle. Perhaps surprisingly, both organs are uniquely immunoprivileged against various vascular indiscretions and yet rely on various myeloid-derived cells like macrophages or microglia to instruct important structural maturations. The so-called stem cell ‘niche’ is the microenvironment of the stem cell: all those physical and molecular intangibles that nourish, shield and inform its major life decisions. In creatures like worms and flies a well-defined stem cell niche is distally localized within a polarized gonad. By contrast, each testes of the mammal can contain up to 40,000 potential stem cell niches more-or-less randomly dispersed among its seminiferous tubules. A recent paper published in Cell Reports has removed some of the mystery in the mammalian reproductive system by showing that a unique class of testicular macrophages define its putative stem cell niche.Perhaps even more importantly, they also show that these macrophages control spermatogonial differentiation through the expression of critical factors including CSF1 (colony-stimulating factor) and retinoic acid synthesis enzymes. When the researchers ablated the macrophages by making them selectively and transiently susceptible to the diphtheria toxin, they found a drastic reduction in the number of spermatogonia. This new found responsibility of macrophages complements their previous known testicular functions in promoting steroidogenesis in Leydig cells. They are also known to be intimately involved in vascular development in several places, including the brain. We should mention that the immune barrier in the brain is due mainly to the endfeet of astroglial cells while in the testes it is created by tight junctions in the Sertoli cells that nurse the developing spermatogonia.The single spermatogonium is the most undifferentiated cell within the prevailing model of the spermatogonial stem cell hierarchy. In the fullness of time each one progresses through an incomplete cytokinesis, giving rise to syncytial cysts of spermatogonia progeny that are held together in formation by cytoplasmic bridges. In this way those cells in the syncytium that lack and X chromosome can still get copies for things like glucose 6 phosphate dehydrogenase. Similarly those cells that find themselves without a Y still have access to essentials like the RBM gene, which is critical later in spermatogenesis. Testes. Credit: smithlhhsb122.wikispaces.com More information: The New Director of “the Spermatogonial Niche”: Introducing the Peritubular Macrophage, Cell Reports, Volume 12, Issue 7, p1069–1070, 18 August 2015. dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2015.07.057Macrophages Contribute to the Spermatogonial Niche in the Adult Testis, Cell Reports, Volume 12, Issue 7, p1107–1119, 18 August 2015. dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2015.07.015 Mechanisms for continually producing sperm © 2015 Phys.org For most men, the only time they ever hear the word macrophage in reference to their testicles is when it comes time for the vasectomy. Upon being told during that actual sperm production is totally unaffected by a vasectomy, any reasonable man might be expected to wonder, perhaps aloud, ‘what happens to all the sperm’? Typically there is some mumbling about macrophages taking care of all that, although the actual details are a bit shoddy. This new evidence regarding the intimate relationship between macrophages, spermatogenesis, and perhaps even spermicide, points to the indebtedness we have to these dynamic cells.Since we have already broached the subject we might take the opportunity to share a few more illuminative details that may benefit anyone undergoing significant alterations to their reproductive plumbing. While a general attitude of ‘the less you know, the better’ may often prevail in such matters, there are some things a patient should probably know. In up to half of patients something known in the business simply as ‘epididymal blowout’ will occur. This is something every bit as horrid to imagine as it sounds. Typically, pressure in the vas deferens (which usually is tied off or electrocauterized) builds up over the course of several weeks post-op to the point that it ruptures, frequently accompanied by some pain and possible formation of epidydimal cysts. Fortunately, through a cooperative macrophage effort, this situation largely resolves on its own.However for some men something even more sinister lurks within. Another word that can bring even the strongest to their knees is ‘re-canalization’. This situation is also precisely as it sounds—complete regrowth and functional connection of a severed vas deferens. It is not yet known exactly how or when this can occur other than to say that ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’. For men lucky enough to avoid any of these potential pitfalls there is probably only one remaining concern: what happens to levels of testosterone?Studies have apparently shown that testosterone levels remain the same on average. What such a devilish statement hides is that depending on your particular constitution and sequalae, you might your own individual expect levels to change, either for the better or for worse. In other words, with evidence in literature for both increases and decreases, it is fair to say we need more research on how such things are ultimately controlled in the gonads. Citation: Macrophages create the elusive spermatogonial stem cell niche (2015, September 3) retrieved 18 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-09-macrophages-elusive-spermatogonial-stem-cell.html
Kolkata: The School Education & Literacy department under the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is coming up with pre-school educational units across the country, with National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) preparing a curriculum for the same.”There is preparatory work to be done before a child enters Class I. We are studying how pre-school will work in the government domain and what approach needs to be taken – whether we should train anganwadi workers or train teachers of Classes I and II,” Union secretary of School Education & Literacy Anil Swarup said on the sidelines of a session on pre-school policy organised by ASSOCHAM. Also Read – Heavy rain hits traffic, flightsHe informed that the HRD ministry will come out with a guideline by June 30, which will have a plan on how financial assistance can be provided to various state governments for setting up such pre-schools, relating to the Central government’s financial assistance to the proposed pre-school units to be set up by the School Education department.”Right now, barring a few states, there are hardly any pre-schools in the government level. However, there are some private pre-schools that are doing good work. So, we feel the private sector can be of great help in developing the curriculum for pre-school. Personally, I believe that good work can be done in both private and public domains,” Swarup said. Also Read – Speeding Jaguar crashes into Merc, 2 B’deshi bystanders killedResponding to a poser on Samagra Siksha Abhijan launched by the Centre last month, he said, “With ‘Samagra Shiksha’ coming into effect, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan will cease to exist separately and merge with it.”The ‘Samagra Shiksha’ programme launched recently plans to impart holistic education, without segmentation from pre-nursery to Class XII.On a question about corporal punishment, he said, “Handling a child should be different from handling an adult.”
The first UFO Hotel in America will soon open which is a USD 30 million project in Baker, California. The project is being spearheaded by a charismatic visionary, Luis Ramallo, and will feature 31 rooms on two floors designed within a full-scale alien spacecraft where guests can spend the night in alien-themed rooms and dine in an alien-themed restaurant.“We are tremendously excited about developing the first authentic UFO Hotel in the world, not just in America,” Ramallo stated. “There are tens of millions of Sci-Fi and UFO fans in the world who have been dreaming of a venue just like this. They will finally have it.”The UFO Hotel, which is in pre-construction development, will have an alien-themed lobby, spa, nightclub and other attractions, such as Sci-Fi fanatics and guests getting married in alien costumes — on their favourite planet.“It will be out of this world. When you enter the hotel, you will feel as if you’ve been transported to an actual spaceship,” Ramallo added.Room rates at the UFO Hotel will be competitively priced, beginning at around USD 300 a night – “an incredible bargain for a one-of-a-kind experience,” Ramallo remarked.
October 26, 2009 After a week of intensive composing and rehearsals, Difference Skies delivered their final performance on Saturday October 24, 2009. On the night of the performance, the Colly Soleri Music Amphitheater was illuminated under the night sky and the audience huddled together around the amphitheater. The musicians and visual artists together created a stunning tapestry of improvised and composed space music, ambient, experimental, and electronic, mixed with interactive video synthesis, for the audience. [photo: Alfonso Elia & text: Anna Tran] After the formal part of the program and a brief intermission, the artists played numerous spontaneously improvised pieces, stirring the awe and imagination of the audience. [photo: tt & text: Anna Tran] The Different Skies performance was absolutely astounding. Thank you and congratulations to all who helped bring this wonderful performance together. We hope to see you all again next year! [photo: Alfonso Elia & text: Anna Tran]
Canal+ has launched Canal+ Séries, the sixth channel in its premium offering, Chaines Canal+.The channel, which offers the latest French and international drama series, joins existing channels Canal+ Cinéma, Canal+ Sport, Canal+ Décale and Canal+ Family in the premium offering.Shows on the new channel include Hannibal, Utopia, Mad Men season six and Nurse Jackie season five.Canal+ Séries is the first new channel to join the bouquet in six years and faces competition from Orange Cinéma Séries (OCS), which on September 12 announced the launch of a new channel, OCS City, featuring content from its US partner HBO.OCS City will feature HBO content a day after it is aired in the US, including Game of Thrones season three. Other shows on the channel include Boardwalk Empire, Girls and True Blood.OCS is also launching OCS Go, a multiscreen on-demand version of its offering.
French transmission services outfit TDF has struck an agreement, through its Ad Valem Technologies unit, with Australia’s Telstra to collaborate on transport services, which TDF says will enable it to grow its business in providing services for international sports and music events.The agreement will see Ad Valem Technologies’ international network of local operators integrated with Telstra’s global network, providing the capacity to cover events from several thousand sports stadiums and event venues globally.Currently, TDF retransmits a number of big events in HD and UHD including Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 football matches and France’s Top 14 rugby as well as international sports events such as the Ryder Cup, Formula 1, the Davis Cup and the Champions League as well as c cultural and musical events.TDF CEO Franck Langrand said that Telstra, which was already a supplier to TDF, would now be a partner. He said that Ad Valem Technologies already connected over 60 stadiums to a high-bandwidth fibre network.Trevor Boal, director of Telstra Broadcast Services said that the agreement would connect TDF’s customers to over 2,500 stadiums, arenas and TV stations globally.
Health care in the U.S. Virgin Islands remains in a critical state, five months after Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria pummeled the region. The only hospital on St. Thomas, the Schneider Regional Medical Center, serves some 55,000 residents between the islands of St. Thomas and St. John. Schneider’s facilities suffered major structural damage, forcing a decrease in its range of services, mass transfers of its patients, staff departures and significant losses in revenue. Only about one-third of the beds are currently available for patient care.In early September, when Irma hit the Virgin Islands, most of Schneider’s staff members were on duty. At the height of the storm, a large window on the hospital’s top floor gave out. “You had winds of 175, 180 miles per hour whipping through here,” says the hospital’s Vice President Darryl Smalls.The screws holding the window in place failed. The window itself, made from hurricane impact glass, remained intact. It’s here, leaning against a nursing station that’s now in shambles. Ceiling panels are gone, exposed pipes and ducts are damaged and sagging in places. A large plywood barrier covers the window opening.When the window tore off, Smalls says the staff worked quickly to evacuate some 20 patients to a safer part of the hospital. They couldn’t use the elevator in the middle of the storm, so staff transported patients from the fourth floor to the third floor using the emergency stairwells. “We literally took the patients on the mattresses, slid them down the stairs, down to the third floor, across the building and up onto the other side,” Smalls says. “We have a surgical unit which was not compromised and capable of handling patient care.”Eventually, all of the patients who were at Schneider during the storm were evacuated off of the island. But even as staff dealt with a host of problems, the hospital remained open. In the emergency room, which flooded badly from a leaky roof, Smalls says, “You probably had about 3 to 4 inches of water on the floor in here. I had pumps. I think we probably had 50 people in here at any given time just trying to evacuate as much water out of the facility.”Today, the hospital continues to provide surgery, labor and delivery care, radiology and lab services. But its cancer center, a $28 million facility, remains closed because of extensive storm damage. The hospital can now only provide limited services for patients requiring dialysis. Meanwhile, Schneider Medical’s sister center, the only hospital on St. Croix, the U.S. Virgin Islands’ other major island, suffered even more extensive damage to its operating rooms.Without adequate medical services available, Schneider Regional CEO Bernard Wheatley says most patients who evacuated St. Thomas have not been able to return. “It’s over 400 that have been transferred off island,” Wheatley says. “And to this day, we’re still transferring some patients, especially the ones requiring extensive length of stay.”Along with the lack of facilities, another major problem is staffing. Wheatley says he’s lost 150 of the hospital’s 600 employees — many of whom left the island after the storms destroyed their homes. “The sad part of it, we’ve lost a lot of nurses,” he says. “If you ask me right now, what’s my key entity in terms of shortages, from a clinical standpoint it would be the nursing staff.” Shanique Woods-Boschulte, who directs Schneider’s foundation says, “Every day we get one or two resignations.” After five months, Woods-Boschulte says, the daily struggle is wearing down many staff members. “The morale was really high after the storm because we saw what we were able to accomplish — no patients hurt,” she says. “But now things are trickling down and everyone is leaving a broken hospital and going home to a broken home.”Adding to the woes, the hospital is in desperate financial straits. Revenues are half of what they were because there are far fewer patients. The government-supported hospital is projecting a $7 million loss.With all the competing problems on the islands, CEO Bernard Wheatley says it’s not clear how much help the local government can provide. “The territory itself is projecting a $400 million loss,” he says. “They don’t have the hotel rooms, tourism is down. It’s just not the same island.”The U.S. Virgin Islands is now looking to Congress to help decide what to do about its battered hospitals. The local government is in talks with FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers to determine whether the hospitals can be rehabilitated, or if new facilities will be needed. Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Marilyn Bartlett took a deep breath, drew herself up to her full 5 feet and a smidge, and told the assembled handful of Montana officials that she had a radical strategy to bail out the state’s foundering benefit plan for its 30,000 employees and their families.The officials were listening. Their health plan was going broke, with losses that could top $50 million in just a few years. It needed a savior, but none of the applicants to be its new administrator had wowed them.Now here was a self-described pushy 64-year-old grandmother interviewing for the job.Bartlett came with some unique qualifications. She had just spent 13 years on the insurance industry side, first as a controller for a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan, then as the chief financial officer for a company that administered benefits. She was a potent combination of irreverent and nerdy, a certified public accountant whose smart car’s license plate reads “DR CR,” the Latin abbreviations for “debit” and “credit.” Most importantly, Bartlett understood something the state officials didn’t: the side deals, kickbacks and lucrative clauses that industry players secretly build into medical costs. Everyone, she had observed, was profiting except the employers and workers paying the tab. Now, in the twilight of her career, Bartlett wanted to switch teams. In her view, employers should be pushing back against the industry and demanding that it justify its costs. They should ask for itemized bills to determine how prices are set. And they should read the fine print in their contracts to weed out secret deals that work against them. The way health care works in America, most employers cede control of costs to their health insurers, the hospitals that treat their employees and the companies they pay to manage their benefits. The costs are a dense thicket that few employers feel equipped to hack through. So they don’t.This failure helps explain why Americans pay the highest health care costs in the world — and why the tab continues to increase, year after year. Employers fund these costs through employee compensation packages, so the math is typically bad news for workers: Rising health costs mean fewer wage increases and less take-home pay. Montana was no different.And so Bartlett pitched a bold strategy. Step 1: Tell the state’s hospitals what the plan would pay. Take it or leave it. Step 2: Demand a full accounting from the company managing drug costs. If it won’t reveal any side deals it had with drugmakers, replace it.Bartlett’s strategy would expose a culture in which participants fail to question escalating costs and the role each part of the health care industry plays in them. These little-seen aspects of the health insurance industry and the way Americans pay for medical care are the focus of an ongoing series from ProPublica and NPR. As Bartlett laid out her plan that day in July 2014 in a conference room in Helena, Sheila Hogan, then-director of the state’s Department of Administration, liked what she was hearing. They needed something radical. To her knowledge, no one had ever tried anything like this. Bartlett would be taking on some of the state’s power players: hospitals and health insurers — and their politically connected lobbyists. If her plan didn’t work, the state and its employees were in trouble. If it did, it could create a blueprint for employers everywhere.Bartlett knew employers have negotiating power that few of them use. The health care system depends on the revenue produced by the surgeries, mammograms, lab tests and other services it provides, and it can ill afford to lose it. Bartlett got the job. She would call the industry’s bluff.Ballooning medical costsEmployer-sponsored health benefits are almost as old as America itself. In 1798, John Adams, the second U.S. president, signed a law that took 20 cents per month from the paychecks of U.S. seamen to fund their medical care. After the Civil War, lumber, mining and railroad companies in the American West withheld money from employee paychecks to pay for doctors and hospitals.After World War II, such plans became mainstream. Today, about 150 million Americans get their health benefits through their employers. The industry is dominated by what some call the “BUCAH” plans – Blue Cross Blue Shield, UnitedHealth Group, Cigna, Aetna and Humana. Half a dozen health insurers currently sit near the top of the Fortune 500, with combined annual revenue of about half a trillion dollars. Despite the money at stake, many employers have, wittingly or not, deferred to the industry. Decisions about health benefit plans are usually made by midlevel human resources managers who may not understand the forces in the medical industry operating against them. They’re often advised by insurance brokers, who are traditionally funded by the industry. And they’re trying to keep the peace for employees — who demand convenient access to the care they need. It’s a recipe for inertia.The conventional wisdom is that insurance companies want to reduce health care spending. In reality, insurers’ business plans hinge on keeping hospitals and other providers happy — and in their networks — often at the expense of employers and patients. Employers often feel caught between rising costs and concern that changes they make will be bad for their employees, says Michael Thompson, president of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, which represents groups of employers who provide benefits to more than 45 million Americans. And, he says, they rely on the advice of industry experts instead of digging into the details.”We have got to get control of this thing or it’s going to bring down the economy, our personal bankrolls and our wages,” he says. “It’ll cost jobs in the United States and it’ll bring down our public programs. This is not a small issue. It’s a huge issue.”But Bartlett soon discovered that it was easier to talk about pushing back than to do it. A showdown with Montana’s hospitalsBartlett arrived in Helena, the state capital, in fall 2014 as an outsider navigating a minefield of established relationships. From the start, she knew she would have to tackle the staggering bills from the state’s hospitals, which made up the largest chunk of the plan’s expenses. It wouldn’t be popular because they also made up a significant chunk of hospitals’ profitsMontana, like many large employers, self-funds its plan. That means it pays the bills and hires an insurance company or other firm to process the claims. More than half of American workers are covered by self-funded plans. As the boss in this arrangement, Bartlett assumed she would have access to detailed information about how much the plan, which was managed by Cigna, paid for procedures at each hospital. But when she asked Cigna for its pricing terms with the hospitals, Cigna refused to provide them. Its contracts with hospitals were secret, Cigna representatives told her. That didn’t sit well with Bartlett, she recalls. “The payer cannot see the contract,” she says, “but we agree to pay whatever the contract says we will pay.” A cumbersome querying process set up by Cigna allowed her to get individual claims and other limited information. But the company would only give her aggregate data, with things lumped together, to show what she paid each hospital. It was like telling a family trying to reduce its grocery spending that it could only see what it spent in a year, not a breakdown of what bread and fruit and other items cost at each market. When Bartlett continued to demand information, Cigna balked; it needed to balance what she wanted with keeping the hospitals happy. “I don’t see the need for a balance,” she recalls telling them. “I am representing the payer.” Cigna declined to answer questions about its relationship with Montana’s plan, but it said in a statement that it had prioritized the plan’s preferences and needs. Bartlett ultimately settled on a radical solution: The plan would set its own prices for the hospitals.In the illusory world of hospital billing, the hospitals typically charge a high price for a procedure, then give insurers in-network discounts. These charges and discounts might be different for each procedure at each hospital, depending on who has more leverage during negotiations. The discounts, however, are meaningless if the underlying charges aren’t capped. When Bartlett looked at a common knee replacement, with no complications and a one-night hospital stay, she saw that one hospital had charged the plan $25,000, then applied a 7 percent discount. So, the plan paid $23,250. A different hospital gave a better discount, 10 percent, but on a sticker price of $115,000. So, the plan got billed $103,500 — more than four times the amount it paid the other hospital for the same operation. Bartlett recalled wondering why anyone would think this was OK. Under Bartlett’s proposed new strategy, the plan would use the prices set by Medicare as a reference point. Medicare, the federal government’s insurance for the disabled and patients over 65, is a good benchmark because it makes its prices public and adjusts them for hospitals based on geography and other factors. Montana’s plan would pay hospitals a set percentage above the Medicare amount, a method known as “reference-based pricing,” making it impossible for the hospitals to arbitrarily raise their prices. Fed up, Bartlett ended the plan’s relationship with Cigna. Her battle to upend the status quo riled some employees of her own office, who complained that she was demanding too many changes. Some quit. Bartlett didn’t let up. That Christmas, the Cigna representative sent each employee in Bartlett’s office a small gift, a snow globe. Bartlett didn’t get one. But her ideas were exciting to Ron Dewsnup, the president of Allegiance Benefit Plan Management, a Montana-based subsidiary of, ironically, Cigna. Allegiance had been studying variation in hospital prices for years and had twice sent reports to Montana hospitals showing how their prices for the same procedures differed significantly. The company had also considered a reference-based pricing model, but it “didn’t have any employers that were serious about taking a stand,” Dewsnup says. Allegiance got the state contract and began by comparing what the plan paid the 11 biggest hospitals in the state with the Medicare rates. The cheaper ones averaged about twice the Medicare rates, the most expensive one about five times the Medicare rates. No one wanted to stiff the hospitals, but this was ridiculous, Bartlett recalls thinking. She determined the new rate for all hospitals would be a little more than twice the Medicare rate — still a lucrative deal, but a good starting point to get prices under control. The contracts would also prohibit a practice called “balance billing,” under which hospitals bill patients for whatever charges a health plan refuses to pay. It would mean a boost for some lower-cost hospitals. Now, she had to persuade the more expensive hospitals to take less. “You’re in or you’re out”Kirk Bodlovic, the chief financial officer of Providence St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, remembers the day an entourage from the state health plan, including Bartlett and Hogan, arrived at his hospital. Bodlovic knew from Allegiance’s reports that St. Patrick’s prices were on the high side. But he wasn’t prepared for the ultimatum: If St. Patrick’s wanted to treat state employees, the hospital would have to accept lower rates. If it didn’t, the state would pay for its employees to travel to other hospitals. “You’re in or you’re out, basically,” Bodlovic says.The state’s demand set off a series of meetings within the Providence chain, which also operates in California, Alaska and the Northwest. It didn’t have a lot of leverage because Missoula is a two-hospital town. Its competitor, one of the lower-priced facilities, had already agreed to the deal. St. Patrick’s considered rejecting the deal. Bodlovic says that thought gives him heartburn to think about now, envisioning the wrath of doctors if some 3,000 state plan members had ended up at a rival hospital. And the hospital would have lost about $4 million in annual revenue. “That’s a good chunk of business,” he says. In their final analysis, he says, St. Patrick’s officials decided it was the “lesser pain” to accept the new contract than to be left out of the deal. While the state worked to get hospitals to sign new contracts, their CEOs and lobbyists plotted end runs, scheduling meetings with the governor’s office to propose alternative solutions. When they arrived for the meetings, they found that Bartlett had also been invited. She effectively blocked their ideas. Still, Bartlett had to get all the hospitals on board — or else. The new pricing was set to go live on July 1, 2016, and, with a month to go, six of the major hospitals were holding out. “I started to panic,” Bartlett recalls. During sleepless nights, Bartlett imagined thousands of state employees being forced to zigzag across the state for medical care or running up massive bills at noncontracted hospitals. She put together communication plans for members describing how they would need to travel to avoid certain hospitals.With her stomach in knots, she went on the offensive. She took a graph showing the variation in hospital prices to state legislators. Then she threatened to go public. She couldn’t name names because of contract restrictions, but she could tell the media that some hospitals’ prices were three times as high as others and let reporters figure out which ones were which. Five of the holdouts surrendered and signed the contract. “The hospitals didn’t want that out there,” she says. Only Benefis Health System in Great Falls, one of the higher-priced hospitals, refused. The hospital’s CEO told the local newspaper that “it was business for them and it was business for us.” The new plan went into place July 1, without Benefis as a contracted hospital. Bartlett ratcheted up the pressure one more time, calling in the Montana Federation of Public Employees. The union has hundreds of members in the Great Falls area, including Keith Leathers, who works as an investigator with the state’s child support enforcement division. Leathers has a young daughter with scoliosis, and he didn’t want to drive long distances to get her the care she needs. He readily engaged in the fight.”We have a regional medical facility here that’s supposed to be able to handle almost any medical problem, period,” he recalls thinking. “And I got to go out of town to get care because they want to charge more than anyone else?”Union leaders launched a campaign against the hospital. Leathers says he sent a postcard and made a phone call every day to the hospital CEO, the board members — anyone he could find in leadership. He urged them to accept the new rates. Hundreds of other employees from across the state did the same. Within a month, Benefis agreed to join the health plan. The hospital declined to comment for this story.Leathers says employers and workers should be protesting health care costs “over and over again” all over the country. “Are we going to wait until the health care system just crashes?” he says. When Bartlett took over the state health plan, it spent about $200 million a year. Bartlett’s team estimated that the new hospital pricing schedule saved the plan more than $17 million in the second half of 2016 and all of 2017 — almost $1 million a month. By 2017, a plan that state officials had predicted would go broke had turned itself around. And it’s projected to save an additional $15 million in 2018 without cutting benefits to employees or raising their rates. Exposing hidden drug dealsBut Bartlett had one more target in her sights: prescription drug costs. Health plans contract with separate companies, middlemen entities known as pharmacy benefit managers, to get members their medication. And everyone assured Bartlett the state’s pharmacy benefits deal was “state of the art.” But just like with Cigna, she insisted on examining it herself. That wasn’t easy because the pharmacy benefits were run through a cooperative arrangement with other health plans, including those of universities, school trusts and counties. The state plan anchored the co-op, and the other partners were happy with the arrangement. Bartlett knew that pharmacy benefit managers are notorious for including deals that boost their profits at the expense of employers. One of the common tricks is called the “spread.” A pharmacy benefit manager, for example, will tell an employer it cost $100 to fill a prescription that actually cost $60, allowing the pharmacy benefit manager to pocket the extra $40. The fine print in the contracts often allows it. The spread is widespread. A recent report by the Ohio state auditor noted that the spread on generic drugs had cost that state’s Medicaid plan $208 million in a single year — 31 percent of what it spent.Sure enough, when she got the contract, Bartlett found that the state plan had fallen victim to the spread. Pharmacy benefit managers also rake in dollars through rebates paid by pharmaceutical companies. Most health plans would assume that because they’re paying for the drugs, they should get any rebates. But pharmacy benefit managers often don’t disclose the size of the rebate, which allows them to keep some or most of it for themselves. When Bartlett pressed, she discovered the state wasn’t getting the full amount of its rebates. Montana was getting taken, but it put Bartlett in a touchy political situation. The co-op needed the state as a partner or it wouldn’t survive. Bartlett decided her allegiance was to the plan’s bottom line. She pulled out of the deal. “She wasn’t afraid of ruining her career or making people angry,” says Scott McClave, a consultant with Alliant Insurance Services who helped analyze the pharmacy benefit contract. Bartlett says it helped that she was near the end of her career and didn’t need to please people. “I’m 67, so I could give a s***,” she says. “What are they going to do, fire me? I’m packin’ a Medicare card.” Bartlett found a pharmacy benefit manager, Navitus Health Solutions, that would not take any spread and would pass along all rebates in full. The next year, the plan saved an average of almost $16 per prescription. It purchased a similar mix and volume of drugs in 2016 and 2017. But it saved $2 million on the spread. And its revenue from rebates jumped from $3.5 million to $7 million, Bartlett said. The savings continue to this day.In July of this year, her mission accomplished, Bartlett left her position as administrator of the state employee health plan. She now works for the office of the Montana insurance commissioner, which is taking on pharmacy benefit managers in a bigger way. But Bartlett also has a side gig as a guru to other employers across the country seeking to pay less for their health benefits. Her advice boils down to pushing back. “You’ve got to get in there and do it,” she says. So how are Montana’s hospitals after the price cut? Just fine, it appears. Bob Olsen, vice president of the Montana Hospital Association, says he has not heard hospital leaders say they are struggling under the new state contract. They have had “reasonable financial performance,” he says. But Bartlett’s legacy may be even greater. With the state’s model in mind, St. Patrick’s Bodlovic said Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana, the state’s largest insurer, recently came calling. Now it wants a similar pricing arrangement. ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom based in New York. Sign up to get ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox as soon as they are published.You can follow Marshall Allen on Twitter: @marshall_allen. Copyright 2018 ProPublica. To see more, visit ProPublica.
Campaigners have questioned a series of claims by the minister for disabled people that there have been substantial improvements to major government disability programmes.Justin Tomlinson, who was appointed to the post in May, spoke this afternoon (Thursday) to two separate audiences of disabled people and campaigners.He claimed there had been substantial improvements to the Access to Work (AtW) scheme, and in the programme to introduce personal independence payment (PIP).He also attempted to justify government plans to cut £29 a week from the benefits of new claimants of employment and support allowance (ESA) placed in the work-related activity group (WRAG) from April 2017.Tomlinson first addressed a joint meeting of the all-party parliamentary disability group (APPDG) and the all-party parliamentary group on learning disability in Westminster, before heading across London to speak at the annual meeting of Disability Rights UK.He told the APPDG there had been “clear improvements” to AtW, with his department “speeding up the process” and increasing awareness of the scheme among small and medium-sized businesses.He also said there had been a “dramatic turnaround” in the PIP claim system, with four times more assessors, 200 more assessment centres, centres opening for longer hours and “improved communications with claimants”.He later told the DR UK event that PIP had had a “terrible start”, with a “terrible claimant journey”, but that “we have transformed it”.But he said he was “not complacent” and would ensure that the reassessment process of 1.3 million people on long-term disability living allowance, now underway, would proceed in “a controlled and measured way”, with weekly checks on how the system was coping so that this final stage of the PIP roll-out does not “compromise quality”.He attempted to justify the WRAG cut – which will see £640 million a year cut from disabled people’s benefits – by highlighting that only one per cent of those in the WRAG find sustainable work every month.He said there was “no way of describing that as anything other than unacceptable”, and said later that the WRAG top-up “was not meant to be an income boost”.He said: “That was not the intention when it was brought in. It was to provide direct support to get you into work.”Tomlinson told the APPDG that eventually an extra £100 million a year of those WRAG savings would be spent on employment support for disabled people.But Tomlinson’s claims were repeatedly disputed by disabled people and disability organisations who attended the two events.Tom Hendrie, from Cheshire Centre for Independent Living, told Tomlinson at the DR UK event: “A number of members are concerned about the way changes to local authority funding, the end of the Independent Living Fund, changes to benefits, have all come together in a perfect storm.”He asked if Tomlinson would encourage ministerial colleagues to attempt an assessment of the cumulative impact of all of the government’s reforms and cuts.Andrew Lee (pictured), director of policy and campaigns at People First Self-Advocacy, said at the APPDG: “I hear a lot about the government wanting more people to be in work, but as a person with learning difficulties myself, my experience is actually that there are more and more barriers to employment for disabled people.“The way the changes to Access to Work are hitting people with learning difficulties is one thing I know.”He said cuts to social care had forced him to cut his work hours so he could support his disabled wife.Lee said: “We do not get any support with things like form-filling, so we are running around everywhere trying to find someone to help us fill in our benefits assessment forms.”Mike Smith, chief executive of the London disabled people’s organisation Real, and former disability commissioner at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, asked Tomlinson at the DR UK event why the need for a national AtW scheme did not also apply to the Independent Living Fund, which the government closed in order to pass its funding to local authorities.Tomlinson did not appear to answer that question.Rebecca, a young disabled woman who spoke at the APPDG meeting, described her own experiences of claiming ESA and the difficulty of finding work, and said that cutting WRAG payments “could make life even more difficult for disabled people”.She said: “I need the money. Without it, I struggle.”She added: “I applied for so many jobs but I keep getting letters back saying they cannot accept me. I think it’s because I have a disability.“I find it really hard to have to explain that I could actually do the work.”Victoria Holloway, co-chair of the Disability Benefits Consortium, told Tomlinson at the APPDG that there was “no evidence whatsoever” that cutting WRAG payments would incentivise disabled people to find work.She said the move would instead move them further from the workplace, could mean people were unable to meet their essential living costs, and might even put some people’s recovery from ill-health at risk.A Mencap representative later asked Tomlinson for the evidence that cutting WRAG payments would “incentivise” disabled people to find work.He failed to make any reference to such evidence in his reply, but appeared to claim that the “incentive” was the extra money that would be available for employment support for disabled people.Gordon McFadden, chair of United Amputees, raised concerns about the quality of PIP assessments, and said that one contractor had been advertising for paramedics to carry out the tests, in addition to physiotherapists, nurses and doctors.McFadden told Disability News Service after the APPDG meeting that he had supported two people, both of whom had had both their legs amputated and were still turned down for the enhanced mobility rate of PIP, and told their Motability vehicles would be removed. Both decisions were only over-turned after McFadden became involved in their cases.Asked at the DR UK event whether he would look again at the decision to slash the qualifying distance for the enhanced rate of PIP mobility support from 50 metres to just 20 metres, Tomlinson said the department had “incredibly bright medical advisors who advise on the way of doing things”.He added: “We feel, based on the advice we have been given, it is the right thing to do but I recognise that most of you in the room do not [share that view].”Natalie McGarry, the SNP’s disability spokeswoman, told Tomlinson at the APPDG that disabled people placed in the WRAG had “already been found not fit for work”, and she told him that the government had apparently “not learned anything” from its failure to carry out preparatory work before the introduction of the bedroom tax.She said: “You are making their lives significantly more difficult but you are not changing their conditions, the barriers to work, or the work for people to get into.” And Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, Debbie Abrahams, told the DR UK event, after Tomlinson’s departure: “As much as the minister provided a relatively rosy picture, I do not quite see things as he did.”She said she believed the cumulative impact of the new welfare reform and work bill on disabled people would be “very severe”.