About the authorCarlos VolcanoShare the loveHave your say Belgium goalkeeper coach Lemmens urges Real Madrid to rethink Courtois treatmentby Carlos Volcano22 days agoSend to a friendShare the loveBelgium goalkeeper coach Erwin Lemmens has urged Real Madrid to rethink their management of Thibaut Courtois.Courtois was substituted at half-time in Tuesday’s 2-2 Champions League draw against Club Brugge, with Madrid 2-0 down at the time.The 27-year-old was arguably at fault for Emmanuel Bonaventure Dennis’ ninth-minute opener and was again beaten by the Brugge striker later in the half.Comparing his compatriot’s woes at the Santiago Bernabeu to David de Gea’s form slump with Manchester United, Lemmens told Radio MARCA: “They have to treat him differently.”He’s a special boy and it’s unusual that he’s always at the highest level with Belgium, but there he suffers with De Gea syndrome.”If the Bernabeu whistles then you have to look at the team as a whole.”He’s a great goalkeeper and he’ll try to make Real Madrid happy again.”
TORONTO – A co-working space for women that’s drawn the ardour of thousands of Instagrammers and the attention of celebs including Jennifer Lawrence and Lena Dunham is set to expand to Canada.The Wing, a New York-based networking and social club, said Tuesday that Toronto is among the six new locations joining its burgeoning pastel-hued chain.The female-focused company is part of a wave of modern sororities geared to female entrepreneurs, merging a fierce can-do motto with feminist ideals tailor-made for a generation of self-starters.It joins several other Canadian ventures that similarly put career women in their sightlines, including Toronto’s exclusive Verity Club and its luxury spa, the co-working and wellness space Shecosystem with its yoga classes and Madonna dance parties, and the pretty and perky penthouse space Make Lemonade. Other spaces include Montreal’s LORI hub, which stands for Ladies of Real Influence.“It’s important to have the space where we all feel comfortable and that this is ours, that we have ownership as well,” Rachel Kelly, Make Lemonade’s founder and owner, says of her inspiration.“If you start exploring a couple of the co-working spaces you’ll notice there is quite a male-dominated culture in a lot of these spaces and that presence is quite overpowering,” she adds.“Just the overall vibe — the bro vibe — is a big thing.”The Wing’s promotional material includes the taglines: “A home base for women on their way,” “Your throne away from home” and “Say goodbye to the old boys’ club.”It was founded by PR exec Audrey Gelman and business partner Lauren Kassan, and was inspired by the women’s social clubs of the early 20th century.It launched in Manhattan’s Flatiron district in October 2016, expanding to SoHo a year later. Then came a third spot in the DUMBO neighbourhood of Brooklyn in February, and a fourth heads to Washington D.C. this spring.All locations are created by an all-female design and architecture team and feature a menu of food, wine and cocktails created by female chefs, sommeliers and mixologists. There are also showers and lactation rooms.The Wing says its first Canadian outpost is slated to open in early 2019, the address yet to be determined.Other new locations include Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Williamsburg (Brooklyn), and London.There certainly appears to be demand in Canada for such a venture.Twenty-two-year-old entrepreneur Kim Kirton says she joined Make Lemonade after souring on more traditional co-working spaces.“Sometimes I would feel uncomfortable just working, just the way people would kind of look at me,” says Kirton, who too often found professional networking opportunities devolve into social pitches.“(Men were) just coming up and usually asking, ‘Oh, what are your plans today?’ or, ‘What are you doing after work?’ versus ‘Oh, what do you do for work?’”Kirton doesn’t suggest she’s experienced any misconduct, stressing that her concerns were primarily focused on finding the best place to run her online wardrobe business, UnCo.“I have a startup here in the city and I’m trying to be like every other entrepreneur and trying to grow my business.”Although none of the members are men, Kelly says they’re certainly welcome to join Make Lemonade, as long as they adhere to an “inclusivity mandate” that bans “sexist, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, classist or otherwise discriminatory language.”Since launching last September, Kelly says she’s drawn 80 members in various fields including editing, food, publishing, law, fashion and tech. In addition to workspaces, she offers mentoring, workshops, and mixers.But some question whether women-targeted initiatives are the answer.Sarah Kaplan, director of the Institute for Gender + the Economy at the University of Toronto, worries they push women to the sidelines, instead of levelling the playing field.“I’m not a big fan, personally, of cloistered solutions,” she says.“I’m sure it will satisfy the needs of some people who feel like it’s just a more pleasant or safer or more conducive (place) to the kind of work that they want to do. But is this a huge market opportunity because women are so different from men? No. It’s just because the world of work is so gendered masculine that I think the only solution people can come up with is to cloister and I don’t think that’s the right solution.“I think we have to change the world of work. But that’s a bigger project.”Initiatives such as implicit-bias training and diversity workshops clearly have not fixed organizational culture, Kaplan adds.“You have to actually change your processes and practices, you have to change how you think about the work, not just for women but also for men,” she says, seeing the need for men to participate equally at home.She also says corporate and full-time positions must be more accommodating to workers — often women — who need greater flexibility because of family obligations. Many have left the workforce or opted for “Plan B” ventures that have given rise to spaces like The Wing.“They still want to make money and they still want to participate in the economy but they can’t,” says Kaplan, bemoaning a lack of supports such as onsite daycare and lactation rooms.As a young woman, Kirton suggests self-esteem can hold back women, too, admitting, “Outside of certain spaces I definitely feel my self-doubt a lot bigger.”“Men sometimes are a little bit more vocal in their capabilities … or have a high level of confidence. Whereas women, not so much, so I can see why it could be intimidating.”Kaplan doesn’t see the same issues, pointing instead to “a world that isn’t going to fund you.”“Women are plenty confident, it’s just that they’re beaten down,” she says.“We’ve moved beyond mentoring, we know that that’s just giving free advice. What you really need is sponsorship, you need people who are going to stick their neck out, who are going to put their money where their mouth is.”
SEATTLE – Starbucks, citing the environment threat to oceans, will ban plastic straws from all of its stores globally in less than two years.The company becomes the largest food and beverage company operating globally to do so.Starbucks said Monday that it is making available a strawless lid at 8,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada for certain drinks.Starbucks Coffee Co. estimates the switch will eliminate more than 1 billion plastic straws a year.The company’s announcement comes a week after it’s hometown, Seattle, banned single-use plastic straws and utensils at businesses that sell food or drinks in the city.Starbucks said cold beverages in which a straw is typically included make up 50 per cent of the drinks its sells, up from just 37 per cent five years ago.
Alex Iwobi was pleased to see Arsene Wenger get the big send-off he deserved at the Emirates as Arsenal secured a 5-0 victory against Burnley in his final home matchThe Nigerian ended his goal drought in the Premier League by adding the fourth goal of the game, as Arsenal produced a dominant performance for their departing manager, thanks to an assist from teammate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for his first league goal since January 2018.After the match, a delighted Iwobi thanked the club for giving the Frenchman the send-off he deserved after 22 years in charge of Arsenal.“This was more than a match! Really pleased we gave you the send-off you deserve. Thank you, boss,” wrote the 22-year-old on Twitter.Jose Mourinho is sold on Lampard succeeding at Chelsea Tomás Pavel Ibarra Meda – September 14, 2019 Jose Mourinho wanted to give his two cents on Frank Lampard’s odds as the new Chelsea FC manager, he thinks he will succeed.There really…This Was More Than A Match! Really Pleased We Gave You The Send Off You Deserve. Thank You Boss ??#MerciArsene pic.twitter.com/3L8zOXLP1s— Alexander Iwobi (@alexiwobi) May 6, 2018Iwobi is a product of the Arsenal youth academy and was brought into the first-team by Wenger in October 2015 and the young forward has since scored nine goals in his 94 appearances across all competitions for the Gunners.
Arda Turan has been handed a whopping 16-match ban by the Turkish Super Lig after losing his temper in a bad call made by the refereeThe Barcelona loanee reacted angrily at a linesman in a match between his current team, Istanbul Basaksehir, and Sivasspor.Turan was left frustrated after ex-Real Madrid forward Robinho scored a late equaliser for Sivasspor that all but ended Basaksehir’s title hopes with the hosts having previously been reduced to nine men at the Istanbul Basaksehir Fatih Terim Stadyumu.The 31-year-old then shoved the official with both hands and continued to protest after being given a straight red card.Turan was banned for 10 matches for attacking the assistant referee, three matches for insulting him and another three for threatening him.Quiz: How much do you know about David Villa? Boro Tanchev – September 14, 2019 Time to test your knowledge about Spanish legendary forward David Villa.The former Atletico Madrid player was also fined 39,000 Turkish lira.??16 partidos de sanción a Arda Turan por agredir al árbitro asistente en la liga turca!! (10 por empujar, 3 por insultar y 3 por amenazar) #Radioestadio pic.twitter.com/zNcZILWNww— Radioestadio (@Radioestadio) May 10, 2018
“The company is highly focused on circulation profitability, so we have never been in the business of growing rate base to abnormal and unhealthy levels just to gain additional advertising revenues,” says Eric Hoffman, executive vice president and COO. Hoffman says the company drives close to 80 percent of its revenues from subscriptions and newsstand sales.Headed by president and CEO (and FOLIO: 40 inductee) Phyllis Hoffman DePiano, Hoffman Media launched in the early 1980s with titles including Cross Stitch, Southern Lady and Tea Time. After launching 725,000-circ Cooking with Paula Deen in 2005, Hoffman Media struck up a joint-venture with Hearst in 2007 to relaunch Victoria magazine (paid circ base of 250,000), and launched Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade (also carries a paid circ of 250,000), a bimonthly title, last year. (Paula Deen and Sandra Lee are both hosts on the Food Network.)Hoffman says the company plans to bump Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade to a 300,000+ circ by mid-2011. And while he declined to offer any specific figures, Hoffman says the company was “on budget” through the first half in terms of revenue and expects to post “double digit” growth through the end of the year.“We believe that if we deliver premium content at a premium price, and let each title grow into its natural circulation level then our business will develop stronger and more stable earnings over time,” Hoffman says. Online5% Print10% Subscriptions40% Hoffman Media Revenue Breakdown Newsstand35% It’s no secret that managing a magazine publishing business is no easy feat, especially since the recession that rocked the economy hit in late 2008. But despite the massive hurdles, some companies are more than managing to stay afloat.This week, Inc. magazine released its annual list of the 5,000 fastest-growing privately-held companies in the U.S. In the media category, Penthouse publisher the FriendFinder Networks ranked number one among magazine publishers on the list. In addition to the magazine, FriendFinder is known best for its sexually-oriented online social networks.Coming in second among magazine publishing companies this year is Birmingham, Alabama-based Hoffman Media, the publisher of 11 magazines including Cooking with Paula Deen (the company ranked #38 in the media category and #3,102 overall). According to Inc., Hoffman increased its revenues 65 percent from $25 million in 2006 to $41.3 million in 2009. Revenues were up 5 percent last year compared to 2008. Meanwhile, EBITDA jumped 35 percent. Events, ancillary products10%
The likely collapse of SunEdison Inc’s solar project in India, the first of 32 planned “ultra mega” complexes, could delay Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s goal to increase renewable energy fivefold by several years and probably cost consumers more.As the U.S. solar giant fights to stave off bankruptcy, the 500 megawatt project in Andhra Pradesh state it won last November lies idle with ground yet to be broken. The other projects are still to be bid on.It’s doubtful any rival will pick up the project at the aggressive power pricing promised by SunEdison, which beat out 29 other bidders with a record-low tariff of 4.63 rupees (7 U.S. cents) per kilowatt-hour.That will force Indian officials to tighten auction rules to ensure that only serious, bankable bidders show up, industry sources said. India plans to auction more of the “ultra mega” projects — those which generate at least 500 MW– in the current fiscal year through to March 2017.”There is always a trade off,” Upendra Tripathy, secretary at the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, told Reuters of the renewable energy auctions.”There can be a relaxed condition so that more people can participate and there is another where you can make sure fly-by-night operators can’t come in. It’s an ongoing process and we are open to suggestions.”Tightening auction rules could slow the pace at which projects are awarded and built, pushing back Modi’s goal of expanding solar capacity to 100 gigawatts by 2020 to the middle of the decade, say officials and industry players.Tripathy, however, said India will for now stick to its goal, set by Modi soon after taking office in 2014, and that it has planned for SunEdison-like bumps in the road with a strong project pipeline.Modi is banking on India’s 300 days a year of sunshine to help fight climate change rather than committing to emission cuts like China. But he has also pushed firms to provide cheap power, which risks leaving too little profit on the table.Heavily indebted SunEdison, which according to one of its publicly listed units could soon file for bankruptcy protection, drew criticism from analysts for its low winning bid for the Andhra project.The company is now exploring a sale of its Indian assets of around 1 GW or seeking partners for them, sources said, and has drawn preliminary interest from billionaire Gautam Adani’s fast-expanding Adani Group. Apart from the Andhra project, SunEdison has several other small plants under construction across India.POSSIBLE RE-BIDA person close to Adani said the low tariff agreed for the Andhra plant will make any deal with SunEdison difficult for Indian firms, which have a relatively high cost of capital. If no buyer is found, the project could be re-bid, the industry sources said.SunEdison did not respond to multiple requests for comment.”The tariffs are a tad aggressive and that may not be healthy for developers themselves and also for others in the ecosystem manufacturers and financiers,” said Santosh Kamath, head of renewables at consultancy KPMG India. “That might be a warning signal for the industry.”SunEdison’s troubles notwithstanding, India has attracted deep-pocketed investors to its $100 billion solar energy program – the biggest in the world.Japan’s Softbank Corp, Taiwan’s Foxconn and India’s Bharti Enterprises have separately pledged to invest a total of about $20 billion in India’s renewable sector. Global solar giants like First Solar Inc, Trina Solar Ltd and Finland’s state-controlled utility Fortum Oyj are also expanding their presence.India wants the share of non-fossil fuel in total installed power capacity to jump to 40 percent by 2030 from 30 percent currently.Challenges include the weak finances of state distribution companies forced to sell subsidised power, difficulties hooking up solar projects to grids, and access to affordable capital. Land acquisition is also an issue that Modi’s government has been unable to fix – a 500 MW solar project needs on average 2,000 acres (800 hectares).”Given the energy deficit, need for energy security and sustained economic growth, the potential clearly exists for 100 GW of solar (energy) in India,” said Sujoy Ghosh, country head of First Solar. “The question would be on the time lines in which the goal is achieved.”The Indian government is trying to persuade state banks to extend loans to solar projects, but most lenders are saddled with bad loans and unlikely to risk getting exposed to renewable projects with low rates of return.To avoid projects getting stuck for a lack of backing, India should make it mandatory for solar bidders to get funding assurances from banks at the beginning of an auction to ensure only serious players take part, analysts said. Tripathy, the government secretary, said he could consider the suggestion.”We’ll have to take care that projects don’t become unviable,” KPMG’s Kamath said. “If some projects become unviable then banks will stop lending to new projects and then they get stranded, like we have seen in the power and road sectors in the past.”($1 = 66.4938 Indian rupees)
.Four personalities have been chosen for the Bangla Academy Sahitya Puroshkar 2018.Director general of Bangla Academy poet Habibullah Siraji announced the names at a press briefing at the academy on Monday afternoon.The award recipients are poet Kazi Rosy (Poetry), Mohit Kamal (Literature), Syed Mohammad Shahed (Essay and Research) and Afsan Chowdhury (Literature on Liberation War Affairs).The winners will receive a cheque for Tk 2 lakh and crests each..However, awards are not being given for translation, biography and travelogue, drama, science, technology and environment, and juvenile literature categories this time.Prime minister Sheikh Hasina will distribute the awards among the recipients at the inaugural ceremony of the month-long Amar Ekushey Book Fair on 1 February.Last year, twelve personalities were given the Bangla Academy Sahitya Puraskar 2017.Bangla Academy Sahitya Puroshkar (Bangla Academy Literary Award) is given by the Bangla Academy of Bangladesh in recognition of creative genius in advancement and overall contribution to the field of Bengali language and literature.
By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor, email@example.comAlthough White residents may now make up 44 percent of the District’s population, Washington, D.C., once coined “Chocolate City,” is still majority African American with 47.7 percent of residents identifying as Black, according to the U.S. Census.Washingtonian Magazine completely disregarded the District’s majority population in a recently launched social media campaign. In a series of photos located in various places around the city, people are seen wearing shirts that read, “I’M NOT A TOURIST. I LIVE HERE.” Every single person featured in the campaign- a campaign about living in a predominantly Black city- is White.A screenshot of the from Tony Lewis Jr.’s Instagram account admonishing the Washingtonian Magazine campaign “I am Not A Tourist.” (Screenshot)As soon as the campaign dropped, Black Twitter and Washingtonians immediately chastised the magazine and its tone deaf marketing.“PLEASE TAKE A LOOK AT [Washingtonian Magazine’s] DEPICTION OF WHO ‘LIVES HERE’… NOT ONE BLACK FACE IN THE ENTIRE PIECE,” social media influencer and community activist, Tony Lewis Jr. wrote on Instagram and Twitter. Lewis wrote in all capital letters similarly to the campaign t-shirts.“BLACK PEOPLE STILL MAKE UP [47 percent] OF THIS CITY. THIS IS DISRESPECTFUL, CARELESS, AND RACIST (YEAH I SAID IT, RACIST). THIS IS VERY REPRESENATIVE OF HOW WE FEEL IN OUR OWN CITY, THAT WE ARE INVISIBLE, THAT WE DON’T EXIST. THAT PEOPLE MOVE HERE HAVE MORE VALUE THAN THOSE BORN HERE. THAT WHEN WE DIE IN THE STREETS IT ISN’T IMPORTANT, THAT THE NEW RESTAURANT OR CONDO SUPERCEDES OUR EXISTENCE,” Lewis wrote.He then encouraged Washingtonians to not support the magazine.The controversy surrounding the shirts and campaign quickly escalated, prompting Washingtonian to delete the campaign and apologize.“As a native Washingtonian, I am very sorry that our latest ‘I Am Not A Tourist’ marketing campaign did not represent the wonderfully diverse city in which we live,” Washingtonian Magazine CEO and president Catherine Merrill Williams wrote in a statement.“This was the very beginning of a campaign in which all intentions are to include the many communities that make up our city. We solicited pictures from a diverse group of people and put the pictures up in the order they came in. People who saw the initial gallery of pictures had no way of knowing that it was not, in fact, the entirety of the marketing campaign. We took down the initial post because it created an impression that was inconsistent with our values and standards. We’re confident that when the campaign is complete it will reflect the diversity of the readership that we serve,” she wrote.Despite the apology some Washingtonians are still outraged.In response to Washingtonian’s campaign, Lewis is putting together a photoshoot on May 20 at Union Market for residents “born, raised and educated” in D.C.“We will provide a counter narrative that there are still folks who were born, raised, and educated in this city still here. We will provide a counter image that not every person living in the city is a [White] millennial,” Lewis wrote on Instagram.The dress code for the photo shoot is all black.
Popular on Variety Rogers joined Ipsos in 2012 with the company’s acquisition of Synovate, where he had been SVP of technology and telecoms leading the Microsoft relationship globally. Before that, he led various teams on technology accounts for Kantar/TNS Global and also worked for research firms GfK and NOP World.“I’m excited to build upon NRG’s core expertise as trusted advisers to bold storytellers everywhere on every screen,” Rogers commented. “Given the confluence of technology, platforms, and content, it’s a natural next step for NRG to expand upon its content creator focus to help clients solve a broader set of strategic business challenges.”Founded in 1978, NRG was bought in 1997 by publishing company VNU, which integrated NRG into Nielsen in 2002. In 2015, Mark Penn’s Stagwell Group bought NRG from Nielsen for an undisclosed price and appointed his nephew, Jon Penn, as CEO. National Research Group (NRG), which caters to movie studios and others in the entertainment industry, hired Ben Rogers as president of platform and technology clients.Rogers, a market-research veteran with 20-plus years of experience, most recently was at Ipsos as executive VP, head of media development. At NRG, he will lead the company’s technology practice across several dimensions of the product and services life cycle, including market landscaping, brand and positioning strategy, creative and platform optimization, and performance tracking. Rogers will remain based in the San Francisco Bay Area.“Ben is a preeminent technology research executive and business leader with a deep history of success in using insights to drive impact across the life cycle of technology products and services,” NRG CEO Jon Penn said in announcing Rogers’ hire. “He is the ideal person to take our rapidly expanding platform and service business to great new heights.” ×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
×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 Popular on Variety Over a year after first announcing it, Samsung subsidiary Harman is finally releasing its JBL Link Bar, a smart sound bar that comes with Android TV built-in. The new device effectively doubles as a smart speaker, and does away with the need for any additional streaming devices.Google and Harman / JBL first announced the JBL Link Bar back in May of 2018, with plans to release the device later that year. The companies didn’t go into details on what caused the delay, but the Link Bar does come with some added complexity, as it effectively functions as 3 devices in 1.First, the Link Bar is an ordinary sound bar, with the option to attach an external subwoofer for added bass. It also turns any TV into a smart TV, capable of streaming Netflix, YouTube, HBO and more, thanks to the built-in Android TV smarts. And finally, it works even when the TV is turned off, thanks to build-in far-field microphones that effectively turn it into a Google Home-like smart speaker. The Link Bar comes with 3 HDMI input ports to attach game consoles, Blu-ray players and other external devices, adding some level of voice control to these as well. What’s more, video input from these external devices is combined with Google Assistant functionality, making it possible to access your calendar or check the weather without having to leave that Blu-ray movie you’re watching.A Harman news release does mention 2 other features worth pointing out: Just like other Android TV devices, the Link Bar will have Chromecast built-in, making it possible to beam videos to the TV from your phone. Also, the sound bar comes with something JBL calls “PrivacySwitch for far-field microphones,” which apparently is a fancy name for a physical mute button.The Link Bar sells for $399.95, and an optional subwoofer costs another $299.95.
Kolkata: Criticising the move of Left Front calling a six-hour bandh on Friday, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has once again attacked the party, saying that it has been sold to BJP.Banerjee took a dig at the Left, saying that from the next time they will call bandh at midnight and stated it to be “bandh freedom at midnight”.While leaving Nabanna on Thursday evening, the Chief Minister said: “Can there be any bandh from 6 am to 12 noon? Next they will give a call for a bandh from midnight to 4 am and it will be observed in sleep. This is their (CPI-M) future and they have no capability to work in the grassroot level. ‘Harmads’ of CPI-M have now become the ‘ostads’ of BJP. The party has been sold to BJP. So it is not right to expect anything from them.”She maintained: “Offices open at 10 am…they have called bandh at such a time that it is nothing but drama. Such drama will not be tolerated. They have caused enough damage to the state by giving call for bandhs.””The bandh will become 100 percent successful if they give a call for the same at midnight,” the Chief Minister said.
Vivendi’s supervisory board on Friday entered into exclusive negotiations with Altice to sell its SFR telecom unit.Vivendi will now enter into negotiations with Altice, the main shareholder of cable operator Numericable, for three weeks.Vivendi said its board “considers [Altice’s] offer to be the most pertinent for the group’s shareholders and employees, with the opportunity for effective execution. The offer also achieves Vivendi’s objective to rapidly become a leading European media and content player and develop SFR as a dynamic leader in high speed fixed and mobile telephony.”Altice has offered €11.75 billion to Vivendi and a 32% share in the equity of the combined company. Vivendi has also been provided with pre-determined exit conditions.Numericable welcomed the Vivendi board’s decision and said that the merer of the pair would create the leading French and European convergent high-speed fixed line broadband and mobile operator.In a sign that the combination of the pair may not face an entirely smooth path, however, digital economy minister Fleur Pellerin has publicly advised Altice owner Patrick Drahi, a Swiss domicile, to repatriate his affairs to France.Pellerin told the Journal du Dimanche that it would be “logical” for Drahi to be based in France for tax purposes if the deal goes through.Industry minister Arnaud Montebourg has also said that the government would have “fiscal questions to put to him” if Drahi succeeds in acquiring SFR. Montebourg publicly favoured the rival Bouygues offer for the Vivendi-owned telco.
Whistle Sports has raised more than US$28 million as part of an ongoing Series D funding round, which is being led by investment company and Eleven Sports founder, Aser.Aser’s investment forms part of a wider collaboration between Whistle Sports and its subsidiaries, including Eleven Sports, that is designed to help accelerate Whistle’s international expansion.Whistle said it plans to use the proceeds of the funding to, in part, expand its catalogue of free and premium original content with brand partners and creators.The round also included participation from return investors Liberty Media, Emil Capital and WndrCo – the media and technology holding the company that includes former Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg as a founding partner.“This is more than just an investment,” said Aser founder and chairman, Andrea Radrizzani, who joins the Whistle Sports board. “It is an innovative collaboration with a leader in social content creation and distribution that will help Aser’s portfolio to engage these young audiences by creating exciting, engaging and positive content that today’s fans love to watch and share.”Whistle Sports founder and CEO, John West, said: “We are thrilled to receive an investment from – and partner with – a leading edge, dynamic and like-minded company such as Aser.”“We are looking forward to partnering with their invaluable global network and the key relationships they possess in important markets in Asia, Europe and around the world as we look to expand the Whistle Sports footprint. Today’s young sports fans have global interests, and with Aser, we can reach and engage them in new and exciting ways.”Whistle Sports is an entertainment network that specialises in youth-focused sports content for social and digital platforms, including YouTube and Facebook Watch.The company was founded in 2014 and now claims to have an aggregate social audience of over 450 million subscribers, followers and fans. This is across 2,000 channels that have a library of more than 560,000 videos.With the new funding, Whistle has raised a total of nearly US$100 million from investors that also includes NBC Sports, Sky Sports, Tegna and UK-based venture capital firm Beringea.Aser’s portfolio also includes Easyprod – a production company for the sport and media sector – and English Championship football team, Leeds United. This is alongside Eleven Sports, which Aser founded in 2015.
By Marin Katusa, Chief Energy Investment StrategistHugo Chàvez is undoubtedly one of the most polarizing politicians in the world today. The man who has led Venezuela for 14 years is vehemently anti-American, a proud voice for Venezuela’s poor, a patriot and a poet, and a firm believer that national resources belong to the nation and no one or nothing else.That final Chàvez mainstay – that resources are best and most appropriately managed by the people for the people – has positioned Venezuela at the head of a group of Central and South American nations that are trying resource nationalization on for size as they struggle to make the most out of their oil and gas bounties. Venezuela is a global oil heavyweight – its 211-billion-barrel reserve is one of the top three national oil reserves worldwide – so Chàvez’s moves to nationalize his country’s massive oil machine gave neighboring countries the confidence to follow suit.Sometimes national control over oil and gas resources can work well. Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and Kuwait are all prime examples of well-functioning, state-controlled oil sectors. However, resource nationalization is a tricky business, and more often than not the process goes awry.Venezuela is no exception. Chàvez’s efforts to kick foreign firms out of Venezuela and use oil and gas revenues to fund social programs worked pretty well initially, but despite rising oil prices that early success has slipped away. In recent years Chàvez has demanded too much from the oil and gas sector, expecting ever-increasing revenues despite his reluctance to fund infrastructure and exploration programs. The result has been declining production, an exodus of technical expertise, and a pariah reputation in the international oil and gas industry.Now, with a presidential election looming and Chàvez struggling with a cancer that it’s rumored will take his life within months, the path forward for the country that has been a firebrand for South American resource nationalization is far from clear.Venezuela’s Love-Hate Relationship with Resource NationalizationVenezuela nationalized its oil industry in 1976, at a time when many countries in the southern hemisphere were asserting sovereignty over their natural resources. The transformation of Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) into a state-owned company was hailed as a national victory. However, it did not take long for trouble to begin.In the 1990s global oil prices plunged and Venezuela, having based its budget on a certain level of oil income, found itself in deep economic trouble. PDVSA had 900 to 1,300 billion barrels of oil on its reserve books, but the company didn’t have the money or the technological know-how to tap into these reserves, most of which sat trapped in the geologically challenging Orinoco Belt. Seeing few other options, the country opened its oil sector to foreign investors: PDVSA started seeking out international partners willing to provide expertise and funding in exchange for a share of the profits. Big Oil arrived and started spending billions of dollars to unlock the heavy oil of the Orinoco.Then Mr. Chàvez won the 1998 presidential election on a populist ticket that promised to use the country’s vast oil wealth to benefit the poor. Venezuela’s experiment with foreign involvement in its oil sector slowly came to a halt. Despite initially adopting “orthodox” economic policies, Chàvez soon started making good on his promise to his people – he gradually closed the door on international investment, raised rents, and changed fiscal agreements to retain ever more oil revenue for Venezuela. Imagine this: at one point the government take on oil contracts was more than 100% – foreign producers would have had to pay Chàvez for the privilege of producing oil in his country.Chàvez brought a new form of politics to Venezuela. He identified with his supporters because he was one of them, having grown up poor, and he used language they understood, caring not that the elites saw such language as one of many signs that he was a buffoon with limited education and experience. His style stuck and the people grew to love him.As he gained in popularity and confidence, Chàvez grew bolder in his moves to control Venezuelan oil in its entirety. In 2002 a group of PDVSA executives kick-started a general strike aimed at ousting Chàvez that lasted for a month and cut oil production to about 30% of normal levels; in response Chàvez fired nearly half of the company’s employees – 18,000 people in all – erasing large swaths of technical know-how in one fell swoop but sending a clear message that he would not tolerate dissent against his control over Venezuela’s oil.By 2007 Chàvez had gained enough confidence to essentially complete his oil renationalization campaign – he expropriated oil assets in the Orinoco by issuing a decree that PDVSA hold at least 60% ownership in all international partnerships. What little was left of Big Oil pretty much packed up and left Venezuela. National oil production immediately fell by 25%.You could say that was the beginning of the end, or the end of what had been a great beginning. That great beginning was undoubtedly aided by rising global oil prices: when Chàvez came to power, oil prices were sitting near $12 per barrel. By 2006 prices were averaging almost $60 a barrel, Venezuela’s coffers were overflowing, and the Venezuelan president felt unstoppable.Those rising prices created such a sense of success around Chàvez’s experiment with renationalizing Venezuela’s oil and gas sector that Chàvez was able to convince his compatriot leaders in South America to follow in his footsteps. And it worked – Bolivia and Ecuador renationalized their oil sectors, and the concept of resource nationalization took hold in Argentina. As his geopolitical influence grew, Chàvez also devoted attention to the oil-needy nations in his neighborhood, implementing an oil-transfer program to energy-needy Central American and Caribbean countries. With his oil sector seemingly able to provide for so many, resource nationalization took on new life across South America, and Chavez was the movement’s proudest spokesman.But here the word “seemingly” is key. As oil prices rose, PDVSA profits also rose, and it seemed that nationalization had been a boon to Venezuelan oil. But the increased profitability stemmed only from rising prices; the company itself was being strangled by a lack of investment – Chàvez spent all of PDVSA’s profits on his domestic fuel subsidies and social programs – and its dearth of technical expertise.In short, a sector can only provide profits if it is also supplied with investment; and that is where Chàvez went wrong. Like so many other socialist leaders who nationalized resource sectors with great fanfare only to see the sectors wither away because of insufficient TLC, Chàvez failed to put money back into PDVSA.Now the country’s once-proud oil and gas sector is in disarray. Infrastructure is old and insufficient, and production volumes are declining instead of climbing. In 2005 the company launched a new six-year plan calling for investment of US$239 billion to boost oil production to 5.8 million bpd by 2012. Instead, output has fallen from 2.9 million barrels per day (bpd) to 2.5 million bpd. Things are even worse when you look at Chàvez’s tenure as a whole: from 1998 to today, production has fallen from 3.5 million bpd to 2.5 million bpd, a decline of almost 30%:(Click on image to enlarge)Global oil production is declining to such an extent that the US Department of Energy is warning the world has crossed a critical oil threshold.Not only has production declined, but PDVSA’s financials have also deteriorated dramatically, its debt increasing from US$2.7 billion in 2005 to some US$33 billion now. Yet PDVSA continues to borrow money at an incredible rate, in large part to fund those domestic oil subsidies that are so very popular among Chàvez supporters. These subsidies cost the company US$15 billion a year.The view forward is unclear. PDVSA lacks the technical expertise to take advantage of the heavy oil in the Orinoco. With foreign investment – and therefore involvement – in the oil sector banned and PDVSA drowning in debt, the prospects for turning Venezuela’s fading oil sector around are pretty dim.Unless, of course, the sector is opened up to outside investment… which could well happen if Chàvez ceases to be part of the picture.The CancerOver the last 12 months Chàvez has made regular trips to Havana for cancer treatments. The only official information about these treatments is that two malignant tumours were removed from his pelvic region. The secrecy surrounding Chàvez’s cancer and the fact that Chàvez, who rarely goes a few days without speaking directly to his people, enters radio silence during his trips to Cuba have fueled rumors of his declining health. Several times already these have ballooned into claims that the Venezuelan president had died.The latest twist in the Chàvez cancer drama came from venerated journalist Dan Rather, the former CBS anchor who now hosts and directs Dan Rather Reports, a weekly news television show on HDNet. In a report he labeled as “exclusive,” Rather revealed on May 30 that he had been told that Chàvez is suffering from metastatic rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer that has “entered the end stage.” Rather said the information came from a highly respected source who is close to Chàvez and in a position to know his medical condition and history. This source says the prognosis is dire and that Chàvez is not expected to live “more than a couple of months at most.”This is not the first time rumors of Chàvez’s pending death have surfaced. However, with his treatment having dragged on for a year already, with his uncharacteristic disappearances to Cuba growing longer and more frequent, and with Rather’s reputation for accuracy lending credence to this new information, it is time to ponder Venezuela – and South America – without Hugo Chàvez.Chàvez would be incredibly difficult to replace. His rags-to-riches story line, bold governing style, and idiosyncratic mannerisms have earned adoration from the Venezuelan population, especially the poor and working class masses who constitute his prime electoral base. He also enjoys broad support from Venezuela’s military members.This is a president who announces executive orders between readings of poetry, regularly draws families around their televisions to listen to his lengthy and often fiery speeches, and sings Venezuelan folk songs on a weekly show called Hello President. There are few people in the world who could match his charisma and earn such allegiance from a national population. That is why, even though others from Chàvez’s inner circle bear similar political views, most observers think any Chàvez successor would have a very difficult time maintaining the Chavista movement.So when Chàvez dies, what might become of Venezuela? In the immediate aftermath, Vice President Elías Jaua would take power, according to the Constitution. In fact, Chàvez recently formed a nine-member State Council headed by Jaua to assist him with executive duties, a move many interpreted as a preparation for his impending demise.In the longer term, Venezuelan political observers see five potential successors within Chàvez’s Socialist Party. All hold similar views, but none enjoy anything close to Chàvez’s recognition and support. The Party would have to hope that Chàvez’s reputation can carry one of these candidates to the presidency, but such a succession is far from assured.If Chàvez dies before the October presidential election, opposition candidate Henrique Capriles would suddenly see his odds of winning jump dramatically. Polls show Capriles currently lagging behind Chàvez by roughly 5%, but the same polls found that Capriles would win the race by double-digit margins if he were to face a Chàvez successor instead of facing Hugo himself… unless, of course, the Socialists rig the election. Given that Chàvez has proven that a high regard for democracy is not a required characteristic for someone holding the Venezuelan presidency, this is not unlikely.Capriles is a veteran politician, having previously served as governor of the state of Miranda despite being just 39 years old. He is a center-left politician who has cleverly focused on issues close to the day-to-day lives of Venezuelans: crime, corruption, declining services, inflation, and jobs. Capriles’ petroleum policies are less clear, but his rare comments on the matter indicate he would keep PDVSA as a national entity while allowing the company to engage in investment partnerships with foreign firms, much like the Brazilian national oil firm Petrobras.If Chàvez is healthy enough to run, he will almost certainly win the election in October. If he is not, we see two possible paths. The first is that Capriles finds himself president of Venezuela, and South America loses its resource nationalization ringleader. However, a desire to change how Venezuela’s oil sector operates is very different from the actual ability to do so. The biggest obstacle to change: those domestic oil subsidies. If Capriles wants to revitalize PDVSA – indeed, if he simply wants to give PDVSA a chance at economic survival – he would have to significantly reduce the domestic oil subsidies, and likely also reduce social spending to free up some oil revenues for reinvestment into the country’s oil fields. And that would cause riots. We have seen it before, most recently in Nigeria: populations that are accustomed to having access to cheap oil are highly unwilling to let go of that benefit and will riot, often violently and for extended periods, at the mere suggestion that gas prices need to increase.Oil-related riots in one of the world’s top-ten oil-producing nations would undoubtedly push global oil prices higher.The other potential path for a post-Chàvez Venezuela is that his successor within the Socialist Party wins the presidency, legitimately or with the aid of electoral fraud. This Chàvez clone would then be stuck trying to fill Hugo’s shoes, a near-impossible task in which he would only have a chance at success by promising even more in the way of social spending. These expensive programs would put even greater strain on Venezuela’s budget, which is funded in large part by revenues from PDVSA. There would continue to be no money available to finance PDVSA’s spending needs, and production would continue to decline.Guess what? This scenario – of continued production decline in a major world supplier – would also push global oil prices higher. The bottom line is that Chàvez has created a lose-lose scenario for Venezuelan oil. The country has become reliant on a one-way flow of money and cheap oil from PDVSA to society, but after a decade of neglect PDVSA is withering away and the flows are drying up. Even if Chàvez dies and a left-leaning leader like Capriles comes to power, Venezuela will have to convulse through many ugly years before a functional relationship can be reestablished between its oil riches and its social demands. In the meantime, Venezuelans and the world will have to do with only limited access to Venezuelan oil.So, for those of us positioned to gain from a long-term rising oil price, it’s heads we win, tails we win. Additional Links and ReadsOil Prices to Ease Further This Year (Reuters)The CEO of Royal Dutch Shell expects oil prices to continue easing through the rest of the year, as demand reacts to a slowing global economy and international tensions ease. Peter Voser’s statement came just as Brent crude dropped to a 16-month low – below US$96 per barrel – on the heels of further weak economic news from the US and China. In addition, concerns over the state of the European economy have taken the spotlight away from the lingering tensions between Iran and Western powers, which just three months ago helped to push Brent above US$128 a barrel.Global Gas Demand to Grow by 2.7% Annually to 2017 (Platts)Global demand for natural gas will rise by 2.7% annually for the next five years, a faster growth rate than previously expected. China and the United States are driving the additional demand by switching from coal to gas to generate electricity. In China alone consumption is expected to double to 273 billion cubic meters in 2017 from 130 billion cubic meters today, representing an average growth rate of 13% per year.King Coal Still Reigns Despite Drop in Prices (Vancouver Sun)Canadian coal companies are not slowing down exploration nor development programs despite a drop in prices in China, their main export market. Companies are generally viewing depressed prices as a transient problem and see demand from Asia remaining strong in the medium term, especially for British Columbia’s high-quality metallurgical coal.South Sudan’s $4-Billion Question Answered: Oil Revenue Stolen by Corrupt Officials (The Globe and Mail)It has been a mystery for years: how does South Sudan remain so poor and hungry when it receives billions of dollars in oil revenues every year? The answer is now clear: South Sudan’s president says corrupt officials have stolen $4 billion in oil revenues since 2005. He is asking those officials to return the stolen funds. Any returned funds would be especially useful at the moment, because a dispute with Sudan has shut in South Sudan’s oil production and thereby eliminated about 98% of the government’s official revenue.Oil Rush in the Arctic Gambles with Nature and Diplomacy (The Guardian)A small group of international scientists, politicians, and business leaders are gathered in the Ny-Alesund research station on the Norwegian island of Svalbard to discuss the path to a global low-carbon economy. Meanwhile, just outside the station an oil rush looms – one that threatens to spark territorial disputes and saber-rattling as a host of nations compete to claim rights to the Arctic seabed.Germany Plans Massive Wind Power Grid (The Globe and Mail)Germany’s utilities have tabled plans to build four high-voltage electricity lines to link wind turbines off the north coast with manufacturing centers in the south. The plan is a boost for Angela Merkel, who has been criticized for announcing an accelerated nuclear-power phase-out a year ago without producing an alternative plan. The lines are expected to cost around €20 billion
I note that gold made it all the way to it’s 50-day moving average before it got sold down.Both gold and silver blasted off the moment that Comex trading began in New York at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday evening…and JPMorgan Chase et al threw tonnes of paper at these rallies to prevent them from getting out of hand. Volumes by noon in Hong Kong were enormous in both metals.The gold price peaked in Far East trading at exactly 2:00 p.m. Hong Kong time…and then slid a bit until the London a.m. gold fix was in at 10:30 a.m. BST.The subsequent rally didn’t do much until around 1:00 p.m. in London…twenty minutes before the Comex open…when the rally gained more strength. From there, the gold price rose to its high of the day…$1,341.10 according to Kitco…which came shortly before the 1:30 p.m. Comex close. It got sold down to the $1,335 spot price mark from that point…and then traded in a very tight range around that price right into the 5:15 p.m. EDT close of electronic trading in New York.Gold closed at $1,335.20 spot…up $38.50 on the day. Net volume was around the 140,000 contract mark, with a big chunk of that coming in Far East trading.It was very much the same story in silver, except the high tick…$20.72 spot…came at 12:30 EDT in New York. Other than that, the price pattern was the same.Silver closed at $20.54 spot…up $1.01 on the day. Gross volume was a very hefty 53,000 contracts…net of July and August numbers.It was pretty much the same story in platinum, but it’s high came around 11:45 a.m. in New York. Palladium‘s rally attempt ran into opposition at the Comex open. Here are the charts… The dollar index closed at 82.62 late Friday afternoon in New York…and it was pretty much all down hill to its low of the day [82.10] which came shortly after 10:30 a.m. in New York. After that, the index rallied a bit into the close…finishing the Monday trading session at 82.22…off 40 basis points from Friday.The gold stocks gapped up five percent at the open…and hit their zenith when gold did, just before the 1:30 p.m. Comex close…and then sold down a bit along with the metal itself. At its high, the HUI was up well over 7 percent…but still finished up a respectable 6.08%.The silver stocks did very well for themselves…but considering the metal was up about 5 percent on the day, one would have thought that the stocks would have done better. As it was, Nick Laird’s Intraday Silver Sentiment Index closed up 5.49%.(Click on image to enlarge)The CME’s Daily Delivery Report showed that 3 gold and 57 silver contracts were posted for delivery within the Comex-approved depositories on Wednesday. In silver, 40 of those contracts were issued by JPMorgan out of its client account…and JPMorgan stopped 41 contracts out of its in-house [proprietary] trading account. The beat goes on…and the link to Monday’s Issuers and Stoppers Report is here.It was another down day for GLD yesterday. This time it was only 38,646 troy ounces, but a decline nonetheless. And as of 9:43 a.m. EDT, there were no reported changes in SLV.Joshua Gibbons, the Guru of the SLV Bar List posted an update on this website for SLV activity as of the close of trading on Wednesday, July 17th…and this, in part, is what he had to say… “Analysis of the 17 July bar list, and comparison to the previous week’s list: 5,524,756.4 oz. were added…4.8M oz. to Brinks London…0.8M o.z to Via Mat. No bars were removed or had a serial number change.” The link to his website is here.There was sales report from the U.S. Mint yesterday. They only sold 4,000 ounces of gold eagles…and no one-ounce 24K gold buffaloes. But they did sell a very decent 925,000 silver eagles. Month-to-date the mint has sold 3,456,500 silver eagles, so they should break through the 4 million mark with ease, unless they hold back some July sales and stick them in August…just like they did for some silver eagles sales for June…the held them back until the first day of July. The games children play!It was a very busy day over at the Comex-approved depositories on Friday. In silver, they reported receiving 599,622 troy ounces…all of it into JPMorgan Chase. But they also reported shipping out a whopping 2,215,278 troy ounces to parts unknown as well, with half of that coming from the Brink’s, Inc. depository. Here’s the link to all the action…and it’s worth a peek.There was a decent amount of gold shipped out of these same warehouses on Friday. All of it…103,484 troy ounces…came out of the HSBC USA depository. The link to that activity is here.Here are a couple of charts that Nick Laird over at sharelynx.com sent me…and if you have any questions or comments, all of them should be sent to him, not me! The first is for silver futures spreads going back to 1975. Nick notes the times that silver has been in backwardation on these charts.(Click on image to enlarge)Here’s the one for gold, but it only goes back to the year 2000…as Nick is still working on these charts. It shows that gold has never been in backwardation over the last thirteen years…at least not the way he describes it.(Click on image to enlarge)I asked Nick this question after I had looked at the above gold chart… “So the fact that the current cash price in gold is higher that the near futures, doesn’t mean a thing? That’s what you’re saying.” Nick’s reply…”Yes – that’s not real backwardation.”Let you and him fight!Being a Tuesday, I have a decent number of stories for you today, so I hope you can find the time to wade through them all.But I do acknowledge that with JPMorgan so massively positioned on the long side of gold, anything can happen that JPMorgan wishes or desires. If JPMorgan wants to put it to the shorts, the shorts will have it put to them. If JPMorgan desires for there to be a large demand for delivery difficult to fulfill by those required to make delivery, there will be a large delivery demand. If JPMorgan wishes for gold to jump many hundreds of dollars per ounce, thereby enriching the bank, gold (and silver) will jump as high as that enrichment requires. Conversely, if JPMorgan desires none of these things, then the odds of any occurring, at least in the short term, are much longer. My point is that JPMorgan has…and has had…an unnatural dominance of the gold and silver market; the bank is the sole determinant for gold and silver pricing. In terms of a rational and free financial market, that is absolutely absurd. – Silver analyst Ted Butler…20 July 2013I was happy to see gold and silver prices blast off at the New York open on Sunday night…but wasn’t happy to see the heavy artillery show up and crush the rallies in very short order…and it’s hard to tell whether they were new longs coming into the market, or whether it was short covering. Volume was way up there, but since it occurred on Monday, all the volume data should be in Friday’s Commitment of Traders Report.After the initial price spikes, things settled down quite a bit and became far more orderly…and I’m sure that JPMorgan’s high-frequency traders had something to do with that, as gold volumes were more ‘normal’ for a summer trading day once London began to trade…although silver volumes were pretty chunky.We’ll have to wait until Friday to find out for sure.I note that gold made it all the way to it’s 50-day moving average before it got sold down just before the Comex close yesterday. Silver still has a way to go in that department. Here are their respective 6-month charts.(Click on image to enlarge)(Click on image to enlarge)It will be interesting to see what JPMorgan Chase allows to develop from here.The meetings on commodities…and the bullion banks involvement in them…is the subject de jour in Washington today, so we’ll see what comes out of that, if anything.There was absolutely no follow-through in the Far East or early London trading to yesterday price action in New York, which certainly surprised me a bit. As I hit the ‘send’ button on today’s column at 5:15 p.m. EDT, gold is down about five bucks…and silver is down about 30 cents. Volumes are already pretty heavy in both metals, but I can tell that it’s mostly of the HFT variety…and the dollar index isn’t doing much, not that it matters greatly.I have no idea what might happen during the New York trading session today…and nothing will surprise me when I switch my computer on later this morning.That’s more than enough for today…and I’ll see you here tomorrow.
The tiny hand and forearm slipped out too early. Babies are not delivered shoulder first. Dr. Terri Marino, an obstetrician in the Boston area who specializes in high-risk deliveries, tucked it back inside the boy’s mother.”He was trying to shake my hand and I was like, ‘I’m not having this — put your hand back in there,’ ” Marino would say later, after all 5 pounds, 1 ounce of the baby lay wailing under a heating lamp.This is the story of how that baby, Bryce McDougall, tested the best efforts of more than a dozen medical staffers at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, Mass., one day last summer.Bryce’s birth also put to the test a new method of reducing cesarean sections that has been developed at Dr. Atul Gawande’s Ariadne Labs, a “joint center for health systems innovation” at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.The story starts before Bryce’s birth, on the last day of August at about 9:30 in the morning.Melisa McDougall has just checked into South Shore, after a routine ultrasound. She’s in her 36th week, pregnant with twin boys. The doctors have warned Melisa that her placenta won’t hold out much longer. She’s propped up in bed, blond hair pulled into a neat bun, makeup still fresh, ordering a sandwich, when her regular obstetrician arrives.”How are you?” asks Dr. Ruth Levesque, sweeping into the room and clapping her hands. “You’re going to have some babies today! Are you excited?”The first of the twins — Brady — is head-down, ready for a normal vaginal delivery. But his brother, Bryce, is horizontal at the top of Melisa’s uterus.That’s one reason Melisa is a candidate for a C-section. Babies do not come out sideways. And there’s another reason most doctors would never consider a vaginal delivery in Melisa’s case, Levesque says. Four years ago, she delivered the twins’ sister by cesarean.”[Melisa] has a scar on her uterus,” Levesque explains, “so there’s a risk of uterine rupture — very rare, but there’s always a possibility.”And that possibility may be greater for Melisa because she’s 37 years old and having twins. But the McDougalls hope to have vaginal deliveries for both boys.”I just feel like it’s better for the kids — better for the babies,” Melisa says.How the Team Birth Project came to beAvoiding C-sections is also better for many moms. With cesareans, there’s a longer recovery period, a greater risk of infection and an association with injury and death. And most are not medically necessary, says Dr. Neel Shah, who directs the Delivery Decisions Initiative at Ariadne Labs.”We’re fairly confident that, when you look nationally, the plurality — if not the majority — of C-sections are probably avoidable,” says Shah.Those avoidable C-sections are the focus of the Team Birth Project, designed by Shah with input from roughly 50 doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas, public health specialists and consumer advocates who focus on childbirth. South Shore Hospital is one of the pilot sites for the project.In describing the collaboration, Shah begins with an acknowledgement: Childbirth is complicated. You’ve got two patients — the mother and the baby — and an ad hoc, often shifting team that at a minimum includes the mom, a nurse and a doctor.”So you’ve got three people who have to come together and become a very high-performing team in a really short period of time, for one of the most important moments in a person’s life,” Shah says.And this team has to perform at its best during an unpredictable event: labor.Shah says doctors and nurses generally agree about three things: when a mom is in active labor; when a mom can definitely try for a vaginal delivery; and when she must have a C-section.”And then there’s this huge gray zone,” Shah says. “And actually, everything about the Team Birth Project is about solving for the gray.”To avoid unnecessary C-sections when what to do isn’t clear, this hospital, in conjunction with the Ariadne project, has changed the way labor and delivery is handled from start to finish.First, women aren’t admitted until they are in active labor. Secondly, the mom’s preferences — such as whether she would like an epidural or not and whether she wants to have “skin-to-skin contact” with the baby immediately after birth — help guide the members of the labor team. The team members map the delivery plan — including Mom’s preferences and the medical team’s guidance — on a whiteboard, like the one in Melisa’s room.For the births of Bryce and Brady McDougall, the white erasable planning board gets a lot of use.Under “team,” Dr. Levesque and registered nurse Patty Newbitt write their names. Melisa and Shaun McDougall are also listed as equal partners. The names of other family members or nurses may be added and erased as labor progresses. Shah’s idea is that this team will “huddle” regularly throughout the labor to discuss the evolving birth plan.The birth plan itself is divided into three separate elements on the board: maternal (the mom), fetal (the baby) and progress (in terms of how the labor is progressing). A mom with high blood pressure may need special attention — and that would be noted on the board — but she could still have a normal labor and vaginal delivery.Good communication is keyDr. Kim Dever, who chairs the OB-GYN department at South Shore, highlights a section of the whiteboard called “Next Assessment.”That category is included on the board, Dever says, “because one of the things I often heard from patients is that they didn’t know what was going to happen next. Now they know.”Asking the mom — and the couple — about their preferences for the delivery is crucial, too, Levesque says.”It forces us to stop and to think about everything with the patient,” she explains.”It makes us verbalize our thought process, which I think is good.”Shaun McDougall walks across the room to get a closer look at the whiteboard.”Honestly, it seems like common sense,” he says. “I would always think the nurses would have something like this, but to have it out where mom and dad can see it — I think it’s pretty cool.”With Melisa McDougall’s plan in place, everyone settles in, to wait. About four hours later, Melisa isn’t yet feeling contractions. Levesque breaks the water sac around Brady.”Looks nice and clear,” Levesque reports. “Hey bud, come on and hang out with us,” she says to the baby, tickling his head.”So, you’re going to keep leaking fluid until you leak babies,” the doctor explains to Melisa. “Whenever you start getting uncomfortable, we’ll get you an epidural at that point.”Levesque moves to the board and adds updates: Melisa is 4 centimeters dilated; her waters broke at 13:26; the next assessment will be after she gets an epidural.The medical team insisted ahead of time that Melisa agree to be numbed from the waist down if she wants to deliver Bryce — the second twin — vaginally. Melissa agreed. The obstetricians may need to rotate the baby in her uterus, find a foot and pull Bryce out, causing pain most women would not tolerate.One of those doctors — Marino — peeks into the room and waves.”Just came to say hi,” says Marino, who has more experience than most obstetricians in delivering babies positioned like Bryce. Along with Levesque, Marino has been seeing Melisa regularly in office visits.Shaun McDougall asks the physicians if they’ll pose for a picture with his wife.”Can we make funny faces?” asks Levesque.”I want you to,” says Shaun. “You guys are like her favorite people on the planet.”As the hours tick by, there’s a shift change, and registered nurse Barbara Fatemi joins the McDougall team. She checks Melisa’s pain level regularly to determine when she’s ready for the epidural.Melisa says she isn’t feeling much but adds that she has a high tolerance for pain. Shaun tells Fatemi he sees the strain on his wife’s face. Fatemi acts on Shaun’s assessment and calls an anesthesiologist to prepare the epidural, something Shaun later says reinforces his feeling that they’re a team.Levesque soon arrives for the promised “next assessment.” Melisa is now 10 centimeters dilated and ready to deliver — but she must hold on until nurses can get her into an operating room.Levesque will still attempt to deliver both babies vaginally, she explains, but in the operating room, Melisa will be in the right place if Bryce doesn’t shift his position inside the uterus, and the doctor needs to do a last-minute cesarean.”I’ll see you in a few minutes. No pushing without me, OK?” Levesque says over her shoulder as she heads to the operating room to prep.”I’ll try,” Melisa says, weakly. In a minute, nurses are rolling her down the hall, following Levesque.Almost five years ago, two women who were wheeled into this hospital’s operating rooms during childbirth died after undergoing C-sections. Though state investigators found no evidence of substandard care, Dever says the hospital scrutinized everything.”When you have something like that happen, that expedites your efforts,” she says. “Exponentially.”Now, Dever says, she sees an opportunity, through the Team Birth Project, to model changes that could help women far and wide.”I would love women everywhere to be able to come in and have a safe birth and healthy baby,” she says. “That’s why I’m doing it.””They did not flinch”Dever is about to see her pilot study of the Team Birth Project pushed to new limits by little Bryce McDougall. First, though, Melisa must deliver Bryce’s brother, Brady. Even his birth, the one that was expected to be easier, is more difficult than anticipated.Bent nearly in half, her face beet red, Melisa strains for five pushes. She throws up, then gets back to laboring. And suddenly, there he is.”Oh my goodness, Brady, oh Brady,” wails Shaun. He follows a nurse holding his son over to a warmer.Marino takes Shaun’s place next to Levesque, who has reached inside Melisa to get the next twin. Levesque’s mission is to grab Bryce’s feet and guide him out. But everything feels like fingers, not toes.”That’s a hand,” she murmurs. “That’s a hand, too.”Marino rolls an ultrasound across Melisa’s belly, hoping the scan will show a foot. But Bryce’s feet are out of sight and out of reach.Marino has had more experience than most obstetricians with transverse babies, and this procedure, known as a breech extraction; she asks to try. She reaches into Melisa’s uterus while Levesque moves to Melisa’s right side and uses her forearm to shift Bryce and push him down. Dever, the head of obstetrics, has come into the room and takes over the ultrasound. At least six doctors and nurses encircle Melisa, whose face is taut. Shaun frowns.”Babe, you OK?” he asks.Melisa nods. Bryce’s heart rate is steady. But there’s still no sign of a foot. One little hand slips out and Marino nudges it back in.”Open the table,” says Marino, her voice strained.It’s open and ready, her colleagues say, referring to the array of sterile surgical instruments that Marino may soon need, to begin a C-section.For 36 seconds, this room with more than a dozen adults grows oddly quiet. Everyone is watching Marino twist her arm this way and that, determined to find Bryce’s feet. Levesque leans hard into Melisa’s belly. Shaun bites his lip. Then Marino yanks at something — and her gloved, bloodied hand emerges, clenching baby Bryce by his two teeny legs.”Oh babe, here he comes, here he comes — Woo!” squeals Shaun.Shaun is overcome with emotion again. Melisa manages an exhausted giggle. Baby Bryce keeps everyone waiting a few more seconds and then howls.Levesque starts to stitch up a small tear for Melisa, and Marino comes around to congratulate the new mom.”He was fighting you, huh?” Melisa says, and laughs.Outside the operating room, Levesque and Marino look relieved and elated. Both agree that most doctors would have delivered Bryce by C-section. But at South Shore, the McDougalls found a hospital that has challenged itself to perform fewer C-sections and a doctor with experience in these unusual deliveries — one who knew and respected the parents’ preference.”They specifically wanted to have a vaginal delivery of both babies,” Marino says — and that was on her mind during the difficult moments.Bryce was fine, says Marino, so the deciding factor for her was that Shaun and Melisa did not panic.”They did not flinch — they were like, ‘Keep going,’ ” Marino recalls. “Sometimes the patient will say ‘stop,’ and then you have to stop.”The babies’ father says he came close to requesting that, in the very last minute before Bryce was born.”That part with the arm — it was pretty aggressive,” Shaun says.But in that moment, he adds, the feeling that he and Melisa were part of the team made a difference.”It made us more comfortable,” Shaun says, and that comfort translated to trust. “We trusted the decisions they were making.”Melisa says she’s grateful for the vaginal delivery.”I did not want to have a natural birth and a C-section,” she says. “That would be a brutal recovery.”Instead, 30 minutes after Marino pulled Bryce out of her, Melisa is nursing Brady and talking with family members via FaceTime.Next assessment for The Team Birth ProjectSouth Shore began using the Team Birth approach in April. Three other hospitals are also pilot sites: Saint Francis in Tulsa, Okla.; EvergreenHealth in Kirkland, Wash.; and Overlake in Redmond, Wash. The test period runs for two years. In the first four months at South Shore, the hospital’s primary, low-risk C-section rate dropped from 31 percent to 27 percent — about four fewer C-sections each month.Experts who contributed to the development of the Team Birth Project are anxious to see whether other hospitals can lower their rates of C-section and keep them down.”Once you get past the early adopters, how do you demonstrate the benefits for others that aren’t willing to change?” asks Gene Declercq, a professor of community health sciences at Boston University School of Public Health.Declercq notes that a few insurers are beginning to force that question, refusing to include in their networks hospitals that have high C-section rates, or high rates of other unnecessary, if not harmful, care.Declercq says the project’s focus on communication in the labor and delivery room makes sense because many physicians decide when to perform a cesarean based on clinical habit or the culture of their hospital.”If you can impact that decision-making process, you can perhaps change the culture that might lead to unnecessary cesareans,” says Declercq.The federal government has set a target rate for hospitals: No more than 23.9 percent of first-time, low-risk mothers should be delivering by C-section. The U.S. average in 2016 was 25.7 percent.The target was put in place because research has shown that if a woman’s first delivery is a C-section, her subsequent deliveries are highly likely to be C-sections, too — raising her (and her baby’s) risk for complications and even death.This story is part of NPR’s reporting partnership with WBUR and Kaiser Health News. Copyright 2018 WBUR. To see more, visit WBUR.
Updated at 3:20 p.m.The first of more than 1,600 lawsuits pending against Purdue Pharma, the maker of the opioid OxyContin, has been settled. The drugmaker has agreed to pay $270 million to fund addiction research and treatment in Oklahoma and pay legal fees.Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter filed suit two years ago alleging Purdue helped ignite the opioid crisis with aggressive marketing of the blockbuster drug OxyContin and deceptive claims that downplayed the dangers of addiction. Hunter had sought $20 billion dollars in damages against Purdue and other pharmaceutical firms.The settlement comes one day after the Oklahoma Supreme Court denied Purdue’s appeal for a delay of the trial. It is expected to begin on May 28, with the remaining defendants, including Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceuticals. A judge has said the trial can be televised.”We see this agreement with Oklahoma as an extension of our commitment to help drive solutions to the opioid addiction crisis,” said Purdue Pharma CEO Dr. Craig Landau, in statement. “We pledge Purdue’s ongoing support to the National Center and the life-saving work it will do for generations to come.”Landau refers to a new National Center for Addiction Studies and Treatment to be housed a Oklahoma State University in Tulsa. It will be funded by $102.5 million from Purdue and $75 million from the Sackler family, which owns the drug company.”The agreement reached today will provide assistance to individuals nationwide who desperately need these services — rather than squandering resources on protracted litigation,” the Sackler family said in a statement. “We have profound compassion for those who are affected by addiction and are committed to playing a constructive role in the coordinated effort to save lives.”Members of the Sackler family, some of whom were expected to be called to testify at trial, are reportedly contributing to the settlement. Court documents filed in Massachusetts show the Sacklers made more than $4 billion on opioid sales between 2008 and 2016.The settlement also includes $20 million for medicines to be used by patients in the center, $12.5 million for counties and municipalities in Oklahoma and $60 million for legal fees.Some lawyers suggest the deal in Oklahoma is the beginning of many more in cases that stretch across the nation. Attorneys representing more than 1,600 lawsuits consolidated in a federal court in Northern Ohio say the resolution in Oklahoma reflects the strength of claims against Purdue.”We have long alleged that Purdue Pharma ignited today’s epidemic by starting the disturbing practice of deceptive opioid marketing, convincing both doctors and the American public to trust that these drugs were safe and virtually non-addictive,” said plaintiffs’ attorneys Paul J. Hanly Jr., Paul T. Farrell Jr. and Joe Rice, in a statement. “Purdue’s wrongdoing, however, does not stand alone.”There are nearly two dozen defendants named in the consolidated opioid lawsuits.The U.S. and individual states are beginning to tally health care, incarceration and law enforcement costs tied to epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the burden based on prescription drug misuse alone, in 2013, was $78.5 billion. Oklahoma estimated the opioid crisis would cost the state nearly $9 billion, according to the Washington Post. In Massachusetts, the costs, along with lost productivity, were $15.2 billion in 2017.The CDC says a record 47,600 people died after an opioid overdose in 2017. Purdue’s CEO has said the company is exploring bankruptcy amid rising pressures. The U.S. House Oversight Committee has asked Purdue to produce a trove of documents by April 4 about the marketing and sales strategies for OxyContin.Members of some families that lost loved ones to an opioid overdose say they are disturbed by the settlement. Rhonda Lotti, of Watertown, Mass., had planned to attend the trial with other members of an opioid overdose grief group. Lotti’s daughter Mariah suffered a fatal overdose in 2011 at age 19.”I’m disgusted,” said Lotti in an email.”How many lives were worth $270 million?”This story is part of a reporting partnership between WBUR, NPR and Kaiser Health News. Copyright 2019 WBUR. To see more, visit WBUR.
Thousands of disabled students are being forced to choose between having food to eat or having the equipment they need to study, because a new government rule means they must pay £200 towards the cost of computers they need for disability-related reasons.The government introduced the new rule as part of its controversial reform of the disabled students’ allowance (DSA) system, a non-means-tested grant that assists with the extra costs a disabled student faces during higher education study.Universities minister Sam Gyimah admitted in a parliamentary answer that introducing the new rule – with disabled students in England having to pay £200 towards the cost of a computer and assistive software obtained through the DSA system – had seen the number of recipients of DSA equipment funding fall by 4,600.This appears to refer to a drop from 28,000 to 23,400 in the number of students receiving DSA for equipment, comparing those who began their courses in 2014-15 with those who began in 2015-16, when the new rules were introduced.Gyimah said the drop was “expected, because we knew the numbers would fall once students had to pay £200 towards the cost of computer equipment”, but he said that an evaluation of the impact of the change was “under way”.Marsha de Cordova (pictured), the disabled Labour MP and shadow minister for disabled people, who had asked the question, said the number of students receiving DSA for essential equipment had fallen by nearly 30 per cent since the £200 up-front fee was introduced (the latest figures show the number of students receiving DSA for equipment have fallen even further than Gyimah’s figures, to 19,700).She said the charge was “clearly preventing disabled students from accessing the essential equipment they need to further their studies” and she called on Gyimah to scrap the new rule.The minister claimed that the fall in the number of students receiving DSA for equipment did not mean they were “lacking in equipment” because he said “computer ownership is now common among all students, with students spending on average around £250 on computers”.He said: “As DSAs are not intended to cover all student costs, we think it is reasonable to ask students to contribute towards the cost of computer equipment.”De Cordova told Disability News Service (DNS) afterwards: “I thought [the minister’s] response was really weak.“It demonstrates a lack of understanding and awareness of the support needs of disabled students.”She received DSA when she was studying at university, which paid for a support worker and the assistive technology she needed.She said: “It certainly enabled me to carry out my studies effectively.“Without it, I would have been put at a disadvantage, without a shadow of a doubt.”Piers Wilkinson, from the National Union of Students’ Disabled Students’ Campaign, said they had “consistently opposed” the DSA reforms, because the union believed they would “not only put us at a greater disadvantage in accessing education but also force disabled students out of education”.He said: “Disabled students face astronomical costs of attending university, with higher accommodation costs, additional costs for transport, food and support equipment.“A laptop can be a vital piece of equipment; this £200 charge is causing hundreds of vital laptops to be locked away from the student, even after the assistive technology software and hardware has been paid for.“The Equality Act 2010 clearly states that a disabled person cannot be asked to pay for disability adjustments, and yet our government has been charging disabled students £200 for the privilege of accessing the same education opportunities non-disabled students have.“This charge is making disabled students choose between having food to eat or having the equipment essential for them to study for their £9,000-a-year course.“So disabled students are left in a paradoxical limbo, unable to study because they can’t afford the £200 charge and unable to afford the charge because they are a disabled student.”Meanwhile, The Alliance for Inclusive Education has condemned the government’s announcement that it is spending £50 million to expand places in grammar schools in England.Disabled children with education, health and care plans (EHCPs) or statements of special educational needs represent only 0.1 per cent of grammar school pupils, despite making up 1.8 per cent of the secondary school population.And disabled children without statements or EHCPs still make up only 4.2 per cent of grammar school pupils, but 12.4 per cent of all secondary school pupils.Simone Aspis, ALLFIE’s policy and campaigns coordinator, said: “The expansion of grammar school provision is another government attack on comprehensive and inclusive education and disabled pupils’ rights to a good and well-resourced mainstream school placement as set out in Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”DNS revealed last year that the government had been forced to admit that it failed to assess the impact on disabled children and young people of its “discriminatory” plans to expand grammar schools.Aspis pointed to last year’s conclusion of the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, which was highly critical of the UK government’s approach to inclusive education and the “persistence of a dual education system” that segregates increasing numbers of disabled children in special schools.Figures last year showed the proportion of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) who attend a special school in England had risen from 5.6 per cent in 2012 to 8.5 per cent in 2016, with the proportion in independent specialist settings rising from 4.5 to 6.3 per cent.ALLFIE said that the introduction of greater selection by ability in the education system through the expansion of grammar school provision meant “choice for SEND pupils and their parents is in danger of becoming non-existent”.