Commonwealth and Asian Games gold medallist Somdev Devvarman reached his first ATP final in two years after beating local wild card entrant Izak Van der Merwe in straight sets in the South African Open here.The 25-year-old rising Indian star scored a 6-2 6-4 win over the South African to progress to his second career final at the Montecasino Entertainment Centre. His first one being in Chennai in 2009 where he lost to Croatia’s Marin Cilic.The victory has moved the Indian within sniffing distance of accumulating 250 ATP World Tour points and pocketing USD 76,500 first prize money.In the summit clash, Somdev will face fourth seed South African Kevin Anderson who defeated Frenchman Adrian Mannrino 6-7(3) 6-0 6-4 in the other semifinal match.Last year, Somdev was eliminated in straight sets by Spain’s David Ferrer at the quarter-final stage.Somdev wasted little time in winning the first set in just 39 minutes, breaking serve in the first and third games.Merwe, much taller to his Indian opponent, rallied in the second set but Somdev broke again in the seventh game when his rival ended a rally with a tame shot into the net.Somdev has so far dropped just one set at the tournament.
Trending Articles PLAY LIST 00:50Trending Articles00:50Trending Articles00:50Trending Articles02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games02:11Trump awards medals to Jon Voight, Alison Krauss Lady Eagles dump Lady Warriors for 3rd straight win Trump campaign, GOP groups attack Google’s new ad policy De Leon had her best scoring game this season with eight points after averaging a pedestrian 5.7 points per outing in her first three matches.The outgoing Lady Eagle also had an efficient offensive rate on the floor converting on eight of her 12 spike attempts including the one kill that finished off UE in the third set.“You guys saw what my output was in the past three games, it wasn’t where I needed it to be,” said De Leon. “I thank coach Oliver (Almadro) for giving me the confidence.”“He always tells me not to worry because the struggle is part maybe because this is my last year and I overthink to do my best.”ADVERTISEMENT SEA Games hosting troubles anger Duterte Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. LATEST STORIES Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next P2.5 B shabu seized in Makati sting, Chinese national nabbed 1 dead, 3 injured in Quezon road crash P2.5 B shabu seized in Makati sting, Chinese national nabbed MOST READ Hong Kong tunnel reopens, campus siege nears end Team captain Bea De Leon, who’s had an off offensive game in he first three games, settled comfortably in Ateneo’s scoring scheme and she said that she’s just one of the Lady Eagles who is trying to keep this streak going.“We’re taking this league one game at a time,” said De Leon Sunday at Smart Araneta Coliseum. “We have to really prepare hard for every team like UE because we’ve seen them improve so much especially in the floor defense with [Kath] Arado.”FEATURED STORIESSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSUrgent reply from Philippine football chiefSPORTSPalace wants Cayetano’s PHISGOC Foundation probed over corruption chargesWith the win, Ateneo tied University of the Philippines and defending champion De La Salle atop the standings with 3-1 slates.“We really prepared for them and we’re not underestimating anybody, that’s our mindset and we’re always thinking that every team has a big chance this year.” Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.netMANILA, Philippines—Streaking Ateneo is showing no signs of slowing down.The Lady Eagles have racked up three straight wins with their latest victory via straight sets against University of the East, 25-15, 25-21, 25-16, to get a share of the top spot of the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball tournament.ADVERTISEMENT Private companies step in to help SEA Games hosting Lacson backs proposal to elect president and vice president in tandem View comments
England England Women’s boss Neville deletes Twitter account after backlash to sexist tweets Harry Sherlock 04:09 1/24/18 FacebookTwitterRedditcopy Getty Images England Women’s World Cup The former Manchester United defender has been appointed England Women’s manager, but has faced a fierce backlash from supporters Phil Neville has deleted his Twitter account amid a fierce backlash over his appointment as England Women’s manager.The former Manchester United defender has been announced as the successor to Mark Sampson, who was sacked last year in disgrace.Neville’s tweets have been the subject of intense scrutiny in recent days, as a result, with a number of sexist messages unearthed by supporters. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Lyon treble & England heartbreak: The full story behind Lucy Bronze’s dramatic 2019 Liverpool v Man City is now the league’s biggest rivalry and the bitterness is growing Megan Rapinoe: Born & brilliant in the U.S.A. A Liverpool legend in the making: Behind Virgil van Dijk’s remarkable rise to world’s best player One seems to poke fun at the idea of women’s equality, reading: “You women have always wanted equality until it comes to paying the bills #hypocrites”.Neville also tweeted a clarification regarding a previous tweet claiming that he thought women would have been preoccupied in the morning, as they would have been “busy preparing breakfast/getting kids ready/making the beds.”The 41-year-old has now deleted the entirety of his Twitter account, seemingly in the wake of these tweets coming to light.It remains to be seen if Neville will be discplined by the Football Association, though the governing body has yet to comment.
TagsTransfersAbout the authorPaul VegasShare the loveHave your say Derby, Preston chasing Newcastle midfielder Dan Barlaserby Paul Vegas10 months agoSend to a friendShare the loveNewcastle United face losing Dan Barlaser for nothing.The Daily Mail says the Turkey youth international is currently impressing during a loan spell at League One Accrington Stanley and boss John Coleman is desperate to extend his stay beyond January.Barlaser – who has also been involved with England Under-18s – has appeared three times for Newcastle’s first team but is said to have improved markedly in recent months given the exposure to senior football.The 21-year-old is now attracting interest from the likes of Middlesbrough, Derby, Preston and Wigan who are aware of his contract situation at St James’ Park.
UNC enters tonight’s national championship match-up against Villanova as a three point favorite, so it should be no surprise that the Tar Heels’ top player is the favorite to take home the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award. Bovada has forward Brice Johnson at +110 to win the award, with Villanova’s Josh Hart as the second favorite at +325. Here is the full set of odds.With UNC’s size advantage, Johnson is a very legitimate favorite for the award, but if you believe in Villanova, a bet on Jenkins or Arcidiacono has to be pretty tempting at +900. [Bovada]
APTN National NewsUnlike most masks, Carey Price’s new helmet actually says a lot about the man underneath.Drawing inspiration from his First Nations heritage, the goalie for the Montreal Canadiens is also looking to promote a good cause with anew look in hot pink.APTN National News reporter Danielle Rochette has this story.
LONDON – Global stock markets fell for a second day Tuesday as investors continued to fret over a looming trade war between the U.S. and China and mounting public scrutiny of technology companies.Stocks have been trending lower for weeks largely because of a series of tariffs announced by U.S. President Donald Trump and the Facebook data privacy scandal, which has raised the prospect of tighter regulation for social media and other tech stocks.In the last week, Trump has also tweeted repeatedly about his new favourite foe, Amazon, whose owner also owns The Washington Post, which has been critical of the Trump administration.Trump has approved possible higher U.S. duties on $50 billion of Chinese goods in response to complaints that Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology. Those tariffs come on top of previous proposals to raise tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.In response, China announced it is raising tariffs on $3 billion of U.S. goods including pork, apples and steel pipe, increasing the risk of a broader conflict that might depress global trade.“The mood remains decidedly bearish, and there is certainly no shortage of reasons to be fearful,” said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG. “It’s times like this when investors face a choice — whether to sit and await developments or plunge back in.”That was evident in the performance of stocks on Tuesday.Returning from the long Easter holiday weekend, Europe’s stock markets tracked others lower, though the scale of the losses were diminished by expectations of a rebound on Wall Street later.In Europe, Germany’s DAX fell 0.8 per cent to 11,999 while London’s FTSE 100 declined 0.2 per cent to 7,037. France’s CAC 40 was 0.5 per cent lower at 5,140.Wall Street was poised for some solid gains at the open Tuesday with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures up 0.5 per cent. On Monday, the S&P posted its worst start to a quarter since October 2011 and saw the index fall below its 200-day moving average for the first time in almost 2 years.U.S. technology companies are in the spotlight, notably Amazon, which posted hefty losses of around 5 per cent Monday after Trump again voiced his concerns about the company on Twitter.The sector was already in the gaze of investors after Facebook’s data scandal last month that has raised the prospect of heightened regulation. Netflix, Microsoft and Google parent Alphabet have all seen their share prices decline.“Pressure on the sector doesn’t appear to be going away in the near-term which will continue to act as a drag on indices,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA.Earlier in Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.8 per cent to 3,163.63 and Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 shed 0.4 per cent to 21,292.29. Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 declined 0.1 per cent to 5,751.90. Elsewhere, Seoul’s Kospi ended down 27 points at 2,442.43. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng bucked the trend, ending up 0.2 per cent at 30,137.49.Elsewhere, the euro was flat at $1.23 while the dollar rose 0.3 per cent to 106.23 yen. In the oil markets, a barrel of U.S. crude gained 22 cents to $63.23 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange while Bren crude, used to price international oils, rose 29 cents to $67.93 in London.
MONTREAL – When it comes to affordable daycare, Quebec’s low-fee program is the envy of many a parent in other parts of Canada.Under the much-vaunted but polarizing program introduced in 1997, the bulk of Quebec parents pay but a fraction of the astronomical amounts their counterparts shell out elsewhere.Some pundits argue the Quebec model is too costly and fails to deliver, but others say the benefits of getting more women into the workforce and improving work-life balance help offset the annual $2.5 billion investment.But how exportable is the made-in-Quebec solution?One political scientist says Quebec’s lesson to other provinces is they should chart their own path and not wait for a federally driven daycare plan as some have in the past.“When the federal government tried to implement a national program, it met a lot of resistance in the different provinces,” said Olivier Jacques, a post-doctoral student at McGill University and one of three authors of a recent study published by the Institute for Research on Public Policy that examined Quebec daycare.“So maybe it’s better that each of the provinces does their own so they can make something sustainable.”In 2005, the Liberals under Paul Martin tried to implement a national childcare program, setting aside $5 billion and signing on with all 10 provinces before losing power to the Conservatives, who then eliminated the program.Some detractors have been critical of Quebec’s universal approach and believe the province should have instead targeted certain segments of the population. But Jacques counters the wide appeal has allowed Quebec’s plan to persist.“If a provincial government wants to make a program that will be politically robust and survive a change of government, they need to make sure the program will be broadly popular and covers most children and most parents,” he said.One factor that favoured Quebec was that the political divide in the province along federalist and sovereigntist lines meant the absence of a true small-c conservative opposition — the very type of government that historically has cut such programs elsewhere, Jacques noted. The other is that activists and proponents insisted the province promote such a program.In Ontario, where daycare is a hot-button issue in the current election campaign, Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals are pushing free care for preschoolers aged two-and-a-half and older, until they reach kindergarten at a cost of $2.2 billion over three years. The Conservatives are pushing a tax rebate program at a cost of $389 million per year.The New Democrats are proposing free child care for all families making less than $40,000 year and are aiming to have childcare costs average about $12 a day for those making more, drawing some similarities to Quebec. The price tag is around $11.4 billion over five years.What’s clear is the costs will be an obstacle for any province.Canada as a whole ranks near the bottom of OECD countries when it comes to childcare spending — roughly 0.2 per cent of GDP — while Quebec vastly outspends the rest of the provinces on daycare by a margin of about five to one.That’s where Jacques believes the federal government could help by easing the financial burdens on provinces to allow them to invest in affordable child care.In 2017, the federal Liberal government announced plans to spend $7 billion over the next decade to help ease the burden of childcare costs, including up to 40,000 new subsidized spots nationwide by 2019.Since the Parti Quebecois introduced $5-a-day subsidized daycare in Quebec 21 years ago, the daily fee has increased a few times.The Liberals also introduced a sliding scale three years ago, under which parents pay a base amount of about $8, and as much as nearly $22, depending on their income.The most popular daycares are the non-profit, subsidized centres known commonly as CPEs, which provide for trained educators and specific standards. But the number of spots — about 230,000 to date — are too few.In a bid to shorten those long lists, the Liberals have favoured expanding the number of private daycare centres — for-profit entities where parents pay upfront costs of $40 or more and benefit from federal deductions and provincial tax credits to bring the daily costs close to the subsidized system.The number of private daycare spots has boomed to 65,000 in less than a decade.That’s where the competing daycare narratives collide, says Universite de Montreal economist Pierre Fortin: while the province has seen the economic benefits of accessible child care, it is struggling to maintain quality.Fortin, himself a father of five, said the program has met one major goal of getting more women into the workforce. That has helped absorb the program’s expenses through increased tax revenues and transfers to families.The participation rate in the Quebec workforce of women between the ages of 20 and 44 stands at 87 per cent, compared to just 74 per cent in 1997. In a speech this year, Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz even credited the Quebec program for the percentage hike.In the same speech, Poloz noted the rate nationally is about 83 per cent.The federal government committed to increasing women in the workforce in the budget last February through a number of measures, but did not provide a solution to the childcare quandary.“All the research looking into the matter has concluded the main cause of increase in labour force participation has been the low-fee universal childcare program and the extended parental leave,” Fortin said.Fortin says the Quebec program has stumbled in overall quality. On average, the subsidized CPEs get very positive reviews for a highly qualified staff and environment, but the privately owned daycares offer a lower level of quality.That discrepancy was noted in a study released by the Observatoire des tous petits, a charitable foundation that studies child development.While the province’s subsidized educational childcare centres scored very well, the same couldn’t be said for privately held daycares or the other subsidized models.“The right verdict to give is that we have a two-tier system,” Fortin said.“One is spectacularly good but the other is spectacularly mediocre.”
SAN FRANCISCO — Gymboree is filing for bankruptcy protection for a second time in as many years, but this time the children’s clothing retailer will begin winding down operations for good.The San Francisco company said late Wednesday that it will close all of its Gymboree and Crazy 8 stores, and attempt sell its Janie and Jack business, intellectual property and online business.Gymboree, which began offering classes for mothers and their children in 1976, runs 380 Gymboree stores in the U.S. and Canada. When it first sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June 2017, it ran 1,300 stores.The company has suffered in the post-recession years like almost all mall-based retail stores.Gymboree was bought by the private equity firm Bain Capital for $1.8 billion in 2010 and taken private.The Associated Press
Gururgam: Congress has fielded its veteran leader Captain Ajay Yadav from Gurugram seat. The importance of Captain Yadav can be gauged from the fact that he has won Rewari Vidhan Sabha seat six times for the Congress. He won the Rewari seat for the first time in 1989 after which he continuously emerged successful with wins in 1991, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2009.In South Haryana where he was instrumental in making Congress a formidable party, he was rewarded with various cabinet posts in the state government that ranged from being the PWD minister to the post of finance minister. Also Read – After eight years, businessman arrested for kidnap & murderCaptain Yadav will be contesting for Lok Sabha seat for the first time. The Congress party first mulled of fielding him in the 2014 polls after Rao Inderjit left the party and joined Congress. Due to health reasons, Captian Yadav expressed his reluctance to fight the Lok Sabha elections in 2014. Captain Ajay Yadav is the son of Abhay Singh Yadav who was again one of the tallest Congress leaders in South Haryana. Captain Ajay Yadav served in Indian Army for seven years after he was first commissioned as an officer in 1980. He took the premature retirement in 1987 and joined the state politics. Just two years after joining the state politics, he was able to win his first assembly elections in 1989 after which his successful stint in assembly elections went on for more than 25 years. Also Read – Two brothers held for snatchingsEver since he lost the Rewari in the 2014 Assembly elections, Captain Yadav focussed on the matters related to South Haryana and emphasised that how BJP was not able to deliver governance in the state as well as in the national level. Captain Yadav reiterated that he will fight BJP and will highlight the failures of the government both nationally and internationally. “We had made Gurugram the Millennium city. After four and a half years, the BJP has made it the most polluted city in the world. Moreover, they want to even damage the lungs of the city by moving the Aravallis out of Punjab land and Preservation Act (PLPA),” said Captain Yadav. “The citizens of Gurugram have seen through the false hopes that were given to them in the name of demonetisation and they will express their anger against the government on May 12,” he added.
NEW DELHI: A 65-year-old man was killed after a car rammed into his bicycle in north Delhi’s Civil Lines area.The accident happened on Wednesday night at around 10:45 pm when the man took a right turn from a signal and the car, which was coming from the opposite direction, rammed into his bicycle. The car was coming from Vidhan Sabha area and was on way to IP college in Civil Lines. Prakash Tiwari, a resident of P&T Colony in Civil Lines, was rushed to a hospital but he was declared brought dead by doctors. Tiwari was a local vendor at civil lines. “The accused has been arrested and he was the driver of the car. He could not react in time and hit the cycle. The victim was rushed to the hospital bit was declared brought dead by doctors,” said a senior police officer. Gaurav Saxena, the diver of the errant vehicle is a resident of Gandhi Nagar, was working as a driver for the past six months. A case under Sections 279 (rash driving) and 304 (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the IPC was registered at Civil the Lines police station and the accused, identified as Gaurav Saxena, was arrested, the officer said.
Marrakech- King Mohammed VI received on Friday at the Royal Palace of Marrakech, Egyptian foreign minister, Nabil Fahmi.The meeting, held on the sidelines of the 20th session of Al Quds Committee held in Marrakech this January 17-18, took place in the presence of Morocco’s minister of foreign affairs and cooperation, Salaheddine Mezouar, and Egypt’s ambassador in Morocco, Ahmed Ihab Abdelahad Jamaleddine.
December 1, 1998Class on wood carving in the library.
Rodolphe Belmer has been named as director-general of Canal Plus Group and a member of the pay TV operator’s board.Belmer, whose appointment was proposed to the company’s supervisory committee by Bertrand Méheut in his capacity as president of the board, will have overall responsibility for pay and free TV activities in metropolitan France, in charge of editorial, distribution, technology and advertising.Belmer was previously deputy director-general and CEO of Canal Plus France. In his new enlarged role he will be responsible for supervising the development of new free-to-air channel D8, as well as pay TV activities. Méheut will remain in charge of Canal Plus’s international activities.Belmer was confirmed as Méheut’s successor by the shareholders’ oversight committee in February, following speculation that the latter could retire in 2013 ahead of his planned departure.
In This Issue… * Dudley agrees with Yellen on rates… * Which sends Gold higher! * Chinese GDP weakens to 8.1%… * Buying Gold on the dips… And, Now, Today’s Pfennig For Your Thoughts! Rates To Remain Near Zero Through 2014 … Good day… And a Happy Friday to one and all! It’s Opening Day here in St. Louis as baseball comes back to the town that loves its Cardinals and baseball. The people of the city will be dressed in red today, the ballpark will be a sea of red, and the excitement for the day begins… But, we could be in trouble weather wise… It’s already rained in some parts of the city and is expected to rain all day and night here… UGH! The Cardinals are the reigning World Series Champions, and should have opened their season at home… But no… they played a week on the road to start the season… If they had opened at home, last week was sunny and 80 all week… OK… Sorry… I guess if the game gets rained out, we can all go see the Opening of the 3 Stooges Movie! HA! Sorry… but guys my age all grew up watching the 3 Stooges, and laughing until it hurt… In my old writing style… I would be associating some Gov’t leaders with the 3 Stooges right now, but since I don’t do that any longer, I should just move along, for these are not the droids I’m looking for… Well… the currencies and metals added to their gains yesterday as the day went along. The euro traded briefly at 1.32, and the Aussie dollar (A$) trade through $1.04… There was more Fed Heads speaking, and Fed Head Dudley agreed with Fed Head Yellen who had said the previous day that keeping interest rates near zero through 2014 was needed… Dudley said, “I haven’t seen any set of information that should suggest to me we should change that view.” So, that got the ball rolling with Gold, for as I’ve explained many times in the past 4 years since interest rates around the world headed to zero… Gold competes with deposit rates… So, if there are no deposit rates, Gold is the chief beneficiary… And now knowing that 2 Fed Heads agree with Fed President, Big Ben Bernanke, that rates need to remain near zero through 2014, really got the ball rolling for Gold, and as I left the office, with my tail dragging, and totally exhausted, Gold was up $17 on the day… But… all the euphoria in the risk assets got some cold water thrown on them by the latest GDP data from China overnight… China’s 1st QTR GDP grew at the slowest pace in 11 quarters, but was still a robust +8.1%… If you keep with what I told you years ago, that you should believe 1/2 of what the Chinese report, then that puts 1st QTR GDP at +4%, which is still far greater than most countries around the world… So, the moderation of the Chinese economy continues… But that really takes a bite out of the Commodity Countries’ currencies… Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, all felt the bite of slower Chinese economic growth. I think this slower GDP report might spur that reserve requirement reduction we were looking for last weekend, even with inflation bumping higher last month. A move to reduce reserve requirements would be like a rate cut, and even though in the old days, that was viewed as debasing a currency, these days, the markets reward countries that promote growth… And the global growth countries would be jumping up and clicking their heels together! I’ve spent a couple of days this week talking about Singapore and the Sing dollar (S$) well, as I explained the other day, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) met last night, and I was quite pleased with their decision… The MAS decided to maintain its currency’s appreciation and increase the slope of its trading band… Apparently the MAS is very concerned about rising inflation in Singapore, and as I’ve explained in the past the MAS uses the S$ to combat inflation… They do this by adjusting the trade-weighted band of currencies by changing the slope, width and center of the band. A flatter slope allows slower appreciation or even depreciation over time, but… that’s not what the MAS has decided it will do going forward… The will increase the slope, which means they will allow additional currency appreciation! Heading over the North Pole from China, we land in Canada… and the Canadian dollar /loonie finally got back to parity to the U.S. dollar yesterday, as the price of Oil rebounded from a dip this week. The price of Oil rebounded to $103, and I’ve told you many times that a higher Oil Price is needed to move the loonie higher, as the Bank of Canada (BOC) refuses to hike rates. You know… I like the Canadian dollar / loonie for a number of reasons, but what I don’t like is the BOC sitting and watching a housing bubble and doing nothing… Finance Minister, Flaherty, said that he “prefers to allow the Housing Market to correct itself” Vancouver and Toronto are the locations of the biggest housing problems… But to sit there, and do nothing is not prudent in my opinion… Speaking of Oil… I read a report last night that made a lot of sense to me… the researcher pointed toward the growth in U.S. M3 Money Supply as a strong reason for the elevated Oil prices… in the report they showed that M3 had grown more than 150% since 1998, while global Oil reserves grew 33%… Which means more dollars in circulation chasing a certain amount of Oil reserves, and you get inflated Oil prices… But remember… the price of getting Oil out of the ground continues to rise too… And, don’t forget what I told you a month or so ago, about how the Saudi’s need to keep the price of Oil high, to keep the money flowing, and prevent riots like those seen all over the Middle East last year. And don’t forget that there’s a strong correlation between Oil prices and the U.S. dollar, that began around 2004, and is now at a 82% historic average… years ago, there was no such correlation, but as time has gone on, and investors learn that they can hedge against dollar weakness with commodities like Oil… the correlation has come about… Buying Gold is another investment that hedges against dollar weakness… but it’s also a commodity… it’s a currency… it’s an uncertainty hedge… No… it’s Super Man! Just having some fun… I know a lot of people think that Gold’s shiny days are over… But, I’m not one of them! And apparently long time acquaintance, Frank Holmes, the CEO of U.S. Global Investors, isn’t one of them either… Frank was interviewed for Forbes.com and he said that, “buying the dips in Gold has been the right move for a decade.” If you’re interested in reading what else Frank had to say about why buying Gold on the dips continues to be the right move, you can click here:. OK… The pressure on the euro and the ECB coming from Spain continues to be strong… The return of the Spanish Flu? I read a report that called the problems in Spain the return of the Spanish Flu… I’m not sure that associating a debt problem with a pandemic that killed between 50 and 100 million people is a good thing… In fact, I’m sure it isn’t! Well.. as I said earlier this week, the European Central Bank (ECB) is becoming the Fed of Europe… and with that title, the ECB will look to buy Spanish debt, and not continue the 3-year loans they’ve been making… We’ll have to wait-n-see what the markets think of that. But judging from the performance of the euro this morning, It looks like the markets don’t really care, as the euro is up from where it was when I came in and turned on the screens this morning. There’s a story out this morning that says that Japan’s top Pension Fund is going to begin to invest in emerging markets stocks as early as this quarter. The Pension Fund oversees $1.3 Trillion, will begin to focus on markets including Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Korea, Taiwan and South Africa… This is good news for these countries and their stock markets, and vis-à-vis each respective currency… for… the currency of each country has to be bought to buy stock in that country! Speaking of South Korea… things are brighter there this morning, after the North Korea rocket launch failed… There was another earthquake, this time hitting in Mexico… That’s two earthquakes this week around the world… The data cupboard told us yesterday that the Trade Deficit for February narrowed to $46 Billion from $52.5 Billion… remember that February has fewer days, before you go out and buy something that was imported to make up for the difference! HA! PPI (wholesale inflation) showed a .3% increase month-on-month, and an annualized figure of 2.8%… The Initial Jobless Claims gained 13,000 last week, moving to 380,000 from 367,000… Today, we’ll see the stupid CPI (Consumer Inflation) … And the U. of Michigan Consumer Confidence report… Then There Was This… I meant to talk about this yesterday, but, completely forgot, until I heard it mentioned again in a TV interview that I saw. (Thanks JMR Doug!) Here’s what I’m talking about… There are reports out that say the Big Banks are once again beginning to give loans to bad credit people… OMG! More Sub Prime? Have we not learned anything? I shake my head in disgust here folks, because… This will all end up in the crying pool… I’m not someone that doesn’t believe in giving people a chance, but at the same time, I’m someone that believes in the once bitten twice shy, babe… More Sub Prime… again, it’s an election year… right? To recap… Dudley agrees with Yellen that rates will remain near zero through 2014… That pushes Gold higher on the day. Oil rebounds to $103. Chinese GDP weakens to 8.1%, thus proving that the moderation is in, not the collapse that many economist called for. Sub Prime 2? When do we ever learn? And Frank Holmes tells us about buying Gold on the dips! Currencies today 4/13/12… American Style: A$ $1.0405, kiwi .83, C$ $1.0065, euro 1.3165, sterling 1.5935, Swiss $1.0955, … European Style: rand 7.8755, krone 5.7770, SEK 6.7515, forint 225, zloty 3.1730, koruna 18.7760, RUB 29.46, yen 81, sing 1.2455, HKD 7.7610, INR 51.33, China 6.3025, pesos 13.07, BRL 1.8260, Dollar Index 79.45, Oil $103, 10-year 2.01%, Silver $32.37, and Gold… $1,675.05… and getting back to our old Friday practice of taking a peek at the U.S. Debt Clock… click here… http://www.usdebtclock.org/index.html That’s it for today… A Big Congratulations to our little Christine and hubby Matt, on the birth of a baby boy yesterday… That’s 3 boys now for Christine & Matt… 2 more and they’ll have a basketball team! I meant to wish our Blues good luck on the start of the Playoffs yesterday and forgot… The Blues forgot how they beat the Sharks 4 times this year, and lost the first game… We’ve been disappointed for over 40 years, but I was hoping this was going to be “the year”… It’s best of 7, so they can come back… I made it through today’s letter without mentioning it’s Friday the 13th! Until now that is… Be careful out there today! So… Opening Day in St. Louis! If you’ve never been here for this, you should… Since 2007, I get chills every time the players come in, the Clydesdales go around the stadium, and look around at the sea of red… and with that, I’ll get out of your hair for today, before I really begin to get sappy! I hope you have a Fantastico Friday! Chuck Butler President EverBank World Markets 1-800-926-4922 1-314-647-3837 www.everbank.com
TSX (Toronto Stock Exchange) 14,779.35 14,594.03 13,932.97 Gold (SGE) 1,297.41 1,183.74 1,250.25 Silver Stocks (SIL) 10.40 8.52 12.54 Dear Reader, Never forgetting that our reason for owning gold is prudence, not speculation (that’s what the stocks are for), we often try to illustrate the point with real-world stories. This week we have a highly instructive update from our friend, a feisty gold dealer in Moscow who’s just lived through a massive economic upheaval. I encourage you to give it a read, but don’t discount it as a “Russian thing” that could never happen here, wherever “here” may be for you. We’ve seen the same behavior throughout history and across the world. Word to the wise. First, however, I want to alert you to a terrific new investment opportunity our colleagues at BIG TECH have uncovered in the coming revolution in lighting. Yes, the humble light bulb has been with us for a long time—too long, in fact. It’s time for lighting to enter the 21st century, and the Casey technology team has zeroed in on the best way to profit. What I like most about our tech investment publications—aside from the fact that they have delivered excellent returns for us while gold was taking its overlong breather—is that a “better mousetrap” can make investors money even in economic hard times. Perhaps especially in economic hard times. And I’m sorry to say, I do expect global economic conditions to continue deteriorating. Even if I’m wrong, however, a better mousetrap should still make tons of money for investors. That makes solid tech speculations great pair trades for our gold stock speculations—it’s even possible we could win on both. Give it some thought, and see if the opportunity our tech team has uncovered looks right for you. Sincerely, Unemployment benefits. Here’s a headline for you: “Level of Unemployment in Moscow Will Rise to 0.5% by 2017.” And this is from 0.35% (25,100 people) who are officially unemployed here today. There are about 13 million residents in Moscow, and the real rate of unemployment or underemployment is way higher than that. The highest level of benefits here is about $78 per month, and that’s really for former top managers. You can count on benefits for about three months, and they will literally hound you with seminars, job fairs, and check-ins. Just to put this number in perspective… the cheapest apartment here costs $50,000 to $60,000, and it would be just a hole in the wall. As a result, Russians simply don’t register with the unemployment office; they try get along on their own. The majority of Russians have a savings-oriented mentality, so gold would fit rather snugly into their financial frame of reference. It’s time for Russians, Americans, and everyone else to wake up, face up to the dangers of statist debauchery, and prepare ourselves for the hard times to come! A couple days later I overhead this conversation at an electronics retailer: “Honey, I still have some rubles left on me—let’s get a third flatscreen TV.” Now here we are in the middle of January, and 1 USD goes for 65 rubles. Have any lessons been learned? Have Russians turned into hard money enthusiasts? Unfortunately, US dollars and euros (and even flatscreen TVs) are still seen as better hedges against chaos than gold. What about all those articles about the Russian central bank buying gold? Actually, very few Russians are meaningfully aware of these purchases. It hasn’t influenced people’s financial decisions yet… although it should—the Bank of Russia bought 171 tonnes of gold last year, more than any other central bank in the world. Meanwhile, as I write, a Russian language website is teeming with ads offering to sell those appliances bought for 40,000 rubles in December just for 32,000 rubles! Does this mean there won’t be a gold bull market in Russia? I think it would be a mistake to draw that conclusion, and here’s why… First, there was an upsurge in gold and silver sales at the end of 2014. Some local sources said coin sales grew by 50%, some by 100%. Our sales volume also definitely picked up in December compared to last fall, but April 2013 was much more active in terms of volume and interest. Keep in mind that all of this is from a very low base. The most promising sign is that regional bulk buyers reappeared after a long absence—these guys come in with cash and buy 50, 100, or 150 ounces of gold at a time. They are mostly provincial businessmen looking to “deep freeze” their savings for the long term, always taking the newest and cheapest one-ounce gold coins. The concept of precious metals ownership is slowly seeping into psychological makeup of Russian businesspeople. A major financial event or a sudden spike in the USD gold price will serve as the real catalyst for a gold stampede. The loss of trust in Western currencies for economic or political reasons may stir Russians to action, too. Second, gold ownership is just one wholesome habit in what I call “personal fiscal hygiene.” Russia in many ways runs far ahead of the developed world in terms of debt prudence and anti-welfare mentality. Here are just two examples in support of this: Mortgage debt. Russians also buy real estate on credit, but the size of the market is miniscule. There is about $51 billion in residential mortgage debt outstanding in a country of 144 million people, of which only 3.5% is in currencies other than the ruble. This is pocket change compared to the US—yet you should hear all the anti-debt rhetoric in the local media. Louis James Senior Metals Investment Strategist Casey Research An elderly woman at the supermarket cashier, in response to the rumors about a possible freeze of bank accounts, said, “They will take away our money like they did in the early ‘90s?” I replied, “Why not try gold and silver for the long term?” She testily snapped, “What are we gonna do with them—eat ‘em for dinner?” Rock & Stock Stats Last Oil 45.59 57.12 97.32 Gold 1,294.28 1,177.22 1,264.33 Moscow Update: Gold During the Crisis Editor’s Note: Dmitriy Balkovskiy is a Russian coin dealer in Moscow we’ve interviewed before. Since the ruble’s crash, he’s witnessed some interesting developments in his country, so we asked him for an update. By Dmitriy Balkovskiy I would like to expand on Jeff Clark’s piece “Gold Was Up 73% Last Year” with some real-life stories from inside Russia. First, a small correction… Jeff describes an investor sitting in a Moscow café and reading about gold’s phenomenal rise in rubles in a Russian newspaper. In reality, gold-related info in a Russian newspaper would be buried on page 17 and very difficult to locate. “Serious” gentlemen deal in stocks or real estate; gold coins and bars are for the naïve. In this respect, Russia is no different from the USA, and even worse. Now to my episodes… Our small office is located about 200 meters from the Kremlin’s entrance, right across the street from it. So sometimes we get visitors from within those walls. In the early afternoon of December 16, a Ukrainian construction worker came in wishing to buy a one-ounce Austrian Philharmonic. He had just finished several months of work at the Kremlin reconstruction site and wanted to get rid of his rubles and take home a hard asset. (Note: December 16, 2014 has already been named the Russian Black Tuesday. On that day, the ruble fell from 58 to 72 per USD in several hours.) Now this guy must have been burnt a few times in his life, because he wanted to check the coin for authenticity in every possible way. When he first entered the door, the coin sold for about 86,000 rubles. It took us about 30 minutes to complete the checking procedure to his satisfaction—but when we looked at the price again it had soared above 100,000 rubles. Unfortunately all he had in his pocket was 90,000 rubles. The coin had literally slipped from his grasp. He told me he had long wanted to buy a thick gold chain, and so we suggested a jewelry store nearby. “Prices do not change there as often,” we told him. Off he went with a sigh. That same day I went to a nearby branch of Sberbank (the biggest banking chain in Russia), which was full of people, probably 100 customers. They looked grim and determined to withdraw rubles and buy dollars and euros ASAP. I addressed bank tellers I know there: “So our dear countrymen are vacuuming hard currency at historical highs again?!?” Girls giggled in response. It is both painful and funny to see Russians repeating the same mistake again and again. TSX Venture 678.18 677.45 983.39 One Month Ago Gold Junior Stocks (GDXJ) 27.62 21.84 37.10 Silver 18.30 15.73 20.01 A discouraged friend told me, “I’ve got to buy euros to pay my rent (rents are often fixed in euros in Moscow), but any exchange office I go, they have run out of euro cash.” Gold Producers (GDX) 21.74 17.30 23.72 One Year Ago Copper 2.50 2.90 3.29
The Trump administration announced a plan Friday that would affect about 40 percent of the payments physicians receive from Medicare. Not everybody’s pleased.The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services calls its proposed plan a historic effort to reduce paperwork and improve patient care. But some doctors and advocates for patients fear it could be a disaster.The CMS plan, published in Friday’s Federal Register, is now open for public comment until early September. It would combine four levels of paperwork required for reimbursement, and four levels of payments, into one form and one flat fee for each doctor’s appointment (although there would still be separate filing systems for new and established patients).In a letter previewing the plan to doctors earlier this month, CMS administrator Seema Verma said that physicians waste too much time on mindless administrative tasks that take time away from patients.”We believe you should be able to focus on delivering care to patients,” Verma wrote, “not sitting in front of a computer screen.”Initially, that sounded pretty good to Dr. Angus Worthing, a rheumatologist in Washington, D.C. Then he tested the claim with his own analysis.During a typical 15- to 45-minute appointment with a patient, Worthing figures, “I might spend one to two minutes less in front of the computer, documenting and typing.”Dr. Kate Goodrich, CMS’ chief medical officer, notes that “saving one to two minutes per patient adds up pretty quickly over time.”But Worthing says the small savings in time is not worth the reduced payment he’d get. The CMS plan would offer a flat fee for each office visit with a patient, whether the doctor is a primary care physician or a specialist.Rheumatologists, in general, could expect a 3 percent reduction in Medicare’s reimbursement because they typically see and bill for more complicated patients, says Worthing, who chairs the government affairs committee for the American College of Rheumatology.And he notes that his personal net income from Medicare patients would drop even more — by about 10 percent. That’s because 70 percent of his costs — for rent, payroll and other expenses — are fixed or rising.Worthing is leading efforts by rheumatologists to persuade CMS to adjust its funding formula before the plan goes into effect in January.”The proposal is well-intentioned, but it might cause a disaster,” he says, if it leads to fewer medical students going into rheumatology and other specialties that require doctors to manage complex patients. And physicians might stop taking Medicare patients altogether, or avoid those with more difficult problems.Al Norman, a 71-year-old Medicare patient, says he can see that disaster coming.If you’re frail or if you are very healthy, you’re worth the same to a doctor [under the proposed plan], and obviously that means that the people who are more disabled or frail are less desirable patients,” says Norman, who worked on elder care issues in Massachusetts before retiring last year.Many doctors predict that the proposed payment changes would establish a financial incentive to see fewer Medicare patients. Goodrich disagrees.”That’s an unintended consequence we wanted to mitigate on the front end and avoid,” Goodrich says. Under the proposed system, doctors who need more time with patients could file for an “add-on” payment of $67 per appointment. That would require a small amount of additional documentation, she admits, but would still reduce a doctor’s keyboard time, according to CMS estimates.This “add-on” payment is “intended to ensure that physicians are being appropriately compensated for seeing the most complex patients,” Goodrich says.Still, critics of the plan say there are other unintended consequences CMS may not have anticipated.Dr. Paul Birnbaum, who has been practicing dermatology in the Boston area for 32 years, says he’s worried that paying doctors a reduced fee per appointment would translate to lots of short visits.”You would just see more people,” Birnbaum says. “You’d move people through faster. And so you have somebody come back for repeat office visits. And that, over time, would be inflationary.”More frequent trips to the doctor would mean more copays for patients and higher costs for Medicare, he says.The Trump administration is not suggesting the payment changes would save Medicare money. In her letter to doctors, Verma said some physicians would see their Medicare payments increase.And it’s not just doctors who treat elderly patients who are likely to be affected. If the Medicare payment changes take effect, private insurers might follow suit, in part because it’s easier for all insurers to use common billing procedures.Theoretically, obstetrician-gynecologists would be among the biggest winners; they treat fewer complex Medicare patients. Still, many OB-GYNs are worried about the coming changes, too.”There will be winners and losers and my real fear is it’s not the physicians [who will lose the most.]. My real fear is that it’s the Medicare beneficiaries,” said Dr. Barbara Levy, vice president for health policy at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.Some Medicare advocates are urging CMS to postpone these changes and consider a trial run.”If we’re going to talk about this kind of wholesale, large-scale reconfiguration of the way reimbursement is given to doctors,” says Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center, “it’s probably best to do that in a demonstration project where we can closely study the ramifications.”CMS hopes to enact any changes to Medicare fee schedules on Jan. 1, 2019.The main challenge remains convincing patients and physicians that the changes are worth doing in the first place.This story is part of NPR’s reporting partnership with WBUR and Kaiser Health News. Copyright 2018 WBUR. To see more, visit WBUR.
Nearly a third of households in the United States have struggled to pay their energy bills, the Energy Information Administration said in a report released Wednesday. The differences were minor in terms of geography, but Hispanics and racial minorities were hit hardest.About one in five households had to reduce or forego food, medicine and other necessities to pay an energy bill, according to the report. “Of the 25 million households that reported forgoing food and medicine to pay energy bills, 7 million faced that decision nearly every month,” the report stated.More than 10 percent of households kept their homes at unhealthy or unsafe temperatures. The data come from the federal agency’s most recent energy consumption survey in 2015. That year, expenditures for energy were at their lowest in more than decade, according to the agency. “We only conduct the Residential Energy Consumption Survey every 4-5 years,” survey manager Chip Berry told NPR by email. “This is the first time in the history of the study (goes back to late ’70s) that we have [measured] energy insecurity across all households, so there’s not much in the way of historical comparison.”The study found that about half of households experiencing trouble reported income of less than $20,000. More than 40 percent had at least one child. And people of color were disproportionately affected: about half of respondents who reported challenges paying their energy bills identified as black. More than 40 percent identified as Latino.”It’s not shocking, because the communities of color disproportionately face all the highest burdens, whether it’s housing, lack of jobs or education,” Tracey Capers, executive vice president of the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, a community development initiative in New York, told The Associated Press. A 2016 study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and Energy Efficiency for All found that African-American and Latino households “paid more for utilities per square foot than the average household.” Housing for the low income also tended to be less energy efficient, researchers found. Families in that group were at higher risk for respiratory diseases and stress. “Households can spend more than 20 percent of their total income on their electricity needs,” George Koutitas, CEO and co-founder of Gridmates, a crowdfunding platform told NPR. Gridmates funnels donations to utility companies for struggling customers’ energy bills.Low-income heat assistance programs, he says, only go so far. Weatherization programs that insulate a home “take a lot of time and they are not very responsive.” Bill assistance alternatives, he says, are underfunded and have been canceled. Citing lack of need and fraud, the Trump administration called for an end to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program last fall and winter.”Please I beg you to bring back this assistance with electricity,” a woman in northern Texas wrote, after a state assistance program called Lite-Up Texas ran out of money, according to The Texas Tribune. “I am going to freeze during this cold season.” Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Bittercube’s bar at its Uptown production facility.Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:21 pmChristine McRoberts has called Milwaukee’s Uptown neighborhood home for her entire life.She grew up in the area and, years later as an adult, purchased a nearby house where she has lived for the past 26 years.McRoberts is the longtime owner of neighborhood staple McBob’s Pub & Grill, located at 4919 W. North Ave. Her brother first opened the Irish restaurant in 1986, but she took over operations three or four years later, instantly falling in love with the work and her customers, she said. Located just seven blocks west of the tavern, which is famous for its fish fry, is McRoberts’ brainchild and a new addition to the neighborhood: Tusk. The casual restaurant, which opened in November, serves scratch-made shareable platters, soups and salads, and, she said, attracts a different crowd than her veteran concept.McBob’s and Tusk both sit on a once-vibrant strip of West North Avenue that, at some point, was weathered by the economic impacts of various citywide issues – segregation, crime, property devaluation – that have long-plagued Milwaukee’s central and west side business communities.McRoberts said she recalls a time during the late ‘80s to early ‘90s when the neighborhood was “very questionable.”Uptown is confined east to west by North Sherman Boulevard and North 60th St., to the north by West Center Street, and to the south by West North Avenue. North Avenue is home to the majority of Uptown’s commercial properties, some still troubled, vacant or run-down in appearance. Bittercube’s bar at its Uptown production facility. Vennture Brew Co. is located at 5519 W. North Ave. Vennture’s taproom has both beer and coffee on tap. Tusk and Vennture are located adjacent to each other on West North Avenue.But thanks to the establishment of the Uptown Crossing Business Improvement District 16 in 1995, the neighborhood has gradually made progress, and new businesses, like Tusk, have been moving in.“The changes in the neighborhood have been amazing,” said McRoberts, who recently stepped down from her position on the Uptown Crossing BID board after more than 20 years.Tusk occupies a 98-year-old building, located at 5513 W. North Ave., formerly home to Hartter’s Bakery, a family-owned business that shut down in 2004 after 40 years of operation.The two-story building sat vacant for 10 years before McRoberts started leasing its commercial kitchen, originally for catering and to support operations at McBob’s, she said.Meanwhile, plans were in the works for another forgotten 1920s-era structure located just next door.Simon McConico, Robert Gustafson and Jake Rohde spent two years renovating and restoring the ground floor and basement of the building, located at 5519 W. North Ave., now home to Vennture Brew Co.The new brewery and coffee shop opened in July. It produces about seven-and-a-half barrels of beer each week – more than 150 barrels since it opened – tapping a rotating selection of IPAs, sours, saisons and dark brews.It also roasts its own coffee, offering a line of cold press brew on tap.Aside from its obvious function as a café and taproom that sometimes doubles as a remote workplace, Vennture is also a venue for various gatherings and events.“We’ve done a bunch of random things, like bringing in food trucks, that allow people to use this space and to create more opportunity for people to get out and do something in their own neighborhood without having to go to Bay View or the East Side or out west,” said McConico. “It’s something that people can walk to or bike to, and a lot of people really like that.”As locals themselves, the owners are involved in their community: Gustafson is part of its BID and McConico participates in his neighborhood association.And in turn, McConico said, they have a better understanding of the neighborhood’s needs; a local craft brewery used to be one of them.“This is one of the most interesting nexuses of ethnic and racial diversity in the city, where everything kind of meets, and that is super important to us, as well,” he said. “I’m not sure yet how we can create a space that feels comfortable to everyone, that’s still something we have to figure out, but you can’t do that by being in the middle of Brookfield or on the East Side.”Without an in-house kitchen, Vennture does not serve its own food, but since Tusk opened, people have been able to order a meal there and enjoy it at the brewery. In return, Vennture supplies Tusk, as well as nearby eatery Wy’east Pizza, with byproducts from the brewing process to make food.Such partnerships are a defining characteristic of the area’s tight-knit business community, McConico said.“There’s a collaborative spirit here,” he said. “The more interesting things that we can do to bring people to this side of town, the better it is for all of us.”That collaborative spirit also provided a landing pad for Milwaukee-based Bittercube last fall when it moved its operations to a vacant building at 4828 W. Lisbon Ave., becoming the third food and beverage business to open in the Uptown neighborhood in a five-month span.The slow-crafted bitters producer, which first launched in 2009, had operated a production site and tasting room at the Lincoln Warehouse in Bay View since 2014, but as the company grew and production increased, it needed a larger footprint.For a month during its transition between facilities, Bittercube set up shop in Tusk’s commercial kitchen before the restaurant officially opened. McRoberts had reached out to co-owner Ira Koplowitz months earlier, he said, voicing her support and welcoming the company to the neighborhood. From an economic standpoint, relocating to a larger facility in Uptown made more sense than remaining in Bay View, where rent is more expensive, Koplowitz said.The move allowed Bittercube to not only lease a 9,000-square-foot building, but also have the means to renovate the space and open a bar and storefront there.“We needed to invest into the infrastructure of a building,” Koplowitz said. “And if we had done that in Bay View or Walker’s Point, we would have a space that would have been the same size as the one we were in before and we wouldn’t have had that capital to invest into the other business extensions.”Koplowitz believes the comeback of the Uptown neighborhood is still in its infancy, which sometimes makes it challenging to attract customers, but he said he sees great potential for the area and hopes for further development along the busy North Avenue business corridor.BID 16 is currently working to make that happen, said vice president Chris Hau, a principal at Milwaukee-based Quorum Architects Inc.Smaller scale projects over the past two years, including a new pocket park that now fills a vacant lot at 56th Street and West North Avenue and the nearby installation of Washington Heights’ first Bublr Bikes station, have given way to greater visions and plans for the neighborhood.After working with the city to identify six sites in need of improvement, the BID partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Community Design Solutions center to go through a design charrette process for those properties.Hau said the potential project plans will be unveiled in February, and the BID will be seeking both public and private investors and partners to help spur the development.“Our future goal is to really expand upon the current development that has happened and the new businesses that have invested in the neighborhood,” he said. 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Levels of satisfaction among claimants of the government’s new disability benefit are far lower than for other benefits, according to new Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures.The survey found that only two-thirds (68 per cent) of personal independence payment (PIP) claimants were satisfied with the service they received from DWP, compared with an average of 82 per cent across all 10 benefits surveyed.The report covered the period from summer 2014 to summer 2015.PIP, which is gradually replacing working-age disability living allowance (DLA), has been mired in controversy, delays and backlogs ever since its launch in April 2013.Government documents have previously estimated that the number of working-age claimants would be cut by as much as 28 per cent by 2018, with 900,000 fewer people receiving PIP than if DLA had not been replaced.Some disabled people had to wait more than a year just to be assessed, while Atos – one of two government contractors carrying out the assessments – had to fend off claims that it misled the government over how many assessment centres it would provide across London and the south of England.And earlier this month, research by Caroline Richardson, Stef Benstead and Emma Nock for the user-led Spartacus online network concluded that DWP had failed to provide “adequate” or “robust” evidence to justify changes set to tighten eligibility for PIP, through changes to how assessments take account of the way a claimant uses independent living aids and appliances.In the survey, one in five PIP claimants (19 per cent) believed they had received incorrect or contradictory information, while only two-thirds (69 per cent) said that DWP had done what it had said it would do (compared with an average of 87 per cent across all 10 benefits).And more than a quarter (26 per cent) of PIP claimants reported some difficulties or problems in their dealings with DWP, compared to 12 per cent overall, and as low as four per cent for attendance allowance and five per cent for state pension claimants.Overall levels of satisfaction were lower and levels of dissatisfaction were higher for PIP than for any of the other nine benefits.But there was some good news for DWP, as the survey showed that, for each of the 10 benefits, more than 90 per cent of staff encountered in person were polite.For all but three of the benefits, this level of satisfaction was at least 96 per cent, while for PIP it was 97 per cent, although based on a sample size of just 38.The report, commissioned by DWP, concluded that PIP claimants were “more likely to report their calls left unanswered; explanations of decisions inadequate; information incorrect or contradictory; timings unclear; and progress updates lacking”.A DWP spokeswoman said: “The survey results show the significant progress made since the PIP rollout began in 2013.“The vast majority of claimants have been satisfied with the service they were provided with, but we’re not complacent and are making improvements.“Crucially, PIP decisions are now made in 11 weeks – three times faster than in January 2014.“Since the introduction of PIP we have continued to make improvements to the system.“We accepted the majority of the recommendations of the first independent review of PIP, carried out by Paul Gray, and have also recently changed the process for providing support to terminally-ill people, meaning they now receive their payments at an earlier point than ever before.”