Related posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Article Private medical insurance in need of radical surgeryOn 28 Jan 2003 in Personnel Today Private healthcare could cost UK businesses £1.1bn over thenext five years, but rather than stopping its provision, sensible planning byemployers can lead to lower costs and more effective insurance policiesOur research made headlines earlier this month by predicting that UKbusinesses could face an additional £1.1bn bill for Private Medical Insurance(PMI) over the next five years – a 70 per cent increase for employers. HR budgets are under significant pressure in the current economic climate,and a rise in PMI costs will be a difficult pill for most companies to swallow.Just as final salary pension schemes have become a victim of spirallingliabilities, there is a very real danger that PMI may go the same way. Providing a company pension, car and PMI has become the norm. However, formost companies, the latter has tended to remain a ‘perk’ benefit for seniorstaff. HR managers have always considered PMI to be a vital part of the employmentpackage and crucial to the recruitment and retention strategy. Financedirectors are also beginning to recognise the importance of getting people backto work quickly and reducing sickness absence. But it is becoming a jugglingact for HR to provide attractive employment packages without committingresources to unsustainable levels. The cost of providing PMI has caused significant strain at one time oranother on the benefits budgets of almost every company. The problem is thatcost inflation for PMI plans has consistently outstripped both RPI and averageearnings. There has not been a time in my 15 years in the industry when medicalinsurers’ actuaries and pricing departments have not factored in increases ofaround 10 per cent for underlying risk costs. The major contributor to PMI inflation is the steady increase of claims asdemand for medical services continues to grow. PMI providers’ response to thishas been the introduction of cost containment strategies – such as restrictedhospital networks, agreements with consultant specialists and using nurses toprovide managed care services. These have placed some downward pressure on costs as have competitivepressures in the market place. But during the past five years, consolidation among insurers and a swingfrom not-for-profit to commercial insurers, has reduced the opportunities forcutting costs by switching providers. HR clearly recognises the importance of PMI, but it is also very highlyvalued by the individuals and families who are fortunate enough to have coverprovided by the employer. Anyone who has used their PMI to access privatetreatment will appreciate the convenience and speed it offers compared with theNHS alternative. But there is a price to pay. If costs continue to escalate at historical levels while insurers can onlytinker at the margins of reducing them, the sustainability of providing thebenefit in its traditional form must be in question. To avoid a knee-jerk response to rising costs, employers must considerstrategies for limiting their liability to future PMI risk costs. There are anumber of potential solutions, and HR directors need to sit down with seniormanagers and thrash out what is best for their company and staff. Options mayinvolve employees playing a greater part in selecting and contributing to theirPMI benefit through flexible benefit arrangements, or even offering moreflexible choices within the PMI plan. Others may involve more traditional methods of introducing excesses, andchanging insurers or funding methodologies to maximise reductions in cost andtaxation. Direct funding of ‘return-to-work’ programmes could be introduced,and integrating occupational health assessment into the process of paying fortreatment could also be a cost and tax-effective method for some employers. Whichever strategy is decided upon, the planning needs to be done now, sothat in five years time this benefit will still be available and affordable. By Paul Ashcroft, Senior healthcare consultant,Buck & Willis Healthcare Comments are closed.
David BoltIndependent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration Publishing the report, David Bolt said: An inspection of the Home Office’s approach to the identification and safeguarding of vulnerable adults The Home Office response to the Chief Inspector’s report How well the Home Office’s Borders, Immigration and Citizenship System (BICS) recognises and responds to the needs of vulnerable individuals is a test not just of its competence but also of its capacity for compassion, both of which have been questioned in recent months. Over the past couple of years, a number of my inspections have focused on vulnerable ‘groups’. I have reported on the identification and treatment of Potential Victims of Modern Slavery (PVoMS) at the border, on the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS), on the workings of the asylum process including the provision of asylum accommodation, and on the Home Office’s consideration of the ‘best interests’ of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. I have also looked at the Home Office’s handling of family reunion applications. This latest report explores both the overall BICS approach to vulnerability and what is happening on the ground when Border Force, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), and Immigration Enforcement (IE) encounter vulnerable adults. From this and the earlier inspections, I am in no doubt that the BICS Board, senior management, and the majority of staff are serious about improving the protection provided to vulnerable individuals. A good deal of effort is already targeted at particular, well-delineated ‘cohorts’, such as children and PVoMS, and other vulnerability-focused work is ongoing across BICS to improve training, raise awareness, and capture information. However, much remains to be done to develop a consistent understanding of what is meant by ‘vulnerability’ in a BICS context, and the appropriate response, and progress is too slow. This report was sent to the Home Secretary on 20 August 2018. Its four recommendations cover: creating a detailed Programme Plan for delivering an effective response to the vulnerability and safeguarding challenges facing BICS; reaching out to other agencies with greater knowledge and expertise in dealing with vulnerable individuals; spelling out to BICS staff their ‘duty of care’ when they encounter vulnerable adults; ensuring that how each of the BICS directorates assesses and manages risk in relation to vulnerable individuals is fully aligned with the departmental goal of “Protecting Vulnerable People and Communities”. I am pleased that the Home Office has accepted all four recommendations and look forward to checking on its progress in the course of inspections and re-inspections of BICS’ handling of various forms of vulnerability planned for 2019-20.
Bakery chain Greggs said it expected its full-year results to be “in line” with previous expectations – after announcing company like-for-like sales (LFLs) increased by 4.7% in 2015.Updating the market on its fourth quarter, it said that total sales in the 52 weeks to 2 January 2016 were up 5.2%.Its fourth-quarter LFLs increased by 2.7%, added the company.Commenting on the update, Roger Whiteside, chief executive, said: “2015 saw us deliver another excellent year of progress as we continue to transform Greggs into a modern, well-invested food-on-the-go retailer.“We anticipate that we will report full-year results for 2015 in line with our previous expectations. In the year ahead we will continue with the implementation of our strategic plan to enable the business to compete more effectively in the food-on-the-go market.”The retailer said that, as expected, it came up against “stronger comparatives and the impact of weaker footfall in some shopping locations” over the festive period. But Greggs added that sales over the Christmas period were in line with the overall trend for the fourth quarter.“Seasonal favourites such as our award-winning mince pies and Festive Bake made a strong contribution to sales over the Christmas and New Year period,” Greggs added.On its estate, Greggs said it had:Completed 202 refits in 2015, plus 20 conversions of larger bakery cafésOpened 122 new shops in the year and closed 741,698 shops trading as at 2 January 2016.New menu additionsBreakfast continues to be huge driver for the firm and Greggs said it would be adding a mocha and a flat white to it coffee menu shortly.It added: “Sales growth has been particularly strong in sandwiches and drinks, including our healthier options ‘Balanced Choice’ range featuring new salads and ‘no added sugar’ drinks. Our new hot food menu, with an improved hot sandwich range and fresh soups, is also selling well as customers become increasingly aware of our new food-on-the-go options.”The company will update the market with its preliminary annual results on 2 March.
The joy of teaching, according to Professor Jerold Kayden of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD), “is seeing your students ripen into mature professionals who then make a real impact in the world.”Nothing could better illustrate Kayden’s success in that goal than the role now being played by his former students in “one of the most major rezoning proposals that has occurred in New York City in years.”At issue is a proposal — certified Monday and moving quickly into the approval process — by the NYC Department of City Planning to revamp the 70-block area around Grand Central Station, where zoning restrictions have long restricted the height of buildings, to allow for structures twice as tall. The department says the increased density would allow the iconic neighborhood to retain its place as “a world-class business district and major job generator.”The plan has come under fire from critics, including, in a spark of familiar Ivy rivalry, the dean of the Yale School of Architecture, Robert Stern, who wrote in a recent New York Times editorial that it “blindly [targets] what is oldest for replacement,” without “a broad look at what is worth saving. … The best path toward ensuring the future of East Midtown may well be that of preservation.”Kayden called the plan “a high-stakes type of thing” that will leave its mark on the city for decades to come. “And Harvard alums are smack-dab in the middle of it,” he said.On Wednesday, he gave his students a “frontline, minute-to-minute, blow-by-blow account” when he turned his class on public and private development over to two of the six GSD alumni who now hold important positions with the New York planning office: Edith Hsu-Chen, M.U.P. ’97, the director of the Manhattan office of the New York City Department of City Planning, and Frank Ruchala Jr., M.U.P. ’05, a city planner and urban designer.Hsu-Chen told the packed classroom that the plan for East Midtown, a successful commercial center since Grand Central Station opened in 1913, will be a lasting legacy of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration.“This, many people would say, is the best business address in the world, and we want to keep it that way,” she said.“This, many people would say, is the best business address in the world, and we want to keep it that way,” said Director of the Manhattan Office of the New York City Department of City Planning Edith Hsu-Chen, M.U.P. ’97. A 1928 photo of Grand Central Station in New York. Source: WikimediaIn addition to Grand Central, the area, in the center of Manhattan, hosts more than a dozen Fortune 500 companies, scores of financial and legal institutions mixed in with a sprinkling of digital and media companies and some nonprofits, as well as the landmark Waldorf Astoria hotel and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.But the area faces serious long-term challenges to its continued ability to attract Class A tenants: aging building stock, limited new development, zoning impediments, pedestrian network bottlenecks, and competition from other cities.Hsu-Chen said she and her team envision a strong and dynamic commercial district with most structures left unchanged, but with an improved pedestrian network; a small number of new, state-of-the-art, sustainable office towers; and increased density in some existing buildings. New buildings would account for only 4.5 million square feet of the additional 14.5 million square feet created by changed use, she said.“The mix of old and new is part of the cachet of the area. We want to enhance that,” she said. “This is not a cannibalistic approach; this is a comprehensive approach.”Ruchala said East Midtown has been “frozen in time for the last 20 years,” with zoning getting in the way of new developments. “People think of this as the main business address in America, and yet nothing’s changed in so long.”Frank Ruchala said East Midtown has been “frozen in time for the last 20 years,” with zoning getting in the way of new developments. “People think of this as the main business address in America, and yet nothing’s changed in so long.”He said the new plan would require developers to meet higher sustainability standards and contribute to a fund to make public infrastructure improvements. In addition, they would be encouraged to apply for “superior development special permits” that would allow increased floor-area ratios and transfers of unused capacity from a landmark building to a nearby parcel, in exchange for developed public space, enhancements to the pedestrian network, and contributions to the District Improvement Fund.“We wanted the opportunity for people to come up with proposals for the next generation of iconic buildings” like the Chrysler Building, Lever House, and the Seagram Building, Ruchala said.He seemed especially enthusiastic about the idea of turning Vanderbilt Avenue, alongside Grand Central, into an asset by turning it into a new, green, public space.Hsu-Chen said the GSD’s focus matched well with the Bloomberg administration’s “holistic approach” to development, and Kayden, the Frank Backus Williams Professor of Urban Planning and Design, said the School leaves its students uniquely prepared to address the challenges facing 21st-century cities.“Our program has a special focus on the built environment and teaches students how to understand, analyze, and influence the variety of forces — economic, social, political, cultural, environmental, legal — shaping it. The built environment includes the buildings, the streets and sidewalks, the parks, all the things that together constitute what a city is,” he said.“We believe and teach that if one does a better job shaping that built environment, that will ultimate help society as a whole.”“Our program has a special focus on the built environment and teaches students how to understand, analyze, and influence the variety of forces — economic, social, political, cultural, environmental, legal — shaping it. The built environment includes the buildings, the streets and sidewalks, the parks, all the things that together constitute what a city is,” said Professor Jerold Kayden.
Alexander Watchman talked drydocks. Joe Liao held forth on multigenerational housing. Quardean Lewis-Allen offered a presentation on the Victorian vernacular.Welcome to the annual January thesis review for architecture students at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, a day of presentations throughout Gund Hall.Piper Auditorium saw the most action. Every inch of open space on Jan. 21 was divided into a warren of temporary presentation spaces. Between hour-long sessions, presenters and their friends swept in to hang diagrams, set up models, and wheel poster boards into place.Each of the 28 presentations represented a final product, said GSD thesis coordinator Edward Eigen, an associate professor of architecture and landscape architecture who teaches courses on the thesis process. It’s a last chance to explain ideas and inclinations that will likely inform a student’s lifelong interests. The architecture thesis, he wrote in an essay, is an “ascent up a five-story glass mountain,” a reference to Gund Hall’s steplike open studio spaces, which insiders call the “trays.”For the curious, the session was heaven: rooms containing new ideas and their fervent young purveyors. But for the students, many of them sleep-deprived after five months of preparation, the presentations could be one hour of concentrated hell.“Thesis review is often a stressful time,” said Caroline James, M.Arch. 1 ’14, who defended her study of architecture and empathy. “But I was determined to enjoy the process.” About 50 onlookers watched her review, including her parents, who had traveled by train from suburban Maryland. Sitting in the front row were six critics, many of them architects and scholars from outside Harvard.“We learn what interests them, what’s fueling them,” said critic Sarah M. Whiting, dean of the Rice University School of Architecture and a former GSD faculty member. “You’re articulating what brought you to architecture.”That footprint of deep interests usually carries through whole careers, Whiting added. “Maybe you abandon architecture, but you’re still looking at the world through that lens.”For James, that lens seems to be the idea that architecture is a social practice, and requires finding “a methodology of empathy” that connects the practitioner to the client.“This thesis has been about recording and documenting and connecting with others so I can let my intuition roll,” said James, who began her work by making objects that might unlock the triggers for empathy residing in materials such as stone, wood, and clay. She took bicycle tours of area neighborhoods, finally discovering an 1892 house that struck a deep chord. She befriended the owner and created a design for a new front entrance.In a scene repeated all day, the critics piled on praise, doubts, and questions. One charged that James’ thesis did not acknowledge precedents for empathy and architecture, beginning with the 1930s. It didn’t articulate “empathy as a technique,” said another. It was too scattered, said a third, “a bunch of little rivulets not exactly going anywhere.” But wait, said critic Mark Mulligan, an adjunct associate professor of architecture at GSD: A thesis is meant to engage intellectually, but is also about “personal expression.” To that, added Mack Scogin, James’ adviser and GSD’s Kajima Professor in Practice of Architecture, a thesis “is a chance for a student to explore possibilities. It’s not an ending.”Scogin was also adviser for Sara Tavakoli, M.Arch. 1 ’14, whose master’s thesis — a 35-minute vampire movie — took perhaps the day’s biggest risks. It featured a mirror, a hair salon, a restaurant with red chairs, a forest in a room, a miniature cathedral and, of course, a coffin (with Caroline James starring as the resident vampire). By the end, some critics were perplexed. One confessed to wanting to go smoke a cigarette instead of watching. Another observed, “You have a long way to go [to prove the film] is an architectural work.”Tavakoli, who filmed part of the work in her native Tehran, was unflappable. “I’m going to make this up,” she said she decided early on, “and I’m OK with that.” A critic snapped back, “Your agency as an architect and your subjectivity as a person are not the same.” Tavakoli responded later that “as an architect you have to throw yourself [into] your feelings.” Scogin stepped in. “You have to have your soul somewhere, somehow,” he said of the student film, an “exercise” in self-exploration. “It’s something we really need more of.”To other students, the lens of interest originated in scenes from home. A big crowd watched Beijing native Tian Ren, M.Arch. 1 ’14, present “Ending Is the New Beginning,” an architectural scheme to refurbish a former Shanghai slaughterhouse, built in 1933, into a space for contemplation. The result of what he called “adaptive reuse of cultural heritage” had the air of a Buddhist temple. “Atmosphere,” said Ren, “is the most important for me in doing this work.”Halley Wuertz (left) prepared her “Museum of Speed” thesis for its presentation in Gund Hall. Among her helping hands was Tiffany Maria Obser (right).Inspiration for Victor Perez-Amado, M.U.P./M.Arch. AP ’14, came from a boyhood near the Florida Everglades. The southernmost 20 percent of this subtropical wilderness is the third-largest national park, and its borders often mix uneasily with development. “It has been treated as an area to be feared,” he said of the expansive watery park. Perez-Amado’s “Proposal for New Floridian Prototypical Urban Schemes” took a tough, classical approach to the issue, beginning with the history and geology of the site and an assessment of the infrastructure along the urban-nature divide.His solution was to create “a new porous edge” of adaptive urban infrastructure, like stacked single-family housing on platforms. It drew a mix of admiration and gentle skepticism from the critics. What will developers make of it, asked one, to say nothing of residents confronted with the idea of vertical, communitarian neighborhoods? “Everything,” he said doubtfully, “is so neat, so correct.”One critic called the proposed city-wilderness interface “an inventive, radical idea.” To another it was “a techno-agrarian fantasy.” There was a burst of praise for Perez-Amado, as there had been earlier for the empathetic, risk-taking James. After all, he used his thesis to take chances. “This is the last moment,” a critic said, “you might be able to dream the world differently.”
With 20 women’s choirs from Indiana, Michigan and Illinois, the High School Women’s Choir Festival held at Saint Mary’s College promotes female chorus groups, Nancy Menk, director of choral activities, said. “It’s for constructive criticism and help,” she said. “It’s not a competition. It’s just a festival.” Menk said the opportunity allowed feedback from a panel of three commentators. The festival, which began Thursday, also allowed each choir to listen to comparable women’s choirs to gain insight. The commentators this year were Paul Caldwell of Chicago, Sean Ivory of Grand Rapids, Mich. and Barbara Tagg of Syracuse, N.Y. According to Menk, each choir performed for the other choirs and the commentators. Following each performance, one of the three commentators worked directly with the choir to provide feedback on their performance. The choir will receive written comments from the other members of the panel. “They come here and each choir performs a short program for each other and for a panel of commentators that we bring in,” Menk said. “These are experts in the field. Following their performance one of the three commentators goes up on stage with a [microphone] and works with the choir, like in a workshop format, to improve some aspect of their performance.” The festival is a two-day event and will end today around 4:30 p.m. Menk said the Saint Mary’s College Women’s Choir performed each day to provide an example for the high school students. The annual festival is celebrating its 26th year. Menk said the festival is mutually beneficial for the high school students and the College. “It’s important for Saint Mary’s because it brings 800 prospective students to our campus, and its promoting good choral singing among high school women,” Menk said. “It’s promoting good quality repertoire for high school choirs, and it’s giving them a chance … to go to a festival and something that’s geared just toward them.” According to Menk, the festival hopes to improve singing and pride within each organization. “It should help them to feel good about what they’re doing. It should give them an aspiration, something to aspire to with their choir, to be able to work at a higher level,” she said.
The 2015 Tony Awards were a total blast—we got to see awesome performances and we watched some very deserving performers win big. There’s nothing better than a great acceptance speech, and this year’s ceremony was chock full of them. Our favorites were Kelli O’Hara, Alex Sharp and Ruthie Ann Miles, just to name a few. Now it’s your turn—which acceptance speech was the highlight of your Tony night? Cast your vote below! View Comments
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York The Huntington Bay village board is considering a proposal to start paying the mayor and other volunteer elected and appointed village officials—an idea that has churned up a big debate in the tiny municipality of 1,600 residents and beyond.Huntington Bay Mayor Herb Morrow has been trying to make his job a salaried position for several years. He’s been proposing a bill that would provide compensation for him, the four village trustees, two commissioners and the five zoning board of appeals members. But critics question if the workload really justifies a salary for managing an annual budget of under $2 million.“If this is accepted up there, it will spread like wildfire to all these other villages,” says Desmond Ryan, executive director of Association for a Better Long Island, who is worried about the impact on state pension, health benefits and Social Security if these unpaid officials start to get public salaries. “When you take into consideration that we already have more government on Long Island than the old Soviet Union, who needs more salaries? For a mayor of a small village to ask for a salary? If you want the money, go get a job…. Most people take it as a civic duty.”Huntington Bays Deputy Mayor Dominic Spada, who is also the village’s police commissioner, said 21 of Suffolk County’s 33 villages pay their municipal officials and, on the state level, 87 percent of the villages responding to a survey conducted by the New York Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials said they also pay their elected officials.“We’re the minority,” says Spada. “We’re not blazing any new trails here.”Under the proposal, the mayor would get $18,000, the trustee-police commissioner $4,800, the trustee-road commissioner $4,800 and the trustee $2,400.Mayor Morrow, who is a consultant for staffing and recruitment firms, has told reporters that doing his job is not charity or volunteer work. He and his municipal colleagues say that the executive, legislative, policy and fiduciary responsibilities have “increased significantly over the past several years” as the village operations have “become more complex.”Morrow first joined the village board in 1993 as a trustee and was elected mayor a year later. Last June, he was elected to his 11th two-year term, reportedly with 65 percent of the vote. In his executive summary of the proposed budget, the mayor asserted that the village has kept the spending at the same level as 2009, and for the third year in a row it entails no village tax increases.Spada is proud of that accomplishment.“That wouldn’t happen if we didn’t put a lot of time, thought and execution into what we do,” says Spada, who’s been an elected official for four years. “So, this is a job and it really needs to be treated as such.”For comparison, Northport Mayor George Doll, a retired bayman, is paid $7,500 annually, for a municipality with roughly 7,000 residents within its incorporated borders. Mayor Gary Vegliante of West Hampton Beach, which has 55 year-round residents, is paid $80,000 annually.“I will tell you that mayors are the unsung heroes of Suffolk County,” says Paul Tonna, executive director of the Suffolk County Village Officials Association and a former Suffolk County presiding officer. He declined to take sides on the Huntington Bays vote. “There’s no Republican or Democratic way to deliver municipal services… The issue is home rule and self-determination.”If the proposal passes, opponents would reportedly have to organize a petition drive within the village and acquire signatures from at least 20 percent of the eligible registered voters to trigger a referendum to overturn it.The meeting is at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Huntington Yacht Club, 95 East Shore Rd., Huntington Bay.
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York By Rashed Mian and Jaime FranchiThe Obama administration on Friday issued a directive to all public schools in the nation proclaiming that transgender students must be allowed to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity.The joint declaration by the Department of Education and Department of Justice cannot be enforced by law, but school districts could lose federal funds if they’re found to be discriminating against students based on their gender. The directive makes it clear that the administration sees transgender inclusion as a basic civil rights issue—and as such, officials could be held accountable if transgender students’ rights are denied.On Long Island, the White House’s directive, which also includes school locker rooms, was dubbed a “huge victory” by one of the leading gay and transgender rights groups in the region.“This is a huge step forward for the transgender community, especially the transgender youth who are attending our schools,” Robert Vitelli, chief operating officer of LI-based LGBT Network, told the Press.The news comes amid a growing debate over transgender rights spurred by a politically charged law passed in North Carolina earlier this year prohibiting transgender people from using restrooms that don’t align with their gender given at birth. Civil liberties groups have slammed the law as hateful and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the law was nothing more than “state-sponsored discrimination.” Supporters of the law have claimed their decision is based on public safety and not anything nefarious.In response to controversy, a host of businesses either moving to North Carolina or with plans to expand there have decided not to move forward, and a handful of entertainers cancelled concerts in the Tar Heel State. President Obama has called for the law to be repealed, but North Carolina’s Republican governor was unmoved. Their bitter disagreement will now play out in court after both the DOJ and North Carolina filed counter-lawsuits over the issue.The federal government’s directive comes nearly a year after the New York State Department of Education issued its own guidelines last year to educate administrators about transgender rights. Vitelli said it was significant that the federal government was following up on what the state has already done. He cited startling statistics that show harassment of LGBT students is remarkably high.More than one-third of LGBT students report being harassed, he said, and more than 50-percent of transgender youth will attempt suicide at least once by the age of 20. If a transgender student is fortunate enough to receive support from family and friends, the likelihood of them attempting suicide drops considerably, Vitelli noted.For Michael Hynes, superintendent of schools at Patchogue-Medford School District, inclusivity is paramount. Hynes, a vocal critic of federal government overreach into the public school system, welcomed the directive.“No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling like they don’t belong at school…or in life for that matter,” Hynes told the Press.Hynes noted that the new federal guidelines provide administrations, teachers and parents the tools they need to “protect transgender students from any harassment and to identify and address policies school districts have in place.”Ryan Cassata knows first-hand what it’s like for school staffers to tell him which bathroom he could use. At 14, Cassata, a singer-songwriter from Bay Shore, came out as transgender on Larry King Live.“When I was in high school, the staff was very confused about which bathroom I should use,” he told the Press. Cassata wasn’t permitted to use either the boys or girls bathroom at Bay Shore High School. The confusion also extended to gym class.Cassata said he had to “fight” just to be able to use the nurse’s bathroom. Now 22, Cassata believes the wheels of change are churning in the right direction.“Some of the staff didn’t know how to handle transgender students,” Cassata said. “Today, that changes. That changes for the entire country.“It brings me the greatest pleasure to hear about what the Obama administration has done for the transgender community,” Cassata continued. “This is a step in the right direction, a step toward equality, a step toward transgender people feeling more comfortable at school, a step toward transgender people not committing suicide because of the oppression.”At the collegiate level, Stony Brook University Dean of Students Tim Ecklund said the college is already in the process of transitioning its student activity building restrooms to all-gender, which would be a first among SUNY colleges.Ecklund also noted that all-gender restrooms will be installed in all newly constructed buildings on campus.“Our transgender students, like all of our student body, are very important to us,” Ecklund told the Press. “We want to offer them the best possible experience at Stony Brook and will do our best to support them in any we can.”The new directives comes a little more than a week after the New York State Assembly once against voted in favor of an anti-discrimination bill that would protect transgender people looking for housing, employment or education. The legislation, however, has for years stalled in the state Senate and is likely to fall short again this legislative session.
Rural doctor and ‘genius grant’ winner nominated as surgeon generalPresident Barack Obama today nominated an Alabama family physician and MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” winner to be surgeon general. Regina Benjamin, MD, MBA, founded a health clinic to serve tiny Bayou La Batre, Ala., home to poor, mostly uninsured African-American and immigrant Asian fishermen, and rebuilt it three times after two hurricanes and a fire. She is a faculty member at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine.[Reuters story, Macarthur Foundation bio]Viruses of past flu pandemics circulated undetected for yearsThe influenza strains that caused the three pandemics of the 20th century did not emerge suddenly, but circulated for months or years, researchers from Tennessee and China say in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Applying a “molecular clock” calculation to viral isolates from the 1918, 1957, and 1968 pandemics, the researchers estimate that each strain evolved through a series of reassortments that included at least one flu virus contemporaneously circulating in swine or birds. Current surveillance programs will not detect such reassortments, they say.[PNAS abstract]