Jared Thaxter(ADDISON, ME) — A group of fishermen on a lobster boat reeled in an unexpected catch off the coast of Maine.Jared Thaxter, who was aboard Warren (Ren) Dorr’s commercial fishing boat, told ABC News the three men were off the coast of Addison, Maine, just south of Nash Island when the incredible rescue took place.Dorr shared a series of photos on Facebook that showed how he and two other lobstermen helped rescue a deer that they spotted swimming five miles offshore.“Couldn’t let the poor guy suffer and drown so we brought him aboard and sailed him half hour to land and dropped him off on the beach,” Dorr wrote on Facebook. “And sailed back out to haul!”Dorr, a captain aboard the Ryss & Stace 32-foot commercial fishing vehicle, received countless thank yous and congratulatory comments on the Facebook post, which has over 5,600 likes and nearly 1,000 comments as of the time of publication.“We had to circle a few times to get a hold of him,” Thaxter said. “They grabbed him by the spikes and maybe a leg or two and just dragged him in.”Once the deer was safely aboard the boat, they gave the animal space and let it rest, Thaxter added.Thaxter, who worked alongside Shawn Dowling, his stern man, told ABC News he “just started going [out] with them as the third man about a week ago.”“It was a great feeling once they helped him back into the water, headed in the right direction, and to see him finally touch land,” Thaxter said.”“It was definitely worth the time and effort,” he added. “You can’t let anything suffer like that when you can easily help.” Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
View post tag: Navy View post tag: americas Back to overview,Home naval-today USS Lake Erie Returns from Western Pacific Deployment June 16, 2014 The Hawaii-based Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) will return June 16, from a four-month deployment to the Western Pacific. View post tag: Returns USS Lake Erie Returns from Western Pacific Deployment View post tag: Western Pacific View post tag: News by topic View post tag: USS Lake Erie Training & Education “While on deployment, Lake Erie leveraged her accomplishments and proficiencies on the test range and defended the homeland and our allies on multiple Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) operations,” said Lake Erie Commanding Officer Capt. John S. Banigan.Lake Erie is expected to replace USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) this summer as a rotational BMD deployer from San Diego, as John Paul Jones takes Lake Erie’s place in Hawaii as the nation’s BMD Test Ship.“I’m looking forward to welcoming Lake Erie back to our waterfront,” said Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific Rear Adm. Rick Williams.“Capt. Banigan and his team have made a difference. The crew of Lake Erie stepped up and filled a critical need on this deployment. They represent the epitome of the CNO’s tenets: warfighting first, operate forward, be ready. I couldn’t be prouder,” Williams added.[mappress]Press Release, June 16, 2014; Image: Wikimedia View post tag: Deployment View post tag: Naval Share this article
Good afternoon and welcome to Downing Street for today’s coronavirus briefing.I’m joined by Dr Susan Hopkins, from Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace.Today, I’ve got an update on progress in our battle against coronavirus, some new evidence of the effectiveness of the vaccines, an update on the cases of the Brazilian variant of concern and extra funding to support mental health in schools.Because, of course, on Monday that marks our first step in our opening up after this lockdown.Next week, classrooms will be buzzing with activity once more. I know parents across England will be delighted and relieved that all children are going back to school.Also, from Monday, I’m just so pleased that we’re able to reopen care homes to visitors.We’ve put in place a really careful policy so each care home resident will be able to register a single regular visitor, who’ll be tested and wear PPE.I know this really matters to hundreds of thousands of people with a loved one in a care home.And I’m really glad that we can make this step.So, first, let’s turn to the latest coronavirus data.This data shows this progress we’ve made, including more evidence on the impact of the vaccine in saving lives.First slide please.Here, you can see the number of cases of COVID-19.I’m pleased to say that the cases are still falling.The average daily number of cases is now 6,685 – the lowest since late September and the weekly case rate across the UK is now 84 per 100,000.The latest figures from the ONS, which were published earlier today, reported a further significant decline. They show that in England 1 in 220 people have coronavirus, a fall from 1 in 145 last week.This is all encouraging news and it should give us all confidence that we can safely take the steps we’re taking on Monday.Next slide please.Slide 2 shows the hospital admissions with COVID and it shows that they are falling too.There are still 12,136 people in hospital in the UK with COVID.That’s still too high, but the average number of new admissions to hospital is 900, the lowest since October.Next slide please.Thankfully, the number of deaths with COVID are also declining steeply.The average number of deaths per day is 248, also the lowest since October.And here, the decline is in fact accelerating.The halving time of the number of deaths has come down from 19 days – so the number of deaths each day – last month, to halving every 11 days now.Not only that, there are now fewer people dying of all causes in care homes than is normal for this time of year.Taken together, these 3 slides show that we’re heading in the right direction, although there is further to go.And what we can also see in the data, across the whole UK, is that the vaccine programme is working to protect the NHS and saving lives.Next slide please.The best way to see this is by looking at how fast cases, hospital admissions and deaths are falling.The number of cases have been falling, in a fairly even way, since around the middle of January, by a quarter every week. Just a little bit more in the past few days.It’s not been completely smooth.A week ago, I stood here and we said that we were worried that the fall in cases was slowing down.Thankfully, as you can see in the chart, that now looks more like a temporary blip.Which is good news for us all.Next slide please.Now let’s turn to the number of hospital admissions.Again, this is falling steadily, at around a quarter every week.But there are early signs that this fall is getting a bit faster.In fact, the 29% fall in the last week is the fastest fall in hospital admissions at any point in the entire pandemic.Final slide please.But where you can really see the effect of the vaccine is in the fall of the number of deaths.The number of deaths is falling faster and faster.And now deaths are falling by over a third every week. And in fact in the last week have fallen by 41%.Faster than before.The Chief Medical Officer told us weeks ago that you’d first see the effect of the vaccine in fewer people dying, and then in reduced hospitalisations.And I believe that that is exactly what’s happening.What this all shows is that the link from cases to hospitalisations and then to deaths, that have been unbreakable before the vaccine – that link is now breaking. The vaccine is protecting the NHS and saving lives and that right across the country, this country’s plan is working.And as well as this real-world data, I want to share the results of a study by the University of Bristol which clearly shows the difference our vaccination programme is making.The study looked at all patients over 80 who were admitted with serious respiratory disease in Bristol.The results showed a single dose of both the Pfizer or Oxford/AstraZeneca jab offers around 80% protection against hospitalisation after at least 2 weeks even amongst the most frail, and those with underlying medical conditions.Again, as with the data that were published last week, the effect was slightly stronger in the Oxford jab than with Pfizer. What this corroborates is that what we have seen over the past couple of weeks is that vaccines work. And they’re the best way of securing our freedom.As of midnight last night 21.3 million people have been vaccinated.I can tell you that we have vaccinated two fifths of the entire adult population of the United Kingdom.Yesterday, I was in Scotland, seeing the combined teamwork of NHS Scotland, Scottish local authorities and the armed forces, delivering jabs in Hamilton.They were all working together as one, towards a common goal. Protecting us all.As anyone who has been to a vaccination centre will know, the joy on people’s faces when they get the jab is unbelievably uplifting.And more and more people will be getting this feeling of protection over the next few weeks and months.We’re on course to hit our target of offering a first dose to everyone who’s 50 or over, or part of an at-risk group, by 15 of April.And all adults by the end of July.The vaccine roll-out has allowed us to set out our roadmap for how we’ll carefully lift some of the restrictions that we’ve all endured for far too long.And as we do this, we’ll be drawing on the huge testing infrastructure that is now in place.We are now testing 2.8 million people a week.The roadmap is built on the principle of replacing the protection that comes from lockdown with the protection that comes from vaccines and regular testing.So, as we open up – for instance, care homes as I mentioned a moment ago, to visitors – that will come with regular testing for visitors.And as schools and colleges return we will be giving teachers, staff, parents, secondary and college students and their households access to rapid regular testing twice a week in term time and in holidays.And I urge all those and the households of those who are going back to school or to college next week to take up this offerOne of the most dangerous things about this virus – one of those dangerous things – is that around one third of those who get it don’t get any symptoms at all and yet can still pass the disease on to others.That’s why it’s so important that all of us follow the social distancing and take the precautions that we know we must.So rapid, regular testing is a critical part of our response.And we can do so much more because of the huge capacity we’ve built up in NHS Test and Trace.I would urge you if you’re eligible to participate in one of these regular testing programmes like I do, because that is how we will keep this virus under control as we continue to roll out the vaccineFor more information on how you can get a test, go to gov.uk/coronavirus.I’d urge everyone who’s eligible to get that regular testing.Now, I know that this pandemic has been an anxious time for so many young people.Growing up, after all, is tough enough at the best of times.But during these difficult times, it’s even tougher.Home schooling, being unable to see your friends, sport cancelled, and being stuck at home.I know just how much people are looking forward to going back to school, seeing friends in a classroom not just on Zoom.Monday will be a long-awaited day for many.But for some it’ll be a moment of unease and anxiety too.We need to help young people to get through this and get their life going again.And give them the help and support that they need.We’ve worked hard throughout the pandemic to make sure mental health services are open. And we’ve set up 24/7 support for those in need.I’m delighted to announce today that we’ll be allocating an extra £79 million to boost mental health support for children and young people.Almost 3 million children and young people will benefit from more mental health support teams, and those mental health support teams in schools will be working hard to ensure people get access to the support and care that they need.And we’ll be expanding access to mental health services in the community too.I’d like to end with some good news on our work to tackle new variants.Thanks to the brilliant team who’ve been working so hard over the past week, we’ve now successfully identified the sixth case of the variant of concern first identified in Manaus in Brazil.Using the latest technology, and the dogged determination of our testing and tracing scheme, we’ve successfully identified the person in question.The best evidence is that this person in question stayed at home and that there’s no sign that there’s been any onward transmission.But as a precaution, we’re putting more testing in Croydon, where they live, to minimise the risk of spread.This positive outcome was only possible because of the huge genome sequencing capacity that we now have in this country and our test and trace team, so we could identify these cases, track them down and contact them.It shows how important this capacity we’ve built is, and how important it is to be transparent whenever new variants are found.Because whether it’s here at home or around the world, testing, sequencing and being transparent about what you find helps stop the spread of this disease – and in particular these variants of concern which are so worrying – and protects lives.I’m really delighted at the work the team have done this week. They’ve worked absolutely flat out since these 6 cases were first identified on Friday and found the 6 positive cases, even though the form wasn’t filled in quite right.So Susan is going to say a little bit more about this in a moment but my summary is:Things are moving in the right direction.These are challenging times.But thanks to the vaccine, we’re making progress.But we’re not there yet.So, as we go down the road to recovery, it’s vital everybody plays their part, follows the rules and when their call comes, get your jab.
Co-owner of FWP Matthews, Graham Matthews, has sold his interest for an undisclosed sum to pursue new challenges.The family-run flour miller has now employed new members to the board following Graham Matthews’ departure.Managing director and relation of Graham, Paul Matthews, has been joined by brother Stephen Matthews as financial director, and Nigel Freer as non executive chairman. Graham had worked for the Oxfordshire-based milling business for 28 years, which is now one of the leading organic flour millers. The company specialises in a range of French products with its partners Moul-Bie.Stephen has previously worked at the Charles Taylor accountancy firm, where he was also financial director.He said: “It is a pleasure to join the family business after many years in the City. This is a big change for us internally and we will do our best to minimise the impact on our many customers and suppliers.”Freer has spent his career in the food and drink industry, and was previous CEO of Merrydown Cider.He said: “I am now delighted to be back as an investor and NX chairman to assist Paul and Stephen on strategy and development of the company. We already have an exciting and ambitious strategy in place, which we are all keen to be getting on with.”
A new exciting partnership has emerged between Icelantic Skis and Jerry Garcia‘s estate, as airbrush artwork created by Garcia in 1986 has been used as the design for a limited edition pair of skis. The airbrush series was an artistic exploration for Garcia, who created vibrant multi-colored patterns to mimic the natural beauty of crystal-like designs. Titled “Facets 1”, this particular artwork has now been chosen to adorn these limited edition skis, for all of the Deadheads who embrace the winter sport.The new skis are available on the Jerry Garcia website, complete with the following description:Limited edition Icelantic Nomad skis adorned with “Facets 1” from Jerry’s 1986 series of airbrush paintings. “Facets 1” is from Jerry’s experimental journey with stencils used to create crystal-like patterns with a variety of colors to produce a three dimensional appearance. Icelantic’s Nomad ski model offers a balanced flex, 2mm of camber underfoot, and a rockered tip and tail – a great all-mountain freeride. All skis are handmade in Colorado with a 3 year, no questions asked warranty.Don’t miss out on this one-of-a-kind creation that balances the beauty of both art and nature.
6Billy Cox ’17 gets a hand from his sister, Elizabeth, as he moves into Pennypacker Hall. 1Ezinne Nwankwo ’17 of Los Angeles moves into Pennypacker Hall with help from her mother, Chi Ezeale. 8Peer advisers welcome members of the Class of ’17 as they move into Hurlbut Hall. 5Shai Szulanski ’17 and Zachary Chauvin ’17 shake out a carpet in front of Weld Hall. 2Harvard President Drew Faust (from left) and interim Dean of Harvard College Donald Pfister greet Michael Albergo ’17 and Roger Zou ’17 as they move into Weld Hall. 9A Class of ’17 balloon floats outside Massachusetts Hall, Harvard’s oldest dorm, which also houses Harvard’s president and provost. 3Harvard College Class of ’17 balloons decorate the John Harvard Statue as freshmen move into Harvard Yard. After a summer slumber, Harvard Yard began to come alive again as the Class of 2017 arrived on campus this morning.Cars, vans, and trucks snaked through the Yard as freshmen, along with their parents and the occasional sibling, carried boxes, pulled suitcases, and lugged small appliances into dorm rooms. Teams of peer advisers wearing blue Superman T-shirts were quick to provide assistance.There are more than 1,600 members in the class, hailing from nearly all 50 states and more than 80 countries. As the move-in progressed, you could find freshmen from around the world and around the corner.“Today, I wish I were a freshman,” said Kyoko Kirby of Cambridge, who was helping her son Alex move into Grays Hall. “These kids are so fortunate to be here because only a few people in the entire world are able to experience what they are about to experience here at Harvard.”Harvard President Drew Faust, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith, Harvard College interim Dean Donald Pfister, and Dean of Freshmen Thomas Dingman made their way around the Yard to welcome students and reassure parents.“I am hearing from parents that they are nervous about leaving their kids behind, which is what you would expect on this day,” Pfister said. “But there is a lot of energy, and everyone is ready to get rolling. And I have heard from many students about experimentation with different classes, which is what we want to see.”Outside of Grays Hall, Rebecca Ramos of Seattle was greeted by Faust and Pfister.“It really says a lot of about the community here at Harvard to have the president and the dean of the College greeting students and their families on move-in day,” said Ramos, who was being helped by her mother, Donna. “This is all very exciting. I can’t wait to meet everyone and learn all that I can about Harvard.” All moved in, this is surreal #HarvardMoveIn #harvard2017— Connor Bitter (@ConnorBitter) August 26, 2013 7Members of the Class of ’17 move through Quincy Street with their families and belongings. In front of Matthews Hall, Jake Hummer was unloading a van with his parents. He said that coming to Cambridge from Reno, Nev., is quite an adjustment.“To go from the desert to this thriving city is really awesome. I am really looking forward to meeting everyone and just being here in this thriving environment,” said Hummer. “It’s really quite different. I mean, this building is probably older than my state.”For the record, Matthews was built in 1872, while Nevada became a state in 1864.Ezinne Nwankwo of Los Angeles was carrying a box down Harvard Street with her mother. Like many freshmen, Nwankwo said she was nervous initially, but was put at ease when she arrived at Pennypacker Hall.“After meeting my roommates and all of these wonderful people here, I am a lot less nervous,” she said.Thanks to the careful planning and work of staff and administrators, freshmen move-in was again a success.“I am really pleased at how smoothly everything went,” Alex Kirby said.Read more advice and share your own for Harvard’s incoming freshmen on Twitter using #Harvard2017. A Storify collection of images also captures freshman move-in day. Join in the conversation via #HarvardMoveIn and #Harvard2017 on Twitter and Instagram. 4Peer advisers Christine Wolfe ’14 (from left), Mirta Stantic ’15, interim Dean of Harvard College Donald Pfister, and Dean of Freshmen Tom Dingman greet incoming freshmen outside Pennypacker Hall. 10Tyrik La Cruise ’17 (from left) chats with interim Dean of Harvard College Donald Pfister and Harvard President Drew Faust as he moves into Weld Hall.
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Pets dread their trips to the vet, so when it’s time to take them in for a checkup or to treat an ailment, only the best will do for Fido or Fluffy.The public voted Dr. Michael Funk, DVM – Levittown Animal Hospital the Best Veterinarian on Long Island in the 2018 Bethpage Best of Long Island competition for the fourth year in a row. Dr. Michael Funk of Levittown Animal Hospital, a graduate of Michigan State University, understands the special connection between a person and his or her pet and aims to provide each and every animal that enters his office with outstanding medical care. It’s no wonder he’s been voted the Best on Long Island again!To find all the other 2017 Best of Long Island contest winners, visit bestoflongisland.com Winners of the 2018 contest will be announced in February. Nominate your favorite businesses and people in the 2019 Best of Long Island program starting Jan. 1.Dr. Michael Funk, DVM – Levittown Animal Hospital is located at 2703 Hempstead Tpke. in Levittown. He can be reached at 516-252-3540 or levittownvet.com
76SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,John Best Financial technology service expert John Best crushes the reiterated maxim “thinking outside the box” to tiny particles, leveraging his lofty, yet proven, financial technology “innovativeness” for credit unions nationwide. Recently … Web: big-fintech.com Details Before you start to read any further, or if you start to read at all, to be fair, I have to warn you that there is a significant amount of ketchup talk in this article.I must admit, I really, really like ketchup, and have for all my life. It’s a family thing. My dad drowned things in ketchup. So did my mom, and now I do too. So it shouldn’t surprise you that I would write an article on ketchup and credit unions. Read on if you dare, I just wanted to warn you…These days there is a lot of talk about User Experience. People correct people on the differences between UI (User Interface), which is picking specific controls for the interface, and UX (User Experience), which is the flow, the order of things, the way people do things.I came across a great graphic that depicts the difference between UI and UX perfectly, and I have been using it in my presentations.Heinz has definitely perfected its Ketchup.When I saw this graphic it hit me, credit unions are just like the glass bottle on the left. Credit Union Ketchup is also great: great products, great services, cost effective, and member-centric. Credit unions have a high member trust level, and as a result have great loyalty. Which is all fine and good, but the way you can get at Credit Union Ketchup looks like this.So how do we design the user experience and get to the upside down squeeze bottle?Well first, I think that it’s interesting that Heinz didn’t figure this out until 2002. In fact, Heinz was slow to adopt it.Some Ketchup HistoryKetchup, originally called “Ketsiap,” was sold to the British by Dutch traders. Later on, farmers added tomatoes and sugar to the mix and viola, modern Ketchup was born. Today, 96% of US households keep ketchup on hand, more than keep salt and pepper. The big ketchup design breakthrough wasn’t to the plastic squeeze bottle; the breakthrough was upside down pouring.Heinz couldn’t do this until someone invented the valve that allows the bottle to be stored upside down but not stream out ketchup as soon as you open it.Check out this article on the history of ketchup.So here we are in 2015, and I think the Credit Union Valve has been invented. Now we need to adopt it, and I think the metaphor of “pouring from the bottom” is perfect for the industry.So just how do we “pour from the bottom”Use digital to expose our best ketchup!Our people are important. Instead of trying to completely digitize our products and engineer people out of the transaction, we need to find ways to digitize both the transaction and the people experience.Think live talks with mortgage and loan representatives via FaceTime. Think interactive document sharing. Think about how to bring the CU Loan Rep into the room with the FI person at the dealership. Or how to have a meeting with your Mortgage Rep IN YOUR LIVING ROOM! Via Skype!None of this is new technology; we just need to turn the bottle upside down!Find more French fries to put our ketchup on! At some point Heinz realized that if they wanted more sales they would need people to put ketchup on more than burgers and fries. So how can we add value to other transactions with our ketchup? This is a great analogy for Payments. Right now we have Credit Cards (burgers) and Debit Cards (fries), but there is more opportunity in our virtual kitchen. We will be able to have direct relationships with merchants soon – and I bet our Ketchup tastes great on their dishes!How do we move into other areas and create new recipes that use our Ketchup?Get creative with the ingredients!In 2000, Heinz tried to attract a younger generation with green ketchup, purple ketchup and other fun colors. The idea was to make ketchup interesting again. Turns out that this didn’t work, but they did discover they could manufacture different lines of ketchup.Today we have organic, reduced sugar, caged free (just kidding, I think all tomatoes are cage free), and reduced salt. How do we mix up our ingredients to create new offerings? What happens when we add same-day ACH to Bill Pay or add voice annotation to alerts? The sky is the limit, and all great chefs know that the key to adding delicious new dishes to their menus is finding new ways to please their customer’s palates.I am sure you are sick of hearing about ketchup by now. As for me, I am hungry. I would love to hear more “pour from the bottom ideas.”
The National Credit Union Administration has given federal credit unions increased flexibility to hold virtual annual meetings or delay their annual meetings because of the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 20, NCUA issued a letter to FCUs authorizing a new “emergency exception to in-person quorum requirement” bylaw that all FCUs have the option to adopt in order to hold their 2020 annual meetings virtually. FCUs also have the option to postpone their 2020 annual meetings to as late as December 2020.For an FCU to hold its annual meeting virtually, a two-thirds majority of its board of directors must adopt the new bylaw. No additional NCUA approval is required to adopt the bylaw. FCUs that adopt the new bylaw would be able to hold annual meetings virtually and without an in-person quorum so long as a quorum of the credit union’s directors certify that the following conditions are met:The credit union’s headquarters or all or part of a community that the credit union serves is located in an area where a federal, state or local authority has declared a state of emergency or major disaster; NCUA headquarters continue reading » ShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr
The UK’s “just about managing” pension funds need a radical rethink of how to tackle widening pension deficits, mounting costs, and volatile markets, according to leading industry experts.Ahead of last year’s Autumn Statement, the government’s first post-EU-referendum budgetary update, the focus was on prime minister Theresa May’s new term: “just about managing” families – abbreviated to JAMs for the sake of a soundbite. However, there was hardly any mention of the “just about managing” in the pensions world.As Mark Wilkinson, a principal at consulting firm Mercer, describes them: “These are some of the smaller defined benefit [DB] schemes in deficit, essentially managing on a valuation to valuation basis – a hand to mouth existence, you could say.“They cannot magic up more money as their sponsor employers are also struggling. So there is a real challenge about the options available to these kinds of schemes.” According to the Pension Protection Fund (PPF), the aggregate deficit of the 5,794 DB schemes increased to £224 billion at the end of December 2016, from a deficit of £195 billion a month earlier. The number of schemes in deficit also increased marginally to 4,339, representing three quarters of all schemes.Richard Murphy, a partner at consulting firm Lane Clark & Peacock, says the key challenge for the industry is to avoid adding to the number of JAMs.“Over the next few years, some schemes will fail and end up in the PPF, and others will struggle – it will be more realistic for industry to work with trustees and employers to ensure that a wider group of schemes avoid ending up as JAMs,” he said.Schemes in deficit have to submit a recovery plan to the Pensions Regulator. This can be tailored to meet the specific needs of the scheme and sponsor, including the employer’s plans to invest in sustainable growth.“We are committed to working closely with employers and trustees that are facing significantly challenging circumstances,” a spokesman at the Pensions Regulator confirms.One way forward, Murphy says, is rethinking investment strategy to target higher-returning assets, as well as improved diversification.“It is clear that if pension funds invest defensively, they will never achieve the return they require,” he says. “It is also clear that old style mix of equities and bonds are being replaced by hedging of interest rate and inflation to a much higher level.”Murphy adds: “We are seeing strong interest in a much more diversified range of assets such as private equity and absolute bonds.”Collaboration and consolidation Another radical plan is to consolidate the smaller schemes along the lines of the industry-wide pension schemes in the Netherlands and Australia. The UK already has seen some consolidation with the pooling of local government pension schemes and multi-employer funds such as the Railways Pension Scheme and the Universities Superannuation Scheme. The pensions market has also seen the launch of new DB master trusts, such as TPT Retirement Solutions (formerly The Pensions Trust), which provide services such as management, administration, and governance as well as investment.The Pension and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) – the UK’s retirement funds trade body – published an interim report from its DB Taskforce in October 2016. In it, the association called for an investigation into the potential for scheme consolidation to achieve greater economies of scale.Joe Dabrowski, head of governance and investment at the PLSA, said: “We have found that, with the smaller schemes, they have fewer resources and much more limited access to the right advisers or investment strategies. In some cases, we found that schemes at the bottom end of the size spectrum are paying proportionately more for their services, in comparison to larger schemes, due to their limited bargaining power and typically lower expertise.”This was backed up by recent research by consultancy Spence Johnson, which found that schemes with less than 100 members typically struggled to secure fund prices below the UK’s 75-basis-point price cap.The PLSA will publish its final report at its investment conference in March, outlining what it says will be the best way forward and the risk to members’ benefits of maintaining the status quo.Richard Butcher, managing director of independent trustee firm Pitman Trustees (PTL), agrees that there is a sound argument to be made for consolidation, but argues there are constraints to this happening.“In principal it is the right thing to do, but in practice it’s not workable without compulsion,” he says. “The idea of consolidation is that you can definitely drive economies of scale. So while the argument is sound, there are a number of barriers not least from employers and trustees who fear their influence will be reduced.”Inflation (un)protectedThe other proposal the PLSA is examining is conditional indexation, whereby struggling schemes could temporarily stop paying pension increases, or pay low increases, to help bring them back on track. The body will make its recommendations on conditional indexation in March.Dutch pension schemes have conditional indexation rules. A number of funds have fallen below the funding threshold required to increase benefits, and this year 10 pension schemes will cut payouts to pensioners in order to address funding difficulties.Mercer’s Wilkinson adds that, while DB benefits are in theory ‘guaranteed’, there should be some flexibility about payment of those benefits.“There is a case for changing the law so that you can go back to members to ask them to accept a lower level of benefit – for example, conditional indexation – in exchange for greater security and a lower risk of ending up in the PPF. As long as properly communicated and explained, members could well be in favour,” he says.However, Steve Delo, chief executive of independent trustee firm PAN Governance, warns that any “tinkering” with members’ benefits would be impossible to do without strong governmental intervention and such flexibility would introduce a new “moral hazard”.“There is a need for some creative thinking around this whole issue surrounding the JAMs,” Delo says. “But all parties involved need to know that there is no magic bullet solution – and it is very much a case of the stable door having been left open a long time ago.”UK pensions minister is expected to publish a green paper with proposals for DB reform in the coming weeks.