Developing Countries Lead for the First Time in Renewables Investment

first_imgDeveloping Countries Lead for the First Time in Renewables Investment FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享From the Economic Times of India:India and China led developing countries in investments made in renewable energy in 2015, when for the first time commitments in solar, wind and other renewables capacity by emerging economies surpassed those by wealthy nations, a UN-backed report has said.The report ‘Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2016’ by the UN Environment Programme said the developing world including China, India and Brazil committed a total of USD 156 billion in new renewables capacity last year, up 19 per cent on 2014.Investments by developed countries were down eight per cent in 2015 to USD 130 billion.The year 2015 was the first time when investment in renewables in developing countries outweighed that in developed economies, the report said.A large part of the record-breaking investment in developing countries took place in China, which lifted its investment by 17 per cent to USD 102.9 billion, more than a third of global commitments.India was also among the top 10 investing countries in renewable energy, with its commitments rising 22 per cent to USD 10.2 billion.The US, Japan, UK Brazil, South Africa, Mexico and Chile all made it to the top 10 investing countries in 2015.“The investment (in India) took place against a backdrop of pro-renewable policies introduced by India’s BJP government. These include a target to almost- triple wind capacity to 60 GW by 2022,” the report said.Within the developing-economy category, the “Big Three” of China, India and Brazil saw investment rise 16 per cent to USD 120.2 billion, while other developing economies enjoyed a 30 per cent bounce to USD 36.1 billion.Among developed countries, investment in Europe was down 21 per cent,  from USD 62 billion in 2014 to USD 48.8 billion in 2015, the continent’s lowest figure for nine years despite record investments in offshore wind projects.The US was up 19 per cent to USD 44.1 billion, and in Japan investment was much the same as the previous year at USD 36.2 billion.Full article: India, China led investments in renewable energy in 2015: United Nationslast_img read more

Policy changes driving Chinese panel prices down are increasing solar uptake across Asia

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Asia Finance:China’s solar panel manufacturers must be wondering where the next glimpse of sunshine is going to come from.As recently as a couple of years ago, the industry was earmarked as a shining example of China’s move up the value chain in technology that would help underpin Beijing’s commitment under the Paris climate accord.China is the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels, with a 1.4 million strong workforce in 2017 accounting for 37% of global installation, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.But in recent months, regulatory manoeuvres at home and abroad have put the industry in sharp decline.Of particular concern was India’s announcement on July 30 that it would slap a 25% tariff on imports of Chinese solar modules in an attempt to protect its domestic industry. That followed hot on the heels of a June 4 decision by the Chinese government to cap the total size of all new solar projects this year at 10 gigawatts (GW) – compared to the total of 19GW of solar capacity installed nationwide last year.At the same time, Beijing scrapped its feed-in tariffs – the rate developers are paid for solar power sent to the grid putting immediate pressure on companies’ top line.Most major stocks in the solar industry experienced double digit drops on June 4, with the largest solar player by global shipments, Jinkosolae, falling by around 34%, according to data from Bloomberg.“The name of the game for them is to stay afloat,” one industry insider told FinanceAsia. “That’s why we’ll see (Chinese) panel manufacturers continue to do what it takes to keep their foothold in the all-important Indian market.”Ironically, it may well be India’s solar plant developers who benefit most from the misfortune of China’s solar manufacturers.The near-term fall in demand in China and over-production globally has lead to a glut in supply, forcing prices down. With prices at historic lows, this will hurt the margins of Chinese manufacturers, but help the uptake of solar technology, especially in Asia, where electricity demand is rising fast.And it may well help India reach its 2022 target of 100GW.More: Clouds gather for China’s solar manufacturers Policy changes driving Chinese panel prices down are increasing solar uptake across Asialast_img read more

Microgrids, renewables should be priorities in Puerto Rico grid rebuild

first_imgMicrogrids, renewables should be priorities in Puerto Rico grid rebuild FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享USA Today:Visitors to Casa Pueblo, a community center in this mountain hamlet, can tour the solar-powered meeting rooms, listen in on the solar-powered radio station or catch a documentary at the solar-powered movie theater. Later, they could lunch at one of Puerto Rico’s first fully solar-powered restaurants just down the street. On an island gripped by energy anxiety, Casa Pueblo is a calming oasis.Hurricane Maria blasted through Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017, battering the island’s outdated power grid and plunging the U.S. commonwealth into darkness for nearly a year. The lack of power has been a major challenge for Puerto Ricans recovering from the storm and was a key factor in widespread fatalities after the hurricane. The death toll from the storm is 2,975, based on estimates from a study by George Washington University researchers.But in Puerto Rico, restoring power has been a slower, much bigger project that entails, in many cases, completely rebuilding what was a fragile system to begin with. Federal officials have spent more than $3 billion to end the longest blackout in U.S. history and return the Puerto Rican power grid to pre-storm conditions. Now comes the long, tough task of improving the system – at a cost of billions of more federal dollars – to avoid future massive blackouts. How the grid is rebuilt will be a key question in Puerto Rico’s recovery from Maria.At the center of the island’s grid rebuild effort is what to do with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or PREPA, an agency racked by allegations of corruption and $9 billion in debt. Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has proposed privatizing parts of the electrical system, including its oil-powered generation plants. Other suggestions include switching the system to natural gas.But these plans don’t include a clear path to renewable energy sources, leaving the system vulnerable to future storms, said Cathy Kunkel, an analyst with the Cleveland-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, who co-wrote a July study on this issue. An improved power grid in Puerto Rico should include “microgrids,” or clusters of customers around the island who could disconnect from the larger system if a storm hits and generate power on their own, she said. That strategy would begin to shift the power grid away from its reliance on oil and toward renewables.Such a massive shift would be difficult, costly and time-consuming but not impossible, Kunkel said. Lawmakers in Hawaii, an archipelago of 1.4 million residents, passed a series of energy bills three years ago directing the state’s utilities to switch to 100 percent renewable energy resources by 2045. “Obviously, doing that tomorrow for the whole island [of Puerto Rico] is not going to happen,” she said. “But it’s smart to prioritize investment in that direction, which is not what the government of Puerto Rico is doing.”More: $3 billion already spent to end longest blackout in U.S. history. Could renewable energy help Puerto Rico?last_img read more

Hannover Re tightens rules for reinsuring coal development projects

first_imgHannover Re tightens rules for reinsuring coal development projects FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Business Insurance:Hannover Re SE is adopting a more restrictive underwriting policy on the reinsurance of coal-based risks in addition to excluding coal-based projects from its investment portfolio.Hannover Re does not invest in securities of issuers that generate 25% or more of their revenues from coal-based energy production and will continue to seek to underwrite more risks associated with renewable or alternative energy sources, the Hanover, Germany-based reinsurer said Thursday in a statement.“Where standalone risks are concerned, the company will now — as a general principle — not be providing reinsurance coverage for any planned new coal-fired power plants or coal mines,” Hannover Re said. “In countries where coal accounts for a particularly large share of the energy mix and sufficient access to alternative energy sources is not available, a limited number of exceptions will be permitted after review of the technical standards.”Hannover Re has set a goal of not covering any coal-based risks in connection with power generation in its entire property/casualty reinsurance portfolio beginning in 2038 — a date that accounts for the medium- to long-term phasing out of fossil fuels, the company said.  “For many years the Group has supported the goals set out in the Paris Agreement on climate change,” Hannover Re said in the statement. “The governments of 195 nations reached agreement on a global action plan for a low-carbon economy with a view to combating climate change. In Europe alone, 17 of 28 EU member states have decided to phase out fossil fuels or are discussing such a move.”More: Hannover Re tightens underwriting for coal riskslast_img read more

Spain’s Iberdrola completes largest solar project in Europe

first_imgSpain’s Iberdrola completes largest solar project in Europe FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Greentech Media:Spanish renewable power giant Iberdrola has completed work on what it claims is the largest solar project ever built in Europe.The 500-megawatt Núñez de Balboa facility is now undergoing testing with Spanish grid operator Red Eléctrica de España (REE) and is expected to be in full commercial operation this quarter.Europe’s previous largest project was the 300-megawatt Cestas, built by Neoen in the south of France. But the latest record might not stand for long with Iberdrola planning the 590-megawatt Francisco Pizarro project in Spain. Completion is expected in 2022.Iberdrola, among the world’s largest wind generators, has a series of power-purchase agreements (PPAs) in place for Núñez de Balboa. These include a 10-year deal with Kutxabank to power its operations. Telecommunications firm Euskaltel and the Uvesco supermarket chain are also signed up.Iberdrola is planning to install 3,000 megawatts of solar capacity in Spain by 2022 and a total of 10 gigawatts of renewables by 2030. The company is active in a variety of renewable markets around the world, including the U.S., where it is among the country’s largest wind operators through its Avangrid subsidiary.Total solar installations in Europe doubled in 2019 compared to the previous year, with further growth anticipated, according to research by SolarPower Europe. In the trade group’s most optimistic scenario, 2019’s tally of 16.7 gigawatts could double to 35 gigawatts in 2022.[John Parnell]More: Iberdrola completes Europe’s largest solar plant (and yes, it’s subsidy-free)last_img read more

Largest subsidy-free solar farm in China begins commercial operation

first_imgLargest subsidy-free solar farm in China begins commercial operation FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享PV Magazine:China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) has commissioned a 260 MW PV plant at a fishery in Dangtu county, in the Chinese province of Anhui.According to CGN, the plant was built by its CGN New Energy Holdings unit and is selling power through a private PPA at a price of $0.054 per kWh. The project covers a water surface of more than 400 hectares. According to its owner, construction began in mid-September and took only 98 days to complete.This week, Huawei revealed more details about the largest unsubsidized solar plant ever built in China to date. The company provided its string inverters for the facility. It said that the project was the first such installation to be approved by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) in 2019.The plant uses an overhead large platform on which all equipment foundations are set and was deployed with 88,866 pipe piles. The developers had to face several challenges, including high requirements for fishery-solar integration and the need for piling and routing cables for water-based operations. Huawei added that O&M activities at the site will be particularly expensive and time-consuming, while noting how it also presents risks for a drop in module performance stemming from potential induced degradation (PID).China outlined its plan to spur the development of subsidy-free projects at the beginning of last year. In May, the Chinese government introduced its Mandatory Renewable Energy Consumption Mechanism, which from this year is imposing a mandatory requirement for the purchase of renewable energy on state, provincial and private grid operators, as well as electricity retailers, industrial entities with their own power generation facilities, and large electricity consumers involved in bilateral energy trading.[Emiliano Bellini]More: Chinese fishery hosting 260 MW of unsubsidized solarlast_img read more

Dominion planning nearly 24GW of renewable capacity and battery storage in Virginia by 2035

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):Dominion Energy Virginia anticipates a massive roll-out of solar and offshore wind generation over the next 15 years as the utility reduces emissions and aligns its portfolio with Virginia’s new clean energy mandates.The Dominion Energy Inc. subsidiary, known legally as Virginia Electric and Power Co., plans to add about 5,100 MW of offshore wind, nearly 16,000 MW of solar and about 2,700 MW of energy storage to its portfolio through the end of 2035, according to its 2020 integrated resource plan filed May 1 with the Virginia State Corporation Commission.While Dominion Energy Virginia has called for the addition of between 2,425 MW and nearly 3,700 MW of natural gas capacity in previous forecasts, the 2020 integrated resource plan, or IRP, includes “placeholders” for only two 485-MW natural gas-fired facilities. The utility said this is necessary “to address probable system reliability issues resulting from the addition of significant renewable energy resources and the retirement of coal-fired facilities.”Dominion Energy Virginia in a May 1 news release said it also has issued a request for proposals seeking bids for up to 1,000 MW of solar and onshore wind generation, as well as up to 250 MW of energy storage.The Virginia Clean Economy Act, which takes effect July 1, requires American Electric Power Co. Inc. utility Appalachian Power Co. to procure 100% of its electricity from renewable resources by 2050, while Dominion Energy Virginia must hit that benchmark by 2045.Dominion Energy Virginia and Appalachian Power must “retire all generating units principally fueled by oil with a rated capacity in excess of 500 [MW] and all coal-fired electric generating units operating in the Commonwealth” by Dec. 31, 2024. The bill provides an exception for coal plants co-owned with a cooperative utility and for Dominion Energy Virginia’s 624-MW Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center. The law requires the utilities to “retire all other electric generating units located in the Commonwealth that emit carbon as a by-product of combusting fuel to generate electricity” by Dec. 31, 2045.[Darren Sweeney]More ($): Dominion plans to add nearly 24,000 MW of renewables and storage through 2035 Dominion planning nearly 24GW of renewable capacity and battery storage in Virginia by 2035last_img read more

South Carolina utilities seeking bids for 500MW of new solar generation capacity

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Renewables Now:Power and water utility Santee Cooper and Central Electric Power Cooperative Inc, a wholesale electric services provider, have initiated a bidding process with the goal of procuring up to 500 MW of new solar capacity that is to be installed across the U.S. state of South Carolina.The partners are seeking to award purchase agreements for electricity generated by several utility-scale solar projects ranging from 25 MW to 125 MW of installed capacity.Santee Cooper said it has already sent a request for proposals (RFP) to close to 30 solar developers. The developers will own their projects and Santee Cooper and Central will purchase the plants’ output. Central may become a counterparty to one or more purchase agreements through this process.The two companies will jointly review the bids, which are due by July 30, and start awarding the contracts in late 2020.Santee Cooper plans to add up to 1,000 MW of new solar to the mix by 2024 and an additional 500 MW by 2031. All of the planned electricity will be purchased from third-party providers and will in part replace some existing coal-based power, the company said.[Sladjana Djunisic]More: Santee Cooper, Central seek RFP for up to 500 MW of new S. Carolina solar South Carolina utilities seeking bids for 500MW of new solar generation capacitylast_img read more

Where the Wild Things Are – Animals of the Southeast

first_img BEARNo animal in the forest ignites the imagination like the bear. Many Native American tribes considered the bear their “brother,” while European settlers considered them dangerous and went about the process of eradicating them. They nearly succeeded here in the Southeast. By the 1900s, black bear—the only species of bear native to our region—were only found in the most remote mountains and coastal swamps. To reverse the downward spiraling bear population, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) began severely regulating bear hunting in the 1960s and established massive bear sanctuaries throughout the region. Black bear populations have been on the rebound ever since.“We all grow up thinking bear are ferocious. I know I did. But once I got to know their language, I found out that these supposedly ferocious animals were actually intelligent and timid,” says Dr. Lynn Rogers, director of the Wildlife Research Institute. Rogers has spent the past 42 years living with and studying black bears in the wild.Rogers says the way bears are portrayed in the media has led to a society that simply does not understand wild bears. From sensational magazine covers that portray bears attacking humans, to the obsessive coverage of rare bear attacks, Rogers says black bears have been given a bad rap.“Only one black bear out of every million kills someone. In contrast, one out of every 18,000 people kills someone in the U.S.,” Rogers says. “For every death by a bear, there are 13 deaths by snakes, 45 by dogs, 120 by bees, 250 by lightning, and 60,000 by homicide.”Development and sprawl in the Southern Appalachians are pushing bears out of their natural habitat and increasing the number of nuisance bear encounters. Of particular concern are the many second home developments that are gobbling up steep mountain slopes.QUICK FACTSBlack bear are omnivores, so they eat a little bit of everything, but their diet consists mostly of plants, berries, nuts, and grasses.The coat of a black bear can range in color from black to brown or cinnamon.Average adult black bears are 4-7 feet long and weigh between 150 and 300 pounds.Roughly 300,000 black bear live in 40 states throughout the U.S.Black bear are typically solitary animals and forage alone, with the exception of mothers and cubs.WHERE TO GO: Great Smoky Mountains National ParkOver 2,000 black bears live inside the 500,000-acre national park. A number of factors have contributed to the park’s higher density bear population—location, availability of food—but none have contributed more than the fact that there is no bear hunting allowed inside the park, which gives female bear more time to raise their cubs.“Your chances of seeing a black bear in the wild are as good here as anywhere else on public land,” says Kim DeLozier, supervisory wildlife biologist for Great Smoky Mountains National Park.Even with the higher density of bears in the Smokies, your odds of seeing a bear are slim. But you can increase your chances by following two simple rules.“Be very quiet, and go where the food is,” Dr. Rogers says.Black bear have a varied diet, but they primarily spend their time foraging for berries and acorns. Rogers suggests looking for stands of white oak, which shed acorns during the fall and are common throughout the park. Also look for thickets of blackberry, blueberry, and huckleberry during the summer. High-elevation balds are often adorned with berry shrubs.Try the Gregory Ridge and Gregory Bald trails, which lead to Gregory Bald, a grassy bald bordered by blueberry bushes. Go early in the morning or late in the evening, as bears tend to avoid foraging for food during the heat of the day.DID YOU KNOW?While black bears don’t hibernate in the traditional sense, they do go into a dormant state during the winter months. In fact, black bear can go 100 days without eating, drinking, or taking bathroom breaks. During this lazy time, a black bear’s heartbeat can slow into the single digits per minute.Bear AwareNumber one rule: Don’t feed the bears.Habituating bears to human food and activity can have severe negative affects on the individual bear and the population in general. It’s also against park regulations to approach a bear within 50 yards, so keeping your distance is key to a good bear encounter. What should you do if the bear approaches you? Follow these simple rules to ease yourself out of a sticky situation.Give it the right of way and hope it changes directions.If that doesn’t work, start talking in a low tone and slowly back away.If the bear persists, get to higher ground: Stand on a rock or a log and speak more authoritatively, establishing your dominance over the bear.If the bear still comes at you, separate yourself from your food. If you have a backpack with granola bars, take it off and throw it away from you.On the rare occasion that the bear attacks, fight back. This is your only chance for survival.ELKOnly a few hundred years ago, massive elk roamed the Southeastern United States, much as they roam the Rocky Mountains today. The behemoth, reindeer-like animals moved in herds from the forest to open grasslands, but their relatively predictable habits made them easy prey for hunters. By the early 1800s, most of the elk were extirpated from the Southeast.Our region stayed elk-free for roughly two centuries. But in 1997, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife teamed up to reintroduce elk into the South. They imported 1,500 elk over a five-year span. Today, there are an estimated 7,000 elk living wild in Kentucky. The herds are doing so well that they’ve migrated into southwestern Virginia. And in 2001, 27 elk were imported from Kentucky into Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where they have become a popular tourist draw.QUICK FACTSElk, moose, caribou, and white-tailed deer all belong to the same family of ungulates.As dedicated herbivores, the elk diet consists mostly of grasses, shrubs, and bark.Elk are herd animals, which enhances their chances of survival. While elk eat, at least one animal is always on the lookout for predators.Antlers, which elk grow and shed in cyclical patterns, grow faster than any other kind of bone known to man.An average elk bull weighs 700 pounds and stands five feet at the shoulder. Elk cows weigh 500 pounds and stand a little shorter. Calves are about 35 pounds when they’re born.WHERE TO GO: Daniel Boone National Forest or Great Smoky Mountains National Park“Thousands of elk run all over eastern Kentucky. It’s something you’d expect to see out West, but not here,” says Don Wackerman, Kentucky representative for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. “And when you see them, they take your breath away.”The elk were originally established on reclaimed coal mine sites, which have been rehabilitated into grasslands, but as the herds have expanded, they’ve established home ranges throughout the public and private lands of Southeastern Kentucky. Several state parks operate guided tours, and the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area manages a controlled herd that’s gated and accessible by vehicle.For a more primitive experience, hike into the Redbird Wildlife Management Area, a 25,000-acre refuge sitting inside Daniel Boone National Forest. Redbird is popular with hunters, but it also has 25 miles of hiking trails and 100 acres of open grasslands, which the elk love. The Redbird Crest Trail is a 65-mile multi-use trail that loops through the area, providing access to other hiking trails and wildlife openings.In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you have two options for seeing elk in their natural habitat. Roughly 90 elk are spread within three herds, one of which has moved beyond park boundaries into private land. But two herds live inside the park, the largest of which grazes in the fields throughout the Cataloochee Valley. The other has taken to the grasslands of the Oconaluftee Valley.The Cataloochee Road bisects the grassy Cataloochee Valley, but several hiking trails traverse the mountains surrounding the valley, offering glimpses of the elk as they graze as well as the rare treat of seeing the massive beasts in the thick forest. Check out the Boogerman Trail for an 11-mile loop. To witness the smaller herd of elk in the Oconaluftee Valley, walk the well-maintained 1.5-mile Oconaluftee River Trail, which follows the river through the valley into Cherokee.Timing is everything when looking for elk. They graze in the fields early in the morning and late in the afternoon, just before dark. And if you really want to see elk at their finest, plan your trip for the fall, during “the rut.” From September to October, dominant bulls gather and breed with harems of up to 20 cows. The bulls spar with each other to establish dominance, knocking and locking antlers, and you’ll be able to hear their distinctive “bugle,” which is a loud call meant to attract females.DID YOU KNOW?Kentucky elk are actually larger than the elk found in Western states, the result of the warmer winters and a lack of natural predators in the region.Bull elk shed their antlers in March and immediately begin growing them back again. By September, during “the rut,” their antlers are full-grown and can be five feet wide.RED WOLFThe red wolf used to roam freely from Florida up to Pennsylvania, but unregulated hunting and overdevelopment of their natural habitat decimated wolf populations in the Southeast. By 1967, when the red wolf was listed as a federally protected endangered species, there were fewer than 20 of them living in the wild. The wolves were captured and bred in captivity by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service until their numbers were large enough to release a number of them into the wild.Today, more than 100 red wolves roam 1.7 million acres of the Albermarle Peninsula in Northeastern North Carolina. It’s the only place in the world where you can see these animals in the wild—a fact that comforts many who harbor misconceptions about the wolf.“Mention the word ‘wolf’ and people get nervous,” says Kim Wheeler, executive director for the Red Wolf Coalition. “The wolf conjures up myths like Little Red Riding Hood and missing babies. But it’s a reputation that’s completely unfounded.”The red wolf is a lot more afraid of us. In the Albermarle Peninsula, the greatest threat to the red wolf is hunting. Hunters often mistake the red wolf for the coyote. As a result, gunshot is now the leading cause of red wolf mortality.QUICK FACTSThe adult red wolf averages 45 to 80 pounds and reaches 26 inches tall and four feet long.They live in packs of 5 to 8 and prey on raccoon, rabbit, deer, and rodents.A red wolf will live for 5 to 8 years in the wild, twice that long in captivity.WHERE TO GO: Alligator River National Wildlife RefugeYour chances of seeing a red wolf in the wild are slim. The Albermarle Peninsula is the only location where they currently live in the wild, and a scant 100 of them are scattered across 1.7-million acres. Plus, they’re wary of humans and predominantly nocturnal.“It’s common to see tracts and scat, and you might hear them howling, but you probably won’t actually see one,” says Bonnie Shawser, a ranger with the Alligator National Wildlife Refuge. “I’ve been working here for 30 years, and I’ve seen wolves in the wild maybe a dozen times.”Still, there are ways you can maximize your chances. First, head into the Alligator River Wildlife Refuge, the first location the wolves were released into the wild and the current home of several packs of wolves. Fifteen miles of kayak trails traverse the refuge—which is a mix of blackwater swamp, reclaimed cropland, and maritime forest—but stick to dry land if you want to see wolves.“You won’t see a wolf from the canoe trails. The forest is too thick,” Shawser says.Instead, head to the edges of the forest, where the trees give way to grasslands. The refuge houses 5,300 acres of reclaimed farmland, which serves as a popular hunting ground for the wolves. Wildlife Drive circumnavigates much of these grassy fields. Show up late in the evening when the wolves are beginning to get restless, and you might have some luck.“If you stop by the edges of the forests, and sit with binoculars, you might see one,” Shawser says.If you want to increase your chances of witnessing wolf activity, join one of the Red Wolf Coalition’s Howling Safaris (redwolves.com). You’ll be guided into the refuge after dark where biologists will attempt to entice captive and wild wolves to howl for the audience.ALLIGATORFor sheer drama, you can’t beat the American alligator. Weighing in at 1,000 pounds, and stretching 10 to 15 feet in length with thick skin covered in ridges from the head to the tip of the tail, the alligator is the dominant predator in its habitat. Gators are like mini-dinosaurs, and there are millions of them living in the Southeast, making them one of the most successful wildlife rehabilitation stories in American history. The reptiles were hunted to the brink of extinction in the early half of the 20th century, and finally listed as endangered in 1967. Alligator populations recovered under the severe hunting regulations and aggressive habitat protection set forth by the Endangered Species Act.Today, gator habitat runs from the Florida Everglades up the Eastern seaboard into North Carolina. They thrive in swamps, marshlands, rivers, and small ponds. They have a primarily carnivorous diet that consists of turtle, fish, snakes, waterfowl, and raccoons. The alligator is the top of its food chain—a fact that worries most people who enter their swampy dens.“Is it safe to paddle and camp with alligators? That’s the most common question I get,” says Chip Campbell, owner of Okefenokee Adventures, a guide service running kayak and canoe tours throughout the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. “These are big, powerful, predatory animals, but they act like giant turtles. They don’t want to be crowded any more than you do. As long as you don’t feed them and keep your distance, you’re perfectly safe.”Surprisingly, there have been very few dangerous encounters between alligators and humans, even in a place like the Okefenokee where gators are plentiful and humans are curious.“The few cases of alligators attacking humans usually involve neighborhood gators, animals that have become habituated to people,” Campbell says. “A wild alligator left to its own devices is nothing to fear.”The greatest threat to the alligator today is the destruction of habitat, which is caused by the logging of cypress, mismanagement of water systems, and increased levels of mercury and dioxins in the water.QUICK FACTSAlligators have been roaming the Southeast for 180 million years.Male alligators rule a home range of two miles, while female gators stick to a smaller range.In areas where the water level fluctuates like the Okefenokee, alligators dig themselves into hollows in the mud, which fill with water. These tunnels are often as long as 65 feet and provide protection during extreme hot or cold weather.Alligators can live up to 50 years in the wild.WHERE TO GO: Okefenokee National Wildlife RefugeThe Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is a 400,000-acre swamp and federally designated Wilderness area with more than 120 miles of well-marked canoe trails, overnight camping platforms, and about 12,000 alligators. It’s an enticing prospect if you want to see one of the wildest creatures in the Southeast in its natural environment.“There are few places that rival the Okefenokee for seeing alligator,” Campbell says.Paddling the Okefenokee’s canoe trails is the only way you can venture into the depths of the swamp. A handful of color-coded trails weave in and out of cypress knees, and according to Campbell, any one of them will take you into gator country.“Gators are pretty evenly dispersed throughout the swamp, so it doesn’t matter which trail you take. And several shelters are built very close to resident gator holes,” Campbell says.Improve your chances of seeing gators by visiting Okefenokee in the spring or fall. Gators are dormant during the colder winter days and will feed at night during the hotter summer days. During the spring and fall, however, they’ll “haul out” and bask in the sun. You’ll also increase your chances of gator sightings if you hit the swamp when the water is low.And skip the nature walks at the park entrance. The deeper into the swamp you go, the wilder and safer the gators become because they’re less accustomed to humans.Alligator SafetyDon’t feed the gators.Don’t try to swim with the gators.If you see a gator, try to maintain at least 10 feet of distance.Don’t strike the gator with your paddle or slap the water with your paddle, which gators interpret as a challenge. Instead, raise your paddle in the air, giving the appearance that you’re a large animal and reestablishing your dominance over the gator. The Southeast is the most biologically diverse region in the United States. What does that mean? In layman’s terms, our forests are full of really, really cool animals—squirrels that fly, elk that spar, bears that growl, alligators that smile, and even fireflies that can keep time. Use this guide to find out where the wild things are, and how you can improve your chances of seeing them. last_img read more

Trail Blazers: Our Best Adventure Yet

first_imgDiamonds in the Rough: Trail Blazers search for gemstones beneath Douglas Falls in Pisgah National Forest, N.C. Photo: Nicole HinebaughKentavius can see the Blue Ridge Mountains from his apartment beside the interstate in downtown Asheville. But the nine-year-old had never hiked in them until last month.Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine has helped create the Trail Blazers Youth Adventure Club. Children from inner city communities are learning outdoor skills on a series of adventures throughout the summer.Last month, I accompanied Kentavius and twelve other Trail Blazers on a hike to Douglas Falls, a 70-foot waterfall surrounded by an old-growth forest. The kids, who ranged in age from 8 to 14, were awestruck. None of them had ever been hiking in a national forest; most had never left the city.They marveled at yellow-striped millipedes and the towering trees, including an overturned hemlock with its intricate root system exposed. “This was all underground? Daaang!” said ten-year-old Tahtiona.More than once, I was asked if cobras and anacondas lived in this forest. But by the time the kids reached the waterfall, they had completely forgotten about snakes. They quickly splashed across the creek to stand beneath the falls.As the frigid water pounded down on them, Alexus screamed with wild, shrill delight; Diontae flexed his muscles; Kentavius simply extended his arms and looked skyward, smiling.Afterward, the kids climbed into an old rock cave, scampered up a steep dirt trail, searched for gemstones in the creek, and even shimmied across an old log suspended between two boulders. They were adventurers exploring a brave new world, far away from the barren concrete of their public housing block.Nearly every day of their childhood has been filled with the sounds of the interstate. But for a few hours, they heard the wind in the trees and water cascading over rock. And on the hike back to the trailhead, they stopped walking, stopped talking, and for a few moments, just listened to the silence of the forest.The Asheville-based Trail Blazers are organized by the heroic Nicole Hinebaugh and volunteers from the Women’s Wellbeing and Development Foundation. We plan on expanding the Trail Blazers Club into other towns across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. Let us know if you’d like to lead a hike or lend a hand. Upcoming hikes, photo galleries, and additional information can be found at trailblazersclub.org.We hope that the Trail Blazers experience will inspire more kids like Kentavius, who discovered that those distant summits are within his reach. 1 2last_img read more

Tenkara Fly Fishing Adventure Giveaway

first_imgEnter our Tenkara Fly Fishing Adventure Giveaway for your chance to win:12-foot Iwana Tenkara RodSet of Tenkara flies, Tenkara line, spool of tippet2-night getaway to a luxury log cabin – including free private trophy trout water access – at Harman’s Log Cabins in Seneca Rocks, WVTFO Fly fishing gear rentalZip line tour at Nelson Rocks Outdoor CenterThis giveaway is now closed. Interested in another fishing prize pack? Sign up for this weekend fly fishing getaway!Rules and Regulations: Package must be redeemed within 1 year of winning  date. Entries must be received by mail or through the www.blueridgeoutdoors.com contest sign-up page by 12:00 noon EST on April 15th, 2013. One entry per person. One winner per household.  Sweepstakes open only to legal residents of the 48 contiguous United  States and the District of Columbia, who are 18 years of age or older.  Void wherever prohibited by law. Families and employees of Blue Ridge  Outdoors Magazine and participating sponsors are not eligible. No  liability is assumed for lost, late, incomplete, inaccurate,  non-delivered or misdirected mail, or misdirected e-mail, garbled,  mistranscribed, faulty or incomplete telephone transmissions, for  technical hardware or software failures of any kind, lost or unavailable  network connection, or failed, incomplete or delayed computer  transmission or any human error which may occur in the receipt of  processing of the entries in this Sweepstakes. By entering the  sweepstakes, entrants agree that Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine and Wintergreen Resort reserve  the right to contact entrants multiple times with special information  and offers. Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine reserves the right, at their  sole discretion, to disqualify any individual who tampers with the entry  process and to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Sweepstakes.  Winners agree that Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine and participating  sponsors, their subsidiaries, affiliates, agents and promotion agencies  shall not be liable for injuries or losses of any kind resulting from  acceptance of or use of prizes. No substitutions or redemption of cash,  or transfer of prize permitted. Any taxes associated with winning any of  the prizes detailed below will be paid by the winner. Winners agree to  allow sponsors to use their name and pictures for purposes of promotion.  Sponsors reserve the right to substitute a prize of equal or greater  value. All Federal, State and local laws and regulations apply.  Selection of winner will be chosen at random at the Blue Ridge Outdoors  office on or before April 30th, 6:00 PM EST 2013. Winners will be contacted by  the information they provided in the contest sign-up field and have 7  days to claim their prize before another winner will be picked. Odds of  winning will be determined by the total number of eligible entries received.last_img read more

Trail Mix: A New Direction for Elizabeth Ziman

first_imgThe SkinnyA trained pianist, Elizabeth Ziman – namesake of Elizabeth & The Catapult – needed to catch a spark after she split with Verve Records, the label for which she had released two albums. What did she do? Elizabeth decided it was time to learn guitar, and she went about it in a fashion unlike any other burgeoning guitar player I have ever met. Instead of locking herself away and banging out chords, Elizabeth grabbed her guitar and headed to the subways of New York City, busking for the Big Apple’s multitudes.On the job training? Indeed. Way out on a limb? Absolutely. A breath of fresh air for this typically piano-centric songwriter? Oh, yes, and it paid dividends. For proof, check out Like It Never Happened, the title track from Elizabeth & The Catapult’s brand new record, which is featured on this month’s Trail Mix.Such an approach to learning an instrument proves that adage that big risk begets big reward. I’ve got my guitar in hand. Now, if only I could find a subway.For Fans OfIngrid Michaelson, Neko Case, A Fine Frenzy, Anais MitchellOutside Looking In“The first time I saw Elizabeth Ziman and her band of merry men perform – at a tiny club on the Lower East Side of Manhattan – I was absolutely floored. Here was everything I love about music: slaying, virtuostic performance, hook-ridden, finely crafted and delicately-honed pop masterpieces, and a wide pile of smiles spilling off everyone in the room. I was immediately and utterly hooked.A few years later, I find myself the luckiest guy in town; I am Elizabeth’s regular film-scoring partner on a long list of projects. Her contributions to our work are beautiful and seem to flow effortlessly, but what is most striking is the joy and love she brings to every phrase of music. Her enthusiasm never fails to elevate everyone and everything around her.”– Paul Brill, composer and producer, on Elizabeth ZimanOn StageYou can catch Elizabeth & The Catapult live at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Virginia, on Saturday, January 25th. Check out www. https://jamminjava.com for information on tickets and show time.In Her Own Words“Without sounding overtly sexual, I guess it’s somewhat of an alpha-female fantasy of mine that I’ve never really embodied in reality. I wrote the song immediately following a break up and I remember wishing that I was the kind of girl who could go out, have a good time with a man, and then totally forget about it the next day. Unfortunately, that’s never been the case, but when I say, “don’t take this night to heart,” I guess you could say I’m singing from my slutwave alter ego!”– Elizabeth Ziman, on the story behind “Like It Never Happened”On The WebFor more information on Elizabeth & The Catapult, how to get your hands on Like It Never Happened, or when the band might be appearing on a stage near you, surf over to www.elizabethandthecatapult.com.last_img read more

Pit Stops: July

first_imgWe want to hang out! That’s part of the reason why we hit the road in the first place. Check back on our blog and social media handles regularly for updates on when and where we’ll be near you, but in the meantime, browse through our July schedule for event presences and meet-ups this month.July 15th: River Clean Up with Rocky Mountain AnglersJoin us on July 15th to help clean up Boulder Creek. The wild waters run from high in the mountains straight through Boulder, Co. We’ll be partnering with Rocky Mountain Anglers to clean up a section of the creek that flows within walking distance from RMA. Afterwards we’ll head back to Rocky Mountain Anglers shop for a good old fashion cookout.July 16th: ROAR in the CityROAR in the city is a “really outrageous adventure race” in Colorado Springs and this year’s theme is Star Wars. Proceeds of this fundraiser go to UpaDowna who help provide outdoor opportunities for all. Come participate in one or all of the many events going on throughout the day.July 19th: Slackline & Hammock JamboreeMeet at the Scott-Carpenter Park in Boulder, Co at 5:30pm for a chance to relax in an ENO Hammock or show off some of your slackline skills. We’ll be hanging out for a couple hours so stop by, say hey, and relax.July 22nd– 23rd: Group Camp-Out with Elevation Outdoors MagazineJoin the Elevation Outdoors Magazine crew on Friday, July 22nd for a group campout in the James Peak Wilderness. We’ll be parking at the East Portal/ Moffatt Tunnel trailhead (Co Rd 16, Rollinsville, CO 80474). You can either meet us at the Elevation Outdoors office (2510 47th Street Unit 202 Boulder CO 80301) at 5:30pm to carpool or just meet us at the trailhead at 6:15pm. There are multiple group camping sites, but none are more than 1 mile from the trailhead. Group size can’t exceed 12 members within the James Peak Wilderness so RSVP to [email protected] to confirm your spot.July 26th: Group Mountain Bike Ride with Gearonimo SportsCome join us at Gearonimo Sports in Colorado Springs, CO for an evening of riding and climbing. We’ll meet at Gearonimo Sports at 5:30pm, venture to Bear Creek and Straton Open Space, then head back to the shop to climb for free!July 29th: Elevation Outdoors Magazine Presents: Van Life Rally at Upslope Brewing CompanyElevation Outdoors Magazine and Upslope Brewing Company present: A Van Life Rally at Upslope Brewing Company on Central Avenue in Boulder Colorado. If you have lived or still live [or know a friend of a friend who lives or has lived] in your vehicle and are proud to share your ins and outs of space efficiency then email [email protected] Spots are limited, so if you are interested in displaying your van email Adam ASAP.Curious about life on the road? Here’s your chance to check out some of the Boulder area’s raddest homes-on-wheels. Elevation Outdoors Magazine’s road team Live Outside and Play will have their van there to check out as well.If you like vans, craft beer, and like-minded adventure junkies, you belong here!last_img read more

Southern Gap Elk Fest Slated for October

first_imgFriday and Saturday events will include a wildlife photography class and contest; mountain games including a tug of war contest and stone toss; 3D archery; a running with the elk race; a taxidermy competition; guided elk tours; an ATV night ride on the Coal Canyon ATV Trail; local arts and crafts; bugling and turkey call competitions featuring youth and adult divisions; bonfire story-telling; stargazing; a kids zone event hosted by the Boys & Girls Club of Central Appalachia; and live entertainment to be announced.  The festival event awards ceremony will be held Saturday evening prior to the entertainment with winners from all the various competitions held throughout the festival announced.  Additional event sponsors include media partner Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine.  The festival fun starts Wednesday, October 14 with the premiere of “The Elk of Southern Gap,” a newly-produced mini-documentary on the Buchanan County elk restoration project that will be shown at the Southern Gap Visitor Center during a wild game dinner hosted by the Buchanan County Chamber of Commerce. Tickets will go on sale for the wild game dinner in August. Arts and crafts vendors are being sought. To reserve your 12 foot by 12 foot space, call the Southern Gap Visitor Center office at 276-244-1111 or email [email protected] or call the Buchanan County Tourism Office at 276-244-1542 or email [email protected] to request a vendor application. Festival sponsors are also being sought and may call either of the numbers above for additional sponsorship information. center_img For festival updates, follow @WildBuchanan on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or log onto www.WildBuchanan.com. Music, games and good food — as well as opportunities to take part in guided tours to view Buchanan County’s elk population — will be among the activities on tap October 14-17 as Buchanan County Tourism, the Southern Gap Visitor Center, SWVA Sportsmen and the SWVA Coalfields Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation host the four-day festival designed to feature unique and memorable experiences for lovers of wildlife and the outdoors and those seeking a taste of authentic mountain heritage.  Admission to daily festival events is free, however, there are fees for guided elk viewing tours and a wild game dinner. Lodging and camping are available on site, as well as in the nearby Town of Grundy. Arts and crafts vendors and food trucks will be set up on site. Planning is underway to finalize a schedule of events for Southern Gap Elk Fest 2020 to be held at the Southern Gap Visitor Center and in the surrounding community in October.last_img read more

Haiti Leader Calls For ‘Red Helmet’ UN Force

first_imgBy Dialogo April 02, 2010 Haitian President René Préval has given his backing to the creation of a UN “red helmet” humanitarian rapid reaction force which could swing into action within hours of natural disasters. In a speech before a donor’s conference at the UN headquarters on Wednesday to pledge help for his quake-hit nation, Préval argued there was a “need for creating a humanitarian intervention force under the auspices of the UN to coordinate response to disasters, which are bound to occur.” Along with the January 12 quake that left over 220,000 people dead, Préval said recent major natural disasters such as the December 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean and 2008’s Cyclone Nargis that struck Myanmar highlighted the need for rapid intervention to save the maximum numbers of lives. Préval was backed in his call by former French minister Nicole Guedj, who founded the “Red Helmet Foundation,” to lobby for the humanitarian force. UN chief Ban Ki-moon has called the goal “a good project that deserves study and reflection,” he added. Wednesday’s conference ended with some 50 international donors making 9.9-billion-dollars in pledges in a bid to help Haiti recover from the devastating earthquake.last_img read more

Aid Through Text Messages

first_img Kenyan citizen journalists developed Ushahidi, a website to map violence during election time based on reports submitted via the Web and mobile phones. Ushahidi, which means “testimony” in Swahili, has also been used to map xenophobic attacks in South Africa in 2008; monitor elections in Burundi, India, Mexico and Sudan; warn drivers about snow-covered roads and map cleanup efforts during a blizzard in Washington in February 2010; and monitor the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, reported news website www.irinnews.org. A new version of the software called Mogadishu was developed for humanitarian catastrophes. It allows people to send data via e-mail or text message, creating a simple way for the public to share information during crisis response. For more information, visit www.ushahidi.com. By Dialogo July 01, 2010last_img read more

Bolivia, Brazil, and U.S. Will Sign Agreement to Verify Coca Eradication

first_img The governments of Bolivia, Brazil, and the United States will soon sign a joint agreement to verify the eradication of coca plantings on Bolivian territory, an official source revealed in La Paz on 5 July. “Next week, or in the worst-case scenario, by 16 July, the agreement, which is beneficial to the government” of Bolivia “is going to be signed,” Deputy Minister of Social Defense Felipe Cáceres, the chief political figure in charge of the fight against drugs, said at a press conference. He explained that this is a “pilot project to verify the eradication of excess plantings,” which also includes “the equipment and modernization” of state institutions linked to the fight against drug trafficking. The initiative will make it possible to obtain information “in real time on the hectares of coca eradicated,” Cáceres added. Bolivia and Brazil also have an agreement to monitor drug trafficking using Brazilian unmanned planes. Until 2008, Washington was the chief source of economic support for the fight against drugs in Bolivia, which is one of the world’s leading cocaine producers, along with Colombia and Peru, according to the United Nations. Bolivia currently has 30,900 hectares planted with coca. Of that total, only 12,000 hectares are legally recognized, for infusion, chewing, and Andean religious rituals. By Dialogo July 07, 2011last_img read more

The Cartels’ Fondness for the Internet

first_imgBy Dialogo June 01, 2012 Drug-trafficking cartels are increasingly using internet technology to improve their communication, evade law-enforcement operations, and recruit young people, but their tracks on the net could be used to combat them, officials responsible for the fight against drugs said at a meeting in Cancún, Mexico. Groups such as the Los Zetas cartel, made up of military personnel who deserted to work with drug traffickers, and the Pacific organization, led by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, considered the most powerful Mexican drug boss, habitually turn to social networks, and not only in order to frighten their enemies with videos of executions, a common practice in recent years. Young people between 14 and 20 years old arrested in the United States have admitted that they were contacted on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter by Los Zetas liaisons, who then involved them in activities such as transporting contraband across the border or even working as gunmen. A report by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) indicated in late 2011 that the cartels also “spy on their members on social networks, in order to obtain information,” about family members, for example, that they can use in case of desertion. Groups such as Los Zetas also retain the services of hackers, who can access the addresses, telephone numbers, and even bank statements or credit-card statements of possible victims of extortion or kidnapping, the same document maintains. The report was among the texts analyzed by experts from 20 countries who gathered in the Mexican beach resort of Cancún to begin designing a hemispheric strategy targeting organized crime that was mandated by the recent Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, and is supposed to be ready by the end of the year. One of the aims of that strategy is to find mechanisms for filtering crime-related information that can be obtained on the internet, and making it useful for designing operations. “Greater collaboration in the area of real-time information exchange is necessary in order to carry out more effective operations,” General Oscar Naranjo of the Colombian Police stressed in Cancún. After more than 34 years of activity, including resounding blows struck against his country’s cartels, Naranjo – who will retire this month in order to take a post as an advisor to the Mexican government – said that just as criminals take advantage of technology, the authorities should do the same. In 2011, the Mexican Navy dismantled a communications network maintained by Los Zetas in the Mexican port of Veracruz that enabled them to connect their cells on land with vessels transporting contraband cocaine. An example of the way in which the authorities could make use of information obtained in cyberspace is geo-tagging, which makes it possible to use photos or data obtained from mobile phones or computers to locate criminals. The U.S. consulting firm Southern Pulse developed an interactive map, with changing information, showing gangs linked to drug trafficking in the Mexican city of Monterrey, their areas of activity, and possible mobilizations. Introducing a report about Mexico this week, Southern Pulse’s director warned that just as there is a “connection between organized crime and local hacker cells,” governments should have “an organized and secure approach” to accessing information available in cyberspace.last_img read more

Ecuadorean security forces make series of large drug seizures

Citizen cooperation Ecuadorean law enforcement authorities recently seized more than 3.5 tons of drugs in more than 100 security operations. Security forces seized the drugs during a span of seven days in mid-November 2013. Security forces also captured 83 suspected drug trafficking operatives. Among them were 75 Ecuadoreans, six Colombians, and two Mexican nationals. Security forces also detained 14 minors who allegedly collaborated with the drug traffickers. By late November, security forces had seized 53 tons of drugs. The yearly record for drug seizures in Ecuador is 68 tons, which were seized in 2009. The volume of drugs seized by Ecuadorean security forces has increased dramatically in recent years.’ In 2010, security forces seized 18 tons of drugs. In 2011, authorities seized 26 tons of drugs. Ecuador cooperates with Peru and Colombia in fight against organized crime Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa recently signed agreements with the presidents of Peru and Colombia that call on the three countries to cooperate in the fight against organized crime. Correa and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos discussed Colombia’s ongoing peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), during a binational meeting held on Nov. 25, 2013. The two leaders met in the border region which divides the two countries, in the Colombian city of Ipiales. Correa, Santos, the foreign ministers of both countries and several Ecuadorean and Colombian Cabinet ministers met for about four hours to discuss progress on agreements that were reached during the First Binational Cabinet meeting between the two countries. That meeting was held in December 2012 in the Ecuadorean city of Tulcán. Following the Nov. 25 meeting, Correa and Santos signed eight agreements regarding issues such as security, transportation, education, tourism, and the oil industry. Nine days before that meeting, Correa and the president of Peru, Ollanta Humala, agreed to have their respective security forces strengthen their cooperation in the battle against human trafficking and the illegal sales of stolen fuel. Humala and Correa announced the initiatives after they met on Nov. 14, 2013, in the city of Piura, Peru, near the Ecuadorean border. The meeting between of the two presidents concluded the VII Binational Ministerial Cabinet Meeting. The two presidents announced they had signed the two security cooperation agreements. Ecuadorean citizens are helping security forces by providing information about the suspected activities of drug traffickers, authorities said. Such cooperation is crucial in the battle against drug traffickers and other organized crime groups, according to security analysts. For example, information received from citizens led to the security operation “No Return,” in late November 2013, authorities said. Security forces received information from a citizen or citizens that drugs were hidden in a fiber boat docked at Las Piedras Viejas in Tachina, Esmereldas. Security forces inspected the boat and found 208 packages of cocaine hidden on the vessel, authorities said,. Targeted police operations Large drug seizures ‘El Chapo’ in Ecuador A transit point for drug trafficking By Dialogo November 29, 2013 The Sinaloa Cartel and Los Zetas, two violent Mexican transnational criminal organizations, operate in Ecuador, transporting drugs, according to authorities and security analysts. In February 2013, 19 inmates escaped from a high-security Ecuadorian prison in Guayaquil, located about 420 kilometers south of Quito. Among the escapees was Cesar Demar Vernaza Quinonez, who is known as “The Entrepreneur.” He is the leader of a gang, known as “The Courageous,” which collaborates with the Sinaloa Cartel, authorities said. The Courageous transports and protects drug shipments for the cartel, which is led by fugitive drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. Colombian security forces recaptured The Entrepreneur in that country in April 2013. Authorities extradited The Entrepreneur to Ecuador, where he is facing drug trafficking charges. Ecuadorean police have made a large series of drug seizures by specifically targeting and focusing on organized crime groups, said Bertha Garcia, a security analyst at the Catholic University of Ecuador. “Ecuador is not a drug-producing country, but it is a country of drug collection and passage,” the security analyst said. “Drug shipments come in from Peru and Colombia. Although we cannot say these are huge quantities of drugs which are being seized, because Ecuador is a small country, but the volume is obviously increasing.” The November operations closely followed a major drug seizure in late October 2013. In that operation, Ecuadorean security forces found and seized more than a half-ton of drugs – cocaine alkaloid — in the seaport of Guayaquil. Security forces found the cocaine alkaloid hidden inside a container filled with pineapples. Drug traffickers intended to transport the cocaine alkaloid by boat to Belgium, according to police Gen. William Balarezo, commander of the Guayas province police district. The port drug seizure was reported by Interior Minister Jose Serrano, via his Twitter account. The series of large drug seizures indicate that Ecuador is becoming an important transit point for drug traffickers who smuggle drugs to Europe and Asia, a security analyst said. “Drug smugglers are increasingly using Ecuador as a shipping point directly to the intended markets,” explained Hector Chavez, a security analyst at the University of Guayaquil. Drug traffickers are decreasing the volume of drugs they transport to Central American markets through Ecuador, Chavez said. “Lower volumes of drugs are being shipped to Central American markets or Mexico from Ecuador,” Chavez said. “Criminals have realized that it is more cost effective and less risky to ship directly to European and Asian markets directly from Ecuador,” Chavez said. Ecuadorean security forces have used intelligence, technology, and cooperation with the Armed Forces to make a series of important drug seizures in recent months, according to Deputy Interior Minister Javier Cordoba. Among the seizures: • In October 2013, the Ecuadorian Navy and police forces collaborated to seize 799 kilos of cocaine in the country’s territorial waters, drugs which were destined for Central America and ultimately north to the United States, authorities reported. Advanced technology helped the authorities find the boat that was smuggling the cocaine, according to Naval officials. • Also in October 2013, Ecuador’s anti-narcotic agents from the National Police seized at least three tons of cocaine in an operation held in the southwestern coastal province of Santa Elena, Ecuador’s Interior Minister Jose Serrano announced. Security forces captured 11 suspects, Serrano announced via Twitter. The suspects were connected to a powerful Colombian drug trafficking organization, “Los Urabeños,” Serrano said via Twitter. • In May 2013, Ecuadorian police arrested five Ecuadoreans and four Mexicans who were suspected of being part of a drug trafficking network. Police also seized 453 kilograms of cocaine and $276,567 in cash. The arrests and seizures were part of part of “Operación Aluvión.” • In April 2013, Ecuadorean police alerted the Coast Guard that a yacht, the “Green Onion,” was transporting a large quantity of cocaine. The Coast Guard pursued the boat, which escaped into international waters. The Ecuadorian Navy alerted the U.S. Coast Guard, which captured the boat in waters near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. When they realized they were about to be captured, the crew burned about four tons of cocaine. read more

Costa Rican Security Officials and U.S. Border Patrol Train Together to Improve Security

first_imgBy Dialogo July 14, 2015 EL Chapo is more clever than the whole Honduran Army. The U.S. training focuses on patrolling rural areas, operating border posts, providing first aid, using the latest fiber optic equipment to conduct vehicle checks, and a skill that is becoming increasingly important — swimming. Mata, along with other Costa Rican officials, took full advantage of the opportunity to consider how the U.S. Border Patrol’s approach could be adapted for their country, its 309-kilometer northern land border with Nicaragua, and its 330-kilometer southern boundary with Panama. “In order to be a Border Police officer today, you have to be able to swim, and you have to maintain certain abilities in the water,” Lacayo explained. Observing U.S. tactics to stop drug traffickers The June visit strengthened the bond between the two countries and will lead to additional cooperation, Security Minister Gustavo Mata and National Police School (ENP) Director Erick Lacayo told Diálogo. For example, in one instance, the Security Minister watched as U.S. Border Patrol agents conducted patrols on horseback — a tactic that he said could be used in Costa Rica, where “there are places that are unreachable by vehicle…even from the air.” All of these efforts to protect Costa Rica’s border pays important dividends for the country’s ecology, as well. Costa Ricans training to join the Border Police must complete a U.S. component during their training, which consists of a three-month Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) specialization course; prospects typically participate in the BORTAC training in the United States. The goal is to develop “a multifaceted, multifunctional officer,” who protects the border area and human rights, Lacayo said. “We must not only think we’re going to teach him how to use a pistol… we must also teach him he must protect natural resources, because, particularly in our border zone, we find the issue of logging, smuggling of species, meat, cheese, fish, products… which also becomes a human security issue.” The recent visit is just one example of close cooperation between Costa Rica and the U.S. on border security. center_img Ongoing training programs “The visit was meant to observe how the [US] authorities manage the border,” said Mata, a former deputy director of the Judicial Investigation Bureau [OIJ] and former Vice Minister of Security. “I was fascinated, because I saw that they use entirely different logistics for border surveillance –- they have mounted police, they have helicopters, airplanes, they have patrol vehicles, they have all-terrain vehicles –- and this gives operational diversity to protection.” Fighting organized crime groups which engage in wildlife trafficking is one of the most important responsibilities of the Costa Rican Border Police, one of several civilian law enforcement forces that provide public security in Costa Rica since the country disbanded its Armed Forces in 1948. Protecting Costa Rica’s natural resources The Border Police was inactive for several years until Costa Rica relaunched the department on March 30, 2014, at the Costa Rican border post of Los Chiles. The Central American country has about 51,100 square kilometers of land surface and about 589,000 square kilometers of territorial waters, and is one of the 20 countries in the world with the highest biodiversity. It’s home to more than 500,000 species of animals, including marine mammals and reptiles, more than 900 species of birds, and many big cats, such as pumas, jaguarundis, margays, ocelots, and oncillas or little spotted cats. “All that experience allowed me to have a much broader criterion about how we’re going to guard our borders … and see what logistics I could count on. I bring with me a clear model, to see, to analyze whether it’s possible to adapt it,” Mata said. Top Costa Rican security officials recently studied border protection strategies during a visit to Texas installations of the United States Border Patrol, located along the border shared by Mexico and the U.S. The Costa Rican authorities observed strategies and tactics their country’s Border Police (Policía de Fronteras) could utilize. last_img read more

Operation Ágata Boosts Cooperation Between Brazilian Armed Forces and Civilian Agencies

first_imgIn addition to improving security, Operation Ágata also provides social welfare assistance for residents in the border regions where the Armed Forces conduct the initiative. Security and social welfare Most service members and government officers participating in Operation Ágata were assigned to checkpoints strategically positioned on land and waterways, where they intercepted, searched, and inspected vehicles and ships. “Everyone knows that the majority of drugs coming into Brazil passes through the strip where we are operating,” Brazilian Major General Carlos Saú, Chairman of the Joint Staff for the Western Operational Area, said. In 2015, the Armed Forces allocated military resources throughout the region, which collectively encompasses 166 municipalities in four Brazilian states – Paraná, Mato Grosso do Sul, Mato Grosso, and Rondônia. Operation Ágata mobilized more than 10,000 service members – approximately 5,000 from the Army and 5,000 from the Navy and Air Force (FAB) – plus 450 professionals from federal and state government agencies. The operation also utilized technological tools in the Integrated Border Monitoring System (SISFRON) for the first time. This collaboration is a consequence of Brazil’s Strategic Border Plan which launched in 2011 with the goal of strengthening the government’s presence in border zones through Operation Sentinela and Operation Ágata; the former focuses on intelligence activities, while the latter’s mission concentrates on making interventions on the ground. That area, which encompasses nearly a quarter of Brazil’s total border region, stretches between the district of Vista Alegre do Abunã, in the state of Rondônia, and the city of Foz do Iguaçu, in the state of Paraná. From July 22-31, Brazil’s Ministry of Defense conducted the ninth edition of Operation Ágata to disrupt drug trafficking and provide social welfare assistance along the 4,045-kilometer border the country shares with Bolivia and Paraguay. Ten days into the operation, Soldiers and officers had conducted 42,509 vehicle inspections and searches and had seized four tons of marijuana. Soldiers and Troops also confiscated other items, including cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, electronic equipment, fuel, and car parts that organized crime groups were smuggling in an attempt to avoid paying taxes; the goods had an estimated value of 200,567 dollars, according to the Ministry of Defense. “We primarily use sensors, radar, and long-range binoculars to monitor the region and capture a variety of data,” Maj. Gen. Saú said. “The technology helps us make decisions on how to better employ our resources.” “We want them to be proud of what they’ve done, and to feel like the space belongs to them.” center_img In 2015, for example, 50 service members from the country’s Army and Navy teamed with 14 students and parents to completely renovate the Francisco Mendes Sampaio Municipal School in Ladário Mato Grosso do Sul. The 345 students were welcomed back from their mid-year break with painted walls, repaired plumbing and electricity, a new gym floor, and the works of student graffiti artists on exterior walls. During Operation Ágata 9, Troops also provided medical and dental treatment to residents, in addition to distributing medication and providing health care lectures, dental care kits, and recreational activities aimed at children as part of 7,341 civic-social actions. Captain Welliton Lopes dos Santos, Logistics Commander for the Western Operational Area, said the idea to involve students and parents in the renovation was intended to reinforce citizen responsibility at the school. By Dialogo August 07, 2015 Very good Hi. All of the Armed Forces should be congratulated. Great work. May nature protect you all. Good luck. It’s about time they’re taking action on the border. Drugs, the biggest problem in this country, should stay over there. Congratulations to our glorious Brazilian Army on the joint initiative to safeguard our borders and prevent the entry of weapons and drugs, as well as other activities related to the initiative. We managed Hallelujah! The Armed Forces need to get out of the barracks and serve on the outskirts of cities and in the countryside, especially in border areas, where Brazil lost its sovereignty a long time ago. Actually, if the Army doesn’t protest in the streets, we will be taken out by robbers, regardless of race, financial status or anything else. We are prisoners with no protection. White-collar robbers and street robbers are loose and doing as they please now. What we want is our Armed Forces to always act in accordance with our Constitution; just like they do in France, Sweden, USA, UK, Denmark, Norway, Germany, etc. Congratulations. May they continue becoming more professional. I would like to see that happen. It really would be a great reinforcement for the security of this big event to be held in 2016, another event. Awesome! This operation is wonderful. The most important thing is for our country’s military forces to bring themselves closer to society and reduce the fear people have of the military as being mean and negligent. Congratulations for the initiative. We need to demonstrate that we can fulfil the mission. Very nice. The country need more actions like this one to combat violence and drug trafficking in our country and state. Congratulations. Brazil needs to show these drug traffickers who they really are (just drug traffickers) and treat them as such. Let’s provide human rights to those who are decent and live with dignity. CONGRATULATIONS! This brings full security against any threat to our homeland. I love it. Construction begins with the foundation. So, the borders are the base of everything. Help from our local and state police, private security, civil police, etc. is not enough. A partnership is needed with other security forces such as the Army, Air Force and Navy. Congratulations, Carlos Sau. Every house begins with the foundation. Therefore, the foundation is the basis of everything. In the case of combating drugs, contraband, weapons, cigarettes, etc., the foundation is the borders of our country. Congratulations General Sá. Congratulations Very nice. This is exactly what the Brazilian Army needs to do, be present and impose respect before organised crime takes over everything. I love peace. Very good, in addition to keeping the military busy with useful social actions. This shows that the military is indeed an arm of society. CONGRATULATIONS Brave warriors, who Brazil appreciates. Brazil first. Another dengue victim in the neighbourhood of J. Amelia. This one was lucky. It’s going to be nice to have security. It should be for all moments in Brazil. “Operation Ágata is not just another initiative bringing together three separate branches of service, the Army, Navy and Air Force. This operation is characterized by combining members of the security forces and government agencies and adding all of their capabilities together for the good of society.” The type of cooperation shown by the FAB and the National Aviation Agency, in which the Military works with civilian government agencies, accounted for about 70 percent of Operation Ágata’s actions, Maj. Gen. Saú said, adding that interagency cooperation, which increased in 2015, is one of the effort’s strengths. Military operation integrates with civilian government agencies Meanwhile, the FAB, working in cooperation with the National Aviation Agency, inspected eight airfields and checked 60 aircraft for valid documentation, which led to the seizure of one aircraft in Porto Velho, in the state of Rondônia, and 24 issued notifications on document records irregularities with set deadlines for them to be remedied. Partnerships with prefectures and state governments also allowed Troops to issue essential documents, such as identification cards and employment cards, to residents.last_img read more

Colombian National Army Develops Methodology to Fight Leishmaniasis

first_imgLeishmaniasis covers a group of diseases caused by a parasite belonging to the genus Leishmania. The main forms of leishmaniasis are visceral (the most severe), cutaneous (the most common), mucocutaneous, disseminated, and diffuse. Leishmaniasis is a zoonosis (a disease transmitted from vertebrate animals to humans), which is transferred through the bite of an insect vector. “We work with real-time PCR,” Lt. Col. Méndez stated. “This methodology allows us to quantify and identify the parasites in each patient and determine whether Glucantime treatment will be effective. We monitor them from day 0 to day 10 and on day 20 of the treatment, and establish a timeline for the behavior of parasites at the molecular level. If the patient is resistant to treatment, we can provide alternatives.” Cases of leishmaniasis have been widespread in Latin America, particularly in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil. In Colombia, the National Army has reported an average of 4,000 to 5,000 new cases annually. Human infection can occur through parasites from an animal source (zoonotic cycle) or through parasites from another human host (anthroponotic cycle). Dogs are the most common hosts of cutaneous leishmaniasis, though it is also present in other small mammals. Due to the proximity of Soldiers to canines during humanitarian demining and other activities, it is important to also treat animals, who are cared for by the National Army’s veterinarians. Good day I suffered from leishmaniasis I was ill a year and a half here there are vaccinations Maracaibo and Trujillo they are made here the parasite doesn’t exist any more thank you Leishmaniasis in Latin America Pentamidine and Amphotericin are some alternative treatments that doctors can prescribe instead of Glucantime. This dual functionality of the PCR methodology for leishmaniasis, species identification, and parasite quantification, has involved analyzing samples from 200 patients at the Research Center. In April, the study is scheduled to run with funding from the Army’s Office of Education and Doctrine. In the case of Colombia, there are different strains of reference: L.braziliensis, L.panamensis, L.guayanensis, L.colombiensis, L.amazonensis, L.mexicana, and L.chagasi. Based on the displacement speed of each one at different temperatures during the test, it is possible to determine the species of Leishmania that is affecting the patient. Samples to determine the disease’s existence should be taken by a direct swab and analyzed by a microscope, according to Lt. Col. Méndez. However, platoons do not always have a bacteriologist who can perform the procedure and accurately diagnose patients, often making cases hard to diagnose. Harmful effects “When the papules are present but the test for leishmaniasis is negative, the patient needs to go to the nearest town, where a biopsy is taken,” Lt. Col. Méndez said. “The samples are then sent to the Military Hospital in Bogotá. This process takes about three weeks and is very expensive. It also causes a very slow recovery in patients.” After being bitten by the mosquito that carries the disease – the Lutzomyia Psychoidae – one to three weeks will pass before the development of a papule that can grow from 0.5 to three centimeters in diameter. Most patients have one or two of these lesions on their face, hands, or legs. Lesions within three weeks The medication used to treat the disease can cause harmful effects. In Colombia, physicians treat leishmaniasis with Glucantime, a medicine whose toxicity can cause myalgia, arthralgia, weakness, and vomiting, and if used for a prolonged period, kidney and heart damage. Leishmaniasis is linked to environmental changes such as deforestation, dam construction, irrigation systems, and urbanization, according to the WHO. In the Americas, cases have been reported everywhere from northern Argentina to southern Texas, with the exception of Chile and Uruguay. Colombian Troops are constantly exposed to the mosquito that transmits leishmaniasis, a disease whose clinical manifestations range from scarring cutaneous ulcers to severe inflammation of the liver and spleen. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that every year there are 1.3 million new cases and 20,000 to 30,000 deaths related to the disease worldwide. Lt. Col. Méndez’s research is focused on the quantification of the parasite load in cutaneous leishmaniasis through real-time PCR to characterize the circulating strains of Leishmania and determine the effective treatment for each patient. PCR is a molecular technique that utilizes the parasite’s DNA to obtain very specific results. Early detection of the disease is important to allow for the appropriate prognosis and follow-up treatment. Lieutenant Colonel Claudia Méndez, who heads the Army Health Directorate Research Center’s laboratory, develops tools to improve diagnosis, optimize the monitoring of patients, and reduce the adverse effects related to treatment of the disease, such as myalgia, arthralgia, and impaired liver function, among others. The new methodology featuring Conventional Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technology was implemented in 2012. And in June 2014, real-time PCR was added, greatly simplifying the diagnosis of leishmaniasis among Colombian Troops. “Cutaneous leishmaniasis is the most common disease transmitted by insect vectors to Soldiers in Colombia, well above zika, chikungunya, chagas disease, dengue and other diseases,” Lt. Col. Méndez said. “While it is not fatal, it affects the Troops because it leaves scarring lesions on the face and other parts of the body. If not treated in time, the parasite can advance and produce mucocutaneous leishmaniasis, which deforms and pierces the septum, and damages the lining of the mouth, among other symptoms.” Lt. Col. Méndez and her team implemented an innovative procedure to address this issue. “In places that are difficult to access, combat nurses are trained to take the sample on filter paper,” she explained. “The patient takes the filter paper out of a hermetically sealed plastic bag, makes an imprint on the leishmaniasis lesion, and sends it to our laboratory in Bogotá. In two days, we have the diagnosis ready.” By Dialogo March 04, 2016last_img read more

Panama Faces an Old Threat Anew

first_img Vice Minister Rogelio Donadío: We expect that he will continue to protect our borders and, above all, combat organized crime in all its facets: drugs, human trafficking, and to protect national sovereignty, because, at the end of the day, we have problems, above all, in the South, where criminal organizations want to come closer to the border with Panama and set up permanent camps that are used to manufacture drugs, to cultivate cocaine plants, marihuana plants… So, what we have entrusted Commander Hayer with is to very jealously protect the territory and to protect against drug trafficking and any type of organized crime that there might be along that border. Diálogo: Could you tell us about “Operación Candado”? Drug trafficking groups often transport illegal drugs that are produced in South America through Central America before delivering them to the United States and Europe, according to a recent United Nations report. In 2015, Panama seized a record 58 tons of drugs. Panamanian authorities estimate that they have seized 462 tons since 2000. To talk about current issues related to drugs and other relevant issues in the country and the region, Diálogo spoke with Rogelio Donadío, Panama’s Vice Minister for Public Safety, during the Central American Security Conference (CENTSEC) held in San José, Costa Rica, from April 6th-8th. On April 1st, a cloud of thick black smoke darkened the skies around Panama City. It was the result of the Panamanian Police incinerating 6.3 tons of cocaine, 2.5 tons of marijuana, and 3.8 kilograms of heroin; since January 1st, Panamanian law enforcement authorities have destroyed almost nine additional tons of drugs, primarily cocaine, that they seized from narco-traffickers, according to data released by officials. Diálogo: Are there coca leaf fields in Panama already? Vice Minister Donadío: In fact, we think so, because there is a possibility that not all of them will demobilize through fragmentation or the elimination of people engaged in organized crime; an armed group is going to be left over. They will demobilize in Colombia, but they are going to continue their business, above all, those earning the most money. And among the possibilities, which are not remote and are very real, is that they will move their business to the Colombian border, where Venezuela, where Ecuador, where Peru are, but also where Panama is. In other words, it is a fact that we believe they may mobilize to Panamanian territory and continue their criminal activities. Vice Minister Donadío: Yes. Above all, along both borders, at the border between Panama and Colombia, and at the border between Panama and Costa Rica. It is an inescapable issue. Aside from that, there also has to be a component of prevention, an element that provides social assistance and creates a civic component for the people; a component that works for the benefit of the population, because oftentimes, this component of security is the entire government of the Republic of Panama. They are the ones who often provide for health, education, and to a certain extent, the way in which the population can coexist in peace, and that, the original priority, is the fight against organized crime, as well as the civic actions that have to be brought to a population so as to prevent those populations from being infiltrated by organized crime, by the money there is in organized crime. Diálogo: Can the fall of the FARC in Colombia signify a threat to Panama? center_img Vice Minister Donadío: We have found coca leaf fields in Panama, but we have found more marijuana leaf crops. However, we have been eradicating them. The advantage we have had in comparison with when these problems began in the years between 2002-2005 is that, during those years, there was a permanent criminal presence in Panamanian territory. The arrival of SENAFRONT permanently kicked them out of Panamanian territory. Now, because the border is so wooded and is so large, they somehow come in and conduct their activities, but not permanently. Then, of course, there is cultivation, but practically none of cocaine. There is a small part they have used to cultivate marijuana, which began to be eradicated at the beginning of the year. However, since we eradicated it up to now we have not seen any more marijuana or cocaine fields. Diálogo: And what is the importance of continuing to work with the United States and other countries in the region in this fight against drug trafficking and other threats? Diálogo: Is the fight against organized crime and drug trafficking still SENAFRONT’s priority? Diálogo: The new commander of the National Border Service (SENAFRONT), Cristian Hayer, assumed the post on February 15th. What do you expect from him? By Dialogo April 19, 2016 Vice Minister Donadío: Well, organized crime is a crime that makes quick decisions, that mutates, that does not ask, that does not respect sovereignties, that does not respect laws. However, we are the guardians of the constitutions and the laws of our countries, and each country also must defend its sovereignty. In order to take action in the territories in which they are active, we must join together, we must communicate with each other, we must trust one another, and be loyal to one another to strengthen solidarity, strengthen even the context of how we are going to act in a given case. That is the only way to combat organized crime that is active in the entire territory, from Colombia and much farther away, all the way to the United States. There is no way to combat that if we do not join together. There is no way to combat that if we do not coordinate, if we do not get organized, if we do not have effective, timely, and true communication. There is no way to combat that if we do not have a legal framework in all our countries. We are looking to work together and create an integrated network when these types of events occur, like here at CENTSEC, so that the legal framework can be applied respecting the countries’ sovereignty and respecting the way in which each one of us sees the solution to the problems created by organized crime. Vice Minister Donadío: “Operación Candado” is like the continuation of “Operación Patria”. As a result of it, there have already begun to dismantle the camps that were being used by the FARC. “Operación Candado” has to do with the fact that, somehow, we have to protect our coastline and our waters along the border with Colombia, both on the Atlantic and the Pacific coasts. If we make that impenetrable and optimize the watercraft, the criminals will not reach our coastlines and will instead pass by on the outside. Excellent work. I hope everything continues to be well organized to be able to fight every kind of crime, keep it up, looking for a solution to everything.last_img read more

Central America Unites to Combat Drug Trafficking and Gangs

first_imgBy Lorena Baires/Diálogo October 28, 2016 Drug trafficking, money laundering, arms smuggling, human trafficking, and gang violence know no borders. That’s why the armed forces of Central America have outlined a joint strategy for stopping criminal organizations. This is an ongoing effort led by the Central American Armed Forces Conference. Representatives of the armed forces in the region meet annually at El Salvador’s Regional Center on Training Against Transnational Organized Crime (CRACCT, per its Spanish acronym) to standardize criteria and share their greatest successes. Army officials from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua participated in the 6th edition of the Regional Seminar to Counter Transnational Crime from September 19th-30th. “Criminal structures change their ways of operating due to globalization. That’s why it is important to continue sharing information and experiences. This allows us to raise the level of effectiveness in the fight against crime,” said Artillery Colonel Rafael Antonio Díaz, CRACCT commander. The seminar was developed by El Salvador’s Special Forces Command, Air Force, and Navy. However, the Joint Group Cuscatlán, the Transnational Anti-Gang Initiative, and elite groups of the Salvadoran National Civil Police, such as the Anti-Narcotics Division, the Elite Division Against Organized Crime, and the Special Anti-Gang Unit also shared their experiences in the field. During the theory portion of the seminar, the elite Salvadoran combat groups explained the new modus operandi of gangs, drug-trafficking and illicit-smuggling groups. They elaborated on the substructures of these criminal groups, as well as the action mechanisms that together make them organized crime organizations. “The successful experiences gained by all of the countries are the key to squeezing the vice to stop these organizations,” said Transmissions Colonel Daniel Serrano, deputy chief of the General Army Staff of the Salvadoran Armed Forces (FAES, per its Spanish acronym). “Gangs and drug trafficking are scourges common to our countries, although each one has its own peculiarities,” stated Col. Serrano. “Sharing these experiences allows us to reduce the chances of it multiplying. These threats are borderless, and we must address them as such.” Special dynamics were carried out during the practical courses to combine procedures related to search, seizure and custody of evidence. The officers also established clearer channels for interagency cooperation and new methods for aerial and maritime interception. A region without borders Since borders do not exist for these criminals, sharing lessons learned and exchanging experiences are the key to consolidating and integrating border procedures. “El Salvador is fighting these gang structures head on, which is why there has been migration to rural municipalities in Guatemala,” said Lieutenant Bladimir Álvarez, representing the Guatemalan Armed Forces. “Our immediate mission is to strengthen the borders, so as to prevent criminals from evading justice.” A related phenomenon is that migration follows a pattern of searching for safer spaces to train in the use of weapons of war. “In Honduras, we have observed that gang members from El Salvador come here to train. The same thing happens with Salvadoran gang members who go to Nicaragua,” added Honduran Navy Lieutenant Denis Meléndez. “Jointly identifying these movements allows us to design more effective strategies for capturing them.” CRACCT will draft a list of recommendations for immediate joint application. Meanwhile, because of their complexity, the standardization of other lists that require more time continues. Already, 300 officers have been trained. These meetings help to share tactics and strengthen joint efforts in the fight against emerging threats. For FAES, the effectiveness of implementing these new strategies rests on the leadership of officers when leading their troops. That way, the contents and practice of this new regional exercise are multiplied.last_img read more

Soldiers from 26 Countries Gather for World Military Orienteering Championship

first_imgBy Andréa Barretto/Diálogo January 03, 2017 Sports were one activity that defined 2016. And the Brazilian Armed Forces were no exception, closing the year by hosting the 49th World Military Orienteering Championship from November 17th-23rd at the Brazilian Naval Air Base, in the Lagos region in the state of Rio de Janeiro. The event gathered 206 athletes from 26 countries, including Chile, Ecuador, and Venezuela. Seven men and four women represented Brazil in the competition. “The determining factor for our results in the championship was the dedication and unity of the team. We are a tight-knit family of athletes from the three armed forces,” said Provisional Tech Sergeant Edinéia Roniak dos Santos. The sportswoman began her military career in the Brazilian Army in 2014, when she was selected to take part in the High Performance Athlete Program associated with the ministries of Defense and Sport. Multiple abilities Orienteering is a sport more widely practiced in Europe than in Brazil. The discipline combines elements of running with traditional military navigational skills, as it requires the athlete to be able to read a map and use a compass as guides. The competition starts with setting up the course — generally outdoors and in the countryside — along which mandatory travel points. These travel points are markers on a map given to each orienteer at the time of the competition. “When the stopwatch starts, the athlete must open the map, find his or her bearings, and using a compass set off for an area, sequentially passing through the points that are marked on the map. The winner is the person who is able to pass through all of the points in the shortest time,” explained Lieutenant General Paulo Martino Zuccaro, director of the Department of Military Sports for the Brazilian Ministry of Defense. Each participant receives a map, a compass and a digital key that must be inserted into mini computers scattered throughout the terrain, from start to finish. Using this system, each athlete’s time and movement through the set points on the map can be monitored. An athlete that fails to cross through a point, or does not follow the established sequence, is disqualified. “The fact that the competition is held in the middle of the forest, over uneven terrain, requires the orienteer to have an extraordinary physical capacity. Additionally, the orienteer must have the necessary mental agility to handle the map and compass together in order to quickly choose the best paths from one point to another,” Lt. Gen. Zuccaro said, adding that the points are fixed, but the route between points is variable. It is up to the athlete to decide which route to take. “For example, he can go through the brush, or go around it along a trail that was established in that area.” City and country Three trials were held in the 49th World Military Orienteering Championship. The first trial took place on an average-length course; the second over a longer course out in the country in the Rio das Ostras municipality. The third trial was an urban relay in the city of Búzios. The first course required athletes to cross through 16 points. Male competitors had to cover slightly more than five kilometers, while female athletes were required to cover around four kilometers. As in most orienteering competitions, the points for men are spread out across longer distances from each other, than they are for women. In the long course, men had to cover 28 points and approximately 12 kilometers of ground, while women had to travel 6 kilometers. “I had some difficulties on the average-length course, as it was a faster and more technical trial,” said Sgt. Edinéia, who participated in all three trials. “On day two, in the trial over the long course, I was more confident because I like long-distance runs. Adding up my results on the two courses, plus my teammates’ results, our team took 6th place,” Sgt. Edinéia said. Holding trials in the city is a recent development in the orienteering sports world. The idea of taking this discipline into the urban space arose from a desire to promote the sport more widely. Despite the different environment, the competitive principle remains the same – the points are spread out along city streets, and each competitor sets off on the route with a map and compass. “It is a very lively trial. We have music, sports casting, and a crowd of locals who are in close proximity to the participants,” Lt. Gen. Zuccaro said. Búzios was chosen as the host city because of its diverse and eclectic architecture, which blends colonial and modern styles with lots of greenery. Another factor that affected the selection was the city’s smooth flow of traffic. The competition was not held in an isolated area, but event organizers took precautions to choose quieter streets for the transit points. “We also put some security features in place along stretches with more traffic, to reduce vehicle speeds,” explained Lt. Gen. Zuccaro. This was the fifth time Brazil hosted the World Military Orienteering Championship. It was held twice in Paraná, in 1983 and 2006, with nine and 27 countries participating respectively. Another edition was held in 1992 in Brasília, with 12 nations participating. The penultimate championship hosted by Brazil was held in Rio de Janeiro in 2011, with 28 countries participating. This was Sgt. Edinéia’s first experience at a world event. She is focused on a six-day-a-week training regimen and hopes that this is just the beginning. “I know that I have a lot to learn now, and each day I am more determined!”last_img read more

Colombian, Guatemalan Service Members Exchange Experiences

first_imgBy Jennyfer Hernández/Diálogo November 15, 2018 In early September, officers of the Colombian Armed Forces’ General Rafael Reyes Prieto War College (ESDEGUE, in Spanish) visited Guatemala as part of their international educational tour. During their stay, Colombian officers exchanged experiences with students of the Guatemalan Army Higher Education Command (COSEDE, in Spanish), based in Guatemala City. The objective of the visit, September 3-7, was to learn about the Central American country’s political, economic, sociocultural, and military aspects. The group also sought to exchange knowledge with their Guatemalan counterparts on border security, the fight against organized crime, and illegal trafficking. The meeting also strengthened bonds of friendship between the Guatemalan Army and the Colombian Armed Forces. “We call these geostrategic studies’ visits, where countries such as Mexico, El Salvador, the United States, Brazil, Colombia, and Guatemala make trips every year to strengthen the knowledge about our military educational systems,” Guatemalan Army Colonel Francis Rossito, director of COSEDE’s General Staff Command course, told Diálogo. “The courses are important in all armed forces, because they are academic requirements that need to be met to obtain higher ranks in the institutions.” Peace in Guatemala The Colombian delegation of 27 officers— students of ESDEGUE’s General Staff course—led by Colombian Army Brigadier General César Augusto Parra León, commander of the Army’s Sixth Division, took part in workshops and training with students of COSEDE’s General Staff Command course. Among the topics addressed, Col. Rossito said, three stood out: the Guatemalan peace process, the fight against narcotrafficking and other crimes, and cyber warfare. Guatemalan Congressman Manuel Conde Orellana delivered a lecture about the perspectives of civil society and the peace process in Guatemala. Conde talked about the decades of confrontation with armed groups in the country and analyzed the events that enabled peace negotiations, signed in late 1996. “The process Colombians are going through right now is very similar to what we experienced. […] We passed along all our experience in peace processes,” Col. Rossito said. “We shared our situation not only at the political-strategic level, but also at the strategic-operational level, and also showed them how we turned our counterinsurgency war doctrine into a different doctrine to start comprehensive cooperation operations and support civil security forces.” Colombian students also learned about the Guatemalan Army’s internal methods of adaptation after the peace accords and their progress over two decades. Colombian Army Colonel Robinson Arango, military attaché at the Colombian Embassy in Guatemala, told Diálogo that the information was very well received. “Guatemala has 20 years of experience with peace processes, and we’re just getting started with this,” Col. Arango said. “So we are seeing in this country what we can do and what we cannot do. Successes and errors are very valuable, because we are learning all this so we know what we need to improve in the Colombian Army.” Mutual understanding Guatemalan officers learned about the experiences of their Colombian counterparts in the fight against narcotrafficking and their operations to dismantle criminal gangs. The Central American students were also briefed about methods military institutions use to identify and destroy drug labs, eradicate illicit crops, and substitute them for legal ones. The Colombian delegation also shared their knowledge about cybersecurity and cyberdefense, detailing the work their institutions carry out, such as the mission of the Military Forces Joint Cyber Command, devoted to defending national interests. Guatemala launched its national cybersecurity strategy in July 2018. With passion and discipline The Colombian officers seized the opportunity to visit the Special Forces Brigade at the North Command Air Base in Petén department. During the visit, officers learned about the Guatemalan elite forces’ training. “Being in Guatemala was a great experience,” Col. Arango said. “We are impressed by the discipline, dedication, and passion with which they train.” The Colombian delegation concluded its stay in Guatemala with a trip to Guatemala City’s historical center. The group continued to Ecuador as part of its international tour.last_img read more

Program makes it easier for lawyers to evaluate judges

first_img March 15, 2001 Regular News Program makes it easier for lawyers to evaluate judges Program makes it easier for lawyers to evaluate judges The Florida Bar’s Judicial Evaluation Committee has approved a significant expansion of its circuit judge evaluation by allowing attorneys to directly receive and return evaluation forms. “We’ve been calling it the attorney participation initiative,” said JEC Chair Jennifer Coberly. “The impetus is to have the program be effective in its goal and to provide the judiciary with feedback. It’s important for reasons of judicial independence. “People want to feel there’s a meaningful evaluation system in place. We’ve tried to increase the participation as much as possible.” The circuit judge evaluation program began just over three years ago. Under the program, when judges send out a final order in a case to the lawyers, they can include an evaluation form. The lawyers can fill out the form, make comments and return it to The Florida Bar. When a sufficient number of forms for an individual judge have been accumulated, the forms are mailed to the judge for review. The judge, at his or her option, can review the forms with the chief circuit judge, but the contents are otherwise confidential. In the new program, Coberly said, lawyers can get the form on their own, fill it out, and return it to the Bar. “When there’s a final order of any kind, we would like the lawyers to directly access the evaluation form and fill it out,” she said. Coberly said the committee embarked on the new program because it wants to boost participation in the evaluation process. “The judges [who use the evaluation process] are happy with it and the attorneys [who use the process] are happy with it,” she said. “The problem is getting enough participation. “A lot of attorneys don’t know this program is available. We want to give them the opportunity.” To get a form, go to the Bar’s website at www.FLABAR.org, and click on Organization. Under the Committees listing, choose Standing, and then select the Judicial Evaluation Committee. There are links in the text to both the trial and appellate judicial evaluation forms, as well as instructions for filling out the forms. (Use your browser’s print command to print out the form.) Those without Internet access can obtain the forms from Doris Maffei, The Florida Bar, 651 E. Jefferson Street, Tallahassee 32399, or by calling Maffei at 850/561-5670. Completed forms should be placed in an unmarked envelope (Maffei noted that some lawyers have enclosed the forms in envelopes with their firms’ addresses). The envelope should state the judge’s name and his or her circuit or county and be addressed as follows: c/o Judicial Evaluation Committee, P.O. Box 11067, Tallahassee 32302-3067. (See illustration) Coberly said lawyers should also use care in filling out the form so that they do not include anything that identifies them or the case. Forms are held until several are collected and then forwarded to the judge, which further helps guarantee anonymity for participating attorneys. “We really want this to work and be an effective way to let judges know how they’re doing,” Coberly said.last_img read more

Chief Justice Charles T. Wells

first_img Chief Justice Charles T. Wells [Editor’s Note: This is the first installment in a series of brief profiles on the justices of the Florida Supreme Court as produced by the Bar’s Public Information and Bar Services Department. These profiles are to let Bar members and others get to know each justice as an individual.] Bar Public Information Coordinator His family is his proudest personal achievement, while his job is his passion. Chief Justice Charles T. Wells feels honored to have led the Florida Supreme Court during a time in history that included so many complex legal issues, not the least being last fall’s presidential election. It’s an experience that he describes as the “most intense six weeks” of his chief justice tenure, “both exhilarating and exhausting.” Being a trial lawyer was Wells’ first professional passion. Because of his civil trial preparation at University of Florida’s College of Law, he felt well armed for trial practice and treasures his trial experience for preparing him for his service as a justice. One of his first mentors as a person and a trial lawyer was his father, Joel Wells, Jr. Both the Chief Justice and his brother, Joel III, went into the practice of law after their father Joel, Jr., and their grandfather, Joel Sr. “My father was my role model in the practice of law,” Chief Justice Wells said. “He was a person who had great integrity and was a gentleman regardless of circumstance.” His other role models include former Justices Stephen H. Grimes and Ben F. Overton. Even after his time as a justice, Wells hopes to return to trial practice. “I thoroughly enjoy the practice,” he says. The Chief Justice first became interested in being on the Supreme Court while serving on The Florida Bar’s Board of Governors from 1994-96. He was intrigued by the administration of the courts, and the timing was right in 1994 with Justice Parker Lee MacDonald retiring. Chief Justice Wells considers the best part of his job to be the opportunity to help develop Florida case law, as well as working with the other branches of government. He expressed his continuing interest in the legislative process and has enjoyed his unique role in the judiciary’s relationship with the legislative branch. Chief Justice Wells only finds a few concerns with his job, including the court’s high caseload and the fiscal issues raised by the impending Article V funding transition in which the state will assume the lion’s share of funding of the court system. “We have to be innovative in what we do to manage the caseload,” Wells said. “The only other downside is the fiscal problems in the court system and the state.” His goal for the next year is to survive the upcoming fiscal transition while “ensuring that the courts continue to operate with quality. . . having cases processed in a fair and efficient manner.” Wells also wants to see the courts try to attract more judges with quality experience as lawyers. Throughout his career, Chief Justice Wells keeps finding one legal truth: “The longer I’m here, the more I understand that [legal problems] all boil down to something that’s not a very complicated proposition, but you’ve got to figure out how to make it not complicated.. . . You’ve got to boil legal problems down to finite issues that you can understand.” Wells said it keeps coming back to “how important it is to understand matters of detail to reach legal conclusions; it’s a matter of real discipline.” When asked what other profession he would like to attempt, the Chief Justice said he would like to be a teacher, especially with his experiences with Supreme Court programs in educating and his lecturing experiences. Although Wells enjoys reading in his leisure time, during the last court recess he found himself busy on the lecture circuit speaking about last year’s presidential election and election issues in general. One notable speaking stop was at Yale Law School. But outside of his day job, Wells said his greatest personal achievement is “my truly wonderful marriage, [to Linda Fischer Wells] for 33 years as of November 29, and my three successful children.” And although he has little free time, Wells stays involved with Trinity Methodist Church, and he enjoys Gator sports. December 1, 2001 Jennifer Krell Davis Regular News Chief Justice Charles T. Wellslast_img read more

Board warns about advance funding

first_img Board warns about advance funding Senior Editor After an Ohio appellate court found an advance funding arrangement was both a loan and usurious, a Bar Board of Governors committee wants more time to study a proposed ethics opinion on advance funding in personal injury cases.But both the board and the Board Review Committee on Professional Ethics took action to let lawyers know about the Ohio case if Bar members become involved in third-party loans to their clients.Board members, at their November 30 meeting, discussed whether they should advise Bar members to avoid any participation in such loans. But they finally voted to accept the BRCPE recommendation to allow it to continue studying the issue – in light of the Ohio decision – until the board’s February 1 meeting.In the meantime, the committee recommended telling inquiring lawyers about the Ohio case as well as the pending Proposed Advisory Opinion 00-3, already adopted by the Professional Ethics Committee and pending on appeal at the board.That opinion says lawyers may tell clients about advanced funding companies, which offer loans to personal injury clients in return for part of the hoped-for winnings in the case. It also says lawyers may tell clients the names of specific companies, but may not issue a letter of protection to the advance funding company, although they can honor such a letter executed by the client.The BRCPE had recommended approving the opinion, with a change allowing lawyers to issue letters of protection. The board considered the issue at its October meeting, but tabled the issue to do more research, and in the meantime the Ohio court acted.“I think it ought to give us some pause before we go any further,” said BRCPE Chair Richard Tanner of the Ohio ruling. “What your committee is suggesting to you is that we sit tight, temporarily.”In the meantime, he said, the Bar’s ethics staff will tell inquiring lawyers “there is now an Ohio appellate court opinion finding these advance funding loans improper and we’re not in a position to offer advice at the moment.”Bar Ethics Counsel Elizabeth Tarbert said she planned to tell inquiring lawyers “about the Ohio case and tell them we can’t tell them if this is a legal transaction. If this is a grey area, which it now appears to be, we would tell them they could be at risk [if they participated in the loan].”She said lawyers would also be told about the PAO and its prohibition against issuing a letter of protection, and also that the opinion is still pending before the board.Board members expressed several concerns. Some continued to have reservations about the advance funding area, citing the high interest – as much as 200 percent or more – on the transactions. Some worried that lawyers acting in good faith might participate in the loans and then possibly face Bar disciplinary actions if PAO 00-3 eventually holds they are improper. Others said the Bar shouldn’t be involved in the area, even if the practice is distasteful, if the loans are legal in Florida.“I think we can’t go to the extent that we think this is usurious and we don’t think they should be doing this, because we are on real thin ice,” said board member Jesse Diner. “The red flags are up. I think that’s the best we can do.”“I also don’t think we should be prosecuting any lawyer who calls and gets information from the Bar and based on that information decides to go further,” he added.“If it’s not illegal in Florida, it’s really not our position to say it is,” said board and BRCPE member Louis Kwall. “It is a grey area. While we agree for the most part we don’t like it being done, if it’s not unlawful, we shouldn’t be telling our lawyers not to engage in it. What we’re saying is we’re not absolutely sure what the outcome is going to be. It [the Ohio case] will be brought to lawyers’ attention and you can make up your own mind.”Board member Jennifer Coberly said it’s important for the Bar to get a position because if advance funding arrangements are found to be usurious, there can be criminal as well as civil and disciplinary consequences for lawyers. But, she added, “Until we make up our minds, we shouldn’t be prosecuting people in the interim who do it.”Tanner emphasized that the BRCPE is working as quickly as it can on the issue and expects to make a recommendation at the board’s February 1 meeting in Tampa.“The BRCPE is not walking away from this. We are stepping back to see if we can make a more appropriate decision,” he said.Added Bar President Terry Russell, “I sense a certain degree of urgency here to deal with this issue.”The Ohio decision came from the state’s Ninth District Court of Appeals in a unanimous opinion from a three-judge panel. The ruling was issued October 31.The case involved a Nevada-based advance funding company and its Ohio subsidiary that together gave an Ohio woman, who was trying to collect uninsured motorist damages from an insurance company, a total of $7,000. The contracts call for a repayment, depending on when the case settled and repayment was made, of not less than 280 percent on most of the transaction and not less than 180 percent on the remainder. The actual repayment amount was $16,800 if repaid in 12 months, $22,200 if repaid in 18 months, and $27,600 if repaid in 24 months. The woman’s attorney advised her against entering into the contracts.The underlying case eventually settled for $100,000.The woman then filed suit arguing the companies committed unfair and deceptive loan practices, and further that because the arrangements violated Ohio law, no repayment was necessary. The two advance funding companies replied that the arrangements were “contingent” financing and not loans and thus the contracts were legal.The trial court ruled the advance funding was a loan that violated the state’s usury laws because there was little likelihood the companies wouldn’t be repaid. It ordered the woman to repay the loans at 8 percent interest.The appellate court agreed the deal constituted an usurious loan. But it also found the companies violated Ohio law by not being licensed to make small loans and hence under that state’s law no repayment was required.The opinion noted that the owner of the Ohio company carefully evaluated the case before making the loans, including conducting a database search of similar cases. Further, about the time the first installment of the loan was made, the insurance company made a settlement offer and had raised that offer by the time the second installment was made.“The evidence presented at trial demonstrated that the contracts were loans because no real probability existed that non-payment would occur,” the opinion said. “The trial court’s judgment that the contracts are loans is supported by competent and credible evidence.”The case is Rancman v. Interim Settlement Funding Corp. , case no. 20523, 2001WL 13339487 (Ohio App. 9 Dist.). An Internet link to the opinion, in WordPerfect or Microsoft Word formats, is at http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/District_Courts/AllListing/List.asp?DCN=9. December 15, 2001 Gary Blankenship Senior Editor Regular News Board warns about advance fundinglast_img read more

Florida Bar member to lead NY State Bar

first_imgA. Thomas Levin, a member of The Florida Bar since 1980, has been elected president-elect of the 73,000-member New York State Bar Association, the second largest voluntary bar association in the world.“My plans are not yet fully formulated, as the current president has just begun her term and I don’t want to push my own issues this soon,” said Levin, who will become NY State Bar president on June 1, 2003.“I am very interested in access to justice issues, particularly in having the bar become an active force in finding ways to make the legal system work better for middle-income and low-income consumers of legal services.“In New York, we have a big issue over the fees paid to assigned counsel for indigent parties in criminal and family court matters — where the fees remain at $40 per hour for in-court and $25 out-of-court — levels set in 1986. This needs to be updated promptly, as we are losing attorneys from our panels and the legal services are not being delivered,” Levin said.“Lastly, I want to make the bar a more effective advocate for the profession, including increasing public understanding of the role of law and lawyers.”Levin is a graduate of Brown University and holds two law degrees (J.D. and LL.M.) from New York University School of Law.Concentrating his practice in the field of local government law, land use, and commercial litigation, Levin is a partner in the law firm of Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, P.C., with offices in Mineola, NYC, Smithtown, Albany, and Washington, D.C.Before entering private practice in 1972, he was a senior deputy Nassau County attorney, counsel to the Nassau County Planning Commission, and law secretary to a Nassau County Supreme Court justice.Levin has been a member of the Executive Committee of the New York State Bar Association since 1995, has served a term as an at large member, three terms as a vice president, and one term as secretary. Levin is also co-chair of the State Bar Association President’s Committee on Access to Justice.In the public service field, Levin has been counsel to the Judiciary Committee of the New York State Assembly, and to the Joint Legislative Committee on the State’s Economy, and has been active in numerous community and charitable organizations.A life-long resident of Rockeville Centre, Levin has been married to Iris for 35 years, and they have two children, Amy and Karen. Florida Bar member to lead NY State Bar Florida Bar member to lead NY State Barcenter_img August 15, 2002 Regular Newslast_img read more

Briefs

first_img March 1, 2005 Regular News Briefs B riefs THE ALL LAWYER BAND “LEARNED HANDS” and a band composed of doctors “Running With Scissors” staged their first Battle of the Bands to Benefit the Winter Park Community Center. Dr. Mark Schwartz, drummer for the Scissors said, “While our lobbyists battle over the issue of tort reform in Tallahassee, a group of local physicians and attorneys have decided to settle our differences in the way men of honor have done throughout the ages ­— through rock ’n roll.” The celebrity judges: Mike Thomas, an Orlando Sentinel columnist; John Gross, manager of WLOQ-FM; and Gary Moffatt, drummer for. 38 Special) declared the contest a tie. More than $4,000 was raised for the Winter Park Community Center and a rematch is set for April 16 to benefit the Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis. Pictured from the left are Randy Thomas, Dr. Rob Winter, Richard Whitaker, Dave Cannella, Irene Wertley, Steve Ball, Richard Wright, David Jones, Gary Moffatt, John Gross, Dr. Marc Schwartz, Peter Chinelli, and Dr. Dan Mancini. FOR THE FIRST TIME IN RECENT memory, 100 percent of the circuit and county court judges of the 17th Judicial Circuit are now members in good standing of the Broward County Bar Association. For the past year, President Steve E. Moody, Judicial Liaison Circuit Judge Ana I. Gardiner, and Membership Chair Christopher M. Neilson, with the support of the BCBA board and Executive Director Art Goldberg and his staff, have worked to enlist all the 79 judges as members of the bar. In recognition of the milestone, BCBA hosted a luncheon for the judges. Pictured from the left are Goldberg, Neilson, Judge Gardiner, and Moody.last_img read more

Chief judges want to control court tech dollars

first_img Chief judges want to control court tech dollars Jan Pudlow Senior Editor It may be only $2 collected from each court filing fee, but it’s piling up into a high-stakes debate about who should have control of millions of dollars for an integrated court technology system.Right now, the counties have control of the money, with little direction from the legislature on how to spend it for court technology needs in circuits that cross county lines.When the Article V Technology Board met in Tallahassee September 23, Second Circuit Chief Judge Charlie Francis temporarily suspended his role as chair of the group to argue passionately that the chief judge of each circuit should take control of one integrated court computer system that serves everyone’s needs.“It is the chief judge who has the responsibility of how cases are processed. That’s the bottom line,” Francis said. “As the chief judge, as the constitution says, they look to me, and the buck stops here as to whether a case makes it through the system or not.”Judge Francis spoke against a motion made by 15th Judicial Circuit Public Defender Carey Haughwout that proposed money generated by the $2 filing fee be administered at the circuit level by a joint committee of the state attorney, public defender, and chief judge.Fifth Circuit State Attorney Brad King said he had concerns about “the idea of the chief judge being the sole decision-maker where the money is spent, even after consultation” with the others.“and large, the court’s role should be a neutral one and not taking an active role in the management of cases,” King said.But Judge Francis stressed that he, as chief judge, has a constitutional charge to supervise the court system, and that should include technology that enables one division of the courts to talk to another, as well as receive and share information from a variety of state agencies needed to make decisions in cases.Francis said he has “no problem with some kind of review process if judges are not handling things right.” But he believes the chief judge needs to be in charge of setting court system priorities.“Right now, in most civil cases, there is no record of what happens other than the court taking notes in chambers. Clerks don’t have that ability. We depend on judges’ handwritten notes to know what’s going on in 60 percent of our court system,” Judge Francis said with frustration. “My job is to make sure the whole court system is working correctly.”The committee tabled the discussion until the next meeting, October 21, when they hope to have hard numbers on just how much the $2 fee is generating and how it is being spent. Francis said he does not think the $2 fee is sufficient to cover court technology costs.Statewide, Florida spent a total of $1.35 billion on all technology in 2003-04.“That’s a chunk of money to be spent on technology and the legislature has legitimate concerns if it is being spent properly,” Francis told committee members. “Our job is to recommend a funding model or models to the legislature.”It was clear from public testimony that confusion is swirling about the $2 fee enacted by the legislature last year, as part of a combo of county/state/and fee-generated funding for the courts.The legislature passed a $4 hike in filing fees on official records, of which $2 is set aside for the clerks. But the other half goes to fund the public defenders, state attorneys, and the court.“The legislature did not give enough clear direction to the counties as to how to utilize that fund,” said State Court Technology Officer Mike Love. “They set it aside and said, ‘Clerk, you capture it. You then pass it to the board of county commissioners.’ The board of county commissioners, with little direction thereafter, is to use their discretion in supporting the technology requirements of the state court system.”Exactly how much money the $2 fee is generating was unclear, but likely it is not enough.“I know that three years ago, when this was being contemplated, each dollar would generate $26 million. So there’s at least $100 million bucks we’re talking about. The clerk gets half of it and the other players get to split the other half,” Love said.“The reason you see there’s discontent is because there is not enough money in the $2.”Some of that discontent was detailed by those who testified before the board:• Third Circuit Chief Judge Julian Collins, of Lake City, said: “We need a circuit-wide system, not seven separate counties. We need centralized control over our $2 portion of the $4 surcharge” in order to have “reliable funding and an opportunity for centralized planning. Some counties are so small they won’t generate enough funds for technology.”• Jon Lin, court technology officer for the Fifth Judicial Circuit, handles five counties from his office in Ocala and he wishes he could prepare one circuit-wide budget. “I don’t have the ability to actually move equipment where I need it, when it needs to be transferred to another county,” he said. “I’d like to see our county employees for technology, who are funded out of the $2 fee, become state employees.”• Britt Beasley, court administrator for the Fourth Judicial Circuit, of Duval, Clay, and Nassau counties, said, “We’re experiencing somewhat of a crisis in funding. One of the problems is that with the $2 fee going directly to the local government, the local government is experiencing budgetary problems, and they are somewhat reluctant to dispense the money—or there seems to be a lack of understanding of what the money should be used for.” Beasely proposed that “we could actually fund 20 circuit systems totally for perhaps less than you can fund 67 county systems.”• Ken Nelson, chief technology officer for the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Pinellas and Pasco counties, said, “We would like to recommend that the $2 of the $4 fee be returned to the circuit so that it could be administered as a circuit-wide fund, preferably by the chief judge.. . . Right now, we are in a situation where both of our counties micromanage everything we spend, right down to having us have our equipment authorized by the local IT departments. It becomes a real problem.”• Sheldon Gusky, executive director of the Florida Public Defender Association, said the biggest concern of its members is how best to resolve conflicts when they crop up. “Everybody has talked about funding, but nobody has talked about costs. Where are we today? What is the liability out there for the various entities on costs? What is the demand that is not being met?” Chief judges want to control court tech dollars October 15, 2005 Senior Editor Regular Newslast_img read more

Amityville Baby Fatally Struck by Truck

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York A 10-month-old girl died and her pregnant mother was hospitalized after they were hit by a truck while the mother pushed the baby in a stroller in North Amityville on Saturday evening.Suffolk County police said 29-year-old Yancy Arevalo of Amityville was pushing the stroller with her daughter, Britney, across Route 110 just south of Nathalie Avenue when they were struck by a northbound Chevrolet pickup truck at 7 p.m.Arevalo and her child were taken to Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip where the infant died nearly seven hours later. Arevalo suffered minor injuries and is being held for observation because she is pregnant.The driver, 46-year-old Arthur Plowden of North Amityvill,e was not injured.First Squad detectives impounded the truck, are continuing the investigation and ask anyone with information about the crash to call them at 631-854-8152.last_img read more

Suit: FBI Used No Fly List to Recruit Muslim American Informants

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Four Muslim Americans have filed a lawsuit against the FBI claiming their names were added to the government’s secretive No Fly List and allegedly coerced to spy on their own communities, and told their names would be scrubbed if they cooperated.The Center for Constitutional Rights, along with the City University of New York School of Law’s CLEAR project, filed an amended complaint on April 22 on their behalf, arguing that the men are innocent and pose no threat to aviation security. The suit also notes that one of the men was alienated and stigmatized after his relatives and acquaintances were allegedly approached by government agents and questioned.In the suit, they claim their clients were deprived “of their right to travel freely and wrongly stigmatized…without justification and without due process of law by placing them on the No Fly List.”Since their inclusion on the mostly-secret list, one of men has been unable to travel to see his 93-year-old grandmother, and another has gone five years without seeing his wife and three daughters, according to the court filing.The four men—Muhammad Tanvir, Jameel Algibhah, Naveed Shinwari and Awais Sajjad—either suffered economic losses or emotional distress due to the FBI’s unwarranted questioning, the suit claims.In an interview on Democracy Now on Thursday, Shinwari said his first interaction with government agents occurred in October 2011 when he was denied a boarding pass in Dubai after spending several months in Afghanistan—where he got married. Shinwari, who lives in West haven, Conn., said he was interrogated by two FBI agents for roughly four hours.“I was pressured to give them everything that I know in order to go back home,” he told the program. “And the more I give them, the better chance of me coming back home.”He also refused a lie detector test because “I was very truthful to them from the beginning,” he added. He was questioned again five days later after returning to Washington, D.C., the suit states.In March 2012, Shinwari alleges he was prevented from boarding a flight to Orlando, Fl., where he had found a job. According to the suit, agents approached him and said “they were aware of his inability to board his flight, and again asked him to work as an informant.” He refused.In his interview with Democracy Now, he recounted his experience with government agents.“Tell us everything,” they allegedly demanded. “Where have you been? Have you attended any training camps in Afghanistan?”Naveed Shinwari, a Muslim American from Connecticut, says he discovered he was on the No Fly List after boarding a flight to Orlando, Fl., where he got a job. (Photo credit: Screenshot, Democracy Now)A second plaintiff, Awais Sajjad, of Brooklyn, a convenience store employee, was approached by two FBI agents at the check-in counter of John F. Kennedy International Airport in September 2012, where he was attempting to board a flight to Pakistan so he could visit his ailing father and elderly grandmother.He was allegedly brought to a windowless interrogation room and was later told by agents that his inclusion on the FBI No Fly List prevented him from traveling.“They asked him for his best friends’ names, and whether he had any girlfriends,” according to the suit. “He was asked whether he had any military training or ever sought to enlist for terrorism training. Mr. Sajjad answered all of their questions truthfully. He told them he had never had any kind of training and had never been in trouble with the law.”During the alleged interrogation, three agents reassured Sajjad that “they would be willing to help him get off the No Fly List and gave him the impression that such assistance would be provided if he agreed to their requests,” the suit states.One month later, after visiting Sajjad’s sister house in New Jersey, agents told Sajjad they wanted him to work for them in exchange for U.S. citizenship and a salary, according to the suit. He declined.He was later brought to FBI headquarters in Newark where he underwent a polygraph test, which he failed.“Mr. Sajjad was very frightened. He did not know what a polygraph test was. They attached multiple wires to different parts of his body,” the suit alleges. “He was told to remain very still and not even move his eyes, and to answer their questions. They then asked him many questions, including whether he loved the United States of America, whether he loved Pakistan and whether he would ever do anything that might bring shame to his family. They also asked whether he had signed up for or taken military training in Pakistan and whether he had ever used any guns.”The suit criticizes the FBI for the lack of transparency regarding the No Fly List. The government has not published the criteria for inclusion on the list, the suit says, adding that to be nominated for the list, there is supposed to be “reasonable suspicion” that the person is a “known or suspected terrorist.”It is unknown how many people are currently on the No Fly List. The government’s main terrorist watch list ballooned to at least 700,000 people, the New York Times reported last November.In the suit, the four men are seeking removal from the list and monetary relief for damages they have suffered.The latest allegations follow a string of lawsuits and complaints against the government and the NYPD for what many in the Muslim community consider unwarranted surveillance, which picked up following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.The NYPD’s top brass this month disbanded the controversial Demographics Unit, which spied on Muslims in the city and across its borders for about a decade. Many are skeptical, however, that the department has altogether discontinued covert actions against Muslim Americans.In an email on Friday, the FBI declined to comment for this story.last_img read more

Wyandanch Teen Gunned Down Outside Home

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York An 18-year-old man was shot to death in front of his Wyandanch home early Sunday morning, Suffolk County police said.Eric Meade was standing with a group of people in the front yard of his South 26th Street home when he was shot in the head at 1:20 a.m., police said.Relatives took the victim to Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, where he was pronounced dead.Homicide Squad detectives are continuing the investigation and ask anyone with information on this incident to call them at 631-852-6392 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.last_img read more

Patchogue Hit-and-run Boater Wounds Woman

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York A hit-and-run boater who crashed into a jetty in Patchogue abandoned ship, leaving behind an injured 29-year-old Farmingdale woman on Sunday night, Suffolk County police said.A 23-foot Sea Ray boat crashed into the west jetty at the entrance of the Patchogue River, where reponding officers and Patchogue firefighters found the victim at 9:20 p.m., police said.The victim was taken to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue, where she underwent treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.Witnesses reportedly told investigators that up to seven people were on the boat at the time of the crash. Police found some of them nearby, but they did not cooperate with the probe, authorities said.Police are trying to find the owner of the severely damaged boat, who is responsible for removing it from the rocks, authorities said.Fifth Precinct Crime Section are continuing the investigation and ask anyone with information on this incident to call them at 631-854-8526.last_img read more

Waterfront Seaford Victorian Asks $849,000

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York This secluded waterfront Victorian on approximately one acre of land with about 220 feet of bulkheading is listed for sale at 3960 John Ln. in Seaford.Built in 1998, this five-bedroom, three-bathroom home has 5,000-square-feet of living space and offers the opportunity to be converted into a Mother/Daughter with the proper permits.It comes equipped with a newly renovated eat-in kitchen, formal dining room, vaulted ceilings in the living room, a den, office and wrap-around porch.The house is less than a mile from the Seaford Long Island Rail Road station, nearby Route 135 and within walking distance of Tackapausha Museum and Preserve. It’s located in the Seaford School District.The asking price is $849,000, not including the annual property taxes of $27,024, which come down to $25,632 with the Star Exemption.The real estate agent listed for the property is Gregory Masaitis of Keller Williams Realty Elite. He can be reached at 516-795-6900.last_img read more

A journey…of action

first_img 7SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr “I wonder what kind of tell we’ve fallen into?” – Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the RingsI love the Lord of the Rings, what a great story! A story about good and evil, a story about a struggle, a story about something lost, a story about courage, loss, pain, suffering, triumph, brotherhood, romance, battle, fear, friendship, risk and joy.A story rooted in the human condition. A story of heart where the end is never achieved fully because even after the glorious triumph…the story continues.In previous blogs, I have talked about the kind of story we are telling with our own lives. On older man in my life asked me recently “I wonder if someone followed you around with a movie camera, what kind of story would that tell?”I like the question because it helps me root out my true desires. Desires for my career, desires for our business, and desires for my life. What kind of marriage do I want? What kind of relationship do I want with my children? What kind of mark do I want to leave on this earth? continue reading »last_img read more

3 tools for busy credit union marketers

first_imgI’m always on the lookout for useful tools. As a department of one, I’m short on time, but have plenty to do. Here are three of my favorite tools:Canva: For designing simple graphics.I am not trained as a graphic designer, so I don’t know all the tricks of the trade. I don’t use Canva all the time, because it does have limitations. I use it for quick social media graphics, flyers or simple invitations. Upload your own photo or choose from free backgrounds, photos and tons of graphical elements. Here’s a quick graphic I did with one of my photos.Wordmark.it: For finding the ideal typeface.Don’t let anyone tell you fonts aren’t important. A great typeface is what holds your marketing materials together. Wordmark.it allows you to see how a word looks in all the fonts that are installed on your computer. See them on a white background, black background, all lowercase or all caps. This is a great way to find a new font, or isolate a word that you want to stand out in your materials. Here’s one I did using “credit union.”Feed.ly: For catching up on the latest news.Anyone remember iGoogle? I was annoyed when Google discontinued support of that feature. I housed all my RSS feeds on iGoogle. Reluctantly, I moved over to Feed.ly, which works just fine, and offers different layouts for a variety of experiences. Feed.ly is a news aggregate that allows you to quickly glance at all the news important to you.And these tools are all free…what are some your favorite tools or websites? 17SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Susan Dyer Susan is the Communications Director for the Heartland Credit Union Association, the trade association for credit unions in Kansas and Missouri. She has been a part of the marketing and … Web: HeartlandCUA.org Detailslast_img read more

Bridging the brand gap between marketing & staff

first_img 10SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr Marketing may put the public face on the brand, it is the staff who must live the brand every day. Great credit union brands are built with a triangle approach:  management, staff, and members. In an ideal world management leads the brand, staff lives the brand and members love the brand.In many cases, effective brands fail at the staff level because of that gap between the brand and staff. Successful brands involve staff at every level. Financial institutions doing branding must conduct brand training with their staff and develop brand standards for their staff.Credit Union Of Texas ($1.2 billion, Dallas, TX) recently rebranded their credit union. As part of that rebrand, they took each staff member through brand training—almost 300 employees.“We wanted all of our people buying into our new brand,” said Chris Lederer, vice president of marketing and brand management. “The training gave employees the opportunity to understand the critical role they play—from frontline to support staff. Branding is not just about marketing—it’s about how staff delivers that brand to our members and each other every day.” continue reading »last_img read more

Credit unions provide the lowest rates on loans

first_imgSince Americans aren’t bashful when they borrow money, especially when it comes to buying a car (about 85% of buyers take out a loan for a new ride), Nerdwallet decided to conduct a consumer study that examined where’s the best place to get a auto loan.Survey says, CREDIT UNIONS!Nerdwallet got to this conclusion by estimating how much money a consumer could save by financing her new car purchase with a low interest rate auto loan while being able to invest in the stock market.Nerdwallet went off the assumption that the consumer had $25K saved away and could put down $5K for a down payment on a new car. In addition, the consumer was interested in a 2% APR auto loan for the remainder and then invested $20K cash in an index fund.The conclusion: when looking for a loan be sure to secure the lowest/best APR percentage you can. The lower the APR, the more money you’ll save in the long run. However, these percentages are dependent upon the stock market’s performance which is know to be very unpredictable. continue reading » 25SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

CFPB issues guidance on construction loans/TRID

first_imgGood Tuesday morning from our nation’s capital! I’m happy to be in attendance alongside the nearly 5,000 credit union professionals at this year’s CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC). GAC is a tremendous opportunity to network with others in the industry and share stories of the #CUdifference with our legislators and regulators.As always, CUNA has done a great job of putting together a jam packed agenda here in Washington, D.C. As a result, I’ll keep today’s post brief. You know, it’s funny. I can actually hear my regular readers (all three of them) breathing a collective sigh of relief.Last month the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was kind enough to issue some clarifying guidance on complying with the Integrated Disclosure Rule (TRID) relative to construction loans. While many in the industry found the guidance lacking in substance, at least it’s something. Let’s take a moment to review the key points:Construction Loans are Subject to TRIDWhile you were not required to provide the Good Faith Estimate (GFE) on construction loans as they are considered temporary financing under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), most construction loans do fall within the scope of TRID. As a result, both the Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure are required to be provided in connection with a closed-end construction loan. continue reading » 5SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

5 top marketing automation tools for SMEs by the pros

first_imgWith Google continuously changing algorithms and consumers catching on fast to marketing “tricks”, marketers need all the help they can get. That’s why many marketers turn to marketing automation tools to make their life easier. There’s a ton of marketing automation tools out on the market, and it’s impossible to test all of them out. That’s why I thought I’d help you by asking top marketers what their favorite marketing automation tools are. Some of them you’ll be familiar with, but I hope you find something new to add to your marketing arsenal.There’s a ton of marketing automation tools out on the market, and it’s impossible to test all of them out. That’s why I thought I’d help you by asking top marketers what their favorite marketing automation tools are. Some of them you’ll be familiar with, but I hope you find something new to add to your marketing arsenal.1. HubSpot.HubSpot is an all-in-one marketing automation tool and is hands down the favorite with marketers. It has been ranked number one in GetApp’s recent marketing automation report. This is the Grand Daddy of marketing automation apps.Oleg Korneitchouk, director of marketing at SmartSites, comments that “their suite of tools makes it easy to integrate sales, marketing, and CRM – which reduces all types of friction. You can follow the complete customer path, from ad click to maintaining a lifetime relationship. Not only will this let you understand your business and clients more, it helps you maximize your ROI by letting you focus on the things that work best. From there, you can set up automatic emails, content personalization, and segmentation in order to provide your customers with exactly what they want.”Ryan Riley, Partner of Something Creative says simply, “Hubspot is kind of a jack of all trades tool. You have email marketing, analytics, blogging, SEO and more all in one tool. It’s sort of the standard, at least for our team, in terms of marketing tools.” continue reading » 11SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

Phone swiped? Here’s how to protect your financial information

first_imgThere’s something terribly unnerving about having your smartphone stolen or lost. Even more worrying: A savvy saboteur may be able to hack into your bank accounts, mobile payment apps and credit card applications. Once inside, he could drain your bank accounts, use them for a shopping spree or even steal your identity, wreaking havoc on your credit and finances. continue reading » If your phone falls into the wrong hands, a smart thief can gain access to your professional, social and other personal information. “It’s very daunting when you realize that we leave an enormous trail of breadcrumbs [on our phones],” says Adam Levin, chairman and founder of IDT911, an identify theft solutions company, and author of “Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves.” 13SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

NAFCU monitoring CHOICE Act mark-up, flood insurance hearing, more

first_img 9SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr NAFCU tomorrow will monitor the House Financial Services Committee mark-up of the Financial CHOICE Act (H.R. 10), slated for 10 a.m. Eastern, and will make credit unions aware of any legislative updates to the bill affecting the industry.The CHOICE Act contains numerous NAFCU-sought measures, including Durbin interchange amendment repeal and other Dodd-Frank Act reforms. Two separate hearings were held on the bill last week; one which often cited the Dodd-Frank’s impact on the current regulatory environment and credit unions.NAFCU encourages credit unions to reach out to their members of Congress and seek support for repealing the Dodd-Frank Act’s Durbin amendment through NAFCU’s Grassroots Action Center.In hearings this week:The Senate Banking Committee on Thursday will examine the reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program. Slated for 10 a.m. Eastern, the hearing includes witnesses from the Association for State Floodplain Managers and others. continue reading »last_img read more

Onsite THiNK17: What exactly is my job?

first_img 17SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Amanda Reed Web: www.CUInsight.com Details “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” – Walt DisneyWhen you start thinking about digital transformation, it can be easy to go down the rabbit hole and feel overwhelmed with all the details that might entail. To start, take a step back and look at the job that needs to be done instead. When you look at the big picture, and you ask the right questions, it’s not scary at all. It’s exhilarating.Today at THiNK17, we focused on determining what exactly what is it that we are trying to accomplish – for ourselves, for our employees, for our members. If we don’t know what it is that we are trying to solve, what our real job is, then we are never going to be able to transform. To help you through the process let’s take a cue from Disney…A few years ago Disney released the now iconic Magic Bands. They have a variety of purposes but it all started when they began listening to guest complaints. They didn’t like waiting in line or keeping up with hotel keys, things like that. Now it would’ve been easy(ier) to solve these problems individually, but instead Disney took a step back to look at the big picture. What was causing friction in an otherwise “Magical Experience”? But it isn’t just about accomplishing a task for a guest or a member, it’s about creating a better overall experience that helps employees as well. What they found was that moving to this system allowed their employees to focus on the interaction and creating a special moment, instead of just making one transaction with them.Today as you go about your work day, take a moment to think about the deeper needs of your members. Why is it that they are looking to you to complete a specific task and how can you help ease the friction in their daily lives so that you can move them from feeling ordinary to extraordinary. Once you start that thinking process, then you’re already on the path to digital transformation.last_img read more

Lawmakers urge DoD to exempt CUs from MLA changes

first_img 10SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr Rep. Paul Cook, R-Calif., along with several fellow representatives, sent a letter Wednesday to the Department of Defense urging the department to exempt credit unions from the July 2015 amendments to the Military Lending Act.“It has come to my attention that the July 2015 amendments have caused numerous financial institutions to eliminate products and services, many of which have been relied on by servicemembers and their families,” the letter states. “Of great concern, I have heard from credit unions that they are being forced to cut back on, or eliminate, products that help find solutions for credit for servicemembers and their families that may have few, or much worse, other options.”The letter acknowledges that while the MLA changes “have proven effective in broadening the scope of products and services targeted by … lenders, it has also had the unintended effect of creating barriers for good actors seeking to serve the military with highly regulated and safe products and services. Particularly, I am concerned about the unintended consequences on the thousands of credit unions, serving 110 million consumers including servicemembers.” continue reading »last_img read more

Five best practices in staffing from a Canadian CU

first_img 9SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr continue reading » $1.6 billion Sunova Credit Union, Selkirk, Manitoba, boasts one of the youngest, most energized (and top performing) credit union teams in North America. Year after year, they’re leaders in sales generation and member satisfaction. Turnover is low (9.43 percent in 2016), and the CU’s work environment conducive to growth and collaboration.Unlike models built around the C-suite, success stems from a business model that recognizes and rewards front-line staff first and eliminates unintended barriers (perceived or otherwise) between the corporate office and branches.“You can choose to compete in price, product or service delivery, but not all three,” reflects CEO Edward Bergen, CCD, CCE, a CUES member. “Being the lowest in price is difficult, and since associates are often the first point of contact with members, we wouldn’t want them to be the lowest paid. We recognize their value and have built a business model focused on fostering long-term, mutually beneficial relationships and delivering exceptional service.”last_img read more

FDIC, echoing NAFCU, clarifies Volcker rule requirements

first_img ShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr continue reading » FDIC Board Member Martin Gruenberg this week made clear that relief language in S. 2155 regarding the Volcker rule is intended for community banks – not all banks regardless of asset size as some have argued. Gruenberg’s conclusion on the intent of the language supports NAFCU’s view, which was shared with the FDIC and other bank regulators earlier this month.“There has been some discussion that the new statute can be read in a way that would allow any bank, regardless of asset size, to be exempt from the Volcker Rule if its trading assets and liabilities are five percent or less of its total consolidated assets … This was not the intent of the new statute as I understand it … I believe it is clear that this statutory exemption … appl[ies] only to banking organizations with $10 billion or less in total consolidated assets and that the limitation on trading assets and liabilities is an additional limitation placed on this defined group of banking organizations,” Gruenberg said.In a letter to the OCC, FDIC, Federal Reserve, Commodities Futures Trading Commission, and Securities and Exchange Commission, NAFCU Executive Vice President of Government Affairs and General Counsel Carrie Hunt gave a similar explanation to the intent of this portion of S. 2155. She further noted that the Volcker rule is a “critical reform that emerged from the financial crisis which addresses, among other things, the riskiest of all investment behaviors – investing in private equity or hedge funds using a bank’s own accounts for the bank’s own benefit.”last_img read more

Making an impact

first_imgAt the end of the day, if I had to list everyone that has made an impact on my life, my list could be endless. I’m constantly longing to make a positive impact in the world and I hope those around me are too. No matter where you are in life, it’s important that we work to be the best people we can, with a purpose in mind. If we do that, we’ll truly make an impact. ShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Katie Nehl A born and raised ranch girl from small town North Dakota, Katie started her credit union journey six years ago, with First Community Credit Union (FCCU). After working three years … Web: myFCCU.com Details A few weeks ago, I was visiting with a coworker and she told me I was the reason she stayed at her job. Confused and shocked, I asked for more details. “What do you mean I’m the reason you’re still working here?”, I asked. She went on to tell me, an article I wrote at my former job two years prior, about never giving up, was the reason she stayed at her job. After a streak of bad luck at that credit union and a tough few months due to an upcoming merger, she had her office all packed up, ready to quit that day. After hearing her tell this story, I was stunned. How could my words really make such a lasting impression? What are the odds that now we both work for the same credit union and are coworkers? If you’re like me, somedays you wonder if what you’re doing is worthwhile. I love my job and I truly feel like I’m making an impact, but on occasion, even outside the office, doubt can set it. With work duties, home responsibilities, spousal responsibilities and more, somedays life is just hard. I’m usually a glass half full type person, with a positive mindset, but we all have our bad days. However, in that moment, after hearing my coworkers’ story, I had no doubt life had led me to the place I am supposed to be. I think we all need those reminders now and then, that we are making an impact. Whether it’s an impact on our family, a positive impact in the lives of friends, strangers or even our credit union members. Here’s a few tips how you can live a life, making an impact at your credit union.Listen: Listening to the needs of those around you, to your members and co-workers can play a huge role in making an impact. Without takin the time to listen, how will you ever know what that member needs? How will you ever know your spouses or kids dreams and goals? Listening is a simple, yet crucial aspect. When we take time to sit, listen and get to know those around us, we can learn what makes them happy, what goals they have and how we can help impact their life. It’s a simple thing, that takes time, patience and practice to be a good listener. I encourage you to put the phone down, engage with those around you and listen to what knowledge others have to offer.Be Real: Being true to yourself sounds so simple, yet so hard. Do you wake up every day with passion and the fire under you to do what you love? Or do you wish for something different? When you’re not true to yourself, you abandon your goals, desires and dreams. You pass off bad emotions or vibes you get when being around certain people because you want them to like you, therefore, sometimes not acting like yourself. Being your real, true, genuine self is what can help you be happier and keep your integrity for what you believe. Being real and authentic can be a life-long practice, where you know and understand your strengths, don’t worry about the mistakes and dream big—not to mention you’re not afraid to laugh at yourself. This authentic self, can be contagious and make a positive impact for those around you.Work for a Cause, not Applause: We all know or have that one person in our lives that works for the glory, the applause and to add another achievement to their list, which is just fine. Har worker are good workers. However, sometimes, remember to work hard for a cause and not just the applause, is better. The hard part, might be finding your cause and what you want to work for. Is it your job? Your members? Your family? It’s important to remember, nothing in life comes easy, especially not without you giving it your all. When you’re questioning how to give more and work for a cause, try starting small. Give more of your time, give more of your love, give more of the money you spend going out on weekends to charity instead- the list goes on. You were put here on this earth for a reason, don’t forget to give more and use every ounce of that wonderful talent you were given, for a positive cause.Remain Positive: Growing up, if I missed a calf in breakaway or tipped a barrel, I’d often not only be mad at myself, but my horse, as well.  Nonetheless, I got a reality check quite often when I was constantly reminded by my father to have more of a positive attitude.  When I left the trailer, he explained that I needed to have a positive attitude, focus on my next task at hand and ultimately focus on my job at the time, rodeo.  If I let my negative thoughts get to me, I often did poorly in the rest of my events. The same is in life or at your office. If you think negatively, your actions will be negative.  Garbage in-garbage out. Conversely, if you think positively, your actions most times will be positive. Positive attitudes in the workplace can lead to improved communications, better teamwork, increased morale and high productivity. In addition, having a positive attitude, can make you more approachable and can be more impactful on those around you. Be Thankful: A simple thank you can go a long way. I’ve witnessed it, I’ve felt it and been impacted by the power of both getting and not getting a thank you. When we go through life expecting things, without being grateful and thankful, that’s when life can take a turn for the worse. I’ll be honest, there’s many days when a thank you, means more to me than the action I did to receive the thank you. A thank you can truly impact someone’s life, far beyond that moment, for many years, in fact. The point is, be kind to everyone you meet. You never know what they might be going through. A thank you, a congratulations to your coworker, an uplifting note and even a kind heart can make the biggest impact on someone’s life.last_img read more

3 reasons people hate member service

first_img 2SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,John Pettit John Pettit is the Managing Editor for CUInsight.com. John manages the content on the site, including current news, editorial, press releases, jobs and events. He keeps the credit union … Web: www.cuinsight.com Details Social media came on the scene around 20 years ago and it changed the world forever. That’s especially true with members and the way they deal with having a bad experience. It used to be that “Karen” would just walk right up and ask to speak to a manager (that of course still happens), but now they can use their Facebook and Instagram accounts to blast their complaints out to anyone who will listen.So, what can you do about it? Honestly, there’s not a whole lot you can do if someone decides they want to vent their frustrations to all 127 of their Facebook friends, but you can try to stop those frustrations before they start. One place you can begin to look is your member service department. Here are three reasons people hate member service…They feel like they’re having to wait forever: Obviously call volume can be a lot busier at certain times of day, but if a member doesn’t feel like you’re prioritizing their problem, you may see their loyalty start to slip away. If you’re understaffed or just unusually swamped, it’s okay, but make sure to keep callers informed so they can prepare themselves to wait.They feel like nobody wants to help: When you have a problem and you’re trying to get help solving it over the phone, it really stinks to be passed around. We’ve all seen Home Alone. When Kevin’s mom tries to call their local police department from Paris, her call gets passed around like a White Elephant gift. Playing hot potato with a member’s concerns won’t make anyone feel like a priority. Think about a time this has happened to you. It gets really frustrating when you’re telling your story for the third time.They feel like you’re not prepared: People who call you for help actually need help. If a member doesn’t feel like you’re ready to go to battle for them when it comes to fixing their problems, they’re not going to feel very supported. That kind of defeats the purpose of a member support line.last_img read more

Long Beach Man Admits to Killing Teen

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York A Long Beach teenager has admitted to fatally beating and strangling an 18-year-old Lynbrook woman who was found dead in Rockville Centre nearly two years ago.Maxwell Sherman pleaded guilty Friday at Nassau County court to second-degree murder. A charge of sex abuse was dropped in exchange for his plea.Authorities have said that the 19-year-old killed Lauren Daverin, who was found by witnesses on the Mill Pond footbridge between Sunrise Highway and Merrick Road in August 2013.Sherman later told Rockville Centre village police that he had been assaulted on the footbridge that night and confirmed that he was the last person on the bridge with the victim after a group of other people left, prosecutors said.A witness also told investigators that he saw Sherman on top of Daverin on the bridge, authorities said. The witness later identified Sherman in a photo array.Judge Meryl Berkowitz is expected to sentence Sherman to 18 years to life in prison on June 11.last_img read more

Farmingdale Couple Charged With Violating Pet Ban

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York A New York City police officer from Farmingdale and his wife have been arrested for allegedly violating a court order banning them from owning animals after they were convicted of fatally neglecting a dog, Nassau County prosecutors said.Danny Neira, 43, and his 34-year-old wife, Rose, were charged Thursday with criminal contempt. Judge James Darcy set their bail at $500.Prosecutors said a judge had signed an order in February banning the couple from owning animals for five years after they were convicted of animal cruelty in 2012.In that case, the couple had failed to provide food or veterinarian care to their emaciated pet Great Dane, which died after being removed from their home in 2010, prosecutors said.Despite the ban, investigators found a dog, a cockatoo and a tarantula in the couple’s home, authorities said.If convicted, the Neiras’ face up to one year in jail. They are due back in court June 4.last_img read more

2015 Honda CR-V: More Power, Performance & Fuel Economy

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Sponsored Content Brought To You By NY Auto GiantThe hottest crossover/SUV on the market has gotten even hotter.Honda has made several improvements to its CR-V—2014’s highest-selling crossover/SUV—elevating the United States’ most popular hybrid and creating a whole new automotive driving wonder in the process.Updated with a direct-injected 2.4-liter engine with CVT (continuously variable automatic transmission), innovative new safety features, improved occupant protection, new projector-beam headlights, daytime LED running lamps, brighter trim and upgraded electronics, among other additions, the jazzed-up 2015 Honda CR-V has been wowing both drivers and critics alike.“It remains the finest jacked-up Civic hatchback you can buy,” gushes Car and Driver. “It’s just that modern car-based crossover SUVs like the Honda CR-V, with its elevated driving position; 70-plus cubic feet of cargo space (with the rear seats down); friendly fuel economy, ride, and handling; and available four-wheel drive, offer pretty much everything today’s buyer needs in such a vehicle.” Head down to NY Auto Giant and get behind the wheel of your own 2015 Honda CR-V!Expert reviewers at Kelley Blue Book are equally impressed.“Against the Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4 and others, the CR-V is the best-selling SUV of the decade and, for 2015, it has even more to like,” one writes. “There’s attractive new styling, appealing features and noteworthy technology, and the 2.4-liter direct-injection engine with continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) delivers more power, performance and fuel economy.“The new CR-V is available in multiple trim levels and with front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD),” the review continues. “Safety features are class-leading, there’s a new Touring upper trim level and, if that isn’t enough, the new CR-V represents an exceptional value for the money. No wonder owners love it.”Click Here To Learn More About NY Auto GiantThe 2015 CR-V has more power under the hood and boasts smoother, quieter, more responsive performance. Some say she sings like a bird! It also has better fuel economy than its predecessor, advanced safety features, and an overall enhanced appearance!Don’t take our word for it, though—head in to NY Auto Giant’s Atlantic Honda, Millennium Honda or Advantage Honda, fall in love, and drive home one of your own today!last_img read more

Miller Place Woman Drowned in Pool

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York A 54-year-old woman drowned in the pool in the backyard of her Miller Place home on Tuesday night, Suffolk County police said.A family member found Erin Attard unresponsive in the semi-in-ground pool at 8 p.m., police said.She was taken to John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson, where she died.Homicide Squad detectives are continuing the investigation but believe the incident is non-criminal.last_img read more

AHL cancels remainder of season, B-Devils season comes to an end

first_img“Lastly, we want to thank the greatest fans in the world. Your support this season was unbelievable from start to finish. We know that support would have continued as we were making a historic run towards the playoffs. Be safe, be healthy, and we’re already looking forward to the 2020-21 season!” “The Binghamton Devils fully support the decision made by the American Hockey League to cancel the rest of the 2019-20 season. The health and safety of our fans, players, partners, and staff are the top priority.” The Binghamton Devils released the following statement: After a remarkable season which ended with the Binghamton Devils going on a seven-game win streak, the franchise also thanked fans in Binghamton. “Like” Nicole Menner on Facebook and “Follow” her on Twitter. BINGHAMTON (WBNG) — The American Hockey League has cancelled the remainder of the 2019-2020 season due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. This cancellation includes the Calder Cup playoffs. The Binghamton Devils finished with a 34-24-4-0 record. For more information on the cancellation of the season, you can visit the Binghamton Devils website.last_img read more

Smoking material to blame for Albert Street fire in Johnson City

first_imgJOHNSON CITY (WBNG) — The Johnson City Fire Marshall says the fire at 67 Albert St. was accidental in nature. No injuries were reported. The Fire Marshall says the fire was caused by “improperly discarded smoking materials” on the second floor front porch.center_img Five adults were displaced from the fire but are able to stay with friends and family.last_img

COVID-19 Finances: Binghamton financial advisor stresses preparing for the worst while hoping for the best

first_img(WBNG) — While the talk of the town may be the beginning of the reopening process, one Binghamton financial advisor is urging everyone to proceed with caution. Sydlansky stresses that many lenders understand the current situation and will be willing to work with borrowers to adjust their repayment plan. He says believe it or not, you and your lender actually have a common goal. Sydlansky says that since the crisis has meant people are staying at home more many are saving money on things like gas, trips to restaurants, and recreational activities. He says this is not only an opportunity to save money but to take a look at where you can make cuts. If you do end up with an excess amount of cash because you’re spending less money during the crisis, Sydlansky says resist the urge to spend or invest it. With recent talk of a possible second wave of the virus, Sydlansky says the best thing you can do to prepare for the remainder of the crisis is to create and maintain an emergency account. He says the goal should be to have funds to cover three to six months of expenses. If you are unable to set aside that extra cash and find yourself struggling due to the crisis, he says to take a look at ways to reduce your biggest expenses such as car payments, mortgage bills and student loans. “Refill your emergency account. there could be a second wave and we could be doing this all over again in three or four months where the service industry is shut down so I would say prepare for this to happen again,” he says. “Start with something even if it’s 5, 10, 20, dollars out of a paycheck, you’ve got to start somewhere” he says. “Once you get into the habit it will be a lot easier to keep that going.” “I would encourage people to see where their spending has been the last month or two and say ‘wow I’ve been without that cup of coffee and I’ve been without that trip to the movies if I needed to I can cut back on this.'” “You want to learn from a situation like this if you weren’t prepared this time learn what you can do differently in the future,” said Paul Sydlansky of Lake Road Advisors. “Reach out to some of your lenders and see if you can negotiate, see if you can get rates lowered and see if you can get payments skipped,” he says. “Ultimately they’re going to want to work with you to help you out in the short term because they don’t want you to default on that loan or have problems in the long term.”last_img read more