By Dialogo March 04, 2009 Extracts of this interview were published in volume 19, number 1 of Diálogo, titled “Gangs.” Gangs have become a serious concern for governments as well as a source of fear for the population. Retired General Álvaro Antonio Romero Salgado, Honduran Public Security Minister and Secretary of the Honduran Chapter of Transparency International, spoke about the proliferation of these groups in all social spheres, as well as the local and regional initiatives to fight this problem. *Are there any differences between “maras” and gangs?* They do not like to be called maras, but prefer we call them gangs. They consider mara to be a derogatory term, so we use it to irk them. *_Are they considered a subculture? _* Sociologists have identified them as a subculture. Why? Because they have a particular way of speaking, identifying themselves and communicating, they dress a certain way, and use specific tattoos. However, I think that all countries have subcultures, vestiges of ancient civilizations, but they are positive subcultures; ones that are associated with society, that are integrated, and proactive. I would classify this as a negative subculture, in the sense that, although they integrate with society, they do it with a premeditated focus on crime. Within this gang subculture we can distinguish different levels. This is the case with white-collar maras, the ones involved in corruption. They debilitate their countries by sucking the life of their employers and of society. Perhaps these do more damage than maras, which are labeled as negative subcultures. Th[is] question is vital when one speaks of subcultures because it is like a game of chess. In the opening of a chess match, you know what can happen at the end. If a guerrilla is labeled a rebel, the government must take actions against that classification. When speaking about these subcultures, if we classify them as a negative subculture, the state must respond by taking coercive action against them. Positive subcultures receive support from international organizations and the support of the government; they form part of development plans because they have remained stragglers. In fact, within gangs and maras, very rarely do we find members of the subcultures from our society. You won’t find a “tahuac,” or “mesquitos,” or the “negritos,” since they do not participate in that kind of thing. One really sees that if we want to label [gangs] as a subculture, it has to be a negative subculture involved in crime. *_Are white-collar maras linked to street maras? _* It is difficult to identify white-collar maras. They move in high spheres, and there can be some elements of those maras that have a legitimate function and position within an agency. They may manage some areas of organized crime, such as the laundering of assets. It is like a cancer; they really cause more damage, sometimes, because they are killing a society. Now with the process of globalization, we see how such groups have legal functions and agency positions, forcing us all to discriminate against most of society. *_Returning to the subject of maras, do you think that they are evolving or that they have ties with organized crime? How about with terrorist organizations? _* [This] is an evolving phenomenon; they are learning. These gangs were born from the exodus of Central Americans caused by the political crisis. Most of them emigrated to the United States. These children of guerrillas, or ex- guerrillas, were raised in a culture of violence and were already predisposed to it. When they arrived in the U.S., they felt isolated. The gang phenomenon grew out of loneliness, being without a family and wanting to find kinship with someone. In addition, in the U.S., they endured the pressure of the gangs that were already organized there; it was like a self-defense mechanism. But after sating their feelings of vulnerability, they moved on to their economic problems. They found the opportunity to administer regions, zones, and territories. The rest is common knowledge. After the policy of repatriation took effect, the gang culture was introduced back into Central America. Maras are not native to Central America, but are instead a phenomenon imported by those who emigrated to another country. They learned their craft from orthodox gangs in the U.S., and their evolution has been constant. Leadership was primarily maintained in the U.S.; they were like Central American subsidiaries of U.S. organizations. But they have been evolving gradually and they have their own recruiting systems. They have evolved into administrative roles. They are always involved in crime, and we believe that this evolutionary process can eventually lead to the emergence of criminal tycoons and the control of sectors of organized crime. We should be wary that this evolution may lead to long-term political aspirations and to the joining of forces with organized crime due to the development of similar expectations and interests. Organized crime would favor the creation of a ‘narco-state’ for their purposes. If the interests of organized crime unite with the expectations of maras, then we could see an evolution that would be very difficult to handle. But there is also an involution process. Where there is evolution, there is also involution. Maras are disciplined, organized, secretive, and hierarchical, but in this process they can evolve [and] make contact with elements of organized crime. If they move to this level, gangs or maras will more than likely decrease, but they will be replaced with organized crime. There will be much more violence. This is what is happening in many Mexican cities. *_What is the role of society and government in that evolution? _* I believe that government should use its investigative resources to constantly pursue all types of maras and gangs. If they are aligned with other groups, it is fundamental that the government remembers that groups like these should not be allowed to have political expectations. We had a serious situation like that already in Central America. There was an experience during the cold war of governments here facing guerrilla organizations that were rural in nature. But the result of the cold war was that they became urban guerrillas. This situation is very dangerous because urban wars are much bloodier than rural wars. *_Do you think that the community would support them if they decided to demonstrate a political interest? _* It is fundamental that a strategy be developed at all levels of government with an expectation against the institutionalization of crime. These groups must be watched very closely in every possible way so that they do not become a serious problem for society. *_Is there a connection between the maras and organized crime? It has been said that there is a link between the MS-18 and Mexican cartels. _* It is assumed that such a tie exists because crimes have been witnessed that involved the participation of the maras. Some resolved crimes indicate the intervention of members of the maras. But it is a very tenuous link. Why? If a gang member leaves any trace of his involvement, it would lead law enforcement to the heads of organized crime. This tie has not been proven. But in fact there are some activities that seem to indicate that the bond exists. However, organized crime is much more subtle and tends to favor its own organizations, so that [if a gang member is investigated] by law enforcement, the trail will not lead to organized crime. Organized crime is more disciplined and has greater defined characteristics than gangs, which are not subject to the same level of control. For example, drug trafficking –one of the requirements of the organized drug business is that those in control do not consume the drugs. Normally, a gang member is part of the drug chain and uses drugs. Organized crime avoids this connection. We could say the same of the even more critical issue of terrorism. The terrorist has ideological motives, whereas the gang member does not feel a sense of commitment to the cause. To him it is just a way of life. The gang is his family. He may be loyal to his gang but he does not have to be loyal to a drug trafficker or a terrorist. If the link existed, it would be very weak, very subtle. I almost feel that they could not be used, unless it is for terrorism within their own population. Gang members sometimes commit acts of terrorism to instill fear, but normally it is to instill fear in those whom they want to extort, always relevant to their lifestyle, but not due to loyalty to an organization such as organized crime. *_How do maras in Honduras compare to their neighbors in El Salvador and Guatemala? _* When referring to maras, the total region is their turf. Honduras is a small section within it. We have seen that Honduran maras have tried cutting ties with other regional groups. If we compare the case of Honduras with other Central American countries, their rapid growth is a clear indicator that they have been gaining momentum. They are equally violent. They all commit atrocious crimes, but the growth in Honduras has been more significant. International organizations have determined that in Honduras there are at least 70,000 organized gang members and an equal amount of supporters. The case of Honduras has been extreme. However, it is different from what happened in El Salvador, but remember that the maras of El Salvador already were infected by the syndrome of war where they lived. In their civil war, they had 80,000 dead. Many of those gang members are children of those dead guerrillas who were left orphans. There, they are much more violent because they have a military culture. They made their own weapons. The phenomenon in Honduras, although quite widespread, was essentially an imitation. *_How is Honduras working with its neighbors to eradicate gang violence? _* There is a regional organization called the Central American Integration System, or SICA. This system of integration deals with the economy and social concerns, as well as gang-related and similar issues. At the diplomatic level, the vice chancellor of the republic of each country is responsible for setting up security conferences with the undersecretaries of government and the undersecretaries of security, as is the case in Honduras. They meet regularly. Certain indicators must be constantly re-evaluated to determine how the process is evolving. But important decisions have also been reached. For example, communication between countries is taking place in real-time. Interpol, which has already had an ample history in Central America and in the rest of the continent, will communicate with far greater ease, and this will allow us to inform other countries of what is happening. When a gang member goes to a country and is captured in that country, we are immediately informed and he is extradited. The extradition process is also working. The integration process is quite fast in Central America – they no longer require immigration documents – and this allows gang members to speed up the process. Gang members communicate with each other more easily than governments. This has motivated us to find ways in which government institutions can act more quickly in enforcing appropriate measures. The U.S. has supported a process known as the Mérida Initiative. Decisions have also been made to create regional training centers, like the one operating in El Salvador, allowing us to communicate more efficiently between countries. *_How do you think the Mérida Initiative is going to help Honduras? _* It is actually already helping. The U.S. has donated funds for this project, which have been evenly distributed among Central American countries to carry out operations such as permanent monitoring crime observatories. The Mérida Initiative has also institutionalized a general operating procedure among Central American nations to fight this type of crime. *_What other types of initiatives does Honduras have in place to fight the problem of the maras? _* The needs are very extensive since it has been established in many countries that to rehabilitate a gang member you need an average of four years in order to detoxify the psychological distortions present in these young people. Very specialized centers are required, equipped with sociologists, criminologists, and experts in reversing the damage endured by most gang members. They have not only committed robberies. Their entrance tests [to gangs] involve committing other crimes, and they continue doing so to reach different levels within the hierarchy. They must commit more crimes. Their tattoos speak of that. These countries are then faced with the dilemma of investing their small budgets in the process of rehabilitation instead of all the other vital social issues that abound in society like education, health, roads, agriculture, and migration. Since all these needs of society have to be neglected to take care of 70,000 mara members, the political agenda has been to promote organizations like the ONG’s and international aid. However, the needs are quite extensive. Honduras does not have any government-subsidized centers for rehabilitation or reform. The maras that are captured are in prison. Although they are separate, we must remember that there are maras like the Salvatrucha and the MS that are different and cannot be put in the same category. In addition to that, we must note that some members are separating from the maras. These individuals are referred to as the “pesetas”. The state should be paying extra attention to them. The costs to take care of all that would be extremely high. At this time, many of these needs are being covered by international organizations, [like] the United Nations. We are beginning to see that private enterprises are getting involved, particularly with homeless children considered at-risk. But these needs are too large for the State. *_What about prevention? How difficult is it for the states with smaller budgets to invest in prevention? _* At least at the state level, we do have a prevention mechanism that is carried out as community policing methods, sort of like the “prevention police”. This project is getting very good results. Graduations have about 200 participants that have added up to 100,000 graduates. The project is called Anti-Gangs, Anti-Sexual Harassment and is taught in primary and secondary school. It is taught to the teachers and parents so that there is a multiplying effect on the parents and families. They attend every Saturday to receive education about maras, drugs and the exploitation of children. We cover regional capitals, highly populated communities and primary and secondary education levels. *_What is the role of the police in the eradication of gangs? _* The police have special statutes against maras. The state formulated a law against illicit association that has been effective because it has served as a deterrent against these sectors. The police also attempt to infiltrate these groups. It is a procedure using the same police or the same maras. It involves getting to know them, to the point where they know their structures and then there are positive results because taking this policy of approach with them lets them know their expectations. This cannot be done if one does not really try to connect with them. The police do that, but we also prefer that the organizations that interact with them (the maras) try to ascertain their expectations. There are some that are non-recoverable. But there are others that voluntarily accept that they must leave that system. I remember that President Diaz Ordaz of Mexico said a very important thing referring to Communism: Adolescents who are communists are idiots, but those who continue being communists after 20 are stupid. This is a phenomenon of imitation, an imitation of young people. The police must watch young people. *_As far as white-collar crime, what is being done to eradicate corruption? _* The justice system is the best tool for this, but there are institutions that are dedicated to that like Transparency International, of which I am the secretary. The approach is to educate in order to eradicate corruption. Government officials need to respect the law and serve the public with unbiased and fair treatment for all. As far as criminal prosecution, we still have not reached the capacity of other law enforcement agencies in developed countries to infiltrate all white-collar crimes, for example, money laundering. In addition, the state has the Superior Court of Accounts where each civil employee, together with the general office of the public prosecutor of the republic, watches for sudden, excessive growth of income; where people who had nothing to start with, suddenly start making money. Everybody sees it, and they just say these are remittances from the U.S., but how much can a young person send from the U.S.? He is expected to send money to feed his family, for education, to buy land for a house, but it should not reflect a sudden growth in income. Seeing that the growth of wealth is unusual they could use this as a control mechanism, but nobody is following up on it. Society always complains about justice not being efficient and that judges and public prosecutors are easily compromised by organized crime. In fact, lately, there have been many deaths of attorneys defending people accused of drug trafficking or organized crime. *_Do regional efforts exist to avoid corruption? _* We use the same procedures against petty criminals, gang members and organized crime. We have this connection, a direct line of communication between countries. But policing it is difficult to do: when an industrialist of one country receives funds from money laundering and tries to use them in the economy of another country, that is very difficult to catch. We have never detained anybody here for sheltering organized crime proceeds from another country, but communication exists between law enforcement and justice systems to figure out how to lessen this problem. The laws exist; it is just hard to enforce them. *_In your position as Minister of Security, what progress did you see in the eradication of violence? What lessons have you learned? _* A good diagnosis is needed. I have learned that security should not become politicized. Politicized security breeds more insecurity. In addition, it creates suspicion. If a political party uses the lack of security in its campaign as a step to gain power, it is safe to assume that that party wishes for insecurity to motivate people to vote for them to protect them. My experience is that a national policy needs to be created – with the participation of society and in particular of political organisms and leaders – against insecurity. It should be both a medium and long-term policy. In the short term, we have security institutions that are dedicated to this. It is my experience that promoting security it is vital to establish a unanimous strategy in the form of a national project. *_Do you have anything to add on the subject of gangs? _* Everything that we have spoken about is integral to the subject, but without strategy, all those questions, although they are understood perfectly, do not solve anything. They say that everything old is new again, but in the decades from the 1960s to 1989, a strategy that the West used to be able to confront the threat of Communism was very effective because it was very simple, comprehensible and feasible. First, development must be evenly distributed. Now, since everybody wants to use new terms to modernize things; they call it integral development; it has been called sustainable development, but it is the same thing– balanced development. I am referring to the fair distribution of wealth among the people. And as we reach the point of balanced development, we notice an evident departure from globalization, supported by neoliberal capitalism. But, in the long run, this will reveal that there is a great concentration of capital in the hands of a minority and a great majority that lives in poverty. This must be evaluated correctly to develop a strategy. Second is the propagation of ideas. Culture and education must be promoted. Emphasis needs to be placed on education because the world today is competitive and technological. In countries like ours, still primarily rural, education does not reach everybody. Our country has a 30% illiteracy rate, with a functional illiteracy rate of 50%, and perhaps a small minority has managed to rise above that and is at a competitive level of the system. The movement of ideas is fundamental. But so is social mobility, so that a farmer can receive an education and have the option to be involved in government and thus he can then rise within the political system. If there is social mobility, there will soon be a movement of capital. This way a single sector of society will not hold on to all the capital and the tasks will be distributed. Finally, use of force is the third element. These elements must be clear to us and we must learn the lessons of past wars and past conflicts. Military troops cannot be brought in to solve a problem of a political nature. The lesson we learned from the Cold War is that societies must understand that the police cannot be used to solve a social problem. There must be consistency. The powers-that-be need to realize that deterrence cannot only be achieved by law enforcement. It is necessary to eradicate a problem starting from the bottom. Our tools to knock down this wall of insecurity should be the control of territory and the fortification of moral values. Our educational goal in this aspect should simply be to control mass media. Uncontrolled television has a large impact in societies like ours. People think that it is the normal way of life. These are degrading systems that in the long term produce more distortion in our society. The use of force is a general strategy abused by governments in past decades, which brought about the triumph of capitalism. This comes hand in hand with the strategy of institutionalization. Nothing should be done to make things easier for these groups. The heroes of the young people are themselves young, able to easily promote themselves within the media. They are not the Nobel prizes winners for peace or for medicine. The media, in general, is promoting that young people, delinquents and those who exhibit aggressive behaviors are the heroes of our time. They should not be permitted to promote themselves with such ease. They must also be infiltrated, use the maras themselves as a means of internal communication. It is also necessary to erase the legitimacy of those groups. In that sense, I suggest one basic strategy (involving government support): the government must prioritize the popular support of the people. Without the support of the people, the police can do nothing. We see that the maras in order to survive must fight for a territory; just as the state, they cannot exist in the air. The maras cannot act if they do not have territory. The basis of all secure societies is to have control of a territory. Society can have control of territory only if it is organized. When discussing security, one should consider that the reverse of the coin of security is insecurity. Insecurity is an indicator that tells us the degree of organization we have as a society. There is insecurity because society is not controlled. There is insecurity because society does not control its public spaces. We have allowed criminals to have access to public spaces. Honest citizens live imprisoned in the isolation of their homes, while the gang members and the maras have taken over the streets. Finally, we must reorganize our forces strategically. The government must emphasize the use of very good intelligence. For the police forces, quality must become the priority, not the number of police. There is one point within that strategy that is essential: the loyalty of the police to the community. The police must really be an institution dedicated to service. They must be valued by the community. If the government gives priority to mobilizing the community against crime, the police must have the loyalty and commitment of their people. If the police extort the population, if they have criminal ties, if they have allowed organized crime to permeate, they will be shunned by the people. If there is no harmony between the police and the people, we will never be able to gain control of the territory. The fundamental requirement for criminals to be able to thrive, especially maras, is territory. For that reason the primary fight must be over territory. Soon we would have what I call a cascade against delinquency. First, it is necessary to knock them off their pedestals, so they are not the heroes of society. Second, it is necessary to debilitate them. What sustains a gang? They must have human resources. It is necessary to try to prevent young people from joining them. (You must have) a policy of security that monopolizes the minds of young people so they are not attracted to gangs and so there are other options for young people. What other thing sustains them? Economic resources. After discrediting them, isolating them and debilitating them, it is necessary to start the infiltration process. Then, to prosecute them, it is necessary to apply a law to them that is powerful and place them behind bars, rehabilitate them and return them to society. Within this policy we must be clear: society must understand that once they have gone through the rehabilitation process, it is necessary to give them options so that they really find in society the hope to live, to develop, to regenerate. If society does not accept them, they return with more aggressiveness, to form other more aggressive gangs. *_As far as the support of the community, do you think that the citizen roundtables are improving the community’s perception of the government or government efforts toward fixing the gang problem? _* At least in our environment, the population thinks that matters concerning safety are strictly the responsibility of the police and that it is nobody else’s obligation to contribute to public safety. When I mentioned that the government must prioritize the support of the people, I meant that we must look for the mechanism to earn that support. If there is no security, it is because there is no organization. The citizen roundtables are not an invention of Honduras. In the U.S., President Clinton used them in the various neighborhoods and called it Project Safe Neighborhood; other communities refer to them as a “Safer Community”. We call them Citizen Roundtables for Security and Citizens for Security. The government project was meant to organize the two largest cities: Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. However, either due to a sudden awareness or the need of the population to feel safe, having felt discouraged or intimidated, they began to unite. We started seeing the emergence of youth roundtables in the schools aided by teachers to help protect adolescents from drug dealers and gangs. A fundamental part of the citizen roundtables for security was the study I did with the help of the European Economic Community, as well as the U.S. government, of the real situation in Honduras. We reached the conclusion that there was a permanent block: the police were rejected by the community; the police did not have the complete confidence of the community. The first order of business was therefore for the police to become closer to the community. Citizen roundtables help local police organize communities and establish relationships. But this works both ways. It helps in controlling a community territory, but it also allows the community to supervise police behavior. I believe that in both respects, citizen roundtables are garnering results because there are law enforcement agents who believe that the community is working for them and not the other way around. That is how you can tell. The goal was for the community to stop fearing criminals and to stop fearing the authorities. In both cases it has worked. *_Regarding intelligence, are there police initiatives to improve intelligence? _* In this area, we must improve our skills; deliver a strategy based more on quality than quantity. During the period in which I was minister, we placed much emphasis on improving the intelligence services. We require a law that allows a system of capturing images, to be able to monitor the radio electronic airspace of organized crime. They watch us. Members of organized crime will readily abandon a small plane (while) we in the police do not have the capacity to buy a small plane. They abandon one a month. They have sophisticated satellite equipment and they use listening systems, in addition to infiltrating the police. Our intelligence systems must be improved. When I spoke with members of the DEA or law enforcement agents that work in the area of international antiterrorism, I would say to them that by controlling the prisons, one can control organized crime and the gang system. Likewise, it is necessary to allow them to communicate but by using a system enabling us to intercept their conversations. It is fundamental to have legislature in place allowing the intelligence services to listen in on people. This has been an area of no compromise where citizens do not want to be monitored, yet criminals can listen to us. For that reason, the improvement of the intelligence services is fundamental. In our case, the preventive police analysis division was created to pursue and obtain practice and experience with common criminals and gangs. Once they have learned, they are transferred to specialized intelligence services so they can work with public prosecutors and ultimately with the general directorate of criminal investigation, which is the highest level. Now we do have a more standard procedure to produce and accept intelligence aid. The U.S. gives us aid, but sometimes we do not have the technological capacity to receive that aid. That is where the intelligence service must be ahead of the maras; the intelligence service must be considered a priority. _General Romero is professor of geopolitics at the School of National Defense of Honduras and was Minister of Defense (1990-91). He served as Honduran Ambassador to Nicaragua (1992-93), Presidential Chief of Staff (1994-98) and Minister of Public Security (2006-2007)_
By Dialogo July 21, 2009 BOGOTA (AP) 7/17/2009 — An hour-long video police found in a computer of an alleged rebel appears to confirm that Colombia’s largest rebel army gave money to the 2006 election campaign of President Rafael Correa of Ecuador. The video shows the second-ranking commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia reading the deathbed manifesto of founding leader Manuel “Sureshot” Marulanda. The manifesto states that the FARC made contributions to Correa’s campaign, but it’s possible that Correa wasn’t aware of them. The video, given to The Associated Press by a government official on condition of anonymity due to political sensitivity, adds weight to evidence found in a half-dozen electronic documents recovered at a rebel camp destroyed in a cross-border raid last year. Correa has accused Colombia of fabricating the documents, despite an investigation by the global police agency Interpol that determined they were not altered. The same rebel manifesto turned up on a different rebel computer recovered in October. But in the video it is read aloud by Jorge Briceno, a member of the FARC’s ruling secretariat and No. 2 commander, which will make it harder to deny. Ties between Colombia and neighboring Ecuador are deeply frayed, and the video is sure to complicate relations further. Colombia is outraged that the FARC, a leftist group on the U.S. State Department’s terror list, was operating out of Ecuador, allegedly with the support of that country’s leftist government. The State Department had no comment on the video. Ecuador broke diplomatic ties after Colombia crossed into its territory last year to raid the rebel camp. Attempts by the Organization of American States and the Carter Center to mediate the dispute have been stymied. Told of the video Friday, Ecuador’s security minister, Miguel Carvajal, denied that Correa’s government had “any relation in the campaign or has any relation with or contributions from groups such as the FARC, and certainly no type of accord.” Correa himself has repeatedly denied any ties to FARC. The video was found on a computer seized May 30 in the Bogota home of a suspected FARC operative, and finally decrypted last week. A senior Colombian prosecutor, anti-terrorism unit chief Hermes Ardila, confirmed that the video was found on one of three computers seized in the arrest of Adela Perez, 36 — “the secretariat’s key player in Bogota.” It shows Briceno reading from a laptop perched on a roughhewn shelf to about 250 somber-looking rebels in a jungle clearing. Briceno first informs the troops of Marulanda’s death and of changes in the rebel leadership. He reads from a missive from someone present when Marulanda died on March 26, 2008, at age 78, of an apparent heart attack. “We awake today with an immense solitude, so very sad. The comrade died yesterday, the 26th, at 18:20 hours,” Briceno reads. The faces of his young audience are grim. They look dumbstruck, distressed. At one point, Briceno pauses briefly and says, “What was that sound? A bomb?” He gets a negative reply from off camera. Briceno then turns to the sobering letter Marulanda wrote just days before his death. The letter stresses the strategic importance of “maintaining good political relations, friendship and confidence with the governments of Venezuela and Ecuador.” It is a grave reflection on devastating blows the FARC has suffered at the hands of the military in Colombia, which has received more than $4 billion in U.S. aid since 2000. It describes the “trophies of war” Colombia obtained when it killed the rebels’ foreign minister, Raul Reyes, and 24 other people in a March 1, 2008 raid on his jungle camp inside Ecuador. Marulanda laments that Colombia seized a trove of electronic documents that badly compromised the rebels and their foreign friends — namely, Correa and President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. “The secrets of the FARC have been lost completely,” Briceno reads. Among those secrets is “assistance in dollars to Correa’s campaign and subsequent conversations with his emissaries,” the letter said. It mentions “some agreements, according to documents in the possession of all of us, that are very compromising regarding our ties with friends.” Marulanda’s letter does not say whether Correa personally knew of the money, and does not mention an amount. But it supports four other documents the Colombian government says it found on Reyes’ laptop that were allegedly written in late 2006 by FARC leaders discussing rebel payments of at least $100,000 to Correa’s campaign. It appears unlikely that the video could be fake. AP video experts found no signs of tampering. Also, Briceno is a known FARC leader with whom AP reporters had frequent contact from 1999-2002, and it is clearly him in the video. The Ecuadorean minister, Carvajal, told the AP that if the video is proven to be authentic, his government will want to know who the supposed emissaries are that established ties with the FARC “in the name of the (Correa) electoral campaign.” Late Friday, Ecuador’s foreign minister, Fander Falconi, announced the formation of a commission to investigate the allegations. Correa strongly denies receiving money from the FARC. He has argued that Reyes’ computer equipment could never have survived bombs that ripped apart his jungle camp. Despite revelations about ties to FARC, Correa was re-elected in April by a comfortable margin. Correa this month imposed stiff import tariffs on a broad range of Colombian goods including autos and beef, which will seriously affect Bogota’s $500 million in annual exports to Ecuador. The video, separated into 20 files on a Sony Vaio laptop, took more than a month to decrypt before the code was cracked July 10, said several government officials who spoke on condition they not be identified due to the matter’s sensitivity. The laptop’s owner, Perez, is jailed on charges of terrorism and criminal conspiracy, as the alleged leader of an urban cell engaged in extortion and bombings in the capital, Ardila said. The other two laptops found in her home contained intelligence on senior government officials, including Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, national police director Gen. Oscar Naranjo and Juan Manuel Santos, who as defense minister managed the raid into Ecuador, the officials added. An Ecuadorean prosecutor last month issued an arrest warrant for Santos on murder charges. Interpol refused, however, to circulate the warrant. Colombia’s government says it has no intention of handing over Santos. The Marulanda letter also was found on a laptop seized in a raid on a rebel camp in Putumayo state near the Ecuadorean border on Oct. 31, according to Colombian authorities. The AP obtained a copy of the letter the following month.
Airports in Brazil will receive 6.48 billion reais in investments between now and 2014, when the country will host the World Cup, Infraero superintendent Jonas Lopes said today, days after the country’s World Cup infrastructure was the target of criticism. Out of this total, which will come from Infraero (51%) and the federal government (49%), 5.4 billion reais will be invested in the fourteen airports serving the twelve World Cup host cities, the state-owned company announced. “According to studies commissioned by the Ministry of Defense, during the World Cup, the volume of passengers will increase approximately 10% over the estimated transit for the year,” Infraero said in a statement. The forecast for 2014 without the World Cup would be 26 million passengers, stated Lopes. At some airports, such as Guarulhos (São Paulo), Campinas (São Paulo), and Brasília, Infraero anticipates the installation of operational modules that will support efforts to meet the demand on those terminals. The airport situation is what is most worrisome for the competition that Brazil will host, according to the president of the Brazilian Soccer Confederation and the World Cup organizing committee, Ricardo Teixeira. Last week, in an interview in South Africa, Teixeira was not able to provide information regarding investment and said that the area was Infraero’s responsibility. However, FIFA’s general-secretary, Jerome Valcke, said that Brazil will be divided into “four regions to guarantee that fans will not have to travel for more than one or two hours between stadiums.” The idea is to avoid long trips for the teams between the twelve cities that will host the games: Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Cuiabá, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Manaus, Natal, Porto Alegre, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and São Paulo. By Dialogo July 16, 2010
Guatemalan security forces landed a heavy blow against one of the Mexican drug-trafficking cartels operating in the country when they detained twenty-two of its members, including the alleged leader in the area, the government announced. With the arrest of four alleged members of the Mexican paramilitary drug-trafficking group “Los Zetas,” the Guatemalan police crowned an operation that included the seizure of 239 rifles, twenty-eight all-terrain vehicles, five small planes, ammunition, and explosives, the Interior Ministry specified. The arrests and seizures took place after Guatemala decreed the suspension of constitutional guarantees, a day after placing the border department of Alta Verapaz, around two hundred kilometers north of the capital, under a state of emergency. Soldiers and police officers have been sent there to combat growing criminal activity by Mexican gangs. “These individuals were not preparing to confront the security forces; they were preparing to take over the country,” Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom told reporters after authorizing the emergency measures. Government reports indicate that “Los Zetas” were practically governing the area, appropriating rural properties and committing assaults and rapes. Those arrested include a former member of the Guatemalan military, José Armando León, once a member of the Kaibiles, an elite army unit trained for counterinsurgency operations and used during the prolonged civil war that the country suffered. The authorities suspect León of being the head of the group active in Alta Verapaz. Around eight hundred members of Los Zetas are believed to operate in Guatemala, a third of them Mexicans, according to official investigations. Although their chief area of influence is located in Alta Verapaz, the organization is calculated to have freedom of movement in about 75 percent of the country’s territory. Los Zetas, who originated ten years ago as a group of hitmen in the service of the Mexican Gulf Cartel, have become a criminal organization in themselves, with thousands of members and a strong presence in Central America. Analysts and high-ranking officials affirm that Mexican cartels are buying land, warehousing weapons, and contracting members of criminal networks throughout Central America to help them to transport and sell drugs. By Dialogo December 28, 2010
By Dialogo October 03, 2014 For 18 years, an operative known as “Ernesto” worked his way up the ranks of the National Liberation Army and evaded capture by Colombian security forces. But his luck ran out on September 16, when soldiers with the Colombian National Army’s Second Division and agents with the Technical Investigation Corps (CTI) used intelligence to capture him in the town of San Pablo, in a rural region in the department of Bolivar. They also rescued a male juvenile, who soldiers suspect Ernesto of recruiting about six months earlier. Additionally, they recovered a fragmentation grenade, 34 rounds of ammunition of different calibers, and documents relating to operations the ELN is planning, according to Vanguardia. Ernesto is top lieutenant of ELN leader ‘Familia’ Army officials believe Ernesto, about 42 years old and a native of Remedios, Antioquia, is the second-in-command in the ELN’s Heroes and Martyrs of St. Rosa Front. That makes him the alleged right-hand man of an ELN commander known as “Familia,” who’s suspected of coordinating terrorist support networks and organizing schemes to extort mine owners, palm oil farmers, and other business people and inhabitants in San Pablo and Cantagallo, another town in Bolivar. Familia has also allegedly worked for the ELN as an explosives instructor. Ernesto, meanwhile, became Familia’s top lieutenant after security forces captured “Marcos Embalado” in February. At the time, Marcos Embalado was the leader of the ELN’s Heroes and Martyrs of St. Rosa Front. The ELN moved Ernesto from the rural areas of Antioquia to southern Bolívar to fill the position left vacant by the arrest of Marcos Embalado. Strong blow against the ELN: analyst On June 14, Colombian police captured Alfredo Hernández as he watched a World Cup match at his home in the department of Bolívar. Before he was captured, Hernández, who is also known as “Mocho” or “Elkin”, was the alleged leader of the ELN’s Luis José Solano Sepúlveda Front. On May 26, Army soldiers with the 16th Cavalry Unit, attached to the 16th Brigade, killed Rito Ramón Barreto, an ELN leader who was also known as “Llanero” or “Criollo”. Llanero was the second in command of the ELN’s José Adonay Ardila Front. A little more than a month before soldiers killed Llanero, on April 19, Army soldiers killed an ELN regional leader who was known as “El Pollo” during an operation in the department of Bolivar. On December 25, 2013, soldiers with the Nueva Granada Batallion captured “Nelson,” a high-ranking leader of the ELN’s Heroes and Martyrs of St. Rosa Front, which operates in the Las Pavas region of Simití, Bolívar. This most recent arrest is just the latest in series of captures or killings of ELN leaders during the last nine months: “It is a strong blow to the ELN to lose a leader with as much experience as Ernesto has,” said Néstor Alfonso Rosanía, director of the Center for Security, Defense and International Affairs Studies (CESDAI), in Colombia. “However, the organizational structure will allow a new leader to arise quickly within the group…each leader has a second and even third line replacement in the wings, who are at the same structural level but never from the same geographical area. This minimizes the impact of casualties and arrests.” “The guerrilla forces in Colombia have a collegiate command structure. The authorities have struck a disheartening blow to ELN’s guerrilla fighters with this arrest, and the authorities will continue the fight.” Ernesto’s capture also removes from the ELN one of the terrorist group’s key recruiters of children. “The ELN is becoming ever more deeply involved in recruiting uneducated minors in rural areas…[it’s] a human rights violation, both domestically and internationally. Undoubtedly, Colombian judicial system will open a case against the former ELN leader on those charges; legally, they must charge him.” Security forces deal strong blows to the ELN These captures and killings have hampered the terrorist group’s ability to carry out attacks, and continue to protect the civilian population of Colombia. The public forces do more without making these captures public and working quietly without making such a fuss because after a few days these enemies of calmness in the regions won’t take revenge. Chek it out and you will see the results SUPER, IN FRONT THIS IS OUR NATIONAL ARMY I like getting news about these bandits when the authorities catch them, but even so, that terrible scourge has no end. May the Lord bless our heroes of the National Army and the police, who expose their lives to give the Colombian people a measure of peace. We think it’s excellent that the information reaches us in Colombia
“From our end,” responded Adm. Tidd, “we’ve already taken some initial steps to improve SOUTHCOM’s support to our government colleagues and to our partners throughout Central America. I’ve tasked our Joint Task Force Bravo to look at improving our common understanding and information sharing, so that we can better address the destabilizing operations, corruptive influence, and transregional reach of criminal networks.” CENTSEC is a multinational forum that brings together defense and security leaders from the United States and Central America to develop a common understanding of the operational environment; exchange ideas and perspectives; and identify opportunities to improve bilateral and multilateral security cooperation. Representatives from the armed and security forces of Belize, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama; senior U.S. government representatives; and observers from regional organizations are in attendance at this year’s event. SOUTHCOM’s commander also said that the goal of the United States is to identify new, innovative opportunities to enhance security cooperation, improve interoperability, and better support partner nation efforts against new and old threats. “Let me know what obstacles remain, what we can do better, what still needs to be done, and what SOUTHCOM can do to help,” he added. “Our commitment is to being an equal and trusted partner.” Following Adm. Tidd, Costa Rican Minister of Public Security Luis Gustavo Mata said that his country and other participating nations were interested in hearing everyone’s thoughts on improving regional cooperation. “It’s important to break down barriers to information sharing and improved interoperability.” Minister Mata also reinforced the enduring strength of U.S.-Central America relations, building on the progress that has been achieved thus far, and identifying new opportunities for cooperation. Transnational threats According to SOUTHCOM’s new commander, “We are bound together by common hopes and a shared vision of a better future where our children can go to school without fearing the violence of drug traffickers and gangs, where our institutions are strong and resilient and impervious to corruption. This is both the promise and the potential of our shared home, and one that we look forward achieving together. This is our home, and we all have a shared responsibility to protect all of our citizens.” Brazil should be included in this program hereâ€¦But, oh!, how everything this corrupt, communist dis-government supports does no goodâ€¦naturally it wasn’t interested in something so important for all of usâ€¦I have high hopes that everything will change here in my country. In the late 2000s, Costa Rica went through what its former Deputy Minister for Justice and Peace Max Loría called “a crisis” when the homicide rate reached a record 11.5 killings per 100,000 residents, and cocaine seizures by the anti-drug police spiked. Yet crime never reached the levels seen in parts of the region. Even without a military, however, Costa Rica is tackling crime in the same way as its neighboring countries: by investing heavily in security and trying to equip the police with heavy arms. This is one of the reasons why Costa Rica decided to co-host this year’s Central American Security Conference (CENTSEC) on the second week of April. Costa Rican President Luiz Guillermo Solís Rivera was present for the opening ceremony. He thanked the United States for its support helping his country fight “the new threats, and to build a region where our countries can work together to create a hemisphere that is a beacon of peace, prosperity, and partnership in an increasingly insecure world.” President Rivera also said that his government, “is working with local municipalities to develop programs including conflict resolution and providing opportunities and job training for young people, …but Costa Rica’s security problems are largely due to the issues related to drug trafficking in the region.” On the topic of expanding the partnership efforts throughout the region, Adm. Tidd said that, “it’s time to seize a transformational moment in U.S.-Central America relations and be creative and bold in our ideas.” His goal for this year’s CENTSEC, he said, “is to identify additional opportunities to enhance our support to all of you, to find new ways to work together, whether by repurposing a multilateral exercise to improving our collective interoperability, or refocusing our ongoing Operation MARTILLO, or redoubling our information sharing efforts.” Because drug trafficking is a pan-regional problem, the theme for this year’s conference is “Promoting Security Cooperation against Transnational Threats”. During his opening remarks, U. S. Navy Admiral Kurt W. Tidd, commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), co-sponsor of the conference, said, “I’m excited to be here for my first CENTSEC. While I’m still fairly new to the position of Commander of U.S. Southern Command [SOUTHCOM], I’m by no means new to working with our partners in this vital part of the world. From what I know, and from what I’ve learned over the past few months, I see tremendous opportunity to build on the significant progress we’ve made and continue to make confronting transnational threats.” By Dialogo April 08, 2016
By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo August 19, 2016 To help prevent transnational organized-crime and drug-trafficking groups from using Costa Rica as a transit point for drugs, U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) will donate two renovated Island-class oceanic patrol boats to the Costa Rican National Coast Guard Service. The donation, valued at $19 million, includes new communications and navigation equipment, ship renovation, weapons, and training on how to operate and maintain the vessels. After his meeting with Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís in San Jose, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), William Brownfield, announced the donation on June 22nd. “This is the largest collaboration ever between SOUTHCOM and Costa Rica,” Costa Rican Public Security Minister Gustavo Mata Vega told Diálogo. “The vessels that the Ministry of Public Security’s National Coast Guard Service will receive next year will be the largest that will be used to combat drug and human trafficking, human smuggling, illegal fishing, and environmental crime in Costa Rican waters, which had never before been monitored due to the lack of capacity of the country’s fleet up to now.” Long-time negotiations Negotiations between the Costa Rican Government and SOUTHCOM began two years ago during a visit from then SOUTHCOM Commander, General John F. Kelly, when the United States and Costa Rica agreed that reinforcing the Coast Guard’s capabilities would be mutually beneficial to both nations. The boats will be more than 34 meters long with a displacement of 168 metric tons and will have an overall length (LOA) of 33.53 meters, a maximum draft of 2.32 meters, and a beam of 6.40 meters. The patrol boats have been in active service for the U.S. Coast Guard since the 1980s. As part of the acquisition, they will be completely renovated and fitted with next-generation communication and navigation equipment. Once work is complete, they will have the operational range and maritime capacity to patrol Costa Rica’s extensive maritime territorial and exclusive economic zone waters. “Acquiring these ships has been the top security related priority for the U.S. Embassy country team in Costa Rica for the past two years. Placing these ships in the hands of a proactive and professional force like the Costa Rican Coast Guard will undoubtedly benefit the entire region,” said U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Daniel R. Fitch, deputy chief of the Office of Defense Representative in Costa Rica. “The realization of this donation is also a great example of what is possible when different agencies work together to accomplish one goal. In this case, the close collaboration between SOUTHCOM, INL, and the Costa Rican Ministry of Public Security was critical. The U.S. Department of Defense is donating the boats, Foreign Military Financing is funding the communications suite, weapons, and training support, INL is funding the refurbishment and spare parts package, and the Ministry of Public Security is increasing the Coast Guard by 110 sailors to man and support the vessels as well as increasing the Coast Guard’s maintenance budget,” explained Lt. Col. Fitch to Diálogo. Costa Rican sovereignty To operate the new vessels, a total of 40 sailors will undergo six months of training at a naval academy in Baltimore, Maryland. When training is concluded, the Costa Rican officers will sail the ships [“Juan Rafael Mora Porras” and “General José María Cañas”] to Costa Rica. The ships, each with a crew of 18 people, will allow Costa Rica to increase its presence and control of territorial waters from 1,200 kilometers to more than 5,500 kilometers in the Pacific Ocean. Those maritime areas are currently patrolled by U.S. frigates within the framework of the Joint-Patrol Convention between the two countries. Signed in 1999, the convention allows for highly coordinated patrols, the provision of information and equipment, professional officer training, and rescue operations. “We don’t want to be given the fish. What we want is to be given the fishing line to be able to reel in organized-crime organizations,” Mata Vega said. “We will continue working jointly with U.S. authorities to identify, detain, and inspect suspicious vessels.” Regional collaboration The Costa Rican Government recognized the support of the United States as another piece of the puzzle to finalize the commitment and the actions being developed with regard to security. The U.S. Government, in turn, indicated that the transfer of the two vessels would not have been possible without a firm commitment of the Costa Rican Government to provide the National Coast Guard Service with the resources it needs to operate the patrol boats. “This is an excellent example of what we can accomplish when our governments invest jointly in security. Costa Rica can be very proud of having intercepted more drugs at sea than almost any other country in the region,” Brownfield reported during a June 22nd press conference at the Presidential House. According to the Ministry of Public Security, security forces confiscated more than 13 metric tons of cocaine between January 1st and August 1st this year. Meanwhile, more than 19,000 tons of cocaine were confiscated in 2015, and 134 international criminal organizations were dismantled, according to the Costa Rican Drug Institute. Transshipment route Costa Rica has become a bridge for criminal groups. Drug traffickers are using small go-fast boats that are difficult to detect. Many of those depart from Ecuadorian and Colombian ports in the Pacific Ocean, traverse Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, and continue on to Mexico and the United States through Cocos Island in Costa Rica. Drug traffickers usually unload and store cocaine in Costa Rica, with the intention of subsequently shipping the drugs to Guatemala, Mexico, the United States, and Europe. “The added range and capability of the ships will benefit the Costa Rican economy and environment by providing presence in Costa Rican waters where illegal fishing is prevalent. Moreover, the Coast Guard will disrupt established drug routes that pass through Costa Rican territorial waters, thereby protecting Costa Rican sovereignty and increasing collaboration with the Joint Interagency Task Force South.” explained Lt. Col. Fitch. In this context, SOUTHCOM has contributed to strengthening the maritime fleet and the installation of new police checkpoints on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Costa Rica. In January 2015, the U.S. Government donated six Eduardoño boats to the Ministry of Public Security to patrol the border checkpoint of Delta, in the province of Limón. The donation included spare parts for the six boats, two transmission devices, and six propellers with a total value of more than $1.1 million. “Thanks to SOUTHCOM’s cooperation, the National Coast Guard System will have a new Coast Guard Station in the port city of Golfito, Puntarenas, on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica starting in 2017. This project will cost $2.5 million because it includes two additional projects: a floating dock and a hangar,” Commissioner Martín Arias, director of the National Coast Guard Service, explained to Diálogo on April 14th. These donations, which are a key component of Costa Rica’s strategy for combatting criminal groups, also strengthen the cooperation and bonds of friendship between Costa Rica and SOUTHCOM. “SOUTHCOM identifies strongly with our nation’s cause, and that is rooted in several meetings we have had with SOUTHCOM’s high officials. We have cooperated more closely on defense matters, and we have tightened our bonds of friendship,” said Mata Vega. “Costa Rica has new announcements to make on this type of cooperation on the part of SOUTHCOM.” A hemispheric alliance is essential in the fight against crime. “We should be clear that no country will be able to win the fight against organized crime, criminal groups and terrorism on its own. It is important to establish alliances at the regional and international level where everyone acts as one in a number of areas so that we can continue working for the well-being of society,” concluded Mata Vega.
By U.S. Southern Command July 25, 2019 Brazil’s top military leader met with U.S. Navy Admiral Craig S. Faller, SOUTHCOM commander, and other command leaders and experts to discuss the deepening and expanding cooperative defense ties between the Western Hemisphere’s two largest democracies.The U.S. and Brazilian armed forces enjoy longstanding ties, and defense cooperation between them includes a wide range of partnership activities, such as exercises, training, counter-proliferation and counter-narcotics cooperation, humanitarian assistance, reciprocal visits, personnel exchanges, and the sharing of information and expertise.In March, Brazil signed a partnership declaration with the New York National Guard, joining more than 80 nations participating in the State Partnership Program with the United States.“I’m pleased to welcome General Botelho to SOUTHCOM,” said Adm. Faller. “Brazil is a trusted security partner. This visit helps our nations take another important step in advancing our military relationship and expanding our defense partnership to support goals we share as neighbors committed to working together for a secure, stable, and peaceful region.”Brazil’s contributions to global security date back more than a century, when the country’s armed forces conducted convoy operations and security patrols with allied nations during World War I. Brazil also supported allied naval operations in the Atlantic and deployed an expeditionary force to Italy during World War II.Today, the Brazilian armed forces’ legacy as a committed security partner continues to grow as they take on new leadership roles promoting security cooperation, building regional capacity, and supporting security and stability in the western hemisphere and in other regions, like the continent of Africa.In February, Brazil’s Navy hosted U.S. Navy medics during a month-long riverine medical mission aboard a Brazilian Navy hospital ship. The mission helped doctors gain invaluable experience and expertise in tropical medicine, as well as treatment of patients in austere conditions unique to the Amazon. The U.S. medical teams were also able to use and share expertise on the use of new medical technologies as they collaborated to care for and treat more than 800 patients.Brazil helped provide medical assistance to patients when the U.S. Navy Hospital Ship USNS Comfort deployed to the region in 2018 and is supporting the ship’s current mission, which completed stops in Ecuador and Peru.Gen. Botelho, the first Brazilian Air Force general to assume duties as chief of Defense, returned to SOUTHCOM after visiting the command in 2016 to discuss bilateral cooperation between the U.S. and Brazilian air forces.This year, Brazil will host the Atlantic and amphibious phases of UNITAS, the world’s longest running, multinational maritime security exercise. Brazil was among nine nations that participated in the first iteration of the exercise in 1960.SOUTHCOM is one of the nation’s six geographically focused unified commands with responsibility for U.S. military operations in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America, as well as security cooperation with defense and public-security forces in the region.
By Luis Alberto Facal / Voice of America / edited by Diálogo Staff December 11, 2019 The crisis in Venezuela is urgent and must be given a sense of urgency, said Carol Thompson O’Connell, principal deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, on October 31.“When almost 5 million people have been forcibly displaced and have had to flee their country to find the basic necessities of life, shelters, food, water, security, there is nothing that can describe it, but urgency to face the political situation in Venezuela,” Thompson O’Connell said.The official spoke at a telephonic press briefing about the results of the International Solidarity Conference on the Venezuelan Refugee and Migrant Crisis, held in Brussels October 28-29.“Countries in the region have been dealing with this crisis for months, and at times for years. They have done a phenomenal job in helping Venezuelan refugees and migrants. But the rest of the world must understand the magnitude of this crisis and must understand that this is not just a regional crisis. It’s a crisis that affects the countries of the rest of the world and should be treated as such,” said Thompson O’Connell.The State Department official said the United States is proud to lead worldwide efforts to provide humanitarian assistance. During fiscal year 2019, the U.S. government contributed nearly $9.3 billion to support humanitarian crises, she said.“When I was in Brussels, I announced an additional $10 billion in economic and development assistance that will provide treatment for HIV, critical vaccinations, and support for activities to counter human trafficking,” Thompson O’Connell added.The aid comes in addition to the nearly $119 million in humanitarian assistance for Venezuela U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in late September.The U.S. government’s total response to the crisis involves more than $650 million, of which almost $473 million goes to humanitarian assistance to save the lives of people affected and to promote stability in Venezuela and the region, the U.S. official said.The United States has been the largest financial contributor to the Venezuelan crisis.“Almost 4.5 million Venezuelans have escaped from Venezuela due to the actions of the Maduro regime,” she said.The United States has said it is working with international and nongovernmental partners to complement the efforts of governments that receive Venezuelan refugees.“Our system also increases the original capacity of the asylum authority and provides legal support to Venezuelans seeking asylum. The program also helps Venezuelans to integrate into the communities that host them by finding them employment and access to education and health care,” said Thompson O’Connell.She stressed that during her recent visit to Colombia, she was able to see her assistants in action, caring for Venezuelan refugees who had arrived in the country. “I met with children in Colombia who have been able to go to school and receive an education, because access to education provides hope, and it helps children find stability and normalcy in very difficult situations.”She also thanked European partners for their response to the crisis, and urged them to increase their support for the Venezuelan people, in response to the “tyranny of the Maduro regime.”“This is a global crisis that requires a global solution,” she added.The Brussels conference, she said, “demonstrates that Europeans are focused on this problem and are willing to consider new ways to try to solve the crisis Maduro caused.”
By Voice of America (VOA)/Edited by Diálogo Staff July 23, 2020 Terrorist incidents in Venezuela in 2019 reflected the growing presence and territorial control of the National Liberation Army (ELN, in Spanish), the U.S. Department of State said in its annual report presented June 24.The report shows an increase in confrontations between the ELN, other Colombian and Venezuelan illegal armed groups, and Venezuelan government forces.In its report, the U.S. Department of State stresses that there were no changes in Venezuelan anti-terrorist laws in 2019.Border security at ports of entry was vulnerable and susceptible to corruption,” the report added.In addition, the Department of State highlights that the Juan Guaidó government worked with regional partners to invoke the Interamerican Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (also known as the Rio Treaty) in September to address the Maduro regime’s illegal activities, including terrorism and its financing.U.S. sanctions Iranian ships’ captains for delivering oil to VenezuelaU.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the United States was sanctioning five Iranian ship captains who had delivered oil to Venezuela.Pompeo also told the press that the United States continues to support Interim President Juan Guaidó.Washington and most governments in the Western Hemisphere have recognized Guaidó as the nation’s legitimate leader.“Great advances” in the fight against terrorismIn 2019, the United States and its partners made great advances to defeat and dismantle international terrorist organizations, according to the June 24 report.The Department of State’s report on terrorism added that, throughout the year, several countries in Western Europe and South America joined the United States in designating Iran-backed Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in its entirety.In 2019, Argentina, Kosovo, Paraguay, and the United Kingdom joined the United States in designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, rejecting the false distinction between its “military wing” and an alleged “political wing.”
By U.S. Southern Command Public Affairs/Edited by Diálogo Staff August 31, 2020 U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) hosted defense leaders from South America August 27 during the first virtual South America Defense Conference (SOUTHDEC), focused on how to strengthen defense partnerships in a pandemic environment.The command invited chiefs of Defense from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Paraguay, Suriname, and Uruguay to the annual conference, as well as Defense leaders from Canada, French Guiana, Spain, and the United Kingdom.U.S. Navy Admiral Craig Faller, SOUTHCOM commander, hosted the forum. He was joined by U.S. leaders and security experts from the Department of Defense, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, and the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies.SOUTHCOM sponsors this annual regional conference to facilitate an open and candid dialogue between the region’s top military leaders. The leaders share security cooperation ideas, perspectives, expertise and experiences, as they seek to improve their collective understanding of regional threats and security challenges.This year, SOUTHDEC’s participants discussed their support of the region’s ongoing response to the pandemic and law enforcement-led operations against transnational criminal organizations.Since March, SOUTHCOM has worked with partner nations in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean to support their COVID-19 response and mitigation efforts. Under its Humanitarian Assistance Program, the command has purchased and donated supplies, equipment and other vital resources to support the efforts of 28 nations.“We have extended that enduring hand of friendship […] with humanitarian assistance donations now totaling around $17 million across 300 projects to help friends in need,” Adm. Faller said.In April, the White House announced the start of SOUTHCOM-led enhanced counternarcotics operations to degrade the capabilities of drug trafficking organizations, save lives, and directly support its National Drug Control Strategy. To date, the internationally supported enhanced operations, along with Colombia’s Operation Orion V, have helped law enforcement authorities disrupt or seize more than 154 metric tons of cocaine and more than 40,000 pounds of marijuana, a loss of more than $4 billion in criminal profits for transnational criminal organizations.
By Voice of America (VOA)/Edited by Diálogo Staff September 08, 2020 A U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations report, accusing China of promoting an authoritarian atmosphere in cyberspace, says that the Venezuelan regime has taken full advantage of China’s hardware and services to control Venezuelans.The report, commissioned by Democrat Senator Bob Menéndez, says that Venezuela owns internet and mobile network equipment, intelligent monitoring systems, and face recognition technology that has been developed and set up by Chinese companies.Government officials have also traveled to China to take part in information management seminars.“The regime,” the report says, “uses these technologies to censor and control its critics by blocking social media platforms and political content, using pro-regime commentators to manipulate online discussions, stifling content critical of Maduro, increasing surveillance of citizens, tracking and detaining government critics, and accessing the data of human rights organizations.”According to the document, the Chinese telecommunications company ZTE has helped the Nicolás Maduro regime to create the Venezuelan Fatherland Card, something critics have said is used to exert tougher social control over the population.According to employees of the institution in charge of the card system, the database stores birthdates, family, employment and income, private property, medical history, state benefits, social media presence, political party affiliation, and voting records.ZTE has also supported Maduro in building six emergency response centers in larger cities and in centralizing the government’s video surveillance.The Menéndez reportThe Senate Committee on Foreign Relations requested the report, which was signed by Menéndez and prepared after reviewing documentation and interviewing former government officials and nongovernmental experts.The report documents how the Chinese government creates a legal framework to strengthen the Communist Party’s manipulation of tools of “digital authoritarianism” to export it abroad.“The People’s Republic of China is pressing forward […] to build and expand digital authoritarianism through economic, political, diplomatic, and coercive means at home and abroad,” the 61-page document says.
April 15, 2001 Regular News Board of Governors adopts 2001-02 Bar budget Members’ comments soughtThe 2001-02 Bar budget, with the first increase in Bar members’ annual membership fees in 11 years, has passed its initial review with the Board of Governors. The board approved the budget at its March 30 meeting in Melbourne, and will consider any changes, including objections from Bar members, at its May 11 meeting. Following action at that meeting, the fiscal plan will be submitted to the Supreme Court for its review. The new budget will improve the Bar’s balance sheet, according to incoming Budget Committee Chair William Kalish, who presented the figures to the board. “The budget we have approved will take our $9 million in reserves to $11 million,” he said. “It will enhance the financial stability of the Bar so we won’t need a fee increase for a substantial amount of time.” The last increase in annual fees came with the Bar’s 1990-91 budget. Both Kalish and current Budget Committee member Jesse Diner have said that the increase in annual membership fees was needed because the Bar has increasingly been using reserves the last two years to a point where it is not fiscally responsible to continue to do so. Annual fees for active Bar members will increase from $190 to $265 and for inactive members from $140 to $190. According to figures presented to the board, Bar revenues for the current year are projected at $25 million with a potential shortfall of $1.7 million. For the 2001-02 budget, revenues will rise to just over $30 million, with an expected surplus of around $2 million. The largest part of that increase will come from annual fees, where income is expected to rise from $13 million in 2000-01 to $18.3 million in the new budget. The largest expenditure will continue to be on regulation of the practice of law activities, which is expected to cost $10.7 million this year and $11.5 million for 2001-02. Those functions include the grievance system, ethics, lawyer advertising, professionalism, and the Bar’s Membership Records office. Added to that are the unlicensed practice of law activities budgeted at $1.2 million for the current year and $1.3 million next year. One notable change is an increase in the amount of membership fees going to the Clients’ Security Fund. That has been increased from $15 to $25 per member. That will increase the total contribution from members from $983,310 this year to $1.35 million next year. The CLE programs are expected to cost $2.5 million next year, up $100,000 from this year. Income is projected to drop slightly, from $3.1 million to just under $3 million. The Bar’s public information, Journal, and News operations are budgeted at $3.5 million next year, down from almost $4 million in the 2000-01 budget. Sales for advertising for the Journal and News are projected at $2 million next year, compared with $2.1 million this year. A complete breakdown of the proposed budget appeared in an official notice in the April 1 Bar News, on pages 18-19. Those wishing to file comments or objections to the 2001-02 budget should send them to: Executive Director, The Florida Bar, 651 E. Jefferson Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399-2300. Comments should be received by the morning of May 10. Board of Governors adopts 2001-02 Bar budget
August 15, 2002 Regular News Section sets seminar focusing on federal commercial cases Section sets seminar focusing on federal commercial cases The Florida Bar Business Law Section will present “Advice From the Experts: Successful Strategies for Winning Commercial Cases in Federal Courts.” September 27 at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Miami.The CLE program will feature a panel of four federal judges, three former federal judges, and 15 well-known commercial litigators giving practical advice and strategies for winning business and commercial cases in federal courts.The program will begin with discussion of the strategic issues involved in choosing the proper forum, investigation of a case, and motion practice. The next topics will be the effective handling of depositions, document discovery, interrogatories and requests for admissions, as well as general discovery strategy. Also covered will be ethics and professionalism.The program will proceed with discussion of techniques that are effective in commercial trials — including a separate segment on pretrial conferences and procedures. Evidence and the use of expert witnesses will also be covered in detail. The program concludes with discussion of damages and appeals.The moderator is Robert L. Haig of New York City. The speakers include United States District Judges Alan S. Gold, Paul C. Huck, Adalberto J. Jordan, and Donald M. Middlebrooks; former federal judges Edward B. Davis, Joseph W. Hatchett, and Thomas E. Scott; and litigators Jose I. Astigarraga, Barry R. Davidson, Alvin B. Davis, Ervin A. Gonzalez, Alice G. Hector, Robert C. Josefsberg, Maxine M. Long, Stephen Mahle, Harry A. Payton, David L. Ross, Brian F. Spector, Marty Steinberg, C. Thomas Tew, Harley S. Tropin, and Stanley H. Wakshlag.As part of the program, all registrants will receive a copy of the six-volume treatise Business And Commercial Litigation in Federal Courts and two diskettes containing forms and jury instructions.The program fee is $265 for Business Law Section members and $280 for nonmembers. This course has been approved for 6.5 hours of CLE credit, including. 5 hours of ethics credit. For reservations, call (800) 342-8060.
April 1, 2004 Regular News Homelessness seminar set Homelessness seminar set “Under Seige—Meeting the Legal Needs of the Homeless,” is the title of a day-long seminar sponsored by The Florida Bar Public Interest Law Section’s Ad Hoc Committee on Homelessness, and Ninth Judicial Circuit Public Defender Bob Wesley.The seminar will be held Friday, April 23, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Public Defender’s Office, Room 400, 435 N. Orange Avenue, Orlando.The $95 fee includes breakfast, lunch, and refreshments afterwards.“The purpose of the seminar is not only to educate advocates for the homeless, but to draw in and interest new participants, both lawyers and nonlawyers, in the Ad Hoc Committee on Homelessness in Florida,” said Jane Shaeffer, chair.“We’ve purposely kept the cost low to make it more accessible for all interested people.”There will be plenty of opportunity to network with other advocates in the field, and there will be opportunities to ask questions and share information.Featured speakers include Naomi S. Stern and Tulin M. Ozdeger, both of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty in Washington, D.C.The agenda of the seminar, which will provide six CLE credits, will include an overview on the criminalization of homelessness, successful legal challenges to such measures, and strategies to work with government, including alternatives to incarceration.Another segment, called “Domestic Violence to Homelessness— One Small Step,” will address domestic violence as it intersects with poverty and homelessness law. The focus will be on evictions and the Fair Housing Act, and legal arguments made in response to discriminatory evictions of domestic violence victims in federally funded housing. Discussion will also address NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) issues, the FHA, and successful nonlitigation advocacy efforts.The third section is called “Legal and Policy Strategies for Representatives of Homeless Clients.” Part of the discussion will focus on the education rights of children in unstable housing, including rights to immediate enrollment in school without documentation, to remain in the same school despite residential mobility, and to receive transportation to school. Attorneys will also learn about barriers that make it difficult for homeless persons to apply for and receive SSI and SSDI benefits, and legal strategies for removing those barriers. Finally, strategies in obtaining assistance available to homeless service providers from the federal government in the form of surplus property under Title V of the McKinney Act will also be addressed.A panel discussion, “Pitching In: Practical Opportunities to Help Meet Unmet Needs,” will provide an overview of the legal needs met by legal aid and public defender offices, identify gaps in service these offices are unable to meet, and provide concrete suggestions on helping clients work through the public benefits maze.For reservations and to register, call 407-836-2199; e-mail PubDef@circuit9.org or mail to Homelessness Seminar, P.O. Box 532055, Orlando, FL. 32853-2055. For more information, visit the Web site: www.PD.Circuit9.org.
May 15, 2004 Senior Editor Regular News Bar leaders happy with ’04 session Bar leaders happy with ’04 session Gary Blankenship Senior Editor Suspended or disbarred lawyers who continue to practice could face prison time as well as additional Bar sanctions under an unlicensed practice of law bill that passed the Florida Legislature and is awaiting the governor’s signature.Lawmakers also approved a new specialty license plate that will raise funds for Florida Bar Foundation legal programs for kids, and continued, albeit with lower funding, the Civil Legal Assistance Act.Legislators also dealt with — or allowed to die — several other issues of interest to the legal profession in the closing days of the 2004 Regular Session.“I think the Bar did very well,” Bar President Miles McGrane said. “The only thing I’m very disappointed about is the failure to raise the Civil Legal Assistance Act to $5.5 million.”He said he was particularly pleased with the UPL bill and that the Bar was able to work out a compromise to head off a proposed constitutional amendment to have the legislature take over from the Supreme Court the oversight of court procedural rules.“All in all, it was a successful session as far as the Bar was concerned,” said President-elect designate Alan Bookman, who chairs the Bar’s Legislation Committee. “I’m very glad to see the license plate was approved; that’s going to raise needed money for children’s programs.“I’m glad to see the penalty was raised for UPL; that’s going to be a third degree felony.” UPL Bill The UPL bill that passed was the House version of the proposal rather than the initial Senate bill, which amended only one section of the law.The bill sent to the governor amends F.S. §§454.23, 454.31, and 434.32. All three sections increase the penalty from a first degree misdemeanor to a third degree felony.The first section makes it a violation for a nonlawyer to practice law; the second applies to suspended or disbarred lawyers who continue to practice; and the third applies to any person who knowingly assists a suspended or disbarred attorney who continues to practice law.If signed by the governor, the law becomes effective October 1.The bill arose from legislators’ frustration with constituents who had been victimized by UPL, particularly in the immigration area, and the Bar responded to requests by strongly supporting the bills which increased the penalties for UPL to a third degree felony. That penalty carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Bar Tag The new license plate was one of a dozen specialty tags lumped into one bill that passed in the closing days of the session.But legislators expressed concerns about the proliferation of specialty tags (with the new bill, the state has almost 100) and the bill included standards for continuing the unique licenses. Those with specialty tags will now have to sell at least 1,000 plates annually, or have their tag dropped.Sen. Skip Campbell, D-Tamarac, also said he’d like to see legislation to audit the nonprofit groups that get tag revenue to make sure it’s used mostly for charitable purposes and not administrative overhead.He also noted there’s concern by law enforcement agencies about the specialty plates because the tags may not be readily recognizable as Florida licenses.Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, said of the 84 existing plates, 34 have sold less than 1,000 plates over the years, and 11 have sold fewer than 100. “If they aren’t going to go out and work their plate, their opportunity should go to someone else who is going to go out and promote it,” he said.Bar and Foundation planners expect to meet the 1,000 plate requirement easily with the “Kids Deserve Justice” tag. The money will go to the Foundation which will use it for children’s legal programs. Civil Legal Assistance The Bar and The Florida Bar Foundation were less successful with their support for the Civil Legal Assistance Act. First approved two years ago after it was proposed by the Bar and the Foundation, the program had $2 million split among six circuits for legal aid programs that helped families. That funding was cut to $1.5 million last year.This year, McGrane hoped to take the program statewide by getting a $5.5 million appropriation. Instead, the program was continued but with only $1 million.“We need to find a source to fund that, other than general revenue,” McGrane said. “Until we do, we’re going to be facing this every year.”He noted that Sen. Rod Smith, D-Gainesville, had proposed a small surcharge on large court awards and there was talk of earmarking some of that money for the act. But nothing came of Smith’s idea. Other Legislation of Interest On other issues:• No further action was taken on a proposed constitutional amendment to have the legislature take over court procedural rulemaking from the Supreme Court. The backer of that bill reached an agreement with President McGrane to have legislators appointed to the various rules committees and also have the legislature notified of recommended rule amendments. (See story in the April 30 Bar News. )• After much jockeying, HB 1357, which passed the House 104-8, was not taken up in the Senate. The bill would prohibit attorneys from running ads that solicit or urge potential clients to file a lawsuit. Although the issue died this year, incoming Senate President Tom Lee is interested in pursuing the issue next year and the House sponsor, Rep. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, said he plans to reintroduce his bill next year and he expects it to pass both chambers. The issue is expected to be studied by a special commission set up by Bar President-elect Kelly Overstreet Johnson to review Bar advertising rules.• HB 1149 died after it passed the House 86-21 on March 29, but was not taken up in the Senate. The measure would have reversed long-standing Florida tradition of giving the defense in a criminal case the first and last say in closing arguments when no evidence other than the defendant’s testimony is presented at trial.• A provision in the House proposed budget striking $1.7 million from the budgets of the state’s capital collateral regional counsels and prohibiting them from representing state death row inmates in federal appeals was omitted from the final budget. The state’s two CCRC offices retained those funds and the ability to handle federal appeals in the final budget.• HB 573, which gave business owners greater protections from lawsuits resulting from third party criminal activity if the owners took steps to make their properties safer, passed the House by a 117-0 vote, but wasn’t taken up in the Senate.• SB 2306 passed unanimously in both chambers. It calls for a study on the availability and usage of mammograms in Florida, with the report to be issued by the end of the year. That language replaced earlier drafts in both House and Senate bills that would have given radiologists reading mammograms immunity from medical malpractice cases except in cases of gross negligence. Bill backers said high malpractice insurance premiums are driving radiologists away from mammography, making it hard for women to get those services in many areas of the state.As for next year, McGrane and Bookman said they expect that court funding will remain a top Bar concern. Although court officials have said they are satisfied with their budgets for the coming year (see story page 1), McGrane and Bookman said they are worried the courts didn’t get enough to cope with the mandates of Revision 7 to Art. V, which requires the state to pay more expenses of the trial courts.“I think the court funding will be back on the table. I expect we’ll discover the amount approved by the legislature is not sufficient,” McGrane said.Bookman noted that rather than directly budgeting to the courts reserve funds they may need to cope with Revision 7 uncertainties, the legislature gave the courts permission to tap into the state’s large working capital fund. He said he would prefer the money had been put in the courts’ budget.“We’ve got a great court system, a functioning court system, and it would be unfortunate for the citizens if we took a step backwards,” he said.
On the Move Bradley B. Eavenson joined Kohl & Tanzer in Stuart as an associate. Michael Busenkell joined Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott in Wilmington, DE. His practice areas include corporate bankruptcy and creditors’ rights. John C. Glancy was named shareholder at the Greenville, SC, firm of Ogletree Deakins. Glancy is a member of The Florida Bar Labor and Employment Law Section and Out-of-State Practitioners Division. Ronald R. Friedman joined The Karp Law Firm and concentrates his practice in the areas of tax and estate planning. Eugene P. Murphy joined the insurance practice at Robinson & Cole. Stephanie Alexander and Jarrett Cooper joined Tripp Scott as directors. Alexander will focus her practice on healthcare and appellate work, and Cooper will focus his practice on complex business litigation and labor and employment. Steven C. Simon has been named partner/shareholder at Rosenthal & Levy. Simon also manages the firm’s Port St. Lucie office, carrying a full case load in personal injury, Social Security, and disability law. Stephen F. Rosenthal, Ricardo M. Martinez-Cid, and Ramon A. Rasco are making moves at Podhurst & Orseck. Rosenthal and Martinez-Cid have become partners and Rasco has become an associate at their Miami office. Sara J. Burton joined the Orlando office of Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell as an associate. Carlton Fields elected Miami shareholder Benjamine Reid to chair the firm’s board of directors. The following shareholders were elected to the board: Steven J. Brodie, Gary M. Pappas, Charles M. Rosenberg, and Patricia H. Thompson of the Miami office; Mark A. Brown, Chris S. Coutroulis, Richard A. Denmon, Edgel C. Lester, Jr. , Luis Prats, Gary L. Sasso, and Gwynne A. Young of the Tampa office; Thomas A. Hanson of West Palm Beach; David R. Punzak of St. Petersburg; Daniel C. Johnson of Orlando; and Nancy G. Linnan of Tallahassee. Chandler Black and Craig M. Tregerman joined Coel & Warren in Boca Raton. Black and Tregerman will assist in the litigation department. Elizabeth J. Biondo, Zachary Bower, Dolores Francis, Gerald Greenberg, Abigail Kofman, Lori Littlejohn, Eric Solomon, Morgan Swing, and Lauren Young all joined Stearns Weaver Miller as associates. Elizabeth B. Honkonen, Nathalie Cadet-James, and James T. Allmans are changing at Kenny Nachwalter. Honkoken has become a member of Kenny Nachwalter’s Miami office and Cadet-James and Allmans have joined the firm as associates. Hannesson Murphy joined Barnes & Thornburg as an associate in their Indianapolis office, practicing in the labor and employment law department. Jennifer L. Coffey joined Schwarzberg Spector Duke Schulz & Rogers in West Palm Beach. Her areas of practice are labor and employment, employee discrimination, and state and federal litigation. Molly Langer Gutcher has opened a law practice in Tampa that focuses on juvenile law and adoptions. Phone (813) 500-2957 and fax (813) 436-5240. Morgan, Lewis & Bockius opened a greater China practice based in Beijing. The practice will focus on structuring inbound and outbound Chinese business transactions in IP and technology. Charlie Brumback was named managing shareholder of Akerman Senterfitt’s Orlando office. He has been a member of the firm’s corporate practice group since 1979 and also serves on their board of directors. Angie Holley Desmond, formerly of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation joined Desmond and Maceluch in Tallahassee. Ena T. Diaz joined the Miami office of Shook, Hardy & Bacon as of counsel in their employment litigation and policy practice. Peter H. Levitt joined the Miami office of Shutts & Bowen as a partner in the creditors rights group. Levitt has more than 20 years of experience in bankruptcy and insolvency litigation. Scott J. Topolski was elected shareholder at Buckingham Doolittle & Burroughs and will focus his practice on commercial, business, insurance, construction, securities and employment litigation. Lise L. Hudson joined Sachs Sax Klein’s Port St. Lucie office as an attorney in the family and matrimonial law practice group. Erick Martin joined Akerman Senterfitt’s Miami office as an associate in the firm’s corporate group. H. Hamilton Rice and R. David Jackson joined Lewis, Longman & Walker’s Bradenton office; Rice as a senior attorney and Jackson as an associate. Adam C. King joined Mills Paskert Divers as an associate. King’s practice is devoted to construction, fidelity, surety, and commercial litigation matters. Leigh Ann Murvin joined Akerman Senterfitt’s real estate group as of counsel in the firm’s Orlando office. Christopher M. Hinsley, Kristy M. Johnson, Stephen P. Johnson, and Daniel R. Vega were elected shareholders at Carlton Fields ’ Miami office, and Jaret J. Fuente was elected shareholder at Carlton Fields’ Tampa office. Kara L. Cannizzaro, George M. Koonce, Fabian A. Paul, and Melody Cobbe joined Fowler White Burnett as associates. Alexander Perkins joined Leesfield Leighton and Partners and will focus his practice on complex civil litigation. Michelle Stassi Rosamond joined Bavol Judge as an associate. Jodi Laurence opened The Health Law Office of Jodi Laurence at 817 S. University Dr, Ste.100, Plantation 33324. The phone number is (954) 332-0932; fax (954) 370-7849. Maribeth L. Wetzel joined The Fleming Law Group in St. Petersburg. Leonard J. Dietzen, III and Linda G. Bond joined the Tallahassee office of Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell as partners. Dietzen has practiced civil litigation in Tallahassee since 1990, and Bond has practiced civil litigation in Tallahassee since 1995. George Smith has been named shareholder at Bryant Miller Olive’s Tallahassee office. He practices primarily in the public finance and affordable housing areas. John W. Dill became a partner with Richard B. Troutman’s firm in Winter Park. Dill focuses on catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, and medical malpractice. Homer Duvall III was named practice group leader of Holland & Knight’s real estate practice in Tampa. Nicholas C. Gladding joined Ruden McCloskey’s Sarasota office as a partner. Gladding is a member of their environmental law practice group. David M. Fernandez joined Barr, Murman & Tonelli as a senior associate. He practices in the area of insurance defense. Marve Ann Alaimo and Mary Beth Forrester have been named principals of Cummings & Lockwood’s Bonita Springs office. Angel Castillo, Jr., and TerRance Q. Woodard joined the Miami office of Ogletree Deakins. Castillo joined as a shareholder and his practice currently focuses on representing employers in state and federal court litigation and appeals. Woodard joined Ogletree Deakins as an associate representing management in all aspects of labor and employment law and litigation. J. Garry Rooney has become a partner in the firm of Brooker & Rooney. Rooney specializes in personal injury and employment and family law. Liz Consuegra joined Berger Singerman’s Miami office as an associate and will focus her practice on probate litigation. Stuart I. Grossman and John M. Catalano have been promoted to partner at Tew Cardenas. Jon Polenberg, Christopher Cano, and Jude Cooper joined Wasserstrom Weinreb & Wealcatch’s in the Hollywood/Boca Raton area as partners. They will focus their practice in various aspects of litigation. Marc M. Crumpton, Jr. , joined Kingsford & Rock as an associate in the Tampa office. Georgianne Sims joined Revilla & Goldstein in Miami as an associate. Jonathan Yi joined Bull and Associates in Orlando as an associate. Yi practices construction law and commercial litigation. Richard S. Dellinger, Mitchell E. Grodman, Kevin K. Ross, Mark D. Scheinblum, W. Drew Sorrell, D. Scott South, William S. Vanos, and Ormend G. Yeilding have all been elevated to partner at Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed. Gabriel Pinilla joined WardKim’s Ft. Lauderdale office as an associate. Pinilla will focus his practice on commercial litigation and personal injury. April 15, 2006 On the Move April 15, 2006 On the Move
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, left, who went to Washington D.C. Tuesday to lobby for Sandy aid, meet with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Reps. Peter King and Steve Israel.Seventy eight days after Sandy, the remaining $51 billion of the $60-billion northeast aid package finally passed the U.S. House of Representatives, sparking praise from Long Island lawmakers who two weeks ago were at war with the Republican majority that initially snubbed superstorm survivors.“Tonight’s vote to provide $60 billion in Hurricane Sandy relief was an outstanding victory,” said Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), who famously blasted House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for the delays. “It is unfortunate that we had to fight so hard to be treated the same as every other state has been treated. But we did fight this bias against the northeast and thank god our residents won.”Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) said, “New Yorkers can finally rest assured that help is on its way. I’m delighted that the House finally passed the Sandy relief bill, but the real heroes are the New Yorkers rebuilding their lives, homes, and businesses.”New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Conn. Gov. Dannel Malloy released a joint statement saying, “We are grateful to those members of Congress who today pulled together in a unified, bipartisan coalition to assist millions of their fellow Americans … at their greatest time of need.”U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said he expects the bill to easily pass the Senate and be sent to the President’s desk for signing.
On Oct. 27, Superstorm Sandy turned toward the Florida coast. She took a breath and weakened, but soon intensified into a storm that no one in her path will ever forget. As the hurricane approached, Nassau and Suffolk county officials declared a state of emergency on Long Island.In Sound Beach on the North Shore, Rich and Samantha Specht, along with their three children—Abigail, 8, Lorelei, 6, and Richie, 22 months—were preparing for the storm. Samantha and the girls went to the store while Rich and his toddler son stayed home. Rich’s friend from childhood and godfather of Richie was also there to help Rich get the house and yard ready before the storm hit.The lawn furniture had to be stored, so Rich asked his friend to keep an eye on Richie while he moved the furniture into the garage. Rich was only gone for a few minutes, and when he went back inside the house, he asked his friend where his son was.“I thought he was with you,” he replied. Those six words immediately sank deep into Rich’s heart. Both men raced outside to look for the toddler. Richie had been told that the backyard pond was off limits, but Samantha says he was always a curious little boy.“They found him face down in the pond,” Samantha says, with tears streaming down her cheeks.Rich began performing CPR. The paramedics arrived minutes later and valiantly tried to restart Richie’s heart while they were en route to the hospital, and continued for another half hour after arrival. But it was too late.Samantha was still at the store when the hospital called. In a haze, she thought they were referring to her husband, and didn’t realize that her son had passed away until she got to the hospital.On Oct. 28, with Sandy barreling up the East Coast, people in parts of New York City were evacuated and transportation in the region ground to a halt.Still in shock, the Spechts had to begin preparations for their son’s funeral. By the next afternoon they were without electrical power or telephone service, and didn’t get it restored until 11 days later.“We had to drive to the post office and sit in the parking lot to get a signal to make phone calls,” Samantha says. “People couldn’t contact us or fly into New York.”On Nov. 1, Richard Edwin-Ehmer Specht was laid to rest. He was named after his father, his great-uncle Edwin, and Samantha’s maiden name, Ehmer.“I didn’t want him to be known as Little Richie,” Samantha says, “so my mother suggested that we call him Rees, and we did, just her and I.”Richie would soon become known as ReesSpecht. Rich found solace in putting his thoughts about his son’s death into words. Then, Samantha says, the idea of memorializing their son took root.“Rees always wanted to make people happy,” she says.Rallying around the family were their friends, family and the faculty and students at the Smithtown schools where the Specht’s work. Samantha teaches German at Smithtown East High School and Rich is a science teacher at Great Hollow Middle School.The outpouring of love and support helped get them through each day.A local company, Kelly Brothers Landscaping of Coram, was working in the area and contacted the Spechts after learning of the tragedy.“We didn’t know them but they heard about what happened and said they would like to do something for us,” she says. “They removed the pond. It was a constant reminder of what happened, and they just kept coming back.They planted thousands of plants in our entire yard, and they wouldn’t take anything in return.”Meals, movie tickets and gift certificates were given to the family by well-meaning friends and strangers.“Everyone was so unbelievably kind,” Samantha says. “There was no way we could repay them and the community.”To show their gratitude, they founded ReesSpecht Life in their son’s memory as a way to pay it forward.The night before Rees died, he was photographed wearing a Superman costume.“It’s our last good memory of him,” Samantha says.Adam Smith, a graphic designer and friend of the family, created a logo for the foundation using Rees’ Superman picture.ReesSpecht cards were printed and used for handouts, asking the recipient to “Help us help each other…. We all possess the ability to do something Super. Possession of this card is a solemn promise to pay it forward and perform random acts of kindness and be one of Rees’ Pieces.”“It’s therapeutic just to know that people are doing something in Rees’ name. That makes us so proud,” Samantha explains.“You might not know that a person is going through a hard time,” she adds. “If someone doesn’t know my story, they don’t know that I was hurt. People can mask their emotions, and paying it forward can make a tremendous difference. It doesn’t have to be monetary. The point is that you’re helping someone else.”Rich and Samantha recently began to fundraise for two scholarships that will be awarded to a Smithtown East and West High School senior. The Smithtown Teachers Association is holding the funds until the ReesSpecht Life organization gets its 501c3 designation approved.Meanwhile, Samantha says, they are doing their best to move forward.“We’re finding some peace,” she says. “We can’t just sit and wallow. The reality of it is we have two little girls [to raise]. We are grieving as a family, but we have to do something for them.”Remembering their little boy as someone who liked to make others happy is a way for the Spechts to perpetuate their son’s memory and ReesSpecht Life.[colored_box color=”blue”]For more information or to contact the Spechts, email: email@example.com or visit www.facebook.com/reesspechtlife.[/colored_box][colored_box color=”grey”]In every issue of the Long Island Press and our sister publication, Milieu Magazine, the Fortune 52 column brings you stories of dynamic women who have made a significant and unique contribution to Long Island. To acknowledge their success, Beverly hosts tri-annual networking events that are attended by hundreds of LI business professionals, non- profit leaders and entrepreneurs. If you are interested in knowing more about the Fortune 52, or know a super woman who deserves good Fortune – and a profile – email Beverly at firstname.lastname@example.org.[/colored_box] Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York For a man who’s devoted nearly 30 years of his life hounding the despicable men and women who’ve committed crimes against humanity, Eli Rosenbaum doesn’t look so menacing.Given the choice, he’d rather watch the Yankees or see a comedy than sit through another Hollywood movie about the horrors of the Holocaust. He’s been living with that gruesome reality almost 24/7 ever since the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Special Investigations hired him out of Harvard Law School in 1980.Today the 57-year-old Long Island native is the director of the human rights and special prosecutions section, making him the Justice Department’s longest-running investigator of human rights violators living in the United States.“So my entire career is really a summer internship gone awry!” he says with a grin.There’s a kindness in his brown eyes that belies the evil he’s had to face. He helped deport Boleslavs Maikovskis, a Nazi war criminal living in Mineola, and Karl Linnas, a former concentration camp commander living in Greenlawn. Because nature has finally enacted a “biological solution” to that Nazi generation, his section is now pursuing war criminals from the likes of Bosnia, Guatemala and Rwanda, who think they’ve found a safe haven here. His message to them: “You’ll have to be looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life.”Growing up “on the south side of Old Country Road in Westbury,” attending high school in East Meadow, and studying Hebrew three days a week, it’s surprising how little Rosenbaum knew about the genocide of World War II until one Sunday afternoon on his family’s black and white TV he saw a dramatization of the Nuremberg Trials by Peter Weiss, a German playwright. Rosenbaum couldn’t have been more than 12.“The Holocaust wasn’t spoken about in my household—it was too painful for my parents,” he recalls. They had both fled Germany before the war.But Rosenbaum’s father did return, wearing a U.S. Army uniform. One winter some 25 years after the war, Eli and his dad were driving through a blizzard when his father casually mentioned that he had been one of the first Americans to report on Dachau after its liberation in April 1945.“I said, ‘Well, what did you see?’ I’m looking out at the road, and I didn’t hear anything. Finally I look at my father, and I see that his eyes have welled with tears. His mouth is open like he wants to speak but he can’t do it. He’s crying…To the day he died, he never told me.”He found out for himself. Today, a father, Rosenbaum credits his wife of 25 years, Cynthia, who also has a law degree, for keeping him balanced. “She keeps me sane despite the awful stuff that I have to deal with—the subject matter of my work.”Recently Rosenbaum was in Manhattan sharing the dais at the Four Seasons with Sara Bloomfield, executive director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., which was celebrating its 20th anniversary—and has been an invaluable resource for Rosenbaum’s investigations.The Nazis, it turns out, expecting they would win the war and rule for 1,000 years, kept meticulous records.“We’ve done the best job of any law enforcement agency in the world in hunting these people down,” he says. “I like to think that this effort is carried out for the victims who perished and the victims who survived.”
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York A pair of armed robbers tied up a Valley Stream cell phone store clerk before ransacking the shop on Thursday evening, Nassau County police said.A 25-year-old man was working at the T-Mobile store on Rockaway Avenue when two men wearing bandanas over their faces walked in and bound the victim’s hands while one of the robbers flashed a handgun at 5:45 p.m., police said.The robbers stole the victim’s wallet, cell phones and cash before they fled the scene in a black Honda Accord westbound on Fairview Avenue. The victim was not injured.Both suspects were described as black men in their 20s wearing baseball caps. The first was 5-feet, 6-inches tall, 145 pounds, wearing an Adidas sweatshirt and dark pants. The second was 5-feet, 10-inches tall, wearing dark clothing and a hooded sweatshirt.Fourth Squad detectives request anyone with information regarding this crime to contact Nassau County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-244-TIPS. All callers will remain anonymous.
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Boating through Jones Inlet has proven treacherous since a nearby navigational light tower was destroyed by Sandy and a nearby jetty was damaged in the superstorm nine months ago, officials say.Now, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is calling on the Coast Guard and Army Corps. of Engineers to expedite repairs on both structures this summer instead of pushing it off until next year.“Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on Long Island’s waterways and now without a main light tower beaming over Jones Inlet, it’s incredibly dangerous for boaters navigating their vessels in the dark or in foggy weather,” he said in a news release.The senator said boaters and others have expressed concern about the dangerous conditions in the inlet that connects the Atlantic Ocean and Middle Bay since the damage occurred in October.The highly traveled waterway is tucked between the west end of Jones Beach and Point Lookout on the east end of Long Beach.
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Hector HernandezA West Hempstead man has been arrested for allegedly keeping eight wounded or malnourished pit pulls caged in a shed full of paraphernalia used for what authorities described as an illegal dog-fighting operation.Hector Hernandez was charged Friday at Nassau County court with animal fighting and failure to provide proper sustenance.Prosecutors said that the 26-year-old suspect had eight dogs, some of which had scars on their faces, necks and ears consistent with bite wounds or scarring from previous wounds.He also allegedly possessed heavy restraint chains, a treadmill modified with a dog tether, vitamins and supplements and a training stick with a stuffed animal attached.Investigators with the district attorney’s office and Town of Hempstead Animal Control office responded to the suspect’s house on Pinebrook Avenue, where they also found chickens and a rabbit in the shed.Two of the dogs, Roja and Nana, had fresh bite marks on their front sides and the other six dogs—Little Red, Brownie, Sassy, Scorpio, Honey and Thor—were found in poor living conditions, authorities said.Hernandez could face up to a year in jail and $15,000 per dog in fines, if convicted. His bail was set at $2,500. He is due back in court Wednesday.
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York A 19-year-old Bronx man was sentenced Thursday to 18 years to life in prison for fatally shooting a 34-year-old Freeport man in Hempstead last year.Jazz Murphy had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in May before Nassau County Judge Meryl Berkowitz.Prosecutors said Murphy shot Leonard Thames once in the back and once in the head, killing him at the corner of Linden Avenue and Linden Place on the night of Jan. 13, 2013.Murphy was arrested by Hempstead village police shortly later.
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Suffolk County authorities said Wednesday that two men posing as chimney inspectors have been indicted for bias crime charges after they allegedly stole jewelry and cash from two elderly women last month. The District Attorney’s office accused 32-year-old Bruce Wimmer of Bohemia and 28-year-old Michael Windland of Lake Ronkonkoma of allegedly scamming a 77-year-old Huntington woman two weeks ago by telling her that they were chimney repairmen and needed to get into the house for an inspection. Once inside, the pair allegedly stole jewelry from the woman’s bedroom, the DA’s office said. Several days later, Windland and Wimmer entered a 92-year-old Bellport woman’s home under the guise of inspecting her chimney and allegedly stole $160 cash, a portion of which came from church envelopes, and the victim’s prescription medication, authorities said. The alleged burglars also quoted the woman $3,000 for chimney work and said they’d drive her to the bank to withdraw money. The DA’s office didn’t immediately say if they followed through with that plan. Both men were scheduled to be arraigned on the grand jury indictment Wednesday morning in Riverhead.
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York [dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, a self-declared progressive Democrat, was running for City Hall last year, he soared to prominence with powerful rhetoric about reforming the NYPD, even hinting at changes to the police department’s controversial tactic of blanketed spying on Muslims.In April, four months after his inauguration, when the NYPD announced it would disband the so-called Demographics Unit, which conducted covert surveillance missions at dozens of mosques, Halal meat shops, and other locations frequented by Muslims throughout the five boroughs, New Jersey and even Long Island, he promised “a police force that keeps our city safe, but is also respectful and fair.” The mayor and his chosen police commissioner, William Bratton, were cheered by civil rights groups and Muslim leaders for disbanding the unit, but many were not totally convinced that Muslim Americans were no longer the focus of operations. Now, it appears the De Blasio administration is supporting the ruling in favor of the NYPD much the same way his predecessor Michael Bloomberg did when multiple lawsuits were filed against the city for its spying tactics. In a legal brief filed in the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit Monday, lawyers for the city requested that the court affirm the US District Court for New Jersey’s decision in February, which said that the half-dozen New Jersey residents suing the department could not prove they were injured in any way by the NYPD’s clandestine surveillance. In fact, the city, in its brief, bolstered the lower court’s point that if any harm was done, it was not caused by the NYPD, but rather by the Associated Press for its revelations. The AP eventually won a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting. “All of the harms alleged by plaintiffs occurred, if they occurred, only after the Associated Press made public certain confidential NYPD documents and did so in unredacted form,” the city wrote in its 79-page brief. This is the first time the De Blasio administration has legally weighed in on the issue. The plaintiffs have alleged that the NYPD focused its surveillance on New Jersey mosques, restaurants, stores, schools and Muslim Student Associations. Their lawyers argued that they were targeted because of their religion after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, not because they were suspected of any crimes or misdeeds. The lower court wasn’t buying it. “The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself,” the court wrote in its opinion.Citing the US Supreme Court’s ruling in another case, the city’s lawyers wrote: “the [District] Court held that the plaintiffs in this case have not alleged facts from which it can be plausibly inferred that they were targeted solely because of their religion. The more likely explanation for the surveillance, the Court found, is that the surveillance was for a legitimate law enforcement purpose, i.e., counter-terrorism, and the most obvious reason for that explanation is because the alleged ‘Program’ began just after the attacks of September 11, 2001.” A spokesman for the city Law Department told The New York Times that the filing “does not address broader policy issues concerning surveillance of Muslim communities, but rather technical legal issues.”Glenn Katon, legal director for Muslim Advocates, which along with the Center for Constitutional Rights and Gibbons P.C. sued the NYPD, blasted the city’s response. “The brief that they filed on Monday has all of the same arguments that they made in the trial court,” under Bloomberg and then-NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, Katon told the Press. He said it’s clear by reviewing the Demographics Unit reports released by the AP that undercover officers were spying on his clients based on their religious beliefs. “They’re going to Muslim establishments and only looking at Muslims,” he said. Katon also called the decision to abandon the Demographics Unit a “public relations stunt,” adding that neither De Blasio nor Bratton have publicly stated their intentions to drop the program altogether. It turned out a similar unit existed, but its operations went far beyond spying. Less than a month after the NYPD said it had disbanded the unit, The New York Times revealed that a little-known group of detectives—dubbed the Citywide Debriefing Team—would scour city jails for people charged with low-level crimes and would try to recruit them into their roster of mosque informants. One man, as the Times noted, was a food cart vendor who got into a dispute with a parking enforcement officer. “Of course if you have leads, something that makes you believe that people regardless [of their religion], that they’re involved in something resembling September 11 or any criminal activity, then go do all the surveillance you want,” said Katon. “You can’t spy on everyone based on what a handful of fanatics did in 2001.” An appeal in the New Jersey case was filed in July seeking an injunction. Plaintiffs’ lawyers want the NYPD’s evesdropping ruled unconstitutional and minimal monetary damages awarded to one client. Two similar lawsuits against the NYPD are currently in settlement negotiations. To date, there have been no lawsuits related to the police department’s activity in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Separate demographics reports were created for both counties, amounting to 166 pages of mundane observations of Muslim restaurants, religious institutions, smoke shops and, in one case, weekend belly-dancing at a Huntington kebab joint. The undercover operations never led to one arrest or a formal terrorism investigation.
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Suffolk County police are investigating a home invasion in Wyandanch over the weekend during which the victim was wounded by two suspects armed with a knife and a screwdriver, authorities said.The armed duo came into the victim’s Levey Boulevard home, demanded money and hit the victim before rifling through his belongings at 11 a.m. Friday, police said.It is unclear what, if anything, the assailants stole before they fled the scene.The victim was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip for treatment of his injuries.No suspects have been arrested and no description of the attackers was available, police said.First Squad detectives are continuing the investigation.
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York A powerful storm caused power outages to more than 74,000 homes and businesses in northern Suffolk County early Tuesday morning—some of which will remain in the dark for days, officials said.Although the majority of those who lost power have had it restored, about 20,000 remained blacked out at sundown Tuesday with about half of those still expected to be without power Wednesday, according to PSEG Long Island. The remaining estimated 1,000 emergency repairs that need to be made will be time consuming, the utility’s leader said.“This storm packed a very strong, concentrated punch,” said David Daly, president and chief operating officer of PSEG Long Island, who said additional crews have been called in from surrounding areas to assist in the repairs. He noted that hospitals and other critical customers in the area have had their power restored.Daly said the “pop-up” summer thunder storm left half-mile stretches of downed trees in a 40-mile stretch from Huntington and Brookhaven towns on the North Shore. The extensive damage is hampering the repair work, but utility staffers and their backup are working with tree trimmers.The storm is the worst severe weather seen on LI since a record 13 inches of rain fell in one day in and around the Town of Islip a year ago next week, causing widespread flooding that washed out several roadways and caused sinkholes.In Tuesday’s storms, the towns of Brookhaven and Smithtown were the hardest hit, particularly areas north of Jericho Turnpike, officials said.Jay Engle, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said that the damage caused by this storm came from “straight line wind,” which is defined as a damaging wind that exceed 40-50 mph—with Gov. Andrew Cuomo saying winds reached up to 80 mph on LI. Engle said that although this storm seemed extreme, it would still simply be classified as a severe thunderstorm, which formed when an old sea breeze boundary met with the warm, humid air that was felt earlier this week.In addition to residential power outages, the storms forced the Long Island Rail Road to temporarily suspend service on parts of the Port Jefferson line, stranding some commuters. Train service between Port Jefferson and Stony Brook was restored during the Tuesday evening commute, which initially saw some cancellations due to downed trees and power outages.“I have authorized all resources from Parks and Waste Management Departments to assist the Highway Department in the clean-up effort,” added Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine.“As communities across the state continue to experience and respond to extreme storms, I am urging all New Yorkers in the impacted regions to exercise caution,” Cuomo said. “Thunderstorms and flash flooding can quickly create dangerous situations, and New Yorkers in any of the worst hit areas should be careful if they must leave home.”For updates on power outages and other services, customers should visit PSEG’s website: psegliny.com or call 1-800-490-0075.
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York With Hurricane Joaquin threatening the East Coast, Long Island officials began urging the public to prepare for the worst despite the storm’s uncertain path as it reached major hurricane status Thursday.The National Hurricane Center upgraded Joaquin to a Category 4 hurricane with 130 mph sustained winds, terming it “extremely dangerous.” It was expected to batter the central Bahamas overnight. As for where Joaquin will hit next, meteorologists are grappling with major unknowns due to the myriad atmospheric conditions in play. The intensifying storm could make landfall in the Northeast or veer further into the Atlantic, sparing significant coastal damage.“Right now we’re essentially in a ‘prepare and pray’ mode,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone told reporters during a press conference at police headquarters in Yaphank. “We’re gonna prepare for a worst-case scenario; we’re gonna pray that it does not unfold.”Although the National Hurricane Center said a hurricane watch may not be issued for the East Coast until Friday at the earliest, the National Weather Service issued a coastal flood watch and high surf advisory through 6 a.m. Friday to start. Astronomically higher than usual tides are forecast to cause barrier beach erosion and flood coastal homes.The message from officials in both Nassau and Suffolk counties is to stay informed, have go-kits ready for residents in low-lying areas, stock up on enough food and water that would last at least three days, gas up vehicles and generators, and heed evacuation warnings, if any are issued, so as not to put first responders unnecessarily in harm’s way.“The county is prepared to respond,” Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said Thursday morning during a press conference at the Nassau County Office of Emergency Management in Bethpage.The county executive expressed confidence in a rapid and efficient reaction if the storm strikes, noting that Nassau learned from Superstorm Sandy, which hit LI three years ago this month. He added that residents also have to play their part, because early preparation prior to Sandy “saved lives.”Both Mangano and Bellone said their counties have more assets to help tackle the storm than they did during Sandy, touting dozens of high-axle vehicles used for flood rescues, portable traffic lights for blackouts and a slew of new emergency generators. One of the major issues in the early days following Sandy were the power outages that knocked out traffic lights, making roads very dangerous. An increase in portable traffic lights should help alleviate that problem, Mangano noted.Local municipalities are also calling residents to be vigilant. Town of Hempstead said it’s preparing equipment for a potential storm and urged boaters to begin removing their vessels from marinas.“It is critical for each and every one of us to formulate a hurricane preparedness plan, and to be ready when and if the storm arrives,” said Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray.In Brookhaven Town, supervisor Ed Romaine informed residents that they should visit the town’s website for news and weather updates, and also to access its “Hurricane Survival Guide.”Calling for the public to be proactive, Islip town officials not only cited Sandy’s aftermath, but also invoked the “unprecedented and unpredicted” storm in August 2014 that flooded neighborhoods with a record-setting 13 inches of rainfall, the most ever measured in a 24-hour period statewide.If a major tropical storm does hit LI, it would be the first true test for PSEG Long Island since it took over for the Long Island Power Authority in January 2014 amid outrage over LIPA’s inadequate response to Sandy. The utility said it’s monitoring Hurricane Joaquin and is preparing for a potential deluge of rain and powerful wind gusts. Resources will be in place over the weekend to initiate electric service restoration “as soon as the storm passes,” PSEG LI said in a statement.Officials remain concerned about LI’s Sandy-battered infrastructure. For example, construction is ongoing at Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant, which suffered a catastrophic failure during Sandy. Mangano said the county will use sandbags as an added layer of protection around the plant because a planned storm wall is still being built. Pumps have also been installed to keep pumping sewage away from people’s homes, the county executive said.On the other side of the county line, Bellone expressed concern that the dunes on Fire Island have yet to be restored since they were flattened by Sandy, which puts coastal communities on the Great South Bay at risk of flooding. Fire Island Ferries, the largest boat service to the mostly car-free barrier island, said it plans to suspend service Sunday.Meanwhile, without knowing where Joaquin will go next, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told all New Yorkers to get ready for the hurricane.“Since we don’t know if the storm is downstate or upstate, you have to prepare statewide,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo reporters on a conference call Thursday.After Sandy,many upstate communities were devastated by severe flooding that left bridges impassable for days, if not weeks.The governor said it’s too early to tell what major roads, if any, will be closed or whether mass transit will be shut down in New York City and on Long Island as it was during Irene and Sandy.He added that maintenance crews are clearing problem areas in streams and conduits that have proven problematic in past storms, as emergency management offices are being activated statewide and are coordinating with utility agencies, “especially on Long Island.”Cuomo said that experience with prior hurricanes have helped the state better prepare for tropical cyclones. But he cautioned that Mother Nature always finds a blind spot.“You can’t be prepared for everything,” he warned.One thing’s for sure, more rain is definitely heading toward LI, with heavy downfall expected Friday morning and possibly through the weekend along with strong winds.
I recently read the following quote from an NCUA official related to the role of specialized cyber examiners from a NASCUS/CUNA Cyber Security Symposium last week; “Obviously a small institution that could implode from an attack is less impactful to us from an insurer’s perspective than a very large one, but when we are looking at two credit unions in the $100 million range and one is very straight forward and simple and (the other) one has every service and connection under the sun, they’re going to have two distinct risk profiles. So that’s where we would sit there and say, ‘you know what, this is one we’re going to have to focus our energy on.” So who cares about you? NCUA cares. Hackers care. Security solutions providers care. In the light of new and potential regulations and the realities of a consolidating market ask this, Who really cares about the long-term survival of your credit union and your brand?Of course we know that in this age of technology, with consumer’s desire to have access to their financial information through a multitude of devices, the services and connections that are referred to above represent a critical aspect of competitiveness. Over the past decade the rise of online and mobile platforms has created an amazing array of services for consumers and incredible tools for credit unions to interact with their members. More recently, add a multitude of new payment platforms into the mix and the reliance on technology increases bringing with it complexity and, potentially, cyber risk.This focus on cyber and potential risk is certainly warranted. Cyber risk is uniquely devious in several ways including its rapidly changing nature. It certainly embodies the mantra, you don’t know what you don’t know. Perhaps NCUA is correct that small yet complex institutions pose increased risk. On the flip side of the coin, small credit unions may be uniquely capable of streamlining their services and operations more effectively than larger operations that have more potential loose ends and take longer to change course. This is certainly true when one considers the sometimes marginalized, human factors that contribute to lapses in cybersecurity. Does a smaller credit union mean less loose ends?The understanding and assignment of risk is where the movement can play a critical role in the development of new, cyber-focused, regulation. All aspects of the financial services industry has some level of comfort with financial risk. Bank leaders, credit union leaders, federal regulators, insurance companies, investment houses, legislators all have experience and can call upon a vast history of financial failure when calculating risk and projecting impact.Cyber however is a different story. The pool of institutions where cyber can be pointed to as the prime driver in collapse is far smaller, and even with large information breaches such as with Target, the full scope and impact remains to be seen and the business is still thriving. Unfortunately for credit unions, there remains a lot to be learned and experienced when it comes to discovering the true impact of a significant and successful cyber attack. Furthermore, it remains to be seen how such an attack on a small or mid-sized credit union can or will affect the resources and networks it is connected to.One area where credit unions can be proactive is transparency. Making an honest analysis of their cybersecurity position and coming forward with questions, areas of concern, and known issues can make all the difference. Basically, providing the clearest picture of current and potential issues so that regulatory solutions are appropriate and not created in a vacuum. The risks are too great to not be forthcoming.A catch phrase that is often used on resumes is “self-starter”. Credit unions can be self-starters on cyber, and now is the time. Being proactive shows that you care about yourself and your members. Communications from NCUA and the trade groups point to them searching for solutions, or ways to effectively and fairly incorporate cyber into the regulation and exam process. There are suggestions and models in play, such as the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework, that can act as a starting point. There are technology solutions that are currently being developed that can help credit unions punch above their weight class when it comes to cybersecurity. It will come down to proactive, honest analysis of operations and security and being self-motivated to take steps to ensure cyber safety and security. I would hope that potential increased information security and member well-being would be incentive enough to consider these suggestions before it becomes another piece of the regulatory burden. 3SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Daniel Mica Dan Mica, former head of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), established The DMA Group as a means to combine a myriad of experience into a one-stop consultancy. Elected in … Web: www.dmagroupdc.com Details
People across the globe dream of a more socially equitable and less wasteful way of life, and credit unions may be uniquely positioned among all financial institutions to make that a reality.That was the message presented by concluding keynote speaker Navi Radjou–recognized internationally for his work in innovation–at this year’s America’s Credit Union Conference and World Credit Union Conference co-hosted by CUNA and the World Council of Credit Unions.Describing an emerging global marketplace that reflects a shift of values across the world, Radjou said that credit unions could be the most prepared to answer the changing demands of consumers.Conference attendees have heard from several inspirational keynoters during the conference, including Alan Mulally, a former president/CEO of Ford Motor Co., who led its transformation to the No. 1 automobile brand in the United States, and Luke Williams, executive director of New York University Stearns School of Business, who’s renowned for his insights into disruptive innovation. continue reading » 1SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr
20SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr Ten years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, the nation still talks about the largest natural disaster in U.S. history. One shining light in those dark days was credit unions, who banded together to support other credit unions and thousands of members who lost their livelihoods and homes. The Louisiana Credit Union League (LCUL) marked the occasion and the lessons learned in its eNews (Aug. 28).In the hurricanes’ aftermath, Louisiana credit union employees faced personal challenges, damage to facilities and loss of key staff, but stayed determined to help their members. “While the days following Hurricane Katrina were filled with challenges and uncertainty for Louisiana credit unions and their members, credit union employees returned to work and ensured that branches were re-opened quickly to serve members,” said LCUL President/CEO Anne Cochran. The employees “implemented our philosophy of ‘people helping people’ when members needed it the most and were instrumental in the recovery and progress made in Louisiana’s credit union movement since 2005,” she added.Most of the assistance the state’s credit unions received was from within the credit union movement, a resource other financial institutions did not have. CUNA and its state leagues mobilized for fund-raisers and donations from foundations and individual credit unions offered office space, funds and clothing. continue reading »
4SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr The new year is often a time of planning for growth in the coming year. It’s a milestone that provides reflection on the previous year’s activities, and can set the course for the year to come. If one of your credit union’s goals for 2016 is to grow membership, or grow member engagement, marketing may be an area of increased efforts.Given the obvious visibility of effective marketing, it is important to ensure that materials are compliant. While a loan or deposit transaction may only impact a particular member, the hope is that hundreds or thousands (maybe more!) individuals will view the marketing material your credit union produces. Among those individuals with eyes on your promotional material may be the examiners set to arrive at your credit union during the year. continue reading »
This is the first of a 12-part series on our blog in 2016 that will highlight a different development issue each month. Now you may be wondering, “what is a development issue and why is it important for credit unions?”In our Development Education (DE) Program, the National Credit Union Foundation helps DE trainees delve into global development issues and recognize the ways in which credit unions can address these issues to improve the well-being of members and communities. 12 major development issues have been identified as barriers to economic growth and prosperity for the world’s families. These issues do provide us with dilemmas and barriers, but more importantly, they provide us with challenges to overcome and opportunities to capitalize on. Working together can make a real difference in the lives of people in our local, national and global communities. Click here to see a full listing of all 12 development issues.Understanding and tackling global development issues can grow the economic prosperity for the world’s families. These issues can be seen throughout the developing world, but these same issues affect households across American and other developed countries. Millions of Americans live in poverty. Some are thrown into poverty by illness or unemployment; others live in a seemingly endless cycle of poverty that spans lifetimes and generations. Evidence suggests that despite concern for addressing development issues and thereby reducing poverty, most Americans have a limited understanding of the key issues that relate to domestic poverty.Our goal with this 12 part series is to increase the awareness for these issues so that we as credit union organizations can be better informed on issues that face our members and communities. This month, we will focus on the development issue of transportation. continue reading » 1SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr
It seems as if every investment management, advisory, accounting and consultancy firm is offering some sort of technology-enabled unified wealth solution to the ultra-wealthy these days, and it’s about time. While demand for a more holistic view of finances had been rising among high-net worth communities since the financial crisis, obstacles remained to integrate separate technology systems, and therefore financial data, to a single platform—the necessary requirement for holistic wealth management. As expectations have continued to move to even greater integration and convenience, some astute clients are noticing that most wealth platforms have left out an important component – traditional banking data and functionality.Most wealth platforms have left out an important component – traditional banking data and functionality.Current-state wealth management platforms enable consumers to evaluate investment and retirement accounts in relation to cash-flow analysis and long-term investment goals. Ultimately, the move to real time and full wealth platform convergence will be driven by parallel technology emerging through mobile app development in the banking sector.New apps provide clients with an aggregated view of banking, mortgage, savings and credit accounts, as well as automated payment functionality. In many cases, the offerings intended for the mass affluent are already far superior to those provided to ultra-wealthy families even through elite service provider relationships. Integration with investment and long-term planning components would dramatically speed industry adoption of a comprehensive wealth platform. continue reading » 6SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr
7SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr The future looks grim for payday lenders. Comedian John Oliver has had them in his crosshairs since 2014, attracting millions of viewers and stirring up plenty of outrage. President Obama began expressing concerns about their exploitative lending practices last spring. Google announced last month that it would no longer allow payday lenders to advertise. And now federal watchdogs have unveiled new rules that would dismantle a business model that often traps borrowers desperate for cash in cycles of spiraling debt.“The very economics of the payday lending business model depend on a substantial percentage of borrowers being unable to repay the loan and borrowing again and again at high interest rates,” Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), told the New York Times.Payday lenders say the risks associated with serving subprime borrowers justify their practices (20% of payday loans result in re-borrowing and default). But regulators aren’t buying that argument and an increasing number of financial technology startups are reinventing the lending business with a model that promises to help borrowers and build their credit at the same time.“I applaud what the CFPB is doing,” says Joe Bayen, cofounder and CEO of a fintech startup called Lenny, which offers young borrowers credit lines up to $1,000 and a chance to improve their credit scores through a partnership with FICO. “We offer increasing balances based on how a user behaves. Everything is aimed at upward mobility and helping people.” continue reading »
Spring is in the air! Along with spring-cleaning our closets and homes, it’s also important to take a look at that pile of papers gathering dust in the kitchen drawer or your home office. Are you holding on to financial documents that can be shredded, or should you continue to (carefully) keep those records on hand? Here are four types of financial documents and tips for whether to keep them or shred them.Credit card statements: ATM or deposit receipts can be tossed after the transaction is recorded, but credit card statements should be kept until a payment is made and appears on the next statement. Receipts for anything purchased on your credit card should also be kept until the statement arrives so you can confirm you were charged the appropriate amount.Student loans: When you originally took out your student loan you were given a master promissory note. This document shows how you promised to pay your loan and any accrued interest and it should be kept securely until your loan is completely paid off.Mortgage/Lease: Because many mortgage lenders now allow for electronic payments, most documents associated with your home will be available anytime on their webpage. If you are leasing your residence, transaction histories may not be available online, so hold on to your lease and any record of rent payments made. That way if there is a dispute with your landlord, you will have the necessary detailed documents handy.Car and health insurance: Many insurance companies will send policies via email or will allow you to create an account on their website and access your secure documents at your convenience. If this is the case there is no need to keep any paper copies that are mailed to you. If there isn’t an electronic copy, file away your policy information until the next year when the new plan information arrives. Life insurance policies are an exception and should be filed away forever. 85SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Wendy Moody Wendy Moody is a Senior Editor with CUInsight.com. Wendy works with the editorial team to help edit the content including current news, press releases, jobs and events. She keeps … Web: www.cuinsight.com Details
It’s go time! New account activity peaks spring through fall, so now is the time to put your acquisition strategies in place. Our client data shows a consistent national trend each year with new account openings. The new account activity increases in early spring, the momentum created by tax returns and nicer weather. A second peak occurs between June and September, followed by the lowest period of activity in November and December. Right now, we’re experiencing the first spike in activity, so it’s time to make sure systems are in place and strategies are aligned to get more than your fair share of new accounts.Each new member who enters your branch is a great opportunity. This visit may be the most time you ever get to spend with them, so make it count. It’s time to audit the experience of a new member.Roadmap/New Account ProcessHow is the time being spent? Is there a roadmap to the conversation to ensure a good conversation flow and that all key areas are covered? WorkflowAre employees leaving the member to scan, copy and print? Are there any efficiencies you can add to reduce time on processes?New Account PersonnelIt can be tempting to rush through the process. Remember the member drove to your location to open the account – they are seeking a financial advisor, not somebody who cursorily completes the paperwork. Is the employee confident and knowledgeable? Do they ask questions to identify and understand the member’s needs so they can offer solutions? Are they offering to assist with moving direct deposits and automatic payments? Consider having a member of management open a new account on a regular basis to examine the process and determine if there could be an improvement in the member experience.It is during and after the account opening that you set yourself apart from the competition. The onboarding process is key in building the relationship with the member. How can you impress members during this critical time in your new relationship?Open Communication ChannelsEstablish communication channels with the new member. How do they prefer future communication? Do they prefer a phone call, email, text, or mail? Young adults greatly prefer to send a text rather than to pick up the phone. If that option is available, it can facilitate drastically better communication. More mature members may prefer a phone call. If this is the case, which number and what time of the day is a good time to reach them? Let the member know to expect future contact so it is expected.Send thank you notes shortly after account opening. Have the relationship manager who opened the account write a personal note and mention something specific that was discussed during the new account process so the member feels valued and remembered.OnboardingHaving an onboarding strategy is just as important as having an acquisition strategy. If the new account isn’t activated, you haven’t become their primary financial institution. Onboarding starts with moving direct deposits over. Offer to assist the member with this process and changing any automatic payments over to the new account. Check the member’s new account to see if there is debit card activity during the first 10 to 14 days. If there is no activity, the new account personnel should verify the member’s new debit card was received and see if they need any additional assistance during a follow-up call.Switch kits just don’t work. If the member uses automatic payments instead of bill pay, offer to get the actual forms they need for automatic withdrawals instead of a generic one. It’s a good idea to have the major utility companies’ forms on hand to better assist with the process. Follow UpFollow up with a thank you note, phone call, and letter from management. This personal connection makes the member feel that their business is valued and appreciated.Make note of future sales opportunities from your new account interview and follow up with the member. If the member mentioned they had a CD maturing in early July, contact the member in late June with your rates and other investment options. If the member mentioned they have a child needing a new car in the fall, contact them in late July with auto loan rates. This kind of attention will set you apart from your competitors. Members want to know they are important to you.Ask for referrals. Don’t forget to ask these new members to refer their friends, family, and colleagues. If you’ve provided exceptional service to your members, they won’t hesitate to make referrals. Focusing on all the little steps makes a big difference in getting the relationship and retaining memberships. To maximize the opportunities during peak new account opening seasons, act now to ensure you have all the processes in place. It’s go time!For assistance with digital referral programs, onboarding processes, and activation strategies around new and existing accounts, contact Velocity Solutions. 38SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Cindy J Draper Cindy J. Draper is a Retail DDA Strategist and Director of Training at Velocity Solutions. Cindy has over 20 years of experience in the banking industry. She has worked her … Web: myvelocity.com Details
6SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr One of the topics of recent conversation in credit union technology has revolved around the impact Millennials are having on the financial industry. Within the next few years, this tech-savvy group will represent close to 75% of the workforce and is becoming an influential part of the financial world. Keeping pace with the ever-changing face of credit union technology is vital to attracting Millennial members. The credit union industry has had to evolve to be able to offer the tools and technology members demand and what once was thought of as taboo in the industry, credit union APIs are now crucial to satisfying current technology needs and staying relevant. A core data processing system with a robust API allows for credit union open architecture so that you can offer the best-of-breed products that might otherwise be unavailable.Staying RelevantBeing able to offer up-to-date technology and engage with the latest applications is important to staying at the forefront of your competition. For example, industry trends are showing that more and more people, many of them Millennials, are using non-traditional alternative banking tools. Alternative payment options such as Venmo, PayPal, and Applepay are just some of these third-party applications to offer this. FICO recently reported that an estimated 52% of Millennials and 27% of Baby Boomers are using these forms of payment. Having the ability to engage third parties via an API, and being able to offer additional options to your members is a great reason to seek a core processor with open architecture. continue reading »
66SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,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 Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was your team. If you want your team to truly act like one, be patient and allow time for learning, bonding, and growing. Here are 3 ways you can help your team come together.Create cohesion: Combining a group of people with individual skills to create a well-oiled machine can be tricky. Each person needs to buy-in to the team and feel they are an important part of the group. By constantly reviewing processes and improving on them, your team will remove obstacles and create a cohesion that will help them succeed and grow.Build trust: If you want your team to work well together, they’ll need to be able to trust each other. It’s hard to trust teammates that you don’t know. Give your team opportunities to get to know each other outside the office, so they can share ideas and opinions through honest communication.Focus on goals: By setting goals and providing your team with direction, they can begin to understand how they need to work not only as a team but as individuals. Focusing on personal tasks will allow your team to see how individual responsibilities fit together to affect a common goal.
Section 301 of S.2155 amends section 605 of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) (codified at 15 USC §1681c). Section 605 establishes requirements regarding the information in consumer reports and disclosures regarding them. S.2155 adds subsection 605(i) and (j) establishing requirements regarding security freezes. These changes will primarily affect consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) rather than credit unions.One change adds a required notice for whenever a summaries of rights is required by FCRA’s section 609. While section 609 contains a lot of disclosure requirements, only subsections 609(c) and (d) specifically reference a “summary of rights.” Last week, the BCFP issued an interim final rule updating the Summary of Consumer Rights in Appendix K to Part 1022and the Summary of Consumer Identity Theft Rights in Appendix I. These are required under section 609(c) and (d), respectively (codified at 15 USC §1681g (c) and (d)).The Summary of Consumer Rights must be provided by a CRA whenever it makes a written disclosure of information to the consumer. Also, it may need to be provided by employers taking adverse employment actions in connection with a credit report. The Summary of Consumer Identity Theft Rights must be provided by the CRA when a consumer reports that they are a victim of identity theft. In the interim final rule, the Bureau specified that it is soliciting commentary to determine how to proceed regarding other model forms. 3SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr continue reading »
Yesterday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., released a modified version of her comprehensive housing reform bill, the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act of 2019. While the updated legislation would not subject credit unions to Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) regulations, the bill would introduce new regulatory burdens for some community chartered credit unions and credit unions that seek to add underserved areas.“We thank Senator Warren for updating her legislation to no longer subject credit unions to CRA regulations, which were designed to prevent banks from engaging in discriminatory lending practices,” said NAFCU Executive Vice President of Government Affairs and General Counsel Carrie Hunt. “Additionally, we appreciate that the bill seeks allow all types of credit unions to add underserved areas to their fields of memberships. However, we have concerns about the new regulatory and examination burdens that would be placed on credit unions that add underserved areas.“While the bill makes improvements over the previous version, NAFCU continues to have concerns about some of the language as we want to ensure that credit unions that want to assist communities that other institutions have left behind are not subject to new CRA-like regulations, just under a different name. There’s absolutely no reason for credit unions to be subject to new regulations.” ShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr continue reading »
ShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr continue reading » There are only so many hours in the day and they often seem to fly by. From meetings to email correspondence to employee drop-ins, a leader’s time can quickly be accounted for without making much of a dent in our to-do list.Not accomplishing tasks can add stress. We leave the office thinking about what we didn’t get done, and worrying about how that’ll impact tomorrow’s schedule. If we’re not careful, we’ll get burned out. That’s why it’s important to put yourself in the right mindset to disconnect at the end of the day.Productivity expert Charlie Gilkey has a strategy to help: The “15-minute checkout.”“With the 15-minute checkout, you’ll take a brief pause at the end of each workday to evaluate the day you just had and also set yourself up to successfully start anew the next day,” Gilkey writes. “It’s a simple routine that, done consistently, will empower you to reject the everything-is-a-priority mindset so prevalent in today’s workplace. At last, you’ll be able to ‘clock out’ without worries or distractions.”
continue reading » CUNA has announced the finalists for the 2020 Credit Union Hero of the Year award, sponsored by Symitar.Voting is open to select one of these individuals as the 2020 Credit Union Hero of the Year.A credit union hero is someone who personifies credit union philosophy and ideals, shows dedication to credit union principles, and makes a difference in their community.The 2020 finalists are:Robin Brulé, chief community engagement officer at $2.4 billion asset Nusenda Credit Union, Albuquerque, N.M. ShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr
ShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr continue reading » The world we’re currently operating in makes it difficult to look past the end of the week. Our businesses have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. New issues and concerns arise almost daily.We’ve all had to make sacrifices – whether it’s canceling an event, reducing hours, or closing up shop and hoping for a return. Right now, our main goal is just to make it through. But what happens when we get to the end of this? Will you be prepared for the future?Leadership guru Dan Rockwell has some good insights from a recent conversation with strategic innovation consultant and author Mark Johnson, where the two discussed how “volatility makes long-term thinking more important.”The approach Johnson takes to execute on vision is using “future-back” thinking. This way of thinking is used to develop strategy, while “present-forward” thinking is used to execute. Here are a few examples of the differences between the two ways of thinking:
continue reading » NCUA headquarters Earlier this month, the NCUA Board approved an interim final rule to make conforming amendments to capital adequacy rules consistent with the CARES Act. Under the rule, paycheck protection program loans will receive a zero percent risk weighting under the NCUA’s risk-based net worth requirement. NAFCU outlines what credit unions should know regarding the rule in a new Final Regulation Alert.NAFCU has previously urged the agency to grant additional capital flexibility, as well as place a moratorium on exams, and more, and will continue to advocate for additional relief and guidance.In the alert, NAFCU highlights that the rule:provides that if a PPP loan is pledged as collateral for a non-recourse loan that is provided as part of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System’s Paycheck Protection Program Liquidity Facility (PPPLF), the pledged loan can be excluded from a credit union’s calculation of total assets for the purposes of calculating its net worth ratio; and ShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr
continue reading » In payments, fast can be defined in a single word: immediate.“Consumers experience real-time transfers across a variety of fintech tools. That expectation carries over to their relationship with traditional providers, including credit unions,” says Tom Church-Adams, SVP/lead, payments solution line, for CUES Supplier member CO-OP Financial Services, Rancho Cucamonga, California. “And nearly everything is immediate, thanks to digital channels, faster network speeds and innovation in supply chain models.”Church-Adams reflects on other areas of immediacy in our lives.“In many cities, groceries are at your door in a matter of hours. In all parts of the world, doctors and mental health practitioners diagnose ailments in real-time from an iPad. We buy cars and homes in online marketplaces. Paying rent, getting paid for a gig, sending cash to a friend—these are everyday tasks consumers expect to be simple, seamless and speedy.” ShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr
continue reading » ShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr It seems like every time a sudden and severe shock hits the financial markets, all the fancy hedge fund investment strategies that use monikers like, “Enhanced Return,” or “Alpha Plus” go from being perfectly fine to gone within a month. This has happened in the major market blow-ups in 1998, 2001, 2008, and 2020, with a few notable semi disasters (2002, 2013, 2016) thrown in between. Then, when the dust clears, investors are pulverized, and fund managers close up shop so as not to have to work the next 5 years for free to make up remaining investors’ losses.Naturally, with 2020 being easily the worst economic disaster to hit in nearly a century, the “Alpha” and “Enhanced” hedge fund story has been no different. Recently, one fund run by a very prominent money manager dropped a cool 75% in March. You almost have to try to lose 75% in a month, kind of like Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom in “The Producers.” Many other hedge funds have followed suit, only losing 25% or so. What we find is the same, old story. We find out that the managers with their rocket scientist degrees were, when it comes down to brass tacks, selling puts and calls on an index like the S&P 500 and collecting premiums every month –which was great until the market blew up. Sure, they may have been trading fancy things like “Skew Vol” vs. “VIX” or some other attributes with Greek letters, and no doubt, there were some cool algorithms, but in the end, it was simply selling volatility that blew them up. We call this, “The Picking up Nickels in Front of the Steamroller” strategy.So much of the selling volatility strategies are part of “The Fed has my back” approach to market investing. Let’s face it; the Fed has been supportive of risk for far too long. The increase in their support has been parabolic. This is what leads to long periods of declining volatility and price inflation for risk assets like equities and corporate credit. Pressure builds, as the degree of Fed support increases, and each blow-up tends to be more spectacular than the last. That is why, before the Fed and Treasury came in the markets in March with the message of, “Put the sell button down, we’re going to be buying everything!” the most liquid markets in the world, US Treasury and Agency Mortgage-Backed Securities markets were simply broken. Anyone who relied on leverage through borrowing was being margin called out of existence.
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Suffolk County police are investigating a pair of armed home invasions during which victims were pistol whipped about one mile apart on the same day last week in Baywood and North Bay Shore, authorities said.In the first case, a gunman with his face covered kicked in the door of a Baywood home on Sonia Road, hit the victim in the head with a gun and demanded money at 4:25 a.m. Thursday, police said. The attacker fled empty handed.In the second case, three men—two of whom were armed with handguns—and a woman rang the doorbell of a Hemlock Drive apartment in North Bay Shore and then forced their way inside when the victim answered the door shortly before 10 p.m. Thursday, police said.That victim was also pistol whipped before the assailants fled with two watches, police said.There were neither any arrests nor descriptions of the suspects in either case. Third Squad detectives are continuing the investigations.
“If we’re successful in flattening the curve, there will be an inflection point,” said Wander. “You’ll start to see a little bit slower growth of the number of cases and that’s what we’re looking for… to keep the number of cases in line with our medical system’s capacity.” Kathy Wander is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Binghamton University. She says when this crisis quickly grew into a pandemic, it was scary. She says the most alarming part was the ratio of how many people were infected by one person who had the coronavirus. “The average for influenza was estimated at one-point-three and already, that’s a huge public health problem in the U.S., but two is brutal, so whatever we can do to bring that number down, is going to save lives,” said Wander. (WBNG) — Epidemiologist and biological anthropologist at Binghamton University, Kathy Wander, says there’s no reason to lose hope during this crisis, as long as we work together. Overall, Wander says none of our efforts will work unless we all do it together. She added it doesn’t matter if you have symptoms or not, or if you know anyone with the virus or not, you must follow the simple rules of social distancing and washing your hands. While some countries such as China have appeared to reach a peak and are seeing a somewhat downward trend, Wander says it’s difficult to predict if that will be the same fate for the United States. She says every country is different in healthcare systems and how they are responding to this pandemic. However, she did say we are more guaranteed to see the same trend if we can each make the biggest impact, which involves social distancing. “Our decisions matter. We can control this,” said Wander. “We just need to make the right decisions together.”
It’s been an especially difficult time for bars and restaurants who depend on dine-in services. “Sales are down but we’re trying to accommodate to our customers’ needs. We’re providing free delivery of our full menu and beer and online ordering, which is new to us. So we’re trying to adjust to the times to try and stay in the business during what is a difficult time for our industry,” said head brewer Nick Hall. “We saw a need for both local businesses and healthcare workers, providing people with means, really providing both industries in one,” said Hall. “It’s been really nice to see the overwhelming support we’ve received from both businesses and individuals so far.” Meals have also been delivered to other places with front line workers. For more on the coronavirus click here. It started a GoFundMe page accepting donations from the public to buy meals from other restaurants. “The goal is to provide at least a small boost in revenue during a difficult time to small businesses to keep them afloat until this whole thing is over or until there is some more government assistance. And hope to provide at least enough to keep some service industry jobs going during the crisis,” said Hall. “The people who work in nursing homes are really protecting our most vulnerable. The first place we delivered to in terms of a nursing home was Susquehanna which has positive covid-19 there so we thought that was a great place to donate some food to, show them that the community has their support,” said Hall. Helping two industries through one initiative, and all made possible by the generosity of the community. BINGHAMTON (WBNG) — The coronavirus has forced many businesses to close their doors in recent weeks. If you would like to contribute to the GoFundMe page, click here. The meals purchased are being delivered to healthcare workers in our area including staff at Lourdes, Binghamton General, UHS Wilson, along with EMS crews. Water Street Brewing Co. in downtown Binghamton is one of many places that has had to adapt to restrictions and guidelines. Thus far, meals have been donated by Water Street Brewing Co., Hacienda Mexican Restaurant, Parlor City Vegan, Alexander’s Cafe, Nezuntoz, Garage Taco, and The Shop. Despite being a tough time, Water Street Brewing Co. is using its resources to help the community.
This year, the state has the ability to cut funding in the middle of the school year. Governor Andrew Cuomo has said that amount could be from 10-30% of state aid to schools if New York doesn’t receive $61 billion in federal stimulus funding. Andrews said the governor had previously told schools a decision on cuts would come by May 15, but they have not heard anything from him after that date had passed. (WBNG) — For Southern Tier educational leaders, only one things is for sure: school will take place in some form this fall. “There’s no question that the in-person instruction, those classroom interactions, the real live in-person work, I don’t think the shift to virtual was a substitute,” said Dr. Jason Andrews, superintendent of the Windsor Central School District. Dr. Andrews said not only would these cuts be unprecedented, they would be devastating for area districts, leading to widespread cuts across the board in programs. Districts across the Southern Tier passed their budgets, but the planning for the 2020-2021 school year hasn’t stopped. No matter what happens, one local superintendent believes not only will school happen in some format, but it’s best in person.
Matteo Basile, a volunteer at the shelter, says he plays with animals because it makes them happy. (WBNG) — It’s kitten season and the Susquehanna SPCA says they are seeing a lot of feral felines coming into their shelter. “You really need to devote time to spend with them, to get them comfortable with humans, to trust humans,” said Haynes. However, with so many kittens, the shelter says they need volunteers to help out. “You come in to cuddle and and play with kittens,” said Haynes. Feral cats can be difficult to adopt given their wild nature. With nearly 30 feral kittens in their care, the Susquehanna SPCA will work to socialize those kittens, in hopes of finding them families. “It is a process and it does with most feral kittens take some time, but certainly they will come around,” said Haynes. Haynes says by slowing earning their trust, these kittens can grow into adoptable and loving house pets. “We’re always really happy to see feral kittens because we can socialize kittens and find them homes to live in, instead of being wild,” said Susquehanna SPCA Executive Director Stacie Haynes. It’s that simple. For one hour a day, you can volunteer to play with kittens, which can also be life-changing for them. “Maybe they’ll get used to us, maybe they’ll like us,” said Basile. If you would like to volunteer with the “Feral to Friendly” program at the Susquehanna SPCA, call 607-547-8111, extension 102.
(WBNG) — Even when the coronavirus vaccines are eventually approved by the FDA, not everyone will be able to get them at the same time. Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) announced the first 170,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine will arrive in New York by December 15. This can only happen if their Emergency Use Authorization orders (EUA) are approved beforehand. Southern Tier health officials told 12 News they have a plan in place to distribute the vaccines once available. Once Pfizer and the other companies that have manufactured vaccines gain approval, the vaccines will first go to long-term care residents as well as the employees of those facilities. Besides those connected to longterm care facilities, Gov. Cuomo said healthcare workers will also be among the first to get a vaccine. “Those plans are underway, we are definitely leaning on our partners as well as the Office of Emergency Services, who’s been assisting us from the beginning, but I think we’re as ready as can be to receive the vaccine as soon as it’s ready to be shipped,” said Rebecca Kaufman, Broome County’s Department of Health Director.