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Guatemalan president spars with US over Chixoy Dam reparations

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first_imgGUATEMALA CITY – In January, the U.S. government suspended military aid to Guatemala after the Central American country failed to deliver on $154.5 million in reparations to survivors of a massacre over a hydroelectric dam built in the 1980s.The suspension of military aid and the lack of progress with the reparations are fueling an ongoing spat between the two countries.Located in north-central Guatemala between the departments of Baja Verapaz, Quiché and Alta Verapaz, the Chixoy Dam was built in the early ’80s with World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank funds. In the process, 33 Mayan communities were destroyed and some 3,500 people were permanently displaced.Residents lost homes, livelihoods and land. And 445 Guatemalans who refused to leave or later returned lost their lives, massacred by the Guatemalan government. The mass killing became known as the Río Negro massacre, and by the mid-’90s it was a major point of contention as Guatemala’s 36-year civil war drew to a close and widespread human rights violations came to light.In 2010, following intense international pressure, the Guatemalan government agreed to pay reparations to those who survived the ordeal. These reparations included land grants, $154.5 million in monetary compensation, paved roads and construction of health centers and schools, along with smaller items.Since then, progress has been slow to nonexistent. Families displaced by the dam now live in communities without electricity, and a recent report on the region by the Guatemalan daily Prensa Libre described families subsisting on a single meal a day and lacking basic necessities like salt. For emergency medical care, a sick person’s neighbor or family member must trek to a mountaintop to find a cellphone signal to call the fire department. A doctor in the region reported shortages of medicines, including basic painkillers like acetaminophen.The U.S. is now attempting to use military aid as leverage to force Guatemala to adhere to the 2010 agreement.“During construction of the Chixoy Dam in the 1970s and ’80s, thousands of Mayans living in the construction zone were relocated and hundreds were killed,” U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Maureen Mimnaugh said last Friday. “In 2010, then-President (Álvaro) Colom and representatives from the affected communities agreed to a reparations plan, which to date neither the Colom administration nor the subsequent Pérez Molina administration formally ratified.”In response, Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina lashed out at a U.S. senator and congressional staffer: “Another country is not going to legislate us. We may be a small country, but we are a sovereign, independent country, and we have our own laws,” Pérez Molina told local media last week. “I’m not going to allow (the U.S.) to impose things on me.” Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina gives a press conference during the II Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Havana, on Jan. 29, 2014. Yamil Lage/AFPStepping up the pressureThe U.S. Congress last month passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2014, which cut off the flow of U.S. military aid to Guatemala until “the Secretary of State certifies that the Government of Guatemala is taking credible steps to implement the Reparations Plan.”The Appropriations Act also requires executive directors of the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank to report to the Appropriations Committees every 30 days on their efforts to support the reparations plan.But the reparations agreement is not legally binding in Guatemala, which has not ratified it, and there is no built-in enforcement mechanism.In his statements, the Guatemalan president singled out Timothy Rieser, a staffer for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and the majority clerk for the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of State and Foreign Operations:“This serves the interests of an individual (Rieser). We know who he is; he believes he is the owner of Guatemala, (but) he is only an adviser, a senator’s staffer,” Pérez Molina said.Leahy responded forcefully last Friday, saying, “Rather than blame a staff member for a law passed by the U.S. Congress, Guatemalan officials should fulfill the state’s responsibility to implement the 2010 Chixoy reparations plan and its commitments under the Peace Accords.”Leahy added:“These officials have also misstated U.S. law. The Appropriations Committee, with my support, provides about $100 million in aid for Guatemala this year, mostly for social and economic programs.”Pérez Molina now wants to replace the original reparations agreement with a new accord that would provide land and an unspecified promise of well-being.For Mike Allison, an associate professor of political science at Scranton University in Pennsylvania, the confrontation between President Molina and the U.S. isn’t unprecedented. During the Cold War in the ’70s, U.S. President Jimmy Carter threatened to withhold U.S. military aid unless Guatemala improved its record on human rights. The Guatemalan government responded by turning down the aid before it was cut off.“There’s always been this pride on the part of the Guatemalan military that they don’t need aid,” Allison said, adding that as a former general, Pérez Molina is part of that military culture.The full effects of the appropriations bill won’t be felt in Guatemala for some time. Because of the nature of congressional appropriations bills, it could take up to 12 months before the money stops flowing to Guatemala.Benjamin Reeves is a freelance journalist based in Antigua, Guatemala. Follow him on Twitter.  Facebook Comments Related posts:For justice in Guatemala, ‘2 steps forward, 1 step back’ Making the invisible, visible: In Nicaragua, women journalists call for equality 26 lawyers have been murdered in Guatemala in the past 3 years Guatemala’s Otto Pérez Molina dismisses ‘spurious’ corruption caselast_img read more

Trilateral summits not designed to isolate Turkey Cyprus says

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first_imgThe matrix of trilateral summits among Mediterranean nations is not directed against Turkey, rather, Ankara with its own actions has made it impossible for itself to be included, foreign minister Nicos Christodoulides said on Thursday.He was speaking to the state broadcaster, providing his assessment of the latest trilateral summit held this week in Jerusalem between Cyprus, Greece and Israel – with the ad hoc participation of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.The three-way meeting in Israel was all about energy security, Christodoulides said.“What came out of yesterday [Wednesday] was that the three countries, but the United States as well, due to the presence of American [energy] companies in the region, and due to the fact the eastern Mediterranean has the potential to become an alternative energy corridor for Europe…all this generates an interest in energy developments, and it is within this framework that there is a will for cooperation.”But, he stressed, the lattice of trilateral cooperation is not designed to isolate Turkey.Rather, it is Turkey itself through its own actions in the Mediterranean which has become isolated.Christodoulides cited the example of the recent Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, where Turkey was the only country absent.The foreign minister emphasized also that the network of cooperation being built via the trilaterals is not intended to “militarise” the region.He went on to reveal that France has been invited to attend on an ad hoc basis the next planned trilateral summit – between Cyprus, Greece and Egypt.But asked what the agenda would be in the upcoming trilateral, he declined to elaborate.On the dispute between Cyprus and Israel over the gas in the Aphrodite reservoir – which straddles the economic waters of the two nations – Christodoulides said that progress was achieved in Jerusalem.There, Cyprus proposed a “new approach” to resolving the dispute. This would involve engaging the two governments as well as the concerned energy companies, he said.According to the foreign minister, the Israeli side responded well to the Cypriot proposal.“I believe we can look forward to a positive outcome soon.”You May LikePopularEverythingColorado Mom Adopted Two Children, Months Later She Learned Who They Really ArePopularEverythingUndoLivestlyChip And Joanna’s $18M Mansion Is Perfect, But It’s The Backyard Everyone Is Talking AboutLivestlyUndoYahoo SearchYou’ve Never Seen Luxury Like This On A Cruise Ship. Search Luxury Mediterranean CruisesYahoo SearchUndo Pensioner dies after crash on Paphos-Polis roadUndoCruise passenger airlifted to Paphos hospitalUndoRemand for pair in alleged property fraud (Updated)Undoby Taboolaby Taboolalast_img read more

Banking scam narrowly averted

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first_imgBy Angelos AnastasiouIN TANDEM with the development of increasingly complex financial products – not least methods of payment execution – financial crime has devised new ways to exploit weaknesses in the system, and authorities tasked with defending the public against it can usually only react after the fact.In the words of former US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, “innovation tends to outpace regulation”.Criminal ingenuity notwithstanding, however, some basic precautions would normally suffice to keep you relatively safe from internet thieves. Things like not disclosing sensitive personal information and having effective anti-spyware installed on a computer could make the difference between being robbed or not. Also, your personal banker exercising common sense.A few weeks ago, on a Friday, a Cypriot businessman received a phonecall from his banker asking him to confirm the payment orders he had emailed her earlier. He thought she had called the wrong number, as he had given his bank no such instructions, through email or otherwise.It turned out that, unbeknownst to him, his email account had been hacked, and two instructions had been emailed to his personal banker, for the payment of tens of thousands of euros from his company’s trading account to an account in a German bank in the name of one Markus Werner. The payment invoices – attached to the instructions – were supposedly for the purchase of products comically unrelated to the man’s business – a 60-seater bus, among other things.One payment made it through, for a little more than €50,000, but the second – a substantially larger amount – was delayed.Markus Werner received the money, asked his bank to exchange some €40,000 to Baht – the Thai currency – and attempted to send the exchanged amount to “his girlfriend in Thailand”. This was where red flags were raised by the German police, who blocked the transaction and asked the bank for more information on the origin of the funds.The scam was averted when the German bank contacted the businessman’s banker in Cyprus for clarifications, who only then called her customer.Though the money was promptly returned to the businessman’s account, the incident had certainly alarmed him, and he tried to report it to the local police. He was referred to the Economic Crime Investigation Unit (ECIU), but was told to call on Monday as they got off work at 3pm. He ended up paying a visit to the nearest police station, just so that he could have the complaint on record as soon as possible.He was told his statement would be forwarded to the ECIU as soon as possible, and they would be in touch with him in due course. Three weeks later, he was still waiting for the call.Lieutenant Christos Christodoulou, ECIU chief, said the case was not harmed in the slightest by the fact that the ECIU had been unreachable.“This man spoke to the Crime Inspection Department, of which we are a part, because they have around-the-clock shifts,” Christodoulou said. “Proper procedure was followed, a statement was taken and forwarded to us – nothing more could have been done even if he had reached us directly.“And it would have worked the same way if things were reversed – that is, if a person came to us with a case that was jurisdictionally the CID’s, we wouldn’t necessarily send him off to them. Most likely, we would take the statement and forward the case to CID. Depending on urgency, we could even fax them the statement and any supporting documentation immediately.”Given the above, the need for a financial crime unit is not evident as any CID member appears interchangeable with ECIU staff. Nonetheless, the case is now with Christodoulou’s team, who said that per procedure, it will engage Interpol to request that Werner be questioned, and – if need be – extradited to Cyprus. It’s waiting time.But the issue of how – apparently – easy it is for a bank in Cyprus to be fooled by scammers and hackers into making unauthorised payments is another can of worms.“Based on the kinds of complaints we receive, sometimes the plaintiff bears at least some of the responsibility inasmuch as he may receive an email from a long-standing trading partner, saying they have moved their accounts to another bank in some obscure country,” Christodoulou noted. “Sometimes the most sensible thing – picking up the phone to confirm – isn’t done.”When it was pointed out that this wasn’t such a case, Christodoulou became mildly defensive.“It’s not my job to assign blame,” he said cautiously. “In this instance, let me just say that the Central Bank of Cyprus has issued a directive to all banks not to rely on emailed instructions alone to make payments – to seek secondary confirmation. I’ll leave it at that.”Not so, said Yiangos Demetriou, director of bank supervision at the Central Bank.“It is up to the banks and their clients if they agree to an arrangement of emailed payment instructions,” he said. “There is no directive.”But then there’s the issue of the nature of the payments. Anti-money laundering “Know Your Customer” guidelines mandate that personal bankers be familiar with their clients’ businesses, and approve payments on the basis of the customer’s “business profile”, flagging and seeking additional information on anything deviating from their normal course of business. “Reasonable suspicion” to the legitimacy of a transaction is the minimum standard set by law.“The bank certainly had an obligation to evaluate such transactions as being out of the customer’s normal business activity,” confirmed Demetriou. “Anti-money laundering legislation is clear on this.”Last month, security firm Kaspersky Labs issued a report describing the single greatest bank heist – technically, a series of smaller heists – in history, with loot anywhere from $300 to $900 million as late as 2013, carried out online by hackers via unauthorised wire transfers.The story serves to remind that, almost by default, innovation does outpace regulation, but sometimes the antidote to seemingly complex issues can just be a healthy dose of common sense. Related link http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2015/02/17/kaspersky-labs-center-bank-theft-discovery/W0WotFq6fCI2hLCV0h6CfI/story.htmlYou May LikePopularEverythingColorado Mom Adopted Two Children, Months Later She Learned Who They Really ArePopularEverythingUndoLivestlyChip And Joanna’s $18M Mansion Is Perfect, But It’s The Backyard Everyone Is Talking AboutLivestlyUndoYahoo SearchYou’ve Never Seen Luxury Like This On A Cruise Ship. Search Luxury Mediterranean CruisesYahoo SearchUndo Cruise passenger airlifted to Paphos hospitalUndoThree arrested in connection with hotel theftsUndoPensioner dies after crash on Paphos-Polis roadUndoby Taboolaby Taboolalast_img read more

Jenkins welcomes local school groups to Capitol

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first_img23Oct Jenkins welcomes local school groups to Capitol Categories: News Rep. Nancy Jenkins (left) gets ready to listen to a presentation by Madison Middle School students during the Michigan Student Technology Showcase held at the Capitol.State Rep. Nancy Jenkins recently welcomed two Lenawee County school groups to the Capitol.On Wednesday, seventh-grade students from Madison Middle School in Adrian participated in the Michigan Student Technology Showcase, where a variety of K-12 students from across the state demonstrated how technology is used in Michigan classrooms to enhance both teaching and learning.The group from Madison Middle School presented information about Augmented Reality Readers, which enable students to use QR code technology to connect with other students reading the same book. Whether in the same class or on the other side of the world, the students can then compare notes or read reviews of the materials.“The Madison students gave an amazing presentation, and I am glad I had the chance to meet with them and hear their thoughts,” said Jenkins, R-Clayton. “It was fascinating to see how much technology can impact our students’ ability to learn in new and creative ways.”Jenkins (front row, far right) joins students from Lenawee Christian School’s government class on the steps of the Michigan Capitol.On Tuesday, 40 Lenawee Christian School students from Gary McDowell’s government class traveled to Lansing. The juniors and seniors toured the state Capitol and the Michigan Hall of Justice during their trip. They also met with a representative from the Attorney General’s office and were recognized by Jenkins from the House floor.“It was great to meet with Mr. McDowell’s class and talk with them about the legislative process that goes on at our state’s Capitol,” Jenkins said. “I hope they enjoyed their chance to see democracy in action.“I am always excited to meet with school groups and any other local residents when they come to visit Lansing. If you are ever in the area, please let me know!”###last_img read more

Potvin law helps reuse of scrap materials and byproducts safely efficiently

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first_img Companies look at ‘secondary purposes’ to spur job growth, competitionThree new laws will help Michigan businesses reuse industrial byproducts and scrap materials in new products and secondary applications to protect the environment and create more jobs.This summer, Gov. Rick Snyder signed Public Acts 178-180 of 2014, which included the former House Bill 5402 sponsored by Rep. Phil Potvin. The package encourages the reuse of materials previously deemed waste, imposes safe standards and updates outdated regulations.“Encouraging the reuse of byproducts and other materials that might otherwise be considered waste can help companies balance out their expense and profit margins a little, and it addresses an important waste management issue that impacts the environment as well as more cost to the business,” said Potvin, R-Cadillac. “These changes can develop opportunities for new job growth through secondary products a company can now make available, and it’s a more efficient use of valuable resources. As we worked on these bills, I kept in mind Cadillac Castings in Wexford County as a type of company that could benefit and help Northern Michigan with additional investment and hiring.”The laws allow for the use of byproduct and scraps such as wood, sand and paper waste to be used as a component of new products and other secondary application, such as the construction of roads, filler material, and soil improvement.The bills also appoint the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development as the licensing and regulatory body, provide environmental liability protection and allow Michigan to promote the beneficial use of materials. Categories: News,Photos 24Sep Potvin law helps reuse of scrap materials and byproducts safely, efficientlylast_img read more

Rep Kesto hosts healthy cooking presentation April 27

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first_img14Apr Rep. Kesto hosts healthy cooking presentation April 27 Lawmaker is chair of House Health and Fitness Caucus Categories: Kesto News,Newscenter_img State Rep. Klint Kesto invites residents to join him and a local chef this month to learn how to cook healthy foods.Rep. Kesto, R-Commerce Township, is chair of the House Health and Fitness Caucus, which promotes healthy lifestyles to his fellow lawmakers. Now he is taking his message on the road as he is joined by Chef Amber Poupore of The Clean Plate and Cacao Tree Cafe to help residents of the 39th House District lead healthier lifestyles.The presentation, “Cooking Healthy with Klint Kesto,” takes place Monday, April 27, at the Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital Demonstration Kitchen, located at 6777 W. Maple Road in West Bloomfield. The event runs from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and admission is free.“I think it’s very important that Michigan residents maintain their health, and eating foods that both taste good and are good for you is a huge part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle,” Rep. Kesto said. “It’s important that healthy eating begin at a young age, so we will show parents that snacks can be healthy and give them recipes they can prepare at home for their children.”No appointment is necessary. Anyone with questions may contact Rep. Kesto by calling 517-373-1799 or via email at KlintKesto@house.mi.gov.#####last_img read more

New legislation prohibits unregulated custody transfers of adopted children

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first_img Categories: McCready News 04May New legislation prohibits unregulated custody transfers of adopted children Bill package helps ensure the safety of adopted kids Legislators today introduced a four-bill package to prohibit and punish the practice of informal child custody transfers.“In some cases, parents are using online forums to offer adopted children to strangers, which results in children being ‘rehomed’ into potentially abusive and unsafe environments,” said Rep. McCready, R-Bloomfield Hills. “Parents should not be allowed to permanently place a child under the care of another person without any oversight.”House Bill 5629, sponsored by Rep. McCready, prohibits a parent from transferring custody of a child for more than 180 days. Current law allows a temporary custody transfer to take place, using a power of attorney, if it does not exceed 180 days.HB 5628, sponsored by Rep. Hank Vaupel, criminalizes the transfer of custody with the intent to permanently divest oneself of parental responsibility, and also prohibits assisting or arranging an unregulated custody transfer.“This is about what’s best for children’s safety, plain and simple,” said Rep. Vaupel, R-Fowlerville. “Every child in Michigan deserves to be raised in a safe and secure home environment. These bills prevent an unregulated custody practice that can put children in danger.”HB 5626, sponsored by Rep. Tom Hooker, prohibits a person from advertising for potential adoptive parents without court involvement. HB 5627, also sponsored by Rep. Hooker, classifies soliciting a child for adoption as a Class F felony.“Children are our most precious treasure, requiring love and nurturing,” said Rep. Hooker, R-Byron Center. “Any person who tries to market children as a commodity deserves to be stopped and punished.”The bills were referred to the House Committee on Judiciary for consideration.Sen. Rick Jones has introduced similar legislation, Senate Bills 923-926.“We have a responsibility to all Michigan children to protect their safety,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “We don’t want to see people advertising children on the Internet. Children are not for sale. Plus, we never know who will respond; they could be a child abuser or a child molester. Ensuring proper precautions are taken is the best way to protect these children.”#####last_img read more

Rep Lucido civil asset forfeiture reform bill signed into law

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first_img04Jan Rep. Lucido civil asset forfeiture reform bill signed into law Categories: Lucido News,News Reforms continue to the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws as legislation authored by Rep. Peter Lucido was signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder today.House Bill 4629, now Public Act 418 of 2016, removes the requirement that property owners must post a 10 percent bond – not less than $250 or more than $5,000 – within 20 days of seizure by law enforcement officials to start the process of potentially returning the property to its owners.“By taking someone’s property before they are even criminally charged and then making them pay for a chance to fight for their own property, we are hindering access to due process for all,” Rep. Lucido said. “Removal of this requirement provides everyone with their day in court, regardless of their ability to pay. Our Constitution provides that we are innocent until proven guilty and this legislation aligns with state law on that fundamental principle.”In late 2015, Gov. Snyder signed previous legislation that reformed civil asset forfeiture laws, including additional reporting requirements for police officers and higher standards for prosecutors. Rep. Lucido was a sponsor in that package, but felt more reform was needed. He states that the 10-percent bond requirement disproportionately impacts lower-income individuals by putting them at a financial disadvantage and discouraging many to work within a convoluted court system.“In my many years as an attorney, I have seen the process of civil asset forfeiture spiral out of control,” said Rep. Lucido. “I have seen items seized which include everything from cars and homes to food and the last few dollar bills in someone’s wallet. Tell me how a working single mother is going to post a 10 percent bond when everything she had has been taken? She’s not, because it will cost her more in legal fees than her property is worth.”last_img read more

Rep Lilly More practical occupational licensing procedure needed at state level

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first_img03Oct Rep. Lilly: More practical occupational licensing procedure needed at state level Categories: Lilly News The Michigan House today unanimously approved a plan authored by state Rep. Jim Lilly, of Park Township, allowing people to receive advance notice of whether or not they will qualify for a state-issued occupational license.Under Lilly’s plan, people can apply through a state department to learn whether or not their criminal record disqualifies them from obtaining an occupational license before they begin school or before they incur other expenses in furtherance of obtaining a license.Occupational licensing requirements at the state level create unneeded government red tape. It can be costly and time-consuming for those looking to work in these fields and those who do currently. The process is even more restrictive for those convicted of minor felonies.“Time and time again, data is showing an abundance of people with criminal records going through all the training, education and application fees to obtain a license, only to be denied that license at the end of the process,” Lilly said. “We are implementing a way for people who have made past mistakes to apply to receive a preliminary determination of whether or not they would be accepted a state-issued occupational license.”Lilly’s plan works in concert with another multi-bill package that moved through the Michigan House making it easier for those with prior, minor criminal convictions to have their applications accepted with the determination they lack good morals.Michigan state licensing regulations often refer broadly to “good moral character” as a requirement for holding a license. In practice, this has often led to those on the licensing board to interpret anyone with a criminal record to be ineligible for occupational licensing.“Imagine going through all the application fees and completing all the education requirements and training – sometimes requiring multiple years – just to be denied the license you were pursuing for a past mistake,” Lilly said. “This preliminary determination will clear those with criminal backgrounds before they get caught up in spending hundreds of dollars and investing their time and energy in a particular field of interest.”Under the plan, employers would still have the right to conduct background checks and ask pointed questions of potential candidates during job interviews.House Bill 6060, which has received bipartisan support, now moves to the Senate for consideration.PHOTO INFORMATION: State Rep. Jim Lilly (right), of Park Township, discusses his occupational licensing legislation with state Rep. Roger Victory, of Hudsonville, on the Michigan House floor on Wednesday.last_img read more

Min Wage Hikes in Some Fields Require Public Funding Increases

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first_imgShareTweetShareEmail0 Shares March 22, 2014;Seattle TimesIn an op-ed piece in the Seattle Times, an area nonprofit leader has pointed out the unintended consequences if efforts to increase the city’s minimum wage succeed.“Capturing the complexity of raising the minimum wage is difficult. As a nonprofit leader who is concerned with social justice, I’ve lost many nights of sleep considering this issue,” says Sylvia Fuerstenberg, executive director of The Arc of King County, which provides support to families and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.“How can we build a more just and equitable community without bankrupting the organizations that help our most vulnerable?” she goes on to ask.Her concern is what may happen if the city of Seattle raises its minimum wage from $9.32 to $15 an hour. An advisory committee appointed by the mayor is considering the proposal and is expected to recommend changes at the end of April. Seattle is not alone; similar measures are being discussed in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, not to mention a number of states.Fuerstenberg notes that support for a minimum-wage increase is spreading, with public opinion overwhelmingly in support. She agrees with the need and the moral imperative, but is concerned about the timing and planning of the implementation. Her case in point is her own agency.Since 1936, The Arc of King County has provided supports and services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, as a community-based alternative to institutionalization. It currently has 77 employees.She says that increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour across the board immediately “is extremely problematic for supported-living providers.” That’s because the funding for her agency’s services is appropriated by the state legislature, matched with federal Medicaid funds, and allocated to hours of service (fee-for-service).“As a result, providers are limited in how much we can pay employees. We cannot simply raise prices to meet a new minimum wage,” she points out, explaining that in Seattle alone, supported-living providers would need an additional $8 million in funding a year to provide the same level of service at the new wage. And because her agency has a regional footprint, she says it would be difficult to pay different wages depending on which city employees worked in, and would raise wages regardless of where they worked. That would mean that service providers in King County (primarily the Seattle metro area) would need an additional $26 million.That funding, she says, is not necessarily forthcoming. “If the minimum wage increased to $15 today, my agency alone would immediately need almost $500,000 to cover the increase. That’s money no one is offering—not the state, county or city. Because we’re contracted by the state to provide specific hours of service [at a specific contracted amount], we can’t reduce service hours to [offset] increased wages.”She writes in the Times that raising the minimum wage would also force her to raise wages further up the chain because doing so for lower-level workers without a similar increase for those higher up is perceived as a reduction for them: “Employees with higher responsibilities will not continue performing well if they are paid the same rate as the people they supervise.”Fuerstenberg does not support exemptions for nonprofits and small businesses because she worries that trained employees would leave the field in search of higher-paying jobs. Turnover in the sector is already high at 32 percent, which is disruptive to clients and incurs high training expenses for service providers.“Raising the minimum wage is an emotional issue. But the rhetoric must match reality…. We cannot achieve shared prosperity by passing a plan that risks putting nonprofits out of business, leaving vulnerable citizens without support,” she writes.She supports raising the minimum wage to $15 in stages, taking into account employee retention factors. In addition, she writes that such an increase “must be phased in to give time for the legislature to adjust,” so that it can account for benefits and consider temporary training wages to preserve opportunities for those with fewer job skills.Fuerstenberg does not specifically mention the most important thing any political leader has to consider, and that nonprofit leaders must advocate for—that government funders must also adjust their appropriations and grants to reflect the greater obligation that community-based nonprofit fee-for-service providers will be taking on with a higher minimum wage. In short, it cannot be an unfunded mandate.—Larry KaplanShareTweetShareEmail0 Shareslast_img read more

Newmans Own Foundation and the Tax Overhaul Two Cases of Who Knew

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first_imgShare69Tweet53Share29Email151 Shares“Newman’s Own Salsa, Hot, 9/2014” by Mike MozartDecember 7, 2017; PoliticoNewman’s Own Foundation is facing a very stiff tax penalty that could cause it to sell off its ownership in the food conglomerate that shares its name or even disband altogether if a provision in the tax reform bill currently being deliberated is not included. According to reports, the IRS has issued a deadline of November 2018 before a severe penalty of 200 percent will be enforced.There are two issues at play here. One is that foundations face stringent limits to the amount of ownership they can have in for-profit businesses. IRS regulation states a private foundation can generally only own up to 20 percent of the voting stock of a for-profit corporation. It keeps business owners from creating a foundation and then transferring ownership of their business to that foundation as a tax dodge. When Paul Newman died in 2008, he left ownership of the food empire named for him to the Foundation, which since then has been giving away the profits derived from the sales of salad dressing, pet food, chocolate, popcorn, and other items.Leaders of the Newman’s Own Foundation have been working with legislators in Washington in order to be given an exemption to this rule. They thought they had hit a home run when both the House and the Senate versions of the tax reform bill included the exemption, since if the exemption were not included, it is likely Newman’s Own would have to break itself up by divesting of its holdings.The other issue at play, however, is that Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough has determined the provision providing the exemption is in violation of the Byrd Rule. The rule, named after former US Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), sets limits and guidelines for the kinds of provisions that can be included in a reconciliation bill, which is the once-a-year legislative procedure the Republican-controlled Congress is using to push through their tax reform bill. The parliamentarian, who is responsible for making sure all legislation abides by rules and regulations, has removed the Newman’s Own exemption from the tax reform bill being given final consideration. Although the report does not indicate why the provision is in violation, it’s probably because it can be considered “extraneous” to the bill’s intent.Ms. MacDonough has removed closed to a dozen provisions in the tax reform bill for similar violations of a variety of Senate rules and regulations. One is a provision advocated by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) that would have forced tax increases in the future if the tax bill does not help the economy to the level that is currently being projected. This is a failsafe provision the Republican leadership had been counting on to help build trust in and support for the legislation.So, who knew? Who knew there was a “parliamentarian” who has the power to remove portions of legislation that might go against the rules? Obviously, the senators in Washington do, because they are currently scrambling to figure out how to rewrite the dozen or so provisions Ms. MacDonough has nixed. Apparently, there is very little precedent for overruling a parliamentarian’s decision. Conversely, who knew there was an IRS regulation limiting how much a foundation can own of a private, for-profit corporation? Obviously, the people who wrote Paul Newman’s will missed it.—Rob MeiksinsShare69Tweet53Share29Email151 Shareslast_img read more

The NeverEnding Debate Race and College Admissions

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first_imgShare12Tweet11ShareEmail23 SharesJuly 9, 2018; The Conversation and The HillOn July 3rd, the Trump administration announced that it will reverse several policy memos outlining how colleges and universities can use race as a factor in admissions. The memos were issued as guidance for post-secondary schools during the Obama administration on how to achieve diversity in their student bodies. The reversal of these memos can have a lasting impact on the admissions process and the future of minorities and underserved populations in post-secondary education. US Attorney General Jeff Sessions deemed the guidelines as “unnecessary, outdated, inconsistent with existing law, or otherwise improper.” He is using the rescinding as a way to “undo the government’s overreach” and the previous administration’s efforts to “impose new rules on the American people without any public notice or comment period, simply by sending a letter or posting a guidance document on a website.”This reversal comes at the tail of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s announcement that he was retiring from the US Supreme Court this summer. His departure means that the court will lose a key swing vote on affirmative action issues. In 2016, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling on affirmative action. The majority opinion was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy and stated, “A university is in large part defined by those ‘intangible qualities which are incapable of objective measurement but which make for greatness.’” Kennedy continued, “Considerable deference is owed to a university in defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission. But still, it remains an enduring challenge to our Nation’s education system to reconcile the pursuit of diversity with the constitutional promise of equal treatment and dignity.” Justice Kennedy’s retirement leaves room for a more conservative replacement with conservative views on affirmative action.Over the past few years, the Trump administration has made known their views on affirmative action or the place of race in college admissions. Last year, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that they were going to investigate discrimination in college admissions. There was even an internal job posting for those with an interest in “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.” While the Justice Department issued a statement stating that the posting was in response to a complaint in 2015 of allegations of discrimination against Asian Americans, there was still concern from advocacy and civil rights groups that it was a target on affirmative action.Many organizations, such as The American Council of Education and civil rights groups, have vowed to ignore the decision and say that “rescinding the guidances will be detrimental to students of color in the U.S.” The NAACP issued a statement in response to the reversal, “By encouraging schools to not consider race during the admissions process or potentially in any other circumstance, President Trump is undermining the benefits of diversity in schools, accelerating the socioeconomic divide, and rolling back access to quality education for all students, which is a top priority for this administration.” The statement goes on to say, “It is proven that racial diversity benefits all in academic achievement. Our world is made up of people of many colors; therefore, students should learn and grow in an environment that depicts this reality.” Although they have issued a statement, no plans of action have been made public.Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Yale have also issued statements expressing their disdain for the decision. Harvard spokesperson Rachel Dane stated that “Harvard will continue to vigorously defend its right, and that of all colleges and universities, to consider race as one factor among many in college admissions.” Yale is at risk for losing federal funding for their decision to “defy” the reversal. Yale seeks to create an academic community where “students interact with people from various backgrounds and points of views,” and “[their] admissions policies and practices reflect and support this goal” according to Thomas Conroy, Director, Office of Public Affairs and Communications.As the fight continues on both sides of the affirmative action debate, there are three key insights from the reversal to keep in mind: (1) rules and guidance will become less clear, giving post-secondary schools opportunities to develop their own policies and procedures; (2) this decision returns us to the George W. Bush approach of “race neutral” college admissions. Race neutral methods have been ineffective in increasing diversity in student bodies; and (3) with the retirement of Justice Kennedy, the future court can reject the notion that diversity can lead to educational benefits.After the 2017 DOJ announcement of investigation in discrimination, Anurima Bhargava, who was head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division’s Educational Opportunities Section during the Obama administration, said “any move to investigate affirmative action policies would be a fear and intimidation tactic” and that she had “a very strong sense that [it] is nothing other than politics.” Could the reversal of these memos be the same case? Either way, the never-ending battle moves along and advocacy and civil rights groups will retool and remain on alert.—Diandria BarberShare12Tweet11ShareEmail23 Shareslast_img read more

Federal Judge Defines Scope of Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

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first_imgShare176Tweet3ShareEmail179 Shares February 23, 2019; New York TimesAs regular NPQ readers will recall, NPQ has been tracking the status of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, a program that seeks to ensure that high college tuition and the resulting student loan debt burden does not inadvertently depress the number of young adults choosing to enter lower paying government and nonprofit jobs. Launched in 2007, the program enables people working in those sectors for a decade and making regular minimal loan payments to have their remaining debt written off after 10 years.One political advantage of setting a 10-year period was that in 2007, the initial 10-year scoring (cost estimate) was zero. Of course, we’re now at year 12, and the bills are coming due, leading to a host of problems. For example, there’s the need to determine what counts as a qualifying nonprofit: If you’re a 501c3, you’re safe; if you’re another kind of nonprofit, it depends. Which brings us to the case in question here.Nearly two years ago, four public-interest lawyers—Michelle Quintero-Millan, Geoffrey Burkhart, Kate Voigt, and Jamie Rudert—filed suit on their own behalf to defend their access to the PSLF program. As Michael Wyland wrote in NPQ in April 2017, the crux of the suit is that the former law students have claimed “that FedLoan Servicing, which administers the program for the Education Department, issued approval letters that were then rescinded with little or no opportunity to appeal the decision.”As NPQ has noted, broader challenges are also affecting the PSLF program. A 2018 US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that of the over 19,000 who completed the 10-year requirement, only 55 had their debt forgiven. Meanwhile, there are a total 890,000 people who have had their requests for inclusion in the PSLF program approved—meaning that the pipeline is likely to grow over time.Last Friday, Judge Timothy J. Kelly of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled on behalf of three of the four student loan borrowers: Quintero-Millan, Burkhart, and Voigt. However, Rudert was not so lucky. The first three plaintiffs worked for 501c6 legal organizations, while Rudert worked for a 501c19 veterans association.Under the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, implemented in 2007, “Borrowers seeking to get their loans forgiven…must have the right type of federal loan, make 120 on-time payments, enroll in the correct category of repayment plans and work for an eligible public-service employer.”This, however, creates high stakes. Ron Lieber of the New York Times notes that, “people who qualify for entry into the 120-month loan forgiveness pipeline are in income-based repayment plans that don’t even cover all the interest that accrues each month. As a result, their balances grow over time rather than shrinking.”For example, say you had been told your job qualified for student loan forgiveness. As a result, you plan minimum payments, since you expect all of your debt to get waived. But then, it isn’t. The effect can be devastating. For instance, as Kelly pointed out in his ruling, “Quintero-Millan’s total federal student debt has increased from approximately $340,000 when she entered repayment to $430,446.48 as of May 2017.”For its part, the US Education Department argued in court “that the denial letters did not have ‘an immediate or significant practical effect’ on the individual plaintiffs because their ‘eligibility for PSLF’ had not yet been finally determined,’” Kelly noted that this was “nonsense,” since the borrowers’ loan balances were spiraling upward and “they might have needed to change jobs if their current employment was not eligible for loan forgiveness.”Fortunately for Quintero-Millan, Burkhart, and Voigt, the Court ruled, as Lieber explains, that the US Education Department retroactively “had changed two of its policies without properly informing borrowers or considering the impact on the borrowers who were relying on its original guidance. One policy determines whether public service is an organization’s ‘primary purpose,’ and the other relates to whether educational services are provided in a ‘school-like setting’.” This, the Court said, you cannot do.As a result of the ruling, the three borrowers who won the case and all others like them now have grounds to petition the US Education Department to have their eligibility reinstated. (The department’s press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Times.) The issue with Rudert, the fourth plaintiff, involved a different standard: whether his work for paralyzed veterans was at an organization that provides services “outright,” and whether that ought to matter. Kelly ruled that the “outright standard” was an appropriate reading of the program’s rules and that its use in this instance had not represented any actual policy change. Chong Park, a lawyer at Ropes & Gray who represented all the plaintiffs, said he and Rudert would consider their next steps in the coming days.—Steve DubbShare176Tweet3ShareEmail179 Shareslast_img read more

The Associated Press has launched a highdefinitio

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first_imgThe Associated Press has launched a high-definition AP Entertainment news service, the first phase of AP’s HD rollout, which will see all news content available in HD by the second quarter of 2012.The launch of AP Entertainment in HD will be followed by sports news via its joint venture with Sports News Television (SNTV) on 16 January 2012.AP is introducing more than 200 HD cameras, upgraded mobile satellites and enhanced backhaul capabilities to handle HD signals. Video news bureaus have been upgraded to the latest generation of video editing, compression and transmission technologies and HD Master Control Rooms are being constructed in more than 20 locations including London, New York and Washington.last_img

Sundance Channel is expanding its distribution in

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first_imgSundance Channel is expanding its distribution in Poland after its parent company struck a carriage deal with the ‘n’ platform. The deal comes on the eve of the Digital TV Central and Eastern European conference, organised by Informa Telecoms and Media, in Budapest. The carriage deal is the latest struck by AMC/Sundance Channel Global following deals in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Romania, Hungary and Taiwan. The channel is already available via the UPC Polska cable platform in the country.“Poland continues to be a priority market for the expansion of Sundance Channel across central and eastern Europe and we are thrilled that this launch will greatly increase our footprint in the country,” said Bruce Tuchman, president, AMC/Sundance Channel Global.last_img

Remote control specialist Ruwido has launched a ne

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first_imgRemote control specialist Ruwido has launched a new device that offers voice control functionality.Ruwido said the r117 device combines voice control with intuitive navigation. Speech is transmitted in HIVI quality, a high quality voice recognition standard, enabling users to search large content libraries.“Voice technology is an incredible way to search for known content, such as films featuring a favourite actor, which can be accessed with only a few words. The user can say ‘George Clooney’, and this will be transferred to a cloud server, which will then present the different movie options that feature him as an actor. Speech must, however, be used in the right context,” said Ferdinand Maier. “For scrolling through 20,000 VOD titles, the physical element is essential, which is why the r117 is our most intuitive device yet. It provides a patented interaction mechanism technology to create navigation by emotion.”last_img read more

Viewers spent 100 more time watching streamed vid

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first_imgViewers spent 100% more time watching streamed video on tablets and mobile phones than in the previous year, according to a new study by online video firm Ooyala.The firm said that approximately one third of total time users spent watching videos on their tablets last quarter was premium, long-form content running more than 60 minutes.Ooyala also claimed that iPhone users watched twice as much video on their phones than Android users did in 2012.“Streaming video has crossed an inflection point and it’s now a necessary channel for both consumers as well as broadcasters, brands and media companies around the world,” said Jay Fulcher, CEO of Ooyala.Ooyala offers video streaming, analytics and monetisation services for firms like Telstra, ESPN, Miramax and Bloomberg.last_img

Austrian cable operator Liwest is using technology

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first_imgAustrian cable operator Liwest is using technology provider Arris’s CCAP-based E600 converged edge router to deliver 250mbps internet speeds, with plans to offer a 1Gbps service in the future.“At Liwest, we are committed to providing the ultimate broadband experiences to our subscribers,” said Hubert Riedl, vice-president products and services at Liwest. “The Arris E6000 CER offers new levels of density, capacity, and operational efficiency that enable us to expand our bandwidth and capacity and scale to a range of new advanced services that will delight our subscribers.”“The Arris E6000 CER empowers LIWEST to operate smarter networks that deliver the super-fast broadband speeds to attract and retain customers,” said Steve McCaffery, Senior vice-president, EMEA and Asia Pacific, Arris. “The E6000 CER is a proven global solution that uses much less space and power than existing architectures, while delivering remarkable downstream and upstream capacity. Our work with Liwest is a prime example of Arris’s collaboration with customers around the world to usher in the next era of content delivery.”last_img read more

Sophie Turner Laing Former BSkyB content boss Soph

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first_imgSophie Turner LaingFormer BSkyB content boss Sophie Turner Laing has landed what is perhaps the biggest job in global production.She will be CEO of the merged Endemol, Shine Group and Core Media Group TV production giant, which is set to launch as a joint venture between 21st Century Fox and Apollo Global Management.“Pending the parties finalising an agreement to form a joint venture comprised of Endemol, Shine Group and Core Media Group the venture partners today confirmed that Sophie Turner Laing, former managing director of content at BSkyB, would become the new venture’s CEO,” said a 21st Century Fox spokesperson.Her appointment means Endemol CEO Just Spee and Shine’s chief Alex Mahon will exit the company once the merger is complete and the business correctly structured. Both will stay on for a transitional period as operations are integrated. The future of Endemol president Tim Hincks is unclear at this stage.Core’s boss Marc Graboff has already announced his intention to exit once plans are finalised.Insiders had this summer tipped Turner Laing to land the post, with sources noting her links to Fox through its controlling stake in UK satcaster Sky as significant.At Sky, she is credited with overseeing a massive commissioning increase, and the launch of networks such as premium programming channel Sky Atlantic. She left in May this year.Her new role will hand her control of a group that counts Big Brother, MasterChef and American Idol among its format assets. It will also have a major drama production business with Shine’s UK and US producers combining with Endemol’s LA-based Endemol Studios.The size of the group has caused concerns in the UK, where Channel 4 CEO has warned it would have a dominant market cap and BBC director of television Danny Cohen has pushed for changes to terms of trade in the light of its announcement.The merger is also the latest in a series of major mergers and acquisition deals in the production sector. Last week, Discovery Communications and Liberty Global completed their joint venture takeover of All3Media, while Viacom recently bought Channel 5.last_img read more

Mark Zuckerberg Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg predi

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first_imgMark ZuckerbergFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg predicted it will take “at least 10 years” for the Virtual Reality ecosystem to be built out, but said he is confident VR will be an important technology.In an interview for Die Welt newspaper with Mathias Döpfner, the CEO of German media group Axel Springer, Zuckerberg likened the rollout of VR to the development of the smartphone and said “now is the time to invest”.“I honestly don’t know is how long it will take to build this ecosystem. It could be five years, it could be 10 years, it could be 15 or 20. My guess is that it will be at least 10, ” said Zuckerberg in the interview, which was also published in English by Business Insider.“It took 10 years to go from building the initial smartphone to reaching the mass market. BlackBerry came out in 2003 and it didn’t get to about a billion units until 2013.  So I can’t imagine it would be much faster for VR.”Zuckerberg said he could “absolutely” imagine that VR chat would one day be the most frequent type of conversation, and said that “people will always want more immersive ways to express themselves”.The comments come after Zuckerberg said at Mobile World Congress last week that sixty degree video and ultimately virtual reality will become mainstream ways of “sharing experiences” that will drive the next wave of mobile network upgrades.Separately Facebook said last month that it is looking to launch a dedicated video offering as engagement with video content on the service continues to grow.last_img read more