New River Gorge Bridge Day

first_imgFree Fallin’, BASE jumpers highlight Bridge Day in the Gorge.In October of 1980, something incredible happened in West Virginia. Five men donning parachutes walked to the edge of the newly constructed 876-foot-tall New River Gorge Bridge. With policemen, Park Service, and safety professionals looking on in approval, they stepped into oblivion.From these humble beginnings, Bridge Day has grown to over 800 jumps per year and 100,000+ spectators who all come to participate in a celebration of the sport, spectacular fall scenery, and the local community. Although originally started as a way for the general public to walk on the bridge, BASE jumping has taken center stage.Jumpers plunge from diving boards and platforms on the side of the bridge and land in the Fayette Station river access area far below. Safety boats patrol the waters, and spectators can view the whole show from the bridge itself, trails along the rim, or the National Park observation deck at the New River Gorge Visitor Center. It remains one of the most popular legal options for BASE jumping in the U.S., and it shines as an example of how fringe sport enthusiasts and authorities can work together towards a mutually beneficial solution.Summersville local jumper Marcus Ellison has witnessed the spectacle many times since he was a child. There was something about watching people submit to the forces of gravity that resonated with him. At the age of 23, Ellison began skydiving with the intention of moving to the BASE side of the sport. Before he knew it, Bridge Day 2008 had arrived, and he was standing on a platform looking over the chasm with friends and family watching. It was his turn to jump.“It’s a moment of clarity and relaxation,” Ellison explains. “When your feet disconnect from what you are on, there is an unbelievable feeling of release and freedom. That is what I’m after: that instant when you disconnect.”Marcus has disconnected across the country, and has over 300 skydives and nearly 200 BASE jumps to his name. He is drawn to the sport for many reasons, but in no small part because of the dramatic places that it brings him to. His favorite jumps are in massive alpine environments, and are sometimes combined with skiing. This focus on the beauty of the surroundings makes BASE jumping a soulful sport that is more similar to other outdoors pursuits than many think. It doesn’t require the manpower, airline fuel, and permits that skydiving does, and it is almost always a quiet, under-the-radar activity with just a friend or two. Due to the infancy of the sport, the rules of BASE are still being written.Bridge Day is hardly a normal day for these jumpers. In spite of the fanfare, lines, and spectators, it is often the only opportunity every year to reconnect with friends from across the planet. It’s a perfect chance for first-time jumpers to meet and learn from the legends of the sport. Personalities like Red Bull athlete Miles Daisher, oil rig lifestyler Chris McDougall, and wildman Jeb Corliss can be seen in the lineup, and are quick to give high fives and trade stories with aspiring young athletes.Jason Bell, BASE Coordinator for Bridge Day, says that it is without a doubt the best day for skydivers to make their first BASE jump. “We have over 100 first-timers every year, and due to setting, the system that we have developed, and the safety measures in place, it is a perfect way to get into the sport.”Rookies feel confident at Bridge Day for several reasons. First of all, it is the third tallest bridge in the U.S., and the more time that jumpers have to deal with the unexpected, the better. Jumping from a bridge also eliminates the danger of colliding with  a cliff or other standing structures should the jumper spin and open the chute the wrong way. The primary landing area is a deep river, and rescue boats are constantly fishing jumpers out of the water. Finally, there are ambulances and other safety personnel and technology at the bottom, ready to deal with injury. On the logistical side, Bell and his team vet applicants through interview questions, and there are two gear checks for all jumpers before they are allowed to queue up for freefall.While it’s appealing to beginners, advanced athletes can also get excited about Bridge Day 2012, and its newest creation: The Human Catapult. A mechanical engineer by trade, Bell envisioned and designed a mechanism that is capable of launching jumpers 20 feet vertically and 50 feet horizontally over the edge of the bridge during Bridge Day. This addition will augment the already classic launch platform and diving board options for jumpers, and will be mixed in to the other two as participants jump on 20-25 second intervals.BASE jumpers often struggle with being labeled as adrenaline junkies and daredevils. Just like any sport, there are those who take it to its limits, but the vast majority are there for the experience and the camaraderie.  “BASE jumping is what you want it to be,” says Ellison. “It can be the craziest, scariest, most sketchball thing you could ever do, or it can be the foundation for some of the most joyful moments of your life.”Jason describes his personal fascination with the sport, and touches on the fact that it is still an incredible and vivid experience, even after over 500 jumps. “From the powerful acceleration of the jump, to the peacefulness of flying the chute, and finally the satisfaction of landing back on earth, there is nothing else like it. You realize that it is an experience that very few people will have, and it’s almost as if you are privy to a secret.” •DateOCTOBER 20, 2012Hours9:00 AM – 3:00 PMLocationNew River Gorge Bridge,Fayetteville, W.Va.Website [email protected]/TjhUfiOther ActivitiesRappelling, highlining, car show, music, chili/cornbread cookofflast_img read more

Junglas: The Narcos’ Worst Nightmare

first_img WE NEED THEM URGENTLY IN ARGENTINA, EVEN THOUGH THEY WOULDN’T LET THEM IN. THE “KINGPINS” HAVE POLITICAL POWER, THIS IS A VERY PROFITABLE BUSINESS FOR THE “VULTURES IN THE LOCAL GOVERNMENTS”. It’s scary to find out what’s going on in the world through your network, which is very good Congratulations for having so much courage. May God bless you always. They are definitely the best. THE JUNGLE COMMANDOES OF THE COLOMBIAN NATIONAL POLICE do honor to their slogan “HONOR AND GLORY FOREVER” Thank you woman greetings to you too from one of the commandos It is 37 degrees Celsius under a cloudless sky in Los Pijaos; the sun’s rays beat down as sweat trickles down the faces of a group of policemen that are training in a fast-rope descent exercise. Fully armed, dressed in combat uniforms and wearing thick, black gloves they hurry up a 60-foot tower to then bring themselves down as fast as they can, keeping in check all the security measures and proper procedures their U.S. Army Special Forces counterparts have been teaching them for the last hour. Among mountains, plains and ravines bordering the Coello River, they are practicing some of the tactics used during the stealthy interdiction operations that this elite Colombian police force is known for. The Counter-narcotics Jungla Company is a select Special Operations force known for flying over Colombia’s thick jungles in the middle of the night, in search of clandestine cocaine processing laboratories owned and operated by illegal armed groups of narco-terrorists, such as the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia. As what can be best described as a militarized police unit, the Junglas airmobile narcotics interdiction commando is the operational arm of the Colombian National Police (CNP), and falls under its Antinarcotics Directorate (DIRAN). Home base is the 17,001-hectare finca Los Pijaos, a natural fort-like structure located deep in the heart of Colombia, where the CNP’s National Training and Police Operations School headquarters –CENOP, was established in 2008. “Our country’s unique circumstances force us to respond to the need for having a militarized police force”, said Police Colonel Jorge Luis Ramírez Aragón, CENOP base commander, during a visit by Diálogo to what’s known as the “fort.” CNP launched the first national Jungla course in 1989, with support from the United States and the United Kingdom’s Special Air Service, part of the British Special Forces. The course lasted six months, and taught the group of specially selected Police members the skills needed to survive for a week alone in the jungle, among other tactics. Nowadays, the training focuses on dismounted patrolling, night operations, medical trauma management, designated marksmanship, close-quarters combat, airmobile missions, counter-Improvised Explosive Device operations, and capturing High-Value Targets (HVTs) –all of them skills that are put to the test during their signature interdiction missions. The basic Jungla Commando course lasts 18 weeks and a typical day’s activities may include conducting raids to capture HVTs, or destroying or seizing processing labs, narcotics caches, and stockpiles of precursor chemicals. Reaching these remote locations involves surreptitious and carefully planned operations for which each member of the unit carries a heavy load of weapons and tools across various kilometers through water, marshes and the Colombian jungle’s extreme heat. Recruits must be active policemen with at least two years in the force before they can be selected to train as a Jungla, a professional opportunity for which police members volunteer and which many view as a calling. The Jungla Training Company First Sergeant, an instructor for the past 20 years, explained to Diálogo, that as instructors, they seek out Jungla trainees that “will not challenge their mission, but look for a solution instead”. As a veteran instructor, the First Sergeant also helps develop the medic course for advanced Junglas, including rural tactical operations in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada, the Amazon and the Cauca region. Following the intense training of the basic course, Junglas then move on to more specialized and advanced courses in a field of their choice. The Junglas table of organization and equipment calls for over 600 policemen in three companies: Facatativá, on the outskirts of Bogotá; Santa Marta, on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia, and Tuluá, in the east, in addition to 65 instructors based at the CNP training center in Pijaos. Within each Jungla company there are three platoon-sized elements, each comprised of squad-sized elements of 10 members, each of whom carries a 35-to-45-lb. load of equipment on each of their heliported missions, and has a very specific role. Working off intelligence packets provided by the DIRAN intelligence directorate, they are positioned strategically to work as a mobile assault assembly line of sorts, where each member is of vital importance to the rest of the team, but has independent responsibilities from the rest. Throughout the years, the skills and strengths developed by this group has resulted in a decreased availability of drugs and the capture of numerous narco-terrorists wanted in Colombia. In April 2009, for example, special reconnaissance teams of Junglas and members of the CNP’s intelligence directorate captured Daniel “Don Mario” Rendón Herrera, one of Colombia’s most wanted narco-trafficker at the time. And in 2011, DIRAN destroyed 813 coca base production facilities, as well as 100 cocaine hydrochloride labs, in which cocaine paste or cocaine base is manufactured into the crystal form of cocaine that is most commonly sold illicitly. Beyond Colombia’s Jungle Since 1994, there have been 23 national courses, 10 international courses and 10 courses for instructors only, all of which have included the participation of the security forces of 19 countries. Since 2009 alone, over 1,500 international students have been trained by the CNP, many at the CENOP base, and over 8,000 by mobile instructor teams outside of Colombia. Each class begins with anywhere from 70 to 110 students, and has an average graduation rate of about 70 percent, according to Mayor Carlos Reyes, commander of the Jungla Instructor Company. Maj. Reyes told Diálogo that because of its unique history and experience, the CNP has collaborated to improve Latin American counter-narcotics operations and other law enforcement actions against crime throughout the hemisphere. “CNP is the world’s Jungla [soldiers] factory…” said Col. Ramírez Aragón. By Dialogo October 01, 2012last_img read more

Panama Combats Human Trafficking

first_imgBy Roberto López Dubois / Diálogo February 03, 2017 The country of four million people is visited by more than 13 million travelers every year. A decade from now, it is likely that about 33 million people will visit Panama each year, according to statistics from Tocumen, S.A., the international airport’s management company. While thousands of travelers arrive daily at Tocumen International Airport, in 2016 almost 20,000 people illegally passed through the country’s Darién jungle on their way to North America. Human trafficking networks take advantage of this massive movement of travelers to bring young people into the country. Most are women who have been tricked and taken from their environments to be enslaved, some to work as domestic workers, and others in prostitution. In the past 48 months, Panamanian authorities dismantled 12 human trafficking networks and freed 120 kidnapped victims, according to Rodrigo García, secretary general of the national coalition of institutions that combat this scourge in Panama and president of the Regional Coalition Against Human Trafficking, to Diálogo. “The alleged perpetrators were turned over to the court system for processing, and the young people received humanitarian aid to move on with their lives,” García said International networks The tentacles of these transnational crime networks reach into their victims’ countries of origin and into their neighborhoods. They know their immediate environment and they use this information to trick their victims with offers of a career in the arts in countries like Panama, where the dollar is used as legal tender. The young people enter the country as tourists, but once in Panama the traffickers confiscate their identity documents and force them to engage in prostitution to defray the cost of transportation, room and board, and other costs the traffickers incurred on their behalf and for which they are charged extremely high sums of money. Local organizations Trapped in a foreign country without legal status, the women have no other choice but to submit. The trafficking networks offer these women’s sexual services on the internet. They often meet clients in places provided by the traffickers, who charge their victims for the use of the facilities. Panamanian law facilitates the prosecution of this type of crime and the country recently began drafting legislation “which will allow for streamlining the work of people who prosecute this crime,” García explained. The country is working “on the construction of a shelter that will give the victims the support they need after their rescue, while the authorities investigate their case,” he said. International cooperation According to García, international cooperation is very important, and the regional coalition comprising the Central American countries, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic, plays a big role. “Investigative units are represented in this coalition, which allows for direct communication and facilitates investigations in the different countries. This makes the combat against these multinational networks more effective,” García said. He added that some South American countries, such as Peru, are interested in forming a coalition in the southern region of the Americas to confront this scourge. Professional immigration service “An important step in the fight against immigration-related crimes is to give the same status to immigration officers as to other members of Panama’s security services,” Miguel López Cedeño, deputy director of the National Immigration Service, told Diálogo. Immigration officers now have the same training as members of the security forces and are paid the same, providing them with a stronger sense of belonging, which allows for a more efficient fight against crime. Likewise, the institution’s technological platform has been improved with information technology used in the United States, “which allows for more effective checks of travelers coming to Panama. By these means, the immigration authorities can streamline their exchange of information with other countries, which allows for a more efficient fight against crime,” López said. Immigration officers have also received training from the United States Embassy in Panama, which keeps personnel constantly updated. Panamanian authorities qualify the country’s efforts to slow transnational crime as positive. They also stressed the importance of working with their counterparts from other countries to stop criminals trying to use the region for illicit activity.last_img read more

Compliance: FinCEN launches ‘FinCEN Exchange’

first_imgThe Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) launched a new program last week, FinCEN Exchange, in an effort to enhance information sharing between law enforcement and financial institutions.Credit union participation in the program is voluntary, and the program does not introduce any new regulatory requirements.As part of this program, FinCEN will convene regular briefings with financial institutions to exchange information on “priority illicit finance” and national security threats to:Enable financial institutions to better identify Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering (BSA/AML) risks and focus on high priority issues; and continue reading » 9SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img

Why credit unions need to dial up their brands

first_imgMany credit unions are marketing meaningless, stale brands.Simply look at some of the brand messages credit unions push in their marketing today. One claims to be the “friendly place,” while another boasts the length of time it’s been serving the community, and then there’s the one telling everyone the credit union “stands prepared” to be the member’s “business partner” because it now offers business loans. (Yawn.) True? Yes. Noteworthy or unique? No.Promoting such weak brands is a waste of marketing dollars and actually does the brand more harm than good, because it tells current and potential members that the credit union has nothing special to offer beyond the standard products and services that can be found at just about any financial institution. continue reading » ShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

Tycoon and a tea-seller’s son: Trump, Modi forge bonhomie

first_imgIn Gujarat’s capital Ahmedabad, large billboards with the words “two dynamic personalities, one momentous occasion” and “two strong nations, one great friendship” have gone up across the city.”There’s a lot that Trump and Modi share in common, and not surprisingly these convergences have translated into a warm chemistry between the two,” Michael Kugelman of the Washington-based Wilson Center told AFP.”Personality politics are a major part of international diplomacy today. The idea of closed-door dialogue between top leaders has often taken a backseat to very public and spectacle-laden summitry.”Since assuming the top political office in their respective countries — Modi in 2014 and Trump in 2017 — the two men have been regularly compared to each other. They hail from vastly different backgrounds — Donald Trump is the son of a property tycoon while Narendra Modi is a descendant of a poor tea-seller.Yet the two teetotallers, loved by right-wing nationalists in their home countries, share striking similarities that have seen them forge a close personal bond, analysts say.Ahead of the American leader’s first official visit to India, which begins in Modi’s home state of Gujarat on Monday, the world’s biggest democracy has gone out of its way to showcase the chemistry between them. Trump, 73, and Modi, 69, both command crowds of adoring flag-waving supporters at rallies. A virtual cult of personality has emerged around them, with their faces and names at the centre of their political parties’ campaigns.Nationalist, protectionist A focus of Trump’s administration has been his crackdown on migrants, including a travel ban that affects several Muslim-majority nations, among others, while critics charge that Modi has sought to differentiate Muslims from other immigrants through a contentious citizenship law that has sparked protests.Both promote their countries’ nationalist and trade protectionist movements — Trump with his “America First” clarion call and Modi with his “Make in India” mantra.And while they head the world’s largest democracies, critics have described the pair as part of a global club of strongmen that includes Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro.”There are many qualities that Trump and Modi share — a love for political grandstanding and an unshakable conviction that they can achieve the best solutions or deals,” former Indian diplomat Rakesh Sood told AFP.Modi and Trump have sought to use their friendship to forge closer bonds between the two nations, even as they grapple with ongoing tensions over trade and defence.Despite sharing many similarities in style and substance, analysts say there are some notable differences between the pair.Modi is an insider who rose through the ranks of the Bharatiya Janata Party after starting out as a cadre in the militaristic hardline Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.Trump is a businessman and a political outsider who has in some sense taken over the Republican Party.”Modi is a more conventional leader than is Trump in that he hasn’t sought to revolutionise the office he holds in the way that Trump has,” said Kugelman, a longtime observer of South Asian politics.He added that genuine personal connections between leaders of both countries have helped to grow the partnership. “George Bush and Manmohan Singh, Barack Obama and Singh, Obama and Modi, now Modi and Trump — there has been a strong chemistry in all these pairings that has clearly helped the relationship move forward,” he added.Trump has also stood by the Indian leader during controversial decisions, including his revocation of autonomy for Muslim-majority Kashmir and his order for jets to enter Pakistani territory following a suicide bombing.Analysts said the leaders would use the visit to bolster their image with voters. A mega “Namaste Trump” rally in Ahmedabad on Monday will be modelled after the “Howdy, Modi” Houston extravaganza last year when the Indian leader visited the US and the two leaders appeared before tens of thousands of Indian-Americans at a football stadium.”The success of this visit… will have a positive impact on his (Trump’s) re-election campaign and the people of Indian origin who are voters in the US — a majority of them are from Gujarat,” former Indian diplomat Surendra Kumar told AFP.”On the Indian side, the fact that Prime Minister Modi… (shares) such warmth, bonhomie and informality with the most powerful man on Earth adds to his stature… as well as with hardcore supporters.”Topics :last_img read more

‘If you love them, don’t go home’: Urban migrants decide to stay put amid COVID-19

first_imgFor many Indonesians, family is among the first people we turn to for support and comfort when the going gets tough, but as the COVID-19 pandemic keeps more and more people home for work and school, urban migrants in Jakarta have been asked to refrain from returning to their hometowns to prevent the outbreak from spreading farther across the country.President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo called on all citizens last week to work, study and worship from home to help slow the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.Indonesia has reported 790 confirmed cases to date and the numbers continue to rise each day. By Wednesday afternoon, 31 out of the 58 deaths across the nation were residents of Jakarta, which has emerged as the epicenter of the outbreak in Indonesia. “My mom is having chemotherapy right now for Stage IV breast cancer and she is immunocompromised. I would not forgive myself if anything happened to her just because I couldn’t stay put in Jakarta,” she told The Jakarta Post on Saturday. “I don’t want to potentially carry a virus back to my hometown.”Cynthia, who declined to give her family name, said she understood her colleagues who had decided to go back to their hometowns for fear of being quarantined all alone, or just to be with their families during these unprecedented and stressful times.“That being said, it doesn’t erase the fact that it is selfish and is putting others at risk. If I can stay away from my sick mom, so can you. But then again, it boils down to what they consider to be important,” she noted.Public health expert Sudirman Nasir said that it was important for people – and especially youngsters – to understand that although they might feel healthy or are not showing any symptoms associated with the disease, they can still be carriers of the virus and infect others.For people who had traveled far from home for work or study, this meant that they must avoid returning to their hometowns in the midst of the outbreak, said the lecturer from Hasanuddin University in Makassar, South Sulawesi, who is now offering his lectures online for as long as the study-from-home policy remains in place. Sudirman added that he never tired of telling those who lived far from home to stay put in Makassar.“If you love them, then don’t go home, especially if your parents and relatives who have comorbidities [additional health conditions] or are above 65 years old. You can use technology to communicate with them for the time being,” he told the Post. “It is pivotal to practice [physical] distancing and avoid travel.”Separately, 31-year-old Yodie Hardiyam admitted to being a little worried that he might have put his family’s lives in danger, although he had no idea whether he was a carrier. An employee of a company based in Jakarta, he did not think about the possible consequences of a brief trip he recently took to see his family in Salatiga, Central Java.“I’m worried because [my parents] are now over 60 years old,” Yodie said. “We keep tabs on each other every day to see how we’re doing. Alhamdulillah [Praise be to God] we are all healthy so far, and I am grateful for that.”Looking at the worsening conditions in Jakarta and across the country, Yodie has considered scrapping this year’s plans to take mudik – the annual exodus that millions of Indonesians make to reunite with their families in their hometowns for Idul Fitri.The two-day Islamic holiday is expected to fall on May 24 to 25 this year, while the holy fasting month of Ramadan is likely to start around April 24.Chenny, 25, another employee based in Jakarta, said that most of her relatives in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, had already canceled their flights to Semarang.The city in Central Java is where her grandmother lives, and where the entire family gathers every year for Idul Fitri.“We had already bought our tickets for Idul Fitri, but we decided to cancel them. Our grandmother is really old and we don’t want to take any chances in any way and infect her,” she said.Syahrizal Syarief, an epidemiologist at the University of Indonesia, said that the most dangerous thing about returning to one’s hometown or going on mudik during the outbreak was that people would ultimately flock to public transportation hubs – the worst possible place to be if the aim was to contain the virus’ spread.Syahrizal urged the government to issue a much stronger policy to avoid this mass movement of people. This was particularly vital because he believed that people would not wait until Ramadan to return to their hometowns, especially those who were financially affected by the physical distancing or the work-from-home policy.“Living costs are more expensive in Jakarta than they are back in rural areas. [People] most definitely won’t wait until the fasting month to go home,” he said.As the number of scheduled trips continue to dwindle, the Transportation Ministry is mulling whether to restrict or even ban this year’s mudik to cut down on mass gatherings.Meanwhile, railway companies are already feeling the adverse effects of the COVID-19 outbreak.Vice president for public relations Yuskal Setiawan at PT Kereta Api Indonesia (KAI), when contacted by the Post on Saturday, said that the state-owned railway company had seen a 46 percent decline in bookings for long-distance journeys since the outbreak emerged. Yuskal expected the downward trend to continue [at least] until Ramadan. “Demand is low and many passengers have canceled their trips,” he said.Topics : While many people still refuse to listen to the government and thereby put themselves and others at risk of infection, other people have chosen to stay put – not only for their own safety, but also for the safety of their loved ones.Wednesday marked the 10th day of self-isolation for Cynthia, a 25-year-old start-up content editor who lives in a rented room in Jakarta, far from her family in Medan, North Sumatra.Following the news closely from their home, Cynthia’s parents have asked her to return to Medan, worried about their daughter living alone in the capital that has been hardest hit by the outbreak.Although she really wanted to go back to be with her family and to take care of her mother, Cynthia has decided to stay in Jakarta – at least until the outbreak subsides. She understands that older adults and people with chronic or underlying medical conditions are at a higher risk of infection, or even dying from COVID-19.last_img read more

Thailand’s economy shrinks most in more than 20 years

first_imgSome 40 million tourists were expected to arrive in the kingdom this year but the travel industry was the first casualty when pandemic lockdowns went into effect globally in March. The absence of visitors was felt in the country’s services sector, bruising entertainment, retail, hotels and restaurants, according to the NESDC. The government has attempted to boost domestic tourism, putting aside a portion of a record financial stimulus passed in May to fund travel. But Thai bank Krungsri said in a note released last week that the sector will “remain weak due to near-zero foreign tourists and lower domestic purchasing power”. The kingdom’s freefalling economy has been a catalyst for nationwide near-daily protests by student-led demonstrators, denouncing the administration of premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha, a former military chief who led a 2014 coup. Government figures predict the pandemic could leave 8.4 million jobless, eviscerating gains made over the past two decades. Topics : Thailand’s economy suffered its worst contraction since the Asian financial crisis more than two decades ago, data showed Monday, as the coronavirus shattered the country’s crucial tourism industry.The kingdom has largely escaped the worst of the disease — registering 3,300 cases and 58 deaths despite being the first country outside China to register an infection in January. But pandemic-spurred lockdowns brought the economy to a staggering halt, shrinking 12.2 percent in the second quarter growth, according to the Office of National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC).  The outbreak “has made our economy fall by 12.2 percent, lower than during the Tom Yum Kung crisis”, said secretary-general Thosaporn Sirisumphand, using the local name for the Asian Financial Crisis that struck in 1998. The economy shrank 12.5 percent in the second quarter of that year. The NESDC forecast a 7.5 percent contraction in 2020.The slump is “not as dramatic as some regional peers”, said economist Alex Holmes at Singapore-based Capital Economics, pointing out Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines saw worse readings. But “the outlook remains one of the worst in the region because of Thailand’s reliance on tourism”, he told AFP. last_img read more

European authorities allow leeway on new derivatives rules

first_img*The European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA), European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), and European Banking Authority (EBA) “This approach does not entail a general forbearance,” they said.To meet the new rules pension funds and other institutions have to update legal documentation such as credit support annexes (CSAs), contracts covering derivatives arrangements between counterparties. There are thousands of such documents in existence covering derivatives trades in funds and liability-driven investment strategies.PensionsEurope welcomed the announcement by the ESAs, saying that getting the documentation in place by the March deadline was “a significant challenge” and that pension funds and their service providers in many countries were struggling to do so.Úrsula Bordas, policy advisor at the trade association, said: “A strict interpretation of the compliance rule would mean that many pension funds would have a limited access to liquidity as they would have a limited number of banks with whom to trade and this could significantly impact their ability to hedge risks.”PensionsEurope “hopes national authorities will further explain their approach to compliance for the next months to pension funds and their service providers”, she added.A head of clearing at a European bank told IPE that, if a pension fund or any other financial institution was not able to get new CSAs in place in time, “it looks as though [it] will be left up to individual counterparties to decide if they want to cease trading, and how forgiving their supervisor will be if they don’t”.The picture was mixed as to how supervisors would proceed, and some sort of materiality would be considered, the banker added.The ESAs said national regulators should “take into account the size of the exposure to the counterparty plus its default risk” when making enforcement decisions. The UK regulator set out its approach to enforcement, or “supervision of firms’ progress”, in a statement yesterday.The banker cited an expectation that, at best, 50% of agreements will be re-negotiated and in place by the March deadline, leaving “a significant gap still to be re-negotiated”.The ESAs did not hide their displeasure at having to make yesterday’s announcement, noting that “[t]he timeline for implementation has been known in EU since 2015, and it is unfortunate that the financial industry has not managed to prepare for the implementation”.“Furthermore, a delay of 9 months was already granted by BSBC-IOSCO in 2015 on the basis of similar arguments from the industry,” they added. “That delay was agreed with the clear expectation that the financial industry would be ready to prepare the implementation within two years.”The ESAs’ announcement comes after the US derivatives regulator earlier this month issued a “no action” letter, providing a grace period on the collateral rule. In their statement, the ESAs noted that they have no mandate to disapply directly applicable EU law.US regulators and IOSCO, the international umbrella organisation for securities regulators, also made announcements yesterday acknowledging that industry may not be able to complete the necessary documentation to be able to fully comply with the variation margin requirements by the scheduled deadline of 1 March. Both agreed that there should be some leeway.Pension funds recently obtained an extension of their exemption from a requirement to centrally clear OTC derivatives, with this now lasting until August 2018.  Pension funds and other financial institutions look set for potential reprieve from strict enforcement of new derivatives rules following an announcement by the European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs) yesterday.The statement concerns a 1 March deadline for rules requiring variation margin to be posted as collateral to cover counterparty risk in non-cleared, over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives.In a joint statement, the ESAs* said they “have been made aware of operational challenges” in meeting the deadline. Although they did not explicitly refer to small pension funds, they noted that smaller counterparties in particular were having difficulties.They effectively granted national regulators discretion not to strictly enforce compliance with the new rules, saying that they can assess “the degree of compliance and progress” on a case-by-case basis.last_img read more

Dutch Hewlett Packard scheme dumps hedge funds, scales back equities

first_imgThe Hewlett Packard scheme, which reported an annual loss of 1.3%, added that it was still seeking a new manager for its credit mandate.As it still had to decide whether the mandate would focus on European or global credit as well as on whether to be actively or passively managed, it would address the issue in a new ALM study this year, it indicated.The scheme has hedged 60% of the interest risk on liabilities, and said it would consider raising the cover to 80% if its funding – 110.2% at the end of last July – exceeded 120%, it said.It has fully hedged the currency risk of its holdings in US dollars, sterling and yen in its return portfolio.Administration costs up as supervisor demands heededThe scheme’s administration costs rose 40% to €680 per participant, which Marcel Lasonder, the pension fund’s chairman, attributed largely to the implementation of an instruction from supervisor De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB).He said the watchdog had not been satisfied with the scheme’s improvement in risk analysis and non-financial risk policy it had recommended in 2015.According to Lasonder, DNB had also concluded that the scheme’s board had not provided the pensions provider with sufficient guidance.Speaking to Dutch pensions publication Pensioen Pro, Lasonder said he could not specify the material improvements the pension fund had made, but noted that it had not received any complaints from members in the past.Lasonder said that the costs increase had also been due to the scheme responding to three participating employers’ desire for clarity about their individual assets in the pension fund as well as the coverage ratio per “compartment”.The Hewlett Packard scheme has 1,375 active participants, 6,355 deferred members and 2,325 pensioners. The €2bn Dutch pension fund of Hewlett Packard said it had divested its hedge funds holdings and had invested in Dutch residential mortgages at the expense of global bonds.In its annual report for 2018, it also said it had sold part of its stake in developed equities in favour of indirect real estate, and had replaced asset-backed securities with credit.The changes came in the wake of an asset-liability (ALM) study conducted in 2015, which had led to a matching portfolio comprising holdings in BlackRock liability-matching funds (40% of the scheme’s total portfolio), European credit (5%) and mortgages (10%).The strategic asset mix in the scheme’s return portfolio now consists of global equity (20%), emerging market equities (7.5%), indirect real estate (7.5%) as well as emerging market debt and high yield credit, with 5% each.last_img read more