Panama Canal’s Expansion to Include Significant Security Upgrade

first_img The Panama Canal expansion project, which involves significant U.S., Chinese and Japanese investment, employs more than 40,000 people. Several regional economic and trade experts predict that revenue earned from the canal expansion turn Panama into Central America’s first “developed” country. “The expansion, by allowing post-Panamax ships to enter, will give an advantage to other countries in the Americas that will see a greater possibility of connection through Panama,” said Ricardo Sanchez of the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. “The Panamanian economy will likely thrive.” More ships, more high-tech security Adibel said that Panama has “always been a transit nation.” And Latin America’s narrowest country has always been one of its most vital, providing a link between South America and North America. But with voluminous transit come large security responsibilities, Adibel said. The region surrounding Panama to the north and south is the source of much of the world’s cocaine. Southern neighbors Colombia and Venezuela, as well as Panama and all Central American nations to the north, are on the U.S. State Department’s list of the world’s 22 major drug-trafficking countries. With that in mind, the Panamanian government, the country’s security forces and the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP in Spanish) have jointly designed a high-tech security system to accompany the expansion project. Roberto Linares, the AMP’s administrator, said a digital ship registry has been designed to give Panamanian authorities access to maritime bureaus around the world. Using that registry, canal officials will be able to view the identification numbers, licenses, country of origin, cargo and travel routes of more than 9,000 international vessels. “The registry eases the process for ships passing through the canal and allows us to monitor the history and travels of all cargo and shipments that arrive at the canal,” Linares said. A central contributor to the canal’s cargo monitoring scheme is the Absolute Maritime Tracking System (AMTS), which has designed tracking systems to improve maritime security, anti-piracy countermeasures and environmental protection. The company has agents in more than 90 countries and monitor major shipping centers every day, every hour of the year. AMTS uses digital tracking and surveillance to monitor the course, speed and position of vessels. Any deviations or oddities in transport are flagged and reported to the AMP. Joint security efforts at the canal Aside from the digital monitoring systems in place, physical surveillance and canal vigilance are provided by Panama’s security forces with assistance from several other countries including the United States. Since 2003, the U.S. and Panamanian governments have held annual security meetings known as Fuerzas Aliadas PANAMAX (Allied Forces PANAMAX), which are 10-day to two week seminars centered on protecting the canal from drug trafficking, crime and terrorist threats. At the first PANAMAX demonstration exercises in 2003, only three countries participated. By 2011, more than 3,500 military personnel from 16 countries took part in live and simulated training scenarios in Panama and off U.S. coastal bases. “The security threats of drug trafficking and crime in the region are continuing to grow, and transportation methods are always evolving. Seventy percent of crimes in Central America are now directly linked to drug trafficking,” said Panamanian Vice President Juan Carlos Varela. “This reinforced focus on maritime security will help governments in the region to tackle the common threat of organized crime.” At the annual PANAMAX demonstrations, security officials are instructed on how to spot potential maritime, air, land, space and cyber threats in the vicinity of the canal. Security officers are trained how to locate and diffuse a threat, often through a board, search and seizure procedure. Varela noted that since more than 5 percent of the world’s trade passes through the Panama Canal, “it is imperative that all international security forces work together to assure safe travel of cargo.” UNODC assists with container surveillance In 2010, the United Nations joined canal security efforts, launching the Center of Excellence on Maritime Security through its UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The center focuses its efforts on shipping container surveillance to confiscate and prevent illicit and counterfeit goods from entering markets through seaports. “Better container security can raise the risks and lower the benefits to organized crime,” said Francis Maertens, deputy executive director of UNODC during a visit to the port of Balboa. He noted that less than 2 percent of the 420 million shipping containers used annually worldwide are inspected, meaning better opportunities for drug trafficking and illicit cargo. “Thanks to improved intelligence and information-sharing, in just seven months Panamanian authorities managed to confiscate 146 containers transporting drugs and counterfeit goods, with a value of over $20 million,” Maertens said in 2011. As the canal expands and more ships and cargo pass between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, increased security will be crucial to ensuring prosperity for Panama’s biggest undertaking ever. “The canal is the heart of Panama’s future and a vital part of the world’s economic circulatory system,” Adibel said. “It’s good to see that Panama and much of the region is taking the proper steps make sure the expansion is secure.” By Dialogo May 14, 2012 PANAMA CITY — The Western Hemisphere’s most vital commercial waterway is undergoing a historic makeover. The 51-mile-long Panama Canal is being widened, deepened and modernized to allow the world’s largest containerships, known as post-Panamax tankers, to pass through the inter-oceanic channel. The ambitious project, which began in 2007, will require $5.25 billion in investment and security upgrades by the time it’s completed in late 2014. “This is the most revolutionary expansion in the canal’s history,” said Rodolfo Sabonge, vice-president of research and market analysis at the Panama Canal Authority. “The expansion will affect both ends, origin and destination, because the economies of scale of using larger ships will benefit the whole supply chain. Liner services will likely decrease as the large vessels will be able to carry more than twice as many containers onboard.” Construction activities on and around the canal are proceeding at a dizzying pace. Along the flanks of the channel and near both canal mouths at the oceans, thousands of workers toil in the tropical heat — drilling, digging and dredging as Mack trucks and giant tow trucks transport concrete and building materials from one place to another. “It’s the first real project that Panama will be able to claim as its own since taking control of the canal in 1999,” said Julio Adibel, administrator of Panama Canal Authority, interviewed by Diálogo during a tour of the canal in April. Project to boost employment, standard of living For nearly a century, the Panama Canal was owned and operated by the U.S. government, which constructed the transoceanic channel from 1904 to 1918. In 2006, seven years after taking back ownership of the canal, Panamanian voters approved a referendum to expand the canal to keep pace with the growing volume of cargo passing through each year. In 2011, more than 320 million tons of cargo transited the canal, according to official figures, up from 205 million tons the year before. The newly carved expansion route will be more efficient and direct, and have almost double the amount of cargo capacity of the canal. A third set of locks — which are used to lift and lower ships as they pass through the freshwater channel — will be added. The new locks will have deeper docking areas, offer an additional lane for more ship transit, and come equipped with sliding doors to expedite the transfer process. last_img read more

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Keep holidays merry, avoid being hacked with tips from CUNA

first_img 11SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr To help consumers avoid fraud this holiday season, and every season, the Credit Union National Association released a list of helpful tips to keep their personal information out of the hands of criminals.“With the immense number of data breaches that occurred at retailers in 2014, and a grim forecast for 2015, it’s essential to arm consumers with tips they need to protect themselves,” said CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle. “Knowing how to protect yourself from hackers, and what to do if you get hacked, can help you keep your hard-earned money and give you peace of mind.”CUNA’s www.StoptheDataBreaches.com contains a list of helpful ways for consumers to remain vigilant and protect their personal data when shopping in retail stores and online, including:Don’t respond to email, texts or telephone calls asking for personal or financial information;Frequently review account activity and immediately report unauthorized transactions;Place an initial fraud alert with credit bureaus if fraud has occurred;Enroll and opt-in for transaction monitoring;Use card on/off switches (if available); andEnroll in Verified by VISA/MasterCard Secure Code. continue reading »last_img read more

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NAFCU raises overtime proposal concerns with lawmakers

first_img 4SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr NAFCU Executive Vice President of Government Affairs and General Counsel Carrie Hunt raised concerns Tuesday about potential unintended consequences from the Labor Department’s overtime proposal in a letter to the leaders of the Senate Small Business Committee.In advance of the committee’s hearing on the proposed rule today, Hunt noted NAFCU’s concerns about how credit unions might be disproportionately burdened by the rule.“We are concerned that the effect of more than doubling the minimum overtime exempt salary would be to disproportionately burden credit unions in underserved and non-urban communities,” Hunt wrote. “Additionally, NAFCU has concerns that the DOL’s proposal fails to adequately consider the needs of small businesses, including credit unions around the country which operate with extremely low financial margins in a highly competitive service-driven marketplace.” continue reading »last_img read more

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CUNA monitoring Equifax data breach impacting 143M consumers

first_img continue reading » Credit bureau Equifax announced Thursday it experienced a cybersecurity incident potentially impacting as many as 143 million American consumers. CUNA is monitoring the situation and working with other financial trade groups to assess if the situation will affect financial institutions.According to the company, it has found no evidence of unauthorized activity on Equifax’s core consumer or commercial credit reporting databases.The information accessed primarily includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers.In addition, Equifax believes hackers accessed:Credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 U.S. consumers; and 9SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

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Surveys show rising health care costs affect retirement savings—HSAs are a solution

first_imgLike many Americans, Gavin Smith’s employer is offering only a high deductible health plan (HDHP) next year. Having two active sons and knowing the HDHP has higher out-of-pocket amounts, he is worried about having enough money to pay the medical bills. Gavin decides to reduce the amount he saves for retirement to help free up more money for health care costs.A recent survey by Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI)/Greenwald & Associates shows that Gavin is not the only worker making a choice like this. Some workers are sacrificing their retirement security to meet their potential medical expense obligations. Unfortunately, this only shifts the financial burden from health care to retirement readiness.While HDHP enrollment continues to grow, some workers and employers may not realize how health savings accounts—a component of HDHPs—can reduce their financial concern. Workers save money using tax-free HSA distributions for qualified medical expenses. And similar to retirement plans, many employers help fund their workers’ HSAs to encourage HDHP enrollment, which is a cost savings for employers and workers alike.Worker DissatisfactionThe Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI)/Greenwald & Associates recently released the 2016 Health and Voluntary Workplace Benefits Survey (WBS), which shows that some workers are sacrificing their retirement security in response to rising health care costs. The survey included 1,500 workers between ages 21–64. The results show, among other things, that some workers are reducing their retirement plan contributions, taking loans and withdrawals from their retirement savings, or delaying retirement.28 percent of workers who reported an increase in health plan costs decreased their retirement plan contributions, and 48 percent have decreased their contributions to other savings.12 percent took a loan or withdrawal from their retirement plan. 30 percent have delayed retirement as a result of rising health care costs.Another survey, the 2017 Workplace Benefits Report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, also indicates that health care costs negatively affect financial wellness. This survey included a national sampling of 1,242 employees across the U.S. whose employers offer 401(k) plans. Survey results show that 79 percent experienced an increase in health care costs in 2016 (up from 69 percent in 2015). Among those experiencing an increase, 56 percent are spending less or contributing less to their financial goals and about 62 percent are saving less for retirement. HSAs GrowingAlthough the cost of health care seems to be having a negative impact on saving for retirement, it is shedding light on a possible solution—saving with an HSA. The number of HSAs and the amount of HSA contributions are at all-time highs, and are a clear reflection of growing enrollment in HDHPs. And expectations are that this trend will continue if employers continue moving to HDHPs. Devenir, a national leader of customized investment solutions for HSAs and the consumer-directed healthcare market, conducts annual HSA market surveys of the top 100 HSA providers. Devenir’s 2016 Year-End HSA Market Statistics and Trends report shows that the number of HSAs exceeded 20 million at year-end 2016 (a 22 percent increase over 2015), holding almost $37 billion in assets (a 20 percent increase). Of a total $25.5 billion HSA contributions made in 2016,26 percent came from employer contributions ($868 average employer contribution), 46 percent from employees ($1,786 average employee contribution), and19 percent from individual contributions not associated with an employer ($1,713 average individual contribution).The survey also shows that health plan partnerships are the largest driver of new account growth in 2016. Health plan referrals account for 37 percent of new accounts opened. Direct employer relationships accounted for 32 percent of new accounts.The remaining drivers are insurance agent referrals (10 percent), administrator/TPA referrals (9 percent), and individuals (5 percent).While HSA assets are withdrawn every year to cover medical costs, the amount that is retained in HSAs continues to grow every year. When looking at contribution and withdrawal activity, Devenir estimates that 22 percent ($5.7 billion) of HSAs assets were retained at year-end 2016. HSA SolutionMore Americans are moving to HDHPs—by choice or as driven by their employers—and the number of HSAs continues to rise. Employers and individuals should understand the benefits of HSAs. Individuals can pay for current medical expenses or save for future expenses with an HSA—there is no use it or lose it rule. Contributions reduce taxable income. Earnings on the account build tax free. Distributions are tax-free if properly used for qualified medical expenses. Individuals who save on medical expenses may have more money in their budget to focus on other savings needs. Educating employers and individuals about the tax benefits of an HSA will not only encourage HDHP/HSA participation, but can free up funds for IRA and retirement plan contributions. 26SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Christle Johnson Christle Johnson has worked at Ascensus since 2001 as a consultant and an editor. Her work includes researching, writing, and editing a variety of topics on IRAs, HSAs, and employer-sponsored … Web: https://www2.ascensus.com Detailslast_img read more

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Top 10 small business friendly cities

first_img 11SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Myriam DiGiovanni After writing for Credit Union Times and The Financial Brand, Myriam DiGiovanni covers financial literacy for FinancialFeed. She is also a storytelling expert and works with credit unions to help … Web: www.financialfeed.com Details If you’ve got entrepreneurial dreams, you’re not alone.A UPS Store Inside Small Business Survey found that 66% of respondents dream of opening a small business. About half said this is the year they will make it happen, and Gen Xers are leading the charge.The driving force fueling this optimism include the allure of being their own boss (38%), believing in their ideas (17%) and wanting to create their next career path (15%). Of those planning to open a small business, 56% are looking into home-based operations, 30% think brick-and-mortar is the way to go, and 20% have plans to launch e-commerce sites.Fear is still holding back even the most optimistic entrepreneurs. Financial security, upfront start-up costs and fear of failure are the top three concerns.According to the Small Business Administration, those concerns are valid. About half of all small businesses don’t even make it five years, the SBA says.Want to increase your odds of success? Where you live might make a difference. GoBankingRates.com compiled a list of the friendliest cities for small business owners. The analysis included the rate of new entrepreneurs, startup density, the cost of living, projected job growth for the area and other factors.Here are the top 10.Austin, TexasStartup density: 104.5 startups for every 1,000 businessesMiamiStartup density: 107.8 startups for every 1,000 businessesDallasStartup density: 94.2 startups for every 1,000 businessesLos AngelesStartup density: 92.3 startups for every 1,000 businessesSan DiegoStartup density: 95.9 startups for every 1,000 businessesDenverStartup density: 92.3 startups for every 1,000 businessesKansas City, Mo.Startup density: 83.6 startups for every 1,000 businessesNew YorkStartup density: 86.5 startups for every 1,000 businessesSan AntonioStartup density: 87.2 startups for every 1,000 businessesPortland, Ore.Startup density: 82.8 startups for every 1,000 businesseslast_img read more

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The efficient millennial still needs some help from credit unions!

first_img ShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr Credit Unions and community banks are constantly asking themselves how to attract the millennial consumer. In fact, 75 million of today’s U.S. population are millennial’s, so why do only 24% of them bank with credit unions and small community banks???Well, Credit Union Journal says it best… “millennial’s want convenience and as little human interaction as possible.”  And I truly get this.Nothing is more irritating to me than having to call customer service for an issue that could be resolved via email or web form. If they can’t text, email, snap, or instant message most younger consumers want little to do with it. Anything to avoid forced face-to-face interaction or long drawn out phone calls.Credit Unions and community banks need to take note! continue reading »last_img read more

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With a lead in Pennsylvania, Biden nears victory in the state and the election.

first_imgMr. Trump has baselessly insisted that post-Election Day tallies showing Mr. Biden leading in battleground states, including Pennsylvania, were the result of fraud, and has vowed to challenge them in court. His campaign showed no sign of an imminent concession Friday morning. “The false projection of Joe Biden as the winner is based on results in four states that are far from final,” a lawyer for the Trump campaign said in a statement.Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia dismissed those accusations on Friday.“While some including the President continue to spew baseless claims of fraud, claims for which his team has not produced one iota of evidence, what we have seen here in Philadelphia is democracy, pure and simple,” Mr. Kenney said.Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, said that if Mr. Biden won the election and Mr. Trump refused to concede, “The United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House.” Mr. Biden had steadily erased Mr. Trump’s early lead in the state — at one point, the president led by half a million votes — as ballots, mostly absentee and mail-in votes, were counted over the past few days. Most of the remaining uncounted votes in the state are in Democratic-leaning areas.At a news conference on Friday afternoon, Philadelphia elections officials said that they would have another update of 2,000 to 3,000 ballots on Friday afternoon, and that they had about 40,000 ballots left to count in the city. “We believe when the votes are counted, it’s pretty clear that Joe Biden’s going to be president of the United States, because he’s going to win Pennsylvania,” said State Senator Sharif Street, the vice chair of the state Democratic Party, on Thursday. PHILADELPHIA — Joseph R. Biden Jr. took the lead over President Trump in Pennsylvania on Friday morning as Democrats grew increasingly confident that he would win the state and with it the presidency: The state’s 20 electoral votes would put Mr. Biden, who has 253 electoral votes, past the 270-vote threshold for victory.By late Friday morning, after more votes were counted from Philadelphia and other counties that have supported Mr. Biden, he led Mr. Trump by more than 13,000 votes.- Advertisement – The remaining ballots “generally fall into one of three categories: those that require a review, provisionals and U.S. military overseas ballots,” said Lisa Deeley, one of the city commissioners in Philadelphia in charge of elections. “I would estimate there’s approximately 40,000 remaining to be counted.”- Advertisement – “We can also tell you that it may take several days to complete the reporting of that,” Ms. Deeley added.On Thursday, Kathy Boockvar, the Pennsylvania secretary of state, told CNN that the “overwhelming majority” of the state’s remaining votes would be counted by Friday. Pennsylvania Democratic officials have said their analysis of the uncounted votes gave them confidence that Mr. Biden would win the state by a substantial margin.- Advertisement – – Advertisement –last_img read more

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US import safety panel calls for risk-based monitoring

first_img Mike Leavitt, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), led the investigation and presented the report to the president on Sep 10. In a letter that accompanied the report, Leavitt wrote that the United States must shift from a “snapshot” approach of stopping unsafe products at the border to a “video” model that identifies critical points in an imported product’s life cycle. Because state and federal agencies don’t use integrated information-sharing systems, crucial information on imports is sometimes missed, the report says. For example, the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) import inspection data system is not connected to the system used by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Jun 28 CIDRAP News story “Drugs in Chinese seafood trigger FDA import ban” Sep 12, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – A cabinet-level working group assigned by President Bush in July to explore import safety issues issued its initial report recently, suggesting a risk-based monitoring strategy and calling on government agencies to use technology to improve collaboration on import-related activities. Bush’s actions were prompted by several recent product safety problems that surfaced over the summer and involved Chinese imports. Food-related incidents involved melamine-contaminated wheat gluten that was used in animal and fish feed, and seafood that contained residues of unauthorized veterinary drugs. See also: Another challenge that government officials need to address is companies and individuals that circumvent US restrictions on certain imports. For example, the working group found that in 2006 CBP intercepted 45 containers of chicken, chicken parts, and other meat products that were smuggled into the country as frozen seafood. Leavitt said in his letter that over the next several weeks the working group will gather comments and recommendations from the public. In mid November the group will follow up with an action plan that will contain several short- and long-term recommendations. “Such a risk-based, prevention-focused model will help ensure that safety is built into products before they reach our borders,” Leavitt wrote. “This lack of connectivity between CBP and USDA systems has created the possibility, which is now being addressed, for imported products to enter domestic commerce without being inspected in accordance with federal requirements,” the report states. Jul 20 CIDRAP News story “FAO, WHO urge vigilance in light of recent food scares”last_img read more

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UK pensioners worse off in Brexit, says Treasury

first_imgUnder the “shock” scenario, higher inflation would erode the basic state pension by £137 per year in real terms by 2017-18 – compared with staying in the EU – while the “severe shock” scenario would increase this loss to £142 per year, said the analysis.Someone receiving a basic state pension and an average annuity would lose £190 a year in real terms, according to the calculation.The report also predicted declines in house prices and in UK equity and bond prices.It said: “After two years, the total loss of wealth of those aged over 65 would be around £170bn in the shock scenario and £300bn in the severe shock scenario. For a person aged over 65 with the median portfolio of housing and non-pension assets, the loss in wealth is estimated to be around £18,000 in the shock scenario and around £32,000 in the severe shock scenario.”Furthermore, the predicted long-term fall in incomes and profits would mean future pensioners were able to save less for their retirement, and earn lower investment returns, the report said.It calculated that someone currently aged 50 on median earnings, with median defined contribution pension assets, could lose between £3,800 and £5,800 from their pension savings by 2030 under the shock and severe shock scenarios, respectively.Based on current annuity rates, that would mean pensioners losing retirement income of between £223 and £335 per year, compared with remaining in the EU.But former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who supports Brexit, said: “I don’t accept there will be a short-term shock to the UK economy if we leave the EU. When Britain left the European exchange rate mechanism in 1992, instead of being a shock, it was a huge rise in income, and pensions did very well as a result.”Duncan Smith warned of “two big threats of remaining in the EU” for pensions.“They postponed the solvency directive [Solvency II], but it will come back again, and it is estimated their plans will cost UK pensions £400bn,” he said.“Secondly, and even bigger, is the harmonisation directive, which will really do damage.”He also warned that both these directives would be approved under qualified majority voting, so that the UK alone could not stop them. UK pensioners could lose up to £32,000 (€42,050) off their assets if the UK votes to leave the European Union (EU), according to an analysis published by the UK Treasury.But in contrast, a former work and pensions secretary warned that, if the UK stayed within the EU, EU pension directives could inflict major damage on pension funds.The Treasury analysis relies on the conclusion of its own macroeconomic research, which was that “a vote to leave would cause an immediate and profound economic shock creating instability and uncertainty, which would be compounded by the complex and interdependent negotiations that would follow”.George Osborne, chancellor of the Exchequer, said: “That shock would push our economy into a recession and lead to an increase in unemployment of around 500,000, average real wages would be lower, inflation higher, and house prices would be hit compared with a vote to remain.”last_img read more

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