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Peru Uses Drones for Agriculture, Archeology

first_img Along the dry coastline, where the main construction material was adobe brick, whole societies flourished. Archeologist Luis Jaime Castillo is using drones to help map the 1,300-year-old Moche civilization around San Idelfonso and San Jose del Moro, two sites on the Peruvian coast north of Lima. Forget Reapers and Predators. The drones used here are hand-held contraptions that look like they were assembled in a garage with gear from a hardware store. Flores heads a multidisciplinary team brainstorming the best ways to use drones for civilian purposes. “These aircraft are small in size, are equipped with high-precision video or photo cameras and go virtually unnoticed in the sky,” said Andres Flores, an electrical engineer in charge of the UAV program at Peru’s Catholic University. Mapping Ancient Cities “We can convert the images that the drones provide into topographical and photogrammetry data to build three-dimensional models,” Castillo told AFP. One UAV model built by Catholic University engineers is made with light balsa wood and carbon fiber. At a glance the devices look like souped-up hand-held glider. By Dialogo August 16, 2013 Drones are most often associated with assassinations in remote regions of Pakistan and Yemen but in Peru, unmanned aircraft are being used to monitor crops and study ancient ruins. Other potential civilian drone use, Flores said, includes closely observing areas of natural disasters or studying urban traffic patterns. In the thick Amazon jungle, where access by ground is often extremely difficult, drones can be used to study wild animals. “Every time an animal goes by, it can snap a picture,” said Flores. center_img One limitation is that these drones must fly below the clouds. If not their instruments, especially the cameras, could fail, said Aurelio Rodriguez, who is both an aerial model-maker and archeologist. After centuries of abandon some of these ancient cities have deteriorated to the point that they are hard to distinguish in the sandy, hilly region. Some of the earliest human settlements in the Americas are found in Peru. They are equipped with a microcomputer, a GPS tracker, a compass, cameras and an altimeter, and can be easily programmed by using Google Maps to fly autonomously and return to base with vital data. “By using the pictures taken by drones we can see walls, patios, the fabric of the city.” There are thousands of archeological sites, many unexplored, dotting the Peruvian landscape, most of them pre-dating the Incas, a major civilization which was defeated by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. While experts are still dreaming up new ways to use the aircraft, security officials do use drones for military and police intelligence purposes, especially in Peru’s rugged and remote valleys where coca is grown. There are no laws in Peru regulating the civilian use of drones, which allows advocates to push for all kinds of projects. Their use in urban surveillance, however, could be seen as an invasion of privacy. “Up to now we have managed to use them for agricultural purposes, where they gather information on the health of the plants, and in archeology, to better understand the characteristics of each site and their extensions,” Flores said. last_img read more

Credit union’s name becomes community art

first_imgLAFCU is celebrating its 80th birthday in a big way.The $630 million asset credit union has transformed a series of six-foot letters representing its name into a community art project.“The artists took it to another level of community involvement and engagement,” says Kelli Ellsworth-Etchison, senior vice president of marketing at the Lansing, Mich.-based credit union. “We’re saying, ‘These are your letters. This is you. You built LAFCU.’”Artists from around Michigan submitted designs. The credit union selected five artists to each paint one of the letters, which are made out of a dense Styrofoam-type material. Themes depicted on the letters range from a photo shoot of LAFCU’s mascot, LAFF-E the Cow, to a representation of the two sides of Lansing—the state Capitol and the community.LAFCU unveiled the completed letters this summer during a jazz and blues concert in downtown Lansing. continue reading » 19SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

Examiners behaving badly

first_img 53SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Scott Butterfield Before I jump into the kind of behavior that warrants an article like this, I want to say that I think most Examiners are good. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to work with many outstanding Examiners and support honest, ethical, and hard-working people at the state and federal levels. That said, there are still too many bad apples out there who need to be called out. I’m in a lot of credit union shops each year – 45 individual stops last year alone – and I see firsthand the stress examinations can cause. Most of the stress is quite normal and to be expected. There’s nothing fun about having our lives turned upside down, but it’s necessary. Exams are an essential part of our business, and we need (thorough exams) to ensure our safety, soundness, and long-term viability. For me, the problem starts when I hear nightmare examiner stories, stories that, if true (and I believe they are), are unprofessional and uncalled for. Most of the bad behavior falls into three buckets that I’ll call “the bad Bs,” and almost all occurs in smaller credit unions.BiasMember Bias. It’s a shame that at a time when credit unions are more focused on diversity, equity and inclusion, they still have to explain themselves to Examiners who display outdated bias, including statements such as,“you should quit lending to deadbeats who have credit scores less than 640.”When faced with this bias, I recommend that the credit union leader take some time to educate the examiner on credit union history and be prepared with research or examples that demonstrate that credit score alone is not a definitive factor in assessment of character.Credit unions that have been Low Income Designated (LID) by the NCUA should share the NCUA’s Supervisory Letter regarding supervision of LID credit unions. The NCUA issued the letter in 2010 and it was incorporated into Chapter 23 of the NCUA Examiner’s Manual – the chapter on LID credit unions. The guidance discusses the characteristics, benefits, and unique challenges of LID credit unions, and it further states: “Examiners should remember; however, all federal credit unions have a continuing obligation to meet the financial service needs of people of modest means…Examiners should consider these member characteristics and take them into account when they evaluate LICU loan portfolios as well as the products and services these credit unions offer.”I’ve written extensively on this topic. You can arm yourself with information from my past articles at Bias. There are still “good old boy” Examiners who I believe treat female CEOs disrespectfully. It’s a level of disrespect I don’t believe would occur if the CEO were a male. It usually becomes obvious to me when the CEO is sharing the dialogue with the examiner. Comments such as, “I’ve told you before,” “Remember that last time you messed up,” and “We’re never going to approve that, you’ll have to wait your turn.” I admit, I wasn’t there to hear the conversation; it was shared with me in frustration. But I can tell you the effect of the comments was demeaning and were taken to mean the CEO is stupid.When I hear these of situations, I always encourage the leader to not tolerate it and to call out the behavior for what it is. I also encourage them to report this behavior to their Supervisory Examiner. Sadly, the fear of reprisal or retribution is high, and I doubt it gets reported. This is never acceptable and should not be tolerated. I believe that Supervisory Examiners will take these reports seriously. They need to be reported.BulliesThese are the Examiners who are condescending, rude, and unprofessional to credit union leaders, staff and Boards. They overstep their bounds, preying on credit union fear and lack of knowledge of their regulatory rights. These are credit unions that felt coerced into Letter of Understanding Agreements (LUAs), as they honestly thought there was no viable alternative. I’ve seen too many credit unions make agreements that I believe were not the best strategic decision for the credit union or the members they serve.I recently learned of a state examiner who was yelling at the top of his voice at a credit union leader. It’s never okay for an examiner (or anyone else) to yell at you. If they do, tell them that you expect a respectable decorum, or they can leave. Then report it to the Supervisory Examiner and demand an examiner that can professionally deal with the issues at hand. Make sure you understand the roles and responsibilities of Examiners, and your credit union’s rights. Don’t get coerced into something that is wrong or damaging for your credit union. Ask questions, and, if necessary, hire an attorney to give you sound legal advice. Also, NAFCU published an Exam Fairness Guide that is a great resource to help you navigate some exam challenges.Bad Advice I could go on all day here; I’ll try to be brief. There are so many examples of Examiners providing credit unions with advice that frankly, I don’t believe they are qualified to give. Far too many try to fit all credit unions into one-size-fits-all box. For example, they may assume that an indirect loan strategy that worked well for a credit union down the street will work for all credit unions. I also hear the opposite regarding indirect lending from Examiners, that it’s generally bad. I frequently hear recommendations to close branches or layoff people without enough thought to the reputation risk that could accompany some of those decisions. Or suggestions to CEO leaders that the credit union should just merge because there are no viable growth options for the credit union to pursue. Then there’s the specific suggestion on which shop the credit union should merge with.When I hear situations like this, I’m tempted to tell the credit union to get the Examiners “suggestion” in writing on regulator letterhead and ask the Examiner to share in the accountability if their “suggestion” does not go as planned. These situations are best mitigated through due diligence. I’m not apposed to credit unions considering Examiner suggestions. However, like anything else, they need to vet it and consider all the potential implications. Then, if they know it’s the wrong decision, they need to take a stand.Why it mattersCulture kills strategy. A culture that’s driven by extreme risk aversion, i.e. “the Examiners won’t approve,” will not end well. Examiners don’t run our businesses, we do. Unfair or discriminatory biases don’t belong in credit unions, and that includes Examiners. Don’t tolerate it. Credit union leadership in smaller credit unions is frequently a thankless job. Don’t undermine your experience and that of your team, or your quality of life by tolerating inappropriate behavior. YOU deserve better. Following bad advice, whether it comes from an Examiner or any other source could at worst cost you your charter, or at best could set your credit union back years financially. Credit unions – especially smaller ones – don’t have time or money to burn. Scott is the Principal of Your Credit Union Partner, PLLC.Your Credit Union Partner (YCUP) is a trusted advisor to the leaders of more than 100 credit unions located throughout … Web: Detailslast_img read more

The Affordable Care Act Faces Another Supreme Court Test

first_img– Advertisement – At the time, many health economists believed the law’s success would depend on its “three-legged stool” approach: preventing insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, requiring everyone to buy insurance and providing subsidies to make it affordable. If there were no penalty prodding everyone to obtain insurance, the thinking went, many younger and healthier people would forgo it, leaving only older and sicker people in the insurance pool. That, in turn, would force insurers to raise rates, leading more people to drop their coverage in a self-reinforcing cycle.But in fact, after Congress zeroed out the law’s financial penalty for going without health insurance in 2017, it turned out that removing one of the legs had little effect on how many people signed up for coverage through the law’s marketplaces. Enrollment in the marketplaces has decreased slightly since 2017, but it has not shown any signs of a “death spiral,” when only sick people buy coverage and the cost skyrockets as a result.- Advertisement – In a friend-of-the-court brief defending the law, scores of economists concluded that “economic data demonstrate that the A.C.A. remains fully effective and operational even in the absence of the individual mandate.”In addition to the arguments on the constitutionality of the mandate and whether it can be severed from the rest of the law, the challengers must also show that they have suffered the sort of injury that gives them standing to sue. It is not clear that the states and the two individuals who brought the suit can satisfy that burden.A mandate without a penalty, supporters of the law say, does not affect state budgets or harm individuals, who now face no financial consequence for going uninsured.- Advertisement –center_img Lower courts have so far sided with challengers. A federal judge in Texas ruled that the entire law was invalid, but he postponed the effects of his ruling until the case could be appealed. In December, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, agreed that the mandate was unconstitutional but declined to rule on the fate of the remainder of the health law, asking the lower court to reconsider the question in more detail.If the Supreme Court strikes down the entire law, political responses remain possible. If Democrats manage to take control of the Senate along with the House, they could enact a simple legislative fix that would make the case moot. They could bring back a nominal penalty, even of $1. Or they could repeal the individual mandate entirely, deflating the plaintiffs’ argument.last_img read more

Firm wins $55 million contract for smallpox drug

first_img May 8 CIDRAP News story “Smallpox drug does well in first human safety test” The contract was awarded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, both part of the Department of Health and Human Services, the company said. The drug was used, along with other treatments, on an emergency basis last year in a 2-year-old boy who was critically ill with eczema vaccinatum, a form of vaccinia virus infection. The boy, who survived, was infected through exposure to his father, a soldier who had received a smallpox shot. Smallpox vaccine contains vaccinia virus as its active ingredient. SIGA Chief Executive Officer Eric Rose added that the contract “paves the way for ST-246 to provide protection to a much larger portion of the population in the event of a smallpox attack.” The company, based in New York City, said it had previously received a $16.5 million contract to develop the drug, described as “a potent, non-toxic inhibitor of orthopoxviruses.” See also: Sep 5, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – SIGA Technologies Inc. announced this week that it has been awarded a $55 million federal contract to develop a new formulation of its experimental smallpox drug, called ST-246, and carry out related efforts.center_img Mar 19, 2007, CIDRAP News story “Son of vaccinated soldier has severe vaccinia infection” Dr. Dennis E. Hruby, SIGA’s chief scientific officer, said in the news release, “These funds will support all the studies needed to gain regulatory approval for these new indications. Formulation development, animal efficacy, human safety evaluations, and manufacturing are among the activities needed.” The drug has been tested in an oral formulation so far. The new contract “enables the formulation and advanced development of a new ST-246 parenteral drug product as well as new ways to use the existing oral formulation . . . to combat smallpox,” the company reported in a Sep 3 news release. Sep 3 SIGA news release In a journal article published in May, SIGA scientists reported that ST-246 performed well in the first test of its safety and activity in humans.last_img read more

Letters to the Editor for Friday, Sep. 6

first_imgCategories: Letters to the Editor, Opinion$25 for license plate is price gougingDuring the recent storm, there’s been much talk about price gouging. It seems to me if you purchase something for a dollar and I sell it for $25, this is also a price gouging. Maybe we ought to look into this and advise the governor that the license plate fee is certainly price gouging.Richard SchaefferSchenectadyEditorial cast GE in an unfavorable lightThe Daily Gazette recently ran an editorial on the lawsuit filed by the governor and state attorney general concerning GE’s $1.7 billion clean-up of the Hudson River.The editorial compared filing the lawsuit to a victims impact statement. Victim impact statements are serious business where the court hears from the victim or victim’s family about the type of punishment they would like to see carried out.I don’t think it is fair to compare the state’s lawsuit to a panel evaluating criminal penalties.GE never violated any law with regard to the Hudson River. The company took on a clean-up project despite the fact that hundreds of other companies and municipalities contributed to the river’s current condition over many years. GE spent $1.7 billion on the clean-up. The federal EPA reviewed the results of this effort and issued a certificate of completion. The state took part in the cleanup every step of the way but after the fact decided to challenge the EPA’s finding that the clean-up was properly completed.This is a civil lawsuit filed by one regulatory agency against another not GE. For The Daily Gazette to toss out a comparison to a victim’s impact statement is really off base.Let’s not forget that GE is a major employer in Schenectady and the Capital Region. The Gazette editorial cast the company in an unfavorable light. This is not exactly helpful to our collective efforts to retain GE jobs and attract company investment to Schenectady.Gary McCarthySchenectadyThe writer is the mayor of Schenectady.Assault weapons support is irrationalI am writing in response to the spurious hackneyed Hannity talking points presented by Mr. Jeffrey Falace in his Aug. 31 letter (“Shooters are to blame for shootings.”) Firstly, Seth Ator, the most recent Texas killer did not use “the knife, the hammer, the sharp spoon” in his murderous rampage. He selected an AR-15, a rife designed to inflict maximum carnage in a minimum amount of time, hence the weapon of choice of mass shooters.Secondly, the “very draconian gun regulations” in Illinois are of no concern to gang bangers. They can easily drive to Indiana and legally purchase, either directly or through a shadow buyer, all the firepower they want and then drive back to Chicago. It’s a  shame it doesn’t fit the Republican narrative.And lastly, your pea shooters cannot possibly prevent a military takeover by a tyrannical government. A drone armed with a miniaturized warhead can vaporize you, your guns and Schenectady.Get real (and rational).Paul SatorGloversvilleMore from The Daily Gazette:Foss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?EDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsEDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homesEDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censuslast_img read more

Petchey deals on wheels

first_imgTo access this article REGISTER NOWWould you like print copies, app and digital replica access too? SUBSCRIBE for as little as £5 per week. Would you like to read more?Register for free to finish this article.Sign up now for the following benefits:Four FREE articles of your choice per monthBreaking news, comment and analysis from industry experts as it happensChoose from our portfolio of email newsletterslast_img

Tax breaks, job training to combat virus impacts

first_img“In line with the President’s [Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo] instructions, we will launch the preemployment cards in the fourth week of March. Why? This is part of our effort to combat COVID-19,” Susiwijono told reporters in Jakarta.On Wednesday, the government announced more economic stimulus to minimize the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in Indonesia, including individual and corporate tax breaks, as well as the relaxation of import restrictions.Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said workers in the manufacturing industry would not have to pay income tax for six months, while companies would be able to defer their income taxes and import duties for the same length of time. Reimbursement of overpaid taxes would also be expedited.“This is all targeted so that industries can get space in the extremely tight situation. Their burden will really be minimized by the government,” Sri Mulyani told reporters in Jakarta after a coordination meeting. Moreover, hundreds of goods previously restricted for import would be allowed, and the Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM) would be simplified, she added.Manufacturing industries have complained of disruptions in the supply of raw materials that have crippled factories across Indonesia. Twenty to 50 percent of raw materials for the country’s industries are sourced from China, Indonesia’s biggest trade partner.Sri Mulyani said that the government planned to reduce the number of restricted import goods by up to 50 percent to spur business activities that had been hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic. As many as 749 harmonized system (HS) codes are to be scrapped, she added.“This aims to ease the importation of raw materials amid the spread of the coronavirus,” she explained.Items included in the list of restricted import goods include ceramics, soybeans, corn, textiles and textile products, vaccines, health equipment, telecommunication tools and equipment, footwear and food supplements, among many others, according to the Customs and Excise Office website.The government is to also relax regulations related to the BPOM, Sri Mulyani said without giving more details.Industry Minister Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita said the stimulus involving import taxes was intended to help industries meet their needs for raw materials.“This is related to the import duty for raw materials. In principle, we have already agreed on how much it will cost,” Agus said, while declining to provide the figure. “We will decide the new economic package in the next few days.”Coordinating Economic Minister Airlangga Hartarto said the government was finalizing the supporting regulations to enact the policy.“We hope to implement the stimulus package in April after preparing the legal background,” Airlangga said after the same coordination meeting.The government in February introduced its first Rp 10.3 trillion (US$717.87 million) fiscal stimulus package to support the tourist industry and improve consumer spending to counter the economic impacts of the coronavirus outbreak.Bank Indonesia has predicted that weakening economic activity, especially tourism, exports and imports, will drag down the country’s economic growth to 4.9 percent.Sri Mulyani said she estimated that the COVID-19 disruption could shave 0.6 percentage points of the growth off gross domestic product (GDP). Indonesia’s GDP grew 5.02 percent in 2019, the weakest in four years.Yustinus Prastowo, the executive director of the Center of Indonesian Taxation Analysis (CITA), said the government could afford to widen its budget-deficit-to-GDP ratio to its self-imposed threshold of 3 percent to provide fiscal room to contain any potential shock stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.“Right now economic growth needs to be prioritized at the cost of tax revenue, but state budget credibility needs to continue to be maintained because it’s important,” Yustinus said.Business players welcomed the government’s fiscal incentive.“Nonfiscal incentives are also needed in the form of facilitation of debt restructuring. There needs to be a macroprudential policy correction so banks can lend easier,” said Shinta Kamdani, Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) vice chairwoman for international relations. (est)Topics : The government is speeding up the disbursement of training funds for workers on top of announcing individual and corporate tax breaks, as well as relaxing import restrictions to cushion the economy from the COVID-19 pandemic.Presidential Regulation No. 36/2020, issued last week, will expedite the government’s preemployment card initiative, which will subsidize training programs for laid-off workers, Office of the Coordinating Economic Minister secretary Susiwijono Moegiarso said on Thursday.The program will be launched in the fourth week of March in three regions whose tourism businesses have been severely affected by the drastic drop in Chinese tourists, namely Manado in North Sulawesi, Bali and the Riau Islands. It was previously slated for launch next month in Greater Jakarta.last_img read more

Dutch court blocks airline KLM from launching pension fund for pilots

first_imgThe Amsterdam court has blocked KLM from starting a new pension fund for its pilots after the airline cancelled its contract for pensions provision with the existing Pensioenfonds voor Vliegend Personeel as of 1 December.KLM had sought “substitutional approval” from the court, as its works council (OR) “failed to agree in a timely manner” with its plan.The OR’s support had been KLM’s legal fallback after pilot union VNV refused to approve a new pension fund.KLM said it was assessing the situation following the court’s decision that substitutional approval would not be possible, as the choice of pension fund had been covered by the collective labour agreement (CAO) between the employer and the unions. The airline said it would keep making contributions into the pension fund but took pains to emphasise that it would stick with the cancellation of the contract.The sponsor wanted to establish a new pilot scheme, as union VNV refused to support a downgrade of indexation rights.KLM, however, insisted on making the adjustment, arguing that the rules of the new financial assessment framework (nFTK), combined with the low-interest environment, would lead to a disproportionately high indexation contribution.It had suggested that this could jeopardise the company’s operational management.As a consequence of the VNV’s refusal, the employer cancelled its indexation agreement with the pilot union, as well as the contract with the €8bn pension fund.The pilot scheme, for its part, announced a legal procedure against KLM, arguing that the sponsor had unilaterally terminated the contract.The pension fund said it would have to close if an agreement could not be reached.The VNV previously lodged an appeal against a court ruling that KLM did not have an indexation obligation.Last month, KLM said the new pension fund would be very similar to the existing one but include indexation clauses drawn on previous legislation.Meanwhile, the Pensioenfonds voor Vliegend Personeel said it would not support a new pension fund, “as it would not be beneficial to the pilots, who would, for example, no longer be represented on the board or the stakeholders body”.The VNV, which said it had tried in vain to reach an alternative pension agreement with KLM, said it would prepare for industrial action.Steven Verhagen, the union’s chairman, said: “We are fed up with KLM’s attempts to economise by tackling a supposed pensions problem.”last_img read more

Swiss pension fund association refuses to back benefit ‘adjustments’

first_imgAddressing the director of the association, Hans-Peter Konrad, Deprez continued: “When the entity responsible for the pension fund is trying to find solutions to the benefit of active members and beneficiaries – including involving existing pension benefits – then ASIP has to support this approach.”Konrad had earlier spoken against cutting pensions already in payment, saying that this was a fundamental question that went to the heart of the pension system and needed to be decided at the political level.It cannot be dealt with without a “fundamental debate about whether this systemic correction is wanted” taking place, said Konrad.Deprez disputed the reference to cutting pension payouts, preferring to refer to “adjusting” benefits.Thomas Schönbächler, chief executive at BVK, the pension fund for employees of the canton of Zurich, argued that it wasn’t right “to change the rules in the middle of the game”, but that levels for new and future pension benefits should be set at the correct actuarial level – which would mean lower payments for future retirees.Konrad took a similar stance, saying ASIP was not against the introduction of flexible pension models for new and future beneficiaries, but that cutting pensions that were promised at a certain level is “the wrong way” for pension funds to address funding difficulties.Deprez reminded the other panellists, and delegates, that pensions in payment were not always “sacrosanct”, as as this only came into effect as a result of legislative change in 2005. Delegates at a conference of the pensions supervisory authority of the canton of Zurich (BVS) last week were treated to a heated debate over cutting, or “adjusting”, guaranteed pension benefits.Olivier Deprez, a pensions expert and a member of the board of the Swiss actuarial association, argued passionately in favour of supporting trustee boards address funding problems, even if it means, in his words, “adjusting” pensions already being paid.“There is only one entity responsible for the financial security of pension funds and that is the board of trustees,” he stressed.He called upon the Swiss pension fund association, ASIP, to support a lowering of pension benefits by funds trying to shore up their financial stability.last_img read more