In the corporate world, employees leaving a job are often asked to sit through an “exit interview” with HR about their time at the company. Although that concept doesn’t exist for Broadway performers, we love checking in with stars as they finish up a successful run. Tony-nominated A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder star Lauren Worsham will hang up her (very, very elaborate) hat on October 26, when she plays her final performance as Phoebe in the Tony-winning musical. As Worsham says farewell to her Broadway family at the Walter Kerr Theatre, she looks back on her “surreal and hilarious” run in A Gentleman’s Guide. What was the highlight of your time at this job? Meeting so many wonderful people. I love all of my co-workers so much. I also loved watching the show and its creators win so many awards! How did you feel when you first got the job? It felt surreal. I had been working so long in order to get to Broadway but along the way I veered into a different career path and thought maybe Broadway would never be interested. Mostly, it was a wonderful surprise! What are three words you would use to describe your experience? Surreal, hilarious, marathon. What skills do you think are required for future job applicants? Perseverance, calm in the storm and perspective plus a high soprano voice and killer comic timing. Catherine Walker, the new Phoebe, possesses all these in spades! What was the hardest thing? Balancing work and home life, missing dinner, constant vocal vigilance (no caffeine, alcohol, dairy, no yelling, complete vocal rest during busy weeks, etc.) while also trying not to say no to many extracurricular gigs like my band and other charity concerts. How do you think you’ve grown during your time at this job? I’ve learned boatloads about my limits as a singer and as a human. My voice has grown and my technique has become much more relaxed. I’ve learned there is a BIG difference between doing a show for three months versus twelve. View Comments How do you feel now that you’re leaving? I feel 100% bittersweet. I’m very excited about all my upcoming projects and about getting to spend more time with my family, but I am also very sad to leave my Walter Kerr family behind. You spend so much time together over a year and develop very strong bonds. I know I won’t see them all every day. If I’m lucky, once every few months, but maybe not for years. That’s heartbreaking. I’ll also miss the routine and ritual plus the gorgeous costumes and beautiful music. It feels like moving to a new city. Exciting, but sad and nostalgic. I’ll miss Phoebe too. Related Shows Why are you leaving? I have so many diverse gigs coming up that it just didn’t make sense to stay timing-wise, but it was a very hard decision to make. Before the end of year I have nine concerts including Showboat with the New York Philharmonic and Not the Messiah at Carnegie Hall, not to mention a few Sky-Pony gigs as well. Also, in the opera and classical world pieces are cast years in advance. A few of my upcoming projects in 2015 were in the books before I even auditioned for GGLAM! Also, I’m really looking forward to the small breaks where I can spend time with my husband who hasn’t really had dinner with his wife in over a year. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder What was the easiest thing about the job? The people. Every single person working at the Walter Kerr is an exemplary human and wonderful to be around. What advice would you give to future employees your position? One wrong note does not a performance make. It’s a marathon and not a sprint so keep the big picture in mind and have fun (the last part is easy). What will you miss most about the job? My family here, all the little show rituals, having a willing audience for my surplus of baked goods, having a second home in Times Square, the stunning clothes and being onstage with some of my most favorite people in the world. Show Closed This production ended its run on Jan. 17, 2016
Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s Rainbow Falls Trail is Re-OpenedAfter a two-year trail rehabilitation project the Rainbow Falls Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park has re-opened to hikers. The six-mile trail is one of the most popular trails in the park, leading hikers to Rainbow Falls and Mt. Le Conte. Trail crews rehabilitated segments along the trail to improve safety, stabilize eroding trail sections, and repair trail tread damaged by high winds and fire during the November 2016 wildfires. North Carolina Man Punches Bear in Terrifying Fistfight Seventy-eight year old Maggie Valley, N.C. resident Sonny Pumphrey was working in his driveway in early November when a mother black bear, whose cubs were nearby, charged him at full speed and then reared up and bit him. Pumphrey swung at the bear, connecting with her nose. As Pumphrey continued to pummel the bear she bit him on the hip, dropped him, then picked him up again and shook him like a rag doll. Hearing the commotion, Pumphrey’s wife ran out of the door, accompanied by their 3-pound Yorkie, and the bear and her cubs ran off. Pumphrey was treated at a local hospital for a throbbing hand, scratches, and a puncture wound to the hip. “Maybe it was instinct, I have no idea where that came from, but I hit that bear as hard as I could. I was lucky,” Pumphrey told the Asheville Citizen-Times. Forests Fight Climate Change Green technology isn’t the only potential solution to global warming. A paper published in the journal Science Advancessays that better management of the country’s forests, grasslands and soils could offset as much as 21 percent of the United State’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. The study identified a number of affordable strategies, like replanting trees on degraded lands, changing logging practices to better protect existing forests and sequestering more carbon in farmland through innovative agriculture techniques. But better land management isn’t a silver bullet. Converting marginal farmland back into carbon-rich grasslands could spur more intensive farming elsewhere, for example. “We’re not saying these strategies are a substitute for getting to zero-carbon energy,” Joseph E. Fargione, a scientist at the Nature Conservancy and lead author of the study told the New York Times. “We still need to do that.”
The 38 award-winning Virginia State Parks are managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. For a complete list of Virginia State Parks Opt Outside activities, visit the programs and events section of the state parks website. From the first Thanksgiving at Virginia’s Berkeley Hundred plantation in 1619, Virginians have gathered to give thanks and enjoy family, friends, and fun during the holiday. Special time together can continue past the last slice of pie with a visit to Virginia State Parks. “The weather is often mild over the holiday weekend and it’s great to get outdoors,” said Interim State Parks Director David Collett. “There will be more than 100 programs in state parks throughout Virginia, so bring the whole family and create some Thanksgiving memories.” To read more about Opt Outside in Virginia State Parks, visit: https://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/blog/optoutside-for-a-virginia-state-parks-thanksgiving-tradition. Opt Outside at a Virginia State Park Thanksgiving weekend Opt Outside activities include ranger-led hikes, campfires, nature crafts, special Christmas programs, and even a wine festival. From Nov. 28 through Dec. 1, Virginia State Parks will sponsor Opt Outside and join the national effort to promote healthy lifestyles and encourage people to get outdoors. A photo contest, with a $500 gift certificate top prize, is an added bonus for the holiday weekend. To qualify, photos must be taken at a Virginia state park between Nov. 28 and Dec. 1. Individuals may submit up to five photos. Visit www.VirginiaStateParks.gov for contest details and rules. To make gift-giving easier for fans of state parks, beginning Dec. 2 and running until Dec. 13, Virginia State Parks will offer a 25% discount on gift certificates. Call 800-933-7275, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., to order.
The United States agrees with the principle of fairly dividing the assets seized from Colombian criminals extradited to the United States, Colombian Attorney General Luis Eduardo Montealegre declared on July 12, after meeting with his U.S. counterpart, Eric Holder. Both countries will begin the steps to update their legal agreements to make that division possible, the attorney general said at a press conference at the conclusion of his first visit to the United States. Since 2007, Colombia has succeeded in taking possession of assets inside the country worth 3 billion dollars, as a result of investigations in collaboration with the United States, Montealegre explained. Colombia also asked the U.S. Government for its support for the creation of a school to train prosecutors and police that could have a regional dimension, in order to fight organized crime. For his part, Holder proposed a meeting of regional attorneys general, one of the topics discussed at the recent Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Montealegre revealed. “Colombia expressed to the attorney general the need to review and update earlier agreements that mention the possibility of a fair division, for the purpose of dividing up the assets seized in the United States (…) from extradited individuals,” Montealegre said. “The United States accepted” that those assets “are going to be divided fairly,” Montealegre added. Also present at the meeting was the administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Michelle Leonhart, with whom agreement was reached to reinforce collaboration in order to pursue the seizure of assets elsewhere in the world, again according to the attorney general. The Justice Department’s press services were unable to immediately confirm Attorney General Montealegre’s account. The Colombian attorney general also met with members of the U.S. Congress, high-ranking State Department officials, and representatives of human-rights organizations during two days of working meetings in Washington. In regard to the school for prosecutors and police, “the attorney general (Holder) demonstrated complete readiness to talk to other departments (of the U.S. Government) with the aim of promoting its creation,” he said. Following years of extraditing major drug traffickers, members of paramilitary militias, and guerrillas to the United States, Colombia wants to have definitive convictions or acquittals in order to potentially continue legal proceedings against those individuals on its territory, Montealegre said. By Dialogo July 16, 2012
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reported in March that groups such as Clan Úsuga “are the main challenge to public security,” a threat greater than the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country’s largest guerrilla group. Meanwhile, the Colombian Armed Forces have become more aggressive in their pursuit of the organization. On April 18 in the department of Córdoba, law enforcement officers arrested seven suspects who allegedly were part of a network that trafficked cocaine into Central America, from where the drugs were routed to Mexico, the United States, and other destinations. Four of the suspects were allegedly leaders of the drug trafficking ring, and the United States has requested their extradition. The Coast Guard did not immediately report the names of the suspects; one is Colombian, one is Ecuadorean, and four are from Costa Rica. Neither did they immediately report the exact amount of the cocaine, though they placed it in the general range of 640 kilograms. Law enforcement agents also confiscated four pieces of radio equipment that could have been used to alert fellow narcotraffickers of the boat’s location so the cocaine could be transferred to another vessel. And three days later, security forces captured 72 more suspected members, also seizing an undisclosed number of weapons and computers that contained vital information about the organization’s criminal activities. Those arrests occurred during simultaneous raids in the departments of Antioquia, Atlántico, Chocó, Córdoba, Sucre, and Valle del Cauca. The arrests dealt a major blow to Clan Úsuga, said Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón. And three days later, security forces captured 72 more suspected members, also seizing an undisclosed number of weapons and computers that contained vital information about the organization’s criminal activities. Those arrests occurred during simultaneous raids in the departments of Antioquia, Atlántico, Chocó, Córdoba, Sucre, and Valle del Cauca. The arrests dealt a major blow to Clan Úsuga, said Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón. The Army and Navy are asking residents to use hotlines 146 and 147 to report any suspicious activity while they continue to combat violence and the trafficking of illicit goods nationwide. The Army and Navy are asking residents to use hotlines 146 and 147 to report any suspicious activity while they continue to combat violence and the trafficking of illicit goods nationwide. Costa Rican Coast Guard and National Police seize cocaine On April 18 in the department of Córdoba, law enforcement officers arrested seven suspects who allegedly were part of a network that trafficked cocaine into Central America, from where the drugs were routed to Mexico, the United States, and other destinations. Four of the suspects were allegedly leaders of the drug trafficking ring, and the United States has requested their extradition. The Coast Guard has been responsible for protecting the country’s waters since Costa Rica disbanded its Army in 1948. The Coast Guard did not immediately report the names of the suspects; one is Colombian, one is Ecuadorean, and four are from Costa Rica. Neither did they immediately report the exact amount of the cocaine, though they placed it in the general range of 640 kilograms. Law enforcement agents also confiscated four pieces of radio equipment that could have been used to alert fellow narcotraffickers of the boat’s location so the cocaine could be transferred to another vessel. Colombian security forces recently captured 79 alleged members of Clan Úsuga, one of the country’s most powerful narcotrafficking organizations, during numerous operations nationwide. The interdiction occurred about 30 nautical miles west of Cape Matapalo, where Coast Guard ships and aircraft spotted a suspicious vessel in a known narcotrafficking route. The Coast Guard surrounded the ship, preventing the crew from escaping, before Police and Coast Guard members boarded the vessel and found 32 bales each containing 20 kilograms of cocaine. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reported in March that groups such as Clan Úsuga “are the main challenge to public security,” a threat greater than the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country’s largest guerrilla group. Meanwhile, the Colombian Armed Forces have become more aggressive in their pursuit of the organization. Colombian security forces recently captured 79 alleged members of Clan Úsuga, one of the country’s most powerful narcotrafficking organizations, during numerous operations nationwide. In March, President Juan Manuel Santos deployed a total of 1,200 Military Troops and National Police Officers along with around 20 Black Hawk helicopters the country’s northwestern region as part of Operation “Toma Masiva del Urabá.” The operation is utilizing Neptuno Task Force, which combines 12 existing task forces and is made up of members of the Colombian Army, Air Force, Navy, and National Police. Costa Rica’s Coast Guard and National Police recently teamed to capture six suspects in connection with the seizure of more than 600 kilograms of cocaine found aboard their ship in the South Pacific, Costa Rican Public Security Minister Gustavo Mata said. The interdiction occurred about 30 nautical miles west of Cape Matapalo, where Coast Guard ships and aircraft spotted a suspicious vessel in a known narcotrafficking route. The Coast Guard surrounded the ship, preventing the crew from escaping, before Police and Coast Guard members boarded the vessel and found 32 bales each containing 20 kilograms of cocaine. By Dialogo May 01, 2015 The Coast Guard has been responsible for protecting the country’s waters since Costa Rica disbanded its Army in 1948. Costa Rican Coast Guard and National Police seize cocaine Costa Rica’s Coast Guard and National Police recently teamed to capture six suspects in connection with the seizure of more than 600 kilograms of cocaine found aboard their ship in the South Pacific, Costa Rican Public Security Minister Gustavo Mata said. In March, President Juan Manuel Santos deployed a total of 1,200 Military Troops and National Police Officers along with around 20 Black Hawk helicopters the country’s northwestern region as part of Operation “Toma Masiva del Urabá.” The operation is utilizing Neptuno Task Force, which combines 12 existing task forces and is made up of members of the Colombian Army, Air Force, Navy, and National Police.
13SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr U.S. credit unions continue to be on the forefront of payments evolution. In January, Visa announced it would begin testing a fingerprint-enabled credit card in the United States with Utah-based Mountain America Credit Union. Until now, testing of similar platforms has mainly occurred outside the country and with large banks. MasterCard, which piloted its biometric card with Absa Bank in South Africa, says it will be ready to roll the cards out in the U.S. by April 2019.What do Visa’s domestic testing and MasterCard’s newly announced timeline tell us about the near-term future of biometric payments? We asked CO-OP Product Manager Chole Casber for his insight…What kind of impact could a fingerprint-enabled payments card bring to the market?The most important benefit credit unions and their members could see from the introduction of a biometric payment mechanism like the ones Visa and MasterCard are testing is a potential reduction in fraud. Biometrics tend to be more secure than a PIN or signature. A PIN can be forgotten (or stolen), and a signature provides minimal fraud protection in-and-of itself. The lack of confidence in signatures can be seen in the recent decisions of major issuers to do away with signatures at the POS completely. continue reading »
View image | gettyimages.comThe way I see it, the Mets owe us big time for spending so many hours watching them lose two games in a row in Kansas City to a superior team. How they repay us is obvious. They have to host a victory parade down Broadway in Manhattan, and make sure we all have the day off so we can sleep in late.The opener on Tuesday was grueling enough—the longest World Series game in history measured by innings. By the time the final out was recorded in the 14th, five hours and nine minutes after it started, I was numb, both spiritually and physically. My eyes could barely see. My mind was shot.As they taught us by their debacle the following night, the first matchup was one the Mets had to win. All that effort gone to waste. I mean, on our part, as demoralized fans too masochistic to turn the damn thing off until some distant voice of reason, probably female, penetrated our consciousness with these words: “Go to bed!”After all, hadn’t we done our time already this season? Didn’t we stick with the Metropolitans back in July, when the needs of our families and our communities—hell, our republic, for that matter—went begging for 18 innings? It was July 19th, and the Mets only took a 1-0 lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the top of the 13th inning, only to blow it in the bottom of the same inning when Jeurys Familia gave up a leadoff homer. No, I don’t want to remember it well—they did go on to prevail 3-1—but it came back to haunt me when Game 1 entered the midnight hour after he’d blown it in the ninth inning. I turned to my viewing companion, my son who had to get up even earlier the next morning than I so he could catch a train to the city, and asked him rhetorically, “How much longer should we watch this?”Well, the answer was obvious. To the bitter end. After all, past was prologue. We both stuck with the team in July, when the World Series seemed like a pipe dream, why would we be sensible now? Back then, Ruben Tejada—bless his soul, and curse Chase Utley’s—hit a sacrifice fly that allowed Wilmer Flores to score the go-ahead run. We got an insurance run on a squeeze bunt by Eric Campbell. Ah, those were the days, weren’t they? And let us recall that it was a day game, too.Tuesday night seemed to last forever. My son said he had a dream (perhaps a nightmare) later that it ended at 5 a.m. Let the record show it was over way before then. Apparently, we were not alone. The game was the most-watched World Series opener since 15 million viewers tuned into the 2010 matchup.This game, let’s face it, did have a little bit of everything. There was the first inside-the-park homer since the World Series of 1929 (and the anniversary of the Stock Market crash was this week, too, come to think of it)—and it came off the very first pitch that our Dark Knight, Matt Harvey, threw. That in itself is a rarity.And, laughing at their expense because it is Fox after all, there was a “rare electronics failure” that blew the game off the air—and onto our radios—in the fourth inning. Just like that, we all had to hunt for our AM dials, but just before we could settle in, the network figured out how to stream the international feed for domestic consumption. I just felt sorry for the hapless chaps back in the studio who had to make small talk while the engineers figured out how to override the meltdown. We haven’t seen anything like this since the Oakland A’s-San Francisco Giants World Series—dubbed the Battle of the Bay—was disrupted by a severe earthquake that struck in 1989 just as Game 3 was getting underway and knocked ABC off the air. By the way, the Giants were down two games to none. The bad news is that the Athletics went on to sweep them four-zip.Tuesday’s snafu also illustrates just how dependent America’s pastime has become on modern technology. The four-minute on-field delay was reportedly due to the replay capability being lost in both team’s clubhouses. We wouldn’t want to lose that, would we? Why, without replay capability, how could the game go on? Now, since it was Fox, nobody dared to blame the liberal media for screwing up, but the thought had to be in the noosphere. But they found the right switch and the game went on at Kauffman Stadium. For the record, the 2013 Super Bowl was delayed when the power went out in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. That’s a more old-fashioned problem, but it certainly couldn’t have helped the automaker’s brand since play stopped for 34 minutes.Once Fox resumed its World Series coverage, it was amusing when Joe Buck—he of the five o’clock stubble—told the viewing audience that they had enough quarters to keep Game 1 on the air for the rest of the evening as he traded microphones with Matt Vasgersian and John Smoltz, who were handling the game for MLB International. Little did Buck know that the night was still young.Going into Wednesday night’s game from the Mets’ point of view, they probably figured that all their East Coast fans could use some shut-eye but they took it one step further, and seemed to nod off at the plate, getting only two hits off the Royals’ mighty-dreadlocked righthander Johnny Cueto, who pitched the whole damn game, while our long-haired phenom Jacob DeGrom hardly struck anybody out and got rocked instead. Our reputed ace gave up four runs in the fifth inning, and then it was lights out for him. For good measure other Mets pitchers came in in relief and allowed three more before the game was mercifully over, 7-1 the final score.Sleep, perchance to dream, never sounded so good Wednesday night. For the superstitious, the Mets lost by one run in the first game of the 1986 World Series and by six runs in the second game—and that was at Shea Stadium, where we teach future generations the Mets beat the Red Sox in Game 6, and, just as important, in Game 7.Whether history can repeat itself this time against Kansas is a question that remains to be seen. Too many Mets fans woke up Thursday morning thinking the world had ended, let alone the Series. But let us remember they’ve only played each other twice, and they have at least two more games to go.So, the message to us all: stay tuned. And hope the blessings flow. 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The standards are geared toward 72 cities that take part in the federal government’s Cities Readiness Initiative (CRI), a program launched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2004 to prepare major cities and metropolitan areas to distribute antibiotics from the Strategic National Stockpile within 48 hours of a federal order to release them. Though federal law mandates that the standards be evidence-based, the Rand authors pointed out that the rarity of large-scale public health disasters means there is little evidence to base the standards on. Instead, the authors developed the standards by talking to practitioners, reviewing existing literatures, using mathematical modeling, and seeking feedback from an expert panel. Next stepsThe Rand authors suggest that HHS officials review the suggested standards, consider if changes are needed, then move forward to enact the standards. They also suggest that HHS consider whether the standards should apply to all locations that would receive antibiotics from the SNS, not just the 72 cities that participate in the CRI program. Oct 15, 2008 (CIDRAP News) The Rand Corp., responding to a request from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), recently unveiled a set of proposed standards for cities to use as they establish plans to distribute antibiotics to the public in the event of a bioterrorist attack or other public health emergency. The 133-page technical report, which appears on Rand’s Web site, covers four main topics: the number and location of points of dispensing (PODs), internal POD operations, staffing, and security. PODs are places where members of the public would go to receive antibiotics or other countermeasures in an emergency. See also: Internal operationsThe scale of the public health emergency will likely guide the selection of a dispensing protocol, and the report acknowledges the need for flexibility as cities make their operational plans. But the standards would require cities to establish and exercise at least one rapid-dispensing protocol that minimizes the need for licensed medical workers and gives instructions for directing recipients through the process, selecting the medication to dispense, releasing information about the medication, and dispensing the medication. The standards are designed to allow communities to be flexible and innovative in how they meet the 48-hour dispensing goal, the report says. “Moreover, the standards are intended to provide minimal requirements and should not discourage CRI sites from exceeding them,” it states. Instead of setting targets for numbers of PODs, the standards call for cities to estimate the number of people who would go to individual PODs seeking antibiotics. Officials would then use a formula supplied in the report to determine how many PODs would be needed. Number and location of sitesThe authors recommend that the first planning step be to estimate the overall number of people who will likely come to PODs to pick up their medications, which will help them determine the number of PODs they will need. Estimating the number of people will likely depend on several factors that vary by location, such as tourism levels and the size of the urban workforce. Staffing provisionsThe authors predicted that recruiting adequate staffing for the PODs would probably be the most difficult aspect of conducting a mass dispensing operation and would present diverse challenges in different cities. “The standards development process revealed concern that uniform, one-size-fits-all staffing standards would fail to account for community differences, unnecessarily require jurisdictions to undo work already completed, and stifle innovation,” they wrote. Because rapid drug-dispensing actions are likely to push legal and liability boundaries, the standards require city officials to identify such conflicts and communicate them to those who have the authority to initiate legal changes. Another suggestion is that HHS establish an oversight committee to regularly review the standards in a way that engages stakeholders, seeks public input, and includes an appeal process. Security concernsThe standards would require cities to assess security at each POD, involve local law enforcement agencies in developing security plans, and provide for law enforcement presence at each site. In another nod to varying local needs, the authors give cities some leeway in the form of alternative standards regarding security staffing and formal law enforcement approval of security plans. For example, cities could use trained volunteers of private security firms if having sworn officers at every site were not feasible. “The standard assumes that individual jurisdictions are in the best position to define the scope of the population for whom they will be responsible for administering prophylaxis,” the Rand authors wrote. They also advised planners to factor in 12 hours for the CDC to get the drugs to warehouses and 12 hours to get the drugs to PODs. The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act of 2006 requires HHS to develop performance standards for public health preparedness, and the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) asked Rand to develop the proposed standards, according to the report. Public health officials will also need to recruit enough staff to operate the PODs and perform quarterly drills to keep in contact with them. The authors said the staffing requirement may be very large for some locationsas many as 6,000 in some metropolitan areasso they offered an alternative standard under which officials would recruit and regularly contact only the core staff. Rand report on proposed antibiotic dispensing standards
The market for foreign rice varieties in Indonesia is relatively small compared to regular rice. According to the latest available data compiled by the Agriculture Ministry, Indonesia imported 295,714 tons of “special” rice varieties compared to 987,500 tons of medium-grain rice in 2016.Read also: Ministry ramps up rice production amid farmers’ lossesThe special rice varieties comprise Thai hom mali, basmati, japonica, brown and low-glycemic rice, according to the ministry’s data.Despite the niche market for the products, Hery said the worldwide disruptions to trade had impacted rice imports, increasing demand for the cooperative’s products. According to Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data, the country booked a 14.28 percent year-on-year (yoy) decrease in imports between January and June.Furthermore, the rise of Indonesia’s upper-middle class has also supported demand growth for more expensive special rice varieties, which are considered healthier than regular rice.“We are targeting the growing upper-middle class segment. As they’re extremely concerned with product quality, we pack our products neatly and market them through online marketplaces to attract customers,” he said.Amid the growing demand for special rice varieties, Hery said high-quality seeds and fertilizers were crucial for successful cultivation. However, he added that the seeds sometimes were difficult to find.Meanwhile, the chairperson of the Bali-based Jagadhita Farming Cooperative, Nyoman Suma Artha, voiced similar concerns, and urged the government to focus on improving fertilizer and seed quality to increase yields.Nyoman said farmers in Bali could increase their rice production, in yield per hectare, by up to 5 tons by using high-quality fertilizers and seeds, double the yield rate of lower quality fertilizers.“We could produce between 8 to 10 tons of dried grains [per ha] if we use high-quality fertilizers and the right techniques, while lower quality fertilizers and seeds produce only around 5 tons [per ha],” he said.The Agriculture Ministry has set a rice production target of 62.5 million tons for 2021, 5 percent higher than this year’s target.Read also: Virus, climate change cause food shortages in parts of IndonesiaThe government has allocated Rp 18.4 trillion (US$1.26 billion) for the ministry’s 2021 budget, of which around half has been allocated for programs to ensure the availability and accessibility of high-quality food.However, Agriculture Minister Syahrul Yasin Limpo said on July 7 that the allocation would not be enough to finance policies to ramp up food production, and proposed an additional Rp 10 trillion in next year’s state budget to finance its planned policies.“The Rp 18.4 trillion budget allocated to the ministry for 2021 is far from sufficient for the economy to recover after the COVID-19 pandemic in villages that heavily rely on agriculture, and to meet the food production target set in the government’s working plan,” Syahrul said in a hearing with the House of Representatives.In 2019, prolonged drought led to a decline in Indonesia’s rice production, which was down 13.2 percent year-on-year to 16.1 million tons in the first half of 2020, according to the World Food Programme’s (WFP) Indonesia office.Topics : The disruptions to trade and falling imports caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a double-digit increase in demand for locally produced, high-quality, alternative rice products, farmer cooperatives have reported.Sales of high-quality foreign rice varieties and organic rice products such as Japonica rice, Basmati rice, Jasmine rice, and high-protein black rice have increased by 20 percent, Mintogoro Cooperative chairperson Hery Sugiarto told The Jakarta Post on Monday. The cooperative is based in Demak, Central Java.“Alhamdulillah [thank God] the pandemic impacted our business positively rather than the other way around, as demand for our products has increased 20 percent,” he said during an online webinar held by the Indonesian Seed Cooperative (Kobeta).
However, Sergio Bortolin, president of the association of collective pension funds in Switzerland, the Inter-Pension, said this policy “cannot be executed”. Bertolin – who is also managing director of the CHF16bn (€14bn) Asga multi-employer pension fund – argued that the regulation was “completely superfluous” as local authorities already had the means to assess the risks related to collective pension plans.“The OAK is exceeding its authority with this directive,” he added. Asga is the largest independent Gemeinschaftseinrichtung in Switzerland, serving over 12,000 companies, mostly SMEs. It would not fall under the new regulation as companies joining with their pension plans are integrated into the overall risk and return structure.In Sammelstiftungen, however, each client – whether a one-person business or one with 1,000 employees – has a separate pension plan within the collective.In the note published with its draft proposal, the OAK said the current legal framework only included very few special regulations for collective pension plans.The regulator cited such Sammelstiftungen’s “complex structures” and the fact that multi-employer pension plans operated in competition with other providers.“Compared to company pension plans these characteristics provide additional requirements particularly regarding governance, transparency and security of funding,” the OAK stated.Swiss stakeholders have until mid-January 2019 to comment on the draft during the consultation phase. The top Swiss pension supervisor Oberaufsichtskommission (OAK) wants to give local regulators more power over multi-employer schemes, as more pension plans are being transferred.With increasing regulatory demands and a continued low interest rate environment, many smaller company pension plans have been joining so-called Sammelstiftungen – collective foundations – or other Gemeinschaftseinrichtungen, which are multi-employer plans organised in a vehicle other than a foundation.Additionally, Axa Winterthur – a major pension provider to small and medium-sized businesses – announced earlier this year that it would no longer offer full insurance cover for its 40,000 clients but instead offer them individual pension plans, transferring some of the risk to these businesses.Under the amended regulatory framework proposed by the OAK, each of these individual plans would have to be assessed by an expert who would look at longevity risk, investments and other parameters.