first_imgGOP CHAIRMAN WAYNE PARKES MAY 3 REPUBLICAN PRIMARY CANDIDATES CHOICES Dear Fellow Republicans–Many voters tell me they do not vote in the Primary because they do not know all the candidates and/or the qualifications needed for the various offices on the ballot.Below is a list of Republicans running on the 2016 Primary ballot. Many Republican voters have ask who I am going to vote for in the Primary. I have decided to publicly share who I think is the best Republican Candidate and who I will be voting for in the Primary. My choices are indicated below in “HIGHLIGHTED IN BLACK”.I suggest you take this list with you to the polls to use as a reference while voting.We are very fortunate to have many good Republicans running for office in 2016. Vote for the person you wish to be elected in November. You now know what the Republican Chairman thinks.It is OK to pass this email on to others.Be sure to encourage others to vote.Thanks.Wayne ParkeChairman [email protected] 3 Republican Primary CandidatesFOOTNOTE:  Vanderburgh County GOP Chairmen Wayne’s Parkes choices are shown “HIGHLIGHTED IN “BLACK”.President(vote for 1)Ted Cruz*John KasichDonald TrumpUnited States Senate (vote for 1)Marlin A Stutzman* Todd YoungGovernor (vote for 1)*Michael R PenceUnited States Representative 8th District (vote for 1)*Larry D. BucshonRichard MossState Senator District 50 (vote for 1)*Vaneta BeckerJeremy HeathState Representative District 64 (vote for 1)Ann Ennis*Thomas W. WashburneState Representative District 76 (vote for 1)*Wendy (Mac) McNamaraState Representative District 77 (vote for 1)Wm Billy D. GarrettHenrietta Jenkins*Johnny KincaidState Representative District 78 (vote for 1)*Holli SullivanClerk of the Circuit Court (vote for 1)Connie Carrier*Carla J HaydenCounty Recorder (vote for 1)*Debbie StuckiCounty Treasurer (vote for 1)*Susan K. KirkCounty Surveyor (vote for 1)*Jeffrey D. MuellerCounty Commissioner District One (vote for 1)Dale McCuiston (On the ballot but has withdrawn. We will replace Dale in a June Caucus)County Commissioner District Three (vote for 1)Brenda BergwitzCheryl A.W. Musgrave*Alex R. SchmittCounty Council at Large (vote for 3)*Joe Kiefer*Angela Koehler Lindsey*Nicholas Wildeman FOOTNOTES: Our next “IS IT TRUE” will be posted on this coming FRIDAY?Please take time and read our newest feature article entitled “HOT JOBS”. Jobs posted in this section are from Evansville proper.If you would like to advertise in the CCO please contact us City-County [email protected] “Readers Poll” question is: Do you feel that the Vanderburgh County GOP Chairman Wayne Parke should publicly endorse candidates running in the Republican primary?FacebookTwitterCopy LinkEmailSharelast_img read more

Cake Box store numbers and like-for-like sales grow

first_imgEgg-free cake supplier Cake Box has continued its expansion with the opening of nine franchise stores in the past six months.The business, which is now operating 122 stores, has seen total sales rise around 6% to £8.8m in the six months ended 30 September 2019. This is a £0.5m increase on the same period last year.Sales in stores trading for at least one full financial year rose 6.9% year-on-year.Recent store openings included Dartford, Derby and Slough, and the company said the pipeline of new stores remained strong and the group was on track to achieve its store opening target for the year. “I am very pleased with our performance over the first half, particularly our ongoing momentum in like-for-like sales,” said Sukh Chamdal, co-founder and chief executive officer.“Our new store roll-out was slightly lower than the comparative period last year. However, we already have a further three stores fitted out and, once the final legal processes are completed, will be open for trading, so will be recognised in the second half.“With a number of other developments under way to improve the Cake Box proposition, we remain confident in our prospects for the full year and beyond.”Launched in 2008 in East London, Cake Box supplies products that are all egg-free, which the company said enabled it to target a larger potential market. The business has a manufacturing site in Enfield and, last year, listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM).last_img read more

Watch ‘The Allman Brothers’ Family Incident’ Perform A 17+ Minute ‘Jessica’ At Peach Fest [HD Video]

first_imgOn Friday night, the wonderful worlds of The Allman Brothers Band and The String Cheese Incident collided into an epic set of southern rock ballads. “The Allman Brothers’ Family Incident” came together at the very last minute, when Gregg Allman had to cancel his co-headlining set with the band, and members of Les Brers stepped in.The 2016 incarnation of the Allman Brothers Band, touring as Les Brers, includes founding members Jaimoe and Butch Trucks on drums, recent bassist Oteil Burbridge (Dead & Co.) and percussionist Marc Quiñones, and slide guitarist Jack Pearson (from 1997-99). In addition to these mushroom-official members, are vocalist Lamar Williams Jr. (son of bassist Lamar Williams who played in ABB after Berry Oakley) and keyboardist Bruce Katz, known as a regular member of Gregg Allman and Friends, Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band, and a frequent collaborator with ABB — making him the perfect fit for the B3 seat. In addition to these seven members of Les Brers, guitarist Scott Sharrard stepped in to help SCI perform the ever-expansive catalogue of the Allman Brothers Band, and has been assisting in the learning process over the past several weeks leading up to the epic tribute performance.The music of the Allman Brothers was both respected and enjoyed in a professional manner. The bluegrass-infused touch of the Cheese on an already southern book of songs made for a perfect cocktail to fans of either. The energy was at an all time high, with gratitude that the Peach Festival was able to pull off such a stellar replacement for Allman.Thanks to Rock, Roots, & Blues – Live! we can enjoy these high-definition videos below:Jessica w/ Butch Trucks, Oteil Burbridge, Jack Pearson, Bruce KatzTrouble No More w/ Jaimoe, Lamar Williams Jr., Bruce KatzAin’t Wastin’ Time No More w/ Butch Trucks, Oteil Burbridge, Jack Pearson, Bruce Katz Midnight RiderThe Allman Brothers’ Family Incident @ Peach Music Festival 8/12/16:Statesboro Blues w/ JaimoeMidnight Rider w/ Jaimoe, Marc QuiñonesTrouble No More w/ Jaimoe, Lamar Williams Jr., Bruce KatzSweet Melissa w/ Bruce KatzOutside And Inside w/ Marc QuiñonesAin’t Wastin’ Time No More w/ Butch Trucks, Oteil Burbridge, Jack Pearson, Bruce KatzQuinn The Eskimo w/ Butch Trucks, Jack Pearson, Bruce KatzJessica w/ Butch Trucks, Oteil Burbridge, Jack Pearson, Bruce Katzlast_img read more

How mosquitoes home in

first_imgThey have been a scourge for thousands of years, responsible for the spread of lethal diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, and, much less urgently, a threat to barbecues around the globe.What if there was a way to render humans invisible to mosquitoes?The notion isn’t as far-fetched as it might sound, say researchers who have identified a key genetic variation that helps mosquitoes “smell” humans. The study, which is described in a Nov. 13 paper in Nature, could open the door to new strategies to ward off the pesky insects.The work was led by Leslie B. Vosshall at Rockefeller University in New York and Carolyn McBride, an assistant professor at Princeton. Felix Baier, now a graduate student in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard, was also part of the team.“What’s emerging from this is a picture of exactly how mosquitoes are navigating their environment to locate humans, and in the end, we may able to use that knowledge to fine-tune a line of attack that distracts their preference for humans altogether,” Baier said.The gene researchers identified, Or4, encodes for receptors that detect sulcatone, a compound emitted at unusually high levels by humans. By varying the sensitivity and expression level of that gene, Baier said, ancient mosquitoes were able to zero in on a new food source — humans.As recently as 100,000 years ago, mosquitoes fed exclusively on animals, largely because there simply weren’t enough humans to make them worth targeting. But as humans spread around the globe, mosquitoes followed, hungrily.While animal- and human-preferring mosquitoes have diverged over thousands of years, the two can still be interbred, a fact Baier and colleagues exploited to examine how their genomes differ.“What we did first was to take the two different types of mosquito and look at their antennae, which is their most important smell organ,” Baier said. “We reasoned that there should be differences in the number and type of genes that are expressed there, and that was true. We found a huge list of genes that differed in their expression between the two types of mosquitoes — 959 in all.”To pare the list, Baier and colleagues bred the two types of mosquitoes to create hybrids, then bred the hybrids to create a second generation.“When you do that the genome gets reshuffled,” Baier said. “Just by chance, some mosquitoes in the second generation will have the gene that attracts them to humans, and some will have the gene that attracts them to animals. We subject those mosquitoes to behavioral tests to identify one from another, and then sequence the genes in their antennae again.”The team reduced the original pool of nearly 1,000 possibilities down to just 46, a list far more manageable, but still too large to identify candidate genes for further study.“We next compared the two lists of genes. If we found that a particular gene was upregulated in the human-preferring hybrids, we then looked to see if it was upregulated in the human-preferring parental strain as well,” Baier said. “If it wasn’t, we reasoned it was unlikely to be the gene responsible for the preference to bite humans.”By identifying genes that were different in similar ways in both the parental and the hybrid strains, the team was able to produce a list of just 14 genes that might be responsible for helping mosquitoes identify humans. The team then cut the list even further by looking at the identity of those genes — and found that two of them encoded odorant receptors.“We felt that odorant receptors in the antennae were the most likely to underlie this behavioral difference, because changing the input to the system is an easy way to change the behavior,” Baier said. “We then decided to look more deeply into one gene because it was very highly expressed — in fact, it was the second most highly-expressed odorant receptor in the antenna of human-preferring mosquitoes overall.”With their target identified, the team set about finding what the odorant receptor detects. The process is relatively simple in fruit flies, Baier said: Researchers bombard the insect with various compounds while monitoring the activity of particular neurons. When the receptors detect certain compounds, they cause neurons to fire. By tracking those neural patterns, researchers can determine which compounds the receptors detect.“But because these are mosquitoes and not model organisms like the fruit fly, we had to use a different strategy,” Baier said. That strategy was to transplant the Or4 gene from the mosquito into fruit flies, and then record their neural activity as they were confronted with different molecules.The receptor detects sulcatone, the researchers found.“Humans emit it much more than any of the other animals we tested,” Baier said. “And that makes sense — it’s something a mosquito could use to distinguish between human and other mammals.”The researchers said it could be possible to interrupt the process somehow, whether by attacking the genetic pathway or developing a compound that binds to the sulcatone receptors. Doing so would effectively render mosquitoes “blind” to humans.“Obviously, doing that is not trivial, but this opens the possibility of looking into it,” Baier said. “Of course, mosquitoes would still be able to locate humans through other cues, but they would probably have a harder time to prefer biting humans. The importance of this is that we’re learning more about the architecture of the olfactory system in mosquitoes in general, and how that mediates the recognition of humans.”last_img read more

Prescription crackdown called crucial in opioid fight

first_img Related Stages of losing control, on the street and in the body Heroin’s descent The good news is the prospect of a one-step solution for America’s opioid epidemic.The bad news — according to former Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, speaking at the JFK Jr. Forum on Wednesday — is that taking that step won’t be easy.“The crisis is 100 percent avoidable,” Shumlin told the audience. “And the solution is to stop handing out [opioid prescription drugs] like they’re candy. Full stop, that’s what we’ve got to do.”The panel, “Examining America’s Opioid Crisis,” opened with moderator Sheila Burke, a lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, citing statistics to show that the description “opioid crisis” is no exaggeration. The overdose rate from prescription opioids such as OxyContin has quadrupled since 1999, and in 2015 there were four times as many deaths from opioids, both prescription and illicit, as there were from gun violence. More than 2 million painkiller prescriptions are written annually. Last year, the surgeon general sent a letter to 2 million physicians warning of their dangers.Shumlin, now a visiting fellow at the Institute of Politics, brought a unique perspective to the conversation. As governor, he declared in his 2014 State of the State address that heroin use — largely by patients who’d gotten addicted to OxyContin, and then turned to street drugs as a cheaper and readily available substitute — had become epidemic in Vermont. The speech got nationwide coverage, including a major feature in Rolling Stone, “The New Face of Heroin.”“I always wanted to get on the cover of Rolling Stone, but not that way,” Shumlin said Wednesday. “I took a lot of heat for that speech, and the tourist industry went nuts. The State of the State is usually where you talk about nice things like our skiing or maple syrup.” Vermont took steps including decriminalizing opioid abuse, so that the cost of incarcerating an addict for a year — more expensive, he noted, than a year’s tuition at Harvard — could be applied to treatment. The state also tightened its standards for prescribing painkillers.“We now have the least number of pills you can prescribe for nonserious issues, so we’re making progress,” Shumlin said.But the underlying problem hasn’t gone away, he added.“No one will take on Big Pharma and say, ‘Why don’t we go back to where we were when aspirin and Tylenol were prescribed, instead of giving them heroin in pill form?’ Money is the problem.”David Armstrong, a senior executive reporter at STAT, a Boston Globe-affiliated health publication, said that when he began investigating the early marketing of OxyContin, he mostly found sealed documents.“It’s important to realize how we got here,” Armstrong argued, citing early claims by Purdue Pharma that its OxyContin product was nonaddictive. (Those claims led to a $600 million fine.)Opioid prescriptions, Armstrong noted, are now so widespread that one of the hottest new medical products is a drug that treats constipation in opioid users. That product, he said, has been licensed to Purdue.While the influence of pharmaceutical companies is certainly an issue, former U.S. customs commissioner Gil Kerlikowske zeroed in on a range of others.“There is a lot of finger-pointing going on, including doctors who overprescribe,” said Kerlikowske, who is now an Institute of Politics resident fellow. “But nobody can prescribe these painkillers without a license from the Drug Enforcement Agency — so are they doing enough?”He noted that the process of hospital accreditation creates its own problems. “If a patient leaves a hospital and says they’re in pain, that hospital is going to be in trouble. So the hospital will want to do everything it can to make sure that doesn’t happen.”A Q&A session followed the panel. One student said that the epidemic had to affect white suburbia before it was seen as a significant health issue. Shumlin agreed.“Not to be glib here, but this is true of every issue: If it doesn’t hit the soccer moms, it doesn’t get a response. And this one has hit them.”An online course, “The Opioid Crisis in America,” launched this week through HarvardX. The course looks at the development of the epidemic and options for treatment and recovery.The Ed Portal will host a panel on the opioid crisis at 6:30 p.m. May 3.last_img read more

Uruguay Becomes Key Transshipment Link for Drug Smugglers

first_imgBy Dialogo June 17, 2011 MONTEVIDEO — Narcotraffickers are increasingly using Uruguay — sandwiched between Argentina and Brazil — as a convenient transshipment point for smuggling cocaine to Spain and other key European markets. In October 2009, international efforts led to the largest drug seizure in Uruguay’s history: 2,174 kilograms of cocaine hidden in a recreational boat. The long-running stakeout was dubbed “Operation Balkan Warrior” because the criminal organization smuggling the drugs was based in Serbia. “In the last few years, we have seen Uruguay become a very important country for drug traffickers, from a logistics standpoint,” said Jorge Díaz, a Montevideo-based magistrate and expert in organized crime. Díaz explained that traffickers favor Uruguay because Montevideo is also home to one of South America’s fastest-growing container ports — not to mention its proximity to Argentina and Brazil, both of which border major drug-producing nations. In addition, Uruguay boasts good highways and telecom links, as well as a vibrant fishing industry, all of which are key attractions for drug traffickers. Profit margins are potentially huge; cocaine sells for about $7,000 to $7,500 per kilogram in Uruguay, but around $55,000 per kilogram in Europe. Drugs smuggled from Uruguay are sent primarily to Spain, often as a point of entry to other European countries. Most shipments consist of cocaine hydrochloride — usually from Bolivia or Colombia — and are generally of exceptional purity. Sometimes, Paraguayan marijuana is also smuggled from Uruguay, though to a much lesser extent because it faces stiff competition in Europe from hashish. “We have the principal producers in the region, and obviously the drugs need to leave the country. Strangely, we have not seen [shipments] being sent to the United States,” said Díaz, explaining that drugs bound for the U.S. market would instead pass through the Caribbean, “more towards Central America or Mexico rather than South America.” Inspector Maj. Mario Layera Panzardo, chief of Uruguay’s Directorate General for Illicit Drug Trafficking Enforcement, said the current situation reflects a worldwide tendency. “The truth is, Uruguay is no exception to what is happening throughout the region,” he said. “Globalization affects this illegal business, just like it affects legal businesses, as far as the diversification of shipping routes, the specific capabilities of criminal organizations, or where the consumer markets are.” That’s one reason Uruguay has begun cracking down on money laundering, which is often linked to drug trafficking. New regulations require not only banks but also casinos, notaries, antiques dealers, auctioneers and administrators of free trade zones to report suspicious financial activities. At the same time, Pablo Ferreri, director of Uruguay’s General Tax Directorate, recently announced that his agency will soon open an international office to investigate cases of money laundering reported from abroad. Yet smuggling patterns have shifted dramatically in the last 20 years, said Layera. “At first, the largest consumer market for cocaine was the United States, and they used a few direct routes to get to the U.S. by any existing means. Later, due to a market opening or greater demand, the tendency moved towards Europe, first Western Europe and then Eastern Europe. Most recently, they’ve even moved into the Asian market,” said the inspector. “They have started to deviate from the primary routes, and they are looking for an exit route through countries that have legal commercial contacts that would allow traffickers to employ maritime and air routes in a variety of ways.” Where both experts agree is that these organizations — most of them non-Uruguayan — have become very clever at hiding drugs. Traffickers have managed to place narcotics on foreign ships without the knowledge of those vessels’ captains or even their crews. One occasion involved a Japanese-flag ship carrying cereal between Uruguay, Spain and Portugal. While the ship was docked in Montevideo, divers working for a criminal organization went underwater and used iron screws to attach hermetically sealed containers to the boat. Each container held 50 kilograms of cocaine. The task required expertise in scuba diving as well as special materials for moving around underwater and for attaching the illicit cargo. “If there’s one thing Uruguayan drug traffickers do well, it’s transportation,” said the judge. In early January, two Argentines and three Uruguayans were detained in northwestern Uruguay as part of an anti-drug operation that resulted in the seizure of 702 kilograms of marijuana worth $700,000. Then in late April, Uruguayan police arrested several Colombians trying to export cocaine to Germany and Latvia. Some 119 kilograms were found hidden in fuel tanks and forklifts being re-exported to Europe, where its street value would have exceeded $6.5 million. According to Díaz, authorities uncovered at least 10 prior shipments identical to this one ¬— and they’re convinced that the gang had already carried out this type of operation with engines shipped to Europe. In addition to Colombians, local authorities have also arrested Mexicans and Europeans as well. However, Layera claims no domestic gangs or organizations are involved. “Obviously, Uruguayan criminals want a share in the large amount of business that international drug trafficking represents. And of course, if they have access to large shipments of cocaine, they will try to sell it abroad, mainly in Europe, which is where it would yield the greatest profits,” he explained. “But they never form a highly structured organization. They remain in small groups that work together case by case. Once the job is over and they receive their money, everyone goes his own way.” Yet the danger of incarcerating so many foreign prisoners is that, while in prison, they’ll come into contact with local criminals, whom they can train and with whom they can forge lasting bonds. “This is a significant threat,” said Layera. “We do not know the actual scope these contacts might have. We suspect, and we have reports, that they pass on their knowledge and their ways of doing things to common criminals or drug traffickers in Uruguay.” Uruguay’s overcrowded prisons don’t allow for sufficient “segregation” of prisoners based on the types of crimes they’ve committed. As a consequence, said Layera, “when we have too many foreigners with different modes of operation than our own criminals, they share ideas, forge ties, make contacts and long-term plans. We have citizens of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Serbia. It’s a kind of United Nations here.” The policy applied in Uruguay for the repression of illegal drug trafficking is good. We are a country that has just begun to work on this calamity, we know that there is a long way ahead and it would be good to promote a regional conference to apply policies and efforts among the different forces.last_img read more

Lawyer gets 10 years for misusing client funds

first_imgLawyer gets 10 years for misusing client funds March 1, 2002 Regular News Lawyer gets 10 years for misusing client fundscenter_img Telling the other lawyers in the courtroom to listen up, 15th Circuit Judge Marvin Mounts, Jr., recently sentenced former West Palm Beach lawyer C.E. Chillingworth to 10 years in prison for misusing client funds.“Simply stated, misuse of clients funds is one of the most serious offenses a lawyer can commit,” Judge Mounts said January 25, reading from his 17-page sentencing order. “Stealing elevates it to the most serious wrong possible.”Judge Mounts also sentenced Chillingworth, 58, to 20 years of probation after his release and ordered him to pay more than $2 million in restitution. The sentence far exceeded the guidelines, which call for 21 to 35 months in prison.In July, Chillingworth pleaded guilty to a first-degree felony in a case where he misappropriated escrow funds. He resigned from the Bar in 1998. Chillingworth helped a client secure a $2.4-million loan from Attorneys Title Insurance Fund to pay off his client’s debts — including a $1.5-million mortgage on his client’s home — but diverted most of the money to himself and to a business he and the client owned. The fund had to pay off the mortgage and is suing Chillingworth to recover $1.45 million.“The completed crime was larceny of $2.4 million, pure and simple,” said Judge Mounts, who called Chillingworth’s actions “an affront to the honor and dignity of each honest attorney.”“It fuels the festering cynicism and suspicion that exists in some quarters of public opinion concerning the trustworthiness of our profession,” Judge Mounts said.Chillingworth’s lawyer, John Page, asked the judge for leniency, pleading that probation would allow Chillingworth to make restitution for his crime.Judge Mounts said while many defendants awaiting sentencing in the context of theft begin accumulating something as a symbol of their determination to make amends for their transgressions, Chillingworth had not.“Had this man set aside only $20 per week from the date his charge was filed, he would have accumulated $1,480 (total of 74 weeks, August 29, 2000 thru week ending January 25),” Mounts said. “Here, not one penny has been tendered.”Mounts said while there were many reasons why he chose to depart from the sentencing guidelines, the greatest was Chillingworth’s “betrayal of a fiduciary relationship in a position of trust and confidence.”Assistant State Attorney Frank Castor prosecuted the case and told The Palm Beach Post the sentence was appropriate.“When you steal this much money, you have to face consequences,” Castor said. “It is an outrage, what he did, violating trust. The judge did the right thing.”Before sentencing, Page had filed a motion to disqualify Mounts, saying Chillingworth had “lost all lingering hope and belief that Judge Mounts could be fair and impartial in the case.”Chillingworth is appealing the sentence and was released after posting bond pending the appeal. In the meantime, Judge Mounts ordered Chillingworth to make all his financial records available for review and suggested he sell his house.“Were he to sell it and apply the proceeds to his debt, this would be a considerable mitigation,” Judge Mounts said.last_img read more

A zest for Zelle drives early adoption at 2 credit unions

first_img 3SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr continue reading » Only five minutes had passed when the first member of the University of Wisconsin Credit Union ($2.8B, Madison, WI) used the cooperative’s new Zelle person-to-person payments offering.That was on Jan. 24 this year, and by the end of March, more than 13,000 members had used Zelle through the UWCU app or website, moving nearly $4 million through approximately 15,000 transactions, says Eric Bangerter, UWCU’s vice president of e-commerce.Those 13,000 or so members represent 6.5% of the credit union’s online banking base, but that’s a pretty good adoption number considering the real marketing doesn’t begin until this summer, Bangerter says.Right now, Zelle exists as an unadvertised menu option on the credit union’s website and app. An indication of how receptive the audience is: Bangerter says about 3,000 members signed up as new users recently after UW simply added a popup screen about it on its website.last_img read more

Get ready to do business in a fundamentally different way

first_imgThe next decade is poised to deliver an exponential rate of change in consumer financial services. As described below and in the EY report, NextWave Consumer Financial Services Insights, the key drivers of exponential industry change will include competition based on consumer trust, artificial intelligence-driven financial health platforms and subscription-based consumer financial services. More than just bolt-on products to existing infrastructure, these trends represent fundamentally different ways of doing business.To thrive in the coming decade, credit unions will need to embark upon strategic planning that integrates NextWave concepts into a comprehensive value creation model that prioritizes innovation, agility and scalability.A New Approach to TrustAlthough consumers trust their credit unions, the financial services industry suffers from a trust gap. According to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer, financial services is the least trusted industry among those surveyed. The top-ranked technology sector will surely seek to exploit their advantage through services that encroach upon financial services. continue reading » ShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

Poland places further restrictions on second-pillar pension funds

first_imgThe Polish government has finally published the draft bill radically changing the second-pillar pension system.The bill, issued late on 10 October, puts in place essentially all the proposals announced in September, alongside punitive restrictions on advertising by the second-pillar funds (OFEs) and some proposed changes to the third pillar.The bill is now out for a 30-day public consultation.Its publication marks a U-turn from 1999, when the establishment of the mandatory second pillar was seen as a means of providing higher retirement income while eventually reducing the pension and public deficit, to a position where the system has ostensibly done the opposite. The draft bill states that the costs associated with the OFEs had, according to the Finance Ministry, ballooned to PLN279.4bn (€66.7bn) by the end of 2012.This was equivalent to 17.5% of GDP and more than 30% of the country’s public debt.The Finance Ministry has estimated that the changes will in 2014 reduce the public debt by 8.4% of GDP according to national accounting standards and by 9.2% according to EU methodology.As expected, the first pillar Polish Social Insurance Institution (ZUS) will handle the OFE retirement payouts, with the accumulated funds transferred incrementally 10 years before retirement.The controversial investment changes are also in place.All Polish sovereign and state guaranteed bond holdings, including central bank issues, will be transferred from the OFEs on 3 February 2014.The law actually stipulates 51.5% of portfolio value on 3 September 2013 – the day before the government officially announced the changes – so the funds that cannot satisfy this quota with state bonds will have to make up the difference with other non-equity assets such as cash and bank deposits, road and municipal bonds.Earlier, the Polish Chamber of Pension Funds (IGTE), which has disputed the legality of both the transfer of assets to ZUS before retirement and the removal of government securities, sought opinion from the European Commission.Małgorzata Rusewicz, IGTE acting president, told IPE: “We still emphasise that proposed changes raise serious legal doubts.“In accordance with legal regulations valid in Poland, the OFEs have the right to invest the assets of their members until the insured retire.“Therefore, the transfer of assets from the OFE to ZUS, even if it concerns only a part of them, as in the case of bonds, constitutes appropriation of the assets that are the property of the OFE and its members by a public institution without compensation.“The assets accumulated on behalf of the insured will cease to be private property – they will become public property and will be consumed by the state.”In future, the OFEs will be banned from investing in any state securities, not just Polish ones, as well as state-guaranteed loans, deposits and related instruments.  As part of what the government has consistently called “real economy” investment, they will be allowed to invest in Polish road and other infrastructure bonds, corporate and municipal issues.As of 4 February 2014, the OFEs will have to invest a minimum 75% in equity, irrespective of their members’ age and risk appetite.“Forcing a pension fund to invest a minimum 75% exclusively in shares will significantly increase the risk of such transactions and make it impossible to manage in a manner beneficial for the insured,” said Rusewicz.“It will make it impossible to protect the real value of those assets in periods of a slump in the economy. Until now, such solution has never been used in pension funds anywhere.”Other investment restrictions will be lifted as of 1 July, including the abolition of the minimum investment return benchmark.The foreign investment cap of 5% will be raised to 10%, then 20% in 2015 and 30% in 2016.The OFEs will be able to lend stock, a practice previously prohibited, while a separate law will specify in what circumstance they will be able to use derivatives, also banned up till now.Contribution fees will be halved, to 1.75% for the OFEs and 0.4% for ZUS, and the contributions to the OFEs capped at 2.92% of gross wages.The hitherto mandatory system becomes voluntary.New entrants to the labour market and existing OFE members will have a three-month window from 1 April to declare their intention to remain in the second pillar or have future contributions transferred to ZUS.They can make this choice in person, by post or online.Those who do not will by default have their future contributions moved to ZUS.Workers will be able to change their decision, with the April-June window open in the first instance after two years, then every four years.This is effectively the only concession the government has made since its proposals were announced in September.Previously, the freedom to change one’s mind was to be restricted to those workers who had opted to remain in the second pillar.OFE members will be able to change their fund every three months, although it is not clear how they will make their decision, as the government also dropped a bombshell by making the publication and distribution of OFE advertising a criminal offence subject to a penalty of PLN1m or up to two years in prison.“We are surprised with additional change, according to which there will be no possibility to advertise OFEs in any way,” said Rusewicz.  “We honestly don’t know at the moment how to interpret these rules. We don’t know, for example, if the IGTE would be able to organise any informational campaign regarding OFEs.“It would be a phenomenon for the whole EU if such a rule would be adopted by the Polish Parliament.”The draft also covers changes in the third-pillar IKZE retirement accounts introduced in 2011 to improve the take-up, including increasing the limit on tax-free contributions and reducing the tax on payouts to 10%.last_img read more