Monday, 27 March 2017

AMERI Power Agreement: Why Not Look To Anti-corruption Legislation In The United Arab Emirates For Resolution?

Why do our educated urban elites seldom explore unorthodox solutions to resolve apparently intractable challenges?

The question is: Why are  well-educated Ghanaian professionals - including some of the most handsomely compensated 'experts' in our country - talking of potential judgement debt against Ghana if the Ameri power agreement is abrogated by the government because it is fraudulent?

Are all those genuises who cost taxpayers zillions in salaries and sundry perks unaware that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - led by some of ,he world's most honest and visionary leaders - frowns upon corruption by companies domiciled there: and have therefore put in place tough anti-bribery laws for that reason?

Could we not alert the UAE's leaders and get them to investigate this outrage and subsequently prosecute Ameri in the law courts there for bribing officials here to enable them defraud our country - after which we could abrogate that abominable rip-off of a power agreement?

To encourage those who now govern our nation in that direction, we have culled and posted an Ethic-intelligence.com  article that we hope will inspire Ghanaian officialdom to do some lateral thinking in this vexing matter and resolve it for the benefit of our nation and all its people, once and for all.

Please read on:

''Anti-corruption legislation in the United Arab Emirates

Faizal Latheef

Partner

Kochhar & Co Inc.

 Dubai, UAE

Anti-corruption legislation in the UAE

Anti-corruption legislation in the UAE0
Anti-corruption laws in the United Arab Emirates

The UAE is one of the most resilient economies in the world. Its visionary rulers foresaw the dangers of over reliance on oil years back, and made determined efforts to diversify the economy. This created a myriad of opportunities in the market and businesses from across the world rushed to the UAE. However, it appears that many international companies, although clearly enjoying the market growth, are oblivious to the implications of such growth on compliance. In terms of anti-corruption, their attention is confined to the US Federal Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) or the UK Bribery Act and they are unaware of the anti-corruption laws in the UAE.
Legislation on Corruption

It is true that the UAE does not have specific anti-corruption legislation. However, the UAE has taken many steps towards tackling corruption. There are comprehensive legislative provisions on the subject, though they are scattered throughout many pieces of legislation, from the UAE Penal Code (Federal Law No. 3 of 1987) to various codes of conduct. Many corporates are unaware of the existence of these provisions and end up violating them. It is important to note that any such violation by a company or its employees may result in serious consequences, including substantial fines and imprisonment.

Applicability of the Penal Code

The Penal Code imposes criminal liability on an individual who offers to a public official or any other person assigned with a public office, a gift or an advantage of any kind or a promise of anything of the like, in order to commit or omit an act in breach of such official’s duties. The Penal Code extends the liability to any individual who mediates the bribe.

The Penal Code provides a broad meaning to the term ‘public official’ and includes ‘any individual employed by a government ministry or a department and any individual who performs a job relating to public service by virtue of a mandate given to him by a duly authorized public official’. There is one exception however and this occurs when a briber or a mediator informs the judicial or administrative authority of a crime before it is discovered. In this case, the briber or mediator may avoid liability and be exempt from sanctions.

The anti-corruption provisions of the Penal Code also covers ‘non-public officials’ (members of a company board of directors or of a private institution, or the manager or employee of such an entity). The Penal Code prohibits any non-public official from asking for himself or for third parties, or accepting, or taking a promise or gift, to do or abstain from doing an act included in his job or in breach of his duties. It is important to note that it is assumed that the criminal act has been committed even if the non-public official does not intend to do the task or breach his duties. Further, the same punishment will apply if a non-public official solicits or accepts a gift or a promise, after he performs an act or refrains from performing it in breach of his duties with the intention of being rewarded without any prior agreement.

The provisions of the Penal Code apply to all crimes committed in the UAE, including the free zones. More importantly, the Penal Code does not make any distinction between a domestic entity and a foreign entity. This may mean that a company or an individual involved in corrupt practices in the UAE may be held liable under the Penal Code even if they are not resident in the UAE.

Some argue that the UAE authorities have not yet taken firm steps to address corruption in the private sector. There is no provision to prosecute a person paying, or offering to pay a bribe to a non-public official (in case of public officials, the person offering the bribe is criminally liable, whereas the legislative provisions are silent on the guilt of a person offering bribes to a non-public official). However, many recent measures adopted by the authorities against corruption clearly indicate that they are proceeding in the right direction. Accordingly, in all likelihood, the scope of the anti-bribery legislation will be widened to cover the private sector comprehensively.

Human Resources Laws

Another important piece of legislation that includes provisions on anti-corruption is the Federal Human Resources Law (Federal Law No. 11 of 2008). The law is extensive in its scope, and not only prohibits an employee from accepting, offering or requesting bribes, but also prohibits him from accepting any gifts from third parties unless they are symbolic advertising or promotional gifts bearing the name and emblem of the third party. The relevant ministry is required to nominate the organisational units which are allowed to accept such gifts on its behalf for distributing them as per the regulations and standards adopted by the ministry. Further, a public official is prohibited from making or distributing gifts except in the name of the ministry and the organisational unit approved by the ministry. Similar restrictions are included in the Dubai Human Resources Law (Dubai Law No. 27 of 2006).

Codes of Conduct

Various ministries and government departments have published several Codes of Conduct to ensure probity in their organizations. For example, the Ministry of Health has published a number of codes, which include codes for pharmacists, medical practitioners, other healthcare professionals and administrative staff. There are strict provisions in these codes to tackle corruption, which include, prohibition of promotion, or supply of specific medicines or devices; prohibition of receiving financial benefits, gifts or hospitality; prohibition of offering unethical rebates to vendors; and restrictions on having direct or indirect commercial interests in organisations providing pharma or healthcare services.

Definition of ‘bribe’ and facilitation payments

It is interesting to note that the above-mentioned legislation does not provide a uniform definition for the term ‘bribe’. The Penal Code does not mention ‘bribe’ anywhere in it, and refers to ‘any gift or benefit, or a promise for the same’. On the other hand, the Federal Human Resources Law defines ‘bribe’ as ‘any amount of money or a particular service, or anything of material or moral value offered to a government employee that a) accelerates any work that the employee is required to do in the normal course of his duties, or ii) leads to the employee’s failure to do an assigned work, or iii) leads the employee to mediate with another employee to finish an application or take any procedure in violation of the existing legislations’.

An important aspect to consider here is the inclusion of the wording – accelerates any work that the employee is required to do in the normal course of his duties – under the definition. This makes it amply clear the intention of the authorities to alleviate the practice of ‘facilitation payments’ (or ‘grease payments’) from the market. This is of particular significance to those multinational companies coming under the purview of the FCPA. The FCPA provides for certain exceptions where facilitation payments are considered legal, whereas the UAE law does not consider any such exceptions.

Employer’s liability for an employee’s action

It is possible that a company could be held liable for its ‘inaction’ irrespective of whether it was aware of the corrupt act in question. A typical scenario is where an employee pays, or offers to pay a bribe to a public official without the company’s knowledge. It may not be possible for the company to escape from liability in view of the principle of ‘vicarious liability’ enshrined under the Commercial Companies Law (Federal Law No. 2 of 2015) and the Civil Transactions Law (Federal Law No. 5 of 1985).

In accordance with the Commercial Companies Law, a company shall be held liable for the actions of its senior employees, if such employees commit a violation of any laws in the course of their duties. The company shall also be liable to indemnify third parties for any damages caused by such employees. Likewise, the senior management shall be liable to the company, its shareholders and third parties for any damages caused, resulting from fraud, misuse of power, violation of laws, or an error in management. Further, a company shall have civil liability under the Civil Transactions Law for the actions of its employees.

Restrictions on business courtesies

In addition to the legislative provisions and codes mentioned above, the authorities have issued various circulars including a myriad of restrictions aimed at alleviating corrupt practices. These include restrictions on inviting public officials for meals, sponsorship of public officials for events, organising educational events etc.

Interestingly, none of the above legislation or codes prescribe the ‘benchmark’ for business courtesies extended by a company to a public official or a third party. Therefore, it is advisable that the company exercises due caution in such circumstances. Certain key factors, including value of the courtesies offered, purpose of the offers, frequency of such offers and intended beneficiaries should be carefully considered prior to taking any decision in this regard. In all senses, it is better to avoid extending business courtesies benefiting an individual employee exclusively (for e.g. personal unbranded gifts or entertainment vouchers).

Recovery of Illegal Money

Dubai, one of the prominent emirates in the UAE and the region’s commercial hub, is taking stringent measures to tackle corruption. The Dubai government has passed Law No. 37 of 2009 providing for a longer term of imprisonment, up to 20 years, if a person who has obtained ‘Illegal Money’ or ‘Public Funds’ fails to pay thereof. As per the law, if a final court order establishes that a person has obtained ‘Illegal Money’ or ‘Public Money’, he shall be imprisoned for a period varying from 5 to 20 years, the period of imprisonment being proportional to the money obtained. The law has given a broad definition to ‘Illegal Money’ and ‘Public Money’ and define them as “any money obtained by a person directly or indirectly as a result of a deed that is a crime punishable under the law” and “funds that are owned by, or due to, the government or governmental authorities, or corporations or companies owned or related to the government or governmental authorities” respectively. One of the few exceptions provided by the law to escape punishment is, paying off the money.

Conclusion

The UAE is a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2003 and the Arab Anti-corruption Convention, adopted by the League of Arab States in 2010. It ranks 25 out of the 175 countries included in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2014 published by Transparency International (first among Arab countries). The authorities have realised the importance of tackling corruption to attain sustained economic growth and are taking comprehensive steps in this direction. Therefore, it is highly important that all the stakeholders in the business community take necessary safeguards to ensure compliance.

Faizal Latheef
Partner
Kochhar & Co Inc.
Suites 1406 – 1410, The Citadel,
Business Bay
Dubai, UAE

Tel: +971 4 277 6075
@dubaiattorney

Faizal is a Partner in the Dubai office of Kochhar & Co. He has over 17 years of professional experience  and has been practising corporate and commercial law  in the Middle East for a decade. His areas of expertise include foreign investment, joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, compliance, corporate restructuring and employment laws.

Faizal has vast experience representing some of the world’s largest multinational corporations in the Middle East, which includes working as a corporate in-house lawyer with a Fortune 500 corporation. Faizal Latheef

The ETHIC Intelligence Expert’s Corner is an opportunity for specialists in the field of anti-corruption compliance to express their views on approaches to and developments in the sector. The views expressed in these articles are those of the authors."

End of culled Ethic-intelligence.com article by Faisal Latheef.

All rights reserved - © 2017

Wang Appointed to Head NASA’s Office of Communications

March 27, 2017
RELEASE 17-034


Jen Rae Wang has been selected by Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot as NASA's Associate Administrator for the Office of Communications. Wang joins NASA with more than a decade of experience at the highest levels of state and federal government in public, legislative, and media affairs both domestically and internationally, strategic communications, as well as small and large-scale organizational executive leadership.

“We’re pleased to welcome Jen Rae to NASA,” said Lightfoot from Headquarters in Washington. “Her experience in government and journalism and enthusiasm for our work are going to be immensely useful in engaging wide audiences with the challenging missions of the future.”

At NASA, Wang will direct internal and external communications for the agency and serve as a Senior Advisor to NASA’s Administrator and other executive leaders. She is responsible for managing an agencywide staff of more than 100 that implements all aspects of NASA's external and internal communications.

“I’m excited to be a part of the amazing NASA team,” Wang said. “NASA is known for having the best and brightest minds in all areas, and to include some of the most talented and creative communications professionals in the world. I’m enthusiastic about the work and opportunities ahead of us, and I look forward to being a part of something very special.”

Immediately prior to coming to NASA, Wang was the Deputy Chief of Staff to U.S. Rep. Don Bacon, where she led the Congressman’s Omaha office as the District Director and was the Communications Director and key spokesperson.

Wang also served as Governor Dave Heineman’s Communications Director and spokesperson for eight years. At the end of his term, she was the longest serving Communications Director for a sitting U.S. Governor. She also was the Communications Director for the Lieutenant Governor and First Lady of Nebraska. In her many responsibilities, she led state communications in emergency situations, assisted in leading international trade missions, lead strategic communications for almost 40 state agencies, and worked directly with the Governor’s Cabinet and the legislature. Wang was a liaison to the National Governor’s Association and worked closely with the nation’s 55 governors and staff when Gov. Heineman served as Vice Chair and Chair of the organization.

Prior to leading the Governor’s Communications Office, Wang was a Senior Advisor and Communications Director to U.S. Congressman Lee Terry on The Hill for three years.

In addition to her public service career, Wang has a background in public relations and journalism, with experience in print, broadcast and social media. She has been an adjunct professor, teaching advanced public relations theories and strategies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications, and recently received the Public Relations Student Society of America’s first-ever Outstanding Mentor Award for her decade of mentoring the future leaders of journalists and strategic communications professionals.

Wang is a graduate of the University of Kansas’ William Allen White School of Journalism, Lawrence, with a Bachelor of Science in strategic communications and advertising. She is currently working on her master’s degree in management with a leadership emphasis through Doane University in Nebraska.

Wang describes herself as the proud wife of a U.S. Marine Corps officer. They have two children, Orion and Lyra.

What Females In Ghana Choose To Wear Should Not Be Used To Justify Their Being Defiled Or Raped - Because Ours Is A Free And Liberal Society

It is hard to fathom why some individuals in Ghanaian society seek to blame female victims of defilement and rape for their suffering and predicament - by saying that their dress sense might have provoked their being sexually assaulted by vile males. Incredible.

Women in Ghana - be they very young, middle-aged or above 60 - have a right to dress to please themselves without others passing judgement on their dress sense.

And the idea that females (of all ages) choosing to wear short or revealing clothes are somehow inviting men to assault them sexually must not be countenanced in this country.

It is an unfortunate notion for any decent individual to hold - and it can never justify the defilement or rape of any female in Ghana. Ever.

Ghanaians are a civilized people - and ours is a free and liberal society.

That is why responsible politicians should not seek to impose their ideas of what is appropriate dressing on any Ghanaian citizen - because that is an infringement of their right to happiness: which includes the freedom to dress to please themselves.

Above all, females in Ghana, like their male countrymen,  have an inalienable right to their dignity.

That is why women here  should be able to choose to wear whatever pleases them without that being used to criticise them when they end up being sexually assaulted - at precisely the point when they need justice and  consoling the most.

Because we live in a free and open society, the point needs to be constantly made that what females in Ghana choose to wear is up to them alone - just as is the case for all males in  this country.

Finally, let no one be in doubt: In 21st century Africa, what women here choose to wear is their own business - and it should never be used to justify their being defiled or raped by brutish, irresponsible, indisciplined and lawless males, whenever  that egregious crime aganist humanity occurs.  Period. Haaba.


Sunday, 26 March 2017

Why President Akufo-Addo Must Ensure That The Delta Force's Kwadwo Bamba & Co Are Prosecuted And Jailed

There can be no doubt that President Akufo-Addo and a majority of his ministers have come to serve Ghana - and that they are even prepared to make personal sacrifices to help transform our nation into a prosperous society, if need be.

Whiles the above might be the case,  we must never forget that at the same time the New Patriotic Party (NPP) also harbours self-seeking criminals like the so-called Delta Force's Kumasi branch's Kwadwo Bamba.

Clearly,  Kwadwo Bamba and his ilk think that because the NPP is now in power, Ghana has become their personal fiefdom  and plaything - and that somehow they are above the law: and can therefore break the law with impunity anytime they want.

Many of these characters are in politics because it provides a perfect cover for their criminal activities.

The question is: How, for example, do we know that as we speak  some of the over 200 government vehicles said to be missing might not actually be in the possession of such rogues - who might even have already dismantled them to sell as spare parts?

The Ghana Police Service must not rule that possibility out as they investigate his background. Those vehicles are worth more dismantled for sale as spare parts to individuals involved in organised crime.

The hierarchy of the Ghana Police Service must take immediate steps to disband all the private militias operated by powerful individuals in many of the political parties in Ghana - which are cloaked as private security companies but are private militias in all but name - by withdrawing their operating licenses They pose a real threat to Ghana's security.

Ghana belongs to all its citizens and no Ghanaian sent to work in any of the 10 regions of our country by the president of the republic is a 'stranger' anywhere in our homeland Ghana.

And, after all, is this not a unitary African nation-state blessed with a tolerant and mostly  peace-loving multi-ethnic population - with a shared common destiny who are united by blood ties and by inter-ethnic marriages - and in which virtually all extended family clans consist of family members from different ethnic backgrounds, I ask?

We must never forget that it is greedy and selfish characters such as  the Kwadwo Bambas - protected by powerful people at the top of society - who eventually  morph into warlords and terrorists to destroy nations in the continent governed by complacent African leaders who take the peace and  security of the nations they rule for granted.

President Akufo-Addo must make sure that that never happens during his tenure as Ghana's leader.

That is why he must personally ensure that  Kwadwo Bamba & Co are prosecuted and jailed for their unspeakable and unpardonable crimes at the Ashanti Regional Coordinating Council's office building  in Kumasi.

Not only did they seek to defy President Akufo-Addo  personally, by assaulting his choice for the position of regional security coordinator, Mr. George Adjei, but they also brought shame on his adminstration by unlawfully destroying government property  - and on top of all that egregious criminality they have also soiled the positive image our country enjoys around the world.

They belong in jail in a nation in which the rule of law prevails -  that is also lucky to  have a system underpinned by due process: in a continent in which that is a blessing and a real boon for ordinary people. We must not allow the Kwadwo Bambas in our midst to terrorise our country and destroy our democracy in the process. Ever. Period.

Dr. Joseph Mercola: "Market Rejection of GMOs Grows — Four-Year Plan to Topple Toxic Agriculture"

In many parts of the world ordinary people are beginning to take practical action to protect their health by abandoning GMO food - and opting instead for food that is produced without synthetic agro-chemical inputs.

For the benefit of this blog's readers, today we are sharing a culled Mercola.com article by Dr. Mercola, which we hope will encourage ordinary Ghanaians to collaborate with Ghana's food safety campaigners such as Food Sovereignty Ghana, for example..

Please read on:

''Mercola.com

Market Rejection of GMOs Grows — Four-Year Plan to Topple Toxic Agriculture
March 26, 2017


Story at-a-glance -

 *   For the first time in nearly 20 years, the amount of genetically engineered (GE) crops grown around the world has decreased, in terms of acreage
  * There’s strong growth in the organic and grassfed sectors worldwide. In the U.S., the organic sector grew 11.5 percent in 2016; grassfed grew about 50 percent. In France, organics grew by 20 percent
  *  The OCA’s consumer revolution platform is an ambitious one — double organic sales in the next four years. At current rate of growth, we could expect it to increase by 50 percent. Instead, we need to quadruple sales of organic and grass-fed

By Dr. Mercola

Our annual GMO Awareness Week is upon us, and in this interview, Ronnie Cummins, founder of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) details the current state of the opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

We first met about six years ago, when we collaborated to create the direct ballot initiative to label GMOs in California.

A lot has happened since then, including the passing of what's colloquially known as the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, ironically misnamed "The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act" — this despite a full 90 percent of consumers supporting mandatory labeling.

The Trump administration has also selected or appointed notorious cheerleaders for GMOs and factory farms to his cabinet — Mike Pompeo as head of the CIA, Sonny Perdue as USDA Secretary, and Rick Perry as Energy Secretary.

Meanwhile, his Tea Party allies in Congress have called for the abolition of the entire National Organic Program!1

On the upside, in 2016 we saw, for the first time in nearly 20 years, a decrease in the amount of genetically engineered (GE) crops grown around the world, in terms of acreage.

As noted by Cummins, "This represents the fact that this technology is failing, in the sense of superweeds and superpests are popping up all over the world." In the U.S., three-quarters of farmers growing GE crops like soybeans, corn or canola are having problems with these herbicide- and .pesticide-resistant pests.
Market Rejection of GMOs Has Grown

Even more importantly, consumers around the world have become aware of the many problems associated with GE crops and the toxic herbicides and pesticides used on them, and do not want any of it on their plates.

In other words, the market has started rejecting GMOs, and that's what we've been fighting for all along. Nothing can or will change unless consumers apply pressure in the form of refusing to buy GMOs.

In the European Union (EU), which is the biggest agriculture market in the world, few if any GMOs are found on supermarket shelves.

In the U.S. — despite industry spending hundreds of millions of dollars to manipulate market preference — about 40 percent of Americans still believe GE foods and GE ingredients are dangerous. Another 20 percent are unsure whether GMOs are dangerous or not.

    "This combination of consumer rejection and, basically, Mother Nature's resistance, has caused a drop-off," Cummins says. "I think this is the beginning of the end of at least this generation, the first generation, of GMO crops.

    Now, industry is saying, 'Don't worry about the fact that we're using more and more toxic pesticides and herbicides … Don't worry about these pests spreading across the fields. We've got a new generation of GMO crops where we can just do gene editing.

    We don't have to pull some DNA from a foreign species and haphazardly splice it into a corn or a soybean crop.'

    But the bottom line is that this gene-splicing and this so-called new gene editing are unnatural processes that disrupt the genetic structure, the natural workings of living organisms. These aren't going to work either."

Organics and Grassfed Are Increasing in Popularity

Worldwide, we're also seeing strong growth in organics and grassfed farming and ranching. In the U.S., the organic sector grew 11.5 percent in 2016. Grassfed grew about 50 percent. In France, organics grew by 20 percent.

    "This is because people understand this public health crisis has now spread worldwide, and this environmental crisis and its relationship to the climate crisis are all due to an out-of-control, industrial, chemical-intensive GMO agriculture. People are turning away," Cummins says.

In the U.S., we now also have a brand new grassfed certification by the American Grassfed Association (AGA), which is the highest certification you can get for dairy, beef and poultry, including chickens, sheep and goats.

In short, we're seeing a massive demand for healthier foods. A lot more people now know about the drawbacks of factory farmed beef and dairy, for example, and are aware that when herbivores are grazed naturally, without hormones, antibiotics and other drugs, you end up with a far healthier product.

    "What's been driving the growth of the grassfed beef and dairy industry are health concerns," Cummins says. "But also, people have become aware over the years that the factory farm system … is not right. You don't have to be an ethical vegan to have feeling for animals.

    Animals are sentient beings … Industry says if you want cheap food, you've got to go with factory farms. But I think more and more consumers are saying, 'I don't want cheap food if it means it's going to harm my health and the environment, and if you have to be that cruel to animals.'

    I think we're seeing the beginning of the end of the factory farm model, which actually has only existed [for] 40 years or so. Most animals used to be raised naturally …

    It's this wonderful coming together in the United States of the American Grassfed Association, merging in the dairy sector with dairy farmers who are already organic, to produce a higher quality 100 percent grassfed dairy.

    In the beef industry, there has been a tremendous growth in the demand for 100 percent grassfed, grass-finished beef. Unfortunately, most other grassfed beef in the United States is still coming from overseas, from countries like Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil …

    We still don't have the infrastructure in the United States that we had 50 years ago with processing plants in every region of the country and so on, but we're catching up."

Challenges Involved in Organic Grassfed Beef Production

Indeed, the lack of processing plants is really slowing down the reversal of the system. While American farmers have the capacity to provide an ample supply of grassfed cattle, the problem is there aren't enough processing plants to accommodate a massive increase.

In all, the U.S. has about 500,000 ranchers raising livestock, but there are only three or four major buyers. Ranchers may raise the animals on pasture and treat them well, but after a year and a half or so, they must be sold.

The cattle are sold at auction, and the buyers, such as JBS (a Brazilian firm that has bought out a large part of the beef industry in the U.S.), Cargill and Tyson Foods, will offer you the lowest possible price, regardless of how much you spent on the cattle's health and wellbeing.

This cartel-like system effectively prevents farmers from recouping what they've invested, and slows down the pace at which a farmer can possibly make positive changes that require greater expenses.

Once sold, the animals are transported to gigantic feedlots — basically animal factories — where they're placed in tiny pens. GMO grains and drugs are routinely used to fatten the animals up as quickly as possible. However, in doing so, the animals' health and wellbeing suffer. For example, E. coli 0157H, a virulent pathogen, can thrive in the animals' intestines under these conditions.

    "The reason why it's illegal for journalists or concerned citizens to go in and film in these giant feedlots is because the industry … don't want you to see the filth and the cruelty involved," Cummins says.

Factory Farmed Meat Is No Bargain

Next, the animals are sent off to mega slaughterhouses, of which there are only a few dozen in the entire country. As in the feedlots, these are hellish places where photographs and video taping is often illegal. As noted by Cummins:

    "The workers are immigrant workers typically, who don't have citizenship papers. Why is this? Because U.S. citizens will not take this kind of job. They would not work under these conditions … They have terrible health problems, terrible psychological problems. They're underpaid and overworked.

    What comes out on the other end is meat that might appear to be cheap … but it's not cheap in terms of what it does to your health … It clogs up your veins. You're ingesting pesticide and hormone residues. You end up supersizing yourself … Yeah, you've got your cheap burger. You've got your cheap steak. But you have damaged your health. That's going to be very costly over time.

    You also contributed to massive supply chain damage to the environment. The GMO corn and soybeans that make up the bulk of the feed in the feedlots, they have been sprayed with a horrendous amount of chemicals. These factory farms are the No. 1 contributors to water pollution …  You're part of a long chain of animal cruelty, exploitation of workers, destruction of the environment …

    This paradigm is going to end. But we need more awareness [among] consumers, and we need more ranchers to be able to directly come into contact with consumers who want to buy their products so they can cut out the cartel middlemen …"

Via Organica Paves Way for Organic Chicken and Egg Production

Mercola.com and OCA are both founding members of an international network called Regeneration International, which is seeking to replace, among other things, the outdated factory farm system with a natural humane system, whereby herbivores are raised on perennial grasses under a system of holistic management.

The same problems exist in poultry and pig farming, yet innovative farmers like Cummins and many others have proven there are far better ways of raising chickens and pigs on a larger scale as well.

Cummins' farm, Via Organica, located in the high desert of Central Mexico, uses a system based on the traditional raising of poultry. In the first phase of the project, they installed a couple of thousand laying hens, which live outside all day in a 2.5-acre paddock filled with 400 olive trees and other crops. While the trees offer protection against predators from above, chicken poop acts as a natural fertilizer for the trees, making additional fertilizer use unnecessary.

By eating the insects, they also eliminate pests that might otherwise pose a threat to the trees and other crops. "If you're a small farmer, it's very difficult to make a living off just your eggs. But if you've got another cash crop in the paddock where the chickens roam, you're going to be bringing in twice as much money over time," Cummins says.

The chickens roam free all day, pecking in the dirt for worms, insects and other foraged foods. At sunset, they come into the chicken house, which is where they roost and lay their eggs. The feed provided in the chicken coop, given as a supplement to their foraged diet, is grown by local farmers using traditional, non-GMO seeds and regenerative methods.

    "We have a special plow developed in Australia that's now spreading all across the world," Cummins explains. "It's called a Keyline plow. It doesn't disturb the earth the way that traditional plows do. It creates an environment in your field to where when it rains, there's a built-in filtration of the rain into the soil. It turns the soil into a sponge …

    There are no chemical fertilizers. We work with the farmers to be able to have natural compost … [I]f you look at our eggs, one thing you notice is the yolk is bright orange. They taste really good. If you do a nutritional analysis of these eggs and compare them to the factory farmed eggs in the grocery store, there's a world of difference. If animals can live outside or live in a natural environment and exercise their natural behaviors, it ends up being a superior product."

Why Vegetarianism May Not Be the Most Environmentally Conscious Choice

Quite a few people have embraced veganism or vegetarianism as a way of bowing out of the factory farm system that abuses animals for per-pound profit.  Cummins was a vegetarian for 40 years for this reason.

    "I was a vegetarian between 1970 and 2010 … until I had some ranchers in New Mexico explain to me this whole system of holistic management and rotational grazing, 100 percent grassfed … [T]hey said, 'Hey, you're an environmentalist, right? You're an animal welfare proponent, right? … You're not any of those things. You're a hypocrite, Ronnie.'

    Because conscious consuming of a moderate level of meat and animal products — where the animals have been raised humanely, where they've been raised naturally, where the end product, the food, is good for your health — is [also] good for the environment. Yes, that last instant of their life, when they're sacrificed for our food, that's not a good moment [for these animals]. But we're all going to have a bad moment at the end of our lives. We're going to physically die.

    When we're in the ground, guess what's going to happen? The little animals eventually are going to eat us. It's all part of this great chain of being. It's natural. There are vegans starting to understand, like David Bronner [CEO of Dr. Bronner's] … David's been a vegan for many years, but he's coined this term — instead of vegetarian — "regenetarian."

Why Become a Regenetarian?

A regenetarian is a person who never, ever eats factory farmed meat or dairy products, just like a vegan. A regenetarian will however consume grassfed beef, grassfed dairy and other grassfed animal products.

    "We're talking about fish here, too. Most of the fish in the world are now coming from these factory farm fish operations — horrible industrial trawlers in the oceans that are ripping up everything and killing everything in sight … A conscious consumer who wants to preserve their health, but also knows that we want to preserve the health of the planet — we want regular rainfall. We want climate to be normal again — we have to become regenetarians," Cummins says.

    "I never eat meat or animal products in a restaurant unless that restaurant has on the menu, and has a convincing story, that this is grassfed or genuinely pastured. As soon as enough people start doing that, this system is going to change."

The average American spends a mere 10 percent of their income on food, which is ridiculously low when you consider what the highest quality, most nutritious food would cost. You cannot expect to get the highest quality at this rock-bottom price. At that level, all you're getting is cheap corn-based meals. As Cummins says, it would be reasonable to spend twice as much on food.

To pay for it, you may have to consider cutting down on other wasteful spending, such as the trend of treating clothing as single-use, disposable items. Organic foods cost more, and must cost more, because doing it right and not cutting corners costs money. It's the cost-saving measures that have resulted in hormone-laced milk and pesticide-ridden produce. It's cost-saving measures that have turned beef into a metabolic wrecker. Cheap food is cheap for a reason.
Current State of GMO Movement in the US

Last August, the so-called "DARK Act" was passed. And while many have placed their hopes on President Trump making sweeping changes, we're not likely to see any difference under Trump when it comes to GMO labeling. As before, the U.S. Congress doesn't seem to care that 90 percent of Americans want to know whether their food has been genetically engineered or not, or contains GMO ingredients.

To summarize last year's events, on July 1, 2016, Vermont's state law for mandatory GMO labeling took effect, forcing major food companies to start labeling their wares. Alas, the food industry basically bought Congress, sweeping a 100-year tradition of states' rights to implement food safety rules at the state level under the carpet. That's what the DARK Act did. It revoked states' right to impose mandatory labeling of GMOs, and with that, the Vermont law was made null and void.

In its place, the federal law replaced clear GMO labeling with quick response (QR) codes which, when scanned with your smartphone will bring you to the company's website, where you may or may not find information about the presence of GE ingredients.

    "The only difference under Trump, looks like that we're not even going to have these QR codes, which were ridiculous anyway," Cummins says. Where does this leave us as consumers? I think there's a growing recognition among conscious consumers in this country that right now, we can't count on Congress.

    We can't count on regulatory agencies like the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or the United States Environmental Protection Agency, or the Federal Trade Commission.

    These people are in the pockets of the 1 percent. They do what their financial backers tell them to do. We're left with our power in the marketplace. That is, they can't pass a law that tells you what to do when you pull out your wallet. We still have free choice to choose organic or grassfed foods or non-GMO foods in the marketplace …

    At the rate we're going now, most food in the United States will be organic within three decades. It's taken us three decades to get to the 5 to 10 percent range. Most of the food will be organic and grassfed within 30 years. However, when you look at our public health crisis and our climate crisis and all these other things that the economic crisis in rural areas, we can't wait 30 years."

New Goal: Double Organic Sales in Four Years

The consumer revolution platform now is an ambitious one — double organic sales in the next four years. At current rates of growth, we could expect it to increase by about 50 percent. Instead, we need to quadruple sales of organic and grass-fed. As noted by Cummins, by speeding up the rate at which we reach the tipping point where 15 percent of our food supply is organic or grassfed, the acceleration will multiply exponentially thereafter.

    "That's our answer to the gridlock in Washington, to the failure of federal government," he says. "Let's get active in the local and state level where we have more power, [and] intensify our impact in the marketplace where no one can tell us what to do. We're going to bring about our revolution in health and nutrition in the marketplace if they won't let us do it with public policy."

It's time to launch a #ConsumerRevolution boycott that is larger and more powerful than ever. And at the same time, we apparently have no choice but to launch a #PoliticalRevolution, especially at the local and state level, that will "throw the bums out" from Main Street to Washington D.C. — those politicians and the army of lobbyists and PR gunslingers who continue to represent the corporate and financial elite, the "1 percent," instead of the rest of us.

In order to carry out this "Resist and Regenerate" strategy, the OCA and its closest allies have come up with an Action platform called Consumer Revolution/Political Revolution 2017-2020, which includes the following.
#Consumer Revolution 2017-2020

Overarching goal: Force corporations that sell consumer products, including food, clothing, drugs and personal care products, to respond to consumer demand for truthfully labeled products that have a positive impact on human health and are produced using regenerative processes and practices that not only prevent harm to human health and the environment, but also measurably improve soils and combat global warming.

    Move toward making organic, 100 percent grassfed and regenerative food and farming the norm, not just the 5 percent alternative in the marketplace, by doubling sales of organic to $80 billion by 2020, and by increasing sales of U.S. grassfed meat and dairy, and organic and pastured poultry and pork by at least 400 percent by 2020.

    Achieve a 50 percent reduction in sales of GMO food and animal feed by 2020, with the aim of driving GMO animal feed off the market.
    Force major food brands and companies that fraudulently label their products as "natural," "organic" or "GMO-free" to remove misleading labels and/or transition their products and production methods to organic and/or regenerative practices.
    Increase market share for clothing made from organic cotton, wool and other natural fibers through a high-profile "Care What You Wear" campaign that encourages consumers to boycott GMO cotton and synthetic fibers.

#PoliticalRevolution 2017-2020

Overarching goal: Reform the current political process to create a democracy that works for all people, not just wealthy corporations and the 1 percent, by uniting the food, climate, economic and social justice, natural health and peace movements in a coordinated effort to support candidates, elected public officials and policies at the local, state and federal levels, that support our common goals.

1. Lobby candidates and elected public officials to support OCA's #ConsumerRevolution platform

2. Lobby candidates and elected public officials to support the "Our Revolution" platform, with the addition of:

• On food: a focus on food policy that supports consumer health and consumer right to know, and acknowledges the role food production plays in environmental and climate policy

• On health care: a focus on "Medicare for all" that includes coverage for preventive, natural and alternative health care solutions, and health freedom on vaccines and all medical treatments

• On living wage: a focus on raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour so that lower-income Americans can afford organic food and natural health products and practitioners

• On climate: a focus on regenerative agriculture and soil carbon sequestration as a global warming solution, in addition to fossil fuel emissions reduction and renewable energy

3. Organize local grassroots meet-ups and coalitions to run candidates, for local and state offices, who support our issues

4. Oppose any candidates or policies that promote racism, sexism, homophobia, militarism and all forms of discrimination, whenever and wherever they arise

5. Oppose any laws or illegal attempts to disenfranchise voters

6. Support the decriminalization of drug use, including the legalization of marijuana, and oppose the war on drugs

7. Promote candidates and policies that advance regenerative food, farming and land use, in addition to fossil fuel emissions reduction and renewable energy
Biodynamics — The Highest Organic Standard

Biodynamic farming, which originated with Rudolf Steiner in the early 1920s, is also starting to gain recognition, and might even change or modify the organic standard. There are actually two different types of organic certification in the U.S.

There's the USDA Organic label standards, which are decent but still allow producers to meet only minimum requirements, and then there are the biodynamic standards, which have always been the highest in terms of organic certification. The biodynamic organic certification is indicated with a Demeter sign.2 "What you need to realize is this is absolutely grade A+ organic," Cummins says.
demeter

Many didn't understand the implications of 100 percent grassfed until very recently. Fortunately, we're now starting to see a merger of the Biodynamic Demeter certification and the AGA's grassfed certification. Many farmers, even those certified organic by the USDA, are now stepping it up to the next level by implementing biodynamic or regenerative methods, which in terms of cattle and other herbivores is the 100 percent grassfed way of doing things.

    "I think biodynamic and regenerative are the wave of the future. We need to still seek out organic products, but more and more conscious consumers are realizing that if you're buying a bottle of wine, look for the organic label on it, because that means it doesn't have any added sulfides.

    It means that the farmer was really conscientious in the way they raised those grapes. But look for the biodynamic label as well. In OCA … we're really happy to be working with the next stage of organics, which is biodynamic and grassfed."

Routing Out GMOs by Expanding the Net

Over the past two decades, the majority of the anti-GMO movement was focused on GMOs found in processed foods and a small number of whole GE foods.

Yet that's only 20 percent of the GMOs in the human food chain. Twice as much (40 percent) goes into the making of animal feed for factory farms. The only way to change that trend is by not buying factory farmed animal products, be it poultry (including eggs), pork or beef.

Another 40 percent of GMOs grown are used to make ethanol, "which is this crazed idea that it's environmentally sound … to produce an additive for gasoline from GMO corn," Cummins says. In essence, Monsanto makes money every time you drive your car, unless you're buying premium gas, which doesn't have ethanol in it. So, the less gas you use, the less money Monsanto makes. Cutting off your contributions to Monsanto is yet another reason for buying an electric vehicle.

Most also forget (or failed to understand in the first place) that 95 percent of non-organic cotton clothing is made from Monsanto's GE cotton. You may be boycotting Monsanto's food, but if you buy clothes without thinking about what it's made from, you're still feeding the beast. In short, we have to significantly widen the net and consider all the different ways GE crops sneak their way into our lives.

    "My T-shirt's organic. My jeans are organic. My underwear is organic. My socks are organic. I'm trying to consciously fight against Monsanto with everything I do, not just what I eat," Cummins says. "We've got to expand into the full realm of GMOs. Even more importantly, we need to stop talking about GMOs as if it's some abstract technology that poses this kind of really-hard-to-understand danger, gene splicing, disruption of the genome and all that …

    There is no GMO crop that isn't sprayed with large amounts of poisonous chemicals … Or else it's impregnated with a poison, like the Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) toxin in the plant that expresses itself in every cell of the plant. When we're talking about pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, we're talking about GMO plants. There's no way to fight against GMOs unless we fight at the same time against chemical-intensive, energy-intensive agriculture and factory farms."

Many Legislative Changes Are Needed

We also need to continue fighting for legislative changes that help and support organic farmers. The reason France was able to grow the organic sector by 20 percent last year, compared to 11.5 percent in the U.S. was because the French government started paying farmers who quit using pesticides and use compost instead of chemical fertilizers.

In a nutshell, France decided to pay farmers to do the right thing, whereas the U.S. rewards farmers who agree to do the wrong thing. France also passed a law that at least 40 percent of food for schools must be organic and purchased from local farmers.

    "I mean what kind of rules do we have regarding [this]? We have the worst school lunch programs in the entire industrialized world. Our food stamp program for poor people is basically junk food that the companies would have disposed of, but they get a tax break for giving us their factory-farmed cheese and milk, and so on.

    We do need to change policies as well as the marketplace. But looking at the federal government, our best way to influence public policy is to get involved at the local level — city council, county board, state legislature, our school boards. We have some power there."

Become Active in Local Government and Expand Alliances

OCA is also calling for people of different stripes to start working together more — people in the local food movement, the slow food movement, the natural health movement, the environmental movement, the animal welfare movement, even church and spiritual movements. If you're involved in any of these, consider setting up joint meetings with other groups to discuss what you're doing, how and where your concerns intersect and how you may help each other.

To volunteer to set up or attend a Regenerative House Party or Community Meet-up in your local area this spring with other organic consumers or natural health activists, contact OCA at campaigns@organicconsumers.org.

Big corporations are trying to stamp out organic, grassfed, natural health, alternative therapies, environmental protections — you name it. As long as we remain divided, they can conquer. By banding together, by connecting the dots between all of our crucial issues, we will prevail.

    "If the food movement united with these other movements, they couldn't have passed the DARK Act even at the federal level. But because it was just the 30, 40 million people who were most conscientious about what they buy, that wasn't enough to scare the hell out of the politicians to do the right thing," Cummins says.

    "If we're going to get involved politically, and I do think we have to, let's get involved where it makes a difference right now, which is the local level. Let's understand that what we do in the marketplace, whether it's the Bush administration, the Obama administration, the Trump administration, these people are not determining your food choices. These people are not forcing you to consume dangerous Big Pharma drugs.

    Get educated. Take control of your health. Take control of your diet. Meet up with the people in your local community who feel the same way. We can have, down the road, the kind of democracy that people have dreamed about for hundreds of years. We've never had it but it doesn't mean that we can't get it down the road."

Take Control of Your Health by Making Wiser Choices

For the first time in two decades, the average lifespan in the U.S. has decreased, and the U.S. is the only country in the developed world where this is happening. I for one am convinced our emphasis on factory farmed foods play a major role in this decline. Moreover, if we persist with this industrial farming model, we will eventually run out of topsoil and potable water, and that day is approaching at a rapid clip. Some estimates suggest we have less than 60 years of topsoil left if we keep going as we have been.3

We're causing potentially irreparable environmental damage. If we destroy this infrastructure for future generations, how can they possibly grow food? This is a serious issue and I'm glad so many of you are beginning to appreciate the enormity of the problem — and are embracing the solutions. As Cummins says, your greatest power lies in your choice of spending.

By avoiding food not grown in accordance with regenerative measures, non-organic cotton clothing, and ethanol-infused fuel, you help cut off the lifeblood of corporations that are destroying your children and grandchildren's chance of a healthy future. When it comes to food, choose organic produce, ideally biodynamic certified organics, and look for the AGA's grassfed certification for animal products.

The goal of the AGA is to promote the grassfed industry through government relations, research, concept marketing and public education. Their website also allows you to search for AGA approved producers certified according to strict standards that include being raised on a diet of 100 percent forage; raised on pasture and never confined to a feedlot; never treated with antibiotics or hormones; born and raised on American family farms.

Also, seriously consider making a generous donation to the OCA. Your previous support has been instrumental in catalyzing major changes in the organic and health world. And, please remember that I will match your contributions dollar for dollar.
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Saturday, 25 March 2017

Is The Lawlessness Of The NPP's Private Militias Ruining Ghana's Reputation As An Oasis Of Peace And Stability In Sub-Saharan Africa?

It is hard to comprehend why the Akufo-Addo administration still fails to recognise the immense harm being done to the country's image and reputation by the lawlessness of hardliners in the private militias operated by some members of the ruling party.

The question is: Have they forgotten so soon that the country that President Mahama's government handed over to them was devoid of such abominable and unpardonable violence - perpetrated  by myrmidons controlled by extremists operating with impunity from the shadows?

Those now governing our country ought to  understand clearly that Ghanaians did not vote the New Patriotic Party (NPP) into power to enable power-drunk thugs to hold Mother Ghana to ransom.

It is extraordinary that politicians who constantly state that they are committed to making the private sector the engine of growth in our national economy, are unable to comprehend that failing to deal effectively with the lawless elements in the New Patriotic Party's (NPP) private militias, sends the wrong signal to potential investors.

What serious investor would want to do business in an environment in which brutish thugs belonging to private militias operated by  important members of the ruling party, are forever on the rampage, defying the orders of law enforcement agencies - and ignoring the admonishments of even high government officials pleading with them  to act within the law?

The party that says it believes in the rule of law and due process must boldly confront the lawless elements within the NPP now defying even the president's authority in such blatant fashion. Are they not aware of the fact  that the shameful television news reports showing the disgraceful scenes beamed from Kumasi and other parts of the nation are being shared across the globe on online social media platforms?

The lawlessness of extremist elements in the so-called Invincible Forces and Delta Force is definitely soiling Ghana's global reputation as an oasis of  peace and stability in sub-Saharan Africa.

That is intolerable - and must cease forthwith. The time has come for the security agencies to take the necessary steps needed to disband all the private militias operated by political parties in Ghana.

For the sake of ordinary people  in our country this government must succeed. That is why President Akufo-Addo's administration must act firmly to halt the unacceptable barbarism now going on  - for those impudent buffoons are dragging Ghana's good name through the mud. Enough is enough.

Hmm, Oman Ghana - enti yeweiye paa enei? Haaba.

The Global Gig Economy and its Implications for African Digital Workers

Oxford Professor Mark Graham spells out the opportunities and challenges for African workers in the new digital world
DAKAR, Senegal, March 25, 2017/ -- Professor Graham, addressing the 4th UNI Africa Conference in Dakar, Senegal (http://ForwardForANewAfrica.org), warned of the danger of ‘parasitic capitalism’ where digital companies give little back to the places where they are embedded and platform workers are left to fend for themselves.

UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings' said research into the Future World of  Work followed by action was crucial, “We have to face the reality - the research that has been undertaken by Oxford University, the World Economic Forum, the OECD and others all points to a bleak future of employment which cuts across many sectors. This poses policy questions at all levels and there needs to be more urgency in the policy response.”

Professor Graham, the Oxford-based digital expert, drew on his recently launched paper “Digital Labour and Development” and the corresponding report “The Risks and Rewards of Online Gig Work At the Global Margins.”

Paper: http://journals.sagepub.com/eprint/3FMTvCNPJ4SkhW9tgpWP/full

Report: https://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/publications/gigwork.pdf

Professor Graham said, “There is an alternative to the ‘Upwork.com ’ and ‘Mechanical Turk’ model which is unfortunately successfully pushing the platform economy in its image. Unions must work together to produce an alternative which safeguards the rights of workers. There is no time for excuses because the new structures are being put into place now.”

Professor Graham proposed concrete solutions centered around creating bargaining power for digital platform workers including:

“We could imagine organisations committed to transparency and identifying best practices doing a lot to ensure that workers are paid living wages, have appropriate social and economic protections, and aren’t saddled with an undue amount of risk. So, a Fair Work foundation instead of a Fairtrade foundation – verifying and certifying these sorts of things.

“We can also use what we know about the socially disembedded nature of this work, to push for more of it to be sourced through firms, social enterprises, non-profits, and of course cooperatives – of the non-platform – variety - that adhere to local labour laws.”

“The geographically dispersed nature of digital work platforms has made it extremely hard to regulate. There are many who thrive in that environment. But the role of labour regulation should be to help the most vulnerable. One solution may be that employment status should be established in the place that a service is actually provided. Why should an employer based in Germany or the US be able to avoid adhering to labour laws and minimum standards just because they used a digital platform to connect with a worker?”

Professor Graham advocated creating a transnational digital workers’ union: “If we lack the physical proximity that unions traditionally needed, we at least need some sort of shared occupational identity…One explicit role for a digital workers’ union could be building class consciousness amongst the varied workers, part-time, temporary, full-time, entrepreneurs etc. Highlighting the precariousness of this work. Highlighting that workers are receiving many of the risks of entrepreneurship, but few of the rewards.”

Professor Graham concluded that he was not pessimistic about the Future World of Work but that we should not shy away from the challenges. He pointed out that some African countries were taking the initiative such as Nigeria’s government which has developed a programme called ‘Microwork for Jobs creation.’ Kenya’s government is planning something similar.

Instead of imagining digital work as being undertaken in digital spaces, beyond the realm of regulation and worker-led governance, let’s remember it all happens somewhere. Digital work always has a geography.  And we can use what we know about the economic geographies of digital work to envision and strive towards alternate and fairer future for working people in Africa and around the world.

Distributed by APO on behalf of 4th UNI Africa Regional Conference.

Contact Professor Mark Graham:
immedium@gmail.com

Media contacts:
Richard.Elliott@uniglobaunion.org
Chakera@APO-opa.org

SOURCE
4th UNI Africa Regional Conference

Friday, 24 March 2017

Heiligtag, Maurenbrecher, and Niemann: "From scenario planning to stress testing: The next step for energy companies"

McKinsey & Company Home
Risk

Article - February 2017

From scenario planning to stress testing: The next step for energy companies

By Sven Heiligtag, Susanne Maurenbrecher, and Niklas Niemann

Utilities and oil and gas firms have long used scenario analysis, but extraordinary times call for new measures.

Strategic and financial scenario analysis has a long, venerable history at energy companies. Shell Oil popularized the technique in the 1970s, and almost all of them have adopted it as a vital part of their decision-making processes. But as executives know well, scenario planning has its pitfalls; 40 percent of the leaders we surveyed in 2013 said that it didn’t meet their expectations. Often, companies fall prey to one of several tendencies, such as availability or stability bias, that hinder the exercise and produce unusable results.

Energy companies are finding that in today’s volatile world, one flaw of scenario planning is particularly acute: when business leaders consider a range of scenarios, they tend to “chop the tails off the distribution” and zero in on those that most resemble their current experience. Extreme scenarios are deemed a waste of time because “they won’t happen” or, if they do, “all bets are off.” But this approach leaves companies dangerously exposed to dramatic changes.

Consider the shocks and disruptions of recent years. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster had far-reaching effects on the oil companies involved, and many others. The 2011 Fukushima earthquake and tsunami upended nuclear policy in Japan and elsewhere, changing the industry’s structure. Geopolitical shocks have upset the plans of energy companies in too many countries to name. Most recently, the rise of antiglobalization sentiment has thrown a new wrench into energy planning.

It’s hard to overstate the consequences of events like these. Take the German experience of Energiewende, the nation’s transition to sustainable energy. To predict the effects on electricity prices, most energy companies relied on the classic scenarios—a base case, with best and worst cases that skewed slightly to either side. However, the Fukushima disaster vastly accelerated the switch to renewables. The price of power tanked by more than 50 percent—far worse than the gloomiest projections (Exhibit 1). The effect has been devastating: power producers had to write off tens of billions of euros.
Exhibit 1
German power prices far underperformed even the low-price scenario.
Enter stress testing

At most companies, scenario analysis looks for the likely development of core risk factors over time. That approach can work well in an era of gradual change. But at times like the present, it is extreme risks, not the everyday ones, that should most concern energy companies. Likewise, it is the prospect of chaotic overnight change, not gradual shifts, that should keep energy executives awake at night.

Enter stress testing, a form of scenario planning focused on the tails of the distribution. Scenario planning and stress testing are methodologically identical; they differ only in the likelihood of the scenarios they consider. Stress testing therefore requires a shift in mind-sets. In today’s environment, the sum of low-probability events quickly adds up to a high probability that one of them will actually happen. The banking industry offers an example: the financial system has become so volatile, and subject to so many unexpected disruptions, that regulators now require banks to conduct comprehensive stress tests.
Would you like to learn more about our Risk Practice?

Let’s be clear: stress testing will not prevent stress. Nor can it identify, with total confidence, precisely which stressful scenarios might play out in the future—especially those that feature “unknown unknowns.” But it can help senior executives to consider some previously overlooked sources of stress, the potential magnitude of their impact, and the adequacy of the company’s risk-bearing capacity to absorb them. Stress testing should be only one element of a risk-management system, but done well, it can be a tool to build the resilience that today’s environment requires.
What ‘extreme’ means

Companies need to be bold as they imagine extreme scenarios; almost nothing is too strange or ridiculous to consider. To show the range of ideas that energy firms might contemplate, we offer five extreme scenarios covering several kinds of risk, from compliance and legal risk to business-model disruption to full-bore crisis.
Energy for free

Real-time energy-consumption data are increasingly seen as crucial for a knowledge of customers and their behavior patterns. Smart meters can identify the appliances in operation. Combining data sets on electricity use, heating use, and mobility could provide even more detailed insights. Data-driven companies such as Amazon might challenge incumbent utilities by offering “energy for free” in exchange for personal data. In this scenario, utilities lose the customer relationship and are reduced to mere suppliers of commoditized power. Given the negotiating power, agility, and customer-centricity of digital giants, margins erode significantly.
A decentralized energy landscape

New entrants focus on serving customers in a completely decentralized energy regime, bundling solar photovoltaic rooftop systems with power-to-heat technologies, powerful batteries, and electric cars. An integrated solution and a strong, emotionally compelling brand (such as Tesla’s) help these attackers to reduce residual demand for grid-based power substantially and to capture the customer relationship. As in the first scenario, utilities are reduced to suppliers of commodity power, infrastructure operators, and backup providers. Volumes and margins shrink quickly in the wholesale and retail businesses, and generation assets lose value rapidly.
An emissions fraud

A data leak reveals that a power company has manipulated processes affecting human health—say, flue-gas purification at a coal plant or the handling and disposal of waste—and has thus emitted substantially more pollution than allowed. Subsequent investigation shows that the manipulation was deeply anchored within the organization: top leaders knew that analyses and impact assessments had intentionally been skewed. As a result, all energy companies suffer a loss of public and political trust. They are then subjected to intense scrutiny of their assets and processes, and this leads to increased regulation, massive penalties, and personal liability in the form of substantial fines and imprisonment.
A cyberattack on critical infrastructure

Popular movies have frequently exploited the idea that the infrastructure of modern life is vulnerable to well-staged cyberattacks. But the real-world Stuxnet virus succeeded better than anything out of Hollywood in proving that power plants and other nuclear assets can indeed be sabotaged. A cyberattack that takes critical infrastructure offline is more probable than ever now that power and gas grids, street lighting, and traffic control are more and more connected; the Internet of Things is beginning to reach into every home and building; and autonomous, connected vehicles are set to emerge over the next few years. In such a scenario, terrorists hack into the distribution network and shut down national power systems or even make key assets malfunction or self-destruct. Public trust would disappear, and energy companies would be subject to enormous pressure from regulators. Those deemed vulnerable to further attacks might even lose their operating licenses.
Radical price transparency

Price-comparison websites, such as Verivox in Germany, have established a strong position in several European countries. They greatly increase price transparency in retail markets for power, gas, mobile telecommunications, banking, auto rentals, and broadband, so retail customers change suppliers more frequently. In a transparency scenario, price-comparison portals help customers to change their electricity and gas providers regularly—for example, by acting as energy agents or through an automated process that selects the cheapest offer at the end of a contract. Verivox recently announced the first steps in such a process.

With such rapid churn, utilities may lose many customers—even some who have never indicated any desire to change their suppliers. Once again, companies might be reduced to providers of commoditized electricity. Retail margins would wilt in the face of the negotiating power, agility, and customer-centricity of energy agents.
Assess the stress

To understand the potential impact of these five extreme scenarios, we modeled their effects on the profits and losses, balance sheet, and cash flow of a hypothetical utility for each of several business segments: generation, renewables, trading, distribution, and retail. After modeling the effects of a scenario separately for each business, we combined them to show the effect on the enterprise. To be clear on the overall effects, you must understand, in detail, that the scenarios have specific impacts on different business units.

Exhibit 2 offers a heat map of these effects, highlighting the areas of greatest impact. For example, it shows that the energy-for-free and decentralized-energy-landscape scenarios would of course have a direct and massive impact on revenues, leading to a substantial loss of equity and an increase in net debt. On the other hand, an emissions fraud or cyberattack would have almost no relevance for revenues—but equity would suffer substantially.
Exhibit 2
Stress tests show the material impact of a scenario.

This exhibit also highlights the key drivers of these effects: for example, in the energy-for-free scenario, B2C volumes and market share would decline sharply, and retail prices would fall by 5 percent. In an emissions-fraud scenario, operating and maintenance costs would soar by 50 percent, and utilities would pay regulatory penalties of up to 5 percent of revenues. If a cyberattack should take down a national grid, affected utilities would have to write off 5 percent of their physical assets; to replace them, they would boost their budgets for property, plant, and equipment by 7.5 percent. Earnings would crash, though the effect would be milder after taxes and depreciation.
McKinsey on Risk Number 2 - January 2017 McKinsey on Risk, Volume 2
Read the compendium

The financial implications would be considerable across the scenarios, though none would necessarily bankrupt a company. Significant profit and liquidity risks appear, especially in the generation and retail businesses. In the absence of successful countermeasures, all five scenarios lead to negative recurring earnings before interest and taxes, revealing major risks for the sustainability of the current business portfolio. Furthermore, the scenarios suggest a 10 to 60 percent drop in equity and a 5 to 40 percent increase in net debt—which might trigger liquidity concerns.
Get ready to improve resilience

Of course, utilities can forestall or mitigate many of the effects of stress. Hedging and insurance offer some protection. Establishing a crisis-response team is a no-regrets move for most companies. Better preparation, such as stronger analytics and more transparent reporting, can help identify problems such as legal fraud or cyber vulnerabilities and help companies negotiate with regulators. The German government, for example, asked utilities to stress test their balance sheets and cash flows for a planned change in the disposal and storage of nuclear waste. As a result of the tests, the government took responsibility for these activities.

Energy companies should also monitor external developments closely. Today, many utilities are watching the development of battery costs, since if they fall sharply, as they have in solar photovoltaics, generation and retail businesses would be vulnerable. Some utilities are partnering with or investing in battery companies. Many long-term strategic options are available, including nimble resource allocation and the transformation of companies into digital utilities.

All these techniques for building resilience are well covered elsewhere. Our point is that only by building a stress-testing capability can a company know where to focus its efforts for resilience. Leaders need to make stress testing an integral part of the DNA of decision making. They can start by defining a set of suitable stress tests in two ways: conducting a thorough review of the business system (to see around corners) and questioning basic assumptions. Then they can quantify the potential impact of any risks and assess the resilience of the company and its individual business units.

Adding a stress-testing capability isn’t onerous. Companies will probably need one or two additional researchers to complement their current market-intelligence and analytics teams. In all likelihood, the scenario-planning models currently in use can be repurposed for stress tests.

The strategy function is stress testing’s natural owner, as part of the main strategic-planning process and linked to financial planning. The businesses should offer input much as they do today. Decision-making groups (such as the executive, strategy, or investment committees) should use stress-test results in their work, integrating the new capability into the organization. The traditionally strong links among strategy, finance, and operations should insure smooth integration and interaction.
About the author(s)
Sven Heiligtag is a partner in McKinsey’s Hamburg office, where Susanne Maurenbrecher is a consultant; Niklas Niemann is a consultant in the Cologne office.

© 1996-2017 McKinsey & Company

African hospitals adopt SOPHiA artificial intelligence to trigger continent-wide healthcare leapfrogging movement

Medical institutions from Morocco, Cameroon and South Africa choose SOPHiA artificial intelligence to advance clinical genomics across Africa

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, March 24, 2017/ -- Sophia Genetics (www.SophiaGenetics.com), global leader in Data-Driven Medicine, unveiled today, at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ACMG) (http://APO.af/Y5udP7) in Phoenix, the list of African hospitals that have started integrating SOPHiA, the company’s artificial intelligence, into their clinical workflow to advance patients’ care across the continent.

Medical institutions at the forefront of innovation already using SOPHiA in Africa include:

  •  PharmaProcess in Casablanca, Morocco;
 •   ImmCell in Rabat, Morocco;
  •  The Al Azhar Oncology Center in Rabat, Morocco;
  •  The Riad Biology Center in Rabat, Morocco;
  •  The Oudayas, Medical Analysis Laboratory, Morocco;
  •  The Center for Proteomic & Genomic Research (CPGR) in Cape Town, South Africa;
  •  The Bonassama District Hospital in Douala, Cameroon.

African hospitals are adopting SOPHiA to - no matter their experience in genomic testing - get up to speed and analyze genomic data to identify disease-causing mutations in patients’ genomic profiles, and decide on the most effective care. As new users of SOPHiA, they become part of a larger network of 260 hospitals in 46 countries that share clinical insights across patient cases and patient populations, which feeds a knowledgebase of biomedical findings to accelerate diagnostics and care.

Speaking about the adoption of SOPHiA in Africa, Jurgi Camblong, Sophia Genetics’ CEO and co-founder, declared: “Since inception, our vision has been to develop innovative technological solutions that analyze patients’ genomic profiles to offer better diagnosis and care to the greatest number of patients, wherever they live. Today, I am very proud that SOPHiA is triggering a technological leapfrog movement in healthcare across Africa.”

Jurgi Camblong added: “By joining our community, African hospitals are breaking down the technological barriers that prevented African patients from benefiting from the same level of genomic testing than patients from the best medical centers worldwide. This is a story about accessibility, democratization, empowerment, and hope.”

Among other diseases, SOPHiA will be a key partner for African hospitals in oncology. Breast cancer, for instance, has been described as a “serial killer” on the continent as lack of relevant diagnostics and personalized care means that 60% of women with breast cancer in Africa die versus 20% in the US and EU. According to a 2012 global report from the International Prevention Research Institute, an earlier diagnostic of breast cancer could increase life expectancy by 30%. Globally, on the continent, the number of new cases of cancer every year should jump to 1.6 million by 2030. As oncology expertise might be based in different places across the globe, SOPHiA, ensures that the knowledge of a specialist in Paris will for instance be accessible to save patients in Nairobi.

Speaking about the benefits of using SOPHiA for African patients, Dr. Reinhard Hiller from the South African Centre for Proteomic and Genomic Research (CPGR) commented: “In creating a first-of-its-kind Genomic Medicine offering in Africa, using SOPHiA has been beneficial because its analysis are used by a global community of genomic medicine practitioners, allowing us to offer a best-in-class service.”

Prof. Hicham Mansour, Geneticist at the University Mohamed 1st Genetic Department - Al Azhar Oncology Center in Morocco, added: “Using SOPHiA allows us to analyze genomic data quickly and with great confidence, to better diagnose and follow up with our patients”.

Jurgi Camblong concluded: “After Europe, Canada, Australia, Russia, and Latin America, the adoption of SOPHiA in Africa is perhaps the strongest evidence that the democratization of Data-Driven Medicine is changing scale to help the highest number of patients, wherever they live across the globe.”

Distributed by APO on behalf of Sophia Genetics.

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Media contact:
Alphonse Daudré-Vignier
Weber Shandwick Switzerland
+41 79 127 63 58
ADaudre-Vignier@WeberShandwick.com

About Sophia Genetics:
Global leader in Data-Driven Medicine, Sophia Genetics (www.SophiaGenetics.com) is a healthtech company which developed SOPHiA, the most advanced collective artificial intelligence for clinical genomics, helping healthcare professionals better diagnose and treat patients.
The global network of over 260 institutions in 46 countries using the Sophia DDM® advanced SaaS analytics platform for clinical genomics powered by SOPHiA, forms the world’s largest clinical genomics community.
By enabling the rapid adoption of genomic testing worldwide, turning data into actionable clinical insights, and sharing knowledge through its community, Sophia Genetics is democratizing Data-Driven Medicine to save lives worldwide.
For more information, please visit: www.SophiaGenetics.com / @SophiaGenetics / @JurgiCamblong.

SOURCE
Sophia Genetics

We Must Never Allow Fear Of Terrorists To Immobilise And Cower Us

The abominable attack on innocent people in the heart of Britain's democratic system, Parliament House, by a madman, Khalid Masood, remotely controlled by the ruthless and evil men who run  the so-called Islamic State (IS), has been rightly  condemned around the world.

That is as it should be. The barbarism and inhumaness of the cowardly,  evil and sadistic men who lead IS, must always be condemned in the strongest possible terms. 

Clearly, humankind must unite to save our one biosphere from the scourge of terrorism.

People of goodwill and good conscience everywhere must always stand with the citizens of nations that are attacked by religious extremists seeking to impose their will on free societies globally.

Naturally, our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims of Khalid Masood's horrific and monstrous crimes in London.

Many Ghanaians based here in our homeland  Ghana hold British citizenship and also have members of different  branches of their family-trees living permanently in the UK holding dual citizenship.

A Britain that is safe from terrorism therefore matters to such Ghanaians. That is why this blog stands with the great and brave  British people against religious fanatics seeking to tyrannise them through senseless  acts of terrorism.

Perhaps in the final analysis we must all regard ourselves as frontline soldiers in the war against global terrorism - who could be killed instantly by a vicious, ruthless and relentless enemy: able to strike anywhere and at anytime on all five continents of the planet Earth.

That is the reality of our world today. And that is why no matter where in the world they strike humankind  must never allow extremists to stop us from carrying on with our normal lives.

It is said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

We must all be watchful and observant when out and about in public spaces, wherever in the world we live. And, locally, we should stop taking our freedoms and the security of the Republic of Ghana for granted. We are not immune from terrorists attacks.

Above all, wherever in the world we live, we must never allow hate-filled and unhinged  terrorists to stop us from enjoying our lives - by refusing to allow them to immobilise us with fear. We will not be cowed by terrorists. Not ever. Period.


Aussie energy-saving ‘Ohm’ hub and platform backed by Lady Gaga’s investment arm unveiled

By Media & Capital Partners on 23 March 2017

PRESS RELEASE

Aussie tech company Buddy Platform (ASX: BUD) has unveiled a new product that will help save Aussie businesses thousands of dollars on their building electricity and other utility bills by helping them monitor their usage and carbon footprint. Microsoft and AF Square, set up by pop star Lady Gaga and her former manager, are among seed investors in Buddy.

Buddy’s Ohm shows you how much power you are consuming, enabling building managers and occupants to make changes, however subtle those are, to reduce costs.

Buddy’s CEO said he expected to save $12,000 over 12 months from using Buddy at Buddy’s Adelaide office.

Buddy is calling its platform like Fitbit but for your building.

By showing it in a foyer of a building (photo), this makes people change their habits. But you need to do more than this, of course, to get the real savings.

Background

        ASX-listed Internet of Things company Buddy Platform Limited (ASX:BUD), which counts Microsoft and pop star Lady Gaga’s investment arm as seed investors, announced a new low-cost product for monitoring the consumption of electricity, gas, water, steam and solar power generation to help save businesses thousands and reduce their carbon footprint.

        Called Buddy Ohm, the new product helps accurately measure the consumption of resources in buildings, government facilities, and public infrastructure, helping managers, occupants and citizens get a clearer view of the financial and environmental cost of these facilities.

        Led by Seattle-based Adelaide-born CEO David McLauchlan, the company announced that Buddy Ohm’s first customer would be Seattle’s famed 5th Avenue Theater – a building with an auditorium approximately the size of the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, and listed on the US National Register of Historic Places.

        Hardware, service, maintenance and support are all included in a standard installation for a flat $US1500 a month. This is a large cost saving compared to traditional CAPEX-intensive resource monitoring solutions, which often run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. According to Buddy, customer data is already confirming that Ohm pays for itself within the first year as a result of energy savings realised.

        Available from Tuesday, Buddy Ohm is the first end-to-end system from Buddy Platform designed to help current and future smart city projects get started faster, with the flexibility to integrate a client’s existing and future systems as they come online.

        Microsoft and AF Square, set up by pop star Lady Gaga and her former manager, are among seed investors in Buddy.

        Buddy Ohm is a full monitoring solution comprised of Internet of Things (IoT) class hardware, secure and scalable data infrastructure, an operations portal, engaging occupant facing dashboards, and on-the-go mobile experiences. Leveraging the power of the Internet of Things, Buddy Ohm makes it easy and affordable to extract data from city and building systems in real-time, which is then processed by the company’s powerful data infrastructure service, The Buddy Platform.

        By utilising open hardware and software protocols, customers don’t have to worry about vendor lock-in with Ohm, they will always have full access and control of their resource data.

        The Ohm base unit is installed in proximity to meters or sub meters, and utilises industry standard connectors to monitor electricity, solar, water, steam, gas and other natural and built environment elements. Ohm can wirelessly connect to other sensors, allowing for a network of sensors across city and building landscapes. Ohm connects directly to The Buddy Platform via the mobile network, eliminating troublesome Wi-Fi environments and reducing lapses in connectivity. This capability also means Ohm can be deployed in places where connectivity is a challenge.

Buddy Ohm was designed to be flexible, measuring electricity from the grid, gas, steam, solar and water across many applications, but Buddy sees great potential in using the system to make buildings more efficient.

    Buildings represent the vast majority of resource consumption in cities, so optimising the way they are used can have a big impact the carbon footprint. While there are a variety of expensive and complex systems available today for managing everything from elevators to Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), they are typically siloed and built specifically for the building engineer or operator. Often these expensive systems force operators to optimise their resource consumption using only historical data, which mean critical events that can negatively impact resource consumption are missed. Also, for buildings that lack a traditional building management system (BMS) due to age or budgets, simple and straightforward monitoring using Buddy Ohm can help realise efficiencies and saving they might not otherwise have access to.

    While these large systems are important, what they lack is an inexpensive, easy to install and intuitive solution for exposing real-time resource data for building occupants. Complex building infrastructure can be optimised to a certain point, but without the participation of the people living and working in these buildings, the next level of savings and conservation may never be reached. Buddy Ohm also provides a complimentary front-end experience for the traditional BMS by providing engaging, modern and modular dashboards that over time help people develop a deeper understanding of the link between their and resource conservation.

    Buddy is headquartered in Seattle, Washington and has offices in Adelaide, Australia.

    Adelaide-born Buddy CEO David McLauchlan, a former Microsoft executive, is an advisor to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a mentor at consultancy Innovyz START, a mentor at Australian tech start-up Bluedot Innovation, and a co-founder of parties and events business Bonza Bash Productions.

    David spends his time between the company’s two offices in Seattle and Adelaide.

Quotes

David McLauchlan, the CEO at Buddy Platform and a former Microsoft executive, commented:

“The global conversation around energy – how we generate it, how we consume it and how we conserve it – has never been more urgent, nor more relevant.

“Smart cities represent an amazing opportunity to dramatically change how we consume energy, while improving the quality of life for citizens. Improving the efficiency of those underlying systems is the first step for reaching those sustainability goals. I’m incredibly proud of the team and the game-changing product we’ve built, and I’m particularly excited to grow the Ohm product into a central hub connecting smart city-wide infrastructure with the Buddy Platform.”

Habib Heydarian, vice president of product and engineering, Buddy Platform, commented:

“Given the real monetary and environmental benefits of resource monitoring for cities and buildings, these systems should not be reserved for just those with giant budgets. With Buddy Ohm we are truly democratising resource data by utilising IoT class hardware, and leveraging the power of The Buddy Platform. Once operators and occupants have access to this data and the insights it can provide, they can be an active part of the effort to be more efficient.”

rsz_buddyenvironment-1

The features of the platform are:

The Buddy Platform – Infinitely flexible, The Buddy Platform connects a constellation of devices to translate raw data into valuable insight. This highly scalable and secure platform is the heart of Buddy Ohm – enabling the processing, streaming and storing of key resource data, with powerful real-time capabilities like a rules engine and alerts.

Operations Portal – For the first time, building managers and owners have a simple, easy to understand overview of how their facilities are consuming resources (or in the case of solar, generation). This web portal is always accessible, visually clean and immediately understandable without specific knowledge of the system.

Dashboards – Data rich, glance-and-go experiences have become part of the modern digital lifestyle, and this should be the case for resource utilisation data as well. Much like an activity tracker, when people have real-time access to data in an easy to understand format, they are more likely to make choices that benefit them and their environment. Buddy Ohm’s modular dashboards are designed to do just that.

Mobile – Companion mobile experiences are crucial for monitoring and managing key systems for operators. Real-time push notifications when anomalies are detected, or predetermined thresholds are met means operators can act now, rather than looking backwards at historical events. Mobile can also be impactful for the people using the systems as part of their day-to-day activities. Incentivize conservation by rewarding and gamifying behaviour that will have a positive impact on the bottom line while reducing negative impact on the environment.

About Buddy

Buddy Platform Limited (BUD.ASX) provides highly scalable data aggregation and management infrastructure that helps extract the maximum value from city-wide sensor and device data, by connecting systems that were never designed to work together. Services like The Buddy Platform are the backbone of smart city initiatives around the globe, allowing for maximum flexibility and cost savings. The company also offers a complete and low-cost solution for facility resource monitoring and verification, called Buddy Ohm which helps turn energy savings into a strategic asset. Buddy Platform is headquartered in Seattle, Washington, with offices in Adelaide, Australia. For more information, visit http://www.buddy.com.