Category: vqdfo

Float Your Boat

first_imgThe Appalachians are filled with world-class outdoor adventures.  Within striking distance of many of the major cities in the Southeast are ski hills, mountain bike trails, gorgeous road biking opportunities, and perfect hiking and running getaways.  One of the assets that truly stands out from the rest, however, is our rivers.We have more whitewater rivers than any other area in the country. So it’s not surprising that the largest paddling community in the world has developed in this area. Whether you’re looking for scenic flatwater paddles or steep creek descents, the Southern Appalachians are the place to be.Here are a few of our top river picks for a variety of adventure recipes.WHITEWATERNEW RIVER DRIESThere are a few rivers in the world that have played very large roles in the development of freestyle kayaking, and the New River Dries is certainly one of them.  This section has catalyzed the wave-oriented era of kayaking and kayak design. At flows of 50-60,000 cfs, it is a massive, powerful river, capable of producing some of the largest river waves ever surfed.  The highway bridge that crosses above the best of the waves creates an amphitheater setting, and the photos and video of these features have graced industry magazines and video.Years ago, the previously classic Laurel Creek was flooded and turned into an unnavigable rubble pile by a huge storm.  That same rubble flushed into the New riverbed and constricted the flow to create these perfect waves.  As one classic died, another sprang to life.  Once paddlers are too tired to surf the chaotic waves and dodge floating trees, the rest of the run offers up classic continuous big water that will have any whitewater snob nervous on the lead-in, and grinning on the way out.  Fortunately, for less experienced paddlers, the Dries can be paddled with a tiered approach, and has great play from 18,000 cfs on the Thurmond gauge all the way up to 60,000 cfs and above.Off RiverFayetteville is a rapidly growing hub for climbers, kayakers, mountain bikers, and other adventure sports athletes. One popular paddler’s eatery is Gumbo’s, which features a relaxed atmosphere fostered by the extremely friendly owner. It is the only Cajun restaurant in West Virginia, and the food is as delicious as it is unique.Gauley RiverHow could any “best of” list be complete without the Gauley River?  Between its upper and lower sections, this big water West Virginia classic has absolutely everything from world-class playboating to huge lines in heart pounding rapids.  Don’t miss out on this one during the very popular fall releases.MULTIDAY ADVENTURECHATTOOGAMade famous by Burt Reynolds in the 1972 film Deliverance, the Chattooga remains a protected river corridor with miles of beautiful, untouched whitewater and wilderness. Because of its sustained high quality rapids and ease of access from the major metropolises of Greenville and Atlanta, it is our top pick for multiday river trips.The Chattooga’s headwaters flank Whiteside cliffs in North Carolina, and fall from the mountains to form the border of South Carolina and Georgia before terminating in Lake Tugaloo.  The legally boatable stretch of the Chattooga, from Warwoman bridge down, is comprised of four distinct sections, which follow a convenient curve of difficulty from class I, II, III, and IV+.  Each of these sections can be tackled in a day individually, but the Chattooga is an excellent river to pack the boats full of a couple days worth of supplies, and enjoy time around the campfire. Camping is allowed anywhere in the Chattooga River corridor as long as campsites are 50 feet from any stream or trail, and ¼ mile from any road.  Top sites include Sandy Ford, Woodall Shoals, and a host of others… we’ve got to leave some for you to discover for yourself!Along the way, check out the views that surround this gorgeous river.  For lunch stops and swimming, there are dozens of sandy beaches down its entire length, as well as Bull Sluice, which is an accessible class IV rapid just upstream of the Highway 76 bridge that provides the local sunbathing and swimming hangout.  Seven Foot Falls at low water is a fascinating maze of dry and submerged potholes that can be explored, and it’s always worth a stop at Long Creek Falls on river left halfway down Section IV.  Finally, check out the jump rocks below Shoulderbone Rapid, as well as the rock across the lake from the takeout on Lake Tugaloo.Off RiverWith Bull Sluice as a focal point of the river, one convenient destination is the Chattooga Whitewater Outfitters and Humble Pie campus. These are under the same management, and provide a good stop for gear, information about paddling, hiking, camping and fishing options for the area, as well as pizza and beer to tell stories over.New RiverThe New River as it flows north through Virginia is another classic multiday trip destination. There are myriad options available, and these sections are convenient for the Blacksburg and Virginia Tech crowds, with a backyard playspot at McCoy’s.SUPSTAND-UP PADDLEBOARDINGPOTOMAC RIVERThis river has a heritage as old as paddlesports themselves.  The first waterfall ever run in a kayak was dropped by the McEwan brothers in the Great Falls section of the river, and since then it has been a focal point and enabler for the large Washington D.C. paddling scene.  The same thing is now occurring in stand up paddleboarding, or SUP.Mather Gorge and the section below it are excellent paddleboarding destinations.  These waterways are literally in the backyard of the city, but they still exude a wild and remote feeling.  Multiple access points and rapid difficulties ranging from class I-IV mean that there is something there for every level of paddleboarder, and the moving water aspect of it means an endless learning curve is available.For advanced SUPers, check out the park and play waves at O-Deck or Rocky Island, and for a more mellow experience, it’s possible to put in below the biggest rapids of the gorge at Angler’s Inn. The Great Falls section is always an incredible sight to behold.Off RiverFor Great Falls and Mather Gorge visitors, Vie de France is a perfect nearby food fix. The smoked turkey cob sandwich is a must try, and your dining experience will be rounded out by the nonstop procession of Lamborghinis and Ferraris driven by wealthy D.C. moguls.Nantahala RiverThe Nantahala is a perfect river for paddleboarding. It is possible to demo boards and paddles in a class I controlled environment right outside of the NOC. Once comfortable, the accessible and scenic class II waters of the seven mile Nantahala Gorge are a perfect downriver run, culminating in class III Nantahala Falls for an added challenge.STEEP CREEKTOXAWAY RIVERIt’s like California… but bigger. Those words from Green Race champ Tommy Hilleke sound melodramatic, but they are a perfect description of what the Toxaway experience is like for class V paddlers who dare to venture into her gorges.  Like the granite lunar landscapes of the California Sierra Nevada, the Toxaway also has miles upon miles of smooth bedrock that host the largest and most photogenic cascades on the eastern side of the continent.  Rapids with names like Space Mountain, Energizer, Feeding Trough, 40-40, Landbridge, and Wintergreen must be navigated to safely take out and hike 3.5 miles uphill to your vehicle at Frozen Creek Road.Paddling the Toxaway truly is like operating on another plane of reality.  The first descent occurred in 1978, and took Keith Backlund and crew three days to complete.  The river remained the stuff of legends until 2002 and 2003, when modern equipment and paddler skill level sparked its popularity as a day run for the best of the best.  It is still one of the most challenging rivers in the country with brutal portages and an unrelenting riverbed that tops out at a gradient of 632 feet per mile.  If you have the skills needed, get in touch with locals who know the way, and be sure to notify Gorges State Park of your descent, especially if hiking out after dark is a possibility.Off RiverThe nearby town of Brevard is an excellent recap destination after an intense day of altitude loss. If you want to spoil yourself a bit, check out Square Root, an excellent restaurant located down a quiet downtown alley.Bottom CreekThis Virginia gem is by far the state’s most intense steep creek.  It is four miles long, and will test any extreme kayaker’s abilities on its many rapids, waterfalls, and slides.CanoeCANOE EXPEDITIONJAMES RIVERThe James is Virginia’s largest river, and by the time it empties into the Chesapeake Bay, it drains 25 percent of the state’s water.  Due to its sustained moving water for 12 successive boating sections, and the fact that its currents run the gamut from untouched wilderness paddling to urban after-work fixes, it proudly earns top honors for our Canoe Expedition category.The James originates in the mountainous western part of the state, and initially offers up many miles of pristine, untouched class I floating with excellent scenery and smallmouth bass fishing throughout.  One particularly beautiful section runs from Route 43 at Eagle Rock to Route 630 at Springwood.  This section is mostly flatwater with small class I ledges, but paddlers are treated to complete privacy, and endless national forest land to camp on.  Another option is to paddle to Alpine and camp overnight, make the trip to Natural Bridge on day two, and then finishing out the third day with the popular Balcony Falls section.Balcony Falls is the most popular beginner/intermediate section of the James, with mostly class II and one class III in Balcony Falls.  This section features surf waves and countless jump rocks, and is very accessible from I-81 and the Roanoke area.  Another very popular section of the James is the class II-IV stretch that runs directly through downtown Richmond.  Options abound on this stretch of river, and it offers a perfect way to clear out the cobwebs after a day in the office.Off RiverOne deeply rooted business in the canoe world is Twin River Outfitters in Buchanan, Va. Services run the gamut from tube, kayak, and canoe rental to full service guided overnight trips on a variety of river sections.French Broad RiverThe French Broad provides a perfect foundation for a canoe trip as it flows out of the dramatic peaks near Brevard, N.C. This river provides consistent class I for nearly 80 miles in its trip to Asheville, and it is now possible to break the long journey up with a series of new campsites from the Western North Carolina Alliance.Rent a kayak or canoe from Asheville Adventure Rentals, located right next to the river and near a convenient takeout at The Bywater.Chattooga RaftingWILD RIVERLINVILLE RIVERThe Linville Gorge embodies “wild” better than any other waterway east of the Mississippi.  This river begins its journey on the slopes of Peak Mountain and Sugar Mountain, and winds its way inconspicuously through the high country until Linville Falls.  It is there that the river drops off the face of the earth, and does not slow down until 17 miles and 2,000 vertical feet later, when it empties into Lake James.This gorge is referred to as the “Grand Canyon of North Carolina,” and draws diehard paddlers, hikers, and climbers from around the region to test their mettle and witness the spectacular scenery that the river gives up around every corner. Highlights include the Babel Tower, Table Rock, Sitting Bear, and Hawks Bill promontories.  The gorge is in fact so rugged that many areas of it were never logged, and are still covered with old growth forest.  The Linville has cut its way into the billion-year-old core of the Blue Ridge, and at points sheer walls rise straight out of the river.  This is a dream for deep-water solo climbers, and only enhances the expedition feeling of kayaking the river.For paddlers, the same granitic gneiss that has allowed for the dramatic gorge to be carved is also a serious hazard, with many hidden sieves and undercuts.  The most popular section from Babel Tower to Conley Cove requires top-notch class V water reading and paddling skills, but as long as the right lines are taken, the whitewater is nothing short of brilliant. This river is also an excellent overnighter, starting at Linville Falls, camping at Babel Tower, and continuing down to the lake the next day.Off RiverCheck out the powerful and beautiful Linville Falls. A number of vantage points are available via a hike from the parking area, and watching the entire river drop into that massive chasm is nothing short of mesmerizing.Obed RiverThe Obed River is a spectacular National Wild and Scenic River, and it carries limitless potential for paddlers, hikers, and climbers. The beautiful whitewater on the main river and its tributaries is accessible to Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Nashville enthusiasts.TUBING AND SWIMMINGSHENANDOAH RIVERIn spite of the excellent rivers and athletic destinations in this guide, some of us are still looking for a more laid-back experience.  The idea of getting away from the grind is, after all, to relax, right?The Shenandoah River is a perfect place for swimming, tubing, or even just unwinding in the sun.  One of the subjects of the John Denver song, “Country Roads,” this river lives up to that reputation.  Most of the tubing and swimming activities are centralized in the two towns of Luray, Va, and Harper’s Ferry, W.Va.  These towns can both be quickly accessed from many of the surrounding cities, and they are perfect destinations for a quiet float or swim.  While you’re there, keep your eyes peeled for the native blue herons, Canada geese, and even an occasional bald eagle.Prime season tends to run from Memorial Day to the end of August, and various sections of the river can be leveraged as water levels fluctuate throughout the season.  Bring your rod for smallmouth bass fishing on the river as well.Off RiverOne of the hubs for Shenandoah tubing and swimming is certainly Harpers Ferry, which is located at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. A unique and enjoyable attraction of the town is Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, where visitors can learn about John Brown’s Raid and the area’s impact on 19th century industry.Davidson RiverThe Davidson River near Brevard, N.C., is the ideal river for cooling off on a lazy summer day.  As it flows through Pisgah National Forest, the river provides the perfect place to kick back and float in a tube, or hang out with friends.  After your float trip, check out Looking Glass Falls and Sliding Rock just up the road.Hartwell boatFISHINGROSE RIVERFor avid East Coast anglers, the Rose River in Virginia represents an experience not to be missed.  This river flows through Shenandoah National Park, and offers up quality-sized wild brook trout and brown trout and large, stocked rainbow trout.  The fishing is excellent, and the river is conveniently situated seven miles from Madison, Va., 25 miles from Charlottesville, and less than a two-hour drive from Washington, D.C.The Rose winds its way through Shenandoah National Park before flowing into the valley, and the scenery is stunning with views of Old Rag Mountain, Double Top, and others.  The river itself is crystal clear with very little sediment, and is loaded with invertebrates, bugs, crayfish and minnows, all of which make excellent food for the trout.  It rarely freezes in the winter, and stays cool all summer.  Catch-and-release regulations are strictly enforced along its entire length, and sections of the stream have been compared to the Provo River near Salt Lake City, Utah, and other small streams in Montana.Anglers can enjoy the waters within the park, or can opt for a more private experience downstream at the Rose River Farm.  This 1.5 mile section of river is enforced as fly angling only, and serves as a philanthropic hub for organizations such as Project Healing Waters and Casting for Recovery.Off RiverIf possible, schedule your angling trip around a monthly Night Skies Program in Shenandoah National Park. This is an outdoor tour through our night sky with astronomers at Big Meadows. Bring a blanket and a lawn chair, and learn more about celestial dynamics through the lenses of various telescopes.Jacks RiverFor those anglers willing to put forth some energy to access a remote gem, we recommend Jacks River in Georgia. Flowing through the Cohutta Wilderness Area into the Conasauga River, this creek rewards the required effort to access it with excellent rainbow, brown, and brook trout in a wild and rugged setting. • *Southern Superlatives: A list of the best hikes, scrambles, trails, and more in the South!last_img read more

Weekend Picks: Oskar Blues 4-Miler

first_imgThere are two names synonymous with adventure in Brevard: Oskar Blues and Bill Baldwin. Oskar Blues has been hosting the 4-Miler and other outdoor events in the region for years, and it’s an outpost for adventure in Pisgah. Baldwin has been a top athlete ever since he was named All American Cross-Country MVP in 1996 while running for Brevard College. Today, at age 42, Baldwin is an elite running coach—and still a badass runner—who trains in his hometown, and he’s the race director of the Oskar Blues 4-Miler.Over 200 runners toe the starting line for this scenic course starting at the Oskar Blues Brewery. Live music and food trucks at the start/finish keep runners motivated and hungry for the finish line. Age group winners receive beer steins and handmade local pottery while overall winners receive gift certificates from Asheville Running Company. Proceeds go to the Local Smart Girls of Brevard, part of the Local Boys and Girls Club.The race starts at 11:00 am on Saturday, with a kids’ 1-mile fun run taking off soon after at 11:05. Event organizers ask that you register early here.last_img read more

Children’s programs take a hard hit

first_img Children’s programs take a hard hit Associate EditorChildren are the big losers as trial courts took a beating from the special legislative session on the budget.The budget that passed May 27 — $10.8 million less than last year’s funding for court staff, services, and programs — wipes out state funds for attorneys ad litem, lawyers appointed for foster children with especially difficult cases. Not only does the budget dismantle the attorney ad litem pilot program in the Ninth Judicial Circuit, at $1.7 million, it expressly prohibits state funds from being used for attorneys for foster children, thereby eliminating programs throughout the state.In 11th-hour negotiations in conference committees, model dependency courts that help make sure children don’t fall through the cracks were obliterated in all five test circuits. The sacrifice of 34 positions to cut $2.3 million was reluctantly made by the Trial Court Budget Commission rather than make deeper cuts to the already devastated base line trial court budget.A third hit of $1.3 million (arrived at by legislators and not the TCBC), deleted each of the 20 circuits’ alternative sanctions coordinators who assist judges by recommending placements for children in juvenile court, making sure they get where they are supposed to be, and communicating with parents throughout the process.Self-help services, truancy alternatives, court system services for children and youth, guardianship monitoring and dependency drug courts were eliminated in the Sixth, 11th, 13th, and 17th circuits.Children’s advocates are bemoaning major setbacks for Florida’s children embroiled in court, often the only party in dependency and neglect proceedings without a lawyer.“I am very much shocked and confused,” said Julie Koves, an attorney ad litem in the Ninth Judicial Circuit since the program began two years and three months ago.“I am actually going through the stages of grief. I am out of denial and shock. Yesterday, I was angry. This morning, I’ve been in grief, and I go in and out of anger.”Koves stressed she is not so much sad about being one of 10.5 employees who will lose their jobs July 1, but she is distraught about the 146 children who will lose their lawyers’ help in maneuvering through the courts on a variety of complicated issues.“Basically, all of us employees will be fine. We’ll find other jobs if we have to. It’s the kids most affected by all of this. They are the ones losing out,” she said, her voice cracking with emotion.“They will be staying in foster care longer, rather than staying with relatives or non-relatives. They’re not going to have as many sibling visits, because we won’t be there to ask for court-ordered visitation and enforce it. They will lose out in the education system, as well, because we do education advocacy.”In the delinquency arena, she said, the attorneys ad litem have assisted public defenders with competency and other mental health issues.Gerry Glynn, executive director of Florida’s Children First!, a statewide nonprofit legal advocacy group for kids in foster care, chair of the Bar’s Public Interest Law Section, and instrumental in the Ninth Circuit’s attorney ad litem project through Barry University School of Law, said, “It’s pretty obliterating. The strange thing is they didn’t just cut the budget, but they prohibit the circuits’ guardian ad litem programs from using money for the attorney ad litem. It’s not only a reversal of the past policy, but it’s a clear statement in opposition to the Bar’s Commission on the Legal Needs of Children to have a statewide office of both guardians ad litem and attorneys ad litem.”Glynn said the last-minute nixing of all attorneys ad litem funded by the state came as “a total shock” and left him “deeply disappointed and troubled by the legislature’s action.”“I don’t understand why this policy was made. We’ve proven that children have gotten out of foster care into permanent adoptive homes faster. We’ve proven that kids have gotten better psychiatric, medical, and educational services. These poor kids in foster homes are bounced from home to home, and lose a little bit they have of their lives. We’ve been able to protect their personal property, inheritance rights, and Social Security benefits. The biggest thing is they’ve been able to get permanency, to get out of the deep-end commitment facilities. Why, in light of all of these successes, would they prohibit this?”Pat Badland, chief of the Office of Court Improvement at the Office of State Courts Administrator, said currently less than 10 percent of 15,000 children served by the guardian ad litem programs statewide are appointed attorneys ad litem. But she agrees it is an unfortunate loss for children — especially many older foster children — who do need lawyers to represent their interests in court.Where did the prohibition to use state money for attorneys ad litem come from, Glynn and other children’s advocates wanted to know, as it appeared to come out of the blue in the last flurry of the special session on the budget.“The best person to ask is Brad Thomas in the governor’s office,” Badland said.Thomas, one of the governor’s policy advisors who focuses on issues of public safety, referred calls to the governor’s press office.Alia Faraj, a spokeswoman for Gov. Jeb Bush, responded: “This was a legislative decision. The governor has continued to support the volunteer GAL program and mostly recently (in March) attended a GAL meeting in Tampa where he encouraged faith-based organizations to get involved in an effort to recruit more volunteer GALs. He attended the event with Chief Justice (Harry Lee) Anstead and several judges from the Tampa region.” T hough he appreciates lawyers who volunteer their time to represent children pro bono, Glynn said that is not enough to replace lawyers who do this kind of specialized work full-time and have experience representing children in cases that can involve immigration law, interstate compact on the placement of children, and knowledge of the effects of psychotropic medication on adolescent development in mental-health placements.Following the Rilya Wilson case, Glynn pointed out, Gov. Bush appointed a blue ribbon panel, and one of its recommendations was to increase the number of attorneys appointed to help foster children. The Bar’s Commission on the Legal Needs of Children, chaired by 11th Circuit Judge Sandy Karlan, concluded a three-year study by recommending a statewide office of legal representation for children, which would include guardians ad litem and attorneys ad litem.The Ninth Circuit’s attorney ad litem pilot program in Orange and Osceola counties has represented 345 children in two years of funding.Orange County Circuit Judge Janet Thorpe is one judge who appreciates the option of appointing attorneys ad litem in cases in her court.“I appointed attorneys for children with serious needs that went beyond the scope of the guardian ad litem,” Judge Thorpe said in a prepared statement. “They needed legal representation because their needs or rights were being ignored. I found the attorney ad litem program was particularly effective with teenagers who had been caught in the system for a decade. The attorneys ad litem were effective in securing permanency for these children outside the system.” Model Dependency Courts Wiped OutCarol Lee Ortman, trial court administrator of Broward County’s 17th Judicial Circuit, knows all too well how her “baby” — the model dependency court — was abolished during the legislature’s budget crunch. As a member of the TCBC and chair of the subcommittee on funding and methodology, she watched painful budget negotiations and saw the issue from both sides.On the one hand, the trial courts had to put something on the table to be axed, or else there would be base cuts in the trial court budget that cannot withstand any more whittling in a branch of government where 97 percent of the budget is wrapped up in salaries.“It was a horrible decision to make,” Ortman said. “There are small counties in this state where the courts have to serve people with one person serving five and seven counties. We understand. It’s across the board. No one has been without a piece of the pain. But this hurts.”It especially hurts because Ortman said model dependency courts are “very near and dear to my heart. It was written here and absolutely supported and pushed by (Sen.) Skip Campbell (D-Tamarac), to get through. And it was so successful. It is definitely a blow to the dependency system in Broward County.”It was a blow not just to Broward County’s 17th circuit, but four other circuits – the Fifth, 10th, 13th, and 18th.An irony is that the goal was to emulate the model dependency courts statewide, but because it was an enhancement in a few circuits, it was vulnerable to the budget ax.“TCBC has always had a policy that when forced to make decisions about cuts, that those circuits that have resources over and above are considered to go first,” explained Lisa Goodner, deputy state courts administrator. “It was a tough call. Dependency judges with those models will tell you it was very effective.”But to cut the trial courts’ base budget any further, Goodner said, “We felt like it would shut down operations. There would be no ability to hire any positions. It would hold everything open. It was very concerning when trying to manage the system overall.”The model dependency court has built-in mechanisms using general masters, case managers, and monitors in courtrooms, all working to achieve national and state goals of permanency for a child within one year of being declared dependent.In Broward, where 10 positions have been cut, the chief judge has assigned more judges to dependency, and they will assume the hearings the masters had been doing, Ortman said.Without the model dependency program, Ortman predicts: “Dockets will get clogged. We probably won’t be able to continue our dependency drug court. We could lose federal dollars (if guidelines and time frames are not met). Children who do not have permanency requirements met are at risk of harm and at risk that they will fall through the cracks. When children languish in the system and are not accounted for, we are more likely to lose children.”That’s what two Broward County grand juries have said about the troubled dependency courts and foster care in 1998 and 2001. Ortman points out that grand jurors in 1998 reported general masters had proven to be a success, that they are organized, knowledgeable, and conducted hundreds of hearings. Case managers, the grand jurors said in their report, provided judges valuable information and helped track and manage cases and ensure deadlines were met.Until the issue can be addressed again by the legislature, Ortman said she is looking for local sources of funding to salvage the program.“If ever there was a program that could be of so much use and so much gained for children, it is this one,” Ortman said. June 15, 2003 Jan Pudlow Associate Editor Regular News Children’s programs take a hard hitlast_img read more

Enterprise Risk Management: The best defense against threats

first_imgRisks and threats to the economic health and brand reputation of an organization are everywhere, especially for companies engaged in financial services – issuers, retailers, processors and other entities. The job of protecting the organization and identifying risk today falls to an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) practice capable of adapting to the dynamic nature of the risk landscape.Financial institutions and their partners are arguably the most appealing targets for thieves and robbers in search of data. The new digital pirates invade with their keyboards and code, looking for soft spots and targeting the vulnerable. Instead of cash, your data is their bounty. The 2016 version of a big heist might be a tiny piece of malware, or a worm that cyber criminals and fraudsters dispatch to burrow into a vulnerable system and access confidential information, which can be misused and spent over and over.Or risk may be present in flawed processes eroding brand reputation from a failure to meet service level standards or falling short on a contractual promise.Fortunately, for many organizations, ERM is now getting the focus and support needed to protect an organization’s most important assets: its data, its people and its brand reputation.Here are three concepts to consider when shaping your company’s approach to ERM:Empower Risk ChampionsAt its core, ERM is a proactive program with processes in place to identify risks of threats from internal and external sources, which could include employees, vendors, processes with control gaps and, cyber attackers with bad intentions. Your ERM strategy should take three lines of defense into account:Operational Management, which addresses risks to your company’s operations and sources of revenue by ensuring effective internal controls. A significant risk component here is the technology and protocols in place to guard your company’s (and your clients’) data from cyber-attacks. Managing risk at the first line of defense requires a team of “risk champions” who are mid-level leaders and subject matter experts throughout an organization, including but not limited to IT, finance and accounting, sales and account management, operations, product management and your legal department. These advocates are empowered with identifying current and emerging risks and their priority levels throughout the organization, reporting risks into a centralized risk register, and enforcing the departmental policies in place to mitigate risks.Risk Management, Compliance & Oversight, which involves the executive leadership team and risk committees to ensure the overall integrity of how well the company addresses various risks holistically across the organization in proper proportion to its strategic objectives and appetite for risk. A strong ERM team – which often includes functions for ERM, fraud investigations, business continuity, vendor governance and regulatory compliance – benefits the company through its ability to leverage and share information. This open awareness and free exchange of knowledge among team members work to expose issues, vulnerabilities in processes, or new potential and emerging risks across the entire taxonomy of corporate risk.Risk Assurance, which leverages Internal Audit to provide senior management with comprehensive assurance from an independent perspective. Internal Audit provides assurance of the effectiveness of governance, risk management and internal controls.Spread the ‘R’ Word When ERM is woven into the fabric of a company’s culture, everyone is a risk manager. The identification of risks and threats and how to properly mitigate them is the province of the many rather than the few. An internal campaign that urges employees to “say something” when they “see something” can be remarkably effective in bringing to light the dark side of risk. Companies that conduct and, in fact, mandate security and risk awareness training for all employees stand to fare well when it comes to lowering potential risk in all areas of their operations.Look Beyond Your Own WallsThe complex nature of business in financial services brings a host of different players to a company’s doorstep. Enter, Vendor Management. A company may need to partner with third-party service providers – such as software development firms or secondary solution firms – to implement its strategies and meet deadlines for certain high priority deliverables. A strong vendor governance program, backed by the support of the board and executive team, protects the company by insisting that vendors and partners demonstrate how they fortify their systems from intrusions and breaches that might also impact the company that pays them. Onsite vendor audits help verify that your vendor is not an indirect weak link in your threat mitigation plan.Risk never sleeps, and we can’t escape it. The benefits of an experienced and empowered ERM practice are immense and can be felt throughout all parts of the organization. A more risk-informed company is better able to protect itself. The collection and analysis of a company’s risk data keeps it aware of potential hazards now and in the future.ERM is an investment in the ongoing security of the company, its people and its reputation. 158SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Rini Fredette As Senior Vice President and Enterprise Risk Officer, Rini Fredette provides the overall leadership, vision and direction for assessing, analyzing and holistically managing risk across PSCU’s organization. Rini leads … Web: pscu.com Detailslast_img read more

Tech Time: Collaboration beats competition

first_img“We’re not scared of fintech.”Nor should you be, explains CUES member Andrew Kempf, president of $450 million 4Front Credit Union, Traverse City, Mich. “If it makes things better for member experience, then we embrace the concept,” says Kempf.Embracing fintech can mean a lot of things, but 4Front CU and four other Michigan credit unions have moved beyond support to startup investment, collaboration and ownership.“Fintech and the collaboration of credit unions is important because there are some very smart people out there, entrepreneurs that have ideas credit unions haven’t even thought of,” Kempf suggests. “It’s important that we be open-minded—we’re all concerned fintech is going to ‘eat our lunch,’ but if we collaborate, we can all have a bigger lunch.”These like-minded credit unions, including $855 million Community Choice Credit Union, Farmington Hills, Mich.; $632 million LAFCU, Lansing, Mich.; $489 million Team One Credit Union, Saginaw, Mich.; and $724 million Wildfire Credit Union, Saginaw, Mich.—along with Credit Union Solutions Group, Livonia, Mich., an arm of the Michigan Credit Union League—joined forces to cooperatively search for opportunities to innovate. For the past couple of years, the CUs have gathered for an annual “CUSO conference.” continue reading » 13SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

Passwords: An update

first_imgIt’s a topic you’ve seen here before. Time and again. Of course, it’s still pertinent since we keep using them. Passwords are a bane of the tech world. Unless you can invent a simple way to authenticate yourself with any service, they’re going to stick around for a while. That doesn’t mean we need to despise them, though. In the past, we have discussed the problems on both ends, from policies that lead to creating awful passwords, to people insisting on using “love”, “*dogname*”, and “!23456”.Grab your favorite password and…throw it in the trash (sadly, even “CorrectHorseBatteryStaple“). Because we’re back.Like the question of eggs being healthy or your worst nightmare, passwords see a wide variety of advice as the years go on. Some of it is due to a long period of terrible advice (which we discussed before, and, I’ll admit, my own suggestions evolved, too). Thankfully, this is changing…slowly. The other part is based upon processing speed increases; it’s easier than ever to parse billions of possibilities (using databases of common passwords from leaks combined with dictionary analysis). So what’s the current solution?It’s lurking in plain sight, on all your devices. The best password is one you never create. Every modern platform supports strong password suggestions. Then, they save these passwords in a secured database, so you don’t have to put a note in your drawer (it’s ok, you’re not alone). Depending on the system, there might be a master password, or, it can combine with biometrics. Make this be your big, strong password, then never use it. Rely on the fingerprint scanner, FaceID, or other verification system.On iOS (that’s iPhone and iPad), the next version will have automatic strong (Apple calls them complex) password creation and storing. That means, when a site asks to create a password, your phone already filled in a really good one. Then it saves it so you never even bother thinking of something. To log back in, your phone just asks for verification through TouchID or FaceID (depending on device). This is new; auto-fill now has security, too. Yes, you still have to create a unique username. Sorry, MarioKartKing is taken.There’s another side of this revisit: Updating your password. I know, I know, I spoke strongly against this practice in the past. My position is unchanged. If you change your password, make it for a good reason. A brilliant website called haveIbeenpwned.com checks your e-mail address or usernames to see if they were included in any breaches. If so, it shows which and to what degree. Then, you know it’s time to update those passwords (and anywhere else you shared those credentials). That password auto-suggest is looking mighty nice right now.Here’s the bottom line: With password managers so prevalent and easy to use, there’s no excuse to still create your own passwords. It’s putting you (and the data within) at unnecessary risk. It also saves time. When I read of a breach on a service I use, I just go in, update that password, and get back to my life. Since it won’t be shared with any other system, I don’t care what someone does with the information. Granted, if passwords were stored in a way someone could access them, I’d be questioning the utility of said service, given their poor security practices.Bottom line of the bottom line: Complex, random strings of characters, stored in a quality password manager, is the best way to ensure your personal (or corporate) information remains only in the hands you want.Resources (A non-exhaustive list of password managers)OS Based:SmartLock for Passwords (Android/Chrome)iCloud Keychain (Apple devices)3rd Party:Firefox SyncLastPass1Password 17SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Joe Winn What do you get when you mix auto loan programs with a desire to help others? Well, approaches that make a difference, of course. So what do you get when … Web: credituniongeek.com Detailslast_img read more

Become your members’ biggest advocate

first_imgCredit unions should have a student engagement strategy regardless of footprint. Helping future students complete their FAFSA, build a budget, and understand the ‘true cost’ of attending school would be highly valued. This engagement strategy would provide more opportunities for the credit union to offer solutions and fill the student’s financial gaps of non-academic costs.Now, again imagine that you are a first-time college student debating whether or not to attend school. Many of your friends are dropping their pursuit of higher education and your household could really use additional income. Your credit union steps up as your biggest advocate, pushing you to achieve your educational goal. The credit union guides your completion of FAFSA, provides you with bridge financing as needed, and sends nudge messages throughout the process to ensure your comfort leading into your first year of school. During your college years, the credit union proactively checks in on your academic progress, answers your financial questions, and helps guide your professional journey.The credit union has gained a lifelong member.It’s impossible to predict the future of higher education in the wake of this pandemic, but credit unions can step up now to ensure that members have the information and tools they need to make the most of their opportunities to pursue higher education. Would-be college students grappling with considerations like these are facing a last-mile challenge to start this important phase of their journey. And many need your credit union in their corner. 5SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Brenton Peck Brenton Peck is a Director on the program team at the Financial Health Network, where he helps organizations structure and execute projects that improve the financial health of their business … Web: https://finhealthnetwork.org Details It feels like a lifetime ago when colleges across the country took swift action to close their campuses for the remainder of the spring semester – derailing the academic goals of thousands of vulnerable students. Five months later, colleges are grappling with a related quagmire: whether or not to open their campuses this fall. The current predicament will fundamentally shift higher education as we know it and offers a compelling opportunity for credit unions to engage students.The lives of vulnerable students – current and future – are overwhelmingly complex. Our pre- pandemic research shows that students are juggling multiple jobs, family life, and caretaking. And now, for many would-be first-time students, the decision whether or not to attend college is under careful review.Imagine yourself as a first-time college student planning to attend school in the fall. You’re a credit union member of modest means. As you’re preparing for your first semester, you receive a letter from the college’s president stating a modified schedule with a combination of in-person and remote learning platforms. Tuition remains the same, but your college experience will be nowhere near what you expected. All the while, your family’s household income has dropped (more than half of families’ finances have been affected by the pandemic) and Target’s hiring spree at $15 per hour starting wage is becoming increasingly attractive.Many low- to moderate-income households are staring this scenario in the face and colleges of all shapes and sizes are seeing the impact of this dilemma. Pre-pandemic college enrollment numbers have been consistently slipping. As compared to last year, spring enrollment across the country has declined by over 83,000.The Covid-19 pandemic has renewed questions about the value of a college education; a typical college graduate earns at least $1 million more than a high school graduate during their lifetime, highlighting that the cost of a college education is still often worth it. Higher education has long been, and continues to be, a symbol of economic mobility and possibility for people in America. Often seen as an equalizer, obtaining a college degree is a doorway for people of all backgrounds to increase their resilience and pursue long-term opportunities. Especially for those college-bound individuals who struggled financially growing up, degree achievement increases the likelihood of their financial health. But the realities of today’s environment are putting additional strain on would-be college students.What should credit unions do?It is incumbent on all of us – private sector, nonprofits, and governments – to ensure that our higher education system delivers personal and professional opportunities for those individuals able to achieve accreditation. At first blush, it may not seem obvious, but credit unions are in a unique position to help ensure future students are in a better position to attend and complete school.last_img read more

The European Parliament’s resolution meets the requirements of travel agencies

first_img “Ten years ago, the European Parliament had already asked for protection against the insolvency of airlines, and nothing has changed since then. After the failure of 10 European airlines in less than three years, it is time to act at EU level. ” – said Said Pawel Niewiadomski, President of ECTAA. The European Parliament has adopted a Resolution on the negative effects of the bankruptcy of the world’s oldest tourism company Thomas Cook in European tourism. The European Association of Travel Agencies and Tour Operators ECTAA supports the Resolution and particularly welcomes Parliament’s urgent call for protection against airline insolvency. Thomas Cook, Europe’s second-largest tourism operator, went bankrupt on September 23, damaging industry, destinations, tourism service providers and workers. It was also very stressful for the users of the British company Thomas Cook. However, the latter were fully taken care of by the tour operator’s guarantee system established in accordance with European legislation, often referred to as the “Travel Package Directive”. As a result, tourists were able to continue their vacation and return to their homeland. This was possible because tour operators must provide sufficient evidence of security for the return or return of passengers in the event of insolvency. ECTAA welcomes the European Parliament’s Resolution recognizing the importance of tourism in the EU economy, both in terms of wealth (10% of EU GDP) and its social impact (12% of the total workforce), and calls for better recognition of this key EU sectoral levels. The bankruptcy of Thomas Cook Airlines and a number of previous airline failures, show that consumers are not treated equally when a company goes bankrupt. Passengers who buy a package trip are better protected from the bankruptcy of the tour operator who must provide guarantees against his insolvency to ensure the return of the passengers. However, there is no similar protection for passengers who, in the event of the airline’s illiquidity, purchase one airline flight ticket. In this case, passengers cannot get a refund and must purchase a new ticket to return home. Consumers are treated differently, despite the fact that they pay a lot to the airline or tour operator. center_img Source / photo: ECTAA, Pixabaylast_img read more

Brazil trials of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine show promising results: Governor

first_imgThe governor of Brazil’s São Paulo state said on Wednesday that Phase 3 clinical trials of a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd have shown promising results and it may be available to Brazilians as early as December.Governor João Doria added that Phase 2 trials of the potential vaccine had shown an immune response of 98% in the elderly.Some 9,000 Brazilian volunteers are participating in the Sinovac vaccine trials, which are being conducted by the Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo city and 11 other locations, including the capital, Brasilia. At the start of next year, Phase 3 trials of Russia’s “Sputnik-V” COVID-19 vaccine will also be conducted on 10,000 volunteers in Brazil in partnership with the state of Paraná’s Technology Institute, known as TecparBrazilian lab and hospital group DASA SA said on Wednesday it had agreed to conduct Phase 2 and 3 trials in Brazil for a COVID-19 vaccine developed by COVAXX, a unit of privately owned United Biomedical Inc.On Tuesday, Brazil’s acting Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said a COVID-19 vaccine would be rolled out for all Brazilians in a mass vaccination starting in January. Topics :center_img Brazil, which has the third worst outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the world after the United States and India, has become a testing ground for at least two vaccine candidates.One such vaccine is being developed by AstraZeneca, which has had to pause global trials after an unexplained illness in a participant in Britain.Trials for the AstraZeneca vaccine on 5,000 volunteers in Brazil are well advanced and have not produced any problems in participants, according to the immunobiology center of Sao Paulo’s Federal University, which is running the trials.Vaccination of volunteers in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Salvador have been put on hold, but work continues monitoring those who have received the first and even the second dose, a university representative said.last_img read more

BNSF and UP test Positive Train Separation

first_imgINTRO: Richard Hope reports on a project to validate the non-vital automatic train protection overlay developed by GE Harris, using radio data links and GPS location. Now in the second of four phases, it is on course for completion by DecemberAFTER A DECADE of circling inconclusively around the Advanced Train Control System project before deciding that it could not be commercially justified, simpler and cheaper ways of preventing collisions and enforcing speed limits are being sought by North America railway operators.One such is Harmon’s Incremental Train Control System, which is being trialled by Amtrak on a section of route which it owns west of Kalamazoo, Michigan. This was described in RG 8.96 p496.The principal rival to ITSC is Positive Train Separation. PTS is currently being tested on 1 360route-km in the western states of Washington and Oregon owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific, including sections over which UP operates trains on BNSF tracks (map, below). Amtrak also operates on these tracks. The BNSF-UP partnership selected the Pacific Northwest as the pilot area to improve safety, establish interoperability and prove that PTS will function with all train control systems currently used by both companies. This area includes joint trackage between Portland and Tacoma where UP freight trains operate over BNSF tracks and under BNSFdispatching control, requiring both companies to be interoperable.The territory also includes all train control systems used by both railways throughout their respective networks, enabling system-wide implementation without significant modifications to system design. It includes Kelso, Washington, the site in November 1993 of a destructive head-on collision between a BNand a UP train in which five crew members died.Following a decision by two of the five major US railways to co-operate in the testing of automatic train protection, GE Harris was contracted as systems integrator for the Proof of Concept of PTS. This is currently in progress and due for completion in the first half of 1998.Non-vital overlayPTS does not replace or interfere with the existing method of controlling trains. While most routes covered by the BNSF-UP Proof of Concept tests are equipped with conventional CTC, they also include 190 km under track warrant control of which 105 km also has automatic block signals, and another 100 km of double track with block signals.Track warrants are movement authorities checked by computer logic before being transmitted verbally by the dispatcher to the train crew. PTS transmits these track warrants digitally and displays them in the cab.Whether signalled or not, control of all BNSF routes is exercised from that company’s Network Operations Centre at Fort Worth, Texas. UP routes come under the Harriman Dispatching Center in Omaha, Nebraska. So far as the dispatchers are concerned, they will continue to issue movement authorities by CTC signals or voice messages in the normal way, but PTS adds some new features to help them.The three key elements of PTS can be seen in Fig 2. The first, located at Omaha or Fort Worth, is the central PTS computer or server for each rail operator. These servers communicate with the existing computer-aided dispatching systems and the computers handling management information systems. Every time a movement authority is sent to a train through the signalling or a track warrant, the PTS server picks this up and transmits it directly to the locomotive through a digital radio link, the second key element.The movement authority will include speed restrictions, with associated details of any work being carried out on the track which require confirmation from the foreman in charge of the site that it is safe for the train to enter the work zone.The third element is the computer installed on locomotives equipped for PTS. This uses global positioning satellites (GPS) augmented with differential correction signals, inertial sensors and odometers to fix its location.Geographical track data such as gradients, curves, control points, track speed limits and train characteristics are resident in the on-board computer, allowing brake performance to be calculated on the locomotive. Train characteristics are obtained automatically from the railway’s Management Information System computers.The locomotive computer now has all the information needed to perform its primary PTS function of preventing exceedance of a movement authority, or speed limit violations. It does this by calculating braking curves to the start of reduced speed limits or stopping points, and warning the driver if he or she fails to keep within the curve. If visual and audible warnings are ignored, a full service brake application is made automatically and the power is shut down.Note that classic automatic train protection systems, including those found in Europe and Japan, normally function as a local extension of the existing signalling. In the event of a danger-side signalling failure due, for example, to a technician’s wiring error during repairs to an interlocking, the ATP is likely to replicate the same error aboard the train.Because PTS is an overlay, which draws its movement authority data direct from the dispatcher’s computer and is not otherwise connected to the CTC or automatic block signals, it may continue to enforce movement authorities even in circumstances where lineside signals are displaying a false clear aspect.Additional protectionThe radio data link is also used to download to the server every minute the locomotive’s position, as established by the Location Determination System (LDS). The dispatcher is therefore warned if any PTS-equipped train runs past a danger signal or otherwise exceeds its movement authority. He or she is also alerted to the fact that a fresh movement authority needs to be generated when a train is nearing the end of the existing one.The server also acts as a further check on the safety logic of computer-aided dispatching, which is meant to ensure that no conflicting orders are issued by the computer-aided dispatching system or the dispatcher. Before the server transmits to the locomotive a new PTS Enforcement Authority (PTSEA – pronounced ’pizza’) it has ensured that there is no conflict with any rules the server is responsible for monitoring. This is particularly useful in dark (unsignalled) territory, where there are no track circuits to detect trains and thus provide automatic signal protection.All these factors clearly enhance overall safety, even though PTS is non-vital.Four test phasesThe first phase of the Proof of Concept was completed successfully in November 1996. The purpose was to check out all the hardware and communications through thousands of permutations in a protocol designed to exercise every element. All the required demonstrations were met satisfactorily.Two BNSF and two UP locomotives were involved in these tests, which took place on BNSF’s Harbor Line and UP’s Kenton Line. PTS commands were transmitted by digital radio from the servers in Fort Worth and Omaha to the respective companies’ locomotives, which reported their positions back to the PTS server.Test trains were correctly stopped by the PTS as they approached their authority limits. Location determination, at this stage of initial testing, relied primarily on track transponders and locomotive odometers.Release Two tests, completed between March and June this year, added several levels of sophistication:last_img read more