Virgin Pulse Celebrates Record-breaking Year of Growth, Innovation, and Global Expansion

FRAMINGHAM, MA—(Marketwired – January 31, 2017) – Virgin Pulse, the leading provider of technology–enabled wellness and wellbeing solutions, today announced its 2016 results, highlighting the company's record–breaking growth, international expansion, strategic investments, innovative advancements and recognition in employee wellbeing and engagement.

“2016 was an incredible and eventful year where we saw Virgin Pulse, our clients, and members again raise the bar on employee wellbeing and engagement,” said David Osborne, President and COO, Virgin Pulse. “Over the past 12 months, we've finalized our integration with ShapeUp and GCC, solidified our place as the leader in worldwide workplace wellbeing, expanded our global footprint, demonstrated that employee wellbeing has a real and measurable impact on business outcomes, and delivered products that support organizations throughout the entire employee wellbeing lifecycle. The strong foundation we laid last year will allow us to scale and accelerate our product roadmap and our business, and keep us at the forefront of innovation in 2017 and beyond.”

“The past year has validated the Virgin Pulse approach to employee wellbeing, proving that daily habits that help employees be and do their best will lead to incredible results,” said Chris Boyce, CEO, Virgin Pulse. “In the months and years ahead, we're taking our ability to engage to the next level, using our best–in–class technology, user–centric design, and proven programming to drive innovation, employee engagement, retention, productivity, and business results from top to bottom.”

2016 Highlights:

Growth and International Expansion

In the past year, Virgin Pulse doubled sales, and saw significant growth in the international market. With the strategic acquisitions of ShapeUp and Global Corporate Challenge (GCC) in February, Virgin Pulse extended its global footprint to include 2,200 clients in 185 countries, including 120 Fortune 500 companies. The company has 11 global offices to support its growing global client base and members. In 2016 alone, 2 million members used Virgin Pulse's workplace wellbeing software to build healthier habits, collaborate with colleagues, and reach their health and wellbeing goals.

The company added many new clients, including BASF Corporation, Brown–Forman Corporation, and Reynolds American, Inc.

Virgin Pulse also recently announced an expansion of its Providence, RI office, contributing 300 new jobs to the local economy.

Technology Innovation

Throughout 2016, Virgin Pulse continued to raise the bar on wellbeing and engagement software innovation, making significant technology and user experience advances. Product announcements strategically expanded both the breadth and depth of the Virgin Pulse platform, bringing more meaningful daily experiences to members and advanced solutions to clients, no matter where they are on their wellbeing journey. The company also announced strategic partnerships with leading health and wellbeing leaders, further validating Virgin Pulse's best–in–class solutions and market leadership. Major announcements include:

Exclusive partnership with Fitbit Global Health, offering our clients and their employees the best health and wellbeing technology solutions and devices in the world, and giving Virgin Pulse members who use a Fitbit device a completely seamless experience tracking between the two apps.

Virgin Pulse Core, a wellness solution that integrates traditional benefits — including HRAs, biometric screenings, and coaching into a single user experience — and pairs them with configurable incentives, detailed analytics capabilities, and user–centric design.

Virgin Pulse Ignite, a social wellbeing program that allows companies to create custom challenges and deploy them to targeted populations.

– An enhanced and optimized version of the company's total wellbeing solution, Virgin Pulse Engage. With powerful personalization and rich daily habit–formation tools, Virgin Pulse Engage drives sustained behavior change and business results.

Virgin Pulse Hub, included in Virgin Pulse's Core, Ignite and Engage solutions, allows organizations to easily integrate and manage third party HR benefits and program providers and provides employers with a centralized, one–stop–shop for vendor management, population segmentation, employee communications, and reporting.

– Powerful analytics technology, powered by Domo, that provides HR and benefits administrators with real–time insights into the way wellbeing is powering culture, engagement, and productivity.

Virgin Pulse App for Apple Watch, the first smartwatch app for workplace wellbeing.

– A strategic partnership with Quest Diagnostics, the world's leading provider of diagnostic information services, to provide clients with best–in–class biometric screening capabilities.

Member Engagement & Health Outcomes

The company's 2.4 million employee members around the world set new records for engagement, with 50% of the population interacting with Virgin Pulse more than 5 days per week. In addition, members met the following impressive benchmarks in 2016:

– Over 718 billion steps walked, the equivalent of 359 million miles and farther than a single trip to Mars.

– Over 224 million active minutes exercised, over 426 years of healthy physical activity.

– Nearly 66 million daily cards completed and over 92 million healthy habits tracked, leading to positive lifestyle changes, both in and out of the office.

– More than 5.8 million completed challenges, contributing to positive culture change and heightened employee engagement.

Industry Awards and Recognition

Virgin Pulse has received several industry recognitions for its exceptional work in workplace wellbeing, including WorldatWork Work–Life 2016 Seal of Distinction, the 2016 [app] Design Award for Virgin Pulse App for Apple Watch, the InfluenceHR Brand Power Award for Employee Engagement, and the TMT News Award for Best Employee Engagement Platform.

Underscoring its leadership, product innovation and success in delivering wellbeing and engagement solutions that drive meaningful business results, Virgin Pulse was included and highlighted in several industry reports including Bersin by Deloitte's HR Technology Disruptions for 2017; Gartner's Achieve Business Cost Optimization with Human Capital Management Technology and Hype Cycle for US Healthcare Payers, 2016; and two reports from Forrester: Use Digital Technologies to Improve Employee Engagement and Harness The Potential of Millennials With Your Workforce Technology Strategy.

For more information on Virgin Pulse's suite of employee wellbeing solutions which drive culture, engagement, and productivity, visit www.virginpulse.com.

About Virgin Pulse
Virgin Pulse, the leading provider of technology solutions that promote employee engagement and wellbeing and part of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group, helps employers create workforces that are happier, healthier and ultimately more productive. The company's modern, mobile first platform delivers a personalized user experience that utilizes gamification to engage users in building habits that inspire meaningful and measurable change across individuals and the businesses they serve. By helping employees thrive at work and in all aspects of life, Virgin Pulse is helping change lives and businesses around the world for good. More than 2,200 global organizations representing many of the Fortune 500 and Best Places to Work, have selected Virgin Pulse's solutions to engage their workforces and drive their businesses forward.

‘World Must Implement Pledges on Women’s Human Rights’

Schoolchildren in Chowrapara, Rangpur, Bangladesh. Photo: UNICEF/Tapash Paul

Schoolchildren in Chowrapara, Rangpur, Bangladesh. Photo: UNICEF/Tapash Paul

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jan 31 2017 (IPS)

“Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work” will provide concrete, practical and action-oriented recommendations that will cover significant new ground, on overcoming structural barriers to gender equality, gender-based discrimination and violence against women at work, a senior United Nations official stressed.

Speaking at a consultation in preparation for the Commission on the Status of Women, a body exclusively dedicated to promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment, Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), on Jan. 30 called for sustained commitment and leadership to ensure a successful outcome of the Commission.

“We are at an important [juncture] in the achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment and women’s human rights,” she said.

Recalling the recent adoption of a number of far-reaching global commitments, such as Beijing+20 (the 20-year review of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris Agreement on climate change, the New Urban Agenda, and the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, Puri added:

“Now it is about the normative of implementation – how do we implement different parts of the compact and how do we follow up and monitor the implementation.”

Puri was speaking at a multi-stakeholder forum, which has been organised to contribute to the preparations for the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women – a functional commission of the UN Economic and Social Council – that will meet on March 13 to 24 this year at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

In particular, the Jan. 30 forum sought to raise awareness on existing commitments as well as to identify key areas and issues that should be considered by the Commission in the context of its priority theme, and to strengthen dialogue and galvanise partnerships to accelerate the implementation of the outcomes of the Commission.

“There is a dynamic new element of assessing how the world of work is changing due to technology, migration, and other factors and whether women can be enabled to leapfrog beneficially into this new context and not be adversely affected and left behind,” she added.

Puri also underlined important commitments such as those under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development on gender equality and women’s empowerment and spoke of processes underway in different regions of the world to prepare for the session.

Excellon Provides Update on Optimization Program and 2016 Production Results

TORONTO, ON—(Marketwired – January 31, 2017) – Excellon Resources Inc. (TSX: EXN) (TSX: EXN.WT) (OTC: EXLLF) (“Excellon” or the “Company”), Mexico's highest grade silver producer, is pleased to provide an update on the ongoing optimization program and announce fourth quarter and annual 2016 production results from the Platosa Mine in Durango, Mexico.

Highlights

  • Initial pumping results from ongoing optimization program exceeded expectation, well drilling on schedule and submersible pump calibration underway
  • 2016 Production (Compared to 2015)
    • Silver equivalent (“AgEq”) production of 1.3 million oz (2015 – 1.4 million AgEq oz)
    • Silver production of 752,689 oz (2015 – 794,289 oz)
    • Lead production of 4.4 million lb (2015 – 4.4 million lb)
    • Zinc production of 5.6 million lb (2015 7.4 million lb)
  • Q4 2016 Production (Compared to Q4 2015)
    • Silver equivalent (“AgEq”) production of 305,934 oz (Q4 2015 – 259,885 AgEq oz)
    • Silver production of 159,524 oz (Q4 2015 – 152,628 oz)
    • Lead production of 0.9 million lb (Q4 2015 – 0.8 million lb)
    • Zinc production of 1.2 million lb (Q4 2015 – 1.3 million lb)

“The Company's optimization program at Platosa is progressing well, with submersible pumps coming online by year–end 2016 and initial pumping results far exceeding our expectations,” stated Brendan Cahill, President and Chief Executive Officer. “With the first two submersibles started, we achieved over one metre of drawdown in the first week of operation, far beyond forecast and yet further proof of the project's efficacy. Well drilling continues on schedule, with nine of fourteen wells now complete and ready for pump installation. We are currently calibrating the well set–up for installed submersibles to ensure sustained pumping operations going forward and remain on track to complete the implementation by the end of Q1 and attain dry mining conditions during Q2.”

Mr. Cahill continued, “Production during Q4 improved over Q3 2016 and Q4 2015 from both tonnage and ounce perspectives. We are currently mining on the fringes of the Rodilla Manto as water management has resulted in slower progress through the deeper but higher–grade core of Rodilla, and development continues into the 623 Manto. Looking forward in 2017, we expect material improvement in production during Q2 and the ongoing optimization work to be fully reflected in the second half of the year.”

Optimization Program Update

The Company is also pleased to provide an update on the ongoing optimization program at Platosa. As further described in the Company's annual information form (the “AIF”), the Company has developed an optimization program to proactively dewater Platosa through an enhanced well–pumping system. The optimization program aims to maintain and increase a localized “cone of depression” of the water table below mine workings, ultimately resulting in completely dry mining conditions at Platosa. Under dry mining conditions, the Company expects to achieve materially higher rates of production at materially lower costs relative to current and historical production at Platosa. Refer to the AIF for a summary of www.excellonresources.com estimates on Platosa production rates and costs subsequent to the completion of the optimization program. Also refer to the Company's press release dated October 27, 2016 for a summary of the installation process for the dewatering system.

In December 2016, the Company completed the installation and testing of the primary booster station (comprising four 600hp pumps) in Guadalupe South. The Company also completed installation of two additional 250hp submersible pumps in Guadalupe South. The initial results from these wells far exceeded expectations, with the drawdown over the succeeding week in excess of one metre, approximately 150% greater than expected. The Company has encountered certain technical challenges with pump reliability and sustainable operation due to rock chips and drill cuttings in the wells. These challenges are currently being remedied through well–cleaning and pump screening, and the Company expects to continue pump installation and enhanced pumping operations in the coming days/weeks.

Well drilling remains on schedule, with nine of fourteen wells now ready for pump installation and drilling expected to be completed during March. The project remains on budget and the Company expects to complete installation by the end of Q1 2017, with dry mining conditions being achieved during Q2 2017. Further updates on the progress of this program will be provided regularly during the implementation period.

Q4 and 2016 Productions Results

    Q4 2016   Q4 2015   2016   2015
Tonnes Mined   15,320   13,145   53,234   54,485
Tonnes Milled   14,417   12,999   55,593   56,849
Grades                
Silver (g/t)   375   406   456   491
Lead (%)   3.52   3.65   4.40   4.56
Zinc (%)   4.80   5.33   5.70   7.20
Recoveries                
Silver (%)   90.0   88.9   90.5   89.0
Lead (%)   81.1   79.8   82.1   77.7
Zinc (%)   81.3   81.3   80.1   81.6
Metal Production*                
Silver (oz)   159,524   152,628   752,689   794,289
Lead (lb)   903,763   837,903   4,427,300   4,387,358
Zinc (lb)   1,248,022   1,261,072   5,581,060   7,362,938
AgEq (oz)**   305,934   259,885   1,293,815   1,429,539

* Subject to adjustment following settlement with concentrate purchaser.
** Silver equivalent ounces established using average metal prices during the period indicated applied to the recovered metal content of concentrates.

Ore production during the fourth quarter was primarily from the Rodilla Manto and Guadalupe North and South Mantos. In Rodilla, primary working faces are in one of the deepest parts of the mine and ore is below the water table. Though these areas are effectively dry and water inflows are entirely under control, development and production conditions continue to be challenging. Significant production during the quarter came from the fringes or outside of the block model of the Rodilla Manto, resulting in higher dilution in some cases and lower grades. Mining conditions are expected to materially improve in the coming months as the pending increase in drawdown rate more rapidly closes the gap between the water table and operating elevations.

During the period development was impacted by water conditions, but continues to be a priority for the Company as it moves into the higher grade areas of the mine including the 623 Manto, hosting mineral resources of 83,000 tonnes at 1,232 g/t Ag (1,777 g/t AgEq).

The Company expects to release third quarter financial results prior to market open on March 23, 2017.

Qualified Person

Michael Verreault, Ing., has acted as a Qualified Person as defined in NI 43–101 for disclosure in respect of the drawdown rates referenced in this release. Mr. Verreault has a Masters in Applied Science (Hydrogeology) and 15 years of relevant experience focused on hydrogeology. He is a certified professional engineer (OIQ 125243) by the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec and is President of Hydro– Ressources Inc. Mr. Verreault is independent of the Company and visited Platosa several times during the preparation and ongoing implementation of the optimization plan referenced herein.

About Excellon

Excellon's 100%–owned Platosa Mine in Durango has been Mexico's highest–grade silver mine since production commenced in 2005. The Company is focused on optimizing the Platosa Mine's cost and production profile, discovering further high–grade silver and CRD mineralization on the Platosa Project and capitalizing on the opportunity in current market conditions to acquire undervalued projects in Latin America.

Additional details on the La Platosa Mine and the rest of Excellon's exploration properties are available at www.excellonresources.com.

Forward–Looking Statements

The Toronto Stock Exchange has not reviewed and does not accept responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of the content of this Press Release, which has been prepared by management. This press release contains forward–looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act and Section 27E of the Exchange Act. Such statements include, without limitation, statements regarding the future results of operations, performance and achievements of the Company, including potential property acquisitions, the timing, content, cost and results of proposed work programs, the discovery and delineation of mineral deposits/resources/reserves, geological interpretations, proposed production rates, potential mineral recovery processes and rates, business and financing plans, business trends and future operating revenues. Although the Company believes that such statements are reasonable, it can give no assurance that such expectations will prove to be correct. Forward–looking statements are typically identified by words such as: believe, expect, anticipate, intend, estimate, postulate and similar expressions, or are those, which, by their nature, refer to future events. The Company cautions investors that any forward–looking statements by the Company are not guarantees of future results or performance, and that actual results may differ materially from those in forward looking statements as a result of various factors, including, but not limited to, variations in the nature, quality and quantity of any mineral deposits that may be located, significant downward variations in the market price of any minerals produced [particularly silver], the Company's inability to obtain any necessary permits, consents or authorizations required for its activities, to produce minerals from its properties successfully or profitably, to continue its projected growth, to raise the necessary capital or to be fully able to implement its business strategies. All of the Company's public disclosure filings may be accessed via www.sedar.com and readers are urged to review these materials, including the technical reports filed with respect to the Company's mineral properties, and particularly the July 9, 2015 NI 43–101–compliant technical report prepared by Roscoe Postle Associates Inc. with respect to the Platosa Property. This press release is not, and is not to be construed in any way as, an offer to buy or sell securities in the United States.

“FedHealthIT100″ Names Two Cognosante Executives to Its Inaugural List

MCLEAN, VA—(Marketwired – January 27, 2017) – Cognosante is pleased to announce that Michele Kang, CEO and Founder, and Corey Stevenson, SVP of Clients and Delivery, have both been named to the “FedHealthIT100″ inaugural list by FedHealthIT Magazine.

The FedHealthIT100 honors those individuals recognized for driving change and advancement in the Federal Health Information Technology Market. Nominated and chosen by their peers, some common themes among those who were selected include the desire and willingness to challenge conventional wisdom, to go above and beyond, to drive innovation, and to give back to the larger Federal Health IT and Consulting community.

In her nomination, Michele Kang was considered “hands down the best leader I have ever worked for. The [health sector] growth is a direct result of her vision and focus…”

A visionary in the field of health information technology, Michele Kang founded Cognosante in 2008 to disrupt and challenge the status quo in the U.S. healthcare system. Leveraging a unique set of business, data, and technology expertise in a fundamentally different way, Cognosante provides innovative solutions central to carrying out national healthcare transformation. Under her leadership, Cognosante has emerged as one of the most trusted partners to key Federal and state health agencies, while growing profitably over 60% per year in the past five years.

As Cognosante's Senior Vice President, Clients and Delivery, Corey Stevenson leads company operations, IT projects, strategy development, client engagement, and program execution to ensure the successful implementation of key programs in support of Cognosante's Health Data and Communications (HDC) business unit. Goals are addressed through effective client communication, problem management, proactive planning, hiring and staffing, as well as ensuring the delivery of quality IT products and services.

The full list of the #FedHealthIT100 may be found here: FedHealthIT100 Winners
Click here for a link to the magazine: Winter 2017 FedHealthIT Magazine

About Cognosante

Cognosante provides technology solutions, business process outsourcing, and consulting services to Federal, state, and local government healthcare agencies. The company has nearly 3 decades of experience in which it has worked with 48 states and the Federal government, developing, managing, and executing large, complex health information programs. Its expertise includes Medicaid, Medicare, health insurance marketplaces, health data standards and reconciliations, modular system development and integration, health data analytics, and fraud, waste, and abuse. Visit cognosante.com for more information.

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Can Africa Slay Its Financial Hydra?

Curbing illicit financial flows will free finances for development projects like the provision of safe drinking water. A man collecting water at a government-funded borehole in Southern Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Curbing illicit financial flows will free finances for development projects like the provision of safe drinking water. A man collecting water at a government-funded borehole in Southern Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Jan 26 2017 (IPS)

Thanks to growing investor interest, increasing respect for democratic reforms, and its vast food production potential, the Africa Rising narrative is only getting better.

But Africa’s development success story will only be complete when the continent plugs the hemorrhaging of its financial resources badly needed for its own development. Africa is losing an estimated 50 billion dollars annually through illicit financial flows (IFFs) — half of all global losses and the equivalent of Morocco’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).”[Illicit Financial Flows] are only a tip of the iceberg. Within the paradigm of Africa’s natural capital losses, part of which is in the form of IFFs, the losses are mind-boggling.” –UNEP’s Richard Munang

According to the World Bank, IFFs refer to the deliberate loss of financial resources through under-invoicing, which researchers say is a blot on the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative. Worst, IFFs are depriving Africans of needed resources to access better food, education and health care. Despite a decline in the prevalence of undernourishment in Sub-Saharan Africa, the World Food Programme says the region still has the highest percentage of population going hungry, with one in four persons undernourished.

As cancerous as corruption, illicit financial flows are costing Africa big time. This is despite a continental initiative to curb them at a time Africa is making some progress on good governance, according to the seminal Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance 2016.

Can the wings of capital flight be clipped?

A 2015 report by the High-level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa established by the African Union and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) puts the average financial losses at between 50 billion and 148 billion dollars a year through trade mispricing. South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Mozambique and Liberia are some of the countries that have suffered most due to trade mispricing.

“IFFs significantly hamper Africa’s development and progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) considering the astronomical investments the region needs to mobilize and the declining international sources,” climate change expert and the United Nations Environment Programme’s Regional Climate Change Programme Coordinator, Richard Munang, told IPS.

Cumulatively, IFFs range from natural resources plundering and environmental crimes like illegal logging, illegal trade in wildlife, and unaccounted for and unregulated fishing (IUU) to illegal mining practices, food imports, and degraded ecosystems. Munang estimates that Africa loses up to 195 billion dollars annually of its natural capital — an amount exceeding the total annual cost Africa needs to invest in infrastructure, healthcare, education and adapting to climate change under a 2°C warming scenario.

“Reversing IFFs and other natural capital losses is an urgent imperative if the region is going to develop and achieve the SDGs,” said Munang, adding that in terms of climate resilience, for instance, it is projected that to meet adaptation costs by the 2020s, funds disbursed annually to Africa need to grow at an average rate of 10-20 percent annually from 2011 levels.

“So far, this has not been achieved. And no clear pathway exists from international sources,” Munang said. “But IFFs are only a tip of the iceberg. Within the paradigm of Africa’s natural capital losses, part of which is in the form of IFFs, the losses are mind-boggling.”

A recent study called “Financing Africa’s Post-2015 Development Agenda” shows that from 1970 to 2008, Africa lost between 854 billion and 1.8 trillion dollars in illicit financial flows — good money in bad hands.

UNECA says illicit financial flows are unrecorded capital flows derived from the proceeds of theft, bribery and other forms of corruption by government officials and criminal activities, including drug trading, racketeering, counterfeiting, contraband and terrorist financing.

In addition, proceeds of tax evasion and laundered commercial transactions are counted under IFFs. Africa is also losing much-needed money to drug trafficking, tax dodging, wildlife poaching, human trafficking and theft of minerals and oil.

Tax Inspectors without Borders (TIWB), a project launched by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 2015, has helped collect more than 260 million dollars in additional tax revenues in eight pilot countries, indicating the potential of tightening tax audits.

Head of the TIWB Secretariat James Karanja noted that capacity-building can help companies pay their taxes, stop tax dodging and help raise domestic resources to fund government services.

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, GDP growth has averaged five percent in Africa in the last decade, consistently outperforming global economic trends. This growth has been boosted by among other factors, rapid urbanization, expanding regional markets, sound macroeconomic management and improved governance.

The Panel chaired by former South African President Thabo Mbeki also fingered large commercial corporations as culprits in IFFs, which have been fueled by corruption and weak governance. The solution, the panel said was to boost transparency in mining sector transactions and stop money laundering via banks, actions which rested on coordinated action between government, private sector and civil society.

“Illicit financial flows are a challenge to us as Africans, but clearly the solution is global. We couldn’t resolve this thing by just acting on our own as Africans,” Mbeki told the UN’s Africa Renewal magazine in a 2016 interview in New York.

For instance, Zimbabwe is currently in a financial crisis, having lost close to 2 billion dollars to illicit financial flows in 2015, according to the Reserve Bank. The figure is four times the money Zimbabwe attracted in Foreign Direct Investment in 2015 and more than half the 2016 national budget. The Global Financial Integrity Report estimates that over the last 30 years, Zimbabwe has lost a cumulative 12 billion dollars to IFFs.

“It is a grave concern. I looked at the statistics and found out that it’s a cancer that we are brewing,” Central Bank Governor John Mangudya conceded.

Is transparency the tool for slaying development’s demon?

The World Bank says curbing IFFs requires strong international cooperation and concerted action by developed and developing countries in partnership with the private sector and civil society.

IFFs pose a huge challenge to political and economic security around the world, particularly to developing countries. Corruption, organized crime, illegal exploitation of natural resources, fraud in international trade and tax evasion are as harmful as the diversion of money from public priorities, says the World Bank.

Advice on how to make tax policies more transparent — such as requiring all tax holidays to be publicly disclosed, along with names of officials involved in granting the holiday — would likely increase tax revenues collected by governments while reducing the risk of corruption and the potential for firms to abuse tax holiday provisions.

Global initiatives to limit tax evasion and stop proceeds of crime such as the the OECD/Global Forum on Taxation and the UN Conventions against Drugs, Trans-national Organized Crime and Corruption (UNODC) are yielding results. The World Bank’s Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) programme found that of nearly 1.4 billion dollars in frozen corrupt assets in OECD countries between 2010 and 2012, less than 150 million has been recovered.

Proceeds of illicit financial flows are difficult to recover despite some high-profile cases like that of Teodorin Nguema Obiang, the son of Africa’s longest serving leader, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea. In 2014, a U.S. court ordered Teodorin to sell 30 million dollars’ worth of property believed to have been the proceeds of corruption. In 2013, 700 million in assets stolen and stashed in Switzerland by the Sani Abacha regime was returned to Nigeria.

A 2016 report by the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution, “Foresight Africa: Top Priorities for the Continent 2017”, says good governance significantly impacts the mobilization of domestic resources such as tax revenues, as well as external financial flows such as FDI, ODA, remittances, and illicit financial flows.

The report said lowest levels of corruption and highest levels of political stability correlated with the highest tax-to-GDP ratio while “conversely, countries with low political stability scores have a relatively high ODA-to-GDP ratio. In addition, though the differences are subtle, the charts hint that more corrupt countries have higher FDI-to-GDP ratios.”

Who Will Rule Trump Foreign Policy?

Photo of Steve Bannon by Don Irvine via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo of Steve Bannon by Don Irvine via Wikimedia Commons.

By Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON, Jan 26 2017 (IPS)

The most frightening commentary I’ve read in the run-up to the inauguration—and there have been many—appeared in a column identifying the four people whose foreign policy ideas were likely to be most influential with the then-president-elect. It was written by The Washington Post’s Josh Rogin and entitled “Inside Trump’s Shadow National Security Council.”

Those four people, according to Rogin, are chief strategist Stephen Bannon, who “has been working on the long-term strategic vision that will shape the Trump administration’s overall foreign policy approach;” chief of staff Reince Priebus; Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and his national security adviser, Gen. Michael Flynn (ret.).

What is particularly striking about these four men is their collective lack of foreign-policy-making experience. I can’t see any in Bannon’s resume. Priebus, until he took over the Republican National Committee six years ago, was essentially a local Wisconsin political operative. Aside from occasional visits to Israel and his family foundation’s philanthropy for Israeli and settler institutions, Kushner has never, to my knowledge, expressed any particular interest in foreign policy although, according to Rogin, he has recently been meeting with “leading representatives from countries including Israel, Germany and Britain.” Although Flynn undoubtedly gained a lot of experience overseas, his entire career was devoted to military intelligence, not policy making. And, despite her lengthy resume compiled in the national security bureaucracies under various Republican presidents, Flynn’s hand-picked deputy, K.T. McFarland, worked virtually exclusively in communications and speechwriting — never in a policy-making role.

Is there any modern precedent for this total lack of experience in the top echelons of the White House, including the National Security Council?

No Experience, Lots of Opinions

The absence of foreign-policy-making experience however, does not mean that these individuals lack foreign-policy opinions. And, of course, in Washington, as a hoary, inside-the-Beltway maxim puts it: “Personnel is policy.”

Aside from his overseas business interests, Trump himself also has no foreign-policy experience. Nor, it seems, does he have much curiosity about the subject. Aside from the fairly consistent Islamophobia and aggressive nationalism expressed in various ways and degrees over the past couple of decades, he also doesn’t seem to have much in the way of fixed foreign-policy ideas or principles other than self-glorification, a desperate need to gain and retain public and media attention, and possibly the repayment of any debts he feels he may have incurred to foreign interests that helped— Putin? The Adelsons on behalf of Bibi?—put him in the presidency. Certainly, his often-contradictory utterances during the election campaign bolstered the impression that he is not grounded in any firm beliefs about Washington’s role in the world. So it seems relatively safe to assume that the worldviews of the same individuals cited by Rogin as the most influential—and closest to the Oval Office—are those that will at least initially guide Trump.

Is there any modern precedent for this total lack of experience in the top echelons of the White House, including the National Security Council?
Of the five individuals mentioned above, only three have particularly strong publicly expressed foreign-policy worldviews: Bannon, Flynn, and McFarland.

Of these, Bannon appears pre-eminent, at least for the moment. That became clear not only in the content and dark, almost apocalyptic tone of Trump’s “America First” inaugural address—which, according to the Wall Street Journal, was actually drafted by Bannon and alt-right fellow-traveller Stephen Miller—but also in Trump’s controversial interview last week with The Times of London and Das Bild.

The most comprehensive account of Bannon’s worldview is contained in his 50-minute interview at a conference held at the Vatican in 2014. In addition to the kind of populist ethno-nationalism with which his name and Breitbart News (of which he was former CEO) have now been associated, Bannon sees the world as a true “clash of civilizations” that pits “Islamic Fascism” against the “Judeo-Christian West.” His remarkable invocation in that interview of the “church militant” and the battles of Tours against the Arabs in 732 and Vienna against the Ottomans in 1638 as historical models to which the Judeo-Christian world should now aspire suggests a certain grandiosity (that would naturally appeal to Trump, too). To Bannon, global or other kinds of supra-national institutions that espouse universalist ideals and that get in the way of “strong nationalist movements …[that are] really the building blocks that built Western Europe and the United States,” are anathema. (You have to wonder how much modern European history Bannon has studied.) In the entire text, he never mentions human rights or democracy or other liberal values.

Along with his ideas about capitalism, Ayn Randism, traditionalism, and populism, it’s fair to say that Bannon thinks deep—if somewhat contradictory—thoughts. He’s also very, very far to the right—although he identifies as “center right”—and has what I would call proto-fascist inclinations. It’s no wonder that he’s fascinated by and identifies with Europe’s far-right nationalist and anti-European Union (EU) movements. But he also finds common ground with Putin and his promotion of the Russian Orthodox Church and Israel’s Likud Party. The latter’s roots, after all, lie in Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s Betar movement, which, despite its founder’s liberal convictions, has always harbored messianic nationalist, if not fascist tendencies.

The degree to which Trump has apparently absorbed and now echoes these ideas is reflected in his most recent public remarks. Compare, for example, Bannon’s defense of Putin—that “people …want to see the sovereignty for their country, they want to see nationalism for their country”—with what Trump said in defending Brexit in his interview with The Times and Bild. “People, countries want their own identity, and the U.K. wanted its own identity,” Trump stressed as he effectively urged other EU members to emulate Brexit, presumably as part of the Judeo-Christian civilizational struggle against Islam. He reiterated this theme in his inaugural speech Friday in the kind of messianic vision favored by Bannon: “We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate from the face of the Earth” (emphasis added). In the same Times/Bild interview, Trump clearly tried to undermine confidence in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s leadership, saying that he trusted her as much as Putin, at least for the time being—a rather striking assertion that must have sent blood pressures soaring in various foreign ministries, including the State Department. Trump also questioned the current relevance of NATO to similar effect in European defense ministries and the Pentagon.

Of course, these statements were presaged by Trump’s enthusiasm over Brexit itself and the fact that the first foreign “leader” to personally celebrate his election victory with him was none other than Nigel Farage. Farage, who Trump subsequently recommended as UK ambassador here much to the discomfort of the British prime minister, was subsequently seated in the special VIP section at Friday’s inauguration, along with leaders of the Israeli settlement movement. Bannon has made little secret of his admiration—and support—for the French National Front’s Marine Le Pen, another anti-EU European, pro-Putin leader (whose visit to Trump Tower two weeks ago likely included a tete-a-tete with Trump’s chief strategist). We’ll see whether the far-right, Islamophobic Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, shows up at the Tower at some point before this year’s elections in the Netherlands, while Czech President Milos Zeman, another Islamophobic Putin admirer, is set to visit the White House in April. Can Hungary’s Viktor Orban be far behind?

Bannon and Putin—and probably Netanyahu, too—clearly have Angela Merkel and the EU in their crosshairs as part of a larger effort to create what The Daily Beast’s called a “worldwide ultra-right” movement, or, perhaps more bluntly, a Proto-Fascist International. Aside from exterminating “radical Islamic terrorism,” such a coalition appears to be a central goal of Bannon’s “long-term strategic vision.” That makes Rogin’s final observation about Bannon’s role in the White House especially chilling. According to Rogin, Bannon’s mandate includes “connecting the Trump apparatus to leaders of populist movements around the world, especially in Europe.” Whatever is meant by “the Trump apparatus,” its intellectual leader is now sitting in the White House, just a few steps from the Oval Office.

As for the two senior advisers with actual foreign policy—if not policy-making—experience, Flynn and McFarland are far more likely to embrace Bannon’s vision than to oppose it. What unifies all three is an intense Islamophobia and Manichaeism befitting Fox News, as well as Breitbart. We have covered Flynn’s wacky worldview, particularly as expressed in his 2016 book, Field of Fight, co-authored by serial intriguer Michael Ledeen, at considerable length. Suffice to recall Flynn’s belief in the existence of “an international alliance of evil countries and movements that is working to destroy us,” an alliance that includes North Korea, China, Russia, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia (whose government, incidentally, just hosted the former First Daughter, Malia Obama on a lengthy trek through the Andes). The same alliance also includes al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Islamic State, and “countless other terrorist groups.” As Rogin reported Sunday, Flynn, who, like Bannon, also appears to admire Putin, is filling senior NSC positions with a phalanx of former military intelligence officers with whom he has worked closely in the past. The White House’s in-house foreign-policy shop will thus see the world rather narrowly—in Flynn’s words, through the sights of a “rifle scope.” Neither Flynn nor McFarland are likely to challenge Bannon’s broader strategic agenda. If anything, they may reinforce it.

Will Anyone Challenge Bannon?

Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis (ret.), who obviously enjoys the support of the foreign-policy establishment, has already made it very clear that he strongly opposes key elements of Bannon’s radical worldview, particularly anything that would threaten NATO, the EU, and other multilateral institutions that have underpinned the post-World War II order. According to various accounts, Mattis has already clashed with the White House—meaning Bannon, Kushner, and Flynn—over appointments to key Pentagon positions. Tillerson’s views are much less well known, but the fact that his nomination was championed by Republican establishment stalwarts, including Robert Gates, Condoleezza Rice, Stephen Hadley, and James Baker, suggests that they believe he will exert a moderating influence, a notion bolstered by reports that he rejected the choice of far-right and Adelson favorite John Bolton as his deputy. Gen. John Kelly, the new head of Homeland Security, and UN Amb. Nikki Haley are also considered unlikely to support the White House’s far-right, Islamophobic agenda. All four cabinet members, as well as CIA director Mike Pompeo (a leading Iranophobe during his Congressional career), testified that they disagreed with at least some of the more controversial positions, ranging from torture to the Israel-Palestinian conflict and to Putin, espoused by Trump during the election campaign.

But none of these officials has so far gotten anywhere nearly as much face time with Trump himself as his White House aides. This despite the potentially momentous foreign-policy decisions already taken by the White House, including the abandonment of the Trans Pacific Partnership, the visa and immigration ban on seven predominantly Muslim countries, and the apparent green light Trump has given to Netanyahu for vast new settlement construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, thus overturning more than four decades of U.S. opposition. Proximity often translates into power.

Post columnist Ruth Marcus put the situation in a nutshell in a piece entitled “Can Trump’s Cabinet Save Him From Himself?”:

For every Mattis and Pompeo, for every John F. Kelly (the retired Marine general tapped to head the Department of Homeland Security, who testified that a border wall with Mexico “in and of itself will not do the job’’) and even Rex Tillerson (the former ExxonMobil chief executive nominated to be secretary of state, who testified that “the risk of climate change does exist”), there will be, in the West Wing, a Stephen K. Bannon as chief strategist and senior counselor and Michael T. Flynn as national security adviser. Their records suggest they will inflame Trump’s worst instincts, not restrain them.

Bannon and Flynn have been politically closer to Trump longer; they will be physically closer to him at the White House. Trump could continue to be swayed by the last person whispering in his ear. Or the stature, knowledge and experience at bureaucratic maneuvering of some Cabinet secretaries could, at least at times, avert bad decisions. How all this plays out will shape the course of the Trump presidency.

Of course, Priebus, whose job appears centered on reconciling differences between the Republican congressional leadership and Trump, could also exert a moderating influence. Kushner could as well, though the nomination of David Friedman as U.S. ambassador to Israel, his encouragement of the settlement movement in the West Bank, and the presence of settlement leaders as honored guests at the inauguration, as well as his own family’s history of philanthropic support for the settlement movement, suggests that, on Israel-related questions, Kushner is no moderate. And with no real background, let alone expertise, in foreign policy, both Priebus and Kushner are more likely to acquiesce in Bannon’s strategic designs than oppose them …unless other powerful figures in the administration and Congress—not to mention foreign leaders—make it very clear that the political and popularity costs to Trump will be “yuge.”

This piece was originally published in Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy Lobelog.com

KY FAME's 7 Steps to Solving the Manufacturing Skills Gap

JEFFERSONVILLE, IN—(Marketwired – January 20, 2017) – KY FAME (Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education) is solving the manufacturing skills gap. This partnership of local manufacturers, and Amatrol, has created a sustainable pipeline of much needed skilled workers. Here is what they are doing — and it works.

Step 1: Engage and listen to the needs of local manufacturers

Common sense, right? But all too often programs are set up in a vacuum and the “real needs” of manufacturers are overlooked or misunderstood. Today's high–tech manufacturing means technology changes rapidly, requiring communication between industry and education to be ongoing to ensure a program's success. This concept is so important that KY FAME included as part of their mission statement to “be a conduit between industry and education with a primary focus on meeting the needs of manufacturers.” Therefore, KY FAME reached out to businesses in the community including Toyota, UPS, Hahn Automation, Atlas, Republic Conduit, and GE Appliances to understand the skill gaps in their businesses now as well as what they see coming.

Step 2: Create a program to teach desired skills sets

Taking the desired outcomes indicated by manufacturers, KY FAME crafted the Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) program that combines classroom education and an apprenticeship–style, on–the–job training (OJT) experience. The AMT program offers three days of paid employment with on–the–job–training, and two days in the classroom.

Step 3: Establish OJT training partners

KY FAME manufacturers get early benefit by hiring AMT students and providing OJT. As part of participation in the KY FAME program, a manufacturer such as Toyota, hire the students for the work part of the program. The student starts with a job in–hand, working a minimum of 24 hours per–week, and earning a minimum of $12 per–hour, though some are paid more. Further, some employers pay for tuition, and the majority of students complete the program after 18 months, debt–free. Let that sink in a little…they are provided with a job and in as little as 18 months they graduate from the program debt free!

Step 4: Identify an educational training partner

The right educational partner makes or breaks the program. KY FAME wanted an educational partner just as excited about the program as they were. They chose to partner with KCTCS (Kentucky Community and Technical College System), a 16 college system located in Kentucky, to deliver the classroom portion of the AMT program. In the Greater Louisville area, the Jefferson Community & Technical College (JCTC) implemented this program to support local manufacturers.

Step 5: Identify and endorse the classroom curricula

Matching the needs of the manufacturers to curriculum that teaches the desired skills is critical. KY FAME worked closely with educational institutions and businesses–like 3M, Bosch, GE Appliances, and Ford–to find the right curricula and hands–on, hardware training systems to fulfill the needs of the AMT program. They turned to MSSC's proven Certified Production Technician (CPT) program developed by Amatrol, Inc. Working with the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC), KY FAME merged the CPT program with the on–the–job–training element. Gerald Sexton, KY FAME's Director, said that he was, “familiar with Amatrol, and had used their training products in a prior educational environment. Also, Amatrol training solutions matched the competencies for the KY FAME program and the industry partner's needs.

Step 6: Promote and launch the program

Filling any manufacturing skills program with students can be a challenge because many people have a misconception about manufacturing jobs. KY Fame used press conferences, local news stories, interviews, and more to attract students. One of the best ways to engage potential students is to organize manufacturing tours. GE Appliances, a Haier company, held a plant tour as part of a press release event and later provided a virtual plant tour that reached even more potential students to open their eyes to the interesting and dynamic world of modern manufacturing.

Step 7: Fill the skill pipeline by expanding the program to high schools

The inflow of skilled manufacturing workers from the next generation is essential to keep the employment pipeline full. KY FAME has forged relationships with Jefferson County and Bullitt Country Public School systems to create a program that prepares young workers for future careers. Utilizing MSSC's Certified Production Technician (CPT) program, Doss High School and Bullitt County Area Technology Center students can achieve a certification that proves that they have the skill sets needed by industry.

“Doss [High School] students are going to be trained in core foundational technical skills that they will be certified in as a result of going through this program, and that certification is their portable certificate to a job, much more quickly than if they didn't have that certification.” – LeeSa Page, Manufacturing Skills Standards Council (MSSC)

Proven Success

KY Fame's first cohort began in 2010 at the Bluegrass Community & Technical College. The program now has 23 companies participating including Toyota which used this model to establish programs in 8 other states where it has facilities. Additionally, the AMT program now has 8 chapters across Kentucky with more planned. The U.S. Department of Labor's National Career Pathway Network designated it as the “Best Career Program in the U.S.” in 2013.

The following files are available for download:

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A Women’s March on the World

Participants in the 2015 New York March for Gender Equality and Women's Rights. Credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz.

Participants in the 2015 New York March for Gender Equality and Women’s Rights. Credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
NEW YORK, Jan 20 2017 (IPS)

Just one day after the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, hundreds of thousands of women are expected to attend one of the largest demonstrations in history for gender equality.

Starting out as a social media post by a handful of concerned women, the Women’s March on Washington quickly transformed, amassing over 400 supporting organisations representing a range of issues including affordable and accessible healthcare, gender-based violence, and racial equality.

“It’s a great show of strength and solidarity about how much women’s rights matter—and women’s rights don’t always take the front page headlines,” Nisha Varia, Advocacy Director of Human Rights Watch’s Women’s Rights Division told IPS.

Despite the variety of agendas being put forth for the march, the underlying message is that women’s rights are human rights, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA Margaret Huang told IPS.

“All people must be treated equally and with respect to their rights, no matter who is in positions of authority and who has been elected,” she said.

Organisers and partners have stressed that the march is not anti-Trump, but rather is one that is concerned about the current and future state of women’s rights.

“It’s not just about one President or one candidate, there’s a much bigger banner that we are marching for…our rights should not be subject to the whims of an election,” Kelly Baden, Center for Reproductive Rights’ Interim Senior Director of U.S. Policy and Advocacy told IPS.

The health system also risks returning to a time when many insurance plans considered pregnancy a pre-existing condition, barring women from getting full or any coverage.

“It’s about women, not Trump,” she continued.

The rhetoric used during the election is among the concerns for marchers as it reflects a troubling future for women’s rights.

During his campaign, President-elect Trump made a series of sexist remarks from calling Fox News host Megyn Kelly a “bimbo” to footage showing him boasting of sexual assault. Though Trump downplayed his remarks as “locker room talk,” his rhetoric is now being reflected in more practical terms through cabinet nominations.

Huang pointed to nominee for Attorney-General Jeff Sessions who has a long and problematic record on women’s rights including voting against the reauthorisation of the Violence Against Women Act, rejecting anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, and opposing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 which addresses pay discrimination.

During her confirmation hearing, Nominee for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos wouldn’t say if she would uphold title IX which requires universities to act on sexual assault on campuses.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.

The new administration has also recently announced cuts to the Department of Justice’s Violence Against Women Grants, which distribute funds to organisations working to end sexual assault and domestic violence.

“There is no question that we’re going to have some challenges in terms of increasing protections for women’s rights over the next few years,” said Huang to IPS.

Meanwhile, Varia pointed to other hard fought gains that risk being overturned including the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA, which U.S. Congress is currently working to repeal, provides health coverage to almost 20 million Americans by prohibiting insurers from denying insurance plans due to pre-existing conditions and by providing subsidies to low-income families to purchase coverage.

If repealed, access to reproductive services such as contraception and even information will become limited. The health system also risks returning to a time when many insurance plans considered pregnancy a pre-existing condition, barring women from getting full or any coverage.

“Denying women access to the types of insurers or availability of clinics that can help them get pre-natal checks and can help them control their fertility by having access to contraception—these are all the type of holistic care that needs to be made available,” Varia said.

The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world where the number of women dying as a result of child birth is increasing, Varia noted.

In Texas, maternal mortality rates jumped from 18.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010 to 35.8 deaths in 2014, the majority of whom were Hispanic and African-American women. This constitutes the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world, closer in numbers to Mexico and Egypt than Italy and Japan, according to World Bank statistics.

A UN Working Group also expressed their dismay over restrictive health legislation, adding that the U.S. is falling behind international standards.

Though the ACA repeal and potential defunding of Planned Parenthood, another key reproductive services provider, threatens all women, some communities are especially in danger.

Francis Madi, a marcher and Long Island Regional Outreach Associate for the New York Immigration Coalition, told IPS that immigrant and undocumented immigrant women face additional barriers in accessing health care.

Most state and federal forms of coverage such as the ACA prohibits providing government-subsidised insurance to anyone who cannot prove a legal immigration status. Even for those who can, insurance is still hard or too expensive to acquire, making programs like Planned Parenthood essential.

“I can’t even do my job as an organiser asking for immigrant rights if I’m not able to access the services I need to live here,” Madi told IPS.

Madi highlighted the opportunity the march brings in working together through a range of issues and identities.

“I’m going because as a woman and an immigrant and an undocumented immigrant as well…it’s very important to attend this march to show we can work together on our issues,” she told IPS.

“If we don’t organize with each other, we can’t really achieve true change,” she continued.

In its policy platform, organisers of the Women’s March on Washington also stressed the importance of diversity, inclusion and intersectionality in women’s rights.

“Our liberation is bound in each other’s,” they said.

This includes not only women in the U.S., but across the world.

“There’s definitely going to be an international voice in this, not just U.S. activists,” Huang told IPS.

Marching alongside women in Washington D.C. on January 21st will be women in nearly 60 other countries participating in sister marches from Argentina to Saudi Arabia to Australia.

“Women are concerned that a loss of a champion in the U.S. government will have significant impacts in other countries,” Huang said. Of particular concern is the reinstatement of the “global gag rule” which stipulates that foreign organisations receiving any U.S. family planning funding cannot provide information or perform abortions, even with funding from other sources. The U.S. does not fund these services itself.

The policy not only restricts basic right to speech, but analysis shows that it has harmed the health of low-income women by limiting access to family planning services.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is the world’s largest family planning bilateral donor.

Though the march is important symbolic act of solidarity, it is just the first step.

“We are also part of a bigger movement—we need to come together and be in solidarity on Saturday and then we need to keep doing the hard work [during[ the long days and months and years of organising that we have ahead of us,” Baden said.