In the context of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the Albert A. van Daalen Group follows the advice of WHO representatives. Our offices remains operational and will work “remote” up to and including 14 April, in order to guarantee the continuity of our services.
The health and safety of our staff and clients is most important. Within the imposed restrictions with which we show solidarity, we make every effort to continue our services as optimal as possible. We hereby inform you that – until further notice – we strongly prefer electronic and telephone communication as well as virtual meetings only. Face-to-face meetings that would take place for and on behalf of the Albert A. van Daalen Group in this period have been postponed. If you need to send documents in hard copy by post, we kindly ask that you inform us timely in advance (prior to dispatch). We thank you in advance for your understanding and cooperation.
In the meantime, please take also the time to focus on yourself and your family’s health and well-being.
We have confidence that we will get through this challenge, but it will take time. We’re wishing you all the best – stay safe!
I am active as a business & finance professional. For that reason, I am often contacted by entrepreneurs and brokers who are looking to raise capital, or who are looking for investment opportunities that provide higher returns for themselves or their clients. This initial inquiry often leads to a discussion of private placement programs and trade platforms, and, in relation to this, of medium term notes, standby letters of credit, and bank guarantees.
Are Private Placement Programs/Trade Platforms Real or a Scam?
The first question that is usually asked to me is: are private placement programs (also known as PPPs) and trade platforms real or are they a scam? In short, they are real, but not in the way they are often described. There are many myths about these programs that I will attempt to dispel. Perhaps the most common misconception regarding private placement programs and trade platforms is that they are the exclusive domain of the ultra rich through secretive, invitation-only investments. Often, clients are told that they must pay large, upfront fees to gain access to these exclusive instruments. But nothing could be further from what is usual.
How Private Placement Programs/Trade Platforms Work
Many private placement programs and trade platforms are legitimate investment vehicles that are accessible to a wide variety of investors. Part of the confusion regarding private placement programs in particular is the term, “private placement”. Private placements are used by companies to raise capital from private investors often via a set of investment documents known as a Private Placement Memorandum (PPM).
Prime Bank Programs
More often than not, when people refer to PPPs they are referring to what are more properly known as Prime Bank Programs. Prime Bank Programs, also known as Prime Bank Investments, High Yield Investment Programs (HYIPs), Buy-Sell Programs or Roll Programs, are clearly and universally fraudulent. They purport to involve the purchase and sale of medium-term notes (MTNs), standby letters of credit (SBLCs), bank guarantees (BGs), or some similar instrument.
As the name implies, it is usually alleged that only the largest top-50 prime banks in the world are involved in this program and participation is by invitation only. There is usually a great deal of secrecy involved and the minimum investment is typically in excess of $100 million or more. Interestingly enough, prime bank programs in the US often state that only overseas banks are involved while overseas programs often state that only US banks are involved. They are most often described as “risk-free” investments where one prime bank issues discounted instruments to a purchaser at another prime bank who has committed to purchase the notes at an agreed-upon price. If this is simply a bank-to-bank transaction one might wonder where the scam comes in. Supposedly, the purchasing bank needs a large deposit from a new client to create the line of credit that will be used for the purchase. This deposit will be placed in a “blocked” account and held untouched by the bank until the transaction has been completed.
Prime bank programs have been universally condemned by the FBI, SEC and US Treasury Department as being fraudulent. In recent years, fraudsters have attempted to circumvent these governmental warnings with a clever ruse. They state that these agencies know that the programs are real, but that they are obligated to publicly deny their existence lest investors transfer large amounts of capital from deposit accounts into prime bank programs. Supposedly, this mass exodus of capital would cause the banking system to collapse, hence the official denials. This is factually incorrect.
Medium Term Notes, Standby Letters of Credit, and Bank Guarantees
Part of the reasons such frauds have been successful is that Medium Term Notes (MTNs), Standby Letters of Credit (SBLCs), and Bank Guarantees (BG’s), are real financial instruments. A Medium Term Note is the general name given to a debt instrument that matures in the medium term, typically 5-10 years. Bank Guarantees, as they are known outside of the US, or their US counterpart, Standby Letters of Credit, are most often used in international commerce where a seller might be unsure about a buyer’s ability to pay for goods once received. One way of overcoming this impasse is to utilize a bank guarantee or standby letter of credit.
A SBLC or BG is simply a promise to pay on the part of the bank involved in the transaction. Trading partners often have greater confidence in a transaction if the payment is backed by a commercial bank rather than a trading partner with whom they might be unfamiliar. Banks are not in the business of losing depositors’ money, so in order for them to issue a SBLC or BG in the first place, they would underwrite the SBLC/BG similar to an unsecured loan–meaning obtaining an SBLC/BG is a difficult endeavor to begin with.
Moreover, banks will often charge 1%-8% of the face value of the instrument, meaning a $100 million SBLC could cost the bank’s client as much as $8 million to obtain, and is usually only valid for a period of one year. Which, of course, begs the question: if the borrower has sufficient standing with the bank to be approved for an SBLC/BG and sufficient funds to cover the cost of issuing it, why are they contacting me? The answer is, if this were a legitimate transaction, they wouldn’t be.
Over the years many people have approached me looking for SBLCs/BGs. Most are actually looking to lease an SBLC/BG and use the instrument as collateral for a loan or cash investment. This is somewhat akin to leasing a new car and then trying to use the car as collateral for a loan from another lender. No automobile, SBLC, BG or any other leased asset can be used as collateral in a legitimate financial transaction, which is why these transactions normally cannot work. What does work in any case is a financial guarantee, which is usually provided directly by the bank of the capital seeker to the bank of the capital provider. Of course, it goes without saying that such a transaction can be facilitated.
Heart attacks have their own timetable. Experience in hospitals all around the world shows that the numbers of emergencies of this type are at their highest between seven and eight o’clock, whether in the morning or in the evening. Hearts just love solar twilight. The first and last light of the day marks the time for cardiac failure and this is no coincidence.
Cardiologist José Luis Palma, vice-president of the Spanish Heart Society, says that just like animals, humans are influenced by the universe. Circadian rhythms set the pace of life, illness and death.
“We live as part of a cosmos and we are therefore subject to its influences. People’s lives, like those of any other animal or plant and even some microbes, are marked by the cycle of light and darkness in periods of 24 hours. Science has shown that its influence even reaches our cardiovascular system,” he says.
An authentic storm
It is known that the arrival of dawn light and its disappearance at sunset cause physical, mental and behavioural changes. The critical time for the cardiac system is early morning, the time we wake up. The body, in rest and recuperation phase during the night, automatically reacts to the light of day or the moment when the brain decides it has had enough time sleeping. At that moment there is an increase of catecholamines in the blood; this is a substance – actually hormones – produced by the nerve cells. It is very important in managing stress, but can also be the trigger for a cardiac accident.
The body generally welcomes catecholamines because they favour coagulation, but they can also trigger high blood pressure, rapid heartbeats, anxiety, sweating and pain in the chest. The body is simply preparing for daytime activity, but the cardiovascular system is being tested. With a fast heartbeat and hypertension crisis, the risk of heart attack is more than evident, especially when, whether they know it or not, someone is more at risk because of family history, excess weight, smoking and, in addition, if their cholesterol is too high.
“In someone who has had a previous coronary problem and poor ventricular function, in other words a heart which contracts badly, this type of physiological alteration, although natural, can have a serious effect,” warns Dr Palma. The risk of sudden death and heart attack reduces as the hours pass, but they are still maintained until midday.
To prevent a scare, it is best to start the day dedicating our time to the very first thing we do: waking up.
“The alarm clock goes off and we are immediately in a rush because we need to get to work on time, and that is very bad for us. We should set the alarm half an hour earlier so we can get up slowly, have a nice shower and eat a leisurely breakfast. It is best to go to work calmly, and it is also better to use public transport because driving, especially at that time of day, is tremendously stressful,” says Dr Palma.
A short siesta
Another good idea for preventing this type of heart attack, which is related to the forces of nature, is to take a short siesta. Twenty minutes of light sleep is more than enough to reset the brain and settle blood pressure and cardiac rhythm. Pure prevention.
Between 7 and 8pm, when the body prepares to go into night mode, the risk of a heart attack increases once again. That’s the catecholamines and so on coming into play.
“I have worked all my life in a coronary unit in Madrid and there has always been a time when there is a major increase in certain type of heart attacks. It is due to the circadian rhythms,” says José Luis Palma. “We don’t really know why it happens, but it does and there are things we can do to try to prevent the consequences”.
Don’t hesitate, call up the 112 emergency number. 70.000 people in Spain a year have a heart attack, and half of them do not recover.
Joaquin Phoenix used his Best Actor win at the 2020 Oscars to continue his awards-season trend of putting sociopolitical issues in the spotlight. In a sprawling acceptance speech, he touched on social inequality, the cruelty of the food industry toward animals, systemic inequality, and even cancel culture. He closed out by quoting his late brother, River Phoenix.
Hi. What’s up? Hi. God, I’m full of so much gratitude right now and I do not feel elevated above any of my fellow nominees or anyone in this room, because we share the same love, the love of film, and this form of expression has given me the most extraordinary life. I don’t know what I’d be without it.
But I think the greatest gift that it has given me, and many of us in this room, is the opportunity to use our voice for the voiceless. I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the distressing issues that we are facing collectively, and I think at times we feel or are made to feel that we champion different causes. But for me, I see commonality.
I think whether we’re talking about gender inequality or racism or queer rights or indigenous rights or animal rights, we’re talking about the fight against injustice — against the belief that one nation, one race, one gender or one species has the right to dominate, control, and use and exploit another with impunity.
I think that we’ve become very disconnected from the natural world and many of us, what we’re guilty of is an egocentric worldview — the belief that we’re the center of the universe. We go into the natural world and we plunder it for its resources. We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow, and when she gives birth, we steal her baby. Even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable. And then we take her milk that’s intended for her calf and we put it in our coffee and our cereal.
And I think we fear the idea of personal change because we think that we have to sacrifice something to give something up but human beings, at our best, are so inventive and creative and ingenious, and I think that when we use love and compassion as our guiding principles, we can create, develop, and implement systems of change that are beneficial to all sentient beings and to the environment.
Now, I have been — I’ve been a scoundrel in my life. I’ve been selfish, I’ve been cruel at times, hard to work with. And I’m grateful [to] so many of you in this room [who] have given me a second chance and I think that’s when we’re at our best, when we support each other, not when we cancel each other out for past mistakes, but when we help each other to grow, when we educate each other, when we guide each other toward redemption. That is the best of humanity.
I just — I want to — when he was 17, my brother wrote this lyric. He said, “Run to the rescue with love and peace will follow.” Thank you.
From ‘over-tourism’ to ‘flight-shaming’, the impact of global travel and tourism is being measured against its benefits.
As the planet becomes ever more crowded, and increasingly affected by a changing climate, the concept of sustainability needs to evolve from being a buzz become into a way of life. Many sectors of the world’s economy are changing the way they do business.
This trend towards sustainability is encompassing travel too. Responsible tourism looks to reduce or offset carbon emissions, minimize waste and pollution, respect local cultures and share the economic benefits or travel with local communities.
Tourism can be a powerhouse for positive change and development, bringing greater wealth to local communities. I recall my visit last year to the Dominican Republic. Anmar, one of the restaurant staff at our resort, was chatty and happy to engage with the visiting journalists. Working in the hospitality sector meant long hours and sometimes dealing with demanding guests, but the rewards were worth it, he told us. The hotel provided housing; supported the local school; and he earned enough that he could help his wider family and save a little too.
The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with the Republic of Haiti – one Caribbean island yet two very different nations. The Dominican Republic has focused on creating a stable, investment-friendly economy which has wholeheartedly embraced tourism. The World Travel & Tourism Council suggests that foreign visitors contribute up to 17.2 per cent to the economy, which is one of the biggest and fastest growing in the Caribbean. Yet it’s neighbor Haiti, where political instability, corruption and devastating natural disasters have made tourism difficult, is said to be one of the poorest nations in the western hemisphere.
However, the benefits of tourism that I saw in the Dominican Republic are being increasingly challenged. The opportunities created for education, employment, development and wealth creation by the travel industry are being somewhat over-shadowed by the negative impact of increasing numbers of visitors.
Cities and communities are complaining or ‘about tourism’, where quality of life is being eroded by the sheer volume of visitors. Sadly it’s not hard to find examples of over-tourism. Just think of Venice, where cruise liners inundate the city with day-trippers, causing congestion, higher prices for locals and erosion of the fragile infrastructure.
Environmentalists are also highlighting the negative impact of holiday makers. Thinking back to the Dominican Republic, I remember how it was impossible to escape the problem of rubbish and litter. It’s the most visited country in the Caribbean, and despite having a waste collection infrastructure, I saw disturbing amounts of waste, including plastic, dumped by the sides of the roads. Being an island, some of this rubbish would inevitably find its way into the Caribbean sea.
We don’t need to be an activist to know that things need to change. Natural habitat and biodiversity is being lost, the oceans contaminated, local communities diminished by globalization and cultural sights damaged.
Yet there are plenty of reasons to be positive. We can all be part of sustainable and responsible tourism. Whether you consider yourself a fly-and-flop tourist or an adventurous traveler, we can all be more aware of our travel choices and how our holidays and business travel impact the environment, local communities, culture and heritage.
Even the smallest gesture can make a big difference over time. Thanks to better awareness of the problem of plastics in our oceans, we are more conscious of the waste we create. Many hotels are reducing refuse and working to eradicate the use of single-use plastics and increasing recycling. Yet I still see plastic bottles or water out by my bedside. This is no longer acceptable. I favor properties, like many in Mallorca, that offer filtered water in reusable glass bottles. The same is true with plastic straws – refuse them.
As for those little bottles of shampoo and conditioner in the hotel bathroom, well their days are numbered. Much as I like those cute, chic branded amenities, they are an environmental no-no. I see more and more hotels using refillable containers. Some are really creative, providing locally-made ceramic dispensers.
The cruise line industry is one of the fastest growing parts of the travel industry yet it is controversial when it comes to its impact on the environment. Incidents of alleged dumping or heavy fuel oil, rubbish and untreated effluent into the oceans is the ugly side of the sector. Thankfully new cruise vessels are designed to be significantly more environmentally responsible. Not only do modern ships emit less sulfur when burning fuel, but they are designed to maximize the recycling or waste and have the technology to treat dirty water onboard. When booking your next cruise, take a moment to consider the environmental track record or your chosen cruise line and look out for the new generation of cruise ships.
Increasingly when I travel, I see hotels, resorts and smaller hospitality businesses are working towards ‘pay it forward’; supporting social, environmental and cultural projects in their local communities.
Often this can mean more than just a financial contribution, but also the opportunity for staff and guests to be personally involved with local projects, from wildlife conservation to restoration of historical sights. It can also make a fascinating and rewarding focus for a holiday.
As a visitor we can also spend in the community, by using local guides, shopping at genuine markets and choosing authentic travel experiences like eating with a local family.
Until a year or two ago, few of us could have imagined the notion of ‘flight shame’. It’s said to have originated in Sweden where ‘Flygskam’ means the stigma associated with flying due to the associated emissions of greenhouse gases.
Now, I promised myself I wasn’t going to get into the complexities of climate change in this article, but whatever our views are about the causes of climate change and whether humans can mitigate it, we have to accept that advanced countries are moving towards being low carbon economies. That means that over the coming decades, many nations will strive to reduce emissions or greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.
As such, we are all becoming aware of our ‘carbon footprint’, a term that has come to mean our personal contribution to the atmosphere or carbon-containing greenhouse gasses.
One of the single biggest contributors to our personal carbon footprint can be the flights we take for work or pleasure. Despite this, the reality right now is that only fossil fuels are energy dense enough to get a plane full of passengers off the ground and then cruising through the air at hundreds or kilometers an hour. Until an alternative fuel or technology has been developed, our options are to reduce the number of flights we take, and also to offset the carbon emissions through investing in projects that capture carbon or reduce its release elsewhere.
For example, many of the major airlines are not only investing in more fuel-efficient aircraft, but also in projects to offset the carbon dioxide released by their aviation fuel. As passengers we can invest in certified organizations that support projects as various as planting trees, promoting clean energy like wind power and providing clean burning stoves to people in the developing world.
This is a compelling alternative to simply boasting on Facebook for the flight we didn’t take or shame someone who did fly. It’s worth remembering the very positive impact of travel and tourism.
After all, it’s not just people like Anmar in the Dominican Republic that benefit from trips abroad. We all do. Travel allow us to maintain close contact with friends and family, meet new people, share unique and unforgettable travel experiences, get to know new and different cultures and support a global economy – the benefits of which are not only on distance shores but here in Southern Spain too.
To lose all that because we can’t fly anymore would be a great shame too.
The announcement came as nearly 8,000 cases have been reported worldwide, almost all of them in mainland China.
The World Health Organization declared on Thursday that the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak was a global health emergency, acknowledging that the disease now represents a risk beyond China, where it emerged last month.
The decision reversed the organization’s decision just a week ago to hold off such a declaration.
Since then, W.H.O. officials said, thousands of new cases in China and clear human-to-human transmission in several other countries — now including the United States — warranted a reconsideration of that decision by the agency’s expert committee.
The W.H.O.’s declaration — officially called a “public health emergency of international concern” — does not have the force of law. But it serves notice to all United Nations member states that the world’s top health advisory body thinks the situation is grave.
Governments then make their own decisions about whether to close their borders, cancel flights, screen people arriving at airports or take other protective measures.
Declaring emergencies also adds urgency to any W.H.O. appeal for money. Thus far, that is hardly relevant: The countries most affected — China, Japan, Germany, South Korea, the United States and Vietnam — can afford to wage their own battles against the virus.
Luxury brands fear sales hit as Chinese shoppers stay home
The coronavirus outbreak in China is threatening the luxury goods industry with a significant sales hit after a decade of relentless growth fueled by Chinese shoppers.
The industry’s most important clientele, Chinese consumers are quarantining themselves at home and canceling trips abroad, where they often splurge on Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Cartier and other high-end brands. In Paris, luxury boutique staff are reporting a sharp drop in Chinese shoppers.
From The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal