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Obama Signs Financial Overhaul Bill Into Law

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Revelling in victory, President Barack Obama, on Wednesday, signed into law the most sweeping overhaul of financial regulations since the Great Depression, a package that aims to protect consumers and ensure economic stability from Main Street to Wall Street.

The law, pushed through mainly by Democrats in Washington’s deeply partisan environment, has come almost two years after the infamous near financial meltdown in 2008 in the United States that was felt around the globe. The legislation gives the government new powers to break up companies that threaten the economy, creates a new agency to guard consumers and puts more light on the financial markets that escaped the oversight of regulators.

Obama described them all as commonsense reforms that will help people in their daily life — signing contracts, understanding fees, being aware of risks.

He went so far as to call the reforms “the strongest consumer protections in history.” The president added to a burst of applause: “Because of this law, the American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street’s mistakes.”

Republicans portray the bill as a burden on small banks and the businesses that rely on them and argue it will cost consumers and impede job growth. Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California called Obama’s bill-signing a “charade” that ignored the root causes of the financial crisis.

The president said otherwise. He argued that a crippling recession was primarily caused by a breakdown in the financial system that cannot happen again.

“I proposed a set of reforms to empower consumers and investors, to bring the shadowy deals that caused this crisis into the light of day, and to put a stop to taxpayer bailouts once and for all,” Obama said to supporters.    “Today, thanks to a lot of people in this room, those reforms will become the law of the land.”

In a note of irony, Obama signed the bill with great fanfare in the massive Ronald Reagan Building, named after a president who championed deregulation.

The president was joined by scores of consumer advocates, state and local government officials, business owners and executives, and members of Congress who supported the bill. Obama singled out for praise Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who shepherded the bill through Congress.

In the midst of a heated midterm election season for many lawmakers, Obama sought to put the complex law in consumer-oriented terms for the nation. He said it would help root out fine print and hidden fees for people, and provide deeper scrutiny of the sophisticated financial transactions on Wall Street.

The law also assembles a powerful council of regulators to be on the lookout for risks across the finance system. Large, failing financial institutions will now be liquidated and the costs assessed on their surviving peers. Borrowers will be protected from hidden fees and abusive terms, but also will have to provide evidence that they can repay their loans. The Federal Reserve will get new powers while at the same time coming under expanded congressional oversight.

“While President Obama pats himself on the back today, families and small businesses are bracing for yet another big-government overreach that will make it harder to create new jobs,” said the House Republican leader, John Boehner of Ohio.

Though Obama and his top officials urged Congress to pass the law while the memory of the 2008 financial crisis was still fresh, many of the law’s provisions won’t take effect for at least a year, as regulators scramble to write new rules and implement them.

Large Wall Street banks have welcomed some provisions in the bill, but have fiercely opposed others that would limit their banking business and cut into their profitability.

Obama has at least one contentious remnant from the bill to address. He must still nominate a director for the independent consumer protection bureau, an agency that became one of the bill’s flashpoints and was attacked by Republicans as a broad expansion of government power over private business.

Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard law professor, is considered a leading candidate for the job. As head of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the government’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, the bank rescue fund known as TARP, she has periodically clashed with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Liberals and unions have been aggressively pressing for her appointment. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was among the latest to voice support for of Warren, saying Tuesday she is the only candidate “uniquely qualified and equipped to head this new agency.”

But opposition in the Senate could make Warren’s confirmation difficult, a point Dodd made in a radio interview on NPR Monday. White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said that while the administration has additional candidates in mind, “We are confident she is confirmable.”

Also under serious consideration is assistant Treasury secretary Michael Barr, one of the architects of the financial regulation bill and a close ally of some White House officials”.

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5 Tips for Getting Your Credit Utilization Rate in Check

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You may have heard the expression, “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” These words of advice are definitely applicable when it comes to credit cards — just because an account’s upper limit is higher than its current balance doesn’t mean it’s wise for the cardholder to keep spending until they max it out.

 

Why? Because utilizing more than 30 percent of your available balance on any individual card — or across all of your cards — makes you appear riskier to lenders. It gives the impression you may be depending on credit cards to get by. This measure is called your credit utilization rate and having a high percentage of credit in play can start to drag down your credit score.

 

Here are five tips for getting your credit utilization rate in check if it starts to creep northward of 30 percent or so.

 

Make Payments More Than Once Per Month

Adjusting your credit card payment schedule from once per month to every two weeks can help. This simple action helps bring your balance down more quickly, and lower balances tend to lower utilization rates. As Experian notes, utilization rate is actually the second biggest factor lenders consider when calculating credit rating.

 

If you’re used to paying $300 once at the end of the month, try instead paying $175 or $200 twice per month. This may require jostling around your budget to come up with the extra funds, but this slight increase will slash your debt faster and help pull your utilization back into the safe zone, too.

 

Ask for a Credit Line Increase

Another way to go about optimizing your utilization rate is to ask for an increase on one or more credit lines. First, check to see whether your lender has already approved you for a higher limit. If no automatic increase has been granted to your account, you’ll have to put in a request. You’ll have a better chance of hearing a “yes” from lenders if you’ve made timely payments in the past.

 

It’s important to keep in mind this strategy only works if you avoid running up your balance, even with a higher limit in place.

 

Pay More Than the Minimum Due

Paying more than the minimum amount due is another way to chip away at balances more quickly, especially if most of your minimum payments are going toward interest fees rather than tackling the core balance.

 

However, as many Freedom Debt Relief reviews note, many cardholders are unable to pay more than the minimum — or may even fall behind on minimum payments — following financial hardship like divorce, medical bills or layoffs. If your credit utilization is high because you’re unable to keep up on credit card payments, it’s time to revisit your budget and speak with a credit counselor qualified to offer advice on how you can get back on track.

 

Avoid Closing Old Credit Accounts

While closing old credit accounts you haven’t used in a while may feel like cleaning house, it can adversely affect your credit utilization — and thus your score. Shrinking your available pool of credit means your utilization percentage will rise, even if your balances remain the same.

 

As long as there’s no annual fee on old accounts, it usually doesn’t hurt to keep them open. In fact, it’ll help your credit in terms of lengthening your history, too.

 

Open a New Credit Card

Last, but perhaps riskiest, is opening a new credit account. However, it’s only prudent to do so if you can keep spending very low on this card. This can do more harm than good if you’re tempted by the allure of an available balance.

 

It’s worth looking into what you can do to lower your credit utilization rate. Keeping it below 30 percent will help your credit score; while exceeding this cap can start to negatively affect it.

 

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COVID-19: Dockworkers/Seafarers Are Essential Workers, Exempted From Travel Restrictions, Says NIMASA

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? As Agency Unveils Guidelines for Terminals, Jetties.

 

In line with the newly endorsed protocols by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO] designed to lift barriers to crew changes, amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Management of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA] has designated Seafarers and Dockworkers as essential workers who should be exempted from travel restrictions.

 

The exemptions are contained in a new guideline developed and published by the Agency to support essential services in Nigeria’s shipping sector. The guideline states that the jobs of dockworkers at the country’s seaports, terminals, and jetties are essential to the national economy and, therefore, dockworkers should be granted passage between their places of abode and the seaports/terminals and jetties to perform their duties.

 

The advice also declares that seafarers are on essential duty and as such exempted from the curfew and travel restrictions, which may hinder necessary movement for crew change. It directs companies employing the services of seafarers to provide special and dedicated means of transportation to convey the seafarers, adding that such transport system must be disinfected within the recommended minimum hours.

 

The guideline specifically provides for the mandatory use of facemasks within all terminals and jetties, mandatory temperature check on all staff before access to terminals, and denial of entry to persons who present temperature above 38°C. It makes it mandatory for all dock labour employers to develop risk assessments and safety intervention guidelines for all personnel and operations in the areas of vulnerability within their maritime operations that can be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including cargo handling, access control, and rostering procedures.

 

Dock labour employers are also to devise methods of ensuring that dockworkers absent from their duties for issues relating to COVlD-19 are quarantined and compensated for the suspension of earnings they suffer as a consequence. Furthermore, all dock labour employers are to ensure that buses deployed during the COVID-19 pandemic carry a 50 per cent maximum capacity in line with Federal Government directives, and all passengers wear facemasks. Such buses must have hand sanitisers for all drivers’ and passengers’ use and be frequently disinfected.

Director-General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, said the latest advice was meant to contain the coronavirus pandemic while also supporting the continuation of the economy. 

 

Jamoh stated, “Like President Muhammadu Buhari said, no economy can survive total lockdown. If you look at it critically, maritime is an essential duty, with the major actors being seafarers and dockworkers. This is why we continually come up with guidelines to ease their operations so that activities in our ports will not suffer.”

 

The DG emphasised the prohibition of loitering around port premises and charged dock labour employers to ensure social distancing of two meters is maintained between people in the workplace and other public spaces within and around port terminals.

 

The guideline is in sync with those issued by the United Nations agencies, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Labour Organisation (ILO), as well as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

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ICT Skills’ll Deliver Economic Independence To Nigerian Girls – NITDA

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The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has said that if Nigerian girls are taught relevant Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skills at a young age, they will be set up for economic independence in future.
The Agency who made this remark through a press release signed by its Head, Corporate Affairs and External Relations, Mrs Hadiza Umar, joined the global community to mark the “Girls in ICT Day.” The day which is marked annually on the fourth Thursday in April falls on the 23rd April this year.
In the statement, Mrs Umar said that the Agency is highlighting the need to promote technology career opportunities for girls and women in ICT, the world’s fastest growing sector.
She said, “During this year’s celebration, NITDA is drawing attention to the critical need for more girls and women to participate actively in the ICT sector of our economy. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) had estimated skills shortfall of over two million jobs in the ICT sector within the next few years. This opens a huge opportunity for girls and young women who have the ability to learn Coding, Apps Development, Computer Science and other ICT related courses.
“This will not only make them ready for a successful career in the ICT sector, but ICT skills are rapidly becoming a strong advantage for students in just about any other field they might choose to pursue. With technology playing vital role in all manner of careers, from Arts to Social Sciences, and from Law to History, to Graphic Design, learning ICT skills at a young age will set girls up for economic independence. Furthermore, the ICT sector needs more girls and women and celebrating a day like this reminds us that ICT helps to improve the lives of people everywhere.
“It contributes significantly towards better healthcare, better environmental management, better communication, and better educational systems that transform the way children and adults learn. NITDA, in its proactive manner and in line with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy as well as in furtherance of bridging the gender imbalance in ICT in Nigeria, has embarked on series of Capacity Building programmes for women and girls across the country. Girls with ICT skills can expect to earn good wages and enjoy huge career opportunities.

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