Digging into anything and everything that makes the CNMI tick beyond politics...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

5-Year Extension Requested For CNMI Immigration Federalization

‘Void of skilled labor’ when visa period expires raises concerns

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, June 27, 2012) – The Saipan Chamber of Commerce recommends another five-year extension of the federalization transition to prevent the loss of the islands’ human resources and save the ailing Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands’ (CNMI) economy.
The recommendation was based on a poll conducted among the chamber members in response to the request of the U.S. Government Accountability Office that they comment on any "uncertainty" they are facing as a result of the federalization of Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) immigration.
Chamber members believe that if an additional transition period were not to be granted, existing businesses would no longer be able to secure Commonwealth-only worker (CW-1) visas past Nov. 2014 for foreign national workers, and there would be a corresponding void of skilled labor no longer available thereafter within the commonwealth for businesses and essential services.
The transition period ends on Dec. 31, 2014.
Chamber president Douglas Brennan said regardless of the eventual date, the CNMI economy will suffer as a result of loss in human resources.
He said chamber members were "overwhelmingly consistent in attesting to the…uncertainty created with the approaching date…when all CW-1 visa holders would be ‘zeroed out,’ and companies employing CW-1 applicants in skilled positions would not be able to easily locate qualified replacements."
The chamber maintains that CW-1 visa holders have "an enormous position range in the CNMI — positions in management, business and finance, computer and math, engineering and architectural technicians, legal and educational occupations, entertainment, healthcare support, protective services, food preparation, maintenance, sales, office administration, farming and fishing, installation and repair, automotive, production and transportation — all part of the 11,739 CW-1 visa applications [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services] received for CNMI employers."
The chamber said its members believe that "the CNMI has been, and will continue to be, dependent upon foreign national employees to supplement the small numbers of U.S. local potential hires" in the commonwealth.
"This is in addition to the fact that there isn’t much training available in the CNMI for technical positions, which means the dependence will continue until a change in education evolves," the chamber added.
It noted that local employees leave the island for greener pastures once trained or after receiving their formal education.
The chamber said in the past five years, operations shrunk and the business customer base has decreased by over 25 percent.
At the end of the current transition period, without CW-1 visas, the economic meltdown will worsen, it added.
According to the chamber, "a startling example of the disruption that would be caused when CW-1 visas are eliminated would be in the case of the Commonwealth Healthcare Center [once] those CW-1 visas were no longer available."
CHC has a little over 100 nurses, and 90 percent of those nurses have been applied for CW-1 visas. None of those applications from the CHC have been processed and/or issued yet.
If those CW-1 visas were no longer available the hospital could not function and would stop serving those needing medical services, the chamber said.
CHC has the only real operating rooms in the CNMI. "Without nurses and attendants, everything stops," the chamber said.
If the U.S. Labor Department recommends ending the transition in 2014, a potential health threatening situation would unfold, the chamber added.
"It is also fair to say that without a functioning public healthcare center available for companies and their employees, CNMI residents would suffer. Further, future investment, the chamber’s sought-after retirement visa program and other new economic possibilities, are severely threatened with this healthcare ‘uncertainty’ that will surely occur should the transition period not be extended," the chamber said.

Published at the Marianas Variety and Pacific Pacific Islands Report

Friday, June 15, 2012

Freezing moments of daily life in the Marianas

HAVE you ever thought of how your copy of a daily newspaper comes into your hands? Or how a flat tire returns to normal so you can drive your vehicle again?
CNMI Museum of History & Culture executive director Robert Hunter and his mom Gloria Hunter at the Marianas Wide photo exhibit.
CNMI Museum of History & Culture executive director Robert Hunter and his mom Gloria Hunter at the Marianas Wide photo exhibit.
If you need a haircut or makeover, a visit to the beauty parlor solves it all. If you need to get around the island and you have no car, there are taxis  to take you to your destination. Go to a store and a salesclerk will be there to assist you.
Each of these everyday things that we all take for granted are possible because of real people with real lives.
For two weeks in August last year, renowned photographer and historian Dr. Dirk Spennemann made the rounds observing and capturing people from all walks of life on Saipan, Tinian and Guam, freezing moments of everyday life.
Spennemann covered a wide variety of subjects documenting the daily lives of people in the Marianas, both at work and at play.
All these moments are now available for free viewing in the exhibit “Marianas Wide,” which opened on Wednesday night at the CNMI Museum of History and Culture on Middle Road in Garapan.
Go over the images and see for yourself how Spennemann captured the everyday stories in  stores, churches, the night market, tourist sites, farms and a scrap metal shop, as well as other work places, at the cultural center and historical sites. You will meet familiar faces in these powerful images.
They tell stories about life and people in the Marianas. Spennemann crossed borders and cultural barriers in these snap shots, capturing Chamorros, Carolinians, Koreans, Japanese, Bangladeshis, Filipinos, Chinese and other islanders in Micronesia.
These images will be valuable parts of the history of the islands, giving future generations glimpses of what life was in the Marianas in the early years of the 21st century.
Photographer Dirk Spennemann shows the Widelux Panorama camera he used for the photos on exhibit at the CNMI Museum of History & Culture. Photos by Raquel C. Bagnol
Photographer Dirk Spennemann shows the Widelux Panorama camera he used for the photos on exhibit at the CNMI Museum of History & Culture. Photos by Raquel C. Bagnol
About the artist
Spennemann is an Australia-based photographer whose work explores the interaction of cultural expression, landscape and human experience through the medium of photography. He is associate professor of cultural heritage studies at Charles Sturt University in Albury, Australia.
Spennemann used a vintage 1960s Panon Widelux — one of those Japanese 35mm film cameras designed to reproduce a panoramic image covering 120 degrees, the same breadth of vision that the human eye normally sees.
Spennemann’s photographs have been exhibited in museums and galleries in Australia, Alaska, California and Saipan. Visit http://www.ausphoto.net to see more of Spennemann’s images.
Photographers, historians and community members attended yesterday’s opening of the exhibit, which will run until July 13. For more information, call the CNMI Museum at 664-2160.

First published HERE

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Consumers told to be alert for credit card fraud

CONSUMERS and businesses should learn to protect their credit cards, ATM cards and other access devices to avoid being victimized by fraud, U.S. Secret Service special agent Glen T. Peterson said.
U.S. Secret Service special agent Glen T. Peterson shows a counterfeit credit card to participants of the credit card and currency training session. Photo by Raquel C. Bagnol
U.S. Secret Service special agent Glen T. Peterson shows a counterfeit credit card to participants of the credit card and currency training session. Photo by Raquel C. Bagnol
In the credit card and currency training session he conducted in the Saipan Chamber of Commerce conference room last week, Peterson said more than 10,000 credit card transactions are made every second around the world and that credit card fraud cost banks about $1 billion each year.
E-merchants are also victims of credit card fraud, he added.
He said fraud rates outside the U.S. are higher and credit card fraud is usually done through skimming, hacking, phishing or scams as well as through lost, stolen or counterfeit credit cards.
Safety tips
Peterson said to prevent credit card fraud, retailers must be aware of policies, procedures and security features.
Warning signs to watch for: a customer offering a credit card but refusing to offer identification; the name of the credit card is different from the identification card; the card is unsigned’ the signature appears different than the identification; the card has already expired.
Peterson said retailers should use a UV black light to detect the holograms in the credit cards, the embossing, the magnetic stripe for the Uniform Commercial Code and the signature panel. Counterfeit cards usually lack these security features.
Consumers are also urged to secure credit cards and PIN numbers, limit skimming possibilities and report lost or stolen cards immediately. They should not  leave cards unattended, must not respond to unsolicited email that request you to provide sensitive information like date of birth, Social Security number, bank account information and other personal information.
 First published HERE