By Dialogo November 01, 2011 The Defense Department’s latest report to Congress on Afghanistan details steady progress and shows the plan there is working, a senior defense official speaking on background told reporters in Washington D.C. The Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan — commonly called “the 1230 report” for its citation in the law that requires it — is the latest congressionally mandated report card on Afghanistan to Congress. The reports, which have charted the state of security in Afghanistan, began in 2008. “We have been describing the situation on the ground as it is,” the official said. In June 2008, the report said the Taliban had regrouped. In January 2009, the report said conditions had deteriorated and continued to do so in June 2009. The April 2010 report said the decline in security had stopped and the November 2010 report said there were modest gains in security. “In this report, we’re saying there are important security gains [and] reversed violence trends in the country, except the area along the Pakistani border,” the official said. The bottom line is the plan President Barack Obama rolled out in December 2009 is working, the official added. “It was about reversing that deterioration, it was about reducing violence through a combination of military and civilian surge working together on the group in Afghanistan,” he said. “Where we’ve been least successful is in [Regional Command] East, where we put the fewest [surge] troops and where the safe havens in Pakistan are.” The Afghan security forces have been crucial to the progress, the official said, noting these forces are increasing in numbers and quality. Two years ago, few people enlisted in the Afghan army or police. Now, he added, the Afghan government turns away thousands who can’t meet the new higher standards required by the security forces. “Their performance is the key to our ability to continue the withdrawal … by the end of 2014,” he said. Afghan forces are in the lead in seven areas of the country covering 25 percent of the population, the official said. Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he will announce the next areas to transition to Afghan responsibility Nov. 2 during a meeting in Istanbul. Afghanistan still has problems, the official said, noting the insurgents there are resilient. But, he added, the insurgents have been significantly weakened. The safe havens in Pakistan are a major stumbling block, the official said, but in all other areas of the country and by almost any measure, he added, conditions in Afghanistan have improved.
14SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Lydia Hattrup Lydia Hattrup brings an extensive background in branding, product and database marketing to her role at Buzz Points. She’s spent the last several years building data-drive local marketing strategies … Web: buzzpoints.com Details Misconceptions abound among credit unions not offering debit rewardsSome rewards programs are under-delivering on benefits, especially beyond retention and revenueGetting More than Loyalty from Loyalty ProgramsWhat members call rewards programs are generally called loyalty programs from the financial institution’s perspective. Not surprising as increased loyalty – via more products utilized and being the primary payment card used for transactions – is a primary goal of such programs.This should be the tip of the iceberg.Among issuers satisfied with their debit card rewards program, there is little variance on what is pleasing them. It’s no surprise that revenue and loyalty are top reasons, but somewhat surprising is the altruistic winner: the value it provides members.“The loyalty it creates” (91%) and “value for our members” (88%) were nearly tied for credit unions ranking it in their top three reasons for satisfaction (with “generating revenue” in the ballpark at 70%). But adding value to members rises to the top by gaining 59% of first-place votes, with revenue a surprisingly distant second at 22%.Support, marketing, and data insight scored remarkably low. Suggesting that some rewards providers are underperforming in the delivery of these services. Ongoing engagement programs, in-depth data analytics, and cardholder support are key components that credit unions should seek from their rewards provider. Since they are proven to drive greater success, it should be part of the ROI for credit unions.Many Concerns Are Missed OpportunitiesAmong credit unions not offering loyalty programs, 53% are at least somewhat likely to add such a program in the next twelve months. Those credit unions are, for the most part, seeking what current institutions offering rewards are satisfied with. But what’s holding back nearly half of credit unions?Nearly half of decision-makers (46%) cited integration with their core as a significant concern. This suggests that rewards providers need to do a better job communicating the implementation process, as many do not even require a direct core integration, operating from much simpler data reports.Unsurprisingly, “the cost of the program” was at the top of the list, with 88% including it in their top three concerns and 45% citing it as their #1 concern. This again suggests loyalty programs are not viewed in a holistic sense. Even looking beyond the revenue gains, a well-managed loyalty program should provide actionable data analytics that typically only the largest financial institutions can afford.Perhaps the biggest missed opportunity however is simply awareness. The survey presented hard-hitting research stats demonstrating consumers strongly expect banking rewards, and make decisions on where to do their banking and which payments card to use based on the rewards offered. In each case well more than half of respondents were not aware of this fact.The “Banking Rewards” survey uncovered that greater awareness and understanding of loyalty programs changes the priority level credit union decision-makers assign to investing in a program.More insights, results, and eight data charts are available in the accompanying white paper, “Banking Rewards: Perceptions and Awareness among Credit Union Executives.” Consumer demand for debit rewards programs are on the rise. In fact, repeated surveys find rewards as the highest-ranking priority for consumers choosing where to bank.1 Yet 61% of credit union decision-makers are unaware of this fact.This is but one of the illuminating insights uncovered in the new “Banking Rewards: Perceptions and Awareness Survey” delivered by CUNA Strategic Services and Buzz Points. Some common threads permeated the survey’s results:Credit unions currently offering debit rewards are largely satisfiedYet even they are missing tremendous opportunities to gain more value
Frustration is natural, but give the Trojans time.We shouldn’t overreact. But, admittedly, it remains increasingly difficult not to.We’re watching the USC men’s basketball team amid its worst season in school history.The 23 losses are a program first. They have won 20 percent of their games, the lowest since the program’s inception. The Trojans have won one game since mid-December, while utilizing a shortened eight-man rotation, including two walk-ons, for much of conference play.Nothing in that is reassuring that next year will see USC return to the NCAA tournament following four appearances in the Big Dance from 2007-2011. Most Cardinal-and-Gold fans remain understandably aggravated, frustrated and irritated with recent results. If they weren’t, it’d be strange. Nobody likes losing. And nobody likes ugly losing.“I’m frustrated for the players,” USC coach Kevin O’Neill said Saturday. “And I’m frustrated for our fans. I’ve done this for 33 years at many different places and at different levels. Basketball sometimes goes like this.”The responses have been what you would expect: Just fire the coach. That’s what they say. It sounds easy, painless and something a school like Kentucky might do, should its team be swimming in mediocrity.“Coaching staff should get the boot,” read one message board post following the Trojans’ latest ordeal — a 56-52 loss at Arizona State on Saturday.But here’s the thing: USC isn’t Kentucky.The Trojans haven’t been to the Final Four since Dwight Eisenhower was president. They haven’t won a regular season conference title since 1985. USC basketball is vastly different from USC football.Recovering from NCAA-levied sanctions is not as seamless as USC football coach Lane Kiffin has made it look on the gridiron.If you’re looking for an explanation as to why the Trojans have become fixated in the Pac-12 cellar, it’s a rather simple one.USC has one player, redshirt sophomore forward Evan Smith, from its 2009 recruiting class. Its 2008 class vanished in the aftermath of then-coach Tim Floyd’s resignation three years ago. In short, USC has no recruited junior or senior scholarship players available. The Trojans lost three starters from last season’s 19-win team in forwards Marcus Simmons and Nikola Vucevic and center Alex Stepheson. They lost five players this season, three of them starters, because of season-ending injuries.The counterargument remains: O’Neill should have recruited better.He recruited senior guard Jio Fontan and redshirt junior forward Aaron Fuller, two transfer players, but they’ve been in street clothes for much of the season. He recruited a 7-foot center in redshirt sophomore forward Dewayne Dedmon, but he hasn’t played since Jan. 26 and has worn a splint on his hand, a brace on his left knee and a boot on his right foot at different points this season.“I’ve never seen a team with that conglomeration of situations and circumstances that have led to where we’re at,” O’Neill said. “It’s not an excuse; it’s a set of circumstances.”Whatever it is, it certainly explains the Trojans’ current predicament.NCAA investigations and sanctions are designed to be crippling. The Trojans’ success in football is the exception to the rule. You aren’t supposed to be ranked in the top 10 amid scholarship restrictions and a postseason ban.No, O’Neill’s team isn’t facing such restrictions now, but back in 2010 the program was, and that lingering cloud over the program in the months before the NCAA released its findings hampered the program.“It killed recruiting,” O’Neill said, reflecting upon his first season with the program in 2009-2010. “I got the job late, we didn’t self-impose until January, and then we didn’t get the sanctions confirmed until May really handcuffed us for a full year.”In football, guys will take a chance on USC. After all, the program has produced more NFL draft picks than any school in the country. But such isn’t the case when it comes to basketball. It doesn’t have the same pedigree.The Trojans start two freshmen, two sophomores and one junior in James Blasczyk, who is a first-year transfer and has been limited because of a stress injury to his right foot. And those players aren’t the one-and-done types you’d see at top-10 programs. That talent doesn’t typically flock to the Galen Center.Until USC is a few years removed from its self-imposed sanctions and can field a healthy unit, we won’t be able to fairly evaluate O’Neill, the coaching staff and his personnel.Is this a coach who can annually lead the Trojans to the NCAA tournament? The top of the Pac-12 pecking order?I’m guessing he can. A season ago, he took a depth-plagued USC team to the Big Dance. He led Marquette to back-to-back 20-win seasons in the early 1990s. But even at this point, it’s still just endless speculation.We only know this: As the nightmarish 2012 season comes to a close, O’Neill’s young group needs more time to develop. Evidently, based on recent weeks, it needs a lot of time. “The 19th Hole” runs Mondays. If you would like to comment on this story, visit DailyTrojan.com or email Joey at email@example.com.