“Many Hands Make Light Work”

first_img Interesting note about Rio Negro Air Base I saw the spirit of Colombia in that awakening. It was a festival morning, with radiant sun and spring breezes; a Saturday in Medellín, Antioquia. Outside, floats and horses were being decorated; inside, in the intensive-care unit in Pablo Tobón Uribe Hospital, a career National Army Soldier was lying on a bed. His face was lifeless, the left side destroyed, the eye covered by a bandage, his ear, his cheekbone, and his jaw repaired by several sutures. Beneath the sheets, the glimpse of fragile, almost terminal breathing. The night before, while I piloted a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter that belonged to the 5th Combat Air Command (Rionegro, Antioquia), my crew received an alert for an airborne medical evacuation fora soldier wounded in a minefield during combat against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) narco-terrorist organization. In the jungle and amid crossfire, he was aided by one of his comrades, who tore his uniform to make a tourniquet to hold the profuse bleeding. His wounds were atrocious and expelled a nauseating smell, contaminated with human waste contained in the explosive charge. His left foot hung by the tendons, and the edges of the bones had come through the skin. It was nine in the morning when I arrived at the Tobón hospital reception desk, where a nurse informed me that the surgery was over and that the Soldier was recovering in intensive care. I took the elevator and recalled the first hours of that day, when the evacuation of that young man began. At three in the morning, I was piloting the Black Hawk on a steep descent amid the peaks of the Ayapel mountain range. I was flying with night-vision goggles, together with an AH-60 Harpy helicopter that was firing its machine guns to repel the curtain of anti-aircraft fire that the enemy had prepared for us. When I reached the treetops, we began the final approach. The rotor wake stirred up dirt and twigs that formed a whirlwind of lights and shadows from which four soldiers emerged with the stretcher. Our combat nurse and the flight technicians received the patient and positioned him in the cargo bay. As soon as we left that clearing and shut the doors, the smell of his wounds inundated the aircraft. I turned my head to evaluate the situation, and found myself with the figure of a warrior worn down by barbarism, a person with an emaciated face; his clothes were soaked with sweat, blood, and mud. The elevator reached the intensive-care floor, the doors opened, and I was surprised to see a corpse-like figure covered with pink sheets crossing the hallway. I made the sign of the cross without wanting to look too closely, but it was inevitable. The sheets revealed the outline of a cold, somber figure that seemed forgotten, like just another object on that floor. What if it was the soldier? That vision hit me like a stab in the heart. I couldn’t believe that our efforts would have ended like that; I couldn’t accept that idea as true. The fear made me act strangely, and I reached out to uncover the corpse’s face. “Are you a relative?” asked a nurse, who roused me abruptly from my thoughts. “No, no … I’m looking for a soldier we brought in this morning; he was wounded by an anti-personnel mine.” “He’ll wake up soon,” she responded as she appointed to a room at the end of the ward. She then had covered the corpse’s face with indifference and headed off with it; disappearing at the end of the hallway. A doctor heard that conversation. “Are you a relative of the soldier?” he asked. “No, I’m the pilot of the crew that evacuated him early this morning. I came to see him because I wanted to meet him.” “Thank you for what all of you are doing,” said the doctor. “We get soldiers like that almost every day. This man came in half-dead; you brought him in time. Look, he’ll wake up soon. He’s in very serious condition; he’s lost a lot of blood, and we’re trying to control a severe infection caused by the contamination of his wounds. His prognosis is uncertain. We amputated his left foot, and we still don’t know whether he’ll lose the eye. He hasn’t woken up; if he does, don’t give him the news let me talk to him first.” While we were flying, the combat nurse opened the medical kit and shook a flask, injected the contents into the patient’s arm, removed the dirty bandages and examined the wounds, took the patient’s pulse, and asked how long it would take to get to Medellín. I told him 50 minutes. In the distance, behind the mountains, the lights of the city were visible; it was 3:40 a.m. The helicopter’s motors were going at full throttle, almost at the point of blowing out. The city was preparing to celebrate the 2005 Flower Festival. What a paradox, I thought, some celebrating and others fighting steadfastly, whether wounded or unwillingly dealing out wounds in order to survive! The nurse was focused on changing bandages, injecting medicine, and cleaning wounds. I noticed that he murmured a prayer. As I entered the room, I found the soldier unconscious and hooked up to several monitors that were controlling his vital signs. The atmosphere in the room was so thick that I felt that it was weighing on my shoulders. A glacial silence reigned, as in a tomb. His face appeared to be that of a humble fisherman. His wounds were now clean, and his stump, wrapped in bandages, stood out amid the sheets. One of his fingers moved abruptly, and a monitor began to beep. At that instant, he opened his left hand, and suddenly, with a trembling and clumsy movement, he raised his right arm to pull out the tubes that were keeping him alive. The doctor rushed forward and instructed me to help him. A nurse ran in. His energy gradually weakened, until he became calm. His gaze moved around the room. A doctor, a nurse, a strange man, monitors, needles, and bandages surrounded him, and he quickly understood the situation. His right eye met the doctor’s gaze, and the latter, with a sorrowful air, grasped his shoulder in order to speak to him. “Soldier, thank you! Thank you for what you’ve done for Colombia. Yesterday, you stumbled into a minefield and suffered serious wounds. One of your feet was badly hurt, and we couldn’t save it.” The soldier closed his eyes and pressed his lips together. A tear slid down his cheek. There was a silence that transfixed the walls and invaded the entire floor. “Do you want me to call anyone and tell them that you’re here?” I asked. “My commander. Tell him that my morale is high and I still have fight in me. That they should expect me there, that… I’ll walk again. Right, doctor?” The doctor agreed. “And my comrades? How are they?” “They’re well,” I responded. There was a distant happiness in his eyes. “Long live my National Army! We’re going to win, right? That’s my Army,” he said, and fell into uncontrollable weeping. I felt as if something had broken within my soul. “And your mom, do you want me to call her?” I insisted. “No, not her… I’ll talk to her later. I don’t want to worry her.” “Do you need me to bring you anything? Food, clothes…?” “Yes, get me a Bible, please; I need to talk to God.” We remained silent a long while. I had seen the spirit of Colombia in that ravaged face, in that weakened body of great spiritual strength. The courage of this soldier was not false; it was virtuous. A man removed from hypocrisy. The Colombian Air Force had saved the spirit of a valiant man, a symbol of the heroism of all Colombian soldiers. That day, I felt very proud to wear the wings of a Military pilot. I had seen how the commitment of our Air Force made us leaders in adversity and an example for all our fellow countrymen. On the way to Rionegro, to the air base where I lived, I felt as if I had not spoken a single word in my entire life. I felt that I was unable to speak about what was most important, about the object of my deepest thoughts. I perked up my ears, I suppressed the beating of my heart, so as not to miss a single detail of that encounter; my memory needed to preserve this experience, because I would need to remember it each time my spirits or those of a comrade flagged. *A phrase from Homer, the name given to the Greek poet who was the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. By Dialogo April 19, 2012last_img read more

UWV pension fund ramps up risk with private equity, infrastructure

first_imgThe €6.3bn pension fund of insurance provider UWV has raised its risk profile by increasing exposure to private equity and infrastructure.According to its 2015 annual report, it also plans to increase real estate investments and holdings in commercial and residential mortgages at the expense of its euro-denominated government bond and equity allocations.The scheme said it had decided, based partly on a survey into the risk appetite of its participants, to allocate 10% of its portfolio to risk-bearing investments, adding that it had already reduced its strategic interest hedge from 60% to 50%.It estimates its policy change will increase its surplus return by 0.7 percentage points to 2.2%. The UWV scheme aims to raise the combined private equity and infrastructure allocation to 5%, with the help of asset manager Partners Group.Its property and mortgages portfolios are to account for 10% and 6% of overall assets, respectively.The scheme has placed the four asset classes in a separate portfolio that holds illiquid investments – next to its regular matching and return portfolios – specifically meant for generating returns for indexation.The Pensioenfonds UWV said it also wanted to focus on cost-saving via passive investment, pointing out that its developed-market equity, government bond, inflation-linked bond and commodities holdings were already under passive management.It said it would update its contracts with pensions provider TKP Pensioen and fiduciary asset manager Allianz Global Investors this year.Last year, it replaced Morgan Stanley as its active manager for local-currency emerging market debt (EMD) with Legal & General, which now manages the investments passively.It said it would review Aberdeen AM as active manager of its hard-currency EMD holdings after the manager underperformed last year by 4.1 percentage points. The UWV scheme posted a net return of -0.6% due largely to a 3.3% loss on its matching portfolio, as well as negative results on its interest and currency hedges.It said its strategy shift also reduced its return by 0.5 percentage points.The pension paid €152 per participant for pensions administration and spent 0.38% and 0.17% on asset management and transactions, respectively.Its funding stood at 95.7% as at the end of June.last_img read more

Dutch pension funds PWRI, PFZW abandon merger negotiations

first_imgPWRI, the pension fund for disabled workers in the Netherlands, and healthcare scheme PFZW have abandoned their plans to merge the schemes.The €7.5bn PWRI said in a statement that both parties had decided to end negotiations, which had been resumed in July.PWRI and the €179bn PFZW had been discussing a possible merger since last year but decided to suspend talks last spring, citing “decreasing funding and volatile financial markets”.PWRI’s annual report later suggested that previous negotiations had stalled because of differing views. During the resumed talks, much attention was paid to both schemes’ financial positions, according to PWRI.In the meantime, however, their financial positions have failed to improve, while coverage ratios have fallen.PWRI said the resumed negotiations had lead to the conclusion that a merger would “not provide sufficient benefits for the participants under current circumstances”.Its spokeswoman declined to elaborate on the exact reasons why the talks broke down, or how PWRI envisaged its future.The pension fund has been closed to new entrants since last year, following the introduction of new legislation aimed at shifting disabled workers from “sheltered” workshops into the general workforce.As a consequence, PWRI participants will be increasingly joining the pension plans of their new employers.Last year, the scheme still had more than 94,000 active participants working in sheltered workshops.The pension fund said it expected its contributions would have to rise following the gradual ageing and thinning of its population.Because it also foresees that it will need to reduce its investment risk, and that the potential for indexation will decrease, it concluded that it would require a “large, robust merger partner”.As of the end of August, funding at PWRI stood at 99.8%, while coverage at PFZW stood at 91.1%.last_img read more

Moulin Rouge performers’ Gold Coast Hinterland home hits the market

first_imgNicolodi heralds from a seventh generation circus family from Italy and at just 13 years old won the Monte Carlo Circus Festival’s coveted Silver Clown, which launched his worldwide career. He now coaches locally. Burgess, who holds The Guinness Book of Records accolade as the longest-serving performer with Moulin Rouge in its 120-year history, has performed alongside icons including Sir Elton John and Jerry Lewis. She is now the director of her event company, Prestige Productions. The property is listed through Josh Thomas of Ray White Prestige and is set to head under the hammer on November 14. Burgess said her and Nicolodi were itching to start something fun and new. “We just don’t know what’s next, which is exiting,” she said. “There will be tears of blood when we leave here. It’s going to be the hardest thing to do.” Burgess now runs her own entertainment production company. Picture Glenn Hampson The Lower Beechmont property at 276 Freemans Rd is up for grabs.THE creative love child of two showbiz legends has hit the market and it showcases some of the best views on the Gold Coast. Showgirl Marissa Burgess, who played the longest lead character in Paris’ famous Moulin Rouge, and internationally acclaimed acrobat Ben Hur Nicolodi have listed their Lower Beechmont dream home for sale. The four-bedroom house on an acreage block has views that stretch from Byron Bay to Moreton Bay. The cabaret stars describe their house as having a Mediterranean feel with an elegant Euro-contemporary interior and formal gardens. MORE NEWS: Why now is a good time to take your property to auction MORE NEWS: Looking to live a modern-day fairytale? Video Player is loading.Play VideoPlayNext playlist itemMuteCurrent Time 0:00/Duration 1:27Loaded: 0%Stream Type LIVESeek to live, currently playing liveLIVERemaining Time -1:27 Playback Rate1xChaptersChaptersDescriptionsdescriptions off, selectedCaptionscaptions settings, opens captions settings dialogcaptions off, selectedQuality Levels720p720pHD540p540p360p360p270p270pAutoA, selectedAudio Tracken (Main), selectedFullscreenThis is a modal window.Beginning of dialog window. Escape will cancel and close the window.TextColorWhiteBlackRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyOpaqueSemi-TransparentBackgroundColorBlackWhiteRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyOpaqueSemi-TransparentTransparentWindowColorBlackWhiteRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyTransparentSemi-TransparentOpaqueFont Size50%75%100%125%150%175%200%300%400%Text Edge StyleNoneRaisedDepressedUniformDropshadowFont FamilyProportional Sans-SerifMonospace Sans-SerifProportional SerifMonospace SerifCasualScriptSmall CapsReset restore all settings to the default valuesDoneClose Modal DialogEnd of dialog window.This is a modal window. This modal can be closed by pressing the Escape key or activating the close button.Close Modal DialogThis is a modal window. This modal can be closed by pressing the Escape key or activating the close button.PlayMuteCurrent Time 0:00/Duration 0:00Loaded: 0%Stream Type LIVESeek to live, currently playing liveLIVERemaining Time -0:00 Playback Rate1xFullscreenWhy Spring 2019 is a good time to sell01:27center_img Marissa Burgess played the longest lead character in Paris’ famous Moulin Rouge. Burgess owns the property with internationally acclaimed acrobat and husband Ben Hur Nicolodi. It has some of the best views on the Gold Coast.“Perched up here on the mountain, we have 210 degrees worth of views — the views are without a word of a lie the best on the Gold Coast,” Burgess said. “It’s sort of a mix of our two personalities, I have a love for all things rustic and my husband loves all things contemporary.” The Moulin Rouge wonder couple met and headlined in Paris for 18 years and despite their extravagant lives, they always had a dream to build a home in the Hinterland. “When we were working at Moulin Rouge in our later years we got to visiting Australia and we decided to come back here,” Burgess said. “We found the land but it wasn’t for sale. We went back to Paris and started to design a house, Ben was doing a floorplan and I was doing the interior design.“We were literally designing a house for a block of land we didn’t have.” When the 1.01ha block came up for sale, the pair quickly pounced and starting building not long after. The floorplan was designed to maximise the picturesque vistas while also catering to entertaining and working from home. She has a more rustic style whereas Nicolodi loves all things contemporary. They started designing their dream home before they even bought the land. The 1.01ha block wasn’t on the market the first time the couple came across it.More from news02:37International architect Desmond Brooks selling luxury beach villa9 hours ago02:37Gold Coast property: Sovereign Islands mega mansion hits market with $16m price tag1 day ago“On all accounts, to us this house is perfect,” she said. “We just want to have a change now. I have an itchy-foot, gypsy-traveller husband and he has been land bound long enough. “He has family everywhere and he wants to be free to go and travel.”last_img read more