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Obama administration moves to end West Coast port dispute

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The National Retail Federation is welcoming the direct involvement of Labor Secretary Tom Perez in the ongoing dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).

The Obama administration has dispatched Perez to participate in talks aimed at ending the standoff between West Coast port workers and management which resulted in a four-day shutdown of ports on the U.S. West Coast from Feb. 13-16.

Jonathan Gold, VP of supply chain for the NRF, applauded the decision to directly involve Perez.

"We welcome the administration's attention to this important national and international economic and supply chain issue and hope it recommits the two sides to reaching a deal,” said Gold. “The slowdowns, congestion and suspensions at the West Coast ports need to end now."

Gold, who initially sent a public letter to the Obama administration asking for direct involvement in the West Coast port dispute in November 2014, made additional comments on the situation during a televised interview with Fox Business News on Monday, Feb. 16.

“After nine months, it’s time for parties to come to a final agreement,” said Gold. “They need to work out their final issues, get a deal, and move on.”

The port shutdown is estimated to have cost the U.S. economy $2 billion a day. According to Gold, wage issues have been resolved, but disagreement continues about mediation of workplace disputes, as well as other possible unidentified issues. The NRF is not directly involved in any negotiations.

In addition to the retail industry, Gold said other industries such as manufacturing and farming have also been calling for an end to the dispute. Some West Coast port business has already shifted to ports on the East Coast and Gulf Coast of the U.S., and Gold raised another possibility that would take West Coast port business outside of the country.

“We could lose business to the Panama Canal,” said Gold. The Panama Canal is currently undergoing renovations to allow larger vessels to pass through.

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Cybersecurity Summit: Apple CEO defends consumer privacy

BY Dan Berthiaume

Palo Alto, Calif. — Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, defended the consumer’s right to privacy and security on Friday in remarks at the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection. Cook, who also took the occasion to announce that Apple Pay — starting in September — will be available for many government transactions  such as national park entry fees, called out those who don’t do their part in protecting privacy. 

“If those of us in positions of responsibility fail to do everything in our power to protect the right of privacy, we risk something far more valuable than money,” he said. “We risk our way of life.”

Cook noted that history has shown the consequences that come with sacrificing the right to privacy.

“We still live in a world where all people are not treated equally. Too many people do not feel free to practice their religion, or express their opinion, or love who they choose,” Cook said.

Cook highlighted the steps Apple takes to ensure consumer privacy and security.

“Apple doesn’t monetize data we collect from the iPhone or iCloud,” he said. “When we ask for your data, it’s to provide better services, but you’re still in the driver’s seat. You decide when you share data and how much.”

Apple also uses both hardware and software encryption, as well as 24-hour live security monitoring teams. Cook said Apple is vigilant in the face of identity theft becoming one of the fastest-growing crimes in the U.S., victimizing 13 million consumers in 2013.

“We know hackers are doing everything they can do to steal your data,” said Cook. He described the Apple Pay digital payment service, officially launched in September 2013, as a step forward in consumer privacy and security.

“Apple Pay significantly more secure than the old days of plastic cards and magnetic stripes,” stated Cook. “Security is part of the reason we developed in the first place.”

Actual credit card numbers are never stored to the device or any server when consumers add cards to Apple Pay. A unique one-time code is generated for each transaction, only good for the user’s Apple Pay device, with no transaction details stored by Apple.

Along with making Apple Pay available for many federal government transactions, Apple is also working on making Apple Pay compatible with cards issued to government employees for their expenses, as well as compatible with Social Security and veterans pensions.

“In the future, it would be great to have personal identification like your passport and driver’s license digitally stored in a way that is safe, secure, and easily accessible by you,” said Cook. “We shouldn’t have to trade security for convenience of having all this information at our fingertips.”

In fact, Cook said that a secure, digitally-enabled world will actually offer much more data protection and privacy than the current data security environment.

“Criminals will find it more difficult to carry out their crimes,” he concluded.

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Market Recap: RISI Crow’s Construction Materials Cost Index

BY HBSDEALER Staff

A price index of lumber and panels used in actual construction for Feb. 13, 2015

*Western – regional species perimeter foundation; Southern – regional species slab construction.

Crow's Market Recap — A condensed recap of the market conditions for the major North American softwood lumber and panel products as reported in Crow's Weekly Market Report.

Lumber: Limited trading activity in the SPF market placed more downward pressure on prices, especially at eastern Canadian mills. Prompt shipping volumes forced eastern mills to make outbound calls and negotiate price levels. Demand struggled to keep pace with production in the Southern Pine lumber market. Obstructions in the market such as the weather, the West Coast port strike and exchange rate between the US and Canada are all making it more difficult for mills to move production. Coastal species lacked the energy to generate any traction. Overall, prices adjusted very little, but where pressure existed, it was generally modestly downward. Stud mills often lowered prices to sell production, as demand lagged. SPF mills, particularly in eastern Canada, approached the market more aggressively than other species. Overall, price adjustments of $5, and in a few instances, $10, were most common. Radiata Pine lumber has been victimized by the dock situation. Even though some importers are shipping to alternative ports, producers have not been able to institute some of the raises they had expected. Some notable price changes have occurred in Ponderosa Pine industrial in recent business. Mldg&Btr, which has been tight, has clearly moved upward by $25, based on producers’ reactions to the dock situation and the inability to bring imported material off the docks. Although the production of Ponderosa Pine boards has diminished somewhat, those mills that have boards have not benefitted from stronger prices. Eastern White Pine mills are generally inundated with snow, although little open market wood would be available anyway. Buyers located where weather was good understandably sought to cover Western Red Cedar needs more than those in the northern tier of the US, especially the Northeast.

Panels: OSB activity went almost dead calm this week, and most price categories remained unchanged from last Friday. Pervasive cold weather is keeping jobsite activity down. Order files are out, generally, to the week of Feb. 23. Southern Pine plywood producers experienced enough sales activity to maintain solid order files and, as a result, nudged rated sheathing prices higher. When mills called orders ready, buyers were quick to react with trucks. Any give in the Western Fir plywood market was to the downside, although producers were not yet ready to aggressively seek more sales. Order files extending a week or two prompted producers to quote the same prices as the week prior and negotiate a few dollars when necessary. After a good spike upwards last week, Canadian plywood pricing went flat. Some producers tried to sell at one point over, but to no avail. Order files remain out to the weeks of March 9-23. Customers continued to purchase particleboard at a solid pace, which allowed producers to maintain order files to their liking. Buyers scrambling for MDF coverage attributed it to slow cargo unloading at West Coast docks.

For more on RISI, click here.

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