Month: October 2019

“We are extremely happy and grateful to the Turkmen government for this generous decision. We have been working closely for the past 10 years to find a permanent durable solution for these refugees,” said Annika Linden, chief of mission for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat.The President of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov, signed a decree last Thursday granting Turkmen citizenship to 13,245 people of ethnic Turkmen origin as well as people who had lived on land formerly rented to Uzbekistan and others who had migrated to Turkmenistan for family or other reasons.Generally seen as an asset to the host community, most of the Tajik refugees started building houses and cultivating land obtained from the government in the 1990s. Their children were given the right to attend and graduate from Turkmen schools.UNHCR, which opened its office in Ashgabat in 1995, has been providing protection to the refugees and assisting the government to facilitate their local integration through language courses and vocational training. The agency also contributed agricultural equipment such as tractors, bulldozers, electric transformers and water pumps to enhance their self-sufficiency.”We always tried to make sure that these projects would benefit not only the targeted refugee communities, but also the surrounding local population,” said Ms. Linden. “We believed this would facilitate the integration of the refugees into the wider community and allow them to adapt to Turkmenistan.”The collapse of the Soviet Union and ensuing civil wars and ethnic conflicts in the early 1990s created a complex refugee picture in Central Asia. UNHCR’s engagement in the region began in Tajikistan in 1993 as an emergency response to help more than 600,000 people displaced by civil war. Within a few years, it had expanded to Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. read more

As weapons continue to enter western Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region while the Government also violates the arms embargo, a United Nations panel of sanctions experts has called on the authorities in neighbouring countries and others to crack down on unofficial shipments.The four-member panel also recommends in its illustrated report that the Security Council extend and strengthen its embargo and consider designating individuals against whom the sanctions should be applied.“It is clear that arms, especially small arms and ammunition, continue to enter Darfur from a number of countries and from other regions of the Sudan,” experts say in the report. During its investigation, the Panel determined that since the Security Council imposed an arms embargo on all non-governmental groups in 2004, the armed opposition Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) “have continued to receive arms, ammunition and/or equipment from Chad, Eritrea, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, non-governmental groups and other unknown sources.”It cited reports, too, that the two groups receive financial, political and other material support from neighbouring countries, including Libya, Chad and Eritrea, but was unable to determine whether material support for Darfur from the three countries was official, or “the independent actions of Government officials.” But the experts did assert that the Governments of Chad and Libya could do more to prevent the violations. Moreover, “the Panel judges that the Government of Eritrea has provided, and probably continues to provide, arms, logistical support, military training and political support to both JEM and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA). Training of JEM and SLA has reportedly occurred at a number of camps in Eritrea on the Eritrea-Sudan border.”The southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) provided training and supplied arms and ammunition to SLM/A, but apparently stopped when it became obvious that its own negotiations on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the Government would be finalized. Nonetheless, “there are credible allegations of continued low-level smuggling of weapons and ammunition from southern Sudan into Darfur.”On the Government side, “troops with their weapons being withdrawn from southern Sudan in fulfilment of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement are being transferred to Darfur,” the panel says.In that regard, the African Union (AU) has reported suspicious, unannounced, night-time aircraft landings and departures at El-Fasher and Nyala airports, when they are officially closed and inaccessible to AU monitors, as well as suspicious activities at the airstrip of Tine, according to the report.The Government of the Sudan has reintroduced at least six Mi-24 attack helicopters into Darfur and has used two of them at least once, it adds.Meanwhile, the African Union peacekeeping mission (AMIS) has expressed concern that the Government recently imported certain white aircraft and vehicles into Darfur that could be mistaken for white transport belonging either to AMIS or to UN and other humanitarian agencies, the experts say.The Panel of Experts was set up to help monitor the implementation of the arms embargo imposed by two Council resolutions; inform the Committee about individuals who impede the peace process, violate international law or are responsible for offensive military overflights: monitor the implementation of targeted individual financial and travel sanctions; and develop new recommendations to present to the Security Council. read more

The 43rd session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), held in Vienna from 20 February to 3 March, also considered the use of nuclear power sources in outer space and reviewed implementation of the recommendations of the Third UN Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.The Subcommittee also discussed matters related to remote sensing of Earth by satellites, including applications for developing countries and monitoring of Earth’s environment.The panel’s Working Group on Space Debris reached consensus on the text of draft space debris mitigation guidelines to be circulated at the national level for consent for approval at the 44th session next year. The guidelines, should they be adopted, would be implemented voluntarily and through national mechanisms, and would not be legally binding under international law.On disaster management the Subcommittee held a workshop involving communication and meteorological satellite operators. It also considered the use of nuclear power sources in outer space under a multi-year work plan, including a potential technical safety framework.On Telemedicine it heard presentations on bilateral or multilateral projects to develop further space-based applications to monitor outbreaks of avian flu, Chagas’ disease, malaria and yellow fever, among others. The Subcommittee urged Member States to continue to cooperative in developing countries in order to bring them better health-care services.On near-Earth objects the Subcommittee stressed that early detection and precision of asteroids and meteors that may cross Earth’s orbit were the most effective tools for avoiding a collision, noting that any mitigating measures would require coordinated international efforts.COPUOS was set up by the General Assembly in 1959 to review the scope of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, to devise programmes to be undertaken under UN auspices, to encourage continued research and the dissemination of information and to study legal problems arising from the exploration of outer space. read more

AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Burger King on Wednesday became the first major U.S. fast-food chain to pledge that all of its eggs and pork will come from cage-free chickens and pigs by 2017.The move by the world’s second-biggest burger chain helps it satisfy growing demand among customers for humanely produced fare and adds fuel to an industry-wide shift to consider animal welfare when purchasing food supplies.“There’s no question in my mind, especially on the heels of pink slime and BPA, that everyone in the food world is very concerned about consumer reaction,” said food industry analyst Phil Lempert, referring to the beef-based food additive and the chemical used in plastic bottles and canned food.“Even if you’re buying a burger, you want to buy it from someone you like and respect,” said Lempert, who writes a daily industry newsletter. “It’s proven that consumers are willing to pay a little bit more for fairness, whether it’s to humans or animals.”Conventionally raised eggs come from hens confined in “battery cages,” which give them roughly the same space as a sheet of standard notebook paper. Most pork comes from sows confined during their four-month pregnancies in narrow crates.The hens would still be housed in a barn, but they have room to roam and perches and nesting boxes. Sows are also held indoors, but they would not be confined in the cramped crates while they are pregnant.Egg and pork producers have argued that easing confinement standards for animals raises production costs and makes those who adjust their practices less competitive.Animal welfare groups applauded Burger King’s decision.“So many tens of thousands of animals will now be in better living conditions,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, which has been pushing Burger King and other companies to adopt similar policies.“Numerically, this is significant because Burger King is such a big purchaser of these products,” he said.Burger King uses hundreds of millions of eggs and tens of millions of pounds of pork annually and its decision could be a game-changing move in the supply business as a huge new market opens up for humanely raised food animals.Already 9 per cent of the company’s eggs and 20 per cent of the pork served at its 7,200 restaurants are cage-free. In the European Union, all eggs are already of the cage-free variety.The Miami-based company has been steadily increasing its use of the eggs and pork as the industry has become better able to meet demand, said Jonathan Fitzpatrick, chief brand and operations officer. Fitzpatrick said the decision is part of the company’s social responsibility policy.In recent months, other companies have announced similar policies.Chipotle, with just over 1,200 restaurants, made a splash during the Grammy Awards in February with its viral commercial detailing the company’s commitment to humane treatment of animals and healthy food. After the commercial created so much buzz, other companies were quick to announce new policies, Lempert said.“Everyone wanted to say: ‘We all have good intentions,’” he said.So far this year, McDonalds and Wendy’s, the No. 1 and 2 burger chains, said they asked their pork suppliers to outline plans for the elimination of gestation crates, but didn’t set a timetable. Also, Smithfield Farms and Hormel committed to ending the use of the crates by 2017.Wal-Mart and Costco have transitioned their private-label eggs to 100 per cent cage-free. Unilever, which uses 350 million eggs a year in its Hellmann’s mayonnaise brand, is switching to 100 per cent cage-free. Others, such as Sonic, Subway, Ruby Tuesday chain restaurants, and manufacturers, such as Kraft Food and ConAgra Foods, are incorporating some percentage of cage-free eggs in their products.“This is an issue that just four to five months ago was not on the food industry’s radar,” said Paul Shapiro, the Humane Society’s vice-president for farm animal protection. “Now, it’s firmly cemented into the mainstream in a way that I think few people would have imagined.”The egg industry’s largest trade association, the United Egg Producers, has teamed up with the Humane Society in seeking federal legislation this year that would double the size of the battery cages in which 90 per cent of the nation’s 280 million laying hens are confined. And last month, the pork industry’s trade magazine noted that public opinion is evolving and “on the issue of gestation-sow stalls, at least, it’s increasingly apparent that you will lose the battle.”HSUS has been pushing for more than a decade for large-scale purchasers of animal products to ensure that they are raised humanely. The organization owns stock in 52 companies so that it can attend shareholder meetings and submit proposals for improved animal welfare policy. It also has used undercover operations to show the conditions some food animals endure.In 2007, Burger King became the first major fast-food chain to incorporate animal welfare into its purchasing policies when it began sourcing at least some of its pork and eggs from cage-free suppliers.While some companies responded to consumer demand by incorporating some cage-free eggs into their orders, the landslide passage in 2008 of California’s Proposition 2, which will ban chicken cages and gestation crates by 2015, caused buyers and suppliers nationwide to take notice.Since then, studies have shown that shoppers are willing to pay more for products they believe are produced to higher animal protection standards. Some estimates show raising hens cage-free adds 1 cent to the cost of each egg. It’s unclear how much more it will cost to raise pork outside of gestation cages.“Our attitude is, our producers believe in consumer choice and, if that’s what their consumers want to buy, they’ll produce cage-free eggs for the marketplace provided the customer is willing to pay the additional cost,” said Gene Gregory, president of the United Egg Producers. Burger King becomes first national chain to pledge cage-free pork and eggs by News Staff Posted Apr 25, 2012 5:22 pm MDT read more

Tories want Ontario public sector pensions changed to defined contribution TORONTO – Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives say taxpayers can no longer afford what they call “gold-plated pension plans” for public sector workers.Opposition Leader Tim Hudak says Ontario faces a $100-billion funding liability for about 90 public sector pension plans that will only get worse if the rules aren’t changed.Hudak says it’s time new nurses, teachers and civil servants were given defined contribution pension plans instead of the more lucrative _ and costly _ defined benefit pensions those workers currently have.He says there’s a dramatic unfairness in the system when some taxpayers with no workplace pension have to pay more to fund generous pensions for public sector workers.Hudak also wants pooled pension plans for private sector workers who don’t have a pension, which would not require employers to make any contributions.The New Democrats called the Conservative idea “reckless and unworkable” and said it would push more retirees into poverty and cost the government millions of dollars in court battles.The Liberal government says it would prefer a “gradual, moderate” increase in the Canada Pension Plan over a pooled plan. by News Staff Posted Nov 19, 2012 1:26 pm MDT read more

Scotiabank sees risk of single-digit cut in real estate prices by mid-decade by Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press Posted Jun 7, 2013 7:33 am MDT Canadian housing prices are at risk of falling over the next few years, driven by global economic weakness and softness in key condo markets, a Scotiabank economist said Friday.Adrienne Warren said a single-digit decrease by mid-decade would represent a soft landing that many observers have predicted.“There is some risk that single family home prices could fall but we see more risk on the condo market,” she said in an interview.Toronto prices have already flattened and Vancouver prices have fallen by five per cent, a better outcome than predicted.While average Canadian real estate prices would be affected by the country’s two most expensive markets, prices in most other areas of the country are relatively stable.Aside from factors affecting individual markets, the biggest factor influencing prices is the outlook for the economy and job market, Warren added.“Right now we’re in a period of slow, sort of steady growth, but there are risks primarily from the international front so I think that will be a key determining factor on whether we would have a harder landing or see sort of steady activity.”Ryerson University business professor Murtaza Haider agrees that modest price decreases are a “real prospect.”“The question to be concerned about is not that they might go down, it’s by how much,” said Haider, associate dean of the Ted Rogers School of Management.A decrease of one to three per cent shouldn’t prompt panic, he added.“If you take Toronto and Vancouver out, our housing prices are pretty stable.”Economic factors are supporting price increases in Calgary and Saskatchewan, while political calm has allowed Montreal prices to gain ground after long being depressed.Haider said demand for housing in Canada will remain strong, driven primarily because of immigration especially to large cities like Toronto.Toronto’s housing market is correcting in the wake of affordability pressures, inventory build, changes to mortgage insurance rules and more cautious lending policies, Warren wrote in a “Global Real Estate Trends” report released Friday.Sales and construction have already shifted notably lower, and prices are beginning to level out.It also notes that, while there’s a lag, prices tend to fall after sales drop off and the supply of unsold properties rises.The report said the rebalancing will be manageable if new construction slows, population in the Greater Toronto Area continues to grow and interest rates remain low.The Toronto Real Estate Board says prices have moderated but a short supply of low-rise buildings such as single family homes should continue to support overall price increases at least through next year.“Until that situation changes, it’s difficult to predict anything but price increases over the next couple of years,” said Jason Mercer, senior manager market analysis.The agency is forecasting a 3.5 per cent increase in average prices this year and around two per cent in 2014.It hasn’t prepared an estimate beyond next year but doesn’t foresee prices falling because the low-rise segment accounts for 75 per cent of the overall real estate market in the Greater Toronto Area.“With that kind of tightness in those categories — single-family, semis and townhomes — it’s difficult to see any kind of protracted decline in prices over the next couple of years.”The Toronto condo market has been watched closely by policy makers in the federal government and Bank of Canada, as well as private-sector economists. While it’s generally agreed that Toronto home prices are overvalued, there’s a range of estimates about how much they will likely come down.Finance Minister Jim Flaherty introduced stricter mortgage rules last summer to offset persistently low interest rates that have simulated borrowing and pushed up real-estate prices in some markets — particularly in Toronto and Vancouver.The Scotiabank report said the new rules, repeated warnings over high household debt levels and moderate growth in employment and income, have resulted in a 10 per cent drop in resales of previously occupied homes in Toronto.Lower expected returns are also tempering investor activity.“Roughly 50 per cent of pre-construction condominium purchases in recent years are estimated to have been by investors,” said the report.Housing starts in the Toronto area totalled just 28,900 units on an annualized basis in the first four months of 2013, down about 40 per cent from last year, the report said.Internationally, the report finds Canada and Australia at the mid-point between countries where prices have been rising (such as Colombia, the United States and Chile) where they have fallen (Spain, Italy and Ireland, among others).— With files from David Paddon. AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more

AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Most actively traded companies on the TSX, TSX Venture Exchange markets by The Canadian Press Posted Sep 20, 2013 5:17 pm MDT TORONTO – Some of the most active companies traded Friday on the Toronto Stock Exchange and the TSX Venture Exchange:Toronto Stock Exchange (12,806.47 down 120.31 points):Osisko Mining Corp. (TSX:OSK). Miner. Down 15 cents, or 2.70 per cent, at $5.41 on 32.19 million shares. The gold sector led the subgroups, sliding 5.45 per cent as the price of bullion fell $36.80 to US$1,332.50 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange.Iamgold Corp. (TSX:IMG). Miner. Down 69 cents, or 11.69 per cent, at $5.21 on 23.55 million shares.Alacer Gold Corp. (TSX:ASR). Miner. Down 26 cents, or 7.41 per cent, at $3.25 on 20.59 million shares.Semafo Inc. (TSX:SMF). Miner. Down nine cents, or 3.69 per cent, at $2.35 on 17.8 million shares.CGI Group Inc. (TSX:GIB.A). Information technology services. Up 17 cents, or 0.47 per cent, at $36.53 on 16.33 million shares.Toronto Venture Exchange (946.10 down 6.78 points):Macusani Yellowcake Inc. (TSXV:YEL). Miner. Unchanged at six cents on 5.6 million shares.Americas Petrogas Inc. (TSXV:BOE). Oil and gas. Up 14 cents, or 12.96 per cent, at $1.22 on 3.07 million shares. The Calgary-based company announced a strategic review Thursday, which may include a sale or merger of the company.Company reporting major news:BlackBerry (TSX:BB). Wireless technology. Down $1.74, or 16.08 per cent, at $9.08 on 13.30 million shares. Poor smartphone sales have forced the company to take a massive writedown on the devices and slash 4,500 jobs across its operations. It says it expects to post a loss of between US$950 million and US$995 million when it reports its second-quarter earnings next Friday. read more

AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email PAGE, Neb. – The dollars are flowing for Nebraska landowners who are willing to sign quickly to allow the proposed Keystone XL pipeline on their property.Landowners say they’ve received written offers from pipeline builder TransCanada in the last few weeks offering considerably more money than initially promised.But it’s on the condition that they agree soon.The U-S government has yet to indicate when it will decide whether to give the project the green light, but proponents hope to start building this year.One family said it was initially guaranteed $8,900 dollars in 2012, to allow the pipeline through its farm.According to an offer sheet dated Jan. 13, the figure has now surged to nearly $62,000 dollars.Included in the figure is a $27,000 signing bonus that shrinks the longer landowners wait.The pipeline would carry Alberta crude to Gulf coast refineries and has been a flashpoint for environmentalists and others who oppose it. by News Staff Posted Jan 26, 2014 12:32 pm MDT TransCanada offering huge cash payouts to build on Nebraska property: landowners read more

AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email WASHINGTON – Federal energy regulators improperly allowed widespread access to a sensitive document that outlined specific locations where the nation’s electric grid is vulnerable to physical threats, a government investigator said Wednesday.The document created by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should have been kept secret as a national security matter, Energy Department Inspector General Gregory Friedman said. Instead the information was provided in whole or in part to federal and industry officials in uncontrolled settings.The Wall Street Journal reported last month that a federal analysis indicated that a co-ordinated terrorist strike on just nine key electric transmission substations could cause cascading power outages across the country in each of the nation’s three synchronized power networks.The report followed a comment by former FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff that an April 2013 attack on a California electric substation was terrorism. The FBI has said in repeated statements it had found no indications to back that up.The attack, which involved snipping fiber-optic phone lines and firing shots into a PG&E substation near Metcalf, Calif., caused power outages. Millions of people were asked to conserve energy after power lines were damaged.Wellinghoff called the incident about 15 miles south of San Jose “the most sophisticated and extensive attack that’s ever occurred on the grid to my knowledge.”A March 13 story in the Wall Street Journal said federal officials had concluded that co-ordinated attacks in each of the nation’s three separate electric systems could cause the entire power network to collapse. Knocking out nine key substations could plunge the country into darkness for weeks, if not months, the newspaper said, citing the federal analysis.Sens. Mary Landrieu and Lisa Murkowski, the top two leaders of the Senate Energy Committee, asked Friedman to investigate the “apparent leak” to the newspaper.Murkowski, R-Alaska, called release of the information dangerous and irresponsible and said it “could provide a road map to those who wish to harm the United States.”Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, called the leak reckless and said it “put lives in danger.”Landrieu chairs the Energy Committee and Murkowski is the panel’s senior Republican. The committee is holding a hearing on the issue Thursday.In a three-page “management alert” Wednesday, Friedman said at least one power-grid related presentation — prepared by FERC in response to the Metcalf incident — should have been classified as secret and protected from release. Commission employees who viewed and handled the presentation may not have had security clearances “and thus were not fully aware of their obligations to protect the information,” Friedman said.The commission does not appear to have “adequate controls for identifying and handling classified national security information,” he wrote.Cheryl LaFleur, FERC’s acting chairwoman, said in a written statement that the agency was co-operating with Friedman, adding that she would follow his recommendations to improve handling of secure information“It is vital that the public have confidence that all sensitive energy infrastructure information is protected. I am committed to taking any and all needed action to strengthen FERC’s information security processes,” she said.LaFleur is likely to face questions from senators on FERC’s security policies at Thursday’s hearing. She is the first of 10 witnesses called to testify.___Follow Matthew Daly on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MatthewDalyWDC by Matthew Daly, The Associated Press Posted Apr 9, 2014 3:55 pm MDT Government watchdog says regulators should have classified document on power grid threats read more

VICTORIA – The British Columbia government has granted conditional approval for the Mount Polley mine to reopen immediately, but its long-term operation depends on how water is treated and discharged.Mines Minister Bill Bennett said Thursday the initial permit outlines the first of three steps the mine must take before it can be authorized to operate fully.The tailings dam at the central B.C. mine breached last August, and 24 million cubic metres of mine waste and water gushed into area lakes and waterways in what was considered an environmental disaster.An independent government-ordered report concluded the spill was caused by poor dam design, which didn’t account for drainage and erosion failures associated with glacial till beneath the pond.Bennett said the current permit will be welcome news to out-of-work miners and their families in the communities of Likely, 100 Mile House and Williams Lake, but future operations hinge on the company proving it can meet conditions of the Mines Act and the Environmental Management Act.“The permit does not include the right to discharge water off the site,” he said.Bennett said the Imperial Metals Corp. (TSX:III) mine must now put their tailings and water into a pit called Springer pit.He described it as an empty quarry that should be able to hold the mine’s tailings until next fall when the company must apply for its second conditional permit, to treat and discharge water.Bennett said the mine must receive that permit in order to continue operating.The final permit application, which must be submitted to the government by June 30, 2016, involves the mine’s long-term plans for water treatment and discharge, Bennett said.“We need to see the plan that shows us that they can discharge water safely, responsibly from the site,” he said. “They would not be given a permit to discharge any water from the site unless the water meets drinking-quality guideline standards and also the aquatic organism protection standards.”Imperial Metals Corp. estimates it will take about a month before it can start production, with up to 220 workers on site.Company vice-president Steve Robertson said he expects Mount Polley Mine Corp. to immediately recall up to 30 workers.He said the conditional permit fits the company’s intention to have Mount Polley operating permanently within a year.“The strategy here is to be able to do this temporary work plan in order to give us the time to get in place a long-term water management plan and discharge plan,” Robertson said. “We expect to be able to go back to the government in the fall with a proposal for a full-time restart of the mine.” B.C. gives restricted OK for mine to reopen after tailings spill disaster by Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press Posted Jul 9, 2015 11:55 am MDT Last Updated Jul 9, 2015 at 6:04 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more

by Christopher S. Rugaber, The Associated Press Posted Aug 28, 2015 9:08 am MDT Last Updated Aug 28, 2015 at 10:20 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Survey: Plunging stock prices lower US consumer sentiment, though impact may be temporary WASHINGTON – Plummeting stock prices have taken a toll on U.S. consumer confidence, though there are signs the setback may be temporary.The University of Michigan says its consumer sentiment index fell to 91.9 this month from 93.1 in July. The index is still up 11.4 per cent from a year ago.The figures provide an early read of the impact on consumers from the 1,900 point drop in the Dow Jones industrial average over six days through Tuesday. Stock prices have since recovered some of those losses.The University of Michigan surveys consumers throughout the month and so some of the responses were tallied as stock prices plunged. The University said it extended its interviews until Aug. 23.Many economists were reassured by the limited drop in the index.“The relatively small adjustment augers well for how consumers are taking the news,” Tim Quinlan, an economist at Wells Fargo, said.The survey also found that Americans remain confident about the U.S. economy and their personal finances.Richard Curtin, director of the survey, said the decline in confidence occurred late in the month, as global financial markets fell sharply. The volatility was driven by mounting evidence that China’s economy, the world’s second largest, is faltering, and by growing uncertainty about the Federal Reserve’s next move on interest rates.William Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said earlier this week that he would watch the University of Michigan’s index closely to get a sense of how Americans were reacting.The drop is in contrast to the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index, which was released earlier this week and found that confidence rose to its highest level in seven months in August. But that survey was completed before the stock market’s gyrations.About 61 per cent of U.S. households own stocks, Curtin said, so plunging stock prices can broadly affect the consumer outlook. Most Americans own equities in their retirement accounts, so the impact of lower stock prices on actual spending is limited. And the dollar value of stock holdings is highly concentrated: the wealthiest 10 per cent of Americans own 80 per cent of shares.As a result, consumer sentiment may bounce back, assuming the stock market stabilizes or recovers. Americans remain optimistic about their own financial health: 45 per cent said their financial situation has improved, just below a recent peak of 47 per cent in April. And half expect their incomes to increase in the year ahead.In contrast to the stock market’s violent fluctuations, recent economic data has largely been positive. The economy expanded at a 3.7 per cent annual rate in the April-June quarter, the government said Thursday, a much healthier pace than its previous estimate of just 2.3 per cent. Stronger consumer and business spending boosted output. read more

by Matthew Perrone, The Associated Press Posted Sep 15, 2015 10:04 am MDT Last Updated Sep 15, 2015 at 5:26 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email FDA bans 4 cigarette brands from R.J. Reynolds for not meeting review requirements WASHINGTON – The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday banned sales of four cigarette brands from R.J. Reynolds because they did not meet the agency’s safety review requirements.Under FDA rules, companies that launch new cigarettes must show that the products are essentially the same as older products in terms of health risks. The FDA said four brands from R.J. Reynolds failed to show that they don’t raise new safety concerns.Agency officials said they participated in a “considerable back and forth” with North Carolina-based R.J. Reynolds before ordering the cigarettes off the market. The FDA’s action doesn’t explicitly mean that the products are more dangerous than older cigarettes, just different.“All we have to conclude is that the different characteristics of these products raise different issues of public health,” said FDA’s tobacco director Mitch Zeller, on a call with reporters. “In our mind, these changed features raised questions for us.”The brands are Camel Crush Bold, Pall Mall Deep Set Recessed Filter, Pall Mall Deep Set Recessed Filter Menthol and Vantage Tech 13.Tuesday’s action means it is illegal for retailers to sell or distribute the four cigarette brands. However, the agency said it will not take action for 30 days to give stores and distributors time to dispose of the products.R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. said in a statement it “strongly disagrees” with the FDA decision.“Our submissions to the agency on these brands were comprehensive and we believe we effectively demonstrated substantial equivalence. We’re examining all of our options at this time.”The FDA has previously banned a number of new tobacco products, including a dozen in 2015. However, anti-tobacco activists said Tuesday’s action was the first to target a major cigarette brand: Camel Crush Bold.Camel is one of the three most popular cigarette brands among youth smokers, with 15 per cent preferring Camel, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.“The FDA’s action is a critical step in preventing the introduction of tobacco products that may be more appealing to youth, more addictive or more harmful,” the group said in a statement.Camel Crush Bold features a menthol capsule in the filter that releases the flavour when squeezed by smokers. The FDA determined that this and other new features and ingredients raised new health concerns.The FDA action only applies to Camel Crush Bold cigarettes. Reynolds markets other variations of the Camel Crush brand.In 2009 the FDA gained authority to regulate some aspects of cigarettes and other tobacco products. The agency can evaluate new tobacco products for their health risks and ban those that pose new or uncertain health risks.FDA officials said Tuesday they have cleared 257 new tobacco products for marketing since the regulations took effect. The agency has also rejected 113 applications for new products. read more

VANCOUVER – Tahn Donovan tears up as she recalls watching a murder of crows circle above a singing First Nations’ man, the birds crowing as he broke into traditional song in the middle of Vancouver’s Stanley Park.“It just really resonated with me,” said the Australian aboriginal woman, smiling at the memory of a recent indigenous-led tour she took of the expansive green space. “And then the crows started to sing.“That connection with culture and land. … To hear somebody sing for their country is really special.”Donovan, who represents an indigenous tourism council in Western Australia, was in Vancouver this past weekend as one of more than 100 delegates at the second annual Pacific Asia Indigenous Tourism and Trade Conference.The three-day event, which ended Monday, brought together indigenous groups from around the world to form partnerships, share stories and discuss best practices on promoting the burgeoning field. A key element explored the value of that unique relationship between First Nations and the environment.Delivering the conference’s keynote address was renowned National Geographic explorer-in-residence Wade Davis who told delegates that indigenous tourism could potentially revolutionize the industry by encouraging a better appreciation of cultural diversity.“I think there’s a moral and huge opportunity to become ambassadors for an entire new way of being, a new geography of hope,” said Davis.But it needs to go beyond leveraging quotas of First nations into the field, he added.“Real tourism is when aboriginal societies on their own terms can share their visions of life in a profound way that gives the visitor a true sense of authenticity, such that a visitor goes away as an avatar of the wonder of culture.”Aboriginal Tourism Association of B.C. head Keith Henry said First Nations’ tourism is unique because it provides a snapshot into a culture and its people.“We see visitors who are really looking for new experiences, unique experiences — they want to know the true history and story of the land,” he said.“That’s what aboriginal tourism does for all of tourism, not just for aboriginal communities but for all of Canada.”Indigenous tourism in B.C. employs 3,400 people, reached $50 million in revenue this year and Henry expects it to hit $68 million by 2017.Cuts to B.C. Ferries last year prompted criticism from First Nations’ entrepreneurs concerned about the impact reduced service would have on offering authentic travel experiences to remote coastal areas.“It’s very important not only for jobs but it’s also about cultural sustainability or revitalization,” Henry added. “We’ve seen a lot of communities where tourism has been really the incubator to really helping a new sense of pride in the community.”That was the case with Dennis Thomas, a member of the Tseil-Waututh Nation and general manager of an ecotourism canoe and kayak business in North Vancouver.“Fifteen years ago I didn’t really know anything about my culture,” he said.“Given that opportunity by my leaders to come and learn and know the history of my people and my songs, it just made me a better person.”Follow @gwomand on Twitter by Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press Posted Sep 15, 2015 2:00 am MDT Last Updated Sep 15, 2015 at 2:40 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email First Nations tourism a cultural ‘snapshot,’ and ‘a new geography of hope’ read more

Uber launches campaign to gather public support ahead of Ottawa city vote OTTAWA – Uber Canada is launching a campaign to gain public support as Ottawa city council prepares for a vote on ride-booking services on April 13.The company has been operating in Ottawa since October 2014 and says it wants Ottawa’s citizens to share their stories about the service.It has set up the website to supportuberYOW.com to collect the comments.Ottawa is one of several cities where the city council has grappled with complaints that drivers using the Uber ride-hailing technology have an unfair advantage over the conventional taxi industry, which is heavily regulated.In February, Ontario’s insurance regulator approved coverage for drivers using ride-hailing services such as Uber.However, the Toronto Taxi Alliance and Canadian Taxi Association challenged the regulator on Wednesday to require insurance firms to report the number of policies actually sold and other details. by The Canadian Press Posted Mar 30, 2016 5:32 am MDT Last Updated Mar 30, 2016 at 6:20 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more

Sears Canada Inc. plans to close 59 locations across the country and cut approximately 2,900 jobs under a court-supervised restructuring.The struggling retailer said it will close 20 full-line locations, plus 15 Sears Home stores, 10 Sears Outlet stores and 14 Sears Hometown locations.List of Sears branded stores to close from official company release. pic.twitter.com/ll8BWLxYzJ— mike eppel (@eppman) June 22, 2017The announcement came after the company was granted temporary court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) on Thursday morning.Under the plan, Sears Canada has been authorized by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to obtain up to $450 million in financing to maintain operations throughout the restructuring.The CCAA is a federal law that gives businesses a chance to operate under court supervision while working out a plan with bond holders, landlords, suppliers and other creditors.“The brand reinvention work Sears Canada has begun requires a long-term effort,” Sears Canada said in a statement.“But the continued liquidity pressures facing the company as well as legacy components of its business are preventing it from making further progress and from restructuring its legacy assets and businesses outside of a CCAA proceeding.”Sears Canada said it hopes to exit court protection as soon as possible in 2017.The struggling retailer has piled up losses over several years and seen its stock dive, losing more than 80 per cent of its value in the last year, despite efforts to reinvent itself at a time.The company, which was founded as a mail-order business in 1952, has also gone through several leadership changes in recent years.Headquartered in Toronto, Sears Canada had 94 department stores, 23 Sears Home stores and 10 outlets prior to the CCAA restructuring. by The Canadian Press Posted Jun 22, 2017 6:38 am MDT Last Updated Jun 22, 2017 at 10:36 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Sears Canada seeking court protection from creditors A Sears Canada outlet is seen Tuesday, June 13, 2017 in Saint-Eustache, Que.. The retailer has warned Tuesday there are doubts about its ability to continue operating, and says it may have to restructure or be sold. CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz read more

“The profile of the new head of state of the transition could help restore hope,” UN Special Representative, Babacar Gaye, told journalists via telephone from the capital, Bangui. In his first direct briefing to the press since President Michel Djotodia and Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye stepped down on Friday, Mr. Gaye added that the international community would have to accompany this new team on the road “to free, credible and democratic elections”. The country’s Parliament and its new interim leader, Alexandre Ferdinand Nguendet, who headed the National Transitional Council (CNT) prior to the flare-up of violence, could begin the process of selection a new transitional president as early as tomorrow, he said. Under its charter, the CNT has 15 days to organize election of the new head of state of the transition. “We are confident that these timelines will be respected,” Mr. Gaye said. “We may even deliver in less time.”The space for elections will be made possible through the expected reinforcement of the African-led International Support Mission to CAR (MISCA) with a contingent from Rwanda and the continued engagement of French troops, known as SANGARIS.“Hope is within grasp, but not yet in our hand,” said Mr. Gaye, who is also the Head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the country (BINUCA).The conflict in CAR erupted nearly year ago when attacks by mainly Muslim Séléka rebels forced then President François Bozizé to flee. In recent weeks, the fighting has escalated further with ex-Séléka and Christian anti-balaka militias fighting each other.Relative calm has returned to Bangui, according to media reports. However, 100,000 people continue to gather around the national airport, and one in five people in the country are believed to be displaced, Mr. Gaye said.“Today, people in Bangui can die because of their religious beliefs, because of their clothing style or just because of their physical appearance,” he said.One of the main items on the agenda of the next Government, noted Mr. Gaye, will be “to…try to start reconciliation between the communities”.Speaking last week to the extraordinary summit of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) in Chad where transitional leadership stepped down, Mr. Gaye, delivering a message to the event on behalf of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, warned that the past year’s events have profoundly damaged the relationship between Muslim and Christian communities and pose a long-term danger to the country.In a message, Mr. Ban commended the ECCAS Heads of State for proposing an inclusive national conference to provide all national actors with the opportunity “to share their concerns, agree on common challenges, and collectively find a way out of this crisis”, including through the preparation of elections.He also expressed concern about “widespread human rights abuses”. The UN is working to establish an International Commission of Inquiry to document the violations, in line with a resolution adopted by the Security Council in early December.UN officials have been calling for urgent protection and increased assistance to the growing number of persons displaced by the violence. About half of the population, or some 2.2 million people, are estimated to be in desperate need of humanitarian aid. A donors conference for CAR is set for 1 February in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the African Union has its headquarters. read more

In a statement issued earlier today, Valerie Amos, who is also the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, expressed concern about the flooding that has struck Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. She has since dispatched a team of UN disaster assessment experts to the region, as the Organization’s broader humanitarian response has swung in action. The floods have so far claimed more than 35 lives and affected hundreds of thousands of people, she said. Reportedly the worst floods in the Balkans in decades, emergency responders fear that more rain could lead to further rises in water levels, additional storm surges and landslides. Media reports suggest that Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have been affected by cyclone Tamara and have been experiencing extremely heavy rain, strong winds and low temperatures. On 13 May, continuous, heavy rainfall began, and the wider region, including Croatia, has recorded three months’ worth of rain in three days“In all three countries, the Government is leading the flood response, distributing food and other relief supplies, and providing emergency shelter. A state of emergency has been declared in Serbia and Bosnia, where tens of thousands of people have been evacuated,” said Ms. Amos in her statement. Reporting that the UN and humanitarian partners have offered assistance to the authorities in the affected countries, Ms. Amos said that she has dispatched a UN Disaster Coordination and Assessment team to Serbia and life-saving supplies are on their way from Brindisi, where the Organization maintains a logistics base. In addition, teams from the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the UN Children’s Fund, (UNICEF) the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are working with the authorities to help assess people’s needs and provide food, clean water and sanitation support and debris removal. “I welcome the speedy response by the national authorities and their partners and the support provided by neighbouring countries and other members of the international community, Mr. Amos said, adding: “We must do all we can to ensure that further loss of life is prevented and help people recover.” Later in the day, WFP announced that it had sent a second batch of emergency relief items to Serbia. The shipment included water tanks, generators and inflatable boats provided by WFP and the Norwegian Government. A further flight is scheduled today to Tuzla, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, with tents and water containers and purification equipment also from the Norwegian Government. WFP says that it will launch a $1.5 million operation to respond to immediate humanitarian needs upon a request from the Government of Serbia and in coordination with the authorities there and other UN organizations on the ground. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, where floods have exceeded emergency levels in the north, WFP is planning to send life-saving food assistance to 150,000 of the most vulnerable flood-affected people. read more

‹ ›“Unlike the Millennium Development Goals, this has been a process that’s been the most open, transparent, broad, deep one that we’ve had in the United Nations ever,” Ms. Mohammed noted. “Often people say, ‘well you know, aren’t these too many goals? Can’t we just have a neat set of 8 or 10? Why do we need to have 17?’ The truth of the matter is that the world is not in such a neat shape that could be reflected in a neat set of goals. It’s in a pretty big mess and what these do is address that, address it in a much deeper way.” The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets contained in the new agenda aim at tackling key systemic barriers to sustainable development such as inequality, unsustainable consumption and production patterns, inadequate infrastructure and lack of decent jobs. “It’s about behaviour. It’s about livelihoods. It’s about lifestyles. It’s about how we consume and we produce because clearly we can no longer continue to test the planet the way that we do,” said Ms. Mohammed. “The one thing about this wonderful planet that we have, the home that we have, is that it can exist without us; we cannot exist without it.” “For the first time, we’re not putting a band-aid on the problem. We’re looking at the root causes. And unless we make the investments to look at those root causes, we are going to continue to have the conflicts escalate, we’re going to continue to see the damage in the environment, and more and more people are going to be excluded,” said Amina J. Mohammed, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Post-2015 Development Planning.In a recent interview with the UN News Service, Ms. Mohammed stressed that the resources needed to investment in this new agenda already exist and it is just a matter of unlocking them. “We can find the tools and the instruments that we need to make those monies work in the longer term and in the shorter term for humanity.” On 2 August, the UN’s 193 Member States agreed to an ambitious agenda that features 17 new Sustainable Development Goals that aim to end poverty, promote prosperity and people’s well-being while protecting the environment by 2030, concluding a negotiating process that has spanned more than two years and which featured the unprecedented participation of civil society.The Sustainable Development Goals, which world leaders will formally adopt at a special summit to be held in New York from 25 to 27 September, succeed the eight anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which wrap up at the end of 2015. read more

“Indeed, only around 4,000 tigers are left in the wild,” said the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in a joint press release. “Until the illegal trade in wildlife is stopped, we are only likely to see more of these types of situations.” The agencies highlighted that the extent of such illegal trade and the urgency needed to end it is why the UN recently launched the Wild for Life campaign, an appeal for everyone to act to stop wildlife trafficking, be they Governments, civil society, businesses or individuals. In addition, the agencies noted that World Environment Day, which will be observed this Sunday, is themed this year on the illegal trade in wildlife in a bid to raise awareness of this severe problem. Tigers are one of the key species in the campaign. “The illegal trade in wildlife, estimated to profit criminals to the tune of billions of dollars annually worldwide, comprises everything from the lucrative trade in tiger parts in East Asia to ivory from poached African elephants,” the agencies emphasized. “It undermines our environment, economies, communities and security.” Excerpt from UN in Action “India: Tigers Face Extinction”. Credit: United Nations UNEP and UNODC also noted that action against the illegal wildlife trade has become a high global priority, with the UN General Assembly adopting a resolution in July 2015 urging all countries to make this a serious criminal offense. Moreover, they said, the second UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) held in Nairobi, Kenya, last month reaffirmed the urgency of stepped-up efforts to combat wildlife crime through concrete actions at national and international levels. Southeast Asian nations are also taking notice, with the last Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime adding wildlife trafficking to the list of priority transnational crimes. “The commendable action by Thailand’s authorities, coordinated by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, highlights the need for constant vigilance by wildlife law enforcement authorities to the threat posed by traffickers,” said UNEP and UNODC. The agencies also recalled that in April 2015, Thai customs confiscated more than three tons of African elephant ivory, the second-largest seizure in the country’s history. Also in 2015, Thailand’s Anti-Money Laundering Office was among Asia-Pacific organizations honoured by UNEP for its role in combating wildlife crime. “Given the extent of the illegal wildlife market in Asia it is important for all countries to unite and eradicate these illegal practices,” the agencies stressed. read more

The total area of opium poppy cultivation in Myanmar has decreased significantly in 2017 to 41,000 hectares, down 25 per cent from the 55,500 recorded in 2015, a United Nations survey released Wednesday has found. “Myanmar has taken important steps to address opium cultivation, especially in South Shan where we are running a programme together,” said Troels Vester, Country Manager of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), emphasizing the importance of sustainable alternatives to opium cultivation. The Myanmar Opium Survey 2017 released by UNODC finds reductions have been most significant in East Shan with a drop of 37 per cent and South Shan with a drop of 29 per cent.However, the report also reveals that while progress has been made, North Shan and Kachin states have seen reductions of less than three per cent and seven per cent, which on the ground amounts to a decrease of only 600 hectares in total. The report reconfirms the link between conflict and opium in Myanmar, and that insecure areas with active insurgencies continue to cultivate and produce at levels similar to 2015. “As long as significant parts of Shan and Kachin remain unstable and basically autonomous from the rest of the country and region, the environment will remain a safe haven for those who run the drug trade,” said UNODC Regional Representative Jeremy Douglas. The decline in opium cultivation occurs against the backdrop of a changing regional drug market that has seen a fall in opium and heroin prices over recent years, as most countries in East and Southeast Asia report a shift toward synthetic drugs and especially methamphetamine. UNODC says there is still a huge amount of work to be done and sustained support will be critical to its efforts. AUDIO: Myanmar peace process and heroin production interlinked: UNODC read more