UN official in charge of Afghan reconstruction named chief of UN project

Nigel Fisher, a national of Canada, was appointed at the Assistant Secretary-General level and replaces Reinhard Helmke as UNOPS Executive Director. Since February 2002, Mr. Fisher has been serving as Mr. Annan’s Deputy Special Representative for Relief, Recovery and Reconstruction in Afghanistan.Earlier in his career, he was the Regional Director for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in South Asia between 1999-2002. Mr. Fisher worked with UNICEF for over 20 years in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, as well as at the agency’s headquarters in New York. read more

UN public service announcement to promote peace earns Emmy nomination

Entitled “One Day,” the announcement features former boxer Muhammad Ali as a UN Messenger of Peace and a diverse mix of children and promotes the theme of non-violence on 21 September, when International Day of Peace is observed. The announcement – which was co-produced by the History Channel – was filmed in the General Assembly Hall and the Rose Garden at UN Headquarters in New York, as well as at Mr. Ali’s ranch. It was filmed by the advertising agency DCODE. A separate announcement featuring another UN Messenger of Peace, opera singer Luciano Pavarotti, was also produced last year. The announcements were distributed to affiliates of the History Channel in more than 70 countries, as well as to television stations across the US. The Peace and Security Section of the UN’s Department of Public Information (DPI) and the former Office of External Relations in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General developed the concept for the announcements in conjunction with the History Channel. The New York Emmy awards ceremony, which is organized by the New York chapter of the National Academy of Television, Arts and Sciences, will be held on 28 March. read more

World at critical moment in fight against HIVAIDS UN health agency

With more money, more political will and more attention being paid to HIV/AIDS than ever before, the world has reached a crucial moment in the history of the pandemic and now has an unprecedented opportunity to alter its course, according to a new report released today by the United Nations lead health agency.By using HIV treatment programmes to bolster existing ones on prevention and improve health systems, the international community has a unique opportunity to change the course of history, says The World Health Report 2004 – Changing History, launched today in Geneva by the World Health Organization (WHO).”Future generations will judge our era in large part by our response to the AIDS pandemic,” said WHO Director-General Lee Jong-wook. “By tackling it decisively we will also be building health systems that can meet the health needs of today and tomorrow. This is an historic opportunity we cannot afford to miss.”AIDS has killed more than 20 million people and is now the leading cause of death and lost years of productive life for adults aged 15 to 59 years worldwide. Today, an estimated 34 million to 46 million people are living with HIV/AIDS.Even as the AIDS death toll and HIV prevalence rates continue to rise, to meet this “critical moment” in the history of the killer disease, WHO, along with the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and other partners are implementing a comprehensive strategy which links prevention, treatment, care and support for people living with the virus care, long-term support, and initiatives to provide antiretroviral therapy.Until now, treatment has been the most neglected element in most developing countries. Yet among all possible HIV-related interventions, the report says it is treatment that can most effectively boost prevention efforts and in turn drive the strengthening of health systems and enable poor countries to protect people from a wide range of health threats.Vital resources have now been pledged, including more than $20 billion from donor countries and through multilateral funding agencies, including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the United States President’s Emergency Plan for HIV/AIDS Relief and the World Bank. These funds must now be used swiftly and in a coordinated way to prolong the lives of millions of children, women and men who will otherwise soon die, the report says. read more

Experts urge stronger action against wildlife poachers

Their recommendations on how to deal with the problem will be presented this week in Bangkok to the 13th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which seeks to ensure that global trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. UNEP staffs the treaty’s operations.The illegal trade in wildlife remains the second-greatest threat to the world’s endangered species after habitat destruction, the agency said. Many wildlife smugglers deal in products that are worth more, per kilogram, than cocaine or heroin. Shawls made from the fine wool of the Tibetan antelope, for example, can cost more than $15,000 each. The caviar trade is infested with organized crime networks.According to the 20-person group of law enforcement experts assembled by CITES, illicit trafficking of wildlife continues at high levels and increasingly involves organized criminal networks, sophisticated poaching and smuggling techniques, fraudulent trade permits, corruption and violence against enforcement officers.In addition, national authorities often lack the necessary resources and experience to meet the challenge, and there is not enough coordination and information sharing among various enforcement authorities. “We are in danger of losing the war against wildlife crime, especially for some very rare animals and plants, unless modern professional law enforcement techniques are directed against criminals who care for nothing but profit, who exploit some of the world’s poorest communities and take advantage of periods of civil unrest and instability,” said CITES Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers.At the Bangkok meeting, experts will be calling for governments to recognize the seriousness of wildlife crime and a commitment by law enforcement authorities to give it a higher priority. They also urge an increase in the status, authority, training and quality of equipment of wildlife law enforcement personnel. read more

New public policies omit knowledge gained from gender studies UN research group

The answer may depend on how progress is measured. A new report from the Geneva-based UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) says despite women’s recent advances, socially and politically men and women still live in parallel universes.According to UNRISD Director Thandika Mkandawire, many policy debates on structural adjustment, economic liberalization, democratization and ethnic conflicts are not systematically integrating the new knowledge being generated in gender studies and women’s studies.”On one side there are policies being made, but on the other the policy makers are not drawing adequately on what is known from research on gender,” he said at a press briefing earlier this week during the two-week UN review of progress towards gender equality since the 1995 Beijing women’s conference.The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) call for the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, the provision of universal primary education, the promotion of gender equality, the improvement of maternal and child health, combating such diseases as HIV/AIDS and malaria, ensuring a sustainable environment and developing a global partnership for development.The UN Fund for Women (UNIFEM) has said, however, that “many women’s human rights advocates have noted that gender equality, as a cross-cutting concern for the achievement of all the MDGs, is not well-reflected in the global targets and indicators.”The UNRISD report, “Gender Equality: Striving for Justice in an Unequal World,” says macroeconomic aggregates, such as gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, for instance, do not take into account unpaid labour, which is largely undertaken by women. In any case, it says, money is a limited measure of well-being.It advocates putting gender equality at the core of efforts to reorient the development agenda. To meet some of the key contemporary challenges – economic growth and structural transformation, equality and social protection and democratization – this ordering of priorities is essential, it says.Joining Mr. Mkandawire at the briefing was UNRISD researcher Shahra Razavi, who said her team believes that the Beijing Platform for Action offers more in its goals and is a more comprehensive agenda for development that the MDGs.The trend towards rallying around the MDGs diminishes both expectations and standards by diluting Beijing’s goals, she said.Through new laws, many countries recognize women’s rights in divorce, child custody, domestic violence and reproductive rights, but “gains made in women’s rights remain as fragile as the democratic institutions and procedures that should give them legitimacy and protection,” the 70-member UNRISD team said in a release about the 336-page report.Conservative forces and coalitions still challenge international human rights norms, related agendas are being weakened by terrorism, militarism and war, while de-centralization has sometimes undermined the political advancement of women, it said.”What counts as progress is often a contested field in which there are competing visions of ‘the good society’ and of women’s place within it,” UNRISD said.”The concept of progress has itself undergone revision and qualification, along with the realization that the complex process of social change does not follow a uniform path and offers few guaranteed outcomes. Social and economic development may not always enlarge the realm of human freedom, nor is the idea of ‘development’ always, or simply, associated with one version of modernity,” it added. read more

UN more vital than ever European Union informs gathering of world leaders

Speaking to global leaders gathered at UN Headquarters in New York for the annual general debate, Tarja Halonen warned that conflicts and terrorism continue to undermine economic and social progress around the world.“Contrary to our shared ideals, the realities of war and violence have not become history,” she said, later citing the conflict in the Middle East as an example of a problem that requires sustained international attention.Ms. Halonen added that “effective multilateralism is crucial in facing the growing threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction” as she welcomed recent resolutions on this issue on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Iran.The Finnish President also stressed the importance of upholding human rights and the need to keep reforming the UN and its key bodies, such as the General Assembly and the Security Council.Poland’s President Lech Kaczynski invoked the spirit of his country’s Solidarity resistance movement of the 1980s as he urged the UN and its Member States to work together to overcome their biggest differences and challenges.“I believe that where tensions and social conflicts are resolved through dialogue, where respect is promoted for different cultures and religions, where economic inequalities between societies and States are prevented, terrorism will not find soil to grow,” he said.Mr. Kaczynski said “the dramatic dissonance between poverty and incredible scientific and technological progress” must change so that people in the South have access to the same development opportunities as those in the North.Moritz Leuenberger, President of Switzerland, told the Assembly that the world’s biggest challenges, from war and terrorism to the transfer of jobs offshore to climate-related natural disasters, know no borders and therefore require global responses.He also emphasized the importance of respecting human rights during the fight against terrorism, urging all Member States, large and small, to adopt the statute on the International Criminal Court (ICC).Norway’s Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, described his country’s longstanding support for the United Nations. As a member of the UN panel for reform, Norway was helping to develop proposals on how to better address development, humanitarian assistance and environmental issues, particularly in light of the many new agencies and activities added to the UN portfolio over the years.He pointed out that in several countries, the UN system was represented by more than 20 different organizations and called for an end to duplication, fragmentation and rivalry between different parts of the system. read more

UN official stresses the need for equal access to the Internet as

The Internet should be “accessible, usable and safe for all,” Nitin Desai, the Special Adviser for the Secretary-General on Internet Governance said at the end of the four-day event in Athens, which dealt with freedom of expression, access, multilingualism, cyber-crime and a host of other issues.“The focus was very much on equity”, he said, referring to the eight main sessions and more than 30 workshops attended by the representatives from Government, information technology firms, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the Internet community.“All of these are essentially discussions about equity… an issue of equity of access has developed, which we need to address,” Mr. Desai added, looking ahead to the next Forum that will take place in Rio de Janeiro in November 2007.One of the key issues raised during the four days was the tension between relying on market forces and focusing on the “public good” nature of the Internet, he said. Participants had argued that because the Internet was a medium where innovation took place at the edges, there was a need to keep a structure that allowed innovation without excessive central control, “otherwise,” said Mr. Desai, “the medium will stop developing.”The Forum, which is not a decision-making body, grew out of the 2003 and 2005 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), during which the contentious issue of Internet Governance was one of the most widely debated. As a result, Heads of State and Government asked Secretary-General Kofi Annan to set up the Forum.In his speech opening the Forum on Monday, Mr. Annan pointed out that with “more than 1 billion users worldwide and still growing dramatically,” the Internet has “become too important, for almost every country’s economy and administration, for Governments not to take an interest.” read more

No LiberalNDP budget deal yet after weekend of talks crucial vote Tuesday

by News Staff Posted Apr 22, 2012 9:10 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email No Liberal-NDP budget deal yet after weekend of talks; crucial vote Tuesday TORONTO – A deal to keep Ontario’s minority Liberal government alive in a crucial budget vote won’t come before a meeting Monday between Premier Dalton McGuinty and New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath.With weekend negotiations failing to ease the NDP’s concerns, Horwath issued a statement Sunday night urging McGuinty to take her party’s issues with the budget seriously.Horwath’s chief of staff and veteran New Democrat MPP Gilles Bisson, the party’s house leader, held negotiations Saturday and Sunday with their Liberal counterparts.“Although we’re pleased that discussions have been ongoing throughout the weekend, the premier must improve the budget on issues of fairness, health care, and jobs,” Horwath said in her statement.“We put forward a number of responsible proposals aimed at making the budget fairer. I’m urging the premier to take seriously these key priorities.”The Liberals said they wanted to keep the negotiations in private _ declining even to confirm who represented them in the weekend talks _ and suggested any agreement would not come before the meeting between the two party leaders.“We’ve had a great weekend of discussions and those talks are ongoing, with the premier meeting Ms. Horwath on Monday,” said a statement from Neala Barton, the premier’s press secretary.“Both parties have agreed that the best chance of success is to allow those discussions to take place privately. We will continue to respect that agreement.”Last week, Horwath dropped a key NDP demand to have the eight per cent provincial portion of the HST removed from home heating bills, but she still wants a two percentage point surtax on incomes the highest income earners.“Our plan for a modest tax increase on those that earn more than $500,000 would generate the revenue needed to protect services like health care,” she said in Sunday’s statement.“It’s only fair that those most able to help fund our public health care system be asked to do a little more.”The New Democrats also want the government to increase payments to people on disability support, introduce a $250-million job creation tax credit, drop plans to sell off Ontario Northland railway, increase funding for daycare, home care and community care, and provide help for sectors hurt in the budget such as horse racing and tourism.On Saturday, Horwath told thousands of protesters gathered on the front lawn of the Ontario legislature she would rather avoid triggering another election by defeating the budget, but vowed to keep pushing to change what she called a “profoundly flawed” fiscal plan from the Liberals.“We’re showing the people of this province that we are prepared to work to make the minority government work, but we’re also showing them the sort of Ontario we can build together,” she told the crowd.The Progressive Conservatives vow to vote against the budget on Tuesday, so the Liberals need NDP support to avoid their defeat, which would automatically trigger another election. read more

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 wins weekend box office with

‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2’ wins weekend box office with $34M AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email by The Associated Press Posted Sep 30, 2013 5:49 pm MDT “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” gobbled up $34 million in its debut weekend at the box office.The animated Sony sequel featuring the voices of Bill Hader and Anna Faris opened in first place and earned $34 million.When the original “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” opened in 2009, it was showered with $30.3 million.Last week’s top film, the Warner Bros. kidnapping thriller “Prisoners,” slipped to second place with $10.9 million, while the racing drama “Rush came in third place with $10 million after expanding to wide release.The weekend’s other new releases — Fox Searchlight’s “Baggage Claim” and Relativity’s “Don Jon” — respectively opened in the fourth and fifth spots.___The top 20 movies at U.S. and Canadian theatres Friday through Monday, followed by distribution studio, gross, number of theatre locations, average receipts per location, total gross and number of weeks in release, as compiled Monday by Hollywood.com, are:1. “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2,” Sony, $34,017,930, 4,001 locations, $8,502 average, $34,017,930, one week.2. “Prisoners,” Warner Bros., $10,885,262, 3,290 locations, $3,309 average, $38,549,194, two weeks.3. “Rush,” Universal, $10,014,920, 2,297 locations, $4,360 average, $10,275,829, two weeks.4. “Baggage Claim,” Fox Searchlight, $9,031,102, 2,027 locations, $4,455 average, $9,031,102, one week.5. “Don Jon,” Relativity Media, $8,677,009, 2,422 locations, $3,583 average, $8,677,009, one week.6. “Insidious: Chapter 2,” FilmDistrict, $6,552,114, 3,120 locations, $2,100 average, $69,349,509, three weeks.7. “The Family,” Relativity Media, $3,732,432, 2,894 locations, $1,290 average, $31,754,602, three weeks.8. “Instructions Not Included,” Pantelion, $3,465,408, 948 locations, $3,655 average, $38,652,896, five weeks.9. “We’re the Millers,” Warner Bros., $2,807,479, 2,405 locations, $1,167 average, $142,360,931, eight weeks.10. “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” Weinstein Co., $2,401,793, 2,062 locations, $1,165 average, $110,265,862, seven weeks.11. “Enough Said,” Fox Searchlight, $2,098,902, 227 locations, $9,246 average, $2,466,381, two weeks.12. “Battle of the Year,” Sony, $2,023,792, 2,008 locations, $1,008 average, $7,492,084, two weeks.13. “Metallica Through the Never,” Picturehouse, $1,672,075, 305 locations, $5,482 average, $1,672,075, one week.14. “Riddick,” Universal, $1,607,145, 1,826 locations, $880 average, $40,056,710, four weeks.15. “Atharintiki Daaredi,” Reliance, $1,500,000, 112 locations, $13,393 average, $1,500,000, one week.16. “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters,” Fox, $801,522, 1,007 locations, $796 average, $65,380,273, eight weeks.17. “Despicable Me 2,” Universal, $792,895, 748 locations, $1,060 average, $361,774,715, 13 weeks.18. “Planes,” Disney, $759,290, 1,426 locations, $532 average, $87,681,449, eight weeks.19. “Blue Jasmine,” Sony, $624,245, 528 locations, $1,182 average, $30,662,232, 10 weeks.20. “The Wizard of Oz,” Warner Bros., $557,233, 305 locations, $1,827 average, $5,081,049, two weeks.___Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC. read more

Birmingham City owner Yeung tells laundering trial he profited from salons property

AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email HONG KONG – The Hong Kong businessman who owns Birmingham City football club testified at his money laundering trial Tuesday for the first time and described how he amassed his fortune, starting with a single hairdressing salon.Carson Yeung outlined how in the 1990s he built a chain of upmarket salons and styled hair for celebrities, earning a total of $20 million Hong Kong dollars ($2.6 million) during his hairdressing career.He dabbled in real estate and bought a Chinese hotel before focusing on stock trading. He told court that by 2000, he was worth 80-100 million Hong Kong dollars ($10-$13 million).Yeung is charged with five counts of money laundering involving more than HK$720 million deposited in five bank accounts from January 2001 to December 2007. Prosecutors have said the money was “criminal proceeds.”The charges are unrelated to the football team, which Yeung bought in 2009 for 81.5 million pounds (then $130 million) following a protracted takeover battle.Prosecutors have alleged that vast sums of money flowed through Yeung’s accounts even though records show he earned a meagre income during that period.In May, prosecutors told the court that the money involved was hundreds of times more than the combined income of HK$2.2 million ($278,000) reported for 1999-2006 by Yeung and his father, who ran a vegetable stall and had some of the bank accounts in his name.Defence lawyer Graham Harris questioned Yeung about his various ventures, part of an effort to portray him as a legitimately successful businessman.Yeung, 53, told court he apprenticed at salons in Hong Kong, Paris and London, earning about HK$10,000 ($1,230) a month. He set up his own salon in 1989 and added four more throughout the early 1990s, becoming a “very famous” hairdresser whose services were sought after by Hong Kong movie stars.He and his father bought a hotel in Dongguan, mainland China, which earned them a small income. They later sold it for a small profit. Yeung earned HK$7-$8 million selling property in Thailand and Malaysia to Hong Kong residents eager to leave the then-British colony ahead of its pending handover to China in 1997.He also earned HK$15 million selling upscale villas in a Hong Kong housing development.Yeung said he then focused on stock trading, weathering a market crash in 1998 that sent his portfolio down 70 per cent. He used cash and also borrowed money to invest in stocks, with one brokerage giving him a credit limit of HK$80 million.Prosecutor John Reading has previously told the court that his aim is to establish the source of the money.Birmingham won the 2011 League Cup, ending 48 years without a major trophy, but despite the victory was relegated from the Premier League the same year.Before his takeover of Birmingham, Yeung’s only experience with professional football consisted of a stint as chairman of Hong Kong Rangers Football Club from 2005-06. by Kelvin Chan, The Associated Press Posted Oct 15, 2013 6:31 am MDT Birmingham City owner Yeung tells laundering trial he profited from salons, property, stocks read more

Fed leaves low interestrate policies unchanged but drops some concerns about economy

AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email WASHINGTON – The Federal Reserve says its low interest-rate policies are still needed to invigorate a subpar U.S. economy.In a statement Wednesday after a policy meeting, the Fed said it would keep buying $85 billion a month in bonds to keep long-term rates low and encourage borrowing and spending.Yet the Fed seemed to signal that it thinks the economy is improving despite some recent weak data and uncertainties caused by the partial government shutdown.The Fed no longer expresses concern, as it did in September, that higher mortgage rates could hold back hiring and economic growth. And its statement makes no reference to the 16-day shutdown, which economists say has slowed growth this quarter.Some analysts said this suggests that the Fed might be prepared to slow its bond purchases by early next year — sooner than some have assumed.“The tone was probably more positive on the outlook than most people expected,” said Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics, said he was struck by the absence of any reference to the shutdown. He called the statement “remarkable for what it omits rather than includes.”Ashworth said that if the Fed isn’t worried about the economic impact of the shutdown, it might be ready to reduce its stimulus as early as December. He still thinks a pullback is most likely early next year. But Ashworth said the Fed’s statement suggests that its timing may have shifted.Some economists noted that Congress’ budget fight has clouded the Fed’s timetable for tapering its bond purchases. Though the government reopened Oct. 17 and a threatened default on its debt was averted, Congress passed only temporary fixes. More deadlines and possible disruptions lie ahead.Without a budget deal by Jan. 15, another shutdown is possible. Congress must also raise the government’s debt ceiling after Feb. 7. If not, a market-rattling default will remain a threat.If the government manages to avert another shutdown in mid-January, Dana Saporta, an economist at Credit Suisse, said, “We could see a taper as soon as the Jan. 29th meeting.”But she added that a continued budget impasse would likely delay any pullback in the Fed’s bond purchases until March or later.Investors seemed to conclude that the Fed might be ready to reduce its stimulus earlier than expected. The Dow Jones industrial average, which had been down 29 points before the Fed issued its statement, closed down 61 points.And the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, a benchmark for rates on mortgages and other loans, rose from 2.49 per cent to 2.54 per cent in late-afternoon trading. That suggested that investors think long-term rates may rise because of less bond buying by the Fed.At the same time, the Fed noted again in its statement that budget policies in Washington have restrained economic growth.And it will stick to its low-rate policy: It reiterated that it plans to hold its key short-term rate at a record low near zero at least as long as the unemployment rate stays above 6.5 per cent and the inflation outlook remains mild.The Fed’s policy decision was approved on a 9-1 vote. Esther George, president of the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, dissented, as she has at each of the seven meetings this year. She repeated her concerns that the Fed’s bond purchases could fuel high inflation and financial instability.At its previous meeting in September, the Fed surprised investors and economists when it chose not to reduce its bond buying. Since then, the partial shutdown shaved an estimated $25 billion from economic growth this quarter. And a batch of tepid economic data point to a still-subpar economy.Employers added just 148,000 jobs in September, a steep slowdown from August. And temporary layoffs during the shutdown are expected to depress October’s job gain.Since the September meeting, mortgage rates have fallen roughly half a percentage point and remain near historically low levels. Over the summer, rates had jumped to two-year highs on speculation that the Fed might reduce the pace of its bond purchases before the end of this year.The Fed has one more policy meeting this year in December. The subsequent meeting in January will be the last for Chairman Ben Bernanke, who is stepping down after eight years. President Barack Obama has chosen Vice Chair Janet Yellen to succeed Bernanke.Assuming that Yellen is confirmed by the Senate, her first meeting as chairman will be in March. Many economists think no major policy changes will occur before a new chairman takes over.___AP Economics Writer Christopher S. Rugaber contributed to this report.___Follow Chris Rugaber on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/ChrisRugaber . Fed leaves low interest-rate policies unchanged but drops some concerns about economy by Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press Posted Oct 30, 2013 12:12 pm MDT read more

Canadas RD subsidies are too rich require review University of Calgary study

Canada’s R&D subsidies are too rich, require review: University of Calgary study by The Canadian Press Posted Nov 27, 2014 9:13 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email CALGARY – Canada needs to rethink its approach to research and development subsidies, according to a new paper by the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy.The study, issued Thursday, argues that tax breaks for R&D performed by small firms are high by international standards and that it’s likely the cost to taxpayers outweighs the benefit.While it can be common for governments to boast about how generous they are when it comes to R&D, co-author John Lester questions whether that’s something to be proud of without qualification.“It shouldn’t be cause for celebration, it should be cause for reflection,” he said in an interview.“We’ve put in a lot of money for R&D and if it’s not money well spent, it’s billions and billions of dollars lost a year. You have to be careful about the (subsidy) level that you offer . . . and then how you deliver it.”Through the tax system, federal and provincial governments together pick up nearly 41 per cent of the R&D tab for small Canadian firms, many of which are eligible for additional perks that have nothing to do with taxes, Lester said.The paper looked at R&D subsidies in 36 countries and found Canada ranked third highest for small firms, behind just Chile and France.The paper’s authors say when subsidies hit 25 per cent, it’s time to examine whether they’re worth it.“The purpose of subsidizing businesses and R&D in particular is to make Canadians generally better off and that the test is whether the benefits to the overall economy exceed the costs,” Lester said.“They don’t always and you can easily do too much.”Enriching the companies themselves shouldn’t be the goal, he said.The best policy is to have a uniform R&D rate for all businesses, regardless of age or size, the paper says. However, the authors concede taxpayers would likely get more bang for their buck with subsidies targeting young firms that would tend to be more innovative and have a steeper growth trajectory than their more established counterparts.The study also urges policy-makers to ensure those receiving the subsidies actually get the benefit at whatever level is deemed appropriate.For instance, a small firm with little taxable income may not get much out of a tax credit unless it’s refundable.For larger multinational firms, Lester said a non-refundable tax credit should provide incentive for them to book income in Canada as opposed to another jurisdiction. And the value of perks that aren’t used at the same time they’re earned should be adjusted to reflect current worth. read more

As oil falls gas prices expected to stay high

(Courtesy: Thinkstock) New warnings this morning that oil prices could plunge a lot further, but gasoline prices may not follow.A number of U.S. refineries will have to do maintenance shut downs soon, after running at full tilt because of increased gas demand there.There will be an impact here in Canada, because we are dependent on a lot of those facilities.Dan McTeague of GasBuddy.com tells 660 NEWS, it raises serious questions about this country’s energy security.“Canada’s gone from 44 refineries in the late 60s, early 70s, all the way down to about 12 or 13. We’ve had two close in the past two years,” he said.McTeague says he’s surprised this hasn’t become more of an issue on the federal election trail because he’s hearing from a lot of people frustrated that Canada’s oil is selling at cut rates, but they’re not seeing the payoff at the pump.Well known American Analyst David Kotok told CNN he could see oil drop as low as $15 to $20 a barrel.McTeague predicts, gasoline prices on the other hand, will stay around the $1.10 to $1.15 range, but could go higher this fall and winter. AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email As oil falls, gas prices expected to stay high by Cindy White Posted Aug 19, 2015 9:58 am MDT read more

NBC replaces Donald Trump hires Arnold Schwarzenegger as new host of Celebrity

FILE – In this March 22, 2015 file photo, Arnold Schwarzenegger poses for a portrait during press day for “Terminator Genisys” in Los Angeles. Schwarzenegger will try to fill Donald Trump’s shoes on “The Celebrity Apprentice.” NBC announced Monday, Sept. 14, that the movie star and two-term governor is the new host of the competition show, which will return to the network for the 2016 television season. (Photo by Casey Curry/Invision/AP, File) NBC replaces Donald Trump, hires Arnold Schwarzenegger as new host of ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ NEW YORK, N.Y. – Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will attempt to fill Donald Trump’s shoes on “The Celebrity Apprentice.”NBC announced Monday that the movie star and two-term governor is the new host of the competition show, which will return to the network for the 2016 television season.Trump made the show a success, with first regular folks and then celebrities competing in business-related tasks. In seven seasons, NBC said “The Celebrity Apprentice” has helped raise more than $15 million for charity.There’s no word on whether Schwarzenegger will replace Trump’s “you’re fired” catchphrase with his own “you’re terminated.” by The Associated Press Posted Sep 14, 2015 10:27 am MDT Last Updated Sep 16, 2015 at 7:40 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more

Parliaments opening debate sees sparks fly between Liberals Conservatives

OTTAWA – Canada’s 42nd Parliament got down to business Monday, with the often-promised new era of civility sounding a lot like a brittle rehash of the federal election campaign.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair used debate on last week’s throne speech to refight some of the same election battles, with sparks flying between Liberals and Tories in particular.Ambrose issued a scathing critique of the new Liberal government’s throne speech, which was itself a recap of Trudeau’s election promises.Echoing the same criticisms levelled throughout the campaign, she called the Liberal plan a recipe for intrusive government that thinks it knows best how to spend Canadians’ money.“What we did hear was a recipe for big government and big spending. So the question that every taxpayer wants us to ask this government is: where will the money come from to pay for all of this?” Ambrose told the House of Commons.“It only comes from one place and that’s out of the pockets of Canadians.”Treasury Board President Scott Brison questioned how Ambrose could make such an accusation when she had been a minister in what he termed “one of the biggest spending governments and the most wasteful governments in Canadian history.” The previous Conservative government added $150 billion to the national debt, he added.The exchange prompted Ambrose to observe: “I think it’s been 25 minutes and the sunny ways are over.”But Ambrose was no slouch when it came to partisan shots.She took aim at Trudeau’s vow to withdraw Canadian fighter jets from the allied bombing campaign against Islamic radicals in Syria and Iraq. While the Americans, French, British and Germans are all ramping up their efforts, Ambrose accused Trudeau of believing that “posing for selfies at international conferences is a better use of his time.”“Canada isn’t back. Canada is backing away,” she charged.Mulcair struck a more conciliatory tone, promising to work with the government “when our values and our policies coincide.” But he took the opportunity to recycle a number of planks from the NDP platform, urging Trudeau to hike taxes on large corporations and introduce a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage and continuing to tout universal, affordable child care and abolition of the Senate.As he did during the campaign, Mulcair criticized the centrepiece of the Liberal platform — the plan to cut taxes for Canadians earning between $45,282 and $90,563 while raising taxes on the wealthiest one per cent — as smoke and mirrors.The plan will actually benefit wealthy Canadians the most and do nothing for 70 per cent of taxpayers, he said, urging Trudeau to expand the tax cut to those in the lowest income tax bracket.After question period was over, Finance Minister Bill Morneau admitted in a news conference that the tax changes, originally touted as revenue neutral, will actually cost Canadians about $1.2 billion a year, starting in fiscal 2016-17.“This is going to cost a bit more for the government, and we want to explain to Canadians exactly what the shortfall is,” Morneau said.For his part, Trudeau essentially repeated the throne speech, in slightly greater detail. But he took a veiled shot at the previous Conservative regime, which campaigned on hot button identity issues, including a proposed ban on Muslim women wearing the face-covering niqab during citizenship ceremonies.Extolling the virtues of diversity, Trudeau said some Canadians have, at times, “been the target of hateful words and deeds, simply because they look different, speak a different language, choose to wear different clothes or practice a different faith.”But he argued that “intolerance stands little chance” in Canada and pointed to the recent election as proof that Canadians reject attempts to pit one group against another.While there were some sparks, the tenor of Monday’s sitting was still far more civil than the toxic partisanship that became the hallmark of Commons debate in the months leading up to the election.“Canadians want a government that acts honourably and that treats all others with respect. both inside and outside this House,” Trudeau said. “We will be that government.”During the first question period of the parliamentary session later Monday, Trudeau maintained a respectful demeanour as Ambrose grilled him on the planned withdrawal from the bombing mission in Syria and Mulcair challenged him to reveal his plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.However, in keeping with past practice, the daily jousting match did not produce much in the way of detailed answers.“I am disappointed to find out that question period is still question period and not so much answer period,” Ambrose said later.“I did think that questions were tough, but respectful.”Mulcair said the tone of question period was “refreshing” but the content of the answers amounted to “baffle gab” “avoidance” and “obfuscation” — as usual. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in regards to his party’s throne speech, in the House of Commons in Ottawa, on Monday, Dec. 7, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld by Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press Posted Dec 7, 2015 9:45 am MDT Last Updated Dec 7, 2015 at 4:20 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Parliament’s opening debate sees sparks fly between Liberals, Conservatives read more

Judge sides with House Republicans against health care law

by Sam Hananel And Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, The Associated Press Posted May 12, 2016 11:24 am MDT Last Updated May 12, 2016 at 4:40 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email WASHINGTON – In a setback for the Obama health care law, a federal judge ruled Thursday that the administration is unconstitutionally subsidizing medical bills for millions of people while ignoring congressional power over government spending.The ruling from U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer was a win for House Republicans who brought the politically charged legal challenge in an effort to undermine the law.If the decision is upheld, it could roil the health care law’s insurance markets, which are still struggling for stability after three years.Collyer said her ruling would be put on hold while it is appealed. The White House expressed confidence it would be overturned.At issue is the $175 billion the government is paying to reimburse health insurers over a decade to reduce deductibles and co-payments for lower-income people.The House argues that Congress never specifically appropriated that money and has denied an administration request for it. Collyer agreed that the administration is exceeding its constitutional authority by spending the money anyway. She rejected the administration’s argument that the law authorizes the money automatically because the program is considered an “entitlement” like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.House Republicans launched the lawsuit in 2014 over Democrats’ objections. The GOP-led House had already voted dozens of times to repeal all or parts of “Obamacare,” but those efforts went nowhere, failing to overcome opposition from Senate Democrats and the president.So the House turned its focus to tying up money spent on the law. Republican House leaders asserted that the Obama administration couldn’t spend money that lawmakers refused to provide.House Speaker Paul Ryan called the decision “an historic win for the Constitution and the American people.”“The court ruled that the administration overreached by spending taxpayer money without approval from the people’s representatives,” he said in a statement.White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that House Republicans ultimately would lose the case.“This suit represents the first time in our nation’s history that Congress has been permitted to sue the executive branch over a disagreement about how to interpret a statute,” Earnest said.“It’s unfortunate that Republicans have resorted to a taxpayer-funded lawsuit to refight a political fight that they keep losing,” Earnest added. “They have been losing this fight for six years. And they’ll lose it again.”The administration is expected to appeal Thursday’s ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where a majority of active judges have been appointed by Democrats.Collyer was appointed to the district court by President George W. Bush, a Republican.About 12.7 million people are covered through insurance markets created by President Barack Obama’s law. The disputed subsidies help lower-earning customers afford out-of-pocket costs, such as annual insurance deductibles and co-payments when they seek medical care.These subsidies, called “cost-sharing reductions” are separate from the financial aid provided under the law to help people pay their monthly premiums, which would not be affected.But that doesn’t make the cost-sharing subsidies any less important. Without them, millions of people may not be able to afford to use their health insurance.Here’s why: The most popular policies are skinny plans with low monthly premiums but high deductibles and copayments. The average annual deductible for a silver plan — the kind picked by about 7 in 10 customers — is nearly $2,900, according to the consulting firm Avalere Health.Under the law, insurers have to provide cost-sharing assistance to consumers picking a silver plan who make up to two-and-a-half times the federal poverty level, which is $60,750 for a family of four.The government is then required to reimburse insurers for the cost of the subsidies. The administration maintains that’s automatically authorized, and it doesn’t have to go back to Congress for approval each year.But Collyer rejected that argument, saying appropriating the money is up to lawmakers. “That is Congress’ prerogative,” Collyer wrote. “The court cannot override it by rewriting” the law.If congressional approval is required, Congress’ GOP majority can just shut off the spending. And if that happens, the administration says the only option insurers have would be to raise premiums significantly.However, more insurers might just decide to bail out of the health law markets. Major companies already are struggling to make money on the program.The White House had earlier argued that the House had no legal authority to pursue its lawsuit, but Collyer rejected that argument and allowed it to proceed.In another case last year, the Supreme Court threw out a challenge to the law’s subsidies for premiums. The legal issues in that case were much different. Judge sides with House Republicans against health care law read more

Average US 30year mortgage rate rises to 354 per cent

by The Associated Press Posted Nov 3, 2016 8:14 am MDT Last Updated Nov 3, 2016 at 11:20 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Average US 30-year mortgage rate rises to 3.54 per cent FILE – In this Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, file photo, a home is listed for sale in Surfside, Fla. On Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016, Freddie Mac reports on the week’s average U.S. mortgage rates. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File) WASHINGTON – Long-term U.S. mortgage rates jumped this week, reaching their highest levels since late June amid indications of strength in the economy.Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday the average for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to 3.54 per cent from 3.47 per cent last week. Rates remain near historically low levels, however. The benchmark 30-year rate is down from 3.87 per cent a year ago. Its all-time low was 3.31 per cent in November 2012.The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, popular with homeowners who are refinancing, increased to 2.84 per cent from 2.78 per cent.Government data issued Monday showed that consumers boosted their spending in September at the fastest pace in three months, while their incomes grew by a modest amount. The latest positive economic news added to the momentum behind an expected interest-rate increase by the Federal Reserve next month.Record-low interest rates this year have helped spur home purchases and boost the housing market. The Fed has been holding its key short-term rate at a record low near zero for seven years, since the onset of the financial crisis. At their meeting this week that concluded Wednesday, the Fed policymakers didn’t move on rates so close to Election Day. But the Fed hinted that it would raise rates soon, possibly next month.To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country at the beginning of each week. The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 per cent of the loan amount.The average fee for a 30-year mortgage fell to 0.5 point from 0.6 point last week. The fee for a 15-year loan was unchanged at 0.5 point.Rates on adjustable five-year mortgages averaged 2.87 per cent, up from 2.84 per cent last week. The fee held steady at 0.4 point. read more

Indias SpiceJet to buy up to 50 additional Bombardier Q400 turboprop planes

by The Canadian Press Posted Jun 20, 2017 7:15 am MDT Last Updated Jun 20, 2017 at 8:00 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email India’s SpiceJet to buy up to 50 additional Bombardier Q400 turboprop planes TORONTO – SpiceJet could buy up to 50 additional Q400 planes from Bombardier (TSX:BBD.B) under a letter of intent signed at the Paris Air Show.The India-based airline already operates 20 of the Q400 turboprop planes on domestic and international routes.If all the planes in the letter of intent are delivered, the order would be valued at up to US$1.7 billion, before discounts.The SpiceJet deal is Bombardier’s largest so far at the Paris Air Show, which is one of the aerospace industry’s main events this year.In a separate announcement from Berlin, Bombardier Transportation announced an order for 750 Aventra trains for use in the United Kingdom.Bombardier says that deal is valued at about US$1.1 billion. A Bombardier Q400 jet sits in a hangar at the Bombardier facility in Toronto on July 25, 2012. SpiceJet could buy up to 50 additional Q400 planes from Bombardier under a letter of intent signed at the Paris Air Show.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim read more

Afghanistan UN concerned over appointment of new human rights commissioners

“The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has asked her Office to carefully review the appointment process to assess whether it complies with the Paris Principles, the international standard governing national human rights institutions of this kind, and the AIHRC’s own statute,” said spokesperson for the Office, Rupert Colville, during a press briefing in Geneva.“These require, among other elements, that the process is transparent, that it includes broad consultation throughout, and that members are selected to serve in their own individual capacity rather than on behalf of any organization.”On 16 June, Mr. Karzai appointed five new commissioners, and asked four other commissioners to serve a further term. Mr. Colville said that Ms. Pillay believes “it is essential that the high calibre of its members be maintained and the AIHRC’s independence and integrity be upheld.”The Paris Principles list a number of responsibilities for national institutions. Among these is ensuring the institution’s independence and pluralism. Compliance with the Paris Principles is a requirement for national human rights institutions to gain access to the UN Human Rights Council and other bodies. Mr. Colville emphasized the importance of having the appointments follow the Principles, and said the Commission’s compliance will also be evaluated by the international accreditation body for national institutions in November this year, “at which point, the AIHRC risks having its current ‘A’ status accreditation downgraded if the appointment of new commissioners is viewed as not being in line with the Principles.”Out of almost 100 national human rights institutions around the world, 67 are accredited with “A” Status for compliance with the Paris Principles. Mr. Colville also noted that the appointment of new commissioners in line with the Paris Principles was a key human rights benchmark in the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework agreed between the Government of Afghanistan and its international partners in July 2012. read more

Sustained response to Somalia piracy requires effective State governance – UN political

Briefing the Security Council on piracy off the coast of the east African nation, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman today said that this multi-pronged approach may be “a daunting, but unavoidable task, for it will enable Somalia to effectively address, and ultimately defeat, piracy.”“We should not only ask what more needs to be done to ensure that the scourge does not return, but also what kind of support could be provided to Somalia so that the country is able to respond to the threat of piracy without dependence on the countries support of international navies,” he said. The decline in pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia is an opportunity to review current efforts and take a long-term perspective on how best to contain Somali piracy including by addressing underlying conditions conducive to breeding piracy, such as political instability and the lack of alternative livelihoods. “State collapse in Somalia and other political challenges lie at the root of the problem,” Feltman said, adding that this was acknowledged in relevant Security Council resolutions, including the most recent resolution 2125 (2013). Mr. Feltman also introduced to the Council the Secretary-General’s report on piracy submitted pursuant to that resolution. Since the adoption of the first Security Council resolution on the matter in June 2008, some of the most urgent responses have revolved around the “twin axes of deterring pirate attacks and prosecuting and sanctioning of pirates,” he said. Coordinated efforts by Member States, organizations and the maritime industry have caused incidents of piracy reported off the coast of Somalia to drop to their lowest levels in recent years. Indeed, the last time a large commercial vessel was hijacked was more than two years ago. However, Mr. Feltman warns, that progress is in danger of reversing without continued deterrence from the international naval presence and the self-protection measures adopted by the shipping industry. “This progress is fragile and reversible. We still see pirates attempting to attack vessels and capture them for ransom,” Mr. Feltman told the Council. State-building and inclusive governance efforts in Somalia must be led and owned by Somalis themselves, he underscored. Moreover, the international community must continue to support the Somali Government in its efforts to deliver on its commitments outlined in Vision 2016 and the Somali Compact. Meanwhile, the UN must be involved in helping strengthen the capacity of Somalia and other region countries to prosecute pirates and to sanction those convicted. “It is imperative that more nations criminalise piracy on the basis of international law as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” he said, emphasizing the need to deter the financing of piracy and the laundering of ransom money. It is critical that the international community support regional efforts to implement the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (2050 AIM Strategy), adopted by the African Union and other regional players to enable countries in the region to better address this scourge. As it stands now, Somali pirates continue to hold 37 seafarers, which remains a matter of serious international concern. It is crucial that all efforts are made to secure and promptly release all hostages. read more