UN chief and Security Council strongly condemn bombing at Indias High Court

“The Secretary-General reiterates his firm stance that there is no justification for indiscriminate violence against civilians,” his spokesperson said in a statement. According to media reports, a bomb was placed in a case near a security checkpoint outside the court where people were queuing for passes to enter the building. At least 10 people are reportedly dead and more than 60 others are wounded. Both Mr. Ban and the 15-member Council extended their sincere condolences to the families of the victims.The Council, in a statement to the press, reaffirmed that “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.” 7 September 2011Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and members of the Security Council have strongly condemned today’s bomb attack at the Indian High Court in the capital, New Delhi, which caused numerous deaths and injuries. read more

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UN chief voices sadness at passing of Saudi Crown Prince

22 October 2011Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today voiced his sadness at the passing of Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, and paid tribute to the significant role he played in Saudi Arabia for many years. The Crown Prince, who was in his eighties, was the half-brother of Saudi leader King Abdullah and also his country’s Minister of Defence and Aviation. He reportedly died this morning at a New York hospital following a long illness. Mr. Ban, in a statement issued by his spokesperson, said Crown Prince Sultan “played a significant role in his country for many years and was respected around the world for his wisdom and statesmanship.” The Secretary-General conveyed his deepest condolences to the royal family, as well as to the Government and people of Saudi Arabia.

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Civil society must play bigger role in human rights in SouthEast Asia

Concluding a three-day visit to the Indonesian island of Bali where she met the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) as well as a broad range of civil society organizations, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay underscored the important developments made so far by regional and national human rights institutions. “These regional human rights bodies are still young, but I hope and believe they will develop in the years to come, and we must be careful to encourage this evolution,” Ms. Pillay said while also commending Indonesia’s “very positive” approach to rights issues during its 2011 chairmanship of the regional body. “It is important to sustain the momentum generated by the very welcome creation of these bodies, and it is now time to start shifting up through the gears,” she added. In the first ever address by a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to the AICHR, Ms. Pillay also cautioned that the regional rights body’s overall success would be judged by what it achieves and how its work compares with other regional bodies around the world. “It will be very important to show tangible achievements and creative applications of AICHR’s mandate by the time the first review of AICHR takes place in 2014,” Ms. Pillay said. The High Commissioner noted, however, a number of concerns raised by delegates representing 40 civil society organizations from nine of the 10 ASEAN Member States.“The number one concern is that AICHR – as a body – is not talking to civil society,” she said. “No discussion of human rights can be complete or credible without significant input from civil society and national human rights institutions.” She urged AICHR to listen to civil society’s calls for greater transparency, particularly regarding the drafting of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, due to be finalized by the end of 2011, pointing out that the document itself was “very important” and could “set the tone for years to come.” “I can understand civil society organizations’ extreme frustration that they have not even been able to contribute to the drafting of the declaration, or been adequately consulted on its contents,” Ms. Pillay said, noting that the document’s drafting was happening against the backdrop of new political dynamics in Myanmar and the reform of draconian national security laws elsewhere in the region.“At the same time, freedom of expression continues to be threatened in many countries and increasing religious intolerance has placed pressure on women and minorities,” she warned. Over the weekend, Ms. Pillay also spoke by telephone with Myanmar opposition figure Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, with the two covering a range of issues including the recent release of political prisoners and the creation of a national human rights commission in the country.“Aung San Suu Kyi has always been a tremendously inspirational figure when it comes to the promotion of human rights and democracy,” said Ms. Pillay. “I am encouraged by the fact that the Government of Myanmar, and in particular the President, have started a dialogue with her.” Nevertheless, the High Commissioner acknowledged that Myanmar still had a long way to go and called for a system of independent human rights monitoring across the country. “Aung San Suu Kyi was cautiously optimistic,” Pillay added. “I share her optimism and her caution. We should not underestimate the magnitude of the tasks that lie ahead for the Government, people and institutions of Myanmar as they develop their much-needed reforms.” 28 November 2011The next two years will be crucial for promoting human rights across South-East Asia, but the lack of involvement by civil society in regional rights issues remains a “major concern,” the United Nations human rights chief warned today. read more

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Closing Bell TSX ends lower amid strong bank earnings geopolitical worries

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market closed lower Thursday amid rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine and in the face of Canadian bank earnings that beat expectations.Here are the closing numbersTSX — 15,558.17 -44.48 -0.29%S&P 500 —  1,996.74 -3.38 -0.17%Dow — 17,079.57 -42.44 -0.25%Nasdaq — 4,557.69 -11.93 -0.26%The S&P/TSX composite index lost 44.48 points to 15,558.17.CIBC (TSX:CM) posted a quarterly net income of $921 million or $2.26 per share, compared with $878 million, or $2.13 per share, in the same quarter last year. Adjusted earnings were $2.23 a share, two cents ahead of estimates. However, there was some disappointment with results from its domestic retail business and its shares fell $2.28 to $103.23.TD Bank (TSX:TD) says its third-quarter net profit was $2.1 billion, or $1.11 per share, compared with $1.52 billion, or 79 cents per share, in the same quarter last year. Adjusted net income was $2.16 billion, or $1.15 per share, beating estimates of $1.09. Total revenue was $7.5 billion compared with $7.1 billion year over year. TD shares dipped 44 cents to $57.38.Both banks had been very close to 52-week highs before the results came out and the financials sector is still up 11% year to date. “What we’ve grown to recognize with the Canadian banks is that they are excellent operators of their model,” said Brian Belski, chief investment strategist, BMO Capital Markets.“We can nitpick on a cent here or there, I just don’t think that’s the right way to be thinking about this. You have a company that is generating cash and continuing on with their dividends, being prudent in terms of their operations — that’s a company I want to own in my portfolio.”The Canadian dollar was up 0.07 of a cent to 92.19 cents US.U.S. indexes were also lower, despite data showing the American economy turned in a better than expected performance in the second quarter.The latest revision shows gross domestic product grew by 4.2%, versus the original reading of 4%. Economists had generally expected a dip to 3.8%.The showing was a huge improvement from the first quarter, when GDP contracted 2.1%, largely because of severe winter weather. But it also raised another round of speculation that such strong data could force the Federal Reserve to move up its timetable on raising interest rates.The Dow Jones industrials fell 42.44 points to 17,079.57, the Nasdaq lost 11.92 points to 4,557.7 and the S&P 500 index was down 3.38 points to 1,996.74.Caution was the watchword on markets after a top Ukrainian official said that two columns of tanks and military vehicles rolled into southeastern Ukraine from Russia on Thursday after Grad missiles were fired at a border post and Ukraine’s overmatched border guards fled. And a senior NATO official said at least 1,000 Russian troops have poured into the country with sophisticated equipment, leaving no doubt that the Russian military had invaded southeastern Ukraine.Investors looking for safe havens sent gold prices higher with the December contract up $7 to US$1,290.40 an ounce, pushing the gold sector up about 0.8%.Financials led decliners, down 0.8%.There was also weakness in the other resource sectors as the base metals group declined 2.2%, while December copper was five cents lower at US$3.15 a pound.The energy sector gave back 0.11% with October crude 65 cents higher at US$94.53 a barrel.TOP STORIESTD results fail to impress investorsHouse prices keep going up, but they are more affordable thanks to cheap debtHolt Renfrew closing stores in Quebec City and Ottawa to focus on flagship locationsCIBC Q3 good, but may not be good enoughWHAT’S ON DECK FRIDAYECONOMIC NEWSCANADA8:30 a.m.Real GDP (Q2): Economists expect growth of 2.7% Industrial product price index (July): Economists expect decline of 0.2% Raw Materials price index (July): Economists expect decline of 1.8% Fiscal Monitor UNITED STATES8:30 a.m. Personal income and consumption (July): Economists expect 0.3% rise in income, 0.2% rise in consumption9:45 a.m. Chicago PMI: Economists expect a reading of 56.5, up from previous month9:55 a.m. University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index (Aug): Economists expect reading of 80 read more

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TSX rallies as oil rises Wall Street in the red

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market closed with a solid gain as crude oil prices settled at their highest level of the year.The S&P/TSX composite index rose 88.19 points to 15,188.84.Leading the market were energy stocks, with the sector rising 1.9 per cent as the price of crude continued its climb for a second straight session. The May crude contract settled $1.84 higher at US$53.98 a barrel, a level it last hit on Dec. 30, 2014.New York markets pulled back late in the session as traders gave up on a rally that drove a sharp rise earlier in the day.The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 5.43 points at 17,875.42, the Nasdaq fell 7.09 points to 4,910.23 and the S&P 500 was down 4.29 points at 2,076.33.The Canadian dollar fell 0.17 of a U.S. cent to 79.97 cents.

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Cabinet agrees on spot fines

In keeping with the provisions of the Motor Traffic Act, Regulations pertaining to violation of seat belt provide, on conviction, after a summary trial in a Court of Law, for the imposition of a fine not less than Rs.1000/- and not exceeding Rs.2000/- on the first occasion, a fine not less Rs.2000/- and not exceeding Rs.3000/- on the second occasion, and a fine not exceeding Rs.3, 500/- and cancellation of the driving license on the third occasion, on conviction after a summary trial in a Court of Law. The cabinet has agreed to amend the Motor Traffic Act to impose spot fines against drivers contravening the seat belt regulations.At present the drivers and the passengers in the front seats of certain categories of vehicles that have registration numbers beginning with English letters shall essentially wear the seat belt. “Implementation of these fines is being carried out by the courts and the public have been inconvenienced” Transport minister Welgama said urging the need to amend the Law to impose spot fines. read more

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Lanka rejects IOC offer

Sri Lanka has been long negotiating a credit of up to $2bn with lenders including China, Russia, and South Korea  to upgrade and double the capacity of the refinery, after the government failed to find an investment partner for a proposed Iranian-backed overhaul. IOC had said last week it was willing to offer expertise to upgrade the facility but Premjayantha said that Sri Lanka had not accepted the offer.Premjayantha said that with IOC already operating a majority of fuel stations in Sri Lanka and as a result increasing fuel prices at will, handing over the refinery to the same company could hurt the local fuel distribution sector. IOC controls one third of Sri Lanka’s retail fuel market and has been operating in the country since 2003Sri Lanka is seeking alternative crude oil suppliers in view of the US sanctions on Iran coming into force from June this year.Over 90 per cent of Sri Lanka’s crude oil requirements come from Iran. He said that Sri Lanka needs to upgrade the facility in order to refine oil from other countries as the import of Iranian oil will be reduced owing to sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States. Premjayantha said that approximately USD 500 million will be required to upgrade the facilities at the refinery and Sri Lanka will seek expressions of interest to carry out the work. Sri Lanka has rejected an Indian offer to upgrade a local refinery which is built to refine only Iranian oil.Petroleum Resources Minister Susil Premjayantha said that the offer to upgrade the Sapugaskanda oil refinery had come from the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) which operates most of the fuel sheds in Sri Lanka. read more

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SLFP insists no split will contest with UPFA

However he insisted that the SLFP is united and that all the SLFP members who are now in Parliament will receive nominations to contest the next Parliament elections. Meanwhile, UPFA General Secretary Susil Premajayantha said that the UPFA has not discussed forming a National Government if it wins the Parliament elections. The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) today denied reports of a split in the party and insisted that it will contest under the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) at the next election.SLFP General Secretary Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, speaking to reporters, said that some are attempting to give the impression that there is a split in the SLFP. Premajayantha said that while the UNP has been saying it wants to form a National Government after the next Parliament polls, the UPFA has not agreed to such an idea. (Colombo Gazette) read more

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Chennai US Consulate refuses to meet Vaiko on Lanka

Vaiko claimed an appointment was confirmed by the Consulate officials, but when he went there on Tuesday, an audience with the Consul General was refused. This forced him to present the memorandum to a Political/Economic officer. “We were not even allowed into the building,” he alleged and added that a peaceful protest was earlier held near the Rajarathinam Stadium on the shift of stand by the US.Meanwhile, the CPI (M) and VCK condemned the manner in which Mr. Vaiko was treated by the American Consulate. (Colombo Gazette) Consequently, he had a sought an appointment with the Consul General to present a memorandum to press for a reconsideration of the country’s position on the issue. Former Indian MP and MDMK general secretary Vaiko charged that the US Consulate in Chennai had “disrespected” Tamils by not allowing him to meet the Consul General and present a memorandum on the stand the country had taken on international investigations into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka, The Hindu newspaper reportedIn a press release, Vaiko pointed out that in a recent public statement, the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia in the US Department of State, Nisha Biswal, had said there was no need for an international probe into the allegations of war crimes and a domestic investigation by the Sri Lankan government would be facilitated. This stand, a contradiction to the one the US took in 2014, has come as a shock to Tamils, he said. read more

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Bribery commission will not be dissolved

Accordingly, there is no power to dissolve the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption. The Bribery and Corruption commission will not be dissolved, the President’s office said in a statement today.The President’s office said that there were media reports stating that the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption will be dissolved this week. However, Commissioners for all commissions will be appointed after establishment of the Constitutional Council. (Colombo Gazette) However the President’s office noted that the establishment of the Commission, appointments and removals of its members should be done in accordance with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

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Sri Lanka appoints its first Honorary Consul in Bolivia

Following the presentation, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Cuba, Sarath Dissanayake congratulated the newly appointed Honorary Consul, Veronica Daniela Perez Cabero and wished her well in all endeavors. The Ambassador appreciated her steadfastness and commitment to promoting Sri Lanka – Bolivia relations and representing Sri Lanka’s interest in Bolivia. While assuring her of the Embassy’s unstinted support and cooperation, Ambassador Dissanayake extended his gratitude to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bolivia and the Bolivian Embassy for making this appointment a reality.The Honorary Consul, Veronica, in her brief remarks thanked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka and the Embassy in Cuba for the opportunity to serve as Sri Lanka’s first Honorary Consul in Bolivia. She also expressed her desire to work closely with the Sri Lankan Embassy in forging mutually beneficial relations between the two countries. The Honorary Consul Veronica was presented with the Commission of Appointment at the Official Residence of the Sri Lankan Ambassador in Havana in the presence of the Charge d ‘ Affairs of the Embassy of Bolivia, Dr Silvia Fidelia Huanta Mamani and officials from the Embassy of Sri Lanka. In keeping with its proactive foreign policy engagement with the Latin American sub-continent which is home to newly emerging economic power houses, Sri Lanka has reached out to and forged strategic relationships with a number of countries in the region.In this context that the Government of Sri Lanka with the concurrence of the Government of Bolivia has appointed Ms Veronica Daniela Perez Cabero, a reputed and well established Bolivian entrepreneur based in La Paz and Santa Cruz, Bolivia, as Sri Lanka’s first Honorary Consul in Bolivia. Ms Veronica, holder of Bachelor’s Degrees in Humanities, Business Administration and Science & Interior Design (USA) and Master’s Degrees in Industrial Design and Interior Commercial Design (Italy ) is an influential and accomplished “ Interior Designer cum Entrepreneur “ with international presence, having set up a chain of designer shops and commercial outlets in a number of countries. She is fluent in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and English. It is noteworthy Italy has presented her with 2 international awards In recognition of her outstanding skills and talents in designing,The opening of a Sri Lankan n Honorary Consulate in Bolivia is expected to further augment and consolidate Sri Lanka – Bolivia relations in all conceivable fields of interest.The Honorary Consulate of Sri Lanka in Bolivia could be contacted as follows for those who wish to make inquiries and need further information / assistance on Sri Lanka – Bolivia relations. read more

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CPC trade unions suspend strike following talks

President Maithripala Sirisena issued a gazette notice declaring fuel storage and distribution an essential service from today.A tense situation arose in Kollonawa today as trade unions attempted to prevent the military and police from carrying out the distribution of fuel with the assistance of some petroleum employees. Fuel storage and distribution was today declared an essential service and the army was deployed to take over distribution from the Kollonawa oil refinery. The move followed a continuous strike launched by petroleum unions since Monday severely affecting fuel distribution in the country. Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) trade unions have called of their strike following talks held with President Maithripala Sirisena late this evening.The CPC trade unions said that they had suspended their strike till August 1st. The Army said that 15 bowsers had been dispatched from Kollonawa with the assistance of troops to distribute fuel to fuel stations.Several people who attempted to prevent fuel distribution from taking place were arrested by the Police but were later released on bail. (Colombo Gazette) read more

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Former military intelligence head further remanded

Former military intelligence head Major General (Retired) Amal Karunasekara, who was arrested by the Police Criminal Investigations Department (CID) over investigations into the abduction and assault on journalist Keith Noyahr, has been further remanded till June 13th.Major General Karunasekara was accused of being involved in the 2008 abduction of the then Associate Editor of The Nation, Keith Noyahr. (Colombo Gazette)

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Cruel prank at Hamilton McDonalds goes viral

Two Hamilton men are being shamed after posting a video of a cruel prank at a McDonald’s – that went viral on Facebook.The video shows two men throwing a half-eaten cheeseburger and a drink into the face of a man who was sleeping at a nearby table. The two are laughing, as they run out of the restaurant. It was posted on Facebook early Monday morning by Joey Alexander Reid. 23 year old Matthew West is tagged in the post. It’s now been deleted from his Facebook page. The incident happened Sunday night at the McDonald’s at Barton and Lottridge. Matthew West now admits it wasn’t funny. Reaction and comments are coming in from around the world, including some threats. At this point, no charges have been laid. Hamilton police say they are aware of the video and the incident and are investigating. read more

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The Latest Watchdog predicts recession after nodeal Brexit

BRUSSELS — The Latest on Britain’s talks to the leave the European Union (all times local):11:25 a.m.Britain’s independent economic watchdog says the U.K. will plunge into recession if it leaves the European Union without a divorce deal, with the pound plunging in value and the economy shrinking by 2% in a year.The Office for Budget Responsibility says a no-deal Brexit would see “heightened uncertainty and declining confidence deter investment, while higher trade barriers with the EU weigh on exports.”It predicted Thursday that GDP would fall by 2% by the end of 2020 in a no-deal scenario.Britain is due to leave the EU on Oct. 31, but Parliament has rejected the government’s divorce deal with the bloc. Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, who are vying to replace Theresa May as prime minister, both say they will leave without an agreement if the EU won’t renegotiate.___10:35 a.m.Diplomatic language has gone out of the window in the standoff over Britain’s departure from the European Union, with a U.K. government delegate calling one top EU official a “stupid boy.”Martin Callanan, Minister of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union of the United Kingdom, said ahead of an EU meeting that EU Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans has spread “childish insults” about the British negotiating stance which has failed to bring a breakthrough in over two years of talks.Timmermans says in a BBC documentary to be aired late Thursday that U.K. negotiators had been “running around like idiots.”Callanan, quoting a famous riposte from the British sitcom “Dad’s Army,” said Timmermans was a “stupid boy.”The Associated Press read more

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Peppa Pig to get new owner GI Joe maker Hasbro

NEW YORK — Hasbro is going whole hog on Peppa Pig.The maker of Monopoly and GI Joe will pay about $4 billion to buy Entertainment One Ltd., a British entertainment company that produces “Peppa Pig,” ”PJ Masks” and other animated shows for preschoolers.“Peppa Pig,” which stars a pink cartoon pig with a British accent, airs worldwide and is translated into over 40 languages.Shares in Entertainment One jumped 30% in London on Friday.Hasbro Inc., based in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, says the deal will help it turn more of its toy brands into shows or movies. Many of its brands, including My Little Pony and Transformers, already appear in TV shows and movies.The deal is expected to close before the end of the year.The Associated Press

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California ramps up efforts to combat invasive swamp rodents

LOS BANOS, Calif. — One of the most recent threats to California’s environment has webbed feet, white whiskers, shaggy fur and orange buck teeth that could be mistaken for carrots.“Boy, they’re an ugly-looking thing,” said David Passadori, an almond and walnut grower in central California. “And the way they multiply — jeez.”The swamp rodents, called nutria, are setting off alarms in California. They weigh about 20 pounds (9 kilograms) each and eat the equivalent of about a fourth of their weight each day by burrowing into riverbanks and chomping into plants that emerge from the water.The animals can destroy the wetland habitats of rare and endangered species, degrading soil, ruining crops and carrying pathogens that may threaten livestock.Most of all, they pose a public safety risk: Left unchecked, nutria could jeopardize California’s water supply, especially if they get into the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.The delta is the “heartbeat of California’s water infrastructure,” according to Peter Tira, spokesman for the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife. It contains a network of more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometres) of canals and levees that protect the area from flooding, provide drinking water to millions of Californians and irrigate the lush agricultural region.Now, armed with $10 million in state funds, the wildlife agency is deploying new tactics to eradicate the nutria and try to prevent the widespread destruction they are known to cause.“Over the past two years, our best efforts were trying to not even control the population but keep it from exploding while we pursued the resources needed to actually pursue eradication,” said Valerie Cook, environmental program manager for Fish and Wildlife’s newly established Nutria Eradication Program.“We haven’t had nutria in California for 50 years, so nobody really knows much about them,” Tira said. “We’ve had to learn on the job as we go.”An invasive species originally from South America and brought to the U.S. at the height of the fur trade in the late 19th century, nutria were believed to have been eradicated in the state in the 1970s until one turned up in a beaver trap in 2017. Since then, more than 700 nutria have been trapped and killed, including four on Passadori’s property.Farmers, landowners and biologists in the Central Valley, an agricultural region 130 miles (210 kilometres) north of Sacramento, have been on high alert.On a recent morning in Merced County, where the most nutria have been found, state biologists Greg Gerstenberg and Sean McCain paddled in kayaks in a wetland pond thick with cattails. Wearing waders, they trudged through chest-deep water to check surveillance cameras and cage traps where they leave sweet potato pieces to entice the invasive rodents.Last year, wildlife officials removed almost 90 nutria from this pond. Gerstenberg and McCain have returned because they believe at least a few nutria are back. But on this morning they found only muskrats, smaller swamp-dwelling rodents, and release them back into the pond.“Our goal is to get out here and find them and eradicate them before they become fully established throughout our Central Valley,” said Gerstenberg, a senior Fish and Wildlife biologist.The Central Valley is the United States’ most productive agricultural region, responsible for more than half the nation’s fruits, vegetables and nuts, including almost all its apricots, table grapes, carrots, asparagus and tree nuts. Federal Department of Agriculture figures pegged the market value of Central Valley agricultural in 2017 at almost $29 billion.Damage to the region’s soil or water infrastructure would be devastating to the economy and diet.“It would mean no more sushi because the alternative would be to buy rice from Japan or Korea, where the price is five times higher,” said Daniel Sumner, director of the Agricultural Issues Center at the University of California-Davis. “Kiss off carrots, or live without table grapes in the summertime.”Trail cameras and landowners have helped locate the elusive, nocturnal creatures over an area of almost 13,300 square miles (34,449 square kilometres) that wildlife officials are evaluating for nutria habitats. Live traps baited with sweet potato donated by farmers help capture them. Once identified as nutria, the animals are shot. Tira said about three-quarters of female nutria have been found pregnant — they can have up to three litters a year, allowing them to repopulate quickly.The new attention and funding will allow Fish and Wildlife to hire 46 dedicated staff. By December, the agency will launch what’s known as a Judas Nutria program that would outfit surgically sterilized nutria with radio collars and send them out in the wild. Because the animals are so social, they will lead the team to other nutria.Before year’s end, Fish and Wildlife will start genetically testing the nutria to determine where they came from. Tira said migration from Oregon or Washington is doubtful, but the team isn’t sure whether the nutria were reintroduced to California or part of a remnant population.Taking a cue from Maryland’s eastern shore and parts of Delaware and Virginia, officials also will test dogs trained to sniff out the rodents’ scent and scat.“We can’t be successful if we can’t find every single animal,” Cook said.Besides threatening agriculture and infrastructure, nutria can harm wetlands, which play a critical role in keeping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and helping mitigate global warming.The Central Valley also hosts the largest concentration of migratory waterfowl on Earth, said Ric Ortega, the Grassland Water District’s general manager.“We only have so much surface water storage in California,” he said. “It’s not a wetland if it’s not wet. The nutria complicate that.”___Samantha Maldonado reported from San Francisco.Samantha Maldonado And Terry Chea, The Associated Press read more

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WatchUS to hit Canada with steel aluminum tariffs at midnight

Finance Minister Bill Morneau said in a statement late Wednesday that Canada has expanded the scope of its country of origin marking regime for steel and aluminum products to better determine where they come from.The expansion builds on new funding announced in late April of an initial outlay of more than $30 million over five years to hire 40 new officers to investigate trade-related complaints, including those linked to steel and aluminum.That announcement came about a month after the Canada Border Services Agency was granted extra powers to identify businesses that try to dodge import duties and ship cheap foreign steel and aluminum through the Canadian market.Ross said the U.S. would consider the effect of those measures. He reiterated the U.S. concerns over the indirect flow of cheap Chinese steel into the U.S. through other countries.“We will consider whatever actions they do take but our focus is as mentioned on national security aspects of steel and aluminum,” he said.“To the degree they are able to do a better job or more effective job of controlling transhipments, that certainly is a welcome development and something we would look at.” Getty Images That means that President Donald Trump will be facing a group of leaders who will likely have taken retaliatory action against the United States when he makes his closely watched Canadian debut at the G7 next week in Quebec.U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross Prior to Ross’s announcement, a senior Canadian official, speaking on condition of anonymity citing the sensitivity of the situation, confirmed Canada has prepared a list of U.S. products that might face retaliatory tariffs, but declined to give further details.The E.U. said Thursday it would impose duties “on a number of imports from the United States,” referring to a 10-page list of targets for retaliation it published in March, which included Kentucky bourbon and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. European leaders also vowed to proceed with a complaint to the World Trade Organization.“This is protectionism, pure and simple,” said Jean-Claude Junker, president of the European Commission. The Mexican government said it would levy import taxes on U.S. exports of pork bellies, blueberries, apples, grapes, certain cheeses, and various types of steel.Canada, Mexico and Europe had been exempted until June 1 from import duties of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum when they were first imposed in March. Barring an 11th-hour reprieve, those exemptions will expire as scheduled.During a conference call early Thursday, Ross shrugged off questions about the U.S. facing possible retaliation, or whether the move would negatively affect the G7 meeting. And he said that while he was looking forward to continuing negotiations, the U.S. is making its decision in the interest of national security — a justification Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has dismissed as absurd.In the case of Canada and Mexico, Ross said the decision was based on a lack of progress in the ongoing talks to update the North American Free Trade Agreement.“As to Canada, Mexico, you will recall that the reason for the deferral had been pending the outcome of the NAFTA talks,” he said.“Those talks are taking longer than we had hoped. There is no longer a very precise date when they may be concluded and therefore they were added into the list of those who will bear tariffs.”If Canada and Mexico choose to take retaliatory measures, it will not affect the ability to keep renegotiating NAFTA as a separate track, he added.“If any of these parties does retaliate, that does not mean that there cannot be continuing negotiations,” Ross said. “They’re not mutually exclusive behaviours.”On Wednesday, the Trudeau government said it would take additional steps to prevent foreign steel and aluminum from being dumped into the North American market — news that appeared designed to try to head off the tariff decision.Trudeau, who was expected to respond to the decision later Thursday, spoke with Trump by phone earlier this week to counter the national-security argument, and made the same pitch Wednesday to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.“He seemed to understand very clearly that national-security issues don’t really apply when you talk about steel or aluminum from Canada,” Trudeau said.But the U.S. is pressing ahead nonetheless, a long-threatened tactic sure to cast a pall over the G7 summit Trudeau is hosting next week in Quebec. Some observers say a G6-plus-one scenario is already shaping up, with Trump as the outlier.Ross played down the divisions.“There are periodic disagreements between any two countries on any given set of topics. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it derails other discussions at all,” he said.“It all depends on how the various parties react to the circumstances.”European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who will be at the G7 table with the seven other country leaders, expressed strong opposition to Thursday’s decision.“The EU believes these unilateral U.S. tariffs are unjustified and at odds with World Trade Organization rules. This is protectionism, pure and simple.”Trump had been widely expected to impose tariffs on European steel and aluminum imports after failing to win concessions from the European Union. Canada and its European allies have spent recent days making a concerted effort to head off the move.Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron made their cases separately Wednesday to dissuade Trump, who is using a national-security clause in U.S. trade law to justify the move. Trudeau and Macron will meet next week in Ottawa before the G7 to talk strategy.The prime minister also spoke by phone Wednesday with the premiers of Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan.The Prime Minister’s Office said they “all agreed to continue to defend the Canadian steel and aluminum industry from unwarranted tariffs and to stand up for the best interests of all Canadian workers and businesses.”This is protectionism, pure and simpleJean-Claude Juncker, European Commission President WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is making good on its threat to slap Canada with hefty steel and aluminum tariffs, setting the stage for a possible trade war and leaving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the middle of a very divided group of leaders at next week’s G7 summit.Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced Thursday that the United States will end the temporary exemption on Canadian, Mexican and European Union steel and aluminum as of midnight, as scheduled.NAFTA talks are taking longer than we had hoped read more

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Proposed classaction lawsuits filed against Bank of Montreal CIBCs Simplii over security

TORONTO — Proposed class-action lawsuits have been filed against Bank of Montreal and CIBC’s direct banking division Simplii Financial over recently disclosed cybersecurity breaches impacting up to 90,000 customers.Law firms Siskinds LLP and JSS Barristers say they have filed the proposed class actions against the two Canadian banks in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, alleging the institutions failed to establish robust security measures to protect clients’ sensitive information.The banks did not immediately respond to requests for comment.Simplii and BMO warned in May that “fraudsters” may have accessed certain personal and financial information of some of its customers, up to 40,000 clients and 50,000 clients, respectively.Both institutions said they had been contacted by entities claiming to have accessed their client’s personal data. A BMO spokesman said a threat was made to make the information public.BMO and CIBC have since offered clients free credit monitoring and have pledged to cover any money lost from affected bank accounts due to fraud.The proposed class action lawsuits, which have not yet been certified, are seeking general, compensatory, consequential and punitive damages on behalf of affected Simplii Financial and BMO clients.The data breaches have had far reaching implications on clients’ personal lives and financial affairs, the full extent of which has yet to be determined, said Sajjad Nematollahi, a lawyer with Siskinds.“Financial institutions like CIBC and BMO are entrusted with their clients’ most sensitive personal information, and are expected to have in place robust security measures to safeguard that information against unauthorized access, use or theft,” he said in a statement.“Canadian financial institutions are required and expected to continuously review their defence systems and use best industry practices to protect Canadians’ personal and financial information.” read more

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Fraudster Alena Pastuch denied bid for bail

Sentenced to seven years in prison for a $5.5-million investor fraud, former Regina businesswoman Alena Marie Pastuch will remain behind bars while she awaits the outcome of an appeal after a judge denied her bail — but kept the door open to a future application.In her written decision released Thursday, Saskatchewan Court of Appeal Justice Lian Schwann noted that for Pastuch to get bail post-conviction and sentencing, she must show her appeal is not frivolous, that she would surrender herself into custody under terms of a release order, and her detention is not necessary in the public interest.Schwann said Pastuch’s application at this point is simply premature, as the judge needs more information on which to assess the strength of her grounds of appeal and the public interest. Schwann said the transcript of the protracted trial — which opened in October and continued through to March — has not yet been prepared, and is a necessary tool to make that assessment.Although dismissing Pastuch’s bid for bail at this time, Schwann left the door open for her to re-apply once the transcript is available.Pastuch, 54, was sentenced on Aug. 16 after Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Richard Elson found her guilty of fraud, theft and money laundering. The latter two charges were stayed, since they encompassed the same evidence. Between 2007 and 2009, Pastuch took in $5,523,507 from about 80 investors who believed their savings would grow in the development and sale of anti-fraud and child protection technology. Instead, Elson found the money was largely spent supporting Pastuch’s lavish lifestyle.Pastuch promptly appealed her conviction, primarily contending she did not get a fair trial and there had been a miscarriage of justice, in part because her complex PTSD condition and the stress of the trial meant she couldn’t effectively cross-examine witnesses. Pastuch, who represented herself without a lawyer, opted to call no evidence at the trial or take the witness stand.During her bail hearing last week, Pastuch argued she wasn’t a flight risk, never breached her release conditions for the five years she was on bail prior to her conviction, and has been told she’s a good candidate for an early release from prison, so doesn’t pose a public threat.Schwann’s ruling also notes Pastuch hopes to get a court-appointed lawyer for her appeal. She initially had court-appointed counsel for her trial, but was turned down the third time after parting company with the first two appointments.In addition to the prison time, Elson also ordered Pastuch to pay $5,523,507 in victim restitution. Any amount repaid will be deducted from a $5.5-million fine, reflecting the amount defrauded. Elson gave her 12 years to pay the fine after her release, and if she fails to pay up, is subject to a further five-year prison sentence.Elson found Pastuch spent most of the investors’ money on gambling, staying in expensive hotels in Vegas, Banff and Los Angeles, travelling, buying high-end clothing, and financing a house and car. She used investor funds to promote a rock band, including their trip to Disneyland, and to buy collectibles for her resale business. Only $137,097 has ever been recovered, and an expert, by a generous accounting, estimated only $455,000 could be considered business expenses.bpacholik@postmedia.com read more

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