UN to close political offices in Talibancontrolled parts of Afghanistan

Spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters that after the Taliban requested the closures earlier this month, the Secretary-General’s Personal Representative, Francesc Vendrell, met with the Taliban’s so-called Foreign Minister, Wakil Ahmed Mutawakkil, in Kandahar. “At that meeting, it was agreed that the UN mission would close its offices in Herat, Jalalabad, Kandahar and Mazar-I-Sharif by May 20th,” Mr. Eckhard said, noting that the Kabul office would remain functional.The UN’s political office in Faizabad, which is not in Taliban-controlled territory, is not affected, according to the spokesman.Mr. Eckhard also said that the closures would affect the Organization’s political efforts in trying to bring about some kind of agreement between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. He added, however, “Our humanitarian offices are still open, so our humanitarian work is not affected.”Mr. Eckhard noted that the world body would not abandon its efforts to promote a peaceful settlement. “The UN continues to maintain contact with the authorities — we still have our political office in Kabul open, Francesc Vendrell will continue his interaction with the parties – it’s just that we no longer have a network of offices, and so that will hinder, to a certain extent, our political work, which nonetheless will continue,” he said.The Security Council was briefed this morning on the closures by Kieran Prendergast, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs. read more

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Stalemate continues over prices of Iraqi crude for US market UN reports

“The stalemate in the Security Council over the issue of the frequency for reviewing prices for Iraqi crude oil deliveries, which are submitted by the Iraqi State Marketing Organization, has continued,” the Office of the Iraq Programme reported in its weekly update, issued today. “This has prevented the approval of prices for Iraqi crude oil to the United States market in September.” Despite the deadlock, the flow of Iraqi exports remained strong over the past week, according to the update, which reported that Baghdad sold 16.4 million barrels of crude, earning an additional €410 million (euros) or $379 million during that period. The Office also reported that, reversing recent trends, the number and value of contracts placed on hold by the Security Council committee monitoring the sanctions against Iraq outweighed those newly placed on hold. A total of 54 contracts worth $179.5 million were released from hold last week, while 34 new contracts, valued at $111.4 million, were placed on hold.Overall, nearly $4 billion worth of contracts are currently on hold, according to the update. Contracts are generally placed on hold because more information is sought on their end-use in Iraq. read more

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Some 500 participants attend Brazil forum on Annans Global Compact initiative

The meeting, held in Belo Horizonte, includes representatives from business, government and civil society. Participants are discussing how the Global Compact can stimulate partnership projects in support of development and good practices in human rights, labour and sustainable development. This event is part of a comprehensive outreach effort aimed at involving developing and transitional economies in the Global Compact. Similar meetings have already been held in Thailand, Philippines, Tunisia, South Africa, Singapore, Poland and Chile, while others are scheduled for later this year. First proposed by Mr. Annan in January 1999, the Global Compact aims to encourage business and labour to respect standards relating to the environment, employment laws and human rights. The Compact is not a regulatory regime or a code of conduct, but a platform for identifying and disseminating good practices based on universal principles. read more

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Sierra Leone Special Court machinery to be in place by late summer

The report was prepared by a UN team that visited the country in January to discuss with the Government of Sierra Leone the practical arrangements for the establishment and operation of the Court. The Planning Mission, which was led by Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Ralph Zacklin, outlines a number of issues that will need to be dealt with before the tribunal can begin functioning. Among the minimum requirements that will need to be in place are a courtroom and associated support space, staffing for the prosecutor’s office and registry, and security measures.In describing the logistical arrangements and appointments of key officials to take place in the next two-and-a-half months, the Mission says that the start-up phase of the operational plan should be completed by 31 May.“Adherence to this schedule would mean that by the third quarter of 2002, the judges will have been appointed, the Offices of the Prosecutor and the Registry will be functioning in their temporary premises in Freetown and the construction of the permanent premises will be substantially under way,” the report notes. “The first indictments and trials could be envisaged by the end of the first year of operation, which is well within the parameters of the practice of international criminal tribunals.”The report also notes a recommendation by an expert group that the relationship of the Special Court to Sierra Leone’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission should be guided by the complementary roles each body performs, the independent nature of both institutions and the establishment of an agreed set of separate priorities.The UN Security Council is expected to discuss the Planning Mission’s report in its consultations Tuesday. read more

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UN work on track in East Timor Security Council President says

Ambassador John Negroponte of the United States told reporters that during its private meeting this morning, the Council had been briefed by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi on the latest developments in East Timor and the work of the UN Mission of Support (UNMISET).According to Mr. Annabi, UNMISET’s mandate implementation programme was on track and East Timor had taken steps towards establishing itself in the international community, including by joining the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Ambassador Negroponte said. He added that Council members praised the Government and the UN operation for their successful cooperation during the first months of the Mission.In addition, the East Timor Defence Force was taking over operational responsibilities from UN peacekeepers as planned, and the country’s civilian police units were replacing UN police in a timely fashion, Ambassador Negroponte said.Mr. Annabi also explained that work could be moving a bit faster in the justice sector and in filling appointments of civilian experts to support the government, but that the United Nations and the Timorese authorities were working to keep things on track, Ambassador Negroponte said.Council members recognized that capacity building amongst the East Timorese was extremely important he said, adding that another important work in progress was border normalization, with full delineation of borders due for completion by the summer of 2003.”I’m sure I can speak for all of my Security Council colleagues in saying that we all look forward with great pleasure to welcoming East Timor as a full member of the United Nations in September,” Ambassador Negroponte said. read more

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Security Council to discuss adjustments to UN OilforFood programme for Iraq

Ambassador Mamady Traoré of Guinea told reporters that he received the Secretary-General’s letter late yesterday, and that the Council will hold consultations Friday morning to discuss it. Mr. Annan is expected to be present for the meeting, he added.The Secretary-General had told the Council in a statement Wednesday that the proposals would be aimed at enabling the United Nations to continue providing humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq during and after hostilities.On Monday, Mr. Annan ordered the withdrawal of all UN personnel from Iraq, leading to the suspension of the Oil-for-Food programme – which allows Baghdad to use a portion of its petroleum sales to buy relief supplies – because there would no inspectors to monitor the selling of oil and the distribution of food required by the programme.Asked if the Council was holding discussions about the war itself, the President said, “The most urgent question is the humanitarian situation.” He noted that the Council did discuss the situation yesterday morning, knowing that it was possible there would be a war later on. “And effectively that is what happened,” he added. “But what concerns us now is the urgent humanitarian situation.” read more

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Spotlighting downturns UN agency challenges current economic wisdom

“There is a global glut in both labour and product markets, with too many goods chasing too few buyers and too many workers chasing too few jobs,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Rubens Ricupero said in his overview of the Trade and Development Report 2003. “Intense price and exchange rate competition among major exporters have been adding to instability and deflationary pressures, while many developing countries facing tight payment positions are being forced to curtail imports.”The report added that the developed economies looked set to repeat the substandard growth rate of less than 2 per cent of the past two years.The developing countries in Latin America and Africa, meanwhile, had changed to policies based on optimism about globalization and in many cases had regressed.”The current economic landscape in the developing world has an uncanny resemblance to conditions prevailing in the early 1980s” with its debt and development crises, Mr. Ricupero said. Blaming the economic failures of the 1980s on government intervention led to a new policy approach of “deferring to the invisible touch of global market forces.”The result has been that between 1980 and the 1990s only eight of 26 countries selected for analysis were able to raise the share of manufacturing value in their gross domestic product (GDP) and increase their share of investment. The production structure in much of Latin America and Africa had moved away from sectors with the greatest potential for productivity growth towards those producing and processing raw materials.UNCTAD Senior Interregional Adviser Jan Kreger told a news conference at UN Headquarters in New York that Latin America was experiencing premature de-industrialization. It has been moving rapidly to a service economy, although the service sector could not absorb the surplus labour in manufacturing.Sound macro-economic fundamentals – bringing about low inflation, opening economies to international trade and reducing government share in economic activity – have been very successful in providing price stability, he said. They had failed, however, at the microeconomic tasks of adjusting domestic production to meet international competition and increasing exports and foreign exchange earnings, thus helping countries to service their debts.”We don’t have a ready answer, but what we’re attempting to do is draw attention to the fact that simply placing emphasis on introducing sound macroeconomic fundamentals is not sufficient to allow developing countries to reach a sustainable growth path, and that we need to continue and to do more research in order to attempt to identify ways in which we can make these two sets of policies compatible,” Mr. Kreger said.He also dismissed the idea that one development policy could fit countries at different levels of development. The difference between Latin America and more successful Asia was that the Asian countries had tried a very wide range of policies to improve their economies, he said. read more

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UN peacekeeping chief urges Kosovo to address causes of recent violence

A month after two days of violence engulfed the province, leaving 19 people dead, hundreds more injured and numerous homes and religious buildings damaged or destroyed, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno said international efforts to help Kosovo stabilize and advance could only do so much.In an open briefing to the 15-member Council, he called on the leaders of Kosovo to “exercise true leadership and responsible government, and to marginalize and hold politically accountable those among them who may have condoned or supported the violence.”Mr. Guéhenno said senior officials must identify and discipline politicians and civil servants who fomented or participated in last month’s events, which followed several incidents that had raised tensions between the province’s ethnic Albanian and Serb communities.He described the series of riots, demonstrations and violent attacks as initially spontaneous but “quickly taken over by organized elements with an interest in driving the Kosovo Serbs from Kosovo and threatening the international presence there.” He said the attacks were widespread and targeted, focusing on the province’s Serb, Roma and Ashkali communities.The head of peacekeeping said the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) had launched a probe into the violence and noted that 183 arrests have already been made. But he said UNMIK has requested Member States provide another 100 police investigators to fully investigate the violence and the people behind it.Serbia and Montenegro’s representative, Roksanda Nincic, told the Council that there has been ample opportunity since UNMIK assumed control of the province in June 1999 to show that ethnically-motivated violence will not be tolerated in Kosovo. She said authorities must now prove there will be no impunity for those who committed the attacks.Other delegates addressing the Council stressed the importance of bringing all the perpetrators to justice, and said it was vital that the religious and cultural sites damaged or destroyed last month be rebuilt.They also said that the events indicate the importance of implementing the standards for Kosovo plan before the province’s final status is determined. The standards plan is a detailed guide that sets specific goals in such areas as the building of democratic institutions, the enforcement of rights for minorities and the creation of a functioning economy. Its provisions include the holding of free and fair elections and the establishment of an impartial legal system. Video of Security Council meeting [2hrs 17mins] read more

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Security breaches rise in Darfur camps housing Sudanese who have fled violence

In the middle of the night, Sudanese army and police surrounded Al Geer camp in Nyala town, South Darfur, and forcibly removed some of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to another location which is ill-equipped to care for them, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters in New York. “The site is currently not able to cater for any additional influx and as such is not suitable for any relocation.”He said roughly 15 trucks were used to relocate the IDPs. “The remainder of the population was dispersed into the surrounding area of Nyala town as a direct result of this action.”After briefing the Security Council, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Jan Pronk, told journalists that despite the memoranda of understanding the government had signed, continuous pressure on the internally displaced population (IDPs) resulted overnight in “violent pressure” on some of the 20,000 IDPs in El Geer to another location called Sherif.The IDPs were told that the move was being made in close consultation with the UN and with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), “which is not the case,” Mr. Pronk said.”This is flagrant violation of international humanitarian law. It is also in flagrant violation of the agreements reached with the government on the modalities of return and relocation of IDPs,” he said.The non-voluntary removals would have to stop, not only in El Geer, but everywhere in Darfur, he said, adding, “Stop it and reverse what has happened.”In another incident today, units of the Sudanese army and police undertook crowd control measures at a camp known as El Chareia, according to George Somerwell, a spokesman for UN Special Envoy Jan Pronk. “They fired tear gas and they fired shots in the air to try to calm the IDPs who are inside this camp,” Mr. Somerwell told UN Radio.Two weeks ago the population of El Chareia numbered 40,000, he said, and the IDPs feared that the Sudanese Government would remove them to an unknown location.The UN Advance Mission in Sudan (UNAMIS) had contacted the Khartoum Government, which is “making every effort that it can to try to calm the situation,” Mr. Somerwell said.At the UN complex in Geneva, Switzerland, the spokesman for the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Ron Redmond, said his agency, along with other international organizations, has been forced to cancel missions to Darfur this week because of security problems, including the kidnapping of 18 Sudanese from a commercial bus on the road between Zalinge and Nyala last Thursday.The local authorities had blamed the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement and Sudan Liberation Army (SLM/SLA) for the abductions, he said.In the Djabel Moon and Masteri areas, near El Geneina, tensions were high and travel restrictions, lifted two weeks ago, have been re-instated. A few dozen people were reported to be leaving each night to join the refugees in Chad, but others were afraid of the dangers on the road, Mr. Redmond said.In Chad, meanwhile, “instigators” have been holding night meetings that led to unruly incidents by day, he said. Aid workers from two international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) left Breidjing Camp after some refugees brought out knives during a discussion of how to prevent the spread of hepatitis-E and demanded to know why eight of the people causing trouble had been arrested.”At the heart of the problem lies the fear among many refugees that the creation of associations to set up income-generating activities will ‘normalize’ their situation, give the impression that they are well implanted in Chad and hamper their chances of returning to their homes,” Mr. Redmond said.Given this reluctance to create associations on the basis of working trades, no such groups were established, except for the water and sanitation committee, he said.UNHCR has received $83 million of the $114.8 million sought by the agency for refugees and IDPs in eastern Chad and Darfur through the end of the year. read more

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Promoting gender equality in peacekeeping is vital to success UN adviser

“If we bring a gender perspective to bear, our work will be much, much more successful,” Comfort Lamptey told the UN News Service. “It is critical to ensuring that we are effective and that the legacy we leave promotes the rights of all the people in the countries where we serve.”There are now 10 full-time gender advisers in UN peacekeeping missions – a jump from just two in 2000. The other seven UN missions have gender “focal points” who serve similar functions.Ms. Lamptey said these experts are working not only with traditional allies such as non-governmental organizations and Member States but also countries that contribute troops to UN peacekeeping.”We need to do a lot of work in trying to convince and encourage them particularly on the issue of gender balance in peacekeeping, which is one of the key areas where we have to make improvements,” she said, noting that women currently make up just 1 per cent of military personnel and 5 per cent of police.She said it would be necessary to show the contributing countries “what a difference it makes to have women in these missions and how the presence of women can contribute both to the effectiveness of the work that we do on the ground but also our role as peacekeeping missions vis-à-vis the host communities where we are working.”Gender advisers deployed in the field are supporting all components of peacekeeping operations, she said. On the electoral process so central to numerous UN operations, experts are examining ways to help women who want to run for office and to ensure that all people know their rights. “We are looking both at supporting women at the level of political participation as politicians themselves but also looking in the broader context to see if there are specific areas that may be preventing women from participating fully” in the political process, she said.The advisers are addressing the critical issue of gender-based violence, including wife-beating, sexual exploitation and rape, in a variety of contexts, including the disarmament process.”Many of the girls associated with the fighting forces have been kidnapped, many of them have been raped and many of them have had forced pregnancies, so we need to be able to inject a perspective that ensures that in the assistance that we provide we actually address the response needs of women in this particular situation.”UN peacekeeping operations are also training police officers in mission areas to be more sensitive to the needs of victims, Ms. Lamptey said.In the coming weeks, all UN gender advisers deployed in peacekeeping operations across the globe will come together for a strategy meeting in New York to chart a course for the future. read more

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Action on climate change particularly urgent Annan tells environmental seminar

With the growing number of ratifications of major environmental agreements suggesting that more countries are committed to addressing global ecological issues, the true test remains implementation and enforcement, especially with regard to greenhouse gases, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned today. “Action on climate change is particularly urgent, given its profound implications for virtually every aspect of human well-being, from jobs and health to growth and security,” he said in a message to a seminar in New York organized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).“Until we stop treating climate change as a strictly environmental concern, and instead recognize the full nature of this threat, our action will fall short.”He noted that last year’s World Summit at UN Headquarters decided on a number of measures aimed at protecting the global environment, including a call for a more coherent institutional framework to tackle ecological challenges.“Ensuring environmental sustainability is one of the main pillars of the global fight against poverty, and is essential for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” he said referring to the targets set by the UN Millennium summit of 2000 to dramatically slash poverty, illiteracy, maternal and infant mortality and a host of other global ills by 2015.Ensuring environmental sustainability is number seven on the list of eight goals. The Fourth IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium will continue until 20 October at the Pace Law School, White Plains, New York, on the theme “Implementing Environmental Legislation: The Critical Role of Enforcement and Compliance.” read more

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Afghan refugees in Pakistan begin to register with help from UN agency

The 10-week exercise, the largest such operation the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has ever been involved in, began on Sunday and runs until the end of the year.The UN is both supporting and monitoring the process, which will collect bio-data, fingerprints and digital photographs. “This is the largest-ever registration by any host country of a mixed population in a protracted situation,” said Indrika Ratwatte, UNHCR’s Assistant Representative in Pakistan. “UNHCR has been assisting the Government in the planning and execution of this undertaking for over two years, and we hope it will further strengthen the asylum space for those Afghans in need of international protection.”The registration is a follow-up to a Government census last year that counted 3.04 million Afghans who arrived in Pakistan after the 1979 Soviet invasion and are still living in the country.More than 580,000 have repatriated since then, leaving an estimated 2.5 million Afghans in Pakistan. Only those counted in the 2005 census are eligible for registration, which will grant them a proof of registration card, valid for three years, which recognises them as Afghan citizens living in Pakistan.UNHCR is helping the Government to raise the 6 million needed for the exercise. Afghans are the largest group of concern to UNHCR, and the majority of them are hosted in Pakistan.Besides the sheer scale of the exercise, its first challenge is convincing eligible Afghans, many of whom apparently fear the photographs would be sent to the United States, to register.To register, entire Afghan families must approach designated centres in the same area where they took the census and then the names of heads of household have to be checked against the census database – a particular challenge because of the almost countless ways Afghan names can be spelled in English.The UNHCR hopes that the information collected – including areas of origin, education and skill levels, special needs and intention to return – will help it find “durable solutions to this protracted situation,” an agency spokesperson Ron Redmond said last week. read more

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GuineaBissau UNICEF supports antimalaria campaign with treated mosquito nets

With malaria the main cause of illness and death in Guinea-Bissau in both adults and children, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is supporting the first nationwide campaign in the small West African country to distribute insecticide-treated mosquito nets.Vitamin A supplementation and the de-worming of children with Mebendazole is also part of the drive that aims at reaching all children under five years old, some 16 per cent of the total population of some 1.5 million people.“The loss of any life is hard, mainly when the victim is a child who dies from a preventable disease, such as malaria,” UNICEF Bissau Representative Jean Dricot said. “Even when the child does not die, the consequences of constant illness due to malaria affect negatively the growth and development of the child, impacting in its social life. The use of impregnated mosquito nets can reduce child mortality up to 20 per cent,” he added.UNICEF is investing in the Accelerated Child Survival and Development Initiative to demonstrate how low-cost key interventions, such as vaccination, supplementation with Vitamin A and the use of insecticide treated mosquito nets can halt deaths among children under five from preventable diseases. The Icelandic Committee for UNICEF is the major partner of UNICEF in Guinea-Bissau for the implementation of the Initiative, with more than $800,000 allocated for the nets distribution campaign. read more

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Stagnant snack cake sales to blame Saputo loses 26 million in Q4

AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email by Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press Posted Jun 5, 2012 4:37 pm MDT MONTREAL – Despite stagnant snack cake sales, Canadian dairy and cheese giant Saputo says it has no plans to sell its struggling bakery division after taking a $125-million writedown that pushed its overall fourth quarter to a loss.“Our focus right now is to continue to improve that division and it is not for sale,” CEO Lino Saputo Jr. said Tuesday in a conference call.Efforts over the last two to three years have allowed the small division to at least keep its “head above water,” he added.Montreal-based Saputo said it continues to work hard on increasing sales volumes to the United States, but the non-cash goodwill impairment reflects stagnating market growth for snack cake sales.Saputo (TSX:SAP) operates Vachon, Canada’s top snack cake brand, and the maker of such desserts as Jos. Louis, May West, Passion Flake and Ah Caramel.The bakery division’s $134 million of annual sales last year represented less than two per cent of the $6.9 billion of revenues dominated by Saputo’s dairy operations in Canada, the United States and Argentina.The writedown caused Saputo to lose $2.6 million in the final quarter of its fiscal year.Excluding the one-time move, Saputo’s earnings dipped to $122.4 million from $126.6 million of profits in the year-earlier quarter.The adjusted earnings amounted to 61 cents per share — a penny below analyst estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters.Revenues increased four per cent to $1.7 billion, from $1.6 billion a year ago.Saputo said Tuesday that its earnings in Canada, Europe and Argentina increased by $9 million during the quarter due to favourable dairy markets and volume increases in South America, partially offset by higher ingredient costs in Canada.The division’s revenues increased by nearly 10 per cent to $1 billion. It was helped by price increases resulting from the higher cost of milk in Canada and Argentina.A decrease in the average “block” market for cheese and higher cost of milk was largely responsible a decline in U.S. dairy earnings to $75.3 million from $81.4 million a year ago. However, it benefited from operational efficiencies and the acquisition of DCI Cheese Company, which helped to add $131 million in revenues to $658.9 million.Earnings in Saputo’s grocery segment increased by $3.6 million, mainly from higher sales volumes and lower operating costs. Revenues grew 9.7 per cent to $35 million.For the full year ended March 31, Saputo earned $380.8 million on $6.9 billion of revenues, down from $450.1 million on $6 billion of sales a year earlier.Adjusting for the writedown, earnings increased 9.8 per cent to $505.8 million or $2.47 per share, compared to $461.7 million or $2.21 per share in fiscal 2011.The results were largely in line with forecasts. The company was expected to earn 62 cents per share in adjusted earnings in the quarter on $1.65 billion of revenues, and $2.46 per share on $6.8 billion of revenues for the year.“Despite challenging market factors we had a good year,” the chief executive told analysts.Saputo said he expects fiscal 2013 to continue to be challenging.It plans to target volume growth in Canada in the cheese and dairy ingredient categories and pursue opportunities in the value-added milk market such as adding flavoured products. Saputo plans to invest in specialty cheeses to “maximize exposure across Canada, with coast-to-coast distribution capabilities.”Saputo said it continues to evaluate ways to reduce excess production capacity at its plants in Canada, Europe and Argentina. But he told analysts there is limited opportunity to consolidate manufacturing production in Canada.“In terms of manufacturing presence we’re pretty well as good as we can be given the limitations of the quota system that we have in Canada,” he said.“Where there might be some further opportunities for consolidation perhaps might be in logistics, warehouse distribution and those are the types of ideas and plans that we’re discussing.”He didn’t specify where changes could take place. In an interview last August, Saputo said the company was looking at consolidating its Quebec distribution centres, much like it did a year earlier in Ontario.Saputo and third-party companies operate five distribution centres in Quebec.Irene Nattel of RBC Capital Markets said Saputo’s results were “solid” in light of commodity headwinds.“U.S. segment EBITDA ahead of forecast which should be good news for capital markets that typically focus more on US segment results,” she wrote in a report.On the Toronto Stock Exchange, Saputo’s shares closed up one cent at $41.73 in Tuesday trading. Stagnant snack cake sales to blame: Saputo loses $2.6 million in Q4 read more

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Retail investors can emulate investment shift by pension fund managers experts

Retail investors can emulate investment shift by pension fund managers: experts MONTREAL – The average individual investor can’t make the kind of blockbuster private deals in real-estate, pipelines and toll roads that large Canadian pension funds use to offset the negative impact of volatile public stock markets.But financial experts say retail investors can learn from the strategies adopted by funds like the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec and other professional asset managers.The professional money managers have plowed billions into infrastructure deals at home and abroad, looking for steady streams of returns that match the needs of the pension plans’ members.Adrian Mastracci, portfolio manager of KCM Wealth Management Inc., says most retail investors don’t have the access to such investment opportunities but they can still replicate the idea by pursuing alternative investments.“I guess the pension plans have started sort of a wave,” Mastracci saysHe says wealthy individuals with millions to invest have also taken similar steps.The Institute for Private Investors, which surveyed 345 ultra-high net worth families with at least US$30 million in investable assets, have decreased their investments in hedge and mutual funds.In contrast, the poll found 45 per cent of the respondents increased their allocation of commodities, 31 per cent grew the portion in real estate and 22 per cent put a bigger share of their money into private equity.“This year’s data reinforced the investment trends we have been seeing among the ultra affluent as far as the rise in allocation to commodities and real estate, and the continuing popularity of direct investment in private companies,” stated Mindy Rosenthal, IPI executive director.Mastracci says ordinary investors can diversify their holdings beyond stocks and bonds through ETFs (exchange-traded funds) that focus on global infrastructure, real estate, commodities, emerging markets and other alternative investments.But he says investors also need to have long-term investment horizons and enough risk tolerance for investments that have other challenges.“Private equity is hard to value, it doesn’t trade the same way that the stocks do so you’ve got to understand a few other things about that particular part of the portfolio,” Mastracci said from Vancouver.Financial author Gordon Pape said average investors can take a lesson from large investors by looking at their asset mix among equities, fixed income, real estate and infrastructure.REITs can add real estate holdings while mutual funds and ETFs can give infrastructure exposure.“They won’t be the same projects but you could emulate the asset mix,” Pape said in an interview.Adopting this strategy depends on the individual investor’s goals and situation, Pape said.“It certainly might be appropriate for someone in an RRSP or retirement savings plans of some kind to take a look at that and at least have some idea of what the professional pension plan managers are doing,” he said.But it would not be appropriate for someone who is more aggressive in their investing and wants to maximize their capital gains potential outside an RRSP, Pape added.Caisse CEO Michael Sabia recently said its gradual shift to private placements from publicly traded equities offers an opportunity to generate long-term returns.“These investments reflect a strategy based on intrinsic value in the real economy — not on financial illusions,” Sabia said in a speech last month to the Canadian Club of Montreal. AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email by Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press Posted Jul 5, 2012 2:01 pm MDT read more

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Sony ushers in new 4K highresolution format with 84inch TV selling for

Sony ushers in new 4K high-resolution format with 84-inch TV selling for $25K by News Staff Posted Sep 19, 2012 1:59 pm MDT TORONTO – Even Sony concedes its latest TV is a tough sell.For the wealthy gadget lover who has everything, or the most eager of early adopters, Sony is prepping to release a Canadian exclusive in time for Christmas: a new astronomically priced TV that represents the first step into a new ultra high-resolution format.It’s called 4K TV, a technology that promises four times the resolution of the HD picture consumers are now used to watching.For the price of a brand new family sedan, or a down payment on a condo, consumers can pick up Sony’s top-of-the-line 84-inch 4K LCD TV. That’s $25,000 — plus tax, of course.Much like when plasma TVs were first released and were mostly sold to businesses or the very wealthy, Sony isn’t expecting a huge rush on its new model, admits spokesman Michael Neujahr.“There’s not going to be an awful lot of consumers buying this TV,” says Neujahr.“But certainly the higher-end customer that wants the best of the best, who’s spending $140,000 on a car, or $12,000 on a watch, it’s those people we’re going to start with.”The technology is so new that there’s not much a consumer can actually view in the full resolution. There’s some material online, including on YouTube, which plays in 4K resolution but not a whole lot. Don’t expect cable and satellite TV providers to start offering 4K channels any time soon. And there’s still no physical disc format that’s 4K-compatible, although TV manufacturer LG believes a new type of Blu-ray could be ready by next year.Neujahr doesn’t see that lack of 4K content as a huge barrier, however.Sony claims the TV is equipped with an internal chip that can upconvert any video content to look better on a 4K TV — although Neujahr admits even he still hasn’t seen what conventional HD TV content looks like on the new set.“Will it look better? I’m sure it will, but I haven’t seen it with my own eyes yet,” he concedes.“It’s not that dissimilar to not that long ago when HD TVs first came out and at the very beginning there was very limited to no content at that point. You have to start somewhere to spur technology advancements and here with 4K televisions — we’re not too sure exactly when — but 4K content will be available.”He does say high-resolution photos taken on digital cameras will look great on 4K TVs, even when blown up to 84 inches.Sony doesn’t expect most homeowners will have a spot for a TV that large — it measures 213.7 centimetres wide by 113.6 centimetres tall, which is the equivalent of about four 42″ TVs combined together — but anticipates the trend towards bigger and bigger screens will continue.“In the standard definition days on tubes a 32-inch TV was a huge television. The first HD sets of 40 to 42 inches was a big TV,” says Neujahr.“Today, 55 inches is pretty well the middle point … where not that long ago you were watching a 32-inch television.”He expects the price for 4K TVs will creep into the four-digit range eventually.“It didn’t take that long for the early HD TVs (to come down in price) and I’m sure at some point in time — and sooner than later — we’re going to see more affordable 4K TVs,” Neujahr says.“It’s going to happen, it always does happen.” read more

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Solarpowered plane set for flight across America with visits to Phoenix Dallas

Solar-powered plane set for flight across America with visits to Phoenix, Dallas, NYC MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – A solar-powered plane that has wowed aviation fans in Europe is set to travel across the United States with stops in Phoenix, Dallas, Washington, D.C., and New York, organizers of the trip announced Thursday.The plane, Solar Impulse, is expected to be ready to leave from NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. on May 1, although the actual departure will depend on the weather, the plane’s Swiss creators said at a news conference at the NASA centre.Solar Impulse, considered the world’s most advanced solar-powered plane, will stop for seven to 10 days at major airports in each city, so the pilots can display and discuss the aircraft with reporters, students, engineers and aviation fans. It plans to reach New York’s Kennedy Airport in early July — without using a drop of fuel, its creators said.Between Dallas and Washington, D.C., the plane will also stop at one of three other cities: Atlanta, Nashville or St. Louis, said André Borschberg, Solar Impulse’s co-founder, pilot and CEO. Each leg of the flight will run 20 to 25 hours.“We want to inspire the young generation to become pioneers, to help them find and develop their passion,” Borschberg said.The Solar Impulse is powered by about 12,000 photovoltaic cells that cover massive wings and charge its batteries, allowing it to fly day and night without jet fuel. It has the wing span of a commercial airplane but the weight of the average family car, making it vulnerable to bad weather.Its creators say the Solar Impulse is designed to showcase the potential of solar power and will never replace fuel-powered commercial flights. The delicate, single-seat plane cruises around 40 miles per hour and can’t fly through clouds.“The more you fly the more energy you have stored in the batteries, so it’s absolutely fabulous to imagine all the possibilities the people can have with these technologies in their daily lives,” said Bertrand Piccard, Solar Impulse co-founder and chairman.In 2010, the solar plane flew non-stop for 26 hours to demonstrate that the aircraft could soak up enough sunlight to keep it airborne through the night. A year later, it went on its first international flight to Belgium and France.Last year, the Solar Impulse made its first transcontinental voyage, travelling 1,550 miles from Madrid to the Moroccan capital Rabat in 20 hours.Before its coast-to-coast American trip, the Solar Impulse will take test flights around the San Francisco Bay Area in April, officials said.Piccard and Borschberg are planning an around-the-world flight in an improved version of the plane in 2015.Piccard comes from a line of adventurers. His late father, Jacques, was an oceanographer and engineer who plunged deeper into the ocean than any other person. His grandfather Auguste, also an engineer, was the first man to take a balloon into the stratosphere.Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones made history in 1999 when they became the first people to circle the globe in a hot air balloon, flying 25,000 miles nonstop for 20 days. by Terence Chea, The Associated Press Posted Mar 28, 2013 4:32 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more

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Spotify CEO disappointed over Taylor Swift pulling music off popular streaming site

Spotify CEO disappointed over Taylor Swift pulling music off popular streaming site HELSINKI – Spotify’s Swedish CEO voiced disappointment Tuesday that Taylor Swift pulled her music off the popular music streaming service, denying claims it’s making money “on the backs of artists.”Daniel Ek defended the service in a blog post, saying he had co-founded the platform to protect artists from piracy and had paid more than $2 billion to music labels and publishers since 2008.In the blog titled “$2 Billion and Counting,” Ek said that piracy doesn’t pay artists a penny, “nothing, zilch, zero,” while Spotify’s payouts for a top artist like Swift were on track “to exceed $6 million a year.”Artists complain that music streaming services and file sharing have sharply cut into album sales and that the fees Spotify pays to record labels and music publishers, with a portion eventually funneled to musicians, is too small.Swift pulled her music from Spotify last week, meaning her songs, which were among the most streamed on the service, are no longer available to its 50 million users.“Music is art, and art is important and rare,” Swift wrote in the Wall Street Journal last summer. “Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for.”Spotify says nearly 70 per cent of the revenue it receives from paying customers goes back to rights holders in the form of royalty payments and the more people who pay for Spotify the more money artists get. Customers pay $9.99 a month for Spotify’s premium streaming service, which gives them access to its music library on smartphones and computers without any advertisements.The company claims 12.5 million of its 50 million users subscribe to the premium service, the remainder using the free service that is funded by advertisements.Ek conceded that it was a big problem if “money is not flowing to the creative community in a timely and transparent way.”“We will do anything we can to work with the industry to increase transparency, improve speed of payments, and give artists the opportunity to promote themselves and connect with fans,” Ek wrote. AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email by Matti Huuhtanen, The Associated Press Posted Nov 11, 2014 10:47 am MDT read more

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Check your insurance policy before renting out your home experts say

OTTAWA – Canadians looking to make a few extra dollars this summer by renting out their home or cottage when they aren’t using them should call their insurance broker first or face the risk a claim may be denied if trouble arises.“Traditional personal coverage wasn’t necessarily designed for commercial activity and people need to be aware of that and what their insurance coverage requires,” says Steve Kee, a spokesman for the Insurance Bureau of Canada.“Each company may have its own practices and insurance claims. If something were to happen you may be denied if you say you use your home for just your home and then all of a sudden they find out it is on an Airbnb or something like that.”Owners of a house in Calgary made headlines last month after their home was trashed by renters who used it for a massive party that resulted in more than $100,000 in damages.In that case, Airbnb stepped up to pay for the damages that left the owners unable to live in their home while it was being cleaned and repaired.However, like insurance policies, not all rental services are the same and if you’re thinking about listing your home you need to read the fine print of the service you use to understand what may and may not be protected.Jamie Martyn, president of Kennedy Insurance Brokers in North Bay, Ont., says coverage under your homeowner’s policy isn’t automatic and you need to check with your agent or broker.If you’re renting your cottage, your policy may already allow that, but it might be a different story for your home, especially if you’re renting out your entire house and not just the spare bedroom.“Some companies may not be comfortable with it and they may choose not to continue insuring you if you do that,” Martyn said. “Some may add an endorsement to the policy that says, ‘Yes, you can do this and we will charge an extra $200 a year,’ or whatever the premium is for that.”For its part, Airbnb recommends on its website that you check with your insurance company to understand your coverage.In the U.S., the company has its Host Protection Insurance, but the program doesn’t extend to Canada. Here, the company offers what it calls its Host Guarantee. Under the program the company promises reimbursement of up to C$1 million for damage, subject to certain limitations, but it is not an insurance policy.Airbnb also suggests homeowners consider independent insurance to cover things like jewellery, art and other collectibles that are subject to limited protection under the host guarantee. You can also require a security deposit.Kee says growth of what has been called the “shared economy” has exposed some gaps for the insurance industry, noting that similar concerns would apply to your auto insurance if you are using your car to drive people using ride-hailing apps.But, he said, insurers are working to adjust their policies to accommodate the new demands from policyholders.“I think this is just the beginning,” Kee said. “Industries always adapt. When you have a competitive marketplace people are always looking for ways to do that.” by Craig Wong, The Canadian Press Posted Jun 26, 2015 8:26 am MDT Last Updated Jun 26, 2015 at 9:02 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Check your insurance policy before renting out your home, experts say read more

Start reading Check your insurance policy before renting out your home experts say