UN launches campaign harnessing support to end violence against women

6 November 2009The United Nations kicked off a campaign today mobilizing people around the world to take part in a drive to stop the pandemic of violence suffered by women at the hands of men. The UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) launched a website to inspire individual efforts aimed at eradicating violence against women, such as reaching out to school students, volunteering at local shelters, advocating for legislation or donating funds for programmes that protect women and girls.The Say NO – Unite to End Violence against Women initiative’s website also aims to showcase the widespread problem – estimates say around 70 per cent of all women have been victim to some kind of violence – and demonstrate the groundswell of support by counting the number of deeds performed to combat the scourge.“We know that violence against women is a problem with solutions,” said UNIFEM Executive Director Inés Alberdi after visiting patients at a one-stop health clinic for women victims of sexual violence in Nairobi, Kenya, to jump-start the international effort. “What I have seen first-hand today in Kenya is the impact of effective work at the grassroots level, yet there is an urgent need for governments to make this issue a top priority and take decisive action,” said Ms. Alberdi.Counting efforts by individuals, governments and civil society groups, the campaign has targeted 100,000 actions by March 2010 and 1 million by this time next year. As an incentive, the luxury watch manufacturer OMEGA has pledged $50,000 to the scheme for the first 50,000 actions registered on the website, thanks to efforts by UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador Nicole Kidman. Throughout November, the multi-lingual broadcaster Euro News will air a public service announcement with Ms. Kidman, which calls on every individual to say no to all forms of violence. read more

Deputy UN chief urges increased global support for small island developing States

Economic, environmental and social vulnerabilities in small island developing States (SIDS) have deteriorated during the past 10 years, undermining their capacity to achieve the globally agreed development targets, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro has said, urging the international community to provide more support to those countries.External shocks, including the impacts of the global financial crisis, the food and fuel crises and climate change have exacerbated SIDS’ vulnerabilities, leaving the viability and very physical existence of some of them at stake, Ms. Migiro said yesterday, giving an overview of issues addressed at a two-day meeting on SIDS held on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly’s high-level debate in New York.The meeting was convened to review the Mauritius Strategy adopted in 2005 to advance sustainable development among the vulnerable group of countries. Small island developing States face unique vulnerabilities as a result of their small size, isolation, narrow resource base, limitations on economies of scale, and high exposure to global environmental threats.The review meeting reaffirmed the need for the international community to continue to address and support the unique and particular vulnerabilities of SIDS, which were recognized at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and underscored in Barbados in 1994 and again in Mauritius five years ago.“Substantial progress has been made in implementing the Mauritius Strategy, which is directly linked to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” Ms. Migiro said. “However, renewed efforts are needed to live up to promises and commitments made in the recent past,” she added.At the meeting, it was acknowledged that SIDS had demonstrated strong political commitment to continue to do their part in building resilience to their special vulnerabilities. However, there is a clear need to bridge the gaps in implementation with coordinated and sustainable support from the international community.Discussions highlighted a number of priorities, including: Defining measurable goals and indicators for monitoring and evaluation, and strengthening capacities for data collection and analysis; scaling up resources made available to SIDS including for meeting new challenges; enhancing strategic partnerships, and monitoring and coordination mechanisms, especially at the regional level and within the UN system, for example through the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) and the Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD).Other recommendation include strengthening South-South cooperation, including among SIDS; placing a special focus on a number of sub-areas, including climate change mitigation and adaptation, biodiversity, natural disasters, sustainable energy, transport and trade, marine and coastal resources, fisheries, tourism, finance and debt sustainability.Highly vulnerable SIDS face a number of practical challenges and yet are often not eligible for special financing or other resources. In this respect, the discussions highlighted the need to develop a SIDS vulnerability index.Middle-income SIDS face special challenges in the absence of international support measures, commensurate with their high vulnerability. In this context, it was felt by many participants that consideration should be given to exploring formal UN recognition of SIDS as a special category, to be tied to preferential treatment and access to concessionary financing, debt relief, trade, special programmes, and to development assistance, without prejudice to the needs of other vulnerable economies. The review also highlighted shortcomings in institutional support for SIDS and constraints to the implementation of the Mauritius Strategy and Barbados Programme of Action. A comprehensive review of such Strategy and concrete recommendations for action are needed.Ms. Migiro said the UN, in partnership with the members of the Inter-agency Consultative Group, which includes all key UN agencies as well as inter-governmental and regional organizations, is committed to providing strong, coherent and coordinated support to those efforts. “The issues facing SIDS are truly global issues that affect us all. Let us work together to achieve in small island developing States a model of sustainable development with lessons and benefits for all,” Ms. Migiro said. 26 September 2010Economic, environmental and social vulnerabilities in small island developing States (SIDS) have deteriorated during the past 10 years, undermining their capacity to achieve the globally agreed development targets, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro has said, urging the international community to provide more support to those countries. read more

Some of worlds richest countries let poorest children fall further behind –

3 December 2010Italy, the United States, Greece, Belgium and the United Kingdom top a list of two dozen developed countries that let their most vulnerable children fall even further behind, with enormous consequences not only for the youngsters themselves but for the economy and society at large, according to a new United Nations report released today. Italy, the United States, Greece, Belgium and the United Kingdom top a list of two dozen developed countries that let their most vulnerable children fall even further behind, with enormous consequences not only for the youngsters themselves but for the economy and society at large, according to a new United Nations report released today.“As debates rage on austerity measures and social spending cuts, the report focuses on the hundreds of thousands of children who risk being left behind in the world’s richest countries,” Gordon Alexander, Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Innocenti Research Centre, said of the study, which puts Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Switzerland and the Netherlands at the top of those caring for their least advantaged children.“This need not happen – the standard set out in this report is not based on some theoretical ideal of greater equality but on what some OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] countries have already achieved for their children.” The study – Report Card 9: The Children Left Behind – for the first time ranks 24 of the 31 OECD top industrialized countries in terms of equality in health, education and material well-being for their children, focusing on bottom-end inequality for the most disadvantaged children.With much of the data coming from before the current financial crisis, the report calls its findings a “snapshot in good times,” warning that the heaviest consequences of an economic downturn tend to fall on the most vulnerable families and their children.“In hard times, the poorest children should be the first to be protected, not the last to be considered,” it declares. “A child has only one chance to develop normally in mind and body. And it is a primary responsibility of government to protect that chance – in good times and in bad.”Hundreds of studies in OECD countries have shown that the costs of children falling too far behind include a greater likelihood of inadequate nutrition, lower educational achievement, chronic stress for the child and impaired development, but this long list of problems also translates into significant costs for society as a whole. “Unnecessary bottom-end inequality prepares a bill which is quickly presented to taxpayers in the form of increased strain on health and hospital services, on remedial schooling, on welfare,” the report stresses.It cites those countries which have more effectively used family benefits and tax breaks to close the gap on child inequality and poverty as showing that the problem can be eased through policy decisions, without sacrificing efficiency and economic performance.“The 24 OECD countries being compared are all highly developed nations with a similar capacity to limit child poverty,” Mr. Alexander said. “The fact that some countries are doing better than others shows that the pattern of inequality can be broken, and that when exclusion is identified early, action can be taken to prevent a deep fall. The variation between countries revealed in the report offers a realistic goal for improvement.”In addition to those leading the way in promoting equality in children’s well-being and those letting their children fall further behind, the study also found that Switzerland has the least inequality in material well-being closely followed by Iceland and the Netherlands, with the highest relative gaps reported in Slovakia, the US and Hungary.Also, inequality in educational achievement (reading, maths and science literacy) is lowest in Finland, followed by Ireland and Canada, and highest in Belgium, then France and Austria.The study also found that the lowest levels of inequality for health are registered in the Netherlands, followed by Norway and Portugal, with the widest gaps found in Hungary, Italy and the US.The countries measured were: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and US. Seven other OECD countries – Australia, Chile, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Republic of Korea and Turkey – are also included in the report, but are not given a group ranking as they did not have enough data for at least one of the three dimensions measured. read more

UN 2010 among deadliest years for disasters urges better preparedness

2010 was one of the deadliest years for natural disasters in the past two decades and unless better preparations are put in place now, many more disasters can be expected in years to come, the UN’s top disaster reduction official said today.Some 373 natural disasters claimed the lives of more than 296,800 people last year, affecting nearly 208 million and costing nearly $110 billion, according to annual data compiled by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) of the Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium, and supported by the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), the UN body charged with helping coordinate efforts to achieve substantive reduction in disaster losses and build resilient nations and communities.“These figures are bad, but could be seen as benign in years to come,” said the head of UNISDR and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström. “Unless we act now, we will see more and more disasters due to unplanned urbanization and environmental degradation. And weather-related disasters are sure to rise in the future, due to factors that include climate change.”According to the data, the 12 January earthquake in Haiti killed more than 222,500 people, while the Russian summer heat wave caused about 56,000 fatalities – making 2010 the year with the highest disaster-related casualties in at least two decades.Currently, moderate to strong La Niña conditions are well-established in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, and are likely to continue until the first quarter of this year, according to the El Niño/La Niña update issued recently by the UN World Meteorological Organization, the data notes. El Niño is a large-scale warming of water in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean every three to five years and can last up to 18 months, while La Niña refers to the large-scale cooling of the ocean temperatures in the same region.La Niña is thought to be linked to the floods and landslides that occurred in Colombia last year, and more recently the floods in Queensland, Australia, triggered by rains that began in late December.“It’s critical for local governments, city leaders and their partners to incorporate climate change adaptation in urban planning,” Ms. Wahlström said, stressing that disaster risk reduction was no longer optional. “What we call ‘disaster risk reduction’ – and what some are calling ‘risk mitigation’ or ‘risk management’ – is a strategic and technical tool for helping national and local governments to fulfil their responsibilities to citizens.” According to CRED’s data, for the first time, the Americas became the world’s worst affected continents in terms of fatalities, with 75 per cent of total deaths caused by the earthquake in Haiti. Europe was the region with the second highest number of deaths, with the heat wave in Russia accounting for nearly a fifth of 2010’s total fatalities. Other extreme climate events in Europe included Storm Xynthia last February, floods in France in June and the extreme winter conditions all over Europe throughout December.Asia experienced fewer disaster-related deaths with 4.7 per cent of total fatalities, but remained the region most prone to natural disasters. An estimated 89 per cent of the total number of people affected by natural disasters last year resided in Asia.Five of the ten most deadly disasters occurred in China, Pakistan, and Indonesia. Earthquakes killed almost 3,000 people in China in April and 530 people in Indonesia in October. Between May and August, floods killed more than 1,500 people in China, and another 1,765 were killed by mudslides, landslides or rock fall triggered by heavy rainfall and floods in August. Nearly 2,000 people were killed by the massive floods in Pakistan.Floods and landslides during the summer in China are estimated to have cost $18 billion in losses, while flood-related destruction in Pakistan was estimated at $9.5 billion. The Haiti earthquake caused damage worth $8 billion, according to the CRED data. The costliest event in 2010, however, was the earthquake in Chile in February, with damages valued at $30 billion.The other two years when natural disasters caused higher losses were 2005, when damages from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma alone amounted to $139 billion; and 2008, when the earthquake in Sichuan, China, caused $86 billion worth of damages, a figure than brought the total losses for that year to about $200 billion. 24 January 20112010 was one of the deadliest years for natural disasters in the past two decades and unless better preparations are put in place now, many more disasters can be expected in years to come, the UN’s top disaster reduction official said today. read more

More Yemenis dependent on aid because of ongoing conflict – UN

As of last week, an estimated 75,000 people have been displaced from their homes in the governorates of Aden, Lahj and Abyan, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported in an update.Protection of civilians remained a major concern as the fighting rages, according to the OCHA situation report, which said homes in the Al-Hasaba district of Sana’a, the capital, Arhab to the north, and Zinjibar in Abyan governorate have been bombed or shelled.A severe fuel shortage has also exacerbated hardships for local people and hampered businesses, health services and humanitarian operations. The lack of fuel has led to rising unemployment amid soaring food prices. It has also disrupted the distribution of water to camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), a situation that could force IDPs to use contaminated water, increasing the risk of disease outbreaks.In Aden, IDPs are currently being accommodated in 48 schools, although some have moved in with local hosts. Food distribution has been ongoing, with 2,279 families having received their 15-day rations as of 8 July. Somali refugees in the south are also receiving food aid.In Abyan and Lahj, some IDPs are scattered in remote villages where it is difficult to reach them with humanitarian aid. Food distribution is scheduled to start in Abyan by the end of the month. 18 July 2011The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in southern Yemen is on the rise as a result of the continuing conflict, which has forced hundreds of thousands of people out of their homes, the United Nations reported today. read more

Ethical tourism vital to protect planet UN officials underline

“A tourism sector without an ethical conscience can harm our planet,” said Taleb Rifai, the Secretary-General of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), at the opening in Madrid, Spain, of the first International Congress on Ethics and Tourism.“We need to place ethics, responsibility and sustainability at the core of all our actions and ensure the adoption of and adherence to the principles of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism,” said Mr. Rifai.In his keynote address to the two-day Congress, the UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, Jorge Sampaio, called for shared responsibilities in tourism.“Sustainability requires a common vision of basic values in our increasingly interdependent world,” said Mr. Sampaio. “Because it involves the movement of millions of people, tourism can play a pivotal role in creating a shared sense of responsibility.”Mr. Rifai highlighted the theme of this year’s World Tourism Day, which will be ‘Tourism – Linking Cultures,’ as a clear example of the potential of tourism to contribute to the aims of the UN Alliance of Civilizations, an initiative launched in 2005 by Spain and Turkey under UN auspices to promote better cross-cultural relations worldwide. The Day is marked on 27 September.“With nearly one billion tourists crossing international borders, tourism is one of the best way for people to experience, interact with and learn from new cultures. This cultural exchange spurs dialogue among nations and peoples, fostering mutual understanding, respect and ultimately, peace,” he noted.At the Congress, UNWTO and the UN Alliance of Civilizations signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen relations and formalize UNWTO’s support for the Alliance’s mandate to “improve understanding and cooperative relations among nations and peoples across cultures and religions.”Organized by UNWTO and Spain’s General Secretariat of Tourism and Domestic Trade, the Congress has brought together more than 450 tourism officials, business leaders, international organizations and experts in the field of ethics and tourism to debate how to guarantee responsible and sustainable tourism.Issues to be discussed include gender equality, tourism’s role in poverty reduction, sustainable tourism practices in both the public and private sector, and codes of ethical conduct. 15 September 2011United Nations officials today stressed that the tourism industry must ensure it does business in an ethical manner, saying that irresponsible travel could harm societies and the environment despite its benefits to the global economy through job creation and community empowerment. read more

Security Council deplores failure by Sudan and South Sudan to withdraw forces

4 November 2011The Security Council today deplored the failure by the governments of Sudan and South Sudan to redeploy their troops from the disputed Abyei area and urged the two countries to do so immediately and without preconditions. “The Members of the Security Council underscore that there were no preconditions for the implementations of the agreements signed by the parties including the withdrawal of forces,” the Council said in a press statement read out by Ambassador José Filipe Moraes Cabral of Portugal, which holds the presidency of the Security Council this month.The Council urged both Sudan and South Sudan to implement agreements on Abyei “in spirit and letter.”It welcomed the rapid deployment of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) and the assistance provided by Government of Ethiopia, which has enabled regular patrols to be carried out since 23 August. The 15-member UN body encouraged UNISFA to increase its patrols and enhance its air mobility.The press statement followed the briefing to the Council on the situation in Abyei on 6 and 11 October by Hervé Ladsous, the Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, including on recommendations for the expansion of UNISFA’s mandate.Both the Government of Sudan and the Government of South Sudan must extend their full cooperation to UNISFA, the Council stressed, and urged Khartoum to facilitate the mission’s deployment and to expedite the issuance of visas to personnel and grant flight permission in a timely manner.The Council stressed the need for both countries to facilitate the safe return of internally displaced persons to their villages in Abyei and to provide unfettered humanitarian access to the area.It expressed it readiness to consider additional mandated tasks for UNISFA in support of the 30 July Agreement on the Border Monitoring Support Mission between the Government of Sudan and the Government of South Sudan, and in that regard reiterated the importance of all parties fulfilling the commitments already undertaken in agreements.The members of the Council also called upon both parties to finalize the establishment of the Abyei Area Administration and the Abyei Police Service, and to continue regular meetings of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee. read more

Canadas debtfuelled economy running on fumes Carney warns

Ottawa tightens mortgage rules to avert household debt crisis Finance Minister Jim Flaherty introduced a number of measures today to make it harder for people to buy or borrow on their homes. Read more OTTAWA — Canada’s relatively healthy economy has been largely based on borrowed money, but the situation cannot go on indefinitely, Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney warned Thursday.The central bank governor’s stern words to a business audience in Halifax comes just hours after Finance Minister Jim Flaherty moved to clamp down on household lending by reducing the amortization period on mortgages to 25 years from 30, and by limiting home equity loans.Carney makes clear that he endorses the moves, calling them “prudent” and “timely” to support the long-term stability of the housing market and guard against financial excesses. [np-related]And although he repeats language used in the past, Carney also suggests he has no patience for the view that instead of raising interest rates his next move will be to cut the trendsetting policy setting from the current 1%, where it’s been since September 2010.“Our economy cannot … depend indefinitely on debt-fuelled household expenditures, particularly in an environment of modest income growth,” he said in notes of the speech released in Ottawa.“Notably, housing investment rose further in the first quarter, accounting for an unusually elevated share of the overall Canadian economy.”Earlier this month, Statistics Canada reported that household debt in relation to disposable income had reached a new record at 152%, but much of that was due to falling incomes rather than increased borrowing.Still, there’s evidence of consumer fatigue already. In a report issued Thursday, Statistics Canada said retail sales fell an above-consensus 0.5% in April.Carney said that if the current economic expansion in Canada continues, “some modest withdrawal” of monetary stimulus — interest rate hikes — may become appropriate.The governor has used similar language on interest rates before, most notably the last two policy setting dates, but markets are largely ignoring his warning given the darkening storm clouds gathering outside Canada’s borders.On Thursday, the CIBC suggested that Carney may have little choice but to keep interest rates where they are until 2014, assuming that’s the time the U.S. economy shows some signs of life.Carney gives every indication in his speech that he is worried about the global recovery, particularly the growing risk that Europe’s debt crisis will expand and set off a chain of events that lead to slower global growth, and possibly even a double-dip recession.Some of the risks around the European crisis are materializing, he said, and now the outlook is “skewed to the downside,” which means it is more likely the situation will get worse than improve.This is already impacting the global economy. Slow growth in advanced nations have slowed expansion in China and other emerging markets, which have supported what little global growth there is. For Canada, this has meant the price of commodities like oil that Canada sells to the world have fallen, although they remain elevated.But the real danger is of European contagion, which given the inter-dependent global financial markets, will hit Canada as well.Even Canada’s strong fundamentals won’t save us, Carney said.“Given the reality of global finance, it is not enough to have our house in order unless we seal ourselves off from the world,” he said. “And if we do that, we will end up much poorer.”Carney’s words echo those of Flaherty early in the day, when he warned that unless Europe acts quickly to contain the damage, Canadians will be in for a difficult summer.The government made clear the solutions will not be easy, nor will they be instant. He said policy-makers must work to get the structure of the global economy right, fix the European monetary union, move to resolve global imbalances between borrowing nations like the U.S. and creditor nations like China, and continue with financial reforms that will end “too-big-to-fail” banks and build resilient institutions. read more

Closing Bell Toronto stock market closes slightly higher amid Syrian jitters falling

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market closed slightly higher Wednesday as the Syrian civil war continued to cast a shadow over trading and investors wondered if the U.S. will end up leading a military strike against the country, which is accused of using poison gas against its own civilian population.Here are the closing numbersTSX — 12,757.81 +17.31 0.14%S&P 500 — 1,653.08 +13.31 0.81%Dow — 14,930.87 +96.91 0.56%Nasdaq — 3,649.04 +36.43 1.01%The S&P/TSX composite index was up 17.31 points to 12,757.81 led by gains in utilities and industrials.The Canadian dollar rose 0.34 of a cent to 95.31 cents US as the Bank of Canada said it was keeping its key rate unchanged at one%, where it’s been since September 2010 amid a tough recovery from the 2008 crash.Strong vehicle sales data helped U.S. indexes gain momentum throughout the day while investors weighed President Barack Obama’s effort to win support in Congress for a military strike on Syria.Obama said Tuesday that he’s confident Congress will authorize a military strike. Congress could vote as early as next week, after it returns from summer break. The Dow Jones industrials jumped 96.91 points to 14,930.87.General Motors said its sales rose 15% last month, while Chrysler and Ford each reported 12% gains. Toyota posted the biggest increase as sales rose nearly 23% since August of last year. GM stock jumped 4.9% while Ford gained 3.37%.The Nasdaq gained 36.43 points to 3,649.04 and the S&P 500 index added 13.31 points to 1,653.08.“I think that goes to show you that this market is resilient, which it’s been for awhile — the U.S. market especially,” said Allan Small, senior adviser at DWM Securities.“I think people are looking to put money to work all the time, where a few years ago, it might have been the opposite case — any little thing would result in traders taking their money and running.”Traders also took in some positive data on the health of the U.S. economy during August.The Federal Reserve said in its latest regional survey that the economy expanded at a modest to moderate pace in August.The Fed said in its so-called Beige Book that manufacturing expanded modestly, lending activity weakened somewhat while hiring held steady or increased modestly.Traders are anxious to see if the Fed decides later this month to start winding up its monthly US$85 billion of bond purchases.The beaten-down utilities sector led advancers, up 1.43% with Capital Power (TSX:CPX) ahead 45 cents to $20.90.The component, along with other interest rate sensitive sectors, has been hit hard ever since Fed chairman Ben Bernanke first mentioned the possibility of Fed tapering back in May, which has had the effect of pushing bond yields higher.Industrials also boosted the TSX and Canadian Pacific Railway (TSX:CP) rose $2.19 to $125.97.The tech sector advanced with smartphone maker BlackBerry (TSX:BB) ahead 53 cents or 4.93% to $11.28.Commodity prices headed lower but the metals and mining sector was slightly higher as December copper fell six cents to US$3.24 a pound, erasing most of Tuesday’s gain that followed strong manufacturing data from China and the U.S.The telecom sector was the leading decliner, down 0.57%, giving back some of the 4% surge registered Tuesday after U.S. telecom giant Verizon agreed to buy out the remaining stake in its mobile phone business from Vodafone in a massive, US$130-billion deal. At the same time, Verizon made it clear it wasn’t interested in entering the Canadian wireless market. Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B) slipped 71 cents or 1.59% to $43.88 after running up 7% on Tuesday.October crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell $1.31 to US$107.23 and the energy sector was off 0.2%.The gold sector was off 0.16% as the December bullion contract lost $22 to US$1,390 an ounce.TOP STORIESMobilicity plans to transfer wireless users to Wind MobileBank of Canada holds rate, warning recovery is losing momentumSamsung unveils Galaxy Gear smartwatch, available Sept. 25Why real estate doomsayers continue to be wrongWHAT’S ON DECK THURSDAY ECONOMIC NEWSG20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia begins UNITED STATES8:15 a.m.ADP National Employment Report (August): Economists expect 180,000 jobs, down from last month 8:30 a.m.Weekly jobless claims: Economists expect 330,000 new claims Productivity (Q2): Economists expect 1.5% gain 10 a.m.Factory orders (July): Economists expect a decline of 3.4% Non-manufacturing ISM index (August): Economists expect a reading of 55, down from last month CORPORATE NEWSCANADANordion Inc Q3 earnings: Analysts expect 17¢ a share North West Company Inc Q2 earnings: Analysts expect 36¢ a share Patheon Inc Q3 earnings: Analysts expect 8¢ a share read more

TD trims mortgage rates after RBC Scotiabank and BMO do the same

TORONTO — Another big Canadian bank has lowered some of its mortgage rates slightly after an initial reduction by the Royal Bank over the weekend.[np_storybar title=”How factory-built homes are shedding their ‘cheap’ label and exploding in popularity” link=”https://business.financialpost.com/2014/01/20/how-factory-built-homes-are-shedding-their-cheap-label-and-exploding-in-popularity/”%5DMost new homes are built stick by stick, brick by brick, by a construction crew on-site, but a growing number of Canadians are buying homes right off the factory floor to be assembled on the lot within daysContinue reading [/np_storybar]TD Canada Trust now has a posted discounted rate of 3.69% for its five-year fixed mortgages, down from the rate of 3.79% that had been in effect since August.The bank has also made changes to several of its other closed rates.TD said in a an email it reviews its rates on an ongoing basis to “remain competitive and provide our customers with flexible mortgage options and the right rate to meet their individual needs.”The move comes after RBC lowered its rates on several fixed-rate mortgages over the weekend by 10 basis points, bringing its special offer five-year closed rate to 3.69%.Bank of Montreal and Scotiabank followed Tuesday.Scotiabank lowered its discounted five-year closed fixed term mortgage 10 basis points to 3.49% on its website Tuesday, down from 3.59% posted on the site Monday.BMO, meanwhile, lowered a number of its rates between 10 and 20 basis points, including its discounted five-year fixed rate to 3.69% from 3.89%. read more

CoucheTard hikes dividend by 20 as fullyear earnings surge on acquisitions

LAVAL, Que. — Alimentation Couche-Tard boosted its quarterly dividend 20% after reporting Monday that its adjusted profit increased 10% during the fourth quarter and full-year earnings surged due largely to acquisitions.The Quebec-based convenience store operator says it will pay four cents per share on July 30 to shareholders of record as of July 16.The company, which reports in U.S. dollars, earned $145.1 million or 25 cents per diluted share during its fourth quarter, down from $146.4 million or 26 cents per dilute share a year ago.Adjusting for one-time items, Couche-Tard earned 22 cents per diluted share, up from 20 cents a year ago, but three cents below analysts’ expectations.Revenues for Couche-Tard (TSX:ATD.B) totalled $8.95 billion for the period ended April 27, up from $8.78 billion a year earlier.For the full-year, Couche-Tard earned $812.2 million or $1.43 per share, compared with $572.8 million or $1.02 per share in the prior year, marking the sixth consecutive year of significant growth due largely to acquisitions. Its adjusted profit was $1.35 per share, compared with $1.11 per share in fiscal 2013.Revenues for the full year increased 6.8% to $38 billion, from $35.5 billion. read more

TransCanada Corps Energy East pipeline application should be suspended groups tell federal

TORONTO — More than 60 organizations are calling on the National Energy Board to suspend TransCanada’s application for the Energy East pipeline.Groups including Greenpeace Canada, the Council of Canadians and the David Suzuki Foundation said in a letter to the federal pipeline regulator that it should suspend the review process while waiting for new information from the company.TransCanada Corp. is due to update its application for the pipeline in the last quarter of this year with a new location for a proposed marine terminal in Quebec.But the groups say the regulator should overhaul the review process entirely and restart its evaluation of the Energy East project from the beginning once TransCanada submits the new information.The groups accuse the board of ignoring public input expressed in more than 100,000 letters, overlooking First Nations concerns and shutting out those worried about climate change, calling the consultation process a “fiasco.”The $12-billion Energy East project would ship 1.1 million barrels of crude a day from the Alberta oilsands to refineries in Quebec and New Brunswick through 4,600 kilometres of pipeline.Ontario and Quebec governments sign cooperation agreements on Energy East, climate changeTransCanada Corp faces new hurdle as Quebec imposes seven conditions on Energy East pipelineKatherine Murphy, a spokeswoman with the board, said in an email that public participation is a key part of the review process and it aims to hear from those “directly affected” by the project.Public hearings can’t be scheduled until TransCanada finds a new marine terminal and completes its application, she said.Murphy said climate change is an important issue but has a limited role in the board’s review process.“Any greenhouse gas emissions that would emit directly from the construction and operation of a pipeline are assessed by the NEB in its project assessment,” she said, adding that broader regulation of greenhouse gases is the responsibility of other agencies.“The NEB does not regulate the emissions resulting from the public’s demand for and consumption of energy.”TransCanada is searching for a new location for a planned Cacouna, Que. marine terminal, intended to include storage tanks and a marine port for loading oil onto tanker ships. That plan was scrapped last fall following a Quebec Superior Court injunction against seismic work at the site meant to protect nearby beluga whale calving grounds.In April, TransCanada cited the search for a new site as one reason for delaying the completion of Energy East by two years to 2020.The pipeline has faced opposition, with activists citing concerns that oil spills could affect water quality and the development could facilitate expansion of the oilsands.But TransCanada and other proponents of the project say it would be safer than rail and roads when transporting large oil shipments.The Canadian Press read more

WatchOntario government to sell nearly 2 billion worth of Hydro One shares

TORONTO — The Ontario government is selling more shares of Hydro One Ltd. in a move that could raise almost $2 billion for the province.The government and the electricity transmission and distribution company say they have entered into an agreement with a syndicate of underwriters for the secondary offering on a bought deal basis of some 72.4 million shares.The shares are being sold at $23.65 apiece for total gross proceeds of about $1.71 billion.Hydro One ’s ‘showcase’ IPO offered investors a slice of stability in uncertain timesHydro One buys Great Lakes Transmission in $373-million dealUnder an over-allotment option exercisable for up to 30 days following closing, the province could sell an additional 10.8 million common shares at the same price, raising gross proceeds to about $1.97 billion.After the offering, the province will continue to hold some 427.7 million common shares representing about 71.9 per cent of the company. That could drop to 70.1 per cent if the over-allotment option is exercised in full.A statement issued by Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli’s office said that with the latest stock sale the province remains on track to generate approximately $9 billion through broadening ownership in Hydro One.Net proceeds of the offering will go to the Trillium Trust to invest in transit, transportation and other priority infrastructure.Hydro One’s initial public offering on the Toronto Stock Exchange was completed Nov. 11.The company is Ontario’s largest electricity transmission and distribution company with approximately $24.3 billion in assets and 2015 revenues of more than $6.5 billion. read more

SLMC says sorry to Buddhists

“Voters must make their decisions regarding policies and development decisions made by the government. As the ruling party we are completely against politicians spreading religious tension around the country,” he said at a media conference.In 2009, Sri Lanka ended a three decade war that was caused by ethnic tension between the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils. (Xinhua) Sri Lanka’s main Muslim party on Friday apologized for an anti-religious statement made in the run up to elections in September, a statement released by its leader said.Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader and Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem apologized for a statement made regarding Buddhist monks engaging in politics and insisted that his words were maliciously taken out of context. Hakeem went onto stress that he has always stood for pluralism and religious tolerance in Sri Lanka’s diverse ethnic composition and that he would continue to do so. “With no further attempts at procrastination, I wish to tender an unreserved apology to all Buddhists of Sri Lanka. I specifically request the Buddhist prelates of Sri Lanka to accept this apology for which I, as the Leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress take personal responsibility,” he was quoted as saying in the statement. The Muslim Congress is independently contesting upcoming Provincial Council elections in the eastern part of the country where a large Muslim population resides.Hakeem’s statements drew much criticism with Cabinet spokesman and Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella who called on politicians to stop campaigning on religious and ethnic lines. read more

Australia deports 18 Lankan asylum seekers

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen MP, today announced that a group of 16 Sri Lankan men – part of the post-13 August caseload affected by new regional processing arrangements – are returning home voluntarily, the Australian High Commission in Colombo said today.Two other Sri Lankan men in immigration detention who arrived before 13 August are also being returned. “People who pay smugglers to risk their lives on a dangerous sea journey are throwing their money away, as demonstrated by the speedy return of this group.“Transfers off Christmas Island will continue. People arriving by boat will be sent to Nauru and Papua New Guinea. This Government is determined to break the people smuggling trade and stop people getting on those dangerous boats,” Mr Bowen said.People in immigration detention can request their removal from Australia at any point in time. Those who choose to depart voluntarily can be provided with individual reintegration support to assist with their sustainable return, through the International Organization for Migration. “These individuals chose not to pursue asylum claims and face transfer to a regional processing centre in Nauru or Papua New Guinea and instead chose to return home voluntarily,” Bowen said. According to the Australian High Commission in Colombo, Bowen said the Australian Government was committed to implementing the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers’ key principle related to a strategic, comprehensive and integrated policy approach that provides no advantage to people choosing to travel to Australia by boat. “We have completed more transfers of boat arrivals to Nauru this week and they will continue to occur in the coming days and weeks.“Both the Nauru transfers and this group of adult Sri Lankan men choosing to return home provide further evidence that the people smugglers are selling lies and misleading asylum seekers about the situation they will face if they reach Australia by boat. The men were removed on a charter flight from Christmas Island to Colombo today that departed at 8.15am local time. read more

Katchatheevu issue to court

Karunanidhi, in his petition, urged the apex court to declare the agreement between India and Sri Lanka reached on June 26 and 28, 1974 and the accord of March 23, 1976, for giving Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka, as void and unconstitutional. The petition said that Centre be directed to take appropriate actions to restore the pre-existing historic rights of the fishermen of Tamil Nadu to fish in the waters surrounding the island. “The issue involved in this writ petition is the unconstitutional ceding of the island of Katchatheevu by the Prime Minister of India to the Island nation of Sri Lanka, completely disregarding the constitutional provisions and totally ignoring the federal polity of our country which is an integral part of the basic structure of the Constitution,” the petition said.Katchatheevu is an uninhabited island located about ten miles North East of Rameswaram on the Indian side and Nine miles of south of Delft Island on the Sri Lankan side. It has an area of 285.20 acres. The Indian Supreme Court today issued notice to the Indian government on DMK chief M Karunanidhi’s plea seeking direction to the government to retrieve the island of Katchatheevu which was given to Sri Lanka in 1974 and make it as part of Tamil Nadu.Agreeing to hear the plea, a bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir sought a response from the Centre, the Press Trust of India reported. read more

Gold smuggled from Sri Lanka

Smugglers take advantage of minor difference in price in foreign countries and reap huge benefit by evading import duty in India. Sri Lanka is popular because gold costs lesser than in India. Customs officials in Chennai have seized 2.5kg of gold smuggled from Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia.Indian media reports said that 14 people have been arrested after they arrived on different flights. The travellers hailed from Thanjavur, Trichy and Madurai and had gone to Malaysia, Singapore and Colombo on tourist visas. Checks revealed that they had concealed small quantities of gold in their bags. Smugglers often depend on carriers to bring gold to the country. These carriers are mostly paid 5,000 to 7,000 per consignment. “Carriers often travel light and would have travelled several times. We profile carriers and identify them using the information from their passports,” said an official. “Many of the detained passengers frequently travel abroad. Questioning revealed that they were supposed to hand over gold to two smugglers in the city. Police would be investigating about those smugglers,” said an airport official, according to the Times of India. read more

Pakistan hails broad relationship with Sri Lanka

Shakeel Hussain said that the Government of Pakistan is actively engaged with all neighboring countries in an effort to create a peaceful neighborhood and at the same time intensifying economic engagement with all friendly countries. The High Commissioner highlighted that the President Maithripala Sirisena’s state visit to Pakistan in April, 2015, is a testimony to the fact that both countries attach great importance to this mutually beneficial relationship. He elaborated that during the visit both sides agreed to expand cooperation in the areas like higher education, industrial development, shipping, disaster management, peaceful use of nuclear technology and exchange of expertise in various areas of mutual interests.  The leadership’s decisions are being followed up vigorously with exchange of high level delegations, he added.Shakeel Hussain said that Pakistan and Sri Lankan face significant challenges, at the same time they have tremendous opportunities. This mutuality provides a wide canvas for both countries to help and support each other, in order to jointly overcome challenges and maximize opportunities, he added.The High Commissioner also conveyed warm regards and best wishes from the government and people of Pakistan to the government and people of Sri Lanka. He underlined that Pakistan is celebrating its 69th Independence Day at a time when the country is entering into a new era of development, prosperity, peace and political stability as the Government and people of Pakistan are unanimous in their resolve to make Pakistan truly democratic, welfare and prosperous state. Pakistan today said that the brotherly and time tested relationship between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, having depth, breadth and diversity, serves as a beacon for other countries of South Asia.The High Commissioner of Pakistan in Sri Lanka, Maj Gen (R) Syed Shakeel Hussain said this while delivering his message on the occasion of the 69th Independence Day of Pakistan today in Colombo. On Pakistan-Sri Lanka relations, he explained that historical and cultural links between our two peoples date back to the time when the Indus Valley and Gandhara Civilizations prospered in what is now Pakistan. He further said that Pakistan and Sri Lankan are continuing to nurture their mutually beneficial relations in diverse fields.He added that both countries are exploring ways to broaden and deepen the economic ties, through enhancement of trade and bilateral investments, within the framework of the Free Trade Agreement as our top most priority. Later, the messages of the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan were read out to the participants. The High Commissioner also hoisted the national flag of Pakistan and cut Independence Day Cake with Children during the ceremony attended by a large number of participants from various walks of life including members of the Sri Lanka Pakistan Friendship Association, Pakistan Sri Lanka Business Council, prominent Sri Lankan personalities, Pakistani community and wide section of media. (Colombo Gazette) read more

Indian FM here next month for key talks

Ahead of her visit, Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar is expected to visit Sri Lanka this week for talks. Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj is expected to visit Sri Lanka early next month for key talks.Foreign Ministry sources said Swaraj will be in Sri Lanka for discussions on the Indo-Lanka joint commission. She will also have talks with the Government on the fishermen issue and political developments in the country. Sources said the date for the visit is not confirmed, but he may arrive before January 15.Jaishankar is expected to have brief talks with the Government and also set the groundwork for the Indian Foreign Minister’s visit to Sri Lanka next month. (Colombo Gazette) read more

Port City officially informed it can resume work from today

The Government today officially informed Chinese investors of resuming the construction of the multi billion dollar Port City project in the capital, one year after its suspension, the Xinhua news agency reported.The Ministry of Ports and Shipping, in an official letter to the CHEC Port City Colombo (Pvt) Ltd, said that the company could resume the construction of the project immediately. “Accordingly the suspension effected by my letter dated March 6, 2015, is hereby withdrawn with effect from today (Monday),” the ministry said in the letter. The 1.4 billion dollar project which will be the first of its kind in South Asia began construction adjacent to the Galle Face Green and near the Colombo Harbour in September 2014 under the previous government.However, it was suspended by the new government of President Maithripala Sirisena in March last year, six months after it began construction. The new government said that the project needed to be reviewed. “At its meeting held on March 9, 2016, the Cabinet of Ministers has granted approval for the project to resume immediately,” the letter said. The Port City is expected to boost the local economy by generating millions of dollars upon its completion and generate over 80,000 jobs. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that the island nation will have a “unique financial and business district” in Colombo when the Port City resumes work.The project includes a marina and yacht club, a central boulevard, a sea view apartment complex and a five-star hotel, shopping and entertainment center, office space, a mini golf course, and many other modern facilities.The Port City is also vital in the government’s megapolis development program which was launched this year and is set to transform the capital and its suburbs in the coming years. (Colombo Gazette) read more