US Senators slam H-1B visa programme

first_imgFrom Lalit K JhaWashington, Feb 26 (PTI) Top US lawmakers today slammed the popular H-1B visa programme and demanded strict action against companies abusing it to replace Americans with low-paid foreign workers, including from India.”The sad reality is that ? not only is there not a shortage of exceptionally qualified US workers ? but across the country thousands of US workers are being replaced by foreign labour,” Senator Jeff Sessions, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and The National Interest, said during a Congressional hearing.Sessions refuted the claims of many US companies about shortage of skilled workers in the US and thus the need to bring in qualified foreign workers from India.”The data shows that there is no shortage of highly qualified working American professionals, nor is there a shortage of American STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) college graduates every year,” he said.Senator Patrick Leahy, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee said immigrant visa programmes must be used to complement the US workforce, not displace it.”We must ensure that current laws are not misused in ways that disadvantage American workers,” he said.Sharing the concerns Leo Perrero and several other, who were fired by Disney, Leahy said when immigrant visa programmes are misused to depress the wages of American workers and outsource jobs, all workers suffer.”These programmes should be used to help create opportunities in America, not displace them, but the current allocation system does nothing to achieve that result,” he said.advertisementTestifying before the Senate Committee, Perrero, the fired Disney IT engineer, with teary eyes recollected the days when he was asked by Disney to train foreign skilled workers to replace him.Perrero said there are many American IT workers who have been displaced by both H1-B visa holders, who are physically being flown in from foreign countries, as well as the growing use of foreign remote offshore workers.Democratic Senator Dick Durbin alleged that the top recipients of H-1B visas are foreign outsourcing companies which use loopholes in the law to disqualify qualified American workers and offshore American jobs.This, he argued, is contrary to the very purpose for which H-1B visas was established. PTI LKJ NSAlast_img read more


‘Solari is very similar to Zidane’

first_imgReal Madrid have made the perfect managerial appointment in the eyes of Borja Mayoral, with Santiago Solari considered to be “very similar” to Zinedine Zidane.Comparisons between bosses of the Blancos from past and present are easy to make, given the paths they have trodden to fill the coaching hot-seat at the Santiago Bernabeu.Both Zidane and Solari represented Real with distinction during their playing days, before then going on to cut their coaching teeth within the club’s academy system. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Man Utd ready to spend big on Sancho and Haaland in January Who is Marcus Thuram? Lilian’s son who is top of the Bundesliga with Borussia Monchengladbach Brazil, beware! Messi and Argentina out for revenge after Copa controversy Best player in MLS? Zlatan wasn’t even the best player in LA! Having proved themselves at that level, the opportunity to take charge of the senior side has been presented to two club icons.Zidane revelled in his role, landing the Liga title and three Champions League crowns, and Solari is now hoping to follow that lead after being handed a three-year contract on the back of a productive caretaker stint.“He’s really close to the players, very similar to Zidane,” academy graduate Mayoral, who is currently on loan at Levante, told AS.“He’s very good at managing the squad, which is something Madrid always demand. I’m happy for him and pleased the club has put its faith in him.”Solari is also a coach to have talked up Mayoral’s potential in the past, which is offering the Spain U21 international striker hope of seeing more game time for Madrid.He said of those comments: “Yeah, I remember. He said it after a Youth League game.“The fact that the current Real Madrid coach said that about me makes me feel proud and gives me confidence.”Borja Mayoral Real MadridMayoral has made 31 first-team appearances for the Blancos, netting seven goals.He is, however, only 21 years of age and hopes a spell away from the Bernabeu spotlight will help to put him in a stronger position to push for more recognition in a star-studded squad.“Definitely,” he said when asked if it is still his intention to make the grade in the Spanish capital.“I’d love to do well at Madrid and with the national team, but I know it’s too soon for that and I have to focus on my current club, Levante.”Mayoral, who linked up with Levante on a season-long agreement at the end of August, has found the target on one occasion in seven outings for his loan employers.last_img read more


BCCI calls Sreesanth wanting to play for another country as ’empty talk’

first_imgBoard of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) acting secretary Amitabh Chaudhary on Friday said former pacer S. Sreesanth is indulging in empty talk by saying he can play for any other country.Recently, Sreesanth had hinted that he might spend the rest of his career playing for another country in the wake of the Kerala High Court’s decision to restore the life time ban on him.He had also pointed out that the BCCI had banned him from playing in India, but not the the International Cricket Council (ICC) and, therefore, he is free to play for any other country.”BCCI has imposed the ban, not ICC. If not India, I can play for any other country, because I am 34 now and I can only play for maximum six more years. As a person who loves cricket, I want to play cricket. And not only that, BCCI is a private firm; it is only us who say that this is the Indian team, but you know BCCI is a private body after all,” Sreesanth had said at an event in Dubai.Hitting back, Chaudhary said the ICC is very clear that any player who is banned by any full member can neither play for any other full member nor for any other association.The BCCI acting secretary added that all this is just empty talk and that the BCCI is very well aware of their legal position.On Tuesday, a division bench of the Kerala High Court had restored the life time ban imposed by the BCCI on Sreesanth in connection with the 2013 Indian Premier League (IPL) spot-fixing scandal.advertisementAllowing the appeal filed by the BCCI, the division bench headed by Chief Justice held that there is no violation of natural justice against the cricketer and quashed the single bench order in Sreesanth’s favour..Earlier, the BCCI had appealed to the Division Bench of Kerala High Court against lifting the life-time ban on the tainted pacer.Sreesanth was banned by the BCCI for his alleged role in the IPL spot-fixing in 2013.A single-judge bench of the Kerala High Court had earlier passed an order that the bowler’s life-ban be lifted.The court had also dropped all the charges against Sreesanth after he filed a plea challenging the life ban imposed on him.last_img read more


Darius Rucker Will Play A Concert At South Carolina’s Horseshoe If Gamecocks Win 6 Games

first_imgDarius Rucker singing while wearing a South Carolina hat.Twitter/@dariusruckerDarius Rucker is a huge South Carolina fan, but he’s not going too crazy with expectations for the Gamecocks in Will Muschamp’s first year. All he wants is a bowl game. Any bowl game.If South Carolina reaches six wins this year, the country star and former leader of Hootie and the Blowfish will play a concert at the famous ‘Horseshoe’ on his alma mater’s campus.Rucker agreed to the arrangement after receiving a tweet suggestion from a ‘Cocks fan. School president Harry Pastides quickly agreed.I think if we get 6 wins this season @dariusrucker should have another concert on the horseshoe— Croc (@WhiteJungleboi) August 10, 2016I’m dying to play the horseshoe. Start a petition tell them I’m in!! https://t.co/mgiW6vV9WF— Darius Rucker (@dariusrucker) August 10, 2016No need for a petition…consider it done! Darius in concert on the ‘Shoe after we get to 6! https://t.co/FMKYZ56Cpa— Harris Pastides (@HarrisPastides) August 11, 2016This isn’t the first time Rucker has put a performance on the line with South Carolina athletics, although this is a show he definitely wants to have. Last June, the country star serenaded ESPN’s Mike Golic with the Notre Dame fight song, after Golic’s Fighting Irish women’s basketball team beat the Gamecocks in the Final Four.With an SEC schedule, getting to six wins won’t be easy for South Carolina this season. Win at Vanderbilt, vs. ECU, at Kentucky, vs. UMass, vs. Missouri, and vs. Western Carolina. That’s probably the easiest path.[The State]last_img read more


ESPN’s Early Prediction For Nebraska-Illinois Game

first_imgAdrian Martinez throws a pass for Nebraska.ANN ARBOR, MI – SEPTEMBER 22: Adrian Martinez #2 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers throws a first half pass while playing the Michigan Wolverines on September 22, 2018 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)Nebraska football hasn’t had the start to the season it was hoping for. With coach Scott Frost at the helm for his second year, expectations are high.But a disastrous Week 2 loss to Colorado wasn’t a part of the plan. Not mention the Buffaloes lost to Air Force the following week.Still, the Cornhuskers are 2-1 heading into conference play. All is not lost for Frost and his team. A road game versus Illinois on Saturday kicks off Nebraska’s Big Ten slate. A big win would go a long way before the Cornhuskers head back home for a pivotal game versus No. 6 Ohio State.Heading into the Nebraska-Illinois contest, ESPN’s Matchup Predictor has determined a projected outcome for the game. The Matchup Predictor gives the Cornhuskers a 74.1% chance to win. Certainly a high percentage. But it makes sense. Illinois suffered an embarrassing 34-31 loss to Eastern Michigan this past Saturday. The week prior, the Fighting Illini pulled off a close win over UConn — a game which shouldn’t have been close in the first place. It’s safe to say this won’t be a fun season for Illinois fans.Week Four. #GBR x #TheGoodLife pic.twitter.com/mk7j48a8Ay— Nebraska Football (@HuskerFBNation) September 16, 2019Nebraska, on the other hand, struggles with inconsistency. One week, the Cornhuskers look like a legitimate Big Ten contender. The next, they struggle against an inferior team. What will they look like on Saturday against Illinois?Nebraska and Illinois kicks off at 8 PM ET on Big Ten Network.last_img read more


Technical meeting on opening of Kartarpur Corridor to be held on Friday

first_imgIslamabad: Pakistan on Thursday said that a technical meeting on the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor will be held on August 30 at the Zero Point. The corridor will connect Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district and facilitate visa-free movement of Indian Sikh pilgrims, who will have to just obtain a permit to visit Kartarpur Sahib, which was established in 1522 by Sikh faith founder Guru Nanak Dev. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from US “A technical meeting on the Kartarpur corridor is set to take place at Zero Point tomorrow (Friday),” Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal said while addressing the weekly briefing. “India concurred to Pakistan’s proposal and the technical meeting on Kartarpur Sahib corridor is being held on August 30 at Zero Point,” he said. Zero point is the point at which the Indian side of the corridor and the Pakistani side of the corridor will be converging. Also Read – Record number of 35 candidates in fray for SL Presidential polls “Pakistan remains committed to completing and inaugurating the Kartarpur Sahib corridor as announced by our prime minister,” he added. Pakistan and India are still discussing the modalities regarding opening of the corridor at Narowal, some 125-km from Lahore, for Indian Sikhs on the occasion of 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak on November 12. The corridor will also be the first visa-free corridor between the two neighbours since their independence in 1947. Pakistan is building the corridor from the Indian border to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib while the other part from Dera Baba Nanak up to the border will be constructed by India. Tension between India and Pakistan has escalated after New Delhi revoked Article 370 of the Constitution which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories on August 5. Reacting to India’s move on Kashmir, Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties with New Delhi.last_img read more


Kalyan Singh rejoins BJP after term as governor

first_imgLucknow: Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh rejoined the BJP on Monday after completing his term as Rajasthan governor, a constitutional post which offered him immunity from trial for criminal conspiracy in the Babri Masjid demolition case.The 87-year-old leader accepted the party’s membership in the presence of UP BJP chief Swatantra Dev Singh. His son Rajveer Singh, Lok Sabha MP from Etah, and grandson Sandeep Singh, minister of state for finance in Uttar Pradesh, were also present at the party office here. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’Kalraj Mishra was sworn in as Rajasthan governor on Monday after Singh completed the five-year term as governor of the state. Singh could face trial for criminal conspiracy in the Babri Masjid demolition case as the immunity he enjoyed while holding the constitutional post does not now exist. On April 19, 2017, the Supreme Court had ordered revival of the criminal conspiracy charges against senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&KIt also clarified that Kalyan Singh, who was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh when the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992, could not be brought in as accused to face trial as governors enjoyed immunity under Article 361 of the Constitution. However, the Supreme Court told the Cental Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to call Kalyan Singh as an accused as soon as he ceases to be the governor. Article 361 of the Constitution confers immunity to the President and governors from criminal and civil cases during their terms of office. Singh may have to face trial unless the Centre appoints him to another constitutional post, it is argued. According to the CBI case against Kalyan Singh, he had given an assurance before the National Integration Council as the then Uttar Pradesh chief minister that he would not allow the demolition. The Supreme Court had permitted only a symbolic kar sewa at the disputed site. But he allegedly acted contrary to his assurances, according to the 1997 order of the special judge, Lucknow, subsequent to a CBI charge sheet against him in 1993.last_img read more


WestJet severs ties with Hopper app after confusion about secret fares

first_imgWestJet Airlines said it is severing ties with airfare finder app Hopper due to confusion over the developer’s announcement the airline would offer “secret fares” on its app.Montreal-based Hopper announced Wednesday that WestJet and Air Canada were among its first global partners to unload some of their seats via “secret fares” at discounts of up to 35 per cent.But both airlines have disputed the claim that they would offer secret fares with Hopper and said they were offering the same discounts available to their travel agencies partners.“Due to the confusion this has created in the marketplace, WestJet is severing ties with Hopper,” company spokeswoman Lauren Stewart said late Thursday.WestJet said Hopper will still be able to sell the company’s published fares, comparable to those available on its website, but that it will no longer provide the private, discounted fares it offers to travel agents and other partners.Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said Thursday the airline doesn’t offer fares with Hopper that are not provided to its other partners.“From time-to-time we offer tactical fares on select markets to travel partners in the normal course of business and to remain competitive,” he said, adding that such fares offered by Hopper were not available in Canada.The company did not say whether it would end its partnership with the app developer along with its rival.In its release Wednesday, Hopper said other “secret fare” airline partners include LATAM, Turkish, Copa and Air China, adding they will be joined by other carriers in the coming weeks.But the company clarified Thursday night that its “secret fares” were a “Hopper-specific marketing strategy and not a unique class of airfare.”“Airlines offer distinct fares to specific types of agencies, in our case online travel agencies, and they are marketed under a range of different brand names,” Hopper spokeswoman Brianna Schneider said in an email. “We are currently contacting relevant parties to clear up any confusion.”last_img read more


In the news today July 31

first_imgSix stories in the news for Wednesday, July 31———NO 5G DECISION BEFORE ELECTION: GOODALECanadians will have to wait until after this fall’s federal election to find out whether Chinese tech giant Huawei can provide equipment for the country’s next-generation 5G wireless network. Canada needs more information from the United States about the nature of the potential security threat the U.S. believes the state-owned company poses, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told The Canadian Press, and it likely won’t come before campaigning begins for the Oct. 21 election sometime in early September. It is unlikely for that decision to be taken before an election, Goodale said Tuesday from London after a major meeting between Canada and its Five Eyes intelligence allies — the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.———LIBERALS DENY CLAIMS OF INTERFERENCEThe choice to reach out to two former ambassadors to China was part of an effort to make sure experts were sufficiently informed, not to pressure them into toeing the line, Liberal MPs said Tuesday as they shut down opposition efforts to investigate the matter. Members of the governing party who comprise a majority on the Commons foreign affairs committee were on hand to fend off allegations that the Prime Minister’s Office had attempted to pressure two former ambassadors to China over their public statements about Canada’s ongoing dispute with the People’s Republic. David Mulroney and Guy Saint-Jacques told The Globe and Mail newspaper last week they had been contacted by an official from Global Affairs Canada. Mulroney said the official had asked him to check with Global Affairs before making future comments on China and that the request had come from the PMO.———WETTLAUFER INQUIRY SET TO RELEASE REPORTA public inquiry examining the case of a serial-killer nurse who preyed on elderly patients is set to deliver its report today. The report is expected to delve into the circumstances that allowed Elizabeth Wettlaufer to kill eight patients without drawing suspicion while she worked at several long-term care facilities and private homes over nearly a decade. It is also expected to make recommendations aimed at preventing similar crimes in the future. Wettlaufer is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty in 2017 to killing eight patients with insulin overdoses and attempting to kill four others. Seven of the patients she killed were residents of Caressant Care in Woodstock, Ont., the community where the report is being released today.———TOP COURT SET TO WEIGH IN ON RAPE-SHIELD LAWThe Supreme Court is expected today to clarify the limits of Canada’s rape-shield law. At issue is just how far the law should go in protecting sexual-assault complainants from scrutiny of their sex lives. In the case before the top court, a man was initially convicted of sexually assaulting and impregnating a teenager. Ontario’s Appeal Court quashed the verdict on appeal.———BANK OF CANADA UNLIKELY TO FOLLOW ANY FED CUTThe U.S. Federal Reserve is widely expected to cut its interest rate Wednesday for the first time in over a decade — a big step, though one unlikely to pull Canada’s central bank out of its holding pattern any time soon. The Bank of Canada sent signals earlier this month that the Canadian economy is very much on its own path and, at least in the short term, has no reason to follow any move by the Fed to lower rates. One thing appears certain — Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz and his team will dissect the Fed’s explanation behind the decision.———NEW SPECIES DISCOVERED AT BURGESS SHALEResearchers at the Royal Ontario Museum and University of Toronto have uncovered fossils of a large predatory species in 506-million-year old rocks in the Canadian Rockies. The species is named Cambroraster falcatus. Lead author Joseph Moysiuk says it’s a fearsome-looking animal with a helmet-like structure covering its head and rake-like claws. He says it’s believed to have been a predator that fed on everything from worms to small larvae in the mud at the bottom of the sea. His supervisor, Jean-Bernard Caron, says it’s a level of predation they haven’t encountered before and adds more complexity to the Burgess Shale.———ALSO IN THE NEWS:— Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers remarks to Liberal candidates for the 2019 federal election.— Eileen E. Gillese, Commissioner of the Public Inquiry into the Safety and Security of Residents in the Long-Term Care Homes System will release her final report and recommendations in Woodstock, Ont.— In order to educate drivers about the effects of alcohol impairment, Upper Fraser Valley Regional Detachment (UFVRD), challenges participants to navigate a pedal cart while “under the influence” of vision goggles that create the sensations of impairment at 11 a.m. at Cultus Lake Go-cart-track, 4088 Columbia Valley Highway, B.C.— Job fair for laid-off Fort St. James workers called in the wake of a local declaration of financial crisis at 10:30 a.m. at Kwah Hall, B.C.— Hundreds of thousands expected to pack Vancouver-area beaches for the second night of the annual, three-night Celebration of Light fireworks festival at 10 p.m. at English Bay, Denman Street at Beach Ave., B.C.———The Canadian Presslast_img read more


Valcourt says First Nations flaunting transparency law will face immediate funding cuts

first_imgAPTN National NewsOTTAWA–Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt says the department will immediately cut funding and begin court action against any First Nation that refuses to comply with his government’s transparency law.Valcourt told reporters his department would be withholding funding for non-essential services like chief and council salaries, administrative costs and economic development projects. He also said the department would begin preparing the groundwork for court action against the non-compliant First Nation to force them to reveal their audited financial statements online. The deadline for complying passed Thursday at midnight.“First thing we are going to do is withhold funding; the process starts today,” said Valcourt. “The court order is a legal matter. In the next few days we will take steps to seek court orders against those who willfully refuse to follow the law.”Valcourt said funding for social services, health and education would not be impacted by the cuts.“We will not penalize the membership of the First Nation whose leadership refuses to comply with the law,” he said.The department released numbers on Thursday showing 52 First Nations had refused to comply with the law. The department said 529  First Nations have submitted their financial reports for posting by the department.Thunderchild Chief Delbert Wapass said his Saskatchewan community would not be complying with the law.“We are refusing to submit as well,” said Wapass.Onion Lake Cree Nation filed a $50 million court action against Ottawa Wednesday over the law. The oil-rich Saskatchewan First Nation’s statement of claim provides a glimpse at the department’s planned punitive steps against non-compliant First Nations.The document said the department planned to initiate two rounds of cuts to non-essential service, the first scheduled for Thursday and the second for Dec. 12. The document also alleges the department plans to terminate Onion Lake’s contribution on agreement also on Dec. 12. The contribution agreement includes funding for essential services.Valcourt would not comment on Onion Lake’s claim on termination of the funding agreement, saying the matter was before the courts.news@aptn.ca@APTNNewsThe ListDownload (PDF, Unknown)last_img read more


Toronto airline expands daily service to 3 Ontario cities including tech hub

first_imgTORONTO – FLYGTA Airlines says it will soon fly daily to three new Ontario destinations out of Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport, including an 18-minute flight to technology hub Kitchener-Waterloo.The Canadian airline says travellers will be able to fly with them from Toronto to Barrie’s Lake Simcoe Regional Airport and Region of Waterloo International Airport in Kitchener-Waterloo starting Nov. 6.The company says flights to London International Airport in London, Ont., will commence in December.FLYGTA has been offering eight daily flights to Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Niagara District Airport since Sept. 2016.Flights to Kitchener-Waterloo and Barrie will cost $129 each, including taxes and fees, and seat eight passengers, according to the company’s website.The company also operates charter flights, aerial tours of Toronto and getaways to Niagara wineries.last_img read more


Ban speaks out against Israeli plans to expand settlements

10 March 2010Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has repeatedly called for Israel’s settlement construction to come to a halt, has condemned its announcement that it is building 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem. “He reiterates that settlements are illegal under international law,” according to a statement by his spokesperson issued last night in New York.“Furthermore, he underscores that settlement activity is contrary to Israel’s obligations under the Roadmap, and undermines any movement towards a viable peace process,” it added.The Roadmap, endorsed by the diplomatic Quartet comprising the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia, calls for two States – Israel and Palestine – living side by side in peace and security.Yesterday, Israel’s Interior Ministry announced that it has approved plans to build 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem.“Unfortunately, the decisions that have been taken in the past few days are not helpful… to build a climate of trust,” Filippo Grandi, the new Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), told reporters in New York today.The Secretary-General noted last month that while Israel’s efforts and willingness to resume peace talks are welcome, returning to negotiations is hampered by developments on the ground, including continued settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territory.“At this crucial juncture, Israel should refrain from taking steps which have the potential to prejudge negotiations and create tensions,” especially in East Jerusalem, where settlements are expanding and Palestinians are being evicted, he stressed in a message to the UN-backed International Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace held in Qawra, Malta. read more


Sri Lanka to strengthen cooperation with EU bank

“New support from the European Investment Bank will help unlock essential new investment to improve sanitation in Colombo. I look forward to strengthening cooperation between the EIB and Sri Lanka in the years to come,” Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said following his meeting in Brussels with senior European Investment Bank officials responsible for lending in South Asia. The existing water supply and sewage network in Colombo was built a hundred years ago and is not adequate for the city’s needs. Once complete the upgraded water network will enable clean water to be supplied 24 hours a day and seven days a week, compared to the currently heavily restricted service.The new water investment programme will include provision of a new sewage network in currently un-served areas of Kirillopone. Under the initiative a new wastewater treatment facility will also be built to reduce pollution at the Wellawata sea outfall.“It is encouraging to see others joining in this effort to improve Colombo city dwellers’ quality of life which will cater to the increasing demand in the city for improved water and wastewater services,” said Sri Widowati, Country Director, Sri Lanka Resident Mission, Asian Development Bank. “This loan is a further example of the European Union’s support for Sri Lanka’s long-term development. Studies show that modern sanitation is one of the most important factors in people’s health and well-being. In addition, water supplies in many developing countries are under growing pressure from urbanisation and climate change, which puts a premium on the efficient use of those resources. We are pleased to provide assistance to help address these challenges and improve access to water and sanitation for the people of Colombo.” highlighted Tung-Laï Margue, European Union Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives.The 25 year long-term was formally agreed at a signature ceremony in Brussels by Ravi Karunanayake, M.P., Minister of Finance and Malik Samarawickrama, Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade of Sri Lanka and Andrew McDowell, European Investment Bank Vice President responsible for lending operations in South Asia. The new loan represented the EIB’s fifth sovereign loan in the country. Sri Lanka is to strengthen cooperation with the  European Investment Bank, the bank said in a statement today.The European Investment Bank is to provide EUR 50 million to support improvement and expansion of sewage networks across the Sri Lankan capital Colombo. The new loan will help Colombo Municipal Council to achieve its goal of providing full sanitation coverage to benefit people living and working in the greater Colombo area. The new EIB loan is European Investment Bank’s first ever support for water investment in Sri Lanka and the first loan for public sector investment agreed with the new post civil-war government. The European Investment Bank has supported investment in Sri Lanka since 2002 including backing climate related investment, private companies and post-tsunami recovery.The European Investment Bank is the world’s largest international public bank and one of the largest lenders for water investment worldwide. Over the last decade the European Investment Bank has provided more than EUR 37 billion for water related investment in 67 countries around the world. (Colombo Gazette) The new European Investment Bank loan to the Government of Sri Lanka will be used to finance investment works being undertaken by the Colombo Municipal Council. The Asian Development Bank will also support the water investment project and this new initiative marks the first time that the European Investment Bank has financed a project alongside another International Financial Institution in Sri Lanka. “Increased access to sanitation to be achieved by this project will improve the lives of thousands of people living in Colombo and contribute to achievement of sustainable development goals in Sri Lanka. The European Investment Bank is pleased to be working closely with partners in Sri Lanka to ensure an environmentally sustainable future for the country’s capital and is grateful for the excellent cooperation with the Asian Development Bank in our first joint support in the country. The fruitful discussions with Ministers Karunanayake and Samarawickrama have outlined how the EIB’s global experience can support new investment to improve lives and enhance opportunities in Sri Lanka.” said Andrew McDowell, European Investment Bank Vice President. read more


BRP CEO says US tariffs remain a drag on its growing boat

BRP Inc. says it has closed a deal to acquire a majority stake in Australia’s largest aluminum boat maker, Telwater Pty. Ltd., furthering the company’s push into the multi-billion fishing and pleasure boating market despite the pain of ongoing metal tariffs.The maker of Ski-Doo snowmobiles and Sea-Doo watercraft wrapped its agreement Thursday to buy 80 per cent of Telwater’s outstanding shares. Its owner and managing director, Paul Phelan, will stay on with the company and retain 20 per cent ownership.Telwater marks BRP’s third foray into watercraft in the past year after the Quebec-based firm acquired Alumacraft Boat Co. and Manitou Pontoon Boats last summer. The additions drove a one-third rise in marine product revenues to $146.3 million in the latest quarter.Chief executive Jose Boisjoli is declining to specify the purchase price, but says Telwater notches about $100 million in annual sales.The CEO is intent on casting a line to the world’s 700 million anglers via fishing and pontoon boats, though he says the spate of acquisitions means pausing any future purchase plans around watercraft.Boisjoli says the nearly year-long trade war between the United States and Canada has dented BRP’s margins, with the U.S. imposing a 10 per cent tariff — lifted in May — on aluminum for 50 weeks. Ongoing trade tensions between the U.S. and China remain a drag on BRP business.Boisjoli calls the tariffs “short-term pain,” pointing to BRP’s manufacturing flexibility and product diversity, which includes ATVs, three-wheeled motorcycles and Evinrude outboard motors. Companies in this story: (TSX:BRP)The Canadian Press read more


Tsunami devastation in Indonesia truly staggering UN teams find

Video of press briefing [13mins] “In some areas fatality rates top 75 per cent with 100 per cent of all homes and dwellings destroyed,” Kevin M. Kennedy, Director of the Coordination and Response Division of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said of the teams who had finally been able to assess the true dimensions of the disaster in the largely inaccessible Aceh province.In one area “they’ve lost in excess of 90 per cent of the population. That’s 6,500 people out of a pre-tsunami population of about 7,300,” he told a news briefing in New York. The survivors are receiving assistance but are “in dire straits,” he added. In another area, 24 of the 28 villages were completely destroyed.The overall death toll from the tsunami, which struck a dozen countries on 26 December, now stands at more than 165,000, 118,000 of them in Indonesia. There are hundreds of thousands still missing there, though much of this could be due to double counting or people in emergency camps who are just missing from their home sites.But “it could be, at the end of the day we could have another 10,000 or 20,000 deaths in Indonesia,” Mr. Kennedy said. “And we could have a lot more than that, too.”Mr. Kennedy said there were some 700,000 uprooted people in 100 sites in Aceh and he praised the work of the Indonesian Government and the UN’s non-governmental partners, noting that the vast majority of those needing assistance have now received it.”We are still seeking out to find isolated pockets of people, which we continue to find on a daily basis, but those numbers are decreasing,” he added. “So I think we’re reaching the point where we’ll be able to say in a few days that we have basically reached everybody with at least an initial distribution assistance.”Of the nearly $1 billion UN flash appeal launched earlier this month, $739 million have already been pledged, of which $199 million are already in the bank, he noted.The General Assembly’s plenary session was set to adopt a resolution calling for the urgent establishment of an early warning system that could save scores of thousands of lives in a similar future disaster and requesting that Secretary-General Kofi Annan explore ways to further strengthen rapid response capacities for immediate humanitarian relief efforts by the international community.”I have seen mile after mile of desolation, where once vibrant communities have suddenly ceased to exist,” Mr. Annan, who visited the region earlier this month, told the session. “I have looked into the eyes of fishermen whose silence expressed their loss as no words could. I have seen families torn asunder, mothers inconsolable, livelihoods gone.”But I have also seen examples of the best that humanity has to offer,” he added. “Governments of the affected countries moved quickly to do their part, with civil society and the private sector joining forces with them. Communities organized themselves spontaneously, reaching out to their neighbours, without waiting to be told what to do.”He noted that the UN mobilized itself early and quickly, thanked “our men and women in the field for the wonderful job they are doing in difficult circumstances,” and praised the “unprecedented response worldwide” from the general public and the private sector.”The generosity and support we have seen over the past few weeks have set a new standard for our global community,” he declared. “It is my hope that we will find a way of capturing this moment, nurturing this spirit, and bringing it to bear in other crises around the world.”I hope we will unite around it to heal old wounds and long-running conflicts. I hope we will seize it as an opportunity and a reminder to address other emergencies. I hope we will hold to it as a measure of our humanity,” he concluded. read more


Security Council okays plan to release Iraqi funds

The Security Council today endorsed the transfer of more than $220 million from the escrow account set up under the former United Nations arms inspection regime into accounts for the country’s development and the repayment of its UN arrears. In making the proposal earlier this week, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that $200 million would be transferred to the Development Fund for Iraq from an account set up under the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission for Iraq (UNMOVIC), which withdrew from the country on the eve of the United States-led invasion two years ago. A balance of $20,256,697, he said, would be credited against Iraq’s arrears in its contributions to the UN regular budget, peacekeeping operations and tribunal activities. read more


As Lebanese return home UN provides aid warns of mine risk

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has immediately sent out five emergency mobile teams to the main transit routes. The relief workers are handing out water, blankets, mattresses and other desperately needed items and assessing the population’s requirements and movements. In an update, the agency reported that as Lebanese civilians drive to their homes in cars stuffed with belongings, they are voicing relief at going back but trepidation at what they might find. “People are very happy to return, but have no clue whether their house is still there or whether they will have food to eat tonight,” the agency said. “One girl who came back from Syria told us she had left at 6 a.m. and now only wants to return home to her toys and friends.” The agency is not only helping the displaced but also refugees crossing back into Lebanon. Its teams in Syria have seen thousands of people return through the Dabousyah border crossing. UNHCR mobile teams are on hand there to distribute food and water. In preparation for the return, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner Judy Cheng-Hopkins met today with the Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who shared the agency’s wish for people to return home or as close to their original homes as soon as possible. The agency will be offering assistance to those without any homes, providing shelter during the emergency and transition phase. In the immediate future this would mean tents, but on the longer term, UNHCR plans, with the help of other agencies and in support of government activities, to contribute to providing more permanent shelter that can take people through the winter. Today UNHCR staff in Saida will be opening a warehouse and office and set up operations, while in Tyre a joint UN office will also be set up. “We are preparing for large distributions to help the returnees and are pre-positioning goods,” the agency said. Some 50,000 tents, 230,000 mattresses, 172,000 blankets as well as other supplies, including trucks, are presently being flown from all over the region or shipped towards Beirut. Meanwhile, UNHCR, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) have issued an urgent appeal concerning the dangers to civilians of unexploded military ordnance (UXO). They advised civilians to “exercise the utmost caution when approaching zones of military activity to ensure that the situation is safe.” On average, 10 per cent of shells, mortars and other projectiles do not explode on impact, according to the agencies, which warned that these pieces of (UXO) can remain lying on the ground or in other locations, but remain highly dangerous, according to the agencies, which warned that the slightest movement can cause them to explode. In order to avert the risk of loss of life or injury caused by UXO, the agencies are launching a nationwide campaign on Tuesday. read more


US consumer spending retreats in September first setback in 8 months

US consumer spending retreats in September, first setback in 8 months AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email by Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press Posted Oct 31, 2014 6:40 am MDT WASHINGTON – U.S. consumer cut spending in September for the first time in eight months, as incomes grew at the slowest pace this year. The figures underscore nagging economic soft spots that are expected to ease in the coming months.Consumer spending slipped 0.2 per cent in September, the Commerce Department reported Friday, the weakest performance since an identical decline in January. Income edged up 0.2 per cent in September in the smallest monthly gain since a flat reading last December.Shoppers appeared to take a breather after a big spending spree in August, which lifted consumer spending 0.5 per cent. Economists say September’s downturn shouldn’t last, especially amid a strengthening job market and a growing economy.Spending, which accounts for 70 per cent of economic activity, has fallen only three times since the recession ended in 2009.Economists blamed the weak September spending figure on falling energy prices and slower auto sales after a surge the previous month.Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said he expects consumer spending to accelerate to a 2.5 per cent rate in the current October-December quarter, faster than the 1.8 per cent spending gain in the third quarter.“The next couple of months will see spending pick up strongly as people start to spend their windfall from falling gas prices,” Shepherdson said.In September, spending on durable goods such as autos dropped a sizable 2 per cent after a 2.1 per cent jump in August. Spending on nondurable goods such as clothing, food and gasoline, was down 0.3 per cent, while spending on services such as doctor’s visits and utilities posted a modest 0.2 per cent rise.Lower prices at the pump mean consumers will have more to spend on other items.Another reason for optimism is continued strong job growth, which pushed the unemployment rate down to a six-year low of 5.9 per cent in September. More people working means higher incomes and more fuel to drive consumer spending.The small rise in income and the decline in spending in September resulted in a slight increase in the saving rate.Savings as a percentage of after-tax income rose to 5.6 per cent in September, up from 5.4 per cent in August. The saving rate averaged 4.9 per cent in 2013, down from 7.2 per cent in 2012. That had been the highest level in nearly two decades as Americans worked to boost savings following the 2007-2009 recession.Inflation as measured by a gauge tied to consumer spending edged up a slight 0.1 per cent in September, with prices up just 1.4 per cent over the last 12 months. That is well below the 2 per cent target for annual price increases which the Federal Reserve considers an optimal level for inflation.The government reported Thursday that the overall economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, grew at an annual rate of 3.5 per cent in the July-September quarter. Analysts believe after five years of sub-par economic growth, the economy has finally accelerated, helped by solid employment growth.Economists project growth of 3 per cent in the current quarter, helped by solid consumer spending. They are also forecasting 3-per cent growth in 2015, which would be the strongest level since 2005, two years before the start of the Great Recession.The improving economy prompted the Federal Reserve this week to end its third round of bond purchases, which have pushed the central bank’s balance sheet up by more than $3 trillion over the past six years. The Fed bought the bonds as a way to put downward pressure on long-term interest rates and provide an extra boost to the economy after it had slashed its key short-term rate to a record low near zero. read more


As concerns grow over falling ruble Russia moves to float currency takes

As concerns grow over falling ruble, Russia moves to float currency, takes aim at speculators by Vladimir Isachenkov And Laura Mills, The Associated Press Posted Nov 10, 2014 3:04 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email MOSCOW – As an acrobat in one of Moscow’s circuses, Yuri Friyuk is an expert at gyrating without falling on his face. Lately, he’s worried about whether the rubles he’s paid with can be as deft.Plagued by the Western sanctions imposed over the Ukraine crisis and by falling oil prices, Russia’s economy is struggling and the ruble is taking a head-spinning drop, losing a third of its value since the beginning of the year and touching an all-time low last week.On Monday, the national central bank on Monday decided to freely float the currency and shield it more from speculators.The move, which aims to spare the central bank from burning billions in reserves on supporting the currency, highlights the extent of Russia’s economic decline. The country appears to be sliding toward recession. Investors are pulling money out or seeking the safety of foreign currencies.For ordinary Russians, the currency’s plunge has fueled fears of a spike in inflation, as imports of goods like European cars or U.S. clothes become more expensive.“With groceries, the prices are rising significantly,” said Friyuk. “It never seems like it’s hitting your pocket that hard, but by the end of the month you can feel the difference.”The decline in most of 2014 seems to have been gradual enough that Russians weren’t overt in their discontent. But a sharp drop this month, when the ruble hit its historic low of 48 to the U.S. dollar on Friday — against 32 in January — may cause anger to rise.Much of the support for President Vladimir Putin hinges on the prosperity that washed over Russia during most of his years in power. Some observers warn that a long-lasting erosion of purchasing power could fuel social unrest and say the country’s financial stability is at risk.Whereas the central bank previously was trying to keep the ruble from dropping by simply spending dollars to buy up rubles, that strategy has hit a wall. The bank had reserves of $510 billion at the start of the year, but they stand at $400 million now. It spent $30 billion last month alone.The central bank said Monday it would stop intervening every day in the market to keep the currency up and instead take aim at speculators.To do that, it said it will limit loans to banks that use the money to go out and buy dollars. Central Bank Chief Elvira Nabiullina also said it will intervene “at any moment in the amount necessary to counter speculative demand.”Investors welcomed the move, as it will spare the country’s reserves and should help limit speculative trades against the ruble. The currency strengthened on Monday’s news, trading up 2.3 per cent at 45.6 rubles a dollar in late trading.Though the ruble rose on Monday, analysts say the free float could in fact see it decline over the longer-term. Western sanctions over the fighting by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine are unlikely to be lifted anytime soon.“The problem is we still have this big shadow of east Ukraine, the threat of sanctions is hanging over the whole economy and the currency,” said Chris Weafer, an analyst at Macro Advisory in Moscow.The ruble is also expected to come under more pressure next year, when Russian companies and banks will have to pay back about $100 billon in hard currency debts, Weafer added.The central bank had originally planned to allow the ruble to trade freely next year in what it had hoped would be a sign of its economic prowess. Instead, the move was made out of a desperate need to stanch spending of the national reserves.Speaking in Beijing, where he attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin voiced confidence that the central bank’s move will help stabilize the ruble. In a bid to assuage investors, he also vowed that the government won’t impose any capital controls.“We have seen speculative fluctuations of the rate, but I think it will end soon in the face of action taken by the central bank in response to action by speculators,” Putin said.Besides spending money to buy rubles in the market, the central bank has also sought to stabilize its currency by steadily raising its base interest rate from 5.5 per cent to 9.5 per cent last month. The higher borrowing rates have not helped the ruble much however, and are in fact likely to weigh further on the economy by making credit more expensive.In a nod to the challenges ahead, the central bank on Monday revised up its estimates for how much money investors will pull out of Russia this year, from $90 billion to $128 billion. It predicted zero economic growth next year. read more