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

This bloody tax is pushing us against the wall Retirees outofprovince residents

VANCOUVER — When Rick Smith’s son decided to move from Yukon to Victoria for college he bought him a condominium to avoid high rents, but a new provincial tax means the property may turn out to be more of a financial burden than anticipated.“Our contribution to his future is to put a roof over his head during his studies,” Smith said Wednesday. “This bloody tax is pushing us against the wall.”Finance Minister Carole James released details of what the government is calling a speculation tax on Monday that predominantly affects properties owned by non-B.C. residents.James said the tax is intended to improve housing affordability in areas where the need is most acute, while exempting rural cabins and vacation homes.Revised B.C. housing tax still a turn off for out-of-province homeownersB.C. makes changes to speculation tax after criticism from homeowners‘Fear and uncertainty’: Out-of-province homebuyers could rush to sell if B.C. slaps speculation taxAreas covered by the tax include Metro Vancouver, Kelowna, West Kelowna, Nanaimo-Lantzville, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission and the Capital Regional District around Victoria on southern Vancouver Island, excluding the Gulf Islands and Juan de Fuca.Canadians living outside B.C. who own a property in these areas will be subject to a one per cent tax based on the assessed value, while foreign owners will pay two per cent. Owners of properties living outside the province can avoid the tax by renting them out.Smith bought the condo last October with the intention that his son Kristian would live there for at least five years while studying at Camosun College.He said many northern students pursue studies in other provinces, and his son preferred the bachelor of business administration program in B.C.But the one per cent tax will add about $400 per month to the $2,300 he is already spending on the mortgage and condo fees.“That is a real stretch for us,” he said.Smith said they’ll likely have to sell, but that will be a financial hit too because of the transfer tax and penalties for breaking his fixed mortgage agreement.Selling would also put his son back into the expensive and competitive rental market.Smith said he’s already suggested his son consider switching to another college in a more affordable city such as Calgary, Edmonton or Winnipeg.“I think his preference, unless he can’t afford it, is to stay in B.C.  He’s really keen on putting his roots down there,” he said, adding it’s ironic if the tax intended to improve affordability for young professionals is the trigger that forces his son to leave.The Smiths aren’t alone in grappling with the implications of the tax.Bryant Stooks and his family say they will likely have to give up the beloved summer home on Vancouver Island they’ve had for more than two decades.Stooks is retired and lives full time in Phoenix, Ariz., but spends four to five months at his North Saanich home every year. He bought the property not as a financial investment but because while visiting the area on vacation with his wife, “we just fell in love with it.”He said communities stand to lose if people like himself, who couldn’t afford a tax hike, have to leave.“We spend money on food, restaurants, entertainment, we bring up friends. There is a large contribution to the Canadian economy,” he said.They participate in the local community, too, supporting fundraisers for the local hospital and community centre.A tax of two per cent on the house’s assessed value could cost Stooks up to $60,000 annually, he said, meaning he’d have no choice but to sell.“Although I love it, it’s my second home, I just can’t afford to pay that every year.”Stooks said his situation isn’t unique and he knows of a number of families in the Phoenix area that live part time in B.C. to escape the summer heat — the opposite of Canadian snowbirds.While he said it’s understandable the government is trying to curb speculation to cool the soaring housing market, long-term residents shouldn’t be penalized.Stooks isn’t putting the house on the market yet, holding out hope that the government may reconsider.Selling it could pose a challenge as well, he said, since buyers from outside B.C. could also be subject to the tax.Bill Veenof, chairman of the Regional District of Nanaimo, said he raised concerns with the finance minister about the effect the tax could have on property values for local owners and on future development.“It creates a taxation-based, unlevel playing field,” he said about the tax only applying to select areas.“Developers look to many funding sources, and one of those sources is money from away. If that dries up, that money will likely go to our neighbouring regional districts and we’ll see a downturn of development opportunities.”Veenof said he was pleased the government heard his concerns and left the regional district out of the tax, but added with Nanaimo and Lantzville are subject to the tax, debate will continue.“We’ll have to see how it works out, but it’s potentially challenging,” he said. read more

Rainbow Ball welcoming event for LGBTQ students

Fitting in can be hard in high school.Strides are being made, however, to help alleviate some of that stress.Delhi District Secondary School will host the fifth annual Rainbow Ball, welcoming LGBTQ+ students and allies from across Grand Erie to the semi-formal dance.The Rainbow Ball is an evening that celebrates the diversity of the students.“For our students who are part of the LGBTQ+ community, this evening provides a vibrant space where they can be themselves and feel supported by allies, including fellow students, teachers and administration,” said Colleen Bator, teacher at Delhi District, who is overseeing the organization of this year’s event.“Events like the Rainbow Ball are important in reinforcing to all of our students that they are celebrated, supported and appreciated for being just who they are.”Grand Erie’s first Rainbow Ball took place at Simcoe Composite School in 2015. It was organized by the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA). In 2016, the event moved to Haldimand County, hosted by McKinnon Park Secondary School for two years. Last spring, Brantford Collegiate Institute and Vocational School hosted the fourth, and largest, event.The 2019 Rainbow Ball is being organized in concert with Delhi District’s GSA, which has been running at the school for nine years.The theme for this year is Disney. Those interested in attending can purchase a $10 ticket through their school’s GSAs or their main office. Complimentary transportation to Delhi District from Brant and Haldimand counties is being provided by Safe Schools. The dance is on May 2 at 6:30 p.m. read more

Bosnian Serb military officer surrenders to UN tribunal for former Yugoslavia

Maj. Dragan Jokic, the Chief of Engineering of the 1st Zvornik Brigade, turned himself in to the Office of the Prosecutor in Banja Luka. After being formally arrested, he was transferred the ICTY detention unit in The Hague. According to the indictment, Maj. Jokic was a member of the Brigade Staff and an advisor to the Brigade Commander during the period from July to November 1995 when more than 5,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were summarily executed and buried in the Brigade’s zone of responsibility.Meanwhile, another Bosnian Serb accused of commanding units during the same period was scheduled to make his first appearance before the ICTY tomorrow.Vidoje Blagojevic is charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for his alleged acts as a colonel in command of the Bratunac Brigade during the seizure of Srebrenica. He was transferred to the Tribunal’s custody late last week and will appear tomorrow morning before Tribunal Judge Liu Daqun.The indictment alleges that Bosnian Serb Army units under Mr. Blagojevic’s command and control “expelled and participated in numerous incidents of opportunistic killings, as well as systematic summary executions of thousands Bosnian Muslim men.”The indictment also charges that Mr. Blagojevic and the units under his command “participated in an organized and comprehensive effort to conceal and cover up the killings and executions by burying the bodies of the victims in isolated sites scattered throughout a wide area.” read more

East Timor Gusmão invites Indonesian leaders to independence celebrations

The Indonesian President thanked Mr. Gusmão for the invitation but has yet to formally announce whether she will attend the 19-20 May handover ceremony that will mark East Timor’s independence. The territory has been under UN administration since October 1999.After arriving in Jakarta this morning, Mr. Gusmão also met and delivered invitations to Foreign Minister Nur Hassan Wirajuda, Co-ordinating Minister for Politics and Security Bambang Yudhoyono, and former Foreign Minister, Ali Alatas, among others, according to UNTAET.Mr. Gusmão, who was elected East Timor’s president on 14 April, is scheduled to leave Jakarta tomorrow morning for South Sulawesi, where he will join the head of the UN High Commissioner’s (UNHCR) East Timor office to discuss the repatriation of some 1,000 East Timorese refugees living on the island. These discussions will include the Governor of South Sulawesi, refugees and their leaders.Meanwhile, East Timorese and Indonesian representatives on Thursday completed a Joint Reconnaissance Survey (JRS) aimed at demarcating the common land borders between the two countries.The joint survey team – which included surveyors, geographic engineers and geologists from Indonesia and East Timor – visited seven locations along the common border as they attempted to locate old border markers and study geological features and technical issues.The team also discussed the location of the treaty border with communities from East Timor and West Timor, Indonesia, the leaders of which accompanied the team throughout the 10-day survey.The findings of the survey will be reported to the Technical Subcommittee on Border Demarcation and Regulation, which is part of a bilateral committee between East Timor and Indonesia.The launch of the border demarcation process before the end of the transition period has been a major goal of UNTAET. 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

Annan congratulates former EU official on selection as head of World Trade

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today warmly congratulated former European Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, a French national, on his formal selection as the next Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO).In a statement issued in New York by a UN spokesman, the Secretary-General noted that “Mr. Lamy’s proven track record as Trade Commissioner of the European Union, and his understanding that progress on trade is vital to our work to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), makes him an excellent leader of the WTO at this defining time.”According to the statement, the Secretary-General welcomed Mr. Lamy’s express commitment to completing the Doha trade negotiations, and to ensuring that trade contributes to the development of those countries that need it most.”He wishes Mr. Lamy all the best as he prepares to take up his duties on 1 September, and looks forward to an ever closer partnership between their two Organizations in the years ahead,” the statement said. 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

UN agricultural fund approves over 110 million to combat rural poverty

At the meeting of its executive board last week, the Executive Board of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) approved US$8.3 million in grants to support farmers, farmers’ organizations, agricultural research and training programmes, along with $102 million in loans for rural development programmes.The loan of $29.2 million to China, for example, assists farmers living in remote areas of South Gansu province, where natural resources have deteriorated and there is only poor access to water for irrigation and drinking. The programme which will receive the funds will support irrigation, terracing, tree-planting and training toward improved farming methods.Another loan, of $19 million, aims to improve the lives of small farmers, traders and processors in Ghana who depend on roots and tubers for their livelihood. With women making up at least one-half of the beneficiaries, the programme will focus on both better production and marketing methods.The $8.1 million in grants are targeted to a wide range of programmes, including those supporting assistance to rural organizations in the countries of the Southern Cone Common Market of South America (MERCOSUR), improved management of indigenous trees and shrubs in the countries of the Sahel, and agricultural research and training in Eastern and Central Africa. read more

UN agencies to assist El Salvador military with AIDS prevention sexual health

The $220,000 project is financed jointly by the Salvadorian Armed Forces, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).The aim is to educate officers and soldiers at all levels in the country’s armed forces – a total of about 10,000 people – over the coming two years.According to UNAIDS, El Salvador has around a 1.1 per cent adult HIV prevalence rate, with approximately 7,700 adults living with the virus as of 2003. That year saw about 200 AIDS deaths.The agency says that the national response to HIV and AIDS is marked by close cooperation among government ministries, civil society, people living with HIV and AIDS, the Global Fund set up to combat the disease, and various international cooperation agencies. read more

Noting attacks across IsraelLebanon line Annan calls for renewal of UN force

In his latest report to the Security Council, Mr. Annan points in particular to a November Hizbollah attack which led to a heavy exchange of fire with the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). He also warns that the rocket firing incidents by unidentified armed elements, which took place in August and December, carried significant potential for military escalation.At the same time, the report adds, persistent Israeli air incursions into Lebanese airspace disrupt the fragile calm.“The serious breaches of the ceasefire underlined yet again the urgent need for the Government of Lebanon to act and extend its full authority throughout the south down to the Blue Line,” Mr. Annan says.He says he is encouraged by Lebanon’s commitment to hold perpetrators of the attacks responsible to avoid their recurrence, and he welcomes new steps for coordination between the Government and UNIFIL.“However,” he stresses, “more needs to be done.”Following the assassination of former Prime Minster Rafik Hariri last February and the subsequent withdrawal of Syrian forces in April, the Secretary-General and the Security Council have been emphasizing the need for Lebanese control of all its territory.In the current report, Mr. Annan recommends better use of the adjunct UN Joint Security Force within its mandated strength of 1,000 troops, in a way that would enhance the role and activities of Lebanese forces in the south.He also reiterates his call on all the parties to abide by their obligations under the relevant Security Council resolutions and to exercise utmost restraint to contribute to stability in the wider region.Finally, he calls on UN Member States to pay the arrears for UNIFIL totalling $72.6 million in unpaid assessments.The Council is scheduled to discuss Lebanon next Wednesday. 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

Decision expected on whether DSK suit filed by maid will go forward

NEW YORK, N.Y. – A judge was expected to rule on whether to allow a hotel maid’s sexual assault lawsuit against Dominique Strauss-Kahn after the former International Monetary Fund leader claimed diplomatic immunity.Bronx state Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon heard arguments in March on the civil case that emerged from the May 2011 hotel-room encounter that also spurred now-dismissed criminal charges against Strauss-Kahn, then a French presidential contender. The episode was the first in a series of allegations about his sexual conduct that sank his political career. The judge has been weighing whether or not to allow the lawsuit to go forward. He was to rule on Tuesday.The housekeeper, Nafissatou Diallo, 33, said Strauss-Kahn, 63, tried to rape her when she arrived to clean his Manhattan hotel suite. Strauss-Kahn has denied doing anything violent during the encounter.Prosecutors dropped related criminal charges last summer, saying they had developed doubts about her trustworthiness because she had lied about her background and her actions right after the alleged attack. She has insisted she told the truth about what happened in the encounter itself.Strauss-Kahn didn’t assert immunity from the criminal prosecution, and he resigned his IMF job days after his arrest. But his lawyers argued he should be immune from the lawsuit, which was filed about three months later. They say his job title afforded him the luxury under international rules.But Diallo’s lawyers said the immunity claim is off base. They stressed that an IMF spokesman said shortly after Strauss-Kahn’s arrest that he didn’t have immunity because he was on personal business during his encounter with Diallo. Strauss-Kahn was visiting his daughter in New York.The Associated Press generally doesn’t name people who report being sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Diallo has done.After Strauss-Kahn’s arrest in New York, a French writer came forward to say Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her during a 2003 interview. Paris prosecutors said that accusation was too old to try, but French authorities have pursued an unrelated allegation that he was involved in a hotel prostitution ring including prominent city figures and police in Lille.In March, he was handed preliminary charges, which mean authorities have reason to believe a crime was committed but allow more time for investigation.His French lawyer said the married Strauss-Kahn engaged in “libertine” acts but did nothing legally wrong and is being unfairly targeted for his extramarital sex life.___Associated Press Writer Colleen Long contributed to this report. AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Decision expected on whether DSK suit filed by maid will go forward in Bronx by News Staff Posted May 1, 2012 4:21 am MDT read more

Airline Lufthansa says 3500 administrative jobs will go as it seeks to

FRANKFURT – Airline Lufthansa AG says it will shed 3,500 office jobs to cut costs and boost lagging profits.The news Thursday follows the announcement of a €397 million ($521 million) loss in the first quarter because of higher fuel costs and taxes.The company said it would achieve the workforce reduction “in the coming years” by combining redundant functions and dropping “activities that do not create added value for our customers.” Some functions could be outsourced, it added.The cuts are part of a cost-reduction program that started at the beginning of the year and aims to improve the company’s operating profit by €1.5 billion compared to 2011 by the end of 2014.CEO Christoph Franz said the job reductions would be carried out using “socially acceptable” measures, which can include not replacing people who leave. But he added that cuts were unavoidable.“Only if we restructure our administrative functions and accept a workforce reduction can we keep jobs long-term and create new ones,” Franz said in a statement.Lufthansa employed 120,898 people as of the end of March. Airline Lufthansa says 3,500 administrative jobs will go as it seeks to cut costs by News Staff Posted May 3, 2012 5:58 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more

US judge strikes Federal Reserve rule setting 24cent cap on debitcard transaction

US judge strikes Federal Reserve rule setting 24-cent cap on debit-card transaction fees AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email by Marcy Gordon, The Associated Press Posted Jul 31, 2013 11:46 am MDT WASHINGTON – A federal judge has struck down a rule setting a cap on the fees that banks can charge merchants for handling debit card purchases, saying the Federal Reserve didn’t have the authority to set the limit in 2011.The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon Wednesday handed a victory to a coalition of retail groups. They had sued the Fed over its setting the cap at an average of about 24 cents per debit-card transaction. The previously unregulated “swipe” fee averaged 44 cents. The Fed initially proposed a 12-cent cap, and the retailers had argued that the Fed buckled under pressure from bank lobbyists when it set the cap higher.The Fed now must craft a new rule. The current one will remain in effect in the meantime.A Fed spokesman said there was no immediate comment on the ruling.The cap is the first-ever limit on debit card fees. Before it took effect in October 2011, banks had negotiated such fees with merchants. A big chain like Starbucks would likely get a better rate than a local coffee shop because it handles more customers. The fees were typically based on a percentage of the purchase price.The Fed rule was called for by the 2010 financial overhaul law, which was enacted in response to the 2008 crisis. But Leon said in his ruling that the Fed disregarded Congress’s intent in passing the law by “inappropriately inflating all debit-card transaction fees by billions of dollars and failing to provide merchants with multiple unaffiliated networks for each debit-card transaction.”The retailers’ lawsuit maintained that the cap is an “unreasonable interpretation” that exceeds the authority given to the Fed by the 2010 law. It also asserted that the Fed wrongly interpreted a provision of the law that requires that merchants have a choice of which bank network handles their transactions.The retailers complained that the Fed had deviated from the law’s intent by factoring expenses into the cap that the law didn’t allow. They maintained that the Fed reversed its earlier view that the only costs that should be considered were those involved in the authorization, clearing and settlement of a transaction. Instead, the suit said, the Fed added costs such as losses from fraud that were outside the scope of the law.The Fed in June 2011 formally set the cap for what banks can charge merchants at 21 cents for each debit-card transaction, plus an additional 0.05 per cent of the purchase price to cover the cost of fraud protection.Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., the author of the provision of the 2010 law mandating a cap on swipe fees, called Leon’s ruling a “victory for consumers and small business around the country (that) will lead to lower interchange rates for billions of debit-card transactions each year.”Durbin, who is the assistant majority leader in the Senate, had filed a legal brief supporting the retail groups’ suit in the case.Banks had lobbied hard against the cap, saying the lower fees wouldn’t cover the cost of handling transactions, maintaining their networks and preventing fraud. Attempts by some big banks to compensate by charging consumers monthly fees for using debit cards sparked a nationwide furor in late 2011, leading the banks to drop their plans.The Consumer Bankers Association, which represents large U.S. banks and regional banks, said the new ruling “will create even more chaos for consumers and small banks.”“Congress ought to save families from this uncertainty by repealing this government mandated price-fixing,” Richard Hunt, the group’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “We certainly hope retailers return to their free-market principles as they did when opposing the proposed government ban on big gulp sodas in New York.”The case was brought by the National Retail Federation, the National Association of Convenience Stores, the National Restaurant Association, the Food Marketing Institute, Boscov’s Department Store, a chain of 40 stores based in Reading, Pa.; and Miller Oil Co. of Norfolk, Va., which operates convenience stores and gas stations.Miller Oil has said it used to pay about 16 cents per transaction in debit swipe fees. read more

The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug remains No 1 at box office

AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email by Jessica Herndon, The Associated Press Posted Dec 29, 2013 1:59 pm MDT LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Over the bustling post-Christmas weekend, Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” continued to lead the box office, landing in the No. 1 slot for the third weekend in a row.The Warner Bros. prequel earned $30 million, bringing the domestic gross to $190.3 million, according to studio estimates on Sunday.Disney’s animated adventure, “Frozen,” took the No. 2 position, earning $28.9 million over the weekend and $248.4 million domestically after six weeks at the multiplex.“‘Frozen’ probably had the best release date of the year because they positioned themselves to completely dominate the family film marketplace over the holidays,” said box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian of Rentrak. “To be No. 2 in its sixth week is a total reflection of that.”Reigning box-office champion “Hobbit,” ”really contributed to this record box office that we have at the end of the year,” he added. “With ‘Hobbit’ and ‘Frozen,’ we are talking $450 million at the box office between those two films alone. They are absolutely killing it here at the end of the year.”This year is poised to be a banner one at the box office, and it is projected to surpass 2012’s $10.8 billion by nearly 1 per cent, making this the highest annual take ever.Paramount held two slots in the top five over the weekend, with the comedies “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” starring Will Farrell, and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” featuring Leonardo DiCaprio. Sequel “Anchorman 2” came in at No. 3 with $20.2 million, and Martin Scorsese’s dark comedy, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” took the No. 5 spot, earning $19 million after opening at No. 2 on Christmas Day with $9.15 million.“Some people are calling the performance of ‘Anchorman’ a bit of a disappointment, but it will be a $100 million gross at the end of the day,” Dergarabedian said. “All of the marketing certainly raised its profile. It will have a good showing.”“Anchorman” met studio expectations over the Christmas holiday.“We are thrilled and we feel the movie will play well in theatres for a while,” said Don Harris, president of distribution at Paramount. “The first film brought in $84 million, and this one will be well north of that.”At nearly three hours long, “Wolf” does not have as many showings in a day as the rest of the pictures currently in theatres, yet it’s holding its own at the multiplex. “The movie is very much out there in terms of content, and that’s a good thing,” added Harris. “It’s different than anything else in the marketplace. I think people are surprised that it’s a lot of fun.”At No. 4, Sony Pictures corruption saga, “American Hustle,” made $19.6 million. David O. Russell’s entertaining take on the Abscam investigation of the 1970s, starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, has grossed $60 million domestically and gained seven Golden Globe nominations.Oscar hopeful “Saving Mr. Banks,” Disney’s making of “Mary Poppins” story, starring Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks, came in at No. 6, making $14.3 million.Fox’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” Ben Stiller’s dramatic turn, which he also directed, took seventh place, earning $13 million. “‘Mitty’ is a feel-good film and with the combination of our excellent exit polls and audience friendly rating at PG-13, I think we are going to play well into the New Year,” said Chris Aronson, president of distribution at Twentieth Century Fox. “This has been an incredibly fragmented and healthy marketplace as we’re expected to finish with a record year.”And despite lacklustre reviews, Keanu Reeves’ martial-arts film “47 Ronin” managed to slide into the top 10 at No. 9 with $9.9 million in its opening weekend.Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres, according to Rentrak. Where available, latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday:1.”The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” $30 million ($98.3 million international).2.”Frozen,” $28.9 million ($50.5 million international).3.”Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” $20.2 million ($8 million international).4.”American Hustle,” $19.6 million ($1.7 million international).5.”The Wolf of Wall Street,” $19 million ($6.5 million international).6.”Saving Mr. Banks,” $14.3 million ($300,000 international).7.”The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” $13 million ($27.2 million international).8.”The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” $10.2 million ($9 million international).9.”47 Ronin,” $9.9 million ($13.8 million international).10.”Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas,” $7.4 million.___Estimated weekend ticket sales Friday through Sunday at international theatres (excluding the U.S. and Canada) for films distributed overseas by Hollywood studios, according to Rentrak:1.”The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” $98.3 million.2.”Frozen,” $50.5 million.3.”The Secret Life of Mitty,” $27.2 million.4.”Police Story 2013,” $18 million.5.”47 Ronin,” $13.8 million.6.”The Physician,” $13 million.7.”Personal Tailor,” $12.5 million.8.”Walking With Dinosaurs,” $12.3 million.9.”The Attorney,” $12 million.10.”The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” $9 million.___Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.___Follow AP Film Writer Jessica Herndon on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/SomeKind “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” remains No. 1 at box office, earning $30 million read more

Ackman crusade gets boost from new FTC probe into possible deceptive practices

Ackman crusade gets boost from new FTC probe into possible “deceptive practices” at Herbalife NEW YORK, N.Y. – Hedge fund manager Bill Ackman has won a round in his 15-month fight against supplements and weight-loss products maker Herbalife. The direct seller’s shares tumbled Wednesday after Herbalife revealed that it is being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission for possible “deceptive practices.”Since December 2012 Ackman has spent millions waging a public campaign against Herbalife and building up an army of lobbyists, community organizers and members of Congress to push regulators to investigate what he calls a “pyramid scheme,” that makes most of its money by recruiting new salespeople rather than on the products they sell. It is a charge that Herbalife has repeatedly denied.Ackman, the head of Pershing Square Capital Management, holds a whopping $1 billion “short” position in Herbalife, meaning he’s bet that the company’s stock will drop and profits when it does. While short sellers are sometimes demonized for profiting at another’s financial pain, they can play an important role in discovering problems with companies. Hedge fund manager David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital took out a massive bet against Lehman Brothers in 2007, accusing the investment bank of not disclosing all of its potential losses from the housing market downturn. That bet turned out to be right. Lehman filed for bankruptcy in September 2008, sparking the financial crisis.So far Ackman’s campaign has had mixed success. The SEC began conducting its own investigation into Herbalife shortly after Ackman’s initial accusations, but so far it hasn’t led to any enforcement action. He sparred publicly with Carl Icahn, who owns 17 per cent of Herbalife through his firm Icahn Associates, with Icahn calling Ackman a “crybaby” on television. Icahn has defended Herbalife and increased his stake in the company in recent months to back up his comments. The stock, which was hit hard at the outset of Ackman’s crusade, more than recovered, doubling to an all-time high of $83.51 at the beginning of this year.The FTC news dinged shares 7 per cent on Wednesday, as the stock closed down $4.82 at $60.57. But shares are still up 46 per cent since December 2012.Herbalife, which is incorporated in the Cayman Islands and based in Los Angeles, uses a network of distributors to sell its nutritional supplements and weight-loss products. Other companies, such as Amway, cosmetics companies Avon and Mary Kay and kitchen products maker Tupperware, use a similar network of independent contractors who market merchandise through demonstrations and other personal contacts.Many people looking for extra income are attracted to becoming direct sellers because there are no large upfront fees. Startup kits range from a few dollars to several hundred dollars, according to the website of the Direct Selling Association, a national trade group based in Washington. There were nearly 15.9 million people involved in direct selling in 2012, and their sales rose nearly 6 per cent to $31.6 billion that year, the most recent data available from the trade group.Individual sellers earn money based on how much they sell, and often, the sales of others. But the direct selling industry has been increasingly under a microscope amid charges of deceptive practices by sales reps who have lost money. The Direct Selling Association says it requires its members to adhere to a code of conduct that includes doing business with “transparency” and “consumer protection at the core.” The National Consumers League and the Direct Selling Education Foundation distribute a brochure with information on how consumers can protect themselves against pyramid schemes.Herbalife said Wednesday that it believes it complies with all laws and regulations and plans to co-operate fully with the FTC. It said it welcomes the inquiry given “tremendous amount of misinformation in the marketplace” about its business.The FTC’s investigation into Herbalife comes less than two months after Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.,) called on regulators to investigate its business practices, after Markey said he heard complaints from former Herbalife sales representatives about improper pressure and financial hardship stemming from their work with the company. It comes a day after Ackman held a public presentation to detail claims of Herbalife violating laws in China and vowed to pursue his campaign against Herbalife “to the end of the earth.” Pershing declined to comment Wednesday on the investigation.FTC spokesman Peter Kaplan on Wednesday confirmed the existence of the probe but declined to comment further. In a letter this week, SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White said her agency could not confirm or deny if the SEC was still investigating the company.__Sell reported from Portland, Ore. AP Retail Writer Anne D’Innocenzio contributed to this report from New York. AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email by Ken Sweet & Sarah Skidmore Sell, The Associated Press Posted Mar 12, 2014 12:01 pm MDT read more

Orders for US durable goods up solid 26 per cent in March

AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email by Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press Posted Apr 24, 2014 6:35 am MDT Orders for US durable goods up solid 2.6 per cent in March with strength in business investment In this April 15, 2014 photo, Charles Rajecky packs a completed blender for warehousing at the Vitamix manufacturing facility in Strongsville, Ohio. The Commerce Department releases durable goods for March on Thursday, April 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan) WASHINGTON – Orders to U.S. factories for long-lasting manufactured goods posted a solid gain for the second straight month in March. A key category that signals business investment plans increased at the fastest pace in four months.Orders for durable goods increased 2.6 per cent in March following a 2.1 per cent rise in February, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Those back-to-back gains followed two big declines in December and January which had raised concerns about possible weakness in manufacturing.Demand for core capital goods, considered a good guide for business investment plans, rose 2.2 per cent in March after a 1.1 per cent drop in February. It was the best showing since a 3 per cent rise in November.Analysts were encouraged with the widespread strength shown in the March orders increase, saying it was an indication that manufacturing was recovering after a cold winter disrupted business activity.“The gains were spread across most sectors, from primary metals to computers,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.He and other analysts said the March report was an encouraging sign that increased factory production will lift overall economic growth in coming months.The strength in March was widespread, led by a 4 per cent increase in demand for transportation goods. Orders for commercial aircraft advanced 8.6 per cent while demand for motor vehicles and parts rose a more modest 0.4 per cent.Excluding transportation, orders rose a solid 2 per cent, the best showing in this category in more than a year.Orders for primary metals such as steel rose 2 per cent while demand for heavy machinery, computers and communications equipment all showed increases.The gains in orders for durable goods, products expected to last at least three years, were the latest sign that the economy is gaining momentum following a harsh winter.The Institute for Supply Management, a group of purchasing managers, reported that its closely watched index of manufacturing activity grew at a slightly faster pace in March, rising to a level of 53.7, compared to 53.2 in February. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion in manufacturing.Manufacturing activity had plunged in January as harsh snow storms shut down factories and disrupted supply shipments and then rebounded slightly in February as orders and stockpiles grew. The overall index remains below the level that prevailed in the second half of last year, when it regularly topped 56.Last year, U.S. factories were cranking out appliances, autos and other goods at a healthy pace until harsh winter weather descended. The ISM’s index rose for six straight months until dipping slightly in December. That was followed by January’s sharp fall.Economists believe the severe winter weather contributed to slowing overall growth to a lacklustre annual rate possible as low as 1 per cent in the January-March quarter.But they are looking for the warmer weather to unleash pent-up demand that will kick growth in the April-June quarter to around 3 per cent. That stronger growth is expected to last for the rest of the year, lifting the economy to its best performance since the Great Recession ended in mid-2009. read more

Ottawa to open office in BC to woo BC First Nations on

by The Canadian Press Posted May 27, 2014 5:29 pm MDT PRINCE RUPERT, B.C. – The federal government will set up a major projects management office in British Columbia to try to woo West Coast First Nations for the myriad of energy projects proposed in the province.Tuesday’s announcement was the third in as many weeks from the federal government as it prepares to make a decision on the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline proposal through B.C.Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford said Ottawa will also establish a forum with the provincial government and First Nations to work toward aboriginal participation in energy developments.“This is an important time and it’s an important opportunity for Canada and its natural resource sector, a time that potentially means hundreds of thousands of jobs for Canadian families, jobs in every sector of our economy and every corner of our country,” Rickford said in Prince Rupert, on the north coast.He said energy developments proposed in B.C. could generate hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions in tax revenues throughout Canada.“There’s no denying there’s a lot at stake here.”Though Rickford said the measures are not related to any specific project, opponents of the Northern Gateway said the minister is clearly paving the way for approval.Over the past few weeks, Ottawa has also announced improvements to marine and pipeline safety.“It’s all lining up for approval,” said Art Sterritt, executive director of Coastal First Nations, which represents nine bands along the proposed Northern Gateway tanker route.“If they were going to reject it, they wouldn’t waste so bloody much time on process here. They wouldn’t be opening new offices in B.C. for the sake of a project that wasn’t going ahead. They wouldn’t be announcing world-class cleanup for oil if there was no oil.”The two measures were among the recommendations last fall by Douglas Eyford, appointed by the federal government to consult First Nations as the Northern Gateway proposal foundered.Indeed, Sterritt said the major projects office — which will be located in Vancouver — and the forum are good ideas that go beyond the northern pipeline proposed by Calgary-based Enbridge (TSX:ENB) and the proposed expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain line to Metro Vancouver.“But they’re going to have to get in the room and do some hard work,” said Sterritt. “It hasn’t been done well, the interaction with First Nations.”Prior to the start of federal review hearings for the $6.5-billion pipeline, internal government memos obtained by The Canadian Press contained statements about the federal government being adamant in not consulting First Nations outside of that review process.In the face of protests, petitions and lawsuits by B.C. aboriginal groups that have the potential to derail $650 billion in oil and gas developments, that has changed.Rickford inherited a quagmire when he took the helm of Natural Resources in March. He has taken a much more conciliatory approach than his predecessor, Joe Oliver, who began the Northern Gateway debate by branding opponents as radicals funded by foreign special interests.He was joined Tuesday by B.C. Aboriginal Relations Minister John Rustad, who welcomed the measures, as well as Mayor Garry Reece of the Lax Kw’alaams and Chief Harold Leighton of the Metlakatla, both members of Coastal First Nations.Reece called the forum and the office a “stepping stone” toward co-operation on energy developments — but not all of them.“My people have stood up against oil. They don’t support that,” he said. “They’re not satisfied with the information that there’s going to be protection and to this day they haven’t changed from that.“We don’t support that right now.”Rickford was not dissuaded.“I think the key phrase is ‘right now.’ This is a confidence- and trust-building exercise.”– By Dene Moore in Vancouver. Follow @ByDeneMoore on Twitter. Ottawa to open office in B.C. to woo B.C. First Nations on energy projects AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email 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