Canadians slightly less confident in finances heading into 2016

A majority of Canadians remain confident about their finances heading into 2016, but the percentage holding a positive view is down from a year ago, according to a new poll from one of the country’s big banks.The CIBC poll found that more than two thirds of Canadians, or 69 per cent, felt positive about their finances going into the new year. Still, that was down five per cent from a year ago, with the drop centred mainly in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.In fact, the survey found that Alberta, hard hit by trouble in the oilpatch, now is the least positive region in the country. Just 62 per cent of Albertans surveyed felt confident about their finances, down 21 percentage points from a year ago.Sentiment was also lower in Ontario at 68 per cent, down from 73 per cent going into 2015, and in Quebec at 71 per cent, down from 78 per cent. Sentiment in British Columbia declined marginally to 71 per cent from 72 per cent.Confidence improved sharply in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, up seven percentage points at 78 per cent, while those surveyed in Atlantic Canada were slightly more positive, up two percentage points at 67 per cent.Strapped for cash? — here’s how to get your TFSA saving started anywayFive financial resolutions for 2016, and how to (really) make them happenThe poll was conducted Dec. 7-8 among 1,508 Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panellists. The polling industry’s professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.While Canadians 55 and older remain the most positive about their finances, they also saw the biggest decline in this year’s survey, falling from 82 per cent a year ago to 74 per cent this year.That compared with confidence levels of 69 per cent (down from 70 per cent) for those in the 18-to-34 age group; and 65 per cent, down from 70 per cent, for those between 35 and 54.“While many Canadians remain positive about their financial situation, some are feeling less optimistic than they were at this time last year,” CIBC executive vice-president Christina Kramer said of the survey results.“Whether you feel positive or have concerns about your finances, the new year is an ideal time to make changes so you feel prepared for the year ahead,” she said. read more

MPs called CJ a mad woman lawyers

Bandaranayake and her team of lawyers walked out of the parliamentary select committee on Thursday evening after making a statement that she was not being given a fair hearing.“She will not attend future hearings,” a lawyer close to the case told AFP. Her lawyers said their repeated requests for documents supporting the 14 allegations against Bandaranayake were not provided by her accusers and the ruling party dominated PSC refused to allow witnesses to be cross examined.However, she was given over 1,000 pages of documents on Thursday evening and asked to respond in less than 24 hours, the lawyers said, adding that it was “obvious” that the majority of the PSC had no intention of giving her a fair hearing.There was no formal reaction from the government, but a ruling party law maker who declined to be named told AFP that they will proceed with the inquiry whether or not the 54-year-old chief justice attends the hearing on Friday afternoon. “At various stages of the proceedings of the PSC (parliamentary select committee), two (ruling party) members hurled abuse such as ‘mad woman’ at the chief justice,” her lawyers said in a statement a day after the hearing. The impeachment bid has led to a head-on collision between the judiciary and the legislature controlled by Rajapakse, who has consolidated his power after crushing Tamil Tiger rebels in a military offensive in May 2009. Sri Lanka’s top judge Shirani Bandaranayake stormed out of her impeachment hearing after government lawmakers called her a “mad woman” and displayed open hostility, her lawyers said on Friday.The move to impeach the country’s first female chief justice came after she scuttled several bills, including one that gave more powers to President Mahinda Rajapakse’s youngest brother Basil, the economic development minister. “It became evident that these members had been mandated to ridicule the head of the judiciary and the legal profession.” Bandaranayake infuriated the government last month when she said it was illegal for lawmakers to investigate her, but vowed she would defend herself against impeachment charges of professional and financial misconduct.Her case has raised fears that the government is trying to control the courts. She told the parliamentary select committee at its outset that there was not an “iota” of truth in the allegations against her. (AFP) read more

Hirunika steps down from politics

Hirunika Premachandra is currently studying law and she says once her law exams are over she will decide on her next step. She also expressed confidence in the judiciary to get justice for the murder of her father.Report by Indika Sri Aravinda “It is hard to do politics in Sri Lanka. I have spoken to my family and I will decide about my political future at the right time,” she said. Hirunika Premachandra has decided to temporarily step down from politics on the basis that the political climate is not favorable for her.Premachandra, the daughter of slain politician Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra, said that she also needs proper backing to get fully engaged in politics. read more

Pillay gets unlimited access

He said that the government cannot and will not impose any restrictions on the movements of Pillay or prevent her from meeting anyone. The government says there will be no restrictions placed on the movements of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHRC) Navi Pillay during her visit to Sri Lanka at the end of this month.Former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka said that he hopes to meet Pillay and discuss several issues with her during her visit. Fonseka said that among the issues he hopes to bring to her notice is the lack of democracy and justice in Sri Lanka and, what he claims, was injustice faced by him which resulted in him being jailed following the 2010 Presidential Elections. Foreign Secretary Karunatilaka Amunugama has told The Sunday Leader that the government and the UN office will be coordinating Pillay’s visit. Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said that as a head of a political party Fonseka will be able to meet Pillay. The Chief Security Advisor to Pillay’s office, Abraham Mathai, was in Sri Lanka recently ahead of the scheduled visit by Pillay to the country.Abraham Mathai manages security operations of the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) worldwide and as a member of the senior management team he participates in organising policy issues. Navi Pillay will be in the country from Sunday, August 25 and end her mission with a press conference on the morning of Saturday, August 31. read more

Deputy Minister of Media Shantha Bandara resigns

Deputy Minister of Media Shantha Bandara has announced his resignation from his post ahead of the August 17 Parliament election.Shantha Bandara is contesting the Parliamentary election from the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA).

Thilanga more SLFP members resign from posts

A group of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) members, including former Parliamentarian Thilanga Sumathipala, have resigned from their Ministerial posts.Sumathipala said that the SLFP members have handed over a letter to President Maithripala Sirisena informing him of their decision to resign from their portfolios.

Duminda Silva granted bail in asset declaration case

The cases were filed at the Colombo Magistrate’s Court in relation to the failure by Silva to declare his assets in March 2013 and March 2014.Silva was not given nominations to contest the Parliamentary election this year by the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). (Colombo Gazette) Former Parliamentarian Duminda Silva was granted bail today in relation to cases filed against him by the Commission to Investigate Bribery or Corruption.The Commission to Investigate Bribery or Corruption had filed cases against former Parliamentarian Duminda Silva related to the failure by Silva to declare his assets. read more

All stakeholders to be briefed on ETCA and China FTA

The Minister also said that Sri Lanka is looking at strengthening its economy through agreements like those to be signed with India and China.He said that Sri Lanka is to also sign an agreement with a Chinese company over the Hambantota port.The Minister said the Hambantota port has been operating at a loss and the Government is not in a position to cover those losses. The Government today informed Parliament that all stakeholders will be briefed on the proposed Economic and Technology Cooperative Agreement (ETCA) with India and the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China.President Maithripala Sirisena assured Parliament, approval will be sought on the Indo-Lanka agreement. “Nothing has been finalised. This is only at a discussion stage,” he said. Meanwhile, Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrama also said that concerns being raised on ETCA are misleading.He said that since the agreement has not been finalised any concerns raised on ETCA are baseless. He said that if there are any concerns on the agreement the clauses which rise concerns will be amended. He said that Sri Lanka hopes to earn approximately USD 1.2 a month from the agreement with the Chinese company. (Colombo Gazette) read more

JVP support only to reconvene Parliament

After the meeting some United National Party (UNP) members said that the JVP had extended support to UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to remain as Prime Minister.JVP MP Vijitha Herath said that the JVP was only supporting calls to convene Parliament and not an individual. (Colombo Gazette) The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) says it will only support calls to convene Parliament and not any individual.The JVP was in Parliament today and supported political parties at a meeting with Speaker Karu Jayasuriya calling for Parliament to be reconvened immediately. read more

SLFP requests Sirisena to contest next Presidential election

Senior Deputy President of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party Nimal Siripala de Silva, General Secretary of Sri Lanka Freedom Party Dayasiri Jayasekara and MPs Mahinda Samarasinghe, Sarath Amunugama, Duminda Dissanayake, Mahinda Amaraweera, Faizar Muthappa, Ranjith Siyabalapitiya, Lasantha Alagiyawanna, Weerakumara Dissanayake, Dushmantha Miithrapala, Shriyani Wijewickrama, Mohan Lal Grero and Shantha Bandara were among the group that handed over the letter to the President. (Colombo Gazette) The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) has requested President Maithripala Sirisena to contest the next Presidential elections.The request was made in a letter submitted to the President today. The SLFP Parliamentarians urged the President to form a joint progressive movement to work against the United National Party at the next election. read more

Grad Spotlight 15year Brock student Nancy Diamond

Nancy Diamond (BA ’96)Nancy Diamond (BA ’96) was a single-mother of two young children who pursued a business and psychology degree from Brock part time for 15 years while working full time. Her children are now grown-up with children of their own, and she is a proud grandmother of three.Diamond works from Kelly Services as manager for Niagara and Hamilton and volunteers on the board of directors for two professional organizations.Diamond is an inspiration for those considering attending university part time. “I encourage anyone who may not be able to return to school full time to look at your options,” said Diamond. “Brock worked with me to help me achieve my goals. What they say is true: ‘if you have the will….there is a way’.”Diamond’s life goal is to help make a positive difference in the lives of others and her community.What attracted you to Brock University?I live in Niagara, so attending Brock was convenient. Brock had, and still has, a reputation of excellence. They offered evening courses and back in the early 80s as a working single mother of two little kids, it made sense.What activities were you involved with at Brock that were outside of the classroom?Since I was not a full-time student, I mainly associated with other part-time students. The library was an excellent resource and opportunity to connect. My son attended the summer camps and I enrolled my daughter in one of the Child Studies research projects on how preschoolers interact.How has Brock changed your life? Attending Brock showed me how important lifelong learning is. Educational institutions are like a world unto themselves; however, Brock has integrated itself into the community. It hosts summer programs for kids, involves itself in local business initiatives and programs, produces research that benefits the local community and beyond, provides cultural opportunities through the Brock Centre for the Arts, and of course, it continues to be a major, premier employer in the region.What has been your career/life path since graduating from Brock?My employer, Kelly Services, has an excellent educational support program which encouraged and funded the majority of my schooling at Brock. They invested in me. I was promoted to branch manager around the same time I graduated. I then became the manager for the Niagara and Hamilton regions. I have also been on the board of directors for the Human Resources Professionals Association of Niagara for the past six years and the board of directors of the St. Catharines-Thorold Chamber of Commerce for four years. I am currently chair for this 1,200-member, well-respected business organization — the second female president/chair in 143 years.What is the most rewarding part of your career? I can see the positive effects of what we do in companies and in people’s lives. We help to connect great people with great companies. Being involved with the HRPAN and the chamber of commerce also gives me the satisfaction that comes from volunteer work and making a difference in the community.What is your greatest professional achievement?The recognition of the Kelly brand in Niagara. I have been with the company for 23 years and we have local customers who have remained with us for more than 25 years. This is a testament to our great people, great customer service and ethical, successful policies and procedures. Kelly has been in business for 65 years. Now that’s bench strength!What is your “other side of the brain”?I love to garden. I love to assist nature to create beautiful peaceful places. Plus, it’s probably a control thing, but I love to protect my flowers from weeds and watch them grow and flourish.What advice do you have for new graduates?Believe in yourself. Imagine the life you want and move in that direction. As Mike Dooley wrote: “Choose carefully: Thoughts become things!” I am a firm believer in the law of attraction: it’s worked for me. I would tell new graduates, “If you love your life…it will love you back!” And finally, be engaged, be involved: you can learn a lot from volunteering. Give back: you always get more than you give. read more

Joshua Farrell inquest

29 year old welder Joshua Farrell was electrocuted while working at a site at a Hamilton lime quarry in 2014.On Monday an inquest started to look into the details of his death, to see if anything could be done to prevent similar accidents.Farrell had been working for Rassaun Steel for about 2 years, and hadn’t been welding for long. For about a month, he had been complaining to his wife about the job hazards.June 25, 2014 was a hot day. Farrell was doing work for his company at the Carmeuse Lime Quarry in Dundas. Philip Wiersma testified that employees planned to take a lot of breaks. It’s a dirty, hot job, he said.They were welding a coal bin to reinforce it, and Farrell’s location was up a few staircases and awkwardly placed behind duct work. He had been having trouble, but wanted to keep trying.Then Wiersma noticed farrell was standing oddly. He went up and shook his shoulder, and knew something was wrong.Arc Welding uses a cable with what’s called a whipper-stinger on the end, where a welder attaches an electrode – a stick of metal that melts down to bond other piece of metal.Farrell was found with the electrode stuck about four centimeters into his neck. He died from the electrical current.The Ministry of Labour and the Rassaun Steel have lawyers in the courtroom, there are about 7 witnesses and this is expected to wrap up on Wednesday and then 5 jurors will try and come up with a recommendation. read more

Two arrested after stabbing on King Street

Hamilton Police are investigating a stabbing that happened near Hess Street early this morning.A 19 year old man from Hamilton was found at the corner of Caroline and King Street by a restaurant around 3 a.m. He was stabbed in the stomach. Paramedics arrived on scene and took the teen to hospital. He is expected to be okay.Two men were arrested and those arrest were caught on camera. A 36 year old and 27 year old both from Hamilton are facing charges including assault with a weapon and carrying a concealed weapon along with drug possession charges.Police say an altercation at the doorway of the Vita la Pita led to the 27 year old drawing a weapon and stabbing the teen.Police say the 19 year old has already been released from hospital. read more

From Brexhaustion to backstop AP translates Brexitspeak

LONDON — From backstop to Brexiteer, Britain’s decision to leave the European Union has spawned a baffling array of new terms, while British parliamentary terminology is also confusing an audience across the world.The Associated Press deciphers some key words and phrases:ARTICLE 50: Article 50 of the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty sets out the procedure for a country wishing to leave the bloc and imposes a two-year countdown to that country’s departure. Britain triggered the process on March 29, 2017, and was due to leave on March 29, 2019. Amid deadlock in Britain’s Parliament the EU agreed a Brextension until April 12 and then until Oct. 31.BACKSTOP: The Brexit backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement between the EU and Britain. It’s an insurance policy designed to ensure there are no customs checks or other border infrastructure between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland after Brexit. The backstop says if no other solution is found, Britain will remain in a customs union with the EU in order to keep the Irish border open. Opposition to the backstop from pro-Brexit British lawmakers is the main reason the deal has been defeated in ParliamentBREXHAUSTION: The state of anxious weariness felt by many U.K. citizens and politicians at the unresolved Brexit crisis, almost three years after Britain voted to leave the EU.BREXIT: A contraction of “British exit,” Brexit is Britain’s departure from the European Union. The U.K. joined the bloc in 1973, and held a 2016 referendum on its membership that was won by the “leave” side.BREXITER/BREXITEER: A supporter of Britain’s exit from the European Union.BREXTREMIST: Pejorative term for a Brexit supporter.BREXTENSION: Brexit extension, a delay to Britain’s exit from the EU. This has been granted until Oct. 31.BRINO: An acronym that means “Brexit in name only.” It’s a pejorative term used by Brexiteers for a “soft Brexit” departure in which Britain retains close economic and regulatory ties with the European Union.CONFIRMATORY VOTE: A new referendum in which voters would be asked whether to approve any Brexit deal passed by Parliament. The other option would be remaining in the EU, so this plan is mainly favoured by those who hope Brexit can be stopped. Also known by its supporters as a “people’s vote.”CUSTOMS UNION: The European Union customs union makes the 28-nation bloc a single customs territory, with no tariffs or border checks on goods moving between member states. It also has common tariffs on goods entering the bloc from the outside.DE-SELECT: A decision by a political party that the current elected lawmaker will not run as the party’s candidate in the next election. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is threatening to do this to any Conservative lawmakers who support the opposition’s attempts to block a no-deal Brexit (see below).EUROPEAN UNION: Formed in 1957 as the European Economic Community by France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, the group is now a 28-nation bloc of more than 500 million people with substantial powers over member nations’ laws, economies and social policies.HARD BREXIT: A Brexit that sees the U.K. cut many of its ties with the EU, including leaving the EU’s vast single market and customs union. Some supporters of the idea prefer the term “clean Brexit,” and say it will enable Britain to forge its own trade deals around the world.INDICATIVE VOTE: Britain’s Parliament has held a series of non-binding “indicative votes” on various Brexit outcomes as a way of finding out whether any have majority support. Lawmakers rejected every option, from leaving the EU without a deal to holding a new referendum on whether to remain.LEAVER: A Briton who voted to leave the European Union. See also Brexiteer.NO-DEAL BREXIT: If Britain and the EU do not finalize a divorce deal, Britain will cease to be an EU without an agreement setting out what happens next. A no-deal Brexit would rip up the rules that govern ties between the U.K. Many businesses say that would cause economic chaos.PROROGATION: Suspending a session of Parliament without dissolving it. Johnson’s move to do this will keep Parliament away for five weeks in the run-up to the Brexit deadline. He says this is necessary to set out his government’s future policies, but opponents believe he is trying to reduce the amount of time available for debate and legislation that could block a no-deal Brexit.REMAINER: A Briton who voted to stay in the European Union.REMOANER, REMAINIAC: Pejorative terms for people who want the U.K. to remain in the EU.SINGLE MARKET: The EU’s single market makes the bloc a common economic zone in which goods and services can move freely with no internal borders or barriers.SOFT BREXIT: A Brexit that sees the U.K. retain its close economic ties with the EU, including membership in the bloc’s single market and customs union.WITHDRAWAL OF THE WHIP: A political party deciding that a lawmaker does not represent it in Parliament any more, effectively suspending that person from the party. Johnson is threatening to do this to any Conservative lawmakers who support the opposition’s attempts to block a no-deal Brexit.WITHDRAWAL AGREEMENT/POLITICAL DECLARATION: In November 2018, Britain and the EU struck a two-part divorce agreement. It consists of a legally binding, 585-page withdrawal agreement setting out the terms of the U.K.’s departure, and a shorter, non-binding political declaration committing the two parties to close future ties. The agreement must be approved by the British and European parliaments to take effect, but Britain’s Parliament has rejected it three times. Johnson has insisted it is unacceptable and is seeking to renegotiate it.___Follow AP’s full coverage of Brexit at: Associated Press read more

Business Highlights

___US hiring slow but steady amid trade war and global weaknessWASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers added a modest 130,000 jobs in August, a sign that hiring has slowed but remains durable in the face of global economic weakness and President Donald Trump’s trade war with China. The unemployment rate remained 3.7%, near the lowest level in five decades. And more Americans entered the workforce in August, a positive development that increased the proportion of adults who are either working or seeking work.___As feds loom, states hit Facebook, Google with new probesWASHINGTON (AP) — Two groups of states are targeting Facebook and Google in separate antitrust probes, widening the scrutiny of Big Tech beyond sweeping federal and congressional investigations into their market dominance. New York Attorney General Letitia James is leading the probe into Facebook. She says, “Even the largest social media platform in the world must follow the law and respect consumers.” Facebook says it plans to “work constructively” with the state attorneys general.___Fed Chairman Powell says he doesn’t expect recessionWASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell says the Fed is not expecting a U.S. or global recession. But it is monitoring a number of uncertainties, including trade conflicts, and will “act as appropriate to sustain the expansion.” Powell gives an upbeat view of the U.S. economy during an appearance with Swiss National Bank Chairman Thomas Jordan at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. Powell says that trade policy is causing “some uncertainty” but that the U.S. consumer is in good shape.___Brexit crisis grows as opposition rejects snap election callLONDON (AP) — British opposition parties are refusing to support Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s call for an election until he secures a delay to Britain’s exit from the European Union. Johnson insists Britain must leave the EU in 55 days, and says an election is the only way to break the deadlock. But opposition parties say they won’t support a snap election when it is put to a vote in Parliament next week.___Trump challenges California power to control auto pollutionDETROIT (AP) — The Trump administration has begun an all-out assault on California’s authority to set its own automotive emissions standards. Government agencies have opened an antitrust investigation and told state officials they appear to be violating the law in a deal with four automakers to reduce pollution. The outcome of the emissions fight will make or break an effort by President Donald Trump to relax Obama-era mileage standards nationwide.___Generic drugmaker Mallinckrodt settles 2 opioid lawsuitsCLEVELAND (AP) — Mallinckrodt, one of the leading manufacturers of generic opioids, says it is settling lawsuits with two Ohio counties over the toll of its drugs. The company will pay a total of $24 million and donate products worth another $6 million. The deal with Cuyahoga and Summit counties means Mallinckrodt does not have to be one of the defendants in the first federal trial over the toll of opioids, scheduled for next month. The company still faces hundreds of other lawsuits.___US health officials report 3rd vaping death, repeat warningNEW YORK (AP) — U.S. health officials on Friday again urged people to stop vaping until they figure out why some are coming down with serious breathing illnesses. Officials said they had identified 450 possible cases, including at least three deaths, in 33 states. The count includes a newly reported death in Indiana. No single vaping device, liquid or ingredient has been tied to all the illnesses, officials said.___Moving beyond Mueller, Democrats focus on Trump’s propertiesWASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats are demanding more information about the use of taxpayer money at President Donald Trump’s hotels and properties. They’re seeing violations of the Constitution that some think could bolster the case for his impeachment. In letters Friday to the White House and other government agencies, two House committees led by Democrats cited “multiple efforts” by the president and administration officials to spend taxpayer money at his properties.___American Airlines mechanic accused of sabotaging flightMIAMI (AP) — An American Airlines mechanic appeared in court Friday on charges of sabotaging a flight over stalled union contract negotiations. Federal officials say Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani admitted that he tampered with a navigation-system part on the plane also to gain overtime work. The July 17 flight from Miami to the Bahamas was aborted when the tampering caused an error alert.___US stocks’ mixed finish nudges S&P 500 to a 2nd weekly gainNEW YORK (AP) — Major U.S. stock indexes finished little changed Friday after a day of mostly quiet trading capped the S&P 500’s second straight weekly gain. The market shook off an early stumble thanks largely to gains in health care stocks, makers of consumer products and retailers. Technology, communications and utilities stocks fell, as did bond yields and gold prices. Traders had a muted reaction to new data showing that U.S. employers added fewer than expected jobs in August.___The S&P 500 inched up 2.71 points, or 0.1%, to 2,978.71. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 69.31 points, or 0.3%, to 26,797.46. The Nasdaq lost 13.75 points, or 0.2%, to 8,103.07. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks dropped 5.58 points, or 0.4%, to 1,505.17.The Associated Press read more

Well servicing employee dies at oilfield site near Stoughton

A worker is dead after an unspecified incident at an oilfield site near Stoughton.Crescent Point, the Calgary-based company operating the site, said the death occurred Monday afternoon. The deceased was employed by Aaron Well Servicing, a Weyburn company with approximately 40 employees that operates a fleet of service rigs.In a statement provided to media, Crescent Point said “Our thoughts are with the family of the deceased Aaron Well Servicing employee.”Crescent Point said its corporate emergency response was initiated immediately after notification of the incident and the site was secured “to ensure the ongoing safety of staff, the community and environment.“As both external and internal investigations into the cause of death are ongoing, we are unable to comment on this situation. Right now, our focus is on supporting our colleagues,” Crescent Point said.Story continues belowThis advertisement has not loaded yet,but your article continues below.STARS Air Ambulance responded to the scene around 1 p.m. Monday,STAR 9 (Regina) has been dispatched for a Scene Call Emergency in the Stoughton, SK area.— STARS Ambulance (@STARSambulance) August 19, 2019 Stoughton is about 140 kilometres southeast of Regina. read more

UN Palestinian refugee agency seeks 11 billion over five years

The main United Nations agency helping Palestinian refugees today presented a $1.1-billion blueprint to improve the life chances of 4 million Palestinians and enhance their ability to support themselves over five years.“This is not a prescriptive plan, it is an outline meant to accommodate changing realities and needs on the ground,” UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Peter Hansen told an international donors’ meeting in Geneva.“It is a testimony to the commitment of UNRWA and its donor partners to help the Palestine refugees live in dignity and achieve their ambitions for self-reliance and development.”In recent years UNRWA resources have not kept pace with the growing needs of the refugees and by many indicators the refugees are slipping backwards in comparison with the non-refugees they live amongst. Refugee education and health facilities are often hugely overcrowded and under-equipped.Refugee homes, especially those of the one-third who live in camps, are in a dilapidated condition, while UNRWA’s tools for helping refugees out of poverty are woefully overstretched.UNRWA’s medium term plan (MTP) is the product of many months of dialogue between the Agency and the donor community and has been influenced by the recommendations of a major conference held in June 2004 in Geneva to examine the future of humanitarian assistance to Palestine refugees.It will enhance the quality of education, health and social services but also better promote self-reliance among the refugees by extending the Agency’s micro-credit programme, increasing its provision of vocational training and by upgrading the conditions in the refugee camps.In education, priorities include matching host authority curricula, reducing the use of rented schools, reducing classroom overcrowding and creating special educational needs centres to work with the most vulnerable children. In health, it focuses on reducing the excessive workloads of medical staff, expanding psycho-social support and early detection of disabilities for children.Last year UNRWA received the most donations for a single year in its 55-year history – more than $502 million. read more

As Nepal truce ends UN human rights chief warns against abuses

“It is a tragedy for the people of Nepal that full-scale armed conflict may now resume. But there need not and must not be the same gross violations of international humanitarian law and human rights standards that have been perpetrated during previous phases of the conflict,” High Commissioner Louise Arbour said in Geneva. The truce expired on 2 January.Nepal is a party to the Geneva Conventions as well as to most international human rights treaties, while the leadership of the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) (Maoist) has made general commitments to observe international humanitarian law and respect rights. Ms. Arbour called on both “to declare publicly their acceptance of all that these principles, and to explain to their cadres their responsibility to respect them in practice.”Anyone violating human rights must be held accountable, she said, including commanders.International humanitarian law, applicable in situations of armed conflict, prohibits murder or violence to persons taking no active part in hostilities. “I remind the CPN (Maoist) that this includes government officials, the families of security forces personnel, and persons alleged to be informers,” the High Commissioner said, “and I remind the state security forces that this includes unarmed persons thought to be Maoists or to have aided the Maoists.”Nepalese law prohibits attacks against civilians and acts or threats of violence intended to spread terror among the civilian population, and it requires he parties to the conflict to distinguish between civilian objects and military objectives. But during the course of the armed conflict in Nepal, both sides committed serious violations of international humanitarian law.The conflict has been marked by extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances and abductions, attacks on public transport buses, indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas, widespread torture and other crimes. Children have been killed and injured, forcibly recruited, used as informers, and arbitrarily detained and beaten.Ms. Arbour said her office in Nepal “will be closely monitoring the conduct of both parties in the period ahead.” read more

UN humanitarian office shores up presence in DR Congos Katanga province

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has opened a Field Coordination Unit in the troubled Katanga province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) saying the area is in the “throes of a silent humanitarian crisis.”Called an “antenna” operation, the unit is being established in the locality of Mitwaba to help strengthen emergency programmes helping more than 165,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) living in precarious conditions.The initiative aims to stem a deterioration of the humanitarian crisis marked by a lack of concrete measures on the part of the authorities to improve the protection of civilian population, which OCHA said remains “de facto hostages of armed men or groups.”The Office said the recent upsurge of insecurity in the area has led, over the last few months, to an increase in population displacement, serious human rights violations, and other abuses on the civilian population. “Rapes, human exploitations, kidnappings are common practices in Katanga,” an area the size of France.It underscored the need to boost the provision of food and protection, particularly shielding women against sexual violence.Only three non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are currently operational on the ground in Katanga, according to OCHA, although the mining industry has flourished. There is “an outstanding contrast between corporate revenues and impact on local communities,” OCHA said, calling on companies to exercise more corporate social responsibility so as to contribute to the well being of the local communities.OCHA also called on the DRC Government to fulfill its responsibility towards the security and protection of civilians and appealed to donors to vigorously support humanitarian action in the war-ravaged country.According to the UN refugee agency, almost 200,000 people have been driven from their homes in the last six months because of fighting between the Government and Mai Mai rebels in Katanga. read more

Dardens profit rises 10 per cent but Olive Garden Red Lobster sales

AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email by News Staff Posted Jun 22, 2012 10:09 pm MDT NEW YORK, N.Y. – Darden Restaurants Inc. is struggling to revive sales at its flagship Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants. A key sales figure fell at the chains during the latest quarter, and the company issued a profit forecast that fell short of Wall Street expectations.The Orlando, Fla.-based restaurant operator has been reworking the menu and pricing to reverse declining sales at Olive Garden, which is its biggest chain and accounts for almost half its revenue. The 10 per cent rise in Darden’s net income for the quarter came primarily from the opening of new locations, including those for its smaller specialty chains.Revenue at Olive Garden restaurants open at least a year fell 1.8 per cent in the quarter. At Red Lobster, the figure fell 3.9 per cent. The metric is an indicator of health because it strips out the effect of newly opened and closed stores.Darden attributed the drop at Olive Garden in part to its “Taste of Tuscany” promotion, which it said didn’t emphasize value enough at a time when diners are watching their budgets and have so many more casual dining options.Olive Garden’s menu “failed to keep pace with guest expectations that started to evolve much faster than they had in the past,” said Andrew Madsen, Darden’s president and chief operating officer.Executives noted that a new promotion starting next week — two meals for $25 — will go back to underscoring value. A new core menu and advertising campaign are also slated for next year.“We’re making progress on our efforts to elevate the guest experience at Olive Garden, and over the next 12 months guests will see more and more of the improved food, service, value and advertising we’ve been developing,” CEO Clarence Otis said in a prepared statement.For 2013, Darden forecast a profit of $3.86 to $4 per share, which fell short of Wall Street expectations of $4.06 per share, according to FactSet. Given the expectations for a slow economic recovery, the company forecast sales at established restaurants to grow just 1 per cent to 2 per cent.Based on the long-term prospects for its brands, however, the company plans to accelerate growth in its fiscal 2013, with about 100 net new restaurants. The company had 89 more restaurants at the end of the quarter than it did a year earlier.For its fiscal fourth quarter, Darden reported net income of $151.2 million, or $1.15 per share, in line with Wall Street expectations. That compares with $137.4 million, or 99 cents per share, a year ago.Revenue was $2.07 billion for the three months ended May 27, up from $1.99 billion a year ago but shy of the $2.11 billion analysts were expecting, according to FactSet.At Red Lobster, the company noted that a $1 price hike for its popular “Festival of Shrimp” wasn’t well received.Madsen said company research suggested consumers would be “largely indifferent” to the higher $12.99 price for the special of any two shrimp dishes. But the softer sales during the promotion proved the hike “turned out to be too aggressive,” he said.Sales at the company’s LongHorn Steakhouse restaurants open at least a year climbed 3 per cent. The figure rose 2.8 per cent at The Capital Grille and Bahama Breeze and 1.9 per cent at Seasons 52. The company also acquired 11 Eddie V’s restaurants in the quarter.Darden raised its dividend to 50 cents per share from 43 cents. The new quarterly payment will be made Aug. 1 to shareholders of record July 10.On Friday, Darden shares closed down 35 cents at $50.04.___Follow Candice Choi at Darden’s profit rises 10 per cent, but Olive Garden, Red Lobster sales weakness raises worries read more