Home Depot 3Q results top Street on strength at US stores raises

Home Depot 3Q results top Street on strength at US stores, raises fiscal 2013 forecast ATLANTA – Home Depot’s fiscal third-quarter profit climbed as sales at its U.S. stores strengthened amid the improvement of the housing market.The results for the nation’s biggest home improvement company beat analysts’ estimates and the chain also lifted its full-year forecast again on Tuesday. Its shares briefly touched an all-time high.Home improvement companies have been benefiting from record-low interest rates and rising home prices, spurring customers to spend more to renovate their homes.“We were pleased with our performance in the third quarter as sales exceeded our expectations,” said Craig Menear, executive vice-president of merchandising. “Strength in the core of the store, the continued resurgence of our pro(fessional) customers and mild temperatures helped us overcome difficult comparisons cycling last year’s storm related sales.”For the three months ended Nov. 3, Home Depot Inc. reported net income of $1.35 billion, or 95 cents per share, up from $947 million, or 63 cents per share, a year ago. The prior-year period was weighed down by a one-time charge of 11 cents per share tied to store closings in China.Analysts expected lower earnings of 89 cents per share for the latest quarter, according to FactSet.Revenue for the Atlanta-based company rose 7 per cent to $19.47 billion from $18.13 billion. Wall Street predicted $19.18 billion.In the third quarter, the chain reported that sales at stores open at least a year, a key retail metric, rose 7.4 per cent. In the U.S., that figure increased 8.2 per cent.Smaller rival Lowe’s Cos. reports quarterly results on Wednesday.Home Depot now foresees fiscal 2013 earnings to be up about 24 per cent to $3.72 per share. Revenue is expected to be up approximately 5.6 per cent. The company had also increased its full-year outlook in August. It previously predicted earnings of $3.60 per share, with revenue up about 4.5 per cent. Based on 2012’s revenue of $74.75 billion, the new guidance implies approximately $78.9 billion.Analysts expect full-year earnings of $3.70 per share on revenue of $78.63 billion.Credit Suisse analyst Gary Balter, who rates Home Depot “Outperform,” said the results were “another well executed quarter.”“We continue to like Home Depot given the U.S. housing recovery, share gains from weaker competitors (Sears), strong execution, and internal initiatives,” he said.Shares rose $1.67, or 2.1 per cent, to $81.34 in morning trading after hitting an all-time high of $82.27 earlier in the session. AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email by The Associated Press Posted Nov 19, 2013 4:18 am MDT read more

Orders for US durable goods fell 1 pct in Jan but some

In this Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, photo, a woman walks through a display of refrigerators at a Lowe’s store in Cranberry Township, Pa. The Commerce Department releases durable goods for January on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) Orders for US durable goods fell 1 pct. in Jan., but some demand recovers after Dec. stumble by Josh Boak, The Associated Press Posted Feb 27, 2014 6:36 am MDT WASHINGTON – American businesses ordered fewer durable manufactured goods in January, cutting demand for planes, autos and machines. But a key category that reflects business investment rebounded on the strength of demand for electronics and fabricated metals.The Commerce Department said Thursday that orders for durable goods fell a seasonally adjusted 1 per cent in January from December. Much of the decline was driven by a 20.2 per cent drop in demand for commercial aircraft, a volatile month-to-month category. Orders for all transportation-related equipment fell 5.6 per cent.More encouragingly, orders rose 1.7 per cent in a closely watched category, known as core capital goods, which excludes volatile transportation and defence orders. This category had dropped 1.8 per cent in December.Economists track this category to determine whether business investment is expanding. Last month’s rebound nearly erased all of December’s decline, a sign that companies might be anticipating more business during spring.“There is some evidence that the growth rate of equipment investment is strengthening,” said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics. But “we won’t know for sure until the weather improves.”Frigid weather and snowstorms have cut into factory output in recent months. As manufacturing has slowed, the effects have echoed across the economy to dampen hiring, retail demand and home sales.Manufacturers made fewer cars and trucks, appliances, furniture and carpeting in January, as cold weather delayed shipments of raw materials and caused some factories to shut down, the Federal Reserve has reported. Factory production plummeted 0.8 per cent last month, ending five straight months of gains.The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, said its index of manufacturing activity fell to 51.3 in January, from 56.5 in December. It was the lowest reading since May, though any reading above 50 signals growth in manufacturing.The broad slowdown emerged after the economy had picked up momentum during the final half of 2013.Retail sales tumbled last month, including a 2.1 per cent dip in auto purchases. Sales of existing U.S. homes plummeted in January to the slowest pace in 18 months, according to the National Association of Realtors.Most economists say the economy will pivot to stronger growth this year after a halting recovery that followed the recession’s end in June 2009. Many analysts are forecasting the economy will grow by around 3 per cent in 2014, an increase of more than a percentage point for 2013.Much of the hope for a better 2014 reflects a belief that the federal government will be less of a drag this year. In 2013, higher taxes and across-the-board spending cuts trimmed about 1.5 percentage points from growth. AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more

Republicans block Senate bill that would curb tax breaks for firms moving

AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Republicans block Senate bill that would curb tax breaks for firms moving operations overseas by Stephen OhlemacHer, The Associated Press Posted Jul 30, 2014 9:25 am MDT WASHINGTON – Republican senators blocked an election-year bill Wednesday to limit tax breaks for U.S. companies that move operations overseas.The bill would have prohibited companies from deducting expenses related to moving their operations to a foreign country. It also would have offered tax credits to companies that move operations to the U.S. from a foreign country.The Senate voted 54-42 to end debate on the bill, six short of the 60 votes needed to advance it. The White House says President Barack Obama supports the legislation.“Today in the United States, any time an American company closes a factory or plant in America and moves operations to another country, the American taxpayers pick up part of that moving bill,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. “Frankly, a vote against this bill is a vote against American jobs.”Republicans called the bill an election-year stunt. They noted that Democrats tried to pass a similar bill two years ago, right before the last congressional elections.Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the bill is “designed for campaign rhetoric and failure, not to create jobs here in the U.S.”Republicans also complained that Reid wouldn’t allow any amendments. The legislation now joins a growing number of bills that have stalled in the Senate this year because Democrats and Republicans couldn’t agree on amendments.The bill would have cost U.S. companies that move overseas $143 million in additional taxes over the next decade, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, which analyzes tax legislation for Congress. Companies moving into the U.S. would have seen their tax bills drop by $357 million over the same period.The difference — $214 million — would have been added to the budget deficit.___Follow Stephen Ohlemacher on Twitter: http://twitter.com/stephenatap read more

Transat says its wellpositioned to currency hit of Scottish independence vote

AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Transat says it’s well-positioned to currency hit of Scottish independence vote by Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press Posted Sep 11, 2014 8:19 am MDT MONTREAL – Vacation package operator Transat A.T. says it’s well-positioned to withstand fluctuations in the values of the British pound and the euro, should Scotland vote next week to separate from the United Kingdom.Polls that suggested the Yes side was gaining momentum ahead of the Sept. 18 referendum has sent jitters through the markets, prompting investors to sell of the British pound. The currency fell earlier this week to a 10-month low but recovered Thursday.A lower pound could make it more expensive for British customers travelling to Canada but less expensive for Canadians to go the other way. Having operations on both sides of the Atlantic should help Montreal Transat to mitigate the impact of a currency change, he said.About 60 per cent of Transat’s transatlantic traffic is from Canada, compared with 40 per cent from Europe.“I think we are well-positioned to face these kind of situations, if they happen,” chief financial officer Denis Petrin said Thursday during a conference call about its third-quarter results.Transat said this year’s summer seasons got off to one of the best starts in the company’s history, even though its profits dropped primarily due to the cost of fuel-hedging last year.The Montreal-based company, which operates Air Transat and a variety of other travel-related businesses, earned $25.8 million or 66 cents per diluted share for the three months ended July 31. That’s down 37 per cent compared $1.07 per share a year earlier when net profit was $41.1 million.About $12 million of the $15 million difference was attributable to fuel hedging, a non-cash, non-operating item. Adjusted net income before non-operating items was $26.7 million or 69 cents per diluted share, down 13 per cent compared with $30.8 million or 80 cents in the third quarter of 2013.Analysts expected Transat would earn 67 cents per share in adjusted profits on $966 million of revenues.Transat CEO Jean-Marc Eustache said the company had one of its best third quarters in spite of an increase in transatlantic capacity from rivals including Air Canada’s Rouge (TSX:AC.B).“In the entire history of the company, we’ve done better on only two occasions, including last year, which was a record. So we’re talking about a very satisfying start to the season,” he said.Revenues were up 1.6 per cent at $941.7 million, compared with $927 million a year earlier.The number of travellers was stable during the quarter, while average selling prices were higher on a lower Canadian dollar compared to the euro and British pound.Transat’s North American revenues decreased four per cent or $27.9 million as the number of travellers decreased 2.8 per cent. The segment’s operating incomes was $19.8 million, compared with $28.1 million a year earlier. The company reduced its transatlantic capacity by 2.1 per cent during the quarter and increased its supply to Sun destinations by eight per cent.European business unit sales increased by 17.8 per cent or $42.6 million due largely to the lower loonie. Operating income increased to $15.3 million from $13.7 million in the prior year. The number of travellers increased 12.1 per cent while average selling prices were down.The company said it expects to record “satisfactory” but lower results during the fourth quarter as transatlantic capacity from August to October is similar to last summer.A total of 86 per cent of that capacity has been sold to date, with load factors down 1.5 per cent and selling prices up one per cent. The weak Canadian dollar net of the change in fuel costs are expected to increased operational expenses by 3.8 per cent.Transat’s capacity to Sun destinations from Canada is up seven per cent.Benoit Poirier of Desjardins Capital Markets said the better-than-expected results, unchanged outlook for the coming quarter and cost reduction initiatives should boost the company’s share price.“We like management’s disciplined approach to improving margins by focusing on capacity management and higher selling prices,” he wrote in a report.Transat said it also remains on track for a $20 million improvement in margins this year and $20 million in 2015 when the full benefits will be realized from the operation of its narrow-body fleet. It is also working on a 2015-2017 strategic plan taht Poirier expects should add at least $25 million more in cost savings.Analyst David Tyerman of Canaccord Genuity said the “modest upside surprise” in the third quarter should improve the inexpensive Transat shares.“We continue to believe Transat’s results have substantial recovery potential. However, there may be risk from Air Canada’s rouge expansion and industry competition,” Tyerman wrote.Transat A.T. is an integrated international tour operator with more than 60 destination countries.On the Toronto Stock Exchange, Transat’s shares lost 13 cents or 1.5 per cent to clost at $8.57 in Thursday.Follow @RossMarowits on TwitterNote to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version correctly said net income was down 37 per cent from a year earlier but erroneously blamed the impact of increased market capacity. A bigger factor was fuel hedging. read more

Indonesian military says air force plane crashes in residential neighbourhood of Medan

Indonesian military says air force plane crashes in residential neighbourhood of Medan city JAKARTA, Indonesia – An Indonesian military spokesman says a Hercules C-130 plane has crashed into a residential neighbourhood of Medan city in Sumatra.Indonesian television on Tuesday broadcast blurry images from the city of a downed aircraft in flames.Maj. Gen. Fuad Basya confirmed the crash but had no other details. AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email by The Associated Press Posted Jun 29, 2015 11:46 pm MDT read more

Regulators find lots of fake news aimed at stock investors

Regulators find lots of ‘fake news’ aimed at stock investors by Marcy Gordon, The Associated Press Posted Apr 10, 2017 4:59 pm MDT Last Updated Apr 10, 2017 at 5:40 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email WASHINGTON – “Fake news” is not limited to presidential politics and conspiracy theories. Investors also have to be on the alert for stock promotions masquerading as unbiased reports online.Federal regulators have brought civil fraud charges against 27 businesses and individuals for deceiving investors into believing what they were reading on websites were independent, impartial analyses of stocks.The writers were secretly paid for writing the bullish articles, the Securities and Exchange Commission said Monday.More than 250 articles had false statements attesting that the writers hadn’t been compensated by the companies they were writing about, the agency said in a series of orders and lawsuits.One writer was said to have used at least nine pseudonyms as well as his own name. One of the phoney identities was “an analyst and fund manager with almost 20 years of investment experience.”By law, a company paying someone to publish or publicize articles about its stock must publicly disclose the payments.“Our markets cannot operate fairly when there are deliberate efforts to reach prospective investors with positive articles about a stock, while hiding that the companies paid for those articles,” Melissa Hodgman, associate director of the SEC’s enforcement division, said in a statement.The SEC also issued an investor alert warning that articles on an investing website that appear to be an impartial source of information or that provide commentary on several stocks may be part of a paid stock promotion that hasn’t been disclosed. People should never make an investment based only on information published on an investment research website.Of the 27 businesses and individuals charged, 17 agreed to settlements calling for penalties and restitution ranging from $2,200 to about $3 million, the SEC said. Cases are pending against the other 10. The 10 companies, stock promotion or communications firms are Lidingo Holdings, CSIR Group, DreamTeam Group, Mission Investor Relations, QualityStocks, Dunedin, Galena Biopharma, ImmunoCellular Therapeutics, Lion Biotechnologies and Lavos. read more

Huge cyberattack ebbs as investigators work to find culprits

People walk in front of the headquarters building of Hitachi Ltd., center, in Tokyo, Monday, May 15, 2017. The global “ransomware” cyberattack hit computers at 600 locations in Japan, but appeared to cause no major problems as Japanese started their workday Monday even as the attack caused chaos elsewhere. Hitachi spokeswoman said emails were slow or not getting delivered, and files could not be opened. The company believes the problems are related to the ransomware attack, although no ransom appears to have been demanded so far. They were installing software to fix the problems. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi) Huge cyberattack ebbs as investigators work to find culprits NEW YORK, N.Y. – The global cyberattack that took computer files hostage appeared to slow on Monday as authorities worked to catch the extortionists behind it — a difficult task that involves searching for digital clues and following the money.Among their findings so far: The first suggestions of a possible link between the “ransomware” known as WannaCry and hackers linked to North Korea. Those findings remain quite tentative; one firm advancing them described them as intriguing but still “weak.”Experts had warned that WannaCry might wreak renewed havoc on Monday, particularly in Asia, which was closed for business on Friday when the malware scrambled data at hospitals, factories, government agencies, banks and other businesses.But while there were thousands of additional infections there, the expected second-wave outbreak largely failed to materialize, in part because security researchers had already defanged it .Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer for the Finnish security company F-Secure, said the perpetrators of WannaCry made one crucial mistake.“The malware became too successful,” Hypponen said. “When you are a cybercriminal gang and your mission is to make money, you don’t want to infect 200,000 work stations. You don’t want to end up on the covers of magazines. There will be no shortage of investigation.”ABOUT THAT NORTH KOREA LINKWannaCry paralyzed computers running mostly older versions of Microsoft Windows in some 150 countries. It encrypted users’ computer files and displayed a message demanding $300 to $600 worth of the digital currency bitcoin to release them; failure to pay would leave the data scrambled and likely beyond repair .The Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab said Monday that portions of the WannaCry program use the same code as malware previously distributed by the Lazarus Group, a hacker collective behind the 2014 Sony hack blamed on North Korea.But it’s possible the code was simply copied from the Lazarus malware without any other direct connection. Kaspersky said “further research can be crucial to connecting the dots.”Another security company, Symantec, has also found similarities between WannaCry and Lazarus tools, and said it’s “continuing to investigate for stronger connections.”FOLLOW THE MONEYResearchers might find some additional clues in the bitcoin accounts accepting the ransom payments. There have been three accounts identified so far, and there’s no indication yet that the criminals have touched the funds. But what good is money just sitting there as digital bits?Although bitcoin is anonymized, researchers can watch it flow from user to user. So investigators can follow the transactions until an anonymous account matches with a real person, said Steve Grobman, chief technology officer with the California security company McAfee.But that technique is no sure bet. There are ways to convert bitcoins into cash on the sly through third parties. And even finding a real person might be no help if they’re in a jurisdiction that won’t co-operate.Another possible slip-up: Nicholas Weaver, who teaches networking and security at the University of California, Berkeley, said good ransomware usually generates a unique bitcoin address for each payment to make tracing difficult. That didn’t seem to happen here.TELL-TALE SIGNSJames Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said U.S. investigators are collecting forensic information — such as internet addresses, samples of malware or information the culprits might have inadvertently left on computers — that could be matched with the handiwork of known hackers.Investigators might also be able to extract some information about the attacker from a previously hidden internet address connected to WannaCry’s “kill switch.” That switch was essentially a beacon sending the message “hey, I’m infected” to the hidden address, Weaver said.That means the very first attempts to reach that address, which might have been recorded by spy agencies such as the NSA or Russian intelligence, could lead to “patient zero” — the first computer infected with WannaCry. That, in turn, might further narrow the focus on possible suspects.THE PLAYERSForensics, though, will only get investigators so far. One challenge will be sharing intelligence in real time to move as quickly as the criminals — a tricky feat when some of the major nations involved, such as the U.S. and Russia, distrust each other.Even if the perpetrators can be identified, bringing them to justice could be another matter. They might be hiding out in countries that wouldn’t be willing to extradite suspects for prosecution, said Robert Cattanach, a former U.S. Justice Department attorney and an expert on cybersecurity.On the other hand, the WannaCry attack hit — and annoyed — many countries. Russia was among the hardest, and Britain among the most high-profile, and both have “some pretty good investigative capabilities,” Cattanach said.___Lori Hinnant in Paris and Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed to this story. by Anick Jesdanun And Barbara Ortutay, The Associated Press Posted May 15, 2017 6:52 am MDT Last Updated May 15, 2017 at 7:00 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more

Efficiency gains fail to boost bottom line for oil and gas drillers

CALGARY – A new report suggests western Canadian oil and gas drillers are their own worst enemies because they have greatly increased drilling efficiency while revenues have fallen.Analysts at GMP FirstEnergy say rigs are drilling more than a third deeper in an average day in 2017 than they were in 2014 but their average earnings per day has actually fallen by a quarter, from more than $26,000 in 2014 to less than $20,000 now.The research represents more bad news for the industry because it suggests fewer rigs will be needed in the future, translating into fewer jobs and more rig retirements.Mark Scholz, president of the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, says the sector continues to struggle with poor drilling activity because of volatile oil prices that are stuck below US $50 per barrel.He says so many skilled workers have quit the job since oil fell from over $100 per barrel in 2014 that hiring remains challenging.The association reports there were only 234 rigs working on Monday out of a western Canadian fleet of more than 600. Each rig directly employs between 20 and 25 staff. Efficiency gains fail to boost bottom line for oil and gas drillers: report by The Canadian Press Posted Aug 21, 2017 3:22 pm MDT Last Updated Aug 21, 2017 at 4:00 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more

Perpetrators of mass rapes in Guinea must be brought to justice stresses

“It is equally crucial that all victims, other witnesses and their families are afforded full protection and that no effort is spared to ensure their safety throughout this process. Known abusers must not be allowed to hold positions of authority,” said Zainab Bangura, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.“Addressing these atrocities is crucial for fostering reconciliation, for trust in the justice system, and for a durable peace,” she added in a statement. On 28 September 2009, civilians organized an opposition rally in a soccer stadium in Conakry when Guinean security forces opened fire on demonstrators, killing at least 150 and resulting in the rape and sexual abuse of 109 women.Lieutenant Colonel Moussa Tiegboro Camara was charged earlier this year by a national court for the atrocities – including mass rape – committed that day. Earlier this month, Colonel Abdoulaye Chérif Diaby, former Minister of Health, was also indicted for his alleged responsibility in the events. “It is important that these and other charges are processed swiftly and thoroughly, as justice in Guinea has already been delayed for too long,” said Ms. Bangura. “Although Lieutenant Colonel Moussa Tiegboro Camara earlier this year was charged for his role in the massacre, to date not a single perpetrator has been convicted.”The envoy, who was appointed in June, added that her office is committed to supporting the Government’s efforts to address impunity for sexual violence and to ensuring that such atrocities are never repeated. read more

Deploring murder of Somali radio journalist UN agency chief calls for investigation

“I condemn the murder of Rahma Abdulkadir. Her name joins a long list of journalists who have lost their lives in Somalia,” said Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).“Media professionals must be able to work in secure conditions to fulfil their mission. Impunity for crimes against them must not be tolerated; it increases their vulnerability and compromises freedom of expression for all,” she added.Ms. Abdulkadir, 25, worked for privately-owned Abduwaq radio. She was reportedly shot and killed by unknown attackers in the capital, Mogadishu, on 24 March. The attack was condemned earlier this week by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, who called for an end to such “senseless” violence. “Somalia continues to be one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists to operate. This negative picture needs to change,” Mr. Mahiga said, calling on the recently-formed Independent Task Force on Human Rights and law enforcement bodies to ensure that the perpetrators are brought swiftly to justice. read more

Discrimination against widows must end urges senior UN official on International Day

“On this International Widows’ Day, UN Women calls for action to end discrimination against widows so they can live in dignity and enjoy equal rights, opportunities and full participation in society,” the UN entity’s acting head and deputy executive director Lakshmi Puri said in her message for the Day. “Absent in statistics, unnoticed by researchers, neglected by national and local authorities and mostly overlooked by civil society organizations – the situation of widows is, in effect, invisible,” the UN General Assembly said in 2011 when it declared the first International Widow’s Day to be marked annually on 23 June. Women whose husbands died are at a greater risk of slipping into poverty, their economic resources often exacerbated by little or no access to credit or private property, and by illiteracy or lack of education. Millions of the world’s widows endure extreme poverty, ostracism, violence, homelessness, ill health and discrimination in law and custom. Yet widows contribute to society as mothers, caregivers and heads of households, added Ms. Puri, and their rights should be upheld by national laws and policies. These should be guided by the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women which the UN General Assembly adopted in 1979, and is often described as a bill of rights for women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Through its “Empowerment of Widows and their Coalitions” programme, UN Women supports 1,500 widows in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Photo: UN Women/Gaganjit Singh Through its “Empowerment of Widows and their Coalitions” programme, UN Women supports 1,500 widows in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Photo: UN Women/Gaganjit Singh Through its “Empowerment of Widows and their Coalitions” programme, UN Women supports 1,500 widows in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Photo: UN Women/Gaganjit Singh Through its “Empowerment of Widows and their Coalitions” programme, UN Women supports 1,500 widows in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Photo: UN Women/Gaganjit Singh Through its “Empowerment of Widows and their Coalitions” programme, UN Women supports 1,500 widows in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Photo: UN Women/Gaganjit Singh Through its “Empowerment of Widows and their Coalitions” programme, UN Women supports 1,500 widows in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Photo: UN Women/Gaganjit Singh ‹ › There are more widows this year than ever before, Ms. Puri said. She attributed the rise to armed conflicts, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the age difference between partners, with many girls being married off to much older men. “Young widows, who were child brides, face great risk with little protection,” the UN official said. If current child marriage rates continue, more than 140 million girls will become child brides between 2011 and 2020, according to UN Population Fund (UNFPA) figures. The annual session 2013 of the Executive Board of UN-Women is due to start next week at the UN headquarters in New York. read more

Marking World Tourism Day UN highlights role of travel sector in protecting

‹ › Credit: WTO The important relationship between recreational travel and the world’s water resources is the focus of this year’s United Nations observance of World Tourism Day, which aims to raise awareness of tourism’s social, cultural, political and economic value.“World Tourism Day offers a unique opportunity to shine a spotlight on water both as an asset and as a resource and on the actions needed to face up to the water challenge,” Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), said in a statement on the 2013 theme, “Tourism and Water: Protecting our Common Future.”“I urge all those involved in the tourism sector to join our global World Tourism Day campaign and continue to devise innovate solutions to ensuring tourism contributes to sustainable access to water resources worldwide,” he added.In his message on the occasion, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that unsustainable consumption and climate change were threatening global water and stressed the responsibility of the tourism industry to safeguard and intelligently manage the resource. “In this International Year of Water Cooperation, I urge tourism establishments to cut consumption and improve waste management, and I call on individuals to play their part by making environmentally conscious choices when they travel,” Mr. Ban said.As part of the worldwide observance of the Day, in the Maldives, a conference on tourism and water will bring together public and private sector tourism stakeholders, experts on water preservation and media experts today, according to the UNWTO. read more

More teachers – better trained and supported – needed to reach education

‹ ›“Learning is not possible without professional, well trained, well supported, accountable and valued teachers,” they stressed highlighting this year’s theme of World Teachers’ Day, “A call for teachers.”According to the UNESCO study, about 58 per cent of countries currently do not have enough teachers in classrooms to achieve universal primary education, with the problems particularly bad in Sub-Saharan Africa and Arab States where by 2030, some 4.7 million teachers and 1.9 million, respectively.This recruitment challenge was the focus of two parallel events held at UN offices the eve of World Teachers’ Day, one in Paris and another in New York, which brought together representatives of the UN, professional organizations, experts and researchers to launch a ‘Global Year of Action’ for quality education.Addressing participants at the event hosted by UNICEF in New York and organized by EI, UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, cautioned that “unless we are able to hire more teachers, we will have generations of people who are unemployed and unemployable.”As the UN Special Envoy, Mr. Brown has been working with partners to galvanize support for the Global Education First Initiative, which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched last September, with the aim of putting every child in school, improving the quality of learning, and fostering global citizenship. The Initiative is hosted by UNESCO.Mr. Brown said that two big changes happened in the past one to two years which make it imperative that the international community works collectively to focus on education – countries are realizing that they will not be successful unless they invest in education, and young boys and girls are standing up to demand education. “Education is not only the way to unlock individual opportunity. It is not only the only way to break the cycle of poverty. But it is also the way that individual nations can become prosperous,” Mr. Brown said, calling for mobilization of the private sector, faith groups, civil society, young people and others to pressure domestic governments into further prioritizing education. Participants also heard from Vibeke Jensen, Director of the Global Education First Initiative, who spoke on behalf of UNESCO, and stressed the importance of education in the post-2015 development agenda which was the focus of the high-level General Assembly debate which wrapped up earlier this week. The Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh, is due to brief the UN General Assembly on education and the post-2015 agenda “soon”, he said in his remarks in New York.In his speech, Mr. Singh stressed the importance of education for global citizenship. He noted that it is “the fundamental right of every boy and girl as an entitlement.” Other speakers included Susan Hopgood, President of EI, who held a Maori tokotoko stick while addressing the audience to stress that she was speaking on behalf of a collective strength of 30 million educators. She noted that quality education is based on quality teaching, quality tools for teaching and learning, and quality teaching and learning environments. With that aim, technology is not a threat to future education, but a means by which teaching can be improved, she said.EI had announced last week an agreement with UN and other partners, to use technology to aid student curricula and teacher training. The announcement was made in a meeting with Mr. Ban and Mr. Brown on the sidelines of the General Assembly high-level debate.Participants also heard from Josephine Bourne, Associate Director for Education at UNICEF, who shared the UN agency’s support for the new agreement on technology. Earlier that day, Ms. Bokova and Mr. van Leeuwen had hosted a parallel event at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Princess Firyal of Jordan, and Assistant Director-General for Education, Qian Tang, were among the participants. World Teachers’ Day, held annually since 1994, commemorates the anniversary of the signing in 1966 of the UNESCO-ILO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers, which essentially serves as a charter of rights for teachers. The Day also celebrates the essential role of teachers in providing quality education at all levels. Some 5.2 million teachers need to be hired worldwide to reach the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of achieving universal primary education by 2015, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported today, in a study to coincide with the Day. That figure includes 1.58 million new recruits and 3.66 million to replace those leaving the profession.“The challenge goes beyond numbers – more teachers must mean better quality learning, through appropriate training and support,” the heads of four major UN agencies and a partner organization said in a joint message for World Teachers’ Day.“Far too often, teachers remain under-qualified and poorly paid, with low status, and excluded from education policy matters and decisions that concern and affect them,” the officials added, calling for effective international action in support of national efforts to bolster teachers and education institutions, and improve education opportunities.The joint message was issued by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova; UN International Labour Organization (ILO) Director-General, Guy Ryder; UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator, Helen Clark; UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director, Anthony Lake; and Fred van Leeuwen, the General Secretary of Education International (EI), which represents teachers’ organizations across the globe.Fifty-seven million children of primary school age are absent from classrooms, according to UN figures. At the current rate, nearly half of those children will never enrol in school, and more than a quarter will start school late.Many of those children who do enter school are failing to learn to read and write by the time they reach fourth grade, the officials noted. read more

Turkeys new law on Internet curbs draws concern from UN rights office

Briefing journalists in Geneva, Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said the Office is concerned that the legislation “may lead to breaches of human rights, in particular the right to freedom of expression and opinion, and the right to privacy.”Law 6518, which contains the amendments, was adopted by the Turkish parliament last week. According to news sources, there is pressure on Turkish President Abdullah Gul, a Twitter user, to not sign it.The law would also require Internet service providers to store data on web users’ activities for two years and make it available to the authorities upon request, without a judicial order.“The law as it stands appears to be incompatible with Turkey’s international human rights obligations, in particular those related to freedom of expression and the right to privacy,” Mr. Colville said. Back in May 2013, Turkey enacted Law 5651 which places broad restrictions on Internet use. Since the law came into force, approximately 37,000 websites have reportedly been denied operation by court orders and administrative blocking orders, according to OHCHR.“We call on the authorities to review laws No.5651 and 6518 to bring them in line with international human rights standards,” Mr. Colville said, “in particular the rights to freedom of expression and opinion, and the right to privacy.”In 2010, Turkey agreed to “align all articles of the Penal Code and other laws with international standards, particularly with regard to freedom of expression,” as stipulated in its Universal Periodic Review before the Human Rights Council.The UN General Assembly affirmed last November 2013 that people have the same rights “online” that they do “offline.” The OHCHR also reiterated its call on authorities to ensure police forces do not resort to excessive use of force and other human rights violations while discharging their duties during demonstrations. The Office originally urged authorities to exercise restraint last summer when protesters expressed their dissatisfaction with the redevelopment of the historic Taksim square, resulting in clashes with police that reportedly led to hundreds of people injured or arrested. read more

UN agency concerned about reported abuse as thousands continue to flee Myanmar

Several waves of clashes between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, the first of which occurred in June 2012, have affected hundreds of thousands of families in the country’s western region.The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that more than 86,000 people have left on boats since the violence began two years ago, including nearly 15,000 from January to April this year. “The majority are Rohingya, although anecdotally the proportion of Bangladeshis has grown this year,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards told reporters in Geneva. Across the region, the agency continues to advocate for temporary stay arrangements for the Rohingya until the situation stabilizes sufficiently in Rakhine state for them to return. “These arrangements involve acquiring the documented right to remain in the host country for the designated period, protection against arbitrary detention, respect for family unity, guarantees of shelter as well as access to services and lawful work opportunities,” said Mr. Edwards.Some of those who have reached Thailand speak of being taken to smugglers’ camps in the jungles or hills near the Thailand-Malaysia border. There they were kept for months in overcrowded camps and sometimes even cages until their families could pay for their release, according to UNHCR. The Thai authorities have conducted several raids on these camps, rescuing hundreds of people, including some 500 Rohingya earlier this year. UNHCR is providing relief and advocating for a more clearly defined temporary protection regime during their stay in Thailand that would include, for example, access to education for the children and enhanced freedom of movement. “Most immediately, to facilitate recovery and improve conditions of stay from the current immigration detention centres, we have offered to support rehabilitation centres where families can stay together and basic community activities can be organized while longer-term solutions are sought. The most vulnerable cases are submitted for consideration by resettlement countries,” Mr. Edwards said.In Malaysia, where UNHCR has registered more than 35,000 Rohingya over the years, there have been increased reports of smuggling and trafficking from Thailand of people from Myanmar. Reliable reports indicate these groups frequently face abuse, ill-treatment, exploitation and extortion by smuggling gangs. An increasing number are in poor physical and emotional health – malnourished and unable to walk. “UNHCR is advocating for the prompt release from detention of any detained Rohingya and others of concern,” said Mr. Edwards. “We also believe that improved access to health and other support services, including lawful employment opportunities, will allow refugees to be self-reliant.” In Indonesia, the Rohingya now number more than 1,200 people. Registration numbers peaked during the second half of 2013 with 474 new arrivals after several boats arrived from Thailand; others also crossed over from Malaysia. This year the trend of arrivals has dropped to only 56 people up to May. Meanwhile, in Bangladesh, which has hosted Rohingya refugees for more than two decades, there have been several positive developments in the last year. Education was extended to middle school level in the two official camps hosting more than 30,000 Rohingya refugees.“We have also enhanced efforts to address gender-based violence in the camps, including by facilitating the deployment of policewomen,” said Mr. Edwards. “In addition, the Government has also agreed to the improvement of services in the camps including shelter and livelihood opportunities.UNHCR has welcomed the Bangladeshi Government’s initiative to “list” an estimated 200,000 to 500,000 unregistered Rohingya in Bangladesh.The agency also noted that some 140,000 people remain displaced in Rakhine – the majority of them Rohingya, with smaller numbers of Rakhine, Kaman and other ethnicities. Aid workers have resumed humanitarian assistance following attacks on UN and non-governmental organization premises in Sittwe in late March. “While UNHCR remains committed to providing temporary shelters, coordinating camp management and addressing a difficult protection situation, we are wary of activities that could entrench segregation and protracted displacement. The challenge is to move from an emergency phase towards durable solutions,” Mr. Edwards stated. read more

Pork tapeworm infection among leading causes of epilepsy worldwide – UN health

WHO explained that taeniasis is the intestinal infection of the adult tapeworm and when left untreated, a more serious condition develops as larvae invade body tissues.“When larvae build up in the central nervous system, muscles, skin and eyes, it leads to neurocysticercosis – the most severe form of the disease and a common cause of seizures worldwide.”According to the UN health agency, 50 million people are affected by epilepsy and more than 80 per cent of them live in the developing world.“Thorough case finding, better diagnosis and treatment, and public health information campaigns are crucial to effectively control and break the life cycle of the parasite,” WHO said.“Neurocysticercosis is the most frequent preventable cause of epilepsy in the developing world,” WHO said. “It is a common infection of the human nervous system and a growing public health concern.” “Humans become infected after consuming undercooked food, particularly pork, or water contaminated with tapeworm eggs, or through poor hygiene practices,” it said. read more

Darfur UN humanitarian office reports mass displacement amid ongoing hostilities

In the El Fasher, Shangil Tobaya, Tawila, and Um Baru areas of North Darfur, the UN humanitarian office said it had “newly verified” the displacement of more than 18,000 people in the latest report from the beleaguered region. The news, in fact, comes amid a worsening security climate and dire humanitarian crisis across Darfur with rising hostilities between Government forces and armed movements, deadly inter-communal conflicts and a precipitous rise in criminality and banditry.According to UN estimates, the number of people displaced by conflict has increased to more than 430,000 since the beginning of 2014, with close to 300,000 remaining displaced in addition to the more than two million long-term internally displaced persons, or IDPs. At the daily briefing earlier this afternoon, UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said OCHA had reported that in Um Baru over 2,200 of those displaced were sheltering beside the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) base. Moreover, a steady flow of displaced persons continues to arrive at the base seeking shelter and protection. At the same time, he said, some 200 people have also reached the UNAMID site in Sortony as they reportedly feared attacks on villages in the area. OCHA noted that access to Sortony continued to pose a challenge for humanitarians but that efforts were underway to deliver aid. Meanwhile, in Jebel Marra aid agencies were unable to reach those displaced due to ongoing hostilities and access constraints. read more

Amid uptick in Ebola cases UN agency cites challenges in reaching affected

Both WHO and UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) also noted unsafe burials of those who died from the disease posed as a challenge and that “a significant number” of individuals are still either unable or reluctant to seek treatment for Ebola, which has affected over 23,500 people and killed more than 9,500 mainly in the Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.In its latest update issued Wednesday afternoon, WHO reported that new cases in Guinea continued to arise from “unknown chains of transmission” and that transmission remained “widespread in Sierra Leone” but transmission continued at very low levels in Liberia, with 1 new confirmed case reported in the 7 days to 22 February associated with a known chain of transmission.“Engaging effectively with communities remains a challenge in several geographical areas,” WHO said in its most recent updateNearly one-third of prefectures in Guinea reported at least one security incident in the week to 22 February, often as a result of rumours and misinformation linking response efforts with the spread of EVD [Ebola Virus Disease], according to WHO.The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro, last week told the UN General Assembly that the final phase of “getting to zero” cases may well be the hardest, saying the hunt to track down the virus is “like looking for needles in haystacks.” Dr. Nabarro told reports that having strong surveillance capabilities on the ground to identify people with Ebola, to confirm diagnosis, to quickly arrangement arrange effective treatment, to identify people that are their contacts and to keep those people under review for 21 days “is a really difficult task.”UNMEER also reported today that border between Guinea and Liberia reopened to the public on Wednesday after months of closure. read more

UN envoy to kickoff Syria talks in Geneva next week

In a note to correspondents issued this morning, the UN spokesperson confirmed that Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura had invited “as many of the parties as possible” to the Geneva Consultations on Syria scheduled to begin on 4 May at UN Headquarters in Geneva and expected to last for an initial period of five to six weeks. The meetings, the noted added, would serve to facilitate discussion on the “dire situation” in Syria today and provide a forum for all parties to deliver their “candid views on where we stand vis-a-vis implementation of the Geneva Communiqué almost three years since it was adopted.” According to the UN spokesperson, the Special Envoy and the Deputy Special Envoy, Ramzy Ezzeldine Ramzy, will conduct closed and separate consultations with each party. read more

No more Hiroshimas No more Nagasakis Ban declares on anniversary of atomic

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today renewed his resolve to advance the goal of achieving a world “free of the nuclear shadow,” in a message to mark the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the Japanese city of Hiroshima. “Seven decades after their first use in conflict, this sombre occasion commemorates the tens of thousands who died that day. It honours the survivors who have suffered severe adversity in the aftermath. The United Nations stands with them, resolved to realize their vision of a nuclear-weapon-free world,” said Mr. Ban. “Your commemoration should reverberate from this city across the world, reminding all people of the need for urgent action to eliminate nuclear weapons once and for all,” he added in the message to the Peace Memorial Ceremony, delivered by Acting High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Kim Won-soo. More than 200,000 people died of nuclear radiation, shock waves from the blasts and thermal radiation resulting from bombing of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 and of Nagasaki three days later. Additionally, over 400,000 more people have died – and are continuing to die – since the end of the Second World War from the impacts of the two bombs. Mr. Ban recalled his visit to Hiroshima five years ago, saying he will always carry the memories of meeting the survivors, witnessing the destruction and seeing the lingering effects. “The courage of those who lived through this catastrophic, man-made tragedy was deeply inspiring. The hibakusha are more than survivors – they are unparalleled champions of peace. From their searing experiences, they have forged a message of hope that someday the world will be free of these indiscriminate and destabilizing weapons,” he stated. “I pay tribute to the bravery of the hibakusha and renew my resolve to advance our common cause of achieving a safer and more peaceful world, free of the nuclear shadow.” Noting that this year also marks the 70th anniversary of the UN, the Secretary-General recalled that the first resolution adopted by the General Assembly reflected the world’s concern about the use of atomic weapons. “As you keep the memory of the bombing alive, so, too, must the international community persist until we have ensured that nuclear weapons are eliminated,” he stated. “I echo your rallying cry: No more Hiroshimas. No more Nagasakis.” read more