School enrolment rates surging in Afghanistan UNICEF reports

Just over two years since the fall of the Taliban regime, which severely restricted women’s education rights, girls comprise 30 per cent of all students and the number of girls attending class has leapt by more than 30 per cent.But more than 1 million Afghan girls aged between seven and 13 still do not go to school, according to UNICEF and more than 85 per cent of teachers do not have professional qualifications.The UN agency said it expects 5.5 million children to attend school this year, up from 4 million last year. There has been a four-fold rise in the number of schoolchildren since the Taliban lost power.Tomorrow UNICEF’s Deputy Executive Director Karin Sham Poo begins a seven-day tour of Afghanistan, where she will tour schools and hold talks with senior government officials.In a statement yesterday UNICEF said key barriers to education in Afghanistan include the distance between schools and children’s homes, the poor water and sanitation at schools and the perceived poor quality of teachers.The agency has launched several programmes this year, many aimed at increasing girls’ attendance. They include the establishment of 10,000 new classrooms, the provision of school supplies for 4.8 million children and 80,000 teachers, and the completion of textbooks for Grades 1 to 4.UNICEF will also improve training for 50,000 primary school teachers. read more

UN team investigating murder of Lebanese exPremier Hariri begins work

The Security Council set up the UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) on 7 April to probe the bomb attack which killed Mr. Hariri and 20 others after an initial UN fact-finding mission found Lebanon’s own probe seriously flawed and declared Syria, with its troop presence, primarily responsible for the political tension preceding the assassination.Secretary-General Kofi Annan informed the Council in a letter today of the Commission’s status. Its three-month term can be extended for up to three additional months at the discretion of the Secretary-General.Commission head Detlev Mehlis arrived in Beirut on 26 May and immediately began talks with the Lebanese authorities regarding operations. He and the Government of Lebanon concluded a memorandum of understanding this week. Since his arrival, Mr. Mehlis and his team have been reviewing materials and evidence collected by other investigations and inquiries.Mr. Hariri’s assassination in February led to renewed calls for the withdrawal of all Syrian troops and intelligence agents who had been in Lebanon since the early stages of the country’s 1975-1990 civil war.Terje Roed-Larsen, Mr. Annan’s Special Envoy for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559, which calls for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, disbanding all militias and extending Government control over the whole country, carried out a series of shuttle missions culminating in a Syrian troop withdrawal in April.Mr. Annan told reporters today that Mr. Roed-Larsen, on his latest visit after reports that there were other elements that may have gone back to Lebanon, received assurances from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “that they are prepared to work with us to fully implement [resolution] 1559, and we are going to maintain the engagement.”A UN team that in May verified the Syrian withdrawal except for the intelligence apparatus, which it said was by its clandestine nature not verifiable, is now back in the region. “I hope that, at the end of the day, we will be able to give a report that will indicate what is happening or not happening,” Mr. Annan said. “And it is important for all concerned that they respect resolution 1559.” read more

World conference of UN labour organization to tackle global jobs crisis

Concluding its annual world conference today, the United Nations labour agency approved a programm for its next year that focuses on the creation of decent work for more of the word’s population, in a global economic environment that it said is creating jobs much too slowly.”Faced with a global jobs crisis that involves trillions in GDP growth but just a trickle of new jobs, we need as many good ideas as we can generate to guide our future course of action,” Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Juan Somavia said in his wrap-up of the 93rd International Labour Conference in Geneva. “The credibility of democracy and open markets are at stake,” Mr. Somavia added. “This conference has risen to the challenge by providing a rich laboratory of ideas for our efforts to make decent work a global goal.”In a press statement, the ILO said its new program includes action at the local, national, regional and international levels to create decent jobs for both men and women to address the crisis. Other priorities include the need to eliminate forced labour, create jobs for youth and improve safety at work.Guest speakers at the conference addressed globalization and the need for decent work. Abdelaziz Bouteflika, President of Algeria and current President of the Arab League, called for the social consequences of globalization to be considered at the Millennium Summit in September. President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, the current Chair of the African Union (AU), urged Africa’s development partners to help make decent work agenda of the ILO a global goal.During the course of the meeting, ILO’s 178 member States also discussed the situation of workers in the occupied Arab territories, the state of labour standards in Belarus, Colombia and other countries and ongoing efforts to stop the use of forced labour in Myanmar. Delegates also considered the current state of working hours and how to balance the need for flexibility with measures to protect workers’ security, health and family life, ILO said.The Conference marked the fourth World Day Against Child Labour by calling for the elimination of child labour in one of the world’s most dangerous sectors – small-scale mining and quarrying – within five to 10 years. This “call to action,” it said, was aimed at freeing the estimated 1 million or more children aged five to 17 who currently toil in dangerous conditions in small-scale mines and quarries around the world.More than 3,000 representatives of governments, employers and workers participated in the conference, which began on 31 May. read more

Côte dIvoire UN finds no evidence of combat in reported town attacks

There was also no evidence of large-scale killings or illegal detentions of the civilian population, the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), set up last year to help maintain a ceasefire between government and rebel forces, said in a news release today on the reported attacks that occurred barely three months before elections are to be held to end the conflict.During his visit to Anyama and Agboville, north of Abidjan, the country’s major city, Force Commander Maj. Gen. Abdoulaye Fall, accompanied by the Chief of Staff of Côte d’Ivoire’s armed forces, Gen. Philippe Mangou, met with local military and civilian authorities, including religious leaders and youth groups. UNOCI has noted a progressive return to calm, the statement said.Fighting first erupted in Côte d’Ivoire in 2002 when rebels seeking to oust President Laurent Gbagbo seized the north, splitting the world’s largest cocoa producer in two. UNOCI has been concerned that this latest reported attack could jeopardize important progress made in the peace process, particularly an agreement establishing a new timeline for disarmament and the elections, now scheduled for October.Immediately after reports of the attacks came, UNOCI deployed troops to the area, but numerous blockades by the local population prevented them from entering Agboville for 48 hours. read more

UN report asks governments to improve data collection to better womens lives

“Statistics are unsung yet essential ingredients for economic and social progress,” said Jose Antonio Ocampo, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, launching The World’s Women 2005: Progress in Statistics at a press conference in New York. The absence of data to analyze issues such as sex discrimination poses a serious problem. “One of the most pronounced shortcomings in this area, with the most damaging effects, appears in the collection of data disaggregated by sex and of data focusing on gender issue,” he said. Mary Chamie, Chief of the Demographic and Social Statistics Branch of the UN Statistics Division, agreed that States need help with gathering and reporting data. “Commitment to the Millennium Development Goals has been a prod to improved statistical collection,” she said, referring to the internationally agreed anti-poverty targets adopted at a 2000 UN summit meeting.“But big gaps in reporting remain, and we want to assist governments and donors to close them,” she added.The report, prepared by the UN’s Statistical Division, provides a blueprint for improving the availability of data in demographics, health, education, work, violence against women, poverty, human rights and decision-making.The UN plays a key role within the global statistical community by collecting, compiling, reporting and analyzing data. UN recommendations, for example, will be taken up by intergovernmental bodies such as the Commission on the Status of Women, the Commission on Social Development and the Statistical Commission.Among its recommendations, the 165-page report suggests that governments carry out a census every 10 years and to improve gender statistics, ensure the viability of an integrated national survey programme, and share information with policy makers and the public in a timely manner so it can be used to good effect. read more

Annan proposes new yearlong mission to help TimorLeste through elections

Aiming to build on impressive progress made by Timor-Leste since the United Nations helped it to independence in 2002, Secretary-General Kofi Annan is advocating the establishment of a follow-on office after the termination in May of the current UN mission to help strengthen the “fragile democracy” in the world’s newest country.In his final report to the Security Council on the UN Office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL), which closes on 20 May, Mr. Annan notes that the country’s leaders have requested such a new UN political presence to include four components: an electoral assistance unit; police training advisers; military liaison officers; and civilian advisers in critical areas that require continued assistance.Furthermore, President Xanana Gusmão has indicated that the Government would welcome the deployment of human rights officers “to monitor and report on the human rights situation” leading up presidential and parliamentary elections to be held in 2007, Mr. Annan says, recommending that the new integrated UN office have a 12-month mandate. “Given the considerable investment of the United Nations in Timor-Leste over more than six years, it is in the interest of the international community to assist the country in consolidating the achievements thus far,” he writes of the various UN missions that saw the Southeast Asian nation through independence after it voted to break away from Indonesia, which took over the former Portuguese colony in 1975.“With the provision of assistance through the proposed integrated United Nations office, as has been requested by the Timorese leadership, the Organization can better enable the Government to make further advances in fostering peace, stability and democracy at this critical juncture,” he adds.UNOTIL itself succeeded the UN Mission of Support in Timor-Leste (UNMISET) last May and the new office would run for one year, beginning on 21 May.“It is my sincere hope that the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 2007, the first since the country’s independence, will be a significant step forward in the process of strengthening this fragile democracy,” Mr. Annan writes.“The transparency of the process and the conduct of the elections in a credible manner, with maximum participation of the Timorese electorate, will directly affect the legitimacy of the outcome of the elections.”The new integrated office would be headed by a Special Representative of the Secretary-General and number up to 65 staff members. It would help the Government to ensure that the elections meet international standards; consolidate democratic development and political stability; and aid Timorese national police in preparing electoral-related security arrangements.In addition, the impartial presence of UN military liaison officers would help the Government in liaising with the Indonesian military for the conduct of border security operations during the electoral period. The office would also help to build the capacity of Government institutions to protect human rights and promote justice and reconciliation. read more

UNs environmental agency warns of rising marine pollution threat from landsources

“The Asian region crystallizes the challenges and opportunities facing the global community trying to balance economic development and poverty eradication with social and environmental factors,” noted an official of the UN’s Environment Programme (UNEP), at an international conference to combat marine pollution that opened today in the Beijing, China. Awareness about this challenge has never been higher and a growing number of countries – more than 60 – have developed “national programmes of action” to staunch land-based sources of marine pollution, noted the official, Veerle Vandeweerd, but at the same time “these successes are being overwhelmed by booming populations, rapid urbanization and industrialization and a range of growing pressures in the coastal zones.”As a consequence “governments need to hurry up and step up action to reduce pollution from land-based sources, otherwise rapid development will come at a high price as a result of losses and damage to economically important habitats, ecosystems and marine resources from coastlines and coral reefs to mangroves and fisheries”, she warned. Some 700 delegates from around 115 countries are attending the conference aimed at charting a new course for the Global Programme of Action (GPA) for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Sources — a voluntary UNEP initiative.Organizers are hoping this week’s meeting will result in commitments to more directly link management of freshwaters, including rivers and lakes, with efforts to minimize coastal-based pollution in recognition that a substantial portion of marine contamination comes from inland areas via rivers and other freshwater sources. UNEP is also hoping for commitments towards greater cooperation and alliances between Governments and civil society, local authorities, private business and other non-governmental organizations. Although “tackling marine pollution is the primary responsibility of national Governments……it is also a responsibility of all sectors of society from private business to local authorities,” said Ms. Vandeweerd, who serves as UNEP/GPA coordinator.The ten year-old GPA can point to a range of success stories financed by increasing national commitments as well as the Global Environment Facility (GEF), a multibillion-dollar financing initiative that assists developing countries meet environmental challenges.The GEF has invested $1.2 billion in efforts to staunch land-based pollution sources through its International Waters programme, catalyzing co-financing of a similar amount, resulting in investment funds of $400 million to protect East Asian seas; a $380 million fund for the Mediterranean and another $400 million fund covering the Black Sea and the Danube. A major report – the “State of the Marine Environment” – compiled for Governments attending this week’s review highlight untreated sewage, soaring sediments due to rampant deforestation, increased fertilizer use, and coastal developments as among the key threats facing the region’s seas.Sewage treatment access varies widely – from roughly 60 per cent of Japan’s population to 15 per cent in Mumbai, India, to about 6 per cent in Karachi, Pakistan.Discharges from many big industrial plants situated along the coast is also a threat and is a “common feature” in much of South Asia, Ms. Vandeweerd.Two thirds of the world’s total sediment transport to the oceans occurs in South and East Asia. Rampant deforestation is particularly acute in Southeast Asia and studies in the Philippines and Indonesia estimate damage to coral reefs from logging-induced sedimentation greatly exceeds the economic benefits of logging. read more

Activist investor Jana Partners reduces Agrium stake pleased with changes

by Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press Posted Oct 10, 2013 3:26 pm MDT Activist investor Jana Partners reduces Agrium stake, pleased with changes CALGARY – Jana Partners, the New York activist hedge fund that waged a proxy fight against Agrium Inc. (TSX:AGU), said Thursday it has reduced its stake in the fertilizer giant.Still, the fund will remain among Agrium’s biggest shareholders with a 2.7 per cent stake, down from its previous 7.6 per cent position.Jana said in a filing to U.S. regulators that the decision was made “in the course of managing its overall portfolio.”During the bitter boardroom battle, which began in the spring of 2012 and ended in April of this year, Jana pushed for several changes at Agrium. The proposal that garnered the most attention was to look at splitting up Agrium’s retail and wholesale businesses.Jana also wanted Agrium to improve capital allocation, costs, disclosure in its retail business and corporate governance.“While (Jana) continues to believe there are opportunities for substantial improvement in each of these areas, it is pleased by (Agrium’s) progress in many of them since (Jana’s) initial engagement with (Agrium),” Jana said in the filing.For instance, Agrium has returned more cash to shareholders in the form of increased dividends and share buybacks. It has also started disclosing more financial information about its retail segment and factoring that performance into management’s compensation, Jana said.Last week, Agrium announced CEO Mike Wilson will be retiring in the new year, to be replaced by current chief operating officer Chuck Magro. Jana said it expects those changes, combined with several scheduled board retirements, should improve Agrium’s “openness and responsiveness to proposals for value creating change.”Jana says it still believes Agrium should at least conduct an unbiased review of splitting up its retail and wholesale segments, but says a newly increased dividend should help investors better appreciate the steady retail cash flow. AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more

Banks expected to boost dividends in otherwise steady fourth quarter

TORONTO – Some of Canada’s biggest banks are expected to raise their dividends this week as they look towards what’s appears to be another year of steady growth in 2014.The five largest banks are scheduled report fourth-quarter earnings before the week ends, beginning on Tuesday with Bank of Montreal (TSX:BMO), which hasn’t increased its dividend since the first half of this year.That makes it a ripe candidate for a modest dividend hike, said Barclays analyst John Aiken, who also expects both CIBC (TSX:CM) and the smaller National Bank (TSX:NA) to boost their payouts this time around.“We see little reason to believe that fourth-quarter earnings will generate much downside pressure as we forecast that average core earnings growth will be positive,” he said in a note.Canadian banks have made a habit of raising their dividends twice a year since the economic downturn. While the rest of the major players upped their payments in the third quarter, even they could deliver a surprise increase, suggested Brad Smith, senior financial services analyst at Stonecap Securities.“You can’t count out Royal, Scotia and TD, all of which increased their dividends last quarter,” he said in an interview.“I think in some respects they don’t want to get into a lockstep dividend expectation. I think they want to mix it up. I’d say it’s a very low probability, but not a zero probability.”Dividends will be a highlight in what’s otherwise characterized as an encouraging, but unsurprising, earnings season for the banking sector, which is wrapping up the financial year ended Oct. 31.Much attention will be focused on what bank executives have to say about next year, including whether they think the Bank of Canada will keep its trend-setting rate at a low one per cent, where it has been since late 2010 due to weak global economic conditions.“I don’t think we’re going to get a rate hike next year,” said Gareth Watson, vice-president, investment management and research at RichardsonGMP.That echoes the sentiment of a growing number of economists who say the move won’t be made until 2015.Watson said he anticipates the banks will maintain their steady earnings growth of five to 10 per cent for next year.Bank stocks have been climbing in recent months helped by optimism about the Canadian financial industry’s position in the global economy relative to their international competitors. Since January, the TSX financials sector has risen more than 20 per cent, while all of the banks touched fresh 52-week highs in November.“We expect generally good fourth-quarter results, with several potential tailwinds benefiting the banks,” said Gabriel Dechaine, an analyst at Credit Suisse.He pointed to momentum in the wealth management operations as one area of strength.Executives at several banks have said in recent months that a major focus will be placed on their wealth management divisions, which house the financial planning operations and portfolios for both average investors and high-net worth individuals.Most of the banks report later in the week, with National Bank due on Wednesday and TD Bank (TSX:TD), Royal Bank (TSX:RY) and CIBC scheduled for Thursday.Scotiabank (TSX:BNS) wraps up the season when it reports on Friday. Banks expected to boost dividends in otherwise steady fourth quarter AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email by David Friend, The Canadian Press Posted Dec 1, 2013 4:00 am MDT read more

Valeant takes its offer directly to shareholders of Botox maker Allergan

MONTREAL – Valeant Pharmaceuticals is taking its hostile takeover bid for Allergan directly to shareholders, sparking what could be a long battle for control of the California Botox maker.Quebec-based Valeant formally launched an exchange offer to Allergan shareholders on Wednesday, after the Allergan board repeatedly refused to negotiate a deal.Valeant (TSX:NYSE:VRX) has offered US$72 in cash plus 0.83 of a Valeant share for each share of Allergan (NYSE:AGN).At Wednesday’s closing trading price US$118.43 for Valeant stock in New York, that would value Allergan’s shares at US$170.30, making the offer worth about US$50.6 billion.“We believe Allergan’s stockholders should have the opportunity to express their views and we are confident that Allergan’s stockholders will support this combination,” Valeant chairman and CEO Michael Pearson said in a statement.Valeant’s co-bidder, Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management, is also seeking to call a special meeting of Allergan’s shareholders to remove six directors. Pershing owns 9.7 per cent of Allergan.Pearson said the two efforts are part of Valeant’s “clear path to complete a transaction with Allergan.”Valeant’s offer expires Aug. 15, unless extended. It includes a number of conditions, including the removal of various anti-takeover obstacles Allergan’s board has put in place, the tender of a majority of Allergan’s shares and the termination of waiting periods. Valeant shareholders would also need to approve the issuance of shares as part of the transaction.Valeant has said it sees no need to raise its offer again for Allergan, even though the company’s refusal to negotiate has hurt its share price and reduced the value of its bid.Pearson said Tuesday that he expects Valeant’s share price will recover as it takes its offer directly to Allergan shareholders and the date of a special meeting is determined.The formal offer for Allergan comes a day after Valeant held a conference call to once again try to dispel what is claims are misconceptions about the company.Allergan said Wednesday it would “carefully review” the unsolicited exchange offer, but advised its stockholders to take no action at this time.The company’s board unanimously rejected the offer on June 10, saying the revised offer “substantially undervalues Allergan, creates significant risks and uncertainties for the stockholders of Allergan and is not in the best interests of Allergan and its stockholders.”Allergan has repeatedly questioned Valeant’s business model, claiming it is unsustainable and based on serial acquisitions.David Maris of BMO Capital Markets said Tuesday’s conference call did “little to clear the air of concerns that many Allergan shareholders have over the Valeant business model.”Maris said Valeant’s organic growth is small compared with Allergan, its debt has risen dramatically to $17.7 billion from $3.2 billion in 2010, its unadjusted results show a loss, receivables have risen faster than sales and goodwill as a percentage of total assets grew to 35 per cent in 2013 from five per cent in 2009.“The combination of these items makes some Allergan shareholders concerned that the stock they would receive in a deal is that of a company that is showing concerning trends, not strength,” Maris wrote in a report.Maris also questioned the reasons given for the departure of the senior executive who ran Valeant’s esthetics, given that the Allergan deal would result in a larger esthetics company.He also said it’s unclear that the effort to replace Allergan directors would guarantee support for the transaction if they are truly independent. “We believe that shareholders should anticipate, that this process will run well into next year,” he added.The analyst said Allergan is “significantly undervalued” with many ways to grow and boost its share price, which he says is worth more than US$200 per share as a stand-alone company and without a control premium.Vicki Bryan of Gimme Credit said the only way for Valeant’s offer to reach that value is for its stock to increase at least 35 per cent, “which hardly seems likely given our concerns about Valeant’s core fundamental performance and its ability to pull off this hostile bid.”Meanwhile, she said Allergan could be pursuing a more “palatable deal” such as bidding for Irish drug manufacturer Shire, which would nearly double its revenues and put it more out of Valeant’s reach.“If Allergan and Shire actually are talking, Valeant is probably out of the game already since we believe investors will find that combination more appealing,” she wrote in a report.Allergan’s shares closed up $1.88 to $162.41 in New York, while Valeant’s shares were down 57 cents to C$128.53 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.Follow @RossMarowits on Twitter by Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press Posted Jun 18, 2014 8:49 am MDT Valeant takes its offer directly to shareholders of Botox maker Allergan AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more

Facebook ads tracking and some ways to opt out – somewhat

AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email by Barbara Ortutay, The Associated Press Posted Jun 19, 2014 3:19 pm MDT Facebook ads, tracking, and some ways to opt out – somewhat NEW YORK, N.Y. – If you use Facebook, the specific ads you see have been based mostly on what you do on Facebook — your profile information, status updates, likes and interests.That’s changing. The company says it will soon give advertisers more options to tailor ads to what you do outside Facebook. Shopping for a new TV? Get ready to see ads for TV sets on Facebook.Unless you’re willing to unplug, there’s little you can do to avoid being tracked online. But there are some ways to control what ads you see and how the ads are tailored to you.— HOW IT WORKS:Facebook doesn’t share your specific identity with advertisers. Rather, the advertiser can select the types of people to show ads to.An advertiser might want to reach women who just moved to Boston and who just got engaged, for instance. When buying the ad, the advertiser checks all the boxes that apply. Facebook matches the ads to the specific people who fit those attributes, without having to reveal their identities to the advertiser.Besides the obvious attributes such as location, age and gender, advertisers can select languages, “ethnic affinity” and life events such as people who have recently moved, are living away from their family, got a new job and so on. Advertisers who want to target the newly engaged can narrow that down to engagements within one year or within three months. There are even options to target baby boomers, video game console players, early or late adopters of technology, fans of specific sports teams or people who go on cruises.Facebook even considers your offline shopping behaviour. Facebook’s advertisers can see, for example, whether the ad for detergent you saw on Facebook led you to buy that brand in a drug store the following week. Facebook works with outside analytics firms to match what Facebook knows with what the retailers have on you and what you bought. Your name isn’t attached to this, but it may still feel creepy.Not every piece of data is used to target advertising, at least not yet. For example, the company recently introduced “nearby friends,” which lets you share your exact location with your Facebook buddies so you can meet up. So far, you won’t see ads targeted to you based on the street corner you are standing on, but it’s easy to see how this could happen one day.— WHAT’S NEW:In the coming weeks, Facebook will start offering advertisers another way to tailor ads in the U.S., based on information gathered from other websites you visit and the apps you use. This is called interest-based advertising, and Facebook says “many companies already do this.”Facebook already serves “retargeted” ads. So if you visited Zappos.com and looked at a pair of black flats, you might see the same shoes pop up in a Zappos ad on Facebook. With interest-based targeting, a company selling socks might show you an ad based on your interest in shoes — even if you did not previously visit its website.— WHAT YOU CAN’T CONTROL:The best way to stop tracking is to stop using the Internet and move into a cave.“Everywhere you go on the Web, with almost no exceptions, you are going to be receiving ads based on lots of data about you,” says Jules Polonetsky, who advises Facebook on privacy issues as director of the Future of Privacy Forum, an industry-backed think-tank in Washington.A few Internet companies such as Twitter, Hulu and Pinterest, along with some advertising networks and analytics firms, have agreed to adhere to voluntary guidelines called “do not track.” That lets people decline tracking by websites that they don’t visit.Google, Facebook and Yahoo — among the largest hubs for online advertising — isn’t participating so far, so your preferences mean nothing there.— WHAT YOU CAN DO:Facebook does participate in a version of “do not track” for mobile devices. Go to http://www.optoutmobile.com to sign up.If you are a Facebook user in the U.S., you will soon be able to click on a drop-down menu on the top right corner of every ad to find out why it’s being shown to you. You’ll still have the option to hide the specific ad from your feed, or hide all ads from that particular advertiser. Now, you can click on “Why am I seeing this ad?” to see why the ad was targeted to you.Reasons could be your interests, such as the Olympics or the World Cup, or an advertiser’s desire to, say, reach women in your age group who live in your city. An ad offering called “lookalike audiences” lets advertisers target users with a similar profile as their existing customers. Let’s say a restaurant’s ideal customer base is over 35 and a fan of Mercedes-Benz. The restaurant can target this group with ads, for example.You can opt out of having ads targeted to you here: http://www.aboutads.info/choices . Besides Facebook, some 115 companies are participating in the program.That said, opting out of targeted ads won’t stop you from seeing advertisements. They just won’t be tailored to you based on your online profile and activities. It also won’t stop Facebook (and other companies) from tracking you. It simply means that information won’t be used to show ads targeted to you. read more

Air Canada signs deal with Air China for MontrealBeijing direct flights

by The Canadian Press Posted May 28, 2015 6:59 am MDT Last Updated May 28, 2015 at 10:00 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email MONTREAL – Air Canada and Air China have announced an agreement for direct flights between Beijing and Montreal three times a week starting in September.The flights will be operated by Air China but also sold to travellers through Air Canada (TSX:AC) as the first step of a broader partnership.Air Canada and Air China eventually plan to secure a revenue-sharing joint venture for flights between China and Canada.The agreement follows a relationship between the airlines reached in November 2014 which outlined the steps towards building a revenue-sharing relationship.Both companies expect to begin sharing revenue for the flights in the second half of this year. Air Canada signs deal with Air China for Montreal-Beijing direct flights read more

US consumer spending scores biggest jump in 6 years

by Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press Posted May 31, 2016 6:49 am MDT Last Updated May 31, 2016 at 11:33 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email WASHINGTON – Consumer spending surged in April by the largest amount in more than six years, led by a big jump in purchases of autos and other durable goods.Consumer spending rose 1 per cent last month after a flat reading in March, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. Incomes were up a solid 0.4 per cent, matching the March gain. Wages and salaries, the most important component of incomes, gained 0.5 per cent.The strong April showing for consumer spending, which accounts for 70 per cent of economic activity, is a good sign that the economy is performing notably better this quarter after nearly stalling out at the start of the year. Many economists believe the economy is growing at a 2.5 per cent rate, outpacing a 0.8 per cent gain in the first quarter.“American shoppers came racing back to the malls, auto shops and online stores in April,” said Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.The April spending figure was the biggest one-month climb since a 1.3 per cent increase in August 2009.Meanwhile, the Conference Board reported Tuesday that its May confidence index fell to a reading of 92.6 from 94.7 in April. This stood in contrast to the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment survey, which rose in May to its highest reading in a year.Economists said that given the surge in consumer spending seen in April, they believed the Michigan survey was a more accurate reflection of how consumers are feeling at the moment.All major spending components showed solid gains in April, led by a 2.3 per cent surge in spending on durable goods such as autos. Spending on nondurable goods, such as clothing and food, expanded a solid 1.4 per cent, while spending on services such as rent payments and utility bills increased 0.6 per cent.An inflation gauge closely watched by the Federal Reserve showed prices are up 1.1 per cent over the past year. Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy costs, rose 1.6 per cent. Both measures are still below the Fed’s target of 2 per cent annual price increases, but they have ticked up in recent months.Fed Chair Janet Yellen said Friday that a hike in a key Fed interest rate would be appropriate in coming months if the economy keeps improving and inflation keeps moving toward the Fed’s 2 per cent goal. Yellen did not specify an exact date for what would be the Fed’s second rate hike, but many economists think it could come as soon as the Fed’s next meeting in June.The saving rate slipped to 5.4 per cent in April, down from 5.9 per cent in March, as spending outstripped income growth. FILE – In this Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, file photo, shoppers are shown in Miami. On Tuesday, May 31, 2016, the Commerce Department issues its April report on consumer spending, which accounts for roughly 70 percent of U.S. economic activity. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File) US consumer spending scores biggest jump in 6 years read more

CFIA recalls breaded chicken products due to possible toxin

by The Canadian Press Posted May 9, 2017 10:31 pm MDT Last Updated May 10, 2017 at 8:40 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email OTTAWA – Federal health officials say Maple Leaf Foods Inc. (TSX:MFI) is recalling various breaded chicken products because they may contain a toxin produced by Staphylococcus bacteria.The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the affected products, which were sold in Ontario and Quebec, include Maple Leaf brand Chicken Breast Strips in 840 gram packages with a best-before date of April 20, 2018.Chicken burgers under the Sufra Halal and Mina Halal brand names in 828 gram packages are also being recalled.The CFIA says food contaminated with Staphylococcus toxin may not look or smell spoiled and that the toxin produced by the bacteria is not easily destroyed at normal cooking temperatures.Common symptoms of Staphylococcus poisoning include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping and fever.The CFIA says consumers with these recalled products should thrown them out or return them to the store where purchased. There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products. CFIA recalls breaded chicken products due to possible toxin read more

UN employees sentenced by Myanmar court for Rakhine violence

One employee of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), one of the World Food Programme (WFP), and another person working for UNHCR’s partner organization were sentenced at a court in Maungdaw, in the westernmost part of Myanmar. Addressing the media at UN Headquarters in New York, UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky said that no further information was provided by the local authorities to UN officials in Myanmar’s capital, Yangon. “The UN has consistently held that formal and precise charges would need to be provided to us before action is taken by the Myanmar authorities,” Mr. Nesirky said. “We would like to indicate that the detained staff should be treated in accordance with all the applicable international conventions and immunities they may be entitled to.” In June, serious disturbances in Rakhine state led to the Government declaring a state of emergency there. According to reports, the violence between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims left at least a dozen civilians dead and hundreds of homes destroyed, while internally displacing some 30,000 people. The UN also temporarily relocated, on a voluntary basis, some of its staff based in the towns of Maungdaw and Buthidaung, as well as Rakhine state’s capital, Sittwe. read more

As Syrian exodus continues UN official urges Europe to help shoulder refugee

The United Nations refugee chief today voiced concern about serious gaps in the protection of Syrians who are fleeing the conflict in their country and arriving in Europe, and urged a more generous and consistent approach as they seek shelter and asylum.“Syrians are fleeing one of the worst conflicts the world has seen in decades, and many of them have been subjected to unspeakable human rights violations and persecution in their home country,” António Guterres said in remarks to a meeting in Lithuania of the European Union’s Justice and Home Affairs Council.“Ensuring adequate standards of treatment for them as they seek safety in Europe should be a priority for every EU member state,” he added. Mr. Guterres noted that just two European countries – Germany and Sweden – had received nearly two-thirds of the Syrians seeking protection in the entire EU. He urged more countries to help Syria’s neighbours shoulder the burden and to offer asylum or resettlement, saying: “A positive example from Europe is now crucial.” According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the agency headed by Mr. Guterres, the number of Syrian asylum claims in EU countries remains manageable, standing at slightly more than 40,000 since the beginning of the crisis in March 2011. This compares to Syria’s neighbours, who are providing shelter to almost 1.8 million registered Syrian refugees. “As the exodus continues and prospects for a political solution for Syria remain poor, there are warning signs of destabilization in some neighbouring countries . . . Lebanon continues to keep its borders open, but elsewhere in the region access to safety is becoming more difficult for Syrians trying to flee,” Mr. Guterres warned. This was “the first real test” to show that the Common European Asylum System (under development since 1999) can function as it should, he said, while citing flaws and inconsistencies in asylum policy across Europe. He said recognition rates varied greatly across the EU; too many States fail to provide swift and fair access to asylum procedures for Syrians; the types of protection and associated rights which Syrians are granted across the EU are inconsistent; and the treatment of Syrian asylum-seekers needs to be improved in several member States, including excessive use of detention.Mr. Guterres also highlighted the case of Turkey, which has received more than 10 times as many Syrians as have claimed asylum in other countries in Europe. “While the management of borders is a sovereign right and legitimate priority of States, the means must be found to ensure that Syrians seeking protection at the EU’s frontiers can gain access to territory, procedures and safety. This is crucial in order to demonstrate concretely the European commitment to responsibility-sharing with Turkey and other host countries,” he said.The High Commissioner proposed five key steps that the EU should take, beginning with ensuring access to territory and swift and fair asylum procedures for those seeking protection, notwithstanding the ongoing efforts to improve border control at sensitive external EU frontiers.Second, a more consistent and generous approach to protection is needed, particularly as concerns the recognition rates and the forms of protection that are being awarded to Syrian claimants. “As the conflict is unlikely to end soon, UNHCR hopes to see protection rates increasing across Europe, and in particular the granting of refugee status with its associated rights,” he said. He also called for more flexibility in the use of existing measures, including helping to reunite family members already in Europe by flexibly applying the Dublin Regulation [which determines the European State responsible to examine an asylum application within Europe until a decision has been made]; dispensing with visa requirements; and facilitating the entry of Syrians for work, study, family or humanitarian purposes.Mr. Guterres encouraged EU States to establish strict limits and safeguards on the use of detention, explore alternatives to detention, and do more to improve the conditions for asylum-seekers who are awaiting decisions on their protection claims.“The EU must engage in more burden-sharing initiatives so as to help mitigate the crushing impact which the refugee crisis is having on Syria’s immediate neighbours,” he added.As many as 100,000 people have been killed since fighting began in March 2011 between the Syrian Government and opposition groups seeking to oust President Bashar Al-Assad. The UN estimates that currently at least 6.8 million Syrians require urgent humanitarian assistance, half of whom are children. read more

On International Day Ban urges human solidarity to build new sustainability agenda

In his message on the International Day, Mr. Ban said this year’s observance comes as the world shapes a new sustainable development agenda to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the largest anti-poverty campaign in history, by 2015.Member States, the UN system, experts, representatives of civil society, business executives and millions of individuals from all corners of the globe, have come together with a shared sense of purpose to make the most of this once-in-a-generation opportunity. “The new agenda will centre on people and planet,” the Secretary-General continued, explainig that it will be underpinned by human rights and supported by a global partnership determined to lift people from poverty, hunger and disease.“It will be built on a foundation of global cooperation and solidarity,” he decalred.Indeed, the United Nations believes that solidarity with people affected by poverty and an absence of human rights is vital, he said adding that, based on equality, inclusion and social justice, solidarity implies a mutual obligation across the global community.“As we map our future development path, we must be firm in our commitment to champion solidarity and shared responsibility as part of the sustainable development agenda. These are fundamental values that must be upheld,” affirmed the UN chief.Only through collective action could the world tackle such far reaching issues as poverty and growing inequality, climate change, chronic poverty and major health challenges, such as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.“On International Human Solidarity Day, I call for a renewed commitment to collective action. Let us act together as one to end poverty, achieve shared prosperity and peace, protect the planet and foster a life of dignity for all,” said Mr. Ban, echoing a call he made just two weeks ago when he introduced and advance version of his so-called “synthesis report,” which will guide negotiations for the new global agenda.In an informal briefing to the General Assembly, the UN chief on 4 December presented his report, The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives and Protecting the Planet, which aims to support States’ discussions going forward, taking stock of the negotiations on the post-2015 agenda and reviewing lessons from pursuit of the MDGs.It stresses the need to “finish the job” – both to help people now and as a launch pad for the new agenda. In the report’s conclusion, the Secretary-General issues a powerful charge to Member States, saying: “We are on the threshold of the most important year of development since the founding of the United Nations itself. We must give meaning to this Organization’s promise to ‘reaffirm faith in the dignity and worth of the human person’ and to take the world forward to a sustainable future.” read more

Afghanistan despite intensification of violence UN official reports progress in overall relief

“For the first time, we have noted that the Taliban had made a statement about a unilateral ceasefire to allow assistance to reach all the people of Afghanistan. This highlights the fact that there is an overall concern that humanitarian assistance needs to be provided for all the people of Afghanistan based on their needs alone,” said Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, Mark Bowden, in a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York.Mr. Bowden added that the ability to deliver assistance in Afghanistan has improved over the last year and added that it could be possibly continued even in the coming year. “This comes from a better recognition the international humanitarian law by all parties of the conflict. And that means that despite a difficult security situation, the ability to meet the needs of the population are there,” he added.Mr. Bowden noted that the rise in violence has been more noticeable since the handover of security from international forces to Afghan security forces.“The conflict is changing in nature, in the way it is being fought and the impact is primarily on civilian population […] also, there has been a change in control of areas. Twenty-three districts’ administrative centres in 2015 have at one time or another been captured compared to [only] three in 2014,” he stated, highlighting the differences in the level of conflict.Mr. Bowden, who is also the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, said that an estimated 6.3 million Afghans have been affected by the widespread conflicts and displacements that are occurring at a rapid pace with nearly 196,000 people fleeing their homes during the last year.He added that by the end of the year, an estimated 200,000 people would be displaced, marking a 64 per cent increase in that population from 2014.Afghanistan, Mr. Bowden continued, is plagued by many natural disasters, such as recurring floods that displace many people every year; and in 2015, the earthquake in Badakhshan province had added to the humanitarian burden.On a positive note, he reported that in the last year there was a reduction in the number of attacks against humanitarian workers, humanitarian organizations, schools and health centres.He also said that the international community responded well to the crisis in Afghanistan, with the current humanitarian assistance programme being funded up to 70 per cent, which is one the highest levels of response of the humanitarian appeal.Looking ahead to the coming year, the Deputy Special Representative said that one of the critical factors that would need to be addressed is to be able to respond to the spikes in humanitarian need, such as a surge in displacement.Citing the example of the recent attacks in Kunduz, Mr. Bowden said the UN had been able to provide non-food items and immediate support to the displaced due to availability of adequate contingency stocks and the financial mechanism to provide rapid assistance.“I think we will need to be prepared for the same sort of situation to occur in the coming year, which is why the common humanitarian fund is going to be a critical element of our response… [as it will be] the mechanism that will enable the humanitarian community to respond nimbly to meet the needs of any potentially large displacement that takes place,” said Mr. Bowden.Expressing concerns at the increasing migration out of Afghanistan, most notable in Europe, Mr. Bowden said most of those migrants are driven by economic circumstances in a country where the economy has shown no signs of growth. But it is also fuelled by continuous population displacement from the rural areas and urbanization, he added.He said the UN will be looking over the next year to address the migration issues, especially the number of returnees to Afghanistan.“Pakistan has 1.4 million undocumented Afghans there who are at risk of being returned. The capacity of Afghanistan to cope with that number or the numbers of returnees is quite limited,” Mr. Bowden concluded. read more

World Tsunami Awareness Day welcome boost for disaster risk reduction – UN

“Many disasters would not happen and many lives and livelihoods would be saved if there was greater public awareness of the threats posed by natural hazards such as tsunamis,” Margareta Wahlström, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, said in a statement, welcoming the designation of the day as a “welcome step.” “It will help to focus attention on measures which can be taken to reduce risks from both man-made and natural hazards and to ensure that more people live and work in places which are free from the threat not just of tsunamis but other sudden onset hazards such as earthquakes, floods and storms.”The proposal was first suggested by the Japanese Government after the Third UN Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Sendai in March this year. Japan has suffered heavy losses as a result of tsunamis, most recently the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 11 March 2011, which claimed over 15,000 lives, disrupted the nuclear power industry and left many thousands homeless.“It should be remembered that the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami which claimed some 230,000 lives from countries across the world galvanised political commitment to reducing disaster risk and disaster losses,” Ms. Wahlström added.“The memory of that event helped to ensure the adoption of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction this year which sets targets for the first time on reducing mortality, the numbers of people affected, economic losses and damage to critical infrastructure from disasters.” read more

Increasing cases of enforced disappearances just the tip of the iceberg UN

In its latest report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances expressed deep concern and frustration at the rising number of cases, and underlined the need to prevent such acts and hold the perpetrators to account. “We are seriously concerned that the number of enforced disappearances is increasingly rising with the false and pernicious belief that they are a useful tool to preserve national security and combat terrorism,” the human rights experts told the UN Human Rights Council yesterday, according to a news release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). “Last year alone, we dealt with 483 urgent actions out of 766 newly reported cases of disappearance in 37 States; more than three times higher than those reflected in our previous year’s annual report,” they added, highlighting that this number – more than one disappearance per day – is “just the tip of the iceberg.” According to the news release, the Working Group expressed particular concern about a steep increase in the number of so-called ‘short-term disappearances.’ “The fact that the victim reappears in many of these cases, does not render less worrisome this form of enforced disappearance, which is equally serious and must be eradicated,” the experts noted and strongly reiterated that: “There is no time limit, no matter how short, for an enforced disappearance to occur.” In their presentation, the experts also drew attention of the Council members to a pattern of threats, intimidation and reprisals against victims of enforced disappearance, including family members, witnesses and human rights defenders working on such cases. In its report, the Working Group also made preliminary observations on the problem of enforced disappearances in the context of migration. Over the next year, the experts will assess the issues of migration caused by enforced disappearances, enforced disappearances of migrants, factors contributing to the enforced disappearance of migrants; and State obligations in the context of the enforced disappearance of migrants, noted the news release. Yesterday, the Working Group also presented its reports on Peru, Sri Lanka and Turkey, the follow-up report to the recommendations made upon past visits to Congo and Pakistan.Since its creation in 1980, the expert group has transmitted a total of 55,273 cases to 107 States. The number of cases under active consideration stands at 44,159 in a total of 91 States. During the last year, 161 cases were clarified. The Working Group is part of what is known as the Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work. read more