Shooting inside California Costco causes injuries, chaos

CORONA, Calif. — Witnesses say a shooting at a Costco store southeast of Los Angeles sparked a stampede and left several people injured.Police swarmed the Costco Friday night and several ambulances were also parked outside the store in the city of Corona, about 50 miles (80.5 kilometres) east of downtown Los Angeles.Witnesses told KCAL-TV that a man with a Mohawk haircut was arguing with a woman with a child inside the store when about eight shots rang out.One witness says shoppers began stampeding toward exits and he saw three people on stretchers who appeared to have minor injuries.It’s unclear whether any of the injured were shot.KCAL-TV reported more than 100 people were outside the store. Video also showed a police officer with a gun at the ready checking parked cars.The Associated Press read more

Kosovo declaring end to future status talks UN envoy to present realistic

“It is my firm conclusion that the potential of negotiations is exhausted,” Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari said after chairing a weekend meeting in Vienna of key players involved in deciding the future of the province, which the UN has run since Western forces drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 amid ethnic fighting. “I regret to say that at the end of the day, there was no will from the parties to move away from their previously stated positions,” Mr. Ahtisaari added of his intensive talks with both sides since he put forward an initial plan last month that would give Kosovo the right to govern itself and conclude international agreements, including membership in international bodies, under international civilian and military supervision to help to ensure peace and stability.Serbia rejects independence, a goal sought by many Albanians and both sides interpreted this plan as meaning independence supervised by the international community. Mr. Ahtisaari has said he will make “a very clear statement” on the independence issue in the version he submits to the Security Council by the end of the month. “I had hoped, and very much preferred, that this process would lead to a negotiated agreement,” he said on Saturday after chairing the talks among Serbian and Kosovo leaders, the so-called Contact Group – the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Russia – which has been helping to seek a solution, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) whose forces drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 and who now help to maintain security in the province, and the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). “But it has left me with no doubt that the parties’ respective positions on Kosovo’s status do not contain any common ground to achieve such an agreement. No amount of additional negotiation will change that,” he added. Stressing that a sustainable solution to the status issue was urgently needed, not only in the interest of the people of Kosovo but as a matter “of vital importance” for regional peace and stability, Mr. Ahtisaari said: “Delaying the status resolution would not create any better conditions for a solution – it would only be for the sake of delaying a difficult decision.” The envoy’s provisional plan, unveiled on 2 February, addressed the demands of a multi-ethnic society, with a constitution enshrining the needed principles, to protect the rights of all communities, including culture, language, education, and symbols, as well granting specific representation for non-Albanians in key public institutions and requiring that certain laws may only be enacted if a majority of the Kosovo non-Albanian legislative members agree.It called for wide-ranging decentralization, focusing in particular on the specific needs and concerns of the Serb community, which will have a high degree of control over its own affairs such as secondary health care, higher education and financial matters, including accepting transparent funding from Serbia. Six new or significantly expanded Kosovo Serb majority municipalities will be set up. Since then, Serbia has repeatedly rejected any notion of independence for the province, while some Albanians have demonstrated for immediate self-determination. President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica represented Serbia at Saturday’s meeting, while President Fatmir Sejdiu led the Kosovo team. 12 March 2007Neither Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian-led Government nor Serbia have shown any will to reach a negotiated accord on the future status of the Serbian province, where Albanians outnumber Serbs and others by 9 to 1, and the senior United Nations official overseeing the issue will submit a “realistic compromise” to the Security Council this month. read more

New donations keep aid workers airborne in Darfur – UN

11 June 2007A new infusion of $18 million in donations is enabling humanitarian workers to continue flying to remote locations in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region through October, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), which runs the air operation, said today. A new infusion of $18 million in donations is enabling humanitarian workers to continue flying to remote locations in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region through October, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), which runs the air operation, said today. A $5.5 million donation from the European Commission led the package of new financing for WFP’s Humanitarian Air Service, which also included $4.9 from the United States, $3 million from Denmark, $409,000 from Greece, and a combined contribution of $4.2 million from two UN funds – the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and the Common Humanitarian Fund. “We’re very grateful for these generous donations,” said Kenro Oshidari, WFP’s Representative in Sudan.Flying in Sudan since 2004, the Humanitarian Air Service carries passengers and cargo throughout Darfur and is also used for medical evacuations. Without the service, “many of the 12,000 humanitarian workers in Darfur would not be able to get out to the field – and that’s especially true because carjackings have recently been on the rise,” Mr. Oshidari observed. The volatile security situation and lack of infrastructure, combined with the rainy season – which is beginning now and will run until October – means that helicopter travel is often the only way that humanitarian workers from UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can reach people affected by the Darfur conflict, according to WFP. The agency said the air service has proved particularly useful in recent months as a result of the alarming increase in attacks on humanitarian vehicles. To date this year, the UN says that some 70 cars, belonging to either international aid organizations or African Union peacekeeping troops, have been stopped on the roads by gunmen and frequently stolen. The number of carjackings this year is already 60 per cent of the total during 2006, when 118 vehicles were attacked. The Darfur region of Sudan, which is roughly the size of France, has been the scene of one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters since 2003, when fighting broke out between Government forces, allied Janjaweed militias and rebel groups. Since then, more than 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2 million others have fled their homes. read more

SecretaryGeneral hails work of International Criminal Court

The creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is one of the “major achievements in international law during the past century,” providing the opportunity to hold to account the world’s worst war criminals, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement released today to mark a key anniversary in the ICC’s founding.Sunday will be the fifth anniversary of the entry into force of the Rome Statute of the ICC, which allowed the Court to be formally established after years of negotiation between countries.“During the relatively short time of its existence, the Court has already established itself as the centrepiece of a system of international criminal justice,” Mr. Ban said in his statement. “It is both the embodiment of, and the driving force behind, a profound evolution of international culture and law.”The ICC is an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of carrying out the most serious crimes, including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. It holds trials only when national courts cannot or will not conduct their own proceedings.The Rome Statute which brought the Court into being now has 104 States Parties, and Mr. Ban urged those nations that have not yet become parties to do so.He added that “already the activities of the Court and its Prosecutor [Luis Moreno-Ocampo] have a deterring effect on potential perpetrators of international crimes.”So far the ICC has issued arrest warrants for two suspects accused of war crimes in Sudan’s Darfur region and five leaders of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda. Thomas Lubanga, a rebel leader in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), was arrested last year. The Court has also opened investigations into allegations of killings and rapes in the Central African Republic (CAR). 29 June 2007The creation of the International Criminal Court is one of the “major achievements in international law during the past century,” providing the opportunity to hold to account the world’s worst war criminals, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement released today to mark a key anniversary in the ICC’s founding. read more

Fresh fighting uproots another 50000 Somalis compounding present crisis – UN

Up to 90 per cent of the population of Dhuusamarreeb and Guriceel towns, in Galgaduud region in central Somalia, have fled their homes since fighting began on 27 December. Many of them had already been displaced due to previous violence in the capital, Mogadishu. “I am extremely alarmed by the fighting that has taken place in central Somalia during the past week,” stated UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Mark Bowden. “I strongly condemn the unacceptable number of casualties and massive displacement of civilians who continue to bear the brunt of conflict and insecurity in the country.”Mr. Bowden called for a cessation of all hostilities to allow urgently needed humanitarian assistance to be provided to the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Dhuusamarreeb and Guriceel, as well as in other parts of Somalia, where the UN estimates that some 3.2 million people, or 40 per cent of the population, are in need of assistance.The majority of those recently displaced are scattered in the surrounding villages and are in desperate need of shelter, water, non-food items and food assistance, according to a news release issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The situation for the recently displaced is made worse by a general lack of humanitarian access in Galgaduud region due to deteriorating security.The recent fighting has compounded an already grave humanitarian crisis in Galgaduud region, which is experiencing a serious drought in addition to hosting some 130,000 IDPs from Mogadishu. Somalia, which has not had a functioning national government since 1991, has been plagued by fighting and humanitarian suffering for decades. Continuing instability, coupled with drought, high food prices and the collapse of the local currency have only worsened the dire humanitarian situation in recent months. 5 January 2009The top United Nations relief official in Somalia has voiced grave concern at the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the strife-torn nation, where fresh clashes last week have reportedly killed more than 40 people and displaced over 50,000. read more

Joint African UnionUN envoy speaks out amid renewed SudaneseChadian tensions

17 July 2009The head of the joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur today called on Sudan and Chad to end any hostile activities along their border amid fresh accusations of air strikes in the troubled region. Rodolphe Adada, the Joint AU-UN Special Representative, warned that the continuing tensions between the neighbouring countries remain “one of the major obstacles to the peace and security of Darfur.”Mr. Adada, who heads the joint peacekeeping mission known as UNAMID, issued a press statement after Sudan accused Chad of carrying out air strikes in Umm Dukhum, a West Darfur village on its border with Chad.“We are deeply concerned at such reports, which are being investigated by UNAMID, and I once again urge all parties to refrain from such escalation,” he said.Mr. Adada stressed that dialogue is the only solution for the tensions between Chad and Sudan.“I encourage you [the two Governments] to desist from conflict even as diplomatic efforts are being undertaken to bring an end to the ongoing tensions, which could exacerbate conditions for Darfur’s civilians. Good relations between Chad and Sudan are a key to ensuring lasting peace in the area.”In Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report to the Security Council on the work of UNAMID, released today, he said he is deeply concerned by the ongoing instability along the border and the “inflammatory rhetoric” of both sides.Mr. Ban called on Khartoum and N’Djamena to end their support for one another’s rebel groups and to normalize their bilateral relations.The Secretary-General has recommended that UNAMID’s mandate be extended at least through the end of July 2010, citing the numerous challenges in Darfur, despite the decrease in large-scale conflict.An estimated 2.6 million Darfurians remain displaced from their homes and as many as 4.7 million people in total depend on humanitarian assistance, while sexual violence and banditry are also prevalent.But Mr. Ban noted that more than 90 per cent of the authorized strength of UNAMID should be in place and fully operating by the end of the year, while mechanisms for cooperation with the Sudanese Government are functioning more effectively.“Both developments will put UNAMID in a position to dedicate more time to the implementation of its mandate and less time to deployment-related issues.”In its first 18 months the mission has struggled with numerous logistical and operational problems, which has made it difficult to effectively deploy troops and police officers across an arid and remote region that is larger than Iraq. read more

Gaza water crisis prompts UN call for immediate opening of crossings

“The deterioration and breakdown of water and sanitation facilities in Gaza is compounding an already severe and protracted denial of human dignity in the Gaza Strip,” Maxwell Gaylard said in a joint statement issued today with the NGO Association for International Development Agencies (AIDA). “At the heart of this crisis is a steep decline in standards of living for the people of Gaza, characterized by erosion of livelihoods, destruction and degradation of basic infrastructure, and a marked downturn in the delivery and quality of vital services in health, water and sanitation,” added Mr. Gaylard, the Deputy UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and UN Humanitarian Coordinator. Israel’s closure of Gaza’s crossing points, imposed since June 2007, has meant that equipment and supplies needed for the construction, maintenance and operation of water and sanitation facilities have not been able to enter the area, leading to the deterioration of these services. Currently, some 10,000 people do not have access to the water network, while another 60 per cent of Gaza’s population of 1.5 million do not have continuous access to water. In addition, some 50 to 80 million litres of untreated and partially treated waste-water have been discharged daily into the Mediterranean Sea since January 2008, due to damage to sewage treatment facilities, lack of treatment capacity because of postponed plant upgrade projects, and a critical shortage of fuel and electricity necessary to operate them. Mr. Gaylard and the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) called on the Israeli Government to take immediate steps to ensure the entry into Gaza of the necessary construction and repair materials to respond to the water and sanitation crisis. “Without addressing both the immediate basic needs of the population and facilitating the longer-term development and management of the degraded water and sanitation sector, public health and the wider environment will remain at significant risk,” said the Humanitarian Coordinator. “Pollution does not recognise borders or barriers, and communities throughout the region are threatened by the deficiencies of Gaza’s water and sanitation system,” he added. 3 September 2009The top United Nations humanitarian official in the occupied Palestinian territory today joined aid agencies in calling for the immediate opening of Gaza’s crossings to allow the entry of spare parts and materials critical to restoring the area’s water and sanitation services. read more

Working together nations can tackle todays major challenges – Ban

5 November 2009No country, however, powerful, can tackle alone the multiple challenges facing the world, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, stressing the need to work together on issues such as climate change, the economic crisis and global peace and security. “We are all in this together. And we must act together,” Mr. Ban said in his remarks to the Hellenic Parliament, becoming the first UN Secretary-General to address the body.“That is why I say it is time for renewed multilateralism – a multilateralism that delivers for real people in real time,” he added. Mr. Ban, who wrapped up his two-day visit to Athens today, highlighted climate change as one area where countries can work together to make a difference. “These are crucial days,” he noted, with only four weeks to go until the climate change conference in Copenhagen, where countries are expected to wrap up talks on an ambitious new agreement to tackle global warming.“We must have a global agreement – an agreement which is comprehensive, balanced, equitable and binding,” he stated. Likewise, all members of the international community should work together to spread economic opportunity more widely, he said, noting that the “clock is ticking” on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the set of global anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline.In addition, united action can help strengthen global peace and security, including in the area of disarmament, as well as successfully address long-standing regional concerns.In this regard, Mr. Ban reiterated that he is “cautiously optimistic” about prospects for a settlement in Cyprus, noting the steady progress being made in UN-backed talks between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders aimed at unifying the Mediterranean island.He said he was also encouraged by the Greek Government’s clear endorsement of a continuing role for the UN in the negotiations with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the dispute over the latter’s name.“Now is the time for transformational change on all of these big issues,” said the Secretary-General. “This is our chance. Now is our time to act.” read more

Iraqi decision means election preparations can now proceed Ban says

A majority of members in Iraq’s Council of Representatives today backed the amendments, which are supposed to be in place 90 days before the staging of the polls, currently slated for 16 January.Lawmakers had been deadlocked for weeks on how to deal with the oil-rich, ethnically mixed region of Kirkuk in the north and on the publication of candidate lists.In a statement issued by his spokesperson Mr. Ban said “this decision now paves the way for preparations for national elections to be held in January.“These elections will be a crucial opportunity to advance national reconciliation and contribute to Iraq’s political progress,” he added. “The Secretary-General appeals to all political blocs and their leaders to demonstrate true statesmanship during the election campaign and participate in a spirit of national unity.”Mr. Ban reaffirmed the commitment of the United Nations to support and assisting the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), tasked with organizing the ballot.He also encouraged the Iraqi people “to participate in a process that will shape their country’s future.” 8 November 2009Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed today’s approval by Iraqi lawmakers of amendments to electoral laws, saying the move – which follows weeks of deadlock – means national parliamentary polls can be held in January as scheduled. read more

UN blue helmets show solidarity with fallen Haitian police officers

25 February 2010Forty days after a massive earthquake struck Haiti, nearly 200 police officers serving with the United Nations peacekeeping mission (MINUSTAH) took part in a special tribute to their fallen colleagues serving with the national force. Forty days after a massive earthquake struck Haiti, nearly 200 police officers serving with the United Nations peacekeeping mission (MINUSTAH) took part in a special tribute to their fallen colleagues serving with the national force. The Haitian National Police (HNP) had just over 8,000 active officers at the time of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck on 12 January, claiming the lives of 75 of them and injuring more than 250 others. Nearly 80 officers are still missing. A memorial service was held last Sunday at the site of Delmas 33 Police Station in the hardest-hit city, the capital, Port-au-Prince, which was reduced to rubble by the quake. That location alone lost 10 officers, as well as one UN Police (UNPOL) officer. The cries of sobbing mothers, spouses and children of the HNP who were being honoured could be heard throughout the ceremony, held under a large white tent. “Although they were grieving their colleagues and relatives, HNP officers were first to assist their country to cope with the disaster,” said Mario Anderson, the force’s Director-General. “They continued to work in open air, under the shadows of the trees or under improvised shelters to serve people.” To date, more than 90 per cent of HNP officers are back on duty. For its part, UNPOL, which sprang into action to assist the HNP carry out patrols on the streets of Port-au-Prince, lost 18 officers, with another 16 having been injured. UNPOL members serving in Haiti are mandated to help monitor, restructure and reform the HNP, and its main tasks currently are ensuring public safety and facilitating the distribution of urgently-needed humanitarian aid. Despite the scale of the disaster in Haiti, which was already the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation before the earthquake, its police force will not be rebuilding from scratch, Acting UN Police Adviser Ann-Marie Orler told the UN News Centre earlier this month. “What was destroyed was equipment,” not human capital, she stressed, pointing out how this was demonstrated by the speed at which patrols resumed after the disaster. The UN is also working closely with the Haitian Government to ensure that the justice system – with courts, prisons and other institutions having sustained severe damage – is built back stronger. read more

Better climate change data vital for financial institutions – UNbacked report

For the sector to manage climatic risks affecting their business portfolios and give the best possible advice to their customers, financial institutions need access to applied information such as climate change predictions, modelling, analysis, and interpretation, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said of Advancing adaptation through climate information services –Results of a global survey on the information requirements of the financial sector, the international survey of more than 60 institutions, which it compiled in cooperation with the Sustainable Business Institute of Germany.“To date the key role that financial institutions and other private sector decision-makers can play in increasing the climate resilience of economies and societies has been neglected at best,” the head of the UNEP Finance Initiative, Paul Clements-Hunt, said. “The rapid reduction in greenhouse gases and the adaptation to the unavoidable effects of global warming need to go hand-in-hand if we are to cope with the climate challenge.“This study is a first step in identifying what is needed so that financial institutions can start playing their important role in accelerating the shift to climate-resilient economies,” he added.Climate change forecasts and predictions of the resulting economic impacts will never be perfect and will inevitably feature some element of uncertainty, but the more information and expertise regarding climate change and its uncertainties that is available to financial institutions, the better these risks can be calculated, UNEP said in a news release. This will enable insurers, re-insurers, lenders, and asset managers to price and absorb these risks more effectively. “This can be crucial not only to the performance of individual businesses and financial institutions, but to the entire economic tissue of communities affected by climate change and the social well-being it underpins,” it added. “This study confirms that what private sector institutions need in order to become real ‘adaptation catalysts’ is objective and reliable information,” said Mark Fulton, Managing Director at Deutsche Bank Climate Advisors and Co-Chair of the UNEP Finance Initiative’s Climate Change Working Group.“We need to work towards enhancing the access of private sector decision makers to climate information as well as, most importantly, improving the reliability and accuracy of our climate models and forecasts,” Mr. Fulton added.The study, sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, noted that such information gaps can be closed by continued research towards more reliable climate modelling and forecasting, as well as enhanced translation of scientific knowledge and existing information into user-friendly information. Such efforts are likely to require more intensive collaboration between users and suppliers, public and private actors, scientists and decision makers. The UNEP Finance Initiative is a global partnership between UNEP and the financial sector, in which over 190 institutions, including banks, insurers and fund managers, work with UNEP to understand the impacts of environmental and social considerations on financial performance. 12 January 2011With insurers, lenders, asset managers and their customers increasingly affected by the impacts of climate change – and the risks likely to grow in the future – better access to relevant data is vital for the world’s financial institutions, according to a United Nations-backed study issued today. read more

Women playing critical role in North African democracy movement UN official says

7 April 2011Women have played a critical role in the pro-democracy protest movements that have swept across North Africa and the Middle East this year, and their rights and leadership potential must continue to be encouraged, the head of the new United Nations entity for gender equality and women’s empowerment said today. Women have played a critical role in the pro-democracy protest movements that have swept across North Africa and the Middle East this year, and their rights and leadership potential must continue to be encouraged, the head of the new United Nations entity for gender equality and women’s empowerment said today.Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of UN Women, met with United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other senior US officials today during a visit to Washington, D.C. that focused on how to advance women’s political participation, economic empowerment and ending violence against women.Ms. Bachelet called on US officials to continue advance women’s rights and leadership around the world, particularly in emerging democracies.“In Egypt and Tunisia, women have played a key role in the movement for democracy, and their legal rights and decision-making within the transitional structures are critical,” Ms. Bachelet said in a press release issued by her office following the visit to Washington. read more

Enbridges pipeline support claim a sham aboriginal group

Andrew Barr/National Post VANCOUVER — An aboriginal group along the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline says Enbridge’s claim of widespread support among First Nations is a “sham.”On Tuesday, Enbridge announced it had signed agreements with 60 per cent of the aboriginal communities on the route, saying it’s proof there’s more support for the pipeline than opponents would suggest.But the executive director of the Coastal First Nations, an alliance of 10 First Nations who oppose the project and that live on the land the pipeline will traverse, accused Enbridge of manipulating the facts.Art Sterritt questioned how many First Nations along the route actually support the project, which would transport oil along the $5.5-billion pipeline between Bruderheim, Alta., and Kitimat B.C.Paul Stanway, Enbridge’s spokesman on the pipeline, wasn’t available for comment Wednesday. But he said Tuesday the equity-sharing deals mean there isn’t the wall of opposition that project opponents sometimes claim.However, Enbridge has refused to name the First Nations that have signed deals.“We have checked with all the First Nations along the pipeline route west of Prince George and only two First Nations have signed equity agreements,” said Sterritt in a statement.Sterritt called Enbridge’s numbers flawed, noting the company expanded its corridor by 80 kilometres to boost the number of supporters, and many of the First Nations who have signed on are located outside of any area that could be impacted by a potential spill.The company also included the Metis in the tally, but Sterritt said that aboriginal group doesn’t have rights or title to land inside the corridor.‘We have checked with all the First Nations along the pipeline route west of Prince George and only two First Nations have signed equity agreements’Of the two aboriginal groups that have said they have signed an equity deal, Sterritt noted the Gitksan people have rejected the agreement and some in the community are working to stop the project.Enbridge has said First Nations who sign the deal will get about $280 million over 30 years, and the cash would start flowing within the first year of the pipeline’s operation.There are 45 First Nations along the pipeline, but Stanway wouldn’t give a final figure on how many signed on because of contractual agreements.Support for the project among aboriginal groups is split about evenly between Alberta and B.C. First Nations, said Stanway.The B.C. Metis Federation said in a statement that while it has been seeking a voice for Metis on the pipeline, the federation’s leaders oppose the project.Enbridge’s signed deal is with the Metis Nation British Columbia, but the federation called that group incompetant and said it does not speak for the wider Metis community.“Despite the obvious Metis community and family concerns, MNBC signed the Enbridge equity deal announced May 26th with absolutely no mandate from Metis people or communities in British Columbia,” the federation said in a news release.“In some of proposed corridor locations, the Metis population count is greater than the local First Nations.”The public hearing process on the proposed pipeline is at about the midway point, and in September formal hearings will begin where expert witnesses will testify under oath to the review panel.The Coastal First Nations includes the Wuikinuxv, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xaixais, Nuxalk, Gitga’at, Haisla, Metlakatla, Old Massett, Skidegate, and Council of the Haida Nation, an alliance representing some 20,000 members. read more

TransCanada to build 15B pipeline in BC

CALGARY — TransCanada Corp. says it’s building a $1.5-billion extension to its pipeline system in northeastern British Columbia that will help deliver natural gas to an export terminal planned for Prince Rupert, B.C.The North Montney Mainline will extend TransCanada’s existing Groundbirch pipeline by adding some 305 kilometres of new large-diameter pipe.Progress Energy, a subsidiary of Malaysian energy giant Petronas, has signed up to ship two billion cubic feet per day on the North Montney Mainline. TransCanada says it’s also in talks with other potential customers.Progress is planning to build a liquefied natural gas terminal near Prince Rupert so the resource can be exported to lucrative Asian markets.The North Montney Mainline will link up with a separate $5 billion pipeline that TransCanada is building to connect northeastern B.C. gas with Progress’ Prince Rupert terminal, called Pacific Northwest LNG. TransCanada aims to file a regulatory application later this year for the North Montney line.The southern segment of the North Montney line should be up and running by the second quarter of 2016, the northern portion a year later, and the export delivery facilities in 2019. read more

TSX falls as China worries weigh on commodity prices

Energy companies and miners helped push the Toronto stock market lower Tuesday morning as investors looked for direction amid a dearth of market-moving corporate and economic news.The S&P/TSX composite index slipped 8.87 points to 14,293.19 with the gold sector the prime source of strength.The Canadian dollar rose 0.03 of a cent to 90.11 cents US.New York’s Dow Jones industrials were down 2.66 points to 16,416.02, the Nasdaq gained 5.84 points to 4,340.29 while the S&P 500 index lost 0.26 of a point to 1,876.91.Mining stocks on the TSX advanced after losing ground Monday amid concerns about Chinese growth as data showed that exports of the world’s second biggest economy fell by an unexpectedly large 18 per cent in February. The country’s official 2014 economic growth target of 7.5 per cent assumes trade also will grow by 7.5 per cent.Copper prices and TSX base metal stocks in particular headed lower as a result of the data with the metal widely viewed as a proxy for the global economy closing at a multi-year low. On Tuesday, the May copper contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange was unchanged at US$3.04 a pound after shedding six per cent over the last two sessions and the base metals sector shed early gains to lose 0.2 per cent.Oil prices also suffered from the Chinese data and on Tuesday, the April crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange was down a further 48 cents to US$100.64 a barrel and the energy sector moved down 0.4 per cent.The TSX gold sector was up 1.5 per cent as April bullion gained $7.80 to US$1,349.30 an ounce.On the corporate front, Canadian Pacific Railway will repurchase up to 5.27 million or three per cent of its shares over the next year. Walter Spracklin of RBC Capital Markets said the repurchase program is earlier and larger than the 4.4 million shares he had expected and CP shares declined $1.12 to $170.19.Fortress Paper Ltd. (TSX:FTP) plunged 15.4 per cent to $2.75 as the company posted a quarterly loss of $54.7-million or $3.76 a share as it wrote down the value of property, plant and equipment at a Quebec cellulose mill. Ex-items, Fortress had an adjusted net loss of $21.2 million or $1.46 per share in the quarter, compared with a loss of $11.2 million or 77 cents per share a year earlier. Its revenue dropped to $37.2 million from $58.7 million a year before.Printer Transcontinental Inc. (TSX:TCL.A) says adjusted operating earnings remained stable at $43.5 million for the first quarter as revenues fell five per cent due to weakness in the advertising market. Transcontinental also announced it will acquire Capri Packaging, a Missouri supplier of printed flexible packaging, for US$133 million. Its shares were down three cents to $15.01.Canadian exporters are also watching developments in Vancouver where a strike by container-truck drivers serving Port of Metro Vancouver terminals is growing. Members of Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association parked their rigs Monday, joining members of the non-union United Truckers Association who have been on strike since last month. The groups reached a tentative deal with employers last week, but the members voted against the agreement over the weekend. read more

Proposed cap to limit number of payday loan outlets in Hamilton clears

A Hamilton councillor’s bid to cap the number of payday loan outlets in the city cleared another hurdle Tuesday when it was unanimously approved by the city’s planning committee.Coun. Matthew Green proposed the legislation, which will allow only one lender to operate in each of the city’s 15 wards, in an effort to limit “predatory” behaviour by payday loan companies. He says the businesses target low-income communities, whose members often turn to the businesses in desperation, but fall further into debt because of the high-interest rates and fees that come with the loans.Green said it will become a law if it’s ratified at a meeting in two weeks, giving council time to mull over an exemption to the proposed cap requested Tuesday by a councillor with the Flamboro Downs casino in her ward.Payday loans a growing part of Ontario’s personal insolvencies, study findsOntario has a great idea to help people trapped by expensive payday loansCanadians’ use of high-interest payday loans doubles, raising more red flags about debtDespite the exemption request, Green said he thinks the cap “will pass unanimously, if not overwhelmingly unanimously.”Hamilton is one of the few cities in Ontario to consider such legislation, adding to its ongoing crusade against payday loan companies. It previously required them to be licensed, to educate the public on how their rates compare with traditional lenders and to share information on credit counselling with customers.Green’s attack on the lenders came after he discovered that loans of $300 were costing up to $1,600 because of fees and annualized interest rates he found to be about 546 per cent.“This is no way for people living in poverty to try to get by,” he said. “The targeting of our inner city neighbourhoods was a bit pernicious…we had more payday loans in some kilometres than Tim Hortons.”He believes payday loans companies should be abolished, but settled for fighting for the per-ward cap because the provincial and federal governments have allowed the process to continue and he lacks the power to overturn them.The Ontario government decreased the cost of a payday loan from $21 to $18 per $100 in 2017 and dropped it down again to $15 this year.The Canadian Consumer Finance Association, formerly the Canadian Payday Loan Association, argued that it provides a bridge for borrowers who are rejected by banks and would otherwise have to turn to illegal lenders.Tony Irwin, CEO of the Canadian Consumer Finance Association, was puzzled as to why Hamilton has considered such legislation when he’s been noticing the payday loan industry shrinking for years.“It is a very difficult industry to operate in and there is lots of competition,” Irwin said. “As locations find it more difficult to operate, some will face a difficult decision to close.”The policy that councillors will vote on won’t immediately decrease the city’s number of payday loan businesses to 15 to match its number of wards because it will grandfather in existing companies, but will prevent new ones from opening, said Tom Cooper, the director of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction.He’s noticed a “community crisis” has spawned from the 40 payday loan outlets he’s counted in Hamilton, which are mostly “clustered together” in the city’s downtown core.Cooper said the proximity creates a “predatory” scenario because “we often see people who owe money go to one payday loan outlet and then go to a second to pay the first and then a few doors down again (to another) to pay the second one.” read more

CID quiz foreign filmmakers

The CID has seized the equipment of two foreign independent film makers and questioned them after they recorded footage on tourism and development in Kalpitiya.Belgium independent film maker Guilhem de Crombrugghe and his French girlfriend Marie Ferdinands were in Kalpitiya over the weekend for the shoot after obtaining approval from the Sri Lanka Tourist Development Authority. Police spokesman Ajith Rohana said that the CID was still investigating the video taken by the two foreigners so they could not provide any information till investigations are complete.  (www.colombogazette.com) Crombrugghe told the Colombo Gazette that a team of CID officers had questioned them in Colombo yesterday and their equipment was seized today over suspicion that they were producing a video to discredit Sri Lanka. Crombrugghe said that the CID had taken him in for questioning when he had gone to the local visa office to extend his visa and also that of his girlfriend. The couple is now at a hotel in Negombo and a CID officer has been placed outside the hotel room while investigations continue.Crombrugghe told the Colombo Gazette that they merely interviewed people in Kalpitiya and Puttalam on tourism and development related issues and had even interviewed Nalaka Godahewa from the Tourist Board. read more

Cops arrested over security breach

They were arrested after a security breach where a member of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s security division had been found near President Sirisena with an armed weapon at the Angunakolapelessa event last month. (Colombo Gazette) Two policemen have been arrested over a security breach at an event attended by President Maithripala Sirisena recently.An Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) and a police Sergeant who were responsible for the security of the President at an event he attended in Angunakolapelessa recently were arrested and remanded till June 1. read more

Supreme Court rules dissolution of Parliament unconstitutional

The court also noted that if the President wants to dissolve Parliament early he must have 2/3rd majority support for the move in Parliament. The Supreme Court has ruled that the dissolution of Parliament by President Maithripala Sirisena was unconstitutional.Delivering its ruling, a seven judge bench said that the President cannot dissolve Parliament till Parliament completes its full 4 1/2 year term. However the UNF, Tamil National Alliance and Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna filed petitions in court challenging the dissolution of Parliament saying their fundamental rights had been violated.The Supreme Court then issued an order suspending the gazette notice issued to dissolve Parliament till the petitions are considered and a ruling is given.Accordingly last week the Supreme Court considered the petitions and today ruled that the dissolution was illegal. (Colombo Gazette) President Maithripala Sirisena sacked Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister on October 26th and appointed former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister.Then on November 9th the President dissolved Parliament and called for early elections in January. Report by Easwaran Rutnam United National Front (UNF) Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa said that the ruling was unanimous by the seven judge bench. He also called for calm from all sides. The judgement:Download (PDF, 1.27MB) read more

Shantha Bandara takes oaths as an MP

United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) member Shantha Bandara took oaths as a member of Parliament today.Shantha Bandara had been nominated to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of MLAM Hizbulla who was appointed as a Governor recently. The UPFA General Secretary had nominated Shantha Bandara as an eligible person to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of MLAM Hizbulla. (Colombo Gazette)