Morneaus credibility on the line as Liberals hit reset button on tax

first_imgOTTAWA – Justin Trudeau hit the reset button on his government’s controversial small-business tax reforms Monday but the awkward spectacle of the prime minister sidelining his finance minister, along with mushrooming questions about Bill Morneau’s personal financial arrangements, suggests the political crisis roiling Liberal ranks isn’t over just yet.Indeed, the controversy has morphed into a test of credibility for Morneau, Trudeau’s most important minister, the architect of the Liberals’ economic agenda and the chief salesman for the tax reforms.At a news conference to announce that the government will belatedly honour its promise to cut the small business tax rate to nine per cent, reporters asked as many questions about why Morneau hasn’t put his substantial assets in a blind trust as they did about the tax measures.Trudeau didn’t help matters by initially insisting on fielding questions directed specifically to Morneau, who stood by watching while the prime minister defended his beleaguered minister’s ethics.“You have to ask a question of me first because you get a chance to talk to the prime minister,” Trudeau told one reporter before finally allowing Morneau to explain that he has followed “to the letter” the recommendations of ethics commissioner Mary Dawson for dealing with his assets and avoiding any conflict of interest.The uncomfortable news conference prompted New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen to wonder aloud if Trudeau “is starting to lose confidence in his finance minister.”“Certainly many Canadians are,” Cullen said.“The rollout of this small business tax plan has been so badly botched, I think we’d agree that both the message saying to many small business owners you’re tax cheats and also the messenger in this case — somebody who is so inherently conflicted, and I’d suggest maybe legally conflicted — is causing a lot of problems for both the prime minister, his Liberal caucus and for this finance (minister).”In the House of Commons, opposition parties zeroed in on the lack of a blind trust, plus last week’s revelation that Morneau failed to disclose a private company that owns a family villa in France, to cast further doubt on his credibility.Conservative MP Peter Kent said “this extremely wealthy minister” seems to believe “he is above conflict of interest and ethics reporting rules.” His party’s House leader, Candice Bergen, went even further, accusing the finance minister of becoming “so arrogant and so entitled that he actually thinks he is above the law.”Cullen sarcastically attributed the multiple controversies surrounding Morneau to forgetfulness.“He forgot that cutting small business taxes was a promise that he ran on, he forgot he owned a luxury villa in France, but, hey, what middle-class Canadian hasn’t? He also forgot to tell us that his vast wealth was not, in fact, in a blind trust and he only comes clean when he is in a world of trouble.”As for the reviving the promise to cut the small business tax rate, which Morneau shelved in his first budget, Cullen dismissed that as damage control in the face of the angry backlash that greeted the small business tax reform proposals from doctors, lawyers, accountants, shop keepers, premiers and even some Liberal backbenchers.“When Liberals have totally screwed up a small business tax plan, when they have attacked small businesses while ignoring their wealthy friends, when they are backed so deep into a corner they have nowhere else to go, then and only then will Liberals honour their commitments to Canadians.”Opposition MPs also kept up a barrage of questions about a now-withdrawn Canada Revenue Agency notice that employee discounts will henceforth be considered taxable benefits. While Morneau was not involved in that fiasco and the government has insisted it has no plans to tax the discounts given to retail sector workers, ongoing confusion over what other discounts might be taxable gave opposition parties more ammunition to question the credibility of the government as a whole and its claim to be a champion of the middle class.Business groups, who’ve bitterly denounced the tax reform plans, were more charitable about Monday’s partial climb-down, welcoming the reduction in the small business tax rate and the promise of changes to the proposed reforms to be unveiled later in the week.“It’s certainly an awful lot better than it was only a few short hours ago,” said Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.Nevertheless, Kelly added that the business community will want to see the details of the changes and have tax experts analyse them before giving a thumbs up. There’s been “a bit of a trust erosion with the government” which makes the business community “a bit shy to react,” he said.“We really need to make sure that what the government’s intentions are is actually the case when we study the proposals in detail,” he said.“There’s no question it took a knock, it did affect the trust the business community has with government and with the ministry of finance, and it’s going to take a little bit of time for that to come back. But I think it can come back if the government is sincere and taking some new approaches.”Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said the government appears to be doing “a dance of the seven veils” with its changes to the tax reform proposals and it’s not until all the details are known that its impact can be judged.“At this point, everybody’s from Missouri. They want to see something that’s concrete,” he said.Beatty said part of the problem with the original proposals was that the government understated the impact, essentially telling business people, “‘Don’t worry, be happy’ and what we heard from all the tax practitioners across the country was, ‘Worry.’”last_img read more

Lampert blames Sears Canada management for exacerbating the retailers woes

first_imgTORONTO – Eddie Lampert, the chairman and chief executive of Sears Holding Corp., is blaming Sears Canada for exacerbating its problems before it filed for creditor protection.Lampert’s ESL Investments is the largest shareholder in Sears Canada, which is in the process of liquidating and closing its remaining stores.In a post on his blog, Lampert says the retailer’s reinvention strategy was risky and untested.“In particular, ESL noted that it would be risky and unwise for the company to pursue additional borrowings on onerous terms to fund a new, untested strategy,” he wrote.“Despite this advice, management decided to proceed with these actions and the company’s operating losses and cash drain rapidly worsened.”Lampert posted the comments in response to a report by the Globe and Mail that chronicled Sears Canada’s troubles.Sears Canada has been operating under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act since June, but had been struggling for years.It had hoped to restructure and keep many of its stores open, but the retailer received court approval earlier this month to begin its liquidation sales after failing to find a buyer for its operations.A group led by Brandon Stranzl, who stepped down as the company’s executive chairman following approval of the liquidation sales, had been in talks to purchase the retailer and continue to operate it, but no deal was reached.last_img read more

Freeland steps up diplomatic pressure on Venezuela warns of refugee crisis

first_imgTORONTO – Canada is concerned that the political and economic turmoil in Venezuela will spark a refugee crisis for the South American country and its neighbours, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Monday.Freeland said that she and Peru’s foreign minister would take that message to the United Nations in New York City on Monday, following her appearance at a business conference in Toronto.Canada and Peru co-chaired a meeting of ministers from the Lima Group of countries last week in Toronto. Freeland and Peru’s foreign minister Ricardo Luna were delegated to meet with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.Apart from Canada, the group’s 12 members are in Latin America.But Freeland said Monday that Venezuela and Canada are in the same geographic “neighbourhood” and that Canada has a role to play in supporting the country’s democratic institutions and respect for human rights.“I do think. . . this is a humanitarian crisis as well as a political one. We are seeing real preventable suffering of the people of Venezuela,” Freeland said at the Toronto Global Forum before heading to New York for the U.N. meeting.“And I think . . . there are mounting signs of a regional refugee crisis as well. Colombia and Brazil are facing a lot of pressure. So I think it is an area where Canada needs to be very engaged.”Venezuela — an oil-rich country that was led by outspoken socialist Hugo Chavez from 1999 to 2013 — has suffered an economic meltdown since his death.The dramatic drop in global oil prices since late 2014 and the devaluation of the country’s currency have fuelled triple-digit inflation that has resulted in shortages of food, medicine and other basic necessities.The government of President Nicolas Maduro, who succeeded Chavez, has also been accused of grabbing power by creating a new constitutional assembly that claims supreme authority over other arms of the government, including the opposition-controlled congress.In September, Freeland announced that Canada had imposed sanctions against 40 key figures in the Venezuelan regime, including Maduro, who she said had helped undermine the country’s stability.Freeland said Monday that support from allies would help pressure Venezuela further.“So I think it is an area where Canada needs to be very engaged. . . . We’d be delighted to see the EU joining us in applying pressure on the government of Venezuela,” Freeland said.Earlier in an on-stage interview by Frank McKenna, a former Liberal premier of New Brunswick and a former Canadian ambassador to the United States, Freeland acknowledged that the NAFTA trade talks have included some “troubling” proposals from the United States.Freeland specified two issues: the U.S. insistence of removing dispute-resolution measures contained in Chapter 19 of the North American Free Trade Agreement as well as its proposal to review the trade pact every five years.But she said the Canada-U.S. relationship is “robust and very deep” — noting the two countries are partners in the NATO and NORAD military alliances and that Canada is a bigger market for the United States than China, Japan and the United Kingdom combined.Freeland also said that barriers to trade under World Trade Organization rules have been reduced since NAFTA was signed by the United States, Canada and Mexico.“We looked at the actual trade — not the just the agreement but the actual trade that is happening — we found that around 40 per cent of Canadian exporters to the United States don’t use the NAFTA preferences that are available to them,” Freeland said.That suggests the differences between WTO and NAFTA rules have decreased and that administrative red-tape involved is a bigger barrier to trade than preferential tariffs in the three-country agreement, she said.“It’s very technical. Things like electronic forms at the border, things like regulatory harmonization,” Freeland said.“It really matters to Canadian and U.S. businesses and in most chapters (of the agreement) we’re going gangbusters in a very positive way.”last_img read more

Simplii joins BMO in offering free credit monitoring after potential breach

first_imgTORONTO – CIBC’s direct banking brand Simplii Financial has joined BMO in offering free credit monitoring for tens of thousands of customers whose personal and financial information may have been accessed by “fraudsters.”A CIBC spokesman says the bank is replacing affected clients’ bank cards and taking additional steps to monitor and protect the approximately 40,000 Simplii clients who may have been impacted by the breach.BMO said yesterday it was offering free credit monitoring, and will additionally block online and mobile access to accounts of those affected, which the bank believes is fewer than 50,000.Both banks are also vowing to return 100 per cent of any money lost by impacted customers through the incident.BMO said it learned of the potential breach on Sunday when it was contacted by individuals claiming to be in possession of its clients sensitive information and threatening to make it public.CIBC learned of the potential issue on the same day, and says it continues to reach out to those that have been impacted to offer support.last_img read more

Alberta utilitys late reporting of 2015 PCB spill earns hefty fine

first_imgHINTON, Alta. – The electrical utility FortisAlberta has been fined $300,000 for a spill of potentially dangerous polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in west-central Alberta nearly three years ago.Environment and Climate Change Canada says in a release that a provincial court judge ordered the fine Wednesday after the company pleaded guilty to two charges of violating federal regulations.The department says the charges relate, in part, to FortisAlberta’s failure to quickly notify an enforcement officer or other designated person of the release.Court heard that on May 12, 2016, the utility reported a spill at one of its transformers in Hinton, but an investigation showed the company had discovered the problem on Oct. 19 of the previous year.Test results showed that about 325 litres of oil containing PCBs was released into the environment.The department says FortisAlberta will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry, which contains information on convictions of corporations under certain federal environmental laws.The fine will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund.Officials said scientific data suggest PCBs are probable human carcinogens and are toxic to fish at low concentrations.There was no indication from the department if anyone outside of Fortis came in contact with the oil, or if it leaked into any waterway.last_img read more

Timeline Key dates in the history of the Trans Mountain pipeline

first_imgVANCOUVER, B.C. — Here are some key dates in the history of the Trans Mountain pipeline and Kinder Morgan Canada’s efforts to expand its capacity:October 1953: The Trans Mountain pipeline begins shipping oil with an initial capacity of 150,000 barrels per day. The project features four pump stations along its 1,150-kilometre route and a marine dock that connects loading facilities on the east side of Edmonton with ocean tankers in Burnaby, B.C.1957: Pipeline capacity is expanded via the construction of a 160-kilometre pipeline loop. The Westridge Marine Terminal is built and commissioned in Burnaby, B.C. Jan. 12, 2016: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says in a written submission to the NEB that the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is in the best interests of both Alberta and Canada.Jan. 27, 2016: The federal Liberal government says pipeline projects such as the Trans Mountain expansion will now be assessed in part on the greenhouse gas emissions produced in the extraction and processing of the oil they carry. Proponents will also be required to improve consultations with First Nations.May 17, 2016: Ottawa appoints a three-member panel to conduct an environmental review of the Trans Mountain expansion project.May 29, 2016: The NEB recommends approval of the pipeline, subject to 157 conditions, concluding that it is in the public interest. Jan. 14, 1985: Trans Mountain’s biggest spill occurs at a tank farm in the Edmonton area. Nearly 10,000 barrels of oil are released.2006 – 2008: The Anchor Loop project adds 160 kilometres of new pipeline through Jasper National Park and Mount Robson Provincial Park between Hinton, Alta., and Hargreaves, B.C. The extension includes 13 new pump stations and modifications to existing stations, increasing capacity from 260,000 bpd to 300,000 bpd.Feb. 21, 2012: Kinder Morgan says it wants to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline after receiving support from oil shippers and will begin public consultations.Dec. 16, 2013: An application is made to the National Energy Board (NEB) to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline. Construction is proposed to begin in 2017, with the aim of having oil flow through the expansion by December 2019.November 2014: More than 100 people are arrested after they camp out in a conservation area on Burnaby Mountain, east of Vancouver, to block crews from conducting drilling and survey work related to the pipeline expansion. Most of the charges are later dropped.August 2015: The NEB postpones public hearings after striking from the record economic evidence prepared by a Kinder Morgan consultant who was to begin working for the regulator.center_img Nov. 29, 2016: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sanctions the Trans Mountain expansion, part of a sweeping announcement that also saw approval of Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline replacement but the end of its Northern Gateway project.Jan. 11, 2017: B.C. Premier Christy Clark announces her support for the project, saying Kinder Morgan has met five government conditions including a revenue-sharing agreement worth up to $1 billion.May 15, 2017: The Federal Court of Appeal grants Notley’s government intervener status in a lawsuit filed by municipalities and First Nations against the project.May 25, 2017: Kinder Morgan makes its final investment decision to proceed with the development, now estimated to cost $7.4 billion, subject to the successful public offering of Kinder Morgan Canada.May 29, 2017: The B.C. NDP and Greens agree to form a coalition to topple the Liberal party, which won a minority government in an election earlier in the month. The parties agree to “immediately employ every tool available” to stop the project.May 30, 2017: Kinder Morgan Canada debuts on the Toronto Stock Exchange after a $1.75-billion public offering.June 29, 2017: The B.C. Liberals lose a no-confidence vote, clearing the way for NDP Leader John Horgan to become premier.Aug. 10, 2017: The B.C. NDP government hires former judge Thomas Berger to provide legal advice as it seeks intervener status in the legal challenges against the project filed by municipalities and First Nations.Oct. 26, 2017: Kinder Morgan Canada asks NEB to allow work to begin despite a failure to obtain municipal permits from the City of Burnaby.Dec. 7, 2017: NEB allows Kinder Morgan Canada to bypass Burnaby bylaws.Jan. 17, 2018: Kinder Morgan Canada warns the Trans Mountain expansion project could be a year behind schedule.Jan. 18, 2018: NEB establishes a process to resolve permitting issues between Kinder Morgan Canada and provincial and municipal authorities.Jan. 30, 2018: B.C. government moves to restrict any increase in diluted bitumen shipments until it conducts more spill response studies, a move that increases the uncertainty for Trans Mountain.March 9, 2018: B.C. Supreme Court grants interim injunction aimed at preventing anti-pipeline activists from protesting construction at two terminals in Burnaby.March 15, 2018: B.C. Supreme Court grants indefinite injunction preventing protesters from coming within five metres of two work sites for the project.March 23, 2018: Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and New Democrat MP Kennedy Stewart arrested at a protest against the pipeline expansion; Federal Court of Appeal dismisses a B.C. government bid challenging a NEB ruling that allows Kinder Morgan Canada to bypass local bylaws.March 27, 2018: City of Burnaby, B.C., says it will file an appeal to the Supreme Court in connection with the Federal Court of Appeal ruling.April 8, 2018: Kinder Morgan Canada suspends non-essential spending on the Trans Mountain expansion project and sets a May 31 deadline to reach agreements with stakeholders.last_img read more

Silver Spitfire fighter plane visits Fort St John as part of World Expedition

first_imgFORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The North Peace Regional Airport welcomed a special visitor on Thursday, September 5, to Fort St. John.As part of an expedition celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force, a newly restored British Silver Spitfire fighter plane from the Second World War landed in Fort St. John.The Mk IX Spitfire is being flown by British Pilots and is en route to Alaska after having left Britain five weeks ago. As of Friday, the Spitfire is 6,450 miles into its 27,000-mile four-month expedition of flying around the world.According to expedition organizers, the Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was built in 1943 and was used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries before, during and after World War II.To follow the Spitfire’s expedition, you can visit silverspitfire.com.last_img read more

Cong free to field its candidates in all LS seats of UP: Mayawati

first_imgLucknow: BSP chief Mayawati Monday advised the Congress to refrain from spreading confusion by leaving seven Lok Sabha seats for the SP-BSP-RLD alliance in Uttar Pradesh. In a series of tweets, she said the Congress is free to field its candidates in all the 80 parliamentary constituencies of the state. Mayawati made it amply clear that her party will not enter into any alliance with the Congress. She also said that the SP-BSP-RLD alliance is capable enough of defeating the BJP on its own. Also Read – MP woman hangs herself after killing three children The Congress on Sunday said it would leave more than a dozen Lok Sabha seats for other parties, including seven for the SP, BSP and RLD alliance in the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh. Apart from this, the grand old party also said that it will leave two seats for the Apna Dal, and entered into an electoral agreement with the lesser known Jan Adhikar Party. The SP and the BSP had forged an alliance on 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state. As per the deal, the SP will contest 37 Lok Sabha seats in UP and the BSP 38, leaving three for the Ajit Singh-led Rashtriya Lok Dal and two for Sonia Gandhi (Rae Bareli) and Rahul Gandhi (Amethi).last_img read more

President, Vice President, PM extend Holi greetings

first_imgNew Delhi: President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday greeted the nation on the occasion of Holi.”Greetings and best wishes to fellow citizens in India and abroad on the auspicious occasion of Holi,” tweeted Kovind, who had also released a statement on Wednesday.”The festival of colours, Holi is a celebration of spring and fraternity in our society. May it bring peace, joy and prosperity to everyone’s lives,” Kovind said. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss bank a/c detailsNaidu tweeted that Holi was a celebration of the victory of good over evil and a festival that expresses joy, camaraderie and conviviality.Modi also extended greetings to the nation on the occasion of Holi and said that the festival of joy and gaiety would strengthen the colour of unity and goodwill.Extending wishes, Rahul Gandhi said: “Wishing you and your family a very Happy Holi. I pray to God that this festival brings colours to your life.”last_img read more

Globally acclaimed Kanyashree emerges as saviour for girls from cash-strapped families

first_imgKolkata: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s pet project Kanyashree, which has garnered worldwide recognition, has come as a boon to girls coming from economically challenged families, with aspirations of higher education.Case in point, the project has helped the students of Muralidhar Girls’ College to carry on with higher education. Around 125 students of the college got benefits of the project in 2016-17, while around 155 were benefitted in 2017-18 and around 240 in 2018-19. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari Puja”I come from a very modest background and there was a time when I did not know whether I could pursue my true passion, which is dance. After receiving Kanyashree, I gathered the courage to start a dance class and am happy to see my life getting transformed,” said Bishakha Das, daughter of a domestic help. She is pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication at Muralidhar Girls’ College. “Receiving Kanyashree in 2017 has greatly helped me in meeting my education cost as I come from a poor family,” said Nasifa Ali, a former student of Muralidhar who is now pursuing a Master’s degree in Applied Psychology. Also Read – Bengal civic volunteer dies in road mishap on national highway”I could buy instruments after receiving the money from Kanyashree scholarship in 2019, which has been of great help to a folk music aspirant like me,” said Sonali Haldar, an inter-collegiate music winner, and a student of Arts stream in Muralidhar Girls’ College. “In 2019 I received a Kanyashree scholarship and the amount has been helpful towards my education expenses,” maintained Tuktuki Ruidas, a student in general stream at Muralidhar College, who is also a running enthusiast. “Today when I see my students I feel immense pride and happiness that many unsure and underconfident young women have been transformed through this institute’s continued efforts and Kanyashree into confident and bright women of the future. The college, as many would know, did not earlier have the Science stream but coming from a background in Chemistry, I thought the knowledge of science was very integral to women’s education,” said Kinjalkini Biswas, principal of the college, while paying her homage to Muralidhar Bandyopadhyay, educationist and visionary whose birthday was on Tuesday. To mark the occasion, Kavita Singh, associate professor, West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata, gave a lecture on women empowerment. Muralidhar Girls’ College was initially the Ballygunge Uchho Balika Vidyalaya, which was set up in 1919. It was later converted to Muralidhar Girls’ College in 1940, affiliated to The University of Calcutta.last_img read more

Central Forces in 98.8% booths for phase four

first_imgKolkata: Central Forces will be deployed in 98.8 percent of the booths in the fourth phase of the seven phase Lok Sabha elections, where poll will be held in eight constituencies spreading over five districts on Monday.Poll will be held in Berhampur (Murshidabad), Krishnanagar, Ranaghat (Nadia), Burdwan East, Burdwan-Durgapur, Asansol (Burdwan West) and Bolpur and Birbhum (Birbhum). Over one crore voters will exercise their franchise on Monday. The Election Commission of India has taken elaborate measures to ensure free and fair polls in the eight constituencies. Chief Election Commissioner Sudip Jain has recently held a video conference with the CEO and election observers and taken a stock of the situation. 561 companies of Central Forces will be deployed on Monday. There will be 88 Quick Response Teams under the Central Forces. In Asansol, there will be Central Forces in all booths along with Birbhum and Bolpur. In Asansol, 87 companies of Central Forces will be deployed. There will be 15,277 polling booths spread over 9,803 premises. In Bolpur, there will be web casting facility in 300 booths. In Krishnanagar, there will be Central Force deployment in 97 percent booths. It may be recalled that in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Trinamool had established its control over six of the eight seats. At Berhampur in Murshidabad and Asansol in Burdwan West, Adhir Chowdhury of Congress and Babul Supriyo of BJP had been elected. Chowdhury is set to face his one-time aide Apurba Sarkar who recently joined Trinamool Congress in Monday’s poll, while Babul Supriyo will face Moon Moon Sen, the Trinamool Congress MP who was elected from the Bankura Lok Sabha seat in 2014. Political experts feel that in both the Berhampur and Asansol seats, there will be a tough fight for the winners of the 2014 election. If Trinamool Congress can win the Berhampur seat, it will be a major victory for Suvendu Adhikari who is looking after Murshidabad district. In the Panchayat election held in 2018, Trinamool had bagged the Zilla Parishad. In Krishnanagar, Trinamool has fielded Mahua Moitra, the party’s MLA from Karimpur whereas in the Ranaghat (SC) seat, Trinamool has fielded Rupali Biswas, widow of Satyajit Biswas, the former Krishnagunj MLA who was murdered in February. In Burdwan East and Burdwan Durgapur, Trinamool has retained two sitting MPs, namely Sunil Mondol and Mumtaz Sanghamita. In the Bolpur (SC) seat, the party has fielded Asit Mal while Satabdi Roy, the sitting MP, is contesting from the Birbhum seat.last_img read more

Schools re-open in Sri Lanka amid tight security

first_imgColombo: Schools in Sri Lanka resumed classes on Monday with few students arriving in classrooms, two weeks after the devastating Easter Sunday bombings forced the authorities to close the educational institutions. Amid tight security, the classes commenced for mid-to-upper stream (grades 6 to 13) and will be followed by lower grades (1 to 5) on May 13. “The second academic term for school children in grade 6 and above classes, commenced today (Monday). The three armed forces, police, civil security officers, parents and old boys gathered at their respective schools to provide protection,” News 1ST channel reported. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince Salman ‘snubbed’ Pak PM Imran, recalled his private jet from US: ReportNine suicide bombers, including a woman, carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and three luxury hotels on April 21, killing 253 people and injuring over 500 others. Following the attack, the authorities closed the schools until further notice. Despite the tight security arrangements, most classrooms were near empty. Private schools, including Catholic institutions, remained closed. The attendance of teachers was also low, the report said. Also Read – Iraq military admits ‘excessive force’ used in deadly protestsAn extensive security programme has been implemented in schools. Special circulars have been issued by the Education Ministry about the security of the schools. Children will have to carry transparent or see-through school bags, lunch boxes and water bottles. Parking vehicles near schools have been completely banned. Separate places have been prepared to park school vans, buses. Special search operations will also be conducted from Sunday in schools. The Islamic State terror group claimed the attacks, but the government blamed local Islamist extremist group National Thowheeth Jamaath (NTJ). Sri Lanka banned the NTJ and arrested over 100 people in connection with the blasts. Sri Lanka has imposed a state of emergency since the attacks and given sweeping powers to soldiers and police to arrest and detain suspects for long periods.last_img read more

We have brought peace in Jungalmahal : Mamata

first_imgKotshila/Hura (Purulia): West Bengal chief minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee Wednesday said that her government has been able to usher in peace in tribal Jungalmahal area. The people of Jungalmahal, the forested tribal area of the state, were afraid of both CPI(M) and the naxals during the Left Front rule, she said. But the scenario has changed in the area, which comrpise Jhargram, West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia districts, Banerjee said at an election rally at Kotshila in Purulia district. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari Puja “We have been able to establish peace in Purulia and Junglemahal area and many developmental works have been undertaken – mainly water-related projects,” she said. Criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she said he has done nothing in the last five years. “Do not vote for BJP. They will do nothing and only dish out lies and make people fight against each other”, the fiesty TMC leader said. Banerjee, who had spearheaded the anti-land acquisition movements at Singur and Nandigram, said that her government would protect the rights of adivasis including their claim over land. At another rally at Hura in the same district, she said the government is planning an airport at Charra to connect the district with Kolkata and other places. She urged the electorate to help TMC wrest all the 42 seats in the state.last_img read more

Iran suspends nuclear deal curbs in push for relief from US sanctions

first_imgTehran: Iran said Wednesday it had stopped respecting limits on its nuclear activities agreed under a 2015 deal with major powers until they find a way to bypass renewed US sanctions. The well trailed announcement came as Washington stepped up its rhetoric against Tehran, accusing it of planning “imminent” attacks and deploying an aircraft carrier strike group with several nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to the region. Iran said it was responding to the sweeping unilateral sanctions that Washington has reimposed since it quit the agreement one year ago, which have dealt a severe blow to the Iranian economy. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince Salman ‘snubbed’ Pak PM Imran, recalled his private jet from US: ReportIt said it would stop implementing some of the restrictions it had agreed with immediate effect. Tehran said it would abandon more if the remaining parties to the agreement — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — failed to start delivering on their commitments to sanctions relief within 60 days. President Hassan Rouhani underlined that the ultimatum was intended to rescue the nuclear deal from his US counterpart Donald Trump who has repeatedly called for it to be scrapped since he pulled out on May 8, 2018. Also Read – Iraq military admits ‘excessive force’ used in deadly protests”We felt the (deal) needed surgery and that the year-long sedatives have not delivered any result. This surgery is meant to save the (deal) not destroy it,” Rouhani said at a cabinet meeting broadcast live on state television. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is on an official visit to Moscow, stressed Iran’s actions were not in breach of the nuclear deal, which UN inspectors have repeatedly certified its compliance with. “We are not operating outside of the JCPOA (nuclear deal) but are in fact working in its framework,” Zarif told state television. Under the landmark deal agreed by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, the parties to the agreement were supposed to lift nuclear-related sanctions on Iran in return for it reining in its activities to ease fears it was seeking the capability to produce an atomic bomb. But the promised sanctions relief has failed to materialise as European and Asian banks and oil companies have moved swiftly to abide by the renewed US sanctions for fear of financial or commercial repercussions. Rouhani slammed European countries for seeing the US as the world’s “sheriff” and said this keeps them from making “firm decisions for their own national interests.” “You have responsibilities, too … for keeping your youth away from drugs, the flood of immigrants and other cooperation Iran has had with you so far. If this trend continues, the cooperation will cease.” The three European parties to the deal — Britain, France and Germany — tried to save the accord with a trade mechanism meant to bypass reimposed US sanctions, but their attempt was dismissed by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as a “bitter joke”. China underlined that it “resolutely opposes” the unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States on Iran but called on all parties to uphold the nuclear deal. “We call on all relevant parties to exercise restraint, strengthen dialogue and avoid escalating tensions,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said. Russia said it remained committed to the nuclear deal and denounced what it called “unreasonable pressure” on Iran. Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said the measures were necessary to “secure its rights and bring back balance” after the unilateral moves by the Trump administration. “The Islamic Republic of Iran does not at the current stage consider itself committed to observing restrictions regarding storing enriched uranium stocks and heavy water stocks,” the Supreme National Security Council said. “The remaining parties to the (deal) are given 60 days to implement their commitments, in particular in the fields of banking and oil,” the council added. “In the next stage Iran will also stop observing restrictions on the level of uranium enrichment and measures regarding modernising Arak heavy water reactor.” Uranium enriched to much higher levels than Iran’s current stocks can be used as the fissile core of a nuclear weapon, while heavy water is a source of plutonium which can be used as an alternative way to produce a warhead. The council called for swift action by the remaining parties to the deal, warning time was running out. “The window which is now open for diplomacy will not remain so for long, and the responsibility of the (deal) failing and any possibile consequences are completely on the US and the remaining parties,” it said. On the eve of the Iranian announcement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced visit to Baghdad in an effort to consolidate relations as Washington pushes ahead with its “maximum pressure” against Tehran — a US arch-rival, but an ally of Iraq. Pompeo said he made the trip because Iranian forces are “escalating their activity” and said the threat of attacks was “very specific”. He declined to go into further detail on the alleged plot, which has been met with scepticism in many quarters, with leading Democratic lawmakers fearing that Trump’s administration is seeking to spark a war with Iran. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been a consistent opponent of the nuclear deal, seized on the Iranian announcement as evidence that it was pressing ahead with its nuclear programme. “We shall not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon,” he said.last_img read more

Shatrughan Sinha, Ravi Shankar Prasad slug it out in Patna Sahib

first_imgPatna: A clash of titans is on the cards in Patna Sahib where Shatrughan Sinha is seeking to retain the seat for a third consecutive term, this time on a Congress ticket, surmounting a formidable challenge posed by Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. Altogether 18 candidates are in the fray for the constituency, which covers the entire Patna city and a part of the outskirts, though the contest is being viewed as essentially a straight one between the actor-turned-politician and Prasad. Named after a centuries-old Sikh shrine located on the banks of the Ganga where Guru Gobind Singh was born and spent his early childhood, Patna Sahib Lok Sabha seat came into being in the delimitation of 2008 and Sinha won it in the 2009 and retained the seat five years later. Nicknamed ‘Bihari Babu’ by virtue of his professed attachment to his home state, the flamboyant actor of yesteryears sounds confident of making a hat-trick as he points out “I have won the seat in the past two elections with margins that were the highest for Bihar. This was because of the immense love people have for me. Moreover, I am not a usual party-hopper. The circumstances under which I had to quit the BJP are known to all.” Associated with the saffron party since the early 1990s when it was not much of a force to reckon with, Sinha fell out with the BJP leadership after the ascension of Narendra Modi and the anointment of his confidant Amit Shah as the party’s national president. The outspoken former Bollywood star made his discomfiture with the party leadership public on many an occasion while he was still with the BJP which he had been describing, for quite some time, as a “one man army and two man show”. The announcement of Prasad as the BJP candidate from his seat proved to be the last straw for Sinha, who switched over to the Congress, which fielded him from his sitting seat. The BJP is, however, dismissive of his prospects and asserts that Sinha’s stellar victories were on account of his association with the party. Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, arguably the tallest BJP leader from the state, who has never been on good terms with Sinha, points out, “Five out of the six assembly segments falling under Patna Sahib are held by the BJP. This was despite the fact our party faced an uphill task in the assembly polls wherein Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad had joined hands.” “Nitish is now back with us and so is Ram Vilas Paswan who was not in 2009. So our prospects are stronger than ever. Combine that with the unquestionable popularity of Narendra Modi and the fact that the Congress is a spent force in Bihar. Shatrughan Sinha should consider himself lucky if he finds even a polling agent,” Modi says. The Congress, meanwhile, is canvassing in favour of the new entrant with uncharacteristic vigour and is being assisted in the same by its formidable ally, the RJD, which had won one of the six assembly segments here and lost another with a thin margin to the BJP. Parties like the Aam Aadmi Party, the CPI and the CPI(M), not of much electoral consequence, have also extended their support in the interest of “secularism and defeating the BJP” and their volunteers are doing their bit to add spice to the campaign of the actor who is considered a staid electioneer despite his gift of the gab. One crucial factor, which worries the BJP and Sinha too is known to be secretly banking upon, is the disgruntlement that Prasad’s candidature has caused to Rajya Sabha member Ravindra Kishore Sinha, who wanted the seat for himself or his son Rituraj. Founder of security solutions behemoth SIS, Ravindra Kishore Sinha is said to be quite popular among members of the Kayastha caste, numerically small overall but in sizeable numbers in the state capital, whom he is known to help in times of distress, financially and otherwise. The Akhil Bharatiya Kayastha Mahasabha – which claims to have some influence among the largely urbane and highly fractured community – had even come out with a statement that it would not support the BJP candidate unless it happened to be RK Sinha. R K Sinha last month had a closed door, hour-long meeting here with Bhaiyaji Joshi – the number 2 in Sangh Parivar – which was seen as a damage control exercise by the saffron conglomerate. Trying to fish in troubled waters, Shatrughan Sinha had remarked a few days later, “I have personal regard for RK Sinha, who is my senior. The party did not do justice to him by denying him the party ticket. Had he been fielded, it would have forced me to have second thoughts about taking him on.” When R K Sinha was recently approached for his reaction on “Shotgun” (another epithet associated with the actor) sounding confident of his victory, he said, “I can assure you I will come to Patna to cast my vote for Ravi Shankar Prasad on polling day” but added cryptically “Shatrughan Sinha is a senior and experienced leader. If he says he can win, he must be having reasons to do so.”last_img read more

Alex Salmond says Britain ‘reneging on pledges’ after Scottish referendum

Marrakech – Less than a month after decisive defeat of the Scottish referendum on independence from the United Kingdom, Alex Salmond who is standing down as Scotland’s First Minister and is being replaced by Nicola Sturgeon, accused British Prime Minister David Cameron of betraying Scotland by reneging on pledges to grant more spending powers to the Scottish Parliament. His successor Nicola Sturgeon, echoed his concern.The leaders of the UK’s three main parties, the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, and Labour Party, made several promises for increased Scottish autonomy.Since then, Britain’s London-based politicians have bickered over what amount to overhaul the way the United Kingdom is ruled. However, the game-changer may very well be the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and its leader Nicholas Farage, who just won a critical election and are poised to win more seats. UKIP wants English MPs to only decide legislation and matters relating to England. This raises the question of how much public money should be allocated to devolved administrations and how much they should be allowed to raise their own revenue. It also raises the question of whether or not the number of Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Members of the Westminster Parliament should be reduced, since they have autonomous parliaments of their own. The so-called West Lothian question asks why MPs from devolved areas can vote on English legislation affecting England but English MPs cannot vote on legislation affecting Scotland, Northern Ireland, or Wales. Thus far, no answer has been forthcoming.Alex Salmond has threatened that Scottish voters will take revenge against the Conservative-led coalition in the next UK parliamentary elections, due on 7 May 2015, unless Parliament calls for an earlier date. The Conservative party has one Scottish MP in Westminster and 15 members of the Scottish Parliament. The Liberal Democrats  are likely to lose heavily in the next election.This might leave the Labour party as the winner, or there may be a more complex scenario with UKIP determining the balance, a party gaining strength at the expense of the Conservatives. UKIP wants Britain to leave the European Union. David Cameron is committed to holding a referendum on Britain’s EU membership in 2017 if he wins the next election in 2015. The EU remains the Achilles’ heel of the Conservative party, and may indeed be the cause of yet more defections to UKIP. “A suivre”, as they say. read more

Benkirane in Jordan to Participate in World Economic Forum

Rabat   –  Head of the Government Abdelilah Benkirane arrived on Thursday in Jordan to participate in the World Economic Forum Middle East and North Africa which will kick off on Friday in a resort on the Dead Sea.Upon arrival, Benkirane, who was is accompanied by Lower House Speaker Rachid Talbi Alami, was received by Jordanian Prime Minister Abdallah Nassour and Morocco’s Ambassador to Jordan Lahcen Abdelkhalek.Held in partnership with Davos Forum and King Abdellah II Fund, the Forum  will offer panels discussing key issues facing the region. The event brings together more than 900 officials from MENA countries along with leading executives from the private sector and civil society activists.

BuzzFeed Ranks Fez 11 in List of 18 Top Travel Destinations…

Fez – BuzzFeed ranked Fez among the 18 top travel places for 2016 based on its charm reflecting both authenticity and modernity.BuzzFeed, a social news and entertainment site, ranked Fez at no. 11 for the opportunities it offers for tourists to visit the old medina with its winding streets that have witnessed twelve centuries of civilization, markets selling leather, ceramics and brassware, and monuments such as Al-Qarawiyyin University which is  the oldest university in the world.According to BuzzFeed, “Fez is the oldest imperial city, and today blends old world charm with modern luxury for the ideal holiday experience.’’ “Fez el-Bali, the city’s oldest quarter, is an amazing peek into Morocco’s medieval history, and its winding and crumbling alley ways are painfully insta-worthy,’’ the same source added.Fez outranked Acadia National Park, Maine, USA (12), Taipei, Taiwan (13), St Helena (14), Abu Dhabi, UAE (15), Guam (16), Quito, Ecuador (17), and San Sebastian, Spain (18).First place in the ranking was dominated by Normandy, France, with its marvelous landscape, followed by the spellbinding Faroe Islands off Denmark, and Zion Park, Utah, USA, with its heavenly beaches and mountains.Fez also appears in Fodor’s Go List 2016 describing it as “three cities in one: medieval Fez el-Bali (Old Fez), thirteenth-century Fez el-Djedid (New Fez), and the twentieth-century Ville Nouveau, built by the French.’’Fez has established itself as one of the most attractive cities in the world as it offers an abundance of newly restored riads, luxurious hotels, and excellent restaurants, shops and galleries.Edited by Elisabeth Myers read more

German factory production slips, raising new economic fears

BERLIN — German factory production declined unexpectedly in December, increasing concerns about the weakening of Europe’s largest economy.The Federal Statistical Office said Thursday industrial production dropped 0.4 per cent in December over the month before, when adjusted for seasonal and calendar factors.On Wednesday, the office reported factory orders also slipped. In both cases, economists had been predicting increases, and the developments raised speculation Germany might have contracted in the fourth quarter of 2018 for the second quarter in a row, meaning it entered a technical recession.Last week, the government slashed its 2019 economic growth forecast from 1.8 per cent to 1 per cent. Germany’s economy grew 1.5 per cent last year and 2.2 per cent in 2017.In January, officials said it appeared Germany had avoided recession, but fourth-quarter numbers haven’t yet been finalized.The Associated Press read more

Former King of Spain Accused of Using ‘Lover’s’ Name to Hide…

Rabat – The royal family of Spain is battling another corruption scandal. Princess Corinna Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein allegedly accused former King of Spain Juan Carlos I of using her name to purchase multiple properties in Morocco and elsewhere without her permission.German aristocrat Princess Corinna Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein made her claims against the former king in alleged leaked audio recordings.In the leaked audio recordings, Carlos’ alleged lover Corinna claimed that the former king has allegedly put her name on several properties, including a ground in Marrakech. International media also reported that Carlos used the princess’ name to hide his fortunes, which is estimated at EUR 2 billion. The princess’ allegations were published by the Spanish newspapers El Español and OK Diario.In 2015, the princess claimed in a conversation with a former Spanish officer in London that “she was being drawn into money laundering,” according to Telegraph.The princess has also accused the king’s lawyers of putting her name on overseas properties without her permission.In the leaked recordings, which were unveiled on Wednesday, the princess said she was facing a “nightmare.”“But if do it, it is money laundering,” she allegedly said in the recordings.“They are putting me under tremendous pressure to return these things, but if I do it I am breaking the law I could go to jail.”The Monaco-based princess added that the king made her put the properties under her name not “because he loves me a lot but because I reside in Monaco.”The palace has not yet responded to the claims made by the German aristocrat.When the leaked recordings went public, Corinna issued a statement in which she denounced “a campaign of politically motivated discredit” against her.“I have always acted entirely correctly and I continue to live my life with a peaceful outlook, irrespective of years of constant harassment and attempts to publicly discredit me with endless false information,” she explained.In June, the brother-in-law of Felipe VI King of Spain, Inaki Urdangarin, was sentenced by the Spanish Supreme Court to five years and ten months in prison on corruption charges. read more