Judiciary should stand up to populist forces CJI Ranjan Gogoi

first_imgNew Delhi: Stressing that independence is the soul of judiciary, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said the institution should stand up to populist forces and protect Constitutional ethos from being desecrated. Speaking at a conference of chief justices at Shanghai Cooperation Organisation at Sochi in Russia, the CJI Tuesday said the judiciary should prepare and strengthen itself about such populist onslaughts on the independence of the Institution. Also Read – IAF receives its first Rafale fighter jet from France “In some phases in the journey of a nation, when the legislative and executive wings get swept away from their duties and goals under the Constitution by waves of populism, it is for the Judiciary to rise and stand up to the populist forces and protect the Constitutional ethos from being desecrated by the populists. To some critics and naysayers, this situation presents a case for hoisting the classical counter narrative Unelected Judges, acting under the Constitutional mandate, get to overturn the acts of the elected majority. Also Read – Cosmology trio win Nobel Physics Prize “However, it is for us to recollect that such situations across the world have heaped tremendous pressure on the Judicial organs, and it is no surprise that in some jurisdictions Judiciary too has succumbed to populist forces. This is also an area that requires Judiciary to prepare itself, to strengthen itself about such populist onslaughts on the independence of the Institution. “The human agency, through which justice is sought to be administered, has to be adequately secured and fortified in ordinary times, so that it is sufficiently equipped to deal with such forces of populism in extraordinary times, lest they overrun the judicial edifice too. This would be our strongest case for strengthening the independence of Judiciary,” the CJI said. Gogoi said that independence is the soul of a judiciary and if it fails to enjoy public confidence, its deliverables would never constitute ‘justice’. “Whatever be the political system of governance, people across Nations aspire for a Free and Independent Judicial system to serve them. In fact, such aspirations are common to, and bind different judicial systems across the comity of nations. If a Judicial system fails to enjoy public confidence, its deliverables would never constitute ‘justice’ conversely, if the deliverables of a judicial system are not known to be impartial, just, equitable and appealing to good conscience, such system would never earn public confidence and high esteem in the minds and hearts of the common citizens,” he said. The CJI said that independence of judiciary is not a one- time pill but a ‘state of affairs’ that has to remain constant to defend the system from the forces which are disturbing such ‘state’. He said independence of judiciary as an institution is different from independence of judges as the fountainheads of justice. “I must hasten to add here that despite such institutional independence being different, in its ambit and requirements, from individual independence of judges, we must recognise that both are mutually interdependent and both are vital for any Judicial system to be known as strong and responsive. “Proponents who call for a strong and independent judiciary would assert that in the absence of institutional independence of judiciary, independent functioning of Judges cannot be assured and similarly, without strong and independent Judges, the ‘institutional independence’ of the ‘Judiciary’ would be a misnomer and futile,” the CJI said. He said that non-political appointments, security of tenure and rigorous procedure for removal, securing the reputation of and remuneration and immunities for the Judges, in-house accountability procedures, and implementation of code of judges’ conduct are some of such measures which can secure the independence of judiciary. “Strengthening of Institutions works best when they are strengthened from within and not when strength is sought to be infused from an external source. Strength that evolves from inside, touches the character and core of the Institution; in contrast, an external source could only lend support’ to the Institution. Such external support would rarely strengthen the core of the Institution,” he said. Gogoi said that the judicial organ does not and can never win over friends because Judiciary is not meant to be in the business of making or breaking of relationships, bonds, alliances nor does Judiciary pander to any constituency. “Every Court of Law may seem like an island, existing in isolation and sovereign within its bounds, yet Judiciary and all its components are bound by common threads that are difficult for someone who is not a stakeholder to even begin to understand. “It is in this backdrop that amongst the several steps that would be required to strengthen the independence of judiciary, the foremost would be to develop and nurture leadership at all levels of the Institution. “This is one area where Judiciary is required to work hard in the coming years. Leadership roles bring decisiveness and direction at all levels. For the Institution to secure its independence, it is imperative that leaders at all levels of the Institution are on the same page and they think, act and speak likewise,” he said. CJI Gogoi said that leadership skills at ground level will also assist in securing independence of individual judges and without which institutional independence it may be reduced to a mirage. He said that besides investing in leadership roles, judiciary also needs to work on securing its independence in financial matters.last_img read more

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Economic activity clearly losing traction RBI Guv

first_imgMumbai: The Indian economy has been clearly losing traction and needs a decisive monetary policy to promote growth, said Reserve Bank of India Governor Shaktikanta Das while voting for a 25 basis points (bps) rate cut along with other five members at the MPC meet earlier this month. Das, as per the minutes of the June 3-6 Monetary Policy Committee, said that since the last meeting of the rate-setting panel in April 2019, greater clarity has emerged about the evolving macroeconomic situation. Also Read – Maruti cuts production for 8th straight month in SepThe RBI released the minutes of the meeting Thursday. Overall, there is clear evidence of economic activity “losing traction” with the GDP growth in the fourth quarter of the last financial year slowing to 5.8 per cent, he said. “In sum, growth impulses have clearly weakened, while the headline inflation trajectory is projected to remain below 4.0 per cent throughout 2019-20 even after considering the expected transmission of the past two policy rate cuts. Also Read – Ensure strict implementation on ban of import of e-cigarettes: revenue to Customs”Keeping in view the evolving growth inflation dynamics, there is a need for decisive monetary policy action. Hence, my vote is to reduce the policy repo rate by 25 basis points,” he said. He also favoured shifting the stance of monetary policy from neutral to accommodative to send a clear signal, indicating that more measures could be taken in the near future to boost growth. It was for the third time in a row that the RBI cut the key lending rate (repo) by 25 bps. MPC member and RBI Deputy Governor Viral Acharya said the mixed picture on economic growth has morphed into one where at least some aspects have weakened considerably over the past two quarters. He also flagged some upside risks, including deficiency in monsoon and volatality in crude oil prices, to inflation. “In spite of my dilemma, I vote albeit with some hesitation to frontload the policy rate cut from 6 per cent to 5.75 per cent…” the minutes quoted him as saying. Another member and Executive Director Michael Debabrata Patra said the risks to the primary target of monetary policy are distinctly on the ebb. Inflation expectations, he said, are also better anchored than before. “In fact, if one were to step back a little in time, it is evident that if the 2019-20 projections materialise, the MPC would have steered inflation at or below target on average for four years in a row in its five-year term of office,” he said. Other three members of the MPC — Ravindra H Dholakia, Pami Dua, and Chetan Ghate — also voted in favour of reducing the key lending rate. Das also said quite a sizable part of loan portfolio of banks continues at the base rate, which impedes monetary transmission. Interest rates on small savings are also higher than the prescribed formula, he said. The transmission of the cumulative reduction of 50 basis points in the policy repo rate in February and April 2019 to fresh rupee loans has been 21 basis points. However, the weighted average lending rate on outstanding loans has increased by 4 basis points. “Going forward, the transmission is expected to improve, given the lags with which banks adjust their deposit and lending rates in response to changes in the policy rate,” the RBI governor said.last_img read more

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Rainy days Fiscal constraints expected to outweigh growth concerns

first_imgMumbai: Come July 5 and India Inc’s clamour for stimulus measures to boost consumption growth might just fall on deaf ears as Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is expected to rather tighten the government’s purse strings in the upcoming full-Budget 2019-20 than adhere to the industry’s concerns. Industry watchers and economists expect Sitharaman to pay heed to fiscal disciple in her first budget as the Union Finance Minister. The interim budget, had projected the deficit at 3.4 per cent of the GDP for FY20. Also Read – Maruti cuts production for 8th straight month in Sep Conversely, India Inc wants solid measures coupled with broad policy reforms to rejuvenate the slacking economic growth besides creating jobs. In 2019, India’s economy is reeling under a consumption slowdown owing to farm distress, stagnant wages and high interest cost. It has also been hit hard by below-average rainfall season, till now. Consequently, a slowdown has gripped sectors such as automobile, FMCG, construction, jewellery and aviation with dealers having to stock higher than usual levels of inventory. Also Read – Ensure strict implementation on ban of import of e-cigarettes: revenue to Customs Specifically, the slowdown has impacted the automobile sector the hardest and a weak Monsoon might just accentuate this trend. In terms of figures, the off-take data for May showed that domestic passenger car sales were down 26.03 per cent to 147,546 units. “The government is expected to play a fine balancing act in terms of heeding to the request from the auto sector for a stimulus in the form of a reduction in GST as these measures could impact its efforts to maintain the fiscal deficit target,” Grant Thornton India Partner Sridhar V. “A struggling sector would however need this push either through tax reduction in the form of GST or leaving more money in the hands of consumer through further rationalisation of income tax.” However, any stimulus measure is unlikely given the high possibility of lower tax collection due to an already existing slowdown. “The government does not have much revenue leeway to increase the expenditure space in absolute terms over and above the interim one,” Edelweiss Securities Lead Economist Madhavi Arora told IANS. “A slippage may happen (from FY20BE in interim) even if they don’t increase expenditure substantially. The revenue target looks too optimistic.” The lack of a stimulus or a major upswing in government’s capex will also hamper revival in private investment, aggravate farm distress and make bankers more reluctant to lend. “With few expenditure allocations expected to be altered from the interim budget estimates, the upcoming budget for 2019-20 is unlikely to reveal the revised priorities of the new government,” ICRA’s Principal Economist Aditi Nayar said. “Since the revenue growth assumptions in the FY2020 IBE appear optimistic in light of the FY2019 Prov., there is a possibility of a downward revision in the targeted level of tax revenues in the upcoming budget, which would likely result an increase in the targeted fiscal deficit relative to the FY2020 IBE.” To put it simply, based on the current trend in GDP and tax revenue growth, it will be an uphill task for the government to adhere to its FY20’s fiscal deficit target without squeezing expenditure. “Although, inflation and current account deficit are less of an issue in 2019 than in 2014, accelerating GDP growth and fiscal deficit continues to be a challenge for the government,” Sunil Kumar Sinha, Director — Public Finance and Principal Economist India Ratings and Research (Fitch Group), told IANS. “The new government must focus on reducing tax disputes and increasing tax compliance besides ironing out the remaining glitches in the current GST regime,” Sinha said. This will be first full-Budget after the NDA won a decisive second term. Scheduled wise, the Economic Survey 2018-19 will be tabled in Parliament on Thursday, July 4, followed by the Union Budget on July 5.last_img read more

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ONGC IOC ally to reduce carbon emission enhance oil recovery

first_imgNew Delhi: ONGC signed an MoU with IOCL for CO2 based Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) by injecting CO2 captured from IOCL’s Koyali refinery. The MOU is aimed to establish a framework for mutually beneficial cooperation in the area of CO2-EOR as a mode of CCUS. The common objective is to address some of the biggest challenges of our country in particular & world at large, namely energy security and climate change. It is a landmark event in the history of Indian Hydrocarbon Industry, with two its largest conglomerates agreeing to jointly work on Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS). CCUS is known to be a very effective method of EOR globally and is playing an increasingly important role in achieving the mission of carbon neutrality. The idea of the MOU is to replicate the global success story in India. Also Read – How a psychopath killer hid behind the mask of a devout laity!The collaboration under this MoU focuses on development of CO2 Capture plant at IOCL’s Koyali Refinery with appropriate Carbon capture technology, development of business model, increasing domestic oil production through CO2-EOR in Gandhar field and inclusion of this project as part of national emission curtailment measure aimed at supporting country’s low-carbon development goals. In order to replicate global success story of CO2-EOR from anthropogenic sources in India,the Institute of Reservoir Studies (IRS), ONGC has carried out laboratory and numerical simulation studies for Gandhar field. Technical feasibility of CO2-EOR has been established, and is indicative of incremental oil recovery of approximately10 %. The project will add up a new dimension towards national vision of CCUS and will infuse a new life to the depleted matured oil fields of ONGC. The learning curve from this endeavor shall create a knowledge base to further expand deployment of CCUS in India.last_img read more

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CBI asks Derek OBrien to join chit fund probe

first_imgNew Delhi: The CBI has asked Trinamool Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien to join its ongoing investigation into one of the chit fund cases, sources here said on Friday. The MP has been asked to assist agency officials by the first week of August, in the Saradha chit fund case, where Bengal daily Jago Bangla is allegedly involved. The agency had earlier too summoned the TMC MP but the latter could not join the probe citing a busy schedule. After the news emerged, O’Brien tweeted on Friday night, saying that he was served the notice to appear before CBI officials on July 25 at 2 pm. The tweet read: “JagoBangla is Trinamool’s official newspaper. Publisher: Derek O’Brien. Editor Subrata Bakshi was summoned by CBI a month ago to seek clarifications. Now, publisher served a notice at 2 pm July 25. Trinamool Motion in RS to oppose amendments to RTI Act started at 2 pm July 25”.last_img read more

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Whole Grain Waffles

first_imgIngredients Eggs (beaten)2 Skim Milk1.5 cup Canola Oil¼ cup Apple Sauce (unsweetened)¼ cup Vanilla Extract1 tsp Whole Wheat Pastry Flour1 cup Flax Seed Meal½ cup Wheat Germ¼ cup All- purpose Flour¼ cup Baking Powder4 tsp Sugar1 tbsp Salt¼ tsp Preparation In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, oil, applesauce, and vanilla. Beat in whole wheat pastry flour, flax seed meal, wheat germ, all-purpose flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt until batter is smooth. Preheat a waffle iron, and coat with cooking spray. Pour batter into waffle iron in batches, and cook until crisp and golden brown. (Courtesy: www.allrecipes.com)last_img read more

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NDTVs Ravish Kumar wins Magsaysay

first_imgManila: Indian journalist Ravish Kumar on Friday was awarded this year’s Ramon Magsaysay Award, regarded as the Asian version of the Nobel Prize. Kumar, 44, who is NDTV India’s senior executive editor is one of India’s most influential TV journalists, the award citation said. He is among five individuals who were declared winners of the award. “Kumar’s “Prime Time” programme deals with “real-life, under-reported problems of ordinary people”, it added. “If you have become the voice of the people, you are a journalist,” the citation added. The four other winners of the 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award are Ko Swe Win from Myanmar, Angkhana Neelapaijit from Thailand, Raymundo Pujante Cayabyab from Philippines and Kim Jong-Ki from South Korea. Established in 1957, the Ramon Magsaysay Award is Asia’s highest honour.last_img read more

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I could not believe it when I got India cap says Saini

first_imgLauderhill (USA): An impressive India debut under his belt, fast bowler Navdeep Saini said he could not believe himself when he was handed the India cap to play in the first T20 International against the West Indies here. The 26-year-old Saini starred in India’s 4-wicket win by taking three wickets for 17 runs on Saturday. He was adjudged man-of-the-match for his impressive bowling display which saw India restrict West Indies to 95 for 9. India made a heavy weather of the modest run chase before pulling off a 4-wicket win with 2.4 over to spare. Also Read – Puducherry on top after 8-wkt win over Chandigarh”When I received the India cap (on Saturday morning), I could not believe that today is the day which I was waiting for. I am very happy to make the debut for India,” Saini told his senior pace colleague Bhuvneshwar Kumar in an interview posted on BCCI Twitter handle. Saini got two of his three wickets — that of Nicholas Puran and Shimron Hetmyer — in two balls in the fifth over of the West Indies innings. But he could not get a hat-trick as Rovman Powell left alone Saini’s next delivery. Also Read – Vijender’s next fight on Nov 22, opponent to be announced laterAsked what was in his mind while bowling the hat-trick ball, Saini said, “My confidence was low initially as I was having pressure of making the debut. The first wicket released the pressure. Then, when I got the second wicket my confidence increased and I felt like I was playing a normal match. “When I was to bowl the hat-trick ball, I felt like ‘it is something which I have been seeing others do, it is happening to me’. Then, I was focussing on how to take the wicket,” said the Haryana-born Saini who plays for Delhi in domestic circuit. Saini’s third wicket — that of Kieron Pollard (LBW) in the final over of West Indies innings — came from a review on the insistence of wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant after the umpire said not out. Asked about it, he said, “I thought it was not out and on appeal the umpire also said not out. But Virat paji took the review, he said ‘there is a review left for us and why waste it, you never know it may be out also’. “I was not sure whether I will get that wicket. But I was so happy when Pollard was adjudged out after the review.” Asked about the tatoo on his left hand which depicted a wolf, Saini said, “During my childhood, I and my big brother used to watch a lot of movies on wolves. So I like wolves. “Moreover, wolves do not perform in circus and thinking that I made these tatoos.”last_img read more

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Coco Gauff partners with McNally for 1st WTA doubles title

first_imgWashington DC: US teen Coco Gauff, the 15-year-old who electrified Wimbledon with a fourth-round singles run last month, captured her first WTA title Saturday at the Washington Open in women’s doubles. Gauff and partner Catherine McNally, who combined to win last year’s US Open junior women’s doubles title, defeated Hungary’s Fanny Stollar and American Maria Sanchez 6-2, 6-2 to hoist their inaugural WTA trophy. The teens jumped into each others arms and later hugged in celebration of the breakthrough milestone triumph. Also Read – Puducherry on top after 8-wkt win over ChandigarhGauff defeated idol Venus Williams in the first round at Wimbledon and rescued two match points on the way to beating Polona Hercog in the third round before eventual champion Simona Halep eliminated her. Gauff, in her first post-Wimbledon singles appearance, qualified for the Washington main draw but lost her first match 6-4, 6-2 to Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas. McNally, a 17-year-old American who made only her fourth WTA appearance in singles, took her first three tour match wins to reach the semi-finals, where she lost 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 on Saturday to Italy’s Camila Giorgi.last_img read more

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Will win all 70 seats in Delhi Assembly polls says Kejriwal

first_imgNew Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday said the AAP will win all the 70 seats in the Assembly election next year as he lauded the contribution of his party workers on his birthday.The AAP national convenor addressed his party workers who came to greet him on his 51st birthday. “I want to thank the AAP workers for their contribution to the party. In last assembly elections, we won 67 seats but this time we will win all 70 seats,” he said in a video posted on the AAP’s official Twitter handle. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss bank a/c detailsThe Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) registered a landslide victory in the last Assembly election and won 67 out of the 70 seats in Delhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also wished the chief minister on his birthday. “Birthday greetings to Delhi CM Shri @ArvindKejriwal. Praying for his good health and long life,” Modi tweeted. Leader of Opposition in Delhi Vijender Gupta, his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee, among others greeted Kejriwal on his birthday. “Wishing you a very happy birthday, Arvind ji,” Banerjee tweeted. “Thank u so much Didi,” replied Kejriwal.last_img read more

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ProGovt supporters rally as Hong Kongs divisions deepen

first_imgHong Kong: Hong Kong democracy activists kicked off a weekend of fresh rallies on Saturday in a major test for the movement following criticism over an airport protest earlier this week — and as concerns mount over Beijing’s next move. The new marches came as thousands of pro-government supporters — many waving Chinese flags — gathered in a park to condemn their opponents and support the police, a stark illustration of the polarisation now coursing through the city. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from USTen weeks of demonstrations have plunged the international finance hub into crisis, with communist-ruled mainland China taking an increasingly hardline tone, including labelling the more violent protester actions “terrorist-like”. Democracy activists are billing the weekend rallies as a way to show Beijing and the city’s unelected leaders that their movement still enjoys broad public support, despite increasingly violent tactics deployed by a minority of hardcore protesters that have cast a shadow. Also Read – Record number of 35 candidates in fray for SL Presidential pollsOn Tuesday, protesters blocked passengers from boarding flights at the city’s airport and later assaulted two men they accused of being Chinese spies. Images damaged a movement that until then had largely only targeted the police or government institutions, and prompted some soul-searching among protesters. China’s propaganda apparatus seized on the violence, with state media churning out a deluge of damning articles, pictures and videos. State media also ran images of military personnel and armoured personnel carriers across the border in Shenzhen, prompting the United States to warn Beijing against sending in troops, which analysts say would be a reputational and economic disaster for China. Saturday’s rallies began with thousands of teachers marching through torrential rain in support of the largely youth-led protests. In the afternoon thousands also marched through Hung Hom and To Kwa Wan, two harbourside districts popular with mainland tourists. Some protesters targeted the local offices of the staunchly pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions, pelting it with eggs and spraying graffiti. “The government has yet to respond to a single demand and has escalated force through the police to suppress the people’s voices,” a 25-year-old protester, who gave his first name Mars, told AFP. “If we don’t come out, our future, our next generation will face even more suppression,” he added. But across the harbour at the pro-Beijing rally, where a giant screen showed recent clashes with police, 60-year-old retiree Irene Man had a very different take as she rounded on democracy protesters. “Their acts are not human, they have all become monsters. They are rioters, with no reason, no thinking,” she said. The biggest pro-democracy rally is expected to take place on Sunday on the main island. Billed as a “rational, non-violent” protest, it is being organised by the Civil Human Rights Front, a group that eschews confrontations with police and was the driving force behind record-breaking rallies in June and July that saw hundreds of thousands of people hit the streets. The protests were sparked by opposition to a plan to allow extraditions to the mainland, but have since morphed into a wider call for democratic rights in the semi-autonomous city. Millions of people have hit the streets while clashes have broken out between police and small groups of hardcore protesters. Battles between police firing tear gas and rubber bullets — and hardcore protesters using rocks, Molotov cocktails and slingshots — have since become routine in an international finance hub once renowned for stability. Beyond suspending the extradition bill, Beijing and city leader Carrie Lam have shown no desire to meet key demands such as an inquiry into police violence, the complete withdrawal of the bill and an amnesty. But protesters remain unbowed, despite the arrests of more than 700 people and 11 consecutive weekends of rallies that have won few concessions. Beijing has turned the screws on Hong Kong’s businesses, pressuring them to toe the line and condemn the protesters. On Friday, Cathay Pacific announced the shock resignation of CEO Rupert Hogg after the carrier was excoriated by Beijing because some staff supported the pro-democracy protests. On Saturday, the “Big Four” accountancy firms scrambled to distance themselves from a advert placed in a newspaper purportedly by employees saying they supported the protests. Deloitte and PwC posted statements on their websites saying the ad does not represent their positions and expressing opposition to violent or illegal behaviour. In statements quoted by Chinese state news agency Xinhua, KPMG and EY also expressed opposition to violence and illegal acts.last_img read more

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Trump issues new executive order to combat terrorism

first_imgWashington: US President Donald Trump has issued a new executive order that would enhance the country’s ability to target terrorists and those who finance their activities, as well as identify, sanction and deter perpetrators of terrorism worldwide. Utilising the new order, issued on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary on Tuesday, the Treasury sanctioned over two dozen individuals and entities from 11 terrorist groups, including Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from US It allows the US government to better target terror group leaders and provides new tools to pursue individuals who participate in terrorist training, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. The executive order also authorises secondary sanctions on foreign financial institutions that have knowingly conducted or facilitated significant transactions with sanctioned persons, Mnuchin said. He added that the order targets those actors for and behalf of specially-designated global terrorists. Also Read – Record number of 35 candidates in fray for SL Presidential polls “Specifically, we have leaders, operative and financiers from over 11 terrorist organisations, including Iran’s Quds Forces, Hamas, ISIS, Al Qaeda, and their affiliates,” Mnuchin told White House reporters at a joint news conference with the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “The government has taken more action than we ever have before,” the treasury secretary said, asserting that his department was enhancing efforts to deny terrorist access to the financial system. Pompeo, meanwhile, described the executive order as the “most-significant update” to counterterrorism sanctions authority since September 2001. According to Pompeo, the new order amends the previous one by adding clauses that allow the departments of state and treasury to directly target leaders of terrorist groups and their associated entities without having to tie terrorist leaders to specific acts. “Second, it is more effectively and efficiently targets individuals and entities who participate in terrorist training and provides new authorities to impose sanctions on foreign financial institutions that knowingly do business with terrorists,” the secretary of state said. “As these actions show, today’s executive order by President Trump adds further muscle to the US counterterrorism efforts,” Pompeo said. “It will help us to ensure that the deadly attacks of September 11 that occurred 18 years ago this week are never repeated on American soil. Never.”last_img read more

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Will protect interest of industry in proposed RCEP Goyal

first_imgNew Delhi: India on Wednesday said it will protect the interest of industry and ensure huge opportunities for exporters while getting into the proposed mega free trade agreement RCEP. Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said that India has invited representations from all 15 countries of RCEP bloc on September 14 and 15 here to discuss ideas related to the pact. Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement is being negotiated between 16 countries including 10-nation grouping ASEAN and India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Also Read – Thermal coal import may surpass 200 MT this fiscal”As long as India’s domestic industry and our national interest is protected, the faster it (RCEP pact) is done the better it is for India because the agreement which we will finalise, if we agree to finalise and join, will necessarily rest on the pillar of national interest and it will necessarily give adequate protection to indian industry, will necessarily ensure that it does not allow indiscriminate imports to come in and will necessarily provide huge opportunity for Indian exports and job creation,” Goyal told reporters here. Also Read – Food grain output seen at 140.57 mt in current fiscal on monsoon boostHe said that it is on these pillars, India is negotiating with the members of RCEP. The minister added that while negotiating such a pact, one has to be keep negotiating and get the best which is in the national interest. “…We are not like Ostrich that we will stand on one neck…you have to be nimble footed and keep negotiating,” he added. When asked about the concerns being raised by certain domestic industries on the presence of China in the RCEP group, Goyal said negotiations are going on and everybody has not opposed the pact. “We are literally vertically split. We have half the industry saying please bring RCEP, and we (the industry) can increase exports dramatically and there is a section of industry which feels that, we should not have RCEP,” he said. Citing example, he said pharma industry has stated that they see good opportunity in Chinese market as China’s pharma imports stood at about $25 billion and India’s exports are only about $200 million. However, he added that national interest cannot be hijacked by one or two sectors and it has to be seen in overall context. “We will certainly balance those industries if any which feel there could be an unfair advantage to Chinese companies. We will ensure that whatever agreement is made, it will be win-win for India. “… If I had to look up 100 per cent sectors, then no negotiations can ever be completed. So we will have to look at balance,” he said. India registered a trade deficit in 2018-19 with as many as 11 RCEP member countries – including China, South Korea and Australia – out of the grouping of 16 nations that are negotiating the mega trade pact since November 2012. The RCEP bloc comprises 10 ASEAN group members (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Laos and Vietnam) and their six FTA partners – India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. RCEP negotiations, which started in Cambodian capital Phnom Penh in November 2012, aims to cover goods, services, investments, economic and technical cooperation, competition and intellectual property rights.last_img read more

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New Brunswick Speaker jumps from Liberal ranks amid harassment allegation

first_imgFREDERICTON – The speaker of the New Brunswick legislature is leaving the Liberal ranks to sit as an Independent, and is launching a case of libel and slander against the government.Chris Collins issued a lengthy statement Thursday, criticizing Premier Brian Gallant’s actions after an allegation of harassment was made against Collins last month.At the time, Collins’s lawyer, T.J. Burke, said his client had been given no information about the nature of the allegation but would fight it “tooth and nail.”Gallant announced in early April that Collins was being suspended from caucus, saying he had been made aware of potential allegations of harassment in February but the individual only recently made the complaint.Collins said a teleconference Gallant had with media on April 5 was done without any concern for his rights or those of the complainant.“I was placed upon the alter of public consumption then and there, for reasons not yet completely clear,” Collins wrote.“The handling of this file by the premier has been nothing less than atrocious.”Collins said he has never seen a human resources matter handled in this matter, and the actions have damaged his political opportunities in the provincial election set for Sept. 24.“Because of the above noted actions of Mr. Gallant, I have instructed my counsel to initiate notice under the The Proceedings Against the Crown Act, for a cause of libel and slander,” he wrote.Premier Brian Gallant issued a statement Thursday evening, saying Collins has always been a passionate representative for his constituents.“Ensuring a harassment-free workplace is of paramount importance and therefore we take any allegations very seriously. In this matter of public interest we proceeded in the fairest way possible to respect the rights of all concerned. Because this matter may be subject to litigation, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further,” Gallant wrote.He said the party looks forward to finding a strong Liberal candidate for Collins’ riding of Moncton Centre.Collins said he has asked the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly to move his seat to the opposition side, and he will finish his term as an Independent member of the legislature. He will not re-offer for the Liberal Party in the upcoming election.Collins was first elected to the provincial legislature in a 2007 byelection, after serving three years as a Moncton city councillor. He was briefly minister of local government under former Liberal premier Shawn Graham, and was elected Speaker after the Liberals returned to power in September 2014 under Gallant.last_img read more

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First comes fire then comes marriage Busy year for Fort McMurray couple

first_imgFORT MCMURRAY, Alta. – It’s been a busy year for Elise Phillippo and her husband Brandon.They got hitched, bought a house and had a baby — all against the backdrop of the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history.Four days before her May 7 wedding, the bride-to-be was planning to pick up her dress from the seamstress after work.Instead, she was among the more than 88,000 Fort McMurray residents caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic as a fierce wildfire forced the entire northeastern Alberta city to empty.Phillippo would never see that dress again. It was inside a home that burned in the hard-hit Abasand neighbourhood.In Toronto, where the wedding was to take place, the couple’s photographer, Alex Neary with Wild Eyed Photography, asked if there was anything she could do to help.“And I said, ‘I need a dress,’” recalls Phillippo, 30.She thought perhaps Neary could scrounge up a second-hand one from a friend.“All of a sudden she messaged back and said she had all these dresses,” Phillippo says.“I was taken aback. What do you mean: ‘All these dresses?’”Word got around on social media.“People just started offering dresses one after another. I just couldn’t wrap my head around people being as generous as they were. They had no idea who I was, so they definitely didn’t have to do that for me.”A shop in downtown Toronto, Lea-Ann Belter Bridal, gave Phillippo one dress and loaned her another.The couple tied the knot on Toronto Island on the same day they had planned all along.At the ceremony, Phillippo wore the loaner, a lacy number with spaghetti straps and a train. The donated dress got some use months later, when she let a friend, who was trying to save money, wear it for her wedding.From Toronto, the newlyweds went to Edmonton and waited for the evacuation order to lift. Phillippo, a massage therapist, spent that time working at the Active Life Centre clinic in St. Albert, where she says she was treated like family.The home the couple was renting in Fort McMurray’s Thickwood neighbourhood was undamaged by the fire. They have since bought it.Phillippo expects her first wedding anniversary to be low key. Their two-month-old son Kellan Xavier takes up all the time and attention.The one-year anniversary of the fire is looming a bit larger in her mind.“I’m actually kind of looking forward to the anniversary of the fire, as strange as that sounds,” she says. “I’m kind of hoping that it gives people some peace.”last_img read more

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Nova Scotia election roundup

first_imgHALIFAX – (Liberals-Caregivers)The Liberals say they will spend $25 million expanding eligibility for the caregiver benefit over four years.The program gives about $400 a month to those caring for people with severe dementia.Premier Stephen McNeil says the program would be expanded to include 400 people who care for those with lower levels of dementia this year and another 1,200 people caring for those with mental illness in 2018.He says the change will mean about 1,600 more Nova Scotians will qualify for financial help.(The Canadian Press)—(NSHA-Executive-Furniture)The NDP released documents showing the Nova Scotia Health Authority spent nearly $500,000 on new furniture and renovations for its executive offices.The documents show the furniture cost over $257,000 while the renovations came in at just under $195,000.NDP Leader Gary Burrill says after cuts to long-term care in particular, Premier Stephen McNeil owes an explanation for the expenses.McNeil says the cost of the furniture “makes no sense to me,” and spending that kind of money at a time when money is needed for care in the health system is “excessive and inappropriate.”(The Canadian Press)—(NSElxn-Tories)Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservatives are promising to bring back a refundable film tax credit.Tory Leader Jamie Baillie has announced $34 million to revive the credit in a bid to aid the film and TV industry.He says the industry was set back when the Liberals controversially axed the tax in 2015.—(NSElxn-NDP)The NDP are pledging to restore funding for seniors’ care if elected May 30th.Leader Gary Burrill says $60 million over four years would be put towards long-term care for seniors.Burrill says he would also freeze pharmacare premiums and lobby for a national pharmacare plan.(The Canadian Press)—(Party-Nominations)Elections Nova Scotia says nominations for the May 30 vote have closed.It says 203 candidates have been nominated in the province’s 51 electoral districts.The Liberals, Tories and NDP have candidates in all 51 ridings.The Green Party has nominated 32 candidates while the Atlantica Party is running 15 and there are three Independents.(The Canadian Press)—(N.S. Election Roundup by The Canadian Press)last_img read more

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Liberals taking prudent amount of time with jet competition RCAF commander

first_imgOTTAWA – The head of the Royal Canadian Air Force has refuted suggestions, including from more than a dozen of his predecessors, that the Trudeau government is needlessly dragging its feet on new fighter jets.Lt.-Gen. Mike Hood instead said the Liberals are taking “a prudent amount of time,” as choosing Canada’s next fighter is a big decision — especially since it will likely be in use for decades.“Fighter operations, there is a lot to chew on,” Hood said in an interview with The Canadian Press.“The timelines the government and the minister have articulated will let them be absolutely sure that they’re making the right choice for a final fighter that will probably be flying when I’m going to the grave.”The Liberals’ new defence policy includes a promise to replace Canada’s 76 aging CF-18s with 88 new warplanes, which is an increase from the 65 previously promised by the Harper Conservatives.The policy estimates the new fighters will cost between $15 billion and $19 billion, up from the $9 billion previously budgeted by the Tories.The Liberals say the extra fighter jets are required to meet a new policy, adopted in September, that increased the number of warplanes that must always be ready for operations.But fighter-jet companies such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing, which make the F-35 and Super Hornet, respectively, won’t be asked to submit formal bids until next year at the earliest.That is despite many defence experts, including 13 retired Air Force commanders in February, saying a competition to replace the CF-18 fleet can and should be launched immediately.They say doing so would negate the need for 18 “interim” Super Hornets, which would save taxpayer dollars and keep from diverting personnel and resources away from other areas of the Air Force.But Hood played down those concerns, saying that he’ll have no trouble operating an interim fighter fleet if “I’m given the resources and the priority that I need.”That doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges in growing the size of Canada’s fighter fleet, he admitted, notably in terms of having enough pilots and technicians to fly and fix the new jets.The problem has been exacerbated by the fact that while airlines are currently on a hiring binge, Hood said, the Air Force can’t ramp up the number of pilots it puts through flight school each year.“We brought in a pilot-training system in the early 2000s that had a maximum capacity to deliver about 115 pilots a year. With attrition going up, I’d probably want to produce 140 this year, but I can’t.”However, Hood is hoping planned changes to the training regime and new initiatives such as recruiting potential technicians directly out of community college will help grow his ranks.At the same time, the military is looking at ways to improve working conditions across the board to keep experienced personnel in uniform and not lose them.The plan to grow the number of fighter jets is only one area in which the Air Force is slated to grow in the coming years, with new armed drones, search-and-rescue aircraft and other equipment having also been promised.Hood said that represents a significant and welcome turn of events after the service was dramatically weakened by years of cuts.“When General (Rick) Hillier talked about the ‘Decade of Darkness,’” Hood said, “the lion’s share of that was done on the back of the Air Force in the ’90s.”— Follow @leeberthiaume on Twitter.last_img read more

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Freeland to walk a fine line on Suu Kyi in address to

first_imgOTTAWA – Canada has been reluctant to overtly blame Aung San Suu Kyi for the violence against her country’s Muslim minority because it believes Myanmar’s military is using it to undermine her global reputation, officials say.Canada believes elements in Myanmar’s powerful military — which stands accused of driving 400,000 Rohingya Muslims into neighbouring Bangladesh and torching their villages as they flee — see the current crisis as an opportunity to weaken Suu Kyi’s ambitions to bring democracy to their country.That view was presented Friday by Canadian officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the seriousness of the three-week-old crisis that has helped transform Suu Kyi from a symbol of freedom to a target of international derision.Suu Kyi has been widely criticized for not speaking up in defence of her country’s persecuted Muslim minority, sparking calls for her to be stripped of her Nobel Peace Prize as well as her honorary Canadian citizenship.Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is to address a rally in support of the Rohingya in Toronto on Saturday in which she is expected to call on Suu Kyi to speak out against the violence.Officials say Freeland recognizes that Suu Kyi is in a precarious political position because she does not control the actions of her military, which once ruled her country with impunity and placed her under house arrest before she prevailed and won power in democratic elections.The government wants to be cautious about being overtly critical of Suu Kyi, while at the same time stressing its deep concern over how the current crisis could undo her efforts to bring democracy to Myanmar, also known as Burma.Ahmed Ramadan, spokesman for the pro-Rohingya rally organizers, said Freeland’s appearance at the Toronto event shows the government’s commitment to helping end the violence, but it still needs to do more.Canada should allow Suu Kyi to keep her honorary citizenship because it can be used as a wedge to pressure her to speak out, said Ramadan, of Justice For All/Burma Task Force, a non-profit organization set up four years ago to advocate specifically for the Rohingya.“It’s important that Canada uses that relationship they have with her to end the atrocity that’s going on right now, but also to create a long-term solution,” he said.Ramadan said Canada should try to send its ambassador into the scorched Rakhine state because the prying eyes of a foreign diplomat would save lives by forcing the government to end the killing.Officials said Friday that Myanmar has rebuffed several recent requests by Canada and other western countries to send envoys into Rakhine for a first-hand look.UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said this week the violence against the Rohingya amounts to “ethnic cleansing.”Suu Kyi has said her government is fighting a militant insurgency.The UN estimates 240,000 children are among the 400,000 Rohingya who have fled Myanmar since late August recounting attacks by government troops and Buddhist mobs.To help address that growing problem, Canada announced a modest contribution of extra money Friday to help Bangladesh cope with the influx of Rohingya Muslims.International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said the additional $2.55 million will target care for women, new mothers and children under five. So far this year, Canada has committed to $6.63 million in humanitarian assistance funding to aid partners in Myanmar and Bangladesh to help conflict-affected people, including the Rohingya.The announcement follows a $4.3 million contribution by the European Commission earlier this week to help deal with the crisis.The funds will also help victims of gender-based violence, and will be given to three different United Nations agencies, she said.Bibeau reiterated Canada’s concern over the violence that has led to the mass displacement.“We also urge the authorities in Myanmar to take measures to protect all civilians from the ongoing violence and we call for the full, unimpeded resumption of humanitarian assistance activities for UN and international humanitarian organizations in Myanmar,” she said in a statement.last_img read more

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Cuba mystery What theories US investigators are pursuing

first_imgWASHINGTON – There must be an answer.Whatever is harming U.S. diplomats in Havana, it has eluded the doctors, scientists and intelligence analysts scouring for answers. Investigators have chased many theories, including a sonic attack, electromagnetic weapon or flawed spying device.Each explanation seems to fit parts of what’s happened, conflicting with others.The United States doesn’t even know what to call it. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used the phrase “health attacks.” The State Department prefers “incidents.”Either way, suspicion has fallen on Cuba. But investigators also are examining whether a rogue faction of its security services, another country such as Russia, or some combination is to blame, more than a dozen U.S. officials familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press.Those officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the investigation. The AP also talked to scientists, physicians, acoustics and weapons experts, and others about the theories being pursued.Perhaps the biggest mystery is why the symptoms, sounds and sensations vary so dramatically from person to person.Of the 21 medically confirmed U.S. victims, some have permanent hearing loss or concussions, while others suffered nausea, headaches and ear-ringing. Some are struggling with concentration or common word recall, the AP has reported. Some felt vibrations or heard loud sounds mysteriously audible in only parts of rooms, and others heard nothing.“These are very nonspecific symptoms. That’s why it’s difficult to tell what’s going on,” said Dr. H. Jeffrey Kim, a specialist on ear disorders at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, who isn’t involved with the investigation.To solve the puzzle, investigators are sorting symptoms into categories, such as auditory and neurological, according to individuals briefed on the probe.There can be a lag before victims discover or report symptoms, some of which are hard to diagnose. So investigators are charting the timeline of reported incidents to identify “clusters” to help solve the when, where and how of the Havana whodunit.While Cuba has been surprisingly co-operative , even inviting the FBI to fly down to Havana, it’s not the same as an investigation with the U.S. government in full control.“You’re on foreign soil,” said David Rubincam, a former FBI agent who served in Moscow. “The quality of the information and evidence you collect is limited to what the host government will allow you to see and hear and touch and do.”Especially when you don’t even know what you’re looking for.___SONIC DEVICEThe first signs pointed to a sonic attack. But what kind?Some victims heard things — signs that the sounds were in the audible spectrum. Loud noise can harm hearing, especially high-decibel sounds that can trigger ear-ringing tinnitus, ruptured ear drums, even permanent hearing loss.But others heard nothing, and still became ill. So investigators considered inaudible sound: infrasound, too low for humans to hear, and ultrasound, too high.Infrasound often is experienced as vibration, like standing near a subwoofer. Some victims reported feeling vibrations.And it’s not impossible that infrasound could explain some of what diplomats thought they heard.Though infrasound is usually inaudible, some people can detect it if the waves are powerful enough. For example, individuals living near infrasound-generating wind turbines have described pulsating hums that have left them dizzy, nauseous or with interrupted sleep. Such effects have prompted fierce scientific debate.The balance problems reported in Havana? Possibly explained by infrasound, which may stimulate cells in the ear’s vestibular system that controls balance, scientists say.But there’s little evidence infrasound can cause lasting damage once the sound stops.And the pinpointed focus of the sound, reported by some? Infrasound waves travel everywhere, making them difficult to aim with precision.“There’s no efficient way to focus infrasound to make it into a usable weapon,” said Mario Svirsky, an expert on ear disorders and neuroscience at New York University School of Medicine.If not infrasound, maybe ultrasound?At high-intensity, ultrasound can damage human tissue. That’s why doctors use it to destroy uterine fibroids and some tumors.But ultrasound damage requires close contact between the device and the body. “You cannot sense ultrasound from long distances,” Svirsky said. No victim said they saw a weird contraption nearby.None of these sound waves seems to explain the concussions. Usually, those follow a blow to the head or proximity to something like a bomb blast.“I know of no acoustic effect or device that could produce traumatic brain injury or concussion-like symptoms,” said Juergen Altmann, an acoustic weapons expert and physicist at Germany’s Technische Universitaet Dortmund.___ELECTROMAGNETIC WEAPONIt may sound like Star Wars fantasy, but electromagnetic weapons have been around for years. They generally harm electronics, not humans.The electromagnetic spectrum includes waves like the ones used by your cellphone, microwave and light bulbs.And they can be easily pinpointed. Think lasers. Such waves can also travel through walls, so an electromagnetic attack could be plausibly concealed from afar.There’s precedent. For more than a decade ending in the 1970s, the former Soviet Union bombarded the U.S. Embassy in Moscow with microwaves. The exact purpose was never clear.What about the sounds people heard?Microwave pulses — short, intense blasts — can cause people to “hear” clicking sounds. According to a two-decade-old U.S. Air Force patent, the American military has researched whether those blasts could be manipulated to “beam” voices or other sounds to someone’s head.But when electromagnetic waves cause physical damage, it usually results from body tissue being heated. The diplomats in Cuba haven’t been reporting burning sensations.___SOMETHING ELSEThe stress and anxiety about the disturbing incidents could be complicating the situation. Diplomats may be taking a closer look at mild symptoms they’d otherwise ignored.After all, once symptoms emerged, the U.S. Embassy encouraged employees to report anything suspicious. Many of these symptoms can be caused by a lot of different things.At least one other country, France, tested embassy staffers after an employee reported symptoms. The French then ruled out sonic-induced damage, the AP reported .___Not knowing what’s causing the crisis in Cuba has made it harder to find the culprit. If there is one at all.___THE CUBA THEORYIt was only natural that American suspicion started with Cuba.The attacks happened on Cuban soil. The two countries routinely harassed each other’s diplomats over a half-century of enmity. Despite eased tensions over the past couple of years, distrust lingers.Diplomats reported incidents in their homes and in hotels. Cuban authorities would know who is staying in each.But what’s the motive?When symptoms emerged last November, Cuba was working feverishly with the U.S. to make progress on everything from internet access to immigration rules before President Barack Obama’s term ended. Officials still don’t understand why Havana would at the same time perpetrate attacks that could destroy its new relationship with Washington entirely.Cuban President Raul Castro’s reaction deepened investigators’ skepticism, according to officials briefed on a rare, face-to-face discussion he had on the matter with America’s top envoy in Havana.Predictably, Castro denied responsibility. But U.S. officials were surprised that Castro seemed genuinely rattled, and that Cuba offered to let the FBI come investigate.Then, Canadians got ill. Why them?The warm, long-standing ties between Cuba and Canada made it seem even less logical that Castro’s government was the culprit.___THE ROGUESIf not Castro, could elements of Cuba’s vast intelligence apparatus be to blame? Investigators haven’t ruled out that possibility, several U.S. officials said.It’s no secret that some within Cuba’s government are uneasy about Raul Castro’s opening with Washington.“It’s entirely possible that hard-line elements acted,” said Michael Parmly, who headed the U.S. mission in Havana until 2008.But mounting unauthorized attacks, tantamount to aggression against a foreign power, would be a risky act of defiance in a country noted for its strong central control.Cuba’s surveillance of U.S. diplomats in Havana is intense. The government tracks U.S. diplomats’ movements and conversations.So at a minimum, if Americans were being attacked, it’s difficult to imagine Cuba’s spies being left in the dark.___THE OUTSIDERSWho else would dare?U.S. investigators have focused on a small group of usual suspects: Russia, Iran, North Korea, China, Venezuela.Russia, in particular, has harassed American diplomats aggressively in recent years.Moscow even has a plausible motive: driving a wedge between the communist island and “the West” — nations such as the United States and Canada. Russia also has advanced, hard-to-detect weaponry that much of the world lacks and might not even know about.None of the officials interviewed for this story pointed to any evidence, however, linking Russia to the illnesses. The same goes for the other countries.___SPYING GONE AWRY?Maybe no one tried to hurt the Americans at all.Several U.S. officials have emphasized the possibility the culprit merely surveilled the U.S. diplomats using some new, untested technology that caused unintended harm.You might think eavesdropping devices simply receive signals. But the world of espionage is full of strange tales.During the Cold War, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow discovered Russia listening to conversations through a wooden plaque that the American ambassador received as a gift. The plaque had a tiny “microphone” and antenna embedded, but no power source, making it hard to detect even when the room was swept for bugs.The Russians had developed something novel. They remotely beamed electromagnetic waves to activate the device, which then transmitted sound back via radio frequencies.Yet if the Cubans or anyone else were equally as innovative, it’s unclear why the incidents would have continued once the United States and Canada complained.___Associated Press writers Michael Weissenstein in Havana, Ben Fox in Miami, and Matthew Lee, Bradley Klapper and Sadie Gurman in Washington contributed.EDITOR’S NOTE _ Third in a series of stories.last_img read more

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Outstanding transactions at Phoenix pay centre surpass 500000 says minister

first_imgOTTAWA – The backlog of outstanding pay problems faced by federal civil servants has now reached a staggering 520,000, the minister responsible for the problem-plagued Phoenix pay system has revealed in a letter of apology to government employees.That number is expected to grow further, Public Services and Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough said in the letter being circulated to federal civil servants over the next couple of days, which was provided to The Canadian Press.“I am truly sorry that more than half of public servants continue to experience some form of pay issue,” the minister’s letter states. “Too many of you have been waiting too long for your pay.”“Your stories of hardship caused by the backlog of financial transactions keep me awake at night.”The outstanding transactions include non-financial requests from employees, such as changes to banking or home address information.But it also includes 265,000 cases in which government workers have been underpaid, overpaid, or not paid at all and have waited beyond what the government considers an acceptable period of time for their issues to be resolved.In the letter, Qualtrough repeated what she and her predecessor in the portfolio have been saying for months — that the situation is “unacceptable.”And she emphasized that anyone working in government who is experiencing financial hardship as a result of pay problems can request an emergency salary advance.One major factor that has prevented the government from reducing the pay issue backlog was the recent need to retroactively adjust the paycheques of government workers after new collective agreements were ratified.So far, roughly 184,000 government employees have seen their paycheques adjusted to the new contracts, the minister said.But another 20,000 collective agreement payments have yet to be processed and the number is expected to grow in coming weeks as more renewed contracts come into force.Qualtrough said dealing with the pay system backlog will continue to be a slow process as the government seeks a “permanent solution” to the Phoenix debacle.But her letter made no mention of a call this week by one of the country’s biggest civil service unions to build an in-house pay system and to scrap the Phoenix system altogether.The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada said earlier this week that IT professionals already working within government can build and thoroughly test a new pay system within a year.The government has so far earmarked $400 million to fix the system and to deal with the existing pay backlog, partly by hiring more pay administrators at centres in Quebec and New Brunswick. But Qualtrough said in an interview aired last weekend that she could not guarantee the amount wouldn’t reach $1 billion.The government hasn’t hired nearly enough people, quickly enough, to deal with the massive backlog of pay cases, the Public Service Alliance of Canada said Thursday.“The government needs to step up its hiring process and expand the compensation capacity both in the pay centres and in departments,” said PSAC national president Robyn Benson.Initiated by the previous Conservative government in 2009, the Phoenix system was meant to streamline the payroll of public servants across dozens of departments and agencies, and save more than $70 million annually.In a joint statement issued Thursday, Qualtrough and Treasury Board President Scott Brison again accused the Conservatives of saddling the government with a “botched” system.“They rushed the design and implementation, did not train staff, all while firing 700 experienced pay advisers who were needed to make sure public servants were paid on time,” said the statement.The Conservatives have denied responsibility for the debacle, saying it was the Liberals, elected in 2015, who ultimately failed to heed warnings from civil service unions that the system wasn’t ready before fully launching it in April 2016.A report from an auditor general’s review of the Phoenix pay system problems is expected to be made public next week.— Follow @tpedwell on Twitterlast_img read more

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