New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to entertain a plea seeking a direction to all the 24 high courts to amend their guidelines in terms of the apex court’s judgement on procedures to be adopted for designating lawyers as seniors so that an advocate with ten years of experience at the bar may also apply for it.The apex court, in October 2017, had laid down guidelines for itself and 24 high courts to govern the exercise of designating lawyers as seniors. Also Read – How a psychopath killer hid behind the mask of a devout laity!In one of the guidelines, it had ordered setting up of a committee headed by the Chief Justice of India in the Supreme Court and Chief Justices for the high courts to deal with the seniority of lawyers. “We are not inclined to entertain the plea,” a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said while dismissing the plea filed by BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay. Upadhyay, in his plea, alleged inconsistencies in the guidelines framed by various high courts for designation of advocates as senior lawyers and said that the High Courts be directed to modify them so that advocates with minimum 10 years of practice become eligible to apply for designation as seniors. Also Read – Encounter under way in Pulwama, militant killed”The inconsistencies and contradictions in the guidelines laid down by various high courts are largely with respect to the forum where an advocate ought to have practiced in order to be eligible for designation as a Senior Advocate, the minimum age requirement for such eligibility and the requirement of a minimum professional income for such eligibility,” the plea said. The top court, in its judgement, had laid down as many as 11 guidelines to effectively deal with the process of designating lawyers as seniors. “All matters relating to designation of senior advocates in the Supreme Court and in all the high courts of the country shall be dealt with by a Permanent Committee to be known as ‘Committee for Designation of Senior Advocates’,” it had said. The panel will be headed by the CJI and consist of two senior-most Judges of the apex court or “High Court(s), as may be,” and the Attorney General or the Advocate General of a state in case of a High Court will be its member, it had said. On giving the Bar representation, it had said the four Members of the Permanent Committee will nominate another Member of the Bar to be the fifth Member of the Permanent Committee. The committee shall have a permanent Secretariat, the composition of which will be decided by the CJI or “the Chief Justices of the High Courts, as may be, in consultation with the other Members of the Permanent Committee, it had said. The pleas on designating a lawyer as senior would be sent to the secretariat which would compile relevant data and information with regard to “the reputation, conduct, integrity of the Advocate(s) concerned including his/her participation in pro-bono work; reported judgements in which the concerned Advocate(s) had appeared; the number of such judgements for the last five years,” it had said. It had said the secretariat would collect the data and their sources for perusal and decision by the CJI-led committee.
Kolkata: State Urban Development minister Firhad Hakim has asked Bidhannagar Mayor Sabyasachi Dutta to step down over the recent accusations of anti-party activities brought against him and added that the message has already been communicated to him over phone. The BMC councillors have begun preparations to move a no-confidence motion against Dutta as well.Hakim had met all Trinamool councillors of the BMC excluding Dutta at Trinamool Bhavan on Sunday to discuss the issue where most of the councillors reportedly spoke against Dutta. Hakim had subsequently sent a detailed report of the proceedings of the meeting to party supremo Mamata Banerjee. Also Read – Centuries-old Durga Pujas continue to be hit among revellersThe matter had come to the fore on Friday after Dutta addressed a meeting organised by the employees of the West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Limited (WBSEDCL) at Vidyut Bhavan in Salt Lake. The employees demanded payment of DA by the state government, while Dutta criticised state Power minister Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay for his failure to clear the same. A rumour regarding Dutta joining the BJP has been doing the rounds for the past couple of months, which, however, has been dismissed by the BMC Mayor. On Sunday, BJP leader Mukul Roy had met Dutta at a club and the duo had reportedly had a long discussion. However, Dutta described the meeting as a courtesy call. On Saturday, Roy had said that Dutta had helped “smooth sailing for the BJP in the Lok Sabha election.” Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari PujaMamata Banerjee had become visibly annoyed with Dutta after the poll margin of Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar dropped drastically in the New Town-Rajarhat Assembly segment that falls under Barasat Lok Sabha constituency in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Hakim said on Monday: “Over the past few months, Sabyasachi has been constantly making statements against the party. He is hobnobbing with those who had killed Gandhiji and are trying to destroy the social fabric of India. This is uncalled for. I have always considered him to be my younger brother. It is a big shock for me.” Meanwhile, Trinamool Congress secretary general Partha Chatterjee added: “Sabyasachi does not know what to do. TMC has given him enough leverage but the party’s silence should not be considered as its weakness. Action will be taken against him. Nobody should consider that he is bigger than the party.” Dutta, however, said that he has not received any communiqué from the party and would act accordingly when he receives it and added that he will leave for East Europe in a few days.
New Delhi: Delhi Food and Civil Supplies Minister Imran Hussain on Friday reviewed the retail prices of tomato and onion in the city. Tomato prices in the national Capital had increased from Rs 40-Rs 50 a kg to nearly Rs 90 a kg over the past few days.According to the government, the retail prices of tomatoes have started showing a downward trend. The supplies of tomato have increased from Himachal Pradesh, it said. “Supplies from southern states have also commenced and tomato supplies from Maharashtra’s Nasik are expected to start from mid-August,” the government said in a statement. Senior Also Read – After eight years, businessman arrested for kidnap & murderofficers of the department told the minister during a meeting that these supplies will further help reduce retail tomato prices in Delhi. The retail prices of onions and pulses were also reviewed. Agencies concerned informed that retail prices of these commodities are under check and no abnormal rise in their retail prices is expected in near future. Hussain also directed the agencies to take effective action against hoarding activity. “He directed the food and civil supplies commissioner to convene weekly meetings of stakeholders to ensure that prices of tomatoes, onions, pulses and other commodities are stable and under control,” the government statement added. The increase in tomato prices has caused a ripple effect on other vegetables too. Prices of veggies such as coriander, okra, bottle gourd and onion have seen a significant hike due to the incessant rains in Western Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra. These states are the main supplier of vegetables to the national Capital. Coriander alone is being sold for as high as Rs 250 per kg across the city.
Noida: Aiming to promote Noida in top 10 of Swachch Bharat rankings, the Noida Authority, on Thursday, held a one-day workshop with all bulk waste generators and RWAs to discuss garbage disposal measures and its treatment and ensure compliance with Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016.At the workshop, experts from ministry of housing and urban affairs, and CEO of Noida authority along with senior officials figure out ways to implement segregation of waste. It is to be noted that the Noida city stood at 324 in national rankings of swachch sarvekshan-2017 which merely improved to 150 last year. Also Read – After eight years, businessman arrested for kidnap & murderThe Authority believes that creating awareness among people of waste segregation and with their support, the smart city Noida can turn up in top 10 of 2020 swachch sarvekshan rankings. Thursday’s workshop was aimed to apprise the residents and industries to ensure segregation of waste at their source. The authority has invited all the bulk generators (those who are generating waste over 100 kg per day) and RWAs of various residential societies. Ritu Maheshwari, CEO, Noida authority said that the residents of Noida have a huge potential to develop and promote their city to a single figure in the next swachch Bharat rankings. Also Read – Two brothers held for snatchings”When compared to the neighbouring district Ghaziabad, which bagged 13th rank in the national ranking of swachch sarvekshan-2019, Noida civic structure is comparatively far better and a little support from the residents can help in maintaining cleanliness in the city, thus grabbing an improved rank in the upcoming swachch sarvenkshan,” said Maheshwari. The CEO also said that despite the authority has given subsidy for the installation of compost machines, there is a need for more RWAs to come up. “We insist more RWAs and other bulk generators to come forward and install compost machine to ensure segregated waste disposal at their source. The industries have been asked to ensure waste disposal within their compound and select a much effective empaneled methods of waste composting and disposal as per SWM-2016,” she added. The CEO further held a meeting with official of Jal board and sewerage department and directed them to ensure that all the machineries work properly and the supply do not get affected.
What can I do to save a species like the tiger? Collect as much money as you can and give it to genuine groups who don’t waste it on advertising and giving t-shirts with slogans but those who keep jeeps, guns, pay for lawyers and work with the police in and around reserves to save not just tigers but also their prey – deer, monkeys etc. Plant as many trees as you can. One tree that saves a species locally goes a long way towards saving key species elsewhere on the planet. Don’t eat meat. Most tigers are killed by goatherds and buffalo owners who want the forest for their animal grazing. Less cattle and goats feeding in the forests so that their owners can sell them for your meat, means more tigers immediately. Fight with your e-mail, voice and whatever you have against any attempt by the government to divert forests for any reason. Do not go to resorts that are anywhere near tiger territory. These are usually illegal and many of them take tourists into the forests illegally. Also Read – Feel what you fear Why are so many whales getting washed on beaches? Can I help the situation? The frequency of whale beaching seems to have increased over the last few decades. Experts believe that man-made factors are the main reasons driving this phenomenon. There are many factors involved, the most common reasons are enlisted below: Pollution: Experts believe that chemical pollution causes whales to be born with deformities. It also affects live whales and can kill them. These dead whales are then brought in ashore by the tides. This pollution is mainly caused by humans releasing dangerous and toxic chemicals into water bodies. Also Read – HomecomingConfusion: Whales ascertain their location and navigate through a method known as echolocation, where they use sounds as a navigation tool. Many scientists believe that man-made sonar can interfere with a whale’s navigation system and leave them disoriented, causing them to go into shallow waters – eventually, these whales wash up on land. Global Warming: The heat from the earth’s surface can cause icebergs to melt which, in turn, causes a shift in the tides of water bodies which could lead schools of fish towards shallow waters. These groups of fishes serve as a food source for whales. Disoriented pack leader: Whales are highly social animals that travel in large pods. In some cases, if the pack leader is sick/confused, it could lead the entire group of whales to wash up ashore. As an individual, we can take small steps which would go long way into preventing whales beaching. The first thing you can do is stop using plastics, cosmetics with microbeads , bottled water, balloons that pollute the oceans. These plastics break down into micro plastics that infiltrate the food chain of all sea life, harming the health and well-being of whales. As humans, our contribution could also be in the form of controlling pollution and global warming. To not only provide a healthy environment for ourselves but also for other creatures who exists alongside. Start by planting hundreds of trees in your area. (Views expressed and information provided are personal. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org)
New Delhi: It was January 5, 2018, the last day of a raucous winter session of Parliament which witnessed a slugfest between the BJP and the Congress-led opposition on the triple talaq bill, when a cake was ushered into Arun Jaitley’s chamber that evening. It was Congress deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma’s birthday. It reflected how Jaitley pursued his politics with a personal touch. He would vociferously oppose the stands of rival parties, but would never forsake individual niceties, which helped him build bridges and make friends across the political spectrum. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh puts it succinctly: “Arun Jaitley was every non-BJP person’s favourite BJP-ite.” Jaitley, 66, died on Saturday at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), where he had been undergoing treatment for a few weeks. Jaitley, who many believed had more friends outside his party than within the BJP, was known to be an affable person. His rapport with opposition leaders was such that during the debate on demonetisation in 2016 in Rajya Sabha, then Samajwadi Party MP Naresh Agarwal in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said he did not take even then Finance Minister Jaitley into confidence. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&K”If Arunji had known, he would have whispered about it in my ears. He knows me, Agarwal had said in the House. The son-in-law of a senior Congress leader from Jammu and Kashmir, Jaitley was among the sharpest legal and political brains with a great sense of humour and repartee. “I once referr ed to him as edi +Pras(anna)+Chandra+Venkat for his extraordinary spinning abilities and he enjoyed it hugely. The GST Council may be amongst his most enduring contributions,” Ramesh said. Shashi Tharoor, while condoling the demise of Jaitley, said he was his friend and Delhi University senior. “We first met when he was at DUSU and I was President of St Stephen’s College Union. Despite political differences we enjoyed a healthy mutual respect and debated his budget often in Lok Sabha,” Tharoor said. Another friend of Jaitley, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said Jaitley was an old friend and a dear colleague who will be remembered for his seminal contributions to the polity and as finance minister of India. “As Leader of the Opposition he was without match. He always stood steadfastly for his friends and for his party,” Sibal said of Jaitley. Sibal also posted a photograph with Jaitley from a cricket match the two played in together.
New Delhi: Leading state-owned lender Punjab National Bank and Allahabad Bank on Tuesday announced linking of their retail loans with the Reserve Bank’s repo rate, which will make loans cheaper. Punjab National Bank launched PNB Advantage, a retail lending scheme linked with the repo rate effective Tuesday. “In the new schemes rate of interest will be 0.25 per cent less than the existing applicable rates based on MCLR. The new rates will vary from 8.25 per cent to 8.35 per cent for housing loan borrowers and 8.65 per cent for car loan borrowers,” PNB said in a statement. Also Read – Thermal coal import may surpass 200 MT this fiscalExisting customers of the bank will also have an option to switch over to new Repo Linked Lending Rates (RLLR) with minimal charges, it said. Allahabad Bank said it has benchmarked its loans up to Rs 75 lakh with the external benchmark linked rates (EBLR), comprising the repo rate as one of its constituents. To ensure quicker transmission of policy rate adjustments, the bank has decided to price its housing loans up to Rs 75 lakh and Mudra loans sanctioned with effect from September 1, 2019, with reference to EBLR, Allahabad Bank said in a regulatory filing. The EBLR is made up of RBI’s repo rate– at which the apex regulator gives short term loans to banks–, an average of last ten years net interest margin of the bank rounded off to the nearest 5 basis points and credit risk premium on internal credit risk rating. Also Read – Food grain output seen at 140.57 mt in current fiscal on monsoon boost”However, the borrowers shall have the option for either marginal cost of funds based lending rates (MCLR) linked loan or EBLR linked loan at mutually acceptable terms,” the bank said in the filing. Also, all the saving bank deposits of Rs 40 lakh and above will be linked with external benchmark with effect from October 1, 2019, it added. The announcements come days after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that banks will launch repo rate and external benchmark-linked loan products that will lead to reduced EMIs for housing, vehicle and other retail loans. Earlier, RBI governor Shaktikanta Das had exhorted banks to price their loans with repo rate for a faster transmission in a falling interest rate regime.
Lucknow: Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Wednesday said the alleged harassment of a woman student by ex-Union minister and BJP leader Swami Chinmayanand in Shahjahanpur appears to be a repetition of the Unnao case. In a tweet, she alleged that in Uttar Pradesh, if a woman registers a complaint against a BJP leader her security is not guaranteed. Gandhi was referring to the rape charge made by a 19-year-old woman from Unnao against MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, who was expelled from the BJP recently. In Shahjahanpur, Chinmayanand was booked on Tuesday under IPC sections related to abduction in order to murder, and criminal intimidation. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s media advisor Mrityunjay Kumar was quick in his retort advising the Congress general secretary not to create confusion and the police have taken all the steps in this regard. The Shahjahanpur police on Tuesday lodged an FIR against Chinmayanand after the student went missing following her allegation in a video clip that he had been harassing her. Her father had filed a complaint with the police accusing Chinmayanand of sexually harassing her, a charge refuted by the BJP leader’s lawyer who claimed it was a “conspiracy” to blackmail him. The woman’s father alleged that she has gone missing at the behest of the 72-year-old BJP leader, who heads Mumukshu ashram. She is a post-graduate student in one of the colleges run by the ashram. “In Uttar Pradesh, this matter appears to be repetition of the Unnao case. If a woman complains against a BJP leader, then she is not guaranteed justice, even her own safety is not guaranteed,” Priyanka Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi with hashtag ‘EnoughIsEnough’. The 19-year-old rape survivor from Unnao and her lawyer suffered critical injuries in a car-truck collision in Rae Bareli district in Uttar Pradesh on July 28. Her two aunts died in the incident. The girl’s family alleged that the accident was an attempt to eliminate her. In another tweet, Gandhi said, “Not a single day passes in Uttar Pradesh when the BJP government manages to assure women that you are safe and you will get justice if anything happens with you.” She also tagged new reports of the case involving Swami Chinmayanand in support of her tweets. “Last year, the BJP government had withdrawn a rape case against accused (Chinmayanand). It’s clear where the government is standing. UP girls are watching,” Gandhi said in the microblogging site. “The girl, who raised voice is missing or deliberately being taken away. What is happening with her nobody knows. Till when this will continue?” she posed in another tweet. Reacting on Priyanka Gandhi’s comments, Mrityunjay Kumar took to the same platform to say, “Dont create confusion Priyankaji. UP police has taken all steps.” “FIR has been registered and the family has been assured of their security. Read newspapers and know truth and stop playing politics by showing sympathy. People know all. Your veil has slipped and the real face is out,” he said.
Mumbai: National oil refiner and marketer Indian Oil plans to invest around Rs 2 trillion over the next five to seven years to expand the core petrochemical business and to ensure comprehensive energy solutions to the nation. The company, which controls a third of the country’s 5 million barrels a day oil refining capacity through its 11 refineries, is also entering newer areas like renewable energy, battery storage, city gas distribution, among others involving an investment of around Rs 2 trillion, chairman Sanjiv Singh told reporters here after the AGM. Also Read – Thermal coal import may surpass 200 MT this fiscalFor city gas city distribution alone, IOC will invest around Rs 10,000 crore over this period, he added. “We have embarked on a robust capex plan of around Rs 2 trillion over the next five to seven years. This is much beyond the Rs 25,000-crore capex cycle that we have been planning for every year for quite some time now,” Singh said, adding this will also include acquisitions. He further said IOC will focus on consolidating its core business verticals, will continue to scale up new business verticals and at the same time gain entry into high growth potential areas to ensure inclusive and sustainable energy development.”We are in the process of entering/expanding newer business areas. After the modification of our refineries to meet the BS-VI requirements, we are now expanding almost all the refineries. These include the expansion at Barauni, Gujarat and Panipat. Also Read – Food grain output seen at 140.57 mt in current fiscal on monsoon boost”Although we have not received the approval, we also want to expand the Paradip refinery,” Singh said. He said since 1997, IOC has invested over Rs 25,000 crore each in major petrochemical projects in Gujarat, Panipat in Haryana and Paradip in Odisha refineries and is now investing over Rs 20,000 crore more on several ongoing and new petrochemical projects till 2023-24. “We are not just focusing on brownfield expansion but we will also invest in greenfield expansion like the one planned through the West Coast Refinery and another one at Nagapattinam,” Singh said. “Apart from refining, we will require a matching pipelines for our growing marketing network. Also, there is a significant amount going into greener fuels. We are also exploring battery/energy storage, and a charging station vertical. This may include improving conventional battery storage or new forms of batteries. This will be beyond lithium-ion,” he said. IOC is also going ahead with significant upstream investment, both domestic and overseas. “We have done a couple of fairly good acquisitions in the recent past and we are open to more such opportunities,” Singh said. On the West Coast Refinery project, Singh said the work is in progress and the final detailed project report is likely to be ready this year itself. “After the agitations, the government has offered a new land parcel in Raigad district for the project. We had hired a consultant earlier to study the configuration of the project on the basis of the land at Nanar in Ratnagiri. However, now we have now again hired a global consultant to verify and fine-tune the configuration,” he said. Singh further said the government has already issued notices for land acquisition and is hopeful the actual process will start from this year itself.
CALGARY – The Air Line Pilots Association, International says more than 1,400 WestJet pilots have voted 62 per cent in favour of forming the first union at Canada’s second-largest airline.The vote makes the ALPA, which bills itself as the world’s largest pilot union representing 55,000 pilots, the exclusive bargaining agent for WestJet pilots.“We look forward to putting ALPA’s vast resources to work to help the WestJet pilots reach their first contract,” said Dan Adamus, president of ALPA Canada, in a statement.WestJet chief executive Gregg Saretsky said that the airline (TSX:WJA) is disappointed with the outcome of the vote, but will now focus on engaging in constructive dialogue with the ALPA.The company, which has long prided itself on being union-free and considers it a competitive advantage, saw its share price drop 4.2 per cent to close at $21.98.Rob McFadyen, a member of the WestJet ALPA Organizing Committee, stated that the vote was about ensuring support in issues like health, retirement, fatigue, safety, family support and legal protection.Jason Foster, a labour relations expert at Athabasca University, said Friday’s result shows a clear change of atmosphere among the pilots at WestJet from 2015, when only 45 per cent of pilots voted for unionization.“This is a significant statement,” said Foster. “It’s an indication how workers in the airline industry are reacting to the turmoil and constant change that we’re seeing in the industry these days.”He said WestJet’s move both into the ultra-low cost carrier segment, as well as trying to take on Air Canada’s international luxury travel as it responds to competition, has likely put a strain on relations.Foster said while the union certification is a big step, there’s still a lot of work ahead for the pilots.“Now they’re going to have to sit down and negotiate a collective agreement with WestJet, and that won’t necessarily be pretty. I imagine that WestJet will come to the table driving very hard.”Karl Moore, a management expert at McGill University and former airline consultant, said that unionization was likely the result of significant growth from WestJet’s humble beginnings 21 years ago, with it now counting more than 12,000 employees.“It’s lost that kind of feisty upstart David and Goliath feeling,” said Moore.He said relations with employees, which WestJet has referred to as co-owners of the airline, could become more strained under a union.“With a union you at times become more at loggerheads as opposed to partners working together to have great success,” said Moore.He also expects to see more union drives as a result of the pilot’s successful drive.“Once the pilots are, certainly the flight attendants and mechanics and all would take a more serious look at it,” he said.
EDMONTON – A report into the Fort McMurray wildfire cites critical communications breakdowns as the fire swept into the municipality and forced thousands to flee.Independent consultants that produced the report for the province noted that in the early days of the fire in May 2016, the two crews battling the blazes were operating through different command centres.Communication broke down when one crew chief realized the fire would enter Fort McMurray, but failed to inform crews in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.The municipality had to learn from social media that the fire was entering the community.“It was unfortunate that someone had to learn about events on social media, I would agree 100 per cent,” Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier told a news conference Thursday night.“The report recommends communications could have been tighter and I would agree.”The Alberta government commissioned reports from two independent consultants to examine firefighting and emergency response efforts into the wildfire that destroyed thousands of homes and businesses and forced almost 88,000 people to flee north and south for a month in May 2016.In response to the communications problem, the province is implementing a new integrated communications system over the next five years. In the interim there are procedures to work around those gaps by, for example, uploading maps to IPads.“We’re trying to make sure we can roll it out as quickly and as efficiently as we possibly can,” said Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson.“(In the meantime) we’re using all the tools in the toolbox. Regardless if it’s social media or if it’s radios or cellphones or whatever it is, we have to work with what we have right now.”The report from consultant MNP said the fire was complex, with shifting winds changing the situation rapidly.The report said it would have been helpful if there had been an air tanker group at the Fort McMurray airport as the fire grew, but said it was understandable given the other fire dangers in the province.It said the focus on fighting the fire allowed other priorities to lag.“There is limited evidence that contingency plans were being developed and implemented during the first 36 hours aimed at providing opportunities to contain or minimize damage as the wildfire approached the community,” stated the report.Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, who lost his home in Fort McMurray during the fire, reiterated his call for a public inquiry.“This is a damning report. We need a judge-led public inquiry. Those who lost everything deserve answers,” Jean said on Twitter.The second report, by consultant KPMG, examined the overall emergency response effort.KPMG made a number of recommendations, including clarifying and documenting how to delegate authority in emergency situations. The province is now reviewing that process.KPMG said residents in Fort McMurray struggled with mixed messages when they were forced to flee May 3. A news conference at 11 a.m. that day told them an evacuation was “a long way off,” but just hours later they were forced out on little notice.The report said social media, neighbours running to inform and help out others, and those sharing space in their cars and trucks with strangers to get out was critical.“Ultimately, the success of the evacuation during the wildfire was largely due to the young demographics of the community, and how the community rallied together,” said the report.
OTTAWA – While the Canadian military is preparing to work with the U.S. on upgrading North America’s aging defences, Canada’s top general says there have been absolutely no talks about joining its ballistic-missile shield program.Chief of defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance’s comments come amid swirling questions over Canada’s potential involvement in ballistic-missile defence, particularly given rampant concerns about North Korea.Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan appeared to leave the door open to participating in the controversial program in October, but the government has otherwise remained largely ambiguous when asked about missile defence.The opposition parties, meanwhile, are sharply divided, with the Conservatives saying Canada should start immediate talks with the U.S. while the NDP has strongly opposed any Canadian participation.Vance told The Canadian Press that Canadian military officials are preparing for what are expected to be in-depth talks with the U.S. about upgrading the North American Aerospace Defence Command, or Norad.Those discussions are expected to focus on what new and emerging threats the joint U.S.-Canadian system — currently used to spot potential enemy airplanes, missiles and ships — should be able to guard against.“What I am happy about is we’re going to take a holistic view of the military defence of the continent over the next 20 to 50 years,” Vance said in an interview Thursday.“What is occurring out there that could come here in a military way that could impact the safety and security of Canadians, and in the Norad context, of Americans as well?”Ballistic missiles will be one threat that is considered, he acknowledged, especially as countries like North Korea attempt to acquire and expand their missile and nuclear capabilities — but there will be many others like cyber threats.“Continental defence is not a simple binary ‘yes’ or ‘no’ about BMD, and it would be improper to boil it down to just that,” Vance said. “Continental defence is about a lot of things.”Vance could not say when those discussions would actually start.But when asked specifically whether there had been any talks between Canadian military officials and their American counterparts about joining the current U.S. ballistic-missile defence system, Vance was categorical.“None whatsoever. Absolutely not,” he said, before noting that the Liberal government’s recent defence policy explicitly said that Canada’s position of non-participation remained in effect.“Therefore, it would be highly inappropriate at this juncture for us to engage in a discussion about BMD.”Many Canadians were stunned in September when the deputy commander of Norad, Lt.-Gen. Pierre St-Amand, revealed that the current U.S. policy is not to intervene in the event of a ballistic-missile attack on Canada.The revelation came amid growing concern about North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic-missile capabilities, which the country has showcased numerous times with a variety of tests in recent months.U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis has said the latest test earlier this week showed North Korea is continuing to build missiles that can “threaten everywhere in the world.” But Vance said the rogue state still doesn’t have the ability to reach Canada with a missile, and that “we’re protected against the threats that exist now.”The U.S. actually invited Canada to join its continental missile-shield system more than a decade ago, but then-prime minister Paul Martin opted against it in 2005 following a divisive national debate.Canada has been on the sidelines ever since as the U.S. spent more than $100 billion building a series of land- and sea-based interceptors to stop the type of limited attack North Korea might launch.– Follow @leeberthiaume on Twitter.
OTTAWA – The Bank of Canada estimates there will be about 60,000 fewer jobs by 2019 due to the increases in minimum wages across the country, but that labour income will be higher due to the increases.In examining the impact of the wage increases, the report estimated that the consumer price index could be boosted by about 0.1 percentage points on average and real gross domestic product could be cut by 0.1 per cent by early 2019.The number of jobs lost was based on a 0.3 per cent decline in the number of hours worked, while aggregate real wages were estimated to increase 0.7 per cent.The research paper by the staff at the central bank noted that if the average working hours declined following the increase in the minimum wage, the number of jobs lost would also be lower.The Bank of Canada estimated that about eight per cent of all employees work at minimum wage, a proportion that increases to 11 per cent if a threshold of five per cent above minimum wage is used.Ontario raised its minimum wage to $14 per hour on Jan. 1 from $11.60 and plans to increase it to $15 in 2019, while Alberta is expected to raise its minimum wage to $15 later this year.
TORONTO – An international team of disease detectives has shed new light on a virus that kills almost a million people around the world each year by probing an unusual source — the mummified remains of a young child who died about 450 years ago in Renaissance Italy.The scientists were able to sequence the complete genome of an ancient strain of hepatitis B after extracting DNA from the naturally mummified body of the two-year-old girl, which was interred with a number of other bodies in the sacristy of the Basilica of Saint Domenico Maggiore in Naples.In the mid-1980s, before the advent of advanced genomic sequencing, Italian researchers had suggested the child likely died of smallpox because of evidence of rash-like scarring on her body.“The blisters are clearly all over the face … when you look at the image, your first thought would be smallpox,” agreed Hendrik Poinar, an evolutionary geneticist at McMaster University in Hamilton, who co-led the new study with evolutionary biologist Edward Holmes of the University of Sydney.But after extracting viral DNA from small samples of the child’s skin and bone and analyzing its genetic signature, researchers turned up no evidence of smallpox.“Nada. We couldn’t find anything,” said Poinar, director of McMaster’s Ancient DNA Centre, who previously helped sequence the genome of the extinct woolly mammoth and traced the genetic evolution of the bacteria that causes bubonic plague.One of the scientists then turned to what’s called a pathogen enrichment array, a means of testing a DNA sample to see if there’s a genetic match detected among markers for hundreds of viruses, bacteria and other disease-causing agents.What emerged was a clear signal for hepatitis B, leading the researchers to speculate that the child may have been affected by a rare childhood disease that can follow infection with hepatitis B, known as Gianotti-Crosti syndrome.“That’s a rash that breaks out extensively on children and it can cause death,” said Poinar.What surprised the scientists, whose research was published Thursday in the journal PLOS Pathogens, was how little the 16th-century strain of hepatitis B had changed genetically when compared with modern-day samples of the virus.Hepatitis B is a primarily blood-borne virus that affects the liver. While most adults recover fully from the disease within a few months as their immune system clears the infection, some people develop a chronic lifetime infection that can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer. A vaccine can prevent hepatitis B, but there’s no curative treatment.It’s estimated that one-third of the world’s population has been infected with the virus at some point in their lives and that about 350 million people are currently living with a chronic infection.“This is a virus that still causes considerable morbidity and mortality today across the globe, especially in underdeveloped countries and for lower socioeconomic status individuals,” said Poinar, noting it began infecting humans about 60,000 years ago.“The more we understand about the behaviour of past pandemics and outbreaks, the greater our understanding of how modern pathogens might work and spread, and this information will ultimately help in their control,” he said.“Understanding the evolution of pathogens is quintessential to figuring out how to eradicate them.”—-Follow @SherylUbelacker on Twitter.
TORONTO – Marchers in Toronto’s annual Labour Day Parade broke tradition on Monday, opting not to end the procession at Exhibition Place to show solidarity with stagehands who have been locked out of the venue since July.“We’re not going to cross that picket line. We’re going to support the workers by not taking our members through that picket line and (not) having them go to the Ex like we normally do,” said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor’s regional director for Ontario.Exhibition Place’s board of directors and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 58, which represents about 400 workers, said talks over the weekend broke down.Both sides of the negotiations said they were unsuccessful after a 12-hour meeting on Saturday that focused on the locked-out employees’ contract.Negotiations will resume Tuesday — a day after the fair ends. The employees were locked out on July 20, and the union said the workers have been without a contract since December 2017.But in spite of the ongoing dispute and change in parade route, officials with the Canadian National Exhibition struck an optimistic tone.“Monday is a very big day for us. We attract audiences from across the spectrum,” said John Peco, chief officer, business development and innovation of the CNE association.“Traditionally the Labour Day parade does terminate at the fairgrounds, so we’re quite optimistic that many of those people will return to the fair following the parade with their friends and family.”But Rizvi said Unifor members have rented boats at the city’s habourfront, and other unions in the march will be hosting barbecues instead of going to the fair.“We’re not crossing the picket line at the expense of another union’s workers who are trying to fight for their jobs,” she said.Before the start of the march, Unifor president Jerry Dias spoke to attendees about the importance of fair wages and work environments.“As we march together I want you to think about solidarity,” he said. “I want you to think about our union moving forward.”Justin Antheunis, president of IATSE Local 58, said he’s thankful for the support from the Labour Day marchers.“The solidarity that Local 58 has seen from the entire labour movement not just in Toronto but across the country has been fantastic and it means a lot to us that they’re not going to cross the picket line.”—With files from Gabriele Roy.
TORONTO – With the recognition that physician prescribing plays a significant role in Canada’s opioid crisis, a team of researchers has developed a program called STOP Narcotics to dramatically reduce the amount of the painkillers patients are given following some common operations.In a study presented Wednesday at the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress in Boston, researchers from Western University showed that the STOP Narcotics protocol halved the amount of opioids prescribed after two types of out-patient surgery, while still adequately treating most patients’ post-operative pain.“By significantly reducing the amount of opioids prescribed, this decreases the exposure risk and potential for misuse of narcotic medication,” said lead author Dr. Luke Hartford, a general surgery resident at the London, Ont., university.“This also decreases excess medication available to be diverted to individuals for whom it was not intended,” he said, noting that the STOP Narcotics program includes a combination of patient and health provider education, with an emphasis on non-opioid pain control.The study, which also will be published Wednesday in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, involved 416 patients at London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care, who underwent either laparoscopic gallbladder removal or open hernia repair.Roughly half the patients were randomly assigned either to a control group, which received a standard prescription for opioids, or to the STOP Narcotics protocol group, which were prescribed acetaminophen and an anti-inflammatory drug to manage post-surgical pain for the first 72 hours after their operations.Under the protocol, surgeons were instructed to write a 10-pill opioid prescription, which expired seven days after surgery. Patients were asked to fill this prescription only if they couldn’t achieve adequate pain control with the other drugs.“Ninety per cent of the patients said that controlled their pain, they didn’t need the narcotics script filled,” said principal investigator Dr. Ken Leslie, chief of general surgery at London Health Sciences Centre.Researchers found there was a 50 per cent reduction in the number of opioids prescribed by surgeons under the STOP Narcotics group, compared to the control group.As well, just 45 per cent of patients in the protocol group filled their opioid prescription, compared to 95 per cent in the control group.“So we not only decreased the amount we were prescribing in half, but we saw that (less than) half of patients were actually filling those prescriptions,” Hartford said, adding that only “a very small number” needed the opioids for additional pain control.“We found that in our control group, as well, that even though patients were getting prescribed 20 to 30 tablets of opioid medication, they were only taking around seven of them,” he said.That’s why the STOP Narcotics initiative has another goal: to sharply limit the amount of unused opioids that can be diverted for recreational use, especially by young people who may come across them in the family medicine cabinet.As part of the post-surgical program, patients were asked to return left-over opioids to their pharmacy or to the hospital for disposal. The researchers found the return rate was seven per cent among those in the control group versus 23 per cent among STOP Narcotics patients.“It’s really hard to get people to give up something that they have at home,” said Leslie. “They hang onto to it just in case they have pain down the road.”Surgeons often say they prescribe “plenty of pills” to ensure patients have enough on hand to control their pain — but also to avoid calls to their offices for renewals, Leslie said.But the study found that renewal rates were low: 3.5 per cent for those initially prescribed opioids and 2.5 per cent for protocol patients.“We recognized that before STOP Narcotics, every surgeon had a different approach to pain control and that most surgeons were prescribing more narcotics than are actually needed,” said Leslie. “When we looked at the data from this new protocol, we saw that the patient’s pain-control was just as good with this pathway, without a huge prescription for narcotics.”Dr. David Juurlink, head of clinical pharmacology and toxicology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, said the Western study isn’t the first to show that more prudent prescribing of post-surgical opioids can be beneficial for patients, but “it’s an important topic nevertheless.”“There’s this increasing narrative that the opioid crisis is really about people with addiction who are dying by the thousands and that treatment of pain is not the problem,” said Juurlink, who was not involved in the study.“And that’s not true … It is also to no small extent about how we manage acute and chronic pain.”Juurlink said that every time a patient is given more opioids than they need — whether for chronic pain or for pain following surgery or dental work — they may be on the drugs longer than needed or the remaining tablets could stay in their medicine cabinet and offer a temptation to an experimenting teenager or to someone who might be at risk for addiction.“So I think the more surgeons change their practice to this sort of model — not avoiding opioids but prescribing them more judiciously — the better off patients will be and society too.”The Western researchers hope to expand the STOP Narcotics initiative beyond general surgery to other specialties, such as gynecology and orthopedics, and possibly for some in-patient operations as well.The protocol has already been presented to a couple of southwestern Ontario hospitals, which have adopted it, and the researchers are scheduled to present the program elsewhere in the coming months.Leslie said there are about 45,000 laparoscopic gallbladder-removal and open hernia-repair operations performed in Ontario each year, and applying STOP Narcotics to just these two surgeries alone would remove almost a million opioid tablets from circulation.“Our message isn’t that narcotics or opioids are inherently bad,” added Hartford. “They’re great medications when used appropriately. But they also have significant side-effects — constipation, nausea, confusion in older patients.“They’re only one part of many things you can do to help someone’s pain after surgery.”— Follow @SherylUbelacker on Twitter.
CONCEPTION BAY SOUTH, N.L. — A Newfoundland farmer is on the lookout for an escaped cow that hopped his farm’s fence last Thursday.Coco was last spotted on Saturday, two days after she leapt over the fence and escaped the farm in Conception Bay South, 30 kilometres west of St. John’s.“I’ve had cows for my lifetime and I’ve never had one do that,” said farmer Barry Scott.He is asking the public not to approach the 450-kilogram black cow as the search continues. “She’s not a little pup or anything, she’s a fairly big animal,” Scott said. One man was hurt in a tussle with Coco on Saturday afternoon as he tried to catch her. Scott was on his way when Coco again evaded capture, and he and his family have been searching for her since.The large animal may be dangerous when approached in the wild but Scott still hopes he can bring the clever cow home.Scott said public safety is his biggest concern right now and he’s asking people to call him with Coco’s whereabouts rather than try to apprehend her.He said putting Coco down is a last resort in case she poses a danger to other people in her travels, but he hopes to bring her back to the barn and calm her down.Scott said he raised Coco from the time she was a calf.The family is growing concerned as the days since her last sighting stretch on, but Scott still hopes to bring Coco home to the farm safely.The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser says North America’s new free trade pact is one reason the U.S. president is so disappointed with the latest job and production cuts at General Motors.Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, says both Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau believe the deal was designed to help the automotive industry and auto workers, not foster job cuts.And he’s expressing no doubt that the updated version of NAFTA, now known as USMCA, will be signed by representatives of all three countries later this week at G20 meetings in Argentina.The United States, Mexico and Canada face a Nov. 30 deadline because a new Mexican president who’s much less friendly to the treaty is to take office the next day.On Monday, General Motors declared it was shutting down its flagship Canadian plant in Oshawa, Ont., putting some 2,500 people out of work, and also ending production at four major facilities in the U.S. Midwest. GM says it’s part of a deliberate move to focus more on high-tech, connected electric cars — but Kudlow is warning the company that the White House won’t look kindly on plans to build those vehicles in China.The Canadian Press
Alqunun’s case has highlighted the cause of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.Several female Saudis fleeing abuse by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum abroad in recent years and returned home.Canada taking Alqunun could further upset Saudi-Canada relations.In August, Saudi Arabia expelled Canada’s ambassador to the kingdom and withdrew its own ambassador after Canada’s foreign ministry tweeted support for women’s rights activists who had been arrested. The Saudis also sold Canadian investments and ordered their citizens studying in Canada to leave.Alqunun had previously said on Twitter that she wished to seek refuge in Australia.Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne met with senior Thai officials in Bangkok on Thursday. She later said that Australia was assessing Alqunun’s request for resettlement. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada has granted asylum to a Saudi woman who fled alleged abuse by her family and was holed up in Thailand.Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, 18, was stopped last Saturday at a Bangkok airport by immigration police who denied her entry and seized her passport.She barricaded herself in an airport hotel room and launched a social media campaign that drew global attention to her case.Trudeau says the United Nations High Commission on Refugees made a request of Canada that it take Alqunun as a refugee and Canada accepted.“That is something that we are pleased to do because Canada is a country that understands how important it is to stand up for human rights, to stand up for women’s rights around the world,” Trudeau told a news conference in Regina.
OTTAWA — The federal government says it’s preparing to address one of the key tax issues that has caused massive headaches for government employees overpaid by its problem-plagued civil service pay system.The Finance Department has drafted legislation that would see overpaid employees — regardless who they work for — required to repay only the amounts deposited into their bank accounts in a prior tax year.Under current legislation, any employee who received an overpayment in a previous year is required to pay back the gross amount of the overpayment to their employer, which includes income taxes, Canada Pension Plan contributions and Employment Insurance premiums that were already deducted.The law has caused huge problems for thousands of federal employees who were overpaid through the government’s buggy Phoenix pay system.In many cases, the law required them to pay back to the government hundreds, and even thousands, of dollars they never received.The Public Service Alliance of Canada, which represents the bulk of federal workers, had called on Ottawa to exempt civil servants from the tax law, given the size and complexity of overpayments made through the Phoenix system.Since its launch nearly three years ago, more than half of the federal civil service — or more than 156,000 workers — have been overpaid, underpaid or not paid at all through Phoenix.For many of those who inadvertently received too much pay, returning the money has been a two-pronged nightmare. In many cases, employees were told to keep track of the money, but not to pay it back until a later date as to not further overburden the troubled pay system.Those same employees who hadn’t paid back the overpayments until a following tax year were later told they must pay back the amounts deposited to their bank accounts, plus CPP contributions, EI premiums and income taxes that had already been deducted by their employer.“To alleviate this burden and help affected employees, the Department of Finance Canada is releasing draft legislative proposals that would — under certain conditions — permit an affected employee to repay to their employer only the net amount of the overpayment received in a previous year, rather than the gross amount,” the department said in a statement Tuesday.“Under the proposed legislation, the (Canada Revenue Agency) would be able to refund directly to the employer the income tax, CPP, and EI withheld on an overpayment that occurred through a system, administrative, or clerical error. As a result, affected employees — who received overpayments through no fault of their own — would no longer be responsible for recovering these amounts from the CRA and repaying the gross amount of the overpayment to their employer.”Even though the draft legislation is only in the proposal stages, the department said public and private-sector employees can apply the new rules to their individual tax situations “immediately” for overpayments made after 2015, and that CRA will process overpayments as if the legislation has already been enacted.The government’s goal in launching Phoenix in 2016 was to streamline multiple outdated civil service pay systems, and save taxpayers millions of dollars in the process.But the bungled pay project was estimated by the end of 2018 to have cost $1.1 billion, including its implementation and efforts aimed at stabilizing it that have continued into this year.Terry Pedwell, The Canadian Press