TSX lower as commodities decline

The Toronto stock market backed off slightly on Friday morning as key commodity prices weakened.The S&P/TSX composite index moved down 14.89 points to 12,584.85 while the TSX Venture Exchange slid 0.97 points at 1,239.11.The Canadian dollar rose 0.30 of a cent to 101.87 cents US, after Statistics Canada reported that the country’s trade deficit with the world jumped to $2 billion in November. That’s an increase from $552 million in October as merchandise imports rose 2.7 per cent and exports fell 0.9 per cent.In commodities, oil prices fell back to near US$93 a barrel after China’s inflation rose to levels that could affect the country’s growth. February crude was down 83 cents to $92.99 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.Gold prices backtracked with the February contract down $14.80 to US$1,663.40 an ounce.In New York, the Dow Jones industrials were off 15.36 points to 13,455.86, the Nasdaq was 1.10 points higher at 3,122.86 and the S&P 500 index gave back 1.02 points to 1,471.10.The Commerce Department said that the U.S. trade gap widened 15.8 per cent in November to its widest point in seven months. The deficit was grew to $48.7 billion.In earnings, Wells Fargo, the biggest mortgage lender in the U.S., earned a record $4.9 billion in the fourth quarter, up 25 per cent from the same period a year before. Revenue rose 7 per cent, to $21.9 billion.In Canada, PetroBakken Energy Ltd. (TSX:PBN) said it has budgeted $675 million for capital projects this year, with a focus on growing production from the Cardium formation in Alberta. Shares of the company were down 48 cents to $9.81.European countries are also facing their own uphill battle to restore economic growth. The economy of the 17 European Union nations that use the euro is in recession, and unemployment is soaring across the region.In France, the CAC-40 fell 0.2 per cent to 3,696, while Germany’s DAX edged up 0.2 per cent to 7,710. The FTSE index of leading British shares rose 0.2 per cent at 6,111.Earlier in the day, the Nikkei closed 1.4 per cent higher at 10,801.57.But not all Asian markets rallied, hemmed in by concerns about inflation in China. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.4 per cent to 23,264.07. South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.5 per cent to 1,996.67. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.3 per cent to 4,709.50.Benchmarks in Singapore and mainland China also fell while those in the Philippines and New Zealand rose. read more

Keystone XL delays mean increase in dirtier rail transport TransCanada

A TransCanada Corp. executive says opponents to the Keystone XL pipeline should consider one consequence of delays in building the oil pipeline — an increase in dirtier and more dangerous rail transport.[np_storybar title=”Keystone XL to have minimal impact on environment, assessment says” link=”https://business.financialpost.com/2013/03/01/u-s-may-release-keystone-xl-pipeline-assessment-friday-groups/?__lsa=f862-08a5″%5D The development of Canada’s oil sands is unlikely to be significantly affected whether or not the Keystone XL pipeline project is approved, the U.S. State Department said in a new report released on Friday.Continue reading. [/np_storybar]Alex Pourbaix, president of energy and oil pipelines at the Calgary-based pipeline and utility company, says although rail has an important role to play in moving oil sands crude to market, there are downsides to consider.“For every mile you move a barrel of oil by rail, you emit three times the (greenhouse gases) that you do by moving it by pipeline and you have an order of magnitude higher risk of having some sort of incident, leak or spill,” Pourbaix told an energy conference in New York Thursday.“So from that perspective, I make the point that if you’re actually concerned about the environment, for long-haul movement of oil, you very much want to see that moving by pipeline.”Environmental groups opposed to the US$5.3-billion project have broader concerns about the oilsands crude that’s inside the pipe, which they consider to be much dirtier than other types of oil. They see pipelines such as Keystone XL as enabling oil sands extraction and have made them the focus of their campaigns in recent years.If you’re actually concerned about the environment, for long-haul movement of oil, you very much want to see that moving by pipelineA draft environmental report from the U.S. State Department released earlier this month said the Keystone XL pipeline will have no impact on the pace of development in the oil sands — a finding pipeline opponents refute.Crude transport by rail is not immune to the sort of opposition that has galvanized around pipelines. In January, 16 environmental groups sent a letter to Claude Mongeau, the CEO of Canadian National Railway Co., warning that any potential efforts to bring oil sands crude across British Columbia by rail to the West Coast for export would “face major opposition and risks to the company.”CN moved more than 30,000 carloads of crude to various North American markets last year, and believes it can double that business in 2013. None of that oil is moving to the West Coast, since there is no infrastructure in place to move the oil onto tankers.In an email, company spokesman Mark Hallman said rail is an energy efficient way to move freight and that the industry has a good record of moving hazardous materials safely.Citing figures from the Rail Association of Canada, he said that while Canada’s rail sector moves more than 70 per cent of all surface goods each year across the country, it only accounts for 3.4 per cent of the transportation sector’s greenhouse gas emissions and less than one per cent of Canada’s overall emissions.“Rail complements pipeline in the movement of crude oil,” Hallman said.“Both modes are safe and the risk of accidental releases of product is extremely low for both modes of transport, with no appreciable difference considering both spill frequency and size.”TransCanada expects it will be another two or three months before U.S. President Barack Obama makes a final decision on whether to allow the controversial project to go ahead. By then, the regulatory process will have lasted about five years.If Keystone XL is approved before mid-year, Pourbaix said a late 2014 start up for the pipeline is possible. read more

Bob Rae to lead First Nations BC pipeline project negotiations

VANCOUVER — Former Liberal MP Bob Rae has been appointed chairman of the board of the British Columbia-based FN (PTP) Group Limited Partnership, or FNLP.The FNLP is a limited partnership of 15 First Nations along the proposed PTP pipeline route between Summit Lake and Kitimat, B.C.The appointment comes as FNLP prepares to implement a $200-million commercial agreement with the Pacific Trail Pipelines Limited Partnership, the pipeline component of the proposed Kitimat LNG Project.Rae resigned his seat in the House of Commons last month to represent the Matawa Tribal Council over resource development in the so-called Ring of Fire region 540 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, Ont.,In those negotiations, he will sit across from retired Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci, who was appointed Ontario’s lead negotiator.Rae said in a statement Wednesday he is “honoured to have been asked to assist” in the process in British Columbia.“FNLP is an innovative model for how industry, governments and First Nations can co-operate effectively with respect to major economic development projects.”“The successful implementation of the commercial agreement between First Nations, the PTP LP and British Columbia will be critical to the project moving forward successfully, which is important for the economy of the whole country.” read more

US Lanka look to enhance ties

The two ambassadors reflected on the current state of U.S. – Sri Lanka relations that have remained warm and cordial for the last 63 years. Sri Lanka and the United States (U.S) have agreed on the need to enhance bilateral ties, the Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington said.The new US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Michele .J. Sison and Ambassador Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the U.S Jaliya Wickramasuriya had discussed this when the two met at the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington DC. During a 30 year career as a diplomat Ambassador Sison has served in 10 countries including in South Asia at various levels. She has served as the ambassador in Lebanon and in the United Arab Emirates. Ambassador Wickramasuriya updated the new US envoy on the recent economic and political developments in Sri Lanka including on the post-conflict reconciliation process.He explained at length the demining, rehabilitation, re-integration, re-construction, and resettlement activities taking place. Both ambassadors agreed on the importance of taking the U.S. – Sri Lankan relations to the next level thorough strong bilateral relations enhanced by economic diplomacy initiatives.U.S Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides swore in Ms. Sison as the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka at a ceremony on Monday (Aug 13) at the State Department.Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya, senior Sri Lankan diplomats in Washington, Ambassador Sison’s family members and senior U.S. Government officials were among the large and representative gathering present on this auspicious occasion. Ambassador Wickramasuriya congratulated Ambassador designate Sison and wished her success on her new appointment. read more

Large crowds gather at Eluga Tamil rally in Batticaloa

Large crowds gathered at the ‘Eluga Tamil’ rally in Batticaloa today which was staged to draw attention to the issues faced by the Tamils.Several Tamil politicians, including those from the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) took part in the rally. Fisherfolk of the North and East lost access to their seas and their livelihoods during the war due to a blockade by the Armed Forces. Seven years after the end of the war, they continue to be deprived of their livelihood through other means.Traditional fishing waters of North- Eastern fishermen continue to be lost to Southern fishermen, who continue to arbitrarily drive Tamil fishermen away by their capturing boats and illegally establishing permanent dwellings on the North Eastern shores. Further, these fishermen from the South engage in illegal fishing methods, which have harmed the marine resources of the North and East, resulting in the loss of livelihood of Tamil fishermen. This rally demands that the government take immediate measures to ensure that Tamil fishermen of the North East securely engage in their livelihood. The “Ezhuga Thamizh” rally held in the Eastern city of Batticaloa on February 10,2017, organized by the Tamil People’s Council (TPC), with the participation of civil society movements, and political parties—is a unified sovereign voice of the Tamil nation.The Tamil nation which has been subjected to an oppressive Sinhala- Buddhist majoritarian ideology on the island of Sri Lanka for several decades, would like to—through this “Ezhuga Thamizh” rally—stress to the Government of Sri Lanka and international stakeholders that it shall never give up its legitimate political aspirations. On the political solution to the National question: This rally demands that the whereabouts and the fate of Tamils who disappeared after surrendering to the military at the end of the war in 2009, and those forcibly disappeared and abducted be made public and justice delivered to their kith and kin. This rally declares that a federal solution based on the constitutional proposals submitted by the Tamil People’s Council (TPC) be adopted to ensure non- recurrence of the direct and indirect consequences of the war described above, and as a solution to the Tamil National question.Although this government has assured the international community that the proposed 3rd Republican constitution of Sri Lanka will bring about a resolution to the Tamil National question, the President and Prime Minister of Sri Lanka continue to stress that the unitary character of the State and the pride of place afforded to Buddhism will not be altered in the constitution. We strongly believe that this government is attempting to force an ill-defined minimalist devolution scheme within a unitary State on the Tamil people. We are also concerned that the government is attempting to hurriedly pass the proposed constitution in Parliament and win the approval of this minimalistic constitution at a referendum, with the support of the majority of the Tamil people through deceit and lies. This strategy, we believe is being pursued to enable the government to proclaim that it has solved the Tamil National question through the proposed 3rd Republican constitution without in fact addressing the basic political aspirations of the Tamil people.Our demand is that the proposed constitution reflect the political aspirations of the Tamil people. Our intention is not to disrupt the current constitutional process but to project the voices of the Tamil people in the process. We also condemn attempts made to malign and discredit attempts made by the Tamil people to air their genuine political aspirations through democratic means. Hence, this rally would wish to declare the following; We firmly state that given the lessons learnt from the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the present constitution and the political culture nurtured through the Sinhala- Buddhist majoritarian State structure over the past 60 plus years, that any form of solution within a Unitary State would never provide the solution to the Tamil National question.We believe that a viable solution to the Tamil National question could only be achieved by establishing a sovereign institution of self-government which recognizes the Tamil people of the North and East as a distinct nation, while acknowledging and respecting their right to self- determination, as proposed in the constitution proposals submitted by the Tamil People’s Council (TPC).We further state that recognition the Tamil nation and thereby its right to self-determination as per (2) above could be institutionally provided through a federal structure.This rally further stresses that a solution that is half-baked and ambiguous and one which does not recognize the  distinctness of the Tamil nation and its right to self-determination can never be accepted as a final solution to the Tamil National question.It is disconcerting to the Tamil people that the new constitution is being drafted in utmost secrecy. The report which followed the public consultations for the new constitution also completely failed to include the genuine political aspirations of the Tamil people. An open, public and democratic consultation process should be allowed before a vote on the new constitution at a referendum. Discussion for a new constitution cannot be held under the present oppressive structures. We stress that the Prevention of Terrorism Act should be repealed and demilitarization carried out immediately for an open dialogue on the constitution to be held in the North and East.The Tamil People’s Council drafted a proposal for a new constitution after wide ranging consultations and based on a mandate given to us by Tamil peopleacross the North and East. This rally declares that the Tamil National question be resolved permanently based on the constitutional proposals submitted by the Tamil People’s Council. (Colombo Gazette) For 35 years, thousands of Tamil women and men have been arbitrarily detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Some have been detained without any charges for 15- 20 years. Although the present government assured the international community that it would repeal the PTA in September 2015, it has failed to act on its promise. Tamil women and men continue to be detained under the PTA to this day. This rally calls for an unconditional and immediate release of political prisoners and the immediate repeal of the PTA. Seven years after the end of the war, the North and East remains heavily militarized. Not only has this occupying military appropriated thousands of acres of land in the North and East, but it continues to appropriate more land, even under this regime. Further, the Army substantially disrupts the civilian economy by engaging in tourism, agriculture, and other businesses. The security forces continue to intervene in the day to day civilian administration of the North and East. This has resulted in the Tamil nation having to depend on the Army to sustain its nascent economy. Further, the social fabric of the Tamil nation continues to be eroded by heavy militarization and deep surveillance of the North and East, and has disrupted the Tamil people from collectively exercising their freedom of assembly to demand that their political aspirations be heard. Sexual violence perpetrated against women and children has placed the most vulnerable of community at the mercy of the occupying forces. This rally demands that the occupying forces immediately leave the North and East and that a genuine and fully fledged civilian administration is enabled in the North and East. The Tamil people have repeatedly and firmly rejected a domestic accountability mechanism to investigate crimes perpetrated on them. In his statement of September 2015, the UN Human Rights Commissioner, Zeid Hussein categorically stated that Sri Lanka’s judiciary is incapable of investigating crimes committed during the war. Against this backdrop, the resolution passed in September 2015 at the United Nations Human Rights Commission suggested a hybrid mechanism to investigate these crimes. Yet, the Government of Sri Lanka, which co- sponsored this resolution with other international stakeholders, has now reiterated that it would not be amiable for the participation of foreign judges in the accountability mechanism. It has rejected a hybrid mechanism and has suggested a domestic accountability mechanism. The Government has nowrequested for more time to establish this mechanism.Against this backdrop, the Tamil people reiteratethat the Government of Sri Lanka not be afforded any more time, andunequivocally and unanimouslydeclare that only aninternational investigation into the genocidal crimes perpetrated against the Tamil people would bring themjustice. Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran also took part in the rally and addressed the participants later. Sinhala colonies, Buddhist temples and Buddha statues are being aggressively constructed with military sponsorship and the tacit approval of the government of “Good Governance”, with the sole purpose of Sinhala- Buddhisization of the North- Eastern Tamil homeland, alteration of the demography of the North and East and the bifurcation of Tamil speaking areas. This rally demands that the government immediately halt all efforts to alter the demography of the North and East through Sinhala- Buddhisization and settler colonialism. The North and East is the traditional homeland of the Tamil people of Sri Lanka. Consecutive Sri Lankan governments have specifically targeted the East for State- sponsored Sinhala colonization, thereby dismantling our lands, economy, culture and language. Above all this has resulted in the disintegration of the Tamil identity and the collective existence of the Tamil people. Against the backdrop of decades of such systemic State- sponsored colonization, this rally resolves that for the Tamil nation to be safeguarded, its lands, language, economy, culture and its distinct identity must be safeguarded together, concurrently. Based upon this, we, the Tamil people of the Eastcategorically declare at this rally held inBatticaloa today (10th), that the distinct socio- cultural and political identity of the Tamil nation can only be guaranteed and safeguarded by the establishment of a non- divided autonomous unit of self- government in the North and East, and that this is non- negotiable.While this rally resolutely demands that inalienable political rights of the Tamil people be fully guaranteed, it is no less resolute in advocating for inalienable rights to be guaranteed of an irrefutable part of the Tamil nation—our Muslim brethren. This rally would also wish to make it clear that individual rights and liberties of the numerical minority within the Tamil nation, the Sinhalese, should never be forfeited.Further, this rally today wishes to reiterate every point raised in the declaration below made at the “Ezhuga Thamizh” rally held in Jaffna on September 24, 2017: Similarly, Tamil fishermen of the North and East also continue to lose their livelihoods to fishermen from South India, who too engage in illegal fishing methods.This rally vehemently condemns the poaching of marine resources of North Eastern fishermen and demands that the rights of Tamil fishermen, who earn a daily wage, be protected.History has taught us that that oppressor States and their governments introduced and spread drugs, narcotics and alcohol to dismantle and distract the march to freedom of an oppressed people, especially among its youth. Despite deep surveillance in the North and East, the occupying military has been unable to prevent the smuggling of hundreds of kilos of cannabis into the peninsula in recent years or prevent the fast spread of narcotics such as heroin in the North and East. Instances of the military plying Tamil youth with alcohol at military- organized sports festivals have been well documented after the end of the war in 2009. We are therefore forced to conclude that the lethargy, and even connivance, shown by the security sector in preventing narcotic smuggling in the North and East is deliberate. We demand that the government take urgent steps to immediately halt such activity. Meanwhile a declaration was issued following the rally. The declaration states: read more

US calls for meaningful transitional justice process in Sri Lanka

The United States (US) has called for meaningful transitional justice processes in Sri Lanka.Janel Balch speaking on behalf of the US at the 36th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva said that the transitional justice process must have the confidence of the Sri Lankan people. “In Sri Lanka, we urge the government to continue efforts to establish meaningful transitional justice processes that have the confidence of the Sri Lankan people as well as the international community and that will be credible to all the affected communities in Sri Lanka,” she said. (Colombo Gazette)

UNICEF report reveals a digital divide in Sri Lanka

The full UNICEF Sri Lanka-commissioned report entitled, ‘Keeping Children in Sri Lanka Safe and Empowered Online: A study on Sri Lanka’s digital landscape’ will be released on Safer Internet Day, 6th February 2018. And digital networks like the Dark Web and cryptocurrencies are enabling the worst forms of exploitation and abuse, including trafficking and ‘made to order’ online child sexual abuse. The flagship report explores the benefits digital technology can offer the most disadvantaged children, including those growing up in poverty or affected by humanitarian emergencies. These include increasing their access to information, building skills for the digital workplace, and giving them a platform to connect and communicate their views.But the report also shows that millions of children are missing out, and face a ‘digital divide’ based on poverty, gender or other factors. Around one third of the world’s youth – 346 million – are not online, exacerbating inequities and reducing children’s ability to participate in an increasingly digital economy.The report also examines how the internet increases children’s vulnerability to risks and harms, including misuse of their private information, access to harmful content, and cyberbullying. The ubiquitous presence of mobile devices, the report notes, has made online access for many children less supervised – and potentially more dangerous. A report released today by the UN children’s agency UNICEF revealed a ‘digital divide’ in Sri Lanka.Drawing on data from the soon to be released first-ever Sri Lankan national study into the online usage of 11 to 18-year old’s, today’s report highlights a ‘digital divide’ that sees girls in Sri Lanka account for only a third of the adolescents using computers and mobile phones to go online. “In a digital world, our dual challenge is how to mitigate the harms while maximizing the benefits of the internet for every child” said UNICEF Sri Lanka Representative Tim Sutton, adding “It is simply not good enough that many young people – especially girls – are missing out on the real benefits of the internet in Sri Lanka. For this country to achieve its ambitious economic and societal goals, we must provide equal opportunities for success to our next generation. This must include equal access to information to enable young people to build their skills for the digital workplace. Critically, however children need a safe and secure online platform to connect and communicate their views” Despite children’s massive online presence – 1 in 3 internet users worldwide is a child – too little is done to protect them from the perils of the digital world and to increase their access to safe online content, UNICEF said in its annual flagship report released today.The State of the World’s Children 2017: Children in a digital world presents UNICEF’s first comprehensive look at the different ways digital technology is affecting children’s lives and life chances, identifying dangers as well as opportunities. It argues that governments and the private sector have not kept up with the pace of change, exposing children to new risks and harms and leaving millions of the most disadvantaged children behind. The report presents current data and analysis about children’s online usage and the impact of digital technology on children’s wellbeing, exploring growing debates about digital “addiction” and the possible effect of screen time on brain development. (Colombo Gazette) read more

Sri Lanka Red Cross staff urged not to take sides

Sri Lanka Red Cross staff have been urged not to take sides in the ongoing political issue in the country.President of Sri Lanka Red Cross Society Jagath Abeysinghe has said that he has informed all Sri Lanka Red Cross volunteers and staff to respect the fundamental principles of the Red Cross, specially “impartiality” and refrain from engaging in any political activity. “Considering the current political climate, I have informed all our volunteers & staff to respect the fundamental principles of the Red Cross, specially “impartiality” and refrain from engaging in any political activity. This is a point of paramount importance,” he tweeted. (Colombo Gazette)

SriLankan Airlines puts flight marshals on planes

Despite increased security measures, a drop in visitor numbers to the island nation following the attacks would be inevitable, the airline chief added. “Business, if you look at it in terms of the passenger numbers and the forward bookings, we have seen about a 10 percent decline,” said Gunatilleka. “Of course, we see cancellations coming from the European destinations, but our other markets like India and the Middle East have been holding on.” SriLankan Airlines is considering having air marshals on board some flights following the Easter Sunday attacks.Vipula Gunatilleka, the CEO of Sri Lankan Airlines, told Euronews that whilst the national air force had taken charge of ground security, the state-owned carrier was looking to bring air marshals on board some flights. The CEO added that despite the current situation, day-to-day operations at the company couldn’t be ignored, emphasizing that the strategy to turn the loss-making airline into a profitable one was still in place.“In the turnaround plan that we submitted to the government, we were expecting to reach a breakeven situation in three years time,” he said. “They have been looking for a private investor, but that will get delayed I believe, with the current situation. The biggest problem is that 45 percent of our losses are due to interest financing costs.” (Colombo Gazette) read more