UN envoy in Greece to discuss former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia name

Matthew Nimetz, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for the talks, met with Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis today to hear the latest views of the Greek Government.Mr. Nimetz also conveyed the views of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on the name issue after having just held two days of talks in Skopje, as well as his own amended proposals for resolving the issue.He said Greece agreed to study the proposals and to respond soon with their comments.Mr. Nimetz, who also met with opposition leader George Papandreou while in Athens, said he is keeping in touch with UN Member States that are interested in the name issue, as well as the European Union.The Interim Accord of 13 September 1995, which was brokered by the UN, details the difference between the two countries on the issue. It also obliges the two sides to continue negotiations under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General to try to reach agreement. 8 July 2009The United Nations envoy tasked with mediating talks between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the dispute over the latter’s name is in Athens for talks with Greek representatives. read more

UNICEF official draws attention to plight of children in northern Yemen

Children in northern Yemen have little to celebrate on the eve of the Muslim holiday of Eid Al Adha, a senior official with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has stated, drawing attention to the plight of the youngest victims of the ongoing conflict between Government forces and rebels. “They are living in difficult conditions, away from their homes and schools despite significant humanitarian relief efforts,” said Sigrid Kaag, UNICEF’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.“We continue to urge all parties to respect their obligations under humanitarian law and make protection of children a priority,” she added.Ms. Kaag just wrapped up a three-day mission to Yemen, where an estimated 175,000 people have been affected by conflict since 2004, including those displaced by the latest surge in fighting between the Government and Al Houthi rebels.According to UNICEF, the current crisis only worsens an already difficult situation for children and women in Yemen, where mortality among children under five is high at 69 per 1,000 live births. In addition, some 46 per cent of under-five children are underweight and 58 per cent suffer from stunting. Also, one in every 39 women runs the risk of dying during pregnancy or child birth.During her mission, she visited the Al Mazrak camp, which currently houses around 10,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), and met with mothers and children who have had to flee their homes and saw first-hand how the fighting has impacted their lives. Ms. Kaag also visited Hajjah governorate, where some 40,000 IDPs have settled, to take assess the humanitarian response, and also participated in the opening of a second camp in the area to host mainly evacuees from Saada governorate.In addition, she met with senior Yemeni officials to discuss ways to boost humanitarian assitance to those in need. In those meetings, she reiterated the call of UN agencies for immediate and unhindered access to the populations affected by the fighting, and for the creation of humanitarian corridors to provide urgent aid. 26 November 2009Children in northern Yemen have little to celebrate on the eve of the Muslim holiday of Eid Al Adha, a senior official with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has stated, drawing attention to the plight of the youngest victims of the ongoing conflict between Government forces and rebels. read more

Ban calls for extension of UN disengagement force on IsraeliSyrian front

“The situation in the Israel-Syria sector has remained generally quiet,” he says in his latest report to the Security Council on the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) established in May 1974 following the agreed disengagement of Israeli and Syrian forces after the 1973 war.“Nevertheless, the situation in the Middle East is tense and is likely to remain so, unless and until a comprehensive settlement covering all aspects of the Middle East problem can be reached… Under the prevailing circumstances, I consider the continued presence of UNDOF in the area to be essential,” he adds, calling on the Council to extend its mandate, most recently renewed in June, until 30 June 2010.He notes that both Syria and Israel have agreed to the proposed extension and warns that the $45 million in funding for the 1,040-strong force approved by the General Assembly for the period from 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010 faces a shortfall of $19.9 million as of 30 September. “The outstanding contributions impede the ability of the Secretariat to support the operations of the Force and to reimburse Member States contributing troops to the Force,” he writes.Mr. Ban calls on Israel and Syria to resume the indirect peace talks, initiated under the auspices of Turkey, aimed at a comprehensive peace, noting that during the reporting period of the last six months, as in the past, both sides denied inspection teams access to some of their positions and imposed restrictions on the Force’s freedom of movement.“Both sides continued to construct new and renovate existing defensive positions in the respective areas of limitation,” he adds, also warning of an increased threat to UNDOF personnel and local inhabitants in the area from long-planted mines with deteriorating detonation systems. 1 December 2009Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling for a six-month extension for the 35-year-old United Nations mission observing the ceasefire between Israel and Syria on the Golan Heights, terming its presence “essential” due to overlying regional tensions despite calm on that particular front. read more

Somalia top UN envoy calls for national unity on anniversary of countrys

15 May 2010One week before a major international conference on the future of Somalia, the top United Nations envoy to the Horn of Africa country today called for a show of unity on the 67th anniversary of the creation of the Somali Youth League, the political party which united the country and played a role in its fight for independence from colonization. One week before a major international conference on the future of Somalia, the top United Nations envoy to the Horn of Africa country today urged unity on the 67th anniversary of the creation of the Somali Youth League, the political party which united the country and played a role in its fight for independence from colonization. “On this very day 67 years ago, a group of Somali patriots got together without concerns for regional or tribal affiliations and forged together their determination for the liberty and dignity of their country,” said Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the Secretary-General”s Special Representative. “On this historical day, on behalf of the United Nations Secretary-General, I would like to salute the memory of these patriots.”The Somali Youth League formed in 1943 and succeeded in uniting the country”s ruling clans to overthrow British and Italian rule.The Somali Government collapsed in 1991, casting the country into chaos between clans, political factions, and armed groups. Fighting over the past few years between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which is supported by African Union peacekeepers (AMISOM) with logistical assistance from the United Nations, and Islamist rebels has led to some 1.4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), some 575,000 refugees and nearly 3 million people dependent on aid, out of a total population of nearly 8 million. “I would like also to call on the Somali elites in and outside the country to show unity in their vision and actions to reject blatant interference undermining their independence and dignity,” Mr. Ould-Abdallah added. The Special-Representative”s statement comes one week before a major international conference on political stability, security and reconstruction in Somalia. The gathering will be convened by the Turkish Government and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 22 May in Istanbul. read more

UN officials hail climate change deal reached at Cancún conference

11 December 2010The United Nations climate change talks in Cancún have concluded with a package of decisions to help countries advance towards a low-emissions future, delivering what the world body’s top officials have hailed as a victory in the battle against one of today’s biggest challenges. The outcome is an “important success for a world much in need of it,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement issued on Saturday, following the conclusion of the two-week meeting. “Governments came together in common cause, for the common good, and agreed on a way forward to meet the defining challenge of our time.” Dubbed the “Cancún Agreements,” the decisions include formalizing mitigation pledges and ensuring increased accountability for them, as well as taking concrete action to protect the world’s forests, which account for nearly one-fifth of global carbon emissions.Delegates meeting at the 16th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) also agreed to ensure no gap between the first and second commitment periods of the Kyoto Protocol, an addition to the Convention that contains legally binding measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and whose first commitment period is due to expire in 2012.Agreement was also reached on establishing a fund for long-term climate financing to support developing countries, and bolstering technology cooperation and enhancing vulnerable populations’ ability to adapt to the changing climate. “The outcomes in Cancun have given us important tools. Now we must use them, and strengthen our efforts in line with the scientific imperative for action,” stated Mr. Ban.Welcoming the agreements reached, UN climate change chief Christiana Figueres said nations have shown that they can work together to reach consensus on a common cause. “Cancún has done its job. The beacon of hope has been reignited and faith in the multilateral climate change process to deliver results has been restored,” said Ms. Figueres, who is the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC. “Governments have given a clear signal that they are headed towards a low-emissions future together, they have agreed to be accountable to each other for the actions they take to get there, and they have set it out in a way which encourages countries to be more ambitious over time.”The next Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC is scheduled to be held in South Africa from 28 November to 9 December 2011.Cancun read more

Human rights in Côte dIvoire deteriorating warns top UN official

10 March 2011A top United Nations official warned today that human rights violations, including rapes, abductions and killings, are escalating amid the ongoing post-electoral crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, with at least 27 people killed in just the past week.  According to investigations conducted by UN human rights officers in the country, at least 392 people have been killed in Côte d’Ivoire since mid-December amid the unrest resulting from Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to leave office after his UN-certified defeat by opposition leader Alassane Ouattara in last November’s presidential election. “Overall, the situation appears to be deteriorating alarmingly, with a sharp increase in inter-communal and inter-ethnic confrontations,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.“Human rights abuses, including rapes, abductions and killings, are being committed by people supporting both sides,” she added. In addition, families of high-profile individuals known to be politically active have been targeted, media groups seen as pro-Ouattara have been threatened, and the residences of members appointed to the Ouattara Government have been the targets of looting and ransacking. Ms. Pillay cited the killing last week of seven women by security forces supporting Mr. Gbagbo at a peaceful demonstration in Abobo in support of Mr. Ouattara, saying video footage of the slayings was shocking and could be used to prosecute the individuals responsible. Another four people were killed in clashes yesterday between the Forces de Défense et de Sécurité (FDS), loyal to Mr. Gbagbo, and the “Invisible Commando,” a previously unknown group which appears to be opposing pro-Gbagbo forces, after a peaceful demonstration to mourn and pay tribute to the seven women killed last week. The High Commissioner condemned the reported use of civilians as human shields by the Invisible Commando, which is said to be actively preventing civilians from leaving Abobo and other tense areas of the commercial capital, Abidjan. “I strongly urge all sides to respect the rights of civilians,” said Ms. Pillay. “Particularly worrying is the constant incitement to violence by influential leaders, most notably Blé Goude, who appear to be deliberately stimulating attacks against political opponents, other ethnic groups, nationals from other West African countries, as well as against the UN staff and operations working in Côte d’Ivoire.” Warning of a risk of a resurgence of the civil war that in 2002 split the country into a Government-held south and a rebel-controlled north, she urged all parties to show utmost restraint to prevent it, and to resolve their differences peacefully.Also today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon confirmed that the UN peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) will maintain its flight operations and take “all necessary measures” to protect its assets and fulfil its mandate, particularly with regards to protecting civilians.This came after the Ouattara Government issued a statement invalidating a declaration by the authorities supporting Mr. Gbagbo that banned UN and French peacekeeping aircraft from flying over or landing in Côte d’Ivoire.Mr. Ban deplored this latest attempt to disrupt UNOCI’s operations and warned all parties that any attempt to disrupt flights conducted by the impartial forces is “unacceptable,” his spokesperson said in a statement. The 9,000-strong UNOCI has been supporting the stabilization and reunification efforts in the country over the past seven years. The Security Council has rejected Mr. Gbagbo’s demands for a withdrawal of the mission, instead extending its mandate and authorizing the deployment of an additional 2,000 troops and three armed helicopters.The Secretary-General notes with satisfaction the statement issued by the Government of President Ouattara regarding as invalid a declaration by the authorities supporting Mr. Gbagbo, banning United Nations and Licorne flights inside Côte d’Ivoire. He deplores this latest attempt to disrupt the operations of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and warns all parties that any attempt to disrupt flights conducted by the impartial forces is unacceptable. The Secretary-General confirms that UNOCI will maintain its flight operations and take all necessary measures, as directed by unanimous Security Council resolutions, to protect its assets and fulfil its mandate, particularly with regards to protection of civilians.Cote read more

UN agencies resolve to improve wellbeing of drylands communities

Deserts, grasslands, savannahs and other drylands cover an estimated 40 per cent of the world’s land area and support around 2 billion people, 90 per cent of whom live in developing countries. Some 10 per cent of the world’s dryland ecosystems are already degraded due to factors such as unsustainable land and water use, jeopardizing the well-being of millions of people.A new UN report launched today, entitled “Global Drylands: A UN system-wide response,” sets out a common vision and agenda for action across the Organization on drylands management.A central element of the common agenda is the need to address the underlying causes of land degradation and create enabling conditions for the sustainable development of drylands, according to a news release issued by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).“Drylands have all too often been the poor relations in respect to more high profile ecosystems such as forests and coral reefs,” noted UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, who is also chair of the UN’s Environment Management Group (EMG).“Yet as this report underlines, they play a critical role in the Earth’s planetary systems and support the lives and livelihoods of around two billion people.”The report was prepared by 18 UN agencies through the EMG and presented today at the meeting of States parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) being held in Changwon, Republic of Korea.It calls for increased investment in drylands, strengthened links between science and policy, and diversified livelihoods for communities to relieve pressure on natural resources to realize the potential of drylands.The report also states that the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) cannot be achieved without addressing the needs of drylands communities.Among its key findings is that human well-being in relation to health, food security, nutrition and security is at risk from dryland degradation which costs developing countries an estimated 4-8 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) each year.The drylands of Africa and Asia pose special challenges, according to the report. Climatic fluctuations may be most pronounced in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, resulting in the poorest regions with the highest levels of chronic undernourishment being exposed to the greatest degree of instability.The report also states that dryland biodiversity provides important ecosystem services that benefit local communities. For example, dryland forests and woodlands provide shade and moisture, are home to pollinators, protect nutrients and help reduce erosion and flooding. Drylands have also contributed to ecosystem services including pharmaceuticals and raw materials.The overriding imperative for investing in drylands must be poverty reduction, says the report, which adds that the UN system is uniquely positioned to promote increased investments and there is great potential for mobilising partnerships. 20 October 2011United Nations agencies have agreed to step up their efforts to protect and revitalize drylands, and help improve the social and economic well-being of the communities that rely on these ecosystems. read more

Solutions for global challenges can only be achieved through solidarity – UN

“Solidarity must be the foundation for global solutions,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message marking International Human Solidarity Day, observed annually on 20 December. “In a world of common challenges, no nation can succeed on its own, but by working together in common cause, we can build a safer, more prosperous future for all.”In his message, Mr. Ban recalled calling on world leaders at the General Assembly debate in September to pay greater attention to five imperatives: achieving sustainable development, preventing conflict, stopping human rights abuses, mitigating the impact of natural disasters, and engaging the talents of women and young people. Without solidarity, Mr. Ban stressed, none of these can be achieved.“This will not happen by itself. Nor will it happen with business as usual. Our times demand something different. We need big thinking, bold action and efforts to connect the dots among global challenges,” he said.General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser echoed Mr. Ban’s remarks, highlighting that the current economic crisis, a constantly changing political sphere, and extreme weather conditions all threaten to slow down development if they are not tackled in a concerted manner by States.“Common challenges require common responses. It is my wholehearted belief that solidarity, cooperation, and partnership between Member States, the UN system and civil society are the cornerstone of efforts to move forward,” Mr. Al-Nasser said.Mr. Al-Nasser also emphasized the importance of solidarity between developed and developing countries and said the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil in June will be “a distinct opportunity to reinvigorate the international community’s commitment to achieving its sustainable development goals, as well as reaching global consensus on the eradication of poverty and global inequality. It is our chance to ensure that the benefits of sustainable development are extended to people of all countries.”Virginia Dandan, the UN expert on Human Rights and International Solidarity, said solidarity should be seen not as mere rhetoric or act of charity, but as an effective way to respond to threats, drawing strength from partners and expressing a common humanity.“Solidarity should, and must be a positive force in the lives of people and of nations, and must therefore be protected from exploitation and corruption,” she said, adding that world leaders should see it as a key factor for progress.“Our common future is at risk and our common present is under grave threat and yet, world leaders continue the illusion that the crowds and their loud clamour for justice and fair distribution of resources, will eventually tire and go away in due time,” she said. “Their shortsightedness comes with the inability to see the chain that links together climate change, food crises, water scarcity, energy shortages, population pressure and displacement. These global challenges require multilateral global responses.” 20 December 2011Top United Nations officials stressed today that solutions to current world challenges can only be achieved if countries practice solidarity among themselves, calling on States to establish partnerships and dialogue to make progress on issues such as climate change, poverty and conflict prevention. read more

RIM could face shareholder backlash over dismal year at annual meeting

TORONTO — Shareholders of Research In Motion, perhaps some of the most staunch supporters of the BlackBerry smartphone, are expected to take a far more critical view of the embattled company at its annual meeting on Tuesday.The meeting in RIM’s hometown of Waterloo, Ont., will be the first time many of them will meet new chief executive Thorsten Heins and the numerous other executives who have come aboard in recent months.It will also be a prime chance for them to grill Heins about the state of the company awash in technical delays, financial underperformance and an eroding stock price.“This is the one time when shareholders can actually get their voice heard,” said Sameet Kanade, a technology analyst at Northern Securities.“I’d be surprised if there weren’t any backlash.”Much has changed since former co-CEO Jim Balsillie stood before RIM’s stakeholders last July and assured them that RIM’s deteriorating stock price — which had just fallen below $30 a share — was merely in a temporary dip. It has since fallen to well below $10 per share.Last year, Balsillie offered up a series of assurances and timelines that have fallen by the wayside. He told the audience that RIM’s foundation was strong and it was on the verge of its biggest product launch in the company’s history — one that would help it meet its financial guidance for the year.As history has it, RIM didn’t launch those products, and still hasn’t. The BlackBerry 10 operating system and its new line of smartphones have proven to be the biggest hurdle the company has ever faced, with delays pushing the release date until early next year.[np-related]The company’s share of the U.S. smartphone market has also eroded to around 10%.Earlier this year, Balsillie left the company, while co-CEO Mike Lazaridis has also stepped aside and taken a lesser position on the company’s board.RIM’s new leadership has been hurriedly trying to rescue the company’s reputation in hopes that consumers will consider buying another BlackBerry instead of the array of alternatives on the market, such as Apple’s iPhone and a flurry of devices operating on the Android system.The company is also in the midst of an international tour intended to convince application developers to make their software available on the new BB10 system, while CEO Heins has made a few media appearances to answer questions from customers.The annual meeting will be a rare opportunity to connect directly with investors, said Carmi Levy, an independent technology analyst based in London, Ont.“From that perspective it is an important event, especially given the turmoil that the company has incurred over the past year,” he said.However, the meeting is unlikely to result in major changes for RIM, especially since any efforts from shareholders to push for a takeover or other significant changes must be submitted ahead of time.What shareholders should expect, however, is some sort of road map for the next six to eight months as RIM tries to survive through the key smartphone selling period that runs from back-to-school season to the start of holiday shopping.“What people are going to be looking for, at least from the investors, is a short-term and a long-term strategic plan that is credible and that they can achieve,” said Zeus Kerravala, a telecom equipment analyst at ZK Research in Boston.“What I’d be asking for is, give me some indicators to look for in the next few quarters that they’re moving in the right direction.” read more

Closing Bell TSX closes up BlackBerry plunges as Fairfax revises investment proposal

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market registered a minor gain Monday amid a huge plunge in BlackBerry (TSX:BB) shares after its largest shareholder said it won’t be taking the tech company private.Here are the closing numbersTSX — 13,361.73 +24.27 0.18%S&P 500 — 1,767.93 +6.29 0.36%Dow — 15,639.12 +23.57 0.15%Nasdaq — 3,936.59 +14.55 0.37%The S&P/TSX composite index rose 24.27 points to 13,361.73 led by gains in beaten-down mining stocks.U.S. indexes also racked up small gains as traders hoped that a heavy slate of economic data coming out this week will offer some clues about when the Federal Reserve will start to wind up stimulus that has supported a strong rally on stock markets.BlackBerry shares tumbled $1.34 or 16.56% to $6.75, its lowest level in a decade, after Fairfax Financial (TSX:FFH) said it will lead a group that will inject US$1 billion into the smartphone company. BlackBerry will stay as a public company. “The fact that the share price is so depressed is really, again, a reflection of the fact there is very little confidence at this point in the story from the market in terms of BlackBerry’s ability to really turn things around in short order,” said Craig Fehr, a Canadian markets specialist at Edward Jones in St. Louis.“It’s going to be more of a show-me story. BlackBerry is going to have to prove that their new strategy is viable.”Fairfax had announced in late September that it would lead a consortium to pay US$9 per share for BlackBerry, a proposed deal that was subject to many conditions.Under this new arrangement, Thorsten Heins will be replaced as BlackBerry CEO on an interim basis by John Chen, who will also be the chairman of the BlackBerry board.The Canadian dollar rose 0.09 of a cent to 95.99 cents US.New York’s Dow Jones industrials climbed 23.57 points to 15,639.12, the Nasdaq was up 14.55 points to 3,936.59 and the S&P 500 index added 6.29 points to 1,767.93.The most important data of the week comes out Friday — October employment data for Canada and the U.S.Economists looked for Canadian job creation to come in at a modest 10,000 with an uptick in the jobless rate from 6.9% to 7%.In the U.S., job creation is expected to come in at only 125,000 for October while the unemployment rate is forecast to rise 0.1 of a point to 7.3%. Analysts say the numbers will be affected by the partial U.S. government shutdown of last month since the data would include private sector workers who were laid off.“Without question, the headline number itself will be less critical because it is going to be distorted by the government shutdown to some degree,” added Fehr.“But I think the broader trend is what the market is going to latch onto.”On Thursday, the U.S. government will release the first look at third quarter economic growth. Gross domestic product was expected to rise by an annualized rate of 1.9%, down from 2.5% in the second quarter, partly because of the uncertainty caused by brinkmanship in Washington over extending the government’s borrowing limit.On Tuesday, the Institute for Supply Management releases its latest snapshot of the American service sector, which is expected to show slightly slower expansion. The ISM index is expected to come in at 54, down from 54.4 in September.The communique from last week’s meeting of the Federal Reserve left the impression that the central bank could decide to start winding up its $85 billion in monthly asset purchases as soon as December.Gold stocks led TSX gainers as December bullion moved ahead $1.50 to US$1,314.70 an ounce. The gold index was up just over 3% as Kinross Gold (TSX:K) moved up 24 cents to C$5.24 while Goldcorp (TSX:G) improved by 75 cents to $26.09.The base metals sector also provided major support, ahead 1.17% while December copper lost five cents to US$3.25 a pound. Lundin Mining (TSX:LUN) rose 17 cents to C$4.78 and Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) was up 37 cents to $28.57.BlackBerry pushed the TSX tech sector down 2.3%. But elsewhere in the sector, Celestica (TSX:CLS) rose 26 cents to $11.52.December crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained a penny to US$94.62 a barrel and the energy sector was slightly lower.Meanwhile, investors will take in plenty of earnings reports this week including WestJet (TSX:WJA) on Tuesday, pipeline company Enbridge (TSX:ENB) and auto parts giant Magna International (TSX:MGA) on Wednesday. Thursday is the heaviest day for earnings as traders will hear from Tim Hortons (TSX:THI), BCE (TSX:BCE), Canadian Tire (TSX:CTC.A), Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) and insurance giants Sun Life Financial (TSX:SLF), Manulife Financial (TSX:MFC) and Great West Lifeco (TSX:GWO). TOP STORIES‘I’ve seen this movie before’: BlackBerry’s interim chief no stranger to turnaroundsBlackBerry shares will plunge to US$3, analyst says as sale plans cancelledSAC Capital to plead guilty in insider trading case, pay US$1.8-billionVancouver home sales climbing, prices stalledWHAT’S ON DECK TUESDAYECONOMIC NEWSUNITED STATES10 a.m.Non-manufacturing ISM index (Oct): Economists are expecting a reading of 54, about the same as last month CORPORATE NEWSUNITED STATESDelphi Automotive PLC Q3 earnings: Analysts expect 94¢ a share FirstEnergy Q3 earnings: Analysts expect 92¢ Twenty-First Century Fox Inc Q1 earnings: Analysts expect 35¢ IntercontinentalExchange, Inc. Q3 earnings: Analysts expect US$1.82 The Mosaic Company Q3 earnings: Analysts expect 56¢ Sempra Energy Q3 earnings: Analysts expect US$1.24 CANADAAgrium Incorporated Q3 earnings: Analysts expect 56¢ a share Allied Nevada Gold Corp Q3 earnings: Analysts expect 5¢ Cineplex Inc Q3 earnings: Analysts expect 49¢ Enbridge Income Fund Q3 earnings: Analysts expect 38¢ Endeavour Silver Corp Q3 earnings: Analysts expect 1¢ Fortuna Silver Mines Inc Q3 earnings: Analysts expect 2¢ Franco-nevada Corp Q3 earnings: Analysts expect 20¢ Iamgold Corporation Q3 earnings: Analysts expect 5¢ Indigo Books & Music Inc Q3 earnings: Analysts expect a loss of 18¢ Ritchie Bros Auctioneers Inc Q3 earnings: Analysts expect 10¢ Transcanada Corp Q3 earnings: Analysts expect 58¢ Westjet Airlines Ltd Q3 earnings: Analysts expect 47¢ read more

As US shocks with NAFTA demands other countries asking What does Trump

ARLINGTON, United States — The chief U.S. negotiator shrugged his shoulders when asked about signs of trouble in the NAFTA talks on Sunday. John Melle pulled open a door, entered a work room, and offered a one-word reply about how it’s going.“Fabulous,” he said.Upon leaving those rooms, people are saying the exact opposite. The No. 1 discussion topic at this current round is whether Melle’s team is being ordered to sabotage the talks, so President Donald Trump can declare NAFTA has failed.That’s because the U.S. team has unfurled a half-dozen bombshells so far beyond the realm of what’s palatable to the other parties that it’s all but exploded earlier hopes of a quick, easy negotiation.The other countries are scrutinizing the body language of U.S. negotiators as they present ideas like a sunset clause that could end NAFTA after five years; ask to gut the deal’s enforcement mechanisms; and pursue non-starter ideas on dairy, textiles, automobiles and Buy American rules.Some of these American negotiators built the very agreement they’re now proposing to strip down. Melle has even praised NAFTA’s successes. One non-U.S. official described the body language of American negotiators as: “Kind of sheepish. They say, ‘We don’t have any flexibility on this.”‘Another used an analogy: “The (U.S.) negotiators are like lawyers who hate their clients.”Everyone is now watching Donald Trump.The president has repeatedly stated his desire to invoke NAFTA’s termination clause, allowing him to cancel the deal on six months’ notice, in order to scare other countries into making concessions.It would fit a tactic Trump has been accused of: Break now, fix later.Critics have said Trump used this strategy on health care, undocumented young migrants, and the Iran nuclear deal — breaking an existing policy, then ordering others to put together a replacement, in a hurry, before a deadline hits, and chaos ensues.Could he try it on NAFTA?A front-page New York Times article on Sunday on Trump’s approach concludes with an analyst comparing Iran and NAFTA.Iran’s foreign minister sees parallels himself.Javad Zarif linked the NAFTA scrap to the one involving his country in an interview that aired Sunday: “This administration is withdrawing from everything. Somebody called it the, ‘Withdrawal Doctrine,’ for this administration. It’s withdrawing from NAFTA. It’s withdrawing from Trans Pacific Partnership. It’s withdrawing from UNESCO,” Zarif said in a CBS interview.“So people cannot trust anymore the word of the United States. You see, in order to bring United States on board for many of these international agreements, a lot of people make a lot of concessions. Now nobody is going to make any concessions to the United States because they know that the next U.S. president will come back and say, ‘It wasn’t enough.”‘The Canadian and Mexican governments intend to sit through the storm.They say there are no plans to walk out, or make aggressive counter-demands, like pushing their own non-starters — such as free trade in softwood lumber. They say they’re better off working patiently.Officials do profess to being perplexed about Trump’s goal.Several Canadians said it’s unclear: Is Trump trying to get other countries to leave the table, declare talks have failed, and invoke NAFTA’s six-month termination clause? Or is this just overly dramatic early bargaining — a la, “Art of the Deal”?But one thing is increasingly clear, they say: hopes are fading for a quick deal by Christmas.“Do we want a deal? Yes. Do we want a quick deal? Yes,” one official said. “But are we gonna take any deal just to wrap up quickly? Obviously not. If it takes more time, it takes more time.”The initial rush for an agreement was prompted by the political calendar, as some worried that if a deal wasn’t completed by the time national election campaigns start in Mexico and the U.S. next year, it won’t happen before 2019.And that would mean an extra year of uncertainty watching Trump — scrutinizing whether he’s readying to pull the plug on NAFTA.That lingering uncertainty over NAFTA, coupled with homeowners’ concerns about possible interest hikes, are acting as drags on an otherwise strong economy, the Bank of Canada governor said last weekend.“These are sources of angst,” Stephen Poloz told reporters.He said it’s hard to predict the economic impact of a NAFTA termination. He said the bank’s own models rely on research from people like Dan Ciuriak, who assesses the impact of different tariffs on business decision-making.Ciuriak used to run the computer-modelling unit at Canada’s foreign-affairs ministry. Now a private consultant, he happens to be working on such a study about what would happen under different scenarios — ranging from the end of NAFTA, to the end of all trade deals with the U.S.He’s still crunching the numbers, and won’t publish for another couple of weeks.But his early estimate is that ending free trade would slice 2.5 per cent from the Canadian economy. He says the initial shock might be more severe.“That’s the ballpark,” said Ciuriak, who will publish his study with the C.D. Howe Institute.“That actual pathway to that (eventual) figure may be worse.” read more

CMHC reports annual pace of housing starts slowed in December to 216980

OTTAWA — Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says the annual pace of housing starts slowed in December.The national housing agency says the seasonally adjusted annual rate for the last month of 2017 came in at 216,980 units, down from 251,675 units in November.The decline came as the annual pace of urban starts fell 15.1 per cent in December to 198,132 units.‘It’s on fire’: Montreal home sales growth soars past Toronto, Vancouver for first time in 20 yearsToronto’s housing market could be in deep freeze for longer than we thinkThe pace of multi-unit urban starts slowed 22 per cent to 135,176, while the rate of single-detached urban starts increased by 4.7 per cent to 62,956 units.Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 18,848 units.The six-month moving average for December was 226,777 compared with 226,178 in November. read more

Mahasen may affect Sri Lanka

The system could intensify by two more levels to become a very severe cyclonic storm, according to latest available forecasts. The low-pressure area over Southeast Bay of Bengal has undergone intensification twice last night to become a deep depression, just a spin away from being a tropical cyclone, the Hindu newspaper reported today.When declared one, it would be named ‘Mahasen’ (contributed by Sri Lanka) as per World Meteorology Organisation protocol. The deep depression lay 360 km southwest of Car Nicobar, 1,110 km east-southeast of Trincomalee (Sri Lanka); 1,400 km southeast of Chennai; and 1,750 km south of Chittagong (Bangladesh) this morning. This is expected to happen by Tuesday, as per forecasts.The very severe cyclone is the farthest it can grow before being declared a class-topping ‘Category-5’ storm, or a super cyclone. But intensification to this level is not currently being forecast. According to a US Navy projection, the storm could move close in towards Andhra Pradesh-Odisha coasts, before re-curving on its path and heading into Myanmar-Bangladesh coast.The landfall is expected to take as late as Wednesday, allowing the storm enough staying power in the hot Bay of Bengal waters, helping it to fuel itself and gain in strength. read more

UN probes disappearances

The Group was established in 1980 by the UN Commission on Human Rights – the predecessor to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council – to assist families in determining the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives. It seeks to establish a channel of communication between the families and the Governments concerned to ensure cases are investigated. The cases under review concerned Albania, Algeria, Bahrain, Belarus, the Central African Republic (CAR), Colombia, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), El Salvador, Honduras, Kuwait, Laos, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Yemen. In a news release issued at the close of latest session, the experts urged that efforts be strengthened to ensure prompt identification and qualification of cases of enforced disappearances, which is essential to hold perpetrators of this crime accountable.“One by one, the disappeared will be reclaimed. The Working Group is the guarantor of this need and the keeper of this promise,” its Chair-Rapporteur, Olivier de Frouville of France, said. A panel of independent United Nations experts have begun investigating new or existing cases of disappearances in Sri Lanka and several other countries.The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances met in New York to review under their urgent action procedure, 17 reported cases of enforced disappearances that have occurred in the last six months, as well as more than 400 newly reported or existing cases in more than 25 countries including Sri Lanka, a UN statement said. He also noted that enforced disappearance is not an accident, but rather a “premeditated crime” that warrants punishment. (Colombo Gazette) read more

FSP leader Kumar Gunaratnam granted Sri Lankan citizenship

Gunaratnam, an Australian citizen, was last year sentenced to one year in jail for violating local immigration laws.He was later freed and he sought Sri Lankan citizenship. (Colombo Gazette) Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) leader Kumar Gunaratnam has been granted Sri Lankan citizenship.

Please Hold for Next Available Bot

Vonage to ‘Turbocharge’ AI Efforts Beth Schultz August 13, 2019 Acquisition of conversational AI platform Over.ai gives the company much-needed talent for deepening expertise in AI and machine learning. The bot debates are on, and it’s déjà vu all over again. I remember the earlier version of the bot debates with voicemail and the IVR. Before voicemail, if someone wasn’t available to answer their phone, a cheerful receptionist would, and likely jot down a message on one of those pink ”While You Were Out” pads. When voicemail systems gained popularity in the ‘80s, they largely replaced live-answer receptionists.There was debate back then about machines vs. humans, and whether it was cold to answer the phone with an automated voicemail greeting. To some degree the debate continues today, but voicemail became predominant — not just because it was cheaper, but because it effectively eliminated the middleman. Voicemail made it possible to leave a direct, private, complicated, contextual, and even emotional message. Instead of “call me back,” entire conversations could become asynchronous. (Remember, voicemail was before email and text messaging became popular.)A similar debate occurred with interactive voice response (IVR) systems. IVRs saved time and money by providing answers to common questions such as those regarding business hours or driving directions. They became more powerful with CTI and could respond to questions such as asking for the current balance on an account. Universities implemented touch-tone registration systems for students. The IVR was an impersonal bot, but that had advantages on certain types of inquiries such as setting a password or PIN code; it seemed odd to tell these things to an agent.Now these debates are resurfacing with revised chatbot technology. A chatbot is similar to an IVR in function, but new AI technologies make them less programmatic. Clearly, they offer a number of benefits to customers and businesses, including faster and cheaper self-service, improved privacy, and 24-hour availability. Many demographics prefer self-service options but adding chatbots in the name of customer service is a murky proposition.Though there’s no shortage of recent chatbot announcements, I’d like to explore this with three specific, recent announcements from T-Mobile, Moxy, and Google.T-Mobile: In August, T-Mobile announced Team of Experts as a key differentiator in its un-carrier journey. When its customers (all customers, not just the best customers) call or message for service, they will be directed to a skilled team of highly motivated people. T-Mobile pledged the end of robots and phone menus, to reduce call center run-around (internal transfers), and made these experts available 24 hours per day. Two months later, the results are impressive. Its Net Promoter Score increased to an all-time high, up 60%. Use of T-Mobile’s messaging service for customer care increased 34%. Internally, agent turnover dropped 48%.Those are impressive gains, but there are likely situations even at T-Mobile where a chatbot makes sense. It’s unfortunate that it had to vilify the chatbot technology to make its point. T-Mobile improved its customer service scores in a sector known for the worst customer service. The innovation was live answer by competent agents. The real question now is what’s next, and what’s the next innovation for sectors that already have these practices in place? Moxy is the code-name for a new U.S. airline from David Neeleman, the founder of JetBlue. Neeleman describes Moxy as a “technology company that happens to fly airplanes.” His plan is to create a new airline that competes on both air travel and customer service.As a founder of four successful airlines, Neeleman can’t be dismissed. He intends to deliver flights that are twice as fast for half the cost. Three key points to his plan are new fuel efficient planes, routes to/from second tier airports, and an app that empowers customers and lowers costs. An app-powered airline may sound dubious, but the idea of running a global taxi company without dispatchers may have sounded equally absurd only a decade ago.Moxy won’t have customer service, at least not in the traditional sense. The Moxy app is being designed so that customers will never have to talk to the airline. The app is modeled after companies such as Amazon and Uber, for which live customer interactions are the exception rather than the rule. It will allow customers to do most things on their own, including changing or cancelling flights.Live agents will exist, but they are not intended to be part of the normal workflow. The real innovation here is more flexible and powerful processes. Most interactions with airlines are self-inflicted by the airline. Moxy, for example, will proactively reschedule customers as a result of cancellations. Customers can accept the new schedule within the app without ever speaking to anyone. Clearly, Neeleman intends to rethink the workflow, and that likely means lots of AI and, yes, chatbots.Google: This month Google started shipping its Pixel 3 smartphone with a new call screening feature. When a call comes in, a “Screen Call” button is presented alongside the familiar answer and reject options. Screen Call causes a Google chatbot to answer and collect information about the purpose of the call. As the caller speaks their responses, they are presented to the receiver as a live transcript on the smartphone’s display. The receiver of the call can interact with the chatbot via on-screen buttons such as “ask for more information” and “is it urgent?” At any time the call can be accepted, rejected, or marked as spam. Google claims that screening calls this way is fast, private, and uses less battery.It’s a very clever use case that makes the chatbot available to consumers. It’s a logical addition for all smartphones and UC mobile clients. Although there are situations where it will be used with friends and family (is it urgent?), it will more likely be used to screen unfamiliar numbers. In other words, the Google screening chatbot will primarily interact with robocallers — let them chat about cake.This is a fighting-fire-with-fire approach to managing robocalls, which are becoming pervasive. The next salvo will be the personal assistant bot that makes outgoing calls. Google demonstrated its Duplex technology earlier this year at Google I/O 2018. It’s a chatbot that performs common tasks, such as setting an appointment, by making calls. Duplex will begin rolling out next month to Pixel 3 owners on a city-by-city basis.The Chatbots are ComingLike it or not, the chatbots are coming. They are a key component of just about every major contact center vendor/provider’s roadmap and strategy. T-Mobile and Moxy are both leveraging the use (or non-use) of chatbots as a form of competitive advantage in completely opposite ways. Chatbots will be used to reduce costs and improve customer service, and in some cases accomplish both at the same time.Though companies like T-Mobile are swatting automation, these technologies have a role to play. The maligned IVR enables valuable self-service, despite its ridicule. The design goals of improving customer experiences and reducing costs don’t have to be in conflict.The issues of appropriate use of automated technologies are not limited to enterprise communications. The medical industry, for example, struggles with if and how AI-powered solutions for diagnosis should address bedside manner. These are complex issues, in part, because what’s deemed appropriate use of technology varies by age and generation.The effectiveness and acceptance of bots may boil down to implementation. And, there’s no shortage of opportunity to do it right. Last July, Google announced Contact Center AI, and nine launch partners committed to upcoming integrated solutions (see “Google Embraces the Contact Center”). This month, Twilio launched its Autopilot chatbot service, aimed directly at business customers and offer a higher degree of programmability.Two key success factors for chatbots are the workflow and the training. The more well defined the workflow, the more effective a bot can be. Many people prefer bots (and automation) in well-defined workflows such as placing/changing an order or scheduling an appointment. The training process is the Achilles’ heel for most implementations and will likely be the biggest differentiator among offers and implementations.With Google arming the masses with chatbot technology, there’s going to be a whole lot of non-human conversation occurring. Today, we integrate disparate systems largely via APIs. This approach isn’t scalable, however, as it isn’t reasonable to integrate every system with every other system. Instead, chatbots will allow us to use voice as a universal API of sorts — just like humans do. Bots will likely do better talking to bots than humans as bot vocabulary and accents are more predictable.Google agreed to make clear that its Duplex technology is robotic so as to not trick humans into thinking that it’s real, but it seems more likely that Duplex will be interacting mostly with other bots. We are moving to a time where every person and every business will have a bot.Dave Michels is a Contributing Editor and analyst at TalkingPointz.Tags:News & ViewschatbotIVRvoicemailGoogleMoxyT-MobileAI & Speech TechnologiesContact Center & Customer Experience Articles You Might Like Speech Applications Are Vulnerable, Too Gary Audin October 04, 2019 Are you really in control of your voice-enabled devices and applications? Let Your Bots Do the Talking Andrew Prokop August 22, 2019 AudioCode’s Voice.AI Gateway lets enterprises voice-enable bots and call them from any telephone, UC system, or WebRTC endpoint. Cisco to ‘Tuck In’ Voice AI from Voicea Zeus Kerravala August 07, 2019 The acquisition will help advance the company’s cognitive collaboration strategy for Webex. chatbot_500.png No Jitter Roll: Five for Friday Ryan Daily August 30, 2019 A look at the latest news coming from Google, Oblong, Expereo, Nureva, and Verint. See All in AI & Speech Technologies » read more

Canadian soldier becomes first woman to Captain The Queens Guard

A 24-year-old Canadian soldier has made history as the first woman to lead the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London.Captain Megan Couto, who serves in the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, led her unit as it changed Queen Elizabeth II’s guards on Monday.Couto marked her first trip to London with the historic event.The role of Mounting The Queen’s Guard is usually tasked to the British Army’s Household Division which is comprised mostly men. Women has participated in the ceremony in the past but no female officer has served as captain.The Queen invited Canadians to take over some of the ceremonial duties in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday.The 2nd Battalion is based out of the Kapyong Barracks at CFB Shilo, Man. Watch as Canadian Soldier Captain Megan Couto becomes the first female ever to Captain The Queen’s Guard during Changing the Guard. pic.twitter.com/iSjgX98Eaz— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) June 26, 2017 read more

Six Nations Police locate missing woman

UPDATESix Nations police say a 26-year-old woman who had been missing for nearly three weeks has been found.Jerri-Lyn King had not been seen or heard from since March 1. Her mother told police she spoke with her daughter who said she was heading to work but had no further contact with her. Six Nations Police posted on their Facebook page late Thursday, King was found safe and in good spirits in Hamilton.

State says not so fast on fake German heiress Netflix deal

NEW YORK — Prosecutors want to prevent the fake German heiress and convicted swindler Anna Sorokin from profiting from her highly publicized case.The New York Attorney General’s Office recently invoked a state law that forbids criminals from profiting off their crimes in a court challenge to a Netflix deal Sorokin signed last year.Prosecutors say proceeds from the production should go to the Manhattan banks and hotels Sorokin defrauded out of nearly $200,000.A message was sent to Sorokin’s attorney Monday seeking comment.Sorokin lived a lavish lifestyle in New York’s high society and duped banks and celebrities into believing she was a wealthy heiress.She was sentenced in May to four to 12 years in prison after being convicted of grand larceny and theft.The Associated Press read more