Reno gives preliminary approval for downtown strip clubs

RENO, Nev. — Reno officials have given preliminary approval to allow strip clubs to remain in the city’s downtown.The Reno City Council voted Wednesday on a series of regulations on adult businesses, approving a number of operating restrictions but rejecting proposed bans on alcohol and digital signs.The council will vote again on the regulations on May 8. The regulations will become law if the council approves them again.The council approved restrictions prohibiting private booths or lounges for private dances in the clubs.They also voted to increase the minimum age requirement of dancers from 18 to 21 and to require performers and employees to obtain work cards.The Associated Press read more

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to Visit Morocco

Rabat – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to visit Morocco at the request of King Mohammed VI.Turkey’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Moroccan television channel 2M on Monday, September 23 that  Erdogan has received an invitation from King Mohammed VI to visit Morocco. The Turkish official made his statement after a meeting with Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita on the sidelines of the 74th UN General Assembly in New York. “During this bilateral meeting, we discussed the organization of a high-level visit between Morocco and Turkey.  President Erdogan received an invitation from King Mohammed VI to visit Morocco,” he said.The Turkish official added that he plans to visit Morocco to prepare for Erdogan’s visit to Morocco.Speaking about the bilateral ties between Rabat and Ankara,  Cavusoglu said that Morocco is an “important” ally because of its role in the Islamic world, the African continent, and the Mediterranian region.He added that Morocco’s stability is of “paramount importance to all of us in the region.”Maghreb Arab Press (MAP) reported that the Turkish foreign minister expressed satisfaction with the bilateral talks he held with his Moroccan counterpart.“We had constructive discussions during which we reiterated our commitment to our bilateral ties.”Erdogan said in July 2018  that he is proud of bilateral ties between the two countries. He made his statement during a meeting with Morocco’s Speaker of the House of Representatives Habib El Mali, who represented King Mohammed VI at the inauguration ceremony of the Turkish president in Ankara. read more

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Development in Central America stymied by crime and drugs UN warns

“The warning signs are evident in this report – gun-related crime, gang violence, kidnapping, the proliferation of private security companies,” said Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). “But these problems are in no way inherent to the region. They can be overcome.” Crime is the single largest issue impeding Central America’s stability, the study, entitled “Crime and Development in Central America: Caught in the Crossfire,” noted. It called attention to the need for increased international assistance for the region to allow development efforts to take root as the area’s numerous vulnerabilities allow crime to thrive, which in turn limits growth and obstructs social development. Despite the diversity of the Central American countries, they are united by the fact that they are all affected, to varying degrees, by drugs, crime and underdevelopment. Many face problems resulting from income disparity, urbanization, high levels of poverty and easy access to guns. Key sources of revenue such as tourism are especially susceptible to high crime rates. These countries are also made vulnerable by their geographic position, as they are sandwiched between Colombia, the world’s largest supplier of coca, and the United States, the world’s largest consumers of cocaine. Almost 90 per cent of cocaine en route to the US is transported through Central America. “Where crime and corruption reign and drug money perverts the economy, the State no longer has a monopoly on the use of force and citizens no longer trust their leaders and public institutions,” Mr. Costa said, underscoring that development is stunted where crime and corruption thrive. “As a result, the social contract is in tatters and people take the law into their own hands.” As a result of decades of conflict, the region is mired with the problem of firearms and has some of the highest homicide rates worldwide. Although gang violence is a significant issue, particularly in countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, it does not play as large a role in the total crime problem as commonly believed. “Heavy-handed crackdowns on gangs alone will not resolve the underlying problem. Indeed, it may exacerbate them,” Mr. Costa noted. “Gang culture is a symptom of a deeper social malaise that cannot be solved by putting all disaffected street kids behind bars. The future of Central America depends on seeing youth as an asset rather than a liability.” He urged all of the region’s countries, as well as others, to take action to shatter the links among drugs, crime and underdevelopment, emphasizing the importance of collaboration. “Cooperation is vital,” Mr. Costa said. “The problems are too big, too inter-linked and too dangerous to be left to individual States.” Also key is bolstering the criminal justice systems of poor countries, he pointed out. Limited resources lead to low ratios of police to civilians and low conviction rates, resulting in law enforcement having a limited deterrent effect. “As a priority, States should strengthen their justice systems in order to root out corruption and restore public confidence in the rule of law. This would create a fertile environment for economic growth and attract foreign investment, thereby promoting development,” Mr. Costa stated. International assistance is critical, he said, to address the problem through long-term solutions rather than short-term ones. “We have a shared responsibility and common interest in helping the countries of Central America to withstand external pressures and to strengthen their internal resistance to the damaging effects of drugs and crime,” Mr. Costa said. “Let us unlock the potential of this region.” 23 May 2007Central America is beleaguered by violent crime, much of it fuelled by drugs, which is thwarting economic development, according to a new report by the United Nations anti-narcotics agency released today. read more

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Recent clash illustrates ongoing GeorgianAbkhaz tensions – Ban Kimoon

Despite relative calm in recent months, the incident that occurred on 20 September is “the most serious incident involving the Georgian and Abkhaz sides in many years,” Mr. Ban writes in his latest report on the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia. He notes that the incident took place outside the area of responsibility of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) peacekeeping force. With the permission of both sides, UNOMIG is trying to clarify the circumstances. In light of this recent clash, Mr. Ban recommends that areas between the zone of conflict and the Kodori Valley be put under international monitoring, with the deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles and artillery radar. At the same time, he stresses the need to “prevent the weakening of the ceasefire and separation of forces regime.” “We will continue to insist on the obligation of both sides to keep their armed personnel clear from one another, observe the restrictions of the restricted-weapons zone and respect the agreed notification and verification procedures,” the Secretary-General writes.He adds that the continued suspension and absence of security dialogue between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides, UNOMIG and the CIS peacekeeping force can only compound recent negative developments, such as the “dangerous stand-offs” that have occurred during the reporting period between the Georgian side and the CIS force.In addition, Mr. Ban notes that while some progress was made between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides on technical and humanitarian issues, the gap between them on political dialogue remained. “The overall approach to the settlement of the conflict remains that a successful dialogue on security, the return of internally displaced persons and refugees, economic rehabilitation and humanitarian issues would help bring about a comprehensive political settlement of the conflict,” he writes.With the mandate of UNOMIG set to expire shortly, the Secretary-General recommends that it be extended for six months, as its presence continues to contribute to security in the conflict zone and international efforts to promote a peaceful settlement. UNOMIG – currently comprising 133 military observers and 19 police officers – was established in August 1993 to verify compliance with the ceasefire agreement between the Government of Georgia and the Abkhaz authorities in Georgia. Its mandate was expanded following the signing by the parties of the 1994 Agreement on a Ceasefire and Separation of Forces. 8 October 2007A deadly clash last month between the Government and Abkhaz sides in Georgia underscores the need for both sides to abide by their agreements and to bring additional areas under international monitoring, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a new report. read more

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UN unit calls for followup on justice in rampant assassinations of journalists

The Intergovernmental Council of the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) will request UN Member States to assume responsibility for monitoring investigations into all killings condemned by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).As a result of its meeting in Paris from 26 to 28 March, the IPDC, which was created by UNESCO in 1980 to promote free expression in developing countries, also decided to ask all States to inform UNESCO of actions taken in each case, and of the status of judicial inquires.Over the past two years, the Director-General of UNESCO has publicly condemned the killings of 121 journalists – 68 in 2006 and 53 in 2007.The decision adopted by all 39 IPDC Council members requests the Director-General of UNESCO to provide updated information on the responses received from Member States in which assassinations of journalists have occurred, and to make this report widely available. In its 28 years of operation, the IPDC has raised some $ 93 million dollars for more than 1,100 projects in 139 developing countries and countries in transition, UNESCO said. 4 April 2008With only 6.7 per cent of journalists’ murders leading to convictions, an arm of the United Nations agency mandated to protect freedom of the press is calling on Governments to report on investigations into attacks on media personnel, which have surged in recent years. read more

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SecretaryGeneral lowers number of proposed UN Chad force by 1000

A highly mobile peacekeeping force of at least 4,900, about 1,000 less than previously proposed, backed by 18 helicopters, will be needed to replace European troops next year in strife-torn areas of Chad and Central African Republic (CAR), where hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced people are seeking shelter, according to a United Nations report released today.“Eastern Chad continues to face an acute humanitarian challenge,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon writes in his latest report on the nascent UN Mission in CAR and Chad (MINURCAT).“Over 290,000 Sudanese refugees, more than 180,000 internally displaced persons and a further 700,000 individuals among the host communities are in need of food, water and health care. At present, an estimated 500,000 persons are receiving assistance,” he adds of the region that has suffered from a spill-over from the war in Sudan’s Darfur region, rebel activity and banditry.In his last report in September, Mr. Ban had proposed that the Council consider sending 6,000 UN troops to replace the 3,300-strong European Union force (EUFOR) when its mandate expires on 15 March. However, he now says that refinements to the plan would provide for some 4,900 troops covering a larger operational area and additional responsibilities than EUFOR. In addition to air transports for troop-carrying, military engineering and communications resources would be required. Unlike EUFOR, it is anticipated that the UN force would continue over the next year and beyond, thus requiring enduring logistical support, in particular accommodation, sanitation and water. Despite the complex causes of insecurity in the area, Mr. Ban cites attacks by heavily armed bandits as posing the most immediate and constant threat to the civilian population and humanitarian operations on a day-to-day basis.“The threat is criminal in nature,” he writes, noting that bandit attacks on humanitarian workers continued to seriously undermine their capacity to reach people in need. “It manifests itself, predominately, through the use of military firepower, including heavy weapons. Countering this threat requires more than policing and calls for military deterrence. In cases where this does not succeed, military intervention is required.”The extreme challenges posed by geography, climate and the fluid security situation demand a highly mobile and responsive force that projects deterrence through visibility and presence both on land and in the air, entailing 24 security patrols daily, supported by a battalion-size mobile reserve force able to provide a surge capacity in response to an emerging threat, he adds.“Reports of ongoing recruitment of child soldiers and the existence of arms and armed men in refugee camps and internally displaced person sites in the region are particularly disturbing,” he says.For CAR, he lays out three options: a small military liaison team of some 15 officers based in Chad that will liaise with local authorities and key actors in the Birao airfield area; a 500-strong detachment to protect one consolidated site, project limited longer range patrols, maintain a quick reaction force and undertake airfield maintenance; and 1,000 troops for deterrent and reconnaissance patrols.In light of the technical assessment of prevailing risks, reinforced by EUFOR’s current tasks, he recommends the first option, but if a sustained presence is required or the threat changes the second option is seen as providing the best balance of operational presence, situational awareness and resource allocation.To date 16 countries have indicated a willingness to positively consider contributing to MINURCAT and one indicated the possibility of contributing to the helicopter requirement. A number of other potential contributors have indicated that, while they could provide troops, specific commitments would depend on prior confirmation that the key enablers have been secured.Presenting the report in an open meeting of the Security Council, the UN envoy for CAR and Chad, Victor Angelo, said that in order to ensure the smoothest possible transition, commitments from EUFOR contributors to “re-hat” even for a transitional period need to be confirmed in the coming days.“Beyond the ‘re-hatting’ of troops already on the ground, MINURCAT will require strong support from Member States with regard to force generation, including equipment and enablers. Given the fluid security situation, challenging geography and climate, the UN force must be highly mobile,” he added. 12 December 2008A highly mobile peacekeeping force of at least 4,900, about 1,000 less than previously proposed, backed by 18 helicopters, will be needed to replace European troops next year in strife-torn areas of Chad and Central African Republic (CAR), where hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced people are seeking shelter, according to a United Nations report released today. read more

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Ban enlists UN school in war against poverty

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon used a visit to the United Nations International School (UNIS) in New York today to rally children in the battle against extreme poverty, a scourge that afflicts over a billion people around the world. “We know that investing in children and securing their rights is one of the surest ways to ending poverty. And I know that no one can better speak for young people than you,” Mr. Ban said, inviting his youthful listeners to first crouch and then rise in a symbolic gesture of the UN’s “Stand Up Against Poverty” campaign on the eve of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.“We know that if we take a stand – if we act – we can end poverty in our lifetimes,” he added of the first of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which seeks to halve by 2015 the proportion of people living on less than $1 a day. “You are the leaders of tomorrow. And every day you are learning more about our world and our challenges. One of our biggest global challenges is poverty.” He said a great deal of progress had been made on getting more children into schools, especially girls, and on fighting malaria and measles and other diseases, but over 70 million children still could not even go to school, and many nations needed help, with the economic crisis making the situation more difficult for more people.“It can be difficult to understand, or even imagine, what extreme poverty feels like. But I know that we all feel compassion and solidarity with those who live it every day,” Mr. Ban declared. “Together, let us pledge to stand up in the fight against poverty.”The children then crouched at the sound of one and stood up at the sound of three, reciting with Mr. Ban the campaign’s pledge: “We are standing now with millions of people around the world on this historic day, to show our commitment to the fight against extreme poverty, hunger and disease.“Today, we Stand Up together to call on our leaders to keep their promises and act now to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. We will continue to Stand Up, not just today but every day, to say: No more excuses, End Poverty and Inequality Now!”Mr. Ban then left his young audience with a final exhortation: “Keep taking a stand!”UNIS was founded in 1947 by UN-affiliated families. It has a multinational staff from 70 countries and over 1,450 students from 120 countries. 16 October 2009Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon used a visit to the United Nations International School (UNIS) in New York today to rally children in the battle against extreme poverty, a scourge that afflicts over a billion people around the world. read more

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UN health agency stresses good hygiene to prevent cholera spread in Benin

9 February 2010Officials from the United Nations health agency and the Beninese Government are urging the West African nation’s citizens to be extra vigilant in observing good hygiene amid a recent cholera outbreak that has already claimed several lives. Since the outbreak began in early January, 131 cases have been confirmed of which two resulted in death, according to Léon Kohossi with the UN World Health Organization (WHO) in Benin.“This epidemic has erupted due to lack of hygiene,” Dr. Kohossi told the UN News Centre.He noted that with the current dry season in Benin, locals are finding it difficult to get clean water and are therefore drinking from the Oueme River, which is polluted.Most of the cases are centred around four villages located near the Oueme River – Bonou, Adjohoun, Dangbo and Aguegues. Additional cases have been detected in the capital, Cotonou, which is some 200 kilometres from the epicentre of the outbreak, and Allada, located 100 kilometres north of Cotonou.The Ministry of Health and local authorities are working to sensitize people against drinking unclean water and trying to identify ways to provide them with clean water. Meanwhile, WHO is providing emergency kits, including medicine, that are being distributed to health centres in the affected areas to treat patients with cholera – an acute intestinal infection picked up through contaminated food or water, and which results in diarrhoea that can lead to severe dehydration and death without prompt treatment. read more

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East Asias economy could suffer if seas are not protected says UN

19 February 2010East Asia’s economically viable coastal habitats and ecosystems are under threat from pollution, alien invasive species and other factors which could impact the region’s poverty levels unless urgent action is taken, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said in a new report. East Asia’s economically viable coastal habitats and ecosystems are under threat from pollution, alien invasive species and other factors which could impact the region’s poverty levels unless urgent action is taken, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said in a new report.“With nearly three quarters of the region’s population depending directly or indirectly on coastal areas, and with 80 per cent of the region’s GDP linked to the coastal natural resources, the time must be right for factoring the marine environment into the centre of economic planning,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.The East Asian Seas State of the Marine Environment report said economically important coastal habitats and ecosystems are under pressure as 40 per cent of coral reefs and half of all mangroves have already been lost. Coral reefs generate an estimated $112.5 billion and mangroves $5.1 billion annually.The East Asian Seas – which includes the region between China, the Republic of Korea and Australia – have some of the world’s highest concentrations of shipping and fishing vessel activity. They account for 50 per cent of global fisheries production and 80 per cent of global aquaculture production. “These ocean ecosystems are a critical lifeline for the region’s economies and people. You can say that the health of these oceans and their ecosystems is very much tied to the economic health of these countries and well-being of their citizens,” said Chou Loke Ming, author of the report produced by UNEP’s Coordinating Body of the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA).Mr. Ming noted that the East Asian Seas account for 30 per cent of the world’s seas under national jurisdiction and called on the governments in the region – which also include Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam – to have a major role in maintaining effective stewardship of the marine environment. The report recommended a more systematic and integrated approach to managing coastal and oceanic issues, including improved data collection and management, and economic incentives to encourage private sector involvement in environmental protection efforts.“Such actions can support better decision-making, national assessments of coastal and ocean resources and conditions, [and] enhanced public private partnerships” the report stated. read more

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Most Paraguayan children suffer parental or family abuse UN reports

15 September 2010Six out of 10 Paraguayan children and adolescents suffer physical violence and other maltreatment within their homes, including beatings, kicks, burns and semi-asphyxiation, according to a new United Nations study. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) study, released yesterday, found that corporal punishment and verbal humiliation are considered culturally acceptable forms of education and it called on the Government to introduce policies that promote the denunciation and punishment of such activities.More than 800 children between the ages of 10 and 18 in at least 50 public and private schools throughout the country were included in the study. Of these, 35 per cent reported suffering severe physical punishments, 13 per cent experienced light violence and 13 per cent endured psychological violence, according to UNICEF child protection official Andrea Sid.“The serious maltreatment consisted of blows with objects, kicks, burns and some type of asphyxiation,” she said. The high incidence of abuse by parents and others within the family is a wake-up call for the authorities, UNICEF stressed. read more

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GuineaBissau needs to do more to fight transnational drug trade says UN

25 February 2011Guinea-Bissau still has a long way to go in fighting impunity, drug trafficking, organized crime, and other “remaining triggers of instability” in a country that has for years been dogged by war, coups, coup attempts and assassinations, a senior United Nations official warned today. “Much progress is yet to be made,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Joseph Mutaboba told the Security Council, while acknowledging some positive steps towards  civilian control and reform of the security sector, with a roadmap plan already drawn up in cooperation with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (CPLP).The plan is now awaiting final endorsement by ECOWAS heads of State and government, and he stressed the urgency for the reforms to be put into effect in a country which has long seen military intervention in politics and has more recently raised international concerns as a transit point on major drug trafficking routes from South America to Europe.In a press statement issued after the meeting, the Council voiced continued concern at the insecurity and growth in trans-national organized crime, including illicit drug trafficking, which it called a threat to regional peace and security. It called on the authorities to intensify efforts “in creating the enabling environment for enhanced civilian control and reform of the security sector, fighting against impunity, and tackling illicit drug trafficking.”Mr. Mutaboba was presenting Mr. Ban’s latest report on the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), set up last year as a successor to the UN Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS), which had been in the country since 1999 as part of international efforts to help it recover from civil war in which thousands were killed, wounded or forced from their homes.In the ensuing years, the country has still been plagued by instability, most recently with the assassination of President João Bernardo Vieira in 2009 and the brief detention on 1 April last year of Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior, the Chief of General Staff and other senior military officers by other members of the armed forces.Stressing the “positive momentum” generated by the partnership with ECOWAS and the CPLP and its “critical impact” on the political and security environment, Mr. Mutaboba noted that long-standing tensions between Mr. Gomes and President Malam Bacai Sanhá had eased in recent months, with the two men maintaining a close dialogue on major domestic issues.On the fight against impunity, he noted the release in December of a former army chief of staff and other officers detained without due process since the 1 April incident but said that not much progress had been made on other fronts such as investigating Mr. Vieira’s assassination.Turning to drug smuggling, he cited recent actions such as the closure of an air strip used for illegal flights and the burning of seized drugs, but he stressed the need for the Government to “continue to demonstrate its resolve to fight this scourge” by mobilizing adequate human and financial resources and allowing foreign vessels to patrol Guinea-Bissau’s territorial waters and conduct joint policing activities.Prime Minister Gomes told the Council that his country needs additional financial, material and technical support from the international community, highlighting the dangerous link between drug trafficking and terrorism. “Guinea-Bissau is not a narco-State and by itself it does not have the conditions necessary to successfully face drug trafficking and terrorism,” he said. “Recent developments in the economic plain are very promising and the gains that we have made can be amplified if the engagement and continued support of the international community is assured,” he added, citing the recent $1.2-billion debt agreement, stressing that the country still remained mired in poverty and pledging intensified structural reform. “The Government continues to insist on the need for greater involvement of the international community.”Brazilian Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, head of the UN Peacebuilding Commission’s panel on Guinea-Bissau, called for increase international support. “The window of opportunity has re-opened for Guinea-Bissau,” she said, while urging further concrete steps in fighting impunity and promoting civilian control of the military. “We need to support capacity building and assist the country revitalize its economy…“We must take advantage of this positive momentum. More than ever engagement and cooperation with Guinea-Bissau is necessary to assist the country in building democratic governance and effectively addressing key challenges. The international community should step up its support.”Guinea-Bissau is one of six countries currently on the agenda of the Commission – along with Burundi, Guinea, Sierra Leone, the Central African Republic (CAR) and Liberia – set up in 2005 to help countries emerging from conflict make an irreversible transition from war to sustainable peace.In his report, Mr. Ban stressed the need for political stability but sounded a positive note on the economy, noting that despite continuing structural fragility, Guinea-Bissau has continued to pursue important reforms enabling it to make significant progress in managing its debt burden, thus opening up opportunities to stabilize the economy and promote economic growth. read more

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Empowering women helps fight poverty and other social ills UN official stresses

27 June 2011Empowering women and advancing their rights is not only the right thing to do but it can lead to progress on a range of issues, including the fight against poverty, hunger and violence, the head of the United Nations agency tasked with promoting women’s rights said today. “Promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment is not solely a plea for justice or for fulfilling human rights commitments. It is both of those things, but also so much more,” Michelle Bachelet said in her opening statement to the annual session of the Executive Board of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).“Where we fail to capitalize on the potential and talents of one half of the population, we also squander the potential to reduce poverty, hunger, disease, environmental degradation and violence,” she stated. “The evidence base for this is growing,” added Ms. Bachelet, the Executive Director of UN Women and former Chilean President. She noted that in a recent report, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that closing the gender productivity gap arising from unequal access of women to productive resources would reduce the number of undernourished people by 12 to 17 per cent. That translates into 100 to 150 million fewer people living in hunger.Countries, she added, are beginning to count the cost of domestic violence to health and in lost workplace productivity, which in the United States reaches $5.8 billion each year. “In today’s world, can we afford not to increase investment in eliminating gender discrimination when it has the potential to yield such high returns? “UN Women’s good fortune is that it comes into being at a time when countries and businesses are asking this question, and rethinking their investment strategies,” she stated. “Our challenge now is to meet the rising demands and expectations.”Ms. Bachelet has identified six priorities for the new agency, including ending violence against women, ensuring their full participation in conflict resolution and enhancing their economic empowerment.“Our overarching vision is that every country in the world, at whatever level of development, has access to the technical expertise and support needed to advance gender equality in line with their national priorities.”UN Women was established last year by the General Assembly to oversee the world body’s programmes aimed at promoting women’s rights and their full participation in global affairs.It is the merger of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, and the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW). read more

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Verizon would need to invest more than 3B to build Canadian wireless

TORONTO — Verizon would need to invest more than $3-billion just to get started in Canada’s wireless industry, says a new study.[np_storybar title=”A reality check for telecom claims (on both sides)” link=”https://business.financialpost.com/2013/08/21/a-reality-check-for-telecom-claims-on-both-sides/?__lsa=0677-69aa”%5DThe debate between Ottawa and Canada’s telecom industry has seen nasty swipes from both sides. Here’s a reality check of their claims [/np_storybar]Much of the costs would be weighted in building a network and establishing a mobile phone service infrastructure, especially in underserved markets, like rural areas, said the report by Moody’s Investment Service.But the battle would be more about the user experience than an all-out price war, because Verizon would need to develop a top-quality network, which would be costly and time consuming, Moody’s said.“Although competitive threats tend to cause uncertainty and can lead to performance pressure, we see limited downside for Bell Canada, Rogers Communications Inc. and Telus Corp. from a foreign company entering the market,” analyst Bill Wolfe said in the report, released Thursday.Bell, Telus and Rogers have launched a media blitz against the possibility of Verizon entering the Canadian wireless market, saying there needs to be a level playing field.The report said it would likely take at least three years for Verizon’s network coverage and capabilities to reach critical mass, giving the established carriers time to better position their own networks and service. According to reports, Verizon may be putting off a potential acquisition of Wind Mobile and Mobilicity and contemplating participation in the next auction for wireless spectrum — the radio waves needed to operate cellphone networks.Bell, Telus and Rogers have launched a publicity campaign calling for the Harper government to drop policies that they say give Verizon an unfair advantage over them. The big three carriers say that Verizon would be treated as a new player entering Canada’s wireless market and would be able to buy more prime spectrum than they would be allowed. They’ve also said they are better positioned to serve Canada’s rural markets than Verizon.Industry Minister James Moore has responded with a cross-country tour to explain why the government wants to increase competition in wireless services.Also on Thursday, a prominent American consumer-rights advocate says the Harper government should be wary about allowing Verizon into the Canadian wireless market.In an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper published by the Toronto Star, Ralph Nader says Verizon has made extensive use of U.S. tax subsidies even though the wireless communications giant was profitable at the same time.The letter, published Thursday in the Toronto Star’s opinion pages, says that it would be a “bad idea” for Harper’s government to allow Verizon to operate in Canada with unique rights to acquire certain wireless spectrum.Citing a report by the Center for Tax Justice and Good Jobs First, Nader says Verizon received $14-billion in U.S. federal and state income tax subsidies in the 2008-2012 period, even though it earned US$33.4-billion in pre-tax income.“Question: Why would you allow one of our country’s most aggressive tax dodgers, a company with a track record of overtly ripping off our government, into your country,” Nader writes.“What’s bad for the United States will be bad for Canada.”Nader, who has been an unsuccessful independent candidate for the U.S. presidency in several campaigns, is a frequent commentator on issues that he considers of national or international public interest.He first rose to prominence in the 1960s by campaigning for improved safety and performance standards in the U.S. auto industry.The Canadian Press read more

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Canadian solar module makers threatened by lowprice imports from China tribunal rules

TORONTO — The Canadian International Trade Tribunal has ruled that domestic manufacturers of solar-electric modules are facing a significant threat from low-price imports from China.The tribunal’s decision allows the Canada Border Services Agency to continue imposing duties on most types of photovoltaic modules imported from China.An investigation by the CBSA alleged in early June that about half a dozen Chinese companies, and a China-based subsidiary of Canadian Solar International, were benefiting from foreign subsidies.In a statement Friday, the tribunal said the domestic industry is generally threatened by the Chinese imports, although it excluded one specific type of solar module that’s generally used for small-scale power generation such as battery charging.The two federal agencies were acting on a complaint filed last year by four Ontario companies that make solar modules, which are required in systems that convert the sun’s rays into electrical power.Canadian Solar Inc poised to take off as global demand risesChinese billionaire a no-show after his solar company loses US$19B in market value in just 24 minutesThe domestic manufacturers said they faced unfair competition and Canada should follow the lead of the United States and European Union, which have imposed duties on imported solar modules from China.The counter-argument was that anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese imports would keep Canadian prices higher and could make it more difficult to eliminate the gap between the cost of producing solar power and the price of buying from the power grid.The vice-president of operations for Strathcona Energy Group, now the owner of Eclipsall, one of the Ontario companies that brought the challenge to the CBSA last year, said the ruling is good news for his company.“We are very pleased with the tribunal’s decision,” said Mikael Niskanen in an email Monday.“The market has been waiting for the tribunal to complete their investigation and with this phase over everyone can move forward accordingly.”The tribunal’s role was to determine whether the imports have damaged the domestic industry or threatened its survival — conditions that would allow the CBSA to continue applying tariffs that were temporarily imposed in March.The tribunal is scheduled to release reasons for its decision in about two weeks.A lawyer for Canadian Solar, a solar module manufacturer based in Guelph, Ont., said he was disappointed by the ruling because his client had argued the tariffs would be bad for global trade and it didn’t require protection.Canadian Solar has manufacturing operations in Ontario but also in China and its imported modules will be subject to tariffs imposed by the Canadian authorities.The Canadian Press read more

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WatchWall Street TSX turn positive after Yellen says Fed proceeding cautiously on

TORONTO — Dovish comments from Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen helped propel North American stock markets higher Tuesday as investors were buoyed by reassurances that interest rates hikes won’t be happening any time soon.The S&P/TSX composite index gained 36.04 points to 13,426.23, reversing a triple-digit decline earlier in the day. Gold stocks led the way, rising almost 4.4 per cent and offsetting declines in the energy, consumer staples and health-care sectors.The Canadian dollar added 0.67 of a U.S. cent to 76.54 cents US.Much of the strength in the loonie was attributed to a weakened U.S. dollar as investors turned bearish on the currency following Yellen’s speech to the Economic Club of New York. The head of the U.S. central bank told the audience that the Fed will move slowly on rate increases because global economic issues could still harm the U.S. economy.John Stephenson, president and chief executive of Stephenson & Co. Capital Management, said Yellen’s comments signalled to investors that she was going to “double down” on what the Fed had already reiterated in its statement in March: that it was in no hurry to raise rates.“It was so dovish,” he said. “Essentially saying extreme caution was warranted. That was basically her language. Central banks have been largely responsible for the gains in the markets for the last number of years. It’s been their policies… they’ve all been aimed at keeping rates low, keeping (the) money supply flowing.”Stephenson said the market still thinks the earliest the Fed will hike rates from their current lows will be at their meeting in June.“If things aren’t strong enough for the U.S. to raise rates, the underlying message is that the economy isn’t strong enough,” he added.Meanwhile, weakness continued in the energy sector as the May contract for benchmark crude oil slipped for a fifth straight session, down $1.11 at US$38.28 a barrel.Elsewhere in commodities, June gold rose $15.50 to US$1,237.50 a troy ounce, while May natural gas added five cents to US$1.98 per mmBtu. May copper shed three cents to US$2.21 a pound.In New York, lacklustre markets reversed course as the Dow Jones industrial average rose 97.72 points to 17,633.11, while the broader S&P 500 composite added 17.96 points to 2,055.01. The Nasdaq shot up 79.83 points to 4,846.62.Among the Nasdaq winners was tech giant Apple (Nasdaq:APPL), which climbed US$2.49 to US$107.68 after the FBI dropped its legal efforts to force it to break into the iPhone used by San Bernadino, Calif., shooter Syed Farook who, along with his wife, killed 14 people in December. The FBI said it was able to hack into the phone on its own. read more

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Markets update

On the markets at 9:50 a.m. (ET):In Toronto, the S&P/TSX composite index is down 25.82 points to 15,187.60.The Dow Jones industrial average gained 108.09 points to 21,395.12.The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 10.20 points to 2,429.90.The Nasdaq composite index rose 21.94 points to 6,166.29.The Canadian dollar was trading at 77.10 cents US, up from Thursday’s average price of 76.83 cents US.

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Simons CEO feels vindicated as national expansion ushers in new era for

MONTREAL — The head of Quebec-based department store chain Simons is feeling vindicated as it completes the first phase of a five-year, $200 million national expansion even as the empires built by the retailer’s contemporaries seem to crumble around it.While chains such as Sears struggle to survive a changing retail landscape, the 177-year-old company is gaining fans among millennials and older shoppers seeking something different both online and at its increasing number of bricks and mortar stores.“I’m feeling really good about where we’re at,” CEO Peter Simons said in an interview from his eponymous store’s second location in Edmonton. The store opening on Thursday is its 15th outlet and the first equipped with solar panels on the roof and in the parking lot.The chain’s roots in Quebec and focus on exclusive merchandise, unique assortment, artwork and strong design have translated well in English Canada, Simons said. The mid-priced chain’s narrow focus means it hasn’t bother to diversify into cosmetics, appliances or furniture the way some of its competitors have.Some observers wondered whether the company would have the financial means to accomplish its expansion without going public, but Simons said being privately-held has given it the freedom to take risks because the company doesn’t have to answer to shareholders on a quarterly basis.“We’re in a period that requires long-term thinking and long-term adjustments that are at times painful in the short-term, but necessary,” he added. “That’s very hard to do in the public sphere.”Simons pointed specifically to the $1.5-million solar field that he believes would have been a hard sell for approval at a public company focused on investment returns.The energy-saving project will be added to its Quebec City La Capitale location before possibly being adopted elsewhere. The panels are a visual reminder of the chain’s commitment to cut its energy footprint, he said.Simons is reaping the rewards because it “doesn’t have to worship at the alter of short-term earnings,” said retail analyst Randy Harris of Trendex.“They are becoming a national powerhouse.”Harris estimates that Simons is Canada’s 15th largest apparel e-commerce retailer and 12th largest retailer in the country. He believes the Simons chain can eventually grow to 22 or 23 stores.Peter Simons said the next phase will likely add three or four locations at some point.Simons, the great, great-grandson of the company founder, said the freedom from shareholder pressure has translated into success at stores as well as an expanding e-commerce business. He said online sales within Canada and the United States account for more than 15 per cent of sales, far above the average reach by Canadian retailers.However, the CEO is taking a breather from an aggressive growth strategy that has seen the company add more than 1,500 employees in the past five years to reach 3,500. Instead, he will focus on keeping stores up to date and working to build a $150-million high-speed robotics warehouse — likely in Quebec City — to improve the efficiency of its online and retail business.While many question the future of shopping malls amid the rise of e-commerce, Simons said the chain’s expansion has demonstrated that you need a physical and web presence to work symbiotically.“The opening of a new physical store in a market really does help not only the bricks and mortar but also the overall e-commerce system.”Despite the travails of some of its peers, Simons has shown that the department store concept isn’t dead, said retail consultant John Williams of the J.C. Williams Group.“It’s a department store that strategically has a cutting edge that makes it appealing to the contemporary consumer.” read more

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MLS announces new online Canada store as part of Fanatics agreement

TORONTO — Major League Soccer is partnering with Fanatics in a deal that will mean a unique merchandising portal for Canada.Under a longterm global agreement that begins in 2019, Fanatics gains worldwide rights to produce MLS fan gear apparel, headwear and other goods across all retail and wholesale channels.Its Canada store will open in 2018, however.“We took a ‘Fan-First’ approach to our expanded partnership with Fanatics,” Kathy Carter, president of Soccer United Marketing, MLS’ commercial arm, said in a statement. “We spoke to our supporters in Canada. Their passion and commitment is what makes MLS so special. We listened to their feedback.“They want more selection and a wider assortment of fan gear for Montreal Impact, Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Starting next season, that’s what you’ll see with this new deal.”Canadian teams currently offer a limited amount of merchandise with the bulk of products only available from the league’s U.S. online store. Under the new deal, there will be a merchandise division in Canada shipping local product.The Canadian website will be in both English and French.Fanatics will run the official MLS online store, MLSstore.com, which encompasses all 23 MLS clubs.Fanatics is also the official in-venue retail provider for Atlanta United, Chicago Fire, Houston Dynamo, Minnesota United and the Vancouver Whitecaps.They want more selection and a wider assortment of fan gear for Montreal Impact, Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FCCarter Founded in 1995 and headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla., Fanatics operates more than 300 online and offline stores, including the e-commerce business for the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL MLS, NASCAR, PGA as well as more than 200 collegiate and pro teams.The company, which recently acquired the apparel brand Majestic, specializes in producing event-related gear — such as celebrating a champion being crowned or a record player performance — overnight.“Our philosophy of faster speed-to-market of merchandise will ensure fans can celebrate the players and teams they love in real-time, including special items for championship moments, record-breaking feats and breakthrough performances,” Gary Gertzog, Fanatics president of business affairs, said in a statement.Adidas continues as the MLS official uniform sponsor. Fanatics will hold the rights to all other merchandise.Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter read more

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More fast chargers coming as electric car ranges improve AddEnergie CEO

MONTREAL — Canadians will purchase a record number of electric vehicles this year as the growing sales of cars with longer ranges is prompting a push to increase the number of fast chargers, the head of the country’s largest charging network says.AddEnergie CEO Louis Tremblay says its Flo network of 4,000 charging stations includes just 150 fast chargers.That’s fine when 60 per cent of electric cars in some provinces are plug-in hybrids that include internal combustion engines and almost 80 per cent of vehicle charging is done overnight at home.But as ranges increase, there will be more need to support their use for intercity travel, Tremblay said.“I see a big shift coming,” he said in an interview from Calgary.By early 2019, AddEnergie is targeting to have 6,300 public and semi-public charging stations, including 300 fast-charging units.“While the car will have double the autonomy, we’ll be doubling, tripling the fast charging network and we’ll have more and more intercity travel by full electric cars,” he said.Navigant Research estimates global sales of chargers are expected to surpass six million in 2026, up from around 875,000 this year. The number includes fast chargers which annual sales are forecast to grow from 19,000 units to more than 70,000. In Canada, it says the number of chargers sold annually will increase to 80,000 by 2026 from 10,000 currently.AddEnergie entered Canada’s home charging market this year, installing 3,000 units. That is expected to increase to 12,000 home units in early 2019.Tremblay’s strategy is to offer charging options at home, work and on the road that will reduce range anxiety and make Canadians more comfortable to switch to electric from gas-powered vehicles.Some 20,000 electric vehicles are expected to be sold in 2017, up from about 11,000 in 2016.Navigant forecasts that Canadian electric vehicle sales will grow at a compounded annual rate of 29 per cent to reach about 140,000 per year in 2026.Cara Clairman, CEO of electric vehicle advocacy group Plug’n Drive, said sales this year have been “amazing.”“It took the first couple of years to sell the first 20,000 and then basically in the last year and a bit we sold the next 20,000 so it’s really picking up steam,” she said from Toronto.The boost in sales is largely driven by growing interest in Ontario, where sales in some months this year surpassed market leader Quebec. The addition of new models, growing public awareness of electric vehicles and generous incentives ranging up to $14,000 has supported Ontario sales.Still, electric vehicles account for less than one per cent of the more than two million automobiles expected to be sold this year in Canada.“It’s small but it is growing even relative to other cars. It’s a segment that’s growing faster than other car sales,” Clairman said.While she said Ontario does need more chargers, the situation is better than some think since public charging serves just 15 to 20 per cent of the needs, mainly for longer trips.Clairman said people need to get away from a “gas station mind set” since most charging is down at home.“The people who are concerned about public charging tend to be people who don’t yet have an EV because they imagine that’s a scenario that they’ll need,” she added. read more

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Leak at Kollonawa oil pipeline

Jayawardena said that the transfer of oil from the harbor had been temporarily suspended till the leak was fixed. The leak had occurred at Papadam Watta when refined petrol was being transferred to the storage facility. He said that the authorities expect the leak to be fixed by tonight and the transfer of oil to resume soon. (Colombo Gazette)Report by Indika Sri Aravinda A leak had occurred at the Kollonawa oil pipeline this evening, a spokesman at the Kollonawa oil storage facility said.Nishantha Jayawardena said that the leak had occurred on the pipeline transferring oil from a ship at the Colombo harbor to the Kollonawa oil storage terminal. read more

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