Canada invited to join Pacific trade talks

LOS CABOS, Mexico — Prime Minister Stephen Harper leaves the G20 summit in Mexico with an invite to pull up a chair at major trade talks, and the satisfaction of knowing other world leaders heeded his call for Europe to take bold action to get its economic house in order.The two-day summit in the Baja California peninsula was set to close Tuesday with leaders of the world’s 20 most important economies urging their European counterparts to break the vicious circle of debt-burdened banks and cash-strapped countries.“Euro area members of the G20 will take all necessary policy measures to safeguard the integrity and stability of the area, improve the functioning of financial markets and break the feedback loop between sovereigns and banks,” according to a draft communique that has been making the rounds at the summit.Harper has been vocal in urging the Europeans to move swiftly to contain their debt crisis once and for all. The prime minister’s calls for action rankled some Europeans, who did not appreciate a lecture from Harper on how to balance their cheque books.That frustration boiled over when the head of the European Commission lashed out at those who try to tell the continent what to do but refuse to chip in any more money for a rainy-day rescue fund.“Frankly, we are not coming here to receive lessons in terms of democracy and in terms of how to run an economy because the European Union has a model that we may be very proud of,” Jose Manuel Barroso said Monday.[np-related]“We are not complacent about the difficulties. We are extremely open. I wish that all our partners were so open about their own difficulties. We are extremely open and we are engaging our partners but we are certainly not coming here to receive lessons.”Canada and the United States have refused to pledge any more money to the International Monetary Fund. The IMF is trying to raise $430-billion in case the economy tanks.The European debt crisis loomed over the Los Cabos summit. People here breathed a sigh of relief this past weekend when Greek voters elected a new government that intends to keep the indebted Mediterranean nation in group of countries that use the euro as a common currency. A rival party had threatened to tear up Greece’s huge bailout deal, which could have led to the country getting kicked out of the 17-member eurozone.But even though Europe was at the top of everyone’s mind at the summit, behind the scenes Canadian officials were trying to wrap up a long-standing negotiation with the Americans.Canadian officials met late into Monday night with representatives from the United States. The prime minister followed up Tuesday morning with a one-on-one meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama.Harper then announced Canada has been asked to sit at the negotiating table for the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.“Opening new markets and creating new business opportunities leads to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for all Canadians,” the prime minister said in a statement.“A TPP agreement will enhance trade in the Asia-Pacific region and will provide greater economic opportunity for Canadians and Canadian businesses.”The announcement came a day after G20 host nation Mexico was invited to join the talks.Nine countries are currently negotiating a free-trade pact that many feel will have more economic strength than the North American Free Trade Agreement. Canada and Mexico will join the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Chile, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei in the trade talks.The deal became even more attractive with Canada and Mexico now in the picture. The 11-country trade market now swells to 658 million people and a gross domestic product of $20.5-trillion.With such a potentially lucrative trade opportunity dangling tantalizingly off their western shores, it’s no wonder Canadian officials stepped up their lobbying of the Obama administration to allow Canada into the talks.But Canada’s trade restrictions on dairy and poultry products presented the biggest obstacle to joining the talks. Canada has a supply-management system that controls milk and egg prices while setting prohibitively high tariffs on imports.Queen’s University professor and trade expert Robert Wolfe said Canada’s entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership shows economic power is shifting toward Asia.“The emergence of China as a major player in all dimensions of global life — economic, diplomatic, military, cultural and environmental — motivates the current re-orientation of Canadian trade policy strategy,” Wolfe said in a statement.The Canadian Press read more

Lure of jobs in Alberta not likely enough to get workers to

CALGARY — A Statistics Canada study suggests the lure of jobs in Alberta’s energy sector probably isn’t enough to convince out-of-province workers to make a permanent move.The study found there were plenty of people moving to Alberta between 2004 and 2009.But figures showed that only one in four people coming for jobs decided to make Alberta their primary residence.They still listed their home province on their tax returns.About three-quarters of the job-seekers were men from British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Atlantic Canada, and half of those were employed in construction and oil and gas extraction.Out-of-province workers accounted for 133,000 of Alberta’s workforce in the peak year of 2008.

Small Toronto airline expands daily service to three Ontario cities

FLYGTA Airlines says it will soon fly daily to three new Ontario destinations out of Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport, including an 18-minute flight to technology hub Kitchener-Waterloo.The Canadian airline says travellers will be able to fly with them from Toronto to Barrie’s Lake Simcoe Regional Airport and Region of Waterloo International Airport in Kitchener-Waterloo starting Nov. 6.The company says flights to London International Airport in London, Ont., will commence in December.FLYGTA has been offering eight daily flights to Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Niagara District Airport since Sept. 2016.Flights to Kitchener-Waterloo and Barrie will cost $129 each, including taxes and fees, and seat eight passengers, according to the company’s website.The company also operates charter flights, aerial tours of Toronto and getaways to Niagara wineries. read more

Eight would be illegal immigrants arrested

Illegal immigrants being arrested in Sri Lanka while attempting to travel to Australia by boat has been a common occurrence in the recent past.However the arrest of illegal immigrants attempting to make a boat journey to Canada from Sri Lanka is a rare incident. (Colombo Gazette) The police arrested eight would-be illegal immigrants from Chilaw as they were preparing to leave for Australia and Canada.According to the police the would-be illegal immigrants were attempting to go by boat to their destinations. Those arrested are residents of Jaffna, Point Pedro, Karawedi and Kadariweli and are aged between 19 and 42 years. The would-be illegal immigrants are to be produced in court today.

Sri Lanka objects to clearance given for GTF meet

“Our High Commission in London had conveyed our concerns on the participation of some British government officials at the conference,” External Affairs Ministry spokesman Rodney Perera told Colombo Gazette today.British Prime Minister David Cameron had issued a statement ahead of the conference where he called on all parties in Sri Lanka to work together to heal the country. Leader of the British Opposition and Labour Leader Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey and Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander were also in attendance. Deputy British Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg, Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and former Conservative Party Chairman Baroness Warsi were among those attended the meeting organized by the Global Tamil Forum (GTF). Meanwhile Ed Davey, the British Secretary of State for Energy, in a separate statement, said that following the terrible events of last months of the war in Sri Lanka, Britain hoped that a credible accountability and reconciliation processes would be put in place to enable long-lasting peace to take root on the island.He said the United Nations institutions – including bodies mandated by the Secretary-General, international human rights groups and Channel 4 News have all revealed, and continue to expose, evidence that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed by both sides during the war.The first ever preview of the ‘No Fire Zone’, the third film in the ‘Sri Lanka Killing Fields’ series, directed by Callum Macrae was also presented and screened by Callum at the conference. (Colombo Gazette) The Sri Lankan government has objected to the clearance given to hold an anti-government meeting at the British parliament premises last week.An External Affairs Ministry spokesman said that the government had also raised objections with the British Foreign office after officials of the British government also attended the meeting. CLICK HERE FOR AUDIO read more

Council members slam Lanka Updated

Meanwhile the European Union also welcomed Pillay’s recent visit to Sri Lanka and called on the government to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).The EU also raised concerns over reports that people who met Pillay had been intimidated or threatened. She said that Pillay was able to examine outstanding concerns on human rights, justice and democratic governance. Several members of the UN Human Rights Council today slammed Sri Lanka over the alleged threats faced by people who met the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay during her recent visit to Sri Lanka.The United States (US) urged the Sri Lankan government to make use of the UN offer of technical assistance on addressing human rights related issues. Speaking at the 24th session of the UN Human Rights Council today, the US Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, said the US also welcomes the recent visit to Sri Lanka by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. Germany meanwhile said it was “appalled” about the reports that people Pillay met in Sri Lanka were threatened.The German delegation said this shows the level of threats faced by human rights defenders and journalists in Sri Lanka.The Austrian delegation urged the government to respond to allegations of intimidation, reprisals and attacks against local human rights defenders and journalists. (Colombo Gazette) read more

MR slams resolution defends ties with Gaddafi

Rajapajsa said that there are times when foreign powers try to foist their way of thinking upon other nations and the country at the receiving end has to find ways of dealing with the situation. “After its passage, the Prime Minister said that Sri Lanka has now been ‘taken off the agenda in the UNHRC’. Posters of the UPFA have appeared on the streets hailing the government for delivering the country from the ‘imperialist death trap’ in Geneva. Such statements sit oddly beside the operative paragraphs of the resolution mentioned above. The mismatch between the provisions of the resolution that was passed and the government’s present mixed signals and rhetoric may be due to a belated realisation that nothing has been gained by Sri Lanka joining the USA as a co-sponsor of this resolution except to commit the government to a course of action which runs contrary to the interests of this country and is therefore politically unfeasible,” he said. He said the first duty of the Sri Lankan government is to see to it that the interests of the war heroes are looked after.“Operative paragraphs 6 & 8 of the resolution run directly contrary to that sacred duty. I regret to note that there is an attempt to whitewash the unfavourable resolution in Geneva by claiming that this was the best that could be achieved and that things could have been far worse with the near certainty of economic sanctions if my government had been still in power. The withdrawal of the GSP+ trade concession in 2010 and the ban on Sri Lankan fish imports to the EU in January 2015 were mentioned as the forerunners of the sanctions that were to be imposed on Sri Lanka. The public should be made aware that the ban on fish imports to the EU this year was due to issues relating to ‘illegal, unreported and unregulated’ fishing in the Indian Ocean in contravention of the rules of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission and had nothing at all to do with politics or human rights. As for GSP+, this is a special trade concession of doubtful utility which gives the EU a political handle over the recipient country. In 2010 when GSP+ came up for its quinquennial review and this was being used to impose the EU’s will on Sri Lanka, my government made a conscious decision not to reapply for GSP+. Even after this trade concession was withdrawn, my government ensured that apparel exports to the EU kept growing at more than 6% a year. It should be noted that no major exporting country in Asia has applied for GSP+ due to the political strings attached to it,” he said. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa says though the passage of the US sponsored resolution on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) without a vote last Thursday is being hailed as a diplomatic victory for Sri Lanka, he is unable to share that view.Rajapaksa raised concerns over some clauses in the resolution, including operative paragraph 6 which affirms the importance of the participation of foreign judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators in the Sri Lankan judicial mechanism to be set up to investigate alleged human rights abuses during the war. Rajapaksa also drew attention to comments made by President Maithripala Sirisena that he had antagonised Western nations by being photographed with his arm around Muammar Gaddafi of Libya.“It is actually Gaddafi who has his arm on my shoulder in that much publicised photograph. In the last months of the war in 2009 when Sri Lanka was fast losing foreign reserves due to the severe global economic recession that year and the IMF under pressure from the Western nations was delaying the standby facility that we were entitled to, Muammar Gaddafi agreed to lend 500 million USD to Sri Lanka in response to a single phone call from me. If not for that pledge, the economy would have collapsed before the war could be won,” he said.He said that he never submitted to foreign pressure and this resulted in the defeat of terrorism in the country. Rajapaksa noted that Governments are elected by the people of Sri Lanka to do what is best for the country and not to agree to everything said by foreign powers. (Colombo Gazette) read more

Navy denies reports it attacked Indian fishermen

The Sri Lankan Navy on Monday denied reports that it had attacked an Indian boat in mid seas near Katchatheevu, an uninhabited island in the northern seas belonging to Sri Lanka, the Xinhua news agency reported.According to media reports, the attack which occurred on Sunday, had left one Indian fishermen injured when Sri Lankan naval officers had allegedly attacked their boat by pelting stones and bottles. The boat had four Indian fishermen on board. The Sri Lankan navy last week arrested 14 Indian fishermen for illegally poaching in local waters.Both the countries have been trying to resolve the long-standing fishermen issue with both sides having to face arrest and boats being detained when they stray into each other’s waters illegally.Recently both countries agreed to release all the fishermen in their custody as a goodwill gesture. Sri Lanka’s Navy Spokesperson, Captain Akram Alavi however denied the reports and said that such an attack had not taken place. “If such an incident has occurred, the navy would have been notified immediately. But nothing of this sort has taken place,” Alavi told Xinhua. Media reports on Monday said that one fisherman identified as Muthu was injured in the forehead while the others managed to escape unhurt.A complaint over the alleged incident had also been lodged with the Indian police and investigations were ongoing, reports added. read more

HRCSL records statement from scribe on Welikada riot

The HRCSL obtained written evidence from Pussewela today as well as video and photographic evidence. Pussewela had sought an investigation into the incident saying there was ample evidence to prosecute some people who were responsible for killing prisoners who took part in the riot. The Human Rights Commission in Sri Lanka (HRCSL) today recorded a statement from a journalist over the 2012 Welikada prison riot.The statement was recorded from journalist Kasun Pussewela after he had filed a petition at the HRCSL. The riot broke out during a search for illegal arms and it left 27 people dead and 40 injured.The Government had appointed a committee to investigate the riot and a report was compiled on the incident but it was not made public. (Colombo Gazette)

Finance Ministry launches full scale probe into gazette

The Finance Ministry has launched a full scale investigation into an Extraordinary Gazette Notification authorizing the issuing of treasury bonds in the past.The Finance Ministry said that the Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayake is in receipt of Extraordinary Gazette Notification No. 1895/19 dated 01 January 2015 issued by Mahinda Rajapaksaa, who was the Mistier of Finance and Planning at that time. “Information is available that the gazette dated 1 January 2016 to be published by the name of Ravi Karunanayake, Minister of Finance, for the year 2016 also has already been sent to the Government Printer the same way in 2017. The publication of this gazette was immediately withheld,” the Finance Ministry said.As such, all treasury bonds have been issued in violation of the provisions of the Registered Stock and Securities Ordinance.“This is how the Central Bank officers, so called experts and professionals, mismanaged public debt to facilitate the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government and Ajith Nivaard Cabral through questionable private placements of bonds. In such gazettes issued in the past, all private placements were also legalized as issuance at auctions announced by the Registrar of Pubic Debt,” the Finance Ministry added. As per the gazette, loans will be raised through the bonds within a sum of Rupees one thousand seven hundred and eighty billion authorized in the Appropriation Act, No. 41 of 2014.The practice that has been followed in the past by the Central Bank is to issue the gazette back-dated as January 1 each year after issuing all bonds during the year in a hidden attempt to comply with the requirement of the Section 4 of the Registered Stock and Securities Ordinance while mismanaging bond issuances.“When issuing the gazette, the required protocol has not been followed. With regard to issuance of a gazette by any Minister, the relevant institution should send the draft to the Secretary of the line Ministry. The Secretary then obtains the legal and technical clearance from the relevant officials in the Ministry and submits the gazette for the signature of the Minister. Only after the Minister’s signature can the gazette be sent to the Government Printer to be published,” the Finance Ministry said. The gazette was revealed during evidence given by the Secretary to Ministry of Finance on 23 February 2017 to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on Treasury bond issuance. The gazette is a unique example of relevance of fraudulent management of public debt by Mahinda Rajapaksa, former Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal and his officers in the Central Bank, in violation of existing laws. The Finance Ministry says the Central Bank has not followed the procedure on the gazette in the recent past. Instead, the Superintendent of the Public Debt Department has directly sent it to the Government Printer after obtaining legal clearance from Central Bank lawyers. The gazette contains authorization given under section 4 of the Registered Stock and Securities Ordinance to raise loans during the year 2015 through the issuance of 31 Treasury bonds of different redemption periods at different interest rates at auctions as notified by the Registrar of Public Debt through newspapers.The bonds stipulated in the gazette include many bonds issued in the past at various interest rates since 2011 as well as new bonds. There is no indication as to how bonds already issued in the past were issued again in 2015. It appears that the gazette authorizes the past bonds also, the Finance Ministry said. The Finance Ministry said that a full report will be issued to the media following a full investigation and corrective measures will be taken immediately. Appropriate legal action will be taken against those errant officers under the provisions of the Registered Stock and Securities Ordinance. (Colombo Gazette) read more

Witness who testified against Ravi flees following threats

Wijesuriya had told the commission earlier that Karunanayake and his family leased a penthouse at Monarch Residencies for eight months with the monthly lease rental Rs 1.45 million being paid by Perpetual Treasuries owner Arjun Aloysius.Wijesuriya owned the Penthouse at Monarch Residencies. (Colombo Gazette) A key witness who testified against former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, has fled the country following threats to her life.The Attorney General’s Department informed the Presidential Commission investigating the alleged treasury bond scam that Anika Wijesuriya had fled after she was threatened.

US discusses Maldives turmoil and Sri Lanka with India

While India has not made any public statements on the situation in the Maldives in the recent past, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who cancelled his visit to Male abruptly in March 2015, has not yet rescheduled the visit, indicating that tensions between the two countries still prevail. In August, days after the parliament crisis, former President Nasheed visited India and met officials here, seen as a signal of India’s displeasure to Male. (Colombo Gazette) Among the concerns on the Maldives was the crackdown by the government on Opposition leaders, most of whom, like former President Mohammad Nasheed are in exile facing prison terms, or like former President Gayoom’s son Faris Maumoon, are under arrest. The American diplomats also said the action in Parliament in August, where the Army was called in to stop lawmakers from passing an impeachment motion against the Speaker of the assembly, was “very discouraging”. Amidst growing political turmoil in Male, a team of US diplomats met senior officials of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to discuss the events in the Maldives and also Sri Lanka, The Hindu newspaper reported.The team, led by US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Atul Keshap, shared their concerns about the political situation with Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar, and spoke about development cooperation in Sri Lanka, The Hindu has learnt. The growth of Islamist radicalism was another area of concern discussed, given the fall of IS would send foreign fighters back to their countries of origin. About 200 Maldivians are estimated to have travelled to Iraq and Syria, and the Maldives, with a population of just 4 lakhs, is believed to be among the countries worst impacted by IS radicalisation.The U.S. diplomats also brought up the growing influence of Chinese investment, as well as its maritime presence, with the China-Maldives “friendship bridge” from Male to Hulhumale, an island being developed by Chinese companies, becoming the focus of their attention. The MEA refused to comment about whether India shared the concerns the U.S. team expressed, but a senior official confirmed the meetings in Delhi this week. Asked about the concerns from the U.S. that called the parliament action “disturbing and unfortunate” in a public statement, Maldives Ambassador to India Ahmed Mohamed said the allegations that the Yameen government was undemocratic were “sensational” and represented a “western double standard”. “We have said other countries must not be prescriptive or interfere in our affairs,” Mr. Mohamed told The Hindu in Delhi. read more

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya slams SLBC chief

Jayasuriya said that the SLBC Chairman had been issued notice on three occasions yet the chairman had disregarded the notice.UNF Parliamentarian Range Bandara said that a criminal case can be filed against the SLBC Chairman. The Chairman of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) came under fire in Parliament today with Speaker Karu Jayasuriya accusing him of disregarding instructions issued by Parliament.United National Front (UNF) Parliamentarian Ajith P. Perera said that there is an agreement between Parliament and SLBC to broadcast Parliament proceedings. Ajith P. Perera said that the Parliament privileges committee must summon the SLBC Chairman and question him over his actions. He noted that SLBC was blatantly violating the agreement by not broadcasting Parliament proceedings which over the past few days. He said the SLBC Chairman cannot decide when to broadcast and when not to broadcast Parliament proceedings.Meanwhile, the Media Ministry Secretary and SLBC Chairman met the Speaker this evening.The SLBC Chairman assured that he will take steps to broadcast Parliament proceedings once again. (Colombo Gazette) read more

Microsoft to invest 1 billion in partnership with OpenAI

Advocacy groups and policy makers have raised concerns about some types of AI and called for regulation to increase transparency, guard against bias and ensure the technology isn’t used for military purposes and other dangerous applications. Those issues are likely to become more pressing as researchers try to develop AI that has more human-like capabilities.In February, OpenAI unveiled an algorithm that can write coherent sentences, including fake news articles, after being given just a small sample. The implications were so worrying that the group opted not to release the most powerful version of the software.The partnership between Microsoft and OpenAI will focus on Artificial General Intelligence, which aims to get computers to learn new skills and complete varied tasks like humans can. That’s a contrast to existing AI, which can learn specific jobs, such as understanding images, but can’t tackle different problems on its own.AGI, and the ability for computers to potentially teach themselves so much they eclipse humans, was what disturbed Musk so much that he helped found OpenAI. On Monday, Microsoft and OpenAI addressed such concerns.“The creation of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) will be the most important technological development in human history, with the potential to shape the trajectory of humanity,” said Sam Altman, chief executive officer of OpenAI. “It’s crucial that AGI is deployed safely and securely and that its economic benefits are widely distributed. We are excited about how deeply Microsoft shares this vision.”Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said the goal is to “democratize AI — while always keeping AI safety front and centre — so everyone can benefit.” Microsoft and OpenAI said the work will be governed by both companies’ AI ethics policies.Microsoft is also looking for more Azure cloud customers and for ways to promote Azure’s AI capabilities, so a tie-up with a leading research arm in the field is lucrative. The two organizations will use Microsoft’s work on supercomputers to build technology in Azure that has the scale to train and run more sophisticated AI models.Other OpenAI investors include the charitable foundation of LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and venture capital firm Khosla Ventures. Other Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who started OpenAI include Hoffman and Altman, co-founder and former president of startup incubator Y Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures/Handout via Reuters Microsoft Corp. agreed to invest US$1 billion in a partnership with research group OpenAI, gaining a prominent cloud-computing customer from the artificial intelligence field.OpenAI, co-founded by Elon Musk and other wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, will use Microsoft’s Azure cloud services to train and run the group’s AI software. The two will also jointly develop supercomputing technology, and Microsoft will be OpenAI’s preferred partner to commercialize its creations, the companies said in a statement on Monday.OpenAI started in 2015 with much fanfare. Industry luminaries including Musk and Peter Thiel committed at least US$1 billion to the nonprofit to build AI that could match or improve on the technology being developed by tech giants such as Google, Facebook Inc. and Microsoft. However, Musk said he left OpenAI’s board last year over disagreements about some of the group’s plans. More recently, OpenAI started a for-profit arm to help it raise more money. Artificial intelligence learns from professional gamers — and then crushes them Microsoft Ventures invests in Montreal-based, artificial intelligence-focused startup Element AI AI revolution brewing in property business promises to make buildings greener and cheaper to operate A partnership with Microsoft, which has more than US$100 billion in cash, is a quick solution to OpenAI’s funding needs. But it’s an about-face of sorts. The group was seen by some in the AI community as an important counterbalance to large technology corporations that have snapped up talent and used their computing power and huge data hoards to leap ahead in the field.Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, right, and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman. read more

Plane crashes during landing in Caledon

Four people were transported to hospital after a small plane crashed during landing at the Brampton Flight Centre. Police were called to the scene on McLaughlin Rd. between Old School Rd. and King St. around 5:20 p.m. Monday. Investigators believe the four-seat Cessna plane struck a tree as it tried to land and crashed on McLaughlin Rd. All four people on board were taken to hospital. Three of the passengers were taken as a precaution while the other suffered serious but non-life threatening injuries. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is investigating the cause of the crash.

The Latest Hong Kong airport cancels flights over protest

HONG KONG — The Latest on protest in Hong Kong (all times local):4:30 p.m.Hong Kong’s airport, one of the world’s busiest, has cancelled all remaining flights for the day after thousands of pro-democracy protesters crowded into the main terminal.Hong Kong International Airport said in a statement Monday afternoon that the demonstration “seriously disrupted” airport operations. It said all check-in services for departing flights had been suspended.It said only those flights that have already completed the check-in process will move ahead.Hong Kong has experienced more than two months of mass protests calling for democratic reforms and an independent inquiry into police conduct.The protest movement’s demands also include the resignation of the Chinese territory’s leader and an election for her successor.Hong Kong, a former British colony, was returned to China in 1997 under the “one country, two systems” principle.___2 p.m.Hong Kong police showed off water cannons Monday as pro-democracy street protests stretched into their 10th week with no sign of either side backing down.The demonstration of specially equipped armoured cars came after another weekend of protests at Hong Kong’s bustling international airport and on the streets of one of the city’s main shopping districts.Legislators and journalists were invited to witness the display of extreme crowd control tactics, which Amnesty International warned last week could lead to serious injuries if misused within Hong Kong’s confined spaces.During the weekend protests, website Hong Kong Free Press showed footage of one arrest that appeared to include officers pinning a demonstrator pressed to the ground. The young man, who said his name was Chow Ka-lok and asked for a lawyer, was shown with a bleeding head wound and said he had a broken tooth.The Associated Press read more

Trump rebuffs Kavanaugh impeachment calls after new sexual misconduct report

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump rejected Democrats’ calls for impeaching Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh on Sunday after a new report that alleged sexual misconduct, encouraging Kavanaugh to sue for libel and suggesting the Justice Department could “rescue” him.At least three Democratic presidential candidates called for Kavanaugh’s impeachment after the New York Times report.The Times essay, drawn from an upcoming book written by the newspaper’s reporters, discussed a previously unreported account of Kavanaugh’s behavior as a freshman at Yale University that echoed allegations against him by former classmate Deborah Ramirez.The new account from former classmate Max Stier describes Kavanaugh pushing his private parts into the hand of a female student at a party, according to the Times piece. The report said the classmate notified U.S. senators and the FBI about the incident, but the FBI did not investigate. The FBI did not respond to a request for comment on the report.“Brett Kavanaugh should start suing people for libel, or the Justice Department should come to his rescue,” Trump wrote on Twitter.Story continues belowThis advertisement has not loaded yet,but your article continues below.It was unclear what action the Republican president was advocating the Justice Department take.Kavanaugh did not comment to the Times on Stier’s allegation. The Supreme Court press officers did not immediately return a request for comment.Kavanaugh, a conservative appointed by Trump, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in October after he denied accusations of sexual assault from three women. After acrimonious hearings, the Senate confirmed his appointment to the high court by 50-48 vote, one of the tightest margins ever for a justice.Trump did not mention the Times article but blamed “radical left Democrats” and the “LameStream Media” for going after Kavanaugh. In a series of Twitter posts, he accused Democrats of threatening impeachment to influence Kavanaugh’s opinions on court cases.“They want to scare him into turning Liberal!” he wrote.Three Democrats running to replace Trump in 2020 called for Kavanaugh’s impeachment on Sunday.“I sat through those hearings. Brett Kavanaugh lied to the U.S. Senate and most importantly to the American people,” Senator Kamala Harris wrote on Twitter. “He must be impeached.”“Confirmation is not exoneration, and these newest revelations are disturbing. Like the man who appointed him, Kavanaugh should be impeached,” Senator Elizabeth Warren said in another Twitter post.Julian Castro, housing secretary under President Barack Obama, said the new allegation should be investigated.“What’s become clear is that he should be impeached,” Castro told MSNBC. “Based on this new information, that’s certainly what it appears like – that he lied under oath.” (Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Lisa Shumaker) read more

UN rushes aid to earthquakeravaged parts of Iran

A three-member UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team arrived today in Tehran and met with the UN Resident Coordinator and members of the UN Security Management and Disaster squad. They were de-briefed on a UN Field Assessment Team mission that was deployed the day the earthquake hit.The UNDAC Team was expected to remain in the field “as long as required to comprehensively assess relief requirements and monitor the effectiveness of delivery,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.Citing statistics from Iran’s Ministry of Interior, OCHA reported that the earthquake, which measured 6.3 on the Richter scale, killed 229 people and injured 1,300 others.While estimates of the number of homeless varied, a preliminary survey conducted by the Ministry indicated that more than 19,000 dwellings were demolished or severely damaged, OCHA said. The Iranian Red Crescent Society reported that some 25,000 people have been left homeless.Meanwhile, numerous UN agencies have been providing aid to the country. The UN World Health Organization (WHO) arranged for the immediate release of five emergency health kits, each covering the primary health care needs of 50,000 people. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) was providing water tankers, chlorine tablets and other chemicals for water purification. That agency was also offering the use of trucks for logistics and could provide additional emergency tents for up to 80,000 people.The UN World Food Programme (WFP) was prepared to feed 15,000 people for two to four weeks, while the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) said it would provide seeds and fertilizer and help Iran to rehabilitate affected irrigation networks and farm areas. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) said it would provide an immediate emergency grant of $50,000 for coordination purposes and logistics. read more