Kolkata: On the eve of the announcement of the results of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections to constitute the 17th Parliament, Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee has written a poem titled ‘Jaruri’ on Wednesday. In the poem, Banerjee has mentioned the recent incidents involving the Centre.Through the verses, she has repeatedly hinted at the emergency-like situation that has prevailed in the country throughout the tenure of the Modi government. In the poem, she has mentioned about note ban through the line-“Madhyo rate siddhanto- otao jaruri…” while also taking a dig at the meditation of Narendra Modi in a cave at Kedarnath through the line- “Ganatantra Guhae- otao jaruri.”
Lima: A powerful 8.0-earthquake toppled houses, blocked roads and knocked out power in parts of Peru on Sunday, killing one person and injuring at least 26 others as the shockwave extended into neighboring Ecuador. The quake hit in a sparsely populated region of Peru’s Amazon basin region but was felt over a wide area. In Lima and other cities, frightened residents rushed into the streets. “There are many old houses that have collapsed after this strong earthquake,” said Hugo Araujo, the mayor of Yurimaguas, a town near the epicenter. Also Read – ‘Hong Kong won’t rule out Chinese help over protests’Peru’s civil defense coordinator Ricardo Seijas told RPP radio that a man was killed by falling debris in his house in Cajamarca. Danilo Munoz, the 48-year-old victim, was asleep when the quake struck at 2:41 am (0741 GMT). Seijas said 11 people were injured in Peru, and more than 50 houses were left uninhabitable. Reports said 15 people had been hurt in Ecuador. The quake blocked roads, damaged a bridge and knocked down houses, said Peru’s President Martin Vizcarra, adding that it was the most powerful quake to hit the country in 12 years. “It is an earthquake affecting the entire Peruvian jungle,” he said. “We are working on establishing an air bridge to transport people who have an emergency,” he said. The quake struck about 75 kilometers (45 miles) southeast of the town of Lagunas at a depth of at least 110 kilometers. The US Geological Survey and Peruvian geophysicists said the quake registered 8.0 in magnitude. They said it lasted just over two minutes. The mayor of Lagunas, Arri Pezo, said many residents who fled from their homes later stayed in the streets for fear of aftershocks.
New York: Inspired by the lionfish, scientists have created a system of circulating liquid within robotic structures, to store energy and power automated machines for sophisticated, long-duration tasks. The synthetic vascular system is capable of pumping an energy-dense hydraulic liquid — which the researchers call “robot blood”. It stores energy, transmits force, operates appendages and provides structure, all in an integrated design. “In nature we see how long organisms can operate while doing sophisticated tasks. Robots can’t perform similar feats for very long,” said Rob Shepherd, an associate professor at Cornell University in the US. Also Read – Merkel warns UK Brexit deal ‘unlikely’ without compromise: London”Our bio-inspired approach can dramatically increase the system’s energy density while allowing soft robots to remain mobile for far longer,” said Shepherd. The researchers tested the concept by creating an aquatic soft robot inspired by a lionfish, designed by James Pikul, who is now an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania in the US. Lionfish use undulating fanlike fins to glide through coral-reef environments. Silicone skin on the outside with flexible electrodes and an ion separator membrane within allows the robot to bend and flex. Also Read – India, China should jointly uphold peace and stability, resolve disputes through dialogues: Chinese ambassadorInterconnected zinc-iodide flow cell batteries power onboard pumps and electronics through electrochemical reactions. The researchers achieved energy density equal to about half that of a Tesla Model S lithium-ion battery. The robot swims using power transmitted to the fins from the pumping of the flow cell battery. The initial design provided enough power to swim upstream for more than 36 hours. Underwater soft robots offer tantalising possibilities for research and exploration. Since aquatic soft robots are supported by buoyancy, they don’t require an exoskeleton or endoskeleton to maintain structure. By designing power sources that give robots the ability to function for longer stretches of time, Shepherd thinks autonomous robots could soon be roaming Earth’s oceans on vital scientific missions and for delicate environmental tasks like sampling coral reefs. These devices could also be sent to extraterrestrial worlds for underwater reconnaissance missions.
New Delhi: After delivering three back-to-back rate cuts, the Reserve Bank Monday said it expects a quicker transmission of the interest rate cuts by banks to consumers by way of cheaper home, auto and personal loans. During this year, the RBI reduced the key policy rate thrice with an aggregate reduction of 0.75 percentage point in the repo rate, the rate at which RBI lends to banks. “In the last MPC meeting (June 6) I had said that by that time 50 basis points of repo rate cut had been announced, and out of this 21 basis points had been transmitted. And one positive thing that is happening now is, earlier it used to take six months for transmission, now the transmission is taking a much shorter period of 2-3 months,” RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das said. Also Read – Maruti cuts production for 8th straight month in Sep “Thereafter we announced 25 basis points cut. So, it’s now entirely 75 basis point cut. We are collecting the data and also you have to keep in mind that right from the month of June, in fact, June 1, the system is more than adequately surplus in liquidity,” he said while addressing media after the customary post-budget meeting with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. He further said overall the system liquidity is hugely in surplus and if individual banks have liquidity issue, the RBI will provide liquidity support to them. Also Read – Ensure strict implementation on ban of import of e-cigarettes: revenue to Customs The Budget has announced a 10 per cent backstop for the banks to implement NBFC package as part of a series of steps to give relief to non-banking financial companies facing cash crunch following the collapse of IL&FS last year. In a bid to address the stress in the sector, the government in the Budget proposed that public sector banks would purchase high-rated pooled assets of financially sound NBFCs, amounting to a total of Rs 1 lakh crore during the current financial year. For this, the government will provide one time six months’ partial credit guarantee to public sector banks for first loss of up to 10 per cent. With regard to the shadow banking sector, the governor said the RBI is monitoring NBFCs based on their size and based on their past repayment behaviour. “We are monitoring their operations very closely and at regular intervals,” he added. On the impact on fuel price hike on inflation, Das said it will take time for transmission to happen. The Monetary Policy Committee will meet in the first week of August, and will assess this, he said, adding that “there could be a marginal increase, but it’s not that, next day itself, it will impact inflation. It takes time for transmission.” Post the rise in fuel taxes announced by the government in the Budget for 2019-20, prices of petrol and diesel rose by at least Rs 2.4 and Rs 2.36 a litre respectively across metro cities. The prices increased after the Finance Minister raised excise duty and road and infrastructure cess by Rs 2 per litre on both the fuels. Asked about the government move to infuse Rs 70,000 crore in the PSBs, Das said it is a very positive development because it not only enables banks to maintain the capital they need to comply with the regulatory requirements. It will also give enough capital to the banks to step up their lending and credit disbursement and auger well for the banking system, he added.
Panaji: Reacting sharply to ten Congress MLAs joining the BJP in Goa, Utpal Parrikar, son of late Manohar Parrikar, said Wednesday that the saffron party has “taken a different direction” after his father’s demise. Utpal Parrikar was a contender for BJP ticket for assembly by-election here following his father’s death, but the BJP did not field him. Eventually, it was Congress’ Atanasio Monserratte who won the election in May. Monserratte was amongst the ten Congress MLAs who joined the BJP Wednesday evening. Also Read – How a psychopath killer hid behind the mask of a devout laity! “The words like trust and commitment which were at the core of the BJP during Manohar Parrikar’s time ceased to exist on March 17 (when the former Goa chief minister and BJP leader died),” Utpal told PTI. “The party has taken a different direction after March 17 and only time will tell whether it is the right one,” he added. He would continue to be in the BJP and support the veteran party workers, he said. As to Monserratte’s entry into the BJP, he said it was for the party workers to react. “Monserratte (himself) won’t be knowing where he will be in the next two years,” he quipped.
Kolkata: The Bengal government will set up more water bodies and construct check dams throughout the state to conserve water, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Friday.Participating in an awareness walk, beginning from Jorasanko Thakurbari and continuing till the statue of Mahatma Gandhi on Mayo Road, Banerjee said the thrust areas of the state government included “Save Water, Save Power, Save Environment”. She added: “In the past eight years, the state government has dug up three lakh water bodies and 542 check dams to conserve water. We will have to dig up more water bodies along with more check dams in order to conserve water.” Also Read – Centuries-old Durga Pujas continue to be hit among revellersShe further added that global warming has become an area of concern and if proper steps are not taken now it would pose a serious threat to civilization in the near future. “It is anticipated that major cities in India will experience severe water scarcity in the next 20 years and steps to counter the problem have become mandatory. Though Kolkata may be saved as the city is situated on the bank of River Hooghly but we will have to save water and ensure that not a drop of it is wasted.” Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari PujaThe state government will observe July 12 as “Save Water Day” every year. The programme, meant to raise awareness about water conservation, was observed in all the 341 blocks on Friday. The Chief Minister added that the “Jal Dharo Jal Bharo” movement launched by the state government has earned great success. “Pisciculture is being carried out in the check dams and this is providing a livelihood to many families. I will ask the Irrigation and Waterways department, Fisheries department along with Panchayats and Rural Development departments to work together to dig up more water bodies.” Chief Secretary Malay De, Home Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay, Director General of Police Virendra took part in the rally along with Mayor Firhad Hakim, Minister of State for Women and Child Development and Social Welfare Shashi Panja and Shantanu Sen, Trinamool Congress MP. Poet Subodh Sarkar, litterateur Abul Basar, film directors Arindam Sil and Raj Chakraborty joined the walk too. School and college students and people from all walks of life also participated. Sporting blue-coloured sashes with the massage “Save Water, Save Life”, the participants also waved placards carrying the message of water conservation. The theme song in Bengali “Jal Dhorbo Jal Bhorbo” composed by Alapan Bandyopadhyay and sung by Indranil Sen, Minister of State for Information and Cultural Affairs was played in the rally as a part of the campaign drive.
New Delhi: India has no plans to set up a fertiliser plant in Iran or import products from that country and is working to make itself self-sufficient with the revival of five defunct chemical industries, Union Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister D V Sadananda Gowda said on Tuesday. Gowda also said in Lok Sabha that currently India meets 75 per cent of its fertilisers demands and imports the rest 25 per cent from various countries. “Due to various reasons, at present we have no such plans,” he said during Question Hour when BJP MP Kapil Moreshwar Patil asked what is the status of government’s plans to set up a fertilisers plant in Iran and importing fertilisers from that country. The minister said the government was working for revival of five defunct fertiliser plants located at Barauni, Gorakhpur, Sindri, Talcher and Ramagundam. “When these five plants will be fully operational, India will be self sufficient in fertiliser production,” he said.
Washington: In a warning to Apple CEO Tim Cook, US President Donald Trump has threatened to slap tariffs on the components of the company’s high-end Mac Pro computer — its most expensive product — if it decides to shift production from the US to China. “Apple will not be given tariff waiver, or relief, for Mac Pro parts that are made in China. Make them in the USA, no Tariffs!” the US President tweeted on Friday. Despite the ongoing US-China trade tensions, the Cupertino-based iPhone maker is reportedly moving production of its newly-launched Mac Pro desktop computer to China. Also Read – Swiggy now in 500 Indian cities, targets 100 more this year Mac is the only Apple device being assembled in Austin, Texas, while all other products like the iPhones and iPads are being manufactured in China. According to The Wall Street Journal: “The tech giant has tapped Taiwanese contractor Quanta Computer Inc. to manufacture the $6,000 desktop computer and is ramping up production at a factory near Shanghai. Trump has been telling Cook to shift manufacturing from China to the US. After Apple hinted at increasing the price of its products owing to tariffs on China last year, he asked the iPhone maker to shift manufacturing from Beijing to Washington. Also Read – New HP Pavilion x360 notebook with in-built Alexa in India Immediately after Trump’s tweet, the value of Apple shares dipped slightly on the Nasdaq index, where shares of the main technology firms are traded. The Mac Pro, whose latest model was presented at the Apple Worldwide Developers’ Conference (WWDC19) in San Jose, California early last June, is a computer conceived for specialists in video design and edition. It is priced at $6,000 and is the last large device that Apple still makes in the US. Since it is a luxury item and production is relatively small, the tech giant has decided to move its manufacturing amid heightened trade tension between the US and China. It is weighing the possibilities of being slapped with higher tariffs and therefore wrote a letter to the US government last month asking it to refrain from imposing new tariffs on imports from China. In its note to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Apple said higher tariffs would be disastrous for its products such as iPhones, iPad tablets, Mac computers, AirPod wireless headphones and Apple TV media streaming devices, reported Efe. Washington and Beijing got into a trade war in 2018 that led Trump to impose tariffs on all Chinese goods imported annually into the US, which are worth some $300 billion, while the government of Chinese President Xi Jinping did the same with US products valued at $60 billion. At the G20 Summit in June, Trump and Xi came to a trade truce, after which no further tariffs have been levied, though the ones already decreed remain in effect.
Agartala/Aizawl: The Border Security Force (BSF) and the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) exchanged greetings, flowers and sweets on the occasion of Eid, a BSF official said on Monday. According to the BSF official, senior BSF and BGB officials accompanied by locally posted troopers greeted each other on Saturday and Sunday at many places along the 4,096-km Bangladesh frontier with India’s West Bengal, Tripura, Assam, Mizoram and Meghalaya. “We exchange greetings and sweets on every important religious and national day event and programmes of both countries,” the official said. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’ Meanwhile, a large number of Muslims also assembled in mosques and Eidgahs to offer special prayers in Tripura. Large congregation offered prayers at Shivnagar, Shantipara, Gulchakkar, Aralia on the outskirts of the capital city, and other parts of the state including Sonamura (in western Tripura), Udaipur (in southern Tripura), Kailasahar and Dharmanagar (in northern Tripura). In an unique gesture, Tipu Sultan, a journalist at leading Tripura daily ‘Syandan Patrika’ donated Rs 10,000 to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund instead of making an animal sacrifice. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&K “Since last year, instead of making ‘qurbani’ (animal sacrifice), my family and I donate money to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund,” Tipu Sultan said after handing over a cheque to Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb on Sunday night. Appreciating the gesture, Deb said: “I believe everyone will be influenced by his (Tipu Sultan) noble gesture.” The Chief Minister and Governor Ramesh Bais have greeted the people of the state on the occasion of Eid. In Christian-majority Mizoram, thousands of devout Muslims offered special prayers in Bara Bazaar, Zarkawt as well as at other mosques and Eidgahs in the state.
Kolkata: Mystery surrounds the death of an employee of a bar-cum-restaurant at Chandni Chowk on Tuesday night.Two of his colleagues took his body to the deceased’s home in Baranagar area and tried to hand it over to his family and leave. However, locals detained both of them and handed them over to the police. According to sources, on Tuesday a singer of the bar identified as Debasish Das (48), was found lying unconscious inside the washroom. As per the claim of his colleagues, they took Das to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari Puja(CMCH), where he was declared dead. However, questions arose over the fact that if Das was declared brought dead, the police outpost of CMCH was supposed to be informed and his body would have been sent for autopsy examination. How his colleagues were able to take his body to his home in Baranagar was not clear either. The family members of Das stated that on Tuesday night, two of his colleagues took his body to Baranagar and told his family that he had died. But they did not tell them how it had happened. Also Read – Bengal civic volunteer dies in road mishap on national highwayWhen his family members questioned them about what had happened, they reportedly tried to flee. But hearing the family members shout for help, locals detained the duo. On Tuesday night, Baranagar police station was informed and later police recovered the body and sent it for autopsy examination. His family members lodged a complaint at the police station but no murder case has been initiated till Wednesday. “An Unnatural Death (UD) case has been started. Probe is on,” said Ananda Roy, Deputy Commissioner (DC), Zone II, Belgharia, Barrackpore City Police. Sources informed that Barrackpore police station has got in touch with Bowbazar police station for obtaining information regarding the incident. However, DC, Central of Kolkata Police Nilakantam Sudheer Kumar said: “No case lodged here. We are not probing the case.” No one has been arrested in the case till Wednesday and police are waiting for the autopsy report to identify the exact cause of death. According to police, as per primary opinion of the autopsy surgeon, food particles were found inside his trachea. It is suspected that he died due to choking from the same.
Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday welcomed a closed-door consultations on Kashmir by the UN Security Council, saying the resolution of the dispute is the “responsibility” of the world body. Taking to Twitter, Khan said that it was for the first time in over five decades that the “world’s highest diplomatic forum” had taken up the issue of Kashmir and the “serious situation” prevailing there. “I welcome the UNSC meeting…,” he tweeted. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from US Khan said that there were 11 UNSC resolutions on the issue and the meeting was a “reaffirmation of these resolutions.” He said that ensuring resolution of the dispute is the “responsibility of this world body”. Khan’s statement came a day after the UN Security Council took up the issue of Kashmir in an informal consultations in New York. Pakistan has claimed it as big success. The meeting on Kashmir by the Security Council ended without any outcome or statement from the powerful 15-nation UN organ, dealing a huge snub to Pakistan and its all-weather ally China to internationalise the issue, which an overwhelming majority stressed is a bilateral matter between New Delhi and Islamabad. Also Read – Record number of 35 candidates in fray for SL Presidential polls Sources familiar with the consultations said that China was pushing for an outcome or a press statement to be delivered after the consultations by Poland, the President of the Security Council for the month of August. However, majority of the 15 members said there should not be any statement or outcome issued after the consultations and their will prevailed, leaving China to come out and make a statement in its national capacity followed by Pakistan. Briefing the media following the conclusion of the UNSC meeting in New York, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Syed Akbaruddin said India’s position was and remains that matters related to the Article 370 of the Constitution are entirely an internal matter of India and these have no external ramifications. On August 5, India revoked Article 370 of the Constitution removing the special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and also bifurcated the state into two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Eminent educationist and philanthropist Dr Achyuta Samanta, Founder, KIIT & KISS has been conferred with the prestigious Honorary Doctorate by National Chin–Yi University of Technology (NCUT), Taiwan on September 12. At a special convocation ceremony, President of NCUT, Professor Wen-Yuan Chen bestowed the award upon Dr Samanta for his outstanding contributions to the fields of education and social work. NCUT was founded in 1971 by Chang Ming to cultivate young talents in engineering and management. It is based on the motto of selfless service. Dr Samanta has expressed heartfelt thanks to President of NCUT Professor Chen and International Department Dean-cum-Professor C Yan Huang for recognising his relentless social service and contribution to education for the last thirty years.
Mumbai: Actors Ayushmann Khurrana and Nushrat Bharucha starrer Dream Girl has minted Rs 44.57 crore since its release on September 13. Trade analyst Taran Adarsh tweeted on September 16: Dream Girl runs riot at the Box-Office. Packs a fantastic total, setting the BO on (fire) on Day 2 and 3. “Trends better than Raazi (Rs 32.94 cr), Stree (Rs 32.27 cr) and Uri (Rs 35.73 cr)… day one 10.05 cr, day 2 16.42 cr, day 3 18.10 cr. Total: Rs 44.57 cr. India biz.” Ayushmann said: “The era of good content in here and audiences want to see different content in every genre. I’m glad that people are connecting with the kind of cinema that I’m doing and it only motivates me to be more brave with my film choices.”
CALGARY – Ryan Straschnitzki is involved in the toughest game of his life.Seven weeks after being paralyzed from the chest down when a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team crashed, he has embarked on the thing a lot of athletes dread — two-a-day workouts.It was his choice to undertake twice daily physiotherapy sessions at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary.“It’s tough, but it’s worth it for sure,” said Straschnitzki in an interview with The Canadian Press from his hospital bed. “I’m better. Physio’s getting better. I’m feeling a lot better. Everything’s healing perfectly — I’ve still got some soreness and what not.”Recently he was learning to move himself from his wheelchair to a bed during physio with the use of a slide board. It took a long time.He also worked at turning over on his side. That involved locking his hands together and rocking back and forth. He finally achieved it, but there was a look of pain on his face and he immediately grabbed his shoulder.Straschnitzki was badly hurt in the accident: a spinal injury, broken ribs, a broken collar bone, a punctured lung and bleeding in his head and pelvic area.“So many upper body injuries. It’s kind of amazing that my body was able to survive and I could get out of that alive. I’m just so grateful.”The April 6 collision between the team’s bus and a tractor-trailer at a rural intersection in Saskatchewan is still being investigated. The Broncos were on their way to a playoff game. Sixteen people were killed and 13 were injured. RCMP have only said the truck was in the intersection when the crash occurred.“There’s all sorts of mixed emotions really — anger could be one of those. It’s kind of tough to talk about sometimes. It’s not all the time, but it’s once in a while.”Straschnitzki keeps in touch with his teammates through online group chats. During the interview, his cellphone dinged steadily as he received more and more texts.He said his friend Jacob Wasserman, the team’s goaltender, is also paralyzed, but from the navel down. Both are interested in playing sledge hockey once their recovery is complete.Straschnitzki spends his day in rehab and with video games. Giant containers of potato chips and beef jerky are close at hand.He’s had a lot of visitors, including Canadian wheelchair athlete Rick Hansen“He’s a really great guy and really inspirational for sure,” Straschnitzki said.“He told me there’s more to a person than their legs … you don’t let it get you down and you get up and do something about it. You just keep pushing through.”One of Straschnitzki’s aims is to walk again.“That’s the big goal in mind. If I can be able to push myself and do that … then that proves it to everyone. I’ve heard some news which is pretty tragic, but doctors have always been wrong before,” he said.“I think just having the mindset that you can do this for sure will help.”— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter
SASKATOON – A Saskatoon man says he was cut on the forehead and suffered a concussion after an axe came flying through his truck’s windshield.Mackenzie Peddle says he doesn’t remember getting hit in the face while he was driving home to Saskatoon from Yorkton, Sask., earlier this month.He says when he came to, the truck’s windshield was shattered, there was an axe lying near him and blood was spattered over his face and seats.Peddle says he must have passed out after somehow managing to pull over to the side of Highway 16 near the community of Plunkett.The electrician says his foot was on the brake and the truck was still in gear when a passerby approached.RCMP say they are investigating but have no leads as to where the axe came from.“A lady pulled over and woke me up on the side of the road. I didn’t really know what happened or how long I’d been out,” Peddle told CKOM Radio.He credits the sunglasses he was wearing for saving his eye from the axe blade.Peddle said he managed to phone RCMP and take some photos of the damage to his face and truck.An officer arrived and took his own photos, then drove up and down the highway to see if any other debris had fallen off a vehicle.“He went around to the farms and farmhouses, but no one had seen anything,” Peddle said.Humboldt RCMP said Tuesday they were looking for the public’s help in the investigation.Peddle said it’s not the first time something has flown through his windshield while he was driving on the highway.He said about a decade ago, he was driving his car when a long piece of rebar fell off a truck, bounced off the pavement and pierced the windshield on the driver’s side — missing him by inches.(CKOM)
ATHABASCA, Alta. – The body of a missing scuba diver has been found partially embedded in the mud at the bottom of a northern Alberta lake.RCMP Staff Sgt. Jeremie Landry says commercial divers were working Sunday to free the body of the 44-year-old man from the mud in Island Lake, about 150 metres from shore and at a depth of approximately five metres.Police said later Sunday that the man’s body has been recovered and that an autopsy has been ordered.Landry says the man, who was from Athabasca County, went for a recreational dive alone on Saturday afternoon and was reported missing about two hours later.Police are not releasing the man’s name.They say the circumstances of his death remain under investigation.
HALIFAX – Nova Scotia municipal councillors who are pregnant would no longer be required to ask permission from their councils for maternity leave under legislation proposed by the opposition NDP.The bill introduced Tuesday by New Democrat MLA Claudia Chender would update the province’s Municipal Government Act and the Halifax Charter.Chender said the idea is to drop the requirement for permission, while renumeration would continue for up to 52 meeting absences.“Practically speaking what this will do is that women will not have to get the permission … of their mostly male colleagues to miss work because they’ve had a child and they won’t have to fear that their pay will be docked.”Chender said the province should be removing any barriers that keep women from running for office.“I sincerely hope (the bill) will encourage more women to enter municipal politics because they won’t have to make a choice between having a family or serving their communities,” she said.Kings County councillor Megan Hodges, who was at the legislature with her five-month-old son Hollis, said she was pleased at the attention for an “overlooked” issue.She said her council voted to give her 52 weeks off from her municipal duties, but she felt unease at having to ask permission.“I was shaking a little bit when they brought it up and they discussed it on the floor,” she said. “It was just a little bit embarrassing to have to be the centre of attention that way.”Premier Stephen McNeil signalled the government’s interest in the bill, but said it could be missing a few pieces and Municipal Affairs Minister Derek Mombourquette is reaching out to municipalities to find out what is needed.“The mayors aren’t included in that piece of legislation and there are other aspects that we don’t want to miss,” said McNeil.Chender expressed hope the bill could be passed during the fall session, but McNeil was non-committal.Meanwhile, Chender said the legislature’s house management committee would be looking at maternity leave for provincial politicians.Currently, members would have to ask the Speaker’s permission to miss more than three sittings of the house.“All we need to do is waive that, basically. As far as MLAs are concerned the simplest way to do that is through the committee.”
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is calling a mass shooting at a church in south Texas a “senseless and horrific act of violence.”Trudeau issued a statement Sunday night saying it is appalling that the attack happened at a place of worship, where people should have felt safe.Texas Governor Greg Abbott says 26 people were killed and about 20 others injured on Sunday when a lone gunman clad in black tactical gear opened fire at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.Officials say the victims were between five and 72 years old.The shooting is the deadliest in the state’s history.Trudeau says Canada stands in solidarity with the United States during this difficult time.
FREDERICTON – The Speaker of the New Brunswick legislature has issued a public apology for comments that an investigation deemed as harassing.Chris Collins stood in front of the legislature building with his wife Monday morning, and spoke for the first time since news of the harassment allegations emerged four months ago.Collins said while most of the allegations were not founded, a few related to comments he made that were perceived as inappropriate.“The few related to incidents in which I spoke in a manner in which I was perceived to be inappropriate by the complainant. For that, I am very apologetic,” he said.“I understand that while I may perceive my words to have been humorous or inoffensive, others may have a very different, yet legitimate perspective. It is important that those perspectives be heard, understood and legitimized, through a fair and thorough investigation.”Collins thanked his wife, friends and the constituents of his Moncton Centre riding for their support.Premier Brian Gallant announced in early April that Collins was being suspended from the Liberal caucus, saying the premier’s office had been made aware of potential allegations of harassment in February, but the complainant didn’t come forward with allegations until two months later.In May, Collins announced he would sit as an Independent while pursuing a case of libel and slander against the provincial government.Collins declined to answer any questions Monday, and would not provide any more details about the allegations or the findings of the investigation.“Out of respect for the privacy for those involved, exact details of this matter must remain undisclosed, as the entire process should have been in the first place,” he said.Collins did not say if he’ll run in the provincial election on Sept. 24, except to say that the decision will not be made by Gallant.The province’s Legislature Administration Committee voted along party lines Friday to sanction Collins after concluding, based on a third-party investigation, that harassment allegations were founded in part.It asked for a written apology to the complainant and for Collins to take anti-harassment and sensitivity training.First elected to the legislature in a 2007 byelection, Collins had previously served three years as a Moncton city councillor. He was briefly minister of local government under former Liberal premier Shawn Graham, and was elected Speaker after the Liberals returned to power in September 2014 under Gallant.
OTTAWA – Canada’s ethics watchdog says he would like to have greater powers to impose penalties against cabinet ministers and public office holders who violate conflict rules, including the ability to levy fines of up to $10,000.Conflict of Interest Commissioner Mario Dion says he believes strongly in the importance of upholding ethics rules in government, but the current conflict of interest law offers him limited powers of action when someone does break the rules.“I would really like to have the power to express a point of view as (to) the gravity of the contravention when we find a contravention, (and) what kind of sanctions should be taken,” he told The Canadian Press in an interview.“It’s important to know that there will be consequences if you don’t respect something.”Questions about penalties, or lack thereof, for cabinet ministers who break ethics rules were raised following a ruling Wednesday that Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc breached conflict of interest law when he approved an Arctic surf clam licence to a company that employed a family member.Dion determined that LeBlanc knew his wife’s first cousin was involved in the Five Nations Clam Co. and also knew the cousin stood to benefit financially when awarding the company a multi-million dollar licence last February.LeBlanc should have recused himself from the decision, Dion ruled.Despite the finding of conflict, no penalties were attached to the ruling and LeBlanc has so far not been publicly sanctioned by the prime minister.Rex Matthews, mayor of Grand Bank, N.L., says LeBlanc should resign or be removed from cabinet for his role in the licensing deal, which the government has since halted but would have ended a monopoly on the Arctic clam fishery held by Clearwater Seafoods, located in Matthews’ community.“He should have known, if there’s any possibility of a conflict of interest, you should remove yourself,” Matthews said from his home in Newfoundland.“What kind of message does that send? When the ethics commissioner says that you’re in violation of public office, to me, what more do you need to say? You have made a big mistake and you should pay for that mistake.”The Conflict of Interest Act came into effect in 2007 as part of the Harper administration’s Federal Accountability Act, which came in the wake of the Liberal sponsorship scandal of the early 2000s.The 11-year old act has not been updated since its inception. It governs the actions of 2,400 public office holders.The only penalties that can be imposed by the commissioner are minor financial penalties of no more than $500, which apply if a public office holder fails to report within certain time frames receiving things such as gifts or offers of employment.No penalties exist for infractions like LeBlanc’s — except the act of exposing the actions by way of a report, Dion said.He said the $500 penalty is “very low” and should be increased and broadened as an “incentive not to breach the obligations.”“Something in the order of $10,000 as a maximum for both the failure the to do what you’re supposed to do in the time that you’re supposed to do it, but also for substantive contravention of the act, as well.”Speaking to reporters in Saskatoon Thursday about the findings against LeBlanc, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he believes Canadians are “reassured” that Canada has “one of the strongest ethics frames in governments around the world.”“We work with the ethics commissioner, we accept the ethics commissioner’s findings and we will always work to rectify and move forward in the ways the ethics commissioner recommends.”But the act does not permit the commissioner to recommend anything. That’s something Dion would like to see changed.“I think this is a central issue with the act. The buck stops with the report. Then it’s completely up to politicians to make decisions and I’m not even able to express a point of view about that,” he said.“We get to know the situation very well, and we’re in a good position to express a point of view as to what would be an appropriate remedy. And I would like to be able to do that, but until the act is changed I don’t have the authority to do that. It will be up to Parliament to decide whether they wish me to do that.”Dion has previously made his views on this point known when he appeared before a Commons committee in February.Despite this, says he has received no indication “whatsoever” that government is interested in updating current ethics laws.“I’m not surprised, I have a long experience in the public (sector). There are lists of priorities and this does not appear to be one of them.”Dion says he believes it’s an issue of fairness to everyone — both for those who break the rules and those who do not.“If a group of people follow religiously the provisions and do everything that’s needed, then it’s unfair to them when you fail to take action when somebody breaches the rules.”The Liberals have faced a number of ethics probes since taking office in 2015.Last year, then-commissioner Mary Dawson found Trudeau broke Canada’s ethics laws over two all-expenses-paid family trips to a private island in the Bahamas owned by the Aga Khan. Trudeau also had to pay a $100 fine earlier this year for failing to disclosing a gift of sunglasses from the premier of P.E.I.Finance Minister Bill Morneau has also been investigated several times by the ethics czar. He was cleared in two of those probes, which involved sponsoring a bill that reformed Canadian pension regulations while he and his family members held shares in a pension firm as well as accusations of insider trading over the sale of those shares.He was fined $200, however, for failing to disclose a villa he owns in France through a holding company.—Follow @ReporterTeresa on Twitter