Markets update at midafternoon

On the markets at midafternoon (ET):In Toronto, the S&P/TSX composite index was up 70.95 points to 15,204.08.The Dow Jones industrial average was up 38.07 points to 21,930.50.The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was up 11.48 points to 2,469.07.The Nasdaq composite index was up 51.04 points to 6,419.35.The Canadian dollar was trading at 79.88 cents US, up from Wednesday’s average price of 79.33 cents US.

Australia welcomes Lankas support to combat people smuggling

“The visit highlighted Australia’s commitment to combating the dangerous trade of people smuggling” theHigh Commissioner said. During the visit Mr Vardos highlighted recent statements by Australia’s Minister for Immigration andCitizenship, the Hon Chris Bowen, that people arriving by boat are subject to the “no advantage” principlewhich could include being transferred offshore for processing or remaining in detention. “People who arrivein Australia by boat will have no work rights while they await their claims to be processed. They will not beable to earn money” he said.Mr Vardos warned those contemplating the dangerous journey to Australia by boat: “People smugglers arelying to you. Don’t waste your money, don’t risk your life. There is no visa on arrival. There will be nospecial treatment, no speedy outcome and certainly no advantage given to those who come by boat”. The Australian delegation was led by Peter Vardos, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Immigration andCitizenship, and included senior representatives from the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service,Australian Federal Police, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Attorney-General’s Department. Mr Vardos noted the commencement of transfers to Manus Island in Papua New Guinea with the firsttransfer on 21 November comprising of family groups who had arrived in Australia by boat. “Australia willcontinue to regularly transfer people who arrive by boat to Manus Island and the Pacific island nation ofNauru and will continue to return people where they do not engage Australia’s international obligations” hesaid.During the visit, the delegation met senior Sri Lankan officials including the Navy Commander, ViceAdmiral Jayanath Colombage, Inspector General of Police, N. K. Illangakoon, Secretary to the Ministry ofExternal Affairs, Mr Karunatilaka Amunugama, Solicitor General, Mr Wijetilleke, and Ministry of Defenceofficials.Discussions focused on joint cooperation between Australia and Sri Lanka to combat people smuggling andsteps to be taken to strengthen that cooperation, while also acknowledging the important contributions of SriLankan government agencies involved in combating people smuggling. The two nations’ officials alsodiscussed preparation for the forthcoming inaugural meeting of a Joint Working Group to address peoplesmuggling and border security issues. Australia today welcomed Sri Lanka’s continued cooperation to combat people smuggling following arecent visit to Sri Lanka by a high-level delegation of immigration and border security officials.Australia’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, H.E Robyn Mudie, said the visit on 22 to 23 November was ademonstration of the breadth and depth of Australia’s cooperation with Sri Lanka. The delegation also travelled to Trincomalee to meet with Navy officials and to visit an Australian-fundedDisplaced Persons Program (DPP) project which is supporting local community cooperatives in the dairysector to support livelihood development in Sri Lanka. read more

UNP proposal given to SLFP

It also proposes that the system of preference votes be abolished and the tenure of the Parliament and the Provincial Council fixed at five years. (Colombo Gazette) The UNP constitution also proposes as a novel system the executive powers of the President to be exercised on apolitical basis and to be subject to checks and balances. The opposition United National Party (UNP) today handed over its proposals for a new constitution to the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).A UNP delegation including UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake and UNP MP Ravi Karunanayake handerd over the proposals to SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena. Under the Westminster system the Cabinet of Ministers will be restricted to 25 including the Prime Minister.The proposed constitution of the UNP also guarantees the freedom of expression and will be strengthened to include the right to information. The UNP had last month made public its proposed constitution which includes a British style Westminster system for the Cabinet. read more

CBK has no intention of returning to politics

Kumaratunga however said that she will assist those in power to rebuild the country without returning to politics. (Colombo Gazette)Audio Player Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume. Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga says she has no intention of returning to politics.Kumaratunga said that she is not “mad” to return to politics like some others who are attempting to return to power. “I have no intention to get back to power,” she asserted. Speaking to reporters in Kandy today, Kumaratunga said that she went home after 12 years in politics on her own free will. She claimed that those who are attempting to return to power are those who have things to hide and want to use the power of politics to hide the truth.The former President said that she had nothing to hide and that she was never involved in corruption or crime. read more

Sri Lanka reiterates no foreign judges but only technical assistance

The Minister said the army should not be used to achieve political goals and added that the army will continue to safeguard the country’s National security. (Colombo Gazette) He said that some groups are attempting to give the impression that a war crimes investigation will take place in Sri Lanka with the participation of foreign judges. He also said that the resettlement of war displaced people in the North and East will take place.Some political parties have been saying the army will not be withdrawn from civilian property to resettle the displaced families. The Government today reiterated that it will not agree to have foreign judges in the domestic accountability process over the war, but will accept technical assistance.Local Government and Provincial Councils Minister Faizer Mustapha said that President Maithripala Sirisena has been very clear that war crimes did not take place in Sri Lanka. “The President has said earlier and even now that he will not invite foreign judges but will accept technical assistance,” he said. read more

Cop who cracked down on protests picked to cleanup Sathosa

“Today I am appointing retired SSP Ranagala to ensure discipline among rank and file at Lanka Sathosa” the Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen said today. A former Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) who was best known for cracking down on protests by students and civil society in the past, has been appointed as a management expert to crackdown on corruption at state owned Sathosa.The Ministry of Industry and Commerce said that former SSP Premalal Ranagala has been brought in to commence the clean-up of Sathosa in order to make the institution a viable entity again. “We have minimised Lanka Sathosa losses in a big way. Sathosa shops do not charge VAT from essential items. Computerisation of the Lanka Sathosa network has to go ahead. Computerisation clearly cuts down on costs and will eliminate pilfering, stealing and mishandling of stocks. I am appointing retired SSP Premalal Ranagala today to Lanka Sathosa as a management expert to ensure Lanka Sathosa discipline among rank and file. He will also personally investigate all corrupt and mishandling activities that are taking place within Sathosa. Area managers and managers need to focus on their tasks without worrying of loss of stocks and pilfering. Retired SSP Ranagala will ensure there will be no such events in future,” the Minister said.Ranagala previously served in Colombo South, Ampara, Matara, and Badulla. He was also in-charge of the police 119 hotline response service. (Colombo Gazette) Minister Bathiudeen made the announcement while addressing a special training session for 300 Sathosa area managers and managers held at the SLFI today. read more

Mahanama and Dissanayaka further remanded in bribery case

President Maithripala Sirisena’s former Chief of Staff K Mahanama and former State Timber Corporation (STC) Chairman P. Dissanayaka have been ordered to be further remanded till June 19 by the Colombo Magistrate’s Court.Mahanama and Dissanayaka had been arrested for accepting a bribe of Rs.20 million over a land deal. Mahanama and the Chairman of the State Timber Corporation, P. Dissanayake were arrested at the car park of a Colombo hotel recently while accepting the bribe from an Indian businessman. (Colombo Gazette)

Female inmates at Welikada prison suspend rooftop protest

The inmates had demanded that their concerns be looked into, including delays to hear their cases. (Colombo Gazette) Female inmates at the Welikada prison have suspended a roof-top protest.The protest was suspended following discussions held today between the female inmates and the authorities. Earlier, an official had been appointed to look into the issues faced by female inmates of the Welikada prison.The official was appointed after several female inmates launched a protest on the roof of the Welikada prison yesterday.

China offers support to develop Sri Lankan economy

Sri Lanka’s three-year extended arrangement was approved on June 3, 2016, to the amount of about US$1.5 billion, or 185 percent of quota in the IMF at that time of approval of the arrangement.Chinese Ambassador Cheng XueYuan reiterated his countries support to the development of the Sri Lankan economy and pledged their support in Sri Lanka’s efforts to re-engage the IMF in a sustainable manner.The meeting was attended by the Secretary to the Treasury Dr.R.H.S. Samaratunga, Senior Advisor to the Minister of Finance and Mass Media Mano Tittawella and other senior Finance Ministry officials. (Colombo Gazette) He will be in Washington from 14 – 16 January 2019 to resume negotiations with the IMF on the Extended Fund Facility.The IMF had in November decided to suspend funding for Sri Lanka as a result of the political crisis. Samaraweera will visit Washington next week for talks with the IMF. The Minister apprised the Chinese Ambassador about the Sri Lankan Governments plan to re-engage with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and thanked the Chinese Government for their continued support extended to Sri Lanka. China has offered support to develop the Sri Lankan economy, following talks held in Colombo today.The Minister of Finance and Mass Media Mangala Samaraweera met with the Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Cheng XueYuan and a Chinese delegation at the Treasury today. read more

Actress plays down assault seen on viral video

The man places his foot on her neck and assaults her a number of times. A Sri Lankan model/actress has played down a video showing her being assaulted by a man.Piumi Hansamali told Colombo Gazette (Sinhala) that the assault had taken place some four months ago and that she had not filed a Police complaint. Hansamali is seen trying to get up but is pushed back to the ground.A witness is seen trying to mediate and stop the assault but the assault continues. The video going viral on social media shows her being pushed to the ground in a garden and assaulted by a man in the presence of at least one other person. Commenting on the video, Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva said that if the incident actually took place then it goes to show how inhumane some men in our society can be. (Colombo Gazette)Report by Ashanthi Warunasuriya read more

WatchWhy calls to split Facebooks social media empire are growing louder

The Financial Post’s James McLeod explains why Facebook’s co-founder and others have called for the company to be broken up and how Mark Zuckerberg is countering such calls. ‘Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American’: Facebook co-founder says it’s time to break up the company The fix for Facebook and other tech giants is difficult, but simple Facebook redesigns big blue app, doubles down on groups in shift towards privacy

Symphony offers sale on February show

Mary Lou FallisThe Niagara Symphony is offering a buy one, get one half off sale for its Winter Carnival performance Feb. 20.The Winter Carnival concert will feature soprano Mary Lou Fallis as a special guest star, as well as several surprises. John Morris Russell will be the conductor. Until Feb. 12, those who purchase one ticket can get a second for 50 per cent of the regular ticket price.Winter Carnival – a Saturday Night POPS! performance – will be 7:30 p.m., with a pre-concert talk at 6:45 p.m. The event is at the Sean O’Sullivan Theatre.For tickets, contact the Centre for the Arts box office at 905-688-5550 x3257 and quote “winter” as the code.Other upcoming events:Promises Made and KeptBradley Thachuk – conductorDavid Louie – pianoSunday, April 11, 2:30 p.m.It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing!Diane Wittry, conductorSaturday, May 1 at 7:30 p.m.Sunday, May 2 at 2:30 p.m.For more information:Niagara Symphony Orchestra read more

Brock welcomes first GAPP cohort

Brock is hosting 21 students from Brazil as part of the new Graduate Academic Preparation Program.ESL Service’s first cohort of GAPP students took a break from their studies to enjoy dragon boat racing recently.GAPP, the new Graduate Academic Preparation Program, welcomed 21 students from Brazil for its intensive eight-week program this summer. The students are part of the Ciência sem Fronteiras (CsF) scholarship program and are sponsored by the Brazilian government.GAPP prepares international students whose first language is not English for the academic demands of graduate and other specialized programs at Brock University, which they will start in September. GAPP concentrates on the development of academic skills such as critical thinking and synthesizing arguments and ideas, researching, referencing and plagiarism, academic presentations, discussion and debate, development of specialized vocabulary, academic note taking, and research papers and literature reviews.While studying at Brock, CsF participants can participate in a 3-4 month unpaid research, lab-based, or industry internship starting in January. During the internship, students are part of Brock International’s University Mentorship (UM) program and become part of the community of visiting scholars who come to Brock to collaborate on research and other scholarly activities.Students study and intern in biotechnology, chemistry and engineering, health and medicine, and the humanities and social sciences. read more

Major German union urges members to join climate protests

BERLIN — One of Germany’s largest unions is calling on its members to join the weekly “Fridays for Future” protests calling for action on climate change.Verdi head Frank Bsirske told the WAZ newspaper on Monday he was calling on the union’s 2 million members to start taking part in the climate protests, which have attracted thousands weekly in cities across Europe and elsewhere in the world.Bsirske says “it’s about showing the flag — we need a much more consistent approach to climate change policy.”Thousands of young protesters have skipped school on Fridays to join the protests inspired by Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg.Bsirske says he’s not calling for union members to skip work but to join in after their shifts are done.___For more Associated Press stories about climate change, go to Associated Press read more

Victims sue Amtrak over Washington state train derailment

DUPONT, Wash. — The first lawsuit against Amtrak over a fatal train derailment in Washington State is set to begin.KCPQ-TV reported Monday that the jury trial is scheduled to be held in U.S. District Court in Tacoma beginning Tuesday.The 2017 derailment killed three people and injured 65 others on the train and on Interstate 5 during the first passenger trip on the route.The trial involves three victims who suffered injuries in the crash, including two who were on the train and another who was in a truck below the overpass.A National Transportation Safety Board investigation says an engineer failed to see a sign to reduce speed to 30 mph and took a turn at 78 mph.The NTSB says multiple agencies were to blame for the crash.___Information from: KCPQ-TV, Associated Press read more

Freedom Mobile hit by data breach company says up to 15000 customers

However, the blog was posted under the title “Report: Freedom Mobile Customer Data Breach Exposes 1.5 Million Customers” based on the assumption that hackers could access unencrypted data from all of Freedom’s customer base.Freedom said in an emailed statement that “any reference to 1.5 million customers affected is inaccurate . . . ”The company said its investigation determined the breach began on March 25 and affected data processed by a new external third-party vendor, Apptium Technologies, that had been hired to streamline its retail customer support.“The internal systems of Freedom Mobile or (parent) Shaw Communications were not compromised as part of this third-party vendor security exposure,” the company said in a statement.It said the breach affected customers at 17 retail stores who opened or changed accounts as late as April 15 or made changes to opened accounts on April 16. It said the problem was fixed by April 23.Freedom also said that it had found no evidence, as of Tuesday, that any data has been misused “and we are conducting a full forensic investigation to determine the full scope of impact.”Valerie Lawton, of the federal privacy commissioner’s office, said in an email that it had received a breach report related to Freedom Mobile late Monday afternoon.“Canada’s federal private sector privacy law, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), includes confidentiality provisions and we don’t have further details to offer at this time,” Lawton said.Under PIPEDA, which was most recently updated in November, private-sector organizations that control personal information must advise the privacy watchdog of breaches that pose a “real risk of significant harm” to individuals.They must also notify affected individuals about the breaches and keep records.However, the Canadian law — in contrast to the European Union’s year-old General Data Protection Regulation — provides more flexibility about when organizations inform the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.Asked why it didn’t disclose close the leak sooner, the company said it took time to verify the legitimacy of the warning and verify details with its third-party vendor.Companies in this story: (TSX:SJR.B) TORONTO — Freedom Mobile confirmed Tuesday it had a data security breach from late March to late April, but the wireless carrier said only about 15,000 customers were affected — far fewer than an outside research firm’s estimate.The Calgary-based company — which operates networks in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia — was apparently warned of the breach by researchers at vpnMentor, which announced it to the press.The vpnMentor report said two of its researchers, Noam Rotem and Ran Locar, had warned Freedom of their findings on April 17, 18 and 23 but didn’t get a response from the company until April 24.“For ethical reasons, we didn’t download the database, so we don’t know exactly how many people were affected,” the blog said. read more