North American markets come roaring back as tensions ease in Ukraine

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market registered a strong advance Tuesday as worries of an escalation in the Russian-Ukraine standoff lessened.The S&P/TSX composite index gained 95.32 points to 14,308.06, led by base metal stocks.The Canadian dollar gave up early gains to move down 0.22 of a cent to 90 cents US a day before the Bank of Canada’s interest rate announcement.U.S. indexes were also sharply higher in the wake of major losses Monday after Russian troops over the weekend invaded the Crimean peninsula, where Russia has major military installations and much of the population is Russian speaking.Although tensions are still high, they were ratcheted down somewhat after Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered tens of thousands of Russian troops participating in military exercises near Ukraine’s border to return to their bases.The Dow Jones industrials jumped 198.6 points to 16,366.63, the Nasdaq gained 65.82 points to 4,343.12 and the S&P 500 index ran up 23.51 points to 1,869.24.Putin has said he hopes that Russia won’t need to use force in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin, which does not recognize the new Ukrainian leadership, insists it made the move into Crimea in order to protect Russian installations in Ukraine and its citizens living there.Analysts warn that the situation in eastern Europe still remains highly volatile for global markets.“Note that this withdrawal of troops refers to exercises that… the Russian authorities had always maintained were unrelated to Ukraine,” said Adam Cole, head of G10 FX Strategy at RBC Capital Markets.“It does not appear to have any bearing on Russian troops inside Crimea. As such, markets will remain sensitive to Ukraine-related headlines and further bouts of risk aversion are likely.”Meanwhile, Scotiabank reported $1.71 billion of quarterly net income, up 6.5% from a year earlier. Ex-items, earnings came in at $1.34 a share, which met estimates. The bank is raising its dividend 3% to 64 cents a share and its shares gained 43 cents to $63.46.“If you look to see where the earnings came from, a lot of it was domestic,” said Allan Small, a senior adviser at Holliswealth, observing that Scotiabank has had the most exposure to emerging markets of the big banks.“And right now, the emerging markets are struggling. They had a great run for a long time and now everyone is kind of stepping back.”RadioShack will close up to 1,100 U.S. stores as the electronics retailer reported a quarterly loss of $191.4 million, up sharply from a $63.3-million loss a year earlier. Excluding items, the electronics retailer lost $1.29 per share against the 16 cents that analysts expected and its shares plunged 17% in New York.The base metals segment led advancers, up 2.47% as May copper clawed back Monday’s two-cent loss and then some, up four cents to US$3.21 a pound.The industrials group also provided lift, up 0.85%.Oil and gold gave back a good-sized chunk of the gains racked up on Monday with the April crude contract in New York down $1.71 to US$103.21 a barrel. The energy sector rose 0.06%.The gold sector was off 0.45% as April bullion faded $12.40 to US$1,337.90 an ounce. read more

Securities regulators increasingly employing tech tools to speed probes

TORONTO — Securities regulators say they are increasingly employing data analytics and other sophisticated tools to track down financial miscreants faster, but these technologies won’t be able to fully replace human judgment.The director of enforcement at the Ontario Securities Commission said Thursday that they need these tools to crunch the “mind-numbing volume of data” the regulator takes in for investigations, and do it in weeks, not years.Jeff Kehoe said during a panel discussion in Toronto that regulators can no longer use traditional tools and investigation techniques in the “new world for us,” with advances such as cryptocurrencies and high-frequency trading.“It’s like finding a needle in 50 haystacks, or 100 haystacks,” he said. “And so we need tools that not only reduce the size of the haystacks but make the needles bigger.”Regulators in recent years have put out guidance on the securities implications of blockchain, cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings as the usage of these technological innovations proliferate. Meanwhile, regulators say they too are applying technological tools to their enforcement tasks, as the volume of data at their disposal grows exponentially.The monetary authority of Singapore’s executive director of enforcement Gillian Tan said during the OSC event on Thursday it has developed a tool with data scientists to analyze data to detect circular trading patterns.When testing with known cases, it was able to detect roughly 94 to 96 per cent of what had been detected manually, she added.“What used to take us months to do, can now be done in a matter of hours,” she said. “That’s really exciting for us.”The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s co-director of enforcement Stephanie Avakian said it too has used these tools to speed up their probes, but it doesn’t replace the need for experienced investigators to go through the findings and use judgment.“The data analytics are great for identifying problems and putting together a case, but I don’t think they obviate the need for human investigators… You still need humans to go through this stuff and find the false positives,” she said.As well, Avakian said when financial misdeeds later go before a jury, human witnesses are still needed to help present their case.Kehoe added that the “promises of technology are great” but the findings they produce must be reliable and verifiable in order to be fair. read more

UPFA PS member arrested

Police Media Spokesperson SP Ajith Rohana had said that she was released in Ratnapura by her abductors.Panditharatne later told the police that an armed gang had abducted her. UPFA Bulathsinhala Pradeshiya Sabha member Lakmini Anupama Panditharatne has been arrested over allegations of committing fraud.The Colombo Crimes Division (CCD) arrested her yesterday and produced her before a magistrate who remanded her till the 25th of this month, the police media unit said. According to the police, Panditharatne had duped a woman by obtaining Rs. 400,000 from her after promising her employment in Korea. Just last month Panditharatne was reported missing and was later alleged to have been abducted by an armed gang and later released. read more

No real progress says HRW

In April 2011, a panel of experts authorized by the UN secretary-general issued a comprehensive report on violations of international law by both sides during the final months of the armed conflict. It called on the Sri Lankan government to carry out genuine investigations and recommended that the UN create an independent international mechanism to monitor the government’s implementation of the panel recommendations, conduct an independent investigation, and collect and safeguard evidence.The UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka in late August. Human Rights Watch repeated its call for the UN secretary-general or other UN body to create an independent international investigation into violations by government forces and the LTTE. This investigation should make recommendations for the prosecution of those responsible for serious abuses during the armed conflict, including the ACF case.Participating countries at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Sri Lanka in November should publicly express concern about the government’s minimal response to these and other serious abuses, Human Rights Watch said. On May 23, 2009, shortly after the LTTE’s defeat, Rajapaksa and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a joint statement in Sri Lanka in which the government said it “will take measures to address” the need for an accountability process for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law. “The Rajapaksa government is good at throwing bones to the international community, but not at taking serious measures to find and punish those responsible for serious abuses,” said James Ross, legal and policy director at Human Rights Watch. “If the families of 17 aid workers can’t get justice for their loss, it’s hard to be hopeful for anyone else.” “Governments seeking justice for the victims of atrocities during Sri Lanka’s long armed conflict should publicly demand an international inquiry,” Ross said. “Sri Lanka’s history of inaction on even prominent cases with strong evidence demonstrates the need for concerted international action.” In July 2013, the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in apparent response to increasing international pressure, took long overdue steps by directing state lawyers and investigators to review the case and prepare a comprehensive list of witnesses. This was one of several recent moves by the government to adopt previously disregarded recommendations of its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) in 2011, created following the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009.The University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) has published detailed findings on the Mutur killings based on accounts from witnesses and weapons analysis that implicate government security forces in the area at the time. The group reported that two police constables and naval special forces commandos were alleged to be directly responsible, and that senior police and justice officials were linked to an alleged cover-up. The killings occurred after a several-day battle between government forces and the LTTE for control of the town. The ACF team had been providing assistance to survivors of the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The New York based human rights group, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the Sri Lankan government has made no real progress in holding accountable those responsible for the execution style slaying of 17 aid workers seven years ago despite renewed international calls for action.On August 4, 2006, gunmen executed 17 Sri Lankan aid workers – 16 ethnic Tamils, four of them women, and a Muslim – with the Paris-based international humanitarian agency Action Contre La Faim (Action Against Hunger, ACF) in their office compound in the town of Mutur in eastern Trincomalee district. In July 2007, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry, established after the Mutur killings to investigate 16 major human rights cases, exonerated the army and navy in the massacre and instead blamed LTTE forces or Muslim militia. Families of ACF workers who wished to testify to the commission reported security forces personnel. The commission’s full report to President Rajapaksa has never been made public.In March 2013, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on Sri Lanka, reiterating the concerns of a 2012 council resolution, which focused on the lack of accountability for human rights violations. The council called upon the Sri Lankan government to “conduct an independent and credible investigation” into alleged rights abuses and “take all necessary additional steps” to meet its legal obligations to ensure justice and accountability for all Sri Lankans.The Sri Lankan government has long had a poor record of investigating serious human rights abuses, and impunity has been a persistent problem. Despite a backlog of cases of unlawful killings and enforced disappearance going back two decades that run into the tens of thousands, there have been only a small number of prosecutions. Past efforts to address violations through the creation of ad hoc mechanisms in Sri Lanka have produced very few prosecutions. On July 26, the government announced yet another commission to look into cases of enforced disappearances. read more

Registration cost of new private companies slashed

““I am pleased to inform the House that as part of changes in the fees, we have reduced the fee of registration of a Private Limited Company by as much as Rs 11000,” Bathiudeen told Parliament today. Minister Bathiudeen was making a statement on the increase of Company registration fees by the Registrar of Companies (RoC) as a follow-up to the proposal made in the 2016 Budget. The registration cost of new private companies has been slashed by the Government, Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen said.Bathiudeen said that new companies registered in Sri Lanka last year surged by 7 percent while the key state institution in charge of such new company registrations reported an enormous revenue flow to it’s coffers in 2016. The proposal made in Section 419 of the 2016 Budget speech was to review the fees and charges made by different Government entities every three years by all the Chief Accounting Officers and Accounting Officers including Revenue Accounting Officers in the public sector. “I am pleased to inform the House that as part of changes in fees we have reduced the fee of registration of a Private Limited Company under Form 1 by as much as Rs 11000. In that we reduced this fee from Rs 15000.00 to 4000.00 to develop entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka. All fee changes are effective from January 1, 2017,” he said. (Colombo Gazette) read more

Top examinations officer interdicted over allegations

A top examinations officer has been interdicted over allegations raised against him, the Education Ministry said.According to the Education Ministry, the head of the Confidential and Institutional Examination Division was interdicted over allegations of neglect of work and misconduct. The Education Ministry said that the officer was interdicted on a directive issued by Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam.

Joint opposition decides to vote against the 20th Amendment

The Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) has already said it will also oppose the 20th Amendment to the Constitution.The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) handed over the 20th Amendment to the Constitution to Parliament last week. (Colombo Gazette) The joint opposition has decided to vote against the 20th Amendment to the Constitution which looks to abolish the Executive Presidency.Party leaders of the joint opposition reached the decision following a meeting held today with the participation of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. read more

CEYPETCO increases fuel prices following SirisenaMangala talks

Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CEYPETCO) has increased the price of fuel following a decision reached at talks held between President Maithripala Sirisena and Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera today.Co-cabinet spokesman, Minster Rajitha Senaratne said that the price of fuel sold by CEYPETCO will come under review every month. Following the latest revision the price of Petrol 92 Octane has been increased by Rs 8, Petrol 95 Octane by Rs 7, Diesel by Rs 9 and Super Diesel by Rs 10 at CEYPETCO fuel distribution sheds. (Colombo Gazette) read more

Thesis defences — Nov 23

Danielle Sirianni Molnar — PhD in PsychologyDanielle Sirianni Molnar will present her thesis defence on Friday, Nov. 26, at 2 p.m. in Plaza 600F. The title of her thesis is “The Light and Dark Sides of Perfectionism: Implications for Health and Well-Being.” Examining committee members are: John Novak, chair; Fuschia Sirois, Bishop’s University, external examiner; Stan Sadava, supervisor; Brent Faught, internal examiner; Michael Ashton and Nancy DeCourville, committee members. All are welcome to attend.Amy Bowen — PhD in Biological SciencesAmy Bowen will present her thesis defence on Friday, Dec. 3 at 1:30 p.m. in WH 305. The thesis title is “Elucidation of Odour-potent Compounds and Sensory Profiles of Vidal blanc and Riesling Icewines from the Niagara Peninsula: Effect of Harvest Date and Crop Level.” Examining committee members are: Joffre Mercier, chair; Terry E. Acree, Cornell University, external examiner; Andrew Reynolds, supervisor; Martin Lemaire, internal examiner; Debbie Inglis and Douglas Bruce, committee members. All are welcome to attend.Frances Chandler — PhD in EducationFrances Chandler will present her thesis defence on Thursday, Dec. 16, at 2 p.m. in WH 147. The thesis title is “Leadership and its Impact on the Success of Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Funded Collaborative Research Projects.” Examining committee members are: Marilyn Rose, chair; Ben Levin, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, external examiner; Michael Manley-Casimir, supervisor; Maureen Connolly, internal examiner; Renee Kuchapski and Hope Fennell, committee members. All are welcome to attend.Melissa Page — PhD in Biological SciencesMelissa Page, PhD student in Biological Sciences, will present her thesis defence on Friday, Dec. 17, at 9:30 a.m. in H 313. The thesis title is “Intracellular antioxidant and DNA repair enzymes as correlates of stress resistance and longevity in vertebrates.” Examining committee members are: Joffre Mercier, chair; David Rollo, McMaster University, external examiner; Jeffrey Stuart, supervisor; Brian Roy, internal examiner; Glenn Tattersall and Doug Bruce, committee members. All are welcome to attend.Diane Leon — Master of ArtsDiane Leon, MA student in Political Science, will present her thesis defence on Nov. 26, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., in Plaza 308. The title of the thesis is “Intellectual Property Rights and the Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines: The Advocacy Role Assumed by Médecins Sans Frontières.” The committee members are Hevina Dashwood, advisor; Dan Madar, co-advisor and committee member; Terry Carroll, committee member; Jillian Kohler (University of Toronto), external examiner; (examination committee chair is TBA). All are welcome to attend.Cindy Sprong — Master of EducationCindy Spong will present her thesis defence on Wednesday, Dec. 1 at 10 a.m. in WH 147 (Welch Hall). The title of the thesis is “Investigation of Motivation Strategies Used by School Teachers for Workplace Engagement.” External examiner: Frances Owen, CHYS, Brock University; supervisor: Coral Mitchell; committee members: Denise Armstrong and Xiaobin Li; chair of the examining committee: Susan Sydor. All are welcome to attend.Joel Mrak — MA in Sport ManagementJoel Mrak will defend his thesis on Thursday, Dec. 16 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in WC204B. Thesis Title: Managing volunteers in Canadian Community Sport Organizations. Supervisor: Joanne MacLean; advisory committee: Laura Cousens and Philip Sullivan; external examiner: Shannon Kerwin, University of Florida; chair: Kirsty Spence.Tymur Kirillov — MSc in ManagementMaster of Science in Management thesis defence for Tymur Kirillov, Faculty of Business, Department of Finance, Operations and Information Systems, will be Friday, Jan. 14 at 1:30 p.m. in Taro Hall 230. The title of his thesis is “A Stochastic Dynamic Programming Approach for Pricing Options on Stock Index Futures.” His examining committee members are: Zisimos Koustas, chair; Don Chance, external examiner, Louisiana State University; Hatem Ben Ameur, supervisor; Mohamed Ayadi and Bob Welch. All are welcome. read more

Nissans directors say governance reforms to bring job cuts

YOKOHAMA, Japan — The executives charged with strengthening governance at Nissan are saying extensive job cuts are coming, designed to drive a recovery at the Japanese automaker.Nissan’s brand image has been battered by a scandal over alleged financial misconduct by its former chairman, Carlos Ghosn.Motoo Nagai, a former banker and new outside director overseeing audits, told reporters Wednesday that the job cuts will be under a new “jump” recovery plan. Japanese media have reported Nissan plans to slash 10,000 jobs.The company reported in May that its annual profit nose-dived to less than half of what it earned the previous year.Ghosn led Nissan for two decades and is awaiting trial on allegations he under-reported his future compensation and had Nissan shoulder his investment losses. He says he is innocent.The Associated Press read more

UN Volunteers UN Mine Action Service launch new websites

At www.unvolunteers.org, the newly designed UNV site maintains its focus on news and information about volunteer programmes while highlighting the organization’s role as focal point for the International Year of Volunteers, IVY 2001. The new site helps would-be volunteers find information about opportunities in their home countries or abroad, either with UN Volunteers or with other organizations. It also features online volunteering, a facility managed by UNV on the Netaid.org web site.With stories of personal experiences and volunteer networking carried out during IYV 2001, the website encourages interaction between volunteers from all continents and all walks of life. As the volunteer arm of the UN system, UNV extends hands-on assistance for peace and development in nearly 150 countries by dispatching volunteers – two-thirds of them from developing countries – and promoting the ideals of volunteerism around the world. It was created by the UN General Assembly in 1970. Joining the global Internet network, the Mine Action Service – the UN’s response to the global landmine and unexploded ordnance problem – has launched a website at www.mineaction.org. The mine action work of the United Nations, which has been involved in humanitarian mine action activities since 1989, centres on five core components: mine clearance, mine awareness and risk reduction education, victim assistance, advocacy in support of a total ban on anti-personnel landmines, and stockpile destruction. read more

Food crisis in southern Africa may deepen next month WFP warns

A “vicious” dry spell on top of a poor harvest mean the already-high numbers of people in southern Africa dependent on food aid may rise again in April and May, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today. The agency said that $69 million was needed urgently to feed some 2.6 million people currently facing malnutrition. Describing donor response to its repeated pleas for food and funds as “sluggish,” WFP said that more than 145,000 tons of food were required immediately to ensure people in five countries – Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe – already facing hunger are fed. WFP said it was is concerned that the poor response to current emergency needs does not auger well for the worsening situation its experts anticipate may arise next month. “If we can’t get enough food to feed 2.6 million people right now, what will happen when potentially millions more need our help in months ahead?” said WFP’s Regional Director for east and southern Africa, Judith Lewis. “Much more must be swiftly done to stave off the spread of hunger and malnutrition.” Initial estimates of the April/May harvest show that the dry spell and low maize production will mean withered crops throughout the region, according to WFP. If the estimates prove accurate, these poor yields coming on the heels of a similarly poor harvest in 2000/2001, will have a “devastating” impact. WFP and it partners are gearing up for a major response, and assessment missions are reviewing needs in six southern African countries — those currently in crisis plus Swaziland. “The situation for people all over southern Africa is very bleak,” Ms. Lewis said. “Now is the time to act to prevent what is a crisis from developing into a major disaster.” read more