Amazon and Google end spat, bring YouTube to Amazon devices

NEW YORK — Amazon and Google are ending their nearly 2-year spat, agreeing to bring their video streaming apps to each other’s devices.Back in 2017, Google pulled its popular YouTube video app from Amazon’s Fire TV after the online shopping giant refused to sell some Google products. Amazon has since started to sell Google’s gadgets on its site.Amazon said Thursday that YouTube will appear on Amazon’s Fire TV devices and smart TVs in the coming months, but did not give an exact date. Other YouTube apps, such as YouTube Kids and YouTube TV, will be added to Fire TV devices later this year. In addition, Amazon’s Prime Video streaming app will be added to Google’s streaming devices and TV’s that use Google’s operating system.“We are excited to work with Amazon,” said Heather Rivera, YouTube’s global head of product partnerships, in a written statement.The Associated Press read more

Anadarko and eBay jump while iRobot and AT&T slump

NEW YORK — Stocks that moved substantially or traded heavily on Wednesday:Anadarko Petroleum Corp., up $7.41 to $71.40The oil company is being offered $57 billion by Occidental Petroleum in a bidding war against Chevron.eBay Inc., up $1.85 to $38.52The e-commerce company surprised investors with solid profit and revenue during the first quarter and raised its forecast for the year.AT&T Inc., down $1.31 to $30.79The telecommunications company’s revenue fell short of forecasts as it deals with some subscriber losses.Flir Systems Inc., up $2.77 to $53.42The imaging and surveillance systems company reported better-than-anticipated first-quarter results and a solid forecast.Teradyne Inc., up $3.40 to $47.99The wireless product and data storage company beat first quarter profit and revenue forecasts and gave investors a solid outlook.iRobot Corp., down $30.15 to $100.42The robotics technology company’s revenue fell short of Wall Street forecasts.RPC Inc., down $2.29 to $10.60The oil and gas services company reported weak first quarter results and slashed its dividend.SAP SE, up $14.28 to $129.08Activist investors at Elliott Management disclosed a $1.3 billion stake in the business software company.The Associated Press read more

Here’s a list of April inflation rates for selected Canadian cities

OTTAWA — Canada’s national annual inflation rate was two per cent in April, Statistics Canada says. The agency also released rates for major cities, but cautioned that figures may have fluctuated widely because they are based on small statistical samples (previous month in brackets):— St. John’s, N.L.: 1.2 per cent (1.0)— Charlottetown-Summerside: 1.3 (1.1)— Halifax: 1.1 (1.3)— Saint John, N.B.: 1.7 (1.7)— Quebec: 1.3 (1.2)— Montreal: 1.9 (1.9)— Ottawa: 1.7 (1.7)— Toronto: 2.2 (2.0)— Thunder Bay, Ont.: 1.6 (1.2)— Winnipeg: 2.2 (2.2)— Regina: 2.0 (1.6)— Saskatoon: 2.1 (1.6)— Edmonton: 2.1 (2.1)— Calgary: 1.8 (2.1)— Vancouver: 2.5 (2.5)— Victoria: 2.7 (2.7)The Canadian Press read more

UN adopts new International Agreement to protect worlds forests

28 April 2007After 15 years of discussions and negotiations on a global approach to protect the world’s forests, countries meeting at United Nations Headquarters in New York have adopted a landmark agreement on international forest policy and cooperation following two weeks of intense negotiations. The final agreement was reached after delegates to the UN Forum on Forests worked through the night, concluding just after dawn this morning. Exhausted delegates nevertheless called the agreement a milestone, noting it was the first time States have agreed to an international instrument for sustainable forest management.”Forum on Forest Chair Hans Hoogeveen, hailed the agreement as an “outstanding achievement” and said it ushered in “a new chapter” in forest management. Mr. Hoogeveen earlier told the delegates that the livelihoods of over a billion of the world’s poor are at stake. “We have only one planet to share, and we must ensure its health and sustainability.”The new agreement, although not legally binding, sets a standard in forest management that is expected to have a major impact on international cooperation and national action to reduce deforestation, prevent forest degradation, promote sustainable livelihoods and reduce poverty for all forest-dependent peoples.More than 1.6 billion people, according to World Bank estimates, depend on forests for their livelihoods. The forest product industry is a source of economic growth and employment, with global forest products traded internationally in the order of $270 billion.At the same time, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 13 million hectares of the world’s forests are lost due to deforestation every year, which, in turn accounts for up to 20 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. The world’s forests and forest soils store more than one trillion tons of carbon – twice the amount found in the atmosphere.Pekka Patosaari, Director of the UN Forum on Forests Secretariat, told delegates that the agreement was a major step toward the creation of a new “people-centred” forest policy. “You have sent a clear message to the global community on the critical role of forests in internationally development.” For years countries debated whether to negotiate a formal treaty or a non-legally binding instrument on forest management. But many developing countries with significant forest cover objected to any action that would compromise their sovereignty or control over their natural resources.The resulting agreement, however, is considered a reflection of a strong international commitment to promote on the ground implementation of sustainable forest management through a new, more holistic approach that brings all stakeholders together. In addition, the agreement is expected to reinforce practical measures at the country-level to integrate forests more closely with other government policies.Another area of disagreement that has long plagued forest negotiations concerned a financing mechanism to mobilize funding for sustainable forest management. The agreement calls on countries to adopt, by 2009, a voluntary global financing mechanism for forest management. read more

Argentine President calls for reformulation of UN to restore multilateralism

23 September 2008Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner today called for the reformulation of multilateral organizations, including the United Nations and global financial institutions. “This is necessary so that we can again reconstitute a multilateralism which has been lost, making the world much more insecure,” she told the General Assembly’s annual high-level debate. Such reform was necessary to enable the UN to function properly and achieve concrete results.The current global financial turmoil was evidence of the need for reforming financial institutions, Ms. Fernández de Kirchner said, citing what she called the “jazz effect” for the present troubles originating from the United States, just as an earlier financial crisis that started in Mexico but affected the world economy was called the “tequila effect.”She also called on Member States to ratify the global treaty that outlaws enforced disappearances and allows victims’ families the right to learn the truth about what happened. Argentina, where thousands of people are estimated to have disappeared under the military dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s, has been a strong advocate of the treaty.So far, only four of the 74 countries which have signed have also ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, which contains an absolute prohibition on the practice and calls on all States Parties to ensure that it is an offence under their domestic laws. The treaty will enter into force once 20 countries have ratified it. The treaty’s monitoring body will be entitled to receive requests for urgent action on individual cases, to conduct visits with the agreement of States parties concerned, and, in the situation of suspected widespread or systematic cases being practised in the territory under the jurisdiction of a State party, to urgently bring the matter before the General Assembly.Turning to another issue, Mr. Fernández de Kirchner called on Iran to hand over Iranians implicated by Argentine judicial authorities in the blowing up of the Israeli embassy and a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in 1992 and 1994 respectively. read more

World leaders endorse Bans call for action on climate change and food

26 September 2008Some 30 world leaders have pledged to take action to address the global food crisis and climate change, voicing support for proposals put forward by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to tackle two of today’s most pressing challenges. “The poor and hungry of this world are looking at us for leadership and solutions. We must not fail them,” Mr. Ban said last night at a high-level event he hosted at United Nations Headquarters in New York. “The cost of inaction – even in what may constitute tough economic times – will be devastating, and the effects will be felt all over the world,” he told the gathering, which included representatives of governments, regional organizations and agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Bank.Leaders were in agreement with Mr. Ban on the urgent need to increase productivity, especially for smallholder farmers, and to invest more into agricultural development, research, and technology transfer. They called for a “second green revolution,” particularly in Africa, and for increases in private sector investment and public funding. Mr. Ban expressed his gratitude to President José Manuel Barroso of the European Commission for his reaffirmation of Europe’s commitment to provide an additional 1 billion Euros for urgently needed food aid and productivity inputs.The Secretary-General has estimated that it will take as much as $40 billion a year in funding over the next three to five years to alleviate the food crisis and ensure long-term improvement in agricultural production. There was also recognition of the close linkages between the food crisis and climate change and the urgent need for an ambitious global agreement on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in Copenhagen in 2009. In that regard, the upcoming climate talks in Poznan, Poland, later this year should result in a concrete work programme for negotiations in 2009, the leaders stated.Last night’s meeting followed a day-long event during which governments, foundations, businesses and civil society groups announced an estimated $16 billion in new commitments to slash hunger, poverty, disease and other socio-economic ills by 2015, and thereby achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). read more

UNDP chief pays tribute to outgoing head of campaign on antipoverty goals

The head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) today hailed the efforts of the outgoing head of the world body’s campaign to promote the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), as he announces he is leaving his position to assume the top post at the non-governmental organization (NGO) Amnesty International.Salil Shetty has served as the Director of the UN Millennium Campaign – which seeks to bolster support for the MDGs, eight anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline – since shortly after it was established by then Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2002.“Under his leadership the UN Millennium Campaign has grown into a powerful global campaigning force supporting citizens in their efforts to hold their governments accountable for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark.Mr. Shetty’s successor is expected to be named in the coming months, as preparations get under way for next September’s meeting of world leaders on the MDGs. He is expected to take up his new position as Secretary General of Amnesty International, a 1978 recipient of the UN Human Rights Prize, in June. 21 December 2009The head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) today hailed the efforts of the outgoing head of the world body’s campaign to promote the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), as he announces he is leaving his position to assume the top post at the non-governmental organization (NGO) Amnesty International. read more

UN offers online courses to boost cancer treatment in developing nations

To bridge the gap in developing countries where there is a shortage of cancer specialists, the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has helped spearhead a web-based course on radiation oncology.Radiotherapy plays a positive role in treating nearly half of all cancer patients, as cancer rates continue to climb in poorer nations.The course contains 80 training modules classified into eight different topics, and the materials are expected to complement the training that radiation oncologists receive through their formal education in their respective countries.This initiative is part of an IAEA programme involving 17 Member States in the Asia-Pacific region, and the material for the course – entitled “Applied Sciences of Oncology Distance Learning” – was developed by an Australian organization. 5 January 2010To bridge the gap in developing countries where there is a shortage of cancer specialists, the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has helped spearhead a web-based course on radiation oncology. read more

UNbacked agreement outlines main issues on global flu readiness

“We are better prepared for pandemics than ever before. But there is more to be done and we must stay alert for new threats that may be round the corner,” David Nabarro, UN System Influenza Coordinator, told senior officials from more than 70 countries at today’s closing ceremony, a smaller than expected turnout as a result of the recent volcanic ash clouds over Europe and an earthquake in western China. The two-day meeting of the Seventh International Ministers Conference on Animal and Pandemic Influenza – organized around the theme “The Way Forward” – led to the creation of the so-called Hanoi Declaration.The document proposed national measures to more quickly identify new diseases that may cross from animals to humans, and to deploy public health measures promptly against outbreaks, including effective communication between professionals and public, and stronger public health and veterinary systems. It called for focused action at the interface between human, animal and environmental health systems, as well as continued efforts to reduce the extent of H5N1 avian flu and the H1N1 pandemic influenza.“Capacities for countries to work together in response to threats of avian and pandemic influenza have advanced in the last five years: the conference helped to identify areas on which we need to focus to ensure a secure future in the face of emerging diseases,” Dr. Nabarro said in a statement released today.The conference was hosted by the Government of Viet Nam, and co-organized by the United States and the European Union, in partnership with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Organization for Animal Health, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. 21 April 2010With an estimated 75 per cent of new infectious diseases in humans coming from animals and two new animal-to-human diseases expected to emerge each year, a United Nations-backed health conference in Viet Nam today wrapped up with an agreement to keep a close eye on new diseases that can jump species and cross borders. read more

Sudan top UN humanitarian official deplores harassment of aid workers in south

“Harassment of and violence against humanitarian workers is unacceptable and I am concerned for their security,” Valerie Amos, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator said on her first full day of a six-day mission to Sudan.She noted that although violence in southern Sudan has decreased compared last year, ethnic conflict, politically-motivated unrest and attacks by armed gangs believed to be members of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) continued impede humanitarian operations in the region.Humanitarian agencies have reported worsening operating environment in the region in recent months, with 118 incidents of interference with aid delivery seen this year.Ms. Amos, who arrived in Sudan yesterday, said that despite prospects for a good harvest in 2011, food shortages this year, coupled with seasonal floods and continuing insecurity have led to precarious humanitarian conditions.In Juba, the capital of southern Sudan, Ms. Amos met the President of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir, other Government officials, donor representatives, UN and non-governmental organization officials. Discussions focused on insecurity and humanitarian access to people in need.She asked the Government to renew its commitment to ensure that the delivery of humanitarian assistance is unhampered and allowed to proceed without any political, ethnic or religious considerations.On the ongoing spontaneous return of displaced people to their villages, as well as the Government of southern Sudan’s accelerated return initiative, Ms. Amos stressed that the process must be voluntary and orderly.“Ensuring that returns take place in a free and principled manner is the responsibility of the Government,” she said. “However, humanitarian workers are ready to assist where there is clear humanitarian need, and where the Government is not able to provide the required support,” she added. 5 November 2010The United Nations top relief coordinator today urged the administration in southern Sudan to ensure the protection of aid workers, decrying cases of harassment and violence against humanitarian staff in the region. read more

Tajikistan key to preventing drug trafficking from Afghanistan – UN official

Tajikistan’s role in preventing the smuggling of drugs from neighbouring Afghanistan is crucial for better security in the Central Asia region, the head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said today, lauding the Government’s efforts against narcotics trafficking.“The flow of drugs from Afghanistan poses a serious threat to security and development throughout Central Asia and beyond, and Tajikistan is the first line of defence,” said Executive Director Yury Fedotov, who has been visiting several countries in West and Central Asia. “We appreciate the difficulties Tajikistan faces in carrying out this dangerous and daunting task,” he stated after a meeting with the President of Tajikistan, Emomalii Rahmon, in the capital, Dushanbe.Mr. Fedotov’s discussions with various Government officials, including Foreign Affairs Minister Hamrohon Zarifi, focused on enhanced collaboration between UNODC and the Tajik authorities on border management, drug control, terrorism and corruption at the local and regional levels.According to UNODC estimates, 15 per cent of all of Afghanistan’s opiates and 20 per cent of its heroin is trafficked through Tajikistan.“We also encourage Tajikistan to become more deeply engaged in regional counter-narcotic initiatives, particularly the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre (CARICC) and support intelligence-led policing and Operation Tarcet,” Mr. Fedotov said, referring to the operation that targets precursor chemicals used to make drugs.He pledged continued and enhanced cooperation with the Tajik Government to improve the safety of people in that country and the wider region. “Security ultimately means the ability to ensure the safety of citizens … It is also based on people’s confidence that they can live without fear of becoming victims of criminals and drug dealers,” Mr. Fedotov said. 1 December 2010Tajikistan’s role in preventing the smuggling of drugs from neighbouring Afghanistan is crucial for better security in the Central Asia region, the head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said today, lauding the Government’s efforts against narcotics trafficking. read more

Visiting Egypt Ban urges country to serve as inspiration for wider Arab

20 March 2011A successful transition in Egypt towards greater democracy can inspire the rest of the region, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, urging the country to continue with its recent reforms by holding fair and transparent elections soon, upholding the rights of women and minorities and encouraging the development of a free press. In his first visit to Egypt since long-standing leader Hosni Mubarak was toppled by popular protests in January, Mr. Ban pledged that the United Nations would help the country as it “walks this very difficult, very important road? towards fuller democracy and more participatory democracy.”The Secretary-General held talks today in Cairo with many senior officials, including Foreign Minister Nabil el-Araby, and tomorrow he is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Ezzad Sharaf and the country’s High Council of the Armed Forces.Today’s talks focused in part on yesterday’s referendum, in which Egyptians voted on a number of proposals for constitutional reform, including reducing the number and length of presidential terms and altering the criteria for eligible presidential candidates. Media reports indicated an extremely high voter turnout for the referendum.Mr. Ban told journalists in Cairo that he would stress during his visit that there must be “transparent and inclusive national dialogue that spans the spectrum of Egyptian society,” as well as the staging of free and fair elections on a mutually agreed timetable.“These are the key expectations of the Egyptian people and also by the international community,” he said. “Other essential steps include free and vibrant political parties, new programmes for social equity, equal rights for women and minorities, a free press [and] open space for civil society groups driving change.“Egypt’s success will be first and foremost for Egyptians to decide and share, but, given the country’s standing in the world, a successful transition can inspire the rest of the world.”Popular protests have swept North Africa and the Middle East in recent months and the long-term regime in Tunisia also fell earlier this year. Mr. Ban said “we are at a historic moment. Democracy is on the march across the Arab world, and the United Nations stands ready always to work together with the Egyptian Government and people for a better world and better region here.”The Secretary-General said the UN was able to assist Egypt with its social and economic development, including the promotion of further tourism, as well as technical support for elections expected to be held later this year. read more

UN anticrime chief highlights Kenyas role in tackling regional security threats

“Kenya’s role is pivotal in East Africa and the country is a vital partner in tackling emerging threats to regional and international security in areas such as piracy and illicit drugs,” said Yury Fedotov, the Executive Director of the Vienna-based UNODC.Mr. Fedotov’s visit to the Horn of Africa nation will include discussions with non-governmental organizations and other partners on drug dependency issues, as well as with Government officials on topics such as criminal justice and counter-terrorism.UNODC’s work in Kenya forms part of the wider Eastern Africa regional approach designed to take into account overlapping geographic and thematic issues such as capacity building of international cooperation on law enforcement, strengthening of border control, anti-corruption and prison reform.Mr. Fedotov will visit the Shimo Le Tewa prison and court house in Mombasa as part of UNODC’s counter-piracy work in the region. The agency has been particularly active in Shimo La Tewa, where the newly built courtroom and refurbished prison ensures sufficient levels of security, as well as humane prison conditions, for on-trial prisoners, officials and witnesses.UNODC has also been working extensively with Kenyan authorities on streamlining the country’s prosecution services, which is critical move in the counter-piracy effort. Mr. Fedotov reiterated the agency’s commitment to furthering assistance in drug dependence treatment. This follows a sudden surge for demand of drug dependence treatment services in January 2011 and UNODC played a pivotal role in assisting the Government in its response. “UNODC recognizes that drug dependence is a disease and not a crime. Treatment is a critical component when we talk about countering the use of illicit drugs and it has been proven that this offers a far more effective cure than punishment,” he stated. 28 March 2011The head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today met with Kenyan officials in the capital, Nairobi, to discuss a number of issues such as counter-piracy, police reform and illicit drug trafficking. read more

On eve of election UN envoy appeals to Liberians to ensure peaceful

“Regardless of your political views, I appeal to all Liberians to say no to violence on Election Day,” said Ellen Margrethe Løj, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).Ms. Løj made her appeal in a radio address ahead of tomorrow’s second round of voting in which the incumbent, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, is set to face challenger Winston Tubman, who came second in the first round of the vote on 11 October. However, Mr. Tubman has reportedly refused to participate in the run-off, alleging that it will not be fair, and there have been calls to boycott the poll – the second presidential election since the country emerged from war in 2005.“To vote is an individual democratic right – it is your personal right and it is your personal choice,” stated Ms. Løj. “All Liberians who wish to exercise their right to vote should be able to do so in peace and without intimidation.“Peaceful, credible, and transparent elections are important to ensure that the peace in Liberia is maintained,” she added. Ahead of the poll, both Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council have called on Liberians to refrain from violence and conclude the electoral process in a peaceful manner. Ms. Løj pledged that UNMIL staff, police and military will continue to protect Liberians as they exercise their democratic rights. In addition, international observers from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, the Carter Center and others are there to monitor the electoral process. 7 November 2011All Liberians who wish to vote in the presidential run-off election must be able to do so freely and in safety, the top United Nations envoy to the country said on Monday as she addressed the nation on the eve of the poll. read more

Libya UN official urges increased funding for mine action work

1 December 2011A senior United Nations official has urged donors to increase funding for de-mining efforts in Libya, where mine action teams are striving to clear landmines and other explosive remnants of war after the recent conflict to ensure that the weapons do not harm civilians. “Good progress has been made so far, but mine action organizations are stretched to the limit with many priority areas as yet unassessed,” said Georg Charpentier, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya, when yesterday he visited an area near the city of Misrata where mine action work is under way.“Further funding is necessary for operations to continue into the new year and to capitalize on the investment already made in equipment and training,” he said.Mine clearance teams have so far removed a total of 77,943 items of unexploded ordnance and conducted mine risk education for more than 26,623 people. However, the area covered is just a fraction of contaminated areas and the key challenge remains the capacity of clearance teams, which are facing funding shortfalls, to scale up their work.Mr. Charpentier stressed that international funding of mine action programmes will be required until the Libya’s own financial resources become available.He also visited an ammunition storage area and a local exhibition featuring interactive mine risk education presentations by two partner non-governmental organizations (NGOs). He was accompanied by the liaison officer of the National Transitional Council’s (NTC) Joint Mine Action Coordination Team, the programme manager of the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in Libya and representatives of UN agencies and NGOs.The NTC declared the full liberation of Libya on 23 October, eight months after the start of the popular uprising against the regime of long-time ruler Colonel Muammar al-Qadhafi, who was eventually captured and killed. read more

UNESCO chief condemns latest murder of journalist in Somalia

31 January 2012The head of the United Nations agency tasked with promoting and defending the freedom of the press today condemned the murder of a journalist in Somalia and called for measures to improve the safety of media professionals in the Horn of Africa country. Hassan Osman Abdi, 29, a journalist and director of the Shabelle Media Network, a private radio and television network, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on Saturday at his home in the capital, Mogadishu, according to local sources cited by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).“The murder of Hassan Osman Abdi is a severe blow to a country where the media have paid a heavy price for exercising the human right to freedom of expression,” said Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s Director-General, in a press release.“The death of journalists undermines the right of people to be kept informed. Somalia’s reconciliation and reconstruction will not take place without securing respect for these two rights.”She urged the Somali authorities to take urgent measures to improve the safety of journalists and investigate the murder of Mr. Abdi, who was reportedly shot by five gunmen after arriving home from Radio Shabelle, where he worked on political issues.Some 21 Somali journalists and other media professionals have been listed on UNESCO’s dedicated web page ‘UNESCO Remembers Assassinated Journalists,’ since 2006.Last year, UNESCO provided equipment and training on safety, conflict-sensitive journalism and humanitarian reporting to more than 40 media professionals in Somalia. The training was intended to enhance the quality and flow of information on humanitarian issues to audiences inside Somalia and to Somali refugees in camps in neighbouring countries.In 2010, UNESCO, in collaboration with Radio Netherlands Training Centre, provided training to 20 Somali community radio journalists, helping them to improve their ability to work in an environment of conflict. read more

Civilian casualty numbers in Afghanistan rise again UN reports

The annual report on protection of civilians in armed conflict, prepared by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), recorded 3,021 civilian deaths last year — an increase of eight per cent on the previous year’s total of 2,790. Since 2007, at least 11,864 civilians have lost their lives in the ongoing conflict between the Government, backed by international forces, and the Taliban and other insurgent groups. Jan Kubis, the head of UNAMA and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, said that “for much too long, Afghan civilians have paid the highest price of war. Parties to the conflict must greatly increase their efforts to protect civilians to prevent yet another increase in civilian deaths and injuries in 2012.” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay described the figures are extremely worrying. “Behind these numbers is real suffering and loss for families in Afghanistan,” she said. Anti-Government forces were responsible for an increasingly large majority of the deaths, and last year accounted for 77 per cent of all civilians who were killed. The report noted that the Taliban and related groups use improvised explosive devices (IEDs) more frequently and more widely, with the IEDs detonating whenever a person, including a child, steps on them or whenever a vehicle drives over them. Anti-Government forces also conducted more deadly suicide attacks that led to higher death tolls, and stepped up the targeted killings of civilians. The report documented 495 such killings, including those of provincial governors, district governors, local government workers and tribal elders. And while the number of civilians killed by pro-Government forces fell overall last year, the number killed from aerial attacks rose. The report found that the conflict is playing an increasingly intrusive role in the day-to-day lives of Afghans, with nearly 200,000 people displaced last year by the fighting, thousands of others losing their livelihoods and property, and many more having their freedom of movement restricted because of the clashes. “Unremitting civilian casualties coupled with pervasive intimidation by parties to the conflict and an expanding number of pro- and anti-Government armed groups affected many Afghan civilians directly, and many more indirectly, by fueling uncertainty, tension and fear,” the report stated. The geographic distribution of casualties evolved last year as well, with an increasing proportion located in Afghanistan’s southeast, east and north as armed fighting lessened in severity in the south. While the Afghan Local Police had improved security in most areas where they operated, they also stood accused of human rights abuses against civilians in several districts. The report’s authors lay out a series of recommendations for participants to the conflict, including urging anti-Government forces to stop using victim-activated pressure-plate IEDs, cease targeting civilians, hold accountable those members who kill and injure civilians and stop attacking places of worship. The report calls on the Afghan Government to ensure its troops are trained adequately in tactics and procedures, particularly concerning alternatives to lethal forces, and to improve the recruitment and oversight of the Afghan Local Police. International military forces are called on to further review their procedures aimed at preventing any incidental loss of civilian life in the carrying out of military operations, especially aerial attacks, and to promote transparency and accountability when dealing with Afghan civilians and communities. Georgette Gagnon, the director of human rights at UNAMA, noted that new proposals have been put forward in recent months that could lead to a process of peace negotiations between the pro- and anti-Government sides. “To the Afghan people, the credibility and value of a negotiation process and progress toward peace will be measured by reduced civilian casualties and real improvements in security, particularly in conflict-affected areas,” she said. “Only through increased actions to protect civilians will the relentless toll of death and injury to Afghan children, women and men be ended during and following a peace process.” 4 February 2012The number of civilian casualties resulting from the conflict in Afghanistan has risen for a fifth consecutive year, the United Nations reported today, blaming a change in tactics by the Taliban and other anti-Government forces for the higher death toll. read more

TSX advances as economic data boost balances US rate concerns

TORONTO — Mining stocks led the way to a minor gain on the Toronto stock market Friday amid positive economic data from the United States.The S&P/TSX composite index gained 28.39 points to 14,390.22.The Canadian dollar was ahead 0.32 of a cent at 89.27 cents US in the wake of a better than expected reading on retail sales for January and slowing price pressures.Statistics Canada said sales were up 1.3%, against the 0.7% rise that had been expected.The agency also reported that Canada’s annual inflation rate fell to 1.1% in February, from 1.5% the previous month. But on a month-to-month basis, prices rose 0.8% from January.U.S. indexes were also higher after data suggested that U.S. economic growth should bounce back following a harsh winter.The Dow Jones industrials rose 73.02 points to 16,404.07, the Nasdaq climbed 3.67 points to 4,322.95 and the S&P 500 index was ahead 9.01 points to 1,881.02.The U.S. Conference Board’s index of leading indicators rose in February by the largest amount in three months.And a key manufacturing reading, the Philadelphia Fed’s manufacturing index, rebounded in March from a negative reading in February.The data helped persuade investors that the U.S. economy is strengthening to a point where it can withstand higher short term rates.Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen said Wednesday that the U.S. central bank could begin raising short-term rates six months after it halts its bond purchases around year’s end. The Fed has been cutting back on those purchases, a key element of stimulus that had kept long-term rates low, in $10 billion increments since December, lowering purchases so far from $85 billion to $55 billion.“Markets (are) ending the week on a solid footing following the Fed scare earlier in the week,” said a commentary from Barclays Research.“Fed fund futures look to be pricing the end-2015 Fed funds rate just shy of 1%.”The Fed has kept its key rate near zero since the 2008 financial collapse.Economic optimism sent commodities higher with May copper up four cents to US$2.97 a pound and the base metals sector gained 1.23%.The gold sector was up 1.15% as the April gold contract gained $10.10 to US$1,340.60 an ounce.The May crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange up 44 cents to US$99.34 a barrel and the energy sector was 0.15% higher.Most TSX sectors were higher with the consumer staples sector ahead almost one%.On the corporate front, 3,000 workers at Canadian National Railways have rejected a second tentative contract, prompting the company to suggest the talks go to binding arbitration. Teamsters Canada represents conductors, yard workers and other train workers. Its shares were down 30 cents to $62.54.Transportation giant Bombardier says that the international crises over events in Crimea could affect Bombardier’s efforts to negotiate a joint venture to build Q-400 turboprops in Russia. Russia is being targeted by western countries for its annexation of the Crimean peninsula. Its shares were up five cents to $4.20.BlackBerry is selling most of its real estate holdings in Canada as the struggling smartphone company continues to look for ways to improve its business. BlackBerry did not disclose the buyer or purchase price and its shares rose 14 cents to $10.75. read more

Uni girls sexually molested

There was a huge public outcry after the video was published on the YouTube channel of the Colombo Gazette (see video below) and also on Derana and Swarnavahini.The video shows new university entrants being humiliated and forced to roll on mud, have paint all over their clothes and faces and later be bathed with water. The High Education Ministry is investigating reports that four female students were sexually molested at a local University.According to reports the four girls, all new entrants to the University, were forced into a dark room and forced to massage some male seniors. The four girls have reportedly lodged a complaint over the incident with the University Grants Commission (UGC). The latest incident comes just days after an investigation was launched into a video containing visuals of students being ragged at a university. Anti-ragging groups said that university ragging has left 15 dead and 25 paralyzed over the past few years while a further 6000 students had left university, 2 committed suicide and 2 were raped. (Colombo Gazette) read more

Tamil man deported over LTTE links

A Tamil man has been deported from Singapore to Australia over his alleged links with the LTTE.The government information department said that Dr. Brian Senewiratne, an 81-year-old Australian doctor, speaks at forums organized by LTTE supporters. Meanwhile the Tamil Refugee Council said that the doctor was locked in a small cell without food, water or toilet access for more than five hours on Saturday before being deported back to Australia from Singapore. Dr Senewiratne said that when he asked what was the current immigration policy that would prevent him from travelling, the security officer said it wasn’t for him to say.He said he was going to ask his local MP in Brisbane, Kevin Rudd, to take action on his behalf. He will also be writing to Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr. “It is just outrageous,” he said. Dr Brian Senewiratne, a Sri Lankan-born Australian who has been a long-time critic of the Sri Lankan Government over its treatment of Tamils, was on his way to Malaysia and Indonesia to speak at forums on the Tamil refugee issue, the Tamil Refugee Council said.“They told me I was being deported straight back to Australia under a clause on an immigration card that said ‘ineligible for the issue of a pass under current immigration policies’,” he was quoted by the Tamil Refugee Council as saying. “He is also one of the nine Senators appointed by the pro-LTTE group Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) in its so called Senate,” the government information department said. read more