Hajipur (Bihar): Rail traffic has been suspended on Darbhanga-Samastipur section in Bihar on account of floods, resulting in cancellation, short termination and diversion of more than a dozen trains on Sunday, the East Central Railway headquarters here said. “At bridge no. 16 near Hayaghat section in Samastipur-Darbhanga section, water level has crossed the danger mark. Hence, train movement is being suspended on this section,” ECR Chief Public Relations Officer Rajesh Kumar said in a statement. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’ He said, this has led to cancellation of four passenger trains, in addition to the Jaynagar-Patna Intercity Express. Besides, trains like Darbhanga-New Delhi Sampark Kranti Express, Raxaul-Hyderabad Express, Ahmedabad-Darbhanga Jansadharan Express, Jaynagar-Amritsar Express and Kolkata- Sitamarhi Express are being plied through alternative routes, the CPRO said. Eight mail/express trains and three passenger trains are also being short terminated, he added. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&K Hayaghat falls under Darbhanga district, which had till Saturday reported 12 casualties on account of floods and where, as per the state disaster management department, 13.85 lakh people have been hit by the calamity. This is the second instance of rail traffic being disrupted in Bihar on account of the flash floods which have been ravaging the state in the aftermath of torrential rainfall in catchment areas of Nepal earlier this month. Earlier, movement of trains on the Sitamarhi-Raxaul section had been similarly suspended on July 13 and restored on July 16.
After finalising the paperwork for the first phase of the privatisation process, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) revealed a second phase on the cards in a briefing with a plan to privatise 20-25 airports. AAI Chairman Guruprasad Mohapatra asserted confidence that the second phase of privatisation will witness increased participation from foreign airports. While it is important to draw up future plans and attract foreign players to develop a consortium of airports across India, sorting out the first phase of privatisation takes precedence. In fact, it is the very success of the first phase which shall determine interest in the process on bidders’ part, as the AAI Chairman cited with the example of Munich and Dublin airports who had shown tremendous interest but “probably required more confidence” and were waiting to see the outcome of the first round of privatisation. But bidders’ interest does not only lie in how well players, or in this context a single-player, manage the Organisation and Management (O&M) of airport besides development. It gives equal weight to the bidding process and the criteria held by AAI in deciding whom to award the contract. Criteria, above all, take precedence since AAI has to keep essential prerequisites such as per passenger fee and total project cost as well as prior experience in O&M of airports. In this regard, the first phase of privatisation assumes even more importance and is supposed to set a benchmark for future biddings and development. The pertinent question is, did it? The first phase of privatisation began back in November 2018 when following the Union Cabinet’s in-principle nod to privatise six airports owned by AAI, the government panel for public-private partnerships–PPP Appraisal Committee (PPPAC)–met to recommend the proposal for final approval on Dec 11. Responsible for deciding the criteria and norms upon which the bidding process will be conducted, PPPAC brushed aside key recommendations to improve the criteria for selecting bidders given by the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) and NITI Aayogy in favour for decisions taken by Empowered Group of Secretaries (EGoS)–constituted by the Union Cabinet to take decisions on any issue falling beyond the scope of PPPAC. These key recommendations included prerequisites of O&M as well as development experience along with total estimated project cost which would aid in determining the capacity of interested players. With the tender floated by AAI on December 14 for six airports viz., Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Guwahati, Thiruvananthapuram and Mangaluru, AAI, in February 2019, declared Adani Enterprises Limited as the highest bidder for all six airports. And, on July 3, 2019, the Union Cabinet gave its nod for leasing three of these airports for on a long-term lease of 50 years. With Adani bagging all six airports, DEA’s recommendation of incorporating a clause that “no more than two airports to be awarded to the same bidder duly factoring the high financial risk and performance issues” took an unceremonious exit. In fact, DEA backed its recommendation by citing how at the time of privatisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports, GMR was the only qualified bidder, yet both airports were not awarded to it. Countering DEA’s recommended clause was a unanimous decision from EGoS citing that “no restriction needs to be placed on the number of airports to be bid for or to be awarded to a single entity”. Not just this but NITI Aayog’s suggestion to press on the need to have players with prior O&M experience was also trumped by PPPAC quoting EGoS’ decision that “prior airport experience may neither be made a prerequisite for bidding nor a post-bid requirement”, since it will enlarge the competition for brownfield airports which are already functional. Now while it is fine by PPPAC to exercise autonomy in deciding norms, it should be duly noted that EGoS was constituted to take decisions on any issue which falls beyond PPPAC’s scope but as per PPP guidelines, O&M standards fall right under PPPAC’s purview; there was no need to consult EGoS over this. The criteria-deciding process did not yield effective norms to restrict Adani’s bid for all six airports up for privatisation in the first phase and eventually, it bagged all of them–though three of those await a decision by the government. Also Read – A compounding difficultyAbsence of a cap and prior O&M experience recommended by DEA allowed Adani–who does not have O&M experience–to bag all six airports, which does not exude much confidence for bidders looking forward to the second phase. Lack of norms which were present during the privatisation of Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad airports who each had to find a foreign player with O&M experience to comply with RfP norms suggest a casual attitude from PPPAC and draws criticism for allegedly favouring one player over others. It is to be noted that in its pursuit to draw foreign airports to bid in the second phase of the privatisation, AAI must ensure strict norms with an unbiased environment because without a level-playing field, potential bidders might exercise restraint which will adversely affect the prospects of developing these airports. This might leave the government with no other option but to award a dozen airports to Adani in the next phase, which is not exactly impossible given the exploits in the first phase but definitely contentious in public view.
New Delhi: India and Myanmar on Monday signed a defence co-operation agreement providing for boosting bilateral military engagement, weeks after the two countries carried out a coordinated operation targeting several militant groups operating in the Northeast.The pact was inked after Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar’s Defence Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing held extensive talks with Minister of State for Defence Shripad Yesso Naik. Hlaing, accompanied by a high-level delegation from the Myanmar Defence Services, also met Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, Chief of Army Staff Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’General Bipin Rawat and Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh. Officials said the talks were aimed at enhancing the overall defence co-operation, including strengthening training being provided to Myanmar defence personnel by India. The two sides also explored ways to boost maritime security cooperation. “On conclusion of the talks, India and Myanmar signed a Memorandum of Understanding on defence co-operation,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement. Hlaing also called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and congratulated him on the success in the recent parliamentary elections. The senior general noted the rapid development of India in the past few years and also the all-round deepening of the unique relations between the two neighbours, including in the area of defence and security cooperation, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.
Noida (UP): Two people robbed a cab driver of his car in Greater Noida, but police recovered the vehicle in 40 minutes and arrested one of the perpetrators after an encounter in the early hours of Monday, officials said. The victim, was a driver with taxi-aggregator Ola, and the robbery took place around 1:35 am near D Park, which falls under the Ecotech-3 police station area, they said. The armed robbers fled with the Delhi-registered cab, a Swift Dzire, towards Bhatta, under the Surajpur police station. Also Read – After eight years, businessman arrested for kidnap & murder Personnel at the station were alerted and they chased the accused, recovering the vehicle from the Bhatta roundabout in Greater Noida around 2:15 am following an exchange of fire, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Gautam Buddh Nagar, Vaibhav Krishna, said. One of the robbers Tarun Guatam, a native of Agra, was seriously injured in the encounter and he has been hospitalised, the officer said, adding that Gautam’s accomplice managed to escape. The SSP said a firearm along with some ammunition was recovered from his possession. Searches are underway to nab the other robber and a case is being registered, he said. The officials said almost a dozen alleged criminals, including contract killers and those accused in loot and murder cases, were arrested after nine encounters with the police during last week in Noida and Greater Noida.
Ahmedabad: An earthquake of magnitude 4.2 jolted parts of Kutch district in Gujarat on Monday afternoon, officials said. No loss of life or damage to property was reported, a district administration official said. “The quake was felt at 2.43 pm with its epicenter recorded 6 km north-north west of Bhachau in Kutch district,” said an official of the Gandhinagar-based Institute of Seismological Research. Several areas, including Anjar, Gandhidham, Bhachau and Rapar, experienced the quake in the district, located around 330 km from here, another official said. Earlier, an earthquake of magnitude 4.3 hit Kutch on July 8.
New Delhi: The CBI told a Delhi court Monday that it may file a supplementary charge sheet with “substantial evidence” in a case of alleged murder of the Unnao rape survivor’s father in judicial custody, one of the four related cases transferred by the Supreme Court from Uttar Pradesh.The submissions were made when District Judge Dharmesh Sharma sought the status of the investigation in the case. The joint trial in the assault and murder case, in which charges have been framed by the court against expelled BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar and nine others, will commence from August 22. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’During the hearing, Senior Public Prosecutor Ashok Bhartendu, appearing for the CBI, said, “Further investigation in the murder case is going on and the agency will be coming up with substantial evidence and file a status report within a week.” The court had earlier framed murder and other charges against the MLA, his brother Atul Sengar, three ex-Uttar Pradesh police officials and others. It had also clubbed two cases related to the alleged murder of the rape survivor’s father and the other related to allegedly framing him in a case of possession of illegal arms and observed that one case was the foundation of the other. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&KSengar, his brother and the three UP policemen were not named as accused in the CBI’s charge sheet filed in the case of the alleged murder. The woman, allegedly raped by Kuldeep Sengar in 2017 when she was a minor, is battling for life after a truck rammed into the car she was travelling in with some family members and her lawyer. Two of her aunts died in the road accident. She was airlifted from a hospital in Lucknow and brought to the AIIMS for better care as she continued to be critical. When the counsel of the rape survivor and her family, advocate Dharmendra Mishra, had earlier told the court that the role of the Sengars should be investigated in the alleged murder of her father, CBI had said further investigation was going on. “Till now, the CBI did not find anything against the MLA to be a common accused. If, during the trial, the agency finds any evidence against the duo, a supplementary charge sheet will be filed,” the public prosecutor said,” the agency had said. The rape survivor’s father was arrested on April 3, 2018 and died in judicial custody on April 9, 2018.
Bengaluru: EPFO will launch an e-inspection system that will simplify inspection process and ensure organisations with open communications will not be subject to physical inspection until absolutely necessary, according to Central Provident Fund Commissioner Sunil Barthwal. EPFO (Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation) proposed to amend the Act to limit enquiry period to a maximum of two years in order to curtail harassment, he also said at a Confederation of Indian Industry-organised interactive session last Friday, a CII release said. Also Read – Thermal coal import may surpass 200 MT this fiscal A small percentage of employees are unable to generate UAN (a 12-digit Universal Account Number to all employees entitled to EPF) due to mismatch in data, Barthwal said, adding to address this issue, the EPFO is looking at alternative authentication vis-a-vis the employee database. “The EPFO is working towards a three-day settlement period for KYC (Know Your Customer) compliant beneficiaries who have UAN linked to Aadhaar, have a bank account and a registered mobile number,” the release quoted him as saying. Also Read – Food grain output seen at 140.57 mt in current fiscal on monsoon boost Barthwal also proposed to set up a society of self-regulating consultants, similar to ICAI (The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India), in order to curb “misuse and corruption.” “In a significant announcement for industry he proposed to decriminalise defaulters and treat the cases as economic offences,” the release said. The release quoted EPFO officers as saying that the process of claim has evolved from offline filing to digital and app-based platform and the next phase of advancement will be based on big data analytical platform that utilises artificial intelligence and machine learning to trigger all activities.
San Francisco: Adding video to a tweet can pull 10 times more engagements than tweets without video, the micro-blogging platform has revealed. Tweets with images attract 150 per cent more re-tweets than tweets without images and even tweets with a GIF gain 55 per cent more engagement than those without a GIF, according to Twitter for Business. Along with emojis, GIFs are one of the primary ways people communicate online. “While it’s easy to use an existing GIF to complement your tweet copy, many marketers don’t realise how simple it is to create their very own original, branded GIF,” Nick Reese wrote in a Twitter for Business blog post. Also Read – Swiggy now in 500 Indian cities, targets 100 more this year Depending on the type of effect you’re trying to capture, you may want to use a Time Lapse video, a Live Photo, or a series of static photos. “While it’s possible to create a GIF from within the iPhone’s Photos app, GIF-making apps simplify the process and make it easier to add stickers and text,” said Twitter. Another feature that’s often overlooked is the phone’s video screen capture ability. “Stop motion is the foundation for animation. With your phone, creating a stop motion video is as simple as taking a photo, moving the object slightly, taking another photo, and repeat,” Reese suggested. Also Read – New HP Pavilion x360 notebook with in-built Alexa in India Attachable lights and flashes help capture the best visuals possible without requiring a studio lighting setup. You can also get a microphone that attaches to your iPhone to capture ambient sound, or a clip-on microphone for conducting on-camera interviews. “To make your shots smoother, a gimbal can stabilize your iPhone or provide crane-like sweeps right from your hand,” said Reese.
Lucknow: Asian Games gold medallist triple jumper Arpinder Singh won the gold but failed to touch the World Championships qualifying mark on the second day of 59th National Inter-State Athletics Championships here on Wednesday. Arpinder managed the season’s best jump of 16.83m, 12cm short of World Championship qualifying standard of 16.95m under hot and humid conditions at the PAC Stadium here. Karnataka’s U Karthik and Tamil Nadu’s Mohammed Salahuddin took the silver and bronze respectively with jumps of 16.0m and 16.79m. Also Read – Puducherry on top after 8-wkt win over ChandigarhThe 26-year-old Arpinder, who has a personal best of 17.17m (of 2014), will have another shot at World Championships qualification in the Indian Grand Prix in New Delhi on September 5. None of the Indians could come close to the qualifying marks of the World Championships to be held in Doha from September 28 to October 6. Balakumar Nithin and Alex Antony won the men’s 200m and 400m gold respectively in the absence of top runners. Having won the sprint double in the Khelo India Youth Games in Pune earlier this year, Nithin’s winning time of 20.91 seconds here was the third-best on the list among Indians over the 200m this year. Also Read – Vijender’s next fight on Nov 22, opponent to be announced laterOnly Arokia Rajiv and Muhammed Anas Yahiya both 400m specialists — have run faster in 200m than the bespectacled sprinter from Tamil Nadu. The 200m qualifying time for the World Championships is 20.40. Kerala runner Alex, who first gave glimpses of his potential with a 46.66 second run in the Indian Grand Prix V in Patiala earlier this month, improved his personal best with a 46.17 second effort. It’s creditable that he won a race that included runners of the caliber of Ayyasamy Dharun (400m hurdles national record holder) and Tamilarasan Santhosh. Dharun and Santhosh finished fifth and seventh while Haryana’s Harsh Baljeet Singh and Karnataka’s Sachin Roby took the silver and bronze respectively by finishing inside 47 seconds. Kunhu Mohammed, who has been part of the Indian 4x400m relay team, was unable to go past the semifinal run in the morning, clocking 47.69 to finish third in his heats. Iranian Mahdi Pirjahan won the men’s 400m hurdles in new meet record time of 49.33 seconds. The Athletics Federation of India had invited some foreign athletes for the meet. P U Chithra won the women’s 800m in her personal best time of 2:02.96 while Mohammed Afsal pocketed the gold in men’s 800m in the absence of Manjit Singh and Jinson Johnson with the year’s best by an Indian, clocking 1:48.35. The Results (all finals): Men: 200m: 1. Balakumar Nithin (Tamil Nadu) 20.91 seconds; 2. Akshay Nain (Delhi) 21.39; 3. Abhinav Panwar (Delhi) 21.47. 400m: 1. Alex A Antony (Kerala) 46.17 seconds; 2. Harsh Baljeet Singh (Haryana) 46.64; 3. Sachin Roby (Karnataka) 46.96. 800m: 1. Mohammed Afsal (Kerala) 1:48.35; 2. Mujamil Ameer (Tamil Nadu) 1:49.03; 3. Ankit (Haryana) 1:49.95. 400m Hurdles: 1. Mahdi Pirjahan (Iran) 49.33 seconds; 2. Jagdeesh Chandra (Karnataka) 50.85; 3. Jithin Paul (Kerala) 50,92. Triple Jump: 1. Arpinder Singh (Punjab) 16.83m; 2. Karthik U (Karnataka) 16.80; 3. Salahuddin Mohammed (Tamil Nadu) 16.79. Shot put: 1. Inderjeet Singh (Haryana) 19.73m; 2. Jasdeep Dhillon (Punjab) 17.77; 3. Shakti Rathore (Rajasthan) 17.20.
New Delhi: Public sector bank stocks, led by Corporation Bank and Punjab National Bank, tumbled up to 9.3 per cent on Tuesday after the government announced the merger of 10 state-run lenders into four. Shares of Corporation Bank tanked 9.28 per cent to Rs 17.10, Punjab National Bank plunged 8.54 per cent to Rs 59.40, Canara Bank dropped 7.54 per cent to its one-year low of Rs 203.90. Oriental Bank of Commerce cracked 7.34 per cent to Rs 68.10, Union Bank of India 6.79 per cent to its 52-week low of Rs 54.90, Allahabad Bank declined by 2.83 per cent to Rs 34.30 and United Bank 0.28 per cent to Rs 10.39 on the BSE. Also Read – Thermal coal import may surpass 200 MT this fiscal However, Andhra Bank rose 5.31 per cent to Rs 20.80 and Syndicate Bank gained 3.55 per cent to Rs 33.50. Equity markets were closed on Monday for ‘Ganesh Chaturthi’. Continuing its firefight against the deepening economic slowdown, the government on Friday unveiled a mega plan to merge 10 public sector banks into four with a view to creating fewer and stronger global-sized lenders with robust balance sheets that can be used to boost credit and spur growth. Also Read – Food grain output seen at 140.57 mt in current fiscal on monsoon boost The mergers announced on Friday, together with two set consolidations done last year, will reduce the number of public sector banks to 12 from 27 in 2017. Oriental Bank of Commerce and United Bank will merge with Punjab National Bank to create the nation’s second-largest lender behind State Bank of India. Also, Syndicate Bank will merge with Canara Bank while Andhra Bank and Corporation Bank would subsume into Union Bank of India, and Allahabad Bank will be amalgamated with Indian Bank. According to Emkay Global, the merger of Canara and Syndicate could be relatively less disruptive in terms of integration… Being a strong mid-sized bank, Indian Bank was always susceptible to merger, but the merger with Allahabad Bank instead of IOB will be less painful. However, it could be challenging due to cultural and geographical diversity with Allahabad Bank and its relatively weak asset quality. PNB has been inherently weak and the merger could further aggravate and prolong the pain. Being a perennially capital-starved bank, Union Bank should benefit on the capital front due to the merger and has also been graced by the government with a healthy capital infusion, but that being said the merger will still be painful as a result of the geographic and cultural diversity of the merging entities.
OTTAWA – Canada’s national annualized inflation rate was 1.3 per cent in May, Statistics Canada says. Here’s what happened in the provinces and territories (previous month in brackets):— Newfoundland and Labrador: 3.0 per cent (3.6)— Prince Edward Island: 1.4 (1.6)— Nova Scotia: 0.5 (0.8)— New Brunswick: 2.4 (2.7)— Quebec: 0.7 (0.8)— Ontario: 1.4 (1.9)— Manitoba: 1.0 (1.6)— Saskatchewan: 0.9 (1.4)— Alberta: 1.2 (1.7)— British Columbia: 1.9 (2.1)— Whitehorse, Yukon: 2.1 (2.6)— Yellowknife, N.W.T.: 1.2 (1.2)
OTTAWA – Transport Minister Marc Garneau pushed back Thursday against suggestions the Liberals’ proposed air passenger bill of rights is too heavy-handed with airlines, saying the government’s intent is not to pick on air carriers.Garneau told a Commons committee studying the proposal that the government’s goal is to create regulations that are fair to airlines and passengers to ensure everyone knows their rights and responsibilities.The regulations would impose what Garneau described as hefty fines on airlines in situations where a passenger has been bumped from an overbooked flight, had luggage lost or damaged, or was stuck on a tarmac for far too long — but only if these were within the carrier’s control.If it is something beyond the control of the airline — bad weather, air traffic control issues, or a security threat at an airport, for instance — then the carrier wouldn’t be held liable.“It is an objective of this to come up with something that clearly addresses passenger rights, but that is also fair to the airlines,” Garneau said. “We’re not here to pick on the airlines. We’re here to make sure that passenger rights are respected.“If it was a decision that was within the control of the airline that prevented you from taking that flight, there needs to be compensation.”The ensuing hours of hearings on the legislation, known as Bill C-49, saw warnings from the airline industry that legislating compensation beyond the cost of a ticket and the cost to the passenger’s time would increase prices.Bad publicity through social media is incentive enough for airlines to better their customer service, said Douglas Lavin, an executive with the International Air Transport Association.Instead, Lavin and others suggested the government require airlines to be clear with passengers about fare agreements and let the consumer decide what level of service they are willing to pay for.The line between what is and isn’t in the airline’s control is at the centre of a hearing before the Canadian Transportation Agency in which Air Transat says it shouldn’t be liable for a much-publicized incident where two of its planes faced tarmac delays of more than five hours earlier this summer where passengers not allowed to disembark.One of the two flights ran out of fuel during the delay and lost power, shutting down the air conditioning.The ensuing heat led to mounting tensions, a child throwing up on board and — ultimately — a 911 call from a passenger on the Brussels flight.The transportation agency will release its decision later this fall.Air Transat executives told the committee that C-49 wouldn’t have made a difference in the situation.“Putting out an obligation or a penalty or a fine and saying, ‘if you don’t disembark your passengers after certain hours you’re going to pay this amount of money,’ that would not have helped those passengers that evening, I can assure you that, because we don’t need a financial incentive or threat to do what we’re doing,” said George Petsikas, Air Transat’s senior director of government and industry affairs.“Our crews want to get those people where they’re going as quickly and as safely as possible.”Once passed, the bill would require the transportation agency to draft the regulations and submit them to the government for approval.Garneau said that the rules would be changed as needed “under compelling situations” if there are situations that aren’t addressed, or provisions that are found to be “inadequate in any way.”Garneau urged the committee to quickly pass the legislation to have the new passenger rights in place some time next year.Conservative deputy leader Lisa Raitt told Garneau she wanted to ensure the bill is indeed as fair as the government claims, given it also proposes changes to rail transport and foreign ownership rules for Canadian airlines.“Any time you move off of status quo, which C-49 does do, you’re going to have people who are winners and people who are losers and our attempt here is to try and figure out the best balance is,” said Raitt, a former transport minister.— Follow @jpress on Twitter.
CHARLOTTETOWN – More than 94,000 people in P.E.I. have received an unauthorized spam message from the P.E.I. government.The government issued a statement Monday warning residents not to open an emailed newsletter titled: “Tonight’s Winner is Drawn in 10 Hours.”The email includes a link, which should not be opened.The province says its e-mail newsletter system was accessed without authorization on Sunday.The e-mail system was taken offline when the hacking was discovered.
VANCOUVER – Teenagers who steal prescription medication from a medicine cabinet at home may be at risk of becoming addicted to drugs, says a family doctor who treats chronic substance use.Dr. William Barakett said parents should lock up their medication and return unused drugs to a pharmacy for disposal.Parents must ensure their teens aren’t pocketing drugs to mask an emotional disorder such as ADHD, he said.They also need to take a “good hard look” at whether there’s a family history of addiction, said Barakett, an advisory council member for Drug Free Kids Canada.He recently testified before a House of Commons committee hearing on marijuana and said many of his patients began smoking pot as young as 12 before stealing their parents’ medication.Barakett told the committee the federal government’s plan to legalize recreational cannabis should include extensive public-education campaigns about the risks of pot consumption on adolescent brains.The message about the dangers of teens using medication also needs to get out, especially during the current opioid epidemic, he said in an interview from Knowlton, Que.“If there are opioids left in the medicine chest at home adventurous kids are going to start to play with them,” Barakett said, adding self-medicating teens who develop an addiction to opioid painkillers may seek the drugs elsewhere.“I’ve had kids who are addicted to opioids in pill form and I ask them, ‘Where do you obtain it?’ Some of them have told me, ‘We hang around old folks’ homes.’ “Seniors who no longer need their drugs have been known to sell them to teens for extra cash, Barakett said.Teens buying drugs on the street are taking a huge risk because too many substances are laced with the powerful opioid painkiller fentanyl, Barakett said.A BC Coroners Service report issued Thursday says 17 people between the ages of 10 and 18 died of suspected overdoses between January and August this year. That’s up from 12 deaths last year and five deaths in all of 2015.The report says the opioid painkiller fentanyl was detected in 81 per cent of all deaths in the province so far this year.Mike Serr, chairman of the drug advisory committee for the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, said parents often don’t notice when one or two pills are missing, especially if a drug is taken occasionally to manage pain.Serr, who is deputy chief of the Abbotsford Police Department, said a mother who spoke at a public forum on fentanyl in the Fraser Valley city warned other parents that her son became addicted to opioids after stealing her medication.“There weren’t too many dry eyes in the room,” he said of the forum last spring, adding the teen ended up living on the streets but he is now on the road to recovery.Kerr said teens who start stealing their parents’ medication often repeat the same behaviour at other relatives’ and friends’ homes and may even start selling the drugs.Many police departments have held annual days for people to bring in their unused drugs for disposal but Kerr said lack of resources mean few forces currently participate in what they consider an important community event.Marc Paris, executive director of Drug Free Kids Canada, said he’s heard stories of teens stealing their parents’ drugs and taking them to so-called pill parties.“They put them in a big jar and start popping pills to see what kind of an effect it has. They don’t know what they’re taking. Sometimes they end up in emergency rooms and they can’t tell the doctor what they took.”Paris suggested parents use a lock box or other secure place to stow away opioids and drugs such Tylenol with codeine that they may be keeping for occasional pain.It’s also important for parents to have ongoing conversations with their kids about drugs, he said.“It’s making sure that you’re in tune with what the kids are facing at the schoolyard, at parties, on the street. Ask, ‘If you were at a party and somebody offered you a pill what would you do?’ “— Follow @CamilleBains1 on Twitter.
CALGARY – The tall, slim teenager asks a question that’s on the minds of many of the young people gathered around the cloth-covered tables in a small meeting room at a mosque in northeast Calgary.“If someone from ISIS or ISIL approaches you, how would you respond to them, so that you’re not attacked any further?” wonders Zubair Tariq, 16.“If they approach, you should be smart enough to know that ISIL/ISIS is very big criminals in the eyes of Islam,” answers Imam Syed Soharwardy, founder of Muslims Against Terrorism and the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada.“These people reach out through the internet. These people reach out through a local community. Understand this is not somebody who is a nice Muslim or a good Muslim or a true Muslim. This is someone who is disguised as a Muslim. ISIL is a disguised Muslim.“They say they are good Muslims but to us they are a bunch of thugs and criminals,” he continues. “They are terrorists.”Soharwardy met recently with 30 Muslim youth at the Jamia Masjid Gunbad-e-Khizra mosque. It was one of several meetings he does on a regular basis to prevent the radicalization of Canadian Muslim youth.Soharwardy decided to call another meeting after an attack earlier this month that injured a police officer and civilians in Edmonton. A man stabbed an officer doing traffic control outside a football game and then crashed a cube van into pedestrians downtown. Five people were injured. Police say they seized an Islamic State flag as evidence.Tariq says he hasn’t been contacted directly by anyone seeking to recruit young Canadian Muslims, but he’s worried.“One of my friends was approached … and he’s the same age as me,” the teen says. “It’s scary. If someone approaches you, you don’t know how to respond properly unless you talk to your peers.”Teen Hassaan Rizvi says recruitment by the Islamic State is happening through social media.“We were sitting in my math class and two of my friends received a WhatsApp link,” says Rizvi, referring to the popular mobile messaging program. “When opened, it was for recruitment for ISIS. It had the flag and said we are recruiting.“I said, ‘This is not something good so we should close it.’ This did happen. They are still recruiting.”Soharwardy turns the conversation to the Edmonton attack.“When you hear … a police officer hurt and an ISIS flag found, what do you feel?” Soharwardy asks.“Angry,” says one young man.“Embarrassed,” says another.A report last year on the terrorist threat in Canada said that at the start of 2014 there were more than 130 Canadians who were abroad and suspected of terror-related activities. By the end of 2015, the number had grown to about 180 and the government knew of about 60 extremist who had returned to Canada.Some of the students at the meeting express anger at the backlash they endure every time a terrorist attack happens anywhere in the world.“I don’t understand why the word terrorist or terrorism is stitched to the word Muslim or the name of Islam. Terrorism itself is just an attack on anyone,” says Shahwali Hameed.“Terrorism has no religion.”Aysha Ali believes a lack of understanding causes people to believe all Muslims are terrorists every time an attack occurs.“It definitely gets worse. They wouldn’t blame it on Muslims if it just happened once, but it’s happened several times where people like ISIS and ISIL do it in the name of Islam.”Ibrahim Khan says there appears to be a double standard. He points out nobody is calling the perpetrator in the Las Vegas mass shooting a terrorist.“He’s either mentally damaged or they just call him a shooter. No one calls him a terrorist, because he doesn’t have a long beard.”Soharwardy says he believes there are still recruiters and sympathizers Islamic State sympathizers working in Canada and he suggests that will continue until their financial pipeline dries up.He tells the students that anyone who promotes hatred or committing violent acts is not following the Muslim faith.“If you see anybody make sure you report to your parents, your teacher, to me,” he says.“Let us know right away, because we need to defend ourselves and … remain loyal, faithful, law-abiding citizens of this country.”— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter
An international environmental group suggests that reducing Canada’s colossal food waste would be a smart business move and good for the environment.“You can make a really strong business case for action,” said David Donaldson of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, an environmental watchdog agency set up under the North American Free Trade Agreement.Canada is one of the biggest wasters of food on the planet, says the commission’s report, released late last week. The agency found that from farm to table, 396 kilograms of food annually are wasted or lost per capita.That’s compared with 415 kilograms in the United States and 249 kilograms in Mexico.Food is considered lost when it is spilled or spoiled before it reaches its final destination.Not only does that waste have an economic cost — other studies have pegged it at about $30 billion a year — it creates 21 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, largely from landfills.By far the largest part of the waste comes from consumers, says the report. Every Canadian, on average, tosses away 170 kilograms of food a year.The commission’s recommendations focus on the middle part of the food chain where Canada’s groceries are collected, processed, distributed and prepared. That’s where the economic case is clearest, Donaldson said.“You can make a business case for it. Companies can improve the way they do business.”Restaurants could reduce portions, the report suggests. Bread served at tables could be optional. Buffet serving trays could be shallower to reduce the amount of food on display.Retailers could sell cosmetically imperfect produce at a discount, as some already do. Expiry date labels could be standardized.Better tools and techniques to prevent food waste and to make processing and transport more efficient would be a big help, said researcher Tamara Shulman.“We interviewed people from across Canada and everyone’s thirsty to get access to information,” she said.James Rillet of Restaurants Canada said his industry is well aware of the economic benefits of cutting waste.“It’s money out of their pockets.”Rillet’s group already runs programs to help restaurateurs plan better to avoid waste. It’s also working with the Ontario government to avoid food waste due to outdated health guidelines.But he called some of the report’s recommendations simplistic.“Some restaurants are known for their portion sizes,” he said. “There’s so many different concepts.“Consumers want what they want.”The National Zero Waste Council, which is devoted to cutting waste from the Canadian economy, praised the commission’s report and said it echoed many recommendations it has already made.“Best-before dates are low-hanging fruit,” said Denise Philippe. “The dates on our food packaging are all over the map.”Too much food gets tossed because consumers and businesses assume a best-before date is a deadline and not a quality benchmark, she said.“It’s not clear to the consumer and sometimes not to businesses that when we say ‘best before’ we’re not talking about a food safety issue.”Donaldson said more people are becoming aware of the problem.The commission’s report was produced at the request of the three NAFTA governments. As well, all three have signed a United Nations pledge to halve food waste and loss by 2030.A federal strategy is expected this spring.“The issue of food waste, for the last decade, has really come to the forefront,” Donaldson said.— Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at @row1960
OXFORD, N.S. – The unpredictable sinkhole that has swallowed trees and picnic tables in a Nova Scotia park is continuing to grow — and has now inspired a song.The park in Oxford, N.S., remains roped off while geologists and emergency officials assess the area around the muddy hole, last measured at 34 metres by 29 metres.The Town of Oxford issued an update on Wednesday, saying cracks in a nearby lot are still growing, though there was little activity in the hole compared with previous days.Town spokeswoman Linda Cloney confirmed that the hole has started “undercutting” the pavement of a nearby Lions Club parking lot, but she said the town is not planning to evacuate local businesses any time soon.“We always keep that on the back burner, but it’s nowhere near that,” said Cloney.Security remains on site to keep curious onlookers out of the park.The Nova Scotia RCMP is asking visitors to “be extra cautious” while driving in the area, and to respect the boundaries set up by city officials.Cloney said there have been a few fender benders in the area, a result of increased traffic from people hoping to catch a glimpse of the mysterious natural phenomenon that has become a bit of a tourist attraction.A new Twitter account, @SinkholeOxford, is now offering observations from the perspective of the hungry sinkhole, musing about what it might consume next.Local musician Christopher Brown posted a video to Facebook showing him performing an original song called “Sinkhole at Exit 6.”The song raises questions about the fate of the Lions Club and where neighbourhood kids will play, after playground equipment was removed from the sinkhole’s possible path.—On the web: https://www.facebook.com/ChristopherBrownNS/videos/249303699252883/
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wasn’t about to shy away from supporting his favourite Canadian hockey team on trade deadline day.Speaking to TSN’s “TradeCentre” in a video interview from Ottawa on Monday hours before the NHL trade deadline, Trudeau let it be known several times that he’s a Montreal Canadiens fan first and foremost.The six other NHL teams from Canada received only a passing mention during the three-minute interview.“This was supposed to be a bit of a rebuilding year but over the past little bit (Canadiens goaltender) Carey (Price) has been hot and they’ve been doing really, really well,” said Trudeau, who spent a good chunk of his younger days in Montreal. “Whatever he’s doing, keep it up. We’ve got four great teams headed to the playoffs, at least, from Canada.“I think there’s a lot of positivity. Of course, I’m going to stay focused on how my beloved Habs are doing and keep my fingers crossed that they get to the finals.”Trudeau even took a playful shot at the Habs’ arch-rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat visiting Montreal on Saturday.“I’m still a little bitter about Saturday night, but we know the Leafs are on a good roll for people who care about them,” Trudeau said. “But I’m going to make sure we keep staying strong in Montreal.”TSN host James Duthie then asked Trudeau if there is anything the Canadian government could do to help end the country’s Stanley Cup drought. Montreal was the last team to win the NHL title in 1993.“I am very much focused on making sure the drought ends with the same team that started it all,” Trudeau said. “The last team to win were the Habs and I remember being a white water river guide in the spring of ’93 when we were celebrating that victory. I’d love to be able to celebrate another Stanley Cup victory by the Habs today as prime minister.”The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Four federal leaders will take the stage in Montreal tonight for the first debate to feature Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.Conservative Andrew Scheer, New Democrat Jagmeet Singh, and Yves-Francois Blanchet of the Bloc Quebecois will face off with Trudeau at 8 p.m. Eastern time, in a debate hosted by the private TVA television network and the Montreal newspaper Le Journal.“It’s enormously important,” says Maclean’s Ottawa Bureau Chief John Geddes of the French debate, adding with 78 seats up for grabs in Quebec, the outcome could have a big impact.The Liberals are polling well in the province, which makes Trudeau the target in his first test against his competitors, and his main rival Andrew Scheer.“I think inevitably they’re the top dogs, and this whole thing of Scheer versus Trudeau will be key.”The other leaders all stand to gain by taking Trudeau down a notch on topics like pipelines, deficit spending, and Quebec’s controversial religous symbols ban for public workers.Any great performance or big mistake can sway the Quebec race, and since the Liberals and Conservatives are in a dead heat nationally, every vote matters.“For sure picking up a few seats or losing a few seats in Quebec could make the difference if you’re in that tight a race,” Geddes says.The leaders are spending most of the day Wednesday preparing, though the Liberals have a campaign announcement featuring cabinet minister Navdeep Bains in Toronto and the Tories have one planned with Scheer’s Quebec lieutenant Alain Rayes in Montreal.Trudeau is planning a visit to a boxing gym for a photo op, and Singh is going on a walkabout at a market, ostensibly to buy snacks for his preparation team.The organizers didn’t invite Green Leader Elizabeth May or the People’s Party’s Maxime Bernier, both of whom are campaigning in and around their home ridings for the day.Tonight’s debate is the first of three where Trudeau will take part, with two more next week organized by the new federal debate commission headed by former governor general David Johnston. Geddes says at the very least, tonight’s showdown will be a preview bout ahead of those debates.Trudeau didn’t attend a debate hosted by Maclean’s magazine and Citytv at the very outset of the campaign that’s now half over, and the organizers of a debate on foreign policy cancelled their event when Trudeau wouldn’t appear there, either.All four of the leaders debating tonight will likely be hoping for moments that change the momentum of the 21-day-old campaign, with polls showing hardly any change in voters’ preferences since it began on Sept. 11.The Liberals and Conservatives remain locked in a fight for first place, hovering around 33-per-cent support nationally but with the Liberals apparently having a small edge because so much Conservative support is concentrated in the Prairie provinces. A strong Liberal showing in Quebec, where polls show them with a small but consequential lead, could sustain the Liberals in power; a strong Conservative showing could sink them.The New Democrats remain well back, slightly ahead of the Greens in most polls. Without May on the stage, Singh will have a chance to sell himself to Quebecers in the hope of starting a new “orange wave” in the province.