Persons with disabilities can play vital role in AsiaPacific economy – UN

20 August 2010A United Nations meeting which wrapped up in Bangkok today has encouraged businesses to embrace the rights and concerns of persons with disabilities, highlighting the untapped consumer power represented by an estimated 400 million people in the Asia-Pacific region. Over 60 participants at the two-day regional meeting on South-to-South Cooperation on Disability, including Government officials and representatives of businesses and disabled persons’ organizations, explored ways in which business development plans and employment practices could become more inclusive. The meeting, held at the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in the Thai capital, adopted a statement urging leadership development of persons with disabilities and the promotion of socially inclusive business development as priorities for the next regional decade on disability.The Second Asia-Pacific Decade for Disabled Persons will conclude in 2012, and the Bangkok meeting recommended that governments in the region proclaim a new regional decade on disability starting from 2013.“Many of the 400 million or so persons with disabilities in the region live in rural and isolated areas in conditions of abject poverty, encountering deep and persistent barriers,” noted Nanda Krairiksh, Director of the Social Development Division of ESCAP. “Viewing them as contributors to our region’s economic dynamism, as entrepreneurs, employees or an emerging market segment enhances everyone’s prospects for prosperity,” she said.The meeting, organized by ESCAP and the Asia-Pacific Development Centre on Disability (APCD), in collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), also reviewed the implementation of the Biwako Millennium Framework for Action – a regional plan for a barrier-free and rights-based society for persons with disabilities. read more

Montenegro UNbacked project turns toxic site into ecotourism hub

9 September 2010A United Nations-backed project in northern Montenegro has transformed a town blighted by pollution from a nearby zinc mine into a magnet for ecotourism that aims to now attract kayakers, bicyclists and mountain hikers. Municipal officials in the town of Mojkovac organized the clean-up of a lake poisoned by chemical run-off from the former mine into a recreational area based around adventure tourism and ecotourism, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) reported yesterday.The project is part of the UNDP-backed Western Balkans Environmental ‘Hot Spots’ programme, a three-year initiative funded by the Netherlands to assist areas in the region that suffered from industrial pollution.UNDP is working with the municipality to develop organic agriculture and possible alternative uses for the closed mine, such as a museum or underground bicycle trail. A kayak club has been set up and other ecotourism opportunities are being explored.UNDP Administrator Helen Clark visited Mojkovac with national officials yesterday, hailing the project for removing the “rather toxic legacy” from the town.“I think Montenegro has a really special environment out there and the opportunities for ecotourism are endless,” she said. “You can do anything out there in those hills and valleys!”Miss Clark is visiting Montenegro and Moldova as part of a trip spotlighting the two Eastern European countries’ efforts to reduce poverty and boost social and economic development.After arriving in Chisinau, Moldova, Miss Clark told reporters today that the country had made progress on most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the social and economic targets which world leaders have agreed to strive to attain by 2015.Later this month the world’s countries will gather at UN Headquarters in New York to review overall progress so far and determine where efforts should be focused over the next five years.The UNDP chief also said her agency would work closely with Moldova to help it recover economically from the impact of recent floods. read more

Corporate titans commit to lowcarbon future – UN

They urged governments to advance negotiations to ensure an ambitious outcome at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Cancún which kicks off next month.The corporate leaders also underlined the need for a level playing field worldwide to foster green entrepreneurship, in a declaration issued at the conclusion of the Business for the Environment (B4E) summit in the Mexican capital yesterday.Energy companies at the gathering agreed to work towards reaching 100 per cent renewable energy production by 2050, while information and communication technology (ICT) companies committed to curbing nearly 8 gigatonnes of carbon emissions, and representatives from the building sector pledged to limit emissions by 40 per cent in new buildings by 2020.“Many businesses, including those at the B4E Summit, are signalling leadership and seizing the opportunities of the climate change challenge. Why? Because many see rising risks to profits from the impacts of rising greenhouse gases but also an opportunity to become far more resource efficient and innovative enterprises,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.He said Governments at next month’s Cancún meeting and beyond have a responsibility to support these goals.Business leaders at the Mexico City event agreed that the creation of strong global policy and national legal frameworks are required to avert a major climate crisis with economic, political, health, environment, safety and other implications.“While governments hold the key to setting the right signals and incentives, it is business that provides the solutions we need,” said Georg Kell, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact, an initiative that seeks to foster socially responsible business practices. “Now is the time to support the many efforts that already exist to ensure that low-carbon innovation is shared widely and to mobilize those still sitting on the fence,” he stressed. “We cannot afford to wait any longer.With less than two months remaining before the Cancún meeting, the UNFCCC chief has called on nations to accelerate efforts to find common ground to reach a concrete outcome at the gathering.“Governments have restored their own trust in the process, but they must ensure that the rest of the world believes in a future of ever-increasing government commitment to combat climate change,” said Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC Executive Secretary.Some 3,000 participants from more than 170 countries are in Tianjin, China, for a week-long negotiating session which began on Monday ahead of the Cancún meeting. 6 October 2010Business leaders from around the world today pledged to slash their carbon emissions in areas ranging from energy, communications and construction at the end of a United Nations-backed summit in Mexico City. read more

UN official outlines challenges facing cities amid rapid urbanization

Pointing out some of the issues he will be addressing as the Executive Director of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), Joan Clos told reporters in New York that although cities hosted industries and businesses that create much of the world’s wealth, they were not always able to raise the resources required to deal with the problems associated with expanding population.“We need to understand better the economic role of urbanization,” Mr. Clos said, adding that he will balance “continuity and renewal” during his term as head of the organization.“We need to produce some changes and improvements in our organization in order to be more focused and more efficient inside the overall objective of the United Nations of delivering-as-one and being more efficient in general,” Mr. Clos said.He stressed that that while cities in the developing world continued to be plagued by problems associated with poverty, underdevelopment, poor health and standard of education and insecurity, new challenges to urban areas in both poor and richer countries were arising.They included cities as emitters of green house gases that contribute to climate change and the risk of the collapse of transit systems due to inadequate planning and rapid expansion.UN-HABITAT will be seeking solutions to the new challenges facing urban authorities with a view to helping them as wells as governments in their efforts to seek solutions to them, Mr. Clos said.Mr. Clos, former mayor of the city of Barcelona in Spain, was appointed as head of the Nairobi-based agency by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in August, starting work on 16 October. He succeeded Anna Tibaijuka, a citizen of Tanzania, who headed UN-HABITAT since it was formed in 2001 to replace the UN Centre for Human Settlements. 3 November 2010The new head of the United Nations agency tasked with promoting sustainable cities today outlined the challenges facing urban centres around the world, saying they were hosting increasingly large populations but had limited resources for critical services read more

UN authorizes new body to stem loss of ecosystems vital to life

21 December 2010A new international body aimed at reversing the unprecedented loss of species and ecosystems vital to life on Earth due to human activity has passed its final hurdle with approval by the United Nations General Assembly. A new international body aimed at reversing the unprecedented loss of species and ecosystems vital to life on Earth due to human activity has passed its final hurdle with approval by the United Nations General Assembly. In a resolution adopted by consensus, the Assembly yesterday called on the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to take the necessary steps to set up the Intergovernmental Science Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the final approval needed for the body for which the groundwork had been laid at UNEP-sponsored meetings earlier this year.“IPBES represents a major breakthrough in terms of organizing a global response to the loss of living organisms and forests, freshwaters, coral reefs and other ecosystems that underpin all life, including economic life, on Earth,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said today.It caps 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity, launched in January to raise awareness and generate public pressure for action by global leaders on the vital link between biodiversity, ecosystems and survival, based on the premise that the world’s diverse ecosystems purify the air and the water that are the basis of life, stabilize and moderate the Earth’s climate, renew soil fertility, cycle nutrients and pollinate plants. IPBES, which in many ways mirrors the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that has helped to catalyze government action on global warming, will foster the search for government action needed to reverse the accelerating degradation of the natural world and its species, which some experts put at 1,000 times the natural progression.Its role includes high-quality peer reviews of the wealth of science on the issue from research institutes across the globe and outlining transformational policy options to bring about real change.As to the economic costs, a UN-backed Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study last year estimated loss of natural capital due to deforestation and degradation at between $2 trillion and $4.5 trillion every year – “a staggering economic cost of taking nature for granted.” It said an annual $45 billion investment into protected areas alone could secure delivery of ecosystem services worth some $5 trillion a year.Outlining some of the potential benefits of IPBES, UNEP cited bringing to the attention of Governments so-called “new topics” identified by science. Some, for example, claim that evidence of deoxygenated dead zones in the world’s oceans took too long to migrate from scientific circles into the in-trays of policy-makers. Similar concerns exist over the pros and cons of biofuels. Some experts are convinced that many discoveries, from the identification of new lower life forms to the fast disappearance of others, remain within the corridors of research institutes and universities for many years before they reach the wider world, by which time it may be too late to act to protect the species concerned. Unravelling the precise role of animals, plants, insects and even microbes within ecosystems and their functions in terms of the services generated, from water purification to soil fertility, could also be a major thrust, UNEP said. While IPBES will support some capacity building in developing countries, a main role will be to catalyze funding to assist them.UNEP, as the interim Secretariat of the new independent body, will now organize a plenary or meeting of Governments in 2011, the first year of the International Decade of Biodiversity, to decide which country will house the IPBES and which institutions will host it along with other institutional arrangements.The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), one of several UN agencies that will be involved in setting up IPBES, noted that record growth in cultivated land, overexploitation of freshwater resources and fish stocks, massive pollution by fertilizers and erosion of certain natural environments such as mangroves and coral reefs in the past 50 years have led to the massive extinction of species.Some 12 per cent of birds, 25 per cent of mammals and 32 per cent of amphibians are now threatened with extinction within a century, it added. read more

Pakistan UN official calls for quantum leap in disaster risk reduction measures

Margareta Wahlström, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, is scheduled to meet President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani and senior disaster management and meteorological officials during a three-day visit.Over the past month large areas of southern Pakistan have been swamped by flood waters, a year after an even bigger portion of the country was inundated, killing many people, destroying or damaging thousands homes and basic infrastructure and leaving farmland unusable.The current floods have displaced an estimated 5.4 million people, according to the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR).Speaking before her departure, Ms. Wahlström – who is also head of UNISDR – noted that flood risk in Pakistan can be predicted with great accuracy by modelling systems.“Just as last year, this year’s flooding has been concentrated in rural areas with rapidly growing populations which lack early warning systems and preparedness measures,” she said.“We now need a quantum leap in disaster risk reduction across all the country’s flood-prone provinces by all the actors.”Ms. Wahlström said she was concerned by the rising economic and human toll from recent floods not only in Pakistan, but also in other Asian countries, such as the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Cambodia.“Yet we all know that these floods are signposted long before their arrival. They are annual events heralded by the monsoon rains from June to September each year. If you know what to expect then adequate preparedness measures should pay off and save lives, homes and livelihoods.”Ms. Wahlström’s comments echo those of Vladimir Sakharov, the environmental services section chief of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)/UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Emergency Partnership.Mr. Sakharov yesterday told the annual board meeting in Geneva of Green Cross International, a non-governmental organization (NGO) dealing with security, poverty eradication and environmental degradation, that the series of recent typhoons in the Pacific region underscored the need for increased spending on disaster management.“The international community spends a huge amount of money in response to natural disasters, instead of concentrating on a comprehensive risk management and preparedness,” he said.“The increasing number and strength of extreme weather events and other emergencies means that more people, potentially, are threatened by such disasters. Adequate measures should be taken worldwide to make communities safer.”He said governments can take actions such as boosting emergency preparedness training, developing early warning systems and considering the location and structural resilience of basic infrastructure so that they are not especially vulnerable to natural hazards.“Future generations will hold us accountable for how we respond to critical issues like disaster preparedness and prevention.” 5 October 2011The head of the United Nations disaster risk reduction agency arrives tomorrow in Pakistan to discuss possible measures to reduce the impact and recurrence of major floods, which have inundated much of the Asian country in the past two years. read more

Small business confidence gets stronger in February CFIB

Small businesses appear to be more optimistic in early 2013, the latest survey conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business shows. Its Monthly Business Barometer rose a half a point to 66.2 in February on a scale of 0 to 100. An index level above 50 means owners who expect their operations to be stronger in the next year outnumber those expecting a weaker performance. Small business owners in Alberta remain the most optimistic in Canada, with an index of 71, closely followed by Saskatchewan at 69.8 and Newfoundland and Labrador at 67.0. Ontario (65.3), Nova Scotia (65.3), British Columbia (64.9), Quebec (64.6), Manitoba (63.4), and New Brunswick (62.2) are slightly below the national average while Prince Edward Island (54.1) saw a sharp drop in business confidence. The CFIB also says full-time hiring plans are better than seasonal norms, with 26% of businesses expecting to hire more staff in the next few months, and only 6% planning to cut back. “For the first time in awhile, small business owners are reporting index numbers that indicate the economy is growing nearer its potential,” said CFIB chief economist and vice-president Ted Mallett. “The January and February results suggest Canadians are seeing modest, but widespread economic growth.” The February findings are based on 974 responses from a random sample of CFIB members, to a controlled-access web survey. the findings are statistically accurate to plus or minus 3.2% 19 times in 20.Getty Images/Thinkstock read more

WatchTSX rallies as energy shares soar amid rate decision

TORONTO — A spike in oil prices helped send the Toronto stock market to a higher finish as most other key sectors also found strength.The S&P/TSX composite rose 61.59 points to close at 15,450.87, coming off a triple-digit gain earlier in the session. Crude futures prices settled at their highest level of the year after the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that American inventories of crude were up for a 14th consecutive week, but by less than expected. May crude ended nearly six per cent higher at US$56.39 a barrel — an increase of $3.10.In New York, some of the companies reporting financial results impressed traders who have had restrained expectations for the first quarter.The Dow Jones industrial average was up 75.91 points at 18,112.61, the Nasdaq rose 33.73 points to 5,011.02 and the S&P 500 advanced 10.79 points to 2,106.63.The loonie rose 1.24 cents U.S. to 81.30 cents as the Bank of Canada held its trend-setting overnight rate at 0.75 per cent while also reducing its growth forecast for the year.Oil spikes to highest level this year on report U.S. crude stockpile gains easeBank of Canada keeps interest rate on hold amid signs oil shock is already beginning to fade read more

Zinc miner Nexa Resources debuts on TSX and NYSE with lowered listing

CALGARY — Zinc miner Nexa Resources S.A. made its listing debut on the Toronto Stock Exchange Friday as part of a dual listing that raised less than initial estimates.The company priced the 31 million listed shares (TSX:NEXA), also listed on the New York Stock Exchange, at US$16 a piece to pull in an expected US$496 million.Nexa had said in earlier filings that it expected to raise up to US$651 million by pricing the shares between US$18 and US$21 per share.Company CEO Tito Martins said he’s pleased with the offering and plans to spend the proceeds on a new mine in Brazil as well as on a brownfield site in Peru.“To be able to develop those project, we feel the best way is to access the capital market,” he said.Martins added that the listing gives the company more flexibility for the future, and that Canada was a natural listing for the company while the New York listing adds liquidity.“Clearly, the Canadian environment is the proper one for a mining company. Companies of our size, they’re very well traded in the TSX.”The Luxembourg-based company, which recently changed its name from Votorantim Metais Holding S.A., says it’s one of the five largest zinc producers in the world with mines in Brazil and Peru.TSX CEO Nick Thadaney said in a statement that the listing is one of the largest mining IPOs in the exchange’s history.Nexa’s listing marks the third mining IPO on the TSX in the last two weeks, including Titan Mining Corp. (TSX:TI) and Ero Copper Corp. (TSX:ERO) last week.The company’s share price was up US$1.80, or 11.3 per cent, to US$17.80 in mid-afternoon trading on the NYSE. read more

UNHRC told to maintain scrutiny on Lanka

Human rights groups, have in a letter to Ambassadors of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), urged them to maintain the fullest scrutiny of Sri Lanka on questions of justice and accountability.In the letter, released by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, the human rights groups noted that although it is to be acknowledged that since January Sri Lanka’s government has induced some positive change in easing the abusive human rights climate of the previous Presidency, it must also be recognised that many challenges still remain unaddressed. In the hurry to acknowledge changes, member states of the UN Human Rights Council and the UN as a whole should not let go of the many fundamental challenges that remain. This includes ensuring that any mechanism created to address wartime abuses is defined through genuine consultations with those affected by violations; one that has their confidence and not one imposed on them from the above. To this end the government should be guided by the advice of UN experts that victims be consulted and involved, and it should announce and implement a convincing framework for such a credible process, within a clear timeframe. Given the track record of past domestic inquiries, any mechanism needs to be international, or at a minimum one with a majority of international judges and prosecutors, in order to guarantee its independence and give greater security to those who participate in it. The letter said the government must also keep its promise to the UN and fully cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and allow it full access to any new or additional information it may require.The letter was endorsed by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Conectas Direitos Humanos, Human Rights Law Centre, International Commission of Jurists, International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, International Service for Human Rights and Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice. (Colombo Gazette) The human rights groups said the government in Sri Lanka should meet three key tests before September 2015 in demonstrating genuine willingness towards establishing a credible and transparent justice and accountability process. read more

Fishermen set free by Sri Lanka return home

Sixteen Indian fishermen, released by Sri Lanka after being arrested on charge of entering the island nation waters, reached India yesterday.The fishermen, belonging to Ramanathapuram, Pudukottai and Nagapattinam districts of Tamil Nadu, were repatriated by Indian Coast Guard onboard its ship after Sri Lankan Navy handed them over at the International Maritime Boundary Line. They were received at the Port near Nagapattinam by the Assistant Director of Fisheries Sivakumar and other officials. Later, they were sent to their homes. Sri Lanka had ordered the release of the fishermen, arrested on September 1, as a “goodwill gesture” ahead of the visit of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to India. read more

Sri Lanka invites Saudi to set up oil refinery

According to Saudi officials, Sri Lankan was ranked as the third country in terms of outward remittances to home countries.“Although, we have a tiny population here compared to other countries, law-abiding Sri Lankans send their monies through official channels,” Mahendran said.This is appreciated by the host as well as their country of origin, he added. Explaining the purpose of his visit, he said the government is interested in projecting its potential and explore new areas of cooperation with the Kingdom.“We are exporting tea for some $800 million to the Kingdom. This could be improved and there are several other areas where the two countries could benefit from viable projects,” he added.Representatives from leading banks such as Bank of Ceylon, People’s Bank, Commercial Bank, HNB, NDB, Amanah, Seylan Bank, Sampath Bank and Deutsche Bank AG accompanied the governor. He pointed out that around 550,000 Sri Lankans working in Saudi Arabia remit some SR10 billion annually. Mahendran, an economist and a top banker, who was leading a high-powered delegation to the Kingdom, comprising chairmen and CEOs of commercial and state banks in Colombo, ended his Saudi visit on Wednesday. “We need more schools, hospitals, houses and elders’ homes,” he said.To help expatriates working in the Kingdom, Mahendran said he was negotiating with the SAMA governor to enable Sri Lankans’ remittances from Saudi Arabia to reach their banks at home in 60 seconds. “SAMA has responded positively to consider opening the payment gateway to enable this services in a year or two,” he added.Speaking about Sri Lanka, he said : “A new chapter has opened under the leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena, who maintains inter-ethnic and inter-religious harmony in the country.Two rival parties have joined together in running the government and to work for rapid development.The unity government gives political stability and builds confidence among foreign investors, he said,The Board of Investments has introduced a package of incentives to viable ventures, he added. Sri Lanka has invited Saudi Arabia to set up a petroleum refinery in the southern part of the island, the country’s Central Bank Gov. Arjuna Mahendran said in Riyadh, Arab News reported.In addition to meeting the needs of Sri Lanka, he said such a refinery could tap markets in neighboring countries such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. He said that the proposed refinery could be set up in Hambantota, some 300 miles away from Colombo. Hambantota hosts a full-fledged sea port, which could export crude and refined oil to other countries.He said that international players such as SABIC and Saudi Aramco could easily come into this project.Mahendran also said that Saudi construction companies could participate in infrastructure developments in the island. Mahendran held talks with Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) Gov. Fahad bin Abdullah Al-Mubarak on Tuesday. read more

India committed to Sri Lankas unity and territorial integrity

The High Commissioner stated that Sri Lanka continues to be a key part of India’s “neighbourhood first” policy and a important element in strengthening bilateral ties with Sri Lanka will be deepening economic and commercial relations. He expressed the hope that Sri Lankan businesses will take advantage of their proximity to the fastest growing major economy in the world. He also referred to the proposal made by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, during his visit to India in September 2015 to conclude a bilateral Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement.The High Commissioner also noted the increasing air connectivity between the two countries, and the growing tourist arrivals from India in Sri Lanka. He recalled that, in pursuance of the announcement made by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi during his visit to Sri Lanka, the e-Tourist Visa (eTV) scheme has been extended to Sri Lankan nationals from April 14, 2015, and eTV fee for Sri Lankan nationals was subsequently reduced. (Colombo Gazette) High Commissioner Y.K. Sinha unfurled the Indian flag and inspected a Guard of Honour presented by a contingent of the Border Security Force. He read out excerpts from the Address to the Nation on the eve of the Republic Day by the Hon´ble President of India, Pranab Mukherjee. The High Commission of India and the Indian expatriate community in Sri Lanka celebrated the 67th Republic Day of India today at India House in Colombo. The Indian Government today said that India has an abiding interest in the security of Sri Lanka and remains committed to Sri Lanka’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity.India’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Y.K. Sinha said that Sri Lanka continues to be a key part of India’s “neighbourhood first” policy. Later speaking about the state of India-Sri Lanka relations, the High Commissioner highlighted that the previous year has been quite transformative for India-Sri Lanka relations and congratulated the Government of Sri Lanka on completion of one year in office.He noted that four high level bilateral visits within 90 days of the formation of a new government in Sri Lanka last year heralded a new chapter in our relations . The momentum of these relations will be maintained by the forthcoming visit of External Affairs Minister of India, Smt. Sushma Swaraj, to Sri Lanka for the Joint Commission Meeting. read more

Government decides not to debate Disappearance Bill on Thursday

The joint opposition had earlier called for the Bill to be removed from the Parliament order paper this week. The Government has decided not to debate the Enforced Disappearance Bill on Thursday, September 21.Government spokesman, Minister Gayantha Karunathilake said that it has been decided not to debate the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances Bill this week. Sri Lanka signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances in 2015. The Convention has defined enforced disappearance as a violation of human rights and considered it as a criminal offence and has made its member states to draft legislations based on a set of principles.The former Government refused to sign the Convention, especially at a time when enforced disappearances were said to be taking place in Sri Lanka. (Colombo Gazette) read more

Iranian Parliament Speaker says must increase trade with Sri Lanka

Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani says the time has come to increase trade relations with Sri Lanka.At a banquet held in his honour at Iran’s embassy in Colombo, Ali Larijani also urged the Iranian embassies in foreign countries to contribute to the economic relations of Iran with other countries, the Mehr News Agency reported. “Currently there are some problems and some economic issues in Sri Lanka and these problems should be solved,” Larijani said. He said that Iran and Sri Lanka have had relatively good relations in the past and had joint consultations and also cooperated in the international arena. Larijani along with a 36-strong delegation are in Sri Lanka. The visit is in response to an invitation extended by Sri Lankan Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya. (Colombo Gazette) read more

Grads learn about Niagara wines from the best

Richie Roberts (BSc ’06), Fielding Estate Winery Winemaker, pours a glass of Fielding Estate 2010 Chardonnay for alumniWhether you grew up in Niagara, or spent a few short years here while attending Brock, you doubtless came in contact with the one of the region’s greatest prides — Niagara wine. Nestled right in the middle of a wine country that boasts close to 100 wineries of varying size, Brock University and many graduates are proud supporters of Niagara’s burgeoning wine industry.So what better way to reunite graduates in Toronto and Burlington than through wine-tasting events designed to highlight, celebrate and discern the nuances of Niagara wines?Burlington wine tasting features two grads More than 30 alumni were treated to a tasting flight of six Fielding Estate wines at Appleby College on Nov. 10. Despite the fact that he was right in the middle of his harvest, Richie Roberts (BSc ’06) guided the group through wines — from Pinot Gris to a Meritage to a Vidal Icewine — while explaining the growing practices, the Beamsville Bench terroir (soil types), and challenges of this year’s harvest. With the scientific background, Kevin Kerr (PhD ’10) nicely accompanied Richie’s presentation with commentary on the exceptional 2010 growing season and its impact on the wines, the effect of weather conditions, and some insight into the cult-like following of Pinot Noir (hint: this thin-skinned grape is elusive and hard to cultivate, but in the right conditions can be exceptional).Congratulations to the Burlington Brock Alumni Network Committee for organizing the event at this unique location, highlighting our alumni. The next Burlington Network event will be in the spring at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre — stay tuned in the new year for more info.If you’re interested in being part of the Burlington Alumni Network Committee, the group that organizes these alumni events, please contact Lynne Irion at lirion@brocku.caToronto Gourmet Food and Wine Expo — Vintner’s Barrel TastingOn Nov. 19, Toronto’s Brock alumni had the opportunity to taste wines specially extracted from their barrels for that day. With eight wines from four different wineries (Tawse, Lailey, Thirty Bench, Southbrook), this alumni event allowed graduates to participate in a Tutored Tasting organized through the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo. According to Christopher Waters, Certified Wine Instructor at Brock’s CCOVI (Cool Climate Oenology & Viticulture Institute), and the moderator of the tasting, he had never seen so many people attend a Niagara wine-centric session. Knowing the room was full of alumni, Waters received an especially loud applause when introducing CCOVI grad Emma Garner (BSc ’04), winemaker at Thirty Bench winery.The focus of this Tutored Tasting was to school the group on the exceptional growing season of 2010 in Niagara. With the perfect amount of dry sunny weather, and the right doses of rain, the 2010 Vintage is being lauded as a vintage to watch.Emma Garner (BSc ’04), Thirty Bench Winemaker, poses for a photo with her 2010 barrel sample of Meritage (a Bordeaux blend) after the Tutored TastingToronto Committee Member, Andrea Hazard (BA ’91) mentioned her favourite part of the event: “Especially of interest for me is that we are in the process of choosing wines for our wedding reception next year and we definitely wanted to include wines from the Niagara region.  The tasting was incredibly informative and we definitely have some favourites picked out to serve on the big day!”Some takeaways from the event included a new-found appreciation for Cabernet Franc, an understanding of the process of blending barrels to create blended wines (like Thirty Bench’s Meritage), and a general consensus throughout the attendees to take more ownership in promoting local Niagara wines among our circles of friends.Congratulations to the Toronto Brock Alumni Network Committee on this new style of Brock alumni event format. The next Toronto Alumni event will be in the spring, so stay tuned for details in the new year.If you’re interested in being part of the Toronto Alumni Network Committee, the group that organizes these alumni events, please contact Lynne Irion at lirion@brocku.ca read more

Fiona Hunter will give talk on ticks to local group

Fiona Hunter will give a talk on Feb. 28 about the emerging problem of ticks in Niagara.The professor of Biological Sciences will be the guest speaker at a meeting of the Peninsula Field Naturalists Club.Hunter’s talk will discuss how ticks are second only to mosquitoes as vectors of disease to humans. The black-legged tick (aka deer tick) has made its way into the Niagara Region and many of these ticks carry the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.The Cairns Family Health and Bioscience Research Complex will allow Hunter’s research group to examine the effect that Borrelia burgdorferi (the causative agent of Lyme disease) might have on the longevity and behaviour of infected ticks.In addition to ticks, Hunter maintains her long-running research into the evolution of sugar-feeding in biting flies. She currently teaches courses in Introductory Biology and Entomology and has four graduate students who conduct their research under her supervision. read more

Victim loses 140000 in lottery scam OPP investigates

Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) is investigating after a resident in Haldimand County was defrauded of $140,000.Police say the victim was contacted in March by a fraudster who said they had won $1.4 million in a United States powerball lottery.The scammer told the victim they had to pay twenty per cent of the winnings to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), as per government regulations.Investigators say the victim had been making payment installments to the fraudster since March that accumulated to $140,000. A family member noticed the transactions and contacted police.“It’s not always easy to spot a scam, and new ones are invented every day,” said OPP in a news release. “If you suspect that you may be a target of fraud, or if you have already sent funds, don’t be embarrassed – you’re not alone.” read more

Hudak reveals full platform

Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak is revealing his full “million jobs plan” platform for the election.Hudak says he will freeze government wages for the next two years.“There has been an extraordinary imbalance between government haves and everybody else considering what people in the private sector, not on the government payroll pensioner have gone through the last couple of years,” said Hudak. “I think it’s fair and reasonable including the MPPs, including me … no pay hikes for the next two year. That is the least we can do.”Hudak says healthcare spending will increase, home care and long-term care will expand and specialty clinics will be allowed to provide more services. read more