Slowing economy needs stimulus package from new Govt India Inc

first_imgNew Delhi: Apex industry chamber Ficci Monday made a strong case for fiscal stimulus to pump-prime the slowing economy amid global headwinds and weakening domestic demand in the next budget as the Narendra Modi government is all set to begin its second innings. India’s GDP growth slowed to five-quarter low of 6.6 per cent during October-December 2018-19. The Central Statistics Office (CSO) will be releasing the quarterly GDP estimate for the quarter January-March (Q4FY19), 2019 and provisional annual estimates for 2018-19 on May 31. Also Read – SC declines Oil Min request to stay sharing of documentsIn its pre-budget memorandum to the finance ministry, Ficci said the Indian economy — which was amongst the fastest growing economies in the world over the last few years — now faces the risk of slow growth amidst a weakening global economic environment and slowdown in domestic demand. India was able to wade through the global headwinds in earlier years as the growth was supported by growing domestic demand. Low inflation due to subdued food and oil prices had also contributed towards higher consumption growth. Also Read – World suffering ‘synchronized slowdown’, says new IMF chief”However, the recent signs of slowdown in the economy stem not only from slow growth in investments and subdued exports but also from weakening growth in consumption demand. “This is a matter of serious concern and if not addressed urgently, the repercussions would be long-term,” it said. Amidst the rising uncertainties and economic challenges on both domestic and global front, there is an urgent need to re-energise the engines of growth and pump-prime the economy, the chamber said. “The upcoming Union Budget 2019-20 is an opportunity for the government to boost consumption and investments through appropriate fiscal stimulus and policies,” it added. The government had presented an Interim Budget for 2019-20 in February. A full Budget is likely to be presented in July. To spur growth, Ficci has sought reduction in corporate tax and abolition of Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT). “The Union Budget should be leveraged to boost business sentiments and encourage greater investments. Corporate tax rate for all companies should be brought down to 25 per cent, as had been proposed earlier,” it said. In the 2015-16 budget, the government had announced that the corporate tax rate would be gradually lowered to 25 per cent from 30 per cent over the next four years and exemptions available to companies would be phased out. In the subsequent years, the tax rate was reduced to 25 per cent for companies with a turnover of up to Rs 250 crore. A delegation of the industry chamber had met Revenue Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey and submitted the memorandum as part of the pre-budget discussion. On interest rate, Ficci said while the Reserve Bank has reduced the key lending rate in past two bi-monthly monetary policy reviews, “the real repo rate has remained high for a long time and there is a scope of further reduction in the repo rate”. The RBI Governor-headed Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) is scheduled to announce its next set of bi-monthly monetary policy on June 6. Ficci has also recommended that the Foreign Trade Policy 2015-20 and Customs Law need to be amended for allowing the utilisation of MEIS and SEIS scrips towards the payment of GST on imports.last_img read more

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Adieu the king of mafias

first_imgThe long-drawn election process is over. Ignoring their sugar levels, supporters of Modi and BJP across the country are devouring laddoos to celebrate their massive success. And, forgetting their orders for laddoos and fireworks, nonplussed opposition parties are raising questions of EVM tampering. At the same time, in a stunning feat in Andhra Pradesh, Jagan Mohan Reddy rises like a phoenix to vanquish Chandrababu Naidu, who, being sure of retaining his post, was hopping from state to state to also play the kingmaker at the Centre. ‘Adieu, the king of mafias!’ people said in chorus. Also Read – A staunch allyHowever, it is also a cynical moment for many. With the national parties nowhere in the race and no other alternative, it is said in desperation that ‘it is a contest between the one who has come out of jail and the one who would go to jail.’ One way, it is true. In fact, it is the common refrain of every politician facing criminal charges, even serious ones, that they are politically motivated – be it Lalu, Jayalalithaa, or any other leader. While the cases linger in the courts, they enjoy the power and pelf. There is also a travesty of justice. In a petty matter of riot, Hardik Patel was disqualified from contesting because he was convicted, while those involved in serious cases, like Pragya, can contest as long as the trial drags on. Jagan, who is out on bail in CBI cases, has also repeated the refrain. Had there been a mechanism to dispose them of promptly, no one knows whether he could contest elections at all. Also Read – Cuban pathosAnyway, it is the winner who takes it all. Speaking against corruption, Jagan says, ‘God will punish if you are corrupt. It is a great script of God. Naidu had bought 23 MLAs from our party and it is the same figure of 23 that TDP has won now. He took 3 MPs from us and he is left with the same number in this election.’ If it is so, does he agree that God punished his father, Rajasekhara Reddy, with death in the helicopter crash, for the billions of rupees earned by him in grabbing government land? Will he also accept that sometimes God would blink his eyes, like in his own case, and in the cases of those powerful former ministers and others who were involved in scams like land-grabbing, Volkswagon, etc., and are now back with a bang under the banner of YSRC? Whether the statement of Jagan is spiritual or political, on record he has vowed to probe all allegations of scams of the previous regime. Be that as it may, one thing is obvious. It was only Jagan who was adequately equipped to take on Naidu in elections; no one else could. Hailing from a political family from Kadapa, he knows the intricacies of factional feuds and bomb politics very well. His grandfather died in an explosion. Recently, his paternal uncle, ex-MP, was killed with reasons still being ascertained. He has inherited a political legacy, experience, and enormous ill-gotten wealth from his father to match Naidu’s slush money and political wiles. Indeed, he was an even match, punch for punch; rupee for rupee. The revenge of his loss in 2014 burning within – he lost 46 seats with wafer-thin margins; this time he has not taken any chances. He walked 3600 kms to feel the pulse of people and prepared his manifesto, to counter the freebies given by Naidu as the elections were closing up. Sifted them to nine points – the Navaratnas, which are schemes for farmers and self-help groups of women, and for drinking water and irrigation; schemes for health, education, and pensions; and importantly, prohibition. Crowds were pulled for his rallies and road shows. Lured by money, biryani and liquor, workers happily deserted their daily jobs in shops and construction works to swell the numbers. As the election day was nearing, the second rung leaders were put into action, to compete with Naidu, to distribute cash – Rs 25000 per family, and also gold, silver, sports kits, etc; caste-based votes were also targeted by inducing their leaders. At the same time, unlike Naidu, who was indulging in rhetoric and harsh language, Jagan chose to maintain decorum during the campaign; perhaps it is his positive trait. It all worked well. In reality, even without so much strategising by Jagan, Naidu would have lost. His popularity has dipped so much that even his staunch supporters – the Telugu cine-world, campaigned against him this time. In all his actions right from choosing the capital to patronising several mafias, to splashing public money for a show of grandeur when the state is cash-strapped, he has proved himself a liability to the people. Standing as a symbol of grandeur, Naidu has unveiled a huge statue of NTR, whom he had unceremoniously backstabbed in the past. Tongue-in-cheek, people scoffed at him. Against the recommendations of the Sivaramakrishnan Committee, by converting precious delta lands, he began constructing a world-class state capital at Amaravathi, and engaged experts from Singapore. People were wary that in this new state starving for finances, a modest capital would have served the purpose, and that Indian experts could have easily built it, like the well-planned cities of Chandigarh, Bhubaneswar or Raipur? His intentions became too obvious – to help land-sharks and himself. It is alleged that he made a benami purchase of 14 acres of land through the Heritage group; spared it from land-pooling and insider trade was involved in capital selection. Even many temples have been demolished, angering people. And, every citizen, including the poorest, has to contribute in repaying the huge loans, although they will derive no benefit from this Taj Mahal, being built by our present-day Shahjahan, with special interests in Singapore and Dubai. In addition to helping the mafia of land everywhere, he has also been patronising those of liquor, mining and sand. Promoting liquor was certainly his nemesis. In a state where drinking evoked a social stigma; toddy-huts were seen only in the outskirts of the villages; the few liquor shops were carefully concealed from the public gaze in towns and cities, he has brought respectability to drinking. Belt-shops have mushroomed; there are one every 100 yards, prominently displaying their wares. As a result, hitherto non-drinkers began tasting it; occasional drinkers have become addicts, and regular ones turned drunkards. Aggravating the misery of the people of the lower strata, drunken men not only squander their daily earnings but also batter their women and children. The helpless women are forced to take up menial jobs, while children drop out from schools to join petty jobs or get into petty crimes. Lakhs of families are ruined, while liquor mafia is reaping the harvest. Therefore, the assurance of Jagan to phase this menace out has massively gone in his favour. Nexus with the mining-mafia has also worked for Naidu’s downfall. When the tribal people of Araku pleaded for his immediate attention to the illegal quarrying by the local MLA and others that were damaging their crops and was polluting the forests and atmosphere, he turned Nelson’s eye. Attempts were even made to crush their protests through devious means. When the Naxalites finally killed the MLA and the ex-MLA, Naidu accommodated their kin comfortably – one as a minister, and the other as a senior government officer, instead of probing deep into their illegal activity. One cannot plead ignorance when there is complicity. Then, NGT slapping a fine of Rs 100 crores on the state government for their indifference to the illegal extraction of sand from Krishna river-bed, is only indicative of the patronage extended to the sand mafia. Although SC has stayed the order, the fact remains that illegal sand extraction is a serious problem in several river-bed areas, affecting agriculture, fishing, etc. Naidu played cool since the fine would have to be paid by the tax-payers while the mafia continues with the operations. In spite of all the above, and many more, naively, Naidu has assumed that people are demented and would forget everything with his election-time sops and Vision 2029. How can they? Even his cash-for-vote scam during MLC election, his silence about SCS for Andhra for four years as long as he was friendly with BJP, are also fresh in their minds. His lavish spending of public money, even by patronising the illegally constructed Novotel Five Star hotel at Vizag is also everyday news. Stealing of private data of citizens to get the names of lakhs of hostile voters deleted is on top of their minds. Therefore, people have not wasted the opportunity; they massively voted for the one who has not been tested so far. They feel redeemed with Jagan’s post-election statement indicating his resolve to implement his Navaratnas. He said, ‘My aim is to win the 2024 elections. And for this, I will endeavour to earn the acclaim of people as the best CM in the country.’ Perhaps he will succeed in his mission. People who know him intimately for years vouchsafe for it since he is god-fearing and sincere. Jagan has also assured that his would be a corruption-free government. But, everyone knows that for this to happen, the state needs an autonomous institution that would tackle both political and bureaucratic corruption. If his intentions are real, he would create it forthwith. It should not end up as empty rhetoric, like that of Modi. People are closely watching. But, for now, it is Naidu’s turn to claim the ruse of political vendetta. (Dr. N Dilip Kumar is a retired IPS officer and a former member of Public Grievances Commission, Delhi. The views expressed are strictly personal)last_img read more

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India test fires Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle

first_imgBhubaneswar: India on Wednesday successfully test-fired Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) off Odisha coast. It was test-fired from launch pad number-4 of Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Abdul Kalam Island in Balasore district at 11.22 a.m. With scramjet engine, it can cruise at Mach 6 and have multiple civilian applications. It can be used for launching satellites at low cost and long-range cruise missile, said sources. The trial was conducted in the presence of the senior scientists of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Defence secretary Sanjay Mitra, sources added. The HSTDV is an unmanned scramjet demonstration aircraft.last_img read more

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Happy to be part of wave of change Ali Fazal

first_imgMumbai: Actor Ali Fazal, who is gearing up for the second season of the web series “Mirzapur” and a web film, says content on digital platforms is taking showbiz by storm. “Digital platforms, needless to say, are taking the content industry by a storm. There’s so much happening and so much new promising content. Internationally, there’s an abundance of such platforms and content which is now competing with films neck-to-neck at several levels,” Ali said in a statement. Apart from Amazon Prime Video’s “Mirzapur 2”, Ali has been signed on by another digital platform, this time for an original film. Directed by Samit Basu and Shashanka Ghosh, the said film is a comedy of sorts of a man stuck in fears locking himself in his house for months. He said: “In India, with the boom of internet and mobile phones, we are steering towards greater content being produced digitally and I’m happy to be part of this wave of change. It’s young and it’s very exciting as an actor to be part of two of the biggest platforms, helps to get an exposure of a magnitude which wasn’t imaginable a few years back.”last_img read more

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Deadly Dubai bus accident Omani driver sentenced to seven years jail

first_imgDubai: The Omani bus driver, who rammed the vehicle into a height barrier in Dubai that killed 17 people, including 12 Indians, has been sentenced to seven years in jail followed by deportation and ordered to pay USD 925,000 as blood money, according to media reports. Twelve Indians were among the 17 people killed in the horrific bus accident on June 7 when the bus, coming from Oman, wrongly entered a road not designated for buses and crashed into a height barrier that cut the left side of the bus and killed passengers sitting on that side. Also Read – Imran Khan arrives in China, to meet Prez Xi JinpingThe other deceased include two Pakistanis, one Omani and one Filipina. According to The Gulf News, the Dubai Traffic Court has ordered that the 53-year-old bus driver be deported after his jail term is over and in addition he should pay USD 13,000 (dirham 50,000) fine. He will also have to pay USD 925,00 (dirham 3.4 million) in blood money for the families of the victims and his licence was also suspended for one year, the report said. After the court pronounced its judgement, families of the crash victims said that the “justice is served,” the Khaleej Times reported. Also Read – US blacklists 28 Chinese entities over abuses in XinjiangMany families are glad that the judgement came so fast. “We think the judgement is fair, and we expected it. We are happy that it came so fast. We predicted it would take a few more months. Now, we can start the procedural work,” one of the relatives said. “The family is back home in Thalasherry, Kerala. We’re still unclear on what to do next, but I think the logical next step is to be appointing a lawyer to help us get the amount. They are in extreme financial distress, and this amount would really help,” he was quoted as saying by the report. On June 6, the Muscat-to-Dubai Mwasalat bus service struck an overhead height barrier at 94 km/h at the turn off from Mohammad Bin Zayed Road leading onto Rashidiya Road, where it was due to make a scheduled stop at Rashidiya Metro. According to the Traffic Prosecution, the speed limit on that road is 40 km/h. The driver took a wrong left turn not designated for buses which led to the height restriction, instead of going right, the authorities said.last_img read more

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GST collections rise marginally to 102 lakh crore in July

first_imgNew Delhi: Gross GST collections stood at Rs 1.02 lakh crore in July, marginally up from the previous month, official data showed on Thursday. The July 2019 mop-up was, however, 5.8 per cent higher than the Rs 96,483 crore collected in the same month last year. Revenue collection from the Goods and Services Tax (GST) had slipped below the Rs 1 lakh crore mark for the first time in the current fiscal in June at Rs 99,939 crore.last_img

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Gulshan Homz raises Rs 150 cr equity funding from ASK Group for

first_imgNew Delhi: Realty firm Gulshan Homz on Saturday said it has raised Rs 150 crore in equity funding from ASK Group to develop a housing project in Noida, Uttar Pradesh. ASK Property Investment Advisors has invested Rs 150 crore in this upcoming housing project in the form of equity, the realty firm said in a statement. Gulshan Homz, which has already completed projects spanning 5 million square feet in the national capital region (NCR), did not disclose how much stake it has diluted in the upcoming project to secure this funding. Also Read – Thermal coal import may surpass 200 MT this fiscal “We have partnered ASK Property Investment Advisors for our next residential project,” Gulshan Homz Director Deepak Kapoor said. The project, located adjacent to the Noida Expressway, will have 204 apartments, he added. Amit Bhagat, Managing Director, ASK Property Investment Advisors, said, “Our maiden exposure with Gulshan Homz is based on our criteria fulfilment of quality construction, delivery track record and reputation.”last_img read more

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Greenpeace blocks coal unloading at Polish port

first_imgWarsaw: Greenpeace said its activists climbed cranes at the Polish port of Gdansk Wednesday to block the unloading of coal from Mozambique, and called on the government to move to renewable energy. “At dawn, 29 Greenpeace activists climbed two cranes at a coal terminal of the Gdansk port,” Greenpeace Polska spokeswoman Katarzyna Guzek told AFP. The activists hung banners on the cranes reading “Poland without coal 2030″, she added. Local police told AFP they were aware of the Greenpeace action and were monitoring the situation along with port officials. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from US”First we blocked the vessel from docking, now we’re preventing it from unloading the shipment,” said Guzek. The group tried on Monday to prevent the cargo vessel Indian Goodwill from docking, blocking it with its own vessel, Rainbow Warrior. Armed border guards intervened, hauling the Greenpeace boat out of the port and detaining the captain and another activist early on Tuesday. They released another 16 activists on board after identity checks, and the vessel anchored outside the port. Also Read – Record number of 35 candidates in fray for SL Presidential pollsProsecutors said they would decide Wednesday whether to charge the two activists — the Spanish captain and an Austrian national — detained for navigation security violations. Greenpeace wants Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) government to abandon burning coal by 2030 — the European Union’s target date for phasing out coal use. “We have little time left to prevent an unfolding climate disaster and the Polish government’s reliance on coal puts at risk our hopes for a safe and sustainable future,” Greenpeace Poland programme director Pawel Szypulski said in a statement. This is why activists are compelled to take action. Polish citizens are calling for a transition from coal towards renewable energy.last_img read more

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A look back at how a wildfire destroyed large parts of Fort

first_imgFORT MCMURRAY, Alta. – It has been one year since a wildfire destroyed large parts of Fort McMurray. Here is a look back at how events unfolded:May 1 – A fire starts in a remote part of forest southwest of Fort McMurray. Investigators don’t know how it started, but note that most spring wildfires are caused by people. A dry, warm spring and trees that are still greening make for lots of fuel. It is spotted by helicopter fire patrol. Helicopter begins working the fire immediately. The first air tanker arrives 45 minutes later, then three others arrived from Lac la Biche, Peace River and Whitecourt. Two tankers stayed the night in Fort McMurray to be ready to go the next morningMay 1, 7:08 p.m. – The Alberta Emergency Alert system warns people who live in Fort McMurray’s Gregoire neighbourhood to prepare to evacuate on short notice.May 1, 10:33 p.m. – A state of local emergency is declared and a mandatory evacuation order is issued for Gregoire as well as for Centennial Trailer Park south of Airport Road.May 2, 3:37 a.m. – The mandatory evacuation notice for Gregoire is reduced to what is called a voluntary, shelter-in-place notice and people are allowed to return. The 700 residents from the trailer park as well as another neighbourhood, Prairie Creek, remain out of their homes.May 2, during the day – Aircraft drop fire retardant and ground crews work to protect homes. The fire is one-square-kilometre in size. “We are hopeful that we can stop this fire before it gets into town,” says Wood Buffalo fire Chief Darby Allen. The fire is within one kilometre of homes at points, but the wind is pushing it away from the city. The evacuation order for Prairie Creek is lifted in the evening. “All things considered, it is looking good,” says Mayor Melissa Blake.Overnight on May 2 and the morning of May 3 – The fire grows to 26 square kilometres, but is still moving away from the city. Life in Fort McMurray seems relatively normal. Allen warns people not to let their guard down.May 3, 10:30 a.m. – A change in normal atmospheric conditions, called an inversion, breaks. This, coupled with temperatures in the range of 30 C, low humidity and shifting winds, causes the fire to explode.May 3, 2:25 p.m. – Flames are heading toward the city and huge plumes of smoke are visible. Residents of three south-side neighbourhoods are ordered from their homes. There’s shock at how quickly the situation has deteriorated: “When I got in the shower earlier today the sky was blue. When I got out, the sky was black,” says resident Sandra Hickey.May 3, 3:45 p.m. – There’s chaos on the city’s south side as people flee towering walls of orange flame that are charging into neighbourhoods. Residents are told to head either north or south, depending on their location, on the one highway through town. The evacuated trailer park is on fire. Flames are advancing towards a Super8 motel and a gas station. “People are panicking. It’s gridlock on the roads,” says Carina Van Heerde, a reporter with radio station KAOS.May 3, 5:22 p.m. – Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says the province is doing all it can to ensure everyone’s safety. Scott Long of Alberta Emergency Management says the flames have burned a number of structures, but he can’t say how many.May 3, 6:31 p.m. – All of Fort McMurray is placed under a mandatory evacuation order.May 3, 10:20 p.m. – Emergency officials say whole neighbourhoods have been destroyed. Still, there are no reports of serious injuries. Crews are trying to maintain crucial infrastructure, including the only bridge across the Athabasca River and Highway 63.May 4, morning – Highway 63 leading south is “organized confusion.” Cars are strung along ditches and police are running jerry cans of gasoline to drivers who have run out. To the north of the city, thousands have taken refuge in oilsands work camps.May 4, 10:23 a.m. – Notley says the wildfire has destroyed roughly 1,600 structures in the city.May 4, 3:57 p.m. – The Alberta government declares a provincial state of emergency so it can take control of the response.May 5, noon – The fire has ballooned to more than 850 square kilometres.May 6, 6 a.m. – A massive convoy gets underway to move evacuees stranded at oilfield camps north of Fort McMurray through the fire-ravaged community to safe areas south of the oilsands capital.May 6, morning – The Alberta government says it will provide cash to 80,000 evacuees to help with their immediate needs. Notley says cabinet has approved a payment of $1,250 per adult and $500 per dependant at a cost to the province of $100 million.May 6, night – The fire is more than 1,560 square kilometres in size.May 7 – The fire is more than 2,000 square kilometres in size and still growing as it spreads east toward the Saskatchewan boundary.May 9 – Notley says 2,400 buildings were lost in the fire, but she praises firefighters for saving 25,000 more. Reporters are taken on a tour of devastated neighbourhoods.May 10 – Notley says the fire did not damage any oilsands plants to the north of the city. She says the province and the energy industry are working together to restart oilsands projects as quickly as possible.May 11 – The Red Cross says each adult evacuee is to receive $600 and each child will get $300 to help with expenses.May 13 – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tours the city. He says Canadians have yet to grasp the scope of what happened and the lengths firefighters went to in saving almost 90 per cent of Fort McMurray.May 16 – Notley says the air quality in Fort McMurray is at dangerous levels and is hampering efforts to get residents back to their homes. The air quality heath index scale is normally one to 10, with 10 being the worst, but the reading that morning was at 38. Fire officials say the blaze, now at 2,850 square kilometres, remains out of control and a threat as crews deal with hotspots.May 16, 4:45 p.m. – Work camps north of Fort McMurray that had been re-populated as the oilsands attempted to restart are cleared again as the wildfire pushes north.May 17 – The fire destroys a 665-room work camp north of the city. An explosion in the city damages several houses and the restoration of gas services needs to be stopped. Poor air quality forces staff working to clean the hospital to leave the city.May 18 – The Alberta government says people could return home starting on June 1 if conditions are deemed to be safe. The wildfire has now scorched more than 3,500 square kilometres as conditions remain dry and windy.May 19 – Officials say the threat of the Fort McMurray wildfire has diminished as the flames move into Saskatchewan. Crews have been successful holding the fire back from oilsands facilities and work camps. The blaze has now burned 5,000 square kilometres, the same amount of forest as all fires consumed in Alberta last year.May 20 – Conditions have improved enough for the province to bring in an extra 1,000 firefighters over the next two weeks to try and gain an upper hand on the fire.May 24 – Oilsands workers begin the process of restarting their projects.May 30 – Re-entry remains on track, but Notley says up to 2,000 evacuees will not be able to do so until possibly September. She says more than 500 homes and about a dozen apartment complexes that escaped the wildfire in three otherwise heavily damaged neighbourhoods are not safe to be lived in yet. She says that conclusion was reached with health experts following tests on air, soil, ash and water.June 1 – Evacuees start returning home.June 13 – The wildfire is classified as being held for the first time since it became out of control.June 15 – Alberta orders reviews into how it responded to the wildfire and decisions about the evacuation.July 4 – The fire is classified as under control.last_img read more

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Stream where teens body was found was searched day earlier lawyer

first_imgHALIFAX – Another twist has been added to the heart-breaking story of a Nova Scotia teen who died 27 years ago.This time it’s a revelation from lawyers trying to help the family of Clayton Miller find out what really happened in the days before his body was found near New Waterford.Miller was wearing a bright red sweater when he was found face down in an ankle-deep stream on May 6, 1990, roughly 36 hours after police raided a nearby bush party in an area known locally as “The Nest.”At a news conference on Monday, Halifax lawyer Ray Wagner played a video recording of an interview he conducted a few months ago with Bryan McDonald, who co-ordinated the search for Miller the day after the party.In the video, McDonald said his team had searched the area where Miller’s body was later discovered — but their initial search turned up nothing.He said if there was a body in the brook, his team would have found it.“There was no way we could miss anything,” said McDonald, who Wagner said was unable to attend the news conference because of poor health. “There was nothing there.”Wagner said McDonald wanted to reach out to the Miller family to ensure his story was on the record.Miller’s family has raised questions over the years about the circumstances surrounding the teen’s death, saying they believe key information was withheld from the public.Maureen Miller, the teen’s mother, said the fact searchers did not see the body backs up the family’s theory that his body was placed in the brook.“We knew of other people that were down there looking for money or liquor or whatever, and there was no body, and nobody wants to do anything about it. They want to cover it up,” she said after the news conference.“How did he get in the brook? He can’t do it on his own. Someone put him there.”Lawyer Kate Boyle also read several statements from New Waterford residents who all said they were in the area the day after the bush party and did not see Miller’s body.Two separate investigations, conducted by Nova Scotia’s chief medical examiner and the province’s independent police watchdog, concluded in 2015 that the 17-year-old was drunk when he fell into the stream while trying to run from police.The reports echoed a series of earlier investigations, all of which concluded Miller’s death was an accident. The New Waterford police department was cleared of any wrongdoing.On Monday, the Nova Scotia Serious Incident Response Team said at the time of their investigation, there was no information that any organized search of the area was conducted.He said the unit was not informed about the new information collected by Wagner’s firm prior to the news conference. The team said it would examine the information to determine what, if any, impact it would have on prior conclusions.But the unit said the new information, “does not challenge the conclusions reached that Clayton Miller did not suffer any injuries that caused his death.”Wagner said Monday’s news conference was the first of three planned events designed to draw attention to the case.He encouraged anyone with information to come forward, particularly those who may have been involved in the search for Clayton Miller’s body.The Miller family is calling for an independent investigation to be headed by someone with no ties to the province.last_img read more

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Sidney Crosby confirms hes bringing Stanley Cup back to Nova Scotia

first_imgHALIFAX – Hockey superstar Sidney Crosby will mark his 30th birthday by once again parading the Stanley Cup in his home province of Nova Scotia.In tweets sent out by the Sidney Crosby Hockey School in Cole Harbour, N.S., residents were told Crosby would be hoisting the trophy in the streets of Halifax and Dartmouth as part of an annual civic parade.“Get ready, the Stanley cup is coming to town!” Crosby confirmed in the tweet sent late Tuesday night. “I will be taking Lord Stanley to the streets Monday August 7th in the Halifax—Dartmouth Natal Day parade.”The parade, part of annual events that celebrate Halifax’s birthday, also happens to fall on the Pittsburgh Penguins captain’s 30th birthday — Aug. 7.Natal Day chairman Greg Hayward said he expects another 25,000 people will be lining the parade route on top of the roughly 40,000 usual attendees.“It’s extremely exciting to think that we’re going to have Sid and the Cup in our Natal Day parade,” Hayward said in an interview Wednesday.Hayward said Crosby’s people had approached him roughly 10 days ago about his possible inclusion in the parade, but it wasn’t confirmed until he saw the tweet Tuesday night.“They had some certain requirements as far as Sidney and the Cup’s safety go and they talked to me about that, and we must have given them all the right answers, because they came out last night and said, ‘We’re in’,” said Hayward.The four-kilometre parade starts at 10 a.m. on Gottingen Street in Halifax’s north end and will travel across the Macdonald Bridge before ending up near Sullivan’s Pond in Dartmouth.Crosby has shown off professional hockey’s most prestigious trophy twice before in his hometown of Cole Harbour, just outside Dartmouth, in 2009 and 2016.Last July, Crosby carried the Cup in the back of a pickup that made its way to an arena in Cole Harbour as thousands of cheering fans looked on in sweltering heat.At a news conference last Wednesday, Crosby recalled hoisting the Cup above his head many times as the truck crawled along the Forest Hills Parkway for just over half a kilometre.“I had a little bit of a later night the night before, too, so it was tough,” he told reporters at his hockey school in Cole Harbour, where he had stopped by to help coach some young players.“But it was fun. To see everyone turn out, you see all the chairs and everyone camped out on the sides. It’s an experience. When you think about bringing the Cup home, that’s the snapshots you have, seeing the amount of people that are there.”Each player of the Cup-winning NHL team gets brief custody of the trophy.last_img read more

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Ontario Provincial Police say massive cocaine seizure is largest in its history

first_imgThe cocaine was hidden inside hollowed-out quartzite stones packed onto shipping containers coming from Argentina — the drugs were concealed so well that even police dogs couldn’t detect them.It was a tip from the public that ultimately led to the largest drug seizure in the Ontario Provincial Police’s history as the force carried out an investigation into an international cocaine smuggling ring with ties to Mexican cartels.Altogether the force said it seized 1,062 kilograms of cocaine during a months-long investigation that culminated in July, according OPP deputy commissioner Rick Barnum.“We’ve never seen anything like this,” Barnum said Monday at a news conference at OPP headquarters in Orillia, Ont., adding that tests revealed the cocaine tested 97 per cent pure and was destined for distribution across the country where it would be cut with other drugs to increase profits.The investigation — dubbed “Project Hope” — was conducted with the Canada Border Services Agency, Peel regional police and the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, among other organizations.Barnum alleged those behind the operation — two Canadian citizens and one Costa Rican citizen who now face drug importation and drug trafficking charges — have been in business since 2014.The men allegedly set up a front selling stones, Barnum said.“I would say the business was definitely cocaine importation, there’s a lot more money in making that than there is in selling stones,” he said.The force showed off hundreds of bundles of cocaine on Monday, as well as some of the stones that had contained them.The stones would be cut open and cocaine, often bundled in one-kilogram packages, would be placed inside, police said. The stones would then be glued back together with cement, they said.The police investigation began with a tip in March, Barnum said, and “good information” later led to a traffic stop of a transport truck north of Toronto on May 1 that led to the seizure of about 40 kilograms of cocaine.Police then decided to test their dogs to see if their noses were up to snuff.“Our dogs never detected the cocaine sealed inside,” Barnum said.“It made it very, very difficult to detect, almost impossible, quite frankly, without the investigative phase of our work. It was detected through work from our intelligence operations in conjunction with Peel police, through good old police work following up leads through information we received.”Police found drug caches in warehouses in Brampton and Stoney Creek, Ont., Barnum said.The cocaine was transported in shipping containers from Argentina to Montreal, and then sent to Ontario, police allege.“Argentina is not really a source country or production country for cocaine,” Barnum said, adding that the South American country is a transportation link to countries such as Peru, Paraguay and Bolivia where cocaine is made.“I would say there are definitely connections to Mexico and Mexican cartels,” Barnum added.There are Mexican cartel operatives currently in Ontario, Barnum alleged, although he wasn’t sure how many.last_img read more

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LacMegantic residents say wrong people accused company responsible for disaster

first_imgMONTREAL – A Quebec man whose kid sister was one of 47 people killed in the Lac-Megantic tragedy says the three men acquitted Friday should have never been put on trial.“I think, very sincerely, that since the day of the accident, these people have been living in purgatory and it must have been extremely difficult,” Bernard Boulet told The Canadian Press. “I’m happy these three people are free.”A jury found Tom Harding, Richard Labrie and Jean Demaitre not guilty of criminal negligence causing the death of 47 people in connection with the July 2013 train derailment and subsequent explosion.Boulet says he agrees with the verdicts.“It was an unfortunate accident,” said Boulet, himself a former railway traffic controller. “It was caused by nonchalance and an accumulation of events — by the nonchalance of the (rail company) owner, Edward Burkhardt.”Before and during the trial, defence lawyers and Lac-Megantic residents often brought up Burkhardt’s name.They insinuated it was he who was primarily responsible for the tragedy in his role as chairman of the now-defunct, Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, which owned the train and the tracks on which it derailed.Reached by telephone at his office outside Chicago shortly after Friday’s verdicts were announced, Burkhardt told The Canadian Press he wasn’t surprised to hear people were suggesting he should have been the one on trial.“There were a lot of people screaming for people — including me — to stand trial and all that,” he said.“The police and the prosecutors made a thorough investigation of what happened and so did the (Transportation Safety Board of Canada), and they concluded (if) there was going to be a prosecution it would be limited to the people that they brought, and I can’t say more than that.”Burkhardt became public enemy No. 1 in the days following the crash, when his blunt, sometimes unsentimental remarks drew the ire of the grieving public.His brief stop in Lac-Megantic is perhaps best remembered for his tumultuous news conference, during which he was heckled by angry locals.Burkhardt points out he lost his investments in the company’s bankruptcy and that he agreed to settle in a civil suit brought against him even though he doesn’t feel he was personally responsible for the tragedy.He did not say how much money he paid in the settlement.“Everything I’d done with respect to that company was to try to enforce stricter and stronger safety standards, and the fact that it all came unglued that day was just horrible,” he said, adding he and everyone involved still lives with the burden of what happened.The Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s investigation into the derailment somewhat contradicts Burkhardt, however.Its final report concluded, “There were also significant gaps between (MMA’s) operating instructions and how work was done day to day.“This and other signs in MMA’s operations were indicative of a weak safety culture — one that contributed to the continuation of unsafe conditions and unsafe practices, and significantly compromised the company’s ability to manage risk.”Jean Clusiault, whose daughter Kathy died in the disaster, said he, too, was satisfied with the verdicts.“The wrong people were accused,” he said outside the courthouse in Sherbrooke, Que. “The jury came back with the right verdict.”Clusiault, who followed the trial closely, said the U.S.-based management of MMA should have been charged.With the trial over, he said, “my daughter will always be in my mind.”Julie Morin, mayor of Lac-Megantic, said neither she nor the citizens of the 6,000-person town thought the three people accused were solely responsible for the tragedy.“The company, MMA, had a big role to play in this,” Morin, who was not mayor back in 2013, said in a phone interview. “It’s impossible that three men alone created what happened to us.”What her citizens want to focus on now, she said, is getting a bypass track that would move trains away from the core of the town, something the federal government is studying but has not yet promised to do.“There is still a lot to do — the entire downtown was destroyed,” Morin said.“There are people looking for financing to start projects, there is a lot of great work being done and it would be nice to get some attention on this rather than the trial.”last_img read more

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Trump assails Canadian tariffs accuses people of smuggling US goods home

first_imgOTTAWA – U.S. President Donald Trump is accusing Canadians of buying products south of the border, then sneaking them back home — all because of what he calls “massive” tariffs on American goods.Trump, speaking to a gathering of small business owners in Washington, is railing again against the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying the U.S. can no longer afford to be the “stupid country.”He says Canada imposes such onerous tariffs on U.S. products — shoes, for instance — that people are forced to “scuff ’em up” in order to “smuggle” them home.Trump says he’s looking out for American farmers and manufacturers, and again takes issue with Canada’s supply management system for dairy farmers.His comments as the official Opposition calls for an emergency debate in the House of Commons over the future of the Canada-U.S. trade.Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole says Canadians need to see their elected representatives addressing what is the biggest economic crisis in their lifetime — but Commons Speaker Geoff Regan says the issue doesn’t meet the requirements for an emergency debate.last_img read more

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Canadian consecrated virgins welcome Vatican directive on their order

first_imgTORONTO – Rose Marie Fowler was in her 40s when she decided to live a life in the service of God, becoming what the Catholic Church calls a consecrated virgin.It was a deeply personal decision reached after years of contemplation, she says.Now 81, having kept her vow consistently, the Edmonton resident is welcoming a directive from the Vatican that states physical virginity is not a prerequisite to taking on the vocation.“(The Pope) basically said that physical integrity is not the only thing to be considered, and I really thought it was well put by him,” said Fowler, calling the guidance from the Vatican a “wonderful instruction.”In a document released this month, the Vatican said a woman who wishes to become a consecrated virgin does not need to have “kept her body in perfect continence,” indicating she does not need to physically be a virgin.The consecration of a virgin is one of the oldest sacramentals in the church. In order to become spouses of God and dedicate their lives to the church, Christian women who become consecrated virgins can’t have been married before.Women go through “the rite of consecration,” which involves a mass and an expression of their intention to dedicate themselves to God. Unlike nuns, consecrated virgins do not wear special robes or live secluded from the secular world.The Vatican’s directive has been criticized by some consecrated virgins.The U.S. Association of Consecrated Virgins called the Vatican’s directive “deeply disappointing in its denial of integral virginity as the essential and natural foundation of the vocation to consecrated virginity.”Fowler said she was disappointed by that reaction.“It is not about whether you agree with it or not,” she said. “It is about respecting what the Pope had to say, and as far as I am concerned, it is a good interpretation.”Mary Bastedo, who said she has been a consecrated virgin for more than 20 years, also lauded the Vatican for its guidance.“I welcome the clarification about physical virginity, because this vocation is not about purity, it’s about wholeheartedness,” said the 67-year-old. “The intentionality is to live a life of virginity, that means it is a life that is given to the Lord.”Bastedo said that years ago, she felt she had a calling to live a life of celibacy as a “fruitful way of being given to God.”In 1989, her bishop spoke to her about the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity, she said. After praying and reflecting about it for a year, Bastedo said she eventually made a decision. In March 1990, she was consecrated.“It really is a joyful vocation,” said Bastedo, who lives in Toronto where she said about 10 women are living as consecrated virgins.Bastedo said the document from the Vatican is an interpretation many like her have been waiting for.“It is not a change,” said Bastedo. “It is a clarification.”Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version incorrectly said the consecration of a virgin is one of the oldest sacraments in the church.last_img read more

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A huge fighter Manitoba trucker burned by tar dies in US hospital

first_imgBradley Jackson was hauling a load of hot tar from Winnipeg into North Dakota when his rig went off the road and slid into a ditch, rupturing the tanker and sending the burning liquid into the cab of the truck.With tar all over his body, the 21-year-old somehow managed to crawl out of the semi and onto the road to wait for help, said his girlfriend Donna-Joe Smith.He spent three days in a burn unit at a Minneapolis hospital before he died Saturday.“He was a huge fighter,” Smith said after travelling with Jackson’s family to the hospital to say goodbye.“He fought his little butt off to make sure that he could be around and he just got tired. And he’s not suffering anymore and that’s what we appreciate.”The crash happened on the afternoon of Sept. 5 in Grand Forks County, N.D.Jackson, from Woodlands, Man., was employed by Jade Transport out of Winnipeg. Smith said she dropped him off at work on the night of Sept. 4 for his trip south.As he always did, he sent her texts from his cellphone when his truck was pulled over. He last sent her a message a half hour before the crash while stopped at a fuel station.“He texted me saying he loved me and he’d talk to me soon.”The North Dakota Highway Patrol said nearly 23,000 litres of tar spilled from the truck but were contained to the crash site.The tar had covered Jackson from “head to toe,” said Smith, adding doctors were surprised he survived long enough to even be transported to hospital. He had third-degree burns to 95 per cent of his body and was put in a medically-induced coma because he was in so much pain.“He was the most amazing man, very loving and supportive of everybody and everything,” said Smith.“I am glad and honoured to have had him in my life.”A GoFundMe campaign had raised nearly $13,000 by Monday afternoon to help Jackson’s family pay medical and travel costs.last_img read more

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We have to move forward Humboldt station hires new playbyplay voice

first_imgHUMBOLDT, Sask. – A plan to bring hockey broadcasters in from across the country to call Humboldt Broncos games this season will not go ahead.Instead, local radio station CHBO Bolt FM has hired an up-and-coming Winnipeg broadcaster to take over for Tyler Bieber, its play-by-play voice who was killed along with 15 others in last April’s Broncos bus crash.Rory McGouran, 27, said he knew after the crash that he wanted to be part of the radio station’s team.“People ask me on how you fill Tyler’s shoes. You can’t. No one can,” McGouran said. “I’m not Tyler, no one can wear those shoes.”Bieber, 29, was in his first year calling games for the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League Broncos. He also coached high school football and basketball in the small Saskatchewan city.After the crash, Saskatoon radio broadcaster and voice of the Western Hockey League Saskatoon Blades Les Lazaruk suggested online that other broadcasters step up and call games this season.Soon he had around 300 people reach out to offer their services for the Broncos’ 58 games, including Sportsnet’s Rob Faulds and TSN’s Gord Miller and Chris Cuthbert. Cuthbert, who got his start in the SJHL calling Yorkton Terriers games, called the Broncos season opener on TV for TSN.But Bolt FM program director Sarah Miller said the logistics of the pledge were too difficult.“Everyone has their heart in the right place and that’s fantastic, but at the same time, we have to move forward,” Miller said. “We have to let that one person have the opportunity to grow and help the team grow.”McGouran spent the last few years calling hockey games for the Manitoba Sports Network and producing Winnipeg Jets home games for TSN 1290. His father, Tom, hosts a morning radio show in Winnipeg.Miller said McGouran’s eagerness and skill level, along with his youthfulness, caught her attention.McGouran said the best way to honour those who died in the crash is to do his best.“I know what I have to do to honour the 29 that were on the bus and I also know what I have to do to focus on this year’s team and to help the community move forward,” he said.Miller said she isn’t looking at McGouran as a replacement for Bieber.“Tyler will always be a part of the team,” she said. “This is his family. But that doesn’t mean there’s not room for somebody else.”— Follow @RyanBMcKenna on Twitterlast_img read more

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Goodale tours Ottawa area destroyed by tornado says feds ready to provide

first_imgDUNROBIN, Ont. – Canada’s public safety minister says the federal government is playing a supporting role to provinces and municipalities as they back recovery efforts for communities battered last week by multiple tornadoes in the national capital region.Ralph Goodale toured the Ontario community of Dunrobin, west of Ottawa, where locals are still reeling after a powerful tornado ripped through the town. He said some of the modern homes hit hardest in the area looked like they had gone “through a grinder.”Environment Canada says six tornadoes swept across the Ottawa area and through the neighbouring Quebec region on Friday — levelling homes and knocking out power grids along their way.Conrad Sauve, the president of the Canadian Red Cross, said Tuesday that more than 1,500 people in Quebec and Ontario had registered with the organization. He said the Red Cross had provided shelter to over 600 residents, primarily in the Quebec city of Gatineau.Goodale said the federal government has not provided financial assistance because the first portion of response and recovery costs are covered by the provinces. But Ottawa will step up if the price tag reaches a certain level, he said.Federal assistance after large-scale natural disasters is determined by a formula under Canada’s Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements.Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers have been in tornado-ravaged areas to ease pressure on local forces, Goodale said. He added there was an informal request for federal help with surveillance and mapping of impacted areas.For many people in the Ottawa and Gatineau areas, the road to recovery will be a long journey.Volunteers — working against rain and cold wind — made their way through Dunrobin’s demolished neighbourhoods Tuesday to help put tarps on damaged homes.Sabrina Gill, 29, watched from a warm truck in her driveway as volunteers took stock of her home and covered areas to prevent water from seeping in.“I have no idea where these gentleman are from and they’re amazing,” she said.Perry Landers, 49, who led a team of volunteers to Gill’s home, said even if he could help just one home it would be “fantastic.” He added he’s prepared to go house to house to help people in need.Gill’s home sits at the entrance of one of the most badly damaged neighbourhoods in Dunrobin. The storm tore the roof from her garage and launched its contents across the lawn.While Gill’s home had yet to be fully assessed, she said it wasn’t as bad as her parent’s house — which is a write off. Their home has been photographed and plastered all over the news, she said.For now, Gill’s parents are staying in a hotel until they receive more information about their home.Gill said the plan is to take apart what’s left of the house “gently” in hope of recovering more items. She’s not sure if she can handle watching the home come down, saying she lived there before purchasing her own house in the same neighbourhood.“It was two homes to me that were both lost… that one has even more memories,” she said.last_img read more

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Saskatchewan Ontario premiers say fight against carbon tax building steam

first_imgSASKATOON – The premiers of Saskatchewan and Ontario welcomed another province into their anti-carbon-tax tent on Thursday and said the fight against Ottawa’s plan to put a price on pollution is gaining momentum.Ontario’s Doug Ford and Scott Moe from Saskatchewan said they were pleased at Manitoba’s about-face on its intention to bring in a carbon levy.Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced on Wednesday that his province will not be going ahead with a $25-a-tonne levy that was to come into effect in December. He said the province was pulling out because Ottawa has not backed down from its intention to bring in its own higher rate.“We have common ground in our opposition to the federal government’s attempted imposition of a carbon tax,” Moe said after a meeting with Ford in Saskatoon.“It’s clear that opposition to this ill-advised, destructive policy is growing across the nation.”The federal Conservatives couldn’t contain their delight either at Pallister’s move.MP James Bezan tweeted congratulations for joining “the anti-carbon tax team!”His fellow Manitoba MP, Candice Bergen, said her party had not pressured the province’s Progressive Conservative premier to change his mind but was “pleasantly surprised” when he did so.Moe and Ford met Thursday to talk about their economic ties as well as what Ford called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s job-killing and “nasty, nasty tax.”The two conservative leaders said they will continue to fight the tax together and, to that end, Moe announced Saskatchewan will file for intervener status in Ontario’s court challenge of the federal government’s carbon-pricing plan.Ontario had already pledged to support Saskatchewan’s challenge when the premiers met in New Brunswick in July. Moe’s government has asked Saskatchewan’s Court of Appeal to rule on whether the federal plan is constitutional.“Saskatchewan and Ontario will continue to be strong allies in the fight against a destructive, made-in-Ottawa carbon tax that does nothing for our environment and is a direct cost to businesses, jobs and to families,” Moe said.Ford also spoke in glowing terms of Jason Kenney, “our friend in Alberta,” who he said has been fighting carbon pricing since his days as a federal Conservative cabinet minister. Ford is to speak Friday at a “Scrap The Carbon Tax Rally” in Calgary at the invitation of Kenney, who is leader of Alberta’s Opposition United Conservatives.Kenney has promised to repeal Alberta’s carbon tax if his party wins next spring’s provincial election.— By Sylvia Strojek in Edmonton. With files from Mia Rabson in Ottawalast_img read more

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Police investigating after woman was kicked at antiabortion rally

first_imgTORONTO – Toronto police say they’re investigating after a woman was injured during an incident that was captured on video.Investigators say the woman was attending a peaceful rally in the city’s west end on Sunday, when a man approached the protesters “and was very disruptive.”They say the man “performed a round-house kick and kicked the woman” before leaving the area.Police say their investigation is ongoing, and nobody has been arrested.A video of the incident at an anti-abortion rally has been viewed more than a million times since it was posted on Tuesday.It shows a man talking to the person holding the camera before he twists his body, apparently winding up, and appears to kick her.“I meant to kick your phone!” somebody can be heard saying after the camera goes flying.“Someone call the cops,” another person says repeatedly.last_img read more

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