SecretaryGeneral extends term of head of UN probe into Hariri assassination

Serge Brammertz’s term as head of the UN International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC), which began in January when he replaced Detlev Mehlis, has been extended until 31 December. The re-appointment comes less than two weeks after the Security Council, which established the IIIC, extended the investigation’s mandate through 15 June 2007.Mr. Hariri and 22 others were killed on 14 February last year following a car bomb attack in the Lebanese capital of Beirut.Mr. Annan’s spokeswoman Marie Okabe told reporters today that the appointment was renewed after consultation with the State Parties to the Rome Statute and approval by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, from which Mr. Brammertz has been on a leave of absence since he took up the IIIC post.She added that the Secretary-General is looking forward to further progress in the Commission’s work under Mr. Brammertz, a former Belgian prosecutor. Earlier this month he informed the Council that he had made “considerable progress” in his investigations, but he also stressed the need for greater efforts to learn more about 14 other possibly-related attacks in Lebanon. read more

Lech Walesa welcomes launch of International Human Solidarity Day at UN

Nobel laureate and co-founder of Poland’s Solidarnosc movement Lech Walesa welcomed the launch of International Human Solidarity Day at a ceremony at United Nations Headquarters today, calling for a global front to address today’s challenges.“The solidarity movement that I constructed and that I led transformed my country,” said, Mr. Walesa, keynote speaker at the launch. “The idea of solidarity on a global scale can transform the contemporary world. It’s the only logical opportunity to meet today’s challenges.”In the UN Millennium Declaration, heads of State and government identified solidarity as one of the “fundamental values…essential to international relations.” International Human Solidarity Day, to be held on 20 December, was proclaimed by the General Assembly in 2005 to raise awareness of the importance of solidarity for advancing the international development agenda, especially for poverty eradication. “Very urgent action” is needed to address the world’s problems, said Mr. Walesa, who co-founded in 1980 Solidarnosc (Solidarity), the Soviet bloc’s first independent trade union, and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, and to serve as President of Poland from 1990 to 1995, inspiring similar movements throughout Eastern Europe and beyond.“Starvation remains the weapon of massive destruction against millions of people,” he said, highlighting additional challenges, including disease, epidemics, environmental destruction, terrorist acts against civilians, and the world’s helplessness in face of natural disaster. “Solidarity moved one quarter of the population in Poland,” he said. “If a world solidarity movement covered a quarter of the global population, it would be an enormous power.”To harness that power and move words into actions, Mr. Walesa proposed the creation of a human solidarity fund as a “visible way for citizens of the world to contribute.” In rich countries, contributing $5 or $10 a year would not be a burden, and would provide education, and combat hunger to break the cycle of poverty.“It would be people helping people, not governments helping governments,” he said, suggesting that the fund be administered by the UN Secretary-General and that governments could grant tax exemptions for donations.“The Polish solidarity movement shows that we should not be afraid of our dreams,” he said. “The world can be peaceful and I am already seeing it on the horizon.” read more

BMO Bank of Montreal sets sights on US expansion after year of

AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email The Bank of Montreal (TSX:BMO) has set it sights on growing its U.S. business, it said Tuesday after spending more than a year overhauling and revamping the operations.BMO chief executive Bill Downe said the bank is launching a massive advertising blitz now that the integration of Milwaukee-based Marshall and Ilsley Corp. is complete.“This month we’re blanketing our U.S. footprint with some of the strongest advertising and promotions the bank has ever developed, online, outdoor, broadcast and in-branch,” Downe said on a conference call with analysts.“A significant value in our U.S. business has been realized and 100 per cent of our efforts are now back on our first priority, being in the market with confidence, growing our customer base and building the bank and its earnings as a consequence.”BMO doubled down on its U.S. operations when it acquired Marshall and Ilsley last year for US$4.1 billion in a bid to give it the scale and reach needed to compete south of the border.The work at BMO Harris Bank, its banner in the U.S., included a rebranding and refreshing of more than 600 bank branches and the upgrading of more than 1,300 bank machines.The push in the U.S. came as BMO reported a fourth-quarter profit of $1.08 billion on Tuesday as its capital markets business more than doubled its earnings compared with a year ago. On a per share basis for the quarter ended Oct. 31, BMO reported a profit of $1.59 per share, up from $768 million or $1.11 per share.BMO’s revenue in the fourth quarter from all business segments totalled $4.18 billion, up from $3.82 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011.The bank’s adjusted earnings amounted to $1.65 per share compared with expectations of $1.43 per share on an adjusted basis for the fourth quarter, according to estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters. The quarterly revenue estimate had been $3.8 billion.The increase came as the bank said the Canadian housing market appeared to be slowing in most markets.“We continue to see growth in residential mortgage market share, and believe the changes to Canada’s mortgage market announced earlier this year, which are aligned with BMO’s risk practices and ongoing efforts to encourage Canadians to borrow smartly, are having the desired moderating effect on housing prices in most markets,” Downe said.He noted that a “concerted focus on efficiency was reflected in a reduction of 700 full-time employees.”BMO Capital Markets helped drive the quarter as the division earned $293 million, up from $143 million a year ago.Personal and commercial banking in Canada earned $439 million, about the same as a year ago, while the U.S. division earned $130 million, down from $155 million.Downe said the bank completed the conversion of its core banking platform in the U.S. during the quarter.“Over the past two years, with the acquisition of Marshall & Ilsley Corp., we have fundamentally transformed the bank, changed its growth trajectory, and enhanced long-term value for shareholders.“BMO Harris Bank has strong deposit market share positions in our core Midwest markets, and our U.S. footprint has doubled in size.”The bank’s private client group earned $166 million for the quarter, up from $137 million.Despite the better than expected results, RBC Capital Markets analyst Andre-Philippe Hardy maintained a “sector perform” rating on the bank.“We continue to believe that the shares of banks with better revenue growth will perform better in the next 12 months,” Hardy wrote in a note to clients.He noted that BMO did not grow year-over-year revenues for its Canadian personal and commercial banking, while revenue slipped five per cent at its U.S. personal and commercial banking operations.“We believe that better revenue growth in retail banking divisions is needed for BMO’s stock to perform well on a sustained basis relative to peers,” Hardy wrote.The quarter brought Bank of Montreal’s total earnings for the 2012 financial year to $4.19 billion or $6.15 per diluted share, up from $3.11 billion or $4.84 per diluted share the previous year.Revenue for the full 2012 financial year increased to $16.1 billion from $13.9 billion.In the third quarter, the bank announced plans to close 24 of its U.S. BMO Harris bank branches in the U.S. Midwest, as an effort to scale back on overlapping branches after the acquisition of Marshall & Ilsley.BMO was one of the Canadian banks that was put under review by Moody’s Investors Services, which rates the credit of governments, public sector institutions and corporations.Moody’s said the review was prompted by concerns about consumer debt levels and home prices in Canada, where the banking sector is the major source of mortgage lending.BMO also said Tuesday it will buy back up to 15 million of its shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange through a normal course issuer bid that will end on Jan. 24, 2014.There were about 650.7 million BMO common shares issued and outstanding at Oct. 31.Shares in the company closed up 34 cents at $59.63 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Tuesday. by Craig Wong, The Canadian Press Posted Dec 4, 2012 5:20 pm MDT BMO Bank of Montreal sets sights on U.S. expansion after year of overhaul read more

CNs Q1 results expected to be hit by winter weather CP forecast

CN’s Q1 results expected to be hit by winter weather; CP forecast to surge AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email by Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press Posted Apr 21, 2013 4:00 am MDT MONTREAL – Canada’s largest railway is expected to be hurt in the first quarter by the effect of winter weather woes, while analysts forecast its Calgary-based rival’s profit will surge.Canadian National Railway Company (TSX:CNR) is expected to report $528.4 million in adjusted profits on Monday, up just one per cent from a year ago, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.That’s equal to $1.21 per share, up from $1.18 a year earlier on a six per cent increase in revenues to $2.5 billion.The Montreal-based railway’s carloads increased 3.3 per cent from last year, while revenue ton-miles, which measures the relative weight and distance of rail freight, grew 4.6 per cent.CN was helped by 7.9 per cent increase in petroleum and chemicals and a 9.6 per cent boost in intermodal, offset by reductions in coals (-7.1 per cent) and grains (-4.8 per cent).Weather was a big challenge for the railway, as storms reduced average train speeds and lengthened dwell times.“Winter a challenge for CN this time, not CP,” said Benoit Poirier of Desjardins Capital Markets, adding that CN lost some of its operating momentum.He said the harsh weather should likely prompt CN to build a new line in Western Canada to mitigate against the risk of future weather-related issues.The weather impact was more muted at Canadian Pacific (TSX:CP).Canadian Pacific’s adjusted profits were forecast to increase 48 per cent to $210.7 million or $1.21 per share on nearly $1.5 billion revenues. That’s up from $142 million or 82 cents per share a year earlier. The results will be reported Wednesday.The Calgary-based railway’s volumes increased just 2.2 per cent, led by sulphur and fertilizers (+19.9 per cent) and potash and industrial products (+14.6 per cent), boosted by crude-by-rail. Automotive fell 14.6 per cent and intermodal was down 3.7 per cent as it lost contracts to CN.Cameron Doerksen of National Bank Financial raised his target price of CP to $118, below the current trading price, noting that the Canadian railroads trade at a large premium to its U.S. peers.“We have a high degree of confidence in CEO Hunter Harrison’s ability to lead a significant profitability turnaround at CP and the results so far have exceeded expectations,” he wrote in a report.Transporting crude has been the hottest rail segment so far in 2012, rising 31 per cent by Canadian railways and 57 per cent by Americans.Doerksen said he expects it will be a sustainable business and could increase further.Still, it represented only 2.3 per cent of total CN revenues in 2012 and would account for less than five per cent if revenues double as management expects.At CP, crude represents four per cent, but could reach 12 per cent if shipments triple over the next few years as forecast.“While this is meaningful, it will still be much smaller than CP’s intermodal (25 per cent of revenues) and grain (21 per cent) franchises,” he added.While Canadian grain carloads were down 3.8 per cent in the first quarter, total production is expected to be up five per cent with exports up slightly.Casting a cloud on the railways is a broader economic outlook that points to modest growth.Poirier said the latest industrial production data, which is a good barometer of carload activity, points to a softer, yet positive outlook.On the Toronto Stock Exchange, CN’s shares closed at $98.48, up $1.48 in Friday trading. CP’s shares gained $1.61 to $124.21.Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version wrongly said CN’s adjusted profits were to rise by 17 per cent read more

Majority owner of SunRype Products Ltd proposing to take the company private

Majority owner of Sun-Rype Products Ltd. proposing to take the company private KELOWNA, B.C. – Sun-Rype Products Ltd. (TSX:SRF) says its majority owner Great Pacific Industries Inc. has proposed to take the company private in a deal that values it at about $81 million.Great Pacific Industries Inc., a member of The Jim Pattison Group, and SRF Acquisition Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Great Pacific, has offered $7.50 per share for the stake it does not already own.Great Pacific and its affiliates currently own a 54 per cent stake in Sun-Rype or roughly 5.82 million shares.Shares in Sun-Rype, which revealed the proposal after the close of markets Friday, closed down 29 cents at $5.76 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.A committee of the independent members of the board of directors has been established to review the offer, which would require approval by a majority of the minority shareholders of Sun-Rype.Sun-Rype makes and sells fruit-based juices and snacks. AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email by The Canadian Press Posted Jun 28, 2013 6:24 pm MDT read more

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac earns 5 billion in second quarter and will

by Marcy Gordon, The Associated Press Posted Aug 7, 2013 8:46 am MDT Mortgage giant Freddie Mac earns $5 billion in second quarter and will pay gov’t $4.4 billion WASHINGTON – Freddie Mac earned $5 billion from April through June, the seventh straight profitable quarter for the mortgage giant.The second-quarter gain reported Wednesday compares with net income of $3 billion in the same period of 2012. Freddie says its earnings were due largely to increased profits from investments made to hedge against rising interest rates. That helped offset losses on mortgages during the quarter.Freddie, based in McLean, Va., will pay a dividend of $4.4 billion to the U.S. Treasury next month and is requesting no additional aid.The government rescued Freddie and larger sibling Fannie Mae during the financial crisis in 2008. Together, they received loans of about $187 billion.A housing recovery that began last year has made both profitable again. Combined, they have paid back roughly $136 billion of their government loans. Those payments are helping to make this year’s federal budget deficit the smallest since President Barack Obama took office.Once the second-quarter dividend is paid, Freddie will have repaid $41.4 billion of the roughly $71.3 billion it received from taxpayers.Fannie and Freddie own or guarantee about half of all U.S. mortgages, worth about $5 trillion. Along with other federal agencies, they back roughly 90 per cent of new mortgages.Fannie and Freddie don’t directly make loans to borrowers. They buy mortgages from lenders, package them as bonds, guarantee them against default and sell them to investors. That helps make loans available and exert influence over the housing market.On Tuesday, Obama proposed a broad overhaul of the U.S. mortgage finance system, including winding down Fannie and Freddie. He declared that taxpayers should never again be left “holding the bag” for the mortgage giants’ risky moves.Obama wants to replace them with a system that would put the private sector, not the government, primarily at risk for the loans. The government would still be involved, both in oversight and as a last-resort loan guarantor. Obama also wants a guarantee that private lenders will make sure homeowners have access to 30-year fixed mortgages.A fix to the housing finance system is unlikely to be easy. Obama’s plan is in line with bipartisan Senate legislation. But most House Republicans want the market almost completely privatized, while many Democrats insist on government having a larger role.Nearly all of Freddie’s second-quarter profit is going back to the government. Under a federal policy adopted last year, Fannie and Freddie must turn over their entire net worth exceeding $3 billion in each quarter to the Treasury. Freddie said its net worth in the second quarter was $7.4 billion.Fannie earned a record $58.7 billion in the first quarter, capitalizing on tax benefits it had saved from its losses on loans during the crisis. It paid a dividend of $59.4 billion to the Treasury. Fannie has paid back roughly $95 billion of the $116 billion it received.Freddie said Wednesday it has $28.6 billion of such tax benefits it could tap, a move that would boost its profits. Freddie CEO Donald Layton told reporters in a conference call that the company will consider applying all or a portion of those tax benefits in coming quarters.For Fannie and Freddie, a better housing market means fewer delinquent loans on their books. The companies also are charging mortgage lenders higher fees to guarantee the loans. With more loans and higher fees, Fannie and Freddie are earning more.Fannie and Freddie are also taking on less risk than during the pre-crisis years. That’s because banks are requiring higher credit scores and larger down payments from prospective buyers. AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more

TSX tumbles 209 points weak manufacturing data adds to emerging market concerns

TORONTO – North American stock markets sold off sharply Monday as a disappointing read on American manufacturing added to worries over whether economic problems cropping up in emerging markets can be contained.The S&P/TSX composite index gave up the last of its gains for the year as it tumbled 208.74 points, or 1.52 per cent, to 13,486.2. The Canadian dollar gained 0.33 of a cent to 90.11 cents US.New York’s Dow Jones industrial average plunged 326.05 points, or 2.1 per cent, to 15,372.8 as the Institute for Supply Management said its January manufacturing index dropped to 51.3 in January from 56.5 in December. Any reading above 50 signals expansion.The Nasdaq fell 106.92 points to 3,996.96 while the S&P 500 index slid 40.7 points to 1,741.89.Markets had already got off to a weak start Monday morning after China’s official purchasing managers’ index came in at 51.5, down from 52.5 in December.The data added to concerns about emerging market countries such as Turkey, South Africa and India, all of which had to hike rates last week to support their currencies.These countries and others have been hit by an outflow of investor funds as the U.S. Federal Reserve cuts back on its massive monthly bond purchases, a move that kept U.S. long-term rates low and resulted in a flow of cheap money into emerging markets.The primary worry is that economic weakness from the emerging economy countries could affect growth in developed markets.“Once you get into some kind of a modest disease, it has a tendency to spread,” observed Fred Ketchen, manager of equity trading at ScotiaMcLeod.“Not because there is any real reason why it should spread, but emotion takes it down and there is a lot of emotion in this market. People really don’t know what to make of it.”In Canada, Royal Bank’s purchasing managers index also pointed to a weak start to 2014 for the Canadian manufacturing sector. The January index came in at 51.7, down from 53.5 in December.There was other negative news from automakers as Ford shares slipped 2.75 per cent and General Motors shares 2.3 per cent after they reported a drop in U.S. January sales, hurt by harsh winter weather.The sell-off hit all TSX sectors with the base metal group down 2.6 per cent as the latest round of economic weakness worries sent March copper down a cent to US$3.18 a pound after it fell about 2.25 per cent last week. HudBay Minerals fell 35 cents to C$8.49.The energy sector was down 2.1 per cent as March crude in New York fell $1.06 to US$96.43. Suncor Energy, which was set to release earnings Monday night, lost 95 cents to C$35.64.Insurers led the way to a 1.3 per cent slump in financials with Manulife Financial (TSX:MFC) down 93 cents to $19.62.Tech stocks also racked up steep losses as electronics manufacturer Celestica (TSX:CLS) shed 81 cents to $10.24.The gold sector lost early momentum and was down about 0.75 per cent as risk-averse investors pushed April gold up $20.10 to US$1,259.90 an ounce. TSX tumbles 209 points; weak manufacturing data adds to emerging market concerns by Malcolm Morrison, The Canadian Press Posted Feb 3, 2014 6:45 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more

Canadian dollar plunges to postrecession low after central bank cuts key interest

TORONTO – The Canadian dollar plunged to a post-recession low after the Bank of Canada cut a key interest rate and lowered its forecast for the economy.The Bank of Canada has more details in the release of their Monetary Policy Report:Opening statement by Gov. Poloz following the MPR http://t.co/Cc2WkETJeq— Bank of Canada (@bankofcanada) July 15, 2015The loonie was down more than a full U.S. cent Wednesday afternoon at levels not seen since March 2009, when Canada was in the midst of a deep recession.At one point, Canada’s dollar was worth about 77.29 cents US, down 1.2 cents from the previous close, but had been even lower earlier in the day.The S&P/TSX composite index was up 85.32 points at 14,684.72.The Dow Jones industrial average was up 39.55 points at 18,017.23, the Nasdaq index rose 25.79 points to 5,097.30, and the S&P 500 advanced 8.66 points to 2,106.26.On the commodity markets, the August gold contract fell 60 cents to US$1,154.80 an ounce, the August crude contract was up five cents at US$52.25 a barrel and the August contract for natural gas was down two cents at US$2.84. Canadian dollars are pictured in Vancouver, Sept. 22, 2011. The Canadian dollar plunged Wednesday to a post-recession low after the Bank of Canada cut a key interest rate and lowered its forecast for the economy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward Canadian dollar plunges to post-recession low after central bank cuts key interest rate Related Stories QuickFacts: A look at the Bank of Canada’s shifting economic projectionsBank of Canada cuts rate to 0.5 per cent, slashes economic outlook by The Canadian Press Posted Jul 15, 2015 6:42 am MDT Last Updated Jul 15, 2015 at 1:19 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more

Transcontinental sells all assets in Saskatchewan lays off 65 employees

A TC Transcontinental sign is pictured at the company’s annual general meeting in Montreal on March 11, 2014. Transcontinental is selling its assets in Saskatchewan and laying off 65 people, citing challenging conditions in the print industry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes MONTREAL – Transcontinental is selling all of its assets in Saskatchewan, including 13 newspapers, and laying off 65 employees in the latest sign of the ongoing troubles that have beset some of Canada’s largest media empires.The company’s deal with Star News Publishing announced Monday marks an end to Transcontinental’s 14-year run as a newspaper publisher in Saskatchewan and a retreat from Western Canada altogether.“From a geographic standpoint, operating just a small number of newspapers in Western Canada was not efficient for us,” said Katherine Chartrand, a spokeswoman for the Montreal-based media giant.The transaction leaves Transcontinental with about 150 titles in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.Star News Publishing acquires weekly and daily newspapers in Saskatchewan including the Moose Jaw Times Herald and the Prince Albert Daily Herald. It also gets some commercial printing equipment and a book business in the province. Both companies did not disclose the value of the sale.The purchase adds 80 staff to Star News Publishing’s workforce of about 40. It operates five community newspapers in Alberta and Saskatchewan and prints more than 60 community newspapers throughout Western Canada.President Roger Holmes said while newspapers in large cities have been struggling to stay afloat, opportunities remain strong in smaller western communities, where startups are being launched with success.“Community newspapers are healthy and strong in the small, small communities … and it seemed like a great opportunity,” Holmes said from Wainwright, Alta., where the company is based. “I believe in print.”Holmes is a third-generation printer and publisher whose grandfather founded parent company Star News in the 1920s. Last weekend, he was elected president of the Canadian Newspaper Association.Thirty Transcontinental employees will lose their jobs when its printing plant in Saskatoon closes next month and another 35 editorial positions — 23 in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and P.E.I., along with 12 in Quebec — are being eliminated.The job losses announced Monday are in addition to 52 advertising sales positions that Transcontinental (TSX:TCL.A) cut last month in Quebec. It has more than 8,000 employees in Canada and the U.S.Canada’s newspaper industry faces deep challenges as its biggest companies continue to slash jobs amid weak advertising revenues.Postmedia is struggling with debt while some of the country’s oldest dailies, such as the Guelph Mercury, have ceased publishing print editions.The company that owns the Toronto Star has shed more than 300 production and editorial positions and Montreal’s La Presse last year sold all its French-language regional newspapers in Quebec and ended the weekday printed paper. by Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press Posted May 30, 2016 12:51 pm MDT Last Updated May 30, 2016 at 4:43 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Transcontinental sells all assets in Saskatchewan, lays off 65 employees read more

LNG Canada delay means dark clouds growing over industry in BC experts

LNG Canada delay means dark clouds growing over industry in B.C.: experts by Laura Kane, The Canadian Press Posted Jul 12, 2016 1:39 pm MDT Last Updated Jul 13, 2016 at 7:20 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email British Columbia Premier Christy Clark addresses the LNG in BC Conference in Vancouver on October 14, 2015. Premier Christy Clark’s dreams of a booming liquefied natural gas industry in British Columbia were dealt another blow yesterday when a Shell-backed venture delayed a final decision indefinitely on a project in Kitimat. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck VANCOUVER – Premier Christy Clark’s dreams of a booming liquefied natural gas industry in British Columbia have been dealt another blow after a Shell-backed venture delayed a final investment decision indefinitely.LNG Canada’s decision to put the project in Kitimat on hold amid weak global prices isn’t surprising, but it adds to the pessimistic mood around the future of the sector in B.C., experts say.“It just creates a dark cloud over what is already a bunch of dark clouds for that type of economic activity,” said Martin King, vice-president of institutional research at FirstEnergy Capital Corp.Clark made a massive political bet on LNG in 2013 with promises of 100,000 jobs and $100-billion in revenue over decades. Today, there are 20 projects proposed in B.C., but analysts say only a handful appear economically viable.Among the more promising ventures was LNG Canada’s proposal, which would export up to 24 million tonnes per year and cost up to US$40 billion to build. But CEO Andy Calitz told reporters Monday that it was simply too expensive for now.King said the B.C. Liberals were not alone in their optimism three years ago. But weak Asian demand, a supply glut from the U.S. and Australia and the oil price collapse have all darkened the industry’s prospects.He said Japan is the world’s largest LNG buyer, but it has been moving back toward nuclear power as it recovers from the 2011 tsunami. Meanwhile, U.S. natural gas prices have fallen along with shale gas supply growth, he said.A good portion of global LNG that is traded is indexed against crude oil prices, so the oil downturn in 2014 and 2015 dragged down liquefied natural gas along with it, he added.Mary Hemmingsen, global head of LNG at KPMG, said long-term, the future still looks bright. The climate change agreement singed in Paris means Asian countries, especially coal-dependent China, will need natural gas as a cleaner fuel, she said.“It’s not if, it’s when,” she said. “In my view, based on my understanding of global supply and demand, gas is needed. Gas has a bright future, and there is interest in what Canada’s offering.”Canada is an attractive source because it has hundreds of years of surplus supply, relative political stability and offers 40-year permits through the National Energy Board, she said.Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman said in a statement the government remains optimistic about the future of LNG. He noted LNG Canada still described the project as a “promising opportunity.”The $36-billion Pacific NorthWest LNG project on Lelu Island is still under federal environmental review. The smaller Woodfibre LNG near Squamish has received environmental approval and a final investment decision could be made this year, said country manager Byng Giraud.“Our business model’s a little different, and we’re a different size,” he said. “Prices are a challenge. We are looking at ways of lowering our costs and improving our efficiency, but … we’re still bullish.”Michael Prince, a social policy professor at the University of Victoria, said he doubts the industry’s failure to materialize will hurt Clark much during next year’s election.The province is in good financial shape without LNG and other issues, including affordable housing and education, are dominating the early campaign, he said. But the Opposition New Democrats could use the LNG issue to attack the Liberals.“I don’t think that this will be the ballot box issue in May 2017,” he said. “I would expect it to be part of a NDP campaign to challenge the credibility or the believability of other claims or promises made by the governing party.”The government has pivoted somewhat from constantly touting the economic promise of LNG, but any good news in the sector would likely change that, Prince said.“They’re a bit like a moth near a bright light. If the LNG started to get brighter again, they’d be right back at it,” he said. “That’s their big hope, their big dream.”— Follow @ellekane on Twitter. read more

Firm hopes to be 1st with skillbased slots

by Wayne Parry, The Associated Press Posted Sep 26, 2016 11:19 pm MDT Last Updated Sep 27, 2016 at 12:00 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Firm hopes to be 1st with skill-based slots ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – A New York firm hopes to be the first in the world to install skill-based slot machines on casino floors in which the main determining factor in how much a player can win is his or her ability to play the game.GameCo told The Associated Press on Tuesday that it is ready to put machines in the three Atlantic City casinos owned by Caesars Entertainment as soon as the first week in October, pending approval by New Jersey gambling regulators.But it is in a race with rival firm Gamblit, which earlier this month announced plans to put similar machines in California and Nevada in October, also at Caesars-owned casinos.The machines have an element of randomness common to regular slot machines in terms of the environment players are presented with. How well or poorly they manoeuvr their way through the game will determine how much they might win.They are aimed squarely at millennials and those who like playing games on social media networks or on their phones, and who may be less inclined to play traditional pushbutton slot machines.“There’s a great focus on being first,” GameCo CEO and co-founder Blaine Graboyes told the AP. “Certainly we’d like to be first for ourselves, our investors and our customers. But we’re interested in this being a long-term proposition.”Both companies are awaiting approval from gambling regulators in the respective states in which they hope to launch. Other manufacturers working on similar products include IGT and Nanotech Gaming.In Atlantic City, GameCo plans to deploy three triple-unit carousels at Caesars, two at Harrah’s and two at Bally’s, with a total of 21 playing stations.Titled “Danger Arena,” the games give the player a brief tutorial, make sure the customer knows how to use the controls and that they are working properly, and then presents the customer with a map, or game scenario. This scenario will vary randomly, and constitutes the element of chance or randomness that is the hallmark of traditional slot machines. It is then up to the player to manoeuvr through the playing field in 45-second increments.“If you take out six or more robots, you’re in the money, and if you take out 10, you get the highest payout,” Graboyes said.Each game also includes a secondary random winning opportunity, with a possible instant cash win ranging from $1 to $5,000, he added, so that even poorly skilled players have a chance at winning.The company is seeking licensing in Atlantic City through the Division of Gaming Enforcement’s New Jersey First program, which speeds approvals for new gambling products if they are introduced first in the resort town.“We are glad to have the opportunity to review GameCo’s skill-based game through our New Jersey First program,” said DGE Director David Rebuck. “That program allows products that are submitted to our DGE Technical Services lab before any other jurisdiction and that meet our high regulatory standards to get out onto the casino floor expeditiously.”Gamblit plans to debut its machines at Harrah’s Rincon in southern California. After field trials, Caesars Entertainment anticipates putting machines with 125 Gamblit gambling positions into multiple Nevada casinos, and intends to put 100 more positions into additional markets in early 2017.___Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC read more

Parton Christmas tree lighting Cowboys give NBC big week

NEW YORK, N.Y. – With the help of Dolly Parton, an iconic Christmas tree lighting, “The Voice” and the Dallas Cowboys, NBC enjoyed one of its best weeks in television ratings in years.Aside from times when NBC had the Olympics or Super Bowl, the week ending Sunday was the network’s most-watched in 19 years, said Bob Greenblatt, NBC chairman.The Parton movie, “Christmas of Many Colours,” finished among the Nielsen company’s top 10 programs last week. The network also had strong weeks for “The Voice” and the growing freshman drama, “This is Us.”NBC hopes its success continues this week with the high-profile musical “Hairspray Live!” airing Wednesday.“We always plan for these December bumps (in the ratings) because we have so many specials,” Greenblatt said. “They just give us a little lift that we’ve come to expect. Thankfully, it’s the case this year.”With the Cowboys playing on NBC Thursday night, that NFL game accomplished the unusual feat of getting a higher rating than NBC’s Sunday night game.NBC averaged 10.6 million viewers for the week. CBS was second with 6.7 million viewers, Fox had 5.8 million, ABC had 5 million, the CW had 2.1 million, Univision had 1.8 million, Telemundo had 1.7 million and ION Television had 1.4 million.The election’s over, but Fox News Channel was still the most popular cable network last week, averaging 2.59 million viewers in prime time. ESPN had 2.57 million, Hallmark had 2.25 million, AMC had 1.57 million and ABC Family had 1.53 million.“NBC Nightly News’” won the evening news race, averaging 9.3 million viewers to 9.1 million for “ABC World News Tonight.” The “CBS Evening News” had 7.6 million.For the week of Nov. 28-Dec. 4, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: NFL Football: Dallas at Minnesota, NBC, 21.76 million; NFL Football: Carolina at Seattle, NBC, 17.75 million; “The Big Bang Theory,” CBS, 14.54 million; “Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick,” NBC, 13.65 million; NFL Football: Green Bay at Philadelphia, ESPN, 13.06 million; “Thursday Night NFL Pre-Kick,” NBC, 12.23 million; “The OT,” Fox, 12.18 million; “60 Minutes,” CBS, 11.85 million; Movie: “Christmas of Many Colours,” NBC, 11.58 million; “The Voice” (Tuesday), NBC, 10.64 million viewers.___This story has been corrected to show that for the week ending Sunday, “NBC Nightly News’” averaged 9.3 million viewers, “ABC World News Tonight” had 9.1 million and the “CBS Evening News” had 7.6 million. The story originally reported the season-to-date numbers.___ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by 21st Century Fox. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.___Online:http://www.nielsen.com by David Bauder, The Associated Press Posted Dec 6, 2016 2:27 pm MDT Last Updated Dec 7, 2016 at 6:40 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Parton, Christmas tree lighting, Cowboys give NBC big week read more

BCs economy to grow in 2017 but regional divide exists credit union

by The Canadian Press Posted Dec 15, 2016 10:20 am MDT Last Updated Dec 15, 2016 at 12:42 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email VANCOUVER – A B.C. credit union says Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna will lead the province in economic growth next year while other regions of the province will grow slowly.Central 1 Credit Union says housing prices in Victoria and Kelowna will stabilize in 2017 after big price jumps this year. Metro Vancouver is expected to show what it describes as a “modest” decline in median home values of four per cent.The economic region in Kootenay will see mild growth and unemployment stuck at about eight per cent.Central 1 says the trend of lost jobs and declining population in the Cariboo might stop but won’t reverse through 2018.The north coast and Nechako will continue to lose population and experience weak employment growth.Bryan Yu, the credit union’s senior economist, says the province’s economy remains on a “solid footing.”“Economic activity will continue to be underpinned by solid consumer spending, but growth will be curtailed by lower employment growth and weaker housing activity.”He forecasts GDP growth to fall to 2.3 per cent in 2017, while the growth in employment will slow to 1.1 per cent after a surge this year.The credit union says the province’s mixed growth prospects mean the continuation of a regional economic divide, with the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and Kelowna driving the economy.“In contrast, the economic cycle outside these markets will remain tempered with still challenging conditions in the economy,” Yu said in a news release on Thursday. “Weak commodity-related investment, closer reliance on Alberta’s oil economy and subdued global growth will continue to constrain economic activity.”Yu also warned that uncertainty surrounding a new softwood lumber agreement and the “likelihood” of tariffs is a risk for lumber production.“For the province as a whole through 2018, consumer demand will largely be driven by population growth, which is forecast to remain at a modest 1.2 per cent a year,” Yu said. “International immigration is forecast to rise given higher federal immigration targets, while a relatively stronger economy will continue to attract workers from other regions of the country.”The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said Thursday that B.C. was leading the country in the number of jobs that stood vacant in the third quarter at 3.5 per cent, the highest it has been since early 2008. B.C.’s economy to grow in 2017, but regional divide exists: credit union read more

Thawing of permafrost to be major factor in global warming warns UN

Released on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference in the Qatari capital of Doha, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report – Policy Implications of Warming Permafrost – underlines the potential hazards facing global ecosystems as well as national infrastructures if the rigid permafrost terrain were to become unstable. It also warns that the threat posed by carbon dioxide and methane emissions from warming permafrost has only begun to enter mainstream scientific discourse in recent years and, as a result, has not been included in climate prediction modelling. In a news release marking the report’s launch, Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of UNEP, emphasized the role permafrost could play in rapidly increasing the effects of global warming. “Permafrost is one of the keys to the planet’s future because it contains large stores of frozen organic matter that, if thawed and released into the atmosphere, would amplify current global warming and propel us to a warmer world,” Mr. Steiner noted. “Its potential impact on the climate, ecosystems and infrastructure has been neglected for too long,” he continued, adding that the report sought “to communicate to climate-treaty negotiators, policy-makers and the general public the implications of continuing to ignore the challenges of warming permafrost.”Most of the planet’s permafrost formed during the last ice age and extends up to 700 metres in parts of Russia and Canada. It constitutes an active layer of up to two metres in thickness sitting atop a stratum of frozen soil. Although permafrost regularly thaws each summer and refreezes in the winter, an increase in thickness of the active layer due to global warming would cause huge quantities of organic matter trapped in the frozen soil to thaw and decay, releasing massive amounts of carbon dioxide. The report’s finding that permafrost emissions could ultimately account for up to 39 per cent of total global emissions have prompted UNEP and the report’s authors to urge action at the Doha climate conference. “The release of carbon dioxide and methane from warming permafrost is irreversible: once the organic matter thaws and decays away, there is no way to put it back into the permafrost,” the report’s lead author, Kevin Schaefer, noted. With most climate change-related legislation ignoring the threat posed by the permafrost thawing, the report recommends a special assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as well as the creation of national monitoring networks and adaptation plans as key steps to dealing with the potential impacts of what could be “a significant source of emissions” and “a major factor in global warming.” UNEP also warns that changes in the permafrost could have a substantial impact on human activities as the thawing would cause the terrain to become structurally weak and unsteady, ultimately adding to the growing costs associated with public infrastructure owing to climate change. Mr. Schaefer confirmed that the thawing permafrost represented a dramatic physical change with potentially huge impacts on human infrastructure networks. “Individual nations need to develop plans to evaluate the risks, costs and mitigation strategies to protect human infrastructure in permafrost regions most vulnerable to thaw,” he concluded. read more

UN Security Council extends arms embargo on Cote dIvoire

“States shall take the necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to Côte d’Ivoire, from their territories or by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, of arms and any related materiel,” the Council stated, through its unanimous adoption of a resolution that also further refined the sanctions regime first put in place in 2004.Until the same date, it also decided to renew the mandate of the panel of experts that assist in monitoring the sanctions regime, extending as well as well as measures preventing the importation of rough diamonds, which in the past have also helped fuel conflict.In an April 16 briefing to the Council, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Edmond Mulet, said that despite considerable progress since the end of the violent post-election crisis two years ago, Côte d’Ivoire still faces significant threats to its long-term stability, including the presence of armed elements, transnational crime, terrorism, piracy, and a security sector in need of reform, a top United Nations peacekeeping official said today.In today’s resolution, the Council said it would continued to review the measures, with a view to modifying them further or lifting them, in light of any progress achieved in relation to demobilization and disarmament of ex-combatants, security sector reform, national reconciliation and the fight against impunity. read more

Myanmar praising Governmentled flood response UN relief official pledges support as more

In a statement issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Ms. Dessallien recapped her travels through Myanmar’s Kale Township, where she had visited communities affected by floods and observed ongoing relief efforts.The waters are now receding, leaving behind entire communities buried under mud and debris. Crops have been destroyed, homes have collapsed, livestock have been killed and precious belongings have been swept away. In the latest humanitarian snapshot of the situation on the ground, OCHA and its partners in Myanmar report that, since mid-July, more than 1 million people have been critically affected by monsoonal floods and landslides. In addition, more than 687,200 acres of farmland has been damaged, and many roads and bridges were destroyed in the worst affected states and regions.OCHA says that the UN and its partners, in support of the Government and in partnership with local organizations, continue to scale up the humanitarian response. More than 213,000 people have been reached with food assistance, 10,000 emergency shelters are initially planned to address housing needs in the worst affected areas, and water treatment tablet and hygiene kit distribution, as well as clean-up of wells and ponds, is ongoing throughout affected areas. As water levels start to recede in some areas, the need for a rapid transition to early recovery and rehabilitation is critical, including in the areas of livelihoods and supporting the Government in restoring essential services, according to OCHA. At the same time, the UN humanitarian wing warns that a low-pressure system has formed in the north-western part of the Bay of Bengal and could bring strong winds and heavy rainfall to the Ayeyarwady Region and the southern coast of Rakhine state, with widespread rain throughout the country’s states and regions. In her remarks, Ms. Dessallien underscored that the people of Myanmar are among the most generous in the world. The masses of volunteers, staff of local organizations, authorities, private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), celebrities and ordinary people, in their caring and generosity, dedication and courage “are showing the true spirit of Myanmar.” She thanked the international community, particularly regional and traditional donor countries, which have been quick to fund immediate life-saving assistance and have pledged to provide support to the recovery and reconstruction efforts in the longer term. Government officials, several ambassadors, NGOs and UN colleagues accompanied the humanitarian coordinator on her visit.The UN is currently providing $10 million in flood assistance across the country, representing, thus far, half the total international response. While, to date, the basic needs of the flood-affected people are being met, the rainy season is not over. “We are concerned with reports forecasting additional rains. We must sustain our efforts both to meet immediate needs, as well as to ensure that people, whose assets and livelihoods have been lost, can quickly recover,” Ms. Dessallien concluded. read more

Sharply deteriorating conditions in besieged areas of Syria UN aid agencies report

“Residents need immediate and urgent humanitarian assistance, particularly food, nutrition and health supplies, and there are reports of severe cases of malnutrition and deaths due to starvation,” UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters in New York. While Government stocks reportedly continue to provide bread in Deir-Ez-Zor, there are very few supplies given limited humanitarian or commercial access to the area. “Approval has been secured for an emergency inter-agency United Nations airlift to deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance to the area,” noted Mr. Haq. “However, fierce clashes in the vicinity of the military airport have prevented the operation from proceeding,” he added.The UN is also reporting that its agencies, along with the International Committee of the Red Cross and Syrian Arab Red Crescent, are on their way to take food, fuel and health supplies to Zabadani, while nutrition and health teams began conducting field assessments in Madaya and Zabadani. This is the third humanitarian convoy delivering aid to Madaya, Foah and Kafraya, and the first for Zabadani this month.Meanwhile, in an open letter to Syrian civil society, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, said he is “angry and frustrated about the situation in besieged areas in Syria and the terrifying toll it is having on its children, women and men.”He stressed that humanitarian staff work tirelessly every day to bring life-saving assistance to people affected by the conflict, often at great cost, noting that more than 80 humanitarian workers have been killed and many others remain missing. “The Humanitarian Coordinator in Syria, his team, the United Nations and its partners have taken serious and repeated risks to reach people in need, in some cases coming under direct fire from parties to the conflict or suffering the ultimate price, selflessly serving others,” Mr. O’Brien stated. “This has not and will not, however, deter them from their mission.”Underlining that he supports “all initiatives that can bring the violence to an end and help the UN and its partners on the ground reach people in need,” Mr. O’Brien said he can assure that “the UN is neither too close to any party nor acting in such a way to encourage the use of siege tactics.”“It is our duty to act impartially, neutrally and independently, and to have contact with all parties to negotiate unimpeded and safe access to those who are vulnerable and in need, regardless of how or why their need arises,” he insisted.“But let me be clear, only a political solution for peace and the respect for international humanitarian law by all parties will make the biggest difference for Syrians seeking assistance and for humanitarian organisations the ability to provide it,” he concluded.Over 100,000 Syrians in Madaya, Biqin, Foah, Kafraya and Al Waer have recently received assistance, including food and medicine. read more

Guterres urges Congolese security forces to exercise restraint amid reports six people

“The Secretary-General urges the Congolese security forces to exercise restraint,” said a statement issued this afternoon by UN Spokesman Stéphane Dujarric, in the wake of reports which suggest that along with the fatalities, that 63 people were injured during the protests, which are calling for implementation of the 31 December 2016 political agreement. Mr. Guterres called on the Congolese authorities to conduct credible investigations into these incidents and to hold those responsible accountable.Similar demonstrations three weeks ago led to a number of deaths. The protests have been taking place in the vicinity of churches in and in the regard, the UN chief today, ‘called upon all concerned to ensure full respect for places of worship.” The agreement at the heart of the protests ¬– facilitated by Conférence Episcopale Nationale du Congo (CENCO) mediators – allowed President Joseph Kabila to stay in power beyond the end of his term and stipulated that peaceful, credible and inclusive elections would be organized in the DRC by the end of December 2017.The polls were reportedly pushed back to December 2018, sparking violent protests late last month.“The Secretary-General, once again, calls on Congolese political actors to work towards the full implementation of the 31 December political agreement, which remains the only viable path to the holding of elections, the peaceful transfer of power and the consolidation of stability in the [country],” the statement concluded. read more

New UN agency guidelines aim to sustain forest benefits for future generations

The FAO is the lead United Nations agency on the sustainable use of forests, and the voluntary guidelines refer to so-called forest concessions; laws and policies that allow local communities and private individuals or businesses to use forested land in return for payment or services.The aim is to make these concessions “more transparent, accountable and beneficial to some of the poorest communities in the world”, said the agency.It is hoped that by adopting the guidelines, countries in tropical regions will be able to curb abuse of forest land due to poor management; corruption and bribery; tenure disputes, and the harassment of local communities.“If well managed, forest concessions can have multiple socio-economic and environmental benefits and increase the value of standing forests for present and future generations,” said Eva Muller, the head of Forestry Policy and Resources Division at FAO.“All in all, they can improve the lives of rural communities in some of the poorest and most isolated parts of the world.”If well managed, forest concessions can have multiple socio-economic and environmental benefits and increase the value of standing forests for present and future generations – Eva Muller, senior FAO officialForest concessions at workWhen well managed, forest concessions can curb deforestation and reduce forest degradation. They can also reduce carbon footprint and combat climate change, while increasing employment opportunities and services in local communities.Proper concessions also add to local and national revenues, which can in turn be invested in development, health and services.A good example is the Borneo Initiative, a foundation established in 2008, which has provided financial and technical assistance to concession-holders linking them to a professional network of experts to guide them through the process. It has already led to an increase of more than 2 million hectares of natural forest across Indonesia.Another example is in Guatemala, where concessions are providing direct financial benefits to local communities and have generated more than 16,000 jobs, which in turn brings additional economic benefits.VerificationThe guidelines – formally entitled: “Making forest concessions in the tropics work to achieve the 2030 Agenda” – build on best practices from around the world, and are based on consultations with more than 300 technical experts from the public and private sectors, together with civil society representatives from Africa, the Asia-Pacific region and Latin America.A self-assessment tool is one key recommendation, whereby concession-holders and local communities can verify if their agreements will encourage the sustainable use of forest land.The guidelines were launched on the margins of the 13th session of the UN Forum on Forests, which has been taking place this week at UN Headquarters in New York. read more

Eight years in Syria still embroiled in conflict that no longer sparks

“You all know the statistics of this conflict”, Ursula Mueller told the chamber. “You know that more than half the Syrian population has either fled the country or faced repeated internal displacement…and you know that currently, an estimated three million people in Idlib are caught up in the crossfire, with some living under trees or plastic sheeting on bare patches of land”.Sixty-one reports submitted. Hundreds of Council sessions. There’s no question about whether Members of the Security Council are aware of the tragic #humanitarian situation in #Syria – the question today to them is what they will do. My remarks: https://t.co/VklOFitLJc pic.twitter.com/0r8T9XN2Do— Ursula Mueller (@UschiMuller) May 28, 2019 There are no safe schools or clinics, she said, and no way to earn a living, while families live in “the constant fear” of sending their children to a school that may be bombed “later that day”.Despite a temporary ceasefire announcement on 17 May, fighting in the last rebel stronghold of Idlib in Syria’s north-west, has continued over recent days, with heavy shelling and aerial bombardment this month leaving more than 160 civilians dead and some 270,000 others displaced.The deputy relief chief quoted the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in saying that “both pro-Government forces and non-State armed groups fighting in northern Syria appear to have failed to respect the principles of distinction and proportionality under international humanitarian law”. She told the Council that since 28 April, the World Health Organization (WHO) had reported a total of 25 attacks targeting medical infrastructure in northwestern Syria, including 22 health facilities, with some having been hit more than once. Moreover, some 25 schools are reported to have also been impacted by the violence, as well as marketplaces and at least three sites for displaced people.While the humanitarian community is responding in accordance with its contingency and readiness plans, “despite our best efforts, the response is stretched”, she explained.“Many of our humanitarian partners are part of the affected population and have themselves been displaced”, she said, adding that as a result, “in many areas of active hostilities, humanitarian operations have been suspended”, including health, nutrition and protection services that previously supported some 600,000 people.Pointing out that this year marks the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions and the 20th anniversary of the Council’s adoption of protection of civilians as an agenda item, she recalled the Secretary-General’s word’s last week, saying that “respect today for international humanitarian law is, at best, questionable.“You are all, as Member States, aware that all parties to armed conflict are legally bound to comply with international humanitarian law…Sparing hospitals and schools is not optional. It is a fundamental legal obligation”.Other crisis areasWhile calling the fighting in Idlib “the most distressing front in the conflict at present”, she painted a picture of “deteriorating conditions inside Rukban” camp for internally displaced, on the southern border with Jordan, that during the past two months, have caused more than 13,100 to flee. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe | Ursula Mueller, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, briefs the Security Council on the situation in Syria.For those who remain, food, basic medicines and other life-saving supplies delivered in February have run out. Fuel is scarce; prices are skyrocketing; and “people are exhausted”, she spelled out.Ms. Mueller said a third humanitarian convoy to Rukban was urgently needed “to avoid further suffering” for the 29,000 people who remain, strongly urging the Syrian authorities “to reverse their refusal and facilitate access…as first requested in March and again on 9 May…to provide support to this vulnerable population”.Turning to the continuing plight of some 74,000 civilians – 92 per cent of whom are women and children – at the Al Hol refugee camp in the country’s north east, near the Iraqi border, she said that “most have been exposed to extreme violence and trauma under ISIL”.“They are now living in extremely difficult conditions where they face a range of protection challenges, and an uncertain and disconcerting fate”, she said, including being denied repatriation, rehabilitation, re-integration, a fair trial, or even of becoming Stateless.“All children, including those suspected of being associated with armed groups and/or designated terrorist organizations, are entitled to special care and protection under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child” Ms. Mueller stated, adding “these children must be treated first and foremost as victims”. read more