Sri Lanka assures China will tackle issues related to project deals

“In order to strive for early harvest and bring tangible benefit to the two peoples, China stands ready to work with the Sri Lankan side to accelerate the implementation of the major-projects cooperation under the framework of the “Belt and Road” Initiative,” the Chinese Embassy said. Ambassador Cheng highlighted the bilateral economic and trade relation, especially major-projects cooperation as the ballast stone of Sino-Sri Lanka relations. During the meeting, Ambassador Cheng elaborated on current progress together with difficulties of the mega-projects cooperation between the two countries and called upon the Sri Lankan Government pushing for practical solutions.Wickremasinghe thanked China for its long-term support to Sri Lanka’s economic and social development and hoped that China’s assistance and aid would benefit more grassroot people. The Prime Minister emphasized that Sri Lanka attaches great importance to mega-projects cooperation between the two countries and his commitment to tackle the practical difficulties listed by the Chinese side.The Prime Minister said he will urge the Ministerial committee on the Hambantota development project and the Ministry of Southern Development to coordinate with the concerned departments to speed up the implementation of pragmatic cooperation such as the development of the Hambantota Port and industrial zone, so as to bring real benefits to the Sri Lankan people in an early date, the Chinese Embassy said.Commercial Counsellor of the Embassy Yang Zuoyuan and Minister of Southern Development Sagala Ratnayaka participated in the meeting. (Colombo Gazette) Sri Lanka has assured China it will tackle issues related to project deals between both countries.The Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Cheng Xueyuan held a working consultation with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at Temple Tree where both sides reviewed the current progress of bilateral economic and trade cooperation and vowed to further promote pragmatic cooperation, the Chinese Embassy in Colombo said today. read more

Driver of MP Chaminda Wijesiri arrested remanded

The policeman attached to the Police Narcotics division of the Bandarawela Police was admitted to hospital following the assault.The Police today arrested the driver of the MP and produced him before a Magistrate who ordered that he be remanded till February 18. (Colombo Gazette) The driver of United National Party (UNP) Parliamentarian Chaminda Wijesiri was arrested and remanded over an assault on a policeman.The MP had earlier been accused of being involved in the assault.

From Brock to Mars and back A QA with Mariek Schmidt

Mariek Schmidt talks to the Brock News about her work with NASA’s latest Mars mission and the Curiosity rover.Volcanologist and igneous petrologist Mariek Schmidt is one of 400 scientists worldwide monitoring and analyzing data from Mars that’s being collected by the rover vehicle Curiosity, which landed on the Red Planet last August.She spent a couple of months at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, developing plans for the rover to follow a geological route.Schmidt is back in her Brock office, continuing to analyze the data and participate in developing daily plans for the rover.BN: Describe what it was like to work with the team in California last year.Schmidt: We were together for the first 90 sols of the mission. A sol is one day on Mars, consisting of approximately 24.5 Earth hours. The idea was to have the entire science team all together living on Mars time so that we could synchronize communication with the rover and imaging orbiters that orbit Mars once a day.Mars sols and Earth days are similar that it doesn’t mess with you too much initially, but over the span of a week or two weeks it really changes. It adds up. It’s kind-of like living in another time zone. There will be one week a month when its normal time – you go to work at 8 or 9 in the morning and you work a normal day, and then there are other days where you start at 5 o’clock at night and it’s not so much fun.At the end of our shifts we’d have these science discussions where everybody got together and we’d talk things through. The best part about being at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena for the first 90 sols is that I got to work with these really incredibly smart people. We were always talking about science. It’s a really neat environment to be in. It’s an amazing, amazing opportunity and I’m very thankful to be part of this.BN: What is Mars like?Schmidt: Mars is dusty. That dust is generally a pinky-brown colour. It gives everything a pinky-brown hue. There aren’t any plants or animals. We’re not sure if micro-organisms ever existed. There’s water on Mars but not in the form one would normally think. Because the atmospheric pressure of Mars is very low, water is either stable as a solid or gas but not liquid form. There can be groundwater at higher pressures below the surface of the planet.There is evidence in the landscape – river channels and things like that – that could indicate that water was once present, which means the atmosphere used to be at a higher pressure. Mars is 4.65 billion years old. Mars is very dry, very cold and dusty. The temperature varies during the day from around 0°C to -70°C.Mars is a basaltic planet, which means that most of the rocks on Mars are rich in iron and magnesium. On Earth, we have oceanic crust and continental crust. Our oceanic crust is composed of basalt, while our continental crust is composed of granites, which are higher in silica. The dominant form of volcanism on Earth is basaltic, but what’s different from Mars is that we have high silica rock mostly due to plate tectonics, which Mars doesn’t have.BN: What is the purpose of your mission?Schmidt: What we’re trying to do with this mission is to understand whether or not Mars could have once been a habitable place. There’s been an atmosphere change during the planet’s history, from high pressure to low pressure; we want to know why.We’re trying to build a coherent history of Gale Crater by piecing the data together. We want to track how rocks change in composition over time. We do this by reading the layers of rock, where the youngest rocks are on top and the oldest layers on the bottom.BN: What is the rover Curiosity up to these days?Schmidt: Right now the rover is drilling into rock; this is a first-time activity. We’re really excited to get those data down to Earth, which hasn’t happened yet. The rover is drilling rock, taking core samples and turning those samples into powder. The rover has instruments in its body that can analyze powdered samples. It can determine the mineralogy; it also heats up samples and analyzes gases that are emitted from the rock. The rover also takes pictures, shoots a laser beam at rocks and lays instruments down on rocks to collect elemental compositions.BN: Will you ever visit Mars yourself?Schmidt: The next Rover is set to go up in 2020. I think it’s possible within my lifetime that humans will go to Mars. But I wouldn’t want to do it – it’s too far away and I might not come back. read more

Piano duo tickles ivories at Friday concert

ENCORE! Professional Concert Series presents the Fung Chiu Duo at the Sean O’Sullivan Theatre on Friday.In this performance, Janelle Fung and Philip Chiu come together to present a concert that challenges the traditional boundaries of piano with four hands.Tickets are $28.50 for adults and $22.50 for seniors and students. Tickets are available for $5 for high schools students as part of the eyeGo program.Show starts at 7:30 p.m.For information or tickets, call the Centre for the Arts box office at 905-688-5550, ext. 3527 or email read more

Amazon is putting another distribution centre in Ontario

Amazon is putting another distribution centre in Ontario. This comes just weeks after the announcement that a similar centre will be built in Ottawa, and it comes with the promise of 800 new jobs.Amazon’s latest so-called fulfillment centre has already broken ground in Caledon, the announcement was July 25th.Caledon’s Mayor says he had to keep the project under wraps until the amazon announcement, but his staff has been working diligently to bring the retailer to the rural community North of Brampton. He says amazon sees Caledon’s potential“Huge opportunity for a workforce, Brampton and Mississauga to the south, we’re just north of Pearson airport”.The site is off highway 50, North of Mayfield, and south of a major Canadian Tire distribution centre.  It will be approximately the same size as 11 football fieldsJust like in the recently announced Ottawa fulfillment centre, Amazon will be working with a developer, in this case Blackwood partners, which will build the million square foot facility. The long term lease and construction guarantees were part of the appeal for amazon.This will be the sixth fulfillment centre amazon has in Ontario including one in Milton. The company is expected to announce the location of its next headquarters this year. Toronto is the only Canadian city in the running.Associates will pick, pack, and ship small items to customers such as books, electronics and toys. The Caledon fulfillment centre together with the new facility in Ottawa will bring more than 1,400 new jobs to Ontario by the end of 2019.A couple people are wondering if there is any plan to widen highway 50. Considering there is already considerable transport traffic there no word yet on whether road improvements are part of the amazon plan. read more

78 Magnitude Earthquake hits Nepal

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal today around noon, local time.It rolled through Nepal’s densely populated Kathmandu Valley.The death toll is at 688 and rising. Included in the death toll are a group of climbers at a Mount Everest base camp who died in a quake-triggered avalanche.Rescue efforts are now underway to find countless missing people in the rubble.The Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa and Canadian offices abroad are working with local authorities to help Canadians in Nepal.Canadians with family or friends in the region can get information by emailing or online at read more

Drug charges laid as Hamilton police investigate possible impaired driver

Hamilton Police have charged three people from St. Catharines for fentanyl possession after a traffic stop in the east end.Officers were following up on a call about a possible impaired driver in the area of Centennial Pkwy and South Service Rd. Wednesday night.A small black pickup truck was seen driving erratically in the area.Police stopped the vehicle and determined the driver was not impaired.The driver was arrested however, after police say they found tools inside the car he was prohibited from possessing because of a court order.Officers also noticed the three occupants were not wearing seat belts.Police say one of them was violating a court order.While that person was being removed from the vehicle, officers noticed an object containing what they believed to be fentanyl.A second object believed to contain fentanyl was found in the vehicle.Two men and one woman were charged with possession of a controlled substance.The three were released with future court dates.Police say the vehicle was damaged before officers arrived and was towed to a compound. read more

A tribute concert remembering Mike Taylor from the band Walk off

The first time pop indie group Walk off the Earth preformed without Mike Taylor his keyboard illuminated on stage by candles the seat empty the keys untouched. There were many hugs and tears within the band, and out in the audience. Burlington’s City Hall Square was filled with fans, wiping away tears, holding candles, and remembering. The band encouraged people to laugh, dance, and sing a celebration they said for their good friend, who came off stern in his beard guy character, but was far from it in reality. Taylor died suddenly on December 29th, leaving behind two kids and lots of friends in the music industry. Including the Bare Naked Ladies and Hamilton natives Arkells. Walk off the Earth rose to fame in 2012 after a creative cover blew up on Youtube, catching the attention of Ellen Degenerous, and other celebrities. Burlington Mayor Marianne Meedward honoured Taylor by making him the first recipient of the key to the city posthumously. As for the band, they say their world tour will go on as planned, with a special person in their heart. While going on will be difficult, the band says it’s the right way to honour Taylor. read more

Boris Johnson lost Parliament but he could win a UK election

LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has lost Parliament. But he could still win a general election if enough voters approve of his determination to make Britain’s departure from the European Union a reality.The U.K. leader who took office in July failed spectacularly in his first encounter with Parliament, losing six important votes before suspending the legislature for an unexpected five weeks during a crucial period in Britain’s political life. He was unable to convince enough lawmakers to back his call for an early national election, which he hoped would give him a more pliant group of lawmakers.Despite his inability to get a general election set for mid-October — Parliament voted him down twice on that score — most observers think an early election is now inevitable, in part because Johnson’s Conservative Party has lost its working majority in the House of Commons and no longer has enough votes to pass legislation.Parliament is now suspended — or prorogued — until Oct. 14, but once its session resumes, most scenarios lead to a cross-party agreement to hold an early election that would test Johnson’s popularity outside Parliament’s Gothic halls in London. Right now the next British election is not scheduled until 2022.Under a master plan hatched in part by top adviser Dominic Cummings, who played a key role directing pro-Brexit forces during the 2016 referendum campaign on EU membership, Johnson and his team would hope to cast the election as a “people versus Parliament” vote.In this screenplay, the people — represented by Johnson and his Conservative Party candidates — are the good guys intent on implementing the results of the 2016 Brexit referendum that saw British voters, by a 4% margin, choose to leave the EU. Johnson’s Conservative party has been to a large degree purged of moderates who did not share his willingness to countenance a “no-deal” Brexit divorce from the EU and all the economic risks that entails.Parliament and opposition parties, meanwhile, will be cast as villains determined to thwart the will of the people with endless delays.The prime minister, well aware that many voters are tired of the whole thing, claims he doesn’t want an election but sees it as the only way to make Brexit happen. He can blame the current Parliament for tying his hands with its legislation blocking his ability to pull off a “no-deal” Brexit on Oct. 31, and say the legislators are determined to overturn the Brexit referendum because they don’t like the results.This “us versus them” scenario that Johnson’s team is hoping to capitalize on borrows from U.S. President Donald Trump’s “drain the swamp” approach, which helped him win the presidency in 2016.It is too early to predict with clarity what shape a British election would take, since there are too many unknowns, especially about what coalitions could be formed. A key question is whether Johnson will seek an alliance with Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, which could unite Brexit backers.The two teamed up successfully during the 2016 referendum campaign, both touting the idea that leaving the EU would give Britain back control of its laws and borders. Farage is a single-issue politician who was more willing than Johnson to blame immigrants for some of Britain’s problems.John Curtice, a polling expert with the University of Strathclyde, said Johnson could form a winning coalition with Farage if he is unable to wring concessions from the EU and decides to openly embrace a “no-deal” Brexit as his stated goal.“If he does a deal with Farage, and comes out in favour of ‘no-deal’ and Farage is ready to deal with him, that creates the potential of a winning coalition but contains the risk of splitting his own party,” Curtice said.He added that Johnson could also possibly win by getting a deal with the EU that wins parliamentary backing and woos Brexit Party voters back into the Conservative fold.“He’s got two routes, neither of which is easy,” Curtice said.Johnson will need to win the backing of disgruntled voters tempted to vote for candidates like Jonathan Bullock, the Brexit Party’s standard bearer in the pro-Brexit stronghold of Boston in eastern England.“Parliament has completely let us down,” Bullock said, claiming the current legislature is full of “remainers” who are determined to stall Brexit indefinitely. He backs the call for a general election but isn’t sure about Johnson.“Boris says the right thing, but can you trust him?” Bullock said. “The one person you can trust is Nigel Farage, who has been consistently right about this all along. He said that the establishment would try to stop Brexit, and he’s been absolutely right.”Johnson’s team also believes he can capitalize on the opposition Labour Party’s left-wing tilt under leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is a divisive figure for many voter. Just as Johnson has alienated some Conservative moderates, Corbyn has lost the backing of some longtime Labour figures who are turned off by his doctrinaire approach.But Johnson faces a potentially effective informal opposition coalition that would bring together Labour, which under Corbyn has not taken a clear position on Brexit but is opposed to a “no-deal” divorce, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Nationalists, which are both strongly opposed to Brexit and smaller regional parties.These groups banded together to block Johnson’s bid for an immediate election, but it’s not clear if they could bury past rivalries and find common ground in a longer campaign.___Associated Press writer Jill Lawless contributed.___Follow AP’s full coverage of Brexit and British politics at: Katz, The Associated Press read more

CannTrust says goods returned by Alberta government cannabis firm worth 13M

The Canadian Press This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 19, 2019.Companies in this story: (TSX:TRST) VAUGHAN, Ont. — CannTrust Holdings Inc. says its products being returned by Alberta government’s cannabis wholesaler and online retailer total about $1.3 million.The Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis agency announced the move on Wednesday after Health Canada suspended CannTrust’s licences to produce and sell pot.The company says that under the terms of its agreement, the goods may be returned for any reason and it will be responsible for the cost of the goods and all expenses related to the return. CannTrust noted that Health Canada has not ordered a recall in respect of any of the company’s products.In July, the AGLC placed a hold on its inventory of CannTrust products as a precautionary measure as the federal regulator investigated allegations of unlicensed growing at the company’s Pelham, Ont., greenhouse.CannTrust disclosed this week it received a notice from Health Canada indicating its authority to produce cannabis, other than cultivating or harvesting existing lots or batches, and to sell pot, had been suspended.The Ontario government’s cannabis wholesaler and retailer said in August it was returning products valued at roughly $2.9 million to CannTrust. read more

Communitybased sentence for man with mental health issues

Having debated what to do with a man with both an acquired brain injury and mental health issues, a Regina judge has determined a community-based sentence is the best approach.But Regina Provincial Court Judge Doug Kovatch warned Jessie Ahenekew (also spelled Jesse Ahenakew) he faces the likelihood of eventual jail if he doesn’t get a handle on addictions issues that have served to land him in trouble with the law.The 38-year-old man returned to court on Tuesday, having previously pleaded guilty to offences that included assault, mischief and failures to appear in court. Given Ahenekew’s existing criminal record, which includes some violence, the Crown requested a nine-month jail sentence.But defence lawyer Tony Orlowski petitioned the court in July for a sentence that would allow his client to serve his time in the community — thereby ensuring he has access to needed programming.Kovatch had observed the Crown wasn’t out of line in requesting the sentence it did, but decided he wanted some additional information in the form of a pre-sentence report looking into Ahenekew’s problems and what options might exist for him.Orlowski’s colleague, Andrew Hitchcock, appeared with Ahenekew on Tuesday, noting the report observed that while Ahenekew has had trouble following a community treatment order in the past, he has also struggled with side effects from his medication.And Ahenekew, speaking for himself, told the court his ABI — which he has had for 13 years — has been “shifting again,” causing further problems.“It’s like a disease,” he explained. “It doesn’t stop growing.”Ahenekew expressed a desire to take addictions treatment, and Kovatch agreed that, in combination with mental health programming, is likely the best approach — as long as Ahenekew follows directions. If he doesn’t, the judge explained, there will be consequences, possibly in the form of a jail sentence.Kovatch imposed a four-month conditional sentence order to be followed by 12 months probation. Both orders include conditions intended to help Ahenekew with his addictions and mental health issues.The mischief and assault incidents for which Ahenekew was sentenced took place in October and March respectively.In the first incident, Ahenekew attended city police headquarters, where he claimed the police chief had made off with the bulk of his lotto winnings in 2011. Court heard Ahenekew had tried unsuccessfully to lay the complaint in the past and, as on those occasions, police didn’t take the complaint. Angry, Ahenekew kicked over and damaged a ticket dispensing machine in the lobby. He was arrested following a struggle.He was back in trouble in March, when he was confronted by a security officer in a Regina liquor store. Court heard the intoxicated Ahenekew threw a bottle over a clerk’s head, then punched and pushed the officer to the read more

People living in mountains among worlds hungriest UN food agency says

Mountain dwellers are among the world’s largest populations of undernourished and hungry people, a senior official with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today. Speaking in Rome at FAO’s launch of the International Year of Mountains, the agency’s Deputy Director-General, David Harcharik, said that by paying special attention to the plight of mountain people, the amount of hungry and undernourished citizens in the world – currently estimated at more than 800 million – could be reduced substantially. According to FAO, the number of undernourished in the world is falling at a rate of only 6 million per year – well below the 22 million annually needed to reach the international target of halving the number of hungry people by 2015. “If we can improve conditions in mountain communities, we will go a long way toward fulfilling this important goal,” said Mr. Harcharik.About 600 million people – one in 10 – live in mountain areas. Outside thewell-to-do mountain resorts and commuter towns in industrialized countries, the majority of mountain people are chronically undernourished, due partly to poverty and political marginalization, FAO said. In addition, mountain people face physical barriers, such as rugged terrain, poor communications systems and inadequate roads.Above all, the agency blamed armed conflict for the poor conditions facing mountain dwellers, noting that most of clashes in the world today are in mountain areas. In 1999, 23 of the 27 major armed conflicts in the world were being fought in mountain regions. “How can you reliably produce food in conditions of war?” Mr. Harcharik asked. “How can you take steps to improve your life, to dream of a better future, when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from – or if you will live to eat it?”FAO pledged to give long-term priority to on-the-ground action in response to the needs of mountain dwellers. The agency also said it planned to support the efforts of national committees dedicated to the International Year of Mountains, noting that “countries have the power to develop laws and policies to encourage the sustainable development of mountain areas, and to ensure that decision-making processes include the full participation of mountain people.” read more

UNbacked meeting in Morocco to focus on modernizing governments

The Fourth Global Forum on Reinventing Government “will deliver a strong message in favour of good governance and partnerships for democracy and development,” said Guido Bertucci, director of the UN Division for Public Economics and Public Administration. “It will identify concrete means to improve functioning of the public sector and to redefine governance modes and priorities.”The Forum, to be held from 11 to 13 December, is expected to draw more than 1,200 participants from over 100 countries, including Prime Ministers Driss Jettou of Morocco, Rafiq Hariri of Lebanon and Apolo Nsibambi of Uganda. Other scheduled participants include Vice-President Atiku Abubakar of Nigeria, more than 40 government ministers and up to 20 mayors, along with governance experts and leaders from the corporate world and civil society.Mervat Tallaway, the Executive Director of the Beirut-based UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), is expected to represent UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the Forum, which will be held at the Palais des Congres.The Forum itself will be preceded by two days of intensive training sessions for high-level government officials, organized by the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs in partnership with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank, Transparency International and other institutions, with sponsorship from the Government of Italy. read more

Annan urgently appeals to Colombian rebel groups to release all kidnapped

Armed individuals who identified themselves as belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) seized Alan Jara, former Governor of the Department of Meta, while he was riding in an official UN vehicle with the world body’s Resident Coordinator, in connection with an important local development project.”The FARC is responsible for Mr. Jara’s physical well-being and should provide proof that he is alive to his family, which has wrongly suffered his forced absence,” said a statement released by Mr. Annan’s spokesman in New York.The Secretary-General urgently appeals to the FARC and others to release all those kidnapped and to stop this inhuman practice, it continued.”It is a gross violation of human rights and international humanitarian law that has inflicted terrible suffering on the Colombian people,” the statement said. read more

Annan congratulates Gorbachev on 10th anniversary of Green Cross International

In remarks sent to a dinner Tuesday honouring the former President of the Soviet Union and Nobel Laureate, Mr. Annan said, “It is little wonder that, 10 years ago, after playing a central role in the end of the Cold War, Mr. Gorbachev embraced a new challenge that is just as vital for the well being of humankind: creating a sustainable future by cultivating harmonious relationships between human beings and the environment. “Green Cross’s diverse programmes reflect Mr. Gorbachev’s unwavering commitment to peace, in particular by addressing the environmental causes and consequences of conflict,” Mr. Annan said. Green Cross International emphasizes, among other interests, environmental problems associated with conflict and with lack of adequate fresh water. read more

Fréchette urges collective international response to emerging security threats

Delivering the keynote address to the Canadian Club in Montreal, she said it is legitimate to ask whether existing collective security mechanisms – including the UN – can rise to the challenge posed by terrorism and other perils. In particular, she called attention to the role of international bodies in intervening in the domestic affairs of States when necessary to combat gross human rights violations, including genocide and ethnic cleansing.Contrary to the perception of some, she said, the UN is capable of adapting to new challenges and has already, in recent years, undergone significant reform in order to function more effectively. “The principles which guide us have also evolved,” she said.Offering examples of recent successes, she cited the UN’s role in fostering East Timor’s independence, its help with Afghanistan’s political transition, and its complex operations in African countries such as Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”The UN has also been very active in addressing terrorism and weapons of mass destruction – and its role in that effort is more important than is usually recognized,” she said, pointing to the establishment of the Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee.But the UN has reached a critical juncture, the Deputy Secretary-General asserted. “We have to be able to fashion collective responses to challenges such as those posed by Iraq or Al-Qaida, just as we have to deal better with mass killings such as we saw in Rwanda and Srebrenica.”Towards that end, she noted that Secretary-General Kofi Annan has created a High-Level Panel to examine these issues and make concrete proposals to strengthen the international system. “We need to come out of this review with a stronger consensus within the international community on the principles and rules which must govern the pursuit of peace and security, as well as the political will to bring whatever improvement might be required to our collective mechanisms and institutions,” she said.She also called on the international community to uphold the Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty and to address HIV/AIDS. read more

Iraqi people must control electoral process UN official

A United Nations elections expert just back from Iraq emphasized today that the country’s people must have control of the polling process, and that a secure environment and adequate resources were essential to the balloting’s success.According to Iraq’s Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), elections are set to take place no later than 31 January 2005. Voting would be held for the councils at the governorate level, the National Assembly of Kurdistan and the Iraqi National Assembly.Speaking to reporters in New York, Carina Perelli, Director of the UN Electoral Assistance Division, outlined the process of creating “a totally new, independent electoral authority” that would enjoy legitimacy among the Iraqi people and have full autonomy, including the ability to manage its own budget.She welcomed the Iraqi Governing Council’s recent full endorsement of the UN’s recommendations in this regard, which were also accepted by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) as well as all social and political actors contacted by the UN.A board of seven commissioners plus one director-general will head the institution, Ms. Perelli said, stressing that those individuals must be independent.The UN mission that she led to Iraq last month heard “the outcry of the population in terms of having more participation in the decision-making processes and being more involved,” Ms. Perelli said.In response, the UN had created a process allowing the community to nominate the seven individuals. Once the process of nominations is completed, the UN will undertake a technical evaluation of the candidates, followed immediately by the establishment of a shortlist of 20 names for the commissioners and five names for the position of director. Those people would then be interviewed.The UN will also name an international commissioner, but that person would have a “voice but no vote because this has to be a fully Iraqi process,” she said.Concerning security, she acknowledged that “there has been a deterioration of conditions in Iraq,” but pointed out that “once you launch an electoral process, particularly if the citizenry starts to believe and take ownership in the process, then the capacity of what we call ‘political security’ – which is basically people fighting for the right to have that election – also occurs.”If all these decisions are taken in open discussion with the communities and if people feel that basically their interests have also been taken into consideration it might affect the security situation,” she observed.”Of course, elections under the gun, and elections with bullets and mortars and shelling, are not two things that go together hand-in-hand – that is obvious,” she added.She said the overall cost of elections was currently projected at $250 million to $260 million, but the figure would be adjusted depending on the decisions of the independent electoral authority. read more

UN peacekeepers face armed groups and street gangs in Haitian capital

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Haiti, Juan Gabriel Valdés, told UN Radio last night that he met again with interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue and other senior officials to discuss how to better control the situation.”I am more optimistic now on how we will manage in the future to ensure more efficiently the protection of civilians,” Mr. Valdés said in an interview given in French. But he warned that the situation remains volatile, especially as the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has deployed only 40 per cent of its troop numbers so far.Later this month, contingents from China and Pakistan are expected to bolster the international police force in Haiti, while military contingents from Morocco, Spain and Ecuador are scheduled to arrive by the middle of November.Mr. Valdés said political reconciliation between the major forces, dialogue with the former military and the disarmament of armed gangs were essential if Haiti, already battered by dire poverty, instability and the deadly effects of Tropical Storm Jeanne last month, is to overcome its latest problems.Last Thursday several police officers were killed during violent protests by supporters of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Four leaders of his Fanmi Lavalas political party were arrested by police at the weekend.Mr. Valdés stressed that MINUSTAH will do its utmost to establish constructive dialogue between the interim Government and the armed groups and to encourage economic opportunities across the country. read more

Robots are taking an increasing number of jobs new UN report says

In the home, by the end of 2003, about 610,000 autonomous vacuum cleaners and lawn-mowers were in operation, the report says. Between 2004 and 2007, more than 4 million new units could be added, it adds.The survey, called World Robotics 2004 and produced by the ECE and the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), says the prices of the robots in proportion to human labour costs has fallen from 100 in 1990 to 15 for “radically improved robots” in Germany and to 12 of similarly high quality in North America.The report was produced for a conference at the UN complex in Geneva today called “A Robot in Every Home?” accompanied by a robot exhibition on the lawn there.”Falling or stable robot prices, increasing labour costs and continuously improved technology are major driving forces which speak for continued massive robot investment in industry,” says Jan Karlsson, who is responsible for the annual survey.Right now Japan uses about 320 robots of all sorts per 10,000 employees, while Germany uses 148 industrial robots per 10,000 robots, Italy 116, Sweden 99 and between 50 and 80 each in the United States, Finland, France, Spain, Austria, Denmark and Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.In the car industry, there is one robot per 10 workers in Japan, Italy and Germany, it says.Among the service robots, “medical robots, underwater robots, surveillance robots, demolition robots and many other types of robots for carrying out a multitude of tasks are doing very well,” the report says.In the long run, service robots will be everyday tools for mankind, the ECE and IFR say. “They will not only clean our floors, mow our lawns and guard our homes but they will also assist old and handicapped people with sophisticated interactive equipment, carry out surgery, inspect pipes and sites that are hazardous to people, fight fire and bombs and be used in many other applications.” read more