InFocusOn the second edition of a three-part series about child and family services (CFS) on InFocus, Host Melissa Ridgen talks with parents who found themselves targets of CFS agencies and how they beat. or continue to fight they system.Stacy Owl lost her five children two years ago on the word of a tipster whom she had never met.A woman had called CFS accusing Owl of being a “crackhead” and running a meth lab.Owl and her family were moving from Alberta to Ontario and stopped a in a motel near the First Nation where Owl grew up.Police and CFS workers swooped in the next day and seized the kids on the basis of what the tipster told authorities back in Alberta.So began her family’s nightmare“They just ripped them out of my hands,” Owl said. “So I’m crying and they’re telling me it’s because I’m withdrawing from drugs.“You’re ripping my babies out of my arms and telling me nothing.”Owl immediately went to a hospital for drug tests which the agency brushed off and said they’d do their own in due time.For three months her kids were in care while she had to prove she doesn’t use crack and doesn’t have a meth lab.“All this time, they’re drilling me about their personal baby stories, making a file for all of them.” Owl said. “I asked them why are they asking all these personal questions when those are my memories and my babies’ memories to keep, not for anybody else to share. They said, ‘oh just in case they get adopted out.’“I asked why are you adopting my kids?”When she finally got them back after the allegations were deemed baseless, the agency gave her $1,500 in gift cards.She said she felt it was hush money to leave and tell no one about the ordeal.She asked for records of the file and has been denied.APTN Investigates reporter Kevin Nepitabo dug into the apprehension rates in Saskatchewan.70 per cent of kids apprehended in that province are identified as Indigenous.Nepitabo wanted to find out how this affects the children and the parents, and why indigenous families are most targeted by the CFS industry..“I new the basics of CFS,” Nepitabo said. “I knew children were being apprehended by CFS but I didn’t know the horror stories behind it. Like going out there and hearing parents talk about their children being apprehended, that was very hard to do.You don’t realize how much emotional impact is has on the parents and especially the child. It was very hard to hear this stuff, and I still think about it.“There is a lot of work that needs to be done in fixing it,” he said. “From all the stories I heard it seems like its a broken system. One example would be, there was a 22 month old boy who passed away in care. When CFS went to inform his mother of the boy’s death, of course she would be hysterical. And I guess she broke down, fell on the ground crying and they told her to get up or they are going to have to call the police.“So this is how people are being treated in the system.”You can watch Kevin Nepitabo’s investigates story Apprehended, on Friday Feb. 1, on APTN.Here’s a link to a preview: Apprehended
WASHINGTON – A moment of truth approaches in the NAFTA negotiations, with the coming days likely to reveal not only whether an agreement is achievable this year, but also how extensive such an agreement might be.Even participants at the negotiating table profess to be in suspense about how the United States will proceed, should it finally secure its much-coveted deal on autos.One thing everyone appears to agree on is that if a pact doesn’t happen soon, the prospects of one happening this year dim considerably: U.S. trade czar Robert Lighthizer has pegged the window at one or two weeks.Autos will be the first order of business when ministers gather Monday in Washington, in an effort to seal an agreement before elections in Mexico and the U.S. Congress slow the process.Any potential agreement hinges on the ability of Mexico and the U.S. to bridge a key ideological gap: in an effort to steer manufacturing north, the U.S.’s latest demand is that 40 per cent of every car be produced in high-wage jurisdictions, with some credit for spending on research.Mexico is set to deliver a counter-offer.The great unknown is what happens next, if the U.S. and Mexico make peace on the auto file. Would the U.S. stick to a series of hardline positions, or rush through the rest to wrap everything up?”That … probably is the crux of what happens next,” said one person familiar with the talks.”One does not know … how the next week will play out.”More than a half-dozen groups have been meeting in recent days to try clearing the non-controversial issues off the table, so the ministers can focus on the hardest political trade-offs.For example, one group met to discuss customs procedures, but avoided the toughest of all customs issues: online purchases and whether Canada will move its meagre $20 duty-free level closer to the U.S.’s $800 limit.One person who has closely followed the career and methods of U.S. trade czar Robert Lighthizer believes he is now deploying two textbook tactics in pursuit of a deal.The first is to create a deadline threat. This person, who asked to remain anonymous, calls the tactic, ”the death machine” — where some fearsome fate awaits your counterpart, in the absence of a deal. In this case, steel and aluminum tariffs are set to kick in June 1.The second is to make a bunch of difficult demands, some of which truly matter and some of which are a bluff, a thing to be traded off.This person suspects Lighthizer’s true goals involve autos, and the dispute-resolution systems under chapters 11 and 19 — and that the other, more expendable, demands involve dairy and duty-free purchases.”Bob is a good negotiator,” this person said. ”He uses the methods of a good negotiator.”He predicts the biggest confrontation with Canada will involve Chapter 19 — which Lighthizer has long resented as a violation of U.S. sovereignty, but which was a do-or-die issue for Canada in the original NAFTA, allowing companies like softwood-lumber producers to fight punitive duties.Other U.S. industries say their causes cannot be ignored.The pharmaceutical industry wants changes in the way drug prices are set; it wants more transparency and appeal rights, as well as longer patent-style protections on biologics treatments.The industry has powerful support in the U.S. Congress. Its most famous backer, Sen. Orrin Hatch, leads one of the two key committees that would be responsible for driving through any NAFTA implementing legislation before the current Congress leaves office.”Intellectual property remains a very high priority for (the administration),” said trade lawyer Brian Pomper, who works on such issues.”And that’s not dissimilar, to be honest, from lots of other (U.S.) administrations. You know, IP is not a partisan issue.”Pomper, a former counsel on the committee Hatch now leads, suggests an agreement in the next month could theoretically get to a vote well before the current Congress wraps up in December if lawmakers like the deal and move quickly, or if the arm’s-length U.S. International Trade Commission manages to complete a review ahead of deadlines.”You can do it pretty quickly,” Pomper said.”(But) if Congress has concerns about it, as you saw with (the Trans-Pacific Partnership in 2016), that could really delay consideration.”One trade consultant says there’s another reason the U.S. might be in a hurry. It arose thousands of kilometres away this week in Beijing where, amid looming threats of a U.S.-China trade war, the two countries failed to reconcile their differences.With this potential clash of economic titans approaching, Eric Miller said the U.S. trade team is short-staffed. That means Lighthizer’s team can’t afford to spend much more time focusing on Canada and Mexico.”The push for a NAFTA deal is going to be there next week,” Miller said.He said the U.S. will either accept modest changes and reach a deal, or let NAFTA sit unfinished for the year.“Either way, it’s going to be a lot more China and a lot less North American on the U.S. agenda in the coming months.”
CALGARY – TD Bank says Alberta’s battered economy is headed in the right direction, but warns there are still a number of hurdles that could hinder recovery.A report released Thursday by deputy chief economist Derek Burleton is predicting economic growth between two and 2 1/2 per cent for Alberta in the next year which follows an increase of nearly 4.9 per cent in 2017.“It was a nice bounce back last year, but growth is settling down this year and we’re of the mind that you’re gonna get a continued moderate growth run over the next couple of years as the economy kinds of settles down,” Burleton said in an interview.“I don’t think many were anticipating a heroic recovery despite the fact that the recession was quite deep. Oil production should grow despite some of the challenges in terms of pipelines. That’ll get us two per cent which is not heroic.”Burleton said Alberta’s economy is within a year of returning “home” — a term used to characterize full recovery from a recession. However, it could be another two years before the job market fully recovers.“Employment is back to where it was pre-recession, but a lot of the jobs are self-employment, more of a freelance type,” he said.“Employers are kind of slow to bring back hiring and part of that does reflect the lacklustre investment outlook over the next couple of years.”The report also notes that government hiring, primarily in the health and education sectors, rose by nearly 10 per cent. Private sector jobs fell by five per cent during the recession.Burleton said the lack of investment in Alberta, particularly in the oil and gas sector, remains a concern.“I think that’s the Achilles heel for recovery so far. It is basically the missing element,” he said.“Investment is not going to be catching fire soon. We’re not anticipating a lot of growth over the next few years and clearly there are some hurdles there.”Burleton said Alberta could reassert itself as a leader in growth, but only if it deals with inadequate pipeline capacity, regulatory hurdles, and eliminating the government’s budget deficit.“We still are of the mind that the economy will reassert itself,” he said. “It may be a bit at odds given the timing of this report just after the Trans Mountain decision and some of the concerns around the oil and gas sector.”Late last month the Federal Court of Appeal quashed cabinet approval of the Trans Mountain expansion project.The forecast says there is reason for optimism, including the resiliency of global oil demand and limited supply outside of Alberta, and decreasing production costs.Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter
LONDON — Lawyers say the taxi hailing app Uberhas lost its appeal against a ruling that its drivers should be classed as workers in a case with broad implications for the gig economy.Law firm Leigh Day says Britain’s Court of Appeal upheld an earlier ruling that found the company’s drivers are workers, not independent contractors and therefore should receive the minimum wage and paid holidays. Uber is expected to appeal.Though the company argued that the case applies to only two drivers, Uber has tens of thousands of drivers in the U.K. who could argue they deserve the same status as the former drivers covered by decision. The court says some 40,000 drivers use the platform in the U.K., though the company said the number had grown since the submission to 50,000.The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — Prices for daily tickets, parking and annual passes have been raised up to 25 per cent at Disneyland Resort ahead of the scheduled opening of a Star Wars-themed expansion.Less than a year ago, the resort increased prices by up to 18 per cent. Now, the cheapest daily ticket will cost more than $100.The Los Angeles Times reports price increases in recent years have not thinned the throngs at Disneyland and nearby California Adventure Park.More visitors are expected for this summer’s opening of the expansion called “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.”Spokeswoman Liz Jaeger says the resort offers a variety of tickets while helping manage demand and spread visitation.Disney representatives said more days would be blocked out for most annual passes compared to last year but didn’t provide more specifics.The Associated Press
So far, over the weekend, the Cadets have raised approximately $15,000 for the poppy campaign.Nicoll hopes this trend will continue throughout the campaign and he feels that it all depends on the day and location of where the cadets are campaigning.This year’s campaign goal is to raise $45,000, up $10,000 more than last year’s campaign.The Canadian Legion invites everyone across the country to show their recognition and respect by proudly wearing this symbol of Remembrance and taking a moment to reflect. From now to November 11 the City of Fort St. John will also fly a Poppy Campaign Flag at City Hall.Remembrance Day ceremonies in Fort St. John takes place Sunday, November 11, with a parade at 10 a.m. starting at the legion. A service will follow in the legion auditorium. FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The annual Remembrance Day Poppy Campaign is going strong in the first half of this year’s fundraiser.Capt. Greg Nicoll of the Fort St. John Army Cadets, says the campaign is off to a great start.“We’ve been doing very well. Good turnout from the cadets and the public has been really generous”, said Nicoll. Each year the Legion relies on volunteers to help sell poppies at stores all around the community. For more info or to volunteer call Tina at 250-261-9996.
The planning and organizing of the event have been led by President, Darren Snider and Vice President, Dee Ann Stickle and 14 Directors and 100 Volunteer Chairs have been working to bring the event together.The Winter Games Society will require a large number of volunteers to see that the games run as planned, the intention is to have 2000 volunteers to facilitate one volunteer for every one athlete participating in the games. With the training required, there will be a new level of trained and enhanced skill of community volunteersThe Society for the Winter Games will make their first recruitment for volunteers at the FSJ Tradeshow at booth #262, April 5th to 7th, 2019.For more information; CLICK HEREOfficial announcement; CLICK HEREFSJ Tradeshow; CLICK HERE FORT ST JOHN, B.C. – City Council presented the Winter Games 2020 Society with $50,000 as seed money to start planning initiatives for the 30th Winter Games.The games, to be held February 20-23, 2020, will bring an infusion of new faces and economic support to Fort St. John as the City will host 2000 para-athletes, Special Olympians, able-bodied athletes and their coaches.The estimated economic impact to the City will be an approximate $1.6 million. Impacts on FSJ will not only be financial yet will include opportunities to come together and celebrate the pride of the community.
“We have a limited amount of summer up here and it’s something that the province needs to start taking a serious look at its provincial campgrounds and earmarking some serious funding to get these boat launches up-to-date and specifically, the Charlie Lake Boat Launch so people can have access to that lake.”According to Davies, in a reply from the Government, the Ministry is currently working with the Peace River Regional District to get the boat launch revitalized and open to the public.In the meantime, while the District and Province are in talks, Davies says he will continue to apply pressure to get the boat launch open as soon as possible, preferably this summer.The next step for B.C. Parks and the Regional District is to look at the associated costs when it comes to repairing or replacing the boat launch. FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Local MLA Dan Davies is calling on the Province for a resolution in regards to the closure of the Charlie Lake boat launch.On April 25, Davies had sent a letter to the Ministry of Environment asking them to open the boat launch for the season.Davies says it is important to get the boat launch repaired and re-opened soon as there is a small window of time for the boating season.
London: Brent North Sea crude hit a six-month high above $75 per barrel Thursday on supply concerns that have been worsened by the United States tightening the screw on sanctions-hit Iran. Brent for delivery in June jumped to $75.42 per barrel, the highest level since late October. Oil’s other main contract, WTI, reached a six-month peak at $66.16 per barrel. The US removal this week of waivers that allowed countries to buy from sanctions-hit Iran is expected to hit oil supplies, though analysts are keeping watch on the region and whether OPEC responds by opening up the taps. Also Read – Thermal coal import may surpass 200 MT this fiscalOil prices had already enjoyed a strong recovery this year, with output capped by Russia and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Crude futures have won support additionally on unrest in OPEC members Venezuela and Libya. “The US government’s decision not to extend the exemptions from the Iranian sanctions… is still having after-effects,” analysts at Commerzbank said in a note to clients after Brent surpassed $75 per barrel. Oil kingpin Saudi Arabia meanwhile on Wednesday said it had no immediate plans to raise oil output to offset the move by Washington. Also Read – Food grain output seen at 140.57 mt in current fiscal on monsoon boostSaudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih insisted that global oil inventories continued to rise despite unrest in Venezuela and the tougher US action. Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday called the end of oil sanction waivers by the United States a “hostile measure” that “won’t be left without a response”. “US efforts to boycott the sale of Iran’s oil won’t get them anywhere. We will export our oil as much as we need and we intend,” his official English-language Twitter account said, quoting from a speech he delivered to workers in Tehran. The United States on Monday said it would halt the practice of exempting countries including India, China and Turkey from sanctions on purchases of Iranian oil. In May last year, US President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal with world powers, which had given the Islamic republic sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme. Around 0900 GMT, Brent North Sea crude traded at 75.23 per barrel, up 66 cents from Wednesday’s close. WTI gained 21 cents at 66.10 per barrel.
Chennai: Chennai Super Kings (CSK) coach Stephen Fleming rues the fact that his team has not been able to make full use of the powerplays and score at a brisk rate in the first six overs in the ongoing edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). In Qualifier 1 against Mumbai Indians, Chennai made an awful start as they managed to post 32/3 in the powerplay overs on a slow-turning Chepauk Stadium, here on Tuesday. Even in the previous games of this season, CSK were not able to make optimum use of the powerplay overs. They have averaged about 37 runs in the first six overs, managing to score in excess of 50 on just two occasions. Shane Watson, who was in tremendous form in 2018 (555 runs at a strike rate of 154.59), has not been able to deliver this year in the way CSK would have wanted. He has scored 268 runs at a strike rate of 121.26, including 11 dismissals in the powerplays. His opening partner Faf du Plessis has had a mixed IPL 2019, scoring 320 runs in 10 games at a strike rate of 118.95. Suresh Raina and Ambati Rayadu have scored 364 and 261 runs at strike rates of 126 and 93.54, respectively. Only MS Dhoni has been able to score at a brisk rate, amassing 405 runs in 13 matches at a strike rate of 135, which is low compared to his standards. “Yeah it [pacing the innings] is tough. There’s the problem we’re finding – we’re so far behind in the powerplays. We’re doing things right from overs 6 to 20, the run rate today I think was 7 and [then] 10 [in the last six overs]. We’re getting the right runs there, [but] we are just finding ourselves behind in the powerplays,” said Fleming at the post-match presser. Fleming believes a score of 40 or more would be more than sufficient in order to set up a competitive totals on slow and sluggish wickets like that of Chennai. “You run the risk if we over-attacked in the middle in those conditions, you can find yourself bowled out for 100. So you have got to have an element of safety. By the time you get that, it’s around about 14 overs, from there we were able to go at 10 an over [CSK scored at 8-an-over in the last six overs] which got us through to a competitive score,” Fleming insisted. “But we need to have more balance in the first six..around 40 would be nice. That may get you to a score of 150-160 which can be a match-winning score. We’re just falling behind at different stages but it’s the first six that’s holding us back when we lose wickets. Maybe in case we just throw the shackles off and have a crack in the next game, and see if we can just get ourselves into form and confidence,” he added. Chennai will get another shot at the title clash as they will face the winner of the Eliminator between Delhi Capitals and Sunrisers Hyderabad in Qualifier 2 on Friday.
The fall of Vidyasagar’s bust was not merely a consequence of political vendetta – it was the peak of weeks-long, ruthless muscle-flexing that has been attacking the sensibilities symbolised by the bust and indeed represented by the rest of Bengal. 17 rallies were held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi across Bengal, unprecedented for a prime minister, while 18 were held by BJP chief Amit Shah – the desperation to snatch West Bengal from chief minister Mamata Banerjee seems all so real. While always politically relevant, Bengal has never attracted the lotus’s attention as today. The incessant throw of jibes, circulation of rumours and sporadic instances of violence have irked the ordinary Bengali voter, for whom dark days of democracy had been pushed to the past with the quiet resignation of CPIM. But why Bengal – when all 29 states of the country are preparing for the same Lok Sabha polls, why has Bengal grabbed attention unlike any other? The answer lays hidden in thin layers of insecurity carefully concealed behind a facade of empty political rhetoric. BJP is losing ground in its bastions and the prospects of Bengal makes it all too greedy. Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Bihar and Gujarat, states that had contributed almost all their seats to BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, today show signs of apprehension. In fact, every state that has endured the bitter aftertaste of BJP’s fundamentalist rule is jittery to have the saffron party back at Centre. Bengal then presents a most lucrative opportunity with no memory of harsh communal administration. Incidentally, Bengal also contributes the third highest number of members to the Lok Sabha (42) and currently presents a most ripe political vacuum in the absence of any opposition to Mamata Banerjee’s solo show. For the power hungry, this culmination of reason and opportunity makes Bengal irresistible. Saffron is the new red Decimated in 2011 by Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC), CPIM vanished. Suddenly, from being the blood that flowed through the veins of every Bengali, they were invisible ashes on a set horizon. But, not entirely. They were still lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce on their target – a woman from the streets who had refused to succumb to their masculine authority. CPIM workers harnessed deep vendetta for Banerjee and today, they are flocking to BJP ‘to teach her a lesson’. While many communist workers left the party, the more ambitious still craved political relevance. BJP, known to never miss an opportunity at manipulation, came to their rescue. Today, Khagen Murmu, a sitting CPIM MLA, is contesting for BJP from Malda North constituency, while several other constituencies including Cooch Behar, Alipur Duar, Raiganj, will see CPIM workers voting in favour of BJP to defeat Banerjee, their one true enemy. Last week, former Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and former Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar spoke out, requesting CPIM workers to not sway towards BJP, but it seemed all too feeble all too late. While BJP has come to hopeless CPIM workers’ rescue, they have duly paid back their favour. BJP was facing a severe shortage of candidates to assign across 42 seats and booth workers too were virtually amiss. Those that came to the party lacked ideological inclination or discipline that was once central to karsevaks. This was visible in their dwindling performance too; while in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls BJP managed 17 per cent votes, in the 2016 assembly polls, their share fell to 10 per cent. But now, CPIM workers have come to aid them across districts, courting earlier communist sympathisers towards the communal camp. BJP provided them succour as they became its silver living in an otherwise cloudy Bengal sky. Propaganda politics BJP’s Bengal Bachao Andolan relies entirely on a triangle of repeating falsehoods, inciting sporadic violence and luring people, whether workers or voters, with copious amounts of money. “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it and even you will come to believe it yourself,” Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf, an ideology practised widely by him and his closest aide, Reich Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels. Goebbels has found a friend in our ruling Centre today that has quickly abandoned its Bapu-fanaticism in perhaps its most exhaustive scope. Carrying Gandhi’s symbolic glasses in a cleanliness campaign is far less relevant than adopting his political philosophies that were so very evolved even for today’s time. Narendra Modi and Amit Shah do not believe so. They believe in Goebbels and have well-appropriated him across their Bengal campaign to malign Banerjee, her governance and her purported clasp on Hindu practices. “Durga Puja is now in danger due to Didi’s appeasement politics,” Narendra Modi bellowed in Midnapore, not realising that this one statement of provocation would prove quite costly. Unlike the rest of the country, Bengalis are not a believing lot. Early recipients of the Renaissance, Bengalis question what they are told, fight for they believe and choose their ideologies without fear of persecution. Durga Puja, to the contrary, has been Banerjee’s weapon to connect with Bengal, empowering local communities with cash compensation, supporting their puja festivities and organising a grand carnival that witnesses guests from across the globe. Durga Puja is today an internationally-recognised event and only a most irrational leader would think of thwarting its essence in Bengal, Ma Durga’s home. And, Banerjee is no fool. Modi’s lie was shamed when Mamata addressed her rally, asking, “Now, tell me mothers & sisters, do we have Durga Puja or not?” Crowd: We do! “Does anyone stop you from celebrating Durga Puja?” Crowd: No! “Louder, does Durga Puja take place here?” Crowd (in roars): Yes! “Saraswati Puja?” Crowd: Yes! “Boro din (Christmas)?” Crowd: Yes! “Ramzan?” Crowd: Yes! “Chhath Puja?” Crowd: Yes! “But there’s only one thing that doesn’t happen here – Modi. Modi hoy na… BJP hoy na, mithya hoy na, kutsha hoy na.” (Modi, BJP, lies and character assassination don’t happen here) Goebbels’s propaganda was defeated by a woman from the streets – who has risen from the ranks, fought against brutal communist rule and overthrown a 34-year-old regime to occupy the chief ministerial seat with conviction – and her faith in the power of Gandhian truth (the one so voraciously preached but never practised by our saffronists). Blood for blood “Even Kashmir has less violence than Bengal,” Narendra Modi roared again, pointing a stout finger at Banerjee without noticing the four more pointing right back at him. Unsurprisingly, until BJP was lured by Bengal’s prospects, the state witnessed relative calm. In fact, the Election Commission (EC), by now sharing an uncanny resemblance with Mahabharat’s Gandhari, has been compelled to file an FIR against two BJP candidates – Babul Supriyo and Arjun Singh. Imagine what they must have done for EC to finally take a brave peek outside the darkness of its blindfold. Arjun Singh, earlier TMC leader and now Ram-bhakt, had been accused of spreading hooliganism with a section of CISF personnel who were later replaced by EC in view of their actions. Even more surprising is the case of Tripura where two seats have witnessed unparalleled violence and re-polls have been ordered across 168 booths, 10 per cent of the pool. Here, booths were ransacked, CCTV cameras were broken and an Election Commission officer was suspended. The extent of false polling was appalling even for EC, which ordered a re-poll to only meet the same fate again. But, in Bengal, despite the widely popularised violence, polling has been reordered in only six booths, 0.014 per cent of the total. That elections were ordered across seven phases in Bengal and over 800 companies of central forces were deployed to the state indicate that violence was expected and for that, the state police machinery needed to be crippled. In fact, it was a most integral part of the Bengal Bachao Andolan led by messiah Modi and saviour Shah. Violence has been their weapon – whether in Gujarat in 2002 or across Alwar, Una, Assam, Kerala through 2014-2018 or in Bengal in 2019. Communally yours Bengal has never allowed communally polarisation. BJP has naturally failed miserably here with its vote bank largely comprising migrant traders. It held two municipal seats in Burrabazar but that too received a jolt when its leader Shantilal Jain joined TMC. This desperation of losing existing ground in Bengal while also being threatened by the collapse of traditional bastions elsewhere convinced BJP that an aggressive campaign was the most potent means of making inroads into the state. For this, virulent social media campaigns have been conducted focusing mostly on spreading lies about Mamata’s purported Muslim appeasement and sheltering of goons. With close to 30 per cent Muslims in the state, Banerjee as chief minister has ensured that her policies reach the most marginalised, whether in providing food grain subsidies, access to resources or education to the girl child. What BJP terms as appeasement is indeed equanimity in the distribution of state resources. When BJP says that Banerjee appeases Muslims, it indeed questions why Banerjee provides resources to Muslims who, for BJP, are not ‘Indian’ enough to gain access to the realm’s means. BJP fails to realise that the Bengal brand of Hinduism is distinct from its cow-belt counterpart. Here, Gods eat meat and encourage people to consume meat. In fact, second-generation Gujaratis and Marwaris living in Bengal too enjoy the cosmopolitan eating habits of the state, relishing their occasional chicken cutlet and fish kobiraji. In UP, MP, Bihar and other Hindi heartland states, the idea of a vegetarian Ram may sell, but Bengalis would sacrifice little for their fish-eating Saraswati and meat-eating Kali. Money, media & mandate The dubious electoral bonds scheme has benefitted BJP unlike any other. Today, in terms of finance, it stands several heads above the rest. And, money is power. BJP has engaged in a vulgar distribution of money with the booth president of each booth receiving Rs 2 lakh in cash. Further, state BJP president Dilip Ghosh’s assistant was caught with Rs 1 crore cash in Asansol railway station while Ghatal candidate Bharti Ghosh was caught with over Rs 1 lakh. Funnily, the supporters who today rally with BJP largely do not belong to the state. They have been brought from outside with apt training in inciting violence and absolutely no love for the state’s heritage. Case in point – Tajinder Singh Bagga, who was caught during the Vidyasagar violence and had jumped to fame in 2011 after brutalising lawyer Prashant Bhushan’s office and slapping him in the name of ‘nationalism’. That’s not all, the chowkidars of our nation, including Sunil Deodhar and Hemanta Biswa Sarma, have booked numerous rooms at the luxurious five-star Taj Bengal to escape the heat of this poll season and perhaps guard their citizens with greater efficiency. Media, the other propeller of BJP’s wings, has also had its fair share of the Bengal cake. Several BJP sympathising journalists have been flown in from Delhi to write ‘ground reports’ that are in the least grounded. Rarely stepping out of their comfort, the journalists enjoy BJP’s luxury while publishing well-edited reports to further distort the narrative on national media. The attack has not evaded bureaucracy either. Former police commissioner Rajeev Kumar, already harassed by BJP, was transferred to the Home Ministry by Election Commission immediately after violence following Amit Shah’s rally on May 14. Further, former police commissioner Anuj Sharma, who served in the intermediary period after Kumar’s term ended earlier this year, was also transferred at the beginning of the elections and replaced by Dr Rajesh Kumar, former Officer on Special Duty to then UPA minister of railways from TMC and now poster boy of BJP in Bengal, Mukul Roy. Narendra Modi has emphasised with disdain that Mamata Banerjee shields goons, no doubt her party and parties across India harness politicians who aren’t particularly known for their clean slates. But, acting on its propaganda of manufacturing towering lies, BJP continues to accuse Mamata of ‘goondaraj’ while quietly purchasing her most aggressive leaders from the sidelines. Arjun Singh, Shankhudeb Panda, Anupam Hazra, Saumitra Khan are only a few examples of Mamata’s most passionate ‘goons’ who are now respected ‘bhadraloks’ adorning a saffron scarf. The tales of lies, harassment and horse-trading are exhausting. This week Vidyasagar’s bust fell – but let us only lament and learn. Bengal mustn’t succumb to communal forces that are beneath the dignity of emancipation envisaged in this state of Renaissance, intellectual ignition and active dissent. Amit Shah claimed that BJP will win 23 seats in Bengal – people of the state, including party workers, are apprehensive. In the absence of ground support, Shah has perhaps rightfully reposed his faith on the ever-so-elusive EVM. (The views expressed are personal)
Geneva – The World Trade Organization (WTO) sees Morocco as a crucial partner in Africa and appreciates the Kingdom’s contribution to its actions, said on Wednesday WTO director general Roberto Azevedo. The WTO chief was speaking at a meeting with Mohamed Aujjar who handed him his credentials as Morocco’s permanent ambassador in Geneva. Azevedo also commended the decisive role by Morocco, in its capacity as the African Group Coordinator in 2013, in ensuring the success of Bali ministerial conference last December. Morocco is attached to a bilateral economic policy through the conclusion of free trade agreements with leading economic actors as the USA and the EU, Aujjar said, voicing the country’s satisfaction with its partnership with the said organization and its wish to benefit from WTO’s expertize.
Kenitra – King Mohammed VI launched and visited, on Tuesday in Kenitra, important socio-economic projects that will turn the Gharb capital into a major development hub likely to have the effect of a lever on the region.The sovereign launched the construction works of a wastewater purification plant for the city of Kenitra and the communes of Mehdia and Sidi Taibi, and of the Kenitra regional hospital, and visited the integrated industrial platform (P2I) at the commune of Ameur Souflia (Kenitra province).Worth 600 million dirhams, the wastewater purification plant is basic to the city’s liquid purification system as it will ensure the purification of all wastewater by the city of Kenitra and the communes of Mehdia and Sidi Taibi before reaching the Sebou river. The future plant, which will meet international standards and use the latest technologies in wastewater treatment, will adopt the medium-loaded activated sludge process, with a capacity of treating 700,000 equivalent of inhabitants in 2020, and 1,050,000 equivalent of inhabitants by the year 2030.Built over 12 hectares, 7ha for the first phase and 5ha for future extension, the plant will produce 50% of its electric energy needs thanks to a biogas cogeneration sludge treatment chain and photovoltaic panels.This project is part of the implementation of the Kenitra province liquid purification program carried out over four stages (2004-2019) for an amount of 1.287 billion dirhams.As for the Kenitra regional hospital project (600 mln MAD), it is in line with the goals of the strategic plan for the province’s integrated and sustainable development (2015-2020), launched by the sovereign on Apr. 7 and which seeks to equip the Kenitra province with community-based social infrastructure that meet the citizens’ health care needs.With a capacity of 450 beds expandable to 600, the future hospital, which will benefit 1,840,000 inhabitants (52% in the rural area), will include four departments (mother-child, surgery, medicine, emergency-intensive care), high tech wards, checkup services, and a hemodialysis center.This hospital, whose construction will span 36 months, will ensure more complementarity in the region’s medical offer and decrease the congestion at the Rabat Avicenna university hospital center.On this occasion, the King handed three equipped SAMU ambulances to the health regional delegation. The sovereign also gave an equipped mobile medical unit and an ambulance to the Benmansour rural commune, as well as four ambulances to the Souk Larbaa El Ggharb city council and to the rural communes of Lalla Mimouna, Mograne and Sidi Mohamed Lahmer. The last five ambulances and the mobile medical unit were purchased under the national initiative for human development.As regards the integrated industrial platform (Atlantic Free Zone) which the monarch visited, it is part of the implementation of the national pact for industrial emergence, which consists of formalizing Morocco’s offer and capturing investment nationally and internationally.Located 10 Km away from the Kenitra city’s northern access point, the Atlantic Free Zone, whose building works were launched by the sovereign on Apr. 23, 2010, had, since the launch of the 1rst phase’s marketing late 2012, a great success with national and international economic operators with the creation of over 10,500 direct jobs and the generation of more than 2 billion dirhams of investment.This is one of the first new generation integrated industrial platforms which target the industry sector as car equipment, related activities, industrial logistics and industry supporting services (maintenance, study offices, business centers..).Stretching over a surface area of 345 hectares, including 192 ha developed in the first phase with a budget of 580 mln MAD, the Atlantic Free Zone comprises currently 20 marketed projects and 8 active units. These multiple nationalities units (Japan, USA, France, Tunisia and Austria) are specialized in the sectors of car industry (production of windshields, plastic components, cable and wiring harness manufacturing and assembly), metalworking industry and plastics manufacturing.The Atlantic Free Zone offers enterprises, which gained a foothold on its ground, attractive tax and customs measures. It puts at the investors’ disposal equipped plots of land, ready for use units, areas for offices, a logistical and an administrative zones, public and community-based facilities for trade and services.The platform project includes also a solar firm with a provisional production capacity of 3.418 GWh/year. This project (32 mln MAD) will use green energy to supply plants set up inside the platform with electricity.The second phase of the P2I Atlantic Free Zone will be launched after the marketing of 70% of the first phase.
Rabat – Morocco condemned Friday’s Israeli assault in the West Bank village of Douma, by extremist settlers who burnt to death a Palestinian infant after setting on fire the parents’ house.“Morocco condemns in the strongest terms this hate crime and holds the Israeli occupation fully responsible for all the systematic terrorist acts committed by Israeli settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories”, the Moroccan ministry of foreign affairs and cooperation says in a release.The Kingdom of Morocco “considers this violent aggression as a violation of the humanitarian law, a denial of human universal values and a desperate attempt to sap the morals of Palestinian and abort peace efforts”, the release goes on. Three members of the same family were seriously wounded early Friday morning when two masked men broke the windows of the home and threw two firebombs inside.
Washington – The United States and Iraq reaffirmed their attachment to a strong partnership that will enable the Iraqis to deal ISIS a lasting defeat, said the US department of Defense in statement on Wednesday. During a phone call between Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Iraqi Defense Minister Arfan al-Hayali, the two parties reiterated their commitment to a continued U.S.-Iraq cooperation and a strong partnership that will enable the Iraqis to deal ISIS a lasting defeat, it said.On this occasion, Secretary Mattis congratulated Minister Hayali on his new position and praised the Iraqis’ hard-won gains against ISIS- most recently in eastern Mosul. They also discussed planning for operations to liberate western Mosul, the same source added.
By Lerry HicianoRabat – Real Madrid has been criticized following their recent victory against Malaga after a video surfaced showing its players insulting members of opposing teams.Madrid members are heard shouting insults and obscenities in reference to FC Barcelona’s George Pique and Lionel Messi. With this weekend’s slate of games now over, Real Madrid have come out at the top of La Liga’s table. This marks the team’s record 33rd title, but only their second of the past 7 years. They defeated Malaga 0-2, and found playing away from home to be no issue.Having long remained in Los Galacticos’ rear-view mirror, Real Madrid’s players rejoiced at the win. But their excitement soon turned sour, as they devolved into mocking and threatening their competitors.What started on Malaga’s pitch only grew in size and excitement as time passed, and the Madrid players grew increasingly disrespectful towards their rivals, primarily Atlético, Barcelona, and Barcelona’s center back Gerard Piqué.The antics started with star midfielder James Rodriguez’ Instagram story showing the fesitivities on the team flight from Malaga. Throughout the video people are heard happily shouting “Pepe kill him,” in Spanish, a chant from Real Madrid’s radical supporter group, Ultra Sur.The chant is in reference to when Pepe, Real Madrid’s Portuguese star center back, stepped on Lionel Messi’s hand while the Argentine was laying on the ground.However the celebration only got uglier as the team arrived in Madrid, at the famous Plaza da Cibeles. Once there, two Madrid players reportedly began to lead the crowd, numbering in the several thousands, in various chants.One player, alleged to be Carvajal, began to shout, “Piqué, f–ker, greet the champion!” The rhyme was repeated by the majority of those in attendance, including Madrid captains Sergio Ramos and Marcelo. Isco later grabbed the microphone and shouted, “Barca F–kers.”Cross-town rivals Atlético Madrid, who Real Madrid defeated in both the 2014 and 2016 Champions League Final, were also ridiculed, as Isco once again shouted, “Indians [nickname for Atlético], tell me how it feels.”Some have also taken offense to Alvaro Morata’s slide tackle of a club official, who seemed to have taken it in good spirits. This is not the first time that Morata has used a slide tackle to celebrate a victory, having made the same move against manager Zinedine Zidane after August’s European Super Cup win over Sevilla.This serves as an unfortunate and embarrassing end for Real Madrid’s title run, although their season is not quite over, with their Champions League Final matchup against Juventus slated for June 3 in Cardiff, Wales.
PARIS — Carmaker Renault has alerted French authorities to a 50,000-euro gift from the chateau of Versailles to its former chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn.French newspaper Le Figaro reported that the chateau allowed Ghosn to host his wedding reception on its grounds in exchange for Renault’s donations to the Versailles estate, resplendent home to France’s last kings.Renault said in a statement Thursday that a company investigation found that Ghosn personally benefited from “an exchange worth 50,000 euros in the framework of a philanthropic accord” with Versailles. Renault said it was alerting French judicial authorities.French prosecutors and the Versailles chateau did not immediately comment.Renault started investigating Ghosn’s past activities after he was arrested in November in Tokyo, where he has been charged with falsifying financial reports and breach of trust. Ghosn denies wrongdoing.The Associated Press
Rabat- The UNHCR commissioner, Filippo Grandi, has said that Morocco sets an example in its immigration and asylum policy.At the 69th session of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) executive committee on Tuesday in Geneva, Grandi took the opportunity to review Morocco’s humanitarian initiatives and approach to asylum and immigration policy.Grandi made his remarks in an exchange with the permanent representative of Morocco to the UN in Geneva, drawing attention to the “excellent” cooperation between the North African country and UNHCR. Spain’s State Secretary for Migration Consuelo Rumi Ibanez has also described Morocco’s fight against irregular migration as “responsible engagement” during a two-day working visit to Morocco.Ibanez told Maghreb Arab Press (MAP) on Tuesday, October 2, that Morocco “needs support and financial assistance from the European Union” to address undocumented migration, and “Spain will be the voice of Morocco within Europe to ask for more support and financial aid.”The comments have come at the time when Morocco is combating the migration to Europe, not only of sub-Saharan Africans but also of Moroccan young people.The latest incident hitting the headlines, in which the Royal Moroccan Navy shot at a migrant boat in the Mediterranean and killed a 20-year-old woman, has drawn increased attention to migration in Morocco.Read Also: ‘The European Dream Is a lie:’ Spain Tells Morocco to Curb MigrationThe dream of reaching their El Dorado leads hundreds of Moroccans, both adults and minors, to northern Morocco in an attempt to find a route to Europe.According to Spain’s Ministry of the Interior, Moroccan nationals make up the highest number of the 38,000 migrants believed to have entered Spain in 2018.The Moroccan government is under pressure to find rapid solutions to confront the challenges of undocumented migration.In terms of asylum policy, Morocco has become a destination for refugees and migrants under its National Policy on Immigration and Asylum (NPIA), which was launched in September 2013 under the instructions of King Mohammed VI.
NEW YORK — Immigrants with specialized skills are being denied work visas or seeing applications get caught up in lengthy bureaucratic tangles under federal changes that some consider a contradiction to President Donald Trump’s promise of a continued pathway to the U.S. for the most talented foreigners.Though getting what’s known as an H-1B visa has never been a sure thing, immigration attorneys and employers who hire such workers say they’ve seen unprecedented disruptions in the approval process since Trump took office in 2017.“You see all these arguments that we want the best and the brightest coming here,” said John Goslow, an immigration attorney in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Yet we’re seeing a full-frontal assault on just all aspects of immigration.”For American businesses, it has a bottom-line impact.Link Wilson, an architect who co-founded a firm in Bloomington, Minnesota, said finding enough qualified workers within the U.S. has been a problem for years, in part due to a shortage of architects. He said employers who turn to international applicants do so as a last resort, putting up with legal fees and ever-expanding visa approval times because they have no other choice.“We’re just at the point where there’s no one else to hire,” said Wilson, who estimates his firm turned away about $1 million in projects last year because it didn’t have enough staff to handle them.Three months after taking office, Trump issued his “Buy American and Hire American” executive order , calling for H-1B changes to promote the hiring of Americans for jobs that might otherwise go to immigrants.Subsequent memos have allowed for greater discretion in denying applications without first requesting additional information from an applicant, tossed the deference given to people seeking to renew their H-1Bs, and raised concern that the government would revoke work permits for the spouses of H-1B holders. One order restricted companies’ ability to use H-1B workers off-site at a customer’s place of business, while another temporarily rescinded the option of paying for faster application processing.Attorneys who handle these applications say one of the biggest shifts is an increase in “requests for evidence,” or RFEs, from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. An RFE can delay a visa for months or longer as applicants and employers are forced to submit additional documentation over things such as the applicability of a college degree to a prospective job or whether the wage being offered is appropriate. If the responses are unsatisfactory, a visa may be denied.“They’re just blocking the avenues so that employers will get frustrated and they won’t employ foreign nationals,” said Dakshini Sen, an immigration lawyer in Houston whose caseload is mostly H-1B applications. “We have to write and write and write and explain and explain and explain each and every point.”USCIS data released on Friday shows an increase in the number of completed H-1B applications receiving an RFE, from about 21 per cent in the 2016 fiscal year to 38 per cent last fiscal year. The number continued to rise in the first quarter of this fiscal year, to 60 per cent.A growing number of applications with such requests were ultimately denied, while the approval rate among all applicants has fallen. Approvals also dipped in two other visa programs for foreign workers, including one for individuals with extraordinary abilities in areas such as science, sports and the arts.Jessica Collins, a spokeswoman for USCIS, linked the changes to the president’s executive order, saying the goal was to reduce “frivolous” petitions and that “it is incumbent upon the petitioner, not the government” to prove eligibility.Some employers note traditional three-year renewable terms of H-1Bs have also been changing; one lawsuit by an organization representing information technology companies claims some visas were valid for only a few days or had expired before they were even received.Trump has vacillated between criticizing H-1Bs as “substituting for American workers at lower pay” to expressing support, as he did last month, when he said he wanted to “encourage talented and highly skilled people to pursue career options in the U.S.”Caught in the crosshairs are workers like Leo Wang.Wang, 32, got into the University of Southern California, interned at a major venture capital firm and wasted no time after finishing his master’s before starting on another degree. His dream of a six-figure Silicon Valley job came true but disappeared quickly.Wang was working at Seagate Technology under an immigration provision known as Optional Practical Training, which gives those on student visas permission to work. But that expired last year, and because his H-1B application was in flux, he was forced to take a leave from Seagate and withdraw from the master’s program he was pursuing at Berkeley.He says he and his company dutifully responded to an RFE, compiling examples of his work at Seagate. But on Jan. 11, Wang got a final answer: He was denied an H-1B.This month, he returned to his native China.“I still believe in the American dream,” he says. “It’s just that I personally have to pursue it somewhere else.”___Sedensky can be reached at email@example.com or https://twitter.com/sedenskyMatt Sedensky, The Associated Press
BERLIN — The European Union’s executive branch is proposing that individual member countries drop their right to veto decisions on energy taxes, a move that could facilitate the introduction of a carbon tax across the whole bloc.The EU’s energy commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete, said Tuesday that no longer requiring unanimous votes would allow “the potential of energy taxation to foster the clean energy transition can be freed.”Approval of energy tax decisions instead would need a qualified majority, or 16 of the current 28 countries representing at least 65 per cent of the EU’s population.Scientists and economists say carbon pricing could become a key tool to reduce emissions from fossil fuels, but warn it needs to be applied in a way that doesn’t disadvantage some countries or sections of the population.The Associated Press