HALIFAX – Nova Scotia will eliminate the province’s seven English language school boards and remove principals and vice-principals from the teachers union as part of sweeping changes to the education system, the government announced Wednesday.Education Minister Zach Churchill said the Liberal government’s decision to adopt all 22 recommendations included in a report by consultant Avis Glaze will change the education system “for the better” and improve student success.The initial phase will see the province move on 11 recommendations, including the elimination of the elected boards.“Dr. Glaze has challenged us to take a hard look … and move forward in a way that is challenging and that is disruptive to the status quo,” said Churchill.He said the regional school boards will be replaced by a single appointed provincial advisory council, while the Acadian school board would remain intact, as recommended.Churchill said the details on dissolving the boards are still a work in progress and would have to wait until changes to the Education Act are tabled in the legislature.He said the intent is to have the new advisory council in place in time for the next school year in September. Churchill said there would be no layoff notices issued to central board staff, while cuts to the administrative structure of school boards would eventually occur through attrition.He said the change is needed to mend what’s become a fractured administrative system.“It has not allowed us to respond or adapt as quickly as we need to, to the changing and developing needs of our kids. By unifying that system operationally, I think that will give us a better opportunity to do that.”In a report released Tuesday, Glaze said Nova Scotia’s education system is not working as it should because of a “lack of clarity and coherence” and its administration should be aligned into a single model.Hank Middleton, president of the Nova Scotia School Boards Association, said while the boards realize change is needed, it shouldn’t be at the expense of the elected bodies.Middleton said the government is moving the province from “educational democracy to educational bureaucracy.”“This is a major change with long-term implications and no guarantee of saving any funding or giving people more voice,” he said. “It drives me crazy that in the province of Joseph Howe and responsible government we’re eliminating elected school boards.”However, Glaze’s report argues that the high number of acclaimed candidates and relatively low voter turnout make it difficult to argue school boards are “high-functioning models of local democracy.”Glaze said results from the October 2016 school board elections showed 63 per cent of candidates were acclaimed.“It would certainly be challenging to paint that as a portrait of a vibrant democracy in action,” she wrote.In recommendations that were dismissed by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, Glaze also called for a provincial college of educators aimed at giving teachers more professional standing and improving public confidence in the education system.She also said principals and vice-principals should be moved into a new professional association to eliminate the “conflict of interest” that exists with both management and employees being in the same union.Churchill said the government has the authority to make that change.“But I don’t want that to be interpreted to mean that we are not going to be working with them (the union) through the transition,” said Churchill.The minister said the government would likely make up any “shortfall” in union dues so as not to put it at a financial disadvantage.Union president Liette Doucet called the government’s offer of transitional help “insulting” and said the union will consider what options are available to fight the proposed change.“The union will not sell its members — we are not going to take a bribe from this government,” Doucet said.
CALGARY – Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says she wants the National Energy Board to act quickly to remove roadblocks on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project placed by the City of Burnaby, B.C.The city hasn’t issued necessary permits to allow Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd. (TSX:KML) to expand its pipeline from the Edmonton area to a tank farm and port in Burnaby.Trans Mountain wants the board to clear the work to begin on the project and Notley agrees.She says Burnaby is “overreaching extensively” and should not be allowed to hold up projects that are of national significance.Notley says the project has already been approved by both the federal and B.C. governments and she intends to continue making her arguments when she travels to British Columbia later this month.She also welcomes word that the Saskatchewan government says it has applied for intervener status in NEB hearings on the Trans Mountain pipeline project.
BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungarian rescuers say that preparations to raise a sunken tour boat out of the Danube River are mostly finished and the lifting of the wreckage is “not far” from happening.Rescue spokesman Nandor Jasenszky said Monday that wire straps to raise the Hableany (Mermaid) have been put in place by divers, with other arrangements still pending.Nineteen South Koreans and a Hungarian crewman are confirmed dead and eight people are still missing after a May 29 collision with a river cruise ship.Seven people were rescued after the nighttime crash at Budapest’s Margit Bridge.Police also said they would again inspect the Viking Sigyn, the cruise ship involved in the collision, which sailed on shortly after the crash but was back in Hungary, docked Monday at the town of Visegrad.The Associated Press
Deputy Speaker Thilanga Sumathipala has decided to resign from his Parliament post.Sumathipala made the announcement at a media briefing in Colombo today. The United National Party had then demanded that Sumathipala resign from his post as Deputy Speaker. (Colombo Gazette) The Sri Lanka Freedom Party member is was among 16 SLFP members who left the Government and sat with the opposition.Sumathipala had also voted in support of a no-confidence motion on Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, which was eventually defeated in Parliament.
The Los Angeles Kings were the top team in the NHL this season, according to the most predictive team statistic hockey’s analytics movement has to offer. Now they’re down two games to none against the San Jose Sharks in the playoffs, and in real danger of being eliminated in the first round. How rare is it to see a “fancystats” darling like the Kings fail this early in the chase for the Stanley Cup?First, a bit of background is in order. One of the major breakthroughs in hockey analytics came within the last five years, when analysts realized that instead of relying on conventional indicators like winning percentage or even goal differential, a team’s future performance could be more effectively predicted by its rate of puck-possession. One proxy measurement for this comes under the silly-sounding name “Fenwick close,” which measures the percentage of all even-strength shots taken by a team in its games, after adjusting for score effects. (Overall Fenwick looks at a team’s shots directed at the goal — including missed shots but excluding blocked shots — expressed as a percentage of the total shots in the game.)Since Fenwick became widely available in the 2007-08 season, the close measure has had an impressive résumé in the NHL postseason. From 2008 to 2010, two of the league’s top regular-season Fenwick close teams have won the Stanley Cup (Detroit in 2008 and Chicago in 2010) and a third came within a game of winning the trophy (Detroit in 2009). The track record for Fenwick close leaders after that is more spotty, with zero league finals berths among them, but those teams still advanced to the conference finals twice in three seasons. So in recent years, it’s pretty unheard of for a team like the Kings — this season’s Fenwick close No. 1 — to fall in the first round.But that’s only a six-season sample. What about similar teams before that? Unfortunately, we don’t have the data to compute Fenwick prior to 2007-08, but we can estimate it for older teams using regression analysis. As I and others have shown before with historical plus/minus in the NBA and historical QBR for NFL quarterbacks, if you want to estimate a newer metric for years before it was tracked, you have to find statistics that were tracked at the time and are correlated with the advanced metric in question (assuming the data meets the requirements for regression).After performing such an analysis on hockey stats website BehindTheNet’s Fenwick close sample from the 2007-08 through 2012-13 seasons, I found three conventional metrics that together explain roughly 88 percent of the variance in team Fenwick close:Shots-per-game differential: This one’s pretty obvious: Fenwick is, at its most basic level, a measure of how much a team outshoots opponents.Point percentage: This variable works as a proxy for score effects, which cause a team in the lead to go into a defensive shell, artificially suppressing its shot differential.Power-play goals-per-game differential: This factor essentially measures whether teams are getting more power plays than their opponents, in addition to the quality of a team’s power-play unit — both of which will affect SPG differential without affecting Fenwick.*(* Note: I didn’t use actual PP goals allowed when calculating the differential — the model works best when it uses the team’s real number of PP goals scored on the offensive side, but on the defensive side multiplies the league’s average PP percentage by the number of PP chances allowed by the team per game.)Here’s a plot of our estimated Fenwick close versus actual Fenwick close for the years in which Fenwick was recorded (the NHL average is always exactly 50 percent):As you can see, the results of the model track very closely with reality. That means the model can also give us a “most likely” Fenwick close for teams in seasons before BehindTheNet’s data was available (going back to 1987-88, which is as far back as NHL.com lists shots per game by team). We can also compute the probability that any given team would have been the NHL’s Fenwick close leader if the statistic had been kept during the season in question.Here’s a table summarizing the yearly league leader in Fenwick close each season going back to 1987-88, along with that team’s number of playoff wins. For years before 2007-08, I list the three teams most likely to have led the league in Fenwick close, as well as the probabilities that each in fact did. For pre-2008 seasons, the playoff win totals are weighted by the likelihood that a team was the NHL’s actual leader in Fenwick close.If the Kings do fall to the Sharks after only picking up a win or two, it would be a historically low performance for a Fenwick close leader. In just seven postseasons was it likely that the league’s Fenwick close leader won fewer than four playoff games, which would be indicative of a first-round series loss. And only one playoff year (1993) saw the weighted mean of likely Fenwick close leaders drop below 2.4 playoff wins. (If we assume the Kings and Sharks are evenly matched and the home team has the NHL’s standard 55 percent home-ice advantage in each remaining game, Los Angeles should only expect to win 1.8 games over the rest of the series.)Meanwhile, the median and mean number of playoff wins for Fenwick close leaders going back to 1988 is eight, enough to win a couple series.While leading the league in Fenwick close isn’t necessarily a guaranteed path to the Cup, Fenwick close leaders usually go relatively deep into the NHL playoffs. The Kings are hoping to keep that trend alive, but the odds are pointing to LA becoming one of the most disappointing advanced-stats favorites in a long time.
THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION has today voted in the subject of Dáil reform, making a number of recommendations including an enhancement of the Ceann Comhairle’s role, reform of committee membership and powers and a change to the whip system.Over the two days, members of the convention heard presentations from academics and specialists on the role and functions of Dáil Éireann and the challenges facing modern parliaments in Ireland and in other countries. Members include both politicians and members of the public.A panel discussion with former Taoiseach John Bruton and former Minister Noel Dempsey among others was held and today members were presented with a number of options:Reference to the Office of the Ceann Comhairle should be enhanced to give it more statusProvision for a secret ballot to elect the Ceann Comhairle be inserted into the ConstitutionInclude reference to Committees in the ConstitutionAmend Article 17.2 of the Constitution (relating to prior government approval for expenditure proposals)They also asked to vote on a number of changes to standing orders and parliamentary practices.Members voted in favour of all proposed changes. 88 per cent of members were in favour of a secret ballot to elect the Ceann Comhairle. A whopping 99 per cent of them voted to recommend that the Dáil Reform Committee should bring forward proposals for genuine reform, reflecting the convention discussion.Interestingly, 63 per cent said ‘family-friendly’ hours should be introduced for TDs.These were the results of votes on changes to committees:Click here for larger versionOn the issue of the whip system, 84 per cent said there should be more ‘free votes’ on Dáil and committee business and 68 per cent voted in favour of creating a procedure to allow TDs to make recommendations that involve a charge to the public purse.Chairman of the Convention Tom Arnold said “How Dáil Éireann does its business goes to the very heart of our democracy and throughout the weekend it was apparent that Convention members felt very strongly about the issue of Dáil Reform.”It is an exceptionally complex issue and members of the Convention heard a number of presentations from experts as well as drawing from the experience of former and presently sitting parliamentarians.“Proposed reforms were discussed and debated in the context of the affect they would have, if they could in fact end up weaken or strengthen government and the democratic process,” he added.Read: Middle East and African politicians to learn from Constitutional Convention>Read: Blasphemy offence should be replaced in the Constitution, says Convention>
Stay on target MovieBob Reviews: ‘Shadow’MovieBob Reviews: ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ Robin Hood is one of the worst movies I’ve watched this year. Before you go digging, most of the worst are things I didn’t end up having to review (did you know they remade Puppet Master? It was awful!) and it’s easily the stupidest by a country mile. But, in a dilemma that comes up more and more lately, it’s SO bad and SO stupid that I can’t honestly say I didn’t have a blast watching it. It absolutely sucks — it’s a hilariously incompetent, wrongheaded film on almost every level save that Otto Bathurst (late of Peaky Blinders) can apparently direct the heck out of an action sequence even if you don’t necessarily comprehend who’s supposed to be fighting who.We all kind of saw this coming, I realize: Nobody cared the last time they did Robin Hood as a feature and that was Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott reuniting to get sort-of back to Gladiator territory, they definitely weren’t going to care about a slightly overbudget BBC special ostensibly featuring Taron Edgerton fitting in one more action-guy part before that Elton John movie. But I don’t think anyone was sincerely expecting something that would end up so memorably botched — the kind of bad movie people end up talking about for years after, that fails because someone thought they had a big idea that nobody told them was a terrible idea until it was too late.The big idea in question: What if the legend of Robin Hood — already one of the most commonly-applied allegories for clashes of class and economic inequality — was even more head-slappingly obvious about it? Kicked-up for a Millennial audience not only with sexy young stars, strategically-diverse casting and a mandate to rework the characters and setting to be more like a 21st Century superhero story than most 21st Century superhero stories are already like Robin Hood stories in the first place; but also with familiar plot elements, characters and themes re-framed with specific blunt-force impossible-to-miss metaphorical reference to present-day political figures, social controversies, scandals, conspiracy theories, newsworthy events, etc.Remember the scene in Time Bandits where they meet John Cleese as the “real” Robin Hood and he’s talking about “redistributing wealth” like a modern-day Marixst/Socialist/whatever-you-like? It’s meant to be funny (and it is!) because that obviously only vaguely aligns with the “rob-from-the-rich” Robin Hood ethos and even if allowing for historical allegory that level of direct anachronism sounds absurd on its face. This Robin Hood didn’t get that message, though, and thus features Edgerton’s Robin of Locksley rallying his Merry Men with the same literal language (“It’s time we redistributed some wealth!”) in a scene clearly meant to be taken as serious and thoughtful.More absurd still, the movie seems to have no idea how stupid this all looks and sounds; going whole-hog on present-day classism allegory so unapologetically it feels like the first piece a preteen creative writing student comes up with after learning that “using famous stories as metaphors for modern issues” was a thing you were allowed to do. You can almost feel the tragically unselfconscious joy surging through the filmmakers as they land on each new reference point: “Robin Hood like Robin… HOODIE??” The proto-“Merry Men” managing to look like a medieval Antifa facing down royal guard wielding inexplicable wrought-iron SWAT Team riot shields, Nottingham miners looking like impoverished Virginia coal miners, bows and crossbows being wielded, edited and goosed-up with sound effects to come off more like machine guns, etc.The unquestioned centerpiece of this glorious idiocy: an extended Crusades sequence shot, edited, scored and even color-graded with unmistakable echoes of our universal film, TV and video-game visual-coding for the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars – featuring infantry-squads of archers conducting modern-style house-to-house urban warfare sweeps with longbows and arrows cocked and ready instead of rifles, then scattering amid a crossbow attack edited and foley’d to look and sound exactly like a machine-gun turret siege ending in “missile strike” aka catapult bombardment and a postscript with Things To Say about Abu Ghraib and Blackwater. You will not see a stretch of film concurrently more technically-sound yet astonishingly idiotic in theaters this year – I’m impressed that they pulled it off and I’m in AWE that nobody stopped them. To be clear: apart from the miscasting, cheesy dialogue and Ben Mendelsohn auditioning to be the new “Jeremy Irons wants too much money” guy – there’s nothing that says blatant metaphor is innately bad. But Robin Hood has no coherent sense of allegorical narrative holding its references together.Instead, it’s a ridiculous hodgepodge of blunt symbolism where one piece doesn’t connect to another in any meaningful way, the mixed metaphors clashing so badly it feels like unintentional parody: Going strictly in terms of allegorical reference point, the new Robin Hood legend (which we’re told upfront we ought to decouple from any specific time or historic reference point) is the story of how Robin of Locksley invents Antifa by organizing West Virginia coal miners against a conspiracy by The IRS and The World Bank because he’s angry that his house was foreclosed on after being drafted to fight in The Iraq War. Yes, I did say drafted – they don’t even bother to keep their “modern allegories” to actual modernity and just randomly throw some Vietnam in there too because it moves the plot along.And in case you thought Hollywood executives had stopped telling filmmakers to turn everything into Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, well… skip beyond the spoiler warning if you don’t want to know for sure, but:BEGIN SPOILERSThe big new angle here is that nobody knows Robin of Locksley is “The Hood” so does the Bruce Wayne “I’m a dumb rich guy” thing to “gather intel” because instead of “taxes because monarchy” now there’s a conspiracy storyline where The Sherriff of Nottingham is gouging the people so he and an evil Cardinal can secretly bankroll the Arab side in The Crusades to make the war run longer so the British Crown will falter and The Catholic Church can take over England. Because they thought Robin was dead for a while, Maid Marian is dating Will Scarlet who’s a rising-star pragmatic centrist politician who thinks he can “reason with” the evil rich guys instead of doing Hood stuff but during the big final battle against The Sherriff he figures out Marian is still into Robin because radicals are sexier and he accidentally gets burned up by a molotov cocktail on half his face (no, really) and this makes him turn evil so in the end he becomes the new Sherriff of Nottingham who’s going to hunt down Robin Hood for taking his girl. I didn’t make a word of that up.END SPOILERSSo, yes, Robin Hood sucks. But it certainly sucks with conviction; and I can sort of respect it for that even while acknowledging that it fails on every conceivable level including being bad enough to “so bad it’s good” (the PG-13 might be hurting there: Nothing this stupid should be so free of pointless blood-geysers or gratuitously-bared breasts.) I can’t say I wasn’t laughing the whole time, but I also know that I wasn’t supposed to be.
Firefighters knocked out a fire in the attic of a home in the Fern Prairie area north of Camas early Tuesday, March 27.Crews responded to a potential structure fire at 3802 N.E. Matney Road at 2:50 a.m.East County Fire & Rescue firefighters arrived 11 minutes later and found a home with smoke coming from the exterior attic vents, said Chief Scott Koehler.A man and woman were home at the time and woke up to smell of the fire. There was no smoke outside of the attic at the time, so smoke detectors didn’t go off.“They were lucky that they smelled the fire before it breached the ceiling,” Koehler said.Firefighters found smoldering material in the attic over two bedrooms. It appeared a pipe from a metal wood stove failed in the attic and had been burning a rafter for some time, Koehler said.“Over a long period of time, this wood rafter has been basically turned into carbon,” he said. “For whatever reason, last night was the night” the rafter caught fire.A total of 26 firefighters from East County Fire & Rescue and the Camas and Vancouver fire departments responded.They pulled the ceiling down in the two bedrooms to knock out the fire.“It’s just gut-busting hard work tearing down sheet rock,” Koehler said. “The insulation was falling down like snow.”The home had minimal structure damage but significant interior damage due to firefighting efforts.The home could have sustained significant structural damage if the residents didn’t report the fire as quickly as they did, Koehler said.The home is owned by Brian and Genevieve Schmidt, according to county property records.A Clark County Fire Marshal is investigating.There were no injuries reported.
Using a CPM of $1, the study estimated that 42 percent of publishers are missing $50,000 in annual ad revenue; 33 percent are missing up to $250,000 in ad revenue; and 25 percent are missing more than $250,000 in annual ad revenue from off-site content. Attributor Corp. suggests publishers can start seeing some of that revenue by leveraging open syndication through direct relationships with ad networks (Attributor is working with publishers and ad networks to quantify the Web audience and come up with ways publishers can get a cut of the revenue from viral syndication.)Rise of ‘Link Journalism’Meanwhile, publishers are starting to grow more comfortable with the idea of their original content sitting on someone else’s site-even the New York Times plans to launch an alternative home page featuring links to its competitors. Publish2 is an online network for journalists that makes linking and news aggregation easier. The site soft launched this summer (founder Scott Karp is credited with coining the term “link journalism”). Michelle Leder is author of the site Footnoted.org, which focuses on items that companies bury in their routine SEC filings, and an early member of Publish2. “In my sidebar I link to stories that I think will be of interest to my readers, who tend to be hedge fund/money managers, given the specific nature of my content,” she says. “Unlike a lot of other blogs, I do new reporting based on stuff in the filings, so I don’t spent a lot of time commenting on stories in the WSJ, Times, etc. The Publish2 widget gives me an opportunity to easily link to these stories.” A more extensive look at Publish2 will appear in FOLIO:’s December issue. A new study of more than 100 publishers in categories ranging from entertainment to technology found that original content from those publishers on other sites had an audience 1.5 times larger than the original destination site viewership.Web content monitoring and programming platform Attributor Corp. tracked RSS feeds across 30 billion Web pages during September 2008. The study found that automotive and travel categories have the most significant viewers on other sites (five to seven times high than publisher destination sites.Multiples for audience beyond the destination site include:Auto: nearly 7xTravel: more than 5xMovie reviews: nearly 5xEntertainment: nearly 4xSports, Technology: more than 2xAdvice, Environment, Health: nearly 2xPolitics: nearly 1.5x
Climber Lonnie Dupre has returned to Talkeetna after becoming the first soloist to ever summit Denali in the month of January.Download AudioLonnie Dupre’s historic climb began on December 18th, and he summited Denali on January 11th just after 2:00 pm. This was Dupre’s fourth attempt at the unprecedented feat of being the first person to climb the mountain solo in January. Veteran climber Willi Prittie says January is a tough month for climbing in Alaska, when the longest periods of daylight stretch just past six hours.(Photo credit: John Walter Whittier)“You’ve got to be really on top of your self-care, your logistical stuff, and take advantage of every little bit of daylight that you have, and it isn’t any too much in something like January,” Prittie said.Like most climbs on North America’s tallest peak, the weather factored into Lonnie Dupre’s expedition. He says one big difference between this year and his prior attempts was the amount of snow.“The hardest thing, hands down, on this trip for me was the deep snow,” Dupre said. “We had very deep snow right out of base camp and all the way up to the top of the mountain, almost. And dragging a, in the begging, a 194 pound sled through that deep snow–it doesn’t slide. It just plows.”Dupre was helped through the snow by his homemade skis, which are eight feet long and four inches wide. He says the snow was due to warm weather and low-pressure in the Alaska Range. Lonnie Dupre says that warmth can actually be a problem.“I would much, much, much prefer thirty-or-forty-below zero day in and day out, because you’re drier, you can operate better, and usually when it’s that cold you don’t have the winds with that,” Dupre said.One time that the winds did play a major role in the climb was when Lonnie Dupre was between 10,000 and 11,000 feet of elevation. He says the wind picked up and started blowing lots of snow. He stashed much of his gear and went ahead to establish his camp. Then the weather really moved in and caught Dupre with meager supplies.Lonnie building his snow shelter at 14.2K with Denali’s summit ridge in the background. Photo courtesy of Lonnie Dupre.“Just a day and a half’s worth of food and twenty-two ounces of fuel, which is about three days worth of fuel,” he said. “I had to stretch the food and the fuel for five and a half days, so I was a scrawny, cranky, kind of scared individual.”Lonnie Dupre says he was scared because he knew there was no way for help to arrive if conditions didn’t improve. He says one or two more days might have seen him succumb to lack of food or warmth. Eventually, Mother Nature relented, and Dupre was on his way again.As he reached the higher section of Denali, Lonnie Dupre says the forecast called for a window of two days with weather good enough to perhaps try to reach the summit. In the dark hours of the morning on January 11th, he made his run. Right around 2:00 p.m., Dupre saw what he had spent four years trying to reach, the official marker for the highest point in North America.“I saw that, and I just broke down a little bit, because it’s been four years of hard work,” Dupre said. “And I spent ten minutes, no longer, on the top. I gave a good look around, twice. Then, I started high-tailing out of there.”The wind was picking up yet again, but Lonnie Dupre was able to get back to his camp and his gear before it got too rough. Then, it was a race against weather moving in from the south. Dupre made it to base camp at 7,200 feet on Jan. 14, but high winds prevented his pick-up by airplane. The next day, though, Talkeetna Air Taxi pilot Paul Roderick says the weather, which was not forecast to be favorable, opened up.“I thought we might have a little window to work with…but not this good,” Roderick said. “It was actually generally improving. It was still windy, but actually [at base camp] it was calm and twenty degrees. It was just perfect conditions. It couldn’t have been better.”Lonnie Dupre, after cold, snow, storms, and wind, had achieved his goal and returned safely to the lowlands. He was greeted by sponsors, friends, and members of Talkeetna’s climbing community.With a successful trip behind him, Lonnie Dupre says he will likely come back to Talkeetna, but probably for slightly less strenuous activities than climbing to the top of the continent by himself during the coldest, darkest period of the year. For now, he’s just happy to be back.
File photoIndia’s coast guard announced Sunday it had seized 1.5 tonnes of heroin worth almost $550 million from a merchant ship in what maritime authorities are calling their largest-ever drug bust.The ship was intercepted Saturday off the western state of Gujarat, the coast guard said in a statement.“This is the largest single haul of narcotics seized till date,” it said, adding the drugs were worth an estimated $545 million.An undisclosed number of suspects were detained for questioning by coast guard officials, police and intelligence agencies.Anyone caught smuggling or possessing narcotics is remanded in custody without bail under Indian law.Last year police in the western state of Maharashtra seized 18.5 tonnes of ephedrine, a precursor used in the manufacture of methamphetamine, worth $311 million.In 2013 police in the holiday resort state of Goa arrested a 45-year-old Briton in possession of more than four kilograms of amphetamines worth $330,000.Heroin seizures in India have increased in recent years, figures from the Narcotics Control Bureau show.Heroin, largely from Afghanistan and smuggled through neighbouring Pakistan, makes its way into India through the disputed northern state of Kashmir and coastal border areas in the west.
Members of the Kurdish Internal Security Police Force of Asayish keep watch during a security alert after clashes with regime forces in Qamishli, northeastern Syria, on 8 September. Photo: AFPSyria’s last major rebel bastion Idlib was Saturday targeted by the “most violent” Russian air strikes in a month, a monitor said, after the failure of a three-way summit on the Syrian conflict.The renewed strikes came a day after the leaders of rebel backer Turkey and regime allies Russia and Iran failed at the summit in Tehran to agree on how to stave off a threatened offensive on the north-western province of Idlib.Aid organisations have warned that any military campaign to retake the region of nearly three million people on the Turkish border could spark one of the worst humanitarian disasters in Syria’s seven-year war.On Saturday, dozens of Russian air raids hit southern and south-eastern areas of Idlib province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.At least nine civilians including two children were killed in the strikes and as dozens of barrel bombs were dropped by regime aircraft, the Britain-based monitor said.An AFP correspondent in the southern village of Al-Muntar saw huge clouds of grey smoke billow up above olive trees after a barrel bombing.Civilians fleeWomen and children ran terrified across nearby fields, one woman appearing to clutch a baby in a blanket. An elderly man sat out of breath, barefoot and dazed in the red earth, his walking cane by his side.An underground hospital located in the province’s Hass area was hit by an air strike, damaging the building and equipment, an AFP correspondent said.“We’ve had non-stop air raids since the morning,” said Abu Hussein, originally a resident of Hama province to the south before he found refuge near the Idlib village of Al-Abdine.“Barrel bombs dropped by helicopters crashed close to us,” he told AFP.The raids prompted hundreds of families to take to the roads, as dozens of cars and trucks tried to ferry civilians away from the bombardment.Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said the raids targeted jihadist and rebel positions, some of which were empty and others in use.It was the heaviest bombardment since 10 August, when at least 53 civilians were killed in Idlib and the neighbouring province of Aleppo, he said.Idlib is largely controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance led by Al-Qaeda’s former Syrian affiliate, as well as rival rebels.The United Nations has warned that any offensive could force up to 800,000 people to flee their homes and urged key powerbrokers to avoid a “bloodbath”.On Friday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan openly disagreed with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at a press conference in the Iranian capital.Erdogan called for a “truce”, while Russia’s president said Damascus “has a right and must eventually take under control all of its national territory”.Iranian president Hassan Rouhani warned against a “scorched earth” policy, but said “fighting terrorism in Idlib is unavoidable”.Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s regime has upped its rhetoric on retaking control of Idlib and surrounding areas over the past month.The threat comes after it recaptured areas around the capital Damascus and in southern Syria earlier this year, through a combination of deadly bombardment and surrender deals.Regime, Kurds clashIdlib’s provincial health chief Munzer al-Khalil warned Saturday that a large-scale military operation could result in “the most catastrophic crisis in our war”.Russian military spokesman Igor Konashenkov, for his part, said Moscow had “irrefutable information” that Syrian rebels were planning a “provocation” in Idlib province to justify Western intervention.More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since Syria’s civil war started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-Assad protests.Elsewhere on Saturday, clashes between Kurdish forces and regime fighters in the divided northeastern city of Qamishli killed 20 combatants, including 13 regime personnel, the Observatory said, updating an earlier toll.Kurdish forces control most of Qamishli, but the regime and allied militiamen hold part of the city and its airport.The Observatory said shooting broke out when Kurdish security forces at a checkpoint demanded that regime fighters step out of their patrol vehicle but they refused.The Kurdish forces said they had retaliated to regime fire.With US-led support, Syria’s Kurds played a key role in the war against the Islamic State group, during which they seized large swathes of northern and northeastern Syria.The Damascus regime has vowed to reintegrate the Kurdish-held areas, by force if necessary. In late July, it opened talks with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
Share Fernando Llano/APOpponents of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro protest the presidential election which Maduro won, in Caracas, Venezuela, on Monday.President Trump has signed new economic sanctions against Venezuela a day after the country’s socialist president, Nicolas Maduro, won elections that have been widely condemned as fraudulent.The U.S. order would clamp down on the South American country’s ability to liquidate assets, but the Trump administration fell short of imposing threatened new oil sanctions.Trump said the executive order would prevent Venezuela’s government from conducting “fire sales” of its assets.“[This] money belongs to the Venezuelan people,” he said.Also on Monday, 14 nations from throughout the Americas, including heavyweights such as Brazil, Mexico and Colombia, pledged to scale back diplomatic relations with Venezuela following elections over the weekend that renewed Maduro’s grip on power with a comfortable margin of victory, even though the country’s most popular leaders have been barred from running and the opposition boycotted the vote.“We call for the Maduro regime to restore democracy, hold free and fair elections, release all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally, and end the repression and economic deprivation of the Venezuelan people,” Trump said in a statement.Maduro, 55, replaced long-time socialist ruler Hugo Chavez, who died of cancer in 2013. Since then, Maduro has presided over an economy in freefall, which has spawned hyperinflation, widespread hunger and an exodus of economic refugees.Trump also called for Venezuela to release all political prisoners, a likely reference to the case of Joshua Holt, 26-year-old Utah man who has been imprisoned without charge since he was arrested in Caracas two years ago.The Associated Press notes that Venezuelan opposition leaders “said the Venezuelan people had delivered a silent by powerful message by largely abstaining from Sunday’s vote. The election drew the lowest participation on record for a presidential contest in decades.”Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Listen 00:00 /14:03 To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: X A lot can happen in a week. Some of it good. Some of it bad. Some of it downright ugly. When faced with intriguing developments in the week’s news, we turn to a rotating panel of “non-experts” to parse The Good the Bad and the Ugly of news.This week, our panel weighs in on these stories:Proposed bills would allow customers to buy bottled beer directly from Texas craft breweriesDr Pepper’s petition to become the official soft drink of TexasOur panel of non-experts this week includes:Amber Ambrose, founder and CEO of Ambrose/McDowell CommunicationsFred Goodall, marketer, writer, and publisher of the men’s lifestyle and entertainment website MochaManStyle.comVivian Ho, health economist at Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine Share
Art is a language through which the artists express their beliefs, thoughts and emotions. In an attempt to showcase various perspectives towards life, ‘Three Aces’ are going to organise an art exhibition titled ‘Inner Vision 2016,’ where different artists with different ideas, perspectives and style can showcase their work in the national Capital.The exhibition begins on January 4 and will be on till January 8 in 2016. The artists who are participating in this exhibition include Dinesh Kumar, Gaurav Chawla, Kamlesh Tiwari, Kunal Kapoor, Kumud Grover, Lokeshwara Rao, Manju Narain, Meghna Agrawal, Mishika Chawla, Monica Wadhwa, Nira Dabar, Padhmini Meta, Priyadarshi Sharma, PS Mishra, Ruchi Chaddha, Renuka Sondhi, Tara Sharma, Vijay and Vivek Kumar. Also Read – ‘Playing Jojo was emotionally exhausting’Gaurav, who paints mostly in Acrylic medium says, “My chosen visual form of expression, which I call an expression through colour, is universal.”Ruchi Chadha has participated in several group shows across the country and her paintings are held in private collections in India and Abroad. “Nature has always been an inspiration for me. The beauty is limitless. Wherever I look I find a theme or something that inspires me. I love water and the fluidity of colour just takes me to another level. I can’t express my love for nature as it has new facets, so you will find the freshness of nature, the richness of colors, serenity, peace and passion in my work.” Also Read – Leslie doing new comedy special with Netflix“In this series I have tried to bring out human emotion and bonding in various situations of life,” she adds. ‘Three Aces’ is an initiative by Kishore Labar and Gaurav Chawla which brings together the artists and art lovers to a fair and unbiased platform.Striving to engage and push new boundaries within the multidisciplinary parameters and practices of art and design, ‘Three Aces’ is an initiative, which seeks to educate, inspire and lift the creative spirits within.
Last week Microsoft announced the release of Python Language Server which is a part of the July release for Python Extension for Visual Studio Code and will be released as a standalone product in the near future. Intellisense, Microsoft’s code analysis, and suggestion tool have been supporting Python since 2011, but this language support can now be extended to other tools using the Microsoft Language Server. Intellisense and Language Server Demystified IntelliSense is the general term for a number of features like List Members, Parameter Info, Quick Info, and Complete Word. These features help developers to learn more about the code they are using and to keep track of the parameters. With Intellisense, Microsoft has long featured the completion feature that makes writing code faster and less error-prone. Many aspects of IntelliSense are language-specific and many of its features are powered by a language server. Adding all these smart features in IntelliSense takes massive efforts and traditionally this effort is repeated for each development tool, as each tool provides different APIs for implementing the same feature. This effort can be significantly reduced with the help of a language server, as they provide these language-specific features to different tools with the help of a standard protocol known as Language Server Protocol (LSP). This way, a single Language Server can be re-used in multiple development tools, which in turn can support multiple languages with minimal effort. Benefits of the Python Language Server Python IntelliSense has been supported in Visual Studio since 2011 and is one of the most downloaded extensions, but only limited to Visual Studio developers. The Visual Studio team at Microsoft plan to separate the Python IntelliSense from Visual Studio and make it available as a standalone program using the language server protocol. Steve Dower, a developer at Microsoft, wrote in his blog that “Having a standalone, cross-platform language server means that we can continue to innovate and improve on our IntelliSense experience for Python developers in both Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code at the same time”. The July release of Visual Studio Codes Python extension includes features such as: Syntax errors will appear as the code is typed Improved performance for analyzing workspaces and presenting completions The ability to detect syntax errors within the entire workspace Faster startup times and imports Better handling for several language constructs The standalone release of the Python Language Server will be released in a few months, till then you can check out VS Code release announcement for more information. Read Next Microsoft’s GitHub acquisition is good for the open source community Microsoft launches a free version of its Teams app to take Slack head on Microsoft’s Brad Smith calls for facial recognition technology to be regulated
Yesterday, IBM launched its Blockchain World Wire, a global blockchain network for cross-border payments that will make use of Stablecoin by U.S. dollars and cryptocurrency to make near real-time cross border financial transactions. It is based on distributed ledger technology (DLT) for regulated financial firms. IBM Blockchain World Wire is a real-time global payments network that works towards clearing and settling foreign exchange, cross border payments and remittances. Currently, this network can transfer funds to more than 50 countries using 47 digital coins backed by fiat currencies. According to IBM, World Wire is the first blockchain network of its kind to integrate payment messaging and clearing and settlement on a single unified network while allowing participants to dynamically choose from a variety of digital assets for settlement. According to a report by Cheddar, six international banks have signed letters of intent to issue their own Stablecoins backed by their national fiat currencies including Brazil’s Banco Bradesco, South Korea’s Bank Busan and the Philippines’ Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation on IBM’s Blockchain World Wire. Advantages of Blockchain World Wire Faster payment processing Blockchain World Wire provides simultaneous clearing and settlement and eliminates multiple parties processing transactions. Lower costs The World Wire comes with reduced capital requirements for cross-border transactions. Even the clearing costs have been lowered. Transparency The World Wire provides end-to-end transparency and one exchange fee between all currencies which makes it easier. If two financial institutions that are transacting agree upon using either a Stablecoin, central bank digital currency or another digital asset as the bridge asset between any two currencies then they will be provided with trade and important settlement instructions. The institutions can use their existing payment systems by connecting it to World Wire’s APIs in order to convert the first fiat currency into the digital asset. Further, the World Wire converts the digital asset into the second fiat currency, that completes the transaction. The transaction details are recorded onto an immutable blockchain for clearing purpose. Marie Wieck, General Manager, IBM Blockchain, said, “We’ve created a new type of payment network designed to accelerate remittances and transform cross-border payments to facilitate the movement of money in countries that need it most. By creating a network where financial institutions support multiple digital assets, we expect to spur innovation and improve financial inclusion worldwide.” To know more about this news, check out IBM’s official website. Read Next Google expands its Blockchain search tools, adds six new cryptocurrencies in BigQuery Public Datasets Blockchain governance and uses beyond finance – Carnegie Mellon university podcast Stable version of OpenZeppelin 2.0, a framework for smart blockchain contracts, released!
The late teens are our idealistic years, when we seek the Greater Truth and are eager to believe any utterly ridiculous thing they tell us. However, barely out of my own teens, I found most of the Great Truths to be like a movie set: a convincing facade and nothing behind. No related posts. Jack O’Brien So I turned to the natural sciences for support. They told me that the great discoveries of the preceding centuries – the Gas Laws, the Thermodynamics Laws, the Law of Gravity, etc. – were true for all times and places, even the remote galaxies, which is pretty far out.At last I had reached firm ground and could stand tall.But then I got into industry, where you have to use the natural laws to make or build things, and I made the disconcerting discovery that the Great Laws are just approximations. They are very close to the truth, but using them to design a refinery or calculate the stresses in an airplane wing, you have to use a Fudge Factor, if you want to stay out of court. Real gases follow the Gas Laws only when you tack on a Compressibility Coefficient, which is itself a variable depending on the conditions you’re in. And gravity, the one thing I thought I could be sure of, varies all over the world, depending on the amount of iron below you. Even Einstein, who could see as far through a brick wall as most people, had to stick in a Cosmological Constant in order to make his revolutionary theory fit the facts.And Relativity Theory was itself built on Quantum Theory, which sacrificed truth in favor of probability. I think that’s when our modern world was born, where we have all given up looking anywhere for truth and settle instead for maybe. In fact, we’ve gotten so good at it that only a comparatively few airplanes crash or buildings collapse due to faulty design, and even those can generally be blamed on cutting safety factors to the quick to reduce costs.So where does all this blather get us? Well, it leaves us with an abiding suspicion of experts, who are supposed to be the guardians of truth. And that makes it uncomfortable to enter a library, consultWikipedia or submit to invasive surgery. Now I am the last person to question sturdy independence, but doing a lens replacement on your own eye is tricky if not impractical. Which means moderation in all things is the only answer we’ve got. So do not trust the expert who offers you a discount, do not listen to anyone who talks at more than a hundred words a minute, and read only fiction writers, who don’t even pretend to tell the truth. Oh, and by the way, reject anything you hear from a politician in election year, and as for lens replacement, practice being blind for a year or two before submitting to the laser; that shouldn’t be too difficult, or you wouldn’t even be thinking about it. Facebook Comments
Related posts:How Cuba is and isn’t changing, one year after thaw with U.S. Will Cuba rejoin the IMF? Why Midwestern farmers want to break the Cuba embargo US food producers see bonanza in Cuba, but steep barriers remain WASHINGTON, D.C. — Monday at precisely 10 a.m. Cuba’s flag will rise for the first time in 54 years over the country’s stately old mission along Washington’s 16th Street — marking the opening of this capital city’s newest embassy.Simultaneously, some 1,130 miles south of here, the newly minted U.S. Embassy fronting Havana’s oceanfront Malecón will open for business.The twin events together mark a huge milestone in U.S.-Cuba relations. But in economic terms, the hard work for the communist-ruled Caribbean island of 11.2 million is only beginning.On July 14 Carlos Gutiérrez — the Cuban-born former secretary of commerce under President George W. Bush — told a panel at Washington’s Atlantic Council why he thinks the Obama administration is right to reverse course and open up to Cuba after more than five decades of the White House doing exactly the opposite. Former US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutiérrez, once an embargo supporter, now backs President Obama’s move to normalize diplomatic relations with Havana, July 17, 2015. Larry Luxner/The Tico Times“This is more than just symbolism. It’s a real step forward,” said Gutiérrrez, long a staunch supporter of the U.S. embargo against the Castro regime. “Cuba wants to change. But as we all know, there’s so much more to do.”The event, sponsored by the council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, coincided with the release of a report by Cuban economist Pavel Vidal and Scott Brown, former IMF mission chief for Albania.The study, titled “Cuba’s Economic Reintegration: Begin with the International Financial Institutions,” examines how former centralized economies like Albania and Vietnam were helped by membership in the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and regional development banks.Vidal addressed the panel briefly via video link from Colombia, where he teaches at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Cali. In addition to Gutiérrez, Vidal and Brown, participants included Rafael Romeu, president and CEO of Miami-based development consulting firm DevTech Systems Inc., and José Ignacio López Perea, head of global commercial banking at Spanish banking giant BBVA.Jason Marczak, the center’s deputy director, offered opening remarks. He said IMF and World Bank officials were invited to the event but demurred, indicating the “radioactive” nature of the topic at hand.Interestingly, Cuba is one of only eight countries that do not belong to the IMF. The 24-page report argues that Albania — which joined the IMF in October 1991 after ridding itself of one of the most stridently Marxist regimes on Earth — shares many similarities with Cuba.“Albania’s first loan from the Fund, under a stand-by arrangement, was approved in August 1992, and its re-engagement with the global financial system and policy reforms produced significant improvements in the standard of living,” the report states. “Vietnam offers another positive example, with access to IFI support coming after a period of initial reform. In both countries, everything from GDP to life expectancy improved. These universal benefits are compelling factors for Cuba.”Among the report’s 10 specific recommendations: Cuba should carefully analyze all potential paths toward membership in international financial institutions (IFIs), and Washington needs to give Cuba breathing room by not enforcing the legal mechanisms that call for U.S. opposition to multilateral loans to the island.“Cuba withdrew from the World Bank in 1960, and from the IMF in 1964. It was never a member of the Inter-American Development Bank because the IDB started in 1959 — the year of the revolution — so Cuba doesn’t really know the benefits of investment capital,” Gutiérrez said.“Cuba wants to change,” he added. “I’ve been traveling to China now for about 20 years, sometimes as often as five or six times a year. More than 300 million Chinese have been lifted from poverty. It’s a great example of economic transition. Albania is another one.”Under the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, which codifies the U.S. embargo into law and can only be lifted by Congress, regardless of President Obama’s decision to restore diplomatic ties, Washington must oppose Cuba’s entry into all these institutions.“But one thing is to oppose, and the other is to encourage everyone else to oppose,” Gutiérrez pointed out. “If the U.S. government wants to be part of the solution, the United States can comply with Helms-Burton and vote no, and then allow others to vote as they wish, as opposed to putting on pressure. It’s up to U.S. policymakers to help Cuba, but I’d be surprised if this is not part of the talks. If it isn’t, it should be.”However, this isn’t just about the Helms-Burton Act.“For one thing, Cuba can’t continue with two currencies. That will not make sense in an economy open to foreign investors,” said the former commerce secretary and Coca-Cola executive. “Unifying two very distinct currencies won’t be easy. It will reduce foreign reserves in the short term and will be a tough transition. And you can’t do it overnight.”Even more importantly, he said, is that the Cuban government allows private entrepreneurs to turn a profit — whether it’s a restaurant or a home-repair store.“For me, the most important requirement is a recognition that you need to have a return on capital,” Gutiérrez. “Cuban policymakers need to fully understand that — and if they do understand it, then they need to put it in place. If you’re going to access these institutions and access capital, you have to believe that capital must have a return. For me, this is not ideology; it’s about numbers. If you’re putting in money and not getting out money, you’re not going to be successful.”The IMF’s Brown, whose first assignment for the Fund was helping Albania transition to a market economy, called the European spring “a challenge like no other.”“Nobody really knew at that point how to help these centrally-planned economies. It was messy,” he said. “In Russia, it was very messy. In Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, it sorted itself out, and in Albania, it was initially very successful until people poured their money into Ponzi schemes and black holes.”Last week, the Castro regime announced that Cuba’s economy grew by 4.7 percent during the first half of 2015 — up from an estimate of 4 percent made by Economy Minister Marino Murillo just a month ago.That’s especially significant considering that for the previous four years, GDP growth had averaged only 2.3 percent annually, with only 1.3 percent growth in 2014. By sector, agriculture was up 4.8 percent — led by the sugar industry with 22.6 percent growth — while manufacturing grew 8 percent, construction 8.7 percent and internal trade 6.7 percent. Tourist arrivals increased more than 15 percent, although earnings lagged behind, partly due to strengthening of the U.S. dollar against foreign currencies.BBVA’s López said there’s been “lots of business interest” here — especially in tourism — toward Cuba since Obama’s announcement last December that bilateral relations would be restored.López said that 92,000 U.S. residents visited Cuba in 2013, spending a total of $100 million, according to official data.“This year, it will grow sharply, following the easing of travel restrictions. The impact on the hotel sector is significant, especially in the premium sector,” he said. “There will also be an increase of U.S. exports to Cuba, but the limitation of Cuba having to pay cash in advance means it won’t be significant.”“Additionally, we see that the expectation of a future improvement in relations and a potential lifting of the embargo, even if it takes time, could have an immediate positive impact in some sectors such as real estate,” he said, estimating that impact at 0.5 to 1.0 percent of Cuba’s GDP.Added Brown: “In the end, the benefit that Cuba gets out of reintegration with the global economy will depend on Cuba’s own willingness to go that full voyage toward a vibrant market-oriented economy — and the desire for a better life for its people.”Correction: The original version of this story indicated that the U.S. flag would be raised outside the new U.S. Embassy in Havana on July 20. In fact, the flag will likely not be displayed until next month. 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Marking the successful completion of 50 golden years of excellence in tourism, travel and hospitality industry, India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC), the only public sector undertaking under the aegis of the Ministry of Tourism has announced flat 50% discount on rooms across The Ashok group of Hotels. The hospitality and tourism giant also unveiled flat 25% off on food and beverages across ITDC-owned restaurants, room services and cake shops. Beginning September 24, 2016, the offers will continue till October 8, 2016 and will include many other promotional activities at different restaurants across ITDC properties. Umang Narula Chairman & Managing Director, ITDC conveyed his gratitude to all the guests and stake holders including Ministry of Tourism for continued support in its journey of 50 years.ITDC’s hotel division runs under the banner ‘The Ashok Group of Hotels’ best described as the epitome of Indian grandeur along with a touch of classic Indian hospitality. The hospitality division (HC division) operates 8 ITDC owned hotels, 5 joint venture hotels, 3 catering establishments and a standalone restaurant across all major tourist destinations in India in addition to managing prestigious Hyderabad House as well Vigyan Bhawan at New Delhi. The celebration offer is valid at the Ashok Group’s hotels present at New Delhi, Jaipur, Bharatpur, Bhubaneswar, Jammu, Bhopal, Ranchi Guwahati, Patna, Mysore, Puducherry and Itanagar.Talking about the golden jubilee celebrations, Piyush Tiwari, Director (Commercial and Marketing), ITDC said, “It is a moment of pride and fulfilment for all of us at ITDC. As ITDC completes its 50 glorious years of operations across tourism and hospitality industry, it brings me immense pleasure to invite everyone to be a part of these revelries at The Ashok group of hotels, our standalone restaurants and all our joint venture hotels. Besides discounts and promotions, we also have many interesting food cum cultural engagements planned for our guests. 50 years is a great achievement for ITDC and we trust our guests come out full throttle to join us in these celebrations.”Apart from discounts and promotions, the guests will also witness many cultural and entertainment activities that the organisation plans to run at its hotels and restaurants across country. As the group’s flagship hotel at New Delhi ‘The Ashok’ also completes its 60 years, every 50th lucky guest will win the ‘Ashok Elite Card’ that will be valid for two years and will entitle the winner a discount of 25% on Room Tariff at The Ashok, New Delhi including its specialty fine-dining restaurants ‘The Oudh’, ‘The Frontier’, 24*7 coffee shop ‘The Samavar’ and the Cake Shop.