New Delhi: The full Election Commission on Saturday called on President Ram Nath Kovind and handed over the list of 542 newly-elected members of the Lok Sabha that will enable him to initiate the formal process of new government formation. Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and the other two Commissioners, Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra, met the President at the Rashtrapati Bhavan and gave him a copy of the notification issued by the poll body in terms of provisions of the Representation of the People Act containing the names of MPs elected in the just-concluded polls. Also Read – Pak activated 20 terror camps & 20 launch pads along LoC While the notification sets in motion the constitution of the 17th Lok Sabha, the list given to the President enables him to initiate government formation process. On Saturday evening, newly-elected MPs of the National Democratic Alliance are likely elect Narendra Modi as its leader. After this, a delegation of leaders of the BJP and its allies is expected to call on the President and convey to him their choice of Modi as Prime Minister following which he will be invited to form the government. The BJP has secured majority on its own in the elections by winning 303 seats. Elections were held in 542 of the 543 seats. The election in Vellore Lok Sabha seat was cancelled by the EC citing abuse of money power. A fresh date is yet to be announced.
Results of the general election show that Modi is particularly popular among the Hindu youth with their ideas of a hero of medieval romance. They wanted an authoritative commanding personality as their leader primarily for political dominance. Though the level of joblessness had become worst in the last 45 years, they did not find any fault in him or in his policies in spite of his failure in delivering his five-year-old promise of ‘work with dignity for every hand’. Rather, they believed that only a strong leader like Modi can overcome this crisis. Also Read – A staunch allyNevertheless, nothing can be said with certainty about what is in store for our young population in the next five years of the Modi rule, except that they will be in great trouble on account of joblessness. The government does not seem to be serious in solving this problem on a priority basis. It is not even serious about restoring the credibility of the Indian data on growth and employment. They hid the data on unemployment with an assurance of sharing it by March-end this year which proved to be false. When the election results were being declared on May 23 and trends clearly showed Modi’s win, his government came with a nasty proposal to merge NSSO with CSO, which will be the end of autonomy of NSSO. Also Read – Cuban pathosIt may be mentioned here that it was the NSSO leaked data which claimed joblessness 45 years high after 1973-74. The leaked data had come out on the eve of Lok Sabha elections. Towards the end of the election, NSSO had come out with another data putting the government claim on growth and development questionable. NSSO had found that 36 per cent of the companies were not traceable whose data were used to calculate GDP. In this backdrop, the decision of the Modi government to merge NSSO with CSO to create a new entity named NSS betrays his intention of keeping the neutral data hidden from the public, and to release only those data which his government wants to give at their own convenient time. Only a few days after the election results were out, OECD has mentioned in its economic outlook relating to India that the country needs to release credible and timely data on economic growth, particularly regarding jobs, so that the planners may properly plan for the greatest benefit of the people. However, what the medieval hero of modern times wants to do is obviously dangerous for the country in general and the youth in particular. He seems to be more interested in dividing the jobless youth on communal and sectarian grounds for his own lust of political dominance bordering around authoritarianism pushing democracy under his feet. Youth are being misled and driven to jingoism and communalism in place of providing them with quality jobs apart from rescuing them from increasingly costly higher education and professional skills. It is an open secret that the Modi government has been adopting such policies that made higher education and professional courses too costly for the poor and the lower middle class. Suppression of data cannot help improve the status of joblessness or our ailing economy. Presently, two-thirds of India is below the age of 35. Around 16 million youngsters attain adulthood every year and become aspirants for a good job. They obviously look for strong leadership to fulfil their aspirations. However, given the present economic scenario of the country, almost 20 per cent of urban males and 25 per cent of the urban female is most likely to find no job at all, not to talk about any quality job. Additionally, with dwindling agricultural income as against Modi’s promise of doubling farm income in five years by 2022, around 7 million youth leave farm sector and migrate in search of employment in other sectors every year. Almost 13 million people join the country’s workforce annually. If India is to give work for every hand it would need to create about 20 million new jobs every year, which will be a daunting challenge for the Modi government in its second term. The dismal track record in the last five years of this government suggests that our youth have to struggle a lot to find a suitable and a good job. Disenchantment and frustration await the majority of them. Only ten months ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had told Parliament that nearly a crore or 10 million jobs were generated in a year if both formal and informal sectors were taken into consideration. Since no authentic data on jobs were available, he cited a study from an “independent institute” in support of his claim. He cited EPF and National Pension Scheme data along with the number of new professionals such as CAs and doctors to calculate formal jobs. The idea was that when professionals start their own practice, they create jobs. For the informal sector, commercial and passenger vehicles sold were cited as a proxy since vehicle need drivers and helpers. Even if we believe his claim to be true, there was a shortfall of around 10 million in job creation every year indicating that at least 50 per cent of the job aspirants did not find work in his first tenure as Prime Minister. Moreover, this 10 million figure given by the Prime Minister was not necessarily of new jobs, because he cited EPF and Pension Scheme which could also reflect higher formalisation, while the new vehicle may not have new drivers and helpers. In absence of the reliable government data on job, some private data can be quoted here, such as of the Centre of Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). Their survey indicated that the number of people employed had shrunk by nearly 10 million in 2018. The unemployment rate in February 2019 was estimated at 7.23 per cent higher than the 5.87 per cent one year ago.The leaked NSSO data for 2017-18 revealed an unemployment rate of 6.1 per cent. According to a World Bank data, India’s working age population above the age of 15 will be expanding by 1.3 million a month. All these numbers point out the economic stress our country is undergoing which cannot be solved in the near future because economic activity has already slowed down with consumption showing signs of stagnating and prolonged investment inertia has stifled both growth impulses and new job creation. (The views expressed are strictly personal) read more
Kolkata: The Special Task Force of Kolkata Police busted an arms factory in Howrah and arrested three persons in this connection on Thursday. Police seized 48 semi-finished firearms and fake currency notes worth Rs 1 lakh during the search.According to sources, on Thursday afternoon, police were tip off about a person who worked as a carrier to circulate fake notes. Working on the information, the police came to know that the suspected person has been seen in Strand Road area. Also Read – City bids adieu to Goddess DurgaAround 4:50 pm on Thursday, police officers identified a man near Customs House on Strand Road. The man identified as Md. Chand alias Sonu of Munger in Bihar was immediately intercepted and detained. While checking his bag, officers found 22 semi-finished country-made improvised firearms along with huge amount of fake notes. He was taken to the STF police station in Lalbazar. During interrogation, Chand said that he and two others persons were secretly running an arms factory at Golabari in Howrah. Based on his statement, on Thursday night, officers of Special Task Force assisted by the Golabari police station raided a house at Pilkhana in Howrah, which was locally known as a lathe factory. Also Read – Centuries-old Durga Pujas continue to be hit among revellersDuring the raid, police officers detained two more persons, identified as Md. Sultan and Md. Shiltu alias Md. Shahensha, of Munger in Bihar. During the search, cops found 26 semi-finished country-made improvised firearms along with one lathe machine, two milling machine, one drilling machine, one polishing-cum-grinding machine, huge amount of raw materials and tools. Both of them were immediately arrested and taken to Lalbazar. According to sources, accused persons rented the house to run a lathe factory. Coincidentally the house belongs to a person identified as Tarak Nath Shaw, who is the brother of BJP’s Howrah Uttar Mondal president Kashi Nath Shaw. Police officers are trying to find out since when the accused persons had been running the factory. It is suspected that the raw materials were being supplied from Munger and the firearms were being manufactured here in the factory. Later, a case was initiated and all three of them were arrested on charges of 489B (using as genuine, forged or counterfeit currency-notes or bank-notes), 489C (possession of forged or counterfeit currency-notes or bank-notes), 120B (punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the IPC and 25(1B)(a) (whoever acquires has in his possession or carries any firearm or ammunition) of the Arms Act. read more
‘What do the stars foretell?’ Shakespeare was fond of his lead actors saying this in various forms. What do the stars foretell about India’s new finance minister? The stars, in this case, are the events of the last five years; Nirmala Sitharaman’s handling of industry and commerce and defence ministries along with her past background in BJP. Sitharaman has done nothing outstanding or innovative in any of her charges but she was effective in holding operations. Finance ministry needs someone conservative, who somewhat loathes radical changes, is of a cautious nature and not too adventurous. Also Read – A staunch allyWhen the question of opening up the retail trade sector to foreign investment was prized open by the first UPA government, Sitharaman, as BJP spokesperson on the subject, had stoutly run down the concept. She said she was in the UK and knows very well what opening retail trade could do in India. In commerce ministry, Sitharaman had pursued a conservative policy line for India, which was famously practised by her predecessor in the UPA government of not conceding to the demands of the US and other developed countries. She is not famously known for liberalising India’s trade policy. Also Read – Cuban pathosIn defence ministry she only stepped into the void left by the sudden departure of her predecessor, becoming the figurehead for the purchase of the French fighter aircraft. She had been a useful and reliable entity for carrying on the wishes of her boss, the prime minister. In the present context, if anything, finance ministry and handling of union government’s finances would call for such an approach where not much radical changes in policies are done that may have an uncertain impact on the economy. The policy is “do no harm”, even at the cost of doing no good. In fact, where is the scope for such actions either. After the last five years of the deleterious impact of demonetisation and GST, the Indian economy had hardly come out of the worst shocks of recent years. If at all, the economy is just emerging out of them. It needs a little bit of nursing. Prime minister Modi had wanted to be the Great Liberaliser by introducing the GST, notwithstanding the difficulty of carrying out the process and the uncertain impact. That alone explains the midnight session for the introduction of GST and all the drama around it. But it did undoubtedly disrupt the functioning of the economy, particularly the functioning of the small and medium sectors. Now that the pursuit of that kind of glory is not on the radar of the prime minister, the economy also needs a kind of holding operation. The economy has admittedly lost pace. But that should not be considered too much of a calamity for a large economy. Some slackening is normal; only the downward trend should not get a firmer hold. Besides, in the foreground of a major national election, which unavoidably could be associated with policy reversals and uncertainties, some dip in investment or spending behaviour is normal. So what the new finance minister should attempt is to give a few sops and encouragement. Firstly, a rising revenue collection curve may not be the best indicator of a government’s success. In the current context, some tax concessions might be in order. A stable GST regime should ordinarily push up the government’s take. Now is the time for the government to give a part of revenue back to people to egg on spending. Secondly, everyone has referred to a fall in consumption and investment expenditure. A lower consumption expenditure resulting in lower capacity utilisation should discourage fresh investment. A larger push in public investment in infrastructure and social capital creation should restart the consumption-investment cycle. Of course, this could have implications for the fiscal deficit target. But that could sometimes be pushed a little back into the burner for a while. Thirdly, talk about drastic restructuring of the public sector banks, affecting the interests of depositors, could undermine and altogether destroy the confidence of the general public in the financial system. In this context, the irresponsible statement of a former finance minister, P Chidambaram, that depositors money should be used for shoring up eroded balance sheets of PSU banks, could not have been more destructive of public confidence. Hence, a more gradual approach to the restructuring of the public sector banking system should be pursued, the emphasis being on reining in the creation of any fresh bad debts. The best course would be an unequivocal statement of the government backing the PSU banks and their ordinary depositors. The non-banking finance companies always played a critical role in smoothening the functioning of the economy. The liquidation of the largest of them, IL&FS, has created a vacuum. The new finance minister must pay attention to rehabilitation of the non-banking finance companies. The last of these concerns, namely, restructuring the financial system and re-building confidence should call for closer cooperation between the government and the Reserve Bank of India. The relations between the government and the RBI have not been congenial. Nor is it expected for all times, either. But the current players, Sitharaman and Saktikanta Das, seem more accommodative than otherwise. We can look forward to better coordination. (The views expressed are strictly personal) read more
An afternoon nap can boost happiness as well as improve behaviour and academic performance of children, a study has found. Researchers from and the University of California (UC) Irvine in the US conducted a study of nearly 3,000 fourth, fifth, and sixth graders aged 10-12. The study, published in the journal SLEEP, showed a connection between midday napping and greater happiness, self-control, and grit; fewer behavioural problems; and higher IQ. Also Read – Pollution makes you more aggressive”Children who napped three or more times per week benefit from a 7.6 per cent increase in academic performance in Grade 6,” said Adrian Raine, from University of Pennsylvania. “How many kids at school would not want their scores to go up by 7.6 points out of 100?” Raine said. Sleep deficiency and daytime drowsiness are surprisingly widespread, with drowsiness affecting up to 20 per cent of all children, said Jianghong Liu, an associate professor at University of Pennsylvania. Also Read – Physical therapy better for low back painWhile the negative cognitive, emotional, and physical effects of poor sleep habits are well-established, and most previous research has focused on preschool age and younger. Researchers used data from a study in China, where the practice of afternoon napping is embedded into daily life, continuing through elementary and middle school, even into adulthood. From each of 2,928 children, the researchers collected data about napping frequency and duration once the children hit Grades 4 through 6, as well as outcome data when they reached Grade 6, including psychological measures like grit and happiness and physical measures such as body mass index and glucose levels. They also asked teachers to provide behavioral and academic information about each student. The researchers then analysed associations between each outcome and napping, adjusting for sex, grade, school location, parental education, and nightly time in bed. “Many lab studies across all ages have demonstrated that naps can show the same magnitude of improvement as a full night of sleep on discrete cognitive tasks,” said Sara Mednick, from UC Irvine. “Here, we had the chance to ask real-world, adolescent schoolchildren questions across a wide range of behavioural, academic, social, and physiological measures,” said Mednick. “The more students sleep during the day, the greater the benefit of naps on many of these measures,” she said. Though the findings are correlational, the researchers say they may offer an alternative to the outcry from pediatricians and public health officials for later school start times. read more
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday wished good health and a long life to Congress president Rahul Gandhi on his birthday. Modi took to Twitter to convey his wishes to Gandhi, who turned 49 on Wednesday. “Best wishes to Shri Rahul Gandhi on his birthday. May he be blessed with good health and a long life,” he tweeted. The two leaders were involved in a war of words in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls, in which the BJP-led NDA returned to power with a massive majority. Congress leaders and workers also wished Gandhi on his birthday at the party headquarters on Akbar Road. The party chief, who was in a joyous mood, shared some light moments with the workers and mediapersons. He also offered sweets to those wishing him on his birthday.
Bangkok: Southeast Asian leaders are eager to sign a sweeping China-led trade pact by the end of this year, Thailand’s prime minister said Friday, with further talks expected at a Bangkok summit on the world’s biggest commercial deal. Beijing is seeking to shape the rules of free trade across the Asia-Pacific, as America retreats from multilateral deals under US President Donald Trump. The China-crafted Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) includes all 10 economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) who are meeting this weekend in the Thai capital. Also Read – Merkel warns UK Brexit deal ‘unlikely’ without compromise: London But it also sweeps in China’s main regional rival India, as well Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, covering half the world’s population and around 40 per cent of its trade. Squabbles with India over access to its giant consumer market — as well as Australia and New Zealand over the lack of ‘high quality’ labour and environmental standards — have undercut talks in recent months. Analysts say these competing priorities mean signing the deal any time soon may be unlikely. Also Read – India, China should jointly uphold peace and stability, resolve disputes through dialogues: Chinese ambassador But ASEAN, hosted this year by Thailand, is determined to hustle the pact through as tit-for-tat tariffs between the US and China tariff darken the outlook for global free trade. “Thailand is trying to expedite the conclusion of the RCEP negotiations this year,” Prayut Chan-O-Cha, Thailand’s former junta leader who is now premier, told a business forum in Bangkok Friday. “This is the agreed intention of all leaders.” Seven of the 18 chapters within the deal have been “concluded”, according to the Philippines’ Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez. “We have reached a point to really demand from different negotiating parties to be more realistic, pragmatic,” he said, adding the US-China spat should prompt ASEAN to “fast-track” the RCEP deal. Shortly after taking office, Trump pulled out off an American-led Asia-Pacific trade pact — called the TPP, preferring to leverage the power of the world’s largest economy bilaterally with Southeast Asian nations. That opened the door for Beijing to champion free trade across the Asia-Pacific. But the US is at pains to insist it has not abandoned the region and remains “very committed” to Southeast Asia, Peter Haymond, US Charge D’Affairs to Thailand said at the forum. “We see this as a hugely dynamic region,” he said, adding the Trump administration “has put more priority on updating and improving” existing trade agreements. “But (it) is very committed to strengthening its partnerships throughout ASEAN and throughout the region.” read more
New Delhi: There is no official nomenclature to accord martyrdom status to the CRPF personnel killed in the Pulwama attack in Jammu and Kashmir, the Rajya Sabha was informed on Wednesday.Union Minister of State for Home Nityananda Rai said the Ministry of Home Affairs has issued instructions to issue “Operational Casualty Certificate” to the next of kin of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and Assam Rifles (AR) personnel who are killed in action. Also Read – How a psychopath killer hid behind the mask of a devout laity!”There is no such official nomenclature,” he said in a written reply when asked whether martyrdom status has been granted to the CRPF personnel killed in the Pulwama attack on February 14. Rai said out of 40 cases of death of the CRPF personnel in Pulwama incident, the CRPF have confirmed issuance of “Operational Casualty Certificate” to 39 cases while in one case, the certificate could not be issued as the matter related to succession certificate is subjudice. read more
Shimla: Himachal Pradesh outgoing Governor Acharya Devvrat, who takes charge as Gujarat Governor on July 22, says his commitment to ‘Zero budget” farming — a model he got introduced in the hill state successfully is never-ending.”Himachal Pradesh has become a pioneering in zero — Budget Natural farming (ZBNF). It was first state to allocate Rs 25 cr budget in 2018. Five thousand farmers have already been trained. They have started ZBNF, and they also become master trainers. Our plan is to train a total 50,000 farmers by this year end. And, it is an achievable target”, Also Read – How a psychopath killer hid behind the mask of a devout laity!Acharya told Millennium Post in an interview at Raj Bhawan on Tuesday. Acharya, a former Principal at Gurukul, Kurukshetra was appointed Himachal Pradesh Governor in August 2015. Zero-budget farming that he had himself practised at the Gurukul has become his brain-child in the state, starting from 2018. Acharya will be replaced by BJP leader and former union minister Kalraj Mishra. Now, Governor — designate Gujarat, Archarya says “I am thankful to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for giving me a great opportunity to serve Gujarat. It is one state, which in itself is best model of development. This is branding the state received under Modi ji’s Chief Ministership. I will certainly try to carry on with all those things, I successfully tried here”. Also Read – Encounter under way in Pulwama, militant killedNow, that Zero-budget farming has already been included in the budget for 2019-20, the country will see a new focus on achieving the goals of doubling farm income and stopping use of highly harmful chemicals, resulting in adverse effects on the health of people, and diseases like cancer and diabetics. Last year, Modi had invited Acharya to address members of Parliament on zero-budget farming concept and later had sent teams of experts and Niti Aayog delegation to Kurukshetra to study the zero-budget farming model. Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister, cabinet ministers and top bureaucrats were also taken to Kurukshetra later. “I just had a word with Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and he was in complete agreement with me that zero budget farming will be taken forward in the state. My departure from Himachal Pradesh does’nt mean end of zero-budget farming. I will also keep coming to Himachal Pradesh to oversee the implementation of the ZBNF project. This will be new revolution for the hill state. Some early results are very encouraging”, Acharya said. Governor’s four-point agenda in Himachal Pradesh included fight against drug abuse among youths,Water Conservation, Beti Bachao, Beti Padao and zero-budget natural farming . It was first — time Acharya organised events at Raj Bhawan inviting experts like Rajendra Singh, well-known water conservationist and Magsaysay Awardee, Subhash Palekar, an Indian farmer and Padamshree awardee for his pioneering work in zero budget natural farming, NGOs and Government officials to carry forward his four-point agenda. read more
Mumbai: In a major boost to investigation against underworld don Chota Shakeel and Dawood Ibrahim, the Mumbai Police has arrested Afroz Wadariya aka Ahmed Raza here, officials said.Senior Mumbai Police officials told IANS that Wadariya, who was a close aide of Shakeel and used to handle the hawala transactions for them was arrested on Tuesday on the basis of a Look Out Circular notice issued against him here.The official said that as soon as he reached Mumbai he was arrested at the airport and handed over to the Mumbai Police.According to the police official, Wadariya was the person who carried out the hawala transactions on the advice of underworld dons Dawood Ibrahim and Chota Shakeel.The official said that Wadariya was directly connected to Dawood Ibrahim’s close aide Fahim Machmach. read more
Noida (UP): Two alleged criminals were arrested after separate gunfights with policemen in Noida and Greater Noida on Friday, officials said. A total of seven alleged criminals, including two contract killers, were held after six encounters with police officials in the last five days in Gautam Buddh Nagar, they said. Harendra Pal, a native of Ghaziabad, was held around 1.45 am near Ganda Naala in Sector 15 by Sector 20 police team after a round of cross-firing, Noida Vineet Jaiswal said. Also Read – After eight years, businessman arrested for kidnap & murder “He was wanted for a loot case of July 28 and also had cases of loot, attempted murder at various police stations in the district. He was carrying a reward of Rs 25,000 on his arrest,” he said. “The accused had tried to flee on his motorcycle and opened fire on the police team which had stopped him for questioning. He got injured in retaliatory fire and has been hospitalised,” Jaiswal said. In Dadri area, police arrested Aakash Prasad, who had fled from the Surajpur court on Thursday, the officials said. Also Read – Two brothers held for snatchings “Aakash had 17 cases of robbery, attempt to murder against him and was being produced in the court on Thursday but somehow fled from the police custody. Searches were underway and early this morning, the Dadri police got a tip off about his presence,” Greater Noida SP Ranvijay Singh said. Two firearms, along with ammunition, were seized from the accused’s possession, police said, adding that further investigation was underway. Two sharpshooters of the Billu Dujana gang were arrested on Thursday following a gunfight with police in Phase 2 area of Noida, while on Wednesday, a man carrying a reward of Rs 25,000 on his arrest and wanted in half a dozen cases of robbery and murder was nabbed after an encounter in the same region, officials said. A gangster carrying a reward of Rs 25,000 and wanted in nearly a dozen cases of robbery and illicit liquor trade was held after a gunfight with police in Greater Noida on Tuesday. On Monday also, the Noida Police had nabbed the mastermind of the sensational robbery at the corporate office of Mahagun Group after a gunfight. Sachin Thakur, carrying a reward of Rs 1 lakh on his arrest, was held from Phase 2 police station area after he got hit on his leg with a bullet, the official said. read more
Phagwara: Members of the Dalit community here on Thursday took out a protest march against the demolition of the Guru Ravidas temple in New Delhi’s Tughlakabad area on the apex court order. They demanded the reallotment of the land for the reconstruction of the temple. Carrying black flags and banners, they first assembled at the PWD rest house here and then took out a protest march on the national highway, before converging on the sugar mill chowk. Also Read – After eight years, businessman arrested for kidnap & murder They also raised slogans against the Union government. Jarnail Nangal, president of the SC wing of the Lok Insaaf Party, led the protesters. Nangal said Dalits had rejected the idea of having an alternative site for the temple. When a delegation of the community met Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri in Delhi, he had suggested an alternative site for the temple, he said. “We are subjected to the tyranny of the system and the demolition of the Guru Ravidas temple is a glaring example of it,” Nangal alleged. Also Read – Two brothers held for snatchings He said Dalits would hold a dharna at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on August 21 to protest the demolition of the temple. Meanwhile, Shri Guru Ravidas Sadhu Sampardai Society chairman Sant Mohinderpal Pandwa demanded the reconstruction of the temple at the same site. He said,”It is a historic site hallowed by Guru Ravidas around 1509, a centre of faith and devotion for lakhs of his followers. Nothing short of the reallocation of the land is acceptable to us.” On August 13, members of Dalit community had observed a Punjab bandh to protest the demolition of the temple. read more
New Delhi: Union minister Smriti Irani on Saturday condoled the death of former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, calling him a stalwart who served the nation and his ‘sangathan’ (organisation) with “dedication and zeal”. Jaitley, 66, died at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) where he was undergoing treatment for several weeks. “A stalwart who paid tribute to his simple beginnings by helping those with meagre means. Orator par excellence, legal luminary @arunjaitley ji served the Nation and sangathan with dedication and zeal. My tributes to him. Condolences to loved ones. Om Shanti,” tweeted the Women and Child Development and Textiles Minister.
OTTAWA – We know, we know — those guys are good, as the PGA Tour’s slogan goes. But make no mistake: so are the women.Ask anyone who saw last weekend’s superlative Solheim Cup showdown, complete with a riveting Sunday-singles comeback by U.S. powerhouse Lexi Thompson — she of the four-stroke penalty debacle at the ANA Inspiration in April — to eke out a half-point against Europe’s Anna Nordqvist.The three-day match-play contest in Des Moines offered up some of the most compelling, high-quality golf of the year, and ought to have golf fans lining up to check out the CP Women’s Open, underway this week at the newly redesigned Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club.Operative words: “ought to.”When it comes to Canada’s premier displays of professional golf, the RBC Canadian Open — perpetually, it seems, at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ont. — remains a bigger draw than its more mobile female counterpart.“There is a little bit of a different feeling, and I’m not quite sure why that is,” says Lorie Kane, the 21-year LPGA veteran, four-time winner, national golf treasure and pride of Charlottetown, P.E.I.“I’ve been to both. I feel the excitement at both. I think once a fan comes to the LPGA Tour, they’re fans for life. But it’s getting them there that we seem to have some problems with.“It frustrates me, I’m not gonna lie. It frustrates me that women’s sports take a back seat to just about everything, and I think we deserve better.”Fans of golf played at the highest level — of seeing how true masters of the game manage their way around a challenging layout under the toughest of conditions — are sure to find something to like among the many prodigious talents of the LPGA Tour.Since the women don’t need golf courses in excess of 7,500 yards to test their mettle, the Women’s Open has been able to showcase a number of top-tier Canadian courses across the country in recent years: Point Grey in Vancouver, Glen Arbour in Halifax or Royal Mayfair in Edmonton, where your humble correspondent spent countless early-morning hours with dear old Dad.Do not underestimate the giddy thrill of watching world-class golfers navigate the same cambered, forest-lined fairways, huge, vexing greens and thick rough that you knew in your childhood, perhaps better than your own backyard. It never gets old, gender be damned.And while prodigious ball-strikers like Dustin Johnson or Brooks Koepka ensure the men’s pro game looks less and less like the golf one sees at the local muni on a Sunday afternoon, amateur golfers of all talents are liable to find their game has a lot more in common with that of the women.“The general public learns more from our game, just strictly based on tempo and ability,” says Kane.“Dustin Johnson, he’s a freak of nature. I mean, he is so athletic, and how he applies the club head to the ball … not the average person can do that. But, if they come out and watch … any number of the Korean players, their golf swings are built on simple, basic, tempo fundamentals.”Of course, some golf fans simply want to see how far the ball can travel. For them, there’s a host of long bombers on the LPGA Tour, including 19-year-old Brooke Henderson, the darling of Smiths Falls, Ont., an hour’s drive south of the national capital.Henderson’s superhuman flexibility allows a pass at the ball that’s downright Dustin-esque. She takes it well past parallel on the backswing and leaves nothing on the tee. And it works: in only her third year on tour, Henderson is ranked 10th in the world and has four career victories to her name, including last year’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.“She’s getting it done, so it’s fun to see a bunch of different types of games,” said Kane. “We’re not just ‘plinky, plinky, plinky,’ but we do have that.“So, our game, yeah, there’s variety. You want to see length, we’ve got it. But then, you’ll have someone like Mo Martin, who will drive you crazy with how close to the hole she can hit a five-wood.”The diminutive Martin vaulted on to the scene in 2014 when she captured the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Birkdale, her first LPGA win, with a laser-like three-wood that plinked off the pin on 18 for an easy eagle. That shot, followed by a celebratory shimmy, made Martin a bona fide superstar.This week, the redesigned second hole at the Hunt — just one of several dramatic changes to the Willie Park Jr. design by celebrated U.S. architect Michael Hurdzan — will offer the perfect tableau for the various styles of play on display.Measuring just over 300 yards to an elevated green well-guarded by deep bunkers, longer hitters are sure to take a shot at driving the green, while others like Martin will likely have to take a more strategic approach.“This might be one of the shortest holes, and it may be one of the hardest, because it’s a blind shot into that green,” Hurdzan said during a visit to the Hunt last year.“We purposely kept it that way; that was the intent.”LPGA crowds are usually smaller than their PGA Tour counterparts, which is good news for those who do attend: better vantage points, more opportunities to get up close to the players. Ticket prices are reasonable, too — a full week badge is less than $100, compared with $135 for the men’s event.The bad news?“The last time we played at the Hunt Club we had a record number of fans,” says Kane.“And I think now with Brooke’s influence, with Smiths Falls being so close, just with the healthy environment that we have right now in Canadian women’s golf … Ottawa, I believe, will be busy.”Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version misspelled Dustin Johnson’s last name. read more
LANGLEY, B.C. – A collection of classic vehicles worth millions of dollars was destroyed Wednesday when fire raced through a building in Langley, B.C.Alyn Edwards, a columnist who writes about classic cars and a good friend of the owners, Garry and Darlene Cassidy, said they are devastated by the loss.The couple were on their way home from the United States after learning of the fire, he said.Edwards said he spoke with Garry Cassidy on the phone. The couple had been in Las Vegas at a classic car auction.“He’s in tears, these cars are so important to him and he said that insurance can pay out what they will on these cars, but they are absolutely irreplaceable.”Edwards said there were about 40 classic cars in the building, most of them General Motors vehicles from the 1950s and ’60s.“This is a building that was built in the last year. They were so proud of it,” he said. “It was a showcase and showroom for the cars, with a lot of memorabilia, a lot of electric signs and things like that.”Edwards said the collection contained two 1955 Pontiac Star Chiefs, including a rare Safari station wagon, and Cassidy was proud of his matching set.The collection had many trophy cars, including a Camero, Impalas, and Chevelles, Edwards said, adding it was valued at between $2 million and $3 million.“What Garry told me was that it doesn’t matter what kind of monetary value will be paid out on these cars, many of the cars irreplaceable.”The vehicles were insured, said Edwards, who is an avid collector himself.“I just can’t imagine having a lifetime of collecting wiped out like this and what that would do to somebody.”Deputy fire chief Bruce Ferguson of Langley Township said an alarm system alerted them to a fire early Wednesday, but by the time they arrived the flames were shooting out the roof of the two-storey building.Ferguson said the cars would have contributed to the fuel load. There were several explosions during the fire, which could have been fuel tanks or vehicle tires, he said.The cause of the fire in the roughly 740-square-metre building hasn’t been determined.“Whenever there is a fire when there’s nobody home we always deem it as suspicious before we start our investigation but that can’t be confirmed until we get through our investigation,” Ferguson said.The building did not have a sprinkler system and Ferguson said there were no injuries fighting the fire. read more
MONTREAL – In Montreal’s Gay Village, a red-orange glow radiates from a Vietnamese tapas restaurant onto a side street lined with red, brown and grey-bricked apartment buildings.Neon-infused glass tubes have been melted and twisted into the words “Cang dong cang vui,” meaning “the more the merrier,” and mounted conspicuously on a wall above the kitchen, which serves dishes inspired by Southeast Asian street food.Lucent scenes such as this can be found across the cityscape, from a tiki bar in Chinatown with a green neon pineapple adorning its entrance to a cherry-red neon condor stretching its wings in a downtown Peruvian restaurant serving pisco cocktails.Behind much of the resurgence of the city’s neon lights is a 59-year-old artist who works out of a 75-square-metre studio in a slightly derelict, repurposed factory that used to make porcelain toilets along the southern bank of Montreal’s Lachine Canal.“They used to say you made it when you get your name in neon lights,” said Gerald Collard, who has spent 40 years working with neon gas and electrified tubes.Collard, along with his sister and daughter, opened “Neon Family” three years ago to satisfy the renewed and growing demand for neon lighting.Neon connotes nightlife, action, the inherent vice of urban centres, he said. “It’s poetry in the city.”Montreal’s downtown, like many other North American cities, was bathed in neon for a good part of the 20th century.Today, however, neon in the city can be found indoors — sought after by restaurateurs seeking carefully manicured spots in their venue to serve as backdrops in pictures destined for social media pages.Designer Guillaume Menard, who chose the neon tubing for the Gay Village’s Vietnamese tapas restaurant, Le Red Tiger, said young restaurateurs are highly conscious of how the interiors of their restaurants will look on Instagram.“It’s really a constraint they impose on me,” said Menard, of Atelier Mainor. He said he noticed a change in restaurateurs over the last couple years.“For my clients younger than 35, they ask, ‘What will people take photos of at our place?’”To have a young woman with 50,000 Instagram followers snap a shot of “the best sandwich I had all week” with a neon logo of the restaurant in the background is free advertising for the venue, he said.If a photo of a recognizable architectural feature is widely shared on social media, it is also great visibility for the designer, Menard explained.“The more people take photos of your place the more visibility you have — it’s simple,” he said.Back at Neon Family, artist Fanny-Jane Pelletier is sitting on the studio’s mezzanine with her legs dangling over the main workspace.She is one of Collard’s apprentices and spends time learning how to melt, bend and twist neon glass tubes for school credit.“He’s my guru,” she said of Collard. “This morning I was actually thinking of making something with neon and cement.”Collard said he chose the name, Neon Family, in part because he wanted to create a family of artists who would carry on the traditional techniques of melting, bending and blowing glass when he retires.But for that to happen, orders need to keep coming in, something Collard recognizes is not guaranteed.“It’s probably going to fade,” he said about neon’s current popularity. “But right now we are enjoying the wave.”Menard, meanwhile, said he has stopped suggesting his clients use a neon sign as a centrepiece in their venue.“Personally, for me, it’s finished,” said Menard. “We will start to exploit (neon) in different ways. But I think Neon Family has many good years ahead of it.” read more
OTTAWA – Crown attorney Jeffery Richardson says jurors ought to have no reasonable doubts that Basil Borutski killed three former friends in a carefully executed plan to exact revenge.Borutski is on trial for first-degree murder in the deaths of Carol Culleton, 66, Anastasia Kuzyk, 36, and Nathalie Warmerdam, 48.Culleton was strangled to death with a television coaxial cable and Kuzyk and Warmerdam were both killed with a 12-gauge shotgun fired at close range. They all died within about an hour of each other at their residences in Renfrew County on the morning of Sept. 22, 2015.Richardson delivered his closing statement to the jury on Tuesday, saying the case he laid out proves Borutski planned to kill all three women in a twisted belief they deserved to die because he felt they had lied about him to police and their friends and used him for money.He explained that to prove murder he has to show Borutski killed the three women intentionally and unlawfully and to prove first-degree murder he has to show it was planned and deliberate. He says the evidence proves all of that. He said DNA, firearms evidence and eyewitness testimony all identify Borutski as the killer.Then there is the five-hour videotaped confession Borutski gave to an OPP officer the day after the murders in which he repeatedly admits to killing them and explains how he did it, but claims it wasn’t murder because they were not innocent. According to Borutski, only innocent people can be murdered.He argued that Kuzyk and Warmerdam lied in court when they helped get him convicted of threatening and assaulting them and Culleton lied about her relationship with him and then shunned him for another man.“Borutski would have us cast some sort of biblical justification upon what is really nothing more than a callous, premeditated act of revenge, an act of murder in any way you define it,” Richardson said. “There is no justification for what he did.”Richardson said there is no doubt Borutski intended to kill Kuzyk when he shot her while she cowered behind her kitchen island, or that he intended to kill Warmerdam as he chased her around her farmhouse and shot her at close range while she tried to run up the stairs.He said there is no doubt he intended to kill Culleton when he broke into her cottage and picked up a coaxial cable inside while she tried to defend herself and begged him to reconsider saying “this is not you Basil.”“Pause now and consider the physical act of wrapping a cable around a living woman’s neck six times, how long it takes, how much effort it takes, while she is fighting for her life,” Richardson asked the jury.The 11-member jury will be charged by the judge Wednesday morning before beginning deliberations. Justice Robert Maranger discharged the 12th member of the jury Tuesday morning after a family emergency left her unable to attend the trial.Borutski, 60, is representing himself, but sat silently in the prisoner’s box and refused to participate Tuesday, as he has throughout the trial. He did not acknowledge the judge when Maranger asked him if he wanted to give a closing statement.James Foord, the lawyer appointed by Maranger to ensure Borutski’s right to a fair trial, delivered a closing statement, reminding the jurors they have to decide if Borutski planned and deliberately killed the three women.— follow @mrabson on Twitter. read more
KELOWNA, B.C. – A woman in Kelowna, B.C., says an afternoon drive with her son turned into a “devastating” experience when human feces fell from the sky and into her eyes from the open sunroof of their car.Susan Allan says she and her 21-year-old son Travis Sweet had just returned from having lunch with her mother when the stinky feces fell on their faces and covered the vehicle.She says the feces appeared to have fallen from a plane that she saw when they were stopped at a red light with another car that was also hit.Allan says she and the driver of the other car drove to a carwash and sprayed themselves off before she called the Kelowna airport.She says an administrator at the airport told her Transport Canada would be investigating and the department has confirmed it is looking into the incident possibly involving what’s called “blue ice” or waste from an aircraft.Allan says she has conjunctivitis in both eyes and provided a doctor’s note saying the infections were due to being “inundated with sewage from an overhead plane while driving her car.” read more
TORONTO – Ontario’s new premier has frozen the wages of public service managers and ordered a review of executive and management compensation in his latest effort to curb government spending.A memo posted on the government website Friday — the day Doug Ford was sworn in as premier — says pending pay adjustments for managers, executives and staff not covered by collective bargaining will be on hold “until the new government can put in place an expenditure management strategy.”The documents says merit pay for the current performance cycle will not be affected, however.Ford had previously put the public service under a hiring freeze, except for essential frontline staff such as police and corrections officers, and halted discretionary spending such as newspaper subscriptions.The Progressive Conservative leader campaigned on a promise of fiscal responsibility and vowed to find billions in efficiencies each year without cutting jobs. He has also pledged to launch a line-by-line audit of government spending to help eliminate waste.The Tories said Tuesday the wage freeze would apply until the audit and compensation review are complete.Under its previous leader, the party had promised to review the salaries of public sector CEOs and other executives if elected to government.The newly ousted Liberals had imposed a five-year wage freeze on public sector executives and managers. As it lifted last year, broader public sector agencies were required to post their proposals for new executive compensation packages under a framework that capped salaries at the 50th percentile of “appropriate comparators.” read more
BANFF, Alta. – Three bison babies have been born in the backcountry of Banff National Park — the first calves conceived in the area in more than 140 years.Two of the bison were born on July 15, while the third was born Thursday.“They’re doing great, they are up and around and nursing, and doing really well,” said Bill Hunt, manager of resource conservation with Banff National Park. “If we’re really lucky, we’ll have six more born as well this year.“These are the first made-in-Banff bison.”It’s the latest milestone in Banff National Park after 16 plains bison from Elk Island National Park were reintroduced into the area in February 2017.Six bulls and 10 pregnant females were transported in crates by truck and helicopter into a fenced pasture in the remote Panther River Valley, about 40 kilometres north of the town of Banff.Each of the females had calves last spring, which are doing well, and brought the herd to 26 animals.Nine of the 10 females were bred last fall and are expected to give birth a second time this year, but the calving season has been later than normal.“Calving in 2017 occurred between April 23 and May 23,” said Hunt. “This year, we’re halfway into July.”He said there’s a couple potential factors for the delay.“One is that these (bison) were bred by very young bulls who had to learn what they were doing so things were spread out,” he said. “We didn’t see any breeding activity during the typical rut in August. It was later in the season.“Secondly, it’s not uncommon for young females who are still caring for first-year calves to be not in great body shape in terms of being able to being bred again.”Hunt said many of the female bison didn’t become receptive to breeding again until later in the year.The bison herd, which could grow to 35 animals, will be released into a larger 1,200-square-kilometre reintroduction zone on the eastern slopes of the park in the coming weeks.“We’re playing it by ear, watching water levels and where we are at with the calving,” said Hunt. “If a couple calves have just dropped, we don’t want to be releasing them that day.“Water levels have come down nicely.”There will still be short stretches of fencing to keep the bison from wandering out of the park.— By Colette Derworiz in Edmonton read more