first_imgVICTORIA, B.C. — Citizens’ Services Minister Jinny Sims announced yesterday that the provincial government will contribute $7 million for Shaw Communications to build a fibre-optic cable along the Hart Highway between Prince George and Dawson Creek.The fibre optic line that will be built from the Northern Cariboo to the Peace Region will be just over 400 kilometres in length, and is one of four connectivity projects being funded by the B.C. government. Shaw has had issues serving the Peace Region in the past, and yesterday’s announcement came just one day after an issue with a fibre line caused Shaw customers in Fort St. John, Taylor, and Dawson Creek to experience a service interruption. Last year, Shaw customers in the Peace experienced three separate outages due to issues with the company’s network.On Tuesday, Sims announced that the Province and Feds are both partnering with internet service providers on $38 million worth of Internet infrastructure across B.C., with the provincial government contributing $11.3 million in total. “This is not just an investment in high-speed internet, it’s an investment in the future for those living in rural, First Nations and Indigenous communities, so they have access to cutting-edge emergency services, high-quality health care, world-class education and improved ability to participate in the growing digital economy,” said Sims. “By working with our federal and local partners, we are leveraging relationships to give people in these communities the same internet access as those living in major urban centres.”The announcement was part of an event hosted by Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains, as the federal government committed a further $19,748,063 to the four projects.“Access to high-speed internet is not a luxury, it’s essential,” said Bains. “High-speed internet service is a basic tool that all Canadians should have access to, regardless of their postal code. Canadians need this service to do business, upgrade their education and build stronger communities. Thanks to our Connect to Innovate program, more Canadians will be able to participate fully in the digital economy.”last_img read more

first_imgChandigarh: Union Minister and BJP candidate from Amritsar, Hardeep Singh Puri, on Tuesday took a jibe at the ongoing war of words between Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and his Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, saying, “…the cat is out of the bag”. “All along the campaign one could sense an unease in their ranks. Now the cat is out of the bag!” he tweeted. Along with the tweet, he tagged a post that talked about how Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu was facing the ire of his party colleagues. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss account details under automatic exchange framework According to reports, Cabinet Minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot on Monday asked Sidhu to resign from the state Cabinet if he could not work with Amarinder Singh. The reprimand came a day after the Chief Minister himself publicly criticised Sidhu for damaging Congress’ poll prospects with his ill-timed comments against him and the party leadership in the state. “If he was a real Congressmen, he should have chosen a better time to air his grievances instead of just ahead of voting in Punjab,” said the Chief Minister in an informal interaction with reporters here. Also Read – Afghan Taliban frees 3 Indian hostages in exchange for 11 top militant leaders: Reports Sidhu had accused the Chief Minister of being responsible for the denial of ticket to his wife Navjot Kaur from Chandigarh. During the campaigning, he also tried to corner his own government by questioning why no criminal case was lodged against former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son and former deputy Sukhbir Singh Badal in connection with the 2015 sacrilege and police-firing incidents. “It was not his election alone but that of the entire Congress. It is for the high command to decide on any action against Sidhu, but the Congress, as a party, does not tolerate indiscipline,” Amarinder Singh said.last_img read more

first_imgPaul Pogba is already dreaming big and hopes to add his own star to the France shirt by winning Sunday’s World Cup final against CroatiaLes Bleus are hoping to end a wait of two decades in Sunday’s final by claiming only their second world title against Croatia.History favours the French, who defeated Croatia in the semi-finals of the 1998 tournament on route to winning the World Cup, but Pogba is aware that both himself and his teammates will have it all to do at Moscow against a side that have performed above all expectations at Russia this summer and have proven themselves to be worthy contenders for the World Cup“Croatia do not have stars – they want one. They have done very well and they want the victory, like us,” said Pogba, according to Sky Sports.“But I do not have a star. It’s on the shirt, but I did not win it. We want to go looking for it like all players. It will be a World Cup final, a great match, difficult.”Croatia have played into extra-time in their last three games now and fatigue has been a concern.“We are not thinking about it,” said Pogba.ole gunnar solskjaer, manchester unitedReport: Up to seven first team players out for United George Patchias – September 13, 2019 Manchester United have some serious injury problems with up to seven first-team players out.This Saturday, United have a Premier League clash with Leicester City….“Croatia played a very tough match against England. They did not give up. They were losing 1-0 and came back.“There are two teams and one cup. They have played 90 minutes more than us – I don’t know if it’s a disadvantage for them or if they’re going to want to show that they want to win even more.“For me, we are not favourites. We did not forget the doubts about us at the beginning of the competition, about our ability to play together.“We haven’t done anything yet.”While Croatia do have Luka Modric in their ranks, Pogba knows better than to just concentrate on him.“It’s not only Modric – there is also (Ivan) Rakitic, (Ivan) Perisic and even the defenders,” he said.“I don’t think there will be a plan for Modric. There will be one for everyone.”last_img read more

first_imgAberdeen manager Derek McInnes has confirmed that the injury suffered by Gary Mackay-Steven is not severe after a clash of heads with Dedryck Boyata.The winger was stretched off during Aberdeen Scottish Cup final loss to Celtic on Sunday, but his manager revealed he has suffered no major damage.“I saw his family down at the dugout and there was an obvious concern there,” McInnes said, according to The National. “I was told he was unconscious and there was an urgency to get medics onto the park.”“Thankfully he’s sitting up in hospital, getting his tests down and it will be hopefully a straightforward concussion. Obviously, he misses the next game but I’m gutted for Gary because he was so looking forward to the opportunity to shine and has been in good form for us.”ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND - MAY 04: Manager of Celtic Neil Lennon celebrates as his side secured the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership title after the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership match between Aberdeen and Celtic at Pittodrie Stadium on May 04, 2019 in Aberdeen, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)Lennon praises Celtic’s fan support Manuel R. Medina – May 5, 2019 According to the team manager, the way the supporters behave this season helped the team achieve an eighth consecutive title.Meanwhile, McInnes also admitted he is unhappy with match referee Andrew Dallas, following his decision to award Celtic a penalty kick.“The penalty decision didn’t do us any real harm, but it wasn’t a penalty in the first place,” he said.“It was clearly outside the box. If we didn’t have a goalie like Joe Lewis it would have been 2-0 and far more difficult.”“I also felt there was another yellow card challenge from Ryan Christie when Dom Ball breaks. The ref said he played the ball when he clearly didn’t. You need a lot of things to go for you in a final and it might sound churlish but a couple of decisions were really harsh on my team today.”“I love Ryan Christie, but it was another yellow card and the referee was in a brilliant position to see that and I don’t understand how he can say he played the ball.”last_img read more

first_imgWILMINGTON, MA — Edward C. Hanlon, age 91, of Wilmington, formerly of Malden and Winthrop, passed away on May 18, 2019.Edward was the beloved husband of Jean M. (Brennan) Hanlon, devoted father of Leslie Coye & her husband Kenneth of Malden, Dana Doyle & her husband James of Wilmington and Edward “Ned” Hanlon of Winthrop, loving “Grandpa” of Kristen Reidy & her husband Michael, Kathleen Christensen & her husband Ryan, Erin Doyle and Ryan Hanlon & his wife Elizabeth, Great-grandfather of Sean Reidy, Jack, Eleanor and Maeve Hanlon, cherished son of the late William and Mary Sarah (Schwartz) Hanlon, dear brother of Paul Hanlon of CA, Arthur Hanlon of NH, Dorothy Turner of CA, the late William, Rita, Albert, Robert and Hubert Hanlon. Edward is also survived by many loving nieces and nephews.Family and friends will gather at the Nichols Funeral Home, Inc., 187 Middlesex Ave., (Rte. 62), Wilmington on Thursday, May 23rd at 10:00 a.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will follow at St. Thomas of Villanova Church, 126 Middlesex Ave., Wilmington at 11:00 a.m. Interment will follow in Wildwood Cemetery, Wilmington. Visiting hours will take place at the Funeral Home on Wednesday, May 22nd from 4:00 – 8:00 p.m.Memorial donations in Edward’s name may be made to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105.Edward C. Hanlon(NOTE: The above obituary is from Nichols Funeral Home.)Like Wilmington Apple on Facebook. Follow Wilmington Apple on Twitter. Follow Wilmington Apple on Instagram. Subscribe to Wilmington Apple’s daily email newsletter HERE. Got a comment, question, photo, press release, or news tip? Email wilmingtonapple@gmail.com.Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading… RelatedOBITUARY: William J. “Bill” Wolfe, 75In “Obituaries”OBITUARY: Helen C. (Cotter) Domigan Adams, 85In “Obituaries”OBITUARY: Stephen J. Bowker, 58In “Obituaries”last_img read more

first_imgOPEC and non-OPEC producers on Saturday reached their first deal since 2001 to curtail oil output jointly and ease a global glut after more than two years of low prices that overstretched many budgets and spurred unrest in some countries.With the deal finally signed after almost a year of arguing within the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and mistrust in the willingness of non-OPEC Russia to play ball, the market’s focus will now switch to compliance with the agreement.OPEC has a long history of cheating on output quotas. The fact that Nigeria and Libya were exempt from the deal due to production-denting civil strife will further pressure OPEC leader Saudi Arabia to shoulder the bulk of supply reductions.Russia, which 15 years ago failed to deliver on promises to cut in tandem with OPEC, is expected to perform real output reductions this time. But analysts question whether many other non-OPEC producers are attempting to present a natural decline in output as their contribution to the deal.”This agreement cements and prepares us for long-term cooperation,” Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih told reporters after the meeting, calling the deal “historic”.Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told the same news conference: “Today’s deal will speed up the oil market stabilisation, reduce volatility, attract new investments.”Last week, OPEC agreed to slash output by 1.2 million barrels per day from Jan. 1, with top exporter Saudi Arabia cutting as much as 486,000 bpd. Falih said on Saturday that Riyadh may cut even deeper.On Saturday, producers from outside the 13-country group agreed to reduce output by 558,000 bpd, short of the initial target of 600,000 bpd but still the largest contribution by non-OPEC ever.Of that, Russia will cut 300,000 bpd, Novak said. He added it would be gradual and by the end of March Russia would be producing 200,000 bpd less than its October 2016 level of 11.247 million bpd – Russia’s highest production estimate so far.Russian output would fall to 10.947 million bpd after six months, Novak said.”They are all enjoying higher prices and compliance tends to be good in the early stages. But then as prices continue to rise, compliance will erode,” said veteran OPEC watcher and founder of Pira Energy consultancy Gary Ross.Amrita Sen from consultancy Energy Aspects said: “Compared to two months ago when the prospects of a deal were fading rapidly, this is a huge turnaround. Sceptics will argue about compliance but the symbolism in itself cannot be understated.”Ross added that OPEC would target an oil price of $60 per barrel as anything above that could encourage rival production.TWO YEARS OF PAINOil prices have more than halved in the past two years after Saudi Arabia raised output steeply in an attempt to drive higher-cost producers such as U.S. shale firms out of the market.The plunge in oil to below $50 per barrel – and sometimes even below $30 – from as high as $115 in mid-2014 has helped reduce growth in U.S. shale output.But it also hit the revenues of oil-dependent economies including Saudi Arabia and Russia, prompting the two largest exporters of crude to start their first oil cooperation talks in 15 years.In April in Doha, an attempt to clinch a deal collapsed. Novak said talks between OPEC and non-OPEC had been rescued after Saudi Arabia replaced veteran oil minister Ali al-Naimi with Falih, who “had fresh views and ideas”.Apart from Russia, the talks on Saturday were attended by or had comments or commitments sent from non-OPEC members Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bolivia, Brunei, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Oman, Sudan and South Sudan.Novak said OPEC and the non-OPEC countries at the meeting were responsible for 55 percent of global output. Their joint reduction of around 1.8 million bpd would account for about 2 percent of global oil supply.Many non-OPEC countries such as Mexico and Azerbaijan face a natural drop in oil production and some analysts expressed doubts those declines should be counted as cuts.Oman said it would cut output by 45,000 bpd and Kazakhstan said it would try to reduce by 20,000 bpd next year.”While a lot of the countries are formalising natural declines, cuts by Russia, Kazakhstan and Oman are real. Russia and Kazakhstan were between them expected to add 400,000 bpd to production next year,” Sen of Energy Aspects said.last_img read more

first_imgIndia beat PakistanReutersFormer Pakistani cricketer Sikander Bakht stated that India may intentionally lose in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 on June 30 at Edgbaston so that Pakistan do not qualify for the semi-finals. This statement of the former cricket comes after the statement of another former Pakistani cricketer Basit Ali who stated the same and came out with a conspiracy theory.Bakht, who played 26 Tests and 27 ODIs for Pakistan stated that the Men in Blue will start loosing after they have sealed the semi-final berth so that Pakistan cannot get through.Basit Ali earlier had also claimed that India do not want Pakistan in the semi-finals so they will lose their matches against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.A video shared by Pakistan journalist Saj Sadiq featuring Bakht in a Pakistan news channel had him saying, ” If India are already through, they will in their final match allow the opponents to win to ensure that Pakistan are knocked-out.”Former Pakistan bowler Sikander Bakht “If India are already through, they will in their final match allow the opponents to win to ensure that Pakistan are knocked-out” #CWC19 pic.twitter.com/LNrwGgsrTo— Saj Sadiq (@Saj_PakPassion) June 28, 2019India defeated arch-rival Pakistan by 89 runs (DLS method) in a rain-hit encounter in Manchester. The most awaited match became a one-sided affair as the Indian team did not let Pakistan get into the game. Indian opener Rohit Sharma scored yet another ton in the tournament. He scored 140 runs and was supported by Virat Kohli and KL Rahul. India are on the verge of qualification after beating West Indies in their last fixture. They will face England, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka next. The Virat Kohli led squad need to win a match to secure qualification. The Men in Blue are placed second on the table with 11 points.On the other hand, Pakistan have an uphill task in their hands. They are placed sixth on the table with seven points from seven games. They have to beat Afghanistan and Bangladesh to qualify for the next stage. At the same time they need other results to favour them especially they will want India to beat England, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.last_img read more

first_imgUS president Donald Trump`s attorney Rudy Giuliani is seen during a visit at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem. Photo: ReutersUS president Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani insisted there was “nothing wrong” with the president’s 2016 campaign taking information from the Russians, as House Democrats pledged stepped-up investigations into campaign misconduct and possible crimes of obstruction detailed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report .Giuliani called the Trump campaign’s effort to get political help from representatives of the Russian government possibly ill-advised but not illegal.”There’s nothing wrong with taking information from Russians,” Giuliani said Sunday, referring to a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting involving Trump’s son Donald Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and a lawyer linked to Russia. The Trump campaign was seeking harmful information on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.The Sunday news shows offered the latest back and forth following the long-anticipated release on Thursday of Mueller’s 448-page redacted report on his two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Mueller found no evidence of a conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign and made no decision on obstruction of justice.Giuliani rebutted Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who said in a statement on Twitter Friday he was “sickened” by the findings in Mueller’s report that cited details on how the Trump campaign welcomed political dirt from Russia.Giuliani said Romney should “stop the bull,” saying that accepting negative information about a political opponent is common. “I would have advised, just out of excess of caution, don’t do it,” he said. Nevertheless, “there’s no crime.”Pressed about whether there is a something wrong about using information stolen by foreign adversaries, Giuliani said, “It depends on the stolen material.”Trump, who spent the holiday weekend at his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, asserted in tweets Sunday that he had been fully cleared by Mueller’s report and that Democrats’ continued efforts to investigate him will prove politically costly.”Despite No Collusion, No Obstruction, The Radical Left Democrats do not want to go on to Legislate for the good of the people, but only to Investigate and waste time. This is costing our Country greatly, and will cost the Dems big time in 2020!” he tweeted.Mueller explicitly did not exonerate Trump in the report on the question of obstruction, citing in part Justice Department guidelines that a sitting president shouldn’t be indicted.Not ruling out impeachment, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who chairs the House committee that would hold impeachment hearings, said he remained puzzled why Mueller did not bring charges of criminal conspiracy against those in the Trump Tower meeting.”All you have to prove for conspiracy is that they entered into a meeting of the minds to do something wrong and had one overt act. They entered into a meeting of the minds to attend a meeting to get stolen material on Hillary (Clinton). They went to the meeting. That’s conspiracy right there,” said Nadler, D-N.Y.Nadler said it was now up to Congress to investigate after the special counsel said it did not establish enough evidence to bring charges of criminal conspiracy, yet detailed 10 allegations of Trump’s attempts to obstruct the Russia investigation that left open whether Trump broke the law.Asked whether the offenses are impeachable, Nadler told NBC, “If proven, some of this would be impeachable, yes.” He said Democrats’ current focus is to “go where the evidence leads us.”Nadler has subpoenaed the Justice Department for the full, unredacted report and said Sunday he was adding former White House counsel Don McGahn to the list of people he would call to testify before his committee, along with Mueller and Attorney General William Barr. According to the special counsel’s report, McGahn was among the Trump aides who effectively halted Trump’s efforts to influence the Russia investigation, rebuffing his demand to set Mueller’s firing in motion.Nadler has said he expects the Justice Department to comply with the subpoena for the full report by May 1, the same day Barr is to testify before a Senate committee and one day before Barr is to appear before Nadler’s panel. Nadler summoned Mueller to testify by May 23.Democratic leaders are under mounting pressure from the party’s rising stars and some 2020 presidential contenders, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Julian Castro, a former Housing and Urban Development secretary, to start impeachment proceedings.House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is pushing for a step-by-step approach to the House’s oversight of Trump and has refused to consider impeachment without public support, including Republicans. Pelosi is convening House Democrats on Monday to assess next steps.Sen. Mike Lee, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said it would be a “mistake” for Democrats to pursue further investigations that could lead to impeachment proceedings, arguing that the American public won’t stand for it after Mueller failed to conclude that crimes had been committed.”It’s time to move on,” said Lee, R-Utah.Giuliani said Trump’s legal team was weighing whether it would release a detailed written rebuttal to the Mueller report.”It may become necessary, whether they go ahead with the hearings or not, whether other issues are raised by different people – there’s probably a point at which we’ll use it. Right now we think the public debate is playing out about as well as it can,” he said.In the redacted report, Mueller said he considered bringing charges over the Trump Tower meeting but ultimately did not obtain admissible evidence that the campaign officials involved knew the actions were illegal. The meeting had raised questions about whether Trump Jr. and others violated the federal ban on foreign contributions to American political campaigns.”On the facts here, the government would unlikely be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the June 9 meeting participants had general knowledge that their conduct was unlawful,” the report stated. “The investigation has not developed evidence that the participants in the meeting were familiar with the foreign-contribution ban or the application of federal law to the relevant factual context.”Giuliani spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union,” ”Fox News Sunday” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Nadler also appeared on NBC. Lee was on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”last_img

first_img 00:00 /01:45 Sen. Ted Cruz addressed the Texas Republican Convention in Dallas over the weekend. It was Cruz’s first major speech since he ended his quest for the presidency.Cruz said he will return to the Senate and focus on advancing conservative principles and upholding the Constitution. He singled out President Barack Obama’s directive protecting transgender rights in schools, an action he described as “politically correct lunacy.”Houston Public Media’s Coverage of Election 2016“This is an embodiment of just how off track we’ve gotten that the President believes he could decree to every public school in America, ‘I, Barack Obama, am in charge of bathroom policies in your elementary school,’” he said.Cruz then said the country needs a strong, conservative president to eliminate the Department of Education. He did not say who that president should be, nor did he endorse – or even mention – the party’s apparent nominee, Donald Trump.Vlad Davidiuk, a delegate from Houston and a Cruz supporter, said he wasn’t surprised.“At this point, Donald Trump does not represent the conservative values or the principles that the majority of the people who are here at this convention hold. So it would not have helped Ted Cruz’s speech to have mentioned the name ‘Donald Trump,’” he said.Delegates wearing stickers saying “Cruz Crew” far outnumbered those wearing pro-Trump stickers, at least on the convention’s last day. That might have been simply a show of support for the senator. But Davidiuk said it reflects a deeper split.“There hasn’t been a lot of infighting. There has not been a lot of confrontation. But I would say the majority of the people I’ve interacted with are very hardcore Cruz supporters and interested in only that aspect of the Republican nomination process. Really don’t want anything to do with Trump,” he said. Davidiuk said that could wind up hurting Trump in November. He said conservative activists are likely to focus on helping Republican candidates in down-ballot races, while ignoring the top of the ticket. X Share To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: Listen last_img read more

first_img Share Alvaro ‘Al’ Ortiz/Houston Public MediaA banner shows solidarity with the Flores family after the boy’s murder in Houston, in 2016.The man accused of murdering 11-yr old Josué Flores last year, is walking out of jail on Wednesday, after the  Harris County District Attorney’s Office dropped charges Tuesday afternoon.But Houston Police still believe that Andre Timothy Jackson, the man accused in the death of Josue Flores, is the primary suspect.In a neighborhood in North Houston, over a year ago,  Flores was stabbed 20 times walking home from middle school.Jackson was arrested a few weeks later after being identified in surveillance cameras to be in the area that day.Police chief Art Acevedo released a statement saying “at the time of the arrest…investigators developed sufficient probable cause…for the murder.”Now, Jackson is being processed out of jail because the district attorney’s office said they didn’t have substantial evidence. They said the DNA and blood analysis for Jackson was inconclusive.According to  YV channel ABC 13, the Flores family said they’re devastated that “a killer is being let loose due to insufficient evidence.”Acevedo said he continues to believe Jackson is the suspect and will devote whatever resources to bring closure to the Flores family.last_img read more

first_imgDhoomimal Gallery is showcasing the art works and archival material by F.N. Souza curated by Vinod Bharadwaj and Brij Sharma. As the name says Souza – City of Women, you will see the most popular artworks of nude women. His artworks are provocative and he does so like no other Indian artist does. There is nothing genteel about his works. He is totally uninhibited yet so endearing and so full of candor, grace and originality. That’s the common thread whether one is contemplating his life, his art or his writings. Thus, to understand the sexuality, mystery, eroticism and beauty of Souza’s women one needs to have wide-open eyes, not a narrow and puritan mind.  Also Read – ‘Playing Jojo was emotionally exhausting’People may seem to think erotica was founded by Hugh Hefner and that the Playboy magazine is the oldest of its forms, but if we go back hundreds of thousands of years, we would find erotica is as natural an emotion or element of nature as depicted in the sculptures and carvings of Khajurao and many other examples of gods and goddesses in erotic forms have actually been part of Indian history. Then why today we have such suppression.The idea of an evolved society is to have the capability of thinking, even discussing and then channelizing the thoughts.  Also Read – Leslie doing new comedy special with NetflixLetters written by Souza are not easy to come by, though he was a prolific correspondent. Vinod Bhardwaj had perhaps the finest set of them where Souza commented freely in his now-dismissive-now-sarcastic style about the work of his contemporaries offering cogent arguments to support his beliefs. Francis Newton Souza’s work is the strongest among all equals. Souza is the face of Indian Contemporary Art internationally. From landscapes to nudes, still life to strong heads, Souza’s done it all.When: On till April 30Where: Dhoomilal Art Gallery, CPlast_img read more

first_imgA road accident caused delays on a busy North Staffordshire road this afternoon. The A53 Leek New Road was partially blocked due to a three-vehicle accident in both directions near Bunt’s Lane in Stockton Brook. The vehicles were recovered by 4.50pm following the crash, which took place at around 3pm. Traffic data company INRIX reported the accident had taken place near the petrol garage. The road is a key route between Leek and Stoke-on-Trent. We also received reports of an accident on the A50 Lichfield Street in Hanley at around the same time. This accident was affecting traffic in both directions near the A52 Leek Road in Joiners Square, although it is now understood to have cleared. Read MoreLorry driver CLEARED of dangerous driving over fatal M1 crash which killed eight For the latest traffic and travel news from Stoke-on-Trent, North Staffordshire and South Cheshire visit our dedicated channel here. For further live updates from across the region visit our dedicated feed here.last_img read more

first_img Posted by << Previous PostNext Post >> Share Travelweek Group MSC opens sales on new Bellissima ship, debuting March 2019center_img GENEVA — Sales for the highly anticipated MSC Bellissima is now open, giving club members a jumpstart on booking MSC Cruises’ second Meraviglia-generation mega-ship.Sales are initially open exclusively to MSC Voyagers Club members as one of the many benefits of the program. Bookings will open on May 15 for all other guests.When booking MSC Bellissima, MSC Voyagers Club members will also receive a special 5% discount in addition to their current MSC Voyagers Club early booking discount. All other guests will enjoy a 5% discount on early booking fares until Oct. 31, 2017.Beginning in March 2019, MSC Bellissima will cruise the Western Mediterranean for its inaugural season. She will embark on her maiden voyage from Genoa, Italy on March 24, 2019 and call at Marseille and Barcelona, as well as other Mediterranean hotpots like Naples, Messina in Sicily and Valetta in Malta.Onboard, guests will find a wealth of exciting amenities including an unprecedented choice of fine dining and casual options at 10 dining venues, a Mediterranean-style promenade with a 262-foot LED Sky screen, and a dedicated lounge for families called the DOREMI Studio Lounge. Kids will also love the DOREMI Tech Lab, a must-visit destination for curious minds.More news:  Honolulu authorities investigate arsons at 3 Waikiki hotels; no injuries reportedA major highlight onboard will be two Cirque du Soleil at Sea shows, which will take place six nights per week in the purpose-built Carousel Lounge. Ahead of each performance, guests can enjoy an exclusive pre-show dinner service, a unique experience that’s available both on MSC Meraviglia (deputing this June) as well as the MSC Bellissima. As an early booking incentive, all guests who book a sailing on MSC Bellissima by July 3, 2017 will receive a complimentary Cirque du Soleil at Sea dinner and show experience as part of their cruise booking.“Bearing testimony to our focus on innovation, MSC Bellissima will be the fourth new ship coming into service in just two years,” said Gianni Onorato, Chief Executive Officer of MSC Cruises. “She will join what is already one of the most modern fleets at sea as our long-standing focus is to always offer our guests the most modern and innovative ships to ensure they make the most out of their vacation at sea.”More news:  Save the dates! Goway’s Africa Roadshow is backPrices for MSC Bellissima start at $1,199 per person for a balcony stateroom. The ship is currently under construction at the STX France shipyard. Monday, May 1, 2017 Tags: MSC Cruiseslast_img read more

first_img HOUSTON — Major dangers for the U.S. Gulf Coast area loomed after an explosion at a Texas chemical plant early Thursday and the threat of major flooding further east near the Texas-Louisiana line as Harvey’s floodwaters began receding in the Houston area after five days of torrential rain.Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas, struggled with rising water as the area was pounded with what remained of the weakening storm, while Houston’s fire department said it would begin a block-by-block search Thursday of thousands of flooded homes. Assistant Fire Chief Richard Mann said the searches were to ensure “no people were left behind.”The confirmed death toll climbed to at least 31, including six family members – four of them children – whose bodies were pulled Wednesday from a van that had been swept off a Houston bridge into a bayou.Houston’s two major airports were up and running again Wednesday. Officials said they were resuming limited bus and light rail service as well as trash pickup.“Unfortunately, it seems that our worst thoughts are being realized,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said after the van that disappeared over the weekend was found in 10 feet of muddy water.The Houston-area chemical plant that lost power after Harvey engulfed the area in extensive floods was rocked by two explosions early Thursday, the plant’s operator said. The Arkema Inc. plant had been left without refrigeration for chemicals that become volatile as the temperature rises.The Harris County Sheriff’s Office said in a tweet that a deputy was taken to the hospital after inhaling fumes. Nine other deputies drove themselves to the hospital as a precaution.The company shut down the Crosby site before Harvey made landfall last week, but a crew of 11 had stayed behind. That group was removed and residents living within a 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometre) radius were told to evacuate Tuesday after the plant lost power.More news:  Universal enhances popular Harry Potter vacation package with new perksAnother threat was emerging east of Houston where weather conditions deteriorated close to the Louisiana line.Beaumont and Port Arthur worked to evacuate residents after Harvey completed a U-turn in the Gulf of Mexico and rolled ashore early Wednesday for the second time in six days. It hit southwestern Louisiana as a tropical storm with heavy rain and winds of 45 mph.When Harvey paid its return visit to land, it hit near Cameron, Louisiana, about 45 miles from Port Arthur.Port Arthur found itself increasingly isolated as floodwaters swamped most major roads out of the city.More than 500 people – along with dozens of dogs, cats, a lizard and a monkey – took shelter at the Max Bowl bowling alley in the city, said the establishment’s general manager, Jeff Tolliver.“The monkey was a little surprising, but we’re trying to help,” he said.Floodwaters also toppled two oil storage tanks in South Texas, spilling almost 30,000 gallons of crude. It was not immediately clear if any of the spilled oil was recovered. More damage to the oil industry infrastructure is expected to emerge as floodwaters recede.Forecasters downgraded Harvey to a tropical depression late Wednesday from a tropical storm but it still has lots of rain and potential damage to spread, with 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimetres) forecast from the Louisiana-Texas line into Tennessee and Kentucky through Friday. Some spots may get as much as a foot, raising the risk of more flooding.For much of the Houston area, forecasters said the rain is pretty much over.More news:  Windstar celebrates record-breaking bookings in July“We have good news,” said Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist with the Harris County Flood Control District. “The water levels are going down.”At Hermann Park, south of downtown, children glided by in strollers and wagons, joggers took in midday runs and couples walked beside cascading fountains and beneath a sparkling sun. People pulled into drive-thru restaurants and emerged from a store with groceries.At the same time, many thousands of Houston-area homes are under water and could stay that way for days or weeks. And Lindner cautioned that homes near at least one swollen bayou could still get flooded.Officials said 911 centres in the Houston area are getting more than 1,000 calls an hour from people seeking help.Altogether, more than 1,000 homes in Texas were destroyed and close to 50,000 damaged, and over 32,000 people were in shelters across the state, emergency officials reported. About 10,000 more National Guard troops are being deployed to Texas, bringing the total to 24,000, Gov. Greg Abbott said.In Orange, Texas, about 30 miles east of Beaumont, residents of a retirement home surrounded by thigh-deep water were rescued by National Guardsmen and wildlife officers, who carried them from the second floor and put them aboard an airboat.Harvey initially came ashore as a Category 4 hurricane in Texas on Friday, then went back out to sea and lingered off the coast as a tropical storm for days, inundating flood-prone Houston.Harvey’s five straight days of rain totalled close to 52 inches, the heaviest tropical downpour ever recorded in the continental U.S. Share By: Nomaan Merchant & Juan A. LozanoSource: The Associated Press Thursday, August 31, 2017 << Previous PostNext Post >> Tags: Texas, Travel Alert Houston’s airports re-open as floodwaters recede but dangers still loomlast_img read more

first_img LINCOLN, NB — Nebraska’s no longer nice, at least in its next tourism campaign. The new sales pitch has a decidedly self-deprecating bent: “Nebraska. Honestly, it’s not for everyone.”The slogan, which the Nebraska Tourism Commission unveiled Wednesday at a Nebraska City conference, will replace the current “Through My Eyes” campaign this spring, commission marketing manager Jenn Gjerde said Thursday.State tourism director John Ricks told the Omaha World-Herald that because Nebraska consistently ranks as the least likely state tourists plan to visit, the marketing campaign needed to be different.“To make people listen, you have to hook them somehow,” Ricks said. “We had to shake people up.”Nebraska has used several slogans in its efforts to entice tourists, including, “America’s Frontier”, “My Choice, Nebraska” and “Nebraska … the good life.”The slogan that debuted in 2014 was: “Visit Nebraska. Visit nice.”One of the new video ads that will begin running next spring opens with a boy peering through oversized glasses into the camera. The background music is quirky.More news:  Carnival Cruise Line enhances HUB app for families and youthThen comes a voice: “Nebraska is kind of like that odd kid. Didn’t say much in school. Slightly peculiar maybe. But when you took the time to get to know him, turned out he was pretty interesting.”Another ad shows two people walking and jumping over the toadstool rock formations at Toadstool Geologic Park in northwestern Nebraska. Words appearing on the photo say: “Famous for our flat, boring landscape.”Ricks told the Lincoln Journal Star that “the perception of a place to visit in people’s heads is more important than the things to see and do when you get there.”“Because, if they’re not here, they don’t get to enjoy those things. … So we had to find a way to get people here,” he said. Nebraska’s message for tourists? “It’s not for everyone” Share Friday, October 19, 2018 By: The Associated Press Tags: Nebrasha << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

first_imgNew Bill Proposed by Texas Lawmakers to Completely Eliminate the CFPB Share in Daily Dose, Government, Headlines, News John RatcliffeTed CruzVarious legislation has been introduced by Republicans in an attempt to reduce the power of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in the last year, but there has not been any law proposed to completely eliminate the Bureau – until now.During a week in which the Bureau celebrates the fourth anniversary of its creation, U.S. Representative John Ratcliffe and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, both Republicans from Texas, have combined to sponsor a bill that would completely abolish the CFPB, according to announcements on both lawmakers’ websites.Republicans believe the CFPB, which was created from the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, has had the opposite effect of its intended purpose of protecting consumers from predatory financial activity; rather, they believe the Bureau has made big banks bigger and limits options for consumers.”Don’t let the name fool you, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau does little to protect consumers,” said Cruz, who is a GOP candidate for the presidency in 2016. “The agency continues to grow in power and magnitude without any accountability to Congress and the people. The only way to stop this runaway agency is by eliminating it altogether. The legislation that Representative Ratcliffe and I are introducing today gives Congress the opportunity to free consumers and small businesses from the CFPB’s regulatory blockades and financial activism, which stunt economic growth. While there’s much more to do to scale back the harmful regulatory impositions of Dodd-Frank, this legislation takes a critical step in the right direction. So today let’s celebrate the CFPB’s fourth and final anniversary.”Republicans believe that Bureau is unaccountable to the American people because unlike most federal agencies, the CFPB is not subject to Congressional appropriations despite being funded by the Federal Reserve. Cruz and Ratcliffe believe this situation “invites regulatory excess and abuse.”Ratcliffe said he hears from small businesses in the fourth district of Texas, which includes the northeastern most part of the state, who say they can no longer provide their customers with basic financial services because of the increased compliance costs and paperwork hours imposed by the CFPB. He said many businesses are faced with the choice of closing their doors or consolidating into larger businesses due to the increasing cost of compliance.“The CFPB’s regulatory zeal has stripped American consumers and businesses of their freedom of choice and has limited their access to capital – all in the name of a ‘we know best’ attitude from Washington,” Ratcliffe said. “. . .I’m grateful to be able to introduce this bill with 46 of my House colleagues in conjunction with Senator Cruz. The CFPB represents exactly what President Reagan warned of – a government smothering opportunity rather than fostering it. We must eliminate the CFPB.”The GOP has made an extra push for CFPB reform since gaining a majority in the House and Senate last November. In March, Representative Sean Duffy (R-Wisconsin) introduced a series of proposals to reform the CFPB, including one co-sponsored by Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) that would replace the CFPB’s director with a bipartisan, Senate-approved five-member committee.In February, Representatives Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) and Tim Walz (D-Minnesota) revived a bipartisan bill that would create an independent Inspector General for the CFPB that is appointed by the president and approved by the Senate. The Bureau currently shares an IG with the Federal Reserve, a position that is appointed by the Fed chair and not subject to Senate approval.Democrats have vowed to fight any attempt at cutting back on the CFPB’s power. Last week during a Senate Banking Committee hearing, Congressman Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ranking Member of that Committee, pointed out the work the CFPB has done in the mortgage space.”Much of the CFPB’s most important work has centered on mortgage regulation,” Brown said. “The agency’s ability to repay rules ensure that consumers are not trapped in mortgages that they cannot afford. The CFPB’s rule to streamline forms will help consumers understand what is happening at the closing table. All of these actions speak for themselves as to why this agency is so important to our nation’s consumers.”Yet, opponents continue to work to undermine the agency – by weakening its independence or changing its structure.  Lately, there have been attempts to chip away at actions the agency has taken on arbitration and small-dollar loans.  They have argued the agency should not be able to collect data – data about markets that were formerly non-transparent and unregulated. I will continue to fight all of these attempts to destabilize the CFPB.  Our consumers deserve a strong watchdog that can do its job independently, and it’s my job to make sure that happens.”center_img July 22, 2015 467 Views Abolish Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 Republicans 2015-07-22 Seth Welbornlast_img read more

first_imgTechnology firms and device manufacturers ABB, Bosch, Cisco, and LG aim have agreed to set up a smart home software platform consortium in Germany. The firms have signed a memorandum of understanding and, subject to antitrust approval, said they plan to develop an open architecture for data exchange that will allow different devices and services – ranging from security to entertainment – to exchange information with each other.The firms said that a common platform like this has not been available before now and that they aim to make different devices compatible with each other and able to communicate over WiFi and wired connections.“This consortium represents an opportunity to bring together a variety of business ecosystem partners, all working together to help make the ‘internet of things’ for the home a reality. Cisco is looking forward to participating in the consortium and creating a standard that allows consumers to experience a connected home,” said Jesper Andersen, senior vice president and general manager, Cisco Service Provider Video Software & Solutions Group.last_img read more

first_img CENTRAL DRIVECRegganDerryMEENAN SQUAREPSNITEENAGE ARRESTED IN DERRY OVER BOOKIES SHOP PARAMILITARY SHOOTINGTIU DETECTIVES from the PSNI’s Terrorist Investigation Unit (TIU)  based at Maydown have made a fresh arrest as part of its probe into a dissident republican shooting last week.The PSNI say a 19-year-old male was arrested today in Meenan Square in the city over the shooting on Monday, March 27 at a bookmakers shop in Creggan’s Central Drive.He has been taken to the serious crime custody suite at Musgrave police station in Belfast for questioning. TEENAGE ARRESTED IN DERRY OVER BOOKIES SHOP PARAMILITARY SHOOTING was last modified: April 5th, 2017 by John2John2 Tags: A 23-year-old man was shot in the leg in the incident last month.Detectives are continuing to investigate and would appeal to anyone with information to contact them at Serious Crime Branch on 101, quoting reference number 1169 of 27/03/17.Alternatively, information can be given anonymously to the Crimestoppers charity by telephoning 0800 555 111.A number of men were arrested last week over the shooting but were later released unconditionally from custody. ShareTweetlast_img read more

first_imgIn This Issue.* Say a prayer for the families in CT… *CPI gives a green light to the FED… * Japanese elections send the yen lower… *Bond investors ignore the rating agencies…And, Now, Today’s Pfennig For Your Thoughts!Tragedy in Connecticut… Good day. I will start today’s Pfennig with a moment of silence and encourage all of you to say a quick prayer for the families effected by Friday’s horrific event. . . . . . . There is absolutely nothing that can be said other than my thoughts and prayers go out to the parents and loved ones who lost their lives Friday morning. This is certainly a crazy world in which we live in, and each minute of every day is a gift from god.  Life is short, live it to the fullest!The currency markets were fairly flat on Friday, with the dollar slipping a bit in morning trading but staying within a tight range.  The drop was caused by a larger than expected drop in consumer prices here in the US during the month of November.  The CPI report showed prices fell .3% during November compared to an expected drop of .2%.  The YOY figures showed prices rose 1.8% vs. November of last year, just .1% less than economists projections.  A drop in energy prices is what pushed the overall prices down, and the core (Ex Food and Energy) numbers showed prices actually increased .1% last month.  Currency traders took the dollar lower on this data as inflation doesn’t seem to be presenting any barrier to the Fed’s unlimited stimulus plans. The Euro moved higher on Friday after EU finance ministers agreed to put the ECB in charge of all euro-area lenders.  A single European bank supervisor was one of the items pushed by German leaders, and most believe that it is another necessary step to help avoid future debt problems.  Placing all of the European banks under one set of rules and one regulator should help restore confidence in the banking system and it will also enable the new rescue fund to provide direct bailouts to these banks. The news helped to make the euro one of the best performing currencies vs. the US$ on Friday with a gain of .69%; as I mentioned earlier the overall market was pretty flat.  On the other side of the ledger, the Japanese yen was one of the worst performers on Friday, losing .20% vs. the dollar.  The traders were focused on the Japanese elections which occurred over the weekend.  As expected, Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party led by Shinzo Abe won easily.  The win is going to be seen by Abe as a mandate to act on his campaign promises to get the Japanese economy growing again.  His plan is to double Japan’s inflation goal from 1 to 2% and to provide unlimited easing in order to try and stimulate economic growth.  Abe is wanting to throw all caution to the wind, and will push the Bank of Japan to allow additional monetary expansion. Japan’s currency has fallen over 5% in the past month as it became apparent that Abe would win.  Currency investors are worried that these expansionary policies and ‘forced’ inflation will lead to drop in the value of the Japanese yen.  Sound familiar?  While Bernanke and his compatriots at the Fed haven’t been as vocal as Abe on wanting inflation, I would definitely watch how the markets treat the Japanese yen over the next few weeks as the policies Abe will put into place are similar to those being contemplated by our own central bank.The only currency which performed worse than the Japanese yen on Friday was the Canadian dollar which lost ground vs. the US$ after a week factory sales number.  Statistics Canada said factory manufacturing sales declined 1.4% in October, the biggest decline since January.  The fall was not large (as I have indicated, the currency markets were pretty flat) and was probably more of a easing of an overbought position.  Currency traders were probably ready to take some of their profits in the loonie off the table, and the data presented them with a good opportunity to do just that.  The Canadian dollar still ended the week with a slight gain vs. the US$.Moving back over to the US, Friday’s tragedy has taken the focus of the media away from the debt crisis, which may actually be good for the negotiations.  The glare of the media sometimes has a blinding effect on politicians, keeping them from seeing what lies ahead.  With all of the attention shifted to the tragic events in CT, there has apparently been some progress on the fiscal cliff negotiations.  Republican leaders have put tax increases for the wealthiest back on the table, and this weekend agreed to push the debt limit debate out another year.  Now it is the President’s turn to identify some spending cuts to bring back to the negotiating table. As I mentioned in yesterday’s Pfennig and Pfriends, I expect a compromise to be reached during the final week of this year, but this compromise will not present any ‘real’ solution to our debt problem.  Our leaders in Washington have realized the simplest way to pay down the debt is to simply print more dollars.  This ‘strategy’ (if you can call it that) will work as long as investors continue to accept the US$ as the globe’s reserve currency and buy our debt.  The big problem will occur if/when foreign investors finally decide to reduce their dollar holdings, or if / when a substitute global currency emerges.Chuck is hopefully sleeping in a bit this morning, but sent me the following yesterday to share with all of you this morning:  The latest reports from the IMM Positions of last week show that the net U.S. dollar (USD) short positions really grew!  And the main beneficiaries of those short dollar positions were what the markets call the “dollar bloc” (Aussie, Canada, New Zealand). In fact Aussie dollar long positions grew to a record level! But then, so did Mexican pesos…   Now sure what everyone is all lathered up about regarding pesos, given the history, that apparently the young-guns don’t know about, and have failed to read up about… I had to remind some of the young-guns the other day about when Mexico decided to move the decimal point on their currency valuation… Any way…  I always find these IMM Positions to be interesting and reflecting on what we’re seeing in the spot currency markets each day…  the thing to always keep in mind here is that these futures positions can change in a heartbeat…  So, just use this info as “additional fodder” for your decisions…Thanks for the insight Chuck, we certainly appreciate it!  As Chuck mentioned, the Aussie dollar long positions have grown to a record level, and the value of the AUD certainly reflects this.  The Aussie dollar rose to the strongest in 19 months vs. the Japanese yen but actually move a bit lower vs. the US$ over the weekend.  The RBA will be releasing the minutes from their meeting earlier this month when interest rates were reduced, and investors will be looking for any indications that more rate moves are likely.  Neither Chuck nor I expected the rate cut, and we now expect Australian rates to remain in place into next year.  The RBA just cut rates a bit earlier than we expected. Today we will get the Empire Manufacturing numbers along with the TIC flows which is an indication of just how confident foreign investors are in the US economy.  Tomorrow we will get the Current Account balance for 3rd quarter and the NAHB housing market index.  Wednesday will bring more housing data and Thursday we get 3rd quarter GDP along with the weekly jobs numbers.  And Friday (the end of the world according to some) has an unusually large amount of data with Personal Income and spending along with the Durable Goods numbers for November.And then there was this. Neither Chuck and I have been fans of the rating agencies, as both of us feel they are typically ‘late to the game’ with their credit adjustments.  All of the rating agencies certainly took a hit to their credibility with the subprime meltdown and euro-area bond crisis.  This morning I found an article on Bloomberg which indicates bond investors seem to agree with our skepticism of these rating agencies.  According to Bloomberg, “Yields on sovereign securities moved in the opposite direction from what ratings suggested in 53 percent of the 32 upgrades, downgrades and changes in credit outlook. .. This year, investors ignored 56 percent of Moody’s rating and outlook changes and 50 percent of those by S&P.”  Apparently fixed income investors are relying more and more on their own research, and depending less on the rating of the issue they are purchasing.  This, in my opinion, is a good thing!  Investors should always do their own due diligence, and should never depend simply on a rating by a firm which was paid by the bond issuer rate it. To recap. The currency markets were flat on Friday, with the dollar drifting lower in early trading.  Japanese elections over the weekend pushed the yen lower as a win for Abe and his LDP party assure further stimulus measures in Japan.  No solution for the debt crisis, but negotiations seem to be taking a better turn (that is if you want to see the can kicked further down the road).  The Canadian dollar dropped, but the selloff was likely due to an overbought level rather than a change in sentiment.  And Chuck shared the IMM Position data which indicates the Aussie dollar is a favorite among currency investors.  Currencies today 12/17/12. American Style: A$ $1.0539, kiwi .8439, C$ $1.0128, euro 1.3157, sterling 1.6204, Swiss $1.0893. European Style: rand 8.5624, krone 5.6024, SEK 6.6482, forint 218.29, zloty 3.1060, koruna 19.173, RUB 30.8211, yen 83.74, sing 1.2206, HKD 7.7501, INR 54.855, China 6.2370, pesos 12.782, BRL 2.0877, Dollar Index 79.576, Oil $86.67, 10-year 1.72%, Silver $32.235 and Gold $1,692.60.That’s it for today. Happy Birthday to Jennifer McLean who is turning XX today! No, I won’t do that to Jennifer, but I will let you know that I have been working with Jennifer for nearly 20 years now, so you can do the math (Jenn did start working at a young age!).  I spent most of yesterday over at my mom’s who hosted us for an early Christmas dinner.  I went over a bit early to watch the Rams game with mom who is an avid fan.  Unfortunately our Rams weren’t able to stop the NFL’s leading rusher who put an end to any hopes of a wild card for our home town team.  After the game we had a great time exchanging presents and enjoyed an amazing dinner which she had prepared.  The evening took on a bit more meaning after the tragic events of last Friday.  The holiday season can get very busy and I admit to not being too excited about being ‘dragged’ to family events at times in the past.  But I realize I am very lucky to have so many family members live close by, and I am looking forward to each of the many holiday gatherings which I will be attending over the upcoming holiday season.  Life is sometimes too short, make sure you give your loved ones a hug today.  Thanks for reading the Pfennig, and hopefully we will all have a Magnificent Monday to start off the week.Chris Gaffney, CFA Vice President EverBank World Markets 1-800-926-4922 1-314-647-3837last_img read more

first_img Dmitriy: Yes, I know; it was the first picture of a major politician holding a gold bar since De Gaulle. And yes, the Russian central bank bought another 900,000 ounces of gold in April. We now have more gold than the Swiss. But does it make Putin a gold bug? No. He is a hardcore pragmatist above all else. And frankly, the picture of him holding the gold bar was done to make him look manly and prosperous. He has an excellent PR team. The Russian leadership is perfectly aware of gold’s disruptive role to the US dollar. But to them, the yellow metal is just another tool. They don’t care about sound money at all—they are conservative statists, all of them. For example, Elvira Nabiullina, Putin’s recent appointee at the Bank of Russia, is familiar with Ludwig von Mises and is well known in Moscow’s libertarian circles. Yet even she is about to introduce inflation targeting… not exactly a libertarian thing to do. The best refutation of Putin’s alleged gold bug sympathies is the fact that he has not abolished the VAT on bullion bars, though there were rumors of such several years ago. Russia is overburdened with social obligations, and the people in charge do not wish to draw undue attention to the real alternative to the existing monetary regime. Western gold bugs should keep in mind that the US dollar is not the only fiat currency around. Jeff: Is Putin as aggressive with Ukraine as portrayed in Western media? Dmitriy: Putin wishes to save Russians from extinction, restore our pre-revolutionary glory, and destroy NATO in the process. It seems that many in the liberty crowd view the situation there as something akin to Germany and USSR taking over Poland in 1939. It is nothing of the sort. Ukraine is the most artificial state in the whole of Eastern Europe, held together only by foreign subsidies and with zero chance of long-term survival. There is no internal cohesion. This is not to say that everyone in the southeast of the country wants to join Russia, although I would estimate at least half probably wouldn’t mind. The standard of living in Russia is higher and there is no silly “Ukrainization” sponsored by Western taxpayers. I would be surprised if this country lives to see the New Year in its present form. To give a fresh example of the situation there, a couple of weeks ago I had lunch with a lady in charge of Crimean affairs in the Customs Ministry. She told me, “It is unbelievable, the whole place seems to be frozen in the 1980s, there’s nothing there, no terminals, no equipment…” Jeff: Do you anticipate Russians ever getting involved in precious metals? Dmitriy: Yes. There is actually huge potential for this to occur. Russians are extremely adaptable, built to survive, and they’re on a constant lookout for new opportunities. Here are a couple compelling statistics. First, in 1989, it was illegal to own foreign currencies and 99% of the population never even saw American dollars or German marks, let alone owned them—but five years later, every grandma in the country had one or two $100 notes for a rainy day. Second, there are about 200,000 millionaires in Russia today. Yet if you scour every coin dealer and online auction in Russia, you will not find more than 500 one-ounce gold investment coins at any one time. The supply is minuscule. I firmly believe that when the existing world financial system finally crashes and burns, as it inevitably will, Russians will rush into precious metals. Mini-rushes, as in the fall of 2008 and August of 2011, were just a foretaste of things to come. And when Russians stampede, I can tell you it is a sight to behold. So I wish patience to my gold-owning colleagues all over the world. Our time will come. Jeff: As the saying goes, we live in interesting times. We appreciate your input, Dmitriy. Dmitriy: You’re welcome, Jeff. We’ll talk again soon. If any of your readers would like to contact me, I can be reached at db@goldenfront.ru. With Russia rising to the forefront of world affairs as well as natural-resource-related events, we thought it timely to find out more about Russians’ attitude toward gold. We’ve been in touch with Russian bullion expert Dmitriy Balkovskiy for over a year and decided to get his take. Here’s the view from Russia… Jeff Clark: Thanks for joining us, Dmitriy. Tell us about your background. Dmitriy Balkovskiy: I live in Moscow, but have studied and worked in both the US and New Zealand. I edit Goldenfront.ru, a Russian bullion investment news service. We translate and publish commentary about precious metals from English-speaking sources, including many of your articles. We’ve been online since June 2010, and our site is libertarian oriented. Our archives now have more than 2,400 articles from 520 authors. Jeff: You mentioned to me previously that Russia is not quite as bullish on gold as the West portrays. Dmitriy: It seems to me that Western gold investors are too optimistic about Putin’s love affair with gold. The reality is not as straightforward as it’s sometimes portrayed by Western media. First, a little background. The old Soviet Union viewed gold and silver as strategic metals and a matter of national security. Private ownership of precious metals in any form except jewelry and numismatic coins was strictly forbidden. People went to jail for merely owning a gold bar. The official gold content in one Soviet ruble equaled 0.167674 grams in 1936, 0.222168 grams in 1950, and 0.987412 grams in 1961. Here’s a picture of a Soviet-era 50-ruble banknote, which amounted to the average weekly wage in the 1980s. There is also a one-ounce silver St. George, with a 600,000 mintage. Jeff: Are American Eagles or Canadian Maple Leafs available? Dmitriy: Not at banks. And what is available is extremely expensive. As an example, the only reasonably priced gold bullion at the Russian Agricultural Bank, one of the top 10 rated banks in Russia, is the St. George coin. On June 5 it was quoted at 12,650 rubles per quarter-ounce ($1 = 34.5 rubles), which equates to $1,467 per ounce. The cheapest one-ounce silver coin costs $55. However, most silver coins on offer are actually a half-ounce, with some priced at $100 an ounce or more. A one-ounce silver St. George is not available, and as with gold, there are no Eagles. I would estimate that about 75% of coins sold are silver commemoratives. They are bought mainly as business or personal gifts, not as an investment. Since only banks can transact in bars and they aren’t competitive on price or selection, private investment coin dealers fill the gap. Today Moscow boasts five or six small companies offering gold and silver investment coins at prices comparable to Europe or the US. They have appeared over the past four to five years, but are still absent in less populated areas. Jeff: So banks are the main source for buying bullion? Dmitriy: Yes. I’ll note that banks are allowed to charge premiums based on spot prices for bars, but not with coins. Regulations list bars as “raw gold,” but banks are stuck with what they paid for coins because they’re considered a “finished” product. If a bank paid $1,700 for a batch of gold coins, it must resell them at this price until the whole batch is sold off. So the banks frequently end up selling coins with markups of 100% or more. The vast majority of bullion outside Moscow and St Petersburg is mostly of local mintage. Jeff: You told me about a creative angle for smuggling. Dmitriy: In 2012, one of our Siberian contacts, an owner of a small gold mining operation (8,000 to 12,000 ounces annual production), was in Moscow looking for ways to “export” his gold. Since he operates without a mining license, he turned his metal into very crude cutlery and smuggled it to China as “forks and knives.” The miner estimated that China receives about two to three metric tons of gold per year this way, saying he knows other “tableware makers” like him. It may be a relatively small amount compared to official imports from Hong Kong, but it shows the opacity of gold supply and demand here. The Russian government still has not liberalized small-scale gold prospecting, in spite of prior promises. Jeff: So how does the average Russian view gold? Dmitriy: To be honest, without any enthusiasm. Russian Business TV does regular polls on our investment and savings preferences, and the latest poll from May showed that of 13,442 respondents, 523 were in favor of “investing in precious metals”—less than 4% of those surveyed. You have an established gold bug community in the English-speaking world, with thousands of articles and personalities, whereas the topic here is a complete unknown to over 95% of the population. I should mention that political ideology also plays a role in shaping Russians’ perception of gold. For liberals, the West is flawless and will reign forever, so there is no sense in betting against the masters of the universe and, consequently, no point in buying gold. For conservatives both communist and nationalist, the West is evil and forever scheming to undermine Russia. The Rothschilds and the CIA rule everything, and gold investment is another one of their frauds to rip off the Third World. It is amusing to note how both extremes view the West as all-powerful. Jeff: I’ve seen a photo of Putin holding a gold bar, and I think he looks pretty appreciative. I’m not holding my breath that I’ll see Obama holding a bar of gold anytime soon…center_img The highlighted writing at the bottom says, “Banknotes are backed by gold, precious metals, and other assets of the State Bank.” Of course, gold was not exchangeable for rubles; it could only be bought in jewelry form. In 1989, it averaged 50-60 rubles per gram. Jeff: But the USSR has been gone for a quarter-century. Hasn’t the situation with precious metals changed? Dmitriy: Repressive Soviet laws are still on the books in modern-day Russia. It is illegal to buy or sell bullion bars anywhere except at banks that have a precious metals license, and very few have them. So if you buy or sell a gold bar from your friend or relative, you commit a criminal offense. There are also special rules for transportation of bullion bars, and breaking them entails a prison term. Taking bullion bars out of the country is illegal. Selling and buying of foreign-made bullion bars is also illegal. To top it off, there are enormous hurdles for bullion coin importers. I hasten to add that these laws are not strictly enforced; there are no gold owners languishing in Russian jails. But the laws remain on the books. To make matters worse, bullion bars are subject to 18% VAT, and as a result, spreads are enormous. For example, one major bullion bank—Nomos—on May 29 sold 50-gram gold bars for 85,938 rubles ($1,547 per ounce) and bought them back for 67,890 rubles ($1,222 per ounce). The gold pm fix that day was $1,255. Jeff: Wow. Is it the same for coins? Dmitriy: Coins are the only reasonably priced bullion vehicle available for ordinary Russians. They are not subject to as many restrictions, are VAT free, and sold in banks and licensed numismatic shops. The quarter-ounce gold St. George is popular, with four million minted in just the past several years. However, as many as 50% of these coins have serious quality issues—reddish spots and even small “craters,” as you can see here.last_img read more