Cautious consumers and costs associated with the ramp up of its Canadian expansion will likely lead to weaker results for the remainder of the year, Target (NYSE:TGT) said Wednesday, as it reported a drop in second-quarter earnings.The Minneapolis-based discount retailer, which entered the Canadian market for the first time in March and had 68 stores in the country by the end of the second quarter, is offering a muted full-year outlook.“As we monitor the economy and consumer sentiment, we continue to see a mix of signals in which emerging optimism is balanced with continuing challenges,” Target chief executive and chairman Gregg Steinhafel said in a conference call with analysts.In Canada, he said, the company is only five months into its market launch, and is adjusting and refining operations as it learns from its experience and prepares to open another 56 stores by the end of the year.Target now estimates its third quarter adjusted earnings per share will be between 80 and 90 cents US and net income will be between 55 cents and 65 cents. The adjusted EPS excludes 22 cents related to Canadian operations and three cents related to a non-operating asset in the third quarter.The company also said its 2013 full-year adjusted earnings will be near the low end of its previous guidance of $4.70 to $4.90 per share.Shares in the company were trading at $65.61 in the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday, down $2.34 or more than 3%.Although Target’s international move has been anticipated since it agreed to move into many of the stores formerly occupied by Zellers, the Canadian launch has apparently missed the mark for many Canadian shoppers.It began with rumblings when Target was criticized during its “soft openings” for running out of some products. Some customers also complained about pricing they considered too high.A survey in August by Forum Research, a market research firm, found only 27% of those polled indicated they were “very satisfied” with their experience at Target.That was below Target’s score in Forum’s April survey, when 32% of those polled indicated they were “very satisfied” with their experience at the discount retailer.Steinhafel acknowledged there’s been a disconnect with consumers when it comes to pricing, but insisted prices were competitive and “right were they need to be when compared to competition in local markets.”“We know there is a gap in guest awareness of how low our prices really are,” he said. “We are deploying multiple tactics to help our guests better understand the great value and convenience we provide in these categories.”Tony Fisher, president for Target Canada, said initial traffic was good in Canada, with higher than expected sales in the home and apparel categories, but the company must now focus on driving sales in categories like health-care, food, beauty and paper, where traffic is slower.Target is also working to adjust inventory and in-store staffing to match the pace of sales in each of its locations.“We continue to learn a lot. There are things we’re learning about our guests about what they expect and I’d say where that’s most evident is just how that guest shops across our entire store,” Fisher said in a phone interview.But, he added, “we don’t have to make transformational changes in our business model, it really is tweaks.”He also said Target was committed to its Canadian expansion, noting that the company’s own internal surveys show customer satisfaction has improved every month since the launch.“This is one of the most significant things that we’ve ever invested in as an organization,” he said.“If we think things need to accelerate from a results standpoint, we’re actually going to over-invest in this Canada strategy as an organization because we have that much confidence that it’s the right strategy.”Target earned $611 million, or 95 cents per share, in the quarter ended Aug. 3, compared with $704 million, or $1.06 per share, a year earlier.Excluding items, the retailer earned $1.19 per share. Target said its Canadian segment accounted for 21 cents of unusual items during the second quarter.Total revenue reached $17.12 billion, up two% from $16.45 billion in the quarter. The Canadian segment generated US$275 million of the revenue.Analysts had estimated Target’s earnings would be 96 cents per share on revenue of $17.28 billion, according to FactSet.Revenue at Target stores open at least a year rose 1.2%, below the 1.9% analysts had expected.With a report from The Associated Press read more

EDMONTON — Opposition politicians are raising concerns over a report done for Alberta’s energy regulator that suggests doctors are reluctant to draw links between health problems and the energy industry.[np_storybar title=”In oil sands debate, scientists have become political advocates” link=”http://opinion.financialpost.com/2014/01/16/peter-foster-in-oil-sands-debate-scientists-have-become-political-advocates/”%5DPeter Foster: In cranking up concern about local oil sands impacts, Canadian scientists have played a leading activist role. Continue reading. [/np_storybar]“We do have a culture in this province which actively diminishes healthy and important debate about the health and environmental effects of our dominant industry,” NDP critic Rachel Notley said Monday.David Swann, a Liberal member of the legislature, said the government doesn’t even want to know the truth.“It’s clear the government doesn’t really want to know the best science in some of these areas,” said Swann, who lost his job as a public health doctor for speaking out on climate change during the Tory government of Ralph Klein. “They haven’t funded it, and they haven’t disseminated the knowledge appropriately to the physician population.”On Tuesday, a hearing is set to begin in Peace River, Alta., about the source and effects of odours that landowners blame on the local oil patch, particularly the operations of Baytex Energy.Baytex uses an unusual method of heating bitumen in above-ground tanks to extract the oil. Residents say the fumes from those heated tanks are causing powerful gassy smells and leading to symptoms that include severe headaches, dizziness, sinus congestion, muscle spasms, popping ears, memory loss, numbness, constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, eye twitching and fatigue.Among the reports commissioned for the hearing by the Alberta Energy Regulator is one from Margaret Sears, a doctor in chemical engineering, who has testified on environmental contamination for many bodies including the Royal Society of Canada.Sears wrote that even though most health professionals believe petrochemical emissions affect health, Peace River doctors seemed unwilling to consider if the conditions their patients complained of were caused by long-term exposure to petrochemicals.“There were reports from various sources that physicians would not diagnose a relationship between bitumen exposures and chronic symptoms, that physician care was refused for individuals suggesting such a connection,” she wrote.Even medical labs refused to conduct an analysis when told it was to be used to try to establish such a link, said Sears.One doctor, in a medical report released as part of the hearing, advised his patient “to go through environmental lawyers” and did not prescribe treatment.Sears confirmed to The Canadian Press that her conclusions were based on interviews with both patients and doctors.She wrote that the physicians’ reluctance stemmed in part from a lack of research they could use to form a credible opinion and in part from “fear of consequences.”“I’m not surprised,” said Dr. John O’Connor, a doctor who was disciplined in 2007 for raising cancer concerns in the oil patch community of Fort Chipewyan. The Alberta Cancer Board has since found elevated levels of four different cancers in the community.“It has been said to me many a time over the last few years, or words to that effect,” he said.“It’s not easy. You set yourself up as a moving target.”Allan Garbutt, president of the Alberta Medical Association, said he couldn’t comment on the specific concerns in Sears’ report.“I certainly agree that physicians must not feel intimidated in exercising their advocacy role,” he said.“There would also be merit in exploring the report’s suggestion that better research on the impact of oil and gas emissions on patients and communities is needed for strong policy development. Better information, training and support for physicians to help diagnose their patients would always be welcome.”Matthew Grant, spokesman for Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne, downplayed Sears’s suggestions.“No concerns of this nature have been forwarded to our office. We would always expect physicians to inform the government of any public health concerns they may have.”Notley said the province has consistently avoided conducting research that could answer the kind of questions being raised in Peace River.“The status quo is to believe that nothing’s wrong and all industry has to do is say, ’Show us a mountain of evidence,”’ she said. “It’s very imbalanced, and that imbalance works against people without the resources to build those mountains of evidence.”Swann said Alberta public health doctors aren’t trained enough to be able to diagnose health complaints caused by environmental contamination.“We haven’t been trained to do the physical assessment, order the right blood tests and put together the exposure with the health systems,” he said. “We’re working in ignorance, and there is the fear of challenging both government and industry in such a dominant industry activity here.”Swann said his experience was widely noted among his colleagues.“I paid a price, 10 years ago. I think the lesson most physicians took from that is that you speak up at your risk.” read more

An economic analysis of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline’s possible climate impacts has concluded they could be up to four times higher than previously estimated.In the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers at the Stockholm Environment Institute write that widely quoted U.S. State Department findings that the oil sands pipeline wouldn’t make a significant difference missed a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.It didn’t appear that they looked at the market implications“It didn’t appear that they looked at the market implications,” said co-author Peter Erickson. “If the Keystone pipeline were to enable a greater rate of extraction of the oil sands, would that not increase global fuel supplies, which might then decrease prices and therefore allow a little bit more global consumption?“That’s the analysis that we did here and we found that it could be the greatest emissions impact of the pipeline.”Erickson and co-author Michael Lazarus used figures from previous research and international agencies that mathematically describe how oil prices affect consumption. They found that a slightly lower price created by every barrel of increased oil sands production enabled by Keystone XL would increase global oil consumption by slightly more than half a barrel.The capacity of the pipeline proposed by Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. would be about 820,000 barrels a day. If every barrel of that came from new production, the annual carbon impact of Keystone XL could be up to 110 million tonnes — four times the maximum State Department estimate of up to 27 million tonnes.The authors acknowledge their study doesn’t answer whether Keystone XL would encourage oil sands expansion or simply provide an outlet for growth that would have happened anyway.Environmentalists maintain the former.The Pembina Institute argues the pipeline would enable oil sands companies to get a better price at U.S. Gulf refineries, sending a market signal to increase production. The clean energy think-tank also points to statements by officials suggesting the project would allow their companies to mine more bitumen.While other options to move oil sands crude exist, the institute says none would have Keystone’s size and none would be as advanced.“It is likely that Keystone XL would, in fact, drive increased oil sands production in Alberta,” says an institute paper.Industry officials say the relationship between pipelines and production isn’t that simple. Higher output and better transportation feed back into each other, said Terry Abel, director of oil sands for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.“Oil sands growth will at some point require additional capacity to transport the product,” he said. “That growth in production generates numerous proposals to do just that.“Ultimately, it’s the demand for the product that encourages production growth.”Still, Lazarus said the debate about the climate impacts of energy projects would benefit from a closer look at their market effects. “Looking at the demand-supply interaction is something energy economists do and modellers do all the time, but usually at a global level. What is not done sufficiently is to look at the implications of individual actions, policies, programs and investments.”The Canadian government argues the study bases its conclusions on false assumptions.The first assumption, an email from Natural Resources Canada stated, is that Canadian oil production would be affected by stopping one pipeline. The second is that crude delivered by Keystone XL would replace sour crude from the Middle East, and that it would be 18 per cent more greenhouse gas intensive than the Middle Eastern crude.“The Government of Canada has been clear that it agrees with U.S. State Department analysis that Keystone XL will be safer and less emitting than alternative options,” the email said.Lazarus said even though the pipeline’s capacity would represent only about one per cent of global oil consumption, that would still be enough to incrementally move markets. The global energy market is so big that even one per cent is a significant chunk, he said.“It’s important to look at the incremental impact of all sorts of actions No particular action is going to be individually that large.” The pair’s research is being welcomed in the academic community.“Its conclusions seem reasonable,” said Mark Jaccard of Simon Fraser University’s School of Resource and Environmental Management. “The paper suggests a flaw in the analysis of the U.S. State Department, because it did not consider this effect when addressing President Obama’s request to know the incremental effect of the pipeline on emissions.”The Stockholm Environment Institute is a non-profit, international research group based in Sweden with seven offices on four continents. Its work is supported by the Swedish and other governments, the private sector and charitable foundations.© Thomson Reuters 2014 read more

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — Nearly 50 years after the opening of Canada’s first major oilsands mine, the site on the banks of Alberta’s Athabasca River is an epicentre of energy, teeming with bustling workers amid signs of its pioneering past and cutting-edge future.One of the mine’s upgraders — opened in September 1967 — turns heavy, sticky oilsands bitumen into light synthetic oil to ship to market. In the very near future, the ore containing that bitumen may be hauled by driverless trucks currently undergoing testing on site.“Technology is a wonderful thing,” said Bill Bruce, general manager of mine production at the Suncor Energy Base Plant, located 24 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.“In some cases people are afraid of it, but if you don’t evolve as an organization or as people, you will be left behind.”Canada’s oilsands are at a crossroads. Estimated to contain 166 billion barrels of crude recoverable with today’s technology, they are also loathed by environmentalists who fear their development will accelerate climate change. Other challenges include a carbon pricing regime, a cap on emissions, pipeline constraints and a flood of U.S. shale oil production that is weighing on prices.Despite growing environmental outcry, oilsands production is expected to continue to grow in the years ahead, and so the industry is developing unique technologies to extract more black gold more efficiently while lessening its environmental footprint.At the mine that began as the Great Canadian Oil Sands project, where the air is filled with the occasional muffled “thump” of bird deterrent cannons, Suncor staff are implementing practices aimed at keeping the operation competitive in an era of lower oil prices and tougher public scrutiny.Bruce, who began working at the mine as a 19-year-old some 37 years ago, has seen the evolution in mining from the awkward original 850-tonne bucket-wheel excavators to more nimble trucks and shovels. He’s a big fan of the latest incarnation — driverless ore-hauling trucks — that are helping open up a new mine extension. The trucks have an extra antenna and bumper-mounted radar equipment, but are otherwise identical to those with people at the wheel.“The trucks are like elephants,” said Nicolas Bouliane, head of the autonomous truck pilot project, in an interview at the mine’s office complex.“They’re very careful about stepping on anything.”He said the six 272-tonne capacity Komatsu trucks follow their pre-designated tracks, stopping when they detect an obstacle, and are therefore entirely predictable, unlike human drivers.Bouliane said no decision has been made on whether to expand use of the driverless technology at existing operations or at the Fort Hills mine, which is expected to start up later this year. Although the technology has a strong safety record, data is to be collected over a three-year period to assess the advantages of fuel efficiency, production and maintenance by going driverless.On a well pad at the MacKay River project 60 kilometres northwest of Fort McMurray, Suncor is testing the injection of carbon dioxide into oilsands wells to reduce the amount of steam required to keep the bitumen flowing, a technique considered more environmentally friendly.“In theory, half the carbon dioxide injected will stay in the ground,” said Gary Bunio, general manager of strategic technology, standing on a gravel well pad site near a carbon dioxide tank.If the testing is successful and economical, he said Suncor could eventually capture CO2 at its upgraders and use it for another project, growing production while reducing greenhouse gas emission intensity.Suncor and its partners are also testing the results of a pilot project that used warm solvent to recover some 125,000 barrels of bitumen with no water and much lower emissions in anticipation of potential commercial use.Follow @HealingSlowly on Twitter. read more

TORONTO — The loonie dropped sharply after the Bank of Canada kept its key interest rate target on hold Wednesday, as North American stock markets pulled back on profit taking.The Canadian dollar was trading at an average price of 78.30 cents US, down 0.65 of a cent.“The loonie seems to have had its peak when the Bank of Canada was raising interest rates and the reports of year-over-year economic growth were coming out stronger than people had expected,” said Norman Levine, managing director of Portfolio Management Corp.“Now people are seeing that rates aren’t going to go up as fast in Canada as they were before and that economic growth in Canada will probably be lower next year than it was this year.”The Bank of Canada left its benchmark interest rate unchanged Wednesday following two straight hikes since July in response to the economy’s impressive run over the last four quarters. The central bank warned it expects to stick to its rate-hiking path, although at perhaps a more tentative pace.In its scheduled announcement, the bank said it held off this time in part because it expects the recent strength of the Canadian dollar to slow the rise in the pace of inflation.The move in the loonie Wednesday came as the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index fell 50.37 points to 15,854.77.South of the border it was also a negative day, with U.S. stocks giving back most of their profits earned Tuesday.On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average tumbled 112.30 points to 23,329.46. The S&P 500 index gave back 11.98 points to 2,557.15 and the Nasdaq composite index was down 34.54 points to 6,563.89.“I think in general markets have had the longest run, especially the U.S. markets, without a five per cent correction in recent or longer memory,” said Levine. “It’s not surprising you get some profit taking after some big runs. We keep expecting the five per cent, the 10 per cent correction, but we keep never getting it.”Still, Levine added, while U.S. stocks are at the high-end of historic valuations, “they’re not blowout, stupid valuations.”In commodities news, the December crude contract lost 29 cents to close at US$52.18 per barrel and the December natural gas contract was down five cents at US$3.08 per mmBTU.The December gold contract added 70 cents to US$1,279.00 an ounce and the December copper contract was down two cents to US$3.18 a pound.Follow @DaveHTO on Twitter. read more

Human rights groups have said that the government gradually released many, but not all, of the more than 11,000 suspected Tamil Tiger suspects detained at the end of the war. The move comes amidst pressure by Tamil political parties in Sri Lanka as well as international groups and governments who had urged the Sri Lakan authorities to either charge or release the war detainees. The police Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) has released the details of people arrested during the war over suspicion of having links with the LTTE.The Defence Ministry, in a statement posted on its website, said the information, including on those already freed, is available at locations in the north of the country as well as in the capital Colombo and in the southern town of Galle. Chair of the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with countries in South Asia, Jean Lambert, had said that the EU Parliament’s position on long-term detainees in Sri Lanka is that they should be either charged or released.Several hundreds of suspected Tamil Tiger rebels and other political prisoners are in Sri Lankan prisons, some of whom have not faced trial or a charge years or months after they were arrested. A visiting European Parliament Delegation had recently called for a fair trial for long-term detainees in Sri Lanka. read more

The police are conducting investigations into the accident. Another 6 year old child, also a daughter of the couple, who was in the three-wheeler, was not hurt. A couple and their child were killed last night following a train accident in Ja-Ela, the police media unit said this morning.The police said that the accident occurred when a train traveling between Colombo and Negombo had rammed into a three-wheeler at a level crossing in Ja-Ela last night. The 42 year old driver of the three-wheeler, his 40 year old wife and 12 year old daughter were killed in the accident.

The nine employees of the Sri Lanka Mirror website, who were arrested yesterday, were released on police bail today.Among those arrested were journalists including women and girls. They were produced before the Colombo Magistrate at Hulftsdorp this afternoon and given bail and were ordered to appear in court again on the 6th of July. Several employees of the Sri Lanka Mirror website including some journalists were arrested yesterday following a raid by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID). “These two websites were continuously involved in publishing false and unethical news about celebrities and popular personalities, misleading the international and local communities,” the Defence Ministry said.Meanwhile the U.S Embassy said it is closely following the case of the Sri Lanka Mirror and Lankaxnews, including the arrest of nine individuals associated with those websites. Meanwhile the Defence Ministry said that acting on a court order the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) officials, yesterday sealed the Sri Lanka Mirror office where two websites involved in propagating false and unethical news on Sri Lanka were being operated from. “We have raised on several occasions our deep concern over efforts to suppress independent news media, including the blocking of news websites, intimidation, and disappearances of journalists,” the Embassy said.The United States believes that an uncensored and independent media available to all citizens is an indispensable part of any vibrant democracy and we call for an end to the harassment of these and all other journalists. read more

The girl was rescued but the man who was right in front of the human chain, lost his grip and was pulled away by the currents. A Sri Lankan in Italy is in critical condition after saving a girl from drowning today, the Italian media reported.The Sri Lankan man had jumped into a river in Rivolta d’Adda to save the girl who was being swept away by strong currents. Rescue workers later found the Sri Lankan man and airlifted him to hospital where he is in critical condition. (Colombo Gazette) He and several others formed a human chain to pull the girl to safety.

The team of Commonwealth observers led by the former President of Malta, Dr George Abela, are in Sri Lanka for the Parliamentary Elections scheduled for 17 August following an invitation from the Office of the Commissioner of Elections. “Sri Lanka is well placed to hold a democratic election that enjoys the confidence of the people,” Dr George Abela said at the media briefing. He also said that the 19th Amendment to the constitution has strengthened the role of Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya.Asked if the presence of the military in the North is a barricade for a democratic poll, Dr Abela said that they will not be able to prejudge the situation and so will need to observe and then submit their findings.In the past, the presence of the military has been seen as a concern by election monitors to ensure a free and fair election, but Dr Abela said that overall, when compared to past elections, the feeling now is that Sri Lanka is moving in the right direction. (Colombo Gazette) Commonwealth election observers said they are cautiously optimistic about a democratic election taking place in Sri Lanka next week.The monitors, who held a press conference in Colombo today before being deployed to their respective areas, said that while some violations have been noted ahead of election day, the general opinion is that the electoral process has so far been peaceful. He said that since arriving in Sri Lanka they have met the Commissioner of Elections and political party representatives as well as civil society.Dr George Abela said that it was heartening to note that there appears to be confidence in the Election Commissioner’s office to manage the electoral process and that on the whole the campaign environment is generally conducive for a democratic poll. read more

With extensive experience as an envoy to the United Nations, Liu has visited Sri Lanka several times, including once last year. In a significant move, China has dispatched a special envoy to Sri Lanka, where major Chinese investments are being reviewed since a Beijing-friendly president was ousted from power in January and a recent parliamentary election reinstated a national unity government seeking a more neutral foreign policy.Beijing has appointed Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Liu Zhenmin as the first special envoy for the strategically located Indian Ocean nation since the parliamentary elections in August. His visit comes on the heels of back-to-back trips by the newly elected prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, to India and Japan, the South China Morning Post reported. “The purpose of the special envoy’s trip is to congratulate the prime minister and probably invite him to undertake a China trip, now that he has visited Japan and India,” a Sri Lankan official said. “There has been no high-level interaction between China and Sri Lanka since the August elections. The US, on the other hand, sent two assistant secretaries of state just days after the election. There have also been high-level interactions on the just-concluded UN General Assembly, apart from the prime minister’s visit to Delhi and Tokyo.”China pumped billions of dollars into infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka during the corruption-tainted presidency of Mahinda Rajapaksa. The new government alleges these projects were contracted out on unequal terms favouring Chinese companies. Nearly 70 per cent of the infrastructure projects in the country in the past six years have been funded by China and built by Chinese companies. The most controversial is Colombo Port City, a real estate reclamation project the size of Monaco. The US$1.4 billion project, which would have been the biggest foreign direct investment in Sri Lanka, was shelved after Rajapaksa lost power.Inaugurated by President Xi Jinping in September and financed by state-controlled and Hong Kong-listed China Communications Construction Co (CCCC), the stalled project has become a bone of contention between Sri Lanka and China, which sees it as a barometer of Colombo’s commitment to maintaining good relations. The UN recently passed a major resolution on war crimes during the final years of the civil war between Colombo and Tamil rebels. read more

Prime Minister and United National Party (UNP) leader Ranil Wickremesinghe today said that the UNP and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) agreed to disagree on some issues.He said that both main political parties must work together to take the country forward. The Prime Minister said that while working together both parties must also look at strengthening the parties individually.The Prime Minister was speaking at an event held in Kandy today in remembrance of former President D.B. Wijetunga. (Colombo Gazette)

“The boats are all beyond repair. Since all these were bought through private loans, the fishermen owners who are of the lower middle class have been pushed to the brink”, Elango said. The National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF) in India said the fourth round of bilateral talks between fishermen of India and Sri Lanka should be held without any delay, The Hindu newspaper reported.Addressing the media in India, Chairperson of the NFF, M. Elango said Sri Lanka had detained 81 boats of fishermen from Tamil Nadu and Union Territory of Puducherry since last February and 27 fishermen have been under the custody of Sri Lankan authorities. Expressing solidarity with the fishermen who announced picketing before the Sri Lankan Embassy in Chennai, he pointed out that fishermen have been unhappy as the Union government has failed to find a solution to their problems in the last two years. Elango further added that he would meet the Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and urge her to ensure that the fourth round of bilateral talks between the fishermen of the two countries is held without anymore delay.He would also urge that all the 81 boats that have been detained in this last one year should be released immediately. The NFF has appealed to the Centre to create a separate ministry for fisheries and fisher welfare and a legislation to protect the rights of the fisher and other traditional coastal communities. (Colombo Gazette) read more

He and a group of FSP members had forced their way into the immigration and Emigration department office last month and damaged office property during a protest against the arrest of FSP Politburo Member Premakumar Gunaratnam.Jagoda and another FSP member who was also arrested were produced in court and released on bail.  (Colombo Gazette) Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) propaganda secretary Pubudu Jagoda was arrested by the police today.Jagoda was arrested for forcibly entering the immigration and Emigration department office.

Earlier today the Central Provincial Council also voted against the Development (Special Provisions) draft Bill. The Bill was defeated 32-0 votes with the United National Party members of the Council abstaining from voting. The North Western Provincial Council today voted against the Development (Special Provisions) draft Bill.The Bill was defeated by a majority of 20 votes with 31 members of the Council voting for and 11 against it. This week the Southern Provincial Council and the Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council also defeated the Development (Special Provisions) draft Bill.Last week the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) and the North Central Provincial (NCP) Council also opposed the Development (Special Provisions) draft Bill. (Colombo Gazette)

“I saw it taking off,” supermarket worker Jose Luis told the AFP news agency. “All of a sudden, it made a turn, and went down. We were all amazed.”Radio Havana Cuba said on Twitter that the plane crashed on the road between Boyeros and Havana, about 20km (12 miles) south of the capital.According to industry research, last year was the safest in history for commercial airline travel with no passenger jet crashes.But there have been several serious air disasters this year. Last month, a military plane crashed shortly after take-off in Algeria, killing more than 250 people. (Courtesy BBC) Boeing said that it was ready to send a technical team to Cuba, “as permitted under US law and at the direction of the US National Transportation Safety Board and Cuban authorities”. A US trade embargo has been in force against Cuba for many decades.“During take-off (the plane) apparently suffered a problem and dived to the ground,” said the Mexican transport department on its website.Images showed a thick column of smoke rising above the crash site as fire crews and ambulances attended the scene. The plane was carrying 110 passengers and crew, according to the Mexican firm from which the plane was leased. More than 100 people have died after a Boeing 737 airliner crashed near Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuban state media say.Three people have survived but are in a critical condition, Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma reported. Aerolineas Damojh, also known as Global Air, has three planes in operation. The Boeing 737-201 crashed at 12;08 (16:08 GMT) on Friday, shortly after taking off from Havana on an internal flight to Holguin in the east of the island.There were six Mexican crew members on board; the passengers were mainly Cuban, with five foreigners among them, state-run website Cubadebate reports. Two days of national mourning have been declared, after Cuba’s worst air disaster since the 1980s. “There has been an unfortunate aviation accident. The news is not very promising, it seems that there is a high number of victims,” Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said after visiting the crash site.The plane had been leased to state airline Cubana de Aviación by the Mexican company Aerolineas Damojh.The Mexican authorities said the plane was built in 1979 and had been successfully inspected last November. read more

A woman who had promised people employment in Canada was arrested by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) last night.The 47-year-old woman was arrested in Nawagamuwa for allegedly defrauding money from several people by promising them employment in Canada. The Police recovered 72 passports, 50 passbooks and 50 ATM cards as well as gold jewellery worth Rs 2.6 million and Rs 50,000 in cash from the suspect. (Colombo Gazette)

He said, “We have defeated terrorism but this target could not be achieved without immense support of Pakistan.” Almas Hyder said that there is considerable demand in Sri Lanka for Pakistani products like light engineering goods, auto parts, industrial raw materials, surgical instruments and plastic goods etc.“We are in a position to easily tap the market demand of Sri Lanka in fields like sports goods, electrical fans and household appliances etc.”, he added and said that the business communities of the two countries should keep on exploring the opportunities of mutual interest. Business delegations composed of sector-specific participants or product-specific groups of entrepreneurs should be organized regularly. (Colombo Gazette) Sri Lanka says the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Pakistan must benefit both countries.The High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to Pakistan, Noordeen Mohamed Shaheid said that terrorism remained a big challenge for Sri Lanka but today Sri Lanka is a peaceful country. He was speaking at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry, The Nation in Pakistan reported today. The balance of trade is in favour of Pakistan and it is encouraging to see that bilateral trade figures are following increasing trends. The overall trade figures went up from $314 million to 372 million during 2016 and 2017. Pakistan is exporting cotton, pharmaceuticals, cement, rice, fertilizers and home textiles etc. to Sri Lanka. The imports from Sri Lanka are vessels for breaking up, vegetable products, fibre board of woods, natural rubber and fruits etc. The LCCI President Almas Hyder presented the address of welcome while Senior Vice President Khawaja Shahzad Nasir, Vice President Faheem-ur-Rehman Saigal also spoke on the occasion. Executive Committee members and former office-bearers were also present on the occasion.The High Commissioner said that Sri Lankan nation has great honor of Pakistan and learnt a lot from its experience. He said that Sri Lanka and Pakistan have signed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) but some certain issues need to be resolved. The Agreement should be implemented and made beneficial for both countries. He said that there is a vast scope for the expansion of two-way trade between Pakistan and Sri Lank. Both countries should introduce new products for trade and make business-to-business contacts stronger. He said that Sri Lanka offer huge opportunities in various sectors of economy.LCCI President Almas Hyder said that Sri Lanka is at take-off stage and Pakistani business community should avail this great opportunity. He said that Pakistan and Sri Lanka are members of SAARC and enjoy friendly relations based on historical linkages. He said that cooperation between two countries especially in defence sector has played major role in further strengthening the mutual ties.He said that both the countries are steady trading partners. By way of signing Free Trade Agreement in June 2005, the private sector representatives of Pakistan and Sri Lanka were provided with greater opportunities to take the trade and economic relations to next level. He said that from 2005 on, there was significant increase in bilateral trade but it is also a fact that we have so far not succeeded to fully exploit the existing potential of trade between two countries. He said that among the top importing and exporting countries for Pakistan, Sri Lanka comes at 43rd and 19th places respectively. read more