ESIC maternity leave scam Number of cases shoot up to 1600

first_imgNew Delhi: As the investigation unfolds in the multi-crore ‘maternity leave scam’ at the Employee State Insurance Corporation (ESIC), the number of cases of fraud have gone up from the initial figure of 600 to over 1600. The scam involves hundreds of female employees from the private sector who allegedly connived with the officials of the ESIC to exploit monitory benefits provided under the maternity leave scheme of the Union government. The Vigilance Department, which is carrying out a massive audit of the ESIC, also discovered that in several cases, female employees availed the benefits of maternity leave multiple times, placing on record the delivery of babies four times in a year, which is biologically impossible. Also Read – Pak activated 20 terror camps & 20 launch pads along LoC The ESIC comes under the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment. The scam was unearthed at the Faridabad regional office during routine internal audit. “As of now, benefits obtained through fraudulent means worth over Rs 8 crore have been traced. The scam seems to be of a higher scale and could have been committed in other parts of the country as well,” a senior official of the Ministry told IANS. Maternity leave is paid holiday of 26 weeks. Also Read – Two squadrons which participated in Balakot airstrike awarded citations The preliminary probe in the scam was launched after an internal audit of the ESIC revealed a dozen such cases in a year. The case, unearthed by IANS last week, is being probed by the Vigilance Department at the ESIC headquarters in Delhi. The scope of the inquiry has been expanded from three years to cover the past six years. Sources said so far six employees and three officials have been suspended and a task force has been set up to probe the scamlast_img read more

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ExCabinet Secy slams CAG for reports on 2G coal block allocations

first_imgNew Delhi: Former Cabinet Secretary B.K. Chaturvedi has slammed the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) for its reports on 2G spectrum allocation and coal block allotments, saying the auditing body had sought to “usurp” the government role of policy making and tried to enter the domain of policy making, which is not its remit. Referring to the report on 2G, he said, “It almost appeared as if the CAG wanted to exaggerate the figure of loss, treating the public as his audience rather than the PAC (Public Accounts Committee of Parliament) when he used the figure of 3G auctions held in 2010 to compute losses in licence given in early 2008.” Also Read – Dussehra with a ‘green’ twist “The CAG report in the 2G case raised questions that had serious implications for governance and its approach to audit,” Chaturvedi wrote in his book ‘Challenges of Governance: An Insider’s View’. “While the CAG was correct in pointing out the errors in the allocation of licences, he also raised the issue of presumptive loss, which was taken as loss to government revenue,” the retired IAS officer said about an issue that had created a huge political uproar during the UPA-II period and led to stalling of Parliament for weeks. Also Read – India receives its first Rafale fighter jet from France Highlighting the “wide variation” in the audit body’s calculation of the market value of loss from Rs 33,000 crore to Rs 1.76 lakh crore in the 2G spectrum allocation, the former top bureaucrat wrote, “By computing presumptive loss as loss to the government, the CAG tried to usurp the government’s role in making public policy.” Chaturvedi, who was the Cabinet Secretary from 2004 to 2007, said, “All losses are computed based on government policy when a decision is taken. It is prerogative of all governments to price their resources. This is part of public policy. Many pricing structures are, at times, below the market price. This may be necessary to stimulate economic growth or expand reach of services.” He said the government “clearly exercised a wise choice” by going for revenue-share and by pricing spectrum moderately, thus expanding the market rather than fixing prices at very high rates and “killing the golden telecom goose”. “The government decided against raising the spectrum charges for new licencees. The CAG felt that this was wrong and hence computed loss to the government based on the market value of spectrum. While doing so, he did not take a broad and more comprehensive economic view of the issue in assessing the policies of the telecom sector,” said Chaturvedi, who also served as a member of the Planning Commission and 13th Finance Commission after his tenure of Cabinet Secretary ended in 2007. “By deviating from the time-honoured principle of computing losses to the government based on difference between the pricing fixed by the government and the price actually charged, the CAG, by arriving at a sale price he thought should have been fixed, brought in uncertainty to the auditing process, as the exercise involved discovering the market value of the telecom licences given in violation of the FCFS (first come first served) policy,” he said. The Padma Bhushan awardee of 2010 added, “Market access was changing fast and growing at the rate of about 40 per cent per annum in 2003-2010. The type of 2G services was quite different from 3G, which included data. So neither were the market conditions for 2010 comparable to that of early 2008, nor was the type of spectrum allotted, viz, 3G, comparable to the allocations made to new licences. And yet this was chosen as the estimate of loss.” While targeting the government auditor, then headed by Vinod Rai, Chaturvedi said, “By moving into the realm of market value of telecom licences rather than sticking to the audited numbers of accounts, the CAG entered an area that needed a more comprehensive assessment than had been done before.” He wrote that if market value were to be assigned to the new licensees, the growth of the telecom market could take a different trajectory. “Wherever possible, the new players would try to recover the cost by focusing on value-added services instead of mere expansion. This could slow down growth and the access of common citizens to these services. The overall growth of the economy and governance benefits could be impacted. “Thus a comparison of loss required a more comprehensive assessment, including economic impact in the two scenarios: one with the rates on which allocation was made and the other based on different market values identified and indicated by the CAG,” the former bureaucrat wrote. “The cost-benefit comparison would then yield the implication of the decision to award the licences at the rates prevalent so far. Even this analysis, would involve a lot of assumptions. With different assumptions, the results would be different. The CAG thus entered an area that had large uncertainties,” he added. Chaturvedi said there was also the question of equity, “which was ignored by both the CAG and the SC in its judgement.” “All the earlier licencees had paid an entry fee and were annually paying a revenue share towards the licence fee and spectrum usage. While getting the licence, a start-up spectrum had been bundled along with it. The new licensees had to have similar terms so as to be able to provide competition, which was in the interest of consumers. But the CAG ignored this issue in his report. How the competition was going to be on a level-playing field and thus fair, was not considered at all,” he contended. Under the section “CAG’s Blunders in the Coal Saga”, he referred to the CAG’s report in May 2012 in which the auditor criticised the government’s allocation of coal blocks to private and government companies. The CAG computed a “huge benefit” of Rs 1.86 lakh crore to private parties who were allotted these blocks, he noted. “However, there are serious concerns about the issues raised in the report. The CAG tried to enter the domain of policymaking, which is not the remit of the CAG but of the government,” the retired bureaucrat wrote. He said the CAG report “ignored the way decision-making is done in governments and came from a position which was, strictly speaking, factually incorrect.” He said many of its findings were “derived from first assuming what the government policy should have been and then computing profits to the private sector.” “The CAG failed to realize that when captive coal allocation was permitted by the legislature in 1993, there was no computation of how much profit the captive-mine allotees could derive, beyond which they would have to surrender any extra gain to the government,” he said. “The report also did not fully appreciate the overall economic logic of the decision made by the government in 1993 but focused on direct revenues from the coal block auction rather than on the huge overall economic benefits and revenues that would flow from it,” Chaturvedi said. “The CAG has also erred in observing that the allocation of captive coal blocks was not transparent,” he said. “The crux of the matter was whether in the given system, it was fair. The method used for this purpose, as in many other areas, was of an inter-ministerial committee with representation from all the concerned states. Such a method of selection is used widely in many areas, and the intention in these meetings is to consider the views of all stakeholders and then decide the best option for the sector,” he said. He said when the committee took a view considering the overall picture, “it was acting in the best interests of the sector” and “there were practically no representations against these decisions.”last_img read more

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Bihar MLAs caught dancing with girl while on study tour

first_imgNew Delhi: There are only a few lawmakers in Bihar that make news for good reasons, but there are MLAs in plenty making news for bad reasons and the fresh incident has come into notice after a video of some MLAs, who had visited Manipur as a part of a study tour went viral since Sunday.The MLAs in the viral video were seen hugging and dancing obscenely with a girl while they were on their study tour to Manipur. The lawmakers were the members of the Committee on Internal Resource and Central Assistance of the Bihar Legislative Assembly. The Committee was led Yaduwansh Kumar Yadav, the RJD MLA representing Pipra (Supaul) assembly constituency. Also Read – Pak activated 20 terror camps & 20 launch pads along LoCHowever, Yadav, while talking to the Millennium Post, has dubbed the video as ‘fake’ saying that the men in the video are not the MLAs, who had visited Manipur. “We had left Bihar on May 30 and reached Imphal on May 31. After completing the works of the Committee, we returned back on June 3. The video in circulation is ‘fake’,” Yadav told this reporter. Meanwhile, Bihar Assembly Speaker Vijay Kumar Chaudhary has issued a showcase notice to all the members of the committee. Yadav had visited along with MLAs Sachin Prasad Singh (BJP), Raj Kumar Rai (JD-U) and Shivachandra Ram (RJD). As per a Imphal Times report, an evening daily, the members of the Committee led by Yadav had visited border town Moreh on June 1 to take stock of the development programme being taken up under the Act East Policy of the Central government. However, they were recorded on camera while dancing with a girl in a room in broad daylight.last_img read more

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Using lifts in Gurugram can be a risk to your life

first_imgGurugram: Anup, a technician in his mid 20’s got entangled in the faulty wires of the lift and died on June 9. Following the incident, an FIR under section 304 (death not amounting to murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was filed against the management of the building. Ever since the incidents, there have been four times when the lift in different residential societies got stuck for more than 30 minutes.In the latest incident, a mother with a three-year-old child got stuck in the lift for more than 45 minutes. They could only be taken out after the doors were broken by the residents of the Signature Global City. To cut costs, various developers are foregoing the mandatory maintenance procedures for the lifts that are now resulting in adverse situations. Even though it is mandatory that lifts must be surveyed after every alternate year by the proper authorities, most of the lifts have not been maintained for more than five years. Also Read – Kejriwal ‘denied political clearance’ to attend climate meet in DenmarkWith residents now lodging a large number of complaints against the builders, the Gurugram police have begun serving notices to the erring builders before taking action against them. In 2019 itself, 15 complaints were reported regarding the malfunctioned lifts. “We are receiving a large number of complaints of the malfunctioned lifts. We have now begun to serve notices to the builders before we initiate action against them,” said a senior police official from Gurugram police. Also Read – Bangla Sahib Gurudwara bans use of all types of plastic itemsNot only this year but in 2018 a woman had to undergo surgery after her lift fell from the ninth floor of a condominium society in DLF Phase-4. Along with the woman, three more people who were with her had sustained grievous injuries. What is however proving to be a major concern is that not only in the residential societies but even the government buildings faulty lifts have proved to be dangerous. There have been two occasions in which the lifts in district mini secretariat have got stuck. In one of the situations, one of the people who was trapped was a 90-year-old woman. “The main problem is that there is a big scam at play where the builders in collusion with the public agencies have now begun to play with our life. While the money that should be paid for maintenance is being looted by the builders, the public agencies, on the other hand, are not helping hundreds of residents by not conducting proper audits,” said Parag Srivastava, a city resident.last_img read more

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Everything is fair in BJP brand of politics Mayawati takes dig at

first_imgLucknow: BSP supremo Mayawati Friday ridiculed the BJP for “engineering defection” of four TDP MPs in the Rajya Sabha, saying “everything is fair in BJP brand of politics”. “Yesterday when the President was giving assurances to the country on the behalf of the government, the BJP on the same day engineered defection of four TDP MPs,” she tweeted. In a boost to the BJP, four of the six TDP MPs in the Rajya Sabha joined the party on Thursday and sought merger of the TDP Legislature Party with it in the Upper House. Mayawati said the BJP had earlier dubbed two of these MPs as “corrupt”, but now after joining their party, the lawmakers have become “doodh ka dhula” (pure). “It is clear that everything is fair in BJP brand of politics and nothing is wrong,” she remarked. The breakaway Telugu Desam Party (TDP) faction includes Y S Chowdary, C M Ramesh, Garikapati Mohan Rao and T G Venkatesh.last_img read more

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Maha to issue GR against illegal pathology labs

first_imgMumbai: The Maharashtra government would issue a resolution (GR) to take action against illegal pathology laboratories in a week, the Legislative Assembly was told Tuesday. Raising the issue of illegal laboratories through a calling attention notice, Sunil Prabhu (Shiv Sena) said nearly 8000 such facilities are currently functioning across the state. He said the government has failed to take action against these illegal laboratories despite directions from the Supreme Court. Prabhu said the government has not even signed a GR despite signing it a year ago. He also said the government did not even have the exact number of legal laboratories operating in the state. To this, Minister of State for Medical Education Ravindra Chavan said the GR would be issued before the end of the ongoing monsoon session of the state legislature–July 2.last_img read more

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Khawaja ruled out of World Cup as Australia call up Wade Marsh

first_imgManchester: Australia head coach Justin Langer has confirmed batsman Usman Khawaja will miss the rest of the World Cup with a hamstring strain. Top-order batsman Khawaja suffered the left hamstring injury in Australia’s surprise 10-run defeat by South Africa at Old Trafford on Saturday. Matthew Wade will replace Khawaja in the World Cup holders’ 15-man squad, subject to confirmation from the International Cricket Council. Khawaja’s absence will be a blow for Australia heading into Thursday’s semi-final clash with old rivals England at Edgbaston. Also Read – Dhoni, Paes spotted playing football together “It’s such a pity for Khawaja, for someone who’s been so integral to how we’ve been playing,” Langer told Cricket Australia’s website on Sunday. “Like Shaun (Marsh, who broke his arm on Thursday) I feel that sad for him that he’s going to miss the World Cup semi-final. “Matthew Wade is coming up, he’s in great form, he’s had a great 12 or 18 months back home but he also just scored two hundreds (for Australia A) so he’s in great nick.” Also Read – Andy Murray to make Grand Slam return at Australian OpenMeanwhile, Marcus Stoinis was hampered by a side complaint against South Africa, an issue which had already sidelined the all-rounder for two group-stage matches. Mitchell Marsh has been added to the squad as cover for Stoinis, who missed Australia’s wins over Pakistan and Sri Lanka before returning against Bangladesh. “Mitch Marsh is going to come on standby for Marcus Stoinis just to see how he comes up. If they have to come in they’ll be ready to step up,” Langer added.last_img read more

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Elderly woman found dead in Behala

first_imgKolkata: An elderly woman was strangled to death on Thursday morning at Sisir Bagan area in Behala. Her body was discovered by the maid of the house. The deceased has been identified as Subhra Ghosh Dastidar (75). According to sources, on Thursday morning at around 11 am, the maid arrived at the house and found the main door locked from inside. When nobody responded despite repeated knocks, the maid informed some of the neighbours. When the neighbours came, they found the door open. As soon as they went upstairs, they saw Dastidar lying on the floor inside her room, with a towel around her neck. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari PujaBehala police station was soon informed. Later, police went to the spot, recovered the body and sent it for autopsy examination. During probe, several injury marks were found on the body. Also, all things inside the room were found scattered. Police are almost sure that Dastidar has been murdered during a robbery attempt. It is suspected that the robber or robbers were known to her, as no signs of forced entry were found on any of the doors of the house. Also Read – Bengal civic volunteer dies in road mishap on national highwayLater, a sniffer dog was called in and experts from the State Forensic Science Laboratory (SFSL) were also called. After investigation, the SFSL experts found some fingerprints. Later, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Murli Dhar went to the spot. After a preliminary probe he said: “Probe is on. There were some injury marks on the body. Some clues were found but cannot be revealed at this moment for the sake of investigation.” Sources informed that two persons have been detained on suspicion on Thursday afternoon.last_img read more

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Omar seeks CBI inquiry into fake orders on Kashmir circulating on social

first_imgSrinagar: National Conference leader Omar Abdullah on Tuesday demanded a CBI inquiry into the “fake orders” that had surfaced on social media over the past few days, leading to speculation that the Centre might be moving to scrap Article 35-A of the Constitution, which provides special rights of residency and jobs to the people of Jammu and Kashmir in the state. “This is a very serious matter raised by the Governor. Fake orders were circulated under the signature of senior government officers. This is not something that can be dismissed with a simple sound byte. The CBI must be asked to investigate these fake orders & their origin,” Abdullah tweeted. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’ He was reacting to Governor Satya Pal Malik’s assertion that the orders that have appeared on the social media were not valid. “A lot of rumours are spread here, do not pay any heed to them. Everything is fine, everything is normal,” Governor Malik said when asked about the slew of orders appearing on social media about the possibility of a prolonged law and order situation in Kashmir Valley. Malik said the orders which had appeared on the social media in recent days were not valid. “No order is valid. If someone sneezes in Lal Chowk, by the time the news reaches Governor’s house, it is projected as a bomb blast,” he added.last_img read more

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Sara sets trend for celeb behaviour says Rishi

first_imgNew York: Veteran actor Rishi Kapoor has praised actress Sara Ali Khan saying she has set an example on how celebrities should behave at the airport. “Wonderful Sara. You set examples how celebrities should behave at the airport. No harm at all tugging your own baggage, no chamchas to receive and the icing on the cake! No dark glasses or an airport look,” the yesteryaer heartthrob, who is currently undergoing treatment here tweeted. “You show confidence with no insecurities. Atta girl,” he added. The “Bobby” actor retweeted an article that mentioned that Sara was seen carrying her own luggage at the airport.last_img read more

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RRB JE exam paper leak 1 candidate his associates booked

first_imgThane: An offence has been registered by the city police in connection with the alleged leak of a question paper of Railway Recruitment Board (RRB) computer-based test (CBT) held recently, an official said on Sunday.Jitin Kumar Sagar, who appeared for the test in Thane, was booked along with his unidentified associates on Saturday under IPC sections, including 420 (cheating), 120 B (criminal conspiracy) and various sections of the Information Technology (IT) Act, senior inspector of Kasarvadavali police station, Kishore Khairnar, said. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’The online test for the posts of Junior Engineer (JE), Depot Material Superintendant (DMS) and Chemical & Metallurgical Assistant (CMA) was conducted on August 28. However, the question paper for the JE post was allegedly leaked and its screenshots were circulated on social media, police said. “For the test, Career Heights institute in Thane was appointed as the exam control agency, which was coordinating with the Satvat Infosol Pvt Ltd based in Chennai,” Khairnar said. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&KTotal 300 candidates appeared for the test at the Thane centre. However, the next day the Chennai-based agency found some issue with one of the computers. During the check, it was found that a remote access device had been connected to the CPU of that computer,” he said. Further probe revealed that screenshots of certain questions for the Junior Engineer test had been circulated on social media from that computer. On the basis of the roll number, it was found that Sagar had used that computer during the exam, Khairnar said.last_img read more

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Tax offences failure to pay TDS up to Rs 25L not to

first_imgNew Delhi: Instances of wilful attempt to evade tax, failure to furnish return of income and not remitting TDS in the government exchequer up to the limit of Rs 25 lakh will not be ordinarily filed for criminal prosecution before a court by the taxman, a latest CBDT circular said. The directive is being seen as a major move to cut down tax litigation and will save a number of assessees from legal proceedings. A September 9 CBDT circular said prosecution is a criminal proceeding based upon evidence gathered and the offence of tax evasion has to be “proven beyond reasonable doubt”.last_img read more

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Metro services affected after suicide attempt at Belgachia

first_imgKolkata: A youth, whose identity is yet to be confirmed by the police, attempted suicide by jumping in front of a Dum Dum bound rake at Belgachia Metro station on Thursday morning.The incident affected Metro services in the Up line for some time. It also triggered tension among the passengers who were travelling in the train at the time of the accident. It has been learnt that a youth aged around 25-27 years was waiting at the Belgachia Metro station at around 9.24 am on Thursday. He then threw himself in front of the running train when it was entering the station. The motorman had applied emergency brake immediately after the incident, while the Metro Railway officials disconnected the power supply to the third rail. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari PujaRailway Protection Force (RPF) jawans rushed to the spot along with the railway officials. The victim was rescued from the railway track and taken to RG Kar Medical College and Hospital. Metro services in the Up line were affected for some time in the morning. As a result, many office-goers faced inconveniences while going to their workplaces. Truncated services were on between Kavi Subhas and Girish Park Metro stations for some time. However, Metro services were resumed a few minutes after the incident. Meanwhile, services in the Down line remained unaffected. The youth has received serious injuries in various parts of his body and his condition has been stated to be serious. The eyewitnesses told the police that the youth was aimlessly loitering on the platform. The reason of the suicide attempt is yet to be ascertained by the police and they have started a probe into the incident. It may be mentioned that a similar incident had occurred at Central Metro station on last Monday, where a woman had tried to commit suicide. The growing number of suicide attempts in Metro stations has become a cause of concern for Metro Railway authorities.last_img read more

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Maha Civic engineer among 3 held for taking bribe

first_imgPalghar: Three persons, including a civic engineer, were arrested for allegedly taking Rs 15,000 bribe from a man for not razing his house in Palghar district of Maharashtra, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) said on Tuesday. Yogesh Sawant (49), a junior engineer in Vasai-Virar Municipal Corporation’s encroachment department, and contract labourer Gorakh Sadgir (29) initially demanded Rs 25,000 from the man when he approached them to save his house from demolition, an ACB release said. Later, they struck the deal for Rs 15,000, it said. The man then approached the ACB which laid a trap on Monday and caught another contract labourer, Narayan Desai (28), red-handed while taking the amount on behalf of the other two accused from the complainant, the release said. The three accused were subsequently arrested and booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act, it added.last_img read more

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A bears best friend Alberta naturalist Charlie Russell dies at 76

first_imgAn Alberta naturalist who lived with bears to learn that people are part of nature and not separate from it has died.Charlie Russell, who died Monday in hospital, was 76.“The bears of the world have lost their best friend,” said Russell’s brother Gord, speaking from the cabin overlooking Waterton National Park in Alberta where the two lived.Charlie Russell, son of the renowned conservationist Andy Russell, was raised in the foothills of southern Alberta. He grew up to be rancher — until 1960, when his father took him and his brother to help shoot a documentary on bears.“It was a big adventure for me,” he recalled in a 2013 magazine profile.The family travelled widely in search of grizzlies. Over the course of the shoot, young Charlie discovered something important.“Everyone thought of the bears as being ferocious and aggressive, willing to kill at any moment. But I came to see them as peace-loving animals who just wanted to get along.”The idea of discovering more about these compelling creatures by living with them came to dominate his life.He began experimenting with ways to co-exist on his ranch, then rented out his land to become a full-time guide for the first company in Canada to offer grizzly eco-tours.Eventually, he raised enough money to undertake an even bolder move.For 13 years starting in the 1990s, Russell lived in Kamchatka, a peninsula in eastern Russia that is rife with grizzlies. Living in a cabin reachable only by plane, surrounded by a lightweight electric fence, he set about living companionably among some of the most feared predators on the planet.The experience resulted in four books as well as feature documentaries on PBS and BBC.“What I learned from my experience is that grizzly bears — even adult males — are not unpredictable, and losing their fear of humans does not make them dangerous,” Russell later said. “In fact, the more we abuse bears, the more angry and unpredictable bears become.”But Russell learned a bigger lesson, said Kevin van Tighem, a longtime friend and former superintendent of Banff National Park.“He got to know bears as individuals, as a species capable of forming relationships. Charlie was one of those few people who don’t assume that human beings are what it’s all about.“It goes to placing humans inside nature.”Russell approached nature not as a scientist looking for data, but as an observer looking for life, said his friend Larry Simpson of the Nature Conservancy of Canada.“He probably understood grizzly bears better than any human being who ever lived.“He certainly changed my thinking about the depth of intellect that must be there among those animals.”Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips praised Russell’s contributions. He fought to end the grizzly hunt and for the creation of Castle Wildland Park, soon to be named for Russell’s father Andy.He also influenced Phillips’ recent decision to loosen restrictions on raising orphan bear cubs.“That kind of thoughtful advocacy was very helpful to me. He was patient, he was kind.”Russell changed a lot of people’s thinking about living with wildlife, said van Tighem.“I think he’s had a great influence. We can’t go back from where Charlie’s brought us. We’ve learned too much.”And, perhaps, about more than wildlife.“If you’re going to approach learning about bears that way, it really affects the way you’re approaching life and nature in general,” van Tighem said. “There’s a great deal to be learned from that.”Gord Russell has only one memory of his brother interacting with bears. His voice grows stronger as he describes it.“We were sitting on the porch and the bears came to visit. We had one that would come right onto the porch, not trying to put a paw on us or anything but just being there. (Charlie was) welcoming and calm, not particularly talkative.“They’d be here for a few minutes before they went on with earning a living. They don’t take too much time for social stuff.“It was fantastic.”—Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at @row1960last_img read more

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Infectious video shows laughter amid disaster of New Brunswicks floods

first_imgCHIPMAN, N.B. – A New Brunswick man has posted an infectious video of his elderly parents checking out the family’s flooded-ravaged cottage, demonstrating there can be laughter in disaster — and after 46 years of marriage.Shawn McNee posted a YouTube video in which his 75-year-old father, Robert, attempts to enter their family’s water-logged cottage on Grand Lake, one of the worst-hit areas during floods that ravaged the province this month.The video begins with McNee’s mother, Darlene, chuckling over the camera at her husband while he fumbles to the door in knee-high rubber boots in the murky, debris-ridden water with pitchfork in hand.“This may prove interesting, may prove funny, or disastrous,” Darlene says in the video, giggling.Determined, and despite his wife’s playful banter, the man opens the door, peers inside and tells his wife, who is standing comfortably a few feet away on dry land, that he can’t make it past the door, try as he may.“I told you not to do it,” Darlene says.On his way out, he gathers himself on what appears to be a log and a slat of shingles, slipping and sliding until he loses balance and falls belly-first into the murky water — all while his wife bursts into infectious laughter.The camera actually misses much of the fall itself — it swings to the left as Darlene laughs so hard she loses control.“You don’t go swimming in August, why would you want to go in May?” she eventually tells him.The scene is reminiscent of family sitcoms in which the quiet, relatable husband risks humiliating himself while the wife watches from the sidelines, making affectionately snarky comments.The cottage, owned by Darlene and her two siblings, was built by her father in 1961 when Darlene, 72, was a teenager. She said some of her fondest memories were swimming in Grand Lake.“Back in my day … everybody was in there swimming, even my father went in…. unlike my husband who doesn’t go in,” Darlene said in a phone interview, breaking into a fit of laughter. “I don’t think he’s put his big toe in the water.”Darlene, who offered to check on the cottage herself, said her husband didn’t get hurt when he fell. He even drove home, wrapped in a blanket, sitting on a plastic freezer bag.“That man went down, he stopped, dropped, rolled before I could get the camera down on him,” she said.“I said, ‘You’re gonna have to take a hot shower you know, get that nasty germs off ya, or you’re not crawling in bed with me tonight.’”The video, posted last Sunday, has over 2,800 views, with one YouTube commenter saying “Nice to see laughing in such hard times.”Darlene said she has lost many irreplaceable things because of the flood, including an antique rocking chair that belonged to her grandmother and hand built tables.“The smell in there — it’s not mould or must — it’s like a dead smell. There’s no life. And I just couldn’t get it out of my head.”She said the damage to the cottage is well over $100,000. There is nothing worth salvaging, she said.She said it isn’t flood insured, but hopes the government will help cottage owners like herself cover some of the damages.“This is just stuff,” she said. “Too many people are heartbroken, but as long as everyone and their family are still kicking, that’s the main thing.”— By Fadila Chater in Halifax—On the web: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFv7LBPRNfo&sns=emlast_img read more

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Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi says arena talks with Flames arent dead

first_imgCALGARY – Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi says the city remains at the negotiating table for a new NHL arena even though the Flames have declared they’ve pulled out of talks.The NHL team is frustrated with “spectacularly unproductive” negotiations, according to team president Ken King.“We remain ready to negotiate in good faith,” the mayor countered Wednesday.“Council understands the importance of the Flames to this city, council understands the importance of having the Flames downtown.“We worked very hard to come up with a deal that makes sense in this economy without impacting people’s taxes that nonetheless participates in both the risk and the upside.”The initial $890-million CalgaryNext project the Flames pitched two years ago included an arena, football stadium and field house built on the west side of downtown.The Flames’ owners offered $200 million of their money and proposed a $250-million loan be repaid through a ticket surcharge, with the city covering the rest.Council disagreed with the CalgaryNext price tag saying the project would cost approximately $1.8 billion when cleanup of creosote-soaked soil was included.CalgaryNext moved to the back burner when council showed more enthusiasm for building an arena closer to the 34-year-old Scotiabank Saddledome in a planned arts and entertainment district on the downtown east side.Councillors voted Wednesday to allow Nenshi to release financial details on the “Victoria Park” option, which the mayor said he would do soon.The Globe and Mail reported Wednesday the city offered to pay a third of the cost, but that money had to be paid back.“I can tell you that what has been reported — the one-third, one-third, one-third deal — as the basis, but there’s a lot more to it than that,” Nenshi said.“I can tell you the city has a very fair offer on the table. One I think many Calgarians, most Calgarians will see as eminently reasonable. There is another offer on the table that most Calgarians will see as eminently unreasonable.”King said the Flames’ contribution to the Victoria Park option was “substantial.”“You know the kind of commitment we were prepared to make to the west village, the kind of ratio that was,” he said Tuesday.“It wouldn’t come as any surprise to anybody to understand it might be a similar ratio on this side.”While King denied making the arena an election issue, the timing of the team’s bombshell seems designed to turn up on the heat on the mayor and councillors ahead of the Oct. 16 civic election.“If you’re trying to influence the general public, I think putting that on the table right in the midst of the election ultimately can achieve better results from their perspective,” said Coun. Andre Chabot, who is one of nine candidates running for mayor.Nenshi, who seeks a third term, has at times downplayed the economic benefit of a new arena, which created tension between the NHL team and the mayor.The trigger for the Flames’ withdrawal seemed to be Nenshi speaking to media earlier this week about how an arena fits into his vision of revitalizing an area known as the East Village.King said after he talked with Nenshi’s chief of staff Monday, the Flames owners met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to inform him they were pulling the plug on talks.“The mayor’s campaign seemed to kick off with a vision for Victoria Park,” King said.“I wanted to really understand if in fact his announcement of the vision and what they deem to be a fair deal was maybe the signal they were prepared to do our deal. It was made very clear to me that they were not.”The Flames players report for physical testing Thursday. King said the team is not leaving Calgary any time soon despite no firm agreement on a new building.Former federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney, who is running for the leadership of the province’s United Conservative party, urged both sides to continue talking.“I would, like most Calgarians, encourage both sides to sit down and discuss this in good faith,” Kenney said.“None of us want to jeopardize the presence of an NHL team here because two can’t sit down and have a grown-up conversation in good faith.”———Canadian Press reporter Bill Graveland contributed to this story.Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version had an incorrect figure for council’s projected cost of CalgaryNext project and had the incorrect date for the upcoming civic election.last_img read more

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Calgary woman gets two speeding tickets in 10 seconds on Edmonton street

first_imgEDMONTON – A Calgary woman says she’s getting ready for a court battle after receiving two photo radar tickets issued just 10 seconds apart.But a city spokesman tells CTV Edmonton it’s no accident, explaining the cameras are placed in what he calls high-risk areas.Susan McNab was driving in Edmonton’s west end four months ago and was shocked to get tickets for $118 and $111 from photo radar cameras placed within 250 metres of each other.She readily admits she was speeding on 170 Street that day and says she will pay one of the tickets but will fight the other.She asks if such a system is really effective in stopping speeding, and Gary Shimko, the city’s executive director of traffic safety, says the answer is yes.He says there has been a 60 per cent reduction in injuries over the last 10 years.“Each one of these locations has the potential to kill,” he says of the busy street where McNab was ticketed twice.He says there are a lot of signs warning of photo radar, and notes only a handful of people get the double tickets.“Maybe about five, six times a year we might see this,” he says.McNab thinks that’s nonsense, and says she’s being penalized twice for the same incident.“This is a blatant cash cow,” she says. “There has got to be reasonable limits set. Can you put down cameras every 10 feet? Of course not. But there’s nothing black and white in place.”The provincial government is planning a review of photo radar practices.“Photo radar shouldn’t be used as a revenue generating tool,” says Transportation Minister Brian Mason.“Its only appropriate use is to improve the safety of Alberta’s roads. Our government wants to make sure that its use is aimed at safety.”(CTV Edmonton)last_img read more

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Energy hunters Bitcoin miners search for cheap innovative energy sources

first_imgCALGARY – For most Canadians, Drumheller conjures up images of dinosaur bones and ancient fossils, but entrepreneur Sean Clark’s expedition in the northern Alberta town is focused on a very current obsession: Bitcoin.The CEO of Hut 8 Mining Corp. recently set up his company in the self-proclaimed ‘dinosaur capital of the world’ because its cheap electricity rates give him the biggest margins for his Bitcoin mining business.The cryptocurrency boom is pushing Canadian companies to join the global rush to find the cheapest sources of energy as computing competition drives power demands higher, resulting in crypto hotspots cropping up in communities like Drumheller, Winnipeg and Montreal.“Because electricity is our highest cost, we become energy hunters,” Clark said. “We find the cheapest sources of energy, put a container down, plug it in and start mining.”Access to cheap energy is crucial because Bitcoin miners around the world are competing to solve the equations that feed into the blockchain that supports the currency.The more computing power miners throw at the system, the better their chances of being rewarded with Bitcoin, said Clark.Thanks to the abundance of cheap natural gas and lower-than-expected demand growth, Alberta power prices are some of the cheapest around. Clark said he’s getting electricity at about three cents per kilowatt hour.Should prices rise, the company would simply put the 12-metre containers that hold its data centres on 18-wheelers and roll them to the next-cheapest energy spot, he said.The competition in Bitcoin mining has increased considerably as it and other cryptocurrencies have seen huge price gains in the past year — trading as high as US$19,000 in December — putting an end to the early days when mining could be done on a laptop.A typical laptop might be able to make about 40 calculations a second, whereas the 1.1-megawatt containers supplied by Hut 8’s partner Bitfury can handle 7.5 quadrillion calculations per second. The company expects to have about 60 megawatts of installed capacity by the end of the year.The demand for computing and electrical power has led smaller previously pure-play energy companies to add cryptocurrency mining to the mix.Oil and gas explorer Iron Bridge Resources Inc., for one, recently announced plans to launch a cryptocurrency mining division that will use excess energy from its oil and gas operations in northern Alberta.Chief executive Rob Colcleugh said the company is planing to pilot a roughly 600 kilowatt crypto-mining operation to make use of the high Bitcoin prices and extremely low natural gas prices.“The economics at these levels are pretty astounding,” he said.Colcleugh said he’d look to create a partnership that could offer power costs “orders of magnitude” less than provincial utility rates.Meanwhile Toronto-based Blockchain Power Trust, which this year changed its name from Transeastern Power Trust, plans to use the renewable power it has been developing largely in Romania to power new cryptocurrency mining operations in the eastern European country.Global Bitcoin miners have also taken note of Canada’s abundant cheap electricity, as China looks to crack down on mining operations in the country.Manitoba Hydro said it’s had more than 100 inquiries and has already seen operations set up, while Hydro-Quebec said it has had more than 70 inquiries for projects with some as big as 300 megawatts.“We have quite a lot of available energy in Quebec,” said Hydro-Quebec spokesman Marc-Antoine Pouliot.“We are moving forward quite quickly, so we think we might have a project going ahead in 2018.”The rush in energy demand from cryptomining has led to dire warnings about the energy consumed by the power-hungry operations, especially with the large contingent of coal-powered mining in China.The website Digiconomist currently estimates Bitcoin mining is consuming energy at a rate of about 44.5 terawatt hours of electricity a year and climbing — or about the same as Iraq — and up from under 10 terawatts as of March last year.But the wide variables and rapidly evolving technology mean accurate estimates are difficult. Credit Suisse recently put power usage somewhere between 16 and 21 terawatt hours.The bank said that if Bitcoin hovered around US$13,500, then power demand could go up at the “ultra-high-end” scenario to 350 terawatt hours and still be profitable — but that even then, it would consume less than 1.5 per cent of total electricity demand.“This is a far cry from the power and environmental Armageddon that some have feared,” said analyst Michael Weinstein in a note.With more companies looking to get in on Bitcoin mining though, the power demands are expected to keep climbing.Morgan Stanley projects in a recent note that just this year Bitcoin power demand would hit 120 to 140 terawatt hours — or about the consumption of Argentina — in an industry that didn’t exist a decade ago.Companies in this story: (TSX:IBR, TSX-V:BPWR.UN)last_img read more

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Mom of Indigenous man shot dead by police What did he do

first_imgTORONTO – The grieving mother of a young Indigenous man killed by police in northern Ontario spoke out Thursday, saying the family remains in shock and still doesn’t understand why her son died.In a statement from the remote community of Fort Albany, Ont., Micheline Knapaysweet said the family needs answers about the death of her son, Joey Knapaysweet.“What did he do that was so bad that he had to be shot and killed?” Micheline Knapaysweet said. “I am so heartbroken, with so many questions unanswered.”Police in Timmins, Ont., shot 21-year-old Joey Knapaysweet on Feb. 3, in an as-yet unexplained incident that raised racial tensions in the city and sparked anger from the Indigenous community.The province’s police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit, is looking into the incident and has said officers responded mid-morning to a health-care building and a man fled.“There was an interaction between the man and officers, and one of the officers discharged a firearm,” the unit said in a statement. “The man was struck. He was taken to hospital where he was later pronounced dead.”His death prompted scores of people to attend a vigil — among them Timmins Mayor Steve Black — and denunciation from Indigenous leaders.Joey Knapaysweet was from the James Bay community of Fort Albany — more than an hour’s flight from Timmins. He had gone to Timmins to “seek help in dreams for betterment of his life,” according to his mother’s statement.His mother also released two photographs, including the last one of them together just before he left home.“I cannot sleep at nights, I need answers,” she said. “This is my son, my child.”The family asked for privacy, saying they were not yet ready to speak directly to the media.Black, who urged calm after what he said was a rare shooting, has acknowledged that relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the city took a hit.Knapaysweet died the same weekend as Agnes Sutherland, an ailing 62-year-old also from Fort Albany, who had been in police custody after an incident at a shelter. The Special Investigations Unit is looking into her death as well.The deaths, along with the acquittal last week of white farmer Gerald Stanley in Saskatchewan in the 2016 killing of a young Cree man, Coulten Boushie, have cast a harsh spotlight in recent weeks on attitudes toward Indigenous people.The Stanley verdict sparked protests across the country along with condemnation from the federal justice minister, with critics calling the justice system biased against Indigenous people.last_img read more

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