Friday, April 6, 2012

Immigration registers 380,000 Haitians, eyes solution to “stateless”

Santo Domingo.- The Immigration Agency director on Wednesday said it collaborated with companies and producers to register 380,000 Haitians who work in all of Dominican Republic.

Jose R. Taveras announced advances in the National Foreigners Stabilization Plan, which he affirmed will solve the status of people who were born and live in the country, but don’t have family ties in their nation of origin, commonly known as “stateless.”

He said the Plan will regularize the situation of hundreds of Haitians and other of nationalities, who reside in the country illegally.

“There’s an entire blackmail industry around the Haitian immigration in the country,” the official said, interviewed by Huchi Lora and Patricia Solano on Telesistema, Channel 11. “I’ll neither tolerate blackmail nor extortion of immigrants by Immigration agents or officials in my tenure, and proof of that is that we charged 17 inspectors and agents who worked in the agency last month, who are being prosecuted for breaking the General Immigration Law.”

Taveras said the agents were charged for shakedowns of illegal Haitian immigrants to let them work in constructions and sell trinkets in the traffic lights. “In an operation with undercover agents, we managed to surprise and file charges against 17 inspectors who went out in the Immigration bus to gather undocumented people and if these paid they were released.”

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Australian Stock Market Report

The Australian sharemarket improved for the first time in four days today and has effectively wiped out most of this week's losses. The All Ordinaries index (XAO) gained 1 pct or 42.2 pts to 4333.2 with all sectors bar the healthcare companies ending higher.

Wesfarmers (WES), the owner of Coles supermarkets, Target and Kmart released its latest sales results which were broadly in-line with market expectations in the previous quarter (October to December 2012). Comparable sales at Coles supermarkets rose by 3.7 pct in the second quarter and 4.4 pct in the first half (July to December 2011). Comparable sales do not include the impact of newly opened stores. WES rose 0.64 pct or 19 cents to $29.90.

Media giant, Fairfax Media (FXJ) slumped by 3.68 pct or 3 cents to 78.5 cents today however rose by more than 10 pct yesterday. The gains came after mining billionaire, Gina Rinehart acquired close to 13 pct of the business. This has made her FXJ's largest shareholder. Ms Rinehart is on track to become the world's richest woman.


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Commodity prices ended mostly higher overnight which helped our miners end in the black. BHP Billiton (BHP) jumped 1.92 pct or 71 cents to $37.62 while the smaller RIO Tinto (RIO) gained 2.88 pct or $1.98 to $70.72. BHP seems to have broken through a resistance level but still fails to crack the $38 mark.

There was good and bad news on the economic front today. Firstly, Australia posted a $1.7 billion trade surplus in December which was around $500 million better than expected. There was a 2 pct rise in goods exported and a more modest 1 pct jump in goods imported.

Commsec Economist, Savanth Sebastian said that "Australia is certainly paying its way in the world. The total trade surplus for the 2011 calendar year was just shy of $20 billion - the highest surplus in records going back over 40 years. But the high Aussie dollar also means fewer tourists, more Aussies travelling abroad and therefore a record deficit on our services account. In the space of two years the monthly services account has gone from near balance to a $1.1 billion shortfall."

The bad news was that property developers are remaining hesitant to build a significant number of properties. The number of building approvals granted by councils to developers fell by 1 pct in December, which was significantly lower than expected.

Mr Sebastian said that the "...release of the latest figures on building approvals is certainly disappointing. Not only is the private sector underbuilding but even the public sector has virtually shut up shop. Just 139 public sector approvals were committed to in December - marking the weakest reading in records going back over 28 years. Granted the monthly numbers can be volatile, but even if you look at the trend measure (a more smoothed reading) public sector approvals were still at the lowest levels on record."

In the region yesterday, China released two contradictory economic reports on the state of their manufacturing sector. At 12.30pm (AEDT), the official government report showed that China's manufacturing industry was improving faster than forecast. This resulted in Chinese shares rising strongly over the next hour. Unfortunately, at 1.30pm HSBC released its monthly report on the manufacturing sector and showed that the industry is still contracting. The worse than expected report dragged shares in the world's second largest economy lower. This perhaps raises the question to the accuracy of these reports and the necessity of having two separate organisations issuing figures on the sector.

Today, no major economic data was scheduled for release. Electronics giant, Sony (6758;jp) named Kazuo Hirai as the company's new Chief Executive. Mr Hirai was previously Sony's Vice President and the announcement comes a day ahead of its earnings results which are expected to be weak. All listed companies in Japan (and a number of other Asian countries) have ticker codes (trading symbols) in numbers rather than letters.

In Europe last night, both the U.K and the broader Eurozone released better than expected manufacturing reports which helped lift the major markets in the region significantly higher. Germany's DAX index rose by 2.4 pct, France's CAC40 jumped by 2 pct and the U.K's FTSE rose by 1.92 pct.

European Union regulators however rejected the merger of the Deutsche Boerse and the NYSE Euronext. Regulators have decided that a merger between both organisations would give them too much control over a number of sectors. The Deutsche Boerse (the German stock exchange) would have had 60 pct ownership of the newly merged/combined firm.

In Europe tonight, the latest report on the state of the British construction sector in addition to the Eurozone's PPI for December will be issued. This measures the change in the price of finished goods and services sold by producers. The market is expecting a fall of 0.1 pct in the monthly reading.

In the U.S last night, the latest ADP employment report showed that there were less jobs created in the private sector than expected in January. The market was forecasting an additional 185,000 jobs to have been created whereas only 170,000 were added. The American manufacturing industry expanded but not quite as much as expected.

The price of crude oil also fell last night, which was partly due to a report showing that there are more oil stockpiles in the U.S than forecast.

In the U.S tonight, at around 12.30am (AEDT) we will find out how many Americans filed to receive unemployment benefits for the first time last week. Consensus (market expectations) is for a fall in jobless benefits to 371,000. Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke testifies tonight at 2am (AEDT) on the economic outlook in Washington DC. The testimony usually takes place in two parts. The first section is a prepared statement while the second is a question and answer session which can move markets on occasion (particularly if comments surprise the market).

On the earnings front yesterday, Chrysler, Las Vegas Sands (the casino) and Manpower (the Human Resources firm) released their quarterly results. Tonight, Kellogg, MasterCard and Sara Lee are all scheduled to release their profit results.

The volume of shares traded came in at 1.76 billion today, worth $4.87 billion. 627 shares were up, 389 finished weaker and 365 ended unchanged.

At 4.30pm AEDT on the Sydney Futures Exchange, the ASX24 futures contract is up 0.09 pct or 4 pts to 4243.

Due to daylight savings, most major European markets are now trading between 7pm (AEDT) and 3.30am (AEDT). Futures in Europe are pointing to a slightly stronger start to trade tonight.

Dow Futures are currently higher; indicating that U.S stocks could open a touch stronger tonight. American markets open at 1.30am (AEDT). Due to the Americans going back an hour on November 5 last year, U.S markets will be trading between 1.30am (AEDT) and 8am (AEDT).

Turning to currencies, the Australian dollar (AUD) buys US107.3 cents and €81.4 cents. The AUD is currently trading at £67.7 pence.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Brazil Deploys "Junior Firefighters" to Snuff Out Dengue

Racing for Peace in the Rocinha favela, one of the many creative activities organised under the campaign against dengue fever.

The government of the state of Rio de Janeiro is unveiling a battery of creative tactics to engage the population in the battle against dengue fever, which is threatening to reach unprecedented epidemic proportions as a new virus strain hits Brazil.

School is out for the austral summer and the options in Rio's Complexo do Alemão favela (shantytown) are either "hanging out in the street" or gearing up to combat dengue, says Miguel Terto, a 14-year- old aspiring firefighter.

"It gives us something different to do, but it also encourages us to save lives," the teenager told IPS. Terto lives in one of the 20 favelas of the city of Rio de Janeiro - the capital of the state - that underwent a pacification process last year.

Terto is training to be a "junior firefighter" along with some other 200 kids and teenagers "recruited" to combat dengue in his neighbourhood.

Besides getting to wear a uniform - which is part of the appeal for these youngsters - the trainees are taught the basics of dengue prevention.

A total of 2,711 cases of this disease, which is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, were registered in the first month of the year, according to official data released today.

"Kids see firefighters as heroes who save lives, which is why they identify with our profession so much," said Mauro Domingues, head of community actions in the Rio de Janeiro Fire Department, which participates in disease prevention efforts.

"Which is why we think they can become efficient health multipliers," he told IPS, in reference to the "junior firefighter" initiative that prepares kids to teach their families, neighbours and friends to recognise dengue symptoms and identify mosquito breeding sources.

Although it is an almost invisible enemy, it can be wiped out if everyone gives just 10 minutes of their time a week to implement simple measures, Rio de Janeiro Health Secretary Sérgio Côrtes told IPS.

The "Ten Minutes Against Dengue" Campaign was launched by health authorities as an alert tool for the summer, when alternating rains and heat spells create the ideal climate conditions for Aedes aegypti larvae to breed.

The goal of the campaign is to eliminate any possible breeding sites inside homes, where experts say 80 percent of these sources are concentrated.

"We have to teach people that dengue is no laughing matter, that we need to combat it because it kills," Juliana Sorrilha, another young aspiring firefighter, told IPS.

Sorrilha was selected among 9,000 kids who signed up for the initiative in the pacified favelas.

Dengue spreads through the bite of an infected mosquito that first caught the virus by biting an infected person. The virus has an incubation period of four to 10 days. Early symptoms are high fever, joint and muscle aches, weakness, shortness of breath, strong headaches and eye socket pain, a young firefighter trainer explained.

"My kids are on vacation, they are not doing anything, so I decided to sign them up for the (junior) firefighter classes," Georgeti Pinheiro told IPS.

Four of Pinheiro's relatives, all children, had to be hospitalised in 2011 with dengue.

The mosquito thrives in any exposed stagnant water collected in large containers, tins, jars, discarded tyres, abandoned pools, puddles, saucers placed under potted plants, and many other places where rainwater collects around homes.

"My neighbour caught dengue because there was a lot of still water in his house, and he didn't know that that's where mosquitoes lay their eggs," Terto said.

This year, health authorities in Rio de Janeiro fear that a dengue epidemic will break out in the state and that it will reach unprecedented proportions.

Alberto Chebabo, director of communicable diseases at the Clementino Fraga Filho University Hospital, told IPS that the hospital has admitted a large number of dengue patients.

The infectious disease specialist also said he was concerned with the re-emergence of the DEN-1 virus, which had not been seen in Rio since the 1990s.

Even more alarming, he said, is the appearance of the DENV-4 strain in the country, which has already been detected in the state.

"The combination of a vulnerable population and a high rate of infection of this vector increases the risk of severe epidemics for the coming years," Chebabo warned.

"Because the dengue-4 virus has not spread significantly in Brazil before, the entire population is at risk of being infected by this virus, because nobody has developed antibodies against it," he said.

For this reason, "in cities with a high risk of infection by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, unless proper vector control measures are taken, the virus will spread more easily and a large number of people could be infected within a short period of time," he said.

The government has taken this very seriously and is attacking the issue on different fronts, including raising awareness through cultural and sports activities.

It has even organised a mixed martial arts (MMA) event, bringing on board Brazilian and international champions of MMA, which is a very popular spectator sport in Brazil, with a fast growing fan base.

In one corner of the ring, big names from the international MMA scene, like former U.S. heavyweight champion Ricco Rodríguez, prepare to fight. In the other, two actors dressed up as giant mosquitoes entertain the public with silent-movie-style antics.

"Puny rival? No, my rivals are always big, but the mosquito is the most dangerous of all," Peruvian featherweight champion Yerry Tolentino Jaime says, laughing.

So dangerous, in fact, that in 2011 this mosquito infected some 700,000 people in Brazil, killing almost 500.

"It really is a heavyweight. I've had dengue three times already. But I've been lucky. Some of my neighbours died," João Gomes told IPS.

Gomes, a masseur, was one of thousands of spectators who turned out to watch the MMA fight, held in the municipality of Duque de Caxias, in Rio's metropolitan area.

A few steps from the ring, 700 health practitioners showed the public larvae and adult mosquitoes, in an effort to teach them to identify the rival they are up against.

"I learned a lot. To knock out the mosquito we have to make sure we don't leave any tyres, bottles or tins with water," said Everaldo Alberto, a vendor who arrived early to secure a spot.

The price of the ticket was a used tyre, one of the leading villains responsible for spreading dengue.

"Give us back our tyres!" someone shouted jokingly from the audience, disappointed when one of the Brazilian champions was knocked out.

"One of the best ways to communicate with people is through sports. We've gathered people of all ages here, but especially young people. Our aim is to attract this public more and more, so that they can bring what they learn from the campaign back to their homes. We will only defeat this threat if everyone pitches in to wipe out the mosquito's breeding grounds," Côrtes said.

"We can't let it dodge any punches, we have to block our opponent and not let it get close," is how Brazilian middleweight Gerson Conceição translates the campaign's message into boxing terms.

The Ministry of Health reports that awareness-raising campaigns such as this were instrumental last year in bringing down dengue cases by 24 percent in Brazil, as compared to 2010. A drop of almost 40 percent was registered among the most severe cases, those with the highest mortality.

In late January, the campaign continued outside the ring, with the two giant mosquitoes participating in a "race for peace" and "against dengue" in La Rocinha.

This favela, Rio de Janeiro's largest, was seized by the police in late 2011, as part of the government's plans to clear Rio's shantytowns of drug gangs, and has remained heavily patrolled since then, but has also allowed for a number of these initiatives to be implemented.

The race ends with the insects coming in last, worn out after running five kilometres up the narrow streets that zigzag the hillside La Rocinha is built on.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Walnuts top list for antioxidant value

Walnuts ranked best for having more antioxidants -- polyphenols -- and a higher antioxidant potency in an analysis of nuts, U.S. researchers found.

Joe Vinson, professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton, evaluated nine types of raw and roasted nuts and two types of peanut butter to assess the total amount of polyphenols found in each.

The study, published in the journal Food and Function, found walnuts had the highest levels of antioxidants and that the quality, or potency, of antioxidants present in walnuts was highest of the nuts analyzed.

"Walnuts rank above Brazil nuts, pistachios, pecans, peanuts, almonds, macadamias, cashews and hazelnuts," Vinson said in a statement.

The study found total polyphenols were considerably lower in peanut butter than in roasted peanuts, Vinson said.

"Nuts are high in fiber, low in saturated fats, high in beneficial unsaturated fats and very high in antioxidants," Vinson said. "Nuts are a nutritious snack and food additive providing both nutrients and bioactive antioxidants which provide significant health benefits to the consumer."

Monday, April 2, 2012

'Vindictive' Government

Former Culture Minister Olivia Grange

Former Culture Minister Olivia Grange has accused the Government of "vindictiveness" and "rancour" in how it chose to raise questions about the planning and spending of $23 million on this year's upcoming Jamaica 50 Independence celebrations.
Grange's successor in the ministry, Lisa Hanna, yesterday announced that concerns about how the money was spent have sparked a request for a special audit of the expenditure by the Auditor General's Department.
But last night, Grange said that as far as she was aware, the funds spent by the secretariat were efficiently and effectively used.
Hanna said permanent secretary in the ministry, Robert Martin, requested an audit after it was discovered that the $23 million had already been spent on administrative expenses, salaries, a media launch and a fireworks display.
According to Hanna, an in-depth review of what was done under the Jamaica Labour Party administration has revealed that the Government's procurement procedures, in most instances, seemed to have been circumvented.
"Furthermore, the approval process for several payments did not follow the prescribed guidelines as per the Financial Administration and Audit Act," alleged Hanna, as she noted that the Jamaica 50 Secretariat reported directly to Grange.
Hanna said the secretariat had endorsed 138 projects that were already planned as calendar events from both the public and the private sectors.
She claimed that while the programme cited five categories of projects, "there was no explanation of the categories, the significance of each, the objectives to be attained or the budgetary allocation to fund them".
In addition, Hanna said there were 54 core events and 45 legacy projects cited in the programme at a total cost of $693.4 million based on estimates that were presented.
"The review also revealed 50 activities for Canada, 54 for the United States, and 42 for the United Kingdom," said Hanna.
Restructuring necessary
The minister charged that apart from $56 million received to date for the Jamaica 50 anniversary celebrations, there were no other funds identified to sufficiently implement the outlined list of activities.
"If the programme were not restructured, there was the real risk of it resulting in embarrassment to the Government and the people of Jamaica," said Hanna.
Against that background, Hanna said the decision was made to restructure the secretariat which has the responsibility for drafting and implementing the Jamaica 50 celebrations.
However, in a release last night, Grange said the Jamaica 50 programme was on the right track up to the time of her departure from office in December.
"I cannot be blamed if Miss Hanna and the new Government do not have the same vision of Jamaica 50 that I have, but I have always felt that Jamaica and Jamaicans deserve the best when it comes to sports and culture, especially because we have always been leaders in these fields," Grange said, noting that events scheduled for overseas were to be fully funded by diaspora organisations.
Hanna said Robert Bryan, who led Jamaica's participation in the region's hosting of the 2007 Cricket World Cup, has been appointed the new director of the Jamaica 50 Secretariat.
"I have done extensive work in preparation for this celebration, and so has the Secretariat and volunteers including dozens of artistes who contributed to our theme song, and we have laid a foundation on which I had expected the new Government to build and not to seek to tear down, although I recognise that the current economic situation might have been persuasive in the direction the government is now taking," she added.
"I would suggest, however, that the Government do so without the vindictiveness, rancour and partisan approach, especially in light of the need for national unity during this important milestone in the life of the nation."
The plans of the restructured programme are to be presented to the country shortly.
Grange chaired the planning committee with Phillip Henriques and Hugh Nash as the co-vice chairmen.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ten days saw over 160 home fires in Riyadh

RIYADH: There were more than 160 house fires in Riyadh and its suburbs during the recent 10-day school vacation, local Arabic daily Al-Eqtisadiah reported Tuesday quoting an official report by the Civil Defense.

The report warned that carelessness, negligence and failure to maintain safety in the home were the reasons for such incidents.

It said fires constituted 56.4 percent of the incidents that took place at the homes during the school holidays and added about 39.9 percent of operations carried out by the Civil Defense teams involved rescuing children. It added incidents resulting from gas leaks accounted for only 3.7 percent of the cases.

The report said electric shortages or surges caused about 36.8 percent of fires while 9.8 percent resulted from tampering with electric connections and other home appliances.

It said only 4 percent of fires resulted from cooking accidents, while those resulting from smoking were only 0.6 percent. “This is an indication of the level of family awareness of the dangers of cooking and smoking,” the report said.

The Civil Defense noted most rescue operations carried out in Riyadh involved children being locked inside rooms or toilets. “Most rescued children were under 13. This shows the importance of closely watching children while they are at home,” the report said.

According to the report, about 33.7 percent of fire incidents took place between 6 p.m. and 12 a.m. when families were awake, while only 12.2 percent of incidents happened when families were sleeping.

The Civil Defense advised residents wishing to go on vacation to make sure fans and air conditioners are turned off, the electricity disconnected, water taps tightly shut and swimming pools and water tanks covered properly. It also asked families not to leave their pets unattended when they leave home for a long time.

The Civil Defense advised families planning to stay home during the school vacations to closely observe all safety measures. It advised families to use up-to-date and well-maintained appliances and avoid overloading sockets.