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杭州夜生活

Brazil official says government expected to fine Chevron in nearly $28 million for oil spill

SAO PAULO – Brazil is expected to fine Chevron nearly $28 million for an ongoing offshore oil spill, Rio de Janeiro state’s environment secretary said Monday.

Carlos Minc said the national government will also ask Chevron to pay for damages caused by the Atlantic spill.

“We believe the accident could’ve been avoided. There was an environmental crime,” Minc told Globo TV and other Brazilian media. “They hid information and their emergency team took almost 10 days to start acting.”

Chevron Corp. officials have accepted responsibility for the spill but reject accusations they did not notify local authorities quickly enough or properly manage cleanup operations.

Minc said he considers the fine lenient, but it’s the maximum allowed under current Brazilian law.

The fine has not been officially announced because the government was still waiting for a final report by local investigators.

Minc said officials would also analyze imposing further fines on Chevron based on state laws in Rio de Janeiro, and that Brazil’s National Petroleum Agency could even consider banning the company from operating in Brazil for a limited time.

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“There was negligence,” Minc said. “Rio will not allow any kind of environmental impunity.”

He said Chevron, based in San Ramon, California, will be expected to pay about $5.6 million in reparation for the damage to the environment.

“We are still calculating the costs,” he said. “Part of that money we want to use to increase the monitoring of our ocean.”

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was expected to meet with the national environmental minister and its mines and energy minister later Monday to discuss the oil spill and determine the government’s actions.

The National Petroleum Agency said more than 110,000 gallons (416,300 litres) of crude oil may have reached the ocean floor since the lead began on Nov 7.

George Buck, chief operating officer for Chevron’s Brazilian division, said Sunday the spill occurred because Chevron underestimated the pressure in an underwater reservoir.

Chevron was drilling an appraisal well about 230 miles (370 kilometres) off the northeastern coast of Rio de Janeiro when the leak started as crude rushed upward and eventually escape into the surrounding seabed.

The oil has leaked through at least seven narrow fissures, all within 160 feet (50 metres) of the well head on the ocean floor.

Eighteen boats work on a rotating basis on the slick, with a varying number of vessels working simultaneously, Buck said.

The leak is a test for Brazil as huge offshore oil finds have been announced recently, with estimates they could hold at least 50 billion barrels of oil.

Brazil has had bigger oil spills. In 2000, crude spewed from a broken pipeline at the Reduc refinery in Rio de Janeiro’s scenic Guanabara Bay, dumping at least 344,400 gallons (1.3 million litres) into the water. Just a few months later, more than 1 million gallons (3.8 million litres) of crude burst from a pipeline operated by state-controlled oil company Petrobras into a river in southern Brazil.

Brazil’s worst oil disaster was in 1975, when an oil tanker from Iraq dumped more than 8 million gallons of crude into the bay and caused Rio’s famous beaches to be closed for nearly three weeks.

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Android under attack

Google Inc.’s Android software was the “exclusive” platform for hackers targeting mobile devices in the last quarter, McAfee Inc. said in a report Monday.

The amount of malicious software (read: malware) targeting Android devices jumped 37% between late June and late September, according to the digital security company’s third-quarter threats report. Following a previous quarter of spiking threats against Android devices, McAfee said 2011 is on track to be the busiest year in mobile malware history.

All new mobile threats identified by McAfee during Q3 were specifically designed to target Android users, the report said. Android’s popularity among cyber criminals has been growing in parallel to its popularity among consumers as hackers seek the largest possible group of victims.

Last week, communications equipment maker Juniper Networks Inc. identified what it called an “exponential” increase in Android malware over the last few months, noting 472% growth malicious software samples since July. Accelerating attacks against Android led Juniper to say “the months of October and November are shaping up to see the fastest growth in Android malware discovery in the history of the platform” in a Nov. 15 blog post.

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“We’re seeing a mix of the traditional hacking community [working] on malware very similar to organized efforts on the PC side, as well as people who are just a little smart, the ’15-year-old kid crowd,’ who are able to hide some malicious content in an app,” Dan Hoffman, Juniper’s chief mobile security analyst, explained in an interview with ITbusiness.ca on Monday.

Far more attack apps have appeared in Chinese app stores that distribute Android software, Mr. Hoffman said.

Most of the new threats came in the form of apps on Google’s Android Market disguised as benign programs that secretly record and transmit a user’s activities once downloaded in hopes of obtaining sensitive financial information. However, the McAfee report also noted a rise in what many would consider an even deeper privacy invasion: malware capable of recording and transmitting phone calls.

“Two examples are Android/NickiSpy.A and Android/GoldenEagle.A – both of which record user conversations and forward them to the attacker,” reads an excerpt from page four of the report.

“Attackers can’t be sure that the first one or two calls have the information they seek, so these malware remain on the devices for extended periods without being detected; that’s a very persistent threat indeed!”

Researchers blame Google’s lax approval process of new Android apps in addition to the platform’s general popularity as the reason for the dubious honour. As the following excerpt from Juniper’s blog post explains, the process of removing an allegedly malicious app from the Android Market is reactionary based on user complaints and therefore open to sustained vulnerability.

“With no upfront review process, no one checking to see that your application does what it says, just the world’s largest majority of smartphone users skimming past your application’s description page with whatever description of the application the developer chooses to include. Sure, your application can be removed after the fact-if someone discovers that it is actually malicious and reports it. But, how many unsuspecting people are going to download it before it is identified as malicious and removed?”

Of course, it is worth noting that Apple Inc., which applies the exact opposite philosophy to accepting apps designed for its iOS platform by subjecting them to an intensive and occasionally onerous review process, is by no means exempt from hacker threats either.
 

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IMF, EU confirm Hungary’s request for possible financial assistance

BUDAPEST, Hungary – The International Monetary Fund and the European Union said Monday they were considering a request from Hungary for “precautionary” financial support.

With its credit rating just one step from junk status, Hungary announced last week it would seek a “safety net” – but no new loans – from international lenders to help support economic growth.

IMF chief Christine Lagarde and the European Commission, the EU executive, both issued statements Monday saying that Hungarian authorities had asked for “possible financial assistance.” Hungary hopes a new credit line will boost investor confidence and stabilize the country’s finances.

In 2008, during a Socialist government, Hungary became the first EU member to receive an IMF-led bailout, a €20 billion loan to avoid defaulting on its debts. Last year, however, Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Economy Minister Gyorgy Matolcsy cut ties with the IMF and implemented a series of controversial economic policies, such as windfall taxes on the telecommunications, banking and other sectors, in a desperate attempt to increase state revenues while avoiding unpopular austerity measures.

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Orban, Matolcsy and other government officials have been very critical of the IMF, so having to seek support from the Washington-based fund was considered a blow to the administration’s political integrity.

Still, the new IMF-EU deal, which the government said could be agreed upon in early 2012, is far from certain, because Orban wants Hungary to maintain its “free hand” to set economic policy, a condition the lenders are highly unlikely to accept.

Despite the political U-turn, Janos Lazar, head of the governing Fidesz party’s parliamentary faction, said Monday that Matolcsy enjoyed “100 per cent” support among government lawmakers, temporarily cooling expectations that the minister’s credibility problems could soon force him out.

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Bill Gates testifies in Utah for WordPerfect maker’s antitrust lawsuit

SALT LAKE CITY – Microsoft’s Windows 95 rollout presented the most challenges in the company’s history, leading to several last-minute changes to technical features that would no longer support a rival software maker’s word processor, Bill Gates testified Monday in a US$1-billion antitrust lawsuit filed by the former owner of WordPerfect.

“We worked super hard,” the Microsoft co-founder said. “It was the most challenging, trying project we had ever done.”

Gates was the first witness to testify Monday as Microsoft lawyers presented their case in the trial that’s been ongoing in federal court in Salt Lake City for about a month. He is set to resume testimony Tuesday morning.

Utah-based Novell Inc. sued Microsoft in 2004, claiming the Redmond, Wash., company violated U.S. antitrust laws through its arrangements with other software makers when it launched Windows 95. Novell says it was later forced to sell WordPerfect for a $1.2-billion loss. Novell is now a wholly owned subsidiary of The Attachmate Group, the result of a merger that was completed earlier this year.

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The Ottawa-based company that bought WordPerfect, Corel Corp., attempted to parlay the program’s status as the industry’s leading word processing software at the time but was eclipsed by Microsoft’s Word

Gates said Novell just couldn’t deliver a Windows 95 compatible WordPerfect program in time for its rollout, and its own Word program was actually better. He said that by 1994, Microsoft’s Word writing program was ranked No. 1 in the market above WordPerfect.

Gates called it an “important win.”

He testified later that Microsoft had to dump a technical feature that would have supported WordPerfect because he feared it would crash the operating system.

“We were making trade-offs,” he said.

Novell argues that Gates ordered Microsoft engineers to reject WordPerfect as a Windows 95 word processing application because he feared it was too good.

WordPerfect once had nearly 50 per cent of the market for computer writing programs, but its share quickly plummeted to less than 10 per cent as Microsoft’s own office programs took hold.

Microsoft lawyers say Novell’s loss of market share was its own doing because the company didn’t develop a Windows compatible WordPerfect program until months after the operating system’s rollout.

Novell lawyer Jeff Johnson has conceded that Microsoft was under no legal obligation to provide advance access to Windows 95 so Novell could prepare a compatible version. Microsoft, however, enticed Novell to work on a version, only to withdraw support months before Windows 95 hit the market, he said.

Microsoft lawyer David Tulchin said Gates decided against installing WordPerfect because it couldn’t be made compatible in time for the rollout. He argued that Novell’s missed opportunity was its own fault, and that Microsoft had no obligation to give a competitor a leg up.

“Novell never complained to Microsoft,” Tulchin said during arguments Friday. “There’s nothing in the evidence, no documents.”

Johnson maintains Novell was tricked in violation of federal antitrust laws so Microsoft could monopolize the market.

“We got stabbed in the back,” he said.

Microsoft’s arguments for a dismissal of the case resumed Monday afternoon.

Throughout arguments Friday, U.S. District Judge Frederick Motz openly expressed doubts that Novell’s claims had merit.

“I don’t see why I have to give a product to a competitor so he can beat me,” Motz told Novell attorneys.

Gates, a billionaire, began by testifying about Microsoft’s history. He was just 19 when he helped found the company. Today, Microsoft is one of the world’s largest software makers, with a market value of more than $210 billion.

“We thought everybody would have a personal computer on every desk and in every home,” Gates said. “We wanted to be there and be the first.”

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AP writer Jennifer Dobner contributed to this report.

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Brazil’s environmental agency fines Chevron nearly $28 million for oil spill off Rio coast

SAO PAULO – Brazil’s environmental agency said Monday it will fine Chevron nearly $28 million for a continuing oil spill off the Rio de Janeiro coast, and the company could face several more similar fines in the coming days.

The agency said through its press office that it will fine the oil company the maximum 50 million reals allowed under current Brazilian law.

Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said at a press conference in Brasilia, however, that as an investigation into the leak continues, Chevron could face “five or six” other fines of the same amount if more infractions are found.

Rio de Janeiro state’s environment secretary, Carlos Minc, said the national government will also ask Chevron to pay for damages caused by the Atlantic spill.

“We believe the accident could’ve been avoided. There was an environmental crime,” Minc told Globo TV and other Brazilian media. “They hid information and their emergency team took almost 10 days to start acting.”

Teixeira and other officials said Chevron hid information about the extent of the spill from the Brazilian government, took far too long to begin clean-up operations and didn’t have the proper equipment to contain the leak.

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Chevron Corp. officials have accepted responsibility for the spill but reject accusations they did not notify local authorities quickly enough or properly manage the cleanup.

Minc said he considers the environmental agency’s fine lenient, but opened the possibility that other fines could eventually be added under Rio de Janeiro state law. In addition, Brazil’s National Petroleum Agency could even consider banning the company from operating in Brazil for a limited time.

“There was negligence,” Minc said. “Rio will not allow any kind of environmental impunity.”

He said Chevron, based in San Ramon, California, will be expected to pay about $5.6 million in reparation for the damage to the environment.

“We are still calculating the costs,” Minc said. “Part of that money we want to use to increase the monitoring of our ocean.”

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was expected to meet with the national environmental minister and its mines and energy minister to discuss the oil spill and determine the government’s actions.

The National Petroleum Agency said more than 110,000 gallons (416,300 litres) of crude oil may have reached the ocean floor since the lead began on Nov 7.

George Buck, chief operating officer for Chevron’s Brazilian division, said Sunday the spill occurred because Chevron underestimated the pressure in an underwater reservoir.

Chevron was drilling an appraisal well about 230 miles (370 kilometres) off the northeastern coast of Rio de Janeiro when the leak started as crude rushed upward and eventually escape into the surrounding seabed.

The oil has leaked through at least seven narrow fissures, all within 160 feet (50 metres) of the well head on the ocean floor.

Eighteen boats work on a rotating basis on the slick, with a varying number of vessels working simultaneously, Buck said.

The leak is a test for Brazil as huge offshore oil finds have been announced recently, with estimates they could hold at least 50 billion barrels of oil.

Brazil has had bigger oil spills. In 2000, crude spewed from a broken pipeline at the Reduc refinery in Rio de Janeiro’s scenic Guanabara Bay, dumping at least 344,400 gallons (1.3 million litres) into the water. Just a few months later, more than 1 million gallons (3.8 million litres) of crude burst from a pipeline operated by state-controlled oil company Petrobras into a river in southern Brazil.

Brazil’s worst oil disaster was in 1975, when an oil tanker from Iraq dumped more than 8 million gallons of crude into the bay and caused Rio’s famous beaches to be closed for nearly three weeks.

___

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A look at the fate of key members of Moammar Gadhafi’s family

Mexico’s Interior Secretary says Mexican intelligence agents have broken up a plot to smuggle the son of late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and his family into Mexico under false names.

Interior Secretary Alejandro Poire says the plan involved a criminal ring “of international dimensions,” but it was quashed in September before it could be carried out.

The son is named al-Saadi Gadhafi, and he is living under house arrest in the Western African country of Niger.

Global News takes a look at the fate of key members of ex-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s family:

KILLED:

Moammar Gadhafi – Libya’s leader of nearly 42 years was captured by revolutionary forces in his hometown of Sirte. Libyan officials initially said Gadhafi was killed in crossfire between revolutionary fighters and loyalists. However, video footage emerged showing him being beaten, taunted and abused by his captors, raising questions about how and when he died. His body was later put on public display in the nearby city of Misrata until he was buried in a secret location.

Muatassim Gadhafi – Formerly the regime’s national security adviser, Muatassim was shot to death after he was

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found hiding with his father in Sirte. His body also was put on display alongside Moammar Gadhafi and ex-Defence Minister Abu Bakr Younis. A former bodyguard has said Gadhafi and his son travelled to Sirte shortly after fleeing Tripoli when the Libyan capital fell to revolutionary forces. Mansour Dao said Muatassim led loyalist fighters in the besieged city.

Khamis Gadhafi – The former commander of one of the regime’s strongest military brigades, Gadhafi’s son
Khamis was reportedly killed in a clash in August. Military officials have said they believe he was buried in Bani Walid, which was one of the last cities to fall to revolutionary control. He was pursuing an MBA in Spain when he was expelled for his role in attacks on Libyan protesters in the months leading up to Gadhafi’s ouster.

Seif al-Arab Gadhafi – Seif al-Arab was reported to be 29 when Libyan authorities said Gadhafi’s son and three of the leader’s grandchildren were killed in an April 30 NATO airstrike in Tripoli. He was a businessman who lived for some time in Germany, where he was investigated but never charged in an illegal weapons possession case.

CAPTURED:

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi – Gadhafi’s second eldest son and the first by his marriage to second wife Safiya, Seifal-Islam was captured by revolutionary forces deep in Libya’s southern desert. The British-educated 39-year-old was taken to the mountain city of Zintan where authorities promised he would be treated humanely. The Netherlands-based International Criminal Court has charged him with crimes against humanity and discussions were under way over where he should face trial.

FLED

Hannibal Gadhafi – Gadhafi’s son Hannibal was briefly arrested in 2008 for allegedly beating up two servants in
a Geneva luxury hotel, sparking a diplomatic spat that dragged on for months. In 2005, a French court convicted Hannibal of striking a pregnant companion in a Paris hotel. He was given a four-month suspended prison sentence and a small fine. He fled to Algeria after Tripoli fell with his mother and several other relatives.

Al-Saadi Gadhafi – Known for his love of professional soccer, Gadhafi’s son al-Saadi reportedly had a colorful
past that included run-ins with police in Europe, drug and alcohol abuse. A man identifying himself as al-Saadi said he was ready to negotiate with the rebels to stop the bloodshed as fighting raged despite the fall of Tripoli. His conciliatory tone contrasted with a defiant statement attributed to Seif al-Islam on the same day. Al-Saadi fled to Niger in September, and the government there gave him refugee status. On December 7, 2011, Mexico’s Interior Secretary said Mexican intelligence agents have broken up a plot to smuggle the son of late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and his family into Mexico under false names.

Mohammed Gadhafi – In his early 40s, Mohammed is the only child of Gadhafi and his first wife, Fatiha. He was
Libya’s Olympic chief and was involved in the country’s telecommunications industry. The rebels reported capturing him after they moved into Tripoli, and soon after said he had escaped from house arrest. He married in 2000. He was among Gadhafi’s children who fled to Algeria.

Aisha Gadhafi – A lawyer in her mid-30s, Aisha helped in the defence of Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s toppled
dictator, in the trial that led to his hanging. During a 2000 visit to London, Aisha delivered an impromptu speech praising the Irish Republican Army at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park. Gadhafi’s daughter had been a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. Development Program, but the U.N. ended its agreement with her as Gadhafi cracked down on anti-government protesters. She gave birth on the border as the family members fled to Algeria.

Safiya Gadhafi – Safiya was a teenage nursing student when she met Gadhafi soon after he took power in 1969.
He ended up divorcing his first wife and marrying her. The couple had six sons and one daughter together and adopted two more children. She was among the group that fled to Algeria.

UNCONFIRMED

Hana Gadhafi – One of Gadhafi’s adopted children, the Libyan leader claimed she died as an infant in the 1986
U.S. airstrike that hit his Tripoli compound, Bab al-Aziziya. The airstrike was in retaliation for the Libyan-sponsored bombing of a Berlin nightclub earlier that year that killed two U.S. servicemen. At the time, Gadhafi showed American journalists a picture of a dead baby he said was Hana. But Libyan rebels who took over Bab al-Aziziya found a room in Gadhafi’s home with Hana’s birth certificate and pictures of a young woman with the name Hana written on the back, possible indications that she lived well beyond infancy. Tripoli hospital officials also say Hana worked as a surgeon. Her whereabouts is unknown.

©2011The Canadian Press

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International Court prosecutor in Libya for talks on Seif al-Islam Gadhafi trial

TRIPOLI, Libya – The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor was in Tripoli for talks Tuesday with Libyan authorities about their plans to put on trial Moammar Gadhafi’s son and one-time heir apparent Seif al-Islam Gadhafi.

Revolutionary fighters captured Seif al-Islam Saturday in southern Libya, and he is being held by fighters in the mountain town of Zintan, southwest of the capital. A local spokesman for Libya’s new leadership says former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senoussi also was captured over the weekend and is being held in the southern city of Sabha.

The ICC indicted the two men along with Gadhafi in June for unleashing a campaign of murder and torture to suppress the uprising against the Gadhafi regime that broke out in mid-February. Libya’s new leaders have said they will try Seif al-Islam at home and not hand him over to the Hague court.

The court’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said in a statement Tuesday before his arrival in Tripoli that Seif al-Islam and al-Senoussi “must face justice.”

Rights groups have called on Libya to hand both men over for trial in The Hague, and Moreno-Ocampo stressed that even if Libyans want to try the two men in Libya they must still co-operate with the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal.

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Libya is obliged by a Security Council resolution to work with the court, but that does not necessarily preclude a trial in Libya. If the National Transitional Council can convince judges in The Hague that the country has a functioning legal system that will give Seif al-Islam and al-Senoussi a fair trial on substantially the same charges as Moreno-Ocampo filed, then the ICC could declare Moreno-Ocampo’s case inadmissible and turn it over to Libya.

“I will talk to the national authorities and seek information about proposed national proceedings in order to assist us in analyzing the admissibility of the case against Seif Gadhafi and Abdullah al-Senoussi and to understand their plans moving ahead,” Moreno-Ocampo said in a statement. “Their arrest is a crucial step in bringing to justice those most responsible for crimes committed in Libya.”

Seif al-Islam, who was once the face of reform in Libya and who led his father’s drive to emerge from pariah status over the last decade, was captured Saturday by fighters from the small western mountain town of Zintan who had tracked him to the desert in the south of the country. He was then flown to Zintan, 85 miles (150 kilometres) southwest of Tripoli, where he remains in a secret location.

In new video footage taken the day of his capture and obtained by The Associated Press, Seif al-Islam warns his captors that Libya’s regions that united to oust Gadhafi will turn against each other “in a couple of months or maximum one year,” suggesting the country will descend into infighting.

There have been signs in recent months of growing tensions among Libya’s powerful regions, and even after Gadhafi’s fall in August and after his capture and killing in October, the country’s numerous and sometime competing revolutionary factions have refused to disarm, raising fears of new violence and instability. The regions, backed by bands of armed fighters, are able to act autonomously, even on issues of the highest national interest.

In the video, revolutionary fighters stand around Seif al-Islam, who is seated in a green chair. Three of his fingers are heavily bandaged, and he occasionally winces from the pain.

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Associated Press writer Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, contributed to this report.

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Italian premier Monti begins key first week on debt mess, to see Sarkozy-Merkel, EU heads

ROME – Italian Premier Mario Monti opened a critical first full week in office Monday, with meetings planned with key European officials to map out strategy for dealing with the country’s debt crisis.

Monti presided over his first working Cabinet meeting after his new government won parliamentary backing last week to try to rein in Italy’s high debt and boost economic growth.

On Tuesday, he heads to Brussels for a first meeting with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy. And on Thursday he is due to join German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicholas Sarkozy in Strasbourg for what Monti has said will be a permanent club of the eurozone’s three largest economies to confront the debt crisis.

Monti is under enormous pressure to boost Italy’s stagnant growth and bring down high debt, which at 120 per cent of GDP is among the highest in the eurozone. The aim is not only to save Italy from succumbing to the debt crisis but to prevent a catastrophic disintegration of the common euro currency.

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Monti was tapped last week to lead after Italy’s spiraling financial crisis brought down media mogul Silvio Berlusconi’s 3 1/2 year-old government. Monti’s government of professors, bankers and business executives won back-to-back confidence votes in Parliament.

Yet debt worries continued to stalk the eurozone Monday, with Italy’s 10-year bond yield up 0.09 percentage points at 6.64 per cent while stocks were down 4.5 per cent on the Milan stock index.

Europe has already bailed out three small countries – Greece, Ireland and Portugal – but the Italian economy, the third-largest in the 17-nation eurozone, is too big for Europe to rescue.

The European Central Bank has been buying up Italian government bonds in a bid to keep borrowing rates down. The ECB said Monday its purchases picked up last week to nearly €8 billion ($10.8 billion), up from €4.48 billion the previous week.

The ECB doesn’t break down what countries’ bonds it buys, but traders say it focuses on Italy to keep the country’s markets stable.

No details were released from the nearly two-hour cabinet meeting Monti chaired, other than that the ministers approved a decree concerning the administrative functions of the capital, Rome.

Monti has said the ministers were due to discuss some of his key reform proposals. He has pledged to reform the pension system, re-impose a tax on homes annulled by Berlusconi’s government, fight tax evasion, streamline civil court proceedings, get more women and youth into the work force and cut political costs.

While he hasn’t given any specific timeframe, he has said the government would decide “in the coming weeks” what new austerity measures are needed.

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Cities study how to become age-friendly: better sidewalks, benches, washrooms

TORONTO – Lucy Howe rides a scooter to get around but she bounces uncomfortably when the sidewalks are rough and cracked. Curb cuts that form ramps for getting across the street aren’t always wide enough for the scooter, and it’s especially difficult in winter.

“I’ve tipped mine. I’ve fallen,” said Howe, who was at the York West Active Living Centre on a recent weekday preparing to settle in for an afternoon of playing euchre. “We’ve both fallen over together – me and the scooter. My ankle went underneath it, and it was a few weeks getting that healed up.”

Howe, 68, has scoliosis and a lung condition similar to COPD, which means she’s on oxygen.

A lot of people with disabilities live in her neighbourhood and the sidewalks aren’t all wide enough for them, she said. In addition, crosswalks flash the “Don’t walk” signal too soon for people with mobility problems trying to get across several lanes on busy streets.

“Even with a scooter sometimes, you’re just making it,” she lamented.

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As the population ages, city planners in many communities across Canada are teaming up with health researchers to listen to concerns like Howe’s, and to understand more about how the physical and social environment affects health, social connectedness and mobility.

Joanie Sims-Gould of the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility, located in Vancouver General Hospital, was among the researchers who got together for a symposium earlier this month called “If we build it, will they walk?” Perspectives were shared by civic planners, engineers, elected officials, seniors and experts in disciplines such as physiotherapy, geography, epidemiology, social sciences and bone health.

“What we’re looking at is how where you live influences basically what you do, how you move about in your environment – so if you live in a walkable versus a not-walkable area, how that may or may not impact physical health,” explained Sims-Gould, a lead researcher on the project.

“We’re particularly interested in how that impacts older adults and particularly those vulnerable older adults who are vulnerable either through health-related vulnerability or income-related vulnerability.”

It’s vital to consider the needs of older adults because of the demographic shift to an aging population, but it’s believed that all ages would benefit from improvements to the built environment, she said.

“If you build it for 80, it works for eight. If you build it for eight, it doesn’t work so well for 80.”

The World Health Organization developed the Age-Friendly Cities project several years ago to get planners thinking about the elements needed in a community to support healthy aging. The Public Health Agency of Canada has developed a guide for healthy aging in rural and remote communities, and its website includes a checklist of age-friendly features for outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, social inclusion and participation.

This week in St. John’s, N.L., researchers will be contacting approximately 350 households for a telephone survey on the topic.

“Our research team is very much interested in systematically collecting data on the features of St. John’s. What are the impressions of residents of St. John’s, of housing and transportation and all the features, and then asking residents for suggestions, their impressions, on what could be improved and what city council could do about that,” said Wendy Young, who holds a Canada Research Chair in Healthy Aging at Memorial University.

When sidewalks are relatively smooth and bump free – and clear of wet leaves in the fall or snow in the wintertime – it contributes to making the community livable.

“If you have a sidewalk that’s well maintained, that is not only good for anybody with mobility issues, it’s also good for older adults, all older adults, it’s good for moms with strollers, it’s good for anybody in a wheelchair,” Young said.

An older adult on her research team who volunteers his time by driving people to different places is also urging that more support be given to volunteers who want to get out and remain socially active.

In Vancouver, Sims-Gould said the symposium didn’t just hear about the timing of crosswalk signals, and the quality of lighting, curb ramps and sidewalks. The absence of street furniture was also discussed.

“For example in the west end of Vancouver there are a number of seniors’ centres, but seniors may or may not be able to walk to them because there are some slopes,” she said. “But if there were some carefully placed benches, they may indeed be able to get out and walk, knowing that there’s a place where they can rest partway between.”

Having a place to go – a destination such as a community centre with interesting programs – is also key. And vibrant neighbourhoods make a difference too.

The researchers heard about a woman who lives in what would be considered a safe and affluent area.

“But she doesn’t like to go out and walk because it’s very residential and there are no eyes on the street,” said Sims-Gould. “So while the sidewalks are terrific, and it’s considered to be a safe neighbourhood there’s nobody around if she were to fall, if she were to have some kind of an issue. So that’s a real barrier for her.”

Another dominant theme had to do with nature’s call.

“Some of the women spoke quite candidly about their struggles with incontinence and the need to be nearby a bathroom, and how that’s created some social isolation for them,” said Sims-Gould.

VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver recently added washrooms throughout the park and now it’s a great place for older people to visit, she said.

Where such facilities are lacking, the symposium explored the idea of the private sector getting more involved.

“If businesses could identify themselves as a user-friendly washroom, we could almost have our washrooms mapped in the city, if you will, so older adults might know that, you know, this coffee shop here has a bathroom, you don’t have to buy a coffee, but you can go in and use it, for example.”

However, she conceded that business owners weren’t involved in this particular conversation, and the idea is somewhat controversial.

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More than 1,200 vehicles ticketed as a result of seasonal parking ban

EDMONTON – The city’s first seasonal parking ban of the winter has ended, with 1,278 tickets issued, 45 vehicle tows requested, and seven vehicles being towed to the impound lot.

The parking policy was proposed by city council earlier this fall. A ban will be declared on residential bus routes in the city after a large snowfall.

The ban went into effect at 7:00 on Friday morning, on residential bus routes.

Vehicles that were not moved by the time the ban was in effect were subject to a $50 ticket, and the possibility of towing if they were not moved by the time plows and sanders arrived.

“During this first round of enforcement, we targeted those areas of the city which most often cause problems for commuters, transit operators and emergency responders,” says Erin Blaine, Parking Enforcement Coordinator, By-Law Enforcement, Community Standards. “It is also important to note that the parking restrictions remain in effect for the duration of the ban; there is no parking permitted on residential bus routes until a notification lifting the ban has been issued by the City, which has now occurred.”

The seasonal parking ban officially ended at 7:00 pm on Sunday.

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“I want to thank the citizens who took the time to make alternate parking arrangements while our equipment was working on residential bus routes. We understand it was an inconvenience for those people, but their cooperation it really made a difference. The faster we can get the residential bus routes done, the more quickly we can lift the parking ban,” says Bob Dunford, Director of Roadway Maintenance, Transportation Services. “It is our goal to avoid the issues that arose last year over the build-up of snow on city streets, and citizens have to be committed to helping us achieve that result. It is in everyone’s best interests to keep roads in good winter driving condition.”

Residential blading on non-bus routes began Sunday, with blading trucks working to create a level snow pack.

“Although there is more snow on some neighbourhood roads than others, it’s important to keep that level down from the very beginning,” adds Dunford. “When we receive more snow, it will be much easier to maintain an even driving surface if the layers beneath are already packed down.”

The city has said that eight hours notice will be given before a seasonal parking ban is in effect.

You can sign up to be notified about seasonal parking bans by email.
 

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