Archive | March, 2016

Ileana D’Cruz: ‘Happy Ending’ not the end of my career

Posted on 31 March 2016 by admin

Ileana D’Cruz, who was last seen in the Saif Ali Khan starrer ‘Happy Ending’, says her career isn’t over yet, as she is “coming back” with her next film ‘Rustom’, which stars Akshay Kumar.

‘Rustom’ is helmed by Tinu Suresh Desai and also features Arjan Bajwa and Esha Gupta. The film is scheduled for a worldwide release on 12 August.

“‘Happy Ending’ is not the end of my career, so don’t worry. I am coming back. In August my film ‘Rustom’ is coming up with Akshay Kumar. So fingers crossed,” Ileana said at an event in Mumbai.

“‘Rustom’ is an intense film. I am too excited,” the 27-yearold actress added. At the event, the actress had donned casual attire. She expressed that she is not at all brand conscious and loves to wear comfortable clothes.

“I love being simple and minimalistic. More than an outfit, I like to accessorise myself with one big piece of jewellery. Quality of the outfit is my first preference. It doesn’t matter whether it is branded or not,” Ileana said.

Asked about the most stylish male actor in Bollywood in her opinion, Ileana took a long pause and said: “I like men with old fashion and I think Farhan Akhtar dresses very well.” As far as as actresses are concerned, Ileana picked Sonam Kapoor.

“Sonam Kapoor is unbelievable when it comes to fashion. I can never do what she does. I can’t carry half of the thing she does,” she said.

Though the actress, who has been a regular showstopper for renowned designers, finds fashion runways “nerve-racking.”

“I don’t feel excitement while walking on ramps. It’s a nerve-wracking experience for me. I keep praying not to fall down on runways,” Ileana said.


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‘Angry’ Virat Kohli lashes out at trolls for targeting Anushka Sharma

Posted on 31 March 2016 by admin

The world might be singing praises of Indian swashbuckler Virat Kohli for single-handedly guiding India to the semi-finals

of the ICC World Twenty20 but the man of the moment is angry. Reason? His split with Bollywood actor Anushka Sharma became the subject of most of the trolls ‘celebrating’ her split with the Indian star.

Most of the messages and jokes which were being circulated took a dig at how the gorgeous beauty’s presence in Virat’s life was nothing but a distraction. Some even blamed her for being the negative force.

While the memes and jokes were circulated every time Virat weaved magic with his willow, this time the young cricketer did not take it lying down.

Virat Kohli, took to Twitter blasting people for trolling Anushka by stating that she has only given him ‘positivity’.

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Kareena Kapoor Khan: I don’t have energy, dedication for Hollywood

Posted on 31 March 2016 by admin

PopulAR Indian actors are landing roles in international projects, but actress Kareena Kapoor Khan says she is not eyeing Hollywood.

Asked if she would like to feature in a Hollywood film, Kareena said: “I have no interest in Hollywood. Today, people are watching Hindi films all over the world and in fact Hindi films are dubbed in all languages…

So, it’s not that they (West) don’t know other actresses.

“To work in Hollywood, a different kind of energy and dedication is required, but I don’t think I have that in me.” Kareena is currently busy promoting her film ‘Ki & Ka’ — a film which breaks gender stereotypes with its theme. The actress credits her husband Saif Ali Khan for being supportive and allowing her to do the film. “partner’s support is very important. If my partner was not supportive, I would not be able to do a film like ‘Ki & Ka’,” she said, adding that Saif found the film “progressive” in its thought.

The movie features Arjun Kapoor as Kabir, an IIT graduate and a house husband, who has grown up wanting to be like his mother and not like his father and will be seen doing household.

On the other hand, Kareena essays Kia, an ambitious and a career-oriented woman. Directed by R. Balki, the film is slated to release on April 1.

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Ishaan Singla develops WeTraq to track loved ones for their safety

Posted on 23 March 2016 by admin

By Samuel Getachew


Ishaan Singla is the founder of WeTraq – a global tracking device. He shares with me his take on the device, the inspiration behind the initiative, reflects on the many features of the device and tells me how the community can get involved in support of his effort. 

What is WeTraq?

WeTraq is world’s smallest global tracking device that ensures the connection between you and your loved ones will never be lost. It is a small credit card sized tracker that combines the power of IoT(Internet of Things) with enhanced GPS to find the precise location of your loved ones and valuable possessions. You can monitor the location of your loved ones anywhere in the world from anywhere in the world and get the location notifications on your mobile phone whenever you want it by setting a location schedule on the WeTraq mobile application.

Who or what inspired you to start the device?

I got inspired to build WeTraq after seeing my aging aunt wander around the streets due to Dementia. She is 70 years old and lives on her own in an apartment. It came to a point where she stopped answering her phone and when we would drop by for a visit, she was missing. This created a lot of anxiety for all of us. It became really important to use a tracker for her safety. That’s when we started looking into tracking devices out there and found several flaws. This is a driving force for my passion towards Wetraq. This unfortunate incident and my healthcare IT industry experience of 7 years gave me enough reasons and knowledge to build this device.

How is it different than other devices out there? 

There are several other tracking devices out there. Tile, TrackR are some of the devices that work on Bluetooth only which has a limited coverage area of about 100-200 feet. They have this feature of CrowdGPS as well for wide coverage but that works only when others have the same application which is very unlikely!

Other devices like Pocketfinder, Amber Alert GPS etc work on GPS only. GPS does not provide indoor tracking like shopping malls, parks etc and these devices use limited range cellular networks so again user gets very limited coverage. And these devices carry hefty monthly fee. Most of them need you to get in a monthly contract, whether you use the device or not.
Another limitation of these devices is short battery life. Bluetooth devices are usually Non – rechargeable whereas other GPS devices need charging every few hours or couple of days.

WeTraq uses proprietary software that combines power of IoT and enhanced GPS to provide you global coverage, indoor tracking including malls, buildings, parks or other crowded areas. Due its small credit card size, it is easy to be tagged to the clothes or bag of kids, adults, tied to luggage using a keychain. WeTraq uses a rechargeable battery that lasts you for 30 days based on usage. Battery can be easily charged using an inbuilt microUSB port.

WeTraq is really cost effective. It does not require any monthly subscription fee. You don’t have to pay if you are not using it! Device will be developed and manufactured in Canada itself to have better quality control and create more jobs.

Share with me about some of its features?

Global Coverage – Everywhere you have a GSM network in the world.

Report Scheduling – You set the schedule how often and when do you need location reports on your mobile app

Geo-Fencing – You can set a custom safe zone on the map using the mobile application and get an alert whenever your tracker crosses that zone.

SOS alert – Your loved ones can notify you of their location if they are in trouble or any unfortunate circumstances with the push of a button built on the tracker. You get an immediate location alert notification on your mobile application.

Share with me the kinds of people that can best use it? 

Wetraq can be used to locate people suffering from Autism or Dementia. People affected by these disorders tend to wander unknowingly and it becomes really important for their family and caregivers to keep a track of their location.
Its wide range of applications makes this device very useful and practical for everyday needs. Wetraq allows you to track your pets, kids, older parents, and luggage when you travel and wait on the airport for hours, Journalists going to remote areas, hikers, vehicle theft, fleet management and logistics.

How can the community support you in taking it to the next level? 

We need your support! We are in the development phase of the device and will be launching a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign soon for funding and to reach more supporters. We need to build a community and need people to subscribe on our website with their email IDs so we can notify them of the campaign launch dates and they get early bird discounts! We want to launch this product asap to help the community. Here is our landing page:

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The dead Mayor taught us to stand behind our convictions

Posted on 23 March 2016 by admin

Rob Ford, the Toronto city councillor who became the world’s most famous mayor during a wild, scandal-filled term, is dead at age 46.

The married father of two young children died after 18 months of treatment for a rare and aggressive cancer first diagnosed in the midst of his 2014 bid to be re-elected mayor. Ford would have turned 47 on May 28.

A brief statement from the Ford family announcing the death Tuesday described the former mayor as a “dedicated man of the people” who “spent his life serving the citizens of Toronto.”

“I have known Rob Ford for many years. He was a man who spoke his mind and who ran for office because of the deeply felt convictions that he had,” Mayor John Tory said in a release.

“His time in City Hall included moments of kindness, of generosity to his council colleagues and real efforts to do what he thought was best for Toronto.

Premier Kathleen Wynne noted that “Rob Ford grew up in a family with a strong tradition of political involvement and community service. And he upheld that tradition throughout his life.”

“Uncle Rob, You have fought the good fight long enough and now can rest in peace. Love you and will forever miss you,” Ford’s nephew, Toronto District School Board trustee Michael Ford wrote on Twitter.

Last year, after learning multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation had shrunk the original tumour enough to allow surgery, a relieved-looking Ford told reporters: “I’m just lucky to be alive today, and I’m just lucky to get another chance at life … At least I have a chance.”

The rumpled populist spent the months following surgery as he had the previous 15 years — immersed in politics. He attacked Mayor John Tory’s positions at city hall, gathering ammunition for a declared 2018 mayoral comeback.

Robert Bruce Ford, the son of self-made millionaire Doug Ford Sr. and Diane Ford, worked for the family label-making company before deciding to follow his father, a one-term Progressive Conservative MPP, into politics.

He failed to win an Etobicoke council seat in 1997 but, after the 2000 election, started a decade-long tenure that saw him rail against perceived overspending and face criticism for caustic insults and off-colour comments.

Ford built a profile on talk radio as a plain-spoken champion of the little guy, always eager to get a pothole fixed, and parlayed that into a 2010 mayoral bid that quickly gained steam and shot him into the mayor’s chair.

He at first seemed invincible, unilaterally declaring former mayor David Miller’s Transit City light rail plan dead and convincing council to quickly axe the vehicle registration tax, declare the TTC an essential service and reduce councillor office budgets.

However series of scandals left him stripped off of many of his owers.

Nonetheless, Rob Ford will be remembered by many as an outspoken man who stood fast behind his convictions.

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Ontario lagging on paid sick days, leaving low-wage workers stranded

Posted on 23 March 2016 by admin

What began as a scrape quickly festered into a hand infection, a wound that would have easily healed if the low-wage Toronto dishwasher didn’t have to keep dunking it in dirty water. But without access to a paid sick day, Dr. Kate Hayman says her patient had no option but to keep working.

There are at least 145 countries, including 23 jurisdictions in the United States alone, which give workers the right to be compensated when they’re ill. Meanwhile, under Ontario law, the majority of employees are only entitled to unpaid leave — and an estimated 1.6 million workers in the province aren’t entitled to a single, job-protected, paid sick day. Critics say that reality is costing patients and the health-care system alike.

“We see so many people after hours with minor complaints who recognize that they could easily see their family physician,” said Hayman, a physician in a downtown emergency room. “But they’re unable to get time off during regular working hours, either because they have no paid sick leaves or because they’re afraid of losing their work and are precariously employed.”

Under the province’s outdated Employment Standards Act, workers are generally entitled to 10 emergency leave days. But that leave is unpaid — and bosses can legally require their employees to provide a sick note, which doctors complain clogs up clinics with cold-ridden patients who could have otherwise just recovered at home.

Moreover, small businesses with less than 50 employees don’t have to give workers any sick days at all — paid or unpaid — leaving more than a million workers who are often already trapped in low-wage jobs without any protection, according to a recent report by the Workers’ Action Centre.

Hayman, who is part of the Decent Work and Health Network funded by a $100,000 grant from the philanthropic Atkinson Foundation, now wants to see other doctors join the effort to link precarious work and poor health — and to lobby for policy change. The Ontario government is already reviewing its employment laws, and is expected to release its interim report on the reform process this spring.

Better sick-day coverage would have helped Winnie Ma, 57, who worked for eight years as a Toronto postal clerk in a small pharmacy. When struck by flu, she had to choose between losing out on her meagre minimum-wage salary and risking passing on her illness to customers.

“The doctors gave me notice for three days leave. I lost $200 for three days salary, because I’m not very high paid. I need to pay my hydro, utilities, property tax,” she said.

Ma said lack of paid emergency leave provisions also meant she struggled to take her aging mother, who was sick with cancer, to hospital checkups.

“If we had emergency sick leave, I could take care of my parents, and take care of my loved ones,” she said.

Low-wage workers, often concentrated in sectors like retail and food services where they interact regularly with the public, are more likely not to have any sick-day protection at all, raising concerns about disease control. A 2015 study by McMaster University and United Way showed that almost 90 per cent of the GTA and Hamilton’s most precarious workers did not get paid if they missed a day’s work.

“You’re likely to be actually spreading the illness around,” said Steve Barnes, director of policy at the Wellesley Institute, which focuses on urban health. “We’re sending people out to work when they really need to just rest up and recover.”

When sick workers cannot take a day off to visit their family doctor, it is after-hours emergency rooms that suffer, Hayman says. She says she regularly sees patients who don’t need to be at the hospital — but were unable to take time off during the day to get a sick note or see their GP.

“Without a doubt, having high volumes of patients in the emergency department affects the level of care provided,” Hayman said.

“The medical community is saying this is a waste of everyone’s time and we have the government reviewing this important piece of legislation,” added Barnes. “Now is an opportunity to expand the coverage that people have.”

At a time when precarious work is on the rise, Hayman says that task is more urgent than ever.

“I would struggle to think of a shift that goes by where I don’t have at least one patient where work is negatively impacting on their health.”


Taking care of sick workers:

Laws for paid sick days are, or will soon be, in place in 23 jurisdictions across the United States — four states, the District of Columbia and 18 localities. Here are a few of them:

 San Francisco: Workers earn paid sick days after three months on the job, earning up to a maximum of five days per year in small firms and nine days per year in larger firms;

 Portland, Ore.: Employers with more than six workers must allow employees to accrue up to five paid sick days a year;

 New York City: Employers with five or more workers must provide up to five paid sick days;

 State of Massachusetts: Employers with more than 11 workers must provide up to five paid sick days;

 State of California: Employees get a minimum of three paid sick days a year, after working for the same employer for 30 days and satisfying a 90-day probation period.

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Trudeau’s Liberals pledge billions in federal budget for ‘transformative’ change

Posted on 23 March 2016 by admin

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are opting to spend heavily in their first budget to deliver the “bold, transformative” change they say is needed to put Canadians on firm footing for the future.

Canada’s finances will go deep into the red for the next five years as Liberals set aside election pledges to contain deficit spending.

Instead, the government said it will take advantage of low interest rates to borrow money and spend nearly $30 billion more this year than it takes in as revenue.

Morneau said the government is intent on making “good investments” to ensure the country’s future growth and prosperity.

“Some are urgently needed and require the government to act quickly. But in every case, investments will be made with a focus on long-term value so that Canadians will reap the benefits far into the future,” Morneau said in his budget speech in the Commons.

 “This budget puts people first and delivers the help Canadians need right now,” Morneau said in his budget speech.

He told the Commons that the Liberal plan – which will see the deficit grow to $29.4 billion in 2016-17 – is “reasonable and affordable.”

At the core of the Liberal strategy is the Canada child benefit, some $5 billion in new spending a year which Morneau boasted was a social program to rival universal health care.

He cited the case of a single mom, earning $30,000 a year, with one child under the age of six who will begin getting $6,400 a year tax-free.

The new benefit is the “most significant policy innovation in a generation,” Morneau said. “It will lift hundreds of thousands of kids up from poverty.”

To pay for the new child care benefit, the Liberals have redrawn other government transfers for children, pared back — and will eventually eliminate — several of the boutique tax credits the previous Conservative brought in for arts, fitness and textbooks. Well-off families — those with combined income of over $200,000 – will not gain from the increased child benefits. And individual high income earners will pay more in taxes.

Residents of Toronto and other Canadian cities will benefit as the Liberals open the taps on infrastructure cash, starting with an initial infusion of $11.9 billion over five years to upgrade transit, water and wastewater facilities and affordable housing.

To help get the projects underway, Ottawa is offering to pay up to half of the costs, up from their usual one-third share.

In Toronto, that funding could help deliver new subway cars, low-floor buses and street cars.

The repairs, billed as “unsexy” by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, will come first with new infrastructure projects to come later.

Morneau acknowledged the money is, in many instances, just “a first step” but a critical one to upgrade the country’s transit networks.

Another $3.4 billion over five years is earmarked for national parks, harbours, airport, border infrastructure.

The budget splurge meets many of the Liberal platform promises, however Morneau did not deliver a promised small business two-percentage point tax cut, saying the most important thing is to get the economy growing so small business can take reap the benefits of consumers who have more to spend.

For workers in hard-hit regions, the Liberals will extend unemployment benefits, give an extra boost to laid-off long-term workers, and the government will make it easer for new workers – immigrants and young Canadians – to claim benefits in the first place. That’s expected to cost $1 billion a year.

The budget provides more financial support to injured veterans and reverses the Conservative decision to close regional veterans’ offices across the country.

The defence department will see its capital spending deferred as the budget delays $3.7 billion for big-ticket capital projects, confirmation that new military hardware, such as new fighters to replace aging CF-18s remain years away.

Morneau refused to call it a cut, saying the move simply ensures the money is booked for later when it will be needed.

The Liberals had vowed to keep the deficit to no more than $10 billion and to eliminate it altogether by the end of their mandate. Tuesday’s budget predicts a deficit of $14.3 in 2020-21 but says the uncertain economic conditions make it impossible to predict when the books will be balanced.

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Posted on 23 March 2016 by admin

Dr. Hasan Askari

 The 21st Century is described as the Asian Century. The underlying assumption is that the Asia-Pacific region has emerged as the focal point of global politics. The major powers are networking and building linkages with the states of the region as they are of the opinion that the countries of this region are going to attract much attention in terms of economic development, trade, investment.

 The argument is that the North America-Europe based global politics is giving way to Asia-Pacific-South East Asia based economic and political dynamism. The rise of the nations in this region and greater global attention on this region have created a strong perception of the decline of North America-European political and economic clout.

 Some states have made major economic strides over the last two decades. These include China, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and India. Several states are on way to building economic strength. These include Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Philippines. The success of these states can be attributed to several factors that include economic potential and growth, promotion of knowledge and technology, human resource development with greater emphasis on education, health care and improved living conditions, regional cooperation and interdependence, trade, investment and open market with movement of people, goods, services and ideas across the territorial boundaries of the states. These states have also defused or resolved intra-state and inter-state conflicts. In most cases the issues of territorial boundaries and ethnic conflict have been taken care of. Consequently, this region has become a hub of economic development, trade and technological innovation.

 The United States is pursuing what it describe as its Asia Pivot policy. China, physically present in the region is building economic ties with the region and asserting its primacy. It is pursuing One Belt, One Road strategy of linking China not only with this region but also Europe by building roads and maritime links. Its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor provides China with a direct sea access to the Arabian Sea/India Ocean where it faces less challenges than in the South China Sea access. There are sources of conflict in the region that can upset the economic, trade and technological strides. These sources of conflict include North Korea and China’s claims on some small islands in South China Seas that are contested by Japan and Vietnam. The U.S. supports these states against China and advocates the freedom of navigation in South China as opposed to China’s efforts to assert its ascendancy in some areas of South China Sea.

 However, China and the U.S. will not engage in persistent cold or hot war in Asia-Pacific region. They will build pressure on each other periodically and pursue cooperation in some areas and conflict in other. Both have cultivated trade and investment relationship at the state and private sector levels which they would not to undermine.

 The Asia Pivot Policy is expected to cause a decline in U.S. interest in South Asia. However, the U.S. is not will not totally abandon the region as was done in October 1990. It will maintain economic, political and military ties with Pakistan whose military is viewed as an effective deterrent against terrorism. It also acknowledges Pakistan’s role in stabilization of Afghanistan. The U.S. views India as an important market and a source of stability in the region. It could rely on India for containment of China, if and when needed.

 What are the lessons for Pakistan from the enhanced global focus on Asia-Pacific region and the Asia Pivot policy? Pakistan should seek strength from within rather than rely on other states to overcome its external and internal problems. Pakistan must assign the highest priority to controlling extremism and terrorism, and contain the role of the Pakistan-based non-state violent players. As long as Pakistan does not improve governance and devotes more resources to education, health care, basic civic facilities, Pakistan cannot come out of its current predicament. Emphasis should be on acquisition of knowledge and technology which are the instruments of power in the 21st Century.

 Puritanical ideological approaches are no longer valid as the policy framework. Pragmatic economic considerations need to override other considerations. This calls for increasing Pakistan’s economic relevance to the international system. What are Pakistan’s trade, investment and technological relations with the rest of the world? It also needs peace on its borders. This assign importance to Pakistan’s relations with the neighboring states, especially India and Afghanistan. These relations suffer from deep distrust. Iran, another neighbor, is the newly emerging power after the resolution of the nuclear dispute with the U.S and several European states. Not cultivating Iran in terms of economic relations, trade and gas pipeline, will be a major failure of Pakistan.

 Pakistan links four regions: Central Asia, China’s Xinjiang region, South Asia and the Middle East. Its economic future is linked with gas pipelines, roads and railways across Pakistani territory. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor offers new opportunities for economic revival of Pakistan. However, this project can run into serious difficulties if Pakistan cannot offer security to the Chinese workers and Pakistan’s internal controversy on the route of the Corridor is not resolved. The government of Pakistan needs to be transparent on the route of the corridor and the industrial projects to be installed along the corridor. What would be Pakistan’s share of the cost of the corridor and how much would be China’s grant and how much would be loan?

 Pakistan faces strong internal threats because there is little attention to salvage the faltering economy and completely eliminate extremism and terrorism. Internal political and societal harmony is a prerequisite for successful democracy and upgrading of the economy. Pakistan can draw as much attention as is currently being drawn by South East Asian and Asia-Pacific region, provided it assures the world that its territory is secure against terrorism and it works towards developing positive relevance with the rest of the world in terms of economic relations, trade, investment and open market.

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Modi’s message blunts fringe elements on both sides of communal divide

Posted on 23 March 2016 by admin

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has too often been accused of not reaching out to minority communities, and the BJP has been criticised for an upper caste slant. This makes it doubly welcome that Mr Modi has in the past week met Muslim and Christian leaders and provided an important reassurance to Dalits, a historically oppressed community that should be front and centre of any social initiative by the government. On Monday, speaking at the sixth Ambedkar Memorial Lecture in New Delhi, he said that reservation was a ‘right that nobody can snatch’.

This is significant because it comes barely a week after the RashtriyaSwayamsevakSangh (RSS), the BJP’s ideological patron, said the reservation policy should be revisited. Dalits have long been suspicious of the RSS’ views on reservation, and some of the BJP’s woes in the Bihar assembly elections held in October-November could be traced to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s call, mid-campaign, for a rethink on the policy. The fallout of the Hyderabad-based Dalit student RohithVemula’s suicide was also badly handled by the government. So it was important for Mr Modi to speak out, and speak out he did.

Monday’s speech, when seen with the prime minister’s address at the World Sufi Forum last week and meetings with two senior Christian leaders, sends a reassuring message that the Centre stands for the religious freedom of all communities. It is a message to fringe elements and religious extremists that they are on the wrong side of this government. It is also a message some motormouth BJP MPs need to heed.

This outreach is important because concerns that minority groups are being targeted are increasing. In January, the Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2016 noted that the Indian government ‘did little….to improve respect for religious freedom, protect the rights of women and children, and end abuses against marginalized communities’.

There are horrifying reminders of how narrow interpretations of religion and culture triggered unrest and cost human lives — be it the lynching of a Muslim man in Dadri in September or the killing of a VHP worker in Agra in February or the killing of two Muslim cattle traders in Jharkhand last weekend. The triggers for many of the above incidents may have been different, but they have acquired a communal colour.

It would be cynical to dismiss this outreach as being done with an eye on the assembly elections in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, where there is a sizeable minority population. One should give Mr Modi the benefit of any such doubt, because in a federal democracy the size of ours, at any given time, some part of the nation is out at the hustings.

The PM’s reassurance is aimed at blunting efforts by fringe elements on both sides of the communal divide and will go some distance in taking down the temperature.

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Three ways to pay off your mortgage faster

Posted on 23 March 2016 by admin

Things like traffic, work and dirty dishes can seem to go on forever; your mortgage doesn’t have to.

Even if you have signed on for a long mortgage, with payments scheduled to continue until you’re old, there are ways to speed everything up, experts say.

It’s a matter of knowing your options and paying attention to detail.

Biweekly payments

For example, instead of making payments once a month, you can ask your mortgage holder to accept biweekly payments, dividing the monthly amount in half.

Although it sounds like six of one and half a dozen of the other, it means you will actually be making 26 payments every year, paying down more than you would if you made 12 monthly payments.

The reason is that there are 13 four-week payment periods in a year, as opposed to 12 months, allowing two extra biweekly payments.

It can add up to your advantage. For example, you could cut three years off and save more than $16,000 by making biweekly payments instead of monthly ones on a 25-year mortgage of $300,000 at 3 per cent.

Round up

Another really easy and relatively painless way to make faster payments is to round up your regular payment by a small amount, whether it is monthly or biweekly. For example, if you normally pay $575 every two weeks, consider bumping it up to $600.

As with biweekly payments, you probably won’t feel the small additional amount in your regular budget and the savings over years will be substantial. Many people like to round up their payments when they get a raise.

Extra payments

A third way to speed up your mortgage payment is to put in extra money when it comes your way, for example through a tax refund, inheritance or work bonus.

You have to be disciplined to do this, though. “People often say they’re going to do it but then they spend the money on a vacation,” says James Robinson, mortgage broker and owner of Dominion Lending Centres Mortgage Watch in Toronto.

It is often common to have a mortgage that allows you to pay down an additional lump sum up to a fixed percentage of the total mortgage, typically on the anniversary of the mortgage. But beware: Mortgage terms can vary widely depending on the lender and your own financial situation.

Mortgages often have clauses that penalize the borrower heavily – into thousands of dollars – if they pay off the entire mortgage before the full term. This may make little difference for those who win the lottery but it can be a burden for homeowners who downsize and are unaware of the penalties for paying off early.

“You’ll want to keep those terms as open as possible. It’s probably the most important thing you can do to have the ability to pay down faster,” says Thomas Elltoft, a real-estate agent in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

A common type of set mortgage prepayment lets the borrower pay a certain portion, say 15 per cent of the original amount, on the mortgage anniversary. The borrower can pay the same amount each year, which over time becomes a larger percentage of the amount that is left.

“You need to read the fine print or engage somebody who understands the fine print and can explain it to you,” says Mr. Robinson.

“A lot of people don’t realize that different lenders allow different amounts, or have different ways of letting you implement your prepayment,” Ms. Dunn says.

It is also important to remember that mortgages are made up of two components – principal and interest. The actual payment you make is a blend of the principal and the interest you owe, so the faster you pay down the principal, the less interest accrues over time and the less you will end up paying in total.

Speeding up mortgage payment doesn’t make sense for everyone in every circumstance. In today’s low-interest environment, with rates unlikely to rise drastically for a while, a mortgage is among the lowest-cost debt, compared with the cost of, say, car payments or credit-card debt.

Most importantly, stay informed about your mortgage, Mr. Robinson says.

“For most people, it’s the biggest debt you’ll ever have. Be financially literate.”

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