Archive | April, 2017

Jacqueline shoots back to back!

Posted on 27 April 2017 by admin

Jacqueline Fernandez has been shooting round the clock. The actress is currently amidst the shoot of her forthcoming film Drive wherein she is paired opposite Sushant Singh Rajput.
The film schedule kick started in Mumbai. Point of excitement being, yet another fresh pair to hit theatres soon.
What we learn is that the actress has wrapped up the schedule shoot of Drive and will move on to her next film shoot.
Jacky has finished the last schedule of Drive in Bombay and has taken off to London Tuesday night and joining the team of the film there.
With no break at all, the actress will enter the shoot of her next. Its definitely been a hectic period for the actress as shoots lined up with no break at all.

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Sara Ali Khan is ready to debut in Bollywood but conditions apply!

Posted on 27 April 2017 by admin

We are sure you must be wondering as to when is Sara Ali Khan actually going to debut in Bollywood? All we hear is of her rejecting films or getting rejected. Then there are all these stories about her mother deciding Sara’s debut film for her. Only recently we told how there are rumours about Sara getting rejected by Aditya Chopra for Thugs Of Hindostan. But now we hear that the young lady even has a clause for her debut film. Yes, you heard right. She already has conditions to be part of a film and that’s exactly why Student Of The Year 2 was unsuitable for her. (Also read: Justin Bieber’s India tour to have a string of Bollywood celeb kids including Aryan Khan, Suhana, Sara Ali Khan, Jhanvi Kapoor)

If sources are to be believed, Sara Ali Khan doesn’t want to be part of a any two-heroine project for her debut. She wants to be the centre of all attention in the film and not share the limelight. Now Student Of The Year 2 was supposed to be a story revolving around Tiger Shroff and two ladies. It was to be a love triangle. When that’s the case, her screen share for the film would have been divided with the other lady and thus, she wasn’t too kicked about it. Well, we think it’s only fair for a star kid like her to ensure that their first film manages to showcase her skills properly. After all, that’s how you will gain mileage and get better offers. We doubt there will be any dearth of offers for Saif Ali Khan’s daughter as she is gorgeous. She is just playing her cards right, we feel.

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What Kangana has to say about Azaan controversy

Posted on 27 April 2017 by admin

Actress Kangana Ranaut says she has no problems with ‘Azaan’ but feels what Sonu Nigam said should be respected and discussed. Sonu Nigam, in a series of tweets, had described the use of loudspeakers to broadcast sermons and calls to prayers by mosques, temples and gurudwaras as hooliganism.

When asked about what she feels about the issue, Kangana told reporters, “I can’t speak for anyone but I really love Azaan… even when we were shooting in Lucknow I loved the sound of it. I’m speaking for myself.

“Be it any religious activity, be it any gurudwaras, temples or mosques I love them. I visit all these places. We even go for Christmas mass.”

The “Queen” actress feels the very point of Nigam putting his opinion on social media was that it should be discussed.

“But that’s not to say what he is saying shouldn’t be considered, that’s his opinion and he should be respected for that. And that’s the idea of bringing it on social media so that it can be discussed.”

The playback singer got his head tonsured by a celebrity hairstylist in response to a cleric, who had announced a Rs 10 lakh reward for getting Nigam’s head shaved.

The singer maintains that his tweets were against the use of loudspeakers in morning sermons and not aimed at any particular religion.

Kangana was speaking at the launch Aditya Birla Group’s ‘Liva Creme’ where she also walked the ramp, last evening.

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The rise of LillyTube

Posted on 13 April 2017 by admin

With two billion views on YouTube, a new book and brands knocking down her door, Scarborough-born Lilly Singh offers a lesson for Canadians looking to ride the wave of cultural disruption.

Here’s the thing about success. You can be an online phenom with more than 11 million YouTube subscribers; have a gaggle of William Morris agents working their Beverly Hills phones to score you parts in TV shows and movies; get ready to launch your very first book, an advice guide called How to Be a Bawse which features dozens of photos of you looking very boss – er, bawse-like; and be BFFs with your childhood hero, Dwayne (the Rock) Johnson.

But when your extended family is flying in from Toronto to spend a week in the shiny new L.A. house you bought a few months ago, and you’re a certain kind of daughter and sister and aunt, it’s just a fact that you’re going to be up until 6 a.m. unpacking boxes, assembling furniture, child-proofing drawers and mopping like the control freak you are. (Mind you, a video editor who works for a company that manages some of your YouTube business affairs will help you mop until you both pass out from exhaustion; but still.)

And so Lilly Singh, a Scarborough-born 28-year-old known to her online fans as Superwoman, looks anything but super on this blue-sky L.A. morning as she pads down the stairs in a sweatshirt and jeans, nestles her small frame into a living room chair, and takes a bite of an egg-and-spinach breakfast wrap Postmated here moments ago.

“You’re meeting Sleepy Morning Lilly,” she murmurs sheepishly, adding later, “You’re also seeing me without my eyebrows filled in.” (She’s even missing her trademark nose ring.)

The family visit is just one of many pressing commitments Singh is juggling.

At the end of the month, she’ll embark on a 12-country, 34-date promotional tour forHow to Be a Bawse (subtitle: A Guide to Conquering Life), bringing a one-hour show of “stand-up mixed with inspirational, motivational stuff” she’s calling “a comedic TED Talk” to her sometimes-screaming fans.

For almost five years now, those fans been eating up Singh’s twice-weekly videos: energetic jump-cut observational monologues delivered straight to camera (Types of Kids at School, Types of People on Instagram, Annoying People in Public Washrooms), send-ups of pop culture and gender stereotypes (What Clubbing Is Actually Like, If Boys Got Their Period) and skits trafficking in gentle racial humour (The Difference Between Brown and White Girls) featuring Singhplaying a bevy of characters loosely drawn from her life as a child of Punjabi immigrants growing up on the outskirts of Toronto. (She also makes less polished behind-the-scenes daily diary videos, where everybody can see her without her eyebrows filled in.)

Some of Singh’s most popular videos include fictional versions of her parents – wannabe-player dad Manjeet and prim, tea-drinking mom Paramjeet – reacting with slowly growing horror as they watch, say, a sex-spackled Ariana Grande music video.

All told, Singh has racked up more than two billion views on YouTube, prodding some to wonder if her success might hold lessons for Canada’s cultural industries on how to ride the current wave of technological disruption rather than be swamped by it.

At the breakfast bar, just past the Ping-Pong table which dominates this main room, her bright-eyed personal assistant Kyle, and Misako, a social-media brand manager who recently joined the team, are quietly riding matching MacBooks. About half an hour earlier, they had posted a handful of videos from Singh and other celebrities (Charlize Theron, Lele Pons, Winnie Harlow) kicking off something called the Bra Toss Challenge, a mash-up of slacktivist feminism and the Ice Bucket Challenge in which high-profile women throw a bra at the camera in support of someone they admire and then call on another to do the same.

It’s the latest undertaking for Singh’s #GirlLove project, which aims to end what she calls “girl-on-girl hate.”

“It’s always such an interesting topic, because it’s so controversial. And I don’t think it needs to be,” she says. “Women are scared to use the word ‘feminism’ and identify as feminists.”

Singh’s positivity is conscious and hard-won: She began making YouTube videos as a way out of a deep depression. In 2011, after following in the academic footsteps of her older sister to earn a psychology degree from Toronto’s York University, she was in the midst of applying for a master’s program in counselling when she decided she just couldn’t go through with it. She’d already made a handful of videos, and though they were rough around the edges, the process had lifted her spirits. So she informed her parents that, rather than go to graduate school, she wanted to make funny videos for the Internet.

This was not in their wheelhouse. “They were both immigrants. My dad came here first, sent for my mom, had to work the three jobs. I have pictures of my dad, like, posing with his first refrigerator, being like: ‘Electricity! Refrigerator!'” she says, laughing. (They currently manage a territory of gas stations in the north end of Toronto.)

They gave her one year to make it happen. “I lived at my parents’ house, didn’t have to pay any rent, didn’t have to pay for any bills,” she says, adding: “Indian parents don’t make their kids pay for things.”

Singh soon found her voice, drawing on her upbringing to produce videos such asSh*t Punjabi Mothers SayHow to Be the Perfect Brown Person and – in a hint of the gender politics that would become a mainstay of her humour and advocacy work – a slap-down of underminers calledGirls Are Haters!

“YouTube for me is more than a platform, it is literally that thing that helped me when I was sad,” she says. “It doesn’t make sense, because it’s just a bunch of [programming] script, but I have an emotional connection to that.”

Singh’s climb has been impressive, jumping from one million subscribers in August, 2013, to five million in January, 2015; eight million last spring; and, this week, more than 11.25 million. By some measures, that puts her in the top 75 YouTube channels – a few notches below Selena Gomez, Beyoncé and BuzzFeed, but a good distance above Demi Lovato and The Late Late Show with James Corden.

Back-of-the-envelope math suggests Singh is likely making about $2-million annually from the ads on her videos.

Like many YouTube creators, she is also in the business of being a “digital influencer,” signing promotional deals with marketers such as Coca-Cola Canada and the cosmetics label Smashbox, which last spring released a deep-red liquid lipstick dubbed “Bawse.” (Her deal with Skittles Canada includes a lifetime supply of the chewy candy; she pulls open a kitchen drawer to reveal about 30 oversized packages, in an array of four flavours.)

Success begets success, and Singh has lately attracted increasingly big names to co-star in her videos, including Seth Rogen and James Franco, Selena Gomez, Kunal Nayyar and The Rock. She interviewed Michelle Obama and Malala Yousafzai about the importance of girls’ education, and last month talked with Bill Gates about development issues.

So why, if she could become a global superstar while working out of a Toronto suburb, did Singh need to move to Los Angeles in the fall of 2015?

Singh offers an answer which is both promising and disheartening. “My content specifically is what it is, and my brand is what it is because I am from Canada,” she notes.

“A lot of my success comes from this large idea of being multicultural: the very cultured parents that are on my channel, a lot of the cultural jokes I make – the fact that I can relate to such a vast array of people by making different language jokes and different dialect jokes – that’s a huge reason for my success, and that solely comes from Toronto and Canada. And so if I didn’t start in Canada, would I be as big as I am now? I don’t think so.”

And yet.

“Having said that, if I stayed in Canada, would I be as big as I am now?” She smiles benevolently, as if trying to let down a boyfriend gently, but firmly. “I don’t think so.”

She continues: “It really did pain me to move to L.A., and I wish I could have stayed in Toronto, but it was getting to a point where, two or three times a month, I’d have to fly to L.A. to do something, or I’d be missing some opportunities to do something, because they’re like, ‘Oh! You need a visa. We’ll just find someone else.'”

In How to Be a Bawse, she notes that, two days after the splashy premiere of her Unicorn Island doc at the iconic TCL (née Grauman’s) Chinese Theatre last year, she turned up for an audition where the casting director didn’t seem to have heard of her.

But one of the overriding themes of Bawse– a motivational handbook stuffed with business, social and relationship advice imparted with the snappy humour and giddy whimsy that animates Singh’s videos – is that you need to check your ego at the door. “My secret to success is exactly what most people don’t want to hear: It’s a ton of hard work,” she writes.

It must be hard, though, for fans to resist feeling a kind of protective affection when they encounter Singh in person: After all, she has shared some very dark moments. In Bawse, she writes of the lacerating self-doubt of her early 20s, of being “depressed and wanting to end my life.” When, during her Unicorn Island show, she declared in what amounted to a war cry, “Happiness is the only thing worth fighting for in your life!” there was a whiff of the reformed smoker working feverishly to keep the cravings at bay.

So: Now what? How does someone recalibrate when they surpass their own dreams?

“When I first started YouTube it was about – ‘Oh, I got 70 views!’ ‘Now I got 100!'” she notes. “‘Now [this], now [that], now – let’s go on a tour!’ There’s always been a natural progression. So it doesn’t feel unusual. But it definitely does feel confusing sometimes.” She quotes a lyric: “‘Success is the most addictive drug.'”

“Sometimes I do fear that, if I’m being honest. I feel like, will there ever be a point in my life where I’m like, ‘That’s great. I have accomplished what I want to accomplish, I’m gonna hang up now’? I don’t know if that’s a thing.

“I think once you get successful and you love what you do so much and get opportunities – I think that’s why movie stars continue to make so many movies. It’s because success is the most addictive drug, you get addicted to this idea that: ‘No, I want more. I want more experiences. I want more of this.’ Because your time is limited on this planet. So that is a real fear for me. And I haven’t figured that one out yet.”

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Children in daycares must be protected

Posted on 13 April 2017 by admin

Early in the morning of a hot July day in 2013, 2-year-old Eva Ravikovich was left in a parked car by her unlicensed daycare provider. At the end of the day Olena Panfilova realized she had left the toddler behind. But it was too late. Eva was already dead from heat stroke.

Panfilova finally admitted what she had done in court this week as she pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing Eva’s death.

But it’s not just Panfilova’s actions that should be under scrutiny. Ontario also failed Eva by not strictly enforcing rules for unlicensed day cares.

At the time of Eva’s death, for example, Panfilova was legally allowed to care for five children in her home. But on that day she was watching 35, as well as 14 dogs. There had been reports of overcrowding in her daycare but investigators hadn’t followed up. And when they did follow up in 2012 they simply sent her a letter telling her to reduce the number of children in her care. A letter.

Indeed, a report by former Ontario Ombudsman André Marin would later find a “bureaucracy that shied away from inspections and investigations and preferred to use soft tools of encouragement.”

Two years ago Ontario tightened the rules governing unlicensed daycares to make them safer and increased penalties for infractions. That should help — if the rules are enforced.

But it doesn’t address the issue of why parents must turn to unregulated daycares in the first place. While three-quarters of mothers of young children are in the workforce, there are licensed spots available for less than a quarter of children under 5.

In its recent budget the Trudeau government announced $7 billion over the next decade to ease the shortage by creating up to 40,000 new spaces. But that isn’t enough to meet the demand.

As Marin asked in his report, “What could be more pressing, more urgent, than protecting children?” The answer is nothing. While Ontario must be sure to enforce its new rules for unregulated daycares, Ottawa and the provinces must tackle the national child care crisis by building a national, affordable licensed system.

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Ontario Liberals reject fast-tracking of rent control bill

Posted on 13 April 2017 by admin

The Wynne Liberals rejected the NDP’s request Thursday to quickly pass a bill that would expand rent control to all rental buildings in Ontario.

The NDP asked for unanimous consent of the Ontario Legislature to push a private members’ bill on rent control through debate and into law immediately. The bill would end the exemption that allows unrestricted rent increases on rental units built after 1991.

The Liberals refused to grant that consent, preventing a speedy passage of the bill.

The NDP is calling for urgent action to stop large rent increases from happening now, after the government flagged last month in response to stories by CBC Toronto that it is considering broadening rent control to include post-1991 units.

Premier Kathleen Wynne and Housing Minister Chris Ballard are promising their own legislation soon.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath chastised the government for “taking its time” on rent control,

“There are unscrupulous folks who are going to try to get in under the wire and increase the rents for tenants,” said Horwath in an interview Thursday with CBC News. “Every single day is a day that the notice could be showing up on the renter’s doorstep from the landlord.”

The Liberals say they refused to approve the NDP’s rent control bill because it “doesn’t go far enough” said Ballard.

“The issues that tenants face are more than just rent hikes that are out of control,” he said. “We’re bringing in our own robust rent control act that will better deal with the problem.”

Ballard did not say when he will act.

Asked by CBC Toronto about people who are being hit with rent increases in the meantime, Ballard responded: “I understand the frustration that they would feel but at the same time we have a responsibility to all renters across Ontario that we get the legislation right.”

The exception in the province’s rent control legislation means tenants in units built after November 1991 could see their rent increase by any amount once an existing lease expires.

Owners of pre-1991 units cannot increase rent beyond an annual inflationary guideline set by the province, without the approval of the Landlord and Tenant Board.This year, that increase is limited to 1.5 per cent.

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Trump’s Homeland Security chief says he wants less restrictive Canadian border

Posted on 13 April 2017 by admin

They tried. Two senators, one Republican and one Democrat, prodded Donald Trump’s Homeland Security secretary on Wednesday to spell out his concerns about America’s northern border.

John Kelly wouldn’t much budge. His unexpected answer: Canada is fantastic, and the northern border should get less restrictive.

“The absolutely great news story in the northern border is that we have Canada there. To say the least: a friend, an ally,” Kelly, a retired Marine general, told the Senate Homeland Security committee.

“The good news story up there is the Canadians. Their law enforcement, their commitment,” he continued. “I would say, actually, this might surprise you . . . I’d like to see the northern border to be even thinner, if you will, so that the movement, safely and securely, of commerce and people can be even streamlined more.”

Kelly did say he was monitoring a “little” recent increase in the number of Mexicans crossing illegally from Canada. On the whole, though, his words were among the most positive uttered by a senior U.S. security official about the border since the tightening that followed the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

It is not clear whether Kelly’s views are widely shared within the Trump administration. The president and his inner circle have frequently discarded or simply declined to seek the advice of his cabinet secretaries.

Still, Kelly’s praise offered a measure of reassurance amid Canadian concerns about the impact of Trump on their travel and trade.

The NDP is criticizing a Liberal bill to expand border “pre-clearance” on Canadian soil, arguing that the Trump-era U.S. should not be given expanded powers over Canadians. And the Wall Street Journal reported this week that Kelly’s department is considering a series of significant new intrusions on the privacy of people seeking to enter.

The Trump administration has declined to follow through on a number of potential policies it has floated through the media in such a manner. Canadians directly affected by border policy say they are unsure what might happen next.

“What’s overhanging the situation now is uncertainty and the unknown,” said David Bradley, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance. “Nobody’s hitting the panic button, but there is uncertainty.”

At present, there appears to be a gap between public perception and border reality.

The inauguration of the bellicose “America First” president was followed by a spate of media reports about Canadians turned away at U.S. crossings. But these anecdotes have not proven representative of a trend. According to statistics from Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, the U.S. deemed about 1,200 people from Canada inadmissible this February — down from about 1,700 under Barack Obama the February prior, a 29-per-cent decrease.

Goodale’s staff did not provide a total number of U.S. visits, so the proportion of Canadians declined in those months could not be calculated. Nonetheless: according to travellers and experts alike, there is no evidence of any lasting change in border operations since Trump took office.

“Things, at least at our border region, are kind of moving along business as usual,” said Laurie Trautman, director of the Border Policy Research Institute at Western Washington University, 90 minutes from Vancouver. The only difference, she said, has been the level of “speculation and uncertainty.”

“And that’s not to say that that doesn’t have a real impact,” she said.

The uncertainty appears particularly acute among Muslims. Though Canadian citizens were not included in Trump’s ban on travellers from six Muslim-majority countries, that policy and his general hostility to the community have prompted some Canadian Muslims to avoid non-essential travel.

“People who don’t have to go are deciding not to go,” said Amira Elghawaby, spokesperson for the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

She said the organization has received accounts of Muslims who have had problems crossing. Others have travelled regularly under Trump without any new difficulties. More data is needed, she said, to determine what is happening.

The Journal article raised new alarms around the world. The story reported that the administration is thinking about fulfilling Trump’s promise of “extreme vetting” by forcing visa applicants to hand over their social media passwords and their phones, and by asking travellers about their beliefs on social issues like “the treatment of women in society.”

The changes, the Journal reported, could even apply to the 38 allies in the “visa waiver program” that allows travellers to make short-term visits without a visa.

Canada, however, is in a category separate from the waiver program, and Canadians could conceivably get special treatment. The Canadian government successfully lobbied for privileged access under Trump’s travel ban, which has been paused by the courts.

“We do not comment on policy discussions taking place in other countries,” said Goodale spokesperson Scott Bardsley.

U.S. border officers already have a “huge amount of discretionary authority,” Trautman said. And, in fact, they already sometimes ask travellers for access to their phones, laptops and social media accounts, though civil liberties advocates dispute their authority to do so.

Searches of cellphones rose from about 5,000 in 2015 to about 25,000 in 2016. They have skyrocketed in 2017, NBC reported, to 5,000 in February alone.

“This is nothing new,” Kelly said. He said officers make such requests of only “very small numbers” of visitors, and only for a reason.

Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, though, told Kelly her “hair is on fire” over the idea of turning the practice into widespread policy.

“All of the bad guys are going to just lie. I don’t get how we get anything out of it. Except damage,” she said.

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Posted on 13 April 2017 by admin

 Dr. Hasan Askari

 Another suicide bombing in Lahore. On April 5, a vehicle carrying the officials conducting national census was targeted by a suicide bomber in the outskirts of the city of Lahore. It killed 7 people, including four from the Army and one from the Air Force off-duty personnel. Twenty-two people were injured and several vehicles parked in the area were damaged. A faction of Tehrik-i-Taliban=i-Pakistan, Jamaatul Ahrar, claimed the responsibility for the attack.

 The main objective of this terrorist attack was not to stop the national census but to demonstrate on the part of the terrorists that they still have the capacity and will to target the people serving the Pakistani state. The terrorists were able to hit the military personnel as well as civilians in one attack. The security of civilian and military offices and buildings in Pakistan has been strengthened, making it difficult to target these sites. But, in this case, the terrorists were able to target civilian and military officials on duty on a road side.

 The roadside where the attack took place was a meeting point of civilian and military officials engaged in national census. They would come to this place and, from there, they would go to nearby villages in different directions for undertaking census. It seems that the terrorists monitored this routine and then decided to target the census team whose security was not tight.

 The Punjab government sources claimed that the suicide bomber came from Afghanistan where the Pakistani Taliban are based. Even if we accept this accept this claim, a well-trained bomber from Afghanistan cannot undertake such an action without local connections and support. It has been learnt from such suicide bombing incidents that the concerned person reaches the targeted city and houses himself with the local connection of the organization who guides him to the target spot which is monitored for some days and then the suicide attack is conducted.

 Despite the terrorist incident, the general consensus in the country is that the terrorist incidents have declined over the last two years. The “Zarbi-Azb” security operation in North Waziristan and other tribal areas have weakened the Pakistani Taliban and other terrorists groups and factions. They no longer have exclusive areas to maintain their safe-bases for housing them, keeping the stockpile of weapons and for imparting training. Most of them have moved to Afghanistan or they are hiding in mainland Pakistan.

 Two interlinked action plans have been designed by civilian and military security authorities to cope with the left-over of terrorism. These are: Twenty-point National Action Plan, most of which is being implemented through the civilian federal and provincial governments and political and societal leaders. The other operation is “Raad-ul-Fasad,” meant to seek-out the extremists and terrorists hiding in the cities as well as to find out and dismantle their local support-bases and networks located in the cities and town. Who are the people, religious institutions and groups that provide them local hide-out or provide them money? Most of these groups and networks are said to be operating under cover of religious and societal and welfare organizations. The challenge for the state is how to distinguish between the genuine religious and charity groups and those using these titles for covering their negative and violent activities?

 The Army, the paramilitary forces and provincial governments are engaged in breaking the terrorist networks in the cities and towns. The government agencies like the Police, intelligence agencies and specialized police as well as the paramilitary forces and military intelligence agencies are working towards implementing the agendas of the National Action Plan and the “Raad-ul-Fasad”. However, the requisite political support is weak. The political parties and leaders, including Islamic political parties, and societal groups are not very active in mobilizing popular support against religious and cultural extremism and terrorism.

 The political leaders and political parties as well as the leaders of the society do condemn terrorism and describe it as being contrary to the principles and teachings of Islam. However, they avoid condemning any specific group that engages in violence and practices religious sectarianism. A number of them do not blame the Taliban but some unnamed foreign powers for funding some elements in the garb of the Taliban to engage in violence to malign Islam. The groups sharing religious-sectarian doctrines with the Taliban and such groups are hesitant to blame the Taliban or religious hardliners, including sectarian groups, for the current extremism and terrorism.

 The major problem is in the province of Punjab where the sectarian groups as well as the Kashmir focused groups are based. The Punjab government is conducting its own security operation which is limited in scope. It is not willing to give an independent role to the Army and the Rangers to conduct security operations in the Punjab in an autonomous manner. The PMLN government in the Punjab feels that its monopoly of power in the province will be threatened if the Rangers function as independently as they operate in Karachi. Further, the PMLN leadership is not inclined to openly campaign against the sectarian groups or known religious hardline groups for the fear of losing votes to Tehrik-i-Insaf and the Jamaat-i-Islami. The overall orientations of Punjab is conservative and the Political Right to Islamist. It is in this segment of population that the Taliban and other hardline and sectarian groups have the support. The PMLN cannot afford to engage in sustained campaign against militancy and religious extremism except in very general terms for the fear of losing votes. This phenomenon will become stronger as the general elections come close.

 The current efforts by the military and civilian governments, especially the security operations by the Army/paramilitary, will keep extremism and terrorism under check but these challenges are not expected to disappear completely from Pakistani society in the near future. The political considerations of many political parties and religious orientation of a good number of people softens their attitutude towards the groups pursuing hardline and narrow agendas.

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No clear way to deflate Toronto’s ‘historic’ housing bubble

Posted on 13 April 2017 by admin

Most policy makers agree Toronto’s booming housing market is a problem. They just can’t agree on what to do about it.

After the Toronto Real Estate Board reported that average prices surged 33 per cent in March, David Rosenberg, the chief economist at Gluskin Sheff & Associates who forecast the U.S. housing crash, summed it up this way: “This is a bubble of historic proportions.”

The debate among policy makers has now gone public, and the back-and-forth between officials at three levels of government suggests an impasse over the next steps to cool the market.

Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau is asking for a meeting with his provincial and local counterparts to take a “closer look” at Toronto’s housing market.

“I know that you share with me growing concerns about access to affordable housing in the Greater Toronto Area,” Morneau wrote in a letter to Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa and Toronto Mayor John Tory. The request, a rare public move, comes after a Sousa letter to Morneau last month, and was followed by a Sousa reply Thursday agreeing to a meeting “to help improve housing affordability.”

The path forward is mired in a lack of data, uncertainty on the role of foreign money, low interest rates and a strong Toronto economy. And beyond all that lies another issue: housing is one of the few drivers of Canada’s economy, meaning any policy misstep would have wider implications.

“We need to be careful to manage this in a way that doesn’t create unintended consequences,” Morneau said Friday in London, noting that while prices are climbing in Toronto and Vancouver they are stable — and in some cases declining—in other cities across Canada.

“There’s no easy answer here,” Doug Porter, chief economist at Bank of Montreal in Toronto, said in a phone interview. “Every single measure is going to have some kind of unwelcome side effect. Policy makers just have to accept that ahead of time.”

Here are some of the options on the table.

1) Tax Foreigners

British Columbia introduced a 15 per cent foreign buyers tax last year, triggering a slide in sales though no major price correction in Vancouver. Ontario’s Sousa initially ruled out a foreign buyers tax but is now considering it. Porter agreed that “something like B.C. did is a good starting point.”

It’s probably worth taking a look at something similar to re-balance the Toronto market, Rosenberg said in an interview, adding the British Columbia measure appears to have been effective. “Prices are off the bubble” in Vancouver, he said. While no solid data exists on the number of foreign buyers in the Toronto region, anecdotal evidence shows they are participating in the market “big time.”

The measure has its detractors. Brad Lamb, chief executive officer of Lamb Development Corp., said the notion that foreign buyers or speculators are driving up prices is “bunk.” A foreign buyers tax would “do nothing to help increase the supply of housing,’’ and slow down the creation of new homes, he said in an interview.

To be sure, Rosenberg says Toronto prices — while astronomical in the Canadian context — aren’t out of step with other major financial centres and are “not that out of whack,” based on the incomes of potential foreign buyers wanting to establish a toehold in the city. The average home price surpassed $900,000 last month.

2) Boost Supply

Supply is regularly cited as a problem, with price increases partly due to strong competition among potential buyers for comparatively scant homes for sale, reflected in unprecedented measures of tightness. Vancouver has more geographic constraints, whereas Toronto’s supply is restricted in part by Ontario’s green belt, a swath of land outside the city where development is barred.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has resisted changing that, but is instead looking at fast-tracking the development process.

3) Tax Empty Homes

Sousa last week told reporters that he’s talked to Tory about a possible tax on vacant residential properties, after Vancouver imposed a similar tax in January.

“We certainly don’t want to make decisions that have unintended consequences, but supply is limited and vacant properties hamper that degree of supply,” Sousa said, adding that the goal is to encourage use of empty homes either by selling or renting.

Both Tory and Sousa have said data is needed before proceeding with such a tax.

Dianne Usher, a senior vice president at Johnston & Daniel, a division of Royal LePage, Canada’s biggest provider of real estate services, said she doesn’t think an empty-homes tax would be effective in Toronto. “Unlike Vancouver, we don’t have a lot of vacant properties,” she said.

4) Control Rents

Governments should consider increasing incentives for more rental developments or boosting investment in affordable housing, according to Benjamin Tal, Toronto-based deputy chief economist at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

“We have to take a long-term view and this must include a notable increase in rental activity,” Tal said.

Wynne says the argument that imposing rent controls will weaken interest in building new housing “does not hold water” after a decade without significant new rental supply. Apartments built prior to 1991 are already subject to rent controls.

Toronto’s mayor expects some new measures on housing in the upcoming provincial budget, slated for the spring. “I’m assuming they are going to do something because they have kind of said they are,” Tory said in an interview Tuesday at Bloomberg’s Toronto office.

5) Support Buyers

As prices have jumped, it’s become an increasingly political issue. Ahead of a May election, British Columbia has begun to offer loans to first-time buyers to pad their down payments and is subsidizing the property tax bill on homes worth up to $1.6 million.

Ontario, with an election now expected next year, is considering similar measures. Such steps, however, do nothing to slow price growth in the market — instead, they just add more demand.

6) Raise Rates

The Bank of Canada isn’t expected to raise interest rates this year, though mortgage rates have already begun to inch up in Canada. It may ultimately be up to Governor Stephen Poloz to cool the housing market.

Barring a bold move by governments, “maybe it is time for the Bank of Canada to start playing a role and follow the Fed on a gradual rising interest rate path,” Rosenberg wrote. Home prices in Toronto have moved “so abnormally” compared to the broader economy that it’s almost like the Bank of Canada has already raised rates 200 basis points as far as homeowner affordability, he said.

7) Capital Gains

Canada currently exempts primary residences from any capital gains taxes. Sousa urged Morneau to hike the inclusion rate for capital gains — hike the tax, in effect — for secondary or investment properties. Sousa argued the federal government could “reduce speculative investment” while raising government revenue.

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Google expands ‘fact check’ info in news searches

Posted on 13 April 2017 by admin

Google will expand the use of “fact check” tags in its search results — the tech industry’s latest effort to combat false and misleading news stories.

People who search for a topic in Google’s main search engine or the Google News section will see a conclusion such as “mostly true” or “false” next to stories that have been fact checked.

Google has been working with more than 100 news organizations and fact-checking groups, including The Associated Press, the BBC, CBC and NPR. Their conclusions will appear in search results as long as they meet certain formatting criteria for automation.

Google said only a few of those organizations, including PolitiFact and, have already met those requirements. But the company said it expects that number to grow following Friday’s announcement.

Not all news stories will be fact checked. Multiple organizations may reach different conclusions; Google will show those separately.

Fighting fake news

Still unanswered is whether these fact-check analyses will sway people who are already prone to believe false reports because they confirm preconceived notions.

Glenn Kessler, who writes The Fact Checker column at The Washington Post, said in an email that Google’s efforts should at least “make it easier for people around the world to obtain information that counters the spin by politicians and political advocacy groups, as well as purveyors of ‘fake news.”‘

He added that “over time, I expect that people increasingly will want to read a fact-check on a controversial issue or statement, even if the report conflicts with their political leanings.”

Google started offering fact check tags in the U.S. and the U.K. in October and expanded the program to a handful of other countries in the subsequent months. Now, the program is open to the rest of the world and to all languages.

False news and misinformation, often masquerading as trustworthy news and spreading on social media, has gained attention since the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Google’s announcement comes a day after Facebook launched a resource to help users spot false news and misleading information that spreads on its service. The resource is basically a notification that pops up for a few days. Clicking on it takes people to tips and other information on how to spot false news and what to do about it.

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