|Posted by Jeff on October 27, 2010 at 6:56 PM||comments (0)|
The top recipient of our taxpayers' aid money is a country that ranks among the worst in the world.
OTTAWA - The No. 1 recipient of Canadian taxpayers' foreign-aid dollars is the second-most corrupt country in the world, a new report says.
Afghanistan tied with the military dictatorship in Myanmar as the second-most corrupt country on the planet, according to the yearly audit by the Berlin-based group Transparency International. Somalia won the dubious distinction as most corrupt on the organization's annual Corruption Perceptions Index.
On the least-corrupt scale, Canada inched up to sixth from eighth from a year earlier in the ranking of 178 countries. Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore topped the list as the countries with the most virtuous public sectors.
Through 2011, Canada has earmarked $1.9 billion in development assistance to Afghanistan, the single-largest recipient of its foreign-aid spending.
Western concerns about corruption in Afghanistan have been an issue for years, and they were revived this week when President Hamid Karzai admitted his government receives bags of cash from Iran totalling in the millions of dollars.
"Unstable governments with a history of conflict continue to dominate the bottom rungs of the (index)," said Huguette Labelle, the organization's chair.
"Corruption nourishes poverty, it seeds violence, it destabilizes countries," added Labelle, a retired federal public servant who once headed the Canadian International Development Agency.
Fighting corruption needs to be made a central element of poverty reduction, she said.
Labelle said three-quarters of the world's countries have a serious problem with corruption, including members of the G20, which is trying to guide recovery from the global economic crisis.
"With governments committing huge funds for the world's most pressing problems, including the stabilization of financial markets, climate-change mitigation and poverty reduction, corruption remains a serious obstacle and a cause for concern," said Labelle.
"The vital issue remains enforcement, without which all the laws in the world will be of little value."
Labelle said it was good that the G20 has made a commitment to transparency ahead of its November summit in South Korea.
Corruption scores declined among a number of higher-income countries "rattled by the financial crisis," she said.
The United States was singled out for its decline to 22nd from 19th place, while Italy and Greece also fell, to 67th and 78th respectively.
The corruption assessment is a composite index that drew upon 13 different expert and business surveys from January 2009 to September 2010. It measures the "abuse of entrusted power for private gain" in the public sectors of countries.
The index assigns countries a rating from 0 to 10. The highest marks went to the three first-place finishers — Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore — each of which scored 9.3.
Finland and Sweden each scored 9.2 and Canada 8.9, a statistically insignificant jump from the 8.7 it scored on the 2009 survey that allowed it to climb two rungs in this year's ranking.
|Posted by Jeff on October 27, 2010 at 6:51 PM||comments (0)|
People putting cash into the soaring yellow metal may be making a costly wrong move.
Gold tends to be all the rage in times of economic uncertainty. Investors flock to the "yellow metal" when things go sour because they see it as a safe haven for their money until they feel better about venturing back into things they view as riskier, like common stocks and real estate.
Such a strategy can actually be very dangerous, though. When gold or any other investment becomes too popular, it raises the risk of a "bubble" - unsustainably high prices that could suddenly plummet, losing investors a lot of money very quickly.
That doesn't mean you should avoid gold altogether; just don't put most or all of your money into it. There are lots of other precious metals, and many could be considered better investments than gold because they're more versatile and aren't such strong objects of investor sentiment. Here are five metals that may be an alternative to look at besides gold.
This is one of the most versatile metals. It's used to make electrical wiring, car batteries, microchip circuitry, pipes for plumbing in homes and commercial buildings, roof flashing, gutters, musical instruments and solar power cells. Copper can also be mixed with other metals to make valuable alloys such as bronze, pewter and brass.
Like copper, zinc is present in many alloys (in fact, zinc and copper are both in brass and bronze). Zinc is also important for die-casting, galvanizing and rubber making and can be used as a paint pigment, wood preservative and agricultural fungicide. As a dietary supplement, it is thought to have antioxidant properties that speed healing and slow aging.
Besides its well-known uses in making jewelry, silverware and coins, silver is in dental fillings, architectural glass and hearing aids. Some musical instruments are made of silver or silver alloys and silver is used to produce formaldehyde. Because it has antibacterial and antifungal properties, it is included in catheters and other medical devices to reduce the risk of infection. It is even added to socks to help control bacteria-related foot odor.
As a primarily industrial metal, platinum plays the role of catalyst in the processing of petroleum and chemicals such as nitric acid, fertilizers and synthetic fibers. It is also a vital component of high-voltage wires, magnetic coatings for high-density hard disk drives, fiber optics, fiberglass, catalytic converters and spark plugs.
Like platinum and silver, palladium plays key roles in the dental, chemical and auto fields. iPhones and other electronics might not even exist if it weren't for palladium. Also known as "white gold," palladium is used to make jewelry and watches, too.
Why They're Worthy Investments
Precious metals with lots of different uses make attractive long-term investments. These metals are more apt to appreciate and hang on to their value over time because they're vital to industries around the world. However, you can expect their prices to fluctuate greatly from week to week and month to month, just like most other investments.
Gold really isn't the greatest investment for the long haul because its price often depends mainly on how people feel. It may rise a lot when investors are nervous and want something that seems safe. But it can very quickly lose value when investors start feeling bolder and begin venturing into other areas. Sentiment certainly plays a role in the value of other precious metals, but not to the extent that it does with gold.
How to Invest In Precious Metals
Precious metals are generally available as coins or bullion. However, most people invest in them by purchasing stock in the associated mining companies or buying shares of mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that specialize in one or more metals.
Be careful when investing in precious metals. Because they can be very volatile in the short-term, it's best not to over-represent them in your portfolio. Keep the portion reasonable – 4 to 10 per cent of your overall portfolio, for example - so you can enjoy the shine without undue risk.
|Posted by Jeff on October 27, 2010 at 6:49 PM||comments (0)|
Tom and Evelyn Dick have been in love for 70 years, even though he didn't tell her the whole truth.
It’s often said that a successful marriage is based on trust. What then to make of the 70-year union of Tom and Evelyn Dick, whose relationship began with a lie?
Tom Dick, a Glasgow native who served with the Royal Engineers during the Second World War, says he was “smitten” with Evelyn, an actress he first met at a dance at a community hall in Dunkeld, Scotland, just north of Edinburgh. He pursued Evelyn, an Edinburgh girl, and after a short courtship they were married in December 1940. Both were 23 at the time, or so Evelyn thought.
It wasn’t until the following year, when their first daughter was born, that Evelyn discovered her husband was actually three years younger than she was.
“I lied, but it was for a good cause. I figured yes, you should be older but you’re in love and that was the factor that made me hang on,” said Tom, emphasizing his love for his new bride.
The news of her marriage to a younger man caused some consternation among family members, but Evelyn’s mother forgave Tom because she thought he was a good, decent fellow.
“I just couldn’t do without him,” said Evelyn, 93, in an interview this week, describing the state of their seven decades of wedded bliss.
Tom says compassion and love for your partner is important, as well as giving them some space.
“You listen and you don’t lord over your partner. It’s an equal opportunity occupation,” explains Tom, 90.
Evelyn says the couple have had minor arguments from time to time, but none were serious enough to cause any major rifts in their relationship.
“We don’t always agree and I sometimes sort of get peeved about something, but that’s natural,” she said.
Tom adds: “But the ripples are smoothed out very quickly.”
The Kanata couple plan to celebrate 70 years of marriage at a party Saturday at the Kanata Legion organized by their daughters Margaret and Rosemary. They’re expecting about 60 guests, relatives and friends as well as staff from the retirement residence where they live. (The couple’s actual anniversary date is Dec. 21 but the family decided to hold the event earlier to allow out-of-town relatives to attend).
Evelyn remembers that she heard Tom before ever meeting him at the hall in Dunkeld. Tom sang Danny Boy a capella and Evelyn recalls she wasn’t very impressed with his singing voice.
“She said who’s murdering that song?’’’ joked Tom.
“Danny Boy is such a beautiful song and he had to sing it,” Evelyn laughed.
Tom danced with Evelyn several times that night and the following day followed her bus to Perth where her company was to perform. The couple kept in touch and after meeting her parents they were married in a ceremony in Edinburgh.
The couple moved to Canada in 1947, living in St. Catharines, Toronto and Montreal before relocating to Ottawa in the mid-60s. Tom worked for an industrial flooring company, while Evelyn remained at home with their daughters.
Tom left the flooring company and worked for 13 years for the federal government. Evelyn also worked for a short time in the government after raising their daughters.
They have lived most of the time in Kanata and about three years ago, moved into the Chartwell Kanata Retirement Residence. Tom said he only recently gave up his driver’s licence out of safety concerns.
He said life at the retirement residence is at a slower pace, but they’re enjoying it. And they still enjoy each other’s company.
“We’re just breezing along,” said Tom, adding they’ve been blessed with good health.
Evelyn said her husband has few faults, but sometimes she wishes he’d listen to her more.
“He tells me he’s deaf,” she smiled.
|Posted by Jeff on October 27, 2010 at 6:45 PM||comments (0)|
In 25 years of GO commutes, one rider claims she's never heard this excuse for a train stopping.
TORONTO - What does it take to stop a train? Apparently, the mighty Maple Leaf — and a few of its leafy cousins.
GO Transit, Ontario's commuter rail service, cancelled its first train of the morning Tuesday, blaming slippery conditions as a result of leaves on the tracks.
And it was the second time in two days.
An incredulous Twitter tweeter who identified herself as Sheltie Addict wrote "So my 6:18 GO Train is cancelled due to wheel slippage from too many leaves on the track?"
"In 25 years of GO Training, this is the first time I have heard this excuse, er, reason, for a GO Train delay."
But in fact leaves in their glorious fall colours of red, orange and yellow put the brakes on trains fairly regularly.
Leaves fall on the tracks, get crushed and bake onto the rails at a high pressure leaving behind a hard, smooth Teflon-like coating. The condition is called slippery rails, and it's similar to black ice, said Metrolinx GO Transit spokesman Mike Cyr.
Water and sand are key tools in the fight against slippery rails.
When a train runs over the compressed material, an on-board computer tells the locomotives to spray sand on the tracks to keep their grip, Cyr says.
A work train can also be deployed to spray water at a high compression to blast the gooey mess off the track.
Cyr says delays caused by leaves happen only a few times during the season.
And while slippery rails force trains to slow down, there is never any concern the train will derail, he adds.
CN Rail said it manages to stay ahead of the problem by keeping its tracks clean. Via Rail said the same.
But slippery rails were a big problem across the pond in Britain until Network Rail, which maintains the tracks, clear cut a lot of trees and vegetation nearby.
GO also does a "fair amount of vegetation clearance," but it can't chop down a tree on private property even if trees hang over rail lines, said Cyr.
Heavily treed Boston and Pennsylvania have similar problems with slippery rails, he noted.
An Ontario Northland spokeswoman said leaves on the rails aren't a significant challenge for its sand-equipped locomotives.
But other forces of nature can stop a train dead in its tracks.
Falling trees, dead animals, snow and frost freezing up the crossing are among them.
So varied are the reasons commuters can be delayed, GO Transit even lists them on its website.
Things that can make a commuter late include signal failures, track work, construction, equipment failure, severe weather and police investigations.