Thursday, May 23, 2013

Nibali fights off Scarponi to defend Giro lead

Italy's Vincenzo Nibali fended off several surprise attacks by his rivals to maintain his grip on the overall lead for a ninth straight day on Tuesday's hilly 16th stage of the Giro d'Italia, won by Spain's Benat Intxausti.

In a fast and frantic finale as the main pack tore down a twisting descent from the third category climb of Andrate, Nibali responded to attacks by 2011 Giro winner Michele Scarponi, fifth overall.

After closing down further challenges by Colombian Rigoberto Uran, third overall, and his compatriot Carlos Alberto Betancur, who leads the best young rider classification, Nibali crossed the finish line in Ivrea in 12th place in a group of 12 riders.

The 28-year-old Sicilian leads by one minute and 26 seconds from Australian Cadel Evans, with Uran in third at two minutes and 46 seconds, while Scarponi moves up to fourth at three minutes and 53 seconds.

"Scarponi went for it and I had to keep him under control," Nibali told reporters, "but this wasn't supposed to be a difficult stage and it turned out being tougher than anybody expected.

"He's clearly come out of (Monday's) rest day feeling ready to go on the warpath.

"It was a very dangerous descent, with rivulets of water in some places and dry in others, so I preferred to be in front anyway, but it was not easy."


With his confidence rising as he dealt with his rivals' attacks, Nibali allowed teammate Tanel Kangert to go for the stage win, but the Estonian was beaten by Spain's Intxausti, who took his Movistar squad's third stage victory in the 2013 Giro.

Poland's Przemyslaw Niemiec was third.

After making a late move with his two rivals, Intxausti said he had let the other two riders take the initiative in the final acceleration before surprising them from behind.

"I kept a cool head, let them do the work, and then with 300 metres to go I thought, 'It's now or never'," Intxausti, who led the Giro for a day earlier in the race, told reporters.

The Basque rider dedicated his first Grand Tour stage win to his friend and team-mate Xavi Tondo, who died in a domestic accident in 2011.

"It's just two days before the anniversary of his death," Intxausti said, "and for sure he would be celebrating it if he were around still."

After Wednesday's flat stage, the Giro tackles its three final mountain stages, with Thursday's uphill time trial followed by two summit finishes deep in the Dolomites.

"I'll be looking to win on all three stages, but if I can only take one, I'll be happy," Nibali said.

"My team (Astana) haven't had a stage win yet, and that's one objective I want to achieve before the finish."

The Giro ends in Brescia on May 26.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Deported wins Best Documentary and Human Rights award at Vues d'Afrique 2013

The documentary Deported, directed by Chantal Regnault and Rachel Magloire was awarded Best Documentary and the Human Rights award at the 29th International Film Festival Vues d'Afrique held in Montreal, Canada.

The film was screened twice to packed houses at the Excentris Cinema, with record attendances for the Vues D'Afrique.

Produced in collaboration with Velvet Films "Deported" follows the story of American and Canadian ex-convicts born in Haiti and forcibly returned to their country of origin that they know little or nothing about.

The film had its world premiere in Jacmel (Haiti) last December at the Close Friend Festival in front of thousands of festival-goers.

"Deported" then aired the world premiere a the FIPA International Festival of Audiovisual Programs, held in January in Biarritz, France.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

UN must challenge Canada's complicity in mining's human rights abuses

Canada is scheduled for its universal periodic review (UPR) at the UN human rights council on 26 April. The UPR is an international mechanism established in 2006 to hold governments accountable for their human rights records. According to Ban Ki-moon, the review has the potential "to promote and protect human rights in the darkest corners of the world".

When Canada stands before the UN to have its "darkest corners" examined, the international community must not turn a blind eye to its complicity with a global mining industry whose corporations are among the worst human rights and environmental offenders in the world.

The abuses by Canadian mining companies are a systemic part of an economic development policy that disregards human rights and disdains the environment. It is no coincidence that Canada is now home to 75% of the world's mining companies, the majority operating overseas. The Canadian government has accelerated its pursuit of investment treaties in the global south to serve the interests of the extractive industry. These treaties allow companies to challenge environmental, public health or other resource-related policies that affect mining profits.

At the same time, Canada allows its corporations to benefit from a climate of impunity, offering no legal recourse for adversely impacted communities and demanding no accountability in exchange for generous public subsidies, as the EU and other jurisdictions do. These conditions have made Canada a haven for the global mining industry.

Canadian mining companies are operating at the heart of violent conflicts around the world. Although the industry often claims the violence is localised and specific, there is an unmistakable pattern of social conflict surrounding mining projects. Anti-mining activists are being brutally attacked and killed for voicing their opposition to mega-mining project in communities throughout the global south. Yet impacted communities have been unsuccessful in bringing their cases to Canadian courts.

Last year, a Qu├ębec court of appeal rejected a suit by citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo against Montreal-based Anvil Mining Limited for allegedly providing logistical support to the DRC army as it carried out a massacre, killing as many as 100 people in the town of Kilwa near the company's silver and copper mine. The supreme court of Canada later confirmed that Canadian courts had no jurisdiction over the company's actions in the DRC when it rejected the plaintiffs' request to appeal. Kairos Canada, a faith-based organisation, concluded that the supreme court's ruling would "have broader implications for other victims of human rights abuses committed by Canadian companies and their chances of bringing similar cases to our courts".

In an increasingly water-hungry world, much of the community resistance to Canadian mining has been in defence of local water supplies. Mining projects require tremendous amounts of water and employ methods that contaminate precious water resources. A recent report by Earthworks and MiningWatch Canada (pdf) found that 180 million tonnes of hazardous mine waste was being dumped every year into lakes, rivers and oceans worldwide.

In El Salvador, where more than 60% of the population relies on a single source of water, this means choosing between drinking water and mining. In 2009, after immense public pressure, the country chose water. It established a moratorium on metal mining permits. Polls show that a strong majority of Salvadorans would now like a permanent ban.

In Chile, after community resistance to a massive silver-gold project by Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold, an appeals court recently ordered a suspension of operations due to concerns that the project was polluting surface and groundwater in the Atacama desert, one of the driest regions in the world.

Yet, in a globalised world, these victories are precarious. Even when corporations are found in violation of domestic laws, or when communities reject destructive resource projects, mining companies are able to use bilateral investment treaties to plough ahead, or to demand compensation for "lost" profit.

Vancouver-based Pacific Rim – which describes itself on its website as "an environmentally and socially responsible exploration company whose business plans and management talent focus on high grade, environmentally clean gold deposits in the Americas" – is suing El Salvador through a World Bank trade tribunal for $315m (£207m) for refusing permits for a gold mine in the Department of Cabanas.

Canada is pursuing a trade agreement with El Salvador that would further entrench the rights of mining corporations and make a mining ban virtually impossible.

A similar battle is being played out in neighbouring Costa Rica where Calgary-based Infinito Gold is threatening to sue for $1bn if two supreme court rulings affirming the country's ban on opencast mining are not overturned. And in Chile, the battle continues as Barrick Gold evaluates its legal options.

Yet the UN Conference on Trade and Development just added insult to injury by declaring in a recent briefing note (pdf) that enforcement of human rights must not undermine investor rights.

It is time that international human rights bodies challenged this logic. The example of Canadian mining underscores the urgent need for the Human Rights Council to defend the primacy of human rights. If global human rights mechanisms do not confront the logic of international corporate rights championed by states like Canada, they risk becoming irrelevant.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

10 Health Tips To Take From The French

While the rest of the world, especially America is dying of obesity, the French people are just as petite as ever. They must have got their diet really right. It is an universally accepted fact that French men and women are slim throughout their life. This is partly owing to the healthy French food and lifestyle. 

That is why it is worth your salt to take health tips from the French. The French can give us a lot of health tips on reducing stress. According to the French culture, leisure is a basic right, not a bonus. They enjoy more holidays and less work hours than any Americans. Moreover, every meal is a social event in France. One of the best health tips that the French can give is to eat slowly and enjoy each bite. 

Moreover, French food is really healthy. People there buy their bread and groceries from local bakeries and farm vendors. French food is healthy because it often has no preservatives. The French follow the Mediterranean diet. It has been found out that the Mediterranean diet is the most heart healthy diet in the world. 

Here are some of the best health tips that we can take from the French. Eat and live like the French to have long healthy life.

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Men's Health contributing editor offers tips on fitness

Lou Schuler is an award-winning journalist, certified strength and conditioning specialist, co-author of the book “The New Rules of Lifting Supercharged” (Avery, 2012) and contributing editor at Men's Health magazine.

I emailed Lou a few questions. His answers, with some minor edits, appear below. What better way to learn about fitness than from a passionate fitness fanatic who knows exactly what to say (and write, for that matter).

Diet Detective: Can you tell us how you became a fitness expert and writer?

Lou Schuler: Pure luck! In 1991, I was a grad student in creative writing at USC. I answered a blind ad in the L.A. Times for an editor at a fitness magazine. The magazine turned out to be Men's Fitness, but it didn't matter because I'd never heard of it. I was 34 at the time, and I'd been working out since I was 13, but I'd never picked up a fitness or bodybuilding magazine. I'd seen them on newsstands, but when I looked at the swollen, oily guys posing on the covers, I never thought they were for me.

Once I could make a living writing about fitness, which to that point had been my hobby but something I hardly ever got assigned to report on, I never looked back. I started full time at Men's Fitness in 1992, switched to Men's Health in 1998, and went out on my own in 2004.

DD: If you could do only one strength-training exercise, what would it be?

LS: Push-ups. But I'd do, like, 75 variations.

DD: What is the biggest secret that trainers typically don't tell their clients but should?

LS: What I wish they would tell clients is that movement competence has to precede any dramatic improvements in size, shape or performance. Most of us still think of mobility, stability and muscle-activation exercises as warm-ups or specialty movements. But they're really the key to your success in everything else. You get more out of training when your joints have their optimal range of motion and you can activate the right muscles while stabilizing the joints that aren't supposed to move on any particular exercise.

DD: In all your years of training, what do you consider the best non-weight-related exercise (e.g., lunge)?

LS: I think every exercise you do should be based on something your body does naturally. Squats, lunges, step-ups. Pushing, pulling, climbing. Jumping, throwing, running.

The flip side is that I wish people would avoid exercises that don't remotely resemble anything you'd do without a barbell or machine. When in life, do you do anything that looks like a concentration curl, or an overhead triceps extension, or a kickback, or hip adduction and abduction the way it's done on those machines?

I totally get why people do those things. And if someone is a bodybuilder, I'd agree she/he has to do whatever produces the best result for each individual muscle. But most of us are looking for systemic benefits: a leaner, more muscular, more athletic, healthier body. So, for most of us, the exercises I mentioned are a distraction from the ones that get us closer to our goals.

DD: What are some common workout mistakes?

LS: I think a lot of people do exercises simply because they're the only ones they know. The first thing a gym employee teaches a new member is how to use all the machines. And that's often the last thing the member learns.

There's also the social-anxiety issue. Someone walking into a gym for the first time in 20 years isn't going to ask strangers to explain what the hell's going on with all these exercises he's never seen before. He's going to grab a pair of dumbbells and do the ones he remembers. The last thing he wants to do is draw attention to himself or run the risk of someone correcting his form.

DD: What's the best way for a person to stick with a fitness program?

LS: For anything to work long-term, it has to be meaningful to the individual, and something the person enjoys and feels she or he is good at. Someone with crappy mobility probably isn't going to enjoy yoga enough to get serious about it and stick with it.

Take me as an example: I started working out because I was terrible at sports. I was skinny, weak and slow. So, naturally, I chose a type of training that would help me get bigger, stronger and faster.

But I also spent a lot of time running to improve my endurance, because I thought I was supposed to. I never enjoyed it and never improved beyond a certain point. My best run ever was 5 miles. I built up to that twice — once in college and once in my early 40s when I worked at Men's Health where almost all my colleagues were serious runners. Running didn't help me get leaner or make me feel better. It didn't even help me get along better with my co-workers. The best thing about running, for me, was how good I felt when I stopped doing it.

The exercise has to address an issue the individual has and wants to solve, and it has to be something that makes the individual feel both good and competent. No one sticks to something that makes her feel worse, or feel uncoordinated or out of place.

Here are a few common traits that Alwyn Cosgrove and I describe in our “New Rules of Lifting” books:

•Never lift anything heavy until thoroughly warmed up and prepared.

•Never do anything that isn't a challenge to my strength, muscle endurance, balance or coordination.

•Never do anything that hurts while doing it.

•Never push so hard that you feel worse instead of better.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Obama calls North Korea nuclear test 'highly provocative'

President Obama on Tuesday called North Korea's latest nuclear test a "highly provocative act" that threatens U.S. security and international peace.

"The danger posed by North Korea's threatening activities warrants further swift and credible action by the international community," Obama said in a statement issued early Tuesday. "The United States will also continue to take steps necessary to defend ourselves and our allies."

North Korea said it successfully detonated a miniaturized nuclear device at a northeastern test site Tuesday. South Korean, U.S. and Japanese seismic monitoring agencies said they detected an earthquake in North Korea with a magnitude between 4.9 and 5.2.

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency said the test was conducted safely but with "great explosive power." It said the test is aimed at coping with "ferocious" U.S. hostility that undermines the North's peaceful, sovereign right to launch satellites. Last month, North Korea's National Defense Commission said the United States was its prime target for a nuclear test and long-range rocket launches.

"These provocations do not make North Korea more secure," Obama said. "Far from achieving its stated goal of becoming a strong and prosperous nation, North Korea has instead increasingly isolated and impoverished its people through its ill-advised pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery."

The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, California Republican Ed Royce, released a statement Tuesday calling on the Obama administration to "replace its failed North Korea policy" and issue "stringent sanctions" against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's regime.

"Otherwise, the grave North Korean threat to the region and the United States will only grow," Royce said.

The U.N. Security Council will hold an emergency meeting Tuesday morning on North Korea's nuclear test. South Korea's U.N. Mission informed reporters early Tuesday that the closed-door meeting will begin at 9 a.m. EST.

Senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett said she expects the international community "will have a very firm response."

She said in an appearance on NBC's "Today" show that North Korea's move presents a threat to the region and to the United States. "It actually is not in the best interests of North Korea," she said.

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry discussed North Korea's "continued provocative rhetoric" in a phone call with China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. That followed earlier conversations with Kerry's counterparts from Japan and South Korea, key U.S. allies in the region.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the three conversations "were remarkably similar" on the importance of implementing the commitments of a January U.N. resolution that toughened sanctions against Pyongyang and warned of "significant action" if it conducted a nuclear test. That resolution was supported by China, North Korea's only major ally.

On Tuesday, China expressed firm opposition to the test but called for a calm response by all sides.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Canadian diplomats defend oilsands at Maine municipal meetings

Canadian consular officials have intervened three times to defend Alberta's oilsands at municipal meetings in the U.S. state of Maine in the last eight days.

On Jan. 29, Aaron Annable, consul in charge of foreign policy and diplomatic services at the Canadian Consulate in Boston, addressed a meeting hosted by Windham Town Council. The meeting was called to hear from Environment Maine, a state environmental group, which is concerned that the Montreal-Portland pipeline will be reversed so it can carry oilsands bitumen from Alberta to the deep-sea port on the Maine coast.

"We've been doing a lot of organizing in towns along the pipeline route and just in the last week or so have started to see in our efforts the Canadian government and the oil industry really starting a full-court press," Emily Figdor, director of Environment Maine, told the CBC.

Annable also attended a debate on an anti-oilsands resolution at a special town meeting in Bethel, Maine on Jan. 30, according to Foreign Affairs.

On Jan. 23, New England Consul General Pat Binns appeared before Portland city council to speak to a resolution presented to council. The resolution would direct the city manager to no longer purchase oilsands-derived fuel for city vehicles. While Binns did not come out in opposition to the resolution, he did outline the benefits of oilsands oil and Maine's relationship with Canada.

"I truly hope the committee will look at this matter further. We are each other's best customers. We are your closest friends and strongest ally. And I would hope that we can continue to work together responsibly," said Binns, the former Conservative Premier of Prince Edward Island, at the council meeting. Council later voted to return the matter to committee.
Unusual guest, unusual subject

Portland officials agreed that it was strange to be addressed by a foreign diplomat on a municipal matter.

"You could say it was unusual but the topic was unusual as well," remarked Nicole Clegg, spokesperson for the city of Portland. She added that this was the first time council had ever discussed oilsands oil.

At both meetings, the consular officials appeared in conjunction with oil industry association and pipeline company officials. In particular, Larry Wilson, the president and CEO of Portland Montreal Pipe Line, made a presentation in Windham and Portland.

PMPL maintains good relations with residents and towns along the pipeline route, said Ted O'Meara, a PMPL spokesperson.

"It really isn't anything different than what they've been doing all along in all the years that they've been operating", O'Meara said. PMPL's dual pipeline opened for business in 1941.

The company said it currently has no plans to reverse the pipeline but is exploring all opportunities including, but not limited to, a reversal that might result in the shipping of Alberta bitumen.

As for the Canadian consular presence, O'Meara isn't surprised.

"Obviously, the Canadian government has an interest in this, as well. So, I think it just lends another voice to the discussion that's going on."

A Foreign Affairs spokeswoman said Canada's consul generals across the U.S. participate in events "to highlight the value of state-level trade with Canada."

"An important part of the role of the consul general is to promote and defend the interests of Canada abroad," Barbara Harvey said in an email to CBC News Friday afternoon. "The consul general's participation in these specific events is part of his and our ... wider mandate to promote Canada as a secure energy supplier to the U.S."

Harvey added that similar events are likely to be held in the New England states in the future and Canadian officials will continute to participate "where it is appropriate and feasible to do so."

On Jan. 12, the town of Casco, Maine, passed a non-binding resolution banning oilsands oil from passing through their town.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Obama aide: No desire to destroy Republicans

There's an unusual amount of talk in Washington these days about destroying the Republican Party.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, raised the issue in recent days, saying Obama's inaugural speech told him "he knows he can't do any of that as long as the House is controlled by Republicans. So we're expecting over the next 22 months to be the focus of this administration as they attempt to annihilate the Republican Party."

In his speech to the Ripon Society, Boehner added that he believes the Obama administration's goal is "to just shove us into the dustbin of history."

In a political analysis for Slate magazine, John Dickerson wrote that, given Obama's frustrations at getting bipartisanship through a Republican House, the president's "only remaining option is to pulverize" the Republicans by isolating them on a series of issues.

"By exploiting the weaknesses of today's Republican Party, Obama has an opportunity to hasten the demise of the old order by increasing the political cost of having the GOP coalition defined by Second Amendment absolutists, climate science deniers, supporters of 'self-deportation' and the pure no-tax wing," Dickerson wrote.

At the White House, officials said Obama wants to work with the Republicans, not destroy them.

The president wants to cooperate "with members of both parties to achieve progress on behalf of the American people," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

Obama "believes that the two-party system is part of the foundation of our democracy," Carney added, "and that it is a healthy aspect of our democracy even if it's contentious."

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Senate report on Benghazi lets Obama off hook

A Senate report has said the FBI, CIA and other intelligence agencies - but not the White House - made major changes in talking points that led to the Obama administration's explanations of the attack on US diplomatic facilities in Benghazi.

The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee report said on Monday the White House was only responsible for a minor change.

Some Republicans had questioned whether the presidential staff rewrote the talking points for political reasons.

The committee, headed by independent Sen Joe Lieberman and Republican Sen Susan Collins, also said the director of national intelligence has been stonewalling the panel, in holding back a promised timeline of the talking point changes.

US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the September 11 Libya attack.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said she had used the talking points to say in television interviews on September 16 that it may have been a protest that got out of hand.

Rice's incorrect explanation may have cost her a chance to be nominated as the next secretary of state, as Senate Republicans publicly said they would not vote to confirm her.

President Barack Obama instead nominated Democratic Sen John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who is expected to win easy confirmation.

Woefully unprepared

The State Department this month acknowledged major weaknesses in security, and errors in judgment exposed in a scathing independent report on the assault.

Two top State officials appealed to Congress to fully fund requests to ensure diplomats and embassies are safe.

Testifying before two congressional committees, senior State Department officials acknowledged that serious management and leadership failures left the diplomatic mission in Benghazi woefully unprepared for the terrorist attack.

The State Department review board's report led four department officials to resign.

The Senate report said that on September 19, eight days after the attack, National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen told the Homeland committee that the four Americans died "in the course of a terrorist attack".

The same day, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the department stood by the intelligence community's assessment.

The next day, September 20, presidential spokesman Jay Carney said, "It is, I think, self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also used the words "terrorist attack" on September 21.

Olsen's acknowledgement was important, the report said, because talking points prepared by intelligence officials the previous week had undergone major changes.

A line saying "we know" that individuals associated with al-Qaeda or its affiliates participated in the attacks was changed to say, "There are indications that extremists participated."

The talking points dropped the reference to al-Qaeda and its affiliates altogether. In addition, a reference to "attacks" was changed to "demonstrations".