At least 600 dead in Haiti and Dominican Republic following tropical storm

MINUSTAH said that in the northern Haitian city of Gonaïves, the country’s third largest, the main hospital had been flooded and medical supplies were limited. A medical team attached to the Mission’s Argentinean peacekeepers was providing much of the care.Much of the area around Gonaïves – which has about 100,000 inhabitants – was covered by mud because of the heavy rains and landslides in the wake of Tropical Storm Jeanne, leading to a shortage of drinking water.Shelters have been set up to provide temporary housing for thousands of survivors, according to MINUSTAH, with the city’s cathedral now home to a group of some 600 people.An assessment mission by UN officials to Port-de-Paix, on Haiti’s north coast, found that 30 per cent of that city was under water, while a separate inspection was taking place in Isle de la Tortue.The UN has deployed a Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) Team to the Dominican Republic, where 11 people have been reported killed and more than 37,000 people have had to leave their homes because of the floods.In the General Assembly today, Haiti’s interim President Boniface Alexander appealed urgently “for the solidarity of the international community” to support local authorities as they try to assist the victims of Tropical Storm Jeanne.The Dominican Republic’s Foreign Affairs Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso also appealed for international cooperation as it mounts relief efforts, adding that the storm had caused devastating floods and damage to infrastructure in his country.General Assembly President Jean Ping, speaking on behalf of its members, offered his sympathy to the governments and peoples of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, as well as to those from other Caribbean countries which have suffered during the recent wave of deadly hurricanes in the region. read more

Debt retirement charge on hydro bills raises 115B to pay original 78B

AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email by Keith Leslie, The Canadian Press Posted Apr 5, 2015 11:06 am MDT TORONTO – A decision 16 years ago to divide Ontario Hydro into several different companies resulted in a new charge that’s still on all electricity bills and a multibillion-dollar debt that critics warn will keep driving up rates for years to come.The residual stranded debt stems from the 1999 breakup of the province’s giant electrical utility, which had $38.1 billion in debt, mostly from building nuclear plants in the 1970s and ’80s.Only a portion of that debt was supported by the assets of the new hydro companies — Ontario Power Generation, Hydro One and the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) — leaving $20.9 billion in so-called stranded debt.Households and businesses paid out more than $11.5 billion in a residual stranded debt charge on their electricity bills between 2002 and 2014 — the last year for which statistics were available — with the outstanding balance still over $2.5 billion.“For years we were collecting a debt retirement charge but we never retired any,” said Bryne Purchase, an associate professor of economics at Queen’s University and a former deputy minister of finance under the Tories.“This is the sleight of hand,” added Purchase, who was also deputy minister of energy under the Liberal government.“They never crystallized those numbers, never said ‘this is how much we’re going to collect and once we’ve collected that we can retire the debt retirement charge.’”When Ontario Hydro was broken up, the government expected $13.1 billion in revenues and payments in lieu of taxes from OPG and Hydro One, which reduced the residual stranded debt to $7.8 billion.A debt retirement charge of 0.7 cents a kilowatt hour was added to all electricity bills starting in 2002, which raised about $940 million a year.The residual stranded debt, administered by the Ontario Electricity Financing Corp. (OEFC), increased to $11.9 billion in 2004, after the previous Tory government froze electricity prices in May 2002, which the Liberals, who took office in 2003, did not lift until March 2004.“We have a stranded debt because of mistakes made by the previous Conservative government, frankly,” said Finance Minister Charles Sousa.The rate freeze cost about $900 million, but the government also had to lower its “over-estimation” of expected OPG revenues, adding $4.4 billion to the stranded debt in 2004. It increased again in 2011 to $5.8 billion from $5.4 billion because of lower returns from Hydro One and OPG and because of OPG’s high pension costs.“When the revenues fall, then the residual stranded debt goes up accordingly because they have to make up for the difference,” said Sousa.Energy sector analyst Tom Adams said “there’s no way to confirm the truth or otherwise” about the government’s statements on the residual stranded debt.“There’s a huge transparency problem here,” said Adams. “The key missing ingredient is the underlying financial plans behind their projections around the date when the residual stranded debt will be paid off.”The province was paying 8.9 per cent interest on the OEFC’s long term debt in 1999, which was down to 5.4 per cent — or about $1.45 billion a year — in 2014.The government did not issue a single update on revenues raised by the charge on hydro bills until 2012, when it reported the residual stranded debt was $4.5 billion. The law required only that the finance minister determine the amount of stranded debt “from time to time” and make that determination public.The auditor general reported the Electricity Act allows the OEFC to use the debt retirement charge “for any of its responsibilities for servicing and managing the stranded debt, and not just for the retirement of the residual stranded debt.”“It’s a giant slush fund effectively,” said Purchase. “Lots of other liabilities have been added in as a result of various manipulations the government has made.”Sousa denied the costs of other projects were added to the stranded hydro debt, but the Opposition said enough was collected over the years to have paid off the debt in 2011 and eliminate the charge on electricity bills.“In reality, the Liberals were collecting the money, saying they were paying off the debt, but were using it to pay for other things,” said interim Progressive Conservative Leader Jim Wilson.NDP energy critic Peter Tabuns said even members of the legislature can’t determine if other debt was added to the hydro file, and perhaps the auditor general should review the matter.The Liberals plan to remove the debt retirement charge from household electricity bills on Jan. 1, 2016 — business and industrial customers will keep paying it until 2018 — which will eliminate hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue.“The only way they’re going to be able to keep OEFC able to service its bond obligations is to create a new electricity tax,” predicted Adams.Follow @CPnewsboy on Twitter Debt retirement charge on hydro bills raises $11.5B to pay original $7.8B read more

Stocks end higher on Wall Street bouncing back from a drop the

NEW YORK, N.Y. – The stock market bounced back on Friday as investors picked up companies that had dropped earlier in the week. Major indexes recovered nearly all their losses from a fall the day before.“It’s an odd day in the markets,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank. The news out Friday was mostly disappointing, he said. Big corporations’ earnings reports weren’t all that good.Expedia was an exception. The online travel company turned in sales that topped Wall Street’s estimates, driving its stock up $7.46, or 8 per cent, to $101.69.The Standard & Poor’s 500 index climbed 22.78 points, or 1.1 per cent, to finish at 2,108.29. That’s after dropping 1 per cent the day before.The Dow Jones industrial average gained 183.54 points, or 1 per cent, to 18,024.06, while the Nasdaq composite rose 63.97 points, 1.3 per cent, to 5,005.39.Charlie Smith, chief investment officer at Fort Pitt Capital Group, cautioned against reading too much into a day with light trading. “The rally is fun,” he said, “but it doesn’t mean much.”The Nasdaq lost 1.7 per cent for the week as investors sold many of the technology companies that have fared well this year. Strong gains for Apple and other tech stocks helped the Nasdaq finally topple a record high last Thursday. So, what changed?Smith said Apple’s earnings had something to do with it. Apple is big enough that its moves can swing the Nasdaq higher or lower. Last week, investors bought Apple’s stock in anticipation of another blowout earnings report when the tech giant reported results Monday. In the three days afterward, Apple’s stock lost 6 per cent.LinkedIn plunged after the online networking service warned of weaker earnings in the months ahead, a result of the stronger dollar and the company’s pending purchase of Lynda.com, an online learning company. Twitter continued a slump started earlier in the week when the company turned in disappointing sales and cut its revenue outlook. Twitter dropped $1.12, or 3 per cent, to $37.84, while LinkedIn lost $46.92, or 19 per cent, to $205.21.Roughly a third of all the companies in the S&P 500 reported first-quarter results this week, and the news was mixed. Falling oil prices and a rising dollar hammered many of them. Analysts expect companies in the S&P 500 will say overall earnings inched up 0.6 per cent compared with the same period of last year, according to S&P Capital IQ, a provider of financial information. But revenue is expected to drop 1.4 per cent.Ablin said that investors are wrestling with a slew of diverging trends. Recent reports have raised concerns about the economy’s strength. On Wednesday, the government said that it nearly stopped growing in the first three months of the year. To some investors that’s not such bad news: Weak economic growth could lead the Federal Reserve to postpone its plans to raise a key borrowing rate. Record low interest rates have helped the stock market soar since the financial crisis.“Economic data has recently been disappointing,” Ablin said, “but that keeps the Fed offstage.”In Europe, the only major market open for trading was in Britain, where the FTSE 100 finished with a gain of 0.4 per cent.Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.1 per cent, and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.4 per cent. New Zealand’s benchmark rose 0.1 per cent. Most markets in Asia and Europe were closed for the International Workers Day holiday.Back in the U.S., government bond prices sank, pushing the yield on the 10-year Treasury note up to 2.12 per cent from 2.03 per cent the day before.In commodities trading, gold dropped $7.90 to end at $1,174.50 an ounce, while silver lost 2 cents to $16.14 an ounce. Copper added 4 cents to $2.93 a pound.Oil fell nearly 1 per cent Friday, the first trading day in May, following a gain of more than 20 per cent the month before. U.S. oil slid 48 cents, or 0.8 per cent, to $59.15 a barrel. Brent crude slipped 32 cents, or 0.5 per cent, to $66.46 a barrel.In other trading:—Wholesale gasoline was barely changed at $2.045 a gallon.—Heating oil crept up 0.2 cent to $1.982.—Natural gas rose 2.5 cents to $2.776 per 1,000 cubic feet. Stocks end higher on Wall Street, bouncing back from a drop the day before by Matthew Craft, The Associated Press Posted May 1, 2015 10:15 am MDT Last Updated May 1, 2015 at 7:10 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more