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Nigeria’s Jonathan wins ruling party primaries

ABUJA, Jan 14: Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan won a decisive victory in ruling party primaries today, including in key states in the mostly Muslim north, making him clear favourite to be the country’s next leader.......more

Japan PM changes cabinet but rough road ahead

TOKYO, Jan 14: Japan’s prime minister appointed a fiscal hawk to a key post and replaced his deputy in a cabinet revamp today to cope with a divided parliament and tackle reforms to rein in public debt, but hurdles to success ........more

Surgical checklists could cut malpractice claims:Study

NEW YORK, Jan 14: Surgical checklists not only save lives by preventing medical errors, they could also make a big dent in medical malpractice claims, a........more

Australia flood clean-up starts, tough task ahead

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA, Jan 14: Australia’s third-largest city started cleaning up stinking mud and debris today after some of the country’s worst floods on record, but in a sign of the task ahead, it could take six months to pump flood waters out of Queensland’s coal mines. ...more

US sees better governance in some Afghan areas

WASHINGTON, Jan 14: Efforts to improve governance in Afghanistan are bearing fruit in areas where a troop surge has driven back the Taliban but more ...more

Cruise industry buoyed for banner year in 2011

NEW YORK, Jan 14: Up to 16 million people are expected to take cruises this year, an increase of 6.6 percent over 2010, with Europe, the Caribbean and Alaska among the top destinations."We are very....more

Piracy costs global economy $7-12 bln a year-study

LONDON, Jan 14: Maritime piracy costs the global economy between $7 and $12 billion a year, researchers said , with Somali piracy in particular....more.

     

 

Nigeria’s Jonathan wins ruling party primaries

ABUJA, Jan 14: Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan won a decisive victory in ruling party primaries today, including in key states in the mostly Muslim north, making him clear favourite to be the country’s next leader.

Jonathan’s selection as the People’s Democratic Party candidate puts him in a strong position to win the presidential election on April 9 as the PDP has won every such poll in Africa’s most populous nation since military rule ended in 1999.

In a stark demonstration of the power of incumbency, Jonathan trounced rival Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president, in all but a handful of the country’s 36 states.

"The People’s Democratic Party has spoken with one strong voice ... Our people have chosen the unity of our country above all other considerations," Jonathan, dressed in his trademark fedora and caftan-like attire, said in an acceptance speech.

Jonathan won 2,736 votes compared to 805 for Abubakar in Thursday’s vote, said chief returning officer Tunde Adeniran.

His candidacy had been controversial because of a zoning agreement in the PDP under which power is meant to rotate between the north and largely Christian south every two terms, a rhythm his victory ruptures.

Jonathan, who is from the southern Niger Delta oil region, inherited the presidency when his predecessor, Umaru Yar’Adua, a northerner, died last year during his first term. Some factions in the PDP said only a northerner should complete what would have been Yar’Adua’s second term.

NORTH-SOUTH RIVALRY

Abubakar, a businessman from the northern Hausa ethnic group, had hoped to win overwhelming support in the north. He won in some northern states such as Kano, Sokoto and Zamfara but lost in other key areas including Kaduna, Katsina and Kwara.

That lack of consistency suggests hopes of a strong northern alliance to challenge Jonathan at the elections may be fading.

"In the end, the PDP is the only true national party so at the presidential election, their candidate should be fine, especially as the key opposition parties can’t agree a workable alliance," said Kayode Akindele, a director at Lagos-based consultancy Greengate Strategic Partners.

Abubakar’s campaign manager, Ben Obi, complained of irregularities, saying the delegates’ lists had been doctored, and Abubakar himself made a fiery speech at the convention condemning Jonathan for breaching the zoning pact.

"If rules can be thrown away by just anyone who feels he is powerful enough to do so, then it is an invitation to lawlessness and anarchy," he said, raising doubts about whether he would quietly accept defeat and back Jonathan.

Africa’s most populous nation is a patchwork of more than 200 ethnic groups, roughly equally divided between Christians and Muslims, who generally live peacefully side by side, but regional and ethnic rivalries bubble under the surface.

A New Year’s Eve bomb in Abuja killed four people. A series of blasts and subsequent clashes have killed more than 80 in the central city of Jos, the scene of frequent bursts of ethnic and religious unrest.

Analysts fear the national debate could become polarised around north-south rivalries if the violence intensifies in the run-up to April’s presidential, parliamentary and state governorship elections.

(AGENCIES)

Japan PM changes cabinet but rough road ahead

TOKYO, Jan 14: Japan’s prime minister appointed a fiscal hawk to a key post and replaced his deputy in a cabinet revamp today to cope with a divided parliament and tackle reforms to rein in public debt, but hurdles to success are high.

Drafting Kaoru Yosano, an advocate of raising the 5 per cent sales tax, as economics minister signals Prime Minister Naoto Kan is serious about reforms needed to fund bulging social welfare costs and rein in the huge public debt, as well as about trade liberalisation sought by business but opposed by farm lobbies.

But with opposition parties able to block bills in the upper house of parliament, Kan’s own Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) split over the sales tax and free trade and the new cabinet not necessarily united, scepticism over prospects for progress ran deep.

Appointing Yosano would "give an impression that Japan’s fiscal and tax reform will progress, led by the finance ministry. And this will probably ease concerns to some degree about supply and demand in the bond market," said Akitsugu Bandou, a senior economist at Okasan Securities.

"But the government will continue to face a severe situation because of political deadlock, and the cabinet reshuffle is not necessarily going to change the situation that the DPJ lacks political power," Bandou said.

Kan also appointed former administrative reform minister Yukio Edano as his chief cabinet secretary, while retaining Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and banking minister Shozaburo Jimi.

Replacing Yoshito Sengoku with Edano clears the path for debate on the state budget for the year from April, but it is unclear if Kan can find enough votes to pass enabling laws.

UP TO THE JOB?

"The ruling party has to pass the budget first. We can only begin thinking of the market implications of the reshuffle when the ruling party is running parliament smoothly," said Hidenori Suezawa, chief strategist at Nikko Cordial Securities.

Kan has also sought multi-party talks on tax and social welfare reform with an eye to outlining changes by June, but opposition parties say they want to see DPJ proposals first.

Some analysts worry that the 46-year-old Edano, who made his name in a former cabinet post in charge of cutting waste, may not be up to the demands of his new job.

"He can be an easy target (for opposition parties) because of a tendency to straight-talk but also to committing gaffes and offending people unnecessarily," said Sophia University professor Koichi Nakano.

Opposition parties had threatened to boycott debate on the budget for 2011/12, starting on April 1, unless Sengoku and Transport Minister Sumio Mabuchi, censured by the upper house in November for their handling of a row with China, were sacked.

The government can enact the budget because the DPJ controls the powerful lower house, but the opposition can block bills needed to implement the spending in the upper chamber.

Edano has also been a critic of DPJ powerbroker Ichiro Ozawa and his appointment could deepen a rift in the party over the veteran strategist, who faces indictment over a funding scandal.

Many Ozawa backers oppose a sales tax rise as well as the free trade deals Kan wants to pursue.

Yosano, who held key posts in Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) governments before the conservative party was ousted by the Democrats in 2009, bolted the LDP last year to set up the tiny Sunrise Party. He is leaving that party to join the cabinet.

Private economists largely agree that raising the sales tax is essential but many lawmakers fear angering voters, especially ahead of local polls in April.

"The bigger picture is that they (the ruling party) will lose big time in the April elections and that is when the knives will come out for Kan," said Jesper Koll, director of equity research at JPMorgan Securities Japan.

Kan, who took over as Japan’s fifth premier since 2006 last June, led his party to defeat in an upper house poll a month later after clumsily floating a possible rise in the sales tax.

He has since seen his support rates more than halved from the 60 per cent or higher he enjoyed initially. (AGENCIES)

US sees better governance in some Afghan areas

WASHINGTON, Jan 14: Efforts to improve governance in Afghanistan are bearing fruit in areas where a troop surge has driven back the Taliban but more work is needed to sustain progress as Washington prepares to thin troops next year, a US official said.

"It’s clear to us that within the security bubbles created by the sacrifice of Afghan and coalition forces, we’ve made a great deal of progress," said Henry Ensher yesterday, the top foreign civilian official for four key southern provinces, including the traditional Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.

US commanders say President Barack Obama’s decision in late 2009 to pour an extra 30,000 troops into Afghanistan, bringing US forces to almost 100,000, has chased the Taliban out of some areas and allowed reconstruction to take root.

"It will be critical during this time period—the winter—that we use this period of reduced violence to ensure that we’re making gains in governance ... So that we’re able to hold that progress if there is increased violence later in the year," he told reporters in a video briefing from Afghanistan.

Ensher said residents of southern Afghanistan, where US officials have touted their military success in 2010, were forming local councils and were beginning to engage with their local leaders in ways that for years were made impossible by Taliban intimidation and poor security.

Militant activity typically subsides during the winter. US officials hope this spring’s fighting season will reveal a weakened insurgency as they rush to show progress ahead of July 2011, when Obama plans to start bringing home troops and move toward ending the long and unpopular war.

Afghan and western leaders hope Afghan forces will control security by the end of 2014, even as they acknowledge that corruption and poor governance in Afghanistan, and militant sanctuaries in Pakistan, will be an obstacle.

Experts say bolstering governance in Afghanistan, where militants chased many local officials out of office and where government agencies fail to provide many Afghans with basic services, will be a linchpin for security.

Building up Afghans’ trust in the government would diminish support for the Taliban, which has proved a resilient adversary that expanded in 2010 to new areas of Afghanistan.

The White House has not said how quickly it will remove troops or from where. But as other NATO nations look to end their combat missions, many analysts question whether Afghan forces will be able to fill those gaps any time soon.

Ensher said civilian officials in Afghanistan—part of a reconstruction, training and aid effort that has cost some $56 billion since 2002 -- would work to continue such progress even if violence picks up as expected in the summer months. (AGENCIES)

Australia flood clean-up starts, tough task ahead

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA, Jan 14: Australia’s third-largest city started cleaning up stinking mud and debris today after some of the country’s worst floods on record, but in a sign of the task ahead, it could take six months to pump flood waters out of Queensland’s coal mines.

Many suburbs in the state’s capital Brisbane, a city of two million people, remained submerged after floodwaters inundated the riverside city yesterday.

The floods in Queensland, which started in December 2010, have killed 19 people. Tens of thousands of homes have been inundated with floodwater and more than 60 people are missing.

"Right now we are still rescuing people, we are still evacuating people. So we are right in the middle of the emergency response," said Queensland state premier Anna Bligh, who has described Brisbane as looking like a war zone.

"We need to brace ourselves, when this goes down and its going down quite quickly, its going to stink—an unbearable stench," said Bligh.

The disaster has crippled Queensland’s infrastructure and its coal exports, pushing up world prices by around a third.

The event has been blamed on the strongest ever recorded La Nina weather phenomenon in the Pacific, which has also affected other countries.

Heavy monsoon rains and flooding across a third of Sri Lanka have killed 23 people, forced 100,000 to leave their homes and threatened food supplies on the island.

Sri Lanka’s agricultural ministry said at least a fifth of the nation’s rice crop had been destroyed, raising concerns over supply shocks and higher food inflation.

Rising food prices are stoking global inflation with many agricultural commodity markets driven higher by bad weather in key producing countries. Record food prices are also raising the risk of riots in developing nations and trade protectionism.

FLOODS STILL CUTTING COAL EXPORTS

Bligh said her government would concentrate efforts to help the state coal industry meet demand in Asia, after Commonwealth Bank estimated the floods would remove 14 million tonnes, or 5 per cent, of global coking coal exports this year.

"This is critical right now, to get that supply chain fully functional," Bligh told reporters.

Australia’s Gladstone Ports Corporation said today it will restart some coal export shipments yesterday as rail lines serving the terminal reopen and it begins to replenish stocks that have fallen to two days of supply.

Freight operator QR National said today that its Blackwater line serving Gladstone could resume service as earlier as January 20.

The line has been closed since December and serves the state’s biggest coal miners, including BHP Billiton , Rio Tinto and Xstrata . They have all declared force majeure, unable to meet export contracts.

Still, a lack of equipment means that it could be up to six months before mines can return to full operation, mining contractors said.

"There’s just nothing left to hire, all the pumps are working non-stop," said Dave Walker, who manages water pumping for Total Water Management. "It could be months before all the water is out."

Australia provides almost two-thirds of the world’s metallurgical coal exports, most destined for Asian steel producers. Ninety percent comes from Queensland.

CYCLONE THREAT STILL HIGH

Military aircraft and trucks fanned out across Queensland state, ferrying food and clothing over an area the size of South Africa, as the weather bureau warned the threat of cyclones and fresh rains would last until March.

But a cyclone forming in the Coral Sea, which had threatened the coast, had begun moving north into the Pacific, said state premier Bligh.

"We’ll keep watching it, but maybe our luck is about to change," she said.

The flooding, which started before Christmas, continued in other areas of Queensland, with the 6,000 residents of Goondiwindi, southwest of Brisbane, facing a record flood.

As the country’s wild weather continued, police evacuated communities in neighbouring New South Wales state overnight as flooding threatened the border towns of Boggabilla and Toomelah.

Torrential rain in Victoria state also led to evacuations in Halls Gap and Glenorchy, northwest of Melbourne, with a flood peak expected on Friday morning.

The town of Beaufort was also under threat with a nearby lake threatening to burst banks, police said.

CITY A STINKING MESS

In the centre of Brisbane, a drop in the swollen Brisbane River left foul-smelling mud covering areas beside the city’s cultural centre and Wheel of Brisbane tourist site.

Aerial views of the city showed a sea of brown with rooftops poking out, but the water was receding.

Boats have been used in many areas to reach houses, with sofas and fridges floating in water. Residents have no idea when they might be able to return to their homes.

"Nobody told me this would become this serious, this terrible," said Su Liu, a Chinese student studying marketing at the University of Queensland.

She fled her home near the riverside university on Tuesday as water poured into the second floor of her apartment building and was now sheltering in an evacuation centre.

Power has been restored to 170,000 homes, but power company Energex said 66,000 homes across southeast Queensland remained without electricity.

Bligh called on insurance companies to show compassion and flexibility. Many Queenslanders, thinking they were covered against floods, have discovered that is not the case, she said.

Economists have estimated the flood damage at 5 billion dollars, with 1 billion dollars (1 billion dollars) of that to be underwritten by insurers.

"It’s not in the interests of anyone in our community, including those companies, to stall or delay recovery," said Bligh, whose disaster handling has won wide praise, reviving ruling Labor’s flagging hopes of re-election in the state.

Polling last year showed only 28 per cent of Queenslanders would support Labor at elections due next year, while Bligh’s own popularity was so low that resurrecting her support was an "impossible mission", Brisbane’s Courier-Mail newspaper said.

(AGENCIES)

Cruise industry buoyed for banner year in 2011

NEW YORK, Jan 14: Up to 16 million people are expected to take cruises this year, an increase of 6.6 percent over 2010, with Europe, the Caribbean and Alaska among the top destinations.

"We are very bullish about 2011," Bob Sharak, of the Cruise Line Industry Association (CLIA), told a press conference. "The cruise industry has been extremely resilient, particularly during the latest economic downturn."

About three-quarters of cruise passengers last year were from the United States and Canada and 26 per cent were international, according to CLIA, North America’s largest cruise industry group with 25 member cruise lines.

Its 2011 forecast is based on previous passenger numbers and current bookings.

Sharak, CLIA’s executive vice president for marketing and distribution, credits exciting new ships, increasing global passengers, new destinations and the inclusivity of cruises for the buoyant outlook.

As CLIA released its report yesterday, Cunard Line’s new Queen Elizabeth cruise liner made its maiden call in New York. As it set off on a world cruise it was set to rendezvous with its sister ships, Queen Mary and Queen Victoria, for a fireworks display in New York Harbor.

Walt Disney Co’s new 4,000 passenger, 900 million dollar, cruise liner, which was rolled out last week in Florida, is due to make it maiden Caribbean cruise on January 26.

The world’s largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, which can carry more than 6,000 passengers, was launched in 2009.

Although North Americans and Europeans make up the bulk of cruise passengers, Sharak said only a small percentage of the residents of those regions took cruises in 2010.

"We have lots of room to grow," he added.

Cruise lines are also looking to new markets in China, Brazil and Russia, and for new destinations in Asia, the Mediterranean and the Greek Islands.

An increase in group and family bookings and consumers booking earlier are also positive signs, according to CLIA.

A 2010 study by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC) also revealed how lucrative cruises are for the ports where the ships call.

The study, conducted by Business Research and Economic Advisors (BREA), showed cruise passengers and crew spent an estimated 144.6 million dollar in New York City in 2010, up from 93.8 million dollar the previous year. Embarking passengers had the deepest pockets and spent 117.9 million dollar.

The average spending for passengers staying in the city before and after the cruise was 437 dollar per person for a two-night stay. (AGENCIES)

Piracy costs global economy $7-12 bln a year-study

LONDON, Jan 14: Maritime piracy costs the global economy between $7 and $12 billion a year, researchers said , with Somali piracy in particular driving up the cost of shipping through the Indian Ocean.

Sailing from Somalia’s coasts in fragile skiffs armed with AK-47s, ladders, grappling hooks and little else, Somali pirates were judged responsible for 95 per cent of the cost.

Meanwhile, occasional attacks on ships continue in the Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria and Malacca Straits.

The report—presented at London foreign policy think tank Chatham House—said there had been some 1,600 acts of piracy since 2006, causing the death of over 54 people.

It looked at the cost of ransoms, added insurance premiums, rerouting of ships, naval patrols, security equipment, piracy prosecutions and other indirect costs including increased food prices in East Africa from higher delivery costs.

"Some of these costs are increasing astronomically," said researcher Anna Bowden from the Colorado-based think tank the One Earth Future Foundation, which conducted the study.

"What is even more concerning is that all these are simply treating the symptoms. Almost nothing is being done to treat the root cause."

DATA DIFFICULT TO OBTAIN

A host of navies from emerging and developed powers including of the European Union, China, India, Russia, Japan and the United States have upped patrols in the region to combat piracy, but little has been done onshore in Somalia.

Overall, Bowden estimated the total cost of piracy had increased roughly fivefold since 2005.

In November 2010, it said the highest ransom on record -- 9.5 million dollars—was paid to release a South Korean oil tanker, up from 7 million dollars to release a Greek supertanker in January. The average 2010 ransom looked to be around $5.4 million, the report said, up from only $150,000 in 2005.

Because of this—together with a rising number of pirates and the increasing distance they operated from shore—war risk and kidnap and ransom (K&R) premiums for ships passing through the region had tripled and increased 10 fold respectively.

Assessing the cost of rerouting shipping was difficult as shipping lines were often reluctant to release details, the report said.

Egypt’s Suez Canal revenue had fallen 20 per cent in the past two years, the report said, although this was in part due to the economic crisis. The researchers estimated around 10 per cent of shipping traffic was now avoiding the area.

"It’s very difficult to get data from the shipping companies," she said. "But we’ve made the best estimates that we can."

Gauging the impact on global commodity prices had proved too difficult to exactly cost, she said, but if piracy continued with a wider economic recovery then increased delivery costs could drive up oil, mineral and food prices. (AGENCIES)

Seasonal flu deaths more than double in Britain

LONDON, Jan 14: The number of deaths in a seasonal flu epidemic that has swept Britain since October more than doubled to 112, up from 50 a week earlier, figures from the Health Protection Agency showed.

Of the 112 confirmed deaths, 95 had the H1N1 flu strain that spread around the world as a pandemic in 2009 and 2010, officials said yesterday.

The majority of those who died were under 65 years old and nine cases were in children under 14. Since October, there have been six deaths in children under five.

The agency said most of the additional 62 deaths documented since last week did not actually occur in the past week, but in December. They were only confirmed in the past week because of a backlog over the seasonal holiday period.

"Flu is still circulating in the community and the message remains that those people in an at-risk group should have their seasonal flu vaccine as soon as possible as this is the best way to protect themselves from flu this winter," said John Watson, head of the agency’s respiratory diseases department.

The surge in flu cases has led to local shortages of seasonal vaccines, but Britain’s Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies last week advised doctors to use pandemic vaccines left over from last season if stocks of this year’s vaccines run out.

The 2009/10 pandemic proved less severe than feared and substantial stockpiles of pandemic vaccine went unused.

The agency said in a statement that the death figures so far represent "only a proportion of those who may have died from flu or complications from flu" in the current season.

British authorities do not usually give regular updates of deaths from seasonal flu but are doing so this year because the pandemic H1N1 strain was expected to be dominant.

Estimates for flu related deaths each winter are typically between 0 and 5,000, the agency said, but those deaths are predominantly in people over 65 years of age, rather than the mainly younger people being killed by this year’s seasonal flu.

"It is important that people do all they can to reduce the spread of the virus," Watson said. He advised "covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough and sneeze, disposing of the tissue as soon as possible and cleaning your hands as soon you can."

(AGENCIES)

Surgical checklists could cut malpractice claims:Study

NEW YORK, Jan 14: Surgical checklists not only save lives by preventing medical errors, they could also make a big dent in medical malpractice claims, according to a study in the Netherlands.

Using data from the country’s largest medical liability insurer, a team led by Eefje de Vries of the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam found that nearly a third of the malpractice claims arose from mistakes that likely would have been caught by a checklist.

For the study, published in the Annals of Surgery, the team identified the main reasons for errors in 294 successful insurance claims related to surgeries from 2004 to 2005. They then compared those to the items on a comprehensive surgical checklist called SURPASS, which is now used in several hospitals in the Netherlands.

The checklist includes things such as making sure the operating schedule is correct, checking that all equipment is available, and marking on which side of the patient the surgery is going to happen.

"While the checklist as a whole may seem a little intimidating, the separate parts for each stage of the surgical pathway take little time to complete," de Vries wrote.

They found that 29 per cent of the reasons for lawsuits could be linked to a step on the checklist, such as marking the patient or communication between hospital staff.

And in four of the 10 deaths in the claims database, at least one of the contributing factors was addressed in the checklist.

While there is no guarantee the checklist would have avoided those deaths if it had been used at the time, the researchers say it would likely have prevented "a considerable amount of damage, both physical and financial."

The costs are significant.

Putting a price tag on the medical liability system is difficult, but one 2010 study estimated it costs the United States more than 55 billion dollar annually, or 2.4 per cent of the country’s healthcare spending.

In addition, experts say tens of thousands of Americans die each year due to medical errors.

Earlier studies have shown that when healthcare providers follow a checklist, they reduce those deaths dramatically and could save money by preventing complications that require further treatment.

"This kind of evidence indicates that surgeons who do not use one of these checklists are endangering patients," said Atul Gawande at the Harvard School of Public Health, a surgeon who has written extensively on the topic.

Yet only about a fourth of US hospitals use one of the three checklists that have been proven to work, he added.

"The message for hospitals is you want to adopt one of these checklists," he said.

(AGENCIES)

WTO members start work on wines and spirits register

GENEVA, Jan 14: Members of the World Trade Organization have started work on a draft proposal for a register to protect geographical names of wines and spirits as part of a push to secure a global trade deal this year.

Zambia’s ambassador to the World Trade Organization, Darlington Mwape, who chairs talks on the register, told negotiators on Thursday that it had been tough to get this far and laid down a tight schedule of meetings to produce a negotiating text by the end of March.

"Taking into account the profound divide that has been the hallmark of this negotiation group, I am heartened by the steps the group has been able to take this week," Mwape told a meeting of the WTO’s 153 members.

Discussions on the register, which would protect "geographical indicators" or appellations like champagne and tequila, pre-date the Doha round to open up world trade, launched at the end of 2001.

But they have been folded into the overall Doha package, on which WTO members are holding intensified talks after leaders of the G20 rich and emerging countries called for a deal and said 2011 provided a window of opportunity.

Better protection for geographical indicators is a central aim of the European Union in the Doha round.

But Brussels has run up against scepticism from New World producers like the United States and Australia, where European names are often used generically, and where officials say existing forms of copyright and trademark make a register unnecessary.

The talks are separate to related negotiations on extending the superior protection enjoyed by wines and spirits in global trade rules to other products like ham and cheese or even traditional crafts. All regional names are protected to avoid misleading the public and to prevent unfair competition.

At Thursday’s meeting Mwape circulated a draft covering notification of products, one of the six aspects of the register, following consultations earlier in the week with key players—the first time in over 13 years of talks that the WTO’s full membership was able to work on a single draft text.

Mwape asked negotiators to meet again in the week of January. 24 when he hopes they will reach one of the most contentious topics—the question of what legal commitments or obligations for WTO members would arise from registering a product.

Another issue to be negotiated is the question of whether the register would be voluntary or whether registration of a product would have implications for all members.

Even the draft text on notification circulated yesterday still contains many differences that negotiators will have to iron out in the coming weeks.

(AGENCIES)

Not yet divorced Kelsey Grammer plans Feb wedding

LOS ANGELES, Jan 14: Actor Kelsey Grammer said he hopes to marry for the fourth time in February.

But his estranged wife Camille isn’t so sure, and she has filed court papers opposing a quickie divorce to their 13-year marriage.

The former "Frasier" star, said in July that he was divorcing his wife, a former Playboy model and dancer who at the time was filming reality TV show "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills".

Grammer, 55, was soon seen with new girlfriend, flight attendant Kayte Walsh, 29, who in October suffered a miscarriage and lost their baby.

In an appearance on "The Late Show with David Letterman", Grammer described Kayte as "my new girl."

"We’re planning to get married soon," he said, then added "Sometime in February."

But Camille Grammer, 42, asked a Los Angeles judge to reject her husband’s request to get a quick divorce and work out a financial settlement later.

In court papers obtained yesterday by celebrity website TMZ.Com, she claimed that Grammer wanted a fast decision "solely for the reason that he intends to remarry as soon as possible."

"I don’t believe this is a sufficient reason to prejudice my rights to the community estate," Camille Grammer said yesterday. She estimated the value of the couple’s various homes and property at more than $120 million.

Grammer made his Broadway debut last year in a revival of musical "La Cage aux Folles" but is best known as the egotistical therapist Frasier Crane in the TV comedies "Frasier" and "Cheers".

(AGENCIES)

Ten Bangladeshi nationals fined for overstaying in Sri Lanka

COLOMBO, Jan 14: At least ten Bangladeshi nationals, who were arrested here while waiting to go to a third country, have been fined for overstaying in Sri Lanka.

Kandy magistrate courts fined them Rs 50,000 each after they admitted to illegally staying in the country.

They will be imprisoned for 6 months unless they pay the fine within two weeks, the court ordered.

The suspects, who were arrested last October, came to Sri Lanka in the hope to go to an African country for employment, defendants’ lawyer told the courts. (PTI)

Three in 10 Americans commit financial infidelity-poll

NEW YORK, Jan 14: Three in 10 Americans commit "financial infidelity" by lying to their spouses about money, sometimes suffering consequences such as separation or divorce, according to a new survey.

The Harris Interactive online poll of 2,019 adults released Yesterday showed 31 per cent of American couples who have combined finances were not truthful about issues such as hiding cash or a bank account or about debt or earnings.

"Financial infidelity may be the new normal," said Forbes.Com, which commissioned the survey with the National Endowment for Financial Education.

One-third of respondents also say they have been deceived, and both sexes lie to their partners about money in equal numbers.

"These indiscretions cause significant damage to the relationship," said Ted Beck, chief executive of the National Endowment for Financial Education.

Sixteen percent of couples affected by financial infidelity said the deception led to a divorce and 11 per cent said it caused a separation. Sixty-seven per cent said it led to an argument and for 42 per cent it lessened trust in the relationship.

The most common lie, at 58 per cent, was hiding cash. Fifty-four per cent of respondents admitted hiding a minor purchase, 30 per cent hid a bill, 16 per cent did not disclose a major purchase and 15 per cent hid a bank account.

Eleven percent lied about debt and an equal number were untruthful about earnings, the survey showed. (AGENCIES)



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