04/18/2014 (3:35 pm)

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, beloved Latin American author, dead at 87

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MEXICO CITY—Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Nobel laureate whose novels and short stories exposed tens of millions of readers to Latin America’s passion, superstition, violence and inequality, died at home in Mexico City around midday, according to people close to his family. He was 87.

Widely considered the most popular Spanish-language writer since Miguel de Cervantes in the 17th century, Garcia Marquez achieved literary celebrity that spawned comparisons to Mark Twain and Charles Dickens.

His flamboyant and melancholy fictional works — among them Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Love in the Time of Cholera and TheAutumn of the Patriarch — outsold everything published in Spanish except the Bible. The epic 1967 novel One Hundred Years of Solitude sold more than 50 million copies in more than 25 languages.

His stories made him literature’s best-known practitioner of magical realism, the fictional blending of the everyday with fantastical elements such as a boy born with a pig’s tail and a man trailed by a swarm of yellow butterflies.

His death was confirmed by two people close to the family who spoke on condition of anonymity out of respect for the family’s privacy.

One Hundred Years of Solitude was “the first novel in which Latin Americans recognized themselves, that defined them, celebrated their passion, their intensity, their spirituality and superstition, their grand propensity for failure,” biographer Gerald Martin told The Associated Press.

When he accepted the Nobel prize in 1982, Garcia Marquez described Latin America as a “source of insatiable creativity, full of sorrow and beauty, of which this roving and nostalgic Colombian is but one cipher more, singled out by fortune. Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable.”

With writers including Norman Mailer and Tom Wolfe, Garcia Marquez was also an early practitioner of the literary nonfiction that would become known as New Journalism. He became an elder statesman of Latin American journalism, with magisterial works of narrative non-fiction that included the The Story of A Shipwrecked Sailor, the tale of a seaman lost on a life raft for 10 days background check.

Other pieces profiled Venezuela’s larger-than-life president, Hugo Chavez, and vividly portrayed how cocaine traffickers led by Pablo Escobar had shred the social and moral fabric of his native Colombia, kidnapping members of its elite, in News of a Kidnapping. In 1994, Garcia Marquez founded the Iberoamerican Foundation for New Journalism, which offers training and competitions to raise the standard of narrative and investigative journalism across Latin America.

Like many Latin American writers, Garcia Marquez transcended the world of letters. The man widely known as “Gabo” became a hero to the Latin American left as an early ally of Cuba’s revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and a critic of Washington’s violent interventions from Vietnam to Chile.

Garcia Marquez was born in Aracataca, a small Colombian town near the Caribbean coast, on March 6, 1927. He was the eldest of the 11 children of Luisa Santiaga Marquez and Gabriel Elijio Garcia, a telegraphist and a wandering homeopathic pharmacist who was also something of a philanderer and fathered at least four children outside of his marriage.

Just after their first son was born, his parents left him with his maternal grandparents and moved to Barranquilla, where Garcia Marquez’s father opened a pharmacy, hoping to become rich.

Garcia Marquez was raised for 10 years by his grandmother and his grandfather, a retired colonel who fought in the devastating 1,000-Day War that hastened Colombia’s loss of the Panamanian isthmus.

His grandparents’ tales would provide grist for Garcia Marquez’s fiction and Aracataca became the model for “Macondo,” the village surrounded by banana plantations at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains where One Hundred Years of Solitude is set.

“I have often been told by the family that I started recounting things, stories and so on, almost since I was born,” Garcia Marquez once told an interviewer. “Ever since I could speak.”

Garcia Marquez’s parents continued to have children, and barely made ends meet. Their first-born son was sent to a state-run boarding school just outside Bogota where he became a star student and voracious reader, favouring Hemingway, Faulkner, Dostoevsky and Kafka.

Garcia Marquez published his first piece of fiction as a student in 1947, mailing a short story to the newspaper El Espectador after its literary editor wrote that “Colombia’s younger generation has nothing to offer in the way of good literature anymore.”

His father insisted he study law but he dropped out, bored, and dedicated himself to journalism. The pay was atrocious and Garcia Marquez recalled his mother visiting him in Bogota and commenting in horror at his bedraggled appearance that: “I thought you were a beggar.”

Garcia Marquez’s writing was constantly informed by his leftist political views, themselves forged in large part by a 1928 military massacre near Aracataca of banana workers striking against the United Fruit Company, which later became Chiquita. He was also greatly influenced by the assassination two decades later of Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, a galvanizing leftist presidential candidate.

Garcia Marquez suffered a strong official backlash to his story about how government corruption contributed to the disaster recounted in The Story of A Shipwrecked Sailor. A dictatorship seized power and Garcia Marquez made a new home in Europe. After touring the Soviet-controlled east, he moved to Rome in 1955 to study cinema, a lifelong love. Then he moved to Paris, where he lived among intellectuals and artists exiled from the many Latin American dictatorships of the day.

Garcia Marquez returned to Colombia in 1958 to marry Mercedes Barcha, a neighbour from childhood days. They had two sons, Rodrigo, a film director, and Gonzalo, a graphic designer.

After a 1981 run-in with Colombia’s government in which he was accused of sympathizing with M-19 rebels and sending money to a Venezuelan guerrilla group, Garcia Marquez moved to Mexico City, his main home for the rest of his life.

Despite being denied U.S. visas for years over his politics, he was courted by presidents and kings and counted Bill Clinton and Francois Mitterrand among his friends. He denounced what he considered the unfair political persecution of Clinton for sexual adventures

Clinton himself recalled in an AP interview in 2007 reading One Hundred Years of Solitude while in law school and not being able to put it down, not even during classes criminal record checks.

“I realized this man had imagined something that seemed like a fantasy but was profoundly true and profoundly wise,” he said.

Dirt poor and struggling through much of his adult life, Garcia Marquez was somewhat transformed by his later fame and wealth. A bon vivant with an impish personality, Garcia Marquez was a gracious host who would animatedly recount long stories to guests. Fiercely protective of his image, a trait shared by his wife, he would occasionally unleash a quick temper when he felt slighted or misrepresented by the press.

The author with the bushy grey eyebrows and white moustache spent more time in Colombia in his later years, founding the journalism institute in the walled colonial port city of Cartagena, where he kept a home.

Garcia Marquez turned down offers of diplomatic posts and spurned attempts to draft him to run for Colombia’s presidency, though he did get involved in behind-the-scenes peace mediation efforts between Colombia’s government and leftist rebels.

In 1998, already in his 70s, Garcia Marquez fulfilled a lifelong dream, buying a majority interest in the Colombian newsmagazine Cambio with money from his Nobel. Before falling ill with lymphatic cancer in June 1999, the author contributed prodigiously to the magazine.

“I’m a journalist. I’ve always been a journalist,” he told the AP at the time. “My books couldn’t have been written if I weren’t a journalist because all the material was taken from reality.”

In later years there were persisting reports about the author’s memory problems, which were not publicly diagnosed, and Garcia Marquez’s public appearances were limited, although he continued to enjoy socializing with friends.

When he turned 87, he was feted before the press by friends and well-wishers who gave him cake and flowers outside his home in an exclusive neighbourhood in Mexico City.

Garcia Marquez did not speak at the event.


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04/16/2014 (5:08 am)

Investors dip a toe back in emerging markets

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Nearly $2.5 billion flowed into mutual funds and exchange-traded funds that invest in emerging market stocks during the week that ended April 2, according to data from EPFR Global.

It was the first time money poured into those funds since October.

The inflow suggests that investors have regained some appetite for emerging market stocks, which were trading at a sharp discount following a big sell-off in January.

The ), which tracks the widely-followed benchmark for emerging market stocks, is now in positive territory for the year.

Investors fled emerging markets in January amid fears about the so-called “Fragile Five” — Turkey, Brazil, India, Indonesia and South Africa. Central banks in those countries were forced to prop up shaky currencies after political and economic concerns sparked big outflows of capital.

According to Allan Conway, head of emerging market equities at U.K.-based asset manager Schroders, investors overreacted and stocks in many countries are actually trading at very attractive levels.

While he expects most emerging markets to remain volatile in the short run, Conway said some specific countries could see “an avalanche of cheap investment opportunities by the end of the year.”

Specifically, he pointed to what he dubbed the “Fab Four” of Taiwan, Korea, China and Russia (assuming the confrontation with Ukraine does not escalate).

While investments in any country carry a certain degree of political risk, it is especially acute in many emerging economies since governments in these nations often own a stake in the largest companies in the country.

Investors hope that upcoming elections in India, Indonesia and Brazil will set the stage for reforms that will make those economies more efficient, said Michelle Gibley, director of international research at Charles Schwab cash advance loan.

She said there’s also been talk of new stimulus efforts in China, the world’s second-largest economy.

Still, the optimism may be “misplaced” since there’s no guarantee the newly elected politicians will follow through on proposed reforms, she added.

“I’m still cautious on emerging markets,” said Gibley. “They still have a long way to go to fix their structural problems.”

Emerging markets are generally considered more of a gamble than developed ones because the political risks are higher and many developing economies are exposed to volatility in commodities prices.

On the other hand, economic growth has historically been stronger in emerging markets, many of which have benefited from an expanding middle class.

That growth story began to unravel last year when the Federal Reserve first signaled that it would begin slowing its monthly bond purchases.

The U.S. central bank has pumped billions of dollars into the global economy over the past few years and much of the liquidity has made its way into emerging markets. The fear is that developing economies might be left high and dry as the Fed gradually turns off the taps this year.

Paul Christopher, chief international strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors, said it will take years for emerging market economies to work through excessive levels of domestic debt.

“The Fed’s policies have exposed some of the weakness in emerging markets,” he said. “Those problems have been there for years, but as the tide goes out, you begin to see the hazards below the surface.”

While he has a positive long-term view on developing economies, Christopher said the average investor should not have more than 5% to 7% of a portfolio in emerging markets.


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04/14/2014 (2:08 pm)

GM finds new ignition flaw, will replace second part

Filed under: money, stocks |

The automaker said Thursday it “is aware of several hundred complaints of keys coming out of ignitions” in recalled Chevrolet Cobalts and HHRs, Pontiac Solstices and G5s, as well as Saturn Ions and Skys.

As a result, the company will replace the ignition lock cylinder in these vehicles. GM said there was one instance of a vehicle rolling away and crashing. That accident resulted in injuries, but no deaths.

The ignition lock cylinder fix will be made in addition to a repair to the faulty ignition switches.

These cars were originally recalled in February because the ignition switches were getting knocked out of the “Run” position, causing the vehicles to stop unexpectedly and disabling the airbag, power steering and anti-lock brakes.

, Fortune 500) identified an issue with the switch indent plunger, a tiny part that provides pressure, or torque, to prevent the ignition from turning off accidentally. The ignition lock cylinder is the part where the key is inserted. It can be worn down over time as the key is repeatedly turned.

Spokesman Kevin Kelly said all the ignition repairs are meant to be done at once. Dealerships will receive a kit with both parts and the repair will take about an hour, he said. Customers will also be given new car keys.

The parts have started shipping and dealers will be able to perform the service beginning Friday, he said.

The additional part replacement means the recall will cost the company more. GM said it will take a $1.3 billion charge in the first quarter for the recall, nearly four times the original $300 million charge.

GM has taken heat for a delay in recalling the vehicles. The company has attributed thirteen deaths to the fault. The company has revealed it knew of issues with the ignition switch as early as 2004, but only announced a recall in February. Earlier Thursday, it announced that two engineers were suspended over the matter.

–CNNMoney’s Chris Isidore contributed to this report


04/11/2014 (7:04 am)

Police make arrests in Yonge St. shooting death

Filed under: news, online |

Police have arrested three people in the shooting death of a Toronto man earlier this year.

Toronto police, with assistance from forces across the GTA, raided addresses this morning in connection to the shooting death of Peter Nguyen, 26.

On Thursday morning, Thanh Tung Phan, 27, of Toronto, was charged with first-degree murder and two counts of criminal harassment. He was scheduled to appear in a North York court later today.

Two others have also been charged with criminal harassment, the Star has learned. Their identities have not been released.

Nguyen was gunned down near Yonge St. and Lawrence Ave. after 9 p.m. on Feb. 4. Few details in the case have been released to date, but at the time police said they were seeking two suspects.

Staff Insp. Greg McLane, who heads the Toronto police homicide squad, confirmed the raids are connected to the slaying this year and that several people have been taken into custody.

It’s not clear yet how many were arrested and who if any will face charges.

“We’re just moving forward on a homicide investigation,” McLane said.

Police officers from York and Durham regions were assisting as some of the raids happened at addresses outside Toronto, McLane said.

The stretch of Yonge St. where the shooting occurred, near Deloraine Ave., is home to several restaurants and wall-to-wall storefronts.


Police name 26-year-old victim in Yonge-Lawrence fatal shooting


04/07/2014 (10:52 pm)

Medical Assn won’t stop Medicare doc data release

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation’s largest doctors’ group says it won’t try to block Medicare’s release of billing records for 880,000 physicians, although it remains opposed to such a move by the government.

An official of the American Medical Association told The Associated Press on Monday that the group won’t go to court ahead of Wednesday’s scheduled release of the massive data trove. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the organization’s policies limit on-the-record comments to certain designated representatives overnight pay day loans.

Employers, insurers, media organizations and consumer groups interested in physician quality have been pressing the government for decades to release the data. The AMA says it will do more harm than good.

The AMA’s decision does not rule out last-minute legal action by other groups.


04/03/2014 (6:48 am)

Rubicon Project climbs after IPO prices at $101.5M

Filed under: loans, news |

NEW YORK (AP) — Shares of The Rubicon Project jumped Wednesday morning after the ad exchange’s initial public offering priced at $101.5 million.

The offering of 6.8 million shares priced at $15 a share, at the low end of its expectations. Rubicon is selling 5.4 million shares and will get $81.3 million in gross proceeds, while the rest of the shares are being sold by Rubicon shareholders.

Shares of The Rubicon Project Inc. gained $3.30, or 22 percent, to $18 cash advance payday loan.30 in morning trading.

Rubicon operates a digital ad exchange that automates the buying and selling of online advertising. It is based in Los Angeles.

The shares are trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “RUBI.”


04/01/2014 (12:16 pm)

Syrup makers go high tech with wireless monitoring

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MILTON, Vt. (AP) — For years, vacuum tubing technology has allowed maple syrup producers to draw more sap from trees, but such systems are prone to leaks caused by falling branches or hungry critters chewing on lines.

Finding and repairing those leaks can take hours of trudging through often snow-packed woods. This season, however, some Vermont syrup producers are trying new wireless monitoring systems that allow them to keep track of their sap lines from the sugar house. They’re using computers and smartphones to pinpoint the location of leaks, allowing them to make quick fixes and get better yields during the four-to six-week sugaring season payday loans.

The inventor of one tracking system says it can net a 5 percent increase in production, the kind of jump that could only otherwise be expected by increasing manpower.


03/31/2014 (12:56 am)

State Fund Profit on Japan Display Shows Overhaul Path - Bloomberg

Filed under: business, marketing |

Innovation Network Corp. of Japan, the government-backed fund that just made a tidy profit on the Japan Display Inc. (6740) initial public offering, plans to use lessons from the deal in restructuring other troubled industries.

INCJ put 200 billion yen ($1.9 billion) into the Tokyo-based company in 2012 as it combined three struggling businesses and turned a profit of more than 60 percent. In the fund

03/29/2014 (10:04 am)

Tory MP Eve Adams accused of using mail privileges to campaign

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OTTAWA—A Conservative MP who wants to run in a different riding in 2015 appears to be using her taxpayer-funded privileges and supplies to mail voters in the new constituency, a move that is rankling local party members.

Some residents in Burlington and Oakville say they recently received materials from Eve Adams, even though their current MP is Transport Minister Lisa Raitt.

Adams says she has broken no House of Commons rules, and is entitled as an MP to mail materials outside her riding.

But Adams is fighting local chiropractor Natalia Lishchyna for the Conservative nomination in Oakville-North Burlington, a newly created riding that technically won’t exist until the next election.

That has raised questions about whether she is using her resources to help secure a nomination.

“My reaction was, ‘Who is she?’ I know who my MP is. I’m in Burlington. I looked it up, and Ms. Adams is in Mississauga,” said local resident Simon Taylor, who is not connected to either of the camps.

Julian DiBattista, a riding association president from Hamilton, wrote a letter of complaint Friday to Conservative party brass after his partner in neighbouring Burlington received a letter from Adams.

In the letter, DiBattista invoked the high-profile controversy surrounding three formerly Conservative senators whose disallowed expense claims led to their suspension last year from the upper chamber.

“As a taxpayer, I was incensed when I heard that Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin were using resources provided at my expense for their personal gain,” DiBattista wrote.

“In this situation I am just as disturbed by the misuse of government resources to campaign for elected office.”

The Canadian Press has seen copies of two different flyers featuring the title, “Eve Adams, Member of Parliament,” under the House of Commons crest. Only the Commons envelope indicates that Adams represents the non-adjacent riding of Mississauga-Brampton North instant payday loan.

The flyer was mailed without a postage stamp, which indicates it was sent using taxpayer funds under an MP’s mailing privileges — a practice known in political circles as “franking.”

MPs are entitled to send mail postage-free, but Commons rules prohibit any of their parliamentary resources from being used for electoral campaigning.

“I have spent the last three years working hard in Ottawa to represent you and your family’s views, meeting with and listening to our community and working hard to build a stronger Canada,” writes Adam, who moved to the area less than two years ago.

Another flyer starts by saying that “my family and I live in Oakville, and we know first-hand that every dollar matters.”

In both cases, there is a mail-back portion for the recipient to send back comments and respond to a brief questionnaire.

“Most importantly, you will always be able to count on my support, when you need something from Ottawa,” Adams writes.

Adams says that she has the right as an MP to use her House of Commons resources to send materials outside of her riding.

“People do mail across the country, and that absolutely is something that members of Parliament are encouraged to do and to communicate with Canadians on a wide variety of issues,” Adams said.

But the Commons internal economy committee has addressed the issue of MPs mailing into opposition ridings, ruling in 2010 that certain pamphlets can be mailed only within one’s own riding.


03/27/2014 (2:16 pm)

Will Central African Republic become a battleground for religious radicals?

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BANGUI, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC—The threat of the Central African Republic becoming the latest battleground for religious radicals is increasing as the country remains divided and the security situation precarious.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Toronto Star, the country’s top United Nations representative warned that the conflict will spill beyond its borders if the country’s Muslim and Christian populations do not reconcile and civilians remain fearful of returning home.

Al Qaeda-linked groups in nearby Mali and Nigeria are citing the plight of CAR’s Muslim population with increasing frequency and are encouraging attacks against France, which sent troops here in December after fighting left 1,000 dead in just two days.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) accuses the French of launching a “crusade against Islam,” and a leader with the Nigerian-based Boko Haram has reportedly vowed to avenge the deaths of the country’s Muslims.

The Central African Republic is even cited by fighters purportedly in Syria — including one bizarre, but slickly produced 18-minute video by German ex-rapper “Deso Dogg,” who calls for jihad.

Such hostile statements are being followed “very, very carefully,” said Lt. Gen. (retired) Babacar Gaye, the UN’s highest-ranking official in Bangui and special adviser to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

“I hope that we will be in a position to expedite whatever should be done in terms of reconciliation in terms of the communities. I think this is the best way to delay . . . any actions of these terrorist groups,” he said. “Not only will they not have reasons to come, there will be no grievances that may serve the justification.”

But CAR remains dangerously split — with Muslim residents occupying only two neighbourhoods in the capital Bangui, and the rest seeking refuge in the north or neighbouring countries.

The country was once mercilessly ruled by a mainly Muslim militia known as the Seleka, which included fighters from Chad and Sudan. Vigilante squads known as anti-balaka, which drew members from the majority Christian population, clashed with the Seleka, prompting the French and African Union forces to intervene. Seleka-backed President Michel Djotodia was pushed from power in January and Catherine Samba-Panza, Bangui’s former mayor, was appointed interim president.

The roots of this conflict, which has killed thousands and threatens to permanently divide this small landlocked country, are complicated and not about religion. The Seleka did not call for a state governed by Islamic law, nor did they espouse the ideology favoured by groups such as AQIM. Just a year ago there was religious harmony in CAR — mosques and churches are only blocks apart in the capital, communities mixed and intermarriage between faiths is common.

But in retribution for months of Seleka killings, sexual violence and looting, the anti-balaka blindly targeted all Muslims. Women and children are among the dead.

At a recent demonstration in PK12, a makeshift camp of Muslim women and children, criticism was directed at the French for not ensuring the security of Muslim residents. Ibrahim Alawad, the 52-year-old self-appointed leader of the camp and a former member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army who organized the small march, will list a litany of alleged crimes of the French troops stationed nearby to visiting reporters easy payday loans.

The question is whether the cycle of killings will continue as the Seleka regroups in the north and seeks outside help. Of particular concern to intelligence and security services is the largely remote northern Vakaga province, which shares a border with Sudan’s Darfur region. The whereabouts of Seleka leader Noureddine Adam and reports that he has travelled to Nigeria fuel speculation of future Boko Haram involvement.

For now, the extremist calls for jihad are just rhetoric. And Islamic militant groups operating in Africa would face significant logistical hurdles, including CAR’s unfamiliar terrain. “Their familiarity with often harsh and inhospitable desert conditions have given them the edge over regional and/or international forces tasked with uprooting them from such areas,” wrote security analyst Ryan Cummings recently in Think African Press. “However, these desert plains of North and West Africa differ considerably with the jungle and savannah bushes which comprise much of the CAR.”

But Gaye said the extremist threats are not being taken lightly and without additional peacekeepers and increased international funding, the interim government under Samba-Panza is destined to fail. “Today the reality is very simple,” he said. “Without international community support, it won’t be possible for this new government — upon which we put a lot of expectations — it will not be possible for them to deliver.”

Ban’s call for a UN peacekeeping mission of 12,000 troops and police to join the 2,000-strong French force and 6,000 African Union peacekeepers here is being debated by the Security Council. Gaye welcomed news that Canadian senator and retired Gen. Romeo Dallaire is urging Canada to join the mission if approved.

Also a veteran peacekeeper, Gaye said he served alongside Canadian forces during his first mission in Sinai, in 1974. “We had excellent relations, probably because of the French-speaking proximity but also because they are very professional and experienced in peacekeeping,” he said. “We are expecting the return of Canada to peacekeeping.”

Beyond the gates of the UN compound where we sat during the recent interview, there was a deceptive calm in Bangui. Life is slowly returning to the downtown streets, where just a couple months ago fires burned and discarded bodies lay unclaimed.

Stores owned by Christian merchants have reopened and students have returned to school, although the numbers are small as most parents are still too frightened to leave their children alone. Later that evening, before the nightly curfew, the setting sun casts a warm glow over roadside patios where men and women unwind over large bottles of the local Mocaf beer.

But that calm is easily shattered by evening gunfire and attacks in the two remaining Muslim neighbourhoods of PK5 and PK12, and the French and AU tanks that patrol the streets are a reminder of what is needed to ensure security in a city that lacks a functioning police force, army or court system.


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