LAVAL, – One-time Quebec construction mogul Tony Accurso should receive a five-year prison term and be ordered to pay $1.6 million, the Crown prosecutor said Thursday.Accurso’s lawyer, however, suggested his client receive a more lenient punishment and serve a suspended sentence in the community.A jury on Monday found Accurso, 66, guilty on five charges including fraud and corruption after deliberating for seven days.The case against him involved a municipal corruption scheme between 1996 and 2010 run by former Laval, Que., mayor Gilles Vaillancourt, who pleaded guilty to fraud-related charges and was sentenced to six years in prison.Vaillancourt oversaw a kickback system in which construction companies would pay officials in exchange for public contracts.Superior Court Justice James Brunton noted during the hearing that another co-accused in the case, Rene Mergl, who was also a construction entrepreneur, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.Brunton said Mergl had played an important role in co-ordinating the collusion at one time in the city just north of Montreal.“Going from 18 months to five years, can the court do that while respecting the principles of proportionality and parity (of sentences)?” Brunton asked prosecutor Richard Rougeau.Rougeau said he understood the court’s concerns, but added that Accurso’s companies accounted for 25 per cent of the contracts handed out by the city of Laval.The $1.6 million being sought by the Crown represents two per cent of the value of the contracts awarded to Accurso’s firms that authorities believe was paid in kickbacks to city officials.Defence lawyer Marc Labelle said paying that amount will be difficult given his client’s precarious financial and legal situation.Accurso has about $10 million left from the sale of his companies and is being sued by Laval for $21 million in addition to fines levied against him by federal and provincial authorities.He also renounced $4.4 that was owed to him by Laval for contracts.“It the sky doesn’t clear up, Mr. Accurso will go bankrupt, perhaps as early as in July … He may be worth a lot, but he may also be worth nothing,” Labelle said.At his trial, Accurso denied any involvement in the scheme and testified he was not aware of any such system in place.The system of collusion and corruption was put in place by Vaillancourt and his client “did not create this system, it was imposed,” Labelle said, adding Accurso had no choice but comply.Labelle noted that because of the size of his construction firms, no others could have legitimately competed with Accurso.“If there had not been a system of mandatory collusion in that city, Mr. Accurso would have made a lot more money,” Labelle said.Brunton is to render a sentence July 5.
VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Canadian political watchers are closely monitoring the U.S. midterm elections, with some predicting the results will have an impact not only on trade and security but potentially on the politics of culture north of the border.“We’ve spent the last year and half talking about renegotiating NAFTA and various conflicts between the U.S. and Canada, so certainly in terms of those specific policy decisions [the results] matter a great deal,” says Steve Weldon, an associate professor of political science at Simon Fraser University.“But I also think it matters in a second aspect. Trump and the Republican Party have shifted their emphasis increasingly toward a campaign policy focused around vilifying immigrants and minorities. It had long been assumed that such a direct hostile approach toward ‘outsiders’ as well as women would backfire, that it was taboo,” he tells NEWS 1130.“What we’ve found in the U.S., and to some degree in Europe, is that these types of appeals work better than we thought they would. Maybe better than we hoped they would.”Weldon believes that that if Trump supporters come out strong today in the U.S. midterm elections, some Canadian politicians might consider taking a page from the US president’s playbook, particularly when it comes to strategies to mobilize Canadian voters.“If Trump finds success today, and over the next year or so, I don’t think it would be that surprising to see Canadian politics or some actors also take more of a shift to the right, particularly on cultural issues related to immigration.”Weldon says that to date, Canada has avoided many of the problems associated with other democracies in Europe and the United States, but he believes that could change.“We’re proudly multicultural but we don’t really know how stable that is.”Weldon argues that there is reason to suspect that cultural arguments — discussions about national identity and who makes a “good Canadian” — will become more prominent if Trump and the Republicans retain their grip on the U.S. House and Senate.“Whether it’s direct or it’s ‘dog whistle’ politics, it’s likely we will see some of that,” he says.“The more that Trump is successful with that message, it does seem to reason that some Canadian parties would adopt such a strategy.”Trudeau, cabinet closely watchingOver the past few years, Canada’s prime minister says his team has worked closely with both parties in the U.S.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’ll keep pushing for Canadian interests regardless of the results.“We’ve worked very hard over the past few weeks to work very closely with both parties in the American congress. We will continue to.” But Transport Minister Marc Garneau, who also heads the cabinet committee on U.S. relations, is going a bit further, saying he’s excited to see what happens“I think this is a historical and very, very important midterm elections and I think there can be important ramifications.”Meantime, Infrastructure Minister Francois Philippe Champagne believes the government’s approach will not be changing.“We’ll be watching, but the point is we’ve been working with both houses and continuing to promote Canadian interests, that’s what we’ll do.”This vote is considered a referendum on President Donald Trump, and if the Democrats win one of the Houses, or if Republicans maintain control, it will impact the way our government handles our American neighbours.Canada is pressuring the Trump administration to scrap the tariffs on our steel and aluminum now that the new USMCA has been reached.-With files from Dean Recksiedler
29 October 2008A comprehensive and sustainable peace is not possible in post-conflict situations unless women’s security and participation is a primary objective for peacekeepers, senior United Nations officials told the Security Council today. Gender issues must be addressed in conflict mediation as well as in the deployment of peacekeepers, and women must participate in promoting peace and security, UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Executive Director Inés Alberdi told the meeting.“This is particularly important in conflicts in which sexual violence is used as a tactic of war,” said Ms. Alberdi, addressing the Security Council debate on women, peace and security.“If abuses of women’s rights are tolerated through de facto impunity for perpetrators, efforts to restore the rule of law lose their credibility,” she told the 15-member panel.Ms. Alberdi noted that Security Council resolution 1820 – which states that rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity – acknowledges the importance of women’s security in assuring a durable peace areas experiencing conflict.She warned the Council that if direct measures are not taken by national authorities to prevent the widespread and systematic targeting of women, the violence will spill over in the post-conflict environment. “We know that in some contexts attacks on women increase after conflict. If countries and the international community do not respond decisively to violence against women, they raise the cost of peacebuilding,” warned Ms. Alberdi.“The cost is in delayed stabilization and reconciliation in countries where the rule of law cannot take root,” she added.“However, despite their successes, women continue to be marginalized and ignored,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women Rachel Mayanja. “It is our duty and indeed our obligation to millions of women in conflict areas to use the opportunity offered by Security Council resolution 1325 to set in motion perhaps one of the most promising approaches to conflict resolution of this new century,” she added.Resolution 1325, which was adopted by the Council eight years ago, stresses the importance of giving women equal participation and full involvement in peace and security matters and the need to increase their role in decision-making.Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy briefed the Council on specific steps his department was taking to incorporate women and gender perspectives into peace and security work.“It is no exaggeration to say that in the last eight years since its adoption, resolution 1325 has changed the way we do business in peacekeeping,” Mr. Le Roy said.He noted that the resolution had galvanised women in post-conflict countries to demand greater accountability from peacekeeping operations to respond to gender issues, and cited the examples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Côte d’Ivoire and Kosovo, where women’s groups have established regular channels of communications with mission leadership.“Peacekeepers understand all too clearly that our efforts to avoid conflict relapses in fragile post-conflict countries can only succeed if we ensure that all members of society have an equal stake in safeguarding the peace dividend,” the peacekeeping chief said.Peacekeeping operations have supported the participation of women in elections in a number of countries. Mr. Le Roy told the Council that it is not enough to have women voting or being elected to office; the real challenge is for women to stay in office and implement gender-sensitive policies.“In Timor-Leste, for example, four women parliamentarians quit office with the first three months of their election to office in 2002. We must first invest in providing technical support to those who are unfamiliar with constitution-making, and with the working of formal political procedures and legislative process,” Mr. Le Roy told the Council.Following speeches from dozens of Member States, Ambassador Zhang Yesui of China, which holds the Council presidency this month, read out a statement urging the international community to increase the participation and decision-making of women in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding activities.In the presidential statement the Council called on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to appoint more women to senior positions, particularly as Special Representatives and Special Envoys.“The Security Council also strongly condemns all violations of international law committed against women and girls during and after armed conflicts, urges the complete cessation by all parties of such acts with immediate effect, and also urges Member States to bring to justice those responsible for crimes of this nature,” the statement stressed.
by Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press Posted Sep 20, 2012 7:02 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email PQ government takes on three controversial industries in first day in office MONTREAL – Within 24 hours of taking office, the new Parti Quebecois government slammed the door on two controversial industries and dropped a hint about shutting down a third.The government moved to shore up its environmental credibility by promising to shut down an aging nuclear plant that is the only one in Quebec; reiterating plans to scrap a loan that would revive the province’s last asbestos mine; and suggesting that the shale gas industry might never be allowed to operate.At the same time Premier Pauline Marois sought to mollify critics who feared her government might hurt the economy.Some punditry since she took office has suggested her new cabinet is too heavy with social activists and not business-friendly enough. Marois opened her first news conference as premier with a promise of fiscal sobriety. She said she intends to erase the provincial deficit by 2013-14.“I would like to underline that for my government, budgetary rigour is non-negotiable,” Marois said in Quebec City.“I would like to remind you that in 2001 I was the first finance minister to pay down part of the debt, therefore I intend to pursue this same goal.”In addition to the promises on asbestos and nuclear power, and hints about shale gas, Marois also announced plans to move ahead with the PQ campaign pledge to redraw Quebec’s northern-development plan. The party has promised, among other changes, to increase royalties paid by mining companies.Such moves could provide more fodder for pundits expressing alarm about the makeup of her cabinet.The group of ministers includes two people who spearheaded the Quebec Green party and a natural-resources minister — the government’s point person for mining and energy development — who’s been an active environmentalist for more than a decade.Natural Resources Minister Martine Ouellet raised eyebrows Thursday by hinting about a long-term ban on the province’s fledgling, and contentious, shale-gas industry.Ouellet said she didn’t believe the method of extracting natural gas from shale, known as “fracking,” can ever be done safely.“I don’t foresee a day when there will be technology that will allow safe exploitation (of shale gas),” Ouellet said before her first-ever cabinet meeting.Marois tried to downplay Ouellet’s comments after the inaugural meeting of her cabinet. She said any future decisions would be based on environmental studies that have yet to begin.Under political pressure, the former Liberal government halted shale-gas exploration last year to conduct more studies on the ecological risks.That environmental-review process was expected to take a couple of years. Now Ouellet is reiterating her party’s campaign promise to hold broad environmental public hearings on the risks of the sector, on top of the ongoing review.Until then, she wants the industry to remain idle.“Our position is very clear: we want a complete moratorium, not only on exploitation but also on exploration of shale gas,” Ouellet said. “We haven’t changed our minds.”Those remarks earned her a rebuke from the last leader of her own party.Andre Boisclair, a former PQ leader and environment minister who is now a consultant for Calgary energy company Questerre (TSX:QEC), said Ouellet appears uninformed about an industry that he insists has proven elsewhere in Canada that it can operate safely.“Does it mean that Albertans aren’t doing it in a safe way and that the technology that they use isn’t ready yet?” Boisclair told The Canadian Press on Thursday.“When they hear Martine Ouellet’s comments, you know, they’ll jump to the ceiling.”Questerre has large investments in Quebec and hopes to eventually exploit gas deposits here.Boisclair, who led the PQ from 2005 to 2007, said that 30 per cent of the natural gas now used in Quebec comes from unconventional sources, such as shale, outside the province.“I think that the minister will regret (her statement) and that she’ll have no choice but to re-examine her beliefs on this question,” he said.When asked whether he thought Marois’ cabinet was as friendly to business as past PQ cabinets, Boisclair replied: “Well, we’ll see.”Critics of the shale-gas industry fear that the method of exploiting the resource will create serious environmental problems — including the contamination of drinking water and the heavy use of water resources.The industry insists that extraction chemicals are only used in small doses and the chances of them seeping into the environment are very slim.Analysts, meanwhile, have called shale gas a potential economic game-changer.The industry has boasted that the provincial government, which is saddled with public debt, would reap annual royalties of $1 billion from shale gas development. Since exploration began in 2008, close to 30 wells have been opened in Quebec.But opposition to the shale-gas sector has been passionate in this province, prompting tumultuous public hearings and large demonstrations. One protest last year saw thousands of demonstrators march through Montreal to call for a 20-year moratorium.The response has been much different in Western Canada, where shale-gas industries have flourished in both Alberta and British Columbia over the past decade.There are regional differences, however.Existing shale-gas plays in Western Canada sit in sparsely populated areas, and in many places, residents there have grown accustomed to the industry’s presence.Many of the plays in Quebec are located around the St. Lawrence River, an area which is not only more densely populated, but also takes up part of the province’s agricultural heartland.Marois also announced Thursday that she will shut down the aging Gentilly-2 nuclear reactor in Becancour and create a $200 million fund to diversify the region’s economy.She also promised to push ahead with her plans to scrap a $58-million loan to Jeffrey Mine, which would revive the last asbestos mine in the country.Her decision to cancel the loan could signal the death knell of an industry that once helped build entire towns in different parts of Canada.The federal government, blaming the PQ, has already said it will stop trying to defend asbestos on the international stage from the many critics who link the product to cancer.While announcing the policy change, the Harper Tories accused the PQ of harming the economy of the asbestos-producing region.In fact, the economic message appears to be part of a broader campaign by the Harper government.In response to habitual attacks from the PQ, which hopes to take Quebec out of Canada, the Tories have sought to divert the conversation to what some perceive as the new provincial government’s Achilles’ heel.That theme was laid out in an email from the Prime Minister’s Office, accidentally sent to reporters on Parliament Hill on Thursday.The note from the PMO contained so-called “talking points” for Tories when asked to comment on the new Quebec government.“We do not believe that Quebecers wish to revisit the old constitutional battles of the past,” said the email. “Our government will remain focused on jobs, economic growth and sound management of the economy.”-With a file from Patrice Bergeron in Quebec City
BEIJING, China – Gong Bin, a marketing employee in Shanghai, watched Chinese stock prices gallop upward for months before he finally gave in and put the equivalent of 2 1/2 months’ salary into the surging market.In two months, Gong made a 10 per cent return on his 20,000 yuan ($3,300) investment.“My colleagues were always talking about the money they made from the market, so I thought, why not?” said Gong, 27. “It turned out to be the right decision.”Even as a downturn in the world’s second-largest economy deepens, Gong and a growing army of other small investors are riding a boom in China’s volatile stock markets.Buoyed by hopes for an economic rebound combined with outright cheerleading by the state press, the market benchmark has soared 49 per cent since June, including 8 per cent last week alone.Economic growth fell to a five-year low of 7.3 per cent last quarter but investor sentiment was recharged by Beijing’s surprise interest rate cut Nov. 22 that is expected to put a floor under the slump.“Investors anticipate the economy will bottom out sometime in the spring, and they are buying equities to take advantage of that,” said economist Dariusz Kowalczyk at Credit Agricole CIB.Still, he cautioned, “I think the prospects for the economy are just not good enough to take the equity market significantly higher.”In a new sign of economic weakness, customs data Monday showed China’s imports fell 6.7 per cent in November compared with a year earlier instead of recording the small gain forecasters expected. Exports grew by an unexpectedly weak 4.7 per cent, down from October’s 10.6 per cent rate.Despite that, the Shanghai benchmark ended the day up another 2.8 per cent.Small investors have repeatedly been burned by booms and busts in Chinese stock markets that are rife with complaints of fraud and insider trading. But with interest paid on savings accounts low, Chinese investors appear willing to make big bets on stocks and real estate.Zhao Shizhong, who works in finance for a chain of restaurants, said he has 600,000 to 700,000 yuan ($100,000-$110,000) invested. He said his biggest trade lately was 60,000 to 70,000 yuan ($10,000 to $11,000) — the equivalent of a year’s salary.“This past week, I did more trading than usual, bought some and sold some,” said Zhao. “I won’t trade more in the near future. I feel it is time to control risk.”State media and China’s securities regulator have warned investors not to act recklessly. But in a system in which the stock market is heavily influenced by government policy changes and often has little to do with economic performance, those mildly worded cautions are drowned out by a drumbeat of official calls for them to pile into stocks.“China needs a magnificent bull market,” said the China Securities Journal on Monday.It said robust stock markets are required as part of the Communist Party’s plans to make the economy more market-oriented and efficient.China’s communist-era stock market dates to 1990, when the Shanghai Stock Exchange began trading shares of a handful of state-owned companies in a crowded hotel room.Despite their free-market image, the Shanghai exchange and a smaller second exchange in Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, have so far been used mostly to raise money for state industry.Private companies have been allowed to join the exchanges in recent years, but the majority of shares traded are those of government companies such as PetroChina Ltd., China Mobile Ltd. and Bank of China Ltd.And buying shares in state companies gives outside investors no voice in management, which is appointed by the Communist Party.Cash-rich state companies also pay little in dividends despite repeated promises by the ruling party to make them share more of their wealth with the public. That means profits for investors have to come from other traders buying their shares at a premium, which adds to incentive for schemes to inflate share prices.“We note that price manipulation and other illegal activities are on the rise in the stock market,” a spokesman for the securities regulator, Deng Ge, said Friday.The frenzy accelerated last week, when the value of shares changing hands each day soared on Friday to 1 trillion yuan ($160 billion), up from 715 billion yuan ($115 billion) from late November until then, according to the China Securities Regulatory Commission.Also Friday, the number of new trading accounts opened soared to 179,700, up from a daily average of 97,000 from Nov. 24 through Thursday. Earlier this year, that daily average was 29,000, or one-sixth of Friday’s level.The takeoff in prices began after state media said during the summer that stocks were cheap.“This seems to have convinced many that the government was determined to see the market rise,” said Mark Williams, chief Asian economist for Capital Economics, in a report. “Resulting enthusiasm has to some extent now become self-reinforcing.”___AP researcher Fu Ting in Shanghai contributed. Chinese hopes for economic rebound driving new stock market frenzy In this Dec. 4, 2014 photo, investor share a light moment as they check on stock prices at a brokerage house in Fuyang in central China’s Anhui province. Economic growth fell to a five-year low of 7.3 percent in the latest quarter but investor sentiment was recharged by Beijing’s surprise interest rate cut Nov. 22 that is expected to put a floor under the slump. (AP Photo) CHINA OUT by Joe McDonald, The Associated Press Posted Dec 8, 2014 3:18 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email
Speaking at a joint press conference in Monaco with the Principality’s Minister of State and Chief of Government, Michel Roger, Mr. Ban cited the “very negative inflammatory rhetoric” coming from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) as the main cause of the increasing tension. “I have been urging repeatedly that nuclear threat is not a game and they should fully abide by the relevant Security Council resolutions,” he stated.In February, the DPRK conducted its third, long threatened nuclear test, a move that was in violation of Security Council sanctions and drew widespread condemnation, including from Mr. Ban.The Secretary-General also voiced the hope today that the recent measure to restrict the movement of personnel and goods in and out of the Kaesong industrial complex in the DPRK will be lifted as soon as possible. DPRK has reportedly stopped nationals from the Republic of Korea from working at the Kaesong complex, one of the last remaining symbols of cooperation between the two countries. The complex is staffed mainly by DPRK nationals but funded and managed by firms from the Republic of Korea, according to media reports. On Tuesday, Mr. Ban stressed the current crisis on the Korean peninsula “has already gone too far,” following DPRK’s announcement that it will restart its Yongbyon nuclear reactor. He called for dialogue and negotiations, underlining that this is “the only way to resolve the crisis,” and expressed his readiness to help all the parties involved to this end.Before wrapping up his visit to Monaco, the Secretary-General and Mr. Roger also exchanged views on a number of other issues, including the ongoing crises in Syria and Mali, underscoring the urgency of doing more to also address the growing humanitarian needs arising from those situations. These crises, as well as the situation on the Korean Peninsula were also discussed today in Madrid during Mr. Ban’s meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. The Secretary-General told reporters at a joint press conference with the Prime Minister that peace and security on the Korean Peninsula has very serious regional, and even global, implications. “I am concerned that if by any misjudgement, by any miscalculation of the situation, if any unwanted crisis happens on the Korean Peninsula, this will have very serious implications,” he stated, adding that the parties should engage in dialogue to resolve all pending issues.While in Madrid, Mr. Ban also attended a high-level UN meeting on hunger, food security and nutrition, issued a call to action to make the most of the remaining 1,000 days to achieve the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and met with Crown Prince Felipe.Mr. Ban and the Prince of Asturias discussed the importance of accelerating efforts to reach the Goals, as well as the importance of the ongoing work to define a comprehensive development agenda beyond the 2015 deadline. They also exchanged views on DPRK and other matters.
“We are here to pave the way for the future and set the roadmap for sustainable development in the post-2015 era,” UN International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré said in his opening message to theHigh-Level Event on the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)+10.Addressing hundreds of representatives of Government, civil society, academia and the private sector, Mr. Touré noted that world leaders at the WSIS forum in 2003 – the second phase of the Summit was held in Tunis in 2005 – had agreed to promote the use of ICTs to build an inclusive information society and share information and knowledge to promote sustainable development and improve lives.Throughout this week, participants will continue to review progress made in the past 10 years, but also discuss a vision of what information society should look like in the next decade.One of the highlights of today’s event was the release of the review of Final WSIS Targets Review, compiled by the Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development, of which ITU is a founding member. It shows mixed results with authors calling for stronger ICTs.“This report is a major milestone in tracking the information society worldwide,” said ITU Deputy Secretary-General Mr. Houlin Zhao referring to the document launched as part of today’s opening day. “It shows that while significant achievements have been made in the last decade, the digital divide remains a major barrier to an inclusive information society.” According to the Final WSIS Targets Review, significant progress has been made in increasing mobile cellular coverage with all rural communities in the world likely to be covered by 2G mobile cellular signals by 2015. However, Internet connectivity remains a challenge and access to broadband continues to be unequal, with penetration rates around four times higher in developed countries as compared to developing ones. In addition, the review reports that there is a growing divide in broadband access between enterprises in developing and developed countries, and between small and large companies in those countries. Among other findings, the authors report that while some countries have successfully integrated computers in schools, less than 10 per cent of schools in many of the world’s poorest nations are connected to the Internet. Similarly, fewer than 10 per cent of teachers in low-income countries have been trained to effectively use ICTs in their classrooms.The number of websites has dramatically increased in the decade between 2003 and 2013, with more than 300 languages now available on Wikipedia and more than 100 on major social networks.
The report – a joint effort compiled by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) – notes that the situation facing civilians in ISIL-controlled territory remains dire with many of those perceived to be opposed to the extremist group’s ideology being murdered, often in “grim public spectacles.”Members of ethnic and religious communities, for instance, continue to be persecuted with as many as 3,500 members of the Yezidi community remaining under ISIL captivity enduring physical and sexual violence. Others, meanwhile, are apparently being persecuted based on their perceived sexual orientation. On 8 March, the report says, ISIL beheaded two individuals accused of homosexuality and a third for blasphemy in the Bab al-Toob area of Mosul.At the same time, the report cites examples of the continuing forced recruitment of children by ISIL forces across several Iraqi governorates, including Anbar and Ninewa. “UNAMI continues to have grave concerns for the thousands of civilians subjected to human rights violations on a daily basis, particularly by ISIL,” UNAMI chief and the Special Representative for Iraq, Ján Kubiš, explained in a press release. “Parties to the conflict are required by international human rights law and international humanitarian law to prevent such violations and abuses from taking place and to ensure that civilians are spared to the fullest extent possible from the ongoing violence.”In another instance highlighted by the UN document and drawing on detailed interviews with 12 survivors, 1,700 Iraqi cadets were slaughtered by ISIL fighters in early June 2014 at a military base known as Camp Speicher. According to the report, a significant number of the young Iraqi troops were taken to a location near the [Tikrit] Palace in a valley near the river and systematically shot as they lay in trenches that had been dug by bulldozers. Others were taken to a location near the river and were shot there, and their bodies subsequently thrown into the river. The report also cites one interviewee who claimed to have seen “a pile of decapitated bodies in a bathroom” in the former presidential palace in Tikrit, and others who said they were kept in “holes.”“The magnitude and brutality of the Camp Speicher massacre was exceptional,” stated UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in the press release. “It is important to recognize the plight of the survivors and the families of victims and their courage in refusing to let the issue of what happened be set aside.”Although the report widely focuses on the crimes perpetrated by ISIL extremists, it also documents violations committed by the Iraqi Security Forces and affiliated forces, including indiscriminate airstrikes and shelling as well as actions of reprisal against civilians.The High Commissioner has ensured that the terrorist acts and human rights violations committed by ISIL militants will not go unpunished and has also urged the Iraqi Government to join the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and ensure that international crimes defined in that Statute are criminalized under domestic law.The UN report comes at a time of high stress for Iraq’s civilian population as it endures not only the daily threat of conflict but also a growing humanitarian crisis. In its latest situation report, the UN World Food Programme (WFP), in fact, has confirmed that an estimated 8.1 million people in the Gulf country remain in need of humanitarian aid, 3.1 million are displaced, and 4.4 million require critical food assistance. The uptick in UN relief work in Iraq is being further hindered by a funding shortfall which, the UN agency has warned, risks causing cutbacks to food assistance unless $123.6 million are received over the next 6 months.
When Brock University alumnus Andrew Julie (MBA ’05) and his wife Jen took over the Brock Golf Course (no affiliation to the university) three years ago, they wondered how they might grow the business.They found an answer just down Merrittville Highway, on the campus of his alma mater.Andrew became a client of students at Brock University’s Goodman School of Business — specifically, of the Goodman Accounting Students’ Association — in the Goodman Consulting Competition, a six-week challenge where students hone their consulting skills while bringing value to an organization.With the help of students from Brock’s Goodman School of Business, Jen and Andrew Julie will launch a new FootGolf course this weekend.As a result of that fateful collaboration, this weekend Andrew and Jen will officially open a FootGolf course, joining a new recreational activity whose popularity is spreading across Canada.FootGolf combines soccer and golf. Players basically use golf rules while kicking a soccer ball towards a hole — a big hole — on what otherwise looks like a golf course.Andrew doesn’t hesitate to say the idea was a direct result of the Goodman competition. He provided a budget to work with, and students came up with creative but feasible possibilities for making the best use of what was then a 27-hole golf course.“We were trying to figure out what to do with the third nine, and the idea to open a FootGolf course came out of a brainstorming session with one of the groups of students,” said Andrew.“I looked at my wife, and a light bulb came on.”Work soon began to convert nine holes of golf to nine holes of FootGolf. As a pure business growth strategy, the Julies hope that having the FootGolf facility alongside their 18-hole golf course “will help introduce people to golf even though they may not be golfers yet.”Goodman Business student Mikayla Zolis, who was on the competition’s winning team, says the experience was a lesson on how to communicate effectively with a consulting client. The students had to conduct stringent analyses to support presentations on the proposal’s feasibility and expected return on investment.Zolis said the experience develops skills that are invaluable as students prepare to leave the campus and enter the workforce.“We had more creative liberties,” said Zolis. “We had to look at all the different challenges that an organization faces when it wants to grow.”This is an example of experiential learning opportunities where Brock students get to take on learning partnerships with industries, not-for-profit organizations or small businesses. In this competition, students interact with a client to learn about their particular business and better understand its needs.Brock FootGolf officially opens to the public at 7 a.m. this Saturday, July 1, although the media can get a sneak preview at noon on Thursday, June 29 when a Grade 8 class from St. Alexander Catholic Elementary School in Pelham gets to play the first round.
AT&T has announced three new 4G smartphones that will launch soon, all running Windows Phone 7.5 Mango. The trio includes the massive HTC Titan, the Samsung Focus S, and the Samsung Focus Flash.We’ve looked at the Titan before. Its most notable feature is its pocket-busting 4.7″ touchscreen display (that curiously only offers 480×800 resolution). The Titan also sports a single-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm processor, 512MB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage. On the back you’ll find an 8 megapixel shooter with LED flash that can record 720p video. Despite its massive screen, the Titan is only slightly thicker and heavier than the iPhone 4.The Samsung Focus S brings a 1.4GHz processor to the table along with Samsung’s trademark Super AMOLED tech inside a 4.3″ display. The Focus S features an 8MP rear-facing camera and 1.3MP front-facer, and is just 8.55mm thick (thinner than Sony’s brand new and very svelte Xperia Arc S).Rounding out the 4G Windows Phone 7.5 lineup on AT&T is the Samsung Focus Flash. This will likely be the least expensive option available based on its specs. The Focus Flash packs a 3.7″ Super AMOLED display and 5MP rear camera (as well as a front-facing cam), and 512MB RAM . You’ll still have speed to burn, however, with the same 1.4GHz processor found in the Focus S.AT&T’s announcement isn’t just good news for those of you looking to purchase a new Windows Phone device, however. The company also promised that it will be among the first to deliver Windows Phone 7.5 updates to all of its first-generation devices, including the HTC HD7, HTC Surround, LG Quantum, and the original Samsung Focus.More at AT&T
Another step towards the expansion of the Hellenic Australian Lawyers Association was taken on Friday 30 January, when its Queensland chapter was launched in the State’s ceremonial court. The Chief Justices of Australia, Queensland and South Australia were present in the ceremony, as well as senior judges from Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. More than 30 judges attended the launch, joining the Honorary Consul-General of Greece in Queensland, James Raptis, and a large number of lawyers with a Hellenic background, in what was essentially a celebration of the contribution that people of Hellenic origin have made to Australia. The association was launched in Melbourne by its national patron, the Chief Justice of South Australia, Christopher Kourakis, in April 2014. The Queensland chapter was launched by Chief Justice of Australia, Robert French. During the launch, the Chief Justice of Queensland, Timothy Carmody, spoke of the enduring links between Greece and Australia. The launch served as an opportunity for the commemoration for the Hellenic lawyers who made a significant contribution to the profession in Australia, becoming eminent figures in the community. Chief Justice Kourakis mentioned Sir John Demetrius Morris, who was the first Chief Justice of Hellenic origin appointed in Australia, in 1940, while Mal Varitimos QC, the Queensland representative of the association, provided a brief history of Hellenic lawyers in Queensland, highlighting the story of John Manelaus Panos, ‘the galloping Greek’, a war hero (he was awarded the distinguished Flying Cross in 1944, having been an officer in 460 Squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force), who became the first lawyer of Hellenic origin to obtain a law degree in Queensland in 1953. The second was Alexander Christie Freeleeagus, who was the longest serving consul in Australia, and in fact Greece’s longest-serving consul anywhere in the world, having served as Honorary Consul of Greece from 1957 until 1977, then as Consul-General in Queensland until his passing away in 2005.The launch was closed by the Queensland patron of the association, Justice Anthe Philippides, who in 2000 was appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court of Queensland, in what was the first appointment to a superior court in Australia of a female of Hellenic origin. The National President of the Association, Andrew Panna QC, explained the aims and objectives of the association, that unites lawyers through their cultural background. As he had pointed out, speaking to Neos Kosmos in an interview published last April, the association “is a forum for people to network, but also a forum to discuss legal issues, welfare issues and Greek issues – somewhere to focus on the application of the law and the Greek community”. The association plans to establish further state chapters and to hold events of interest to Hellenic lawyers and Philhellenes in the jurisdictions in which it has chapters. Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagram
Facebook Twitter Google+LinkedInPinterestWhatsApp Related Items: Facebook Twitter Google+LinkedInPinterestWhatsApp#TurksandCaicos, January 8, 2018 – Providenciales – The Providenciales International Airports is indeed currently undergoing repairs to the Terminal Facility. Hurricane Season was very active and left behind a wake of damages that also affected the Terminal facility in Providenciales. The ongoing terminal repairs were negatively affected by the storms and as a result airport repairs had to be prioritized in order to get the airport open and fully functional for passenger and aircraft movements.The Maintenance Department at Providenciaels International Airport has worked tirelessly to repair damages and these works are ongoing. With the recent rainy weather, more leaks have been highlighted since the storms and are indeed being addressed by airport staff.The Airports Authority has taken all necessary measures to minimize the effects of damages to passenger travel and is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for all.Release: TCIAANote: Photo provided to MM by airport commuter
Srinagar: Congress MP and leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad & Jammu and Kashmir Congress chief Gulam Ahmed Mir have been stopped at Srinagar Airport. The leaders were to hold a meeting with Congress leaders at Pradesh Congress Committee office in Srinagar on Thursday. More details are awaited.
Irish airline Aer Lingus has rejected a takeover bid from IAG, the parent company of British Airways, on Thursday saying that the offer undervalued its worth.In a statement, Aer Lingus confirmed the rejection, considering the amount of media speculation the offer from International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) caused.”The board has reviewed the proposal and believes it fundamentally undervalues Aer Lingus and its attractive prospects … there can be no certainty that any offer will be made nor as to the terms of any offer. Shareholders are strongly advised to take no action,” said Aer Lingus in a statement.IAG – run by Willie Walsh, former chief executive of Aer Lingus – had offered to takeover Aer Lingus on 14 December for a reported $1.42 billion. “International Consolidated Airlines Group notes the recent movement in the share price of Aer Lingus and confirms it submitted a proposal to make an offer for the company, which has been rejected by the board of Aer Lingus,” said IAG in a statement.The offer price wasn’t mentioned by either party. However, the Financial Times cited people familiar with the matter as saying that the deal was valued at $1.42 billion.Aer Lingus has become a potential takeover company as rival Ryanair, its biggest shareholder, is set to lose an appeal in a UK court to sell 29.9 percent stake in the company.Ryanair has been asked to sell its stake in Aer Lingus by the UK competition authorities but Aer Lingus has been resisting it, according to The Financial Times.If Ryanair decides to appeal in a higher court, the acquisition process could be delayed.The Irish government owns 25 percent stake in Aer Lingus and said that it would be ready to sell its stake for the right price.Other shareholders of Aer Lingus include UAE’s national carrier Etihad, which holds 4 percent. Experts say that the Aer Lingus takeover would be perfect for IAG.”A takeover would fit from an IAG position, but the airline would have challenges if it returns with another bid: there could be regulatory concern or challenges from other airlines on competition grounds – but not a show-stopper. Aer Lingus has been successful even against a difficult economic climate in Ireland, and a deal would give IAG an even stronger network position at Heathrow,” aviation analyst John Strickland told The Guardian.
Stay on target Tesla EV Catches Fire After Colliding With Tow Truck in MoscowDomino’s Brings Autonomous Pizza Delivery to Houston Apple has finally shed some light on their self-driving car plans. Not a particularly bright light, mind you, but that wouldn’t have been very Apple-y, would it?In a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), director of product integrity Steve Kenner said that the company is “excited” about self-driving cars. That’s something that was already pretty clear to anyone who’s been following Apple Car/Project Titan developments. Still, it’s nice to finally see an official statement.Apple’s letter fell well short of confirming anything other than possibilities, really. Kenner’s full comment was that “Apple is investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation, and is excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation.”So, yes, Apple is still open to doing something driverless car-related. Are they building their own driverless car? Probably not, despite the lengthy string of rumors pointing to the contrary.Their comments to the NHTSA centered around data sharing related to accidents, saying that “companies should share de-identified scenario and dynamics data from crashes and near-misses” so that a “comprehensive dataset” can be assembled to benefit the entire industry. Not just the companies actually building driverless cars, but also the companies that are supplying things like sensors and software.It’s looking increasingly that the second group is where Apple sees themselves. They’re not a car company, after all, but they’ve got plenty of experience with technology related to driverless cars like artificial intelligence, mapping, and virtual assistants.Apple is in a strong position to provide critical software to automakers, and they’ve already got their foot in the door thanks to numerous integration deals that have landed CarPlay and Siri in infotainment systems.
Is James Bond going green? Super-agent vehicle maker Aston Martin has confirmed production of its first all-electric model.A limited run of 155 RapidE cars, unveiled two years ago as a concept, will hit assembly lines in 2019.“RapidE represents a sustainable future in which Aston Martin’s values of seductive style and supreme performance don’t merely co-exist alongside a new zero-emission powertrain, but are enhanced by it,” company CEO Andy Palmer said in a statement.In collaboration with Oxfordshire-based Williams Advanced Engineering, Aston Martin will deliver a four-door sports car reminiscent of the Rapide S—but with an all-electric powertrain in place of the typical six-liter V12 engine.RapidE Concept (via Aston Martin)“The internal combustion engine has been at the heart of Aston Martin for more than a century, and will continue to be for years to come,” according to Palmer.“RapidE will showcase Aston Martin’s vision, desire, and capability to successfully embrace radical change, delivering a new breed of car that stays true to our ethos and delights our customers,” he added.Partner Williams Advanced Engineering worked on the original RapidE concept, and returns to assist with engineering integration.“This project with Aston Martin will draw on the extensive battery and EV experience we have accumulated, and we are extremely pleased to be supporting this prestigious British company with their future electrification strategy,” technical director Paul McNamara said.RapidE Concept (via Aston Martin)Further details about the upcoming vehicle will be released “in due course,” the automaker said, promising “a unique driving experience of a kind not experienced before in an Aston Martin.”The luxury brand is most recognized for its role in the 007 book and film series: The DB5 was seen or featured in seven movies, including Goldfinger, Thunderball, GoldenEye, and Tomorrow Never Dies.Daniel Craig’s incumbent Bond, meanwhile, drove a number of models, including the DB5 (Casino Royale, Skyfall, Spectre), DBS V12 (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace), and DB10 (intended for 009, but stolen by Bond in Spectre).Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Stay on target Here’s What Happened When a Bear Locked Itself in a Car in ColoradoChevy Introduces ‘Buckle to Drive’ Teen Safety Feature
Explore further Who’s in first? Physicists develop new football ranking system © 2009 PhysOrg.com More information: http://www.thepowerrank.com/ “A few years ago, I got interested in the technology behind Google’s search engine,” Feng told PhysOrg.com. “After looking into the PageRank algorithm, I realized it had the same origin in random processes that I use in my research every day… I thought suitable modifications of the algorithm should apply to ranking sports teams.”As Feng explains, the Power Rank algorithm requires only two parameters: the game score and the home field advantage (in the NFL, the home field advantage is considered to be three points). “There is no human bias, no memory of last season, and no style points,” he said. The idea is that this neutral ranking method can provide more accurate results than other methods, such as the simple win-loss record. For example, the Power Rank method ranks New England in third place in the NFL (behind New Orleans and Indianapolis); while these top two teams both have 12-0 records, New England’s record is 7-5. In contrast, Jacksonville, which also has a 7-5 record, is ranked 20th of 32 teams.To determine these rankings, the Power Rank algorithm is based on the concept of a network, where the nodes are the teams and the links between nodes are defined by games played between those teams. When two teams play each other, a number is assigned to the link (arrow) between those teams, based on the score and location of the game. The number is an estimate of the probability that the team at the head of the arrow beats the team at the tail on a future neutral site. A larger margin of victory implies a higher number on the edge from loser to winner. (There are two arrows between each pair of teams, with the arrows pointing in opposite directions, and the numbers on each arrow add up to 1.00, or 100%).Then, based on all the games in the league, each team receives a value. The teams are ranked in order by their values, similar to how Google’s PageRank algorithm ranks webpages. For example, in PageRank, a website becomes highly ranked when other highly ranked websites link to it; similarly, teams earn their rank by beating other highly ranked teams. The average value of the league is zero, so that teams with a positive (negative) value are slightly better (worse) than the average team.On the Power Rank website, Feng gives some examples to demonstrate how the algorithm works. In the NFL, suppose that San Francisco beats Chicago 55-21, Chicago beats New York 23-20, and New York beats San Francisco 35-32, with each team winning at home. If an algorithm only considered wins and losses, the three teams would be ranked equally since they each have one win.However, the score of each game gives additional information, which the Power Rank algorithm uses. The results of the algorithm are shown in the figure above. With this basic information, the Power Rank algorithm has attempted to sort out the contradiction that San Francisco beat Chicago but also lost to New York, who Chicago beat. Of course, the team’s values are based on only two games, so the values are probably not very accurate until more games are played.On the Power Rank website, Feng currently has a list of all 120 NCAA college football teams, as well as a list of all 32 NFL teams ranked by the algorithm. So far, he has not compared the algorithm’s predictions to individual game results, but he plans to do so soon. In addition, Feng plans to apply the algorithm to international soccer before next year’s World Cup. Although it may be tempting to use the Power Rank algorithm to predict individual games, Feng explains that the purpose of the algorithm is primarily to rank teams, not for guessing the future.”It is impossible to predict the outcome of a single game,” Feng said. “There are so many arbitrary factors to take into consideration, such as injuries. The Power Rank is truly about ranking teams based on how they have performed in the past. The ability to predict future outcomes based only on past scores serves to validate the rankings.” This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. (PhysOrg.com) — Sports fans may be interested in a new system that ranks NFL and college football teams in a simple, straightforward way, similar to how Google PageRank ranks webpages. The new sports algorithm, called the Power Rank, is being developed by Ed Feng, a researcher in statistical mechanics at Sandia National Laboratory, although this project is independent of his work at Sandia. An example of the Power Rank algorithm: if San Francisco beats Chicago 55-21, Chicago beats New York 23-20, and New York beats San Francisco 35-32, the resulting network is shown on the left, and the teams’ values on the right. Credit: Ed Feng. Citation: New Algorithm Ranks Sports Teams like Google’s PageRank (2009, December 15) retrieved 18 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2009-12-algorithm-sports-teams-google-pagerank.html
We all know that wonderful feeling when we arrive at our destination and find the nearest bathroom. Many times, we throw our heads back and give a sigh of relief. Imagine, then, only being able to go to the bathroom once a week, or even less frequently. This is the life of a sloth. Via Toucan Rescue Ranch.As many of you know, sloths are solitary creatures and prefer to stay high in the forest canopy, undetected. They accomplish this by having amazing ways to camouflage themselves and with certain adaptations that help them take this inconspicuous lifestyle to the extreme. One major adaptation is having a large multi-chambered stomach. This makes up a large portion of their body, and when full, can account for up to two-thirds of a sloth’s weight. The stomach is full of many types of bacteria which break down the leaves and other foods eaten by the sloth. Digestion of the fibrous food sloths consume is very slow, allowing these animals to remain high in the trees for long periods of time, without expending a lot of energy.When their stomach is full, sloths slowly descend down the trees by hugging the trunk, performing a sort of bouncy dance that I can only describe as twerking or belly dancing. After this, they look skyward and slowly close their eyes, which indicates that they have started urinating. This can last several minutes and produces up to two liters of urine. This is why sloths don’t drink water, but derive the liquid in their diet from the food they eat. Via Toucan Rescue Ranch.Once they are finished urinating, they open their eyes and start the process of defecating. They defecate pellets that look somewhat like coffee beans in a clump. This stage of their elimination is critical to the life cycle of the many insects which live in the algae-rich sloth fur. As the sloth leaves fecal matter at the base of the tree, the bugs living in its fur lay their eggs in the pile of fresh dung, leaving their larvae to develop in the nutrient-rich environment. The adult insects that emerge crawl or fly back up to the sloth to live and mate, completing their life cycle.There are many schools of thought as to whether this relationship between sloth, bugs and algae benefits the sloth, but it definitely benefits many types of other organisms. Once the sloths finish eliminating, they climb back up into the tree canopy to remain there another week or two, eating and sleeping, until they repeat the process. Via Toucan Rescue RanchWhile adult sloths only go to the bathroom once every week or two, the orphaned baby sloths in our care must be taken out on a daily basis to try to get them to eliminate. We first take them outside to the grass and either place them with a stuffed animal, with another sloth buddy, or stand them up, mimicking a tree trunk. One usually successful way to convince them to potty is to have a paper towel soaked with sloth pee that we place in front of their nose. They have a very fine sense of smell and usually respond to the odor, by active sniffing. We hold our breath, hoping this will stimulate their little bodies to follow suit.We watch for the little nose twitch, and if they start bouncing or wiggling their bottoms, we can figure that our efforts will be met with some success. Once their eyes shut tightly, we know we’re home free! At this point, we hope we’re in a comfortable position, as they can take several minutes to relieve themselves! The baby will eventually open its eyes once it starts defecating and will, many times, start crawling away, leaving a trail of poo pellets in its wake. Once a baby has defecated, we always weigh them to keep accurate records.Fortunately, once the babies are a bit older, we can place them on a wooden climbing structure, where they will complete the tasks on their own. As they grow older, their instincts kick in, and our assistance is unnecessary — which is living proof that we have done our job!It’s amazing how many strategies the various Sloth Team members come up with to get our little challenging babies to potty, inspiring awe and determination amongst the rest of us. “Potty” cool … don’t you think?— Denise Gillen is a Sloth Nanny at Toucan Rescue Ranch.This article was produced by The Toucan Rescue Ranch. The Toucan Rescue Ranch specializes in helping wild animals recover so that they can be reintroduced into the wild. For more information or to donate, visit the Toucan Rescue Ranch website. Facebook Comments Related posts:Slothy Sunday: Saving sloths together Slothy Sunday: The Rescue of Volcano Girl (AKA Anise) a two-fingered sloth Slothy Sunday: Just hanging out Slothy Sunday: Overcoming adversity
Always wondered what will travelling be like in ten years’ time? Well, Skyscanner has gone a step further and we bring you a very insightful and entertaining look into the future. Read on to learn our detailed report on the Future of Travel 2024.For years we have seen the future in films, made predictions, wondered if teletransportation would actually exist or when would we all be able to sleep in a resort on the Moon. Well, the future is not that far and some of it is starting today. As a global travel site, Skyscanner has teamed up with 56 experts to figure out what travels will be like in the future, but also all the breakthrough technologies and exciting new destinations that will shape the global travel industry by 2024.The first section about our Future of Travel Report shows how the planning and booking of travel experiences will change over the next 10 years.http://www.youtube.com/embed/nOCzl1IYFQgOur report follows the steps of TOM, the Traveller of the Millennium, and Digital Travel Buddies, the virtual companions that will use artificial intelligence to suggest, plan and book the best trips for each of us, based in our personality and preferences. These wearable technologies are not far-fetched and will change dramatically the way we travel in the future.But it’s not only wearable technologies what will shape our future travels. Just imagine a wall showing you in a very seductive way destinations, along with the glorious smells and sounds of the place. Or even better, imagine you could try, touch and feel any place before actually going there. All these changes to the way how we research, plan and book our holidays in the future will be revolutionary. This is your chance to have a sneak peek at what the next decade will bring to your travels.The Future of Travel 2024 report will have two more sections that will focus on the journey itself and the destinations travellers of the future will visit. If you want to stay updated and learn if flying cars will be real you can sign up here to request a notification when we launch the second and third parts of our report. And while the news arrive, make sure you check out what The Future of Travel 2024 will be like.Read more:Gareth Williams on the future of travelDeep-sea tourism, the rise of peer to peer travel, flying cars and why teleportation would kill Skyscanner (but he’s not worrying). Read the exclusive interview with Skyscanner CEO Gareth Williams in full here.ReturnOne wayMulti-cityFromAdd nearby airports ToAdd nearby airportsDepart14/08/2019Return21/08/2019Cabin Class & Travellers1 adult, EconomyDirect flights onlySearch flights Map RelatedSkyscanner Reveals the Future of Airports & FlyingSkyscanner’s latest report details rooftop pools, morphing seats & the internet of things as the Future of Travel 2024The future of travel: Gareth Williams, Skyscanner CEO predictsDeep-sea tourism, the rise of peer to peer travel, flying cars and why teleportation would kill Skyscanner (but he’s not worrying).Skyscanner Reveals the Future of Airports & FlyingSkyscanner’s latest report details rooftop pools, morphing seats & the internet of things as the Future of Travel 2024
Best for: Aurora nights and sleepy kids Why here?Log fires, Northern Lights and loads of wintry activities to wear out the kids: Finnish Lapland has all you need to inject some of romance into a family trip. Whizzing down the pistes is just the start. Dogsledding adventures, starlit sleigh rides, cross-country skiing and snowmobile safaris are all on the menu, along with the chance to meet Father Christmas (whose official home is the Santa Claus village in Rovaniemi). The kids will be so exhausted, they’ll collapse into bed early, leaving Mum and Dad to curl up together by the fire, or sit under a starry sky, gasping at the Aurora Borealis.Snowsure seasonLapland has snow for more than half the year. The first falls are usually in early November, with the ice melting for the spectacular flower-filled spring in May.Essential infoFly into Rovaniemi or Kuusamo, and for full Arctic immersion cosy up under thick blankets for a night in the Arctic Snow Hotel – built out of blocks of ice. There are family rooms, some with romantic glass-roofed igloos and even an ice-sauna. 5. Tallinn, Estonia Best for: wildlife watching and edge-of-the-world seclusionWhy here?Off-the-radar Greenland is the ultimate destination for couples who really want to get off-piste. Polar bear safaris, whale-watching and spectacular night skies are all part of the allure. Base yourself in tiny Ilulissat. Squeezed between Greenland’s rugged glaciers and the ragged, fjord-cut west coast, its hobbit-sized huts and tiny wooden churches sit above a bay bobbing with icebergs 70 metres high. The Northern Lights are so bright here – in the unpolluted dark – that you can see by them, and they flutter across the sky regularly in the winter months. The moonlight is spectral, reflecting off the snow and ice, while the butter-coloured winter sun burnishes the landscape with soft gold in November and February.Snowsure seasonThis is life beyond the Arctic circle. You’ll be clinging together for bodily warmth. There’s even snow in summer, when temperatures soar to a sweltering 8C. But the climate is at its driest and most beautiful in midwinter – between January and March – when the mercury can fall as low as -20C. Essential InfoFly into Ilulissat and cuddle up in a Kayak room in the Hotel Arctic – which serves up views of both the Northern Lights and passing icebergs.3. Sierra Nevada, Spain Best for: mesmerising views and long lie-insWhy here?Officially, the mountain town of Zermatt is a ski resort – and with 360km of pistes on offer, it certainly looks the part. But can we let you into a little secret? You don’t need to be strapped to a pair of planks to get the best of it.Take the Matterhorn for example. A twisted, 4,478m spire of rock, it dominates the town and is mesmerising from dawn till dusk, whether it’s bathed in pinkish morning light, or wearing a giant plume of cloud. You’ll never tire of looking at it.Yes, you can see it from nearly every piste. But it’s just as magnificent glimpsed from Zermatt’s pretty, car-free streets, or admired from the sundeck of a mountain restaurant. Even better is to book a bedroom with a Matterhorn view. Snowsure seasonZermatt’s lift system can whisk you up to an eye-watering 3,820m, where there’s snow in July, as well as January. But late-December to mid-March is best for a visit, when the whole of the valley is decked out in its winter finery.Essential InfoFly into Geneva, Zurich or Sion, jump on a train, and check into a south-facing rooms at the Zurbriggen Suitenhotel – one of several hotels at the far end of the valley which look straight up at the Matterhorn. 2. Ilulissat, Greenland Best for: fast days and wild nightsWhy here?Ski holidays have a bigger buzz in Val d’Isère. The high-altitude French resort serves up some of the best steep pistes in the Alps, as well as plenty of full-throttle night life. So you can follow adrenaline-soaked days, chasing each other down the mountains, with long nights dancing at Dick’s Tea Bar.Of course, you don’t have to be experts to ski here. Higher up, the piste map is characterised by some surprisingly gentle slopes. But for the full effect, you want to be ready to tackle The Face, Val’s signature black-rated piste, which plunges straight down from the Rocher de Bellevarde into the heart of the resort. If you can ski it together, at more or less the same speed, you’ll feel like you can conquer the world.Snowsure seasonVal d’Isère has a snowy microclimate that brings blizzards from both north and south – which is rare in the Alps. It has altitude on its side too: in two places, its lift system tops 3,000m. Even so, it leaves nothing to chance, and has recently installed an underground snow factory capable of producing 1,000 cubic metres of snow an hour. The season lasts from late November to early May as a result. Essential infoFly into Chambery or Geneva and hire a car for the drive to the resort. For soothing saunas after the slopes, stay at the spanking new, Scandi-stylish Le Yule.7. Brasov, Romanian Transylvania 1. Zermatt, Switzerland Best for: sunny sightseeing and wintry slopes Why here? Ski in the morning, swim in the afternoon, and dance smouldering flamenco after dark. Yes, it’s possible in southern Spain, where the Sierra Nevada mountains tower over the beaches and sugar-cube villages of Andalucia. What’s more, the region is home to the Alhambra, one of Europe’s most beautiful palaces – a romantic, Arabian Nights confection of serrated walls and intricate Moorish courtyards. Snowsure season? These may be the sunniest mountains in Europe, but skiing and snowboarding are possible here from early December until April, even if snowfall is light – thanks to the state-of-the-art snow-making system in the Sierra Nevada ski resort. It’s only a 75-minute drive from the piste to the beach, so you can slip off your salopettes at the end of the day, and enjoy the sands at Almuñécar or Torrenueva in time for sunset. Essential infoFlights (into Malaga) are cheap, and lift pass and accommodation costs lower than in the Alps. Book a cosy room with a balcony view at the Maribel. It’s ski-in, ski-out: which means less time hoofing about in your ski boots, and more time relaxing. A hire car is essential if you want to shuttle between the snow and the beach.4. Ruka, Finland Best for: fairy lights and mulled wineWhy here?What could be more romantic than a Christmas market? You can picture it – steeply-gabled wooden churches, streets draped with twinkling Christmas lights, stalls of steaming chestnuts and enough baubles to decorate a forest.“Aaah.” I hear you say, “but isn’t it crowded and expensive?” Not in the historic core of Estonia’s capital – which is as traditional as it is charming. Europe’s first decorated Christmas tree was erected in its central market square in 1441. Fir trees have towered over the festivities ever since. Snowsure seasonThe city’s Baltic location means that the first flakes usually fall in November. This year, the market starts on November 17th and closes on January 6th. Essential InfoChristmas-market shopping in Tallin is more bargain-bucket than break-the-bank – with budget flight prices and plenty of good-value hotels. The towering Swissotel comes with a heated pool, and giant, seductive beds, draped with high thread-count sheets.6. Val d’Isère, France Best for: Gothic romance and snowplough turnsWhy here?Romania’s Carpathians have a vampire’s dark allure. Think Dracula castles steeped in snow, plunging valleys cloaked in trees, and wolves howling at the moon. And all this with a spot of skiing thrown in for those who want it. With just 14km of runs, and few challenging slopes, Poiana Brasov doesn’t draw the hardcore wintersports community, but it’s a great place for beginners to master their snowplough turns, thanks to its gentle nursery slopes and cheap, well-run ski schools. Then, after a morning on the pistes you can go in search of Dracula in the dramatic Bran or Poenari castles (which both have connections with Vlad the Impaler), or simply curl up together with a glass of warming vin fiert wine.Snowsure seasonThe Poiana Brasov season usually begins in early December and continues into spring: but for the best snow, plan a mid-winter trip in January or February.Essential InfoFly into Bucharest and rent a car for the 175km drive into the mountains (and for day-trips to the vampire castles). With rooms decked out in light wood (and dominated by huge beds), a sauna and indoor pool, the Teleferic is one of the best hotel options.Skyscanner is the world’s travel search engine, helping your money go further on flights, hotels and car hire. Related7 snow-frosted escapes for incurable romanticsDon’t run away from winter. Embrace it. The world is full of beautifully snowy retreats, where pristine landscapes and cosy bedrooms come as standard. Here, we’ve picked seven of the best.10 best ski resorts for spring and late season snowWhen it comes to skiing holidays, you might think that February and March are the best months to hit the slopes. But why not head to the mountains a little later in the season? Book a holiday to one of these destinations and you’ll find fewer crowds, cheaper prices and…13 things for non-skiers to do on a ski holidayHere are some great alternatives for when you get sick of hitting the slopes.