Archive Month: December 2018
Dec 16 , 2018 / By :

TORONTO — Rev. Mpho Tutu, daughter of South African social rights activist Desmond Tutu, will be in Richmond Hill in April to take part in events organized by the Community Inclusivity Equity Council of York Region (CIECYR).

Tutu, one of the 83-year-old retired archbishop’s four children, is executive director of the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation.

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She will present at CIECYR’s second bi-annual Diversity, Inclusivity and Equity Symposium on April 28 and 29 and will speak at the inaugural bi-annual CIECYR Diversity, Equity & Inclusivity Awards and Benefit Gala on April 30.

Both events are scheduled to take place at the Sheraton Parkway Toronto North Hotel.

Other speakers at the two-day symposium — which will explore the theme of Truth, Reconciliation and Engagement — include Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, and Lionel Bazil Davis, former political prisoner during Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment.

The gala is a fundraiser with guests like Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of Canada’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission; former Ontario lieutenant governor James Bartleman; former Ontario premier Bob Rae; and Chief Donna Big Canoe of the Chippewas of Georgina.

Proceeds from the event will go towards building a school library and other educational initiatives for the children and youth of the Chippewas of Georgina Island.

CIECYR, founded in 2010, describes itself as a “human service community engagement council that explores, supports and enhances organizational practices of diversity, equity and inclusion.” More than a dozen community associations in York Region are members.

Tutu’s father won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 in recognition of his fight against apartheid. He last visited the Toronto area in early 2014. A street named in his honour is located near Bathurst St. and Queens Quay.


Dec 16 , 2018 / By :

SAN FRANCISCO – Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is facing her biggest business decision since she left Google two-and-a-half years ago to lead its struggling rival: how to manage Yahoo’s most valuable asset, a 15 per cent stake in Chinese Internet star Alibaba Group worth nearly $37 billion.

“This is a defining moment for her,” says Eric Jackson, managing partner of hedge fund Ironfire Capital, a long-time Yahoo shareholder. “Marissa has a chance to really boost the stock if she plays her cards right.”

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Mayer has promised to outline her Alibaba plans on or before Jan. 27, when the company will release its fourth-quarter earnings. Most investors are hoping Mayer will spin off the Alibaba stake to ease Yahoo’s tax bill after the company sells those holdings. Mayer also is under pressure to return windfalls from Yahoo’s Asian investments to shareholders instead of plowing more money into an acquisition strategy that some think hasn’t paid off.

READ MORE: Yahoo faces pressure from investor urging AOL takeover

Activist investor Jeffrey Smith has threatened to lead a shareholder rebellion aimed at ousting Mayer if she proposes a plan that doesn’t maximize Yahoo’s tax savings or risks squandering money on far-flung acquisitions.

“Such actions would be a clear indication to us that significant leadership change is required at Yahoo,” Smith wrote in a Jan. 8 letter to Mayer. Smith controls 7.7 million Yahoo shares – a 0.8 per cent stake – through Starboard Value LP.

The New York hedge fund last year reshuffled the board of directors at Olive Garden owner Darden Restaurants and in 2012, Smith unsuccessfully tried to shake up AOL Inc. In this go-round, Smith is urging Mayer to merge with AOL as part of Yahoo’s spin-off of its Asian investments, and then launch $1 billion in cost cuts, most likely laying off thousands of workers. Smith isn’t keen on Mayer buying anything besides AOL because she has already spent $1.7 billion on a grab-bag of more than three dozen acquisitions that haven’t yet helped lift Yahoo’s revenue.

Yahoo declined to comment on Smith’s letter or Mayer’s plans for the company’s investments in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan.

Yahoo bought the Alibaba stake in a deal engineered a decade ago by Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang. Alibaba operates online sites that account for some 80 per cent of Chinese e-commerce and emerged as one of the Internet’s hottest companies right around the time Mayer arrived at Yahoo in July 2012 – a bit of fortunate timing that has given her more time than she might otherwise have had to figure out how to revive Yahoo’s revenue growth. Before Alibaba completed the biggest IPO in history four months ago, Yahoo shares were the easiest way for investors to buy a piece of the Chinese company. Alibaba’s stock has climbed by about 40 per cent from its initial public offering price of $68, a surge that has lifted Yahoo, too. Shares of the Sunnyvale, California, company have more than tripled in the last two-and-a-half years.

Mayer has publicly applauded Yang for the Alibaba coup, but also has taken credit for some of the company’s progress. She overhauled Yahoo’s apps, acquired more engineering talent and technology to make the company a bigger player in the increasingly important mobile computing market, trimmed its workforce and spent $7.7 billion buying back stock to help boost earnings per share.

“We’ve achieved much more than many people realize,” Mayer told investors and analysts in October.

Mayer also helped improve Yahoo’s relationship with Alibaba after tensions flared between the companies under previous management. The fence-mending enabled Yahoo to negotiate a contract that let the company hold on to its Alibaba stock for a longer period and reap even more gains.

READ MORE: Marissa Mayer defends strategy in face of criticism

“I don’t think Marissa gets enough credit for addressing that Alibaba situation,” says S&P Capital IQ analyst Scott Kessler. “Clearly, she has done a better job doing that than her predecessors.”

Yahoo, though, still hasn’t snapped out of a financial funk that began around the same time as the Great Recession in late 2007. Yahoo’s quarterly revenue has declined from the previous year in all but two of Mayer’s nine quarters as CEO. The only revenue gains have been meagre, ranging from 1 per cent to 2 per cent. Meanwhile, the overall Internet ad market has risen by 14 per cent to 18 per cent each quarter of Mayer’s reign, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

Mayer has repeatedly pleaded for patience, something that Jackson believes is running low among Yahoo shareholders.

“She still has opportunities in front of her, but I have become frustrated with her performance,” Jackson says. “It hasn’t been as good as it should have been.”


Dec 16 , 2018 / By :

PARIS – Four men are facing preliminary charges Tuesday on suspicion of links to a gunman involved in France’s deadliest terrorist attacks in decades.

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  • Australia raises terror threat level from medium to high

  • 200 police officers carry out anti-terror raids in Germany

  • EU calls for anti-terror alliance with Arab countries after Paris attacks

    Massive protests across the Muslim world against latest ‘Charlie Hebdo’ cover

The Paris prosecutor’s office said the four, who would be the first to face charges in the case, are suspected of providing logistical support to Amedy Coulibaly. Coulibaly shot a policewoman to death on the outskirts of Paris and then seized hostages inside a kosher supermarket, killing four before he was killed by police. It is not clear whether the suspects were involved in plotting the attacks or even aware of Coulibaly’s plans.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said five others arrested in the investigation were released Tuesday without charge.

The four men, all in their 20s, will appear before an investigating judge later Tuesday. No other details were immediately available.

No one has been charged for direct involvement in the attacks Jan. 7-9 on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, the kosher market and police. Twenty people were killed, including the three gunmen, who claimed allegiance to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

A Malian employee whose quick thinking saved lives at the kosher market was getting French citizenship on Tuesday, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was arriving to pay respects to victims of the attacks.

Dec 16 , 2018 / By :

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – In Silicon Valley, it’s never too early to become an entrepreneur. Just ask 13-year-old Shubham Banerjee.

The California eighth-grader has launched a company to develop low-cost machines to print Braille, the tactile writing system for the visually impaired. Tech giant Intel Corp. recently invested in his startup, Braigo Labs.

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Shubham built a Braille printer with a Lego robotics kit as a school science fair project last year after he asked his parents a simple question: How do blind people read? “Google it,” they told him.

Shubham then did some online research and was shocked to learn that Braille printers, also called embossers, cost at least $2,000 – too expensive for most blind readers, especially in developing countries.

“I just thought that price should not be there. I know that there is a simpler way to do this,” said Shubham, who demonstrated how his printer works at the kitchen table where he spent many late nights building it with a Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit.

Shubham wants to develop a desktop Braille printer that costs around $350 and weighs just a few pounds, compared with current models that can weigh more than 20 pounds. The machine could be used to print Braille reading materials on paper, using raised dots instead of ink, from a personal computer or electronic device.

“My end goal would probably be having most of the blind people … using my Braille printer,” said Shubham, who lives in the Silicon Valley suburb of Santa Clara, just minutes away from Intel headquarters.

After the “Braigo” – a name that combines Braille and Lego – won numerous awards and enthusiastic support from the blind community, Banerjee started Braigo Labs last summer with an initial $35,000 investment from his dad.

“We as parents started to get involved more, thinking that he’s on to something and this innovation process has to continue,” said his father, Niloy Banerjee, an engineer who works for Intel.

READ MORE: U of T team works to create 3D-printed limbs for Ugandan children

Shubham used the money to build a more sophisticated version of his Lego-based printer using an off-the-shelf desktop printer and a newly released Intel computer chip. The new model, Braigo 2.0, can translate electronic text into Braille before printing.

Intel executives were so impressed with Shubham’s printer that in November they invested an undisclosed sum in his startup. Intel officials believe he’s the youngest entrepreneur to receive venture capital, money invested in exchange for a financial stake in the company.

“He’s solving a real problem, and he wants to go off and disrupt an existing industry. And that’s really what it’s all about,” said Edward Ross, director of Inventor Platforms at Intel.

Braigo Labs is using the money to hire professional engineers and advisers to help design and build Braille printers based on Shubham’s ideas.

The company aims to have a prototype ready for blind organizations to test this summer and have a Braigo printer on the market later this year, Niloy Banerjee said.

“This Braille printer is a great way for people around the world who really don’t have many resources at all to learn Braille and to use it practically,” said Henry Wedler, who is blind and working on a doctorate in chemistry at the University of California, Davis. Wedler has become an adviser to Braigo Labs.

An affordable printer would allow the visually impaired readers to print out letters, household labels, shopping lists and short reading materials on paper in Braille, said Lisamaria Martinez, community services director at the San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind, a non-profitcentre that serves the visually impaired and prints Braille materials for public agencies.

“I love the fact that a young person is thinking about a community that is often not thought about,” said Martinez, who is visually impaired.

Shubham is too young to be CEO of his own company, so his mother has taken the job, though she admits she wasn’t too supportive when he started the project.

“I’m really proud of Shubham. What he has thought, I think most adults should have thought about it,” Malini Banerjee said. “And coming out of my 13-year-old, I do feel very proud.”


Dec 16 , 2018 / By :

CANBERRA, Australia – Australia’s main domestic security agency on Tuesday raised the terrorist threat level against police from “medium” to “high” in response to recent international attacks targeting officers.

The threat against police as assessed by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization now equals the threat to the wider Australian community which was lifted to “high” in September last year, Australian Federal Police said in a statement.

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  • 200 police officers carry out anti-terror raids in Germany

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  • Australian counterterror officers who shot man dead had no choice: officials

“High” is the second-highest level on a scale of four. Authorities haven’t explained why the risk to police in recent months was considered lower than the risk to the general public.

“Recent events in France, Canada and Australia serve as a sobering reminder of the risks associated with policing,” the statement said.

A gunman is suspected of killing a Paris police officer this month before taking several people hostage in a grocery store. Another two officers were injured while storming the store, leaving the gunman and four hostages dead.

In October, Canada was hit by two terror attacks by so-called “lone wolves” believed to have been inspired by the Islamic State group. In Ottawa, a gunman shot and killed a soldier at Canada’s National War Memorial and then stormed Parliament before being gunned down. Two days earlier, a man ran over two soldiers in a parking lot in Quebec, killing one and injuring the other before being shot to death by police.

In the Australian city of Melbourne, two police officers were stabled by a teenager who was later shot dead in violence in September suspected to have been inspired by the Islamic State group. An Islamic State supporter and two of his hostages died when police ended a siege in a Sydney cafe last month.

The police statement said there are an increasing number of Australians inspired by groups such as Islamic State “with the intent and capability to conduct an attack against police.”

Queensland state Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said there was no single event that led to the raised alert.

Western Australia state Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Brown urged police in that state to lay their uniforms on their car seats when they’re driving to or from work instead of hanging them where they are visible through the car windows.

“We are highly visible; we are easy to target,” Brown told reporters. “You simply call us and we come.”