India left interest rates unchanged after a plunge in the rupee to a record low threatened to stoke inflation in Asia
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India left interest rates unchanged after a plunge in the rupee to a record low threatened to stoke inflation in Asia
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CHARIKAR, AFGHANISTAN—Abdul Shakour was working the night shift at Bagram Air Base repairing American vehicles when he was called to an emergency meeting.
The news was bad: Shakour and 22 other Afghan mechanics were being laid off. After seven years at Bagram, Shakour was unceremoniously shown the door last month. He was told to return the next day to turn in his security badge and collect his final paycheque.
“There aren’t as many vehicles to fix and not as many soldiers around, so they don’t need us anymore,” Shakour said outside the base, speaking with a thick accent the English he had learned from American civilians and troops.
The 11-year Western military occupation of Afghanistan has been a boon for the Afghan workforce, providing thousands of jobs for interpreters, mechanics, cleaners and drivers. But with bases being torn down and equipment shipped out as combat troops prepare to leave next year, many Afghan workers are no longer needed.
For Shakour and his close friend Padshah Gul, a mechanic who was laid off the same day, the consequences are devastating. Their Bagram jobs paid far more than typical semi-skilled Afghans earn. The pair assumed that working for foreigners afforded more certainty and stability than the shaky Afghan economy could provide. Now that seemingly solid foundation has been torn away, leaving them feeling bereft and abandoned.
“I worked hard. I never made mistakes. I never missed work. I’m a very good mechanic; I can fix anything. So how can they send me away just like that?” Shakour asked. He clutched a folder stuffed with certificates from his American supervisors citing his superior job performance.
U.S. military officials referred layoff questions to private contracting firms, which hire most Afghans working on bases. The mechanics worked for Fluor, an engineering and construction company based in Irving, Texas. The firm did not respond to requests for comment.
The mechanics said Fluor supervisors told them the contract under which they were hired had ended. Afghan workers at military bases have been laid off periodically for years, but the pace has quickened this year as U.S. and coalition troops pull out.
Shakour, 28, says his $1,300-a-month salary has supported an extended family of 12, including his wife and 2-year-old son. Over the years, he had worked his way up from labourer trainee to mechanic supervisor pay day loan lenders.
Gul, 40, has cared for 13 relatives, including his wife and six children, on his $900-a-month salary. He had been at Bagram since 2008, working his way up to a job in which he trained mechanics to repair civilian vehicles used by American troops.
“This hit me very hard. Times are difficult now, so it’s very upsetting,” Gul said.
He said he was given no warning of the layoff and no severance pay. “Even the lowest government workers in Afghanistan get severance when they leave their jobs.”
Charikar, Jabal os Saraj and other towns in Parwan province have enjoyed a modest economic boom in the last decade, thanks to job opportunities at the massive Bagram base. About 40 kilometres north of Kabul, it is one of the two largest coalition air bases in Afghanistan, along with Kandahar Airfield.
“I think we have become too dependent on Bagram,” said Ahmad Shah Khan, 46, another mechanic who was laid off the same day after seven years at Bagram. “Now everybody is depressed and wondering what will happen next.”
Bagram has pumped up the local economy on and off for years, beginning when the Soviet military occupied the base in the 1980s. Now, layoffs are affecting thousands of extended families—“a huge problem the people are facing now,” said Roshna Khalid, spokeswoman for Parwan’s governor.
Some laid-off younger men drift into opium or heroin addiction, she said, and others leave the country in search of work. “As more people are losing jobs, that adds to violence and insecurity in the country as a whole,” Khalid said.
In addition to the economic blow, the laid-off mechanics face possible retaliation from insurgents for having aided the Americans. Afghan workers at coalition bases routinely receive Taliban death threats, often in the form of so-called night letters left at their homes. Scores of Afghan workers, especially interpreters working with U.S. troops, have been killed by insurgents.
The three mechanics say they have not been directly threatened but worry that they and their families are at risk as U.S. troops depart. “Everyone knows I worked for the Americans. How can I hide something like that?” Gul said.
The price of oil rose above $95 a barrel Tuesday, supported by gains on global stock markets.
By midday in New York, benchmark oil for July delivery was up $1.24 to $95.40 a barrel. The contract fell 10 cents on Friday. Monday was a holiday in the U.S.
Tuesday’s rise was set to break a four-day streak of losses for oil prices on the Nymex.
Positive signs for the U.S. economy helped. U.S. home prices rose the most in seven years and consumer confidence reached a five-year high. U.S. stock markets posted increases of more than 1 percent by midday. European and Asian markets closed higher earlier.
Oil’s gains could be fleeting if recent concerns about demand resurface. China, which has seen a decline in manufacturing activity, releases data on factory production later this week. In the U.S., demand for gasoline has been weaker compared with last year. And bad weather in some regions over the Memorial Day weekend may have kept drivers closer to home, wrote Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at The PRICE Futures Group, in a daily newsletter.
The average price for a gallon of gas fell over the long weekend, by 2 cents to $3.63. That’s a penny less than last year.
Brent crude, a benchmark for many international oil varieties, was up $1.70 to $104.35 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
In other energy futures trading on Nymex:
_ Wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to $2.87 a gallon.
_ Heating oil climbed 6 cents to $2.91 per gallon.
_ Natural gas shed 3 cents to $4.21 per 1,000 cubic feet.
The no-parking sign didn’t really make sense. Nader Khan parked there anyway.
All along Finfar Court in Mississauga, signs stated parking was prohibited from 12 to 3 on Fridays. It seemed odd to Khan, since a large mosque — the Islamic Society of North America — was a few metres away and offered its main prayer service at the same time.
“When I first parked there, I genuinely thought the sign said no parking every day but Fridays,” said Khan, an Islamic singer and songwriter who had driven there to pray. “I thought, wow, how accommodating.”
But when he returned an hour later, he found that his car and all the others parked on both sides of the street in the light industrial area had been ticketed. “I was furious.”
A year later, Khan returned and saw the signs were still there. Instead of parking, he started taking photos and turned to Facebook to express his frustration. “Finfar Court: A most racist, discriminatory, Islamophobic street in the GTA, located in Mississauga Ontario,” he wrote to introduce the pictures.
The Facebook post sparked intense debate between those agreeing with Khan and those who thought the issue was merely a response to years of bad parking, including blocking driveways and parking too close to hydrants.
Across the GTA, places of worship have claimed intolerance and unfairness when their facilities face resistance from residents or their expansion plans and building permits are rejected by the city.
But a look at parking bylaws across the city and the outcomes of dozens of Ontario Municipal Board decisions suggests the real culprit is much more benign and mundane. It almost always comes down to indiscretions of the vehicular kind — traffic and parking.
“The truth is, places of worship have a need for a lot of parking,” said Joe D’Abramo, director of zoning and environmental planning for the City of Toronto. “Nobody wants to provide parking, because it takes up land and costs money to put it underground. But if we don’t require it, then they park on the streets and the community around it gets very upset.”
Toronto recently completed a review of its outdated zoning bylaws, including those for parking near a place of worship, and enacted them into law last week.
There was ample resistance. The Toronto Faith Coalition protested some of the zoning changes, concerned the parking requirements would make it impossible for existing places of worship to expand and new ones to set up.
“Parking is a big issue because it determines whether or not a church, synagogue and mosque can be built,” said Charles McVety, an evangelical Christian leader, who headed the Toronto Faith Coalition. “It’s fundamental, because if you do not have enough land to meet this high level of parking required, then you can’t build your building or expand it. They won’t approve it.”
D’Abramo said the changes were necessary. Not only were the bylaws old, but they were from pre-amalgamation and rules differed across the city. They also didn’t reflect the diversity of the city. “Some faiths have seating, and some faiths have no seating, so the standards are different depending on how you worship,” he said.
Generally, municipalities require a place of worship to provide parking based on complex formulas that account for the number of pews or square footage. The parking requirement is reduced if the religious centre is near transit or major city centres.
In recent years,the neighbourhood church has been replaced by mega-churches. According to a study commissioned by the City of Toronto on parking standards for a place of worship, the average size of a new place of worship built between 2000 and 2005 was more than double the average size of one built between 1975 and 1990. This means more people now drive to church. And, since many religious centres are set up in industrial areas — where land may be cheaper — public transit is rarely a realistic alternative.
A number of municipalities, including Brampton, Mississauga and Markham, have also conducted reviews of their parking bylaws around places of worship.
And it turns out nothing riles up the neighbours like bad parking and increased traffic. Infractions or even the perception that rules could be broken have been enough to ignite tensions and divide communities.
In Markham, a Taoist temple trying to build in a residential area faced heavy resistance from neighbours primarily due to fear of increased traffic and parking concerns — even though the temple said it expected attendance of 15 to 20 people at a time. The city voted against the temple’s plans for rezoning, and the matter eventually landed at the Ontario Municipal Board, which approved the building last summer payday loans online.
Ten years ago, city officials thwarted the plans of a Hindu temple in Scarborough to redesignate a property it purchased in an industrial zone into a religious facility. There were a number of concerns, including parking and lack of transit. The temple took its case to the OMB, but the city’s concerns were upheld.
And a new mosque project in Markham has divided an otherwise peaceful community with concerns that the construction of the facility would create a traffic nightmare and lead to parking chaos in a neighbouring residential area. The matter was further complicated by what the mosque called a “typo” on its website suggesting it could hold 1,600people when it only had approval for 500 — and parking accommodations for such. The mosque has since decreased the planned size of its worship space and will provide 188 parking spaces.
On the surface,the primary concern appears to be good planning. But there are some who question whether the zoning issues are simply a mask for underlying tensions.
“It becomes an oddly intense battle when it comes to parking and mundane zoning issues around a mosque or temple,” said Jason Hackworth, a geography professor at the University of Toronto who wrote a paper on the collision of faith and economic development in the city’s industrial zones. “You have to ask yourself why this is the case, as zoning issues normally don’t invoke such a reaction.”
But he, too, is careful. “Of course, something like that is hard to prove.”
Especially when mosque officials agree that their congregants are also at fault. “The officials are very frustrated with the small minority of people who park badly,” said Khan, the Mississauga man offended by the signs. But Khan still thinks the city went too far: “Have tow trucks on call, tow the cars that are being inconsiderate and fine them again and tow them again. Punishing an entire community or the actions of a few is very problematic.”
Mosque officials say they constantly make announcements about parking etiquette to their congregants, and have even organized a shuttle from free parking lots nearby to accommodate overflow. But they were surprised when the city put up the signs without any consultation.
The bylaw was enacted in December 2011 after the city received numerous other parking complaints from businesses, said Mississauga transportation commissioner Martin Powell. The staff report on the matter only refers to the concerns of one citizen. And the city did not send out a petition to local residents and businesses, as is the normal process, the report states.
“I know it seems a bit strange because of the hours, but that’s when we have a problem,” said Powell. “If there are safety issues involved, then staff will make recommendations to council, and that is what we did here.”
But Powell is quick to point out that the mosque isn’t the only place of worship that faces odd parking restrictions. Last spring, a number of churches in Mississauga were shocked to find their congregants could no longer park on the streets nearby from 10-1 on Sundays.
“We have been at our location for 19 years, and there has never been any problem,” said Desmond Singh, a pastor with Mississauga Gospel Assembly. “But it seems like the city has been targeting our church hours.”
Some of his congregants and those from the nearby St. Joseph Syriac Catholic Church took a petition to city hall, but their protest fell on deaf ears. A member of St. Joseph’s church wrote about the restrictions on a website on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms claiming that it infringed upon the rights of parishioners to freely practise their religion.
The Toronto Faith Coalition’s McVety believes further restrictions on where a place of worship can be set up will make the problem even worse. Toronto and Ajax have recently banned places of worship from setting up in industrial zones — forcing new places of worship into expensive residential areas.
McVety says the coalition is considering taking Toronto’s new zoning bylaws to the OMB.
“We bring in hundreds of thousands of new Canadians in the GTA every year, and then we pass laws to restrict their ability to worship.”
BOSTON—Boston law enforcement officials say the city’s downtown core will continue to be processed as a crime scene for at least several more days, with 30 explosives expert either on scene or en route to the city Tuesday morning.
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Speaking to reporters alongside representatives from the FBI, the Department of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, the fire department and other agencies, Timothy Alben, superintendent of Massachusetts State Police, said there were 176 confirmed casualties injured when two bombs exploded during the Boston Marathon on Monday.
Three people have died, including an 8-year-old boy, and others remain in critical condition.
A person briefed on the investigation says the explosives were in 6-litre pressure cookers and placed in black duffel bags.
The person says the explosives were placed on the ground and contained shards of metal, nails and ball bearings. The person spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.
The person says law enforcement officials have some of the bomb components but did not yet know what was used to set off the explosives.
President Barack Obama said Tuesday morning the explosions were being investigated as an “act of terror,” although authorities still did not know who is responsible.
He called the bombing “a heinous and cowardly act” used to target innocent civilians.
Obama spoke to reporters at the White House after a briefing by his national security team.
Rick Deslauriers, who heads the FBI office in Boston, said his agents are following up tips and other leads, and interviewing a number of witnesses.
He refused to say whether police have anyone in custody or are guarding a patient at a local hospital, as was reported Monday by several local news stations.
“This is a worldwide investigation,” said Deslauriers. “We will go to the ends of the Earth.”
Police are analyzing closed circuit camera footage taken near the scene and have repeatedly asked the public to hand over video footage and photos taken around the time of the explosion near the crime scene.
It’s unclear how a perpetrator could have planted the bombs, which one official said were not hidden in trash bins. Alben said police conducted a sweep of the finish-line about an hour before the race started.
Meanwhile, downtown Boston was a ghost town Tuesday morning. Streets remained cordoned off, while military humvees were parked on street corners, and soldiers and police patrolled streets and alleys.
Bomb squad and tactical response SUVs were the only vehicles navigating the streets, sirens blaring and lights flashing.
Discarded drinking cups and litter were left in place, waiting to be analyzed at what had become a 13 square block crime scene. A three-and-a-half mile no fly zone remained in place over Boston for aircraft flying under 3,000 feet.
Michael Butcher was 15 metres away from Monday’s bomb blasts.
“I had a hard time breathing, I could really feel it in my chest,” said Butcher, whose wife Kelly was competing. “After the first one, a few people actually started moving toward the blast to help the injured. Then the second one happened and everyone was realizing we have to get out of here.”
It took the Atlanta couple about an hour to find one another.
“I didn’t know where she was, or if she was okay,” Butcher said. “My kids were at home freaking out. Then we just found each other wandering in the street.”
“After running 25 miles I had marathon brain, fuzzy thinking,” Kelly Butcher said. “I didn’t really know what had happened until my husband told me.”
Federal investigators said Tuesday morning that no one had claimed responsibility for the bombings one of the city’s most famous civic holidays, Patriots Day, according to The Associated Press. But the blasts among the throngs of spectators raised fears of a terrorist attack.
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Massachusetts State Police investigating the marathon bombing searched an apartment just outside Boston, in Revere. Officers were seen leaving with bags full of material. There’s no word of any suspects or motive in the attack. (April 16, 2013)
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Massachusetts Gov personal loans for bad credit. Deval Patrick said Tuesday that no unexploded bombs had been found at the Boston Marathon. He said the only explosives were the ones that went off Monday.
FBI agents searched a suburban Boston apartment overnight and appealed to the public for amateur video and photos that might yield clues to who carried out the Boston Marathon bombing, while a doctor treating the wounded said one of the victims was maimed by what looked like ball bearings or BBs, according to The Associated Press.
President Barack Obama was careful not to use the words “terror” or “terrorism” as he spoke at the White House on Monday, but an administration official said the bombings were being treated as an act of terrorism.
“We will find out who did this. We’ll find out why they did this,” the president said. “Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups, will feel the full weight of justice.”
Across the U.S., from Washington to Los Angeles, police tightened security, monitoring landmarks, government buildings, transit hubs and sporting events.
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The FBI took charge of the investigation, converging on a home in the suburb of Revere on Monday night and appealing for any video, audio and photos taken by marathon spectators. Authorities gave no details on the search. Investigators were seen leaving a building there early Tuesday carrying brown paper bags, plastic trash bags and a duffel bag, according to The Associated Press.
Investigators refused to give any specifics on the bombs and say, for example, where they might have been hidden or whether they were packed with shrapnel for maximum carnage, as is often the case in terror bombings overseas.
But Dr. Stephen Epstein of the emergency medicine department at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center told The Associated Press he saw an X-ray of one victim’s leg that had “what appears to be small, uniform, round objects throughout it — similar in the appearance to BBs.” He said it remained to be determined what exactly the objects were.
A European security official said Tuesday initial evidence indicates that the attacks were not the work of suicide bombers.
“So far, investigators believe it was not the work of suicide bombers, but it is still too early to rule it out completely,” said the official, who spoke to The Associated Press from the United States on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the U.S. investigation.
The Pakistani Taliban, which has threatened attacks in the United States because of its support for the Pakistani government, on Tuesday denied any role in the bombings.
The fiery explosions took place about 10 seconds and about 100 yards apart, knocking spectators and at least one runner off their feet, shattering windows and sending columns of smoke rising over the street. Victims lost limbs and suffered broken bones, shrapnel wounds and ruptured eardrums.
As many as two unexploded bombs were found near the end of the 26.2-mile course as part of what appeared to be a well-co-ordinated attack, but they were safely disarmed, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the continuing investigation.
Martin Richard, 8, was among the dead, according to a person who talked to a friend of the family and spoke on condition of anonymity. The person said the boy’s mother and sister were also injured as they waited for the race to finish.
Hospitals reported at least 144 people injured, at least 17 of them critically. At least eight children were being treated at hospitals.
The Boston Marathon is one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious races and about 23,000 runners participated. Most of them had crossed the finish line by the time the bombs exploded, but thousands more were still completing the course.
Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis said authorities had received “no specific intelligence that anything was going to happen” at the race.
“We still don’t know who did this or why,” Obama said at the White House, adding, “Make no mistake: We will get to the bottom of this.”
The euro fell versus all but two of its 16 major peers amid concern that the region
ARLINGTON, Va. • The newspaper industry’s revenue declined at its slowest pace in six years, as publishers turned to new businesses and raised more money from online subscriptions.
The industry’s total revenue in 2012 fell 2 percent to $38.6 billion from $39.5 billion in 2011, according to the Newspaper Association of America.
Online subscriptions helped circulation revenue rise by 5 percent to $10.4 billion. It was the first gain since 2003.
The association’s figures are projections based on a survey of 17 companies that represent about half of the industry’s revenue. Publishers provided a detailed breakdown of their revenue on condition of anonymity.
For the first time, the NAA data incorporated new sources of revenue that virtually didn’t exist for the industry a decade ago, including e-commerce, event hosting and providing advertising agency-like services to local companies. These categories accounted for $3 billion in revenue in 2012. The NAA also began counting for the first time ad revenue from niche publications and such things as flyers sent to non-subscribers. Those segments generated $2.9 billion.
If the new categories were not included, revenue would have fallen 3 percent in 2012, to $32 guaranteed pay day loans.7 billion, still the most modest decline since 2006. In 2011, revenue not counting the new categories fell 5 percent to $33.9 billion. Revenue peaked at $60.2 billion in 2005.
“This does not look like an industry that’s just rolling over,” said Caroline Little, president of the NAA.
Little said the association’s new way of compiling data tells a more optimistic story of an industry coping with an advertising shift away from print by generating new sources of revenue and selling news online and through mobile devices.
Among the industry’s most positive developments is the growth in circulation revenue. Some 400 U.S. newspapers now charge readers for online access. In some cases, online subscriptions are bundled with print subscriptions. As a result, the industry’s 2012 circulation revenue returned to slightly above the 2007 level of $10.3 billion. It was still below 2003’s peak of $11.2 billion.
BUCHAREST, ROMANIA—Romanian anti-crime prosecutors have searched tourism agencies in the south of the country on suspicion they are a front for a ring that trafficks Romanians into the U.S. and Canada.
Ontario takes aim at human trafficking
Prosecutors said migrants initially travelled to Mexico and then paid $8,000 to be taken across the border to the U.S., while others illegally travelled to Canada. Romanians need visas for the U.S. and Canada but not for Mexico online cash advance.
Human trafficking kingpin gets 9 years
Some 600 people travelled to Mexico and of those, 300 were discovered in the U.S., prosecutors said.
Prosecutors Tuesday searched eight tourism agencies and 13 homes in the city of Craiova. They said three men ran the ring, which netted more than $1 million.
A measure of the U.S. economy’s health over the next six months increased in February from January, a sign that growth could be improving.
The Conference Board said Thursday that its index of leading indicators rose 0.5 percent in February to 94.8. That followed an equal gain in January, which was revised higher. The gauge is designed to anticipate economic conditions three to six months out.
The increase was also more broad-based, with eight of its 10 components rising. That compared with only five in January and six in December.
A gain in housing permits, a longer manufacturing work week and rising stock prices were among the elements that drove the index higher. Lower orders for large manufactured goods and lower consumer outlook for business conditions limited the gain.
The economy “may be developing some resilience against headwinds from … federal spending cuts,” Ataman Ozyildrim, an economist at the Conference Board, said.
A steady recovery in housing and rising job gains could be offsetting the cuts, he added guaranteed payday loans. Automatic government spending cuts of $85 billion kicked in March 1, though their impact may not be felt until April and May when layoffs at government agencies and contractors will likely start.
The index is derived from data that for the most part have already been reported individually.
Other reports issued Thursday also pointed to steady improvement. Weekly unemployment applications rose slightly, but the four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell for the fourth straight time to the lowest level in more than five years.
That’s a sign companies are laying off fewer workers. As layoffs fall, net hiring usually picks up.
Sales of previously occupied homes rose in February to the highest level in more than three years, the National Association of Realtors said in a separate report.
Toronto’s Danforth neighbourhood has it all: restaurants, grocery stores, culture, and soon, a marijuana dispensary — if Sam Mellace has his way.
The medical marijuana user and activist is opening the New Age Medical Clinic near Danforth and Pape Aves. on Wednesday with an eye toward a Health Canada policy change that would allow him to sell the pot he grows directly to medical marijuana consumers.
His move comes at a time when the country is reconsidering how it supplies marijuana. A new policy is in the final stages of development, and Health Canada plans to begin rolling it out this spring with full implementation by March 2014.
Under the policy, Health Canada will pull back from administering medical marijuana and license producers such as Mellace, who would then take care of distribution themselves.
While the policy is still in development, some core elements are known. Mellace’s new clinic would probably be able to act as a storefront for his grow operation.
“The upstairs is ready to go — there’s two doctors’ offices ready to go. Once we do the grand opening, within a few days, after that we’ll be fully functioning,” said Mellace. “We’re setting up the first one here … there will be more of these clinics going up in and around Toronto.”
If approved, Mellace expects he’ll be able to distribute 45 kilograms of marijuana from the Danforth location each month, based on his surveys of current licensees. He plans to charge $5 per gram, while Health Canada is predicting prices around $8 per gram.
As of December, 28,000 people were licensed to possess marijuana in Canada. Health Canada expects that number to jump to 50,000 by 2014.
The agency is currently the sole supplier and distributor — something it wants to get away from. Instead, it will rely on doctors to prescribe the herb.
While Mellace — who lit up a joint in the House of Commons in 2010 to protest marijuana regulations — plans to distribute medical pot at the clinic, he said its main function will be to treat people hooked on opiate drugs like morphine and oxycodone.
“Looking at the situation as it stands right now, what we’re trying to do is build up the clientele and try to get as many people as we can help off of the opiate addictions,” Mellace said.
He renovated the clinic to include two examination rooms, a blood-testing room, other modern medical facilities and plenty of security. Two general practitioners will be on staff, as well as a psychologist, psychiatrist and naturopath.
The clinic will operate as a natural treatment centre and will also help people apply for medical marijuana permits, which are still necessary until Health Canada’s new policy takes effect.
The permit is being revised after the last round of public consultations concluded Feb. 28.
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