People with disabilities would be hurt by Vancouver straw ban, say advocates - Canadanewsmedia
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People with disabilities would be hurt by Vancouver straw ban, say advocates

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VANCOUVER—Disability advocates are concerned city council’s unanimous approval of a plan to get rid of single-use, disposable items in Vancouver by 2020 could negatively affect people with dexterity issues.

Jane Dyson, executive director of Disability Alliance B.C., told StarMetro her organization recognizes the environmental impact plastic items have on the environment.

Disability advocates are raising concerns about city council’s approval on Wednesday of a motion to phase out use of single-use items in the City of Vancouver in coming years. An outright prohibtion on such items, they say, would effectively exclude people with dexterity issues from dining establishments.  (Jennifer Gauthier / StarMetro)

But a wholesale ban on plastic straws could leave people with disabilities unable to enjoy drinks outside the home, she said, especially if they run out of their own supply of straws, or failed to bring their own supply with them.

“I’m hoping a sensible compromise could be implemented where the default is to not provide straws,” Dyson said in an earlier interview, “but if a person with disability ask for straws, they could be provided with one.”

The ban on plastic straws would come into effect on Nov. 1, 2019, as part of the single-use item reduction strategy.

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But city staff said they will consult concerned groups before the extent of the ban goes to a future vote. Roughly 57 million plastic straws are tossed into the garbage every day in Canada, according to city statistics.

Cathy Browne, co-chair of the city’s People with Disabilities Advisory Committee (PDAC), told StarMetro she wished to see Vancouver’s use of plastics reduced by leaps and bounds.

She argued that should not happen at the expense of people with disabilities being able to eat and drink at restaurants and cafes.

Browne said asking people who could not pick up or grasp a glass to carry a plastic straw with them wherever they went could be an additional cost that would unfairly target vulnerable communities.

“Disabled people and seniors are among the poorest people in the city,” she said, adding she hoped city council would consult with the people she represented more comprehensively before considering an outright prohibition on straws.

A ban on straws would amount to an exclusion of people with disabilities from dining establishments across the city, Laura Mackenrot, vice-chair of the city committee, told StarMetro on Wednesday.

“That’s discrimination as far as I’m concerned,” said Mackenrot, who is blind and was born with arthritis. Her arthritis leaves her unable to raise a glass, making straws a necessary tool for the consumption of liquids.

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She said straws, for people like herself, are not a privilege, but rather a vital utensil.

“Would you take away a fork?” she asked. “Would you take away a knife or a spoon?”

Aaron Leung, chair of the city’s Children, Youth and Families Advisory Committee, told city council that body — whose members range from ages seven to 75 — had questions about how a straw ban might affect older and younger Vancouverites.

“I echo the concerns of the PDAC,” he said, pointing to difficulty many seniors had with grasping heavy objects like a glass.

Representatives from Canadian plastics manufacturers and food service businesses also voiced concern about a ban on single-use items, though their unease centred primarily around the economic impact a plastics prohibition might have on retailers and manufacturers.

While council voted in principle to prohibit plastic straws, city staff were directed to consult with community groups, businesses and civic agencies on how to responsibly roll out the ban ahead of a final council vote, to be held some time next year.

But for Mackenrot, there is another solution that’s both simple and environmentally friendly.

“What we’re asking is you have a couple of packages on hand,” she said. “For those that really need it.”

Perrin Grauer is a Vancouver-based reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @perringrauer

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OPEC threatens to turn on the spigots as oil price briefly hits highest point since 2014

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The price of the North American oil benchmark briefly touched $72 US a barrel late Tuesday despite the OPEC oil cartel publicly mulling boosting supply as soon as next month.

The price of West Texas Intermediate, the North American oil benchmark commonly known as WTI, was changing hands as high as $72.83 at one point on Tuesday. Although it slumped slightly lower on Wednesday, that was the highest level since November 2014.

Supply concerns in Venezuela and Iran have been overhanging the market for months, driving prices higher. 

Then late Tuesday the oil-producing cartel known as OPEC suggested it may soon turn on the spigots a little, after curbing its supply for the better part of the past year to boost prices.

The notoriously fractious cartel has been uncharacteristically collaborative of late, as OPEC and Russia had agreed to curb their collective output by about 1.8 million barrels per day until the end of 2018.

Last month, the cartel reported 166 per cent compliance to its own cut targets — meaning it has been pumping even less oil than it had planned to.

But speaking to a Reuters reporter on Tuesday, one unnamed OPEC source said the group is considering lifting those limits sooner than anticipated, in part because of the rising price of oil. 

While WTI was briefly at $72 US, Canadian oil companies have also seen their prices rise. The blend of oil from Alberta's oilsands is known as Western Canada Select and it, too, has risen to a more than three-year high, almost touching $58 U.S. on Tuesday.

Higher oil prices are doubly helpful for Canadian producers, because they are priced in U.S. dollars, while Canadian companies book most of their expenses in Canadian dollars.

In Canadian terms, WTI is currently trading as high as $91 a barrel, Bank of Montreal economist Doug Porter noted on Tuesday.

"That's up 50 per cent  from just eight months ago."

In Canadian dollar terms, the price of WTI is now where it was, on average, during what Porter called the "go-go years for oil prices," between 2007 and 2014.

"The lack of a currency response means that Canadian consumers are feeling the full impact of higher oil prices," he said.

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Comcast prepares to top Disney's $50-billion offer for Fox

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Comcast Corp confirmed for the first time on Wednesday it was preparing a higher, all-cash offer for the businesses that Twenty-First Century Fox has agreed to sell to Walt Disney Co.

While the U.S. cable operator said it was still considering its position, it said it was in advanced stages of readying an offer that would be “superior” and “at a premium” to Disney’s all stock offer.

“While no final decision has been made, at this point the work to finance the all-cash offer and make the key regulatory filings is well advanced,” Comcast said.

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Sources familiar with the deal told Reuters at the start of May that Comcast was preparing bridge financing for a cash offer for the Fox assets, but Wednesday’s statement is the first formal confirmation by the company it is ready to move.

The same sources said Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts will only proceed with a bid if a federal judge next month allows AT&T Inc’s planned $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc to proceed.

Disney in December offered stock then worth $52.4 billion to buy Fox’s film, television and international businesses as it bids to beef up its offering against streaming rivals Netflix Inc and Amazon.com Inc.

Disney shares have fallen nearly 3.3 percent since, reducing the value of the offer to just over $50 billion.

“It all depends on the AT&T and Time Warner deal,” said Brian Weiser, analyst at Pivotal Research. “If that goes through it is highly possible there will more than one bid for Fox.”

Fox and Disney were not immediately available for comment.

Comcast, owner of NBC and Universal Pictures, has also made a 22 billion pound ($30 billion) offer to acquire the 61 percent stake in European pay-TV group Sky Plc that Fox does not already own. In doing so, it topped an earlier offer for the entirety of Sky by Fox.

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A regulatory filing in April showed Comcast offered to acquire most of Fox’s assets in an all-stock deal valued at $34.41 per share, or $64 billion last November – just before Disney’s offer was agreed.

After a sale, Fox’s remaining assets will include Fox News, Fox Business Network and sports cable networks.

Comcast shares were down 2 percent at $31.83 while Disney was down 0.7 percent at $103.26 in premarket trading.

“I think Fox, or its controlling shareholder and Board of Directors, has already expressed their preference – Disney, even though Comcast allegedly offered a higher consideration already,” said Jeffrey Logsdon, an analyst with JBL Advisors in California.

“Comcast does seem intent on winning this one (and) rivalry can frequently drive prices to un-economic levels.”

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Comcast v. Disney: a fight for Twenty-First Century Fox

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PHILADELPHIA — Comcast may make an offer for Twenty-First Century Fox, potentially putting it in a head-to-head bidding war with Disney.

Comcast Corp. on Wednesday did not provide specific details on a bid, other than to say that it would be all cash and at a premium to the value of Disney’s current all-stock offer.

The Wall Street Journal and others reported earlier this month that Comcast had $60 billion to challenge Disney.

Disney’s $52.4 billion bid would go a long way in allowing it to better compete with technology companies in the entertainment business. Any tie-up would put in its stable more Marvel superheros, as well as the studios that produced the Avatar movies, “The Simpsons” and “Modern Family.” Disney would control Fox’s cable and international TV businesses as well.

Comcast said Wednesday that it’s in the “advanced stages” of preparing its bid. The Philadelphia company said the structure and terms of its offer would be at least as favourable as Disney’s.

A potential transaction with either Disney or Comcast would not include the Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, Fox Broadcasting Company and certain other assets.

Comcast’s stock fell 2 per cent in premarket trading, while shares of the Walt Disney Co., based in Burbank, California, dipped slightly.

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