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Pope says female genital mutilation affronts dignity, must end



Pope Francis condemned female genital mutilation and trafficking of women for prostitution on Sunday, calling them humiliating affronts to women’s dignity and urging officials to do everything possible to end both.

“This practice, which is unfortunately common in various parts of the world, humiliates the dignity of a woman and gravely attacks her physical integrity,” Francis said, speaking on the U.N. International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

According to the United Nations, FGM is concentrated in about 30 countries in Africa and the Middle East but is also practiced by immigrant populations elsewhere. More than four million girls are at risk of undergoing FGM this year, the U.N. says.

Francis, speaking to pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly blessing and address, noted that the practice was often carried out in conditions that endangered a girl’s health.

In a related appeal, Francis called for more efforts to stop human trafficking, particularly of women and girls for forced prostitution.

“This is a deep wound inflicted by the shameful search for gain without any respect for the human person,” he said ahead of the Catholic Church’s International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking this Tuesday.

“There are so many girls that we see on the streets who are not free. They are slaves of traffickers who send them to work and beat them if they don’t return with money. This happens today, in our cities,” he said.

They include Rome where authorities say criminal gangs lure women to Italy with the promise of jobs and then force them into prostitution, threatening to harm their families back home if they go to the police.

Calling both FGM and trafficking of persons, “wounds of humanity,” Francis urged leaders “to act decisively to stop both the exploitation as well as humiliating practices that afflict above all women and girls”.

Catholic nuns in Rome are at the forefront of fighting trafficking of women. In 2016, Francis visited a Rome safe house where a charity protects women freed from pimps.


(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Susan Fenton)


New poll suggests Liberal, NDP voters prefer Charest and Brown over Poilievre



OTTAWA — New polling suggests Liberal and New Democrat voters think Jean Charest or Patrick Brown would make the best leader of the federal Conservative party.

The data released by the research firm Leger is based on an online survey it did of 1,528 Canadian adults last weekend using computer-assisted web interviewing technology.

It cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.

The survey asked respondents which of the six candidates in the running they believe would make the best leader of the party, which will unveil its new leader Sept. 10.

Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque says one of the issues they come across when they poll Canadians about a party leadership race is that roughly one-third appear indifferent.

The data suggests 58 per cent of respondents answered they didn’t know or picked none of the above when questioned on which candidate would make the best Conservative leader.

When it came to Conservative voters, the polling suggests 23 per cent of respondents said they didn’t know and only eight per cent selected none of the above.

Of Tory voters who responded to the survey, data suggests 44 per cent of them believe Pierre Poilievre, the longtime Ottawa-area MP known for his attacks on the government and Bank of Canada over inflation, would make the best party leader.

Charest, Quebec’s former premier, came in a distant second at 14 per cent among Conservative voters, according to the survey’s findings, while the four other remaining candidates ranked much lower.

Looking at respondents who back other political parties, Leger’s data suggests 25 per cent of both federal Liberal and NDP voters feel Charest would make the best Conservative leader.

It also suggests 11 per cent of both Liberal and NDP would select Brown, who is mayor of Brampton, Ont., and formerly led Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives.

By contrast, the data suggests only six per cent of Liberal and NDP supporters feel Poilievre would be the best pick.

The findings come as one of the main tasks facing Conservative leadership contenders, if they win, will be to grow support for the party ahead of the next federal election, particularly in seat-rich Ontario.

“The only way they can win back Ontario and do better in Quebec is to actually move voters away from the Liberal party and away from the NDP,” Bourque said.

Leger’s data also suggests 57 per cent of respondents who support the more right-wing People’s Party of Canada feel Poilievre should be the next Conservative leader.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 15, 2022


The Canadian Press

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Russia calls in Canadian envoy, complains over protests outside its embassy



Russia threatened Canada on Monday with retaliation if it failed to ensure the safety of its diplomats and complained over what it said were hostile protests outside its embassy in Ottawa and two other consulates.

In a statement, Russia’s foreign ministry said it had called in Canada’s ambassador to Moscow to lodge a formal protest.

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U.S. banks prepare for cyber attacks after latest Russia sanctions



U.S. banks are preparing for retaliatory cyber attacks after Western nations slapped a raft of stringent sanctions on Russia for invading Ukraine, cyber experts and executives said.

Tensions between Russia and the West escalated on Saturday as the United States and its allies moved to block some Russian banks from the SWIFT international payment system and placed curbs on the Russian central bank’s international reserves.

Western governments have warned for weeks that the tensions could spark massive cyber attacks from Russia or its supporters. Some executives said the latest measures may be the trigger.

“There will be some retaliatory measures taken by them, and I think in the least costly way that they can do it – that means some kind of cyber attack,” said Steven Schweitzer, senior fixed income portfolio manager at the Swarthmore Group in New York.

Global banks, already top targets for cyber attacks in peacetime, are increasing network monitoring, drilling for cyber attack scenarios, searching their networks for threats and lining up extra staff in case hostile activity surges, according to cyber security experts.

Among the threats they are preparing for: ransomware and malware attacks; denial-of-service attacks that take down websites; and data wiping and theft, possibly simultaneously.

“Banks are incredibly prepared. They have taken out their playbooks and it’s practice, practice, practice,” said Valerie Abend, who leads Accenture’s global financial services security group.

The largest U.S. banks, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc, Bank of America Corp, Wells Fargo & Co, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc, either did not respond to requests for comment or declined to discuss their cybersecurity plans.

As guardians of critical national financial infrastructure, global banks are subject to strict operational risk rules and have some of the highest cyber security standards in corporate America, according to cyber experts.

The industry regularly plans for attacks and completed a massive, system-wide ransomware drill in November, according to the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, which led the exercise.

Leading up to the invasion, there has been a more concerted industry effort to ensure banks’ incident responders are on high alert and that they had increased monitoring, Abend said.

The New York Department of Financial Services and the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency have warned private companies to be vigilant for cyber threats.

“We wouldn’t be doing our due diligence if we weren’t preparing for that,” said Teresa Walsh, global head of intelligence at the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center, an international group of institutions that share cyber intelligence.

“Right now, they’ve been warning in generalities – just be prepared. We are trying to put some more specificity to it,” Walsh added.

Walsh said banks have been brainstorming risk scenarios based on tactics Russian hackers have used in the past. The 2020 SolarWinds Corp software breach that gave hackers access to hundreds of companies using its products, is top of mind.

That has increased lenders’ focus on third-party providers such as big cloud and software-as-a-service firms. While banks themselves have big IT budgets and strict compliance programs, if such providers are hacked their data could be exposed.

Banks are urging such partners to ensure they have the right security protocols, according to Walsh and Abend.

They are also “threat hunting,” searching for known malicious behaviors inside bank IT systems, examining potential vulnerabilities and testing anything they had to recently patch, Walsh said.

“It’s all about being prepared and not waiting for when the crisis happens,” Walsh added.


(Reporting by Elizabeth Dilts Marshall; Writing by Michelle Price; Additional reporting by Pete Schroeder, Davide Barbuscia and Matt Scuffham; Editing by Will Dunham)

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