Laurentian Bank aims to refine operations amid CEO search and improving profit


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One of the reasons for the increased-yet-still-decreased earnings was that Laurentian set aside $22.3 million for sour loans during the third quarter. This was down from the $54.9 million in provision for credit losses the bank set aside in the second quarter, but it was up from $12.1 million a year ago because of the pandemic, the economic effects of which have forced lenders to increase reserves.

Like its fellow Canadian banks, Laurentian has been offering up to six months of deferred loan payments to its customers to help them get through the pandemic. And, again like its peers, Laurentian is seeing the amount of deferred loans decline as the economy reopens. Payments on approximately $1.83 billion of Laurentian’s loans, or 5.5 per cent of its portfolio, were being deferred as of the end of July, down from $4.4 billion and 13.3 per cent as of the end of April.

National Bank Financial analyst Gabriel Dechaine noted Laurentian’s total revenue rose two per cent year-over-year, to $248.6 million, but that loan balances dipped by three per cent and deposits by eight per cent.

“On the bright side,” Dechaine added in a note to clients, “branch-raised deposits increased on a sequential basis for the second consecutive quarter.”

Laurentian’s common equity tier 1 ratio, a measure of its capital strength, rose to 9.4 per cent in its third quarter from 8.8 per cent for the second quarter.

Therrien said the pandemic particularly curbed Laurentian’s business loan growth during the quarter, which was mostly because of weaker inventory financing. Demand from customers for boats and recreational vehicles shot up, the interim CEO said, but manufacturing interruptions meant dealers were unable to restock their inventory and wound up borrowing less from the bank.

Laurentian also said salaries and employee benefits for the third quarter rose $2.4 million from a year earlier, to $92.5 million. Part of the reason for this, the bank said, was a $2.7-million compensation charge tied to Desjardins’ retirement.

When asked about the board of directors’ search for a permanent CEO, Therrien said there was “no timeframe” for the effort.

“It could be an internal candidate as well as an external candidate,” the interim CEO said. “So more to come, I would say.”

Financial Post

• Email: gzochodne@nationalpost.com | Twitter:





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The search continues for Beirut blast survivors, but hopes of a miracle are beginning to fade


Rescue teams kept up their search for survivors in Beirut Saturday even as hopes raised by sensor readings of a pulse beneath the rubble of last month’s blast began to fade.

The cataclysmic 4 August explosion in the port of Beirut killed at least 191 people, making it Lebanon’s deadliest peacetime disaster. One month on, seven people are still listed as missing.

On Wednesday night, a sniffer dog deployed by Chilean rescuers detected a scent beneath a collapsed building in the heavily damaged Gemmayzeh neighbourhood adjacent to the port.

High-tech sensors confirmed an apparent heartbeat and, a full month after the blast, rescue teams took up the search.

But despite removing piles of masonry, they have yet to find the source of the sensor reading. 

Chilean and Lebanese rescue workers search in the rubble of a building that collapsed in last month's explosion.

Chilean and Lebanese rescue workers search in the rubble of a building that collapsed in last month’s explosion.

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“Search operations have been going on since the day before yesterday but the chances are very low,” the civil defence agency’s operations director, George Abou Moussa, told AFP.

“So far, we have found nothing.”

Saturday was the search teams’ third straight day of digging, much of it by hand.

“We are not leaving the site until we’ve finished going through the rubble, even if a new building collapse threatens,” said civil defence officer Qassem Khater.

Chilean specialist Walter Munoz put the chances of finding a survivor at “two per cent”. 

5,000 candles lit in Beirut in memory of port blast victims

Lebanese officials had played down the chances of anyone surviving so long beneath the rubble.

But even the faint hope of a miracle caught the imagination of a country already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and the country’s worst economic crisis in decades.

“I was not aware I needed a miracle that much. Please God, give Beirut this miracle it deserves,” said Selim Mourad, a 32-year-old filmmaker.

According to Lebanese Health Ministry, at least 190 people were killed, and more than 6,000 injured in the Beirut blast.

According to Lebanese Health Ministry, at least 190 people were killed, and more than 6,000 injured in the Beirut blast.

AAP

Lebanon lacks the tools and expertise to handle advanced search and rescue operations, so they have been supported by experts from Chile, France and the United States.

The Chileans, in particular, have been praised as heroes by many Lebanese on social media, who have compared their expertise with the lacklustre performance of what they see as an absent state.

The country observed a minute’s silence for the dead on Friday.



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Beirut blast: search continues for possible survivor under rubble


Rescuers on Saturday morning continued digging through the rubble of a building in Beirut after sensors detected possible signs of life.

Chilean rescuers wound up a second day of searching without any results on Friday.

The search operation in the historic Mar Mikhail district — on a street once filled with crowded bars and restaurants — has gripped the nation for the past 24 hours.

The possibility, however unlikely, that a survivor could be found after one month gave hope to people who followed the live images on television, wishing for a miracle.

The operation began Thursday after a dog used by the Chilean search-and-rescue team TOPOS detected something as it toured Gemmayzeh and Mar Mikhail streets and rushed toward the rubble.

Rescue workers used cranes, shovels and their bare hands in a meticulous search after a pulsing signal was detected.

Beirut on Friday marked a month since the explosion, which saw almost 200 lose their lives and thousands injured, with a minute’s silence on Friday.

Soldiers fired a salute, then laid a white rose for each of the 191 victims at a memorial. The crowd fell silent at 6.08 pm, the moment of the most destructive explosion in Lebanon’s violent history.

Church bells tolled, mosques made a call for prayers and ambulances blared their sirens simultaneously.

Some people held ropes tied as nooses — a sign of the grief and anger toward officials that persists in the country.

The blast was caused by nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been improperly stored at the port for years.

In addition to the dead and injured, thousands of homes were damaged by the blast, which smashed windows and doors for kilometres and was felt on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus.

It still isn’t clear what caused the fire that ignited the ammonium nitrate. The public blames the corruption and negligence of Lebanon’s politicians, security and judicial officials, many of whom knew about the storage of the chemicals and did nothing.

“We will hold you accountable,” one banner read. A firefighting force drove from headquarters in the direction of the port, marking the route that 10 of their colleagues took when they rushed to put out the fire but were killed instead.



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Desperate search continues for 2 missing children swept away by floodwater


Rescuers were able to save the kids’ mother.

Two children are missing after an overnight flash flood swept their mother’s car off the road outside Raleigh, North Carolina on Tuesday.

Up to 7 inches of rain fell in some parts of the state overnight on Monday, leading to supercharged flooding.

First responders were initially able to rescue the mother and one of the children, but fast-moving water capsized the recovery boat and the child slipped away. Both children remain missing.

“They got into the water and they were able to rescue the child, a child and the mother,” said Smithfield Fire Chief John Blanton. “The water was so turbulent that the boat capsized. And they lost the child. They were able to regain the mother.”

According to Blanton, a total of four swiftwater rescue boats capsized in the extreme current. Rescuers have since found the mother’s car, but no sign of the two children. Rescue efforts have expanded and searchers are now using a helicopter to look for the missing kids from above.

Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell announced Tuesday evening that the search for the children has been suspended for the night and will continue as a search and rescue mission at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to ABC affiliate, WTVD.

Not far from the scene of the missing children, an elderly couple was rescued after their car overturned on a rain-slicked I-95.

Witnesses who saw the accident sprang into action and helped them. Neither appeared to be seriously injured.



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How to Search Google Images by the Exact Size


Published in: Search TricksGoogle Images

Google Images earlier offered a useful “search by size” option in advanced search to help you find logos, wallpapers and other images on the Internet by their exact size (or resolution).

For instance, you could limit your search for landscape photographs to image files that were at least 10 Megapixels in size. Or, if you are were using Google Image search to find wallpapers for the desktop, you could specify the image resolution as 1920×1080 pixels and Google would only return large images with those exact dimensions.





The “exact size” search option is no longer available in Google Image Search but you can still limit your image searches to a particular size by using the secret imagesize search operator in the query itself.

Here’s how.

Go to images.google.com and enter the search terms as before. Then append imagesize:WIDTHxHEIGHT to your query and hit Enter. Google Images will remove the operator from the query but the results will only display images that match the specified size.

The search by size operators works on the mobile version of Google as well so you may use the simple trick to find that perfect size wallpaper for your phone.

More Search Tricks

You an also use search operators in Gmail, Google Drive, YouTube and Twitter to easily find stuff you’re looking for.



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Lone English Channel swimmer found after eight-hour search



A major search for someone trying to swim from Dover to Calais unaccompanied has ended after he was spotted by a passing vessel.

Emergency services spent nearly eight hours searching for the male swimmer, who was eventually found just 500 metres off Dover.

A helicopter and rescue teams were dispatched to the sea off Kent after the coastguard received a call from a member of the public saying a friend was trying to cross to France.

The 27-mile stretch between Dover and Calais can be dangerous and is home to the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

The rescue operation started just after midday and continued until nearly 8pm on Sunday, when the swimmer was spotted by a passing vessel.

When found, he was cold and tired but otherwise well, the coastguard confirmed.

He has been brought to shore and will be checked over by ambulance staff.

The incident was not related to migrant crossings, the PA news agency understands.

A coastguard spokesperson said: “At around 12.10pm today HM Coastguard received a call from a member of the public with information that their friend was swimming unaccompanied to Calais from Dover.

“Coastguard rescue teams from Deal and Langdon, RNLI lifeboats from Dover and Dungness and coastguard search and rescue helicopters from Lydd and Lee-on-Solent were sent.

“Vessels in the area were asked to keep a sharp lookout and Kent Police, Dover Port Police and Dover Port were informed.

“The swimmer was spotted shortly before 8pm by a passing vessel only 500 metres off Dover and was taken onboard the RNLI Dungeness lifeboat, cold and tired but otherwise well.

“He has been brought to shore and will be checked over by South East Ambulance Service.”



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The Blurred Lines and Closed Loops of Google Search


Tricksy! You’ll notice the knowledge box on the righthand side, too. But Google has around 92 percent of global search market share. It effectively is online search.

Dark patterns are all too common online in general, and January wasn’t the first time people accused Google of deploying them. In June 2018, a blistering report from the Norwegian Consumer Council found that Google and Facebook both used specific interface choices to strip away user privacy at almost every turn. The study details how both platforms implemented the least privacy-friendly options by default, consistently “nudged” users toward giving away more of their data, and more. It paints a portrait of a system designed to befuddle users into complacency.

That confusion reached its apex a few months later, when an Associated Press investigation found that disabling Location History on your smartphone did not, in fact, stop Google from collecting your location in all instances. Shutting off that data spigot altogether required digging through the settings on an Android smartphone. It took eight taps to reach, assuming you knew exactly where to go—and Google didn’t exactly provide road signs. In May of this year, Arizona attorney general Mark Brnovich sued Google under the state’s Consumer Fraud Act, alleging “widespread and systemic use of deceptive and unfair business practices to obtain information about the location of its users.” Even a privacy-focused Google software engineer didn’t understand how location controls worked, according to recently unsealed court documents from the case first reported by the Arizona Mirror. “Speaking as a user, WTF?” reads the chat log.

“The attorney general filing this lawsuit appears to have mischaracterized our services,” another Google spokesperson, Jose Castaneda, said. “We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data. We look forward to setting the record straight.” Castaneda also called the employee communications surfaced in the court documents “cherry-picked published extracts,” which “state clearly that the team’s goal was to ‘Reduce confusion around Location History Settings.'”

Google has taken steps in recent years to give users more control over how long it keeps the data that it collects. A feature added in 2019 let you set your “Web & App Activity” to delete automatically after three or 18 months, and this summer Google implemented auto-deletion of data for even more categories by default for new accounts. It has also made it easier to adjust your privacy settings directly from within search, meaning you have to dig less to find them, and introduced Incognito Mode to YouTube and Google Maps.

“We are unequivocally committed to providing prominent, transparent and clear privacy controls, and we continue to raise the bar, with improvements like making auto-delete the default for our core activity settings,” Google said in its statement.

Critics say that the company has not gone far enough. “We are aware that Google has made a number of minor improvements,” says Gro Mette Moen, acting digital policy director of the Norwegian Consumer Council. “However, as far as we have seen, none of these changes address the main issue: Consumers are still led to accept a large amount of tracking.”

Facebook. Instagram. YouTube. Amazon. How much do you trust these products? Take our survey and tell us what you think.

They’re also led to accept a large amount of, well, Google. A detailed investigation by the Markup last month found that in 15,000 queries examined, nearly half of the first page of mobile search results were designed to keep the user on Google, rather than directing them to another website. Those responses consisted of both Google’s own properties and the “direct answers,” the snippets Google pulls from outside sites to display right in the results. Google has called the Markup’s methodology “flawed and misleading,” arguing that it pertains to a “non-representative” set of samples. “Providing feedback links, helping people reformulate queries or explore topics, and presenting quick facts is not designed to preference Google,” the company said in its statement. “These features are fundamentally in the interest of users, which we validate through a rigorous testing process.”



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Move over babies: search on for Coffs’ cutest dad



AS FATHERS Day fast approaches, what better way to celebrate than to secretly enter your old man in the Coffs Coast’s Cutest Dad competition.

Hot on the heels of the wildly popular cutest baby competition, the Coffs Coast Advocate wants the community to send in their favourite photos of dad, so he might have a shot at the region’s premier dad-comparing competition.

Of course ‘cute’ doesn’t necessarily mean dads with abs, we want those memorable (or embarrassing) photos of dad being a top parent, dad at a wedding, dad in his favourite Hawaiian shirt, dad falling off a bike or dad when he entered that hot-dog eating competition.

Post your photos on our Facebook page or email them to advocate@coffsadvocate.com.au





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Water Police join search for fisherman at Red Rock


EFFORTS have been ramped up as emergency services search for a man who fell off the rocks into the ocean while fishing at Little Beach, Red Rock on Saturday afternoon.

The Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service joined Coffs/Clarence, New South Wales Police and Marine Area Command in the search after the man reportedly fell into the water at 2pm on Saturday prompting his friends to raise an alarm soon afterwards.

Images from the search for a missing fisherman who fell off the rocks on the Red Rock headland on Saturday afternoon. Photos: Frank Redward.

Searching until 8.30pm on Saturday night, emergency services decided to call the search and return at 7.30am Sunday morning with the assistance of Water Police from Coffs Harbour.

Volunteers from the Red Rock Surf Club, and Marine Rescue vessels from Coffs Harbour and Wooli also joined the search party.

Police have been told the man – aged in his 20s – was not wearing a life jacket. He’s believed to be visiting Australia from Malaysia.

Images from the search for a missing fisherman who fell off the rocks on the Red Rock headland on Saturday afternoon. Photos: Frank Redward.

Images from the search for a missing fisherman who fell off the rocks on the Red Rock headland on Saturday afternoon. Photos: Frank Redward.

Anyone with information about this incident is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or nsw.crimestoppers.com.au.

Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report crime via NSW Police social media pages.





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