China's CITIC Bank tries to seize real estate assets in Canada

VANCOUVER, June 27 China CITIC Bank Corp Ltd has launched a Canadian lawsuit to try to seize the assets of a Chinese citizen the bank claims took out a multi-million dollar loan in China then fled to Canada, the lender's Vancouver-based lawyer said on Monday.The bank is looking to seize numerous Vancouver-area homes, valued at some C$7.3 million ($5.58 million), along with other assets, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Vancouver on June 24.The defendant, Shibiao Yan, owns three multi-million dollar properties in a Vancouver suburb and resides in a C$3 million Vancouver home owned by his wife, according to court documents.China is in the midst of a massive corruption crackdown and has stepped up efforts to find fugitives it says are hiding stolen assets abroad. The lawsuit comes amid a debate about the role foreign money, particularly from China, has played in Vancouver's property boom. "The person involved left China with a large debt owed," said Christine Duhaime, a lawyer who represents China CITIC Bank in the case, adding that she is not aware of any criminal charges against the man.Yan could not immediately be reached for comment. He has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit and the claims have not been proven in court.China has been working with Canada for years to finalize a deal on the return of ill-gotten assets seized from those suspected of economic crimes. The agreement was originally announced in July 2013 and has not yet been ratified. But it is rare for Chinese banks to use Canadian courts to pursue those who have left the country.According to the lawsuit, China CITIC Bank is seeking repayment for a line of credit worth 50 million yuan, or roughly $7.5 million, taken out by a Chinese lumber company and personally guaranteed by Yan, who was the company's majority shareholder at the time. Vancouver residents have questioned the legitimacy of foreign funds invested in the city's real estate market and have urged authorities to do more to scrutinize their origin.Housing prices in the west coast city have jumped 30 percent in the last year.The case is China CITIC Bank Corporation Limited versus Yan, Shibiao filed in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Vancouver.($1 = 1.3073 Canadian dollars) (Additional reporting by Elizabeth Dilts in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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Global stocks, sterling skid as Brexit vote agonizingly close

SYDNEY Global share markets shed early gains and sterling tumbled in Asia on Friday as early results from the UK's vote on European Union membership proved unnervingly close, sparking a wave of profit-taking across risk assets.Sterling collapsed to $1.4475 GBP=, having earlier stretched to a high for the year at $1.5022 GBP=. The euro turned tail to hit $1.1324 EUR= and the yen recouped early losses to stand at 104.90 per dollar.Futures for Japan's Nikkei NIYU6 shed 1.1 percent from its U.S. close, and EMINI futures for the S&P 500 ESc1 were down 0.4 percent, having climbed 1.76 percent on Thursday. Financial markets have been racked for months by worries about what Brexit, or a British exit from the European Union, would mean for Europe's stability.Early opinion polls had favored the "Remain" camp. An Ipsos MORI poll put the lead at 8 points while a YouGov poll found 52 percent of respondents said they voted to remain in the EU while 48 percent voted to leave. Yet a trickle of official results showed the margins were nail-bitingly tight. Traders were particularly spooked by returns from Sunderland showing a large majority for the "Leave" camp and just a narrow win for "Remain" in Newcastle.Safe-haven bonds immediately came back into favor, with U.S. 10-year Treasury futures TYc1 jumping 19 ticks. Commodities likewise swung lower as a Brexit would be seen as a major threat to global growth. U.S. crude CLc1 eased 29 cents to $49.83 a barrel in erratic trade. (Editing by Lincoln Feast)

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Exclusive: In Zika-struck Puerto Rico, trouble delivering donated contraceptives

NEW YORK Only a small fraction of contraceptives donated in Puerto Rico to prevent Zika-related birth defects are expected to get to the women who need them this month, public health officials told Reuters.The donations - tens of thousands of intrauterine devices and birth control pill packs - came from major healthcare companies as the virus spreads rapidly through the island. The delivery delays illustrate the struggles of Puerto Rico’s healthcare system, which is faltering amid the commonwealth's financial crisis.Hundreds of thousands of residents are expected to be infected in the coming months by the mosquito-borne Zika virus. Infections in pregnant women can cause microcephaly, a rare birth defect that can lead to severe developmental problems.Many local doctors do not have the expertise to insert IUDs, and have not stocked them because of their high cost to patients.The CDC Foundation, the U.S. public health agency's philanthropic arm that received the donations, said it needs $20 million for training and follow-up services to get the contraceptives to women.“We have people who would love to have them available,” said Dr. Carmen D. Zorrilla, professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine. She is encouraging patients to wait at least a year to get pregnant. As many as 138,000 women on the island are at risk of unintended pregnancy, based on historical trends and a lack of access to contraceptives, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bayer AG, Allergan, Medicines360 and Merck have together contributed about 60,000 IUDs and 80,000 packs of birth control pills in recent weeks. The CDC estimates that about a quarter of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million people could be infected with the virus. Dr. Judith Monroe, President and CEO of the CDC Foundation, said the organization has trained about two dozen doctors and raised about $1.7 million in cash, enough to provide 700 women free services starting in June. It needs to raise an additional $20 million to train and pay medical professionals who will provide the services. In the meantime, the companies are still holding the donated devices and pills while the CDC Foundation lines up a licensed distributor in Puerto Rico.At the behest of the CDC, the nonprofit in February began soliciting private sector donations for Puerto Rico, Monroe said in an interview. Raising extra money for contraceptive distribution was challenging as would-be donors may not yet grasp the urgency of the situation in Puerto Rico. "We have an opportunity to be innovative," she said, referring to increasing access to "family planning across Puerto Rico, services that have not been there before on this scale." DOCTORS UNDER FINANCIAL STRESS Money is essential to train and pay medical professionals, many of whom are barely surviving because of the island's financial crisis and historically low reimbursement rates from the U.S. government's Medicaid insurance program for the poor, which covers nearly half of residents. "It is hard, close to impossible to ask doctors to take anything else from their pockets," said Dr. Nabal Jose Bracero, who chairs the Puerto Rico section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. "Things are very, very rough."The current Zika outbreak was first detected last year in Brazil and has been linked to more than 1,400 cases of microcephaly. It has since spread to at least 39 countries and territories in the Americas. In Puerto Rico, at least 1,726 cases of Zika infection have been confirmed, including in 191 pregnant women, according to the Puerto Rico health department. Zika is expected to arrive in the continental United States in the coming weeks as the weather warms. CDC officials expect that Puerto Rico will be hit harder given the prevalence of mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus on the island and a lack of infrastructure to protect against the insect bites. Health care donors say they are now urgently focused contraceptive distribution."We are working with the CDC Foundation on the distribution arrangements to ensure that product gets to Puerto Rico as quickly as possible," said Gavin Corcoran, Chief Medical Officer at Allergan.Bayer, Allergan and Medicines360 also have begun training a few dozen medical professionals to use their IUD devices, which need to be inserted and removed by a person with expertise to avoid potentially serious complications. The nonprofit Upstream USA also is providing training to medical professionals for IUDs and other methods of birth control. Despite the difficulties of distribution, Bracero said health professional in Puerto Rico are grateful for the contraceptive donations."It’s overwhelming," he said, "one of the good things to come out of the horrible situation." (Reporting By Jilian Mincer; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Brian Thevenot)

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WHO sees 'very low' risk of further Zika spread due to Olympics

GENEVA (There is a "very low risk" of further international spread of Zika virus as result of the Olympic Games to be held in Brazil, the heart of the current outbreak linked to birth defects, World Health Organization (WHO) experts said on Tuesday.The WHO's Emergency Committee on Zika reaffirmed its previous advice that there should be "no general restrictions on travel and trade with countries, areas and/or territories" with Zika transmission including cities in Brazil hosting the Olympics that start on Aug. 5, and with the Paralympic Games that follow in September."The risks are no different for people going to the Olympics than for other areas where there are outbreaks of Zika," David Heymann, chair of the WHO's expert panel, told reporters at WHO headquarters in Geneva after the meeting.International Olympic Committee Chairman Thomas Bach said the WHO's conclusion was "very positive" for the Rio Games. The third meeting of independent experts came amid intensifying concerns over the staging of the Olympics in Brazil, the country hardest hit by Zika. Brazilian authorities have confirmed more than 1,400 cases of microcephaly in babies whose mothers were exposed to Zika during pregnancy. Microcephaly is a birth defect marked by small head size that can cause severe developmental problems in babies. The virus has also been linked to Guillain-Barre, a neurological disorder in adults.The WHO has advised that pregnant women avoid travel to Zika outbreak areas and that men who have been infected by orexposed to the virus practice safe sex, or abstain from sex, forup to six months. The WHO panel said that Brazil should "continue its work" to intensify mosquito-control measures, especially around Olympics venues, and "ensure the availability of sufficient insect repellent and condoms for athletes and visitors".The experts decided not to recommend against non-essential travel to Zika-affected areas, but said travelers should take personal protective measures to reduce risks. They noted that Brazil was entering winter months when transmission is lower."The experts at the meeting felt there was no reason to decrease travel to these areas. What is important (is) for people to understand their individual risk they undergo when they go to these areas. The risk of international spread is not a significant concern," Heymann said. Dr. Bruce Aylward, WHO director of emergencies, said 20 percent of the world's population lived in Zika-affected areas while almost 30 percent of international travel was into and out of such areas. ... "The proportion of that travel that will be affected by the Olympics (is) very, very, very marginal." Lawrence Gostin, a Georgetown University expert in international health law, welcomed the advice as "exactly right ..."The risk of holding the Olympic Games is lower than the risk of cancelling or postponing (them) due to the economic and political turmoil it would cause in Brazil," he said."(But) I am concerned that the WHO and International Olympic Committee have placed virtually all the burden on Brazil for (mosquito) vector control." (Reporting and writing by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Kate Kelland in London; additional reporting by Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Pressure builds on judge over California sexual assault case

Senator Barbara Boxer on Tuesday decried a California judge's decision to sentence a college athlete to just six months in jail for sexual assault, while signatures on an online petition calling for the jurist's ouster passed 400,000.The sentence last week by Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky against former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner gained international attention after a letter from the athlete's father to the judge that was posted online described the assault as "20 minutes of action.""Six months for someone who viciously attacked a woman, especially after she was so brave to come forward, is outrageous," Boxer said in a statement.Asked for a comment on the controversy over his ruling, Santa Clara Superior Court spokesman Joseph Macaluso said Judge Persky is prohibited from commenting on the case because there may be an appeal.Last week, the victim in the case read a 12-page letter to the court detailing her feelings in the wake of the assault. It was later read millions of times online. The victim's name has not been released to the public. The uproar over the sentence is part of growing outrage in the United States over sexual assault on college campuses.In the Stanford case, prosecutors said that witnesses saw Turner, 20, on top of the woman as she lay motionless outside a fraternity party in January 2015. When Turner ran away, two students tackled and held him for police, prosecutors said.Turner in March was convicted of intent to rape an intoxicated and unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person and penetration of an unconscious person. His lawyer said on Tuesday that he was considering appealing the conviction and had filed a notice of intent to appeal with the court. An online petition at Change.org urging the removal of the judge had collected more than 400,000 clicks of support by Tuesday afternoon, in a largely symbolic gesture. Stanford law professor Michele Dauber has vowed to start a more formal recall effort against Persky, but that is a difficult process rarely used in California. International interest in the case has led media organizations to request interviews with the woman, but prosecutors said on Tuesday that she wished to remain anonymous.In a statement released by Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Alaleh Kianerci to CNN, the woman said that in addition to wanting to protect her privacy, she could better represent all woman if her name and image were not known."I'm coming out to you simply as a woman wanting to be heard," she said in the statement to CNN. "For now I am every woman." (Additional reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago and Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Sharon Bernstein, Bernard Orr)

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