Edward Snowden has not entered Russia – Sergei Lavrov
Russia says it has had no involvement in the travel plans of fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.
His whereabouts are unclear after he flew from Hong Kong to Moscow on Sunday. His passport has been revoked.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted Mr Snowden had not crossed the border and rejected what he termed US attempts to blame Russia for his disappearance.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said the US did not seek “confrontation” but Russia should hand over Mr Snowden.
Correspondents say Mr Lavrov’s comments suggest that Mr Snowden remained air-side after landing at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, and so has technically never entered Russian territory.
“We are in no way involved with either Mr Snowden, his relations with US justice, nor to his movements around the world,” Mr Lavrov said.
“He chose his itinerary on his own. We learnt about it… from the media. He has not crossed the Russian border.
Continue reading the main story “Start Quote Frantic searches around the aircraft confirmed that Edward Snowden was nowhere to be seen”
End Quote Daniel Sandford
Desperately seeking Snowden
“We consider the attempts to accuse the Russian side of violating US laws, and practically of involvement in a plot, to be absolutely groundless and unacceptable.”
The 30-year-old IT expert is wanted by the US for revealing to the media details of a secret government surveillance programme, which he obtained while working as a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA).
Speaking during a visit to Saudi Arabia, Mr Kerry said the transfer of Mr Snowden was a matter of rule of law, and that Russia should remain “calm”.
He is charged with theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence.
Mr Snowden has applied for asylum in Ecuador. The US has revoked his passport.
Reuters news agency quotes a Moscow airport source as saying that Mr Snowden arrived in Moscow from Hong Kong on Sunday afternoon and was due to depart for the Cuban capital, Havana, the following day, but did not use the ticket.
The source said he was travelling with Sarah Harrison, a British legal researcher working for the anti-secrecy group Wikileaks.
Continue reading the main story Analysis Jonathan Marcus BBC diplomatic correspondent Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s assertion that the fugitive American “hasn’t crossed the Russian border” may well be technically correct – Edward Snowden may. for all we know, remain “in transit” at the hotel, air-side, at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.
But it is hard to believe that the Russians are not exploring what information they can get from Mr Snowden, if any.
He is at the very least a potential intelligence gift horse that has almost literally dropped into their laps.
Mr Lavrov was clearly irked by US pressure, saying that attempts to accuse the Russian side of flouting US laws were “unjustified and unacceptable”. Moscow’s annoyance is mirrored by Beijing.
As yet it is still too early to say what long-term damage this affair may do to China and Russia’s relations with Washington. But the US-Russia relationship in particular could get seriously strained the longer this saga goes on.
Meanwhile, China has also described US accusations that it facilitated the departure of fugitive Edward Snowden from Hong Kong as “groundless and unacceptable”.
A foreign ministry spokeswoman said the Hong Kong government had handled the former US intelligence officer’s case in accordance with the law.
The White House had criticised what it termed “a deliberate choice to release a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant”.
‘Sanctimonious mask’ The Chinese government has expressed deep concern about Mr Snowden’s allegations that the US had hacked into networks in China.
Tuesday saw the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party praise Mr Snowden for “tearing off Washington’s sanctimonious mask”.
In a strongly worded front-page commentary, the overseas edition of the People’s Daily said: “Not only did the US authorities not give us an explanation and apology, it instead expressed dissatisfaction at the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for handling things in accordance with law.
“In a sense, the United States has gone from a ‘model of human rights’ to ‘an eavesdropper on personal privacy’, the ‘manipulator’ of the centralised power over the international internet, and the mad ‘invader’ of other countries’ networks.”
Speaking during a visit to India, US Secretary of State John Kerry said it would be “deeply troubling” if it became clear that China had “wilfully” allowed him to fly out of Hong Kong.
Continue reading the main story Snowden leaks timeline
5 June: First leak published in the Guardian saying the National Security Agency (NSA) is collecting the telephone records of millions of people in the US
6 June: Details of the US Prism internet surveillance programme published by the Guardian and Washington Post
9 June: Guardian identifies Edward Snowden as the source of the leaks, at his own request, and says he has been in Hong Kong since 20 May
14 June: US files criminal charges against Mr Snowden
23 June – Mr Snowden leaves Hong Kong for Moscow, Ecuador confirms he has applied for political asylum and Washington urges countries to send him back to the US
24 June – Mr Snowden is believed to be in Russia; Moscow says it is studying a US extradition request
How to travel without a passport
Q&A: Prism internet surveillance
“There would be without any question some effect and impact on the relationship and consequences,” he said.
He also called on Russia to “live by the standards of the law because that’s in the interests of everybody”.
Mr Snowden was in hiding in Hong Kong when his leaks were first published.
He is being supported by the whistleblowing website Wikileaks, which said on Sunday that he was heading to Ecuador accompanied by some of its diplomats and legal advisers.
Ecuador is already giving political asylum at its London embassy to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is wanted for questioning in Sweden over allegations of sexual assault – which he denies.
Mr Snowden’s leaks have led to revelations that the US is systematically seizing vast amounts of phone and web data under an NSA programme known as Prism.
US officials have defended the practice of gathering telephone and internet data from private users around the world.
They say Prism cannot be used to target intentionally any Americans or anyone in the US, and stress that it is supervised by judges.
1. Hawaii 2. Hong Kong 5. Venezuela 6. Ecuador 3. Moscow 4. Cuba Hawaii 20 May: Snowden flies from Hawaii to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong 5 June: From Hong Kong, Snowden discloses details of what he describes as a vast US phone and internet surveillance programme to the UK’s Guardian newspaper.
Moscow 23 June: Snowden leaves Hong Kong on a flight to Moscow. He is currently thought to remain airside at Sheremetyevo airport.
Cuba From Moscow, Snowden could fly to Cuba, en route to Ecuador, which has said it is “analysing” whether to grant him asylum.
Venezuela Venezuela had also been considered a possible destination for Snowden, however it is thought he would only pass through on his way to Ecuador.
Ecuador Snowden is reported to have requested asylum in Ecuador, which previously granted haven to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in its London embassy.
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7 tips for mortgage renewal time
It is that time of the year for you to renew your mortgage and all you want to do is sign the papers and get done with it. However, you shouldn’t be in a haste to renew your mortgage without doing a little research.
A good fraction of Canadian homeowners—about 27 per cent of them—who carry a mortgage have automated their renewal process, according to a survey by Angus-Reid. While the aim is most likely to avoid any penalties or stress that comes with missing a renewal, this approach can prove costly. Automatically renewing your mortgage means you lose out on great opportunities to save money and take further advantage of any new products and features on your mortgage that may be advantageous to you.
Typically, mortgage renewals occur at the end of your existing mortgage term and the most popular period is usually 5 years—though it can range from 1 to 10 years. Depending on your mortgage type, with a fixed rate mortgage calculator, you can easily estimate your monthly mortgage payment and know how much you’re due on your next payment.
However, before you make your next mortgage payment, here are some important tips that would help you get the most out of your mortgage renewal.
1. Review your current goals
It is possible that your financial needs must’ve changed since you first applied for a mortgage. Therefore, before your sign that renewal slip, you may want to take another look at your financial goals.
For instance, if you’re currently on a five-year fixed mortgage, your renewal would likely come with another five-year fixed mortgage. If you’re certain you would be staying in your home for that amount of time, then renewing it would be great. However, if you have plans of relocating to a different city in a couple of years, then a shorter mortgage term would be best.
Other financial goals that you may want to consider is whether you want to refinance your mortgage or access some equity with Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC).
2. Ask for better rates
Before your mortgage renewal is due, your current lender would most likely try to get you to renew early. Typically, you will receive a renewal letter from your lender 6 months and 4 months before your renewal date. While they may offer you a rate that is lower than what you currently pay, it is often not the best rate you can get.
The renewal offer given to you by your lender is often not the best deal and in an increasing rate environment, negotiating your renewal rate is even more important. Signing the renewal letter right away because of some discount offered by your lender might seem tempting but you are potentially losing out on a lot of savings by not considering other available options.
3. Shop early for better rates
Rather than just accepting your current lender’s renewal offer immediately, you can start searching early for other providers and comparing their rates to see which one is most favourable for you. If you begin at least four months before your renewal due date, you will be giving yourself enough time to make a switch, if necessary.
While there are no major penalties if you choose to switch providers, there are some charges incurred that are typically covered by your new mortgage provider. You may not be able to change your mortgage provider until the actual renewal date, but this would give you enough time to find the right product and sort out every required paperwork.
4. Take advantage of a renewal rate hold
A mortgage renewal rate hold allows you to lock in a particular mortgage rate before your renewal is due. Normally, rate hold can last for about 90 to up to 160 days, protecting you from increases in interest rates.
During this time, you can comfortably compare rates months before your renewal date just to find a better deal. If the interest rates increase during your rate hold period, you would have nothing to worry about. Also, should the interest rates decrease, you can still negotiate for a new lower rate with your lender.
5. Switch mortgage lenders
Cutting ties with your current lender can be difficult—at least that’s the impression most lenders give to home buyers. But don’t be afraid of switching lenders, especially when you’ve found a better rate elsewhere.
Remember, getting a better deal on your mortgage can save you few thousands of dollars. Switching providers might mean you have to go through requalification but that is not a problem as long as you begin the process early enough before your renewal date.
6. Add some extra on your principal
If you’re looking for the best time to make a bigger payment on your mortgage, then renewal time is the best since there are no limits on pre-payment.
Making a lump-sum payment can put a huge dent in your mortgage amortization and you would be saving a lot of money on your total interest cost.
7. Consider switching to a broker
If you’re not already using a mortgage broker, then renewal time might be the best time to consider making the switch. According to a study by the Bank of Canada, most homebuyers who used a broker got a much lower mortgage rate than those who used one of the big banks.
Mortgage brokers are a better alternative because they have access to several lenders who offer different competitive rates, unlike the bank. Therefore, if you’re looking to get the best deal on your mortgage, switching to a broker might be a great move.
3 Money and time-saving mortgage tips
The path to buying a house isn’t the cheapest nor the easiest. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, there has been several opportunities and challenges for first-time home buyers in the Canadian real estate market.
For some, sudden changes to their lifestyle created better opportunities to improve their savings plan while for others, such plans were halted due to the economic impact of the pandemic and rising home prices in real estate markets across Canada. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, over 550,000 properties were sold in Canada last year, a new record for the country’s real estate market and a huge boost for the Canadian economy.
If you are a prospective buyer, looking to purchase a home within the year or just planning for the future, having access to the right information, resources and support can be crucial during your home-buying process. Many people—especially first-time home buyers—easily fall into home debt due to a lack of proper research into the market.
There are some important factors to consider in ensuring that your mortgage works best for you by not only saving you time but money. However, before you start searching for a home to buy, you should have a good idea of just how much you’re able to afford for one.
Checking your credit score using a Canadian mortgage calculator before applying for a mortgage, would give you a realistic price range and equally inform you of your chances of getting your mortgage approved.
Here are some important mortgage tips to help you save time and money while house hunting:
1. Know the penalties on your mortgage
There are several reasons why anyone would want to sell their property. From changes in your financial or marital status to getting transferred to a new location due to either school or work. However, these circumstances could lead to you selling your home and breaking the terms of agreement on your mortgage.
If you’re on a variable-rate mortgage with one of the major banks in Canada, to successfully break your mortgage, you would need to pay about 3 months’ worth of interest. For a fixed-rate mortgage, the cost is much higher than 3 months of interest and there’s also the option of an interest rated differential (IRD). This is typically based on your remaining mortgage balance and current mortgage rates.
To avoid penalties on your mortgage, apply for a portable mortgage that allows you to transfer your existing mortgage to a new property and even combine it with another loan, if necessary. There’s also the option of an assumable mortgage, where you can transfer the mortgage to a qualified buyer instead of breaking it.
2. Inquire about pre-payment privileges
When buying a home, you need to understand how rising interest rates would affect your mortgage. Without having any pre-payment privileges, the larger portion of your monthly mortgage payment would go towards the interest against the principal—making it harder to complete your mortgage.
Once you have pre-payment privileges, you’re offered enough flexibility to repay a percentage of the principal on your mortgage before the amortization period is over—and without any penalty. In fact, some lenders may even offer you their best rate to avoid giving you the option of pre-payment over a fixed period of time. Therefore, it is important to ask your lender the specific kind of pre-payment privileges you enjoy on your mortgage.
The amount of money you save by taking advantage of pre-payment privileges is quite substantial. For example, if you took a $300,000 mortgage at a fixed rate of 3.29% over five years and is amortized over 25 years. By making a pre-payment of $2,000 annually, you would save about $21,787 in interest and finish paying off your mortgage almost 4 years faster—assuming the interest rate was fixed throughout the amortization period.
You can always use a mortgage calculator to check much you would be saving by making extra mortgage payments annually.
3. Know the benefits of making a less than 20% down payment
Typically, when house hunting, the recommended amount of down payment you need to make is 20% of the property cost. However, you mustn’t always pay that high to get the best deal.
Surprisingly, lenders offer the best interest rates to those who want high-ratio mortgage because they have less than the recommended 20% down payment. This because a high-ratio mortgage borrower has a low risk against losses.
Default insurance makes it a lot cheaper for lenders to easily fund the mortgage loan, allowing them to transfer some of the savings—in form of lower rates—back to the borrower.
It is important to always carry out thorough research before applying for a mortgage to know what the best rates are, if a broker is more advantageous than a bank, or simply how you can get the best credit scores.
Major housing markets to shine this year and next: Reuters poll
BENGALURU (Reuters) – The outlook for major global housing markets is brighter than previously thought due to expectations for a broad based economic recovery and easy monetary policy, with only a low risk that a COVID-19 resurgence will derail activity, Reuters polls showed.
Over 100 million people have been infected by the coronavirus, leading to a healthcare crisis and deep economic recessions, but fiscal and monetary stimulus, and the rollout of vaccines, mean the global economy is set to recover this year.[ECILT/WRAP]
While already high unemployment caused by the pandemic is expected to rise further, the Jan. 15-Feb. 1 poll of over 130 property market analysts showed average home prices would rise this year and next in most countries polled.
That compares to largely pessimistic predictions made in September.
An economic rebound, loose monetary policy, government stimulus, pent-up demand and tight inventories were expected to boost housing market activity to varying degrees in Australia, Britain, Canada, Dubai, India and the United States.
“A solid economic recovery bolstered by more fiscal stimulus, still-low mortgage rates, and unmet demand should continue to prop up home sales and construction in 2021,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics.
“We expect some gradual moderation in price growth over the course of 2021 as home sales cool, but sparse inventory will keep a solid floor under home prices.”
Reuters Poll: Major housing markets outlook https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/polling/bdwvkybkqvm/Reuters%20Poll%20-%20Global%20housing%20markets%20outlook%20-%20Feb%202021.PNG
Three-quarters, or 77 of 102 analysts, said in response to an additional question that the risk of a COVID-19 resurgence derailing housing markets this year was low.
Although the U.S. economy on average contracted last year at its sharpest pace since the Second World War due to the pandemic, it had little bearing on housing market activity, an immunity the sector was expected to carry this year.
Despite the recent surge in coronavirus infections and renewed restrictions imposed in the United States, house prices there were forecast to rise over the next two years and activity was expected to continue on a strong course. [US/HOMES]
“The recent COVID-19 surge has not had any noticeable impact, with transactions near record high levels despite record high case growth,” said Brett Ryan, senior U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank.
“Pent-up activity from COVID-19-shutdowns earlier in the year will soon start to wane and transactions will likely normalize. More housing supply will come online as vaccination picks up at the same time that base effects will start to roll off.”
Reuters Poll: Global house prices outlook – Feb 2021 https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/polling/xklpylyqbvg/Reuters%20Poll%20-%20Global%20house%20prices%20outlook%20-%20Feb%202021.PNG
When asked about the primary driver of housing market activity this year, over 55% of respondents, or 57 of 101, chose an economic recovery and easy monetary policy.
Of the remainder, 20 analysts named a desire for more living space and 18 said a successful vaccine rollout, while six chose fiscal stimulus.
Australian and Canadian house prices were expected to rise significantly this year and next, helped by low mortgage rates and massive fiscal spending. [AU/HOMES][CA/HOMES]
When asked what was more likely for housing market activity, 58 of 100 respondents said an acceleration. The others expected a slowdown.
Those views were swayed by a somewhat modest outlook for the British, Dubai and Indian housing markets compared to the rest.
Indian house prices were expected to barely rise this year despite an economic recovery and supportive policies, and Dubai house prices were predicted to fall at a slower pace this year and next compared to the previous poll. [IN/HOMES][AE/HOMES]
British house prices were forecast to flatline this year.[GB/HOMES]
“While we expect a strong start to the year, we expect momentum to wane following the end of the stamp duty (property sales tax) holiday in April. Towards the end of the year the housing market should settle,” said Aneisha Beveridge at estate agents Hamptons International.