Video: Moroccan Mechanic Adds Grooves in Old Tires to Make Them…

Rabat- The person taking the video asked the mechanic what he was up to. The mechanic said this way the bus will brake better and will save MAD 5,000, the price of a new tire.The mechanic even acknowledged that doing so was illegal, but he did not stop. The new-looking tire is an attempt to deceive road control authorities. If caught, the mechanic said he would just pay a bribe and that doing so would be normal in Morocco. Video Player Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume. read more

Court of Auditors: Gross Mismanagement in Morocco’s Education Emergency Plan

Rabat – In a recent report, Morocco’s Court of Auditors has identified major deficiencies in the implementation of the 2009-2012 emergency program to reform education.The program intended to make up for the recorded delays in the educational sector since 2000. However, the report uncovered mismanagement and a lack of proper financial controls.“The Court of Auditors considered that the Ministry of National Education’s emergency plan did not achieve all its objectives, nor did it have the expected positive impact on the education system,” the report concludes. The court made the report public on December 12.The report comes three months after the president of the Court of Auditors, Driss Jettou, gave the 2016-2017 annual report, which identified serious deficiencies in public and private schools regarding infrastructure, reception capacity, and the number of teachers.Read also: Court of Auditors: Morocco’s Schools Not Achieving Basic StandardsAllocated resources exceeding the planned budgetThe state allocated a total budget of approximately MAD 45.27 billion for the three-year program, with MAD 27.5 billion going to regional academies and 17.7 to the education ministry. However, the total resources allocated to the education sector exceeded, according to the report, the planned budget for the emergency program by MAD 3.85 billion.“Taking into account the payment appropriations for the years 2009-2012 and the commitment appropriations for the 2012 budget year, the resources allocated to the education sector, excluding payroll, amounted to MAD 49.12 billion.” The ministry, however, “did not have a document approved by the Ministry of Finance, identifying the sources of funding and justifying the increase in the appropriations allocated to the education sector during the period 2009-2012.”The court calculated the amount based on the administrative accounts of the education ministry and the accounts of regional academies.The Court of Auditors attributed the weak performance to the lack of “sufficient management capacity” in the project implementation, planning, and financial management.Read also: Court of Auditors: Serious Irregularities in Morocco’s Hospital CentersThe report noted some progress in the education system in terms of “quantity.” The number of enrolled students increased from 5.6 million students in 2009 to 6 million in 2017 (up by 373,212 students in eight years), while the number of schools increased from 9,397 to 10,756.Nevertheless, the court identified serious deficiencies in capacity, infrastructure, and pre-primary education.The emergency program could only build 286 new schools out of the 1,164 schools planned in the program, at an implementation rate of 24 percent.When it came to expanding existing schools, the program planned to build 7,052 new classrooms. Yet, the number did not exceed 4,062 classrooms (57 percent).Schools with poor basic facilities Despite the resources allocated for renovating schools, the Court of Auditors found some schools lacked basic facilities in the  2016-2017 school year.The report identified 6,437 schools without connection to sewage, 3,192 schools not connected to drinking water, 681 schools not connected to the electricity network, in addition to 9,365 dilapidated classrooms.In 2012, the emergency program had an object to generalize pre-primary education to 80 percent of primary schools by 2015. However, the program did not meet its goal as only 24 percent out of 7,767 primary schools had pre-primary education in the 2016-2017 school year, according to the report.Read also: 2016 Election: Court of Auditors Asks 18 Parties to Return MAD 6 MillionThe report also noted the problem of school overcrowding, which increased between 2008-2009 and 2016-2017, from 7 percent to 21 percent in primary schools and from 16 percent to 42 percent in secondary schools.In order to overcome the acute and accumulated shortage in teachers, the education ministry resorted to recruiting 54,927 “contractually” between 2016 and 2017. The hired teachers did not have the required training which may, according to the report, negatively affect  education quality.The Court of Auditors recommended the education ministry conduct a thorough examination of the current education situation.It also called on the ministry to take necessary measures and to implement risk assessment and alternative solutions before embarking on any program, particularly regarding the management capacities that various partners use in the program implementation. read more

New Year’s Eve: Morocco Among Best Destinations for Algerians

For Algerians, Morocco is among the best destination for New Year’s Eve, according to travel website said that travel agencies are listing Morocco among the best New Year’s Eve destinations for Algerians.A sale manager at a travel agency said that Dubai comes first, Istanbul second, while Marrakech is the third best destinations for Algerians. The website said that the ranking for the best destinations for  New Year’s Eve for Algerians internationally is: Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey, and Dubai.Read Also: World Celebrities Spending New Year’s Eve in Marrakech: Who’s on the List?The North African country is also a top choice for Portuguese tourists. According to Pedro Costa Ferreira, president of the Portuguese Association of Travel and Tourism Agencies (APAVT), Morocco remains one of the top vacation destinations for the festive season.Morocco’s stability and strategic location make it a favorite for international visitors. The 2019 Travel Risk Map illustrates how Morocco as a safe destination with relatively low terrorism threats, risk of natural disaster, or health issues.In the first half of 2018, tourist arrivals increased by 10 to 5.1 million tourists compared to the same period in 2017.A significant increase was seen among Italian tourists with an 18 percent increase, followed by Germans (13 percent, and French tourists 10 percent.”Spanish tourists account for 6 percent, while British tourists for 7 percent. read more

JetBlue to offer flights to London from NY and Boston

After mulling it over for a long time, JetBlue is taking a leap across the pond.JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes announced Wednesday that the airline will start flying to London from New York and Boston in 2021.JetBlue leaders have been talking about the possibility of flights to Europe since mid-2016, around the time they announced plans to tweak their Airbus orders to get a longer-range plane.Hayes says customers want the service, and the move will help JetBlue strengthen its position in New York and Boston.The CEO announced the move during an employee gathering at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.David Koenig, The Associated Press read more

Syria fuel shortages, worsened by US sanctions, spark anger

BEIRUT — Syrians in government-controlled areas who have survived eight years of war now face a new scourge: widespread fuel shortages that have brought life to a halt in major cities.Cars line up by the hundreds outside petrol stations, and long lines of people waiting to buy rationed cooking gas begin forming before dawn. Taxi drivers are crossing the border to Lebanon to stock up on fuel — and then doubling their rates. Drivers can be seen pulling over because their gas tanks are empty.The shortages are largely the result of Western sanctions on Syria and renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran, a key ally. But they have sparked rare and widespread public criticism of President Bashar Assad’s government just as he has largely succeeded in quashing the eight-year rebellion against his rule.Western sanctions imposed after Assad launched a violent crackdown on Arab Spring protests in 2011 crippled the country’s oil industry, which once provided 20 per cent of government revenues. Over the course of the war, Syria’s main oil fields fell into the hands of the Islamic State group and then U.S.-backed Kurdish forces.Iran, which has provided vital military support to Assad, extended a $3 billion credit line for oil supplies beginning in 2013. Russia, another key military ally, has helped cover shortages in cooking gas.But the Iranian aid appears to have dried up as the U.S. has restored tough sanctions following President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear agreement. In November, the U.S. Treasury Department added a network of Russian and Iranian companies to its blacklist for shipping oil to Syria and warned of “significant risks” for those violating the sanctions.Syrian officials say oil imports stopped in October and have appealed for patience.Syria produced 350,000 barrels per day before the war and exported more than half of it. Now it is down to around 24,000 barrels a day, covering only a fraction of domestic needs, said Mustafa Hassweiya, head of the state company for distribution of fuel.“It is a vicious economic war against us,” Hassweiya told al-Ikhbariya TV station.Earlier this month, the government limited fuel for private cars to 120 litres per month. On Monday, it limited the purchase of fuel to 20 litres every five days. Households are allowed one 8-kilogram (18-pound) gas canister every 23 days through a smart card system introduced last month. Gas stations have been ordered to remain open around the clock but many are unable to do so.Officials blame the shortages on sanctions, but many Syrians point to government mismanagement and corruption. The government’s handling of the crisis has provoked widespread criticism, even on state media and in parliament.Syria is Here, an anonymous Facebook page that reports on economic affairs in government-controlled areas, says officials cut in line to fill up their tanks and take more than is allowed. It criticized a televised tour by the oil minister to purportedly normal petrol stations, saying it trivialized the crisis.“Is it so difficult to be transparent and forward? Would that undermine anyone’s prestige?” the post asked. “We are a country facing sanctions and boycotted. The public knows and is aware.”The government has since ordered the fuel allotment for state vehicles cut in half.When another Facebook Page, Hashtag Syria, reported anticipated price hikes for subsidized fuel, government officials accused it of inciting panic and causing a run on gas stations. The site refused to take the news down and asked the ministry for comment, “instead of the threats.”The site manager was arrested. Hashtag Syria said the ministry decided to punish the site manager “instead of dealing with the real problem.” It called on the security agency holding the manager to either release him or put forward charges.The arrest drew rare public criticism from lawmakers and editors of state-run newspapers.“This is laughable,” media professor Nahla Eissa told a presenter on Ikhbariya TV who had suggested the site was to blame. “No rumour, big or small, can be responsible for the situation we are in.”The government’s resources have been further strained by the need to provide subsidized fuel to large areas captured from insurgents in recent years. Eight out of 10 Syrians are living below the poverty line, according to the U.N., and many cannot even afford the subsidized fuel.Economic hardship and anger at government corruption were among the main grievances that ignited protests in Syria in 2011. The government’s use of lethal force, and the rise of an armed insurgency, eventually ignited a full-blown civil war.Jihad Yazigi, an economist and editor-in-chief of The Syria Report, said fuel and gas shortages are “the worst” the government has faced. He said it is likely to respond with more rationing and with greater reliance on smuggled oil, possibly from Iraq. Other experts have estimated that Damascus buys 20 per cent of its fuel from middlemen in Syria’s Kurdish areas.Danny Makki, a London-based Syrian journalist who is currently in Damascus, said anger is rising again over deteriorating services. “It is a pressure cooker,” he said.Sarah El Deeb, The Associated Press read more

Ground Max jets could contribute to higher summer fares

The grounding of Boeing 737 Max jets likely means that fare increases this summer will be larger than already expected and airlines will struggle to handle disruptions such as storms that shut down hub airports.With Max jets grounded after two deadly accidents, U.S. airlines will operate about 200 fewer daily flights than planned through the heart of the peak summer season. That’s around 35,000 seats lost every day.Travel-data firm Hopper said this week that it expects the average domestic round trip in May will cost $236, 7% more than a year ago, and keep rising in June. Most of that increase is due to the price of jet fuel and other economic causes, but some of it is due to the Max, according to Hayley Berg, the firm’s economist.The grounding of Max jets will leave other planes more crowded.“We expect a certain level of chaos,” said Henrik Zillmer, CEO of AirHelp, which helps travellers get compensation for travel disruptions. “With so many passengers being rebooked, flights may get more overbooked than usual, especially when weather or other factors cause cancellations.”For some passengers, the grounding of the Max will mean a change in travel plans.Southwest, American and United are the three U.S. airlines that used the Max before regulators grounded the jet in mid-March. They are taking passengers whose original itinerary included a Max and rebooking them on flights using other planes.That could mean a nonstop flight turns into a connecting flight. Or it might arrive several hours later than the traveller expected.Travellers who don’t like their new itinerary have limited options. Zillmer said under most international laws the grounding of the Max by governments is considered an extraordinary circumstance, and passengers aren’t eligible for compensation for resulting disruptions.Travellers can seek a full refund, however, even if they bought a nonrefundable ticket.“If the new flight doesn’t work for you, you might consider getting your money back and finding a flight that suits you on your own,” said Tracy Stewart, content editor for travel site But he warned that you might end up paying more that way, especially because prices tend to rise closer to summer.Southwest Airlines has more Max jets than anyone else — 34 — and was scheduled to receive another 41 later this year, although that schedule is now in doubt.Still, the Max accounts for only about 5% of the Southwest fleet and less than 1% of the passenger-carrying capacity of U.S. airlines overall.Berg, the Hopper economist, said heavily travelled routes will probably see little disruption, but routes with lower demand might see some cancellations or suspensions for a short time.One example is Pittsburgh, where Southwest plans to suspend service to Los Angeles and Cancun, Mexico, next month because of the Max situation.Until the Federal Aviation Administration grounded the Max in March, Southwest was using them on many trans-continental flights. American Airlines, with 24 Max planes, flew them heavily in and out of Miami.Southwest and American both say have redistributed their fleets so that no routes suffer a disproportionate seat shortage due to the grounding of the Max.“The Max impact is not isolated to any region or route,” said Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz. “On any given day, with 34 Max, we could have 146 flights on 115 routes touching 44 airports with a Max. And we don’t schedule them the same every day. The impact truly is across our network.”United hopes to have its Max jets flying again in July, while Southwest and American have dropped them from their schedules into August. Boeing is working on a software fix that it hopes will convince regulators to let the planes return to service.It remains to be seen how many travellers will be reluctant to board the plane after crashes that killed 346 people in Indonesia and Ethiopia. Preliminary reports found that software on the plane forced the noses down, and pilots were unable to regain control.If the planes are cleared to fly, passengers who cancel a reservation or refuse to board the plane because they are afraid won’t be eligible for compensation, according to AirHelp’s Zillmer. They can ask the airline for a refund, but that might not work either.“By the time fall rolls around and the software updates have been applied and Maxes are back in operation, it’s pretty unlikely airlines would be as flexible with refunds and ticket changes,” said airfarewatchdog’s Stewart.It will be up to consumers, he said, to check what kind of plane the airline plans to use before they click “buy” on the ticket.___David Koenig can be reached at Koenig, The Associated Press read more

PVH and Movado slide while Burlington and DSW rise

Stocks that moved substantially or traded heavily on Thursday:PVH Corp., down $14.76 to $84.49The owner of the Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger brands cut its full-year profit forecast, citing soft sales in the U.S. and China.Palo Alto Networks Inc., down $11.02 to $204.30The security software maker issued a weak profit forecast for its fiscal fourth quarter.Keysight Technologies Inc., up $8.07 to $79.49The electronics company beat Wall Street’s fiscal second quarter profit and revenue forecasts.Veeva Systems Inc., up $19.81 to $154.30The cloud-based software services company’s first quarter profit beat Wall Street forecasts.Dollar General Corp., up $8.49 to $127The discount retailer beat Wall Street’s first quarter profit and revenue forecasts.Movado Group Inc., down $2.20 to $28.51The watchmaker’s first quarter profit and revenue fell short of Wall Street forecasts.Burlington Stores Inc., up $10.03 to $156.03The discount retailer of coats, jackets and other clothing gave investors a solid first quarter earnings report.Designer Brands Inc., up $1.07 to $19.06The footwear and accessories retailer behind DSW reported solid first quarter profit results.The Associated Press read more

Nissan slams Renault abstention on governance efforts vote

TOKYO — Nissan’s chief executive has criticized the Japanese automaker’s French alliance partner, Renault, for trying to block changes to strengthen governance following the arrest of former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn.Hiroto Saikawa said in a statement Monday that Nissan received a letter from Renault saying it would abstain in voting on the corporate governance measures at Nissan’s June 25 shareholders’ meeting, apparently because its views weren’t adequately reflected.Renault declined to comment.Saikawa said the proposed changes have already been discussed by Nissan’s board, including members nominated by Renault.He said: “Nissan finds Renault’s new stance on this matter most regrettable, as such a stance runs counter to the company’s efforts to improve its corporate governance.”The proposal calls for three committees to add outside directors and oversee compensation and audit.The Associated Press read more

Trump says he’ll talk trade with Xi next week in Japan

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he’ll hold trade talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping next week at a summit of nations in Japan.In an escalating trade dispute with Beijing, Trump has already imposed 25% tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese imports. The goal is to pressure Beijing to stop stealing American technology, forcing U.S. businesses to hand over trade secrets and unfairly subsidizing Chinese tech companies.Trump tweeted on Tuesday that U.S. and China negotiating teams will meet prior to his meeting with the Chinese leader at the Group of 20 nations in Osaka, Japan.U.S. businesses are imploring Trump not to expand his tariffs to $300 billion in goods from China or at least spare those imports that are of key importance to their customers.The Associated Press read more

Ban Kimoon reflects on his first year as UN SecretaryGeneral

“I have not sat still this year,” said Mr. Ban, who has flown over 215,000 miles since taking office at the start of this year.He reiterated his call for the need to “change the UN culture and re-engineer the United Nations for life in our fast-modern world.” While the UN must reform to better respond to global challenges, it must simultaneously attain the highest standards in ethics, transparency and accountability, he added.To this end, the Secretary-General is working to reorganize key departments, including the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Political Affairs.Mr. Ban also highlighted his efforts in the fight against global warming, which he has called “the defining issue of our era” and which he has made his top priority.Those efforts – including his trips to places such as Antarctica and the Amazon and his convening of the largest-ever gathering of heads of State to discuss the issue – culminated in the landmark UN Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia, which ended last week.In Bali delegates “took a vital first step” towards reaching a comprehensive accord to replace the current Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012, the Secretary-General said. “This is the year’s key achievement,” he declared.This year marks the halfway point for the MDGs, eight targets to slash poverty and other ills by 2015, and the Secretary-General pointed out that despite progress made, challenges remain.“For the poorest of the world’s poor, economic and social advancement should be considered an innate human right,” he said, adding that he will expend great effort in 2008 to bolstering the UN’s role in development.In the 132 days he has spent on the road this year, Mr. Ban said he has visited a half dozen UN peacekeeping missions, including the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) known as MONUC to the Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).He highlighted the crucial role of the UN in Lebanon, Iraq, Bangladesh and the occupied Palestinian territories.At the same time, he noted that “no geopolitical issue has absorbed more of my time than Darfur.” While no advances towards peace were being made last year, there are peace talks underway now and a joint African Union-UN peacekeeping force is on the verge of deployment, he pointed out.“The challenge for the coming year is to work continuously with the [Sudanese] government, rebel movements, representatives of civil society and regional leaders, as well as the UN Security Council and the international community, to ensure the ultimate success of both the talks and the military mission,” he said. 19 December 2007Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today looked back on his busy first year in office, which took him to nearly 40 countries or territories on six continents to push for progress in four main areas – United Nations reform, climate change, human rights and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and international security. read more

New UN human rights chief speaks of personal understanding of discrimination

29 July 2008The newly appointed United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights says she comes to her work with a personal understanding of human rights violations, based on her experience of living in South Africa during the apartheid regime when non-whites such as herself suffered from institutionalized discrimination. “I think I come with a real understanding of what it’s like to have your human rights violated and to have it violated for a very long time without any justice in sight, and the apartheid struggle taught that,” Navanethem Pillay said today in an interview with UN Radio. Ms. Pillay, who is due to take up her post in Geneva on 1 September, said that leadership in her home country had been critical in bringing about dramatic change for the better. She went on to cite the establishment of the Human Rights Council, where she said Member States now subscribe to the notion of accountability, monitoring and peer reviews, as an example of dramatic change that had taken place globally in the human rights field.Noting that her predecessor Louise Arbour had established human rights offices in 50 countries, Ms. Pillay said she wanted to take that work forward. “I see these as progressive trends which would advance the work of the High Commissioner in protecting human rights everywhere.” She said that nations now took human rights with the seriousness that they deserved, drawing on her experience of serving as a Judge on the International Criminal Court (ICC) since 2003, and before that as both Judge and President on the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which she joined in 1995. “My experience as an international judge is where political leadership has been brought to account for complicity in some very grave international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. I was on the panel of judges that sentenced the Prime Minister of Rwanda to life imprisonment for the offense of genocide,” she noted. “I subscribe to this new system of international criminal justice system which we have only very recently, for the past fifteen years, as a strong signal that impunity will be ended and that anyone, whether a head of state or a militia leader, will be held accountable and punished.” The High Commissioner acknowledged that she would have to operate in a different manner in her new post from her previous work for criminal tribunals, even though she said there were close links between the two activities. “The criminal trials have the power to punish, the High Commissioner has to find various approaches of persuasion, of strong talk, or to develop civil society organizations to meet this source of the violations,” she said. read more

UNbacked group sounds alarm on deadly violence in eastern DR Congo

In a communiqué, members of the International Facilitation – comprising Alan Doss, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to the DRC, as well as officials from the African Union (AU), the Great Lakes Conference, the European Union (EU) and the United States – stressed their commitment to ending fighting in eastern DRC and the Great Lakes region. They also voiced their support of the DRC’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and legitimate institutions.“The International Facilitation calls on all signatories to scrupulously respect the provisions of the Actes d’engagement, in particular the immediate cessation of hostilities and their involvement in the restoration of State authority in all areas of the Provinces of North and South Kivu,” according to the communiqué.The group also spoke out against violations of ceasefires, calling on the group known as the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) to immediately halt its military activities in areas it has recently occupied.It also demanded that, in the spirit of the January pact, all forces withdraw from positions occupied after 28 August and to halt all new troop movements, excepting those in concert with the UN peacekeeping mission, known as MONUC, against the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR).MONUC forces took action in several areas of North and South Kivu today to hold back armed groups and protect civilians caught in their crossfire.Blue helmets acted to prevent CNDP troops from taking Kirotshe, 20 kilometres from the North Kivu provincial capital Goma. Backed by combat helicopters, they also placed themselves between the CNDP and Mayi-Mayi Cobra to prevent them from reaching Kirotshe.Also in that province, intense negotiations took place to end fighting between Government and CNDP forces near Kikuku, while MONUC also helped keep civilians in that town and nearby Nyanzale safe.Meanwhile, in neighbouring South Kivu, MONUC acted to prevent the locality of Minova from being taken over by the CNDP. 11 September 2008Signatories to the United Nations-backed January pact between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and armed groups aimed at bringing peace to the country’s troubled east today expressed grave concern over the recent flare-up of hostilities in North and South Kivu. read more

UN rights chief suggests mission to assess possible war crimes in Gaza

“The situation is intolerable. The ceasefire called for by the UN Security Council must be implemented immediately. The violence must stop,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told a special session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.“The vicious cycle of provocation and retribution must be brought to an end,” she said, pointing out that the ongoing conflict had already caused the loss of hundreds of lives since Israel started its military operation 14 days ago with the stated aim of ending Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza.Ms. Pillay stressed unequivocally that international human rights law must apply in all circumstances and at all times, and strongly urged the parties to the conflict “to fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian law to collect, care for and evacuate the wounded and to protect and respect health workers, hospitals, and medical units and ambulances.“Accountability must be ensured for violations of international law,” she said, suggesting that the Council should consider authorizing a mission to assess violations committed by both sides in the conflict in order to establish the relevant facts and ensure accountability.“I remind this Council that violations of international humanitarian law may constitute war crime for which individual criminal responsibility may be invoked,” she added.She also called on the parties to the conflict to allow the deployment of independent human rights monitors in both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory to document any violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. She urged that so-called Special Procedures mandate holders be granted unrestricted access to Gaza and the West Bank. The special session was called in response to a request by Egypt on behalf of the Arab Group and the African Group, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and Cuba on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. In a message read out to the session, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory Richard Falk said the use of force by an occupying power against security threats emanating from a population under occupation was permissible within the constraints set by international law.There was no legal or moral justification for firing rockets at civilian targets, and such behaviour was a violation of international human rights, associated with the right to life, as well as constituting a war crime, he stated. At the same time, the nature of the offence should be evaluated within the context of its occurrence.This included the fact that for the year prior to 27 December not a single Israeli death resulted from rockets fired from Gaza, he noted. Also, while Israel had been expected to lift or at least ease the blockade that had imposed severe hardships on the entire population of Gaza, it failed to do so.Such a blockade does not alter the unjustifiable character of the rocket attacks, but it does suggest two important conclusions from a legal perspective. First, the scale of civilian harm resulting from Israeli unlawful conduct was far greater than that of Palestinian unlawful conduct, he said.Secondly, any effort to produce a sustainable ceasefire should ensure that Israel as well as Hamas respect humanitarian law, which most concretely means that interferences with the access of goods for the maintenance of normal civilian life must end, and cannot be re-established as a retaliatory measure if some sort of rocket attack occurs in the future, he added. A joint statement by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the UN Children”s Fund (UNICEF) said the terrible suffering of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip and the south of Israel demanded the Council”s urgent attention.Nothing less than ending the violence would be effective to improve the situation. In addition to those killed and wounded, thousands of Palestinians had been displaced, but there was no safe haven for them as had been shown by the incident at an UNRWA school, where Israeli shells killed 43 people and injured over 100, the statement added.The lack of medical supplies and security had left the wounded without care and insecurity continued to restrict the movement of medical personnel. Medical facilities had been damaged in most cases it took hours before ambulances could reach the wounded, if they could reach them at all, because of continuous shelling. Children urgently needed access to food and psychological counselling.Health workers were exhausted and the insecurity had severely impaired food distribution. The lack of electricity was preventing people from cooking food. As pointed out, the needs of the population were so great at this time that humanitarian organizations needed to operate around the clock, the agencies said. The free and safe movement of the wounded had to be ensured. All parties to the conflict had to adhere to their obligations to protect the civilian population. The Council will continue the session on Monday when it is expected to take action on a related draft resolution. 9 January 2009The top United Nations human rights official today proposed a mission to assess violations and possible war crimes committed by both Israel and Hamas in the Gaza conflict, and called for immediate implementation of a ceasefire. read more

Armed robbery reported at staff residence of UNAfrican Union Darfur force

1 April 2009Unidentified gunmen broke into a guest house yesterday occupied by personnel from the hybrid African Union-United Nations peacekeeping operation in Darfur, known as UNAMID. The two men demanded the keys for a couple of UNAMID vehicles parked in the compound of the guest house in Mournei, approximately 80 kilometres from the West Darfur capital, El Geneina.UNAMID said that the security officer at the guest house escaped without suffering any injuries and was able to report the incident to Sudanese police, informing them that the bandits got away with a VHF hand held radio and DVD player.The peacekeeping mission tasked with quelling the violence in the war-ravaged western flank of Sudan also reported that banditry remains widespread in West Darfur, UN spokesperson Michele Montas told the press in New York.Meanwhile, in South Darfur, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, Susana Malcorra, today travelled to the provincial capital Nyala to pay a courtesy visit on the Wali, or Governor, during which they discussed issues related to the joint AU-UN mission.The Wali indicated that his government had approved land for UNAMID in South Darfur and reaffirmed his government’s commitment to cooperate with the peacekeeping operation. While in Nyala, Ms. Malcorra also met with UNAMID officials and toured the peacekeepers’ facilities, including the Pakistan Level III hospital where she was briefed on the progress of construction work underway.More than one year on from transferring peacekeeping operations to UNAMID from the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS), well over 12,000 of the 19,555 military personnel authorized by the Security Council are now in place across Darfur.The hybrid force was set up to protect civilians in Darfur, where an estimated 300,000 people have been killed and another 2.7 million have been forced from their homes since fighting erupted in 2003, pitting rebels against Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen. read more

Security Council calls for credible Ivorian polls at the earliest

7 December 2009The Security Council today called for the holding of credible presidential elections in Côte d’Ivoire at the earliest date possible, after the much-delayed polls were recently postponed again. Ambassador Michel Kafando of Burkina Faso, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency for this month, told reporters that the 15-member body noted the postponement of the first round of presidential elections – which had been scheduled for 29 November – due to technical and financial constraints, as well as important remaining tasks. “The members of the Council call on the Ivorian stakeholders to pursue their efforts in order to hold credible elections at the earliest possible date,” he added. The elections, originally scheduled for as far back as 2005 and repeatedly postponed, constitute a major step in restoring stability after civil war split the West African nation seven years ago into a Government-held south and a northern area dominated by the rebel Forces Nouvelles.The statement followed the Council’s closed-door meeting with Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Alain Le Roy, who briefed members on the conclusion of the sixth meeting of the permanent consultative framework of the Ouagadougou Agreement, the 2007 blueprint for political reconciliation in Côte d’Ivoire. read more

Blue helmets come under fire in western Darfur UN reports

29 July 2010Peacekeepers on patrol in the west of the war-ravaged Sudanese region of Darfur were ambushed today by unidentified gunmen, with seven blue helmets sustaining injuries, the United Nations reported today. According to the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), the troops returned fire on their attackers, who fled the scene. The joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID, immediately sent reinforcement troops to the scene of the clashes.All of the blue helmets later returned to their base, where those wounded in the ambush are receiving medical treatment.Today’s development comes amid violence in other parts of Darfur, where an estimated 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million others have been displaced in the past seven years due to fighting between rebels and Government forces backed by allied Janjaweed militiamen.Over the weekend, clashes broke out in the Kalma camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) following the latest round of peace talks in the Qatari capital, Doha, aimed at bringing an end to the Darfur conflict, with some of the camp’s residents saying they were not fully represented. The gunmen identified themselves as members of the Abdul Wahid faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), one of numerous rebel groups that have been fighting Government forces. One person was injured and no deaths were reported following the violence. Sudanese authorities have arrested two people for attempting to assault a sheikh who attended the Doha conference. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today expressed his concern over the clashes in Kalma camp, calling on all sides “to address their differences through political dialogue and to refrain from any action that could incite violence.”In his statement, he noted that the AU-UN Joint Chief Mediator Djibril Bassolé and UNAMID “are doing all they can to defuse the situation and facilitate reconciliation.”The mission said today that three people who were either supporters or members of the rebel group known as the Liberty and Justice Movement (LJM), which recently signed a ceasefire agreement with Sudanese authorities in Doha, were killed yesterday in western Darfur.The lost their lives in violence which broke out last night in the Hamadiya camp in Zalingei between IDPs backing LJM and those supporting the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid (SLA-AW) faction. Several houses of LJM backers were burned down in the fighting.UNAMID reports that the clashes have ended, with authorities arresting four suspects and confiscating weapons found in their homes. Humanitarian aid to the camp has been suspended due to the insecurity.On Tuesday, Ibrahim Gambari, the mission’s head, told the Security Council that the peace process in Darfur has reached a critical point, with the security situation deteriorating just as prospects for a negotiated settlement have improved slightly.He noted several encouraging signs pointing to a possible peace deal. “Civil society is now more involved in peace talks than ever, the Government of Sudan is demonstrating renewed commitment to negotiations, and the leaders of most armed opposition movements are either participating in or are expressing an interest in participating in the talks,” he said.But Mr. Gambari, who is also the Joint Special Representative of the UN and AU in Darfur, warned that the overall security situation continues to deteriorate in the remote and arid region on Sudan’s western flank. Government forces have clashed with members of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), which withdrew from the Doha talks and has yet to re-engage, dislodging the rebel group from several of its traditional strongholds and disrupting its main supply routes. read more

Algeria issues call at UN for debt relief and increased market access

“The best way to avoid even deeper [economic] crises consists in rebuilding world financial and economic governance,” Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci told the General Assembly’s annual session.He added: “A governance which leaves less room for the hazards of the market and speculation, a governance that would ensure equitable representation for developing countries, both in adopting new regulations and in managing the financial institutions of the 21st century.”Mr. Medelci stressed that the fall-out from the world economic crises is felt more severely in the countries that are the most deprived, particularly in Africa, and he called on the international community to abide by its commitments with regard to official development assistance and to adopt additional measures to allow these countries at least to approach, if not to reach, the anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by their 2015 deadline.On specific issues he proposed a debt moratorium for those developing countries which are facing difficulties and improved access for their produce to the markets of the industrialized world. He underscored the need for a reinforced UN role in protecting biodiversity in developing countries and promoting north-south cooperation and called increased assistance to developing countries, especially in Africa, to combat climate change, including technology transfers and financial flow. 27 September 2010Algeria today called for reform of the world economic system, including debt relief for developing countries, a reinforced United Nations role in protecting biodiversity, and full international engagement in combating climate change. read more

Vancouver home sales plummet 31 compared to last December

VANCOUVER — Vancouver home sales fell sharply in December and new listings plummeted as the cooling of what was once the country’s hottest real estate market continued.The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver said Thursday home sales in December totalled 1,142, down 31.1%compared with a year ago and down 32% from November 2012.The MLS home price index composite benchmark price for residential properties in the region was also lower, down 2.3% from a year ago.“We saw home prices come down a bit during the latter half of the year. During the same period, we saw fewer home sales and listings,” board president Eugen Klein said in a statement.New listings fell 15.3% compared with a year ago and were half those seen in November.For the full year, the board reported 25,032 home sales for 2012, down 22.7% from 2011 and 25.7% below the 10-year average for the region.The number of homes for sale on the MLS system in the Vancouver region was down two per cent in 2012 at 58,379 compared with the previous year.Housing sales in Canada have cooled since changes in the borrowing rules by the federal government, aimed at discouraging homebuyers from borrowing too much, kicked in last summer.The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions also tightened its lending guidelines.The easing on the housing market also comes as concerns about the economy continue.Last month, the Canadian Real Estate Association cut its sales forecast for 2012 and 2013.The industry association said it expected home sales for 2012 to slip 0.5% compared with 2011 to about 456,300, while sales for 2013 are expected to drop two per cent to 447,400.The Canadian Press read more

Saputo ekes out slightly higher revenue profit

MONTREAL — Saputo Inc. eked out a only slightly higher profit and revenue in its latest quarter, coming in slightly below analyst estimates.The Montreal-based cheese, dairy and bakery company had $130-million or 65 cents per share of net income, a penny short of analyst estimates.Its revenue was $1.8-billion, about $100-million less than the consensus estimate compiled by Thomson Reuters.The profit was up $200,000 or one cent per share from a year earlier while revenue was up by just $4.1-million from $1.796-billion.Saputo said it faces challenges in obtaining milk at competitive prices in several countries where it operates.The company is Canada’s largest dairy processor and the 12th-biggest in the world and producer of several brands of snack cakes.It also has a major presence in the United States and Argentina.The Canadian Press read more

Canadian Tire announces recall of more than 87000 booster seats

TORONTO — More than 87,000 child booster car seats sold at Canadian Tire stores are being recalled because they fail to meet safety regulations.The retailer says four models of booster seats made by Transtek Trading Co. Ltd. and sold under the brand names Kukuxumusu and Apramo are being recalled.The Kukuxumusu units have a manufacture date between February 2013 and September 2015, while the Apramo seats have a manufacture date between September 2013 and September 2015.All units were sold at Canadian Tire stores across Canada.The company says there have been no reports of any injuries associated with the seats.Canadian Tire adds 33 types of Holiday Collection lights to safety recallHowever, it says the recall is being issued out of “an abundance of caution.”Allan MacDonald, chief operating officer at Canadian Tires retail, says the company regularly tests all of its products to ensure they meet or exceed quality and safety standards.“Because of the regular testing program that we conduct along with Transport Canada, we recently determined that booster seats that once met safety requirements no longer meet regulations,” he said.Customers who have purchased the recalled products can return them to any Canadian Tire store for a refund.A posting on the Transport Canada website says 87,230 units are affected. read more