BJP leaders barge into CEOs office demand repoll in 297 booths

first_imgKolkata: In an unprecedented move, state BJP leaders stormed into the office the Chief Electoral Officer Ariz Aftab on Friday, demanding repoll at 297 booths in Cooch Behar. Poling in Cooch Behar was held on Thursday.The CEO’s office has recommended repoll in booth 181 at Sitalkuchi in Cooch Behar. BJP has alleged that women voters were not able to exercise their franchise in that booth during the poll on Thursday. Security of the CEO has been beefed up following the incident. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari PujaBJP supporters staged a demonstration outside the office of the CEO from the morning. At around 3 pm, BJP leaders including Mukul Roy, Joyprakash Mazumdar and Sishir Bajoria stormed into the CEO’s office, where Roy had a heated exchange with the CEO. They demanded that the CEO and deputy CEO be removed as they are “working in favour of the ruling party.” After the CEO failed to give any assurance regarding the repoll, the BJP leaders sat on the floor of the lobby. Also Read – Bengal civic volunteer dies in road mishap on national highwayRoy alleged that the CEO is working as an agent of the ruling party and no free and fair election is possible without his removal. When asked about his response to the same, deputy CEO Sanjay Basu refused to comment. In Cooch Behar, BJP candidate Nisith Pramanick and his party workers gheraoed the EC officials, raising the same demand. Pramanick had said on Thursday that the state police had connived with Trinamool Congress to rig the polls. He demanded re-election in all the booths. Reacting sharply to this, Trinamool Congress secretary general Partha Chatterjee said: “BJP is a peculiar political party whose only business is creating chaos.” Mayor Firhad Hakim said: “The way in which BJP leaders entered the office of the CEO, is unprecedented. ECI should drop the party from the election fray.”last_img read more

SC asks EC to decide by May 6 complaints against PM Modi

first_imgNEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Thursday directed the Election Commission to decide by May 6 nine complaints of the Congress party alleging MCC violations by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah.The poll panel told a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi that it has already decided on two out of the 11 complaints which were filed by the Congress party against Modi and Shah for alleged violation of the Model Code of Conduct. Senior advocate, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Congress Lok Sabha MP Sushmita Dev, who has filed a petition in the apex court on the issue, said that they had given 11 representations to EC against the duo, but it has decided on only two. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss account details under automatic exchange framework”The Election Commission shall decide the remaining representations of the petitioners before we hear the matter again on Monday (May 6),” said the bench also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna. The poll panel has given a clean chit to PM Modi for three of his speeches. In her plea, Dev has alleged that “inaction” by EC on complaints against top BJP leaders was “a sign of invidious discrimination” as also “arbitrary, capricious and impermissible” as it was destructive of the integrity of the electoral process. It has been alleged that BJP leaders have been violating MCC during the last four weeks and the EC has not taken any decisions on as many as 40 complaints of Congress party. In a related development, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi’s recent remarks, tagging BJP chief Amit Shah a murder-accused at an election campaign, was not a violation of Model Code of Conduct (MCC), the Election Commission said here on Thursday. See P7last_img read more

Beyond IPL

first_imgFor a long time now, this country has been overly keen to play and watch the sport brought to us by our colonisers way back in the early 1700s. Since then, the sport’s popularity has exponentially grown in the country, having a far-reaching impact across rural and hinterlands. India has not just played cricket but rather lived it. It is astonishing to witness the support this sport enjoys across communities, classes, etc., whatever that segregates people under the garb of being an Indian. Cricket brings the true colours of secularism to a bloom, surging excitement across the nation and within the people. It is the sort of popularity and impact on Indian society that makes Cricket almost a religion in India. Sheer support, eager eyes glued to screens, group discourses and even betting, Cricket certainly sends the audience in a frenzy. And, it is this enthusiasm which has made cricketers popular than local MLAs and even cinema stars. India would come to a halt when Sachin used to bat, and this alone explains what cricket means to India. Widening the sport across formats has garnered a tremendous response, especially in India where 12 editions of Indian Premier League have transcended Cricket’s popularity. It has become an astounding source of entertainment. There has been a certain development inclined closely to India’s cricketing roadmap which has been largely eclipsed by the sport’s men-centric mindset. Women’s cricket has not been as popular as men’s yet it has been played out for some time now. Though Men’s cricket sparks “Bleed Blue” emotions, with comprehensive excitement revolving around who’s who and fact discussions, women’s cricket has also made a dent in the average Indian psyche – and Mithali Raj’s popularity ascertains it. BCCI has taken gradual steps to expand the scope of Women’s cricket with the introduction of an exhibition match between Supernovas and Trailblazers at the Wankhede Stadium on May 22 last year, just prior to the final of IPL 11. Though an impressive idea, the closely fought match did not receive much fanfare due to scorching sun at the peak of summer. Taking forward the concept, BCCI this term has widened the scope and introduced a three-team 20-over tournament that will be taking place at Jaipur. Calling it the Women’s T20 challenge, BCCI has decided to shift the matches to the evening slot this time around, and the fixtures will include three group stage games where the three sides — Velocity being the newest entrant this year — face each other once, which then will be followed by the two top teams locking horns in the final. Four games against one exhibition match last year holds the prospect of extending women’s cricket’s popularity and simultaneously aiding the players to improve their game. And, with the traditional IPL format of involving overseas players in the fray, the concept presents a global platform to the players. Women’s IPL reserves potential to promote the sport while incessantly attracting women talent for identifying good players and expanding the selection pool. The exposure it promises is worth efforts put in for such an event. Women’s IPL aims to set a standard which, hopefully, will one day match the popularity of men’s form. While tickets to the novel game have been made free to encourage viewers to provide their support, popularity will be picked up at its own pace. A successful conclusion would motivate the apex cricket body to develop a full-size Women’s IPL which will be highly beneficial for women. It will also bring women’s cricket to the forefront and induce a conducive effect urging girls to pick up the sport, and in general promoting sports in the country. And, with the popularity that Cricket holds in this country, chances of downfall are minimal with a lot to yield.last_img read more

Looks difficult for BJP to reach 280mark Sena

first_imgMumbai: A Shiv Sena leader has echoed BJP general secretary Ram Madhav’s statement that the latter’s party may fall short of an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha, prompting it to depend on allies to form the next government.Senior Sena leader Sanjay Raut said that it looks a “bit difficult” for the BJP to reach the 280-seat mark as it did in the 2014 polls. “What Ram Madhav says is right. The NDA will form the next government. The BJP will be the single largest party. As of now it looks a bit difficult for the BJP to reach the 280- 282 figure on its own but our NDA “parivar” (family) will cross the majority mark,” Raut told a TV channel. Raut told PTI Tuesday that the Sena would be happy if Narendra Modi becomes the prime minister again. Raut said, “I welcome Ram Madhav’s statement and the Shiv Sena would be a part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). We would be happy if Modi becomes the prime minister again.” The Uddhav Thackeray-led party has 18 members in the outgoing Lok Sabha, and is a major ally of the BJP. It is also a part of the BJP-led government in Maharashtra. Ram Madhav said in a media interview last week that the BJP will require the support of allies to form the next government after the Lok Sabha polls. “If we get 271 seats on our own, we will be very happy,” Madhav had said. “With NDA we will have a comfortable majority,” he added.last_img read more

MEA refuses to share details on extradition of Mallya Nirav Modi

first_imgNew Delhi: The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has refused to share details on the extradition of fugitive businessmen Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi, citing an RTI clause that bars disclosure of information which would “impede the process of prosecution of offenders”.In a reply to an RTI query, it said requests for extradition of Mallya and Modi have been sent to the UK government. “They are under the consideration of the concerned UK authorities. Copy of communications in this regard may not be provided under Section 8 (1) (h) of Right to Information (RTI) Act,” the ministry said in response to the application filed by this PTI journalist. Also Read – 2019 most peaceful festive season for J&K: Jitendra SinghThe section bars disclosure of “information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders”. Embattled liquor tycoon Mallya is out on bail in the UK. The former Kingfisher Airlines’ boss is wanted in India to face charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to Rs 9,000 crore. India’s request to extradite Mallya was approved by UK home secretary in February this year. He has appealed against his extradition order, a hearing for which is now scheduled in the UK High Court on July 2. Also Read – Personal life needs to be respected: Cong on reports of Rahul’s visit abroadFugitive diamontaire Nirav Modi is also contesting extradition proceedings in London. He has been denied bail for the third time in his extradition case to India to face charges in the Punjab National Bank fraud and money laundering case amounting to up to USD 2 billion and will continue to be lodged in a London jail described by his lawyers as “unliveable”. He has been lodged in the prison since his arrest in March this year. India’s investigating agencies — the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) — are looking into these high profile corruption cases involving Mallya and Modi. In a reply to another RTI query, the Ministry of External Affairs said 132 extradition requests were forwarded to foreign governments in the last four years. “Details may not be provided under Section 8 (1) (h) of RTI Act,” it said, when asked to provide details of offenders and copy of communications to the foreign governments.last_img read more

Lesbians Gays Bisexuals More Likely to Have Mental Problems survey

Rabat – Lesbians, gays, and bisexuals are more likely to have long-standing mental health problems and have unfavorable experiences with the UK National Health Service than their heterosexual counterparts, a new survey has found.One of the largest surveys of homosexuals in England, the study analyzed data from over two million people. Researchers from the RAND Corporation, the University of Cambridge, and Harvard Medical School found that “Sexual minorities were two to three times more likely to report having a longstanding psychological or emotional problem than their heterosexual counterparts.”According to the survey, close to 11% of gay men and 15% of bisexual men reported having a long-lasting mental health issue, compared with 5% of heterosexual men. Funded by the Department of Health in England, the survey also found that lesbians, gays, and bisexuals are twice as likely to have worse experiences with their general practicioner (GP) than heterosexuals.According to Professor Martin Roland, Director of the Cambridge Centre for Health Services Research, “The survey shows that sexual minorities suffer both poorer health and have worse experiences when they see their GP.”“We need to ensure both that doctors recognize the needs of sexual minorities, and also that sexual minorities have the same experience of care as other patients,” He added.These longstanding psychological or emotional problems are not more common only with the Lesbians, gays, and bisexuals in England Similar health problems were diagnosed in the sexual minorities in the US.“We know that sexual minorities in the United States have health problems similar to those we see in England and also face stigma, prejudice, and discrimination,” said Dr. Marc Elliott, a principle researcher at the RAND Corporation.Despite the growing recognition of LGBT rights worldwide, and the approval of same sex marriages in many countries, sexual minorities still face major “health complications”, according to the survey.© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed read more

Report Snap fires 2 execs after alleged sexual misconduct

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Snap recently fired two executives after one allegedly had an inappropriate relationship with a contract worker.The newspaper says an outside investigation found that Snap’s head of global security, Francis Racioppi, fired the contractor after their relationship ended. The Journal attributed the news to unnamed people familiar with the matter. Racioppi and his superior, the head of human resources, were asked to leave the company following the investigation.The firings follow a series of high-profile executive departures from Snap. Finance chief Tim Stone left earlier this week after less than a year at the company.Los Angeles-based Snap Inc. had no comment on the Journal report. The two executives couldn’t be reached for comment. The Journal quoted Racioppi denying wrongdoing.The Associated Press read more

Saudi King Salman Arrives in Tangier for MonthLong Holiday

Rabat- King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia arrived to the northern Moroccan city of Tangier on Monday around 6 p.m., for a month long stay.Arriving at Tangier’s Ibn Battuta airport from Jeddah airport in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi King was greeted by head of government Saadeddine El Othmani and the Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima’s region Wali, Mohamed El Yakoubi.Regional president Ilyas El Omari and Tangier mayor Bashir Abdellaoui were also present, as were the Moroccan ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Abdeslam Baraka, and the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Morocco, Abdulaziz bin Moyheddin Khoja. It has been reported that 924 rooms have been reserved across the city’s most prestigious hotels for the Saudi King’s delegation, while 453 cars have come from Casablanca, Rabat and Marrakech for their use.On July 19, a plane arrived at Tangier’s airport carrying 143 staff to serve the delegation.Located in Jbila near Achkar beach, King Salman’s residence is grown and renovated each year. It has space for helicopters to land, and all furniture is Italian-made.For security, surveillance cameras have been installed near the residence, as well as on the beaches in the area.While the 81-year old Saudi King is in Tangier, his 32-year old son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, will rule in Saudi Arabia, reported the country’s official press agency, Spa. He will “manage the affairs of the state and defend the interests of the people.”This is the first time Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has officially assumed the role, since he replaced his 57-year old cousin Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in June. read more

Saudi Arabia Facilitates Visa Application for Moroccans

Rabat – Saudi Arabia has facilitated the procedures for granting visas to Moroccan nationals wishing to travel to the country.Visa for Moroccan nationals will be extended to a duration of two years, reported Moroccan news outlet Assabah in its weekend edition. Moroccans will also enjoy facilitated transit at Saudi airports.The daily indicated that the Saudi Arabia announced its new visa policy in a press release issued by the Saudi Embassy in Rabat. The Saudi embassy said that it is open to provide counseling and answer questions regarding visa applications, especially for businessmen.By facilitating access to Saudi Arabia, the oil rich country aims to encourage and improve investment opportunities between the two countries. As oil prices are falling, the Saudi government is trying to diversify its revenues to maintain a local economy, as part of the vision of Saudi Arabia to promote its economy and investment by 2030.The Saudi embassy in Rabat also denied “the publication of false information by the media” saying that “Saudi authorities mistreated the Moroccan pilgrims” during this year’s Hajj.The visa announcement coincided with the celebration of the Saudi National Day on Friday, September 23.During Hajj rituals, Moroccan pilgrims have complained about the unsanitary in which they are performing this season’s Hajj.According to different online media outlets, Moroccan pilgrims slept  in an overly crowded camp  in Mena since they arrived there.They have told Moroccan media outlet Hespress that there are more than 3,000 people staying in the camp, while the number of pilgrims in other camps is it most 2,000. read more

Hurricane Ophelia Reached Category 3 on Saturday

Rabat – While Morocco will not be affected by hurricane Ophelia, the wild windstorm roars to a category 3 and is expected to head to the UK from the mid-Atlantic next week.Ophelia is the sixth major hurricane of 2017 and has sustained winds at 115 mph.The hurricane is currently south west of the Azores and is moving towards the UK, according to British news outlet BBC. Ophelia, however, will gradually weaken on Saturday night before it reaches Ireland on Monday, according to the British National Hurricane Center (NHC).South and central England will see a temperature of 21 degrees Celsius over the weekend as a result of the hurricane.  The UK will be hit by winds of up to 80 mph (128 kilometers per hour) when Ophelia makes landfall.Earlier this week, Mohamed Said Karrouk, climatologist and professor at the University of Casablanca, said that Ophelia would not reach Morocco. However, it will result in temperatures rising in different countries, including Morocco.Karrouk added that since 2005, Morocco has experienced climate change and that the increase in temperatures that we are witnessing are now the norm.“ They should no longer be regarded as a new or exceptional phenomenon, it has become a normality and henceforth one will have to learn to adapt to,” said the climatologist. read more

Saudi Women Need Not Wear Abaya Senior Cleric

Rabat – With the arrival of young Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman in the Saudi leadership, a lot of major social changes, deemed progressive, are taking place.After Saudi women were allowed to drive cars and attend football stadiums, a senior member of the top Muslim clerical body said that Saudi women need not wear the abaya, usually black loose over-garment robe, to cover up their bodies in public.Sheikh Abdullah al-Mutlaq, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, the highest religious body in the country, said in an interview with a local broadcaster on Friday that Muslim women should dress modestly, but not necessarily the abaya. “More than 90 percent of pious Muslim women in the Muslim world do not wear abayas,” Sheikh Mutlaq said, adding that “we should not force people to wear abayas.”This issue has already provoked a heated debate among Saudi social media users with mixed reaction on social media.For some the ‘Fatwa’ is another indication of the Kingdom’s efforts towards modernization; however, other users regard this decree as another step towards destroying Islamic values.#??????_???????_???_??????? ????? ???? ??????? ????? ?? ???? ?? ????? ????????? ???????? ???? ?????? ???? ???? ??? ???? ????? ?— ???????? .???? (@_amoollh123) February 11, 2018However, for some other social media users, this is an invitation to women to take off their short #??????_???????_???_???????— TOMi?? (@toomy_7878) February 10, 2018#??????_???????_???_??????? That doesn’t mean we take off our wearing he said: the woman can cover herself with a modest covering and It is not mandatory to be Abaya.— Sara ?? (@sara_ga22) February 10, 2018While the Saudi cleric is against forcing women in Saudi Arabia to wear Abayas, Macy’s, a major U.S. retailer, is launching a hijab-friendly collection in collaboration with an Islamic fashion brand.The modest fashion line, expected to launch a collection on Feb. 15, includes a variety of hijabs or headscarves, as well as modest tops, pants, dresses and abayas. read more

Fourth African Digital Summit An Unprecedented Success Say Organizers

Rabat – The fourth edition of African Digital Summit, a Casablanca-based two-day forum (22-23 February), was a total and record-breaking success, according to organizers, especially as this year’s edition gathered an “explosive number” of over 1650 participants, down 500 for last year’s edition.Speaking to the press about the success of this year’s edition, Mounir Jazouli, president of Moroccan Association of Advertisers, expressed his delight at the number of participants, especially stressing that 18 African countries participated in the event this year, out of a total number of 30 countries present. This, Mr. Jazouli said, is a source of pride and fulfillment, as African Digital Summit’s ultimate goal is to be Africa’s reference in the industry.“It is important to note that 18 out the 30 countries that participated are African. This for us is a good evolution, and we’re proud, even if our goal is to very soon cover all the African countries, as we ambition to be the number one annual meeting for digital actors in Africa,” he said. “This was an edition of consolidation,” Jazouli further told the press, also specifying that this fourth edition set the ground for “boosting recognition.”“But boosting recognition requires novelty and innovation,” Jazouli said, explaining that  with new activities such as ‘Open Innovation Program,’ this fourth edition allowed organizers and participants to focus on the forum’s driving philosophy of participative initiatives, with the goal of ensuring a smooth connection between giant groups and star-ups in the digital market.Jazouli concluded that the summit’s objective is “to allow a structured and sustainable cooperation and partnership between the continental or local ecosystem and the established ones… with a particular focus on co-creation, co-innovation, and co-development.” read more

Moroccos Autonomy Plan for Sahara Would Benefit Sahrawis Bourita

Rabat – Nasser Bourita, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said that Morocco’s autonomy plan for the Sahara region is part of the country’s ongoing efforts to build a democratic and modern society based on the rule of law; individual, collective, and economic freedoms; and social development.In an address read on behalf of the Permanent Representative of Morocco to the UN Omar Hilale, Bourita stressed that Morocco’s initiative was established within the framework of international legality “to guarantee all the collective and individual rights as decided by international instruments, in particular those relating to human rights, natural resources, and the self-determination principle.”“The autonomy plan presented by Morocco has been developed to guarantee all Sahrawis outside and inside, in their pluralistic, tribal, and intergenerational composition, their full place and role, without discrimination or exclusivity.” The autonomy plan presented by Morocco provides for the establishment of an order of far-reaching constitutional and political principles, which will allow the inhabitants of the Sahara to democratically manage their affairs through legislative, executive, and judicial bodies with exclusive competences, he explained. Bourita further emphasized that the Saharan regions will have the necessary financial resources for their development in all fields, while participating actively in the economic, social, and cultural life of Morocco.Bourita pointed out that the city of Dakhla “is an exemplary illustration of the efforts made by the Kingdom of Morocco and its vision for the development of the southern provinces.”“Like all other Saharan cities, Dakhla has experienced in recent years a profound transformation and substantial progress at all levels that has made it today a flagship and exemplary city for the Kingdom of Morocco at the international level.”Read Also: US Reaffirms that Morocco’s Autonomy Plan is ‘Serious, Credible and Realistic’The minister recalled that a new development plan for the southern provinces has been created, stating that a budget of more than MAD 77 billion has been allocated for various projects in the economic and industrial fields, agriculture, marine fisheries, tourism, promotion of Hassani culture, health services, education, technology, and infrastructure.The objective of Morocco is to allow the Sahara to play its historical role as a hub for trade between Morocco and Africa and also with the countries of the north, the minister said.  He also noted that the Sahara will be established as a reference geostrategic space, for peace, stability, and shared prosperity for the entire Euro-African region as well as for the rest of the Sahel-Saharan region.“The opportunities offered by the advanced regionalization and development efforts led by Morocco will make the Sahara region an integrated economic hub, and will help to promote the success of the autonomy plan proposed by the Kingdom of Morocco for the settlement of this artificial dispute,” the minister added.Bourita’s address was given on the occasion of the opening of the International Academic Conference “Models of Territorial Self-Government: Common Points and differences,” held July 2-3 in Dakhla. read more

Man Condemns Hospitals Negligence of Pregnant Wife with H1N1 who Died

Rabat  – Both mother and baby boy died in Sheikh Zayed University Hospital in Casablanca, the husband and father, Said, announced.It is not yet known whether the virus also caused the infant’s death.At first, the woman had normal flu symptoms, but when she started to cough up blood and underwent medical tests at the hospital, she was diagnosed with H1N1, Said told Moroccan television channel, 2M. After performing the caesarean section, doctors treated the baby until his death on Tuesday.Read Also: Health Minister Reassures Moroccans Cases of ‘H1N1’ Are NormalMorocco’s Ministry of Health announced in a recent statement that “the appearance of the seasonal influenza H1N1 is common.”The ministry called on “health sector employees to engage in preventive behaviors, like washing hands regularly, reducing contact with flu patients, covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing with a paper tissue, and not to reuse paper napkins, and ventilating rooms.”Despite cases of H1N1, the ministry reassured Moroccans that the epidemiological situation is stable.Reacting to the ministry’ statement, the husband of the H1N1 victim told Moroccan media that “H1N1 exists.” He said the country should make vaccination campaigns to prevent Moroccans from succumbing to the flu.Read Also: Morocco’s Health Minister: Vaccine Did Not Cause Infant’s DeathThe mournful man also criticized the “negligence” and belated intervention of doctors to treat his wife. He also condemned the ministry’s initiative to “reassure” people while his son was fighting for life, saying: “I lost my wife because of other people’s mistakes and now I am losing my son.”The H1N1 virus emerged in 2009. As stated by World Health Organization (WHO), “Influenza A (H1N1) is similar to seasonal influenza but has been characterized by higher activity during the northern summer season, higher fatality rates among healthy young adults and higher incidence of viral pneumonia.” read more

New Yorks 25 billion Hudson Yards development opens

New York’s $25 billion Hudson Yards development is open to the public.People lined up Friday to climb the 2,500 steps to the top of a massive sculpture named Vessel.It’s the visual centerpiece of a complex of high-rises on Manhattan’s West Side with luxury commercial and residential space, including about 100 shops and restaurants.CNN’s Anderson Cooper hosted the inaugural ceremony, which included Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer and other New York elected officials.CNN will be a tenant at Hudson Yards along with its parent company, WarnerMedia.Also at the opening was developer Stephen Ross, whose company, Related, partnered with Oxford Properties Group to build Hudson Yards.Half of the 28-acre mini-city by the Hudson River is completed. The rest will be done by 2025.The Associated Press read more

Bank of Canadas Poloz says mortgage market should offer more product choices

OTTAWA — Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz says it’s time for fresh ideas when it comes to mortgage options in Canada.In a speech today in Winnipeg, Poloz says changes could include encouraging loan terms longer than five years, the creation of a market for private mortgage-based securities and the launch of shared-equity mortgages for first-time home buyers.He says these innovations would help provide more flexibility for borrowers, lenders and investors, while also lowering risks in the financial system.Poloz says the system has worked well — but notes there’s always room for improvements, particularly since few mortgage-market innovations have been introduced in his lifetime.In its spring budget, the federal government said it would create shared-equity mortgages as a way to provide interest-free loans to help first-time home buyers add to their down payments.Poloz is making the recommendations as he monitors three key housing-market stories — the oil-slump-driven slowdown in Alberta and Saskatchewan, the steep drop in resale activity in Toronto and Vancouver, and steady growth in many other parts of Canada.The Canadian Press read more

New UNbacked voluntary programme seeks to curb toxic mercury pollution

The programme, agreed to by 140 governments at the close of a gathering of environment ministers at the UN Environment Programmes (UNEP) Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, last week, calls for developing partnerships between governments, industry and other key groups to curb mercury emissions, ranging from power stations and mines to industrial and consumer products. After two years, governments will gauge its success and reflect on whether the voluntary initiative has worked or whether negotiations should commence on a new international and legally-binding treaty. Part of the new programme may mirror a successful UNEP-coordinated partnership to clean up vehicle fuels in developing countries. In four years this voluntary partnership, launched at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, has phased out lead, another notorious heavy metal, from petrol pumps across sub-Saharan Africa. “The mercury decision… underlines a new determination by environment ministers to rise to the challenges of our time,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said. “For too long environment ministers have met and spoken but their collective voice has not been loudly and decisively heard in the world. This, I believe has changed at this 24th session of the UNEP Governing Council.” An estimated 2,000 tons of mercury are released into the environment each year, mainly from coal-fired power stations, waste incinerators and as a result of artisanal mining of gold and silver. The metal is also used in such products as fluorescent light bulbs, dental fillings and thermometers. Action is to be taken to improve communication of the risks of mercury to vulnerable groups, including pregnant mothers who may put the foetus at risk if they eat too much mercury-contaminated fish or marine mammals such as seals. 14 February 2007Governments have two years to see whether a voluntary programme to reduce health and environmental threats from toxic mercury is working under a new United Nations-backed initiative or if a legally-binding treaty is needed to curb the heavy metal linked with a wide range of medical problems, including neurological damage to babies. read more

Deploring Gaza situation Ban Kimoon calls for aid access end to violence

15 June 2007Voicing deep concern at the deadly violence that has engulfed the Gaza Strip this week, especially its effect on ordinary Palestinians, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for an immediate restoration of calm, renewed respect for human rights and the necessary security to allow United Nations agencies and other aid workers to deliver humanitarian relief. “The shocking violence of recent days in Gaza, much of which has involved violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, has caused great alarm and sadness around the world,” Mr. Ban said in a statement released by his spokesperson.Dozens of people have been killed in recent days amid fighting between members of the Hamas and Fatah movements in Gaza, and UN officials say the clashes are worsening the already perilous living situation of many Palestinian civilians.In his statement Mr. Ban said he was particularly concerned about the ability of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the World Food Programme (WFP) and other agencies to deliver humanitarian assistance to the majority of the estimated 1.5 million people living in Gaza.He noted that many Palestinians remain dependent on emergency aid for their daily sustenance, and stressed that the UN remained commitment to ensuring the safety of its workers so that they can keep up their aid efforts.“This will require the cooperation of all parties to ensure appropriate security and access conditions for the passage of humanitarian goods and personnel, both within the Gaza Strip and at key crossing points.”The UN agencies themselves have also raised the alarm, with the WFP saying it was doing the best it could under the circumstances to provide aid, and had been able to still distribute bread to hospitals. All crossing points from Gaza into Israel have been closed, and WFP estimates there are only enough food supplies in the markets to last a week.The UN World Health Organization (WHO) reported that many of its health workers – as well as patients – have not been able to leave their homes in recent days because of the violence, while at least four hospitals have been fired upon and the emergency wards are becoming increasingly overwhelmed by the number of patients who have suffered grave injuries in the fighting this week.Mr. Ban had a teleconference this morning with other principals of the Quartet, the diplomatic grouping that comprises the UN, the European Union, Russia and the United States. The Secretary-General’s spokesperson Marie Okabe told reporters that he would remain in close contact with the other Quartet members in the days ahead.In the statement Mr. Ban expressed deep disappointment at the failure of the Palestinian National Unity Government, “and the violence, destruction and fragmentation that has brought about its demise.”He added that he renewed his support to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “as he moves to discharge his responsibilities under the Palestinian Basic Law.” read more

Former mayor pleads guilty at UN tribunal on Rwandan genocide

Juvénal Rugambarara, who was mayor of Bicumbi commune in Kigali-Rural Prefecture in Rwanda from September 1993 to late April 1994, made the plea to the single charge after two years of negotiations with prosecutors, who agreed to withdraw eight other charges that included genocide, torture and rape. Addressing the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which sits in Arusha, Tanzania, after pleading guilty, Mr. Rugambarara apologized for his actions in the genocide. “I pay sincere tribute to all the innocent victims of the shameful cowardice and humbly bow and plead for forgiveness from the bottom of my heart… I solemnly pledge to join the rallying cry of those who say ‘never again’,” he said. The ICTR found that Mr. Rugambarara failed as mayor to take the necessary and reasonable measures to establish an investigation into the killings committed in Bicumbi commune or to apprehend and punish the perpetrators. The trial chamber – Judges Asoka de Silva (presiding), Taghrid Hikmet and Seon Ri Park – has scheduled a sentencing hearing for Mr. Rugambarara for 17 September. Some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered, mostly by machete or club, across Rwanda in less than 100 days starting in early April 1994. Later that year the Security Council established the ICTR to deal with the worst cases. 13 July 2007A former mayor pleaded guilty today before the United Nations war crimes tribunal for the Rwandan genocide to a charge of extermination as a crime against humanity over his role in the mass killings that engulfed the small country in 1994. read more

Security Council calls for plans to deploy UN peace force to Somalia

In a resolution adopted unanimously, Council members deplored the deteriorating humanitarian situation inside Somalia – which has not had a functioning national government since 1991 – and called on Mr. Ban and the international community to therefore intensify their efforts to promote political reconciliation in the country. The resolution asks Mr. Ban to continue plans for a UN peace force to succeed the current African Union operation (known as AMISOM), “taking account of all relevant conditions on the ground, and considering additional options for the size, configuration, responsibility and proposed area of operation, depending on different conditions on the ground.” It also reiterates earlier calls on Member States to provide the funding, personnel, equipment and services for the full deployment of AMISOM as part of efforts to facilitate the withdrawal of other foreign forces from Somalia and to help create the conditions necessary for lasting peace and stability. Somalia has been convulsed by deadly fighting in recent months, including in and around the capital, Mogadishu, which has seen an exodus of hundreds of thousands of civilian residents in the past year. Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Institution (TFI) forces have clashed with Islamist insurgents, and humanitarian workers have also been in jeopardy from the continued fighting. The situation has been exacerbated by a drought across much of the Horn of Africa nation, as well as the soaring prices of basic foods such as rice. Today’s resolution calls on Mr. Ban to strengthen existing efforts to better coordinate the operations of UN and other humanitarian agencies in Somalia to try to help resolve issues relating to access, security and the provision of relief. It also presses States and regional organizations to take action to protect shipping involved in the transport and delivery of humanitarian aid. Piracy has been a persistent problem off the coast of Somalia. The UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) is currently based in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, because of the security situation inside Somalia. The resolution welcomed Mr. Ban’s recommendation in a report earlier this year to relocate both the office and the UN country team headquarters either to Mogadishu or an interim location in the country. UNPOS and the UN country team are tasked with assisting the TFI so that Somalia can develop a new constitution and put it to a referendum, as well as stage free and democratic elections next year. 15 May 2008The Security Council today called on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to continue contingency plans to deploy a possible United Nations peacekeeping operation in strife-torn Somalia and to relocate its political office from neighbouring Kenya. read more