The Latest: Belgian students march in climate protests

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Latest on student climate protests (all times local):3:20 p.m.More than 10,000 teenagers in Belgium have skipped school for the fifth Thursday in a row and demonstrated in several cities in an attempt to push authorities into providing better protection for the world’s climate.Police said that in central Leuven alone more than 10,000 students gathered and authorities had to change the planned route to accommodate the marchers. Many thousands more protested in the capital Brussels and other provincial towns throughout Belgium as the youth movement spread further across the country.The protests have kept a focus on climate change as a political pressure point before national and European Union elections, after 70,000 demonstrators held a climate march through Brussels last month.___11:05 a.m.Thousands of students are skipping classes to join a march in support of more ambitious climate policies in the Netherlands.The demonstration Thursday by Dutch students follows similar marches in recent weeks in neighbouring Belgium that have drawn thousands of protesters.Organizers say they want to send a wake-up call to politicians in the Netherlands who are wrestling with how best to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.The Dutch Environmental Assessment Agency said in a report last month a court-set target of reducing emissions by 25 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020 is “out of reach.”A group of about 350 scientists and researchers published an open letter in support of the march, saying it is “high time for tough measures to quickly and drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”The Associated Press read more

Moroccan Students Boycott School, Protest Change in Timetables, GMT+1

Rabat- Students in Meknes, Sale, and Ain Borja in Casablanca chose to miss class and stand outside their schools to condemn the country staying on DST (GMT+1) and to call on the Ministry of Education to keep the traditional time-table.“We ask [the government] to remove the daylight saving, and we also ask of them to create a space for us to stay during lunch breaks because we have a hard time staying outside of school in breaktime,” a student from Sale stated in a video during the protest on Wednesday morning. Public schools usually open at 8 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. with a 2 hour-lunch break from 12 noon to 2 p.m. The ministry said in a statement that students will follow the same time-table for school for half a week starting today after the fall break. Beginning Monday, November 12, students will follow the new-time table that the government set on November 1. Schools will start at 9 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. with a two-hour lunch break between 1 and 3 p.m. from Monday to Friday.Read Also: Morocco’s #Masaktach Campaign Invites Women to Use Whistles If HarassedFor schools in rural areas, students will start at 9 a.m. and end at 3 p.m. with a 30-minute lunch break from Monday to Friday.For schools with two teachers sharing a classroom, the ministry gave alternate time-tables.Schools will go back to the traditional time-table in the spring.On Friday, October 26, the government adopted Draft Decree 2.18.855 moving Morocco to GMT+1 year-round. The surprise announcement came two days before Morocco was set to turn its clocks back to standard time on Sunday, October 28. read more

Algeria: King Mohammed VI’s Dialogue Offer is ‘Questionable’

But on Saturday,  Algerian news outlet TSA quoted an authorized source anonymously speaking on the King’s offer to Algeria.The source described the King’s offer as “questionable,” aiming for the “bilateralism” of the Western Sahara conflict. For Algeria, according to the source, King Mohammed VI’s offer “is a non-event that does not deserve a formal answer.”Politicizing the offer On the 43rd anniversary of the Green March on Tuesday, the King said that Morocco is open to receive any “proposals or initiatives Algeria may want to offer in this regard so as to break the stalemate in the relations between the two neighbors and sister nations.”For Algeria, however, King Mohammed VI’s call is not “sincere.”In an interview with Al Araby Al Jadeed, an anonymous Algerian diplomat said that Algeria would accept Morocco’s offer with conditions.Algeria’s conditions include the “end of diplomatic and media propaganda campaigns between the two countries; the end of the flow of drugs into Algeria; good neighborliness and a comprehensive settlement through dialogue; and neutralizing the conflict of Western Sahara and keeping it within the context of the auspices of the United Nations.”TSA’s authorized source has echoed the same conditions Morocco must meet before re-establishing bilateral ties is possible.According to the Algerian news outlet, Algeria will consider reopening the world’s longest closed land border, which has  been shut for over 20 years, if Morocco meets its conditions.But Morocco will likely not accept Algeria’s demands because they are against Morocco’s position on the Western Sahara conflict.Algeria, which hosts Sahrawis in Tindouf, has denied responsibility in the conflict for many years. It also believes that the Western Sahara conflict should be solved between Morocco and the Polisario Front separatist group.Algeria is also lobbying against Morocco’s position on the conflict in the US.According to exclusive information obtained by Morocco World News, Algeria has signed a $30,000-per-month contract with the Keene Consulting firm, owned by John Bolton’s friend, David Keene.The contract, received by MWN, says that Keene “shall provide counsel to and conduct lobbying activities for Algeria to reinforce friendship relations and cooperation between Algeria and the US.”Since Bolton’s appointment in March, political analysts have speculated that Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, might use his voice against Morocco on the Western Sahara conflict.Bolton was a part of   UN Special Envoy James Baker’s team and played a key role in the Framework Agreement plan known as Plan Baker II.Strongly rejected by Morocco, the plan provided for five years of Western Sahara autonomy under Morocco’s sovereignty followed by a referendum on self-determination with independence.Morocco, however, sees its autonomy plan as the only solution to end the Western Sahara conflict. read more

Shortages hit Cuba, raising fears of new economic crisis

BAUTA, Cuba — After two decades of relative stability fueled by cheap Venezuelan oil, shortages of food and medicine have once again become a serious daily problem for millions of Cubans.Stores no longer routinely stock eggs, flour, chicken, cooking oil, rice, powdered milk and ground turkey, among other products. These basics disappear for days or weeks. Hours-long lines appear within minutes of trucks showing up with new supplies. Shelves are empty again within hours.A plunge in aid from Venezuela and poor performances in sectors including nickel mining, sugar and tourism have left the communist state $1.5 billion in debt to the vendors that supply products ranging from frozen chicken to equipment for grinding grain into flour, according to former Economy Minister José Luis Rodríguez.Andrea Rodriguez And Michael Weissenstein, The Associated Press read more

Kim looks to Russia as sanctions bite North Korea’s economy

SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — Two months after he failed to win a badly needed easing of sanctions from President Donald Trump, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is travelling to Russia in a possible attempt to win its help as the U.S.-led trade sanctions hurt his country’s already-struggling economy.There are no signs of a financial or humanitarian crisis in North Korea. But some observers say the sanctions, toughened over the past several years, are gradually drying up Kim’s foreign currency reserves and he is desperate to find ways to bring in hard currency. His propaganda service is already saying that North Koreans can survive with only “water and air.”Russia, along with China, has called for the easing of the sanctions, though both are members of the U.N. Security Council, which has approved a total of 11 rounds of sanctions on North Korea since 2006. Some experts say Kim may ask Russian President Vladimir Putin in a meeting set to take place in Vladivostok on Thursday to voice strong opposition to the sanctions, enforce them less stringently and send humanitarian food aid to North Korea.It’s still unclear how much assistance Kim could get from Putin. Along with China, Russia isn’t likely to want to openly evade the sanctions and face diplomatic friction with the United States. More than 90% of North Korea’s foreign trade has gone through China, with which it shares a long, porous land border.Analyst Go Myong-Hyun of the Seoul-based Asan Institute for Policy Studies said Kim’s Russia trip, the first by a North Korean leader since 2011, may have been planned long before the February breakdown of the second summit between Kim and Trump in Vietnam. Go said North Korea and Russia had wanted to discuss economic co-operation if the summit had resulted in an easing of sanctions.What will still likely be on the agenda is a request by Kim for food aid. In February, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, Kim Song, issued an unusual appeal for “urgent” food assistance. North Korean officials blamed the shortage on bad weather and the sanctions.Analyst Cho Bong-hyun of Seoul’s IBK Economic Research Institute said North Korea needs more than 1 million tons of food aid, so it would want Russia to provide hundreds of thousands of tons of corn, flour and other foodstuff. Russia could send North Korea food, but mostly in a secret manner, Cho said.Kim will also likely raise the issue of thousands of North Korean workers in Russia, who must return home along with other overseas North Korean workers worldwide by the end of this year under the U.N. sanctions.“There is a high possibility that Kim will ask Putin to be flexible on the issue as it’s related to the inflow of dollars,” said analyst Shin Beomchul of the Asan institute. He said North Korea may seek to persuade Russia to overlook North Korean visitors with short-term non-employment visas engaging in illegal work.In May last year, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said North Korea sends an estimated 50,000 workers aboard, mostly to China and Russia. Most work at factories, construction sites, lumber camps and restaurants. They often toil in tough working conditions and large portions of their salaries are taken by North Korea’s government, according to activists and defectors.After Kim failed to get sanctions relief from Trump in Vietnam, he called for national unity under the banner of self-reliance to surmount the sanctions. His state media called self-reliance “the treasured sword,” a term previously used to refer to his nuclear weapons.“It is necessary to sweep away the whirlwind of sanctions by the hostile forces,” Kim said in a rare speech at the country’s rubber-stamp parliament earlier this month.The Vietnam summit collapsed after Trump rejected Kim’s calls for the end of five of the 11 sanctions that he said impede his country’s civilian economy in return for partial steps toward nuclear disarmament. They include a ban on key exports such as coal, textiles and seafood; a significant curtailing of oil imports; and the repatriation of North Korean overseas workers by December.These sanctions, approved one by one since 2016 when Kim began a series of nuclear and missile tests, are inflicting more pain than the six previously imposed sanctions that largely target North Korea’s weapons industry.The new sanctions especially affect North Korea’s official external trade. According to China Customs figures, China’s imports from North Korea dropped by 88% and exports to the North by 33% in 2018. South Korea’s central bank said North Korea’s economy contracted 3.5% in 2017 from a year earlier.North Korea monitoring groups in Seoul say the prices of rice and other key commodities at hundreds of markets in North Korea remain largely unchanged. South Korea’s spy agency told lawmakers last month that it hasn’t detected any signs of mass starvation.Some experts say Kim has likely used some of his foreign currency reserves to import goods from China to maintain price stability. Some say North Korea’s huge trade deficit may have been offset by illicit border trade with China that is likely thriving again with lax enforcement of the U.N. sanctions. Others say North Korea is trying to locally produce items it had imported.“It’s certain that North Korea is releasing a large amount of money,” Go said. “When its money runs out, it’ll face an urgent situation and step up calls for sanctions relief.”There is no independently confirmed data on the size of North Korea’s foreign currency reserves. Go said some economists estimate them at $5 billon. Outside speculation varies over how long North Korea can withstand the impact of the sanctions without major economic and social chaos.Cho speculates North Korea will likely hold out for the next three to five years. But others say it could face a drain on its foreign currency reserves sooner, by December or next year at the earliest.Whether the sanctions will eventually force Kim to fully give up his nuclear program is unclear. Kim considers his nuclear weapons a stronger security assurance than any non-aggression promises the U.S. could offer. In his April 12 parliamentary speech, he described the sanctions as a plot to disarm North Korea before trying to overthrow his government.If there is an indication of a humanitarian crisis in North Korea, many experts say China will likely make large-scale food shipments to prevent the exodus of refugees from the North.Thae Yong Ho, a former minster at the North Korean Embassy in London who defected to South Korea in 2016, said in a recent blog post that there are rumours among North Korean residents that Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, in May. He said North Korea’s hard-line stance will continue for the time being if it gets help from Russia and China.___Associated Press researcher Yu Bing in Beijing contributed to this report.Hyung-Jin Kim, The Associated Press read more

Federal Court orders second WestJet exec to testify in competition probe

OTTAWA — The Federal Court of Canada has ordered a second senior employee at WestJet Airlines Ltd. to testify under oath, the latest development in a predatory pricing investigation into WestJet and its budget subsidiary, Swoop, by Canada’s competition watchdog.The inquiry, launched by the Competition Bureau in the fall, concerns allegations the two carriers used anti-competitive practices to crowd out B.C.-based upstart Flair Airlines from at least three routes last year.Chief Justice Paul Crampton has ordered WestJet corporate planning manager Michael Claeren to be examined by Canada’s Commissioner of Competition, citing Claeren’s former role as senior leader of revenue and pricing at Swoop. He is set to appear next month alongside WestJet vice-president John Weatherill, who the Federal Court previously ordered to come before a presiding officer to explain the airline’s tactics.Interim competition commissioner Matthew Boswell states in court filings that WestJet’s alleged predatory pricing — when a company offers services below break-even costs to hobble a competitor — constitutes an abuse of its dominant position.The accusation applies routes between Edmonton and the cities of Abbotsford, B.C., Hamilton, Ont., and Winnipeg. On the Hamilton route, Swoop advertised all-inclusive fares for as low as $69 starting last June.Flair Airlines chief executive Jim Scott has said the strategy cost his ultra-low-cost carrier about $10 million between mid-June and mid-October, placing it in jeopardy.WestJet has said it is compiling information in response to the probe, which has seen piles of court-ordered documents and data from the two Calgary-based carriers handed over to the Competition Bureau.Companies in this story: (TSX:WJA) The Canadian Press read more

Aerospace company Bombardier to sell UK, Morocco operations

LONDON — Canadian aerospace company Bombardier says it will sell businesses in Northern Ireland and Morocco as part of a broad restructuring.The company said Thursday it will consolidate its aerospace operations into one unit. As a result, it will focus its business on manufacturing plane structures at its sites in Montreal, Mexico and Texas.Bombardier said that means it “will pursue the divestiture of the Belfast and Morocco aerostructures businesses.”The Belfast unit alone employs almost 4,000 people and it was unclear if any sale would lead to job losses beyond those already announced last year.The company had said in November that it would cut some 5,000 jobs globally, including 490 in Belfast, to trim costs.The Associated Press read more

Co-Founder Chris Hughes: Time to break up Facebook

Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes says it’s time to break up the social media behemoth.He says in a New York Times opinion piece that CEO Mark Zuckerberg has allowed a relentless focus on growth to crush competitors and “sacrifice security and civility for clicks.”Hughes says Facebook is a monopoly and should be forced to spin off WhatsApp and Instagram. He says future acquisitions should be banned for several yearsHughes roomed with Zuckerberg at Harvard and left Facebook in 2007 to campaign for Barack Obama.He says he liquidated his Facebook shares in 2012, the year he became publisher of The New Republic.Last year, Hughes published a book advocating a universal basic income. In 2017, Forbes put his net worth at more than $400 million.The Associated Press read more

China to support airlines seeking compensation from Boeing

BEIJING — China’s airline industry association has thrown its support behind 13 Chinese carriers seeking compensation from Boeing for groundings of the 737 Max 8.The China Air Transport Association said in a statement Friday that the groundings and delayed deliveries of the planes were causing “serious damage” to the companies’ businesses. It estimated their losses at 4 billion yuan ($580 million) should the planes remain grounded through the end of next month.The group said it would “actively support and co-ordinate member companies to carry out their compensation work.”It was unclear if the push to penalize the American aircraft maker over losses resulting from the grounding of the aircraft was in any way linked to trade tensions between Beijing and Washington.China was among the first governments to order 737 Max jets grounded in March after crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia that killed 346 people.The Chinese airlines, including major carriers Air China, China Eastern and China Southern, have 96 Max aircraft in their fleets, with more than 30 more due to be delivered this year.Aviation officials from more 30 countries met Thursday with the FAA to hear the U.S. regulator’s approach to reviewing changes that Boeing is making.The company has not yet submitted a final, formal application for approval of its update to a flight-control system that has been implicated in the crashes. That submission will be followed by test flights to demonstrate the changes to FAA experts.The Associated Press read more

UN official calls for calm in southern Sudan after outbreak of violence

12 December 2008The top United Nation official in Sudan today called for calm following yesterday’s fatal incident involving Sudanese military battalions and police units in the Abyei area, which was beset by conflict earlier this year. Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, asked all parties and residents of the area to offer their full support to the Abyei administration in restoring law and order after the incident, which led to one death and several injuries among the units that integrate members of the Sudanese military and the former southern rebels known as the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A).The so-called joint integrated units (JIUs) and joint integrated police unit (JIPUs) were established under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the country’s decades-long civil war.Deadly fighting broke out in May in Abyei, an oil-rich area in central Sudan whose status was not fully resolved under the CPA, leading to a peace agreement the following month aimed at restoring stability to the region and spurring civilians who had fled as a result of the violence to start to return.Mr. Qazi strongly urged the parties to take all necessary measures to avoid any further outbreaks of violence, and to ensure that the incident does not impede the peaceful implementation of the Abyei road map, according to a press release from the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS). read more

Mandate of UNbacked group supporting Myanmar cyclone recovery extended

The mandate of the Tripartite Core Group (TCG) – which consists of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Government of Myanmar and the UN – has been extended until next July to allow it to continue its efforts in supporting Myanmar in its recovery.The TCG developed the three-year Post-Nargis Response and Preparedness Plan (PONREPP), which was launched last month and provides a blueprint for the reconstruction of communities devastated by Cyclone Nargis.The medium-term recovery needs identified in the PONREPP amount to $691 million over the next three years and called for the extension of the TCG as a basis for providing continued funding.“The results on the ground which have been achieved during the past ten months since Nargis struck prove that the assistance is reaching the people and that the joint humanitarian response at large has been successful,” said Bishow Parajuli, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, said today. “At the same time, challenges remain and the affected population will need continued support as outlined in the three-year recovery plan. With the extension of the TCG, the UN in Myanmar appeals to the international donor community to continue supporting the affected people,” he added. 4 March 2009The United Nations-backed group assisting the reconstruction of Myanmar after it was devastated by Cyclone Nargis, which left around 140,000 dead or missing and uprooted 800,000 from their homes, has been given another year in its role facilitating the recovery work in the South Asian country. read more

UN blue helmets bring Christmas cheer to Haitian orphans

28 December 2009United Nations peacekeepers have been playing the role of Santa Claus in Haiti during this holiday season, bringing gifts, warm meals and a little cheer to the least privileged children in orphanages and schools in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Metaphorically, if not literally, exchanging their blue helmets for Santa’s red cap, members of the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) deployed in various regions from Port-au-Prince, the capital, to Cap-Haïtien in the north-east and Les Cayes in the south-west with dances, songs and general merriment.“Christmas is above all a festival for children,” Captain Benoît Pierre, head of coordination between UN Police (UNPOL) and the Haitian National Police.A Chinese UNPOL contingent distributed meals to 42 children between the ages of three months and six years at the Sourire d’amour (Smiles of Love) orphanage in Frères, near the capital.“These children have no parents. We want to see to it that they can celebrate this moment and have a toy. Beyond the security aspect of our mandate, we wanted to show our solidarity,” Captain Pierre added. Apart from the songs, dances and many gifts, UNPOL officers also presented the orphanage with 700 kilograms of rice and other foodstuff. In Tabarre in western Haiti, UN peacekeepers from Nepal added an environmental dimension to the celebrations, planting trees with the 150 students of Caradeux school as well as organizing games and distributing presents. “We know that Christmas is one of the most important holidays for Haitians and a great moment for children,” Major Prabin Ghimire of the Nepalese contingent said. “That’s why we wanted to take part in this celebration and make the children happy.”In Bosquet, also in the west, the UN’s Bolivian contingent brought cheer to 150 other schoolchildren with toys and cakes.“We wanted to organize this party for the children so that we could celebrate Christmas with them,” Captain Andres Saldias said. “They have very little to rejoice about and nothing is organized for them on this great holiday.”In Cap-Haïtien, the Chilean contingent brought in Father Christmas to distribute gifts to 60 children, who then enjoyed a warm meal and took part in games such as musical chairs and an egg race. “Children must have the chance to enter into the spirit of the holiday,” Lieutenant Andrea Fuentes stressed.Nor was Christmas Day itself the deadline for the festivities. In the south the Uruguayan contingent scheduled a post-Xmas day of football, dance competitions, an obstacle race and other activities as well as a showing of a film on the Cirque du Soleil circus.“We believe that the children of Haiti are the future of the country and it is a real delight to offer them a day of peace and love,” Captain Nelson Puchi said.MINUSTAH has been on the ground since mid-2004 after then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid violent unrest. Currently there are more than 9,000 military and police personnel deployed and nearly 2,000 civilian staff. read more

Economic recovery efforts must focus on job creation UN agency stresses

“The only real recovery is a recovery without social deficit,” said the International Labour Organization (ILO) Director-General Juan Somavia in a message to the closing plenary of the ILO’s annual International Labour Conference in Geneva.Held in the lead-up to the summit of the Group of 20 (G20) industrialized and developing economies in Toronto, Canada, at the end of next week, ILO’s 183 Member States expressed broad concern that the global economic recovery remained “fragile and unevenly distributed, and many labour markets are yet to see jobs recovery match economic recovery.”Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters in New York today that he will travel to Toronto for the G20 summit.“I will stress that we must not settle for an economic recovery that simply takes us back to pre-crisis conditions. We need to build back better,” Mr. Ban said.He said he had written to all of the G20 leaders stressing the need for concerted action in three specific areas: inclusive growth, including a priority on job creation and decent work; green growth – powering prosperity through environment-friendly technologies and growth that promotes healthy populations – investing in stronger health systems, including maternal and child health.Delegates at the labour conference in Geneva called for the implementation of ILO’s Global Jobs Pact, which was adopted at a crisis summit held during last year’s conference and received strong support during the G20 summit in the United States city of Pittsburgh in September last year.Speakers also backed Mr. Somavia’s call for a “balanced” policy strategy aimed at securing a “jobs-rich” economic recovery, and his warning that recent deficit reduction measures, mainly in social spending, could “directly affect jobs and salaries” at a time of weak economic recovery and continued high levels of unemployment.Delegates reiterated their call to the ILO to place productive employment and decent work at the centre of economic and social policies to strengthen the social dimension of globalization.Delegates also called on the ILO to enhance its collaboration with the multi-lateral institutions, particularly the UN, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, strengthening policy coherence across financial, economic, trade, employment, social and environmental policies. Mr. Somavia noted that the ILO had seen no significant indications of a reduction in the global rate of unemployment this year, despite signs of an economic recovery.Government representatives, employers and workers noted that the continuing lack of jobs placed a “terrible burden” on the unemployed and hindered efforts to create “the right environment for enterprises to create employment.” Others cautioned again the premature removal of economic stimulus packages.“The message of this conference is very clear – put jobs at the centre of the recovery. In terms of the G20 meeting in Toronto, this means keeping the leaders’ commitment, under the chairmanship of President [Barack] Obama [United States] in Pittsburgh, to put quality jobs at the heart of the recovery,” Mr. Somavia said. 18 June 2010The United Nations labour agency today stressed that job creation must be the priority of policies geared towards economic recovery, saying more than 210 million workers globally cannot find jobs – the highest worldwide figure ever recorded for unemployment. read more

Window of opportunity in Cyprus talks rapidly closing Ban warns

3 December 2010Warning that talks to reunite Cyprus could “founder fatally” if substantive agreement is not reached within the next few months, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling on the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders to ready a practical plan by January to overcome major differences. “I fear a critical window of opportunity is rapidly closing,” he says in his latest report to the Security Council on the United Nations-sponsored talks that seek to set up a Federal Government with a single international personality in a bi-zonal, bi-communal country with a Turkish Cypriot Constituent State and a Greek Cypriot Constituent State of equal status.He cites fundamental differences on the issue of property on the Mediterranean island, where a UN peacekeeping mission has been in place since inter-communal violence erupted in 1964, and notes that parliamentary elections scheduled for May in the south as well as elections in Turkey in June militate against constructive negotiations in the second quarter of 2011. The leaders have met 88 times since the start of negotiations in 2008, advancing in some areas, but there has been “a worrying lack of progress” in six months of talks on currently irreconcilable difference over property rights, says Mr. Ban, who met with the two leaders in New York on 18 November. The Greek Cypriots say those with property in the north should be able to seek reinstatement, while Turkish Cypriots say that if all Greek Cypriot property owners there were allowed reinstatement, it would be impossible for the Turkish Cypriots to secure bizonality. They want a ceiling on the number of those who can have properties reinstated, instead of compensation.“We must be clear that, in order to negotiate successfully a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, the two leaders will have to reconcile these and other seemingly irreconcilable issues,” Mr. Ban writes, calling on Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu to “dedicate significant efforts” to preparing a practical plan for overcoming major remaining points of disagreement when he meets with them again in January. “In any society, intense political moments such as elections are rarely a time for compromises or flexibility,” he writes of the forthcoming electoral calendar. “If substantive agreement across all chapters cannot be concluded ahead of the election cycle, the talks may go into abeyance, and there is a serious risk that the negotiations could founder fatally.”Mr. Ban also warns of the need to avoid any inflammatory statements that could further stoke public scepticism over the talks, noting that despite the collegial atmosphere in which the leaders engage in the talks, their subsequent public rhetoric has not conveyed that the negotiations are moving forward and political leaders, both in government and the opposition, have accused the other side of undermining the talks.“Occasional outbursts by the leaders about each other have not contributed to building public confidence in the leadership and the peace process,” he says, calling on both sides to reverse the cycle of negative messaging since the success of the process will ultimately remain in the hands of the people, who will vote for an agreement in separate, simultaneous referendums. “I would encourage the leaders to step forward individually and jointly to deliver more constructive and harmonized messages. This is their responsibility just as much as managing the talks is. This would enhance public trust and support for the peace process and make the task of the leaders easier by making information available in a constructive manner to both sides,” he adds.“Now, more than ever, as public support is flagging, civil society can play an important role in supporting the leaders and the process.”In a separate report on the 46-yearold UN mission, known as UNFICYP, Mr. Ban calls on the Council to renew its mandate for another six months until 15 June, citing its work with his Special Advisor on the talks, Alexander Downer, and other UN agencies “actively engaged in promoting an atmosphere conducive to the negotiations.” The overall number of violations in the buffer zone has declined, but “low-level exercises near the ceasefire lines unnecessarily cause tensions and should be avoided,” he says. UNFICYP, with a strength of over 900 uniformed personnel, continues to work closely with the two communities in resolving practical day-to-day issues, including the civilian use of the buffer zone. “Such efforts are important in building confidence and positive relations between the communities, and I call on both sides to continue to support UNFICYP in that regard,” he adds. read more

Unemployment in Gaza remains high despite improved economy – UN

7 December 2011The rate of unemployment among refugees registered with the United Nations in the Gaza Strip in the occupied Palestinian territory stands at 33.8 per cent, indicating that their participation in the labour market has declined despite growth in the construction industry, a new report unveiled today indicates. The rate of unemployment among refugees registered with the United Nations in the Gaza Strip in the occupied Palestinian territory stands at 33.8 per cent, indicating that their participation in the labour market has declined despite growth in the construction industry, a new report unveiled today indicates.The report by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which is based on a comparison of macro-economic indicators in Gaza for the first half with those the similar period in 2010 found that there were 1,430 more refugees employed in the public sector and about 18,670 in the private sector, a net gain of about 20,100 jobs.The rise in the number of jobs, however, did not keep up with the robust population growth in Gaza. Refugees accounted for less than 20 per cent of workers taking up new jobs in the public sector and about 55 per cent in the private sector. Overall refugees account for nearly 62 per cent of Gaza’s labour force.The report also found that there was a “surge in private employment” as a result of “expanded importation of much-needed building materials and other productive inputs.”The UN estimates that 46,500 tons of building materials came through the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel into Gaza in September, whereas 90,000 tons came through the tunnels.Some 9,195 tonnes of cement came through Kerem Shalom, while 90,000 tons of the commodity were brought in through the tunnels. An estimated 1,418 tons of steel bars came through Kerem Shalom and 15,000 tons were imported into Gaza through the tunnels.Despite the easing of restrictions on the Israeli-imposed blockade, tight controls of the crossings from Israel into Gaza are a significant factor in the growth of the “tunnel economy,” according to UNRWA.Construction jobs grew by more than 9,400, more than three times the rate of expansions in the first half 2010, accounting for 27.7 per cent of all job growth.That growth was still significantly lower than pre-blockade levels, dampening the prospect of reversing the trend of worsening poverty and aid dependency among ordinary people in Gaza, UNRWA points out.“The private sector accounted for 90 per cent of all job gains in first-half 2011 relative to second-half 2010 as it added 42,450 positions,” according to the report. “Public sector employment grew by 4,660 jobs or 5.1 per cent in the same period.”The private sector continues to be badly affected by the restrictions on exports. While the informal economy provided for wider imports, the blockade continues to restrict exports, which currently stand at just over 3 per cent of pre-blockade levels, preventing sustainable economic growth, the report points out. read more

Loonie falls after weak data show precious little growth in Canadas job

TORONTO — The Canadian dollar lost some momentum Friday, amid lower commodity prices and disappointing Canadian jobs figures.The loonie faded 0.58 of a cent to 93.34 cents US.Statistics Canada reported that the economy had an unexpected loss of 9,400 jobs in June, with the unemployment rate rising one-tenth of a point to 7.1% — the highest since last December. Full-time employment rose by 33,500, partly making up for the loss of 43,000 part-time jobs.Economists had expected another big month of job creation following May’s 25,800 gain, but June resumed what has become a year-long trend of weak demand for workers. They had forecasted the agency would report that about 24,000 jobs were created.The Canadian job market remains mired deep in a mid-cycle funk“The Canadian job market remains mired deep in a mid-cycle funk, with precious little employment growth over the past year,” said Doug Porter, chief economist with BMO Capital Markets.These latest jobs figures will no doubt be front and centre of the Bank of Canada’s next interest rate announcement and release of its latest monetary policy report, due next Wednesday.Porter said it’s likely that the central bank will use it as a reason to continue to keep at record-low levels.“While there is much sound and fury surrounding monthly Canadian job tallies, often signifying very little, the underlying trend is unquestionably squishy soft,”he wrote. “Simply, this gives the Bank of Canada all the justification it needs to still sound quite dovish in next week’s interest rate decision and quarterly monetary policy report, even with the recent uptick in prices. Their focus will likely shift from ’too-low inflation” to “too-low growth.”’The Canadian dollar has been hovering around the 94-cent US range as of late, which has raised fresh concerns how the higher currency is affecting the country’s exports and manufacturing sectors. Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz has been depending on a weakened Canadian dollar to help drive exports and aid in Canada’s economic recovery.The currency will also be looking for direction from the release of the latest inflation figures due next Friday.It also continues to look for hints that the fundamentals, including oil prices, are supporting its price. Oil rose for the first time in two weeks on Thursday, but pulled back from gains with the August crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange dipping $1.47 cents to US$101.46 a barrel.Oil prices shot up in the last month to a 10-month high over concerns that strife in Iraq might disrupt supplies. However, they have since been easing back as al-Qaida-inspired militants’ gains in Iraq did not affect oil exporters.On Friday, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said Kurdish fighters have taken over two oil fields outside the disputed northern city of Kirkuk on Friday.Meanwhile, the prospect of a sudden return of Libyan oil to the global market has also lessened global supply worries. Libyan exports have been all but cut off over the last several months because of labour and political strife that has shut ports and disrupted production. Agreements with local militias are now expected to open two ports, and a major field restarted production Tuesday.In other commodities, gold prices also dropped, with August gold bullion falling $2 to US$1,337.20 an ounce. September copper fell a penny to US$3.24 a pound. read more

TSX advances resource sectors positive after sharp selloff

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market closed higher Tuesday with the resource sectors positive as buyers started to nibble at companies that have sustained a severe mauling because of a steep drop in oil prices and other economic concerns.The S&P/TSX composite index gained 51.56 points to 14,195.73.The Canadian dollar was up 0.32 of a cent to 87.41 cents US.Worries that last week’s positive jobs creation data could result in the U.S. Federal Reserve moving sooner than expected to raise interest rates punished most U.S. indexes.The Dow Jones industrials fell 51.28 points to 17,801.2 and the S&P 500 index dipped 0.49 of a point to 2,059.82, while the Nasdaq gained 25.78 points to 4,766.47.Oil prices rose 77 cents to US$63.82 a barrel after tumbling almost US$3 a barrel Monday in the wake of weak trade data from China and a report from Morgan Stanley that suggested prices for Brent crude, an international benchmark, could fall to as low as US$43 a barrel next year.The TSX energy sector closed up 1.13 per cent Tuesday — but the component, which makes up 23 per cent of the TSX, is still under water almost 20 per cent year to date as markets try to work out a huge imbalance in supply and demand. “The energy space is almost looking like capitulation,” observed Paul Vaillancourt, executive vice-president, private wealth, at Fiera Capital in Calgary.“When we see days like this, they’re expected. Never waste an opportunity and in this situation here . . . fear and panic have resulted in some pretty indiscriminate selling.”Canadian energy companies continue to be impacted by plunging oil prices. Baytex Energy (TSX:BTE) is reducing its monthly dividend by more than half to 10 cents a month. The company is also cutting 2015 spending plans by 30 per cent from earlier estimates as well as its production ranges. Baytex shares gained 44 cents to $16.90.Another bright spot on the TSX was Talisman Energy Inc. (TSX:TLM), which said several parties, including Spanish energy company Repsol, have approached it about potential deals. Talisman and Repsol held inconclusive talks during the summer but the Calgary company’s shares have plunged about 60 per cent since then, making it a more attractive takeover target. Its shares rose 11.85 per cent to $4.81.Miners also provided some lift to the TSX, with the gold sector ahead 4.4 per cent as February bullion gained $37.10 to US$1,232 an ounce.The base metals sector was up 2.25 per cent as March copper rose four cents to US$2.93 a pound.Elsewhere, Hudson’s Bay Co. (TSX:HBC) had a quarterly net loss of $13 million or seven cents a share and “normalized” earnings of $116 million, both improvements from the same time last year. Retail sales nearly doubled to $1.91 billion from $984 million a year earlier and its shares edged up 51 cents to $24.Financials led decliners, down 0.3 per cent. Financials have been steadily sliding since last week after the big banks delivered a mixed bag of earnings and warned of a challenging 2015. Investors have been cutting their exposure to banks because of worries that falling oil will negatively impact economic growth and cut back on bank lending.AGF Management Ltd. (TSX:AGF.B) was the major drag on the sector Tuesday, down 14.65 per cent to $8.28 after the company said it would cut its quarterly dividend by 70 per cent to eight cents a share as of the first quarter of 2015. read more

CBS All Access likely to offer a limited Canadian menu

TORONTO — While its name suggests a world of entertainment free of limitations, CBS All Access will come with some familiar restrictions when it arrives in Canada next year.Even though the U.S. streaming platform is known for a roster of exclusive TV series, including the upcoming sci-fi adventure “Star Trek: Discovery,” viewers won’t find any of those buzzworthy shows on the Canadian version of the service.That’s because CBS All Access has already licensed some of its biggest projects to Canadian broadcasters as part of a high-stakes battle for TV content.In the case of “Star Trek,” the rights belong to Bell Media, which plans to debut the series on CTV on Sept. 24 before running episodes on Space and Z, its French cable channel. The show will eventually turn up on CraveTV, the company’s streaming service.Meanwhile, “The Good Wife” spinoff “The Good Fight” is owned by Corus and airs on the W Network, while Global broadcasts CBS’ “Big Brother” reality series.Without “Star Trek” or its other big titles, the CBS All Access service faces a tougher sell to Canadians when it arrives in the first half of 2018.“This is the problem with all this stuff — it doesn’t translate to Canada in the same way as it exists in the States,” says Brahm Eiley, president of Convergence Research Group.“Expect it to not be the full menu.”Popular prime-time CBS hits such as “Big Bang Theory,” “Madam Secretary” and “NCIS” usually stream on CBS All Access a day after they’re broadcast, but it’s unclear whether existing contracts with Canadian broadcasters will strip fresh episodes off the service here as well. A representative for CBS declined to offer further details.Streaming video blockades are a familiar experience for many Canadians who have severed ties with their cable provider only to find few legal alternatives to watch their favourite TV shows.In the U.S., viewers can pay US$14.99 per month to subscribe to the streaming service HBO Now without a cable package, which offers access to “Game of Thrones” and the network’s other hit series.In Canada, access to HBO costs $20 a month — but only in tandem with a TV package, it cannot be legally purchased independently.That’s driven some fans to borrow streaming logins from friends with cable, or scour the internet for pirated copies of the latest episodes.Eiley says the announcement by CBS All Access to explore international markets could be a negotiation tactic to drive up the value of its TV series. Canadian broadcasters want big-budget shows with familiar names to fill their prime-time lineups and will pay top dollar.Leslie Moonves, president and chief executive of CBS Corp., told investors on Monday that he plans to sell future CBS series — as well as content from its CW network and Showtime cable channel — under the stipulation that CBS could still offer the content through its own streaming platform.“As time progresses, there will be more and more available content that we’ll be able to put on CBS All Access internationally,” he said in a transcript of a conference call.“We’re pretty smart about content monetization. We figure out each property and how to best monetize it and that will continue in the international marketplace.”Last week, CBS All Access announced three new projects, including “Strange Angel” from executive producer Ridley Scott, and “No Activity,” produced by Will Ferrell. It’ll be up to CBS to decide how to deal with Canadian broadcasters that take a hard-line and insist on exclusivity for streaming.Ultimately, CBS All Access will need more than a few scant new offerings to be a formible streaming competitor.A monthly subscription to CBS All Access costs US$5.99 per month in the U.S., while users can pay $9.99 for a commercial-free version. Prices for Canada haven’t been announced.In the U.S., the service also houses a vast library of classic TV series like “Cheers,” “Beverly Hills 90210” and “Taxi.” Kaan Yigit, a technology analyst at Solutions Research Group, questions whether those older titles would be enough to convince Canadians to pay for the service.“I suppose there is some value in catalogue but I’m uncertain about market potential,” he said.“But (it’s) of course important symbolically as it indicates where the video market is going — subscription-based streaming.”Follow @dfriend on Twitter. read more

BC budget funds 3500 teachers homes for homeless hikes taxes on rich

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s minority New Democrat government says it is starting to build the province all residents want, tabling a budget update that promises to hire 3,500 teachers and build thousands of rental units and homes for the homeless.Finance Minister Carole James said Monday the government’s first budget document puts people first after 16 years of Liberal rule where families, students and seniors struggled.The government forecasts a surplus of $246 million this year and economic growth of 2.9 per cent, up from the 2.1 per cent projected in last February’s budget.The New Democrats formed a minority government last June after the May election did not produce a clear winner in the 87-seat legislature. The NDP, with 41 seats, and the Greens with three seats, combined their seat totals to oust the Liberals in a non-confidence vote.“The budget really does invest in people to invest in B.C.,” James said in a briefing before introducing the budget in the legislature.“I am a big believer that a budget does not stand alone,” she said. “A budget is a tool to make sure the people of this province who built our economy benefit from the economy.”The updated budget confirmed many of the NDP’s spring election promises, but other major pledges appeared to be under review and considered works in progress.B.C.’s carbon tax, currently at $30 a tonne, will increase by $5 per tonne on April 1, 2018, James said. The $5 annual increases ensures B.C.’s carbon tax reaches the federal goal of $50 a tonne a year before Ottawa’s 2022 deadline for a set carbon price agreement across Canada.She also said the carbon tax will no longer be required to be revenue neutral and the expected $1.2 billion in revenues this year will fund government programs rather than tax measures.“We will use carbon tax revenue to support families and fund green initiatives to address our climate action commitments,” said James.Green Leader Andrew Weaver said he supports the increase and the move to drop revenue neutrality, saying the government could use the money to fund transportation initiatives.James acknowledged the government’s plan for a universal, $10-a-day child-care program and its promised $400 subsidy for renters are currently in planning stages and may be more fully addressed in the government’s budget this February.“We will implement programs and services as we are able,” she said. “You can’t turn back the clock on 16 years overnight. That’s not possible.”The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives said investing in affordable housing and offering start-up funding for a poverty reduction strategy are welcome changes, but delaying work on the child-care promises raises concerns.“The question is how ambitious their plan is going to be,” said economist Iglika Ivanova. “I’m expecting to see a lot more in the budget in February.”James said the government will invest $681 million over three years to hire more teachers and provide services for students.A Supreme Court of Canada ruling last year ordered B.C. to reinstate classroom composition rights taken away from the B.C. Teachers’ Federation about 15 years ago.The budget update contains immediate housing initiatives for renters and the homeless and housing will remain a major focus of February’s budget.She said the government will spend $208 million to build 1,700 affordable rental housing units and $291 million to build 2,000 modular housing units for homeless people.“Putting people first is our government’s priority, and we’re working on a comprehensive strategy to improve housing affordability, close speculation loopholes and reduce tax fraud and money laundering in B.C. real estate,” James said in her speech to the legislature.She said the government will cut Medical Services Premiums by 50 per cent in January and the government’s promise to increase income and disability assistance by $100 a month are budgeted at $472 million.The budget includes tax measures that lowers the corporate income tax rate for small business to two per cent from 2.5 per cent, but increases the general corporate tax rate from 11 per cent to 12 per cent.The personal income tax rate will jump from 14.7 per cent to 16.8 per cent for those earning $150,000 and over.Jock Finlayson, B.C. Business Council vice president, said the business community expected the tax changes as they were part of the NDP’s election platform, but “this budget isn’t going to create a lot of new investment.”He said the increase in personal income tax, coupled with federal government tax changes, could result in B.C. businesses not being able to attract top-job candidates.Opposition Liberal finance critic Shirley Bond said the budget did not contain a jobs plan or an economic agenda.“Today we see the NDP delivered a plan to spend,” she said. “There was no single mention of a jobs plan.” read more

Government and diaspora hold talks in UK

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mahishini Colonne said the Government also welcomes some of the meaningful and constructive comments in favour of reconciliation that have been made in recent times by some of the diaspora members and groups. The Government was to have talks with the Tamil Diaspora in London over the weekend in an attempt to take the post war reconciliation process forward.Sources said that a Government Minister, who was visiting London, was to meet leading Diaspora groups while a Parliamentarian from the Tamil National Alliance was also to attend. Meanwhile, in response to a question posed by The Sunday Leader via email on Thursday, the Foreign Ministry said the Government welcomes the meaningful participation of all diaspora groups and persons of Sri Lankan origin of all communities who live overseas to contribute to the reconciliation process as well as other processes that are underway in Sri Lanka. The Global Tamil Forum (GTF), a leading Tamil Diaspora group based in UK, had recently told The Sunday Leader it was willing to talk with anyone to address issues faced by the Tamils.“There are many Sri Lankans who live overseas from different communities who are extremely talented and skilled. People in Sri Lanka can most certainly benefit from their expertise and their knowledge in diverse fields – arts & culture, business, investment, education, science, research, sports, etc.  Their participation would enrich the lives of people in Sri Lanka. Their ideas are valued and welcome,” Colonne told The Sunday Leader. She also said that Sri Lanka appreciates all efforts taken by the international community, not only South Africa, but all other countries and parties, in discussing issues with the diaspora.South Africa had recently met the Global Tamil Forum for talks in London on the Sri Lankan issue as part of the role it plays in Sri Lanka’s reconciliation process.“There is no official mediation role that has been accorded to the Government of South Africa. As you are aware, the President of South Africa appointed the Deputy President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa as his Special Envoy for Sri Lanka. This was at the request of the former President of Sri Lanka. Therefore, Mr Ramaphosa continues this task and we appreciate his efforts aimed at harnessing the tremendous capacity and goodwill that exists among the diaspora communities of Sri Lankan origin in the world, in contributing meaningfully and constructively to their country of origin, Sri Lanka, in a unitary framework, safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country,” the Foreign Ministry spokesperson said. read more