Wizz Air to Link Marrakech with Warsaw and Vilnius in October

Rabat – Budget airline Wizz Air has announced it will provide flights linking Marrakech to two new international destinations: Warsaw, Poland, and Vilnius, Lithuania.A joint statement from Wizz Air and  Morocco’s National Office of Tourism (ONMT) noted on Tuesday that the Warsaw flight will be operational starting October on Wednesdays and Sundays.The Marrakech-Vilnius flight,  on Mondays and Fridays, will also begin in October. According to the statement, the Hungarian airline chose Marrakech “because it represents a tourist destination of choice and is the second Moroccan city served by the airline Wizz Air.”Wizz Air launched its first flight to Morocco in 2017, linking Agadir to Warsaw with weekly flights, in line with a partnership between Wizz Air and ONMT.The airline currently offers seven routes to Morocco from five cities in Hungary, Lithuania, and Poland.Acting General Director of ONMT Rachid Hamzaoui expressed satisfaction over the airline’s increased presence in Morocco.According to Hamzaoui, the successful cooperation between ONMT and Wizz Air has allowed many tourists to visit Morocco and discover the wealth of its tourist offer, the beauty of its landscapes, and its thousand-year-old culture.ONMT aims to receive 70,000 Polish tourists in Morocco before the end of 2018. read more

Land deals jobs plan tied to new Detroit car plant approved

DETROIT — Fiat Chrysler can move forward with plans to build a new, $1.6 million assembly plant on Detroit’s eastside and invest $900 million to retool and modernize another.The Detroit City Council on Tuesday approved land deals and community benefits agreements tied to the project. They include a four-week exclusive window Detroit residents will have to apply for jobs at the facilities once laid-off workers and temporary employees are considered.Fiat Chrysler expects to add 4,950 new jobs — mostly on the assembly line.The company is getting tax breaks and 215 acres (87 hectares) of adjacent land the city had to acquire. The land deals are about $108 million, with Detroit and the state splitting it about equally.The Associated Press read more

UN officials see progress in eliminating landmines but urge further action

In a joint statement issued by the heads of UN departments, agencies, funds and programmes that are members of the UN Mine Action Team, 14 officials said the steady decline in casualty rates, the return of formerly mined areas to productive civilian use and the destruction of tens of millions of these indiscriminate weapons are “encouraging” developments.“The Anti-Personnel Mine-Ban Treaty is a testament to what can be achieved when the international community works collectively to tackle a grave humanitarian and development challenge,” the officials said.The UN Mine Action Team of organizations collectively pledged to exert all possible efforts to assist mine-affected countries in meeting their obligations to clear mined areas, assist victims, destroy stockpiled mines, and educate all people about the dangers of mines and explosive remnants of war.“Mine-affected countries themselves should also do everything in their power to meet their obligations. We call on those in a position to do so to support all aspects of mine action for as long as it takes to finish the job,” the officials said.Tomorrow’s anniversary coincides with the opening of the General Assembly’s sixty-second session, and the statement urges participants to “rise to the challenge of protecting the rights of the estimated 400,000 people who have survived mine and explosive remnant of war accidents.”They also called on all States to ratify the new Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and to develop a legally binding instrument prohibiting cluster munitions “that cause unacceptable harm to civilians.”The statement was endorsed by Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO); Kemal Dervis, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP); Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); High Representative Sergio de Queiroz Duarte of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs; Under-Secretary-General Jean-Marie Guéhenno of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations; António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); John Holmes, Emergency Relief Coordinator; Jan Mattsson, Executive Director of the Office for Project Services; Rachel N. Mayanja, Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women; Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP); Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF); and Robert B. Zoellick, President of the World Bank.“As the world reflects on the progress made by mine-affected countries in the past 10 years, we also look forward to the next decade, envisioning a world free from the suffering caused by anti-personnel mines,” they said.At a press conference earlier this year, Mr. Guéhenno estimated that up to 20,000 people each year are killed by landmines, some dating from conflicts that have long ended.Officially known as the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, the pact is also known as the Ottawa treaty for the city where it was signed on 18 September 1997. 17 September 2007On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Anti-Personnel Mine-Ban Treaty, over a dozen United Nations officials have joined their voices to hail progress in reducing these weapons while urging greater action to eliminate them. read more

GuineaBissau drug trafficking threatens consolidation of democracy says Ban Kimoon

1 October 2007Despite recent progress in the fields of public finance and cooperation with international finance institutions, the consolidation of democracy in Guinea-Bissau is being impeded by numerous challenges, particularly drug trafficking, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a new report made public today. Despite recent progress in the fields of public finance and cooperation with international finance institutions, the consolidation of democracy in Guinea-Bissau is being impeded by numerous challenges, particularly drug trafficking, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a new report made public today.“Drug trafficking threatens to subvert the nascent democratization process of Guinea-Bissau, entrench organized crime and undermine respect for the rule of law,” Mr. Ban writes in the report to the Security Council on the latest activities the UN Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS).“There is no reliable data on drug seizures, the volume of drugs in transit through Guinea-Bissau or the local consumption of narcotics,” he notes. “However, there is a growing consensus that Guinea-Bissau is a major drug trafficking transit point in the subregion.”Anti-aircraft artillery have been deployed to the Bijagos archipelago after reports that unidentified aircraft have been transporting cocaine, and investigations were resumed in September into the alleged involvement of several high-level officials of former Prime Minister Aristides Gomes in the disappearance of nearly 700 kilograms of cocaine seized by authorities.“Given the country’s inability to combat this new phenomenon alone, a collective response is required,” Mr. Ban writes. “Vital technical and financial support from regional and international partners is therefore urgently needed. Guinea-Bissau must join forces with regional and international partners to tackle this growing threat through cooperation within law enforcement frameworks.”Between July and August, civil society organizations raised concerns over infringements of the freedoms of the press and expression with regard to media reports on drug trafficking. Journalists reporting on the drug trade said that they had been pressured and intimidated, the report says.On 24 July, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) voiced concern to the Government over the case of two journalists, one of whom was charged with libel after allegedly suggesting that the Navy Chief of Staff may have been linked to drug trafficking.“These developments marked a reversal in the positive trend of the past three years, during which time Guinea-Bissau was not cited by the press watchdog [Reporters without Borders] as being among those countries with a poor record of respect for freedom of the press,” the Secretary-General says.He also appeals for the consolidation of the stability pact signed on 12 March by the country’s three main political parties – the African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde and Guinea, the Social Renewal Party and the United Social Democratic Party – which led to the swearing in of the Government of Prime Minister Martinho Dafa Cabi.“I am concerned about the fact that, while the political stability pact continues to provide a platform for a more consensual approach to governance and for Government sustainability, the continuing divisions and rivalry for power among political parties could undermine crucial stabilization efforts and discourage the country’s partners and potential investors,” he says. read more

Muppets go to school in Kosovo in UNbacked effort to bridge ethnic

2 October 2007The Muppets are going to school in Kosovo in a new project to teach tolerance to children in the Albanian-majority Serb province, which the United Nations has run since Western forces drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 amid ethnic fighting. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Sesame Workshop, the non-profit educational organization behind the province’s Albanian and Serbian versions – Rruga Sesam and Ulica Sezam respectively – of the famed children’s television programme Sesame Street, have launched a series of story and picture books with Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch and the rest of the crew bringing a message of diversity and understanding.Distribution began on Friday with children, parents and teachers in Pristina and Mitrovica kindergarten classrooms. The TV programme has already been on the air for some time, adapting its content to local needs.“In a region rich with diversity, but challenged by conflict, our mission is to reach as many children as possible with meaningful content,” Albanian Content Director for Rruga Sesam Anita Pasha said of the new initiative. “Like the Rruga Sesam television series, the outreach materials are designed to better prepare them for school and encourage them to develop a lifelong love of learning.”Serbian Content Director Jelena Ravnjak was equally enthusiastic. “Since Ulica Sezam debuted in Kosovo, teachers in Serbian regions have shared with us their need for relevant materials that present sensitive social-emotional lessons.“The beauty of the Muppet characters resides in the fact that they’re multi-coloured, tall and short, wide and skinny, furry and feathered, and incredibly different from one another, yet all the same – learning to live and laugh together. We are thrilled to extend their reach from the television directly into the classrooms and homes.”Sesame Workshop and UNICEF were joined by UNICEF’s Head of Office Robert Fuderich as well as local celebrities at the launch.In Pristina, actress and UNICEF local Good Will Ambassador Yllka Gashi took part at the Albanian-language Gëzimi Ynë Kindergarten, while actress Zorica Jovanovic joined children and caregivers at the Serbian-language Danica Jaramaz Kindergarten in Mitrovica, each reading the new story book Dita Ime e Parë në Shkollë/Moj Prvi Dan u Skoli, or My First Day of School, to children in their respective classrooms. All materials will be disseminated free of charge to preschools, family healthcare centres, women’s literacy centres in conjunction with women’s non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community-based early childhood education centres and parent/teacher organizations. The materials include 30,000 storybooks and 30,000 picture books in Albanian, 5,000 of each in Serbian Cyrillic letters and 3,000 apiece in Serbian Latin letters. read more

Myanmar top UN officials call for release of Daw Aung San Suu

High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour voiced her “profound disappointment,” calling on the Government to unconditionally release Ms. Suu Kyi.“Her release will be critical in facilitating national reconciliation and democratic transition, to which the Myanmar leadership has committed itself,” Ms. Arbour said in a statement.The detention of Ms. Suu Kyi, who is the General Secretary of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Myanmar and a Nobel laureate, was extended on 27 May. She has been under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years and her current period of detention began in 2003.“These continued severe restrictions on the freedom of expression and movement against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi contravene basic human rights,” the High Commissioner noted. “They come at a time when the people of Myanmar are suffering hard and their suffering should not be compounded by more restrictive measures.”In addition, Ms. Arbour expressed concern at the arrest on Tuesday of at least 15 members of the NLD who were marching towards Ms. Suu Kyi’s house.General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim also urged the release of “all political detainees” in Myanmar and expressed his “disappointment” over the decision to extend Ms. Suu Kyi’s house arrest. In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Kerim “continues to believe that it is important to have serious engagement and strong commitment from all parties to continue the process of national reconciliation that needs to be credible and inclusive and must lead to concrete results as envisaged by the relevant General Assembly resolutions.” 28 May 2008Top United Nations officials today expressed their disappointment over the decision by the Government of Myanmar to extend the house arrest of pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. read more

High food prices could hit agricultural growth in Central Asia and Europe

26 June 2008Soaring food prices could reverse the significant growth in agricultural production seen in some of the poorest countries in Europe and Central Asia over the past 10 years, the Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today. Soaring food prices could reverse the significant growth in agricultural production seen in some of the poorest countries in Europe and Central Asia over the past 10 years, the Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today. “In the past ten years, some of the poorest countries have posted the largest gains in per capita national income, notably the countries of the Transcaucasus and Central Asia, while growth has been slower in the countries of Western and Eastern Europe,” Jacques Diouf said, noting that per capita agricultural production had also grown fastest in those countries.Addressing the opening of the FAO Regional Conference for Europe in Innsbruck, Mr. Diouf added that this positive ten-year trend might be coming to a halt without bold policy steps to contain price increases.The Director-General also stressed that governments in the region had not always responded to higher prices by supporting agricultural productivity, instead turning to export restrictions which have led to cancelled export contracts and lower incomes for farmers.“As in most parts of the world affected by food insecurity, hunger in Europe and Central Asia derives from rural poverty and from natural and man-made disasters, rather than from a total lack of food at macroeconomic level,” he said.Mr. Diouf said that there was strong potential for an increase in agricultural production in some parts of the region and cited Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine: “With a supportive policy environment and investment in infrastructure, at least 13 million hectares could be returned to production, without major cost to the environment.”He noted that crop yields in those three countries are three times lower than in Central, Eastern and Western Europe, where modern inputs are employed and contract farming is used to reduce market risks.“What is lacking for agricultural and rural growth are development policies that favour commercial agriculture and institutions of governance and support for the development of family farms and the private sector,” he said. read more

British police attempt to smash SouthEast Asian sex trafficking ring – UN

18 November 2008Police raids on several hundred buildings in the United Kingdom have recovered dozens of sex trafficking victims, mostly from East and South-East Asia, and led to legal charges against dozens of suspects, according to a United Nations report released today. The largest ever police operation to target sex trafficking in the UK recovered some 167 women and girls forced to work in the sex industry, including 13 children – the youngest just 15 years old.The UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP) reported that 528 suspects were arrested during the investigation, code-named Operation Pentameter 2 (UKP2), after UK police raided 157 massage parlours and saunas, and 582 residential premises across the country. Within a month after the arrests were made, more than 80 individuals were charged for a variety of offences and a number of others remain on bail while investigations continue, said the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP) report.The UNIAP report also noted that the bulk of criminal activity of trafficking for sexual exploitation into the UK originates in South-East Asia, where victims are controlled by debt bondage. Most of the other victims came from Eastern Europe and were coerced into the sex industry through violence.The operation attacked suspects’ finances and assets as a strategy to cause maximum disruption to their criminal activities. Through UKP2 investigations over £500,000 (about $750,000) in cash has been seized and more than £3 million in further assets was initially restrained pending further investigation, but this figure may increase.UNIAP was established to facilitate a stronger and more coordinated response to human trafficking, in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), comprising Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam. read more

World must help Africa reap rewards from its economic efforts – Migiro

12 March 2009Now that African countries have made great strides in adapting to globalization through economic reform, the international community must help them transform their gains into real reductions in poverty, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General said. “African countries have committed themselves to globalization,” Asha-Rose Migiro said yesterday in her keynote address in Dar es Salaam at a conference entitled, “Changes: Successful Partnerships For Africa’s Growth Challenge,” co-hosted by the Government of Tanzania and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).“They have put their macroeconomic houses in order. They have designed not one but two generations of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers. The world needs to match these efforts with increased aid and better technical assistance,” Ms. Migiro said.She said that prudent policy decisions have played an important role in Africa’s strong performance, even as Africa benefited from the demand for commodities, debt relief and investors’ search for yield. Governance indicators have improved steadily, with the number of democracies in Africa having almost tripled, and more than half of the remaining countries on the continent in democratic transitions, she added.In addition, she pointed to major improvements in policies and institutions, noting that, for the past seven years, Africa’s scores under the World Bank’s Country Policy and Institutional Assessment have been rising. Despite such progress, however, no country in Africa is on track to reach all of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the internationally-agreed targets to slash extreme poverty and other ills by 2015.For that to occur, Ms. Migiro maintained, international assistance was needed.Unfortunately, she noted, previously-pledged development assistance is in doubt because of the economic crisis, and what she called “tried-and-true projects and programmes” lack financing. “Africa’s development partners need to deliver with scaled-up aid,” she maintained. “The credibility of international commitments depends on it,” she said, adding that an increase in resources at the IMF and a check on resurgent protectionism was also needed.The IMF conference in Tanzania ran from 10 to 11 March. read more

Sierra Leone veteran war crimes lawyer tapped as top prosecutor UNbacked court

22 February 2010A United States attorney, who leads the prosecution against former Liberian president Charles Taylor, has been named by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as the new Prosecutor of the United Nations-backed tribunal trying the worst acts committed during the decade-long brutal civil war in Sierra Leone. Since 2007, Brenda Joyce Hollis has served as a principal trial attorney in the Office of the Prosecutor in the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), where she heads up the legal team prosecuting Mr. Taylor, who is under indictment for war crimes and crimes against humanity.Prior to that, she was an expert legal consultant on international law and criminal procedure, training judges, prosecutors and investigators at courts and international tribunals in Indonesia, Iraq and Cambodia.Ms. Hollis has helped victims of international crimes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Colombia prepare submissions requesting investigations by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.She was also senior trial attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY) from 1994-2001, serving as lead counsel in preparing the case against former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic as well as cases in which rape was charged as torture.The newly-appointed prosecutor paid tribute to Deputy Prosecutor Joseph Kamara, who has served as Acting Prosecutor since Stephen Rapp left the post last September.Also today, Mr. Ban named Binta Mansaray, a Sierra Leonean national, as the Special Court’s Registrar.Appointed as Deputy Registrar in 2007, she has served as Acting Registrar since last June.Ms. Mansaray first joined the SCSL as an Outreach Coordinator, where she designed its acclaimed grassroots programme to inform the people of Sierra Leone and Liberia about the Special Court and its trials.Prior to joining the SCSL, she worked as a human rights advocate for victims and ex-combatants.The Special Court is an independent tribunal established jointly by Sierra Leone’s Government and the UN in 2002. It is mandated to try those who bear the greatest responsibility for atrocities committed in Sierra Leone after 30 November 1996.Last September, the eight prisoners convicted and held by the SCSL were transferred to Rwanda to serve their sentences since no prison in Sierra Leone meets the required international standards. The remaining trial, involving Mr. Taylor, is continuing at The Hague, where it was moved for security reasons. read more

UN staff member discovers hellish ordeal is no barrier to returning to

19 August 2010Vincent Cochetel, a staff member for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), spent almost all of 1998 chained to a bed frame in a dark cellar in the Caucasus. The Frenchman spent 317 days at the mercy of his abductors, who tortured him and deprived him of light for all but 15 minutes each day. Yet, after Mr. Cochetel was finally freed by Russian commandos that December and was able to recuperate, the then 37-year-old went back to the UN refugee agency – where he still works today. As the UN marks World Humanitarian Day today, paying tribute to the dedication of thousands of aid workers on the front lines around the globe, Mr. Cochetel says there was never any question that he would return to his post after his ordeal. “If I’d stopped working for UNHCR at that time, it would have meant they’d taken something away from me,” he told a UN interviewer earlier this week. “Those guys [would have] won. It was very important for me to continue, [to] prove [to] myself that I was able to work, and that I was maybe able to make a personal difference somewhere for some refugees.” Mr. Cochetel was the head of UNHCR in North Ossetia, Russia, when three masked men armed with handguns equipped with silencers kidnapped him and his bodyguard as he arrived at his home in the town of Vladikavkaz on 29 January 1998. The two men were then separated and the kidnappers asked Mr. Cochetel to kneel down as they put a gun against his neck. “I thought that was it. I thought it was some sort of contract killing because there you have that sort of thing happening in that part of the world. And after some long minutes, they searched me [and] handcuffed me at the back. They put a bag on my head, blindfolded me somehow. And we went downstairs, six floors. I fell a couple of times… Then they put me in the trunk of the car, and then I was transferred from car to car for three days.” Mr. Cochetel was taken to nearby Chechnya, where he was tortured for the first 12 days while loud music blared to cover the noise. The apparent aim was to extract information, but then the torture stopped, and he was largely left alone in the cellar. “The most difficult thing to describe is the sort of depths of loneliness you go through because there is nothing happening in the darkness. And to describe that is difficult because it’s 15 minutes of light – the rest is you’re just alone by yourself. “So you try not to think too much, because otherwise you’ll get crazy. But you have to keep your mind busy. So to keep your mind busy there’s all sorts of games and activities. And you try to keep your body busy too.” Mr. Cochetel said he went through many “existential moments” during his period of captivity as he questioned the rationale of what he was doing there. “But again, looking back, if I had to do it again, I think there was a good rationale for us to be there. We were feeding half a million people, we were restoring water supply to the entire republic, we were helping IDPs [internally displaced persons] to go back there, rebuilding schools, rebuilding social infrastructure, assisting people. We had good reasons to be there.” Now, having gone through his ordeal, Mr. Cochetel says he feels a closer kinship to refugees and others. “I didn’t know what torture was. I didn’t know what solitary confinement was. Now I can talk about it. I can recognize those signals when refugees talk about it.” The experience also left an even more personal mark on the UN staffer. “I know the line between madness and sanity. I’ve explored depths of loneliness that very few people have explored. But you find a way through things. That’s the beauty about humankind.” read more

Departing UN mission in Chad and Central African Republic hands over projects

22 December 2010The United Nations mission in Chad and the Central African Republic (MINURCAT) has handed over its programmes to the Government of Chad and the UN agencies in the country as it prepares to wind up its responsibilities there at the end of this month. Speaking at the handover ceremony in the Chadian capital, N’Djamena, yesterday, the Deputy-Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Rima Salah, said that the UN country team has extensive field experience and will continue to work for the benefit of the Chadian people.“The Government and the UN agencies are natural partners and as such they are bound to achieve a lot in the service of the Chadian people,” Ms. Salah said.The programmes handed over include human rights, rule of law and good governance, child protection, the campaign against gender-based violence, the return of internally displaced persons and HIV/AIDS projects.The interim UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Stefano Severe, said that the various agencies working in the country will ensure that MINURCAT projects in Chad are implemented successfully.“We, in the UN family, are fully prepared to take over some of the MINURCAT programmes to ensure their sustainability and to build on the progress so far achieved in the east,” Mr. Severe said.MINURCAT was established in 2007 to help protect civilians and facilitate humanitarian aid to thousands of people displaced by to insecurity in Chad, the Central African Republic and neighbouring Sudan.The Security Council decided to terminate the mission in May at the request of the Chadian Government, which has pledged full responsibility for protecting civilians on its territory.The Government of Chad said its Détachement intégré de sécurité (DIS), an integrated security unit which the UN has been helping to train and support, will ensure the protection of civilians after MINURCAT’s departure. read more

Evidence emerging of use of rape as tool of war in Libya

“We have information to confirm that it was a policy in Libya to rape those who were against the Government,” Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC Prosecutor told reporters at United Nations Headquarters. “We are getting some information that [Libyan leader Muammar al-] Qadhafi decided to [use] rape. Rape is a new aspect of the repression,” said Mr. Moreno-Ocampo.“We are finding some elements confirming this issue of acquisition of Viagra-type of medicaments to show a policy. They were buying containers with products to enhance the possibility to rape, and we are getting the information in detail confirming the policy. We are trying to see who was involved,” he added.ICC prosecutors last month requested the court’s judges to issue arrest warrants for Mr. Qadhafi, one of his sons and the head of the country’s intelligence forces, accusing them of committing crimes against humanity during the ongoing conflict in the North African nation. Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said at the time that his office had gathered direct evidence detailing the orders issued by Mr. Qadhafi, the role of Saif Al Islam Qadhafi in recruiting mercenaries, and the participation of intelligence chief Abdullah Al Sanousi in attacks against demonstrators.In his press conference today, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said a rape charge is likely be added to the previous ones, once the investigations are completed and after the judges have made a ruling on the first set of charges.Meanwhile, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Libya, Abdul Elah al-Khatib, is continuing his contacts with the principal parties to the conflict on the way forward in the search for a political solution.Mr. Khatib met yesterday with the authorities in the capital, Tripoli, including the Prime Minister and the Chair of the People’s Congress. He urged them to share their views with the UN regarding a transitional period that would allow for a political process that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people.Today, visiting the opposition-held city of Benghazi, Mr. Khatib discussed the same issues with the Transitional National Council Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil. Mr. Khatib’s objective is to determine how best to help the Libyan parties agree on a transition linked to a political process that would end the current fighting in the country.The special envoy will attend tomorrow’s meeting of the International Contact Group for Libya in Abu Dhabi, along with the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe. 8 June 2011Investigators with the International Criminal Court (ICC) are gathering evidence that the Libyan leadership is using rape as a tool of war and repression and had even acquired large quantities of drugs for its soldiers in an apparent bid to make them more likely to commit sexual assault, the court’s prosecutor said today. read more

SecretaryGeneral urges restraint in Kosovo after clashes in north

Mr. Ban met earlier today with Enver Hoxhaj, representing the Kosovo authorities, and voiced concern over the deteriorating situation in northern Kosovo, according to information released by his spokesperson.Ethnic Serbs attacked a border post yesterday, according to media reports, while Kosovo police units were also reportedly involved in clashes after trying to take over two border crossings earlier this week. At least one police officer has been killed. During his meeting with Mr. Hoxhaj, Mr. Ban said “it was of vital importance that all actors refrain from any actions which could exacerbate the situation. He called for restraint and calm and in using the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina facilitated by the European Union to resolve issues.”Sensitive issues relating to northern Kosovo can only be resolved through peaceful means, Mr. Ban stressed.The meeting with Mr. Hoxhaj comes a day after Mr. Ban met with Vuk Jeremic, Serbia’s Foreign Minister, and Security Council members held consultations over the latest developments. 29 July 2011Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for restraint and calm in Kosovo, where inter-ethnic tensions between Serbs and Albanians are particularly high after repeated clashes in the north earlier this week. read more

UN expert urges governments to ensure free flow of information on Internet

“Governments are using increasingly sophisticated technologies and tactics which are often hidden from the public to censor online content and to monitor and identify individuals who disseminate critical or sensitive information,” says Frank La Rue, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression.In his annual report to the General Assembly, which he will present later today, Mr. La Rue states that these actions by governments frequently lead to arbitrary arrests and detention.“In recent months, we have seen a growing movement of people around the world who are advocating for change – for justice, equality, accountability of the powerful and better respect for human rights,” he noted, “and the Internet has often played a key role in such movements by enabling people to connect and exchange information instantly and by creating a sense of solidarity.”Mr. La Rue noted that the potential of the Internet as a catalyst for change has also generated fear among those who prefer to maintain the status quo. However, in his view, such fear of change cannot justify monitoring, censoring, or blocking access to the Internet.In his report, the Special Rapporteur outlines four types of “exceptional” expression which States are required to prohibit and criminalize under international law. These are child pornography; incitement to commit genocide; incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence; and incitement to terrorism.He recommends that States refrain from criminalizing all other forms of expression, and also outlines the safeguards which must be in place to prevent censorship of content under the guise of seemingly legitimate goals.Noting that three-quarters of the world still lack access to the Internet, Mr. La Rue also stresses the need for States to renew their efforts to make this medium widely available, accessible and affordable to all.States must also ensure that everyone, including persons with disabilities, can fully participate in the information society, he added. For example, while 81 per cent of the total United States population has access to the Internet, the figure is only 4 per cent among people with disabilities.Mr. La Rue, a national of Guatemala, has served as the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression since 2008. He reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council in an independent and unpaid capacity. 21 October 2011An independent United Nations human rights expert today urged Governments to ensure that the Internet is made widely available, accessible and affordable to all, and to guarantee the free flow of information online. read more

Closing Bell TSX up Chinese manufacturing expands RIM soars on analyst share

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market closed higher Thursday after data showed that China’s manufacturing sector is back in expansion mode after 13 months of contraction.Here are the closing numbersTSX — 12,153.10 +53.04 0.44%S&P 500 — 1,391.03 +3.22 0.23%Dow — 12,836.89 +48.38 0.38%Nasdaq — 2,926.55 +9.87 0.34%The S&P/TSX composite index gained 53.04 points to 12,153.1 while the TSX Venture Exchange was up 5.7 points to 1,248.36.The TSX also benefited from a sharp run-up from Research In Motion Ltd. Its shares jumped $1.77 or 17.3% to $12, its highest level since early May, on a heavy volume of 12.6 million shares. The surge came after National Bank analyst Kris Thompson hiked his target on RIM shares to US$15 from $12. RIM unveils its new line of smartphones Jan. 30.Earlier this week, analyst Peter Misek at Jefferies & Co. doubled his share target to US$10, saying he has been seeing better than expected support from carriers.Meanwhile, the Canadian dollar was lower in the wake of a disappointing read on September retail sales. The loonie was down 0.07 of a cent at 100.28 cents US as Statistics Canada reported that sales edged up just 0.1% to $39.1-billion in September.Economists had expected retail sales to rise by 0.5% during the month.New York markets were closed for the American Thanksgiving holiday. U.S. markets reopen Friday for a shortened session.HSBC Corp.’s purchasing managers’ index showed that China’s manufacturing sector came in at 50.4 in November, up from 49.5 in October. Any reading over 50 indicates expansion. The PMI index measures overall manufacturing activity by surveying numerous indicators including orders, employment and actual production.The HSBC reading was particularly good news for the global economy, which is still recovering slowly from the 2008 financial crisis and recession.“Looks like the Chinese economy is perking up a bit and that’s good for commodities and the whole risk trade,” said John Johnston, chief strategist at Davis Rea Ltd.It’s also a big positive for a primarily resource-based market such as the TSX. China, the world’s second-largest economy, has had a huge appetite for commodities, in turn raising prices for oil and metals and stock prices for energy and mining companies.The base metals sector gained 1.24 cent with copper unchanged at US$3.51 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices had risen earlier in the wake of the Chinese report. Copper is viewed as an economic bellwether as it is used in so many applications and China is the world’s biggest consumer of the metal. First Quantum Minerals was ahead 35 cents to C$21.92 while Teck Resources was up 82 cents to $32.59.Industrials were also higher with Canadian National Railway ahead $1.36 to $87.12.Financials also provided lift as CIBC rose 35 cents to $79.05.The energy sector was ahead 0.55% while oil prices dipped after running up strongly in the past few days on concerns that fighting between Israel and Hamas could spread, jeopardizing shipments of oil from the Mideast.The January crude contract was off 26 cents to US$87.12 a barrel. Cenovus Energy advanced 50 cents to C$33.62.The gold sector was off about 0.15% as December bullion gained $1.30 to US$1,729.50 an ounce. Kinross Gold Corp. faded eight cents to C$9.81.Traders were also focused on whether the White House can come to a deal with Congress on a budget to avoid automatic tax increases and spending cuts at the start of next year, a shock to the economy that would likely tip the U.S. back into recession.There have also been concerns about whether Greece will get its next batch of bailout cash. Greece is expected to finally get the approval for the release of the money it needs to avoid bankruptcy at a meeting in Brussels on Monday.In corporate news, SABMiller, the world’s second-largest brewer, has reported a 13% increase in first-half profit driven by its acquisition of Australian brewer Foster’s. The brewer of brands including Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Miller Genuine Draft and Grolsch reported Thursday that net profit rose to $1.6-billion from $1.4-billion a year earlier. Group revenue was up 11% to $17.5-billion.Here’s the news investors were watching today:2015 target for balanced budget back on: FlahertyHere’s why you should buy RIM before the BlackBerry 10 launchEurozone on verge of deepest downturn since financial crisis, while China shows signs of growth David Rosenberg supports loonie as reserve currencyON DECK FRIDAYU.S. markets close at 1 p.m.ECONOMIC NEWSCANADA8:30 a.m.Consumer price index (Oct): Economists expect 0.1% rise from the month before, 1.1% year over year read more

Canadas housing market forecast cut after mortgage rules bite

OTTAWA, Ont. — The Canadian Real Estate Association cut its sales forecast for this year and next on Monday as it reported slower sales for November in the wake of tighter lending rules that came into force in summer.The industry association now expects home sales this year to slip 0.5% compared with 2011 to about 456,300.That compared with a forecast in September that called for sales this year to rise 1.9% to 466,900 units.CREA also said it now expects sales next year to drop 2% to 447,400 compared with earlier expectations for a drop of 1.9% to 457,800 in 2013.“Annual sales in 2012 reflect a stronger profile prior to recent mortgage rule changes followed by weaker activity following their implementation,” said Gregory Klump, CREA’s chief economist.“By contrast, forecast sales in 2013 reflect an improvement from levels this summer in the immediate wake of mortgage rule changes. Even so, sales in most provinces next year are expected to remain down from levels posted prior to the most recent changes to mortgage regulations.”Finance Minister Jim Flaherty moved in July to tighten mortgage rules for the fourth time in as many years in order to discourage Canadians from taking on too much debt. Among the changes, Flaherty made mortgage payments more expensive by dropping the maximum amortization period to 25 years.CREA said the average price for 2012 is expected to be $363,900, up 0.3% compared with a September forecast of $365,000, up 0.6%.For 2013, CREA said it expects prices to gain 0.3% to an average $365,100. That compared with earlier expectations of a drop of one tenth of 1% to $364,500 in 2013.The downgrade for the outlook for the year came as home sales edged down 1.7% month over month in November and were back where they stood in August. The decrease followed a drop of about one-tenth of a per cent in September.BMO deputy chief economist Doug Porter said for all the attention it has received, the market’s performance has been far from exciting this year.“It increasingly looks like most major markets are indeed undergoing a policy-induced correction,” Porter wrote in a note to clients.“But, for now, the landing looks to be soft in most cities, with the rather obvious exception of Vancouver.”However, economist David Madani of Capital Economics said the belief that the Canadian market was enjoying a “soft landing” because prices have not fallen sharply was misplaced.“The continued decline in existing home sales support our view that a potentially severe housing correction is underway,” Madani said.“Assuming that sales continue to trend lower heading into next year, then sharper demand and supply imbalances will eventually lead to widespread home price declines. We still think that house prices will decline by 25% over the next year or two.”Actual, or non-seasonally adjusted sales, were down 11.9% from November 2011 while the national average home price in November was $356,687, off 0.8% from November 2011.Sales were down on a year-over-year basis in three of every four local markets in November, including most large urban centres. Calgary stood out as an exception, with sales up 10.6% from a year ago.Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver contributed most to the small decline at the national level.A total of 432,861 homes have traded hands over the MLS system so far this year, down 0.2% from levels reported over the first 11 months of 2011 and 0.8% below the 10-year average for the period.The MLS Home Price Index, which is not affected changes in the mix of sales, showed prices up 3.5% nationally on a year-over-year basis in November.However, it was the seventh consecutive month in which the year-over-year gain shrank and marked the slowest rate of increase since May 2011.The MLS HPI rose fastest in Regina, up 11.6% year over year in November, though down from 13% in October.Among other markets, the HPI was up 4.6% year over year in Toronto, 1.9% in Montreal and 7.1% in Calgary. In Greater Vancouver, the HPI was down 1.7% year over year. read more

Closing Bell SP 500 posts biggest fall since November 2011 on Feds

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks tumbled on Thursday, with the S&P 500 posting its biggest daily decline since November 2011, as investors reacted to the Federal Reserve’s plan to begin winding down its stimulus program later this year if economic conditions permit.Here are the closing numbersTSX — 11,968.57 -299.72 -2.44%S&P 500 — 1,588.19 -40.7 -2.50%Dow — 14,758.32 -353.87 -2.34%Nasdaq — 3,364.63 -78.57 -2.28%The Dow Jones industrial average posted its biggest loss of the year, plummeting 353.87 points to 14,758.32 after dropping 206 points Wednesday. The S&P 500 index lost 40.74 points to 1,588.19 while the Nasdaq fell 78.57 points to 3,364.63The Toronto stock market headed deeper into the red for a second day Thursday, as the S&P/TSX composite index ended its worst single-day sell-off since April 15 by closing down 299.71 points or 2.44% at 11,968.57. That left the TSX down 465 points or 3.75% so far this year.The slide cut across all sectors as the TSX was also caught up in headwinds resulting from a disappointing read on Chinese manufacturing, which sent prices for oil and copper tumbling.The greatest damage to market sentiment came from the Fed after chairman Ben Bernanke signalled an end to the central bank’s US$85-billion of bond purchases each month, likely slowing later this year and ending in 2014. The timing depends on economic data.The Canadian dollar also got caught up in the volatility, tumbling 0.94 of a cent to 96.4 cents US.The Fed has been buying bonds as a way of keeping long-term interest rates low in the hope of boosting borrowing and spending. But the inflow of cash into financial markets has also helped fuel a boom on many world markets, including New York where the Dow industrials had been up more than 16% on the year.That rally, which extended to Europe and Japan, left Toronto in the dust, in large part because the TSX is so heavily weighted in favour of resource stocks that have suffered because of a sluggish global recovery.Analysts say that investors weren’t expecting Bernanke to say the program could end so quickly, and are now having to adjust their holdings to anticipate higher U.S. interest rates.Some analysts wondered why markets viewed this as such a negative since higher rates should mean the economy is doing better.“We have got away with murder recently with the low interest rates,” said Ron Meisels, president of Phases & Cycles Inc. in Montreal.“People are naive not to think that interest rates are going to eventually have to move up, which means together that bond prices are coming down (and yields going up). Is it going to happen today? No.”Thursday’s market slide was the latest instance of volatility that started May 22 when Bernanke first mentioned that the U.S. central bank could be ready to start tapering its bond purchases.Indications of such a slowdown of bond purchases have also had the effect of sending bond yields higher. That is because prices would be impacted by the Fed not buying as many bonds. When bond prices are depressed, the yield moves higher.The benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury was down from early highs but still at 2.42% late Thursday afternoon, up sharply from 2.25% before the Fed’s announcement Wednesday afternoon. The yield had been as low as 1.6% at the beginning of May.Those rising yields have caused big problems for another part of the market — interest rate sensitive stocks on the TSX such as utilities, telecoms, REITs and pipelines.“When bond yields are going down and dividend yields are staying constant or going up, it makes interest sensitive stocks more appealing,” explained Gareth Watson, vice-president Investment Management and Research at Richardson GMP Ltd.“When rates start to go higher, then all of a sudden bonds can offer a better return on a relative basis . . the gap on returns between bonds and equities starts to narrow. So in other words, the equities become less attractive.”For example, the utilities sector is down almost 12% this month while telcos have fallen about seven%.Resource stocks have also taken a beating on the TSX, reflecting lower commodity prices and sluggish global growth, with the base metals sector is down 16% this month and 30% year to date.Those stocks fell steeply Thursday after HSBC said that the preliminary version of its monthly purchasing managers index for China fell to a nine-month low of 48.3 in June, down from 49.6 in May. Numbers below 50 indicate a contraction in the manufacturing sector.Commodities slid as a result of demand concerns following the disappointing Chinese data and the higher U.S. dollar.A higher U.S. dollar pressures commodities because a stronger greenback makes it more expensive for holders of other currencies to buy oil and metals, which are dollar-denominated.The price of copper on the New York Mercantile Exchange lost eight cents to US$3.06 a pound, leaving the base metals sector down almost five%.Gold has also suffered mightily, with the TSX global gold sector down more than 40% year to date after dropping more than seven% Thursday.Gold stocks have already had a tough time as the bottom line of miners has been under pressure from rising costs to get the ore out of the ground.On top of that, bullion prices have been slammed. Aggressive monetary stimulus programs by central banks have supported gold prices since the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent recession, partly because of worries about inflation. But prices have eroded as inflation remains tame and the global economic outlook continues to improve.On Thursday, gold fell $87.80 to US$1,286.20 an ounce, putting it below $1,300 for the first time in nearly three years. Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) faded $2.12 to C$24.81 while Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) declined $1.45 to $17.10.The July crude contract fell $2.84 to US$95.40 a barrel, pushing the energy sector down 2.3%. Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) gave back 68 cents to C$30.83.The utilities sector gave back 4.74% while TransAlta Corp. (TSXL:TA) declined 48 cents to $12.91.The telecom sector shed 2.27% and BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE) was down 97 cents to $43.15.Bank stocks also contributed to the dismal showing on the TSX with Royal Bank (TSX:RY) down $1.77 to $58.92.With files from ReutersWhat investors were watching todayGlobal markets succumb to sell-off after Fed signals end to stimulusFed likely to reduce bond buying this year, Bernanke saysChina is a ‘crash waiting to happen’Gold and silver miners under pressure as prices diveON DECK FRIDAYCANADA8:00 a.m.Consumer price index, May 8:30 a.m.Retail sales, April read more

Canadas youth at risk for chronic unemployment

TORONTO — A new report says Canadian youth face the risk of chronic unemployment despite being more educated than ever.The report by CIBC says a lack of summer jobs and part-time work makes it difficult for youth to gain the experience necessary for permanent positions.About 420,000 youth aged 15 to 24, or nearly one in 10 young Canadians, are neither employed nor enrolled in school.CIBC deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal — the study’s author — says these youth likely do not have the skills necessary to compete in the labour market and will likely remain chronically unemployed. The report suggests combining education and work-related training to help youth find jobs while in school.It also says that the government and corporate Canada should be more focused and effective in preventing further worsening of the situation.“For Canada’s economy to grow and our standard of living to remain high, this is an imperative,” Tal said.The Canadian Press read more

Rogers breaking CRTC rules with exclusive features in NHL sports app says

TORONTO – Two of Canada’s largest sports broadcasters are scrambling to score points with hockey fans through a regulatory battle over whether certain NHL game content can be offered exclusively to Rogers customers.Bell TV says that the GamePlus mobile app should be made available for free to all NHL GameCentre Live subscribers, not just those who are customers of Rogers Communications.Consumers who are not Rogers customers will be harmed as a result of being blocked from accessing this content“Consumers who are not Rogers customers will be harmed as a result of being blocked from accessing this content,” Bell TV argues in a filing to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.BCE’s Bell, owner of the TSN and RDS sports channels and other businesses that compete with Rogers, says that CRTC rules prohibit its Toronto-based rival from giving its own customers preferential access to the GamePlus mobile app.Rogers has until Nov. 20 to respond formally to the complaint but it said in an emailed statement that the company believes the app is covered by an exemption for digital media broadcasting.“It’s a shame that Bell is trying to stop innovation in hockey,” the Rogers statement says.“We have made significant investments in innovations to bring Canadians an enhanced experience and judging by the thousands of fans that are logging in every game night it is working.”Rogers says conventional television broadcasts the exact same program to a mass audience and every person sees the same content, presented the same way, but that’s not the case with this digital product.Rogers claims victory after opening weekend of NHL hockey nets almost 10 million viewers“With GamePlus, each fan has a unique experience since they can choose the camera angles and the replays they want to watch. These user enabled camera angles were designed primarily for the Internet — we wouldn’t have developed them solely for broadcast use.”Bell counters in its filing, dated Oct. 14 but released this week by the CRTC after removing some portions that contain competitive information, that the digital content is “inextricably linked” to the TV programming and that Rogers only has it because of the people and equipment used for television broadcasts.It alleges that Rogers is trying to use a “loophole” in the exemption to undermine the regulator’s intent.“This loophole, if endorsed by the commission, will of course be aggressively exploited by all stakeholders,” Bell says in its eight-page complaint.Bell adds that the onus is on Rogers to demonstrate that “subscribers to other mobile and Internet providers are not being subjected to an undue disadvantage when access to the GamePlus content is blocked for them even if they pay $199 to access GameCentre.”Bell says that the GamePlus application will be, in practical terms, exclusively available to Rogers mobile and home Internet customers although it acknowledges the possibility that people with a rival wireless or Internet provider could get the app if they have a Rogers cable or home phone service.“It does break CRTC rules because these kinds of features are already available on broadcast TV, but hockey fans just aren’t happy about being denied access after paying full price,” Bell spokesman Mark Langton said in an email Wednesday.“In Canada, hockey isn’t something one company can really restrict as it pleases, it’s not something TSN or (its French version) RDS do with their hockey broadcasts and mobile products. Hockey lovers who’ve paid full price for a hockey service should be able to access all of its features, simple as that.”Once Rogers responds formally to the complaint, Bell will have a chance to make another written submission before the CRTC makes a decision. read more