Beijing: A Chinese city has opened a new border crossing with North Korea — fitted with radiation detectors — even as talks between Washington and Pyongyang have languished over disagreements for nuclear sanctions relief. The new highway border crossing opened in the northeastern city of Ji’an on Monday, complementing its three existing ports with the North, the city said in a statement published to its website Tuesday. “After three years of unremitting efforts, the China-North Korean Ji’an-Manpo Highway Port was officially opened,” the city said. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from US The project cost 280 million yuan ( 42 million) and the city estimated 500,000 tons of goods and 200,000 people would cross through the new port each year. But crippling UN sanctions imposed on the North by the UN Security Council in 2016 and 2017 have crimped trade between the two Cold War-era allies. China is by far the North’s biggest trading partner. While Pyongyang publishes virtually no economic statistics of its own, Chinese Customs figures show exports to China have plummeted by more than 90 percent since 2016, down to 213 million last year — although some observers question their reliability Sanctions relief was top of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s agenda for his Hanoi summit with US President Donald Trump in February. Also Read – Record number of 35 candidates in fray for SL Presidential polls But the meeting broke up without a statement or even a lunch as the two sides disagreed over walking back Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme in exchange for loosening sanctions. After the opening ceremony, the first 120 tourists crossed the border. Chinese tourism to the North has picked up as relations between the countries have improved in recent years. The crossing also has a nuclear radiation detection gate, the city said. China has long been worried about any fallout from North Korea’s nuclear activities and Jilin was rocked by an earthquake after a massive bomb test across the border in September 2017. The main artery for North Korean trade with China has traditionally been through the Chinese border city of Dandong, to the south. Ambitious city planners there started work on a Dandong New Zone in 2012, capped by a massive project to open a bridge connecting the city with the North Korean city of Sinuiju on the other side. Authorities expected billions of dollars in investment to flood into jointly-run free trade zones on both sides of the border. But after construction on the four-lane, 350-million bridge completed, it never opened, and the concrete runs into fields on the North Korean side. (AFP)
Mumbai: Venture capital/private equity investments doubled in March to $7 billion on an annualised basis, boosted by a spurt in large transactions, says a report. Exits during the month were 34 percent lower at $465 million involving 13 transactions, a report by consultancy firm EY said Thursday. March was the best month ever for private equity (PE) and venture capital (VC ) investments, it said, adding that the $7-billion mark in the month was more than Also Read – Thermal coal import may surpass 200 MT this fiscaldouble of $3 billion in the previous year and over 30 percent higher than the previous high of $5.4 billion clocked in August 2017. Thirteen large deals of $100 million-plus adding up to $6 billion helped boost the numbers, and Brookfields $1.9 billion buyout of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL’s) East-West Pipeline was the largest deal during the month. On the back of a busy March, the March quarter has emerged as the best ever quarter for private equity/ venture capital investments, with investments worth $11.4 billion, up 37 percent over the same period a year ago. The month also recorded highest monthly value and number of buyout deals, aggregating at $2.8 billion across seven deals. Private investment in public equity investments rose to $1.9 billion, but massivley down from $3 billion a year ago. From a fund raising perspective, the firepower plunged to a low $40 million in March from $1.1 billion a year ago.
India is an oil import-dependent nation. Over 90 per cent of the oil requirement is met via import. India is the third biggest importer of crude oil in the world. Despite these factors, India is not feared to undergo oil convulsion with USA withdrawing waiver over the sanction on Iran oil from May. Except concerns by vehicle users, analysts and politicians preferred to remain mute on any major impact on the Indian economy, even though the waiver was made amidst the general election. With the end of the waiver, crude oil prices will soar in the world market. This is because Iran is the fourth largest producer of crude oil in the world. Furthermore, global oil consumption exceeds global production. Also Read – Hijacking Bapu’s legacyGiven these situations, sanction on Iran oil will certainly impact India’s basket prices of imported crude. This will have a cascading impact on petrol and diesel prices. Eventually, a general fear looms large that the hikes in oil prices will fuel inflation in the country. However, there is another school of thought, which argued that the concern would be minimised owing to technological innovations and structural changes in oil use. It believes that India is insulated from any major impact of the sanction, despite it being an oil import-dependent nation. Also Read – The future is here!Basically, there are four reasons, according to this line of thought, which will help India insulate itself from the adverse impact of a global oil price hike. First, the parallel relation between oil price hike and inflation has tapered. Secondly, oil is not the main source of energy for manufacturing. Third, a big burden of crude oil import is counterbalanced by the export of petroleum refinery products. Lastly, the share of Iranian oil in India’s total imports of oil is not substantial. Conventional wisdom says that there is a close relationship between oil price and inflation. Whenever there was a global oil price hike, which was reflected in the high petrol and diesel prices in India, inflation surged. Nevertheless, the parallel relation between oil price and inflation witnessed a turnaround since 2016-17. Oil price hike failed to fuel inflation. For example, the average Indian basket price for imported crude oil increased from US$ 46.2 bbl in 2015-16 to US$ 47.6 bbl in 2016-17. But, in contravention to conventional wisdom, inflation, measured by CPI, declined. It fell from 4.9 per cent in 205-16 to 4.3 per cent in 2016-17. Since then, an opposite relation between oil price hike and inflation sustained. In 2017-18, the basket price of imported oil rose to US $56.4 bbl, but inflation slipped to 3.6 per cent. These suggest that the threat of global oil price hike and its impact on inflation does not hold good now. Why has the parallel relationship between oil price hike and inflation been jeopardised since 2016-17? The main reason is that oil energy is mainly (55 per cent) used as a transport fuel in the country and not for production. The high cost of transport fuel impacted the prices of mainly food and vegetables. Due to lack of adequate cold storage facilities, motor transport, viz. trucks and lorries, are the major carriers for food and vegetables, which bring these items to the cities from nearby villages in the country. The food component constitutes a bulk share in the retail price index. With a leapfrog in agricultural production, inflation owing to food component in the price index has swayed. This has overshadowed the impact of oil price hike, which was reflected in the transport fuel. In manufacturing, anecdotal evidence shows that an oil price hike will have a simmering impact. This is because oil is not the major source of energy for manufacturing in India, unlike other countries. Coal is the major energy source, such as power, for manufacturing and other industrial sectors. Oil produces less than one per cent of power generation in the country. Other oil-based products, such as fuel oil and light diesel oil, which are used as energy sources for manufacturing, are insignificant energy sources for manufacturing. Unlike in the 1990s, crude oil imports ceased to be a big burden for India’s trade deficit. With the advent of export of petroleum refinery products in the early of 2000s, owing to a large number of refinery plants established in the country, petroleum products have become the predominant component of export basket of the country. It became a major tool to counterbalance the big burden of crude oil. Currently, exports of petroleum refinery products account for one-sixth of India’s total exports. And, in terms of counterbalance, which help in reducing the trade deficit, exports of petroleum refinery products offset one-third of crude oil imports. For example, in 2018-19 export of petroleum products was US$ 46.4 billion against the import of US$ 141.1 billion import of crude oil and petroleum products. This offset 32 per cent of the import burden of crude oil and other petroleum products. Incidentally, Iran is not the major supplier of crude oil to India. In 2018-19, India imported crude oil from Iran amounting to 24 million tonnes. This accounted for a little more than 10 per cent of India’s total import of crude oil. Saudi Arabia and Iraq are the major suppliers of crude oil to India. Saudi Arabia ensured to increase supply by making India a regional hub for the supply of crude oil. Another factor, which goes in favour of India with regard to its oil dependency and curtailment of Iranian oil is the near stagnancy in oil demand in the country. With various counter-measures for oil saving and boost to non-conventional energies, such as solar, bio and wind energies, India’s total demand for crude oil increased marginally. Oil demand increased by 3-4 per cent during the past two years, despite the country achieving the highest GDP growth hovering around 7 per cent. This suggests that oil volatility due to price fluctuations is less vibrant to the major economic parameters for the country. Oil is not the major source of power energy and not the catalyst for manufacturing in the country. (The views expressed are strictly personal)
CAIRO – A car bomb intended for Egyptian troops in the Sinai exploded on Wednesday without causing any injuries, security officials said.The bomb near the north Sinai town of Sheikh Zuwayid was discovered before the planned attack.It blew up as a bomb squad team approached the car, but did not cause any injuries, the sources said. The sources said the military was tipped off to the bomb by a militant arrested after trading gunfire with soldiers earlier in the day.The military has sent armour and helicopters in the desert and mountains north of the peninsula to crush a militant insurgency since the army overthrew president Mohamed Morsi in July.Some of the militants belong to Al-Qaeda inspired groups that have carried out suicide bombings and attempted to attack a ship passing through the Suez Canal.
Rabat – The democratic experience of Morocco in the light of the Constitution of 2011 was presented Monday in Rabat to parliamentarians of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).Representing the Sub-Committee on Democratic Governance (CDSDG) and the Sub-committee on Transition and Development (ESCTD) under the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, the parliamentarians had the opportunity to learn, during a round table on “the political and democratic transition in north Africa and the consolidation of democracy in Morocco,” about the specifics of Moroccan democratic model.Held at the Mohammed V-Agdal University, this meeting highlighted the progress made by the new Constitution towards the recognition of human rights in Morocco and the strengthening of democracy. This roundtable was organized on the occasion of the joint meeting of the Sub-Committee on Democratic Governance (CDSDG) and the Subcommittee on Transition and Development (ESCTD), which opened on Monday in Rabat.This closed meeting is part of the Mediterranean partner status enjoyed by the Moroccan Parliament within the Parliamentary Assembly of NATO.
Tangier – The United Nations on Thursday elected Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Venezuela for non-permanent seats on the Security Council for two-year terms beginning on January 1, 2015.While Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Venezuela were elected at the first round, the General Assembly had to go for two more rounds to choose the remaining seat. Spain and Turkey were the two candidates competing for the second seat allocated to group of Western European and Other States Group.At the third round of vote, Spain obtained 133 votes, while Turkey obtained 60 votes. For any country to be elected to the Security Council, it needs to receive the votes of two-thirds of the 193 members of the General Assembly, which are 129 votes. Election to the Security Council is made through secret ballot.The new members will join Chad, Chile, Jordan, Lithuania and Nigeria, whose terms end on 31 December 2015, in addition to the veto-wielding five permanent Council members, which are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Rabat – Uber Morocco, the driving service that has taken Morocco by storm with its controversial news about “Western Sahara” in recent days, has made the news again. This time on a different note; one that sets the stone to more job opportunities across the nation.A few days after its launch in Casablanca, Uber Morocco has hired its first female driver. Ihsan, a 27 year-old Moroccan woman is now driving Uber customers around the streets of Casablanca.Ihsan, a trained driver is very happy with her job and says to the HuffPost “I’ve been on the road for six months, and I have never encountered difficulties. The people are friendly and pleasantly surprised to be accompanied by a female driver. Some clients feel more comfortable opening up and even share confidences with me.” She enjoys feeling useful and contributing to the lives of the residents and visitors. Filled with joy, this platinum blonde lady loves her new occupation.The HuffPost recounts how Ihsan, a former employee of the textile industry feels: “Since a little girl I was passionate about cars. I couldn’t wait to get my permit and my professional driver’s license to drive as much as possible.”Uber supports equality of men and women and even partners with UN Women to carry on their vision. This brave move “is a pride” for the company whose director in Morocco is also a woman.At this rate, as Uber Morocco expands across the nation, there will be more stories to share.© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed without permission
Washington – The World Bank extended Morocco a $200 million loan to support the ongoing program to improve urban mobility in Morocco, and in particular the quality and management of public transport.“This is a timely program to support the Moroccan government’s public transport agenda. Beyond strengthening institutions and decentralized management more broadly, the project will support the establishment of public transport corridors and improve the efficiency of traffic management with dedicated infrastructure,” says Vickram Cuttaree, Senior Infrastructure Economist and Task Team Leader.With 60% of 34 million Moroccans living in cities, public transport has a vital role to play. Local municipalities have struggled to provide good roads, and with the limited resources and capacity they have to manage public transport. This has affected its quality and reliability, says the World Bank in a release which also noted that the transport program will focus on cities of over 100,000 inhabitants in nine regions. Funds will be disbursed only when milestones agreed upon in advance are completed, since the loan is a “Program for Results (PforR), the WB points out.“An efficient urban transport system is essential for urban mobility, which will underpin the development of Moroccan cities,” said Marie Françoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Maghreb Country Director. “Improved public transport systems will mean increased productivity and better access to economic opportunities and key services such as health and education, particularly for the most disadvantaged citizens.”Morocco estimates the financing for its urban transport sector will reach US$3 billion over a decade. The goal of its national plan is two-fold: to improve the sector’s management and make it financially sustainable; and to build a web of urban transport corridors within larger cities. The Bank will support the government’s plan with expertise and global knowledge.The World Bank has stepped up its engagement in the urban transport sector in Morocco over the past few years. A $136.7 million-Development Policy Loan (DPL) was launched in 2011 to improve the sector’s governance and increase urban transport and infrastructure.This was coupled with regular technical assistance for the Moroccan government’s transport strategy, along with research to deepen its knowledge of the sector with studies such as the Casablanca Gender and Transport report released in 2011.With MAP
Tokyo – Japanese Emperor Akihito said declining health might hinder ability to fulfill his duties, in sign of possible future abdication.Emperor Akihito, 82, said in a rare video address to the public that he worried his age may make it difficult for him to fully carry out his duties.In nationally televised remarks on Monday, Akihito also said there were limits to reducing the emperor’s duties as the “symbol of the state”, the status accorded to the monarch. “When I consider that my fitness level is gradually declining, I am worried that it may become difficult for me to carry out my duties as the symbol of the state with my whole being, as I have done until now,” he said.Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said shortly after the address that he would take the emperor’s remarks “seriously”.With MAP
Rabat – Colombia’s General Confederation of Labor (CGT), the country’s largest trade union, launched an “urgent call for the release of Sahrawi women held against their will in the Tindouf camps, victims of unacceptable and systematic violations of their fundamental rights.”In a statement published on its website on the occasion of the International Women’s Day, the CGT called for “immediate international and UN intervention to prevent the deterioration of the human rights situation in the Tindouf camps (southern Algeria), where women suffer from a precarious humanitarian situation due to sexual abuse and forced procreation.”“These women are deprived of their most basic rights, such as the right to expression, free movement and health, and are subjected to slavery-like practices in a territory lacking the minimum conditions for a dignified life, and are forced to be separated from their children, deported to distant countries,” the statement said. The CGT also draws attention to the alarming situation of women in the Tindouf camps, which are subjected to serious violations, noting that despite the repeated calls by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Secretariat, the number of people detained in these camps remains unknown.According to the Confederation, the absence of a census of the population held in the camps has led to the diversion of humanitarian aid, as confirmed by reports of the UNHCR, World Food Program (WFP), the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and the European Union.Faced with this alarming situation, which has persisted for four decades, the CGT urges the UN Secretary-General and the international community to intervene to put an end to the serious human rights violations perpetrated in the Tindouf camps, said the same source, calling on “the parties concerned to find a political and definitive solution to the regional dispute over the Sahara, within the framework of the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Morocco and in accordance with the Moroccan proposal for autonomy, described by the international community as serious and credible.”
Rabat – Amal Kassir describes herself as an “international spoken word poet.” She is using her words to put a face to Syria’s faceless victims… and a voice to those who can no longer speak for themselves. In a video shared by BBC News, she describes her experience in very personal terms.Last week, as the world expressed its outrage over the chemical attack launched against the citizens of Idlib by their own president, Bashar al Assad, the young Syrian-American lost eleven members of her own family in a separate, but every bit as deadly, attack.“I speak up for those who are under rubble and don’t have a mic or a camera pointed at them,” Kassir explains. It’s a heavy burden for one so young but, much like another young Muslim girl known best to the world as Malala, Amal gives one the impression she is more than up to the task. “You always consider that it might be your family that goes under the rubble,” Amal says. “It’s surreal when it finally happens, but for six years I have been working with poetry and speaking about the narrative of Syria.”Still, when the tragedy finally did strike home, Amal wondered if she would be prepared for the sight of her family member’s names written into her poetry. Then her instincts kicked in. “… when it finally came and the bomb finally hit my family’s home and took eleven people, including two unborn babies, it was like all these years of practice had prepared me for the ability to tell this story.”In the video, Amal recalls reading the words of US President Trump, expressing outrage over the deaths of babies. “No child of God” should ever perish in such a way, he had said. Amal wonders aloud, “Does it take someone to be gassed to be considered one of God’s children?” acknowledging that what happened that terrible day has been happening in Syria for six years.And yet, she expresses joy that at least one world leader finally did something, even if it happened to be the same man who has been trying to ban Syrians from entering the US since he took office. “I will never view Donald Trump as a moral, truth-telling individual, but I would respect this president if he would carry true to what he said.”If the Tomahawk strike of last Thursday is not accepted as the message it was intended to be and the slaughter in Syria doesn’t stop, then, for Amal, it becomes just another failed mission.Her thoughts return to her lost family members and she again questions what the experience will be like when she unlocks her emotion through her pen. With deep emotion she recalls her cousin, Salaam, who was the last family member Amal saw when she left Syria for the last time. Salaam, whose name means peace, died with her two-year-old daughter in her arms and another unborn child still inside of her.The emotion is raw for Amal. “I wish I would have known I would never see you again.”
By Sarah GoodmanRabat – French president Emmanuel Macron ended 2017 in a televised address gesturing to his plans for the coming year, including changes to toughen the country’s laws on immigration and asylum. On December 31, the telegenic Macron promised to deliver “humanity and efficiency” with France’s asylum policy. The French parliament is expected to debate the proposed legislation in the first quarter of the year. Such measures would harden the existing laws by making it easier to expel undocumented immigrants more quickly and in greater numbers.Critics of the proposed changes are concerned about an expedited asylum process and worry that such legal changes might also buttress anti-immigrant sentiments across France. During France’s presidential election last May, nearly 40 percent of the vote went to the far-right nationalist candidate Marine Le Pen, who campaigned on pledges to stop immigration to France. Already in parts of southern France, new railway brigades of the police border force have been vested with the power to stop and search passengers’ identity papers, hoping to control undocumented immigrants suspected of traversing the country aboard its nexus of internal railways. In an interview with the BBC, Pascal Mailhos, the prefect of the Occitanie region of southwestern France, spoke favorably of the new security measures introduced by the state. “Obviously, the action we are taking against illegal immigration goes beyond just our borders and requires a lot of coordination with our neighbors” and that “this new brigade add[s] another element in the mission against this type of criminality.”However, activists and volunteers have questioned the consequences of such measures, fearing they will create greater desperation on the part of migrants. As temperatures plummet and conditions deteriorate, many are concerned that such measures may cause migrants to take more drastic measures to find transport.In Calais, a port city located on France’s northern coast, there have been three hit-and-runs in as many weeks, where migrants have been found dead or injured on the side of the motorway. The most recent of these tragedies occurred on Tuesday.As Annie Gavrilescu, the regional head of France’s branch of Help Refugees, wrote in the Huffington Post, “there is nothing we can do when refugees become so desperate.”
NEW YORK — U.S. stock indexes sank in early trading Thursday, following European markets and the price of crude oil lower as pessimism built about the strength of the global economy and upcoming earnings reports.Sharp drops for Twitter and technology stocks weighed on the S&P 500 index, which broke a five-day winning streak on Wednesday. Twitter gave a better-than-expected earnings report for its latest quarter, but its stock price tumbled after it said revenue for this quarter may fall short of some analysts’ estimates.Twitter’s discouraging forecast fed into growing concerns across the market that earnings at U.S. companies will weaken in the first three months of this year.It’s similar to worries about the overall economy. Thursday brought another report showing the U.S. economy is strong, as the Labor Department said fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week. That’s a sign that the job market remains strong, but many economists expect the U.S. economy to slow this year along with economies around the world. Worries were focused in particular on Europe Thursday.KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 fell 0.8 per cent as of 10:08 a.m. Eastern time, and was on pace for its worst day in more than two weeks. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 172 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 25,218, and the Nasdaq composite dropped 1 per cent.BLOCKED: Twitter sank 9.9 per cent for one of the biggest losses in the S&P 500 after it said its monthly user base fell to 321 million during its latest quarter from 330 million a year earlier. It also said it expects to make $715 million to $775 million in revenue during the current quarter. Analysts are expecting $765 million, according to FactSet.EARNINGS WORRIES: It’s not just Twitter that investors are getting concerned about. Across the S&P 500, analysts are forecasting earnings per share to drop 1.8 per cent in the first quarter from a year earlier. They were forecasting growth just a few weeks ago, and if the updated forecasts prove true, it will be the first decline in nearly three years.Any decline would also be a sharp drop-off from the 12.9 per cent growth that S&P 500 companies are expected to report for the quarter of 2018.OVERSEAS MARKETS: European stock markets were mostly lower after the European Union slashed its forecast for economic growth in the 19 countries that use the euro this year to 1.3 per cent from an earlier forecast of 1.9 per cent. A weaker-than-expected report on industrial production in Germany also raised concerns.Asian markets were mixed.TRADE TALKS: Stocks around the world have heaved up and down recently on concerns about U.S.-China trade tensions. U.S. Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin and trade representative Robert Lighthizer will lead a delegation to Beijing next week for the next round of trade talks, but the issues are complex. These include contentious topics like Beijing’s technology policy and trade practices, where progress has been limited so far.Mnuchin also said that there were no plans for President Donald Trump to meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping. “If there are remaining issues that we can’t get closed, I think President Trump expects that he’s going to sit down with President Xi and address those issues,” he said.ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil dropped 1.4 per cent, and natural gas sank 1.5 per cent. That helped drag energy stocks in the S&P 500 down by 0.9 per cent, the third-worst decline among the 11 sectors that make up the index.The Associated Press
Rabat – A Spanish official has slammed Morocco’s compulsory military service law for ringing alarm bells among Morocco’s youth.Adela Nieto, the official in charge of social affairs, minors, and equality in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, said that Morocco’s proposed bill to introduce compulsory military service has left young Moroccans with no other choice but to cross into neighboring Spain.“The outflow of unaccompanied Moroccan minors has increased following the announcement of a law to establish compulsory military service,” she said. Read Also: Military Source: Moroccan Migrants Shot by Navy Were ‘Hidden Under Tarp’According to Moroccan outlet Le 360, the Spanish official claimed to have taken her data from “information” in the Spanish government’s records of recent attempts by young irregular Moroccan migrants to reach Spain.While the compulsory service bill has been introduced to the Moroccan parliament, it has not been passed. It may take longer than reported in news outlets, according to Government Spokesperson Mustapha El Khalfi.“There is a procedure to follow before the proposal is made into a law,” El Khalfi said. “[The procedure] will take several months…. There is a legislative duration. Technically, this law will most probably enter into force towards the second half of 2019.”Read Also: Law on Mandatory Military Service May Come into Force at the End of 2019In the meantime, the controversy that the bill created in Morocco coincided with reports of a sharp increase of emigration attempts by Moroccans, especially in the northern cities. The correlation may explain Nieto’s “confidence” about a causal relationship between the two occurrences.Nieto’s statement follows comments from another Spanish official on Moroccan emigration.During a working visit to Rabat earlier this week, Maria del Consuelo Rumi Ibanez, the Spanish state secretary for migration, told her Moroccan counterparts to “dismantle the myth of the European dream.”“Emigration is not the solution,” Ibanez said, adding that the choice to emigrate illegally is perilous and “often ends badly.”
Clearly, the majority of people in Basra suffer from food shortages, poor medical services, power outages, and many other problems. However, there’s more at stake in the Basra protests than these initial complications. To most people, the unrest in Basra is a sign of growing frustration and anger among Iraqis in general over corruption. Simply put, it comes at a time when most Iraqis no longer trust their politicians, officials, or even religious leaders.The spark that lights the fire“The revolution will continue. It will continue until our demands are met!” shouted a man into a CNN camera, as reported by Ben Wedeman on Friday, September 7. It happened just a day or two after the unusual volume of demonstrations had significantly increased in Basra’s streets and squares. The protests in Basra still continue. They usually start in the morning but also gain momentum after sunset, when the temperature usually drops to more comfortable levels. These protests appear to address serious concerns over the quality and conditions of life in the city. The water supply to Iraq’s third-largest city is usually contaminated by salt; power cuts continue at times of high temperatures; and health care is far below the average world standard. People in the coastal oil-producing city suffer more than just these immediate inconveniences. The unemployment rate is high and has been constant in recent months. There’s also that constant threat of Post-Saddam Hussein’s Iraq: corruption. Much of Iraq‘s wealth comes from its southern provinces. The area sits atop most of the country’s oil reserves and fertile soil. It also contains the only deep-water port in the country, Um Qasr. Unfortunately, this wealth does not seem to benefit the people of Basra, nor of Iraq as a whole. The wealth does not stay in Basra to reduce these discomforts. This very sad reality has begun bringing about tangible frustration and tension.No doubt the city, which sits on Shat al-Arab, a waterway system of canals now brimming with dirt and waste, endures a lot of pain. For decades, it was a city of economic prosperity, sophisticated trade, and co-existence. Much of the charm the city has long celebrated is now fading away. Why, then, should they not demonstrate against the local government, take revolutionarily to the streets, or even torch the buildings? Still, viewing this latest unrest from this perspective is basically a crude attempt at misinformation. It is deeply unconvincing since what is happening now is no more than the spark that lights the fire. To borrow CNN’s Ben Wedeman’s words, “There’s more at stake in the Basra protests than dirty water and oil.” It is simply another chapter of a sad and long tragedy that never ends. A failed stateThere was already a growing feeling of disappointment in the political system, with many Iraqis pointing to the widespread corruption in their country. That is where all problems find their roots in contemporary Iraq. That is where the blame should be laid. This argument raises more questions about who is really to blame.For many years, Iraqis had to turn to Saddam’s Hussein’s regime for their basic needs: food, health care, security, etc. When it collapsed in 2003, just months after the Americans and their anti-Saddam Iraqi allies took over, the organs of the state declined, and more Iraqis turned to their local communities, tribal leaders, and militia groups for assistance. The cost was high as civil violence began to run rampant throughout the country and seriously undercut the entire state. Violence affected not just its credibility, but nearly every component of the regime. So, along with the rising sectarian violence, insurgency and crime have been problems of a de facto failed state. Two years ago, thousands of Iraqis took to the streets of Baghdad, demanding jobs, health care, social justice, and their basic human rights. The demonstrations extended into the “Green Zone,” the most heavily guarded area of the capital city where most foreign and local officials, diplomats, and leaders live. These marches came in response to the formation of the government. At the time, many Iraqis considered the government as not differing significantly from previous corrupt governments. Again, this reason is credible enough to inspire the spate of mass anti-corruption marches in Baghdad, Basra, or elsewhere in Iraq. It is deeply convincing. Yet, Iraq’s problems are, in fact, of more serious concerns than just the shape of the government. Basra’s decline, as well as that of the whole country, began in the early 1980s with the eight-year Iraq-Iran war. Thousands of the city’s residents had to leave their homes, businesses, and families in search of security in the northern provinces. The war ended, but their struggle continued even more painfully due to different factors: US-imposed sanctions, the Saddam Hussein regime’s crackdown on civil liberties, and the rise of violent militant protests by many Shi’a groups. Iraq became a sad place to live. Dirt was everywhere and so were collapsed buildings and thousands of decapitated date palms. There were no signs of recovery or hope. Of course, it was not meant to be this way. The overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime was meant to lead Iraq into economic prosperity, political stability, and democracy. It was meant to end the vicious plague of bureaucracy, wealth concentration, extreme poverty, unemployment, etc. It was meant to usher in an age of justice, welfare, and growth. However, things went poorly, more so than any pessimist could have imagined. Crime, poverty, and the plague of sectarian violence have now completely torn the country apart, without any end in sight. As the strife continues and Iraqis continue to hold doubts about the future, people may have no other choice but to rebel. Terrorism adds to the problemsHigh on the list of Iraqi problems is terrorism, not just because of the danger it represents, but also because the country has no clear strategy to fight it. Presumably, some may note that the two-decade long war on terrorism drained Iraq of all of its energy and resources. Radical Islamic groups like Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and the broader jihadist movement in the region have always been “a learning enemy,” as General Dempsey once remarked. They have always known how to use and manipulate populations. This explains why it took many years before the Iraqi military could gain significant ground in their strongholds. Again, to anyone knowledgeable enough about the real danger these two groups and other radical affiliations have represented not just in Iraq, but also in the entire world, this reality may justify the different Iraqi governments’ hardships and challenges. However, it also sends another message, but in a far darker way. Iraq did not have a strategy. They still do not! A serious strategy could have brought about an end to the mess these groups created. What happened is quite the opposite! Seemingly no one in Iraq believes that their consecutive governments have had a strategy to fight and defeat terrorism. What Iraqis have seen instead is what observers usually call “micromanagement of military policy.” The policy, which caused division in society, has become a civil war between different Iraqi communities.These governments were happy to take recruits from southern Iraq and mostly Shi’a-populated provinces and send them to the front lines. But they had little time for the Sunni Iraqis. While the war on terrorism continues in the wrong way, many Sunni militants in northern Iraq have joined ISIS and Al-Qaeda. This very sad reality still causes chaos to reign over order and hatred and intolerance to prevail over unity and co-existence. Meanwhile, Baghdad is still gripped by political paralysis, which has been left entirely unchallenged except by the Shi’a cleric and the implacable foe of the US-led occupation, Muqtada al-Sadr. It is still far from deciding on the makeup of a real inclusive political system. How should the tragedy end?A tweet by al-Sadr last week said, “I hope you don’t think that the Basra revolutionaries are just a bubble … Quickly release Basra’s money and give it to clean hands, to start at once with immediate and future development projects. And beware of complacency and negligence.” The story may seem laughably thin, as many Iraqis know how strategically he uses propaganda. Yet, it sends a positive message. Iraqis need change! Now the unrest in Basra, along with the strife within all Iraqi cities, dominates news headlines worldwide. Iraq may have few options to ameliorate this difficult situation. There are few effective paths to follow. If anything could prove to benefit a stable, safe, and prosperous country, it should be the strict path of democracy. Until then, the story of Iraq remains a sad one. Indeed, it is a tragedy with no end yet in sight.
WASHINGTON — Republican Rep. Devin Nunes (NOO’-nehs) of California is suing Twitter and several of its users for more than $250 million, accusing them of defamation and negligence.The defendants include two anonymous parody accounts, “Devin Nunes’ Mom” and “Devin Nunes’ Cow.”The suit filed in Virginia accuses Twitter of “knowingly hosting and monetizing content that is clearly abusive, hateful and defamatory.”Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act provides internet services with immunity from liability for material posted by their users.Nunes’ suit also accuses Twitter of censoring “viewpoints with which it disagrees” and “shadow-banning conservatives.”Shadow banning allows users to post freely — but no one else sees their messages. Twitter has denied doing it, although some political conservatives —including President Donald Trump — remain unconvinced.The Associated Press
___Uber reveals finances as it gears up for IPOSAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Uber is providing a look under the hood of its business in the lead-up to its hotly anticipated debut on the stock market. New documents released offer the most detailed view of the world’s largest ride-hailing service since its inception a decade ago. The breakdown shows Uber has been generating the robust revenue growth that entices investors, and it turned a profit in 2018, reversing a history of losses.___Apartment rents climbing, and poised to go higherNEW YORK (AP) — It’s a great time to be a landlord in America, not so much if you’re a renter. Apartment rents are continuing to rise this year, fueled by higher demand from millennials seeking a place of their own, strong job growth and rising wages. The U.S. median rent climbed 3.4% in March from a year earlier to $1,535, according to data from online rental housing portal HotPads.___China says trade talks with US ‘moving forward’BEIJING (AP) — China says trade talks with the U.S. are “moving forward” after nine rounds of consultations aimed at ending a standoff that has shaken financial markets and darkened the world economic outlook. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang says the latest discussions had achieved “new substantial progress.” Three days of talks last week dealt with issues including technology transfer, intellectual property rights protection, non-tariff measures, agriculture and enforcement.___50-year low in jobless claims but not just from few layoffsWASHINGTON (AP) — The fewest people in nearly 50 years sought unemployment benefits last week, a sign of a strong job market and unusually low level of layoffs. Yet the sinking pace of layoffs isn’t due solely to a tight employment picture. Many states have imposed stricter rules on their unemployment insurance programs, from making it harder to qualify to reducing the duration of benefits to cutting payouts.___UK’s May says politicians have duty to complete BrexitLONDON (AP) — Granted a Brexit reprieve by the European Union, British Prime Minister Theresa May is urging lawmakers to pause, reflect on the need for compromise — and then fulfil their “national duty” to approve a Brexit deal and take Britain out of the EU. But there was little sign the U.K.’s divided and exhausted lawmakers had heeded the EU’s plea not to waste the six months of extra time.___‘A monopoly on information’: Russia closes grip on internetMOSCOW (AP) — Russian lawmakers have approved a bill that would expand government control over the internet. Opponents fear the move heralds a new era of widespread censorship. Backers of the bill say it would help Russia from cyberattacks and could shield the country from critical Western media. The bill passed a second reading Thursday, the most crucial phase that lays out the detail of the prospective law.___2020 candidate Warren proposes new tax on corporate profitsWASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is proposing a new tax on corporate profits that’s designed to prevent business giants from taking advantage of the existing tax code to effectively pay a zero rate. The 7% tax on corporate profits above $100 million is the latest in a series of ambitious policy proposals from the Massachusetts senator. It’s in line with her broader push to rein in such industries as the financial sector and technology firms.___Boeing makes 96 flights to test software on troubled Max jetDALLAS (AP) — Boeing’s CEO says the company has made nearly 100 flights to test a software update to its troubled 737 Max jet. The plane has been grounded after two deadly crashes. Boeing is also meeting with airline officials and pilots in the US, UK, Singapore and China as it seeks to rebuild confidence in its bestselling plane.___Bezos, hunting for big wins, is comfortable with big failsNEW YORK (AP) — Amazon’s Jeff Bezos says the company is getting bigger and he’s comfortable with even bigger failures in the quest for big wins. Bezos released his annual letter to shareholders Thursday and covered a lot of ground, including a challenge to rivals to match Amazon’s starting hourly wage and benefits package for workers.___Top IMF official warns global economy facing various threatsWASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the 189-nation International Monetary Fund says the world is facing a time of high uncertainty with 70 per cent of the global economy caught in a growth slowdown. Christine Lagarde said that slowdown could be worsened by self-inflicted wounds such as unnecessary trade battles.___Stocks struggle to a mixed finish after early rally sputtersNEW YORK (AP) — The major U.S. stock indexes closed unevenly Thursday after an early rally gave way to a mostly sideways day of trading on Wall Street. Losses in health care stocks mostly offset gains in industrial companies, banks and elsewhere in the market. Technology stocks also fell. The listless day of trading came as investors looked ahead to Friday, when major banks are due to report their first-quarter results, paving the way for a wave of company earnings reports the next few weeks.___The S&P 500 index eked out a tiny gain, adding 0.11 of a point, or less than 0.1%, to 2,888.32. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 14.11 points, or 0.1%, to 26,143.05. The Nasdaq composite slid 16.88 points, or 0.2%, to 7,947.36. The Russell 2000 gave up 2.41 points, or 0.2%, to 1,579.14.The Associated Press
Entrepreneurs promoting a range of businesses – from community-based tourism in Brazil to Vietnamese bringing medicinal plants to the international market – are among 10 finalists announced today by the head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for a key sustainable development award.The nominees are up for one of five Supporting Entrepreneurs for Environment and Development (Seed) Awards, an incentive scheme for local entrepreneurs to promote economic growth, social development and environmental protection will be announced at May’s session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development in New York, UNEP said in a press release. The announcement of the 10 finalists was made both in Switzerland at the World Economic Forum and also at the World Social Forum being held in Nairobi, Kenya. An international expert jury will now identify the five winning partnerships from among the finalists.“As we meet in Davos and Nairobi to discuss scaling up sustainable solutions, the Seed Initiative is again offering inspiring examples of local level entrepreneurs in all parts of the world who are setting up new partnerships and using ‘global/local’ networks to address sustainable development challenges with a business-case approach,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.Finalists for the Seed Awards 2007 take a range of promising, locally-adapted approaches to sustainability, including the promotion of traditional medicine and community-based tourism and the production of alternative fuels. The countries represented by finalist initiatives are Brazil, Ecuador, India, Nepal, Kenya, Peru, Sierra Leone, Suriname, the United Republic of Tanzania and Viet Nam.The entry from Brazil aims to improve local communities’ livelihoods and promote environmental protection through the creation of community-based tourism, while that from Viet Nam involves a local business network, marketing high value-added products derived from the sustainable cultivation of traditional medicinal plants.The announcement of the 2007 finalists follows a rigorous 10-month selection process that drew together more than 230 applications from more than 70 countries worldwide – representing close to 1,100 organizations from the private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), women’s groups, labour, public authorities, UN agencies and others.Partners in the Seed Initiative include the World Conservation Union (IUCN); the UN Development Programme (UNDP); the Governments of the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa and the United Kingdom; and private sector partner Swiss Re. 25 January 2007Entrepreneurs promoting a range of businesses – from community-based tourism in Brazil to Vietnamese bringing medicinal plants to the international market – are among 10 finalists announced today by the head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for a key sustainable development award.
“The Secretary-General is encouraged by the discussions held in Baghdad on Saturday in preparation of a meeting of foreign ministers of the countries neighbouring Iraq,” his spokesperson, Michele Montas, said in a statement. Mr. Ban voiced hope that the “positive atmosphere of the meeting,” will carry over into the “activities of the working groups formed on border security, refugees and internally displaced persons and fuel imports.” The Secretary-General sent his Special Representative, Ashraf Qazi, to the conference, which was attended not only by Iraq’s neighbours, but also by representatives of the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. Through his spokesperson, Mr. Ban reiterated his call for “countries around the region and for the international community more broadly to play a constructive role in support of a stable, secure and democratic Iraq.” Meanwhile, in a report released today, the Secretary-General warns that the “rising levels of violence, terrorist attacks and sectarian conflict that have gripped large parts of Iraq are increasingly acquiring a self-sustaining dynamic that could overwhelm the country’s fragile political processes and institutions.” The report on the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) describes its work in support of the country’s political process, but warns that “if the cycle of violence is not brought under control, efforts made over the past several years could be jeopardized.” The report echoes Mr. Ban’s statement today stressing the importance of dialogue with Iraq’s neighbours, while pointing out that only the country’s “people themselves can determine their common destiny and agree upon the structure of the Iraqi state.” 12 March 2007Welcoming a recent diplomatic meeting on Iraq, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today voiced hope that it would spur progress on key issues, including those affecting its neighbours, which he said must play a constructive role in promoting stability in the country.
22 September 2008With half a million women dying in pregnancy or childbirth every year, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) have launched an initiative which could help cut mortality by about 75 per cent by training midwives in developing countries. With half a million women dying in pregnancy or childbirth every year, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) have launched an initiative which could help cut mortality by about 75 per cent by training midwives in developing countries.“By investing in midwives and universal access to reproductive health, millions of lives can be saved and we can reach Millennium Development Goal 5, to improve maternal health,” UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said in a news release today, referring to one of eight goals that seek to slash a host of social ills by 2015. Beyond the deaths millions more women suffer long-lasting harm due to lack of care.An additional 334,000 midwives are needed, according to the UN World Health Organization (WHO). The UNFPA-ICM programme will increase the number of births attended by professional midwifery providers and develop the foundations for a sustainable midwifery workforce in selected developing countries.Its focus will be on training midwives, developing practice standards, and strengthening national midwifery associations. It is estimated that skilled attendance at delivery, backed up by emergency obstetric care, could reduce the number of women dying in pregnancy and childbirth by about 75 per cent. Every year half a million women die in pregnancy or childbirth and 10 to 15 million women suffer serious or long-lasting illnesses or injuries. In addition, 3 million newborns die during the first week of life and another 3 million are stillborn. Many of these deaths and disabilities could be prevented if all births were attended by midwives.The $9-million initiative will start in 11 of the hardest-hit countries with the highest levels of maternal deaths and disability and the lowest rates of births attended by skilled workers – Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, Sudan, Uganda and Zambia. It will then expand to include 30 countries and, if funding permits, even more.The three-year project is funded by the Netherlands and Sweden and will be implemented by ICM and UNFPA offices in the selected countries.“We need some strong advocates who can call on governments to invest in much needed midwives,” ICM President Bridget Lynch said. “But we also need to work with governments to ensure the scaling up and quality of midwifery services. They need to take ownership.”