Marrakech In Remembrance of American Philanthropist Patti Birch

Rabat – The theme of the exhibition was “Travels of Patti Birch: Passions and Collections.” The Museum displayed 200 items and works of art from Birch’s collection that varies between Islamic, Asian, Pre-Columbian, African, and Judeo-Moroccan arts. Birch worked as a curator in the Department of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Her long experience in the field had enriched the cultural scene of Morocco throughout the years. During the 1960s, she organized a campaign to restore the historical Marrakech Koutoubia minbar (pulpit in the mosque from which the imam delivers the sermon). Read Also: IBTA Award: Marrakech Best International Destination for Business TourismMehdi Qotbi, President of the FNM, told Le Matin, “this exhibition is a tribute to a lady who loved Morocco, who donated 1 million dollars to restore the Koutoubia minbar. “As lover of Morocco, in 1999, she bequeathed a huge sum of her personal collection to the government of Morocco. More than 1,000 artifacts were gifted to the country as a symbol of love and appreciation. Today, Dar El Bacha Museum of Confluences in Marrakech has a whole section dedicated to the universal collection of Patty Birch, representing four continents: Latin America, Africa, Europe, and Asia.“Patti and I became close friends as soon as we met, and I would come to understand her passion for art in Morocco and the Islamic world,” said former Ambassador Edward M. Gabriel. The museum is located in the heart of the old medina of Marrakech. It is a testimony that demonstrates the different facets and multiple components of the Moroccan identity and culture.Dar El Bacha Museum of Confluences is a historical evidence of intercultural and interfaith Dialogue in Morocco. The objects in display tell the stories of coexistence, tolerance and unity between the three monotheistic religions throughout the years.“This is a very beautiful museum and a brilliant exhibition, which reflects the extraordinary richness of Moroccan culture,” President of Arab World Institute, Jack Lang, told Le Matin. read more

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Hiraks Nasser Zefzafi Boycotts His Appeal Hearings

Rabat – The jailed Hirak Rif leader Nasser Zefzafi abstained from attending an appeal hearing on Monday at the Casablanca Court of Appeals, due to what he calls the “absence of fair trial conditions.”Zefzafi’s father, Ahmed Zefzafi, shared his son’s statement on Facebook yesterday, announcing that his boycott is irrevocable.As quoted by his father, Zefzafi said that the trial “is but a stage play by the judicial institution … Therefore, I declare to the local, national and international public that I am boycotting this trial, in which the most basic conditions of fairness do not exist.” The appeal hearing of Hirak detainees was initially scheduled for January 7 but the court postponed it to Monday, January 14. The court did not report the reasons for the delay.Eight days after being sentenced to 20 years in June 2018, Zefzafi refused to appeal his sentences.Read Also: Morocco’s Nasser Zefzafi, Hirak Leader, Not Awarded Sakharov PrizeAlong with other detained Hirak activists, Zefzafi started a series of hunger strikes to protest alleged torture and harassment, and ask, according to his father, “for the rights that other prisoners enjoy: that he be taken out of isolation in a solitary cell and put him in a dignified cell where he can see and talk.”Eventually, Zefzafi decided to appeal in July.The court handed down sentences varying from 1 to 20 years to 54 Hirak activists for participating in the “unauthorized” Hirak protests.The Hirak movement began in October 2016 after the death of Mohcine Fikri, an Al Hoceima fishmonger who was crushed to death in a garbage truck while trying to save his goods that had been confiscated by authorities.The incident angered many, causing protests across the country, especially in Al Hoceima province, which condemned Fikri’s death and social disparities in Morocco.Police arrested an estimated 400 activists and protesters involved in the protests in 2016 and 2017.Read Also: Morocco Rejects Amnesty’s Report on Hirak Activists’ Sentences read more

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The Latest Avenatti says hes confident hell get justice

SANTA ANA, Calif. — The Latest on federal criminal charges against attorney Michael Avenatti (all times local):4:10 p.m.Attorney Michael Avenatti says he believes justice will be served in his bank and wire fraud case.After a court appearance Monday in California, Avenatti said he’s long represented “Davids versus Goliaths” in the same justice system in which he now faces charges.The attorney known for representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in legal battles against President Donald Trump is accused of fraudulently obtaining bank loans and pocketing funds belonging to a client.Avenatti waived his right to a preliminary hearing in federal court in Santa Ana. He’s scheduled to be arraigned April 29, but his lawyer says he may seek a waiver so his attorneys can appear on his behalf.Avenatti was arrested last week in New York and charged with trying to extort millions of dollars from Nike in a separate case.___12 a.m.Attorney Michael Avenatti faces a hearing in federal court in California on charges he fraudulently obtained $4 million in bank loans and pocketed $1.6 million that belonged to a client.The brash lawyer known for representing porn star Stormy Daniels in legal battles against President Donald Trump is expected at a hearing Monday in the Orange County city of Santa Ana.Avenatti has long faced allegations from a former client and a former partner that he was hiding money to avoid paying what he owed.Now, federal authorities are adding their voices to that chorus, with the spectre of a long prison sentence.Avenatti is charged with wire and bank fraud. He was arrested last week in New York on unrelated extortion charges and released on $300,000 bail.He says he expects to be exonerated.The Associated Press read more

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UN seeks 64 million for humanitarian aid to Liberia

“Despite some improvements in political, security and the socio-economic conditions of Liberians, humanitarian needs do still remain,” said UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Liberia Jordan Ryan. The appeal covers water and sanitation, health and agriculture. Donors have already provided some $46 million to the 2007 Common Humanitarian Action Plan, which was launched in February of this year. The humanitarian community determined that a total of $110 million will be required to help meet the basic social services of the Liberian people, who have suffered from years of civil strife. In another development, nearly 300 young boys and girls in Charlesville – some 100 kilometres northwest of Monrovia – are benefiting from improvements to their school made by Pakistani troops serving with the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). The blue helmets provided fresh paint and a new roof, and fully furnished the classrooms. At a ceremony marking the hand-over of the school to the local authorities, Mr. Ryan expressed appreciation to the contingent for their contribution to the children’s and Liberia’s development, stressing that “education is vital for the future of Liberia.” He emphasized the crucial importance of giving equal educational opportunities to both girls and boys, and urged parents to make good use of the newly renovated facility so that their children grow up in a safe, clean and healthy environment. By “adopting” the school, the Pakistani contingent has committed itself not only to the rehabilitation and maintenance of the school’s premises, but also to additional support, including providing regular medical services for the children and distributing stationary and uniforms, UNMIL said. Meanwhile, the top United Nations envoy in Liberia today paid tribute to three crew members who died when a UN helicopter crashed last week. A probe on the cause is continuing but the mission has said there is no evidence to indicate that any foul play was involved. Pilot in Command Vitali Drozdov, Co-Pilot Sergey Kolosov and Flight Engineer Nikolai Zhorikov, all Russian nationals, lost their lives when the MI-8 cargo helicopter crashed on last Friday near Ganta in north-eastern Liberia. “We all feel touched by this tragedy because we fly with you day in day out,” UNMIL chief Alan Doss, told senior staff of UTAir at a meeting at the Mission’s headquarters in Monrovia, conveying condolences and offering the UN’s assistance in the arrangements being made for the repatriation of the three bodies to the Russian Federation. Extensive investigations into the crash are continuing under the leadership of the Liberian Civil Aviation Authority (LCAA) with the full support and cooperation of UNMIL’s Aviation Safety Unit. In addition, international aviation experts from the UN and the Russian Federation, including the Senior Management team of UTAir plus representatives of the Russian Civil Aviation Authority, are expected in Liberia tomorrow to assist with the investigations. 6 November 2007The United Nations and its partners in Liberia today appealed for $64 million to meet urgent humanitarian needs in the country for the remainder of this year and the first half of 2008. read more

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Cyprus top UN political official cautiously optimistic about chances of progress

Speaking to reporters after briefing the Council, B. Lynn Pascoe said he was looking forward to next week’s start of substantive talks among the working groups set up under the agreement signed by the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities on 21 March.Mr. Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said his discussions last week with senior officials in both Athens and Ankara also left him “really optimistic” about the outlook for Cyprus and the chances of ending the long-running dispute.“I think the entire world would be delighted to see Cyprus move forward on its negotiation,” he said. “We would like to see this settled as soon as possible.”In response to a journalist’s question, Mr. Pascoe said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would consider appointing a special envoy on the issue in the months ahead if the working groups make progress in the first phase. 15 April 2008The United Nations political chief told the Security Council today that he was optimistic that Cyprus could soon be reunified, but he also cautioned that the upcoming negotiations between the two communities on the Mediterranean island would not be easy. read more

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Israel must open crossings to Gaza to counter misery and extremism –

“Shamefully, there are thousands of tons of aid waiting on the borders of Gaza that need to be connected right now with the people here,” the Director of Operations in Gaza for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), John Ging, told a news conference in New York by video-link from ground zero.“The donors have been very generous, the operation in getting it from all over the world to this part of the world has been a success and very quick, but now we have the bottleneck, and of course it has to be that the Government of Israel in the first instance has to find operational solutions to get the crossing points open,” he said, noting that only about 100 truckloads are crossing daily.This compared with a daily average of 130 trucks in the second half of last year before the huge new demands stemming from the massive devastation wrought by the three-week offensive launched by Israel with the stated aim of ending Hamas rocket attacks.The military operation claimed over 1,300 lives, 412 of them children, wounded more than 5,450, 1,855 of them children, and destroyed or damaged 20,000 buildings and much infrastructure. The UN has estimated that some 600 trucks a day are necessary to keep Gaza running, even before the current damage. Israel has cut back supplies and closed the crossings frequently for security reasons and in response to rocket attacks. “The bottom line is the people here need that food and the other supplies, they need it right now, and of course that’s what’s feeding their misery and their anger,” Mr. Ging said. “I’m not saying that the entire population has turned over to extremism, I’m saying that there’s more of it than there was before. But of course the majority of people here are very angry,” he added, stressing that if that anger is not channelled positively into changes on the ground, “we will suffer negative consequences. A fertile ground for extremism is this misery and despair.” Mr. Ging went to Jerusalem earlier today to meet with United States Mideast envoy George Mitchell and stressed to him that access was the key, noting that the prospect of a dignified existence for Gazans is a prerequisite for security and stability and “right now there’s no prospective of that because the crossing are effectively still closed.” Summing up the current situation, he said UNRWA had increased the number of its food aid beneficiaries from 750,000 to 900,000 and was helping 10,000 homeless people with rental payment. Tens of thousands of others whose homes were destroyed or damaged in the Israeli bombardment have sought refuge with relatives and friends, but they need blankets and clothes.On the positive side, electricity supply has now increased to 16 hours, compared with only eight hours last week, and the number of people without water has dropped from 500,000 to 100,000 as infrastructure repairs continue.But in an example of the difficulties UNRWA faces, Israel today banned the import of plastic bags which the agency needs for its 20,000 daily food parcels. UN officials are trying to find out why. “We know the crossing points can be opened if there’s political will,” Mr. Ging concluded. Meanwhile, UN human rights officials are following up reports that Palestinians from the rival Fatah party have been killed and harassed by Hamas. And the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that almost all of Gaza’s 13,000 families who depend on farming, herding and fishing suffered damage to their assets during the conflict, with many farms completely destroyed.“Farmers already struggling to make a profit before the outbreak of the conflict are now facing the possible irreversible loss of their livelihoods, as they are unable to replace or repair destroyed equipment, land and livestock,” FAO Senior Project Coordinator in Jerusalem Luigi Damiani said. “For many women whose husbands were killed or injured during the conflict it is becoming increasingly difficult to provide food for their families.” FAO is already planning emergency agricultural rehabilitation to assist the most vulnerable, including input packages of seeds, seedlings, fertilizers, feed and veterinary kits to bolster food production for the coming spring season. Aid will also focus on repairing damaged greenhouses, animal sheds, irrigation networks and water wells. The agency will need $6.5 million for these immediate activities, which will directly benefit around 27,500 people. 30 January 2009Almost two weeks after the devastating Israeli offensive against Hamas in Gaza ended, full access for relief supplies is the key issue, above all in curbing a rising tide of extremism, the top United Nations official in the Strip warned today. read more

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Afghanistan flawed elections could roll back progress warns Ban

31 March 2009Too much is at stake for Afghanistan’s upcoming presidential elections to be flawed, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed today, calling on the international community to support efforts to consolidate stability in the war-torn nation. “We know from experience that the second cycle of post-conflict elections can be even more difficult than the first,” Mr. Ban said, opening the International Conference on Afghanistan in The Hague.“Too often, flawed elections have led to greater instability. This cannot be allowed to happen in Afghanistan,” he added, calling on the country’s leaders to ensure that the Government is effective and functioning until the start of the next presidential term.The Secretary-General pointed to numerous successes made so far, including slashing poppy cultivation and improving the health sector, urging continued support for the nation to make concrete achievements in key areas, such as boosting agricultural productivity and combating organized crime.“We cannot afford to fail in this endeavour,” he stressed. “Failure would be a betrayal of the Afghan people. It would be a betrayal of the progress that has been achieved.”The media portrays the situation as being bleaker than it is in reality, resulting in pessimism among policy-markers, Mr. Ban said at the one-day gathering drawing dozens of countries and organizations.“We must avoid an attitude that focuses mainly on setbacks of the past, and learn to recognize the positive signs of progress,” he said, underlining the importance of seizing opportunities for improvement.The deployment of additional troops will lead to both a peaceful electoral environment and additional trainers for the national security forces, he noted, commending United States President Barack Obama’s new strategy focusing on increasing military commitment, bolstered institution-building and improved cooperation with authorities in Afghanistan and Pakistan.While in The Hague, the Secretary-General met today with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to discuss the presidential elections slated for August; democracy; the mandate of Mr. Ban’s Special Representative, Kai Eide; and the role of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).Mr. Ban also had bilateral talks regarding how the international community can support Afghanistan with Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon; Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht; Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith; Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei; and the Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.Last week, the Security Council voted to extend UNAMA’s mandate, reaffirming the “central role” of the world body in bringing peace to the country, the Secretary-General said at today’s conference.“We take this responsibility very seriously,” he said, pledging the UN’s continued support to protect human rights and food security, and improve the rule of law and governance, among other areas.The Afghan people demonstrated their resilience in facing many daunting challenges, such as poverty, natural disaster, political repression, foreign repression and civil strife, Mr. Ban stated.“In recent years, Afghans have moved decisively along a new path, toward a new vision for their future,” he said. “Our responsibility is to help them secure that vision.”Mr. Eide, who also heads UNAMA, told the gathering that promising developments in Afghanistan are a result of the hard work of both Afghan officials and a strong civilian and military international presence.“Our common efforts are yielding results,” he said. “This is not the time to hesitate but to stand firm in our commitments.”Coordination must be improved, since “our efforts are still too fragmented and do not provide the impact we seek,” said Mr. Eide. “The UN must do more, yes, and we are ready to do more to deepen our role and expand our presence around the country.” read more

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Hollywood backs UN campaign in push for world leaders to sign climate

Directed by Jeffrey Nachmanoff, co-writer of the apocalyptic science-fiction blockbuster film – “The Day After Tomorrow” – which depicts catastrophic effects of global warming, the series of videos urge viewers to sign the online Climate Petition . The announcements were shot in six locations across four continents and feature Don Cheadle, the star of Hotel Rwanda, a film based on the true story of a man who saved hundreds of lives during the 1994 genocide in the African country.“The series is aimed at promoting public awareness and catalyzing action at the highest and humblest level to boost the prospects for a wide-ranging and transformative agreement at a crucial UN climate convention meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark in less than 80 days,” said UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner. The conference in December brings together world leaders in a bid to agree an ambitious and far-reaching successor pact to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty setting greenhouse gas emission limits. Also included in the announcements is world class violinist and UN Messenger of Peace Midori Goto, who said she was happy to lend her voice to those concerned about climate change. Ms. Goto spotlighted the newly-appointed Prime Minister of Japan’ commitment to make substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. “We can act together to bring meaningful changes to our lives and to our environment,” she said. “Let’s sign the climate petition and let our voices be heard.”Other videos in the series – released at the start of Global Climate Week, 21 to 25 September – are presented by President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives; Nobel Laureate for Peace Wangari Maathai; Animal Planet presenter and environmentalist Phillipe Cousteau; and wildlife film maker Saba Douglas-Hamilton. 18 September 2009A major Hollywood actor and director take starring roles in a United Nations public service announcement campaign launched today, aimed at compelling world leaders to “seal the deal” on a greenhouse gas emissions treaty at a climate change conference later this year. read more

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Somalia UN looks to Istanbul forum as key step to aid wartorn

“If we do not make the right commitments and take the right action in Somalia now, the situation will, sooner or later, force us to act and at a much higher price,” Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah told the Security Council, as he presented Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report on the situation in the Horn of Africa nation.Speaking on the same day that the UN refugee agency called for stepped-up funding to help the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the fighting in what he called a “horrendous” humanitarian situation, Mr. Ould-Abdallah praised next week’s conference in Istanbul as “an exceptional opportunity to show that Somalia has true friends ready to make a difference…“This conference is first and foremost a show of political solidarity with the Somali people who have suffered so much and been taken hostage by various groups and individuals,” the envoy said, referring to the gathering to be convened by the Turkish Government and Mr. Ban on 22 May.“It is also a sign of hope sent to Somalis that they are not alone. In addition to addressing security issues and global threats including piracy, the conference will also provide a platform for the Somali private sector, international business and Governments to launch new initiatives for reconstruction and job creation.”Despite suggestions that it is either too early or too late for such a high level meeting, “we should all recognize that, after years of anarchy, there will never be a right time in Somalia. We have to act, and to act now,” he added of a country that has had no central government and has been torn by factional conflict for nearly two decades.The top UN political official also stressed the importance of the Istanbul meeting today. “We would not at any time, of course, underestimate the difficulties and the fragility of Somalia but we do believe that progress has been and can be built upon,” Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe told a news conference.He cited the survival of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) against numerous attacks, its first steps towards developing its own police and security forces, and the interest it has aroused in the Somali business community and in bringing back investment to the country.“This effort has to succeed but is clearly going to require determined, sustained efforts by both the Somalis and the international community to make it happen,” he said. “This is where the Istanbul conference fits in. It will give an opportunity to look at how far we’ve come and what still needs to be done. It should help us increase international awareness of what’s at stake in Somalia and increase international commitment to help in a coordinated way.“It should also help focus the attention of the Somalis themselves, including the TFG, on where they need to step up their efforts.”On the military front, Mr. Ould-Abdallah called for a big increase in and help for the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which now numbers less than 7,000 troops, as it carries out its task of protecting the TFG institutions and assisting the needy in the face of violent attacks from Islamic militants. At the same time, the international community should provide equipment and salaries for the TFG’s own nascent forces. In the political field, he urged the TFG to show unity and a common purpose, calling on the international community to fulfil its commitments, especially by disbursing pledged resources. He noted that the TFG had succeeded in reaching out to other groups committed to peace, signing an accord with Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa, a key religious and resistance movement, which could provide a blueprint for future agreements.“I would like to reiterate that the door of peace is open to all Somalis wishing to end the agony of their country,” stressed Mr. Ould-Abdallah, who serves as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS). On the humanitarian front, where the situation “remains horrendous” despite the laudable work of the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other agencies, he called for full cooperation between Governments, development agencies, business associations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), urging the agencies to again show a physical presence in the violence-shattered land.“If we want to make a decisive difference, there is no alternative to moving the international community to Mogadishu to be closer to the victims,” he stressed. “The remote control from Nairobi (capital of neighbouring Kenya) is not leading to progress.”Once this close collaboration is established, it can lead to a major move away from past practices of managing the status quo. “In that context, the Istanbul conference comes at the right time,” Mr. Ould-Abdallah declared. “It shows the Somalis and their leaders that there are personalities, countries and organizations that are genuinely ready and committed to working with them for peace and stability.”In Geneva today, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) launched two supplementary appeals totalling $60 million for the nearly 2 million Somalis displaced both inside and outside their country, bringing its total budget for 2010 for Somalia and its four neighbouring countries – Kenya, Yemen, Ethiopia and Djibouti – to nearly $425 million.“The displacement crisis is worsening with the deterioration of the situation inside Somalia and we need to prepare fast for new and possibly large-scale displacement,” Deputy High Commissioner Alexander Aleinikoff said. “We need to be ready.” 12 May 2010On the eve of a major global conference on Somalia, the top United Nations envoy in the war-torn nation urged the world community to provide the needed resources on the military, political and humanitarian fronts now to prevent an even worse scenario from arising. read more

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UNbacked radio station helps Bangladeshi farmers get back on their feet

Villagers will broadcast vital information to support those working in the agriculture, fisheries and livestock sectors through a community radio show set up jointly by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Bangladeshi Ministry of Agriculture.“A strong information communication system can upgrade knowledge of rural people and improve livelihoods in rural settings,” said Ad Spijkers, FAO representative in Bangladesh.The country’s south – known as its “bread basket” – is vulnerable to climate change and recurrent hazards, having been battered by Cyclones Sidr and Aila in recent years, which together claimed thousands of lives.Mr. Spijkers noted that Bangladesh can enhance farm production despite these challenges by introducing stress-tolerant seeds and modern machines such as power tillers and irrigation pumps.Community-based radio programmes, he stressed, can help to disseminate this kind of information.The radio project is part of a larger initiative of the FAO, along with the World Bank and the European Union (EU), to help Bangladesh weather high food prices and bolster food security. 8 June 2010A United Nations-backed radio station run by and for people living in remote parts of Bangladesh has a new programme that aims to assist farmers and fishers whose livelihoods are regularly upset by cyclones. read more

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UN Goodwill Ambassador Edward Norton calls for people power to protect biodiversity

22 September 2010Individuals can use their wallets, their Internet skills and their lawmakers to press corporations and governments to take meaningful measures to preserve biodiversity, the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador and acclaimed actor Edward Norton said today, urging the public to play a bigger role in stopping the decline in the number of plant and animal species worldwide. Mr. Norton – who was appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity in July – told the UN News Centre that it is not only world leaders and policy-makers who can play a part in protecting the planet.Consumers can vote with their dollars and only buy products that are environmentally friendly, he said, noting that many companies had started to introduce “greener” brand lines to meet demand.“Growth in the environmentally friendly sector of consumer products is really high – not just in organics, but also in cleaner products,” he said. “I think that companies that ignore these trends are probably ignoring them at the peril of their bottom line.”Mr. Norton noted that many green products are no longer substantially more expensive than their standard rivals.“In some cases, there still is that cost premium, but in many cases the products that don’t carry a downstream environmental burden are becoming price competitive.”The Goodwill Ambassador noted that the public can also pressure their legislators to ensure their country signs the Convention on Biodiversity or pass appropriate laws on the issue, such as better regulating environmentally destructive industry.“I think it is being persuasively demonstrated all over the world in various scenarios of all different scales that you can achieve economic development that does not rely on the destruction of ecosystems.”Mr. Norton and several partners have recently developed Crowdrise, a website that allows the public to use a social networking platform to help raise funds for charitable causes.“We implemented Crowdrise with the idea that people are looking for tools of empowerment so that they can get around what feel like the over-large edifices surrounding an issue and get directly to some of the people in small groups that are taking the initiative and support them.”The world is more interconnected than ever, Mr. Norton stressed.“It’s not that hard to surf around [the Internet] any more and find examples of groups that are doing things at a scale where your small contribution or your small ability to do a little bit of fund-raising can really make a difference.”He added that he was optimistic that policy-makers were becoming more aware of the importance of protecting biodiversity, its impact of human health, and on the fact that taking a green stand does not necessarily have to mean a large economic cost to industry or the public.“Unsustainable development is no longer an option, and environmental preservation that doesn’t deal with human needs is no longer an option either.” read more

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UN human rights office calls for observers to be allowed into Iraqi

12 April 2011The United Nations human rights office today called for independent observers to be allowed immediate access to a camp north of Baghdad after Iraqi security forces reportedly stormed it last Friday and killed or wounded dozens of residents. Media reports state that Iraqi security forces entered Camp Ashraf, which is home to several thousand members of the People’s Mojahedeen Organization of Iran (PMOI), also known as Mujahedin-e Khalq, in response to rock-throwing and threats from some camp residents.Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told reporters today in Geneva that the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) has still not been allowed to enter the camp to independently verify the allegations of serious rights violations last Friday.“While the situation appears to have calmed down, it remains urgent that independent observers are allowed immediate access to the camp in order to establish the truth of the matter,” Ms. Shamdasani said. read more

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Mexican specialist wins UNESCO award for popularizing science

3 January 2012A Mexican physiologist and neurobiologist renowned for his work on sleep has won a United Nations award honouring those who have helped to promote science, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced today. René Raúl Drucker Colín will officially receive the 2011 UNESCO Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science at a ceremony today in Bhubaneswar, India, the agency said in a press release.Professor Drucker Colín was chosen for the biennial award – which was created in 1951 – by Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, on the recommendation of an international jury.The professor, who holds a degree in psychology and a doctorate in medicine, is best known for his work in identifying the role played by neurotransmitters during sleep, and has been described by UNESCO as “an ardent promoter of science.”He writes regularly for La Jornada, a daily Mexican newspaper, and has also participated regularly on the science programmes of Televisa, a national television broadcaster.Professor Drucker Colín is slated to receive a cheque for $20,000, the silver UNESCO-Albert Einstein medal and a certificate at tomorrow’s ceremony, which will take place during the Indian Science Congress.The prize is jointly funded by the Kalinga Foundation and the Government of the Indian state of Orissa, of which Bhubaneswar is the capital. read more

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Group of 49 ethical funds call for greener oilsands

An international group of ethical funds with investments in Alberta’s oilsands is concerned the industry’s environmental performance could be creating financial risk.“We recognize the economic significance of the resource,” the group says in a statement to be released Monday.“But (we) are concerned that the current approach to development, particularly the management of the environmental and social impacts, threatens the long-term viability of the oilsands as an investment.”The statement is signed by 49 funds.Some are controlled by labour and church groups, such as the United Church of Canada and the Canadian Labour Congress. There are also public-sector pension funds from both sides of the border and private funds from Canada, the U.S. and Europe.Together, they control about $2 trillion, some of which is invested in companies active in the oilsands. Their statement was co-ordinated and released by the Boston-based group Ceres, which works to advance environmental causes through the financial sector.The funds say the oilsands industry is not reducing its greenhouse gas emissions or its water use fast enough. They’re concerned about the lack of information on land reclamation liabilities and worry about lawsuits from aboriginal groups.“We’re certainly not claiming that the industry is ignoring these issues,” said Andrew Logan of Ceres. “What we’re saying is that we need to dramatically speed up the pace of innovation.”Ceres considers greenhouse gas emissions a risk because the industry’s rosy forecasts of U.S. export growth don’t account for the potential impact of low-carbon fuel standards, now under consideration or implemented in 14 U.S. states.Ceres estimated in 2010 that if such regulations eventually cover half of the U.S. market, the export potential for oilsands crude would be reduced by 25 per cent. If such regulations were implemented federally, markets for the oilsands fuel could shrink by a third.“Most companies don’t really have targets around reducing their greenhouse gas emissions or their water use,” Logan said. “What we’re looking for is specifics.”Dan Wicklum of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance said his recently formed group of 12 major oilsands producers is starting to do just that.“Companies certainly want to push themselves,” he said. “We’re just developing the process that we would use to engage and set our goals … The companies have committed to set a goal.”The funds also say industry hasn’t released enough information about how much it will cost to clean up after itself.“Disclosure by oilsands companies of reclamation costs has been poor,” says the statement.Alberta’s auditor general has pointed out the amount of money salted away for reclamation is inadequate and the statement says unaccounted reclamation liabilities could reach $33 billion by 2025 — liabilities that could fall to investors.Janet Annesley of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers denied investors are at risk.“Reclamation plans are in place before any project operations may commence and liabilities are fully funded by oil sands mine operators at all times through cash, assets or a combination of both,” she wrote in an email.The statement adds legal threats from aboriginal groups, such as the constitutional challenge recently filed against Shell’s proposed Jackpine mine expansion, have been growing.“The risk of a court ruling in their favour is increasing and could lead to the suspension of an oilsands project,” it says.Annesley also downplayed that risk.“Oil sands development does not go ahead without direct and meaningful Aboriginal consultation,” she wrote.“Oil sands operators will continue to work with governments and Aboriginal groups to clarify the consultation and accommodation process for the benefit of all parties over the longer term.”Wicklum said his group has already been in contact with Ceres about its concerns.“When I take a look at what they’re asking for, it’s really exactly what the industry wants —meaningful engagement with stakeholders,” he said. “We’ve committed to set regional environmental performance goals, to listen and to respond and accelerate the pace of environmental performance improvement.”The fact that Wicklum’s group exists at all is a step forward, said Logan.“The problems in the oilsands are really beyond the ability of any one company to solve,” he said. “The formation of COSIA does suggest to me there’s a real appetite to put real resources into these problems in a way that wasn’t the case a couple of years ago. read more

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Bombardier Inc set to formally hand over first CSeries plane to Swiss

MIRABEL, Que. — After years of delay and big cost overruns, Bombardier’s CSeries program is finally getting off the ground with the delivery of its first aircraft to Swiss International Air Lines.The CS100 plane will officially be handed over to the European carrier at a ceremony later today at Montreal’s Mirabel airport attended by government ministers, suppliers and Bombardier employees.The aircraft, the first of 30 firm orders for CSeries aircraft by Swiss International, will leave for Zurich on Thursday morning and begin regular service July 15.Air Canada seals deal to buy 45 Bombardier CSeries passenger jets, worth $3.8 billionBombardier Inc slams Moody’s downgrade as Quebec investment is finalizedThe CSeries is slated to make its first passenger flights in North America on Wednesday with members of the news media as well as suppliers and guests invited aboard two one-hour flights around the airport.A similar flight took place June 3 between Dublin and Zurich. A test aircraft will also conduct passenger flights next month at the Farnborough Air Show near London.The 110- to 160-seat CSeries is two years late and about US$2 billion over budget. The first of the larger CS300 version is slated to be delivered later this year to Air Baltic.Montreal-based Bombardier has struggled financially as the CSeries ran into headwinds as the company began building its largest plane ever from scratch.It has finalized an agreement with the Quebec government on a US$1 billion investment in exchange for a 49.5 per cent stake in the CSeries. The province will make two US$500 million payments, on June 30 and Sept. 1.Bombardier is also seeking a similar contribution from the federal government. However, Ottawa has reportedly pushed Bombardier to change its voting structure, something the founding family that controls the company through multiple voting shares insists it has no intention of doing.Government financial support has attracted the ire of Brazilian rival Embraer, which threatened to launch a challenge at the World Trade Organization after Bombardier signed large orders for the CSeries from Delta Air Lines and Air Canada.The company has secured 370 firm orders and 252 options and purchase rights for the two aircraft sizes. read more

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Bombardier wont be shocked by another high CSeries duty next week

MONTREAL — Bombardier Inc. says it won’t be shocked if it gets hit with another large tariff next in a U.S. duty decision Wednesday after being surprised by massive preliminary duties unveiled against its CSeries commercial jet earlier this week.The Montreal-based aerospace company (TSX:BBD.B) said Thursday it is prepared for an “absurd” anti-dumping duty after the Department of Commerce announced a nearly 220 per cent countervailing duty.“We expect it to be a significant number. Pick a number. It makes no sense,” Colin Bole, Bombardier’s sales chief for commercial aircraft, said in an interview.“I think the Department of Commerce and Boeing have not exactly endeared themselves with a rational and sensible approach here.”The U.S. government is scheduled to announce its preliminary anti-dumping decision on Boeing’s petition next Wednesday. The Chicago aircraft manufacturer has requested 79 per cent in anti-dumping, the same amount it requested in countervailing duties.“We thought 79 was pretty outrageous, this is beyond silly,” he said of the 220 per cent countervailing decision.The department’s preliminary findings said Bombardier benefited from improper government subsidies, giving it an unfair advantage when selling its CSeries jets south of the border.Bombardier has repeatedly stressed that Americans will be hurt by the tariffs because more than half the content on the CSeries is sourced by U.S. suppliers, including Pratt & Whitney engines. The program is expected to generate more than US$30 billion in business over its life and support more than 22,700 American jobs in 19 states.Bole said the exorbitant duties are unfounded and the company is confident they will be reversed in final decisions in coming months. He said Boeing can’t justify its claim of being harmed since it doesn’t make a plane the size of the CS100.Air Canada CEO Calin Rovinescu lent his support to the company, telling the Montreal Board of Trade on Thursday that he found the ruling “troubling” because of its effect on stifling innovation and competitiveness.Canada’s largest airline has ordered 45 CSeries aircraft with options for 30 more that will allow it to fly to new destinations after deliveries begin in 2019.“The CSeries is the best-in-class for its size and we see it comfortably co-existing in our fleet alongside our new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft,” he said.Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard visited workers at the CSeries assembly plant in Mirabel on Thursday to convey his government’s support of the aircraft program against Boeing’s petition.“It’s an unacceptable attack towards an industry, a province and a country and we shall prevail. What’s happening now goes much beyond Bombardier,” he told reporters inside a large hangar north of Montreal.Couillard said he won’t heed Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister’s call for cooler heads and less overheated rhetoric in the burgeoning aerospace trade war.“I will not tone down. I will tone up if I need to do it,” he told reporters. “I will fight for Quebec.”He repeated his demand that “not a bolt, not a part, of course not a plane of Boeing” should enter Canada until the conflict is resolved.Ottawa had planned to buy 18 Super Hornets from Boeing to fill what they claim is a critical shortage of fighter jets, but have since threatened to go elsewhere over the Bombardier dispute.Meanwhile, Bole said Bombardier’s sales campaigns aren’t being harmed by the duty decision and the company still expects to land some new orders later this year.Bombardier has estimated that North America will account for about 2,000 of the 6,800 100- to 150-seat planes that will be sold around the world over the next 20 years.Bole said Bombardier doesn’t expect to feel any extra pressure to lower CSeries prices because buyers may sense the company will be desperate to conclude a deal.He said Bombardier is open to discussions with Boeing but declined to say what would be required to strike a deal to end the dispute. Nor would he disclose the contingencies it will offer Delta Air Lines, which is slated to begin receiving CS100s next spring.Bombardier shares regained some ground Thursday, closing up 5.24 per cent at $2.21 on the Toronto Stock Exchange. read more

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No move to evacuate Lankans in Najran

She said that the officials have had talks with the management of the hospitals and other companies in the area where Sri Lankans are employed on evacuating Sri Lankans if the need does arise. The Foreign Ministry says there is no immediate move to evacuate Sri Lankans employed in the Saudi Arabian city of Najran.Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mahishini Colonne said that officials from the Sri Lankan Consulate in Jeddah had visited several hospitals in the Saudi – Yemen border where Sri Lankans are employed. However, Colonne said that so far the situation in the Najran province is not tense and does not require the evacuation of Sri Lankans employed in the area. Press TV reported yesterday that the Yemeni army, backed by popular committees, had carried out several rocket attacks on Saudi military bases in response to the Riyadh regime’s deadly air raids against its neighbor.According to reports, the rockets fired from Yemen hit several camps and military bases in the southwestern Saudi port city of Jizan. An air defense base in the Saudi border city of Najran was also targeted by five rockets launched by the Yemeni fighters.At least 30 Saudis have been killed since the Yemenis started their rocket and mortar raids on Saudi border areas early in May. Several tanks and armored vehicles belonging to the Saudi army were also destroyed in the offensives.The developments come as the Saudi military presses ahead with its aerial aggression against Yemen, which started on March 26. (Colombo Gazette) read more

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Government wants consensus on Constitutional Assembly

The Deputy Minister invited all political parties to share their views on the proposal and reach a consensus for a new Constitution.Speaking earlier, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) asked as to why the vote on the Resolution is being delayed. The Government says it wants consensus on the proposed Constitutional Assembly and it is for this reason that it is allowing the proposal to be debated in Parliament.Deputy Minister of Power and Renewable Energy Ajith P Perera said that the Government could have used its 2/3rd majority to have the Resolution on proposal passed in Parliament. However he says the Government decided against that move and instead is seeking the support of all political parties in Parliament for the Constitutional Assembly. “We want to reach a consensus on the matter. The Government is committed to unite the country and not divide it,” he said. JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that his party is ready for the vote at anytime and the delay to take the vote gives the impression that there is a division in the Government on the proposal.Tamil National Alliance leader and opposition leader R. Sampanthan urged all political parties to back the process to create a new Constitution.The Sri Lanka Freedom Party said that it supports the Resolution and added that several amendments proposed to the Resolution by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party have been accepted. (Colombo Gazette) read more

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Indian police petition Sri Lanka for info on kidney transplants

A Punjab based recipient visited the hospital, whom the Navalok doctors declared fit for transplantation of kidney issuing a report. Since a huge number of 60 kidney transplants were performed in four hospitals, the police will also seek permission from Lankan government to interrogate six doctors, who performed the transplants. (Colombo Gazette) The middlemen had also arranged a donor for him. Though the transplantation was scheduled a couple of months ago, it did not take place because the Police busted the racket during the same time.While investigating the case, police found the medical report at this Punjab’s man residence. Police in Nalgonda, India, who busted an international kidney racket in January, were preparing a letter to send to the Sri Lankan Government through a proper channel seeking information over all the kidney transplants that were performed at four hospitals in Colombo on Indian nationals, The Hindu newspaper reported.Speaking to The Hindu , Superintendent of Police, Vikram Jeet Duggal said that they would follow the process in writing the letter since it needed to be passed through the Crime Investigation Department (CID) of Telangana and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). So far the police had identified that four Colombo-based hospitals had performed about 60 illegal transplants on the basis of confession statement of accused, whom the police arrested. Recently the investigating police team had also found a documentary evidence on the involvement of Lankan hospitals, which would be enough to send letter rogotary. read more

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Central Expressway Project to be given top priority

The Government has identified the Central Expressway Project as one of its priority projects for promoting economic affairs in the country through improving connectivity among various regions.Accordingly, a proposal made by Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake to obtain funds of Rs. 23.2 billion for the Road Development Authority (RDA) for the construction of phase II of the Central Expressway Project from the National Savings Bank and People’s Bank as loan facilities, was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers.

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