French President to Award Moroccos Intelligence Chief Legion of Honor

Rabat – French President François Hollande will honor Head of Morocco’s Domestic Intelligence Agency DGST Abdellatif Hammouchi with the country’s highest award, the Légion d’honneur (Legion of Honor), in a ceremony this September.Le360 quoted diplomatic sources as saying that François Hollande will award Morocco’s spy chief Abdellatif Hammouchi Les Insignes d’Officier de la Légion d’honneur as part of Hollande’s upcoming visit to Morocco, scheduled between late September and early October 2015.Hamouchi will receive France’s highest distinction for a foreign personality after being the victim of a judicial mishap on French soil in February 2014. Last year, French judicial authorities questioned Hammouchi about the allegations of torture while he was visiting Paris, prompting Morocco to suspend corporation agreements with France in protest.Relations between Morocco and France have been tense since then.In February 2015, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazaneuve said France would  show its respect for Hammouchi by awarding him Les Insignes d’Officier de la Légion d’honneur.The two countries resumed corporation in February following fruitful discussions at the Elysee Palace between President Francois Hollande and King Mohamed VI.President Holland is due to hold new talks with King Mohamed VI next September in Morocco, regarding a set of issues of common interest, such as enhancing security coordination and economic cooperation between the two countries.© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed without permission read more

Angelina Jolie Makes Animated Movie About Afghan Girl

Rabat – Hollywood superstar Angelina Jolie will produce an animated film about a young Afghan girl living under Taliban regime in Afghanistan.The animated film is adapted from the children’s novel “The Breadwinner,” by Deborah Ellis and first published in 2000. The film highlights the life of Parvana, a little girl who disguises herself as a boy in order to work for her family after her father had been unfairly imprisoned.Directed by Nora Twomey, Irish animator and filmmaker, the film will also focus on the Afghan culture and society under the Taliban Regime.  In addition to the English language version, the movie will also be released in Dari, a modern version of Persian spoken in Afghanistan.“Millions of young girls like Parvana are growing up today under oppression or conflict, and helping their families to survive in those conditions. This story is a reminder of the immense value of their contribution,” Jolie said in a statement.“I am delighted to be working with a talented team of artists who I know will do justice to the richness, creativity and strength of Afghan culture and to little girls like Parvana,” she added.With 10 years of experience as a Goodwill Ambassador, Angelina Jolie, dedicated some of her time to help the people in need in war-torn regions.Last month, she visited the refugee camp on the occasion of the World Refugee Day, and called on world leaders to take action to end the suffering of the millions of people who fledthe war zones and sectarian conflicts tearing up their country. read more

Moroccos CNDH to Publish Report on Ben Barka Assassination By December

Rabat – Morocco’s National Human Rights Council (CNDH) is reportedly moving forward to publish a new report on the 1965 kidnapping and assignation of the Moroccan opposition leader Mehdi Ben Barka.Earlier this week, the Secretary General of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces Party (USFP), Driss Lachgar submitted an enquiry to CNDH President, Driss El Yazami, regarding the new data that the council has collected over the Ben Barka Affair.A statement by USFP published on the party’s official website said that El Yazami promised to disclose new information on the disappearance of Ben Barka, in a new report due to be published next December.According to the statement, Driss El Yazami said the report will includes all cases that are similar to Ben Barka’s case. The goal of this approach will be to open a public debate over mysterious enforced disappearances in Morocco. On Tuesday, MPs observed a minute of silence during the House of Representatives’ weekly session, in memory of Mehdi Ben Barka, who was kidnapped and assassinated in Paris on October 29, 1965.The exact circumstances of Ben Barka’s disappearance are still a mystery to the public and his body has never been found.Ben Barka’s family has for long demanded that Moroccan and French authorities unveil the truth over the circumstances that surrounded his assassination. Ben Barka was one of the founding father of the leftist movement in Morocco and a Secretary General of the Tricontinental Conference.© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed without permission read more

Talks with King Mohammed VI Very Comprehensive John Kerry

Marrakech – U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, described as “very comprehensive” and “very positive” his talks with King Mohammed VI, on Wednesday at the Royal reception room of the Palais des Congrès in Marrakech.“With HM the King we had a very comprehensive and very positive discussion,” the U.S. official told the press, stressing that “President Barack Obama and I are grateful for the quality of relations we have with HM the King, Morocco and the government.”In this context, Kerry praised the “great cooperation” between Rabat and Washington in terms of the fight against violent extremism and in the field of climate change. “Morocco has made extraordinary efforts in hosting the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,” Kerry said, expressing confidence that this global meeting will be marked by “a strong declaration that reaffirms the Paris Climate Agreement.” read more

Facing Growing Transportation Demand King Mohammed Launches RabatSalé Tramway Extension Project

Rabat – King Mohammed VI launched the 7-kilometer Line 2 extension project of the Rabat-Salé tramway on Monday, intended to meet the growing demand for mobility and transportation in the two cities.The extension came as response to the success of the Rabat-Sale tramway, which was launched in May 2011. The Line 2 extension project will strengthen links between the two cities with other means of transportation, seeking to improve passengers’ trip conditions and to enhance the public transportation network with environment-friendly means.The project will come into operation by July 2019, projected to provide transportation services for nearly 400,000 inhabitants. The project forms part of the 2014-2018 Rabat Development Integrated Program entitled “Rabat: City of Light, Moroccan Culture Capital.” MAD 1.7 billion was allocated for the establishment of this project, which follows the King’s desire to turn the two cities of Rabat and Sale into urban mega-metropolises, reported Maghreb Arab Press (MAP).The Rabat tramway extension will stretch over more 2.4 kilometers. The section will include the construction of four tram stops as well as urban renewal of the Yaacoub El Mansour neighborhood. It will also include the creation of three green areas and community parks.Salé’s 4.6 km extension will also include several works: the building of eight tram stations, the construction of an 390-meter tram civil engineering work called “Bridge on Ain Houala Avenue” (7.5m in height, 11.8m in width), and an underground road.To meet the transport supply and demands, 22 new trams will be purchased. The project is funded by several bodies: the Support Fund for Urban Transportation Reforms (from Morocco’s Ministries of Economy and Interior) and loans by the French development agency and the European Investment Bank.Other extension projects for Lines 1 and 2 of the Rabat-Salé tramway are being studied. read more

Stocks slide as slow growth in China weighs on earnings

NEW YORK — Stocks opened broadly lower after two major U.S. companies dropped after saying that weakness in China’s economy was weighing on their results.Caterpillar, a bellwether for industrial companies, has been warning investors that higher costs related to tariffs would hurt its bottom line. The weak results weighed down the entire sector.Nvidia led the tech sector lower as it cut its forecasts, also blaming weakness in China, which is the world’s second-largest economyChina is facing its worst economic slowdown since the global financial crisis and the impact is being felt widely among the many U.S. companies that rely on China for sales, especially industrial and technology companies. The slowdown is being exacerbated by continuing trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.In July-September, China’s economy expanded at 6.5 per cent, the slowest pace since the financial crisis.KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index lost 32 points, or 1.2 per cent to 2,632 as of 10 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 364 points, or 1.5 per cent, to 24,372. The Nasdaq composite fell 116 points, or 1.6 per cent, to 7,048.CHINA BLUES: Caterpillar and NVIDIA plunged as a slowdown in growth in the world’s second largest economy, China, hurt their results. Apple recently warned that iPhone sales are slipping in China.The slowdown is adding to Caterpillar’s problems, and its fourth-quarter profit fell short of Wall Street expectations. Caterpillar fell 7.8 per cent to $126.12. The stock is down 18 per cent over the last 12 months, compared with a 7 per cent drop in the S&P 500.Deere & Co., a key competitor, fell 2.4 per cent to $157.69.Chipmaker NVIDIA lowered its revenue forecast, citing a slowdown in China. CEO Jensen Huang called the quarter “extraordinary, unusually turbulent, and disappointing.” The stock fell 15.2 per cent to $135.86.TRADE TALKS LOOM: Talks aimed at resolving the impasse over Chinese technology policy and other issues are due to resume in Washington this week, led by the U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He. Analysts say there might be moves to trim China’s massive trade surplus with the U.S. that could stave off further hikes in punitive tariffs imposed by both sides. However, they expect gaps to remain on key problems such as China’s blueprint for state-led development of leading technologies.ENERGY: U.S. crude oil fell 3 per cent to $52.07 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 2.4 per cent to $60.13 per barrel in London.OVERSEAS: The British FTSE lost 0.1 per cent. Germany’s DAX fell 0.5 per cent and France’s CAC 40 fell 0.78 per cent. Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock index fell 0.6 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was flat, as was South Korea’s Kospi.BONDS: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell 2.73 per cent.Damian J. Troise, The Associated Press read more

Moroccan Authorities Arrest Sexual Assault Perpetrator

Rabat – Following the release of a sexual assault video on Tuesday that caused a public uproar on social media, Moroccan security forces arrested a 21-year old suspect on Wednesday in Benguerir–a city located in the Rehamna province in central Morocco. The suspect was allegedly involved in violently assaulting a young girl.The incident occured back in January, and the identity of the victim has now been identified.Yesterday, Morocco’s General Directorate for National Security opened an investigation, seeking to identify the suspect involved in the assault. In a statement, the DGSN urged all law enforcement to identify the identity of perpetrator who violently attempted to undress the victim, while  touching her inappropriately. The girl is heard begging and crying for help in the video, while a second aggressor stands laughing while filming the scene.Public UproarThe 55-second video has stirred backlash and concern among Moroccan citizens on social media. A hashtag is now being used to decry the incident. The hashtag “#Wash_Maandakch_Khtek” (translation: “Don’t you have a sister?”) echoes the young woman’s pleas, heard in the video as she tries stop her abuser.As awareness of the incident spreads, a Twitter user urged authorities to come up with a solution to end similar occurrences in Morocco: “We need a solution…six months in prison is not enough.”Others urged the government to apply the death penalty in rape cases.I’m so done with my country ??#???_???????_???— Asmaa Ait lahcen (@SimaVu) March 27, 2018As awareness of the incident spread, a twitter user urged authorities to come up with a solution to help end similar occurrences in Morocco. “We need a solution…six months in the prison is not enough.”#???_???????_???#???_???????_????????? ????.. ??? ???? ??? ????? ????? ??? ??????.— ??? ????? ?????? (@aabdpres) March 27, 2018“Please don’t you tell me that you are against death penalty anymore,” wrote another.Ne dites plus s’il vous plait que vous êtes contre la peine de mort #???_???????_???— Rim Kaanane (@RimKaanane) March 27, 2018The investigation of the incident falls just one month after Morocco’s new law against harassment and gender-based violence was enacted on February 14.Bouchra Abdou,  an activist, feminist, and director of Tahadi Center,  told Morocco World News that the new law is not “really enough.” She added that there should be a better security approach for dealing with assaults  in public spaces, adding that “authorities need to push up their sleeves and do something concrete about assault incidents and their perpetrators.” Abdou added that the Ministry of Education also needs to offer students awareness campaigns to educate them about the dangers of assault and harassment.In November, The Tahadi Association launched a campaign on both social media and in public spaces platforms to prevent sexual harassment on public transportation in Casablanca. The campaign was a response to a previous assault on a public Casablanca bus last August.Seven months ago, graphic footage was released of a group of teenagers violently assaulting a mentally ill-girl on a bus in Casablanca.The incident resulted in public protests in Morocco’s major cities, including Rabat and Casablanca, to denounce the lack of public safety. read more

Dutch students march for better climate policies

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Thousands of students are skipping classes to join a march in support of more ambitious climate policies in the Netherlands.The demonstration Thursday by Dutch students follows similar marches in recent weeks in neighbouring Belgium that have drawn thousands of protesters.Organizers say they want to send a wake-up call to politicians in the Netherlands who are wrestling with how best to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.The Dutch Environmental Assessment Agency said in a report last month a court-set target of reducing emissions by 25 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020 is “out of reach.”A group of about 350 scientists and researchers published an open letter in support of the march, saying it is “high time for tough measures to quickly and drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”The Associated Press read more

Morocco Leads Africa in Maritime Connectivity

Rabat – Morocco tops the list of African countries with maritime connections.According to its 2018 report, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) lists Morocco ahead of Egypt (2nd), South Africa (3rd), Djibouti (4th), and Togo (5th).Morocco also ranks second in the Arab world with 71.5 out of 188 points, behind the UAE. The kingdom owes its position to the number of conventions it has signed to improve its maritime connectivity.Last year, Morocco consolidated its position with a grade of 67, up from less than 10 in 2007.The 2017 report attributed the sharp increase to Morocco’s Tangier Med Port, which attracts international container vessels.Maritime transport is considered the backbone of international trade. Morocco’s Tangier Med Port has served as a productive North African hub.The port said in July that it has achieved a 7 percent increase in container traffic for the first half of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017.With two terminals, the port processed 1,668,566 20-foot equivalent units (TEU) from January to the end of June 2018.The port’s two vehicle terminals handled 252,194 cars during the first six months of 2018, representing an increase of 18 percent compared to the first half of 2017. read more

Messi Joins Controversial Israeli Teams Fan Club Accused of Racism

Football superstar Lionel Messi is now a member of the Beitar Jerusalem fan club. The team’s owner Moshe Hogeg presented Messi with a card during an event in Barcelona on Tuesday, according to the Times of Israel. Messi is also involved in Hogeg’s tech company Sirin Labs, where he advertises the company’s products like their new phone Finney. Hogeg bought the football team earlier this year, and it seems he has brought Messi along to represent that as well.In the past, Messi has faced scrutiny  several times for his close relationship to Israel. In 2013, Messi and his club team FC Barcelona visited Israel in a peace tour, where a photo emerged of him kneeling at the wall with a Jewish yamaka, drawing criticism from many Arabs that said he was alienating a large amount of his Muslim fanbase with his actions. Messi also tried to visit Israel again this year with the Argentina national team for a friendly game before the world cup, but it was canceled after fans protested the game because of Israeli actions in Palestine. International protests grew after a video emerged of a Palestinian football player being shot by Israeli snipers.Read Also: Lionel Messi Sentenced to 21 Months in Prison for Tax FraudMessi’s latest involvement with Beitar has already drawn controversy, due to the fan base’s past actions. In 2012, fans of the team marched into a mall in Jerusalem and began assaulting Arab employees, and in 2013 fans of the team protested to the team’s signing of its first two Muslim players. In 2017, an official on the team also stepped down after declaring he would never bring a Muslim player back to Beitar, according to Al-Araby news. Beitar has responded to these incidents by trying to crack down on racist behavior, threatening to revoke fans’ tickets displaying anti-Arab sentiment. In addition, police have conducted operations against violent, bigoted fans as well. Despite these actions, it seems Beitar’s reputation has become intertwined with its fans actions, and Messi’s allegiance to the team will likely inflame old tensions and continue to alienate a large part of his international fanbase. read more

Dior celebrates sisterhood impertinent girls in Paris

PARIS — Designer Maria Grazia Chiuri once again celebrated feminism and sisterhood in her collection for Christian Dior at Paris Fashion Week, delving into the independent youth subculture styles of 1950s Britain.Wearing a marl Dior dress, Jennifer Lawrence swept down the stone steps inside the Rodin Museum, the venue for Dior’s show on Tuesday, to form her own sisterhood with English actress Gemma Arterton and model Karlie Kloss.Lawrence remained an island of calm in the heaving mass of cameras that eventually caused security to reroute guests. She showed her engagement ring from New York art gallerist Cooke Maroney as photographers vied for shots in the sweltering room.Here are some highlights of the first full day of fall-winter 2019 collections at Paris Fashion Week:DIOR’S GANGA gargantuan art installation covered the runway walls, spelling out words such as “feminists”, as Dior’s first female designer, Maria Grazia Chiuri, took the theme to the sassy styles of British “Teddy Girls”, a rebellious breed of British teens during the 1950s.It was new territory.Monochrome gingham, full skirts, big black leather belts, pointy shoes and cutoff bobby socks all evoked the girls who formed part of a largely forgotten subculture that took its name from the Edwardian-style “Teddy” jacket donned by male adherents.The Teddy Girls rebelled against austerity after World War II and replaced it with messy exuberance in their clothes. It’s laudable that Chiuri sought inspiration in “the queens of a ravaged landscape” who were “impertinent characters,” according to the description in the program notes.For fall-winter, slightly awkward bell hat-hybrids led the eye down to Edwardian coats, their exaggerated lapels touched on a trend seen in Milan. Pleated or buttoned-down, full skirts evoked the end of wartime rationing.The collection was far from glamorous. Intentionally so.___JACQUEMUS IS A SHOWMANThe rising fashion showman of Paris Fashion Week, Simon Porte Jacquemus, recreated a village square in southern France, aptly named “Place Jacquemus,” for his collection in a warehouse space on the outskirts of the French capital.In the bright colours of summer, Mediterranean-style shutters are flung open above a yellow bakery beside a sign advertising “pain”, French for bread. A house with drain pipes had wash hung up to dry on a line.The sheer ambition and realism — the set continued around the sides of the seating — bowled over the audience on Monday night.One guest reportedly called Jacquemus “the new Karl Lagerfeld.”Style-wise, Jacquemus — who harks from Provence — continued to be inspired by and evoke his southern French roots. He referenced them in past collections, and the biographical fashion had started to wear a little thin.Luckily, the 29-year-old moved in a welcome and more sophisticated direction this season without sacrificing the southern vibe.Gone was the raw sensuality of bombshell femme fatales,. In its place were thoughtful and arty designs.Loose silhouettes featured soft statement coats, culottes, pantsuits, buttoned-down shirts, utilitarian pockets and leg-long fisherman’s boots.Vivid colours were the biggest statement of the collection: oranges, sea blues, greens and bright pink mirrored the eye-catching set.__SIA GOES TO THE BALLETAustralian pop singer and songwriter Sia has unveiled a shoe collection for French dance and fashion company Repetto.The designs channeled three of the ballet-inspired house’s styles – the demi-pointe ballet slippers, the Sophia ballerina flat and the Zizi tuxedo-oxford.To celebrate the project, Sia created a series of images with “muse” Maddie Ziegler, who as a girl rose to instant fame for her visceral dancing in the video for “Chandelier.”Repetto called the designs “whimsical” and said the “collection will capture the spirit of everyone who lives to their own beat.”___Thomas Adamson can be followed at Adamson, The Associated Press read more

New Brunswicks minority Tory government to hand down first budget today

FREDERICTON — New Brunswick’s minority Tory government is set to table its first budget today and is warning to expect the hard decisions needed to balance the province’s books.Finance Minister Ernie Steeves says the province is paying almost $700-million a year to service its approximately $14 billion debt.Steeves says he thinks it’s urgent the government balance the budget and try to pay down the net debt.He says while there will be some new money spent in the budget, some departments will face cuts.Steeves also says the budget will not have big tax cuts, but it won’t raise taxes either.The province had consecutive deficit budgets for more than a decade until a small surplus last year.The Canadian Press

Criticism over failure to mention Muslims completely baseless says Scheer

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press OTTAWA — Andrew Scheer says criticism over his initial failure to mention that Muslims were targeted in the recent mass murder in New Zealand is “completely baseless” and driven by “disgusting” Liberal efforts to score political points from the tragedy.But in answering a question Saturday about how he deals with that criticism, the federal Conservative leader once again initially made no reference to Muslims.“I deal with it by pointing out that the criticisms are completely baseless,” Scheer told the Manning Networking Conference, an annual gathering of this country’s conservative thinkers, strategists and politicians.“When you look at statements I’ve made condemning hateful ideologies, those who would promote any type of superiority of one race or religion over the others, I condemn that unequivocally.”Scheer noted that the second statement he issued on the day of the New Zealand shootings “absolutely did include the reference to the faith community that was attacked,” although he did not at first identify that faith community.On March 15, an avowed white supremacist shot and killed 50 Muslim worshippers at two New Zealand mosques. In a statement posted that day on Twitter, Scheer condemned the attacks as “a despicable act of evil” against “peaceful worshippers,” without specifically mentioning where they occurred or who was targeted.A few hours later — after the initial statement drew criticism — Scheer issued a second statement, which he referred to Saturday as his “official statement.” It specifically referred to the horrific “terror attack on two New Zealand mosques” and voiced his “profound condemnation of this cowardly and hateful attack on the Muslim community.”On Saturday, Scheer blamed the Liberals for stirring up the controversy, accusing them of attempting “to score cheap political points in a very disgusting manner.” Moreover, he argued that initial tweets by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Governor General Julie Payette also didn’t specifically mention mosques or Muslims.Later, as he took questions from members of the audience, Scheer was asked why he’s never said the word “Islamophobia.”“I don’t believe that’s true,” he responded, noting that all parties supported a motion last week in the House of Commons. That motion, which he didn’t describe, condemned the mosque attacks and affirmed the need to “confront hatred, Islamophobia, and white supremacy, in all their forms.”“I reject anyone who would speak out based on Islamophobic principles, whether or not that’s somebody who is trying to lump all people of the Muslim faith in together or whether it’s people who are trying to antagonize elements of society to have a more negative reaction to those who practice that faith,” Scheer added.“To me the important thing is to speak out against those who in any way give oxygen or space to those who are trying to promote one group of people over the other.”Scheer also used his appearance at the Manning conference to promise that a Conservative government would balance the federal budget — but he didn’t say when.He said the Liberals have made such increases to government spending that a Conservative government could get most of the way to balance simply by holding annual spending increases to the rate of inflation and population growth. As well, he said billions could be saved by scrapping “some big-ticket items” introduced by the Liberals such as the federal infrastructure bank.The longer Prime Minister Justin Trudeau goes racking up large annual deficits, the harder it will be return to balance, Scheer suggested. But he said Canadians have “a window” in this fall’s federal election to “limit the damage and get back to balanced budgets over a shorter period of time.”Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s latest budget forecasts deficits of almost $20 billion in each of the next two years, declining to just under $10 billion in five years. It makes no attempt to forecast when the budget might be balanced. read more

Jobs caste and giveaways Indian voters go to the polls

NEW DELHI — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014 promising big-ticket economic reforms. But with unemployment rising and signature policies getting panned, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has adopted a nationalist pitch ahead of a general election that begins this week.The last time the BJP sought a second term was 2004, when it spent millions on an ad blitz projecting India as an economic powerhouse.The voters didn’t buy it. Election results showed that people voted according to their caste, an ancient hierarchy in India that is outlawed by the constitution but still vital in Indian politics.Hindus comprise about 80% of India’s 1.3 billion people, so the BJP is invoking its Hindu nationalist roots, with Modi at the forefront against the threat of Pakistan, India’s Muslim-majority archrival.Voting will take place in seven phases over six weeks beginning Thursday. Nearly 900 million people, including 15.9 million first-time voters, are eligible to cast ballots in the world’s largest democratic exercise. Around a million polling stations will be set up, and voters will choose 543 members of the Lower House of Parliament.A look at some of the key election issues and factors:___JOBSEven though India continues to be one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, the Modi-led government’s performance on the economy has come under criticism.A November 2016 demonetization program aimed to curb black market money by taking some rupee notes out of circulation. But it ultimately hurt the poor, and India’s central bank said later that most of the illicit funds had re-entered the banking system.According to the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy, employment contracted in the year following demonetization by 3.5 million jobs. The think-tank said unemployment reached 7.4% in December 2018, its highest rate in more than two years.Public subsidies to farmers have failed to steady India’s agricultural sector.The first item in the opposition Congress party’s election manifesto describes a plan for creating jobs. It also promises an income subsidy program for the poorest families and for farmers.___KASHMIRAmid growing scrutiny of Modi’s economic record, a suicide attack in Kashmir killed 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers in February, helping the BJP hone its nationalist pitch.Analysts say Indian airstrikes inside Pakistan in response to the attack gave Modi a pre-election boost. BJP leaders quickly made national security a central plank of their campaign.In northern parts of the country bordering Pakistan, anti-Pakistan sentiment has always been strong because of the bloodshed during the countries’ partition in 1947 and three wars since then.But anti-Muslim sentiment in India has become more common and more violent since the BJP came to power in 2014. At least three dozen Muslims have been lynched by self-styled Hindu vigilante groups or mobs on suspicion of illegally moving cows, sacred to Hindus, or eating beef, according to Human Rights Watch.___CASTEThe BJP is mainly supported by upper-caste Hindus, while struggling to make headway with lower-caste voters and non-Hindus.Successive governments have sought to redress discrimination against those on the lower rungs by setting up quotas for government jobs and university spots.Currently, just under half of all government jobs and places in state-funded schools are allocated to the lower castes.With an eye toward elections, Modi’s government last year passed a law carving out 10% quotas for lower-income Indians belonging to higher castes.___POLITICAL PUZZLEModi has been on an electoral blitzkrieg across this vast country, promoting government development projects while blasting the alleged corruption within the opposition Congress party, a dynasty that began with India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.Nehru, his daughter Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi ruled the country for about a half a century after India won independence from Britain in 1947. Rajiv Gandhi’s son, Rahul Gandhi, is now the Congress party leader and a potential candidate for prime minister if the opposition can stitch an alliance to stop the Modi juggernaut.That’s easier said than done. Despite Congress victories in three key state elections in December, bucking a string of losses to the BJP since 2014, Gandhi has struggled to marshal widespread support for his beleaguered party, even after bringing his popular sister, Priyanka Gandhi, into the fold.The Gandhis would have to unite the opposition in order to take on BJP candidates in the vote-rich states of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Delhi. A split in opposition votes would likely benefit the BJP.___GIVEAWAYSGiveaways are essential in Indian politics.Some 270 million people — roughly 22% of the country’s population — live in poverty, making giveaways particularly attractive to voters.In the past, farmworkers were offered cows and goats.In its interim budget in January, the Modi-led government announced that farmers would be paid 6,000 rupees ($85) annually, benefiting as many as 120 million households.The Congress party waived farmers’ bank loans in the three states it won in December. It promised in its election manifesto to waive outstanding farmer loans elsewhere, and to decriminalize farmer loan defaults.___SYMBOLSA ladder, hand pump, bicycle, bow and arrow, bungalow, book, mango and banana are just some of the many objects voters will see on their electronic ballots, symbols of the dozens of political parties and independent candidates in the fray.Since only about a fifth of India’s population could read or write at the time of the country’s first election in 1951, the symbols were introduced on ballot papers to help the unlettered cast their votes.Nearly three-quarters of Indians can now read, but the icons remain evocative political symbols.Among the best-known symbols are the lotus flower for the governing BJP, and the outstretched palm-facing hand for Congress.The Aam Aadmi Party, or the Common Man’s Party, which rules the state of Delhi, chose a broom as its election symbol, reflecting its pledge to sweep the political system clean of corruption.Ashok Sharma, The Associated Press read more

Volkswagen unveils fullyelectric SUV for China market

Volkswagen is planning to release a fully-electric SUV in China which could compete with Tesla’s Model X.The German automaker said Sunday the ID. ROOMZZ will be unveiled at the upcoming Shanghai Auto Show and will be available in 2021.Volkswagen says the zero-emission vehicle can go approximately 450 kilometres (280 miles) before the battery has to be recharged. The concept car includes a fully-automatic driving mode which allows seats to be rotated 25 degrees to create a lounge-like atmosphere.The announcement comes one month after Volkswagen’s former CEO Martin Winterkorn was charged by U.S. regulators with defrauding investors during its massive diesel emissions scandal.Volkswagen has said it will boost electric vehicle production to 22 million over the next decade. It made fewer than 50,000 battery-only vehicles last year.The Associated Press read more

The Latest Shares dive as Trump tweets rattle investors

BANGKOK — The Latest on reaction to President Donald Trump’s threat to raise tariffs on imports from China to 25% as of this coming Friday (all times local):12:30 p.m.Chinese share benchmarks have plummeted more than 5% as threats by President Donald Trump to raise tariffs in the trade war with Beijing raised doubts over the likelihood of a deal between the two biggest economies.The Shanghai Composite index plunged 5.8% to 2,906.33 while the Shenzhen A-share index, which includes many smaller companies, tumbled 6.2%.In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng dropped 3.2% to 29,117.32.Chinese government offices did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Trump’s suggestion the U.S. would raise import taxes on $200 billion in Chinese products to 25% from 10% as of Friday.The tweets followed comments by U.S. trade negotiators suggesting the two sides might reach a deal this week on their dispute over Chinese industrial policy and technology.___10:00 a.m.Shares tumbled in Asia early Monday after President Donald Trump threatened in a tweet to impose more tariffs on China.The Shanghai Composite index sank 4.8% and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong plunged 3.5%. Markets were closed in Japan. The future contract for the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.9% to 25,996.00, while that for the S&P 500 also shed 1.9%, to 2,892.00.Trump’s comments came a Chinese delegation was due to resume talks in Washington on Wednesday aimed at resolving a tariffs battle that has rattled world markets.Apparently catching Beijing by surprise, Trump said he would raise import taxes on $200 billion in Chinese products to 25% from 10%.The Wall Street Journal, citing unidentified sources, said China’s government was considering cancelling this week’s talks.The Associated Press read more

Tiffany sales hit as tourists take a brake on spending

NEW YORK — Tiffany & Co. topped first quarter profit expectations but fewer tourists at U.S. stores, particularly from China, dragged on sales and the company trimmed its expectations for the year.Tiffany said earlier this year that holiday sales were hurt by a drop in spending by Chinese tourists, and that trend accelerated in the first three months of the year.The strong dollar has made trinkets from Tiffany even more expensive for Chinese tourists. CEO Alessandro Bogliolo said the brand wasn’t experiencing any “negative sentiment” from Chinese shoppers here or in China amid an escalating trade fight.Revenue slid 3% to $1 billion, just shy of Wall Street expectations, according to a survey by Zacks Investment Research.The company posted a profit of $125.2 million, or $1.03, which is 2 cents better than Wall Street had expected,Sales at established stores worldwide declined 5%; on a constant-exchange-rate basis, net sales were equal to the prior year and comparable sales declined 2%.“Our first quarter results reflect significant foreign exchange headwinds and dramatically lower worldwide spending attributed to foreign tourists,” Bogliolo said in a prepared statement.In the Americas, total net sales declined 4%, and comparable sales declined 5%; on a constant-exchange-rate basis, both total net sales and comparable sales declined 4%.In Asia-Pacific, total net sales declined 1% and comparable sales declined 5% due to the effect of foreign currency translation; on a constant-exchange-rate basis, total sales rose 3% and comparable sales were equal to the prior year. There was continued strong growth in mainland China, but mixed results in other markets.In Japan, total net sales declined 4% and comparable sales declined 4%; on a constant-exchange-rate basis, total sales and comparable sales were equal to the prior year. In Europe, total net sales declined 4% and comparable sales declined 7%; on a constant-exchange-rate basis, total sales and comparable sales rose 4% and 1%, respectively.Per-share net earnings should increase by a low-to-mid-single-digit percentage, the company said Tuesday, citing increased tariffs on jewelry it exports to China. It had earlier projected a mid-single digit percentage increase.Shares of Tiffany rose nearly 3 per cent._____Elements of this story were generated by Automated Insights ( using data from Zacks Investment Research. Access a Zacks stock report on TIF at D’Innocenzio, The Associated Press read more

Alaska peninsula hospitality businesses oppose bed tax plan

KENAI, Alaska — Members of the Alaska hospitality industry have spoken out against a proposed bed tax.The Peninsula Clarion reported Wednesday that hospitality property operators on the Kenai Peninsula spoke against the plan at a Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting Tuesday.Officials in the borough south of Anchorage say the 12% bed tax introduced at a May 7 assembly meeting would exempt temporary lodgings including motels, hotels and bed and breakfast businesses from the general sales tax rate.Officials say the tax was proposed to close budget shortfalls and would generate more than $1 million in additional revenue in fiscal year 2020 and more than $4 million in the next two fiscal years.Operators say the ordinance unfairly targets an industry already exempt from the general sales tax.___Information from: (Kenai, Alaska) Peninsula Clarion, http://www.peninsulaclarion.comThe Associated Press read more

Political solution the only answer to Middle East conflict Ban Kimoon stresses

5 June 2007Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon marked today’s 40th anniversary of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War with a reminder to all sides that Palestinian statehood, security for Israelis and peace in the region cannot be achieved by force. In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban said “an end to the occupation and a political solution to the conflict is the only way forward – for Israelis, Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese and the wider region.“This will only be achieved through negotiations to bring about an end to the occupation, on the basis of the principle of land for peace, as envisaged in Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).”The statement stressed that the UN remains committed to working tirelessly “for a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the region” in line with those Council resolutions and international law.“The Secretary-General remembers the men, women and children who have been killed or had their lives shattered by the tragedies of conflict in the Middle East, particularly the Palestinians who continue to live under an occupation that has lasted 40 years.”UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour also issued a statement to mark the anniversary, calling for human rights to be given a more prominent role in the search for a solution to the Middle East conflict.Ms. Arbour said the Israeli occupation since 1967 was “a regime which has led to wide-ranging and serious violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people, first and foremost among them the right to self-determination.”She said “the occupation must give way to a lasting political solution allowing both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples to live in peace within secure and internationally recognized borders.”Saying “human rights have for too long taken a back seat” in the search for a solution, Ms. Arbour said both crises that flare up and the longer-term resolution of the conflict should be dealt with according to international human rights and humanitarian law.“This includes the relevant obligations as reaffirmed in July 2004 in the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”The High Commissioner observed that the right to life “continues to be violated within a general climate of impunity in the region,” whether through the Israeli Defence Forces’ (IDF) extrajudicial executions or artillery attacks, internal Palestinian violence or Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.Greater efforts should be made to counter the growing sense of disempowerment that so many Palestinians feel in the occupied territory, she said, calling for immediate steps towards removing settlements and lifting obstacles to Palestinians’ freedom of movement.The right of Palestinians to travel, particularly between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, “is seriously compromised and has severely curtailed Palestinians’ exercise of a wide range of other human rights, including health, education, work and family life.” read more

Global cereal prices will remain high UN agricultural agency forecasts

World cereal prices are expected to stay high during the next year because of low global stocks, production problems and continued strong demand, according to the latest forecast of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), released today. The Food Outlook report warned that these high cereal prices are driving domestic food inflation across much of the world, sparking price increases for such retail staples as bread, pasta, milk and meat. The analysis found there was “such a widespread and commonly shared concern about food price inflation, a fear which is fuelling debates about the future direction of agricultural commodity prices in importing as well as exporting countries, be they rich or poor.” It also noted that record freight rates – driven up in part by soaring petrol prices – and high export prices mean many countries will pay more for importing cereals than they did in previous years, even though they are importing less. For most cereals, “supplies are much tighter than in recent years, while demand is rising for food as well as feed and industrial use. Stocks, which were already low at the start of the season, are likely to remain equally low because global cereal production may only be sufficient to meet expected world utilization,” the agency said. But the report added that at least one cereal crop, wheat, may experience a price fall next year thanks to indications that some countries are considering planting more wheat for harvesting next year, thus increasing the supply on the international market. The price of maize, which reached a 10-year high in February, is also starting to come down in response to this year’s record crop reaching the market. By contrast, the price of barley is soaring, due to a combination of supply problems in Australia and Ukraine and the tighter availability of other feed grains. The greatest jump, however, is in the price of dairy products, which are rising by between 80 per cent to more than 200 per cent. 7 November 2007World cereal prices are expected to stay high during the next year because of low global stocks, production problems and continued strong demand, according to the latest forecast of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), released today. read more