Moroccan Woman Leads to Arrest of Europewide Prostitution Ring

Rabat- Police in Spain and Belgium have busted a prostitution ring that forced young women from Morocco and Romania to perform sex work.The Guardia Civil and Belgian Police arrested the leader of the Europe-wide prostitution ring after one of the Moroccan women filed a complaint accusing him of ill-treatment.The alleged ringleader has been identified as Belgian national Stefan René. He was arrested in the Costa del Sol in Malaga, Spain. René prostituted up to 20 Moroccan and Romanian young women through three websites.Spanish police said customers paid up to 200 euros for the services of the girls and 50 euros went straight into the pocket of the ringleader.The young women were forced to have sex with five clients in one day. They were also deprived of food and suffered physical violence.Other members of the prostitution ring were in charge of driving the young women to customers at different locations. Police believe the ringleader could make up to four thousand euros a day from using the girls.In addition to the ringleader, another Belgian and three Romanians were arrested in Belgium and Spain. read more

Egyptian Woman says Islam worse than Nazism poses danger to America

Taroudant – A letter written last year by an Egyptian woman under the pen name Magda Borham attacked Islam as a “totalitarian political ideology worse than Nazism,” was republished by Christian websites to warn the West of “the danger of Islam.”Amid the rise of Islamophobic acts and feelings in Europe and America, the letter claimed that Muslims pose “the clearest and most present danger to America’s existence,” while trying to show to the world that “they are victims.”In the open letter addressed to the United States and other Western countries, the Egyptian woman said that America faces an Islamic invasion through “immigration.” Having lived in Egypt for more than 30 years, the woman accused Islam of turning her home country into ruins, and called on Americans to understand that Islam is not a religion, but “a supremacist, racist political and social ideology wrapped in a thin peel of religious rituals.”“Like so many others, I have been burned by this transformation. This transformation has seen me witness and experience Islam turn my home country to ruins, and its followers are now threatening to bring the same fate to your own country,” she said.The Egyptian woman branded Islam as “racist ideology” that “seeks domination and supremacy over all other systems and religions,” adding, “Islam is worse than Nazism and fascism systems combined without any doubt.”She warned US leaders to be cautious and very careful accepting Muslim migrants.“Your country is like your house; you expect visitors who come to your house to respect you and respect your rules, not the opposite.”“If the visitor doesn’t like your rules, all he has to do is to leave. Nobody obliged him to visit you, and nobody will prevent him from leaving. As he came to your house by his own choice, he can leave your house freely or by force, if required,” she added. read more

French Gaming Giant Ubisoft to Close its Casablanca Office

By Kimberly J. AvalosRabat – French gaming giant Ubisoft announced it will close its Casablanca studio after 18 years of activity, leaving 48 developers looking for jobs, as reported by Wamda. The official shutdown took place on June 13. In a statement on June 9, Ubisoft said employees were told about the shutdown sometime last week. Additionally Ubisoft will provide “transfer opportunities” to other Ubisoft studios, or “assistance” for the employees who are being let go, as reported by Gamespot.However, Wamda reports some in the Moroccan indie gaming scene don’t think the shutdown is a bad thing, saying it could serve as a new beginning for the gaming sector. According to Wamda sources, the Casablanca-based studio suffered from poor management and a lack of dynamism.“I left the studio in 2015 because there was no vision for the future by the top management of the Moroccan studio, and we were starting to feel things weren’t going in the right direction,” Moroccan Game Developers CEO Yassine Arif told Wamda after the closure was announced.Ubisoft Mobile executive director Jean-Michael Detoc said in a statement that the studio is closing down as a result of the evolution of the video game market.“We didn’t find a sustainable formula for the studio within our broader network,” he explained, according to Gamespot. “The decision to close Ubisoft Casablanca was taken as part of Ubisoft’s constant efforts to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of its cross-collaboration studio model.”Ubisoft Casablanca opened its doors in 1998 and contributed to more than 26 games, including movile and portable versions of games such as Valiant Hearts, Child of Light, and Rayman Legends.A number of former Ubisoft employees have already left with their experience to start their own studios, according to Wamda.Former employee Arif created the Wall Games, a studio that launched their first game ‘z7am’ in May, upon his departure from Ubisoft.When Imad Kharijah and Othman El Bahraoui left Ubisoft, they created Rym Games and raised 2.8 million dirhams (US $ 290,000) from Moroccan VC fund Maroc Numeric Fund to develop their first game ‘The conjuring house.’Wamda points to another example, Palm Grove Software, a studio launched by former Ubisoft employee Khalil Arafan in 2011.However, Lorem founder Filali, said former Ubisoft employees are looking for nothing more than a ‘quiet job,’ according to Wamda.“This closure won’t change anything on the local side of things. This will put on the market a number of human resourcs with [high quality skills] but they will mostly be attracted by communication agencies that will distort their competencies,” he said.Still, Arif remains positive.“It’s good news because this will push the developer community to move and start putting Morocco on the map themselves,” Arif told Wamda. read more

Mustapha Ramid Wont Be Minister of Justice

Rabat – Mustapha Ramid, the out-going Minister of Justice and one the most prominent figures in Justice and Development Party (PJD), won’t be assuming the same portfolio in Saad Eddine Othmani’s upcoming government.As it was reported in Moroccan press it was Driss Lachgar, the leader of Socialist Union for Popular Forces (USFP), who first broke the news during a meeting of his party last Saturday.It is also said that Lachgar was pleased at hearing the news. Apparently there was a veto against appointing Ramid as a Minister of Justice for a second mandate. Instead, it was suggested he becomes a State Minister in charge of human rights. According to these reports, the Justice portfolio will be assumed by a member of the Rally of National Independents Party (RNI).Casting aside Mustapha Ramid is likely to cause more stir in the PJD, whose members seem to be divided on the choices its leadership has taken since Othmani’s designation as new head of government, replacing the party leader Abdelilah Benkirane.Ramid is seen as one of PJD’s hawks. Not appointing him as a Minister of Justice deals another strong blow to the party who bowed to the pressures during the negotiations to form a coalition by accepting to include USFP in the next government, something Benkirane kept refusing during the last few months.Losing the Ministry of Justice also means PJD will be left without strategic ministries, unlike its ally RNI. The latter is reportedly going to keep the same departments in the previous government such as the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Agriculture. read more

Eight People injured After Stabbing Attack in Russia Attacker Shot Dead

Rabat – A knifeman was shot dead by Russian authorities after a stabbing attack caused injury to eight people in the Siberian city of Surgut on Saturday.Two people were hospitalized in critical condition, said state-funded news agency, RIA Novosti.The attack happened around 10:20 a.m. local time.  Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed responsibility for the incident via its news agency, AMAQ. #ISIS claims stabbing attack in #Surgut, #Russia, was carried out by “soldier of the caliphate.” 8 people injured, attacker shot dead— Anna Ahronheim (@AAhronheim) 19 août 2017The assault occurred two days after the terror attacks in Barcelona, where 14 were killed and at least 100 people injured.These two incidents were not the only murders happened this week. On Friday, two people were killed and others were injured after a stabbing attack at two markets squares in the Finnish city of Turku.Stabbing attack in Russia’s #Surgut: eight people injured— Sputnik (@SputnikInt) 19 août 2017 read more

Moroccos BCIJ Dismantles New ISIS Terror Cell in Eastern Morocco

Rabat – Morocco’s Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ) dismantled a three-member ISIS cell on Tuesday in Nador and Driouch, two cities in eastern Morocco.The suspects, between the ages of 18 to 31,  were active in eastern Morocco’s Rif region, according to a statement from the Ministry of the Interior.During the operation, BCIJ seized knives, hunting rifles, military suits, firearms, texts glorifying extremism, batteries, and electric wires. The ISIS cell was plotting terror attacks to undermine the security and stability of Morocco.Read Also; Morocco’s BCIJ Arrests Tangier Mechanic on Charges of Making ExplosivesAccording to the ministry, the operation confirms “the continuity of terror threats” and the existence of people “fed by extremist ideology to serve” ISIS’s agenda.BCIJ is continuing to investigate the three to find any additional terror suspects connected to the cell.In his recent interviews, BCIJ chief Abdelhak Khiame echoed the ministry’s statement, emphasizing that war against ISIS will take a long time.Read Also: Khiame: Morocco Has Arrested 167 Suspects for Organized Crimes Since 2015Morocco’s security services dismantled nine cells in 2018 and eight in 2017.Khiame added that 918 people were arrested for terror-related crimes, including 14 women and 29 minors. He noted that 98 percent of the people arrested in terror-related cases are Moroccans. Since its creation, BCIJ has thwarted 59 cells, 51 of which had ties to ISIS.Although the number of terrorist cells in Morocco has decreased, Morocco still faces a terror threat. read more

Berlin to get single travel app for public private services

Berlin is unveiling a new app that will let people use public transport, rental bikes, car-sharing and taxis seamlessly to travel through the German capital.The app presented Monday is the work of Lithuanian start-up Trafi and is already in use, under different names, in Vilnius, Rio de Janeiro and Jakarta.Berlin will be the first major European capital to get access this summer to what Trafi describes as a “level 3” app that requires only a single signup to use all services, with billing handled centrally.Berlin’s aging transport system — a maze of underground lines, trams, buses and light rail — is straining under the weight of the city’s growth.The capital’s left-wing government has struggled to integrate new services into the existing infrastructure in recent years.The Associated Press read more

BC wraps up its arguments in Trans Mountain court case

VANCOUVER (660 NEWS) – The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project is once again in the courtroom. The BC Government is looking to control the flow of diluted bitumen in the project, but several groups including the Alberta and Federal governments disagree with that assertion.Eugene Kung is an environmental lawyer. He claims the case will revolve around which jurisdiction these rules fall under.“It’s important to recognize that jurisdictions, as set out in the constitution, are important in terms of assigning responsibility for various areas.”He argued there is some grey area with those jurisdictions. He compares the BC government argument to how we deal with highways.“Federal standards for emissions and so on for cars, but the provinces can still decide on speed limits or license conditions.”The City of Burnaby says an environmental permitting system proposed by the BC government would help it prepare to respond to a disaster from the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.Michelle Bradley is representing the city and made the comment in the BC Court of Appeal, which is hearing a reference case that asks whether the province can create such a system.Bradley says Trans Mountain already relied extensively on Burnaby’s first responders in 2007, when a contractor struck the line and 224,000 litres of heavy oil spewed into a residential area.She told the court that environmental damage will be local, not national, so the governments closest to those communities should be empowered to enact legislation to protect them from harm.BC concluded its arguments before the Appeal Court as it hears a reference case filed by the province over proposed changes to its Environmental Management Act that would affect the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.A lawyer representing the province says the proposed changes won’t allow B-C to refuse to provide a permit to a pipeline operator without cause.The governments of Canada, Alberta, and Saskatchewan have not yet had an opportunity to deliver arguments in court, but they say Ottawa, not provinces, has jurisdiction over inter-provincial projects like Trans Mountain.Canada says in court documents that the proposed amendments must be struck down because they give the province a “veto” over such projects.With files from the Canadian Press read more

How major US stock indexes fared Friday

Stocks closed higher on Wall Street Friday as the market ended the first quarter with its biggest quarterly gain in a decade.The blockbuster gains for the benchmark S&P 500 index marked a stunning turnaround for stocks after a steep sell-off in the last three months of 2018. Ride-hailing company Lyft made its much-anticipated stock market debut, jumping 8.7 per cent above its offering price.On Friday:The S&P 500 index gained 18.96 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 2,834.40.The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 211.22 points, or 0.8 per cent, to 25,928.68.The Nasdaq composite added 60.16 points, or 0.8 per cent, to 7,729.32.The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks picked up 4.63 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 1,539.74.For the week:The S&P 500 gained 33.69 points, or 1.2 per cent.The Dow rose 426.36 points, or 1.7 per cent.The Nasdaq added 86.65 points, or 1.1 per cent.The Russell 2000 picked up 33.82 points, or 2.3 per cent.For the year:The S&P 500 is up 327.55 points, or 13.1 per cent.The Dow is up 2,601.22 points, or 11.2 per cent.The Nasdaq is up 1,094.04 points, or 16.5 per cent.The Russell 2000 is up 191.18 points, or 14.2 per cent.The Associated Press read more

The Latest Steve Wynn again denies misconduct accusations

BOSTON — The Latest on hearings in Massachusetts on sexual misconduct allegations at Wynn Resorts (all times local):3:45 p.m.Steve Wynn is again denying accusations of sexual misconduct after gambling regulators in Massachusetts released a report on how his former company responded to the allegations.The casino mogul wasn’t in attendance Tuesday when the state’s gaming commission opened a series of hearings into the response.Lawyer Brian Kelly says in a statement his client denies all allegations of nonconsensual sex.He also stressed that Steve Wynn isn’t the focus of the hearings. Regulators aren’t focused on the truth of the allegations but rather how long company officials were aware of them and how they responded.The hearings have implications for the company’s Massachusetts casino license and Encore Boston Harbor, the $2.6 billion resort it plans to open in June.___11:30 a.m.A report by Massachusetts casino regulators has found that Wynn Resorts executives concealed for years allegations of sexual misconduct against company founder Steve Wynn.The report by the state Gaming Commission’s investigative team doesn’t make a recommendation to regulators but concludes saying the five-member panel should evaluate the company’s recent reforms in the context of the report’s findings.The report was released Tuesday as the commission opened a series of hearings on whether Wynn officials knowingly hid information about the allegations, which Steve Wynn has denied, when it sought a casino license in 2013. The hearings have implications for Encore Boston Harbor, the $2.6 billion Boston-area resort the company plans to open in June.Wynn Resorts didn’t dispute the facts of the nearly 200-page report and said it represents a “complete review.”—-1:18 a.m.Massachusetts gambling regulators are holding hearings and releasing a long-awaited report into how Wynn Resorts handled allegations of sexual misconduct against company founder Steve Wynn.The state Gaming Commission has been investigating, in part, whether company officials knowingly hid information about the allegations when the state was considering its application for a license in 2014.The series of hearings opening Tuesday in Boston have implications for the Las Vegas company’s Massachusetts casino license and Encore Boston Harbor, the $2.6 billion resort in Everett it plans to open in June.Wynn Resorts recently went through a similar review in Nevada where it was handed down a record $20 million fine but allowed to keep its casino license. Steve Wynn has denied the claims but resigned as CEO last year.The Associated Press read more

El Othmani Clear Vision Helped Moroccos Education System Make Progress Despite

Rabat – In a monthly meeting of the house of councilors for discussing Morocco’s education policy, Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani said the government was poised to trigger its 2015-2030 Strategic Vision to modernize Moroccan education.The 2015-2030 Strategic Vision of education reform, which the Ministry of Education is adopting  as its main social project, is aimed at bridging the equality gap and promote quality education, El Othmani stated. He said the goal of the vision is to live up to the expectations of Moroccans for a “future school and rights of students to knowledge and quality education.” With the challenges facing the Moroccan education system, which El Othmani said predate the current government, the head of government pins his hopes on the continuity of reforms initiated during his tenure.Reform, El Othmani said, is “the sole gateway to achieving sustainable development.”Read also: Education, Health Ministries to Meet Medical Students’ Unions amid ‘Blank’ Year ThreatsAccording to El Othmani, the government seeks to develop a platform of combined efforts from all education institutions to assist schools in bolstering up future generations. El Othmani noted that education reform rests on a “comprehensive and complementary approach” working towards boosting the quality of education at all levels.  Stressing the important role of vocational training as a driving force for creating job opportunities, El Othmani said that the overall objective is to achieve equal access to schools for all Moroccans.Despite the current social unrest across the kingdom due to contractual teachers and medical students’ protests, the head of government pointed to a “quantum leap” Morocco has made in the area of education. El Othmani especially spoke about the inroads Morocco has made in terms of vocational training, explaining that Morocco’s success in the field will help make the country a regional model. Regarding higher education, El Othmani declared that government is working on establishing a “distinct system for higher education and scientific research, which best suits the needs of the job market, in addition to harnessing human resources to to make up for the shortage in education.”He noted that the government has moved extra funds into the education budget. By El Othmani’s reckoning, the decision to drive up budgets is  an indication that is preparing to successfully tackle the issue of overcrowding, which saw a significant decrease, promising to redouble their efforts towards attaining favorable outcomes in public education sector.Read also: Contractual Teachers To Stage Two-Day Strike amid Pending Negotiations with Government read more

Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly steps down

NEW YORK — The CEO credited with reviving a struggling Best Buy is stepping aside.Hubert Joly is handing leadership of the reinvigorated electronics retailer to longtime executive Corie Barry as part of the company’s succession plan.Joly, 59, took the helm in 2012 and focused on driving online revenue and the in-store experience as traditional retailers like faced dwindling foot traffic and sales. Online sales now account for about 22 per cent of its business.It also expanded services while adding same-day delivery service in certain areas.Barry becomes CEO on June 11. She’s been with the company in various executive jobs since 1999. She will also join the board of directors, which is expanding to 13 members.Joly will become executive chairman of the board after stepping down.The Associated Press read more

Canada encouraged in tariff war with US on metals but no solution

OTTAWA — President Donald Trump’s decision today to delay auto tariffs on Japan and Europe is generating fresh hope that there might be an end in sight to his punitive levies on Canadian steel and aluminum imports.Canadian officials are “encouraged” by a pair of conversations in the past week between Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as well as Wednesday’s Washington meeting between Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Trump trade czar Robert Lighthizer.But sources say that after so many false starts about the possible lifting of tariffs, nothing is certain until it actually happens.A U.S. Commerce Department review found that imports of automobiles and some parts could hurt U.S. national security, but Trump decided to wait 180 days before imposing tariffs and ordered new talks to deal with the issue.The Commerce Department reached the same conclusion about Canadian and Mexican steel and aluminum imports almost one year ago and imposed the tariffs under a section of American trade law that gives the president that authority.Freeland, Trudeau and others have branded the tariffs as illegal, absurd and insulting, while Canada and Mexico say that it will be tough to ratify the new continental free trade agreement if they remain in place.The Canadian Press read more

The Latest May to step down as party leader on June 7

LONDON — The Latest on Brexit and Britain’s political crisis (all times local):10:05 a.m.Theresa May says she will step down as U.K. Conservative Party leader on June 7, sparking a contest to become Britain’s next prime minister.She will stay as caretaker prime minister until the new leader is chosen, a process likely to take several weeks.May has bowed to relentless pressure from her party to quit over her failure to take Britain out of the European Union on schedule.Her departure will trigger a party leadership contest in which any Conservative lawmaker can run. The early front-runner is Boris Johnson, a former foreign secretary and strong champion of Brexit.Britain is currently due to leave the EU on Oct. 31, but Parliament has yet to approve divorce terms.___8:55 a.m.British Prime Minister Theresa May is meeting a leader of her Conservative lawmakers amid mounting speculation that she is about to announce her departure date.The party’s key backbench committee has set a showdown meeting Friday for May to agree to leave soon or face a leadership challenge.Pressure on May to quit over her failure to get Parliament’s approval for a European Union divorce deal reached critical point this week as a senior minister quit and several Cabinet colleagues expressed doubts about her Brexit bill.Several British media outlets reported that May would agree to give up the prime minister’s post June 10, sparking a Conservative leadership contest.She could stay in office as a caretaker prime minister for several weeks until party lawmakers and members choose a successor.The Associated Press read more

Ban Kimoon and business leaders reaffirm commitment to fight AIDS

“Whether in the workplace or in the wider community, through advocacy and branding, prevention, care and treatment programmes for employees, or financial, scientific and technical commitment, the role of the private sector is indispensable,” Mr. Ban said, stressing the vital relationship between business and the UN.He welcomed the efforts of the Global Business Coalition (GBC) – an alliance of 220 companies globally leading the corporate world’s work to eliminate HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.“The private sector has taken vital steps toward acknowledging that fighting these epidemics is an important business issue,” said Richard Holbrooke, President of the GBC. “Increased resources from all sectors and effective collaboration are essential to win this war.”The meeting’s participants discussed collective efforts uniting corporations, governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and communities affected by the epidemics to pool resources to make large strides and facilitate economies of scale.Business leaders also illustrated how their respective companies have protected and educated their own staff, as well as prevented and treated the diseases.“The business community has tremendous expertise and strategic resources to offer in the response to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and is collaborating with others in impactful and unique ways,” said the GBC’s Chairman Sir Mark Moody-Stuart. “GBC is committed to working with our member companies and our partners in the public sector to maximize our joint impact.” 13 June 2007United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and business leaders reaffirmed the need for public-private partnerships to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria at a meeting in New York today. read more

UN conference pledges to stamp out illiteracy in East Asia SouthEast Asia

“We cannot in all conscience abandon millions of adults and young people to a fate of lifelong illiteracy,” said UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura at the opening of the two-day meeting in Beijing. “This is unacceptable in the 21st century.”Those attending the conference – education ministers, first ladies, policymakers, civil society representatives, education experts and members of international organizations – discussed family literacy, intergenerational teaching, and literacy to promote health and economic self-sufficiency.Compared to the global illiteracy rate of 20 per cent – or 774 million people being able to neither read nor write – there is a high literacy rate in East Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific of 91.7 per cent.Yet while countries such as China and Indonesia have made great strides in curtailing illiteracy in recent decades, there is a wide disparity among nations in the region. In the Pacific, Papua New Guinea has a 60 per cent literacy rate, while Tonga and Samoa have a 98 per cent rate. It is estimated that 125 million adults in the region have poor reading and writing skills. Reflecting persistent gender inequality, women account for 70 per cent of those who are illiterate.“Women who can read are more likely to be advocates for their own children’s education,” said United States First Lady Laura Bush, who serves as Honorary Ambassador for the UN Decade of Literacy, in a video address to the conference.At the close of the meeting, participants highlighted the need to ensure literacy in people’s mother tongues before national languages, as well as the importance of teaching migrants to read and write.“External aid remains insufficient to meeting the Education For All goals,” Mr. Matsuura noted, appealing for increased support to end illiteracy from the international community and donors.Only $2.4 billion was earmarked for the Education For All programme, far short of the estimated $11 billion necessary to meet goals.The conference in Beijing – called Literacy Challenges in East Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific: Building Partnerships and Promoting Innovative Approaches – is one of the six regional conferences being convened to bolster literacy worldwide. The first took place in Doha, Qatar, this March, and four others are slated to take place by the end of next year in Mali, India, Costa Rica and Azerbaijan. 2 August 2007A United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) conference to tackle illiteracy in East Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific has wrapped up, with participants calling for strong political commitment and close cooperation between governments and civil society organizations. read more

Pacific island nations spotlight perils of climate change during addresses to UN

Developing countries must be allowed to make voluntary commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions under any new global agreement to deal with the effects of climate change, the Deputy Prime Minister of Tuvalu told the General Assembly today.Tavau Teii, who is also his country’s Natural Resources and Environment Minister, said the international summit being held in Bali, Indonesia, in December, “will be very important” in determining how and whether the world can respond successfully to the impact of global warming.Any agreement emerging from the Bali summit should reconfirm the importance of the Kyoto Protocol concerning greenhouse gas emissions and encourage States Parties to make new and substantial emissions reductions, he said at the annual high-level debate of the General Assembly.Mr. Teii said newly industrialized countries and States with economies in transition should be encouraged to take on pledges to reduce their emissions.A new negotiation process under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) should also be agreed, he said, to set up a legal agreement allowing developing countries to make voluntary commitments to reduce their emissions.“Under this arrangement we envisage that developing countries will be able to take voluntary commitments to reduce emissions from the energy, transport and forest sectors. These commitments would be linked to appropriate incentive mechanisms.”Mr. Teii also said it was important that any reductions in emissions from deforestation should not come at the expense of the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister George Andre Wells said a rapid reduction in gas emissions must take place within the next 10 to 15 years.“It is a reality that, if it is not addressed urgently, will have irreversible effects on the agriculture and tourism sectors which constitute the core pillars of development of many of our island economies.”Mr. Wells said the effect of climate change – such as rising sea levels – on agriculture production, water quality and infrastructure development was of critical importance to his nation.“For many small island States and least developed countries (LDCs) meeting the challenges of climate change will only add additional stress to their financial, human and institutional capacities.”Mongolia’s Foreign Minister Enkhbold Nyamaa told the high-level debate that climate change was already having an impact on nations large and small, coastal and landlocked – like his own.Desertification has become rampant in Mongolia, he said, with pastures supporting the semi-nomadic lifestyle of many locals dwindling and becoming more fragile.Extreme weather conditions have also become more common in recent years, particularly droughts and the phenomenon known as “dzud,” a cold winter with heavy snowfalls.Any agreements that succeeds or supplants the Kyoto Protocol “should be flexible and diverse, taking into consideration circumstances in each country,” Mr. Nyamaa stressed.“It must include all the major emitters and achieve compatibility between environmental protection and economic growth by utilizing advances in technologies to the greatest extent possible.” 1 October 2007Developing countries must be allowed to make voluntary commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions under any new global agreement to deal with the effects of climate change, the Deputy Prime Minister of Tuvalu told the General Assembly today. read more

China to ring in New Year with UNbacked antitobacco campaign

One third of the world’s smokers reside in China, according to WHO statistics, while the Chinese Ministry of Health said the number of deaths attributed to lung cancer have soared over 450 per cent in the past three decades.The campaign by the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, endorsed by the Health Ministry and WHO, endeavours to equate giving cigarettes with bodily harm and endorse better health during this Year of the Ox.It warns that gifting tobacco means sending “wishes with lung cancer and other respiratory diseases to your friends.”The new initiative also said that sending cigarettes is the equivalent of wishing “heart diseases, strokes and other respiratory diseases to your colleagues.”China is both the world’s largest producer and consumer of tobacco, growing one third of the global crop and manufacturing one third of its cigarettes.WHO said that there are around one million tobacco-related deaths annually, which is one in four such deaths worldwide. 26 January 2009The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) is helping China – home of some 350 million smokers – celebrate the New Year through a campaign seeking to bring an end to the tradition of giving cigarettes as gifts. read more

UN cranks up global pandemic alert level to phase 4 due to

The increase in the alert level signals an outbreak of human to human transmission in at least one country, which increases the risk of a global epidemic, but does not mean a pandemic is inevitable.“Given the rapidly evolving situation [it was felt] that it was important to give a strong signal to countries that now is a good time to strengthen preparations for possible pandemic influenza,” World Health Organization (WHO) Assistant Director-General Keiji Fukuda told reporters in Geneva. Mr. Fukuda explained that the emergency committee of health experts, set up to deal with the recent outbreak of the swine flu virus, raised the alert level because the virus had already spread to the United States, Mexico, and Canada, with a verified case in Spain. He underscored the importance for authorities to protect the health of individuals and to focus their efforts on mitigating the disease rather than attempt to stop its spread, stressing that “containment is not a feasible consideration.”WHO would not recommend the closing of borders or the restriction of travel, which would have little to no effect in stopping the movement of the virus, Mr. Fukuda said. Phase 5 of the WHO pandemic alert levels is characterized by human-to-human spread of the virus into at least two countries in one WHO region.“The declaration of Phase 5 is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short,” says the agency’s website.Noting that flu season is now kicking into gear in the southern hemisphere, Mr. Fukuda said it is prudent to continue production of general influenza vaccines that prevent severe illness and death from seasonal influenza.However, the emergency committee also advised WHO to “take all steps to facilitate production and development of a swine flu influenza vaccine that would be effective in [treating] people against this new virus.”A new vaccine would normally take four to six months to develop and for the production of initial batches. The manufacture of significant amounts of the vaccine would require further months, by which time the threat of pandemic could be over, warned Mr. Fukuda.In an unscheduled address to the press this afternoon, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters “The UN system is responding, quickly and effectively, with the Director General of the World Health Organization [WHO], Dr. Margaret Chan, taking the lead.”Announcing that the World Bank and other UN development and humanitarian agencies will provide funding to countries needing additional resources to combat an epidemic, Mr. Ban said that the poorer nations must not be hit disproportionately hard by a potential health crisis.“So far, our response has been an example of multilateral cooperation at its best. I am confident that it will continue to be so,” he added.Meanwhile, a team of experts from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is helping to determine if the new virus strain has a direct connection to pigs. FAO will also dispatch a team of animal health experts to Mexico this week to help the Government assess the origin and transmission of the infection in the pig production sector.So far, the spread seems to be solely humans to human. Evidence that the virus entered the human population directly from pigs has not yet been established. “There is no evidence of a threat to the food chain; at this stage it is a human crisis and not an animal crisis, but we have to be alert and prepared,” said FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Joseph Domenech. He added that FAO and others must first “ascertain if the new strain is circulating in pigs, establish if there are any direct linkages between the illness in the human population and animals and explain how this new virus has obtained genetic materials from human, bird and pig influenza strains.” 27 April 2009With increasing numbers of people contracting the deadly swine flu virus, the United Nations health agency today elevated the international pandemic alert to phase 4, on a six-point scale, for the first time since the current warning system was introduced in 2005 in response to the avian influenza crisis. read more

Ban pays tribute to late womens rights champion Helvi Sipilä

“Ms. Sipilä powerfully demonstrated the effectiveness of women’s leadership,” Mr. Ban said in a statement issued by his spokesperson. “She has left a legacy which serves as a reminder that no effort should be spared to ensure the equal participation of women in decision-making in all areas of life.”The “lifelong champion of the rights of women” served as Secretary-General of the first World Conference on Women in 1975 in Mexico City. She was also the first woman to hold the rank of Assistant Secretary-General at the UN, where she served in different capacities for many years, including as the Chairperson of the Commission on the Status of Women.Ms. Sipilä remained active after retiring from the UN and was the first woman to run for president in Finland in 1982. 20 May 2009Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today paid tribute to Helvi Sipilä of Finland, a renowned women’s rights advocate and former United Nations official, who passed away on 15 May at the age of 94. read more