CPI releases manifesto, announces assured pension of Rs 9k per month

first_imgNew Delhi: The CPI on Friday announced that it would give a minimum pension of Rs 9,000 per month, grant full statehood to Delhi and Puducherry and a one-time comprehensive loan waiver for farmers as part of its manifesto for the Lok Sabha polls.The Communist Party of India (CPI) also proposed a law for agricultural workers and a separate budget for agriculture. The party said it would increase the number of guaranteed employment days under the MNREGA scheme to 200 days per family and ensure wage payment within the period of guaranteed statute and at par with legal minimum wages for unskilled farm labour. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’CPI leader D Raja, who released the manifesto, came down hard on the RSS-BJP and said that they, along with its other allied right-wing extremist organisations, had become “aggressive in pushing their ideology and agenda” which are “divisive, secretarian, communal and fascist.” “There is a systematic attack on our constitutional bodies and institutions… Authoritarianism and demagogy are the characteristics of Prime Minister Modi… The RSS ideology always played the politics of polarisation and alienation of the Muslims…The foreign policy of the BJP Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&Kgovernment is even a larger mess of failures… “The use of armed forces for political mileage is condemnable and detrimental to morale of the forces,” he said. It also announced that it was for the implementation of the one rank one pension to all the retired defense personnel, universalisation of the PDS system, ensuring allocation of six per cent of GDP to health sector and the functional autonomy of the EC, CAG, RBI, CBI, CVC and other institutions of oversight.last_img read more

Turkey will solve Syria issue ‘on the field’ after Sunday’s polls: Erdogan

first_imgANKARA (Turkey): Turkey will solve the Syria issue “on the field” after Sunday’s local elections, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday, as he sought to drum up support for his AK Party in the vote. Turkey has carried out two cross-border operations against Kurdish militants in northern Syria and has warned that it will launch further incursions if the threats along its borders are not eliminated. “First thing after the elections, we will solve the Syria issue on the field if possible, not at the table,” Erdogan told supporters.last_img read more

Sale of electoral bonds skyrocket by 62% in election year: RTI reply shows

first_imgNew Delhi: The sale of electoral bonds has skyrocketed ahead of Lok Sabha election by 62 per cent as compared to last year with the SBI selling bonds of over Rs 1700 crore, an RTI reply shows.In an RTI response to Pune-based Vihar Durve, the SBI has said that in 2018 it had sold bonds worth Rs 1056.73 crore in the months of March, April, May, July, October, November. This year in January and March the bank has sold Electoral Bonds worth Rs 1716.05 crore, the response said. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’The country will go to polls this month with first phase of voting to take place on April 11. The sale shows an increase of 62 per cent from those sold during 2018. The sale of electoral bonds opens in the SBI branches when Finance Ministry issues notification of the sale for a given period. The data provided by the SBI shows that highest purchase of electoral bonds for the year 2019 was reported from Mumbai where the bonds worth Rs 495.60 crore were sold. It was followed by Kolkata with the sale of Rs 370.07 crore, Hyderabad with sale of over Rs 290.50 crore, Delhi with Rs 205.92 crore and Bhubaneswar with the sale of 194 crore. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&KThe scheme of electoral bonds notified by the central government in 2018 has been challenged in the Supreme Court. Only the Political Parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) and which secured not less than one per cent of the votes polled in the last general election to the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of the State, shall be eligible to receive the bonds. The bonds may be purchased by a person who is a citizen of India “or incorporated or established in India,” the government had said in a statement last year. The bonds remain valid for 15 days and can be encashed by an eligible Political Party only through a Bank account with the authorised Bank within that period only. A voluntary group working in the field of electoral reforms, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) has demanded a stay on the sale while CPI-M has challenged it before the Supreme Court in separate petitions. ADR recently filed an application in the apex court seeking stay on the Electoral Bond Scheme, 2018 which was notified by the Centre in January last year. It said amendments carried out in relevant Acts have “opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate donations to political parties and anonymous financing by Indian as well as foreign companies which can have serious repercussions on the Indian democracy”. The application further said: “Electoral bonds are being made available for a large number of days in three months leading to general elections in the country scheduled to be held…in April-May 2019 to constitute the 17th Lok Sabha. “It is expected that enormous amount of corporate funding would be received by political parties in April and May and this would play a critical role in the elections.” Referring to research and data compiled on the issue, the NGO has said that close to 97 per cent of all the bonds purchased so far were in denomination of Rs 10 lakh and Rs 1 crore with no demand for bonds of smaller denominations. “The fear with regard to electoral bonds has been proven right in light of the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party’s annual audit report for 2017-18 according to which the ruling party received the largest chunk of the funds received through electoral bonds. “BJP has earned more than Rs 1,000 crore in 2017-18 and is all set to be the maximum gainer of political funding in the last financial year, according to its annual returns submitted to the Election Commission,” the application has alleged and also referred to media reports on this. During the hearing of a separate petition by the CPM on the issue, the Election Commission has informed the apex court that it had written to the Centre saying the changes made in several laws relating to political funding will have “serious repercussions” on transparency.last_img read more

Hamstring injury rules out Bravo for 2 weeks

first_imgChennai: Chennai Super Kings’ star all-rounder Dwayne Bravo will be out of action for two weeks owing to a grade 1 hamstring strain, the team’s batting coach Mike Hussey said here on Friday. CSK take on Ravichandran Ashwin-led Kings XI Punjab in their fifth match of the season on Saturday. The Trinidad cricketer, who suffered the injury during the team’s loss to Mumbai Indians on Wednesday, has been a key player for the defending champions, but went for runs in that game. “I can confirm it’s a grade one hamstring strain and he is going to be out for two weeks. It is a big loss. Obviously (he) offers so much balance to the team and his quality as a player… So it is going to cause a little bit of rejigging of the team, but I am sure we will still be able to put together a very strong team,” Hussey said. Also Read – Puducherry on top after 8-wkt win over Chandigarh”And yes it is a big loss for us but we have had these challenges in the past and have been able to overcome them. So let us hope we can do that again,” Hussey said at the pre-match press conference. The former Australia cricketer also said the team would take a call on who would step in for Bravo, adding that New Zealand’s new signing Scott Kuggeleijn would be looked at. “… yeah definitely I think so, I am sure MS (Dhoni) and (head coach Stephen) Fleming will be looking at Scott and assessing his death bowling skills. Shardul (Thakur) has done a bit of it, Mohit Sharma can bowl at the death. It is about assessing the conditions a bit as well and assessing which bowlers are suited to bowl at the later stages of the game. Also Read – Vijender’s next fight on Nov 22, opponent to be announced later”You never know if it is a real turning pitch. I am sure there will be a lot of strategy thinking. It is a key area of the game and we didn’t quite get it right against Mumbai.” Asked if he was concerned about the form of openers Shane Watson and Ambati Rayudu, who formed a formidable pair at the top during last year’s triumphant run, Hussey said he was not. “I am not concerned watching them at the nets. A big score is round the corner for both of them. Watson contributed during the Delhi game and won the man of the match award.”last_img read more

PSBs continue with 180 days to resolve Jet issue

first_imgNew Delhi: Public sector banks, led by State Bank of India, have given themselves 180 days to resolve the Jet Airways account even though the time limit has become irrelevant post Supreme Court order that quashed an earlier RBI circular on debt resolution. Official sources in the Finance Ministry said that banks have informed the ministry that they were not ready to wait endlessly to restore health of the beleaguered airline and if attempts to bring in a strategic investor fails or is not completed by June 30, lenders may immediately initiate bankruptcy proceedings against Jet. Also Read – Thermal coal import may surpass 200 MT this fiscal”All attempts are being made to see that Jet Airways does not fail and its operations are maintained albeit on a smaller scale. Banks, including SBI and Punjab National Bank (PNB) have already decided to provide interim funding support of Rs 1,500 crore to Jet,” a source in the finance ministry said. “Now effort is on to bring in a strategic investor. But if there are no satisfactory bids, banks would not wait anymore and refer the airline to National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) for resolution,” the source added. Also Read – Food grain output seen at 140.57 mt in current fiscal on monsoon boostJet first defaulted on loan repayment on December 31. Going by this, the 180 day period from default will end on June 30. Once the matter lands in NCLT, banks get another 180 days to find a resolution of the stressed asset with an extension of 90 days, if required. Post this, if banks fail to resolve the account, liquidation process starts. “We will go by the 180-day deadline that was being followed as per now defunct RBI circular. With each day the problem at Jet seems to be multiplying and if a resolution is not achieved immediately, there is no point to drag the issue any further but to take the account for bankruptcy. Otherwise, the airline account can become a further drag on the banks,” said an official of public sector bank asking not to be named. The Supreme Court on Tuesday quashed the February 12, 2018 circular of RBI that asked banks to start resolution of an account even if there was one day default in repayment of loans. This resolution would have to be completed in 180 days failing which it would be mandatory upon banks to refer it for bankruptcy proceedings. Following this order from the apex court, it was widely believed that banks would use extra time now available with them for resolution. But for Jet, PSBs are in no mood for extended period of resolution. Meanwhile, the lenders on Saturday invited expression of interest (EoI) from investors looking to pick up majority stake in Jet. The EoI would have to be submitted by April 9. Extensions could be considered, if bids are not satisfactory. A statement issued on Thursday by a consortium of lenders led by the State Bank of India (SBI) said : “The lenders intend to pursue the bank-Led resolution plan for sale of stake in the company in a time-bound manner under the present legal and regulatory framework and intend to invite expressions of interest.” Jet Airway’s former Chairman Naresh Goyal has said he has cooperated fully and facilitated the bank-led resolution programme for the company. On March 25, Goyal had stepped down from the board of the airline and ceded majority control to the SBI-led consortium. Under the debt resolution plan, the lenders would inject up to Rs 1,500 crore working capital into the airline and convert their debt into equity, to revive the airline and then sell their stake in it. The airline owes over Rs 8,000 crore to lenders. At present, the airline is hard-pressed for funds. It is expected to receive the first tranche of the Rs 1,500 crore promised by banks as part of the debt resolution plan. Industry sources informed that the first tranche of fund is expected in a day or two. However, without further funding the airline’s fleet size is expected to shrink further. It has already shrunk to 26. Jet Airways has been struggling with cash flows for the past six months because of rising fuel costs and intense competition. It has even delayed payment to lessors, airport operators and oil marketing companies besides a part of its workforce to keep the company running. On Wednesday evening, the airline informed employees that salaries for March will be delayed. Salaries are pending since January.last_img read more

KKR not worried, Ganguly knows his duties well: Mysore

first_imgKolkata: Three cricket fans in Kolkata might have questions about Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) president Sourav Ganguly’s position as Delhi Capitals advisor when they take on Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens on Friday, but KKR CEO Venky Mysore has batted for the former India skipper and said that Ganguly is a thorough professional and no question marks can be raised on him. Mysore said that Ganguly knows his duties and role well and there was no reason for KKR to be worried. “He is a thorough professional. He knows how to do his duties well. He’s fully supportive of what we are doing. We have no issues at all,” the KKR CEO said. Earlier, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) Ombudsman and Ethics Officer D K Jain had received complaints from cricket fans in West Bengal that the CAB president will be ‘conflicted’ if he continues in his role as advisor to DC when they play KKR at Eden Gardens. With Jain asking Ganguly for his reply to the questions raised, the former India skipper sent in a mail which read: “At present I do not hold any post whatsoever or howsoever in the BCCI. I am neither a member of the Apex Council of the BCCI nor an office bearer nor a member of any of the Cricket Committees constituted by the BCCI under its Constitution. “I am also not connected with the administration, management or running of the IPL by being a member of any of the committees or other organisational units set up by the BCCI in connection with the IPL. Previously I had been a part of the BCCI Technical Committee; the IPL Technical Committee and the IPL Governing Council. I have resigned and/or withdrawn myself from all the said Committees,” he said.last_img read more

Shiv Sena advises BJP to ‘speak less’ on Rafale deal

first_imgMumbai: The Shiv Sena Friday advised its ally BJP to “speak less” on the Rafale deal, in which the Congress has alleged corruption, cautioning that unwanted statements may increase troubles for the national party.The Sena also said the ban on NaMo TV could have been avoided had the BJP been satisfied with the coverage being given to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s campaign rallies on electronic channels. The Uddhav Thackeray-led party sought to corner its senior ally over the recent clash between BJP workers in the presence of Maharashtra minister Girish Mahajan at a public rally in Jalgaon, where the party has changed its Lok Sabha candidate. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss bank a/c details”The shocking video (of the clash) was seen across the country. The BJP inducted goons in the party and turned them into ‘Valmikis’. However here, the experienced Valmikis turned into goons and indulged in violence. “This is not only a blot on the campaigning of `mahayuti’ (the BJP-Sena alliance), but the time has come for the BJP to clarify its stand,” the Sena said in an editorial in party mouthpiece ‘Saamana’. The Sena said the BJP, which calls itself a party with a difference, cannot justify this violence and dismiss the incident as one reflecting diverse opinions. Also Read – Tourists to be allowed in J&K from Thursday”At least on the Rafale issue, one needs to shed arrogance and talk with patience. Right from the defence minister to other leaders, people (in the BJP) are speaking whatever they like. “This may increase troubles for the party, and therefore we advise that the lesser spoken, the better,” the Sena said. The Marathi daily noted the Supreme Court Wednesday rejected the government’s contention that sensitive documents accessed by the media on the Rafale deal can’t be treated as evidence and said it would examine the papers while reviewing its December 14 order giving a clean chit to the contract. The Sena said along with the ban on the release of a biopic on Modi; the Election Commission has also disallowed airing of political content on NaMo TV.last_img

Over 67% voting; some EVMs ‘act up’

first_imgNEW DELHI: A 67.84 per cent voter turnout was recorded in the second phase of Lok Sabha polls on Thursday in 95 seats spread in 11 states and a Union Territory, the Election Commission said.Barring sporadic incidents of violence, the polling went off peacefully, Senior Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha said. Polling was held for 95 Lok Sabha seats in 11 states, with Tamil Nadu voting in 38 of its 39 constituencies, and the union territory of Puducherry. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss bank a/c detailsWhile elections were cancelled in Tamil Nadu’s Vellore constituency over the fear of abuse of money power, the poll was postponed to April 23 in Tripura (East) seat as there were apprehensions that law and order could be disturbed by miscreants. Two violence-related deaths were reported in the past 24 hours, including that of a woman polling personnel who was killed by suspected Maoists on Wednesday in Odisha. Another death was reported Thursday. Two other people, including a voter and a polling officer, died of an apparent heart attack. Also Read – Tourists to be allowed in J&K from ThursdayComplaints of faulty voting machines came from several states, including Assam, Maharashtra and Karnataka. In Tamil Nadu, as many as 384 faulty Electronic Voting machines and 692 faulty Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail machines were replaced, officers of the state election commission said. The interim voter turnout stood at 43.4 per cent in Jammu and Kashmir, the lowest, and 78 per cent, the highest, in Puducherry. Udhampur and Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir went for polls in this phase. West Bengal, Assam, Manipur, Chhattisgarh, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu reported a turnout above 70 per cent. Referring to the issue of ‘glitches in EVMs, deputy election commissioner Sudip Jain said, a total of 1,000 ballot units, 769 control units 2,766 paper trail machines were replaced. One control unit and at least one ballot unit make up for an EVM. He said if a ballot unit or control unit is replaced, the paper trail machines need to be replaced along with it. “Hence the higher number of replacements.” Fourteen seats in Karnataka also went to polls along with 10 in Maharashtra, eight in Uttar Pradesh, five each in Assam, Bihar and Odisha, three each in Chhattisgarh and West Bengal, two in Jammu and Kashmir and one seat each in Manipur and Puducherry. Elections were also held in 35 assembly constituencies in Odisha while bypolls are being held in 18 assembly seats in Tamil Nadu. For 543 seats, Lok Sabha polls are being conducted in seven phases: April 11, April 18, April 23, April 29, May 6, May 12 and May 19. Counting will take place on May 23. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and several Union ministers campaigned extensively for this phase, which saw many controversial speeches. Four top faces, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Union minister Maneka Gandhi, BSP chief Mayawati and Samajwadi Party candidate Azam Khan, were temporarily banned from campaigning. The by-elections in Tamil Nadu will decide the fate of the AIADMK government led by E Palaniswami and his deputy O Panneerselvam. The 234-member assembly has 22 vacancies, 18 of them due to disqualification of rebel lawmakers who joined the team of TTV Dhinakaran last year. The AIADMK, which has 114 seats including the Speaker, needs five seats to retain the majority. Among Thursday’s high-profile candidates were Union ministers Jitendra Singh, Jual Oram, Sadananda Gowda and Pon Radhakrishnan. Former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda and former ministers Dayanidhi Maran and A Raja, and DMK leader Kanimozhi were also in the fray. Actor-turned-politician Hema Malini was the star candidate from Mathura in Uttar Pradesh. See insidelast_img read more

BJP’s Satti issued another EC notice over ‘abusive’ remarks against political rivals

first_imgShimla: Almost three weeks to go to the poll, Himachal Pradesh — north India’s state known for its ‘gentleman-politics’ has hit a new low.And, look who is doing it? It’s BJP’s state president Satpal Satti, a three-time former MLA. Last week, Satti was debarred for 48 hours from the campaign by the Election Commission for his highly abusive and cursed remarks against Congress president Rahul Gandhi for his “chowkidar chor” jibe, at an election rally in Solan district. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’On Thursday, Satti was slapped with another notice by the Deputy Commissioner-cum-Returning Officer (RO) Mandi Rugved Thakur asking him to reply within 12 hours. During an election rally at Mandi on Wednesday, where he shared the stage with Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, Satti threatened to chop off hands of those raising finger at the BJP leaders. His attack was again at the Congress leaders levelling accusations of “Chowkidar Chor”. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&KBefore the EC notice could reach him in the day, BJP leader was at Shimla showing no regrets. “Those who use ugly words and repeatedly insult the country’s leadership doesn’t deserve any decency. They should be dealt with a more deadlier weapon than what they flaunt,” he added. The Congress candidate from Mandi, Ashray Sharma was quick to raise objections and lodged a complaint to the Election Commission. The issue has flared up greater concerns in the BJP than the Congress. Many senior leaders wondered why Satti was resorting to such posturing even as the Congress leaders have been conducting a campaign with greater decency. What has also surprised is the fact that the BJP had been on an advantage position in Himachal Pradesh and there should not be a reason to press panic buttons. The BJP was in power in the state and has its popularity graph intact to beat the Congress out. Further, the party has mobilised the organisation machinery well as compared to the Congress, which is far behind. Leader of Opposition Mukesh Agnihotri, who also hails from Una – a native place of Satti, believes Satti’s language had always been foul. This time because of the Election Commission (EC) watch, he has got caught. He is rather a habitual person, says Agnihotri. Into his third term as party president, Satti had lost the 2017 assembly election when his contemporaries like Jai Ram Thakur has become Chief Minister and few cabinet ministers. This could also be a reason for his aggression in the poll.last_img read more

Morocco Becomes Member of United Nations Road Safety Collaboration

Rabat – The National Committee for Traffic Accident Prevention (CNPAC) has become a member of the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration (UNRSC), making Morocco the second African country to sit on this international body after South Africa.This decision was taken unanimously during the 22nd session of this UN advisory body, which took place Wednesday at the UN Headquarters in New York, the Committee said in a statement.During this meeting, CNPAC Permanent Secretary Bennacer Boulaajoul highlighted the experience, strategy and action plan of the Committee, noting the efforts of the Kingdom at the national and international levels in promoting the values and principles of road safety, the same source said. In addition, participants in the conclave have studied a Russian proposal on road safety, which will be discussed and adopted at the UN General Assembly in New York.With MAP read more

Egyptian President Honors Two Moroccan Winners of International Holy Quran Competition

Rabat – Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El Sisi honored on Wednesday Said Fafa and Hamza El Aasry, two Moroccans winners of the 24th Annual International Competition of the Holy Quran, held in Egypt in April.According to Egypt’s Middle East News Agency, the two Moroccans were praised by Sisi during Ramadan’s holiest night, Laylat al-Qadr, for their ability to recite, memorize and interpret the whole holy Quran verses. The contestants received certificates and financial prizes.During April’s international competition, Fafa managed to win the Memorial Prize for his ability to recite and interpret all of the Quranic verses, while Al Aasry was named winner of the Holy Quran Memorial Prize as well as his interpretation of Quranic verses on jihad. Approximately 60 contestants representing 43 nations competed for prizes in the competition.The results were released on April 11 at the end of the 24th International Competition of the Holy Quran. The contest was organized in Cairo by the Egyptian Ministry of Endowment.Translated as the Night of Destiny, Laylat al-Qadr is the night when Muslims believe the first verses of the Quran were revealed to Prophet Muhammad. Since Muslims believe that God decides people’s fate for the following year on this night, many pray throughout the night for mercy, forgiveness and salvation. read more

Algeria Suspicious of Macron’s Sahel Counter-Terror Plans

Rabat – French President Emmanuel Macron has made Algeria suspicious of his counter-terrorism plans the Sahel.In Mali, one of the countries of the region facing a serious threat from armed groups including the recently formed Al Qaeda-linked Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM), Macron pushed on Sunday for a joint regional force of 5,000 soldiers to help in military operations in the country’s north alongside French troops and the forces of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).The force is going to be set by the so-called “G5 Sahel” countries which include Mali, Mauritania, Chad, Niger, and Burkina Faso. Macron’s visit to the torn-apart Sahel nation is the second since he was elected on May 14. Mali was the first non-European stop for Macron, arriving only five days after his election.The French president went to Gao in northern Mali, the site of France’s most important military base abroad hosting 1,600 soldiers.In Gao, Macron sent the first “negative” signal to Algeria, according to local press.“I have a strong request forSahel states and Algeria. We can’t show any weakness regarding terrorist groups,no matter the political or domestic reasons behind them,” he said in a press conference.Algerian journalist Fayçal Mettaoui described Macron’s statement as diplomatically “awkward.”Though not expressed formally, the Algerian state’s anger has been reflected in coverage by major local media  which generally express similar stances vis-à-vis Algeria’s relations with other countries, especially Morocco and France.Algerian media claimed Macron was insinuating that Algeria is turning a blind on the actions of some terrorist groups in Sahel.“This was ill-received in Algiers,” wrote news site Tout sur l’Algérie (TSA).In addition to the perceived accusation, Macron’s phone exchanges with Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika suggest that Algerian officials believe the French president wants to use the country to help resume the peace process in Mali, while secretly planning to isolate Algeria.Algerian media sees the French president as wanting to dictate his own terms on the peace process in Mali. At the same time, his goal seems to corner Algeria despite its strategic importance and long-time influence in the region.“In less than two months, the French President called the Algeria head of state to talk to him about Mali, more than bilateral relations,” wrote TSA.According to TSA, Macron’s plans to isolate Algeria in Sahel were highlighted by a meeting in Sevilla, Spain on Monday where the interior ministers of France, Spain, Portugal and Morocco discussed fighting terrorism, illegal immigration, and organized crime with the help of the G5 Sahel countries.The news outlet said the joint force of the G5 Sahel countries was “under-equipped” and “under-financed,” a clear reference that they are not fit for the job in comparison with Algeria.Whether Algeria’s anger is justified is unclear, as the country holds contradictory positions. On one hand, Algiers maintains that this issue has be dealt with either through inter-African talks in the framework of bilateral relations, or “informally” in the ‘5+5’ dialogue grouping five Mediterranean European countries (France, Spain, ¨Portugal, Malta and Italy) and five African ones (Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania, Tunisia and Libya).Also, the Algerian military officially does not take part in operations outside its own borders, which means it would have likely turned down any invitation from Macron to join in a regional force like the G5 Sahel.Still, Algerian officials believe that the French president is trying to marginalize Algeria, to which the country’s media outlets have reacted negatively.“What is the significance of ‘fighting against terrorism and organized crime’ without Algeria, the country which most has frontiers with Sahel [countries], and which has the most expertise in countering terrorist groups and criminal networks in the region?”said TSA.“It is obvious that without Algeria, with its diplomatic, military and political influence in Africa, the G5 Sahel is going to do nothing.”Algerian officials showed enthusiasm for Macron during his presidential campaign. Described by former Algerian former minister of foreign affairs Ramtane Lamamra as a “friend of Algeria, the country’s high hopes for stronger relations with the former colonizer were partly crushed when Macron chose Morocco as his first destination to North Africa, thus breaking his predecessors’ tradition of choosing Algeria as the first country visited after an election win.Mistrust over France’s plans in the Sahel and its understanding of Algeria’s role has come as further proof for Algeria that Macron may not quite be the “friend” they had expected him to be. read more

Temperatures to Reach 43 Degrees Celsius in Southern Morocco Saturday

Rabat – Temperatures are expected to reach 43 degrees Celsius in Morocco’s extreme southeast and the southern provinces on Saturday, according to the Directorate of National Meteorology (DMN).Temperatures will range from 31 and 37 degrees in the interior plains, the eastern region, the southeast reliefs, and the northwest.Temperatures between 24 and 29 are forecasted for the Atlantic plains and reliefs, while temperatures will range from 22 and 28 in the west of Tangier, the Saiss, the Atlas’ plains, the interior of the Souss, and the southeast. Winds will be moderate to fairly strong winds in Tangier and on the Mediterranean shore. The winds will be weak to moderate in the northern sector, while they will be moderate in the plains of the southern provinces. High temperatures between 38 and 43 are forecasted for the extreme southeast and the east of the southern provinces.Cloudy skies are expected over the extreme south of the kingdom, while the other provinces will experience clear skies.The sea will be slightly agitated to agitated on the Mediterranean, while it will be agitated in Tangier and the Atlantic coasts. read more

Director of Royal Archives Bahija Simou Receives French Legion of Honor

Rabat – Bahija Simou, director of the Royal Archives will be awarded “French Legion of Honor” by the French ambassador to Morocco, Jean-François Girault, on Thursday, December 7, according to Telquel.The French diplomat will present then the insignia of Officer of the National Order of Legion of Honour to Bahija Simou, who is also the mission head at the royal cabinet, in “recognition of services she provided to the cooperation and the relationship of friendship between France and Morocco.”Simou has a distinguished career in the field of university research and the promotion of cultural and scientific projects. Due to her experience in organizing cultural activities, she has often been appointed curator of several cultural events which have left an impressive resonance, such as the “Invalides,” and “Splendours of script in Morocco, rare and unpublished manuscripts” in Paris.She is the author of several books. In November 2016 in Paris, she presented her book entitled Morocco and France, the path to independence, 1912-1956.In 2002, the French Ministry of Culture and Communication awarded her a Knight of Order of Arts and Letters (Chevalier dans l’ordre des arts et des lettres). read more

King Mohammed VI’s Speech to 1st Summit of Heads of State…

Rabat – King Mohammed VI addressed on Sunday in Brazzaville a speech to the 1st Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Climate Commission of the Congo Basin and the Blue Fund for the Congo Basin. Here follows the full text of the speech:“Praise be to GodMay peace and blessings be upon The Prophet, His Kith and KinYour Excellency Mr. Denis Sassou-Nguesso, President of the Republic of the Congo,Your Excellency Mr. Paul Kagame, Chairperson of the African Union,Your Excellencies the Heads of State and Government,Your Excellency the Chairperson of the African Union Commission,Ladies and Gentlemen,First of all, I should like to thank most warmly the many Heads of State who, despite commitments made long in advance, have agreed to change their agendas, at my request, in order to be here with us to take part in this important Summit and give it the continental dimension it deserves.I should also like to thank our distinguished host, the President of the Republic of the Congo, His Excellency Denis Sassou-Nguesso, for assembling us here at the heart of Central Africa to discuss a major project. It is a rallying project which offers promising prospects for the Congo Basin, for the region and for our Continent.Your Excellencies,Ladies and Gentlemen,Africa has irreversibly embarked on a path towards profound change. With each passing day, our Continent is asserting itself more and more, looking to the future with confidence and serenity. And yes, we do realize there are plenty of challenges. To be sure, the most significant of these, today, is how to reconcile the need to achieve development in our Continent with the awakening of ecological consciousness.Our meeting today sounds like an urgent wake-up call for us all. It is vitally important for our Continent – indeed for humankind – because it implies a collective awareness of the devastating effects of global warming on the planet.Ours is a collective responsibility: to safeguard African biodiversity. The depletion of that common heritage has a far-reaching impact on people’s daily lives and is detrimental to the socio-economic development of the communities which depend on it.The Congo Basin is at the heart of this concern. This is the world’s second most important region for global carbon storage and the second largest river basin. It is also one of the largest forest areas on the planet – a region which is home to more than half of the Continent’s animal species.This regulator of the planet’s climate makes Africa the world’s ‘second lung’. It is here, and now, that the future of this vital asset is being shaped.Your Excellencies,Ladies and Gentlemen,At COP22, which was held in Marrakech in November 2016, we gave pride of place to Africa.To give substance to the priority granted to Africa, I made a point of convening the first Africa Action Summit on the sidelines of COP22. The watchword of that Summit was the co-emergence of Africa.As we were keen to put a practical, operational complexion on the Summit’s proceedings, we set up three sub-regional Commissions:• The Sahel Commission, chaired by the Republic of Niger;• The Island States Commission, chaired by the Republic of Seychelles; and• The Congo Basin Commission, chaired by the Republic of the Congo.Thanks to the leadership of President Denis Sassou-Nguesso, the Congo Basin Commission has achieved tangible progress in terms of turning the climate challenges facing the region into opportunities.Several steps have been taken since the Africa Action Summit. The Blue Fund was created in Oyo in March 2017. Its operational measures were agreed in Brazzaville in November 2017, and the implementation of the project was fast-tracked in Rabat in March 2018, during a meeting on the terms of reference of the Blue Fund’s preparatory study.Throughout the process, the Kingdom of Morocco has rallied behind this ambitious project to ensure its success, building on the expertise my country has gained in tackling climate change.I decided to support this program because it is based on a new paradigm that fulfils current and future needs. It is centered on integrated, inclusive, solidarity-based programs offered by the new blue and green economies.This decision is also justified by the human dimension which is a pivotal component of the project. Indeed, an inclusive, participatory approach that involves the region’s inhabitants is essential.Your Excellencies,Ladies and Gentlemen,Guided by a brotherly spirit and by African solidarity, we have gathered to help unleash a beneficial dynamic. What is at stake is nothing less than the preservation and development of a precious African heritage: the Congo River.We owe this to the 200 million Africans who live in the Congo River Basin; we owe it to our Continent.The establishment of the Blue Fund must go hand in hand with the mobilization of economic stakeholders and civil society organizations so that tangible mitigation and adaptation measures may be taken, and climate-resilient development guaranteed.Financing is the main challenge facing the implementation of the project: we must innovate and come up with mechanisms that will help us identify and raise financial resources. We need to convince bilateral and multilateral donors – public as well as private – of the pertinence of the project.The Blue Fund will inevitably trigger a positive dynamic which will involve projects that will boost and benefit Member States’ economies.I am thinking, in particular, of measures to improve inland waterways, develop secondary ports, promote sustainable fishing practices, fight river water pollution and upgrade irrigation systems with a view to increasing agricultural productivity.This new water-centered economy will be the main driver of development.Your Excellencies,Ladies and Gentlemen,Aside from the consequences of climate change, food shortages and dwindling water reserves can lead to significant population migration flows, weaken states and create precariousness.How is it possible that in a continent which has more than 5,000 billion cubic meters of water in its aquifers, 320 million African men and women still have no access to drinking water?What makes this alarming reality all the more serious is that if we fail to act, in the coming years climate change will lead to land degradation and a scarcity of water resources: the 25,000 sq. km of waterways will then face the risk of silting and pollution.Collective mobilization is crucial. And this Summit shows that it is possible.Your Excellencies,Ladies and Gentlemen,To rise to the challenge of developing the Congo River Basin means we need to set in motion a cooperative dynamic for sustainable development, not just at the level of riparian countries, but throughout the Continent as well.If we want to protect the two lungs of the planet, this challenge must become a collective ambition nurtured by Africa and the world.Our Continent’s natural and ecological resources make it one of the most important global players; its immense basins and rivers are home to an invaluable wealth: water, or the ‘blue gold’.As it has become a scarce commodity, water is increasingly coveted. Let us be aware of our wealth and of our ability to innovate. Let us pool our energies and summon our courage.Not only would we meet all the challenges, but we would also show that countries pursuing the same dream together, guided by the same vision, know how to act and to surpass themselves in order to forge a unified Continent – one which is proud of its many identities and its roots; a Continent resolutely on a path towards progress.Your Excellencies,Ladies and Gentlemen,In the task of building the Africa of the future, environmental preservation is the cornerstone of African co-emergence. It is the bedrock on which the Continent’s inclusive economic growth will be built.We must work together to tackle global warming and its risks, and transform our economies to promote sustainable development.Our presence here today attests to our resolve to place these issues front and center in our concerns and our action. We are determined to undertake concrete initiatives that are likely to help safeguard the rights of future generations.The Kingdom of Morocco will work resolutely and unremittingly for the implementation of the Continent’s large-scale development projects.The ecological challenge should no longer be seen as a threat, but as an opportunity. That is the significance of our common commitment today – a commitment rooted in the principles of shared responsibility and pan-African solidarity.Thank you.Wassalamu alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh.” read more

Morocco and China to Create Direct Flight, Open Use of Airspace

By Oumaïma Fassi FihriRabat – An upcoming China-Morocco aviation agreement is set to open a direct flight between the countries and eliminate restrictions on use of airspace.The Moroccan minister of transport and tourism, Mohamed Sajid, met the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) administrator, Feng Zhenglin, last Thursday, September 27, to discuss a new agreement on air transport. The agreement will allow Moroccan and Chinese airlines to use the airspace of the other’s country without restrictions.  Representatives from Royal Air Maroc and unnamed Chinese companies were also present during the meeting. The airline companies talked about creating the first direct flight linking the two countries.According to the Maghreb Arab Press (MAP), Mr. Sajid reported that the agreement will be officially signed by both parties by the end of this year.With China’s growing interest in Africa, the agreement is set to foster China’s activity and involvement on the continent, using Morocco as a potential bridge. The meeting comes at a time when Morocco and China have touted strengthening ties in various economic spheres such as agriculture, media, tourism, and technology. In early September, Saad Eddine El Othmani, head of government, participated in the China-Africa summit in Beijing to reinforce ties with China and seek new investments. Morocco has also explicitly supported the Chinese “Belt and Road Initiative” to create a trade network linking China with Africa and Europe. In the last few years, Morocco has successfully boosted Chinese tourism by eliminating visa restrictions in an effort to foster Sino-Moroccan cooperation. Morocco expects to have welcomed over 200,000 Chinese tourists this year by December 31. Over 100,000 Chinese tourists had arrived in Morocco in the months up to May, according to the Moroccan National Office of Tourism (ONMT). read more

Imlil Murders: Morocco’s BCIJ Arrests 5 More Suspects

Rabat – Morocco’s Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ) has arrested five more suspects for the killing of Danish tourist Louisa Vesterager Jespersen and Norwegian tourist Maren Ueland.International and Moroccan news outlets reported that the BCIJ has arrested a total of 18 suspects connected to the case up to this point.BCIJ and the public prosecutor at Rabat’s Court of Appeals have not issued a statement to confirm the new arrests yet. Previously, the government affirmed it had arrested 13 suspects. BCIJ made its first arrest on December 18 andthe next three on Thursday, December 20.On Friday, BCIJ announced the arrest of nine more suspects with alleged ties to the murders. The arrests were made in several cities across Morocco, including Essaouira; Sidi Bennour, near Casablanca; Marrakech; Tangier; and Chtouka Ait Baha, near Agadir.Authorities found the bodies of Louisa and Maren on Monday, December 17.The government has strongly denounced the murders and described them as a terror attack. Security officials said that the suspects acted alone without coordination with ISIS.read Also: Imlil Murders: Interior Minister Says Terrorism Has No HomelandIn a new interview, BCIJ chief Abdelhak Khiame said that the suspects did not fit the profile of a terrorist because they were living normal lives.He added that people who know the suspects were shocked to discover that they were involved in the double murder. The victims were stabbed, cut in the throat, and decapitated.The suspects, according to Khiame, were influenced by the self-styled “emir” of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.Read Also: BCIJ Investigates Video of Murder Suspects Pledging Allegiance to ISISFour suspects appeared in a video posted online on Thursday pledging allegiance to al-Baghdadi. The four suspects were the first four to be arrested for the double murder. The suspects, said Khiame, did not have any specific target but were planning to attack security services or any foreign target in the area.Khiame noted that although they pledged allegiance to ISIS in the video, the four suspects committed the murder without coordination with ISIS. The suspects have no links with terrorists operating in Syria, Iraq, or Libya, he asserted. read more

Paris Diamond League: Soufiane El Bakkali Wins Race Despite Bloody Foot

Rabat – Moroccan athlete Soufiane El Bakkali took home the victory from the Paris Diamond League’s 3000m steeplechase, a race which includes hurdles and water jumps, on Saturday, August 25.El Bakkali injured his foot during the race and blood could be seen seeping through his shoes, but that didn’t stop him from being the first to cross the finish line. The win “at a cost, as he limped away with blood all over his shoe after being badly spiked in a race,” said International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) who organizes the diamond league.El Bakkali was also faced by tough competition, with accomplished athletes such as Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma and Kenya’s Benjamin Kigen coming in 2nd and 3rd place behind him.He finished the obstacle race with a total time of 8:06.54, whereas Kigen clocked in at 8:07.09, and Girma at 8:08.63.The win adds to El Bakkali’s already long list of athletic achievements at just 23. In 2016, El Bakkali represented Morocco at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, coming 4th in the men’s 3000m steeplechase, his specialty.He placed first in the steeplechase at the Mediterranean Games held in Spain in 2018, and 2nd in the African Championships in Nigeria.Just this summer, El Bakkali won the men’s 3000m steeplechase championship in Monaco on Friday, July 12, clocking in a time of 8:04:82. It marked his second time winning the competition, having won in 2018 as well, although he failed to break his record from last year of 7:58:15.Read also: Moroccan Runner Ranks first in Spanish 15km Race read more

Officials probe Baltimore cyberattack, claim of leaked files

BALTIMORE — The city of Baltimore and federal authorities are investigating whether documents posted online are connected to a ransomware attack that has hobbled the city’s computer network.A mayor’s office spokesman, Lester Davis, tells The Baltimore Sun that there’s currently no evidence personal data has been was breached in the May attack.However, a Twitter account claimed to be run by the attackers posted city material and faxes, including a detailed assessment of a woman’s medical history. And before Twitter suspended the account on Monday, someone used it to direct message the Sun, threatening to post more financial documents and personal information on the “darknet.”City officials have refused a demand to pay the equivalent of $76,000 in bitcoin in response to the attack, which used a ransomware variant called RobbinHood.___Information from: The Baltimore Sun, http://www.baltimoresun.comThe Associated Press read more