Kings Visit to Madagascar Has Strong Symbolic Meaning Malagasy President

Antananarivo – Malagasy President Hery Rajaonarimampianina stressed, here Monday, that the visit of King Mohammed VI to Madagascar has “a strong symbolic meaning.”“This is the first visit of HM the King to Madagascar and has a strong symbolic meaning,” the head of the Malagasy State told the press following the signing ceremony of several cooperation agreements of bilateral cooperation.This visit will reinforce the friendship relations between the two countries and the two peoples, he said, expressing his thanks to the Sovereign. “It is with great pleasure and honor, of course, that the entire Malagasy people and I have received King Mohammed VI,” he pointed out.The Malagasy president highlighted Morocco’s special ties with Madagascar, notably the city of Antsirabe, which had welcomed late King Mohammed V and the royal family during their forced exile in 1954.In this regard, he underlined that the discussions he had with the King and the agreements signed under the presidency of the two heads of State “herald a fruitful future” of bilateral cooperation and between the operators of the two countries read more

IMF Lauds Moroccos New Flexible ExchangeRate Regime

Rabat – For the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Morocco is a good student when it comes to economic policies. But when it comes to social ones, the country still has a long way to go to reduce unemployment and social disparities. In a recent report issued Friday, the IMF lauds Morocco’s launch of the new flexible exchange-rate regime, stating that it “will help further improve Morocco’s external position, enhance the economy’s capacity to absorb shocks, and preserve its external competitiveness.”The new flexible exchange-rate system came into effect Monday, January 15 after years of discussions, and was highly encouraged by the IMF since 1998. READ ALSO: Morocco Should Implement Dirham Liberalization Reform ‘Now’: IMFThe Moroccan central bank continues to set the dirham price on the basis of a basket representative of the euro and the dollar, at the rate of 60 and 40 percent, respectively, but with a much greater margin of flexibility. The fluctuation band went from 0.3 to 2.5 percent in each direction.The IMF had granted Morocco a precautionary credit line of USD 3.6 billion in July 2016, but the Moroccan authorities have so far not used it. This agreement will expire next July.For the international institution, Morocco’s “sound” macroeconomic policies and reform implementation “helped improve the resilience of the economy.”READ ALSO: Morocco Must ‘Accelerate’ its Structural Reforms: IMFIn 2017, Morocco’s external imbalances narrowed and international reserves remain at a comfortable level, settling around MAD 250 billion as of January 19. Fiscal developments were also positive, with the budget deficit declining due to strong revenue performance and contained spending. As growth rebounded in 2017, the IMF expects “to accelerate gradually over the medium term, contingent on improved external conditions and steadfast reform implementation.”The IMF however calls for “raising the potential pace” of this growth and “making it more inclusive.” For the international body, new measures to develop education, governance and market reforms will be need in order to “reduce persistently high levels of unemployment, especially among young people, increase women’s participation in the labor force and reduce regional disparities.” read more

Facebook removes 783 fake pages accounts tied to Iran

NEW YORK — Facebook says it has removed 783 Iran-linked pages, accounts and groups from its service for what it calls “co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour.” That’s the social network’s term for fake accounts run with the intent of disrupting politics and elections.Facebook has disclosing such purges more regularly in recent months, including ones linked to groups in Myanmar , Bangladesh and Russia .The accounts on Facebook and Instagram typically misrepresented themselves as locals in more than two dozen countries ranging from Afghanistan, Germany, India, Saudi Arabia and the U.S.Facebook says the accounts spent about $30,000 on advertisements, paid for in U.S. dollars, British pounds, Canadian dollars and euros.The company says Twitter helped its investigation by sharing information about suspicious activity it found on its own service.The Associated Press read more

Spanish Man Sentenced to 2 Years in Prison for Sexual Abuse

Rabat – A Spanish man has just been sentenced to two and a half years in prison for sexual abuse and rape against a Saharawi minor from Tindouf.Four years ago, the abuser hosted the victim in the eastern Spanish port city, Alicante, as a part of the summer vacation program organized annually for the benefit of the children in the Iberian country.Moreover, the abuser, who is a member of a local NGO that cares for sick children in Tindouf, was also sentenced by the Provincial Court of Alicante to pay a fine of EUR 3,240 for “corrupting a minor,” according to the Spanish press. The accused was also ordered to pay a compensatory fee of EUR 6,000 to the victim. He was banned by the court from receiving children from Tindouf camps for a period of four years.According to the judge of the provincial court, the minor was in Alicante in the summer of 2014  to receive treatment for an ear disease, at which time the child was touched repeatedly by the accused during his stay in the Spanish city.In addition, the searches carried out in the man’s home as part of the investigation revealed nearly 50 files containing pictures of children aged 12 to 15 who were either semi-nude or wearing underwear. read more

Spain Incurs Public Criticism for Deporting Migrants to Morocco

Rabat – The Spanish government has sparked public outcry for returning to Morocco 116 migrants who stormed the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on Wednesday.In an unprecedented move, Spanish and Moroccan authorities agreed Thursday for Spain to send back to Morocco the 116 migrants who “violently” crossed the land border from Morocco to Spain on Wednesday, August 22. Spanish authorities confirmed the deportation in a statement: “The 116 sub-Saharan migrants who illegally entered Spain through Ceuta have been readmitted by Moroccan authorities.” The statement added that the deportation process had been done “legally” in accordance with international and European norms as well as a 1992 bilateral agreement between Madrid and Rabat. “All [migrants] benefited from a lawyer, an interpreter and medical help,” according to the Spanish Ministry of the Interior. The decision has, however, provoked a storm of criticism in the country, with a coalition of 48 Spanish NGO and human rights advocacy groups describing the move as “scandalous.”Walking Borders, a Madrid-based advocacy group, said that the mass deportation on arrival was both illegal and unmindful of international law regarding the rights of migrants. The decision “constitutes a gross violation of human rights.”Proactiva Open Arms has also cast doubts on Spain’s recent reputation as a welcoming destination for migrants refused in other EU countries. “The most concerning,” the NGO said, “is that if the government is capable of such a move before the eyes of the world and in front of the cameras, we can imagine that what they do at deep sea is much worse.”Spain’s mixed feelings on migrationLeading the spiral of tirades against Spanish authorities is the far-left party Podemos, which in June played a major rule in the electoral triumph of the current socialist government.According to Podemos, Spain acted in blatant disregard of human rights and the country’s reputation for being welcoming and tolerant on migration issues. “This government should continue acting as it did in its first days,” the group said, hinting at an incident in June when Spain stepped in to receive over 600 migrants onboard the Aquarius rescue ship, a group that Malta and Italy had rejected.While others have expressed disappointment that the newly-elected socialist government would resort to such rapid mass deportation, they maintained that authorities were only following Spain’s old policy on migration. Carmen Calvo, deputy prime minister in the current socialist government, showed sympathy towards the criticism. She acknowledged the unprecedented pace in which the deportation occurred. In defense of the current government, however, she said, “Spain’s migration policy has not changed of an ounce in recent decades.”She also pointed out that the 116 migrants “violently” entered Spain, throwing dangerous chemical substances, including quicklime and battery acid, at the Spanish Civil Guard while physically assaulting others. Seven civil guards were injured in the incident, according to reports. Calvo said that is “unacceptable” to enter a country as the migrants did on Wednesday. read more

Germany launches auction for 5G network frequencies

BERLIN — Germany has launched an auction for frequencies in the future super-fast 5G network following a dispute over conditions imposed by authorities and questions over whether China’s Huawei can supply equipment.The auction, which started Tuesday, is expected to last several weeks and raise 3-5 billion euros ($3.4-5.7 billion). Existing network operators Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefonica, and newcomer Drillisch are bidding.A court last week rejected the current operators’ bid to force a delay. They faulted requirements they fear might force them to open their networks to competitors, and a call for at least 98 per cent of households in every German state to be supplied with fast internet by the end of 2022.Separately, authorities put together security requirements requiring system suppliers to be “trustworthy.” They didn’t specifically mention Huawei.The Associated Press read more

Back to the same record but its a different stock market

NEW YORK — Stock investors had to go on a harrowing round trip over the last seven months, but the market may be in a healthier place after it.The S&P 500 index of big U.S. stocks is back to a record high, closing above 2,930 on Tuesday for the first time since Sept. 20. On the way, though, it took investors on a terrifying plunge of nearly 20%, amid worries that the economy would tip into recession. After hitting bottom in December, stocks took off on a nearly mirror-image rally .Even though the S&P 500 is back at the same level, analysts say many of the market’s vital signs look different today than in late September.Worries about a possible recession have dimmed, in large part because of a change in stance by the Federal Reserve. That has many investors predicting more gains for the market this go-around, despite risks still hanging over stocks, such as the still simmering global trade war and slower growth for economies and corporate profits around the world.Here’s a look at some of the changes for the market, and one big similarity, between then and now:— AN EASIER FEDERAL RESERVEThis is the biggest difference by far, investors say.Last autumn, the Federal Reserve was deep into its plan to gradually raise interest rates, after having kept them pinned at nearly zero for years. Higher rates would slow the economy, but it would also reduce the risk of higher inflation and the job market was in much better shape than in the aftermath of the Great Recession. When the S&P 500 set its record on Sept. 20, the Fed was a week away from raising its key short-term rate by a quarter of a percentage point for the seventh time in eight quarters.But those and other moves by the Fed raised worries along Wall Street that the central bank was moving too fast and could push the economy into recession.“I was feeling very cautious on the market last fall because you were seeing a lot of straws in the wind that the Fed was too tight,” said Margie Patel, senior portfolio manager at Wells Fargo Asset Management. “Even though rates were low, you could see housing and autos looking weak, and in the stock market, every now and then, you’d see a sector of the stock market plunge for really no reason.”In December, the Fed raised rates again and said another two increases may come in 2019. But officials changed their outlook early this year, following the plunge in stock prices, and officials pledged to be patient in raising rates. Then, in March, the central bank said it may not raise rates at all in 2019.The easier tone sent the yield on the 10-year Treasury’s yield, which affects rates for mortgages and other loans, down to 2.57% from 3.07% in late September. That’s a boost for the economy, as well as for stock prices.“Recession, I think it’s off the radar now,” Patel said.— BOTTOMING GROWTH EXPECTATIONSCompanies are in the middle of telling investors how much profit they made during the first three months of 2019, and analysts have prepped for disappointment. Wall Street is forecasting a drop of more than 3% for S&P 500 companies, the first decline in nearly three years.That’s a concern for investors because stock prices tend to track profits over the long term. But analysts expect growth to return and accelerate as the year progresses. After hitting bottom in the first quarter, analysts expect S&P 500 profit growth to ramp back up to 8.5% in the fourth quarter thanks to stronger than expected revenues.Economic data has been improving around the world, which is raising optimism.When the S&P 500 set its record last fall, dueling import taxes by the United States and China threatened global growth, higher mortgage rates were hurting home sales and the initial October jobs report hinted at slower hiring.Now, U.S.-China trade tensions have dialed down, even if underlying conflicts are unresolved. Mortgage rates have fallen, home sales have recovered somewhat and the labour market has been solid, on average.The economy still appears on course for slower economic growth this year than the roughly 3% pace achieved in 2018, with economists outside of the Trump administration generally pegging the annual gain at closer to 2%. But investors see a much lower risk of recession in 2019.— A LESS EXPENSIVE MARKET, THOUGH STILL NOT CHEAPStock prices may be back to where they were in September, but they don’t look quite as expensive by some measures of value.One of the main ways that analysts measure the value of a stock is to measure its price against the company’s earnings. In September, the S&P 500 was trading at 20.6 times its earnings per share over the prior 12 months. That was well above its average of 16.3 over the prior 15 years.Today, the S&P 500 is still trading above its long-term average, but not by as much: It’s closer to 18.7.— STILL HESITANT INVESTORSWhen interest rates are low for a long time, the concern is that it will inflate a bubble. Two decades ago, investors piled into dot-com stocks and pushed them to prices that markets now see as ludicrous. In the middle of the last decade, it was housing prices that soared too high, too fast.So far, at least, investors are still hesitant to pile into stocks. This is actually a reason the market may be primed for more gains, some analysts say.Investors have pulled more money out of U.S. stock funds in the last few months than they’ve put in, according to the Investment Company Institute. If those skeptical investors come back to stocks, it could provide a further lift.Of course, many risks still remain for markets, and few analysts are predicting the S&P 500 to continue rising in a straight line, as it has for much of 2019. Negotiations on the U.S.-China trade war are still ongoing. Low interest rates have encouraged U.S. companies to gorge themselves on debt, and some ideas percolating in Washington, such as universal health care, could drag down corporate profits.Still, many investors are feeling better about the market’s health this go-around, most of all because the easier Fed has helped diminish threat of recession.“This 2,900 is better than the 2,900 we had a few months ago,” said Steve Chiavarone, equity strategist at Federated investors.___AP Economics Writer Josh Boak contributed to this report.Stan Choe, The Associated Press read more

UNbacked peace brokers in GeorgiaAbkhaz conflict urge talks to enhance security

At a two-day meeting in Geneva, the so-called Group of Friends of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon – France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States – highlighted the need to refrain from any action that could impede progress or undermine confidence, and urged both sides to take into account one another’s sensitivities and cooperate to deescalate tensions. Mr. Ban’s Special Representative for Georgia Jean Arnault and representatives of both sides attended the talks, which wrapped up on Tuesday. The Group of Friends referred to the zone of conflict and also to the upper Kodori valley, which has in the past been the scene of clashes. Last October, a rocket attack occurred in the valley. Last December, the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) resumed patrols in the sector after a break of three years. UNOMIG was set up in 1993 and expanded following the signing by the parties of the 1994 Agreement on a Ceasefire and Separation of Forces to verify compliance, with patrols of the Kodori valley a specific part of its mandate, but it stopped patrolling the upper part of the valley in 2003 when four mission members were held hostage for a few days by unknown armed elements.Just last month the UN Security Council cited the resumption of patrols as a positive development but expressed unease at the continuing tension between the two sides. In a report to the 15-member body, Mr. Ban warned that recent violence could escalate and he called on all sides to engage in dialogue. He highlighted the killing of three members of the Abkhaz militia in and also an attack on a Georgian checkpoint in early January that killed one policeman and wounded another. UNOMIG currently has some 140 uniformed personnel, including 127 military observers and 12 police, supported by 100 international civilian personnel and 178 local civilian staff. 14 February 2007A United Nations-backed group of countries involved in the peace process between the Georgian Government and Abkhaz separatists have called on both sides to immediately tackle security issues in north-west Georgia, where they fought a war 13 years ago that forced nearly 300,000 refugees to flee. read more

Ban Kimoon calls on new generation to take better care of Planet

1 March 2007United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on the world’s younger generation to take better care of Planet Earth in the face of global warming than his own. “We are all complicit in the process of global warming. Unsustainable practices are deeply entrenched in our everyday lives. But in the absence of decisive measures, the true cost of our actions will be borne by succeeding generations, starting with yours,” Mr. Ban told a UN International School conference in the General Assembly Hall in New York. “That would be an unconscionable legacy; one which we must all join hands to avert. As it stands, the damage already inflicted on our ecosystem will take decades, perhaps centuries, to reverse – if we act now. “Unfortunately, my generation has been somewhat careless in looking after our one and only planet. But I am hopeful that is finally changing. And I am also hopeful that your generation will prove far better stewards of our environment; in fact, looking around this hall today, I have a strong sense that you already are,” he added. Mr. Ban cited his own childhood in war-ravaged Korea as the starting point of his identification with the UN which ended hostilities on the peninsula. “I grew up viewing the United Nations as a saviour; an organization which helped my country, the Republic of Korea, recover and rebuild from a devastating conflict,” he declared. “Yet if there is one crucial difference between the era I grew up in, and the world you inherit, it is of the relative dangers we face. For my generation, coming of age at the height of the cold war, fear of a nuclear winter seemed the leading existential threat on the horizon. “Today, war continues to threaten countless men, women and children across the globe. It is the source of untold suffering and loss. And the majority of the UN’s work still focuses on preventing and ending conflict. But the danger posed by war to all of humanity – and to our planet – is at least matched by the climate crisis and global warming,” he added. As he has frequently stressed since he took office on 1 January, Mr. Ban said action on climate change would be one of his top priorities as Secretary-General, noting that global warming has profound implications for jobs, growth and poverty, affecting agriculture, the spread of disease and migration patterns, determining the ferocity and frequency of natural disasters, and prompting droughts, land degradation and other changes that “are likely to become a major driver of war and conflict.” He added that he would discuss climate change with global leaders at this June’s summit meeting of the G-8 major industrialized nations. “These issues transcend borders,” he declared. “That is why protecting the world’s environment is largely beyond the capacity of individual countries. Only concerted and coordinated international action, supported and sustained by individual initiative, will be sufficient. “The natural arena for such action is the United Nations. I am strongly committed to ensuring that the United Nations helps the international community make the transition to sustainable practices.” read more

Darfur UNICEF lauds agreement by former rebels to hand over children

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today welcomed the announcement by a former Sudanese rebel faction that it will begin handing over children participating in its armed groups in Darfur.The Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A), which is one of the signatories of last year’s Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA), has indicated that several children attached to its forces in North and South Darfur have been identified, and further formal identification of children will begin next month.“Today we are thankful that for many children in Darfur the process of rebuilding their lives can begin,” said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF Representative in Sudan. “Every day these children have been associated with armed groups has been a day of childhood lost.”Today’s announcement comes after months of discussions between UNICEF and SLM/A, and the signing ceremony was officially witnessed by Acting Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General Oluseyi Bajulaiye.The agreement obliges the SLM/A to name locations where children are associated with its armed groups in one month, after which the group and the UN will embark on a joint verification project.UNICEF, partnering with the Government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), will assist in helping the children find their families and will participate in community integration programmes. The agency will also train SLM/A field commanders on international children’s rights and protection standards.Demobilized children will also be able to take part in life skills and vocational training schemes and be provided with educational support. During the period of reintegration, social workers will monitor and follow-up up with these youth, UNICEF said.“Today’s agreement with the SLM/A is only the start of the process,” Mr. Chaiban noted. “It will take time for children to be properly identified and appropriate reintegration programmes to be established, but I hope we will now see real efforts to turn this agreement into tangible action for children, and that others will now agree to hand over children that may be attached to their own forces.”Although the exact number of children associated with armed forces and groups in Darfur are unknown, UNICEF estimates that at least 7,000 children in the region are acting as combatants or are in subsidiary roles such as porters, cooks, messengers and bodyguards.“These children are amongst the most vulnerable in Darfur, and they must be given the chance to go home, and take back their childhood,” Mr. Chaiban observed.This January, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, and former UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah appealed to both signatories and non-signatories to the DPA to demobilize children.The recruitment and use of children by parties to armed conflict is outlawed by a number of UN resolutions and by an Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Sudan has signed. The country’s draft Armed Forces Act also criminalizes the recruitment of children under the age of 18 into the armed forces. 11 June 2007The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today welcomed the announcement by a former Sudanese rebel faction that it will begin handing over children participating in its armed groups in Darfur. read more