New Delhi: The factor of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati has put Congress high command in a tizzy to put AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in high profile Varanasi constituency.Priyanka made her intention clear to contest against PM Modi if the party high command decides to field her from the high profile seat. What made Congress leadership indecisive on her candidature is reluctance from the BSP supremo Mayawati to support Priyanka as a consensus opposition candidate against the Prime Minister. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’Political managers of the grand old party are trying hard to convince BSP supremo to withdraw Mahagathbandhan candidate from Varanasi. The party is still waiting for a green signal from both SP and BSP leadership. Samajwadi Party’s Shalini Yadav has been fielded from Varanasi. Varanasi goes to poll on the last phase of the Lok Sabha poll on May 19. PM Modi is scheduled to reach Varanasi on Thursday to have a grand road show with all NDA partners prior to filing nomination on Friday. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&KSources from Congress party indicated that Mayawati is very apprehensive about the candidature of Priyanka Gandhi as it might create an atmosphere whole of eastern UP in favour of other Congress candidates who are fighting against Mahagatbandhan candidates. Dalit and upper caste may switch over to Congress party thereby damaging BSP’S prospects in the state. This time Mayawati is fighting her battle almost for the existence of her relevance in the Hindi heartland. For last few days Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had said at least three times that she would contest from Varanasi “if the party asks me to do so.” She has also conveyed strongly that she is not worried about losing or winning. She wants to take on PM Modi to convey a message to the whole country and about an idea of India what they cherished since freedom struggle days. On Monday, the Samajwadi Party had fielded Shalini Yadav, a Bhumihar by birth who married to a Yadav family as an opposition candidate. Shalini, who had recently joined SP, is a daughter-in-law of a former Congress lawmaker. Congress leadership tried to reach out to Akhilesh Yadav to sponsor Priyanka Gandhi Vadera’s candidature from Varanasi. It is learnt that though SP leadership is not so opposed to the idea but they fear backlash from BSP who might break the alliance at the last moment. Therefore, the candidature of Priyanka is still hanging in balance, but Congress leadership has made their mind even if Priyanka does not contest they would put up a candidate against PM Modi in Varanasi.
New Delhi: Experienced English umpire Ian Gould will quit umpiring after the upcoming World Cup slated to be held in England and Wales from May 30. Gould is part of the 22 match officials — consisting of 16 umpires and six match referees –who will officiate in the showpiece event. This will be the fourth World Cup appearance for Gould. The 61-year-old, who was England’s wicketkeeper in the 1983 World Cup, has officiated in 74 Tests, 135 ODIs and 37 T20Is so far. Also Read – Puducherry on top after 8-wkt win over Chandigarh ICC’s General Manager of Cricket Geoff Allardice praised Gould’s contribution to the game in the field of umpiring. “Ian has made an outstanding contribution to the game over a long period, particularly in the last decade as an international umpire for the ICC. He has always put the interests of the game first, and in doing so has earned enormous respect from his colleagues and players across all countries,” said Allardice. “His presence on the field will be missed, but I am sure his lifelong association with the game will continue,” he added.
New Delhi: The rough and tumble of the electoral arena is quite different from a cricket pitch but it’s game on for star bat and political novice Gautam Gambhir, who says he is up for the challenge notwithstanding the controversies that have sprung up since he joined the BJP. The cricketer-turned-politician, who is contesting his first Lok Sabha election as a BJP candidate from East Delhi, said he is new to the political game and sometimes doesn’t know quite how to react to controversies. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss account details under automatic exchange framework Opposition parties have been mounting pressure for Gambhir’s disqualification. First, his nomination was held up for a few hours on the last day of filing over a technical discrepancy. Then, two complaints were filed against him for allegedly holding two voter IDs. Besides, the East Delhi returning officer asked police to file a complaint against Gambhir for holding a public meeting allegedly without permission. Pitted against AAP leader Atishi and Congress heavyweight Arvinder Singh Lovely, Gambhir admitted challenges in politics are very different but stressed he ready to tackle them. Also Read – Trio win Nobel Medicine Prize for work on cells, oxygen This is new to me and I don’t know how to react, Gambhir told PTI in an interview. Referring to Atishi’s remark that those who don’t know the rules shouldn’t play the game, Gambhir said, I know only one rule that is getting into politics with emotions, right intent and clean heart. That is the first rule of politics and I don’t know what rules they are talking about. “I have only one voter ID card from Rajender Nagar. I used to live with my maternal grandparents as a child at Ramjas Road (in Karol Bagh), but I never voted from or applied for any voter identity card from there,” he said, responding to Atishi’s allegations. The 38-year-old, who retired from cricket last year, is the richest candidate in Delhi with declared assets of Rs 147 crore. Gambhir, played winning knocks in two World Cup finals, said he didn’t have a smooth run in cricket and believes challenges inspire and bring out the best in him. I don’t think it is going to be a cakewalk for me. I am ready for that challenge. I have made it very clear in all my speeches and meetings that we want to do positive politics. We want to take development to the people, Gambhir asserted. The idea, he added, is not to made Delhi like London or Paris but a city where we and the next generation can breathe better air and drink pure water. These basic things are more important rather than false promises, added the batsman who scored 75 runs of 54 balls in the 2007 T20 WC final and 97 runs in 2011 ODI WC final. So what is tougher, playing those knocks in a pressure situation or contesting elections? Stating that it is to early to comment, he said, I am just five days old in politics. Though I joined BJP a month back, I am literally totally new. Politics presents very different challenges as compared to cricket, but it is very exciting as well. When we played cricket, we tried to bring happiness to people’s faces. But here we can completely change their lives and I want to do that. Gambhir, who has long been active on Twitter, attracting attention with his remarks on social and political issues, said he never wanted to be someone who tweets from an air-conditioned room and then does nothing about it. I had two choices. To either stop tweeting and turn a blind eye about whatever is happening in the country or do something about it. I couldn’t have opted for the first as I am too emotional about India so I chose the second, he said. The former cricketer has been vocal about his view that there should be no bilateral cricket with Pakistan and said he does not see anything wrong about the neighbouring country being an electoral issue. National security is very important. Why can’t it be a national agenda or electoral issue. We have seen in last 70 years that talks have taken us nowhere. We had several opportunities in the past to take strong decisions like after 26/11. You missed it and now PM has taken those with Uri or Pulwama. Why blame a person who has shown the willpower and courage to safeguard this country, he said. Known for speaking his mind, he said he is not going be diplomatic or politically correct in politics. I don’t need to curtail my emotions. I am not power or position hungry. If I was power hungry I would not have stepped down from Delhi’s captaincy last year. My emotions are my biggest strength and that will always stay, said Gambhir. Politics is now his first priority and he will focus all his attention on it, he declared. Other commitments (commentary) will take a backseat, Gambhir said, adding that he never had a mentor in cricket and won’t have one in politics either. Comparing politics and cricket, he said they are completely different but results are important in both. Being a sportsman, for me everyone is same. The youth of Kashmir should get the same opportunities as people in Delhi or Mumbai. All communities, including transgenders, should get benefit of development. We can’t leave anyone behind and expect this country to grow, he added.
Mumbai: OTT platform Hotstar broke global records by registering 18.6 million concurrent viewers in the VIVO Indian Premier League (IPL) 2019 final. The final match between Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings that took place on Sunday saw the streaming platform soar past its earlier record of 12.7 million concurrent users, achieved during an earlier game in the same tournament, according to a statement. With the 12th edition of the VIVO IPL, Hotstar aimed to reach 300 million unique visitors, and by the end of the tournament, Hotstar had not only recorded in excess of 300 million users but also witnessed a 74 per cent increase in watch-time as compared to last year. Also Read – We will push hard for Kabaddi”s inclusion in 2024 Olympics: Rijiju Varun Narang, Chief Product Officer, Hotstar, said: “We have an innate belief in delivering a game-changing viewing experience to our consumers through ideas that challenge the status quo. “With technology as our backbone and our all-round expertise in driving scale, we are confident we will continue to break global records and set new benchmarks with each passing year.” The IPL began on March 23. The seven-week tournament was stream streamed live in eight languages on the platform, which is now gearing up for the upcoming ICC Cricket World Cup. Also Read – Djokovic to debut against Shapovalov at Shanghai Masters For the IPL, Hotstar had rolled out a campaign #KoiYaarNahiFar, a social cricket-watching experience to bring people together irrespective of their location, enabling them to watch the matches together while simultaneously participating against each other in the ‘Watch N Play’ game. As many as 64.4 million users who engaged on the platform’s ‘Watch N Play’ social feature. These users answered 1.2 billion ‘Watch N Play’ game questions, and sent over 5.9 billion emojis and 43.5 million comments.
Rabat – Moroccan authorities will deploy 100,000 members of the armed forces across the entire country on Wednesday to protect the New Year festivities from potential terrorist threats.The Kingdom of Morocco will enter a state of maximum security alert on Wednesday morning as a measure to guard the territory from any attacks on New Year’s Eve.“100,000 armed officers will be deployed throughout the kingdom to secure the New Year festivities,” Moroccan daily Assabah informed on its Wednesday issue. On Monday, the same source noted that Morocco figures among the list of countries threatened to be a target of ISIS’ chemical attacks on the evening of December 31.“Intelligence services of various European countries have published reports in which they detail ISIS’ plan to attack several capitals of countries that are members of the coalition against this organization,” Assabah revealed, citing that Morocco is among these countries.“Informed sources have sent firm instructions to all departments to mobilize as soon as Tuesday, December 29 at midnight, 100,000 officials from the military, national security, the Royal Gendarmerie and the Auxiliary Forces,” the daily said.This large mobilization will be reportedly deployed to critical locations in Morocco, including public areas, busy establishments, and tourist attractions, among others.To protect the country from any possible terrorist infiltration, security will be tightened around all national borders, the same source said.A command center has been set up within the General Staff of the Royal Armed Forces (FAR) to oversee the mobilization within the various armed forces, whether by land, air or sea.Morocco’s intelligence services, including the Moroccan General Directorate of National Security (DGNS), the General Directorate of Territorial Surveillance (DGST), the General Directorate of Studies and Documentation (DGED), and the Royal Gendarmerie, will work in cooperation with the FAR command center.“Instructions have been given to cancel all holidays and trips from officials of the military, national security and the royal gendarmerie,” the same source revealed.Members of so-called Islamic State have threatened to attack several countries during the New Year festivities. They have reportedly named their terrorist plan, “the conquest of the New Year!”The Central Bureau of Judiciary Investigations (BCIJ), a branch of the DGST, arrested nine “dangerous” criminals on December 11, who were active in several Moroccan cities and villages (Kenitra, Sale, Kasbah Tadla, Douar Ghram Laalam, Ait Ishaq).The nine-member terrorist cell was allegedly planning to carry out similar attacks to those in Paris on November 13.
By Majid MorceliSan Francisco – In the last few weeks, there has been much talk about Morocco’s world cup chances to be awarded the organization of the world cup.There are those who said that Morocco’s chances are high, considering the world is not very fond of the American president. Others say that the American administration has not fully backed the North American joint bid, whereas Morocco has a full support of the Moroccan government. Many analysts stated that Moroccan infrastructure was no match for that of North America.Others stated that Morocco is a land of soccer and should be awarded the organization of the tournament — omitting that the most popular sport in Mexico a country with 123 million people is indeed soccer. In the U.S., there are 30 million people involved with soccer. When the US organized the world cup in 1994, the stadiums were at full capacity throughout the tournament, I attended few games myself, and the atmosphere during the games was impeccable, and the stadiums were full. While the latest CAF 2018 championship was a success, we simply cannot compare the organization of an African event with a world event. Needless to say, only games featuring the Moroccan team were sufficiently attended by soccer fans. The other games were practically deserted. Let us also remember that the organizers did not charge fans any fees to attend the CHAN 2018 games, which likely have increased attendance.While much of what has been said is true and makes sense in a perfect world, none of the analysts — or at least those I have read so far — mentioned what I think would be the ultimate factor in deciding who will be awarded the organization the FIFA World Cup. It is the strength of the relationship between the candidates and the voting countries that will determine the final outcome. Of course, the benefits the voting countries will garner in return for their vote must also be considered in this case. Morocco understood very early on that the vote will be based on who you know and not on what infrastructure you possess.We do not live in a perfect word where common sense prevails. Voting countries will ask themselves who will benefit them the most. Voters are much less interested whether president Trump is for or against Muslims. Saudi Arabia, the so-called guardian of the pillars of Islam just awarded president Trump a $400 billion business deal regardless of his proven animosity toward Muslims. The United Arab Emirates bluntly stated that president Trump has every right to ban Muslims from certain countries from entering the U.S.South and North American countries will most likely vote for the North American bid for obvious reasons, just as Africa will probably side with Morocco. Some believe that Europe will vote Morocco due to proximity, though other than Spain and France, I cannot be assured that the remaining European countries will vote for Morocco. Their relationship with North America is much more beneficial to them.Proximity would be the least of their concern when submitting their vote. Let us not forget that even if a certain country has an issue with president Trump’s behavior, Canada and Mexico could not be discarded as factors.The 50 Asian countries of FIFA do more business with North America and their majority will vote against Morocco. As an example, every single soccer uniform or accessory eventually sold to fans will probably be made in Asian countries which will create jobs in Asia. Will Morocco be able to convince enough countries that it is in their benefit to vote for us? One thing is certain: time is running out, and Moroccan organizers are wasting it. when dealing with rest of the world, old habits will have to change. So far, we have yet to see or hear how Morocco can make it beneficial for the majority of countries to vote for us. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent any institution or entity. © Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
Rabat – The PSA Kenitra plant, which is the Moroccan subsidiary of the French PSA Peugeot Citroen, is expected to be close to full operational capabilities this year, a company representative and Morocco’s Ministry of Industry announced at a press conference on Thursday in Casablanca.In its initial plan, PSA Kenitra was supposed to be operational by 2020, with an annual output of roughly 200,000 cars. However, at yesterday’s press conference, the Minister of Industry, Investment, and Commerce, Moulay Hafid Elalamy, announced that the Kenitra plant will be operational in 2018, stating that all the requirements were met earlier than expected.“The project is ahead of schedule. The two Kenitra plants have already been built and are now undergoing trial operations,” the minister said, adding that the factory’s first motor was built and sent to France where, after undergoing series of diligent trials, it gained “all the required validations.” He also mentioned that the project already has 1,500 engineers and qualified workers, a number which the minister said is “a bit above what PSA asked for.” While the prototype of a Kenitra-made car is set to be out by July 2018, the company is expected to be fully operational by 2019, one year earlier than originally planned. Mr. Elalamy expressed his joy that such a remarkable project could be achieved within so short a span, underscoring his hope that the project will be a game-changer for the Moroccan and African automobile markets.“Kenitra has exceeded our expectations,” the minister noted. He explained that the main rationale behind the PSA-sponsored project in Kenitra is to transform and rejuvenate Morocco’s mobile industry, make it competitive and present in the global market, and “vitalize local sourcing.”Also speaking at the conference, PSA Africa-Mideast Representative Jean Christophe Quemard spoke profusely about his satisfaction regarding the pace and strategic significance of the project, saying that such a success is due to the fact that “both parties kept their end of the bargain.”He said that his company is “proud to announce that the first Kenitra-made car has already been assembled” and is set to be presented to the public in the months to come.He noted that PSA’s presence in Kenitra is founded on “a unique strategy and a vision of extended partnership with Morocco.”“PSA is doing in Morocco what no other automobile group has realized in Africa,” he stressed.By the time the two plants begin full operations in 2019, it is estimated that over 2,000 direct and 20,000 indirect employment positions will be generated. Meanwhile, at the start year 2019 alone, annual output is estimated to be 100,000 cars, with predictions that the output may reach the planned output of 200,000 cars by 2020.For Mr. Quemard, given the wide range of partnerships that PSA is seeking to establish between Moroccan engineering universities and their French counterparts, the PSA Kenitra subsidiary will be a pivotal point in helping the country realize its dream of becoming the undisputed hub of “sustained mobility” in Africa and beyond.
Rabat – Morocco’s social media impact has been tested for the past two weeks in an unprecedented economic boycott of some of Morocco’s most popular consumer product brands. #Boycotters is a trending hashtag that represents the widely spread boycott of the brands of three major popular Moroccan companies. The French majority-owned Central Danone and Eaux Minérales d’Oulmès, owned by Holmarcom, and AFRIQUIA GAZ, owned by the Akwa Group, are losing this digital battle that has been sweeping Morocco for the past two weeks. The backlash of the boycott has caused the shares of these companies to plummet as the angry boycotters continue to control their message and focus on their target companies. In a poorly planned attempt to absorb the crisis when it started, an executive at Central Danone insulted the boycotters and called them “traitors” in a video. He later apologized and was presumably fired by the company after he made the situation even worse for Central Danone, whose hashtag #LetItSpoil targeted the company and its dairy products. It was rumored that Eaux Minérales d’Oulmès lowered the prices for some of its brands for fear that the boycott would spread to other companies and brands owned by Holmarcom. Without any strong digital strategy to respond to the boycott, this was used as an attempt to contain the crisis. The price decrease was reported to have reached 20% to 55% in the last twenty-four hours. The prices were slashed by 20% off the popular brand Sidi Ali, which was targeted in the boycott, and were reduced even more for other brands, such as Bahia. However, Eaux Minérales d’Oulmès still lacked a proper social media response and exhibited no proper digital communication strategy about the boycott. In a continuously defiant response to the boycott, Afriquia has neither issued an apology nor lowered its prices, despite a 6% loss in its shares. In an attempt to regain investors’ confidence in the midst of the crisis, the gas and oil distribution company owned by the Akwa Group published its results for 2017 two days ago. The company reported making a 24.2% or 4424 million Dirham increase compared to 2016, distributing dividends of 125 MAD per share. The company, run by the strong Minister of Agriculture Aziz Akhannouch, remains silent in the digital sphere, displaying no efforts to contain the ongoing boycott. In analyzing the Moroccan boycott crisis, it is clear that the social media campaign in support of the boycott, spread by ordinary citizens, is far more successful than the actions of the corporate entities in Morocco. The boycott crisis will mark an important milestone in the history of media in Morocco, as the boycotters exposed corporate Morocco’s lack of preparedness. They are causing large losses in corporate profits and are disparaging the professional profiles of executives in some of Morocco’s largest companies.The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial views.© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
OTTAWA — Canada saw a rush of 66,800 net new jobs in January in a gain fuelled by a surge in the private sector.Statistics Canada’s labour force survey says more people also searched for work last month, which pushed the unemployment rate to 5.8 per cent, up from its 43-year low 5.6 per cent in December.The number of private-sector employee positions climbed by 111,500 in January for the category’s biggest month-to-month increase since the agency started collecting the data point in 1976.The report says the services sector saw a gain of 99,200 positions, led by new work in wholesale and retail trade, while the goods-producing industries experienced a net loss of 32,300 jobs.Year-over-year average hourly wage growth in January for permanent employees was 1.8 per cent, which was up from December’s reading of 1.5 per cent, but still well below its May peak of 3.9 per cent.By region, Ontario and Quebec had the biggest job gains, while Alberta shed jobs for a second-straight month and saw its jobless rate rise to 6.8 per cent, up from 6.4 per cent.The Canadian Press
SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Video game maker Activision Blizzard is laying off nearly 800 workers as the company braces for a steep downturn in revenue following the best year in its history.The cutbacks announced Tuesday illustrate the boom-and-bust cycles in an industry whose fortunes are tied to video games that can have a relatively short lives before players move on to the next craze.Although Activision also still owns popular games such as “Call of Duty” and “Candy Crush,” the Santa Monica, California, company expects its revenue this year to fall by about 20 per cent to $6 billion.Activision will cope trimming 8 per cent from its workforce of nearly 10,000 people and assigning more of its remaining employees to work on “Call of Duty,” ”Candy Crush,” and several other titles.The Associated Press
Rabat – Morocco is the first Arab guest of honor at Belgrade’s International Book Fair, October 21-28 in Serbia. The book fair kicked off on Sunday under the slogan “The Joy of Reading.” Morocco’s book stand display is at a prominent location. “Morocco is the first Arab country to be the guest of honor at the Belgrade Book Fair and we will try to put together a hundred books on a 100 square meter stand, including books, literature, history, philosophy, and social sciences,” said Mohammed Amine Belhaj, the Moroccan ambassador to Serbia and Montenegro. As a guest of honor, Morocco will introduce the book fair visitors to Moroccan literature, culture, and history through prominent authors, translators, publishers, and distributors. Under the dome of the Belgrade Book Fair, members of the Moroccan delegation will give lectures at both the exhibition stand and in the conference halls.Approximately 1,000 exhibitors are participating in the 63rd International Belgrade Book fair this year. The exhibition is an occasion for bibliomaniacs to collect titles from all over the world.Previous guests of honor include Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein (2017), Iran (2016), and Russia (2015).Inauguration of the Stand of the Kingdom of Morocco, Guest of Honor of the 63th International Belgarde Book Fair by H.E Mr. Mohamed El Aaraj, Minister of Culture and Communication of the Kingdom of Morocco and his Serbian Counterpart, H.E Mr. Vladan Vukosavljevic. pic.twitter.com/xG1NlzftS5— Morocco In Serbia (@MoroccoInSerbia) 21 octobre 2018“Morocco’s participation confirms the Kingdom’s wish to strengthen the diplomatic relations, cultural exchange and bilateral ties between the two nations. Through this exhibition, we will also introduce the wide audience to the eclectic and varied Moroccan culture and identity: Arabic, Islamic, Amazigh, Sahrawi, Hassaniyan, Andalusian, Jewish and Mediterranean,” stated Minister of Culture Mohamed El Aaraj.On the same note, the Serbian minister of culture, Vladan Vukosavljevic said, “Morocco is a model to follow thanks to its affluent cultural richness and its creativity in preserving the civilization and cultural heritage, which is something that makes Morocco well-known worldwide.”By Mohammed Bella
NEW YORK — Wells Fargo Chief Executive Tim Sloan is stepping, effective immediately, after less than four years on the job during which saw an unending wave of scandals at the troubled bank.Sloan said in a statement he will step down from his roles as CEO, president and member of the bank’s board of directors effective immediately. He will retire from the bank completely on June 30.Sloan’s brief tenure at the banking giant was rocky. A longtime insider, Sloan was chosen to replace outgoing CEO John Stumpf, who resigned after Wells Fargo employees were found to have opened millions of bank accounts fraudulently in order to meet unrealistic sales goals.Sloan tried to fix Wells Fargo’s broken culture, but the bank was plagued by several similar scandals afterward.The Associated Press
SEATTLE — Washington is set to become the first state to enter the private health insurance market with a universally available public option.A set of tiered public plans will cover standard services and are expected to be up to 10% cheaper than comparable private insurance, thanks in part to savings from a cap on rates paid to providers. But unlike existing government-managed plans, Washington’s public plans are set to be available to all residents regardless of income by 2021.The Legislature approved the plan last month, and Gov. Jay Inslee is scheduled to sign it into law Monday.The move thrusts Washington into the national debate over the government’s role in health care, with a hybrid model that puts the state to the left of market-only approaches but stops short of a completely public system.Instead, the state will dictate the terms of the public option plans but hire private insurance companies to administer them, saving the state from having to create a new bureaucracy — and guaranteeing a role for the insurance industry in managing the new public option.Lawmakers in at least eight other states including Colorado and New Mexico have proposed their own public option measures. But so far none have passed legislation implementing a public option.Backers acknowledge the rate caps at the heart of the plan risk creating coverage gaps in rural areas. But they hope to persuade doctors to accept lower rates by bringing the state’s purchasing power to bear. The savings would be used to sell the plans at a competitive price.Inslee, who is also running for president, embraced the idea based on early work by a state legislator and later officially requested the public option bill.Its sponsor, Seattle Sen. David Frockt, a Democrat, said the hybrid system was a compromise.“What’s important about this plan is that the government is coming in and taking a more aggressive role in regulating the cost drivers of health care,” Frockt said.The core proposition of Washington’s plan, dubbed Cascade Care, is that it will save consumers money by capping payments to doctors, hospitals and other health care providers.The cost cap is central to the program’s long-term survival: Set it too high, and there will be no savings to pass along. Set it too low, and the state runs the risk of providers declining the plan, leaving it to whither as consumers seek alternatives that provide more choice, said Jennifer Tolbert, director of the Kaiser Foundation’s state health care analysis program.The question is especially critical in Washington’s rural counties, many of which were already hit hardest by health care cost increases.To attract providers, Washington lawmakers chose a relatively high figure to start: The plan caps payouts at 160 per cent of federal Medicare rates.That’s more than other states have proposed. In New Mexico, lawmakers considered using Medicaid rates, among the lowest paid to doctors and hospitals by any insurance plan. Lobbying firm Manatt estimated that could have translated into cost savings for consumers of more than 20% compared with similar private plans on the individual market.By comparison, Washington’s higher pay rate for doctors is estimated to save participants only 5 to 10%, according to Jason McGill, Inslee’s senior policy adviser on health.But even at the higher rate, the plan risks leaving coverage gaps in the least-populated counties, said Democratic Rep. Eileen Cody, an early architect of the plan who chairs the House Health Care and Wellness committee.The state has already had problems guaranteeing private coverage in those areas. Two counties were recently at risk of having no insurers offering individual plans, and others have only a single hospital or hospital network, allowing providers to drive up costs.The result has been rural areas bucking the state’s broader trend of moderate cost increases: A quarter of Washington counties, mostly rural, have seen triple-digit increases in the cost of premiums for a benchmark bronze-level plan in the last year alone, with some rising by as much as three times the increase seen in King County, home of Seattle, according to data from the Kaiser Foundation.Another unique aspect of Washington’s plan is its hybrid management model.Despite its name, the public option won’t be provided by the state itself, and state employees won’t deal directly with patients.Instead, the measure directs state health care authorities to hire one or more private insurance companies: The state will determine the broad outlines of the public plans, but private companies will handle day-to-day administration, including enrolling patients and paying out claims.“It’s an attempt to keep the insurance companies in the game,” said Aaron Katz, a University of Washington professor who teaches health policy and has studied U.S. health care markets.Like earlier decisions to have private companies administer parts of the Medicare and Medicaid systems in some states, Washington’s hybrid model tries to preserve some competition while fixing problems like stability and coverage gaps, Kaatz said.But it also has the effect of weaving insurance companies further into the fabric of public health care — potentially creating a barrier for later efforts to move to a completely public system.“The size of the business that we are giving to private insurers makes it ever more difficult to ever extract ourselves from those dependencies,” Katz said.It’s also a departure from public option proposals that have cropped up in other states, where lawmakers have mostly tried to broaden eligibility for programs like Medicaid, said Emily Blanford of the National Conference of State Legislatures.Still, a hybrid model theoretically has some advantages, Blanford said, including allowing the state to start from scratch designing rates and provider networks without needing a new program and staff.Tom James, The Associated Press
12 February 2007The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has reported early successes in the disarmament campaign it is carrying out around the town of Beni, close to the country’s eastern border with Uganda. The Beni office of the UN Mission, also known as MONUC, launched a sensitization programme via radio last month targeted at the roughly 1,000 Congolese and Ugandan rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces/National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF/NALU).In the broadcasts which aim to persuade young rebels to give up their weapons, the methods available to renounce the rebellion with honour, as well as ways to return to their respective countries with MONUC’s assistance, are explained. To reach the widest audience possible, the programme is broadcasted in such languages as Swahili, Kinade/Lukonjo, Ugandan, French and English.On 13 January, two rebel Ugandans, ages 23 and 27, who had been forced to join the ADF/NALU when they were 14 and 16, surrendered.Rebels are banned from listening to disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, reintegration and reinsertion (DDRRR) programming, yet “it was through word of mouth that both soldiers had the chance to listen to the broadcasts with their colleagues,” according to Major Rohit Mishra and Mwitiravali Sikuli of MONUC.“Both ex-combatants really wished to join the DDRRR programme, and renounce their part in an illegal rebellion which was being made less and less justifiable by the major political changes taking place in both Uganda and the DRC,” they added.Despite the formal end in 1999 of a civil war, widely considered the most lethal conflict since World War II, which cost 4 million lives due to fighting, hunger and disease, threats to law and order remain. MONUC has overseen the country’s transition, culminating in a landmark multi-party election in 2006, the country’s first in over four decades.
“Urgent assistance is needed to provide for the many thousands of people affected by this overwhelming series of natural hazards,” UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said. Immediate needs include food to prevent acute malnutrition; drugs, water and sanitation to treat and prevent waterborne diseases; and agricultural input such as seeds and fertilizer to restore agricultural production. Additional needs include shelter and non food items, child protection, health, education, logistics and coordination. Since December, a series of cyclones, with accompanying heavy rainfall, has lashed several regions of the Indian Ocean island nation, damaging large swathes of land. Some 293,000 people are expected to require assistance in the coming months, including 33,000 displaced persons and 260,000 others affected by the loss of up to 80 per cent of crops in south-eastern areas of the country. “Madagascar has been hit by a series of cyclones this year, which has drained in-country supplies,” UN Resident Coordinator Bouri Sanhouidi said. “We need to replenish relief supplies to ensure that we are prepared, as more rains are expected along with possible cyclones.” Last month, the Government launched a $242-million appeal for help in responding to needs created by the severe floods that started in December, as well as an existing drought situation prevailing in the south, which has affected 582,000 people. Madagascar, with a population of some 18 million, is prone to a wide range of natural disasters, which regularly cause damage to the local communities as well as set-backs to economic growth. The country ranks 143 out of 177 countries on the 2006 Human Development Index. 16 March 2007The United Nations and its humanitarian partners today launched a $9.6-million six-month Flash Appeal for Madagascar to aid nearly 300,000 people affected by heavy flooding and cyclones.
20 June 2007Members of the Security Council wrapped up their week-long mission to Africa today, holding meetings with United Nations and Government officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The DRC was the last stop on the Council’s five-nation tour which also took the 15-member body to Ethiopia, Sudan, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, in support of ongoing peace efforts on the continent.When the delegation arrived in Kinshasa yesterday, they received briefings from the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, William Swing, and other UN officials about the work of the UN Mission in that country (MONUC), a spokesperson for the world body said.With MONUC’s support, the country last year held its first fully democratic vote since independence, resulting in the election of President Joseph Kabila and a parliament.French Ambassador Jean Marc de la Sablière, the head of this leg of the Council trip, congratulated the Congolese people for “the political maturity which they showed at the crucial stage of the elections, which allowed them to finally emerge from crisis and the transition.”Speaking to reporters in Kinshasa, he added “there are now new challenges that are a matter for the Democratic Republic of the Congo to strengthen what has been made, to create a strong democratic society on the basis of these elections.” During their meeting with President Kabila today, Council members discussed the post-electoral situation in the DRC, security issues and the reform of the military. The President also brought up proposals for a Great Lakes security summit. The delegation also met with Acting Prime Minister Nzanga Mobutu and other Cabinet officials, along with members of the Senate and National Assembly and civil society and community leaders.Council members are scheduled to arrive back in New York tomorrow.
Monitoring developments on the Iraq-Turkey border, the United Nations refugee agency today warned that the number of Iraqis displaced by conflict could rise beyond the already staggering 4.7 million who have fled either within the country or across borders.Ron Redmond, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said the agency “is worried about ongoing instability that could lead to further displacement.”Staffers of the agency “are closely watching developments at the Iraq-Turkey border,” he said, pointing out that northern Iraq – the least insecure part of the country – is home to over 800,000 internally displaced Iraqis. “We fear that displacement inside central and southern Iraq will increase as safe havens outside Iraq and in the north become increasingly inaccessible,” Mr. Redmond told a press briefing in Geneva, pointing out that at least 11 of 18 governorates inside Iraq have some form of restrictions on internal movement.Meanwhile, Iraqi refugees continue to arrive in Syria in much smaller numbers than before now that new visa regulations are in place which can require applicants to travel to dangerous areas to process the paperwork. “One told of the insecurity they faced reaching the embassy in Baghdad’s Al Mansour district and said applicants had to wait a long time before being helped due to limited staff,” Mr. Redmond said.More than 2.3 million Iraqis are displaced inside the country, while more than 2.4 million Iraqis have fled to neighbouring countries, mainly to Syria and Jordan. In Syria, the agency is cleaning up its registration centre in Douma, 15 where a huge fire on Friday destroyed over $1 million of relief items. “We hope to resume registration there later this week,” the spokesman said.He also announced that over 6,700 refugee families in Syria will benefit from a financial assistance programme that UNHCR will launch later this year in cooperation with a private bank in the country. 23 October 2007Monitoring developments on the Iraq-Turkey border, the United Nations refugee agency today warned that the number of Iraqis displaced by conflict could rise beyond the already staggering 4.7 million who have fled either within the country or across borders.
28 January 2008United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today held high-level talks in Bratislava with senior Slovakian officials before heading to Kigali for an official visit to Rwanda. Speaking to the press following his meeting with Slovakian President Ivan Gasparovic, Mr. Ban said the two discussed Slovakia’s contributions to the causes of the United Nations, ranging from peace and security to development and human rights, as well as on key regional issues, especially in the Middle East and the Balkans, including Kosovo and Cyprus.“On Kosovo, we shared the concern about the uncertainty in the situation on the ground and agreed to keep in close touch on the future developments,” said the Secretary-General of the Serbian province which the UN has administered since 1999. “My first and foremost priority will be on how best to protect human lives and maintain the UN legacy there.”The Secretary-General said that in the weeks to come, he will closely “consult on the way forward with other leaders in the international community, including the Security Council, the European Union and the region.”On Friday, Mr. Ban held a press encounter with Slovenia’s Prime Minister, Janez Janša, following what he called their “constructive meeting” on key issues.“I will assure you that I will closely coordinate and cooperate with your Government and Prime Minister Janez Janša in carrying out and in addressing many important issues, including global issues like climate change and the Millennium Development Goals, and also other regional issues, just as the Prime Minister said – on the Balkans, Darfur, Lebanon, the Middle East and many other issues,” Mr. Ban told reporters in Ljubljana.He said Slovenia’s reach exceeds its size, citing the country’s contribution of peacekeepers in Eastern Europe, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Iraq. “Last year, more than 18 per cent of Slovenia’s armed forces took part in UN Security Council-mandated missions. And Slovenia has become a crucial partner in helping the western Balkans on their path to peace and prosperity,” he noted.Following his trip to Rwanda, the Secretary-General is expected to go to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he will address the opening of the African Union summit meeting on 31 January.
Addressing the 13th session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention at The Hague, Netherlands, he said it was “encouraging” that nearly half of the stockpiles of chemical agents declared by the six possessor States have been verifiably destroyed.“I call upon all possessor States to complete their destruction according to the required deadlines,” he said in a message delivered by Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva.The Convention, which provides for the eradication of these instruments of mass destruction, entered into force in 1997, and 185 States have signed on to the treaty, which obliges States Parties to the pact are obliged to destroy their existing stockpiles by 29 April 2012.The Secretary-General today said that this pact is the first multilateral treaty to ban, with international verification, an entire category of weapons of mass destruction.“I am hopeful that further progress will be made in each area covered by the Convention: chemical disarmament, non-proliferation, assistance and protection, and international cooperation,” he said.Mr. Ban also urged States to build upon other existing disarmament and non-proliferation pacts and to commit to collaboration among nations to “achieve our common objectives in the area of weapons of mass destruction.”Formally known as the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction, the treaty aims to eliminate an entire category of weapons of mass destruction by prohibiting the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of these arms by States Parties. 2 December 2008Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today appealed for continued action to press ahead with disarmament efforts regarding chemical weapons, noting the positive steps that have already been taken towards eliminating the scourge.
Under the agreement, JAXA and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) will promote the use of technology, such as satellite imagery, remote sensing and satellite-based communications, for disaster risk reduction and disaster management.“Although some of ESCAP’s member countries are advanced in the integration of such satellite information and services into their disaster response systems, other countries – in particular least developed countries – are not equipped to analyse and use the data even if it is available and government officials are aware of the benefits,” Shigeru Mochida, ESCAP’s Deputy Executive Secretary, said today at the signing, which took place in Viet Nam during the Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum.The agreement will enable JAXA and ESCAP to increase assistance to ESCAP’s member countries, including by providing the region’s disaster management authorities and the public with important information that will help them deal with disasters more effectively and plan responses in a timely manner. The new pact is the latest venture by JAXA and ESCAP, which have been working closely for several years to promote the use of space-based information and services in the region. They have assisted a number of countries through the provision of satellite images to disaster-affected areas and with the monitoring of floods, among other things. According to the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), Asia and the Pacific is, by far, the region most affected by disasters in terms of human and economic impacts. 12 December 2008A new agreement between the United Nations and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will enable them to boost their cooperation to use space-based information and services to help reduce the risk of disasters in the Asia-Pacific region.