Surgeons Perform Successful Liver Transplant in Fes

Rabat – A medical and surgical team at Fes’ Hassan II hospital have successfully carried out life-saving surgery to give a four-year-old child a new liver and anew lease on life on Monday.The child suffered from Biliary Atresia, a condition which usually occurs in utero, usually for unknown reasons. It is characterized by a bile duct obstruction which leads to liver failure, according to the director of Hassan II hospital.Unable to see her son’s life end in vain, his mother decided to donate the left side of her liver to save her his life.Aged 27 and a mother to three children, she is originally from Berkane and is a beneficiary of Ramid, the health coverage system for the economically deprived. The transplant was carried out by teams from the Department of Pediatric Visceral Child Surgery, the Department of Adult Visceral Surgery and Mother and the Child Resuscitation Unit of Fes’ Hassan II hospital, in collaboration with a multidisciplinary team from Lyon’s CHU hospital.Currently,mother and son remain in hospital under medical supervision at the Reanimation Service of the Mother and Child Hospital. Their situation is gradually improving.The operation is the second hepatic transplant performed at the Hassan II hospital in Fez and the first of its kind performed from a living donor at the same hospital. read more

MoroccanAmerican 16YearOld Makes US Academic History with Valedictorian Award

Rabat – Moroccan-American Reyhan Lalaoui is the youngest university student in the United States to have been awarded the Hudson University’s (HCCC) Valedictorian Academic Award for best performing students.Reyhan made the headlines of several newspapers, including The Jersey Journal which qualified the 16-years-old as a “genius.” The young valedictorian’s academic tenure can only be described as impressive. Homeschooled by her mother since the fifth grade, Lalaoui managed to skip from the 5th to 12th grade an enroll at HCCC at just 14 years old. The first of her family to earn a college degree, Lalaoui says she owes everything to her Moroccan-born father and her mother who helped her through what has been an unorthodox academic journey. “I am lucky to have family who supports me and shows me how to take the initiative and work hard to achieve my goals and build lasting relationships,” she said.“She is one of the hardest working young people that I know,” said Melinda Vickerman, Lalaoui’s mother—who was her homeschool teacher—and currently homeschools her 11-year-old brother as well. An aspiring writer and filmmaker, the English major wants to create works about “city kids and trying to tackle the issues that we have to face, issues like addiction, violence, mental health issues.” The young graduate plans to complete her bachelor’s degree at New York University or Saint Peter’s University.“All of us at the college are extremely proud of Reyhan and what she has accomplished,” HCCC President Glen Gabert said in a statement. “She is a brilliant example of the determination and diligence of Hudson County Community College’s students, and we congratulate her and the entire Class of 2017 on their achievements.” read more

Charged with Rebellion Ousted Catalonia Leader Flees to Belgium

Rabat – Carles Puigdemont, Catalonia’s ousted president, has fled to Belgium along with other members of his dissolved cabinet after treasonous charges were laid against them in Spain.On Monday, October 30, Spain’s attorney-general filed charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds against Puigdemont and five of his ministers.Following the announcement of legal proceedings to be taken against the region’s dismissed president, international media reported this Monday that Catalonia’s president and five of his ministers had driven to Marseille, France, before flying to Brussels. Paul Bakert, a Belgian lawyer acting for Puigdemont told Reuters that the sacked president will seek asylum in Belgium.“I can affirm that Carles Puigdemont has appointed me as his legal representative, and that he is currently in Belgium,” the lawyer told Reuters in a phone conversation. However, Bakert did not confirm whether he was working with Puigdemont on an asylum claim.Puidgemont’s escape sparked a new round of speculations about the possibility of setting up a government while in exile.On Monday, Marta Pascal, a spokeswoman for Puigdemont’s Catalan Democratic Party told local media that “we had presidents in this country who were not able to be here during Franco’s time but were still heading the Catalan government,” referring to Josep Tradellas, a former Catalan leader.Tardellas lived in exile in Paris after Francisco Franco, a Spanish general who ruled over Spain as a military dictator, dissolved Catalonia’s autonomy for resisting his rule in 1932. read more

UKbased Sackler family charity pauses new giving

LONDON — A charity connected to the wealthy Sackler family has paused new donations because of controversy over alleged links to the U.S. opioid crisis.The chair of the Sackler Trust, Theresa Sackler, said in a statement Monday that media attention about legal cases in the U.S. is piling pressure on institutions supported by the trust, distracting them from their work. The trust has donated millions of pounds in the U.K.The decision comes days after the Tate group of galleries in Britain said it wouldn’t accept further donations and the National Portrait Gallery said a 1 million-pound ($1.3 million) gift wouldn’t proceed.The Sackler family owns Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma, which has been accused of downplaying the addictiveness of painkiller OxyContin.Theresa Sackler rejected “false accusations” against Purdue and the family.The Associated Press read more

Essaouira Signs Tourism Deal with Shengzhou China at Tea Conference

Rabat – Essaouira and Shengzhou, a city in eastern China, signed a memorandum of cooperation on Friday, March 22, to promote friendship, cooperation, and exchanges of experience in areas such as tourism, culture, transport, the environment, and digital technology.Hicham Jabari, the mayor of Essaouira, and Yan Gang, the mayor of Shengzhou, signed the agreement at the first International Shaoxing (Shengzhou) Green Tea Conference. Trade between China and Essaouira dates back to the 18th century, when Chinese tea arrived in Essaouira and then was distributed to other ports in Morocco and West Africa, Jabbari said. Jabbari also mentioned other cooperation prospects for Essaouira, one of Morocco’s most popular beach cities. “We are thinking of the city of Essaouira as an ecological city, and we are thinking of a framework for cooperation to lead to the adoption of electric buses” in Essaouira.In a speech at the opening of the conference, Mourad El Ayachi, Morocco’s deputy ambassador to China, welcomed the signing of the memorandum.El Ayachi stressed the importance of developing economic and cultural interactions between the two cities, improving mutual exchanges and creating conditions for “win-win” cooperation.He also referred to the long-standing friendship between the peoples of the two countries, which dates back to the 14th century, during the visit of the Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta to China.Morocco, the world’s largest importer of green tea in 2017, accounted for 25 percent of the total export volume of the tea industry in China, according to Moroccan news outlet Medi 1. read more

Drug company founder convicted in opioid bribery scheme

BOSTON — The wealthy founder of a drug company has been convicted of scheming to bribe doctors across the country to prescribe a highly addictive fentanyl spray.A jury found Insys Therapeutics Founder and former CEO John Kapoor guilty of racketeering conspiracy on Thursday after 15 days of deliberations.Four other former employees of the Chandler, Arizona-based company were also convicted.Prosecutors said Kapoor and the others conspired to bribe doctors to boost sales for the opioid meant for cancer patients with severe pain.An attorney for Kapoor sought to shift blame onto the company’s former vice-president of sales, who pleaded guilty in November.The others charged in the case have also denied wrongdoing.Two other high-level executives, who pleaded guilty in the case, testified against Kapoor.The Associated Press read more

DR Congo UN official urges protection for civilians caught in conflict

Andrew Wyllie, the acting head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the Central African country, repeated his invitation “to those of you who are playing a central role in your communities, who have direct and privileged links with all their members and who have their confidence” to respect humanitarian principles and work towards improving the living conditions of all Congolese.He spoke at the Conference of Church Leaders, Religious Denominations and Organizations for Peace, Security and Development in the Countries of the Great Lakes Region, which was held form 4 to 6 June in Bukavu, in South Kivu province.The meeting was organized so participants could discuss the repatriation of armed groups and refugees, and also the sexual violence and other crimes perpetrated against the civilians of the African Great Lakes region.Regarding the situation in North and South Kivu provinces in the DRC’s volatile east, Mr. Wyllie stressed that humanitarian aid must be provided based on the principles of humanity, neutrality, independence, impartiality and in consideration of need. He added that all sides have a responsibility to protect civilians caught in the crossfire.The worsening security situation caused by armed groups and continuing military operations is hampering the provision of aid to vulnerable populations, particularly those forced to flee their homes, he said.Welcoming the work of churches in helping those in need, Mr. Wyllie voiced hope that they would partner with humanitarian agencies to advocate with the disagreeing parties.The Conference was attended by representatives from churches and church associations from Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and the DRC, as well as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the DRC, Ross Mountain, and the Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the DRC, Eusebe Hounsokou. 7 June 2007At a conference of religious leaders in the troubled eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a United Nations humanitarian official has said dialogue among parties is a cornerstone for the protection of civilians caught in the conflict. read more

UN food agency to double the number of Iraqi refugees in Syria

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today announced that it will provide assistance to more than double the number of Iraqi refugees in Syria it is currently helping and called on donors to support the operation.WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran, who met recently with senior Syrian officials and groups of Iraqi refugees in Damascus, warned that despite the efforts of the host Government and donors, “more Iraqi women, children and men are unable to meet their basic food needs and social support systems in Syria are being overstretched.”About a third of Iraqi respondents in a recent UN assessment said they skipped one meal a day to feed their children, while nearly 60 per cent resort to buying less expensive foods, often less nutritious, to cope with the food prices that have increased dramatically.Based on this assessment, WFP decided to expand its assistance from the current caseload of 51,000 people to cover as many as 114,000 of the most needy Iraqis in Syria by April 2008. The beneficiaries will receive a monthly food ration made up of rice, vegetable oil and lentils.But the agency has not even yet received enough funding for the current caseload; its $5.6 million operation is facing a shortfall of 38 per cent.“We appeal to donors for more support to help the vulnerable among the Iraqis in Syria live with dignity until they can go home safely,” Ms. Sheeran said.Meanwhile, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq Staffan de Mistura met yesterday with Iran’s Ambassador to Baghdad to discuss the need for Iraq’s ongoing and positive engagement with Iraq as well as with its other neighbours. Mr. de Mistura and Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qumi also talked about possible increased support by Iran for Iraqi reconstruction under the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq. During the meeting, Mr. Qumi raised the issue of the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran (PMoI) and whether the UN has a position on the legality of its members in Iraq. While not commenting on the legal status issue, Mr. de Mistura replied that he has no plans to meet with the organization. 3 December 2007The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today announced that it will provide assistance to more than double the number of Iraqi refugees in Syria it is currently helping and called on donors to support the operation. read more

UNICEF teams up with African footballers to score a goal for education

18 January 2008In the latest collaboration between the United Nations and world sport, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) are teaming up during Africa’s biggest international football competition to raise funds for quality education for all the continent’s children. Through a series of public service announcements and other means during the MTN Africa Cup of Nations, this year hosted by Ghana from 20 January to 10 February, popular players will help to drive home the message that quality education helps children, especially girls, to stay in school and gain the knowledge and confidence they need to pursue their dreams. The PSAs encourage football fans to use their mobile phones as a donation tool for education programmes in their own countries. Fans who subscribe to the MTN mobile-phone service will be able to donate the local equivalent of $1 by sending an SMS text to a prescribed number. All donations will stay in country to benefit local children.“Playing football helped me to gain self-discipline, confidence, negotiation skills, teamwork and leadership,” UNICEF Ghana Goodwill Ambassador and former star footballer Marcel Desailly says. “I am glad to learn UNICEF considers sport an important part of education.” Athletes like Ghanaian Stephen Appiah, Nigerian Nwankwo Kanu, Salomon Kalou of Côte d’Ivoire, South African Aaron Mokoena, Samuel Eto’o from Cameroon and Oumar Tchomogo from Benin are participating in the PSAs. In addition to the SMS donation initiative, UNICEF and CAF have launched a special fundraising website that will also be publicized throughout the MNT Africa Cup of Nations: Ghana 2008. To make an online donation that will help to get Africa’s girls and boys in school – and help them stay there – visit www.unicef.org/ghana.During the games, UNICEF and CAF will promote the achievement of two education-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – achieving universal primary school education and promoting gender equality and empowering women by 2015.While progress has been made in education across Africa, many challenges remain. In sub-Saharan African alone, some 41 million primary-school-age children are not in school, while millions who do attend classes are often without teachers, textbooks or basic school supplies. Students frequently lack access to toilets or safe water at school, and their chances of dropping out are high.UN agencies frequently join with athletes and international sports organizations to get their message across and raise funds. In 2006 UNICEF teamed up with the European Swimming League (Ligue Européene de Natation – LEN) in “a race against time” to prevent deaths from unclean water. UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) appointed Spain’s national soccer team captain Raúl Gónzales as a Goodwill Ambassador to combat hunger and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) teamed up with the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, the governing body of women’s tennis, to promote gender equality.In 2005 the UN World Food Programme (WFP) launched the “Cricket Against Hunger” partnership with the England and Wales cricket team to draw attention to the plight of the 400 million chronically hungry children around the world, and has similar fund- and awareness-raising arrangements with the International Rugby Board, as well as with individual stars from the worlds of soccer, American football, marathon running and Formula One auto racing. read more

UN refugee agency seeks funding to help refugees return to South Sudan

“If the current return trend is anything to go by, we could complete repatriation to Southern Sudan by the end of 2009 or the first quarter of 2010, provided we get funding on time for the rest of this year and next,” said Mengesha Kebede, Deputy Director of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Africa Bureau, in statement released yesterday. Earlier this year the agency appealed for $63 million to support the refugee return programme, but it remains short of funds. The programme covers transportation costs as well as the provision of basic services such as clean water, health and education facilities, as well as agricultural assistance to help returnees grow their own food once back home. “Now is the best time to allow us to be ready to respond to the huge demand for repatriation at the end of the rainy season around October,” Mr. Kebede said. Nearly 290,000 Southern Sudanese refugees have gone home since UNHCR launched the repatriation operation three years ago. The number of returns has consistently grown in that time, with a record 60,000 in the first half of this year, exceeding by 14,000 the total returns for all of 2007. The acceleration in repatriation this year was partly spurred by refugees’ desire to take part in the April census, as well as growing confidence in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the 21-year North-South civil war. As general elections approach in 2009, the repatriation momentum is expected to continue. Already some 30,000 South Sudan refugees have requested UNHCR assistance to repatriate during this year’s dry season. In preparation, UNHCR and its partners are gearing to pre-position non-food items such as shelter materials and household goods while expanding reintegration activities and repairing critical facilities at border crossing points. 18 July 2008The United Nations refugee today launched an appeal for $11.9 million to help assist the return of refugees, mainly from camps in Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia, to South Sudan. read more

Security Council hears briefing from committee monitoring sanctions on Iran

11 September 2008The head of the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme today updated the 15-member body on the panel’s latest work, including the efforts of States to implement those measures. The head of the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme today updated the 15-member body on the panel’s latest work, including the efforts of States to implement those measures.Ambassador Jan Grauls of Belgium, who is chairman of the committee, said the panel was most recently focused on ensuring greater vigilance from Member States over the activities of financial institutions that deal with banks domiciled in Iran.The committee also probed reports that some States may have contravened an export ban on arms and related materiel from Iran and received assurances from one of the countries involved that it would continue to fully implement the sanctions.Iran’s nuclear programme – which its officials have stated is for peaceful purposes, but some other countries contend is driven by military ambitions – has been a matter of international concern since the discovery in 2003 that the country had concealed its nuclear activities for 18 years in breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).Resolution 1737 of December 2006 banned trade with Iran in all items, materials, equipment, goods and technology which could contribute to the country’s enrichment-related, reprocessing or heavy water-related activities, or to the development of nuclear-weapon delivery systems.In March 2007 the Council adopted resolution 1747, further tightening the sanctions by imposing a ban on arms sales and expanding the freeze on assets. The Council imposed further sanctions against Iran in resolution 1803, adopted this March. These included the inspection of cargo suspected of carrying prohibited goods, the tighter monitoring of financial institutions and the extension of travel bans and asset freezes, over its nuclear programme. read more

Congolese rape survivors break silence at UNorganized event

The day-long programme in the eastern city of Goma is part of a joint campaign – “Stop Raping Our Greatest Resource, Power to Women and Girls in DRC” – organized by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls.“It’s a historic occasion in the Democratic Republic of Congo in that for the first time women survivors are publicly speaking out on the situation of sexual violence,” UNICEF spokesperson Jaya Murthy said in an interview with UN Radio.“We have 10 women that are speaking out today and making a declaration to the Congolese Government, to Congolese society and to the world that sexual violence must stop,” she stated.Ms. Murthy noted that while “sexual violence is rampant and prevalent throughout Congolese society,” the area that has been most affected has been the eastern DRC, particularly the Kivu region, where clashes between Government forces and rebel groups broke out just weeks ago, despite the signing of a peace deal in January.Sexual violence is still occurring on an “unprecedented” scale in the DRC, particularly in the east, she said. That is why today’s event is being held in Goma, the capital of North Kivu, and a similar one will be held in the capital of South Kivu, Bukavu, on 19 September.The founder of V-Day and renowned activist, Eve Ensler, will participate in both events, which are also being supported by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC (MONUC) and dozens of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working to eliminate sexual and gender-based violence in DRC. 12 September 2008Female survivors of rape and sexual abuse are sharing their stories today at an event organized by the United Nations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where rape has been used as a weapon of war and an estimated 200,000 women and girls have been assaulted over the past 12 years. read more

New investment monitoring tool aims to boost business in Africa – UN

9 July 2009The United Nations and the African Union today launched a new tool, designed in partnership with the Microsoft Corporation, to help map investment flows on the continent and provide business leaders the information they need to make sound decisions. The Internet-based Investment Monitoring Platform will “provide data and information on the characteristics of foreign and domestic investors, as well as their motivations, actions, perceptions, intentions, and impact,” according to a news release issued by the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).The Vienna-based agency launched the database along with the African Union Commission at a meeting in Addis Ababa that was attended by government ministers and representatives of banks, African investment promotion agencies, the private sector and industry experts.UNIDO Director-General Kandeh K. Yumkella welcomed the initiative, noting it will bring a “new level of transparency” to the investment and business landscape in Africa. “It will allow country ranking through investor evaluation and performance. It will also enable investors to conduct analysis and make more informed decisions, better assess business risks, and identify potential counterparts,” he said. The information on the platform will be gathered through bi-annual surveys of both foreign and domestic investors conducted in more than 20 African countries by UNIDO, the first of which will start on 23 July in Kenya and Senegal. It is hoped that 22 countries will be covered by the end of October this year. “The information gathered will also allow for a better understanding of the impact of the global financial crisis on investment flows in Africa,” Mr. Yumkella said. “It will help Government and national agencies design more effective investment and business policies, promotion strategies and services that respond to investor needs, and formulate viable industrialization strategies for the continent.” read more

Ban lauds Caribbean regions commitment to Haiti recovery

5 July 2010Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has commended States in the Caribbean region for their commitment to supporting Haiti following the devastating earthquake in January and urged them to continue their engagement there, saying the country will need consistent assistance from the international community to recover. “Your engagement is central to ensuring sustained and long-term attention to Haiti’s needs,” Mr. Ban said when he addressed the 31st meeting of heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in Montego Bay, Jamaica, late yesterday.Recovery will take many years, and will require consistent effort by all Haiti’s partners,” Mr. Ban said, adding that he was honoured to be the first Secretary-General of the United Nations to address a CARICOM summit. Haiti, he said, will continue to be a priority of the UN, adding that elections in November will be fundamental for ensuring the country’s democratic future.Mr. Ban welcomed the General Assembly’s decision sponsored by CARICOM to convene a high-level meeting next year on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, saying he also looked forward to the organization’s participation in the high-level meeting on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the eight social development and poverty reduction targets which States have pledged to make efforts to achieve by 2015. The meeting will be held in the UN Headquarters in New York in September.“Governments must agree in September on a concrete action plan that provides a clear road map to meet our collective targets and promise by 2015,” Mr. Ban said.Expressing concern over organized transnational crime and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, Mr. Ban said that CARICOM and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) have developed a joint action plan to combat the problem.“We must address security issues and social causes simultaneously. In this regard, I welcome the fact that the recently launched Caribbean Basin Security Initiative goes beyond traditional law enforcement approach, and I applaud CARICOM States on all your efforts to combat illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.“It is important to consider the problem of drug control and the prevention of crime and terrorism in a regional context – and through the prism of development, human rights, the rule of law and security reform,” Mr. Ban said.The Secretary-General commended CARICOM Member States for their leadership in the Copenhagen climate talks, saying the Caribbean community had conveyed an important message to the world – the threat of climate change is urgent and growing.“You have been pioneers in calling attention to the specific vulnerability of Small Island States to climate change. Adaptation strategies to this very real threat will require sizeable and sustained investment,” Mr. Ban said.The Copenhagen conference called on the international community to mobilize $30 billion a year between now and 2012 and $100 billion a year up to 2020 for mitigation and adaptation actions in developing countries.Mr. Ban said the UN will continue to support the efforts of nations in the Caribbean region to improve the lives of their people. “Just as you are helping to advance our agenda, I would like to reiterate the commitment of the United Nations to your goals and aspirations. You can count on me to promote security, development and human rights. I take strength from the immortal wisdom of a great son of Jamaica. I will ‘get up.’ I will ‘stand up.’ And I won’t ‘give up the fight,” Mr. Ban said.CARICOM Member States are Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.Associate members are Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands. read more

Via Rail and Air Transat join forces to streamline service schedules

MONTREAL — Air Transat and VIA Rail Canada are streamlining their service schedules in hopes of encouraging travellers to buy tickets that combine both modes of transport.In a news release this week, the companies said they’re hoping the partnership will encourage Canadians to take advantage of both air and rail travel.Air Transat said in June that it is looking to reduce costs and differentiate its offering after plans to turn a profit this year were dashed by a large loss in the key winter period.The company posted a loss of $13.2-million, or 35 cents per share, in the second quarter.[np-related]The winter period was the fourth quarterly loss in a row for the company, which operates a variety of vacation and travel businesses including the Air Transat airline, packaged holiday operators and travel agencies.“Thanks to this partnership, Transat is making vacations even more accessible to Canadians and is allowing its customers to expand upon travel destination opportunities by conducting a rail transfer to one of its main departure cities,” said Joseph Adamo, vice-president of marketing at Transat Canada.VIA Rail says the announcement is the latest in a series of measures the company is undertaking to modernize passenger rail.“This announcement is in line with VIA Rail’s strategy of creating synergy among carriers in order to enhance the client experience and facilitate intermodal travel”, said VIA Rail president and CEO Marc Laliberte.“Today’s announcement is driven by our ongoing effort to improve our services. This strategy demonstrates that by working together, passenger carriers can increase the mobility of all Canadians while increasing the number of passengers for all methods of transport.” read more

TSX slips as resource stocks weigh but Wall Street surges

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market closed solidly in the red amid a weak report on retail sales and listless commodity prices.The S&P/TSX composite index was down 40.34 points at 13,433.49 after an otherwise solid performance over the week that saw strong advances in three of the four previous trading sessions.The Canadian dollar also weakened, losing 0.27 of a U.S. cent to 74.93 cents U.S.On commodity markets, the January contract for benchmark crude oil was up 18 cents at US$41.90 a barrel, while December natural gas plunged 13 cents to US$2.14 per mmBtu.December gold gave back $1.60 to US$1,076.30 an ounce, while December copper shed two cents to US$2.05 a pound.In New York, indexes completed one of their best weeks of the year as traders took heart from strong earnings reports from a number of retailers and a generally favourable view of where the U.S. Federal Reserve is going on interest rate hikes.The Dow Jones industrials was up 91.06 points at 17,823.81, while the broader S&P 500 added 7.93 points to 2,089.17 and the Nasdaq gained 31.28 points to 5,104.92.Off-price retailer Ross Stores (Nasdaq:ROST) led the way higher Friday, gaining almost nine per cent after reporting results that were far better than analysts expected.Meanwhile, Nike (NYSE:NKE) jumped almost five per cent after announcing a dividend increase, a stock buyback and a stock split.Retail stocks took a beating earlier this month after weak reports from Macy’s and Nordstrom raised concerns that the holiday shopping season would be a bust.“That spooked everybody that had some kind of apparel offering,” Ken Perkins, president of the research firm Retail Metrics, told The Associated Press.But those fears are fading as shoppers looking for discounts turn to lower-priced retailers like TJ Maxx and Ross Stores and to “fast fashion” retailers who keep up with the latest trends, Perkins said.In economic news, Statistics Canada said lower gasoline prices continued to weigh against a rise in the cost of food in October as the consumer price index rose 1.0 per cent compared with a year ago, unchanged from September.Meanwhile, the Bank of Canada’s core index, which excludes some of the most volatile components, was up 2.1 per cent from a year ago, also matching the increase in September.Overseas, the head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, said the bank  “will not hesitate” to expand its stimulus program at its next meeting if needed to support economic recovery in the eurozone.Draghi’s speech at a banking forum in Frankfurt, Germany, on Friday reinforced earlier statements taken by markets as a green light for the bank to take action at the Dec. 3 meeting of its governing council. read more

Oil drops below 30 dragging TSX Wall Street down with it

TORONTO — Oil prices fell below US$30 a barrel for the first time in nearly two weeks as North American markets posted steep losses today.The March contract for benchmark U.S. oil fell US$1.74 to US$29.88 a barrel, falling beneath the US$30-mark for the first time since Jan. 21 when it settled at US$29.53 a barrel.Crude has lost nearly US$4 over two days, roiling markets worldwide.The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX index fell 232.11 points to 12,442.26, adding to a weak start to the month’s trading.It has lost 379.87 points over the first two days of February.The loonie was off exactly half a cent at 71.29 cents US.New York indexes were also in full retreat, with the Dow Jones industrial average plummeting 295.64 points at 16,153.54, while the S&P 500 fell 36.35 points to 1,903.03 and the Nasdaq lost 103.42 points to 4,516.95.Elsewhere in commodities, March natural gas fell 12.7 cents to US$2.025 per mmBtu, while April gold dropped 80 cents to US$1,127.20 a troy ounce. read more

InnVest Hotels acquires former Trump Tower for an undisclosed amount

TORONTO — InnVest Hotels LP is acquiring the luxury hotel formerly known as Toronto’s Trump International Hotel and Tower from JCF Capital for an undisclosed amount.As part of the deal, the 65-storey facility will get a significant renovation and be renamed the St. Regis Toronto once the revamp is done.But before the full rebranding is complete, the site will operate as the Adelaide Hotel Toronto while it undergoes a renovation to the lobby, guest rooms, public areas and food and beverage outlets.JCF Capital said earlier this week that the hotel, which has struggled financially and been the focus of a long-running legal battle, will no longer bear Donald Trump’s name.The U.S. president never owned the building, but his Trump Organization licensed his name and operated the property.InnVest is a Canadian company that holds one of largest hotel portfolios in the country.Follow @alexposadzki on Twitter. read more

Trudeau looks to perform delicate G20 balancing act between Trump Merkel

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau is embarking today on a week-long European sojourn that will culminate in a meeting of 20 of the world’s largest economies — one where he’ll test-drive a brand new foreign affairs policy aimed at charting Canada’s own course in the world.Friday’s G20 meetings are shaping up as a showdown between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump.In a speech last week to the German parliament that laid out her priorities for the meeting, Merkel — host of the two-day gathering in Hamburg — delivered a pointed critique of Trump’s now-infamous “America First” doctrine without ever once mentioning his name.“Whoever believes that the world’s problems can be solved by isolationism and protectionism is mistaken,” Merkel said.Her G20 agenda — stronger global co-operation to fight climate change and terrorism, and more robust international trade — cuts directly to the heart of her well-documented differences with Trump, a strategy some see as an effort to further isolate the U.S. president on the world stage.Trump, for his part, has escalated the war of words with Merkel, using familiar rhetoric about a “massive trade deficit” the U.S. has with Germany and threats to slap import taxes on German-made cars.Trump stood alone at the G7 meeting in Italy last month when the other six leaders, including Merkel and Trudeau, pushed him to stick with the Paris climate change accord, an international treaty aimed at keeping global warming to less than two degrees C above pre-industrial levels.Trump demurred, refused to sign the Paris part of the G7 communique, and later made it official: the U.S. was out.Since then, Merkel has been working hard to shore up support for the accord among other G20 nations. She met recently with leaders from China and India, travelled to Mexico and Argentina last month and sat down with European leaders just last week to develop a united front.Into this mix steps Trudeau — more philosophically aligned with Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, France’s young and stylish new president, but lashed irrevokably to the U.S. through economic and geographic ties.Trudeau’s approach to Trump has put him in a unique position at this gathering, said Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat and senior adviser at the law firm Dentons.“The rest of the world has been impressed with how Justin Trudeau has managed Trump,” Robertson said.Trudeau pushed Trump on Paris at the G7, but was less critical and showed more patience than his European counterparts. He has since expressed his disappointment and sided with the other signatories, all the while insisting he’s not going to tell the president how to run his country.At the same time, however, Canada has served notice that in an era of American protectionism, it will forge its own path. That declaration came in last month’s keynote foreign policy speech by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.That path includes pushing to strengthen the “postwar multilateral order” that includes such institutions as the United Nations, NATO and the World Trade Organization, Freeland made clear.David Perry, a senior analyst at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said he’ll be watching to see how Canada turns that speech into action. “It will be curious to see if that has just been rhetoric, or if there has actually been some substance behind it,” he said.While Merkel may want to isolate the current U.S. administration, America remains — Trump notwithstanding — too influential and too interconnected with the world for anyone to simply try to work without it entirely, he added.“America matters no matter what anybody thinks,” Perry said. “You can’t work around them no matter what.”It appears Trudeau isn’t the only leader who feels the same way.Macron has been striking a more conciliatory posture, despite having been highly critical of the U.S. president in the wake of the G7 and the Paris withdrawal, Robertson noted. Just days ago he invited Trump to Paris for Bastille Day; Trump accepted.Before landing in Germany, Trudeau will stop in Dublin to meet with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and talk up another international trade priority — the Canada-EU trade deal known as CETA.Trade between Canada and Ireland was only about $2.4 billion in trade in 2016, but both countries desperately want the agreement to work — Canada as a hedge against U.S. protectionism, and Ireland as a hedge against an uncertain post-Brexit future.The deal, finalized last year, has struggled to get ratification from all 28 European Union member states, particularly over provisions and protections for foreign investors. said Robertson: “We need them to help.”From there, Trudeau will travel to Scotland for an audience with the Queen to mark Canada’s 150th birthday. The Queen, who is 91, was unable to travel to Canada to celebrate the occasion in Ottawa.— Follow @mrabson on Twitter read more

Gota says north not just for Tamils

Defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa says it is not appropriate to view the north of the country, over which a separatist war was fought, as a predominantly Tamil area.Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who many credit with defeating Tamil rebels, also told the BBC there were few civilian casualties in the war’s closing phase. So were Tamils correct to view the north as a predominantly Tamil place? The army defeated the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels after 26 years of a bloody civil war in May 2009.Meeting Mr Rajapaksa in his heavily guarded office near the Colombo shorefront, the BBC asked him about a recent local government reshuffle in the north which has seen some senior Tamil officials replaced with Sinhalese personnel.“Earlier before the war, all were Sinhalese,” Mr Rajapaksa said. Just as “a lot of” Tamil officers worked in southern districts, Sinhalese and Muslims should be able to work in the north. “It is part of Sri Lanka.” He also cast doubt on accounts of enforced disappearances after the war. “Why should be that? Why should be that?” Mr Rajapaksa said. “If you are a Sri Lankan citizen you must be able to go and buy the properties from anywhere. I’m not talking about the forced settlements, I’m talking about the freedom for a Sri Lankan to live anywhere in this country.”Many Tamils favour provincial devolution to give them a greater voice in areas where they predominate.The government and the largest Tamil party have been holding talks on this issue, but these have currently stalled. Mr Rajapaksa, brother of Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa, portrayed a normalising Sri Lanka with opportunities for all regardless of ethnicity.But he firmly declined to discuss Sarath Fonseka – the man at the helm of the army at the end of the war and who later fell out with the president – who was released from prison last Monday. Human rights groups say tens of thousands died at the end of that war. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa commented on the contentious subject of civilian casualties in the final stage of the war – one factor that prompted a critical resolution on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council in March.A recent government census, given little publicity, suggested some 7,400 northern Sri Lankans were killed during the last months as a result of the fighting.But Mr Rajapaksa said only a few of these were civilians and most were Tamil Tiger fighters.“Do you think it was a battle between the Sri Lankan army and civilians? It’s a battle between the army and the terrorist group which were equally armed like the military,” he said.Thousands of civilians were caught in the crossfire between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels“Within this 7,000-odd number that includes the combatants as well!”Six thousand army soldiers had been killed in this period, he said.He said the census-takers had visited family after family and taken the names of all those who died. There might have been “certain” civilian casualties but “not in the numbers you quote”.If there were proven violations of the laws of war “then we can punish, no problem, but you have to prove that”.The army had defeated a terrorist group that killed innocent people, destroyed property, buses, trains, hotels and many other targets, he said.“All this we have stopped… but you don’t talk about that. You are supporting the terrorist cause!”Gotabhaya Rajapaksa gave scant comfort to the families of people who have recently disappeared.Human rights campaigners documented 32 such disappearances between October and February and several more since then.But Mr Rajapaksa dismissed this as “wrong allegations”.“These are lies… to prevent the visitors coming into Sri Lanka, the investment coming to Sri Lanka, to give a wrong image of Sri Lanka by the rump of this LTTE which is remaining outside and trying to damage the image of Sri Lanka,” he said.Recent cases include Ramasamy Prabagaran, who was abducted before he was due to testify on police torture and remains missing; and Sagara Senaratne, who was suddenly freed after his brother-in-law, a minister, reportedly contacted top government figures.But Mr Rajapaksa asked why the authorities should want to victimise such people and said many recorded as missing were criminals who had escaped abroad.In the north, he said, life was getting back to normal – fishing restrictions had been lifted, the army had moved out of contentious areas such as running restaurants, and anti-LTTE Tamil groups had now been disarmed.In the country as a whole, he said, the government had opened a window to progress by ending the war.“This is a time that… irrespective of whether Sinhalese, Tamil or Muslim, you as a Sri Lankan move forward.” (Courtesy the BBC) read more