HRD to implement 10 quota for general category sans funds

first_imgNew Delhi: The government’s decision to implement 10 per cent reservation for economically weaker sections of the general category may cost dearer to the public institutions as the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry has put on hold the fund allocation procedure to higher institutions for meeting the expenses to be incurred in implementing the quota.The HRD Ministry’s proposal to provide financial assistance of about Rs 4,000 crore has been stuck in the model code of conduct. As per official sources, the ministry in its communication with institutions has stated that the proposal would be approved only after the formation of the government and till then the institutions would have to bear the additional expenditure of their own. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’Citing the enforcement of model code of conduct due to ongoing general elections in the country, sources in the HRD Ministry said, “Given the value of the amount, the Election Commission is reluctant in approving the proposal.” The sources further that the EC is reluctant in permitting the HRD ministry to provide funds to institutions as the proposal has not been passed by the Cabinet. The sources also said that institutions would have to implement the quota without any dedicated funds for it. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&KIn January, the government had allowed a reservation of 10 per cent for poor people in educational institutions and government jobs. Soon after the decision, the HRD Ministry had announced that it would increase 25 per cent seats in all higher education institutions to accommodate the beneficiaries of 10 per cent quota to poor upper caste without disturbing seat share of other reserved categories. The HRD Ministry had also sought details from higher institutions about the financial burden on them for increasing 25 per cent seats. As per the HRD officials, all higher institutions, including IITs, IIMs, Central universities, NITs, IISER, had sought Rs 5,676 crore financial support for creating 2.15 lakh additional seats.last_img read more

Indian eves beat Malaysia 30 in series opener

first_imgKuala Lumpur: Striker Vandana Katariya scored a brace to help Indian women’s hockey team beat hosts Malaysia 3-0 in the opening game of the five-match series here on Thursday. Vandana struck in the 17th and 60th minutes before Lalremsiami (38th) scored in the third quarter to hand India the easy win. It was Malaysia who got a head start with a penalty corner in the third minute of the match, but it was well-saved by an experienced Savita guarding the Indian goalpost. Also Read – Puducherry on top after 8-wkt win over ChandigarhIndia shook off the initial nerves and young Lalremsiami took a brave shot on goal in the fifth minute but her effort was saved. Two minutes later, Navneet Kaur attempted a shot on goal but was denied by an alert Malaysian goalkeeper. Soon India got a penalty corner but the resultant try went wide. After a goalless first quarter, India broke the deadlock in the 17th minute when Vandana scored a fine field goal. With a one goal cushion, India maintained a good structure and controlled the proceedings in the third quarter too. The Indians kept the Malaysian attack in check and under pressure the hosts conceded three penalty corners but all the chances went in vain. India doubled their lead in the 38th minute through another field strike by young striker Lalremsiami. The 2-0 lead put India in a comfortable position in the fourth quarter and the visitors increased their lead just seconds from the final hooter through Vandana. The second match of the series will be played on Saturday.last_img read more

Arms dealer held in Baruipur

first_imgKolkata: A huge quantity of firearms were seized from Baruipur on Wednesday and an arms racketeer has been arrested in this connection.According to police sources, on Wednesday morning sleuths got a tip-off that one Barkatulla Laskar is running a firearms racket at his house at Bakultala in Baruipur. Immediately, police raided his house. During the search , sleuths found one double barrel pipe gun, one six chamber revolver, one 9 mm pistol along with magazine, one 7 mm pistol along with two magazines, one single shoter pipe gun, 12 live bullets of small fire arms, 13 bullets of three rifles, 10 kg explosives and 4 crude bombs from his house. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari PujaDuring the preliminary investigation, sleuths came to know that Laskar used to import illegal firearms from Munger in Bihar and sell them to local people. It is suspected that he had recently imported the firearms to use during the polls. It is suspected that apart from Laskar many more persons are involved in the racket. Sleuths have launched an extensive search operation to nab other connected with the racket. Last month, huge quantity of fire arms were seized from Kultali and Diamond Harbour. An arms factory was busted at Napitkhali in Kultali. Police had raided a house and found huge numbers of fire arms. In the factory, mainly small firearms were being manufactured. Sleuths had found the fire arms, which were already packed and ready to be delivered. Two persons were arrested in this connection.last_img read more

Bazm e –Khas An evening of classical music

first_imgMusic washes away from our soul, the dust of everyday life. There is no denial to the fact that what makes any human society is its culture and to celebrate eternal Indian culture, Bazm- E – Khas an initiative of V P Gupta organised an evening of sublime poetry, traditional music and ghazals titled ‘Sur Adhar Music Festival 2019’.The festival featured well-known artists like Hariharan, Nizam Bhai Premi, Fareed Hasan and Mehboob Hussain accompanied by Akhlat Warsi, Mithilesh Jha, Murad Ali, Peromita Mukherji, Shadab Bhartiya, Atul Raninga, Sushant Sharma, Yusuf Khan Azhar Shakeel, and Zia Khan. Also Read – An income drop can harm brainThese eclectic musicians took us through the journey of Indian heritage steeped in love through their classical music at the mesmerising courtyard of Qutub Minar, New Delhi. Hariharan needs no introduction for those familiar with Ghazal style of singing. His mesmerising voice stirs emotions in the listener’s soul. The extravaganza evening began with Ganesh Vandana staged by Nizam Bhai Premi which was followed by Raag Bageshwari and kedar by Fareed Hasan and Mehboob Hussain symbolising the convergence of cultures and spirituality. Also Read – Shallu Jindal honoured with Mahatma AwardThe highlight of the evening was Hariharan, who enthralled the audience with his authentic style, performed various ghazals and thumris along with his few Bollywood superhits. Talking about his performance, Legendary singer Hariharan said, “I was really excited to perform at Qutub Minar. I remember the last time I performed here was for Qutub Minar Festival a long time ago. Definitely, it was an overwhelming experience. For me, Bazm-e-Khas is doing a great job towards promoting our Indian classical music which is really very appreciable and I am glad to be a part of this.” Fareed Hassan and Mehboob Hussain said, “Fortunately we shared the stage with legendary singer Hariharan Ji at the prestigious venue of Qutub Minar. It was an honour for us to be a part of this show. We are really thankful to Bazm-e-Khas for giving us this grand opportunity.” In the light of the event VP Gupta, Founder of Bazm-e-Khas said, “Bazm-e-Khas is a very special platform that promotes young and not so young artists to meet and exchange ideas along with entertaining good listeners. Our aim to organise this evening is to make people aware of the richness of Indian culture.”last_img read more

Biz can use IGST credit to settle tax dues CBIC

first_imgNew Delhi: Businesses that have accumulated Integrated GST (IGST) credit in their books can settle it against central and state tax dues in any proportion, the revenue department has said. Importers typically pay IGST on goods they bring into the country. Also IGST is paid on inter-state movement of goods. This tax is supposed to be set-off against the actual GST paid, or may be claimed as refund in certain cases. The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) in March had allowed utilisation of input tax credit (ITC) of IGST towards the payment of Central GST and State GST, in any order subject to the condition that the entire IGST liability has been first discharged using the accumulated credit. Also Read – Thermal coal import may surpass 200 MT this fiscalHowever, there were confusion among taxpayers regarding the quantum of utilisation of IGST credit in paying CGST and SGST dues. The CBIC has now clarified that the IGST credit can be used in payment of CGST or SGST in any order or proportion. Under Goods and Services Tax (GST), the tax levied on consumption of goods or rendering of service is split 50:50 between the centre (CGST) and the state (SGST). On inter-state movement of goods as well as imports, an IGST is levied, which accrues to the centre. Also Read – Food grain output seen at 140.57 mt in current fiscal on monsoon boostIdeally, there should be ‘nil’ balance in the IGST pool at the end of a fiscal since the amount should be used for payment of CGST and SGST. As some businesses are ineligible to claim the benefits of input tax credit (ITC), the balance gets accumulated in the IGST pool. AMRG and Associates Partner Rajat Mohan said, “This clarification from government would help businesses and taxpayers to swim out of the gap created between legal framework and GST network, now taxpayers can continue to work according to the functionality of GSTN without worrying for any legal consequences.” EY Tax Partner Abhishek Jain said, “This was a much needed clarification as this should help bring to rest the varied interpretation apprehended by industry on the utilisation of IGST credit”.last_img read more

South Korea Seeks To Strengthen Exemplary Cooperation With Morocco

Rabat – South Korea is set to consolidate its “exemplary cooperation” with Morocco, which is a “traditional partner” for us, said South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won on visit to Morocco, the first of its kind since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1962.Hong-won, who hailed the quality of friendship and cooperation relations between the two countries for over half a century, highlighted Morocco’s “strategic choice,” under the leadership of King Mohammed VI, to promote sectors with added value such as the automotive industry and aeronautics.This strategy aims to attract investments of the multinational companies that aspire to penetrate the European and African markets, he said, noting that Korean companies, which are highly competitive in industrial sectors, can benefit from the Moroccan strategy and build win-win partnerships with Morocco. “Our two countries are traditional partners with good relations not only bilaterally but also on an international level,” Hong-won pointed out.Concerning the Sahara issue, the South Korean PM called on all the parties to adopt an approach based on dialogue and consultation in order to reach as soon as possible “a mutually acceptable solution and create favourable conditions for stability and development in Sahel and Saharan region. read more

The Ethics of Moroccos Argan Oil

Winter Park, Florida – When most people think of Argan oil, they imagine advertisements showing (usually) “exotic” women with lustrous hair holding rustic-looking bottles of what cosmetic companies call “liquid gold,” but do we understand the ethical and environmental implications of cultivating Argan oil? Due to deforestation, overuse, and the commercial interests of the famous nut, it is estimated that the Argan tree will nearly disappear by the year 2051.To understand how Argan oil has become such a sought-after ingredient for cosmetic companies, it is necessary to learn about the history of its use. The Argan tree is dated far back into antiquity, and while it once covered the entire Maghreb region of North Africa, it is now exclusively endemic to the Sousse valley of southwestern Morocco.It has been a vital part of Moroccan life for centuries, especially for the indigenous Amazigh—or Berber—communities as a nutritional, medicinal, and economic necessity. Blended with roasted almond and honey, Argan oil makes the vitamin-enriched Amlou paste that Moroccans dip bread in and is used in virtually all Moroccan dishes. You will seldom find a household in Morocco that does not have the oil stored in a pantry or medicine cabinet. Argan’s dermatological fame stems from its use for scars, acne, and even as cough medicine for young children. The tree’s deep-rooted system protects the land from degradation, soil erosion, and heat, while providing husks for livestock in rural areas. It is no wonder that Moroccans have named Argania Spinosa the Moroccan “tree of life.”However, the Argan tree’s importance to Moroccans has not been enough to incite proper preservation efforts on both a local and global scale. In the past two decades, deforestation rates rose dramatically in Morocco due partly to the extension of grazed land and the collection of firewood. Though projects like the Tamounte conservation project have taken the initiative to plant seeds and encourage the development of the tree as an economic resource, the results are often stilted by exploitation.In 1999, the United Nations educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the Argan forest a world biosphere. According to UNESCO, nearly 3 million of the biosphere’s population is Berber. UNESCO’s goal is to counteract the exploitative practices that the Argan tree has fallen victim to, while encouraging the economic development within the region—particularly for Berber women. The Tashelhit women who extract the oil are members of co-operatives that help the women build a steady income and a social status.As the demand for Argan grew, manufacturing became mechanized, leading to the creation of private oil presses from major European entrepreneurs. For them, paying Berber women to extract the oil by hand was not necessary. Costs of production were lowered; volumes of the oil increased, and the Argan craze spread like wildfire.Unfortunately, the intermediaries that work with these women still keep most of the profits from their hard work. This is particularly vexing because the image of Berber women is still used to help sell the product worldwide. It has even found its way into pop culture. In a recent article by The Daily Mail, the British tabloid newspaper asks its readers “is Kim Kardashian helping to change Berber women’s lives?”These kinds of celebrity endorsements certainly elevate the demand for Argan, but these kinds of careless statements only build to the global overuse of the oil. Rather than praising celebrities or individuals for helping indigenous North African women, let us make sure these women are getting their fair share of the deal. Let us work harder to maintain the endangered “tree of life,” because we simply cannot afford to lose it.© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed. read more

Moroccan TV offends the nation with a sexually suggestive scene

Rabat – When American movies are aired on national TV channels across the Arab world, a few things are lost in translation. Any offensive language is bleeped and taken out from the subtitles.However, this week Morocco’s Aflam TV turned to the absurd, by pushing the envelope and broadcasting a less than conservative scene from the movie “Stateside,” leaving Moroccans a bit outraged.On Sunday around 8 pm local time, the state-owned channel aired a scene of two women having a provocative conversation with subtitles that translate into: “I wanted to suck his c***.” Mohamed Mouad Chahbane, a Moroccan interpreter, was shocked to see the scene with such a poor translation. He told Morocco World News that he took the snapshot to express his dissatisfaction with the low quality content aired by Aflam TV. “Aflam TV keeps airing this movie twice a week. This is not the only obscene scene. Don’t we have competent translator in Morocco?” he said.The image along with the subtitle went viral on Facebook in Morocco, sparking controversy among Moroccan social media users.Moroccans expressed their anger towards this lack of professionalism, saying the vulgar expression should have been cut from the movie.Morocco World News called Hicham Zerhouni a cultural expert and the Managing principal of TransCultures a U.S. based company with a presence in Morocco that provides media localizations for major film studios. Mr. Zerhouni said that “When a project is done without considering the local cultures of the viewing country, the result could be shocking at times. Subtitling requires a great cultural adaptation for the target market, and the TV channel has a legal and ethical responsibility to culturally review the content before airing in a particular market, especially if they buy a pre-translated content.”Youssef Assadi, a Moroccan journalist told Morocco World News that the airing of such a suggestive scene was a “serious delinquency.”“This is an unacceptable move from this state-owned channel and a transparent violation of the Moroccan audiovisual law,” he explained.“The channel is financed by the taxes Moroccans pay. The channel should have respected the characteristics of Morocco’s conservative society,” he concluded.This is not the first time a Moroccan TV channel causes outrage over airing suggestive scenes. Earlier in June, Morocco’s 2M channel came under fire for broadcasting U.S. singer Jennifer Lopez’s concert, during which Lopez and her crew danced ‘suggestively’ on stage.© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed without permission read more

US Diplomats Husband Sentenced to Prison for Committing Sexual Assault in

Casablanca — For the past three years, Labib Chammas, the husband of U.S. diplomat Judith Chammas, was sexually abusing the cook who worked in their household in Morocco.The U.S. Department of Justice announced, in an official communiqué released Wednesday, that Labib Chammas of McLean, Virginia has been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison. Chammas, who pleaded guilty to a single count of abusive sexual conduct, will have to register as a sex offender for 15 years and pay a $15,000 fine.Labib Chammas’ confession revealed that,he sexually abused a household staff member in U.S. Department-owned housing in Morocco from 2010 to 2013, while his wife Judith Chammas was serving as deputy chief of mission in Morocco. The 53-year old victim was a female cook who had worked in the Rabat household for 16 years. read more

France Misuse of Photo of a Moroccan Policeman Stirs Controversy

Rabat – A photo of a policeman in the Moroccan city of Tangier, who died in 2015, has stirred controversy in France after it was used in a news story about the assault of three policemen in the town of Bobigny. The photo of the Moroccan policeman, known in Morocco as “the policeman of Tangier”, who died after he was crushed by a taxi driver who refused to stop for police, has caused outrage throughout France after it was used on social media for a news story about an assault of three policemen.The three French policemen were attacked by French nationals in the town of Bobigny, near Paris, during a routine patrol in the town. After the news story went viral, France24 investigated the photo and published a report on its website explaining that the photo was used to stir people’s anger about the assault.It also pointed out that the photo depicting the Moroccan policeman who died in Tangier two years ago has nothing to do with the incident in Bobigny. read more

Marrakech to Host 2nd ChinaAfrica Investment Forum on Nov 2728

Rabat –  The 2nd edition of the China-Africa Investment Forum (CAIF) will be held on Nov. 27-28 in Marrakech, with the participation of more than 400 top-level Chinese and African business leaders.With more than 10,000 companies active on the continent generating $60 billion a year in industrial production, trade to the tune of $122 billion and non-financial direct investment that rose by 31% to reach $2.5 billion in 2016, China is Africa’s most important trading partner today, the CAIF said in a press release.The launch of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, a true reshaping of China’s international economic policy, means Africa needs to equip itself with the tools to effectively receive and use Chinese investments to accelerate its economic transition. In this context, the CAIF will facilitate business meetings between the main stakeholders of trade and investment between China and Africa in order to foster the creation of sustainable partnerships with high added value, particularly in the industrial sector, the source added. The forum dedicates two days of conferences and debates to the financial implications for African economies of the new Silk Road and how to capitalize on this new dynamic aimed at making the continent a true industrial platform.Alongside the conferences, practical workshops will provide insights and keys to understanding Chinese and African economic policies and operational environments.This edition is co-hosted by the Moroccan Ministry of Industry, Investment, Trade and the Digital Economy, Jeune Afrique Media Group and BOAO Business Consulting.With MAP read more

Toronto home sales see small uptick in January as prices continue to

The Canadian Press TORONTO — Home sales in Toronto and the surrounding area saw a small uptick in January, a sign that the real estate market in Canada’s largest city remains stable.The Toronto Real Estate Board reports that there were 4,009 home sales recorded though its Multiple Listing Service (MLS) system in January, up 0.6 per cent compared with January 2018. On a seasonally adjusted basis, sales were up by 3.4 per cent versus December 2018.The board says the average selling price for all property types was $748,328 last month, an increase of 1.7 per cent from the same month a year ago. TREB reports that the more affordable condo segment led the price growth, up by 7.9 per cent in January.Semi-detached and townhouse properties also saw increases, while the price of detached homes fell by 2.8 per cent in January year-over-year.The board says the total number of new listings were up, climbing 10.5 per cent to 9,456 listings last month.TREB, which represents more than 52,000 real estate agents across the region, says the January figures are in line with its forecast that sales will finish higher in 2019. read more

Unifor workers in Whitby walk off job in campaign to save GM

The Canadian Press WHITBY, Ont. — Unifor says workers at an autoparts supplier in Whitby, Ont. have walked off the job in solidarity with the union’s campaign to save the General Motors assembly plant in Oshawa, Ont.The union says employees at the Lear Corp. operation, which supplies seats to the GM Oshawa plant, started demonstrating early Friday morning.It says the 350 workers at the Lear plant face probable job losses if GM goes ahead with its planned closure of the Oshawa plant by the end of the year.Unifor president Jerry Dias says the workers and the union are demanding government action to help protect jobs.The closure of the Oshawa plant will mean the loss of about 2,600 unionized jobs. The union says thousands of spin-off jobs are at risk because of the closure.Unifor has been campaigning to save the plant, including with walk-offs and a call to boycott GM vehicles from Mexico, since the company announced its plans last November. read more

Madeline Albright Morocco Africa Inspire Hope in a CrisisLaden World

Rabat – America’s first female secretary of state, Madeline Albright, has singled out Africa’s upbeat developments in a world witnessing many crises, both between and within counties.Albright, who led America’s diplomatic corps 1997-2001 during Bill Clinton’s presidency, was one of the leading guest speakers at the 7th Atlantic Dialogues, a geopolitical event in Marrakech December 13-15.Organized by the Center for the New South, formerly known as OCP Policy Center, the three-day event continued its tradition of inviting leading voices on diplomacy and global affairs to speak on some of the trends in international relations. In a speech that echoed this year’s Atlantic Dialogues’ theme, “Atlantic Dynamics: Overcoming the Choke Points,” the American diplomat copiously spoke of the growing friction between countries brought about by a politics of resentment and “rage.”Arguing that isolationism and rivalry are replacing international dialogue, Albright regretted the “dangerous rise of nationalism in the world, notably in Europe.”She particularly lambasted the West for the plight of migrants and refugees and called out Europe and the US for their increasingly security-oriented migration policies. President Trump, she said, is America’s “least democratic president.” “No one seems to understand how the system really works,” she said of the rise of post-truth, fake news, and conspiracy theories used by far-right parties to demonize migrants and push for nationalistic policies.She said nationalism is on the rampage while conspiracy theories threaten the order of the post-World War II world.Read also: UN Report: Morocco is 5th Most Ready for E-Shopping in Africa‘Remarkable’ changes in AfricaWhen asked at the end of the question and answer session to make a few remarks on important topics she felt were sidelined or not brought up at all in her speech and the questions that ensued, Albright was full of praise for Morocco and Africa.Referring to the Benguerir-based King Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, which she visited prior to speaking in Marrakech, Albright said she was “blown away” by both the design of the campus and the aspiration of the university. “It was fantastic,” she said, explaining that Morocco and the African continent need such higher learning institutions to accompany and foster the optimistic dynamics that the continent has witnessed of late.“I think that what we should be asking ourselves is what is really happening in Africa, and I think it is remarkable in terms of a rising Africa and a new Africa.”Staying clear of some of the pejorative and stereotyped descriptions of Africa, Albright spoke of a continent full of potential with a bright future. She elaborated, “One of the things I think we need to talk about is the potential of Africa with a very young population that is now being educated and is in fact ready to play their role.”For her, despite some persisting social issues on the continent, African countries should be granted the space to “play their roles both as nation-states and within the context of globalization.”Rather than patronizing the continent, especially for the rising number of young Africans choosing to migrate, the West should take Africa’s concerns seriously and welcome it as “part of the solution to some of the issues.” read more

Decathlon Promotes MoroccanMade Sports Head Scarves for Hijabi Women

Rabat – French sportswear retailer Decathlon will start selling sports headscarves in France, the US, and in its other stores around the world starting March, the company announced Monday.Decathlon said the headscarves, which cover the hair and neck, will prove “practical” for women who wear hijab and also love to jog and play sports. The headscarves were originally made and marketed in Morocco after some Moroccan women requested the sportswear. The sports retailer explained to its customers on its Twitter account that some women expressed their need for sports headscarves, because they could not find sports accessories or gear “adapted to their way of practicing their sport.” “We are fully committed to making sport accessible to all women around the world,” said Decathlon.Read Also: Royal Visit: Meghan Markle Wears Stunning Morocco-Inspired Dior KaftanDecathlon’s headscarves have divided public opinion since the weekend, sparking controversy.Many anti-Islamists around the world took to social media to criticize the sports headscarves.Agnes Buzyn, French minister of solidarity and health, expressed her opinion about the sports headscarves on Tuesday, answering a question on RTL radio.The minister said that while French law does not prohibit headscarves, she would have preferred that French brands like Decathlon did not “promote hijab.” Buzyn stressed that she did not “share the vision” of women who support hijab in the country.Other sports brands like Nike also sell women’s sports headscarves. read more

Mbark Boussoufa Joins Qatari Club Al Sailiya on 2YearContract

Rabat – Moroccan international football player Mbark Boussoufa has joined Qatari club Al Sailiya on a two-year contract.The 35-year-old midfielder signed with the club after the end of his loan contract with Saudi club Al Shabab, with whom he scored only 1 goal in 13 appearances.During the 2016-2018 season, Boussoufa played with Emirati club Al Jazira, where he scored 7 goals in 37 appearances. The experienced player began his senior career with Belgian clubs Gent (2004-2006) and Anderlecht (2006-2011). During his time with Gent, Boussoufa won several prizes. In 2006 the Moroccan midfielder won the Belgian Golden Shoe, the Belgian Footballer of the Year, the Belgian Young Footballer of the Year, and the Belgian Ebony Shoe.The Atlas Lion also performed in the Russian league. From 2011-2013, Boussoufa played with Anzhi Makhachkala, scoring 8 goals in 55 appearances. From 2013 to 2016 he played with Lokomotiv Moscow, scoring 3 goals in 39 appearances.While playing for Morocco’s Atlas Lions, the midfielder scored 8 goals in 68 appearances. read more

CUPE certified to represent hundreds of WestJet Encore flight attendants

Companies in this story: (TSX:WJA)The Canadian Press OTTAWA — The Canadian Union of Public Employees says it has been certified to represent hundreds of flight attendants at WestJet Encore.The union says the decision was made by the Canada Industrial Relations Board after a majority of flight attendants signed cards in support of unionization.The unionization of about 600 flight attendants at WestJet’s regional carrier comes after their colleagues at WestJet’s mainline carrier were unionized last July.Together, nearly 4,000 WestJet flight attendants are unionized, while CUPE says it is continuing efforts to add flight attendants as WestJet’s low-cost carrier, Swoop.Meanwhile, the Calgary-based airline says that 92 per cent of its Encore pilots represented by the Airline Pilots Association voted in favour of a five-year agreement that runs until Jan. 1, 2024.Canada’s second-largest airline saw the repercussions of labour strife last May, when WestJet pilots voted in favour of strike action before the Air Line Pilots Association and the company agreed to a settlement process two weeks later. read more

UN expert on of extrajudicial executions visits Philippines

12 February 2007An independent United Nations human rights expert is on a 10-day visit to the Philippines to investigate the issue of extrajudicial executions. Philip Alston will be visiting the Philippines at the invitation of the Government but his mission is designed to enable him to meet with as broad a range of people and groups as possible. As the UN Human Rights Council’s independent expert for extrajudicial executions, Mr. Alston’s role includes investigating individual cases and systemic causes of such killings in all UN Member States. The visit will include meetings with representatives of all three branches of government, including members of the Cabinet, the parliamentary human rights commissions, the military, the police, the Supreme Court, and the Public Prosecutor’s office. Mr. Alston will also hold meetings with victims’ groups, human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other civil society groups. Most of the visit will take place in the Greater Manila metropolitan area, but he will also travel to Baguio, north of Manila, and to Davao City on the Southern island of Mindanao. Mr. Alston, an Australian national who is Professor of International Law at New York University, is an independent expert and he alone is responsible for determining with whom he will meet while in the Philippines. He will submit a report to the Human Rights Council analyzing the Philippines’ compliance with international law in the area of the right to life and making recommendations to more effectively prevent violations. read more

Continued border closings between Israel and Gaza threaten supplies – UN

The border crossings have been closed since last Wednesday, when only Jordanian trucks were allowed through the Sufa crossing, according to the Office of the UN Special Coordinator (UNSCO) in Jerusalem.The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) says it has about 200 trucks that need to get into Gaza to distribute supplies to some of the occupied territory’s estimated 1.4 million residents. The World Food Programme (WFP) has about 40 trucks of its own that also need to get through.UNRWA said that it will be out of canned meat by the end of this week unless further shipments are permitted, adding it is working with Israeli authorities to find alternative solutions to allow the goods into Gaza.At the same time, UNSCO noted that fuel imports into Gaza have resumed: 315,000 litres came in yesterday and more than 500,000 litres arrived today. Rolling electricity cuts continue nevertheless, especially in Gaza City.Israel has said its tight restrictions on border crossings aim to force an end to the daily rocket and mortar attacks launched against Israeli residential areas by militants in Gaza. 28 January 2008All border crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip remain closed, leaving hundreds of trucks carrying United Nations relief supplies waiting to enter Gaza while threatening the supply of canned meat to Palestinians living inside the territory, UN officials said today. read more

Plant mutation could boost crop yields and help tackle food crisis –

“At a time when the world is facing a food and energy crisis of unprecedented proportions, plant mutation breeding can be a catalyst in developing improved, higher-yield, saline-resistant, sturdier crop varieties,” Werner Burkart, Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told a conference that opened at the Agency’s headquarters in Vienna today.The International Symposium on Induced Mutations in Plants brings together over 600 scientists, researchers and plant breeders from around the world to discuss the latest innovations and how they can improve crop varieties in the future. Mr. Burkart, who is Head of the Agency’s Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications, said 2008 will be remembered as the year in which the world understood the realities of climate change, the food crisis and the energy debate in its link to hunger.“These big issues are intimately interlinked, and translate in the agronomy field into a competition between food, feed and fuel for soil, water, human and financial resources,” he noted.He pointed out that plant mutation has been used for more than 80 years, with mutagens such as X-rays, gamma radiation and chemicals having been used to produce plant varieties that are disease-resistant or best suited to conditions such as high altitude or saline soil.One success story is mutant barley varieties that thrive at altitudes of up to 5,000 metres in the highlands of Peru and which led to a 52 per cent increase in yields between 1978 and 2002. The IAEA has worked with radiation technology to induce mutation in plants since the 1960s and today the technology is being used worldwide. “Mutation induction has proven flexible, workable, and ready to use on any crop,” said Mr. Burkart, adding that it is a non-hazardous and low-cost technology that has the ability to address current challenges in agriculture. “The breeding of new mutant varieties – with a higher yield potential, more productive biomass for energy use, better nutrient composition for human health, better adaptation to climate change and variability, or a heightened potential to sequester carbon – will be the driving force to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” he stated.The four-day conference is a joint collaboration by the IAEA and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the eighth of its kind. The first was held in 1969. 12 August 2008Plant mutation, a scientific technique that dramatically improves crop productivity, could be part of the solution to the current food and energy crisis that threatens to plunge millions worldwide into hunger, according to a United Nations expert on the subject. read more