GBN officials demonstrate use of VVPAT machines

first_imgNoida: Aiming to conduct fair elections and bring a transparency, the Gautam Buddh Nagar District administration, on Thursday, conducted demonstrations on the the working of VVPAT machines ahead of upcoming 17th Lok sabha elections which have been scheduled on April 11 in the district.As per a senior officer of District administration, the machines will be attached to the ballot unit of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM). Explaining the functioning of VVPAT machines, the official said that when a voter presses the button in the ballet unit for the candidate which he wants to vote, the serial number of the candidate in the ballot unit along with the candidate’s symbol will be printed on the paper roll kept inside the VVPAT machine. “After casting the vote on the electronic voting machine, a voter has to look at the VVPAT machine linked with the EVM machine which will display the printout containing the serial number, party symbol and the photo of the candidate who got the vote. The same will be visible to the voter for seven seconds on a small display in the machine. When the voter gets confirmed that the vote has been given to the right candidate, he needs to press a button and printed slip will fall inside the sealed compartment in the bottom of the machine and will be stored for counting,” the officer informed. The officer further said that the new system will bring transparency and will clear doubts and rumours regarding tampering of EVMs and VVPATs.last_img read more

Court summons Kejriwal others in defamation case

first_imgNew Delhi: A Delhi court on Friday issued summons to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and three others in a defamation complaint filed by BJP leader Rajeev Babbar. Additional Chief Metroplitan Magistrate Samar Vishal asked Kejriwal, Rajya Sabha member Sushil Kumar Gupta, MLA Manoj Kumar and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) spokesperson Atishi Malena to appear before him on April 30. Babbar has sought proceedings against Kejriwal and others for harming the reputation of the BJP by blaming the BJP for the deletion of names of “voters” from the electoral rolls in Delhi. Also Read – How a psychopath killer hid behind the mask of a devout laity! “All the accused made accusations against BJP in a calculated manner with the sole intention to portray a negative image of BJP in relation to the voters belonging to certain sections of society, namely, Bania, Poorvanchalis, Muslims, among others. The reputation of the complainant has been damaged beyond repair,” Babbar said. Babbar has alleged that Kejriwal has not only defamed the BJP but also all the people who are associated with the party. “The statement of the accused (Kejriwal) was made with ulterior motives to degrade the reputation of the BJP to gain cheap political mileage in the upcoming elections,” Babbar said in his plea filed through advocate Neeraj, S. N. Verma and Pooja Suri.last_img read more

Devotees from across globe gather at Mayapur to witness Holi spectacle

first_imgKolkata: Devotees from all over the world have assembled at Mayapur, the headquarters of ISKCON, to celebrate the 533rd birth anniversary of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.Gaur Purnima, the biggest festival in the Gaudiya Vaishnav Sampradaya, will be celebrated with fervour and gaiety in the Nabadwip Mandala. The excitement among the devotees is palpable as they are preparing for the big day, purchasing traditional colourful dhoti-kurta and ghagra- choli to participate in the celebration, informed Subroto Das, media spokesperson of ISKCON Mayapur. The celebrations will start from the wee hours, with Manglarti at 4.30 am followed by class and Darshan Arti in the morning. In the evening from 4 pm onwards, Chaitanya Charitamrita – the biography of Mahaprabhu will be read. The Gaur Purnima festival is being celebrated in all 800 centres of the institution around the globe. It may be mentioned that Mayapur is coming up as a centre of international tourism. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has given the green signal to the proposal of developing it as a tourist hotspot and work will start shortly on the same. The estimated cost of the project is around Rs 3,000 crore. During her trip to Mayapur, Banerjee had assured the ISCKON authorities to provide all necessary cooperation. Later, a team comprising senior industrialists visited Mayapur. Sajjan Jindal will head the team carrying out the development project. There has been heavy police deployment to maintain peace during Thursday’s function. Devotees from 95 countries have come to take part in the celebration.last_img read more

PM Modi to hold roadshow in Bhubaneswar on April 16

first_imgBhubaneswar: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold a roadshow in Bhubaneswar during his visit to Odisha on April 16. He is also scheduled to address two rallies in Bhubaneswar and Sambalpur on the same day. BJP state vice president Samir Mohanty on Sunday said that the prime minister will start his roadshow from near the Biju Patnaik International Airport and reach the public rally venue at Baramunda Ground covering Ganganagar and OUAT Square. Polling in Bhubaneswar and Sambalpur Lok Sabha constituencies and the assembly segments coming under them will be held in the third phase on April 23. This will be Modis fifth election programme in the state. Earlier, he had addressed election meetings at Jeypore in Koraput district, Bhawanipatna in Kalahandi, Sonepur in Bolangir district and Sundergarh. BJP national president Amit Shah will also address two rallies at Baramba in Cuttack district and Dhenkanal on April 17, a party leader said. The Lok Sabha and assembly elections are being held simultaneously in the state in four phases.last_img read more

PIOled teams CubeSat to be sent to space by Nasa

first_imgWashington DC: A team led by an Indian American student has been chosen by NASA to have its CubeSat — a mini research satellite to detect cosmic rays — flown into space on future missions of the US space agency. The researchers from the Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association (YUAA), led by 21-year-old Keshav Raghavan, are among the 16 teams across the country whose CubeSats will be flown into space on missions planned to launch in 2020, 2021 and 2022. The team’s CubeSat BLAST (Bouchet Low-Earth Alpha/Beta Space Telescope) is named for physicist Edward A Bouchet — the first African American to receive a PhD in America. Students designed the satellite over the course of four years, and received the launch grant through NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative competition. According to the NASA, BLAST is a scientific investigation mission to map the distribution of galactic cosmic radiation across the night sky. The satellite will identify and count alpha particles and beta particles in the rays, and measure the radiation energy around Earth. BLAST will contribute to the ongoing search for the origins and nature of these rays, which will provide insight into the origins of the universe. Typical CubeSat projects cost about USD 30,000, while the one developed by the team will cost around USD 13,000 to USD 20,000, according to Andrew Krzywosz, co-president of YUAA. Once BLAST, a cosmic ray detector, goes into orbit, it will collect data about particles travelling to earth from distant supernovae, Raghavan said. “Building a CubeSat and launching it into space is an ambition YUAA has had for quite a while. The founding members in 2011 had it as a goal in the back of their minds, but at that time, it was totally beyond our capabilities as a club,” said Jonathan Li, co-president of YUAA. The team said that as the satellite is ‘smaller than a loaf of bread,’ it costs orders of magnitude less than large-scale satellites. The work, so far, has culminated in a viable prototype that the team anticipates will be ready for launch in slightly over a year. CubeSats are miniature satellites intended as a standard, inexpensive design that can easily fit alongside larger satellites aboard launch vehicles. The CubeSat model has given student groups, hobbyist organizations, and research teams operating with limited funding or experience unprecedented access to space. CubeSats are built from a modular structure of 10x10x10cm cubes, and feature a wide variety of commercially available off-the-shelf components designed to fit the structure from various manufacturers.last_img read more

Campaign ends for fourth phase of elections in Bengal

first_imgKolkata: More than one crore voters in over eight Lok Sabha constituencies will exercise their franchise on April 29.Canvassing reached a peak over the past couple of days including big rallies, road shows, street corner meetings and last minute door-to-door contact with voters in Berhampore, Ranaghat, Krishnanagar, Burdwan East, Burdwan-Durgapur, Asansol, Bolpur (SC) and Birbhum, before coming to an end at 6 pm. Of these eight seats, Congress and BJP have one seat each. In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Adhir Chowdhury and Babul Supriyo were elected from Berhampore and Asansol respectively. The remaining six seats had been won by the Trinamool Congress in the 2014 elections. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari PujaIn Berhampore, the Trinamool has fielded Apurba Sarkar, a close aide of Adhir Chowdhury. In the past four years, the TMC has made inroads in Murshidabad which is believed to be a Congress stronghold. Suvendu Adhikari, the state Transport minister, is looking after Murshidabad district on behalf of the party. He has organised the party and in 2018 Panchayat elections, the Trinamool has got control over the Zilla Parishad. In Krishnanagar seat, the Trinamool has fielded Mahua Moitra, the party’s MLA from Karimpur. Also Read – Bengal civic volunteer dies in road mishap on national highwayIn Ranaghat, the Trinamool Congress supremo replaced Tapas Mondol, party’s candidate who was elected in 2014 with Rupali Biswas. The latter is the widow of Satyajit Biswas, the party’s MLA from Krishnagunj, who was murdered in February this year. In Asansol, Trinamool MP from Bankura Moon Moon Sen is contesting in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Her rival is Babul Supriyo, the sitting BJP MP. In Burdwan East and Burdwan-Durgapur seats, the Trinamool has fielded two sittings MPs, Sunil Mondol and Mumtaz Sanghamita respectively. Asit Mal is TMC’s nominee in Bolpur (SC) seat. The former MP Anupam Hazra was expelled from the party and he is contesting from Jadavpur seat. Shatabdi Roy is contesting from Birbhum Lok Sabha seat with Trinamool’s ticket. Mamata Banerjee has campaigned in all the eight seats and took part in road shows which had attracted thousands of people. Political experts said in the eight seats where election will be held on April 29, the Trinamool Congress is likely to gain the Asansol seat. Trinamool workers are burying hatchets and are campaigning for Moon Moon Sen. Besides door-to-door campaigns, Sen has addressed meetings of the workers and visited the villages. Malay Ghatak, state Law minister, said party workers are leaving no stones unturned to ensure her victory.last_img read more

ED attaches Rs 194 cr Delhi farmhouse in OP Chautala DA case

first_imgNew Delhi: The ED has attached a Delhi farmhouse worth Rs 1.94 crore of former Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala under provisions of PMLA in a disproportionate assets case, the agency said on Friday.The Enforcement Directorate had initiated its investigation based on a disproportionate assets case registered by the CBI, where the former CM had allegedly amassed over Rs 6 crore in assets, disproportionate to his known sources of income. The CBI investigation in the case revealed that between 1993 and 2006, in addition to Chautala himself, his sons Abhay Singh Chautala and Ajay Singh Chautala also continued to gather assets to the tune of Rs 119.6 crore and Rs 27.7 crore respectively, which was disproportionate to their known sources of income. Also Read – 2019 most peaceful festive season for J&K: Jitendra SinghThe ED said that its investigation further revealed that Chautala had acquired properties in New Delhi and Panchkula and also constructed a residential home in Sirsa, Haryana with money received from undisclosed sources. The agency has further accused Chautala of being directly involved in the acquisitions and that he had publicly presented these properties as untainted while declaring them in his election affidavit for Haryana Assembly elections in 2005 and 2009. Also Read – Personal life needs to be respected: Cong on reports of Rahul’s visit abroadWith this latest attachment, the ED has successfully attached Chautala’s properties amounting to the total proceeds of crime in the case. In April this year, the ED had attached properties worth Rs 3.68 crore belonging Chautala in Delhi, Panchkula, and Sirsa, whereas, in 2013, the agency had attached another of Chautala’s properties. The agency had filed the first chargesheet in the case against the former Haryana CM in July 2017 and this year filed a supplementary chargesheet. Chautala and his son Ajay are currently serving a 10-year jail term in a teacher-recruitment scam. The father-son duo was convicted by a trial court along with 53 others, including two IAS officers. While the Chautalas had appealed the trial court verdict twice, the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court of India had both upheld the trial court’s conviction in the case.last_img read more

Tangier young man murdered on first day of 2014

first_imgCasablanca- What could be the most undesirable occurrence on the first day of a fresh year? Indeed, someone’s death! A violent fight erupted between two young men on the first day of January, and resulted in the death of one of them after he received a deadly stab from the other. The victim, 24, lost his life at Bani Mekada neighborhood in Tangier, in a fight against another young man who is now still on the run. Investigations are ongoing to find the suspect, who vanished from all sights right after committing his crime.Residents of Bani Mekada neighborhood in Tangier were shocked at the sight of the dead man’s body on the first day of 2014—the last thing you’d want to see after being wished a Happy New Year. “My wish for this New Year is to see more security prevail in our cities and see the government give harsher jail sentences to all criminals,” a student from Casablanca’s Ain Chok university told MWN.© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributedlast_img read more

Huge Turnout for Moroccos General Strike Unions Say

Rabat  –  The 24-hour general strike, observed Wednesday by the main unions, was a “great success, as turnout has exceeded 84 pc”, the Moroccan Labour Union (UMT), the Democratic Labour Confederation (CDT), the General Union of Morocco’s Workers (UGTM) and the Democratic Labour Federation (FDT) said.According to reports and preliminary results, “the turnout reached over 84 pc, which is beyond all expectations”, the country’s main unions underlined in a joint statement.The strike was observed in all regions, provinces and cities of Morocco and in all professional and public administrations and services, the statement added. The five unions said the government is to be held responsible of the results of its intransigence and lack of dialogue in terms of social tensions that could lead the country to instability.With MAP read more

Moroccan Shares Open August Trade in the Red

Rabat – Casablanca Stock Exchange opened its first session of August in the red, with the Moroccan All Shares Index registering an acute loss of 0.75 percent to 12.109 points. Moroccan shares fell under their 20-day moving average, putting an end to their upward trend and succumbing to summer lethargy. Trade volumes barely reached MAD 11 million this morning, with Addoha Group taking up MAD 2 million in exchanged volumes with a MAD 1.04 percent loss at MAD 46.52 per dividend. The top performers of this Tuesday morning session are the pharmaceutical company Sothema, with a 4 percent gain trading at MAD 1,300, followed by Risma with 3.05 percent and MAD 135 per dividend. In third place comes SM Monetique with a 2.28 percent gain, trading at MAD 288 at open of trade. Stroc Industries leads the list of the worst performers of today’s session with a 9.99 percent loss, the company is now trading at MAD 55.35 per dividend. IB comes in second, falling 9.33 percent at MAD 102, followed by Sonasid with a 4.96 percent decline at MAD 575 per share. Moroccan shares closed July with a 1 percent loss, with significant losses in the real estate, banking, and construction sectors. The Addoha group lost 2.47 percent at close of trade yesterday, trading at MAD 47 per dividend. Alliances group also registered a 1.44 percent to MAD 225.70, followed by DH & RDS with a 0.06 percent decline to trade at MAD 180. The banking giant Attijariwafa Bank also felt the heat of this summer season with a 0.87 percent loss at MAD 446, followed by BCP with a 1.02 percent trading at MAD 290. LafargeHolcim and Ciments du Maroc, with respective losses of 2.74 and 2.65 percent, also weighed down the MASI on Monday’s session. read more

Palestinian Activist Ahed Tamimi to Remain in Prison until Trial

Rabat – The voice of Palestinian resistance in the occupied West Bank, Ahed Tamimi, and her mother will remain in custody until trial, ruled an Israeli court today.Tamimi, 16, was arrested after a video posted by the Israeli police, showing her defying Israeli soldiers. Both she and her cousin appeared kicking and pushing two armed soldiers from her family’s front yard.In early January, Tamimi received 12 charges, including “assault” and “incitement.” She now faces months in custody before the judge pronounces her sentence. “The gravity of the offences of which she is accused does not allow an alternative to custody,” her judge said.Tamimi’s next hearing is scheduled for January 31, the day of her 17th birthday.“The court said that because she is so dangerous there is no possibility of bail,” her lawyer, Gaby Lasky reportedly told the Guardian.Israel remains the only country in the world that prosecutes children in military courts, the Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP) rights group told Al Jazeera.Human rights organizations and the European Union have condemned the arrest of teenager.A day after her arrest, Ahed’s mother, Nariman, was also arrested when she went to visit her daughter at an Israeli police station and requested to be present during the her daughter’s interrogation.Nariman is also charged with “assault” and “incitement” for uploading the video to social media.The Tamimi family started documenting the Israeli occupation in 2009.Ahed Tamimi has shown more strength and resistance than all Arab leaders combined #???_???????— Fatima (@fatimalmahmoud) December 19, 2017A skinnier, younger Ahed first attracted global attention in a viral video in 2012, when she was featured shaking her fist at an Israeli soldier, demanding to know why her brother was detained. Since then, she appeared several times on camera, bravely defying Israeli occupation. read more

How major US stock indexes fared Monday

Major U.S. stock indexes finished mostly higher Monday as Wall Street looked ahead to key trade talks between the U.S. and China this week.Gains in industrial, energy and financial stocks outweighed losses in communications services and health care companies. Small-company stocks fared better than the rest of the market.On Monday:The S&P 500 index rose 1.92 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 2,709.80.The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 53.22 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 25,053.11.The Nasdaq composite added 9.71 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 7,307.90.The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gained 12.59 points, or 0.8 per cent, to 1,518.98.For the year:The S&P 500 is up 202.95 points, or 8.1 per cent.The Dow is up 1,725.65 points, or 7.4 per cent.The Nasdaq is up 672.63 points, or 10.1 per cent.The Russell 2000 is up 170.42 points, or 12.6 per cent.The Associated Press read more

Lufthansa Launches FrankfurtAgadir Direct Flight

According to a Lufthansa communique, an Airbus A320 will offer two weekly flights, Mondays and Saturdays, between Agadir and Frankfurt. An Airbus A319 will provide another direct flight between Agadir and Munich every Sunday starting November 4.The two new routes will provide Agadir with access to 239 destinations in approximately 88 countries, the communique boasted.“Morocco will continue to be an important market for the Lufthansa group, and we are so happy to announce our two new lines linking Agadir to the main hubs in Germany. This is our third Moroccan destination, and we can’t wait to help travelers move to Agadir and other destination via our network,” said Nils Reichardt, the general director of the Lufthansa Group for Morocco, Tunisia, and Libya. The Souss Massa Regional Council governing the region around Agadir has been working hard to win collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism to increase tourism infrastructure and attract more investors and visitors. The new direct flights to Germany may add value to their endeavors.Lufthansa already operates flights between Germany and Marrakech through its low cost affiliate Germanwings. The company has regular flights between Casablanca and Frankfurt, Cologne, and Bonn and other flights to Tangier. read more

Egyptian Mufti Slams Tunisias Equal Inheritance Law

Rabat – On Friday, November 23, Tunisia made history when it became the first government in the Arab world to approve equality in inheritance law, allowing men and women the same share in terms of inheritance. But not everyone in the Arab world is happy with Tunisia’s move.In response to what he called “a controversial decision,” Egypt’s grand mufti, Dr. Shawki Allam, issued a statement on Monday, November 26, that harshly condemned the Tunisian government’s stance.Dr. Allam explained that equality in inheritance for both genders is contrary to the Qur’an’s prescriptions on the matter. Sharia, the Islamic law deriving from both the Qur’an and the hadith (prophetic tradition), should not be subject to personal interpretation or reasoning (ijtihad), the Egyptian mufti said. Sensitive topics in Islam, including inheritance, have been clearly dealt with in the Qur’an and the Islamic tradition (sunnah), the statement said. In addition to upending the Islamic tradition, pushing for equality for genders also disrupts the “transmitted consensus of scholars.”Read Also: Tunisian Government Approves Equal Inheritance Law“The call for equality in inheritance between genders contradicts both the definitive rulings of Shariah Law and the successively transmitted consensus of scholars…. Therefore, they are not subject to ijtihad (interpretation) or change due to cultural contexts.”“In Shari’ah,” the mufti’s statement added, “males are entitled to inherit double the females’ shares only in four cases. Both genders, on the other hand, inherit equally in more than 30 cases.”The Egyptian mufti is not the only one angered by the Tunisian government’s move. The mufti’s admonishment falls in line with complaints within Tunisia’s conservative circles.Following conservative lines, Ennahda, Tunisia’s largest party in Parliament, has been particularly critical of the government’s sweeping reforms in gender equality. Prior to the equal inheritance law, Tunisia passed a bill in September 2017 that granted Tunisian women the right to marry non-Muslim men. Like the Egyptian mufti, Ennahda and its Tunisian supporters have argued against changing “the obligations that God has revealed in his holy book.”Meanwhile, supportive voices in Tunisia, the Arab world, and globally have welcomed the current Tunisian regime’s boldly progressive reforms since it ascended to power. They argue that, like with the Arab Spring which erupted in Tunisia and spread to many countries in the region, Tunisia may inspire other countries to follow suit with more rights-based and religion-free laws.While approved by the government and endorsed by President Beji Caid Essebsi, the equal inheritance proposal will have to pass through committee and plenary session debates in the Tunisian Parliament before taking effect. read more

Egypt Says Assad Should Return to Arab League

Rabat – Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita held talks with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry on Tuesday in Cairo.Following the meeting, both officials co-chaired a press conference where Shoukry emphasized the convergence of views between Cairo and Rabat on many regional issues.“There is consensus and convergence of views between Egypt and Morocco on several regional issues, notably the Palestinian question in the light of HM King Mohammed VI’s chairmanship of the Al-Quds Committee of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, as well as the situation in Syria, Libya and Yemen,” said Shoukry. However, on the issue of Syria, only Shoukry spoke of normalizing the situation in Syria. Commenting on the conflict, Shoukry called on Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to return to the Arab League.Read Also: Nasser Bourita Highlights in Washington the King’s ‘Leading’ Role in Advancing Religious Freedom“There’s a need to get out of the current crisis in Syria through the political framework sponsored by the UN envoy in Geneva,”  said Shoukry, pointing out that the Syrian regime has not made any progress on the crisis.On Moroccan-Egyptian relations, he added that both countries are working to “revitalize the mechanisms of bilateral cooperation in order to reap the benefits and tackle shortcomings in the service of our common interests.”Shoukry described the joint Moroccan-Egyptian commission as “very important,” because it aims to develop bilateral ties and achieve“concrete objectives in the interest of the two brotherly peoples.”He added that preparations for a joint commision are underway, asserting that the date for the meeting will be announced after considering mechanisms at the ministerial and technical levels, according to Maghreb Arab Press (MAP).Bourita emphasized the importance of solidifying coordination between Cairo and Rabat on regional matters, congratulating Egypt for chairing the African Union in 2019.Bourita also saluted Egypt’s efforts to preserve security and economic stability.During his visit in Cairo, Bourita also met with the secretary general of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit.During the meeting, the two officials consulted on the latest developments in regional crises, including the conflicts in Syria, Libya, and Yemen. read more

Nevada court orders former Vancouver man to pay back 217 million to

VANCOUVER — The British Columbia Securities Commission says it has won a court decision in Nevada that enforces a $21.7-million order against a man accused of defrauding his Canadian clients.It says it is the first time a court in the United States has recognized an order from the B.C. commission.The commission says Michael Lathigee committed fraud over a decade ago by raising millions from almost 700 investors without telling them his company was in severe financial trouble.In 2014, it ordered Lathigee to repay the investors, pay a $15 million administrative penalty and permanently banned him from trading in securities in B.C.The commission says Lathigee moved from Vancouver to Las Vegas, prompting it to go to court in Nevada to enforce the order.It says in a news release that Lathigee has appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of Nevada and that it is working with its legal counsel to determine its next steps.“We’ve done everything in our power to collect from Michael Lathigee, because if we collect, we can return money to his victims,” Doug Muir, the commission’s director of enforcement, said in the release. “This decision sends a strong message that people can’t just leave the country to avoid the consequences of their wrongdoing.” The Canadian Press read more

UN envoy calls for greater international and internal efforts to stabilize Afghanistan

Given the conflict in the south of the country and militarily vulnerable borders in the east and southeast, “the threat to peace has not diminished,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Tom Koenigs, told the Security Council in an open meeting that saw the participation of more than two dozen speakers.“To be candid, international participation needs to improve,” he said, calling on donors to ensure “meaningful participation” of their representatives in international meetings on Afghanistan’s future and on the ground.Mr. Koenigs also pressed the Government to do more to fulfil its role as called for in the Afghanistan Compact, a five-year UN-backed blueprint launched early last year which sets benchmarks for certain security, governance and development goals.“The continued passivity of many government agencies – in the expectation that the international community will come to their rescue to meet the Compact objectives – only serves to delay progress and in some cases undermine it,” he cautioned.Also briefing the Council, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa reported on its latest Afghanistan survey, which offered a mixed picture marked by some progress but also serious threats posed by the nexus between terrorism and illicit drug revenue.While opium cultivation in the centre-north of the country is decreasing, thanks to improved security conditions and development, in the south, “the vicious circle of drugs funding terrorism and terrorism supporting drug lords is stronger than ever,” he said. “Afghanistan’s drug problem occurs in a security vacuum, where illicit crops coexist with other criminal activities that support such cultivation.”Mr. Costa recommended improved border management, bringing major drug traffickers to justice and stamping out corruption as three tactics to combat Afghanistan’s illicit drug production.“Terrorism, narcotics, weak State institutions and the slow pace of reconstruction are among our main challenges,” Afghanistan’s representative Zahir Tanin acknowledged at the meeting. “As such, it would be safe to state that we have jointly underestimated the magnitude of the challenges facing Afghanistan.”Citing the gains the country has made since 2001, when the oppressive Taliban regime was ousted, he said that it is “ever more obvious that the renewed commitment of the international community is required to address the remaining obstacles and consolidate the gains of the past years.”As a basis for its discussion, the Security Council had Security-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report on Afghanistan, which proposed a 12-month extension of UN Assistance Mission in the country (UNAMA).With Afghanistan at a “critical juncture,” the report said “it is time for the international community to reconfirm its commitment to Afghanistan.”UNAMA, along with its Afghan and international partners, is “well positioned” to assist in meeting challenges the country faces, such as the insurgency, national reconciliation and narcotics trafficking, the report said. 20 March 2007The senior United Nations envoy to Afghanistan today called on both the international community and the war-torn country’s Government to increase efforts to promote reconstruction and bring lasting stability to the “place of hope and challenge.” read more

UN agencies highlight climate changes impact on human security health

The heads of two United Nations agencies today marked World Environment Day with calls for decisive action to address climate change, warning of its potential risks on human security and health. In his message for the Day – commemorated every year on 5 June – Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), observed that climate change is “magnifying existing disparities between rich and poor” and “aggravating tensions over fragile or increasingly scarce natural resources” such as productive land and freshwater. “It increases the potential to create a new class of displaced people known collectively as environmental refugees,” Mr. Steiner warned.He stressed that collective and decisive political will is “the final – and still missing – piece in the jigsaw puzzle.” While many sectors of society are moving to deal with climate change – including local authorities, industry, the financial sector and civil society – the collective political process, he said, is moving “frustratingly slowly.”Referring to this year’s theme, Melting Ice: A Hot Topic?, Mr. Steiner urged people everywhere to ask their political leaders and elected representatives: “Just how much hotter does this topic need to become before Governments across the globe finally act?”Meanwhile, the head of the UN health agency highlighted in her message the close relationship between health and the environment, noting that 60,000 deaths from climate-related natural disasters occur every year, the majority in the developing world.“Limiting the impact of climate change is about saving lives and livelihoods, as much as it is about protecting the natural environment,” Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), said. She stressed the need to strengthen public health systems, the “first line of defence against climate-related health risks.” Also, noting that prevention is just as important as a cure, she said many of the actions that are necessary to reduce the impact of humans on the global climate can also reduce pollution and save lives now. “Reducing our impact on the global climate requires individuals, communities and governments to make the behaviour and policy changes – such as cleaner energy and more sustainable transport systems – that will also bring immediate health benefits.”World Environment Day was established by the UN General Assembly in 1972 to raise global awareness of the environment and boost political attention and action. 5 June 2007The heads of two United Nations agencies today marked World Environment Day with calls for decisive action to address climate change, warning of its potential risks on human security and health. read more

Ban Kimoon endorses report of UN team assessing Lebanese border security

Mr. Ban transmitted the report to the Security Council yesterday, Michele Montas told journalists, adding he “fully supports” the recommendations of the Lebanon Independent Border Assessment Team.“It is clear that efforts are required from the Lebanese Government, with the support of the international community, to develop a more efficient system for border management in Lebanon,” Ms. Montas said.“The Secretary-General also concurs with the recommendation that Syria should cooperate with the Lebanese authorities, noting that Syria has a shared responsibility in controlling its borders with Lebanon and in implementing [Security Council] resolution 1701,” which ended last year’s war between Hizbollah and the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF).The five-member team, comprised of experts in border security, police, customs and military issues, was set up by Mr. Ban after a request from the Council in April. The team travelled to Lebanon late last month and spent several weeks holding consultations with Lebanese officials and bilateral partners already assisting the country on border monitoring and reviewing existing security arrangements. 27 June 2007Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon backs the recommendations contained in the report of the independent United Nations team tasked with assessing the monitoring of the Lebanese border with Syria, his spokesperson announced today. read more

Ban Kimoon pledges continued UN support for Liberias postconflict recovery

22 April 2008Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today pledged the continued assistance of the United Nations to Liberia, which he said has made great strides in recovering from a brutal decade-long civil war, but still faces daunting challenges in areas such as security, rule of law and development, as he wrapped up a visit to the West African nation. “I have come to Liberia to see at first hand the remarkable achievements your country has made in recovering from a devastating conflict. And I have come to reassure the Liberian people of my steadfast commitment to peace, stability and prosperity in your nation,” Mr. Ban said in an address to a joint session of the Liberian legislature in the capital, Monrovia.“As the most representative legislature in the history of this country, you have a unique chance to build a national vision for a secure, peaceful and prosperous Liberia – one that provides opportunities for all its citizens,” he said.Mr. Ban outlined several areas where further progress is needed, including reforming the legal and judicial system and extending the rule of law throughout the country. He said more also needs to be done to reintegrate populations affected by war and promote reconciliation and national unity, as well as ensure economic development. “Delivering the peace dividend in these areas is necessary to underpin the stability that Liberia currently enjoys,” he noted. “In this and other challenges confronting Liberia, the entire United Nations family will work with you,” the Secretary-General pledged.The UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia (UNMIL) has begun the first phase of its drawdown process, and the Security Council will decide on the next phase after reviewing the progress made by the Government in meeting certain key benchmarks. Mr. Ban said his recommendations to the Council on the drawdown will be linked to the Government’s ability to assume full responsibility for its national security. “Our common strategic goal is to ensure that Liberia has a solid security sector – one that can stand on its own feet before UNMIL completes its withdrawal.”The Secretary-General also drew attention to surge in food prices, a major concern not only for Liberia, but also for the region and the world as a whole. Speaking to reporters later in the day, he said that “the recent worldwide protests over soaring global food prices have demonstrated the need for Liberia to meet the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals] in order to be safe from the weaknesses of globalization while taking advantage from its myriad opportunities for growth and prosperity.” He added that it is regrettable that rape continues to be the most commonly committed crime in Liberia, and he called on community leaders, Government leaders, traditional chiefs, elders and prominent Liberians to take the lead in combating the scourge of rape and other acts of sexual and gender-based violence. Recently the UN joined forces with the Liberian Government and civil society groups in a nationwide anti-rape campaign.Upon arrival in Monrovia yesterday the Secretary-General was greeted by an honour guard and received the traditional Liberian gift of a live chicken and an egg, as well as a key to the city, making him an honorary citizen of the Liberian capital. He met this morning with Vice President Joseph Boakai, and with members of the cabinet, with whom he discussed the recovery efforts since the war and the challenges ahead for Liberia as well as the peacebuilding projects under way.Mr. Ban is now in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, where this evening he will meet with President Blaise Compaoré and Prime Minister Tertius Zongo. Burkina Faso is the third leg of a four-nation West Africa tour that began in Ghana and will conclude in Côte d’Ivoire. read more