Moroccans Protest in Al Hoceima Demanding Nasser Zefzafis Release

Rabat – On Sunday, April 7, inhabitants of the city of Al Hoceima, the main city of northern Morocco’s Rif region, took to the streets by the hundreds to demand the release of Nasser Zefzafi, the leader of the popular mass protests in 2016 and 2017 known as Hirak.Waving Amazigh (Berber) flags, protesters chanted slogans such as “Death instead of humiliation,” “The state is corrupt,” and “We want prisoners freed!”Incarcerated in the Casablanca Oukacha prison since May 2017, Nasser Zefzafi lost his appeal on April 5 at the Court of Appeals in Casablanca, which upheld his 20-year sentence. Read also: 25 European MPs Call on Morocco to Free Hirak PrisonersA Casablanca court found Hirak activists guilty on charges of “attacks on the internal and external security of the State, violence with premeditation,” and “disturbing the public order.”The court handed down sentences from 1 to 20 years for 54 Hirak activists in June 2018. Human rights organization Amnesty International deemed the guilty verdicts “unfair” and said they must be overturned.Three other prominent Hirak activists, including Ouassim El Boustati and Samir Ghid, like Zefzafi, received 20 years in prison. Hirak leaders like Zakaria Adehchour, Mohamed Haki, and Mohamed Bouhenouch received 15-year sentences.The journalist Hamid El Mahdaoui received a 3-year prison sentence on a charge related to national security threats. Human Rights Watch described the charges against Mehdaoui as “dubious.” The activists appealed the sentences, but Zefzafi refused to attend an appeal hearing in January 2019, claiming there was an “absence of the minimum requirements for a fair trial.” On April 3, 24 members of the European Parliament and an MP from the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly addressed a letter to Morocco’s justice minister Mohamed Aujjar, calling on him to free Nasser Zefzafi and “all the prisoners of the popular movement of the Rif.”Read also: Dutch MPs Summon Moroccan Ambassador Over Hirak Appeal RulingThe letter also expressed concern for Zefzafi’s deteriorating health and the distance between the court in Casablanca and the prisoners’ families in Al Hoceima. Moroccans protested outside the court to decry the ruling and call for the immediate release of the Hirak activists. The Hirak protests broke out in October 2016 following the tragic death of a fishmonger, Mohcine Fikri, who was crushed in a garbage truck when he attempted to retrieve his confiscated merchandise. read more

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Pegasus Airlines to Launch IstanbulCasablanca Flight in July

Rabat –  Low-cost company Pegasus Airlines will launch a new direct flight between Istanbul and Casablanca.The company will launch the flight on July 8, and will operate four flights per week between Istanbul-Sabiha Gokcen airport and Morocco’s Mohammed V Airport.Departure flights will be scheduled every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, while return flights leaving Morocco will be scheduled ev on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.” Air Journal reported that the company seeks to compete with Moroccan state owned carrier Royal Air Maroc, as well as other local and international companies, including Air Arab Maroc, Turkish Airlines, and Corendon Airlines.Air Arabia announced last week  its decision to launch a bi-weekly seasonal flight between Tangier and Istanbul starting July 4.The new flight between Tangier and Istanbul will run twice a week: Thursdays and Saturdays. read more

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Grains mostly lower livestock higher

Wheat for May was off 9.50 cents at 4.2175 a bushel; May corn fell 10.75 cents at 3.4450 a bushel; May oats was up 3.50 cents at $2.9850 a bushel; while May soybeans declined 14 cents at $8.0025 a bushel.Beef and pork were higher on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. June live cattle rose .88 cent at $1.1195 a pound; May feeder cattle gained .48 cent at $1.3625 a pound; while May lean hogs was up .18 cent at $.8375 a pound.The Associated Press

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Strong job market hampers FEMA hiring in floodhit states

LINCOLN, Neb. — The Federal Emergency Management Agency is facing an unexpected challenge in meeting the needs of the many people affected by this spring’s widespread flooding and violent storms: a strong economy.Tasked with responding to natural disasters that seem ever more frequent and destructive, the agency finds itself further challenged by the robust job market and an inability to match what the private sector can offer, in many cases.FEMA officials are turning for help to retirees, recent college graduates and those who lost their jobs to the disasters, though they’re finding few available workers in many of the rural communities that are in some of the hardest-hit areas.In no place is that clearer than Nebraska and Iowa, which were ravaged by floods and have some of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates.Grant Schulte, The Associated Press read more

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On its 1st anniversary 376 million provided by UN fund for emergencies

9 March 2007Today marks the first anniversary of a landmark United Nations fund which has significantly reduced the time in which aid is delivered to those most in need, and to date, $376.1 million has been distributed in 40 countries through almost 400 projects, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) announced. The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), managed by OCHA, was established last year to speed up relief operations for humanitarian emergencies and make funds available quickly after a disaster, when people are at most risk. Previously, it took up to four months for funds to reach areas affected by disasters.CERF funding for aid programmes is made available within 72 hours in emergencies such as the armed conflicts in Lebanon and Timor-Leste, allowing UN agencies on the ground to provide immediate assistance.“I welcome all that the CERF has accomplished in the last year, and look forward to consolidating and furthering this progress as the Fund continues to evolve,” said John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.To date, $214.2 million has been disbursed to aid to emergency situations, while $161.9 was provided for underfunded crises to reverse imbalances in global aid distribution which result in millions suffering in so-called neglected or forgotten crises.Financed by voluntary contributions, 73 partners – Member States, local governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector – have thus far contributed $399.4 million to CERF.A majority of CERF grants have been for natural disaster responses. For example, Afghanistan received $32.3 million to address needs arising from the drought and security situation.The UN World Food Programme (WFP), the largest recipient of CERF funds so far, “often struggles with breaks in the food pipeline for its beneficiaries, sometimes in genuinely difficult environments like Darfur,” said the agency’s Executive Director, James Morris. “We always welcome new avenues to receive support and appreciate donations through the CERF.”As CERF enters its second year, it seeks to expand its donor base, broaden partnerships through UN inter-agency cooperation and provide equitable balance to neglected emergencies. The Fund also seeks to increase benefits to NGOs, and CERF will utilize the results of an internal evaluation this year to identify areas in which it can improve. read more

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Constitutional reform planned for Venezuela alarms UN human rights experts

In a joint statement, the rapporteurs say that the proposals – which will go before Venezuelan voters in a referendum on Sunday – “will curtail a set of fundamental rights that should be enjoyed at all times, including during states of emergencies,” citing the right to freedom of expression and the right of access to information as two examples. They say the reforms could also limit the work of journalists and human rights defenders and harm the independence of the judiciary. “We call upon the Venezuelan Government to firmly commit to the protection of the set of human rights, safeguarding the institutional guarantees that ensure that democracy and the rule of law will be upheld at all times,” said the statement, issued by Ambeyi Ligabo, the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Hina Jilani, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders; and Leandro Despouy, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers. Sunday’s referendum comes a few weeks after Venezuela’s National Assembly approved President Hugo Chavez’s reform proposals, which include allowing the indefinite re-election of the president, extending the presidential term by one year and ending the autonomy of the country’s central bank. The rapporteurs expressed concern that some provisions regarding the declaration of a state of emergency would hinder citizens’ civil liberties, while the elimination of the Supreme Court’s authority to oversee and approve such declarations would be inconsistent with Venezuela’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Amendments to three articles of the constitution also mean many “fundamental rights… [that are] stepping stones of all democratic societies” are no longer expressly guaranteed, according to the statement. “We are also concerned about the situation of human rights defenders as the proposed reform establishes that associations with a political aim can only access funding at the national level. We fear that this definition might be selectively applied to human rights organizations to prevent them from accessing international funding,” the experts said. They also voiced concern about the situation facing human rights defenders and journalists “who have been subject to threats and attacks that not only affect their personal security, but generate a widespread atmosphere of intimidation that discourages them from engaging in their activities and from taking public stands for the defence of human rights.” Under the planned reforms the dismissal of Supreme Court judges can be decided a simple majority vote in the National Assembly, rather than the current two-thirds majority required, leading the rapporteurs to warn of the impact on judicial independence. 30 November 2007Three independent United Nations human rights experts today voiced concern about planned constitutional reforms in Venezuela, saying the proposed changes could curb civil liberties and breach the South American country’s international treaty commitments. read more

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Greater integration of HIVinfected in Eastern Europe exSoviet states crucial – UN

10 December 2008Discrimination and the social exclusion of people living with HIV are undermining efforts to respond to AIDS in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), one of the few areas in the world where incidence continues to rise, according to a United Nations report released today. Discrimination and the social exclusion of people living with HIV are undermining efforts to respond to AIDS in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), one of the few areas in the world where incidence continues to rise, according to a United Nations report released today. “Just as HIV transforms the lives of people living with HIV – who must come to terms with their HIV-status, identify coping and health promotion strategies, and follow life-saving treatment regimes for the rest of their lives – so too must states and societies in the region undergo transformations in the way they care for their populations and relate to each other for generations to come,” UN Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Director Kori Udovicki said. The report – “Living with HIV in Eastern Europe and CIS: The human cost of social exclusion” -calls for concrete efforts to adjust health, social and other services to accommodate the needs of the growing ranks of people living with HIV and of populations at risk, including injecting-drug users, sex workers, men who have sex with men, migrants and their spouses and partners. Many people living with HIV fear social stigma more than the health consequences of the disease, the report stresses. The fear of stigma and discrimination is a major cause of reduced up-take of prevention, care treatment and support services, even when free, by people living with HIV or at risk of infection, which in turn diminishes the effectiveness of national responses. Limitations on rights can fuel the spread of the epidemic and exacerbate the impact of HIV, it adds. Consequently, respecting people’s individual rights and improving the status of historically marginalized populations can lead to lower rates of HIV transmission, fewer health disparities in society, and improved socio-economic and human development outcomes, the report stresses. From an estimated 630,000 people living with the virus in 2001, HIV prevalence in the region has risen to 1.5 million as of 2007, a 140 per cent increase. Nearly 90 per cent of newly reported HIV cases are from Russia and Ukraine. In Central Asia and the Caucuses, the number of newly reported HIV diagnoses is also rising rapidly, with the highest incidence found in Uzbekistan. The lack of basic training on HIV epidemiology, transmission and prevention, explicit biases against patients being treated for AIDS and unclear policy guidelines are among the key factors contributing to the unpreparedness of employers, educational institutions and health service providers outside of specialized AIDS centres to accept and serve people living with HIV. The report’s launch was timed to coincide with both World AIDS Day and the 60th Anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. read more

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Israel moving in right direction by allowing more goods into Gaza –

“This can only be the beginning of the long road towards reconstruction and a functioning economy in the Gaza Strip,” said a statement issued by the Office of UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry. Mr. Serry hopes the measures will stimulate commercial activities and allow a substantial increase in the amount of construction materials to enter Gaza, where, according to a recent UN report, three quarters of the buildings and infrastructure damaged by the Israeli military offensive carried out a year and a half ago have still not been repaired.He looks forward to continued discussions on exports to stimulate Gaza’s economy and on the easing of restrictions on the movement of Palestinians in and out of the Strip. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a statement issued by his spokesperson, also noted the agreement to facilitate the immediate start of the construction of 12 UN education and health facilities.“The Secretary-General has long called for a significant shift in strategy towards meeting the great needs of Gaza’s population,” said the statement. “Further steps must now follow to meet those needs and to allow the United Nations to accelerate and expand its efforts.”Mr. Ban, the Special Coordinator and other senior UN officials have repeatedly called for ending the blockade against Gaza, which Israel imposed on the territory for what it called security reasons after Hamas, which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, ousted the Fatah movement in the Strip in 2007. 6 July 2010United Nations officials today welcomed the additional measures announced by Israel in increasing the scope and quantity of materials allowed into Gaza, voicing their hope that the move will help address the needs of the 1.5 million Palestinians living in the territory. read more

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UNICEF ambassador Roger Moore to meet with disabled children in Kazakhstan

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador Roger Moore travelled to Kazakhstan today in his first visit to the Central Asian country to help raise awareness and support for vulnerable children, particularly those with disabilities. Accompanied by his wife, Kristina, Mr. Moore’s five-day visit will include an event organized by Special Olympics and UNICEF to highlight the importance of sports and healthy living in developing children’s cognitive skills and providing a sense of social inclusion. In addition, they will visit a home that provides care for abandoned children, including those with disabilities. Kazakhstan has more than 150,000 children with disabilities and only about one-third of them have access to educational and developmental programmes while many others continue to live in state-run institutions. UNICEF and Special Olympics work in partnership throughout the world to champion the rights of children with disabilities and to encourage national action to ratify and implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Convention has increased the status and visibility of disability as a human rights issue. Throughout their trip, Mr. and Mrs. Moore will meet with high-level officials, members of the business community and civil society to stress the importance of working together to help ensure that children with disabilities have access to proper health facilities, education, supportive care and protection against abuse and neglect. Mr. Moore, who achieved worldwide fame for his role as James Bond, has served as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for nearly 20 years, travelling to places such as Cambodia, China, Cost Rica, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Mexico, the Philippines and Zambia to advocate for children’s rights. 16 November 2010United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador Roger Moore travelled to Kazakhstan today in his first visit to the Central Asian country to help raise awareness and support for vulnerable children, particularly those with disabilities. read more

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Buying a home on your own could a great investment just make

TORONTO — The thought of buying a home on your own may seem a little daunting, but that’s exactly what many single professionals are choosing to do.[np_storybar title=”All eyes on Joe Oliver as BMO signals start of new mortgage rate war by cutting 5-year below 3%” link=”https://business.financialpost.com/2014/03/26/bmo-mortgage-rate-cut-canada/”%5DMaybe it’s a coincidence that former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is gone but Bank of Montreal signalled it is about to kick off another round of mortgage rate wars. The bank, which drew the wrath of Mr. Flaherty for starting a battle which saw rates drop to record lows, is ready to hit the marketplace again with its 2.99% offer for a closed five-year fixed rate mortgage. Keep reading. [/np_storybar]And that’s a good thing according to real estate and financial experts, who say the investment is worthwhile.“The rental market is very expensive in Toronto and mortgage rates are so low that, in a lot of cases, it makes more sense to buy,” said realtor Miranda McKenna of Life and the City, Remax Hallmark Realty Ltd., who says nearly half of her clients are single.People understand that it’s worth buying a property to get into the market and build equity as early as possible, she said, and many of her clients use that first purchase as a stepping stone toward buying the home they really want.That also means buyers are getting younger, McKenna said, noting that more people in their 20s are buying, and that many of them are single professionals.Jordan Allison was 23 when he bought his first condo. At the time, he just wanted his own place and figured it would be a good investment, given how quickly home prices were climbing.“The condo was a dress rehearsal in a way,” said Allison, now 30. “After going through it with the condo, I knew what I was in for with the house.”He sold his Toronto condo to buy a house four years ago, and rented the house as two units while he did his masters degree in Boston.Once he moved into the house, he kept one of the units as a rental to help cover the mortgage — something he’d recommend to other single home buyers.“Those tenants are really your second spousal income,” Allison said.David Stafford, managing director of real estate secured lending at Scotiabank, said one of the biggest differences between buying as an individual, versus a couple or group, is income instability.“If you have a couple, or a partnership of some sort, buying a home – there’s two incomes to service the home. If somebody gets sick, or loses their job, then you don’t go from all to nothing,” said Stafford.“If you’re on your own, (you should) make sure you have a backup plan.”He recommends purchasing disability or health crisis protection insurance, or, like Allison, taking advantage of rental income (if the property has the right set-up for it) to help cover base expenses.He also advises all homeowners to take a close look at the closing costs, maintenance expenses and property taxes that will come with the mortgage payments in order to get a true sense of the monthly payments.TD Canada Trust also recommends setting a realistic budget and determining the total down payment, and then test-driving the monthly mortgage payment by making an automatic transfer of that amount into a TFSA or other high-interest savings account. That will help determine how comfortable the commitment is before locking in, while allowing you to save for a larger down payment.A recent online survey of 6,000 Canadians aged 18 years and older by TD found that a quarter of those who bought a home in the past 24 months (or are planning to in the near future), did so on their own. The results of the poll, which was conducted between Feb. 11 and 25, were in line with figures from Statistics Canada, suggesting singles have increasingly moved toward home ownership.According to McKenna, another key consideration is to buy into a neighbourhood that will provide good resale value.“You don’t want to buy in a terrible area that isn’t going to have good turnover in the future and isn’t going to be a good investment,” she said.As for Allison, he is now in a relationship and he and his partner are thinking about moving in together.He says the rental suite in his home has done so well that they’re considering keeping that house as a rental and buying a new place. Meanwhile, he knows people who are now just looking to get in the market and can’t even afford the neighbourhoods they want.His advice to anyone still debating whether to buy and wondering whether it will be a worthwhile investment is to “just jump in” and start building equity in their home.“I would say the sooner the better,” Allison said. read more

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Metro Inc sales tick up in third quarter amid tough competition

MONTREAL — Metro Inc. reports third-quarter net earnings of $144.5 million and saw its sales tick up 1.4% in what the Quebec-based supermarket chain called a competitive environment.Metro posted $1.63 in diluted earnings per share, compared with $144.4 million in net earnings, or $1.49 per diluted share, for the same quarter of 2013.Sales were $3.62 billion, up from $3.57 billion year-over-year, helped by a reorganization of its Ontario stores.Same-store sales, which refers to stores that have been open for at least a year, were up 1% from the same quarter last year.Metro, Canada’s third-largest supermarket chain, is in tough competition with Loblaw, Sobey’s  and Costco, while its discount banners fend off U.S. banners Wal-Mart and Target.“We are satisfied with our third quarter results achieved in an environment that remains challenging,” CEO Eric La Fleche said Wednesday in a statement.RBC Dominion Securities analyst Irene Nattel said Metro’s results were in line with expectations. Nattel had expected $1.62 in diluted earnings per share while the analysts’ consensus was $1.64.Metro operates a network of almost 600 food stores under several banners including Metro, Metro Plus, Super C and Food Basics, as well as over 250 drugstores. It has annual sales of more than $11 billion and employs more than 65,000 people.The Canadian Press read more

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Ashley Madison reaches US112M deal in American lawsuits over data security

The Toronto-based parent company of the infidelity dating site Ashley Madison says it has reached a US$11.2-million settlement in American class-action lawsuits stemming from a massive security breach two years ago.Ruby Corp., which was previously known as Avid Life Media, says the proposed settlement must first be approved by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, where the lawsuits have been consolidated.The lawsuits came after a cyberattack that exposed the personal dealings and financial information of millions of purported clients.They allege Ashley Madison misled consumers about its security measures and had inadequate safeguards in place.The company says it denies wrongdoing but agreed to settle to “avoid the uncertainty, expense, and inconvenience associated with continued litigation.”It says more information about the settlement and claims process will be released if the proposed deal is approved.Late last year, the company said it has paid more than US$1.6 million in settlements related to an investigation led by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, with half the money going to the FTC and half to the states participating in the probe.As part of that agreement, Ruby Corp. vowed to maintain a comprehensive information security program and “refrain from past business practices that may have allegedly been misleading to consumers.”But in that case as well, the company stressed that it neither admitted nor denied the allegations made by the FTC and the various state attorneys general.Investigations by privacy officials in Canada and Australia concluded last year and found Ashley Madison had inadequate security safeguards and policies when it was targeted by hackers.Before the hack put Ashley Madison under international scrutiny, the company was dogged by allegations that it resorted to fake profiles of women or so-called bots to lure unsuspecting male customers.The company maintained the accusations were false but said last year that a report found the bots were still active in some parts of the world until late 2015. read more

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Markets update at midafternoon

On the markets at midafternoon (ET):In Toronto, the S&P/TSX composite index was down 24.59 points to 15,065.56.The Dow Jones industrial average was up 80.69 points to 21,834.00.The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was up 8.30 points to 2,466.15.The Nasdaq composite index was up 18.65 points to 6,394.22.The Canadian dollar was trading at 81.75 cents US, up from Tuesday’s average price of 80.83 cents US.

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Sri Lanka to open embassy in Bahrain

Shaikh Khalid has directed officials in the kingdom to take the necessary measures to speed up the establishment of the embassy. Bahrain has welcomed a decision by Sri Lanka to open an embassy in Manama to serve its nationals and to help boost bilateral relations.“The embassy in Manama will help foster diplomatic relations and coordination in various areas and will also serve the interests of the Sri Lankan community in Bahrain,” Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, the foreign minister, said at a meeting with Gamini Lakshman Peiris, the Sri Lankan minister of external affairs in New York. Around 15,000 Sri Lankans, including 3,000 domestic helpers, are believed to live in Bahrain, making them one of the largest foreign communities in the country. (Gulf News)

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HSBC removes restaurant after scam

HSBC Bank has withdrawn a restaurant from its seasonal promotions list for HSBC Credit Card customers after the restaurant attempted to dupe customers paying with their Credit Cards.The bank, in an email to complaints via email regarding the scam, said it had received several complaints from customers and as a result had pulled out on the promotion with the restaurant and informed HSBC customers via SMS. The customer was however in for a rude shock when he found that the original prices of the food on the menu had been altered and increased for those paying with their HSBC credit cards. In an email being circulated, one customer said he and his friend had visited the CEYNOR SEAFOOD RESTAURANT located on D.R Wijeyewardena Mawatha in Colombo for a meal. “Once we were seated the first question we were asked was whether we were planning to settle the bill by Card or Cash. This at first was quite amusing as we had previously never come across a restaurant that inquired after how we plan to settle our bill even before we had ordered our meal. Thereafter we were handed two menu cards by the waiter and whilst briefly scanning through the menu we realized that the prices were exorbitant as compared to the previous times we had visited this particular restaurant. Furthermore, we noticed that there were pieces of paper pasted over the original prices which had been substituted by a new price. This looked very “fishy” and so we had one of our mates walk in to the reception and pick up a menu straight off the counter. What followed was just appalling. To our amazement we noticed that the HSBC card Holders were offered a menu card with a price list that was marked up approximately 50%. We were in shock. Never had we come across a restaurant that would serve customers two separate price lists. Thereafter, we quizzed the waiter as to why they were trying to “Rip” their customers off. His reply to this was to say that it was the “Managements Decision”. Thereafter we requested to speak to the manager and then waited for over 20 minutes to be told that the manager was “Unavailable”. Upon realization that we were about to be cheated and also to find the manager unavailable we left the venue,” the email said.(Pic shows the actual menu and altered menu) read more

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Cost of recruiting housemaids from Lanka going up

Maqbool attributed the huge cost difference to the geographic distances because of the air ticket charges and the complicated contracting procedures in some of the manpower exporting countries. He said the cost of labor recruitment from Sri Lanka is going up while it is dropping to SR3,000 and SR7,000 from countries like Sudan, Egypt and Bangladesh for recruitment of drivers. “This, however, does not mean that housemaids from Sri Lanka are the most favored or they are too much in demand but because of the current difficulties of importing house helps from the former country,” he said. “Some recruitment brokers exploit the Kingdom’s need for housemaids so they tend to increase their charges,” he added.Maqbool said it is next to impossible to control the recruitment costs taking into consideration the different charges between recruitment offices themselves which will have to return the housemaid back home in case of a failed probationary period. “This is an extra cost on the offices so they increase their charges to compensate when anything like this happens,” he explained.The chairman said the hurdles put by some favorable countries before recruitment of house helps, drive the others to up the charges of their housemaids.“When brokers in some exporting countries feel that our recruitment offices are facing some problems, they immediately increase their recruitment charges by at least $500 per visa,” he said. The cost of recruiting a housemaid from Sri Lanka has crossed the barrier of SR23,000 per visa during the past five months making it the highest among all manpower exporting countries, Makkah daily reported quoting market sources.“This has surpassed the cost of recruiting housemaids from the Philippines which used to be SR19,000 per work visa,” said Yahya Al-Maqbool, chairman of the recruitment committee of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI). Maqbool recalled that recruitment from the Philippines was the highest before it was knocked out by Sri Lanka. read more

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PUCSL rejects CEB request to procure 55 MW of power

However the PUCSL has rejected the request saying the CEB had violated the provisions of the Sri Lanka Electricity Act which is applicable on any procurement of electricity. Among its services, the Commission ensures that the electricity sector in Sri Lanka has adequate investments, greater availability, efficient supply, and improved quality of services for electricity consumers. The Commission also regulates the generation, transmission, distribution, supply and use of Electricity.The PUCSL came into operation in 2003 when the first group of Commissioners and its Director General were appointed. (Colombo Gazette) The  Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) has rejected a request by the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to procure 55 MW of power.The CEB had said in a letter to the PUSL that it had obtained cabinet approval to obtain emergency electricity from a private company. Established by The Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka Act No. 35 of 2002 by Parliament, the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka performs a vital role as a multi-sector supervisory body regulating certain physical infrastructure industries in the country. read more

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Keheliya insists no move to join hands with a fox

United National Party leader and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has been branded as a sly fox in the past. (Colombo Gazette) Former Minister Keheliya Rambukwella insisted he has no intention of working with a fox and will only work with a lion.The former Minister was responding to reports he will join the United National Party in January. Rambukwella is a member of the joint opposition and supports former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.He was a Minister in Rajapaksa’s Government and prior to that he was a United National Party member.

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Indian Housing Project extended to Madakumbura and Vellaioya

Minister for Hill country New Villages, Infrastructure and Community Development Palani Digambaram, State Minister for Education V.S. Radhakrishnan and Acting High Commissioner of India Arindam Bagchi jointly laid the foundation stones. The Indian Housing Project has been extended to the Madakumbura and Vellaioya Estates, the Indian High Commission in Colombo said today.The foundation stone was laid for the construction of 250 new houses under the Indian Housing Project at the Madakumbura Estate in Punduloya, Nuwara Eliya yesterday. Member of Parliament Thilakraj, Members of Central Provincial Council, senior Government officials as well as officials from Plantation Human Development Trust(PHDT), Plantation and Estate Management participated in the ceremony. A large number of people from the Madakumbura Estate attended the function. In a similar ceremony held at the Vellaioya Estate in Hatton on the same day the foundation stone for construction of 50 new houses was laid. The Ministers were joined by Assistant High Commissioner of India in Kandy Dhirendra Singh for this ceremony.The Government of India has committed a total of 14,000 houses in the Plantation areas including the 10,000 houses announced by Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi. Around 1000 houses out of these are nearly complete. The foundation stones laid at the Madakumbura and Vellaioya Estates marks the start of another 3000 houses in phases in as many as 40 estates and around 70 locations/divisions. UN Habitat is the implementing agency for the houses being constructed at Madakumbura Estate and IFRC/SLRC is the implementing agency for Vellaioya Estate houses on behalf of High Commission of India. (Colombo Gazette) read more

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