Two Moroccans Among 100 Most Powerful Arabs Under 40

Rabat – Two Moroccans were included on the Arabian Business Magazine’s annual list of the 100 Most Powerful Arabs Under 40.Most of the personalities selected for this year’s list were from Gulf States, while only a few names from North Africa made it to the list.The first Moroccan on the list is Moroccan National Team defender Mehdi Benatia, who ranked 55th. Benatia, who turned down offers from Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Chelsea, made global headlines late last year when it was revealed Roma had signed a $30m deal to trade him to Bayern Munich.The second Moroccan on list is Moroccan tech entrepreneur Nadine Hanafi, who ranked 68th.In 2013, Nadine founded “We Are Visual,” a company dedicated to turning mediocre PowerPoint presentations into visual experiences that “persuade, inspire and engage.”“Wow! It’s quite surreal to be on this list of the 100 Most Powerful Arabs Under 40 with the likes of Amal Clooney, Maher Zain and Emirati fighter pilot Mariam El Mansouri,” Nadine Said on her Facebook page.Originally from Agadir in southern Morocco, Nadine Hanafi started her presentation design agency out of her living room in August 2013.Using only her personal savings, she embarked on a risky entrepreneurial journey with no business plan: she had a dream of building a successful business, a vision for the company and a gut feeling that people could use her PowerPoint skills to improve their presentation content. Within 14 months, Nadine single-handedly grew the business to six-figure revenue with no external capital.Number one on the List is Egyptian social entrepreneur Jawad Nabulsi, who took a gunshot to the eye to defend freedom during the protests that toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011.This year’s list featured 14 new entrants, including Lebanese Barrister Amal Clooney, who ranked 9th. Amal came into the spotlight after the announcement of her engagement to Hollywood actor George Clooney in April 2014.© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed without permission. read more

Moroccos 2M Channel to Launch African Version of The Voice

Rabat – Morocco’s TV channel 2M is moving forward to launch the African version of the musical reality TV show ‘The Voice’.Al Ayam 24, citing sources from the channel’s administration, reported that state-owned 2M has allegedly signed a contract for exclusive rights to broadcast an African version of the singing competition, The Voice. The channel also owns the rights to the reality show, MasterChef Morocco.The African version of the voice will be produced by the Moroccan production company Med Prod which is responsible for the successful reality TV show MasterChef Morocco. The sources quoted by Al Ayam 24 did not unveil when the first edition of the Voice Africa will be launched nor did they reveal in what country  the auditions will be held.The program will choose candidates across the African continent based solely on their voice. The show will highlight the exceptional talent of many candidates and will have the potential of leading them to fame.The Voice proceeds in three phases: Blind Auditions, the Battle Rounds and the Live performance shows.The Voice was originally launched in 2011 as The Voice Holland. Rights to broadcast the program were sold to over 45 countries in the past four years, including France, the UK and US.Edited by Miriam El Ofir© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed without permission read more

Hate Crimes Spike against Muslims in America

Kainoelani LeeRabat – Since the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and the San Bernardino shooting, researchers and civil rights groups say reports and attacks against Muslims in the United States have rapidly increased, according to the New York Times.Reports from news media and civil rights groups indicates that the rate of suspected hate crimes against Muslims has tripled since the Paris attacks. In the months following both terrorist attacks, there has been a number of vandalisms on Islamic buildings and Muslim owned restaurants, fire damages, shooting, and threats, that surmounted to hate crimes towards Muslims.According to the Center On American-Islamic Relations, about 50 percent of Muslim students in the U.S. have been bullied by their peers, reveals an article from PBS News.Especially with Republican Party Presidential Candidate, Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, who called to ban all Muslims from entering the United States.Current President Barack Obama says it is no surprise that “threats and harassment of American Muslims have surged,” according to The Intercept.The anti-Muslim rhetoric has even caused other political leaders to intervene, including a recent interview with the newly elected mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, stating that “Trump is ‘ignorant’ on Islam”, and that “it’s possible to be Western and be Muslim.” read more

Ramadan Around the World Longest and Shortest Fasting Hours

By Rania TaziRabat – Ramadan, one of the five pillars of Islam, consists of fasting from dawn to sunset. For any healthy Muslim who is not pregnant or travelling, observing the month of Ramadan is mandatory. The holy month of fasting, prayer and spiritual purification is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar.The duration of the daily fast depends on the amount of hours between sunrise and sunset, which is affected by which season Ramadan falls on. During summer months, those observing the month of Ramadan have to fast longer hours due to the longer days, which vary in length depending on the country they live in. In addition to the longer summer days, Muslims living in arid desert climates experience blazing temperatures. EuropeThis year, Nordic countries will have the longest fasting days;  Denmark will have 21 hours of fasting, and Sweden, Iceland and Norway  20 hours of fasting.Muslims in the Netherlands and Belgium will fast for 18 hours, while those observing Ramadan in Spain and Germany will fast for 16 hours..Middle East and North AfricaThe Middle East and North Africa region will experience fasting hours slightly shorter than those in Europe. Fasting will occur for 14 hours in Kuwait, Iraq, Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Libya and Sudan and for 15 hours in the U.A.E and Saudi ArabiaAsia and AustraliaIn Asia, most Muslims will fast for 14-16 hours. Pakistan and Bangladesh will fast for 15 hours, while India will fast for 14.Australia’s period of fasting is only shorter side, lasting 11 hours.North/South America Muslims in the United States and Canada will fast for 16 to 19 hours, depending on the exact location. Muslims in Brazil will fast for 11 hours, and those in  Argentina will fast for nine hours and thirty minutes, the shortest fasting time this Ramadan. read more

American First Family in Kaftan Dresses A Symbolic Gesture of Friendship

Rabat – Dressed in Moroccan-style outfits, First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters attended an iftar meal in Marrakesh last night with members of the King Mohammed VI’s family. Mrs. Obama and her two daughters dressed in kaftan dresses – traditional Moroccan robes for special occasions — appropriately modified for the three American visitors. The First Lady wore a simple, patterned kaftan dress with traditional Moroccan-style buttons down the middle, while her daughters dressed in long, patterned dresses reminiscent of the Moroccan robes. Members of the royal family wore more ornate, traditional kaftans. The First Family’s decision to wear Moroccan-inspired clothing and participation in this important Ramadan ritual symbolized the friendship and cultural exchange that has characterized the two nations’ diplomatic relations for centuries.Since declaring independence in 1776, America has benefitted from largely positive relations with the Kingdom. Morocco was one of the first nations to seek diplomatic relations with the nascent United States; diplomacy between the two countries in the late 18th century began a long history of cooperation based on economic opportunities. The strong relationship between the two countries has been underpinned by friendly relations between leaders since its inception. George Washington, the first American president, wrote a letter to Sultan Sidi Mohamed praising him as a “Great and Magnanimous Friend.” Multiple American presidents and leaders traveled the Kingdom throughout the 20th century, and King Hassan II and King Mohammed VI each visited Washington several times. President Bill Clinton, King Mohammed VI, Lalla Meriem, and Hillary Rodham Clinton at a state dinner at the White House in 2000. (Photo credit: Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images.)Today, Morocco is an important strategic ally for the United States with respect to counterterrorism efforts, sustainable development, and spreading democracy and education in the MENA region. The United States has invested heavily in trade and foreign aid in Morocco and has established many government-funded cultural exchange programs for students from both countries.However, debates over U.N. presence in the Western Sahara strained relations between the Kingdom and America this spring. After U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon referred to Moroccan presence in the Western Sahara as an “occupation” in March, Morocco expelled U.N. civilian staff from the region. In April, the United States proposed that U.N Security Council require Morocco to readmit the expelled workers. The United States has largely supported Morocco’s stances regarding the Western Sahara in the past. Some leaders, including Hillary Clinton, have even been criticized by pro-Polisario groups for their close alignment with Rabat’s policies. However, America’s support for the reinstatement of U.N. workers in the region this spring angered Morocco.Mrs. Obama’s visit the Kingdom and commitment to cooperation with the Moroccan government to improve girls’ educational opportunities indicates the two nations’ desire to move beyond the tension of the spring. In a blog post detailing her trip, the First Lady noted that Morocco is one of the United States’ “oldest allies” and an “important partner” in America’s initiatives to increase access to girls’ education. While in the Kingdom, she announced that the American government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation will invest $100 million to reorient and improve secondary school in Morocco. According to Mrs. Obama, these funds will help 50,000 teenage girls access secondary education.The First Lady’s investment in girls’ education in Morocco indicates the United States’s reaffirmed commitment to strong political relations with Morocco after the tensions of the spring. However, pictures of Mrs. Obama and her daughters dressed in Moroccan-style clothing and smiling broadly next to Lalla Salma at the iftar indicate that the relationship between the two countries is not only strategic. The First Family’s visit is the most recent manifestation of a long history of cross-cultural friendship between Moroccan and American leaders, a relationship that will be increasingly important as xenophobic anxiety rises across the world.Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the Obamas wore kaftans. They wore Kaftan dresses. read more

Mountain Rocks Fall Down Block Marrakech Ouarzazate Road

Rabat – The Tizi N Tichka road between Marrakech and Ouarzazate was cut off on Sunday due to huge rocks which fell down from a mountain.Media outlets reported that road was blocked on both sides of the falling stones.Local sources attributed the falling of the rocks to the rainfalls a day before. The Ministry of Equipment and Transport started removing the rocks later on in the day.Stretched over 146 kilometers of mountainous range, the road has been known for being one of the deadliest in Morocco.In 2015, the road was enlarged in an attempt to curb the number of accidents taking place there. read more

Lakhdar Brahimi Says Morocco and Algeria Should Not Remain Foes

Rabat – Lakhdar Brahimi, a former Algerian foreign minister and UN diplomat,  commented positively on King Mohammed VI’s dialogue offer in an interview with Jeune Afrique.Brahimi said that he has been saying for “twenty years that there is no reason for the relations between Algeria and Morocco to be in this state.”He recalled the King’s offer of dialogue to Algeria, calling for a joint mechanism of consultations and frank dialogue to restore the bilateral ties between the two countries. “You know, now there has been this initiative of the King. There was also a very warm message from President Bouteflika to the King a few days ago,” said the former Algerian diplomat.King Mohammed VI made his offer to Algeria on November 6. Algeria has not responded to the offer yet, but Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika sent a formal message to King Mohammed VI to congratulate him on Independence Day, November 18.In his message, Bouteflika emphasized his country’s “firm determination” to improve bonds of fraternity and solidarity.Read Also: Algerian Politician: We Don’t Understand the Silence on Morocco’s ProposalMorocco, however, did not consider Bouteflika’s message a direct answer to King Mohammed VI’s message.In the midst of Algeria’s continuous silence, Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita summoned the Algerian ambassador in Rabat to ask him for his country’s position on the King’s offer. The meeting did not result in any statement from Algeria.After the meeting, Morocco’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement, saying that the royal initiative “stems from a sincere desire to create a framework for direct and inclusive bilateral dialogue to resolve all disputes between the two countries.”Brahimi acknowledged that his country has not yet answered. “For the moment, there has been no answer from Algiers.” read more

MadeinCanada labgrown meat a possibility after grant from US nonprofit

Follow @AleksSagan on Twitter.Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press A group of Toronto scientists will soon attempt to develop a less-expensive way to grow lab-made meat after securing a grant from an American non-profit aiming to boost advances in cultured protein.Cellular agriculture has been touted as the future of food thanks to its smaller environmental footprint and consideration for animal welfare, but until recently much of the research has been done south of the border.Cultured food uses cell cultures to grow animal products like beef, eggs or milk in a laboratory without the need for livestock. Some companies have already made these kinds of products, but it’s an expensive undertaking and no such items are readily available on store shelves yet.“This is our, my first foray into this kind of research,” said Peter Stogios, a senior research associate at the University of Toronto and lead researcher on the winning project.He’s trying to overcome what he sees as one of the biggest hurdles for the whole industry of cultured meat — an expensive component to what he likens to a broth needed to grow meat in a lab.The broth is composed of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and growth factors that are essential to sustain tissue culture. Those growth factors are very expensive, he said.“Can we create those protein molecules, those growth factors better, cheaper and actually make them more potent?” he said.The four-person team will cast a wide net to look at growth factors from other species, like birds and fish, and attempt to mix those with cow cells. They hope to start the initial phase immediately and wrap it up within six months.If they discover an exotic growth factor or multiple that works really well, he said, the team will enter into an engineering phase where it will try to make them more potent. The second phase could take a year and a half.The Good Food Institute in Washington, D.C., awarded the team US$250,000 over two years to pursue the project in an announcement made earlier this month. It’s one of 14 projects to receive the inaugural grant for plant-based and cell-based meat research and development, and the only cell-based project winner from Canada.The GFI was particularly excited with Stogios’s proposal because it addresses the industry’s cost issue and isn’t just looking at lab-grown beef, but also possibilities for other proteins, like chicken, said Erin Rees Clayton, the scientific foundations liaison.Whatever advances Stogios and his team make will be published and widely available, hopefully eliminating repetitive research and development at cell-based meat companies, she said.“If Peter is able to create these, they’ll be relevant to many different companies and they won’t have to spend the time and resources to create those growth factors,” she said.Neither she nor Stogios are aware of any other academic research in a similar vein, though it’s possible a company in the industry is privately conducting similar research.Stogios said the current research is in the early stages, but depending on what he discovers, the third stage would be to enter into industrial agreements with companies to scale up.“I think it would be amazing,” he said.Stogios, who admits he’s new to the lab-grown meat field, isn’t aware of much other research in the area being conducted in Canada.“We face this in everything in innovation in Canada,” he said. “Nobody has the answer to it.”He speculates there’s a lack of venture capital funding to launch and then grow startups in Canada.New Harvest, a non-profit U.S. research organization that funds cellular agriculture research, was established in 2004 and was once headquartered in Toronto.“The relative lack of interest from consumers and researchers (and ultimately, donors) in Canada is one of the reasons why New Harvest moved its office from Toronto to New York City in 2015,” said the organization’s then communications director Erin Kim in an email in 2017.At the time, she said Canada was “lagging well behind the U.S.,” but considered it understandable due to the massive difference in the countries’ population sizes. New Harvest declined to comment prior to publication on whether the situation has changed since.Some Canadian startups in this space have emerged. Vancouver-based Appleton Meats is working “to engineer the perfect beef patty,” according to its website, while Edmonton-based Future Fields is also working on cellular agriculture products.Rees Clayton said the innovation is no longer confined to the U.S. She’s starting to see much more global interest in cellular agriculture.“Certainly we’re seeing interest from Canadian researchers and entrepreneurs on both the plant-based side and cell-based meat side.” read more

Grains mostly lower livestock mixed

CHICAGO — Grain futures were mostly lower Wednesday in early trading on the Chicago Board of Trade.Wheat for Mar. delivery fell 1 cent at $4.6560 a bushel; Mar. corn was off 1.60 cents at $3.6660 a bushel; Mar. oats was down 1 cents at $2.6320 a bushel; while Mar. soybeans rose 6.40 cents at 9.0740 a bushel.Beef was mixed and pork were higher on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.Feb. live cattle was off .18 cent at $1.2932 a pound; Mar. feeder cattle rose .23 cent at $1.4355 a pound; Apr. lean hogs was up .58 cents at .5510 a pound.The Associated Press read more

The Latest Trump administration opposes health plan ruling

WASHINGTON — The Latest on a ruling striking down the Trump administration’s small-business health insurance plan (all times local):11:55 a.m.President Donald Trump’s administration says it disagrees with a federal judge’s ruling that a new type of health insurance plan for small businesses stretches federal law and must be set aside.Signalling a possible appeal, Justice Department spokeswoman Kelly Laco says in a statement issued Friday the administration is “considering all available options.”U.S. District Judge John D. Bates ruled in Washington late Thursday that a Trump administration regulation creating the new small-business plans was “clearly an end-run” around the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, often called “Obamacare.” Bates says it also runs counter to longstanding federal laws that govern workplace benefits.Trump has been touting the plans as a tremendous value for small businesses and sole proprietors, but the plans do not seem to have had a major impact.___6:25 a.m.A federal judge is striking down the Trump administration’s highly touted small-business health insurance plan, calling it an “end run” around consumer protections.The ruling Thursday by U.S. District Judge John Bates in Washington, D.C., is the second setback in a week for the administration’s health care initiatives. On Wednesday another federal judge blocked Medicaid work requirements for low-income people.At issue in the latest ruling are so-called “association health plans,” in which businesses and sole proprietors can band together to offer lower-cost coverage that doesn’t provide all the benefits required under the Affordable Care Act.President Donald Trump has hailed the small-business plans as a big success, but their impact is difficult to measure.Unable to repeal the Obama health law in Congress, the Trump administration has tried to use its rule-making powers to create room for alternatives.The Associated Press read more

In lawless world of service dogs many families suffer

APEX, N.C. — The service dog industry, especially dogs for people with autism or PTSD, has exploded in recent years. But a near complete absence of regulation has left needy, desperate families vulnerable to incompetence and fraud, according to The Associated Press.The North Carolina attorney general’s office has received more than four dozen complaints against a company that trained service dogs for autistic children. Clients who paid many thousands of dollars say their dogs couldn’t respond to basic commands or were aggressive toward people or other family pets. State officials in Virginia, Colorado and Illinois have brought similar cases in recent years.Properly training a service dog can take up to 1 1/2 years. But the Americans with Disabilities Act does not require that a service dog be professionally trained or certified.Allen G. Breed, The Associated Press read more

Floods in Morocco World Bank Accuses Government of Neglect Unpreparedness

Rabat – Last week’s floods which killed 7 people in the Taroudant province and caused severe damage in several other areas in southern Morocco have turned the spotlight on the World Bank pointing fingers at the Moroccan government, and raising concerns on the country’s apparently inefficient approach to crisis management when faced with natural disasters.In a scathing report  published in April 2016, the World Bank pointed to the lack of coherent vision and continuity in Morocco’s crisis management methodologies.Recalling the three-year-old report, Arabic newspaper Al Ahdath Al Maghribia indicated in its September 2 issue that the unfurling of the recent, unfortunate events in southern Morocco came with a painful reminder of many of the points the World Bank raised in that appraisal of natural disaster management in Morocco. According to the Casablanca-based newspaper, the World Bank’s report pointed out that a number of recent—sometimes similar—natural disasters in various Moroccan regions have shown that the country is not sufficiently ready to face recurring patterns of critical, natural hazards.For the World Bank, according to Al Ahdath Al Maghribia, the repeated issuing of new “urgent measures” to deal with similar crises in different locations is an indication that there is no proactive, beforehand designed roadmap to immediately respond to challenges as soon as they emerge.The report describes Morocco’s approach as “reactionary” rather than “responsive,” arguing that, more often than not, Morocco’s response to natural disasters like floods bears the markers of “improvised reactions” instead of well-planned, in-advance, and carefully considered policies.Despite lambasting the Moroccan government for what it sees as irresponsible and incoherent response to recurrent crises, the report was ambivalent on some points.It acknowledged the “immense efforts” Morocco has made on the environment and climate change front and praised the country’s recent political reforms meant to further political accountability and improve government responsiveness to nationwide challenges.It maintained, however, that more collective efforts, coordinated actions are needed from the authorities to mitigate the consequences of environment-linked disasters.Without sounding alarmist, the report noted that, as the climate crisis becomes an integral reality of countries around the world, incidents similar to the Taroudant events are bound to happen.Because of the inherent, multiple risks and natural hazards associated with climate change, the report noted, the Moroccan government should show more willingness and resolve to devise more effective policies to adequately manage, respond to, or even altogether preempt such events.In its most condemnatory remarks, the World Bank consistently reproached Morocco for its apparent lack of a coherent set of policies to face natural hazards. The report referred to the responses to the Taroudant and other such events in recent years across the country as “institutionalized disorder.”The poignantly critical assessment is consistent with the reactions and comments from family of victims and eyewitnesses in Taroudant. After the floods hit the province last Thursday, many local residents fumed at the government and the local authorities for neglect.They complained about local authorities’ failure to take into account alerts to the high-risk nature of the football field where 7 people died when the floods hit, as well as serious warnings, days prior to the floods, that southern Morocco would be engulfed by heavy storms on August28-29. read more

Kansas water park where boy died appears unlikely to open

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas water park where a 10-year-old boy was decapitated isn’t hiring lifeguards, advertising or selling tickets with less than a month left before its typical Memorial Day weekend opening date.Schlitterbahn remains mum on its plans but has largely removed reference from its website about the Kansas City, Kansas, park where Caleb Schwab was killed in 2016 on the 17-story Verruckt slide.Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, spokesman Mike Taylor says officials are assuming the park won’t open this summer. They are hopeful it will come under new ownership and open next year.Speculation about a potential sale was fueled by mortgage lender, EPR Properties, announcing last week that Schlitterbahn is expected to pay off its approximately $190 million loan on the property soon.The Associated Press read more

Asian stocks mostly fall on Wall Street slide trade fears

TOKYO — Asian shares were mostly lower Thursday after another round of selling on Wall Street amid investor worries about a trade war.Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 dropped 0.4% to 20,913.68. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.8% to 6,385.60. South Korea’s Kospi edged up 0.5% to 2,032.49. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was down 0.5% at 27,092.83, while the Shanghai Composite lost 0.9% to 2,889.36.The latest market slide comes as investors worry that the trade war between the U.S. and China will derail global economic and corporate profit growth as it drags on with no sign of a resolution.“The cracks in global equity markets threatened to grow wider still as relentless haven-buying of sovereign bonds overnight pushed key yields even lower and sent recession fears through stocks,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at Oanda.“Asia is unlikely to feel much relief today either with both the Nikkei 225 and the ASX 200 down.”On Wall Street, overnight, the S&P 500 index fell 19.37 points, or 0.7%, to 2,783.02. The index had been down 1.3% earlier. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 221.36 points, or 0.9%, to 25,126.41. It had tumbled 409 points. The Nasdaq composite slid 60.04 points, or 0.8%, to 7,547.31. The Russell 2000 index of small companies dropped 14.07 points, or 0.9%, to 1,489.95.With two more trading days left in May, the S&P 500 is heading for a loss of 5.5%. That would be its first monthly loss since December. The market has been heading steadily lower this month as prospects for the economy have dimmed and as traders got more worried about the lingering trade feud between Washington and Beijing.In early May the U.S. and China concluded their 11th round of trade talks with no agreement. The U.S. then more than doubled duties on $200 billion in Chinese imports, and China responded by raising its own tariffs.ENERGY:Benchmark U.S. crude added 44 cents to $59.25. It fell 0.6% to settle at $58.81 a barrel Wednesday. Brent crude, the international standard, gained 32 cents to $68.19 per barrel.CURRENCIES:The dollar rose to 109.70 Japanese yen from 109.31 yen on Wednesday. The euro weakened to $1.1136 from $1.1154.Yuri Kageyama, The Associated Press read more

SEC moving to require brokers to reveal conflicts for advice

WASHINGTON — Federal regulators are moving to require that brokers provide their customers with detailed disclosures of their potential conflicts of interest when dispensing advice for retirement planning and other investments.But critics say the Securities and Exchange Commission’s new measure, supported by the financial industry, doesn’t go far enough to protect retail investors against abuses. They say a stricter standard advanced under the Obama administration should apply to brokers.The stricter fiduciary duty rule required all financial professionals — not just registered investment advisers — to act as trustees obligated to put their clients’ interests before their own. It was targeted for watering-down by President Donald Trump in early 2017 and defeated in the courts by the industry.Americans increasingly seek financial advice to help them navigate an array of options for retirement, college savings and more.Many financial pros provide investment advice, but not all of them are registered advisers who are legally required to put clients’ interests above their own or to disclose potential conflicts of interest that could colour their advice. Critics of the current system say investors lose billions of dollars a year because of advice from brokers with conflicts.The change to be adopted by the SEC on Wednesday could affect how hundreds of billions of dollars in Americans’ retirement and other investments are handled by brokers. Brokers sell stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities and other investments, which they may recommend to clients. They sometimes receive commissions for selling specific financial products.As proposed over a year ago, the SEC “best interest” regulation would require brokers to tell clients how much they collect from recommending products. They would have to provide clients with a new short-form disclosure document with key facts about the broker-client relationship, including potential conflicts of interest.SEC Chairman Jay Clayton has said the regulation is “a significant step” toward increasing investor protection while also “preserving investors’ access to a range of products and services at a reasonable cost.”Brokers wouldn’t be allowed to use the term “adviser” as part of their name or title in dealings with retail investors. They also would have to give clients details of their registration status with the SEC.Critics point out that “best interest” isn’t specifically defined.“The regulations the agency is set to approve are a betrayal of the ‘Mr. and Ms. 401(k)’ investors (Clayton) pledged to protect when he undertook this rulemaking,” the Consumer Federation of America and Americans for Financial Reform said in a joint statement. “The drain on people’s hard-earned savings will continue.”Details of the final regulation, which follows an extensive public comment period for the proposal, weren’t immediately known but it was expected to fall close to the proposed plan.“What they’ve proposed is a big step forward over what we’ve got now,” said James Angel, a professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business who’s an expert on financial markets regulation.Current regulations mandate brokers recommend only suitable investments to their clients — appropriate for their age, other demographic characteristics, tolerance for risk and investment goals. That’s less stringent than the fiduciary standard.A key question, Angel suggested, is whether the SEC regulation will prohibit some especially egregious practices, such as contests rewarding brokers who sell the most products with trips to Florida in the winter and other perks.Most Main Street investors may not be knowledgeable about financial industry practices, like the fees they’re charged for investment advice or the commissions collected by their brokers. The typical client “knows they’re making money off him somehow and they’re not sure how,” Angel said.That’s something George Wheeler, a retired information tech professional in Colorado, had mused about his broker. “We were always wondering how much he was making and how he made his money. He was never clear about that. … We were trusting that our broker was working in our best interest.”Wheeler and his wife, Rachel, say they also hadn’t known that fees were so high on the annuities the broker put them into, for which he promised annual returns of 7% or 8%. In fact, they earned 3% to 4% over a span of about 10 years, usually well below the overall stock market, they said in a telephone interview. As a result, their investment account ended up pretty much where it had started.“I would like to have retired sooner,” said Rachel, who’s leaving her job as a physical therapist at the end of this month.Marcy Gordon, The Associated Press read more

Councilman seeks change to hookah bar liquor license rule

LINCOLN, Neb. — A Nebraska city councilman says an ordinance that forces the Muslim owners of a new hookah lounge to serve alcohol in violation of their faith must change.The ordinance requires businesses in Lincoln that allow smoking indoors to have a liquor license. Those businesses must stock and serve booze.The Lincoln Journal-Star reports that Councilman Roy Christensen has been working with city lawyers to write a new ordinance that would allow businesses like 88 Hookah Lounge to operate in compliance with the owners’ faith and local rules.Cigar bars are legal in Nebraska under the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act as long as they do not sell anything else. City Attorney Jeff Kirkpatrick says the difficulty will be drafting a law that allows the hookah lounge to serve non-alcoholic beverages.___Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.comThe Associated Press read more

Newly released documents detail EPAs concerns over PolyMet

MINNEAPOLIS — Environmental Protection Agency documents show that its staffers were critical of how Minnesota regulators drafted a key permit for the planned PolyMet copper-nickel mine. And they show the officials concluded the permit would violate federal law because it lacked specific water pollution limits.The EPA released the documents after a court challenge by WaterLegacy and other groups.WaterLegacy attorney Paula Maccabee says that while the EPA had serious concerns, they weren’t reflected in PolyMet’s final permit, which did not set limits for specific pollutants.EPA staffers read one document over the phone to staff at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency last year but never filed formal written comments expressing concerns.The Minnesota agency said it was preparing a statement. EPA officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.Steve Karnowski, The Associated Press read more

Congolese parties agree on need for dialogue and reconciliation – Migiro

“I carry with me a strong feeling of triumph, having seen the efforts of the National Assembly and its president in promoting reconciliation and dialogue in a bid for unity and to strengthen democracy in the DRC,” said Asha Rose Migiro following a series of high-level meetings in the country. Ms. Migiro, who also met with the Minster of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said all those she had talked to were “proud that the DRC elections were held in a free and fair manner.”She said that the recent March violence in Kinshasa, although regrettable, is “something that can still be an incentive for the country to consolidate the peace dividends and to put in place mechanisms and institutions that will ensure that human rights thrive, and that democracy continues.” This, Ms. Migiro said, “will enable the Congolese people to sit down and to pick up the challenges, and put in place programmes to ensure that they overcome the immense social and economic problems that the country is facing.”She added that all parties she had spoken to “agree that there cannot be any alternative to dialogue and reconciliation.” The UN can give a guarantee of its “engaged presence in the DRC, and a readiness to continue to work with the Congolese people and their Government,” she added. Another guarantee, she said, was that the Congolese themselves have demonstrated that “they want the path of democracy and peace,” by voting peacefully in last years elections. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today reported that they are rushing aid to mitigate the suffering of tens of thousands of people forced to flee their homes after an outbreak of fighting in north-eastern DRC. In North Kivu province alone, close to 65,000 people have been displaced in recent weeks due to intensified fighting between militias and government forces. 24 April 2007The United Nations Deputy Secretary-General said today in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) that all parties there agree on the need for dialogue and reconciliation in order to achieve lasting peace in the country, where recent clashes have forced thousands to flee in the northeast. read more

UNICEF heralds new childrens protection laws in South Africa

The Children’s Amendment Act “is a comprehensive piece of legislation that is line with provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,” UNICEF country representative Macharia Kamau said this week in a press statement issued in Cape Town.The new law stresses the role of the State in strengthening the capacity of families and communities to care for and protect children, UNICEF said, and differs from previous laws where the State only intervenes after a child has already suffered abuse, neglect or exploitation.The Act also details protective measures for children deprived of family care to receive support through foster care or in child and youth-care centres.Welcoming the legislation, Ms. Kamau said South Africa still faced critical challenges in making sure that the laws are actually implemented – especially in providing enough funds at the national and provincial levels for the care services.The various Government ministries dealing with the issue, including health, education, justice and social development, also need to cooperate more, she said.“Resources are lost due to poor inter-sectoral cooperation, and inefficiencies in the effective delivery of services to children at provincial and municipal levels.” 10 April 2008The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has welcomed the signing of new laws in South Africa on the protection of children, calling them “a major step” forward in ensuring the well-being of the country’s young people. read more

Tougher UN sanctions on DPR Korea send clear and strong message –

The United Nations Security Council today imposed tougher sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), including a tighter arms embargo, sending what Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called a “clear and strong” message to Pyongyang following last month’s nuclear test. By unanimously adopting resolution 1874, the 15-member body condemned the 25 May nuclear test conducted in “violation and flagrant disregard” of relevant Council resolutions, particularly 1695 (2006) and 1718 (2006).It also demanded that the DPRK “not conduct any further nuclear test or any launch using ballistic missile technology.” The Council imposed a series of measures on the DPRK that include tougher inspections of cargo suspected of containing banned items related to the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile activities, a tighter arms embargo with the exception of light weapons and new financial restrictions.Mr. Ban welcomed the adoption of resolution 1874, and hoped that the DPRK and all Members States will fully comply with it.“Acting unanimously and agreeing on credible measures, the members of the Security Council have sent today a clear and strong message to the DPRK,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement. “The Secretary-General reiterates his conviction that all differences should be resolved in a peaceful manner through dialogue,” the statement added. In this regard, Mr. Ban called on the concerned parties to refrain from taking any measures that can exacerbate tensions in the region and to exert their best efforts to re-engage in dialogue, including through the Six-Party Talks that brings together DPRK, Republic of Korea, Japan, China, Russia and the United States.Also by today’s resolution, the Council requested the Secretary-General to establish, for an initial period of one year, a group of seven experts to assist the Committee set up to monitor the sanctions imposed on DPRK to carry out its mandate.The Council also called on all Member States to report to it within 45 days, and thereafter upon the Committee’s request, on concrete measures taken to implement key provisions of resolution 1874.It pledged to keep the DPRK’s actions under continuous review and to consider strengthening, modifying, suspending or lifting the measures in light of the country’s compliance with the Council’s resolutions. 12 June 2009The United Nations Security Council today imposed tougher sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), including a tighter arms embargo, sending what Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called a “clear and strong” message to Pyongyang following last month’s nuclear test. read more