Modi, Mamata in furious war of words

first_imgKolkata/Dinhata: Narendra Modi and Mamata Banerjee Wednesday went for each other’s jugular in battleground West Bengal, with the prime minister castigating “speedbreaker Didi” for stalling the state’s development and the TMC chief hitting back warning he will face a “voter strike”.Modi, who kicked off his Lok Sabha campaign in West Bengal with back to back rallies in Siliguri and Kolkata, hit out at Banerjee over a host of issues including alleged lack of development, perpetuating family rule and for seeking proof of Indian Air Force’s retributive strike on terror camps in Pakistan to avenge Pulwama killing of 40 CRPF troopers. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss bank a/c detailsNot the one who would take things lying down, the West Bengal chief minister mounted a blistering counteroffensive, mocking Modi’s “56-inch chest” and claiming his government did nothing to save the lives of the CRPF jawans despite having “information” about the impending terror attack. “We are nationalists not fascists,” she asserted. Modi launched his campaign, all guns blazing, as he targeted Banerjee, calling her the “speedbreaker” in the path of the state’s development who wanted poverty to stay so her “politics of poverty” can flourish. Also Read – Tourists to be allowed in J&K from ThursdayAt both the rallies, Modi slammed opposition parties for seeking proof of the damage done by the Indian Air Force in Pakistan’s Balakot where terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed’s training camps were targeted. “While your chest swelled with pride and you held your head high, some people began crying and shouting here,” he told the rally at Siliguri. He accused both the Congress and the TMC of “perpetuating family rule”. Hardly had Modi concluded his speech at Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata when Banerjee took the microphone at a rally in north Bengal’s Dinhata, calling the prime minister “expiry babu” (one whose time to go had come). “I am not Modi, I don’t tell lies,” she declared, as she took on the prime minister over his “speedbreaker Didi” jibe. Claiming that 12,000 farmers had ended their lives under Modi’s prime ministership, she listed out various social welfare schemes undertaken by her government like ‘Kanyashree’ for girls, ‘Yuvashree’ for the young people. Banerjee said West Bengal has been awarded by the Government of India for being the best state in implementing the 100-day minimum work guarantee scheme, the Centre’s flagship rural employment programme. “It’s not my claim but your government has given the award for the achievement,” the feisty West Bengal leader said. Livid at Modi’s remarks on Pulwama terror attack and the Balakot air strike by the IAF, Banerjee shot back, claiming the government did nothing to thwart the bombing of the CRPF convoy despite having “information”.last_img read more

Rahul discusses with Delhi Cong leaders about alliance with AAP

first_imgNEW DELHI: Amid continued uncertainty over its alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday discussed the issue again with senior party leaders from the city.Delhi Congress president and former chief minister Sheila Dikshit, All India Congress Committee General Secretary and in-charge of the party’s national capital unit P C Chacko and some other senior leaders were present at the meeting held in Gandhi’s residence, a source said. The meeting comes days after the Congress decided to go it alone in Delhi and not have any alliances with the ruling AAP. Chacko has been in discussion with AAP leader Sanjay Singh and the two have held several rounds of talks over the issue. These discussions mark a fresh round of talks between the Congress and AAP leaders after renewed efforts by some opposition leaders like Sharad Pawar who urged both the parties forge an alliance in Delhi. According to sources, Delhi Congress leaders told Gandhi about the party’s prospects in Delhi in these Lok Sabha polls and if the party goes for a pre-poll alliance what effects it may have, given that Assembly elections in Delhi are scheduled in 2020. Meanwhile, the “Haath Ke Saath Cycle Yatra” being led by Working President Devender Yadav at the South Delhi Municipal Corporation area entered the seventh day to an enthusiastic welcome by the people. “The election manifesto of the Congress party, which has been well received by the people of India, has ruined the sleep of the BJP leaders as they have nothing left now to counter the aggressive election campaign of the Congress party,” said Yadav. He said that one of the salient features of the Congress manifesto, released by Congress president Rahul Gandhi, is that Rs 72,000 will be deposited in the account of each of the 20 per cent poorest families in the country, which will benefit 5 crore families and 25 crore people in all. “People are happy that the Congress party has thought of the uplift of the poorest segment of the people across the country, which has sent out a very positive message among the people,” Working President Devender Yadav said.last_img read more

Sindhu in semi-final; Saina, Srikanth, Sameer ousted

first_imgSingapore: P V Sindhu survived a scare before making the semi-finals but Saina Nehwal was thoroughly outplayed in her straight-game quarter-final loss on a mixed day for India at the Singapore Open badminton tournament here on Friday. Sindhu, in fact, emerged as the lone survivor after India’s campaign in men’s singles was over following the ouster of Kidambi Srikanth and Sameer Verma, and loss of mixed doubles Indian pair of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and N Sikki Reddy later in the day. Also Read – Puducherry on top after 8-wkt win over ChandigarhRio Games silver-winner Sindhu defeated world No.18 and 2017 BWF World Junior Championship bronze-medallist Cai Yanyan of China 21-13 17-21 21-14 to set up a meeting with former world champion Nozomi Okuhara. It is Sindhu’s second semifinal of the season, following a last-four finish at the India Open last month. The second-seeded Okuhara, hailing from Japan, didn’t break much sweat on her way to a 21-8 21-13 win over sixth seed Saina, a bronze-medallist at the London Olympics. Also Read – Vijender’s next fight on Nov 22, opponent to be announced laterIn men’s singles, Srikanth’s struggle against Kento Momota continued as he suffered his ninth straight loss to the Japanese top seed, going down 18-21 21-19 9-21 in 66 minutes to end his campaign with yet another quarterfinal finish. Sameer Verma, a world No. 16, battled for an hour and nine minutes before losing 10-21 21-15 15-21 to second seeded Chinese Taipei Chou Tien Chen. In mixed doubles, Pranaav and Sikki suffered a 14-21 16-21 loss to third seed Thai pair of Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai to bow out of the World Tour Super 500 tournament. Sindhu broke off at 5-5 in the opening game to earn the bragging rights but her Chinese rival came back strongly in the second game, opening up a lead of 11-6 at the break. The Indian fought back superbly to narrow the lead to 15-16 before Cai marched ahead to take the match to the decider. In the third game, Sindhu once again found her bearings and surged to a lead of 11-5 before the interval. The Indian continued to move ahead and closed out the match comfortably in the end. In contrast, Saina, who had defeated Okuhara in their last three meetings and also enjoyed a 9-4 advantage ahead of this clash, fell apart against the Japanese in a lop-sided clash. Saina made with two unforced errors as Okuhara jumped to a 9-0 lead. The Japanese controlled the rallies to dominate the proceedings. The Indian failed to breach the gap, collecting only eight points. Okuhara eventually sealed the opening game when Saina hit the net. In the second game, Saina rose to 4-0 initially. The Indian tried to put pressure on her rival but more often she ended up missing the lines or finding the net to bled points.last_img read more

Woman found dead in Keshtopur flat

first_imgKolkata: A woman aged about 28 years was found hanging inside her room at a flat in Keshtopur on Friday morning. According to sources, her both hands were tied and the mouth was covered with an adhesive tape.According to locals, on Friday morning, one Vivek Kumar, a resident of flat 304 of AC 166 at Prafulla Kanan (East), saw her wife Khusbu Kumari hanging from ceiling of her room. The door was closed from outside and the key was hanging on the hash bolt of the door. Immediately, Baguiati police station was informed. Police recovered the body and sent it for an autopsy examination.Sources informed that Khusbu was from Jharkhand and was married to Kumar approximately 10 months ago. There was no problem between the couple but there was some problems regarding a loan which Khusbu had taken for some purpose. When police brought down the body, they found that she was hanging from ceiling with a piece of cloth. Her hands were tied in front with another piece of cloth. Cops suspect it to be a case of murder. The police have detained Kumar and questioned him. Also, sleuths are waiting for the autopsy report to determine the exact cause of death. Though Khusbu was found hanged, but no ligature mark on her neck could be seen. But some ligature marks could be seen apparently on the body. News of her death has been conveyed to her family members. Primarily, an Unnatural Death (UD) has been registered at the Baguiati police station. “Probe is on. There are some ifs and buts. We are investigating the case from all possible angles. But, we have to wait till the autopsy report comes. There might be some possibility of foul play,” said a senior police official.last_img read more

Poorly maintained lifts of residential societies pose risk to the safety of Gurugram citizens

first_imgGurugram: The peril to citizens of Gurugram due to poorly maintained lifts again came to fore after more than 20 people got trapped in a lift for more than 40 minutes in the district mini-secretariat. Some of the people who were trapped were aged in their 60’s.This is not for the first time when the lift became dysfuctional all of a sudden in the government building. It is, however, not also the first case when the residents have been compromised due to poor maintenance of the lifts. Recently a family got trapped in the lift for an hour in a residential society in Sector-107. Also Read – After eight years, businessman arrested for kidnap & murderMost of the cash-strapped builders have outsources their work to maintenance agencies to reduce their costs. It has, however, not improved the situation as there are complaints that the builders refused to pay the maintenance agencies which is now compromising on the quality. The tipping point has reached where a facility management company on short notice is exiting from the maintenance of the residential society in New Gururgam The problems of poor maintenance are mostly felt in the hundreds of societies that have come up in Sohna Road and New Gurugram that comprise the sectors of 81-95. There have been instances in the past where a woman had to even undergo surgery as a dysfunctional lift fell down from the eleventh floor. Also Read – Two brothers held for snatchingsMost of the residents have addressed the concerns to the Chief Minister using various platforms. Having unable to find an effective solution, most of the resident bodies have also written to the Prime Minister Office for intervention. There are over 20 societies that have formally registered their complaints against the builder with Department of Town and Country Planning (DTCP). Meanwhile, certain resident bodies have taken the task of maintenance from the builders. The resident bodies, however, claimed that there is no support from the strong builder lobby as they do not forego the heavy maintenance fee that is being obtained from the residents. “There is no denying the fact that most of the builders for granted and not used the huge amounts of money collected from them towards the welfare. There is a need for the government to intervene and top the loot. It is sad that the state government in most of the cases have been found wanting,” said Sudhir Ahuja, one of the city residents.last_img read more

Man who oversaw Saddam hanging recalls dictator’s end

first_imgBaghdad- Mowaffak al-Rubaie sits in his office with a statue of Saddam Hussein behind him, the rope used to hang the dictator around its neck, recalling his final minutes.The former national security advisor, who oversaw Saddam’s 2006 execution, said he remained strong until the end, and never expressed any regret.“A criminal? True. A killer? True. A butcher? True. But he was strong until the end. “I received him (Saddam) at the door. No one entered with us — no foreigners, and no Americans,” Rubaie said in an interview with AFP at his office in the Kadhimiyah area of north Baghdad, near the prison where the execution took place seven years ago.“He was wearing a jacket and a white shirt, normal and relaxed, and I didn’t see any signs of fear.“Of course, some people want me to say that he collapsed or that he was drugged, but these facts are for history,” Rubaie said.“I didn’t hear any regret from him, I didn’t hear any request for mercy from God from him, or request for pardon.“A person who is about to die usually says, ‘God, forgive my sins — I am coming to you.’ But he never said any of that,” Rubaie told AFP.Saddam Hussein, who ruled Iraq for more than two decades marked by brutal repression, disastrous wars and punishing international sanctions, was hanged after being found guilty of crimes against humanity for the 1982 killing of 148 Shiite villagers in Dujail.He was president from July 1979 until the March 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, and was found by American forces hiding in a hole on a farm in December of that year.Saddam was executed three years later on December 30, 2006 after a summary trial.Some Iraqis, particularly Sunni Arabs, look back fondly on the time of Saddam’s rule, especially the periods of internal stability that stand in stark contrast to the brutal violence that has plagued the country since his overthrow.Saddam is also held in high regard by some Arabs for his 1980-88 war with Iran, his confrontations with the United States, his strikes against Israel, and his composure during his execution, which was recorded on mobile phone videos.‘This is for men’“When I brought him, he was handcuffed and holding a Koran,” said Rubaie, ignoring the statue of Saddam behind him, which depicts the dictator dressed in a uniform bearing the insignia of his exclusive military rank.“I took him to the judge’s room, where he read the list of indictments, as Saddam repeated: ‘Death to America! Death to Israel! Long live Palestine! Death to the Persian magi!”Rubaie then took Saddam to the room in which he was to die.“He stopped, looked at the gallows, then he looked me up and down… and said: ‘Doctor, this is for men’.”When it was time for Saddam to mount the gallows, his legs were still bound, so Rubaie and others had to drag him up the steps.Just before he was hanged, witnesses taunted him with shouts of “Long live Imam Mohammed Baqr al-Sadr!” and “Moqtada! Moqtada!” — references to an opponent of Saddam who was killed during his rule, and the dead man’s relative, who rose to command a powerful militia after 2003.Saddam replied: “Is this manhood?”Rubaie said he pulled the lever to hang Saddam, but it did not work. Another person he did not name then pulled it a second time, killing him.Just before he was hanged, Saddam began to recite the Muslim testament of faith.“I testify that there is no god but God, and Mohammed…,” he began, but he was hanged before he could say the final words, “is the messenger of God.”Rubaie went under the gallows to retrieve the body, which he said was put in a white bag and placed on a stretcher.The body was then transported in an American helicopter from the prison where he was hanged to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s residence in the heavily-fortified Green Zone.The helicopter was crowded with people, Rubaie said, so the body had to be put on the floor, and the doors of the helicopter were left open during the flight, as the stretcher was too long to fit otherwise.“I remember clearly that the sun was starting to rise” as the helicopter flew over Baghdad, Rubaie said.‘The room was full of death’At his residence, “the prime minister took our hands and said: ‘God bless you.’ I told him, ‘Go ahead and look at him.’ So he uncovered his face, and saw Saddam Hussein,” said Rubaie, who is still a close ally of the premier.“I have never had such a very strange feeling,” Rubaie, who was thrice imprisoned during Saddam’s rule, said of participating in the execution.“He committed countless crimes, and he deserved to be hanged a thousand times, live again, and be hanged again. But the feeling, that feeling is a strange feeling,” he said. “The room was full of death.”Rubaie said Saddam’s execution was set in motion after a video conference between Maliki and then US president George Bush, who asked the Iraqi prime minister: “What are you going to do with this criminal?”Maliki replied: “We hang him.”Bush gave him a thumbs up, signalling his approvallast_img read more

William Hague steps down as British Foreign Secretary

Marrakech – William Hague is stepping down as the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary after serving in the position since 2010. He previously served as Home Secretary, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and a leading member of the Conservative Party. He remains First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons, and will play a prominent part in the coming elections in the United Kingdom before his planned return to writing.His resignation as Foreign Secretary comes as part of a larger cabinet reshuffle prior to the next British election. Many are wondering why, at a moment of grave international crisis, a leading figure in foreign affairs would step down. Issues such as terrorism in Iraq and Syria threaten not only the Middle East, but also the world. Prime Minister David Cameron recently called the threat of British jihadis from Syria Britain’s number one security concern.A BBC commentator suggested that recent developments with Europe and David Cameron’s political defeat regarding the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as EU President may have had a hand in Hague’s departure.The UK’s role in Europe always plays a significant role in Conservative Party politics, and Cameron’s promise of a referendum on Britain’s EU membership could cause a rift.Significantly, Europhile Kenneth Clarke and William Hague are changing positions as the Ukip party gains ground politically. The Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, and Labour Party are all looking rather weak. read more

Club World Cup: FIFA Considers Moving Real Madrid Match to Marrakech

Rabat – The FIFA World Cup’s semi-finals game between Cruz Azul and Real Madrid scheduled to take place on Tuesday in Rabat may be transferred to the Grand Stadium in Marrakech due to the deluge of rain experienced at the Complexe Sportif Prince Moulay Abdellah, according to news reports.A source from the Royal Football Federation (FRMF) has said that the organizing committee of FIFA Club World Cup along with the FIFA delegation in Rabat are considering moving the semi-finals game between Real Madrid and Cruz Azul to Marrakesh’s Grand Stadium.According to the same source, the pitch of the Complexe Sportif Prince Moulay Abdellah in Rabat was affected by the heavy rain that fell on Saturday in Rabat and other regions of Morocco. The organizing committee is reportedly examining all the aspects of the case, and has not yet announced its official decision.

Algerian Man Arrested in Northern Morocco with 558 Psychotropic Pills

Rabat – Moroccan police arrested, Saturday in the northern city of Nador, an Algerian man in possession of 558 psychotropic pills of different types, the General Directorate of National Security (DGSN) said.The 44-year-old man, in an irregular situation in Morocco, was arrested in a rented apartment with a Moroccan accomplice, DGSN pointed out in a statement.Both defendants are remanded in custody to complete the investigation.With MAP

Moroccan Social Media Users Launch Campaign “Zero Grissage” to Fight Crime

Rabat – Moroccan social media users launched a campaign with  the slogan “Zero Grissage,” on Monday. The campaign aims to increase public safety, eradicate the crime in Moroccan streets and call for the security department to  be more effective.This was inspired by the latest initiative of the Ministry of Environment that aims to raise awareness about the environmental risks Morocco is facing due to the accumulation of plastics. Social media users launched the  hashtag  #ZeroGrissage, calling the state  to intervene to find resolutions to the phenomenon of criminal attacks and robbery in public and restore safety among citizens.Charlie b’Darija, a  Facebook page that posts analytical topics and opinions of young Moroccans about social life, politics and religion, was the first page to launch the campaign by starting a petition titled “From the people to the King Mohammed VI.” The petition addresses the King Mohammed VI as the supreme authority in Morocco. It requests action from the state, “after a series of heinous crimes that many Moroccan  citizens have recently experienced, especially gunpoint robberies. As young Moroccans, we collectively aim to launch this campaign via social media networks and address the Royal institution to take the necessary procedures to end those criminal threats and provide security to citizens through restraining penalties for everyone arrested with weapons, [including swords and knives]. We also hope the Royal institution expands the security network in order to include all  kinds of criminals [who commit crimes like robbery in public], who should not not receive your pardon, in order to enhance the overall security in the kingdom.”Charlie b’Darija also provides a space for the victims to share  photos or videos of crimes committed against them, in order to mobilize people to stand together against crimes.The campaign came after the inhabitants of El Ksar Kbir took to the streets to denounce the absence of security in the city, after an 18 year-old boy was murdered last week by a boss of a gang nicknamed “Rombo.”Edited by Alexandra Krauska read more

Hungarian Camerawoman Sentenced for Kicking Refugees

Budapest – A Hungarian camerawoman who caused controversy after kicking and tripping refugees as they fled from police near the Hungary-Serbia border in September 2015, was given, on Thursday, a three-year suspended sentence for disorderly conduct.Petra Laszlo, who appeared via video link at a court in the southern city of Szeged, said she would appeal.“It was all over within two seconds,” she said, adding she was acting out of panic and felt under attack. “Everybody was shouting, it was very frightening,” she added.The judge rejected Laszlo’s contention that she acted in self-defense.In addition to the three-year suspended sentence, she was ordered to pay a fine of 53,000 forints ($183).Laszlo, who had earlier said she would sue one of the refugees she tripped, was fired from her job at N1TV, a private television station in Hungary.

Morocco’s Atlas Lions Climb 7 Places in November FIFA Ranking

Rabat – Morocco’s two latest games, against Cameroon and Tunisia, may have improved its position in the ranking.With a total of 1,440 points, Morocco ranks 3rd in Africa behind Senegal (23rd worldwide) and Tunisia (26th worldwide). Nigeria came fourth in Africa and 44th in the world.FIFA’s October ranking put the Atlas Lions in 47th globally and 3rd in Africa. Tunisia and Senegal switched the top two places. Belgium, France, and Brazil top the global ranking for November. Portugal and Argentina climbed one place each to be ranked 6th and 11th, respectively.

Moroccans, Largest Foreign Student Community in France

Rabat – The French Agency for the Promotion of Higher Education, Hospitality, and International Mobility, “Campus France,” has ranked Moroccans as the largest foreign student community in France during the 2017/2018 academic year.French newspaper Le Monde shared the agency’s statistics regarding foreign student communities in France.According to the statistics, the number of Moroccan students enrolled in French higher education institutions is 39,855 students. During the 2016-2017 academic year, the number of Moroccan students in France stood at 38,002, or 43.9 percent of foreign students. It reflects an increase of 17 percent compared to the 2011-2016 period.Algerian students come after Morocco, with 30,521 students, followed of China with 30,071 students, Italians with 13,341 students, while Tunisia is ranked 5th with 12,842 students.The number of African students in France represents 46 percent of international students in France followed by Europe (25 percent), Oceania (16 percent), the Americas (9 percent) and the Middle East (4 percent).Campus France said that 37 percent of foreign students prefer science and medicine while 32 percent of them choose humanities and social sciences.Business and management is third with 20 percent of foreign students, against 12 percent for law and political science.according to the same source, 52.5 percent of international students were female during the 2017-2018 academic year.France ranks fourth among the countries that host international students, behind the US, the UK and Australia, and ahead of Germany. read more

Opposition, B.C. New Democrat both ask conflict commissioner for ruling

VICTORIA — B.C.’s Opposition Liberals and the New Democrat member of the legislature who is accused of a conflict of interest have both asked the province’s conflict commissioner to intervene in a complaint.The Liberals say NDP Delta North member of the legislature Ravi Kahlon should not be part of a committee that influences recommendations on ride-hailing services when his father holds a taxi licence.The Liberals sent a letter to Conflict of Interest Commissioner Paul Fraser asking him to rule on the perceived conflict.Kahlon denies there’s a conflict and says his father has held a taxi licence in Victoria for 28 years and will retire within the next two months.Kahlon has also asked Fraser to review his status to ensure he’s in compliance with conflict rules and policies for members of the legislature.The Liberals say in a news release that the government has put up numerous obstacles to ride-hailing in B.C. and Kahlon’s membership on the committee calls into question the level of objectivity from the New Democrats.The Canadian Press read more

Law firms selected to represent users owed millions from QuadrigaCX platform

HALIFAX — A Nova Scotia judge has selected two law firms to represent users of the insolvent QuadrigaCX cryptocurrency exchange who are owed about $260 million.Justice Michael Wood of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court issued a decision today saying he had appointed Miller Thomson of Toronto and Halifax-based Cox & Palmer as representative counsel.Wood says both firms have extensive experience with insolvency cases, and he noted that Miller Thomson has expertise when it comes to cryptocurrency.As well, the judge approved of their communication strategy, which includes the use of social media and online discussion groups to reach 115,000 affected users.Both law firms have also agreed to cap their fees at this stage of the court proceedings, though the cap was not spelled out in Wood’s decision.The Vancouver-based exchange was shut down Jan. 28 following the sudden death in December of its CEO and sole director, 30-year-old Gerald Cotten of Fall River, N.S.Court documents say $190 million in missing cryptocurrency is locked in offline digital wallets — but they are beyond the reach of the company because Cotten was the only person who had the encrypted pass codes.The Canadian Press read more

Auto parts company Magna International reports $456M Q4 profit, ups dividend

Companies in this story: (TSX:MG)The Canadian Press AURORA, Ont. — Magna International Inc. raised its dividend as it reported its fourth-quarter profit fell from the same period a year earlier.The Ontario-based auto parts maker, which keeps its books in U.S. dollars, says it will now pay a quarterly dividend of 36.5 cents per share, up from 33 cents per share.The increased payment to shareholders came as Magna says it earned $456 million or $1.37 per diluted share for the quarter ended Dec. 31. That compared with a profit of $559 million or $1.54 per share in the same quarter a year earlier.Sales totalled $10.14 billion, up from $9.68 billion.On an adjusted basis, Magna says it earned $1.63 per share for the quarter, up from $1.58 per share a year earlier.Analysts on average had expected a profit of $1.59 per share, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.

Billionaire list shows $1T hit from ’18 market meltdown

BANGKOK — A rich list by wealth compiler Hurun Report shows the market meltdowns in 2018 obliterated $1 trillion in wealth, with more than 212 of China’s richest individuals losing their dollar billionaire status.The report, China’s version of the Forbes rich list, showed Chinese billionaires still outnumbered those from any other country as of Jan. 31, at 658. Several newly minted ones amassed wealth through big share offerings.Amazon founder Jeff Bezos led the world’s wealthiest for the second year running, estimated by the Hurun Global rich list at $147 billion.Overall, it says there are 2,470 billionaires in the world by its reckoning, down 224 from last year.The Hurun Report, founded by CEO Rupert Hoogewerf, released the report in partnership with a Chinese luxury property developer, Loong Palace.The Associated Press

UN environment agency warns of effects of rising sand use

GENEVA — The U.N.’s environment program is warning about the overuse of sand resources, saying a three-fold increase in demand over the last 20 years amid increasing population, urbanization and building work has contributed to beach erosion, flooding and drought.In a new report launched Tuesday, UNEP urged a re-think about the use of the world’s second-most extracted resource, after water, by industry, governments and the public.UNEP said demand for sand and gravel amounts to 40-50 billion tons every year, and pointed to the need for conservation, recycling and a look for alternatives like sawdust.Pascal Peduzzi, director of a UNEP program with the University of Geneva, said more thought needs to be taken: “We aren’t very smart about how we use sand, because we think: This is just sand.”The Associated Press

TimorLeste UN investigates deadly violence near camp for displaced persons

“The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Atul Khare, has moved to reassure the people of Dili that the security situation at the IDP camp is under control,” the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) said in a statement. According to the International Security Forces (ISF), when they responded to a disturbance at the airport IDP camp, one ISF soldier “was attacked and defended himself by shooting the attacker, resulting in the death of one Timorese national.”The UN Police (UNPOL) immediately deployed officers from the Malaysian, Pakistani and Portuguese Formed Police Units to the area, which was later deemed secure.Mr. Khare “urged people to remain calm” and to cooperate with UNPOL, the Timorese Police and ISF soldiers.In another development, the head of UN humanitarian assistance in Timor-Leste today announced a large-scale delivery of rice in Dili, which has been plagued by shortages and price increases. “In order to alleviate this situation, the Government has requested the World Food Programme (WFP) to provide 300 metric tonnes of rice and WFP has responded positively to this request,” said Finn Reske-Nielsen. 23 February 2007United Nations police today in Timor-Leste are investigating deadly violence that erupted at a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) near the capital’s airport, in which one Timorese was killed and two injured. read more

New UN estimates predict 25 billion increase in world population by 2050

“One of the surprises is that population growth is most concentrated in the 60 plus age group,” Hania Zlotnik, the Director of the UN Population Division, told a press briefing in New York held to launch the report.“The place where the action is is the older population,” she said. “The biggest change will occur in the developing world, and developing countries will have to cope with the situation” by investing in both education and care of the elderly.According to the 2006 Revision, the world population will likely increase by 2.5 billion over the next 43 years, passing from the current 6.7 billion to 9.2 billion in 2050. This increase is equivalent to the total size of the world population in 1950, and it will be absorbed mostly by the less developed regions, whose population is projected to rise from 5.4 billion in 2007 to 7.9 billion in 2050.In contrast, the population of the more developed regions is expected to remain largely unchanged at 1.2 billion, and would have declined were it not for the projected net migration from developing to developed countries, which is expected to average 2.3 million persons annually.As a result of declining fertility and increasing longevity, the populations of more and more countries are ageing rapidly. Between 2005 and 2050, half of the increase in the world population will be accounted for by a rise in the population aged 60 years or over, whereas the number of children (persons under age 15) will decline slightly. Furthermore, in the more developed regions, the population aged 60 or over is expected nearly to double (from 245 million in 2005 to 406 million in 2050), whereas that of persons under age 60 will likely decline (from 971 million in 2005 to 839 million in 2050).“The world population is ageing because of the great success in reducing population growth, the success of humanity in controlling its numbers,” Ms. Zlotnik observed.The projected population trends also depend on achieving a major increase in the proportion of AIDS patients who get anti-retroviral therapy to treat the disease and on the success of efforts to control the further spread of HIV.“We are expecting a relatively good coverage of anti-retroviral drugs in 31 of the most affected countries by 2015,” Ms. Zlotnik said. “According to our estimates, 70 per cent of the affected people are going to get treatment. Given that, we’re postponing the deaths by several years.” On average, those receiving treatment are expected to live 7.5 years longer than those who are not.According to the 2006 Revision, fertility in the less developed countries as a whole is expected to drop from 2.75 children per woman in 2005-2010 to 2.05 in 2045-2050. To achieve such reductions, it is essential that access to family planning expands in the poorest countries, the Population Division said, pointing out that without this, the world population could increase by twice as many people as those alive in 1950.Reacting to the findings, the Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said they serve as a wake-up call to the urgency of giving couples the means to exercise their human right to freely determine the sizes of their families.“Currently, about 200 million women in these countries lack access to safe and effective contraceptive services,” said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid in a news release. “Funding for family planning must be increased to meet the needs of these women, not only to determine the world’s future, but also to prevent unintended pregnancies and reduce maternal and infant death.” 13 March 2007The world’s population is on track to surpass 9 billion persons by 2050, according to the newly released 2006 Revision of the official United Nations population estimates and projections, which also predict that the number of elderly persons will hit 1 billion. read more