Fairfax eyeing some US stores after Toys R Us Canada purchase

first_imgTORONTO – Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd.’s president Paul Rivett says its plans for Toys “R” Us are not limited to Canada, as it is exploring options to keep a foothold in the U.S. and elsewhere.The Toronto-based company, whose $300-million stalking horse offer for the Canadian subsidiary of the toy retailer was approved in a U.S. court this week, is looking for stores outside of Canada it can potentially snap up.“There’s pieces now we can invest in, pods of stores in the U.S., or elsewhere, and utilize the fact that they’ve got all the systems in Canada,” Rivett said in an interview Thursday after Fairfax’s annual general meeting of shareholders.A Virginia court approved the sale of Toys “R” Us Canada to Fairfax on Tuesday, ending the uncertainty looming the Canadian subsidiary after it filed for creditor protection in September, and the retailer’s U.S. division sought bankruptcy protection.The sale is scheduled to go before Ontario Superior Court on Friday.Fairfax had made a $300-million stalking horse offer last week, triggering an auction for Toys “R” Us’ 82 Canadian stores. Fairfax emerged as the only bidder.The Toronto-based company’s bid surpassed the $215-million bid made earlier this month, outside of the auction, by California-based, privately held toy company MGA Entertainment Inc.Fairfax, which is involved in property and casualty insurance and reinsurance and investment, had been keeping a close eye on Toys “R” Us Canada but it was a call from another toy-industry figure that prompted a closer look, Rivett said.Vic Bertrand Jr., of the family who founded toy maker Mega Brands best known for its building blocks, called Fairfax, according to Rivett. Fairfax had been a key investor in the Mega Blox maker until it was sold to American industry giant Mattel in 2014.“They said, ‘Listen, these folks at Toys “R” Us are saying there’s really a good viable business in Canada. Don’t let it die’… As a result of them calling us, we took another look,” Rivett said.The rationale to purchase included the Canadian subsidiary’s $100-million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, but the value of the stores themselves as well.Conservatively, the real estate portfolio is valued at $220 million but could be worth as much as the $300 million price-tag, Rivett added.Fairfax has brought in a third-party to assess the Canadian subsidiary’s stores, and several located in high-density areas have “significant value that might not have been properly appreciated.”“We have no current intention to do anything with the stores … (but) we’re value investors,” he said. “So when we buy something, we want to have the downside protection.”The Canadian stores will remain open, and the profits will remain in Canada and reinvested in the business instead of being extracted out by its U.S. parent in order to pay debtholders.“We’re going to let them keep their cash and reinvest in the business, and do better from an economic perspective,” Rivett said. “Change the store formats so it’s more inviting for families and kids, and move away from the big box that hasn’t changed over the last 20 years or so.”Companies in this story: (TSX:FFH)last_img read more

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Via Rail places 989million train order with Siemens for key rail corridor

first_imgCompanies in this story: (TSX:BBD.B)The Canadian Press MONTREAL — Via Rail has selected Germany’s Siemens over Bombardier Inc. for a $989-million contract to build new rolling stock as the Canadian passenger rail service renews its fleet of locomotives and cars for the rail corridor between Quebec City and Windsor, Ont.The company confirmed the contract that will see trains built in California.Deliveries will begin in 2021 for entry into service the following year.Via Rail and Siemens also announced a 15-year technical services and parts agreement valued at $355.5 million.The Canadian rail company requires 32 new trains to maintain its current capacity of 9,100 seats. The equipment must be able to run on electricity once that is installed along the route.Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau has said the decision to bypass Bombardier and workers at its plant in La Pocatiere, Que., is justified because Canada’s free trade agreements with the European Union and the United States doesn’t allow Via Rail to favour Bombardier in the awarding of contracts.last_img read more

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SNCLavalin cuts 100 jobs as politicians say it is vulnerable to takeover

first_imgCompanies in this story: (TSX:SNC)Julien Arsenault, The Canadian Press MONTREAL — SNC-Lavalin Inc. is eliminating about 100 positions in Canada at the same time as the Quebec engineering firm is being described by political leaders as being vulnerable to a foreign takeover.The Montreal-based firm says the workforce reduction is attributable to the completion of various projects across the country.“We are hiring employees based on the needs of our current projects and adjusting when they come to an end. This strategy is crucial to remain competitive,” said spokesman Nicolas Ryan.The eliminated positions represent a fraction of the 8,700 Canadian workforce.SNC-Lavalin is preparing to open a new office next year in London, the former headquarters of WS Atkins, acquired in 2017 for $3.5 billion. Ryan said no positions from the Montreal head office would be transferred to the British capital.Quebec Premier Francois Legault told a Montreal radio station Thursday that the government’s investment agency may have to get involved to protect the company from a foreign takeover.“In the future, when it comes time to protect head offices, I would like the leader to be Investissement Quebec,” he said in an interview.Montreal’s La Presse reported this week that the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec — which was already SNC-Lavalin’s largest shareholder — had increased its stake since the spring to about 20 per cent, valued at about $1.6 billion.SNC-Lavalin’s share price has dropped about 10 per cent since October, when federal prosecutors refused to set aside criminal charges against the company by approving a deferred prosecution agreement.The RCMP charged the company in 2015 with fraud and corruption for alleged actions in Libya. It has pleaded not guilty but could be excluded from federal tenders for up to 10 years if convicted.Some analysts have suggested that the current situation could result in the sale of some company assets or make it vulnerable to a takeover offer.“It puts the company in a difficult situation,” said Legault. “There is no controlling shareholder.”He added that other investors could be approached to ensure that any outside offer is blocked.last_img read more

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Kia to recall vehicles to fix problem that can cause fires

first_imgDETROIT — Kia says it will ignore the partial U.S. government shutdown and recall more than 68,000 vehicles to fix a fuel pipe problem that can cause engine fires. The problem stemmed from previous recall repairs due to engine failures.The Korean automaker and its larger affiliate Hyundai have been dogged by fire and engine failure complaints from across the nation. They’re both under investigation by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The agency, which oversees recalls, is mostly closed because of the shutdown.Kia also says it will do a “product improvement campaign” to install sensors in 1.7 million vehicles that will alert drivers of possible engine failures and send the cars into a slow-speed “limp” mode if problems are detected.Tom Krisher, The Associated Presslast_img read more

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City to hold public hearing on proposed CoOp gas station

first_imgFORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The City of Fort St. John has scheduled a public hearing for the proposed Co-Op Gas Station development.The hearing, originally scheduled for November 26, is now set to take place on December 10.  It will allow members of the public to voice their concerns or support for the proposed gas station.On July 11, 2018, the City hosted a public engagement event to gather feedback fromneighbouring residents regarding the proposed development. The proposal details for the project can be viewed HERE. “Originally the site was zoned correctly, but for some reason, it got rezoned, and now I have to make an application again for it to have the gas and propane.”Currently, Co-Op is waiting for the third reading, a public hearing, followed by Council’s final decision on the project.“As far as the City planner stuff, they are in favour of that location,” said Lussier.The public hearing for the proposed Co-Op gas station is scheduled for December 10 at the Fort St. John City Hall Council Chambers.center_img The City says the information gathered during the event and the online survey was reviewed and used to inform the regulations and landscaping requirements being proposed within the Zoning Amendment Bylaw.In addition to the surveys and comments received at the public engagement event, a resident submitted a petition against the proposed development with 23 signatures from residents of neighbouring Mackenzie Place at the engagement event on July 11.Fort St. John Co-Op General Manager, Brad Lussier, says the proposed gas station will provide multiple services.“There will be a 2,800 square-foot convenience store, which will have seven-days-a-week propane service, and, of course, a car wash. We’ve looked at the area, and it’s very high density for residential, so that’s why we identified that property as a place to put up a store.”The proposed site location is at the corner of 114A Avenue and 100 Street.Lussier says he has to resubmit an application due to the rezoning of the proposed site.last_img read more

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Sharif accuses Govt of deliberately impeding his treatment

first_imgIslamabad: Pakistan’s jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has accused the federal government of deliberately impeding his treatment for heart-related ailments, according to a media report. Sharif’s brother and PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif said the three-time former prime minister is in “high spirits” but still requires immediate medical treatment. He (Sharif) says the doctors who examined him earlier said they were only sent to check and verify his health condition. The doctors said they did not have any orders to start his treatment, Shehbaz was quoted as saying by the Express Tribune. The National Assembly opposition leader said the government’s failure to address concerns regarding Sharif’s health was regrettable. “It is sad to see that the medical treatment of a three-time former prime minister has been made a political issue. This victimisation must end, he said. Shehbaz’s statements come a day after the Punjab government wrote a letter to the former prime minister stating that he was free to pursue treatment at a hospital of his choosing in Lahore. Sharif on Wednesday refused to be relocated to a hospital for treatment despite requests by his family members, saying he prefers an “honourable death” over kneeling to “politics being done” by the government in the name of his treatment. Sharif, 69, is serving a seven-year imprisonment in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption case at the Kot Lakhpat Jail since December 2018. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo has suffered four angina attacks last week, his daughter Maryam Nawaz said on Tuesday. The Sharif family is complaining that the government is not providing health facilities to the former premier who has serious health complications.last_img read more

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Rain to bring respite from heat in city today

first_imgKolkata: The Regional Meteorological Centre in Alipore has predicted light to moderate rainfall in various South Bengal districts, including the city, on Thursday.According to a senior Met department official, there will be scattered rainfall in various parts of South Bengal due to the impact of both Western disturbances and a wind that is blowing towards the Western direction. Western disturbances are low-pressure waves that travel from West to the East across the plains. Also Read – Centuries-old Durga Pujas continue to be hit among revellers”There will be a clash between the Western disturbances and a wind that is moving towards the West, triggering light to moderate rainfall on Thursday. Kolkata and various South Bengal districts may receive light to moderate rainfall while some other districts will witness lightning and thunderstorms. The spells of rain will be caused by Western disturbances. The sky in the city and some other parts will remain mostly cloudy,” a senior Met official said. According to the predictions of the weather office, there is a possibility of thundershower in districts like Bankura, Birbhum, East and West Burdwan, Jhargram and West Midnapore. These districts are likely to receive moderate to heavy rainfall in the next 48 hours. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari PujaThe lowest temperature in the city on Wednesday remained at 25 degree Celsius, which is three degrees above normal. A moderate level of temperature fluctuation may occur in the next couple of days during night hours. People in the city may get temporary relief from the ongoing warm and humid conditions due to rain but the temperature will continue to soar high as soon as the rainy spells are over. People in the city and other South Bengal districts have started feeling comparatively hot condition in the past two days as the mercury has started to climb. The weather office says that people across South Bengal may continue to witness discomfort as the humidity level will be higher during day. People will continue to feel the sultry condition in the next few days as well.last_img read more

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Parrikar loses battle with cancer

first_imgPanaji: Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar passed away at his private residence here on Sunday evening after a prolonged battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 63.The condition of Parrikar, diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer in February last year and in and out of hospitals in Goa, Mumbai, Delhi and New York since then, had turned “extremely critical” on Sunday, the Chief Minister’s Office tweeted earlier in the day. President Ram Nath Kovind expressed his grief. Also Read – Squadrons which participated in Balakot air strike awarded citations on IAF Day”Extremely sorry to hear of the passing of Shri Manohar Parrikar, Chief Minister of Goa, after an illness borne with fortitude and dignity,” he said in a tweet. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Shri Manohar Parrikar was an unparalleled leader. A true patriot and exceptional administrator, he was admired by all.” Other leaders, cutting across party lines, mourned his death. The first Bharatiya Janata Party leader to be Goa Chief Minister, Parrikar headed the state from 2000-05 and 2012-14, before joining the Narendra Modi government as Defence Minister from 2014. Also Read – Don’t use ‘lynching’ to defame India: BhagwatThe country’s first Indian Institute of Technology alumnus to serve as Chief Minister of a state, he assumed the mantle on four occasions from 2000, but could not complete a single full term in office. The four-time Chief Minister had been seen in public outings over the past few months with a nasal tube and a frail form, which provoked opposition attacks on the ruling BJP. But in January this year, he had famously said that he “will serve Goa till my last breath.” Manohar Parrikar was known for his impeccable record and simple lifestyle. He was a leader accessible to the people and was often sighted enjoying a ride on his scooter. With Parrikar’s demise on Sunday, the BJP-led coalition in Goa has to search for a new leader to replace him. He was heading a coalition government comprising the BJP, Goa Forward Party, MGP and Independents. The death of the former defence minister, who represented the Panaji assembly seat, will also necessitate a fourth bypoll in Goa, where by-elections are scheduled for the Shiroda, Mandrem and Mapusa assembly constituencies on April 23. These will held in the state along with the Lok Sabha polls. “With CM Parrikar’s demise, the ruling coalition will have to make a fresh representation to the governor after choosing their leader. The representation will have the letter of support,” a senior official from State Legislature Department said. “If the governor (Mridula Sinha) is not convinced, then she will have to invite the single largest party to form a government,” he said. Parrikar, who was defence minister, was sworn in as Goa chief minister 2017 after he won from Panaji in the same year. The Congress is currently the single largest party in the state with 14 MLAs while the BJP has 13 in the 40-member Goa assembly. The Goa Forward Party, MGP and Independents have three MLAs each while NCP has one legislator. The strength House has been reduced to 36 due to the demise of BJP MLA Francis D’Souza earlier this year, and Parrikar on Sunday, and resignations of two Congress MLAs Subhash Shirodkar and Dayanand Sopte last year. After the news of Parrikar’s broke, the coalition partners have called emergency meetings. The three Goa Forward Party MLAs led by Vijai Sardesai and the MGP’s three MLAs met separately on Sunday evening. Following the death of Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, the centre has announced a national mourning Monday and declared the National Flag will fly at half-mast across the country. The four-time chief minister will be accorded a state funeral. A meeting of the Union Cabinet has been called at 10 am as well. Manohar Parrikar’s body is to be kept at the BJP head office in Panaji on Monday morning. People will pay their final respects to the former defence minister from 11 am to 4 pm at Kala Academy in the state capital. The funeral procession will begin at 4 pm and the last rites will be performed at 5 pm at SAG grounds in Campal, approximately 4km from Panaji. See P7last_img read more

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Fear of jejune enthusiasm

first_imgAs India awaits the verdict on the new national government, exactly after 10 days from now, diplomatic circles are worried about a repeat of the same or worse scenario in the corridors of international relations should Narendra Modi return to power. After a microanalysis of the performance of Modi government’s five years in the areas of international affairs, most of the foreign relations experts feel that his comeback as the prime minister would be a huge setback in transforming India into a strong, booming, and associative country. Also Read – Hijacking Bapu’s legacyDuring the Modi regime, social bickering, and general hostility affected India’s ability to run a successful foreign policy in the neighbourhood. Our shrinking influence in the India Ocean region and in South Asia is a direct outcome of Modi’s lack of foreign policy homework. Modi government’s random and immature dealings with our neighbours have resulted in a serious dislocation in our relationships in our immediate ambit. Be it Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Maldives, Nepal or Bhutan, we only have alienated friends. Also Read – The future is here!Modi has always been in election mode after becoming prime minister in 2014. For the first two years, he was in the playfulness of a massive election victory. For the next two years, he made himself overburdened with the pleasure of being the sole saviour of his Bhartiya Janata Party in state elections. Finally, his whole focus is on somehow winning the 2019 general elections. Therefore, for a full five years, Modi has been running a mad race for self-gratification. He spared no opportunity to hug fellow world leaders without having any strategic perception. He believed in the self-assumed power of his personal charisma in dealing with foreign policy matters. But his jejune enthusiasm for developing personal chemistry miserably failed, especially with China and with our other immediate neighbours. Modi is not one of those to accept their mistake. He belongs to a breed which does not learn from the mistakes. Foreign policy wizards are of the opinion that unless an alternative diplomatic strategy is adopted, India will not be able to maintain its international position in times to come. It requires a change in the leadership of the government because Modi will again prove to be Modi and it would make any different policy articulation impossible if he is at the helm of affairs for next five years also. Modi will never realise that hugging a world leader does not lead to any pledge in international diplomacy. He will always refuse to accept that personal charisma cannot be a foreign policy tool in dealing with world powers. He is not able to understand the importance of intensive homework when it comes to performing on the global stage. What he has said in a boastful manner in his various TV interviews during electioneering, anyone can predict that Modi will not accept the fact that his hug diplomacy has totally failed and different approaches are crucial in regaining the trust of our neighbours, including Pakistan and China. Only a prime minister with a changed mindset will be able to take India into a new foreign policy direction. Serving tea with own hands, taking to a dinner out in a small isolated restaurant, changing the costumes three times a day and putting forward uninvited one-sided hugs are not something that can be defined as using soft power. In a world undergoing multi-power disorder, you need a more specific, sincere and well thought out approach. But Modi’s perpetual denial mode is the principal hurdle in presenting India as a country with liberal, stabilised and comprehensive ideas in the world rung. I know several foreign policy scholars who were staunch supporters of Modi till five-six years back and expected that his hyperbole of diplomatic reforms would be translated into action once elected. All of them are now lamenting to the wall. They describe the Modi government as a government in which ‘only Modi counts’ and a government that is ‘bowing to the powerful and bullying the weak’. These scholars see Modi as compulsorily deferential to the US and China. The net result of this has been the neglect of old friends like Russia and Iran. According to one of the prominent diplomacy scholars, ‘there is no coherent vision driving the frenzied visiting and eventing that we have witnessed for some time’. In fact, the situation around us and the world over has changed drastically over the past few years with the coming to power of new authoritarians, or “alpha-males” in China, the US, Russia, Japan, Turkey and India. It needs major corrections. India is in a situation where it cannot rely on any other world power to promote its prosperity. Why any other established power would like to see a potential competitor rising? Therefore, our way forward lies in true strategic autonomy. The US nowadays is pulling back and unwilling to underwrite an international order. China is moving in a blankness in an ever-expanding manner. India’s real strategic focus should be on China. The multi-faceted provocations from China require an Indian response across the entire rainbow of power — from economics to politics to military to ideas. Pakistan is a key distraction but unity of the subcontinent requires neutralisation of Pakistan too. Can we hand over the responsibility of facing these challenges to Modi again? Can Modi alter the path of India’s foreign policy? Is his diplomacy track record convincing for India’s bright and sustainable global future? Will he be able to dilute his obstinacy so that India can march in the right direction of foreign affairs? There is a serious wave of apprehensions in the Central Hall of Indian diplomacy. Unless our next government ensures that it will listen, not lecture; learn, not threaten; foreign policy course is bound to be directionless. India has to enhance its economic and border safety by earning the respect of others and showing respect for them. Foreign policy is effectively the assertion of many individual countries intersecting on the global marketplace. It is not something that you can decide on your whims and fancies. You have to figure out how to get your interest served in a way that meets the interests and needs of these other countries you deal with. In international relations, a great deal has to do with historical circumstances and sense and perception of people. Foreign policy summits are no Lady Gaga events. Formal or informal, they always have outcomes in formal shape. When we thump our chests for any surgical or crude strike, we must realise that when diplomacy ends war begins. The next Prime Minister of India has to be vigilant of the fact that the purpose of foreign policy is not to provide an outlet for his own sentiments of hope or indignation; it is to shape real events in a real world by safeguarding our national interests at the same time. Modi, therefore, does not qualify for the top job again. (The author is Editor & CEO of News Views India and a national office bearer of the Congress party. The views expressed are strictly personal)last_img read more

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Five Egyptian diplomats seized in Libya in 24 hours

first_imgTRIPOLI- Kidnappers seized Egypt’s cultural attache and three other embassy staff in the Libyan capital on Saturday a day after a group snatched another Egyptian official in the city. In the south, meanwhile, the toll from ethnic clashes rose to 88 dead and more than 130 wounded, a further sign of the chronic instability that has plagued Libya since the 2011 uprising ousted dictator Moamer Kadhafi.The four diplomats were kidnapped early on Saturday morning, a Libyan foreign ministry spokesman said, “The cultural attache and three other staff were kidnapped in Tripoli,” Said Lassoued told AFP.The abductions came a day after an unknown group seized an administrative adviser at Egypt’s embassy, and despite Libya’s announcement of “reinforced security measures” there.Foreigners have been targeted several times in recent weeks: two Italians were seized last week in east Libya and a South Korean trade representative was released by security forces on Wednesday, three days after he was abducted in Tripoli.Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was himself briefly abducted by a former rebel militia last October.A Libyan security official would not rule out that the kidnapping of the Egyptian administrative official was a response to the arrest in Egypt on Friday of a prominent former rebel commander who fought in the uprising.Shaaban Hadeia, head of the Operations Centre of Libya’s Thuwar (revolutionaries), was arrested in Alexandria, the source added.The Operations Centre had posted on Facebook that there could be a “possible reaction from the thuwars”.But one of the group’s leaders, Adel al-Ghariani, told AFP the group was not involved in the kidnappings and called for Hadeia’s release.The presidency of the General National Congress, Libya’s highest political authority, also ordered its mission in Cairo to demand an explanation for the ex-rebel leader’s arrest and to seek his release.Cairo has yet to confirm his detention.Libya has struggled to integrate rebel groups that helped topple Kadhafi into the security forces. Some militias have carved out their own fiefdoms, each with its own ideology and regional allegiances.The situation is also dire in eastern Libya, where radical Islamists have been accused of carrying out dozens of attacks on security forces and Western interests, mostly in second city Benghazi.Two blasts hit Benghazi on Saturday without causing any casualties, one targeting a military intelligence base and the other a Koranic school.Security forces said on Friday they had arrested four people who had a “list of officers who had already been assassinated and to assassinate” in an operation that left one soldier dead.Authorities are also faced with sporadic unrest in the south, where the death toll from two weeks of ethnic clashes near the region’s main city of Sebha rose to 88 dead on Saturday.“Between the outbreak of the fighting on January 11 and Friday evening, the number of dead totalled 88,” Abdallah Ouheida, director of Sebha hospital, told AFP.He said the full death toll was almost certainly higher as casualties had also been taken to other hospitals.He said there had been sporadic clashes on Saturday but no new reports of casualties.The fighting erupted between members of the Toubou minority, a non-Arab ethnic group, and armed Arab tribesmen of the Awled Sleiman.There has since between fighting between the Awled Sleiman and other Arab tribes that is reported to have involved Kadhafi supporters.Libya’s General National Congress declared a state of emergency in the south on January 18 at an extraordinary session to discuss the violence in Sebha.last_img read more

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Royal Air Maroc Wins National EGovernment Award

Rabat – Morocco’s national airline Royal Air Maroc (RAM) won, here Thursday, the E-mtiaz Award in the “Website” category of the National Award for Electronic administration “e-mtiaz 2014”.Distance sales business “continued its steady growth since it has multiplied by nine in seven years,” while the number of visitors increased from 2.5 millions in 2006 to 19 millions in 2014, RAM said in a statement.The turnover via Internet constitutes 25 pc of the total turnover of the company, including 13 pc representing the turnover on the website www.royalairmaroc.com, the company added. RAM also noted a remarkable improvement in distance sales (+ 25% in November 2014) since the launch of the new website, and an increase of 22 pc of the number of site visitors till November 2014.

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Senegalese President Hails Creation of Mohammed VI Foundation for African Ulemas

Dakar – Senegalese President Macky Sall hailed the creation of the Mohammed VI Foundation for African Ulemas, stressing the importance of such initiatives in the fight against religious extremism.“We need a religious discourse to fight jihadist propaganda which tends to enroll and even brainwash people who do not grasp Islam precepts,” Said Senegalese President in an interview with Moroccan TV channel “Medi1 TV,” broadcast on Monday.“The Sunni and Sufi Islam we have is peaceful and tolerant (…) and we need to protect it against any external aggression”, he added, underlining that “the first fight against Jihadism will certainly be a theological struggle”. Therefore, he said, “preachers should be able to speak and explain Islam precepts”. This is an extremely important battle and Morocco, in this regard, has already made significant progress in the training of imams and teaching of Islam, said Macky Sall, noting that working with the Kingdom in this dynamic, his country will gain a lot.Regarding terrorism, the Senegalese head of State said that this threat is present in every country of the world with different amplitudes.He praised the Moroccan experience and cooperation between the two countries to fight this international scourge.With MAP read more

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US NGO Congratulates Moroccan Sardine Fishery on Sustainability Progress

Rabat – The US NGO “Sustainable Fisheries Partnership” (SFP) welcomed “the extraordinary progress” of the Moroccan sardine fishery improvement project (FIP), the ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries said in a statement.The project has achieved significant increases in scores on the Marine Stewardship Council FIP benchmark tool during its two years of operation and has the highest possible “A” progress rating on the SFP Fishsource database, SFP said.”The management framework has greatly improved since the project started, with both stocks subject to a management plan, and while this aspect is still evolving, the most recent stock assessments show that Moroccan-managed stocks are generally in good shape,” said Jo Gascoigne, the FIP’s chief scientist. Among other improvements, the fishery now includes scientific observers on boats to monitor fishing practices, and efforts to put new harvest control rules in place.The Moroccan Sardine fishery has improved from an overall index of 0.59 (central zone) / 0.61 (south zone) to 0.74 (both), with a recently published stock assessment included in this score and the fishery’s assessments updated to reflect this better performance, the source noted.Founded in 2006, the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Foundation – known as Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) – is a nonprofit organization dedicated to rebuilding depleted fish stocks and reducing the environmental and social impacts of fishing and fish farming through engaging fishery stakeholders (communities, NGOs, government, etc.) and seafood businesses in every part of the supply chain.With MAP read more

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Spanish Association Denounces Sexual Harassment of Moroccos Mule Women

Rabat – The Association for Human Rights in Andalusia (APDHA) has denounced the dire predicament that the “mule women” experience to transport bales of contraband products from Spain’s enclaves, Ceuta and Mellila, into Morocco’s territory where they will be distributed across Morocco’s markets.In a new report published by Lavanguardia, entitled “Respect and dignity of Moroccan women who import products on the border of Morocco and Ceuta,” APDHA said that “over 7,000 Moroccan women carry on their backs weights of 60 to 90 kilos [of products] from “El Tarajal,” Ceuta to neighboring villages, for an average commission estimated at 10 euros per day.”In continuing remarks, the report reveals “many cases of Moroccan women who face every day humiliation and sexual harassment from Spanish and Moroccan polices forces on the border.” Cristina Fuentes, researcher/member of the APDHA, condemned the indifference of the Moroccan and Spanish governments by saying, “This situation cannot last any longer despite the substantial benefits it brings. Approximately half of Ceuta’s exports carried on the backs of the carriers [mule women].”Fuentes went on to note, “This illegal activity is estimated at over 400 million euro, according to a study conducted by the University of Granada on the economic and fiscal regime of Ceuta.”“These profits are based on the violation of the rights of those women – who are in need of a job to feed their families,” Fuentes added.Edited by Constance Guindon read more

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Casablancas Ibn Arabi High School Host Talent Show and InterSchool Competition

Rabat – Ibn Arabi High School, located in El Gharbia, Sidi Bennour organized on Saturday the first edition of its Students’ Talent Show and Inter-Schools Competitions, under the title “Moroccan…Proud to Be.”The event hosted several activities, including singing, a spelling bee, improvisation, photography and drawing, and public speaking on different topics such as the Green March, Tabourida  and Moroccan costumes.About 175 students took part in these competitions. The competition’ first edition was organized in coordination with the Ibn Arabi Youth Club. Juries were made up of several teachers of English and art, namely Hasna Ghouila, Nawal Mardi, Abdelhakim El Maghi, Youness Errachidi, and Abdelali Mounir.“It was difficult to name winners as the contestants were so enthusiastic, proud, and eager to win the competition,” explained Rachid Benjlil, an English teacher and founder and coordinator of Ibn Arabi Youth Club.During the event, high-school headmaster Mohamed El Mahboubi delivered a speech in which he stressed the importance of such activities and initiatives, which he said provide students with the opportunity to enrich their cultural knowledge and develop their public speaking and linguistic skills.“The public speaking competition was an opportunity for the attendees to enjoy a trip through Moroccan history, culture, and values,” added Benjlil. read more

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Twitter critic site gone after Nebraska school district sues

OMAHA, Neb. — The Twitter account that has been criticizing about a southeast Nebraska school district since last fall disappeared shortly after the district filed a lawsuit seeking the critic’s identity.The person behind the anonymous @friend_bulldog account on Twitter posted another critical comment about the Friend School District Tuesday morning, but the account was gone by midday.The school district filed a lawsuit last week because officials want to learn who is behind the account. The district’s lawyer, Justin Knight, said the site has made false and defamatory statements about Superintendent David Kraus and other school officials.Knight says the district plans to continue pursuing the lawsuit .A Twitter spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to questions about whether the social media company had removed the account.The Associated Press read more

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Barrick helps facilitate Acacia Mining deal with Tanzanian government

TORONTO — Barrick Gold Corp. says it has helped facilitate a deal between Acacia Mining and the government in Tanzania.Under the agreement, the economic benefits from Acacia’s operations will be shared on an equal basis with Tanzania’s government in the form of royalties, taxes and a 16 per cent free carry interest in the Tanzanian operations.A US$300-million payment to the government will also be made over time to resolve outstanding tax claims.Barrick holds a 63.9 per cent interest in Acacia, a publicly traded company that is operated independently.The Toronto-based company says work is underway to finalize the definitive agreements, which must be approved by Acacia and the Tanzanian government.Barrick chief executive Mark Bristow says the proposal will allow the business to focus on rebuilding its mining operations in partnership with their respective stakeholders. Companies in this story: (TSX:ABX)The Canadian Press read more

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Western Sahara ProPolisario US Senator Heads Delegation to Tindouf

Rabat – A 17-member US delegation led by Senator James Inhofe visited the Tindouf camps on Sunday.Providing no details, pro-Polisario news agency RPS reported that the congressional visit was part of the international community’s ongoing agenda to find a lasting and mutually acceptable settlement in Western Sahara.The American delegation was received on Sunday by Brahim Ghali, the secretary general of the Polisario Front. The 17-member delegation consisted of six elected officials from the US Congress, including Senator Inhofe, chairman of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, and Senator Enzi Michael Bradley, the finance committee chairman.The delegation, which was earlier spotted on Sunday, February 24, in Algiers, met with Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia before meeting with the Polisario leadership later on the same day.A devout Polisario supporterAccording to some reports, both visits were prepared and coordinated by Keene Consulting Services and Foley Hoag, two U.S lobbying firms hired by Algeria to influence Washington establishment in favor of Polisairo’s self-determination claims.Foley Hoag has been lobbying for Algiers for two decades, while Keene Consulting Services, which is helmed by Republican mogul David Keene, recently signed a $30,000-per-month lobbying deal with the Algerian government.Keene has since been the leading force behind the aggressive Algerian public relations breakthroughs in Washington policy circles, according to diplomatic sources.Senator Inhofe is among the few conservative US figures to express reservations on Morocco’s Western Sahara claims.Like Keene, Senator Inhofe is a well-known supporter of the “Sahrawi cause.” He has been a vocal pro-Polisario voice in the US Congress. He has constantly pushed for “Sahrawi independence” and called on Morocco to organize a referendum to “end the suffering of the Sahrawi people.”A regular visitorThe congressional visit comes as the Polisario Front prepares to celebrate the 43rd anniversary of the establishment of SADR. The date coincides with the start of hostilities between Morocco and the Polisario Front (supported by Algeria) in the 1970s.But the visit is not the senator’s first trip to the region.Known in some pro-Polisario circles as “a great friend of Western Sahara,” Senator Inhofe has paid a number of visits to Western Sahara and to the Tindouf camps over the border in Algeria.In August 2017, invoking such a visit, the senator single-handedly engaged in a congressional fight to delay a key American diplomatic move in US-African affairs.Inhofe cited divergences within congress on the Western Sahara question as the motive of his move, saying that Washington ought to adopt a much tougher—and Morocco-hostile—stance on the conflict.His position is more clearly outlined in a June 2010 statement.“The people of the Western Sahara have languished in desert camps for more than 30 years as the conflict has gone unresolved,” he said. “I have visited the camps and have seen with my own eyes that their story is one of determination, persistence and hope that one day they will enjoy the basic rights all humans deserve—the right to life and to self-determination.”In his press statement following the Sunday meeting with Polisario’s leader, the senator made similar statements. He said that the visit testified to “President Trump’s commitment to the freedom of this people that he will undoubtedly recover.”Despite Inhofe’s assurance that President Trump wants to “recover” freedom in Western Sahara, recent news from Washington, D.C., does not buttress his rhetoric.For all the mixed messages that characterize the Trump administration’s foreign policy, including in Western Sahara, the most recent development hinted that Washington is moving back to its traditional line of supporting its Moroccan ally.Meanwhile, the visit comes shortly before the second Geneva meeting in March between conflicting parties under the auspices of UN envoy Host Kohler.While some deep-seated divergences remain, there is hope that the ongoing process will incrementally achieve a mutually agreed upon political settlement. read more

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US Alexandria Celebrates Morocco Day Explores Zagora Tourism Assets

Rabat – The city of Alexandria, Virginia, held its official “Morocco Day” at the Market Square on Saturday, June 9.“This is monumental because Alexandria, one of America’s oldest cities, is home to 10,000 Moroccans; it is a great place for entrepreneurship and tourism,” said Justin Wilson, Mayor of Alexandria, Virginia. Several delegations from the Moroccan embassy and consulate in Washington attended the event. “Morocco Day” was sponsored by the Moroccan American Network in partnership with Zagora Regional Council. The event featured various entertainments including live music, fashion shows, and handicrafts. The event highlighted Zagora, a city located in southeastern Morocco’s Draa-Tafilalet region, as a cultural, environmental, and tourist destination for American visitors.“This event organized primarily to encourage small and medium-sized Moroccan businesses that work in the field of Tourism to connect with their American counterparts….”, Mohammed Hajjam, CEO of AVA Actions, a partner of the Moroccan American Network, said.Read also: Moroccan American Network Considers Moroccan Cities for 2020 Morocco DayThe event paid tribute to Moroccan renowned singer Nouaman Lahlou whose famous song “Zagora El Ghazala” fits the theme of the day. The Moroccan American Network plans to celebrate twelve other regions of Morocco in the upcoming years. “We have a road map for twelve regions and we have a great team to do this in the next few years”, Mohammed Hajjam told Morocco World News earlier this year. The very first official “Morocco Day” was organized on March 29, 2019, at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel in Washington, D.C. read more

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