Unknown Shalini Yadav to challenge Modi in Varanasi

first_imgLucknow: The Samajwadi Party has fielded Shalini Yadav as the joint candidate of the SP-BSP alliance in Varanasi to challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha elections.A light-weight candidate, Shalini Yadav has unsuccessfully contested he Mayoral polls in Varanasi on a Congress ticket in 2017.Shalini Yadav is the daughter of former Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson Shyamlal Yadav.Samajwadi Party sources said that none of the senior party leaders in the region were willing to contest against the Prime Minister and the party then decided to field Shalini Yadav who joined the party on Monday evening. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss bank a/c details”I will work to the best of my abilities under the guidance of Akhilesh Yadav and try to wrest the seat from the BJP. The youth is on our side and nothing is impossible if you make the effort,” she told reporters.The Varanasi seat had been won by Murli Manohar Joshi in 2009 and became a VIP seat in 2014 when Narendra Modi defeated his nearest rival Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party by a huge margin of over 3.75 lakh votes.Polling in Varanasi will be held in the last phase of elections on May 19.last_img read more

France: Interior Minister Sues People Who Lodged Complaints Against Moroccan Officials

first_imgRabat – Morocco’s interior minister, acting on behalf of the Moroccan state, tasked lawyers to bring legal proceedings against people who filed complaints accusing Moroccan top officials of torture allegations though aware that they were false. In a complaint lodged, this Tuesday, with the Republic’s prosecutor to the Paris high court, the interior minister condemned the gross manipulation by some individuals who were sentenced for fraud and international drug trafficking by Moroccan competent jurisdictions, said a statement by the Interior Ministry.The minister also condemns the complicity of a French association known to be “blatantly biased and active against” Morocco’s territorial integrity. The complaint lodged by the interior minister deplores the instrumentalization of the French legal procedure by people responsible for false accusations of torture and exposes the real motives behind this manipulation, namely the destabilization of security bodies under the Interior Ministry mainly the DGST, an institution renown and respected for its achievements in counterterrorism and organized crime fight, in the respect of the rule of law, the statement said.The minister recalls that the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which Morocco signed and ratified as did France, set the adequate framework to judge any torture allegation.These legal proceedings are an addition to contacts and exchanges under way between government officials of both countries to shed light on the circumstances of the grave and unprecedented incidents that took place recently and identify concrete measures to avoid such occurrences in the future, it added.The group of lawyers in charge of the interior minister’s complaint is composed of Ralph Boussier, Yves Repiquet, Abdelkebir Tabih and Omar Taieb.last_img read more

UN Security Council Welcomes Libyan Political Dialogue Meeting in Morocco

Rabat – The UN Security Council welcomed, on Wednesday, the meeting in Morocco of the participants in the Libyan political dialogue with a view to reaching an agreement on a government of national accord based on the fourth draft of the Political Agreement facilitated by the UN Envoy, Bernardino Leon.“The members of the Security Council emphasized the urgency for the Libyan parties to agree on a Government of National Accord and, in this context, welcomed the meeting of the participants of the Libyan Political Dialogue in Morocco on 8-9 June,” the Security Council said in a press statement.Skhirat in the outskirts of Rabat has hosted five rounds of political talks between the Libyan rivals under the umbrella of the UN. The fifth round was held last week and ended with a “positive” feedback from the participating delegations representing the different stakeholders in the crisis.While recalling the different resolutions of the 15 members of the Council reaffirmed full support for Libya’s sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity. read more

Dirham Liberalization Carries Limited Devaluation Risks: BMI Research

Rabat – For BMI Research, Morocco’s new flexible exchange rate regime signals the government’s commitment to become an investment hub in the region, and to diversify trade away from Europe.In its latest economic analysis report, entitled “Exchange Rate Liberalization Reaffirms Long-Term Commitment to Reform,” BMI a Fitch Group firm that provides macroeconomic, industry and financial market analysis, says that Morocco’s new reform is “unlikely to prompt a sharp currency sell-off, limiting near-term risks to growth and inflation.” According to the research firm, Morocco’s decision to gradually move towards a more flexible exchange rate regime “will offer crucial economic tailwinds in the years ahead.” READ ALSO: Speculations About Dirham Devaluation ‘Overblown’On January 15, the Ministry of Finance officially widened the band in which the Moroccan dirham trades against a basket of currencies, 60 percent for the euro and 40 percent for the dollar, from ±0.3 percent to ±2.5 percent. Over a 10 to 15 years time frame, the ministry explained that it will move towards a free floating currency. For BMI, this move is “likely to help the country in its efforts to attract greater investment to the kingdom and diversify trade, while the risks of disorderly depreciation are well contained given the country’s robust financial buffers.”READ ALSO: Bank Al Maghrib Sets Dirham Prices Against US DollarThe firm maintains its view “that the risks of disorderly depreciation are limited.” This view was supported by Bank Al Maghrib’s recovery in foreign currency reserves, after the delay of the first phase of the reform initially scheduled for July 2017 resulted in a sharp rush on currency fueled by market speculation against the dirham. This time around, BMI believes “that investor uncertainty has been contained, with reserves having expanded by 20.6 percent since June 2017.”READ ALSO: Moroccan Market Worried as Dirham Liberalization ApproachesIn December 2017, foreign reserves held by Morocco’s central bank amounted to USD 25.8 billion, representing an estimated 6.9 months of import cover.“This should enable the central bank to comfortably defend the currency in the years ahead,” explains the firm. Overall, BMI believes that “the gradual reform of the exchange rate regime will have a minimal impact on growth and inflation.” Beyond the reserves held by Bank Al Maghrib, Morocco’s macroeconomic backdrop remains conducive to a gradual and smooth transition towards a more flexible exchange rate. “A strengthened fiscal position, low inflation levels, and an exchange rate broadly in line with fundamentals support our view that the modest widening in the trading band will have a limited impact on the Moroccan economy in the near term.” adds BMI.READ ALSO: How Will Bank Al Maghrib Feed Trading Rooms?Morocco’s move to liberalize its currency prompted public fears of a similar scenario to that of Egypt. In this sense, BMI came to echo Bank Al Maghrib reassurance, stating that “this contrasts with the Egyptian example, where the weak economic backdrop forced the government to sharply devalue its currency in November 2016 amid the Central Bank of Egypt’s inability to defend the peg.”For BMI, this gradual liberalization is in line with Morocco’s economic ambitions, which consist in transforming the economy into an investment and trading hub between Europe and Africa. In recent year, Morocco has eased capital controls, in a bid to become more attractive for foreign investors. “The liberalization of the dirham will enable further relaxation of these currency controls over the coming years, which will be a boost for investor sentiment,” comments BMI. At a time when Morocco is seeking to increase exposure to African markets, “this move will also prove positive for trade diversification.” read more

Amid Jerada Protests, El Othmani Promises New Opportunities, End to Illegal…

Rabat – Morocco’s Head of Government, Saad Eddine El Othmani announced on Saturday the suspension of illegal mining operations in the city of Jerada, home to ongoing protests since the death of three local miners.While on an official visit to Oujda to meet regional and local leaders, El Othmani pledged several measures that will be taken to support the economic and social conditions of Jerada’s residents.El Othmani said that the government has conducted a technical survey on ground composition and minerals in the area. The survey, according to El Othmani, has shown the existence of new unexplored and unmined minerals: lead, zinc and copper.“In light of this study, the opportunity will be allowed for the legal exploitation of these various types of minerals existing in the region of Jerada,” said El Othmani who was quoted by several Moroccan news outlets. These new mining and exploration opportunities will benefit the population of the region, and will offer the region’s inhabitants new employment opportunities, added El Othmani.El Othmani has also promised the suspension of illegal mining activities in the region, which led to the deaths of three local miners recently.During the meeting, the head of government announced the launch of an industrial zone for Jerada, which will provide young entrepreneurs in several business sectors with the opportunity to carry out their projects.El Othmani also announced that 3,000 hectares will be made available for agricultural activities. One thousand hectares will be for the benefit of land title holders, while 2,000 hectares will be for the sake of new young farmers. According to El Othmani, this measure is aimed at improving responsible environmental development in the region while supporting sustainable economic activities. read more

Trump may add Xi meeting to expected upcoming Asia itinerary

WASHINGTON — As President Donald Trump works out the details of a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (kim jawng oon), he’s thinking about adding a possible meeting with China’s president to his itinerary.The White House hasn’t released details on when Trump might meet Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng) as the leaders try to settle a trade war between the economic powers.Trump tells reporters he’s considering trying to see Xi when he’s in Asia later this month for expected denuclearization talks with North Korea’s Kim.Trump says the time and date of his summit with Kim will be announced next week.The Associated Press read more

Alphabet: 4Q Earnings Snapshot

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (AP) _ Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL) on Monday reported fourth-quarter net income of $8.95 billion, after reporting a loss in the same period a year earlier.On a per-share basis, the Mountain View, California-based company said it had profit of $12.77.The results beat Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 14 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $11.08 per share.The internet search leader posted revenue of $39.28 billion in the period. After subtracting Alphabet’s advertising commissions, revenue was $31.84 billion, which also beat Street forecasts. Twelve analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $31.28 billion.Alphabet shares have climbed 9 per cent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has risen roughly 9 per cent. In the final minutes of trading on Monday, shares hit $1,141.42, a rise of 2 per cent in the last 12 months._____This story was generated by Automated Insights (http://automatedinsights.com/ap) using data from Zacks Investment Research. Access a Zacks stock report on GOOGL at https://www.zacks.com/ap/GOOGLThe Associated Press read more

In Pictures, the 1st Day of the Colorful Gnaoua Festival in…

Rabat – The Gnaoua festival has already worked its magic on Essaouira. The city of wind has vibrated on the sound of magical Gnaoua music coming from Moulay El Hassan Place for the first evening of the Gnaoua World Music Festival.From June 21 until June 23, the 21st Gnaoua World Music Festival is a musical communion full of emotions, as much for the artists as for the public. This year’s festival has followed the tradition, starting with a colorful opening parade from Maâlems (Gnaoua singers) in Essaouira’s Bab Doukkala.Adnane ZemmamaAdnane ZemmamaThe ceremony was attended by André Azoulay, adviser to the King and founding president of the Essaouira-Mogador Association, and Neila Tazi, the event’s producer. Adnane ZemmamaAdnane ZemmamaAdnane ZemmamaThe show has kicked off with a mesmerizing encounter between the legendary American jazz fusion band Snarky Puppy and the unbeatable Maâlem Gnaoui Hamid El Kasri, who together delighted the festival-goers with fresh and resounding melodies, the fruit of a four-day artistic residency in Essaouira.Adnane ZemmamaThrough exclusive compositions, Snarky Puppy, a collective accustomed to collaborating with artists of all stripes, conquered the music lovers who danced and sang relentlessly to the new rhythms brought to the most famous songs by Maâlem Hamid El Kasri, such as “La Illaha Illa Lah”, “Bania,” or “Assalat Ala Nabi.”Adnane Zemmama“Being able to play, like tonight, alongside great musicians and spend several days learning new things from them is an incredible opportunity,” said Snarky Puppy’s bassist and composer Michael League to the MAP.“Gnaoua music has a particular spiritual significance that submerges the body and makes it go into a trance,” the three-time Grammy award winner added.A new generation of maâlems from Casablanca, made up of Ismael Rahil, Brahim Hamam and Khalid Sansi, were then invited to the mythical scene, located between the beach and the old medina of the port city, to give a warm show, shouting loudly that a Tagnaouite (Gnaoua) youth is there to ensure the succession of this oral heritage.Adnane ZemmamaFollowing the energetic band, the Moroccan group of fusion rock, hip hop, funk and folklore, Hoba Hoba Spirit took the stage to present their latest 13-track “Kamayanbaghi,” released in January 2018, reflecting the richness and diversity of the festival which always has new music in the program.Adnane ZemmamaThis unique musical event in Morocco began in 1998. Its purpose is to connect people with music and to allow listeners to forget life’s reality for a moment and indulge in spirituality.“Since the birth of the festival, its unique character has given it a place of choice in cultural events that have confirmed to the world that Africa is more than ever a land of dialogue and creation,” said Neila Tazi.The Gnaoua festival attracts an audience of 300,000 visitors each year. It offers a varied program to celebrate the Gnaoua heritage and to invite the best global jazz artists to come and perform in Essaouira.At the festival, the singers, called maâlems, begin to chant in Arabic or Gnaoui. The message is usually spiritual. read more

FIFA to Review Possible 2030 Morocco-Europe World Cup Bid

Rabat – FIFA Chairman Gianni Infantino will visit Morocco in January to take part in the first session of FIFA’s executive committee.During the symposium, Infantino will review the possible World Cup bid of Morocco, Portugal, and Spain.Spain proposed the bid during the visit of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to Morocco in November. In a press conference with Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani, Sanchez said that the bid would unite the peoples from two continents. “We are launching a joint message, which is that this will be a bid between two continents. The King of Morocco is receptive and we’re going to work on it with Portugal. We are very excited about it,” said Sanchez.Morocco, however, has not officially decided whether it will submit a solo or a joint bid with the European countries.According to Spanish sports news outlet AS, the FIFA committee will discuss the “so-called continental rotation law to boost the Ibero-Moroccan candidacy to [host] the 2030 World Cup.”The committee will also discuss the expansion of the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams in Qatar.Read Also: Morocco’s Atlas Lions Climb 7 Places in November FIFA Ranking Infantino already announced that he prefers joint bids for the World Cup after the North American United 2026 World Cup bid defeated Morocco’s bid in June.While Spain is hoping for a joint bid with Morocco and its Iberian neighbor, Portugal said it has not received an official proposal from Spain.Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said that the proposal is “an uncertain idea that has never been officially put to us, and when it is we naturally have to study it.”A World Cup held on two different continents is also not a preference for the president of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), Aleksander Ceferin.Earlier this month, Ceferin said he is not “in favor of cross-confederation bids.”“Someone should say once to the politicians it’s not up to them to speak if they will be hosts of the Euros or the World Cup or not,” said UEFA president.Numerous countries have shown an interest in bidding to host the global tournament, including four Balkan countries, England, and three South American countries: Paraguay, Argentina, and Uruguay, in a joint bid. read more

Edmunds: What a truck’s off-road package really gets you

Pickup trucks are hugely popular, and so is the rugged outdoorsy, off-roading image that comes with them. You’ll commonly see trucks with huge stickers portraying alphanumeric monikers followed by the words “Off-Road Package.”But there’s less awareness among consumers about what these stickers actually mean when it comes to hardware and features. For instance, how exactly do TRD, FX4 and Z71 packages differ? And are off-road packages worth the money?We’ve selected three popular pickup trucks as examples to help you understand what you need to know if you’re shopping for a pickup with an off-road package. These are midsize trucks, but full-size pickups also offer off-road packages that are similar to the ones detailed here.2019 CHEVROLET COLORADO’S Z71Chevrolet’s Z71 package is the second-to-the-top trim level available for the Colorado. It includes upgraded hardware to help it better cope with rough roads, including a suspension revised with stouter springs and dampers, all-terrain tires, an automatically locking rear differential, and a skid plate that softens the blow of errant impacts to the underside of the truck’s transfer case.The premium for the Z71 varies depending on configuration. In our example, a four-wheel-drive Z71 crew cab with the short bed and V6 engine costs $2,700 more than a comparable truck in the LT trim. For this price increase, Chevy does throw in some creature comforts that don’t necessarily have anything to do with off-road driving, such as a damped tailgate, automatic climate control, wireless smartphone charging and a heated steering wheel.Unlike the off-road packages found in the other trucks here, the Z71 package does not include two potentially useful off-road enhancements: a selectable traction control interface or a driver-controlled differential lock.2019 FORD RANGER’S FX4Ford’s approach to the Ranger’s FX4 Off-Road package is more straightforward. Rather than a trim level, this $1,295 stand-alone option is available even on the base trim level Ranger. The contents of the FX4 package are focused exclusively on bolstering off-road capability.This package includes revised springs and dampers, rugged all-terrain tires, three skid plates, exposed front tow hooks, an electronically locking rear differential as well as the Terrain Management System. It is an interface that allows the driver to select among four different types of terrain modes. Each mode has preset mappings of throttle sensitivity, transmission shift strategy and traction control calibration.The FX4 package also adds Trail Control, a low-speed cruise control system that manipulates the throttle and brakes to maintain a driver-selectable speed of up to 20 mph regardless of how rough the trail gets.2019 TOYOTA TACOMA’S TRDWith the Tacoma TRD Off-Road, Toyota splits the difference between the approaches taken by Chevrolet and Ford. The TRD Off-Road is a trim level of the Tacoma pickup that sits near the middle of the range and includes several pieces of hardware and software, plus an array of features unrelated to improving its trail-worthiness.As with the Colorado Z71, the TRD Off-Road’s price varies depending on configuration. A four-wheel-drive TRD Off-Road crew cab with the short bed and V6 engine costs $1,775 more than a comparable Tacoma SR5 truck, for example. Upgrades include beefed-up springs and dampers, all-terrain tires, an electronically locking rear differential, and a few cosmetic items such as black plastic fender arch overlays.The TRD Off-Road also includes Multi-Terrain Select, a driver-selectable terrain response interface with five discrete terrain settings. Like Ford’s system, this one allows for varying degrees of tire slip to maximize low-speed traction on different surfaces. Crawl Control is Toyota’s version of off-road cruise control and provides for five preset speeds.EDMUNDS SAYS: Aside from the price of entry, off-road packages generally do not introduce much compromise. Their more rugged tires are still civilized in terms of noise, and their suspension tuning takes care to maintain an agreeable ride on pavement. If you have any plans to venture away from the tarmac in your next pickup truck, an off-road package is a smart, guilt-free choice.___This story was provided to The Associated Press by the automotive website Edmunds. Jason Kavanagh is a senior vehicle test engineer at Edmunds.Related links:— 2019 Edmunds Truck Comparison Video: https://youtu.be/w-giWYOeLFk— 2019 Chevrolet Colorado review: https://edmu.in/2TTieIg— 2019 Ford Ranger review: https://edmu.in/2Tqrnmp— 2019 Toyota Tacoma review: https://edmu.in/2HMWzKMJason Kavanagh, The Associated Press read more

Air is so dirty in northern Thailand, leader flies to see it

BANGKOK — The air hanging over Thailand’s far north is so polluted, it’s drawn a visit from the prime minister to see in person what’s been called a severe health crisis.Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha flew Tuesday to the city of Chiang Mai to see firsthand the pollution that’s been unusually bad and prolonged this year.Northern Thailand has suffered severe seasonal haze for years, usually blamed on burning of forests in neighbouring Myanmar. Worsening the problem this year are wildfires caused by a drier-than-usual dry season as well as Thai farmers and hunters clearing land.Standard measurements of air quality have soared into the danger zone.Prayuth handed out firefighting supplies and told local military personnel and firefighters that he came there because he wanted to show his support.Kaweewit Kaewjinda And Tassanee Vejpongsa, The Associated Press read more

In Brexit delay, UK economy remains prisoner of uncertainty

LONDON — Brexit may be postponed once again this week, perhaps by as much as a year. The British economy, though, will remain a prisoner of a confidence-sapping uncertainty.While the merits of Brexit have been debated endlessly during Britain’s highly divisive political crisis, nobody disputes that the British economy has been hurt by the lack of clarity surrounding the country’s exit from the European Union. Last year, it grew by its lowest rate since 2012, just 1.4%.Businesses have become increasingly cautious and postponed or cancelled investment plans as they don’t know what Britain’s trading relationship with its main partner, the rest of the EU, will look like after Brexit. Foreign investment into the country has slumped, too — a worrying sign of a lack of confidence.While an extension reduces the likelihood of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, which would see the country crash out of the EU on Friday with likely painful economic consequences, it prolongs the uncertainty for businesses.“There’s a big difference between an extension, even a long extension, and an agreement with a transition to a known end-stage,” Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said recently. “Wherever we’re headed, it would serve the economy well to have a transition period to that new world.”Executives have been haunted by the same questions ever since the country voted in June 2016 to leave the EU. Will tariffs be slapped on exports? What will the rules governing the hiring of staff from other EU nations look like? What happens to the future functioning of closely linked and cross-border supply chains?Many companies have sounded the alarm: Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders has warned that the company could move its wing-building operations out of Britain and has condemned the uncertainty as a “disgrace;” and Jurgen Maier, boss of German manufacturing firm Siemens, has said the Brexit impasse is turning Britain into a “laughing stock.” The list goes on, with EasyJet last week warning that summer bookings were being constrained by the ongoing uncertainty.Consumers, a mainstay of British economic growth, have also become more restrained, partly because inflation rose in the wake of the 2016 Brexit vote. That led to the pound falling by around 15 per cent against other currencies and import costs rising.According to the Centre for European Reform, the British economy is 2.5% smaller than it would have been if the country had voted to remain in the EU, largely due to higher inflation and lower investment.“The U.K. missed out on a broad-based upturn in growth among advanced economies in 2017 and early 2018 and the economic cost of the decision so far is sizeable,” said CER’s deputy director, John Springford.As Britain approached its initial Brexit deadline of March 29, later delayed to April 12, much of the focus has been on the economic risks of leaving the EU without a deal.Most British lawmakers have voted against that ‘no-deal’ scenario amid worries that it would lead to a deep recession that would see many firms go bankrupt and unemployment turn sharply higher. The Bank of England thinks the recession will be similar to the one suffered after the global financial crisis, when the economy contracted about 6 per cent.The rest of the EU would suffer, too, if Britain crashes out on Friday with no deal. Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands, for example, have close economic ties with Britain and would face sizeable economic shocks. While the direct impact would be more modest outside Europe, concerns about the ramifications of such an unprecedented situation would likely roil financial markets and weigh on an already weakening global economy.With that cliff-edge looming, EU leaders, including British Prime Minister Theresa May, are meeting at a special summit Wednesday to discuss the idea of an extension.In light of her failure to get Parliament to back the withdrawal agreement with the EU, May has asked the EU to delay Britain’s departure date to June 30. The EU seems to want a much longer extension to give British lawmakers more time to figure out what to do next and to not have Brexit influence voting in the European Parliament elections in May.Experts are expecting an extension of between nine and 21 months. EU Council President Donald Tusk, who will chair the summit, has suggested about a year, though the U.K. could leave earlier if its parliament finally agrees on a way to leave the EU.In case of a long extension, many economists think the British economy will end up faring worse than predicted this year. Most had assumed that a deal would have been secured by now and that Britain would be in a smooth transition to a new relationship with the EU.Samuel Tombs, chief U.K. economist at research firm Pantheon Macroeconomics, says his assumption has been that Britain’s EU exit deal would have been ratified by June, “unlocking some catch-up in business investment,” and thereby driving growth.“Prolonged Brexit uncertainty likely would ensure that businesses continue to hoard cash and defer capital expenditure,” said Tombs, who expects growth this year to be around last year’s muted level in the event of a long extension.In Brexit, nothing appears to be ever resolved.___Follow AP’s full coverage of Brexit at: https://www.apnews.com/BrexitPan Pylas, The Associated Press read more

Chinese researchers try brain implants to treat drug addicts

SHANGHAI — Patient Number One is a thin man, with a scabby face and bouncy knees. His head, shaved in preparation for surgery, is wrapped in a clean, white cloth.Years of drug use cost him his wife, his money and his self-respect, before landing him in this drab yellow room at a Shanghai hospital, facing the surgeon who in 72 hours will drill two small holes in his skull and feed electrodes deep into his brain.The hope is that technology will extinguish his addiction, quite literally, with the flip of a switch.The treatment — deep brain stimulation — has long been used for movement disorders like Parkinson’s. Now, the first clinical trial of DBS for methamphetamine addiction is being conducted at Shanghai’s Ruijin Hospital, along with parallel trials for opioid addicts. And this troubled man is the very first patient.The surgery involves implanting a device that acts as a kind of pacemaker for the brain, electrically stimulating targeted areas. While Western attempts to push forward with human trials of DBS for addiction have foundered, China is emerging as a hub for this research.Scientists in Europe have struggled to recruit patients for their DBS addiction studies, and complex ethical, social and scientific questions have made it hard to push forward with this kind of work in the United States, where the devices can cost $100,000 to implant.China has a long, if troubled, history of brain surgery on drug addicts. Even today, China’s punitive anti-drug laws can force addicts into years of compulsory treatment, including “rehabilitation” through labour. It has a large patient population, government funding and ambitious medical device companies ready to pay for DBS research.There are eight registered DBS clinical trials for drug addiction being conducted in the world, according to a U.S. National Institutes of Health database. Six are in China.But the suffering wrought by the opioid epidemic may be changing the risk-reward calculus for doctors and regulators in the United States. Now, the experimental surgery Patient Number One is about to undergo is coming to America. In February, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration greenlighted a clinical trial in West Virginia of DBS for opioid addicts.___HUMAN EXPERIMENTSPatient Number One insisted that only his surname, Yan, be published; he fears losing his job if he is identified.He said doctors told him the surgery wasn’t risky. “But I still get nervous,” he said. “It’s my first time to go on the operating table.”Three of Yan’s friends introduced him to meth in a hotel room shortly after the birth of his son in 2011. They told him: Just do it once, you’ve had your kid, you won’t have problems.Smoking made Yan feel faint and slightly unhinged. Later, he found meth brought crystalline focus to his mind, which he directed at one thing: Cards. Every time Yan smoked, he gambled. And every time he gambled, he lost — all told, around $150,000 since he started using drugs, he estimated.His wife divorced him. He rarely saw his son.Yan checked into a hospital for detox, moved to another town to get away from bad influences, took Chinese traditional medicine. But he relapsed every time. “My willpower is weak,” he said.Last year his father, who had a friend who had undergone DBS surgery at Ruijin, gave him an ultimatum: Back to rehab or brain surgery. “Of course, I chose surgery,” Yan said. “With surgery, I definitely have the chance to get my life back.”Before there were brain implants in China there was brain lesioning. Desperate families of heroin addicts paid thousands of dollars for unproven and risky surgeries in which doctors destroyed small clumps of brain tissue. Brain lesioning quickly became a profit centre at some hospitals, but it also left a trail of patients with mood disorders, lost memories and altered sex drives.In 2004, China’s Ministry of Health ordered a halt to brain lesioning for addiction at most hospitals. Nine years later, doctors at a military hospital in Xi’an reported that roughly half of the 1,167 addicts who had their brains lesioned stayed off drugs for at least five years.DBS builds on that history. But unlike lesioning, which irreversibly kills brain cells, the devices allow brain interventions that are — in theory — reversible. The technology has opened a fresh field of human experimentation globally.“As doctors we always need to think about the patients,” said Dr. Sun Bomin, director of Ruijin Hospital’s functional neurosurgery department. “They are human beings. You cannot say, ‘Oh, we do not have any help, any treatment for you guys.’”Sun said he has served as a consultant for two Chinese companies that make deep brain stimulators — SceneRay Corp. and Beijing PINS Medical Co. He has tried to turn Ruijin into a centre of DBS research, not just for addiction, but also Tourette syndrome, depression and anorexia.In China, DBS devices can cost less than $25,000. Many patients pay cash.“You can rest assured for the safety of this operation,” Yan’s surgeon, Dr. Li Dianyou, told him. “It is no problem. When it comes to effectiveness, you are not the first one, nor the last one. You can take it easy because we have done this a lot.”In fact, there are risks. There is a small chance Yan could die of a brain hemorrhage. He could emerge with changes to his personality, seizures, or an infection. And in the end, he may go right back on drugs.____A BUZZING DRILLSome critics believe this surgery should not be allowed.They argue that such human experiments are premature, and will not address the complex biological, social and psychological factors that drive addiction. Scientists don’t fully understand how DBS works and there is still debate about where electrodes should be placed to treat addiction. There is also skepticism in the global scientific community about the general quality and ethical rigour — particularly around issues like informed consent — of clinical trials done in China.“It would be fantastic if there were something where we could flip a switch, but it’s probably fanciful at this stage,” said Adrian Carter, who heads the neuroscience and society group at Monash University in Melbourne. “There’s a lot of risks that go with promoting that idea.”The failure of two large-scale, U.S. clinical trials on DBS for depression around five years ago prompted soul-searching about what threshold of scientific understanding must be met in order to design effective, ethical experiments.“We’ve had a reset in the field,” said Dr. Nader Pouratian, a neurosurgeon at UCLA who is investigating the use of DBS for chronic pain. He said it’s “a perfectly appropriate time” to research DBS for drug addiction, but only “if we can move forward in ethical, well-informed, well-designed studies.”In China, meanwhile, scientists are charging ahead.At 9 a.m. on a grey October Friday in Shanghai, Dr. Li drilled through Yan’s skull and threaded two electrodes down to his nucleus accumbens, a small structure near the base of the forebrain that has been implicated in addiction.Yan was awake during the surgery. The buzzing of the drill made him tremble.At 4 p.m. the same day, Yan went under general anesthesia for a second surgery to implant a battery pack in his chest to power the electrodes in his skull.Three hours later, Yan still hadn’t woken from the anesthesia. His father began weeping. His doctors wondered if drug abuse had somehow altered his sensitivity to anesthesia.Finally, after 10 hours, Yan opened his eyes.___BODY COUNTAccording to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 500,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in the decade ending in 2017 — increasingly, from synthetic opioids that come mainly from China, U.S. officials say. That’s more than the number of U.S. soldiers who died in World War II and Vietnam combined.The body count has added urgency to efforts to find new, more effective treatments for addiction. While doctors in the U.S. are interested in using DBS for addiction, work funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health is still focused on experiments in animals, not people.At least two U.S. laboratories dropped clinical trials of DBS for treating alcoholism over concerns about study design and preliminary results that didn’t seem to justify the risks, investigators who led the studies told The Associated Press.“The lack of scientific clarity, the important but strict regulatory regime, along with the high cost and risk of surgery make clinical trials of DBS for addiction in the U.S. difficult at the present time,” said Dr. Emad Eskandar, the chairman of neurological surgery at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.China’s studies have offered mixed results. Sun and his colleagues have published one case study, describing a heroin addict who fatally overdosed three months after getting DBS. But a separate pilot study published in January by doctors at a military hospital in Xi’an showed that five of eight heroin addicts stayed off drugs for two years after DBS surgery.Based on those results, SceneRay is seeking Chinese regulatory approval of its DBS device for addiction, and funding a multi-site clinical trial targeting 60 heroin addicts. SceneRay chairman Ning Yihua said his application for a clinical trial in the U.S. was blocked by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.But in February, the FDA greenlighted a separate, pilot trial of DBS for four opioid addicts, said Dr. Ali Rezai, who is leading the study at the West Virginia University Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute. They hope to launch the trial in June, with funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.The FDA declined comment.“People are dying,” Rezai said. “Their lives are devastated. It’s a brain issue. We need to explore all options.”___‘YOU CAME TOO LATE’Two unsteady days after Yan’s surgery, doctors switched on his DBS device. As the electrodes activated, he felt a surge of excitement. The current running through his body kept him awake; he said he spent the whole night thinking about drugs.The next day, he sat across from Dr. Li, who used a tablet computer to remotely adjust the machine thrumming inside Yan’s head.“Cheerful?” Li asked as the touched the controls on the tablet.“Yes,” Yan answered.Li changed the settings. “Now?”“Agitated,” Yan said. He felt heat in his chest, then a beating sensation, numbness and fatigue. Yan began to sweat.Li made a few more modifications. “Any feelings now?”“Pretty happy now,” Yan said.He was in high spirits. “This machine is pretty magical. He adjusts it to make you happy and you’re happy, to make you nervous and you’re nervous,” Yan said. “It controls your happiness, anger, grief and joy.”Yan left the hospital the next morning.More than six months later, he said he’s still off drugs. With sobriety, his skin cleared and he put on 20 pounds. When his friends got back in touch, he refused their drugs. He tried to rekindle his relationship with his ex-wife, but she was pregnant with her new husband’s child.“The only shame is that you came too late,” she told him.Sometimes, in his new life, he touches the hard cable in his neck that leads from the battery pack to the electrodes in his brain. And he wonders: What is the machine is doing inside his head?Erika Kinetz, The Associated Press read more

SecretaryGeneral to depart on twoweek visit to Europe

27 June 2007United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will depart this weekend for a two-week trip to Europe that will take him to Switzerland, Italy, Portugal, Belgium and the United Kingdom, a spokesperson for the world body announced today. Mr. Ban’s first stop will be Geneva, where he is scheduled to open the high-level portion of the annual month-long session of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on 2 July, spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters in New York.From Geneva, he will travel to Rome to attend the Conference on the Rule of Law in Afghanistan, which will be chaired by the UN and the Afghan and Italian Governments.Mr. Ban will travel back to Geneva for the Global Compact Leaders Summit on 5-6 July, which is expected to be the largest gathering ever held by the UN on the issue of corporate citizenship, featuring an international roster of business leaders, government ministers and heads of civil society. After that, the Secretary-General will embark on an official visit to Portugal.He will then head to Brussels, where he plans to attend the first meeting of the Global Forum on Migration and Development, hosted by the Belgian Government from 9 to 11 July. The idea for such a forum was first proposed by then Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2006.Mr. Ban will also make an official visit to the United Kingdom, before returning to New York on 12 July, Ms. Montas said. read more

As Timorese leader returns UN envoy calls on nation to pull together

17 April 2008Marking the return of President José Ramos-Horta from Australia, where he was recovering after being wounded in an assassination attempt two months ago, the top United Nations envoy to Timor-Leste today called on the leaders and people of the young nation to strengthen their commitment to ensuring lasting peace. Atul Khare, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), greeted the President at the airport in the capital, Dili, and assured him of the UN’s continued support as he resumes his duties. “I look forward to continuing the UN’s work with the President in promoting democratic governance, strengthening the rule of law, supporting the review and reform of the security sector, and furthering socio-economic development,” said Mr. Khare. “President Horta’s return is an opportunity for Timorese society to pull together with renewed determination for the future of Timor-Leste,” he added. “Sustained peace depends upon the commitment of everyone, including politicians, the security sector and the citizens of Timor-Leste.” The President was shot at his home on 11 February by rebel soldiers. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão came under fire in a separate attack on his motorcade but was not injured. Ahead of Mr. Ramos-Horta’s return, the UN announced strengthened security arrangements for the President on his arrival and afterwards, including checkpoints near his house and close protection by UN and Timorese police. read more

Floodravaged Honduras remains fragile UN reports

5 November 2008The situation in flood-inundated Honduras remains fragile, with rains increasing the risk of further landslides in new areas, the United Nations’ humanitarian arm reported today. Some parts of the Central American nation are still only accessible by air, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).Heavy rains brought on by a tropical depression last month caused rivers to swell and change course in some areas.The Honduran Government said that over 250,000 people have been affected, with more than 40,000 residing in shelters. The death toll stands at 34, with 16 people missing.Last week, UN agencies and their non-governmental organisation (NGO) partners launched a $17 million appeal to provide food, shelter, health care, water and sanitation over the next six months to some 270,000 people.OCHA announced today that only 8 per cent of the funding target has been met, and although there are no severe food security issues, the next harvest has been damaged.The UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has released a $1.5 million grant, while a UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team has completed its work and left Honduras.Meanwhile, neighbouring Guatemala – where 24,000 families have been affected and at least 5,000 houses damaged or destroyed – formally requested UN assistance yesterday.In 16 departments, health, water and sanitation, food, protection and agriculture are priority areas.The UN and its partners are scheduled to wrap up a two-day assessment today and will prepare a CERF application for funds. read more

Ban congratulates Iraqis on violencefree provincial elections

2 February 2009Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today congratulated the people of Iraq for “strongly exercising” their right to vote in provincial elections that took place over the weekend, in an atmosphere that he called “admirably free of violence.” “He was deeply impressed by their resolve to participate in a process that should strengthen Iraq’s democracy and further the cause of national reconciliation,” according to a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson, which added that the Secretary-General also commended Iraqi’s determination to ensure a credible electoral process. Saturday’s provincial, or governate, elections – the first polls held in the strife-torn country in four years – took place in 14 of Iraq’s 18 provinces, with elections for the provinces of the Kurdistan Region and the Kirkuk Governorate to take place at a later stage.Some 14,467 candidates vied for posts in 6,471 polling centres. In addition, there were 84,000 Iraqi observers, 420,000 party agents and around 400 international observers. In his statement, Mr. Ban commended Iraqi’s determination to ensure a transparent and credible process through such massive monitoring and other measures, praising the work of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) and the staff involved at each step of the process. He also expressed satisfaction that the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) was “able to make helpful contributions to the process, including through its technical assistance,” and pledged UN support for further stages of the process.The next stage of the election process includes the adjudication of formal complaints before results can be certified.While noting that provisional results have yet to be announced, Staffan de Mistura, Mr. Ban’s Special Representative in Iraq, said that the UN is satisfied that the elections were conducted smoothly both procedurally and in terms of security The polls “mark another important step in Iraq’s recovery,” he added. “The United Nations was present in all 14 governorates and I myself visited polling centres in Anbar, Najaf and Baghdad,” he said. “I was very pleased to see Iraqis from all communities exercising their right to vote, particularly Iraqi women who turned out in large numbers.”UNAMI, which Mr. de Mistura heads, has provided the Commission with advice and assistance on a broad range of electoral issues, including a nationwide revamping of the voter registry in order to increase accuracy and reduce the potential for multiple voting.In a Newsmaker interview with the UN News Centre released today, the Special Representative said that these elections were an important test for Iraq, since they are the first conducted by the Iraqis themselves, with UN assistance, and they are the first in which Sunnis voted in substantial numbers, among other factors.In addition, he said, they are the first elections that will affect the day-to-day lives of Iraqi voters. “These elections are about real power, in the sense that they are going to nominate the people who are on the ground, in the various district councils, and will be deciding on electricity, water, budget and jobs,” he said. read more

Princess Haya of Jordan calls on donors to support UN relief efforts

In a televised message across the Middle East and elsewhere, Princess Haya urged the public to step up donations to UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) operations, which provide support for over 2 million Pakistanis who have escaped the conflict between Government forces and militants in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP).“Millions have been forced to leave, abandoning their homes, their communities and their loved ones,” said Princess Haya. “They arrive needing everything: shelter, food, and medical care.”UNHCR said it is seeking to ease congestion by expanding camps, where the agency says around 10 per cent of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) have fled, and ramp up assistance to people taken in by families in local communities.High Commissioner António Guterres has said that hundreds of millions of dollars will be needed for the overall relief effort as a shortage of resources is already reducing the amount of shelter and other aid items reaching IDPs, the agency said in a press release. “Only with your help, can UNHCR revive hope, assist with shelter and meet other basic needs. Please help UNHCR,” said Princess Haya.To date, only 36 per cent of the $533 million Humanitarian Response Plan, launched last month, has been funded, according to a news release issued by the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office in Islamabad.UN agencies in Pakistan pointed to the difficulties in gaining access to all IDPs requiring assistance in NWFP as a result of the scale of displacements and the unstable security situation in the region. “Humanitarian agencies are working hard to assist all of those who are in need, but we have a long way to go,” said Humanitarian Coordinator Martin Mogwanja.Mr. Mogwanja warned that the most vulnerable, including women, children, the disabled and elderly, are often the hardest to reach, and “we have to redouble our efforts where these groups are concerned.” 25 June 2009Characterizing the ongoing crisis in north-west Pakistan as the largest humanitarian emergency in the world today, United Nations Messenger of Peace Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein of Jordan has called for a massive international response to aid the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people forced to live in makeshift shelters. read more

UNESCO chief warns crucial yet fragile linguistic heritage in danger

21 February 2012Language is a key ally in the fight against discrimination, the head of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said today, warning that the world’s linguistic diversity was nevertheless a “fragile heritage” at risk of being lost. Language is a key ally in the fight against discrimination, the head of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said today, warning that the world’s linguistic diversity was nevertheless a “fragile heritage” at risk of being lost. In her message commemorating the thirteenth edition of International Mother Language Day, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova underscored the importance of language preservation in safeguarding the world’s cultural heritage and promoting creative diversity.“Linguistic diversity is our common heritage. It is a fragile heritage,” stated Ms. Bokova. “Language loss impoverishes humanity. It is a retreat in the defence of everyone’s rights to be heard, to learn and to communicate.” Noting that over 50 per cent of the estimated 6,700 spoken languages worldwide are in danger of disappearing by the end of the century, Ms. Bokova added that languages “are who we are; by protecting them, we protect ourselves.” International Mother Language Day has been observed every year since 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. The date commemorates the day in 1952 when Bangladeshi students in what was then East Pakistan demonstrating for recognition of their language, Bangla, were shot and killed by police.Ms. Bokova also pointed out that allowing excluded population groups, such as indigenous peoples, to learn their mother tongues in the classroom from an early age would promote equality and social inclusion. “Cultural diversity is as important as biological diversity in nature,” Ms. Bokova noted. “The vitality of languages depends on all those who speak them and rally round to protect them.” Adding to the celebrations, a 30-minute short film narrated by Academy Award-winning actor William Hurt was screened at the UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday.The film, entitled Languages Lost and Found: Speaking & Whistling the Mamma Tongue, explores diverse linguistic and cultural practices from around the world, pointing out how quickly some languages are disappearing while introducing the native tongue as a crucial vehicle for maintaining culture. read more

Alberta taps oil and gas veteran to chair energy regulatory board

EDMONTON — The Alberta government has chosen an oil industry veteran to head up a new board in charge of monitoring environmental rules.Gerry Protti has spent his career with numerous oil and gas companies and is the founder of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.Protti was selected after a national search for someone to lead the Energy Regulatory Board that is to enforce rules on non-renewable resource development.He term is for five years.Protti’s appointment is being criticized by the New Democrats.Party critic Rachel Notley says it sends the wrong message to appoint an oil industry insider to an agency in charge of issuing penalties to oil companies that violate environmental rules. read more