Race to Space Presents Opportunity for Moroccan Youth to Attend Space

By Carolina McCabeRabat – The fifth annual Race2Space (‘Race to Space’) application will open on Sunday, December 16. In partnership with the US Embassy in Rabat, the Scientific Morocco Association seeks Moroccan students ages 15 to 18 interested in science and mathematics. The contest aims to provoke creative thinking about fundamental concepts in STEM. Students applying for the contest must put together a creative three-minute video about a concept or theory in STEM. For the first time, the application also requires an experiment, demonstration, or simulation within the video that illustrates the concept being communicated. “If we are to build a greater appreciation of science in the public consciousness, education is key. We need great scientists, but more importantly great communicators who can unlock the mysteries of nature in ways that amaze us, ” said El Hassan Bouaghad, the vice president of Scientific Morocco and director of the program. “Exposure to a topic for the first time allows innovative insights, and youth have the ability to communicate with their peers in a way that others can’t.”Read Also: Moroccan Scientist Kamal Oudrhiri Proud of NASA’s InSight Mars LandingAfter the submission of applications on January 19, 2019, a team from the Scientific Morocco Association will pre-select applications to then be reviewed by a jury of scientists and science communicators. Students are judged on their ability to communicate the topic in an engaging, interesting, and imaginative way. Students applying must also engage in peer review. Each applicant will rate the applications of five other applicants. The 12 winners will receive full scholarships, paid for by the US State Department, to the renowned Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama in July of 2019. The students will also travel to Washington D.C., where they will visit scientific, cultural, and educational sites on an immersion tour. The Scientific Morocco Association aims to make scientific knowledge more accessible to Moroccans. With various initiatives, the association strives to create opportunities for Moroccans to engage in STEM. According to their website, “Space Camp provides unique inspirational experiences to talented youth that can help shape their future choices and push them to inspire other kids.”Space Camp is held at the US Space and Rocket Center. Every year students from across the United States and over 150 countries take part in the camp. Throughout the experience, trainees experience simulated missions, collaborate in teams, and learn about flight and space history.According to Space Camp, 61 percent of all graduates are in the fields of aerospace, defense, energy, education, biotech or technology, or studying to do so. read more

Morocco To Call 10000 Young People into Military Service in 2019

Rabat – Ten thousand young people are to begin service in the military each year beginning in September 2019, Moroccan Minister Delegate for National Defence Administration Abdellatif Loudiyi told the Commission on Justice, Legislation, and Human Rights. The commission was examining Bill 44.18 on mandatory military service.Loudiyi also said that women and Moroccans residing abroad (MREs) could be exempt from draft. The bill, which has not yet been passed in Parliament, provides for temporary or permanent exemptions such as physical or mental incapacity, needing to support family, or pursuing studies.Read Also: Pentagon Supports Moroccan Military ForceThe Council of Ministers adopted the bill on August 20, quickly triggering public concern and comments on social media. The bill sets the age of compulsory military service from 19 to 25 years of age. The mandatory military service will significantly increase Morocco’s spending over the medium term, according to a Fitch Group report. read more

Air Arabia to Open New Route from Agadir to Basel

Rabat – Air Arabia Morocco has announced it will expand its network from Agadir with a new direct flight to Basel, Switzerland. Air Arabia, Morocco’s leading low-budget airline, has collaborated with the Moroccan National Office of Tourism (ONMT) to operate the new flight weekly on Mondays, beginning October 29, said the company in a statement.The new service will be the second flight operated by the airline from Basel to Morocco. ”Our first flight experience between Casablanca and Basel has been satisfactory and we are confident that this additional flight will bring added value in terms of tourist arrivals, for Basel airport covers three countries which are Switzerland, Germany and France,” said Adel Ali, president of the Air Arabia Group.Basel-Mulhouse Airport, better known as ”EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg,” is a tri-national airport in France, less than five kilometers from both the Swiss and German borders. Tourists from all three countries will now be able to fly to Agadir on the low-cost flight. read more

Moroccos Mohammedia Horrified by DrugFueled Decapitation

Rabat – A young man reportedly on hard drugs has decapitated a man in his 50s in Mohammedia, north of Casablanca. The suspect, who allegedly killed the victim on Thursday around 9 p.m., carried the victim’s head around in a plastic bag. He proceeded to show off the gory crime to his neighbors, horrifying them.According to witnesses, the suspect first approached two people and showed them his gruesome package. At first sight, witnesses thought they were seeing a doll head, but then they saw blood. The suspect then came to a late-night tobacco shop and showed the managing couple the head. The suspect was a frequent customer of the shop, where he bought cigarettes.“He brought out the head and stated that this [head] will pay for it,” said Ahmed, the tobacco shop owner. “He tried to attack me, and I resisted. I could have been physically assaulted before he took the head and left.”According to locals, the suspect is well known in the area for being severly addicted to several substances and was recently released from prison. He is physically strong and frequently terrified residents.The neighbors called police, but the suspect ran into the nearby forest. After a dramatic manhunt with locals’ help, police apprehended the suspect.Police transported the suspect to the police station to be interrogated. Authorities have launched an investigation to identify the victim and retrieve the missing corpse. read more

Gulf Tourists Responsible for Marrakech Bird Massacre Did Not Have Valid

Rabat – Chilling footage depicting a group of Gulf tourists posing with the more than 1400 quails they had killed in one day in Marrakech made the rounds on Moroccan social media earlier this week.The video elicited a wave of harsh criticism and indignation among Moroccans. Many described the act as “barbaric” and “sick.”Adding insult to injury, however, the preliminary findings of the official investigation into what has come to be known as the “bird massacre” have established that the Gulf hunters did not have a valid hunting license. Moroccan newspaper Al Massae reported in its weekend edition that the “bird massacre” issue took another interesting twist yesterday after authorities discovered that the Gulf tourists responsible for the “outrageous” killing of the quails did not actually have the authorization to hunt on Moroccan territory.According to the Moroccan paper, the Marrakech-based tourism agency which delivered the tourists their hunting license was not accredited for delivering such documents.Hunting and forestry associations vigorously condemned the sorry occurrence and urged the “competent authorities” in Marrakech, especially the city’s waters and forestry office to shed further light on the “structural dysfunction” and complacency that led to the “outrageous” killing of 1490 birds.In a statement summarizing the findings of the investigation, as well as the circumstances that led to the incident, the National Society for Hunting demanded that all those responsible for “this crime” be made accountable for their actions.The statement however, as to whether the Gulf businessmen or the illegal tourism agency that sold them the fake hunting license documents deserve to bear the brunt of the punishment. It simply emphasized that authorities take the issue very seriously and wish to “ensure that justice is done” to avoid a repeat of such an incident.Meanwhile, hunting professionals in the Marrakech area have demanded that the authorized tourism agency be severely punished for “this disgrace.”The series of denunciatory statements and calls for punishment all came with the hope that making an example of the tourism agency would be an effective deterrent for other agencies—authorized or not. The agencies often issue documents for foreign tourists to carry out activities in blithe disregard for the rights of livestock or the profound effects they may have on the environment.Others, including the national organization for water and forest management, urged the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and other competent bodies “to follow this affair until the end.” read more

SecretaryGeneral alarmed by day of deadly violence in Gaza and Israel

16 April 2008Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed grave concern at the escalating violence in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel today that media reports say has left nearly two dozen people dead. In a statement, Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said he “condemns the reported civilian casualties among Palestinians, including children, during Israeli military operations, and calls on Israel to abide by its obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law.“The Secretary-General also reiterates his condemnation of rocket fire against Israeli civilian targets,” the statement noted, adding that Mr. Ban was urging all parties to the Middle East conflict to exercise restraint. read more

Zimbabwean polls should be postponed given campaign violence – Ban

23 June 2008Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged authorities in Zimbabwe to postpone the presidential run-off election slated for Friday, in light of ongoing violence and the “understandable decision” by the opposition candidate to withdraw from the polls. “Conditions do not exist for free and fair elections right now in Zimbabwe,” Mr. Ban told reporters in New York. “There has been too much violence, too much intimidation. A vote held in these conditions would lack all legitimacy.”Tonight, the Security Council also condemned the political violence engulfing Zimbabwe and called on the Government to stop the attacks, to cease intimidating the opposition and to release political leaders who have been detained.In a statement read out by Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad of the United States, which holds the rotating Council presidency this month, the 15-member panel said the violence and restrictions on the activities of the opposition “have made it impossible for a free and fair election to take place” this Friday.“To be legitimate, any government of Zimbabwe must take account of the interest of all its citizens,” the presidential statement said, adding that the results of the first round of elections on 29 March should be respected.Council members urged international monitors and observers to remain in Zimbabwe until the crisis is resolved and welcomed the recent efforts of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and especially South African President Thabo Mbeki, to find a peaceful settlement “that allows a legitimate government to be formed that reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people.”They also voiced concern at the grave humanitarian situation and condemned the Government’s decision to suspend the operation of aid organizations.The Secretary-General, who has been in touch with a number of African leaders on the ongoing crisis in Zimbabwe, added that they all agreed that the elections should be postponed until the right conditions are in place.“I would strongly discourage the authorities with going ahead with the run-off on Friday. It will only deepen divisions within the country and produce a result that cannot be credible,” he stated.Yesterday Morgan Tsvangirai, of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), announced he was withdrawing from the 27 June run-off in which he was set to face President Robert Mugabe. The country has been marred by deadly political violence since the first round of the presidential election on 29 March. “The campaign of threats and intimidation we have seen in Zimbabwe goes against the very spirit of democracy,” said the Secretary-General. “Instead of openness, free competition and transparency, we have witnessed fear, hostility and blatant attacks against Zimbabwean citizens.” He added that what happens in Zimbabwe has an impact well beyond the country’s borders. “The situation in Zimbabwe represents the single greatest challenge to regional stability in Southern Africa today. The region’s political and economic security are at stake as is the very institution of elections in Africa.”Last week, Mr. Ban sent senior UN political official Haile Menkerios to Zimbabwe in an attempt reduce political tensions. Mr. Menkerios remains in the region, after having met with officials in both Zimbabwe and neighbouring South Africa. read more

Religion can never justify terrorism or killing of innocents General Assembly declares

A high-level meeting of the General Assembly today decried the use of religion to justify the killing of innocent people and terrorist acts and voiced concern that serious instances of intolerance, discrimination and harassment persist between people of different faiths and cultures.The two-day “Culture of Peace” gathering, convened on the initiative of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, called for mutual understanding through dialogue, and respect for human rights among proponents of various faiths, cultures, and civilizations.“Concerned about serious instances of intolerance, discrimination, hatred expressions, and harassment of minority religious communities of all faiths, participating States underlined the importance of promoting dialogue, understanding, and tolerance among human beings, as well as respect for all their diverse religions, cultures and beliefs,” according to a declaration read out at a news conference by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as the meeting concluded.“Participating States affirmed their rejection of the use of religion to justify the killing of innocent people and actions of terrorism, violence and coercion, which directly contradict the commitment of all religions to peace, justice and equality,” it added. Mr. Ban said the challenge now was to move beyond “powerful, positive words” to “dialogue that delivers.”Heads of State, ambassadors and senior officials from some 70 countries addressed the meeting including King Abdullah, United States President George W. Bush, United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Israeli President Shimon Peres, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Jordan’s King Abdullah and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. In the declaration, the General Assembly reiterated its call for “promoting a culture of tolerance and mutual understanding through dialogue, and supporting the initiatives of religious leaders, civil society, and states seeking to entrench the culture of peace, understanding, tolerance, and respect for human rights among the proponents of various faiths, cultures, and civilizations.”Participating States expressed their commitment to strengthening existing mechanisms within the United Nations for “promoting tolerance and human rights, preserving the institution of the family, protecting the environment, spreading education, eradicating poverty, and fighting drug abuse, crime and terrorism, noting the positive role of religions, beliefs and moral humanitarian principles in tackling these challenges.”Mr. Ban voiced deep gratitude to the Saudi leader. “King Abdullah’s initiative has come at a time when the need for dialogue among religions, cultures and civilizations has never been greater. It has brought together people who might not otherwise have a chance to interact. Along with other initiatives, it will contribute to building a more harmonious world.“The challenge now is to go beyond the powerful, positive words we have heard these past two days. I pledge my full support to this effort. It may take time to see results, but I am convinced that this meeting was an important step forward.” Yesterday, at the opening of the high-level event, General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto told participants that the world was facing its most difficult period since the founding of the UN.He urged global leaders to use their “moral strength” to find solutions to some of the greatest problems plaguing the planet, including poverty, hunger and climate change. 13 November 2008A high-level meeting of the General Assembly today decried the use of religion to justify the killing of innocent people and terrorist acts and voiced concern that serious instances of intolerance, discrimination and harassment persist between people of different faiths and cultures. read more

DR Congo former Rwandan fighters vanish from disarmament site

10 February 2009A group of 150 ethnic Hutu fighters and their dependents who had agreed to be demobilized and repatriated to Rwanda have disappeared from a camp in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the United Nations mission there said today. After their voluntary disarmament, the group was cantoned under the care of a church organization in Kasiki, some 200 kilometres north of Goma, the capital of strife-torn North Kivu province, and were supposed to start their journey home on 8 February assisted by the UN peacekeeping mission, known by its French acronym MONUC.However, this past Sunday, the MONUC disarmament and reintegration team that was supposed to help the group get to Goma and from there to Rwanda arrived at their cantonment site to find that it had been abandoned in haste during the night.The team stayed in the region in an attempt to locate the group and persuade them to make good on their previously stated plans, MONUC said. In a statement, the mission urged them and other groups of Rwandan ex-combatants and their dependents to participate in the disarmament and repatriation process, which is crucial to end fighting in the eastern DRC.“[MONUC] reminds all Rwandan combatants living on Congolese soil that the doors remain open wide to welcome them and facilitate their disarmament and their voluntary return to their country of origin in dignity,” the statement said, providing a phone number and other ways of contacting the mission.The missing ex-combatants, who were formally disarmed by MONUC last July, were associated with two dissident factions of the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR), which has been the target of a joint military operation conducted by Rwanda and the DRC. read more

UN agency uses European funding to boost food production in Lesotho

19 May 2010The United Nations food and agriculture agency said today it is helping 36,000 farmers in Lesotho boost food production in the southern Africa country where the soaring prices of seeds, fertilizer and tools have greatly reduced producers’ capacity to grow food. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has received €4 million from European Union to support Lesotho’s agriculture ministry’s effort to help farmers buy the much-needed seeds, fertilizer and tools to stave off hunger in a country where the livelihoods of the majority of its 1.9 million people depend on farming.The cost of planting crops in Lesotho has risen four times in just one year and assessments have found that over half of the country’s arable farm land was lying idle, FAO said in a statement.“Unacceptable risks of hunger and household-level food shortages among Lesotho’s poor soon became apparent,” said Farayi Zimudzi, FAO’s Emergency and Rehabilitation Coordinator in Lesotho.Farmers are receiving the seeds of maize, beans, wheat, sorghum, potatoes and vegetables, as wells as fertilizer and tools such as yokes, chains, hand hoes and ox-drawn ploughs and planters.It is estimated that FAO’s assistance will lead to an additional 7,300 hectares of land being put under cultivation, which can mean 10,000 to 18,000 extra tons of crops harvested.“It’s very impressive,” said Andrew Headey, acting head of the European Union Mission in Lesotho. “Activities were well chosen. If successful, they will lay the foundation for an improved situation in the future, enhancing sustainability and building on existing initiatives,” he added. read more

Countries endorse pact on cocoa industry at UN meeting

25 June 2010The world’s leading cocoa-producing and consuming countries reached agreement today at a United Nations meeting on a new pact that aims to make the global trade in the $10 billion industry fairer and more sustainable. The International Cocoa Agreement will take effect in 2012 and last 10 initial years, with possible extensions for two further four-year periods, following the consensus deal reached by exporting and importing nations at the UN Cocoa Conference in Geneva. It is designed to last much longer than previous industry pacts.The new agreement outlines objectives for a more sustainable cocoa economy, measures to enhance the transparency of the international cocoa market and methods to promote the quality of the crop.The export value of cocoa bean production in 2009-10 is estimated at $10 billion, according to figures cited by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Cocoa is grown mainly by smallholder farmers in West Africa, Central and South America and Asia, but largely consumed in affluent countries as chocolate and other products. read more

Sudan UN monitors discuss selfdetermination referenda with southern leader

12 October 2010A United Nations panel monitoring the January referenda which will decide whether Southern Sudan secedes from Africa’s largest country discussed security and other key challenges with the region’s leaders today. The three-member panel, appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and led by former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa, held a 90-minute discussion with Salva Kiir, President of the Government of Southern Sudan and First Vice-President of Sudan, in Juba, the regional capital, as they continued their first visit to the country.After the talks, which covered issues ranging from how to make the referenda as free and fair as possible to security arrangements during campaigning to how to deal with the key post-referenda challenges, Mr. Mkapa told reporters he believes credible elections can still be held by the scheduled date of 9 January.“What is required is the cooperation of all the parties – both in the national Government as well as the southern Government – but also the support of the international community in clearing up those particular hurdles that require financial or technical provisions,” he said.“If that is done, given the goodwill and the honour that the CPA signatories are required to observe, there’s no reason why January 9th will not be successful and mark the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the people of the Sudan,” he added, referring to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement ending two decades of warfare between the northern-based Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in the south.The referendum on self-determination in Southern Sudan is the final stage in the CPA, while a second referendum is being held on the same day in the oil-rich Abyei region to decide whether it belongs to northern or southern Sudan.The panel, which will make periodic visits to Sudan in the lead-up to and during the referenda and report back to the Secretary-General, also met with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in both the national capital, Khartoum, and Juba, where they received a briefing from senior UN officials on latest developments on the ground there. Mr. Ban formed the panel last month at the request from the parties to the CPA, who sought a UN monitoring body to help enhance the credibility of the Sudanese-led referenda and ensure the acceptance of their result by their constituencies and the international community.Asked whether he had any message for the people of Southern Sudan, Mr. Mkapa replied: “I would say that they should follow the process closely. When registration starts, they should register. When the civic education about the terms of the referendum is given, they should listen carefully, weigh the chances and vote according to their conscience. And I’m quite certain that, inshallah, almighty God will guide them on the right path.” read more

Security Council extends deployment of extra troops in Côte dIvoire

The Security Council today decided to extend up to three months the temporary redeployment of United Nations peacekeeping units from Liberia to Côte d’Ivoire, which has been bedevilled by a political deadlock arising from presidential elections late last year.This includes three infantry companies, an aviation unit comprising two utility helicopters and three armed ones and their crews from the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) to the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), according to the unanimously adopted resolution.Côte d’Ivoire descended into turmoil in early December when outgoing President Laurent Gbagbo refused to leave office despite opposition leader Alassane Ouattara’s UN-certified victory in the run-off poll. Mr. Ouattara has been recognized by the international community as the duly elected president.On 20 December, the Council renewed the mandate of the nearly 9,000-strong UNOCI force until the end of June this year, rejecting a demand by Mr. Gbagbo that the UN mission leave the country. Then last month, it reinforced the mission with an extra 2,000 troops and equipment, which UNOCI chief Y. J. Choi said would provide “rapid reaction capability” essential for the protection of civilians. UNOCI was established in 2004 by the Council to facilitate the peace process in the West African nation, which became split by civil war in 2002 into a rebel-held north and Government-controlled south.Cote 16 February 2011The Security Council today decided to extend up to three months the temporary redeployment of United Nations peacekeeping units from Liberia to Côte d’Ivoire, which has been bedevilled by a political deadlock arising from presidential elections late last year. read more

UN chief takes to cyberspace for global conversation with public

The ‘global conversation,’ lasting just over half an hour and moderated by Juju Chang of the United States ABC television network, saw Mr. Ban sitting in a studio at UN Headquarters in New York as he fielded questions from countries as far apart as China and Canada, and South Africa and the Philippines.More than 5,500 questions were sent in over recent weeks in the six official UN languages – Arabic, Chinese English, French, Russian and Spanish – as well as in Portuguese and Swahili, while others came in live during the event, which was simultaneously translated into Chinese through the Weibo social media network.The first question, in Spanish on Twitter, asked when the UN would be reformed to match today’s needs, and Mr. Ban stressed the complexity of making decisions in an organization numbering 193 members.“To make this Organization more effective and efficient is our great challenge and great target,” he said. “We’ve been trying to make this Organization much more mobile, and efficient, and accountable and transparent.”A question from China, where more than half of the questions from the public were submitted, asked why so many people in Africa die of hunger when the world produces enough to feed all.“It is true that we have at least a billion people who are starving from abject poverty,” Mr. Ban replied. “They go to bed hungry every night. That’s very sad. But ironically we have enough food all around the world.“The question and problem is that they do not distribute it fairly, that’s a social injustice, and that we have to address and stop,” he added, also noting the effects of climate change and flooding, and citing the mitigating efforts the UN was making such as providing fertilizers and weather-resistant seeds.Some questions dealt with more general issues such as peacekeeping and corruption (“it is the cancer of our society, it must stop,” Mr. Ban said), while others targeted specific topics such as the Palestinian issue (“I’m a strong supporter of this two-state vision” – Palestine and Israel), and war-torn and famine-stricken Somalia (“I sincerely hope the international community will provide the generous humanitarian assistance”).One question from China asked Mr. Ban about his early life and career, and he recalled how he was brought up poor in a country devastated by the Korean war, was given the opportunity as a high school student to travel round the United States where he met then president John F. Kennedy, and decided on a life of public service.Most questions were from people generally unknown to the public at large, but one came in live from British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who asked how the world can reduce the number of 35 million people who die every year from non-communicable diseases. These include cancer, stroke, heart disease and diabetes.“This is a totally unacceptable situation,” Mr. Ban said, stressing that the UN is convening its first ever high-level meeting on the issue at next week’s General Assembly opening session.“This can be cured by medical support. This can also be prevented by simply changing your lifestyle like your behaviour. This obesity or this diabetes and all these, you can change your lifestyle, and alcohol or smoking. By stopping this you can save your life.”Ms. Chang said that the blogosphere had been very active during the event and thousands of people had been listening in and contributing to the conversation. 13 September 2011Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon took the United Nations pulpit live to cyberspace for the first time today, answering questions submitted through Facebook, LiveStream, Twitter and other social media networks on issues ranging from UN reform and the Middle East conflict to poverty and food security. read more

Events in Yemen feature in talks between Assembly President and Nobel laureate

During their meeting on Friday, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser congratulated Ms. Karman, a journalist and pro-democracy activist who shared this year’s Nobel Peace Prize with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee.He hailed her as “a global symbol of women’s empowerment who has brought honour and pride to all women, especially in the Arab world,” according to a read out provided by the President’s spokesperson.For months, top UN officials have been voicing growing concern about the human rights and humanitarian conditions inside Yemen, where hundreds of people have died since mass protests against the Government began early this year.The uprising in Yemen is part of a wider pro-democracy movement across the region, dubbed the “Arab Spring,” that began at the start of this year and has already toppled long-standing regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.Separately, Mr. Al-Nasser and the Portuguese Foreign Minister, Paulo Portas, discussed the role of Portugal, which holds the presidency of the Security Council this month, at the UN.They also exchanged views on the situation in the Middle East, Iran, the Palestinian issue and the latest developments in Syria and Yemen during the meeting at UN Headquarters today. 21 November 2011The President of the General Assembly and Nobel laureate Tawakkul Karman have discussed developments in her native Yemen during a meeting at United Nations Headquarters, as well as the wider pro-reform movement across the Middle East and North Africa. read more

Closing Bell Higher commodities boost TSX geopolitical worries send crude oil surging

TORONTO — Resource stocks helped give the Toronto stock market a solid lift Thursday as commodity prices picked up on hopes that central bankers are ready to help with stimulus in the future.Here are the closing numbersTSX — 11,665.70 +86.55 0.75%S&P 500 — 1,376.51 +3.73 0.27%Dow — 12,943.36 +34.66 0.27%Nasdaq — 2,965.90 +23.30 0.79%Oil in particular got a lift from rising tensions in the Mideast, pushing prices past the US$92 level.The S&P/TSX composite index ran up 86.54 points to 11,665.7 while the TSX Venture Exchange added 8.54 points to 1,190.87.The Canadian dollar was up 0.29 of a US cent to 99.23 US cents.U.S. markets came off session highs after data showed sales of existing homes in June fell by 5.4% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.37 million, much lower than the 4.65 million that was expected.“Existing home sales brought to a fairly abrupt end to a run of good news regarding the U.S. housing market,” observed CIBC senior economist Andrew Grantham.“The large decline is at odds with the more positive recent trend in pending home sales, and took the rate of existing home sales down to its lowest so far this year.”As well, data showed manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia region rebounded only slightly in July. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s diffusion index rose to negative 12.9 in July from negative 16.6 in June. This is the third straight monthly reading below zero, indicating contraction.The Dow Jones industrials gained 34.66 points to 12,943.36.The Nasdaq composite index was ahead 23.3 points to 2,965.9 while the S&P 500 index rose 3.73 points to 1,376.51.Strong earnings news supported New York indexes.IBM had reported after the close Wednesday that quarterly earnings rose 6% to mark the 38th consecutive quarter that IBM’s net income has climbed from the previous year. Without accounting charges for past acquisitions and the company’s pension, IBM said it would have earned $3.51 per share, beating expectations by eight cents a share. IBM stock ran ahead US$7.09 to US$195.34.Morgan Stanley was a disappointment. Net income rose to $564-million or 29 cents a share, missing expectations by three cents. Revenue tumbled 24% to $7-billion and its stock was down 74 cents to $13.25.Microsoft was in focus as the software giant handed in its first-ever quarterly loss after the close because of an accounting adjustment to reflect a weak online ad business. The charge led to a US$492-million loss in the April-June quarter, or six cents a share. Excluding extraordinary items, the company reported a profit of 73 cents a share, higher than the 62 cents analysts expected. Its shares were up 1.58% in after-hours trading.In Canadian earnings news, Nexen Inc.’s net income fell 57% from a year ago to $109-million in the second quarter, a bigger decline than analysts had been estimating. Nexen earned 20 cents per share, which was seven cents per share below estimates. Nexen said the latest quarter’s results were hurt by the unsuccessful Kakuna exploration well in the Gulf of Mexico and its stock added a penny to C$17.44.Shoppers Drug Mart reported second-quarter adjusted earnings of $149-million or 71 cents per share, up 4.4% from the same time last year and a penny ahead of estimates. Its shares improved by 41 cents to $43.07.Traders were focused on Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke during his two-day testimony to Congress. And while he did not indicate that another round of stimulus was imminent, his comments led investors to believe further action remained an option. The Fed has already completed two programs of asset purchases, which have the effect of increasing the supply of money, much of which ends up in financial markets.The base metals sector climbed 4.42% while copper, viewed as an economic bellwether as it is used in so many industries, ran ahead six cents to US$3.53 a pound. The rise reflected hopes that Chinese authorities will also take steps to improve that country’s performance as the most recent data showed Chinese growth coming in at a three-year low of 7.6% in the second quarter. Thompson Creek Metals was 26 cents higher to $2.89 while First Quantum Minerals ran up $1.68 to $18.28.Oil traded at seven month highs amid rising tensions in the Middle East. The oil market is concerned once again that Iran will try to block oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway in the Persian Gulf through, through which one-fifth of the world’s oil travels every day. On Wednesday Israel blamed Iran for an attack on Israelis in Bulgaria, and vowed to strike back.The August crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange up $2.79 to US$92.66 a barrel. The energy sector was up 1.61% and Suncor Energy climbed 39 cents to C$30.59 and Canadian Natural Resources advanced 91 cents to $28.98.The gold sector advanced 0.77% as bullion prices also rose, up $9.60 to US$1,580.40 an ounce. Goldcorp Inc. was up 74 cents to C$33.60.The strong IBM results boosted the tech sector by 1.23%. Open Text gained 74 cents to $48.90 while CGI Group was ahead 34 cents to $24.33.Financials also supported the TSX and Manulife Financial ran up 14 cents to $10.86.The telecom sector was the weakest group with Telus Corp. down 58 cents to $62.11.Here’s the news investors were watching today:Merkel wins Spain bank bailout vote with large majorityPhilly Fed factory index shrinks for third straight monthAmerica’s worst drought disaster just got worse13 ways to make Canada world’s most ‘energy productive’ nationON DECK FRIDAYEurozone finance ministers hold conference call to discuss the terms of emergency aid for Spain’s banks ECONOMIC NEWSCANADA8:30 a.m.Consumer Price Index (June): CORPORATE NEWSUNITED STATESGeneral Electric Co. Q2 earnings: Analysts expect 37¢ a share Xerox Corp. Q2 earnings: Analysts expect 26¢ Schlumberger Q2 earnings: Analysts expect US$1 Ingersoll-Rand Co. Ltd. Q2 earnings: Analysts expect 91¢ read more

Canadian housing starts relatively stable in July CMHC reports

OTTAWA — Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says total housing starts continued to be relatively stable in July.The federal agency estimates there were 17,993 actual starts in July which, extrapolated over 12 months, gives a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 192,853 starts.That was slightly down from June’s adjusted annual rate of 193,797 starts.The agency says the annual rate of urban starts decreased by 2.1% in July to 173,042 units, as both single and multiple urban starts declined.Single urban starts decreased by 5.5% to 58,731 units on an annual basis in July while the multiple urban starts segment essentially held steady at 114,311 units.July’s seasonally adjusted annual rate of urban starts rose in British Columbia and decreased in all other regions, including Atlantic Canada, Ontario, Quebec and the Prairies.Canadian Press read more

Albertabased fund manager AIMCo to get piece of US219million legal settlement from

EDMONTON — A U.S. insurance company has agreed to pay US$219 million to end a class action lawsuit for allegedly making false and misleading statements about a group that includes the Alberta Investment Management Corp.The agreement in principle from Genworth Financial requires approval from a U.S. district court in Virginia, where the insurance company has its head office.Edmonton-based AIMCo — which invests on behalf of 26 pension, endowment and government funds in Alberta — was one of the lead plaintiffs in the suit, along with the California-based Fresno County Employees’ Retirement Association.AIMco and other investors recover more than US$200M in class action against MF GlobalTransAlta Renewables gets $200M investment from Alberta fund manager AIMCoThe plaintiffs argued that Genworth’s executives and financial statements had failed to properly disclose information before the company announced in November 2014 that it would need to shore up its long-term care insurance business.The announcement of the $531-million accounting charge was followed by a substantial drop in the value of Genworth stock held by AIMCo and other investors.The Virginia-based insurance company continues to say the claims against it are without merit but has agreed to make the payment to avoid the cost and risk of continuing the battle in court. read more

Only one in three Canadians satisfied with what theyre paying for Internet

TORONTO — Affordability is among the top Internet service concerns for Canadians, especially those living in rural areas, a new report has found.One out of three Canadians is satisfied with the cost of their home Internet, according to a report commissioned by Canada’s broadcast regulator.Two out of three Canadians believe that telecommunications prices should be comparable in urban and rural settings. People in rural locations tend to pay more for Internet and were more likely to have cut back on Internet use over the past 12 months.Canadians’ telecom complaints declined 16% in second half of 2015, watchdog saysBig Three telecom companies say they’re winning the customer service battle. But are they?CRTC bundles telecom and TV complaints together with new watchdogOverall, one out of five Canadians limited their web use over the past year, the report found. Most often this was due to Internet service or equipment costs, or capacity constraints.It’s crucial for Canadians to have access to basic telecommunications services, said Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman and CEO of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).The CRTC will hold public hearings on the issue in Gatineau, Que., from April 11-29 as part of its ongoing consultation on basic telecom services, launched by the federal agency last April.OpenMedia, an advocacy group, said the survey results are unfortunate but not surprising.Canadians pay some of the highest Internet rates in the world, said the group’s Josh Tabish in a statement.CRTC commissioned a report from EKOS Research Associates based on the answers of more than 30,000 Canadians to a questionnaire. The research group also questioned another 1,600 Canadians, who were a sample group representative of the country’s population.The Canadian Press read more

US salmon spill should spur pursuit of Canadas landbased prowess experts

VANCOUVER — Critics of open-net fish farms say the escape of 305,000 Atlantic salmon in Washington state should spur Canada to support a transition to land-based aquaculture.Steve Summerfelt of the Conservation Fund Freshwater Institute in Shepherdstown, W. Va., says compared with the United States, Europe and China, Canada has the most companies using closed-containment pens to harvest salmon.He says four of the world’s 13 land-based facilities are in Canada, while China has the largest production capacity, followed by Denmark.Summerfelt says while the technology to grow fish on land-based farms has steadily improved, relatively high capital and operating costs have been a challenge to the widespread implementation of that model.Bob Chamberlin, chairman of the First Nations Wild Salmon Alliance, says the Washington state spill earlier this week near B.C. waters requires government and industry to back more sustainable ways to farm salmon, which is in such high demand around the world.He says waste being pumped into the ocean from open-net salmon farms is harming the environment and those costs aren’t absorbed by companies producing salmon in more profitable but less sustainable ways that threaten wild species. read more