NEW YORK, N.Y. – The government’s top official overseeing the $1.5 trillion student loan market resigned in protest on Monday, citing what he says is the White House’s open hostility toward protecting the nation’s millions of student loan borrowers.Seth Frotman will be stepping down as student loan ombudsman at the end of the week, according to his resignation letter , which was obtained by The Associated Press. He held that position since 2016, but has been with Consumer Financial Protection Bureau since its inception in 2011.Frotman is the latest high-level departure from the CFPB since Mick Mulvaney, President Donald Trump’s budget director, took over in late November. But Frotman’s departure is especially noteworthy, since his non-partisan office is one of the few parts of the U.S. government that was tasked with handling student loan issues.The office was at the centre of the lawsuits against for-profit colleges like Corinthian Colleges and is currently heading up a lawsuit between the CFPB and Navient, one of the nation’s largest student lenders. The Navient lawsuit has been mired in bureaucratic red tape as the Department of Education, headed by Betsy DeVos, has been unwilling to help the CFPB with their lawsuit . Since its creation, the student loan office has returned $750 million to harmed borrowers.“You have used the bureau to serve the wishes of the most powerful financial companies in America,” Frotman wrote, addressing his letter to Mulvaney. “The damage you have done to the bureau betrays these families and sacrifices the financial futures of millions of Americans in communities across the country.”Congress created the student loan ombudsman office when it established the CFPB, citing a need for a go-to person to handle student loan complaints nationwide. One previous occupant of that position is Rohit Chopra , who was appointed by President Trump to be a commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission.The ombudsman’s office is quite powerful, able to work with the bureau’s enforcement staff to target bad behaviour in the student loan market as well as act as a voice inside the government on behalf of student loan borrowers. The office processed tens of thousands of complaints from student loan borrowers and was among the first major government offices to raise alarms about the growing issue of students being unable to afford repaying their loans.But despite its work, Mulvaney downgraded the mission of Frotman’s student loan office earlier this summer and moved it under the umbrella of consumer education instead of enforcement. While at the time Mulvaney’s office said it was a minor organizational shake-up, consumer advocates saw the change as a move to downplay the CFPB’s mission when it came to student loans.Frotman also accused Mulvaney and his staff of deliberately hiding a report from the public that raised alarms that banks were overcharging student loan borrowers.“When new evidence came to light showing that the nation’s largest banks were ripping off students on campuses across the country by saddling them with legally dubious account fees, bureau leadership suppressed the publication of a report prepared by bureau staff,” Frotman wrote.The student loan office is not alone. Under Mulvaney, the bureau has scaled back its enforcement work and has proposed revising or rescinding all of the rules and regulations it put into place under the Obama administration.“Seth Frotman is a public servant who treated every student loan complaint with the seriousness it deserved,” said Debbie Goldstein, executive vice-president at the Center for Responsible Lending. “His departure raises concerns about the priorities of Mulvaney and CFPB leadership and whether they are fulfilling the mission of the CFPB to focus on protecting consumers from financial abuse.”In a statement, a CFPB spokesman said it does not “comment on specific personnel matters” but also said “we hope that all of our departing employees find fulfilment in other pursuits and we thank them for their service.”___Ken Sweet covers banks and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @kensweet .
TORONTO – The balance of power in the used car market is shifting towards shoppers as improved data and online offerings create more opportunities to push for the best price.A fast-evolving online marketplace is providing more intelligence on the fair value of cars, said Cliff Banks, a Detroit-based auto retail expert.“I don’t know that it can be any more transparent…they all provide intelligence on the pricing and the deal of the vehicle, whether it’s a good deal, a fair deal.”Kijiji Canada recently announced it will add a standalone auto sales site that will roll out later this year to keep up with shifting expectations. The site will add reviews of dealers as well as market pricing information from Carproof.“The key feature for us, and one of the biggest, the biggest win for us is what’s called price transparency or price analysis,” said Matt McKenzie, general manager at Kijiji Canada.The online classified company, owned by eBay, already boasts of being the largest player in the Canadian market with about 500,000 vehicle listings. Autotrader, owned by Etobicoke-based Trader Corp., lists about 444,000 vehicles on its site while there are many other offerings on the market as well.Listing companies are boosting their online presence as the used vehicle market is set for significant growth, said Dennis DesRosiers, president of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants.“There’s tremendous opportunity, and that brings in all the different retail players and their approach of, how do I get a piece of that?”While new vehicle sales are expected to be largely flat at about two million this year, the used vehicle market is set to add half a million more in sales in the next three to five years, on top of the three million that changed hands last year, said DesRosiers.The rise in the used vehicle market comes as improved quality in the past decade means cars and trucks are lasting much longer, allowing for a potential lifespan of four to six owners from the two or three expected not long ago.“It takes 23 years to remove the vehicles from the road now, a decade ago it only took about 12, so it’s essentially doubled,” said DesRosiers.Used vehicles also offer margins that are two to three times higher than for new cars, adding to their appeal, he said.The quality and information improvements have significantly changed the overall used retail market, said DesRosiers.“It’s not that far long ago, call it 15 years ago or maybe 10 years ago, where the used car market was largely a culture of deceit…even if the online capacity was there, there was just so much riffraff in the used car market that it was very dangerous. A lot of that has changed.”The improved access to data means used-car retailers have to be more transparent and competitive about their pricing, said Jamie Tekela, director of pre-owned operations at Pfaff Automotive Partners.“You need to really justify what you’re asking, why you’re asking it, and you can’t go asking $500 more for the same Honda Civic with the same mileage. It just it doesn’t work any more.”“It’s night and day, to be perfectly honest. It’s gotten a lot more customer friendly,” he said.The improved information on crash reports, comparable sales, and other metrics hasn’t done away with potential negotiations but does give more justification, said Jamie.“There’s always going to be negotiations when trying to buy and sell vehicles, but with so much information available to each and every one of us, it’s a lot easier to explain our rhyme and reason why we’re asking what for a car.”
BANGKOK – Stock markets turned higher in European trading Thursday as investors settled somewhat after steep declines in Asia and the U.S. spurred by worries over trade and the U.S. economy.Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Standard & Poor’s 500 were higher, suggesting a likely revival of buying.Germany’s DAX added 0.3 per cent to 11,224 and the CAC 40 in France climbed 1.3 per cent to 5,015. Britain’s FTSE 100 was flat at 6,960, underperforming after poor earnings from ad giant WPP.It was unclear if the gains were a return to calm or only a respite from the torrent of selling on Wall Street overnight that spurred a further drop in technology-related shares in Asia.Japan’s Nikkei 225 index swooned 3.7 per cent to 21,268.73. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index ended 1 per cent lower at 24,994.46 and Australia’s S&P ASX 200 sank 2.8 per cent to 5,664.10.But late in the day, the Shanghai Composite index erased its early losses to end up only 0.5 points at 2,603.80. Benchmarks in Thailand and Indonesia also logged gains.As in New York, Asia’s losses were heaviest for technology companies. Semiconductor maker Tokyo Electron lost 4.3 per cent and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. dropped 4.4 per cent. South Korea’s Samsung Electronics sank 3.6 per cent and Japanese telecoms and energy giant Softbank lost 4.4 per cent.Other sectors also felt the pain.Toyota Motor Corp. gave up 2.7 per cent while Hong Kong-based retail supply chain giant Li & Fung Ltd. lost 1.3 per cent. Also in Hong Kong, airline Cathay Pacific’s shares dropped as much as 6.5 per cent but ended 3.8 per cent lower after it said it had discovered a data breach affecting 9.4 million passengers.Still, some market observers were taking the latest bout of volatility in stride.“I think the Hong Kong market is really very close to bottom, because when you look at the value, it’s very extremely cheap. So how low can it get? Maybe it will reach 24,000 before we find the bottom,” said analyst Francis Lun of Geo Securities.In New York, the futures contract for the S&P 500 gained 0.7 per cent to 2,684 while that for the Dow also rose 0.6 per cent, to 24,770, suggesting recent losses may have whetted appetites for bargains.The Nasdaq composite, with its hefty roster of tech stocks, has now fallen more than 10 per cent below its August peak in what Wall Street calls a “correction.” Its 4.4 per cent tumble on Wednesday to 7,108.40 was its biggest drop since August 2011 but it is still up 3 per cent for the year.The S&P 500 has lost about 9.4 per cent from its Sept. 20 peak and has given up its gains for the year, as has the Dow. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks is down 4.4 per cent for the year.Disappointing quarterly earnings and outlooks are stoking investors’ worries that Corporate America’s tax cut-fueled earnings growth will fade in coming months as interest rates rise and the trade conflict with China raises costs.Recent signs the housing market is cooling are adding to jitters over prospects for U.S. economic growth.A shift into less volatile assets has pushed bond prices higher, sending the yield on the 10-year Treasury note down to 3.13 per cent from 3.16 per cent late Tuesday.About 24 per cent of the companies in the S&P 500 had reported third-quarter results as of Wednesday. Of those, 57 per cent delivered earnings and revenue results that topped Wall Street’s forecasts.More reports are due later Thursday in the U.S., including from Google parent company Alphabet, Amazon.com, Twitter and Comcast. In Europe, Daimler reported a drop in profits, as it had earlier warned it would, as did Nokia, which is waiting for global demand for new 5G networks to pick up.As selling in stock markets abated, other markets also regained equilibrium.Benchmark U.S. crude lost 6 cents to $66.76 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Wednesday it edged up 0.6 per cent Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 4 cents to $76.21 a barrel.The dollar rose to 112.27 yen from 112.23 yen. The euro rose to $1.1406 from $1.1393.___Katie Tam in Hong Kong contributed to this report.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The U.S. Postal Service has scrapped a pilot program that aimed to find cheaper ways to deliver goods and mail to northern Alaska communities.The Alaska Journal of Commerce reports the Postal Service had planned to launch the program Tuesday and operate it for a year.The service had partnered with Lynden Transport Inc. to use multiple modes of transportation to make bypass mail and non-priority mail deliveries to the North Slope hubs of Deadhorse and Utqiagvik (oot-kay-AH’-vik).It’s unclear why the pilot program was cancelled.Postal Service Alaska spokesman Brian Sperry says the program has been withdrawn and is no longer being pursued. He says he could not elaborate on the reasons why.A spokesman for Lynden Transport did not respond to questions about the program.___Information from: (Anchorage) Alaska Journal of Commerce, http://www.alaskajournal.comThe Associated Press
Transportation Ministry spokesperson Danielle Pope said in an email late last week that the material that was used in the crack-sealing has now been cleared from the travel lanes, and that sweeping activities will continue around highway shoulders and islands.Pope added that the Ministry is aware that the gravel is a concern for the public, and that cleanup work is anticipated to be complete by July 20th.Several area residents were seen venting their frustrations about the gravel that was strewn all over the roads on local social media, especially after some claimed the gravel had damaged newly-repaired or replaced windshields.When asked about whether motorists would be on the hook for any repairs that were directly caused by the gravel, spokesperson Liam Butler with the Ministry of the Attorney General, which is the Ministry responsible for ICBC, explained under ICBC’s comprehensive coverage, motorists no longer need to pay a deductible to have their windshield repaired.However, the damaged windshield is deemed unsafe and not appropriate to repair, motorists will need to pay a deductible to have a replacement installed.Butler said that ICBC will attempt to recover costs where possible from the contractor and that if ICBC is able to recover costs, the Crown Corporation will also attempt to recover the cost of deductibles for customers. FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The provincial government says that maintenance crews should be finished cleaning up debris from crack sealing work along the Alaska Highway by the end of the week and that ICBC will look at trying to recover the costs of any windshield claims that may have been caused by that debris.In the past few weeks, workers have been sealing cracks along Highway 97 between the North Taylor Hill and the Mile 54 marker.In order to allow the cracks to be sealed properly, YRB North Peace General Manager Chris Charbonneau explained that crews need to leave the gravel covering the tar for several days to ensure that vehicles don’t track the substance all over the roads or get it stuck to motorist’s tires.
GRANDE PRAIRIE, A.B. – During the early morning hours of July 29, Grande Prairie RCMP conducted a traffic stop as a result of an ongoing investigation.According to the RCMP, as part of the investigation, they were able to locate weapons, illegal drugs and Canadian Currency within the vehicle.The following items were seized as a result of the investigation: 32.74 grams of Methamphetamine13.11 grams of Cocaine1.73 grams of Fentanyl1.5 litres of GHB23 Oxycodone Pills1 loaded shotgunover 200 rounds of ammunitioncell phoneCanadian currencyMichael Jay O’Bee, of Grande Prairie, is facing the following charges:Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking x 8Unsafe storage of firearmUnauthorized possession of a firearmPossession of a firearm when knowing possession is unauthorizedPossession of a prohibited weapon with ammo without licencePossession of property obtained by crime less than $5000Possession of firearm/magazine/ammunition in a motor vehicle x 3Possession of Weapon Contrary to an Order x 9Police say O’Bee has been remanded in custody and is scheduled to appear in Grande Prairie Provincial Court on August 14, 2019.If you have any information or need to report a crime, you can contact the Grande Prairie RCMP at 780-830-5700 or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.
Indore: Domestic giants Mumbai defeated Vidarbha by six wickets in their Super League Group B match of the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament here Monday. Opting to field at the Holkar Stadium, Mumbai bowlers, led by medium pacer Tushar Deshpande (3-28), put in a spirited show to restrict Vidarbha to 137/8 in their alloted 20 overs. Deshpande was ably supported by another pacer Shardul Thakur (2-21), while Shams Mulani (1-22), Shivam Dube (1-28) and Siddhesh Lad (1-9), too, played their part, picking up a wicket each. Deshpande gave early breakthrough to Mumbai when he accounted for Vidarbha opener Atharva Taide (4). Also Read – Dhoni, Paes spotted playing football togetherJitesh Sharma (20), captain Ganesh Satish (24) and Rushabh Rathod (26) got starts, but failed to convert them into big scores as Mumbai bowlers struck at regular intervals. Vidarbha were reeling at 95-6, but pacer Umesh Yadav chipped in with a blazing 26 off 12 balls, which included three fours and two sixes, to ensure his side crossed the 130- run mark. Young prodigy Prithvi Shaw did not play for Mumbai, but opener Jay Bista hit an unbeaten 73 off 51 balls to see his team romp home with 26 deliveries to spare. Also Read – Andy Murray to make Grand Slam return at Australian OpenBista took the experienced Vidarbha attack to task, hammering nine fours and two sixes. He got able support from skipper Shreyas Iyer (28) and Surya Kumar Yadav (25). Mumbai lost two quick wickets, but Bista ensured that his side emerged triumphant. Earlier in the day, Gujarat defeated Railways by seven wickets in their Super League Group A game. Gujarat bowlers, led by leg spinner Piyush Chawla (3-12), dished out a clinical show to restrict Railways to a 110/9 in their 20 overs after they chose to bat. Piyush Tanwar led Gujarat’s chase as he hit an unbeaten 55 off 43 balls and took his side home with 5.5 overs to spare in company of Axar Patel (20 not out). Brief scores: At Holkar Stadium: Vidarbha 137/8 (R R Rathod 26, Umesh Yadav 26; Tushar Deshpande 3-28, Shardul Thakur 2-21) lost to Mumbai 138/4 (Jay Bista 73 not out, Shreyas Iyer 28; R L Jangid 2-23, Akshay Wakhare 2-38) by six wickets. Mumbai 4 points, Vidarbha 0 points. At Emerald Heights International School Ground: Railways 110/9 (Harsh Tyagi 32 not out, Amit Paunikar 23; Piyush Chawla 3-12, Hemang Patel 1-17) lost to Gujarat 112/3 (Piyush Tanwar 55 not out, Parthiv Patel 25; Ambikeshwar Mishra 1-15) by seven wickets. Gujarat 4 points, Railways 0 points.
Srinagar: Former Chief Minister and President of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday accused the Congress and the National Conference (NC) of weakening article 370 that gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir. Speaking to the media, Mehbooba said that while Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad had weakened article 370 by allotting thousands of kanals of land to the Amarnath Shrine Board in 2008, it was the NC that had surrendered the titles of ‘Wazir-e-Azam’ and ‘Sadr-e-Riyasat’ in 1975. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’ The PDP President said it was her party that saved article 370 and 35A during the two years she ruled the state in coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party. She is contesting the Lok Sabha elections from Anantnag constituency where the first phase of the three-phased voting was held on April 23. The second phase of voting in Anantnag is scheduled for April 29 and the last phase on May 6. Mehbooba Mufti is challenged by Ghulam Ahmed Mir of the Congress and Justice (Retired) Hasnain Masoodi of the NC among other candidates.
By Alexandra KrauskaRabat – American Actor Will Smith talked about Donald Trump at a press event in Dubai, saying that Trump’s rhetoric is hateful, but may help the United States to realize the flaws in those beliefs.“in terms of Islamophobia in America, for me that is why it important to show up. I am in Dubai and I am having fun and I am Tweeting and I am showing pictures, hey does not look like they hate me, does it,” the American actor said sarcastically. “As painful as it is to hear Donald Trump talk, and as embarrassing as it is as an American to hear him talk, I think it’s good,” he said. “We get to hear it, we get to know who people are, and now we get to cleanse it out of our country.”The press event on Sunday was part of the publicity tour for Suicide Squad, the DC Comics movie about the “bad guys” of the DC universe. Smith was cast as Deadshot, a supervillain and sharpshooting assassin.This was not an easy role for Smith, however. “I had never played bad guys before,” he said in an interview with Access Hollywood earlier this month. “I couldn’t understand the mentality. I got this really powerful comprehension that what makes someone evil is they don’t think they’re evil, they think they’re doing good. They actually think it’s okay to call a woman a ‘fat pig’ on television. They think it’s okay, that’s what makes them evil.” Smith referred to the incident in which Donald Trump called Rosie O’Donnell a “fat pig” in an interview.Smith has been very outspoken about Donald Trump, either overtly or through pointed references. Several times in recent months, he has discussed his thoughts on the businessman’s campaign and his supporters. In an interview with BET.com, he expressed his views on the importance of the election this November.“I think, as Americans, we have a really, really critical decision to make right now. I think many times in history, the soul of our country is at stake. Who we are. Are we exclusionary or inclusive? Are we going to commit to diversity or are we going to commit to separateness? Are we going to commit to optimism or fear and pessimism? So I think more than ever, we have a huge decision to make. Like, what does it mean to be American?”
By Chaimaa ZahaarRabat – Through the Regional Academies of Education and Training (AREF), recently opened nearly 24,000 new positions. The ministry hopes to recruit candidates with BA degrees in either primary or secondary education, to avoid overloaded classrooms.The recruitment process for teachers opened between June 5 and 7, and interviews are set to take place on June 29 and 30. All of the new positions will follow a contract-based system. In addition to recruiting teachers for the upcoming academic year, the ministry will also recruit 8,000 administrative and technical staff members in two waves.Access to education in Morocco remains a concern in some regions and this initiative to put more teachers in classrooms will hopefully boost literacy rates and improve the retention rates of students.Available positions are divided among the regions as follows:-Souss- Massa: 1,741 position.-Fez- Meknes: 2,450 position.-Casablanca- Settat : 3,865 position.-Tangie- Tétouan-Al Hoceima : 3,763 position.– Beni Mellal-Khenifra : 2,121 position.– Oriental: 2,055 position.– Marrakech-Safi : 3,601 position.– Rabat Salé Kénitra : 1,806 position.– Laâyoune Sakiat Hamra : 252 position.– Guelmim Oued Noun : 341 position.– Draa Tafilalet : 1,856 position.
WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors have indicted 20 people in a multimillion-dollar international online fraud scheme.The case announced Thursday stems from a lengthy investigation out of Kentucky led by U.S. Secret Service agents.The scheme unfolded on websites like Craigslist and eBay, and the fraudsters would post false ads for expensive items like cars that didn’t exist. Prosecutors say they’d persuade American buyers to send money to fictitious profiles, duping them in some cases into thinking the sellers were U.S. military and about to be deployed. They handed over money, but goods never showed up.The suspects were based mostly in Alexandria, Romania. Prosecutors say they laundered the money using cryptocurrency.Most of the suspects are foreign nationals. About a dozen have already been extradited to the U.S.The investigation is continuing.The Associated Press
Rabat – Moroccan filmmaker Nour-eddine Lakhmari’s movie “Burn Out” has been chosen in the pre-selection for Best Foreign Film at the 2019 Oscars. According to the Moroccan Cinematographic Center (CCM), the movie was chosen to represent Morocco by a selection committee chaired by producer Souad Lamriki, in line with the criteria established by the Oscars Academy, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.Produced by the Dubai-based VOD platform, ICFLIX, the movie is set in Casablanca, where Lakhmari usually prefers to shoot his movies. The production is a multi-narrative film, telling the intersecting stories of several characters representing different Moroccan categories and social classes.“Burn Out,” tells the story of Jad, a young and wealthy Casablancan struggling with existential crises.In search of redemption, Jad meets Ayoub, an even-tempered boy who does odd jobs to help buy his mother a prosthetic limb.The two characters easily find comfort and understanding with each other, both possessing qualities the other lacks.Meanwhile, Jad and his wife, who runs an art gallery, get divorced. The film also tells the bleak life of a medical student, Aida, forced to engage in prostitution to finance her studies.The psychological study delves deep into the bipolarity of its characters, as they are all torn between two worlds, their own desire and the constraints of their social status.“Burn Out” stars Morjana Alaoui, Leila Marrakchi, Anas El Baz, Fatima Zahra El Jaouhari, Karim Saidi, Saadia Ladib, Driss Roukhe, Mohammed Khiari, and Ilyass El Jihani.
PHOENIX — A self-driving truck company has partnered with the U.S. Postal Service to test autonomous technology on the long-haul route between Phoenix and Dallas.San Diego-based TuSimple is planning for two autonomous trucks to carry mail and parcels on five round trips between the Postal Service distribution centres in the two cities starting Tuesday.TuSimple says a safety engineer and driver will be on board to monitor the trucks during the two-week pilot program.The trucks use a camera system allowing the vehicles to view about 3,280 feet (1,000 metres) ahead.The company says the Postal Service has contracted TuSimple to examine if the technology could reduce fuel costs, increase safety and improve fleet operation.The Associated Press
GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Guyana’s State Assets Recovery Agency said Wednesday it has launched an investigation into whether corruption played a role in the previous government’s 2015 decision to award two oil blocks to little-known companies days after ExxonMobil signalled it had found large deposits of oil and gas.The decision, which came less than a week before general elections, awarded the blocks to JHI Associates of Toronto and Mid Atlantic Oil and Gas of Guyana, which had been formed in the past five years and were not known as oil producers anywhere else on the globe, said agency Deputy Director Aubrey Retemeyer.“Yet they were handed the blocks without any public auction, without parliamentary oversight as the house was dissolved to facilitate general elections. There were no consultations with the opposition. There was also no signing bonus. We have to find out what laws were breached here and whether there was corruption,” Retemeyer told The Associated Press.Retemeyer said authorities want to find out who profited from the sales of the Kaieteur and Canje oil blocks that lie right next to the Stabroek block where U.S. giant ExxonMobil has so far found 13 wells flush with oil and gas as it rushes to begin production as early as November. Exxon estimates the blocks so far contain nearly 7 billion barrels of oil and has said it has not experienced such a strike rate of successful wells anywhere else in the world. Only two wells have come up dry so far.Retemeyer said Guyana’s previous administration knew oil was found as it had run a full-page advertisement in local newspapers a few days before the May 11, 2015, elections announcing that Guyana had found oil and encouraging voters to give the government an additional five-year term. It lost the elections to a coalition led by a retired army general, David Granger.The agency’s probe so far has shown that ExxonMobil bought into both of the small companies and has become the main operator as the firms had no large assets or major histories in the sector, Retemeyer said. He said the Canje and Kaieteur blocks are in the ultra-deep portions of the Guyana Basin and only companies like ExxonMobil, British Petroleum and a few others have the technology and ability to work in such deep waters.“It is astonishing that these two unknown companies were awarded blocks. The timing is significant,” Retemeyer said. “If the then-government had held on to these blocks or auctioned them off, the country would have gotten billions of dollars.”The agency said ExxonMobil and Total of France as well as Ratio Oil, an Israeli company, moved quickly to buy into the blocks without having to pay signing bonuses. Guyana got $18 million as a bonus for the Stabroek block, a figure that was roundly criticized in Guyana.ExxonMobil spokeswoman Deedra Moe has said the company “followed all applicable laws and regulations in acquiring its government approved license” and would co-operate fully with authorities.The state agency said it will look at the movement of ExxonMobil’s stock around the time the two small companies became major players in Guyana.“We will work with international partners with expertise in this area,” Retemeyer said. “We are not investigating Exxon. Our focus is on Canje and Kaieteur blocks and how those blocks were awarded.”Bert Wilkinson, The Associated Press
BERLIN — The International Air Transport Association is lowering its forecast for the airline industry this year to $28 billion from $35.5 billion amid rising fuel prices and weakening world trade.The Montreal-based IATA said Sunday that “margins are being squeezed by rising costs right across the board, including labour, fuel, and infrastructure.”It said competition among airlines remains stiff and “weakening of global trade is likely to continue as the U.S.-China trade war intensifies,” primarily affecting the cargo business, although passenger traffic could also be hit if tensions rise.IATA members meeting in Seoul also backed a plan that will cap net emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from international aviation at 2020 levels. Airlines will have to spend money on carbon reduction measures elsewhere to offset excess emissions.The Associated Press
BEIJING — An encrypted messaging app said Thursday that it was hit by a powerful cyberattack from China as a major protest unfolded in Hong Kong.The attack on the Telegram app, which slowed connectivity but did not compromise user data, came as thousands surrounded Hong Kong government headquarters on Wednesday to protest legislation that would allow people to be extradited to mainland China to stand trial. They protesters were forcibly dispersed by police using tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bulletsTelegram CEO Pavel Durov tweeted that most of the attackers had IP addresses from China.“Historically, all state actor-sized (attacks) we experienced coincided in time with protests in Hong Kong,” Durov said. “This case was not an exception.”Activists in both Hong Kong and mainland China often use Telegram to organize protests in hopes the encryption will allow them to evade the government surveillance of Chinese social networking apps such as WeChat.Whereas WeChat users reported this week that photos of the protests could not be viewed, apps like Telegram offer more privacy and independence. Telegram is blocked in mainland China, but users can access it using software to circumvent the firewall, which also blocks apps and websites ranging from Facebook to The New York Times.Encrypted messaging apps such as Telegram say that messages sent on their systems cannot be intercepted by third parties during the delivery from sender to recipient. “We can ensure that no single government or block of like-minded countries can intrude on people’s privacy and freedom of expression,” Telegram says on its website.Telegram said that the latest attack was a distributed denial of service in which “your servers get GADZILLIONS of garbage requests which stop them from processing legitimate requests.”The messaging app said on Wednesday evening that the system had stabilized.The protest in Hong Kong forced the legislature to cancel its sessions Wednesday and Thursday, putting off debate on the extradition legislation.Opponents say the bill would severely compromise their freedoms and erode Hong Kong’s legal independence. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam maintains the legislation is necessary and would have safeguards to ensure human rights are protected.Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory, enjoys greater freedoms than mainland China under a “one country, two systems” framework put in place when the former British colony was returned to China in 1997. Hong Kong residents can freely surf the Internet and participate in public protests, unlike in the mainland.The U.S. government has complained for years about data breaches by China to steal high-tech information and other trade secrets — a key factor in the current trade dispute between China and the United States. Pentagon leaders told a congressional committee this month that cyberattacks from China are increasingly sophisticated..Yanan Wang, The Associated Press
27 February 2007Authorities in northern Somalia today arrested four men alleged to be part of a group that hijacked a United Nations-contracted food aid ship, but the vessel itself and its 12-member crew still remained in the hands of the pirates six miles off the coast. “The arrest is welcome news, but the safe release of the crew and the vessel remains our chief concern,” UN World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director Peter Goossens said. “We very much hope this ordeal will finish soon.” The four men were arrested when they went ashore to buy supplies in the town of Bargal in Puntland, but four other hijackers remain in control of the MV Rozen, which was seized by the pirates on Sunday shortly after it unloaded 1,800 metric tonnes of food aid and equipment – the fourth such attack on UN supply vessels off the strife-ridden East African country in 20 months. The ship, with its crew of six Sri Lankans, including the captain, and six Kenyans, is now reported to be surrounded by five of the Puntland authorities’ police and sailing southward. “We are appealing for the safe return of the crew and the vessel as soon as possible, and for people to respect the need for humanitarian delivery corridors,” Mr. Goossens said. “Somalia is one of the poorest countries in the world, and there are families whose lives depend on our ability to get food aid through.” In 2005, after two earlier hijackings, WFP temporarily suspended deliveries of food aid by sea for some weeks, but since then sea deliveries have been uninterrupted, even during the worst days of the conflict between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) at the end of last year. The MV Rozen itself escaped an attempted hijack in southern Somali waters last year. In 2006, WFP delivered some 78,000 metric tonnes of relief food to 1.4 million people affected by drought and floods in southern Somalia.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today voiced concern about a paramilitary group which sides with the Government of Sri Lanka against separatist Tamil Tiger rebels that the agency believes is not living up to public assurances to eschew recruitment of children as soldiers to fight in the country’s bloody civil conflict. Although the so-called Karuna faction – which split from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and now supports Government troops – denies that it is actively enlisting children as soldiers, UNICEF says there are consistent reports that contradict this. After returning from a mission last week to a conflict area where the Karuna group was supposed to provide UNICEF access to a camp, the agency’s head of protection in Sri Lanka, Andrew Brooks, described the level of cooperation as “stalemated.” “We seriously question whether the Karuna group is acting in good faith,” he said in the capital, Colombo. “Our supposed cooperation is obscured by the faction’s apparent determination to delay, frustrate, and mislead the process to end the use of children as combatants in this country’s conflict.” Last week’s assessment was intended to be the first of regular inspection of known locations of the Karuna faction and its political offshoot, known as the TMVP, to verify that no children are being used as soldiers. However, the leader of the UN team reported that he had been led to hastily created mock site in a jungle area, and despite the Karuna group’s repeated promises to fully cooperate, requests by the world body to inspect known locations were spurned. After a UN fact-finding mission to Sri Lanka last November, the faction’s leader, Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan, known as “Colonel Karuna,” reassured the UN that his group would cooperate in efforts to curtail child combatant recruitment. Despite these assurances, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned in a report to the Security Council in January that “a particularly disconcerting development during the reporting period was the increase in abductions and recruitment of children in the east by the Karuna faction.” The report also cited the Sri Lankan army’s complicity in the group’s efforts to enlist children. “Unfortunately, despite exhaustive approaches to the Karuna group and TMVP officials since then, the few children they’re released falls well short of the public commitments they’ve made,” Mr. Brooks said. “We continue to receive reports of children being recruited.” According to UNICEF, as of the end of last month, out of the 285 children known to have been recruited as soldiers by the Karuna faction, there were 194 outstanding cases. 27 April 2007The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today voiced concern about a paramilitary group which sides with the Government of Sri Lanka against separatist Tamil Tiger rebels that the agency believes is not living up to public assurances to eschew recruitment of children as soldiers to fight in the country’s bloody civil conflict.
As the United Nations General Assembly wrapped up its sixty-first session today, the outgoing president, Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of Bahrain, urged greater focus in the years ahead on dialogue among civilizations before passing the gavel to her successor, Srgjan Kerim of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.“From my perspective, as the only woman President for a generation, and the first from the Arab world, I have come to see the United Nations as a global family – a family that is becoming ever more interdependent,” said Sheikha Haya. She acknowledged that differences will naturally arise but emphasized that “it is only in the spirit of collective responsibility that we can take further steps to build greater trust and cooperation.”The President called for all concerned to accept their shared responsibilities and work together for positive change. “More than ever before, we need to focus on the underlying lack of dialogue between civilizations, cultures and nations that is at the core of many of today’s problems,” she said.“We must tackle these issues squarely and, in doing so, we will have to move beyond the outdated mindset that separates the world into donors and recipients – North and South.”Sheikha Haya, the first female General Assembly President since 1969 and the first Muslim woman to hold the post, has long emphasized the need to bridge the gap between Islam and the West. ‘Civilizations and the challenge for peace’ was the theme of one of several thematic debates she organized during the session to revitalize thinking on various issues.On taking office last year, Sheikha Haya told reporters: “It does not matter that I am a Muslim or a Christian or Jewish. We are human beings and we have the same worries and we have the same problems.”In her speech today, Sheikha Haya thanked Assembly members for their support during the past year and welcomed her successor, the president-elect of the 62nd session of the General Assembly, Mr. Kerim.The incoming president is “an accomplished academic, a captain of industry, and an experienced diplomat. He is also a great believer in the United Nations.”At the invitation of Sheikha Haya, Mr. Kerim, a former foreign minister and UN ambassador with international experience in academia, took the podium and received the presidential gavel from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.President Kerim will use this gavel for the first time tomorrow afternoon to officially open the Assembly’s sixty-second session. In recent interviews, he has stressed his plans to focus the session on five main themes: responding to climate change; financing for development; implementing the global counter-terrorism strategy; advancing on management reform; and following up on achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). 17 September 2007As the United Nations General Assembly wrapped up its sixty-first session today, the outgoing president, Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of Bahrain, urged greater focus in the years ahead on dialogue among civilizations before passing the gavel to her successor, Srgjan Kerim of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
17 December 2007A senior United Nations envoy has held talks with the provincial leader in North Darfur about security issues concerning the upcoming hybrid UN-African Union peacekeeping mission to the war-wracked region after a recent attack by armed gunmen on members of the existing AU force. Rodolphe Adada, the AU-UN Joint Special Representative for Darfur and the head of mission of AMIS, the current AU mission to the region, met yesterday in El Fasher with Osman Mohamed Yousif Kibir, the Wali (Governor) of North Darfur state.The meeting follows an attack near El Fasher on Friday by four unidentified men against the vehicle of the AMIS military chief of staff. The chief of staff survived the incident but the driver was injured and the vehicle was seized by the gunmen before it was later recovered by Sudanese police.Mr. Adada and Mr. Kibir discussed measures to be put in place to avoid a repeat of such incidents when the hybrid force, known as UNAMID, takes over duties from AMIS next month.Senior officials of both UNAMID and North Darfur are scheduled to meet later today to finalize a security plan to protect UNAMID and AMIS personnel and facilities in El Fasher, the provincial capital.Mr. Kibir reiterated the readiness of authorities in North Darfur to cooperate with the new mission and to provide all necessary facilities to make the mission a success, while Mr. Adada thanked him for the help so far to AMIS.Meanwhile, in his first press conference since assuming the post, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to Sudan Ashraf Qazi has welcomed the recent announcement by the two parties to the landmark 2005 peace accord which ended the long-running north-south civil war in Sudan that they have resolved many of their outstanding issues.Mr. Qazi told reporters in Khartoum that there are still challenges ahead that the parties, the Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) have to overcome. But he noted that the leadership of both sides were demonstrating impressive determination so far.“This is a very hopeful sign which encourages us in our own mission,” he said.