Sunny Side Up

first_imgYou have worked for seven years in the industry. What were your perceptions about the Hindi film industry before you became a part of it, and how much has it changed over the years? My perceptions about the film industry were in line with the picture that my parents had painted for me. We saw a girl wearing a mini-skirt in the movies, but I was not allowed to wear a mini-skirt. When you are entering a new entertainment industry, it is always very, very different. It is completely different from your perception of what it is actually going to be like. Also Read – ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ has James Cameron’s fingerprints all over it: Arnold SchwarzeneggerI also think that people’s perception of me is not always correct and my perceptions, obviously, were not correct either. I thought everybody was going to hate me and I would not be able to work here. I thought I would work here for a couple of weeks and then fly back to the US. But I am still here! (Laughs) Your last film, Tera Intezaar, released in 2017. Was it a deliberate decision to stay away from films in the last two years because you wanted to concentrate on your digital project, Karenjit Kaur? Also Read – Salman pays tribute to Vinod Khanna on ‘Dabangg 3’ wrap upWell, that did take up a lot of time and energy. It was not something that was done on purpose; it just happened that way. I also came up with my cosmetic line. There are so many other things that Daniel (Weber) and I do, that my team does, other than films. After the last few films, Daniel and I thought let us stop for a second and evaluate some of the wrong decisions we may have taken. We only have each other; we have no one else helping us and the options out there are not always as vast for us as they may be for someone who comes from a film background or for someone who is really amazing at being a social butterfly (Laughs). They are so social and good at meeting people! I am not that person. I try to be but I fail at it miserably. I have a few films that are going to come out this year, for which I will start shooting. So, we will see how it goes! What made you think you were going wrong somewhere? The box office numbers! It is very simple. I am a numbers person; I always have been. When certain things were not working out, I wanted to look at why they were not. I believe that most actors know if their films are going to work. It’s a feeling you get. We had no idea what was going wrong. Like I said, I have no one who could tell me about the person I should be going to. There are times when people say they are going to do something but they deliver something completely different. What I read on paper and what I then see as a film are very different from each other. That is something I cannot control. As a person, as a human being and as an actor, I have to believe that the people I am working with have the same intentions as I do, the same goals that I want to achieve, and have genuine intentions to make something amazing. I am not the producer; I am the actor that you have hired, who believes that a story is nice when read on paper before someone gives an elaborate, detailed narration. Sometimes, a narration is completely different from the story that I read (Chuckles). This is fair enough because some people are great storytellers but that does not always necessarily translate into something that looks good as a film. So you have experienced a sad Friday? I have had many. If nothing else, I have learnt so much from some of my choices of films but, more than anything else, what has come from the good and the bad or the sad Friday and a happy Friday, is so much more. Between all the businesses and things that Daniel and I have our hands in, there have been so many positive things that I can say. There have been many more good Fridays than sad ones. (Smiles). So, coming to Karenjit Kaur, was it emotionally taxing to bring your personal story out into the public domain? Oh, absolutely! It was not easy. But when I read it on paper, I felt it would not be all that tough. All stories that are in both these seasons are real stories. Those are real things and situations. In a lot of different places, we have real dialogue. Those were the things that my family actually had said to me or I had said to them or conversations with my brother and friends. There are a lot of those conversations in the film that are real. I am not saying all of them are real but what I am saying is there are sections that stayed pretty much the same. Yes, it was extremely difficult. It was hard. It wasn’t fun. It took me a long time to snap out of it and not be depressed and sad. In between all that, I had three kids and, as a mother, you cannot be sad, upset or depressed around your kids. You cannot harbour feelings like that, especially when you are in front of them. There are times when all you want to do is crawl into a corner and cry at the end of the day. So, yeah, it was emotionally very draining.last_img read more

Three held for killing rival gang member near court

first_imgNew Delhi: Delhi Police on Monday said that they have arrested three persons who killed the member of their rival gang while he came to the court for attending his case. Police identified the accused as Badal (27), Satender (26)and Asfak Ahmed (24).Police said one of the accused arrested when he came to cast his vote. Deputy Commissioner of Police (crime) Dr G Ramgopal Naik said that on May 6, one person Prince was murdered near court in South Delhi. Also Read – Odd-Even: CM seeks transport dept’s views on exemption to women, two wheelers, CNG vehicles”Prince had come to the Delhi for attending his case. He was fired upon indiscriminately by the assailants near court,” said DCP crime. The victim was taken to hospital, where he was declared brought dead. Police further said that Prince was a known criminal and was involved in more than five cases. Preliminary investigation and modus operandi was indicative of rivalry between two gangs. This incident of firing and murder in open place in South Delhi had created panic. Also Read – More good air days in Delhi due to Centre’s steps: JavadekarTo apprehend the criminals, a team of SIU-I, Crime Branch was deputed. Activities of the gang involved in the crime was closely monitored and it surfaced that gangster Rohit Choudhary along with his associates based in UP and Delhi had committed this crime. “Badal was arrested from village Khanpur, near DTC Depot when he came to cast his vote,” police said. In pursuance of the disclosure statement of the accused Badal, two of his other associates were also arrested. Police further said that there is rivalry between one Rohit Choudhary and Prince . In the recent past, the deceased had abused and threatened Choudhary publicly. Choudhary was trying to eliminate Prince. In earlier two attempts, the victim Prince had escaped from their clutches. But on May 6 they killed Prince. “Badal is a permanent resident of Samalkha in Panipat. Last year in November, while his marriage ceremony was going on, he was fired upon by his rivals. In this incident, he sustained bullet injury,” added police.last_img read more

Wronged Moroccan Threatens to Renounce Citizenship

first_imgAgadir- According to the daily Al Massa , a Moroccan immigrant residing in France declared he would renounce the Moroccan citizenship in protest against the juridical system, which hasn’t executed the verdict pronounced in his favor since 1997.The case he won was regarding two parcels of land that had been unlawfully taken over by a group of people in Casablanca. Mr. Rafei Ben Abdallah has exhausted every possibly and peaceful attempt to retrieve his land, to no avail.One of the occupying residents had menaced to burn himself, his children and house should he be  evicted. Rafei said he struggled for 17 years, wrote to all responsible authorities, including the Ministry of Justice, and Hassan II Association for Immigrants, and still has not been able to effectuate the court order. On December 24. 2012, the court of first instance has issued an order mobilizing concerned authorities to the affected site, in order to evacuate the Rafei’s property, but the task was not completed.Ben Abdallah expressed that he has been affected mentally and financially, as his case dragged on unnecessarily . He also insisted on his suspicions that an unknown party must have interest in keeping the situation as is, and called for justice to take effect. © Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributedlast_img read more

Los Angeles Users Call 911 over Facebook Crash

Tinejdad, Morocco – The world’s largest online social network Facebook was down Friday morning for some users in a number of countries for about 30 minutes.“Earlier this morning, some people had trouble accessing Facebook for a short time. We quickly investigated and have fully restored service for everyone. We’re sorry for the inconvenience,” Facebook said in an emailed statement.It is normal for any website to temporarily go down, but calling 911 for such technical problem is indeed very funny. The Los Angeles County Sheriff sergeant Burton Brink confirmed in a tweet that they received several calls from dissatisfied users complaining about the crash of Facebook.Yes we got calls #facebookdown That is why I sent out my previous msg to prevent them. Unk number received on 911 or reg number TY #LASD— Sgt. Brink (@LASDBrink) August 1, 2014The Sheriff used Twitter to announce that the problems that users may encounter using Facebook are not within the range of their services.#Facebook is not a Law Enforcement issue, please don’t call us about it being down, we don’t know when FB will be back up!— Sgt. Brink (@LASDBrink) August 1, 2014The hashtag #NowFacebookDown quickly became Twitter’s top trending topic worldwide.Facebook was fully restored on Friday immediately after the crash. read more

European Clubs Eye Morocco’s Omar El Kaddouri

Rabat – Many European clubs are reportedly keen to sign Morocco international Omar El Kaddouri who plays as a midfielder for the Italian side of Torino on loan from Napoli. In an interview with Italy’s Tuttosport, the player’s agent Mino Raiola and the agent of many other famous players said that clubs like Aton Villa, Tottenham, Sevilla and Marseille are interested in securing the services of the Moroccan footballer.According to media reports, the price tag of the 24-year-old is expected to increase significantly from the current 4 million Euros initially estimated by specialists. In 22 games in Italy’s Serie A this season, the Moroccan is already considered a very important player in the squad of Giampiero Ventura, FC Torino’s manager. The Belgian Moroccan played for the Belgium U21. He made his debut with the Moroccan national team on August 14, 2013 in a friendly against Burkina Faso. He scored his first goal for the Atlas Lions on May 23, 2014 in the 4-0 win over Mozambique. read more

Diesel Prices in Morocco Are Lower than Worldwide Average: Report

Rabat – A new report released on Monday by Global Petrol Prices ranks Morocco among countries where the price of diesel is below the worldwide average (US $0.92 per liter).The report noted that drivers pay on average $0.84 a liter for diesel in Morocco, which is considerably less than the price paid by drivers in Norway’s capital Oslo, at $1.59 a liter, placing Norway among the top three most expensive countries in the world for the said fuel.UK leads the list of world’s most expensive diesel at $1.67 a liter, followed by Israel ($1.60). According to the report, the average diesel price around the world is $0.92 per liter. Yet, there is a substantial difference in prices among the countries studied.As a general rule, wealthier countries have higher prices while underprivileged countries as well as those that produce and export oil, have significantly lower prices.Venezuela is considered the least expensive country in the world to fill up diesel, with $0.01 per liter. Venezuela’s government even subsidizes the fuel and therefore Venezuelans pay close to nothing to drive their vehicles.Libya has the lowest diesel price in the Arab World as it ranked second worldwide with $0.14 per liter, ahead of Saudi Arabia which ranked third with $0.16 per liter.Saudi Arabia is estimated to account for 20-25% of the world’s oil reserves, topping the charts It is also the highest exporter of oil. Kuwait, which has the world’s fifth largest oil reserves landed fourth with an average of $0.21 a liter. It is followed by Algeria, which despite its inexpensive diesel prices, with an average of $0.22 a liter, has suffered from fuel shortages in recent months as traffickers have been smuggling petrol to crisis-torn Libya.Qatar came fifth in the ranking, with an average of $0.26 per liter. The Middle Eastern country has the world’s largest per capita production and proven reserves of natural gas. read more

French Documentary Shows Life of Two Moroccan Prostitutes

By Alexandra KrauskaRabat – Prostitution: it’s illegal in Morocco, and can lead to up to five years in prison. In Marrakech, it feeds the local economy and attracts tourists from all over the world, according to new documentary produced by a French TV channel.Samia and Dounia are 19 and 20 years old, and have been working as prostitutes for several months. This video, created by the French television show Sept à Huit, takes a closer look at their lives, their work, and the circumstances that led them there. These women often begin a life as a prostitute when they need to support themselves and their families and cannot find sufficient employment. Samia and Dounia’s work provides an income that lets them achieve a level of independence that most unmarried women do not have. Some prostitutes make as much as MAD 3000 per night, while most others about MAD 700.Prostitution is often seen as temporary, the goal being to eventually find other employment, but it doesn’t always turn out that way. Daida, who has been working as a prostitute for about ten years, still hopes that her situation will be temporary, and that she can find a more stable job to raise her son.According to the Health Ministry, there are an estimated 50,000 prostitutes in Morocco, the majority of whom live and work in Marrakech.Video is in French. read more

Iceland Knocks out England out of Euro 2016

Nice – Iceland managed to continue their fairytale story at Euro 2016 by making it through to the last 8 after a 2-1 victory against England in their eight final match on Monday.England went ahead in the fourth minute when Wayne Rooney converted a penalty, but Icelanders Ragnar Sigurdsson (6th minute) and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson (18th minute) gave Iceland the lead, and their colleagues defended bravely to earn the biggest win of their history.In the quarters, the small country (330,000 inhabitants) will play host nation France in Saint-Denis on Sunday. With MAP read more

UK-Based Europa Oil & Gas to Fund New Venture in Morocco

Rabat – The UK and Ireland focused oil and gas exploration company will invest over $1 million to fund a two-year venture. The move entails a new offshore exploration licence in Morocco, according to a company statement.The London-listed firm is currently negotiating the exploration licence with the National Office of Hydrocarbon and Mines (ONHYM), Morocco’s petroleum-related operations regulator.The company is expecting to complete the agreement with ONHYM between December 2018 and January 2019. Read also: Australia’s Clancy Exploration Acquires Cobalt License in MoroccoEOG expects to begin exploration program in March 2019. The first year of the program will include “3D seismic PSDM [Pre-Stack Depth Migration] reprocessing.”The second year “will focus on building of a new prospect inventory and securing a farm-out partner in order to fund the drilling of an exploration well in the subsequent exploration phase of the licence.”PSDM is a seismic  instrument that captures images with geological structure while defining faults and and estimating depths with high accuracy.Europa Oil & Gas CEO Hugh Mackay said, “We are delighted to have completed a fully subscribed Placing and are pleased to welcome new institutional investors as significant shareholders in Europa.”Speaking about the company’s new venture in Morocco, Mackay said, “The funds raised will enable us to deliver the work programme for a potential new licence in Morocco and to screen and land other new ventures.” The investment is part of an approximately $6.44 million fund that EOG has raised  to fund its Irish Atlantic Margin projects and its new venture in Morocco.Read also: Morocco Grants Production Concession to Sound Energy for Gas Discovery“The Fundraising has been undertaken to provide funding for Europa’s near-term work programme, to fund new venture opportunities and to provide working capital to the Company,” reads part of the company’s statement.Mackay believes that funds raised “will enable the company to continue to advance its high impact exploration portfolio in Atlantic Ireland and in particular to bring our high-graded prospects to the point of being ready to drill.”Founded in 1995, Europa Oil & Gas is a leading explorer in Atlantic Ireland with six exploration licences. Three onshore UK oil fields produce currently about 95 barrels of oil daily . The company’s assets and activities are located in the UK, Ireland and France. read more

UNESCO: 7,500 Undocumented Migrant Children Enrolled in Moroccan Schools

Rabat- The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released Tuesday, on World Children’s day, the Global Education Monitoring report for 2019, entitled: “Migration, displacement and education: Building Bridges, Not Walls.”Noting that Morocco hosts large communities of undocumented immigrants, the study assessed the achievements of countries in ensuring the right to quality education for refugees and migrant children. UNESCO asserted that although Morocco’s law N0.4 limited access to education only to Moroccan children, the 2011 Constitution came to recognize the right to education for all children in the country. The report estimated the number of undocumented child African immigrants enrolled in Moroccan schools in 2015-2016 at 7,500. The study asserted that Morocco’s Ministry of Education opened access to education for children from sub-Saharan African countries in 2013, albeit some required documents that are somewhat “difficult to meet.”The report gives the example of the Casablanca-Settat’s Regional Academy of Education and Training requiring medical certificates for enrolment in schools, especially for migrants from countries affected by the Ebola virus epidemic.Read Also: World Bank: Moroccan Schools Rely on Passive Learning, Violent DisciplineLess than half of undocumented migrant children aged 8 to 17 years old received in Casablanca, Rabat and Tangier centres attended school in 2014. The study argues that changes in country policies affect the education of the children and hinder the progress of the full inclusion of migrant children in national education systems.While accurate statistics on sub-Saharan migrants aiming to settle in Europe are “difficult” to estimate, the report notes, there is an increasing number of sub-Saharan migrants who remain in transit countries, such as Morocco.Over the past years, the number of undocumented migrants has steadily increased in Morocco, especially from sub-Saharan African nations. According to Pew Research Center, sub-Saharan Africans have accounted for 8 of the 10 fastest growing international migrant populations since 2010.The 2017 World Bank Report noted that the Moroccan Foundation for Financial Education, in partnership with the International Labour Organization, opened financial education programmes and conducted “qualitative surveys before developing the training to ensure the toolkit met the needs of both migrants and their families.”Many countries exclude migrants and refugees from their national education systems. Countries like Australia, Hungary, Indonesia, and Malaysia provide limited access to education for the migrant children. “Half of the world’s forcibly displaced people” are under the age of 18, yet the countries holding the asylum-seeking children in detention, including Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, Karen refugees in Thailand and many Afghan refugees in Pakistan, could only find a small space in private schools or community-based institutions, UNESCO emphasized.“Everyone loses when the education of migrants and refugees is ignored. Education is the key to inclusion and cohesion. Increased classroom diversity,” states the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay.Despite challenges teachers face in regard to classroom diversity, it is “ an opportunity to learn from others. It is the best way to make communities stronger and more resilient,” Azoulay said. read more

German business confidence drops for 6th straight month

BERLIN — A closely watched survey shows that business confidence in Germany has fallen for the sixth consecutive month as worries mount about the outlook for Europe’s biggest economy.The Ifo institute said Friday that its monthly index declined to 98.5 points from 99.3 in January, sinking to its lowest level since December 2014. That was a slightly worse showing than the 98.9 points economists had forecast.Managers’ assessment of both their current situation and their outlook for the next six months darkened.Germany’s economy shrank in the third quarter and stalled in the fourth. The Ifo said that its survey and other indicators at least point to a return to quarterly growth of 0.2 per cent in the current quarter.The Associated Press read more

The Latest: EU says Brexit clouded by ‘fog’ from London

LONDON — The Latest on Britain’s exit from the European Union (all times local):9:15 a.m.The European Union’s presidency thinks a series of developments over recent days have made it more difficult to predict what might happen at this week’s summit of EU leaders, at which British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to request a delay to Britain’s departure date from the bloc.Romania’s European affairs minister, George Ciamba, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, said “the biggest issue right now is that it’s getting more foggy.”His comments come a day after John Bercow, the speaker of the House of Commons, ruled out a new vote on May’s Brexit deal unless there are substantive changes. May was trying to win support from opponents who have voted against her deal on two occasions previously.Ciamba said “we need to have more clarity from London. Clearly, there is no clarity.”EU leaders gather in Brussels on Thursday to weigh whether to grant Britain an extension on beyond March 29, and if so, for how long.___8:50 a.m.The British government is considering its response to the ruling of the speaker of the House of Commons that Prime Minister Theresa May cannot keep asking lawmakers to vote on the same European Union divorce deal they have already rejected twice.Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told Sky News Tuesday that the Cabinet would give “serious consideration” to John Bercow’s decision that the government could not bring the deal back for a third vote without substantial changes. May has been lobbying opponents in preparation for another vote on her plan.Barclay says the government needs “to look at the details of the ruling.”“The fact that a number of members of Parliament have said that they will change their votes points to the fact that there are things that are different.”The Associated Press read more

Russian company to invest in Kentucky aluminum mill

FRANKFORT, Ky. — An aluminum company planning to build a $1.7 billion plant in Appalachia is forming a partnership with a Russian company that until recently faced U.S. sanctions.Russian aluminum giant Rusal wants to invest $200 million in an aluminum rolling mill that Braidy Industries intends to build near Ashland, Kentucky.Rusal says it would assume a 40 per cent ownership share in the mill in return for the investment. Braidy Industries would hold the other 60 per cent share.Braidy announced plans for the mill two years ago, but the project stalled as it worked to complete financing. Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, who is seeking re-election this year, touts the project as evidence of his leadership in bringing jobs to Appalachia.The U.S. Treasury Department removed Rusal from its sanctions list in January.Bruce Schreiner, The Associated Press read more

The Latest: Tesla to introduce new ride-hailing service

SAN FRANCISCO — The Latest on Tesla’s plans for fully-autonomous vehicles (all times local):___1:50 p.m.Tesla says it will introduce a ride-hailing service with no humans driving the vehicles.CEO Elon Musk and others detailed the company’s plans to have self-driving vehicles operational by next year at an event for investors Monday.Musk says Tesla’s self-driving software is storing images and learning at an exponential rate. He’s confident Tesla will get regulatory approval for the service sometime next year as well.Tesla would allow owners to use their smart phones to put their cars into the ride-hailing service while they’re not being used. The company would take 25% to 30% of the fare. Musk says Tesla would provide vehicles in areas where not enough people share their cars.___1:30 p.m.Tesla expects to have full self-driving cars in which humans won’t have to touch the steering wheel around the second quarter of next year.CEO Elon Musk tells investors that the company’s system of high speed computers, software and neural network object detection and depth recognition will allow human drivers to check out. He expects to get regulatory approval for the system toward the end of 2020.Currently, approval would be required only in California, experts say.Musk also says Tesla’s neural network is learning how to deal with close lane changes on crowded freeways such as those in Los Angeles. Eventually drivers will be able to choose more aggressive behaviour that could run a slight risk of a fender-bender, he says.Musk’s comments came Monday during an event that Tesla is hosting in Silicon Valley to show off its plans for fully autonomous vehicles.____12:45 p.m.Tesla CEO Elon Musk says laser imaging sensors used by nearly all other autonomous vehicle developers are not needed.The sensors called Lidar send out light beams that detect objects in the dark and other poor conditions. Many experts consider them essential, including those at Google spinoff Waymo and General Motors’ Cruise Automation.“Lidar is a fool’s errand,” Musk. “They’re expensive sensors that are unnecessary. It’s like having a whole bunch of appendixes.”He also says Tesla has a huge advantage over autonomous vehicle competitors because it gathers a massive amount of data in the real world. He says this quarter Tesla will have 500,000 vehicles on the road, each equipped with eight cameras, ultrasonic sensors and radar gathering data to help build the company’s neural network.The network allows vehicles to recognize images, determine what objects are and figure out how to deal with them.___12:30 p.m.Tesla CEO Elon Musk has told investors that the company’s computer to enable its electric cars to become self–driving vehicles is powered by the best processing chip in the world.Musk made the bold declaration Monday during an event that Tesla is hosting in Silicon Valley to show off its plans to give the owners of its cars the option to turn all the driving over to a robot.Tesla had never made its own computer chip before it hired an ex-Apple engineer three years ago to design it. Now, Musk boasts the chip is better than any other on the market “by a huge margin.”Many self-driving car experts believe Tesla’s cars still aren’t close to become fully autonomous.Tesla is holding the event two days before it is scheduled to report a first-quarter loss after production and sales of its cars fell below expectations.___11:30 a.m.A webcast showing Tesla’s presentation to investors on “full self-driving” vehicles has yet to begin more than 30 minutes after its scheduled start.More than 40,000 viewers instead are watching a continuous loop of Teslas driving on bridges, highways and snow covered roads. There also are some factory scenes and horses galloping in the snow.CEO Elon Musk was scheduled to detail his self-driving vehicle plans at the event for investors Monday. Reporters were not allowed to attend.Some experts are skeptical that Musk has the technology to deliver fully self-driving vehicles safely.___6 a.m.Tesla CEO Elon Musk appears ready to transform the company’s electric cars into driverless vehicles in a risky bid to realize a bold vision he has been floating for years.The technology required to make that leap is scheduled to be shown to Tesla investors Monday at the company’s Palo Alto, California, headquarters.Musk is so certain that Tesla will win the race toward full autonomy that he indicated in an interview that his company’s cars should be able to navigate congested highways and city streets without a human behind the wheel by no later than next year.But experts say they’re skeptical whether Tesla’s technology has advanced to where its cars can be driven solely by a robot, without a human to take control if something goes awry.The Associated Press read more

The Latest: Governor aims to block extension for utility

SAN FRANCISCO — The Latest on a wildfire that killed 85 people in Paradise, California.2:35 p.m.California Gov. Gavin Newsom says bankrupt Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. shouldn’t get an extra six months to reorganize.The utility filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January as it faced tens of billions of dollars in potential costs related to deadly California wildfires.Its reorganization plan is due by the end of May, but the utility has requested an extension until November.In a Wednesday court filing, Newsom said the utility’s request continues to show it lacks an urgent focus on improving safety. He’s asking the court to instead grant an extension through August.Newsom and lawmakers are working on proposals around utility liability for wildfires that could affect the bankruptcy.California investigators on Wednesday found PG&E power lines were responsible for last year’s wildfire that killed 85 people.___2:15 p.m.California fire authorities say Pacific Gas & Electric Co. power lines sparked the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in state history.Cal Fire said Wednesday the lines in the Pulga area ignited the Nov. 8 fire that killed 85 people in Paradise.The investigation also identified a second nearby ignition site involving vegetation and electrical distribution lines, also owned and operated by the San Francisco-based utility.The second fire was quickly consumed by the initial fire.Lynsey Paulo, a spokeswoman for PG&E, did not immediately comment.The fire in Butte County destroyed nearly 15,000 homes.The nation’s largest utility filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January as it faced tens of billions of dollars in potential liability costs related to wildfires in 2017 and 2018.The Associated Press read more

Mississippi’s capital city sues company over water billing

JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi’s capital city is suing the German company it hired to overhaul its water billing system, saying the company orchestrated “massive fraud” and failed to deliver on promises of saving the city $120 million.A lawsuit filed Tuesday by the city of Jackson seeks more than $225 million from Siemens and several black-owned businesses that are subcontractors. That amount would cover the city’s contract costs plus lost water revenue and damage to the city’s credit worthiness.Siemens was hired in 2012, and the $90 million contract was the largest in city history. It called for installation of new water meters, a new billing system and infrastructure work.“This case involves a massive fraud orchestrated by Siemens under the guise of an energy performance contract promising $120 million in guaranteed savings for the city,” says the lawsuit filed in Hinds County Circuit Court. “Siemens committed fraud with respect to who was performing work on the project, what the system would do, and what savings the system would generate.”Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said during a news conference Tuesday that the contract has led to widespread billing problems and thousands of faulty water meters, the Clarion Ledger reported.“Their performance has been woefully inadequate in every aspect of the contract,” Lumumba said of Siemens AG, a German company with U.S. corporate offices in Delaware.Siemens issued a statement Tuesday saying its work on the Jackson water project “has been validated by an independent, third-party review” done by a separate firm hired by the city.“Siemens has gone above and beyond its contractual obligations to help address the city’s well-known challenges, which are complex,” the company’s statement said, according to WLBT-TV . “While Siemens has not yet reviewed the complaint, it is disappointed the city has taken this action and will respond through the appropriate legal channels.”The lawsuit says Siemens “misrepresented its commitment to hire qualified, minority-owned subcontractors” as part of a plan to “provide opportunities for historically-underutilized businesses.”Jackson is a majority-black city, but economic power is still largely held by white-owned banks and businesses.“Instead of abiding by its promise to hire minority-owned businesses to perform 58% of the $90 million contract, Siemens used unqualified, sham subcontractors based on their political connections and influence to carry out a pass-through scheme that ultimately cost the city millions of dollars in inflated costs for an already overpriced water system,” the lawsuit says.For example, the lawsuit says a company owned by a black former state lawmaker, Tom Wallace, was supposed to sell water meters to Siemens for the Jackson project, but the politician’s company bought the meters from another firm and then sold them to Siemens at a higher price, which drove up the city’s expenses.Wallace told the Clarion Ledger on Wednesday that he was involved in more than 100 projects related to the contract, and that he had hired 130 people to work on it. Wallace’s company was tasked with the installation of new water meters, and water plant and sewer line repairs. He said his company performed about 25 to 30 per cent of that work, and contracted out the rest to Hemphill Construction Inc.A spokesman for the Mississippi auditor’s office said he could not comment on whether the office is investigating allegations the city makes in the lawsuit.The lawsuit also says that more than half of the 60,000 water meters were installed incorrectly or did not meet requirements.The Associated Press read more

UN agency honours children for artwork on climate change

31 May 2007Raising awareness of the dangers posed by climate change, the United Nations environment agency has recognized three children for their artistic depictions of the phenomenon. Eleven-year old Charlotte Sullivan of the United Kingdom took first prize in the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) International Children’s Painting Competition for her rendering of the world as an umbrella turned inside out by a powerful storm. Miss Sullivan will be joined by the joint second prize winners – 12-year old Ekaterina Nishchuk of Russia and 13-year old Petkova Polina Zdravkova of Bulgaria – at the main World Environment Day celebrations hosted close to the Arctic circle in the Tromso, Norway. Miss Nishchuk was chosen for her image of a polar bear standing under a hot sun, peeling off its white fur down to its trunks while atop a perilously small, wasted ice-berg. Miss Zdravkova’s painting is of a melting world, apparently dripping tears into the abyss of space. “I would urge political leaders to see the world through the brush, pen strokes and paintings of these gifted children to ensure that these young peoples’ fears are not realized and their hopes fulfilled,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, who will meet the contest’s three global and six regional winners at the Tromso Museum in Norway early next month. The competition, which was organized in cooperation with the Japan-based Foundation for Global Peace and Environment, Bayer AG and the Nikon Corporation, received 14,000 entries from 104 countries this year. read more

Experts prepare for UN conference on global warming

The conference in Bali, Indonesia, from 3 to 14 December seeks to determining future action on mitigation, adaptation, the global carbon market and financing responses to climate change for the period after the expiry of the Kyoto Protocol. That pact, appended to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), contains legally binding emission reduction targets through 2012. “The discussions in Vienna on possible future emission reduction commitments for industrialized countries, and on strengthened implementation of the UNFCCC, can form the main building blocks of a new climate change regime,” UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer said. “What I then hope Bali will agree on is a negotiating agenda over the next two years that will craft an effective, long-term post-2012 regime.” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who will convene a high-level meeting on the issue in New York on 24 September, has said a successor to the Kyoto Protocol must be ready for ratification three years before 2012 to allow time for countries to ratify it. The Vienna meeting from 27 to 31 August – the fourth ‘Workshop under the Dialogue on long-term cooperative action to address climate change by enhancing implementation of the Convention and the fourth ‘Session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments – involves all 191 Parties to the UNFCCC. The UNFCCC secretariat will present results from the analysis of existing and planned investment flows and finance schemes relevant to the development of effective and appropriate international response to climate change. “This analysis is significant because traditional investment needs to be redirected to more climate-friendly and climate-proof alternatives. Failure to achieve changes in investment and financial flows for mitigation will lead to higher emissions, more climate change impacts and larger financial needs for adaptation in the future,” Mr. de Boer said. The latest meetings follow a series of UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports showing unequivocal evidence that world is warming, almost certainly due to human activity, with potentially disastrous effects including more extreme temperatures, new wind patterns, worsening drought in some regions and heavier rainfall in others, melting glaciers and Arctic ice, and rising global average sea levels. 14 August 2007One thousand representatives from governments, business and industry, environmental organizations and research institutions will gather in Vienna at the end of this month to set the stage for a major United Nations conference in December on further reducing the greenhouse gases from human activity blamed for global warming. read more

Armenia and Azerbaijan offer views on NagornoKarabakh during UN debate

Taking the floor first, Vartan Oskanian, the Foreign Minister of Armenia, noted that the Assembly’s agenda includes an item on protracted conflicts. “Putting all these conflicts in one pot is inherently flawed. Our own conflict, Nagorno-Karabakh, does not belong there. The UN is not the place to address [it] because that issue is being addressed within the OSCE” – the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.“We are negotiating with Azerbaijan and we’re inching towards a resolution,” he said.He said that the process is evolving. “We have a balanced, solid document in our hand which addresses not only the core issue but also the consequential issues, and the two together add up to a reasonable solution.”At the core of the process, he said, “lies the right of people to self-determination.”In a subsequent address to the Assembly, the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mammadyarov, said the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh poses the most serious challenge to the region’s security. “As a result of the conflict, we are still facing the continued occupation by Armenia of a significant part (almost 20 per cent) of the international recognized territories of Azerbaijan,” he said.“We are hosting around 1 million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) who were ethnically cleansed and brutally expelled from their homes of origin in Armenia and in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.”The negotiations being held in the framework of the OSCE “have not yielded any results so far,” he said.“And as the time passes the more difficult it is for us to observe from our side of the line of contact the attempts of the current Armenian leadership to consolidate the results of occupation of our territories, destroy everything associated with the Azerbaijani legacy in these territories and carry out illegal activities thereon,” he said. “The United Nations shall not tolerate such action.” 3 October 2007As the United Nations General Assembly continued its high-level debate today, the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan expressed their views on the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. read more

UN should extend peacekeeping mission in DR Congo for a year –

In a new report to the Security Council, Mr. Ban paints a mixed picture of progress in the DRC, which has shown signs of good governance and stability but still faces long-standing security challenges in its volatile eastern region.In the east’s North Kivu province, clashes have increased between elements loyal to renegade commander Laurent Nkunda and Government troops, known as FARDC, Mayi-Mayi groups and other armed militias, including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). North and South Kivu host the majority of DRC’s 1.2 million displaced persons, according to the report.“In addition to precipitating a humanitarian crisis, the fighting in North Kivu has raised serious human rights concerns,” the Secretary-General writes. These include confirmed reports of mass graves and continuing evidence of the recruitment of children into armed groups. Mr. Ban notes that the rule of law and respect for human rights, “in particular by security services,” must be strengthened. He emphasizes the need to fight impunity within the security services and calls on the Government to take advantage of the assistance offered by MONUC and other international partners to ensure justice for crimes and rights abuses.The many challenges facing the country require the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) “to maintain a robust capacity in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and a continued police, rule of law, human rights, political and civil affairs presence throughout the country.”The Secretary-General recommends renewing MONUC’s mandate for one year with the current level of uniformed personnel – now nearly 18,400 troops and police, in addition to a full complement of civilian staff – at least until the end of local elections expected to be held in the second half of 2008.A gradual drawdown of the mission’s strength would be subject to progress towards broad benchmarks, including the successful completion of the local elections “and, most importantly, towards ensuring the security of the population.”At the same time, the report points out that the problems in the eastern DRC must be addressed through a regional approach. Mr. Ban has designated Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Haile Menkerios to address the issue, in close coordination with the top UN envoy to the DRC, William Lacy Swing. 20 November 2007Citing ongoing security challenges in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has recommended extending the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping operation in the vast country for one more year, suggesting that a drawdown could commence following the holding of local elections. read more