Sunday, September 01, 2013

Moroccan News Briefs #103

Morocco urges political solution to Syrian crisis

The Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday stressed that the ultimate solution to the Syrian crisis should be a political one achieved through a serious and comprehensive dialogue.

In a statement, the ministry urged all parties to prepare well "for the Geneva conference," an international peace conference on Syria that has been postponed multiple times.

Meanwhile, it condemned "the despicable massacre" in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, an alleged chemical attack on Aug. 21 that activists say killed over 1,300 people.

The statement said Morocco will continue its consultations with the Arab League to form an appropriate position on the matter.

Morocco has followed closely the developments in Syria after the Ghouta attack and holds the Syrian government responsible for its consequences.

Morocco's embattled Islamists suffer a loss of support

Guillaume Klein writing for AFP says that less than two years after sweeping to power, Morocco's ruling Islamists look increasingly isolated, abandoned by their main coalition ally, criticised by the king and with similar movements challenged.

Abdelilah Benkirane 
The Party of Justice and Development shot to power for the first time after triumphing in 2011 parliamentary polls that followed the Arab Spring protests sweeping the country, bringing hopes of change.But the party's leader, Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, has struggled to end a political crisis triggered by the nationalist Istiqlal Party's withdrawal from the coalition last month.

"There are many indications that the fall of the government is only a question of time," said the Arabic daily Akhbar al-Youm. While Istiqlal had made its intentions known as far back as May, accusing the PJD of failing to shore up the economy and solve pressing social problems, the crisis became a reality when five of its ministers resigned in July.

Benkirane has since been locked in negotiations to replace them and avoid early elections, notably with the National Rally of Independents, a party that opposed the government programme adopted last year, making it an awkward ally for the Islamists. "Politics is the art of the possible, and our conflict with this party could not last forever," Benkirane told young members of the PJD on Sunday, asking that they support his decisions.

A source close to the negotiations said they could be concluded by mid-September.

Communications minister and PJD stalwart Mustapha Khalfi insists the political crisis has not undermined the government's programme.But the Islamist-led coalition has faced a barrage of criticism, especially for failing to push through much-needed social reforms, notably on costly pensions and subsidies, and to fix its ailing public finances.

Charges against the PJD echo criticism of other Islamist movements in the region empowered by Arab Spring uprisings, notably Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, whose Mohamed Morsi was deposed as president in a military coup last month, and Tunisia's Ennahda party.

Hundreds of pilgrims in Morocco celebrate life of famous Rabbi

Hundreds of Jewish pilgrims visited Morocco to pray on the grave of Rabbi Haim Pinto on the anniversary of his death.

The annual, four-day celebration, or Hiloula, of Pinto’s legacy, which ended Sunday, attracted nearly 1,500 pilgrims to the coastal city of Essaouira in Western Morocco.

The tomb of Pinto, a venerated rabbinical judge who died in 1845, has for decades attracted many Jewish pilgrims on and around the 26th of Elul (September 28), the date of his death on the Jewish calendar. This year’s event was attended by Andre Azoulay, a Moroccan Jew and one of the advisors to King Mohammed VI, and the governor for the Province of Essaouira, Abdelouahab El Jabri.

The mausoleum in Essaouira

Rabbi David Pinto from Paris, a descendant of Rabbi Haim Pinto, with many followers in Israel and France, thanked local authorities in his speech for facilitating the celebration. El Jabri was quoted as pledging his country’s support for promoting a dialogue between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East and beyond.

In April, the Jewish Museum of Casablanca reopened following a major renovation funded by the Moroccan government. The renovation was part of a broad effort led by Morocco’s king to restore Jewish heritage sites in the country, including an ancient synagogue in Fez and dozens of former Jewish schools.

Scorpions kill 13 in Morocco in the first half of 2013

In 2013, the Moroccan Center of Pharmacovigilance and Anti-Intoxication (CAPM), which is affiliated to the Ministry of Health, recorded 2,900 scorpion stings from January 2013 to July 6, including 13 deaths.

Based on a previous press release by the Ministry of Health, Mr. El Hossein El Ouardi, Minister of Health, had already given the green light to “the national initiative against intoxication induced by venomous animals and insects last June.”

The initiative was launched in collaboration with the provinces of Marrakech and Rehamna, under the slogan, “a multi-sectoral fight against intoxication caused by scorpion stings and snakebites.”

According to the same source, the Ministry of Health affirmed that after launching the first national initiative against intoxication, the number of deaths caused by scorpion stings and snakebites decreased significantly, shrinking from 400 deaths yearly to only 50 deaths, recorded over the last 5 years.

The CAPM recorded 13 deaths caused by scorpion stings this year, compared to 65 deaths last year.

The Ministry of Health also substantiated all inaccurate data and misinformation about scorpion stings in Morocco, one of which is that the use of serum is still a key medical element in healing scorpion stings.

The Ministry affirmed that Moroccan health centres no longer use anti-intoxication serums simply because they proved ineffective. Medical rehabilitation is the only effective way to save a person stung by a scorpion.

According to the same source, the Ministry also ensured to provide all health centres with materials and facilities necessary for the medical rehabilitation of intoxicated patients, as well as train medical staff on how to deal with such cases.

According to online Jeune Afrique, there are over 50 species of scorpions in Morocco, among which 22 are extremely venomous and dangerous. Marrakech is one of the regions where most scorpion stings are recorded.

The alarming number of scorpion stings and deaths are a result of the Kingdom’s climatic characteristics, which are scorpion-friendly in most regions, as well as Morocco’s diversity in scorpion species.

Scorpions are very adaptive and enduring arthropods that can live with very little oxygen and feed on a single insect a year. Though they are typically found in deserts and very dry locations, scorpions are also attracted to urban habitats with scorpion-friendly conditions. (Morocco World News)

Food for thought...

On her daily bus trip an old lady always gave Mustapha, the bus conductor, peanuts to eat.

Mustapha always accepted but after several weeks finally had to ask, "Jazallalah, sister, its so kind of you, that you give me those nuts to eat every day. But, tell me, why don't you eat them yourself?"

"I don't have teeth to munch them," the old lady said and smiled a smile that showed her toothless gums.

"So why did you buy them?" Mustapha asked.

The old lady smiled again. "I just love sucking off the chocolate around them."

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