Islamist moderates win most seats in Moroccan vote


Demonstrators have a great time calling for people to boycott the elections
Daylife/Getty Images unsed by permission

Morocco’s moderate Islamist PJD party won the most seats in the country’s parliamentary election, final results showed Sunday, in the latest sign of a resurgence of faith-based movements since the Arab Spring uprisings.

The victory for Morocco’s Justice and Development Party came a month after Tunisia handed power to a previously-banned party of moderate Islamists. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is also expected to do well in an election starting Monday.

PJD, which will get its first chance to head a coalition government, has said it will promote Islamic finance but steer clear of imposing a strict moral code on a country that depends on tourism.

The party…is loyal to the monarchy and backs its role as the supreme religious authority in the country.

PJD won 107 seats in the 395-seat parliament, according to results from the interior ministry carried by the official MAP news agency. Three parties from the secularist Koutla bloc, with which the PJD wants to form a coalition, won a total 117 seats, the results showed.

Koutla includes the Istiqlal Party, of outgoing Prime Minister Abbas Al Fassi, Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) and Socialism and Progress Party (PPS). The three parties won 60, 39 and 18 seats respectively. Istiqlal headed the incumbent coalition.

Ruler King Mohammed is expected to pick a prime minister from PJD’s ranks next week, with its secretary general Abdelilah Benkirane touted for the job.

PJD’s rivals, a grouping of eight liberal parties with close ties to the royal palace, lagged behind with about 160 seats in total, according to the final results…

The moderate Islamists’ strong showing came on the back of its promises for greater democracy, less corruption and to tackle acute social inequalities by raising minimum wages and reforming education. Youth unemployment is at 31 percent and nearly a quarter of the 33 million population live in severe poverty.

Students and anarchists rarely comprehend that the hard work of building a revolution is only solved by demonstrations – in movies about revolutions. If you can’t convince voters to support you at the polls, you’re left with being a debating society – or a boil on the butt of the body politic.

A key figure in Olympus scandal found hiding in Hong Kong

Reuters found a Japanese banker who is a key figure in the Olympus Corp accounting scandal at a luxury apartment block in Hong Kong on Sunday, where he exploded in anger at finally being tracked down.

Akio Nakagawa’s boutique U.S. investment firm earned a $687 million fee from Olympus for a 2008 deal that made it the biggest advisory payment in history, and which the Japanese camera maker now admits was used to hide investment losses.

The whereabouts of the former PaineWebber banker had been unknown until Sunday. Nakagawa looked startled when a reporter introduced himself outside the building, located in a high-priced area near the financial district on Hong Kong island.

“Get out of here. Get out of here,” Nakagawa yelled in English at the Reuters reporter who approached him. The banker, who appeared in his 60s and was with a middle-aged woman, was walking into the marbled foyer with some grocery bags.

“I don’t want him here,” Nakagawa said, turning to a concierge, when asked to answer questions about the scandal, which has brought the once venerable maker of endoscopes and cameras to its knees.

Nakagawa was tanned, tall and slim. He wore large, dark round glasses and a sky-blue polo shirt and carried two plastic shopping bags with Japanese writing on them.

When asked about the advisory fee, he told the concierge: “Please contact the police…”

It is the first time Nakagawa has been found and asked by the media for his side of the story since former Olympus chief executive Michael Woodford blew the whistle last month on the advisory fee and several other dubious deals…

Sources have told Reuters that Nakagawa had business ties with Olympus stretching back three decades, including his time at PaineWebber in the 1990s when he helped the firm temporarily shuffle securities losses off its books in a practice known as “tobashi” that was common in Japan at the time.

Tobashi roughly translates as “to make fly away.”

Terrific job by James Pomfret and Reuters. I expect business news reporters – even some of the crappola mainstream networks – to be buzzing about this tomorrow morning.

Wonder how many will credit the Reuters crew?

Pakistani woman kills hubby, cooks him into korma


Cookware taken in evidence

Police have arrested a woman in Pakistan on suspicion of murdering her husband, chopping his body to pieces and boiling it in a bid to get rid of the evidence.

Zainab Bibi, 42, allegedly told authorities she killed her husband Ahmad Abbas because he tried to sexually assault her 17-year-old daughter from another marriage.

She told police she sedated her husband by mixing sleeping pills in his tea and strangled him with rope before dismembering him.

Police say they discovered her plot after neighbours complained about a bad smell coming from her home.

The alarm was raised by Bibi’s landlord, Behzad, who lives on the ground floor of the two-storey Green Town house. He was so upset by the bad cooking smells coming from upstairs that he went up to complain.

Police claim that he found Bibi at the stove, cooking a korma with flesh from her husband’s arm and leg – because she believed it was the only way to practically dispose of his body…

“It occurred to me that if I cooked the body in parts with spices and aromatic ingredients that would curb the stench.’

But she insisted she had no plans to eat the resulting dish, or to feed it to others, adding: ‘I had a plan to do away with the cooked stuff by throwing it in a gutter. I would say to people that it had spoiled…’

The rest of Mr Abbas’s body was found in an aluminium trunk on the premise.

You never know when you might need to add extra ingredients to balance out a recipe.

Black Friday sales climbed 6.6% to a record high

Black Friday sales increased 6.6 percent to the largest amount ever as many U.S. consumers unleashed pent-up demand and bought for themselves.

Shoppers spent $11.4 billion yesterday, ShopperTrak said in a statement today. Foot traffic rose 5.1 percent, according to the Chicago-based research firm…

The brisk turnout came as retailers from Gap to Wal-Mart Stores to Toys “R” Us opened their doors earlier than ever.

Many shoppers were rookies who had never before participated in the busiest shopping day of the year, dubbed Black Friday because many retailers are said to become profitable then. As many as 152 million people were expected to shop at stores and websites on Black Friday, up 10 percent from last year, according to the National Retail Federation…

Black Friday arrived with consumer sentiment at levels previously reached during recessions, as a record share of households said this is a bad time to spend, according to the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index. The measure has reached minus 50 or less in nine of the past 10 weeks, an unprecedented performance in its 26-year history.

Even with low confidence, shoppers paid more for goods and unleashed some pent-up demand, said Craig Johnson, president of consulting firm Customer Growth Partners, which is based in New Canaan, Connecticut…

Chains such as Macy’s, Target Corp. and Kohl’s Corp., which all opened at midnight, may have taken revenue from competitors like J.C. Penney that didn’t open until 4 a.m., according Ken Perkins, president of Swampscott, Massachusetts-based Retail Metrics…

The move to turn Black Friday into more than just one day also grew on the Web as online retailers, such as Amazon.com Inc., began advertising “Black Friday” deals well before yesterday. Online sales gained 39 percent on Thanksgiving and 24 percent on Black Friday, according to IBM’s Coremetrics.

Black Friday may illustrate a gap between what consumers tell pollsters and how they actually behave — a trend that has prevailed for much of this year, said Retail Metrics’ Perkins…“A solid Black Friday suggests the rest of the season should be pretty good,” Perkins said. “Those who have jobs have been willing to spend.”

Americans who have jobs have returned to saving in the course of the year. After a couple decades of relying on plastic to close the gap between the quest-for-scarce-goods and declining real income we reached negative savings numbers at the beginning of the recession. Over the course of this year, that number returned to halfway normal – around 5%.

Poisonally, I think folks spent less on credit this season and used debit cards and cash instead of credit cards. We’ll see. Unlike a couple of my favorite news sources and practically every conservative blog founded on Obama-hating I don’t intend to draw conclusions about commerce this season without hard data. Rightwing bloggers plastered the Web with posts about traffic being up on Black Friday and sales failing to match the traffic numbers.

They all were wrong. They counted on ideology and didn’t wait for real numbers.

My hopes – not ideological guesswork – is that folks return to increasing those savings amounts once the holiday season is past. We have a ways to go to return to a more traditional 10%. Meanwhile, China’s new middle class sticks to a savings rate around 40%. They even show up to buy a new car with cash instead of credit! You can guess what Wall Street whizbangs think of that?

Robotic prison wardens to patrol South Korean prison

Robot wardens are about to join the ranks of South Korea’s prison service.

A jail in the eastern city of Pohang plans to run a month-long trial with three of the automatons in March. The machines will monitor inmates for abnormal behaviour. Researchers say they will help reduce the workload for other guards.

South Korea aims to be a world leaders in robotics. Business leaders believe the field has the potential to become a major export industry.

The three 5ft-high robots involved in the prison trial have been developed by the Asian Forum for Corrections, a South Korean group of researchers who specialise in criminality and prison policies…The robots move on four wheels and are equipped with cameras and other sensors that allow them to detect risky behaviour such as violence and suicide.

Prof Lee Baik-Chu, of Kyonggi University, who led the design process, said the robots would alert human guards if they discovered a problem. “As we’re almost done with creating its key operating system, we are now working on refining its details to make it look more friendly to inmates,” the professor told the Yonhap news agency.

There’s a mistake. They should make the robots another couple feet taller and intimidating. I’d add fangs.

Success stories reported by the Korean media include Samsung Techwin’s sale of a robotic surveillance system to Algeria and shipments of the humanoid Hubo robot to six universities in the US…

Within the country English-speaking robotic teaching assistants are already being deployed in some schools to help children to practise their pronunciation.

The Joongang Daily newspaper reported in August that a company called Showbo had begun mass producing a robot that bowed to shop customers and told them about promotions on offer.

Other firms say they hope to start selling robots to help care for the elderly before the end of the decade, and personal assistant robots further down the line.

The government is also building a Robot Land theme park…

I can’t wait until they ask for the right to vote.