Students from Lebanon Syria grab top honours at UNESCObacked school contest

The Lebanon-Syria team beat out over 36,000 students from 140 countries in the 2007-2008 Mondialogo School Contest, which wrapped up last week in Beijing.Nearly 3,000 bi-national teams worked together on joint projects, such as photo essays, collages, music, plays, sculpture and web pages, and the top 25 teams converged in the Chinese capital to discuss the importance of cultural exchange and present their joint projects to the contest jury.“I am heartened by the quality of the competing projects and the increasing success of the Mondialogo initiative, which is promoting cultural diversity by providing a platform for young students around the world to engage in a meaningful intercultural learning experience,” UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said. “The School Contest is putting to practice the ideals on which UNESCO is based.” The Indonesia-Ukraine team came in second, with Germany-Mexico and Syria-United States sharing third prize, at the awards ceremony on 28 September.The global contest – started by UNESCO and the company Daimler in 2003 – hopes that through intercultural projects, students can foster understanding, solidarity, tolerance and respect for people of different cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds.The Mondialogo initiative, which counts Brazilian author Paulo Coelho and Swedish writer Henning Mankell among its Ambassadors, also includes the Engineering Award, the world’s first prizes aimed specifically at young engineers from developed and developing countries. 30 September 2008A team of students from Lebanon and Syria has taken first place in the largest global contest for students, backed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which seeks to foster dialogue between children from different cultural backgrounds. read more

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Loonie lower despite job gains

The Canadian dollar was lower Friday despite a better than expected reading on employment as traders avoided riskier assets going into the weekend.The loonie was off the worst levels of the session but still down 0.42 a cent to 96.87 cents US after Statistics Canada reported the economy created about 7,700 jobs during May, a better showing than the approximately 5,000 jobs that economists expected. Canada’s jobless rate was unchanged at 7.3 per cent.Other data out Friday morning showed that the pace of home construction cooled in May after a strong showing in April. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said the May figure of 19,264 estimated actual starts was more in line with the pace of the previous six months. On a seasonally adjusted annual basis, May starts hit 211,400 compared with 243,800 in April.The agency also reported that Canada posted a trade deficit of $367 million in April, down from a surplus of $152 million in March. The deficit reflected a sharp 5.8 per cent drop in exports of industrial goods and materials.Meanwhile, traders looked ahead to the latest trade and industrial data from China later Friday that might be even weaker than pessimistic forecasts expected.China has rolled out a series of measures to stimulate the economy after growth fell to a nearly three-year low of 8.1 per cent in the first quarter and April factory output grew at its slowest rate since the 2008 crisis. Private sector analysts expect this quarter’s growth to fall further as the Chinese government worked to bring inflation down from unacceptable levels.On Thursday, the Chinese central bank announced it was cutting a key rate by 0.25 of a point to help boost growth.Europe was also sharply in focus as the government debt crisis has now infected Spain and its banks, which are laden with billions of euros of toxic loans as a result of the collapsed housing sector.Expectations are rising that Spain’s leaders will have to seek an international bailout for banks, which credit agency Fitch estimates could reach C100 billion. According to unconfirmed reports in Reuters, Spain is set to request an aid package for banks on Saturday.However, Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said Friday the government will not act until receiving evaluations from the IMF on Monday and then two independent auditors Spain has hired. The economy ministry said on its website the latter are expected by June 21 at the latest.Ratings agency Fitch cut the Spanish sovereign debt rating to BBB late Thursday, which is two notches above ’junk’.U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke disappointed investors, saying that there would no immediate action to jump start the world’s largest economy.In an appearance before members of the U.S. Congress, Bernanke avoided giving any signals about what the Fed might do in response to a slowdown in hiring.Commodity prices were sharply lower as the U.S. dollar strengthened and markets weighed demand prospects from a slowing global economy.A stronger greenback usually helps depress commodity prices, which are denominated in dollars, as it makes oil and metals more expensive for holders of other currencies.The July crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell $2.02 to US$82.80 a barrel.The July copper contract declined eight cents to US$3.29 a pound while August bullion dropped $3.50 to US$1,584.60 an ounce. read more

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