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Background Note: Mauritius

News4u-Travel Desk- These facts & figures have been forwarded by The U S Department of States for general information..

PROFILE

Geography
Area: 2,040 sq. km. (787 sq. mi.); 500 miles east of Madagascar, in the Indian Ocean.
Dependencies: Rodrigues Island, the Agalega Islands and Cargados Carajos Shoals; Mauritius also claims sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago, part of the British Indian Ocean Territory, where U.S. Naval Support Facility at Diego Garcia is located.
Cities: Capital-Port Louis (pop. 146,319). Other cities-Beau Bassin and Rose Hill (105,377), Vacoas-Phoenix (101,789), Curepipe (82,756), Quatre Bornes (77,145).
Terrain: Volcanic island surrounded by coral reefs. A central plateau is rimmed by mountains.
Climate: Tropical; cyclone season mid-December-April.

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective-Mauritian(s).
Population (July 2009 est.): 1,284,264, including Rodrigues, Agalega, and St. Brandon. Density-622/sq. km.
Avg. annual population growth (2009): 0.776%.
Ethnic groups: Indo-Mauritians 68%, Creoles 27%, Sino-Mauritians 3%, Franco-Mauritians 2%.
Religions: Hindu 48%, Roman Catholic 23.6%, Muslim 16.6%, other Christian 8.6%, other 2.5%.
Languages: Creole (common), French, English (official), Hindi, Urdu, Hakka, Bhojpuri.
Education: Years compulsory-11 (primary school). Attendance (primary school)-virtually universal. Literacy-adult population 84.4%; school population 90%.
Health (2009 est.): Infant mortality rate-12.2/1,000. Life expectancy-male 70.53 yrs., female 77.65 yrs.
Work force (2008 est., 584,000): Construction and industry-30%; trade and tourism-22%; agriculture and fishing-9%; communication-7%; finance-6%; other-25%.

Government
Type: Republic.
Independence: March 12, 1968 (became a republic in 1992).
Constitution: March 12, 1968.
Branches: Executive-president (head of state), prime minister (head of government), Council of Ministers. Legislative-unicameral National Assembly. Judicial-Supreme Court.
Administrative subdivisions: 10.
Major political parties: MSM (Militant Socialist Movement), MMM (Mauritian Militant Movement) and the Social Alliance (made up of several parties, including the Mauritius Labor Party).
Suffrage: Universal over 18.
Defense (2006): 0.3% of GDP.

Economy
GDP (2009 est., official exchange rate): $9.156 billion.
Real growth rate (2009 est.): 2.1%.
Per capita income (2009 est., purchasing power parity): $12,400.
Avg. inflation rate (2009 est.): 3.4%.
Natural resources: None.
Agriculture (4.5% of GDP): Products-sugar, sugar derivatives, tea, tobacco, vegetables, fruits, flowers, cattle and fishing.
Manufacturing, including export processing zone (19.4% of GDP): Types-labor-intensive goods for export, including textiles and clothing, watches and clocks, jewelry, optical goods, toys and games, and cut flowers.
Tourism sector (8.7% of GDP): Main countries of origin-France, including nearby French island Reunion, South Africa, and west European countries.
Financial services: 10.9% of GDP.
Trade: Exports (2009 est.)-$2.055 billion f.o.b.: textiles and clothing, sugar, canned tuna, molasses, watches and clocks, jewelry, optical goods, travel goods and handbags, toys and games, and flowers. Major markets-Europe and the U.S. Imports (2009 est.)-$3.552 billion f.o.b.: manufactured goods, capital equipment, foodstuffs, petroleum products, chemicals, meat, dairy products, fish, wheat, rice, wheat flour, vegetable oil, iron and steel, cement, fertilizers, and textile industry raw materials. Major suppliers-India, France, South Africa, China, Japan, Spain, Italy, Germany, Malaysia, and Thailand.
Fiscal year: July 1-June 30.

HISTORY
While Arab and Malay sailors knew of Mauritius as early as the 10th century AD and Portuguese sailors first visited in the 16th century, the island remained uninhabited until colonized in 1638 by the Dutch. Mauritius was populated over the next few centuries by waves of traders, planters and their slaves, indentured laborers, merchants, and artisans. The island was named in honor of Prince Maurice of Nassau by the Dutch, who abandoned the colony in 1710.

The French claimed Mauritius in 1715 and renamed it Ile de France. It became a prosperous colony under the French East India Company. The French Government took control in 1767, and the island served as a naval and privateer base during the Napoleonic wars. In 1810, Mauritius was captured by the British, whose possession of the island was confirmed 4 years later by the Treaty of Paris. French institutions, including the Napoleonic code of law, were maintained. The French language is still used more widely than English.

Mauritian Creoles trace their origins to the plantation owners and slaves who were brought to work the sugar fields. Indo-Mauritians are descended from Indian immigrants who arrived in the 19th century to work as indentured laborers after slavery was abolished in 1835. Included in the Indo-Mauritian community are Muslims (about 17% of the population) from the Indian subcontinent.

Franco-Mauritians still control most of the large sugar estates and are active in business and banking. As the Indian population became numerically dominant and the voting franchise was extended, political power shifted from the Franco-Mauritians and their Creole allies to the Indo-Mauritian Hindus.

Elections in 1947 for the newly created Legislative Assembly marked Mauritius’ first steps toward self-rule. An independence campaign gained momentum after 1961, when the British agreed to permit additional self-government and eventual independence. A coalition composed of the Mauritian Labor Party (MLP), the Muslim Committee of Action (CAM), and the Independent Forward Bloc (IFB)-a traditionalist Hindu party-won a majority in the 1967 Legislative Assembly election, despite opposition from Franco-Mauritian and Creole supporters of Gaetan Duval’s Mauritian Social Democratic Party (PMSD). The contest was interpreted locally as a referendum on independence. Following a period of communal strife, brought under control with assistance from British troops, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, MLP leader and chief minister in the colonial government, became the first prime minister at independence, on March 12, 1968.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Mauritian politics are vibrant and characterized by coalition and alliance building. All parties are centrist and reflect a national consensus that supports democratic politics and a relatively open economy with a strong private sector. Parliamentary elections were last held in May 2010. The next elections will be held in 2015.

Alone or in coalition, the Mauritian Labor Party (MLP) ruled from 1947 through 1982 and returned to power in 1995. The Mauritian Militant Movement/Mauritian Socialist Party (MMM/PSM) alliance won the 1982 election. In 1983, defectors from the MMM joined with the PSM to form the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM) and won a working majority. In July 1990, the MSM realigned with the MMM, and in September 1991, national elections won 59 of the 62 directly elected seats in parliament. In December 1995, the MLP returned to power, this time in coalition with the MMM. Labor’s Navinchandra Ramgoolam, son of the country’s first prime minister, became prime minister himself. Ramgoolam dismissed his MMM coalition partners in mid-1997, leaving Labor in power except for several small parties allied with it. Elections in September 2000 saw the re-emergence of the MSM-MMM as a winning alliance, as the coalition garnered 51.7% of the vote, and Sir Anerood Jugnauth once again became the prime minister with the caveat that mid-term, the leader of the MMM party would take over as prime minister. In September 2003, in keeping with the campaign promise which forged the coalition, Jugnauth stepped down from office and Deputy Prime Minister Paul Raymond Berenger became prime minister. One month later, Sir Anerood Jugnauth was sworn in as President of the Republic. Berenger became the first Catholic, Franco-Mauritian to head the government. The move created an historic precedent of having a non-Hindu, non-majority member head the national government. The 2005 parliamentary elections returned Navinchandra Ramgoolam to office as prime minister, and he retained that position following the 2010 elections.

Mauritius became a republic on March 12, 1992. The most immediate result was that a Mauritian-born president became head of state, replacing Queen Elizabeth II. Under the amended constitution, political power remained with parliament. The Council of Ministers (cabinet), responsible for the direction and control of the government, consists of the prime minister (head of government), the leader of the majority party in the legislature, and about 20 ministries.

The unicameral National Assembly has up to 70 deputies. Sixty-two are elected by universal suffrage, and as many as eight “best losers” are chosen from the runners-up by the Electoral Supervisory Commission using a formula designed to give at least minimal representation to minority ethnic communities. Elections are scheduled at least every 5 years.

Mauritian law is an amalgam of French and British legal traditions. The Supreme Court-a chief justice and 18 other judges-is the highest judicial authority. There is an additional right of appeal to the Queen’s Privy Council in London. Local government has nine administrative divisions, with municipal and town councils in urban areas and district and village councils in rural areas. The island of Rodrigues forms the country’s 10th administrative division.

Principal Government Officials
President-Anerood Jugnauth
Vice President-Monique Ohsan Bellepeau
Prime Minister-Navinchandra Ramgoolam
Ambassador to the United States-Somduth Soborun
Ambassador to the United Nations-Milan Jaya Nyamrajsingh Meetarbhan

Mauritius maintains an embassy at 1709 N Street NW, Washington, DC 20036, (tel. 202-244-1491).

ECONOMY
Mauritius has one of the most successful and competitive economies in Africa; 2010 GDP at market prices was estimated at $9.5 billion and per capita income at $7,420, one of the highest in Africa. The economy is based on tourism, textiles, sugar, and financial services. In recent years, information and communication technology, seafood, hospitality and property development, healthcare, renewable energy, and education and training have emerged as important sectors, attracting substantial investment from both local and foreign investors.

Mauritius’s economy suffered at the turn of the millennium as longstanding trade preferences in textiles and sugar-the foundation of its growth strategy-were phased out. In 2005, the government embarked on an economic reform program aimed at opening up the economy, facilitating business, improving the investment climate, and mobilizing foreign direct investment and expertise. These reforms accelerated the rate of growth, reduced unemployment, and sped up the pace of diversification of the economy through the development of new sectors. All of these factors contributed to absorb the shock of the global economic recession as well as the Eurozone crisis and set the stage for Mauritius to resume accelerated growth in 2010. GDP growth is forecast at 4.2% in 2011, compared with 4.1% in 2010.

Mauritius has built its success on a free market economy. According to the 2010 Index of Economic Freedom, developed by the U.S.-based Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal, Mauritius leads Sub-Saharan Africa in economic freedom and is ranked 12th worldwide. The report’s ranking of 183 countries is based on measures of economic openness, regulatory efficiency, rule of law, and competitiveness. For the third consecutive year, the World Bank’s 2011 Doing Business report ranks Mauritius first among African economies (20th worldwide, out of 183 economies in all) in terms of overall ease of doing business. The government’s objective is for Mauritius to rank among the top 10 most investment- and business-friendly locations in the world.

Mauritius has a long tradition of private entrepreneurship, which has led to a strong and dynamic private sector. Firms entering the market will find a robust legal and commercial infrastructure. Mauritius has a well-developed digital infrastructure and offers state-of-the-art telecommunications facilities including international leased lines and high-speed Internet access. Government policy is to act as a facilitator to business, leaving production to the private sector. However, it still controls key utility services, including electricity, water, waste water, postal services, and television broadcasting, directly or through parastatals. The government also controls, through the State Trading Corporation, the import of what it deems to be strategic products such as rice (only non-basmati or other non-luxury rice), wheat flour, petroleum products, and cement.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
Mauritius has strong and friendly relations with the West as well as with India and the countries of southern and eastern Africa. It is a member of the African Union (AU), World Trade Organization (WTO), the Commonwealth, La Francophonie, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Indian Ocean Commission, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the Indian Ocean Rim Association.

Trade, commitment to democracy, colonial and cultural ties, and the country’s small size are driving forces behind Mauritian foreign policy. The country’s political heritage and dependence on Western markets have led to close ties with the European Union and its member states, particularly the United Kingdom and France, which exercises sovereignty over neighboring Reunion.

Considered part of Africa geographically, Mauritius has friendly relations with other African states in the region, particularly South Africa, by far its largest continental trading partner. Mauritian investors have gradually begun entering African markets, such as nearby Madagascar and Mozambique (though the pace of investment in Madagascar has cooled considerably since the 2009 coup d’etat in that country). Mauritius coordinates much of its foreign policy with the Southern African Development Community and the African Union.

Relations with India are strong for both historical and commercial reasons. Foreign embassies in Mauritius include Australia, China, Egypt, France, India, Libya, Madagascar, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

DEFENSE
Mauritius does not have a standing army. All military, police, and security functions are carried out by 10,115 active-duty personnel under the command of the Commissioner of Police. The 8,000-member National Police is responsible for domestic law enforcement. The 1,205-member Special Mobile Force (SMF) and the 738-member National Coast Guard are the only two paramilitary units in Mauritius. Both units are composed of police officers on lengthy rotations to those services.

The SMF is organized as a ground infantry unit and engages extensively in civic works projects. The Coast Guard, led by a detailee from the Indian Navy, has four patrol craft for search-and-rescue missions and surveillance of territorial waters, and 41 small craft for coastal surveillance and search and rescue. The Coast Guard is also equipped with three aircraft (two Dornier and one Defender aircraft). A 90-member police helicopter squadron assists in search-and-rescue operations. There also is a special supporting unit of 387 members trained in riot control.

Military advisers from the United Kingdom and India work with the SMF, the Coast Guard, and the Police Helicopter Unit, and Mauritian police officers are trained in the United Kingdom, India, and France. The United States provides training to Mauritian security officers in such fields as counterterrorism methods, forensics, seamanship, and maritime law enforcement. In May 2010, the U.S. donated three Safeboat Harbor Patrol boats with an estimated value of $1.1 million to the Government of Mauritius.

U.S.-MAURITIAN RELATIONS
Official U.S. representation in Mauritius dates from the end of the 18th century. An American consulate established in 1794 closed in 1911. It was reopened in 1967 and elevated to embassy status upon the country’s independence in 1968. Since 1970, the mission has been directed by a resident U.S. ambassador.

Relations between the United States and Mauritius are cordial and revolve largely around trade. The United States is Mauritius’ third-largest market but ranks 13th in terms of exports to Mauritius. Principal imports from the U.S. include plastic articles, agricultural/construction/industrial machinery and equipment, medical and surgical instruments, precious stones and jewelry, aircraft parts (for Air Mauritius), automatic data processing machines, casino slot machines, outboard motors, books and encyclopedias, and industrial chemicals.

Mauritian exports to the United States include apparel, sugar, non-industrial diamonds, jewelry articles, live animals, sunglasses, processed specialty foods, rum, and cut flowers. Mauritian products that meet the rules of origin are eligible for duty- and quota-free entry into the U.S. market under the African Growth and Opportunity Act. In September 2006, the Governments of Mauritius and the United States signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement to remove impediments and further enhance trade and investment relations between the two countries. Negotiations for a Bilateral Investment Treaty are ongoing.

More than 200 U.S. companies are represented in Mauritius. About 25 have offices in Mauritius, serving the domestic and/or the regional market, mainly in the information technology, textile, fast food, express courier, and financial services sectors. U.S. brands are sold widely. Several U.S. franchises, notably Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, and McDonald’s have been operating for a number of years in Mauritius.

The United States funds a small military assistance program. The embassy also manages development assistance funds, special self-help funds for community groups and nongovernmental organizations, and a democracy and human rights fund.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials (all officers resident in Port Louis, Mauritius except for Defense Attache resident in Madagascar)
Ambassador-Mary Jo Wills
Deputy Chief of Mission-Troy Fitrell
Management Officer-Lisa Derrickson
Public Affairs Officer-Craig White
Consular Officer-vacant
Political-Military Officer-Alice Holder
Economic-Commercial Officer-Albert Kafka
Regional Security Officer-Brian Zartman
Defense Attache-Captain John Ries

The address of the U.S. Embassy in Mauritius is Rogers House, Fourth Floor, John F. Kennedy Street, Port Louis (tel: 230-202-4400; fax: 230-208-9534; E-mail: usembass@intnet.mu).

TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State’s Consular Information Program advises Americans traveling and residing abroad through Country Specific Information, Travel Alerts, and Travel Warnings. Country Specific Information exists for all countries and includes information on entry and exit requirements, currency regulations, health conditions, safety and security, crime, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. Travel Alerts are issued to disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas that pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel to a certain country because the situation is dangerous or unstable.

For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet web site at http://www.travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Alerts, and Travel Warnings can be found. Consular Affairs Publications, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad, are also available at http://www.travel.state.gov. For additional information on international travel, see http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Travel/International.shtml.

The Department of State encourages all U.S. citizens traveling or residing abroad to register via the State Department’s travel registration website or at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Registration will make your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an emergency and will enable you to receive up-to-date information on security conditions.

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or the regular toll line 1-202-501-4444 for callers outside the U.S. and Canada.

The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of State’s single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport information. Telephone: 1-877-4-USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778); TDD/TTY: 1-888-874-7793. Passport information is available 24 hours, 7 days a week. You may speak with a representative Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) and a web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx give the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. The CDC publication “Health Information for International Travel” can be found at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentYellowBook.aspx.

Mauritius

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Slovenia- The Green Tourism leader in Europe

News4u-Travel Desk- Amit- So why is Slovenia pushing green tourism?  Just visiting Slovenia will give you a clue – it’s one of the most forested and green areas in all of Europe.  With its incredible natural beauty and diverse landscape, it’s no wonder that Slovenia pushes the conservation of its land and resources.

In my visit to Slovenia, one of the things I loved about Lake Bled was that there were no motorized vehicles on the lake – no boats, jet skis, or even cruising vessels.  Everything was clean and quiet with pletnas, kayaks, and boats powered by the arms of men (and some women too!).  Near my home, Lake Tahoe is beautiful but even it has motorized boats and jet skis!  Even though Tahoe is beautiful, it made me appreciate the natural beauty of Lake Bled even more!

Yet Slovenia takes green tourism and being environment friendly beyond Lake Bled.  Slovenia pushes forenvironment-friendly hotels as well as the idea of sustainable development through the efforts of environmental, economic, and social efforts.  The Bohinj Park Hotel has even earned the prestigious international Green Globe certificate noted for the highest level of sustainable development.

Slovenia also has a number of programs in place to push green tourism in the country.  There is a Programme of Environmental Upgrading and Modernisation of Slovenian Hotels which seeks to push environmental management and environment-friendly investments.  The Bank of Tourism Potentials of Slovenia even rewards and encourages green models, ideas, and innovations with prizes.

Since 2008, Slovenia has been a leader in the Europe-wide EDEN project – European Destinations of Excellence.  The focus of this project is to highlight areas in Europe which focus on sustainable tourism as it relates to the environment.  The Soca Valley, Solcavkso, and River Kolpa have won for heritage of the environment, protected areas, and water conservation.

Green Slovenia

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Background Note: Holy See

News4u-Travel Desk- These facts and figures have been forwarded vby The U S Department of States for general information

PROFILE

Note: The Holy See is the universal government of the Catholic Church and operates from Vatican City State, a sovereign, independent territory of 0.44 square kilometers (0.17 square miles). The Pope is the ruler of both Vatican City State and the Holy See. The Holy See, as the supreme body of government of the Catholic Church, is a sovereign juridical entity under international law.

Geography and People
Area: Total of 0.44 sq. km. (109 acres).
Population (April 2009): Approximately 800 (citizens and residents).
Ethnic groups: Italian, Swiss, other.
Religion: Catholic.
Languages: Italian, Latin, French, various others.
Literacy: 100%.
Work force: 3,000 lay workers (reside outside the Vatican).

Government
Type: Papacy; ecclesiastical, governmental, and administrative capital of the Catholic Church.
Independence: Sovereign entity since medieval times (Lateran Pacts creating Vatican City State and confirming independence and sovereignty of the Holy See signed with Italy on February 11, 1929).
Suffrage: Voting for new Popes is limited to Cardinals less than 80 years old.

Economy
Budget: Revenues (2009; latest year for which figures are available)-€250 million (approx. $314.4 million); expenditures (2008)-€254 million (approx. $319.6 million).
Industries: Printing; production of coins, medals, postage stamps, a small amount of mosaics, and staff uniforms. This unique, noncommercial economy is also supported financially by contributions (known as Peter’s Pence) from Catholics throughout the world, by worldwide banking and financial activities, the sale of postage stamps and tourist mementos, fees from admissions to museums, and the sale of publications. The incomes and living standards of lay workers are comparable to those of counterparts who work in the city of Rome.

PEOPLE AND HISTORY
The population of Vatican City includes high-ranking Catholic Church officials, priests, women religious, and Swiss Guards. The Vatican’s workforce includes about 3,000 lay (non-clerical) workers who live outside Vatican City State.

The Holy See’s diplomatic history began in the fourth century, but the boundaries of the papacy’s temporal power have shifted over the centuries. From the 8th century through the middle of the 19th century, Popes ruled over the Papal States, which included a broad band of territory across central Italy. In 1860, after prolonged civil and regional unrest, Victor Emmanuel’s army seized the Papal States, leaving only Rome and surrounding coastal regions under papal control.

In 1870, Victor Emmanuel captured Rome itself and declared it the new capital of Italy, ending papal claims to temporal power. Pope Pius IX and his successors disputed the legitimacy of these acts and proclaimed themselves to be “prisoners” in the Vatican. Finally, in 1929, the Italian Government and the Holy See signed three agreements resolving the dispute: a treaty recognizing the independence and sovereignty of the Holy See and creating Vatican City State; a Concordat defining the relations between the government and the church within Italy; and a financial convention providing the Holy See with compensation for its losses in 1870. A revised Concordat, altering the terms of church-state relations, was signed in 1984.

GOVERNMENT AND INSTITUTIONS
The Pope exercises supreme legislative, executive, and judicial power over the Holy See and Vatican City State. Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, was elected on April 19, 2005 and formally inaugurated on April 24.

The term “Holy See” refers to the composite of the authority, jurisdiction, and sovereignty vested in the Pope and his advisers to direct the worldwide Catholic Church. As the “central government” of the Catholic Church, the Holy See has a legal status that allows it to enter into treaties as the juridical equal of a state and to send and receive diplomatic representatives. The Holy See has formal diplomatic relations with 176 nations, including the United States and some predominantly Muslim countries.

Created in 1929 to provide a territorial identity for the Holy See in Rome, Vatican City State is a recognized national territory under international law. The Holy See enters into international agreements and receives and sends diplomatic representatives.

Administration of Vatican City State
The Pope delegates the internal administration of Vatican City State to a Pontifical Commission. Vatican City State Gendarmerie are responsible for security. The Vatican has its own post office, commissary, bank, helicopter airfield, and electrical generating plant. The Vatican also issues its own coins and stamps and has its own Internet domain (.va).

Administration of the Holy See
The Pope exercises his authority through the Roman Curia and the Papal Civil Service. The Roman Curia consists of the Secretariat of State, nine Congregations, three Tribunals, 12 Pontifical Councils, and a complex of offices that administer Church affairs at the highest level. The Secretariat of State, under the Cardinal Secretary of State, directs and coordinates the Curia. On September 15, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone as Secretary of State (a role equivalent to that of prime minister) and appointed Archbishop Dominique Mamberti as Secretary for Relations with States (equivalent to foreign minister).

Among the most active of the major Curial institutions are the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which oversees Church doctrine; the Congregation for Bishops, which coordinates the appointment of bishops worldwide; the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, which oversees all missionary activities; and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which deals with international peace and social issues.

Three tribunals are responsible for judicial power. The Apostolic Penitentiary deals with matters of conscience; the Roman Rota is responsible for appeals, including annulments of marriage; and the Apostolic Signatura is the final court of appeal.

The Prefecture for Economic Affairs coordinates the finances of the Holy See departments and supervises the administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See, an investment fund formed in 1967 from separate funds dating back to the time of the Lateran Pacts. A committee of 15 cardinals, chaired by the Secretary of State, has final oversight authority over all financial matters of the Holy See, including those of the Institute for Works of Religion, the Vatican bank.

The Swiss Guard is a small military force of about 120 Swiss nationals. It shares security responsibilities with the Vatican City State Gendarmerie and falls under the authority of the Secretary of State.

Media and Communications
Vatican Radio, the official radio station, broadcasts in 40 languages to all continents. L’Osservatore Romano is the semi-official newspaper, published daily in Italian, and weekly in English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and French (plus a monthly edition in Polish). There is also a weekly version published in Italian, as well as a weekly version in Malayalam (a language of India). Linked to the Osservatore Romano is a small publishing house, “Tipografia Vaticana.” The Vatican also runs a TV production company that provides a live feed of papal events.

Principal Government Officials

Holy See:
Head of State-Pope Benedict XVI
Secretary of State (Prime Minister)-Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
Deputy Secretary of State (Chief of Staff)-Archbishop Fernando Filoni
Secretary for Relations with States (Foreign Minister)-Archbishop Dominique Mamberti
Apostolic Nuncio (equivalent to Ambassador) to the United States-Archbishop Pietro Sambi

The Holy See maintains an Apostolic Nunciature, the equivalent of an embassy, in the U.S. at 3339 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008, (202) 333-7121, nuntiususa@nuntiususa.org

Vatican City State:
Head of State-Pope Benedict XVI
President of the Vatican City State Commission-Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo

Papal Audiences
Requests for admission to papal audiences are handled by the U.S. Bishops Office for U.S. Visitors to the Vatican. The address is Casa Santa Maria dell’Umilta, Via dell’Umilta 30, 00187, Rome, Italy (tel. 39-06-690-0189), visitorsoffice@pnac.org

FOREIGN RELATIONS
The Holy See conducts active diplomacy. It maintains formal diplomatic relations with 176 nations that are members of the United Nations. The Vatican also has relations with Taiwan, the Cook Islands, and the Sovereign Order of Malta. It has a “special” relationship with the European Union. Seventy-eight of these maintain permanent diplomatic missions accredited to the Holy See and resident in Rome. The rest have missions located outside Italy with dual accreditation. The Holy See maintains 106 permanent diplomatic missions to nation-states. Further, the Holy See has a separate permanent diplomatic mission to the European Union in Brussels. The Holy See also maintains relations of a special nature with the Palestine Liberation Organization and has a delegate to the Arab League in Cairo.

The Holy See is especially active in international organizations. The Holy See is a permanent observer in the following international organizations: United Nations (UN), Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, African Union (AU), World Tourist Organization (WToO), World Trade Organization (WTO), World Health Organization (WHO), World Food Program (WFP), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), United Nations International Drug Control Program (UNDCP), United Nations Center for Human Settlements (UNCHS), Latin Union (LU), International Organization for Migration (IOM), International Labor Organization (ILO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The Holy See is also an observer on an informal basis of the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva (WMO), United Nations Committee of Peaceful Use of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS), International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), International Maritime Organization (IMO), African Asian Legal Consultative Committee (AALCC) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The Holy See is a member of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), International Telecommunication Satellite Organization (ITSO), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), International Grains Council (IGC), International Committee for Military Medicine (ICMM), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). In addition, Vatican City State is a member of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Universal Postal Union (UPU).

In 1971, the Holy See announced the decision to adhere to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in order to “give its moral support to the principles that form the base of the treaty itself.” The Holy See is also a participating state in the OSCE and a guest of honor to the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE.

U.S.-HOLY SEE RELATIONS
The United States maintained consular relations with the Papal States from 1797 to 1870 and diplomatic relations with the Pope, in his capacity as head of the Papal States, from 1848 to 1868, though not at the ambassadorial level. These relations lapsed with the loss of all papal territories in 1870.

From 1870 to 1984, the United States did not have diplomatic relations with the Holy See. Several presidents, however, designated personal envoys to visit the Holy See periodically for discussions of international humanitarian and political issues. Myron C. Taylor was the first of these representatives, serving from 1939 to 1950. Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan also appointed personal envoys to the Pope.

The United States and the Holy See announced the establishment of diplomatic relations on January 10, 1984. On March 7, 1984, the Senate confirmed William A. Wilson as the first U.S. ambassador to the Holy See. Ambassador Wilson had been President Reagan’s personal envoy to the Pope since 1981. The Holy See named Archbishop Pio Laghi as the first Apostolic Nuncio (equivalent to ambassador) of the Holy See to the U.S.

The U.S.-Holy See relationship is best characterized as an active global partnership on a wide range of global issues. There is frequent contact and cooperation between the United States and the Holy See on many important international issues of mutual interest, including human rights and human dignity, inter-religious understanding, peace and nonproliferation, development, and environmental protection.

Holy See priorities for 2011 include freedom of religion and protection of Christian minorities where they are threatened; the re-evangelization of traditionally-Catholic countries in Europe; inter-religious dialogue; aid for developing nations; protection of the environment; peaceful resolution of conflicts, particularly in the Middle East; defense of the traditional family; and nuclear nonproliferation.

Principal U.S. Embassy Official
Ambassador-Miguel H. Diaz

The U.S. Embassy to the Holy See is located in Rome in the Villa Domiziana, Via delle Terme Deciane 26, 00153 Rome, Italy, tel: (396) 4674-3428.

TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State’s Consular Information Program advises Americans traveling and residing abroad through Country Specific Information, Travel Alerts, and Travel Warnings. Country Specific Information exists for all countries and includes information on entry and exit requirements, currency regulations, health conditions, safety and security, crime, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. Travel Alerts are issued to disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas that pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel to a certain country because the situation is dangerous or unstable.

For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet web site at http://www.travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Alerts, and Travel Warnings can be found. Consular Affairs Publications, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad, are also available at http://www.travel.state.gov. For additional information on international travel, see http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Travel/International.shtml.

The Department of State encourages all U.S. citizens traveling or residing abroad to register via the State Department’s travel registration website or at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Registration will make your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an emergency and will enable you to receive up-to-date information on security conditions.

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or the regular toll line 1-202-501-4444 for callers outside the U.S. and Canada.

The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of State’s single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport information. Telephone: 1-877-4-USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778); TDD/TTY: 1-888-874-7793. Passport information is available 24 hours, 7 days a week. You may speak with a representative Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) and a web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx give the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. The CDC publication “Health Information for International Travel” can be found at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentYellowBook.aspx.

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Aamir Khan to pitch in for nutrition campaign

News4u-Entertainment Desk- Bollywood stars - Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar were among the prominent celebrities who cast their votes in the last one hour of polling for the Maharashtra Assembly elections on Tuesday.
Aamir turned up at the polling booth in Bandra west a couple of minutes before 4 pm while Akshay Kumar exercised his franchise at Juhu.
Talking to reporters after casting his vote, Aamir said a candidate should be declared elected only if he has polled 51 per cent of the votes in his constituency.
“This will ensure that the winning candidate represents all sections of the society,” he said.
To a question on the politics around “Marathi” issue, Aamir said he was scared of politicians who use caste and religion to divide the society.
Among the other film personalities who exercised their vote as citizens included Anupam Kher, Zayed Khan, Arshad Warsi, Ranjeet.

News4u-Entertainment Desk- Actor Aamir Khan, who has been earning accolades for highlighting social issues through his TV programme, will soon be seen spreading awareness about the problem of malnutrition as part of a major publicity campaign by the government.

“The Women and Child Development (WCD) ministry has planned a major information, education and communication or IEC campaign against malnutrition with the pro-bono services of film actor Aamir Khan. The campaign will be ready in a month or two,” a senior ministry official told PTI.

The campaign involving Khan, who is doing it for free, would comprise audio, visual as well as print media and also SMSes that would spread the message through mobile phone services.

Officials said the publicity campaign involving the actor was currently under production stage and it would be rolled out in three stages.

“There are people in the country who are not even aware of what constitutes malnutrition, so in the first stage Aamir Khan will be seen explaining and introducing the concept,” the senior official said.

“As the campaign moves ahead, in the second and third stage the actor will convey specific messages as to what the public can do to prevent and remove the problem of malnutrition,” he added.

The official added that while Khan was offering his services for the campaign without any charge, the UNICEF was also providing assistance to the ministry in meeting the production related charges.

The 47-year-old actor’s TV programme Satyamev Jayate which has highlighted issues such as female infanticide, dowry and honour killings has been appreciated by the audience.

Aamir Khan’s association with the WCD ministry’s Malnutrition programme dates back to a couple of years when he had held meeting with the minister Krishna Tirath and had agreed to be a part of the campaign.

Nutrition has been one of the priority areas for the WCD ministry especially after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called the prevalence of high levels of malnutrition a matter of “national shame”.PTI

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Hazare denies rift in Team Anna terms it as ‘media creations’

News4u - News Desk :  Anna Hazare today dismissed as “media creation” the reports about a rift in Team Anna against the backdrop of yoga guru Ramdev snubbing Arvind Kejriwal at a joint rally in Delhi for targeting individual leaders.

“There were no differences over the issue of Ramdev visiting BJP president Nitin Gadkari and the yoga guru’s public disapproval of Kejriwal for naming the ministers in their rally in Delhi on Sunday. There are no problems among us. The media is creating it,” he said.

The yoga guru wanted the speeches to revolve around black money and Lokpal. “He did not want diversion of issues,” Hazare said.

To a query on why India Against Corruption (IAC) was not tagged with the the Mumbai rally organised by the Lokayukta Manch and Bhrashtrachar Virodhi Andolan today, Hazare said all agencies fighting corruption had joined hands with him.

Hazare’s remarks came in the backdrop of a few IAC members complaining that they were not allowed to enter the venue of the press conference.

Targeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the auction of coal blocks during his tenure as Coal Minister, Hazare said there was a “room for suspicion” as he always thought the Prime Minister to be a clean and honest man who has to function under a “remote control”.

“…after going through the CAG papers regarding auction of coal blocks, I realised that there is a room for suspicion. The loss to state exchequer is to the tune of R 2 lakh crore. The Prime Minister may not have directly benefited but the money has gone somewhere. Hence, there should be a probe by a retired judge,” he said.

Replying to a query on why Team Anna is not moving the court on the issue of corruption charges against 15 ministers, including the Prime Minister, Hazare said, “by the time results are out, their tenure will end”.PTI

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US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta meets PM, NSA

News4u-News Desk- Ways to strengthen military relations besides the security situation in the region is understood to have come up for discussion as US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta on Tuesday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and National Security Advisor Shiv shankar Menon.

The American Defence Secretary, who arrived here today, will hold detailed talks with Defence Minister AK Antony at a delegation-level meeting to be held tomorrow.

“During the meeting, the ongoing defence cooperation and regional security situation will figure prominently,” the Defence Ministry said in a release.

The two sides are expected to talk about the security scenario in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the situation after the US troop withdrawal from there in 2014.

China is also expected to figure in the discussions between the two countries, which have been increasing their military cooperation in the recent past.

The Indian side is also expected to take up the issue of denial of dual-use items by the US to the laboratories under the DRDO.

The issue has been discussed earlier at the meetings of the Defence Policy Group also where India has demanded that the definition of dual-use items should be reviewed by the US authorities.

America’s plans and decision to shift a bulk of its naval fleet including as many as six aircraft carriers to the Pacific by 2020 as part of new strategic focus on Asia can also come up for discussion.

The US side is also likely to push India to sign the long-pending agreements such as the CISMOA and LSA but it is believed that New Delhi will not change its position on the agreements.PTI

CIA Director Leon Panetta

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta

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Salman, Hrithik, Rani to add starry glamour to IIFA

News4u-Entertainment Desk- A host of Bollywood stars including Salman Khan, Hrithik Roshan and Rani Mukherjee would to add glamour to the IIFA Weekend this year.

The three-day event beginning on Thursday in the Lion City of Singapore will see a bunch of stars gathering to attend the IIFA World premiere, music and fashion event IIFA Rocks and the main awards gala among other events.

Sources say actors Abhay Deol, Arshad Warsi, Boman Irani, Emraan Hashmi, Farhan Akhtar and Shahid Kapoor will be flying down to Singapore on June 7 for IIFA. So will actresses Bipasha Basu, Dia Mirza, Kalki Koechlin, Neha Dhupia, Parineeti Chopra, Preity Zinta and Vidya Balan.

Ranbir Kapoor, along with his father Rishi and mother Neetu, is expected to arrive on the second day.

The IIFA Weekend is being held between June 7 and 9. The awards night will be hosted by Shahid and Farhan while the Priyanka and Sonakshi are expected to perform.PTI

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Intel launches third generation Core processors

News4u - Business Desk : NEW DELHI: Aiming to enhance users’ computing experience, computer chip-maker Intel today launched its third generation of Core processors, which would process information faster and offer better security features, while consuming lesser power. 

The new chips will also enable computer manufacturers like HP, Asus, HCL Infosystems andToshiba bring out slimmer devices, especially ‘Ultrabooks’ in to the market.

“The next wave of Ultrabook devices, powered by the third generation Intel Core processors are more responsive and offer enhanced security in a choice of designs,” Intel South Asia Managing Director, Sales & Marketing Group, Debjani Ghosh told reporters here.

Meanwhile, Lenovo India today launched IdeaPad U310, U410 Ultrabook and IdeaCentre A720 all-in-one (AIO) PCs based on the new processors, vendors like India’s HCL Infosystems will launch it soon in the coming days.

Intel said the Ultrabook devices based on the new processors be priced Rs 50,000 onwards, but prices would vary depending on the different specifications of devices.

Currently priced between Rs 55,000 and Rs 1 lakh, the new ultrabooks are expected to have added features like increased durability, touchscreen and additional sensors.

“We aim to get the prices down to more mass level till the year-end as we expects volume economics will kick in by then. Plus, competition between the vendors would also influence the prices,” Ghosh said.

Ultrabooks, compared to laptops, are not only slimmer and more stylish, but they are also more responsive, protected and mobile. They offer increased media and graphics performance and a long battery life, she added.

According to analysts, ultrabooks is the next growth category in notebooks segment. Various reports suggest that ultrabooks could contribute more than 40 per cent of notebooks sales globally by 2015 from a mere 2 per cent in 2011.PTI

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I am getting a boost from Army: MS Dhoni

News4u-News Desk-  LEH: Indian cricket team captain and goodwill ambassador of the Indian army, Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Tuesday reached Ladakh as a part of his two-day tour and inaugurated a newly-constructed army ground here.

Dhoni was the chief guest of a friendly cricket match played between the Indian Army team and a team of Ladakhi locals here and inaugurated the army ground, which became the highest cricket ground in the world.

Hundreds of local fans waited outside the cricket venue to get a glimpse of Dhoni but the army did not allowed them to get into the venue and they all had to return with dejected hearts.

Dhoni said he was interested in joining Army before coming to cricket but instead joined Indian railway.

“I am fortunate that now I am able to be a part of Indian Army,” said Dhoni.

“Here I am not to boost Indian army but to see the Jawans serving in such a situation really boosted me further,” he added.

During the tour, Dhoni will also visit Siachen glacier - the highest battleground of the world.

The Indian captain had visited the troops on the Line of Control on Monday. He interacted with officers of the Chinar Corps and also spoke to school children from downtown Srinagar on Monday.PTI

Lt Col Dhoni

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Vidya Balan bares soul on her love affair with Kolkata

News4u - News Desk : Kolkata: ‘Kahaani’ sensation Vidya Balan said she is happy that her love affair with Kolkata continues since she first starred in ‘Bhalo Theko’, her first Bengali film.

Half the reason she agreed to act in Kahaani was because the backdrop of the film was Kolkata, her “favourite city”, Vidya said.

“I was teling Sujoy (director Sujoy Ghosh) the other day that half the reason I did this movie was it had the backdrop of my favourite city and the characters looked so familiar,” Vidya said.

The actress was talking to reporters after being conferred the ‘Prabha Khaitan Purashkar 2012’ by Calcutta Chamber of Commerce recently.

“Right from my first feature film `Bhalo Theko`, to Pradip Sarkar`s `Parineeta` and even the character of Manjalika in `Bhulbhulaiya` - all these characters gave me so much that I feel at times I am a Bengali,” she gushed.

She went on to say that whenever she stepped out of the airport, she felt a strange feeling as if she had all along lived here.

“It appears so familiar to me and I always look forward to meeting some of my old-time Kolkata friends over and over again.”

“My family in fact says this loyalty to Kolkata has probably something to do with past life. I do not know that, but maybe because I keep coming here and my love of Bengali language,” Vidya said.

Continuing with her ode to Kolkata, she said in fact the very second film in her career was Goutam Halder`s Bengali film ‘Bhalo Theko’.

She also professed her admiration for Satyajit Ray and regards Rituparno Ghosh`s films highly.

“I count Rituda as one of my most favourite Bengali director,” she said.

Asked about any other Bengali project after `Bhalo Theko`, she said she had not got any offer recently.

She is next starring in Raj Kumar Gupta`s ‘Ghanchakkar’ opposite Emraan Hashmi. .PTI

 

 Vidya Balan
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