Ban Kimoon lauds UN aid agency for efforts to help Palestinian refugees

In his opening remarks at an UNRWA exhibition at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Ban lauded the body’s efforts in education, gender equality and primary health care, among other areas.“Through both times of war and peace, [UNRWA] has assisted millions of Palestinians whose plight remains at the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict,” he said at the opening of an exhibition marking the agency’s work.“Indeed, long before world leaders proclaimed the Millennium Development Goals [MDGs] at the United Nations, UNRWA had quietly been putting those same principles into action – with impressive results,” he added.Characterizing it as an “often underrated and misunderstood UN agency,” the Secretary-General acknowledged that UNRWA has faced criticism, claims of bias and insistence that it is part of the problem and not the solution.“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he stated, stressing the agency’s impartiality, with any bias harboured being towards the peace and welfare of all, including Israelis and Palestinians.Mr. Ban also appealed for more funds to ensure that all Palestinian refugees have their essential and life-saving needs met.Last Friday, he chaired a meeting of the Middle East Quartet, the diplomatic grouping comprising the UN, the European Union, Russia and the United States.The gathering issued a statement voicing its strong support for ongoing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations aimed at reaching a settlement by the end of 2008 that will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state in West Bank and the Gaza Strip and an end to the long-running conflict. 5 May 2008Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today commended the endeavours of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to assist Palestinian refugees, noting that without the agency, the threat to peace and security in the Middle East would be far greater. read more

McDonalds plans Fish MBites new menu items to boost sales in tough

NEW YORK, N.Y. – McDonald’s used the Dollar Menu to help lift its profit in the latest quarter. Now the world’s biggest hamburger chain is turning to a pipeline of new menu items to boost slumping sales, starting with “Fish McBites.”The Oak Brook, Ill.-based company is betting that it will be able to beat back intensifying competition and economic pressures with the lineup, which executives said includes new burgers, chicken entrees and breakfast offerings that are performing well in test markets. The Fish McBites, which will come in three sizes and use the same Alaskan pollock used in the Filet-O-Fish, are set to be launched as a limited-time addition in February.The stepped up offerings come after McDonald’s managed to eke out a higher profit for the October-to-December period with a series of short-term manoeuvrs, such as touting its Dollar Menu, pushing back the two-week availability of its popular McRib to the second half of December when sales comparisons from a year-ago were tougher, and urging franchisees to stay open on Christmas.In November, the company ousted the president of its U.S. business after a key sales figure dropped for the first time in nearly a decade. Without providing details, CEO Don Thompson said Wednesday that the figure is expected to fall again in January.“By no means do we think 2013 is going to be an easy year,” Thompson said in a conference call with analysts. He noted that growth in the restaurant industry has been relatively flat-to-declining around the world, with that trend expected to continue.In addition a more “robust” pipeline of new products, McDonald’s executives said they’ll boost sales by continuing remodeling efforts and extending store hours around the world.Although McDonald’s said it increased its U.S. market share this past year, the chain is facing tougher competition from traditional rivals such as Burger King, Taco Bell and Wendy’s, which have been revamping their menus and posing a bigger threat. In addition, people are increasingly heading to eateries such as Chipotle and Panera that offer higher-quality food for slightly higher prices. To help keep its menu fresh in the face of such competition, McDonald’s has said that it plans to increase the frequency of its limited-time offerings.For the October-to-December period, McDonald’s said sales at restaurants open at least a year rose 0.1 per cent globally and 0.3 per cent in the U.S. But in Europe, McDonald’s biggest market, the figure fell 0.6 per cent as guest counts declined. It fell 1.7 per cent in the region encompassing Asia, the Middle East and Africa.In China, where the figure fell 0.9 per cent, McDonald’s downplayed the effect of recent public concerns over its chicken suppliers. Yum Brands Inc., which owns KFC, has said it expects its sales in the region to fall 6 per cent, in part because of the issue.The figure is an important measure of a restaurant chain’s performance because it strips out the impact of newly opened and closed locations.Howard Penney, a restaurant analyst for Hedgeye Risk Management, questioned McDonald’s recent emphasis on value and noted that operating profit margins fell globally for the quarter. When sales are up but margins are down, that means “you’re giving away food,” he said.Moving forward, however, the company said it didn’t plan to add many items to its Dollar Menu unless they are more profitable items, such as the cheddar grilled onion burger that was introduced in December.McDonald’s Corp., based in Oak Brook, Ill., said it earned $1.4 billion, or $1.38 per share, for the quarter. That compares with $1.38 billion, or $1.33 per share, a year ago.Revenue rose to $6.95 billion, up from $6.82 billion.The results topped expectations for profit of $1.33 per share on revenue of $6.9 billion.In the year ahead, the company expects costs for ingredients to rise 1.5 per cent to 2.5 per cent. Labor costs will also continue pressuring profit margins, executives said.Thompson, who took over as CEO this summer, said the company continues to target total sales growth of 3 per cent to 5 per cent over the long term. McDonald’s plans to open between 1,500 and 1,600 restaurants this year. It currently has about 34,000.___Follow Candice Choi at www.twitter.com/candicechoi by Candice Choi, The Associated Press Posted Jan 23, 2013 4:29 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email McDonald’s plans ‘Fish MBites,’ new menu items to boost sales in tough year ahead read more