Woman driver released on bail over A19 death crash

 woman driver arrested in connection with a fatal crash in North Yorkshire has been released on bail.

The 28-year-old was arrested after a 24-year-old man was killed after getting out of a car on the A19 on the outskirts of Northallerton on Tuesday.
The man was a Romanian national who had been visiting friends in Stockton-on-Tees over Christmas, police said.
Police have revealed another man killed in a separate crash on the A1 on Wednesday was from Sunderland.
The man, in his 50s, had stopped his car on the southbound carriageway of the A1 near Allerton Park when he was hit by a lorry.
The lorry driver was arrested in connection with the collision.
North Yorkshire Police are appealing for witnesses to both crashes to contact them.

Florida to lose 11 Sears or Kmart stores; Ohio, Michigan and Georgia will lose 6


HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — Florida will be hit the hardest by the closing of Sears and Kmart stores, losing 11, according to a preliminary list of 79 planned closures released Thursday.
Ohio, Michigan and Georgia are not far behind with six store closures planned in their states. Tennessee, North Carolina and Minnesota are set to lose four stores each.
A spokeswoman for Sears Holding Corp. said each store employs between 40 and 80 people.
None of the closures announced so far are in Sears’ home state of Illinois.
The 125-year-old retailer said on Tuesday it would close up to 120 stores to raise cash.
The projected closings represent only about 3 percent of Sears Holdings’ U.S. stores. Sears and Kmart merged in 2005. The company now has about 3,560 stores in the U.S. That’s up from 3,500 immediately after the merger.
Here is the list of closures announced so far http://www.searsmedia.com/tools/122711_close.pdf :
— Alabama (3): Sears in Mobile; Kmart in Auburn and Gadsden.
— California (3): Sears in El Monte and San Diego (2).
— Colorado (3): Sears in Longmont; Kmart in Broomfield and Glenwood Springs.
— Florida (11): Sears in Crystal River, Deland, Port St. Lucie, Stuart, West Palm Beach; Kmart in Callaway, Fernandina Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Orange City, Pompano Beach and St. Augustine.
— Georgia (6): Sears in Macon; Kmart in Atlanta, Buford, Columbus, Douglasville and Jonesboro.
— Idaho (1): Sears in Lewiston.
— Indiana (3): Sears in Anderson; Kmart in Indianapolis and St. John.
— Iowa (2): Kmart in Cedar Rapids and Davenport.
— Kansas (1): Sears in Lawrence.
— Kentucky (3): Sears in Middleboro; Kmart in Hazard and Winchester.
— Maryland (1): Sears in Ellicott City.
— Michigan (6): Sears in Adrian, Brighton, Chesterfield Township, Harper Woods, Monroe and Washington Township.
— Minnesota (4): Kmart in Duluth, New Hope, White Bear Lake and Willmar.
— Mississippi (3): Sears in Columbus, Jackson and McComb.
— Missouri (2): Sears in Lee’s Summit and St. Louis.
— New Hampshire (2): Sears in Keene and Nashua.
— North Carolina (4): Sears in High Point, Morehead City, Rocky Mount and Statesville.
— Ohio (6): Kmart in Chagrin Falls, Columbus, Medina, Springfield and Toledo (2).
— Oregon (1): Sears in Roseburg.
— Pennsylvania (2): Sears in Pottstown and Upper Darby.
— South Carolina (1): Sears in Sumter.
— Tennessee (4): Sears in Antioch, Cleveland, Oak Ridge; Kmart in Hendersonville.
— Virginia (3): Sears in Norfolk; Kmart in Midlothian and Richmond.
— Washington (2): Sears in Walla Walla; Kmart in Lacey.
— Wisconsin (2): Sears in West Baraboo; Kmart in Rice Lake.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Allentown graves may be exhumed amid water main break, sinkhole; about 25 residents evacuated


ALLENTOWN, Pa. — A sinkhole that forced about 25 people to evacuate their homes Thursday spread to a nearby cemetery, threatening dozens of graves, authorities said.

A Lehigh County judge granted Coroner Scott Grim the right to determine if the graves should be exhumed from the Union and West End Cemetery. No immediate decision was made, Grim said.
Fire Chief Robert Scheirer said that 54 graves were threatened by the approaching water.

Authorities discovered a water main break Thursday morning after a nearby resident’s basement flooded. They did not yet know what happened first, the sinkhole or the water main break. The sinkhole was estimated to be more than 10 feet long and may be growing, authorities said.

No injuries were reported. Five properties had been deemed structurally unsafe, however.

“We had a water main break — it washed out underneath the road completely,” Scheirer told the Morning Call of Allentown. “At this point, we don’t know if the homes will have to be condemned or not.”

Ann Blacker was forced to leave the home where she has lived for nearly three decades. She’s not sure if she’ll be back.

“The firemen told us about the sinkhole that was a half a block away,” Blacker told the newspaper. “We’re afraid we’ll lose our home and everything in it. With sinkholes, you never know how far they will spread. There is just a lot of uncertainty now.”

She plans to stay with her mother. A shelter has been set up at an elementary school to accommodate evacuees who need somewhere to stay.

___

Incandescent light bulb phaseout begins Jan. 1


The nation's light bulbs begin facing new efficiency and labeling standards starting Jan. 1, but don't expect old-fashioned incandescents to suddenly disappear from store shelves.
The congressionally mandated efficiency standards gradually phase out Thomas Edison's 131-year-old creation in favor of other light bulbs that use at least 25% less energy. The first to go, beginning Sunday, is the traditional 100-watt, followed in January 2013 with the 75-watt version and in January 2014 with the 40-watt and 60-watt bulbs.
Yet even Edison's 100-watt bulb will still be available for a while. The bipartisan law mandating the phaseout, which President George W. Bush signed in 2007, says the bulbs can't be manufactured or imported after Jan. 1 but lets stores sell them until stock runs out.
In California, which implemented the efficiency standards a year earlier than the rest of the nation, it took several months for the 100-watt bulbs to exit stores. "We expect the same at the national level," says Noah Horowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.
"We'll still have 100-watt incandescents on our shelf through June," Bill Hamilton of Home Depot predicts, based on the amount of remaining stock.
Major manufacturers and retailers say they'll hew to the efficiency standards even though Congress passed a one-year spending bill earlier this month that bars theDepartment of Energy from spending to enforce them through the end of September 2012.
A major reason, says Jacklyn Pardini of Lowe's, is that "people are looking for more energy-efficient options."
Lighting Science Group, which makes LEDs, says it doubled its revenue from LED sales in the last year and expects "exponential growth next year" regardless of what Congress does, says Jim Haworth, the company's CEO.
Still, the incandescent phaseout worries a third of Americans, who say they prefer traditional bulbs, according to an October survey of 303 adults conducted for lighting company Osram Sylvania. One in eight, or 13%, say they'll stockpile Edison's 100-watt bulbs.
Congress' bill did not address the other part of the lighting standards: labeling. TheFederal Trade Commission, effective Sunday, requires that all newly made or imported bulbs carry labels on the front and back of packages that list brightness (or lumens), estimated yearly cost and life span as well as its color (or light appearance).

Sears, Kmart to close up to 120 stores


Sears Holdings was walloped by Wall Street and Main Street on Tuesday, following news that it would close 100 to 120 of its Sears and Kmart stores in a bid to shore up finances.

Its stock tumbled 27% to $33.38. It's off 83% from an April 2007 high of $195.18.
Critical customers responded to the announcement by griping about messy stores and rude associates on online forums. A report issued Tuesday by Credit Suisse analyst Gary Balter said the company "effectively ask(s) customers to pay for a poorer shopping environment than available at competitors and online."
New sales data show that Sears Holdings stumbled during the all-important holiday shopping period. Comparable-store sales were down 4.4% for Kmart and 6% for Sears for the eight-week period ended onChristmas Day, the company said.
"We can do better than this. We will do better than this," Sears Holding CEO Lou D'Ambrosio said in an internal memo.
In addition to shuttering U.S. stores, the company plans to reduce fixed costs, improve inventory management and have more targeted pricing and promotions.
The iconic Sears and Kmart brands have been under the Sears Holdings umbrella since a 2005 merger. Sears Holdings Chairman Edward Lampert, a well-known financier who orchestrated that union, has taken much public heat about the combined companies' financial troubles.
Columbia Business School professor Mark Cohen— who was CEO of Sears Canada until 2004 — is critical of company management, as well as the pricing strategy and merchandise selection. "There is no retail turnaround that is possible," he says.
Yet, other industry observers aren't ready to count these storied retailers out.
Morningstar analyst Paul Swinand notes that Sears Holdings has well-known brands such as Craftsman tools and Kenmore appliances, and that its online business is strong.
Closing poor-performing stores will make the company "leaner and meaner," says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at retail tracker the NPD Group. "They're getting rid of excess baggage," he says. "This is about preparing for the future. … They are still going to be a big retailer. This is just a dent."

Elly Mae Clampett Barbie doll suit settled


NEW ORLEANS – The actress who played Elly May Clampett on the "The Beverly Hillbillies," toymaker Mattel and CBS Consumer Products have settled a lawsuit in which Donna Douglas claimed the companies didn't get her approval to use her name and likeness for a Barbie doll.
Douglas played the critter-loving tomboy for all nine seasons of the CBS television comedy about a backwoods family that strikes oil and moves to Beverly Hills.
One of her attorneys, Charles von Simson of Buffalo, N.Y., says settlement details are confidential. The U.S. District Court lawsuit filed in Baton Rouge sought at least $75,000.
In earlier filings, CBS (CBS) and Mattel (MAT) said they didn't need Douglas' approval because the network holds exclusive rights to the character.

Verizon: $2 per online, phone credit card bill payment


NEW YORK (AP) – Verizon Wireless, the country's largest cellphone company, said Thursday that it will start charging $2 for every payment subscribers make over the phone or online with their credit cards
The company said this "convenience fee" will be introduced Jan. 15.
The fee won't apply to electronic check payments or to automatic credit card payments set up through Verizon's AutoPay system. Paying by credit card in a Verizon store will also be free, as will mailing a check.
Other carriers have tried to get subscribers to move to automatic payments through other means. AT&T Inc. offers a $10 gift card for those who set up AutoPay. Sprint Nextel Corp. charges subscribers who have caps on the fees they can rack up each month. Those people are charged $5 monthly unless they set up automatic payments.
It's not uncommon for utilities, universities and even state tax departments to charge convenience fees for online payments. Each credit-card payment comes with fees that the companies can avoid by getting electronic checks instead. Automatic payments mean less trouble for companies in going after late payments.
Verizon Communications Inc., the landline phone company that owns most of Verizon Wireless, tried last year to introduce a $3.50 fee for people who paid their bill for FiOS TV or Internet service month-to-month by credit card. It backed off after complaints.
Verizon Wireless serves 91 million phones and other devices on accounts that pay the company directly, and more who pay indirectly through other companies.

Sears, Kmart parent releases partial list of store closings


Sears Holdings on Thursday released a partial list of Sears and Kmart stores that the company will close, two days after announcing that an unspecified 100 to 120 stores would be shut.
The list released Thursday contains 79 stores. Company stock was walloped when the news broke on Tuesday, tumbling 27%, off 83% from an April 2007 high of $195.18.
Company stock (SHLD) closed down 1.3% for the day Thursday.
Sears Holdings has not said how many layoffs would be caused in closing the stores. Each store to be closed typically employs between 40 and 80 people, according to the company.

Company to close at least 100 Sears, Kmart stores

NEW YORK (AP) -- After a disastrous holiday shopping season, the parent company of Sears and Kmart will close at least 100 stores to raise cash — a move that sparked speculation about whether the 125-year-old retailer can avoid a death spiral fed by declining sales and deteriorating stores.
Sears Holdings Corp., a pillar of American retailing that famously began with a mail-order catalog in the 1880s, declared Tuesday that it would no longer prop up "marginally performing" locations. The company pledged to refocus its efforts on stores that make money.
Sears' stock quickly plunged, dropping 27 percent.
The closings are the latest and most visible move by Eddie Lampert, the hands-on chairman who has struggled to reverse the company's fortunes.
As rivals Wal-Mart and Target Corp. spruced up stores in recent years, Sears Holdings confronted falling sales and perceptions of dowdy merchandise.
Some analysts wondered if it was already too late, questioning whether the retailer can afford to upgrade stores as it burns through its cash reserves.
The sales weakness "begins and some would argue ends with Sears' reluctance to invest in stores and service," Credit Suisse analyst Gary Balter wrote in a note to clients.
"There's no reason to go to Sears," added New York-based independent retail analyst Brian Sozzi. "It offers a depressing shopping experience and uncompetitive prices."
Spokesman Chris Brathwaite said no one had determined which stores would close or how many jobs might be cut. He disputed doubts about the company's survival, noting it still has $2.9 billion available under its credit lines.
"While our operating performance has not met our expectations, we have significant assets," including inventory, real estate and valuable proprietary brands such as Kenmore and Craftsman, Brathwaite said.
Sears and Kmart were both retail pioneers. Sears' catalog and department stores were fixtures of American life stretching back to the 19th century before being hurt in recent years by competition from steep discounters and by missteps that included forays into financial services and the decision to sell off a lucrative credit card business.
Kmart helped create the discount-store format that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. came to dominate.
Some customers complained that they have a hard time connecting with the Kmart and Sears of today.
Preschool teacher Sara Kriz, picking up hair conditioner at a Kmart on Tuesday in Manhattan, said she used to shop at Kmart often but now goes there only once every few months: "Only when I have to," she said.
"It seems easier to go to Target and Wal-Mart to get the same thing at the same price," Kriz added. "The stores are cleaner, and they're better stocked."
Sears Holdings has watched its cash and short-term investments plummet by nearly half since Jan. 31, from about $1.3 billion to about $700 million.
The projected closings represent only about 3 percent of Sears Holdings' U.S. stores. And the company has actually added stores since the Sears-Kmart merger in 2005. It has about 3,560 stores in the U.S., up from 3,500 right after the merger, thanks to the addition of more small stores.
But the company hinted that more closings could be on the horizon as it focuses on honing the better-performing stores.
The closings announced Tuesday were expected to generate $140 million to $170 million in cash as the company sells those stores' inventory. Selling or subleasing the properties could generate more money.
In addition to the closings, the company announced that revenue at stores open at least a year fell 5.2 percent for the eight weeks ended Dec. 25, a crucial time because of the holiday shopping season.
Kmart's layaway program, meant to help cash-strapped customers buy presents by paying for them a little at a time, faltered as Wal-Mart brought back layaway for the holiday season after getting rid of the program in 2006. Sears stores reported softer sales of home appliances, usually a strength.
The company predicted that fourth-quarter adjusted earnings will be less than half the $933 million reported for the same quarter last year. It also expects a non-cash charge of $1.6 billion to $1.8 billion in the quarter to write off the value of carried-over tax deductions it now doesn't expect to be profitable enough to use.
Part of Sears Holdings' problem is the weak economy that is hurting virtually all retailers that cater to low- and middle-income shoppers, who are being forced to cut back on spending.
But both Lampert and Lou D'Ambrosio, who was named CEO in February, have said the company needs to keep up with the changing retail landscape, where shoppers are going online for convenience and finding better prices on their smartphones even once they're in the store.
Andrew Jassin, co-founder at retail management consultancy Jassin Consulting Group, said his fashion supplier clients that sell to Sears aren't limiting orders, but they're watching to see what steps the company will take next.
"People are generally questioning the survivability long-term," Jassin said.
Hedge fund manager Lampert engineered the combination of Sears and Kmart in 2005, about two years after he helped bring Kmart out of bankruptcy. Skeptics criticized the combination as the marriage of two weak companies that would only hurt each other.
But both stores were once giants.
Sears, which started with a lone Minnesota watch seller in 1886, helped define the mail-order catalog industry, selling shoes, clothes, guns and even ready-to-assemble homes to farmers across the country.
Kmart, which started as a five-and-dime in Detroit in 1899, once commanded a retail empire that included Waldenbooks, Borders, OfficeMax and Sports Authority before spinning them off. A long sales decline and an ill-advised price war against Wal-Mart led to its 2003 bankruptcy filing, which let Lampert gain control of the company.
Analysts and investors were initially enthused by speculation that Lampert was combining the companies to unlock the value of their real estate. But years passed without a big move to do that — and commercial real estate values took a painful hit in the Great Recession.
Lynn Crosbie, shopping at a Sears store in Portland, Ore., said she wasn't surprised by news of the closings.
Crosbie said she goes to Kmart for stocking stuffers and was disappointed this year by messy, understaffed stores.
"The quality has gone downhill," she said, looking around the nearly empty store. "Even the cashiers aren't as happy or friendly."

Japan's industrial output down, unemployment flat

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's industrial output dropped last month — with production, shipments and inventory figures all decreasing — but government forecasters had manufacturing and production looking for a rebound this month and next, officials said Wednesday.
The unemployment rate adjusted for seasonal differences was unchanged in November from the previous month, at 4.5 percent, the government also announced.
Industrial output dropped a seasonally adjusted 2.6 percent in November, according to the Ministry of Economics, Trade and Industry. It was the first decline in two months.
It said industries contributing most to the decrease were transport equipment, information and communication electronics equipment and iron and steel. Large and small passenger cars and cellphones were among the commodities adding to the decline.
The ministry described the data as "flat," and said manufacturing and production were expected to increase 4.8 percent in December and to increase 3.4 percent in January
In other economic data announced Wednesday, the government said the core Consumer Price Index fell 0.2 percent in November from year-earlier figures, its second consecutive monthly fall. The index, which does not include fresh foods, was 99.6 against the 2010 base of 100.
Core CPI for Tokyo in December — considered an indicator of future trends for the entire country — fell 0.3 percent.
In recent years, Japan has wrestled with deflation, or falling prices, which can drag on economic growth.
The ratio of job offers to job seekers was 0.69 in November, an improvement from 0.67 the previous month.
Figures released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs said there were 2.80 million people unemployed in Japan in November.

Asian stocks down on mixed US, Japan economic news

BANGKOK (AP) -- Asian stocks markets fell Wednesday, with trading thinned by year-end holidays and mixed economic news out of the U.S. and Japan.
Benchmark oil remained above $101 per barrel while the dollar strengthened against the euro but fell against the yen.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell marginally to 8,430.32. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 0.7 percent to 18,503.67, while South Korea's Kospi lost 1.1 percent to 1,822.73. Australia's S&P ASX 200 lost 1.2 percent to 4,091.30. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and Indonesia were also lower.
Bucking the trend was the New Zealand NZX 50, which rose 0.7 percent to 3,236.90. Falling between the Christmas holiday and New Year's, trading throughout the region was generally light.
Japan's industrial output dropped a seasonally adjusted 2.6 percent last month — the first decline in two months. But the negative news was mitigated by expectations of rebounding manufacturing and production this month and next, which helped to keep stock market losses minimal.
In mainland China, investors were "dumping shares" because Beijing has failed to take steps they expected to stimulate slowing economic growth, said Peter Lai, investment manager for DBS Vickers in Hong Kong.
"Some investors believed there would be a reduction in interest rates or the bank reserve ratio. But this hasn't happened. That is why people are dumping shares," Lai said.
Lai said some investors are moving money from China to the United States or Europe on hopes for better economic conditions and bigger returns.
The Shanghai Composite Index shed 0.7 percent to 2,151.97. The smaller Shenzhen Composite Index sank 1.8 percent 838.25.
Tokyo Electric Power dropped 12.3 percent, a day after Japanese Industry Minister Yukio Edano suggested that the embattled utility be put under temporary state control and warned the company against resorting to electricity bill hikes.
TEPCO operates the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, which was heavily damaged in the March earthquake and tsunami, and owes massive compensation payments to people and companies harmed by a nuclear disaster at the plant.
Hong Kong-listed property shares also slumped. China Vanke Co. fell 2 percent and China Overseas Land & Investment slid 3 percent.
China Mengniu Dairy, the country's biggest dairy company, plummeted 22.6 percent in Hong Kong after acknowledging that a cancer-causing toxin had been found in milk produced by the company. Mengniu apologized and said no tainted milk had made it to the market. The government blamed the problem on bad feed given to cows.
On Wall Street on Tuesday, the Dow Jones lost less than 0.1 percent to close at 12,291.35. The S&P 500 was up marginally to 1,265.43. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.3 percent to 2,625.20.
U.S. consumer confidence surged to an eight-month high, but home prices fell in 19 of the 20 cities tracked by the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index. That report dampened investors' enthusiasm about a jump in consumer confidence to the highest level since April.
Benchmark crude oil rose 2 cents to $101.36 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.66 to finish at $101.34 per barrel on the Nymex on Tuesday.
In currency trading, the euro fell to $1.3062 from $1.3069 late Tuesday in New York. The euro has been weak because of worries about Europe's government debt crisis. It is still trading just above an 11-month low of $1.2943 reached on Dec. 14.

Is Morocco really ready for a mega mall?


CASABLANCA, Morocco (AP) -- Inaugurated by popstar Jennifer Lopez in front of the cream of Moroccan society, Casablanca's first mega mall, complete with two-story-high aquarium, is dripping with glamour and luxury.
While developers describe it as a step bringing Morocco closer to the ranks of the developed world, detractors worry that it is a vanity project that a country teetering on the edge of an economic crisis can ill afford.
Morocco at first seems a curious choice for what its developers are billing as the biggest mall in Africa. It already has world-renowned traditional bazaars featuring exquisite ceramics and rugs that draw tourists from across the globe.
The North African kingdom of 32 million is home to the largest income inequalities in the Arab world — and now hosts Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Dior and Ralph Lauren boutiques and department store Galeries Lafayette in the new mall, a futuristic, bulbous silver structure perched on Morocco's coast overlooking the crashing waves of the Atlantic.
It is a stark symbol of the contrasts of a country with 8.5 million people in poverty that ranks 130 out of 186 on the U.N.'s human development index, but will still host acts like Shakira and Kanye West for a summer concert series.
The 20-minute coastal drive from downtown Casablanca — Morocco's largest city — to the mall showcases the complexity of the country, with slums hidden from sight by high walls, construction areas for new shopping centers and finally the villas and night clubs of the wealthy.
"It is a great honor for Morocco to have a project of such dimensions," said Salwa Akhannouch, head of the Aksal group and the driving force behind the mall, at its opening this month.
Most Moroccans will not be shopping at the mall.
The country has some of the lowest literacy and highest unemployment rates and the highest income disparity in the Middle East and North Africa, according to the Gini coefficient, a statistical tool used by economists to measure the inequality of distribution in a country. The disparity has been growing every year.
Crowds packed the mall in the weeks after it opened, ambling through sunlit galleries and gazing at the aquarium and the 350 stores on offer. Periodically, colorfully dressed performers, some from as far away as Eastern Europe, would burst into enthusiastic dance routines to the accompaniment of loud drums.
There were few shopping bags in sight, however, and most seemed just curious to finally see this much-talked-about monument to shopping that has been four years and $260 million in the making.
"There is a big gulf between the rich and the poor and the rich just seem to be getting richer and the poor, poorer —the mall is a symbol of that," said Hassan Ali, a 45-year-old shopkeeper selling handtooled leather jackets in Casablanca's modest old quarter.
Tourism is a vital part of the mall's plan, according to its secretary general, Jenane Laghrar, who anticipates 20 percent of its estimated 12 million annual visitors will come from abroad. She said sales for the first week were on target.
"When you enter the mall, you see Gucci and Dior, but don't forget you have the largest content in Africa — at the same time you have more affordable brands," she said.
There is also an aspiring middle class that wants to be able to buy these luxury products, she added.
The hope is also that European tourists will add to their usual itinerary of beaches and the exotic cities of Fez and Marrakech, a trip to Casablanca — and the mall.
Laghrar said they are especially hoping to attract visitors from the rest of Africa who pass through Casablanca airport on their way to Europe.
For now, however, visitors from Africa make up less than 5 percent of Morocco's tourists, with the vast majority still from Europe.
This could well be a problem as the European continent sinks into crisis, said economist Najib Akesbi, and in fact Europe's woes pose a dilemma for the Moroccan economy as a whole, which is deeply intertwined with its neighbors across the Mediterranean.
Morocco's main sources of hard currency, including foreign investment, tourism and remittances from its workers abroad, overwhelmingly come from Europe. On Dec. 20, the government reduced growth projections for 2012 by half a percentage point in response to Europe's crisis.
"The world is entering a period of crisis, the next four or five years are not going to be years of prosperity," warned Akesbi, who teaches at the Hassan II Institute for Agronomy in the capital Rabat.
For him the Morocco Mall is part of a bet Morocco is making that it can become a kind of Dubai for the western Mediterranean, attracting consumers from across Africa and Europe to make up for weak local demand.
"It is a bit of a fragile model," he said. "The success depends less on durable local demand than betting on foreign demand."
The mall's developers point to Morocco's consistent growth of between 4 and 5 percent for the past few years as a sign that the economy can support this kind of luxury shopping.
Those growth figures, however, are not producing jobs, and unemployment overall is at least 8 percent, while for those under 34 it is a staggering 30 percent.
Pro-democracy demonstrations that rose up in Morocco earlier this year have faded away, but there are still regular protests by the millions of unemployed university graduates across the country, frustrated at their prospects.
Investment has not been in sectors like industry that produce a lot of jobs, rather in retail, services and infrastructure that have not been creating the employment the nation needs, said Akesbi.
And the economy is still at the whim of the annual agricultural harvest. Part of the reason for the country's steady growth recently has been good weather.
"Here we are in 2011 and the economy is still largely determined by the sky," said Akesbi. Even though only 25 percent of the economy relies on agriculture, it employs 40 percent of the work force and a bad harvest can hurt other sectors.
The government budget is also dangerously overstretched, after it increased food subsidies and raise government salaries in a bid to stave off the anti-government unrest sweeping the Arab world.
The Morocco Mall project was conceived in the headier days of the mid-2000s when it was decided that what the country needed was more shopping centers.
While Europe falters, the wealthy oil states of the Gulf are playing a role in building a more consumerist Morocco.
Half the funding for Morocco Mall comes from the Saudi Al-Jedaie Group which has built malls across Saudi Arabia and two new initiatives looks set to shower Morocco with Gulf money.