QATAR | Page 8 SPORT | Page 3 Magic Johnson inspires Australia to Test victory INDEX QATAR 2 вЂ“ 10, 32, 33 11 REGION ARAB WORLD 12вЂ“ 14 INTERNATIONAL 15 вЂ“ 29 COMMENT BUSINESS 30, 31 1 вЂ“ 5, 12 вЂ“ 16 CLASSIFIED 6 вЂ“ 12 SPORTS 1 вЂ“ 12 Egyptian President Abdel Fattah alSisi met a special envoy from Qatar yesterday, the latest step in a Saudibrokered effort to end differences, regional news agencies reported. Differences emerged between Cairo and Doha after then army chief Sisi ousted Mohamed Mursi. вЂњEgypt looks forward to a new era that ends past disagreements,вЂќ SisiвЂ™s office said after he met with Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdel Rahman al-Thani, a special envoy of HH the Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. SisiвЂ™s meeting with the Qatari envoy was his first with a Doha representative since becoming president in June. The Qatari envoy was accompanied by a special representative of Saudi King Abdullah. AMERICA | Offbeat ISS crew gets new ratchet вЂ“ over e-mail There may be no corner hardware store at the International Space Station, but that doesnвЂ™t mean the astronauts canвЂ™t get what they need. In a first, the space station crew was able to craft a new tool in space, using their specially designed Zero-G 3D printer and a design e-mailed from the ground. The tool, a ratchet, was designed by Made in Space, the California company that created the 3D printer on board the orbiting space lab. The 3D printer has been used on the space station before, but only for designs that were tested and loaded before it left Earth. This time, the tool was designed and tested on the ground and then e-mailed to the printer, which spit it out in about four hours, the company said in a statement. Qatari LNG may account for 38% export revenue earnings in 2014: Report By Pratap John Chief Business Reporter Q atar, the worldвЂ™s largest liqueп¬Ѓed natural gas exporter, will have around 38% of its exports revenue earnings derived from LNG this year, a new report has shown. With crude oil production settling at around 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) with little scope for expansion, the emphasis is on the countryвЂ™s natural gas reserves (the third largest in the world) to sustain revenues while the country diversiп¬Ѓes, points out Samba Financial Group. The global LNG market looks set to change over the next decade, with Australia and the US harbouring ambitious plans for expansion, Samba said in its latest economic monitor. The two countries are likely to increase exports signiп¬Ѓcantly over the long-term, with BP estimating that Australia will overtake Qatar as the largest LNG exporter by 2019 followed by the US in 2030. вЂњHowever, there are many unknowns, which put a question mark over the viability of some projects still in the pipeline, particularly in Australia where many were approved on the basis of a much higher oil price,вЂќ Samba points out. The last few years have also seen great divergence in the regional price of natural gas, driven by factors including the US shale boom, the European п¬Ѓnancial crisis, and the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Coupled with the recent emergence of new suppliers, this has prompted cus- tomers in Asia (the destination for two thirds of QatarвЂ™s LNG) to seek to modify their long-standing relatively expensive oil-indexed contracts. The IMF has stated that although the US shale gas boom and other factors have not had a material effect on QatarвЂ™s hydrocarbon revenues thus far, there is anecdotal evidence that it is effecting the price negotiations for future LNG contracts. With the increase in both the number and the diversity of suppliers over the coming decade, it seems likely that the LNG market will eventually move to a henry-hub indexed pricing norm rather than the more expensive oil-linked contracts. In fact, some of the latest Australian export contracts have been conп¬Ѓgured on an oil/ henry-hub index hybrid, Samba said. The exact amount of LNG that will be added to the market is uncertain, and the complexities of pricing make it hard to make accurate predictions. вЂњThat said, we expect the changing dynamics will likely lead to prices falling over the next ten years (current Japan spot import price is around 14 mbtu),вЂќ the report noted. However, Samba emphasised Qatar was well placed to adjust to the likely change in the LNG market over the longrun. Any effects should be gradual and manageable due to several factors; 90% of its LNG exports up to 2020 are already committed as part of supply purchase agreements, its exports are well diversiп¬Ѓed geographically and it has the п¬‚exibility to balance regional sales according to demand, it has built-in diversion clauses designed to reduce risks and most importantly it has relatively low costs of production. Vol. XXXV No. 9578 December 21, 2014 Safar 29, 1436 AH www. gulf-times.com 2 Riyals N Korea denies hacking Sony, US stands by its assertion Reuters Seoul/Washington N orth Korea said yesterday US accusations that it was involved in a cyberattack on Sony Pictures were вЂњgroundless slanderвЂќ and that it wanted a joint investigation into the incident with the US. An unnamed spokesman of the NorthвЂ™s foreign ministry said there would be serious consequences if Washington refused to agree to the probe and continued to accuse Pyongyang, according to North Ko- Doha West wastewater and recycling plant. statement. It includes expansion of the secondary biologic treatment and also that of the tertiary treatment, which implements ultra-п¬Ѓltration membranes and the вЂ�SmartrackвЂ™ system, allowing re-use of the treated water to irrigate green spaces, market gardens SUNDAY Qatar National Day celebrations at Katara вЂ“ the Cultural Village on Friday saw the Emiri GuardвЂ™s 14 horses in national costumes enthralling visitors at KataraвЂ™s Corniche and alleyways with an artful display. Page 32 E cal challenges of population growth and protection of resources,вЂќ said Degremont CEO RГ©mi Lantier. To deal with DohaвЂ™s increasing population, Ashghal essentially chose the same technologies that have already been put in place and proven effective, according to the +2.77 +5.10% Horses for celebrations QR890mn expansion works at Doha West treatment plant xpansion works worth around QR890mn will be carried out at the Doha West wastewater and recycling plant. The work will be executed by a consortium consisting of Degremont, a subsidiary of Suez Environnement, and Marubeni Corporation, it is understood. Construction works amounting to nearly QR470mn will be executed by Degremont, according to a company statement. The expansion will help increase the plantвЂ™s treatment capacity by an additional 105,000cu m/day to 280,000cu m/day. Over the term of the contract, the plant will be able to manage wastewater from more than 1.04mn of the countryвЂ™s population. This project follows two contracts signed in 2005 for the design, construction and 10-year operation of a 135,000cu m/day plant, and then in 2011 for its п¬Ѓrst expansion to 175,000cu m/day to serve an estimated population of 650,000. Located 20km west of Doha, the plant has been in operation since March 2010. The expansion, started in 2011, was completed in late 2012, and Suez Environnement will oversee the plantвЂ™s operation until 2020. вЂњWe are proud of AshghalвЂ™s renewed trust for this Doha West plant expansion after having built the two prior ones. This new contract acknowledges our capacity to offer, deliver and then operate efп¬Ѓcient facilities tailored to the lo- 57.13 +124.32 +1.12% in EgyptвЂ™s President Sisi meets Qatari envoy 11,181.65 +26.65 +0.15% d ARAB WORLD | Diplomacy 17,804.80 he R is bl TA 978 A 1 Q since In brief NYMEX Latest Figures GULF TIMES LNG sales to вЂ�sustain revenuesвЂ™ QE pu Ashghal opens East Industrial St to traffic DOW JONES and replenish groundwater. The contract strengthens the presence of Suez Environnement in the country where it also designed and built wastewater treatment facilities for Barwa City (50,000 inhabitants) and Lusail (250,000 inhabitants). reaвЂ™s UN mission and the official KCNA news agency. The US stands by its assertion that Pyongyang was to blame, a White House National Security Council spokesman said yesterday, in response to the remarks. On Friday, President Barack Obama blamed North Korea for the devastating cyberattack, which had led to the Hollywood studio cancelling the imminent release of The Interview, a comedy on the п¬Ѓctional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong -Un. In its п¬Ѓrst substantive response, the isolated North Korea said it could prove it had nothing to do with the hacking attack. вЂњWe propose to conduct a joint investigation with the US in response to groundless slander being perpetrated by the US by mobilising public opinion,вЂќ the North Korean spokesman was cited as saying by KCNA. вЂњIf the US refuses to accept our proposal for a joint investigation and continues to talk about some kind of response by dragging us into the case, it must remember there will be grave consequences,вЂќ the spokesman said. The spokesman was quoted as making similar remarks in a statement issued later by North KoreaвЂ™s UN mission. Pages 17 and 19 2 Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 QATAR Tanzanian PM arrives in Doha HE the Minister of Environment Ahmed Amer Mohamed al-Humaidi receiving the Prime Minister of Tanzania Mizengo Kayanza Peter Pinda at Hamad International Airport in Doha yesterday. Commercial Bank launches mobile POS C ommercial Bank has announced the launch of mPOS (mobile point of sale), a new way of accepting payments speciп¬Ѓcally designed to support merchantsвЂ™ growing use of mobile devices. Commercial Bank EGM and head of Retail and Enterprise Dean Proctor said, вЂњIn todayвЂ™s economic environment, retail businesses are looking for secure, easy, and portable ways to conп¬Ѓdently accept payments beyond just cash and promote their business to a broader customer base. With Commercial BankвЂ™s mobile Point of Sale (mPOS) solution, we are making it even easier for business owners to accept secure payments anywhere.вЂќ Proctor explained that the new mPOS solution was designed speciп¬Ѓcally for smaller businesses, allowing merchants to use their mobile phones as a point of sale device to accept debit and credit card transactions. mPOS transforms mobile phones into a highly-secure card acceptance device using a Commercial Bank mPOS application and a pocket-sized device that facilitates magnetic stripe and вЂњchip & pinвЂќ transactions. Proctor also stressed that Commercial Bank вЂњcontinues to pioneer innovationled banking solutions.вЂќ With mPOS, merchants of all sizes can now accept and process payments anytime, anywhere, he added. In addition to supporting all types of cards such as magnetic stripe and chip & pin cards, Commercial BankвЂ™s mPOS solution also provides a merchant portal for online control of payments and reporting. mPOS is also a cost-effective way for merchants to increase customer loyalty by accepting a wider range of payments, thereby lowering the cost of cash handling and the cost of expanding their terminal network. вЂњThe launch of Commercial BankвЂ™s mPOS solution is set to transform the payments industry in Qatar and coupled with Commercial BankвЂ™s unrivalled market leading position in the retail and commercial acquiring space, we are conп¬Ѓdent mPOS will be well received by our partners,вЂќ Proctor said. He added, вЂњWe are currently in our pilot phase and delighted to conп¬Ѓrm that a number of our retail partners have already signed up to launch this exciting new product early in the new year and we fully expect to continue rolling this out further in the coming years to more of our existing merchant partners, as well as new ones.вЂќ 6 Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 QATAR Qatar condemns violence in Bahrain T he State of Qatar has strongly condemned the вЂњcriminalвЂќ explosion that ripped through the village of Bani Jamrah in Bahrain leaving three policemen wounded. In a statement released yesterday QatarвЂ™s Foreign Ministry said acts of violence and explosions contravene all the ethical and humanitarian principles and values. It underlined QatarвЂ™s support for Bahrain in face of acts of violence aimed at destabilising security and stability. The Foreign Ministry also renewed its call for renunciation of violence in all its forms. New entrance to Katara opened A s part of ongoing works on the Lusail Expressway project, the Public Works Authority (Ashghal) has announced the opening of a new entrance to Katara вЂ“ the Cultural Village from Al Lusail Street. The new entrance will provide a second entry into Katara and help ease congestion in the area by enabling northbound traffic to enter the Cultural Village without queuing up at the roundabout. Tomorrow, the authority will close the existing entrance to Katara via the Lagoon Roundabout to complete vital construction works between Lusail Street and Katara. The closure will allow a work zone for the construction of the Lusail Expressway and a metro station. The existing exit from Katara at the roundabout will remain open throughout. Once the closure is in place, vehicles travelling south will be required to make a U-turn at Al Gassar junction to access Katara. Throughout the construction period, two lanes will remain open to traffic in both directions on Lusail Street. Additionally, the existing right-turn lane from Legtaiп¬Ѓya Street onto Lusail Street will remain open. Commuters can use a new slip road for travelling south and turning west along Legtaiп¬Ѓya Street. Stretch of Rayyan Road to be closed A s part of construction works to develop Al Rayyan Road - Jassim Bin Mohamed Street, the Public Works Authority (Ashghal) has announced that it will close a 700m stretch of Al Rayyan Road from the Al Diwan intersection to Al Jasra intersection. The section of the road will remain open in the opposite direction (Al Jasra intersection to Al Diwan intersection). The closure starts tomorrow and will continue for two-and-a-half months. It will take place in order to undertake some complementary construction works and п¬Ѓnalise the project. The authority has urged commuters travelling on Al Rayyan Road towards Souq Waqif to use an alternative route. Travellers can turn left at the Diwan intersection and take Qalaat Al Askar Street leading to Corniche Street, and then take a right at Jassim Bin Mohamed Street to reach their desired destination (see map). 8 Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 QATAR Ashghal opens East Industrial Street to traffic T he Public Works Authority (Ashghal) has announced the opening of East Industrial Street to traffic after completion of the main construction works. East Industrial Street is one of the major road projects undertaken in the Doha Industrial Area. In a statement, Ashghal has said pavement works on some of the service roads and pedestrian and cycle pathways, as well as hardscaping and complementary works, are currently being completed without affecting traffic п¬‚ow in the area. The project assumes signiп¬Ѓcance as the road will serve vehi- cles entering the Industrial Area by creating a vital ring road that links to Al Furousiya, Al Gharafa and Al Khafji street projects. Further, East Industrial Street will increase the capacity for heavy traffic п¬‚ow in the area through the widening of roads and upgrade of interchanges. After the opening, the driving time to cover the road вЂ“ from one end to the other - is only п¬Ѓve minutes at the posted speed, Ashghal has said in the statement. The East Industrial Street project included the construction and upgrade of the existing street from the south of the Industrial interchange to the existing roundabout at the junction The newly-opened East Industrial Street. of East Industrial Street with Industrial Area Road. The completed works include a 3km mainline road comprising a six-lane carriageway, with three lanes in each direction, besides a two-lane service road network with a total length of 6km. In addition, the project includes the construction of two new multi-level interchanges at intersections with Street 10 and Street 23, pedestrian and cycle pathways on both sides of the road and four pedestrian crossings as well as the installation of signals at crossroads and ramps at the intersections. The project also includes major upgrades for infrastructure facilities such as relocating foul sewage pipelines, upgrading the electrical and water network, installing intelligent transportation systems and improving street lighting and traffic light systems. Upgrades have also been car- ried out on potable water networks, surface water drainage networks and foul sewage networks. The statement notes that the new interchanges on East Industrial Street, designed to the highest safety standards, will now allow for free-п¬‚owing traffic and reduce congestion. Moreover, the new and improved pedestrian and cycle pathways will improve accessibility to the Industrial Area and reduce reliance on vehicles, especially for those living and working close to the area. It will provide more travel options and environmental beneп¬Ѓts from reduced congestion, the authority has stressed. Pedestrian crossings will also help people access businesses on the western side of East Industrial Street. The East Industrial Street project is part of AshghalвЂ™s Expressway Programme, which aims at creating a long-term, sustainable road network that continues to support the countryвЂ™s social and economic development. This, along with other projects of the programme, will help improve road infrastructure facilities, serving key industries, businesses and residents in and around the Industrial Area, the statement adds. Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 9 QATAR Vodafone offers JBL speaker free with Lumia 830 V odafone Qatar has announced an вЂњexclusiveвЂќ offer for the latest Lumia 830 smartphone, recently introduced by Microsoft Devices in Qatar. Customers of the Lumia 830, offered at QR1,499, will get to take home a JBL PowerUp wireless charging speaker worth QR1,080 for free, taking their smartphone experience to a whole new level. The JBL PowerUp wireless speakers are beautifully designed speakers providing great quality sound. The PowerUp uses NFC and Bluetooth technology to wirelessly stream music and even charge your Lumia phone so youвЂ™re always powered up. VodafoneвЂ™s offer also comes bundled with free data allowances for Voda- fone Qatar postpaid and prepaid customers. Vodafone prepaid customers will enjoy a 6GB data package for 90 days while Vodafone postpaid customers will be entitled to 15GB per month for three months. Additionally, customers can trade-in their old handset with the brand new Lumia 830 and will receive the value of the phone they trade-in plus an extra QR200 paying, basically, the difference in price between both handsets. The Lumia 830 offers people free access to Microsoft Office, Skype, XBOX games, and the best of social apps, which allows users to easily switch between work and play mode. It also comes powered with free 15GB on OneDrive cloud services, allowing people to securely access and sync, all their п¬Ѓles, photos, music, and games across smartphones, tablets, and PCs. Vodafone Qatar chief commercial officer Marc Norris said, вЂњWeвЂ™re very excited about this new offer which comes with the much-wanted JBL PowerUp wireless charging speaker and a fabulous data plan that allows both of our prepaid and postpaid customers to enjoy a great Internet experience especially over Vodafone 4G.вЂќ Vithesh Reddy, general manager вЂ“ Lower Gulf, Microsoft Mobile Devices, said: вЂњWe are very excited to be partnering with Vodafone Qatar and providing customers in Qatar a great offer with the Lumia 830 device alongside an integrated Microsoft experience. The Lumia 830 combines a slim, vibrant style with powerful performance to create an uncompromised smartphone experience whereby people easily capture and share more of what they want.вЂќ 10 Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 QATAR Qatar Airways teams up with CMUQ for project Q atar Airways has partnered with Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMUQ) on a project that was designed to engage students in real-life situations and help offer them a fresh angle on learning and how it relates to their degree major. Qatar Airways presented a digital marketing lecture and challenge that was open to all students at CMUQ, particularly those studying business administration. The students were given a case study describing a digital campaign for Qatar Airways as material to work with, and were tasked with п¬Ѓnding creative solutions and ideas for the project. Each group was then given just over one week to develop a solution to the challenge. Two weeks later, the groups had the opportunity to present their proposed solutions to CMUQ faculty and a group of managers from Qatar Airways. Out of 60 students who competed, 15 students in three separate teams proceeded to the п¬Ѓnals. The teams participating in the challenge included six Qataris along with other nationals. The winning team consisted of junior business administration Students from the winning team of the Carnegie Mellon digital marketing challenge. students Valerie Garcia, Narjis Premjee, Sana Britto, Hessa alThani and Bilal Sheikh. вЂњThis competition was a great opportunity for Qatari youth to demonstrate their talents and skills to potential employers,вЂќ said Dr Kholode al-Obaidli, vice-president of National Talent Management in Qatar Air- ways. вЂњThese types of challenges truly engage students and help expose them to real-life experiences, which in turn helps prepare them for their future careers. It is through such initiatives that we hope to encourage other Qatari students to apply to the Qatar Airways Al Darb Scholarship, Internship and Graduate Development programmes.вЂќ Tridas Mukhopadhyay, professor of e-Business at CMUQ, added: вЂњThe Internet has become the medium of choice for communication for people and companies worldwide as the number of users approaches 3bn by the end of this year. The digital marketing competition sponsored by Qatar Airways is, therefore, a valuable and timely opportunity for the students of Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar. Credit should be given to the foresight and effort of both the university faculty and Qatar Airways executives involved in this event.вЂќ Qatar Airways provides an opportunity for all talented and enthusiastic young Qataris to apply to its Qatarisation programme, Al Darb. With nine programmes, Al Darb offers applicants a wide range of options to п¬Ѓnd the right position and a chance to develop their skills and discover their passion. The Al Darb programmeвЂ™s main focus is to give an opportunity to young talented Qataris to experience real-life work by engaging them in one of its nine programmes - Summer Internship, Graduate Development, Cadet Pilot, National Scholarship, Jossor, Airport Operations, Aviation Management, Aircraft Maintenance Engineering and Massey University MBA. Now in its fourth year, Al Darb, which means вЂњthe pathwayвЂќ in English, has continually invested in talented nationals who have proudly and conп¬Ѓdently represented Qatar abroad. Al Khaliji to host Open Day for job seekers l Khalij Commercial Bank (Al Khaliji) is hosting an Open Day at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs on December 23 with the aim of recruiting Qatari nationals looking for opportunities to work in the banking sector. Under the patronage of HE the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Dr Abdullah Saleh Mubarak al-Khulaiп¬Ѓ and in the presence of Al KhalijiвЂ™s Group CEO Fahad al-Khalifa, the event will offer positions for Qataris and opportunities to join Al KhalijiвЂ™s staff. Commenting on the occasion, al-Khalifa said: вЂњThis event is in line with Al KhalijiвЂ™s Qatarisation strategy. We are committed to recruiting, training and developing Qatari nationals. The bank aims to create a strongly qualiп¬Ѓed and professional Qatari workforce to support growth in the banking sector. вЂњWe are thankful for the Ministry of Labour and So- A cial Affairs for their support and continued co-operation to help us achieve our vision, which is aligned to Qatar National Vision 2030 on human development.вЂќ Hamad al-Kubaisi, Group head of Human Resources at Al Khaliji, said: вЂњAl KhalijiвЂ™s growth relies on the extent of our commitment to being the employer of choice, especially for Qataris. We aspire to п¬Ѓnd new talents and offer them fantastic opportunities to tackle greater responsibilities within different roles, while gaining a wealth of experience to become QatarвЂ™s future banking professionals. вЂњA group of department heads will be present at the event to interview potential candidates and discuss with them employment opportunities and positions available that suit their skills and future career goals.вЂќ The event will take place from 8am to 4pm. Fahad al-Khalifa Hamad al-Kubaisi QatarвЂ™s missions hold special National Day events QNA Doha Q atarвЂ™s missions organised special receptions to celebrate the countryвЂ™s National Day. QatarвЂ™s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Sheikh Abdullah bin Thamer al-Thani held a reception ceremony at The RitzCarlton hotel in Riyadh which was attended by Governor of Riyadh region Prince Turki bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz alSaud as a guest of honour along with Saudi Foreign MinistryвЂ™s Undersecretary for Protocol Affairs Azzam bin Abdul-Kareem al-Gain. Ambassadors of Arab, Islamic and foreign countries accredited to Saudi Arabia were also present alongside a group of diplomats, Saudi dignitaries and Qatari students. In Washington, QatarвЂ™s embassy in the United States celebrated the National Day at the Andrew Mellon Hall which was attended by more than a 1,000 persons. QatarвЂ™s Ambassador to the US Mohamed Jaham al-Kuwari and embassy staff welcomed the guests including several members of the US Congress led by Republican Jim Moran, Carolyn Maloney, Nick Rahall, Andre Carson, and Robin Kelly. Several Arab ambassadors and senior officials of the US administration, in addition to a number Qatari people in Washington DC also attended the event. Ambassador al-Kuwari said that the Qatar is keen to create a bright future for the Qatari HE QatarвЂ™s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Sheikha Alia Ahmed bin Saif al-Thani with other dignitaries and guests on the occasion of National Day in New York. people and people in the Arab world.вЂќ He highlighted the partnership between United States and Qatar, describing it as great and strong dating back to decades of common interests and deep cooperation at several levels. He also highlighted the enhanced partnership in trade and investment. In the п¬Ѓeld of education the US-Qatar co-operation was reп¬‚ected in the close ties with six of the best American universities, noting that Doha considers this partnership as essential for the development of Qatar which seeks to establish a modern knowledge-based economy. Meanwhile, QatarвЂ™s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York hosted a reception on the occasion of QatarвЂ™s National Day. HE QatarвЂ™s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Sheikha Alia Ahmed bin Saif alThani welcomed the guests. Senior officials at the UN General Secretariat and a large gathering of members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the United Nations, led by representatives of the permanent member states, attended the ceremony. Representatives of the American society, including politicians and businessmen, in addition to a number of media representatives accredited to the United Nations in New York and members of the Arab and Muslim community in New York were also present at the ceremony. In Ankara, QatarвЂ™s Ambassador to Turkey Salem bin Mubarak al-Shaп¬Ѓ has inaugurated a street named after Qatar to mark the countryвЂ™s National Day. The street, adjacent to the Presidential Republican Palace in Chanakaya area, is located in one of the most vital and prestigious suburbs in Ankara. Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek and Ali Ihsan Yilmaz, chairman of Greater Ankara Municipal Council, Yahya Akman, Head President of Qatari-Turkish Friendship Parliamentary Group and a number of parliamentarians, senior ofп¬Ѓcials of the foreign and п¬Ѓnance ministries and Greater Ankara Municipal Council along with Arab ambassadors and Charge QatarвЂ™s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Sheikh Abdullah bin Thamer al-Thani and other dignitaries at the reception ceremony held at The Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh. dвЂ™Affaires attended the inauguration ceremony. Speaking at the opening ceremony, Yilmaz revealed that the Municipal Council decision to name a street after Qatar reп¬‚ects the good relations between the two countries. He pointed out that 2015 will be a cultural year between the two countries. In Beijing, QatarвЂ™s Ambassador to China Sultan bin Salmeen al-Mansouri held a reception ceremony at China World Summit Wing hotel on the occasion of QatarвЂ™s National Day. Chinese Minister of Culture Cai Wu attended the event along with a group of senior officials from the Foreign Ministry, the Communist Party of China, the National Development and Re- form Commission (NDRC) and the ministries of defence, commerce and culture. Also among the attendees were representatives of the Chinese PeopleвЂ™s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), the Islamic Association of China, and Chinese oil and gas companies. President and members of Arab and foreign diplomatic missions accredited to Beijing were also present alongside representatives of Qatari organisations, offices and companies operating in China, and Qatari students in Beijing. The ceremony featured some documentaries reп¬‚ecting the Qatari heritage. In Djibouti, QatarвЂ™s Ambassador Jassim bin Jabir Jassim Surour hosted a reception which was attended by a number of Djiboutian officials including Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Mahamoud Ali Youssouf who is also the governmentвЂ™s spokesman, Speaker of the National Assembly (Parliament) Idriss Arnaoud Ali and several political advisers, businessmen, dignitaries, investors, ranking military officers from Djibouti and foreign countries as well as representatives of regional and international organisations. A number of diplomats and heads of diplomatic missions accredited to Djibouti also attended. Similar events were held in QatarвЂ™s embassies in India, Nepal, Ecuador, Swaziland and Myanmar. Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 11 REGION/ARAB WORLD 3 Bahrain policemen injured in bomb blast Israel aircraft hit Gaza after rocket strike GazaвЂ™s Hamas leader Ismail Haniya condemns IsraelвЂ™s вЂњdangerous violation of the ceasefireвЂќ AFP Gaza City I sraeli aircraft hit Gaza yesterday for the п¬Ѓrst time since an August truce ended a 50day war after a rocket hit the Jewish state, witnesses and the army said. A Palestinian health ministry spokesman in the Gaza Strip said there were no casualties in the air strike, which came just hours after the rocket hit an open п¬Ѓeld in southern Israel on Friday without causing casualties or damage. It was the third time a rocket п¬Ѓred from the Palestinian enclave struck within Israel since the August 26 truce between Israel and Hamas, the territoryвЂ™s de facto rulers. The Israeli army said the air strike in the southern Gaza Strip had вЂњtargeted a Hamas terror infrastructure siteвЂќ. Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said the target was a concrete factory being used to repair tunnels in and out of Gaza, dozens of which Israel destroyed during the summer campaign. The attack was вЂњan unequivocal message to Hamas that we will not tolerate a return to a routine of sporadic п¬Ѓring at our citizensвЂќ, Yaalon said, vowing Israel would вЂњact forcefullyвЂќ against Hamas вЂњif it wonвЂ™t prevent attacksвЂќ. And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that Israel would not ignore вЂњeven one rocket launchвЂќ at its territory. вЂњHamas will bear the consequences of any escalation that might take place,вЂќ he told soldiers at a ceremony in remarks distributed by his office. Hamas did not say it was behind the rocket attack, but Israel holds it accountable for any rocket п¬Ѓre from Gaza. GazaвЂ™s Hamas leader Ismail Haniya condemned IsraelвЂ™s вЂњdangerous violation of the ceaseп¬ЃreвЂќ, and in remarks to reporters urged Egypt to вЂњmove with urgencyвЂќ to ensure the Jewish state respects the agreement. The summer war between Israel and Hamas killed almost 2,200 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 73 people on the Israeli side, nearly all of them soldiers. The Egypt-brokered ceaseп¬Ѓre was to have been followed by talks on a more lasting truce, but they were called off amid deteriorating ties between Cairo and Hamas. Also yesterday, the navy п¬Ѓred warning shots after п¬Ѓshing boats sailed beyond the six nautical mile limit enforced by Israel off GazaвЂ™s coast. A military spokeswoman said the vessels returned to waters where the navy allows them to operate. Egypt is to reopen the Rafah border crossing with Gaza today for the second time in two months to allow those stranded in Egypt to enter the Palestinian territory, officials said. The Rafah crossing is the only access point to the Gaza Strip not controlled by Israel. It was shut by Egypt in late October following a deadly bombing in the Sinai Peninsula, reopening brieп¬‚y at the end of November to allow Palestinians stuck in Egypt to return home. Police official Ali al-Azazi said a similar operation will take place from today and only for two days. вЂњEgypt will open the Rafah crossing Sunday and Monday to allow those stranded on the Egyptian side to go to Gaza,вЂќ he said. More than 3,500 Palestinians were stranded when Egypt closed the crossing after a suicide attack killed 30 soldiers in North Sinai on October 24, the United Nations said last month. It was not immediately clear how many of them are still stranded. Many Palestinians who travel through Rafah are students heading to universities in Egypt or beyond, or patients in need of medical treatment not available in Gaza. AFP Manama A Militants from the Islamic JihadвЂ™s armed wing, Al Quds Brigades, stand on top of a look-out tower yesterday in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip. bomb blast in a Shia village in Bahrain, the scene of simmering unrest since anti-government protests were quelled in 2011, has left three policemen slightly wounded, ofп¬Ѓcials said. The three were on patrol in the village of Bani Jamra when the blast occurred, the kingdomвЂ™s interior ministry said in a statement on Twitter posted late Friday. It said that the three sustained minor injuries, describing the explosion as a вЂњterroristвЂќ blast and adding that вЂњnecessary steps are being takenвЂќ, without elaborating. Witnesses said that the blast occurred late Friday and that security forces swiftly sealed off the village, which lies not far from the capital Manama. They added that a young protester was also injured in clashes with police in another Shia village, Sanabes, late on Friday. Attacks against security forces have intensiп¬Ѓed this year. Two people, including a Jordanian policeman, were killed in the area last week. It was the п¬Ѓrst deadly attack on security forces since parliamentary polls in November boycotted by the main Shia opposition group, which is calling for democratic reforms. The election was the п¬Ѓrst in the kingdom since authorities quelled the 2011 protests. Bahrain remains deeply divided three years after the monthlong demonstrations. Protests still frequently break out in Shia villages, sometimes sparking clashes with police. 12 Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 ARAB WORLD Iraqi Kurds deliver aid to Mount Sinjar Peshmerga troops reach the flanks of Mount Sinjar with food and other aid three days after launching a vast operation AFP Mount Sinjar K urdish peshmerga forces delivered aid on Mount Sinjar and expanded a major offensive against militant-held areas in northwestern Iraq yesterday after breaking a months-old siege. The peshmerga closed in on Sinjar town south of the mountain and Tal Afar to its east. If successful, the move would signiп¬Ѓcantly alter the map of the Islamic State (IS) groupвЂ™s self-declared cross-border вЂњcaliphateвЂќ and isolate its Mosul hub. The autonomous Iraqi Kurdish regionвЂ™s peshmerga troops reached the п¬‚anks of Mount Sinjar with food and other aid three days after launching a vast operation in the region backed by US-led coalition air strikes. As the convoy worked its way up the mountain, a 60km-long ridge where civilians and п¬Ѓghters had been trapped since September, people swarmed vehicles to get food. вЂњI havenвЂ™t seen an orange since September,вЂќ said a 10-year-old girl as the peshmerga distributed fruit and other food. The civilians, some of whom had sought refuge on Sinjar after being displaced from nearby villages by IS п¬Ѓghters, looked exhausted, their skin sunburnt and clothes caked in dirt. вЂњWe had barely received any aid in 75 days. It stopped coming when the Islamic State cut the road,вЂќ said Hassan Khalaf, a gaunt 45-year-old. вЂњWhat we need now is aid. We want them to save us,вЂќ he told an AFP journalist travelling with the peshmerga convoy. Tens of thousands of members of the Yazidi religious minority were trapped on the mountain for days in the searing August heat in a п¬Ѓrst siege that sparked fears of genocide and was one of the reasons that led US President Barack Obama to launch an air war against IS. Many were eventually evacuated when a coalition of Kurdish forces opened a corridor to Syria, and yesterday the same factions were trying to reopen that route. A statement from the Kurdish presidentвЂ™s son, who also heads the Kurdish Regional Security Council (KRSC), said the peshmerga had cleared villages on the northern side of the mountain. The Syrian Kurdish YPG group, which has been leading the battle against the militants in the town of Kobane on the Syrian-Turkish border, was moving south to join up with the peshmerga. It said it recaptured several villages from IS on the Iraqi border, which was conп¬Ѓrmed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group. Securing that corridor will make it possible to evacuate some of the civilians on Sinjar to Iraqi Kurdistan via Syria. The peshmerga are also receiving crucial support from Yazidi tribal п¬Ѓghters. On Wednesday, the peshmerga launched what they have described as the largest operation yet against the IS since it overran major parts of Iraq in June. One of the heaviest series of coalition air strikes paved the way for 8,000 peshmerga to advance. They soon retook several villages and forced many IS п¬Ѓghters to п¬‚ee west to Syria or east to Mosul, IraqвЂ™s second city and the de facto IS capital in the country. The KRSC said peshmerga forces had used their momentum to move in on Sinjar town on the mountainвЂ™s southern side. The peshmerga вЂњsucceeded in taking complete control of it and nearby villages,вЂќ it said on Twitter, although sources on the ground said it was not yet clear that the militants had been ousted from the town. Qassem Shasho, a Yazidi Kurdish commander, said peshmerga forces had reached Sinjar town but have not yet entered as it has to be cleared of militant booby-traps. Ahrar al-Sham Islamic fighters run for cover on Friday after a fellow fighter was injured in air strikes around Al Hamidiyeh base, one of two military posts they took control of from Syrian regime forces in the southern Idlib countryside. Militants demoralised by losses from air strikes: US Guardian News & Media Washington U S officials claim Islamic State extremists have lost their momentum in п¬Ѓghting in Iraq and Syria and have been demoralised by heavy casualties inп¬‚icted by American air strikes. The officials say air strikes since mid-November have killed senior and mid-level leaders as well as about 1,000 п¬Ѓghters, particularly around the п¬Ѓercely contested Kurdish town of Kobane on the Syrian-Turkish border. The most signiп¬Ѓcant IS п¬Ѓgure to have been killed in recent strikes was identiп¬Ѓed as Haji Mutazz, also known as Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, a deputy to the movementвЂ™s leader, Abu Bakr alBaghdadi. A Pentagon spokesman, Rear Admiral John Kirby, said the deaths had degraded its вЂњcommand and control current operationsвЂќ. A senior US official said IS had suffered particularly high casualties as a result of its determination to capture Kobane, sending many п¬Ѓghters to the border town, where they could easily be targeted by US planes. As a result, the official claimed, IS п¬Ѓghters in the IS Syrian stronghold of Raqa were increasingly reluctant to go to Kobane and were growing disillusioned with the leadership. вЂњIt was presenting itself as an unstoppable movement,вЂќ he said. вЂњThat kind of unstoppable momentum has been blunted, to say the least. We have killed over 1,000 of their п¬Ѓghters, particularly in Kobane, and that gets to Raqa because they wanted to take Kobane and had been making the biggest п¬‚ag they had ever made and they were going to put it up there because to them this is a war of п¬‚ags. вЂњThey were committed to this and we could see п¬Ѓghters п¬‚ooding in from Raqa and we saw that as an opportunity to attrit their manpower,вЂќ he said. вЂњFighters now donвЂ™t want to go to Kobane. There are similar accounts in Mosul, people not getting paid what they thought theyвЂ™d get paid, not living the life they thought theyвЂ™d promised вЂ¦ So the mood has changed.вЂќ The official said it was too soon to tell whether the rate of attrition among IS п¬Ѓghters had stemmed the п¬‚ow of militant volunteers from abroad. The US is seeking to cut the п¬‚ows from the home countries of the volunteers and at the main point of transit, the Turkish border. The US is using Turkish bases for intelligence-gathering purposes but Ankara remains reluctant to allow its bases to be used for launching bombing sorties. However, Washington has persuaded the Turkish government to help train and equip moderate Syrian opposition groups, who would п¬Ѓght IS as well as the regime of Bashar al-Assad. TurkeyвЂ™s foreign minister said on Friday that the training programme for Syrian opposition groups should begin before March. Suit threatened over Jordan-Israel gas deal AFP Amman J ordanвЂ™s main opposition Islamist party threatened yesterday to take legal action against anyone in the kingdom who signs a controversial gas deal with Israel. AmmanвЂ™s plans to buy gas from the Jewish state have aroused п¬Ѓerce opposition at a time of mounting criticism of IsraelвЂ™s policies towards the Palestinians. The Islamic Action Front, political wing of the Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, said on its web- UN asks Israel to pay Lebanon $856mn for spill Israel was asked by the UN General Assembly on Friday to compensate Lebanon for $856.4mn in oil spill damages it caused during its 2006 war with Hezbollah. The non-binding vote, which passed 170-6, asks Israel to offer вЂњprompt and adequate compensationвЂќ to Lebanon and other countries affected by the oil spillвЂ™s pollution. In a statement, Israel condemned the resolution as biased against the nation, Israeli media reported. The oil spill was caused by IsraelвЂ™s air force when it bombed oil tanks near a coastal Lebanese power plant during the fierce month-long war with Hezbollah fighters. The attack flooded the Mediterranean coastline with 15,000 tonnes of oil, according to the United Nations. The oil slick made by the spill вЂњhas had serious implications for livelihoods and the economy of LebanonвЂќ, the resolution said. The UN asked Lebanon to continue clean-up efforts and the international community to increase funding for its environmental restoration. The US, Australia, Canada and Israel were among the six states that voted against the UN text. site that it вЂњstrongly rejects the deal in question, no matter what the pretext, political or economic, and will prosecute all those who agree to or sign such an agreementвЂќ. The IAF said it regretted that the government вЂњhas stubbornly ignored the popular will to maintain suspect relations with the occupying power (Israel) and to conclude such an agreementвЂќ. The 20-year-old peace treaty between Jordan and Israel is deeply unpopular among JordaniansвЂ”almost half of whom are of Palestinian origin. Detractors of the September gas deal, under which Israel would supply Jordan with 45.4bn cubic metres) of natural gas from its Leviathan offshore п¬Ѓeld over 15 years, reject any co-operation with a country they regard as an enemy. A source close to the deal, which has yet to be approved by the Amman government, said it would be worth $15bn. Parliament debated the deal on Tuesday after 79 lawmakers in the 150-seat house п¬Ѓled a motion calling for it to be scrapped. Defending the project, Energy Minister Mohamed Hamed told parliament buying gas from Israel вЂњdoes not threaten the future of Jordan nor does it leave JordanвЂ™s economy hostage in the hands of any countryвЂќ. Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 13 ARAB WORLD Women п¬Ѓght for freedom, equality The young female fighters hope their frontline role will help put women on an equal footing with men Reuters Til Kocher, Syria E very night before 27-yearold Arin goes to bed, she hangs her Makarov, a Russian semi-automatic pistol, from a steel coat rack by the entrance to her one-bedroom apartment in a small, dusty town on the Syrian border with Iraq. The pistol was an award for her success on the frontline in the battle to protect Kurdish areas of northeastern Syria and is a far cry from her life a year ago when she was working as a nurse in Cologne in Germany. вЂњThis is a bloody war,вЂќ Arin, using only her combat name, told Reuters at the almost deserted apartment block in Til Kocher in northeastern Syria. вЂњBut we need to п¬Ѓght it, we need to protect our women and children or nobody else will defend us.вЂќ Arin is one of thousands of young Kurdish women who have taken up arms in the past two years, with Kurds, SyriaвЂ™s largest minority group, largely left to their own devices by President Bashar al-AssadвЂ™s forces battling Islamic State militants who have seized large areas of Iraq and Syria. About 7,500 women are estimated to have joined the WomenвЂ™s Protection Unit, or YPJ, many as volunteers, which was set up in 2012 as part of the PeopleвЂ™s Defence Unit (YPG), the KurdsвЂ™ dominant п¬Ѓghting unit in the northern Syria region of Rojava. Their aim is to п¬Ѓght any group that threatens Kurdish inhabited areas of Rojava and the YPG has taken de facto control over a sizable chunk of SyriaвЂ™s predomi- A Kurdish PeopleвЂ™s Protection Units (YPG) fighter hugs a fellow fighter at a YPG military base east of Qamishli, before heading to the Jezza and Til Kocher frontlines on Friday. nantly Kurdish north. The young female п¬Ѓghters hope their frontline role will help put women on an equal footing with men. вЂњWe want to set an example for (both) the Middle East and the West. We want gender equality for all,вЂќ said one of the six other women in ArinвЂ™s unit who all live in the same, small apartment. When asked for their full names, the women declined, preferring to be known and addressed by their noms de guerre. David L Phillips, director of a programme on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia UniversityвЂ™s Institute for the Study of Human Rights in New York, said these women were making a mark. вЂњ(They) are some of the п¬Ѓerc- est and most effective п¬Ѓghters. Many of them are widowed, and strongly motivated on the battleп¬Ѓeld by their personal loss,вЂќ he said. Human Rights Watch has reported serious human rights abuses by the Syrian government and other opposition п¬Ѓghters and also said Kurds in parts of northern Syria have carried out arbitrary arrests and failed to in- vestigate the killings and disappearance of political opponents. Arin, who was born and raised in Germany, said she was awarded her pistol after she killed 20 IS militants, earning her the reputation among her colleagues as one of the most dangerous snipers in the group. Born in Cologne of Kurdish parents, Arin graduated from nursing school and was working there when the Syrian conп¬‚ict started. Some 200,000 people have died during the four-year conп¬‚ict, according to the United Nations. вЂњI had a good life, I liked living there,вЂќ Arin said, dressed in a dark green camouп¬‚age uniform with baggy trousers, but she felt she had to do something as the news became worse. вЂњI remember watching tel- evision when I saw women and children slaughtered by Daesh (Islamic State), and I couldnвЂ™t stand it anymore,вЂќ she added. Last year she travelled to Syria to join the YPJ and now heads her unit, which originally had 20 members, mainly from Syria and Turkey. Today only seven survive. She was reluctant to give too many details about the groupвЂ™s combat operations or to comment on any links between the YPJ and the Kurdistan WorkersвЂ™ Party, or PKK, an organisation п¬Ѓghting for Kurds in Turkey that is designated a terrorist group by the United States and European Union. When theyвЂ™re not п¬Ѓghting, the seven women try to avoid talking about war. They cook and laugh as if they were living an ordinary life but their lives are far from normal. Arin hasnвЂ™t talked to her parents since she left Germany. вЂњI donвЂ™t call them, itвЂ™s better this way,вЂќ she said, adding that she might call them one day, once the war is over. вЂњMy life is here with these brave women. They are my family.вЂќ Nisan, a 24-year-old combatant, spread a gray plastic table cloth on the п¬‚oor. She lost her right п¬Ѓnger while п¬Ѓghting in Rabia, the Iraqi town adjacent to Til Kocher, in August. Rangin, another sniper, came in with breakfast: tomatoes, olives, goat cheese, and homemade bread. After breakfast, the unitвЂ™s phone rang. Orders were given and three women grabbed their combat gear, ready to jump in a car waiting for them outside to take them to Jezza, a town close to Kobane near the Turkish border and one of the most violent п¬‚ashpoints in the war. вЂњWe are going to п¬Ѓght the Daesh, take care,вЂќ Arin said as she closed the door behind her. 14 Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 ARAB WORLD New Libya payment system for oil buyers Reuters Tripoli L Essebsi speaks during a rally at Habib Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis on Friday. Ex-regime woos Tunisia voters with a makeover The presidential election is dominated by questions over the return of those close to Ben Ali Reuters Tunis I n the corner of his office, Tunisian presidential candidate Beji Caid Essebsi keeps a bust of Habib Bourguiba, who led the country in 1957 after its independence from France. It is a symbol, he says, of the kind of statesman Tunisia now needs. The 88-year-old was a minister in BourguibaвЂ™s government and is now standing for president himself. To win however he must convince voters to look past his more recent jobвЂ”speaker for the autocratic Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who rigged elections to rule for 24 years until the country threw him out in 2011. That revolt inspired вЂњArab SpringвЂќ uprisings across the Middle East. Where other nations struggle with post-revolt upheaval, TunisiaвЂ™s presidential elections today highlight its successful shift to democracy and a new constitution. But the race between Essebsi and incumbent President Moncef Marzouki, the human rights activist named president after the п¬Ѓrst free election of 2011, is also dominated by questions over the return of those close to Ben Ali, who п¬‚ed to Saudi Arabia. Some former regime officials have already secured parliamentary positions after EssebsiвЂ™s secular party Nidaa Tounes took the most seats in an October general election. Following that, Essebsi secured 39% in the п¬Ѓrst presidential round in November against 33% for Marzouki. The presidential candidate, who was once Ben AliвЂ™s parliamentary speaker, distances himself from the corruption and abuses associated with the past regime. Instead he offers his experience as a statesman that he says Tunisia needs after three years of instability. вЂњDo people really think at my age I will take over everything? I will be the president for all Tunisians,вЂќ Essebsi said during a campaign stop earlier this month. вЂњAll I want is to return the prestige of the state.вЂќ Incorporating Ben Ali officials into politics was part of the political compromise that salvaged TunisiaвЂ™s transition and set it apart from other countries, like Libya and Egypt, that still struggle after the Arab Spring to deal with past regime inп¬‚uence. Ben Ali officials were not hunted down and a law to ban members of his party from politics never made it past initial proposals. Now Essebsi, who regularly deп¬‚ects criticism about his age with quips, refers to Bourguiba in his appeal to Tunisians now hoping for more stability. The п¬Ѓrst president of Tunisia, Bourguiba ruled for 20 years before being removed by Ben Ali and kept under house arrest until his death. Though he consolidated TunisiaвЂ™s one-party system, many Tunisians still see him as the founder of a secularleaning state with its emphasis on education, womenвЂ™s rights and economic development. Marzouki only talks of Essebsi in the context of the Ben Ali era. But he says a win for his opponent would undermine the legacy of the вЂњJasmine RevolutionвЂќ and risk consolidating power in the hands of former regime men, known as the вЂњRemnantsвЂќ. вЂњEssebsi is not a democrat. He doesnвЂ™t know what democracy is,вЂќ Marzouki said in a recent speech. Yet should Essebsi win, victory would be tempered by the political and economic challenges facing Tunisia: a low-intensity Islamist militant insurgency and a need for tough austerity measures to ease the budget deп¬Ѓcit. His partyвЂ™s slim margin in Congress also means it will be forced to compromise when lawmakers choose a prime minister and form a new government. It is unclear whether Nidaa Tounes would be able to work with the leftist Popular Front or the Islamist Ennahda in a national coalitionвЂ”both strong movements. Ennahda remains a powerful political voice with 69 seats versus Nidaa TounesвЂ™ 85 seats in the 217-member legislature. вЂњAs a result, the next government will be largely ineffective and unable to implement any major economic reform,вЂќ said Eurasia Group analyst Riccardo Fabiani, referring to the challenges of forming a coalition government. Many participants in the 2011 uprising say they too will be warily watching the return of the old regime. This week marked the fourth anniversary of the death of Mohamed Bouazizi, the street vendor who set himself alight in protest and triggered the uprising against the abuses and poor living conditions many suffered under Ben Ali. вЂњWe paid a high price for the revolution and now just four years later the old regime is back with a new look and democratic talk,вЂќ said Ali Makki, whose brother was shot dead in protests. вЂњWeвЂ™ll keep п¬Ѓghting for freedoms we won.вЂќ ibyaвЂ™s internationally recognised government aims to set up a new payment system to receive oil revenues, bypassing the central bank based in Tripoli, the capital city that is no longer under its control, its top oil official said yesterday. The Opec oil producer has had two parallel governments and parliaments since August when a group called Libya Dawn seized Tripoli, forcing the recognised administration of Prime Minister Abdullah alThinni to the east. The central bank, which books oil revenues, has sought to stay out of the conп¬‚ict, but each side has appointed competing officials to run National Oil Corp (NOC), the company that sells Libyan oil. Last month, Thinni named al-Mabrook Abu Seif as head of NOC after the rival government appointed its own oil minister to work in the companyвЂ™s headquarters in Tripoli. The question of who owns LibyaвЂ™s oil is key for foreign buyers. For decades, they have paid for Libyan crude through a state bank linked to the central bank in Tripoli. In an attempt to prevent oil revenues reaching the rival side, ThinniвЂ™s government aims to set up a system for foreign oil buyers routed through an eastern branch of the central bank, Abu Seif said in a telephone interview. вЂњWeвЂ™ve discussed this with the prime minister and the president of the House of Representatives and central bank head ... (Ali Salem) Hibri,вЂќ he said, referring to the man appointed by the Thinni-allied parliament after it voted to п¬Ѓre Sadiq al-Kabir who is still acting as governor, according to the central bankвЂ™s website. No п¬Ѓnal decision had yet been taken, Abu Seif said. ThinniвЂ™s government also plans to make changes at the top of NOC but will not set up its own, separate oil п¬Ѓrm, he said, even though officials based in the east have difficulties maintaining contact with NOC staff in Tripoli. The central bank is currently keeping oil revenues in its coffers, with the exception of civil servantsвЂ™ salaries and food subsidies, in an attempt to stay out of the fray. Sudan postpones April elections by 11 days Reuters Khartoum N ationwide elections slated for April 2 will now be held on April 13, the head of SudanвЂ™s elections committee said yesterday, in a move seen as preventing legal confusion over a constitutional amendment. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir proposed a constitutional change on November 3 to make state governors appointed positions rather than elected ones, but the alteration only becomes legally valid 60 days from that date. Postponing the election allows for the state governor positions to be removed from the forthcoming poll before the new nomination period starts on January 11. Mokhtar al-Assam, the elections head, did not mention the constitutional issue in comments to Reuters, but said: вЂњThe postponement came for very important reasons that we will announce tomorrow.вЂќ SudanвЂ™s ruling National Congress party last month chose Bashir, wanted on charges of genocide by the International Criminal Court, as its candidate for the presidential vote, making it almost certain that he will extend his rule after 25 years in power. The opposition Popular Congress party has said it will boycott the election because of what it sees as a restrictive political climate. South Sudan: a year of war in a divided nation AFP Juba T hey came only for a night: thousands п¬‚eeing gunshots in the darkness for the safety of UN peacekeeping bases in South SudanвЂ™s capital Juba. In the following days, gunп¬Ѓre and explosions continued to shake the city, as troops loyal to President Salva Kiir fought with those allied to his ousted deputy, Riek Machar, and terriп¬Ѓed residents cowered where they could п¬Ѓnd shelter. One year later and with civil war still raging, some 100,000 civilians remain trapped inside the UN camps ringed with barbed wire, surviving off food aid handouts in miserable conditions, but still too terriп¬Ѓed to venture out for fear of being killed. вЂњHow can we go out when there is no peace?вЂќ asked Veronica Henry, a woman in her п¬Ѓfties living in a crowded UN-guarded camp in Juba, where thousands live crammed into streets of makeshift plastic tents. Many are gloomy about the prospects of the violence ending any time soon. South Sudan is locked into conп¬‚ict, with the bloodshed in Juba having set off a cycle of retaliatory killings across swathes of the country. вЂњWeвЂ™ve been one year here, but we are alive,вЂќ said Thong Gai, sitting outside his plastic tent home under the blazing hot sun in the UN camp in Juba. Half the countryвЂ™s 12mn people need aid, the UN says, including nearly 2mn who п¬‚ed their homes from the п¬Ѓghting. вЂњIt is tough living here but there is nothing we can do, nothing to do,вЂќ said Gai, who entered the camp as п¬Ѓghting broke out on December 15 last year. вЂњWe just have to be patient, and we shall have peace one day.вЂќ Amid the continued threat of international sanctions, warring forces have signed repeated ceaseп¬Ѓre deals, but all collapsed within days. вЂњI am begging the international community, please, you have to pressure the government and the opposition,вЂќ Henry said. Her optimism at South SudanвЂ™s independence in 2011 - after people voted overwhelmingly to split from north Sudan following decades of war - has long faded. вЂњWe have struggled for so long in this country,вЂќ she said grimly. Aid workers describe a desperate situation, with Oxfam country chief Zlatko Gegic warning that millions are going вЂњhungry in a man-made disasterвЂќ. International threats have had little impact in forcing rival leaders to strike a lasting deal, even as the humanitarian crisis remains dire. UN reports killings and rapes during attack by rebels Children play with a suitcase in a camp for displaced people of the Nuer ethnic group inside the UNMISS compound in Bor in this file photo. Even if top leaders can agree on terms for peace, their forces have now fractured into over two dozen different armed groups, analysts say. Hugely expensive UN food aid airlifts have staved off famine for now but the threat remains, said Toby Lanzer, the UN aid chief in South Sudan. вЂњWe will be in a battle against time and a battle against famine once again in early 2015,вЂќ Lanzer said. вЂњThe situation remains grave today. It could very well get much, much worse.вЂќ Thousands were killed in the п¬Ѓrst weeks alone, before п¬Ѓghting spread to other towns and regions across the poverty-stricken young country. The International Crisis Group estimates that at least 50,000 people have been killed, while some diplomats suggest it could even be double that п¬Ѓgure. Kan Gueh Kan, 28, п¬‚ed to the camp the day after п¬Ѓghting broke out, after his two uncles were hacked to death and shot in front of him. вЂњI ran for my life,вЂќ said Kan, married with a child. вЂњNow fear makes me stay here. I will only go out when peace comes.вЂќ Few are optimistic for peace soon. вЂњWe have to fear for the worst,вЂќ said Skye Wheeler from Human Rights Watch. вЂњWe have to fear that we will continue to see a really dangerous and really frightening rift between the two largest ethnic groups.вЂќ South Sudan rebels killed, raped and kidnapped civilians during an attack in October, leaving at least 11 dead, the United Nations said in a report. Fighters backing former vice president Riek Machar attacked the oil-rich town of Bentiu near the border with Sudan on October 29 and вЂњkilled at least 11 civilians and committed other serious human rights abusesвЂќ, said the report, received by AFP yesterday. The UN Mission in South Sudan also said it had вЂњreceived testimony from multiple sources alleging that opposition forces abducted and raped female residents of Bentiu after government troops withdrew from some parts of the city during the afternoon of 29 October 2014вЂќ. вЂњAccording to several witnesses, two women and a six-month-old baby were killed in their homes by opposition forces,вЂќ said the report, compiled after an investigation by the UN missionвЂ™s human rights division. Bentiu has been hotly contested between the two sides and its control has changed hands several times. Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 15 AFRICA Thousands of child soldiers in CAR, says report DPA Cape Town T housands of children were used as child soldiers during the past two years of ethno-sectarian conп¬‚ict in Central African Republic, humanitarian organisation Save the Children said on Thursday. The nation rich in gold and diamonds descended into civil war after largely Muslim Seleka rebels overthrew president Francois Bozize, a Christian, in March 2013. Since then, about 10,000 boys and girls have been killed, raped and recruited by armed groups as combatants, porters and spies and sexual slaves, according to Save the Children. One of them is 17-year-old Maeva, who joined the largely Christian anti-Balaka militia last year after Seleka rebels gang-raped her and killed her aunt. вЂњThatвЂ™s what pushed me to join the rebellion, where I learned to kill,вЂќ said Maeva. Many other child soldiers were younger than her, the girl said, some as young as eight years. Child soldiers are routinely subjected to physical and mental violence by adult combatants, the organisation found. Girls often seek the protection of soldiers by becoming their wives, while both girls and boys are sexually exploited. Grace Г Dieu was 15 when he joined a Seleka training camp in December 2012. вЂњThey wanted to make us mean, unforgiving. When we fought, it was us, the children, who were often sent to the frontline,вЂќ the teenager said. вЂњBecause very often we are drugged or inebriated, it makes us do things we would never do otherwise.вЂќ Jean manned a Seleka checkpoint near the capital, Bangui, when he was 16 years old. вЂњI had an AK47 ... and I killed with it. I killed a lot of people,вЂќ Jean told the researchers. вЂњI was scared of the leaders in our group. I was also afraid of enemy anti-Balaka п¬Ѓghters, as they were known to come ... and decapitate п¬Ѓghters like us. I have friends who they decapitated.вЂќ UN childrenвЂ™s fund Unicef meanwhile warned that at least one child was killed or maimed every day this year in the CAR, while two out of п¬Ѓve children are in urgent need of humanitarian aid. вЂњChildren in the Central African Republic are no longer making headlines, but more than over 2.5mn of them continue to live in constant fear,вЂќ said Unicef Regional Director for West and Central Africa Manuel Fontaine. Liberia holds elections DPA/AFP Monrovia L iberian voters were asked to adhere to strict health protocols while lining up to elect a senate yesterday, to prevent transmissions of the Ebola virus that has killed more than 3,300 people in the West African country. People queued at 2m distance from each other, had their temperature taken and washed their hands before entering the booths. LiberiaвЂ™s Deputy Health Minister Tolbert Nyensuah said all the voters would be tested and those with high temperatures would be asked to cast their ballots in a separate area. Joey Kennedy, a spokesman for the national election commission, had earlier said that all voters would have to wash their hands before entering polling stations and maintain at least 1m from each other. A total of 139 candidates are competing for 15 seats, in polls that were postponed for two months because of the Ebola outbreak that infected more than 7,800 Liberians, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The top contenders are President Ellen Johnson SirleafвЂ™s son, Robert Sirleaf, and former soccer star George Weah. Weah, 48, ran unsuccessfully against Johnson Sirleaf for president in the countryвЂ™s 2005 election. After casting his vote in northern Kendeja, Weah said he was sure of victory. вЂњI am more than conп¬Ѓdent that I will win. My victory was stolen from me in previous presidential elections. This time I will not allow it,вЂќ he said. The senate has 30 seats, with half of its membersвЂ™ nine-yearseats up for re-election. The government postponed the elections twice since October, out of concern the Ebola vi- rus might spread during political campaigning events and in long queues at polling stations. LiberiaвЂ™s infection rate meanwhile dropped to less than 100 new cases per week, the WHO reported. Provisional election results are expected to be announced today, while the electoral commission said it will release п¬Ѓnal results within two weeks. Balloting began at 7.30am (0730 GMT) and was due to end at 5pm. But polling stations opened late in many places in the seaside capital Monrovia and in several locations in the interior of the country. MonroviaвЂ™s streets were deserted yesterday although there were long queues outside polling stations. Bars, offices and businesses were closed, an AFP journalist said. The polls came as neighbouring Sierra Leone issued a clampdown on public gatherings and New Year festivities following a surge in new Ebola infections. Polling station agents prepare a polling station in Monrovia during parliamentary elections yesterday. UN chief in Guinea on п¬Ѓnal day of Ebola tour AFP/Reuters Conakry U N Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon arrived in the Guinean capital Conakry yesterday on the last day of his tour of west African countries hit by the worldвЂ™s worst outbreak of Ebola. The UN chief was greeted at the airport by GuineaвЂ™s foreign and health ministers Francois Louceny Fall and Remy Lamah. Several officials involved in the drive to end the epidemic in Guinea were also on hand at the airport. Ban, who did not speak to reporters, was to hold a news conference later after meeting with Guinean President Alpha Conde. He was to head next to the Malian capital Bamako to wrap up his tour. With the United Nations having faced criticism for an allegedly slow response to the virus, Ban started the tour in Liberia, the worst-hit country, after п¬‚ying in from Ghana, where the UN Ebola mission is headquartered. He pledged to help the Ebolaravaged countries rebuild their health systems. Ban is accompanied by Margaret Chan, head of the World Health Organisation; David Ebola death toll in three west African countries hits 7,373: WHO The death toll from Ebola in the three worst-affected countries in West Africa has risen to 7,373 among 19,031 cases known to date there, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said yesterday. The latest data, posted overnight on the WHO website, reflected nearly 500 new deaths from the worst ever outbreak of the haemorrhagic fever in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since previous WHO figures were issued on December 17. Sierra Leone accounts for the most cases, 8,759, against 7,819 for Liberia. But Sierra LeoneвЂ™s death toll of 2,477 is far less than 3,346 recorded in Liberia, leading some experts to question the credibility of the figures reported by Freetown. Sierra LeoneвЂ™s government this week launched a major operation to contain the epidemic in West AfricaвЂ™s worst-hit country. President Ernest Bai Koroma said on national television that travel between all parts of the country had been restricted as part of вЂњOperation Western Area SurgeвЂќ, and public gatherings would be strictly controlled in the run-up to Christmas. Sierra LeoneвЂ™s leading doctor, Victor Willoughby, died of Ebola on Thursday, hours after the arrival in the country of an experimental drug that could have been used to treat him, the governmentвЂ™s chief medical officer said. On Friday UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon praised healthcare workers fighting the Ebola virus as he paid his first visit to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Nabarro, the UN co-ordinator for the п¬Ѓght against Ebola; and Anthony Banbury, the head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response or UNMEER. The п¬Ѓght to contain Ebola has often come up against attitudinal obstacles. On Friday, hundreds of angry youths prevented the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) from setting up an Ebola treatment unit in a southern town, saying they did not want to be infected by the virus. MSF, which has spearheaded the п¬Ѓght against Ebola, was setting up the unit in Kissidougou, a town in the southern forest near where the outbreak began. Police commissioner Alfred Houlemou told AFP by telephone from the scene that the youths вЂњraided the facility, notably the MSF tents, and they torched tarpaulins and broke chairs to chase out the health personnel and officialsвЂќ. Yesterday UN chief Ban urged countries affected by the Ebola virus to avoid discriminat- Ban receiving a gift in Conakry yesterday during his tour of west African countries hit by Ebola. ing against healthcare workers п¬Ѓghting to end the disease. вЂњThere should be no discrimination for those who have been working or helping with Ebola. Those people are giving all of themselves,вЂќ Ban told UN officials in Conakry. His comments follow a meet- ing on Friday in which Rebecca Johnson, a Sierra Leonean nurse who caught the virus, recounted how she fell gravely ill, recovered and is now back treating Ebola patients. Ban said he was moved by JohnsonвЂ™s story that she still faced a stigma as a survivor. Two men burnt alive in Congo after attack on army building: official AFP Goma T wo men were burnt alive yesterday by civilians in the Democratic Republic of the CongoвЂ™s volatile east after they attacked a military office, a local official said. The incident in the town of Beni, about 250km north of the North Kivu capital Goma, followed an attack on Friday night. вЂњThe military prosecutorвЂ™s ofп¬Ѓces were attacked around 9pm by men whose identities are not yet clear,вЂќ BeniвЂ™s mayor Bwanakawa Nyonyi told AFP. вЂњThey were repulsed by the army,вЂќ he said, adding that two of the attackers were found by locals at a nearby plot early yesterday and вЂњwere burnt alive while three others are in the hands of the armyвЂќ. A military spokesman conп¬Ѓrmed the attack on the office but did not give details. Beni, a major trade centre in the area, has been wracked by violence and unrest over the past two decades with both local and foreign armed groups operating in the region. The Congolese army (FARDC), the large UN mission deployed in the troubled country (MONUSCO) and several diplomats blame a recent wave of attacks in the Beni region on a mainly Muslim rebel movement from neighbouring Uganda, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). Recent massacres in Beni have claimed more than 260 lives since October, according to local sources. Driven out of Uganda by the army of President Yoweri Mu- seveni, the ADF has maintained bases in the eastern DRC since 1995 and is currently estimated to number about 400 п¬Ѓghters. The Congolese army tried to wipe out the ADF this year, but after initial successes in an offensive, the FARDC troops fell back and the Ugandan rebels reasserted control. HeroвЂ™s welcome for S AfricaвЂ™s п¬Ѓrst Miss World in 40 years AFP Johannesburg Y Strauss with South African 1958 Miss World, Penny Coelen Rey after the reigning Miss WorldвЂ™s arrival at OR Tambo International Airport. esterday South Africa welcomed back home its п¬Ѓrst Miss World winner in 40 years, Rolene Strauss, with wild cheers and ululations. Hundreds turned up at O R Tambo International Airport to greet Strauss after the 22-yearold medical student was crowned Miss World 2014 at a glitzy п¬Ѓnal in London last Sunday. Dressed in the countryвЂ™s national colours, South Africans waved placards, п¬‚ags and portraits of Strauss in a colourful ceremony at the airport in Johannesburg. She accepted a bouquet of п¬‚owers from a young girl in a wheelchair while one of her fans held a placard reading вЂњMarry me RoleneвЂќ. Strauss, who is white, is the п¬Ѓrst Miss World from South Africa since 1974 when the title was won by Anneline Kriel. Among those at the airport was the п¬Ѓrst South African winner of the title in 1958, Penny Coelen-Rey, now a 74-year-old grandmother. вЂњWe can be truly proud that she has brought the title back to South Africa,вЂќ she said. Leading the welcome party, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula evoked the memory of the countryвЂ™s п¬Ѓrst black president and icon, Nelson Mandela, who died a year ago. вЂњWe are a proud nation today,вЂќ said Mbalula. вЂњNelson Mandela is smiling on us, that his idea of a free democratic South Africa, a united nation, a rainbow nation is still alive today.вЂќ Strauss stepped into the airportвЂ™s arrivals hall to deafening cheers and chants for a ceremony broadcast live by the three main television channels. вЂњI have no words to describe what I am feeling at this moment,вЂќ she said, adding that taking part in the Miss World 2014 contest made her realise how вЂњpowerfulвЂќ South Africa is. вЂњThe words South Africa mean unity, freedom, forgiveness, a bright future,вЂќ she said. Despite South AfricaвЂ™s bitter apartheid past, StraussвЂ™s victory received an overwhelmingly positive reaction back home. Lebohang Nthongoa, a columnist with South African newspaper The Times, chided people who had tried to play the race card over StraussвЂ™s win by suggesting she is not African. вЂњI do not see what race has to do with her victory,вЂќ said Nthongoa. вЂњWe need to move beyond colour and treat every Strauss (back facing the camera) holds a baby in front of fans, upon her arrival at OR Tambo International Airport, in Johannesburg. South African as equals.вЂќ South Africa was barred from Miss World pageant in 1978 because of apartheid and was only re-admitted in 1991. Miss WorldвЂ™s Steven Morley urged South Africa to take advantage of the Miss World title to вЂњinspire the worldвЂќ because it is now in a вЂњvery privilegedвЂќ position. вЂњThis will be the channel for South Africa going forward,вЂќ he told a news conference. Strauss promised to push the message of вЂњunity and forgivenessвЂќ during her reign as Miss World. вЂњWe are also celebrating 20 years of democracy this year, so we are an example for the rest of the world,вЂќ she told reporters. The Soweto Gospel Choir, which featured at the FIFA World Cup draw held in Cape Town in December 2009, led the performance to welcome Strauss. 16 Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 AMERICAS Four Gitmo detainees repatriated: Pentagon AFP Washington F our detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay US military prison have been repatriated to Afghanistan, the Pentagon said yesterday. The department of defence said that the Afghan men -- Shawali Khan, Khi Ali Gul, Abdul Ghani, and Mohamad Zahir -- had been moved from the prison after a comprehensive review of their case. вЂњAs a result of that review, which examined a number of factors, including security issues, these men were unanimously approved for transfer by the six departments and agencies comprising the task force,вЂќ a Pentagon statement said. The releases come hard on the heels of the transfer of six Guantanamo detainees to start new lives in Uruguay earlier this month. President Barack Obama has vowed to close the controversial jail on Cuba, set up to house detainees scooped up during the US вЂњWar on TerrorвЂќ following the September 11, 2001 attacks. The latest transfers leave 132 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, the Pentagon said. President Barack Obama signed into law AmericaвЂ™s annual defence policy bill, but he blasted provisions that ensure the Guantanamo Bay prison will stay open for now. One of ObamaвЂ™s п¬Ѓrst actions as president was to order the closure of the prison facility in Cuba, set up 13 years ago under president George W Bush, but he has been thwarted by domestic and international obstacles. Obama said he signed the defence policy bill, known as HR 3979, because it provides вЂњvital beneп¬Ѓts for military personnel and their families, as well as critical con- Governor pushes for capital gains tax Reuters Seattle W Protesters demand the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention centre. tingency authorities needed to counter the Islamic StateвЂќ group and other emerging threats. But he criticised the law for including provisions that bar the United States from building or modifying any prison facilities to house the Guantanamo inmates. вЂњAs I have said many times, the continued operation of this detention facility weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners and emboldening violent extremists. Closing the detention facility is a national imperative,вЂќ Obama said in a statement. вЂњInstead of removing unwarranted and burdensome restrictions that curtail the executive branchвЂ™s options for managing the detainee population, this bill continues them.вЂќ Six years after Obama was elected having made a campaign promise to close the prison, 136 detainees still remain, 67 of whom have been cleared for release by either the Bush or Obama administrations. вЂњThe Guantanamo detention facilityвЂ™s continued operation undermines our national security. We must close it,вЂќ Obama said. вЂњI call on members from both sides of the aisle to work with us to bring this chapter of American history to a close.вЂќ The Guantanamo Bay prison -- built to house terror suspects after the September 11, 2001 attacks -- has long been controversial, both for the incarceration of uncharged and untried suspects and for the brutal interrogations of some detainees. Obama also suggested he could use his powers to speed up the transfer of some prisoners, even without CongressвЂ™s approval. вЂњThe executive branch must have the п¬‚exibility, with regard to those detainees who remain, to determine when and where to prosecute them,вЂќ he said. вЂњIn the event that the restrictions on the transfer of detainees operate in a manner that violates constitutional separation of powers principles, my administration will implement them in a manner that avoids the constitutional conп¬‚ict.вЂќ US defence chief Chuck Hagel also criticised the new act, saying it prevented the Defense Department from pursuing many cost-saving measures. вЂњThe longer we defer tough choices, the more difficult they will become down the road,вЂќ Hagel said in a statement. View from space ashington state Governor Jay Inslee has proposed a new tax on capital gains to try to close a projected budget shortfall of more than $2bn, rolling back on a no-newtaxes campaign pledge. The proposal, which Inslee said would provide muchneeded funds for schools and other programmes, is included in a $39bn 2015-2017 budget he unveiled in Olympia, where he told reporters the tax would raise nearly $800mn. вЂњWe simply have not been able to generate the revenue necessary,вЂќ Inslee said, citing slower-than-desired economic growth and a failure by lawmakers to close tax loopholes. вЂњThis is a fair way to raise needed revenue.вЂќ The levy appears to go against InsleeвЂ™s 2012 campaign pledge to veto new tax proposals. InsleeвЂ™s budget is likely to usher in a protracted п¬Ѓght when the state legislature reconvenes in January, with competing proposals expected out of the Republicancontrolled senate and from Democrats who have a majority in the house. вЂњInvesting in student achievement and providing essential services should not depend on risky tax schemes that threaten our economy,вЂќ said Republican state senator Andy Hill. Washington has been one of nine US states that do not tax capital gains from the sale of stocks, bonds, and other assets, Inslee said, and the proposed levies are lower than those in Idaho, Oregon and California. Washington state in 2016 would apply a 7% tax to capital gains above $25,000 for individuals and $50,000 for couples, which would affect less than 1% of the stateвЂ™s taxpayers, with exemptions for retirement accounts, homes, farms and forestry, he said. InsleeвЂ™s budget calls for a $5bn spending increase over the 2013-2015 period, largely going to his $2.3bn education plan aimed at bringing the state in line with courtordered increases in K-12 schools funding. The state supreme court in September found the legislature in contempt for failing to uphold a court order to come up with a plan to infuse billions of dollars into public education. Overall, InsleeвЂ™s budget would raise about $1.4bn in new revenues through taxes, including raising the cigarette tax by 50 cents per pack, closing loopholes, and other sources. It still leaves the state roughly $2.4bn short. On Wednesday, Inslee laid out a carbon cap-and-trade programme in 2016 aimed at raising $1bn per year, with some $380mn earmarked for education. Former councilman loses bid for new trial Reuters New York F A picture made available by NASA shows a view of the Gulf of Mexico and the US Gulf Coast taken from the International Space Station (ISS) by Expedition 42вЂ™s flight engineer Terry W Virts. The space station and its crew orbit Earth from an altitude of 220 miles, travelling at a speed of approximately 28,164kph. Because the station completes each trip around the globe in about 92 minutes, the crew experiences 16 sunrises and sunsets each day. ormer New York City councilman Larry Seabrook lost a bid for a new trial on Friday after a federal judge rejected his claim that his brother and aide were excluded from watching jury selection. US district judge Kevin Castel in Manhattan ruled that no one was excluded and said that a request by US district judge Deborah Batts and her deputy clerk for members of the public to vacate their seats meant вЂњmake room for the jurorsвЂќ. вЂњAn instruction to vacate the seats is not tantamount to an instruction to vacate the courtroom,вЂќ he wrote. Margaret Shalley, SeabrookвЂ™s lawyer, said she would seek further review from the 2nd US circuit court of appeals. Seabrook, 63, was sentenced in 2013 to п¬Ѓve years in prison after being found guilty on charges that he illegally steered funds intended for community development to his girlfriend and relatives. An earlier trial in 2011 ended in a deadlocked jury. Seabrook was retried in 2012 and found guilty in the trial that prompted the 2nd Circuit to seek a review of BattsвЂ™ instructions to spectators during jury selection. At a hearing in November, Batts, a rarity for judge, took the stand, testifying that she had not intended for spectators to vacate the courtroom, only their seats while jury selection was underway. Oliver Seabrook, the defendantвЂ™s brother, and Carl Green, his former aide, both testiп¬Ѓed that BattsвЂ™ deputy approached them after they moved in response to her request and repeated that they had to make room. Judge restores protections to Great Lakes wolves Reuters Washington A federal judge on Friday restored US Endangered Species Act protections to gray wolves in the western Great Lakes in a decision hailed by wildlife advocates for halting wolf hunting and trapping planned in such states as Minnesota and Wisconsin. US wildlife managers in 2012 lifted federal protections for wolves in the western Great Lakes, including Michigan, after determining that the animals had rebounded from near-extinction. The decision opened the way for stateregulated hunting seasons. A coalition led by the Humane Society of the United States sued, arguing the decision was premature and would subject the several thousand wolves in the region to liberal hunting and trapping rules that would place their survival at risk. Federal wildlife biologists counted nearly 4,400 wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin at the time the animals were removed from the federal endangered and threatened species list. Government estimates this year suggest the region is home to 3,748 wolves, a decline mostly due to hunting and trapping. US district judge Beryl A. Howell ordered wolves in the western Great Lakes to be re-listed after rejecting claims by the US Fish and Wildlife Service that statesвЂ™ management of wolves вЂ“ including hunting practices that in some cases allowed the use of hounds and bait вЂ“ would see them thrive. Howell found that the Fish and Wildlife Service wrongly interpreted parts of the Endangered Species Act by carving out certain populations of wolves to be stripped of protections rather than assessing the animals or species as a whole. The decision by federal wildlife managers to delist wolves in the western Great Lakes was thus вЂњfatally п¬‚awedвЂќ since it was tied to вЂњa scientiп¬Ѓc п¬Ѓnding that turned out to be, at best, premature, or, at worst, erroneous,вЂќ making the agencyвЂ™s п¬Ѓnal rule unlawfully вЂњarbitrary and capricious,вЂќ she wrote. A US judge in September restored federal protections to wolves in Wyoming after п¬Ѓnding the Fish and Wildlife Service erred in 2012 in approving a wolf-management plan by that state that failed to ensure the animalвЂ™s longterm survival. Agency spokesman Gavin Shire on Friday called HowellвЂ™s relisting order вЂњa signiп¬Ѓcant step backwardвЂќ. вЂњThe science clearly shows that wolves are recovered in the Great Lakes Region, and we believe the Great Lakes states have clearly demonstrated their ability to effectively manage their wolf populations,вЂќ he said. Great Lakes wolves. Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 17 AMERICAS Sony denies having вЂ�cavedвЂ™, still planning п¬Ѓlm release AFP Los Angeles S ony Pictures boss Michael Lynton has denied that the Hollywood studio has вЂњcavedвЂќ by cancelling the release of The Interview, and said it still hoped to release the controversial п¬Ѓlm. He also hit back at President Barack ObamaвЂ™s claim that it had made a вЂњmistakeвЂќ in pulling the movie, three and a half weeks after a massive cyber-attack blamed on North Korea angered by the п¬Ѓlm. Probe into ex-POW Bergdahl concludes AFP Washington T he US Army has wrapped up its investigation into how an American soldier was captured by Taliban insurgents in 2009, and now senior officers will weigh the п¬Ѓndings, Pentagon officials said on Friday. Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was held by militants as a prisoner of war after disappearing from his base in eastern Afghanistan. He was released in May in a swap for Taliban inmates held at the US-run prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. After questioning Bergdahl and others, US Army investigators have п¬Ѓnished their inquiry and now top commanders and officials have to decide on the next step, officials said. US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel was due to be briefed on the п¬Ѓndings, officials said. вЂњThe secretary has not been briefed on the results of the Bergdahl investigation. I suspect he will be, perhaps as early as this afternoon,вЂќ Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said. Army officers could conclude that Bergdahl did nothing wrong or order that he face a court martial for alleged desertion charge that in theory carries the death penalty, although execution would be highly unlikely. The US Army appointed Major-General Kenneth Dahl to question the 28-year-old after President Barack Obama came under п¬Ѓre for releasing п¬Ѓve Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to Qatar in exchange for BergdahlвЂ™s release in May. Obama has defended the deal, saying that it was an iron-clad principle for the United States to secure the release of its prisoners of war. BlackBerry works with Boeing on secure phone BlackBerry Limited is working with Boeing Company on BoeingвЂ™s high-security Androidbased smartphone, the Canadian mobile technology companyвЂ™s chief executive said on Friday. The Boeing Black phone being developed by the Chicagobased aerospace and defence contractor, which is best known for jetliners and fighter planes, can self-destruct if it is tampered with. The Boeing Black device encrypts calls and is aimed at government agencies and others that need to keep communications and data secure. вЂњWeвЂ™re pleased to announce that Boeing is collaborating with BlackBerry to provide a secure mobile solution for Android devices utilising our BES 12 platform,вЂќ BlackBerry chief executive John Chen said on a conference call held to discuss its quarterly results. вЂњThat, by the way, is all they allow me to say.вЂќ The BlackBerry Enterprise Service, or BES 12, will allow clients such as corporations and government agencies to manage and secure not just BlackBerry devices on internal networks, but those that run on rival operating systems such as GoogleвЂ™s Android and AppleвЂ™s iOS. The Boeing phone uses dual SIM cards and can be configured to connect with biometric sensors and satellites. вЂњWe have not caved, we have not given in, we have persevered and we have not backed down,вЂќ Lynton told CNN, shortly after Obama accused Sony of making a вЂњmistakeвЂќ. In a statement a short time later, Sony said that after cancelling the release, вЂњwe immediately began actively surveying alternatives to enable us to release the movie on a different platformвЂќ. вЂњIt is still our hope that anyone who wants to see this movie will get the opportunity to do so,вЂќ the studio added. The Sony п¬Ѓlm, a comedy parody that recounts a п¬Ѓctional CIA plot to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, was scheduled for release on December 25, Christmas Day. Hackers launched a massive cyber-attack on the studio on November 24, followed by a series of threats, including earlier this week invoking the September 11, 2001 attacks. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said it had evidence that Pyongyang was behind the attack, although North KoreaвЂ™s mission to the United Nations almost immediately denied the claim. Within a couple of hours, Obama used an end-of-year press conference in Washington to say Sony Pictures had erred in cancelling the movieвЂ™s release date. вЂњIвЂ™m sympathetic to the concerns that they faced. Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake,вЂќ he told reporters. вЂњWe cannot have a society in which some dictator some place can start imposing censorship here in the United States.вЂќ But Lynton rejected ObamaвЂ™s position. вЂњNo. Actually the unfortunate part is in this instance, the president, the press and the public are mistaken as to what actually happened,вЂќ he said. Lynton explained how Sony had made its decision after most major US theatre chains announced that they would not screen the movie. He also rebuffed ObamaвЂ™s suggestion that Sony should have asked the US president what to do. вЂњWe deп¬Ѓnitely spoke to a senior adviser in the White House,вЂќ the Sony chief said. вЂњThe White House was certainly aware of the situation.вЂќ Lynton added that п¬Ѓnding alternative ways to release the movie was not straightforward, basically because distributors, whether online or retail, were still apprehensive about the threat. вЂњMany people donвЂ™t want to come near the movie because they fear that, in some way shape or form, their systems, their servers might be infected with the malware that came to us,вЂќ he said. The Directors Guild of America (DGA) said that the online attack showed the chilling power of cyber criminals вЂ“ and vowed solidarity with the embattled studio and its п¬Ѓlmmakers. вЂњWe stand by our director members Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and hope that a way can be found to distribute the п¬Ѓlm by some means, to demonstrate that our industry is not cowed by extremists of any type,вЂќ said DGA chief Paris Barclay. He also urged the US authorities to do more to п¬Ѓght cyber terrorism. The hack illustrates вЂњthe heightened need for the federal government to increase its efforts to protect our society against cyber crimes, terrorism and all of its implicationsвЂќ, said Barclay. В„ See also page 19 Obama paints picture of a resurgent America AFP Washington A fter a tough year capped by a bruising defeat for his Democrats in last monthвЂ™s midterm elections, no one would blame President Barack Obama if he were a bit down. On Friday at his year-end press conference, he was anything but down. вЂњIвЂ™m energised. IвЂ™m excited about the prospects for the next couple of years,вЂќ Obama told reporters. Far from a man beaten down by partisan politics, Obama вЂ“ riding high on a stronger economy, his surprise opening to Cuba and his unilateral overhaul of the immigration system вЂ“ seemed more conп¬Ѓdent than ever. вЂњPick any metric that you want вЂ“ AmericaвЂ™s resurgence is real. We are better off,вЂќ he said, several hours before heading to his home state of Hawaii for the holidays with his family. вЂњWe are better positioned than we have been in a very long time.вЂќ 2014 was the best year for job growth in two decades, Obama said at a decidedly upbeat press conference during which he did not address ongoing thorny nuclear talks with Iran or the controversial report on the CIAвЂ™s brutal treatment of terror suspects after the 9/11 attacks. вЂњIn last yearвЂ™s п¬Ѓnal press conference, I said that 2014 would be a year of action and would be a breakthrough year for America. And it has been,вЂќ Obama said. The president added that he was looking forward to the вЂњfourth quarterвЂќ of his presi- Obama responding to a question during his end of the year press conference in the briefing room of the White House. dency вЂ“ a sports reference from an avid basketball fan and player. This year hasnвЂ™t always been as sunny. At the end of a campaign that saw many candidates from his own party keep their distance from him, and his poll numbers waning, Obama watched the Democrats lose control of the Senate in the mid-term elections. For the last two years of his presidency, Obama will not have Parents of Colorado theatre gunman plead for sonвЂ™s life Reuters Denver T he parents of the man charged in the fatal shootings of 12 people at a Colorado movie theatre broke their silence over the 2012 killings on Friday, saying their son is mentally ill, вЂњnot a monsterвЂќ, and should be spared the death penalty. Arlene and Robert Holmes urged prosecutors to accept a guilty plea from their son, James Holmes, and a life sentence without parole to avoid the вЂњadditional traumaвЂќ that a lengthy trial would inп¬‚ict on survivors and victimsвЂ™ families. вЂњThe quest for a death sentence for our mentally ill son can stop today, and everyone would be spared needless pain,вЂќ the couple said in a statement issued through their attorney and published by the Denver Post. The couple said they spend вЂњevery momentвЂќ thinking of the victims. вЂњWe know the best outcome for our severely mentally ill son would be treatment for life in a psychiatric institution.вЂќ Holmes, 27, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to opening п¬Ѓre inside a Denverarea cinema in July 2012 during a midnight screening of the Batman п¬Ѓlm The Dark Knight Rises, killing 12 movie-goers and wounding dozens more. Prosecutors have charged Holmes with multiple counts of п¬Ѓrst-degree murder and attempted murder and said they will seek the death penalty for the California native if he is convicted. Defence lawyers have conceded that Holmes was the lone gunman but say he was in the throes of a psychotic episode, a claim his parents repeated in their statement. вЂњHe is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness,вЂќ they said of their son, adding that before the mass shooting, вЂњhe never harmed anyone and ... had no criminal historyвЂќ. HolmesвЂ™ public defenders have said in a court п¬Ѓling that their client would plead guilty if the prosecutors would take capital punishment off the table, an offer that District Attorney George Brauchler rejected. it easy when dealing with a Congress run by rival Republicans. Just a few months ago, Obama seemed aloof, often hesitant вЂ“ a man who has lost the п¬Ѓre that carried him to a historic election victory in 2008. That image was reinforced by the pointed barbs launched by former Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief Leon Panetta, who said his former boss вЂњrelies on the logic of a law professor rather than the passion of a leaderвЂќ. For the past six weeks, however, Obama has been transformed. He has come out swinging вЂ“ on Internet neutrality, on climate change, on immigration and, most surprisingly, on a historic shift in Cuba policy. On Friday, he was relaxed, joking with reporters. He vowed to вЂњrespondвЂќ to North KoreaвЂ™s hack of Sony Pictures, and offered a long defence of his unexpected rapprochement with Havana after more than 50 years of acrimony. вЂњWhat I know deep in my bones is that if youвЂ™ve done the same thing for 50 years and nothing has changed, you should try something different if you want a different outcome,вЂќ he said. Side-stepping the idea of a quick trip to the communistruled island, Obama did say he hoped to go at some point. вЂњIвЂ™m a fairly young man so I imagine that at some point in my life, I will have the opportunity to visit Cuba and enjoy interacting with the Cuban people,вЂќ he told reporters. The 53-year-old president described a scene that was almost unthinkable a week ago вЂ“ his telephone conversation with Raul Castro, the 83-year-old Cuban leader. After explaining WashingtonвЂ™s position to Castro вЂ“ вЂњabout 15 minutes, which on the phone is a pretty long timeвЂќ вЂ“ Obama said he apologised for speaking at length. He said that Castro jokingly replied: вЂњDonвЂ™t worry about it, Mr President - youвЂ™re still a young man and you have still the chance to break FidelвЂ™s record вЂ“ he once spoke seven hours straight.вЂќ In a п¬Ѓrst, Obama opted to only take questions from female journalists. White House spokesman Josh Earnest acknowledged that it was a deliberate choice. вЂњThere are many women from a variety of news organisations who day in and day out do the hard work of covering the president of the United States,вЂќ Earnest said. вЂњAs the questioner list started to come together, we realised that we had a unique opportunity to highlight that fact at the presidentвЂ™s closelywatched, end of the year news conference.вЂќ Obama ended on a cheery note, saying that while American institutions sometimes вЂњdonвЂ™t work as well as they should... things get betterвЂќ. вЂњAnd now IвЂ™m going to go on vacation,вЂќ he added. Executions in US at 20-year low: report Reuters Washington A mid growing concerns about how executions are carried out in the United States, the number of prison inmates being put to death fell to a 20-year low in 2014, the Death Penalty Information Centre said in a report issued on Thursday. The 35 executions this year was the lowest since 1994, said the Washington-based nonproп¬Ѓt, which does not take a position on whether the death penalty should be abolished, in its annual survey of national data. The number of people sentenced to death is also falling, the report said, reaching 72 by mid-December of 2014 the lowest in 40 years. The report said that highproп¬Ѓle botched executions in Ohio, Arizona and especially the execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma also led to what the centre described as вЂњoutcry and delaysвЂќ that indicate increasing concerns among the public about how the death penalty is imposed. In all three of those states, executions by lethal injection using new drug combinations took longer than expected, with witnesses in some cases indicating that inmates appeared to be in pain. In the Oklahoma execution, Lockett lifted his head 13 minutes after receiving the lethal injection. A doctor called a halt to the procedure but Lockett died minutes later. Only seven of 32 states that have the death penalty on the books executed inmates in 2014, with the bulk coming from just three states: Texas, Missouri and Florida, the report said. Richard Dieter, the centreвЂ™s executive director, said evidence in recent years suggests вЂњthe death penalty is becoming irrelevant as a criminal justice toolвЂќ. Michael Rushford, president of the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, said there is little evidence that juries are less likely to impose death sentences or that the public at large is opposed to the death penalty. The lower number of executions is, in part, a result of fewer death penalty-eligible crimes being committed in recent years, he said. The US had 39 executions in 2013, the п¬Ѓfth- highest total in the world behind China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, according to a report released in May by the human rights organisation Amnesty International. Oklahoma to re-use lethal injection mix Reuters Oklahoma City O klahoma plans to use the same lethal injection drug combination it employed during a botched execution in April, Department of Corrections (DOC) officials told a federal court hearing arguments on whether to halt death sentences in the state from being carried out. Lawyers for 21 death row in- mates in Oklahoma, four of whom are scheduled to die next year, have asked the court to suspend future executions following the lethal injection of convicted murderer Clayton Lockett. DOC director Robert Patton testiп¬Ѓed that the sedative midazolam would be used in the upcoming executions, adding that Oklahoma chose the same drug protocol as Florida, which has won approval to use its combination from a court in that state. In testimony for the plaintiffs this week, David Lubarsky, an anaesthesiologist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said midazolam cannot achieve the levels of unconsciousness needed for surgical procedures, and is therefore problematic for executions. Lockett appeared to be conscious for longer than expected and probably was in pain when the п¬Ѓnal drugs in the injection, which were supposed to end his life, were administered, medical experts testiп¬Ѓed earlier. Prison officials have said their lethal injection combinations are humane and appropriate. After the botched execution, they drew up new protocols they said would remedy problems. Several states, including Oklahoma have struggled to obtain drugs for executions after many pharmaceutical companies imposed sales bans because they object to having medications made for other purposes used in lethal injections. 18 Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 ASEAN Anniversary celebration вЂ�MontagnardвЂ™ refugees emerge from Cambodia jungle hideout AFP Phnom Penh E People perform during celebrations to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Vietnam PeopleвЂ™s Army at the National Convention Centre in Hanoi yesterday. The Vietnam PeopleвЂ™s Army was founded on December 22, 1944 and led by General Vo Nguyen Giap in Cao Bang province, initially with only 34 members. China pledges $11.5bn to Mekong region countries AFP Beijing ight hill tribe вЂ�MontagnardsвЂ™ have emerged from hiding in a remote Cambodian border area where they crossed from Vietnam to flee persecution, the UN Refugee Agency said yesterday. The group sought refuge in the jungle in CambodiaвЂ™s northeastern Rattanakiri province for more than seven weeks. Fears had mounted for their health in the malariaridden jungle area where they remained hidden вЂ” but in contact with rights groups and the UN вЂ” fearing arrest and deportation by Cambodian authorities. A UN official and a local rights activist saud that eight Montagnards, including a woman, emerged from their hiding and were met by a UN team early yesterday. вЂњWe are transporting them out of the jungle,вЂќ the UN official saidby telephone. Rights activists said another group of five remained in the jungle and were considering contacting the UN soon. вЂњMontagnardsвЂќ is a French term referring to the patchwork of mainly Christian ethnic minority groups that live in VietnamвЂ™s mountainous Central Highlands region. Many Montagnard groups practise forms of evangelical Protestantism, which puts them at odds with VietnamвЂ™s communist rulers who tightly control religion. Khieu Sopheak, a Cambodian interior ministry spokesman, accused the UN of violating the kingdomвЂ™s sovereignty by rescuing the asylum-seekers without Cambodian authorities. вЂњThey can bring them to Phnom Penh, but whether or not they are considered as refugees will be decided by the host country,вЂќ he said. The UN has said local Cambodian authorities had denied UN access to help the Montagnards, who were from the Jarai ethnic minority group and reportedly suffering from various physical ailments including dengue fever and malaria. вЂњNow, they are happy because they met with the UN directly,вЂќ said Chhay Thi, Rattanakiri co-ordinator for the Cambodian rights group Adhoc. вЂњThey hope they will not be arrested and deported,вЂќ he said.. In 2001 Vietnamese troops crushed protests in the Central Highlands, prompting an exodus of Montagnards. Vietnam routinely asks Cambodia to return Montagnard people who flee. In May 2011 thousands of Hmong people -- one of the Montagnard groups -- gathered in VietnamвЂ™s remote northwest apparently awaiting the arrival of a вЂњmessiahвЂќ. The gathering was broken up by authorities in circumstances which remain unclear. Dozens of people have been jailed over the incident, which Vietnam has cast as a separatist plot to overthrow its communist government. C hina will provide more than $11.5bn in loans and aid to neighbouring Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, mostly for infrastructure and industrial capacity building, state media said yesterday. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang pledged $1bn in funding for infrastructure, $490mn aid for poverty reduction, and $10bn in вЂњspecial loansвЂќ, the official Xinhua news agency said. Li announced the loans in Bangkok at a summit of countries along the Mekong river, a day after he vowed to help construct a railway through Thailand which Xinhua said will cost $10.6bn. Few details were given on projects to be funded, but Xinhua said China will export production capacity in industries such as electricity, telecommunication, steel and cement. China also promised to invest $16.4mn to dredge waterways along the Mekong River and prevent natural disasters, Xinhua cited Li as saying. Four drown in п¬‚oods in north-eastern Malaysia DPA Kuala Lumpur (From left) VietnamвЂ™s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Laos Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong, CambodiaвЂ™s Prime Minister Hun Sen, ThailandвЂ™s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, ChinaвЂ™s Premier Li Keqiang, MyanmarвЂ™s President Thein Sein and Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Takehiko Nakao pose for photographers during the opening ceremony of the fifth Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Summit at a hotel in Bangkok yesterday. Beijing has previously come under п¬Ѓre from environmentalists for building dams along the upper-reaches of the Mekong in southwestern China, which have been blamed for п¬‚ooding along the river. Dams and hydro-electric power schemes were expected to be high on the agenda of the Greater Mekong Summit, despite mounting concerns over environmental and social impacts. China has in recent months devoted diplomatic energy as well as huge sums of money to wooing Southeast Asia, where its reputation as a regional powerhouse is blighted by sea disputes and fears over its longterm intentions. In November, Beijing pledged $20bn in soft loans and for infrastructure projects to the 10-members of the Association of Southeast Asian nations dur- ing a summit in Myanmar. Experts say Beijing is determined to outmanoeuvre the US, which has embarked on a security вЂњpivotвЂќ towards Asia, as well bolster its trade routes вЂ” and access to resources вЂ” as ChinaвЂ™s rapid economic growth continues. A t least four people drowned in п¬‚oods that have hit north-eastern Malaysia during the past three days and more than 25,000 people have п¬‚ed to evacuation centres, welfare and rescue ofп¬Ѓcials said yesterday. All four fatalities were from the state of Kelantan where more than 15,640 people have left their homes and several roads were impassable due to floods brought about by heavy rains, the Kelantan state fire and rescue department said. Among the fatalities was a 20-month-old baby girl who fell into the floodwaters late Thursday after she slipped from her motherвЂ™s arms. The infantвЂ™s body has not been found. In the adjacent state of Terengganu, 8,709 people were staying in 123 evacuation centres due to the floods. A total of more than 1,000 people have also abandoned their homes in the states of Johor and Pahang due to the floods. The Malaysian Meteorological Department yesterday warned that intermittent and occasionally heavy rains will persist in Kelantan and Terengganu. After tsunami, п¬Ѓshermen struggle against tide of tourism in Thailand Reuters Thung Wa A fter the tsunami pounded ThailandвЂ™s Andaman Sea coast a decade ago, the ethnic Moklen п¬Ѓshing communities that have lived here for generations buried their dead, fought off land grabs to rebuild their homes, and вЂ” surprisingly вЂ” sighed in relief. The tsunami had destroyed sprawling seafront luxury resorts that had blocked public access to the sea and had halted the rampant tourism that threatened to push the Moklen п¬Ѓshermen off their ancestral lands in Phang Nga province, north of the resort island of Phuket. In effect, the disaster gave them unfettered access to the shore again and time to pursue their traditional way of life. That post-tsunami reprieve has ended, the Moklens say; tourist arrivals have shot up from 11.6mn in 2005 to 21.9mn in January-November this year -- not counting the end-of-year peak holiday season -- while land prices have risen tenfold. The Moklens again fear their way of life is close to extinction. вЂњI wish another tsunami would hit, so the villagers could have just a bit more time to live our way of life,вЂќ said Hong Klathalay, a 48-year-old community leader in the Moklen village of Thung Wa, as he walked across low sand dunes to his modest wooden boat parked in a lagoon. At the forested edge of the lagoon stands the shell of an ornate traditional Thai ceramictiled building that withstood the tsunami and is now overgrown with weeds and creepers. On the side fronting the sea, construction machinery pounds away on a plot of land with new retaining walls and the foundation of a large hotel. вЂњThey build a wall on this side, and then the water will push in on the other side. So theyвЂ™ll build another wall there and п¬Ѓll up the land. Once itвЂ™s all walled in, weвЂ™re п¬Ѓnished,вЂќ Hong said angrily, pointing to the construction site. The dark-skinned Moklens -- an ethnic group linked to the Moken sea gypsies of the Andaman Islands -- live and breathe the sea, with intricately knotted Hong Klathalay carries gear to his fishing boat as he walks past a tree brought down by the 2004 tsunami in Khao Lak, Phang Nga province. п¬Ѓshing traps and nets stowed neatly in their yards. Phang Nga and Phuket are home to about 4,000 Moklens, who have lived in the region since long before the tourism boom, but most do not legally own the land they live on, according to Narumon Arunotai, an anthropologist specialising in the regionвЂ™s sea gypsy ethnic groups. So when the tsunami вЂ” which left 5,395 dead and 2,932 missing in Thailand, including more than 2,000 foreign tourists вЂ” swept away the MoklensвЂ™ bamboo thatch bungalows, the landown- ers who held the deeds tried to evict them. However, post-tsunami news coverage and human rights research had raised awareness of their land tenure woes, and help from non-governmental organisations strengthened the MoklensвЂ™ determination to п¬Ѓght for their rights. вЂњIf it werenвЂ™t for the tsunami, these people would all have been driven out by now,вЂќ said Sakda Phanrangsee, a community activist who has brought the Moklens to the capital Bangkok to voice their woes to government officials. вЂњThe tsunami stopped real estate and tourism but now tourism is making a comeback.вЂќ One of the key problems to emerge across tsunami-affected countries was residentsвЂ™ rights to the land they lived on in. In Thailand, where tourism accounts for about 10% of the economy, the property owners listed on land deeds saw their prime shorefront real estate -- including the Moklen village of Tap Tawan, north of the Khao Lak resort area and Thung Wa - cleared of residents. Twenty people died in Tap Tawan, 79 homes were destroyed and only п¬Ѓve remained standing. The survivors were evacuated to nearby rubber plantations on higher ground. Within weeks of the disaster, the landowner forbade villagers from returning, but the government stepped in and allowed survivors to rebuild. A lengthy legal battle ensued. вЂњWe had to go to court two to three times a month, and we were stressed every single time. Once or twice, we were at court until 1am,вЂќ said soft-spoken Moklen community leader Thien Harntalay, 47. вЂњWe were scared the investor (landowner) would come shoot us,вЂќ he said, sitting on the sandy tiled п¬‚oor of his cement bungalow while his wife fried the eveningвЂ™s catch. Four years ago, they reached an out-of-court settlement with the landowner, who agreed to sign over half of his 3.84-hectare plot to 28 villagers, Thien said, clutching a thick stack of photocopies of the villagersвЂ™ new land deeds. Now villagers worry about their access to the sea and the area where they park their п¬Ѓshing boats, as land prices have shot up and investors often visit to eye the shorefront properties, Thien said, concerned that new owners will be less forgiving of their trespasses. вЂњIn the future, if they sell that land, where will we villagers park our boats?вЂќ Local activist Maitree Jongkraijug argues the government has focused only on tourist dollars and neglected the needs of вЂњtheir own people walking on the landвЂќ. According to the World Bank, foreign tourists spent $13bn in Thailand in 2004, with that п¬Ѓgure dropping the year after the tsunami to $12.1bn. The Tourism Authority of Thailand projects international visitors will spend $36.5bn in the country this year. вЂњThey protect foreigners and treat them like an endangered species,вЂќ Maitree said, complaining that beaches once open to the public have been cordoned off by hotels and resorts. вЂњThey are protected for foreigners to swim, but weвЂ™re not allowed to go in.вЂќ Tourism officials in Phang Nga declined comment on the issue. According to anthropologist Narumon, the solution is to ensure the Moklens have a say in the areaвЂ™s development, though she acknowledges this is practically unheard of. Sakda says the Moklens do not want land deeds, but clear written agreements that no matter who buys the shorefront properties, they will be allowed to park their boats and reach the sea. Sitting next to him, sharing a bowl of fried п¬Ѓsh, Thien carefully put the stack of land documents back in the plastic folder and onto the shelf under the television. вЂњBefore, if we got a threat, we would up and move but thereвЂ™s nowhere left to go,вЂќ he said, shaking his head sadly. вЂњThis is our land. This is where we were born. This is where weвЂ™re from.вЂќ Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 19 AUSTRALASIA/EAST ASIA Grandfather defends petition to expel HIV-positive boy AFP Beijing T he grandfather of a Chinese HIV-positive boy has defended his support for a petition to banish him from their village, media reported yesterday, in a case that has sparked intense soul-searching in China. Some 200 residents вЂ” including the eight-year-oldвЂ™s own grandfather вЂ” signed a petition to expel him from their village in ChinaвЂ™s southwestern Sichuan province, in a bid to вЂњprotect villagersвЂ™ healthвЂќ. The case has prompted huge debate on Chinese social media and highlighted the stigma attached to the disease in a coun- try where sufferers face widespread discrimination. The childвЂ™s grandfather and guardian Luo Wenhui told the Beijing News daily that when he signed the petition he вЂњhoped that it would make things better,вЂќ as the boy would receive improved care elsewhere. вЂњWe are getting too old, and he is getting more naughty...we donвЂ™t have the ability to look after him,вЂќ Luo said. вЂњIf he didnвЂ™t live better outside the village, he could come back.вЂќ The boy, who has been given the pseudonym Kunkun by media, was left in his grandfatherвЂ™s care when both his parents left the impoverished village to seek work. Kunkun remains under his grandfatherвЂ™s care in the village for the present, the Beijing News indicated. Luo, who is aged over 60, told the paper that he вЂњdid not have long to liveвЂќ and that the petition was suggested by a local journalist as a way of drawing attention to his grandsonвЂ™s plight. Reports said Kunkun was born Mother arrested for murder of eight children in Australia AFP Cairns A ustralian police said yesterday they had arrested the mother of all but one of eight children reportedly stabbed to death in the northern city of Cairns, as vigils were held to mourn the tragedy. Officers have not revealed the cause of death of the children, the youngest of which was a toddler and the oldest a teenager, but said knives were found at the house where the bodies were discovered on Friday morning. вЂњThe 37-year-old mother of several of the children involved in this incident has been arrested for murder overnight and is currently under police guard at the Cairns Base Hospital,вЂќ detective inspector Bruno Asnicar told reporters. Flowers and teddy bears were laid near the crime scene and church services were held overnight in Cairns, where police said they are working closely with the Torres Strait Islander community to which the family belonged. Police have conп¬Ѓrmed the dead as four girls -- aged two, 11, 12 and 14 and four boys aged п¬Ѓve, six, eight and nine, but said they would not name the family for cultural reasons. In some indigenous cultures it is considered disrespectful to say a deceased personвЂ™s name. The woman arrested is the mother of the seven younger children and the aunt of the 14-year-old girl. She has not been charged, but Queensland Police said she was assisting them with their inquiries. вЂњSheвЂ™s stable and being looked after,вЂќ Asnicar said, adding that the woman, who has stab wounds to her upper body, was вЂњawake... lucid and speakingвЂќ. He could not say whether her wounds were self-inflicted. The murders have rocked Australia, which is still reeling from a dramatic siege in a central Sydney cafe this week that left two hostages and a gunman dead and prompted a huge HIV-positive through transmission from his mother. He was reportedly referred to as a вЂњtime bombвЂќ by villagers worried about being infected, while local children shunned him. The Global Times said the boyвЂ™s mother left the family in 2006, while his father вЂњlost contactвЂќ after KunkunвЂ™s con- Pyongyang proposes joint probe with US into cyber attack AFP Seoul N Children lay flowers yesterday at the scene where eight children ranging from babies to teenagers were found dead in a house in the northern Australian city of Cairns. outpouring of emotion. вЂњThis is just an ordinary neighbourhood,вЂќ Asnicar said. вЂњA lot of good people, a lot of kids in the area and this is just something that has caught everybody by surprise. ItвЂ™s absolutely tragic.вЂќ A makeshift memorial has been established in a park near the crime scene, with scores of people visiting yesterday to leave flowers, candles and toys in remembrance of the children. Torres Shire Council Mayor Pedro Stephen told Australian Associated Press that the entire region was grieving. вЂњItвЂ™s like a bomb has gone off,вЂќ he said. вЂњEveryone is in shock.вЂќ вЂњThere will be people who have never, ever been to Cairns who will be touched by this tragedy,вЂќ added Acting Assistant Police Commissioner Paul Taylor. Queensland state minister Tim Nicholls, who laid a wreath at the site, said police had not yet explained the mo- tive behind the killings. вЂњAs a father myself with three children under 15, I can only imagine the grief this community is feeling as they come to grips with the events,вЂќ he said. The dead children were reportedly discovered by the motherвЂ™s 20-year-old son when he arrived at the house in the Cairns suburb of Manoora on Friday morning. Reports said a woman was heard screaming in the house on Thursday night, with BrisbaneвЂ™s Courier-Mail saying she had shouted: вЂњDonвЂ™t let them take away from us. God bless us. Forgive me for what IвЂ™ll do.вЂќ A 13-year-old girl who walked a friend who lived in the house home on Thursday night said she had met the mother, who had given her money for a taxi ride home. вЂњShe was saying stuff about God and other stuff,вЂќ she told Australian Associated Press. вЂњShe said: вЂ�Papa God gave me the power to do anythingвЂ™.вЂќ dition was diagnosed. Kunkun told the Beijing News that he could not remember what his parents looked like, adding: вЂњOther children donвЂ™t play with me.вЂќ Asked if he would like to leave the village, the newspaper reported that the boy shook his head before running off to chase a nearby duck. orth Korea called yesterday for a joint investigation with the US into a crippling cyber attack on Sony Pictures, denouncing WashingtonвЂ™s вЂњslanderingвЂќ after President Barack Obama warned Pyongyang of retaliation. The US blames the isolated state for the hacking which prompted the cancellation of the Christmas Day release of вЂњThe InterviewвЂќ, a madcap romp about a CIA plot to kill leader Kim Jong-Un which infuriated North Korea. вЂњAs the US is spreading groundless allegations and slandering us, we propose a joint investigation with it into this incident,вЂќ a foreign ministry spokesman in Pyongyang said. вЂњWithout resorting to such tortures as were used by the US CIA, we have means to prove that this incident has nothing to do with us,вЂќ the spokesman was quoted as saying by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Pyongyang has repeatedly denied the secretive state was behind the hacking, which led to the release of a trove of embarrassing emails, scripts and other internal communications, including information about salaries and employee health records. вЂњThe US must bear it mind that grave consequences would follow if it rejects our proposal and continues blabbering about so-called retaliations against usвЂќ, the spokesman said. Addressing reporters after the FBI said Pyongyang was to blame, Obama said Washington would never bow to вЂњsome dictatorвЂќ. вЂњWe can conп¬Ѓrm that North Korea engaged in this attack,вЂќ Obama said. вЂњWe will respond. We will respond proportionately and weвЂ™ll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose.вЂќ While the president said he was sympathetic to SonyвЂ™s plight, he also said the movie giant had вЂњmade a mistakeвЂќ in cancelling the release. Sony defended its decision, made after anonymous hackers invoked the 9/11 attacks in threatening cinemas screening the п¬Ѓlm, which prompted theatre chains to say they would not risk showing it. North Korea said insults against вЂњour highest authorityвЂќ would not be tolerated, but it rebuffed the notion of cinema attacks. вЂњBut in case we have to retaliate, we would not carry out terrorist attacks on innocent viewers at movie theatres but stage frontal attacks on those who are responsible for the hostile activities against the DPRK (North Korea) and their headquarters,вЂќ the spokesman said. Just before Obama took the podium, the Federal Bureau of Investigation explained how it had concluded that North Korea was to blame. The attackers used malware to break into the studio and render thousands of Sony Pictures computers inoperable, forcing the company to take its entire network offline, the FBI said. It said analysis of the software tools used revealed links to other malware known to have been developed by вЂњNorth Korean actorsвЂќ. The FBI also cited вЂњsigniп¬Ѓcant overlapвЂќ between the attack and other вЂњmalicious cyber-activityвЂќ with direct links to Pyongyang, including an attack on South Korean banks carried out by North Korea. вЂњSuch acts of intimidation fall outside the bounds of acceptable state behaviour,вЂќ the agency said in a statement. NUCLEAR North Korea slams UN vote, vows to bolster N-capacity North Korea yesterday vowed to bolster its nuclear capacity, slamming a UN resolution calling for it to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) over its human rights record. The UN General Assembly on Thursday adopted a resolution by a strong majority that asks the Security Council to refer North Korea to the ICC and to consider targeted sanctions against the Pyongyang leadership for the repression of its citizens. North Korea will increase вЂњefforts to bolster up in every way its capability for self-defence including nuclear forceвЂќ, the foreign ministry said in a statement carried on the official Korean Central News Agency. TREMOR 5.9 quake hits JapanвЂ™s Honshu island A 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit JapanвЂ™s Honshu island yesterday, the US Geological Survey said, shaking Fukushima where crippled nuclear power plants are located, but local media said there was no tsunami warning. USGS said the quakeвЂ™s epicentre was located 68km east-northeast of Iwaki on Honshu. It was measured at a depth of 37km. A spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power, which owns the nuclear plants, said no irregularities have been found at its Fukushima Daiichi or Daini plants. Xi warns HK, Macau in вЂ�one ChinaвЂ™ message AFP Macau C hinese President Xi Jinping warned Hong Kong and Macau yesterday to remember they are part of вЂњone ChinaвЂќ, as pro-democracy campaigners in both semi-autonomous territories call for free leadership elections. Dozens of protesters marched through MacauвЂ™s historic centre yesterday afternoon as Xi wrapped up his two-day visit to mark the 15th anniversary of the handover from Portugal вЂ” just days after police cleared the last remaining protest sites in neighbouring Hong Kong. Residents of all ages walked in the middle of the road through the historic district shouting: вЂњWe want universal suffrageвЂќ through megaphones, some wrapped in banners and others with slogans painted across their faces. вЂњI am uncertain about MacauвЂ™s future, so we have to come out to make noise for ourselves,вЂќ said Mark Pang, a 15-year-old high school student who held up an open yellow umbrella -- the symbol of the Hong Kong democracy movement. The protest march culminated in a public square where Protesters march during a pro-democracy protest in Macau yesterday. around 100 demonstrators remained in the early evening, though some bystanders were confused by the scene. вЂњAre these people from Hong Kong?вЂќ asked one. Xi warned both territories against a вЂњmisguided approachвЂќ in a speech yesterday. вЂњWe must both adhere to the вЂ�one ChinaвЂ™ principle and respect the difference of the two systems,вЂќ Xi said at the inauguration of MacauвЂ™s chief executive Fernando Chui, who was selected for a second term by a pro-Beijing committee in August. вЂњAt no time should we focus only on one side to the neglect of the other. This is the only way leading to sound and steady progress. Otherwise a misguided approach from the beginning, just like putting oneвЂ™s left foot into the right shoe, would lead us to nowhere,вЂќ Xi said. He also warned against вЂњexternal inп¬Ѓltration and interferenceвЂќ to safeguard the stability of Macau. Beijing has accused foreign forces of stirring up the Hong Kong protests. Security was tight during the trip, with reporters on the airport tarmac waiting for XiвЂ™s arrival Friday not allowed to hold umbrellas and handed raincoats instead. There were also reports that some visitors and journalists from Hong Kong were denied entry after being told their names were on a blacklist. Both Macau and Hong Kong enjoy freedoms unseen on the mainland -- but their leaders are selected by a loyalist committee. вЂњIn the light of Hong KongвЂ™s umbrella movement, I think Macau people should escalate our actions for democracy,вЂќ local protest leader Jason Chao said. вЂњWe need a democratic political system in which the citizens can hold the officials accountable,вЂќ Chao said, adding that despite a huge economic boom in the gambling enclave in the past decade, the quality of life for citizens has been on the decline, with government officials seen as too close to big business. Similar discontent over corruption and social inequality partly underpins the Hong Kong movement. Though MacauвЂ™s democracy movement is not on the scale of Hong KongвЂ™s, the territory saw its largest ever protest in May over proposed cash beneп¬Ѓts for retired Macau officials, with 20,000 people taking part. Xi gave his backing to Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying, who he met in Macau on Friday, pledging вЂњfull trustвЂќ in him following the clearance of the protest camps which blocked major highways for over two months. XiвЂ™s visit was also an opportunity to drive home the message that the territory needs to diversify away from casinos, which have seen revenues dive owing to a national anti-corruption drive and a stuttering economy. He called on Macau to вЂњpromote appropriately diversiп¬Ѓed and sustainable economic developmentвЂќ during his speech yesterday, before leaving the enclave in the late afternoon. Macau is the only part of China where casino gambling is legal and has depended on highrollers from the mainland. But Beijing has warned the southern territory to reconsider its dependence on gaming and is reported to already be clamping down on illicit funds channelled from the mainland through its casinos. 20 Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 BRITAIN Prostitute killer is sent to Broadmoor Evening Standard London A former bank worker who killed a prostitute after hearing voices telling him that women are the devil was sent to Broadmoor indeп¬Ѓnitely. Police mounted a major manhunt for Robert Fraser after two attacks on escort women in central London earlier this year. The paranoid-schizophrenic was п¬Ѓnally arrested after being spotted by a member of the public in a Leicester Square shop. He was found to have been treated for his psychiatric condition since 2009 and had told doctors he believed that God represented men and the devil represented women. However he had been thrown out of a mental hospital against his will in November 2013 because he was thought to have been a malingerer, the Old Bailey heard. Just weeks later in January he attacked an escort girl in her home in Marylebone tying her up and leaving her terriп¬Ѓed she was going to die. She was a 27-year-old Belgian national and Fraser stuffed her underwear in her mouth and twisted her head вЂњas if he was trying to break her neck.вЂќ She managed to beat him off but was so terriп¬Ѓed she could not contact the police until the following day. Ten weeks later he battered Maria Duque-Tunjano, a 48-year-old Columbian, in her EarlвЂ™s Court п¬‚at so brutally that she died of a heart attack. Fraser, 40 had come to Britain from Jamaica and had lived вЂњa stable and productive lifeвЂќ working in two banks. However when his marriage broke up he turned to drug taking and became increasingly unwell leading to вЂњhearing voices on an almost daily basisвЂќ. Prosecutor Simon Denison QC told the court that Fraser had told doctors that вЂњvoices in his head had told him his enemies were to be found in sex workers disguised as women but were really menвЂќ. Evening Standard London T Robert Fraser murdered sex worker Maria Duque-Tunjano He added: вЂњThe doctors agree that at the time of the killing he was suffering from an abnormality of mental function arising from paranoid schizophrenia.вЂќ Today Fraser pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. He also pleaded guilty to stealing ВЈ150 and a mobile phone from Duque-Tunjano. He pleaded not guilty to false imprisonment, sexual assault and robbery of ВЈ1,000 cash from the Belgian woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons. Prosecutor Simon Denison QC said that in the light of the psychiatric reports the pleas were acceptable and it was not in the public interest to push for a trial. Judge John Bevan QC ordered that he be detained under the Mental Health Act without limit of time. Police have arrested two men in connection with the investigation into a nightclub shooting after a dramatic car chase through north London. Detectives from the MetвЂ™s Trident gun crime unit pursued a white BMW before blockading it in an Esso garage in Stamford Hill on Wednesday night. A man, wearing a green parka, blue jeans and boots, was handcuffed and ordered to sit on the forecourt as officers searched the car before arresting him and an accomplice. A number of bags were removed and taken away by forensic teams for examination. A witness said: вЂњThere were about 30 undercover police in 10 cars surrounding the BMW.вЂќ The operation followed a shooting outside The Garage in Highbury Crescent at 11.40pm on Monday during a concert by rappers Southern Equilibrium. The 25-year-old victim was shot in the leg and made his way to a nearby hospital, where he remains in a stable condition. His injuries are not life-threatening. A concert the following night by London-based Grime MC Wiley was postponed by promoters SJM because the venue was вЂњa crime sceneвЂќ. Scotland Yard today said two men, aged 28 and 30, had been arrested at the garage at around 8.30pm on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm and possession of a п¬Ѓrearm. Russian billionaire loses bid to lift freeze order on ВЈ1bn in assets Evening Standard London T he billionaire partner of a London socialite who complains she cannot survive on ВЈ10,000 a week yesterday lost his high court bid to lift a worldwide freezing order on ВЈ1bn of his assets. Sergei Pugachev, 51 once known as the вЂњKremlinвЂ™s bankerвЂќ, is accused of embezzling $2.5bn from Mezhprombank, the Russian bank he founded. Court hearings are underway in London and Moscow against the oligarch, who was once ranked by Forbes magazine at no 50 in the вЂњGolden 100вЂќ of RussiaвЂ™s wealthiest men. His partner Alexandra Tolstoy, a distant cousin of the War and Murdered womanвЂ™s daughter speaks out Peace writer, has complained about the court order which limits the coupleвЂ™s spending to ВЈ10,000 per week. It was imposed in July after an application by DIA, the bankвЂ™s liquidators, and the billionaireвЂ™s attempt to have it lifted has now been rejected by justice Mann. Pugachev denies any wrongdoing and says he had no involvement in the Russian bank after becoming a senator in his homeland in 2001. But the judge said that the evidence that he had at least some control was вЂњof real weightвЂќ while there was also strong evidence вЂњto gainsay his interpretation of eventsвЂќ. The judge also spoke about PugachevвЂ™s вЂњpropensity to take personal beneп¬Ѓt from the bankвЂќ and вЂњhis desire to shield his assetsвЂќ. Tolstoy has hit out at the п¬Ѓnancial strictures when she has to run a large London townhouse, a three-bedroom cottage in Oxfordshire and a historic chateau in 15 acres of grounds overlooking the bay at Nice. The Belle Epoque chateau is only one of three great houses of that era on the Cote dвЂ™Azur вЂ“ one of the others is owned by Sir Elton John. She has three nannies on rota for her three children, numerous housekeepers, security guards, drivers, gardeners, a live-in doctor and a personal trainer. The court order bans the couple from selling any of their assets but the ВЈ10,000 limit does not include legal fees. When the court imposed the freeze Tolstoy, 41, complained it was вЂњa draconian order form a corrupt country [Russia]вЂќ. вЂњWe are just surviving at the moment,вЂќ she said to the Daily Mail while admitting she was вЂњa clothes-aholicвЂќ. вЂњSergei tells me off for buying too much but he says we shouldnвЂ™t be ashamed of our lifestyle and, yes, I love shopping.вЂќ Pugachev had been a close ally of President Vladimir Putin and is said to have п¬‚ed Russia for London in January 2011 using a diplomatic passport. He had founded the bank in 1992 and was a member of former president Boris YeltsinвЂ™s inner circle before becoming a close conп¬Ѓdante of Putin. In December 2008 the Mezhprombank received $1.5bn worth of emergency bailout funding from the Russian government but defaulted in 2010 with a loss of ВЈ600mn. The DIA, the bank liquidators, claim Pugachev defrauded the bank and used part of the money to buy a Flacon 2000 private jet and a luxury yacht for his personal use. In a statement today they welcomed the judgement and stressed they would continue to pursue him and recover his assets. Pugachev has claimed that the bankвЂ™s bankruptcy was due to a Kremlin campaign to seize the controlling stakes he held in RussiaвЂ™s two biggest and most moderns shipyards at a knockdown price. He says that the legal action is politically motivated and that he has had no involvement in the bankвЂ™s affairs since 2001. he man who killed his former partner Valerie Forde, 45, and their 22-month-old daughter RealJahzara was this week starting a life sentence. Roland McKoy attacked them after being told to leave the family home in Hackney following the end of their 18year relationship. After the verdict, the family of community worker Forde said: вЂњThe pain will still continue for our family for the rest of our lives. His actions have destroyed the lives of Valerie and JahzaraвЂ™s family, friends and the wider community in Hackney.вЂќ FordeвЂ™s daughter Carrise, 28, overheard the murders on an open phone line. In a victim impact statement read to the court, she said: вЂњTime will never heal the hurt, the loss, the pain, the betrayal and the yearning to hear their voices and laughter.вЂќ There were cheers in the public gallery of the Old Bailey as a jury took two and a half hours to п¬Ѓnd McKoy guilty of the two murders. Jailing him for life with a minimum of 35 years, judge Charles Wide said: вЂњYou did it out of spite and resentment вЂ¦ You thought [Valerie] was going to back down but she didnвЂ™t and that was an affront to your monstrous egotism.вЂќ The handyman, 54, attacked Forde, a mother of four, as she got ready to leave for work on March 31, the deadline she had set for him to leave their home in Hackney. He inп¬‚icted 33 separate blows on FordeвЂ™s head and body before slashing the babyвЂ™s neck with the machete. Afterwards McKoy drank bleach and pinned a bloodstained note to FordeвЂ™s face blaming her for what had happened. Carrise called police, who arrived to п¬Ѓnd McKoy curled in a foetal position surrounded by weapons. Inquiries revealed the coupleвЂ™s relationship started to deteriorate when Forde discovered McKoy was still married to another woman. He was later jailed for drugs and beneп¬Ѓt offences and Forde gave him an ultimatum that either he contribute п¬Ѓnancially to the household or leave. By December 2013 she told him their relationship was over and gave him three months to go. The court heard he had made a series of threats to the family. In January Forde texted her sister saying: вЂњI have to be very very careful and pray for my safety each day and night.вЂќ The following month, she reported him to police after he told a neighbour he was going to burn the house down with everyone inside. Swastikas daubed on school sign Evening Standard London P olice have launched an investigation after swastikas were daubed on a primary schoolвЂ™s sign in north London. The Nazi symbols were seen at the entrance to a school in Stoke Newington. A neighbourhood watch group said its volunteers removed the graffiti from outside Jubilee Primary School on Thursday night. Volunteer Michael Scher told the Standard they scrubbed out the marking before children could see it on their way into school the following day. He said Swastikas have been painted on buildings on a number of other occasions this year. Scher added: вЂњThis was on the schoolвЂ™s notice board by the main entrance for the kids coming in every day. вЂњWeвЂ™ve never seen something like this on a school before.вЂќ It comes after a 20% surge in hate crimes in London was reported in the past 12 months up to October, with a total of 1,048 faith-related offences. The MayorвЂ™s Office for Policing and Crime said the increase was due in part to international events such as Syria and the conп¬‚ict between Israel and Palestine. A Hackney Police spokeswoman conп¬Ѓrmed an investigation has been launched. Stoke Newington neighbourhood Sergeant Dan Window tweeted: вЂњLocal Officers are providing reassurance patrols following anti-semitic graffiti at a local primary school.вЂќ The Evening Standard has approached Hackney Council for a comment. Dogs to sniff out drug users in nightclub Evening Standard London N ightclub Fabric has been saved from the threat of closure after bosses agreed to hire seven ВЈ300-a-night sniffer dogs to check clubbers for drugs. Top DJs including Annie Mac, Chemical Brothers and Groove Armada joined a last-minute campaign to save the Farringdon venue after the Standard revealed it faced losing its licence after four drug-related deaths in three years. It will will now become the п¬Ѓrst club in London to have drug dogs regularly on patrol. Each dog and handler will cost the club ВЈ300 for a four-hour shift. The club will also have to introduce ID checks on all clubbers, improve CCTV and increase drug searches at the door as part of a package of conditions. Paddy Whur, the clubвЂ™s solicitor, said: вЂњThey will need seven dogs per night because they can only work for a certain number of hours. вЂњThe vast majority of private sector dog providers are not trained to the level that police dogs are. So itвЂ™s been difficult п¬Ѓnding one to meet the criteria police want.вЂќ Chief inspector Ian Howells said: вЂњThe relationship between the club and police has been good. ThereвЂ™s a good level of support. вЂњWith the two recent deaths we have sought to engage to improve the security and search regime to mitigate further risks.вЂќ Before the meeting, the club released a statement underlining its вЂњzero toleranceвЂќ policy towards drug taking. A grey haired clubber, in his late thirties, said he had been to the club вЂњ200 times in 15 yearsвЂќ and only once been offered drugs. He added: вЂњI take exception to ID scans. As a law abiding clubber, having your data put on record just because you choose to go clubbing seems like a gross invasion of privacy.вЂњ More than 30,000 people signed a Change.org petition in a show of support to BritainвЂ™s biggest club. DJ Annie Mac said: вЂњFabric is one of London nightlifeвЂ™s most important assets.вЂќ Club founders Cameron Leslie and Keith Reilly say they will п¬Ѓght the decision. He told the Standard: вЂњWeвЂ™ll be appealing. We need to see their written reasons but we fundamentally disagree on a number of key points.вЂќ Leslie told the meeting the club had struggled to п¬Ѓnd a sniffer dog company that would п¬Ѓt the bill and had reservations about the ID scanner. He added: вЂњWe are on the same page in lots of ways, we just have fundamental differences on how to operate that.вЂќ Reilly said: вЂњIn 15 years we have had 6mn people come through the doors and sadly there have been four deaths. вЂњWe do everything we can to stop people taking drugs in the club. WhatвЂ™s happened recently is this country is awash with drugs. вЂњThereвЂ™s been a large batch of MDMA thatвЂ™s got more powerful and has caught the kids out.вЂќ The judgment means Fabric will continue to operate as normal, with the added conditions attached. Fabric, which is renowned for house and techno nights. Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 21 BRITAIN Mother stabbed in вЂ�row over parkingвЂ™ Evening Standard London T Shoppers pass Shrek, a Chow Chow raising money for the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), on Oxford street during the final weekend of shopping before Christmas in London. Retailers in capital brace for scramble Evening Standard London R etailers are preparing for one of the biggest shopping days of the year as high street spending is set to reach ВЈ1.2bn in what is being called вЂњPanic SaturdayвЂќ. Some of the biggest high street names have slashed prices ahead of the Boxing Day sales as they hope to avoid a repeat of the violent scenes witnessed last month on вЂњBlack FridayвЂќ. According to the Centre for Retail Research (CRR), some 13mn shoppers will shell out as much as ВЈ2.1mn for every minute the shops are open today as many scramble to pick up a bargain, get lastminute gifts and festive groceries. Among the retailers offering discounts, Debenhams is selling some Christmas gifts at half-price, Boots is offering a 60% discount of selected fragrances, while Marks & Spencer has knocked 50% off the price of some beauty products. The CRR has predicted in-store sales will reach ВЈ4.74bn over the п¬Ѓve days before Christmas - a 21% increase on last year. Its report, for Vouchercodes.co.uk, found that delayed online orders, poor weather in some areas and earlier sales were expected to drive 60.9mn shoppers to the high street between today and Christmas Eve - up 14% on last year. BritainвЂ™s department stores can expect to double their takings this weekend, with outlets in the north of England set to beneп¬Ѓt the most from Panic Saturday, according to data from payment processing company Worldpay. Shoppers carry bags along Oxford street during the final weekend of shopping before Christmas. It said the number of card payments processed by department stores in some parts of the UK just prior to Christmas rose by as much as 224% this time last year, with even better п¬Ѓgures expected this year. Worldpay UK managing director Dave Hobday said: вЂњDepartment stores are magnets for shoppers who п¬Ѓnd themselves in the last-chance saloon in the п¬Ѓnal few days before Christmas. вЂњMany of these eleventh-hour shoppers will be breaking into a cold sweat at the thought of heading to the high street on the busiest shopping day of the year and praying for someone to take the pain away.вЂќ But those averse to crowds are advised to stay home on Tuesday next week for what is expected to be the busiest single high street shopping day ahead of Christmas. Visa Europe predicts shoppers will spend ВЈ1.3bn on Tuesday alone on the high street, or ВЈ15,278 every second, on its cards. It estimates 34mn transactions will take place, with numbers peaking in the lunch hour break between 1pm and 2pm. Despite the rise of Black Friday, which saw high street spending of more than ВЈ1bn this year, Visa predicts that the high street will continue to see its busiest day two days before Christmas. Overall, the seven day period before Christmas Day is predicted to see a 7% increase in spending and an 8 per cent increase in transactions on the same period last year. Visa Europe managing director for the UK and Ireland, Kevin Jenkins, said: вЂњBlack Friday kick-started Christmas on the high street and online this year but the busiest bricks and mortar day will likely remain in its traditional slot close to Christmas. вЂњRetailersвЂ™ multi-channel approach should cause a surge in footfall from clickand-collect sales too, with the opportunity for further shopping in-store when consumers arrive. вЂњAcross Tuesday December 23 we are likely to see ВЈ1.3bn spent in total. Lunch hour should prove the most popular time for a shopping trip, either for last minute gifts or п¬Ѓnal ingredients for Christmas dinner.вЂќ Westп¬Ѓeld director Myf Ryan said: вЂњWe are expecting this Saturday to be the busiest day for shopping so far this year. Last year our London centres attracted over 320,000 shoppers on the last Saturday before Christmas and we are again expecting big numbers this year. вЂњOver 3mn shoppers each year leave their Christmas shopping to the last 12 days. Promotions continue to be a key factor this year following the huge success of Black Friday where we had over 20 per cent growth year-on-year, but luxury brands are also drawing shoppers who are looking for that extra-special gift.вЂќ he family of a woman stabbed to death after a bitter parking dispute have paid tribute to a вЂњwonderful motherвЂќ who was dedicated to reducing crime in her community. Alison Morrison, 45, suffered multiple stab wounds when she was attacked less than half a mile from her ВЈ410,000 home in Harrow yesterday. Her next-door neighbour, satellite TV engineer Trevor Gibbon, 48, was today being questioned by police on suspicion of murder. Residents claimed the pair had been rowing over a shared driveway between their end-of-terrace houses. MorrisonвЂ™s brother-in-law Lee Richards told the Standard they were вЂњdevastatedвЂќ. His wife Julie has travelled from Hampshire to London to be with her sisterвЂ™s family. Richards said: вЂњWe are just shocked and devastated. She was a wonderful, caring mother and top professional. She was a great mum and did good work for the community. She was just the best person and we are only just starting to come to terms with our loss. We cannot believe what has happened.вЂќ Which? magazine executive Morrison, who lived with her husband Cedric, 46, and their 16-year-old son, was the vice-chair of the Harrow Safer Neighbourhood Board, which is devoted to tackling crime in the area. Speaking from the family home this morning, her niece, Bianca Brathwaite, said: вЂњShe was everything you could ask for In a woman, she was strong and always stood up for herself and her family and is loved dearly.вЂќ The dispute is said to have begun more than a year ago when Harrow Council re-paved Windsor Crescent but did not drop the kerb in front of the shared driveway, leading the neighbours to argue over access and who could park where. It escalated when Morrison, who recently underwent a kidney transplant, put up a bright security light. In response, CCTV was apparently installed. One resident told the Standard: вЂњEverything kicked off because they didnвЂ™t get a drop kerb when the pavements were re-done. Trevor got some parking tickets because he parked in front of the driveway. вЂњWe knew they had argued. She was a good, community person.вЂќ Neighbours in nearby Alexandra Avenue were woken to MorrisonвЂ™s screams as she was reportedly ambushed on the way to walk at 7.40am yesterday. One eyewitness said: вЂњShe was on the п¬‚oor and a man was on top of her, attacking her. вЂњHe had a big knife in his hands, I saw it п¬‚ashing, it was something big and shiny.вЂќ Another resident, who asked not to be named, said: вЂњI was in bed and I heard screaming from outside. At п¬Ѓrst I thought it was children п¬Ѓghting, but the screams continued and I looked out the window and saw the commotion outside. вЂњI came out and saw the woman on the п¬‚oor, she was breathing and conscious, but she wasnвЂ™t moving. I phoned for an ambulance and it came within seconds.вЂќ Councillor Susan Hall, leader of the local Conservative group, said: вЂњShe really cared about standing up for people in the community. She wanted to see how she could make things better. вЂњItвЂ™s absolutely devastating. She was just magniп¬Ѓcent. She was so articulate, so thoughtful , so inspiring. This will send shockwaves through our community.вЂќ Cllr David Perry, Leader of the Council, said: вЂњAlison Morrison was passionately committed to creating a safer Harrow through her work with the Harrow Safer Neighbourhood Board and as a Community Champion, and it is terrible news that she has lost her life in this violent way in a borough she cared so much about. вЂњAlisonвЂ™s colleagues on the Safer Neighbourhood Board are absolutely shattered by this news as are the staff of Harrow Council. Alison was a key member of the Board and a tireless advocate of its work.вЂќ Alison Morrison (inset) and the driveway between her and a neighbourвЂ™s houses. Three teenagers jailed for axe murder of man Evening Standard London A teenager who stabbed a man 11 times in a horriп¬Ѓc axe and knife attack reminiscent of the Hollywood movie The Shining was sentenced to a minimum of 17 years at the Old Bailey yesterday. Handyman Paul Thrower died after two youths hacked at him with a 4ft long axe and stabbed him at п¬‚ats in Hayes, Middlesex in February. Zakariya Subeir and Kiro Halliburton, both now 18, hit out when Thrower came at them in a rage, smashing through a reinforced glass partition they were hiding behind. Halliburton, who delivered the fatal knife wound, was found guilty of murder while Subeir, who hit the victim twice with an axe, and Mahdi Osman, also 18, were convicted of manslaughter. Sentencing Judge John Bevan QC said Thrower had been the victim of вЂњ10 seconds of extreme violenceвЂќ. Zakariya Subeir, Kiro Halliburton and Mahdi Osman He said Halliburton, who was only 17 at the time, could have had a far longer sentence had he been born a month later making him 18 and in a higher sentencing bracket. Imposing a sentence of detention at Her MajestyвЂ™s pleasure, the juvenile equivalent of a life term, the judge told him: вЂњYou can consider yourself fortunate. вЂњThe carrying of a knife has become endemic among some teenagers in part s of вЂњIt is the resort of a coward. You are a dangerous young man, repeatedly ag- gressive when armed with a knife.вЂќ Subeir was sentenced to eight years in a young offendersвЂ™ institute with an extended licence period of four years. Osman received five and a half years. The court heard how the victim had been drinking and became very angry when his girlfriend Geraldine Roberts told him the youths swore, spat and threw a drink at her earlier that day. When Thrower confronted them, Subeir and Halliburton shut themselves into a bin chute on a п¬Ѓrst-п¬‚oor communal balcony at St DunstanвЂ™s Close. As the furious 46-year-old hammered with his п¬Ѓsts on the glass partition, the 17-year-old found an axe in a shed and Osman passed it up to Subeir, who had managed to get onto the roof of the adjoining porch. But when Thrower smashed the reinforced glass and began to crawl through the gap, Subeir hit him twice on the head and once on the shoulder with the axe and Halliburton stabbed him repeatedly in the back with a knife. The victim emerged from the bin chute covered in blood, staggering, holding the axe before he collapsed and died from a stab to the heart. Said the judge: вЂњThis was a wicked and unnecessary crime. A ranting inebriate is not match for a knife and axe wielded by young and fit teenagers.вЂќ As the defendants ran away, Roberts chased after them. She was one of a number of residents who had called 999 to alert police who arrived within minutes. Afterwards, all the defendants scattered - according to them, because they thought they would not be believed. Halliburton shaved off his plaits and п¬‚ed to Leeds in Yorkshire. When he was apprehended, he gave a false name. Subeir п¬‚ew to Somalia, via Dubai, but came back about three weeks later and was arrested on the plane at Heathrow airport. Osman went to ground and was arrested п¬Ѓve days after the incident. In the years leading up to the mur- der, residents of St DunstanвЂ™s Close had complained about anti-social behaviour from groups of youths hanging around even though they did not live there. Subeir, of Uxbridge, and Halliburton and Osman, both of Hayes, had all denied murder. A man was today jailed for 12 years over the вЂњsenseless killingвЂќ of a student who was attacked in a п¬Ѓght as he tried to protect his friend. Rio Julienne-Clarke, 21, stabbed Dwayne Simpson in the heart after he intervened when he saw a friend being chased along Brixton Road. The Old Bailey heard Julienne-Clarke and Simpson were involved in a вЂњlongrunning disputeвЂќ. Simpson, 20, a former student at Lambeth College, followed JulienneClarke in his car on the afternoon of February 25 before getting out and confronting him. Julienne-Clarke then stabbed him multiple times in an alleyway, the court heard. Police and passers-by gave him CPR as he lay on the ground in a pool of blood in St JohnвЂ™s Crescent. Paramedics arrived soon afterwards and took him to hospital but he died two days later from his injuries. Julienne-Clarke, of no п¬Ѓxed address, was yesterday jailed for manslaughter. Rhianna Addison, 19, of Shakespear Road, Brixton, was acquitted of assisting an offender and perverting the course of justice. Two other people - a 41-year-old woman and an 18-year-old man - remain on bail after being arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender. Three other boys, all aged 16, were released with no further action following Mr SimpsonвЂ™s death. Detective inspector Nathan Eason, who led the investigation, said: вЂњDwayne senseless killing has caused immense suffering to his family and friends. вЂњThis has been a difficult and complex investigation and officers wish to pass on their gratitude to those members of the community that provided assistance.вЂќ 22 Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 EUROPE Erdogan praises вЂ�cleanвЂ™ legal crackdown on foes AFP Istanbul T urkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has praised the вЂњcleanвЂќ legal process against his opponents that has been sharply criticised by the EU and included a warrant for arch-foe Fethullah Gulen as well as a wave of arrests. The crackdown is seen by opponents as the latest act of authoritarian excess by Erdogan, who in August moved to the post of president after over a decade as prime minister. But in a speech in Istanbul, Erdogan denied there had been any вЂњlynchingвЂќ of opponents and said the arrests were linked to a вЂњcoup plotвЂќ led by Gulen aimed at ousting him from power. вЂњI have been watching this process closely as president of this country. Everything is lawful and in line with procedure ... a really diligent and clean proc- Most Catalans would vote to stay in Spain: poll A majority of people in Catalonia would vote to stay part of Spain, a poll by the regional government showed on Friday, the first in years to show a majority against independence. The margin was very slim, with 45.3% saying that they would vote вЂњnoвЂќ to an independent state of Catalonia, and 44.5% вЂњyesвЂќ. It is the first time the вЂњnoвЂќ vote has taken the lead since Catalan head Artur Mas began his drive for secession in 2012. Catalans cast ballots on November 9 in a symbolic vote on independence after Madrid blocked a formal referendum in the courts on the grounds it was against SpainвЂ™s constitution. The new poll results showed most Catalans want increased powers on matters such as determining their own taxes, with 64% saying they thought the region had insufficient autonomy. The regional government polling unit surveyed 1,100 people in Catalonia from December 9 to December 13. ess is going on at the moment,вЂќ Erdogan said in the televised speech. вЂњThe police and judiciary are not repeating the mistakes of the past.вЂќ Erdogan defended the detention of journalists as part of the probe, saying that some were using the profession as a вЂњmaskвЂќ for other activities. He argued that the detention of journalists was nothing unusual, referring to the arrests in Britain over the phone-tapping scandal that rocked the tabloid press there. His comments came a day after an Istanbul court issued an arrest warrant for the US-based Gulen, who Erdogan accuses of running a вЂњparallel stateвЂќ from his exile in the US state of Pennsylvania. A court on Friday also remanded in custody on terrorism charges the head of the proGulen Samanyolu TV, Hidayet Karaca, and three police officers, although the editor-in-chief of Erdogan: God willing, no one will remember the era of the organisation of the assassins. the equally pro-Gulen Zaman newspaper Ekrem Dumanli was freed. Seven other suspects were also released pending trial. вЂњGod willing, no one will remember the era of the organisation of the assassins,вЂќ Erdogan said, using one of his favoured terms for GulenвЂ™s group. Dumanli вЂ“ who is not allowed to leave Turkey and is still set to face trial вЂ“ returned to his ofп¬Ѓces at the Zaman newspaper headquarters to a heroвЂ™s welcome from hundreds of employ- ees who shouted press freedom slogans, Samanyolu television pictures showed. It remains doubtful that Washington will show any inclination to extradite Gulen, who has lived in the United States since 1999, to face trial in Turkey. GulenвЂ™s movement, usually known as Hizmet (Service), has millions of followers and has built up a lucrative and inп¬‚uential international network of private cramming schools. Supporters see the Gulen movement as a modern and forward-thinking Islamic-rooted group although some critics claim it has the makings of a cult. The detention of 30 people last weekend on raids on journalists, scriptwriters and police deemed close to Gulen was sharply criticised by the EU, who in turn aroused ErdoganвЂ™s own ire. вЂњTurkey is not the EUвЂ™s doorman,вЂќ Erdogan said in the speech, sarcastically noting that the bloc had rushed to make its criticism in the Christmas holiday period while it had вЂњkept Turkey waiting at the door for 50 yearsвЂќ. He accused the international press of вЂњlatching onвЂќ to the EU campaign against Turkey, one day after the New York Times in a tough editorial accused Erdogan of being an вЂњauthoritarian leader living in a parallel universeвЂќ. ErdoganвЂ™s heated rhetoric against the EU adds to existing problems for the long-stalled membership bid of Turkey, already held up by disputes over Cyprus and human rights. He said that Turkey had taken in 1.7mn Syrian refugees from the conп¬‚ict at a cost of $5.5bn (в‚¬4.5bn) but bitterly complained that Ankara had only received $200mn in help from the EU. вЂњWhen it comes to money, this is their god,вЂќ he said. Harmful road traffic noise affects 25% of Europeans Reuters Oslo H armful levels of road traffic noise affect one in four people in Europe and raise health risks ranging from sleepless nights to heart disease, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said. In a п¬Ѓrst EEA assessment of the impact of noise pollution in Europe, it said the din undermines the ability of children to concentrate in some schools and disrupts nature, for instance by drowning out the songs birds use to attract mates. вЂњNoise pollution is a major environmental health problem in Europe,вЂќ the EEA report said, adding that what it called the вЂњEuropean soundscapeвЂќ is under threat. The Copenhagen-based EEA, a European Union agency, said that traffic was the main вЂ�Brain deadвЂ™ woman gives birth Italian doctors on Friday delivered a baby boy from his brain dead mother. The delicate caesarean operation was conducted in the San Raffaele hospital in Milan, where the woman had arrived on October 21, 23 weeks into her pregnancy. The Ansa news agency reported that the 36-year-old had suffered a sudden brain haemorrhage. She was kept on artificial life support until doctors judged that the fetus she was carrying had a good chance of surviving on its own. The newborn, weighing 1.8kg, was said to be in good condition. After his birth, his motherвЂ™s organs were donated for transplant operations. source of noise above legal guidelines and affected around 125mn people, a quarter of the EU population. Railways, airports and industrial sites added to the cacophony. The EEA estimated that environmental noise caused up to 10,000 premature deaths in Europe every year. More than 900,000 cases of hypertension could be traced to noise, which it said raises risks of insomnia and heart disease. While many people did not report problems, almost 20mn adults felt вЂњannoyanceвЂќ at noise pollution and another 8mn suffered disturbed sleep, the EEA said. The World Health Organisation also says that noise is an under-estimated threat. The EEA п¬Ѓndings indicated that Luxembourg, Bulgaria and Belgium had urban areas with the highest percentages of people exposed to high road noise levels while Malta, Iceland and Germany were the quietest. The report called for better planning ranging from preserving quiet areas in cities to less noisy tyres on cars. In another report in 2011, the European Commission reckoned that noise from road and rail traffic cost в‚¬40bn ($49bn) a year in terms of depressed prices for property beside noisy roads, medical bills and lower productivity at work. Field interaction C laims of attempted bribery in a critical presidential vote have stirred a political storm in debt-laden Greece ahead of a parliamentary ballot to elect a head of state. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said he would sue a popular comedian-turned-lawmaker who claimed he was offered money to help rig the presidential vote, allegedly on the premierвЂ™s orders. Failure to elect a new president by the end of December will usher in early general elections in Greece, a prospect that could reverse п¬Ѓscal reforms. This has sparked alarm in international markets and with the countryвЂ™s EU-IMF creditors. The controversy erupted on Friday when Pavlos Haikalis, a comedian and lawmaker of the small nationalist Independent Greeks party, said a former bank employee had offered him в‚¬23mn ($2.5-3.7mn) to vote for the governmentвЂ™s candidate. Events quickly snowballed with Haikalis later telling Mega TV station that the middleman was allegedly вЂњacting on behalfвЂќ of Samaras and a banker, and the prime minister hitting back with a slander lawsuit. Fuelling the turmoil, two independent lawmakers rumoured to be close to radical leftist party Syriza insinuated that other colleagues had been bribed. вЂњA shadow of bribery allegations ... hangs over the presidential vote,вЂќ they said in a statement. Samaras: taking a lawmaker to court. Yesterday parliament asked the Supreme Court to hasten the investigation into the case as newspapers bemoaned the deteriorating state of the countryвЂ™s political scene. вЂњPolitical life in a deep morass,вЂќ lamented centre-left Ethnos daily, while liberal Kathimerini said the political climate was вЂњdangerouslyвЂќ heating up ahead of the follow-up vote on Tuesday. вЂњThe accusation ... could derail a looming pre-election period and rent apart political parties, fuelling insecurity,вЂќ argued centre-left Ta Nea daily. Former conservative prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis also warned on Friday that the elections вЂњrisked being held in a jungle atmosphereвЂќ. In the п¬Ѓrst round of the presidential vote on Wednesday, the government presidential candidate вЂ“ former EU commissioner Stavros Dimas вЂ“ mustered 160 parliamentary votes out of the required 200. A total of 200 votes are again required in a second vote on Tuesday. The bar lowers to 180 votes in a third and п¬Ѓnal vote on December 29. European Union and International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials fear an early election вЂ“ which could be held as early as January 25 вЂ“ would be won by radical leftist party Syriza and undo the countryвЂ™s ongoing п¬Ѓscal reforms. Syriza has declined to front a candidate for president. The leftists want to raise salaries and pensions, halt lay-offs and freeze privatisation of state assets вЂ“ all of them key elements of reforms demanded by GreeceвЂ™s creditors. The looming political stalemate has alarmed international markets, pushing up the yield of Greek bonds and prompting EU Commission chief JeanClaude Juncker to recently warn the nation against delivering the вЂњwrongвЂќ election result. In 2012, back-to-back elections were needed in May and June to form a shaky coalition government, stalling GreeceвЂ™s п¬Ѓscal reforms and sparking speculation that the country was about to be ejected from the eurozone. The Independent Greeks party recently claimed that another of its deputies had been offered money to help elect a president, but an investigation found insufп¬Ѓcient evidence to press charges. AFP Rome T he Franciscan Order founded by Saint Francis of Assisi, who advocated a life of poverty, is in deep п¬Ѓnancial trouble following the discovery of massive fraud and is appealing for help. ItalyвЂ™s Panorama magazine said the 800-year-old order had invested tens of millions of euros in suspect п¬Ѓrms currently under investigation in Switzerland for dodgy practices. The Italian press has also questioned the orderвЂ™s п¬Ѓnancial wisdom in spending millions of euros on renovating Il Cantico, a luxury hotel it owns in Rome. In a rare open letter, the American head of the order, Michael Perry, admitted the situation was вЂњgraveвЂќ. вЂњThe General Curia п¬Ѓnds itself in grave, and I underscore вЂ�graveвЂ™ п¬Ѓnancial difficulty, with a signiп¬Ѓcant burden of debt,вЂќ he said. вЂњThe matter involves our п¬Ѓnancial stability and the patrimony of the Order,вЂќ he wrote in a rare open letter that appeals for п¬Ѓnancial support from вЂњall Provincials and CustodesвЂќ. вЂњWhile our п¬Ѓrst concern has and remains verifying the nature, extent, and impact of what has occurred, we also recognise the signiп¬Ѓcant role that external actors, people who are not members of the Order, have played in creating this grave situation,вЂќ he wrote. The letter describes an investigation that was launched in September into accounts dating back to 2003. A general treasurer has resigned since then. Pope jokes about the future Reuters Vatican City P Political storm stirs in Greece over MP bribery allegations AFP Athens Church order in вЂ�graveвЂ™ п¬Ѓnancial trouble A handout picture made available by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Planck Collaboration yesterday shows the interaction between interstellar dust in the Milky Way and the structure of our galaxyвЂ™s magnetic field, as taken by ESAвЂ™s Planck satellite. Between 2009 and 2013, Planck scanned the sky to detect the most ancient light in the history of the universe вЂ“ the cosmic microwave background. It also detected significant foreground emission from diffuse material in our Galaxy which, although a nuisance for cosmological studies, is extremely important for studying the birth of stars and other phenomena in the Milky Way. Scientists in the Planck collaboration are using the polarised emission of interstellar dust to reconstruct the GalaxyвЂ™s magnetic field and study its role in the build-up of structure in the Milky Way, leading to star formation. This image shows the intricate link between the magnetic field and the structure of the interstellar medium along the plane of the Milky Way. In particular, the arrangement of the magnetic field is more ordered along the Galactic plane, where it follows the spiral structure of the Milky Way. Small clouds are seen just above and below the plane, where the magnetic field structure becomes less regular. ope Francis wished Rome luck on Friday on its bid to host the 2024 Olympics, which may include some events in the Vatican, but then joked that he would not be around to enjoy them. Pope, who turned 78 on Wednesday, improvised the comment at the end of an address to members of ItalyвЂ™s national Olympic committee. After offering вЂњbest wishes for your candidacyвЂќ, the Pope, an avid soccer fan, paused, smiled and added: вЂњBut I wonвЂ™t be hereвЂќ, bringing laughter to the group in a Vatican hall. Italian media have reported that Olympic organisers want to hold some events, such as archery or badminton, in Saint PeterвЂ™s Square, which borders with Rome but is on Vatican territory. The Vatican has said it would consider requests. In August, the Pope, who appears to be in good health, told reporters that he expected вЂњto return to the house of the fatherвЂќ (God) in two or three years. He has also said he would not hesitate to resign for health reasons, as did his predecessor, former pope Benedict XVI. Donkey dies after being crushed by fat man AFP Madrid A n overweight man was on Wednesday charged with animal abuse in southern Spain after a young donkey died three days after he sat on it at an outdoor Nativity scene. The п¬Ѓve-month-old donkey named Platero was on display along with other animals in the centre of the town of Lucena in SpainвЂ™s Andalucia region, as part of their annual Christmas celebrations. But on December 10 a man weighing nearly 150kg climbed into the donkeyвЂ™s pen and sat on the animalвЂ™s back to have his picture taken, two animal rights groups, Adebo and Circulo Animalista de Podemos Lucena, said in a statement. A photo widely circulating on social media show the portly man, who wore a blue shirt and green pants, grinning as he poses on the donkey with one hand on his hip and the other hanging on to the wooden fence that was meant to keep him out. Two days later the donkey was taken to a vet after local residents contacted Lucena town hall to say that the animal was not able to stand, the animal rights groups said. The donkey died the following day. вЂњOur Platero was literally squashed by a man,вЂќ the statement said. вЂњThe man proudly posed with his almost 150kg of weight on the fragile body of the animal, fatally injuring him.вЂќ Police in Lucena detained a 38-year-old man over the incident and charged him with animal abuse, a local police spokesman said. вЂњTAKE CARE OF ANIMALS! DonвЂ™t be an ass ... Show humanity and intelligence. Respect the rules!вЂќ SpainвЂ™s national police said in a Twitter message that included a link to a story about the case in El Mundo newspaper. Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 23 EUROPE Putin warns Russia wonвЂ™t be intimidated Reuters/AFP Moscow R ussia will not be intimidated over its actions in Ukraine and Crimea, President Vladimir Putin said yesterday as his foreign ministry warned that it was preparing to retaliate against fresh Western sanctions. Both the European Union and United States adopted tighter restrictions on investments in Crimea this week, while Canada ratcheted up its own sanctions directed at Moscow. Sanctions coupled with tumbling global oil prices have rattled RussiaвЂ™s economy, with the rouble losing over 40% of its value year-to-date and a recession expected to take hold next year. Putin has remained deп¬Ѓant in the face of these setbacks, repeatedly defending RussiaвЂ™s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March and its subsequent support for pro-Russian separatists battling Kiev forces in eastern Ukraine. Speaking at a concert honouring past and present security service staff, Putin said that he had heard people calling for Russia to вЂњpay dearly for its independent position backing compatriots and Crimea ... (and) just for the mere fact that we existвЂќ. вЂњObviously, no one will succeed in intimidating us, to deter, to isolate Russia,вЂќ he said in comments that were shown by staterun Rossiya 24 TV. Separately, the Russian foreign ministry said yesterday that new Western sanctions against UkraineвЂ™s Crimea region represented a вЂњcollective punishmentвЂќ against residents who had voted overwhelmingly in a referendum last March to join Russia. вЂњIt is sad that the countries which call themselves democratic resort to such methods in the 21st century,вЂќ the ministry said in a statement. Foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said the Putin: no one will succeed in intimidating us, to deter, to isolate Russia. Putin urges spies to tackle вЂ�modern challengesвЂ™ Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for improvement of MoscowвЂ™s secret services to tackle вЂњmodern challenges and threatsвЂќ amid his countryвЂ™s stand-off with the West over the Ukrainian crisis. The call came in a letter by Putin, himself a former KGB agent, to veterans and current operatives of RussiaвЂ™s security services on the day Moscow traditionally honours them. вЂњI stress that modern challenges and threats and emergence of new destabilising factors require an increase in the efficiency of the whole system of domestic special services,вЂќ Putin said, according to the letter released by the Kremlin. The key tasks for RussiaвЂ™s secret operatives are to fight international terrorism and вЂњany attempts of foreign special services to deal a blow to Russia (and) her political and economic interests,вЂќ he said. The European Union and the United States have imposed wide-ranging economic sanctions and visa bans against Russian individuals and companies over MoscowвЂ™s role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine and its annexation of the Crimea peninsula in March. The Russian economy is expected to sink into recession next year because of the sanctions and the falling price of oil, the countryвЂ™s main commodity. Locals queue to buy products at cheap prices at DonetskвЂ™s Lenin Square. Efforts to restart peace talks between Kiev and separatists fell through on Friday, according to the separatists, despite fresh mediation by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. sanctions undermined political efforts to resolve the conп¬‚ict in eastern Ukraine. вЂњWe advise Washington and Ottawa to think about the consequences of such actions. Meanwhile, we will work on retaliatory measures,вЂќ he said in comments published on the ministry website. Russia retaliated to earlier sanctions by limiting food imports from a range of Western countries. Kiev and its Western backers accuse Moscow of fanning violence in Ukraine and arming the rebels. Moscow denies the accusa- tions and says it annexed Crimea only after the referendum showed most residents wanted it to become part of Russia. Earlier yesterday, in a letter published by the Kremlin, Putin called for RussiaвЂ™s secret services to be improved to tackle вЂњmodern challenges and threats and the emergence of new destabilising factorsвЂќ. The key tasks for RussiaвЂ™s secret operatives were to п¬Ѓght international terrorism and вЂњany attempts of foreign special services to deal a blow to Russia (and) her political and economic interests,вЂќ said Putin, himself a former KGB agent. A Ukrainian conference mediated by European and Russian envoys in the Belarussian capital Minsk had initially been set for last week and meant to coincide with a new truce in the eightmonth conп¬‚ict. The ceaseп¬Ѓre appears to be holding better than similar previous measures and the number of daily rocket and mortar attacks across the Russian-speaking eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk has gone down. But Ukrainian forces still reported the loss of п¬Ѓve soldiers on Friday and have seen 15 servicemen killed since the December 9 deal. The sudden glimmer of hope that the end of EuropeвЂ™s worst violence since the 1990s Balkans conп¬‚icts was approaching has seen Western allies step up their pressure on Russia вЂ“ already reeling from its worst economic crisis of Vladimir PutinвЂ™s 15-year rule. CrimeaвЂ™s Moscow-backed leader Sergei Aksyonov called the European Union sanctions in particular an attempt to вЂњhumiliate RussiaвЂќ. Meanwhile, UkraineвЂ™s President Petro Poroshenko was due to convene his National Security and Defence Council to discuss ways of avoiding repeated dis- ruptions of supplies to his forces in the east. The emergency meeting comes a day before Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko pays his п¬Ѓrst visit to Kiev since his neighbourвЂ™s historic shift toward the West. The authoritarian leader has emerged as the conп¬‚ictвЂ™s unlikely peacemaker вЂ“ his own independence from Moscow undermined by a heavy reliance on Russian energy subsidies and beneп¬Ѓcial trade rules. The timing of LukashenkoвЂ™s visit signals that the peace talks are unlikely to take place today as both Poroshenko and his European supporters had hoped. Several rebel commanders have said they would not be ready until at least tomorrow or Tuesday. A Skype video conference between the sides on Friday failed to resolve the dispute. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and вЂ“ more recently вЂ“ French President Francois Hollande have been spearheading Western efforts to get the sides talking while Washington plays a backseat role. Both leaders are this weekend expected to hold their third teleconference with Putin and Poroshenko in the space of a week. The Minsk meeting appears to be hung up over PoroshenkoвЂ™s refusal to discuss one of the separatistsвЂ™ main demands вЂ“ that he resume the social welfare payments to the war-torn region that Kiev suspended last month. Poroshenko argues that the money is being stolen by the insurgents and used to pay guerrillas and foreign mercenaries. The militiasвЂ™ inability to improve life in the socially devastated region threatens to turn the locals against them and undermine their claims of legitimacy. Clock is ticking on Mistral decision, Moscow tells Paris AFP Moscow R ussia will gladly take back the money it paid for French Mistral-class warships whose handover has been delayed by concerns over MoscowвЂ™s role in the Ukraine crisis, a deputy defence minister said yesterday. Yury Borisov also indicated that Paris should make a decision before the new year. вЂњIt doesnвЂ™t matter if the calendar shows December 31, 2014 or January 1, 2015, but we are waiting for FranceвЂ™s decisionвЂќ, Interfax news agency quoted him as saying. вЂњWe would be content with either development вЂ“ the Mistrals or the return of all the invested money.вЂќ Given the currency crisis in Russia, which saw the rouble Germany toughens child porn legislation DPA Berlin A bill to toughen GermanyвЂ™s laws against child pornography completed its legislative passage on Friday amid controversy over a disgraced former politician and his collection of images of young males. Previously, German law banned images of sex with minors, but not all images of those pictured in lewd poses. The legislative change makes the sale of the latter a criminal offence. Sebastian Edathy, 45, a former government legislator, told a Berlin news conference on Thursday that his ownership of such images had been legal at the time, adding that he would not plead guilty at a trial scheduled for next year. He resigned his parliamentary seat in February, but controversy continues over whether he was tipped off by high-ranking officials weeks in advance of police searches of his home and offices. The legislative change aims to end uncertainty about the legality of lewd images of minors. Justice Minister Heiko Maas said: вЂњIf nude pictures of children and youths are manufactured for commercial purposes or provided to other people, that will be punishable in future.вЂќ But he said вЂњeverydayвЂќ behaviour would remain legal, alluding to a trend among teens to take nude selп¬Ѓes and send them digitally. The bill вЂ“ which was adopted Friday by the Bundesrat, GermanyвЂ™s upper house of parliament вЂ“ sets penalties for the procurement of child porn at one to three years in prison. The bill also extends the statute of limitations for serious sexual abuse of a minor until the victim turns 50. rapidly devalue by 50%, taking the money from the euro-denominated deal вЂњmay actually be preferableвЂќ, he added. France, which is struggling economically, is faced with a tough decision: deliver the two warships to Russia and face the wrath of its Nato allies or end up with two vessels equipped for the Russian navy and pay the price and possibly heavy п¬Ѓnes. The agreement for the heli- copter carriers worth в‚¬1.2bn ($1.5bn) was signed long before MoscowвЂ™s annexation of Crimea. Paris has so far delayed delivery of the п¬Ѓrst warship, which was set for fall of 2014, вЂњuntil further noticeвЂќ. This week Russian sailors training to operate the Mistrals вЂ“ each of which can carry 16 helicopters, four landing crafts, 13 tanks and more than 400 soldiers вЂ“ left France. This picture taken on Thursday shows Russian sailors waiting to board the training ship Smolny, near a Mistral warship, prior to leaving Saint-Nazaire harbour. The sailors had been training to operate the controversial Mistral-class warship built by France for Russia. Abused in childhood, victims of Swiss policy seek compensation By David Courbet, AFP Bern B eaten, forced to work, even sterilised вЂ“ victims of a brutal policy that saw thousands of Swiss children taken from their families and mistreated completed on Friday the process to have their demand for compensation put to a popular vote. вЂњI was 18 and had become pregnant when it happened,вЂќ said Bernadette Gachter, unable to hold back the tears as she described how she was forced by her host family and doctors to have an abortion and undergo sterilisation. She was taken from her parents when she was very young вЂ“ and on Friday, 42 years later, came to Bern with other victims to present a petition to the government that will force a popu- lar vote on whether Switzerland should pay them reparations. From the mid-19th century until the early 1980s, hundreds of thousands of people, mostly children, were subjected to вЂњcoercion for the purposes of assistanceвЂќ, effectively imprisoned, interned or taken from their families. Why? They fell short of вЂњtraditional social and moral valuesвЂќ, or, like GachterвЂ™s family, they were simply poor, according to Ueli Mader, a sociology professor at the University of Bern. Seized by the authorities, the children were most commonly placed in homes or in farms, where they were forced to work on the land or as servants. Abuse was widespread, said Mader. Wearing a bright red t-shirt with the words вЂњWiedergutmachungвЂќ (compensation), 85-yearold Charles Probst recalled how he was taken from his family and placed on a farm north of Bern. He was eight years old. вЂњI started to work on the farm before I was even 10, from 4am until sunset. I didnвЂ™t go to school and I was beaten daily by the farmer who did not see me as part of his family,вЂќ he said. The weakness of the childrenвЂ™s lobby compared to the farmersвЂ™ meant that the policy was allowed to endure for so long Under SwitzerlandвЂ™s cherished system of direct democracy, citizens can put a вЂњpopular initiativeвЂќ on any subject to a national public vote, provided it has the support of 100,000 people. The compensation proposal, which would have the Swiss government put aside 500mn francs ($510mn, в‚¬415mn) for victims of the coercion policies, has received more than 110,000 signa- tures in eight months. The text, which will now be put to a vote within the next two or three years, requests that payments be made to the some 20,000 victims who are still alive. It also calls for an independent investigation into the subject and a public debate into this dark chapter of SwitzerlandвЂ™s history. вЂњWe believe a woman who was sterilised should receive compensation, whether she is rich or poor,вЂќ Pascal Krauthammer, who led the compensation campaign, told AFP. Last year, Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga made a formal apology to the victims on behalf of the state of Switzerland, but made no proposal of reparations. There is an emergency fund provided by regional authorities and other organisations, worth seven or eight million francs, but it is available only to elderly people in a precarious п¬Ѓnancial situation. Asked why the policy endured so long, Mader blamed вЂњthe weakness of the childrenвЂ™s lobbyвЂќ compared to that of the farmers. There was also the fact that вЂњfor a long time people were held responsible for their own poverty. Their children had to atone for thatвЂќ, he said. By the time the policy ended, child labour on farms was also no longer a necessity thanks to the mechanisation of agriculture. Whether the initiative for compensation succeeds remains to be seen. Some politicians, particularly on the right, are reticent. вЂњThe majority of politicians here are not concerned with the have-nots, preferring to focus on the economy and the rich,вЂќ said socialist lawmaker Maria Bernasconi. 24 Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 INDIA TREATMENT TOURISM PROTEST WEATHER AGITATION Sonia GandhiвЂ™s health improving, says hospital Goa, Hawaii could be sister states: US Congresswoman Doctors seek arrest of BJP lawmaker, boycott work Chilly day in Delhi, fog disrupts train movement Bankers to strike work for five days in January Congress president Sonia Gandhi, admitted to a hospital in New Delhi for an infection in the lower respiratory tract, is feeling better, a hospital statement said yesterday, adding that her medication would continue. вЂњMrs (Sonia) Gandhi is feeling better and her condition is improving. Her medications will continue and she will remain under observation,вЂќ Ajay Swaroop, chairman, board of management, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said in a statement. Swaroop also clarified that speculations contrary to this, in certain sections of media, are entirely false and unwarranted. Gandhi was admitted under the care of Arup Kumar Basu, senior consultant and chairman of respiratory medicine and he is leading a team of doctors who are closely monitoring her. According to doctors, the problem is quite common in the winter season. IndiaвЂ™s most popular beach tourism destination Goa and AmericaвЂ™s tropical island state of Hawaii could be sister states as the two places had вЂњa lot of similaritiesвЂќ, first Hindu US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said yesterday. In a statement issued by the Hawaii CongresswomanвЂ™s office, Gabbard, who is in Goa to attend an international conclave, said there were a lot of similarities between the landscape and culture of Goa and Hawaii. She said the вЂ�sister-stateвЂ™ programme was вЂњaimed at increasing relations between the two states and promoting tourismвЂќ. The statement said Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Goa Governor Mridula Sinha were вЂњexcited with the proposition and agreed to work towards formalising such an initiativeвЂќ. Gabbard arrived in India on an official invite. Doctors across Rajasthan boycotted work yesterday for one hour demanding arrest of Prahalad Gunjal, suspended BJP MLA from Kota North constituency. вЂњWe boycotted work for one hour today (Saturday) and from tomorrow (Sunday) we have decided not to boycott work but to protest in a way that patients do not suffer,вЂќ Ajay Chaudhary, organising secretary of the All Rajasthan In-Service Doctors Association said. On Friday, doctors in government hospitals across the state had boycotted work for two hours. вЂњWe want arrest of Gunjal and two of his friends who had threatened the CMHO a few days ago,вЂќ Chaudhary said. Earlier on Friday, the BJP had suspended Gunjal for allegedly threatening a chief medical and health officer (CMHO) to force him to transfer a male nurse. The national capital experienced a chilly day yesterday with maximum temperature five notches below the seasonвЂ™s average at 17.5 degrees Celsius while fog early morning affected train movement. The weather is likely to remain similar today, the Met Office said. вЂњThe sky will be partly cloudy tomorrow (Sunday). Moderate to dense fog may occur in the morning,вЂќ said the Met Office. The maximum and minimum temperatures are likely to hover around 18 and 7 degrees Celsius. The minimum temperature settled a notch below the average at 7.2 degrees Celsius while visibility at 8:30am was 800m. According to a railway official, 55 trains coming to Delhi were running late while 36 trains leaving the national capital were rescheduled due to fog. No train was cancelled. Unions in the banking sector have announced five-day strike next month to demand early resolution of their wage hike negotiations, said the All India Bank EmployeesвЂ™Association (AIBEA). In a statement issued in Chennai yesterday, AIBEA said the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) at their meeting in Mumbai on December 17 have decided to go on strike on January 7. It will be followed by four days continuous strike from January 21-24 and an in-definite strike from March 16 onwards. The UFBU an umbrella organisation of bank unions includes AIBEA, National Confederation of Bank Employees, Bank Employees Federation of India, Indian National Bank Employees Federation, Indian National Bank Officers Congress, National Organisation of Bank Workers, All India Bank Officers Association, and National Organisation of Bank Officers. Reform or вЂ�miss the busвЂ™, warns Jaitley AFP New Delhi Trinamool to oppose insurance reform F inance Minister Arun Jaitley appealed to opposition parties yesterday to cooperate in passage of economic reform legislation, warning otherwise AsiaвЂ™s third-largest economy вЂњwill miss the busвЂќ again. The traditionally fractious parliament has been stalled once more by political rows that have hindered efforts by the new right-wing government to enact reforms and revive the stuttering economy. Stormy scenes in parliament under the previous left-leaning Congress government also hindered economic reform efforts. вЂњThe clear choice before us is вЂ” either we reform or we miss the bus once again,вЂќ Jaitley told a top-level corporate audience in a speech in New Delhi. вЂњIf the latter were to happen, a whole generation will not pardon us,вЂќ Jaitley said. He added there was a need for вЂњa shared national visionвЂќ to get the country back to nineto-10% annual growth levels it enjoyed until a few years ago to lift hundreds of millions of Indians out of poverty. India has been stuck in the longest spell of below-п¬Ѓve-percent growth in a quarter-century, hit by high interest rates, an investment slowdown and п¬‚agging consumer conп¬Ѓdence. Economic growth in the last п¬Ѓnancial year to March 2014 was 4.7% after falling to 4.5% the previous year. This year, the government hopes growth will accelerate to 5.5% and next Union Minister for Finance, Corporate Affairs, and Information and Broadcasting Arun Jaitley addressing a press conference in New Delhi. year вЂњwe have to п¬Ѓrst cross the six-percent-markвЂќ, Jaitley said. Growth downturns and uncertain investment landscapes in other parts of the world mean вЂњinvestors are looking to come to IndiaвЂќ, Jaitley said. But to capture this investment opportunity, India needs to slash red tape, liberalise the economy, speed decision-making and become a more business-friendly destination, analysts say. вЂњFor the next decade we can have a full reform agenda on our tableвЂќ if all sides get on board, Jaitley said. Overseas investors have waited for years for India to overhaul its economy вЂњand are confoundedвЂќ by its failure. вЂњThat is the challenge,вЂќ he said and asked, вЂњCan we allow this to continue?вЂќ The ministerвЂ™s comments came a day after the government introduced in parliament tax changes which analysts hailed as a вЂњgame changerвЂќ that will cut the cost of doing business domestically and boost growth. The government tabled the long-awaited goods-and-services tax (GST) harmonising varying state levies to create a single internal market. The legislation will be debated in the next session of parliament and the government aims to implement the new tax in April 2016. The government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi which was elected in May, is seeking to step up the pace of reforms after criticism from business it was not moving ahead swiftly enough. Spelling out plans for the year ahead, Jaitley added the government вЂњis determinedвЂќ to go ahead with liberalising the coal and insurance sectors to draw more investment. He will present his п¬Ѓrst full budget in February. The government is вЂњabsolutely clear about one fact вЂ” the (reform) course weвЂ™ve adopted is unalterableвЂќ, he said. Affirming its opposition to insurance sector reforms, the Trinamool Congress yesterday hit out at union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who has charged the West BengalвЂ™s ruling party of obstructing the upper house of parliament. Trinamool Rajya Sabha chief whip Derek OвЂ™Brien accused Jaitley of вЂњfalsehoodвЂќ and вЂњputting spins to thingsвЂќ and asserted seven to eight parties were united in opposing the вЂњso called reformsвЂќ. вЂњTwo days of parliament are still left. If Jaitley thinks he has seen the best of Trinamool, he is wrong. DonвЂ™t bulldoze us, we will fight you in the parliamentary democracy. Insurance Bill is not a reform. It is only being touted as a reform. We do not need these so-called reforms,вЂќ he said. вЂњJaitley cannot use weekend bytes to try and put spin to things,вЂќ said OвЂ™Brien referring to the senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaderвЂ™s comments wherein he had charged the Trinamool of obstructing proceedings in parliament. Asserting that the government was вЂњextremely determinedвЂќ to push for insurance sector reforms, Jaitley, without naming the Trinamool, Saturday said: вЂњOne political party finds itself involved in something which is unsavoury, and are therefore trying to divert attention by creating obstruction in the upper house.вЂќ Dubbing him as вЂњfrustrated ministerвЂќ and вЂњfalsehood ministerвЂќ, OвЂ™Brien warned Jaitley against indulging in вЂњmudslingingвЂќ and called for making public the workings of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Konkan rail route to be electriп¬Ѓed: Prabhu IANS Panaji M aking a slew of announcements in Goa yesterday, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said the Konkan Railway (KR) track will soon be fully electriп¬Ѓed and double-lined. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) would also be inked with the Goa government to promote tourism along the KR route in the state, Prabhu said at a function organised by KR at the Karmali railway station, a short distance from Panaji. вЂњI have instructed the Railway Board that once the Konkan Railway sends across a proposal KR double-lining will start,вЂќ Prabhu said. He added that his office has also issued instructions to the Railway Board to clear the proposal for complete electriп¬Ѓcation of the KR route, where Rajnath: govt to boost healthcare sector IANS Lucknow U nion Home Minister Rajnath Singh yesterday stressed upon the need of improving conditions of the primary health centres (PHCs) as he asserted the NDA government was committed to improving IndiaвЂ™s medical infrastructure. Speaking at the convocation ceremony of the King George Medical University (KGMU), Singh said that it was the eneadvour of the Narendra Modi government to ensure that facilities at the PHCs and the вЂ�External forcesвЂ™ Devyani Khobragade blamed for dilution of stripped of duty Kerala liquor policy AFP New Delhi IANS Thiruvananthapuram R eferring to the now diluted liquor policy in Kerala that initially aimed to implement total prohibition in a phased manner, a Congress leader yesterday said that at times, вЂњexternal forcesвЂќ set the government agenda. вЂњThe biggest п¬‚aw in democracy is when вЂ�external forcesвЂ™ set the agenda for governance. I am just airing the feelings of the people,вЂќ state Congress president V M Sudheeran told reporters in Thrissur. He dismissed leader of opposition V S AchuthanandanвЂ™s demand for his resignation as president after changes in the state liquor policy. However, party vice president M M Hassan termed SudheeranвЂ™s statement an embarrassment for the government. вЂњThe liquor policy was tweaked to make it a practical one. The chief minister had in detail explained the reason V M Sudheeran: вЂњI am just airing the feelings of the people.вЂќ for tweaking it and people by and large had understood it. ItвЂ™s SudheeranвЂ™s responsibility also to ensure that the government functions smoothly,вЂќ said Hassan. Bowing to pressure from various quarters, the Kerala government has decided that Sundays will no longer be dry days and the 418 closed bars can serve wine and beer. The Congress-led United Democratic Front allowed the Oommen Chandy cabinet to make the necessary changes, but demanded that the fundamentals of the policy - to implement prohibition in Kerala in a phased manner by October 2, 2024 - should not be touched. Minister for Culture and Diaspora K C Joseph, a close aide of Chandy, dismissed SudheeranвЂ™s statement that the government has succumbed to external pressure. вЂњThe tweaking was done as part of correcting certain п¬‚aws. The government did not succumb to any lobby,вЂќ said Joseph to reporters in Kannur. Ever since Sudheeran took over as president, there has been a realignment of factions within the party in Kerala with a huge majority in the party rallying behind Chandy and very few left with Sudheeran. The matter is expected to clear up tomorrow when the parliamentary party of the Congress meets. A diplomat at the centre of a bitter row with the United States has been stripped of her duties over unauthorised statements to media, a government source and reports said yesterday. Devyani Khobragade was arrested and strip-searched in New York last December while serving as IndiaвЂ™s deputy consul-general on charges of mistreating her servant. She had denied the charge and subsequently returned to India, but the incident triggered fury in New Delhi and led to the resignation of then US ambassador Nancy Powell. Reports yesterday said Khobragade has been removed from her current post in the foreign ministry for an unauthorised media interview and for not disclosing that her children held US passports. вЂњThe reports are not incorrect. It is true that she has been placed on compulsory wait,вЂќ a source in the ministry said on condition of anonymity, adding that Khobragade now faces Devyani Khobragade an administrative inquiry. Compulsory wait implies that Khobragade remains in ministerial service but without a speciп¬Ѓc job. The action comes a week after the mother-of-two spoke to NDTV news channel about her arrest and strip search in New York. During the interview, Khobragade said that her вЂњkids were born in the US and are considered US citizensвЂќ, a state- trains normally run on diesel. Besides, the minister said in a bid to engage the local community in the four coastal states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala, through which the KR route passes, a formal arrangement could be worked out with the state governments to train local residents in tourism activity. вЂњWe should try to do that by engaging the community. We should develop win-win ideas like this,вЂќ Prabhu said, adding that an MoU would soon be signed with the Goa government. вЂњThe Goa government will provide input and Konkan Railway will provide funds and we can train people in tourism activity,вЂќ Prabhu said. Elaborating, Prabhu said rickshaw and auto-drivers who operate near Konkan Railway stations could be trained as tourist guides so that they could ferry around railway passengers and also help them as part-time guides. ment that reportedly took the ministry by surprise. Khobragade returned to India under a deal a month after her December 2013 arrest for allegedly paying a domestic worker a fraction of the minimum wage and for lying about the employeeвЂ™s salary in a visa application. The row between the two countries saw weeks of feisty exchanges that strained bilateral ties and left resentment on both sides. Community Health Centres (CHCs) were enhanced. вЂњOur government is also working towards providing health care and health cover to the people,вЂќ said Rajnath Singh, who represents Lucknow in parliament and is a former Uttar Pradesh chief minister. Stressing on the need for an integrated healthcare system вЂњinstead of the existing fragmented healthcare systemвЂќ, he noted that by doing so, the pressure on the super-speciality institutes like the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and the Sanjay Gandhi PostGraduate Institute of Medical Sciences would be reduced. 2tn units power output by 2020 The government has set a target of doubling electricity generation from 1tn units to 2tn units, Power Minister Piyush Goyal said yesterday, a day after the government tabled in the Lok Sabha amendments to the Electricity Act, 2003, initiating the second phase of reforms in the power sector. вЂњThe government is aiming at 2tn units of electricity generation by 2020,вЂќ Goyal told the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and IndustryвЂ™s (Ficci) annual general meeting in New Delhi. вЂњThere will be a renewed focus on renewables, with generation going up from the current 53bn units to 300bn units in five years,вЂќ said Goyal, who is also minister for coal and new and renewable energy. The share of renewable energy is currently just over 5% of the total base made up of 1tn units of electricity. Through the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2014 tabled Friday, the government proposes to introduce stricter penalties for failing to meet renewable purchase obligation (RPO) targets. Under the RPO system, the state power distribution companies have to mandatorily purchase electricity generated through renewable energy sources during the year. The proposed changes will also introduce the renewable generation obligation (RGO), which will make it compulsory for thermal power producers to generate electricity through renewables. Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 25 INDIA Advantage BJP in Jharkhand, PDP in J&K: exit polls IANS New Delhi T he BJP has a clear advantage in Jharkhand and the PDP is projected to lead in Jammu and Kashmir, exit polls said after the п¬Ѓve phase assembly polls in both states ended yesterday. The AXIS-APM exit poll has projected that Bharatiya Janata Party-All Jharkhand Student Union alliance in Jharkhand is likely to get 43% votes that may translate into the alliance winning 37 to 43 seats. The state has an 81-member assembly. It projected that Babulal MarandiвЂ™s Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik is likely to improve its vote share to 16% and may get 12-16 seats while the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, which headed the outgoing government, will emerge third and expected to get 10-14 seats, with a projected vote share of 19%. The Congress, and ally Rashtriya Janata Dal is likely to get 7 to 11 seats with a projected vote share of 12%. TodayвЂ™s Chanakya in its exit poll has predicted a вЂњlandslide sweepвЂќ for the BJP-AJSU alliance as it projected the alliance to get 61 seats (plus/minus 8 seats) with a vote share of 36% (plus/minus 3%). It has projected 12 seats (plus/ Relatives help 102-year-old Raj Kumari, centre, reach the polling station to cast her vote in R S Pura border village, about 25km from Jammu, the winter capital of Kashmir, yesterday. minus 4 seats) to JMM with a likely vote share of 21% (plus/ minus 3%). It has given four seats to Congress (plus/minus two seats) with a projected vote share of 19% (plus/minus 3%). JVM is likely to get two seats (plus/minus two seats) with a projected voter share of 12% (plus/minus 3%). The exit poll by the AXIS-APM places the PeoplesвЂ™ Democratic Party in a leading position in Jammu and Kashmir but short of a majority in the 87-member assembly. вЂњIn Jammu and Kashmir, PDP is likely to fall short of halfway mark and is projected to win 36 41 seats,вЂќ it predicted. BJP, the exit poll says, is likely to emerge as the second largest party with projected seats being in the range of 16-22 seats. The ruling National Conference is projected to only win 9-13 seats. Earlier, braving the winter chill, an astounding over 1.3mn people, or 76% of the electorate, turned out to vote in the п¬Ѓfth and п¬Ѓnal round of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly elections. Ofп¬Ѓcials termed the turnout вЂњhistoric and unprecedentedвЂќ and the highest in the last 25 years. This brought down the curtains on the staggered п¬Ѓve-phase elections that were largely peaceful, barring a major terror attack on December 5 in which 21 people, including eight soldiers, were killed. State chief electoral officer Umang Narula said that balloting was вЂњpeaceful and incidentfreeвЂќ, and there was no п¬Ѓring from across the border to disrupt the polling process. He said the п¬Ѓfth phase saw 76% turnout, the highest among all the rounds. Narula said the overall turnout was 66%, while it was 56% in the 2008 elections. The tenure of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly is six years. Of the 20 constituencies in Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri districts, 11 saw turnouts of 80% or more. Bani constituency in Kathua recorded the highest turnout of 83.2%, while Gandhinagar in Jammu saw the lowest of 60%. In Jharkhand, more than 2.5mn people - more than 70% of the electorate вЂ“ yesterday exercised their franchise in the п¬Ѓfth and last round of the assembly election in Jharkhand, officials said. Sixteen constituencies voted Saturday in the п¬Ѓnal phase. Of the 16 seats, seven were reserved for Scheduled Tribes. In New Delhi, the Election Commission said that the turnout for the п¬Ѓfth and п¬Ѓnal phase in Jharkhand was 71.25%, while the overall percentage was 66.03%. Ruling party chief urges law against conversions AFP New Delhi R uling BJP chief yesterday called for a law to ban вЂњforced religious conversionsвЂќ amid increasing uproar over the right-wing governmentвЂ™s perceived proHindu tilt. IndiaвЂ™s parliament has been paralysed by opposition lawmakers protesting mass conversions to Hinduism which is the countryвЂ™s majority religion. They have demanded Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in power, make a statement on reports of poor Muslims being coerced into converting. вЂњThe BJP is against forced conversions and that is why we want to bring in a law,вЂќ the partyвЂ™s leader Amit Shah was quoted by the Press Trust of India as saying. вЂњSo-called secular parties should support BJPвЂ™s move,вЂќ Shah added. вЂњForced conversionвЂќ is a phrase used in India to cover a wide range of methods of gaining religious converts from offers of free food and education to threats and violence. The worldвЂ™s most-populous democracy, while 80% Hindu according to census п¬Ѓgures, is a secular country under the constitution and religious freedom is considered a fundamental right. Shah, a key conп¬Ѓdante of Modi, was credited for helping engineer the BJPвЂ™s landslide victory in May elections but faces many criminal charges, including inciting religious tensions that he has denied. A hardline group linked to the BJP was accused of converting some 50 slum-dwelling Muslim families about a week ago in the Taj Mahal city of Agra. One of the converts said they were promised ration cards and other п¬Ѓnancial incentives if they converted. A BJP lawmaker subsequently announced plans for an even bigger Hindu conversion event of Christians and Muslims on Christmas Day in the northern town of Aligarh. It was later called off by Hindu groups. Critics say Hindu hardline groups have become more emboldened since the BJP was elected, stoking religious tensions. Modi, who spent his early years in a Hindu hardline nationalist group, has made no public comment on religious issues since becoming premier. He was himself accused of failing to curb 2002 antiMuslim riots that claimed at least 1,000 lives when he was chief minister of Gujarat state. He has always rejected the accusations, and IndiaвЂ™s Supreme Court found no evidence to prosecute him. Alongside the 80% Hindu majority, Muslims make up 13.4% of IndiaвЂ™s 1.2bn population, with Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs and other religions accounting for the rest. 26 Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 LATIN AMERICA Cuban president hails thaw in ties with US AFP Havana C uban President Raul Castro said yesterday he was ready to discuss any topic with Washington after the historic bilateral rapprochement, but warned not to expect any major political change as a result of the detente. And while the leader of the AmericasвЂ™ only communist nation hailed the agreement for removing of an вЂњobstacleвЂќ in US-Cuba relations, he reiterated that вЂњthe most important thing, the end of the embargoвЂќ remained unresolved. Castro spoke at the close of the twice-yearly meeting of parliament, which unanimously ratiп¬Ѓed the deal between Havana and Washington, in a session largely focused on the communist islandвЂ™s historic renewal of ties with Washington. вЂњThe Cuban people cheer this correct decision of US President Barack Obama. It represents the removal of an obstacle in relations between our countries,вЂќ he said. вЂњWe reiterate our willingness for respectful and reciprocal dialogue concerning disagreements,вЂќ Castro said, adding that Cuba вЂњaccepted dialogue... on any topic about all things here but also in the United States.вЂќ But he emphasised Cuba was a вЂњsovereign stateвЂќ that would not bow to pressure to change its political or economic system. вЂњIn the same way that we have never suggested the United States change its political system, we will demand respect for ours,вЂќ Castro said. The United States and Cuba made the breakthrough in their Cold War stand-off on Wednesday, launching measures to ease a п¬Ѓve-decade US trade embargo as well as a prisoner exchange. First official talks are scheduled for January. Castro repeated yesterday his stance that вЂњthe most important thing, the end of the economic, trade, and п¬Ѓnacial embargo against Cuba, still needs to be resolved.вЂќ However, much of the embargo is codiп¬Ѓed in US law, which can only be changed with congressional approval. That will likely prove difficult, with a number of US lawmakers, led by Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio, protesting ObamaвЂ™s shift in Cuba policy. For now, Castro said he counted on Obama using his executive powers to change the aspects of the embargo вЂњfor which the approval of Congress is not necessary.вЂќ Similarly, he urged his US counterpart to review CubaвЂ™s вЂњunjustiп¬ЃableвЂќ inclusion on the list of countries that sponsor terrorism, an issue Obama has pledged to look into. Dissident groups in Cuba this week had expressed regret that Obama did not wait for вЂњa gesture from Havana on human rightsвЂќ before announcing the agreement. On Friday, Obama insisted he shared the concerns of Cuban dissidents and human rights activist вЂњthat this is still a regime that represses it people.вЂќ вЂњThrough engagement, we have a better chance of bringing about change than we would have otherwise.вЂќ But the US president said he didnвЂ™t вЂњanticipate overnight changes.вЂќ The parliamentary session Colombia rebels begin indeп¬Ѓnite, unilateral ceaseп¬Ѓre AFP Bogota L eftist rebels in Colombia began a unilateral ceaseп¬Ѓre yesterday hailed as a key step in peace negotiations вЂ” but uncertainty marred the truce, which the guerrillas threatened to break if attacked by the army. вЂњAn indeп¬Ѓnite, unilateral ceaseп¬Ѓre from the FARC has begun. ItвЂ™s a positive gesture that goes in the right direction,вЂќ said President Juan Manuel Santos, who consistently refused to reciprocate. вЂњI hope there will be other gestures that would permit a de-escalation of the conп¬‚ict and an acceleration in results from negotiations,вЂќ the president added. In a message published shortly before the ceaseп¬Ѓre took effect just after midnight, the FARC welcomed SantosвЂ™ remarks on the truce, and asked him вЂњnot to stand in the way of the peopleвЂ™s desire to know their country without the roar of bombs and machine guns.вЂќ Under the ceaseп¬Ѓre, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) says its п¬Ѓghters will only engage in hostilities if they come under attack п¬Ѓrst. The FARC had declared Christmas ceaseп¬Ѓres in each of the past two years, but this is the п¬Ѓrst without an expiration date. was also attended by the вЂњCuban Five,вЂќ the group of intelligence agents jailed in the United States whose last three members were released in a prisoner exchange that paved the way for WednesdayвЂ™s landmark rapprochement. The men are hailed as national heroes in Havana, which says they were not spying on Washington but rather on Cuban exile groups determined to attack the island. The session was extended from Friday to п¬Ѓnish discussions on the Cuban economy, the originally scheduled topic, reported state news agency AIN. Despite CastroвЂ™s tentative steps toward reform since taking over from his older brother Fidel in 2006, the Cuban economy will achieve just 1.3% growth for 2014, the council of ministers said earlier this month. Reuters Washington/Miami H President Raul Castro addressing the audience during the National Assembly in Havana yesterday. The so-called вЂњCuban FiveвЂќ, from left, Fernando Gonzalez, Rene Gonzalez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero and Gerardo Hernandez, who had been jailed in the United States for spying on anti-Castro exiles in Florida, stand before members of the National Assembly before a speech by CubaвЂ™s President Raul Castro in Havana yesterday. 59 held in Panama drug ring bust Reuters Panama City P anama said it had arrested 59 people as part of an investigation into a drug trafficking ring with links to ColombiaвЂ™s Marxist FARC rebels and MexicoвЂ™s Sinaloa cartel. The 18-month investigation into the organisation, which used Panama as the base for its smuggling operations, led Relatives of US spy in dark after news of release to the seizure of drugs, cars, speed-boats and cash, and the discovery of various bank accounts used to launder drug money, Javier Caraballo, PanamaвЂ™s anti-drug investigator, said in a press conference. The majority of those arrested were either Mexican or Colombian, and many had entered the country as tourists, some with fake names, Caraballo said. He added that Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Mexico collaborated in the investigation. The FARC was founded in 1964 to п¬Ѓght for rural land reform but has been deeply involved in the narcotics trade. The rebels are currently in the midst of peace negotiations with Colombia to end a decades-long conп¬‚ict that has killed more than 220,000 people. As part of the negotiations, the FARC has already agreed to put an end to the illegal drugs trade. is release from a Cuban prison has been as cloak-and-dagger as his spying career ever was. Not even the family of Rolando Sarraff Trujillo appears to know what has happened to the Cuban man believed by some to be the US informant secretly freed in a prisoner swap between Cuba and the United States that was announced on Wednesday. вЂњAll I can say is that ... my brother has disappeared,вЂќ his sister, Vilma Sarraff Trujillo, said by telephone from Spain on Friday, noting that Sarraff вЂ™s family in Cuba has not heard from him in days and has not been able to pry any information from Cuban officials. вЂњWe donвЂ™t know anything.вЂќ Unlike the televised homecoming of Alan Gross, the former U.S. aid worker who became a household name in diplomatic circles, the United States and Cuba have declined to publicly disclose the identity of the freed spy. The White House and US intelligence agencies on Friday declined to conп¬Ѓrm or deny media reports that Sarraff, who had been in a Cuban prison since 1995, was indeed the freed spy. ThereвЂ™s good reason why he might be out of sight. вЂњHeвЂ™s probably in some very quiet place being debriefed. They want to know exactly what happened,вЂќ a former senior US intelligence official said. вЂњIt would be a standard thing.вЂќ The US director of National IntelligenceвЂ™s office credited the unnamed freed spy as having been вЂњinstrumental in the identiп¬Ѓcation and disruption of several Cuban intelligence operatives in the United States.вЂќ Chris Simmons, a former senior counter-intelligence ofп¬Ѓcial at the Defense Intelligence Agency, described Sarraff - familiarly known as вЂњRolyвЂќ - as a cryptographer who worked for CubaвЂ™s director of intelligence, citing accounts from Cuban defectors. He said Cuba communicated with its spies through shortwave radio, using groups of numbers to send coded messag- Argentina goes ahead with $1.84bn dam project Ceremony in remembrance Santos, who has made the peace talks his top political priority, has rejected any bilateral ceaseп¬Ѓre, saying the guerrillas could take advantage of a truce to regroup, dragging out the conп¬‚ict. On the eve of the ceaseп¬Ѓre Friday, FARC п¬Ѓghters ambushed a patrol in western Colombia, killing п¬Ѓve soldiers. вЂњI hope there will be other gestures that would permit a de-escalation of the conflict and an acceleration in results from negotiationsвЂќ The day-before attack had a familiar ring for Colombians. The rebels had also staged attacks just before their 2012 and 2013 ceaseп¬Ѓres, showing their strength before putting down their guns. But officials said the attack didnвЂ™t threaten the peace talks aiming to end Latin AmericaвЂ™s longestrunning conп¬‚ict, which over the past 50 years has killed some 220,000 people and displaced 5.3mn more. The talks only just re-started after being suspended when the FARC captured an army general who headed an antirebel task force in the junglecovered region of Choco, their highest-ranking captive ever. The FARC released the general on November 30 in order to revive the stalled talks. es. Sarraff would have been able to help the United States break that code. вЂњRoly was arrested in 1995. Almost immediately the FBI can read Cuban communications,вЂќ Simmons said, saying he believed Sarraff was the one released based on the US governmentвЂ™s description of the spyвЂ™s work. Simmons said Sarraff worked in a three-man CIA team that included Jose Cohen, who told Reuters he escaped from Cuba in a raft in 1994. Cohen, who now lives in Miami, declined to discuss Sarraff вЂ™s case in depth, though he offered a different account of Sarraff. вЂњItвЂ™s very dangerous to talk about this. The press has got it wrong. Rolando and I studied together. He studied journalism. I am the cryptologist. I studied mathematical cryptology,вЂќ he said in an interview. Sarraff вЂ™s family in Cuba declined to speak to Reuters and his sister did not discuss her brotherвЂ™s past - much less conп¬Ѓrm any espionage work. President Barack Obama hailed the unnamed spy as вЂњone of the most important intelligence agents that the United States has ever had in Cuba.вЂќ The US director of National IntelligenceвЂ™s office said the informant also provided information that led to the identiп¬Ѓcation of a Florida-based cell of п¬Ѓve Cuban spies as well as Ana Belen Montes, a Defense Intelligence Agency official and one of the highest-ranking U.S. ofп¬Ѓcials ever proven to have spied for Cuba. Still, Obama acknowledged that the spyвЂ™s sacriп¬Ѓce had been a closely held secret вЂњknown to only a few.вЂќ Even former US officials closely engaged on Cuba policy acknowledged that they never heard of the case before Wednesday. Bill Richardson, a former US ambassador to the United Nations, said he knew nothing of it when he visited the island in 2011 to try to win the release of Alan Gross. вЂњThat was a real surprise to me,вЂќ Richardson said. вЂњI never heard of this. ... I even think a lot of people in the government didnвЂ™t know about it either.вЂќ A family member of a victim of the invasion of Panama places flowers on a grave at the Jardin de Paz cemetery, during a ceremony in remembrance of the 25th anniversary of the US invasion of Panama, in Panama City yesterday. The US invaded Panama and installed a new government, but initially failed in its key objective of seizing the countryвЂ™s leader, General Manuel Antonio Noriega on December 20, 1989. Argentina has held a preliminary auction to award the contract to build a $1.84bn hydroelectric dam in the southern province of Neuquen, the countryвЂ™s planning ministry said yesterday. A Russian state bank will finance 85% of the investment, with a 20-year loan at a fixed 6.5% annual interest rate and a 66-month grace period, the ministry said in a statement. Construction of the dam called Chihuido, in ArgentinaвЂ™s Patagonia region, will be managed by a consortium of the following Argentine companies: Helport, Chediack, Panedile, Eleprint, Hidroelectrica Ameghino and SpainвЂ™s Isolux. The Chihuido dam will add 637 megawatts to the electricity market, provide water for human and industrial consumption, as well as help control water levels of the Neuquen River, the statement said. Ecuador halts deals with Germany over rainforest visit Reuters Quito E cuador halted environmental cooperation deals with Germany worth some 43mn euros ($55.55mn) to the Latin American country after German lawmakers tried to visit an Amazon rainforest recently opened for oil production, the foreign minister said yesterday. President Rafael Correa in 2007 asked wealthy countries to donate $3.6bn to help protect the environmentally sensitive rainforest known as Yasuni in exchange for promises not to drill for the oil beneath it. In 2013, he scrapped the plan and authorized drilling after the proposal brought in a fraction of what he had sought. The group of German legislators earlier this month had at- tempted to visit the Yasuni to observe oil operations, talk to activists opposing the drilling, and see how German funds were being used. Correa blocked their trip. вЂњIf they think they had the right to doubt the word of EcuadorвЂ™s government on the issue of Yasuni because they were providing funds, weвЂ™ll give them their money back with interest,вЂќ Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told reporters. вЂњEcuador unilaterally ends all cooperation with Germany on environmental issues.вЂќ The German embassy in Quito did not respond to telephone calls seeking comment. Germany and Ecuador had signed cooperation deals for 36mn euros ($44mn) to protect the Yasuni and another 7mn euros ($9mn) in other environment projects. The funds for Yasuni had not yet been disbursed, and the money for the other projects will be returned in coming days, Patino said. The Yasuni jungle area boasts some of the planetвЂ™s most diverse wildlife, which Correa has promised would not be harmed by oil production. The п¬Ѓrst oil production is expected in 2016. Ecuador in recent years has halted a number of international cooperation agreements, particularly with the US, citing the need to defend its sovereignty. Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 27 PAKISTAN/AFGHANISTAN Pakistan PM, president vow to end terror Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Mamnoon Hussain have said that the whole nation is united against terrorism and the government is determined to eradicate it Agencies Islamabad P akistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif yesterday emphasised that Pakistan will be rid of the menace of terrorism. Meeting with a delegation from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at his Raiwind residence in Punjab, the prime minister, while referring to the all-party meeting held on Wednesday after the barbaric attack on an army-run school in Peshawar, said the unity demonstrated by political and national parties was the п¬Ѓrst step in eliminating terrorism from Pakistan, The News International reported. The UAE delegation expressed their sorrow over TuesdayвЂ™s massacre at the Army Public School in Peshawar, which left more than 140 students and teachers dead. The prime minister stressed that the government was working on development and relief projects at a speedy pace. Meanwhile, Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain yesterday said that the whole nation is united against terrorism which Pakistani children arrive at their school in Peshawar yesterday, after three days of mourning for the children and staff killed by Taliban militants in an attack on an army-run school. A Taliban massacre at a school is вЂќPakistanвЂ™s 9/11вЂќ, the countryвЂ™s top foreign policy official told AFP, saying the assault that left 148 people dead would change the countryвЂ™s approach to fighting terror. Nawaz Sharif Mamnoon Hussain will be eliminated from the country at all costs. He said this while on a visit to Peshawar where over 140 students and teachers were killed during a barbaric attack by the Taliban on the Army Public School on Tuesday. Talking to the media, he said the Peshawar tragedy united the nation and those who had any soft corner for the terrorists in the past were also now stressing the need for their complete elimination to make the country safe, Radio Pakistan reported. The international community has also acknowledged the sacriп¬Ѓces of Pakistan in its war against terrorism and expressed their full support, Hussain said. He said Pakistan is the only country in the world which suffered heavy losses in the war against terrorism. He said the ongoing Operation Zarb-e-Azb is proceeding successfully and would eliminate terrorists completely. While responding to a question, the president said new laws were being framed to dispose of terrorism cases quickly. Hussain said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has expressed the desire for mutual co-operation in the п¬Ѓght against terrorism. He said both the countries have agreed not to allow their soil to be used against the other. Earlier, after arriving in Peshawar, the president visited the Combined Military Hospital and inquired about the health of the students injured in TuesdayвЂ™s attack, according to the Radio Pakistan report. He was accompanied by his wife. The president spoke to the students and lauded their courage. He expressed satisfaction over the treatment being given to them. Meanwhile, Christians in PakistanвЂ™s Chakwal district have decided not to celebrate Christmas this year to pay homage to the 148 people, including 132 children, who were massacred by terrorists in Peshawar on Tuesday. They also held a reference for the victims of the deadly attack. District Co-ordination Officer Asif Bilal Lodhi was the chief guest at the reference, Dawn online reported. вЂњToday we are gathered here to pay tribute to those who were ruthlessly killed by the terrorists,вЂќ said Samina Soп¬Ѓa one of the organisers of the reference. Nation put on red alert The whole of Pakistan was yesterday put on red alert and educational institutions of security forces closed down following the initiation of process of hanging terrorists and radio intercepts of top Taliban terrorist leaders hinting at activation of suicide attackers. Official sources here say big cities of the Punjab province, including Lahore, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad and Multan are said to be the target of terrorists. Security forces have been directed to beef up security as a backlash of sending several convicted terrorists to the gallows is expected. Two were executed Friday night and their pictures showing them hanged published in newspapers yesterday. After different intelligence information and interception of a call to another terrorist leader, security has been put on red alert in the major cities of the country, especially in Punjab, the sources said. The decoding of the intercept suggests that some suicide bombers may have been assigned to carry out terrorist acts. Security arrangements have been made and general precautions taken. Seven dead as military hits rebel hideouts Pakistan, Afghanistan to carry out co-ordinated operations IANS Islamabad AFP Islamabad S even people including a policeman and paramilitary soldier were killed in two separate incidents when Pakistani security forces hit militant hideouts in the restive northwest yesterday morning, officials said. In the п¬Ѓrst incident, police and paramilitary soldiers raided suspected hideouts in Shabqadar, a town around 30km north of Peshawar. вЂњA soldier of the Frontier Corps and a policeman embraced martyrdom in an exchange of п¬Ѓre with militants in Mechani neighbourhood of Shabqadar Saturday morning,вЂќ local police official Wilayat Khan said. He said two militants belonging to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the militant organisation that carried out TuesdayвЂ™s massacre at a military-run school in Peshawar вЂ” the deadliest ever attack in Pakistan вЂ” were also killed. Spokesman of the Jamatul Ahrar faction of the Tehreeke-Taliban Pakistan, Ehsanullah Ehsan, claimed responsibility for the attack. вЂњWe will continue to target security forces and the police,вЂќ he told AFP. P akistanвЂ™s top security adviser yesterday ruled out joint operations with Afghanistan against militants, saying both counties will coordinate operations on their own side of border. Comments by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz came after Pakistani forces stepped up actions against the militants in the border region and killed nearly 50 militants in two days. вЂњPakistan and Afghanistan have agreed to carry out coordinated actions against terrorists in their respective areas,вЂќ Xinhua quoted Aziz as telling reporters in Islamabad. вЂњThe two countries have also agreed not to let anyone use their soil against each other,вЂќ he said. Pakistan and Afghanistan share a nearly 2,600-km-long porous border and both countries are discussing options to put in AFP Kabul C ivilian casualties in Afghanistan hit a record high this year, a UN report said, highlighting worsening violence as US-led troops leave after more than a decade of п¬Ѓghting the Taliban. Casualties jumped 19 percent by the end of November compared to the year before, with 3,188 civilians killed and 6,429 injured, the United NationвЂ™s MissionвЂ™s for Afghanistan (UN- AMA) said in a report. It warned that civilian casualties were expected to exceed 10,000 by the end of the year, making it the deadliest year for noncombatants since the organisation began issuing its authoritative reports in 2009. Compared to 2013, this year also saw a 33% rise in casualties among children and a 12 percent increase among women, according to the report released on Friday. вЂњCivilian casualties are particularly tragic and very prominent part, even benchmark, of the horror of the violence that ordinary Afghans face,вЂќ said Nicholas Haysom, the top UN envoy in Afghanistan. вЂњCivilian casualties are particularly tragic and very prominent part, even benchmark, of the horror of the violence that ordinary Afghans faceвЂќ While ground п¬Ѓghting between troops and insurgent groups and Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) remained leading causes of deaths and injuries, the Taliban were accountable for 75% of all civilian casualties, the report said. As US-led Nato troops prepare to wrap up its 13-year combat mission, casualties among Afghan security forces have also suffered soaring casualties, with more than 4,600 killed in the п¬Ѓrst 10 months of this year. After NatoвЂ™s combat operations end on December 31, a follow-up mission of about 12,500 US-led Nato troops will stay on in Afghanistan to train and support the local security forces now responsible for п¬Ѓghting the Taliban. Even as the Pakistani Army intensified its anti-terrorism operations in the wake of TuesdayвЂ™s Taliban attack on a Peshawar school that left 148 students and teachers dead, unconfirmed reports said that Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) chief Mulla Fazalullah was killed in an airstrike inside Afghanistan early yesterday. An unverified Twitter account of the Pakistan defence ministry stated early yesterday: вЂњNews of FazlullahвЂ™s killing is being confirmed by Ministry of Defence.вЂќ However, according to sources, place a mechanism to check illegal movement of militants. Pakistan army chief, General Raheel Sharif, rushed to Afghanistan Wednesday a day after a group of Taliban militants killed nearly over 140 people, mostly children, in an attack on a military-run school in Peshawar. The army said that the army chief had shared вЂњvital intelligenceвЂќ with Afghan officials concerned with regard to the Peshawar attack. Some sources said Pakistani security officials had intercepted telephonic conversation of the Afghanistan-based militants who were giving instructions to the school attackers. Security officials said that senior Pakistani Taliban commanders, including their chief Maulvi Fazallulah, operate from the Afghan side of the border. Kabul has never admitted Pakistani Taliban have taken shelter in Afghanistan. Aziz said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had pledged during his visit last month to Pakistan that he would not let his countryвЂ™s border be used for terrorism. He said Pakistani and Afghan officials would meet within two weeks to discuss measures for effective border control, adding that Pakistan was the country worst affected by terrorism in the world. Mumbai attack mastermind must not be set free: Dawn IANS Islamabad Afghan civilian casualties hit record high: UN Taliban chief killed? M umbai terror attack mastermind Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi cannot be allowed to simply walk away free, an editorial said and added that in the Mumbai trials, вЂњPakistanвЂ™s overall record in the п¬Ѓght against militancy is also on trialвЂќ. PakistanвЂ™s leading daily Dawn said in an editorial that both the political and military leadership of the country has stated repeatedly that there is no longer such a thing as a good militant. вЂњFor that to be true, individuals like Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi cannot be allowed to simply walk away free men.вЂќ An anti-terrorism court in Islamabad on Thursday had granted bail to Lakhvi, one of the seven people charged with planning and helping to carry out the Nov 26-29, 2008, Mumbai terror attack that killed 166 people. The acceptance of his bail plea had come as Pakistan was mourning the deaths of 148 people, including 132 school children, in TuesdayвЂ™s Taliban massacre in a Peshawar school. вЂњWhile the court may have acted according to the rules and within the letter of the law, there is also a context here that cannot be overlooked,вЂќ Dawn online said in an editorial. вЂњFor п¬Ѓve years the trial has remained in limbo, hearings repeatedly adjourned on one pretext or another - so why pick this week of all possible weeks to grant bail to Lakhvi?вЂќ The decision to grant bail to Lakhvi, вЂњsuggests a tone deafness at this sensitive, possibly pivotal, moment in PakistanвЂ™s historyвЂќ, the editorial said. вЂњOn the Mumbai-related trials Pakistan itself had acknowledged that the attacks were planned and masterminded by individuals based in the country. вЂњDuring the course of the Indian investigation, the state had provided a great deal of evidence to help piece together how the attacks were carried out,вЂќ it added. It went on to say that вЂњthe Pakistan government has rightly acted to keep him (Lakhvi) in custody for now, but that is only a п¬Ѓre-п¬Ѓghting measureвЂќ. вЂњWhat is really needed is for the trials of Lakhvi and his coaccused to be taken up again with a seriousness of purpose and sound legal strategy. вЂњFor in these Mumbai trials, PakistanвЂ™s overall record in the п¬Ѓght against militancy is also on trial.вЂќ Activists slam Pakistan for resuming executions AFP Islamabad R ights groups yesterday condemned PakistanвЂ™s decision to hang two convicted militants in its п¬Ѓrst executions for six years, as leaders vowed decisive action in the wake of a Taliban school massacre that left 149 people dead. The bloody rampage in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Tuesday sparked international outrage and Pakistan described it as its own вЂњmini 9/11вЂќ and a game changer in its п¬Ѓght against terror. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif relinquished the six-year ban on the death penalty in terrorrelated cases two days after the school attack, with two militants convicted of separate terrorism offences the п¬Ѓrst to face the noose. The Human Rights Watch termed the executions вЂњa craven politicised reaction to the Peshawar killingsвЂќ, demanding that the executions be stopped immediately. вЂњPakistanвЂ™s government has chosen to indulge in vengeful blood-lust instead of п¬Ѓnding and prosecuting those responsible for the horriп¬Ѓc Peshawar attack,вЂќ the group said in a statement yesterday. The two militants hanged on Friday in central Punjab province were Aqil, who was convicted for an attack on the army headquarters in Rawalpindi in 2009, and Arshad Mehmood who was convicted for his involvement in a 2003 assassination attempt on former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf. Officials have said there would be up to ten more executions in the coming days. Rights campaign group Amnesty International estimates that Pakistan has more than 8,000 prisoners on death row, with more than 500 of them convicted on terror-related charges, according to the government. вЂњThis is a cynical reaction from the government. It masks a failure to deal with the core issue highlighted by the Peshawar attack, namely the lack of effective protection for civilians in northwest Pakistan,вЂќ Amnesty said about FridayвЂ™s executions. The United Nations called for Pakistan to reconsider executing terror suspects, saying that вЂњthe death penalty has no measurable deterrent effect on levels of insurgent and terrorist violenceвЂќ and вЂњmay even be counter-productiveвЂќ. вЂњWe urge the government not to succumb to wide-spread calls for revenge,вЂќ said UN Human Rights Office spokesper- son Rupert Colville. The military has also intensiп¬Ѓed its operations against militants in the countryвЂ™s lawless tribal areas. Seven militants were killed yesterday morning in two separate incidents as security forces hit their hideouts in the restive northwest. A US drone strike in the lawless tribal area also hit a militant compound killing п¬Ѓve militants early Saturday. The army has been waging a major offensive against longstanding Taliban and other militant strongholds in the restive tribal areas on the Afghan border for the last six months. But a series of fresh strikes after the Peshawar attack, which wrought devastation at an armyrun school, suggest the military is stepping up its campaign. As the Peshawar tragedy unfolded, army chief General Raheel Sharif said the attack had renewed the forcesвЂ™ determination to push for the militantsвЂ™ вЂњп¬Ѓnal eliminationвЂќ. The atrocity was already the deadliest terror attack in PakistanвЂ™s troubled history, surpassing the 139 killed in bomb blasts targeting former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007. But the head of the hardline Islamabad Red Mosque slammed the army operation in North Waziristan as вЂњun-IslamicвЂќ and said the TTP slaughter in Peshawar was understandable. вЂњO rulers, O people in power, if you will commit such acts, there will be a reaction,вЂќ Maulana Abdul Aziz told worshippers in his Friday sermon. Around 250 people protested outside the Red Mosque in Friday evening, denouncing hardliners like Abdul Aziz as Taliban sympathisers. Later, the Islamabad police registered a case against the cleric for threatening the protesters after they staged a sit-in protest outside a local police station demanding a case against the cleric. 28 Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 PHILIPPINES Govt orders crackdown on privileged jailbirds AFP Manila P hilippine authorities have given privileged inmates in the countryвЂ™s main prison until Christmas Eve to turn over their hidden guns, drugs and other contraband or the notorious facility will face a major shakedown. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima issued the ultimatum after two surprise searches of the Bilibid prison this week uncovered a horde of prohibited items including п¬Ѓrearms, drugs, stashes of US dollars вЂ” and even a jacuzzi and a stripper bar. Revelations that drug lords have been вЂњliving like kingsвЂќ in luxury cells have shocked the Philippines, a nation used to tales of official corruption. вЂњBefore Christmas, they should produce the contraband because we believe there are still illegal drugs and items kept hidden,вЂќ de Lima said after leading the second search on Friday. вЂњI told them to produce that, otherwise I will really... turn the facility upside down,вЂќ she told reporters. Flanked by heavily-armed troops, de Lima led the searches of the luxurious special apartments of convicted drug lords in a sprawling suburban Manila complex built for 8,900 inmates but currently housing 23,000. вЂњI am disgusted, even beyond disgusted,вЂќ she said after the raids, which uncovered secret panels leading to hidden rooms. Three officials connected with Bilibid were relieved of their posts in preparation for an investigation over the apparent complicity of jail officials in allowing the items to be smuggled in, she said. Philippine President Benigno Aquino has ordered de Lima to reform the prison system, which has long been known for corruption with wealthy inmates enjoying special privileges. вЂњYou canвЂ™t be in prison and live like you are enjoying life in a condominium,вЂќ said presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda in a radio interview yesterday. вЂњThe president told Secretary Leila de Lima that the national prison needs to be straightened out. What has been ongoing for several years, Secretary Leila de Lima is putting a stop (to) right now,вЂќ he said. Members of the raiding team have said that some of the privileged convicts вЂ” who were allowed to live in special apartments with marble-tiled bathrooms and hot showers in the infamously crowded prison вЂ” had apparently been tipped off about the raids and were able to hide some of their contraband. Investigators also said they are looking into reports that the firearms seized from the convicts appear to be registered under the names of provincial politicians. Santa in clean-up campaign! A street sweeper dressed as a robot Santa Claus cleans a street in Manila. The Philippines is the largest Christian country in Asia and has one of the longest Christmas seasons in the world. Concern over China maritime network DPA Manila T he Philippines is alarmed by reports that China is planning to construct an observation network by 2020 to protect its maritime interests. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said yesterday that such a move might heighten tensions in the South China Sea where China and its South-East Asian neighbours, including the Philippines, have overlapping territorial claims. The China Daily reported on Friday that China plans to set up an offshore observation network, including satellite and radar stations. An official of the State Oceanic Administration was quoted as saying that the network is вЂњfundamentalвЂќ to protecting ChinaвЂ™s maritime interests and promoting disaster risk reduction. Lacierda told government radio station DZRB that the Foreign Affairs Department was looking into the matter. But he also said that вЂњour policy is we do not want to escalate tensions in the area.вЂќ The South China Sea that is claimed almost entirely by China. Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims to the area. Light rail, metro fares to go up in January By Rosalie C Periabras Manila Times F ares for the Light Rail Transit (LRT) 1 and 2 and Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT) will go up starting January 4, 2015. The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) has п¬Ѓnally decided to raise the fares for the three rail lines. вЂњItвЂ™s a tough decision, but it had to be made,вЂќ DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said yesterday. Abaya said the fare increase had long been proposed. вЂњWe delayed its implementation one last time until after the Christmas season. While 2015 will see increased fares, it will also see marked improvements in our LRT and MRT services.вЂќ A base fare of P11 will be implemented. An additional P1 will be charged per kilometre. The increase is in line with the 2011-2016 Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (PDP), which directs the adoption of the вЂњuser-paysвЂќ principle in the pricing of transportation services. Currently, the government allocates P12bn a year to subsidise LRT and MRT operations. Under the вЂњuser-paysвЂќ principle, riders will shoulder more of the cost for their own trips. The fare hike entails a shift from the current zonal fare scheme to a distancebased system, meaning that commuters will be charged based on the distance they travel. Since government subsidises around 60% of the cost for each LRT passenger and around 75% of each MRT-3 passenger, an estimated P2bn will be freed up to be used for development projects and relief operations. вЂњWe must emphasise that around P10bn will still go to subsidising LRT and MRT passengers. But the premise of the user-pays principle is this: if what each rider pays is closer to the actual cost of his or her own trip, the P2bn savings can be used for development projects and relief op- erations to beneп¬Ѓt those who never even get to use the LRT or MRT,вЂќ Abaya said. вЂњIвЂ™m referring to the vast majority of Filipinos outside of Metro ManilaвЂ”those in other parts of Luzon, in the Visayas, and in Mindanao, most especially those whose lives have been severely affected by typhoons and calamities. They will be the real beneп¬Ѓciaries of a more equitable distribution of these savings,вЂќ he added. The last fare increase for LRT-1 was in 2003. LRT-2вЂ™s fares, on the other hand, have never been increased. As for MRT-3, fares were lowered: the minimum rate of P17 to a maximum of P34 in 1999 were decreased to P12 to P20 in 2000. At present, fares are even lower at a range of P10 to P15. The failure to match fare adjustments with increasing operating costs resulted in practically break-even п¬Ѓnances for all three lines, crippling their ability to invest in large-scale improvements for their facilities because revenues have only been enough for day-today operational requirements. The DOTC, Light Rail Transit Authority and MRT-3 have pushed for improvement projects at the train facilities. A number of rehabilitation and upgrading works are set in 2015. For instance, new light rail vehicles (LRVs) are already being manufactured to address long queues at MRT-3. The prototype unit will be delivered in August 2015, and after one month of testing, three to four additional LRVs will be delivered until all 48 units are operational. The headway or gap between train arrivals will also be faster, from the current three minutes to 2.5 minutes. Also, six kilometres of MRT rail line will also be replaced, while the lineвЂ™s signaling system and radio communications system will be upgraded. A new threeyear maintenance contract is also being procured and will be awarded in the п¬Ѓrst quarter of 2015, and the new tap-and-go ticketing system for all three lines will be operational by September 2015 at the latest. Lives of danger, poverty on typhoon coast AFP Taft L ife is a constant throw of the dice for farmer Nilo Dilao and other residents of the Philippine island of Samar, the ground zero for many of East AsiaвЂ™s deadliest storms. Homes, boats, crops, livestock and jobs are all on the line each time the monster winds roar in from the Paciп¬Ѓc Ocean, leaving survivors to mourn their dead and pick up the broken pieces, year in and year out. вЂњLife is a struggle here,вЂќ Dilao, 43, said a few days after Typhoon Hagupit destroyed his shanty and killed more than 20 people this month. He likened the plight of local people to those of stray chickens. вЂњWeвЂ™re scratching at the soil non-stop in hopes of п¬Ѓnding a scrap to eat,вЂќ he said. Hagupit came a year after Super Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest ever storm recorded on land, killed 7,350 people on Samar and neighbouring islands. Samar, about half the size of Belgium, is often the п¬Ѓrst major Asian landmass hit by the more than 20 tropical storms or typhoons that are born in the Paciп¬Ѓc Ocean each year. With much of the mountainous island stripped by deforestation, most of its 1.8mn residents live on narrow, sealevel strips along the coast, at the mercy of the stormsвЂ™ ferocious winds and tsunami-like Benjie Baldenero (right) and a colleague prepare coconuts to be made for copra, at his coconut farm just next to the seashore in Hernani town, eastern Samar province, central Philippines. ocean surges. Living in the town of Taft on SamarвЂ™s east coast, the Dilao family survived both the storm surges of both Hagupit and Haiyan by п¬‚eeing to a nearby hill, waiting them out under a raggedy tent made of bamboo frames and a tarpaulin sheet. In nearby San Julian, smallscale farmer Benjie Baldenero was also struggling to cope with having lost his home in Haiyan when it happened again in Hagupit. The 40-year-old spoke of pledging the next harvest as collateral so he could borrow money to rebuild his grass hut again and replace п¬‚ooded rice seedlings. вЂњWe have not even repaid last yearвЂ™s debts and here we are needing to take out more loans,вЂќ Baldenero said. The vicious cycle ensures Samar and the neighbouring island of Leyte are among the poorest regions of the Philippines, accounting for just 2.2% of national economic output. вЂњBad weather plays a major role in shaping our economy because typhoons destroy practically everything in their path,вЂќ said Ben Evardone, a congress- man and former governor of Eastern Samar province. Six in 10 people on SamarвЂ™s east coast are poor, according to government data, fuelling a decades-old insurgency that has largely petered out across the rest of the Philippines. Samar is one of only п¬Ѓve regions of the country where New PeopleвЂ™s Army rebels are still active, Philippine Army spokesman Colonel Noel Detoyato said. вЂњThey continue to attract followers due to the poverty,вЂќ he said. Typhoons and guerrillas also mean the island attracts few outside investors, Evardone said. There are few jobs available except farming and п¬Ѓshing, which are among those most vulnerable to the extreme weather. Those in the few other industries also suffer during the storms. Jaime Caballa, 53, saw his restaurant in the university town of Can-avid ripped apart by Hagupit, then ransacked by looters. With banks unwilling to lend without collateral and his modest savings gutted by Haiyan, the father-of-four now has to deal with loansharks to finance repairs. вЂњThe restaurant was shuttered for a week after Haiyan. This time, weвЂ™ll likely be out of business for months,вЂќ he said. The extreme weather leaves the island with coconuts, also the PhilippinesвЂ™ principal ex- port crop, as the main source of income. Farmers also plant much less valuable sweet potatoes, cassava and taro to supplement their rice-based diet. But even coconuts are no match for the strongest winds. Haiyan destroyed most of the islandвЂ™s coconut industry last year, felling more than 33mn trees across the central Philippines according to official estimates, while Hagupit took care of much of what was left. вЂњIt takes seven years for coconut trees to bear fruit. In the meantime, what will our people do? The impact of these typhoons will be felt over a long time,вЂќ Evardone said. Many Samar residents leave the island if they can. Samar and Leyte are wellknown sources of unskilled domestic workers and labourers for Manila, 500 kilometres to the northwest, as well as the central port city of Cebu. Many educated residents also eventually move out, said Cristina Colico, 36, a lawyer and San Julian native who now works at the Philippine central bank in Manila. вЂњSamar residents can endure the storms, thatвЂ™s not why they leave,вЂќ she said. вЂњThey just want to look for better jobs elsewhere.вЂќ But this option is not always open to unskilled workers. вЂњI wish we could move elsewhere, but in reality we know we have nowhere else to go,вЂќ said Dilao the coconut farmer. Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 29 SRI LANKA/BANGLADESH/MALDIVES Lanka opposition vows to cancel casino tax breaks AFP Colombo S ri LankaвЂ™s main opposition has said it would withdraw generous tax concessions for controversial foreign-funded resorts aiming to make Colombo a gambling hotspot in South Asia if it wins next monthвЂ™s elections. President Mahinda RajapakseвЂ™s government is facing an unexpectedly tough challenge in the national elections from Maithripala Sirisena, who has united opposition forces. In his manifesto unveiled on Friday, Sirisena said the special tax status granted to three planned casino resorts would be withdrawn вЂ” a promise that targets the Buddhist vote bank in an attempt to erode RajapakseвЂ™s rural support base. вЂњI will withdraw the concessions given to the casino projects,вЂќ he said in his manifesto which also vowed to launch a major offensive against narcotics. Sri LankaвЂ™s inп¬‚uential Buddhist clergy had opposed al- Maldives in talks with China for oil search lowing three casino resorts, including one with investments from AustraliaвЂ™s gambling mogul James Packer. But Colombo gave them tax holidays in December 2013. Then in April, the government said they will not issue casino licences to the three mega resorts, yet made it clear that existing local gambling operations could move into them. The palm-fringed island nation legalised casinos in December 2010, but the legislation has never been implemented. Tourism suffered during the decades-long combat with separatist Tamil Tiger rebels. But with the end of п¬Ѓghting in 2009, the hospitality trade has grown steadily and the authorities had banked on casinos to lift the industry. None of the proposed gambling resorts have opened in Colombo yet, but several local casinos have been in operation for decades, exploiting legal loopholes. PackerвЂ™s proposed 450-room Crown Sri Lanka resort вЂ” which once promised on its website to offer вЂњworld-class gam- ing facilitiesвЂќ вЂ” is yet to begin construction. The other two resorts are a $650mn development from local conglomerate John Keells Holdings and a $300mn project by local businessman Dhammika Perera. The countryвЂ™s main party of Buddhist monks is backing Sirisena who defected from the government last month to challenge Rajapakse at the January 8 presidential election. Western nations have piled pressure on Rajapakse and his brothers - also in government - over allegations of war crimes as the army crushed the Tamil Tiger separatists, as well as ongoing rights abuses. SirisenaвЂ™s party said he would establish independent commissions to secure the impartiality of the judiciary, police and other public services, and crack down on corruption to boost growth. вЂњThe extent of corruption in Sri Lanka in the last few years is unprecedented and unheard of,вЂќ Sirisena said in the manifesto. вЂњI would achieve for the country 10 times the development that actually occurred during By Mizan Rahman Dhaka O Maithripala Sirisena: вЂњI will withdraw the concessions given to the casino projects.вЂќ the past six years,вЂќ he wrote. Sirisena has gained support in urban areas as well as from ethnic minority Tamils, Muslims and Christians. The main opposition United Na- tional Party supports him. Rajapakse was expected to glide easily to a third term. But Sirisena, who served as health minister in his cabinet, is proving to be a tough opponent. Jumbo load IANS Beijing M aldives has said it was in talks with two Chinese companies for oil exploration in the Indian Ocean island nation. Maldives Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Mohamed Shainee said that discussions would be held with two companies in China regarding the search for oil, Xinhua reported. Opportunity will be provided to neighbouring countries to join the search, the agency quoted him as saying. This is п¬Ѓrst time Maldives has announced plans for oil exploration. Shainee, however, did not disclose location where the proposed exploration would take place. Maldives Minister of Economic Development Mohamed Saeed said that with projects such as oil exploration and bridge construction in the agenda for discussion, the China-Maldives joint commission meeting will beneп¬Ѓt economies of both countries. вЂњThis is a great achievement to us as well,вЂќ he said. Maldives will officially join ChinaвЂ™s Maritime Silk Road project during the п¬Ѓrst ever China-Maldives joint commission on economy and trade, the agency said. A high level delegation of cabinet ministers will participate in the discussions with the Chinese government. Maldives will also officially join the trade route during the meeting. A memorandum of understanding establishing a joint committee on trade and economic cooperation was one of a raft of agreements signed during the visit of President Xi Jinping to Maldives in September. China has already agreed to construct a bridge connecting the airport island with capital Male and upgrade the international airport. After a team of Chinese surveyors carried out a feasibility study into the bridge project last month, ministers said that they would seek to expedite the project while in Beijing. China also accounts for one third of all tourists visiting the Maldives. Maldives President Abdulla Yameen last week laid the foundations for 704 housing units in the island of Hulhumale, part of an arrangement for 1,500 units to be built in the country as part of one of the Chinese governmentвЂ™s mega projects. Two elephants stand on a flatbed truck before being taken to Colombo, in Paraliya yesterday. Govt modernising border force, says Hasina By Mizan Rahman Dhaka P rime Minister Sheikh Hasina called upon the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) to uphold discipline, humanity, respect and honour and above all mutual sympathy to enrich the force. The prime minister was addressing a special assembly of the BGB organised at its headquarters in Pilkhana in Dhaka yesterday. Hasina expressed п¬Ѓrm opti- mism that the BGB would become an international standard peacekeeping force saying they should not do anything damaging for the force and the country as well. вЂњNow, the loyalty and conп¬Ѓdence of the BGB members are out of question and the force is now working with dignity and goodwill,вЂќ she said. She said people of the country want peace and BGB members are the part of the people. She called upon BGB members to let the government know about their demands and problems. вЂњAll problems would be US-Bangladesh ties to grow further, says outgoing envoy resolved through discussion,вЂќ she said. Referring to various steps in reformation of BGB, she said massive programmes have been undertaken and implemented for modernisation and expansion of the force. Besides, nearly 20,000 additional manpower including priority manpower of the BGB has been recruited since 2009 following the new organisational structure, she said, adding the government is committed to developing the вЂ�ever vigilant sentinels forceвЂ™ to make it more capable in safeguarding countryвЂ™s borders. Talking about 479km-long unprotected border with India, the prime minister said, her government already approved two sectors, п¬Ѓve battalions and 92 border outposts for the BGB. With full implementation of the projects, the entire Chittagong Hill Tracts would be much more protected and safeguarded, she said. She hoped members of the BGB would continue accomplishing their duty with honesty and patriotism. utgoing US ambassador Dan W Mozena yesterday said his country backs no particular political force in Bangladesh as it focuses on deepening partnership between the two countries. вЂњI donвЂ™t know what to say about that. America backs no force in the political race. ThatвЂ™s for you, the people of Bangladesh to sort out,вЂќ the ambassador who failed to call on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the last two years. The US diplomat made the remark at a pre-departure press conference at the American Club in the capital when a questioner wanted to know his comment on the public perception that he (Mozena) wanted to bring Bangladesh Nationalist Party headed by Khaleda Zia and its alliance to power. Asked about the most signiп¬Ѓcant achievement during his three-year tenure, Mozena said it would deп¬Ѓnitely be вЂ�institutionalisingвЂ™ the partnership if someone looks at it from the USвЂ™ perspective. вЂњBecause, itвЂ™s now bigger than any individual person вЂ¦ it has its own structure. WeвЂ™ve four forums working to keep on pushing this partnership. ThatвЂ™s a huge accomplishment,вЂќ he said. Asked whether it is true he is not going to have a farewell meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Mozena said, вЂњIвЂ™ve no ideaвЂќ. вЂњIвЂ™ve not п¬Ѓnished my appointments yet. IвЂ™m still doing appointments today and continuing tomorrow,вЂќ he responded to another question. Talking about immediate challenges ahead of Bangladesh, Mozena said the most immediately is the challenge of manifesting the commitment and will to transform apparel industry. вЂњThatвЂ™s a big challenge because itвЂ™s a big deal but if that commitment and will are there, I believe, itвЂ™ll be the largest apparel export industry.вЂќ Apparently parrying the question on political relations between the two countries, the US diplomat said his eyes were always on the prize which is вЂ�partnershipвЂ™ between the two countries. вЂњThe prize is our partnership. Our partnership is today broader, deeper and stronger than ever,вЂќ he said adding that they are promoting Bangladesh that is peaceful, secure, prosperous, healthy and democratic. Responding to a question on January-5 elections, he said the positions remained unchanged and advised the reporters to visit Google to check the January-6 statements and February-11 testimony in the US Senate Committee given by the US Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Desai Biswal. US ambassador Dan W Mozena Mozena who was looking very gloomy said he has no complaint and left the issues being discussed in the public domain to them as he had a mission of building a partnership. вЂњEven I didnвЂ™t imagine that this partnership would be what it is today. Partnership is advancing on all fronts.вЂќ Expressing satisfaction over his stay in Bangladesh, he said, вЂњIвЂ™m so satisп¬Ѓed with the quality and strength of the partnership. ThereвЂ™s no person in this room or anyone in Washington and I include myself, whoever thought the partnership would be as rich as it is right now.вЂќ The US envoy listed the lack of infrastructure, the rule of law and possible political instability as challenges but mentioned that all these are resolvable. Mozena described BangladeshвЂ™s potentials referring to four legs of tigers вЂ“ readymade garment sectorвЂ™s transformation, environment-friendly leather industry in Savar, generic pharmaceutical products and information technology -- which can bring about signiп¬Ѓcant changes in the countryвЂ™s economic growth. Laying emphasis on education, the US envoy said Bangladesh needs education revolution with quality teachers with better salaries and adequate training facilities. вЂњThe children and young people deserve the best and highest quality education.вЂќ Depicting a beautiful Bangladesh, Mozena said he does not know any poor Bangladesh. вЂњI only know rich Bangladesh. This is a land of magic.вЂќ He reiterated his desire to stay engaged with Bangladesh and continue telling stories about Bangladesh among the Americans. Asked how he wants to stay engaged with Bangladesh, Mozena said, вЂњMany opportunities are opening up. TheyвЂ™re very attractive and exciting to me but they donвЂ™t relate to Bangladesh. I havenвЂ™t taken those, I put them aside.вЂќ He said he really wants to do something that is fun and rewarding and specially linked to Bangladesh. Mozena leaves Dhaka today as he goes on retirement. New ambassador Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat will soon arrive in Dhaka to take over. Direct Dhaka-Kathmandu bus service likely Agencies Dhaka A direct bus service between Dhaka and Kathmandu might start next year as Nepal has agreed in principle with a proposal made by Bangladesh to that end. The government made the proposal last year considering the huge potential of the service, as a signiп¬Ѓcant number of tourists visit Nepal and many students from the Himalayan country come to Bangladesh for higher studies every year, The Daily Star reported. A number of bus operators have already shown their interest to launch services on the route. вЂњWe have already submitted a draft proposal to the Nepalese government. They are also interested in the direct bus service. It is under consideration of the Nepalese government,вЂќ said Mashfee Binte Shams, Bangladesh high commissioner to Nepal. The Nepalese government had agreed in principle to launch the bus service and things would move faster after the Saarc summit, she had said last month. There were a number of issues needed to be п¬Ѓnalised through discussion at a joint technical committee level meeting before signing the protocol, she added. Bangladesh has also submitted a proposed route map pre- pared by geographical information system experts of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). According to the proposed route, distance between Dhaka and Kathmandu is 1,184km and the journey would take around 22 hours by bus. The proposed route map shows 510km from Dhaka to Banglabandh that would take around nine hours, 56km from Banglabandh to Kakarvita through Panitanki border in Shiliguri in India that would take around one hour and 618km from Kakarvita to Kathmandu which would take around 11 hours. Currently, there are three trans-boundary bus services between Bangladesh and India - Dhaka-Kolkata-Dhaka, Dhaka-Agartala-Dhaka and DhakaShiliguri-Dhaka. вЂњPassengers have to travel as much as 80km more to obtain immigration clearance at the Burimari Port due to the lack of immigration facilities at Banglabandh Port. But it would be better if the government took an initiative to set up an immigration office at Banglabandh,вЂќ said the high commissioner. Asked what the process would be and how long it might take to launch the bus service, she said the process would start with a joint secretary level bilateral meeting. The launch of the bus serv- ice was possible within a few months once the process started, she observed. Bangladesh submitted the proposal to Nepal in 2013 and the issue of duty-free access of goods was also discussed at a joint secretary level meeting of the commerce ministries of the two countries. Bangladesh has proposed duty free access of 108 categories of goods, while Nepal sought duty free access for 146 types of goods at that meeting. Currently, around 4,500 students from Nepal are studying in Bangladesh and the number is increasing every year. Last year, more than 700 students came to Bangladesh from Nepal to pursue higher educa- tion, mostly in medicine and engineering, and most of them travelled by bus. As many as 862 Nepalese students have submitted applications this year, the high commissioner said, adding, 22 of them have got government scholarship. At the same time, every year several thousand Bangladeshi tourists visit Nepal, a popular destination for people around the globe. Around 26,000 tourists went to Nepal only from Bangladesh last year. The direct bus service is likely to be very popular among the tourists as it would be through Eastern Nepal where many popular tourist spots are located. 30 Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 COMMENT Chairman: Abdullah bin Khalifa al-Attiyah Editor-in-Chief : Darwish S Ahmed Production Editor: C P Ravindran P.O.Box 2888 Doha, Qatar [email protected] Telephone 44350478 (news), 44466404 (sport), 44466636 (home delivery) Fax 44350474 GULF TIMES Private sector key to QatarвЂ™s economic diversiп¬Ѓcation QatarвЂ™s ample natural resources and returns from the countryвЂ™s well deployed investments will help the government п¬Ѓnance its investment programme amid a drop in lower oil prices. Diversifying the economy away from oil and gas is central to QatarвЂ™s strategic plan and the countryвЂ™s sizeable investment programme should continue to drive non-hydrocarbon growth and lead to further economic diversiп¬Ѓcation going forward. Recently, the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics (MDP&S) said in its Qatar Economic Outlook 2014-16 update that QatarвЂ™s economy was estimated to grow 7.7% in 2015 and 7.5% in 2016 mainly powered by the nonhydrocarbon sector; services and construction in particular. Vigorous investment spending, an expansionary п¬Ѓscal stance and a rising population will continue to spur robust broad-based growth in the non-hydrocarbon sector. Services will be the largest contributor to growth, followed by construction, which will continue to beneп¬Ѓt from the rollout of planned public investment projects, including local roads and expressways, Doha Metro and rail, drains and sanitation, and construction of new health centres and education facilities. After sluggish out-turns in 2013 and 2014, manufacturing growth will rebound somewhat in 2015 and continue to pick up in 2016, it said, adding this revival will be driven mainly by planned capacity expansion in downstream activities, supported by availability of feedstock from the Barzan Gas Project. Non-hydrocarbon real GDP growth is expected to continue accelerating as the government implements its ambitious investment programme ahead of the 2022 World Cup, a recent QNB report showed. Qatar remains well positioned to undertake long-term investment plans. The key drivers of long-term growth are Qatar National Vision 2030 (the countryвЂ™s long-term development plan) and the FIFA 2022 World Cup. Infrastructure investment is taking centre stage. Qatar has awarded numerous infrastructure projects in 2014 to prepare to host FIFA 2022 and to address long-term infrastructure needs arising from rapid population growth. Standard Chartered bank expects QatarвЂ™s spending to increase further in 2015. Population growth is one driver of long-term investment. The government forecasts that the population could rise to 3.8mn by 2030 from around 2mn currently. Under QatarвЂ™s national development strategy, an estimated $183bn of investment is planned between 2011 and 2016, bank data show. It also estimates that almost $27bn of key infrastructure projects have been awarded in 2014 and expects project spending to reach $34bn in 2015. But to sustain QatarвЂ™s non-hydrocarbon growth the countryвЂ™s private sector will have to play an even greater role in the national economy. HE the Minister of Development Planning & Statistics, Dr Saleh Mohamed Salem al-Nabit, emphasised this in a recent statement. He said: вЂњTo support long-term deepening of the economic base, more needs to be done to boost private sector participation in the economy and the upgrading of skills, technology and productivity.вЂќ вЂњIn 2015, with momentum still gathering in nonhydrocarbons, the sectorвЂ™s share of GDP (gross domestic product) will overtake that of oil and gas, and continue rising in 2016 and beyond. This diversiп¬Ѓcation of output and the broadening of the economic base are very welcome,вЂќ al-Nabit said. Diversifying the economy away from oil and gas is central to QatarвЂ™s strategic plan To Advertise [email protected] Display Telephone 44466621 Fax 44418811 Classified Telephone 44466609 Fax 44418811 Subscription [email protected] 2014 Gulf Times. All rights reserved Where has global warming gone? Monitoring surface temperatures does not give us an accurate enough representation of humaninduced global warming By Ka-Kit Tung Seattle F or the last quarter of the 20th century, the average temperature at the surface of the earth edged inexorably upward. Then, to the surprise even of scientists, it stopped. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the earthвЂ™s atmosphere continued to rise; indeed, it is higher today than it has been for centuries. And yet, for the last 15 years, according to the conventional way of measuring global warming, the planet does not seem to have become any hotter. What explains this unexpected turn of events, and what does it mean for future climate policy? The pause in the rise of surface temperatures is real. It can be observed in surveys of the surface of the sea and in satellite measurements of the troposphere. But the reason it has occurred is not that our greenhouse-gas emissions are no longer changing the earthвЂ™s climate; it is that surface temperature is a poor metric for humaninduced warming. Indeed, what scientists have п¬Ѓgured out is that, instead of warming the surface, the excess heat that is being generated has gone to the deeper oceans. This calls into question some of the international strategies for combating climate change that are currently being negotiated, such as those aimed at preventing the global temperature at the earthвЂ™s surface from rising more than 2Вє Celsius above the pre-industrial average. Scientists probably did not adequately convey to the public that their projections for future warming are based on models that account only for the so-called вЂњforced responseвЂќ in global mean surface temperatures вЂ“ that is, the change caused by greenhouse-gas emissions. But what is observed at the surface includes unforced, or natural, variations, such as the El Nino and La NiГ±a п¬‚uctuations from year to year, and the 60-70 year cycle from the п¬‚uctuations of the Great Ocean Conveyor Belt in the Atlantic. In fact, this cycle is now thought to bury heat deep in the oceans periodically. And, because it existed even before humans put signiп¬Ѓcant carbon into the atmosphere, it is likely natural. Given the oceansвЂ™ massive heatstorage capacity, determining how much of the warming remains at the surface over the course of decades is a very difficult task. Though the challenge is beginning to be appreciated, current projections of the dreaded two-degree warming have yet to take into account variable ocean cycles. To be sure, surface temperatures remain important. They are a better measure of the threats posed by climate change than heat sequestered underwater. But some of the threats that scientists (and economists) deduce from the surface temperature also reп¬‚ect natural climate change, and thus cannot be mitigated through the reduction of CO2 emissions. The total amount of heat contained in oceans responds to changes in emissions, and is therefore a better metric for measuring such responses. Indeed, it has continued to warm as expected, even as the surface temperature has stopped rising. The oceansвЂ™ heat content is measured by a network of more than 3,000 free-drifting robotic п¬‚oats spread out across the worldвЂ™s waters, where they routinely dive 2,000 meters beneath the surface. The temperature they measure is transmitted to orbiting satellites and made available online to anyone in near-real time. For ease of interpretation, the oceansвЂ™ heat content can easily be converted to a mean temperature after dividing by a constant. In time, models could demonstrate how to relate this new global metric to emissionsвЂ™ regional climate impact. The intensive scientiп¬Ѓc search for an explanation for the pause in global warming at the earthвЂ™s surface has led to a better understanding of the complex functioning of the climate. It conп¬Ѓrms the long-held theory that the earth has an energy budget that is affected by radiative perturbations at the top of the atmosphere, though partitioning that energy between the surface and the deeper oceans has been difficult. Nobody knows how long the current pause will last. Nonetheless, at some point, the natural cycles will shift; the oceans will cease to absorb the bulk of the planetвЂ™s warming; and surface temperatures will begin to climb again. When they do, we can expect the increase to resume the rapid pace observed during the late twentieth century, when surface temperature rose by about 0.17C every 10 years. In the meantime, whether the overall risk to our environment has been reduced by the pause remains an open question. Some argue that what went down will eventually come back up. The sloshing back and forth of warm and cold waters вЂ“ El Nino and La Nina вЂ“ in the shallow layer of the equatorial Paciп¬Ѓc Ocean will continue to produce п¬‚uctuations in surface temperatures every year. Over longer periods, however, the risk that the heat currently stored in the deep ocean will resurface is remote. One thing is clear. Monitoring surface temperatures does not give us an accurate enough representation of human-induced global warming. As long as we lack a clear understanding of the relationship between our cumulative greenhouse-gas emissions and the temperature of the earth, it will remain difficult to assess the potential for damage related to climate change caused by humans вЂ“ or develop the right strategies to minimise it. Project Syndicate z Ka-Kit Tung, a fellow of the American Meteorological Society, is Professor of Applied Mathematics and an adjunct professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington. Refugees must be protected, even at sea By Mark Hetfield New York H ow can we possibly protect someone who, having lost everything else, risks his life by п¬‚eeing on an unseaworthy boat? Refugees take to rough waters because there are no alternative migration channels on land - and they prefer the risk at sea over the violence and despair they are п¬‚eeing. I have just returned from a meeting convened by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Geneva of government officials, advocates and experts from around the world to confront one of the most вЂњwicked problemsвЂќ of the global refugee landscape - migration by sea. Faced with a staggering loss of life of migrants who escape by boat despite huge risks, one goal of the dialogue was to deter governments who вЂњrescueвЂќ boat people by returning them to their persecutors. While harrowing accounts of perilous, overcrowded maritime escapes from the Middle East and North Africa are making headlines in Australia and Europe, they have gotten little attention in the US. Yet we too have вЂњboat people,вЂќ mostly Haitians and Cubans. From 2010 through the п¬Ѓrst half of 2014, 15,190 people in 440 recorded maritime incidents sought safety via boats carrying migrants in the Caribbean Sea. During this time, some 240 migrants drowned, and 176 were missing at sea. The US Coast Guard picked up the rest. The victims of these incidents were men, women and child migrants from Haiti, Cuba, Dominican Republic and other countries of the Caribbean and South America. All migrants intercepted in the Caribbean must be given meaningful access to asylum in accordance with the Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol. Currently, Cubans and Chinese interdicted by the US are advised of their right to apply for asylum in their own language. It is unclear whether Dominicans, South Americans and other migrants are treated the same. A distressed vessel with 90 people on board, including women and children. What is clear is that the US government treats Haitians differently and unfairly. In 2002, President George W Bush signed an Executive Order authorising the Attorney General to return individuals to Haiti without an obligation to screen for a fear of persecution. This order, similar to orders issues by previous Administrations, remains in effect and is in direct violation of US obligations under international law. During the last three decades, US Coast Guard has returned all Haitians who do not demonstrate a вЂњphysical manifestationвЂќ of a fear or return. Those that pass this вЂњshout testвЂќ or вЂњsweat testвЂќ may be referred for an asylum screening. The shout test does not pass the smell test. It is ineffective as a refugee screening tool and makes a mockery of international legal standards. No Haitian has been granted asylum after having been вЂњscreenedвЂќ in this careless and arbitrary fashion. The US Coast Guard has subsequently identiп¬Ѓed one Haitian as having a manifestation of fear, and that person did not pass the credible fear screening. In contrast, in 2010, 55% of Haitians who applied for asylum in the US after arriving by air or land were granted asylum. All US Coast Guard rescue efforts should include procedures that advise migrants of their right to seek asylum if they fear return. The US should not return an intercepted person until he or she has an opportunity to be individually screened, preferably on land, for a fear of persecution. Also concerning are the bilateral agreements on interdiction in the region. For example, the US engages in joint interdiction operations with the Bahamas. Pursuant to these agreements, migrants are disembarked in the Bahamas, where there is no meaningful process to identify those with a fear of return. This is unacceptable. The US should review the practice of sending intercepted migrants to countries that are not known to respect their international obligations. Such obligations are enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention and other international human rights instruments. The US should provide alternative channels for safe and legal migration that would reduce the need for refugees to risk their lives at sea, including development assistance in the region, humanitarian visas, and opportunities for legal migration. The recent announcement by the US government of a Haitian Family Reuniп¬Ѓcation programme, which permits certain Haitians to join family members in the US, is a good step. Such legal avenues provide an alternative to migration by sea - and more importantly, to the potential loss of life. As the High Commissioner said at the Geneva dialogue, вЂњProtection at sea starts with protection on land.вЂќ There are no easy answers to the dilemma posed by migrants who п¬‚ee danger by sailing into danger. But even at sea, all individuals have the right to seek protection from persecution without having to вЂњshoutвЂќ or вЂњsweat.вЂќ Motivated by refugee protection, we hope the US and other governments not only spoke during the dialogue, but also listened. That might save lives. - Tribune News Service Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 31 COMMENT Socrates in Silicon Valley Silicon Valley is still admired as a source of invention and creative destruction; but it is also widely viewed as having lost its ethical compass By Lucy P Marcus London I f SocratesвЂ™ gadп¬‚y was in Silicon Valley, it would have a lot of lazy horses to sting. The citizens of the techno-polis appear oblivious to how the outside worldвЂ™s perception of them has changed, and radically so. Once universally revered as a hotbed of innovation, the worldвЂ™s premier technology hub is increasingly viewed with suspicion and resentment. Yes, Silicon Valley is still admired as a source of invention and creative destruction; but it is also widely viewed as having lost its ethical compass. With proliferating reports of lax attitudes toward data privacy, wanton disregard for the dignity of the less fortunate, and a growing sense that technology companies are pushing their preferred policy agenda on the rest of the world, discontent and disillusion are rising. Viewed from outside, the world sees companies that exude a sense of entitlement вЂ“ for example, by п¬‚outing local regulations as they expand into cities around the world, from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro. Supremely conп¬Ѓdent in the power of their knowledge and skills, they are convinced that they will guide the world onto the Path of Truth. This overweening certitude is not new вЂ“ the United States, after all, was founded on missionary zeal вЂ“ but the ethical arrogance is. Of course, not all technology companies should be tarred with the same brush as the main offenders. But the recent spate of high-profile cases harms the reputation of the sector as a whole. As the world looks to Silicon Valley and sees an echo chamber of self-righteous conceit, mature and law-abiding technology companies are assumed to be inside it, too. The cases are becoming legion. Uber, the data-abusing car-sharing app that spikes prices during peak demand and threatens journalists who write negatively about it, has been banned in Spain, the Netherlands, Thailand, and two Indian cities so far, including New Delhi (after a driver allegedly raped a passenger). These reports follow the revelation that pictures shared on Snapchat may not be deleted, as promised. In August, Brazilian authorities banned the social-networking app Secret after the company failed to respond to cyberbullying concerns, with Israel considering a similar move. The list goes on. Silicon Valley is risking a backlash that will not do anyone any good. Its leaders are increasingly out of step with the publicвЂ™s expectation of ethical and conscientious behaviour. If they fail to generate new ideas and devise novel approaches, their problems will only multiply further. One thing that would help is fresh blood. Much of Silicon ValleyвЂ™s success stems from its tight networks вЂ“ people who have been successful and support one another. But history shows that the same structures can also choke off innovation. Organisations, like species, become inbred and weak, and eventually perish, when they fail to embrace diversity. Indeed, one of the most revealing facts to come to light about Silicon Valley in recent months is the extreme ethnic and gender imbalance at large technology companies, including Apple, Google, Facebook, and Twitter. No one is shocked, but clearly something needs to change. Somehow a place that prides itself on innovation and doing things differently should be doing this differently as well. Is the ECB doing enough? By Peter Praet Frankfurt K onrad Adenauer, GermanyвЂ™s п¬Ѓrst chancellor after World War II, famously said: вЂњWhy should I care about the things I said yesterday?вЂќ What he meant was that events can sometimes unfold at a speed that outpaces our ability to understand them. So, as 2014 winds down, it is worth asking ourselves, with the beneп¬Ѓt of hindsight: Have we at the European Central Bank reacted swiftly enough to maintain price stability in the face of threats, as our mandate requires? I think the answer is yes. We noticed that our monetary policy was no longer having the effect on private borrowing costs to which we were accustomed. It was obvious that the lending channels in the banking system had become dysfunctional; excessively restrictive borrowing conditions were suppressing demand. In response, the ECB did precisely what any central bank would have done: we acted to restore the relationship between our monetary policy and the cost of borrowing, aiming to bring down the average rate that households and п¬Ѓrms have to pay. In June, we introduced a series of targeted longer-term reп¬Ѓnancing operations (known as TLTROs) to provide funding for banks at very low п¬Ѓxed rates for a period of up to four years. The TLTROs were designed to maximise the chances that banks would pass on the funding relief to borrowers. Our programs to purchase asset-backed securities and covered bonds were tailored to help lubricate further the transmission of lower funding costs from banks to customers. Together, these measures offer a powerful response that addresses the root causes of impaired bank lending, thereby facilitating new credit п¬‚ows to the real economy. And tentative evidence suggests that they are delivering some initial tangible beneп¬Ѓts to the euro areaвЂ™s economy. At the same time, inп¬‚ation has continued trending down. In November, annual inп¬‚ation in the euro area fell to a cyclical low of 0.3%, largely owing to the sharp fall in oil prices since the end of the summer. But falling core inп¬‚ation (which excludes volatile energy and food prices) also points to weak aggregate demand. And, indeed, the ECBвЂ™s latest staff projections entail a notable downgrading of the macroeconomic outlook. Falling oil prices and the prospect of a prolonged period of low inп¬‚ation also seem to have affected inп¬‚ation expectations. Given the potency of the recent oil-price shock, the risk is that inп¬‚ation may temporarily slip into negative territory in the coming months. Normally, any central bank would welcome a positive supply shock. After all, lower oil prices boost real incomes and may lead to higher output in the future. But we may not be able to celebrate. After all, because well-anchored inп¬‚ation expectations are indispensable for medium-term price stability, monetary policy must respond to a risk of de-anchoring. That is why the ECB Governing Council has reiterated its unanimous commitment to use additional unconventional instruments within its mandate should it need to address a prolonged period of low inп¬‚ation, or should monetary stimulus fail to move our balance sheet toward its size in early 2012. This would imply altering the scope, pace, and composition of our measures early next year, and staff from the ECB and national central banks have stepped up technical preparations, so that further measures, if needed, can be implemented in a timely manner. If we were to judge that the economy is in need of further stimulus, one option could be to extend the ECBвЂ™s outright asset purchases to other asset classes. But it is important to remember that asset purchases are not an end in themselves. They are an instrument, not a target, of monetary policy. An important criterion for the choice of additional measures should be the extent of their inп¬‚uence over broad п¬Ѓnancing conditions in the private economy. For example, purchases of bonds issued by euroarea non-п¬Ѓnancial corporations (NFCs) would probably have some direct pass-through effect on п¬ЃrmsвЂ™ п¬Ѓnancing costs. But, compared to other asset classes, the market for NFC bonds is relatively thin. It would be a different matter if we were to decide to buy bonds issued by euro-area sovereigns вЂ“ the only market where size would generally not be an issue. Interventions in this market would likely entail a stronger signal that the ECB is committed to maintaining an accommodative monetary policy for an extended period of time. The effectiveness of interventions in the sovereign-bond market вЂ“ that is, their ability to lower the borrowing costs of households and п¬Ѓrms further вЂ“ will also rest on the state of the banking sector. Higher capital ratios, lower exposure to bad loans, and more transparent balance sheets increase the chances that the ECBвЂ™s quantitative impulses will be transmitted to the wider economy. That is why the completion of the ECBвЂ™s comprehensive assessment of banksвЂ™ balance sheets and the start of Europe-wide banking supervision will help revitalise sluggish lending in the euro area. In particular, increased clarity and transparency about banksвЂ™ balance sheets, together with a bettercapitalised banking sector, will create a more supportive lending environment. But a decision to purchase sovereign bonds would also need to build on and factor in the institutional speciп¬Ѓcities of the euro area, including the limits set by the EU Treaty. We take these limits very seriously. - Project Syndicate Above all, there is value in questioning and challenging the status quo. Independence in thought and deed is vital for any company to function and to build things that last and contribute to economic growth and prosperity. In PlatoвЂ™s Apology, Socrates advocates for the examined life вЂ“ the habit of rigorous selfreп¬‚ection and posing hard, heterodox, and possibly upsetting questions. The tech sector needs to embrace that credo. Ironically, questioning prevailing wisdom вЂ“ and thereby inventing radically new solutions вЂ“ has been Silicon ValleyвЂ™s modus operandi from the outset. But it has followed this approach on a macro level and for problems elsewhere in the economy, without examining itself. Silicon ValleyвЂ™s citizens must start applying their skill at innovation вЂ“ and their pride in вЂњbreaking thingsвЂќ вЂ“ to themselves. The only way to evolve is by adapting to new environmental pressures, and now Silicon Valley вЂ“ owing in large part to its own behaviour вЂ“ is facing plenty of them. Unless it changes, it will be overtaken. The good news is that if any place has proved that it can innovate, it is Silicon Valley. Now, however, its citizens must recognise that they do not have all the answers; unfortunately, so far at least, there seems to be no awareness among them that there is even a problem. Like the вЂњskilled craftsmenвЂќ described by Socrates, вЂњon the strength of their technical proficiency, they claimed a perfect understanding of every other subject, however important.вЂќ As PlatoвЂ™s teacher knew вЂ“ and as every fresh report of the tech sectorвЂ™s abusive behaviour should remind us вЂ“ a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. - Project Syndicate Lucy P. Marcus is CEO of Marcus Venture Consulting. Weather report Three-day forecast TODAY High: 26 C Low: 16 C Misty to Foggy at places at first with some clouds and relatively cold by night MONDAY High: 25 C Low : 16 C P Cloudy TUESDAY High: 26 C Low : 18 C P Cloudy FishermenвЂ™s forecast OFFSHORE DOHA Wind:SE-SWвЂ™LY 5-15/18 KT Waves: 2-4/5 & 5-7/8 Feet INSHORE DOHA Wind:SE-SWвЂ™LY10-17/20KT Waves: 1-2/3 Feet Around the region Abu Dhabi Baghdad Dubai Kuwait City Manama Muscat Riyadh Tehran Weather today P Cloudy P Cloudy P Cloudy Clear P Cloudy Clear Clear Cloudy Max/min 26/21 25/16 26/17 27/18 26/20 26/22 24/16 16/08 Weather tomorrow Clear P Cloudy Clear Clear Clear Clear P Cloudy Clear Max/min 28/21 26/17 27/18 27/17 26/19 25/21 25/18 15/10 Weather tomorrow P Cloudy Clear C Showers Cloudy Clear P Cloudy C Storms P Cloudy C Showers P Cloudy T Storms Clear C Rain Cloudy Cloudy P Cloudy C Rain C Showers C Rain Clear C Storms C Storms Clear Max/min 17/14 23/16 31/24 03/00 28/14 28/17 29/23 28/19 15/14 13/09 31/26 31/18 06/-1 29/23 00/-3 28/11 08/07 06/02 21/18 -2/-6 31/26 29/20 12/03 Peter Praet is Chief Economist of the European Central Bank and a member of its executive board. Live issue FDA approves new ovarian cancer drug By Melissa Healy Los Angeles O pening a new chapter in the use of genomic science to п¬Ѓght cancer, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved olaparib, a medication for advanced ovarian cancer associated with a defective BRCA gene. The new drug, to be marketed under the commercial name Lynparza, was found in a preliminary clinical trial to shrink or eliminate ovarian tumors in women whose cancers bore a speciп¬Ѓc genetic п¬Ѓngerprint and who had undergone at least three prior lines of chemotherapy. Based on LynparzaвЂ™s вЂњexisting objective response rate and duration of response data,вЂќ the drug safety agency granted the medicationвЂ™s maker, Astra-Zeneca, an вЂњacceleratedвЂќ approval. Roughly a third of women with the genetic mutation targeted by Lynparza saw partial shrinkage or complete disappearance of their ovarian tumors over an average of eight months. At the same time, the FDA granted marketing approval for a вЂњcompanion diagnosticвЂќ that will help identify women whose advanced ovarian cancer is likely to respond to the drug. That test, BRACAnalysis CDx, is made by Myriad Genetics Inc To be a candidate for Lynparza, a patient must take the test and show positive for a speciп¬Ѓc mutation of the BRCA gene, which confers a high risk of both breast and ovarian cancer. вЂњTodayвЂ™s approval constitutes the п¬Ѓrst of a new class of drugs for treating ovarian cancer,вЂќ Dr. Richard Pazdur, director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDAвЂ™s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in the news release. Pazdur called Lynparza вЂњan example of how a greater understanding of the underlying mechanisms of disease can lead to targeted, more personalised treatment.вЂќ Lynparza is the п¬Ѓrst of a new class of drugs called poly ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP) inhibitors, which work by blocking the action of an enzyme that helps repair DNA. In certain tumour cells, such as those seen in BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers, blocking this enzyme can lead to cell death. вЂњItвЂ™s really opening a whole new avenue of therapy,вЂќ said Dr. M. William Audeh, a medical oncologist and geneticist at Cedars-Sinai Medical CenterвЂ™s Samuel Oschin Cancer Institute in Los Angeles. вЂњThis drug is working in a fundamentally different way than chemotherapy: This is a cancer treatment thatвЂ™s been designed to hit this kind of inherited genetic weakness in the cancer itself.вЂќ Because PARP inhibitors such as Lynparza target a cancerвЂ™s genetic AchillesвЂ™ heel, they appear to hold out the particular promise of driving some patientsвЂ™ cancer into remission entirely, said Audeh, an investigator on the Astra-Zeneca-sponsored trial assessed by the FDA. вЂњAll of us whoвЂ™ve done these trials over seven years have some patients whoвЂ™ve been in long-term remission. ThatвЂ™s not something you see very often with chemotherapy,вЂќ he added. Audeh said at least seven other PARP inhibitors are in development and testing for cancers associated with BRCA gene mutations, and for others that may stem from similar mutations. Around the world Athens Beirut Bangkok Berlin Cairo Cape Town Colombo Dhaka Hong Kong Istanbul Jakarta Karachi London Manila Moscow New Delhi New York Paris Sao Paulo Seoul Singapore Sydney Tokyo Weather today P Cloudy P Cloudy T Storms M Cloudy Clear P Cloudy P Cloudy P Cloudy Rain C Showers T Storms Clear Cloudy C Storms Cloudy Clear P Cloudy Cloudy T Storms C Snow C Storms C Storms Cloudy Max/min 19/13 23/16 31/25 03/01 29/15 24/16 29/23 28/20 14/12 13/09 31/26 31/17 05/04 30/24 -3/-3 28/12 07/01 04/03 25/17 00/-9 30/26 31/21 11/04 32 Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 QATAR Katara events enthral visitors By Joey Aguilar Staff Reporter Q atar National Day celebrations continued at Katara вЂ“ the Cultural Village on Friday with numerous events and activities, attracting a large number of people. A wide range of attractions had been lined up at the Cultural Village to mark the special occasion. The celebrations saw the Qatar Emiri GuardвЂ™s 14 horses in national costumes enthral visitors for two consecutive days, touring KataraвЂ™s Corniche and alleyways with an artful display. Lt Col Mohamed al-Kaabi, chairman of the organising committee for the Emiri GuardвЂ™s National Day celebrations, said they were participating in KataraвЂ™s festivity for the third consecutive year. He noted that their horses and knights had trained for two months to prepare for the shows. The Childhood Cultural CentreвЂ™s traditional tent and poetry house also attracted many visitors. It showcased innovative school projects made by students in line with Qatar National Vision 2030. Rawdat Rashid Preparatory School for Boys showcased a speed-hump detector aimed at helping reduce the number of accidents on the Shahaniya-Salwa road. Al Aqsa Independent Preparatory School for Girls presented a 3D model of a mosque where footsteps can be converted into electrical energy that will power the building. Another school, Musaab bin Omair Preparatory School for Boys, presented an environmentfriendly project that transforms waste into natural gas that can be used for electric power generation. A huge autograph book known as вЂњLoyalty BookвЂќ gave people of all ages the opportunity to sign and write their heartfelt felicitations about the country. Some messages in English said, вЂњI am not a Qatari but I really love QatarвЂќ and вЂњQatar! You deserve the best and we love to be here alwaysвЂќ. Another message read, вЂњHappy National Day for Qatar. All day, every day, I will ride with youвЂќ. For some visitors, the вЂњTale of a homelandвЂќ activity and the Katara Cultural Market were among the key activities. Others were interested in listening to Dr Abdul Qader al-QahtaniвЂ™s lecture about the biography of QatarвЂ™s founder вЂ“ Sheikh Jassim bin Mohamed al-Thani. вЂњThe festivities are fun and suitable for all families. The swords show, childrenвЂ™s shows and tents along the Corniche allowed families to have a unique experience of the countryвЂ™s culture and national heritage,вЂќ said Dennis Anthony, accompanied by his wife. Some 22 artworks painted with sand and oil colours highlighted the вЂњSpirit of the desertвЂќ exhibition. In a press statement, Bosnian artist Sanita Lisica, who also serves as the п¬Ѓrst secretary and deputy head of mission of BosniaHerzegovina in Qatar, said she has been inп¬‚uenced by the Arab civilisation since her childhood days. вЂњI was encouraged to learn the Arabic language and that was when I fell in love with the desert through poetry,вЂќ she stressed. The exhibition will continue at KataraвЂ™s Building 18 until December 31. Visitors were also fascinated by marine activities such as a sailboat show and beautifullydecorated dhows with Qatari п¬‚ags roving around the Katara seas. Also in the esplanade area, dozens of children participated in a number of fun-п¬Ѓlled games on a stage. Many visitors, local and international, lauded this yearвЂ™s celebration at Katara, saying the numerous events and activities were suitable for all ages and segments. An exhibition of classic cars and Harley Davidson motorbikes was also a crowd-puller, especially for those who are passionate about vehicles. Some 11,000 LED and heliumп¬Ѓlled balloons were also released on KataraвЂ™s Corniche over two days. An exhibition of classic cars. PICTURES: Joey Aguilar A range of fun-filled games for children on stage at the esplanade. A special musical band leads a parade. PICTURES: Katara Balloons in the colours of the national flag. Maersk Oil staff celebrate Qatar Rail programme marks National Day with open-air festival Q M ore than 600 Maersk Oil employees celebrated Qatar National Day with an open-air festival featuring traditional Qatari dancing, food and cultural activities outside the companyвЂ™s West Bay office. They were joined by Fahed, mascot of the 2015 World Handball Championship that will be held in Qatar next year, as part of MaerskвЂ™s sponsorship of the sporting event. Sheikh Faisal bin Fahad alThani, deputy managing director of Maersk Oil Qatar, said: вЂњQatar National Day is a time for us all to celebrate the enormous strides we have made towards fulп¬Ѓlling our countryвЂ™s National Vision 2030 under the wise leadership of HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and HH the Father Emir before him. вЂњSport has been identiп¬Ѓed as an integral part of the countryвЂ™s social and economic development, so I am delighted that Maersk Group, through Maersk Oil in Qatar, is a prestige sponsor of the World Handball Championship 2015 - and that we were joined at our National Day celebration by representatives from the handball championship.вЂќ During the event, Maersk Oil employees celebrated National Day and got a glimpse of whatвЂ™s in store during the handball cham- Mascot Fahed with Maersk Oil Qatar officials and employees. pionship, which will be held in Qatar from January 15 to February 1, involving 24 teams and broadcast to TV viewers worldwide. Pop-up games featuring handball goals allowed employees to test and compare their skill, accuracy and throwing speed against results from leading handball players coming to Qatar. With a global audience of up to 1.5bn viewers, sponsoring the 24th MenвЂ™s World Handball Championship is a good platform to promote the Maersk brand both locally and internationally, the company has said in a statement. As part of its sponsorship, Maersk Oil Qatar will activate a number of its local social investment partnership programmes to raise awareness and encourage positive behaviour change, particularly around public health challenges facing Qatar. For example, the Action on Diabetes screening bus вЂ“ funded by Maersk Oil Qatar вЂ“ will be positioned outside the main Lusail handball arena and staffed by healthcare professionals during the championship. The Students for Road Safety driving simulator, which is funded by Maersk Oil Qatar in support of the Ministry of InteriorвЂ™s One Second national road safety brand and campaigns, will also be present. The championship organisers are also activating a number of local outreach programmes designed to engage the broader community and society in Qatar, including the One Hand, One School programme, which is designed to encourage healthier lifestyles. atar Railways Company (Qatar Rail) has held its annual celebrations at the company headquarters to mark Qatar National Day and in honour of the StateвЂ™s achievements. The celebration was held in the presence of Abdullah Abdulaziz Subaie, managing director and chairman of the Executive Committee of Qatar Rail, and Saad Ahmed al-Muhannadi, CEO of the company. Qatar RailвЂ™s celebration included the cutting of a cake specially designed for the occasion, to the rhythm of traditional music. A few weeks earlier, the companyвЂ™s staff had launched a National Day contest on Instagram, which gave everyone the opportunity to publish attractive images of Qatar and heritage landmarks on the social media platform. During the ceremony, Qatar Rail honoured winners of the contest, who had the most inspiring photographs. Addressing a large audience of employees, Subaie said: вЂњOn the occasion of the National Day of Qatar, we extend our heartfelt congratulations and best wishes to HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, HH the Father Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, HE the Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa The Qatar Rail team celebrating National Day. al-Thani and to all the honourable people of the State of Qatar. вЂњQatar, under the wise leadership of HH the Emir, is achieving remarkable progress in implementing good governance practices, rational management of national resources, improving the productivity and efficiency of the public and private sector institutions in the country and ensuring a sustainable and competitive economy for the current and future generations. This is why at Qatar Rail, National Day is not just another celebration but is the occasion to renew our commitment and determination in delivering on our promises to the nation and its leadership.вЂќ On his part, al-Muhannadi said: вЂњOn the occasion of the National Day of the country, I would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, and HH the Father Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and the esteemed government and Qatari people, and all those who have worked and are working to achieve our vision and national aspirations. вЂњAt Qatar Rail, we are proud of the role we play in the growth and success of Qatar and look forward to continuing the path to prosperity and growth thanks to our daily efforts, both nationals and residents.вЂќ Qatar Foundation academies participate in festivities Q atar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF)вЂ™s academies have taken part in National Day celebrations by hosting traditional and educational activities to commemorate QatarвЂ™s culture and legacy. QF members Qatar Academy Doha, Qatar Academy Sidra, Qatar Academy Al Wakrah, Qatar Academy Al Khor, Qatar Academy Msheireb, Awsaj Academy, Qatar Leadership Academy (QLA) and Qatar Music Academy (QMA) organised a diverse range of activities to mark the occasion. Students and staff at the п¬Ѓve Qatar Academies went to school dressed in their п¬Ѓnest traditional Qatari apparel to add to the festive mood. Activities included henna decoration, face painting, pearl making and traditional art and crafts for students and families. The traditional sword celebration, Arda, was performed by students who also recited patriotic poems to express their love for Qatar. The events were aligned with QFвЂ™s mission to preserve the nationвЂ™s heritage and instil a sense of pride among the young by enhancing their knowledge about QatarвЂ™s cultural life. Students at Qatar Academy Doha performing a patriotic song during the National Day celebrations. In order for students to learn more about QatarвЂ™s heritage, history teachers organised a presentation in both English and Arabic, explaining the countryвЂ™s past and how it has been shaped to todayвЂ™s dynamic environment. Dr Eric Sands, Qatar Academy Doha director, said: вЂњFrom the student sword presenta- tion (Arda) in the high school to the variety of activities on offer throughout the campus, our community has embraced the wonderful spirit of friendship, tradition and culture on display.вЂќ Qatar Academy Msheireb, a new QF member, hosted its п¬Ѓrst Qatar National Day celebration. Its director, Suad Abdulla al-Kin- di, said: вЂњEvery year on December 18, I renew my commitment to providing a quality education that celebrates authenticity and modernism in total synergy. Qatar National Day beholds the meaning of love, solidarity and loyalty among its people and towards QatarвЂ™s leadership.вЂќ QLA students participated in Qatar Leadership Academy students at a military parade. Darb Al Saai festivities in addition to the Qatar National Day military parade on December 18. QLA director Brigadier Ali al-Kuwari added, вЂњQatar is full of traditions and a rich culture of Islamic values. Our п¬‚ag honours those who have fought to protect Qatar and is a reminder of the sacriп¬Ѓce of our nationвЂ™s founders and heroes. For more than 100 years, we have been proud of our heroes and their achievements. This is why I live for and love Qatar.вЂќ To celebrate Qatari culture, QMAвЂ™s Arab and Western music departments held a short concert featuring these two kinds of music. QMA also offered workshops in rhythm and percussion, as well as an interactive lecture by the Arab music department discussing Arab music origins and instruments. вЂњQatar has given me more opportunities than I could ever ask for. Although Qatar is small in size, it makes up for it in its goals and ambition,вЂќ said Fatima alJefairi, a QMA student. Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 33 QATAR Recognition for QP scholarship scheme graduates The QP-sponsored graduates were enrolled in colleges and universities within Qatar or in various educational institutions abroad, including France, the UK, US and took up various courses Q atar Petroleum (QP) president and CEO Saad Sherida al-Kaabi has led the recognition rites for 140 Qatari nationals who have completed their academic studies and training under QPвЂ™s scholarship programme. The QP Graduates Recognition Ceremony 2014 honoured one masterвЂ™s degree holder, 99 bachelorвЂ™s degree holders, 16 diploma holders, 11 others who completed a Clerical Preparation Programme, and 13 graduates of a Technician Preparation Programme (TPP). Al-Kaabi said: вЂњQatar Petroleum attaches a great deal of importance to developing and attracting Qatari youth and seeks through its strategic plans for education in prestigious universities, higher institutes, colleges and specialised training centres in Qatar and abroad to empower and employ well-qualiп¬Ѓed and competent Qatari cadre of both genders in various disciplines, particularly in the oil and gas sector.вЂќ вЂњWe are extremely proud to have a new group of capable Qatari youth, who, with their willing and enthusiastic spirit, will play an active role in realising Qatar PetroleumвЂ™s vision and mission and will contribute to the development efforts geared towards achieving progress for our beloved country under the wise lead- Qatari achievers of this yearвЂ™s QP Graduates Recognition Ceremony pose with officials. ership of His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Emir of the State of Qatar,вЂќ he added. The QP-sponsored graduates were enrolled in colleges and universities within Qatar or in various educational institutions abroad, including France, the UK and the US. They took up various courses mainly in engineering, information technology (IT) and similar specialties. In his welcome speech, QP executive vice president for Human Capital Abdulaziz Mohamed al-Mannai, stressed on the significance of the event as it concludes a year full of dis- tinguished events held to celebrate QPвЂ™s 40th anniversary. вЂњInvesting in people, who are QatarвЂ™s most valuable asset and providing the best technical and university education, combined with the best professional training programmes needed to build the capacity of the new Qatari generations to meet the requirements of growth and prosperity, are the best means to achieve this goal,вЂќ al-Mannai said. During the event, which was held at the Qatar National Convention Centre, the graduates also received certificates of appreciation for their achievements. RasGas honours local talent at annual gathering R asGas has honoured 161 Qatari employees who have completed signiп¬Ѓcant milestones in their careers at its second Annual Qatarisation Celebration. More than 750 employees and high-proп¬Ѓle guests attended the event, including Qatar University president Dr Sheikha Abdulla alMisnad, Qatar Petroleum managing director Saad Sherida al-Kaabi and Qatar Tourism Authority chairman Issa Mohamed al-Mohannadi. RasGas CEO Hamad Rashid al-Mohannadi said: вЂњIn RasGas, we focus on sustainable development through creating a comprehensive learning organisation. We provide a structured system of recruitment, on-the-job training, coaching, mentoring and career RasGas employees and distinguished guests pose after the recognition ceremony. development, with the aim of attracting, retaining, and developing quality nationals.вЂќ Guest speaker and former RasGas employee of 10 years, al-Mohannadi shared his вЂњin- spirational journeyвЂќ within the company and encouraged young graduates вЂњto take ownership and be part of QatarвЂ™s legacy for generations to come.вЂќ In line with the Qatar National Vison 2030, RasGasвЂ™ Qatarisation strategy provides Qatari graduates with an opportunity to join an organisation that offers competitive employment packages, focused learning, training opportunities, and a clear career development path.вЂќ RasGasвЂ™ Qatarisation strategy has resulted in more than 1,200 national employees out of its 3,800-strong employee base. RasGas is a nationwide leader in Qatarisation following the guidance of its majority shareholder, Qatar Petroleum. Its Qatarisation strategy has been repeatedly recognised by the Ministry of Energy and IndustryвЂ™s crystal award, for its commitment to attracting and retaining the вЂњhighest calibreвЂќ of national employees. Since 2009, RasGas has been awarded four prestigious Qatarisation Crystal Awards. GOLD FUTURES | Page 15 ECB OFFICIAL | Page 16 Hedge fundsвЂ™ bullish bets defy outlook Constancio sees negative inflation rate Sunday, December 21, 2014 Safar 29, 1436 AH GULF TIMES FLEXIBILITY, VALUE-FOR-MONEY: Page 3 BUSINESS Ooredoo is leading SMBs into smart technology with вЂ�Cloud MarketplaceвЂ™ Domestic credit growth of Qatari banks may average 17% up to 2017 By Pratap John Chief Business Reporter Q atari banksвЂ™ domestic credit growth may average 17% up to 2017, propelled by the main beneп¬Ѓciaries of the governmentвЂ™s ongoing investment drive, shows a new report. The countryвЂ™s total domestic credit growth ticked up to 12.4% in the 12 months to September, while deposit growth reached 12.6%, said Samba Financial Group in its latest economic monitor. The loan/deposit ratio remained below 1, but climbed to 96% from 93.4% in August. NPLs remain low, at just under 2% in September. The pace of credit growth continued its upward trend after a month-on- month contraction in July, in part due to the disruptions caused by Ramadan. Following this summer hiatus, Samba expects faster expansion of the loan book, propelled by the main beneп¬Ѓciaries of the governmentвЂ™s ongoing investment drive. The composition of credit was still dominated by lending to the public sector, which represented 42% of the total. The next biggest recipient was consumption at 16% and then real estate at 15%, Samba said. Lending to contractors was the fastest growing sector, up 42% year-onyear (albeit from a small base). Deposit growth has been strong and provides a solid foundation for the banking sector to take advantage of a host of lending opportunities over the next few years, Samba said. The report also noted the recent drop in oil prices has further validated QatarвЂ™s long-term vision for a diversiп¬Ѓed economy. The fall still leaves prices well above the estimated breakeven for the twin surpluses ($58 a barrel for п¬Ѓscal and $56 for external). Although hydrocarbon receipts continue to churn out both external and п¬Ѓscal surpluses, the softness in the oil price has clipped SambaвЂ™s projections through to 2016. The current account continued to post a healthy surplus in the п¬Ѓrst half 2014, amounting to 30.4% of the GDP. вЂњWe foresee stronger import growth due to increasing investment, and a weaker oil price reducing the size of the surplus in the second half of this year and throughout next. To this end, we forecast an external surplus of 25.9% this year, and 21.3% in 2015,вЂќ Samba said. вЂњIt is a similar story for public п¬ЃnancesвЂќ, the report said and noted that with an expansionary п¬Ѓscal policy and anticipated weaker hydrocarbons prices cutting the surplus to 7.7% of GDP in 2014 and 4.7% in 2015. The International Monetary FundвЂ™s article IV noted that QatarвЂ™s government spending policies were вЂњconsistent with intergenerational equityвЂќ, meaning that it is saving the appropriate amount for future generations. However, if hydrocarbon prices were to surprise on the downside, additional measures to contain current spending and prioritise capital should be taken. This could present a task for the authorities as Samba forecasts current spending to increase by 22% both this year and in 2015. A more quantitative metric for a diversiп¬Ѓed economy, as outlined by QatarвЂ™s General Secretariat for Development Planning, is to fully п¬Ѓnance the budget through non-hydrocarbon revenues. The non-hydrocarbon п¬Ѓscal balance as a percentage of non-hydrocarbon GDP is expected to decline from 46% of GDP at present to 29% in 2019. The IMF cites that they are happy with the progress in this regard and warn against reaching the target too hastily as it may limit growth capacity, Samba noted. Page 3 2 Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 BUSINESS Sodic plans Egypt growth in non-housing projects Bloomberg Cairo E Traders stand near electronic boards displaying stock information at the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange. The Abu Dhabi bourse has been the first in the region to experiment with automatic circuit breakers; it announced on December 14 it would temporarily suspend trading in stocks that fell more than 5%. Gulf markets sell-off fuelled by credit and lax regulation Reuters Dubai T he sudden fall of Gulf share prices as the price of oil slides has given new impetus to governments in the region to improve п¬Ѓnancial regulation to reduce the credit-fuelled volatility that has afflicted their stock markets. The stock markets of the Gulf were among the best performers in the world earlier this year, but panicked selling in recent weeks has wiped out most of the yearвЂ™s gains in Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Experts say the volatility is driven in part by weak regulation, which allows too much leverage when prices are going up, and too few brakes when prices start to fall. The worst-hit has been DubaiвЂ™s benchmark, which has lost around a third of its value since November 25, the day before Opec began a meeting which held oil production at current levels despite an expected glut of supply in 2015. The plunge has turned attention to the regionвЂ™s easy rules on leverage, which allow investors to increase their returns with borrowed cash when prices are rising, but speeds the fall when prices turn south. Much of this yearвЂ™s surge on UAE stocks had been funded by lending, either from banks or through brokerage houses, which can force investors to sell shares to cover losses in a falling market, driving prices further down. вЂњThe speed by which we see these daily drops can only be explained by banks liquidating big portfolios that were collateral for margin trading,вЂќ said Mohammed Ali Yasin, managing director of NBAD Securities, adding there was no way to tell how much of the market was being traded on margin. The UAE authorities have noted the negative impact, with a senior central bank official saying on December 9 it was studying proposals for new rules on bank lending against shares. However, the path to implementing regulation in the Gulf region has traditionally been slow. UAE officials said India imports 38% more Iranian oil in Jan-Nov trade Reuters New Delhi I ndia imported about 38% more oil from Iran in the eleven months to November as an easing of Western sanctions earlier in the year over TehranвЂ™s disputed nuclear activities helped boost shipments, trade sources said. India, IranвЂ™s top client after China, imported 250,600 bpd crude last month, tanker arrival data obtained from trade sources show, a growth of 14% from a year ago and a decline of 19% from October. Private reп¬Ѓner Essar Oil was the biggest buyer of Iranian oil in November followed by state-run Mangalore Reп¬Ѓnery and Petrochemical Ltd. The two are IndiaвЂ™s only regular monthly importers of Iranian crude. Arrivals from Iran over the п¬Ѓrst 11 months of the year stood at 270,100 bpd, up 37.7% on year. The growth in Iranian oil imports this year was also due to the low base in 2013, when shipments were hit over April to August due to insurance problems triggered by the sanctions. In the п¬Ѓrst eight months of the current contract year beginning April, India shipped in 35% more oil from Iran from a year ago at about 174,000 bpd, the data showed. IndiaвЂ™s overall imports for November totalled 3.86mn bpd, a growth of about 6.8% from a year ago, the data showed. IndiaвЂ™s total crude imports for the JanuaryNovember period fell 2.3%. IranвЂ™s share of Indian oil imports was about 7.1% in the п¬Ѓrst eleven months of the year, compared with 5% last year. in July they planned to tighten bourse rules after problems at Dubai contractor Arabtec, whose share price surged on leveraged trading, crashed and dragged the wider market with it. Gulf stock markets still provide few of the automatic brakes found in other countries, which can slow a sudden slide and give market participants time to respond. The Abu Dhabi bourse has been the п¬Ѓrst in the region to experiment with automatic circuit breakers: it announced on December 14 it would temporarily suspend trading in stocks that fell more than 5%. The bourseвЂ™s CEO told Reuters that a study period for the implementation had been sped up due to the current slump. Kuwait has intervened to prop up its market by aggressively buying stocks through the National Portfolio Fund, a state fund set up during the 2008 market crash to help stabilise prices. вЂњThe National Portfolio is the missing element now and can be the trigger to end the selling spree and narrow year-to-date losses,вЂќ said Fouad Dar- wish, head of brokerage at Global Investment House. Such intervention is thought to be rare in the Gulf. Kuwait has discussed other action to improve market conditions but has not set any timeframe for changes to take effect, Finance Minister Anas al-Saleh said on December 14. In the UAE, National Bank of Abu Dhabi is the countryвЂ™s sole licensed market maker, and is authorised to provide liquidity and sustain trading volumes. Otherwise, there have been few interventions to shore up markets. Gulf countries generally do not have mechanisms to allow short selling of borrowed shares, which allow investors to proп¬Ѓt when prices are falling. While short selling is sometimes blamed for worsening panicked selloffs in other countries, some market participants in the Gulf say restrictions on the practice make volatility worse. Without short selling, investors, especially the retail investors who dominate the indexes, have no way to make gyptian luxury-home developer Six of October Development & Investment Co is in вЂњadvancedвЂќ talks with the government to buy land it will use to expand outside of housing. The builder of suburbs to the east and west of Cairo plans to construct office and retail developments as well as resorts that include hotels, homes and leisure facilities, Managing Director Ahmed Badrawi said in an interview at his office in the capital. The developer, known as Sodic, expects sales to reach a record 3bn Egyptian pounds ($420mn) this year, he said. вЂњThe key message going forward for the next few years is diversifying out of pure residential,вЂќ Badrawi said. вЂњOnce you have a stable recurring revenue stream, it helps you a lot for future bumps in the road.вЂќ Like other Egyptian developers, Sodic has spent the last several years embroiled in legal disputes over land it obtained under the regime of President Hosni Mubarak, who was overthrown in 2011. The last settlement, involving its Eastown project, was completed on April 6 and the stock has risen 84% since. money in a bear market, so when prices fall, trading volumes dry up. Trading volumes in Dubai took more than four years to recover after the 2008 market crash wiped off nearly 80% of the bourseвЂ™s value. Regulators have been lukewarm to the idea of allowing short sales, partly as the practice depends on borrowing shares which runs contrary to some interpretations of Islamic principles, and partly because short sales could push down share prices further. The UAE market regulator last year created a vague framework for shortselling by market makers on the local exchanges. It also allowed local banks and local units of international banks to conduct securities lending and borrowing, but only under tight restrictions. Restrictions can be circumvented by some investors through international banks that offer off-shore securities lending to a limited number of clients, but the practice is limited due to strict foreign ownership limits on Gulf markets. Bank of Israel ready for вЂ�unconventional monetary toolsвЂ™ The Bank of Israel is prepared for the possibility that it will have to resort to unconventional monetary tools in the coming year, according to a plan released this week, Bloomberg reported. The delay in the recovery of the global economy and the slowdown in domestic growth in the last two years, together with an inflation rate that has fallen below the governmentвЂ™s target, require the central bank to continue its вЂњvery expansionaryвЂќ monetary policy, the bank said in its plan for 2015. вЂњSince the Bank of Israel interest rate is nearing its lowest border, around zero, the Bank of Israel must prepare for the possibility that there will be a need to continue the expansion through unconventional tools,вЂќ it said. Many central bank have used so-called unconventional tools in recent years alongside low interest rates, the Bank of Israel said in a research report released on Tuesday. DP World shareholders back EZW buy, London delisting The Cap San Lorenzo container ship, operated by Hamburg Sud, is moored to the dock beneath ship to shore cranes during loading operations at DP WorldвЂ™s London Gateway deep-sea port in Stanford-le-Hope, UK. Shareholders of DP World have approved buying Economic Zones World from its majority shareholder and also backed the port operatorвЂ™s delisting from the London Stock Exchange, the Dubai-based company has said. The assent was granted at a meeting on Thursday, as the proposals received near-unanimous support from independent shareholders, DP World said in a London bourse filing. DP World last month said it would pay $2.6bn to Dubai World for its EZW logistics infrastructure firm and would delist from the London bourse due to thin trading volumes. Dubai World owns 80.45% of DP World. Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 3 BUSINESS Ooredoo offers SMBs smart technology with вЂ�Cloud MarketplaceвЂ™ Ooredoo has launched the Ooredoo вЂ�Smart Cloud MarketplaceвЂ™, enabling small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to enter QatarвЂ™s smart technology market. On the marketplaceвЂ™s online portal, business customers can rent virtual cloud-based business software and applications, which were previously only available for large enterprises and required significant investment. The applications can be used from any location and on any mobile device, delivering incredible flexibility and value-for-money, according to a statement. The marketplace is launching with six application across the fields of security, video collaboration, marketing, storage, backup, and homepage builder. These virtual applications are more affordable, secure, and flexible than physical IT infrastructure, and will enable more businesses in Qatar to compete in the knowledge-based economy, Ooredoo said. The Ooredoo Cloud Marketplace is hosted at the Qatar Data Centre, which provides an ideal environment for businesses in Qatar to host their critical business applications. Ooredoo Qatar chief new business officer Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad bin Nasser al-Thani said, вЂњSmart Cloud Marketplace is a major step forward for our SMB customers, with cloud services enabling them to perform at the level of large enterprises. As QatarвЂ™s smart technology market continues to grow, SMBs can leverage our secure broadband network to innovate processes, support a more mobile workforce, and enhance competitiveness.вЂќ Demonstrating the high potential for QatarвЂ™s smart IT sector, the countryвЂ™s software market is set to grow from QR1.3bn in 2014 to QR2.1bn in 2018, while the IT services market - including cloud, smart, and security вЂ“ is set to grow from QR2.3bn this year to QR3.8bn in 2018, according to Business Monitor. The launch of the marketplace is the next step in OoredooвЂ™s вЂњBetter for BusinessвЂќ strategy, which provides a wide range of ICT solutions for QatarвЂ™s key industry sectors. As urban areas across Qatar become вЂњsmart citiesвЂќ, they will have broadband networks at their core to support smart government, business, and citizen services. To use the marketplace, Ooredoo customers can register online for free on the website www.oscm. qa, and then can check the online catalogue and purchase the applications. The customer service team helps with software ordering, technical support, and billing, Ooredoo said. In the coming months, the marketplace will also offer dozens of new applications across fields such as human resources, finance, project management, and videoconferencing. In order to encourage take-up of smart business applications, Ooredoo Qatar is offering all business customers a 30-day free trial of all applications. The Ooredoo Cloud Marketplace is hosted at the Qatar Data Centre, which provides an ideal environment for businesses in Qatar to host their critical business applications Public sector pulls down Qatar banksвЂ™ November credit growth Mashreq Qatar appoints Hoogendoorn as country head P M ulled down by the public sector, the local banksвЂ™ total credit growth declined 0.1% month-on-month (MoM) in November, QNB Financial Services has said in an update. On the other hand, deposits increased by 1.2% MoM (+9.3% year-to-date - YTD) in November, QNBFS said in its monthly banking sector update. Public sector pulled total credit growth down (down 2.4% MoM in November), as private sector posted a healthy growth of 1.5% month-on-month. Moreover, deposits gained by 1.2% month-on-month (deposits were п¬‚at MoM in October). Thus, the loans-to-deposit ratio (LDR) declined to 104% in November compared with 105% in October. The public sector deposits increased by 0.1% MoM (+6.4% YTD) in November. Delving into segment details, the government institutions segment (representing nearly 58% of public sector deposits) improved by 1.8% MoM (+13.4% YTD). Moreover, the semi-government institutions segment posted a growth of 5.7% MoM (up 5.8% YTD). However, the government segment decreased by 6.3% MoM (down 6.0% YTD). Private sector deposits, however, increased by 0.4% MoM (+9.6% YTD). On the private sector front, the companies and institutions segment increased by 1% MoM (+9.1% YTD 2014), while the consumer segment posted a decline of 0.1% MoM (up 10.0% YTD). Non-resident deposits drove the growth MoM (+15.1% MoM and +26.8% YTD). The overall loan book posted a п¬‚at performance. Total domestic public sector loans decreased by 2.4% MoM (down 7.9% YTD). The government segments loan book went down by 10.7% MoM (also down 9.3% YTD 2014). Moreover, the government institutions segment (representing nearly 60% of public sector loans) declined by 1.1% MoM and is down 12.8% YTD. However, the semi-government institutions segment grew by 6.6% MoM (+18.8% YTD). Hence, the government and government institutions pulled the overall loan book down for the month of November 2014. Private sector loans gained by 1.5% MoM and are up 15.5% YTD. General trade followed by services and contractors positively contributed toward the loan growth. On the other hand, the real estate sector pulled credit growth down in the month of November 2014. General trade (contributing 14% to private sector loans) increased by 4.9% MoM. Services (contributing nearly 18% to private sector loans) increased by 3.4% MoM (+15.6% YTD). Contractors (contributing 9% to private sector loans) increased by 2.1% MoM. However, the real estate segment (contributing 26% to private sector loans) declined by 0.5% MoM (+5.2% YTD). Overall, the segments representing general trade (+33.3% YTD) and contractors (+25.6% YTD) are the best performing in the private sector YTD. On the other hand, the Industry segment is п¬‚attish YTD, QNBFS said. ashreq Qatar has appointed Henk Jan Hoogendoorn (pictured) as its new country head. He will be responsible for leading Mashreq Qatar in providing customers with вЂњthe most rewarding п¬Ѓnancial relationshipsвЂќ and will oversee the bankвЂ™s development and lead strategy for growth initiatives in line with the Qatar National Vision 2030. A l s o , H o o g endoorn will look to build on the recent successes for Mashreq Q a t a r, which include winning the coveted вЂњBest Customer Service BankвЂќ from Global Banking and Finance Awards, вЂњBest Regional Retail BankвЂќ honour by the Banker Middle East Industry Awards 2014, and retaining вЂњBest Consumer Internet Bank in QatarвЂќ for six consecutive years by Global Finance Magazine and вЂњBest Corporate Bank 2014вЂќ by Global Banking and Finance Review Awards 2014, the bank said in a statement. MashreqвЂ™s head of international banking John Iossiп¬Ѓdis said, вЂњHoogendoorn brings more than 20 years of experience in corporate banking to his new role. This is a signiп¬Ѓcant appointment and we look forward to him facilitating our continued progress. We are conп¬Ѓdent of his capabilities to steer the bankвЂ™s performance to the next level with his professional, managerial, and п¬Ѓnancial skills.вЂќ Hoogendoorn said, вЂњIt is with great pride that I join the Mashreq family. I look forward to leading this world-class team as we further establish and live out MashreqвЂ™s commitment to providing cutting-edge banking services in the region.вЂќ Oil plunge, nuke uncertainty weigh on Iran rial Bloomberg Dubai I A vendor is inspecting Iranian rials at a currency exchange shop in Baghdad (file). The currency, which had hovered around 32,000 per dollar in unregulated markets since April, has lost 8% since November 24. ranвЂ™s rial is weakening after months of stability over declining oil prices and uncertainty whether the country will clinch a nuclear deal lifting international sanctions. The currency, which had hovered around 32,000 per dollar in unregulated markets since April, has lost 8% since November 24, when world powers and Iran extended nuclear talks by seven months after failing to reach a breakthrough. The rial depreciated to 35,200 per dollar in unregulated trading on Thursday, compared with 32,560 on November 24, according to rates compiled by Daily Rates For Gold Coins and Foreign Currencies, a Facebook page used by traders and companies in Iran and abroad. вЂњThe two factors seem to be the lack of a comprehensive nuclear agreement, therefore the continuation of the п¬Ѓnancial and energy sanctions, combined with the rather dramatic slide in the oil price, which is a worrying scenario for Iran,вЂќ Toby Iles, a senior Middle East analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, said in a phone interview from Singapore on Thursday. вЂњPerception deп¬Ѓnitely plays into this.вЂќ Crude prices have fallen more than 50% from a June peak amid overproduction and slower demand growth. The plunge comes as international sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear programme curtail crude exports, the Arabian Gulf nationвЂ™s main income source. Presenting the nationвЂ™s budget for the Iranian year starting March 21 to lawmakers, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on December 7 that he expected oil prices at п¬Ѓve-year lows would place вЂњshort-term pressureвЂќ on state revenue. The government, which assumed a price of $100 for a barrel in the п¬Ѓscal year through March, is basing its 2015 spending plan on an average of $72. Iran will lose about $8bn in oil revenue from June to the end of this Iranian year, the Tasnim news agency reported on December 16. The government has adjusted the ofп¬Ѓcial exchange rate to the dollar in this yearвЂ™s budget, which вЂњsends a signal to the market,вЂќ Kamal Seyed-Ali, a former deputy for foreign exchange affairs at the Central Bank of Iran, said in comments published in the Tehran-based newspaper Shargh. The government can offset some of the lost revenue through that adjustment, he said. The draft budget being reviewed by parliament is based on an official exchange rate of 28,500 rial to the dollar compared with 26,500 last year, local media including the Iran newspaper have reported. 4 Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 BUSINESS GenevaвЂ™s army of oil traders embraces profits a crash brings Bloomberg Geneva Crude oilвЂ™s worst slump since the financial crisis means profits for GenevaвЂ™s army of traders. After years of steady prices, the crash has brought back the volatility on which traders thrive. While the fall in benchmark Brent to five-year lows has rocked economies from Russia to Venezuela, the worldвЂ™s biggest commodity trading houses, which buy and sell about a third or worldвЂ™s oil from the Swiss city, are relishing the return to a bear market. Lower prices have cut financing costs, provided an opportunity to lock in profits by storing fuels and heralded the return of big price swings that can help firms from Vitol Group to Trafigura Beheer BV generate higher returns. вЂњCommodity traders are in a much more optimistic mood these days,вЂќ Roland Rechtsteiner, a Zurich-based partner at Oliver Wyman, an industry consultant. вЂњThey all hold a lot of inventory, they hold a lot of infrastructure and this can only be monetised when there is volatility. So these are good times for them.вЂќ As banks including JP Morgan Chase & Co, Deutsche Bank AG and Barclays have exited or pulled back their physical commodity activities, trading houses have purchased assets such as storage tanks, pipelines and refineries. These holdings give traders more options to take advantage of the sudden shift in prices. The oil market has moved into contango since July, a situation where spot prices are lower than those for delivery at a later date. That has improved the outlook for trading profits, Alex Beard, global head of oil at Baar, Switzerland-based Glencore Plc, said at an investor day in London on December 10. A market in contango allows traders who control or have access to storage tanks to make money if the cost of storing oil or petroleum products is less than the difference between current and future prices. вЂњThere is no doubt that a contango market is a more interesting trading environment than a backwardated one,вЂќ said Beard. Glencore, the secondlargest independent oil trader, is more exposed to the contango in oil-products trading rather than in crude, he said. Oil slide exposes weakness in shale drillersвЂ™ insurance Bloomberg New York T umbling oil prices have exposed a weakness in the insurance that some US shale drillers bought to protect themselves against a crash. At least six companies, including Pioneer Natural Resources Co and Noble Energy Inc, used a strategy known as a three-way collar that doesnвЂ™t guarantee a minimum price if crude falls below a certain level, according to company п¬Ѓlings. While three-ways can be cheaper than other hedges, they can leave drillers exposed to steep declines. вЂњProducers are inherently bullish,вЂќ said Mike Corley, the founder of Mercatus Energy Advisors, a Houstonbased п¬Ѓrm that advises companies on hedging strategies. вЂњItвЂ™s just the nature of the business. YouвЂ™re not going to go drill holes in the ground if you think prices are going down.вЂќ The three-way hedges risk exacerbating a cash squeeze for companies trying to cope with the biggest plunge in oil prices this decade. West Texas Intermediate crude, the US benchmark, dropped about 50% since June amid a worldwide glut. The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries decided on November 27 to hold production steady as the 12-member group competes for market share against US shale drillers that have pushed domestic output to the highest since at least 1983. Shares of oil companies are also dropping, with a 49% decline in the 76-member Bloomberg Intelligence North America E&P Valuation Peers index from this yearвЂ™s peak in June. The drilling had been driven by high oil prices and low-cost п¬Ѓnancing. Companies spent $1.30 for every dollar earned selling oil and gas in the third quarter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg on 56 of the US-listed companies in the E&P index. Financing costs are now rising as prices sink. The average borrowing cost for energy companies in the US highyield debt market has almost doubled to 10.43% from an all-time low of 5.68% in June, Bank of America Merrill Lynch data show. Locking in a minimum price for crude reassures investors that companies will have the cash to keep expanding and lenders that debt can be repaid. While several companies such as Anadarko Petroleum Corp, Bonanza Creek Energy Inc, Callon Petroleum Co, Carrizo Oil & Gas Inc and Parsley Energy Inc, use three-way collars, Pioneer uses more than its competitors, company records show. Scott Sheffield, PioneerвЂ™s chairman and chief executive officer, said during a November 5 earnings call that his company has вЂњprobably the best hedges in place among the industry.вЂќ Having pumped 89,000 bpd in the third Natural gas is flared at the Handy Gas Unit 1, a Pioneer Natural Resources well, in Karnes County, Texas. Having pumped 89,000 bpd in the third quarter, Pioneer is one of the biggest oil producers in US shale. quarter, Pioneer is one of the biggest oil producers in US shale. Pioneer used three-ways to cover 85% of its projected 2015 output, the companyвЂ™s December investor presentation shows. The strategy capped the upside price at $99.36 a barrel and guaranteed a minimum, or п¬‚oor, of $87.98. By themselves, those positions would ensure almost $34 a barrel more than yesterdayвЂ™s price. However, Pioneer added a third element by selling a put option, sometimes called a subп¬‚oor, at $73.54. That gives the buyer the right to sell oil at that price by a speciп¬Ѓc date. Below that threshold, Pioneer is no longer entitled to the п¬‚oor of $87.98, only the difference between the п¬‚oor and the subп¬‚oor, or $14.44 on top of the market price. So at the price of $54.11, Pioneer would realise $68.55 a barrel. David Leaverton, a spokesman for Irving, Texas-based Pioneer, declined to comment on the companyвЂ™s hedging strategy. The company said in its December investor presentation that вЂњthree-way collars protect downside while providing better upside exposure than traditional collars or swaps.вЂќ The company hedged 95,767 bpd next year using the three-ways. If ThursdayвЂ™s prices persist through the п¬Ѓrst quarter, Pioneer would realise $1.86mn less every day than it would have using the collar with the п¬‚oor of $87.98. That would add up to more than $167mn in the п¬Ѓrst quarter, equal to about 14% of PioneerвЂ™s third-quarter revenue. The strategy ensures that the bulk of PioneerвЂ™s production will earn more than ThursdayвЂ™s market price. The three-ways will also prove valuable if oil rises above the subп¬‚oor. вЂњWhat they have is much better than nothing,вЂќ said Tim Revzan, an analyst with Sterne Agee Group Inc in New York. вЂњBut they left some money on the table that they could have locked in at a better price.вЂќ Noble Energy used three-ways to hedge 33,000 bpd, according to third- quarter SEC п¬Ѓlings. Assuming ThursdayвЂ™s prices persist, Houston-based Noble will bring in $50mn less in the п¬Ѓrst quarter than it would have by locking in the п¬‚oor prices. Bonanza Creek, based in Denver, Colorado, set up three-ways with a п¬‚oor of $84.32 and a subп¬‚oor of $68.08, SEC records show. If prices stay where they are, the company will realise $8.1mn less in the п¬Ѓrst quarter than it would have by just using the п¬‚oor. Ryan Zorn, Bonanza CreekвЂ™s senior vice president of п¬Ѓnance, said that the comparison doesnвЂ™t take into account the advantages of the strategy. The proceeds from selling the $68.08 puts helped pay for the protection at $84.32, without which Bonanza Creek would likely have purchased cheaper options with a lower п¬‚oor. вЂњThe other comparison is if weвЂ™d done nothing,вЂќ Zorn said. вЂњI view it as being much better than being unhedged.вЂќ Representatives for Anadarko, Noble, Carrizo and Parsley didnвЂ™t return e-mails and phone calls seeking comment. вЂњBecause weвЂ™ve had high energy prices for so long, it could have given them a false sense of conп¬Ѓdence,вЂќ said Ray Carbone, president of Paramount Options Inc in New York. вЂњThey picked a price they thought it wouldnвЂ™t go below. It has turned out to be very expensive.вЂќ CallonвЂ™s п¬Ѓrst-quarter three-ways cover 158,000 barrels with a п¬‚oor of $90 and a subп¬‚oor of $75, company п¬Ѓlings show. Callon, based in Natchez, Mississippi, will get $3.3mn less that it would have realized by using the $90 п¬‚oor, assuming prices stay where they are. вЂњCertainly, if weвЂ™d had the foresight to know prices were going to crater, youвЂ™d want to be in the swap instead of the three-way,вЂќ said Eric Williams, a spokesman for Callon. вЂњSwaps make more sense if you knew prices were going to go down the way they did, but a few months ago everyone was bullish.вЂќ BP oil spill pollution п¬Ѓne up to $18bn sought by the US Bloomberg Houston T he government wants BP to pay $16bn to $18bn in water-pollution п¬Ѓnes for the worst offshore oil spill in US history while seeking more than $1bn from the co-owner of the blown-out well that caused the 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster. The federal government said BP deserves the maximum п¬Ѓne, which BP said would be the biggest Clean Water Act penalty ever and called it a вЂњgross outlierвЂќ compared to other cases. US District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans ruled in September that London-based BP acted with gross negligence in drilling the well, a п¬Ѓnding that quadruples the per-barrel penalty. As of October 28, the company had set aside $3.51bn for the penalties, saying thatвЂ™s a reliable estimate of its liability if it wins an appeal of the judgeвЂ™s ruling. Barbier will conduct a non-jury trial next month to set pollution п¬Ѓnes for BP and its well partner, Anadarko Petroleum Corp, after weighing multiple factors including the spillвЂ™s size and the level of responsibility each company bears for the disaster. вЂњAPCвЂ™s culpability is minimal compared to that of BPXP,вЂќ the government said in FridayвЂ™s п¬Ѓling, referring to Anadarko and BPвЂ™s exploration unit. While Anadarko doesnвЂ™t deserve the maximum п¬Ѓne, the government said, a substantial penalty is warranted because it provided virtually no assistance after the spill and a small п¬Ѓne wouldnвЂ™t be sufficient punishment for a multibillion-dollar oil company, the government said in the п¬Ѓling. BP said it deserved a п¬Ѓne вЂњat the lower end of the statutory rangeвЂќ because it already has incurred $42bn in liabilities from the spill, includ- An offshore platform and wells are silhouetted by the setting sun in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. The government wants BP to pay $16bn to $18bn in water-pollution fines for the worst offshore oil spill in US history. ing more than $14bn spent to stop and clean up the damage. The company said a smaller п¬Ѓne is also appropriate because the spill caused less environmental and economic harm than had been expected. вЂњDespite initially dire predictions, more than four years of data show that the impact was far less than feared and that the Gulf has largely recovered, due in signiп¬Ѓcant part to this massive cleanup and response effort,вЂќ Geoff Morrell, a BP spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. вЂњThe US seeks to dismiss BPXPвЂ™s extraordinary response efforts,вЂќ which would вЂњdisincentivise companies involved in future accidents from pursuing the best possible response without regard to cost.вЂќ Ed Hirs, a professor of economics at the University of Houston, said the governmentвЂ™s proposed п¬Ѓne вЂњis a penalty for bad behaviour.вЂќ вЂњIt hurts and it certainly is not immaterial but it doesnвЂ™t cripple the company,вЂќ said Hirs, who is also managing director of Hillhouse Resources, a Houston-based oil and gas company. вЂњThe company goes forward.вЂќ The maximum $18bn п¬Ѓne is less than the $23.5bn in net income that BP booked last year, Hirs said. As for Anadarko, they are вЂњguilty by association,вЂќ he said. вЂњThey didnвЂ™t have a say how the well was drilled.вЂќ BP, the parent of the exploration unit, helped fund the clean-up and response effort, although it wasnвЂ™t legally obligated to pay for them, the company said in a court п¬Ѓling on Friday. The parent company shouldnвЂ™t be expected to voluntarily shoulder additional billions in penalties, its lawyers said, particularly in light of the 45% fall in crude oil prices since mid-August. BP said a high enough pollution penalty would вЂњexhaustвЂќ the exploration unitвЂ™s вЂњavailable funds in 2015 and result in a funding shortfall,вЂќ according to company lawyers. They blacked out the speciп¬Ѓc level of п¬Ѓne that would trigger that result. вЂњIf ever there was a case that merits the statutory maximum, this is it,вЂќ government lawyers said in their court п¬Ѓling. BP might deserve some credit for what itвЂ™s paid so far, they said, but вЂњno amount smaller than $16bn suffices for this disastrous violation of law.вЂќ Anadarko argued it should pay no water-pollution п¬Ѓnes because it was a passive investor in the well. вЂњNo Clean Water Act penalty is warranted against Anadarko because it bears no fault for the discharge, it has already paid more than $4bn in damages, and there is no reasonable justiп¬Ѓcation for any punishment,вЂќ AnadarkoвЂ™s said in its п¬Ѓling. Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 5 BUSINESS Opaque middlemen demand high price in RussiaвЂ™s deals with West Reuters Moscow/London R ussia pays hugely inп¬‚ated prices for vital medical equipment made by Western companies, in part because some manufacturers channel sales through obscure intermediary companies, a Reuters examination has found. These middlemen п¬Ѓrms, which have no easily traceable owners or offices, add mark-ups that mean Russian state hospitals frequently pay two or three times more than hospitals in the West for the same equipment. A Reuters examination of Russian customs data and state procurement records shows the price differences can be hundreds of thousands of dollars on a single item. An analysis of 20,000 transactions dated between January 2006 and July 2013 found that international companies sold Russia medical devices worth more than $2.8bn through more than 150 obscure companies and partnerships. These offshore intermediaries give addresses that are letterboxes at law and accounting п¬Ѓrms. Their ownership is hidden behind nominees or held in jurisdictions where public shareholder registers are not available. The transactions illustrate how Western companies play a part in the brand of capitalism that has developed under Russian President Vladimir Putin. As Reuters has documented this year, in PutinвЂ™s Russia intermediaries are sometimes inserted into deals to exploit state spending. The use of opaque intermediaries signals a risk that the hidden owners may inflate profits, siphon off funds or facilitate bribery, according to lawyers and corporate governance specialists. By agreeing to deal with such middlemen, Western firms help sustain the system that has flourished under Putin. Belarus steps up capital controls to stem ex-Soviet currency rot Bloomberg Baku B elarus imposed capital controls that include a fee on all foreign-exchange purchases, as the fallout from RussiaвЂ™s biggest currency crisis since 1998 spread across the former Soviet Union. The measures announced by the central bank in Minsk range from an increase to 50% of the share of mandatory sales of foreign revenue for companies to a 30% charge on currency purchases by individuals and legal entities, according to a statement. The regulator also raised interest rates on its liquidity operations to 50% and instructed banks to halt issuing local-currency loans until Feb. 1. The central bank said it was reacting to the situation in neighbouring countries, primarily in Russia, and sought to вЂњprevent the development of negative tendencies on the currency and п¬Ѓnancial markets of Belarus and raise the attractiveness of savings in Belarusian roubles.вЂќ Belarus is the п¬Ѓrst ex-Soviet republic to fence off its economy as RussiaвЂ™s п¬Ѓnancial crisis ripples through the region. President Aleksandr Lukashenko yesterday said his government had no plans to follow the devaluation of the Russian rouble, which has lost more than 44% against the dollar this year. вЂњThis is clearly driven by strong pressure on the Belarusian rouble,вЂќ Vladimir Osakovskiy, the chief economist for Russia at Bank of America Corp in Moscow, said by e-mail. вЂњSuch drastic measures will likely stabilise the currency, at least for now.вЂќ The Belarusian currency has slid 7.9% this week against the dollar, the worst performance among all currencies tracked by Bloomberg. вЂњFor importers and people, this basically means a 30% devaluation,вЂќ Kateryna Bornukova, senior analyst with BEROC research centre in Minsk, said on the groupвЂ™s website. Moscow itself has recognised the issue. In 2010, then President Dmitry Medvedev ordered an investigation into how state hospitals overpaid for equipment. After the probe, some manufacturers, including AmericaвЂ™s General Electric Co and JapanвЂ™s Toshiba Corp, stopped doing business with Russia through obscure intermediaries. GE and Toshiba had no comment on the change. But Reuters found that other big international п¬Ѓrms, including the Dutch electronics company Philips and GermanyвЂ™s Siemens, continued to use non-transparent intermediaries. Between January 2011 and July 2013, Philips and Siemens combined sold $120mn of equipment through such go-betweens - in each case about 35% of their Russian sales during that time. Overall, sales of medical equipment by Western and other international п¬Ѓrms that went through obscure intermediaries amounted to more than $600mn between January 2011 and July 2013, according to the most recent Russian data available. That accounts for about 18% of foreign manufacturersвЂ™ equipment sales to Russia that Reuters could identify during that period. Officials at several multinationals that still regularly use offshore intermediaries said they screen partners by searching publicly available information and data. These people said manufacturers should not be blamed for using intermediaries if such searches reveal nothing wrong with the companies. A spokesman for Siemens said the company conducted вЂњthorough due diligenceвЂќ on intermediaries, including resellers of medical equipment. Stephen Klink, a spokesman for Philips, said: вЂњWe have dedicated governance programmes in place relating to our business partners. This programme consists among other things of a company-wide mandatory due diligence process that screens the use of third parties, such as distributors.вЂќ There is nothing intrinsically unlawful about doing business with little-known intermediaries. Still, US and European anti-bribery laws require п¬Ѓrms to make checks on all business partners. The International Chamber of CommerceвЂ™s guidelines on combating corruption say companies should look out for вЂњred п¬‚ags.вЂќ These include transactions involving countries with a high reputation for bribery; situations where a third party does not reside in the country where the п¬Ѓnal customer is located; and cases where due diligence reveals that the third party вЂњis a shell company or has some other non-transparent corporate structure.вЂќ Michael Hershman, president of the Fairfax Group, which advises multinational companies and governments on tackling corruption, said: вЂњThere is absolutely no good business reason to Russia rate rise fails to break rouble-oil link Reuters London R ussiaвЂ™s rouble has tumbled to successive record lows against the dollar, shrugging off central bank interventions and interest rate rises, and paying heed to only one factor вЂ“ the oil price. Brent crude futures have chalked up losses of 45% since the start of this year, touching п¬Ѓve-year lows near $60 per barrel on Monday amid oversupply and weak demand. The rouble too has fallen almost 45% against the dollar this year, moving in lock-step to the price of oil. To defend the currency, RussiaвЂ™s central bank cranked up its main lending rate by 100 basis points last week to 10.5% вЂ“ the п¬Ѓfth increase so far this year. It has also spent around $75bn in currency interventions. The size of last weekвЂ™s rate rise was not nearly enough to break the roubleвЂ™s fall because it was based on an assump- tion that oil prices had stabilised, said Per Hammarlund, head of emerging market strategy at SEB in Stockholm. вЂњTo change momentum they would need to hike by 200 basis points as a minimum to change the correlation with the oil price,вЂќ Hammarlund said. The fall in oil prices is a bad omen for the Russian economy at a time when it is also being hurt by Western sanctions imposed over the Ukraine crisis. Energy provides roughly half of RussiaвЂ™s export revenue and is its main source of hard currency. Already, the World Bank estimates the economy will shrink 0.7% next year, assuming an average oil price of $78 per barrel. Moscow is predicting a contraction of 0.8% in 2015, basing this on an average of $80. Analysts polled by Reuters in early December predicted Brent crude would average $82.50 per barrel in 2015 but some are expected to cut forecasts further. Barclays for instance predicts oil at $67 a barrel in the п¬Ѓrst half of 2015. use these cut-out companies in these offshore locations ... ItвЂ™s an absolute, 100% red п¬‚ag. Western companies know this is a risky area of activity.вЂќ Asked why intermediaries are used, Alexei Levchenko, spokesman for Olga Golodets, the Russian deputy prime minister in charge of healthcare, said: вЂњThe state is interested in buying the best product for the most favourable price ... It is not important who is the seller вЂ“ a subsidiary of an importer, a distributor or any other company.вЂќ He said that if there was evidence of hospitals being overcharged, it should be investigated by anti-monopoly and law enforcement bodies. RussiaвЂ™s healthcare system deteriorated in the last days of the Soviet Union and grew even worse in the chaotic 1990s. The country has high incidences of AIDS, tuberculosis, cancer and cardiovascular disease compared with Europe. In the Putin era, health standards have improved, but problems remain. Public health officials say many patients suffer from poor and late diagnosis of their ailments. Medical scanners can help doctors detect illnesses before they become untreatable вЂ“ but such equipment is expensive. The average cost of an ultrasound machine in the US is around $110,000, according to the Modern Healthcare/ ECRI Institute Technology Price Index. In Russia, prices are much higher. In May 2011, the Centre of Cardiovascular Surgery in Astrakhan, in south-west Russia, bought a Philips iE33 ultrasound scanner, which is used to diagnose heart disease. Under the exchange rate prevailing at the time, the hospital paid $580,000 for the machine, public procurement records show. In December that year the Almazov Medical Research Centre in St Petersburg bought the same model scanner for $490,000, according to procurement records. At that time, hospitals in Europe and North America were paying around $145,000 for the iE33, according to information from dealers in the US, Europe and Africa and a database of public procurement in European Union countries. The large difference between prices in Russia and the West wasnвЂ™t just an anomaly with one particular machine. In another case, the Endocrinology Research Centre in Moscow bought a Philips iU22 scanner, a device used to identify breast and other cancers, for $360,000, according to Russian state procurement п¬Ѓlings. That was about three times the price hospitals in the US and Europe were paying at the time for the same scanner. Reuters studied 22 cases where Russian hospitals purchased PhilipsвЂ™ iE33 and iU22 ultrasound machines between January 2011 and July 2013, according to procurement records. On average, the prices were more than double those paid by hospitals outside Russia for the same machines. Neither Philips nor the dealers involved in the sales would comment on why the machines were so expensive in Russia. The high prices in Russia arise from mark-ups added by intermediaries, said Felix Lam, senior analyst at healthcare research provider Decision Resources Group, who has studied the Russian medical scanner market. That conclusion is supported by Russian data seen by Reuters. Customs records show that when companies such as Philips and Siemens sell directly to importers in Russia, they charge prices in line with what they charge in the West. When Philips sold an iU22 direct to a Russian distributor in December 2012, for instance, it charged just $106,000. The convoluted trail behind the sale of another PhilipвЂ™s iU22 scanner to Russia in 2012 produced a very different result. The device was sold through a British п¬Ѓrm, Rainham, which sold it to a Russian п¬Ѓrm called Tierbach, which is one of PhilipsвЂ™ official distributors in Russia. Tierbach then sold it to the Endocrinology Research Centre in Moscow. The п¬Ѓnal price: $360,000. Rainham is a partnership registered at the offices of Carey Group, a п¬Ѓnancial and tax planning п¬Ѓrm in the English town of Milton Keynes. вЂњWeвЂ™re just a postbox for them,вЂќ said Carey GroupвЂ™s office manager, Christine Hallett. The partners of Rainham are two companies in the Caribbean island of Anguilla, which does not require companies to reveal their owners. ItвЂ™s not clear how much Rainham paid Philips for the iU22 scanner. But if it bought the scanner at the normal wholesale price in the West of around $110,000, Rainham stood to make a large proп¬Ѓt. Customs documents show Rainham sold the machine for $325,000 to Tierbach; procurement records show that Tierbach then sold the machine on to the Endocrinology Center for $360,000. 12 Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 BUSINESS Wall St п¬Ѓrms endure lost decade after Goldman Peak in 2007 Bloomberg New York W all Street п¬Ѓrms have failed to keep up with a stock market that has boomed for more than п¬Ѓve years, losing ground to industries including technology and health care. There were just 32 US п¬Ѓnancial п¬Ѓrms among the worldвЂ™s largest 500 companies by market capitalisation when trading closed on Friday in New York. That compares with 41 at the end of 2006, the last full year before the credit crisis. Some companies that remain on the list, like Citigroup Inc and American International Group Inc, have shrunk to a fraction of the size of tech giants like Apple Inc and Google Inc. Goldman Sachs Group Inc has a lower market value than its peak in 2007. While Google and Cupertino, California-based Apple have been adding new products and customers since then, Wall Street lost trading revenue and spent much of that time repaying bailouts, settling government probes or divesting assets under pressure from federal watchdogs. вЂњThe culture in the large banks needed to be corrected,вЂќ Charles Peabody, a banking analyst at Portales Partners in New York, said in a phone interview. вЂњThat is a good thing. The extent of this adjustment process has been a lot more drawn out than any of us anticipated, and thatвЂ™s not been a good thing.вЂќ Goldman Sachs went public in 1999, the same year that President Bill Clinton signed into law the repeal of barriers between commercial and investment banking. Market capitalisation as of December 18 dropped about 21% from the peak in October 2007 of more than $105bn. Financial п¬Ѓrms that fell off the list include Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc, which п¬Ѓled for bankruptcy protection in 2008, and Merrill Lynch & Co, which struck a deal the same year to sell itself to Bank of America Corp. The US group now makes up about 8.1% of the market value of the worldвЂ™s largest 500 companies, compared with 9.7% at the end of 2006. US healthcareвЂ™s share climbed to 7.6% as Johnson & Johnson and Amgen Inc expanded. US technology advanced to 7.5% from 5.3%. Apple is the worldвЂ™s largest company, up from No 98 at the end of 2006. Goldman Sachs dropped to 94 from 63 in that span. David Wells, a spokesman for the New York-based bank, declined to comment. Citigroup, which was the п¬Ѓrst US lender to adopt the universal banking model, has plunged to No 35 from fourth. Wells Fargo & Co, which derives most of its revenue from consumer, corporate and real estate lending, is now the most valuable bank in the world. вЂњWells is one of those organisations that show their ability to executeвЂќ and produce a higher return on equity than competitors, Peabody said. вЂњRevenue growth has been lacking as a generality in the banking industry. Wells has been doing a better job, in part because itвЂ™s not as exposed to the capital markets.вЂќ A sign at the Goldman Sachs booth on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (file). Goldman has a lower market value than its peak in 2007. Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 BUSINESS T he Qatar Stock Exchange (QSE) Index lost 623.67 points, or 5.28%, during the week, to close at 11,181.65 points. Market capitalisation decreased by 5.2% to reach QR618.6bn compared to QR652.2bn at the end of the previous week. Of the 43 listed companies, 2 companies ended the week higher, while 41 fell. QNB Group (QNBK) was the best performing stock for the week, with a gain of 4.9% on 1.3mn shares traded; the stock is up 22.1% year-to-date (YTD). On the other hand Islamic Holding Group (IHGS) was the worst performing with a decline of 34.3% on 1.1mn shares traded; the stock is still up 218.0% YTD. On the back of weak international oil prices, regional equity markets witnessed continued selling pressure. Qatari market also felt the brunt with only two stocks in the QSE Index closing in positive territory during the week. Ezdan Holding Group (ERES), Industries Qatar (IQCD) and Barwa Real Estate Company (BRES) were the biggest contributors to the weekly index decline. ERES contributed 158.7 points to the indexвЂ™s weekly decline of 623.7 points. IQCD contributed 109.5 points to the weekly index decline. BRES was the third biggest contributor, contributing 71.8 points. On the other hand, QNBK positively contributed 99.5 points to the index. Trading value during the week increased by 47.7% to reach QR3.5bn vs QR2.4bn in the prior week. The banks and financial services sector led the trading value during the week, accounting for 35.2% of the total equity trading value. The Industrials sector was the second biggest contributor, accounting for 22.6% of the total trading value. GISS was the top value traded stock during the week with total traded value of QR301.0mn. Trading volume increased by 83.2% to reach 82.1mn shares vs 44.8mn shares in the prior week. The number of transactions rose by 31.5% to reach 36,876 versus 28,038 transactions in the prior week. The real estate sector led the trading volume, accounting for 30.4%, followed by the banks and financial services sector, which accounted for 24.5% of the overall trading volume. Vodafone Qatar (VFQS) was the top volume traded stock during the week with total of 10.0mn shares. Foreign institutions remained bearish during the week with net selling of QR219.0mn vs net selling of QR213.4mn in the prior week. Qatari institutions remained bullish with net buying of QR142.2mn vs net buying of QR67.5mn the week before. Foreign retail investors turned bearish for the week with net selling of QR86.7mn vs net buying of QR14.1mn in the prior week. Qatari retail investors remained bullish with net purchases of QR163.4mn vs net purchases of QR131.7mn the week before. Thus far in 2014, the QSE has already witnessed net foreign portfolio investment inflow of $2.4bn. QSE Index and Volume Weekly Market Report Source: Qatar Exchange (QE) Weekly Index Performance Source: Qatar Exchange (QE) Source: Bloomberg Source: Qatar Exchange (QE) DISCLAIMER This report expresses the views and opinions of Qatar National Bank Financial Services SPC (вЂњQNBFSвЂќ) at a given time only. It is not an offer, promotion or recommendation to buy or sell securities or other investments, nor is it intended to constitute legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. We therefore strongly advise potential investors to seek independent professional advice before making any investment decision. Although the information in this report has been obtained from sources that QNBFS believes to be reliable, we have not independently verified such information and it may not be accurate or complete. Gulf Times and QNBFS hereby disclaim any responsibility or any direct or indirect claim resulting from using this report. Qatar Stock Exchange Top Five Gainers Top Five Decliners Most Active Shares by Value (QR Million) Most Active Shares by Volume (Million) Investor Trading Percentage to Total Value Traded Net Traded Value by Nationality (QR Million) Source: Bloomberg Technical analysis of the QSE index T he Index stabilised above the critical long-term trend line (denoted in green dashed line). The Index is trading below its 21SMA and 55SMA. The RSI is pointing down and coming close to the oversold area. In addition, the MACD is also in a bearish correction mode. The good news is the Doji candlestick created on the week with high volumes. This indicates indecision among traders specifically after the sharp drop experienced over the past month. Thus, we expect a rebound from the current levels, keeping a close eye for any breach below the 10,900. A break below that level portends further significant weakness to the Index. Definitions of key terms used in technical analysis C andlestick chart вЂ“ A candlestick chart is a price chart that displays the high, low, open, and close for a security. The вЂ�bodyвЂ™ of the chart is portion between the open and close price, while the high and low intraday movements form the вЂ�shadowвЂ™. The candlestick may represent any time frame. We use a oneday candlestick chart (every candlestick represents one trading day) in our analysis. Doji candlestick pattern вЂ“ A Doji candlestick is formed when a securityвЂ™s open and close are practically equal. The pattern indicates indecisiveness, and based on preceding price actions and future confirmation, may indicate a bullish or bearish trend reversal. 13 14 Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 BUSINESS China bank stocks jump most since 2009 despite loan risks Bloomberg Shanghai C hinaвЂ™s bank shares are on track to end their best year since 2009 as investors brush aside an economic slowdown and bad-loan risks. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China and 15 peers have rallied an average of 48% this year in China, after losing about one-third over the previous four years. Chinese banks listed in Hong Kong have gained 13%. вЂњThe stocks were just too cheap, especially in a global context,вЂќ said Sandy Mehta, chief executive officer of Hong Kong-based Value Investment Principals. вЂњValuations are still very attractive, and many investors feel the overall economy is also bottoming out and reviving with the recent government stimulus.вЂќ He wouldnвЂ™t disclose holdings. Chinese banks remain the cheapest in the world at 6.2 times estimated earnings, the lowest for lenders with a market value of more than $10bn, data compiled by Bloomberg show. In 2009, ChinaвЂ™s bad loans were falling and the economy grew 9.2%. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg expect this yearвЂ™s expansion to be 7.4%, the smallest since 1990. The surge in ChinaвЂ™s banks this year has outstripped the 4.1% gain in the KBW Bank Index made up of 24 US bank stocks and the 6.4% decline in the 45-member Bloomberg Europe Banks and Financial Services Index. вЂњItвЂ™s amazing to see investors, who seemed to have given up on bank stocks back in 2010, turning positive at this point,вЂќ said Jim Antos, a Hong Kongbased analyst at Mizuho Securities Asia. The nationвЂ™s build-up of debt from record borrowing has prompted analysts to draw comparisons with Japan before its вЂњlost decadeвЂќ of economic stagnation and with Asian nations tipped into crisis in the late 1990s. China also faces risks from government efforts to boost the role of markets in the economy, including by fuelling banksвЂ™ competition for deposits. For now, investors may be more focused on officialsвЂ™ efforts to support growth, with the central bank last month cutting interest rates for the п¬Ѓrst time in two years. A gauge of п¬Ѓnancial shares climbed to a six-year high yesterday. The Shanghai Composite Index was at a four-year high. Restructuring of state-owned enterprises such as China Citic Bank Corp and China Everbright Bank Co, plans for bank employee stock incentives and an easing of mortgage restrictions for borrowers in September are positive for lenders, according to Antos and analysts at China International Capital Corp. In addition, investors are speculating that the central bank will cut the amount of deposits that lenders must set aside as reserves, while the government may ease bank loan-todeposit ratios, another constraint on lending. вЂњInvestors donвЂ™t want to be left out,вЂќ said Elke Schoeppl-Jost, AsiaPacific chief investment officer for Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management, which globally oversees about в‚¬1tn ($1.2tn). вЂњThe beginning of the China easing cycle coupled with market rumours of reserve-ratio requirement cuts and possible bank liquidity injections prior to the Chinese New Year will keep bank equities well bid,вЂќ said Schoeppl-Jost, whoвЂ™s based in Hong Kong. She wouldnвЂ™t discuss specific holdings. Proп¬Ѓt growth at ChinaвЂ™s biggest banks this year will be 7.5%, the lowest in more than a decade, according to analystsвЂ™ estimates. Bad loans have climbed 30% this year to the highest level since 2008, according to the government. The central bank last month raised a ceiling on deposit rates, intensifying competition between lenders. It also announced plans for deposit insurance, which would be a move toward scrapping interest-rate controls CNPC probes вЂ�worthlessвЂ™ deals in Indonesia Reuters Hong Kong I The Industrial & Commercial Bank of China logo is seen outside its branch in Beijing. The ICBC and 15 peers have rallied an average of 48% this year in China, after losing about one-third over the previous four years. and allowing lenders to fail in a more market-driven economy. Banks listed on the mainland are trading at about 1.2 times estimated book value. Rainy Yuan, an analyst at Masterlink Securities Corp in Shanghai, said that may be the ceiling in what she describes as вЂњan insane bull run.вЂќ The Shanghai Composite Index climbed 25% in four weeks, partly fuelled by expanded margin trading. ICBC fell 2.7% in Shanghai today to close at 4.35 yuan while Chi- na Construction Bank Corp declined 3%.Investors encouraged by monetary easing may be missing the point that вЂњthe economy is in pretty lousy shape,вЂќ Antos said. вЂњWhat we have in the past month is a stock market bubble.вЂќ China home prices decline threatens economic growth Reuters Beijing C hinaвЂ™s new home prices fell again in November and a business survey showed a deep drop in real estate investment plans, adding gloom to a slumping property market that has so far deп¬Ѓed government efforts to revive it. Average home prices in 70 major Chinese cities fell by an annual 3.7% last month following a 2.6% fall in October, the biggest drop since 2011 and a threat to economic growth. Yu Liang, president of leading residential developer China Vanke Co said at the weekend that China now faced a housing glut that would take 13 months to clear. Researcher China Beige Book said last week its survey of 2,000 companies showed an eye-watering 26 percentage point fall in intentions to invest in real estate in the fourth quarter. ChinaвЂ™s real estate market has been plagued by falling prices and high inventories in recent months, crimping demand in 40 economic sectors ranging from steel to cement to furniture. The property price news followed data last week that showed factory growth and investment expansion slowing, leading to calls for more government stimulus measures and a cut in banksвЂ™ reserve requirements вЂ“ allowing them to lend more. But Tao Wang, China economist at UBS, said property-related headwinds would offset any beneп¬Ѓt from increased Chinese government support or the pickup in US economic growth. вЂњWe see GDP growth cooling further to 7% in fourth quarter 2014, and to 6.8% in 2015 from 2014вЂ™s anticipated 7.3%,вЂќ she said. The price fall came in spite of the government relaxing its lending rules in October and cutting interest rates in late November. VankeвЂ™s Yu said the rate cut and regulatory easing had helped the market, but вЂњitвЂ™s hard to say the industry is recovering at this stageвЂќ. The National Bureau of Statistics data showed new home prices fell yearon-year in 68 of the 70 major cities it monitors, up from 67 in October. On a month-on-month basis, home prices fell 0.5% in November, the seventh consecutive monthly fall, but at a slower pace than the 0.8% dip in Oc- tober. While the housing market is expected to remain weak well into next year, it is showing some tentative signs of bottoming out. Official data last week showed property sales hit 132.2mn square metres in November, the highest level in 11 months, though still down 11% from a year earlier. вЂњThe recovery momentum is still weak,вЂќ said a senior executive at a mid-sized listed developer in Beijing, noting the market may have already found the bottom of the cycle. вЂњThe property market should not get worse in future,вЂќ he said. t is particularly difficult to monitor smaller offshore investments in high risk oil and gas exploration, say current and former officials at China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC). Deals where managers engineer kickbacks can be disguised as misjudgments or blamed on faulty data, they say. Alongside the investigation into the Limau deal, CNPC ofп¬Ѓcials are also probing two other suspect oil deals in Indonesia in which the group paid a combined $350mn. вЂњBasically, they are worthless,вЂќ says an oil industry official who also investigated the Limau deal. вЂњIt has caused heavy losses for the state.вЂќ In the п¬Ѓrst of these suspect deals, CNPCвЂ™s п¬‚agship listed unit, PetroChina Co , announced in 2009 that it had acquired an 80% stake in the Madura block in East Java without providing any details of the vendor, price or description of the asset. After reviewing internal records, senior Chinese oil industry officials say the purchase price for exploration and development rights for this п¬Ѓeld was $120mn. вЂњWe donвЂ™t even know if there are any reserves there,вЂќ says a veteran Chinese oil industry ofп¬Ѓcial who visited Indonesia last year. Madura has also failed to deliver for Hong Kong-listed United Energy Group, a company with close ties to CNPC. In June 2009, it took a 10% exploration stake in the п¬Ѓeld for $21.505mn. In a stock exchange п¬Ѓling, United Energy said it had bought its stake from a BVI registered company, Madura Petroleum. United Energy has made scant mention of the deal in its п¬Ѓlings. A spokesman for United Energy, Zhao Pingshun, said there had been no output from the п¬Ѓeld because it was still in the exploration stage. вЂњWe havenвЂ™t made any major progress in the project so there is not much information we can share with you,вЂќ he said. In an undisclosed transaction last year, PetroChina paid about $230mn for an exploration contract for a field in Sumatra, according to an oil industry official who has examined the deal. For base metals trade, a year of twists, turns and surprises By Andy Home London This year has brought plenty of reminders of just how contrary and difficult markets can be. A year that was supposed to be characterised by supply divergence among the base metals traded on the London Metal Exchange (LME) is ending with all of them falling in tandem in response to growing concerns about demand. There is plenty to be concerned about. Take your pick from collapsing oil prices, stagnation in Europe and the still-unfolding Russian crisis. But for industrial metals the persistent underlying worry throughout the year has been slowdown in China, a drag on demand growth that shows no sign of ending any time soon. ItвЂ™s not that there have been no supply stories for investment money to chase. ItвЂ™s just that either theyвЂ™ve not been the ones expected or they have not turned out as expected. Indeed, among the core LME base metals only copper and, to a lesser extent, zinc have performed anywhere close to script but even that statement comes with plenty of caveats. No wonder many investment funds and banks have been departing the sector. Even Hermes Investment Management, one of the trailblazers for commodities investment, has thrown in the towel after finding it вЂњincreasingly challenging to deliver sustained, active returnsвЂќ. And looking at some of the developments in base metals this year, whoвЂ™s to disagree with them? Nickel looks set to be the best performer of the year, up 12% as of Friday morning relative to the start of January. But few analysts thought much of its prospects back then. The median forecast in a Reuters poll that month was for the nickel price to fall marginally over the course of 2014. That all changed when Indonesia sprang a surprise by enacting its longpromised but still largely unexpected ban on the export of nickel ore, cutting off a key raw material supply for ChinaвЂ™s massive nickel pig iron (NPI) sector. So began a spectacular rally that peaked in May, at which stage the price had risen by close to 50%. Analysts were vying to outdo each other with increasingly bullish price forecasts and hot money poured into the market, particularly the options segment, with ever more bullish bets on the upside. What everyone underestimated was just how much replacement ore could be supplied by the Philippines. Not as good quality as Indonesian ore, true, but Chinese NPI producers have been blending it with their stocks of Indonesian material to eke out their raw materials lifeline. The much-touted mass closure of NPI capacity simply didnвЂ™t happen. What really killed off the nickel rally, however, was another surprise, this one coming in the form of the Qingdao port scandal at the end of May. The resulting surge of stockpiled nickel out of Chinese ports to safe-haven LME storage elsewhere in Asia has propelled visible inventory to previously unheard-of levels, crushing bullish exuberance. Remember those layers of December call options, stretching all the way up to $30,000 per tonne? The cash price of nickel on December 3, LME options declaration day, was just above $16,300, leaving all that bullish hubris lying shattered in barren out-of-themoney ground. As nickelвЂ™s apparently compelling storyline started to unravel, bulls transferred their deficit dreams onto zinc and its narrative of accumulating mine closures. The galvanising metal surged in the second quarter, a rally that peaked in July, when it was up more than 16% on the start of the year. That rally too, though, was undermined by Qingdao and the subsequent relocation of collateral stocks from China back out to the rest of the world. The country, a consistent net importer of refined zinc for many years, switched to net exporter in October for the first time since December 2008. Zinc bulls could, at least, take heart from lower visible exchange stocks and the monthly deficit headlines generated by the International Lead and Zinc Study Group, even though both signals are highly ambivalent. More problematic for the market is the simple fact that tangible evidence of deficit is still conspicuous by its absence. Physical premiums for refined metal remain weak and, more importantly for a market supposedly facing raw materials crunch, there is no sign of any supply stress coming from the concentrates market. Still, at least zinc is on course to end the year in positive territory, fulfilling analystsвЂ™ expectations, although on current form itвЂ™s going to be a close thing. Sister metal lead, by contrast, is competing with copper and tin for worst performer of 2014, even though analysts back in January picked it as likely secondbest performer after zinc for the same mine-supply-crunch reasons. In truth, lead has been out of favour all year, a market defined more than anything else by collective indifference. Ah yes. Tin, the perennial bull pick for its combination of structural mine shortfall and Indonesian supply volatility. Here too, though, deficit remains curiously elusive. China has been destocking tin. ItвЂ™s not the first time this has happened in recent history but there has been a new, surprise factor in the mix this year. Against a backdrop of chronic underinvestment in new tin mines, Chinese smelters seem to have tapped a previously unknown source of raw materials in Myanmar. Industry body ITRI recently said it expected the country to supply around 26,000 tonnes of contained tin this year. That may not sound like a lot but in a 350,000-tonne global market it is, enough to postpone (again) tangible evidence of underlying supply deficit. Copper, on the other hand, has largely performed in line with its anticipated narrative. The metal was expected to fall in price this year in the face of accelerating mine production, and thatвЂ™s what happened. ItвЂ™s just strange that the supposed resulting surplus is still so difficult to locate. LME stocks are chronically low and spreads across the front part of the LME curve remain chronically tight. The benchmark cash-to-three-months period has been in almost constant backwardation over the course of the year and it remains so, valued at $47 back as of ThursdayвЂ™s valuations. So, whereвЂ™s all the copper? Mostly, it seems, in China. Not only was there no post-Qingdao mass movement of copper out of the country, but the government stockpile agency, the State Reserves Bureau, has been scooping up metal. Exactly how much, nobody knows, but itвЂ™s sufficient to help prevent raw materials surplus travelling down the supply chain into the refined metal market. So far at least. Outright price weakness says more surplus is coming. Spreads say itвЂ™s not here yet. That divergence has been the defining feature of this market all year and 2014 looks set to close without any resolution of the conundrum. Talking of divergence and conundrum, aluminium remains as enigmatic a market as ever. The LME price is up almost 7% so far this year as the market shifts from years of surplus to deficit thanks to smelter cutbacks. Well, deficit outside China at least. The worldвЂ™s largest producer is still expanding output and shipping ever-increasing amounts of domestic surplus to the international market in the form of semimanufactured products. That blurs the global supply-usage picture to the point there is still fundamental disagreement among analysts about this marketвЂ™s fundamentals. And, of course, LME price is only one, diminishing, part of the overall picture. The вЂњall-inвЂќ price remains fractured between LME basis and physical premium. Indeed, itвЂ™s increasingly questionable whether the yawning gap will ever be fully closed again. If youвЂ™re looking for the ultimate bull market in the industrial metals space, forget nickel and zInc Aluminium premiums started the year by going supernova and theyвЂ™ve not come down since. The only problem for most investors and fund managers is that trading in physical premiums is out of bounds and for the few that have dipped their toes in the water, itвЂ™s been a perilous experience. Andy Home is a columnist for Reuters. The opinions expressed are his own. Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 15 BUSINESS Hedge fundsвЂ™ bullish gold bets defy price outlook Bloomberg New York Bloomberg New York H edge funds are the most bullish on gold since August, defying Goldman Sachs GroupвЂ™s prediction that the rally in prices will fade. The net-long position in New York futures and options climbed for a fourth week, the longest stretch of increases since July, government data show. Futures jumped 2.7% last week, the most since June, as a plunge in global equities erased about $2tn from the value of stocks. Holdings in exchange-traded funds backed by gold rose for the п¬Ѓrst time since October as investors sought protection from the rout. While prices are heading for a second consecutive month of gains, Jeffrey Currie, GoldmanвЂ™s head of commodity research, says bullion will drop as the US economy improves. вЂњWe are seeing safety trade toward gold,вЂќ Peter Sorrentino, a senior vice president who helps oversee $1.8bn at Huntington Asset Advisors in Cincinnati, said. вЂњInvestors have begun to see that the equity market is priced for a scenario that may not come to pass. ThatвЂ™s led some to п¬‚ee the market and use gold as a storehouse.вЂќ The net-long position in gold rose 31% to 104,532 futures and options contracts in the week ended December 9, according to US Commodity Futures Trading Commission data. Short holdings tumbled 22%, the most since August 12. Holdings in global bullion ETPs increased by 2 metric tons, snapping seven weeks of losses. Assets in the SPDR Gold Trust, the biggest such fund, jumped the most since July. Gold climbed about 7.7% since reaching a four-year low of $1,130.40 on November 7 on signs that central banks in China, Europe and Japan will add to stimulus efforts in a bid to boost growth. More evidence of slowing global economies would further support gold as investors seek a haven, said Frances Hudson, an Edinburgh-based global thematic strategist at Standard Life Investments, which oversees $334bn. Gold surged 70% from December 2008 to June 2011 as central banks increased money supplies on an unprecedented scale, spurring concerns that inп¬‚ation will accelerate. The metal tumbled 28% in 2013, the biggest drop in three dec- Investors exiting commodities at fastest pace in six years I Hedge funds are the most bullish on gold since August, defying Goldman Sachs GroupвЂ™s prediction that the rally in prices will fade. ades, amid gains for the US economy. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary December index of consumer sentiment increased to the highest since January 2007, п¬Ѓgures showed December 12. Federal Reserve policy makers will meet this week as officials debate the timing of the п¬Ѓrst interest-rate increase in eight years. вЂњThe stronger US economy and the ability for the Fed to be able to begin to pursue a less accommodative monetary policy are the real drivers of gold,вЂќ GoldmanвЂ™s Currie said. вЂњGold will likely continue to slowly grind lower next year,вЂќ he said, reiterating a forecast for prices to drop to $1,050 in 12 months.Rising interest rates reduce goldвЂ™s allure because the metal generally offers investors returns only through price gains. US inп¬‚ation expectations, measured by the п¬Ѓve-year Treasury break-even rate, fell 38% this year, set for the biggest slump since 2008. Bets on higher oil prices climbed 3.7% to 191,268 contracts before futures tumbled to a five-year low, CFTC data show. West Texas Intermediate, the US benchmark, slumped 41% this year, signalling stable consumer costs and cutting demand for gold as a hedge against inflation. A measure of net-long positions across 11 agricultural commodities jumped 13% to 499,354 contracts, the biggest gain in п¬Ѓve weeks. Investors are betting on gains for wheat prices for the п¬Ѓrst time since June. Netbullish wagers on corn climbed 17% to 230,194 contracts, the highest since May. US production of ethanol, a gasoline additive made from the grain, has reached a record, government п¬Ѓgures show. вЂњWe have seen strong export numbers, and then on the ethanol side another record week of production,вЂќ Chris Narayanan, the head of agricultural research at Societe Generale in New York, said. вЂњDemand continues, and thatвЂ™s keeping prices supported.вЂќ nvestors are exiting commodities at the fastest pace in six years, betting a slump in prices isnвЂ™t over as corn, oil and gold drop close to their cost of production. Open interest in raw-material futures and options is down 5.9% since June, heading for the biggest second-half slump since 2008, exchange data show. US exchange-traded products tracking metals, energy and agriculture saw net withdrawals of $563.9mn in 2014, marking the п¬Ѓrst twoyear slump since the funds were created a decade ago. Commodities are under pressure from many sides. Collapsing oil prices are driving bearish sentiment because energy is used to produce or deliver almost everything, according to Societe Generale. Low inп¬‚ation and higher interest rates create an вЂњugly scenarioвЂќ for gold, says Bank of America Corp And weaker currencies in countries that produce everything from soybeans to iron ore mean supplies will continue to climb, Goldman Sachs Group predicts. вЂњNow is not a time to be overweighting commodities,вЂќ Sameer Samana, a senior international strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors in St Louis, which oversees $1.4tn, said. вЂњFor now, the outlook is still negative. It wouldnвЂ™t surprise us to see prices go down even further. We wouldnвЂ™t be taking any tactical positions.вЂќ The Bloomberg Commodity Index of 22 products slumped 13% this year, heading for a fourth straight annual drop that will be the longest since the gaugeвЂ™s inception in 1991. Crude, gasoline and heating oil led this yearвЂ™s declines as an increase in US drilling sparked a surge in output and a price war with producers in Opec. About 65% of the $20bn withdrawn from passive-commodities investment this year was driven by energy losses, Aakash Doshi, Citigroup vice president said. Cheaper oil is reducing the cost of producing food and metals, increasing the likelihood for falling commodity prices, according to analysts at Societe Generale. At US pumps, retail gasoline is down 32% since the end of June to an average of $2.505 a gallon, a п¬Ѓve-year low, AAA data show. Global food costs tracked by the UN are the lowest since 2010. Reduced pressure on consumer prices is eroding the appeal of gold as an inп¬‚ation hedge. Holdings in exchangetraded products backed by the metal fell 8.8% this year as $6.89bn was wiped from the value of the funds. Gold will slide to $1,100 an ounce next year, Francisco Blanch, Bank of AmericaвЂ™s head of global commodity research, said. Nickel will have the most upside, after Indonesia, the largest source of the metal from mines, imposed a ban on shipments of unprocessed ore earlier this year, said Jeffrey Currie, the head of commodity research at Goldman. Advances in industrial metals will more than make up for losses in agriculture and gold, helping commodities to generate вЂњboringвЂќ returns of 2.5% in 2015, he said. Increased stimulus can help to stabilise economies in Europe and China and sustain commodity demand, said Quincy Krosby, a market strategist based in Newark, New Jersey, at Prudential Financial, which oversees $1tn in assets. WEEKLY COMMODITIES REVIEW Brent oil prices plummet to 5-year lows in volatile trade AFP London Brent oil prices plummeted last week to five-year lows underneath $60 per barrel as markets were rocked by shrinking Chinese manufacturing output, economic turmoil in Russia and ample crude supplies. Oil has now halved in value since June, due also to the stronger dollar and weak demand as the global economy struggles. Investors closely watched the situation in crude producer Russia, as the rouble crashed to a series of record lows, despite a drastic interest rate hike. вЂњThe combined effects of slumping oil, the Russian Central BankвЂ™s interest rate hike and falling output from China have all come together to deliver a triple blow to the markets,вЂќ said ETX Capital analyst Daniel Sugarman. вЂњLower output from China means less of a need for oil, while as a primary oil producer Russia really feels the pain of lower oil prices, compounded by the sanctions imposed earlier this year.вЂќ Many commodities fell in line with oil, but sentiment was subdued on Friday with many traders away for an extended Christmas and New Year holiday. OIL: Brent prices plunged late Tuesday to $58.50 вЂ“ a low last seen on May 26, 2009 вЂ“ and New York crude hit a similar low at $53.60 after Opec signalled it has no plans to intervene to shore up plunging prices. Brent had already breached the psychological $60 barrier earlier Tuesday as weak Chinese manufacturing data stoked global demand concerns. The market however rebounded on Friday, in line with gains on global stock markets, as investors snapped up bargain crude. вЂњUntil the issue of low global demand and oversupply is resolved, we will continue to see this type of market volatility as investors test the waters,вЂќ Phillip Futures analyst Daniel Ang told AFP. вЂњThere are two camps in the market at the moment. Some who believe prices can fall further, and others who are betting that it should be above $60.вЂќ Oil has now halved in value since June, due also to the stronger dollar and weak demand as the global economy struggles The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), the oil producers group that supplies about a third of global oil, has so far declined to cut output to curb the price plunge. Top Opec producer Saudi Arabia said Thursday that competitive pressures prevent it from reducing output, and the kingdom can weather falling prices. вЂњIt is difficult, or even impossible, for Saudi Arabia or Opec to undertake any measure that would lead to a reduction in (their) share of the market and an increase in that of othersвЂќ who do not belong to the cartel, said Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi. The latest selloffs came after Opec opted last month to maintain its collective output ceiling at 30mn barrels per day, where it has stood for three years. вЂњAt OpecвЂ™s meeting in November, we took two decisions,вЂќ added Kuwaiti oil minister Ali al-Omair on Tuesday. вЂњThe first was to keep the production ceiling unchanged and the second to hold the next meeting in June. So far, nothing has changed and there are no calls for holding an emergency meeting.вЂќ By Friday on LondonвЂ™s Intercontinental Exchange, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in February sank to $60.69 per barrel compared with $62.11 for the January contract one week earlier. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate or light sweet crude for January dived to $56.23 per barrel from $58.15 a week earlier. PRECIOUS METALS: Gold and other precious metals fell on the back of the strong dollar after the US Federal Reserve signalled an interest rate increase was not imminent. The gold price was вЂњhindered by the Fed statement confirming small steps towards rising rates which has kept the dollar strong and made the metal more expensive to buy,вЂќ said Accendo Markets analysts. By late Friday on the London Bullion Market, the price of gold fell to $1,195.50 an ounce from $1,217 a week earlier. Silver slid to $15.86 an ounce from $17.07. On the London Platinum and Palladium Market, platinum stood at $1,197 an ounce, from $1,231 the previous week. Palladium decreased to $795 an ounce from $818. BASE METALS: Base or industrial metals dived on fresh evidence of economic troubles in key consumer China. ChinaвЂ™s manufacturing activity worsened in December with HSBCвЂ™s purchasing managersвЂ™ index (PMI) hitting a seven-month low at 49.5%, below the break-even point dividing expansion and contraction. That signalled fresh weakness in the worldвЂ™s second-largest economy and major consumer of oil and base metals, according to analysts. вЂњSince the beginning of the week, the majority of prices on the London Metal Exchange (LME) have found themselves under pressure,вЂќ said Commerzbank analysts. вЂњHSBCвЂ™s disappointing flash PMI for Chinese industry appears to be having a greater impact than initially assumed.вЂќ By Friday on the London Metal Exchange, copper for delivery in three months dropped to $6,368 a tonne from $6,467 a week earlier. Three-month aluminium declined to $1,911.50 a tonne from $1,942. Three-month lead slid to $1,885.75 a tonne from $1,989.50. Three-month tin sank to $19,386 a tonne from $20,400. Three-month nickel dipped to $15,426 a tonne from $16,471. Three-month zinc decreased to $2,162.50 a tonne from $2,187. COCOA: Prices gained ground, having won strength in recent months on fears that the Ebola outbreak would impact output from key producers Ghana and Ivory Coast. вЂњCocoa is ... one of the few commodities likely to end 2014 in the black, its price having been driven up for a time by the Ebola epidemic in West Africa,вЂќ noted Commerzbank analysts. By Friday on LIFFE, LondonвЂ™s futures exchange, cocoa for delivery in March rose to ВЈ1,986 a tonne from ВЈ1,887 a week earlier. On the ICE Futures US exchange, cocoa for March gained to $2,981 a tonne from $2,861 a week earlier. SUGAR: Sugar tumbled to their lowest level since April 2009 at $383 per tonne in London, hit once again by abundant supplies. вЂњSugar and cotton are trading at or near multi-year lows just before the year is outвЂ”plentiful supply being to blame here,вЂќ noted Commerzbank analysts. By Friday on LIFFE, the price of a tonne of white sugar for delivery in March dipped to $391.50 from $394.30 a week earlier. On ICE Futures US, the price of unrefined sugar for March rose to 15.34 US cents a pound from 15.18 US cents a week earlier. COFFEE: Coffee futures also registered fresh declines. By Friday on ICE Futures US, Arabica for delivery in March dropped to 175.55 US cents a pound from 175.95 cents one week earlier. On LIFFE, Robusta for March slid to $1,955 a tonne from $1,973 a week earlier. RUBBER: Kuala Lumpur rubber prices rose due to the weaker ringgit making it attractive for overseas buyers. The market was also buoyed after the Thai government said it would buy $180mn worth of rubber. The Malaysian Rubber BoardвЂ™s benchmark SMR20 rose 148.10 US cents a kilo from 143.65 US cents the previous week. Sunday, December 21, 2014 BUSINESS GULF TIMES Spanish bonds beating GermanyвЂ™s as Pimco sees ECB buying Bloomberg London The prospect of European Central Bank (ECB) starting sovereign-debt purchases in 2015 pushed SpainвЂ™s 10year yields down by the most in three months last week, with record- low rates proving no deterrent to investors. They outperformed their German peers, reducing the premium that investors get for holding the Spanish 10-year debt down by the most since September this week. Pacific Investment Management Co said it expects the ECB to begin governmentbond purchases at the start of next year. GreeceвЂ™s three-year notes rose for a third day before the second round of a presidential vote next week. вЂњWe donвЂ™t think the spread-narrowing trade is done yet,вЂќ said Richard McGuire, head of European rates strategy at Rabobank International in London. вЂњWe are, however, approaching year-end and the momentum is going to be limited. The bias could be toward some widening from here given the scope for upsetвЂќ from Greece, he said. SpainвЂ™s 10-year yield fell three basis points, or 0.03 percentage point, to 1.71% and reached 1.698%, the lowest since Bloomberg began compiling the data in 1993. The rate has dropped 17 basis points last week, the steepest decline since the period ended September 5. The 2.75% bond due in October 2024 rose 0.26, or в‚¬2.60 per в‚¬1,000 ($1,228) face amount, to 109.335. The yield difference, or spread, between Spanish 10-year bonds and benchmark German securities shrank 15 basis points this week to 111 basis points, the biggest narrowing since the period through September 5. GermanyвЂ™s 10-year yield fell two basis points in the week-end to 0.59%, approaching a record 0.565% set on December 17. Yields across the euro area fell to new lows this week after Federal Reserve policy makers signalled they were in no rush to raise US interest rates. Fed Chair Janet Yellen said on December 17 that the US central bank is unlikely to raise interest rates before the end of April and borrowing costs will remain low for a вЂњlong timeвЂќ after liftoff. Pimco, manager of the worldвЂ™s largest bond mutual fund, said it predicts the ECB will start euro-area sovereign-debt purchases to boost the regionвЂ™s inflation outlook. вЂњThis would be supportive for spreads, especially in eurozone peripheral sovereign issuers, so we continue to maintain an overweight position in Italian and Spanish government bonds,вЂќ Lorenzo Pagani, head of PimcoвЂ™s European sovereign bond and rates desk in Munich, wrote in an e-mailed report. An overweight position is one in which an investor holds a bigger percentage of a security than is contained in the indexes used to monitor performance. SpainвЂ™s debt returned 16% this year and ItalyвЂ™s gained 15%, outperforming Eurozone inп¬‚ation rate to turn negative: ECB official the 9.8% increase in German securities, according to Bloomberg World Bond Indexes. The ECB could require central banks in countries such as Greece or Portugal to set aside extra money or provisions to cover potential losses from any bondbuying, reflecting the riskiness of their debt, Reuters reported today, citing unidentified officials. GreeceвЂ™s three-year yield fell 30 basis points to 9.55%. The rate dropped 98 basis points over the previous two days after climbing to 11.127% on December 12, the highest level since the notes were sold via banks in July. Lockheed sees energy sales of $700mn in 2014 Reuters Berlin Reuters Washington E ockheed Martin CorpвЂ™s п¬‚edgling energy business will reach about $700mn in revenue in 2014 and should provide steady growth for the PentagonвЂ™s No 1 supplier in coming years, a company official said. Lockheed Chief Technology Officer Ray Johnson said the company was already seeing strong growth in some key areas вЂ“ technologies for creating energy from waste, digitising public utilities, energy management services, and better protections for nuclear power plants - and expected that trend to continue. In the longer term, several initiatives such as the companyвЂ™s work on a compact fusion energy reactor and a patented molecular п¬Ѓltration material, could literally вЂњchange the world,вЂќ Johnson told Reuters in an interview. Lockheed generates most of its revenues in traditional arms programs, including the multinational F-35 п¬Ѓghter jet, but starting in 2008, the company began using its technology expertise to address increasing demand for energy and the threat of conп¬‚ict over scarce resources. With revenues declining 3.9% to $45.4bn in 2013, Lockheed is looking to non-core markets such as energy, and bigger foreign sales to help offset declines in US military spending. The company gave no comparison for energy revenues in 2013. Johnson also declined to provide a target for the unitвЂ™s growth or contribution to total revenues, noting that Lockheed did not provide detailed outlook for individual divisions. He said energy orders were far from overtaking core work on п¬Ѓghter jets, Navy ships or missile defence equipment, but various initiatives вЂ“ including a venture with a Chinese company to build a power plant fuelled by ocean thermal energy вЂ“ would generate growing revenues in coming years. Johnson said he did not expect a sharp drop in world oil prices to dampen the outlook, citing concerns about longer-term challenges. uropean Central Bank Vice President Vitor Constancio said in a magazine interview he expected the eurozone inп¬‚ation rate to turn negative in the coming months but that if this was just a temporary phenomenon, he did not see a risk of deп¬‚ation. Annual inп¬‚ation in the eurozone slowed to 0.3% in November as energy prices fell, putting it well below the ECBвЂ™s target for inп¬‚ation close to but just below 2%. In early December the ECB had forecast 0.7% inflation for 2015 but Constancio told GermanyвЂ™s WirtschaftsWoche oil prices had fallen by an extra 15% since then and that, while this should support growth and so drive up inflation in the longer term, it created a tricky situation in the short-term. вЂњWe now expect a negative inп¬‚ation rate in the coming months and that is something that every central bank has to look at very closely,вЂќ Constancio was quoted as saying in an interview due to be published tomorrow. But he said that several months of negative inп¬‚ation would not translate into deп¬‚ation: вЂњYouвЂ™d need negative inп¬‚ation rates over a longer period for that. If itвЂ™s just a temporary phenomenon, I donвЂ™t see a danger.вЂќ Constancio said the eurozone was not in deп¬‚ation and there was also not a risk of this for every country in the single currency bloc. He added that rising productivity in countries like Ireland and Spain could, for example, create scope for wage rises, which would counter deп¬‚ation dangers. He said forecasts from the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and OECD that the eurozoneвЂ™s economic weakness would continue until 2018 meant there would be downward pressure on inп¬‚ation until then. By buying asset-backed securities (ABS), or bundled loans, which the ECB began doing on November 21, as well as purchasing covered bonds and offering new loans to banks, the ECB aims to increase the size of its balance sheet back to levels seen in early 2012. Constancio said there had been no decision on what extra measures the ECB would take to bring about monetary easing next year, adding that the bank would, in early 2015, assess the L Constancio: Allaying fears of deflation. effectiveness of measures it had taken this year. He said the ECB needed to employ all monetary policy tools at its disposal, adding that the bank must act if inп¬‚ation was too low to maintain its credibility and so would need to use channels it had not touched before. He said quantitative easing was вЂњto- tally legalвЂќ and the ECB did not rule out what was legal. There is currently a stand-off between the ECB and GermanyвЂ™s Bundesbank over ECB preparations to buy sovereign bonds to prop up the weak eurozone economy. On Friday Reuters reported that ECB officials were considering ways to ensure weak countries that stand to gain most from a fresh round of money printing bear more of the risk and cost. German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung yesterday said the ECB was discussing how to avoid or reduce possible collective losses for the bank from its planned government bond purchases. вЂњThat is an issue,вЂќ the newspaper cited ECB policymaker Ardo Hansson as saying. вЂњIt is a question of how much of the risk should be shouldered by individual countries in the eurozone.вЂќ Constancio told WirtschaftsWoche the ECB did not have an exchange rate target and did not measure the success of its monetary policy measures on the basis of their impact on the euro. Oil, stocks to go their separate ways on Wall Street Reuters New York I Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Investors have wrung their hands over the last several weeks over the effect of lower oil prices on the broader S&P 500, but the relationship between the two is actually starting to break down. nvestors have wrung their hands over the last several weeks over the effect of lower oil prices on the broader S&P 500, but the relationship between the two is actually starting to break down. Crude prices had dropped more than 10% in the trading week ended December 12. That was largely responsible for a 3.5% drop in the S&P 500, as investors п¬‚ed stocks over concerns about energy-sector bonds, corporate earnings, and expectations for world economic demand. That seemed to change Thursday. The S&P 500 surged while oil fell, a potential change in sentiment among investors looking to focus on sectors that may beneп¬Ѓt from an accelerating US economy. вЂњThe proof is that oil turned down and the market said, вЂ�Oh, that was yesterdayвЂ™s news, today weвЂ™re moving ahead,вЂ™вЂќ said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Fi- nancial in Newark, New Jersey. Bank of America Merrill Lynch credit strategist Hans Mikkelsen credited the decoupling partly to Fed Chair Janet YellenвЂ™s Wednesday news conference. вЂњShe explained how declining oil prices are expected to be a net positive for the US economy. Furthermore, she went out of her way to dismiss any downward pressure on inп¬‚ation as transitory.вЂќ Investors may have already priced in the effect of cheaper oil on energysector earnings and are now starting to weigh the positives for other sectors also. In its 2015 global outlook, fund manager Pimco said the fall in energy costs, because it is largely supply-driven, should ultimately help growth in major economies, including the US, Japan, and the euro zone. Fourth-quarter energy-sector earnings are expected to decline 19.2% from a year ago; on October 1, growth of 6.6% was expected. вЂњYou will see some pain in the short term because of fourth quarter earnings,вЂќ said James Liu, global market strategist at JPMorgan Funds in Chicago. вЂњSo the broad S&P 500 will take a hit based on that, but over the next several quarters it is clearly going to be a good thing.вЂќ As recently as Tuesday, the 10-day correlation between the S&P 500 and Brent crude stood at 0.97, meaning each moved in almost perfect sync with the other. The correlation has been breaking down and last stood at 0.42, with Brent stumbling 3.1%, while the S&P 500 surged 2.4%, on Thursday. According to data from S&P, energy has fallen to a market share representation of 8.31%, from 9.7% at the end of the third quarter, as names such as Denbury Resources, Nabors Industries and Halliburton have each tumbled more than expected 35%. With investors hoping oil prices have at least stabilised as Brent hovers around the $60 mark, selling pressure could resume on equity prices if the downward march for oil begins again, weighing on the broader S&P index and tightening the correlation. FOOTBALL | Page 7 NBA | Page 8 City reel Chelsea in, Falcao ends United wait Spurs lose another overtime heartbreaker Sunday, December 21, 2014 Safar 29, 1436 AH CRICKET Fiery Steyn sends Windies crashing to innings defeat GULF TIMES SPORT Page 2 CYCLING LAGAB CLINCHES TOUR OF ZUBARAH TITLE Mirza wins stage three to take White jersey, David gets Blue jersey for best young rider Overall winner Azzedine Lagab (centre) of Algeria National Team, stage three winner Yousef Mohammed Mirza (left) and blue jersey owner Per David of Adria Mobil pose on the podium after the 2014 Tour of Al Zubarah yesterday. PICTURES: Jayaram By Yash Mudgal Doha RESULTS Adria Mobil which won the team title yesterday. D efending champion Yousef Mohammed Mirza clinched the second stage victory in as many days to п¬Ѓnish the second edition of Tour of Zubarah with point leaderвЂ™s white jersey. However, it was Algerian National team rider Azzedine Lagab, who emerged as the overall leader, yesterday at Al Zubarah. Team Giant rider Mirza clocked 2:44.46 to outsprint Adria MobilвЂ™s Primoz Roglic and Uzbekistan National teamвЂ™s Vadim Shaekhov for the 122.6km stage victory. Mirza was superb in his back-to-back wins. But his campaign was marred by a poor show in the Stage One due to a bad fall during the time trial on the opening day. вЂњIt was a great race again. I was eager to defend the title, but I am happy to п¬Ѓnish the tour on a winning note as I have still not fully recovered from a fall on the day one,вЂќ said Mirza, who п¬Ѓnished 10th in the general classiп¬Ѓcation after clinching back-to-back stage victories. With this performance during the tour, Mirza earned 28 points for the Olympics qualiп¬Ѓcation. вЂњIt was my п¬Ѓrst tour with the new team Giant and I have managed to earn some important points for Olympic qualiп¬Ѓcation with two stage victories and one third-place п¬Ѓnish,вЂќ the 28-yearold UAE rider, who earned 40 points for his exploits in the recently concluded Tour of Sharjah, said. On an another windy day, Lagab, who won the Stage One, managed to п¬Ѓnish 14 seconds ahead of Adria MobilвЂ™s Krijstjan Fajt to emerge as the overall leader. вЂњI am very pleased with my teamвЂ™s performance here. I was competing for the п¬Ѓrst time in the race and was honestly not expecting to win it,вЂќ said Lagab, who has been nominated for the best African Rider Award. вЂњI knew I will be racing here amidst the crosswind. It was a very good preparation for my Algerian team, as we are preparing for the African championship which will be held in February,вЂќ he said. Mohamed Bader al-Hamadi of UAE won the 37.1km intermittent sprint at Al Dorsai ahead of QatarвЂ™s Abdullah Aп¬Ѓf, who п¬Ѓnished 28th in general classiп¬Ѓcation, and UzbekistanвЂ™s Denis Shaymanov. The second 62.6km intermittent sprint at Al-Jumayliyah was also won by alHamadi. David Per of Adria Mobil retained the Blue Jersey of best young riders and helped his team win the team title. Aus- tria National team came second, while Algeria National team п¬Ѓnished third. вЂњI am very happy with my show and it was very good tour for our team as we п¬Ѓnished at the top. We will return to Slovenia tomorrow and continued our preparations with new vigour for the new season,вЂќ Per said. Fajt, who п¬Ѓnished overall second, said: вЂњWith a little bit of luck I could have won the title. In the prologue, I had problems with the bike and lost some seconds but overall I am happy that my team won the team title.вЂќ STAGE THREE 1. Yousif Mohamed Mirza TGG Team Giant-GMS 2:44.46 +10вЂ™вЂ™ 2. Primoz Roglic ADR Adria Mobil 2:44.46 +0 -6вЂ™вЂ™ 3. Vadim Shaekhov UZB Uzbekistan National Team 2:44.46 +0 -4вЂ™вЂ™ 4. Gabor Kasa TKT Racing CyclesKastro Team 2:44.46 +0 0вЂ™вЂ™ 5. Sebastian Schonberger AUT Austria National Team 2:44.46 +0 0вЂ™вЂ™ 6. Mohamed Mansoor BRN Bahrain National Team 2:44.46 +0 0вЂ™вЂ™ 7. Steve Lampier SIG Sigmasport. co.uk 2:44.46 +0 0вЂ™вЂ™ 8. Mario Schoibl AUT Austria National Team 2:44.56 +10 0вЂ™вЂ™ 9. Martin Weiss AUT Austria National Team 2:44.56 +10 0вЂ™вЂ™ 10. Kristjan Fajt ADR Adria Mobil 2:44.56 +10 GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE TWO 1. Azzedine Lagab ALG Algeria National Team 8:20.52 2. Kristjan Fajt ADR Adria Mobil 8:21:06 14вЂ™вЂ™ 3. Martin Weiss AUT Austria National Team 8:21.17 25вЂ™вЂ™ 4. Mario Schoibl AUT Austria National Team 8:21:21 29вЂ™вЂ™ 5. David Per ADR Adria Mobil 8:21.24 32 6. Wauter Sybrandy SIG Sigmasport. co.uk 8:21.35 43вЂ™вЂ™ 7. Roman van Uden CAR Carbon Wheels 8:22.34 1:42 8. Radoslav Rogina ADR Adria Mobil 8:23.20 2:28 9. Primoz Roglic ADR Adria Mobil 8:23.32 2:40 10. Gabor Kasa TKT Racing CyclesKastro Team 8:23.37 2:45 JERSEY OWNERS Yellow: Azzedine Lagab of Algerian National team White: Yousef Mohammed Mirza of Giant Team Blue: Per David of Adria Mobil TEAM CLASSIFICATION 1. Adria Mobil 2. Austria National Team 3. Algeria National Team. 4. Sigmasport.co.uk 5. Team Giant-GMS 6. Bahrain National Team 7. CNN-Metalac Serbia 8. Carbon Weheels 9. Uzbekistan National Team 10. Racing Cycles-Kastro Team 11. Qatar National Team 12. UAE National Team 13. Team Biketempel 14. Al Ahli Club 2 Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 CRICKET FOCUS SteynвЂ™s love of Test arena fuels lust for wickets Reuters Pretoria T here are few more fearsome sights in cricket than a п¬Ѓred-up Dale Steyn (pictured right)вЂ”even a wounded one. When the South African speedster limped off the п¬Ѓeld with a groin problem on the third day of the opening Test against the West Indies, there would have been relief in the touristsвЂ™ dressing room. It would be short-lived, however, as he returned yesterday morning, much to the surprise of the visitors, to decimate their batting line-up and take the Proteas to a massive innings and 220-run victory in Pretoria. Having gone wicketless in the п¬Ѓrst innings, a rarity for the worldвЂ™s top-ranked Test bowler, Steyn hit back with a п¬Ѓerce spell to record п¬Ѓgures of six for 34 in 8.2 overs and lift his career tally to 389 wickets in 76 Tests. вЂњI love taking wickets, I love getting into playersвЂ™ heads. Give me a red ball, I am just going to bowl,вЂќ Steyn told reporters. вЂњI like to get the people out, it doesnвЂ™t matter whose batting on the other side just give me the ball. I love playing Test cricket,вЂќ he added. The 31-year-old admits he was below par in the п¬Ѓrst innings, which only fuelled his lust for wickets yesterday as he upped his pace and aggression. вЂњSometimes you go past the edge, sometimes you п¬Ѓnd it and when you do п¬Ѓnd it, you are making batters play a little bit more,вЂќ Steyn said. вЂњYesterday I felt I was okay but the ball found the bat and went into the gaps. Today, I was a little bit more consistent. I didnвЂ™t deserve the wickets yesterday, I deserved them today.вЂќ Steyn has built a reputation of being a taker of вЂ�bigвЂ™ wickets and so it proved again when he removed the two most experienced players in the West Indian line-up, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Marlon Samuels. After they were gone, it was only a matter of time before the rest followed. вЂњChanderpaul and Samuels are two of the big players for them,вЂќ Steyn said. вЂњThatвЂ™s not to say the rest of the guys canвЂ™t contribute but we know those are the two big wickets and once we get that there is a feeling of ease.вЂќ The next Test is in Port Elizabeth starting on Boxing Day, where Steyn produced one of the great spells of fast bowing in recent Test history to win the game against Australia in February. It promises to be a not very merry Christmas for the West Indies batsman as they contemplate that reunion. FIRST TEST Waqar seeks improvement, Williamson hails achievement Fiery Steyn sends Windies crashing to innings defeat P AFP Abu Dhabi вЂ�We didnвЂ™t expect it to finish so early, but Dale bowled exceptionally well to get us startedвЂ™ South African fast bowler Dale Steyn (left) celebrates after dismissing West Indies batsman Shivnarine Chandepaul during the fourth dayвЂ™s play of the first Test at Supersport Park in Centurion yesterday. Steyn took six wickets for 34 runs as South Africa won by an innings and 220 runs. (AFP) Reuters Pretoria D ale Steyn ripped through the West Indies top order to claim his 25th п¬Ѓve-wicket haul in Test cricket and give South Africa an innings and 220-run victory on the fourth morning of the п¬Ѓrst Test yesterday. The West IndiesвЂ™ frailties with the bat were cruelly exposed by the topranked South Africans, with Steyn leading the charge as he п¬Ѓnished with six for 34 having gone wicketless in the п¬Ѓrst innings. The visitors resumed in the morning session on 76 for two in their second innings, still trailing by 275 runs, with hopes of batting deep into the day to save the test. But a п¬Ѓred-up Steyn sparked a precession of wickets as the West Indies were bowled out for 131, unable to cope with the hostility of the home quicks. вЂњWe didnвЂ™t expect it to п¬Ѓnish so early, but Dale bowled exceptionally well to get us started and the wicket got difficult to bat on,вЂќ Proteas captain Hashim Amla, who was adjudged Man-of-the-Match for his 208, said at the post-match presentation. He also gave credit to AB de Villiers, his partner in a South African record fourth-wicket partnership of 308 and the player who also donned the gloves with regular wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock injured on day three. вЂњHaving AB in the team is a great blessing, he is a wonderful п¬Ѓelder, a great batsman and he even bowls a bit these days. He is also our spare keeper and he showed his class with the gloves on,вЂќ Amla said. Steyn had limped off on the third afternoon with a groin problem but showed no signs of discomfort as he steamed in to skittle the West Indies top order in a spell that lasted 90 minutes. The loss of Leon Johnson (39) and Shivnarine Chanderpaul (four) early left the West Indies in trouble, but their situation became a hopeless one when Marlon Samuels looped up a catch for Dean Elgar off a rampant Steyn with his score on 17. Captain Denesh Ramdin (four), who had called for greater grit and application from the batsmen in the lead-up to the test, lasted just two balls as Steyn claimed his fourth by inducing an edge off the shoulder of the bat to a leaping De Villiers. The game was up for the tourists and Steyn picked up the п¬Ѓnal two wickets, with Kyle Abbott taking an easy catch off Sheldon Cottrell at mid-wicket to end the match with bowler Kemar Roach not batting in the innings as he SCOREBOARD South Africa (1st innings) 552-5 decl West Indies (1st innings)....................201 West Indies (2nd inngs; overnight 76-2) K Brathwaite c Petersen b Morkel .20 D Smith c (sub) b Philander ..............5 L Johnson c De Villiers b Steyn .......39 M Samuels c Elgar b Steyn ................17 S CвЂ™paul c De Villiers b Steyn ............4 J Blackwood c (sub) b Morkel ..........15 D Ramdin c De Villiers b Steyn ........4 J Taylor c Amla b Steyn .......................9 rests his injured ankle. вЂњIn the п¬Ѓrst innings when we batted we showed some signs of partnerships with our guys getting starts but we couldnвЂ™t carry them on,вЂќ Ramdin said. вЂњWe need to show a lot of character to give them a п¬Ѓght and hopefully we can take some S Benn (not out) ......................................6 S Cottrell c Morkel b Steyn ................4 K Roach (absent injured) Extras (lb3, nb1, w4) .............................8 Total (all out, 42.3 overs) ...................131 Fall of wickets: 1-8, 2-52, 3-87, 4-91, 5-101, 6-105, 7-117, 8-121, 9-131 Bowling: Steyn 8.2-2-34-6, Morkel 11.1-1-43-2 (1w), Philander 7-4-6-1 (1nb), Abbott 3-0-11-0 (1w), Van Zyl 10-2-22-0 (2w), Elgar 3-0-12-0 positives out of this match and do something special in the other games.вЂќ The West Indies were bowled out twice in the test in just under 103 overs, leaving them with much to contemplate ahead of the second test in Port Elizabeth that starts on Boxing day. akistan coach Waqar Younis warned his team needed to improve before the World Cup while Kane Williamson hailed a вЂњgreat achievementвЂќ after New Zealand won the one-day series 3-2 on Friday. Pakistan fell 68 runs short in their 276-run chase which prompted Waqar to call for extra hard work in fielding and batting against the short ball. вЂњWe need to improve our fielding,вЂќ said Waqar, after his team lost the fifth and final match in Abu Dhabi. вЂњIt (fielding) is not up to the mark and must improve a lot and we also need to work hard on short balls as we have to go to Australia and both these things need to be spot on if you want to compete in the World Cup.вЂќ Australia and New Zealand cohost the World Cup from February 14 to March 29. Pakistan now have just two one-day internationals in New Zealand, on January 31 and February 3, before the World Cup gets underway. вЂњI think we must keep hope, we are trying our best. I have full hope in this team for the World Cup, we will do well,вЂќ added Waqar. The Pakistan coach said he had achieved some of his objectives from the five-game series against New Zealand. вЂњWe did achieve what we needed but not 100 percent. Now we have a one-day cup back home and hope that things will be clearer after that,вЂќ said Waqar. PakistanвЂ™s problems were compounded by injury to regular captain Misbah-ul Haq who missed the last three games due to a hamstring problem. They were already without ace spinner Saeed Ajmal who was suspended in September due to an illegal bowling action while all-rounder Mohamed Hafeez was also banned from bowling for the same reason last month. New Zealand stand-in skipper Williamson described the series win as a вЂњbig achievementвЂќ. вЂњThere is still time for the World Cup, itвЂ™s good it will be in our conditions and this series win is a big achievement,вЂќ said Williamson. New ZealandвЂ™s win was more significant as they rested regular captain Brendon McCullum and pace spearheads Tim Southee and Trent Boult. Williamson, whose team levelled the series 1-1 and then 2-2, said they had learned from mistakes. вЂњWe learned from our mistakes, beat a strong Pakistan side and have shown improvement. In a series that went up and down, it was fantastic to learn from the Pakistan side and to win in such an evenly fought series has been great,вЂќ the Kiwi skipper said. Williamson termed the rotation of players as important. вЂњIt was important to keep adapting our plans, the personnel changed quite a lot, we had a lot of injuries,вЂќ he said. вЂњIt has been a great series, an emotional series for many reasons and both teams put on some fantastic cricket.вЂќ New Zealand host Sri Lanka for two Tests and seven ODIs next. Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 3 CRICKET BRISBANE TEST Magic Johnson rips India apart as Aussies win by four wickets вЂ�Mitch certainly turned it on for us in that little spell, that really cracked the game open for usвЂ™ De Kock in race against time to be fit for World Cup Reuters Pretoria W icketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock is in a race against time to be fit for the World Cup, Cricket South Africa said yesterday. De Kock tore ankle ligaments on the third morning of the first Test against the West Indies in Pretoria. The usual recovery period for such an injury is six to 12 weeks, putting in doubt his participation in the global event in Australia and New Zealand starting on February 14. The Proteas had hoped to have him fit for the second Test against West Indies starting on Boxing Day, but the severity of his injury, sustained in the warmup before the dayвЂ™s play, became clear following MRI scans. The team have a readymade replacement in AB de Villiers to keep wickets, but De Kock has formed a successful opening partnership with Hashim Amla in one-day cricket and it is there his loss would be most keenly felt. The 22-year-old, who has made six centuries and four fifties in 35 innings at an average of 43.58, has the ability to score quick runs with his swashbuckling style. With De Villiers to take the gloves for the second Test in Port Elizabeth, the Proteas selectors must now decide whether to hand a debut to the reserve batsman in the squad, Temba Bavuma, or play an extra bowler, likely to be spinner Robin Peterson. South Africa won the first Test by an innings and 220 runs yesterday. Trott to lead England Lions Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson (second from right) celebrates after dismissing IndiaвЂ™s Virat Kohli (left) on Day 4 of the second Test at the Gabba in Brisbane yesterday. Australia won by four wickets. (EPA) Reuters Brisbane M itchell JohnsonвЂ™s brilliance with both bat and ball inspired Australia to a fourwicket second Test victory over India and an unassailable 2-0 series lead at the Gabba in Brisbane yesterday. Mitch Marsh hit the winning runs as Australia survived a few wobbles to chase down their target of 128 after tea on the fourth day of the contest but there was little doubt that two interventions from Johnson set up the victory. On Friday, Australia were 247-6 chasing IndiaвЂ™s п¬Ѓrst innings 408 when Johnson came out and smashed 88 runs from 93 balls in a Gabba record seventhwicket stand of 148 with skipper Steve Smith that turned the match on its head. Yesterday, India had resumed their second innings on 71-1 looking to quickly make up the 26-run deп¬Ѓcit on AustraliaвЂ™s total of 505 and build another imposing score. Half an hour later, their hopes were shattered as Johnson (4-61), ably assisted by debutant paceman Josh Hazlewood (2-74), ripped through the batting to leave India pondering yet another collapse at 87 for п¬Ѓve. In one dizzying 11-ball spell, Johnson took three for 10 by removing Virat Kohli (1), Ajinkya Rahane (10) and Rohit Sharma (0). Hazlewood, who took 5-68 in the п¬Ѓrst innings, removed India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni for a duck in the next over. вЂњMitch certainly turned it on for us in that little spell this morning, that really cracked the game open for us,вЂќ said Smith after tasting victory in his п¬Ѓrst match as captain in place of the injured Michael Clarke. вЂњAll the bowlers, to be fair, produced the goods for us. I thought Joshy Hazlewood was outstanding and Nathan Lyon came on and did a job here and there.вЂќ It was another disappointing day on the road for the tourists, who had dominated the п¬Ѓrst day on the back of Murali VijayвЂ™s 144 as AustraliaвЂ™s bowlers wilted in the sweltering heat. They were still in the contest at the start of play on Saturday and Dhoni blamed the confusion after Shikhar Dhawan declaring himself unп¬Ѓt to resume his innings for creating вЂњunrestвЂќ in the dressing room. вЂњIt is disappointing but what is more important is to reason out why it happened,вЂќ he told reporters. вЂњThe п¬Ѓrst session today was crucial and we didnвЂ™t handle it very well. If we had been able to got a decent partnership together and pushed it into a п¬Ѓfth day, then we could have exploited the conditions more.вЂќ Dhawan, who injured his right wrist in the nets, was later forced to cancel his trip to the hospital for scans and resume his innings, providing some resistance in an innings of 81 before India were dismissed for 224. AustraliaвЂ™s run chase was far from perfectly handled either and question marks will be raised over the batting of Shane Watson, Shaun Marsh and Brad Haddin who were among the six wickets to fall. Smith, who was also run out with six runs still required, was fairly relaxed about the high casualty rate before Mitch MarshвЂ™s cover drive for four got them over the line. вЂњI would have liked to have been there in the end but I guess thatвЂ™s cricket and IвЂ™m just happy we got there,вЂќ he said. вЂњThe wicket was still pretty good and the boys were going after them to try and get the runs pretty quickly tonight, so no real hiccup there.вЂќ Smith was вЂњextremely satisп¬ЃedвЂќ with the victory to take a 2-0 lead into the п¬Ѓnal two matches in Melbourne and Sydney, SCOREBOARD India (1st innings) ................................. 408 Australia (1st innings) ........................ 505 India (2nd innings; overnight 71-1) M Vijay b Starc ........................................ 27 S Dhawan lbw Lyon .............................. 81 C Pujara c Lyon b Hazlewood ......... 43 V Kohli b Johnson ................................. 1 A Rahane c Lyon b Johnson ............ 10 R Sharma c Haddin b Johnson ....... 0 M Dhoni lbw Hazlewood ................... 0 R Ashwin c Haddin b Starc ............... 19 U Yadav c Haddin b Johnson .......... 30 V Aaron c Hazlewood b Lyon .......... 3 I Sharma (not out)................................. 1 Extras (lb-2, nb-2, w-5) ....................... 9 Total (all out, 64.3 overs) .................. 224 Fall of wickets: 1-41, 2-76, 3-86, 4-86, 5-87, 6-117, 7-143, 8-203, 9-211 Bowling: M Johnson 17.3-4-61-4 (nb-1, especially after a day one when Australia were under the cosh with bowlers, as he put it, вЂњdropping like п¬‚iesвЂќ. Taking the man of the match award for his superbly controlled 133 in the п¬Ѓrst innings, Smith was happy to pay credit to Johnson for his role in turning the match around. w-1); J Hazlewood 16-0-74-2 (nb-1); M Starc 8-1-27-2; S Watson 13-6-27-0; N Lyon 10-1-33-2 Australia (2nd inngs; target 128 runs) C Rogers c Dhawan b I Sharma ...... 55 D Warner c Dhoni b I Sharma .......... 6 S Watson c Dhoni b I Sharma .......... 0 S Smith (run out) ................................... 28 S Marsh c Dhoni b U Yadav .............. 17 B Haddin c Kohli b U Yadav .............. 1 M Marsh (not out) ................................. 6 M Johnson (not out) ............................ 2 Extras (b-4, lb-4, nb-6, w-1) ............... 15 Total (6 wickets, 23.1 overs) ............. 130 Fall of wickets: 1-18, 2-22, 3-85, 4-114, 5-122, 6-122 Bowling: I Sharma 9-2-38-3 (nb-5); U Yadav 9-0-46-2; V Aaron 5.1-0-38-0 (nb-1, w-1) вЂњI think it was a big turning point in the game to get that partnership there with Mitch. To get 500 runs in the first innings was just crucial for us,вЂќ he said. вЂњIt was just amazing the way Mitch came out and took on the bowlers on from ball one. It was outstanding.вЂќ Jonathan Trott will captain the second-string England Lions in South Africa next month as he makes his international comeback, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said yesterday. The 33-year-old South Africaborn batsman has not played international cricket since he withdrew from EnglandвЂ™s Ashes tour of Australia in November 2013 due to a stress-related condition. But after a successful county season with Warwickshire he was named in the provisional Lions squad in October and yesterday the ECB revealed that he would lead the team on their tour of South Africa. Speaking in October, Trott told BBC Radio 5 Live: вЂњI still have aspirations to play for England. If I do want to play for England again, I have to earn my place back. I had that mentality playing for Warwickshire this year and thoroughly enjoyed my season with them.вЂќ YorkshireвЂ™s Gary Ballance drops out of the Lions squad after being called up by England for the World Cup, while Ben Stokes and Harry Gurney are included after missing out on a place in the senior squad. DHONI BLAMES GABBA PRACTICE WICKETS, CONFUSION OVER DHAWAN INJURY FOR INDIAвЂ™S LOSS India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said confusion over opener Shikhar DhawanвЂ™s injury had unsettled the dressing room in the crucial first hour of play on the fourth morning of the second Test against Australia yesterday. The tourists never really recovered after losing four second innings wickets in the opening half an hour in Brisbane and went down by four wickets in the second Test to trail 2-0 in the fourmatch series. The India team issued a statement complaining about the uneven bounce on the practice pitches in the Gabba nets after Dhawan and Virat Kohli were injured while warming up during a net session yesterday. Dhoni said he had aborted his own net session because of the conditions but said he was unaware of the extent of the injury to DhawanвЂ™s right wrist, which ultimately forced India to send Kohli out to replace him. вЂњIt was quite late when we got back and saw Shikhar was not 100 percent fit to bat so we could only give five to 10 minutes notice to Virat,вЂќ Dhoni said. вЂњSo that was something we could have handled better.вЂќ Kohli, who stood in for the injured Dhoni as skipper for the first Test defeat in Adelaide, looked less than comfortable taking to the field and scored one run off 11 balls before becoming the first of paceman Mitchell JohnsonвЂ™s four victims. вЂњThat kind of scenario can create a bit of unrest, not like a typhoon coming sort of unrest, but the calmness of the dressing room goes for a toss,вЂќ Dhoni added. вЂњIt was a bit late to verbally resolve the situation, what we needed was some kind of partnership to go for 25 minutes and it would have gone back to normal,вЂќ he added. As the Indian wickets tumbled, Dhawan was forced to cancel a trip to hospital for X-Rays on the injury and returned to the middle to resume his innings, scoring a team-high 81. IndiaвЂ™s dissatisfaction with the Gabba nets was clear from the statement. вЂњIndian team has been asking for fresh net practice wickets several times for the last two days which not been provided. Instead of that, they have asked us to practice on worn-out wickets which has uneven bounce,вЂќ it read. Queensland Cricket later tweeted: вЂњAustralians say no problems with them and curator says they mirror exact state of the Test pitch in middleвЂќ. MS Dhoni scored a duck in IndiaвЂ™s second innings 4 Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 CRICKET SPOTLIGHT Cook pays price for England teamвЂ™s downward spiral вЂ�I have not scored the runs I would have liked and we have not won the number of games I would have liked. My performances in the one-day game this year have not been good enoughвЂ™ вЂњTeams have worked out not to bowl short at Cook. They also bowl spin in one-day cricket. He plants his front foot, using a big forward press, which is fine in Test cricket because it helps you defend, but in one-day cricket it makes you static. He is stationary so it is easy to bowl at him and set fields meaning he will always chew up ballsвЂќ AFP London A lastair Cook will turn 30 on Christmas Day, but having been dropped as EnglandвЂ™s one-day captain yesterday, he may not be in much of a mood to celebrate. Officials had remained steadfast in their support of Cook during an ongoing poor run of form that he halted temporarily with an innings of 95 against India in the third Test at Southampton in July. But the orthodox and obstinate opener could not turn the tide in oneday internationals. His best score this year was 56, while the recent 5-2 loss away to Sri Lanka represented EnglandвЂ™s п¬Ѓfth successive ODI series loss under CookвЂ™s captaincy. CookвЂ™s form in Sri LankaвЂ”119 runs in six innings, at an average of 19.83вЂ” was dire and afterwards he was clearly preparing himself for being dropped from the World Cup squad. вЂњI have not scored the runs I would have liked and we have not won the number of games I would have liked,вЂќ said Cook, who has now gone 59 innings without an England hundred in any format. вЂњIf it happens, I could have no complaints... My performances in the one-day game this year have not been good enough,вЂќ he added. There have long been calls for Cook to be spared white-ball cricket, with former England captain Michael Vaughan among those arguing it would leave the Essex left-hander fresh for the 2015 home Ashes series and improve EnglandвЂ™s World Cup prospects at the same time. вЂњTeams have worked out not to bowl short at Cook,вЂќ wrote Vaughan in the Daily Telegraph this week. вЂњThey also bowl spin in one-day cricket. He plants his front foot, using a big forward press, which is п¬Ѓne in Test cricket because it helps you defend, but in one-day cricket it makes you static. He is stationary so it is easy to bowl at him and set п¬Ѓelds meaning he will always chew up balls.вЂќ But the one defect in EnglandвЂ™s recent and unprecedented focus on 50over cricket is that the spin-friendly conditions in Sri Lanka are likely to be the total opposite of those in Australia and New Zealand. After Cook returned from leading England to a 5-0 Ashes defeat in Australia at the start of this year, EnglandвЂ™s freshly-installed managing director Paul Downton and newlook selection panel insisted he was the right man to lead the team in both п¬Ѓve-day and 50-over cricket. It was a theme echoed by Peter Moores, recalled as coach following Andy FlowerвЂ™s resignation. Indeed, in the midst of a convoluted explanation as to why Kevin Pietersen had been effectively sacked, the England and Wales Cricket Board cited the need to support CookвЂ™s captaincy. So a U-turn at this relatively late stage represents something of an embarrassment for the ECB hierarchy, especially with Pietersen blasting a rapid 66 for the Melbourne Stars in the opening match of this seasonвЂ™s Big Bash League on Thursday. Yet, such have been EnglandвЂ™s fundamental problems, including a lack of penetration with the ball and a habit of losing wickets too quickly, in a 2014 where they have lost 16 ODIS and won nine, there is little to suggest a change of captain and/or opening batsman would make that much difference. However, Alex Hales offers the prospect of a more dynamic approach at the top of the order and England have not been markedly worse off as a one-day side when Eoin Morgan has captained the team in CookвЂ™s absence. England have never won the World Cup and the last of their three losing appearances in the п¬Ѓnal was in 1992. At the moment, the only reason for believing those records might improve is that it is so outlandish it just might happen. But it remains hard to see how, even if pacemen James Anderson and Stuart Broad return from injury, England can become a World Cup-winning side in a matter of monthsвЂ”even with the misп¬Ѓring Cook out of the picture. Fifty-fifty calls not going IndiaвЂ™s way in series, says Dhoni AFP Brisbane C aptain Mahendra Singh Dhoni says the 50-50 decisions are not going IndiaвЂ™s way after his team fell behind 2-0 in the series against Australia at the Gabba yesterday. The tourists, who are against using the decision referral system (DRS) in the four-match series, had another contentious umpireвЂ™s call with the dismissal of Ravichandran Ashwin in IndiaвЂ™s second innings. Ashwin was given out caught behind off Mitchell Starc for 19 even though replays showed the ball hitting the top of his pads. India were blown away by Mitchell JohnsonвЂ™s morning spell of three for 10 off 11 balls as they went down by four wickets to the Australians in the second Gabba Test. Dhoni stoutly defended IndiaвЂ™s reluctance to use technology to aid in umpireвЂ™s decision-making, but said that his team were getting more bad calls than Australia in the series. вЂњThereвЂ™s a lot of 50-50 decisions that are not going in our favour,вЂќ he said. вЂњWeвЂ™re on the receiving end more often than not. вЂњWhat happens in DRS, even if the DRS is around, those (contentious) decisions wonвЂ™t go in our favour. вЂњDRS is used often to justify the decision thatвЂ™s given by the umpire. вЂњWhatвЂ™s important is to use DRS as a way of giving the right decision irrespective of if the umpire has given it out or not out. вЂњThere are a lot of ways to use DRS. This is something that needs to be put in a specific way. YouвЂ™re adding too many variables to the game.вЂќ Dhoni said the level of umpiring in the series, with South African Marais Erasmus and Englishman Ian Gould officiating in the first two Tests, could be better. вЂњIt can improve. There have been quite a few 50-50 calls where we have been on the receiving end,вЂќ he said, while pointing out the difficulties the umpires are under during a five-day Test match. Australian pacer Mitchell Starc celebrates after dismissing IndiaвЂ™s Ravichandran Ashwin for 19 in IndiaвЂ™s second innings in the second Test at the Gabba yesterday. Ashwin was given out caught behind even though replays showed the ball hitting the top of his pads. But as India are against using the decision referral system (DRS), they had no opportunity to contest the contentious call. (EPA) BOTTOMLINE Morgan says itвЂ™s a вЂ�huge honourвЂ™ to lead England AFP London E oin Morgan has replaced the out-of-form Alastair Cook as EnglandвЂ™s World Cup captain, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced yesterrday. Cook has scored just one п¬Ѓfty in his last 22 one-day innings for England and has paid the price for failing to stop the rot during his countryвЂ™s recent 5-2 series defeat in Sri Lanka. Morgan will lead the side for the triseries in Australia after Christmas and then the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in February and March, with Cook playing no part but staying on as Test captain. An ECB statement read: вЂњECB today (Saturday) announced that Eoin Morgan has replaced Alastair Cook as England one-day captain with imme- diate effect. Selectors recommended to managing director England cricket Paul Downton a change in captaincy, which has now been approved by the ECB chairman. Cook will continue as England Test captain.вЂќ After EnglandвЂ™s series-ending defeat in Colombo on Tuesday, Cook, who has not scored a one-day century since June 2012, conceded he could have вЂњno complaintsвЂќ if he lost the one-day captaincy. But the decision to remove him from the role with the World Cup looming is still a major reversal by Downton and head coach Peter Moores, who have given Cook absolute backing this year. Cook, who turns 30 on Thursday, said: вЂњI am gutted to be left out of the World Cup squad, and it is likely to take me a while to get over the disappointment. That said, I wish Peter, Eoin and the lads all the best for the World Cup. I would also like to thank all the players and fans who have supported me during my time as one-day captain.вЂќ Morgan described being handed the captaincy as вЂњa huge honourвЂќ. The 28-year-old Irishman added: вЂњI п¬Ѓrmly believe that with the players currently involved in the one-day setup we have the makings of a very good one-day side, a young side that can surprise people at the World Cup.вЂќ Downton said he had вЂњcomplete conп¬ЃdenceвЂќ in the decision made by the selectors. вЂњHaving spent time with Alastair yesterday (Friday), he accepts that it has been made in the best interests of the one-day side,вЂќ he said. вЂњEoin has held a senior role in our limited-overs teams for some time and has impressed on the occasions he has led the side.вЂќ Downton added: вЂњAlastair remains an integral part of England cricket and continues to have a vital role in developing our emerging Test side. вЂњI would like to thank him for his leadership of the one-day side since 2011, a period which saw the team reach number one in the world, Alastair lead the team to more wins than any previous England captain and also make the п¬Ѓnal of the ICC Champions Trophy.вЂќ Cook led England in six of their seven matches in Sri Lanka, making just 119 runs at an average of 19.83. Morgan made 90 at 12.85. He also led the team in the other п¬Ѓxture, a defeat for which Cook was banned because of an over-rate offence. CookвЂ™s omission was one of three changes to the squad that toured Sri Lanka, with Yorkshire batsman Gary Ballance coming in and seamers James Anderson and Stuart Broad returning from injury. Durham all-rounder Ben Stokes and Nottinghamshire bowler Harry Gurney were the other players to make way. England will travel to Australia on January 6 for the tri-series, which also features India. They open their World Cup campaign against Australia in Melbourne on February 14. England World Cup squad Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Steven Finn, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Eoin Morgan (capt), Joe Root, James Taylor, James Tredwell, Chris Woakes Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 5 FOOTBALL SPOTLIGHT PREVIEW Loew sets sights on Euro 2016 with new-look Germany вЂ�It would be wrong to be satisfied with what we have achieved so farвЂ™ AFP Munich JOACHIM LOEW W orld Cup winners Germany have suffered something of a hangover since their triumph in Brazil, but coach Joachim Loew is hoping a new-look side can go on to claim more glory at Euro 2016. After claiming their fourth World Cup in July, retirements and injuries took their toll as Germany struggled for form at the start of their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign in the second half of the year. A shock п¬Ѓrst-ever defeat to neighbours Poland in Warsaw followed by a 1-1 draw with Ireland in October leaves Germany third in their qualifying group for the 2016 п¬Ѓnals in France. But the world champions will still start 2015 on top of FIFAвЂ™s world rankings. Germany will tackle six qualiп¬Ѓers next year, including hosting Poland next September followed by away matches to Ireland and Scotland. With the top two qualifying automatically and third place enough for a play-off, there is margin for error, but Loew is looking for strong performances to qualify for Euro 2016 as group winners. вЂњIt would be wrong to be satisп¬Ѓed with what we have achieved so far,вЂќ said GermanyвЂ™s head coach, who took charge in 2006 and has a contract until after Euro 2016. вЂњIt is important for us now to put some distance between ourselves and our previous success and bring in new ideas. вЂњWe have to introduce new players and set new goals to keep the players motivated.вЂќ Paris success to follow Rio triumph The 54-year-old Loew is clear on what he wants Germany to achieve in 2015, which starts with a friendly against Australia at the end of March. вЂњI hope that we are able to conп¬Ѓrm our (World Cup) success,вЂќ Loew said. вЂњThat we can characterise an era in which we not only won the (World Cup) title, but we can recapture the feeling (of success). вЂњAnd that in 2016 we can win the (European Championship) п¬Ѓnal in Paris and then focus on defending our title at the 2018 World Cup.вЂќ There are several areas which need LoewвЂ™s urgent attention, though, especially the defence, with right-back and captain Philipp Lahm and centre-back Per Mertesacker having retired after the World Cup. Loew played a three-man defence in NovemberвЂ™s 1-0 friendly victory in Spain, with Benedikt Hoewedes, Shkodran Mustaп¬Ѓ and Antonio Ruediger keeping European champions Spain at bay. World Cup-winners Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng are to come back in, but at the other end, that win failed to mask deficiencies in GermanyвЂ™s ability to turn chances into goals, just as their finishing let them down badly against Celtic braced for Dundee United backlash AFP Glasgow C eltic take on Dundee United at Tannadice today and captain Scott Brown expects a tougher test than the last time the two teams met back in August. Brown was a spectator for the match at Parkhead due to injury but marvelled at the way his teammates tore United to shreds in a 6-1 thrashing. The Hoops head to Tannadice full of conп¬Ѓdence and hoping to make it nine wins in a row in the league. However, United have bounced back well from their defeat at Parkhead and sit in third place in the league, just seven points behind leaders Celtic, and Brown thinks the Glasgow giants will meet an improved side on Sunday. вЂњDundee United have had their ups and downs but they have some great individual players and Tannadice is always a hard place to go to. So it should be an interesting game and weвЂ™re looking forward to it,вЂќ said the Celtic captain, who is set to make his 300th appearance for the club. вЂњI was watching from the stands the last time we played them but itвЂ™s probably the best weвЂ™ve played the whole season. Our passing and movement was unbelievable and I think our formation and theirs suited us, but they still attacked. вЂњWe had a few chances early doors and thatвЂ™s the difference between us scoring п¬Ѓve or six goals in games rather than notвЂ”we took our chances, which weвЂ™ve not done recently although we are still creating them.вЂќ Celtic will have to do without Aleksandar Tonev as the Bulgarian starts a seven-match ban for racially abusing AberdeenвЂ™s Shay Logan. United п¬Ѓrst team coach Darren Jackson knows the danger the Hoops, who moved six points clear at the top last weekend, will pose. But he urged his players to banish the memory of the 6-1 thrashing and believe in themselves more. вЂњWe have bounced back from disappointments in the past because we have good players at this club,вЂќ Jackson said. вЂњThey have to keep believing thatвЂ™s the case because we, the coaching staff, believe in them. вЂњWe have conп¬Ѓdence in them. Maybe they need to believe in themselves a wee bit more. Sometimes their heads will go down a bit, but you have to handle that if you go behind in a match.вЂќ Paul Paton will miss out for United after he was handed a two-match ban by the Scottish FA for spitting on AberdeenвЂ™s Jonny Hayes during last weekendвЂ™s 2-0 defeat to the Dons. Scott Brown Poland and Ireland. Responsibility for improving in that regard will fall upon Thomas Mueller and Maracana hero Mario Goetze, who are poised to spearhead GermanyвЂ™s attack through to the next World Cup. Meanwhile, the retirement of Lahm left a leadership void on the pitch, and Bastian Schweinsteiger has yet to appear for LoewвЂ™s side since being named as the new captain. However, the 30-year-old proved his п¬Ѓtness after a knee injury with a stunning free-kick for run-away Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich at Mainz on Friday. Loew needs his midп¬Ѓeld general back in the famous white shirt alongside Real MadridвЂ™s Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos, who scored the winner in the friendly against Spain. Elsewhere, Loew has unearthed some exciting young talent in Bayer Leverkusen winger Karim Bellarabi and HoffenheimвЂ™s powerful forward Kevin Volland, while Borussia Moechengladbach midп¬Ѓelder Christoph Kramer and SchalkeвЂ™s Julian Draxler need to make good on the potential they showed as part of the World Cup squad. Germany will be looking to avenge their shock 2011 defeat to the Socceroos when they host Australia in Kaiserslautern in a friendly on March 23 before a Euro 2016 qualiп¬Ѓer away to Georgia. Then follows a friendly against the USA in June and a reunion with LoewвЂ™s predecessor Jurgen Klinsmann, who coached Germany to third at the 2006 World Cup with Loew as his assistant. FOCUS Chappuis, Thai Messi break Malaysian hearts AFP Kuala Lumpur L ate strikes from Swiss-born Charyl Chappuis and Chanathip вЂ�Messi JayвЂ™ Songkrasin broke Malaysian hearts as Thailand won their fourth Southeast Asian title in a dramatic AFF Suzuki Cup п¬Ѓnal yesterday. Hosts Malaysia fought back from a 2-0 п¬Ѓrst-leg deп¬Ѓcit to lead 3-0 on the night, but the goals from Chappuis and Chanathip gave Thailand a 4-3 aggregate win and ended their 12-year drought in the competition. It was a stunning п¬Ѓnish from Thailand, who seemed to have run out of ideas after Saп¬Ѓq RahimвЂ™s double and Indra PutraвЂ™s header put Malaysia in control. Chappuis scored a rebound from a free-kick on 82 minutes before Chanathip, dubbed вЂњMessi JayвЂќ because of his stature and dribbling skill, smashed home ThailandвЂ™s second п¬Ѓve minutes later. Malaysia had got the start they wanted when striker Norshahrul Talaha went down too easily in the box and the referee pointed to the spot for a soft penalty. Saп¬Ѓq coolly sent goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan the wrong way to reduce the arrears to 2-1 on aggregate after ThailandвЂ™s 2-0 win in Bangkok on Wednesday. ThailandвЂ™s Perapat Notechaiya hit the woodwork in an open п¬Ѓrst half before Indra Putra grabbed MalaysiaвЂ™s second with a downwards, far-post header on the stroke of half-time. The momentum was п¬Ѓrmly with the hosts at a packed Bukit Jalil stadium and Saп¬Ѓq put them ahead 3-2 on aggregate with a sumptuous, dipping free-kick on 58 minutes. But Chappuis got the crucial away goal for Thailand when Malaysian вЂ�keeper Farizal Marlias palmed a free-kick into his path and he buried the rebound. And вЂњMessi JayвЂќ lived up to his nickname with an thumping left-footed strike from outside the area to make sure of ThailandвЂ™s win. Defeat was cruel for Malaysia, who appeared to have pulled off another great escape after they overturned a 2-1 п¬Ѓrstleg deп¬Ѓcit in the semi-п¬Ѓnal against Vietnam by winning 4-2 in Hanoi. It also brings a sour end to the tournament for the 2010 winners after the semi-п¬Ѓnal п¬Ѓrst leg was marred by violence towards Vietnamese fans at Shah Alam stadium. ThailandвЂ™s players celebrate after winning the AFF Suzuki Cup 2014 at Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, yesterday. (EPA) 6 Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 FOOTBALL LIGUE 1 BUNDESLIGA PSG held at home, Marseille on course to end year on top Paris Saint-Germain miss out on top spot after Montpellier draw Paris Saint-GermainвЂ™s Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic (C) vies with MontpellierвЂ™s Brazilian defender Vitorino Hilton (L) during the French L1 match at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, yesterday. (AFP) Dortmund second from bottom after 10th defeat of season AFP Berlin B orussia DortmundвЂ™s Bundesliga crisis deepened yesterday after suffering their tenth defeat of the season in losing 2-1 at fellow strugglers Werder Bremen to drop to second from bottom. Having started December at the foot of the table, Dortmund can п¬Ѓnish 2014 back at the bottom if Freiburg score and pick up a point against Hanover 96 on Sunday. Dortmund continue to have the most defeats in GermanyвЂ™s top п¬‚ight at the seasonвЂ™s halfway stage with just 15 points from 17 games as Bremen claimed only their fourth win of the season to climb off the foot of the table. Borussia coach Jurgen Klopp insists they are not relegation candidates, despite their league position. вЂњI wouldnвЂ™t write us off yet,вЂќ Klopp insisted with the Bundesliga to resume at the end of January following the winter break. вЂњWe have three weeks to prepare ourselves for the second half of the season. вЂњWe must, and we will, improve, we have shown a lot of weaknesses in the п¬Ѓrst half of the season, but weвЂ™re not as weak as that. We need to charge our batteries and п¬Ѓght back in the new year.вЂќ Borussia, who face Juventus in the last 16 of the Champions League, fell behind with just three minutes gone when BremenвЂ™s 19-year-old striker Davie Selke curled in a superb goal from 15 metres out. Selkie then turned provider by outsprinting Dortmund captain Mats Hummels to put in a great cross which Bremen midп¬Ѓelder Fin Bartels converted on 62 minutes. Hummels pulled a goal back when he headed home unmarked a corner from fellow Germany international Ilkay Gundogan on 69 minutes, but it was no more than a consolation. Huntelaar extends Schalke stay Second-placed Wolfsburg host mid-table Cologne later on Saturday hoping for the three points which would trim Bayern AFP Paris P aris Saint-Germain (PSG) failed to п¬Ѓnd the killer punch in a drab goalless draw at home to Montpellier yesterday, handing arch-rivals Marseille the chance to end the year on top of the Ligue 1 table. Marseille stay top on goal difference before they take on Lille at home today while thirdplaced Lyon, who could theoretically upset the apple cart if Marseille came unstuck, travel to Bordeaux. But for the Parisians, it was another case of failing to live up to the pressure, following defeats to Barcelona in the Champions League and then Guingamp in the league, before an unconvincing 3-1 victory at second-tier AC Ajaccio in the League Cup in midweek. An error-strewn п¬Ѓrst-half at the Parc des Princes saw the mid-table visitors knock the Parisians out of their normally п¬‚uid style and frustrated them throughout the п¬Ѓrst 45 minutes. Montpellier could even claim the best chance of the п¬Ѓrst 45 minutes when Morgan Sanson had the the ball in the net with an acrobatic volley from Antony MounierвЂ™s cross from the left, but Mounier was harshly ruled offside and the goal did not count. PSG had to wait until п¬Ѓve minutes from half-time before carving out a creditable chance of their own but failed to take advantage as Edinson Cavani needed one touch too many on Marco VerrattiвЂ™s through pass and the ball ran away from him, allowing Montpellier вЂ�keeper Jonathan Ligali to smother it at his feet. The home side were looking anything like reign- ing champions even after upping the tempo at the start of the second half, as Montpellier managed to soak up everything PSG could throw at them. But PSG gave notice that it might not be long before they took the lead as they moved up a gear in the 63rd minute. First Lucas had a penalty appeal waved away after tangling with Abdelhamid El Kaoutari in the area and from the resulting corner, taken by Thiago Motta, Thiago Silva rose unchallenged to head goalwards only for Mounier to scramble it off the line. However, it was not be as the clock ran down with neither side looking likely to break the deadlock. Montpellier had scored seven goals in their previous two matches, but seemed mostly content to play a containing game and manager Rolland Courbis looked the happier at the п¬Ѓnal whistle as counterpart Laurent Blanc reп¬‚ected on what might have been. Ironically, the two will meet again in their very next next competitive match, having been drawn together in the French Cup, with the tie to be played in early January. MunichвЂ™s huge lead at the top of the table back to 11 points. Bayer Leverkusen stay third after coming from behind for a 1-1 draw at home to Eintracht Frankfurt. Eintracht captain Alexander Meier converted a penalty to make him the leagueвЂ™s top scorer with 13 goals in 16 games before LeverkusenвЂ™s Germany winger Karim Bellarabi equalised seven minutes from time. Roberto di MatteoвЂ™s Schalke 04, who have drawn Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League, stay п¬Ѓfth in the table after being held to a goalless draw at home to Hamburg in a poor display. There was some good news for Royal Blues fans before kick-off as Netherlands striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar extended his contract until 2017 having scored 66 goals in 116 Bundesliga matches. Stuttgart remain above the bottom three places after their goalless draw at home to Paderborn. Augsburg fought back for a 2-1 win at home to Borussia Moenchengladbach, who took the lead after only two minutes when Max Kruse converted a penalty before midп¬Ѓelder Markus Feulner and striker Raul Bobadilla scored either side of half-time. The result leaves Augsburg sixth while Gladbach drop to fourth. On Friday, Pep GuardiolaвЂ™s Bayern broke more league records as Bastian Schweinsteiger and Arjen Robben scored in their 2-1 comeback win at Mainz after Colombia midп¬Ѓelder Elkin Soto had given the hostsвЂ™ a shock п¬Ѓrst-half lead. The Mainz result saw Bayern claim a new record for the fewest goals conceded in the п¬Ѓrst-half of the season as their defence have leaked just four goals. At the seasonвЂ™s halfway stage, Bayern will п¬Ѓnish the weekend at least 11 points ahead, claiming a new record for the leagueвЂ™s biggest advantage at the halfway stage, beating their own joint best mark of 10. Bayern have also equalled their own record for the highest goal difference at the halfway point of plus 37, the same they managed in 2012/13, the season they last won the Champions League. DortmundвЂ™s defender Mats Hummels (C) is congratulated by DortmundвЂ™s Polish defender Lukasz Piszczek (2nd L) after scoring during the Bundesliga match against SV Werder Bremen in Bremen yesterday. Bremen won the match 2-1. (AFP) FOCUS GuardiolaвЂ™s delight as Bayern claim more records AFP Munich E ven perfectionist Pep Guardiola could not fail to be impressed with Bayern MunichвЂ™s spectacular performance in the п¬Ѓrst half of the Bundesliga season to п¬Ѓnish 2014 with more league records. Arjen RobbenвЂ™s last-minute winner sealed BayernвЂ™s 2-1 comeback victory at Mainz as FridayвЂ™s battling display further extended BayernвЂ™s huge lead. Regardless of the weekendвЂ™s results, Bayern will go into the BundesligaвЂ™s winter break, which starts on Sunday, with at least an 11-point advantage. The Mainz result saw Bayern claim a new record for the least goals conceded in the п¬Ѓrst-half of the season as their defence have leaked just four goals. At the seasonвЂ™s halfway stage, they will set a new record for the leagueвЂ™s biggest lead after 17 games, beating their own best mark of 10, which had matched Borussia DortmundвЂ™s effort from the 2010/11 season. Bayern have equalled their own record for the highest goal difference at the halfway point of plus 37, the same they managed in 2012/13, the season they last won the Champions League. The Bavarians are unbeaten in Germany this campaign, dropping just six league points, and are on course to claim a third straight Bundesliga title. вЂњWhen we analyse the whole п¬Ѓrsthalf of the season, then I am very, very happy,вЂќ said renowned perfectionist Guardiola, who takes his side to Qatar for a training camp in January. вЂњRegardless of where we go, we always play with passion. вЂњWe have to stay calm and get ready for the second-half of the season, but itвЂ™s a good way to wish everyone a merry Christmas and a good new year.вЂќ Mainz took a shock, but deserved 21st-minute lead at home through Colombia midп¬Ѓelder Elkin Soto, but the advantage lasted just three minutes before Schweinsteiger curled in a stunning free-kick. вЂњIt was a pleasant evening up until the last minute,вЂќ bemoaned Mainz manager Christian Heidel. The mid-table hosts were heading to a deserved point before RobbenвЂ™s winner just before the whistle following a superb run by France winger Franck Ribery. вЂњI am happy we won, but I feel sorry for Mainz, they gave everything and deserved at least a point, but thatвЂ™s football,вЂќ said Robben, who scored his 101st goal for Bayern. вЂњWe werenвЂ™t good in the п¬Ѓrst-half, we left too many holes and didnвЂ™t п¬Ѓnd our game. But fair play to the team, we came back and won again. вЂњWe can all go into the holidays proud and happy.вЂќ Schweinsteiger, GermanyвЂ™s captain and BayernвЂ™s skipper for the night, proved the knee injury which kept him out until late October is behind him. His curling п¬Ѓrst-half free-kick gave the Mainz goalkeeper no chance. вЂњI can honestly say I havenвЂ™t practised free-kicks since the World Cup,вЂќ revealed Schweinsteiger. вЂњFranck (Ribery) was a gentleman, he let me take it and said вЂ�score a goalвЂ™. вЂњItвЂ™s nice that we have a break now.вЂќ Bayern will open the 2015 п¬Ѓxtures when they play second-placed VfL Wolfsburg away on Friday January 30. Bayern MunichвЂ™s coach Pep Guardiola during the Bundesliga against FSV Mainz 05 at the Coface Arena in Mainz, Germany, on Friday. (AFP) 7 Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 FOOTBALL EPL CITY REEL CHELSEA IN, FALCAO ENDS MAN U WAIT вЂ�A very good performance. I enjoyed the way the team worked the whole weekвЂ”to work in a different way without strikersвЂ™ AFP London M anchester City beat Crystal Palace 3-0 yesterday to move level with Premier League leaders Chelsea, while Radamel Falco earned Manchester United a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa. City were missing Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic due to injury, but they secured an eighth consecutive win in all competitions thanks to David SilvaвЂ™s second-half brace and a late Yaya Toure strike. Victory left City level on 39 points with Chelsea, who remain top by virtue of a superior goal difference (+23 to +22) ahead of their trip to Stoke City tomorrow. вЂњIt was a very good win. A very good performance. I enjoyed the way the team worked the whole weekвЂ”to work in a different way without strikers,вЂќ said City manager Manuel Pellegrini. вЂњI did think December is a key month to be in the п¬Ѓght for the title, and if you want to be involved you must be very near the top of the table. I hope we continue playing like this.вЂќ United spurned a chance to close on Chelsea after dropping points for the п¬Ѓrst time in seven matches at Villa, who had Gabriel Agbonlahor sent off in the 65th minute for a foul on former team-mate Ashley Young. The draw ended UnitedвЂ™s run of six straight wins and left Louis van GaalвЂ™s side seven points off the pace in third place, while West Ham United, Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur all closed on them. At the Etihad Stadium, City started with James Milner as an auxiliary striker and after growing into the game, the champions went ahead four minutes into the second half. From FernandinhoвЂ™s pass, Pablo Zabaleta scuttled into the area before cutting the ball back for Silva, who beat Julian Speroni with the aid of a deп¬‚ection off Scott Dann. Silva claimed his second goal in the 61st minute, neatly steering home at the near post from Aleksandar KolarovвЂ™s left-wing centre. James McArthur thought he had replied for Palace moments better team and when thatвЂ™s the Results case, you have& tostandings win.вЂќ Manchester UnitedвЂ™s Radamel Falcao celebrates after scoring a goal during their English Premier League match against Aston Villa at Villa Park in Birmingham yesterday. (Reuters) later when he headed Yannick BolasieвЂ™s cross past Hart, but although Fernandinho appeared to have played him onside, the assistant refereeвЂ™s п¬‚ag went up. Palace manager Neil Warnock called it вЂњa disgraceful decisionвЂќ. Toure made the game safe for City in the 81st minute, collecting a square pass from Milner and slamming home left-footed at the near post. Austin hat-trick Christian Benteke put Villa 1-0 up in the 18th minute at Aston Villa Hull City Manchester City Queens Park Southampton Tottenham Hotsr West Ham United home against United by chesting down a deep free-kick, stepping inside Jonny Evans and curling a п¬Ѓne left-foot shot inside the left-hand post. David de Gea produced a stunning save to tip a header from Benteke over the bar early in the second half, before Falcao met YoungвЂ™s cross with a powerful 53rd-minute header to claim his п¬Ѓrst goal since October. UnitedвЂ™s record signing Angel di Maria made his return from a hamstring injury as a replacement for Robin van Persie, but despite Agbonlahor being shown a straight red card for catching Young late, Villa held on. вЂњVery frustrating. I think we gave two points away,вЂќ United manager Van Gaal told the BBC. вЂњIвЂ™m disappointed because also in the п¬Ѓrst half we were the 1 0 3 3 3 2 2 Manchester Untd 1 Swansea City 1 Crystal Palace 0 West Brom Albion 2 Everton 0 Burnley 1 Leicester City 0 Standings PW D L Chelsea Manctr City Manctr United West Ham Utd Southampton Tottem Hotspur Arsenal Swansea City Newcastle Utd Everton Liverpool Aston Villa Stoke City West Bwich An Queens P Rrs Sunderland Crystal Palace 18 Burnley Hull City Leicester City 16 12 17 12 17 9 17 9 17 9 17 8 16 7 17 7 16 6 17 5 16 6 17 5 16 5 17 4 17 5 16 2 17 3 17 3 17 2 17 2 3 1 3 2 5 3 4 4 2 6 3 6 5 4 4 6 5 5 6 6 3 7 5 7 4 7 5 8 2 10 10 4 6 8 6 8 7 8 4 11 F A Pts 36 13 36 14 30 18 29 19 28 13 22 23 28 19 22 19 18 22 27 27 19 22 11 21 18 21 17 23 20 32 14 24 19 27 12 26 15 24 15 29 39 39 32 31 29 27 26 25 23 21 21 20 19 17 17 16 15 15 13 10 Fourth-place West Ham are now just a point behind United after beating bottom club Leicester City 2-0 at Upton Park. Andy Carroll seized on West Ham old boy Paul KoncheskyвЂ™s disastrous back-pass to put the hosts ahead in the 24th minute and Stewart Downing made it 2-0 11 minutes after the interval with an stunning 25-yard effort. Southampton are two points further back after ending a п¬Ѓvegame losing streak by beating Everton 3-0 thanks to a Romelu Lukaku own goal and secondhalf efforts from Graziano Pelle and Maya Yoshida. Tottenham leapfrogged Arsenal, who host Liverpool on Sunday, by beating Burnley 2-1. Ashley Barnes cancelled out Harry KaneвЂ™s headed opener for Spurs with a blistering shot from 20 yards, but Erik Lamela gave the hosts victory with a swerving long-range effort 10 minutes before half-time. Charlie Austin took his tally for the season to 11 goals with a hat-trick as Queens Park Rangers came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at home to West Bromwich Albion, who scored through Joleon Lescott and Silvestre Varela. The win took QPR out of the relegation zone, but Hull City remain in the bottom three after Jonjo ShelveyвЂ™s shot deп¬‚ected in off Ki Sung-yueng to earn Swansea City a 1-0 victory at the KC Stadium. LA LIGA Messi double, Suarez goal fire Barcelona rout Reuters Barcelona L ionel Messi scored twice and Luis Suarez struck his п¬Ѓrst La Liga goal as Barcelona crushed struggling Cordoba 5-0 yesterday to п¬Ѓnish the year a point behind Real Madrid at the top of the table. In-form Pedro put Barca ahead after just 71 seconds, the second quickest in La Liga this season, with a clinical п¬Ѓnish from a ball over the top of the defence by Ivan Rakitic. The signs were ominous for Cordoba as they found themselves encamped in their own half, although Barca did not add to their lead until the start of the second half through Suarez. The Uruguayan returned from a four-month ban for biting at the end of October and claimed his п¬Ѓrst goal in La Liga when he slotted the ball home from a Pedro pass. вЂњI am more relaxed now having got the goal. Perhaps we had something to prove going into the match as the draw (last weekend) against Getafe was a blow,вЂќ Suarez told reporters. вЂњWe are candidates for La Liga and we want to turn things around at the top. For me personally to get a goal in the league is important but I knew with all the support I was getting that it would come soon.вЂќ With the Cordoba playersвЂ™ heads going down, Gerard Pique nodded in BarcaвЂ™s third and then Messi п¬Ѓred in a late double. Xavi came on as a second-half substitute in his 741st match for Barca, equalling the record of RealвЂ™s Raul for the number of games for a single club in Spanish football. Barca have moved on to the shoulders of Real who are playing the Club World Cup п¬Ѓnal on Saturday against San Lorenzo and have played a game less then their arch-rivals. Suarez went close to adding to PedroвЂ™s opener as his strike from a Jordi Alba pull-back narrowly went the wrong side of the post. Barca have looked susceptible at the back this season and there were warning signs when Nabil Ghilas was able to run unopposed down the right wing but he п¬Ѓred into the side netting from a tight angle. Luis EnriqueвЂ™s side were still clearly in control with Rakitic and Pedro having further chances before Suarez struck after 52 minutes. From there the game opened up as Cordoba began to lose concentration. Pique headed in a cross from Xavi and Messi came to life having had a quiet game with two well-struck drives from inside the area to complete the rout. BarcelonaвЂ™s Lionel Messi (C), Luis Suarez (L) and Jordi Alba celebrate a goal against Cordoba during their La Liga match at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona yesterday. (Reuters) 8 Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 SPORT NBA NHL Spurs lose another OT heartbreaker вЂ�Niko was terrific throughout. I give him a lot of credit for being readyвЂ™ San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili (second from right) shoots against Portland Trail Blazers centre Chris Kaman (third from left) during the first half of their NBA game in San Antonio on Friday. AFP Los Angeles D amian Lillard scored a career high 43 points as Portland beat San Antonio 129-119 in triple overtime Friday, sending the Spurs to their secondstraight heartbreaking triple overtime loss. The reigning NBA champion Spurs also lost in multiple overtimes 117-116 to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 32 and the Trail Blazers pulled away in the third overtime to top the Spurs by 10 points in front of a crowd of 18,581 at the AT&T Center arena. вЂњI just kept attacking. That has always been my favorite time of the game when everything is on the line,вЂќ Lillard said. Lillard hit game-tying threepointers in regulation and the п¬Ѓrst overtime and scored nine of PortlandвЂ™s 17 points in the third overtime as the Blazers crafted their fourth-straight win. вЂњI was really proud of the way we kept competing,вЂќ said Portland coach Terry Stotts. вЂњObviously it helps to make some big shots, but there was a lot of trust in moving the ball.вЂќ Cory Joseph hit a game-tying shot in the second overtime for San Antonio, which became the п¬Ѓrst NBA team in 63 years to play in consecutive threeovertime games. The 1951-52 Baltimore Bullets split their contests. San Antonio was missing NBA п¬Ѓnals MVP Kawhi Leonard and guard Tony Parker with injuries. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said his team tried to tough it out but couldnвЂ™t keep up in the п¬Ѓnal overtime. вЂњWe are wearing some guys down. They did a great job under tough circumstances,вЂќ Popovich said. The Spurs have now lost three straight games, their longest slide since they lost three in a row in January. Tim Duncan had a seasonhigh 32 points and Danny Green added 27 for the Spurs, who lost RESULTS Utah....................101 Charlotte .....109 Boston ............. 114 Cleveland ......95 Toronto ...........110 Washington105 Chicago........ 103 Portland ........129 Denver ..........109 Oklahoma .104 Orlando .............94 Philadelphia ...91 Minnesota...... 98 Brooklyn ............91 Detroit .............100 MIAMI ............... 103 Memphis ..........97 S Antonio...119 (OT) LA Clippers .106 LA Lakers ..... 103 despite starting the п¬Ѓrst two overtimes on 6-0 runs. In the п¬Ѓrst overtime, they scored just one more point over the next two and a half minutes. LillardвЂ™s tying three-pointer came after Wesley Matthews missed a shot from beyond the arc and Aldridge got the rebound and passed it back to Lillard at the point. Red-hot Jimmy Butler continued his scoring spree and the Chicago Bulls received a big lift off the bench from Nikola Mirotic. Butler had 31 points while Mirotic made all six triples en route to season-best 27 Friday, and the visiting Bulls snapped the Memphis GrizzliesвЂ™ sixgame winning streak 103-97. Butler put up another top notch effort after a careerhigh 35-point performance in ThursdayвЂ™s 103-97 win over hapless New York. вЂњJimmy Butler was phenomenal again,вЂќ Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. вЂњNiko was terriп¬Ѓc throughout. I give him a lot of credit for being ready. Mirotec entered the contest averaging 7.4 points per game and 34 per cent from behind the arc before the former Real Madrid Spanish league star forward broke out with a 10-13 shooting effort in 30 minutes. вЂњWe had a huge contribution from him,вЂќ said fellow Spaniard Pau Gasol, who had just six points and 10 rebounds. вЂњHe was a key to winning this game. IвЂ™m happy to see him play well.вЂќ Aaron Brooks netted 17 points off the bench, Joakim Noah contributed 10 with 13 rebounds for Chicago (17-9), which again played without All-Star guard Derrick Rose (illness) and top reserve Taj Gibson (right ankle injury). Mike Conley had 21 points, Slovenian Beno Udrih added 15 but exited with a right hand injury in the fourth quarter for Memphis (21-5), which shot a frigid 39 per cent from the п¬‚oor to fall to 12-2 at home. вЂњWe werenвЂ™t making shots that we normally make, they took away the paint and we didnвЂ™t make many threes either,вЂќ said Spanish centre Marc Gasol following a 13-point, 10-rebound outing. вЂњThatвЂ™s a bad combination to win games.вЂќ The defensive-minded Bulls led 51-43 at halftime behind 15 points by Mirotic and 12 more from Butler. The Grizzlies chipped away and pulled within three a few times in the fourth quarter before ConleyвЂ™s 3-pointer made it 99-97 with 13.8 seconds left. Reserve EвЂ™Twaun Moore made his п¬Ѓrst two free throws of the season and Butler added two more as the Bulls improved to 12-4 on the road. FOCUS Accolades pour in for Bryant Reuters Los Angeles L os Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant has often been a polarising п¬Ѓgure during his illustrious NBA career, criticised by some for being too selп¬Ѓsh and not doing enough as a facilitator for his teammates. For his peers, however, Bryant is simply a winner and will do whatever it takes to instil a winning mindset, even though this season has been especially challenging for an injury-hit team decidedly low in overall quality. While the Lakers have stuttered to a dismal 8-17 record and languish 13th in the 15-team Western Conference standings, Bryant has п¬‚ourished and averages 25.2 points, п¬Ѓve rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. Five days ago against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Bryant eclipsed basketball great Michael Jordan as he moved into third place in the all-time NBA scoring list and the accolades have since poured in from all quarters. Reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant described Bryant as a quintessential winner and 12-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki rated the veteran Lakers guard as вЂњprobablyвЂќ the greatest player of his generation. вЂњIt means everything because those are my peers so to have the respect from them is really what the game is all about,вЂќ Bryant, 36, told reporters while preparing for FridayвЂ™s home game against Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder. вЂњAs players, we play for each other. We play to have respect from one another so to hear those comments from your peers, it means a lot.вЂќ Bryant, who has made a living by making the seemingly impossible possible for the Lakers, scored 26 points against Minnesota to lift his career total to 32,310. Only Kareem AbdulJabbar (38,387) and Karl Malone (36,928) are ahead of him. Jordan himself paid tribute to Bryant for reaching the milestone and pondered what his long-time protege might achieve before he retires from the game. вЂњHeвЂ™s obviously a great player, with a strong work ethic and has an equally strong passion for the game of basketball,вЂќ Jordan said of Bryant. Bryant, who has won п¬Ѓve NBA championship rings during his Lakers career, acknowledged his debt to Jordan. вЂњHeвЂ™s helped me out a great deal,вЂќ said Bryant. вЂњIвЂ™d reach out to him, heвЂ™d hit me right back. He continues to be helpful to me today.вЂќ Dallas Stars Squeeze Past Calgary Flames 2-1 Agencies Calgary J amie Benn provided the Dallas Stars with all the offense they would need Friday night. Benn had a goal and an assist as the Dallas Stars edged Calgary 2-1 on Friday night, the FlamesвЂ™ seventh straight loss. вЂњWe wanted to play good team defense and take advantage of their mistakes. I donвЂ™t think we wanted to go run-and-gun with them,вЂќ Benn said. вЂњTheyвЂ™re kind of a desperate team right now and thatвЂ™s a dangerous team. I thought we did a pretty good job.вЂќ Trevor Daley also scored for the Stars (15-10-4), while Kari Lehtonen, starting his п¬Ѓfth game in a row, made 21 saves. After being held without a point Wednesday in the StarsвЂ™ 2-0 win over Vancouver, Tyler Seguin had an assist to take over the NHL scoring lead with 39 points (23 goals, 16 assists). He is one point up on Evgeni Malkin and Jakub Voracek. вЂњI just kind of pick-pocketed him there. It was kind of a lucky break,вЂќ said Benn, who moved into the top 20 in NHL scoring with 28 points. Mark Giordano scored for Calgary (17-15-2), which has lost seven consecutive games for the п¬Ѓrst time since its team-record 11-game skid in 1985-86. Jonas Hiller stopped 19 shots. Dallas has won three in a row to move within seven points of the Los Angeles Kings, who hold the п¬Ѓnal wild-card spot in the Western Conference. After a scoreless п¬Ѓrst period, the Stars took the lead for good four minutes into the second. Calgary rookie Markus Granlund won a face-off in the Flames end but Kris Russell missed the puck in front of CalgaryвЂ™s net, allowing Benn to reel it in and beat Hiller on a backhand. Dallas scored when Daley took a pass from Benn and burst down the right side, ripping a shot over HillerвЂ™s shoulder as the Flames goaltender dropped to the ice. The Stars will attempt to complete a perfect three-game road sweep through Western Canada when they play in Edmonton on Sunday. The Flames started off the season an impressive 17-8-2. But they havenвЂ™t picked up a point since beating Colorado on Dec. 4. вЂњWe had such a great start to the year, we donвЂ™t want to just waste it in just this one stretch here,вЂќ Calgary center Joe Colborne said. вЂњWe trust our leadership, we trust our systems right now and itвЂ™s just a matter of going out and doing it.вЂќ The Flames closed the gap to 2-1 with 1:15 left in the second period on a weird goal. After intercepting DaleyвЂ™s clearing attempt at the blue line, Giordano wristed a knuckler toward the net that appeared to dip on the way and eluded Lehtonen. вЂњOur guys played very well in front of me,вЂќ said Lehtonen, who was tested only 22 times in improving to 13-7-5 this season. вЂњItвЂ™s been a long time coming. ItвЂ™s been such an up-and-down season so far. ItвЂ™s been nice to be able to play a few good games in a row now.вЂќ Despite only being down one goal, Calgary failed to generate any sustained pressure in the third period. The FlamesвЂ™ best chance came with 28 seconds left when they got a power play and had an opportunity to tie it with Hiller pulled. Dallas Stars left wing Jamie Benn (R) celebrates after scoring a goal in the second period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary. PICTURE: USA TODAY Sports Howe shows steady progress following stem cell treatment Detroit Red Wings legend Gordie Howe has made an вЂ�astonishingвЂ™ recovery after receiving stem cell treatment earlier this month from a Mexico-based medical firm, the Howe family said on Friday. The 86-year-old Hall of Famer, who suffers from severe dementia, has gone from being bedridden in a semi-comatose state to walking on his own and doing daily chores as he вЂњshufflesвЂќ around his daughterвЂ™s Texas home, the family said in a statement. вЂњWe are thrilled that DadвЂ™s quality of life has greatly improved, and his progress has exceeded our greatest expectations,вЂќ the family wrote. Howe underwent two days of a stem cell clinical trial from Tijuana-based firm Novastem. Two days after the start of treatment Howe was talking to the nurses, the family said. After three days he left the hospital and walked on his own to the airplane, and after five days he was вЂњtaking part in helping out with household chores.вЂќ The family said his treatment included injecting neural stem cells into the spinal canal. вЂњHis response was truly miraculous. His short-term memory, strength, endurance and coordination have plenty of room for improvement. We are hopeful that he will continue to improve in the months to come.вЂќ Howe suffered a serious stroke on October 26 and because of his deteriorating condition he had to be hospitalised at the beginning of December. Confined to his bed and unable to speak or communicate, Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 9 SPORT SKIING BIATHLON Vonn claims 61st World Cup win in Val dвЂ™Isere Vonn is just one win behind the all-time World Cup record of 62 held by Annemarie AFP Val dвЂ™Isere, Paris L indsey Vonn notched up her 61st World Cup win with success in the womenвЂ™s downhill at Val dвЂ™Isere yesterday. The four-time overall World Cup champion claimed her latest race by clocking a time of 1min 44.47 sec to edge GermanyвЂ™s Viktoria Rebensburg and AustriaвЂ™s Elisabeth Goergl, who shared second at 19 hundredths of a second behind the American. This was 30-year-old VonnвЂ™s second downhill win of the season after this monthвЂ™s win in Lake Louise, her п¬Ѓrst victory since a high speed crash in early 2013. It put the girlfriend of 14-time golf major champion Tiger Woods just one win behind the all-time World Cup record of 62 held by AustriaвЂ™s Annemarie Moser-Proell. She can draw level with Moser-Proell with success in todayвЂ™s super-G. вЂњItвЂ™s incredible, I was a little nervous today because IвЂ™d been making some mistakes in training,вЂќ said the American. вЂњItвЂ™s hard when thereвЂ™s only one training run. I skied in an aggressive manner, even if I made a mistake I kept п¬Ѓghting and it paid off.вЂќ She added: вЂњI knew that I could win here. It was for others to realise that IвЂ™m back to where I was. ItвЂ™s special for me and my team. After two difficult years IвЂ™ve waited for this for a long time and IвЂ™m just really happy.вЂќ The third downhill of the season was not so kind on Slovenia skier Tina Maze, who leads the overall World Cup standings but who had to settle for fourth. It was at this corresponding French leg of the World Cup calendar 12 months ago that downhill queen VonnвЂ™s bid to compete in the Sochi Olympics were dashed. A fall exacerbated the anterior cruciate ligament right knee injury she suffered at the 2013 world championships. Her road back from reconstructive surgery last season was dogged by setbacks but with this latest triumph her injury woes appear to п¬Ѓnally be behind her. Finishing in a lowly 11th place behind Vonn at Val dвЂ™Isere meanwhile was the defending overall World Cup champion Anna Fenninger of Austria. N orwayвЂ™s Emil Hegle Svendsen shot clean in a pursuit race yesterday to claim his second season victory in the biathlon World Cup. Darya Domracheva of Belarus also topped the podium for the second time in 2014-15, after like Svendsen winning the seasonopening distance race two weeks ago. Svendsen, a multiple world and Olympic champion, hit all 20 targets in the shooting range and cruised to his 38th career success in 30 minutes 43.3 seconds for the 12.5 kilometres. FridayвЂ™s sprint winner Anton Shipulin of Russia had to settle for second with two missed targets, 17.8 seconds off the pace. World Cup holder Martin Fourcade of France was third, 52.2 seconds off the pace with one penalty lap, and lost the overall lead to Svendsen. In the womenвЂ™s 10km race, the three-time Sochi Games champion Domracheva rebounded from sixth in the sprint for her 21st career success in 29:55.9 minutes. World Cup holder and leader Kaisa Makarainen of Finland moved from 15th in the sprint to second, 10.0 seconds off the pace. Valj Semerenko of Ukraine won a sprint for third place against ItalyвЂ™s Dorothea Wierer, 36.8 seconds behind the winner. The top three had one penalty lap each while sprint winner Gabriela Soukalova missed three targets in the п¬Ѓrst round of shooting and two more later in the race to п¬Ѓnish 20th, 2:42.6 behind Domracheva. ATHLETICS Lindsey Vonn of the USA speeds down the slope during the WomenвЂ™s Downhill race at the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup in Val dвЂ™Isere, France yesterday. (EPA) and Heidi Weng was third for Norway in 25:24.4. BjoergenвЂ™s success gave Norway a 10th straight win in the womenвЂ™s World Cup, moving ahead of Russia whose athletes won nine races in a row in 1995. вЂњI had a very good race today. I am very happy for the first distance World Cup victory this season,вЂќ said Bjoergen. Another German, 37-year-old two-time Olympic champion Claudia Nystad, was also strong, and her fifth-place finish earned her a ticket for the world championships in February in Falun, Sweden, along with Fessel. Gloeersen topped the menвЂ™s 15-kilometres freestyle race in Davos for his fifth career victory in 34:27.9 seconds from the teamвЂ™s biggest name skier BOXING Petter Northug (34:32.7) and Chris Andre Jespersen (34:38:3). World Cup leader Martin Johnsrud Sundby, also of Norway, was sixth. вЂњI knew I had a very good final part of the competition. I have been training for 15 km free technique. This is my first victory in a distance competition and it means a lot for me,вЂќ Gloeersen said. The Davos events conclude today with menвЂ™s and womenвЂ™s sprints. The weekend races were originally to be held in La Clusaz, France, but lack of snow there prompted the move to Davos which had also held races last weekend. In Ramsau, two-time Sochi gold medallist Jorgen Graabak anchored Norway to victory in the Nordic combined event, topping the handicap start 4x5km crosscountry relay after they had placed third in the morning jumping portion behind Germany and Austria. Mikko Kokslien, Haavard Klemetsen, Jan Schmid and Graabak clocked 45:41.1 minutes, pipping Germany by one tenth of a second and France finishing third. The Germans were luckier on the Engelberg jumping hill where Freitag got his first season victory and fourth overall with 128.5 and 135.5 metres for 277.7 points. Czech Roman Koudelka was a close second with 277.1, and third place on 276.2 points was shared by Austrian first-round leader Michael Hayboeck and Jernej Damjan of Slovenia. KenyaвЂ™s marathon queen Jeptoo fails second doping test Reuters Nairobi K enyan Rita Jeptoo, winner of the Boston and Chicago marathons for the last two years, has tested positive for a banned substance in a B sample taken after she failed an out-of-competition check in September. вЂњThe results of the analysis of the B sample which was conducted on 17th to 19th December 2014 at the WADA (World AntiDoping Agency) accredited laboratory of Lausanne conп¬Ѓrmed the п¬Ѓnding of the A sample,вЂќ Athletics Kenya said in a statement on Friday. Jeptoo, provisionally suspended from athletics after the A sample tested positive, had asked for a B check. She told reporters at the time that the accusation was false. Dozens of Kenyan athletes have failed doping tests in the past two years. Government ofп¬Ѓcials have blamed the growing amount of cases on foreign agents and Athletics KenyaвЂ™s failure to educate its sportsmen and women properly. The countryвЂ™s triple world 3,000 metres steeplechase champion Moses Kiptanui has called for tough sanctions against those who fail doping tests, saying вЂњbig moneyвЂќ was behind the cheating. RUGBY Stevenson knocks out Sukhotsky AFP Quebec City, Canada Relief for Galthie as Montpellier win AFP Paris T A donis Stevenson of Canada easily retained his World Boxing Council light heavyweight title on Friday, knocking out challenger Dmitry Sukhotsky in the п¬Ѓfth round at the Colisee arena. The 37-year-old southpaw Stevenson (25-1, 21 KOs) dropped Sukhotsky with a straight left hand on the chin near the end of the round. вЂњI know with my power I donвЂ™t need to force it,вЂќ Stevenson said. вЂњThe knockout will come. I waited and bang, I caught him.вЂќ It was one of three knockdowns by Stevenson in the п¬Ѓfth round of the lop-sided п¬Ѓght. The п¬Ѓrst knockdown was a devastating left hand to the head. The second was an overhand right that glanced off the left side of SukhotskyвЂ™s face. Sukhotsky was knocked down four times in total in the п¬Ѓght that was scheduled for 12 rounds. It was the fourth title defence for Stevenson since he grabbed the DPA Pokljuka, Slovenia Emil Hegle Svendsen of Norway celebrates his victory in the World Cup Biathlon menвЂ™s 12.5 km Pursuit event in Pokljuka, Slovenia. (EPA) BJOERGEN ACHIEVES WORLD CUP RECORD FOR UNSTOPPABLE NORWAY Davos, Switzerland: Norway maintained their big dominance in cross-country skiing yesterday with mighty Marit Bjoergen topping the womenвЂ™s race for a World Cup record and Anders Gloeersen leading a menвЂ™s race podium sweep. Norway also won a Nordic combined team event in Ramsau, Austria, but their ski-jumping World Cup leader Anders Fannemel had to settle for 21st in a skijumping large hill event in Engelberg, Switzerland, where German Richard Freitag soared to victory. Bjoergen, the best decorated womenвЂ™s Winter Olympian, got her 84th career success in the womenвЂ™s 10km in 24 minutes 57.7 seconds. German Nicole Fessel impressed with second place in 25.17.6 Svendsen and Domracheva win pursuit races belt with a п¬Ѓrst-round knockout of Chad Dawson in June 2013. Stevenson has won 12 п¬Ѓghts in a row, including four times in 2013. The 33-year-old Russian Sukhotsky (22-3) had a fourbout winning streak ended. Stevenson is expected to next face the winner of a March п¬Ѓght between Sergey Kovalev and Jean Pascal. Asked about a possible п¬Ѓght with Kovalev, Stevenson said: вЂњYou have to come to me.вЂќ he pressure eased slightly on coach Fabien Galthie as Montpellier ended a run of seven successive defeats with a thrilling 23-20 victory over Toulouse in their Top 14 clash yesterday. A penalty with less than two minutes remaining by Teddy Iribaren sealed victory for the hosts and gave them their п¬Ѓrst victory since October 11. For ToulouseвЂ”who had their own blip earlier in the season with п¬Ѓve successive defeatsвЂ”it was only their second loss in the last 10 matches. Benoit Paillaugue opened the scoring for Montpellier with a well-struck penalty in the п¬Ѓfth minute. Paillaugue added a second penalty for 6-0 in the 18th minute but the visitors reduced the deп¬Ѓcit through former All Black Luke McAlister with a penalty in the 25th minute. MontpellierвЂ™s domination was not reп¬‚ected in converting it into points and were denied a try when Alex Tulou went to touch down but the ball con- MontpellierвЂ™s French head coach Fabien GalthieвЂ™s job has been under threat after a poor run. nected fortuitously for Toulouse with McAlisterвЂ™s boot and did not make full contact with the ground. Toulouse head coach Guy Noves attempted to rectify the problem in his front row as they came under increasing pressure in a succession of scrums close to their try line by sending on Vasil Kakovin for Kisi Pulu, who had had a torrid time, with only 29 minutes on the clock. However, it made not a jot of difference as Montpellier won the next scrum and Paillaugue this time decided to spread the ball with Pelissie feeding Wyn- and Olivier. The 31-year-old South African centre made no mistake stretching out his arm to touch down when he was tackled short of the lineвЂ”Paillaugue converted for 13-3. KakovinвЂ™s introduction as a saviour for the front row wasnвЂ™t a success. He was sin-binned in the 37th minute as the scrum collapsed under Montpellier pressureвЂ”Paillaugue failed to convert the penalty as it came back off a post. However, it was Toulouse who struck the п¬Ѓnal blow of the п¬Ѓrsthalf. A superb run by Maxime Medard from a penalty awarded in the п¬Ѓnal minute ended up with Vincent Clerc going over for the 88th try of his Top 14 careerвЂ” McAlister converted to send Toulouse only 13-10 down. Unbelievably despite the man down Clerc struck again a minute into the second-halfвЂ” McAlister converted for 17-13. However, the Toulouse scrum was still creaking and Pulu, who had had to come back on when Kakovin was sin-binned, was yellow-carded in the 50th minute but shortly afterwards Montpellier were awarded a penalty try as the refereeвЂ™s patience gave way. Paillaugue converted for 2017. However, McAlister levelled with a penalty but Iribaren with a few deep breaths held his nerve to give the hosts a much needed conп¬Ѓdence boost ahead of games with Castres and defending champions Toulon. 10 Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 SPORT TENNIS YEARENDER Of legendary Serena, NadalвЂ™s teen trauma and Swiss success 10 BEST, WORST AND MOST CONTROVERSIAL MOMENTS IN TENNIS THIS YEAR Roger Federer (left) and Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland in action against Richard Gasquet and Julien Benneteau of France in the doubles during the Davis Cup final. The duo led SwitzerlandвЂ™s first triumph in the competition after 85 previous attempts. By Kevin Mitchell The Guardian champagne. вЂњIвЂ™m drunk,вЂќ he said, shaking his head when Roger deп¬‚ected a difficult question towards him. Stan led the team celebrations deep into the night. 1) Serena bounces back 5) Wawrinka wrestles with the Big Four F t had been a long time between drinks for Wawrinka вЂ“ metaphorically, at least. When he beat Nadal to win the Australian Open in January for his breakthrough major title, the beginning of the end for the Big Four looked more likely. The evidence gathered as four different players won the majors. Unfortunately another slump slowed WawrinkaвЂ™s progress. But even Federer would concede StanвЂ™s singlehanded backhand is as good as his own. Mirka might demur. 2) MurrayвЂ™s clay magic M y favourite вЂњextended momentвЂќ of 2014 is Andy MurrayвЂ™s п¬Ѓrst set against Rafael Nadal in Rome. For about 40 minutes Murray recaptured the magic diluted by his back surgery the previous September. вЂњAndy Murray playing the best clay court tennis IвЂ™ve ever seen him play,вЂќ Chris Evert tweeted. For the п¬Ѓrst time since winning Wimbledon the previous summer, he felt comfortable on court, hitting without fear. It did not last. Nadal came back at him to win from 2-4 in the third, after which Murray struggled until making a late charge to reach the ATP World Tour Finals in November, only to collapse spectacularly in the last group match against Roger Federer. 3) Cry baby call F ederer surrendered to injury for only the third time in his career after hanging on to beat Stanislas Wawrinka in a gripping ATP Tour Finals semi-п¬Ѓnal remembered for Serena Williams celebrates her US Open victory which took her tally of Grand Slam titles to 18. what occurred at 5-5 and deuce in the third when Stan (who blew four match points) stopped to complain to the umpire that he had been interrupted by a call of вЂњcry babyвЂќ from FedererвЂ™s box. The п¬Ѓnger was pointed sharply at Mirka, his friendвЂ™s uber-loyal wife 4) Swiss success A week later Federer dragged himself to the starting line in Lille, where GaГ«l Monп¬Ѓls played perhaps the match of his life to beat him in the second rubber of the Davis Cup п¬Ѓnal. Federer and Wawrinka, friends again, combined to level the tie in the doubles on the Saturday before Federer sealed SwitzerlandвЂ™s п¬Ѓrst triumph in the competition after 85 previous attempts by beating Richard Gasquet in the п¬Ѓrst reverse singles вЂ“ allowing Stan to get an early start on the 8) Bidding farewell to Na L 6) NadalвЂ™s teen trauma i Na left the sport in 2014 and her quirky presence will be missed, as well as her patient husband and her excellent tennis. So, as with Marion Bartoli вЂ“ who retired after winning Wimbledon in 2013 вЂ“ ChinaвЂ™s best ever player will not be in Melbourne to defend her Australian title in January. But I will remember her, sadly, for her п¬Ѓnal shot in big-time tennis: a double fault on match point to lose to Barbora Zahlavova Strycova on No1 Court in the third round at Wimbledon. How curious she should end her major career at the same tournament as Bartoli? Wimbledon really is the pinnacle for players, still. W 9) Wozniacki endures pain I or Serena Williams 2014 should have been a year to savour but GarbiГ±e Muguruza inп¬‚icted her heaviest defeat in a major, allowing her only four games in the second round at Roland Garros. Then AlizГ© Cornet put her out in the third round at Wimbledon, her earliest exit there in nine years. That was followed by her early retirement in the doubles when, hit by a mystery virus, she was led away after serving more double faults than a drunk in the park. And then she killed it in New York: the moment of the year, for me. On the eve of winning her 18th major she was asked, witlessly, what that number meant to her. вЂњIt means legal to do some things,вЂќ she said. вЂњIt also means legendary.вЂќ And so it does. And so she is, enigmatic too, powerful and back on top. the world.вЂќ Could Coric-Kyrgios be the gameвЂ™s next great rivalry? Bet Murray wants a piece of him. ho is the only world No1 to lose to two teenagers in one season? Nadal, amazingly. The moment that lingered most vividly was the frontal hot-dog winner that AustraliaвЂ™s precocious Nick Kyrgios, ranked 144 at the time and a п¬Ѓrst-time wild card at Wimbledon, hit from the baseline in the fourth game of the second set on his way to beating Nadal (with an ace) in the fourth round. The previous teenager to beat a No1 in a major? Nadal, at Roland Garros in 2005 against Federer. Kyrgios, still only 19, is 50-1 to win the Australian Open. 7) Cocky Coric shows cheeky side M ore crazy numbers for the other kid to embarrass Nadal. The Croat Borna Coric beat the great man in straight sets in the Basel quarters in October and showed a game to match his mouth. вЂњWhen I play my best, yes, IвЂ™m more a Djokovic game-wise,вЂќ he said later. вЂњWhen IвЂ™m not at my best IвЂ™m more like Murray.вЂќ Cheeky. Even though Rafa was suffering from appendicitis, Coric bridged an enormous gap with power and smarts. Coric is the п¬Ѓrst 17-year-old to crash the top-100 since 2004 вЂ“ when Gasquet and Nadal announced their arrival. And his ambition? вЂњTo be No 1 in C aroline Wozniacki had a year not dissimilar to that of her best friend Serena, although losing to the American in the US Open п¬Ѓnal only partially soothed the pain of her break-up with Rory McIlroy in February. The Northern Irishman was in town, playing golf across the state line in Jersey but not sighted at Flushing Meadows. The Dane kept smiling all the way to the п¬Ѓnal and got back in the top 10 вЂ“ and had enough energy left to run the New York Marathon in three hours and 26 minutes at her п¬Ѓrst attempt. Not so much one moment as a lot of painful ones strung together вЂ“ although Serena was there to give her a hug on the п¬Ѓnish line. 10) And finally вЂ¦ A sad moment: discovering that Neil Harman, the tennis correspondent of the Times, had been sacked for plagiarism. Whatever anyone thinks of his serial transgressions in the Wimbledon Annual вЂ“ and there is no defending the scale or seriousness of them вЂ“ he deserves at least the sort of Christian sympathy he would extend to others вЂ“ especially at this time of year. RACING Antony West clinches pole at Qatar Superbike Championship By Sports Reporter Doha A ustralian Antony West took the pole position in Race 1 and 2 at the third round of Qatar SuperBike and Losail Asia Road Racing Series at Losail International Circuit. Meshal al-Naimi was in second position after a hard battle with Nasser al-Malki. вЂњIn the п¬Ѓrst race I had problem with the breaks in the п¬Ѓrst laps and guys behind me were putting so much pressure on me. Nasser really was strong and closing in rapidly, so I had to push more to retain my pole position. In the second race I had some adjustments made on the bike and it was easier than the п¬Ѓrst one,вЂќ said West. The defending champion Alex Cudlin encountered problems with his engine and п¬Ѓnished 13th. Cudlin is leading the championship with 91 points, only 6 points ahead of Mishal al-Naimi, who is second with 85 points. вЂњMy mechanics were doing their best to get my bike up and running but unfortunately I was not be able to take part in the race 2 of round 3. The mechanical problems will take some time to be solved. I hope to get back on track in round 4,вЂќ Cudlin said. In the Supersport category, Abdulaziz Binladen grabbed the pole position in both races. Victoria Kis, who is in the Losail Asian Road Racing Series won both the races. The Next round of the QSBK AND LARRS will be on 16th and 17th January 2015. Antony West and Meshal al-Naimi in action yesterday. Top three podium finishers at Losail International Circuit. Gulf Times Sunday, December 21, 2014 POSTER Gary Lineker FORMER ENGLAND, BARCELONA, EVERTON FOOTBALLER | ENGLANDвЂ™S SECOND HIGHEST SCORER | 330 GOALS 11 Sunday, December 21, 2014 SPORT GULF TIMES PRIME MINISTER VISITS AL SADD STADIUM By Sports Reporter Doha Q atar Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior HE Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani yesterday visited the Al Sadd Stadium, the venue for this weekвЂ™s Italian Super Cup п¬Ѓnal. The Prime Minister was joined by QFA President Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed al-Thani and other senior football officials. Juventus and Napoli will clash in the Italian Super Cup п¬Ѓnal tomorrow. QFA President gave details to the Prime Minister of the arrangements made by the organisers to host the game in a professional manner. A packed house is expected to witness the game, he said. It will be the п¬Ѓrst time that two Italian giants will clash in the Middle East. Khalid al-Kuwari, COO of QFA, was also present during the Prime MinisterвЂ™s visit. QATAR SC, AL ARABI WIN IN QSL SNAPSHOTS FROM TOUR OF ZUBARAH Qatar SC edged Al Ahli 4-3 in a Qatar Stars League match yesterday. H Harbaoui scored a brace in the second half, while Yousef M and Cho Young-Cheol found the net once each for the winners. For the hosts Al Ahli, Abdullah M scored two goals and Kaluyituka one. PICTURES: Noushad Thekkayil Yousef Mohammed Mirza (centre) celebrates after winning the Stage Three on the final day of the second edition of Tour of Zubarah in yesterday. Below: Winners along with officials on the podium. PICTURES: Jayaram In another Qatar Stars League match last night, P Hernandez converted a penalty in the 90th minute to give Al Arabi a 2-1 win over Al Gharafa. Dejagah had scored the first goal for Al Arabi in the second minute, while L Lopez found the equaliser for Al Gharafa.