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SUNDAY | JANUARY 18, 2015 | RABEE AL AWWAL 27, 1436 AH
P20 Watchmakers, ski resorts hammered by franc surge
VOL. 34 NO. 65 | PAGES 32 | BAISAS 200
P32 Fishing for ‘Angler of the Year’
P25 Attiyah wins second Dakar Rally title
Chief Executive Officer
Oman Establishment for Press, Publication and Advertising
PO Box 974, Postal Code 100, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman
[email protected]
Local firms shy
of exhibitions
Star hotel revenues
top RO 148 million
MUSCAT: The total number of guests
staying at 4 & 5 star hotels in the
Sultanate witnessed a significant
increase of 25.4 per cent at the end
of November 2014 totalling 701,630
guests, when compared with 599,509
guests recorded during the same
period in 2013. The total revenue for
4 & 5 star hotels also grew by 10.5 per
cent during the same period, rising
to RO 148,247,000 compared with RO
134,219,000 during the same period of
Bee eater
Lorry fire halts
Channel traffic
LILLE: Traffic was suspended in both
directions in the Channel Tunnel
between Britain and France on Saturday
after a lorry fire, authorities said.
“Due to an incident in the tunnel, all
departures are currently suspended in
both directions,” Eurotunnel said. The
Eurostar services had been cancelled for
the day. “We are sorry but we are unable
to run any further trains today because
Eurotunnel has been closed due to
smoke detected in the north tunnel,” the
firm said. REPORT ON PAGE 12
Pope Francis flees
Philippine storm
TACLOBAN: Pope Francis was forced
on Saturday to flee a fierce storm in
the Philippines that killed a volunteer,
cutting short a mercy mission to
weeping survivors of a catastrophic
super typhoon. Wearing a thin yellow
plastic poncho to protect him from
intense rain, Francis delivered an
emotional mass to about 200,000
people in the typhoon-ravaged
central Philippine city of Tacloban. “So
I apologise to you all. I’m sad about
this, truly saddened,” the pontiff told
thousands of people who had gathered
at one church. REPORT ON PAGE 6
Obama faces Republican Congress Japan pledges $2.5 bn for Middle East
Sunaidy meets SME CEOs White vented Bulbul
Pictures taken by Yahya Al Salmani at
Qurum park on Saturday
Black-winged Stilt
Gold test strip
may detect heart
attacks early
NEW YORK: A team of
researchers are working on
a new gold test strip that is
demonstrating great potential
for the early detection of
certain heart attacks.
Researchers from New
York University’s (NYU)
school of engineering and
Peking University in Beijing,
China are developing the test
strip for cardiac troponin I
(cTn-I) detection. The cTn-I
level in patients experiencing
myocardial infarction is
several thousand times higher
than in healthy people.
The early detection of cTn-I
is a key factor of heart attack
diagnosis and therapy. The
new strip uses microplasmagenerated gold nanoparticles
and shows higher detection
sensitivity than conventional
test strips.
Jan 17: The consumer exhibitions in the
Sultanate are always full of renowned
brands products to lure shopaholics.
The impressive exhibitions attract
thousands of people. But poor and fake
products, and increasing cases of fraud
are putting off consumers who fail to
get their grievances redressed.
There is also a visible absence of
Omani consumer companies in these
Ibrahim al Hilali, PR manager at Al
Mamlaka for Organising Exhibitions,
said there few benefits from specialised
expos as against limited consumer ones,
which offer assured returns to cover
expenditure and rent for the Oman
Exhibition Centre.
An official in the Ministry of
Commerce and Industry said the move
to limit consumer expos was due to the
GDP up at 3.7pc in H1 of 2014
MUSCAT: According to preliminary
data of the Sultanate’s Gross Domestic
Product (GDP) at current prices
increased by 3.7 per cent during the first
half (January-June) of 2014 compared
to 2 per cent growth registered over
the same period in 2013, according to
Central Bank of Oman (CBO).
While nominal GDP emanating
from the hydrocarbon sector registered
a minor contraction of 0.4 per cent,
that from non-hydrocarbon activities
witnessed a growth of 7.3 per cent
during January-June 2014.
The balance of payments situation
remained comfortable with both current
account and overall position in surplus.
Annual inflation rate measured by
movement in the average CPI for the
Sultanate stood at 1.02 per cent during
January-November 2014.
The total assets of commercial banks
increased by 11 per cent to RO 24.7
billion in November 2014 from RO 22.3
billion a year ago.
Of the total assets, credit
disbursement accounted for 68 per cent
and increased by 10.4 per cent as at
the end of November 2014 to RO 16.8
Q Both current account and capital
account register surplus
Q Nominal GDP emanating from the
hydrocarbon sector registered a minor
contraction of 0.4 per cent
Q Non-hydrocarbon activities witnessed
a growth of 7.3 per cent
Credit to the private sector increased
by 9.9 per cent during the period to
reach RO 14.7 billion at the end of
November 2014.
Of the total credit to the private
sector by the end of November 2014,
the share of the non-financial corporate
sector stood at 48.1 per cent, closely
followed by the household sector
(mainly personal loans) at 45.2 per cent,
financial corporations at 4.6 per cent
and other sectors the remaining 2.1 per
The CBO bulletin added that
commercial banks’ overall investments
in securities increased by 13.9 per cent
to RO 2.8 billion at the end of November
2014 from RO 2.4 billion a year ago.
Of total investments, CBO CDs
stood at RO 1.3 billion while investment
in Government development bonds
(GDBs) stood at RO 464.6 million as at
the end of November 2014.
Commercial banks’ investments in
foreign securities increased by 37 per
cent to RO 704.8 million in November
Aggregate deposits held with
commercial banks registered a
significant increase of 14 per cent to RO
17.3 billion in November 2014 from RO
15.2 billion a year ago.
commercial banks increased by 11.6 per
cent to RO 5 billion. Deposits of public
enterprises increased by 3.2 per cent to
RO 0.90 billion during the same period.
Of the various infotainment activities for kids, the Robot Centre at Al Amerat is a big draw
Muscat Festival attracting record visitors
MAX: 250C
MIN: 190C
MAX: 270C
MIN: 200C
FAJR: 05:32
DHUHR: 12:22
ASR: 15:27
MAGHRIB: 17:48
ISHA: 19:02
MAX: 230C
MIN: 80C
Jan 17: The venues of Muscat Festival,
which was started on Thursday,
attracted record number of visitors on
the first weekend. The two parks where
majority of the festival events are taking
place witnessed heavy footfalls, majority
families on the first three days.
“We received a huge population on
the first three days with Friday being the
highest. However, we are yet to ascertain
the exact number of the visitors”, Younus
bin Sakhi al Balushi, head of Al Amerat
Park activities, said.
The 2014 edition of the festival
had proved to be a bigger hit than its
previous editions, recording nearly
1 million visitors, with Amerat Park
alone attracting around half of the total
Al Amerat Public Park is hosting
Al Amerat Public Park is hosting Omani heritage village, craft Industries market,
small and medium enterprises market, and incense and perfumes market.
Omani heritage village, craft Industries
market, small and medium enterprises
market, incense and perfumes market,
dates and honey exhibition, the
international exhibition for crafts and
arts, ice village, interactive village (Tele
Match) while Al Naseem Public Park
is featuring an international consumer
exhibition, which includes nearly 420
shops that sell miscellaneous products
and goods.
“We experienced a large number of
visitors of various nationalities along
with locals to the different entertainment
areas”, Safa Nasser, gatekeeper at the
Naseem Park told the Observer.
The cultural events include a number
of lectures, seminars, poetry readings
and chant nights. Theatres and arenas at
Al Naseem and Al Amerat Public Parks
are stages for a variety of cultural events.
Out of the various infotainment
activities for kids, the Robot Centre at
Amerat Park is packed with children of
various ages because here, they are given
a rate retreat to the intriguing world of
science but in their own, playful way.
The area where everyone can assemble
a live robot is pulling kids and their
parents to this corner. TURN TO P2
concern over the quality of products
and its impact on traders. He said the
international exhibitors are mostly
street vendors and with some facilities
provided by the local organising
company. “Such exhibitions negatively
affected the retail traders who have
to pay rents and employees’ salaries.
This is why the ministry reduced the
frequency of such exhibitions to five in
a year in Muscat and even less in other
On the absence of the Omani
companies, Saleh al Wuhaibi, OITE,
said the frankincense and perfumes
makers participate at exhibitions
as people trust their products. The
Omani companies in fields like textiles,
accessories refuse to participate as they
don’t have the spirit of challenge to face
international companies. They also
bargain a lot on rent for the space at the
Oman likely to
receive rains
from today
MUSCAT: It may rain in Oman from
Sunday for 3 days. The latest weather
charts and numerical predictions
indicate that the Sultanate’s north will
be affected by a low weather system,
said a Public Authority for Civil
Aviation (PACA) statement.
Weather may be cloudy or partially
cloudy over the governorates of South
Al Batinah, Muscat, Al Dhahira, Al
Buraimi and North Al Sharqiyah
this evening with chances of rain,
thundershowers, gust and hailstorm.
Light showers are likely along the
Dhofar and Wosta coasts.
According to PACA statement,
active northerly winds may cause
waves to rise by two to three metres
on the coast of the Sea of Oman and
the Governorate of Musandam with
temperatures relatively falling during
the night. The PACA statement
called on people to exercise caution
during rainfall. — ONA
Application for
Majlis elections
from today
MUSCAT: The Ministry of Interior
will start receiving applications to
take part in the Majlis Ash’shura’s 8th
term elections as per the ministerial
decision No 221/2014 issued by
Sayyid Hamoud bin Faisal al Busaidy,
Minister of Interior.
Applications for candidacy for
the membership of Majlis Ash’shura
may be submitted from Sunday (18
January) until 5 February (Thursday).
25 August is the last date for
withdrawing the applications.
The Ministry of Interior said that
eligible citizens who meet the required
conditions and wish to stand for Majlis
Ash’shura membership may hand over
their applications at the wali’s office
in the wilayat from which they want
to stand the elections after filling in
a form and enclosing the required
documents. — ONA
S U N DAY l J A N U A R Y 1 8 l 2 0 1 5
The 4th edition of the
International Horses,
Camels and Heritage
Exhibition, also known
as Omani Assaayel,
organised by Vision Expo in
collaboration with Assayel
Company concluded at
the Oman International
Exhibition Centre, recently.
SEOUL: The Sultanate’s embassy in
South Korea launched its monthly
event titled: “Welcome to Oman” and
held a reception for a South Korean
students’ delegation from Hanyang
University travelling to the Sultanate
as part of an academic and student exchange programme between Hanyang
University and the Middle East College.
Mohammed bin Salim al Harthi, the
Sultanate’s accredited Ambassador to
the Republic of Korea, confirmed the
embassy’s keenness to do everything
possible to strengthen the Omani-Korean bilateral relations.
He pointed out to the importance
of students programmes and the exchange of knowledge and expertise as
the civilisation is a bridge for under-
standing between the peoples.
A visual display featuring the historic, civilisational and touristic aspects
of the Sultanate was screened.
The Korean students delegation,
which comprises 20 students, is due to
leave for Muscat on Thursday and will
be hosted by the Middle East College
for one month in its premises at the
Knowledge Oasis, Muscat.
The Royal Oman Police
foiled an attempt by
a drug peddler to
smuggle in 14,770
tramadol capsules
in the wilayat of
Khasab in Musandam
Governorate. The
tablets were to be sold
in Oman. — ONA
MoE signs MoU with Intel
MUSCAT: Dr Madeeha bint Ahmed
al Shaibaniyah, Minister of Education,
signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Intel International extending the cooperation in providing Intel educational programmes which aims
to enhance the teaching level of teachers
and enable them to exploit information
and communication technologies in the
Taha Khalifa, Intel General Manager,
MENA region, who signed the MoU on
behalf of Intel International, said that
the firm was ready to transfer its experience in the application of ITT in the
field of education in the Sultanate adding that such an initiative will help create
generations that are capable of acquiring
skills needed by the labour market.
Al Shaibaniyah said the continuation
of cooperation between the ministry of
education and Intel International will
Muscat Festival attracts record number of visitors
“This area is providing a rare chance for the
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Looking for
job, car, flat
and furniture?
Check out the
page. It’s
where buyers
meet sellers.
Dr Madeeha bint Ahmed al Shaibaniyah, Minister of Education, and Taha Khalifa,
Intel General Manager, MENA region, signing a memorandum of understanding on
providing technology-aided education in the classrooms.
-- ONA
add a host of advantages in the field of and the introduction of technologies inprofessional development of teachers side classrooms.
JANUARY 18 l 2015
Jabal Shams — coolest place in the entire region
AL HAMRA: Jabal Shams in the Wilayat
of Al Hamra is one of the most famous
tourist attractions in the Sultanate and is
one of the major destinations for visitors
from withing the country and outside. It
is an extension of the western Al Hajar
mountain range, about 42 km away from
the centre of the Wilayat of Al Hamra and
includes more than 30 villages and residential complexes.
Jabal Shams is located at the centre
of a number of governorates of the Sultanate. It is bordered to the east by the
Wilayat of Nizwa and to the south by the
Wilayat of Bahla and to the north by the
villages of South Al Batinah Governorate
and to the west by the Wilayat of Ibri. The
reason for naming Jabal Shams is that it is
the first place to catch the rays of the new
day’s sun and to see go down.
The highest point in the mountain is
more than 3,000 metres above sea level
and it is the highest peak in the Arabian
Gulf. The average temperature there during summer ranges between 20 and 30
degrees Celsius and in winter it is 1 to 10
degrees below zero. Sometimes it snows
on top of Jabal Shams.
The villages in Jabal Shams are spread
out at various places in the mountain.
Some of them are small and consist of a
small number of simple houses commensurate with mountain life. They disperse
from the foot of the mountain, which
embraces the villages of Al Nakhr, Al
Hajer, Ghoul, Al Minthar, and Al Rahba.
Jabal Shams is famous for growing
garlic as the Ministry of Agriculture and
Fisheries supports the residents of the villages of Dar Al Aqour, Dar Al Souda and
Menda for the cultivation of garlic along
with fruits and various crops.
In order to maintain the stability and
survival of the people in these scattered
villages at Jabal Shams, the government
has provided electricity services, which
covered all the villages in addition to
drinking water service by commercial
tankers to residents of the villages.
An integrated school is being
currently built for basic education in the
area of Hail Ashour. Despite the fact that
these villages are far from the centre of
the Wilayat of Al Hamra, the residents
are determined to stay on the mountain despite harsh weather conditions.
The Ministry of Housing distributed a
number of plots within the framework of
the housing schemes.
One can reach Jabal Shams by going
to the Wilayat of Al Hamra, then turn off
the road to the dam Wadi Ghoul, passing
by the climbing road of the mountain in
a zigzag path, which provides a view to
some of the attractions at the bottom of
the mountain.
Jabal Shams is characterised by its
climate, which is cold in winter and mild
in summer. Many tourists visit the area
during summer months to enjoy the cold
Jabal Shams is also characterised by
tranquillity away from the hustle and
bustle of the cities where a lot of beauti-
ful places are available for camping and
In the many foothills and peaks of
Jabal Shams, there are a number of tourist
guesthouses which were built by both the
private sector and the Ministry of Tourism. The visitor can spend the beautiful
times enjoying the moments being at the
highest peak in the Sultanate and enjoying the wonderful views.
Mountain tourism in the Sultanate gets a big boost Malaysian doctors
Jan 17: Maitha bint Saif al Mahrouqiya, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism,
dedicated first of its kind 30 exquisite pods
for tourists to Oman’s charming mountainous
landscape in Al Hamra in Al Dakhiliyah Governorate which is located 1,500 metres above
the sea level.
Named ‘The View’ these 30 private suites
designed to overlook the cliffs and sun rise
and built on different levels will act as a starhotel catering to the yearning visitors to the
“These pods are the first of its kind in the
country’s tourism history. We aim to cater
to the foreign as well as domestic tourists
who are keen on mountain tourism”, Maitha
al Mahrouqiya, told the Observer, adding,
“Those who love little bit of adventure tourism also are welcome to try out these exclusive facility”.
The delightful getaway, nestled on the
summit of Hail al Shas in the Wilayat of Hamra, has long been popular with international
tourists as well as weekenders from Muscat as
it is just two and a half hours drive. Its idyllic
location not only gives its guests spectacular
views of the surrounding natural grandeur
characterised by soaring mountains and
plunging canyons but also serves as a con-
venient base from which to explore some of
Oman’s most exciting natural and historical
attractions across nearby Al Hamra, Bahla,
Nizwa and Jabrin. The average temperature
between 15 – 20 degrees is a major draw for
“We have plans to replicate the same concept in other regions as well depending upon
the acceptability of the same”, she added.
‘The View’ by Zawawi Group, a tent-con-
cept residences and a one-of-a-kind holiday
retreat tucked away in the rugged highlands
of the region has been transformed into a
charming mountain retreat after an eightmonth-long refurbishment recently.
“The View is more than just an accommodation with breathtaking panoramic view of
Al Hamra’s rugged grandeur. It’s an oasis that
offers reposeful tranquillity on one hand, and
a comfortable base on the other for the visi-
Total revenue of 4 and 5 star hotels increased by 10.5 per cent
4 and 5 star hotel revenues
increase in November 2014
MUSCAT: The total number of guests
staying at 4 and 5 star hotels in the Sultanate witnessed a significant increase
of 25.4 per cent at the end of November
2014. In all 701,630 guests checked in
compared with 599,509 guests recorded
during the same period last year.
The total revenue for 4 and 5 star hotels also grew by 10.5 per cent during the
same period, rising to RO 148,247,000
compared with RO 134,219,000 during
the same period of 2013. Occupancy
rates also registered an increase of 4.4
per cent rising to 59.9 per cent by the
end of November 2014, compared with
a 57.4 per cent occupancy recorded during the same period in 2013.
The “Main indicators for 4 and 5
star hotels” report issued by the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI) revealed that visitors from
Europe topped the list of hotel guests
(4 and 5 star) at the end of November
2014 with 238,592 guests compared to
178,119 guests during the same period
last year. This reflects a 34 per cent of
the total guest, followed by the Omanis
with 206,092 guests of 173,490 during
the same period last year, accounting for
18.8 per cent of the total guests.
Guests from the GCC countries recorded a total of 95,151 compared to
85,404 during the same period last year
comprising 11.4 per cent, while those
from Asia recorded 74,914 guests compared to 53,655 during the same period
last year, comprising 39.6 per cent of the
Guests from America comprised
14.6 per cent with 28,311 guests compared to 24,710 during the same period
last year, followed by the Arab countries
(Non-GCC countries) with 27,984 compared to 20,045, comprising 39.6 per
cent while the rest of guests represented
other nationalities.
The highest increase recorded was
with guests from Africa, with the num-
bers growing significantly by 59.4 per
cent. Meanwhile, guests from other
non-mentioned nationalities registered
the least increase with a 10.3 per cent
compared to the end of November 2013.
On a month to month basis, hotel
guests (4 and 5 star) at the end of November declined compared to October
and rose compared to September. In
September, the number of guests stood
at 56,290. In October, the number of
guests rose to stand at 89,112 while the
number declined in November to reach
Throughout this period, revenues in
September 2014 stood at RO 11,361,000.
In October, they rose to reach RO
17,227,000 while they declined in November to stand at RO 16,923,000.
During the same recording period, occupancy rates in November 2014 rose
to reach 72.6 per cent compared to 68.0
per cent in October, and 54.6 per cent in
September. — ONA
tor to explore some of northern Oman’s finest
natural and historical monuments. Indeed,
The View is like no other holiday haven that
Oman has to offer,” Abdulmunim al Zawawi,
Chairman, Zahara Group added.
The 15 tented structures that served as
lodgings in the past have been replaced by
stylish pods — 30 in all — each tastefully appointed and fitted out to provide guests with
a high degree of comfort and convenience.
King-size bed, LCD TV and standalone bathtub are part of an array of modern amenities
that await customers at this comprehensively
upgraded property.
“We have reopened The View for business
after an extensive makeover that has accentuated its resort-like ambience. And while retaining the appeal of an eco-luxe retreat, it can
now boast all of the amenities of a high-end
holiday destination”, noted Gautam Broota,
CEO, Zahara Tours.
Furthermore, the pods have been designed
and thoughtfully laid out to ensure magnificent canyon-facing views to all 30 lodgings, in
contrast to only seven of the 15 tented lodges
before the overhaul. This has been possible
due to a significant expansion of area that
now covers 12,000 square metres. What adds
to the beauty and the amazing view are the
rocky settings that have been left untouched
and go a long way to enhance The View’s appeal as a mountain retreat.
to share expertise
MUSCAT: Malaysian doctors and specialists are here in
Oman as Malaysia continues to gain popularity as a medical
tourism destination amongst the GCC countries. The
Malaysia Healthcare CME (Continuing Medical Education)
and free consultation for public will be held today at the
Hormuz Grand Hotel, by a group of medical doctors and
specialists from Malaysia.
The Ministry of Health Malaysia under the corporatised
agency, the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC)
is organising the CME programme for approximately 150
doctors from the public and private hospitals as well as invited
government officials in Oman from 9 a m till 12 noon today.
After which, the general public are welcomed and can
look forward to free outpatient (OPD) consultations from the
Malaysian doctors from 12 noon -2 pm on the same day on
stroke rehabilitation, diabetics and knee surgery.
His Excellency, Umardin bin Abdul Mutalib, the
Ambassador of Malaysia to Oman will grace the occasion.
Three reputable hospitals from Malaysia will be present for
the Malaysia Healthcare CME and general health talk.
For people who miss the free consultation, they can also
meet the Malaysian doctors at the IMTEC Oman.MHTC
and its member hospitals from Malaysia will be participating
in the IMTEC Oman to be held at the Oman International
Exhibition Centre (OIEC) from the January 19 to 21.
JANUARY 18l 2015
Al Sunaidy meets honchos of 30 companies
SUPPORTING SMES: Preparations to assess the implementation of the decisions of Saih Al Shamikhat symposium
Jan 17: Ali bin Masoud al Sunaidy,
Minister of Commerce and Industry
and chairman of the Main Committee
to assess the implementation of the
decisions of Saih Al Shamikhat, recently
met more than 40 chief executive officers,
general managers and representatives
of the companies working in the
private sector in the Sultanate. The
meeting focused on identifying the
initiatives that are currently offered to
entrepreneurs and will be offered in the
coming future. This meeting comes as
part of the committee’s preparation for
the upcoming symposium on assessing
the implementation of the Saih Al
Shamikhat decisions, which will be
held on January 26 at Sultan Qaboos
The meeting aims to identify the role
of the private sector in providing support
to small and medium enterprises. The
upcoming symposium hosts companies
working in various sectors such as
tourism, oil & gas, logistics, information
industry, mining and resources. In
addition, it also hosts entrepreneurs
who work in these sectors through
initiatives and opportunities provided
by the companies that support the role
of entrepreneurship in these sectors.
And on the challenges that
entrepreneurs face, Al Sunaidy said:
“The symposium on assessing the
implementation of the Saih Al Shamikhat
decisions will rationalise the reasons
to why government employees are
hesitant to leave their jobs to start their
projects.” He also mentioned a number
of challenges SME entrepreneurs face in
their endeavours.
The meeting also aimed to look
at the role of the private sector and its
contribution to support entrepreneurs.
In addition, it aimed to look at how the
private sector itself looks at the decisions
of the Saih Al Shamikhat symposium
and what this sector considers to be
the challenges facing SME and how to
overcome them.
The meeting emphasises the role
of the public and private sectors in
the continuous attention to develop
entrepreneurs’ skills. Furthermore, the
persistent need to support SME with the
services offered by the public and private
Moreover, there is a need to establish
a solid ground for entrepreneurship
through giving entrepreneurs the basic
knowledge and skills that develop
entrepreneurrial skills in them. This
will eventually contribute to finding a
group of Omani entrepreneurs which is
well equipped to execute its project and
develop them in the future.
The meeting gave a brief introduction
about the symposium of assessing
the implementation of the decisions
of Saih Al Shamikhat. It included the
goals of the symposium, its events and
workshops. It also highlighted the role of
the private sector to express their views
and constructive suggestions.
The symposium presents a real
opportunity to meet stakeholders and
everyone interested in entrepreneurship.
receive ship
No 300
DUQM: Oman Dry Dock
celebrate tomorrow the handing
over the ship number 300 since
the launch of operation at
ODDC in 2011. The celebration
will be held under the auspices
of Said bin Hamdoun al
Harthy, Undersecretary of the
Ministry of Transport and
Communications for Ports and
Maritime Affairs.
The ship, carrying this
number, is one of the most
important conversion of ships
from one use to another. It is a
ship that has been converted
from a container ship to an oil
tanker and is owned by one of
the largest Greek companies.
ODDC also receives a number of
relevant local and international
ships to this important maritime
ODDC is the first company
that specialises in the repair of
ships in the Sultanate. — ONA
Book, App on discounts in Oman launched
MUSCAT: The Entertainer Oman 2015 has been officially launched with over 700 ‘buy one get one free’
offers for restaurants, attractions, entertainment, spas,
salons, fitness and more, offering customers over RO
24,000 in savings throughout 2015.
From dining at leading restaurants to being pampered in a spa, the Entertainer Oman 2015 has offers
for many popular activities. Exciting new merchants
include The Great Kebab Factory, 360 Degrees, VOX
Cinemas, The Big Bus Tours, Café
Ceramique and Just Grilled..
Hundreds of popular
merchants are back for
2015, including TGI Friday’s, Burger King, Pizza
Express, Chili’s, Fun
Ville, Caribou Café and
many more.
Oman 2015 includes a
complimentary copy of
the Entertainer Travel
2015, which features over
250 ‘book one night, get
one free’ offers at leading 4 and 5-star hotels
across the Middle East,
Asia, Africa, Europe
and the Indian Ocean.
Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, InterContinental,
Shangri-La, Hyatt, Marriott and Viceroy are just
a few of the hundreds of
international names in-
cluded in the Entertainer Travel 2015.
Customers can choose between a printed book or
the Entertainer App, which was launched last year. With
over 350,000 downloads to date, the Entertainer App
has proved extremely popular with Entertainer customers — offering convenient access to offers, a simple
redemption process, location-based search and even a
savings tracker.
The Entertainer Oman 2015 gives customers who
buy through the Entertainer website or App, before
December 31, 2015, a special discount with
even more savings.
The book can be purchased online at a
lower rate.
“We have had su
such a positive response
to the App from our
o customers and we
want more people to enjoy the convenience
of searching for
and redeeming offers
on their phones, so
this year we’ve given
the best price on our
App,” said Donna
Benton, founder and
CEO of the Entertainer.
“Our Entertainer
2015 products are
our biggest and best
yet — providing our
customers with unbeatable value everywhere they go,” she
The Entertainer’s
ISC English spelling bee
contest on January 24
full range of 51 printed and mobile products provide
‘buy one get one free’ offers to the best restaurants, activities, attractions, spas and hotels across 40 destinations throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Europe
and the Indian Ocean.
Entertainer 2015 products are on offer online at: or through the Entertainer
App (available for iOS, Android, Blackberry 10 and
Windows phones).
MUSCAT: Indian Social Club
Malayalam Wing will be conducting
its annual English Spelling Contest for
school children on Saturday, January 24
at the ISM hall at Darsait.
Organised by the Children’s Wing
of the Malayalam Wing, kids from
all the schools in Oman are invited to
participate in the event. “Preparations
are under way and entry forms and the
rules and regulations of the contest have
already been sent to all the schools in
Oman”, Rajeev Kumar K K, Secretary
Childen’s Wing said. He further added
that the contest would be in three
groups, Class V to VII, Class VIII to X
and Class XI and XII.
The winners will be given trophies
and certificates on Children’s Day
celebrations. Application forms can be
collected from the respective schools
or from the ISC counter or from the
Malayalam Wing office at MBD area.
Children can also submit the forms
online through the website www.
NFC passenger traffic rises 177pc
The company carries 92,724 passengers and 21,000 vehicles
MUSCAT: The statistics released by
the National Ferries Company (NFC)
registered a growth in the number of
passengers transported by the company’s fleet during 2014 compared to
NFC statistics pointed out that the
number of passengers transported
by the company’s fleet amounted to
92,724 passengers during 2014 compared to 33,417 passengers in 2103,
comprising a growth by 177 per cent.
The number of vehicles shipped
on the company’s ferries during 2014
stood at 21,048 compared to 5,350 vehicles during the 2013.
Freight movement rose by 24.23
per cent to reach 261,432 tonnes in
2014 compared to 210,437 tonnes in
The statistics showed that the
number of passengers and vehicles transported grew in 2014. The
number of passengers transported in
the first half of the 2014 rose 20,786
passengers and 3,106 vehicles to
71,938 passengers and 17,942 vehicles in the second half of the year.
This significant growth in the second half of 2014 is attributed to the
launch of Shanna-Masirah route. This
route has managed to transport since
its launch in August 14, 2014 50,987
passengers and 14,151 vehicles which
comprises 55 per cent of the total passengers and 67 per cent of the total
vehicles transported last year.
The number of passengers on
amounted to 23,456 passengers com-
prising 25 per cent of the total of
passengers while the number of vehicles transported in the same route
reached 4,552 comprising 22 per cent
of the total of vehicles in 2014.
Shinas-Khasab route carried
14,339 passengers comprising 15 per
cent of the total of passengers and
2,345 vehicles comprising 11 per cent
of the total of transported vehicles.
Khasab-Lima route carried 3,942
passengers comprising 4 per cent of
the total of transported of passengers.
The statistics showed that the peak
of passengers was registered during
Eid Al Adha holiday in October, in
which 19,340 passengers and 4,737
vehicles were transported in various
stations covered by the NFC service
in the Sultanate, followed by November in which 16,176 passengers
and 4,078 vehicles were transported.
JANUARY 18 l 2015
Sohar welcomes Gulf Mining Group to Freezone
Jan 17: An opening ceremony was held
by Sohar Port and Freezone under the
auspices of Dr Ali Al Sunaidy, Minister
of Commerce and Industry, in which a
new ferrochrome smelter was officially
unveiled at the Freezone. The smelter is
the second of five planned for Sohar and
production at the new 100,000 square
metre, $19 million site will be led by
Gulf Mining Group, who signed a 25
year lease in 2012.
“Investment in the smelter is part of a
push to grow our metals cluster; to complement and support iron and aluminium industries at Sohar Port,” said Sohar
CEO, Jamal Aziz, adding that, “The metals cluster at Sohar is one of the most
fastest growing, with a high economic
yield. Studies indicate iron industries
and their derivatives have experienced
exceptional growth as they continue to
strive to meet demand.
The smelter will also become part of
a Freezone that has attracted 26 investment projects since its inception in 2010.
With a total value estimated at $620 million, the number of workers engaged in
at the Gulf Mining plant, which will proFreezone projects reached 2,400, with 3 ated as a result of procurement contracts services to multinationals.”
times the number of indirect jobs cre- signed by local companies to provide
More than 30 jobs have been created duce ferrochrome primarily for use in
Local companies shy of exhibitions
According to Al Wuhaibi, the specialised exhibitions are good for the company in the long term
as they strengthen relations with other companies.
“I believe that each company must promote for
the Omani products and talents. Through the specialised exhibitions, we try to promote the Omani
products and the SMEs as His Majesty has a great
interest in developing them”.
Um Azzan, a perfume and frankincense trader,
says that participation at exhibitions opens new
horizons for her trade. She gets to meet thousands
of people who admire her perfume and other
products and attract them to her shop located in
Al Mubaila.
The absence of Omani companies at exhibitions
may also be attributed to the absence of a dynamic
consumer culture and lack of rights awareness in
the Sultanate. Dr Mohammed al Araimi of the
Public Authority for Consumer Protection reveals
that two years back, the consumer culture in Oman
was zero. However, after the establishment of the
authority, it started to spread awareness about consumer rights and consumer protection among the
Omanis consider these exhibitions as a source
of entertainment rather than shopping as Muscat
and other governorates lack recreational centres.
One downside of these expos is that consumers
are unable to return the product if it is unsuitable
or of poor quality. Salem al Rabaani said, “I visited
the last Iranian expo. I went there to get some carpets and I was quite enthusiastic to get a good one.
However, I couldn’t stand it when I saw people jostling and I left the expo. We need some organised
places so that people can purchase products without hassle and haste. In short, I don’t believe that
we have a consumer culture”.
Dr Al Araimi said permanent exhibition centres could solve the problem of the crowds. He said
there is a need for a unified legislation by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry on the retail shops
and the exhibiting companies.
“It is a disgrace also to see exhibitors screaming
and bargaining like fish market. We don’t enjoy exhibitions because of such acts”, Salem said.
According to Ruqaya al Rawahi, people spend
money on things that they don’t need. “For example when ladies hear about any exhibition, they
don’t hesitate to visit it although many exhibitions
are held after the Eid and prior to Eid... they surely
have bought all they need. Why do we exaggerate
purchasing unnecessary things? It is transforming
into addiction!!”
Samia al Barwani says “I always go to the consumer exhibitions because I find products which
are not available in the local market. There are
plenty of goods that satisfy all tastes and instead of
going to many shops looking for the desired object,
the exhibition provides all under one roof ”.
Muna agrees with Samia. “The products in the
exhibition are much cheaper than those you can
get from the retail shops”.
Dr Mohammed clarified that the retail market
needs to review its policies in terms of prices and
variety to attract consumers.
WHO says contact tracing of
coronavirus cases going on
Jan 17: Contact tracing of the household
and healthcare contacts of two Oman
based patients diagnosed recently with
the deadly Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus
(MERSCoV) infection is currently
under way, according to the World
Health Organisation. The world body
said in a news bulletin released over the
weekend that it was notified of the two
cases, which includes one fatality, during
the January 7–10, 2015 timeframe.
The first case involved that of a
32-year old male from Al Dakhiliyah
Governorate who developed symptoms on December 27 and was admitted to hospital on January 5. The patient
owned a farm and had frequent contact
with camels, goats and sheep. However,
he had no history of exposure to other
known risk factors in the 14 days prior to
the onset of symptoms. He passed away
on January 7 after admission to the ICU.
The second case — that of a 31-year
old female also from Al Dakhiliyah
Governorate — has been described as
a household contact of the MERSCoV
that who had passed away earlier.
Developing symptoms on January 8,
the patient was admitted to hospital a
day later. Although the household owns
camels, she had no direct contact with
them. The patient is said to be in stable
condition and remains in isolation.
Globally, WHO has been notified of
950 laboratory confirmed cases of infection with MERSCoV, including at least
350 related deaths.
“Based on the current situation and
available information, WHO encourages
all Member States to continue their surveillance for acute respiratory infections
and to carefully review any unusual patterns,” the world body said.
“Infection prevention and control
measures are critical to prevent the possible spread of MERSCoV in healthcare
facilities. It is not always possible to
identify patients with MERSCoV early
because like other respiratory infections, the early symptoms of MERSCoV
are non-specific. Therefore, healthcare
workers should always apply standard precautions consistently with all
patients, regardless of their diagnosis.
Droplet precautions should be added
to the standard precautions when providing care to patients with symptoms
of acute respiratory infection; contact
precautions and eye protection should
be added when caring for probable or
confirmed cases of MERSCoV infection;
airborne precautions should be applied
when performing aerosol generating
Until more is understood about
MERSCoV, people with diabetes, renal failure, chronic lung disease, and
immune compromised persons are
considered to be at high risk of severe
disease from MERSCoV infection, says
“Therefore, these people should avoid
close contact with animals, particularly
camels, when visiting farms, markets, or
barn areas where the virus is known to
be potentially circulating.
General hygiene measures, such as
regular hand washing before and after
touching animals and avoiding contact
with sick animals, should be adhered
to. Food hygiene practices should be
observed. People should avoid drinking
raw camel milk or camel urine, or eating
meat that has not been properly cooked,”
it stated.
(OEPPA Business Development Dept)
producing stainless steel, of which 80 per
cent of this compound is ferrochrome.
Close to 90 indirect jobs will also be
created as a result of production at the
plant, and with global ferrochrome and
stainless steel output set for growth.
Aziz thanked the Gulf Mining Group
for its timely introduction at Sohar: “I
would like to take this opportunity to
congratulate Gulf Mining Group for this
important project, through which a significant value will be added to the natural resources of the Sultanate.
Instead of exporting chromite as
a raw material to foreign markets,
processing can take place locally. I also
thank them for their commitment to
the development of human resources in
the industry, and wish them every success.”
Global production of stainless steel
reached 4.8 million metric tonnes in
2014, with China and South Africa the
major players in international markets,
and since ferrochrome imparts the noncorrosive property to stainless steel,
there is a strong positive correlation in
the outlook for both industries. With
the outlook for markets in Europe in
particular looking positive for 2015, the
addition of a second ferrochrome plant
at Sohar bodes well in terms of expanding production and firming up interests
in EU markets and beyond.
At the same time, dry bulk cargo,
including the raw materials required to
produce ferrochrome, achieved a growth
of 37 per cent at Sohar Port in 2013. V
olumes surpassed 26 million tonnes
annually and accounted for half of the
50 million tonnes of cargo handled. In
2014, growth across all cargo types has
been similarly impressive, with the port
welcoming its first 2,000th ship in a calendar year, and a 13 per cent rise in GRT
(gross register tonnage).
GDP up at 3.7pc in H1 of 2014
The CBO bulletin pointed
out that private sector
deposits, which constituted
64.4 per cent of total deposits
with commercial banks,
increased by 16.9 per cent to
RO 11.2 billion in November
2014 from RO 9.5 billion a
year ago.
Sector-wise, the share of
households was 48.1 per cent
of the total private sector
deposit base, followed by
non-financial corporations
at 28.7 per cent, financial
corporations at 21.6 per cent
and other sectors at 1.6 per
during the year continued to
be faced with abundance of
bank liquidity and the primary
focus of CBO was to ensure
appropriate levels of liquidity
in the banking system.
At the end of November
2014, narrow money stock
(M1) when measured on yearon-year basis, grew sharply
by 23.7 per cent driven both
by the increase in demand
deposits by 27.1 per cent, as
well as increase in currency
with the public by 14.4 per
The CBO bulletin said that
quasi-money (RO savings and
time deposits, certificates of
deposits issued by commercial
banks, margin deposits and
foreign currency denominated
deposits) witnessed a growth
of 11.6 per cent during the
The share of quasi-money
to the total money stock
declined to 64 per cent in
November 2014 as compared
to 66.3 per cent a year ago.
Broad money supply M2
(i.e. M1 plus quasi-money)
stood at RO 13,253.9 million
at end of November 2014,
up from RO 11,460.1 million
a year ago, registering an
increase of 15.7 per cent
during the period.
In respect of domestic
interest rate structure of
commercial banks, both
deposit and lending rates
softened during this period.
CBO’s policy interest rate
for absorption of surplus
liquidity in the form of CBO
CDs of 28 days maturity was
0.13 per cent in November
2014 same as in November
The CBO’s policy rate for
injection of liquidity, i.e. repo
rate remained unchanged at 1
per cent since March 2012.
domestic inter-bank lending
rate softened from 0.133 per
cent in November 2013 to
0.127 per cent in November
S U N DAY l J A N U A R Y 1 8 l 2 0 1 5
Taiwan’s agricultural officials said avian
influenza virus H5N3 has been detected
for the first time in Taiwan. Officials
of the Council of Agriculture said 2,720
geese at two farms, where H5N3 were
detected, were destroyed. The H5N3 is
the third new type of bird flu virus strain
detected in Taiwan since the newest
avian flu outbreak was first reported
last Friday.
Twenty-two people, including eight
foreigners, have been confirmed dead
after a tugboat capsized and sank in the
Yangtze River in eastern China. Rescuers
found the body of the last missing person,
Japanese engineer Masashi Kanasaki, in
the tug’s cockpit about 2 pm. The boat
was raised to the surface 40 hours after
it sank with the owner and technicians
TORN APART BY STORM : Fierce storm kills a papal volunteer; Plane skids off wet runway in Tacloban
Emotional Pope comforts typhoon victims
Sea conditions
prevent divers
from reaching
jet’s main body
TACLOBAN: Pope Francis was forced
yesterday to flee a fierce storm in the
Philippines that killed a papal volunteer,
cutting short a mercy mission to
weeping survivors of a catastrophic
super typhoon.
Wearing a yellow plastic poncho to
protect him from intense rain, Francis
delivered an emotional mass to about
200,000 people in the typhoon-ravaged
central Philippine city of Tacloban.
However, plans to spend the entire
day in Tacloban and nearby areas that
were devastated by Super Typhoon
Haiyan 14 months ago were ruined by
another storm, forcing him to fly back to
Manila at lunchtime.
“So I apologise to you all. I’m sad
about this, truly saddened,” the 78-yearold pontiff told thousands of people
who had gathered at one church shortly
before he raced back to the airport.
The pope’s plane made the 90-minute
flight back to the Philippine capital of
Manila safely.
But highlighting the dangers of the
storm, a papal volunteer at the morning
mass died as steel scaffolding collapsed
on her, a church spokesman said.
A plane carrying three of President
Benigno Aquino’s aides then overshot
the runway on take-off at Tacloban and
nosedived into mud, 30 minutes after
Pope Francis’s plane flew back to Manila.
No-one was badly injured.
Former Philippine first lady and now Congresswoman Imelda Marcos attends a mass in the highlight of Pope Francis’ pastoral visit to the country yesterday at Tacloban,
Leyte province in central Philippines. Marcos also hails from Leyte. Right: Bystanders and airport staff rush to offer help after a plane accident next to the tarmac of the
international airport in Tacloban.
— AP
confirmed that the storm’s strong
crosswinds had blown the plane off the
The trip to Tacloban and surrounding
areas was one of the top reasons for
the pope making a five-day visit to the
Philippines, the Catholic Church’s Asian
stronghold, where he is a highly revered
Haiyan, the most powerful storm
ever recorded on land, left 7,350 people
dead or missing in November 2013 as it
devastated fishing and farming towns
Taiwanese party looks to
new leader to turn tide
TAIPEI: Taiwan’s Beijing-friendly
ruling party appointed a new leader
yesterday in the hope of reversing
its fortunes after its worst-ever local
election setback reflected growing fears
over Chinese influence.
President Ma Ying-Jeou resigned as
chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT)
over the election defeat in November,
seen as a public backlash over warming
ties with China since he took power.
Rising star Eric Chu, the mayor of
New Taipei city, stood unopposed for the
party leadership on Saturday and was
elected with 196,065 votes, or 99.61 per
cent of the total cast by party members,
the KMT said. He will formally take the
reins tomorrow. China’s President Xi
Jinping sent his congratulations to Chu
shortly after his election was announced,
a KMT statement said.
“I hope our two parties will continue
to expand exchanges in the future
development of cross-strait ties to create
mutual benefits and win-win situations,
and to promote lasting peace and
prosperity between the two sides,” Chu
said in a reply telegram to Xi.
The 53-year-old former accounting
professor is seen as a safe pair of hands
to strike the delicate balance of building
relations with China and appeasing a
frustrated electorate.
“The KMT will not be destroyed.
The KMT will rise again as long as
we... always stand by the people’s side,”
Chu said last week at a party event
surrounded by supporters.
Taiwan and China split in 1949 at the
end of a civil war but Beijing still claims
the island as part of its territory awaiting
reunification — by force if necessary.
Voters feel that trade deals with Beijing
have been agreed in secret and have
not benefited ordinary Taiwanese, with
mass protests against a trade pact last
year leading to a three-week occupation
of the island’s parliament by students.
that were already among the Philippines’
The pope celebrated a truncated but
still deeply emotional mass for survivors
at Tacloban’s airport, after receiving a
joyous welcome from a crowd that police
estimated at about 200,000 people.
“Long live the pope,” the crowd
chanted as he walked off the plane to be
immediately buffeted by strong winds
and heavy rain.
His welcome echoed the rapturous
reception that millions gave the pontiff
during the first two days of his trip to the
Most of the people in the crowd at
Tacloban wore thin plastic ponchos
handed out by organisers, and the pope
also put one on before walking on to a
nearby stage to celebrate mass in heavy
“I would like to tell you something
close to my heart,” the pope said as
many in the crowd clutched crucifixes
and cried.
“When I saw in Rome that
catastrophe, I felt I had to be here. And
on those very days, I decided to come
here. I’m here to be with you.”
He acknowledged the enduring pain
experienced by the survivors.
“Some of you have lost part of your
families. All I can do is keep silent. And
I walk with you all with my silent heart,”
he said.
The pope declared God would never
let them down, and many in the crowd
said the pontiff ’s words had indeed lifted
their spirits.
Japan Atomic
Protesters hold placards during a demonstration denouncing security policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in front of the
National Diet yesterday. Several hundred people, mainly women, took part in the demonstration by forming a human chain
and surrounding the Diet.
Major cities are restricting the numbers of new cars on the road in an attempt to tackle pollution and congestion
Car-buying limits spark national debate in China
BEIJING: Hordes of people rushed to
buy cars late last month in the southern
Chinese metropolis of Shenzhen, after
officials gave the public a 15-minute
warning before setting new limits on
the number of licence plates they would
Some paid thousands of dollars
extra to car dealers taking advantage
of panicked buyers, while those who
heeded rumours about the impending
curbs purchased cars earlier in the
month: 42,000 new registrations were
recorded from December 1 to December
20, according to official figures.
From December 29, the government
would only issue 100,000 licence plates
a year via auctions and lotteries to
residents living in the sprawling city of
over 7 million.
Shenzhen, which borders Hong
Kong, is the eighth city in China to
restrict vehicle registration, joining
Beijing — which introduced a cap in
Cars wait at a traffic light on a hazy day in Xiangyang, China.
2011 — Shanghai, Hangzhou, Tianjin,
Guangzhou, Guiyang and Shijiazhuang.
Additional traffic control methods
adopted by most cities include licence
allocation through lotteries and
and strong currents in the Java Sea
again prevented Indonesian navy
divers from accessing the fuselage
and what is believed to be the cockpit
from the AirAsia plane that crashed
three weeks ago, officials said.
A team of 15 navy divers tried to
get to the wreckage to examine it and
calculate its weight, but failed to reach
it due to the unfavourable conditions,
said Suryadi Bambang Supriyadi,
director of operations for Indonesia’s
National Search and Rescue Agency.
Indonesian survey ships have located
at least nine big objects, including the
jet’s fuselage, what is believed to be the
cockpit and an engine, Supriyadi said.
The fuselage is sitting on the
seabed at a depth of 28 metres.
The 30-metre-long fuselage and
an attached wing were sighted on
Divers attempted to reach the
wreckage on Thursday and Friday,
but were turned back because of the
rough sea conditions. Authorities
believe many of the bodies are still
inside the fuselage.
There were 162 people aboard
Flight 8501 when it crashed into the
sea on December 28 en route from
Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest
city, to Singapore. Only 51 bodies
have been recovered so far. The head
of the search and rescue agency,
Henry Bambang Soelistyo, said on
Friday that the fuselage would have
to be lifted because of the divers’
inability to reach it.
— AP
— Reuters
restrictions on non-local cars from
driving into the city at certain times.
sometimes applied to certain licence
plate numbers, such as being barred
from driving in the daytime or being able
to drive only on either even-numbered
or odd-numbered dates.
The pandemonium and outrage felt
by many citizens in Shenzhen sparked a
nationwide debate over the effectiveness
of such restrictions, as well as their legal
There are over 157 million registered
private cars in China, and in notoriously
smoggy cities such as Beijing, emissions
from vehicles make up over a quarter of
locally emitted pollutants, according to
official estimates.
The licence caps are aimed at reducing
vehicle emissions and congestion,
according to state media.
But, as carmakers welcomed record
sales last year in the world’s largest car
market, experts say the policy has not
made a significant impact so far.
Yearly passenger car sales in China
have jumped to nearly 20 million units
from 2 million cars a year a decade
earlier. Sales in 2014 increased by 9.9 per
cent to 19.7 million compared to sales in
As the purchasing power of China’s
middle class continues to grow and the
country rapidly urbanizes, the volume
of new drivers has overwhelmed
mushrooming traffic volumes.
“Car restrictions stimulate sales and
has a negative impact on the pollution
and congestion,” said Cui Dongshu,
Deputy Secretary of the Joint Advisory
Committee of China Passenger Car
Market (JACCPCM).
“When car restrictions are applied to
one city, it is interesting to see that more
cars are being sold in that city,” Cui said.
Foreign carmakers say their sales
receive a boost in Chinese cities before
licence restrictions come into force,
while local, lower-end carmakers are
more likely to see a drop in sales after
the restrictions come into force. — dpa
TOKYO: Japan Atomic Power
Company is considering splitting
itself into two units, seeking to
restructure its business to focus on
the decommissioning of nuclear
reactors on behalf of regional utilities,
the Nikkei business daily reported
The plan appears to reflect the
government’s intention to reorganise
Japan’s nuclear power businesses,
which have effectively come to a halt
since the 2011 Fukushima disaster,
the newspaper said.
Calls made seeking a response to
the Nikkei report were not returned
Unlisted Japan Atomic Power,
owned mostly by Japanese power
companies, including Fukushima
reactor operator Tokyo Electric
Power Co, currently generates no
All three of its reactors are offline.
It has managed to stay in business
by receiving more than 100 billion
yen ($851 million) a year from the
five regional utilities with which it
has supply contracts.
However, with no prospect of
restarting its reactors, the sponsor
utilities have asked Japan Atomic
Power to draw up a restructuring plan
that creates a new revenue source, the
Nikkei reported.
Japan Atomic Power is the only
company in the country that operates
both boiling-water and pressurisedwater reactors, so it plans to realign
human and technical resources
according to reactor type. Leading
shareholder Tepco proposed the
plan, with second-largest stakeholder
Kansai Electric Power seen agreeing
with it.
— Reuters
JANUARY 18 l 2015
Five held in Afghan over
Pakistan school massacre
KABUL: Afghan security services have
arrested five men in connection with the
massacre at a Pakistan military school
last month that killed 150 people, most of
them children, officials said yesterday.
The men, all foreigners, helped support the December 16 assault by the
Taliban at the Army Public School and
College in the city of Peshawar, the three
Afghan officials said. They said the men
were arrested in recent weeks near Afghanistan’s eastern border with Pakistan.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorised to brief
journalists about the arrests. Officials in
Pakistan declined to immediately comment.
The attack in Peshawar, which saw seven Taliban gunmen in suicide bomb vests
slaughter children gathered in the school’s
auditorium and hallways, shocked and
enraged citizens across Pakistan.
Though the two countries long have
been rivals, Afghan President Ashraf
Ghani has pledged to have closer relations with Pakistan. Within 24 hours of
the school attack, Pakistan’s chief of army
staff, Gen Raheel Sharif, flew to Kabul to
meet with Ghani to discuss closer cooperation on combating cross-border terrorism.
Western diplomats and military officials have said the level of cooperation
between Kabul and Islamabad since the
Peshawar attack is unprecedented. One
Western diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence
matters, said those arrested by Afghanistan might be used in a prisoner swap
deal with Pakistan.
KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani yesterday condemned the decision by French magazine Charlie Hebdo to show a cartoon of the Prophet
on its cover following a deadly attack on its offices by gunmen.
Ghani blasted the cartoon as “an insult to the sacred religion of Islam
and the Muslim world”, a statement from the presidential palace said.
The satirical magazine’s new cover has angered many Muslims worldwide, sparking protests from Pakistan to Niger, as depictions of the
Prophet are widely considered forbidden in Islam.
“President Ghani on behalf of the Afghan nation condemns this insulting act, and termed it desecrating the religious values,” the palace
said, describing the magazine’s decision to publish it as “irresponsible”.
Wednesday’s issue of Charlie Hebdo was the first since brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi gunned down 12 people at the magazine’s Paris offices on January 7 over such cartoons.
Ghani had strongly condemned the bloody assault on the magazine,
branding it “heinous”.
The cover of Charlie Hebdo’s “survivors’ issue” shows the Prophet
with a tear in his eye, under the headline “All is forgiven”.
There were protests across deeply conservative Afghanistan in 2012
over earlier cartoons by the magazine showing the Prophet, as well as
over a US-made anti-Islam film.
A few hundred people demonstrated last week in the central Afghan
province of Uruzgan, praising the gunmen and criticising Ghani’s condemnation of the Paris attack. — AFP
The diplomat did not say whom Afghanistan might get in return. Both countries accuse each other of harbouring terrorists on the other’s territory, enabling
them to plan and carry out assaults before
sneaking across the mountainous borders
they share. Pakistan is in the middle of
an operation to attack suspected militant
hideouts in its tribal region bordering Af— AP
Muslim devotees flock to the bank of Turag River on the first day of the second phase of the Muslim congregation, known as
Biswa Ijtema, on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Friday. The second phase of the second largest annual Muslim
congregation after the holy Haj began on Friday.
1,000 villagers get trapped by
fighting in eastern Myanmar
YANGON: Trucks were on standby
yesterday to try to rescue more than
1,000 residents trapped in two villages
in Myanmar’s restive state of Kachin,
where fierce fighting broke out between
government troops and rebels, residents
The displaced, including children,
sought refuge in Buddhist monasteries
and Christian churches, said Gam Aung,
a resident in Lone Khin, a town within
earshot of the gunbattles in the northern
“Everyone is terrified,” said Tin Soe,
an opposition member who lives in the
Heavily armed soldiers have so far
blocked efforts to ferry them to safety,
said Dawng Hka, a spokesman for the
ethnic insurgents.
There was no immediate comment
from the government.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, was
under dictatorship until 2011, and President Thein Sein’s nominally civilian government has spearheaded the country’s
bumpy transition toward democratic
rule. With many of his early reforms
now stalled or sliding backward, he is
trying to end decades-long civil wars in
resource-rich border regions before his
term ends later this year.
His administration has already
agreed to tentative truce agreement with
14 insurgent factions, but Kachin rebels
continued to hold out, demanding rights
to self-determination before signing on.
The latest round of violence broke
out on Thursday after members of the
Kachin Independence Army (KIA)
briefly took hostage a state transport
minister who was travelling through
the region in a convoy, the governmentbacked Global New Light of Myanmar
newspaper reported. He has since been
released, but three police accompanying
him remained in rebel hands.
Fighting between the army and
Kachin insurgents broke out in 2011,
ending a 17-year truce. Since then, more
than 100,000 Kachin civilians have been
displaced, and the rebels have progressively lost territory, pressed closer and
closer against the Chinese border. — AP
Canadian volunteer held in Nepal
year, recording a turnover less than that
of a corner grocery store.
The only foreign airlines which operate services through the airport are UAEbased Fly Dubai and Rotana Jet Aviation.
Two budget carriers pulled out of
the airport last year saying it was uneconomical due to insufficient traffic, but Sri
Lankan Airlines maintained flights for
political reasons, according to official
Local media dismissed the airport as a
vanity project for Rajapakse who had also
named a sea port, a performing arts centre and a conventions centre after himself.
Built with funding from China’s ExportImport Bank, the new $206 million facility could accommodate the Airbus A380,
the biggest airliner in service. Attempts
to attract an aircraft maintenance facility
there had drawn a blank.
Last week’s election was fought partly
on allegations of corruption and waste by
the Rajapakse administration, which is
facing allegations of padding infrastructure projects to siphon off money. — AFP
US tells Bangla to improve
safety at garment factories
WASHINGTON: The United States said
on Friday that it was not ready to restore
special trade benefits to Bangladesh until
the country does more for worker safety
and rights in its crucial apparel sector.
Nearly two years after over 1,100 garment workers were crushed to death in
the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory
building near Dhaka, the US Trade Representative said the Bangladesh government needs to complete inspection of
hundreds more plants before the benefits
are restored.
Washington removed Bangladesh’s
benefits under the US Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme
two months after the April 2013 disaster,
denying the country preferential duty
treatment on nearly $35 million worth of
annual exports to the United States.
The measure was limited, in that it did
not impact exports from Bangladesh’s
$20 billion garment industry. But it put
pressure on the country and many of
the world’s largest garment and fashion
companies, which sourced clothes from
Bangladesh manufacturers.
The US said the Bangladesh government had to inspect thousands of factories, shutting those which do not meet
Afghanistan president
slams French cartoon
Sri Lankan Airline decides not to use
airport named after ex-president
COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s national airline
yesterday announced it will stop all flights
to the country’s second international
airport built and named after Mahinda
Rajapakse, after he was defeated in last
week’s presidential elections.
Sri Lankan Airlines said operating
flights via the Rajapakse International
airport in the former president’s home
constituency of Hambantota was a huge
drain on the already heavily debt-laden
The state-owned airline — under
new management after new President
Maithripala Sirisena assumed office last
week — has decided to cut back uneconomical flights, including operations via
Rajapakse International.
“This translates to an annual bottom
line improvement of approximately $18
million,” the airline said in a statement.
The airline is weighed down with
debts of nearly $650 million.
Rajapakse opened his pet-project airport in March 2013, hoping it would become a new economic hub and act as a
gateway to the island’s southeast.
But the former government said in
parliament that the airport earned 16,000
rupees ($125) in the month of May last
A file picture shows workers at a garments factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
safety standards, and address worker
rights issues before the GSP privileges
would be restored.
The USTR said that more than 2,000
garment sector factories had been inspected by mostly US and European
private-sector initiatives under government oversight, resulting in the closure
or partial closure of 48 plants.
Even so, it said, “further progress is
needed, including to address serious
worker rights issues, before reinstatement of Bangladesh’s trade benefits.”
“There is more work to do, building
on the collaboration between the government of Bangladesh, private sector stakeholders, and the International Labor Organisation, to address the concerns about
factory safety in the apparel sector,” said
US Trade Representative Michael Froman. “We also urge the government to
accelerate its efforts to ensure workers’
rights and to take measures to address
continuing reports of harassment of and
violence against labour activists who try
to exercise their rights.” — AFP
A file picture shows US and British
soldiers chatting at the site of a
suicide attack in Kabul.
— AP
30 militants killed
in Afghanistan
KABUL: At least 30 militants have
been killed after the Afghan
security forces waged offensives
in two provinces, police said
Afghan army and border police,
backed by army helicopter gunships, pounded several hideouts
of militants in eastern Kunar
province’s Dangam district, Xinhua
quoted provincial police chief
Abdul Habib Sayyedkhel as saying.
“The raid was launched on Friday.
It is still going on there, and 21
militants have been killed so far,”
he added.
The operation will continue
before the militants in the area are
cleared, he said.
The district has been the scene
of fierce fighting after Taliban
militants launched frequent
attacks in apparent efforts to take
control of the district centre in the
mountainous province over the
past couple of months.
Earlier, in the northern Kunduz
province, nine militants were killed
and four others wounded after
police and allied tribesmen carried
out a raid in Khan Abad district on
Friday, provincial police spokesman
Sayyed Sarwar Hussainee said.
Afghan security forces have pressed
on clearing the militants in restive
provinces as they assumed earlier
this month the full security charges
from Nato-led troops after a fouryear security transition that ended
on December 31 last year — IANS
KATHMANDU: Nepalese police have charged a Canadian orphanage volunteer with
rape for allegedly abusing a nine-year-old boy in a suburb of Kathmandu, an official
said yesterday. Ernest Fenwick MacIntosh, 71, arrived in the Himalayan nation on
a tourist visa last August and approached the Jesuit-run St Xavier’s Social Service
Center for homeless children with an offer of donations. “The victim was one of the
children living at St Xavier’s. On December 13, MacIntosh invited him to his room,
threatened and molested him,” police spokesman Pawan Giri said.
After the boy filed a complaint on December 19, police arrested MacIntosh,
who has denied any wrongdoing. “We are now investigating further to see if he
abused other children in the home as well,” Giri said. If convicted, MacIntosh faces
a maximum prison sentence of 11 years. No date has been set for him to appear
in court. The case underscores the problems facing Nepal’s orphanages, some of
which have been hit by allegations of abuse, corruption and fraud in recent years.
Although it is illegal to volunteer in Nepal on a tourist visa, orphanage officials
often allow foreigners to spend time with children in exchange for donations.
Background checks are rarely conducted on those offering to help. In August 2012
Briton Simon Jasper McCarty pleaded guilty to sexually abusing three boys whom
he met in Nepal. In December 2010, French charity worker Jean-Jacques Haye was
convicted of raping 10 children in a Kathmandu orphanage. — AFP
A Bangladeshi man holds up his caged pigeon at a pigeon market for trade
and exchange in Dhaka, Bangladesh. For more than two decades, bird lovers
in the city have gathered here on Friday mornings to exchange or sell their
collection of pigeons.
— AP
Lanka floods: China donates $3 million
COLOMBO: The Chinese government donated $3 million to the flood relief efforts
in Sri Lanka, an official said. “China and Sri Lanka are good friends and neighbours.
The Chinese government is committed to supporting the Sri Lankan people and
government,” Xinhua quoted Deputy Head of Mission Ren Faqiang as saying at the
Chinese Embassy on Friday.
Torrential rains triggered floods in late December that swept over many parts of the
island nation, killing over 30.
The state-run Disaster Management Center said nearly 800,000 people were
affected while about 80,000 displaced people had to be housed in shelters.
President Maithripala Sirisena, who was sworn on January 9, appointed a
27-member cabinet earlier this week with Public Peace, Disaster Management and
Christian Affairs Minister John Amaratunga assuming duties on Friday.
“We must work to be prepared for disasters of this magnitude. I thank the Chinese
government for its assistance and continued support in Sri Lanka’s times of need,”
Amaratunga said during his first speech as minister. — IANS
J A N U R AY 1 8 l 2 0 1 5
Lucky to get a parking slot!
[email protected]
ow many times you have struggled to get a parking slot for your car?! Whether
going to work, a shopping mall, a hospital, a public park or one of the commercial
areas within the city; we struggle to get a free space to park our cars.
This is an everyday headache; it’s unbearable. The car parking issue is not only
happening at the public districts where people are just going for a short period of
time, but in residential areas as well. It’s more observed where people are living
in multi-storey buildings more than neighbourhoods. In such daily cases, people
sometimes spend hours looking for a car park. They might end up parking their
cars at the pavement of the street causing more traffic and hazards to other road
users. It’s really a disturbing matter to come through every day and night whenever
and wherever we go. On the other hand, just imagine that after the long hanging
around looking for a car park and desperately got one; you get someone parked
his/her car just straight behind yours.
You return back and get this car blocking your way out. It’s unbelievably
shocking and distressing! Just put
yourself on someone’s shoes and see
how would you get to deal with such
Finding a parking
situation? Another hour or more it
might take you to get out of this misery.
space is getting difficult
This is a worse scenario it could
and time consuming
happen in car parks.
as more people use
I had come through a similar very
frustrating incident in the car parks area
cars. The problem
at SQU Hospital a couple of years back.
is compounded by
It was an unforgettable experience
reckless parking thereby
with a reckless person who dumped
his car in a wrong place. I excused from
blocking others’ cars
my duty for a couple of hours to attend
my appointment at the hospital which I
was done faster than expected. For that
reason, I could get back to the office and resume duty for the rest of the day. I’m
not a kind of person who patiently likes sitting in a hospital for long waiting for
my turn to see the doctor; I simply get nervous. Lucky that day as I finished the
mission early. While delightedly heading towards my car, I got the real shock as
my car was blocked by another car. Right away, I called the ROP emergency call
centre giving them the plate number and car specifications. Thankfully, they saved
no effort to approach the car owner, but unfortunately his phone was out of reach.
I had no other choice, but to work on plan B and call the SQU security who
came to the spot and issued a ticket to the car owner.
Just imagine I spent almost 2 hours and a half waiting for the guy to show up.
He was an SQU student. He could have parked his car in a proper parking space
instead of carelessly dump it and rush for classes.
On top of all this, you might get your car crashed or scratched by another
driver who parked next by your vehicle. Despite the fact that your car was parked
in a legally allocated parking slot, it was not safe even! Believe it or not, this is what
happened to a friend who parked his car at the front parking of the building where
he lives. When he got out early in the morning, he saw the scratch and punch on
the rear bumper of his car.
Not even one note of an apology or contact number was left for my friend. The
irresponsible driver scratched the car and left with a cold shoulder disregarding
what he had done to the other car.
See how arrogantly careless are some people. You never know in similar
crowded areas you might get up in the morning and you get your car crashed.
You will start your day with a bad luck perhaps. In most cases while going to a
public place, you struggle to hardly get a parking slot. Unfortunately, with every
residential development emerging in the city, scarcity of public parking space
I think the concerned government parties should tackle this issue which is
becoming a daily headache. To keep you on track, the next column will highlight
some of the government and private sector plans to partially solve the car parking
issue especially in Muscat.
Hopefully things will be much improved in the years to come.
Pakistani Taliban patrol in their stronghold of Shawal in Pakistani tribal region of South Waziristan.
— AP
IS taps Afghanistan, Pakistan
fghanistan and Pakistan, home to al Qaeda and Taliban sway with Pakistan’s militants, sitting under an IS flag,
militants and the focus of the longest war in US history, pledging support to al Baghdadi as cleric Maulana Abdul
face a new, emerging threat from the IS group, officials said. Aziz said it would welcome the group.
The Pak Institute for Peace Studies, an Islamabad-based
Disenchanted extremists from the Taliban and other
organisations, impressed by the IS’s territorial gains and organisation tracking militant groups, also issued a report
slick online propaganda, have begun raising its black flag calling the IS State group a “real and emerging threat for
Pakistan.” “It has created a major survival challenge for
in extremist-dominated areas of both countries.
In Pakistan, an online video purportedly shows militants the main militant actors who could now act to prove their
operational credentials,” the report said.
beheading a man while pledging their allegiance to the IS.
Taliban militants in Afghanistan and
In Afghanistan, there have even
Pakistan owe their allegiance to Mullah
been reports of militant rivalries,
Omar, a cleric who has led the Taliban since
with clashes erupting between
the 1990s but has not been seen or heard in
Taliban fighters and IS militants.
extremists from the
public for years.
Analysts and officials say the
Taliban and other
Officials fear that an IS push into the
number of IS supporters in the
region could bring an infusion of guns and
Afghan-Pakistan region remains
money, sparking brutal competition among
small and that the group faces
impressed by the
local militants disenchanted with Mullah
resistance from militants with strong
IS’s territorial gains
Omar’s silence and eager to prove themselves
tribal links. However, the rise of
with escalating atrocities.
even a small IS affiliate could further
and slick online
One former Taliban commander pledged
destabilise the region and complicate
propaganda, have
allegiance to the IS group “because he felt
US and Nato efforts to end the
begun raising its
alienated from the Taliban leadership,”
13-year Afghan war. The Taliban
said Graeme Smith, an analyst focusing on
remain the region’s pre-eminent
black flag in both
Afghanistan for the International Crisis
insurgency, with nearly 20 years of
countries, reports
Group. “He seems to be doing better as a
experience battling Afghan warlords
result,” Smith added. “He seems to have
and international troops. But the
more money and weapons than before and
Taliban are “not a particularly sexy
people are noticing that maybe there is some
ideology or military force, and the
risk lies in the Taliban looking increasingly out of date,” actual link that is more than symbolic.” A senior US State
Department official, speaking this week in Pakistan on
said a Western diplomat.
In Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, residents condition of anonymity to discuss diplomatic talks, said
say a former Taliban commander named Mullah Abdul both Afghan and Pakistani officials shared their concerns
Rauf has begun recruiting fighters for the IS group. “People with America about the IS group seeking a regional
are saying that he has raised black flags and even has foothold.
At the same time, the IS would struggle to mount a real
tried to bring down white Taliban flags in some areas,”
said Saifullah Sanginwal, a tribal leader in Sangin district. challenge to the Taliban, which is deeply enmeshed in tribal
“There are reports that 19 or 20 people have been killed in Pashtun society, said Borhan Osman, a researcher with the
Afghanistan Analysts Network. But with Nato forces and
fighting between the Taliban and the IS,” he added.
A government letter written a month earlier and later US troops now focused on training Afghans, as opposed to
obtained by the AP warns local officials that the IS group conducting combat operations, some worry the IS group
has begun courting area militants and that the extremists could gain ground and pose a serious threat in the future.
claim the support of up to “12,000 followers” in northwest “We need to be very watchful,” said Nasir Khan Durrani,
police chief of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province,
A video released in December showed female students which borders the lawless tribal region and militant haven.
and teachers at Islamabad’s Red Mosque, which holds great “We need to be careful.”
Oscar-nominated Leviathan ruffles feathers in Russia
ussian director Andrei Zvyagintsev’s
Oscar-nominated film Leviathan has won
acclaim around the world but is dividing
opinion back at home, where some see it
as a critique of President Vladimir Putin
and Russia itself.
The film, a no-holds-barred look at
how a corrupt local mayor crushes all who
oppose him to arrive at his goals at all cost,
has even prompted a Russian Orthodox
activist to call for it not be screened in
A portrait of Putin that is often seen
looking down on the mayor creates what
many see as a link with the Kremlin and
the Russian leader’s governing style.
Putin critics say the story mirrors life
in Russia in the 15 years since the former
KGB spy first rose to power, with corrupt
state officials enriching themselves and
enjoying impunity. Russia’s Culture
Ministry co-financed the film but now
says it blackens Russia’s image just to win
international acclaim.
“Films focused not only on criticism of
current authorities but openly spitting on
them..., filled with a sense of despair and
hopelessness over our existence, should
not be financed with taxpayers’ money,”
Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky said
in a newspaper interview this week when
asked whether the ministry would support
similar films in the future.
Putin critics say the story
mirrors life in Russia in the
15 years since the former
KGB spy first rose to power,
with corrupt state officials
enriching themselves and
enjoying impunity, finds
Gabriela Baczynska
Producer Alexander Rodnyansky (L) and director Andrey Zvyagintsev with their award for
Best Foreign Language Film for Leviathan at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards in Beverly
Hills, California.
— Reuters
Though Leviathan premiered in
mid-2014, cinemas in Russia will start
screening it only in February, with foul
language muted to comply with Russian
profanity laws.
The film, largely shot in the village of
Teriberka on the Barents Sea in Russia’s
far north, has already won a dozen awards
abroad, including a Golden Globe.
On Thursday, it captured an Academy
Award nomination in the Foreign
Language Film category along with four
others. The authors say their film was
partly inspired by a story from the United
Many in the director’s home country,
however, see it as aimed directly at Putin’s
Russia, though Zvyagintsev himself has
sought to steer away from such links.
“It did not matter in what setting the
events of this drama unfolded.
The story of conflict between the
individual and the authorities is universal,”
Zvyagintsev’s website says.
The director himself was not
immediately available to comment.
Medinsky began complaining about
the film last year when Leviathan received
favourable reviews at the Cannes film
festival, one of cinema’s most prestigious
He said he did not like the film’s
excessive profanity. In an interview
published on Thursday he complained to
Izvestia newspaper, which is sympathetic
to the Kremlin, that Leviathan had no
positive characters.
He said the story was not specific to
Russia and could have been played out
“I hope in the future Andrei
Zvyagintsev, a very gifted man, will
make a film with the assistance of the
Culture Ministry that will not feature this
existential hopelessness,” he said.
“A film that will make one want to get
up, get out on the street and do something
good, right, without delays — right here
and right now. You don’t get that after
Izvestia also quoted a Russian Orthodox
activist calling for the film, which shows
dubious cooperation between the mayor
and local clergy, not to be shown in Russia
because it vilifies the Russian Orthodox
Putin, whose popularity soared over the
annexation of Crimea in 2014 but could be
threatened by an economic crisis, has not
commented publicly on the controversy
and few Russians have yet seen the film.
The success of Leviathan abroad gets
limited coverage in mainstream Russian
media, most of which are loyal to the
Zvyaginstev told the independent
broadcaster Dozhd he was bewildered by
the treatment he and his film were getting
from state TV and that he felt himself
being “isolated”.
He said no officials congratulated
him on the Golden Globe award for Best
Foreign Language Film, the first such
award for Russia after the 1969 triumph
of “War and Peace” produced in the Soviet
The last time a Russian film won an
Oscar was in 1994 with Burnt by the sun,
an intimate study of a family destroyed by
Stalinist purges in the 1930s by director
Nikita Mikhalkov, now an outspoken
supporter of Putin. Winners of the 87th
Academy Awards will be revealed in Los
Angeles on February 22.
JANUARY 18 l 2015
The oil price games: Are we powerless in this?
[email protected]
or the ordinary people on the street, it’s really
quite alarming how the United States and Saudi
Arabia are manipulating international oil prices to
achieve their own, it must be said, selfish ends. Here
is how it looks.
From the American perspective, Barak Obama
has not been a great president. Often indecisive,
and at best muted and deliberate in his responses
to crises, he does certainly have one ‘pet’ passion.
He wants Vladimir Putin gone! Obama, and the
Americans are distraught at how easily Putin
outwitted global leaders in his assumption of the
Crimean region for Russia, and how toothless
and inadequate has been their response to Putin’s
machinations in the Ukraine. With his State
Department and armed forces failing abysmally
to nail the Russian military for the shooting down
of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 Obama then
changed tactics.
You can almost hear the conversation now. “Let’s
hit him where it hurts. In the pocket! He relies on
oil revenues for most of his cash, so what would
happen if he was getting less money for his oil?”
Obama and his advisers would know a number of
facts and among them are that it costs Russia circa
$50 (Weissmann, 2014) to produce a barrel of crude
oil, but also that it needs to be getting $105 per
What I think is especially galling about the US
barrel (Forbes, 2014) to balance its budget deficit.
To date Putin has proven stoical in the face of the position on global oil pricing, and their influence
drop below $50 for Brent Crude, the international on it, is the two-faced attitude. The great John D
Rockefeller, was reputed to be the richest man in the
benchmark for spot oil pricing, but you can almost
guarantee that privately, he is apoplectic. The revival world at the turn of the century, with his company
of the ‘Russian Bear’ as Putin labelled his drive for Standard Oil. Yet on the 15th of May, 1911, the
US Supreme Court dissolved
Russia to again become the
his company saying that it
dominant world force is under
had created “unreasonable
threat, not from guns and
To date Putin has
bombs, but even worse, from
proven stoical in the
within the oil industry, and in
the dollar.
face of the drop below
doing so, had prevented other
Now, I can see why Obama
companies from operating
and Putin would be antagonists,
$50 for crude, the
an open and competitive
it’s in their DNA isn’t it? But
international benchmark in
business environment. What is
should they be allowed to
for spot oil pricing,
the difference today?
drag global economies down
At the same time, Saudi
with them? For many of us,
but you can almost
Arabia is sitting quietly, not
we are still raw, and suffering
guarantee that privately, saying, and certainly not doing
the financial consequences
he is apoplectic
much. Analysts believe that, as
of the manipulation of world
the world’s greatest producer of
financial markets at the hands
crude oil, that if they restricted
of the American Banks (yes,
collectively culpable) in 2008. So what gives their production for a time, that prices would
America the right to manipulate the global oil be forced to recover, thus alleviating the plight of
market to meet their own foreign policy needs? global producers. The thing is, the Saudi’s don’t want
What sort of arrogance lets them say, “To hell with a recovery. They want this ‘perfect storm’ (Cramer,
CNBC, 2014) whereby they further strengthen
the rest of the world,”?
their own position, while reducing to tatters, the
prospect of economic projects for alternative fuel
recovery such as Arctic Oil, Canadian Tar Sands,
and Brazilian Deep Sea drilling.
Another affected area is alternative fuels, and
the current low price is driving down the need for
alternatives isn’t it? I mean, petrol is now so cheap,
who needs the alternatives? The energy cartels such
as Opec are beyond the control of governments, are
a law unto themselves, and will do whatever it takes
to perpetuate their own wealth and position, with
little or no concern for man or humanity.
So the American’s and the Saudi’s are the ‘bad
boys’ for now! This, though, certainly doesn’t let
Putin, last week’s Charlie Hedbo assassins, or Boko
Haram off the hook, as chaos and anarchy are still
with us in the New Year of 2015.
On a final note, it is imperative that global
governments are responsible and effective in their
budgeting while their commodity and resource
prices are high, and should always be mindful of
their vulnerability to the superpower’s and their
disagreeable activities. If we are getting good prices,
we should be putting some of the gains ‘under the
mattress’ or ‘in a sock’, to use an expression. You
know what I mean. Just because you have money…
doesn’t mean you have to spend it!
Green push may slip on oil
A man carries a placard featuring of pictures of students who died in the Peshawar attack on an army-run school during a protest rally in Islamabad.
alling oil prices could have a negative impact on global efforts to develop
renewable energy sources, experts warned on Saturday at a conference
in Abu Dhabi.
Oil prices have fallen by almost 60 per cent since June, crashing on
worries over global oversupply and weak demand in a faltering world
economy. Participants at the International Renewable Energy Agency
(IRENA) conference that opened Saturday in the United Arab Emirates
said the trend could spell doom for plans to shift to clean energy.
The fall in oil prices could be a “game changer”, Italy’s Deputy
Minister for Economic Development Claudio Vincenti told the meeting
that concludes on Sunday. In the past a rise in oil prices had encouraged
clean energy investments, said Vincenti, adding that a longterm fall in
prices could shift the balance among various energy sources.
He did not elaborate. Salem al Hajraf, who represented Kuwait at
the conference, agreed saying falling oil prices are posing a “major
challenge” this year as was the case two decades ago.
“The fall of oil prices in the 80s was a main reason behind the collapse
of many renewable energy projects,” he told participants.
Renewable energy, which relies on solar, wind and other sources, is
essential for meeting global CO2 emission targets.
Delegates from more than 150 countries attended the opening
session of the IRENA conference, including Israel with has no
diplomatic relations with the UAE.
Representatives from more than 110 international organisations are
also taking part in the meeting.
“The story of renewables is rapidly evolving and as the importance
of renewable energy grows, so does the relevance of the agency’s work,”
IRENA Director-General Adnan Amin told the conference.
He said that total world investments in renewable energies have
reached $264 billion in 2014, $50 billion more than the previous year.
During the meeting, the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, in
partnership with IRENA, will announce a series of loans for five
renewable energy projects in developing countries, organisers said.
Abu Dhabi-based IRENA, with 137 member-states and the European
Union, aims to promote the sustainable use of all forms of renewable
energy. The conference coincides with a series of events organised
under the banner of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, including Future
Energy Summit on Sunday and International Water Summit on
Monday. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi is expected to attend
Future Energy Summit while French Energy and Environment Minister
Segolene Royal will take part in International Water Summit.
Liberals rally to ‘reclaim’ Pakistan after massacre
ne month on from a Taliban school massacre
in Peshawar that left 150 dead a new
movement is growing among marginalised
urban liberals rallying to “Reclaim Pakistan”
from violent extremism.
Carrying placards and candles, their
stand against religious fanaticism is an
unusual sight in a country more used to
mass demonstrations by groups filled with
chants against the West or India.
Muhammad Jibran Nasir, a 27-year-old
lawyer who has played a key role in organising
demonstrations, said he and others felt they
could no longer stand by following the brutal
killings of schoolchildren in the country’s
northwest on December 16.
“I never felt so overwhelmed. I felt
pathetic as a human being, as a Muslim, as
a Pakistani. I felt very, very small,” he said.
While Pakistan’s military has been
engaged in heavy offensives in the country’s
northwestern tribal areas, progressive critics
believe the state — including both the
army and political parties — must do more
to tackle those radical groups that have
traditionally received official backing.
In an effort to highlight the discrepancy,
Nasir, who happened to be visiting
Islamabad at the time of the Peshawar
assault, led like-minded activists to protest
outside the radical Red Mosque, whose
imam is known for his pro-Taliban views
and who has refused to condemn the attack
on the school.
Maulana Abdul Aziz led an armed
insurrection against the military in 2007, but
was acquitted of all charges against him by
2013 in a case which analysts say highlights
weaknesses in Pakistan’s judicial system and
sympathies for militants among parts of the
security establishment.
The “Reclaim” movement’s first small
victory was the re-opening of an investigation
While Pakistan’s military
has been engaged in heavy
offensives in the country’s
northwestern tribal areas,
progressive critics believe the
state must do more to tackle
those radical groups, reports
Issam Ahmed
against Aziz, said Nasir. “There’s an arrest
warrant out, police say they are doing their
own investigation,” he said, adding he was
hopeful that more pressure could result in
firm action.
He now says he has been threatened not
just by Aziz but by the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar
faction of the Pakistani Taliban over the
phone. But, as someone who considers
himself an observant Muslim, he felt he
could no longer see his faith hijacked.
“I’ve got some views on my religion,
I read on it, I research on it to an extent. I
can’t seem to reconcile the preachings of my
Imam and the teachings of the Koran,” he
says. The movement has spread over social
media, particularly Facebook, with likeminded groups in the major cities of Lahore
and Karachi coordinating their protests
and condemning local militant groups that
operate in those areas.
Analysts believe some militant groups
receive backing from the state because they
can be used as assets by Pakistan to exert
influence in India and Afghanistan — a
strategy which progressives are keen to see
ended. “We are basically people who are
concerned for our own humanity.
If we do not take some kind of stance we
may very well stay alive but we lose our own
humanity by being lazy.
It makes us complicit,” said 36-year-old
Taimur Khan, an entrepreneur who is part
of the Reclaim movement in Islamabad.
Progressives remain a relatively small
minority, confined to the educated upper
and middle-classes — a fact bemoaned by
Nasir. He contrasted the crowds of hundreds
at Reclaim rallies with the estimated 1.6
million Parisians who took to the streets to
condemn the deadly attack on the offices of
satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
“Pakistan is desensitised. But in Paris,
millions came out. That has made those 12
lives the centre of attention for the entire
world,” he said. “We have lost 55,000 people
to terrorism but we struggle to justify our
case to the world that we are doing enough
to curb terrorism.”
But he also sees hope for a broader
coalition involving the working class.
On January 16, exactly one month after
the attack, the Reclaim movement held its
biggest events to date across Pakistan’s major
cities. The few thousand people who turned
out included female polio workers who have
come under attack by the Taliban, relatives
of fallen soldiers, and the father and child
of a female Christian bonded labourer who
was burnt to death for allegedly committing
blasphemy along with her mother.
In Islamabad, protesters laid out symbolic
coffins carrying the names of each of the
children who died in Peshawar.
Sundas Hoorain, a 29-year-old lawyer
from Lahore, said the event could prove a
turning point.
“More and more people are joining in
because they agree with us. The narrative
now resonates beyond the elites... People are
saying ‘When you attack children, that’s it’,”
she said.
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JANUARY 18 l 2015
FILLIP TO MODINOMICS: India welcomes 15 per cent rise in Japanese companies presence
Modi’s ‘Make in India’ gets Japan support
NEW DELHI: Japan will contribute to
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make
in India’ initiative to support India in
becoming a base of economic growth
for the Indo-Pacific region and the
world, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio
Kishida said yesterday.
Delivering the 15th Sapru House
Lecture at the Indian Council for
World Affairs (ICWA) here, Kishida
said it was important for Japan and
India to strengthen their maritime
cooperation and both sides should
“even more proactively assume” their
“responsibilities to protect open and
stable seas” under their partnership.
diplomats and experts on the subject
“Special Partnership for the Era of
the Indo-Pacific”, Kishida proposed
strengthening three bridges that link
the region in order to ensure peace
and prosperity — bridge of value and
spirit, of a vibrant economy and open
and stable seas.
Under the bridge of vibrant economy,
Kishida said the bilateral economic
partnership has grown strong and
should be improved to “facilitate an even
greater contribution to the entire IndoPacific region”.
He said the Japan-India Investment
Promotion Partnership agreed at the
summit meeting between Modi and
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
in September last year “seeks synergies
between Abenomics and Modinomics”
and Japan would contribute to push
forward the ‘Make in India’ initiative.
To boost connectivity between South
Asia and Southeast Asia through both
Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj welcomes Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida in
New Delhi yesterday. Japan’s foreign minister used a visit to India to push for tighter land and sea, he said Japan intends
to support the construction of an
maritime security ties between the two nations, as Tokyo seeks to shore up its
relationships in Asia to counter an increasingly powerful China.
— AFP energy network with the South Asian
Kerala to start domestic
Air Kerala flights soon
Jan. 17: The Kerala Government has
decided to start soon the domestic
operations of its new ‘Air Kerala’ airline
that it eventually wants to turn into an
international carrier to serve its natives
working in Gulf countries.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen
Chnady expressed his government
resolve to start the international flight
to serve its state’s natives based in the
Gulf countries during a global nonresident Keralites (NRKs) meet in
Kochi, said an official statement of the
state government.
Chandy expressed his government
resolve to start at the earliest the
domestic flight of Air Kerala,
primarily to meet the basic mandatory
requirement of flying domestic carrier
for five years before going international.
Pointing out that it’s must to fulfil
the mandatory requirement of a Union
Civil Aviation norm that stipulates fiveyear domestic service for launching
international flight operations, Chandy
said he would start the domestic
operations of the state air carrier before
“Though we have approached the
Union Government for a relaxation in
this norm, we are yet to get a reply from
them to our request,” he said.
He, however, added that the state
government, none the less “has decided
to go ahead with Kerala Air project and
launch a domestic service with a small
aircraft connecting airports within
the state.” The chief minister revealed
the government’s plan to launch the
domestic flight while answering a query
from an NRK who sought subsidy on
air tickets in the Gulf sector.
Chandy also added that Air
Kerala project would be successfully
International Airport project and it
would be beneficial to NRKs.
To a suggestion from another
NRK that an education cell be started
exclusively for the community to guide
NRK students who are willing to pursue
higher studies in Kerala, Chandy
said the government would take all
necessary steps to set up such a facility.
The chief minister added told the NRK
session that the state government has
also decided to put on hold the new
property tax assessment for residential
buildings in response to the repeated
pleas of NRKs and the general public
that the same was unfair.
He said the government will take a
decision on its implementation after
thorough perusal. The state government
also apprised the sessions of a new
plan of the government to provide
certification to those NRKs who have
acquired skills in various jobs after
being in service for many years.
This information was given by state
Labour Minister Shibu Baby John
who said the government will take all
steps expeditiously to launch this skill
certification project.
Association for Regional Cooperation
(SAARC) region for enhancing regional
To boost connectivity between
SAARC and the 10-member Association
for Southeast Asian Nations (Asean,
Japan would boost aid by “supporting
development initiatives” in India’s
northeast region, he said.
To a question on investing in
Arunachal Pradesh, he said they have
not decided yet on the issue.
Under the bridge of open and stable
seas, Kishida said India and Japan were
maritime countries whose “interests
depends on the safety of sea lanes”.
As part of boosting maritime
cooperation, he said both sides should
boost defence equipment cooperation,
including the US-2 amphibian aircraft
and Japan’s continued participation in
the India-US Malabar exercises.
AI flight delayed
after fight breaks
out in the cockpit
NEW DELHI: Air India said one of
its flights was delayed yesterday after
a pilot allegedly assaulted a ground
engineer in the cockpit as he prepared
to take off for Paris from the southern
Indian city of Chennai.
Air India ordered an inquiry into
the incident, which delayed the flight
by an hour with 122 passengers on
board, said airline spokesman G P
The flight departed after another
pilot replaced the one involved in
the incident, Rao said, adding that
it was not immediately known what
triggered the clash.
The engineer, who was in the
aircraft for a routine check, suffered
a minor chin injury. Sources said Air
India has instituted a probe into the
incident, and the pilot was derostered.
Meanwhile, Air India at the
instruction of the Ministry of Civil
Aviation, has embarked on an exercise
to reduce its variable costs by 10 per
cent to minimise losses. The airline’s
total cost is estimated at Rs 24,000
crore, and out of this Rs 14,000 crore is
variable cost. Going by the Ministry’s
directive, Air India has to reduce
expenditure by Rs 1,400 crore in next
financial year.
Air India Chairman and Managing
Director Rohit Nandan has asked all
departments to take action in this
Visitors look at exhibits of stamps and postal related material at a philatelic exhibition in Bengaluru yesterday.
— Reuters
Security personnel patrol on the rear side of the historic Taj Mahal on a foggy
winter day yesterday.
— Reuters
India may seek other
suppliers if US will
not sell drones: Senator
WASHINGTON: India may buy
unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones,
from other countries if the United
States does not ease current export
restrictions on such aircraft, a key
Democratic senator said.
Senator Mark Warner of Virginia,
who will join President Barack Obama
during a trip to India on January 26,
said he was concerned that other
countries could rush in to sell India the
equipment it desires if the United States
drags its feet.
“This is going to be a space... where
other countries are moving very
quickly too,” he told an event hosted
by the nonprofit Atlantic Council. “If
the Indians can’t find a partner with
the United States, they’ll find one
somewhere else.”
US aerospace and arms companies
have been pressing the US government
for years to ease current tight restrictions
on foreign sales of unmanned vehicles,
arguing that other countries such as
Israel are overtaking the United States
in drone sales.
India, which is modernising its
military, is a big and growing market for
US weapons makers who are seeking
foreign sales to help offset declines in
US defence spending.
Warner said he hoped that
unmanned aircraft would be included
as part of a broad US push to expand
defence ties with India but said he was
not aware of any specific initiatives
to be announced during Obama’s
US and Indian officials are trying
to work out pilot projects for joint
If the Indians can’t
find a partner with
the United States,
they’ll find one somewhere
Senator of Virginia
production of drones and other
weapons as part of the US-India
Defence Trade and Technology
Initiative (DTTI), a source familiar
with the effort said.
One drone project involves the RQ11 “Raven” built by AeroVironment
Inc, a small US firm, but Northrop
Grumman Corp, Textron Systems,
a unit of Textron Inc and General
Atomics, a privately held firm, are
also seeking permission to sell their
unmanned systems to India.
The US government strictly controls
foreign sales of larger UAVs but has
approved sales of unarmed systems such
as the Raven, which are used purely for
surveillance to a range of countries,
including Uzbekistan, according to a
US source.
Warner said he expected some
announcements about joint defence
projects during Obama’s visit but said
he had not been briefed on specific
US officials are weighing options as
they seek to expand defence ties with
India as Washington grows concerned
about the extent of Pakistan’s efforts to
crack down on militants. — Reuters
Mumbai gets
set for
MUMBAI: Reigning men’s race
champion, Kenya’s Evans Ruto and
his countrymen including Henry
Sugut and Luke Kibet, will face stiff
competition from three Ethiopian
challengers at the $360,000
Mumbai Marathon which will be
flagged-off yesterday.
completed a clean sweep, clinching
the top three places, but this year
their party could be ambushed by
the Ethiopians, who are led by the
experienced Dereje Debele, Shume
Hailu and Tesfaye Abera.
The 29-year-old Debele, who
has a personal best time of 2:07:48,
has not had a very impressive 2014,
but this time around he is expected
to produce a strong run. Hailu
comes into this race with wins in
Marathon des Alpes-Maritimes
and Rome Marathon, both with
timings of a little over 2:09.
However, the 30-year-old
Ruto, who finished in 2:09:33 last
year and narrowly missed the
course record, is set to defend
his title. Ruto also has a promise
to fulfil as he said last year that
he would return and try to finish
the race in 2.07 or 2.08. So with a
personal best of 2:07:47, he has a
promise to keep.
Besides Sugut, who returns
after an injury layoff and Kibet,
the other Kenyan runners are
Jacob Cheshari, Filex Kiprotich,
Michael Chege, Benard Rotich,
Peter Kosgei, Silas Kipruto and
Bernard Kihanya.
defending champion Dinknesh
Mekash will spearhead a strong
field of seven runners from Ethiopia
and with just two Kenyans in the
fray, they are expected to dominate
the event.
Father held for
trying to bury
daughter alive
AGARTALA: Police have arrested
a man on the charges of attempting
to bury his nine-year-old daughter
alive in Tripura, an official said here
“Abul Hussain, 30, tied the legs
and hands of his daughter Joshna
and tried to bury her in a pit in a
deserted field near his residence in
Boxanagar on Friday night,” police
spokesman Uttam Bhowmik said.
“When a neighbour noticed
the crime and raised an alarm,
other people came to the spot
and nabbed Hussain,” Bhowmik
said. Police with the help of local
residents rescued the girl who had
been half buried.
The incident took place when
Hussain’s wife Ayesha Kathun was
not at home. The couple has two
daughters. The man reportedly
disliked his daughter and wanted
a son.
The girl was admitted to a
government hospital where her
medical condition is stated to be
Rs 1.35 cr looted
from cash van
LUCKNOW: In a daring daylight
robbery in the heart of the city, a
bank cash van was looted of Rs
1.35 crore by unidentified robbers
yesterday when the vehicle was
going to load cash in an ATM,
police said.
The robbery took place at the
Bank of Baroda ATM near Deep
hotel when employees of a private
security company were loading
cash into the ATM.
Police officials said that prima
facie they suspected the role of the
driver and guard of the cash van
and said that the duo had been
detained for questioning by the
crime branch and the local police.
JANUARY 18 l 2015
OPPORTUNISTS: They said they’ll never enter politics but used anti-corruption movement for their ambitions
Congress attacks Kiran Bedi, Kejriwal
NEW DELHI: The Congress party
yesterday attacked AAP chief Arvind
Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi who joined
the BJP recently, describing them as
Congress’s face for the February 7
Delhi polls Ajay Maken said both the
leaders — once together during the
massive anti-corruption movement in
2011 — had used anti-graft crusader
Anna Hazare to further their political
Maken also said they had vowed not
to join electoral politics in their lives.
Bedi, a former police officer, had
strongly disapproved of Kejriwal for
floating the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)
in 2012 after the disbanding of India
Against Corruption.
Bedi, who was earlier critical of the
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has now
joined the party and is speculated to be
its chief ministerial candidate for the
February 7 Delhi polls.
Congress leader Ajay Maken during a press conference at Congress party office in
New Delhi yesterday.
“They had declared that they would
He also accused Kejriwal of
never enter politics but used the misleading the people by making highanti-corruption movement for their sounding promises and then reneging
ambitions,” Maken told reporters.
on them.
Parties agree to relocate
offices for Metro route
MUMBAI: All political parties in
Maharashtra have agreed to shift their
offices and establishments falling on
the Mumbai Metro corridor route near
Nariman Point in Mumbai, officials
said yesterday.
Eight political parties, as well as
26 government departments, which
responded to a notice from the Mumbai
Metropolitan Region Development
Authority, have consented to shift their
offices to alternative locations by April
30. “It was heartening to receive such
positive response from the political
parties... Now the entire construction
of the metro-three corridor, ColabaBandra-SEEPZ will be completed
speedily and with precision,” said
Ashwini Bhide, Managing Director,
Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd
The outcome, at a meeting headed
by Additional Chief Secretary Sumit
Mallick, will pave the way for the
smooth construction of the proposed
Vidhan Bhavan Metro Station, officials
said. The MMRCL has suggested
alternative locations like MTNL, BSNL,
Mumbai Port Trust and World Trade
Centre, Mumbai to accommodate the
government offices and the parties.
They all agreed to survey the
suggested sites - most of them located
a considerable distance away from the
state headquarters, Mantralaya — and
relocate after examining all aspects by
April 20.
However, party representatives
pointed out that since it was mainly
the common people who visited them,
it would be advisable to relocate them
somewhere near the Mantralaya for
They would submit a proposal to the
government and request a meeting with
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to
find a solution.
The meeting was attended by
representatives of the Congress,
Nationalist Congress Party, Samajwadi
Party, Republican Party of India,
Shetkari Kamgar Party and Shiv Sena,
and representatives of 14 out of the 26
affected government offices. — IANS
The Congress general secretary,
accusing Kejriwal of breaking his
promise of leading the life of an
ordinary citizen if elected, said he soon
forgot it — whether it was not using
official car with blue beacon light, or
taking security cover or big government
Referring to a sworn affidavit filed by
Kejriwal wherein he had made all these
promises, Maken told newsmen that
not only did Kejriwal avail of the official
car with a beacon but even sought two
houses with eight rooms after he became
the chief minister of Delhi following the
December 2013 assembly election.
He said the Congress would release
a booklet next week showing how
Kejriwal backtracked on his promises.
He said the booklet will expose
Kejriwal and his party and project him
as “a leader specialising in U-turns” and
whose 49-day rule saw “a tale of miseries
for the people of Delhi”.
Kejriwal had said that he believed
in Swaraj and would seek the consent
of the people before doing anything,
Maken said, asking did he go to the
people before resigning as chief minister
to fulfil his Lok Sabha ambitions.
Wondering how people could trust
a person who does not blink before
going back on his promises, Maken
asked how can a person whose politics is
founded on lies and false promises fight
Meanwhile, BJP President Amit Shah
yesterday said the Aam Aadmi Party was
“fighting for political survival” in Delhi.
Speaking to party workers here,
Shah said the AAP would be rejected
by the voters of Delhi in the February 7
assembly polls as its position was “very
“What can the AAP teach us which is
fighting for its own political survival in
these elections. Its position is very weak
in many constituencies,” Shah said.
Election panel
issues notice
to AAP leader
Commission yesterday issued a notice
to AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal for
violating the model code of conduct
by making “unverified” allegations
against Delhi BJP chief Satish
The notice said that the
commission has received a complaint
from Upadhyay alleging that Kejriwal
leveled “false, baseless and unverified
allegations against him and Asish
Sood, General Secretary of the
Bharatiya Janata Party’s Delhi unit”.
The commission said that it has
also received a report from Delhi’s
chief electoral officer in the matter and
asked Kejriwal to give his explanation
by 3 pm on Tuesday.
The notice said that according to
the model code conduct: “Candidates
shall refrain from criticism of all
aspects of private life, not connected
with the public activities of the leaders
or workers or other parties. Criticism
of other parties or their workers based
on unverified allegations or distortion
shall be avoided.”
Upadhyay had approached the EC
on Jan 14 against Kejriwal’s charges at a
press meet that he and Sood were part
of a company that supplied electricity
meters to power discoms in Delhi.
The EC said that Upadhyay has
also alleged that the Aam Aadmi Party
leader in a speech had alleged that the
BJP was trying to incite communal
violence in Delhi.
Foreigners participate in Jagannath Rath Yatra organised by ISKCON in Nagpur.
Government desires intensive drive to enrol NRI voters
Jan. 17: With an abysmally low enrolment of non-resident Indians in the
electoral rolls, the Election Commission
of India is likely to launch soon an intensive drive for the inclusion of the names
of the expatriate Indians as well as those
of service voters in the voters’ list.
The official sources said the prospect
of the poll panel launching an intensive
drive to enrol NRI voters in the electoral
roll has emerged with the two key ministers of the BJP-led NDA government
taking note of the abysmal low figures of
NRIs in the voters list, numbering barely
around 10,000.
During a high level meeting, chaired
by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh
and attended among others by Finance
Minister Arun Jaitley and several top
officials from the Union ministries of
Home and the Law and Justice, the
government expressed the desirability
of ensuring 100 per cent registration of
NRI voters.
The sources said the two ministers also expressed the need of having
around 2 million service voters in the
country on the voters list besides enroll-
ing all the NRIs world over, estimated to
be around 11 million, in the voters’ list.
The sources said the two ministers
while seeking to know the reasons behind the low enrolment of NRIs in voters’ list wondered if it was owing to the
present system of the NRIs having to
be physically present at their respective
constituencies, where they are enrolled
as voters, to be able to exercise their
Accordingly, the ministers expressed
the desirability to work out the details
of new e-cum-postal balloting system
expeditiously so that the same should be
rolled out at the earliest, to involve the
NRIs more closely with the country’s
poll process and get themselves registered as voters to be able to cast their
votes from the countries of their stay itself. The Oman Daily Observer had only
last month reported that an abysmally
India most
British playwright and author
Hanif Kureishi yesterday praised
Indians for their continued interest
in literature and said the nation is
the “most literate” country in the
Kureishi, who is of Pakistani
descent, is the author of numerous
novels, short story collections,
screenplays, plays and his work has
been translated into 36 languages.
His screenplay of “My Beautiful
Laundrette” won the New York
Film Critics Best Screenplay Award
and was nominated for an Academy
Award for Best Screenplay.
The London-based author said
in his hometown, people are more
pre-occupied with movies.
“India is the most literate
country in the world. The people
here are really interested in books,
they talk about books and are
interested in authors etc... People
in London rarely talk about books,
they are more interested in movies,”
Kureishi said at the Apeejay Kolkata
Literary Festival here.
He said India is keeping
literature alive and is helping it
Being interested in India
and being interested in what is
happening in Indian writing is
really now is being at the forefront
of what literature is today, he said.
“It is fascinating. This is the
place where literature is really alive,
where it is really developing and
people are talking and working
on new material. India is a young
country and people are enthusiastic
for words and literature,” said
Kureishi whose novels include
“The Buddha of Suburbia,” which
won the Whitbread Award and was
adapted into a BBC television series;
“The Black Album”; “Intimacy”;
“Something to Tell You” and “The
Last Word”.
Techie planned
to carry out
terror activities
Out of over 10 million, merely 11,846 NRIs have registered themselves as voters
low percentage of NRIs, numbering less
than 0.1 per cent of their strength the
world over, have got themselves registered as voters.
According to the figures tabled in the
Rajya Sabha, merely around zero point
one per cent (0.1 per cent) of NRIs out
of an estimated 10,037,761 world over
(as per a 2012 data) have got themselves
enrolled in the voters’ list despite lapse
of over nine years after the enactment of
the law in 2006 giving them voting rights
during various elections in the country.
Answering a query related to NRIs
voting rights, Minister of State for External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs
V K Singh had told the Rajya Sabha that
as per data compiled in May 2012, the
estimated number of NRIs is 10,037,761.
Out of these over 10 million voters,
merely 11,846 NRIs have registered
themselves as voters, Singh told the Upper House of Parliament, adding that the
overseas enrolled electors include 11,140
men and 706 women.
Interestingly, out of the registered
voters almost 99 per cent, numbering
11,448, including 10,878 men and 570
women are Kerala natives, the figures
The NRIs of other states, who have
bothered to get themselves enrolled as
overseas voters are almost next to nil.
For example, merely 138 Punjab natives, 112 from Tamil Nadu, 56 from
Pudducherry, 27 from Goa, 13 from
Haryana and 12 from Delhi have registered themselves as voters.
The other state natives have got themselves registered as NRI voters either in
ones or twos or not at all. For example,
the number of Andhra Pradesh natives
who have registered themselves as NRI
voters is one, Chhatishgarh 2, Gujarat 7,
Himachal Pradesh 2, Madhya Pradesh 6,
Rajasthan one, Sikkim 1, Uttar Pradesh
1 Qwest Bengal 4, Chandigrah 6 and
Daman and Diu 9.
Yet other group of NRIs from states
like Bihar, Assam Karnataka, Maharastra etc haven’t got themselves registered
as voters at all.
The electoral experts say that unless
the government devices the mechanism
and fix it expeditiously to enable NRI
voters cast their votes from the country
of their stay itself, the number of NRI
voters are unlikely to grow up dramatically as it may be not feasible for majority of NRIs to fly back to India just to cast
their vote and end up losing a fortune
for the exercise.
HYDERABAD: A Hyderabadi
engineer, who was arrested while
on his way to Syria to join terror
group IS in Syria, planned to return
to India to carry out anti-national
activities, police said yesterday.
Police, who announced the
arrest of 32-year-old Salman
Mohiuddin on Friday night,
are questioning him to gather
more information, including
identification of the youth he was
in touch with in India.
The US-returned techie was
arrested at the Rajiv Gandhi
International Airport here late on
Thursday when he was leaving
Police said that ever since
returning from the US in October
last year, he used social media to try
and attract local youth across India
with an intention to take them to
Syria and Iraq.
“He intended to undergo
training in Syria, and after returning
wanted to indulge in anti-national
activities in the country,” police
Mohiuddin, who had gone to the
US four years ago, came in contact
with a British woman.
Identified as Nicky Joseph
alias Nicky alias Nicole alias
Ayesha, she converted and had a
“fundamentalist leaning”, police
“In 2014, after the establishment
of the caliphate in Iraq and Syria,
Salman and Nicky started taking
interest in development activities
of the IS. They created various
Facebook groups under pseudo
names and started attracting people
who were interested in IS.”
As the US did not extend his
visa, he returned to India and
continued his activities. — IANS
S U N DAY l J A N U A R Y 1 8 l 2 0 1 5
French far-right Front National (FN) party
honorary president Jean-Marie Le Pen
speaks during a meeting in Aubigny,
western France. Protesters gathered
during Le Pen’s visit holding signs
after Le Pen said in an interview published
in the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya
Pravda that the Paris attack “bears
the signature of (French) intelligence
Tens of
rally in Chad
N’DJAMENA: Tens of thousands of
people rallied in the capital of Chad on
Saturday in support of the authorities’
decision to send troops to fight
Nigeria’s Boko Haram fighters. Prime
Minister Kalzeube Pahimi Deubet led
the demonstrators as they marched
from city hall in the capital N’Djamena
to the Place de Nation square, carrying
Chadian flags and chanting in French
and Arabic: “Kick the forces of evil out
of our territory.”
A large banner read: “We support
our army.
The people of Chad support their
Cameroonian and Nigerian brothers
in the fight against terrorism.”
“Today’s march is a strong signal, a
warning to Boko Haram and above all
a march for peace to protect our vital
interests, to protect our economy, to
protect Chad’s security,” Deubet said.
threatened by Boko Haram,” said
Ouchar Tourguidi, head of the main
party in parliament, calling the rally
“important for boosting morale of our
troops who are going to the front.”
Dozens of Chadian tanks headed
out of the capital on Friday south
towards Cameroon after Chad’s
parliament approved the deployment.
Chad’s plunge into the war against
Boko Haram came after a large-scale
attack by the militants in Baga, the
Nigerian town on the shores of Lake
Chad were as many as 2,000 people
were massacred by the militants in
a raid on January 7 described by US
Secretary of State John Kerry as a
“crime against humanity”.
A protester with
Dolphins painted on
her face is pictured
during a march
through central
London against the
annual slaughter
of dolphins in the
Japanese town of
Volunteers join grim
search for flood victims
CHILOBWE: While helicopters
and boats fan out across Malawi’s
devastated floodlands to search for
the living, families and friends of the
missing have begun the grim task of
digging for the dead.
Armed only with hoes, six young
men on Saturday combed the banks
of a new watercourse created by
flash floods through Chilobwe, a
shantytown just five kilometres
(three miles) from the commercial
capital Blantyre.
Digging at heaps of sand and
debris, they were hoping to find the
bodies of three people who were
swept away five days earlier.
“We have not lost hope.
We hope to find the bodies
to give our friends a dignified
funeral,” Rodney Chikoja, one of
the volunteers, said. Among those
missing is a medical student who
A woman walks past a poster of pigeon breeds at the annual three-day “British Homing World Show of the Year” held in the
Winter Gardens in Blackpool, Northern England. The show, run by the Royal Pigeon Racing Association, is the largest
gathering of Pigeon Fanciers in the United Kingdom.
was set to graduate this year and
had returned home for a weekend
to visit his parents, who survived the
A total of 176 people have been
confirmed dead in the floods, with
153 missing and 200,000 homeless,
according to official figures.
Torrential rains have wreaked
havoc across half the impoverished
southern African country’s 28
districts, washing away homes, crops
and livestock and disrupting power
Police said four bodies had already
been found along the stream through
Chilobwe, buried in sand.
“One body was found five
kilometres downstream. So you can
see how powerful the flood was,” said
a constable, who refused to give her
name, but said she helped organise
the search effort.
Journalists protest jailing of colleague
SKOPJE: A Macedonian journalist
has been jailed after being convicted
of revealing the identity of a protected
witness in a murder trial, a ruling
condemned by rights groups concerned
over deteriorating media freedoms in
the ex-Yugoslav republic.
Tomislav Kezarovski was taken from
his home by police late on Friday and
jailed hours after Macedonia’s Court
of Appeals upheld his conviction and
reduced his sentence from four and half
years to two years.
Kezarovski was originally arrested
in May 2013 and has spent much of the
time since then either in jail or under
house arrest, leaving just over three
months of the new sentence to serve.
“Just one day in prison for an innocent
journalist is a terrible punishment and
greatly harms freedom of speech and
media freedom,” said Naser Selmani,
President of Macedonia’s Association of
Kezarovski, a journalist for the
Skopje-based daily Nova Makedoniya,
Rail passengers are advised to expect significant delays
was arrested over a story published in
2008 quoting from an internal police
report leaked to him concerning a
murder trial.
The witness in question later
admitted giving false testimony under
pressure from police.
Media watchdog Reporters Without
Borders said the witness had not actually
been given protection at the time the
article was written and Kezarovski
maintains he was arrested in order to
make him reveal the identity of the
Eurostar, which operates train
services through the Tunnel between
Paris, London and Brussels, said on
Twitter that no trains would be running
on Saturday following the closure and
that all trains en route would return to
their original stations.
It advised passengers to postpone
journeys and not come to stations.
Johnny Chatterton was travelling by
Eurostar from London to Paris when his
train was sent back to St Pancras, having
been stopped at Ashford.
“We’ve been told we have to try and
book again, possibly for tomorrow,”
he said.
“There is a queue for 300-400 people
here at St Pancras.”
John Hope was travelling to Paris
with his girlfriend when their train was
turned back.
“We were stuck outside the Channel
Tunnel for about one hour with no
information at all other than smoke had
been detected and then we were told we
would have to turn back to London,” he
“This was meant to be a birthday treat
for my girlfriend but it has turned into a
pretty poor experience all round.”
Stephen Hicks’ train is heading back
towards Paris after it was diverted.
“I’m one of a group of 12 travelling
back from Les Moutiers to Ashford on
a fully occupied train,” he told the BBC.
“Our train was stopped at Lille and
there was confusion over what was
happening. We are going to be in Paris
for the night but we have no idea where
we’ll be staying.” France has been on high
alert since militants killed 17 people in
three days of violence in Paris that began
on January 7 with an attack on the offices
of a satirical newspaper.
The country wants to join NATO and
the European Union, but progress has
been stalled by a row with Greece over
the country’s name.
Macedonia’s ranking in the Reporters
Without Borders world press freedom
index has plummeted from 34th in 2009
to 123rd last year.
The EU has cited the abuse of
defamation laws and the fact that
independent news media are starved of
advertising by state institutions.
— Reuters
Somalia’s PM dissolves new cabinet
Lithuania: Stay
calm in case of
foreign invasion
Passengers wait in the long queues at Saint Pancras International station in London after all Eurostar trains were cancelled for
the day due to detected smoke in the channel.
person who leaked the report, the
watchdog said in a statement.
“His only wrongdoing was to have
pointed to shortcomings by Macedonia’s
government and judiciary through
his journalistic investigations,” said
Christian Mihr, Executive Director of
Reporters Without Borders Germany.
The case has revived concern over the
state of media freedom in Macedonia
under conservative Prime Minister
Nikola Gruevski, who took power in
Channel Tunnel closed
after lorry fire: Police
LONDON: The Channel Tunnel
operator evacuated a shuttle train and
closed the subsea crossing on Saturday
due to a lorry fire, British police said,
adding that there were no reported
Kent Police said there were no trains
in the Tunnels and French authorities
were dealing with the incident that
occurred at the Calais end.
“Rail passengers are advised to expect
significant delays whilst the vehicle is
being recovered and fumes are cleared
from the Tunnels,” the police said in an
e-mailed statement.
EuroTunnel, the operator of the
crossing, had earlier on Saturday
suspended services because of smoke
which it said was detected from an
unknown source.
It evacuated a Calais-Dover shuttle
train without incident due to the smoke.
VILNIUS: Lithuania’s defence ministry
is advising its citizens how to react
in case of war, reflecting jitters over
neighbouring Russia’s intervention
in Ukraine and a recent increase of
reported airspace violations in the
Baltic region.
The 98-page booklet is to be
distributed next week in Lithuania,
a Nato member that was under
Moscow’s rule from 1940 until 1991.
Defence Minister Juozas Olekas
has told Lithuanian radio such advice
were “more urgent than ever” because
of what he called “Russia’s aggression
against its neighbours, presently in
Ukraine.” Defence Minister Juozas
Olekas has told Lithuanian radio such
advice were “more urgent than ever”
because of what he called “Russia’s
aggression against its neighbours,
presently in Ukraine.”
The booklet, written by military
experts and already available on the
ministry’s web site, also gives advice
on coping with natural disasters,
major accidents and terrorist attacks.
Russia’s increased military activity
in the Baltic Sea area has prompted
some officials to compare it to the
Cold War. Part of Lithuania’s border
runs along the Russian Kaliningrad
enclave, where Moscow has
important military bases.
After regaining independence in
1991, Lithuania and Baltic neighbours
Latvia and Estonia turned to the West,
joining Nato and the European Union
in 2004. Nato conducts air patrols
over the Baltic Sea and rotates military
units in and out of member countries
in the region.
MOGADISHU: Somalia’s new prime minister on Saturday dissolved his cabinet
because of stiff opposition from parliament to the mammoth list unveiled less than a
week ago, officials said.
Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, appointed last month after a
damaging spat between his predecessor and internationally-backed President
Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, was given another two weeks to come up with a new
cabinet list.
“The prime minister has dissolved the new cabinet list he has announced recently
and is asking for fourteen more days to form another government,” parliament speaker
Mohamed Osman Jawari told deputies. In a letter to parliament that was read out by
Jawari, the new premier said he had taken into account the “feelings and emotions of
the lawmakers”. His decision to retract the list means he avoids what would be a highly
damaging no-confidence vote.
Last week Sharmarke presented a giant cabinet of 60 people, including 26
ministers, 25 deputies and nine state ministers, and an increase of five posts from the
previous cabinet.
German farmers and consumer rights activists perform as the take part in a
march to protest against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership
(TTIP), mass husbandry and genetic engineering in front of the Reichtsgas
building Berlin. The banner reads “Who sows Transatlantic Trade and
Investment Partnership (TTIP) reaps genetic engineering”.
— Reuters
German FM opposes Greek party’s debt cut
BERLIN: Germany’s finance minister is cautioning Greek politicians against promising
things they can’t deliver in upcoming elections and making clear that he opposes a
new debt writedown for Athens. Greece will hold elections on January 25, with polls
pointing to a first-place finish for the anti-bailout Syriza party.
Syriza is demanding that more than half of Greek bailout debt be cancelled.
Asked about that demand, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in
an interview with the weekly Der Spiegel published on Saturday that “this question
doesn’t arise.”
He said the next government must keep to existing agreements because “that is in
the interest of the Greeks.”
Schaeuble was quoted as saying: “Politicians in Greece must take care that they
don’t promise more before the election than they can keep afterward.”
JANUARY 18 l 2015
GOOD WILL: Obama threatens to veto further sanctions on Iran
Iran says nuclear agreement possible
GENEVA: A top Iranian negotiator
voiced optimism yesterday that talks
with the United States seeking to nail
down a complex nuclear deal could
succeed if Washington showed “good
“We remain hopeful and I think
that if the other side has the necessary
good will and determination, it will be
possible to reach a deal,” Iran’s Deputy
Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told
the Fars news agency.
His comments came on a third day of
talks with senior US officials in Geneva
aimed at accelerating progress towards a
comprehensive deal which would rein in
Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange
for relief from a tight network of global
Iranian negotiators were also set to
meet with Russian officials later in the
day, before full negotiations today with
the so-called P5+1 group — the United
States, Britain, China, France, Russia
and Germany.
Following an interim accord in
November 2013, two deadlines for a
final deal have been missed, and now a
third one is looming on July 1.
“The negotiations are continuing in a
completely serious atmosphere and both
parties want to reach an agreement, but
problems, chasms and differences also
exist,” Araghchi acknowledged.
A Western source close to the talks
meanwhile said they did not seem to be
moving forward significantly and that
the biggest stumbling block was on the
Iranian side.
“The Iranians have not yet made
enough gestures to enable us to reach
a good deal that would ensure a
Japan pledges $2.5bn in
non-military aid to ME
Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb
welcomes Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo
Abe as they attend a conference on
business and investment during Abe’s
visit to Cairo yesterday.
— Reuters
CAIRO: Japanese Prime Minister
Shinzo Abe yesterday pledged
$2.5 billion in humanitarian and
development aid for the Middle East
as he launched a regional tour that
includes visits to Jordan and Israel.
In a speech in Cairo, Abe pledged
$200 million in non-military assistance
for countries affected by the IS group’s
bloody expansion in Iraq and Syria,
which spurred an exodus of refugees to
neighbouring countries.
“Japan will newly carry out assistance
of $2.5 billion in non-military fields
including humanitarian assistance and
infrastructure development, intended
for the entire region,” Abe said,
according to an official transcript.
Speaking to Egyptian politicians
and businessmen, he said Japan would
“provide assistance for refugees and
displaced persons from Iraq and
“I will pledge assistance of a total of
about $200 million for those countries
contending with IS, to help build their
human capacities, infrastructure, and
so on,” he added.
A Japanese foreign ministry official
said that much of those funds would go
towards assisting neighbouring states
hosting refugees.
The money is included in the $2.5
billion figure, she said, which also
includes loans to improve Egypt’s
power grid.
The United Nations has warned that
the number of Syrian refugees could
shoot up to 4.27 million by December
from the current figure of more than
three million.
The Syrian conflict has killed more
than 200,000 people since March 2011
and displaced around half the country’s
population, with many fleeing to
neighbouring Lebanon, Turkey and
Dozens of Japanese company
executives are accompanying Abe on
his trip.
Since taking office in December
2012, Abe has worked to boost Japan’s
profile in global affairs.
He has visited more than 50
countries — but not Japan’s neighbours
China and South Korea, with which
Tokyo is at odds over territory and
The last time a Japanese leader
visited Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian
territories was in 2006 when Junichiro
Koizumi was in office.
Abe was the last premier to visit
Egypt during his brief first stint in the
top job in 2007.
He said Japan had contributed $2.2
billion to the Middle East in 2012 which
had “already been put into execution.”
Abe urged Israel and the Palestinians
to resume negotiations, after the
Palestinians joined the International
Criminal Court this month to seek an
investigation into the war in Gaza last
“Japan believes that the day will
come in the near future when we can
recognise Palestine as a state,” he said.
“In order for that day to arrive
sooner, we will appeal to both Israel
and Palestine to resume negotiations
to advance the so-called Two-State
A displaced Iraqi man from the Shabak community, who fled fighting between IS
group and Peshmerga fighters around the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, at the
Baharka camp, 10 kms west of Arbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region
in northern Iraq. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledges assistance for
refugees and displaced persons from Iraq and Syria.
If a sanctions bill does go
through, some Iranian
lawmakers hinted this
week they could push to
resume unlimited uranium
substantial reduction of their residual
(uranium) enrichment capacity, so we
collectively can be assured they don’t
have the technical capacity to rapidly
develop a nuclear bomb,” he said.
The source argued that any deal
needed to ensure that Iran’s “breakout
capacity” for making a nuclear bomb was
at least one year to give the international
community time enough to act.
If the global powers go along with “a
weak deal, that would send a disastrous
signal to the rest of the world on the
issue of proliferation,” he said.
Iran insists it is only interested in
nuclear energy and adamantly denies it
is pursuing atomic weapons.
negotiations are hardliners on both
sides who appear willing to torpedo the
The new Republican-controlled
US Congress is considering a fresh
sanctions bill, despite strong opposition
from President Barack Obama, who has
threatened to veto any such legislation
that lands on his desk
If a sanctions bill does go through,
some Iranian lawmakers hinted this
week they could push to resume
unlimited uranium enrichment.
There has been a flurry of diplomatic
activity in the lead-up to today’s talks in
a bid to break the stalemate.
US Secretary of State John Kerry met
his Iranian counterpart Mohammad
Javad Zarif for a marathon six-hour
round in Geneva on Wednesday, and
again in Paris on Friday.
Zarif also went to Berlin this week to
meet German Foreign Minister FrankWalter Steinmeier, who stressed that
the negotiations had entered a “decisive
phase” and urged all parties to “leave
nothing undone to reach the solution
that has eluded us in recent years.”
Iran’s top diplomat also met in Paris
with his French counterpart Laurent
Fabius, who raised “the significant
questions that remain to be solved,” the
French foreign ministry said. — AFP
Israeli policemen detain a Palestinian during a demonstration against the closure of the main road in Jabaa area south of the
West Bank city of Bethlehem yesterday.
— Reuters
US blasts ICC
crimes probe
as ‘tragic irony’
In new blow, Syrian
opposition shuns
Russia peace initiative
WASHINGTON: The United States
joined Israel in condemning the
International Criminal Court
decision to opened a preliminary
probe on Friday into possible
war crimes committed against
Palestinians, blasting it as a “tragic
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda
said her office would conduct an
“analysis in full independence
and impartiality” into alleged war
crimes by Israel, including those
committed during last year’s Gaza
Her decision comes after
Palestine formally joined the ICC
earlier this month, allowing it to
lodge war crimes and crimes against
humanity complaints against Israel
as of April.
Nearly 2,200 Palestinians and
73 Israelis were killed during last
summer’s war in Gaza.
The US criticised the decision
late on Friday, saying it opposed
actions against Israel at the ICC as
“counterproductive to the cause of
“It is a tragic irony that Israel,
which has withstood thousands of
terrorist rockets fired at its civilians
and its neighbourhoods, is now
being scrutinised by the ICC,” US
State Department spokesman Jeff
Rathke said in a statement.
BEIRUT: A Russian initiative to host
peace talks this month between the
Syrian government and its opponents
appears to be unravelling as prominent
Syrian opposition figures shun the
prospective negotiations amid deep
distrust of Moscow and concerns the
talks hold no chance of success.
The faltering effort suggests that
even after four years and at least
220,000 people killed, the antagonists
in Syria’s civil war are far from burning
themselves out and will likely keep
fighting for a more decisive battlefield
advantage before any real talks can take
The planned meetings in Moscow,
scheduled to start on January 26,
would be the first on Syria since a
UN-sponsored conference in Geneva
collapsed early last year after making
no headway. But the Syrian tableau has
changed dramatically since then.
President Bashar al Assad faces
growing resentment among his
supporters in the wake of bloody
defeats, while his main patrons, Russia
and Iran, are feeling the pinch from
the global plunge in oil prices. Syria’s
mainstream opposition — political
and armed — teeters on the brink of
irrelevance, and the extremist IS group
has seized control of large chunk of
northeastern Syria and neighbouring
Iraq. The United States also has joined
the fray, carrying out air strikes with its
allies against IS group militants while
The planned meetings in
Moscow, scheduled to start
on January 26, would be
the first on Syria since a
UN-sponsored conference
in Geneva collapsed early
last year after making no
leaving Assad’s forces untouched.
Washington has been conspicuously
absent from the diplomatic shuffle
towards Moscow, unwilling to spend
its political capital to cajole the main
Western-backed opposition group, the
Syrian National Coalition, to attend
peace talks that have limited hopes of
success. United Nations envoy Staffan
de Mistura is working a parallel peace
track, trying to slow the carnage in Syria
through a plan that calls for “freezing the
conflict” in the northern city of Aleppo
as a building block for a wider solution to
the war. That plan faces its own hurdles,
and has yet to gain much traction.
So far, the Moscow conference has
only a short list of attendees. Assad’s
government, which has relied on Russia
for economic and diplomatic support
as well as military hardware during
the conflict, has said it is prepared to
participate. A few small, governmenttolerated opposition groups also have
said they will attend.
Gunman seizes
chief of staff
SANAA: Houthi militiamen in
control of Yemen’s capital seized
President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi’s
chief of staff yesterday in a new
challenge to his leadership of the
violence-plagued country.
The abduction of Ahmed Awad
bin Mubarak, who heads a “national
dialogue” on Yemen’s political
transition, came shortly before
he was to attend a meeting on a
proposed new constitution opposed
by the Houthi militia.
Yemen has been dogged by
instability since the ouster in 2012
of strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh,
with different groups seeking to fill
the power vacuum.
The Houthis are widely believed
to be backed by Saleh.
Yemeni authorities said they
had arrested two Frenchmen for
questioning over suspected al
Qaeda links. In a statement, the
militia said Mubarak’s detention
was necessary to prevent a UNbrokered agreement between the
presidency and them in September
“from being broken,” without
clarifying Mubarak’s role.
The “national peace and
partnership agreement” was signed
in September as the Houthis
overran Sanaa. It called for forming
a new government and appointing
Houthi advisors to Hadi, and for
Houthis to withdraw from key state
institutions they had seized.
Mubarak’s kidnap came just
before a meeting of the national
dialogue secretariat to present a
draft constitution that stipulates
dividing Yemen into a six-region
federation, which the Huthis
representatives of the Huthis and
Saleh’s General People’s Congress
party walked out of a meeting
headed by Hadi to discuss the
political process, including the
Blast outside
Algeria Embassy
in Libya
wounds two
TRIPOLI: An explosion outside the
Algerian Embassy in Libya’s capital
Tripoli yesterday slightly wounded
two guards and damaged nearby
vehicles, officials and residents said.
Algeria and most other countries
evacuated their diplomats in the
summer during fighting between
rival factions who are battling for
control of the oil-producing North
African state three years after the
fall of Muammar Gaddafi.
Two guards suffered minor
wounds by the blast, officials in
Tripoli and Algeria’s state news
agency said. Libya’s recognised
government, which has been forced
to work out of a rump state in the
east, denounced the explosion in
a statement as “cheap attempt” to
undermine UN-sponsored peace
talks which started this week in
Geneva. Tripoli is now controlled by
a faction called Libya Dawn, which
has set up a rival government.
The eastern-based government
is recognised by the United Nations
and Western powers.
The Tripoli administration is
not, but still controls ministries,
airports and some oil facilities.
The UN talks are aimed at
forming a unity government, ending
hostilities and putting a transition
to democracy on track.
But the Tripoli-based forces say
the process had been rushed, and
plan to vote on Sunday on whether
to attend.
Fighting over the country’s oil
infrastructure has closed two major
oil ports in the east and slashed
Libya’s oil output to around 300,000
barrels per day from the 1.6 million
bpd produced before the civil war
toppled Gaddafi in 2011. — Reuters
JANUARY 18 l 2015
UPSURGE IN CLASHES: Battles shook the area around the Donetsk airport with military defending its positions
Fighting in eastern Ukraine kills 3 soldiers
rally in Russia’s
KIEV: Fighting in eastern Ukraine has
killed three soldiers, officials said on
Saturday, as an upsurge in clashes in
recent days between the army and proRussian rebels centred around control of
a battered airport.
Further battles shook the area
around the Donetsk airport on Saturday,
with Ukraine’s military saying it was
defending its positions despite rebel
claims that they had taken control of the
The wrecked shell of the airport
has been repeatedly hit by battles,
but remains of symbolic and strategic
“The situation there is really difficult,”
military spokesman Andriy Lysenko
said in a briefing.
and attempts to attack, but the
military command constantly sends
He said three Ukrainian soldiers had
been killed and 18 others wounded over
the past day, bringing the military’s toll
to at least nine dead since Thursday.
At least five civilians have been
reported killed since Thursday.
It was not clear if the new toll
included a soldier killed by a boobytrapped honey jar that exploded in the
‘There are constant attacks
and attempts to attack,
but the military command
sends reinforcements’
Lugansk region on Friday.
An elderly man identifying himself
as a local resident in Stanicya Lugans’ka
handed soldiers at a checkpoint a threelitre jar of honey and thanked them for
their service before walking away, said
Lugansk regional governor Hennadiy
The jar later exploded, killing one
soldier and seriously wounding three
others in what appeared to be the first
such attack since the war in Ukraine’s
east began in April 2014.
As fighting rocked the area around
the airport on Saturday, Lysenko also
alleged that Russia was increasing its
military presence along the Ukraine
He said arms including TOS-1
flamethrowers, C300 missile systems
and Smerch and Hurricane rocket
launchers had been spotted near the
Russian city of Rostov-on-Don close to
the border and were being periodically
moved into Ukraine for attacks.
Russia, under Western sanctions over
its actions in Ukraine, strongly denies
sending weapons and troops into the
war zone despite witness claims to the
More than 4,800 people have been
killed in the conflict, while talks aimed
at ending the fighting have stalled.
A September truce has been
frequently violated, while a peace
summit between the leaders of Ukraine,
Russia, Germany and France has been
postponed until an unclear date.
Hollande defends freedom of
speech after clashes abroad
President Francois
Hollande said on
Saturday that antiCharlie
protesters in other
countries do not
understand France’s
freedom of speech.
He was speaking
a day after the
publication of a cartoon sparked violent
clashes, including deaths.
Demand has surged for Charlie
Hebdo’s first issue since two gunmen
burst into its weekly editorial
conference and shot dead 12 people at
the start of three days of violence that
shocked France.
The magazine’s distributors said
that its print run had been lifted to
seven million copies, dwarfing its usual
circulation of only 60,000.
A cartoon image on its front page
A combination photo shows animals being blessed by a priest outside Madrid’s San Anton Church. Hundreds of pet owners
bring their animals to be blessed every year on the day of San Anton, Spain’s patron saint of animals.
— Reuters
3 missing in Russian mine explosion
Gunman ‘was with 5 others in Madrid’
MADRID: Amedy Coulibaly, one of the three gunmen
behind last week’s Paris attacks, drove five people to Madrid
in early January to catch a plane to Turkey, a Spanish antiterrorism source said on Friday.
Among the five was Mehdi Sabry Belhoucine and his
brother Mohamed, who has already been convicted of
terrorism related offences in France, as well as Coulibaly’s
partner Hayat Boumeddiene, the source said.
“We think they travelled from Paris, going to MadridBarajas (airport), without stopping — Coulibaly, Hayat,
the Belhoucine brothers, and Mohamed Belhoucine’s wife
and son.” The five people flew to Turkey on January 2 with
tickets bought over the Internet, the source added.
Mohamed Belhoucine, a 27-year-old former engineering
student, was arrested in May 2010 and sentenced to two
years in prison for membership in a cell that sent fighters to
a border region. He left jail in June 2014.
A French police source said earlier that Mohamed
Belhoucine was already in Syria where Hayat Boumeddiene
joined him. Boumeddiene was seen arriving at an airport
in Istanbul accompanied by his younger brother Mehdi.
According to Spanish daily El Mundo, Hayat
Boumeddiene boarded a flight to Istanbul on January 2 at
2:25 pm.
Soldiers likely to be deployed to protect certain embassies
Belgian troops guard key sites
in wake of anti-terror sweep
BRUSSELS: Soldiers fanned out to
guard possible terror targets across
Belgium on Saturday, including some
buildings within the Jewish quarter of
the port city of Antwerp.
It was the first time in 30 years that
authorities used troops to reinforce
police in Belgium’s cities, and came a
day after anti-terror raids netted dozens
of suspects across Western Europe.
In an interview broadcast on
Saturday on Belgium’s VRT network,
Belgian Defence Minister Steven
Vandeput said soldiers could be
deployed to protect certain embassies
and some buildings within Antwerp’s
Jewish quarter.
Belgium has increased its terror
warning to 3, the second-highest,
following the anti-terror raids of
Thursday which left two suspects
dead. In France, an official disclosed
that Said Kouachi, one of the gunmen
who attacked the offices of the satirical
magazine Charlie Hebdo, had been
quietly buried. After an initial refusal,
the mayor of Reims said he was forced
to backtrack and allow the burial.
It was the first time in 30
years that authorities used
troops to reinforce police in
Belgium’s cities and came
a day after anti-terror raids
netted dozens of suspects
across Western Europe
Mayor Arnaud Robinet said the
government had insisted he allow the
elder Kouachi brother to be buried in
Reims because according to French law
residents of a town have the right to be
buried there. “He was buried last night,
in the most discrete, anonymous way
possible,” Robinet said in an interview
on French television channel BFM TV.
Robinet said he didn’t know where
Kouachi was buried in the cemetery,
which he didn’t identify. Kouachi and
his brother Cherif were killed by French
counter-terrorism police on January 9
after they killed 12 people at the offices
of Charlie Hebdo.
Cherif Kouachi is to be buried in
Gennevilliers, a suburb of Paris where
he lived, the city said in a statement
on Friday. Authorities said a third
gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, killed five
people including four hostages at a
kosher market in Paris before he was
killed by police.
There has been no word of plans for
his burial. French, German, Belgian
and Irish police had at least 30 suspects
behind bars on Friday and in Brussels,
authorities said a dozen searches led to
the seizure of four Kalashnikov assault
rifles, hand guns and explosives.
Several police uniforms were also
found, which Belgian authorities said
suggested the plotters had intended
to masquerade as police officers. The
seizures followed an anti-terrorism
sweep on Thursday in and around
Brussels and the eastern industrial
city of Verviers in which two suspects
were killed in a firefight and a third
Authorities said the follow-up
operation netted several returnees
from Islamic holy war in Syria. — AP
in the Muslim
world, triggering
that turned violent
in Algeria, Niger
and Pakistan on
“ W e ’ v e
supported these
countries in the
t e r r o r i s m ,”
Hollande said during a visit to the
southern city of Tulle, traditionally his
political fiefdom.
“I still want to express my solidarity
(towards them), but at the same time
France has principles and values, in
particular freedom of expression,” he
Police in Niger fired teargas on
Saturday at hundreds of rock-throwing
protesters in a second day of clashes
over Charlie Hebdo’s publication of the
— Reuters
MOSCOW: Around 15,000 people
on Saturday rallied in Russia’s North
Caucasus region of Ingushetia against
Western publications, authorities said,
in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack
in France.
The crowd gathered for the officially
sanctioned meeting in the regional
capital Magas to protest “against
cartoons and insulting the beliefs of
a community,” the local government’s
press service said.
Yevkurov described the publication of
caricatures as “state extremism on the
side of several Western countries” in a
statement addressed to the protest.
“Instead of decisively condemning
these destructive steps, the political
authorities in the West are trying to
set people of different religions and
nationalities against each other,” the
statement published on the local
administration’s website said.
Russia’s media watchdog on Friday
warned publications that printing
cartoons was against the country’s law
and ethical norms.
ombudsman Roskomnadzor said
that publishing the caricatures could
be qualified as “inciting ethnic and
religious hatred” and punished under
anti-extremism laws.
Many newspapers and magazines
around the world reprinted cartoons
by Charlie Hebdo, whose Paris office
was attacked by gunmen on January 7,
leading to the deaths of 12 people.
extended its condolences to France,
and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
participated in the unity march
staged at the weekend, pro-Kremlin
commentators and accused the
cartoonists of provoking the attack.
Police arrest
woman on
suspicion of
LONDON: British police have arrested
an 18-year old woman at a London
airport on suspicion of preparing
acts of terrorism and membership
of a banned organisation, a police
statement said.
Her arrest on Friday after she
arrived on a flight at Stansted airport
was connected to a prior investigation
which had already resulted in the
arrest of a 21-year-old man in October
last year. The woman was taken to
a London police station where she
remains in custody, the police said.
The arrest is the latest in a series
carried out by British counterterrorism officers since the country’s
threat level was raised in August to
its second-highest level because of
risks posed by IS fighters returning
from Iraq and Syria. Much of Europe
is currently on heightened security
alert after last week’s killings in Paris
and raids in Belgium in which two
gunmen were killed.
Meanwhile, Eurostar says rail
passenger services between Britain
and France have been suspended
after smoke has been detected in the
Channel Tunnel beneath the English
channel. Tunnel operator Eurotunnel
said in a statement that a C02 alarm
went off just before midday and that it
was investigating the cause.
Eurostar said in a statement on
Saturday that smoke was detected
in the north tunnel. The statement
says: “If you were planning to travel
today, we advise you to postpone
your journey and not to come to the
MOSCOW: Three iron ore miners are missing and two others have been hospitalised
after an explosion deep underground in Russia’s Ural Mountains.
A statement from the regional Interior Ministry says the blast happened early on
Saturday at a depth of 160 metres in the mine in the town of Kushva, about 1,400
kilometres east of Moscow. The ministry said 89 miners were at work at the time and
86 of them were evacuated.
The condition of the two hospitalised miners was not stated. Russia’s Investigative
Committee said a criminal case has been opened on possible violation of safety
The blast reportedly took place as workers were preparing an explosion to dislodge
Meanwhile, in eastern Ukraine has killed three soldiers, officials said on Saturday,
as an upsurge in clashes in recent days between the army and pro-Russian rebels
centred around control of a battered airport. Further battles shook the area around
the Donetsk airport on Saturday, with Ukraine’s military saying it was defending its
positions despite rebel claims that they had taken control of the site.
A seagull enjoys the early afternoon sun in downtown Rome.
— AP
One killed in Kyrgyzstan border attack
BISHKEK: One border guard was killed and two wounded in an armed attack close
to Kyrgyzstan’s volatile border with Central Asian neighbour Tajikistan, official said on
Authorities in the ex-Soviet state were probing the incident after unknown
assailants opened fire late on Friday on a border guard base some 25 kilometres from
the frontier, Kyrgyzstan’s Deputy Prime Minister Abdyrakhman Mamatiliev said.
The Kyrgyz border with Tajikistan sees sporadic outbursts of violence mainly due to
local disagreements over land rights.
The Fergana valley area, densely populated and straddling the territories of
Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, has seen clashes since becoming independent
from Soviet rule in the early 1990s, as precise borders were never agreed.
Violence has intensified in recent years as global warming has shrunken glaciers
and cut water supplies, flaring cross-border tensions.
Energy-poor Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are also planning damming projects to
address energy shortages, enraging their more populous downstream neighbour
Uzbekistan which has a huge cotton industry. — AFP
JANUARY 18 l 2015
MUCH EXPECTATIONS: Address expected to be as much about selling a story of US economic revival as it is about outlining initiatives
Obama faces Republican Congress for first time
WASHINGTON: For the first time
in his presidency, Barack Obama will
stand before a Republican-led Congress
to deliver his State of the Union policy
address and try to convince lawmakers
newly empowered to block his agenda
that they should instead join with him on
education, cyber protection and national
security proposals. With Obama firmly
in the legacy-building phase, his address
is expected to be as much about selling
a story of US economic revival as it is
about outlining initiatives.
The approach reflects the White
House’s belief that it has been too
cautious in promoting economic gains
out of fear of looking tone deaf to the
continued struggles of many Americans.
White House advisers have suggested
that their restraint hindered Democrats
in the November elections and helped
Republicans take full control of Congress
for the first time in eight years.
But with hiring up and unemployment
down, the president has been more
assertive about the improving state of
the economy in the new year and his
nationally televised address on Tuesday
night will be his most high-profile
platform for making that case.
“America’s resurgence is real, and
we’re better positioned than any country
on Earth to succeed in the 21st century,”
Obama said on Wednesday in Iowa,
one of several trips he has made this
month to preview the speech. Tuesday
is the second-to-last time Obama will
take part in the pageantry of the annual
presidential address to Congress and a
televised audience of millions.
America’s resurgence
is real, and we’re
better positioned
than any country on Earth to
succeed in the 21st century.
By the time he stands before
lawmakers next year, Americans will
have begun voting in the primary
campaigns that will determine his
successor. Mindful of Obama’s fading
share of the spotlight, the White House
has tried to build momentum for his
address by rolling out, in advance, many
of the proposals he will outline.
Among them: making community
college free for many students; ensuring
paid sick leave for many workers;
cutting the cost of mortgage insurance
premiums for some home buyers;
pressing for cyber security legislation
in the wake of the hacking attack on
Sony Pictures Entertainment, which the
US has blamed on North Korea. Some
proposals are retreads.
Most stand a slim chance of getting
congressional approval. The real
battle lines between Obama and the
Republican-led Congress will be on
matters long fought over. Buoyed by
their new majority, Republicans are
moving forward on bills to approve the
Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada
to the US Gulf Coast, change Obama’s
health care law and dismantle his
executive orders deferring deportation
Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron during a press conference with US President Barack Obama in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC.
for millions of immigrants living
illegally in the US The White House
has threatened vetoes. Republicans say
that’s a sign of a president who didn’t
get the message from voters trying to
relegate his party to minority status in
the November elections.
New Senate Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell said the president still has a
chance to change his tone. “Tuesday can
be a new day,” McConnell said.”This can
be the moment the president pivots to a
positive posture, this can be a day when
he promotes serious realistic reforms
that focus on economic growth and
don’t just spend more money we don’t
We’re eager for him to do so.” Obama
isn’t expected to make any major foreign
policy announcements.
He is likely to urge lawmakers to stop
the pursuit of new penalties against Iran
while the US and others are in the midst
of nuclear negotiations with Tehran.
In a news conference on Friday,
Obama said legislation threatening
additional penalties could upend the
delicate diplomacy. “Congress should
be aware that if this diplomatic solution
fails, then the risks and likelihood that
this ends up being at some point a
military confrontation is heightened
- and Congress will have to own that
as well,” he said. The president also is
expected to cite his recent decision to
normalize relations with Cuba, as well
as defend the effectiveness of US efforts
to stop Russia’s provocations in Ukraine
and conduct air strikes against State
fighters in Iraq and Syria.
Mexico’s cartel leaders charged in San Diego Venezuela moves oppn
SAN DIEGO: Top leaders of Mexico’s
Sinaloa cartel smuggled huge amounts
of methamphetamine and other
drugs to the United States, according
to indictments unsealed on Friday
that reflect the organisation’s recent
success dominating criminal activity on
California’s southern border. Ismael “El
Mayo” Zambada and two of his sons are
among five dozen people charged in 14
Another son has pleaded guilty in
the same investigation, which began in
2011 by targeting a small drug-dealing
ring in the San Diego suburbs of Chula
Vista and National City and reached top
leaders through the use of more than
200 wiretaps.
So far, 117 people have been charged in
the investigation, which alleges the cartel
smuggled Mexican methamphetamine
and marijuana, as well as South
American cocaine and heroin, across
the US border. The elder Zambada,
who is at-large, was a key target for US
and Mexican authorities well before last
year’s arrest in Mexico of Sinaloa cartel
kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman
(pictured). Zambada was charged in two
other US cases in 2009 filed in Chicago
and Brooklyn, New York.
Adam Braverman, an assistant US
attorney, said he is charged elsewhere in
the country in cases filed under seal. “We
So far, 117 people have
been charged in the
investigation, which
alleges the cartel smuggled
Mexican as well as South
American drugs across the
US border
know for sure that Mayo is recognized as
a leader. But it’s hard for him to run dayto-day operations because he’s definitely
on the run.
He’s moving from place to place,”
said William Sherman, special agent
in charge of the US Drug Enforcement
Administration in San Diego. US
authorities said the elder Zambada is 64
years old and has four sons, including
three who were charged in the San Diego
investigation. Zambada is charged with
continuing a criminal enterprise, which
carries a maximum penalty of life in
prison, and multiple counts of conspiracy.
The indictment was filed under seal in
July. Ismael Zambada Imperial, who
has been in Mexican custody since his
November arrest, is said by US authorities
to be 30 years old and responsible for
smuggling cocaine across the US border
and laundering money.
Ismael Zambada Sicairos, who
is at-large, is said to be 32 years
old and responsible for making
smuggling it across the US border and
money laundering. Serafin Zambada
pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges
last year in San Diego after his arrest at a
Nogales, Arizona, border crossing.
Vicente Zambada pleaded guilty to
drug trafficking charges in Chicago in
2013. The Sinaloa cartel, long one of
Mexico’s most powerful, has extended
its grip in recent years to Tijuana, across
the border from San Diego, defeating
a longtime rival family. US authorities
say the Sinaloa cartel used its new
stronghold to orchestrate a surge of cheap
methamphetamine into the country.
US inspectors seized 23,335 pounds
of the drug at border crossings with
Mexico in the 2014 fiscal year, more
than double the 4,585 kilogrammes
discovered three years earlier.
More than 63 per cent seized last year
at Mexico crossings was in California.
Those indicted are “family members and
people that were being groomed to take
over all future operations of the cartel,”
said the DEA’s Sherman. They include
Alfonso Arzate, known as “Achilles,”
who is described by US and Mexican
authorities as a major figure in Tijuana,
and his younger brother, Rene Arzate,
who is known as “The Frog.” Braverman
said it is the first time the brothers have
been charged in the US Both men are atlarge.
— AP
ex-mayor to home arrest
authorities have allowed a former
opposition mayor jailed during a wave
of anti-government protests in 2014 to
swap his cell for house arrest because of
poor health.
Relatives and supporters of Vicencio
Scarano, former mayor of San Diego
in central Carabobo, welcomed his
freedom from jail, but the move did
not seem to signal any wider release
for other jailed opponents of President
Nicolas Maduro.
Scarano was detained last March for
failing to clear street barricades during
a wave of protests against Maduro
that left 43 people dead and hundreds
injured, including demonstrators,
government supporters and security
The Supreme Court said late on
Friday that he needed an urgent
operation. “Home arrest instead of jail
for Enzo Scarano due to his state of
health,” the court said via Twitter.
Scarano is one of the best-known of
a handful of jailed opposition figures,
along with protest leader Leopoldo
Lopez and another former major Daniel
While opposition parties call them
“political prisoners”, the government
says they are “imprisoned politicians”
who have broken Venezuela’s laws and
thus face justice like anyone else.
“Before anything, thank God, always
on our side,” tweeted Scarano’s wife,
Rosa Scarano, who won an election to
replace her husband as mayor of San
Diego soon after his arrest.
As a condition of his house arrest,
Scarano was banned from political
activity, going abroad or speaking to
— AP
The worst problem is in the Cantareira water system, the largest of reservoirs that provide water to some 6m of the 20m living in Sao Paulo
Biggest reservoir for Brazil’s largest city is running dry
SAO PAULO: Halfway through the rainy season,
the key reservoir for the hemisphere’s largest
city holds just 6 per cent of its capacity, and
experts warned that Sao Paulo authorities must
take urgent steps to prevent the worst drought
in more than 80 years from drying it out. The
system of reservoirs and rivers that provide water
to millions in this city have received less rainfall
than hoped during the first weeks of the wet
season, raising fears they won’t be replenished as
Rainfall during the first two weeks of January
totalled just 2.9 inches, well below the historic
average for the month of 10.7 inches.
The biggest problem is in the Cantareira water
system, which is the largest of six reservoirs that
provide water to some 6 million of the 20 million
people living in the metropolitan area of Sao
Paulo city.
A hat vendor awaits for clients at Arpoador beach in a temperature of 37 degrees Celsius, in Rio de
Cantareira is now down to 6 per cent of its Janeiro, Brazilon.
‘Sao Paulo’s water situation is in
the intensive care unit and the
worse will only be avoided if these
measures are adopted and, of
course, if it starts raining more’
capacity of 264 billion gallons, the water utility
Sabesp said on its website. Of the remaining five
systems, Alto Tiete is at 11 per cent of capacity,
Rio Claro 25 per cent, Alto Cotia 30 per cent,
Guarapiranga 40 per cent and Rio Grande 70 per
“The water supply situation is critical and
could become even more critical if the lack of rain
and hot weather continue and effective demand
management techniques are not created,”
Mario Thadeu Leme de Barros, head of the
University of Sao Paulo’s hydraulic engineering
and environmental department, said by phone.
Although declining water supplies have been a
concern since last year, authorities have resisted
rationing water.
But Leme de Barros said officials need
to consider a range of steps, among them
implementing water rationing but also
encouraging the use of more efficient appliances,
lowering water pressure in the system and doing
better at repairing leaks.
“Sao Paulo’s water situation is in the intensive
care unit and the worse will only be avoided if
these measures are adopted and, of course, if it
starts raining more,” he Barros said. The Sao
Paulo state government said its measures to
conserve water are working, such as offering
discounted water bills for those who limit usage
and reducing water pressure during off-peak
— AP
JANUARY 18 l 2015
A South Korean fan with her country’s national flag painted on her cheek smiles ahead of the AFC Asia Cup soccer match
between Australia and South Korea in Brisbane, Australia.
— AP
A man wearing a
Spider-Man outfit
poses during a
denouncing security
policies by Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe
in front of the
National Diet.
Several hundred
people, mainly
women, took part in
the demonstration
by forming a human
chain and
surrounding the
A member of the
Indonesian Air Force
cleans a rotor on a Super
Puma helicopter, after a
search operation for the
bodies of passengers
onboard AirAsia Flight
QZ8501, at Iskandar
airbase in Pangkalan
Bun. The airliner lost
contact with air traffic
control in bad weather
on December 28, less
than halfway into a twohour flight from the city
of Surabaya to
Singapore. All 162
people on board were
— Reuters
France’s Steve Missillier competes in the FIS Ski World Cup Men’s Slalom in
Participants hold candles before an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the most number of people blowing out candles simultaneously, at a square in
Kunming, Yunnan province. A total of 841 people successfully broke the record formerly set by 640 people in India in September 2013, local media reported. — Reuters
A bullfighter performs during a bullfight at Cesar Rincon bullring in Duitama, department of
Boyaca, Colombia. In Duitama, near Bogota, a bullring bets on replacing the capital’s famous
La Santamaria bullring, closed by the mayor in his crusade against animal abuse, but the lack
of public shows that the bullfight is in crisis in Colombia.
This view taken yesterday from a boat at sea shows steam and gas
rising from the eruption of a volcano, some 65 kilometres northwest of
the South Pacific nation Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa. The Tongan volcano
has created a substantial new island since it began erupting in
December, spewing out huge volumes of rock and dense ash that has
killed nearby vegetation, officials said. The Lands and Natural Resources
Ministry said the volcano was erupting from two vents, one on the
uninhabited island of Hunga Ha’apai and the other underwater about
100 metres offshore.
Snow-covered trees are seen from the press shuttle travelling from the finish area
of the ladies’ World Cup Downhill skiing race in Cortina D’Ampezzo. The race was
cancelled due to heavy snowfall.
— Reuters
The faithful cheer at the arrival of Pope Francis in Tacloban, Philippines.
— AP
SUNDAY | JANUARY 18, 2015 | RABEE AL AWWAL 27, 1436 AH
OPWP, ACWA Power Barka sign pacts Meethaq promotes kids’ saving habits Xiaomi unveils phone aimed at iPhone fans FOLLOW US ON:
Russian bond
rating lowered
New York/London: Moody’s lowered
Russia’s government bond rating to one
level above junk.
Moody’s lowered Russian bonds from
a rating of Baa2 to a Baa3, meaning the
bonds are viewed as speculative, which
most investors seek to avoid. The agency
also threatened to lower Russia’s rating
further. Moody’s based its decision on
the crash in oil prices and the shift in
the foreign exchange markets further
damaging the already below average
medium-term growth perspective. The
country is rated at BBB by the two other
large ratings agencies.
In its updated growth outlook for
Russia, Moody’s now expects GDP to
shrink around 5.5 per cent in 2015.
Fitch cuts Greece
credit outlook
[email protected]
OMAN ROADS: At the heart of the proposed monitoring scheme is a custom-designed software system — RAMS
New system to manage road infrastructure
The project encompasses
not only the asphalt-topped
section of a carriageway, but
also the pavements, railings,
signboards, other road
furniture and the broader
right of way (ROW) corridor
as well
Jan 17: Oman’s Ministry of Transport
and Communications has unveiled
plans for the implementation of
an integrated framework for the
management of the country’s 13,000plus kilometre-long road network, built
at a cost of many billions of dollars over
the past several decades.
Management System (RAMS), it
entails the deployment of advanced
software, specialised hardware, and
vehicle-mounted equipment to survey
and monitor the condition of the
nation’s road network and associated
infrastructure. The goal is to act
preemptively and proactively to limit
damage to these assets and thereby save
the government enormous sums in
expensive rehabilitation and rebuilding
The initiative comes as the
government prepares to ramp up
investment in the road sector, as
well in multimodal transportation
infrastructure in general, in line with
its goals to position the Sultanate as
a logistics hub for the wider Gulf and
Middle East region.
importance of this scheme is the
recognition that a high-quality road
network is pivotal to Oman’s longer
term growth objectives. Excellent
road connectivity not only fuels
foreign investment inflows and
tourism development, but also broader
socioeconomic development — a policy
mindset that earned the Sultanate a
coveted third place ranking (out of
148 countries surveyed) on the Global
Competitiveness Index based on the
quality of roads in 2013/2014. Within
the GCC, Oman was only second to the
UAE in regional rankings.
A number of local and international
firms are currently preparing to bid
for a contract to provide consultancy
services to the Ministry of Transport
provision of an effective Road Assets
Management System for the Sultanate.
The project encompasses not only the
asphalt-topped section of a carriageway,
but also the pavements, railings,
signboards, other road furniture and the
Technical bids for Oman Rail Segment 1
WASHINGTON: Rating firm Fitch
lowered Greece’s credit outlook to
negative from stable, citing rising
political uncertainty, but kept the
country’s credit rating unchanged at ‘B’,
indicating highly speculative.
“The current period of political
uncertainty has increased the risks to
Greece’s creditworthiness as official
financing, and any potential reopening
of market access, could be delayed for
some months.
Early elections to be held on 25
January have made the direction of
Greek policymaking more uncertain,”
Fitch said in a statement. — AFP
Certificates of
deposit tender
MUSCAT: Certificates of deposit
tender was held at the Central Bank
of Oman (CBO) last week. The total
amount allotted for issue No 900 was
RO 289 million.
The average interest rate of these
certificates was 0.13 per cent whilst
the maximum accepted interest
rate was 0.13 per cent.The tenor of
these certificates is 28 days and their
maturity date is on February 11.
The certificates of deposit issued
to licensed banks by the CBO as a
monetary policy instrument aimed
at absorbing excess liquidity at the
banking sector. The Repo rate during
January 14 to 20 is 1 per cent. — ONA
broader right of way (ROW) corridor
as well. Bridges, culverts, storm water
systems, embankments, and so on,
will also fall within the purview of the
RAMS initiative.
At the heart of the proposed
scheme is a custom-designed software
system into which will be fed tonnes
of data covering all aspects of the
country’s existing road infrastructure.
Thus, information pertaining to the
construction history of any given
road project, including maintenance
work, traffic flows, axle load
data, hydrological and weather data,
and so on, will all be incorporated
into this system.
To help with the physical surveys of
the country’s mammoth road network,
the project envisions the deployment
of an array of scanning and measuring
equipment, much of which will be
mounted on vehicles. It includes
special equipment for detecting
cracks in asphalt layers, bridges and
other concrete structures, devices for
studying road construction materials
used, and so on.
Oman’s road network has been
growing by leaps and bounds in recent
years. In a statement to the Majlis
Ash’shura last April, Transport and
Communications Minister Dr Ahmed
bin Mohammed al Futaisi revealed
that government spending on road
projects was projected at around
RO 3 billion in the current Five Year
Plan (2011-2015). By 2013-end, the
length of the country’s paved network
had burgeoned to 12,837 km, while
the combined length of paved and
unpaved roads had climbed to around
46,000 km.
(OEPPA Business
Development Dept)
A woman walks past Vincom centre in Hanoi. Vietnamese conglomerate Vingroup
expects to launch about 24 shopping centres across the country this year, a leap
from the six it has now and its biggest bet so far on the growing spending power
of middle class consumers. The company said its subsidiary Vincom Retail plans to
expand into 19 provinces and cities, covering roughly a third of the country, from
three cities now. — Reuters
Jan 17: Technical bids are due in
today, January 18, for the Design &
Build package of Oman Rail’s Sohar —
Buraimi segment — a multibillion dollar
contract that will usher in rail-based
transportation for the first time in the
A sizeable chunk of the 18 consortiums
and joint ventures prequalified by Oman
Rail to compete for this segment are
expected to submit offers detailing their
technical capabilities and commitments
to delivering on the project’s demanding
specs. Financial submissions are due in
by March 1, 2015, it is learnt.
Consortiums and JVs prequalified
for the main Design & Build package
are as follows: JV of FCC Construction
SA (leader), Larsen and Toubro Ltd
and Khalid Bin Ahmed & Sons; JV
of Strabag AG (leader), CCC Oman
and Samsung E&C; Salini Impregilo
SpA; JV of China State Construction
Engineering Corporation (CSCEC)
(leader) and SK E&C; JV of International
Contractors Co LLC (leader), China
Railway Construction Corporation
(CRCC) Limited and Mohammed
Al Kharafi & sons; JV of Habtoor
Leighton Middle East LLC (leader), Al
Hassan Engineering, POSCO E&C and
Khimji Ramdas; JV of Societa Italiana
Per Condotte D’Acqua SpA (leader),
Federici Stirling BATCO LLC, SWS
Engineering SpA and Itinera SpA; JV
of Vinci Construction Grand Projects
(leader), AKTOR Technical SA and
Vinci Construction Terrassement; JV
of PORR BAU GmbH (leader), Yuksel
Insat, Sarooj Construction Company
LLC and Daewoo E&C LLC; JV of
Saipem SpA (leader), Rizzani De Eccher
SpA and Dogus Insaat; JV of Ircon
International Limited (leader), Hani
Archirodon LLC and Tata Projects;
JV of China Tiesiju Civil Engineering
Group Co Ltd (leader) and China
Railway Eryuan Engineering Group
Co Ltd; JV of ASTALDI SpA (leader),
ONEIC, Yapi Merkezi and CorsanCorviam Construccion SA; JV of
Swiss franc surge rocks currency brokers, burns banks
LONDON: The surprise surge in the
Swiss franc left currency brokers and
banks worldwide licking their wounds,
with at least two brokers declaring
insolvency and others warning of heavy
Switzerland’s central bank shocked
foreign exchange (forex) and other
financial markets on Thursday when it
scrapped its three-year bid to stop the
franc from strengthening.
Within minutes the franc surged by
30 per cent, later settling to a 15 per cent
gain against the euro.
The shockwaves were felt in currency
markets across the globe and some
brokers could not withstand the jolt.
In London currency broker Alpari
UK — sponsor of English Premier League
football team West Ham United —
declared insolvency after clients’ losses
linked to the sharp rise in the franc were
passed on to the company.
That followed a similar
announcement by Global Brokers NZ in
New Zealand declaring “a total loss of
operating capital”.
And in New York leading forex broker
FXCM was forced to seek a $300 million
rescue from Leucadia National Corp after
clients left it with losses of up to $225
million (194 million euros).
Major players were humbled by the
brutally quick turn of fortune.
“The recent move on the Swiss franc
caused by the Swiss National Bank’s
unexpected policy reversal of capping
the Swiss franc against the euro has
resulted in exceptional volatility and
extreme lack of liquidity,” Alpari UK said
in a shock statement.
“This has resulted in the majority
of clients sustaining losses which has
A 20 and 50 euro bank notes are seen in front of a cash drawer with Swiss francs
exceeded their account equity.
in Bern. — Reuters
Where a client cannot cover this loss,
it is passed on to us. “This has forced
Alpari (UK) Limited to confirm today...
that it has entered into insolvency.”
In Auckland, Global Brokers NZ
announced it was closing after it
sustained losses that meant it could no
longer meet New Zealand regulators’
minimum capital requirements.
In that sense, FXCM was lucky to find
a savior.
Leucadia, parent of investment bank
Jefferies Group, injected the funds via a
two-year loan that will cost FXCM a hefty
10 per cent annual coupon.
In London, IG Group said that its losses
arising from the matter would total up to
£30 million (39 million euros, $46 million),
but stressed its “extremely robust financial
position”. Rival City Index meanwhile
reassured clients that it had not suffered
“any material impact”. — AFP
Meethaq promotes savings
habit among children
Jan 17: Meethaq, the pioneer of Islamic
banking in Oman from Bank Muscat,
has enlivened Muscat Festival with its
Baraem Village to promote savings
habit among children.
Baraem, the children’s savings
account by Meethaq, has lined up
fun activities and competitions in
Al Amerat Park evoking strong
response from children visiting Muscat
Meethaq’s Baraem is the first Sharia
based children’s savings account in
Oman. The Baraem Village activities
are aimed at providing a learning
experience for children on the basics
of financial management, including
earning, budgeting, charity, savings and
The special savings account is aimed
at encouraging the savings culture
among children and helping parents to
prepare for the future of children.
Baraem serves as a foundation
for guiding children on prudent
financial management in general and
familiarising them with Islamic banking
principles through the attractive savings
Baraem offers unique privileges and
facilities to children.
Baraem savings account targeted at
children below 12 years can be opened
by their parents.
Baraem encourages children to save
pocket money and cash gifts and utilise
the same for gainful purposes such as
buying books as well as disciplined
spending for food and entertainment.
Baraem fulfils the desire of children
to have their own bank accounts like
their parents, encouraging them to
make savings a regular habit.
SBA supports Muscat Festival 2015
Automobiles (SBA), the exclusive
distributor of Nissan vehicles in Oman
has announced their participation
in this year’s Muscat Festival that
is scheduled to start from January
15, 2015. Nissan Oman will be
associated with this prestigious event
as a Gold Sponsor. The Sultanate’s
biggest cultural and entertainment
extravaganza — Muscat Festival that
attracts a huge number of visitors is
a prominent highlight of the social
calendar in the Sultanate.
As a part of this initiative, Suhail
Bahwan Automobiles has put up a grand display of its latest range of vehicles at
the Muscat Festival grounds in Amerat Park and Naseem Garden. Capitalising
on this month-long annual event that is designed to showcase the Sultanate’s rich
cultural heritage as well as its modern facets, Suhail Bahwan Automobiles has also
planned for exciting events to enthrall the visitors.
The event which was originally trade-oriented has today taken the form of a
cultural, social, entertainment and shopping festival that projects the rich heritage
of the country and continues to draw Omani nationals as well as foreigners from
various walks of life. Adding a sporting dimension to the Festival in the form
of Tour de Oman is a greatly welcomed step. This will reinforce the spirit of
adventure and youthfulness in the Omani society.
Suhail Bahwan Automobiles is showcasing a vast range of vehicles. SBA’s
fully trained and experienced team of sales consultants will be providing festival
visitors with the relevant information across all brands.
Bank Sohar conducts training course
MUSCAT: Bank Sohar, one of the leading
banks in Oman, strongly believes that
investment in training and development
are the keys to operational excellence
and the overall success of the bank.
Therefore, in its consistent endeavour
to develop the skills of its valued staff,
Bank Sohar recently organized a 15-day
training course entitled “Foundation
Programme — Branch Banking” for
nine new employees from various
branches and units.
Commenting on the training course,
Munira Abdulnabi Macki, DGM —
Human Resources and Corporate
free registration, free service or periodic maintenance for 2 years / 30,000 kms
whichever is earlier on select models like Safrane, Fluence, the newly launched
Captur, Koleos and Duster. The offer will also include free 6 years or unlimited
mileage warranty, assured cash gift and AAA Roadside Assistance Card on select
models only. Suhail Bahwan Automobiles (SBA) like every other year is actively
part of Oman’s biggest cultural show. Being a gold sponsor, SBA intends to
showcase the very best of their customer service, product range, unique schemes
and more. Customers visiting the Renault exhibit during the Muscat Festival can
take advantage of some of the most unique schemes, prices and surprises on each
of their models.
Suhail Bahwan Automobiles is largely committed to supporting Renault Oman’s
growth in the Sultanate through major emphasis on customer satisfaction and by
providing world-class after-sales services in Oman. With a national network of
more than 80 showrooms, service centres and parts outlets, SBA has further built
upon its legacy of trust, excellent customer service and providing value for money
to each of its customers.
Oris unveils limited edition Calibre
TO commemorate its 110th
Anniversary, Oris introduced
a Limited Edition Calibre 110,
the first mechanical movement
developed from the ground up
by Oris for 35 years. A handwound calibre, it features a
10-day power reserve and a
patented non-linear power
reserve indication. These two
complications have never
come together before and is
one of its kind in the world. Uniting them provided an exceptional challenge for
Oris’s in-house team of watchmakers and designers, who worked closely with
Swiss technical specialists over a 10 year project. The result indeed is a milestone
in mechanical watchmaking.
AS part of its strategic goal
Madhursinh Jesrani, General Manager, Khimji’s Watches, the sole distributors
towards enhancing the skills of
of Oris range in Oman, comments: “In its 110-year history Oris has proved time
Omani youth, particularly in
and again that it is one of the world’s most innovative watch brands. It was the
the fields of culture and sports,
founding partners’ dream to produce high-quality watches at an excellent value
The Zubair Corporation has
for the money, and that spirit continues to inspire and motivate the company
announced its support for the
today. Oris has always maintained a tradition of developing useful watches with
Amjad Yatti social sports team
functions that serve a practical benefit for their owners”.
located in Muscat. The support
To view various Oris collections, visit Khimji’s Watches showroom located at
provided by the corporation
enables the team to enjoy an enhanced environment to practice sports activities Way No 3036, Building No 2825, Al Ufouq Building, Shatti Al Qurum, Muscat.
and develop youth talents.
This support comes within the framework of The Zubair Corporation’s ongoing
commitment towards various local sports, cultural, and social initiatives by local
teams and clubs which engage talented young Omanis. Through backing these
initiatives, young Omanis enjoy greater opportunities to develop their talents,
which in turn benefits the society within the Sultanate as a whole.
electronics retailer in the
Commenting on the association with the Amjad Yatti social sports team,
Middle East and a proud
Abdullah al Zubair from The Zubair Corporation noted, “We believe in the key
member of the Landmark
role played by the local sports teams in adopting and enhancing the skills of
group has now started
talented young Omanis. Therefore, The Zubair Corporation is constantly joining
its own toll free helpline
hands with these teams around the Sultanate, as they are the breeding ground for
number called Hello Emax.
growing and nurturing talent, and the ideal place where clubs can find players
An easy dial to 8000-3629
who, in the future, will go on to represent Oman in different sporting endeavours”.
connects consumers to
an expert team of Emax
representatives that are
dedicated to answer all
their customer queries.
“At Emax, we place our
Bahwan customers as priority. They have been instrumental in contributing to our success.
Automobiles, the exclusive In turn, we have been able to win their loyalty and patronage, our team has always
distributor of Renault vehicles gone the extra mile to deliver that extended support, care and service. Hello Emax
in Oman has announced their is just another avenue for us to be available for our customers from Saturday
participation as Gold Sponsors to Thursday 10 am to 7 pm, ” said Neelesh Bhatnagar, CEO Emax. Simple to
in the ongoing 2015 Muscat remember digits, Hello Emax is easily accessible from anywhere.
Festival which is scheduled to
It almost like having the store at your telephonic disposal. Need specifications
be held till February 14, 2015. to a laptop, curious about the launch of a new phone or just want that little
Renault Oman will have guidance with a new home theater — Hello Emax is only a quick dial away. Emax
their models displayed at reps have the much needed comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the
Al Amerat and where representatives from Renault will be managing customer products and services.
queries on the brand’s services, mileage, vehicle range etc. Apart from the displays
An expert team makes sure that the desired information is provided in a jiffy;
and raffle, Renault introduces a unique ‘Muscat Festival Offer’ which will include without having to listen to unending jingles.
Zubair Corporation backs Amjad Yatti team
Emax launches toll free helpline number
Renault announces ‘Muscat Festival Offer’
JANUARY 18 l 2015
Support of Bank Sohar, said: “Since its
inception, Bank Sohar has spared no
expense in training and developing its
employees. This is especially important
to the staff in the retail sector in each
of our branches. They are the ones that
are in direct contact with the bank’s
customers and their behaviour, skill,
knowledge or any other interactions
with a customer are a direct reflection
of Bank Sohar’s commitment towards
banking excellence.”
Targeting new hires, the 15-day
foundation programme was designed
to cover the most important topics and
skills required by new employees as
they begin their career in the banking
sector. Programme topics covered areas
such as accountancy skills, modern
behavioural trends and systems
training to equip new employees with
the required knowledge and skills to
enable them to carry out their roles at
the bank efficiently.
Another of the training programme’s
primary goals was to fully acquaint staff
with the bank’s unique products and
services. In addition, the course also
included training related to customer
service and direct selling.
Ahlibank organises staff family day
AHLIBANK recently celebrated seven years of successful operation in the
Sultanate with its annual staff gathering, a day marked by festivities, food, and
fun activities for its employees and their families at the Millennium Resort in
Considering their staff to be the main contributors of their success, Ahlibank
accords top priority to them, taking pride in developing and honing their skills.
As part of its efforts to bring staff together on a common platform, with the aim
to strike a healthy balance between work and leisure, the annual staff gathering
included — distribution of T-shirts to the staff, team building activities, stage
shows (magician, dancers, free-style football) a live Omani halwa section, and
water sports activities (jet-skiing, kayaking, water slides). The highlight of the day
however, was the hourly raffle draws that had amazing gifts attached to them.
Lloyd Maddock, CEO, Ahlibank commented, “The success of Ahlibank has
always been rooted in our service to society at large. As we celebrate and reflect on
the past seven years, our success has a correlation to the success of our customers’.
Whether it’s purchasing a new home, sending kids to college or helping local
businesses and community organisations, we are privileged to have played a part
in them all.”
Rossini opens at The Cave, Darsait
FINE dining Italian cuisine
is set to be the latest culinary
rage at The Cave Complex
with the launch of Rossini,
Oman’s newest and most
authentic Italian restaurant.
Brought to the Sultanate
by Four Seasons Tourism,
which manages a chain of
premium restaurant brands
around the country, Rossini
offers guests the opportunity
of a culinary journey that is quintessentially Italian. From the signature Italian
dishes to the distinctive hospitality, this outstanding diner recreates the Italian
experience in all its gastronomical grandeur.
The menu is the carefully crafted handiwork of an experienced and professional
executive chef, Luca Umbreto Voncini and features a wide selection of Italian
classics such as antipasti and risottos, succulent steaks and seafood dishes – all
prepared to perfection by the team of chefs. Complementing the delightful menu
is Rossini’s elegant and contemporary décor. Lending a distinctively Italian feel
to the restaurant are paintings and themes redolent of Italy’s historical charms.
TAC offers cash gift on Higer pick-ups
high-grade light duty
generation appearance
is now available with a
guaranteed cash gift on all
2015 models from Towell
Auto Centre, the sole
distributors of the Higer
buses and pick-ups in Oman. Available at a starting price of just RO 4,749, the
Higer pick-ups are known for their performance and safety. Moreover, TAC is
offering its customers a guaranteed cash gift of RO 450 on all 2015 models.
A senior spokesperson of TAC comments: “At TAC, we believe in offering
our customers maximum protection and maximum benefits. Higer is a popular
award-winning brand within China, known mainly for its buses and coaches. And
now with its pick-ups, Higer is offering a high performance reliable workhorse,
equipped to meet varying business needs. We are confident our consumers will
enjoy the benefits of this lightweight, efficient and affordable pick-ups”.
JANUARY 18 l 2015
SEMINAR ON BUDGET: Participants analysed how the government has budgeted the significant increase in taxes and fees
Oman budget to drive economic growth: KPMG
Jan 17: Against the backdrop of falling
oil prices, KPMG views the 2015
Oman Budget as signalling a firm
commitment by the government to
continued investment and economic
growth. This message was delivered by
Ashok Hariharan and Neil Allmark,
members of KPMG’s tax team, at a
breakfast seminar held on Thursday at
the Chedi Hotel, Muscat.
The seminar gave participants an
opportunity to delve more deeply into
the budget report, and to understand
the issues driving the budget. The
presenters explained the basis on which
the oil revenues appeared to have been
calculated, and the challenges the
Government could face if the oil price
does not improve from the current
They also analysed how the
Government has budgeted the
significant increase in taxes and
fees, which were showing a 29 per
cent increase over last year’s Budget.
The expected increase in tax
collections must include some
expectation that businesses will deliver
higher profits.
The Tax Department continues
to pursue tax assessments for older
MB Petroleum installs
IVMS in school buses
“There has also been
a significant increase
budgeted in the labour
licence fee, which
possibly suggests an
increase in the level
of the fee, rather than
a mere increase in
the number of labour
licences being issued”
Technical bids for
Oman Rail Segment
1 due today
tax years, and there must also be an
expectation that additional tax revenues
can be collected in this way.
There has been some debate around
the introduction of new taxes and a
possible increase of the income tax rate,
but there have been no announcements,
and any changes that are introduced
during the year would only be reflected
in later years’ tax collections.
Ashok Hariharan noted, “There
has also been a significant increase
budgeted in the labour licence fee,
which possibly suggests an increase
in the level of the fee, rather than a
mere increase in the number of labour
licences being issued.”
A mention was also made of a 22
per cent increase in customs duties,
and this is consistent with the planned
investment in major projects, and
the increased imports that would be
expected to deliver these projects.
The audience included CEOs and
CFOs from many of the leading oil
and gas, trading and finance groups, as
well as trade and economics delegates
from the foreign embassies located
in Muscat. Participants debated the
outlook for the future oil price, and the
likely sources of funding should the oil
price remain low.
While it was highlighted that the
2014 actual deficit was expected to be
significantly lower than the budgeted
2014 deficit, there was still caution
amongst the delegates, given the levels
to which the oil price has now dropped.
It was agreed that 2015 will be an
interesting year, as investment projects
progress, and the country continues to
look at other sources of revenue.
Ashok Hariharan is a Partner in
KPMG’s Oman practice and the Head
of Tax for the Middle East and South
Asia region.
Neil Allmark is a Tax Director in
the same office, with over 15 years’
experience in international taxation
and business structuring. (OEPPA
Business Development Dept)
China Telecom plans bid to build
Mexico broadband network
Jan 17: As part of its ongoing efforts
to further highlight the importance
of safe driving practices within the
communities in which it operates,
MB Petroleum Services (MBPS) has
installed In-Vehicle Monitoring System
(IVMS) instruments in school buses
being operated by Shatti Al Qurm
School (18 buses).
The IVMS instruments offer some
latest technological advanced systems
such as Sensor MEMS 3D acceleration
sensitivity which is used to measure on
a real time basis — the driving speed,
the intensity of acceleration, braking,
shocks due to the condition of the
roads and the recording of the intensity
of shocks suffered by vehicles. It also
checks the engine status, duration of
parking as well as the ‘engine on’ thereby
saving fuel cost. Another added feature
is the active seatbelt status detection
Khamis al Hinai — General
Manager, MBPS Oman, said, “As part
of the broad categories identified and
finalised by the MB Holding Group,
we at MBPS initiated the Drive Safe
Campaign across various schools in the
Sultanate last year. In taking it a step
ahead, we have now installed IVMS
systems in several buses operated by
Shatti Al Qurm School.”
He added, “In the recent past we
have all read several instances of
school buses being driven rashly and
causing accidents. While it is extremely
unfortunate, we as a corporate felt
that it was imperative that we do
something about it. The IVMS systems
not only monitor the speed and engine
status but also enables to record and
keep track of driving behaviour, thereby
ensuring that speed limits and safe
driving practices are adhered to at all
Sinohydro Corporation Ltd (leader)
and Arabtech Construction LLC; JV of
Hyundai Engineering & Construction
Co Ltd (leader), Hasan Juma Backer,
Assignia Infraestructuras and Maire
Tecnimont Civil Construction; JV of
Acciona Infraestructuras (leader),
Ozkar and Teixeira Duarte Engineer
& Constructed; JV of China Railway
Engineering Corporation (CREC)
(leader) and Mapa — Gunal Oman
LLC; and JV of Ferrovial Agroman
SA (leader) and Galfar Engineering &
Contracting SAOG.
Awaiting the successful bidder
is a substantial package of works
encompassing virtually all aspects
of rail design, engineering, supply,
commissioning. It also requires the
contractor to undertake, among other
things, topographic and geotechnical
site surveys. Consortiums and JVs
prequalified for the Rail Systems
package are Ansaldo STS SpA; JV
of Bombardier Transportation Italy
SpA (leader) and Sirti SpA; JV of
Siemens AG (leader) and Siemens LLC
Oman; Thales consortium of Thales
Deutschland Transportation Systems
GmbH (leader) and Thales Oman LLC;
and Consortium Alstom Transporte
SA (leader) and Alstom Belgium SA.
(OEPPA Business Development
MEXICO CITY: China’s third-largest
carrier China Telecom is preparing a
possible bid for a contract to build and
run a new mobile broadband network
in Mexico and is seeking local partners
to join it in a consortium, three people
with knowledge of the matter said.
It has already secured up to several
billion dollars of financing from Chinese
state-controlled banks, including the
China Development Bank, for the
project, which Mexico estimates will
cost $10 billion over 10 years, one of the
people said.
The proposed network is part of
a sweeping reform designed to break
billionaire Carlos Slim’s hold on the
Mexican telecoms business, but the
Chinese involvement could prove
controversial and trigger concerns from
the US, some Mexican officials say.
Mexico’s government is trying to
ease its economic dependence on the
United States and ramp up Chinese
A Chinese-led consortium looks
poised to win a $3.75 billion contract to
build a high-speed train system, sources
with knowledge of the plan say.
This is despite the group’s previous
winning bid being revoked late last year
amid a political scandal.
Representatives for China Telecom
did not return requests for comment,
People walk past a China Telecom public phone booth along a street in Shanghai. — Reuters
Development Bank could not be
reached for comment.
Ministry (SCT) declined to comment.
On a trip to China in November to
reduce tensions caused by the train
contract cancellation, Communications
and Transport Minister Gerardo Ruiz
Esparza also discussed the mobile
network plan with the Chinese
government, according to a ministry
press release. State-owned China
Telecom’s international subsidiary China
Telecom Global wants to be an operating
partner in the network and not just an
investor, said the people, who requested
anonymity. It is still looking for Mexican
partners, the people said. It was unclear
who had been approached.
The people did not say how big a
stake the Chinese would take in the
consortium that would make the bid.
Under a government timeline
published last year, the tender should
have begun last month, with a winner
due to be chosen in August this year.
Creation of the wholesale network
was written into Mexico’s constitution
as part of telecom market reforms in
— Reuters
Wet Seal files for bankruptcy in effort to stay afloat AT&T’s deal to acquire
Mexico’s Iusacell closes
NEW YORK: The Wet Seal Inc has filed
for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection
in an effort to keep its remaining teen
clothing stores open.
The announcement comes a little
over a week after the chain said that it
was closing 338 stores, or about twothirds of its total.
Fellow teen clothing retailers Delia’s
Inc and Deb Stores filed for Chapter
11 bankruptcy in December, further
evidence of trouble in a business being
hurt by tough competition and changing
tastes among teenagers.
Wet Seal had warned last month
that it might need to file for bankruptcy
protection if it did not resolve its cash
issues after reporting another quarter of
Wet Seal and other chains are being
hurt by stores like H&M and Forever
21 that are wooing young people with
fast-changing selections of low-priced
fashion. Teens are also more interested
in outfitting themselves with the latest
tech gadgets than new jeans.
The retailer began in 1962 as a bikini
shack in Newport Beach, California.
It was acquired by Canadian retailer
Suzy Shier in 1984. The company,
which today sells clothing, shoes and
accessories aimed at teenage girls, went
public in 1990.
Wet Seal expanded with additions
such as Contempo Casuals, Arden B and
Zutopia. Wet Seal acquired Contempo
in 1995, adding 200 Contempo Casuals
stores. All of those stores were converted
to the Wet Seal name by 2001.
Wet Seal has dealt with a long-
running series of problems. The
company restructured in 2013, closing
stores, cutting jobs and changing
The executive shuffle included hiring
retail-industry veteran John Goodman
in January 2013 to help refocus the
company after it fired former CEO
Susan McGalla in July 2012 amid falling
sales. Goodman resigned in September
2014, and Wet Seal brought back Ed
Thomas, a former president and CEO,
to lead the company.
In addition, Wet Seal dealt with a
proxy battle in 2012 with an investment
group that wasn’t happy with its
financial performance. And in 2013
the retailer agreed to pay $7.5 million
to settle a federal racial discrimination
lawsuit filed by three former employees.
Last year, year Wet Seal decided to shut
down its Arden B chain, closing some
stores and converting some to the Wet
Seal name.
“Wet Seal failed for two reasons: a
company that failed to stay in tune with
their customers and new rivals like H&M
that were able to get cooler merchandise
to the stores quicker and with slightly
better quality than Wet Seal,” Brian
Sozzi, CEO and chief equities strategist
at Belus Capital Advisors, said.
Bigger retailers like J C Penney Co
and Kohl’s Corp also “upped their
games” in teen girls clothing, Sozzi said.
Wet Seal hopes to keep operating
during bankruptcy. The Foothill Ranch,
California-based company was running
173 stores in 42 states and Puerto Rico
as of Thursday.
— AP
MEXICO CITY: US telecommunications giant AT&T has closed its $2.5
billion acquisition of Mexican wireless
carrier Iusacell, the parent company of
Iusacell, Grupo Salinas, announced.
The acquisition means AT&T takes
over the number three company in
Mexico’s mobile phone market.
Iusacell’s 9.2 million wireless
subscribers, or about 8 per cent of
the that market, is far behind leader
America Movil owned by Mexican
multibillionaire Carls Slim with 70 per
cent of the market.
The number two is Telefonica of
Spain with 20 per cent.
AT&T, which agreed to acquire
Iusacell in November, plans an upgrade
of the Iusacell network, which covers
70 per cent of Mexico’s population of
120 million people, and looks to sell
more smartphones and mobile Internet
services in Mexico.
AT&T also plans to create a North
American mobile service area covering
more than 400 million consumers and
businesses in Mexico and the United
“It won’t matter which country you’re
in or which country you’re calling it
will all be one network, one customer
experience,” AT&T chief executive
Randall Stephenson said in a statement.
The company named Thaddeus
Arroyo, a 19-year veteran of the
company, the new chief executive of
the operation, which is based in Mexico
— dpa
JANUARY 18 l 2015
Alibaba to court China consumers for US retailers
Group Holding Ltd
plans a major move
to win US business
this year, by offering
new ways to sell to China’s vast and
growing middle class.
Anchored by Alipay, the dominant
Chinese electronic payments system
that works closely with Alibaba and is
controlled by its executives, the world’s
largest Internet retailer is using the
calling card of China’s consumers to
attract US partners, two sources close to
the company said.
Long seen as the most potent threat
to Inc with $300 billion
in global sales, the moves add up to a
conservative approach to expanding in
the United States, contrary to industry
speculation that the company may be
plotting a direct assault on US soil.
That considered strategy, outlined to
Reuters for the first time by the sources
and executives who work directly with
the Chinese company, is intended to
heighten awareness in the United States
of what Alibaba does, gain goodwill in
an important Western market, and lay
the groundwork for a longer-term play.
At the heart of its push are Alibaba’s
and Alipay’s trial deals to handle
Chinese sales, payment and shipping for
some of the biggest names in US retail
from Neiman Marcus Group to Saks Inc.
Both confirmed the agreement but
would not talk about how the pilots are
The Chinese companies will also
work with US startup Shoprunner, an
online mall for US retailers in which it
owns a stake, and retail services provider
Borderfree Inc to court Chinese
And Alibaba is preparing a marketing
campaign to raise awareness among US
businesses of its global business-tobusiness wholesale platform, Alibaba.
com, so they can buy and sell to and
from global suppliers.
“They own the toll road into China,”
said Michael DeSimone, Chief Executive
Officer of Borderfree. “What really puts
the jetpack on things when you deal
with an Alipay is, they’re on the ground
and they know the Chinese consumer so
well.” Industry insiders point to just $15
billion in annual US-to-China, crossborder consumer sales now.
But Daiwa estimates cross-border
purchases, which exclude sales of
American products within the country,
can grow to 1.8 trillion yuan ($291
billion) by 2020. “It’s not a big thing right
now, but within the next 12 to 18 months
what you’ll see more of is bringing 300
million Chinese consumers to retailers
in the US,” Alibaba Vice Chairman
Joseph Tsai said in an interview with
Reuters last year.
He laid out the broad plan, and
sources have now described details.
Still, there’s no guarantee of success.
China’s middle class is over 250
million strong and growing, spurred
by government policy to create a more
consumer-driven economy. Apple
iPhones and General Motors cars have
become big-selling status symbols,
but the market remains a challenge for
Western companies, especially those
The logo of Alibaba Group is seen inside the company’s headquarters in Hangzhou.
— Reuters
lacking a global footprint.
“It’s not a big thing right
Home Depot Inc decided in 2012 to
shut all seven of its big box China stores, now, but within the next 12
while in December, Best Buy said it will to 18 months what you’ll
sell its struggling China business.
see more of is bringing 300
And Alibaba’s 10-month-old effort
to help foreign retailers set up shop in million Chinese consumers
China, Tmall Global — its business- to retailers in the US”
to-consumer website, has had muted
success. Of 5,000-plus brands and 650 company.
merchants that now sell on that site,
But there are signs of traction.
just 30 have accumulated more than 10
Costco Wholesale Corp, which began
million yuan in sales, according to the selling on Tmall Global in November,
saw sales of more than 40 million yuan in
its first month of operations, according
to data Alibaba provided to Reuters.
And the site has attracted some 90
million unique visitors since launch,
buying from 90 per cent of listed
of Alibaba’s aim is to counter official
concerns about Chinese megacorporations. In 2014, Alibaba hired
former Treasury chief of staff James
Wilkinson to help tailor its international
strategy, and it has enlisted Korn Ferry
to search for a Washington-based
international government affairs chief.
Alipay and a logistics-partner
network that took years to assemble are
central to Alibaba’s US effort.
Major brands, such as Nike, that have
a large physical presence in China already
sell directly on Tmall. But Alipay’s effort
directly connects American merchants
with China, without the need for
investment in a physical presence.
It also allows US retailers and
Chinese consumers to avoid difficulties
associated with foreign exchange.
Chinese consumers pay in yuan; US
companies get paid in dollars.
Alibaba’s and Alipay’s programme for
US companies is called ePass.
It includes a customs pre-approval
process, a sort of “fast lane” that shaves
days off delivery.
Daiwa analysts John Choi and Alex
Liu call that capability Alibaba’s biggest
advantage over rivals such as
Alibaba and Alipay have made pilot
agreements to handle payments and
shipping to China for department
stores Neiman, Saks, Macy’s Inc, Macy’s
Bloomingdale’s chain, Ann Taylor,
luxury fashion site Gilt, and apparel label
Aeropostale, according to Borderfree.
The companies declined to comment,
although Neiman, Saks and Ann Taylor
confirmed the deal.
If a Chinese consumer bought a pair
of shoes from Saks, for instance, Alipay
would handle the financial transaction.
The shoes go to a US-based Alipay
facility that handles the transfer to
— Reuters
From watchmakers to ski resorts, Swiss Tokyo investors eye
ECB meeting after
firms hammered by franc surge
Swiss action
companies warned of a
plunge in exports, tourist
revenues and profits after
bank scrapped its cap on
the Swiss franc, sending the currency
soaring up to 30 per cent and crushing
their competitiveness in world markets.
Analysts said the country’s renowned
watchmakers and luxury goods
companies, including Swatch and
Richemont, were likely to be the biggest
casualties, with the starkest mismatch
between revenues abroad and costs at
Other Swiss blue-chips, such as food
group Nestle, engineer ABB and drugs
firms Novartis and Roche, would be
better protected by their operations in
local markets around the world, they
But all would be affected to some
degree by what the head of brokerage
Kepler Cheuvreux described as “a
terrible day for corporate Switzerland”.
“We can expect a wave of profit
warnings from Swiss companies,” said
Pascal Bernachon, strategist at Parisbased private bank KBL Richelieu.
Faced with the prospect of a massive
bond-buying scheme by the European
Central Bank that might have forced
it to intervene repeatedly in foreign
exchange markets, the Swiss National
Bank (SNB) abandoned its three-year
cap on the franc against the euro on
Thursday, stunning markets.
Frantic trading slashed about $100
billion off the value of Switzerland’s
blue-chip stocks, their biggest one-day
fall on record, in what some traders
described as “carnage”.
The benchmark SMI index slumped
as much as 13 per cent, with Swatch,
Richemont and biotech firm Actelion
among the biggest losers, down 14 to 17
per cent.
Swiss exports account for about onethird of gross domestic product (GDP),
led by chemicals and pharmaceuticals,
precision instruments, clocks and
watches and jewellery, and machines,
appliances and electronics.
People queue outside a currency exchange office in Perly near Geneva.
The country’s biggest trading partner
is the European Union, outside of which
it has consistently voted to remain, led
by Germany. The second-biggest is the
United States.
Tourism is also a major part of the
economy, contributing about 3 per cent
of GDP and employing 5 per cent of the
labour force in the hotel and restaurant
industries, mostly in small and midsized firms.
The central bank’s decision comes as
the ski season in the Alpine nation gets
into full swing, and a week ahead of the
World Economic Forum, the annual
meeting of the world’s political and
business elites in the Swiss ski resort of
Nick Nelson, head of global and
European equity strategy at UBS, said
the surge in the franc made the already
expensive Swiss stock market even less
attractive to foreign investors.
“Even if you sector-adjust the Swiss
market and give it the same sector
mix as the MSCI world index it’s still
pretty much one of the most expensive
European countries at just over 14 times
The surge in the franc
means the “Made in
Switzerland” tag used by
luxury companies as a mark
of quality to drive sales in
foreign markets is no longer
such an advantage
forward earnings compared to say 11
times for Germany.”
“Clearly this is going to be an
additional headwind,” he said, although
for some investors already owning Swiss
shares, the currency rise my offset the
stock price falls for now.
The surge in the franc means the
“Made in Switzerland” tag used by
luxury companies as a mark of quality
to drive sales in foreign markets is no
longer such an advantage.
“Swatch, Richemont and other luxury
players will find it difficult,” said Neil
Wilkinson, European fund manager
at Royal London Asset Management,
talking about the firms most exposed.
— Reuters
“To negate that risk going forward,
then ultimately you need to move your
cost structure to a different geography.
But that’s easier said than done.
For Swatch, your unique selling
point is the fact you’re selling a Swiss
watch, and most people will want their
Swiss watch to be manufactured in
That contrasts with firms such as
Nestle, Novartis, Roche, Syngenta,
Credit Suisse and UBS, whose revenues
and costs are largely in the same
Roche, which has around 17 per
cent of its operating expenses in Swiss
francs, said its wide spread of costs and
revenues would mitigate the impact of
the surge in the franc.
Novartis had 12 per cent of its costs
in francs in 2013. Chemicals companies
Clariant and Syngenta with only 4-5
per cent of their costs in francs, would
be minimally affected, Baader Bank
analyst Markus Mayer said, while Nestle
also has less than 5 per cent of its costs
in francs, according to James Targett at
— Reuters
OKYO investors will be keeping an eye on next week’s policy
meeting of the European Central Bank after Switzerland’s
decision to remove its currency cap with the euro, while
expectations are high for a new round of stimulus.
“The upcoming ECB meeting on Thursday will be the biggest event
this week,” said Kenzaburo Suwa, strategist at Okasan Securities in Tokyo.
There is widespread speculation that the ECB will announce a large
asset-buying programme, or quantitative easing, to counter deflation and
weak growth in the euro zone. “Trading has been volatile recently because
of the speculation,” Suwa said. “The market is expected to regain its calm
once the ECB makes an announcement.”
On Friday, the Nikkei 225 index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange, which
was off nearly 3 per
cent at one stage, lost
244.54 points to end at
index lost 1.94 per cent
over the week. The Topix
index of all first-section
shares was down 0.93
per cent, or 12.87 points,
at 1,363.73. It fell 1.22
per cent in the holidayshortened trading week.
The Japanese market
— which added 1.86
per cent on Thursday —
plunged at the open as
a sharply stronger yen A pedestrian looks at a share prices board in
dented exporter shares Tokyo.
while firms with ties to
Switzerland also fell. On
Thursday, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) said it no longer needed the limit
of 1.20 francs to the euro, which it put in place three years ago during the
European debt crisis.
Minutes after the announcement, the franc surged 30 per cent to 0.8517
against the single currency before ending the day at 1.0035. In Asian trade,
it rose again, sitting at 0.9945. The news rattled global markets as investors
rushed into safer investments, such as the yen.
Earlier in the day, the dollar dropped to a low of 115.84 yen, from 116.25
yen in New York and sharply down from 117.70 yen in Tokyo earlier on
Thursday. In afternoon Tokyo trade, the dollar fetched 116.57 yen.
“Keeping the franc weak against the euro might have been too costly
for the SNB, especially with the European Central Bank potentially adding
more stimulus,” Juichi Wako, a senior strategist at Nomura Holdings,
told Bloomberg News. Japanese exporters took a hit on Friday from the
stronger yen as it makes them less competitive overseas and dents profits.
Toyota fell 0.15 per cent to 7,514.0 yen, while Sony dropped 4.63 per
cent to 2,384.0 yen as Canon lost 1.18 per cent to 3,757.5 yen.
JANUARY 18 l 2015
New generation electric car battery
One step closer to robot
maids for homes
MIT cracks algorithm for robot object recognition
SCIENTISTS at University of Waterloo have
announced a breakthrough in lithium-sulphur
technology to develop a new generation of cheaper,
lighter and more powerful electric car battery.
A next generation cheaper, lighter and more
powerful rechargeable battery for electric vehicles
is one step closer to reality, scientists say.
The discovery of a material that maintains a
rechargable sulphur cathode helps to overcome a
primary hurdle to building a lithium-sulphur (LiS) battery. Such a battery can theoretically power
an electric car three times further than current
lithium-ion batteries for the same weight — at
much lower cost, researchers said. “This is a major
step forward and brings the lithium-sulphur battery
one step closer to reality,” said Chemistry Professor
Linda Nazar from the University of Waterloo.
In theory, sulphur can provide a competitive
cathode material to lithium cobalt oxide in current
lithium-ion cells.
Sulphur as a battery material is extremely
abundant, relatively light and very cheap.
Unfortunately, the sulphur cathode exhausts
itself after only a few cycles because the sulphur
dissolves into the electrolyte solution as it is reduced
by incoming electrons to form polysulphides.
Nazar‘s group originally thought that
porous carbons or graphenes could stabilise the
polysulphides by physically trapping them.
But in an unexpected twist, they discovered
metal oxides could be the key. The researchers
found that nanosheets of manganese dioxide
(MnO2) work even better than titanium oxides.
Researchers found that the oxygenated surface of
the ultrathin MnO2 nanosheet chemically recycles
the sulphides in a two-step process involving a
surface-bound intermediate, polythiosulfate.
The result is a high-performance cathode that
can recharge more than 2,000 cycles.
RESEARCHERS at MIT say a computer algorithm that will help
robots recognise objects in a household environment could bring us
one step close to robot ‘maids’ to take the drudgery out of housework.
Such robots will need to be able to identify the objects they’re
supposed to handle and manipulate, the researchers note, and the
mobility of such robots can help them look at those objects from
more than one perspective to aid in that identification.
However, learning to meld those different views of an object
presents a computational challenge, one addressed by an algorithm
that can identify four times as many objects as algorithms using
a single perspective, with fewer misidentifications, the researchers
algorithm into a new
version has yielded
one that is up to 10
times as fast, which
could help household
robots which must
target objects, they
report in the Journal of Robotics Research.
Lawson Wong, a graduate student of computer science and
electrical engineering, and his fellow researchers started with an
algorithm created for tracking systems such as radar, which need to
be able to determine if objects imaged at different instants are indeed
the same object.
“It’s been around for decades,” Wong says. “And there’s a good
reason for that, which is that it really works well. It’s the first thing
that most people think of.”
That algorithm generates numbers of hypotheses of which
object in any one image corresponds to objects in other images, but
problems arise as the amount of those hypotheses increases rapidly
when images from new perspectives are added.
The algorithm copes by throwing out all but the most likely
hypotheses at each new image step, but even still sorting through all
candidate hypotheses at the end of the process is time-consuming.
The researchers at MIT went for a different approach; their
improved algorithm doesn’t discard any of the hypotheses, but doesn’t
attempt to examine every single one, either, instead opting to sample
them at random.
Google expects public in driverless cars in 5 years
THE head of self-driving cars for Google expects real
people to be using them on public roads in two to five
Chris Urmson says the cars would still be test vehicles,
and Google would collect data on how they interact
with other vehicles and pedestrians. Google is working
on sensors to detect road signs and other vehicles, and
software that analyses all the data.
The small, bulbous cars without steering wheels or
pedals are being tested at a Google facility in California.
Urmson wouldn’t give a date for putting driverless cars
on roads en masse, saying that the system has to be safe
enough to work properly.
He told reporters last week at the Automotive News
World Congress in Detroit that Google doesn’t know yet
how it will make money on the cars.
Urmson wants to reach the point where his test team
no longer has to pilot the cars. “What we really need is to
get to the point where we’re learning about how people
interact with it, how they are using it, and how can we
best bring that to market as a product that people care
for,” he said. Google Inc, which is based in Mountain
View, California, may face state regulatory hurdles
depending on where it chooses to test the cars in public.
Under legislation that Google persuaded California
lawmakers to pass in 2012, self-driving cars must have
a steering wheel and pedals. Several other states have
passed laws formally allowing autonomous cars on public
roads without that restriction.
Solar-powered drone
A student of Nanchang Hangkong University (NCHU) adjusts a solar-powered
drone in Nanchang, east China‘s Jiangxi Province last week. Designed by a
R&D group of the NCHU, the drone can stay in the air in well-lighted condition
and its larger-sized version is capabale of bearing maximum take-off weights
up to 5 kilograms.
China’s Xiaomi unveils phone aimed at iPhone users
RISING smartphone star Xiaomi is moving
upmarket and taking aim at Apple’s iPhone.
The Chinese manufacturer known for
ultra-low-priced handsets last week unveiled
a new model that chairman Jun Lei said is
comparable to Apple’s iPhone 6 but thinner
and lighter. The phone starts at 2,299 yuan
($375), less than half the 5,288 yuan ($865)
price of an iPhone 6 in China.
Display: The Mi Note features a 5.7-inch
screen — slightly larger than the 5.5-inch
iPhone 6 Plus. It’s a full HD display with
a pixel density of 386ppi. The Mi Note’s
display features a Nela Tech LCD. The
display is protected by a layer of Corning
Gorilla Glass 3.
Camera: The Mi Note has a 13MP rear
camera with optical image stabilisation.
It uses Sony’s CMOS sensor, with a f2.0
aperture for low-light shots. It uses a dualtone flash developed by Phillips for more
natural-looking colours in photos. Mi Note’s
main camera does not protrude out like the
iPhone 6. Mi Note has a 4MP front camera
with large 2 micron pixels.
Build: Similar to the iPhone 6 and the 6
Plus, the front panel of the Mi Note features
a 2.5D curved glass and a 3D curved glass
rear panel. It is thinner than the iPhone 6
Plus, with dimensions 155.1×77.6×6.95mm
(hxwxd) and weighs 161g. There’s a metallic
rim around the sides and the back camera.
The Mi Note has a one-handed mode that
minimises the size of app windows for easier
one-handed use.
Features: The Mi Note is powered by a
3,000mAh battery, comes with dual 4G Sim
slots and runs a Snapdragon 801 processor
backed by 3GB Ram. It will be available in
16GB and 64GB storage options and there’s
no card slot for increasing the storage
capacity. Out of the two SIM slots, one
supports a nano Sim while the other is for
a micro Sim.
JANUARY 18 l 2015
Online Editor’s Choice
Very unexpected change in a
faker (5)
Insurance for many deliveries (5)
Decoration of stone, possibly (7)
A case of taking too much interest
Wine spilt by an unnamed
comedian (5)
Do actors need their support? (5)
Plants trees at a rail terminus (7)
It’s an awkward way to sit (3)
Multiplication stable (4)
Burn up the track? (6)
Fourpence in old money (5)
Use them for a strategic device (6)
Astounding thing to do at
snooker (4)
A little sunshine when it’s rainy
outside (3)
The question of Edwin Drood? (7)
Summer snake? (5)
The fear when Capone has a
weapon (5)
Sinful Simon (5)
18 One apt to stray when chasing the
Exit used for the getaway? (7)
nymphs? (5)
Where a golfer may play or not
19 Though worthy of praise, he
makes the dog moan! (4,3)
A venture in writing (5)
21 Norman wrote books (and posted
them?) (6)
22 Wanders from a shallow container
The finished effect may be a
into a larger one (6)
strange lustre (6)
Fearful to wander far for help (6) 23 After some hours, her hula is
breathless (6)
A donkey’s skeleton type? (3)
25 It measures many a chopped up
Heavenly twins, perhaps? (5)
tree (5)
Small enough to go in a handbag
26 Wherein Jason’s men were all at
sea (4)
Solitary individuals (4)
28 The name on the master key (3)
Steamy rubbish packed in ice,
possibly (6)
Explorer who sounded like a lord?
A boaster’s bloomer (5)
1 Javelin (5)
Fat little fellow? (5)
6 Lid (5)
Routine letter to precede the
9 Muslim fast (7)
ceremony (5)
Brilliant, but bashful about being /BtWF
11 Stiff paste (5)
taken in? (5)
by Brian Basset
by Bill Watterson
by Jim Davis
ACROSS: 3, Ho-I-st 8, Got up 10,
Ought 11, Bob 12, Ba-I-rd 13, Capit-ol 15, Towel 18, Co-y 19, P-irate
21, Now-here 22, Iron 23, P-lod 24,
Soundly 26, Crated 29, Cue (queue)
31, Ha-Des 32, Peddles 34, Paris 35,
Gus 36, D-EN-IM 37, Medoc 38,
Defeats (5)
Railing (7)
Strike (3)
Beers (4)
Environment (6)
Wading bird (5)
Iterate (6)
Champion (4)
Crack team (3)
Pigment (7)
Flower (5)
Subtract (5)
Horrify (5)
Protection (7)
Guide (5)
Deal (5)
DOWN: 1, To bat 2, Rub-icon 4,
Oval 5, Sort-i.e. 6, Tu-D-or 7, Sheet
9, To-p 12, Boyhood 14, T-ow 16,
W-ally 17, L-ends 19, Pra-N-ces 20,
Bitch 21, Nomad 23, Pledged 24,
Sesa-me 25, Dud (rev.) 27, R-aces
28, Te-P-id 30, B-esom 32, Pin-k 33,
ACROSS: 3, Trust 8, Pansy 10, Touch
11, Rip 12, Sprat 13, Habitat 15, Paris
18, Ram 19, Allude 21, Riposte 22,
Iran 23, Seal 24, Barrels 26, Clever
29, Are 31, Saner 32, Scanned 34,
Rabat 35, Don 36, First 37, Feral 38,
DOWN: 1, Carat 2, Aspirin 4, Rapt
5, Staple 6, Total 7, Acrid 9, Nib 12,
Samovar 14, Tap 16, Runes 17, Sells
19, Attract 20, Discs 21, Raven 23,
Slender 24, Berate 25, Era 27, Latin
28, Verse 30, Renal 32, Sari 33, Nor.
Gate (6)
Amphitheatres (6)
Sprinted (3)
Military student (5)
Heading (7)
Burden (4)
by Jan Eliot
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Izki . . . . . . . . . . . 25340033 . . . . 25340033
The past
and frustrations
should be
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year. Although
it may be
necessary to
make certain
the future
looks far more
encouraging for
you. You will
soon benefit
from this more
settled period of
your life.
Bring about (6)
Brimless cap (5)
Couples (5)
Harvests (5)
Shelter (5)
Type of saw (5)
Romeo (5)
Rodent (7)
Artists’ stands (6)
Picnic basket (6)
Bawdy (6)
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Assistant (4)
Perform (3)
Haima . . . . . . . . 23436013 . . . . 23436055
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December 22January 20
January 21February 19
February 20March 20
March 21April 20
April 21May 20
May 21June 21
If you are feeling hemmed in
by your routine, start looking
for an interesting outlet and
when a chance arises take it immediately.
If you are offered a chance to
join a new social group and
can spare the time, do not hesitate to do so. You may find a
very stimulating crowd.
It would be better to make an
end to a long drawn-out argument, even if you are still unconvinced of the rightness of the
other person’s opinion.
At a social meeting you will establish a contact which could prove
of inestimable value to your future
in the community, if you have any
ambitions in that direction.
If you want to remain the master of your own future, be wary
of a person of the opposite sex
who would, if given the change,
become rather domineering.
An ambitious project may not
produce results for some time
and you will realise that a great
deal of patience and perseverance
will be needed until it is finished.
June 22July 21
July 22August 21
August 22September 22
September 23October 22
October 23November 21
November 22December 21
Discuss a business venture in
detail with your partner and
think twice before embarking
on it if a difference of opinion
exists about its feasibility.
A splendid opportunity for making a great step forward in your
profession will suddenly present
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Don’t place too much reliance on
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making an important decision.
Give the matter due thought and
A well-meaning friend may be influencing you in the wrong direction. After listening to him you
may feel you would be better off
without his advice.
Before an interview with an important person try to anticipate
the various points which may
come up for discussion so that
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A person born under ARIES
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SUNDAY | JANUARY 18, 2015 | RABEE AL AWWAL 27, 1436 AH
China not the best team, says Perrin Nadal denies title chances in Australia Azaan, Yacoub lead at Oman Open FOLLOW US ON:
Attiyah wins second
Dakar Rally title
BARADERO, Argentina: Qatar’s Nasser
Al Attiyah clinched his second Dakar
Rally car title on Saturday to give British
marque Mini their fourth consecutive
success in the gruelling 9,000 kilometre
Al Attiyah, who won his first Dakar in
2011, became only the seventh multiple
winner in the car category.
In overall second came South African
Giniel de Villiers in a Toyota and the
winner in 2009.
Poland’s Krzysztof Holowczyc in
another Mini took third.
He assured himself of the 2015 crown
with sixth in Saturday’s 13th stage from
Rosario to Bardero north of Buenos
Aires which was shortened to only 34
kilometres due to heavy rain.
Robby Gordon came out on top in
the curtailed closing stage, the American
crossing the line over half a minute clear
of Leeroy Poulter. Argentina’s Emiliano
Spataro crossed in third.
The 44-year-old veteran Al Attiyah,
who has also enjoyed success in the
Olympic Games, winning bronze in skeet
shooting at the 2012 Games in London,
dominated the 2015 Dakar from start
to finish. He set down his marker for the
title when posting the quickest time in
the opening stage leaving Buenos Aires
a fortnight ago.
He was subsequently stripped of the
first stage for speeding, but did not let
that hiccup distract him as he bounced
back to take the second stage, and
ended with five stage wins in all. — dpa
Yaya Toure sits out
practice for I Coast
MALABO, Equatorial Guinea: Yaya
Toure sat out practice on Saturday, three
days before the Ivory Coast plays its
opening match at the African Cup of
The four-time African player of the
year stretched on the side as his teammates practiced at a small stadium in
Malabo. The Ivory Coast opens play in
Group D on Tuesday against Guinea
at Estadio de Malabo. Mali will face
Cameroon later that night.
Toure, who plays for Manchester City,
is a key player for both his country and
his Premier League club.
He won his record-equaling fourth
African player of the year award this year,
putting him level with Cameroon striker
Samuel Eto’o.
— AP
[email protected]
Starc expects intense tri-series one-dayer against India
MELBOURNE: Left-arm paceman Mitchell Starc
said he expects Australia’s tri-series one-dayer with
India in Melbourne on Sunday to continue where
the recent niggling Test series left off.
Starc was the chief destroyer in the opening
game of the series against England on Friday,
finishing with figures of 4-42 in Australia’s bonus
point three-wicket victory at the Sydney Cricket
He ripped through the tourists’ top order with
two wickets in the opening over of the match on his
way to being named man of the match.
The 24-year-old left-arm quick was reprimanded
by the ICC during the fourth Test in Sydney for his
exaggerated send-off in the face of Murali Vijay
after dismissing the opener.
It was one of several flashpoints from both sides
in a highly-competitive series won 2-0 by Australia,
and Starc on Saturday predicted another tough
battle between the number one and two ranked
sides in the world one-day standings. “It’s been a
pretty intense Test series,” Starc told reporters.
“Two great teams going hard at it and it will be
much the same on Sunday.
“There will be two sets of guys doing their best
to play their best and trying their hardest for their
‘There will be two sets of guys
doing their best to play their best
and trying their hardest for their
countries. It was a fantastic Test series to watch and
to be a part of and it will be no different on Sunday.”
Starc’s four wickets against England took him
past the 50 mark in his 29th one-day international
and he is averaging an impressive 21.58 with the
white ball.
He was publicly criticised by Test spin great and
now television commentator Shane Warne during
the India Test series and he admits he needs to
transfer his one-day form to Test matches more
“I think in recent times I know my one-day and
Twenty20 game and know what I need to do for the
team,” he said.
“I guess it comes back to that confidence thing
and I showed against England why I like to be
taking the new ball. But I want to play as often as I
can for Australia and if I keep bowling fast I know
I can take wickets in all forms of the game.” — AFP
Oman salvage pride with Kuwait win
BACK TO WINNING WAYS: It was the Sultanate team’s first victory at the Asian Cup since 2004
NEWCASTLE, Australia: Abdulaziz
al Maqbali struck with a second-half
header as Oman beat Kuwait 1-0 in
a dead rubber at the Asian Cup on
Saturday, both teams already having
been eliminated.
A scrappy encounter between the
Gulf rivals appeared to be meandering
towards the tournament’s first draw
before Al Maqbali pounced with a
superb header to break the stalemate in
Group A game with only pride at stake.
It was Oman’s first victory at the
Asian Cup since 2004.
Al Maqbali’s goal briefly sparked
the game to life and the striker could
have snatched a hat-trick inside three
minutes, first blazing wide on the volley
and then seeing a header cleared off the
Their bags already packed having
been beaten by Group A powerhouses
Australia and South Korea, both teams
were limited to speculative long-range
shots in a first half offering very little
for a crowd of 7,000 in Newcastle to get
The scrappy encounter
appeared to be meandering
towards the tournament’s
first draw before Al Maqbali
pounced with a superb
header to break the
stalemate in Group A game
excited about.
Oman’s Abdulaziz al Maqbali (right) heads the ball to score against Kuwait during their Asian Cup Group A match at the Newcastle Stadium in Newcastle.
— Reuters
Abdullah al Buraiki forced a superb
save from Oman goalkeeper Ali al Habsi
before squandering a gilt-edged chance
to equalise by nodding over the bar
when it appeared easier to score.
Fahed Al Ebrahim smashed wide for
1980 champions Kuwait, who huffed
that far. “I guess the route to the final
and the final in 2011 and were awarded bad luck and insisting everything was
BRISBANE: When Australia ditched
would be difficult either way you went,”
alright. “It is what it is,” he told a news
the rights to host this year’s event.
Oceania to join the Asian Football
and puffed but with no end product as
Postecoglou said.
they failed to break an 11-match winless
“From our perspective, the biggest
streak against Oman and finished
disappointment is the result, not the
that... we will be hard to beat.”
without a point.
The difference between finishing first performance.
1-0 loss to South Korea on Saturday has
tougher opposition. Both wishes were
Kuwait also finished bottom of their
“I wasn’t happy with the pitch, it
and second in the group was significant
changed everything.
group with no points at the last Asian
didn’t suit our style of play, and we
for the Australians.
After finishing runners-up in their
The Socceroos represented Asia at
Cup in 2011, won by Japan.
Had they finished first and won their conceded a pretty poor goal, when we
group, the Socceroos are now facing
the 2010 and 2014 World Cups and the
switched off.
quarterfinal, they would have played
a tricky path to the final with China
opposition has proven tough to beat,
Both teams shipped four goals against
“I think anyone who watched the
Australia but neither looked capable of
would see that we dominated
inflicting the same damage, underlining
By finishing runner-up, they will play the game for most parts... we created
the gap in quality between them and the
enough chances, we just didn’t take
Postecoglou put on a brave face after his their semifinal at Newcastle, a much
than the Australians first thought.
top two sides in the group, who met in
— Reuters
smaller venue, on January, 27, if they get them.”
They made the quarter-finals in 2007 team’s defeat, putting the loss down to
Saturday’s headline game in Brisbane.
Australia rue missed chances against S Korea
SYDNEY: Saudi Arabia coach Cosmin
Olaroiu insists he is not looking ahead
to the quarterfinals of the Asian Cup,
but is instead focusing on the Group B
do-or-die contest with Uzbekistan in
Melbourne on Sunday.
“If we rest players now, maybe we
won’t play in the next game,”
Olaroui told a news conference on
Saturday. “The most important (thing) is
the game tomorrow and we must focus
on this and not South Korea or Australia
[potential quarterfinal opponents].”
With a superior goal difference to
Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia must only draw
the match to progress as group runnersup behind China.
“We have two chances, but we have
to play,” Olaroiu said. “It is difficult to
explain this to the players as I can’t tell
them not to score or let the other team
score if we score.
We must play how we did in the last
two games.
“We know it will not be easy, but I
know we will do our best and try our
best to qualify.”
With Uzbekistan having to chase the
win, Saudi Arabia could be excused for
trying to play a containing game.
But defender Omar Howsawi said he
hoped his team-mates further up the
park would not neglect their attacking
— dpa
Uzbekistan players celebrate a goal
against China.
SYDNEY: Uzbekistan were strongly
tipped to progress from Group B at the
Asian Cup but a shock loss to China
means anything less than victory over
Saudi Arabia in Melbourne on Sunday
will see them eliminated.
“We know Saudi Arabia very well
because they have a lot of quality players,” midfielder Azizbek Haydarov told
reporters on Saturday. “For us it will be
the first final in this tournament because
we lost to China and our position was
made worse.”
Saudi Arabia also lost to China but,
by virtue of recording a heavier victory
against North Korea, have a superior
goal difference to Uzbekistan so must
only draw to progress.
“We expect a very interesting game
on Sunday because traditionally they
are a very well coached team,” Uzbek
coach Mirdjalal Kasimov said. “They are
very strong and we respect them but we
have no choice other than to win and we
know this all too well.
“We will do our best to beat Saudi
Arabia and qualify for the quarterfinals.
“We only have one chance, only a win
will help us. We are confident and we
want to play our best football tomorrow
because we have been preparing very
seriously for this game.”
Should Uzbekistan win, they will
meet South Korea in the quarterfinals.
But that is not something Kasimov is
considering just yet.
“The first thing is to beat Saudi Arabia
and reach the quarterfinals,” he said.
“We are not thinking about our next
opponent, we will know who it is on
— dpa
S U N DAY l J A N U A R Y 1 8 l 2 0 1 5
S Korea rock Aussies with shock defeat
TOPPERS: Lee struck in first half as Koreans stopped the hosts’ winning run to top the Group A
SYDNEY: Lee Jeong-Hyeop struck in
the first half as South Korea shocked
Australia 1-0 on Saturday to top
Group A and complicate the hosts’
task at the Asian Cup.
Australia had been the form team
with two big wins so far, but Ange
Postecoglou’s rejigged side were dealt
a setback after the Korean striker slid
in to score on 32 minutes.
The Socceroos, who finish second
in Group A, will now play China in
the quarterfinals in hot and humid
Brisbane and face a likely semifinal
against holders Japan.
Australia threw everything at
South Korea as they sought a vital
equaliser, and Kim Jin-Hyeon saved
brilliantly from Robbie Kruse when
the substitute looked certain to score.
The game was not without controversy, with Park Joo-Ho and Koo
Ja-Cheol both stretchered off and
Matthew Spiranovic earning a caution that rules him out of their lasteight tie.
“I definitely feel that we could
have got a draw out of the game,” said
talismanic forward Tim Cahill, who
came on in the second half but this
time was unable to rescue Australia.
“Korea took their chance, full
credit to them.”
“But I definitely feel like we could
have finished top of the group,” the
Australian striker added.
With clouds of moths swarming around Brisbane Stadium, Kwak
Tae-Hwi nodded wide and Tomi Juric’s fierce shot was saved at the near
post as the teams exchanged early
Nathan Burns clattered Park, who
was stretchered off and later withdrew, in an aerial challenge, before
South Korea found a way through in
the 32nd minute.
Captain Ki Sung-Yueng threaded the ball to Lee Keun-Ho, whose
cross-shot to the far post was met
by the sliding Lee Jeong-Hyeop with
Aussie goalkeeper Mat Ryan given no
The goal rocked Australia but after striking eight times in their first
two games, they would have been
confident of hitting back in front of
a sell-out crowd in Brisbane.
James Troisi nearly found a response when his quick feet and shot
bulged the side-netting — coming
so close that the “Goal!” video message mistakenly flashed up on the big
German-based midfielder Koo
was stretchered off in pain early in
the second half before Tomi Juric
came close when he flashed a shot
I definitely feel that
we could have got
a draw out of the
game. Korea took
their chance, full credit to
them. But I definitely feel
like we could have finished
top of the group
wide after a one-two with Ivan Franjic.
Nathan Burns had a shot tipped
onto the bar before Postecoglou
threw on big guns Cahill and Kruse
with 20 minutes to go.
Kruse soon had the goal at his
mercy after a great first touch but he
was denied by the outstretched glove
of Kim, back in Uli Stielike’s side after recovering from a flu bug.
Australia’s reported Liverpool
target Ryan also saved smartly from
Jang Hyun-Soo in the closing stages
before a frustrated Australia trudged
off to a chorus of boos.
Mathew Leckie (right) of Australia fights for the ball with Kim Jin Su Tsg of South Korea in Brisbane.
Coach Perrin says China ‘not the best team’ in tourney
CANBERRA: China coach Alain Perrin on Saturday played down his side’s
chances at the Asian Cup as he attempted to dampen rising expectations after
two wins out of two games so far.
China are already assured of finishing top of Group B after their best start
to the tournament in 27 years, but Perrin insisted his team remain outsiders.
“I think our team are not the best at
this tournament,” the Frenchman said
ahead of Sunday’s final group game
against North Korea in Canberra.
“But even although we are not the
best we will challenge and try to beat
our opponents,” he added.
The Chinese will top of Group B ir-
respective of Sunday’s result, following
their 1-0 win against Saudi Arabia and
2-1 upset of Uzbekistan.
The fast start has been a surprise
from a team known as a “sleeping giant” of football and which is yet to win
the Asian Cup, despite qualifying 11
times in a row.
“Before we came here to play in the
tournament somebody asked me what
was my target and I told him my target
was to win the first match,” the Frenchman said.
“So for me the most important thing
is to focus on the next match. For the
trophy, the final match is far away.”
He is expected to rest several key
players in Sunday’s game, ahead of China’s quarterfinal in Brisbane — scene of
both their wins so far — on Thursday.
“I’m very happy that we had 17 players involved in the first two matches.
Football is not just about 11 players, we
must have more players involved,” Perrin explained.
“I think the match against North
Korea is a very good opportunity to
have more players take part in this
China have been runners-up twice
in the Asian Cup and last reached the
knock-out stages when they hosted the
event in 2004, but Perrin is refusing to
get carried away.
North Korea will be playing for
“As professional footballers we must
always be ready to face the challenges, nothing but pride after their opening
so tomorrow we will try to play our defeats to Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia
best game and get the three points,” he consigned them to a group-stage exit.
S Korea
Saudi Arabia
North Korea
+2 6
+2 3
-4 0
0 +5 6
2 +3 3
1 0 3
9 -8 0
+4 6
+3 6
-3 0
-4 0
Ali Mabkhout of the United Arab Emirates is the closest pursuer to Jordan’s Al Dardour, on three goals
Strikers find shooting boots as quarters approach
SYDNEY: With the Asian Cup group
stage approaching a conclusion, the race
to be tournament top scorer is heating
up even if the individuals involved are
careful to stress that team glory comes
The tournament made an explosive start in terms of goals as Australia
thrashed Kuwait 4-1 in the opening
fixture but the next three matches produced only one goal apiece.
However, any concerns that a lowscoring tournament was on the cards
were soon crushed with excellent displays of attacking and, on occasion,
defending which is not quite at the expected level.
The current competition top scorer
is Jordan’s Hamza Al Dardour, who
claimed the first hat-trick in Australia
as he bagged all four of his goals to date
against Palestine.
“I can’t describe the feeling,” Al
Dardour said. “Of course, every player
hopes to score four goals, but I didn’t
expect to do that at all.
“I had a challenge with my team to
score two goals, but instead, I doubled
that and got four!”
Al Dardour’s bid for the golden boot
was certainly helped by facing Palestine,
by far the weakest team involved.
But you can only play the opposition
in front of you and in addition to two
tap-ins, he scored two superb finishes.
Iran have scored just three goals
in two games en route to claiming six
points, but 20-year-old Sardar Azmoun’s
winner against Qatar has arguably been
the pick of the tournament so far.
Azmoun was found by a cross at the
edge of the box but in one movement
killed the ball with a great touch and
spun 180 degrees to make space for his
clinical finish.
“It was a brilliant goal,” Iran coach
Carlos Queiroz said. “It was a special
movement of the centre-forward, a
great turn at the level of some of the best
centre-forwards I have worked with in
my life, such as Ruud van Nistelrooy.”
But the talented Azmoun has only
Hamza Aldaradreh of Jordan celebrates his third goal against Palestine during a
Group D match in Melbourne.
that goal to his name.
Ali Mabkhout of the United Arab
Emirates is the closest pursuer to Al
Dardour, on three.
“Ali Mabkhout has been with the
national team for a long time now and
gained a lot of experience thanks to
playing in London Olympics and at the
Fifa under-20 World Cup in 2009,” said
his coach, Mahdi Ali.
“That experience is now starting to
show. He’s scoring many goals as he has
been working very hard.”
Mabkhout hit a brace in the UAE’s
4-1 romp over Qatar and his third
strike, against Bahrain, has secured one
piece of history by being the fastest ever
scored at an Asian Cup finals.
The forward would have been level
with Al Dardour if a later shot had not
been cleared off the line, but he does retain two advantages over the Jordanian
in the race for the golden boot.
First, UAE have already secured
qualification to the quarterfinals, while
Jordan’s hopes are hanging by a threat.
And second, Mabkhout is supplied
by the magnificent Omar Abdulrahman,
who already has multiple assists to his
Abdulrahman has been a constant
provider of flicks, tricks and defencesplitting passes, and, though yet to
find the scoresheet himself, is sure to
be attracting the attention of European
Scoring goals, after all, is not everything.
— dpa
JANUARY 18 l 2015
Troicki crushes Kukushkin to win title
SECOND CROWN: The Serbian returned to action in style after a one-year ban for missing a dope test
Britain’s Heather Watson defied the Tasmanian
Madison Brengle to secure her second WTA title.
Watson beats
qualifier Brengle
to win crown
SYDNEY: Britain’s Heather Watson defied the
Tasmanian wind to secure her second WTA title with
a 6-3, 6-4 victory over American qualifier Madison
Brengle in the final of the Hobart International on
Watson was a popular winner of an event which
battled rain and blustery conditions all week,
wrapping up a hard-fought but error-strewn contest
in a little under one-and-a-half hours.
The world number 49 did not lose a set at the
tournament and will take a major confidence boost
across the Bass Strait to Melbourne for the Australian
Open, where she meet Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova
in the first round.
“I’ve enjoyed my time here so, so much and I’d
love to come back here again next year,” Watson told
the crowd in the presentation ceremony.
“I know it hasn’t been superb weather for tennis
but you’ve definitely made it fun for us,” Watson
Brengle had battled The world number
her way through 49 did not lose a set
seven matches in
at the tournament
qualifying and the
main draw to reach and will take a major
her first WTA final confidence boost
and was determined
across the Bass Strait
impression, forcing to Melbourne for
Watson to save 11 the Australian Open,
break points in her
first two service where she meet
Bulgaria’s Tsvetana
The 12th saw Pironkova in the
American claim the first round
first break of the
match when Watson
double faulted but it was just one of five in the set
and the Briton’s superior net game helped her take
a 1-0 lead.
Brengle continued to struggle with her blistered
right hand in the second set with her forehand
responsible for 21 of her 34 unforced errors.
Watson pounced to claim the only break of the
set for a 4-3 lead and three games later was serving
for the match, which she secured when Brengle went
wide with a backhand.
The Channel Islander paid tribute to her Argentine
coach Diego Veronelli, who started working with her
in late 2013 after she had won her maiden title in
Osaka in 2012.
“We work so hard together but we also have fun,”
the 22-year-old said.
“Whoo! Title number one.”
— Reuters
SYDNEY: Serbian Viktor Troicki
took a big step on his comeback
trail after a doping ban by ruthlessly
dismantling fellow qualifier Mikhail
Kukushkin 6-2, 6-3 to win the
Sydney International on Saturday.
The 28-year-old righthander,
who returned to action last July after
serving a one-year ban for missing a
dope test, took just over an hour to
claim his second career ATP title.
A rampant Troicki won the
last four games of the first set and
was 4-1 up in the second when
Kukushkin took a medical timeout
to have treatment on his left thigh.
The Kazakh had made his way
to the final without losing a set,
including in his quarter-final victory
over Juan Martin Del Potro, but
his mobility had been key to his
The world number 66 rallied to
win the next two games for his only
break of serve in the contest and
offered hope of an extended contest
to the neutrals on Ken Rosewall
Troicki, however, was just too
strong and, roared on by vocal
support from Sydney’s ethnic Serb
community, broke back before
serving out the match to love,
sealing victory with his 13th ace.
“We both came through the qualis
so it was a tough week and we’re
heading to straight to Melbourne
where we play on Monday,” Troicki
said after receiving the trophy from
Australian tennis great Rosewall.
“There’s no stopping.”
Troicki will take a big boost in
confidence into his first round tie at
the Australian Open against Czech
Jiri Vesely, who also won an ATP
title as a qualifier on Sunday at the
Auckland Open.
Once ranked 12th in the world,
Troicki’s victory in his second
Sydney International final will send
him back towards the top 50 from
his current ranking of 92.
He has made it clear this week
that he believes his doping ban
was unfair and paid tribute to his
Australian coach Jack Reader and
the rest of his team for sticking
with him. “They were with me
throughout the hardest time that is
behind me,” he said. “They stood by
me and I really appreciate that.”
Kukushkin said his injury had
been a hangover from hip surgery
Viktor Troicki of Serbia serves to Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan during the Sydney International final in Sydney.
he underwent three years ago and on Monday. “Tough to say,” he told play eight days in a row it’s tough.
match already on Monday.”
was not certain he would be able to reporters.”Of course I hope I will be
“But I will have day off tomorrow
“I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t
face Malek Jaziri at Melbourne Park able to recover. Of course when I and fly to Melbourne. I will have a know.”
— Reuters
Czech Vesely wins Auckland final
AUCKLAND: Unheralded Jiri Vesely,
the 63rd ranked player in the world, won
his maiden ATP title on Saturday when
he beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino
6-3, 6-2 in the final of the Auckland
The 21-year-old Czech has proved
a giant killer since winning through
the qualifying rounds to make the
tournament proper and then advancing
to an ATP final for the first time.
Along the way he knocked out top
seed and world number 13 Ernests
Gulbis as well as tournament fourth seed
Kevin Anderson.
Against Mannarino, Vesely quickly
recovered from dropping the opening
serve of the match to break the 44th
ranked player twice in each set.
With a power game that proved too
much for the 26-year-old Frenchman,
Vesely raced through each set in little
more than half an hour.
After breaking Mannarino to level at
2-2 in the first set he broke again at 4-3,
when the Frenchman double-faulted on
game point, before serving out the set
with an ace.
In the second set he broke
Mannarino’s serve twice in succession
to race to a 5-1 lead and coasted home
from there, taking match point with his
11th ace.
Vesely’s path through the tournament
was made easier by the withdrawal
ahead of the Australian Open by a
string of high-profile players, including
David Ferrer, Gael Monfils and Tommy
Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic during his semifinal win
against Kevin Anderson of South Africa in Auckland. — AFP
The 14-time Grand Slam winner is back on tennis’ big stage after injuries and ailments sidelined him for several months
Nadal an extreme pessimist ahead of Australian Open
Rafael Nadal listens to a question
during a press conference in
— AP
MELBOURNE: Asked to predict who
will win this year’s Australian Open,
Rafael Nadal takes a deep breath, shrugs
his shoulders and insists it won’t be him.
The 14-time Grand Slam winner is
back on tennis’ big stage after injuries
and ailments sidelined him for several
But rebuilding his confidence
remains a work in progress.”I don’t
consider myself one of the favorites
here,” the No 3-ranked Spanish star
said Saturday at a pre-tournament news
conference.”I would be lying if I say I feel
that I am ready to win.” Nadal remains
a fixture in the elite group of men’s stars
known as The Big Four, along with No
1 Novak Djokovic, No 2 Roger Federer
and No 6 Andy Murray.
He favours any of those three to win
the Australian Open, which starts on
Monday.”In terms of being favorites, the
other names are more favorite than me
at this time,” he said during the news
conference, slumped in his chair and
repeatedly casting his eyes downward as
he spoke.
An injury to his right wrist followed
by appendix surgery kept Nadal out
of competition for most of the last six
months of 2014, a year that also had its
share of triumphs.
Nadal won a record ninth French
Open and three other titles in the first
half of the year.
And despite his subsequent absence,
he finished 2014 in the top three for the
ninth time in a decade.
At the start of 2015, he is
reluctant to say he is fit,
knowing that any match can
present dangers
Nadal’s season opener at the Qatar
Open earlier this month, where he lost
in the first round to a qualifier, didn’t
help his morale.
He the first to admit he’s not back at
100 per cent.
Asked what aspect of his game he was
happiest with, Nadal replied: “Nothing.”
He followed up with a smile but made
it clear he wasn’t entirely joking.”No, I
am not serving bad. My serve is working
more or less well. I need to be a little
but more dynamic on court with my
The big question about Nadal over
the years has been his durability, and
whether his body could hold up to the
constant pounding of his hard-charging
tennis style.
Nadal did not enter the US Open
in 2012, part of an extended absence
because of a problem with his left knee.
He won the US Open in 2013 but didn’t
defend his title because of the right wrist
It was the second time Nadal chose to
not attempt a defense of a major title: A
year after winning Wimbledon in 2008,
he missed that tournament with knee
At the start of 2015, he is reluctant to
say he is fit, knowing that any match can
present dangers.
Is his wrist better? “I don’t know. I
don’t know,” he said.”I am not 100 per
cent confident yet.” As for his knees: “I
am confident about my knees because
(they) are working well,” he said.
Another question mark is his back.
He received stem cell treatment to
repair cartilage in his back in November
shortly after the appendix surgery.”I
need to take care about this for the
moment,” Nadal said, referring to his
back.”Hopefully (it) will be fine.” Nadal
knows how to boost his confidence.
He needs to win.”Every time you
come back, you have doubts, you have
the feeling that you are far from your
best,” Nadal said.
— AP
JANUARY 18 l 2015
Hawks extend road-winning streak to 11
SETBACK FOR FAVOURITES: Golden State lose at Oklahoma, Portland beaten at San Antonio, Clippers miss out
TORONTO: Atlanta extended their
remarkable road-winning streak to 11
games and bolstered its lead atop the
NBA Eastern Conference standings by
beating nearest rival Toronto 110-89 on
The Hawks, who are also on an 11game winning streak overall, lived up
to their impressive recent form on a day
when many of the other title contenders
were beaten.
Overall league leaders Golden State
lost at Oklahoma City, Northwest
Division leaders Portland were beaten
at San Antonio, and the Los Angeles
Clippers were defeated at home by
Atlanta’s Al Horford scored 22 points
and Paul Millsap contributed 16 in an
even effort by the Hawks, who have only
lost two of their past 27 games.
The 11 in a row overall is their longest
such streak for 17 years, while the road
wins sequence is their best ever.
DeMar DeRozan scored 25 points
for the Raptors, who have only won two
of their past eight by are still a long way
clear on top of the Atlantic Division.
San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard scored
20 points in his return from a 15-game
injury absence and helped the Spurs roll
past Portland 110-96.
After missing 17 games total due
to a torn ligament in his right hand,
Leonard’s presence energized San
Antonio. Tony Parker scored 19 points
for the Spurs. LaMarcus Aldridge had 24
points and Damian Lillard added 23 for
the Trail Blazers.
Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook
had 17 points, a career-high 17 assists
and matched his career best with 15
rebounds for his first triple-double of the
season, leading the Thunder to a 127115 victory over Golden State. Kevin
Durant added 36 points on 14-of-18
shooting for Oklahoma City.
Klay Thompson scored 32 points
for the Warriors, who had won their
previous eight, but gave up their highest
total of the season.
Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving scored 37
points as the Cavaliers defeated the
Clippers 126-121.
LeBron James added 32 for
Cleveland, including the 3-pointer that
tied the game early in the fourth quarter.
Blake Griffin had 34 points and 19
rebounds to lead six players in double
figures for the Clippers.
Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving (left) moves to the basket against Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin during the first half at Staples Center.
Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki returned from
resting in the previous game against
Denver and scored 25 points in a 97-89
win over the Nuggets.
Tyson Chandler and Rajon Rondo
were the other two Dallas starters who
came back from a rest in that previous
Chandler had his 17th double-double
with 11 points and 16 rebounds, while
Rondo scored just two points but had
eight assists and nine rebounds. Arron
Afflalo scored 16 points for Denver.
Brooklyn emphatically ended a
seven-game losing skid by winning 10280 at Washington. Brook Lopez and
Jarrett Jack each scored 26 points for the
Lopez, the subject of trade rumours,
Rusty Fowler stays
positive after toil
Rickie Fowler of the US tees off on the third hole during the Abu Dhabi
Golf championship.
— Reuters
ABU DHABI: Rickie Fowler admitted
he is struggling for rhythm after
slumping to a third-round 73 at Abu
Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on
Saturday which left him among the
tournament’s also-rans.
The American began his Middle
East debut confidently, matching
world number one and playing
partner Rory McIlroy with a firstround five-under 67.
But a triple bogey in a secondround 75 dashed any hopes Fowler
had of adding to his meagre trophy
haul and the 26-year-old was unable
to arrest his form slump in Saturday’s
third round. “It’s just golf, it was a little
rough today,” a downbeat Fowler said.
“The course is great, nothing has
changed. I just got into a bad rhythm
for a couple of days. I made some
good swings on the last.”
Fowler, relegated to the early
starters after narrowly making the
cut, did little positive on the front
nine, bogeying the sixth hole as he
struggled to find the fairways.
He double-bogeyed the 10th,
made his first birdie on 13, dropped
another shot at 15 before a final-hole
eagle added gloss to a tough day on
the National course. Fowler said that
last putt would give him something
to take into Sunday’s final round after
which he will fly home to the United
States to begin his build-up to April’s
US Masters.
Asked for goals for 2015, Fowler
said; “I definitely want to win, play
well through to the FedEx Cup and
make the President’s Cup team.”
The world number 10 finished
joint fifth or better at last year’s four
Majors, outscoring his friend McIlroy
in the process. But it was the Northern
Irishman who won the British Open
and US PGA Championship while
Fowler is still searching for a first
tournament victory since 2012’s Wells
Fargo Championship, his solitary US
tour triumph.
Fowler said he was confirmed in
the field for May’s Irish Open at Royal
County Down.
— Reuters
scored 11 points in just over 2 1/2
minutes in the third quarter. He scored
Brooklyn’s first eight points of the fourth
quarter, too, and had 25 of his 26 points
in the second half. Jack had 19 of his 26
points in the second half. John Wall had
13 points for the Wizards.
Memphis’ newcomer Jeff Green
scored 12 of his 21 points in the fourth
quarter to guide the Grizzlies to a 106-96
win at Orlando. Green played his second
game for Memphis after being acquired
from Boston.
Zach Randolph added 18 points to
help the Grizzlies win their third straight
despite being without injured point
guard Mike Conley for the first time this
season. Elfrid Payton led the Magic with
career highs of 22 points and 12 assists.
Chicago scored seven 3-pointers
in the fourth quarter to take a 119-103
win at Boston, with three of them from
Derrick Rose, who scored 20 of his 29
points in the second half.
Miami’s Chris Bosh scored 30 points
and Luol Deng had 25 as the Heat beat
Sacramento 95-83.
Phoenix send Minnesota back
on a losing path, one game after the
Timberwolves snapped a 15-game
losing run, with Goran Dragic scoring
21 points in a 110-99 win.
Detroit’s Brandon Jennings scored
a season-high 37 points and Andre
Drummond tipped in the winner with
0.3 seconds left to give the Pistons a 9896 victory against Indiana.
Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel had 17
— USA Today Sports
points and 11 rebounds as the 76ers
downed New Orleans 96-81.
Utah beat the Los Angeles Lakers 9485, with Gordon Hayward scoring 31
points on 12-of-18 shooting and added
seven assists.
— AP
Detroit bt Indiana 98-96
Memphis bt Orlando 106-96
Philadelphia bt New Orleans 96-81
Brooklyn bt Washington 102-80
Chicago bt Boston 119-103
Atlanta bt Toronto 110-89
Oklahoma City bt Golden State 127-115
Dallas bt Denver 97-89
San Antonio bt Portland 110-96
Phoenix bt Minnesota 110-99
Utah bt LA Lakers 94-85
Miami bt Sacramento 95-83
Cleveland bt LA Clippers 126-121
Rookie Thomas
rolls 17-foot
eagle putt to tie
for 3-way lead
HONOLULU: Justin Thomas rolled in
a 17-foot eagle putt to cap a dynamic
finish at the PGA Tour’s Sony Open
on Friday, leaving the tour rookie in a
three-way tie for the lead.
The 21-year-old American vaulted
up the leaderboard with a nine-under
61 but it was his final three holes —
where he went birdie, birdie, eagle —
that had the Waialae Country Club
buzzing on Friday. “I’m excited. It’s
a position I haven’t been in before
and I think that kind of comes with
the territory of being a rookie,” said
Thomas.”I’m going to hopefully find
myself in a lot of positions this year.”
First round co-leader Webb
Simpson shot a four-under 66 and
Matt Kuchar carded a seven-under
63 to join Thomas at the top of the
leaderboard with a 12-under 128.
They have a two-stroke lead on
Troy Merritt (64) and Tim Clark (65)
who are both tied for third at 10-under
130. Scotland’s Russell Knox (65) and
Rory Sabbatini of South Africa (67)
are at nine-under.
Paul Casey, who was tied with
Simpson after round one, managed
to shoot an even-par 70 and he is tied
for eighth with defending champion
Jimmy Walker (66), Marc Leishman
(62), Ryan Palmer (63), JJ Henry (67)
and Robert Streb (69) at eight-under
132. Thomas started on the back nine
with six straight pars. The birdies
then started to fall and by the time he
reached No 7 on his back nine he was
at eight-under for the tournament.
He drained a 12-foot birdie putt on
the par-three seven and followed it up
with another birdie on No 8. On the
par-five ninth, he reached the green in
two and then rolled in the long eagle
putt to pull even with playing partners
Simpson and Kuchar. World number
11 Kuchar sandwiched a birdie on the
16th in between four pars to finish up
his round.
SONY OPEN SCORES: Second round (par-70): 128
— Matt Kuchar 65-63, Webb Simpson 62-66, Justin
Thomas 67-61; 130 — Tim Clark (RSA) 65-65, Troy
Merritt 66-64; 131 — Rory Sabbatini (RSA) 64-67,
Russell Knox (SCO) 66-65; 132 — JJ Henry 65-67,
Paul Casey (ENG) 62-70, Jimmy Walker 66-66, Ryan
Palmer 69-63, Marc Leishman (AUS) 70-62, Robert
Streb 63-69; 133 — Kevin Na 66-67, Brian Harman
66-67, Camilo Villegas (COL) 63-70, James Hahn
69-64, Chris Kirk 66-67, Daniel Summerhays 66-67
Sixth edition of Oman Amateur Open features 117 golfers from Oman and abroad
Azaan and Yacoub share the spoils
MUSCAT: Oman’s top-ranked golfer
Azaan al Rumhy and Bahrain’s Nasser
Yacoub both carded an impressive score
of 75 each to jointly stay on top of the
leaderboard as the prestigious Oman
Amateur Open 2015 got underway in
style on Friday at the lush green course
of the Muscat Hills Golf & Country
This is the sixth edition of the
competition, which is being organised
by the Oman Golf Committee over two
days, and it witnessed 117 golfers —
from Oman and abroad — taking part
in the stroke play format.
While Azaan and Yacoub took the
No 1 position after the first day’s outing
following impressive performances,
Danny Van Bill John and Tenzin
Tsarong stood right behind them, both
with a score of 78 each.
Dr Mohammed Al Rumhy, Minister
of Oil & Gas, will grace the second and
final day of the big event on Saturday
with his presence as the chief guest and
will give away the prizes.
Azaan, alongside Yacoub, was in
prime form on a breezy day out.
Azaan said: “I am happy with the
way I played today despite the tough
conditions. I had an early start and I had
to battle early morning dew, making the
course play longer.
“Tomorrow, I am looking forward
to playing with Nasser, who is tied with
Azaan continued: “I was 1-under par
after the first 6 holes. But I hit a few bad
shots on the 13th hole, making a double
bogey. A birdie on the 17th hole then
put me back in contention for the title.”
A player in action at Muscat Hills during the Oman Amateur Open. RIGHT: Azaan al Rumhy
Jeff Campbell, who is the defending champion at the
annual golfing extravaganza, carded a score of 81 on the
opening day and is seeking to improve on the performance
on the second day. “I am looking forward to a much better
day out tomorrow. It’s great to be chasing another title
win,” Campbell said
All the players in the top bracket of
the leaderboard stand a good chance of
snatching the title on Saturday.
Mundhir al Barwani, chairman of
Oman Golf Committee, was present in
the course from early morning till the
day’s action was over, said: “ It’s nice to
see so much competition this year. The
golfers are really battling it out.”
Jeff Campbell, who is the defending
champion at the annual golfing
extravaganza, carded a score of 81
on the opening day and is seeking to
improve on the performance on the
second day.
Campbell, who won the competition’s
last two editions and is keeping an
eye on a hat-trick of title wins, said: “I
scored 81 today. I am not satisfied with
my performance. I would have liked to
have produced a better performance
than this. I am looking forward to a
much better day out tomorrow. It’s great
to be chasing another title win”.
JANUARY 18 l 2015
Academy president responds
to Oscar firestorm of criticism
The academy is
“committed to
seeking out diversity
of voice and opinion” and
that outreach to women and
artists of colour is a major
the first time to the
firestorm of criticism
over the lack of
diversity in this year’s
film academy president Cheryl Boone
Isaacs says the all-white acting slate
inspires her to accelerate the academy’s
push to be more inclusive. She also
hopes the film industry as a whole will
continue to strive for greater diversity.
The first black president of the
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and
Sciences spoke out on Friday night in an
exclusive interview with The Associated
Press about the Oscar nominations and
the widespread criticism that followed.
All 20 of this year’s acting contenders
are white and there are no women in
the directing or writing categories.
After the nominations were announced
on Thursday morning, the hashtag
#OscarsSoWhite started trending on
The Asian Pacific American Media
Coalition issued a statement saying
the nominations balloting “obviously
reflects a lack of diversity in Oscar voters
as well as in films generally.”
Yet Boone Isaacs insisted the
academy is “committed to seeking out
diversity of voice and opinion” and that
outreach to women and artists of colour
is a major focus.
“In the last two years, we’ve made
greater strides than we ever have in the
past towards becoming a more diverse
and inclusive organisation through
admitting new members and more
inclusive classes of members,” Boone
Isaacs said. “And, personally, I would
love to see and look forward to see a
greater cultural diversity among all
our nominees in all of our categories.”
A 2012 survey by the Los Angeles Times
found the academy was 94 per cent
white, overwhelmingly male and with a
median age of 62. A more recent survey
determined the percentage of older
white males had dropped by one point,
the Times said. But with nearly 7,000
members and no requirement to retire,
diversity is going to take some time.
Boone Isaacs declined to address
whether she and the academy were
embarrassed by the slate of white Oscar
nominees, instead insisting that she’s
proud of the nominees, all of whom
deserved recognition. She explained
that while each branch comes up with
its own criteria for excellence and each
nominates its colleagues, all voting is
individual and confidential.
For instance, only directors can
suggest best director nominees and
only actors can nominate actors. But the
entire academy membership can submit
suggestions for best picture.
“There is not one central body or
group of people that sit around the table
and come up with nominations,” she
said. “It really is a peer-to-peer process.”
With all the accolades the civil
rights drama “Selma” has received
since its Christmas opening, some felt
its failure to garner nominations for
director Ava DuVernay or star David
Oyelowo reflected a racial bias. “What
is important not to lose sight of is that
‘Selma,’ which is a fantastic motion
picture, was nominated for best picture
Wonder, Parton, Longoria
projects part of NBC’s slate
ctress Bipasha Basu has
spent close to 15 years in the
Hindi film industry, without
working with any of the top Khans —
be it Shah Rukh, Aamir or Salman.
But she has no regrets whatsoever.
Bipasha, whose latest movie “Alone”
released on Friday, said “There are so
many actresses who have done films
with Khans and then disappeared. So
what’s the point of such big films?
The year I debuted (with ‘Ajnabee’
in 2001), ‘Lagaan’ released with Gracy
Singh in lead. It was one of the iconic
films... but I am still here,” she said.
The Bengali beauty has featured in
Bollywood movies like “Raaz”, “Jism”,
“No Entry”, “Dhoom 2”, “Apharan”,
“Corporate”, “Race”, “Bachna Ae
Haseeno”, “Raaz 3” and “Creature”.
Having starred in multiple horror
films, now she is looking at a comedy.
this year, and the best picture category
is voted on by the entire membership of
around 7,000 people,” Boone Isaacs said.
Besides best picture, the film received
just one additional nod — for original
song — in what was widely viewed as a
significant snub. But fans shouldn’t feel
that way, she said: “It’s nominated for
the Oscar for best picture. It’s an award
that showcases the talent of everyone
involved in the production of the movie
‘Selma.’” Boone Isaacs says the five best
actor nominees — “are all at the top of
their game.” Diversity outreach is spread
among the academy’s 17 branches, she
said, since existing members recruit new
“This is a membership organisation,
so we are all involved in this discussion
and moving the subject of diversity
forward,” she said. “It’s very important
for us to continue to make strides to
increase our membership and the
recognition of talent.” In its Friday
statement, the Asian Pacific coalition
said the responsibility for diversity in
film should be industry-wide.
“It behooves Hollywood — as an
economic imperative, if not a moral one
— to begin more closely reflecting the
changing face of America,” the statement
said. Boone Isaacs agrees, saying that as
the academy “continues to make strides
towards becoming a more diverse and
inclusive organisation, we hope the film
industry will also make strides toward
becoming more diverse and inclusive.”
tevie Wonder is on board for
an NBC miniseries set against
the 19th-century Underground
Railroad that helped escaped slaves find
Wonder, who will serve as executive
producer for the project, also may be
involved in a musical adaptation of the
miniseries that is aimed at Broadway,
NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob
Greenblatt said.
“The hope is that Stevie will write
the score” for the musical that’s in
development and which would be staged
after the miniseries airs, Greenblatt said.
NBC is in business with another
famed musician, Dolly Parton. The
network has closed a deal for a series of
TV movies based on her songs, stories
and “inspired life,” he said. “To know
Dolly is to love her, and the movies will
be infused with genuine hopefulness, not
to mention her music,” Greenblatt said.
The network, which scored big ratings
with a live 2013 production of “The
Sound of Music” but less so with last
month’s “Peter Pan,” remains committed
to musicals, Greenblatt said.
Next up will be either “The Wiz,”
the 1970s stage reinvention of “The
Wizard of Oz,” or “The Music Man,”
which the network had previously said
it had optioned. The network has time
to decide since the musical that’s chosen
is 11 months away from broadcast,
Greenblatt said.
On the series side, NBC has ordered
13 episodes of the half-hour comedy
“Telenovela,” with Eva Longoria as
the star and executive producer. The
series is a behind-the-scenes look at the
“craziness” of making such a serialized
drama, with Longoria playing the
“beautiful and overly dramatic” lead
actress of a hit Latin America TV show.
Will again try hand at TV: Big B
egastar Amitabh Bachchan
struck gold with his
reality game show “Kaun
Banega Crorepati”, but his attempt at
fiction didn’t work well with “Yudh”.
Undeterred by this, Big B says he will
try the genre again, hopefully with
something “breakaway”.
“Yudh”, a psychological thriller
directed by Ribhu Dasgupta, was aired
in 2014. A 20-episode mini-series, it
also featured actors like Sarika, Zakir
Hussain, Mona Wasu, Nawazuddin
Siddiqui and Kay Kay Menon in
prominent roles, but didn’t work well
with viewers.
Asked what went wrong with “Yudh”,
Big B said: “People didn’t like it, so it
didn’t work. Just by acting well things
don’t work. People should like the story.
Dance of the enchantress: A man breaks glass ceiling
ohiniyattam, a classical dance
form of Kerala, is often
referred to as the “dance of the
enchantress” and meant to be performed
solo by women.
A 48-year-old lecturer has now
become the first Muslim man to get a
doctorate in the dance form.
Lecturer K M Abu was a PhD student
at the Kalamandalam University. He
submitted his thesis in 2013 and was
awarded his doctorate degree last week.
The thesis traces the life and times of
the great Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty
Amma, often called the “Mother of
Mohiniyattam”, as she has been credited
for giving a new lease of life to the art
Abu, who will soon be promoted
as an associate professor at the Sree
Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit,
said that though he is the first Muslim
man to get a doctorate for Mohiniyattam,
there were many other males who teach
and even perform the dance form.
“To teach Mohiniyattam, one has to
learn it and that’s all I did. Since I am
more interested in teaching, I concentrate
on that and am not very keen to turn a
performer,” said Abu, who recently also
cleared the national eligibility test in
performing arts (dance). He said that he
was always fascinated by the costumes of
all the dance forms right from his school
days. “It began like that and slowly I got
to know a neighbour of mine — a lady
teacher in dance who taught me.
Then I joined a course at the Radha
Lakshmi Vilasom College in Tripunithura
near Kochi and from then on, I had no
reason to look back,” said Abu.
On how Mohiniyattam has developed
over the years, he said: “Even though the
basics have remain the same and is centred
around our epics, the compositions,
especially the themes and plots have been
experimented with,” Abu said.
Even though Abu has now become a
source of inspiration to many by virtue
of being a dance teacher, he said his
daughter, an engineering student, is just
an average dancer.
“While my wife is just an ordinary
lady and our daughter an average dancer,
I have lots of hope in my niece who is
currently studying the art form at the
Kalamandalam University,” he said.
Abu said if not for the guidance of N
Ajayakumar, a professor in Malayalam
at the Sree Sankaracharya University of
Sanskrit, his doctorate would not have
become a reality.
Charlize Theron wants
‘low-key’ wedding?
ctress Charlize Theron is said to be planning a “low-key” wedding
with boyfriend Sean Penn.
The couple reportedly got engaged in November 2014 during a
romantic trip to Paris.
They are now said to be looking to exchange vows on a private beach later
in the year with just their close friends and family in attendance, reports
“She’d love to get married on the beach in her native South Africa, but Sean
loves the idea of Cuba,” a source told Life & Style magazine.
“They want a low-key, classic and romantic wedding.
They’ve also talked about a sunset ceremony in Malibu — black-tie but
barefoot,” the insider added.
Before getting engaged, Theron said last June that she had no desire to ever
become a bride.
“Let’s put it this way, I never had the dream of the white dress.
And watching other people getting married? I think it’s beautiful for them,
but to be quite honest, usually I’m sitting there just devastated,” she had said
at that time.
Nick Cannon files for divorce
from Mariah Carey
ctor Nick Cannon has
reportedly filed for a
divorce from his wife
Mariah Carey.
Cannon filed the divorce
papers on December 12, 2014,
just a week after Carey was
said to have been discussing
property settlement terms with
her lawyers, reports
The couple is said to have
agreed on a deal, but Cannon
isn’t going to be entitled to any
of the singer’s earnings from
her forthcoming Las Vegas
Confirming earlier this week
that she’d signed up to headline
the Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Carey is expected to receive
over $30 million for the string of shows.
Cannon took to micro-blogging site Twitter earlier this month to insist
he wants to “move forward” and would never “say anything negative” about
Carey, had reported.
He tweeted: “I will never say anything negative about @MariahCarey.
We are forever a family rooted in love. “I am always an open book but
personal matters are just that ‘personal.’ So please respect my family and
respect the process.
I have no problem being painted as the bad guy.
I got tough skin. Keep going. I just pray we all can move forward in the
new year,” he wrote.
Summer wedding for Emma
Stone, Andrew Garfield?
ctors Emma Stone and
reportedly planning to
exchange wedding vows in Rome
this summer. The couple, who
started dating in 2011 and sparked
rumours over their engagement
in May 2014, and are now said to
be secretly scouting for a romantic
venue, reports
“Andrew would be happy with a
city hall ceremony.
But Emma wants something a
little more dramatic and memorable,”
a source told OK! Magazine.
The insider has also claimed that
Stone already has a dress in mind for
the nuptials and is eager to exchange
vows in front of a select audience of just 25 friends and family members.
Late 2013 saw the pair first start talking about getting married.
At that time, one of their friends had said: “They want to marry and have
a family. They’re discussing it. They’re madly in love.”
JANUARY 18 l 2015
HE Taming of the
Shrew is a work of art
which contains much
that is comparatively
ancient. The theme
was after all introduced
by William Shakespeare himself. The
chemistry came in the performance at
the Royal Opera House Muscat with
the fusion of many many other different
There was the combination of
the Stuttgart Ballet, the Slovenian
Philharmonic Orchestra, the music after
Scarlatti which combined to put together
a highly enjoyable light-hearted mix
which allowed the audience to forget the
real world for a short space of time and
revel in the poetry of exquisite dance and
music combined.
It is the sort of occasion where things
are done to near perfection and on this
occasion it was. The dancers not only
performed with great panache and
The linking of dance with orchestral
accompaniment was faultless.
The present ballet version of The
Taming of the Shrew was created back
in 1969 for the Stuttgart Ballet by John
Cranko. It is set to cheerful and jolly
music. It creates an atmosphere of
both fun and adventure. The music
encourages the atmosphere to be
welcoming as true love grows in a lively
fast moving atmosphere.
The whole enterprise is truly
international with a South African from
Johannesburg playing an important
part in the whole mix. The links of John
Cranko go back to 1962. He was very
much one of those creating a ballet
school in Stuttgart and he has played an
immense part in building an institution,
which has rightly won worldwide fame.
The achievements of the Stuttgart
Ballet over the years have been highly
significant in world terms creating
a spirit of exploring new ways of
exploring both dance and music. It was
for those who attended an unforgettable
night with dazzling performances full of
bravado and panache.
The whole performance created new
links between musicians and a highly
appreciative audience. At the end I did
not see one person slumped and bored
in their seats waiting for all this clapping
to end.
This work was first performed by the
Stuttgart Ballet in 1969. It is now part of
the world’s musical treasures and will no
doubt be performed and enjoyed.
Pamper yourself
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wo weeks into the New
Year and are you ready
for a break already?
Perhaps you’re in need
of some pampering?
One thing that is far
superior in Muscat than here in the UK,
are the massages. They are on a different
level altogether. From the consultation
phase, to the actual treatment and
aftercare, the whole process is a
wonderful fulfilling experience. That
goes for full body, back and shoulders,
reflexology, you’re just really looked
Out of all of the massages I
experienced there wasn’t one that I was
unhappy with, obviously some were
better than others, but the care that goes
into making your treatment special is
second to none. It’s not a matter of turn
up, pay, have your massage and then
leave, like it predominately is in the UK.
I guess it depends where you go, but for
me, the service is much better worlds
apart in Muscat.
All the treatments I experienced
in Muscat were beyond amazing and
relaxing. No rush. Intense. They care
for pretty much every part of your body.
You’re left wanting more.
It can get addictive, it’s impressive, but
it’s affordable. I found at various outlets
that the massages offered different
services, not just for relaxation purposes.
There are also different benefits you gain
from the massages for stress, weight loss
and other remedies.
There are also long term packages
that were available, which made it
extremely affordable for such luxury and
body boosting.
I haven’t come across a place in the
UK where you can get a package for 10
massages. Massages get pretty pricey in
the UK, where one session would set
you back about RO10 for a full body
massage, for one whole hour, whereas
you would expect to pay RO30 here in
the UK.
Another bonus for having a massage
Familiar cartoon characters enthral kids
nimated cartoons roaming
in the Al Amerat venue of
Muscat Festival 2015 are the
key attraction for children and adults
The 15th edition of Muscat Festival
2015 has unveiled a world-class
programme of never-seen before
family entertainment in the form of
outstanding cartoon characters, circus
and dance artists, and stage shows.
More than a dozen cartoon
characters, including the famous and
familiar cat and mouse duo, Tom
and Jerry, are providing memorable
moments for kids and their families
as they click pictures and make short
videos with them.
Al Amerat is providing great family
entertainment, say visitors. Carnival
rides, clown acts, magic shows and
cartoon characters are on hand for
children of all ages, and the Muscat
Festival stage comes to life each day with
concerts by top Arab stars and other
musical acts.
This year’s festival has not only kept
the tradition of showcasing a number
of popular cartoon characters but has
increased their numbers as well. In
addition to Tom and Jerry, one can see
Barney, Shrek, Ninja Turtles and other
cartoon celebrities wandering around
in Al Amerat Park, inevitably encircled
by crowds of children who are thrilled
to meet these famous and familiar
As kids run to shake hands with
them, their parents document the special
moments on their mobile phones in the
form of pictures and short videos so as
to share on their Facebook accounts
with extended family and friends.
“I have spotted many familiar
cartoon characters greeting visitors,
hugging children, posing for pictures,
and meandering into daily parades
alongside other events and this is very
exciting sight”, says Fatima who lives in
Al Amerat.
Fatima says kids who crave cartoons
and families who love to see their
kids enjoy can get their fix at Al
The famous characters make
occasional parades inside the festival
venue, in order to give the visitors a
chance to meet and greet the characters,
and to take photos with them.
destination, Muscat Festival always
strives to provide an environment that is
filled with joy and surprises.
in a hot country is obviously the
weather. Having the option to have your
experience inside or out was splendid.
To have a massage in the beaming
sunshine, listening to the waves instead
of some chill CD shoved into a CD
player, and to be able to hear everything
that nature gives, was a dream, and a
little bit hippy-ish! There’s no chance of
an option here in the UK, unless you
fancy frostbite!
I was honoured to have learnt some
techniques myself from a dear friend
in massage whilst I was in Muscat. I
was so impressed and interested about
how much knowledge was needed for
massage in anatomy and pressure points
etc that I even thought about taking
a course on it. But there was nothing
available for me to study at that point
in time. There must be a great sense
of satisfaction at the end of the day for
beauticians, knowing that clients are
coming to them to feel happier and more
relaxed and that you’re helping people to
achieve those feelings.
feeling happy within yourself. Some
practitioners advise fortnightly massages
for general well-being, some people
can’t stand the thought of a massage.
My advice… make sure you organise
your time, and having a massage in the
sunshine, well it is pure bliss.
Apex CSE holds annual exhibition
NDIAN School Muscat’s Apex
Centre for Special Education (CSE)
organised its annual exhibition
featuring a scintillating display of art
materials and utility items made by
students with the help of teachers.
All the exhibits were made with
recycled materials in line with the
exhibition’s theme, ‘Treasure from
Dr Sara Khorakiwala, Managing
Director of Al Bustan Bakery, was the
chief guest. Also present were Wilson V
George, Chairman, Board of Directors
of Indian Schools, Arul Michael,
Director-in-charge of Apex CSE, and
Principals of Indian Schools. Dr Analpa
Paranjpe, Principal of the Centre,
accompanied the chief guest and other
dignitaries on a tour of the exhibition.
Parents and children who visited
the exhibition were impressed with the
‘sensory room’ which enabled visitors
and participants to explore their senses.
Also striking was the therapist corner
where interactive sensory games were
conducted. Also on the occasion, a
variety of amusement games were
organised at the Fun Zone.
The Apex CSE is a comprehensive
set up for children with special needs.
It is a school catering to children with
varied intellectual, communication and
sensory or motor limitations.
JANUARY 18 l 2015
Young Mahmood gazing in awe at the giant boulder with ancient, life-sized anthropomorphic petroglyphs in the Wilayat of Al
Hamra. The site is known variously as Hasat bin Salt (Ibn Salt’s Rock), Hasat Bani Salt (Rock of the Bani Salt) and Coleman’s Rock
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a h m o o d ,
p h o t o g r ap hy
in this column a couple of weeks
ago, accompanied me on another
photography trip down to the country
last Monday. I wish I could tell you
that he got stung once again by wasps,
tread in something very unpleasant in
his new shoes or bumped his head on
a low lintel. I was so looking forward
to being able to entertain you with tales
of how he had crashed through a rotten
floor, or got chased by a pack of snarling
feral dogs, or tumbled headlong into
a pit filled with rotting garbage. Any
of these experiences would have been
photographic character-building lessons
for him, and a good giggle for us. Alas,
he came away from the trip completely
clean and unscathed, so laughs are
going to be in short supply in this week’s
The good news, though, is that
Mahmood heeded my advice, nay, my
strict injunction, and bought himself
a proper camera. He showed up at my
door last Monday at 5 am, as instructed,
sporting a brand new Nikon DSLR with
an 18-55mm lens and an 8GB memory
card, all of which he had bought for
only RO149. Compared to my DSLR, it
looked like a toy, but hey, it’s not just the
camera that makes the photographer.
We were on the Muscat Expressway
by 5.20 am, heading for the interior.
“Why are we leaving so early?”
Mahmood said with a hint of annoyance
in his voice.
“We’re going to photograph a rock in
the first rays of morning sunlight,” I said.
“A rock?”
“Yes. A great, big, beautiful rock,” I
Mahmood fell silent and was soon
He awoke just as I turned off the old
Nizwa to Bahla road towards Al Hamra.
A few kilometres further on, we turned
onto a bumpy track that brought us into
a wide wadi. Below the Jabal Al Abri, I
pulled up at the big, beautiful rock in
“Welcome to Hasat bin Salt,” I said,
nodding towards the huge marble
boulder in the wadi bed. Mahmood
looked at the rock, then turned his head
very slowly to look at me. He was clearly
not amused.
“There are people carved on it,” I said.
“I can’t see any people.”
“Wait ten minutes and all will be
revealed,” I said. I got out of the car
and removed my folding ladder out of
the back. Mahmood stood watching
me, shivering, as I did a Buster Keaton
impersonation trying to unfold the
“It’s too much cold here,” he said,
obviously feeling sorry for himself.
“What are you talking about? This is
like mid-summer in Ireland. Now come
and help me with this ladder.”
Ten minutes later the sun peeped
over the mountain ridge and golden
morning rays began to illuminate the
top of the rock. Then, as they crept down
the rock’s south-facing surface, ancient
bas-relief carvings of figures emerged
from the gloom. Within a few minutes,
a child, a warrior with arms raised, and
the slightly less distinct form of the
upper part of a woman stood out clearly.
“I can’t believe it,” Mahmood said,
gazing up at the petroglyphs. “Before
it was like there was nothing there and
now they are so clear.” Then he started
bombarding me with questions —
When were they made? Who made
them? What do they mean? — my
tentative answers to which I will not
bore you with here. Instead, I will bore
you with an epiphany that visited some
time back on a morning similar to this
as I watched the figures come alive in the
early morning sunlight: the ancients who
made these sculptures were deliberately
drawing with light. They chose the
south-facing surface of the rock for their
bas-reliefs, even though the east-facing
surface is smoother, in order that their
sculptures would stand out clearly in the
raking early morning and late afternoon
sunlight. Four thousand or so years
after their execution the figures are still
striking, so imagine how they would
have looked when they were originally
I need not remind you that the
word ‘photography’ is derived from the
Ancient Greek words φωτός γραφή
(phōtos graphé), meaning to draw with
light. Those prehistoric rock carvers had
provided Mahmood with an invaluable
lesson in photography, one that few
people who lift a camera to their faces
today seem to have learned.
“So, was it worth leaving Muscat at 5
am?” I asked from up the ladder.
“Of course,” he said as he snapped
away at the sculptures.
“So, what’s the lesson here?” I said,
carefully composing a shot.
“Always bring a ladder?”
“Ha ha. The lesson is, before you
take a photograph, or make a bas-relief
sculpture for that matter, you must
consider carefully the best lighting
conditions for your purpose. What
would have happened if we had come
here at midday?”
“We would have seen nothing but the
empty rock.”
“That’s right. What would we have
done if it had been cloudy when we
arrived in Al Hamra this morning?”
“Come back another day at the same
time?” he suggested.
“Go straight to the top of the class,”
I said.
Unfortunately, Mahmood did not
(after the geologist of the same name who first brought it to international attention in the 1970s). It is generally recognised by
experts to be the most important ancient rock art in the whole of South-Eastern Arabia.
stay at the top of the class for long. Soon
he was standing facing the corner of the
classroom and wearing a dunce’s conical
hat, metaphorically speaking. Out of
curiosity, I asked him to show me some
of the photographs he had taken. While
he was scrolling through the dozens of
shots, I happened to glance at the mode
dial on the top of his camera and was
horrified to see that it was set to the little
icon with the mountain on it.
“What is the meaning of this?” I
demanded, pointing to the dial.
“What’s the problem?” he whimpered,
probably sensing that I was about to
burst into flames of photographic rage.
“Never, ever, have your camera set to
one of those little picture icons when you
are in my presence. The only acceptable
modes for a serious photographer are A,
S or M.”
“But I don’t know what they mean,”
he whined.
“So what do you think the smart,
slim, handsome guy is here for then?”
“Who?” he said, looking around.
Before I could whip him senseless
with his own camera strap, he ran off
You see, those little picture icons —
of the flower (close-up), of head and
shoulders (portrait), of a mountain
(landscape), of a running figure (sport)
and of a baby (I can’t imagine what
that one means!) — are all presets
concocted by men in white coats in a
lab in Tokyo. To have your camera set to
any one of them is akin to turning your
photographic self into an automation
controlled by someone else. You might
as well just wear a sign round your neck
saying, “My brain flew south for winter.”
I know that neither of my readers
would dream of using such mode
settings, but if either of you has the
misfortune of having a teenager at home
for whom you bought a DSLR, go and
check immediately that they do not have
the mode dial set to one of the picture
icons. If you find that they do, then you
have my permission to be immoderate
in their chastisement.
Oh dear, there are so many lessons
Mahmood will have to learn before
he earns the right to call himself a
photographer. I wonder what other tests
of fire I can come up with to help him
along the way.
The dominant warrior figure on the south face of the boulder, wielding what appears
to be a mace. The carvings have been approximately dated to about 2,000 BCE.
Glossary of DSLR Camera Modes
A (or Av on some cameras) means
Aperture Priority. This mode allows
the photographer to set the aperture
while letting the camera work out the
corresponding shutter speed. Aperture
is measured in f-stops and controls the
depth of field in the photograph. A small
f-stop (e.g. f.2.8 or f.4) results in a faster
shutter speed and shallow depth of field.
Big f-stop (e.g. f.16 or f.22) results in a
slower shutter speed and a large depth
of field.
S (or Tv on some cameras) means
Shutter Priority. This mode allows the
photographer to set the shutter speed
while letting the camera work out the
corresponding aperture. Shutter speed
is measured in fractions of a second
(e.g. 1/60 is one sixtieth of a second),
though on your camera LCD screen or
viewfinder, it may be represented only
by a number (e.g. 60). If the shutter
speed is in whole seconds, it will have a
quotation mark after the number (e.g. 2”
means 2 seconds). Shutter speeds lower
than 1/30th of a second will require use
of a tripod to avoid camera shake.
M means Manual. This mode allows
the photographer to set both the
aperture and the shutter speed. Does
using this mode mean you are one heck
of a smart photographer? No, it just
means you are not using your camera to
its full potential.
SUNDAY | JANUARY 18, 2015 | RABEE AL AWWAL 27, 1436 AH
Nick files for divorce from Mariah Will again try hand at TV: Big B Familiar cartoon characters enthral kids FOLLOW US ON:
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Fishing for ‘Angler of the Year’
ven the worst day
fishing is said to
be better than
the best day you
will ever have at
work!” It is an
unattributed saying of many years past,
by, for, and about, fishermen.
Oman’s coastlines have always
been fertile grounds for generations
of Omani fishermen, who have for
centuries eked out an inconsistent living
from the many fish species inhabiting
the rocky shorelines, and sometimes
beyond. However fishing is not only
about work. Here in Muscat there are a
few hardy enthusiasts who take to the
sea in traditional and modern craft,
for one day, ten months of the year, in
competition. The Fishing Section of
the Ras Al Hamra Recreation Centre is
home to a small but enthusiastic band
of fishermen, and women, who take
part in these monthly competitions. The
accumulated points gained throughout
the year count towards their prestigious
“Angler of the Year” award.
All have different tactical approaches
to the challenge. Sulieman and Tariq
for instance, strike off immediately to
the deeper reefs. Locating these reefs,
far from land, requires less skill since
the advent of the GPS, now remarkably
accurate in locating their favourite
spots. The skill is in positioning their
craft more than 200 metres above the
reef, and dropping their baited hooks on
them. Usually, Sulieman opts for a heavy
lead weight to take the line quickly down
to the bottom. It makes harder work of
bringing the line back up, but he prefers
the accuracy factor. Three hooks are
baited with sardines, seema or squid,
and the brake on the heavy duty reel is
released, and the nylon, or sometimes
— Pictures by Yelena Glukhovtseva
braided, line unreels quickly for about a
minute, and it soon hits the bottom with
an almost audible thud.
Immediately Sulieman reels in the
few inches of slack line and places a
finger on the line to feel for the bites
he knows will come. A succession of
rasping nibbles signals a bite, and the
master fisherman strikes as he feels them
by quickly flicking the rod upwards
to hook his prey. He feels the tell-tale
wriggling down the line and knows he
has hooked something. Reeling quickly
at first, he soon settles into a rhythm
of pumping his rod again and again.
Without pausing, he remarks that “this
is a good one,” and minutes later eases a
large Hamour, or warm-water Grouper
aboard for an impressive start to the
day. Sulieman has only just removed the
hook and put the Hamour in the icebox
when Tariq calls out that he is also, “in
business” and reeling furiously. Sulieman
explains that “the Hamour don’t fight
much, but make themselves very heavy,
and hard work, but we almost always get
them on the boat once we have hooked
Meanwhile, about 15 kms away,
Franz has set up lures rather than bait,
off a number of rods, and is ‘trolling’
towards the weather buoy. The lures
imitate the fish that are the prey of
predators such as Tuna and Mahi Mahi,
and are often shaped or coloured to
imitate the behaviour of wounded fish
and excite those predators to strike.
Adjusting the speed of the boat to allow
these swift strikers a chance at the lures,
Franz can steer towards any fish sign,
or disturbance in the water indicating
the presence of fish. “Wherever they are
in the food chain,” he says, “there are
hungrier fish around, and that’s what I’m
The words are no sooner out of his
mouth than he sees a splash close to
one of the lures. Then 20 seconds later
there is a hit, signalled by the ‘clicker’
screaming out, indicating that the lure
has been taken! Franz throttles back
on the engine and reaches for the rod,
gently increasing the amount of drag
on the line to where he wants it, as
Andrea takes the other lines out of the
water to prevent any tangles. With a flick
of the rod, Franz ‘sets’ the hook and is
rewarded with the magnificent sight
of a Mahi Mahi leaping aggressively
about 80-100 metres from the boat. A
flash of iridescent green, gold and blue,
described by Ollie Antheunis as, “an
orgy of colour,” he is properly hooked!
Now Franz has to ‘play’ the beauty.
Balancing the need to reel him in, with
the fish’s instinctive desire for freedom,
Franz doesn’t want to apply too much
pressure, and it is great to watch the
battle between the two, cerebral,
instinctive and physical as the predator
is eased ever closer. Andrea and Franz
take a moment, a full 10 minutes later, to
admire the beautiful fish as it is brought
alongside, exhausted, but defiant to
the end, before it is gaffed and hauled
aboard. “Right” said Franz, still smiling
broadly, “let’s get that gear back in the
water and catch his best mate!”
Faisal and Salim have used their
combined local knowledge and
commonsense closer to Fahal Island,
and seeing about 20 local fishermen
close inshore decide to try their luck in
the same waters. Faisal is an extrovert,
but a canny fisherman, and he is only
setting his first rod when, ‘bang!’ he has
a strike, and quickly and easily reels in a
1.5 kg Bonito, a streamlined and speedy
predator related to the Mackerel and
Tuna. Salim has a lure out quickly and
in seconds he too has one. Over the next
half hour, they land 12 of these tasty
fish, close to 20 kg, and then, as quickly
as they were among the fish, they were
getting nothing.
“They come and go,” said Faisal, “but
when they are there, you can get really
good catches.” He explains that “the
Bonito is voracious, and doesn’t need
much excuse to snap at the lures when
they are hungry.” Then, with a laugh,
they set off for another favourite spot.
These recreational fishermen are
conservation minded, having selfimposed quotas, and a catch and release
philosophy where really big fish are
concerned. They care, have fun, and
get a darned good workout at the same
time… better than the best day at work?
Try it, and find out.
warming as well as sedimentary deposit,
over-fishing, and sewage and fertiliser
runoff, the experts hope.
But John Pandolfi, a biologist at the
University of Queensland, said there was
a glimmer of hope.
The new findings “fit with
experimental work suggesting that corals
can quickly adapt to environmental
change,” Pandolfi said in a commentary
also carried by Nature.
sharp rise in sea temperature
catastrophic “bleaching” on
corals, but research published recently
identified factors that may render some
reefs more resilient than others.
Five conditions can determine
whether or not a reef is doomed after
bleaching — episodes that threaten a
valuable source of biodiversity, tourism
and fishing, scientists reported in the
journal Nature.
“Water depth, the physical structure
of the reef before disturbance, nutrient
levels, the amount of grazing by fish and
survival of juvenile corals could help
predict reef recovery,” said Nicholas
Graham at Australia’s James Cook
University, who headed the probe.
Bleaching occurs when reef
symbiosis — the mutually beneficial
relationship between two organisms that
inhabit corals — is disrupted by a surge
in ocean warming, although there can
also be other causes.
One of the worst episodes of mass
bleaching, which affected reefs in 60
tropical countries, took place in 1998, a
year of an exceptionally strong El Nino
weather pattern.
Corals depend on single-cell algae
called dinoflagellates that live in vast
colonies on their surface.
The dinoflagellates feed on nitrogen,
phosphorus and other nutrients
provided by the coral, and use light to
transform this food into energy.
The photosynthesis also releases
energy into the tissues of the coral,
enabling it to build the calcium skeleton
which houses the dinoflagellates.
When corals come under stress,
such as from significantly warmer seas,
they expel the dinoflagellates. The corals
turn visibly pale, as the algae have the
pigments which give the skeletons their
distinctive colour.
The reefs are not dead are this point.
But they become more susceptible to
disease and will die if they fail to regain
their plankton friends.
Graham’s team draw their
conclusions after scrutinising 17 years
of data from the Seychelles, before and
after the 1998 bleaching, which hit more
than 90 per cent of the country’s coral
Twelve of the country’s 21 reefs
recovered, but nine did not, with the
differences between providing the
researchers with clues.
The five factors identified could
help inform policymakers struggling to
manage coral reefs in the face of global
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