Why Bombing This Tiny Oil Producer Is Roiling the Energy Market
By Sharon Cho & Ben Sharples
(Bloomberg) -- While Yemen contributes less than 0.2 per cent of global oil output, its location puts it near the centre of world energy trade.
The nation shares a border with Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter, and sits on one side of a shipping chokepoint used by tankers heading west from the Persian Gulf. Global oil prices jumped more than 5 per cent on Thursday after regional powers began bombing rebel targets in the country that produced less than Denmark in 2013.
Yemen’s government collapsed in the face of an offensive by rebels known as Houthis, prompting airstrikes led by Saudi Arabia, the biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The Gulf’s main Sunni Muslim power says the Houthis are tools of its Shiite rival Iran, another OPEC member, and has vowed to do what’s necessary to halt their advance.
“While thousands of barrels of oil from Yemen will not be noticed, millions from Saudi Arabia will matter,” said John Vautrain, who has more than 30 years of experience in the energy industry and is the head of Vautrain & Co., a consultant in Singapore. “Saudi Arabia has been concerned about unrest spreading from Yemen.”
Yemen produced about 133,000 barrels a day of oil in 2013, making it the 39th biggest producer, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Output peaked at more than 440,000 barrels a day in 2001, the Energy Department’s statistical arm said on its website.
Brent, the benchmark grade for more than half the world’s crude, gained 4.8 per cent to $59.19 on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. West Texas Intermediate futures, the U.S. marker, advanced 4.5 per cent to $51.43 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Yemen is located on Bab el-Mandeb, the fourth-biggest shipping chokepoint in the world by volume, which is 18 miles wide at its narrowest point, according to the EIA. It’s located between Yemen, Djibouti, and Eritrea, and connects the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea.
In 2013, 3.8 million barrels a day of crude and oil products flowed through Bab el-Mandeb, EIA data show. More than half of the shipments moved to the Suez Canal and SUMED Pipeline, which link Egypt’s ports of Ain Sukhna on the Red Sea and Sidi Kerir on the Mediterranean.
“There is a possibility that pirates could use the general instability as cover to mount attacks in the southern Red Sea around and north of Bab el-Mandeb,” the Baltic and International Maritime Council, which represents owners and operators in 130 countries, said by e-mail.
The oil terminal at Aden on Yemen’s south coast is operating as normal, Harbor Master Shekib Abdelwahed said by phone Thursday. The European Union Naval Force isn’t aware of any disruption to shipping in the Gulf of Aden or Bab el-Mandeb, said Jacqui Sherriff, a spokeswoman for the combined naval units.
Closure of the waterway may keep tankers from the Persian Gulf from reaching the Suez Canal and the SUMED Pipeline, diverting them around the southern tip of Africa, adding to transit time and cost, according to the EIA. Ships carrying oil from Europe and North Africa to Asian market wouldn’t be able to take the most direct route, it said on its website.
“As the situation in Yemen has dramatically escalated, it’s seen primarily as a threat to international shipping and oil transport,” Theodore Karasik, an independent geopolitical analyst, said from Dubai. “There’s concern that the more ungovernable Yemen becomes, the more it could become a base for piracy in the Red Sea area.”
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait responded to a request from Yemen’s President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi, according to a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
The strikes are a “very dangerous development” and contradict international law, al-Jazeera reported, citing the Iranian foreign ministry. The attacks will haunt Saudi Arabia as the war won’t be contained in one area; the state-run Fars news agency cited Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, as saying.
Saudi Arabia led OPEC’s decision in November to resist calls to reduce its output target of 30 million barrels a day, a resolution that Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said was “not in line with what we wanted.” OPEC’s decision, combined with the highest rate of U.S. production in more than 30 years, caused a supply glut that drove benchmark oil prices to six-year lows.
In Yemen, Iran and Saudi Arabia are “fighting a proxy war and they will continue to fight a proxy war,” Vautrain said.
The Houthis, who follow the Zaydi branch of Shiite Islam, say they operate independently of Iran and represent only their group’s interests.
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Pratish Narayanan at [email protected]
India And SAARC: Will New Initiatives Work?
By Preety Bhogal*
South Asia is a regional bloc that holds immense trade potential but the achievement in intra-regional economic integration has been insignificant so far. The scope of regional cooperation among the South Asian economies is still limited. The 18th SAARC Summit held in Kathmandu, Nepal in November 2014, marked the dominion of the “alliance with neighbourhood first” tenet in the evolving foreign policy of India. However, in terms of the India trade with the region, the reality is far from the popular belief.
The relationship between India and other South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member states rejects the gravity theory of international trade, which emphasizes on the role of geographical proximity in augmenting bilateral trade among countries. Despite the nearness, India has a prolonged history of poor trade with the other SAARC nations. In 2013-2014, India’s trade with SAARC members was 2.6 per cent of India’s total trade with the rest of the world. Compared to this, India’s trade with countries further away in terms of distance namely the United States (US) and countries in the European Union (EU) was much larger.
India’s trade with SAARC member states is not only low, but it has been more or less stagnant over the past few years. It stood at about 2.2 per cent in 2009-10, and continued to remain in bandwidth of 2-2.6 per cent over the past five years.
Within the SAARC region, India is the largest economy in terms of its gross domestic product and the size of its market. It is the most strategically located, as a centre point of the SAARC region, with both land and sea connectivity with other SAARC member states. India shares a land border with four member nations and a sea border with two others. No other SAARC nation shares a common border with each other. Due to its strategic location, India acts as an important trans-shipment hub for the land-locked SAARC member states such as Nepal and Bhutan. According to an estimate, more than 50 per cent of the total trade for these countries takes place with India. The trade statistics from 2013-2014 show that within SAARC, a majority of India’s trade takes place with Bangladesh (33.3 per cent), Sri Lanka (26 per cent) and Nepal (20.6 per cent).
Traditional theories of comparative advantage very well justify the low level of trade in the SAARC region. There is a lack of trade complementarities in the region. Most countries specialize in the production of similar products such as textiles. India’s trade therefore is skewed towards the developed countries in the West, namely the US, the EU and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The major items of trade (apart from gold) include petroleum, gems and jewellery, high-technology machinery, fertilizers, textiles, among others.
India’s present trade in the SAARC region reflects more of the strained political relationship than an economic logic. However, more recently, there have been several initiatives in the right direction.
With the new government in 2014, India’s foreign policy is being redrawn with a buoyant outlook, which accentuates the need to move from a protectionist environment to a more liberal trade framework. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reinforced the importance of South Asian regional integration at several international forums and this has also been reflected in growing diplomatic visits in the region. The reigning idea of India’s ministerial conferences with the leaders of the neighbouring nations is to improve the overall trade and investment climate in the region. More specifically, the focus has been to improve physical (road, rail, sea and air) and cultural connectivity within the SAARC region. This is expected to provide an impetus to India-SAARC ties.
It is well recognized that removal of trade and non-trade barriers would enhance regional cooperation among the SAARC members. While tariff reduction is the most popular tool for trade liberalization, for streamlining trade and investments in the region, SAARC member states have undertaken a series of trade facilitation measures. For instance, SAARC member states had established the South Asian Regional Standards Organization (SARSO) in 2011 to address the most important non-trade barrier of divergence in standards of the products traded in the region. While this is a step in the right direction, there are presently only 38 items for which the standards are being harmonized. This list of items needs to be expanded by including other essential items of regional interest such as refined sugar, jute bags, and cement, among others. For certain product categories such as food items, the SAARC standards can be brought in line with the globally followed Codex Aliment Arius standards.
The leaders of SAARC are also committed to transform this region into South Asian Economic Union (SAEU) through free flow of goods among the member states, which requires streamlining the customs procedures, easy visa regimes, direct road and rail connectivity and rationalization of the tariff structures. This delay in delivery is due to the absence of a direct road or rail link between India and Bangladesh, which hinders the growth of trade between them. Several efforts have been made by the SAARC nations to improve road and rail connectivity within the region, which is expected to boost trade and cultural exchanges in SAARC.
While some measures are being undertaken to enhance trade in goods, it is important for the SAARC member states to enhance the scope of collaboration beyond goods, to include trade in services and economic cooperation. Some of the potential areas of cooperation include hydropower trading, religious tourism and asynchronous intra-grid connectivity.
Bhutan’s power sector has an untapped trade potential of nearly 28,520 megawatts (MW) as the four major hydropower plants namely Chukha, Kurichhu, Basochu and Tala have an installed capacity of merely 1,480 MW, which is barely 4.9 per cent of its total hydropower potential. This is a potential sector for investment for Indian companies as the production cost of hydropower in Bhutan is one of the lowest in the world, which translates into higher returns for the investors. Moreover, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) have taken multilateral approach-laden initiatives by exploring the scope for engaging in power trade and inter-grid connectivity among themselves. At present, India-Bhutan, India-Bangladesh and India-Nepal grids are interconnected that facilitate cross-border trade in these nations. However, the potential trade partners for India, namely Sri Lanka and Pakistan, still remain isolated from the power grid connectivity loop among SAARC nations.
Another measure for enhancing intra-SAARC merchandise trade requires India to redesign its sensitive list by removing products that are of export interest to SAARC member states. A reduction in the size of sensitive lists will magnify the size of regional trade among SAARC members. A closer look at the sensitive list of Pakistan reveals that items that hold comparative export potential for India such as automobiles, textiles, steel and pharmaceuticals form a part of the restricted imports from India to Pakistan. This might be a measure directed at protecting the domestic industries in Pakistan from international competition, but an improved regional integration would produce a win-win situation for both the members. The liberalization of foreign direct investments (FDI) climate in SAARC region is likely to deepen the trade linkages among the member states. Creation of well-targeted investment opportunities for private and public sector companies within SAARC, particularly for infrastructural development, could be a way forward in the integration of India with SAARC members.
There exists a huge trade potential of India with the SAARC nations, a large proportion of it is still untapped and yet to be realized. It is essential that the SAARC leaders recognize the distinct issues and problems of each member state and address them separately.
For instance, the cross-border terrorism and insurgency issues with Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have to be dealt with independent of each other. Moreover, the bilateral trade between India and Pakistan is largely affected due to the Kashmir issue as well as the denial of granting accord of the most favoured nation (MFN) status to India. The issue of India and Pakistan is delicate, and therefore it needs to be addressed appropriately without affecting the spirit of free trade and integration in the overall SAARC region.
There is an urgent need to overhaul in the SAARC region for bringing the member states closer to each other. Several initiatives have been made by India in this regard.
The recent visit of Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar to four SAARC nations is conclusive of India’s determination to forge cooperation with its neighbours. The Indian foreign secretary undertook the ‘SAARC Yatra’ with an objective to review the initiatives announced for the region by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the 18th SAARC Summit in Nepal, such as launch of a SAARC satellite, a SAARC business travellers’ card and partnership between South Asian University (SAU) and other universities in the member states. Similar regional integration efforts are being fostered by other neighbouring states, such as the visit of Sri Lankan President, Maithripala Sirisena, to India in February 2015 has paved the way for India and Sri Lanka cooperation in energy and water front.
The SAARC nations must realize that greater economic cooperation is to be built on the foundation of cultural cooperation. Developing economic cooperation among them through people-to-people contact and educational and cultural exchanges is the foremost step in enhancing regional cooperation. Such partnerships among SAARC members are likely to shape the trade and investment climate of the region and provide a new dimension to their alliance.
*Preety Bhogal is Researcher, Centre for Policy Research (CPR), India. The author can be contacted at [email protected]
It was just announced that puppet master Warren Buffett connected some of his favourite companies to create the third-largest North American food company by merging H.J. Heinz Company, Brazilian private equity firm 3G Capital and Kraft Foods Group, Inc. in a $46 billion deal.
Mega-mergers are not new in the highly competitive world of consumer packaged goods. Consumers are exceedingly price sensitive. The success rate of new products is very low, resulting in little opportunity for organic growth. The search for cost savings and efficiencies is constant. Acquisition is the natural (and sometimes only) option to grow revenue and increase margins.
The Heinz/Kraft merger reportedly expects to save about $1.5 billion in annual costs by the end of 2017. 3G has a reputation for introducing aggressive cost cuts and improving efficiencies at other portfolio companies including Anheuser-Busch. Its corporate culture is supposedly one of no-frills. Never mind a corporate jet. 3G execs reportedly travel coach, even internationally.
Kraft has been performing poorly, to a large degree because its products like macaroni and shelf-stable cheese are off trend in that they are neither fresh nor particularly healthy. Analysts say success lies in new product innovation but absence of success in that arena hasn’t been for the lack of trying. Across the entire category of major food manufacturers, there are shockingly few case studies of successful new product introductions, despite billions of dollars spent on R&D.
Kellogg was recently crucified in a Bloomberg article for not taking action on consumers’ anti-carb crusades when their portfolio was disproportionately carb-based. General Mills has fared better than their mega-CPG competitors, including purchase of Berkeley, California–based Annie’s, Inc., one of largest natural and organic packaged food companies, for $820 million last year.
CPG brands shuttle between owners over time, with most consumers oblivious to those changes. For example, pet food brands Kibbles ’n Bits, Snausages, and Pup-Peroni were once owned by Quaker Oats. In 1995 Quaker sold its pet food division to Heinz. Del Monte Foods bought those very same brands from Heinz seven years later. In 2013, Del Monte Foods sold its fruit and vegetables company and renamed itself Big Heart Pet Brands, which still includes in its portfolio Kibbles ’n Bits, Snausages, and 9Lives cat food, among other brands. Just this week, Big Heart Pet Brands was officially acquired by J.M. Smucker Company. On the short list of underperforming public CPG companies, Smucker’s is rumored to be a candidate for acquisition, as well…not impossibly by the new Heinz, meaning 20 years and a scenic detour later, those brands could be back under the same owner. Loyal consumers buying a specific dog food for the last 30 years with the memory of dogs jumping over each other chanting “Kibbles ’n Bits, Kibbles ’n Bits… I gotta get me some Kibbles ’n Bits,” and more importantly, lots of high-value coupons and BOGOs, will be none the wiser.
Most of the equities and personalities of iconic CPG brands were established years ago when manufacturers consistently invested millions in advertising campaigns. Those brands are now competing against store brands of comparable quality at a lower price and often a third, organic or otherwise healthier option. Couponing and/or in-store discounting is often required to make previously loyal shoppers buy national brands. This price sensitivity, fueled by high-quality competitive store brands, is a major component driving manufacturers to find efficiencies wherever they can, including consolidation. These consumer-based challenges, combined with pressures on the manufacturing, distribution, and retailing fronts, fuel the need for decisions that led to the Heinz, Kraft, 3G deal announced today, the CPG reconfigurations before it, and many to come.
Imagine the combination of two old-school CPG companies like Heinz and Kraft is like a late-life marriage with Warren Buffett officiating the wedding. The result is a large blended family composed of once highly successful child stars who haven’t done much lately. CEO Bernardo Hees is the new stepdad from Brazil who isn’t going to let them live in the basement anymore without paying rent. Everybody’s eager to see how it’s going to work out and Dr. Phil is on speed dial.
By Dana Cimilluca, Dana Mattioli, and Annie Gasparro
3G Capital Partners LP is in advanced talks to buy Kraft Foods Group Inc. through its H.J. Heinz Co. unit, according to people familiar with the matter, in a combination of two iconic brands that would intensify the private-equity firm’s shake-up of the U.S. food industry.
Any deal likely would be valued at more than $40 billion. It could be announced soon, said one of the people, and, according to another, 3G would make it using Heinz. It also is possible the talks could fall apart before a deal is reached.
Kraft KRFT, +35.18% and many other U.S. packaged-food giants have struggled with rapid changes in consumer tastes that have curbed sales and exposed overcapacity. That has spelled opportunity for 3G—an acquisitive Brazilian firm known for buying consumer companies it considers bloated and aggressively slashing costs.
The Wall Street Journal previously reported that 3G was looking for targets after it recently raised some $5 billion for deal making. The firm already has become a major player in the food sector. Billionaire co-founder Jorge Paulo Lemann was a big shareholder in brewer InBev, and helped engineer its 2008 acquisition of Anheuser-Busch.
In 2013, 3G teamed up with investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. BRK.A, -0.75% BRK.B, +1.08% to buy Heinz and its stable of ketchup and frozen-food brands for $23 billion — a deal widely viewed as a wake-up call for other established food companies.
Kraft had a market value of roughly $37 billion, before the Journal reported news of the possible deal late Tuesday. While it isn’t clear what price the two sides are negotiating, it could be well over that value, given typical premiums paid in takeover deals.
By Naween A. Mangi
The 39-year-old turned a loss—making asset management company into a profitable acquisition target, led her flagship equity fund to the country’s top performance and positioned her new firm for what she estimates will be a 40 per cent jump in client assets this year. For all that, Rahman still struggles to prove she belongs in an industry where all 21 of her rival chief executive officers are men.
“My biggest challenge has been building a reputation and trust in a market that values grey hair and being male,” said Rahman, who oversees the equivalent of $180 million in stocks and bonds as the CEO of Alfalah GHP Investment Management Ltd. in Karachi. “After all these years, I still routinely get asked why I don’t just design clothes.”
While Rahman’s rise to the top of a financial firm would have been almost unheard of in Pakistan two decades ago, her struggle to gain the acceptance of male peers illustrates the challenge professional women still face in a country with the smallest proportion of female workers among Asia’s 15 largest economies. Investors who bet on Rahman have been rewarded with a 443 per cent return from her IGI Stock Fund since its inception seven years ago, 117 percentage points more than the benchmark index and the biggest gain among 34 peers tracked by Bloomberg.
Rahman, who’s also the youngest head of a Pakistani asset manager, has distinguished herself with timely bets on energy and interest-rate sensitive companies amid a rally in the nation’s $71 billion stock market that outpaced every other country worldwide except the Philippines and Sri Lanka.
Pakistan’s KSE 100 Index has returned 326 per cent -- or 195 per cent in dollar terms -- since Rahman’s IGI Stock fund started in July 2008 as the country completed its first-ever democratic transition of power, secured a $6.6 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund and pledged to sell stakes in state-run companies. Surging consumer spending and Asia’s highest dividend yields have also convinced investors to look past power blackouts and a war with Taliban insurgents on the Afghan border.
The gains for women in Pakistan’s $233 billion economy haven’t been nearly as strong. Just 25 per cent of the nation’s female population is part of the workforce, up from 22 per cent in 2008, according to data compiled by the World Bank. That compares with an average rate of 52 per cent for Asia’s largest economies.
Even at Rahman’s firm, she’s one of just six women among a total staff of 48.
Female employees in Pakistan got paid about 37 per cent less than men in 2012, versus a gap of 4 per cent for Malaysia and 10 per cent for Vietnam, according to a Jan. 12 report from the International Labour Organization.
“We’re still quite far from our goal,” said Khawar Mumtaz, who heads the National Commission on the Status of Women, a state agency in Islamabad set up in 2000 to monitor how government policy promotes gender equality. “If the work environment was supportive, more women would be willing to enter.”
Rahman, the daughter of a Unilever Plc. executive, graduated from Lahore University of Management Sciences in 1997 and earned a master’s degree in economics and finance from Warwick Business School in the U.K. She began her career as an analyst at Merrill Lynch & Co. in Singapore before returning to Pakistan. She joined BMA Capital Management, a Karachi-based brokerage, as the head of research in 2007, and then took on the CEO role at IGI Funds Ltd. in 2009.
Rahman doubled assets under management in her first year at the helm of IGI and led the firm to a 15 per cent return on equity -- a gauge of profitability. The gains came even as industry assets shrank 7 per cent in the year ended June 2010, according to the Mutual Funds Association of Pakistan.
Alfalah GHP Investment Management bought IGI in 2013 and Rahman became CEO of the combined firm.
“One attraction for Alfalah to acquire the fund was that they wanted Maheen to manage it,” said Syed Babar Ali, the former chairman of Nestle Pakistan Ltd. who founded Rahman’s alma mater, LUMS.
Rahman puts her outperformance down to three key calls. The first was a decision to stay fully invested in equities during the depths of the global financial crisis in 2009, a time when many peers were hiding out in cash and missed the ensuing rally. In 2011, when the post-crisis rebound in oil prices peaked, Rahman shifted from energy producers into manufacturers.
Last year, she began favouring companies that benefit from lower borrowing costs, a move that paid off as the central bank cut interest rates to an 11-year low. Some of her biggest holdings in the IGI Stock Fund as of January included Pak-Suzuki Motor Co., Pakistan’s biggest carmaker, and Lucky Cement Ltd., the nation’s second-largest maker of the building material.
While Rahman, a mother of three, has climbed to the top of the fund rankings, her performance hasn’t put her on equal footing when it comes to day-to-day interactions with male colleagues.
She says the differences are often subtle. While men can crack jokes with each other at meetings, Rahman feels compelled to maintain a “proper” demeanour. That means limiting how much she smiles, putting her handbag in just the right place when she sits and keeping a personal distance from colleagues.
“You can never appear frivolous because you just won’t be taken seriously,” Rahman said.
Like in many countries, women in Pakistan are also expected to take on most of the responsibility of raising children. Rahman says that limits her ability to network with clients after working hours. It also means dealing with feelings of “overwhelming guilt,” such as the time she found herself stuck in a board meeting instead of caring for her child at home with a 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.9 Celsius) fever.
“Even a one-time allowance for something child related lowers you in the eyes of men in the workforce,” she said. “It’s probably also a key reason why so few women don’t continue after they have families.”
Rahman, who lives with her husband’s family and relies on her mother-in-law to look after the kids when she’s at work, makes a point to come home for lunch each day. She leaves the office by 6:30 p.m., juggling calls and e-mails from work with her household chores.
“When I go home, there’s no concept that I’m a CEO,” said Rahman, whose husband runs his own logistics company. “It’s about there’s no bread, we’re out of eggs, the laundry isn’t done.”
Even with the challenges that come with being a female CEO in Pakistan, Rahman shows few signs of slowing down. She plans to boost assets at Alfalah GHP, Pakistan’s eighth-largest money manager, to levels that rival the industry’s biggest firms in the next few years by marketing her funds to individual investors through branches of Bank Alfalah Ltd., the fund unit’s parent company.
Pakistan has 38 million bank accounts, versus less than 200,000 mutual fund investors, a sign of ample room for growth, according to Rahman. She’s counting on stock picks in Pakistan’s manufacturing industries to maintain her fund’s out performance. The KSE 100 index rose 1.1 per cent on Friday, the most since Jan. 26.
“I enjoy what I do to the point where it doesn’t feel like work,” she said.
If that ever changes, Rahman says she’ll leave.
“It’s a very high opportunity cost for me to be doing something I don’t enjoy.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Naween A. Mangi in Karachi at [email protected]
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Patterson at [email protected] Ravil Shirodkar
Samie Cashmiri enriches audience’s knowledge at the MAP function
By Pooya Dubash
Head of Marketing, Live Rostrum
Karachi: The Marketing Association of Pakistan (MAP) held its monthly seminar in Marriot on March 17th. 2015 with Samie Cashmiri(Vice President, ICI Pakistan) as the key speaker on “Enduring Brands: The Real Reason behind how some Brands endure over time.” It was a part of their series, captioned ‘Pakistan-Islands of Excellence’.
The select audience, mostly comprising representatives from various Pharma and FMCG companies had participated for a very interactive presentation showcasing how brands endure themselves over a period of time.
Mr. Samie Cashmiri, while talking very promptly and extemporarily, quoted some fine examples of Tiger Woods and someother leading brand-ambassadors on how a wrong decision could be the downfall of a brand.
The programme began with the recitation of Holy Quran, followed by opening remarks of Mr. Masood Hashmi, the serving President of MAP and a distinguished figure of advertising field.
After a very brief introduction of ICI Pearl, the platform was open for audience to ask questions. Highlights of the evening discussion were the difference between a Product and Brand and subsidiary topics like why Shahid Afridi was the highest paid celebrity for brand endorsements, before the 2013 elections in Pakistan.
Questions such as what would be a products maximum buying threshold and would a celebrity cause any adverse effects to a brand if he/she is caught by a scandal or bad media were too striking for the audience. Some of the questions were repetitive and very basic; perhaps the panels should have come up with top ten questions often asked by marketers and then answer them with proper examples.
The Marketing Association of Pakistan is a good arena for people to assemble and improve and update themselves on the trending topics of the field.
Live Rostrum suggests to the Marketing Association of Pakistan that they should hold separate, exclusive seminars on specific industries such as Pharma, Insurance and FMCG.
LIFE & STYLE
TheSpianz Theater celebrated World Theater day on 26th March 2015 with the collaboration of US Consulate Karachi and Pakistan American cultural center (PACC). This work shop was conducted by Famous Pakistani American Theater director/writer/storyteller Ms. Fawzia Mirza in Pakistan American Culture Center (PACC).
She has provided various techniques to Thespianz theater performers and various students of theater studies about how to overcome the theater fear and how to boost up the confidence infront of both Public and Camera. She has made several activities for students in order to make them more confident while performing in theater or act.
Faisal Malik (Artistic Director) Thespianz theater wants to highlight talent from Pakistan for which he is really hopeful and he told to the attendees that Pakistan got good talent and its only about opportunities and investment in Theater industry.
Besides Ms .Fawzia, one more guest Ms. Li Ping Lo who is the American cultural attaché with her assistant Ms. Priscilla Gozmin were present in the workshop.
At the end of the Theater Workshop, PACC director Mr. Nasir Saleem has presented some gifts to Ms. Fawzia and also gives a positive hand that these workshops will be conducted frequently in order to over come the lackness in Theater act along with make positive awareness to both local and international viewers about Theater Culture of Pakistan.
‘Mera Pakistan’ Conference 2015
By Farhan Khan
KARACHI: Mera Pakistan Conference 2015, being the second episode, was organized by the COMMECS on March, 25th, 2015, here, at a local hotel. The event highlighted the significant development the country has achieved in natural and human resources, since its creation. The aim of the conference was to turn despair into hope and pessimism into optimism; to inform the new generation the reason to be proud on their county. COMMECS, an association of alumni of Government College of Commerce & Economics, has played an active role in the field of education by establishing an intermediate college and a business school, besides their institute for the faculty development programme.
Mr. Faisal Arab, the Chief Justice Sindh High Court was the guest of honour in the Stalwart Awards. held after the conference. M. Javed Okhai, President of COMMECS informed the audience that Mr. Justice Arab was also amongst the former students of Government Commerce College.
He further added that the COMMECS was working to promote a positive image of Pakistan and if the other alumni also followed in the footstep of COMMECS, no one could stop us in bringing education revolution in the country. He appreciated the effort of the COMMECS for organizing the conference to highlight the positive aspects of our country. “This is the right time for the educated persons to step forward and play their role in negating the negative perception of the country. We are the first class citizen in our Pakistan only. We should be proud to be a Pakistani,” he urged the audience.
Earlier, Nadeem Hussain, President Tameer Micro Finance Bank claimed that Pakistan’s banking scenario would be changed in 3 to 4 years. He informed that 50 million new mobile accounts would be opened by 2017; the mobile account could be used in more than 2 lacs places; for paying utility bill and for shopping even from purchasing six oranges. A new mobile bank account will be opened in just a single minute, while the customer could obtain his ATM card in just 5 minutes. The use of paper currency notes would gradually be decreased in the coming years, predicted Nadeem Hussain.
Syed Shabir Zaidi, former president ICAP was of the view that our problem was not the shortage of finance, but, mismanagement rather. ‘We do not need to open new schools. We should rather open the existing defunct schools and run them properly’.
Syed Asad Ayub Ahmed, President and CEO of The Teachers Foundation (TCF) speaking on this occasion said, “TCF has more than 1000 schools, mostly in rural areas, all over Pakistan in which more than 150,000 children are studying. We only charge Rs.100 Rupees fee from student in contrast to the TCF Rs.1200 cost per student”. He further informed that the TCF have created more than 11,500 jobs, around 7,500 female teachers as the TCF has only female faculty.
The other speakers at the conference included Ahmed Chinoy, Fareed Alam, Amjad Khan, Aqeel Karim Dhedhi, Saif-ud-Din Zumkawala, and Ahmed Abdul Bari. All speakers were very hopeful about the future of the country and they highlighted the progress in different fields, during last year. It was a sheer consensus among the speakers that our nation could reach the zenith of progress if we believe in ourselves and stop depending on others.
Jeremy Clarkson Loses Contract as Host of BBC’s ‘Top Gear’
By STEVEN ERLANGER
LONDON — Jeremy Clarkson has reached the end of the road, at least with the BBC.
Mr. Clarkson, the popular and moneymaking host of BBC’s “Top Gear,” an entertainment show built around cars and British macho, was told on Wednesday that his contract, which is up at the end of March, will not be renewed, the BBC said.
The decision comes after Mr. Clarkson, 54, was accused of verbally and physically attacking a BBC producer, Oisin Tymon, after Mr. Clarkson returned to a Yorkshire hotel after a late-night drinking session to find that there was no hot food served at that hour.
Mr. Tymon was treated at a hospital for his injuries but has not pressed charges against Mr. Clarkson.
After the BBC was informed of what it initially called “a fracas,” Mr. Clarkson was suspended on March 10 and the last three episodes of this season of the popular “Top Gear” program were postponed.
Jeremy Clarkson, the host of “Top Gear,” is paid about $1.5 million a year, making him one of the BBC’s most highly paid employees.
BBC Suspends Jeremy Clarkson, Host of ‘Top Gear,’ After String of WarningsMARCH 10, 2015
Jeremy Clarkson, who was suspended as a host of the BBC program
Fans Petition BBC to Reinstate ‘Top Gear’ Host Jeremy ClarksonMARCH 11, 2015
After an investigation, the BBC director general, Tony Hall, said in a statement, “It is with great regret that I have told Jeremy Clarkson today that the BBC will not be renewing his contract.”
Mr. Hall said he had not made the decision lightly and realized that it would divide opinion. But “a line has been crossed,” he added, saying he “cannot condone what has happened on this occasion.”
The decision comes after a series of disputes with Mr. Clarkson over the content of the show. Some considered its regular references to ethnicity racist, or at least politically incorrect, and they usually produced some form of apology.
Last year, the crew fled Argentina after being attacked by local residents during the filming of an episode in which Mr. Clarkson drove a Porsche sports car with the license plate H982 FKL, which some took as a reference to the British victory over Argentina in the 1982 Falklands War. Mr. Clarkson and his team insisted — with a wink — that they had no idea what the license plate meant. But most observers saw it as a typical Clarkson ploy to seem both naughty and patriotic.
In May 2014, in film not intended for broadcast, Mr. Clarkson seemed to use a racist term while reciting the “eeny, meeny, miney, moe” rhyme. He denied uttering an offensive word but acknowledged “that it sounds like I did.”
He has also been accused of racist comments aimed at Indians, Mexicans and Asians.
After Mr. Clarkson’s suspension, more than a million people signed an online petition seeking his reinstatement, and he received remarkable statements of support from prominent friends, including Prime Minister David Cameron.
“Top Gear,” which began as a straight show about cars, has in its current incarnation become popular worldwide, watched by about 350 million viewers in 170 countries. It has been called the world’s most popular fact-based program, and it earns millions for the BBC and for Mr. Clarkson himself.
Overseas sales are worth an estimated $74 million a year for the corporation’s commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, according to the BBC.
The program has three million YouTube subscribers and its magazine has a circulation of 1.7 million.
The BBC is expected to continue to make the program with a different host, and Mr. Clarkson is expected to be highly sought-after by other television companies to host a similar program.
By Patty Hastings
Vancouver's Daniel Seavey made it through another round of "American Idol" eliminations tonight, securing his spot among the top nine contestants.
For an 80s-themed show, the 15-year-old Union High School sophomore sang "You Make My Dreams" by Hall & Oates.
The three celebrity judges have advised Daniel each week to strengthen his vocals and build more confidence on stage; they gave more of the same advice this week during the show, which aired live on Fox.
"You look so good on camera, so that's a huge plus for you," Keith Urban said. "Toward the end of the song, you start coming into the song. ... I'm glad you're still here, but I think you need to get more comfortable quicker."
On Twitter, Urban tweeted some more advice for Daniel: "What can I say; they love ya...but just imagine you're on the streets of Portland singin & I think you'll loosen way up!"
Jennifer Lopez said that Daniel sang better than he did last week and that the song suited his voice.
"Obviously the audience at home loves you because they're voting you in every week," she said "It's just about loosening up up there and really finding yourself."
Harry Connick Jr. asked, “Daniel, what do you love to do, man, more than anything?"
"Make people happy," Daniel replied.
"That's exactly why you should be up there. You're an entertainer to make people happy," Connick said.
He noted that the dance moves Daniel used seemed too choreographed and planned. He advised Daniel to be relaxed and have a good time on stage.
One more contestant will be eliminated during the show next Wednesday evening.
For information about how to vote, visit www.americanidol.com/vote. Daniel recorded his rendition of "You Make my Dreams," which is available for download on iTunes.
Prague, Czech Republic (PRWEB UK) 24 March 2015
On 23 March, over 250 diplomats, deputies, journalists and celebrities packed the late 19th century neo-renaissance Villa Pellé – one of Prague’s most renowned arts and cultural spaces in the diplomatic corner of the city. The opening was organised by The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) with official endorsement from the Czech Parliament.
Roman Huna, Head, TEAS Brussels, commented: “It is an honour to bring the beautiful photographic exhibition 'Azerbaijan Through the Lens' to this wonderful venue. This famous exhibition has already travelled to London, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Brussels, Istanbul and other cities. We are delighted to host this exhibition under the auspices of the Czech Parliament, due to the interest and participation of Jan Hamáček, Speaker of the Parliament.”
H.E. Farid Shafiyev, Azerbaijani Ambassador to the Czech Republic, commented: “It is a great pleasure to present this wonderful exhibition, and I would like to thank TEAS for its organisation. It is important to raise the profile of Azerbaijan in the Czech Republic and to encourage the Czech people to understand more about my country. These stunning photographs represent the scenery, architecture and people of Azerbaijan. My country is very diverse, and it is developing dynamically.
“There are excellent Azerbaijani–Czech bilateral relations and we have developed a high level of bilateral political and economic co-operation, demonstrated by the recent visit to the country by Vojtěch Filip, Deputy Speaker, Czech Parliament and Member of the Czech–Azerbaijan Friendship Group. In addition to the political interaction, the cultural elements of our relations are very important. Azerbaijan is open for business – and any ideas for further development of our business relations are very welcome.”
Vojtěch Filip, Deputy Speaker, Czech Parliament, Member of the Friendship Group said: “It is an honour for me to open this unique exhibition on Azerbaijan organised under the auspices of the Czech Parliament, and I would like to give you all best regards from the Speaker, Mr. Ján Hamáček. I would like to highlight the excellent bilateral relations that exist between Azerbaijan and the Czech Republic, and the fact that there are already many important business investments and activities taking place between our countries. Azerbaijan is a pearl, and for those who have not visited the country, I would like to recommend a visit to Azerbaijan to discover a rich cultural heritage and very warm people who are great friends of Europe, including the Czech Republic. I am very pleased to officially host this TEAS exhibition in Prague and I hope we will continue to develop Czech–European–Azerbaijani relations.”
Jan Zahradil, Member of the European Parliament, Czech Republic and Member of the EU–Azerbaijan Friendship Group, commented: “We also have an Azerbaijani Friendship Group in the European Parliament, and I hope it will do much to develop EU–Azerbaijani relations. I have been working with TEAS for some time, and I am pleased to recall that Azerbaijan Through the Lens has already been exhibited in the European Parliament in Brussels. I am delighted that it has now come to Prague, and hope that TEAS will continue to play a major role in Azerbaijani–EU–Czech relations.”
Lionel Zetter, Director, TEAS, commented: “This exhibition has been shown across Europe – and this time last year was shown in the Slovak capital of Bratislava, which made it particularly important to bring it to the Czech capital of Prague. The winning photograph – Old Men – by Azerbaijani photographer Asim Talib was taken exactly 30 years ago in the Kelbajar region of Azerbaijan. It would be impossible to take this today, as all those in the photo were very elderly at the time and have probably passed away and also because this land was occupied by Armenia 23 years ago, and it symbolises the pain of Azerbaijan.
“The top three photos encapsulate Azerbaijan’s past, present and future. An important landmark on the future horizon will be Azerbaijan’s hosting of the European Games from 12–28 June that will give the country chance to show the world its dynamic economy, friendly and welcoming people, and free and relaxed society.”
During the opening, vibrant music was performed by Azerbaijani violinist Dr Sabina Rakcheyeva, Cultural Advisor, TEAS, who was the first Azerbaijani graduate from the Juilliard School in New York. Playing alongside the London-based Deco Ensemble, she performed a range of works by the Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla, Vagif Mustafazadeh and arrangements of Azerbaijani traditional pieces.
Tuberculosis (TB) is a major health problem in many of the world’s prisons: infection rates can be more than 10 times higher than in the general population. Frequently overcrowded and poorly ventilated, many prisons lack early detection and sound treatment programmes to combat the disease – even though many prisoners come from population groups that are already at high risk of TB infection and disease, such as people who inject drugs or are homeless.
But, in Azerbaijan – a country bordering Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Iran – a TB programme in the country’s prisons is helping reverse the spread of the disease. Fifteen years ago, 7 in every 1000 Azerbaijan people were ill with TB. By last year, rates had fallen to 1 in every 1000 people. Still, there is substantial work ahead to end the general epidemic and address multidrug-resistant disease. Part of the response is addressing TB in vulnerable groups, including prisoners.
A 20-year commitment to control TB
In 1995, supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the country introduced the WHO DOTS approach to enable TB care and control in all of the country’s prisons. DOTS involves fostering political commitment and financing for TB efforts in prisons as well as linking to the wider national TB programme and health services; enabling earlier diagnosis; providing standardized treatment with supervision and patient support; providing effective drug supply and management; and monitoring and evaluating the programme.
Routine screening of detainees has been key in Azerbaijan. Once a year, the country’s prisons hold dedicated TB days to screen all detainees and raise awareness about risk-factors and symptoms of the disease. Those prisoners who test positive are transferred to a centralized TB prison hospital for treatment and additional support.
“We’ve made sustained efforts to actively detect TB in prisons for more than a decade now.”
Rd. Rafail Mehdiyev, Head of the Main Medical Department of the Ministry of Justice, Azerbaijan
“We’ve made sustained efforts to actively detect TB in prisons for more than a decade now,” says Dr Rafail Mehdiyev, Head of the Main Medical Department of the Azerbaijani Ministry of Justice. “We set up a specialized TB hospital for detainees, with infection control measures and a new laboratory that uses all the diagnostic techniques recommended by WHO, including molecular-genetic testing.”
However, it is not just the prison’s detainees and health personnel who play a role in the programme. Prison officers and other non-medical staff are taught about the symptoms, risk factors and treatment of TB through mini-plays, performed in the country’s prisons by a state theatre group.
“Most prison officers are not medical workers, so they need to be educated about TB. We train them so that they understand the basics of the disease and convey consistent messages to detainees about the importance of TB control,” explains Dr Mehdiyev.
The importance of rigorously completing TB treatment is reinforced to all infected prisoners who start a course of medication. In addition, with so many detainees released from prison part-way through treatment, a local nongovernmental organization provides a vital service offering support to newly-released detainees to ensure they complete the medication regimen.
Azerbaijan’s national programme has developed in line with the WHO European Office’s Consolidated Action Plan to Prevent and Combat M/XDR-TB 2011-2015 which promotes integrated care and collaboration across health and justice ministries.
WHO is helping the country strengthen programmatic management of drug resistant TB, improve TB drug management, expand access to rapid diagnostics and further develop its laboratory network. In addition, the country receives support for TB control in prisons from the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
“In order to support Member States improve their health services, we facilitate and nurture inter-country exchange of know-how and good practices. Azerbaijan’s successful implementation of state-of-the-art TB care in prisons can be used as a model for other countries,” highlights Dr Masoud Dara TB and M/XDR-TB Programme Manager of WHO Regional Office for Europe.
The prison programme has achieved recognition for its work in protecting the health of detainees, including an award from the International Corrections and Prisons Association (ICPA) in 2013.
“The Azerbaijani Ministry of Justice has achieved solid TB cure rates and is implementing WHO recommended approaches to case finding and treating tuberculosis in prisons,” says Dr Fuad Mirzayev, medical officer from the WHO Global TB Programme.
In 2012, a demonstration centre was set up within an Azerbaijan TB prison hospital to train international health workers and prison staff on how to implement similar programmes in their prisons. Last year, WHO officially recognized the facility as a WHO Collaborating Centre on the prevention and control of tuberculosis. In May 2015, the centre will host its first international training event. It has already trained more than 100 representatives from countries across Central Asia.
Jonathan Confident Of Winning, But Says Not Desperate To Serve
By Godwin Ijediogor (News Editor, Lagos), Mohammed Abubakar and Terhemba Daka
PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan has expressed confidence that he would “surely” win next Saturday’s presidential election.
In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) aired yesterday, the President said: “I’ll surely win. I will surely win it… My party is still the strongest party.”
But in Abuja yesterday at a public launch of a book, ‘The People’s Choice: The story of President Goodluck Jonathan,’ written by Rev. Fr. Charles Imokhai, a Catholic Priest based in Auchi, Edo State, the President stated that his seeking second term in office was not out desperation, but out of the desire to give quality leadership to Nigerians.
He advised politicians interested in occupying any elective position, either at state or federal level, not to be desperate, saying that was why he has remained unruffled despite the various things that had been said or written about him.
On Boko Haram and the fight against insurgency, Jonathan stated told BBC: “I’m very hopeful that it will not take us more than a month to recover the old territories that hitherto have been in Boko Haram’s hands.
“They are getting weaker and weaker by the day,” he told the BBC, while admitting government’s/military’s slow response to the initial threats by the insurgents in the northeast.
He added: “We never expected that (Boko Haram) will build up that kind of capacity. We under-rated their external influence. Since after the civil war, we’ve not fought any war, we don’t manufacture weapons, so we had to look for help to re-equip our army and the Air Force.”
Speaking on the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls, the President said: “We have not seen dead girls, that is the good news. I believe they are still alive. I believe we will get them.”
On violence during his presidency: Jonathan stated: “Whatever goes wrong, I accept. Whatever goes right, I take the glory. Whenever I hear that somebody dies in Nigeria… I feel pain, because they are all Nigerians.”
Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Kenneth Minimah, had earlier in the week noted that there were no traces of the girls yet in all the towns and villages retaken from the insurgents.
Yesterday’s book launch was an opportunity for former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, to provide an insight into some of the incidents that preceded the nation’s 30-month-old civil war, especially the Aburi Accord, which he said a lot of people had misconceived.
Over N175m was donated by individuals and groups at the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja venue of the launch of the four-part book, which chronicles the life of the President, including his educational background, political career and family among others.
The President said: “My second message is to all of us, especially those of us who are politicians, that for all of us who want to serve, we should be ready to serve, but we should not be desperate to serve our people.
“Sometimes, people ask me Mr. President, from what we read and what we see, we see you still smiling and unruffled. Yes, nothing will really ruffle me because I am willing and ready to serve, but I am not desperate to serve. That is what keeps me going. The only things needed are readiness and willingness.
“All of us who want to hold offices, if all of us are always ready and willing to serve our people, but we are not desperate in our mission, then of course Nigeria will be a better place for all of us.”
The President, who described the story of his life as a humble one, noted that most previous accounts of his life so far published in the past were not accurate.
He stated that the book presented yesterday provided an account that is close to being accurate, as he would write the most accurate one after leaving office.
He promised that as long as he remains the President, he would continue to come up with programmes that will help young people.
While expressing confidence that beneficiaries of his administration’s ‘YouWin Programme’ would be shocking the country in the next 10 to 15 years, the President also said a product of the Almijiri schools being established by his government would one day become the President of the country.
He said that was why he is passionate about education and decided to increase the number of federal universities across the country.
Jonathan made it clear that the money realised from the launch was neither going to his pocket nor that of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), explaining that the organisers plan to set up a Foundation and use the proceeds to embark on projects that would impact positively on the country and its citizens.
Gowon, who chaired the occasion in the place of an elder statesman, Dr. Yusuf Maitama Sule, used the opportunity to clear the air on the agreement he reached with former Biafran leader, the late Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, later known as the Aburi Accord.
He explained that Odumegwu-Ojukwu made a statement that was contrary to what they discussed at the venue of the accord and got away with it because he (Gowon) was down with fever when Odumegwu-Ojukwu returned to make the statement.
“I have seen that you (the author) have gone back in history in your research when Ojukwu and myself had the Aburi Accord.
“I was fascinated by that because I can assure you that that meeting was to break the ice and for all of us allow the military leaders at the time to agree to be discussing our problems in Nigeria and to solve them.
“What happened to us at Aburi was that I couldn’t make it down because I was unfortunately down with a fever. Ojukwu got back and made a statement and that wasn’t what we discussed and that was the beginning of the misunderstanding, not because we agreed to work with Ojukwu.
“Since you presented that we had a meeting, I thought I should make that comment and to correct that,” he said.
Gowon advised Nigerians to vote their conscience during next Saturday’s presidential elections, not minding their religious differences.
“Vote your conscience, but vote right. I hope all of you here will do the right thing and vote for the people’s choice,” he said.
The author said he wrote the book as an encouragement for the President to continue with his good works and likened Jonathan to a Catholic priest, who always hears what he did wrongly, but does not hear what he did rightly.
The book reviewer, Prof Richard King, said although many books had been written on Jonathan, this was the first time an in-depth mention would be made about almost everything about the President.
By Dr Subhash Kapila*
Iran seems to be regaining its earlier primacy in the United States Middle East strategic calculus in light of US contemporaneous moves, notwithstanding the nuclear issue.
The United States is seemingly co-opting Iran (even if not directly) even if not as a partner but as an essential component in combatting the ISIS menace that has afflicted the Middle East and North Africa. Media reports also suggest that the ISIS is also spreading its tentacles into Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Constantly emphasised in my Papers in the middle of the last decade was the reality that the United States strategic imperatives to stay embedded in the Middle East dictated a normalisation of United States-Iran relations as a given, independent of United States traditional and inviolable commitments to the security and existence of Israel.
Recent media reports also indicate that even in US national security circles, there is a growing advocacy of Iran being co-opted in the overall matrix of neutralising the ISIS threat to Middle East security.
Obviously, Middle East nations including Pakistan, which are supposedly the mainstays of the US regional security architecture are considered by the United States as ‘unequal’ to advance US security interests of containing and liquidating the ISIS threat.
Iran’s strategic significance in terms of her natural predominance as a regional power with all the attributes that go with it, again stood highlighted by me periodically over the years in my Papers on the subject.
Three decades plus of Iran’s demonization by the US-led Western group of nations and their economic sanctions in recent years over Iran’s nuclear program has not diluted Iran’s primacy in the Middle East strategic calculus. It outweighs Saudi Arabia’s strategic utility to United States in terms of US national security interests in the region.
It needs to be recalled that in the decade prior to the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iran was the United States most reliable security partner in the region. The United States militarily built it up to perform the role of a ‘regional policeman’ including initiating Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran was then emerging as the main ‘security pillar’ of the United States regional security plans and figured at the very top in the United States strategic calculus and security architecture in the Middle East
In an ironic strategic twist, three decades over, the United States may have to revert to the same strategic formulation, if current trends of militant Islamic militias seem bent on militarily taking over this vital strategic region and threatening United States interests in the region.
However, there are discordant voices in the United States Congress which are determined to thwart any United States-Iran normalisation of relations. While concerns for Israel’s security is a legitimate security imperative for the United States, so is it strategically imperative for the United States to ensure it revises its strategic formulations in the region inconsonance with its global national security interests.
There will be discordant voices within Iran too to such a process especially when a civilsational power like Iran was demonised and strategically isolated by the United States and the West.
Discordant voices within the United States however cannot wish away the centrality of Iran’s primacy in the Middle East strategic calculus as the naturally predominant regional power dominating the entire Eastern flank of the Persian Gulf. Also cannot be wished away is the political importance and spiritual hold that Iran has as the largest and most powerful Shia nation, amongst the sizeable Shia populations in Iraq, Syria and not to speak of the US traditional monarchical allies in The Gulf.
Iran’s opponents within the United States need to note that during the Gulf Wars and the US military intervention in Afghanistan, despite its capabilities to make things difficult militarily for the United States in these two war-torn countries, Iran did not indulge in any such disruption of US military efforts. This was in marked contrast to US’s Major Non-NATO Ally, Pakistan double-timing the United States in Afghanistan, a recorded fact.
Concluding, one would like to stress that Iran does not require United States to prop it as a notable factor in the Middle East strategic calculus. Iran enjoys an intrinsic strategic significance as the naturally predominant regional power in the Middle East and contemporaneous security developments in the region are only propelling it into that role. The United States is also seemingly being impelled to acknowledge this reality.
*Dr. Subhash Kapila is a graduate of the Royal British Army Staff College, Camberley and combines a rich experience of Indian Army, Cabinet Secretariat, and diplomatic assignments in Bhutan, Japan, South Korea and USA. Currently, Consultant International Relations & Strategic Affairs with South Asia Analysis Group. He can be reached at [email protected]
SAAG is the South Asia Analysis Group, a non-profit, non-commercial think tank. The objective of SAAG is to advance strategic analysis and contribute to the expansion of knowledge of Indian and International security and promote public understanding.
By Raghav Sharma*
“Our longest war will come to a responsible end,” declared US President Barack Obama during his Christmas address, reiterating to his domestic audience a commitment to bring the war in Afghanistan to a closure. What precisely was implied by “a responsible end” to the war and how this would be achieved remains unclear.
The Taliban, on their part, were quick to seize the opportunity and pointed to US withdrawal as a sign of “defeat”. However, speaking two months later, the new US Defence Secretary, Ash Carter on his visit to Kabul on February 21, 2014 signalled a recalibration of strategy. He hinted possibility of slowing down the pace of whiting down the remaining 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan. The decision to pause and recalibrate American strategy significantly comes close on heels of significant foreign policy shifts in Kabul and attempts to reinvigorate a stalled process of negotiations with the Taliban.
A cursory glance at Afghanistan’s security, economic and political landscape gives us an idea of the extremely challenging and volatile environment. On the political front, the country has surmounted formidable odds to achieve its first peaceful transfer of power through the ballot. However, the fractured nature of the political verdict has on one hand demonstrated Afghans ability to strike out political compromise under difficult conditions but on the other it has delivered an executive sharply divided along political lines and has so far been unable to deliver a fully functional cabinet. The paralysis in government has hit the Afghan economy, already suffering from shrinkage of war economy, with growth for 2015 being projected at zero per cent.
How the unity government strikes an internal balance will in turn determine in long run its ability to carry forth a range of bold policy initiatives through political consensus. It would also to extent impact morale on the battlefield.
Since assuming charge Ghani’s government has noticeably attempted to recalibrate Kabul’s foreign policy agenda, by attempting to secure close ties with Beijing- his first choice for embarking on a foreign visit- a close ally of Islamabad. He has followed it up with trips to Saudi Arabia and subsequently Pakistan, aiming to consolidate the ground for finding a negotiated settlement to the country’s long running conflict. Distinctly edged out from his current foreign policy agenda have been relations with New Delhi. The tone in this direction set in the fairly early stages of his Presidency, when in October 2014 in a carefully calibrated move to build bridges with Rawalpindi, Ghani suspended a deal with India to supply heavy weaponry. This was followed up with a symbolic yet powerful gesture of sending six Afghan Army officers for training in Pakistan for the first time. Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif, visited Kabul twice since the Peshawar school attack in December 2014, assuring Kabul of delivering the Taliban to the peace table in return for helping target Tehrek-i-Taliban Pakistan alleged to be in Afghanistan. Un-officially though Rawalpindi’s demands are widely believed to encompass a more exhaustive set of demands, notable being a drastic scaling down of Indian presence in Afghanistan, particularly along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and to deny sanctuary and/ or any form of support to Baloch separatists. Notably Kabul has also not ratcheted up the issue of Pakistan forcibly repatriating thousands of Afghan refugees from Pakistan in violation of international refugee law.
These policy re-alignments, with de-facto approval from Washington, have not gone un-noticed in the capital of Afghanistan’s largest regional donor, India. Political banter in New Delhi regarding Ghani’s camp having ’stolen the election’ from Abdullah Abdullah-perceived to be friendly to New Delhi- in the second round had fostered anxiety. The new government’s policy re-alignments, particularly attempts to build bridges with Rawalpindi have caused unease in Delhi. India realizes the need for a political settlement to the on-going conflict and the potentially seminal role Pakistan could play given its geographical, economic and cultural linkages as well as its stakes in the outcome. However, the question to reflect on is that would the current level of policy re-alignment be sufficient in actually engineering a paradigm shift in ground realities is hard to say with certainty.
Consider for instance the fact that while the process of renewed negotiations with the Taliban is still in its nascent stages, situation on the ground indicates that the Taliban will continue testing their strength on the battleground. Consider for instance the fact that since taking charge of the country´s security, the ANSF has been increasingly engaging the Taliban on the battlefield, backed significantly by NATO air support. This amongst others is evidenced, albeit negatively, by an alarming 22% increase in the number of civilian casualties for 2014 according to the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA), making it the deadliest year for civilians since 2009. Particularly noteworthy is UNAMA’s observation that “For the first time since 2009, more Afghan civilians were killed and injured in ground engagements than by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or any other tactic.” This is telling as ground operations soared by 54 per cent, making them the leading cause of civilian deaths, with government forces and the Taliban responsible for 14 per cent and 72 per cent of civilian casualties respectively. The international military forces were responsible for 2 per cent of casualties.
The number of ANSF casualties too have spiked by 6.5 per cent in 2014 – a figure seen as “unsustainably high” in the long run. Worryingly enough in spite of a spike in both civilian and military casualties as well as injuries there has been a marked 18 per cent decline in the number of patients accessing medical services, attributed to a deteriorating security environment. The number of internally displaced by clashes between ANSF and the Taliban conflict have also been on the rise. Humanitarian agencies expect little relief for civilians in 2015 from effects of a seemingly conflict with International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) requesting donors for a record US $ 1.68 billion- making Afghanistan its largest operation after Syria.
The figures above on one hand point to a growing determination on part of the ANSF on the battlefield to take on the Taliban but they also point to two other trends: first, that conflict appears likely to escalate further in 2015 as the Taliban are likely to try and leverage strength on the battlefield on the negotiating table. To this end they appear, not unsurprisingly, to enjoy full support from their patrons in Rawalpindi. The recent statement of Pervez Musharraf provides a window into official line of thinking: “The world must realize that we may not like the face of Mullah Omar…but that is how life is, that is what Afghanistan is”.
Second, the low casualty figures attributed to international military forces, a figure expected to dip further in 2015, draws our attention to the changing nature of the conflict. As international forces retreat increasingly into training and advisory roles the conflict will increasingly pit Afghans against one another.
Against backdrop of increasing levels of violence is a new element, namely the reported inroads being made by ISIS. The abduction of 30 Shia-Hazara civilians in February 2015 in Zabul is believed to be the handiwork of members affiliated to ISIS. While few weeks earlier the Kabul government announced the killing of the ISIS head Mullah Abdul Rauf in an operation in southwest Afghanistan. The NATO and US too have acknowledged a nascent ISIS presence in the country, a cause of concern in long run. While it may be early days to speculate on the outcome of negotiations with the Taliban there lurks the danger of ISIS banner serving as a powerful magnet for splinter groups of the Taliban (or other radical groups operating in the region) to jettison negotiations and continue fighting under the ISIS banner.
The US decision to revisit the pace of its troop withdrawal indicates an element of concern at escalating levels of violence in Afghanistan; fears of a an arc of instability stretching from the Middle East to south Asia and uncertainty concerning the fate of Pakistani brokered negotiations with the Taliban. As levels of violence spike and uncertainty persists, India watches over developments with anxiety and unease. In February 2015 India declined US $100 million promised in 2013 for rail, road and port connectivity project between Iran and Afghanistan. However such measures are unlikely to carry India very far. New Delhi needs to carefully craft its response to a volatile and rapidly changing socio-political dynamics of Afghanistan and the region. While rightly being supportive of an Afghan led resolution to the on-going conflict for New Delhi to have effective leverages, it must broaden its political reach within Afghanistan and capitalize on recent attempts at reconfiguration of Washington’s ties with Tehran whom India described as “neighbours without borders”.
*The author is an independent analyst and a Lecturer in Conflict Studies at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy, Germany. He can be contacted at [email protected]
Afghanistan's Goodie Bag: What Did Ashraf Ghani Get in Washington This Week?
By Paul D. Shinkman*
“In Afghanistan, there is a saying that no gift can go unreciprocated,” said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, in a lengthy address to a joint session of Congress Wednesday afternoon.
His anecdote, drawing attention to the virtues of mutual support, in this case referred to Afghanistan’s contributions to the regional counter-terrorism fight. It also could not better suit the predicament the new leader finds his country in today: A supposedly war-weary American public wants to stop sinking billions of its tax dollars into a faraway country with an infrastructure crippled by corruption. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama – armed with the pacifist mandate that got him elected – is thoroughly determined to leave office having withdrawn U.S. troops from protracted combat roles in the Middle East.
Ghani’s three-day visit to Washington was dotted with similar exhortations of gratitude and pledges of reform, masking deeply seated pleas that the U.S. not abandon its new Afghan ally.
He now heads home with a veritable swag bag of gifts from his U.S. counterparts, which, like most token goodies, include some of substantial merit, and others whose value are at best dubious.
Here’s what he got:
MORE U.S. TROOPS
Most lucrative treasure Ghani collected this week was an assurance from Obama that he would significantly adjust what has been a concrete plan for U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. In a joint press conference at the White House Tuesday, Obama said the current level of roughly 10,000 U.S. forces would remain in Afghanistan through the end of this year, instead of the original plan of shrinking by half.
“It is well worth it,” Obama said, when asked by a reporter at the conference how he can justify continued war. “In that sense, once again we are asking our men and women in uniform to fight on behalf of our freedom and behalf of a more orderly world.”
A force that large will allow the U.S. to maintain a presence across four key bases: in the capital Kabul, at the sprawling air hub of Bagram, in Kandahar in the south and Jalalabad in the northeast, these last two considered the seats of local insurgent activity. A force much smaller than 10,000 would have to shrink down to just the facilities at Kabul and Bagram, where they would at least somewhat succumb to the “tyranny of distance” in training Afghan forces and fighting Islamic extremists directly.
Ghani knows this, which likely accounted for his beginning each set of public remarks over the last three days with repeated thanks to the 2,215 U.S. troops who died in Afghanistan, the 20,000 who were injured there and the American taxpayers who will now continue to fund the venture at its current levels.
“That was the most important thing he wanted to get from Washington,” says Nora Bensahel, an expert on Afghanistan and distinguished scholar-in-residence at American University.
Obama’s reconsideration also marks an important opportunity in itself, following almost a year of insistence that the U.S. will not stray from the plan he unveiled at Bagram in 2014. Despite the rise of the Islamic State group in Iraq following a similar U.S. troop withdrawal in 2011, Obama had previously maintained firmly that all American forces will leave Afghanistan before the end of 2016.
That last caveat remains in place, but the fact the commander-in-chief was able to listen to a string of advisers and alter parts of his plan indicate he may remain amenable to Ghani’s reported request that the U.S. establish some sort of permanent and long-term presence in his country.
But reports of corruption have raised questions among top Hill leaders on whether Afghanistan remains a worthy investment, or if it has become a “rat hole” into which U.S. dollars disappear.
Additional U.S. pledges this week offer Ghani an immediate opportunity to prove his country’s worth.
$800 MILLION TO FIGHT CORRUPTION, AND A GOAL FOR AFGHAN TROOPS
Ghani’s first high-profile speaking event took place at Camp David this week, following four-party talks with his No. 2., Afghan CEO Abdullah Abdullah, as well as Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ash Carter. At the subsequent press conference, the foursome announced the U.S. would provide $800 million to “incentivize and measure” Afghan-led reforms, said Kerry, and bolster development activities, particularly in its bureaucracy and for fiscal transparency.
The group also established a new goal for the Afghan National Security Forces, which includes its military as well as its police. It will grow from current levels of 330,000 up to 352,000 by 2017, giving it a greater chance of quelling Taliban and other insurgents by the time U.S. troops are supposed to have departed.
It was here that Ghani first referenced the critical reforms he needs to undertake, particularly “corruption, impunity regarding rule of law, gender disparities, disparities between rich and poor, and poverty.”
“We will eliminate corruption,” Ghani said on Wednesday, continuing his assurance to Congress that he will help win back the confidence of American taxpayers.
The World Bank veteran made headlines last November for reopening the investigation into the New Kabul Bank days after taking office, despite the government of Afghan President Hamid largely having ignored it.
A racket, reportedly organized by former Karzai’s brother Mahmood, involved a core group pilfering almost $1 billion in U.S. dollars that was supposed to go to local military and police forces. They instead put it toward lavish lifestyles for themselves, and spirited it away to overseas tax havens.
Ghani offered some news on the investigation on Wednesday, as a form of collateral before the potential investors.
“All the court system of Afghanistan, including the Supreme Court, has made a decision against these thieves,” he announced. “And has allowed us to collect from them. And we will collect, and get the public purse refilled.”
Whether he will have any success targeting U.S. dollars in overseas accounts remains uncertain. But it the assurance could also have been enough of an investment into what may be the most important takeaway from his trip.
RENEWED RELATIONS WITH THE U.S.
U.S. relations with the Karzai government were at an all-time low by the time he departed in 2014. The Pashtun tribal leader and native of Kandahar whom the U.S. helped install in 2001 clearly fell out of favor with his U.S. backers by the end of his term. He claimed the U.S. was secretly colluding with the Taliban and that U.S. greed was the driving factor behind its decision to invade Afghanistan at all.
Ghani’s tone could not have more clearly tried to mend this rift. He thanked U.S. service members, contractors, civilians, government workers, taxpayers and anyone else who has contributed to the war effort. He singled out a young girl named “Reese” whom he says he met at the Pentagon and who weekly sends a care package to her father, deployed to Afghanistan. He met the widow of Maj. Gen. Harold Greene, the highest ranking casualty of war since Vietnam who was reportedly shot and killed by an Afghan soldier.
Ghani cited these high profile “green on blue” attacks as a stark contrast against the attitude of most Afghans, who “continue to see partnership with the United States as foundational to our future.”
“I’m not here to tell you a story of an overnight transformation of my country,” he said. “Twelve years of partnership provide evidence enough that the road will be difficult.”
“We are a very poor country." he added. "Self-reliance is our goal.”
And it’s a lofty one for a country whose military is solely funded by international aid and relies on international backers for two-thirds of its annual revenues.
However, Ghani announced Wednesday, Afghanistan will become self-reliant within a decade. That depends on the U.S. remaining a partner long enough to impart its “know-how.”
“We don’t want your charity,” he said. “We have no more interest in perpetuating a childish dependence than you have being saddled with poor family members who lack the energy and drive to go out and get a job.”
Then, he added, deviating from his scripted remarks, “We’re not going to be the lazy Uncle Joe.”
Afghan forces now head into its final year backed by a large compliment of U.S. troops. To borrow his own imagery, the remaining nine months may prove whether Ghani is capable of getting his country off welfare.
*Paul D. Shinkman is a national security reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at [email protected]
By: James A. Baer*
The dynamics of power in Washington have changed since Republicans took control of both houses of Congress in January 2015. President Barack Obama has emerged since then as a man even more determined to use the waning days of his presidency to maintain his leadership in world affairs and to present a successful foreign policy agenda as the leader of the Democratic Party. In a mixture of Republican confrontation and Democrat jockeying for a platform foreign policy and political confrontation have become more entwined than ever. A look at the past several months demonstrates that partisan positioning now affects policies that were once the firm purview of the presidents. Two examples of the impact of political posturing on policy issues are Cuba, and Venezuela.
After congressional elections on November 4, 2014, Republicans swept into Congress with formidable majorities and with a revitalized game plan. The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R. KY) told supporters that he would tirelessly work to thwart the Obama agenda. Suddenly, on December 17, just six weeks after the elections, when several legislative races had yet to be determined, President Obama and Raul Castro made simultaneous announcements that their nations would begin a process of normalizing diplomatic ties. The White House announced immediate plans for the re-opening an embassy in Havana, a lifting of some, travel restrictions and the resumption of full diplomatic relations as negotiations between diplomats from both countries begin in earnest. The announcement grabbed the headlines away from Republican gloating over election victories, at least for the time being, and placed the president in a position of national leadership above petty politics. As a result, an American, Alan Gross, who had been held by Cuban authorities for espionage, was released, as were a number of Cuban political prisoners. In return, the U.S. released the remaining Cubans who had been convicted of spying on the U.S. Hard right Republicans labelled Obama as a weak leader who gave away too much to the Castro regime in return for too little. According to Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal:
“…The President is validating the Castro way of governing and only allowing the brothers to tighten their grip on the island. Congress should do everything it can to stop the President’s plan of appeasement toward Cuba.”
The Republican call for Congress to hamstring the president’s foreign policy initiatives reflected anger among Republicans that Obama has used his executive power extensively rather than work closely with Congress. This led to a flurry of statements indicating that Republicans in Congress might not allow a U.S. embassy in Havana to be funded, or confirm a U.S. ambassador in order to paralyze any rapprochement with Cuba. Republicans hope to use their implicit congressional powers to halt what they see as Obama’s overreach. But this strategy raises the issue of how constitutional powers are to be interpreted rather than to establish whether the president is acting unconstitutionally. These actions risk injecting Congress more directly into negotiations between Cuban and U.S. diplomats taking place alternately in Havana and Washington. No breakthroughs have occurred, as Cuba demands to be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and the U.S. seeks unrestricted movement by a new ambassador. Congressional Republicans have now inserted themselves more deeply into these negotiations, marking a sharp departure from the traditional role of Congress to offer advice and consent on treaties and agreements that have been negotiated by the executive branch.
In March, only days after Republicans had applauded the speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that criticized Obama’s negotiations with Iran, the President took the initiative on foreign policy to grab headlines and mobilize public opinion.
On March 9, Obama announced that his administration was labelling Venezuela a national security threat. The provocative order gave the U.S. authority to block or freeze property in the United States of seven Venezuelans accused of undermining the democratic process and abusing human rights. Foremost in this group is Antonio Jose Benavides Torres, the former director of Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Guard.
The Obama administration defended its stance as a measured response to a hostile regime. However, it caused a determined backlash in Latin America and a vote by Venezuela’s congress to end up giving Maduro dictatorial powers to confront a possible invasion by the United States. This tough stance with a regime that the U.S. increasingly has had hostile relations with may make it more difficult for the U.S. president to take a leadership role at the next Summit of the Americas in Panama in April. However, domestically, it has made it even more difficult for Republicans in Congress to accuse the president of being weak on his foreign policy decisions and international negotiations are increasingly becoming part of the presidential campaign for 2016. As each party tries to grab the initiative regardless of appropriate protocol, tradition or international repercussions, very little has been allowed to remain.
Indiana Republican governor, Mike Pence who has given an April date regarding his decision of whether to run for president, remarked, “Let’s recognize that 2016 could be the first foreign policy national election since 1980. The world seems to become more dangerous by the day”. President Obama is determined to stake out the Democratic foreign policy position now in advance of the next presidential election.
*James A. Baer, Senior Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs and Professor of History at the Alexandria Campus of Northern Virginia Community College
Warplanes from a U.S.-led coalition launched airstrikes against Islamic State targets in the Iraqi city of Tikrit on Wednesday, after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi requested support for a month-old offensive to retake the strategic area.
Iraqi troops and Shi'ite militias have been battling on the ground, and had resisted asking for outside air support, but after quick gains outside Tikrit, the effort stalled.
U.S. Lt. Gen. James Terry, who commands the coalition effort, said the airstrikes will better enable the Iraqi forces to oust the militants.
"These strikes are intended to destroy ISIL strongholds with precision, thereby saving innocent Iraqi lives while minimizing collateral damage to infrastructure," he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.
Tikrit is the capital of Salahuddin province, an area located between the capital, Baghdad, and Iraq's second largest city of Mosul that has been controlled by Islamic State fighters since June.
Prime Minister Abadi said in a televised speech to the Iraqi people late Wednesday that what he called the last phase of the operation to take back Salahuddin will succeed.
The U.S.-led coalition has carried out about 1,700 airstrikes in Iraq since August.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the bombings have had a "significant impact" on the Islamic State group, including killing thousands of the militants.
"The cumulative effect of these actions has been enormous," she said in a statement. "ISIL can no longer operate freely in roughly 25 per cent of populated areas of Iraqi territory where they once could. Its momentum has been blunted, its ability to mass and manoeuvre forces degraded, its leadership cells eliminated or pressured, and its supply lines severed."
Iran has trained and armed Shi'ite militias who have been fighting alongside Iraqi forces against Islamic State in Tikrit, but U.S. officials have stressed that the U.S. is not coordinating any military action with the Iranians.
Palestinian Students Using Sewage Channels To Reach School
Palestinian students are being forced to cross through sewage channels to reach a high school in western Ramallah district after a settlement road cut off the only other means of access, residents told Ma’an.
Up to 200 students from the villages of al-Tira and Beit Ur al-Fuqa now reach the school using a four kilometre route that runs along the separation wall, where armed settlers, as well as Israeli soldiers, almost daily interrupt their commute.
The route passes through sewage channels and regularly takes students up to 40 minutes to reach their school, as the channels are filled with rainwater in the winter and snakes in the summer.
Students told Ma’an that Israeli soldiers regularly fire tear-gas canisters at them on their way back.
The al-Tira Beit Ur al-Fuqa high school is now enveloped by the Israeli separation wall on three sides at a point where the wall extends more than five kilometres inside the 1949 Armistice Line.
The wall separates the villages from the illegal Israeli settlement of Beit Horon as well as an Israeli military training camp. On the school’s fourth side, a road was opened exclusively for settlers going from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.
The school principle, Samer Bader, said that when the sewage channels are filled with wastewater in the winter it is particularly difficult for children to reach the school and sometimes they are not able to make the passage at all.
Bader also said that security conditions surrounding the school had prevented the administration from developing and maintaining the school properly, meaning that in the winter the students study in classrooms covered in mould.
The school has been repeatedly raided by Israeli soldiers during the school year, Bader said, and he believes that Israeli forces are purposefully obstructing any attempts to develop or improve the school by launching raids whenever such attempts are made.
One student, Mumen Faraj, said he now has to leave his home at 6:45 am in order to reach his school by 8:00 am. He said the difficulties faced en route make it difficult for his classmates to focus during class.
Another student, Ayman Abd al-Fattah, said that he and his classmates have been repeatedly harassed by Israeli settlers on their way to school.
He added that the students are always frightened whenever they see Israeli soldiers while walking to school.
The Beit Horon settlement was created in 1977, and in 2006, the separation wall was built to separate the settlement from the school.
More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.
Israel began building the separation wall in 2002, and the route has been the target of regular demonstrations by border towns whose land is cut off by its path.
Israel has regularly confiscated large plots of Palestinian land in order to build the wall, and when the 435-mile barrier is complete, 85 per cent of it will have been built inside the occupied West Bank.
In 2004 the International Court of Justice ruled that the separation wall was illegal and “tantamount to annexation.”
*Launched in 2005, Ma'an News Agency (MNA) publishes news around the clock in Arabic and English, and is among the most browsed websites in the Palestinian territories, with over 3 million visits per month.
ALBANY—The Democratic-led Assembly's budget proposal includes an increase of $1.8 billion in education aid, a significant bump from the $1.1 billion proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in his executive budget.
The Assembly's plan, the first under new speaker Carl Heastie, proposes $24.95 billion in total school aid for the 2015-2016 fiscal year.
The chamber's budget proposal would also spend $456 million to restore the Gap Elimination Adjustment, as well as $1 billion in Foundation Aid. The proposal also includes $80 million for universal pre-kindergarten, split evenly between New York City and the rest of the state.
The State Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, is also expected to increase education funding in its one-house budget. Senator John Flanagan, who chairs the Senate education committee, has said that the governor's proposed $1.1 billion for education aid is “the floor,” adding that an increase of close to $2 billion would be needed to restore the cuts under the G.E.A., add to Foundation Aid and cover schools’ reimbursable expenses
With mayoral control of New York City schools up for renewal this year, the Assembly proposes to extend it until 2022. The chamber's budget also seeks to increase the minimum wage over a span of three years, tied to inflation starting in 2019.
Under the chamber's proposal, the minimum wage will increase to $10.50 on Dec. 31, 2016 and to $12.60 two years later. In New York City, Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk Counties, the minimum wage would be higher than the rest of the state, at $12.50 at the end of 2016 and $15.00 two years later.
The governor has proposed raising the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour in New York City and $10.50 in the rest of the state. The state's minimum wage rose to $8.75 at the end of last year, which will go up another quarter at the end of this year. The chamber is set to vote on the budget resolution on Thursday.
16th Children’s Literature Festival concluded in Karachi
By Farhan Khan
Karachi: The 4th Teacher’s Literature Festival (TLF) and the 16th Children’s Literature Festival (CLF) in the country and 2nd one in Karachi was successfully concluded by Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) and Oxford University Press (OUP) on February, 28th, 2015 at the Arts Council of Pakistan in Karachi. This year CLF was being held in support of the ‘I am Karachi’ campaign that aims to inculcate a sense of hope, pride and ownership in the citizens of Karachi to collectively strive for a peaceful city.
The festivities of the day began and schools with students started coming in large numbers despite the rain. Later in the day, families started pouring in faster than the rain. The highlight of the day came forward at the very start of the day which was a theater performance, a re-adaptation of the story of Aladdin, given by NAPA. The hall filled to the brim as students kept coming in, and the actors did an excellent job of engaging as well as entertaining the students. Since cheers and laughter followed each dialogue. Along with NAPA, several theatre workshops and performances were also given out which Anwer Jafri’s theatre performance, ‘Buriya ki Pitaari’, stood out.
Notable personalities from the field of Academia and Literary World including Rumana Hussain, Amra Alam, Zubeida Mustafa, and many others actively participated in CLF as contributors and moderators for all three days. Dr. Fazlullah Pechuho, Additional Chief Secretary, Education and Literacy Program, Sindh also supported the event with full fervor.
Dr. Ruth Pfau (born 9 September 1929) is a German nun and a member of the Society of Daughters of the Heart of Mary who has devoted the last 50 years of life to fighting leprosy in Pakistan also joined the panel for the Launch of the book “Roshni key Meenar.”
Ayesha Omer and Musharraf Ali Farooqi conducted story telling sessions while Zambeel conducted dramatic reading. Along with dramatic reading and storytelling sessions, other interesting sessions were also conducted at day two of CLF. The festival provided the attendees with the opportunity to understand as well as celebrate their culture and heritage with sessions such as Compassionate Karachi by Charter for Compassion Pakistan; Learning from History by Shaha Jamshed and Heritage Architecture and its relevance to the future of Architectural Identity in Pakistan. The message of peace, compassion and prosperity was carried on for all three days and on day two of CLF sessions like Positive Pakistan by Syed Nusrat Ali; Story on Five Fingers based on Human Values which to lead to peace by Khalida Saadat; Let’s Sing for Peace by Nimet Ebrahim. Maria Memon conducted an interactive session for those hoping to become media persons, titled ‘What does it take to be a Journalist/ Broadcaster’. Sidra Iqbal conducted a thought provoking, titled ‘How to Dream a Bigger Dream – Nothing is impossible’.
A dialogue and action-protect titled ‘Talking Across Generations on Ending Child Marriages and Education for All’ was conducted to highlight the recent case of a 9 years old, ‘Shehzadi Rustam’, who was kidnapped and then married to her uncle. The purpose of this session was to create awareness about the issue of child marriages as well as exploring the possible actions which can be taken to rescue Shahzadi.
CLF also hosted several book launches on the second day, including Roshni key Meenar; City Tales and Village Tales and many others. For avid book readers, sessions like ‘Fun with Words’ and the ‘Joy of Reading’ generated a lot of interest.
The closing ceremony to mark the end of the three day festival, Teacher’s Literature Festival (TLF) as well as Children’s Literature Festival (CLF), was a phenomenal way to end the celebrations. The ceremony started with a dance performance by the students of Sheema Kermani and a Qawwali performance, Man Kunto Maula, was sung by students of Karachi High School. Awards for Best School Banners were handed out followed by the announcement of Anita Ghulam Ali Awards for the winners. The day came to an end with acknowledgements given by Rumana Hussain in which she thanked the participants for their support and commemorated the resource persons for contributing and making the festival a success.
At the CLF, attendees also had a chance to learn about newly emerging media and technology that can be used to revolutionize the experience of classrooms for students, organized by Toffee TV and 3iLogic. Ilm Ideas, Dheree Bolo, HBL Money Club Money Maza, Sindh Reading Project, Sindh Education Foundation (SEF) and several other organizations set up multi-sensory stalls to introduce methodologies which can be used to make teaching a more interactive experience for children.
Several interactive and learning sessions such as Wings of Freedom by Zheela Ali Khan, Bacho say Tabdeeli and many others were also conducted to making CLF a wholesome experience.
Earlier, the festivities of the day began with a heart-warming opening ceremony, with splendid performances by the ‘Mandir Masjid’ Choir of Karachi High School and students from the Garage School. The Welcome Address was given by Baela Raza Jamil, Founder of CLF and Director Programs ITA. Wajiha Naqvi, Founding Member, I am Karachi; Nargis Sultana, Senior Program Officer Open Society Foundations (OSF); Owais Sheikh, Head of Liabilities HBL; and Dr. Fazlullah Pechuho, Additional Chief Secretary, Education and Literacy Program, Sindh also addressed the students, teachers, resource persons, guests and others present at the ceremony.
In lieu with efforts of I am Karachi and the troubling security situation of the country, this year CLF’s main focus was on promoting a message of peace. Hence, this CLF was dedicated to the survivors of the Peshawar Attack that took place at the Army Public School (APS) on December 16, 2014. Eleven of these young survivors and their parents as well as mothers of four of the students, who lost their lives in the incident, attended the CLF. They were welcomed by a cheering crowd that also gave them a standing ovation. Asfand, a victim of the Peshawar incident – his mother shared her thoughts about the ceremony and the loss of her son. While Saad, a survivor of the incident, also told his story and thanked the organizing committee of CLF and the attendees for their support. When the survivors shared their stories and their thoughts, no one at the ceremony could manage to keep a dry eye. With passion in their hearts and tears in their eyes, the crowd commemorated these brave ones while students from other schools vowed to become dedicated students.
An animation video was also included in the ceremony, titled Tribute to the Children of Peshawar, facilitated by Fauzia Minallah, Member, Board of Directors, CLF. The ceremony ended with the traditional balloon releasing ritual after the official countdown to mark the start of the festival. The national anthem was also sung by the crowd in union, with solemnity.
Notable personalities from the field of Academia and Literary World including Haseena Moin, Rumana Hussain, Amra Alam, Zubeida Mustafa, Fahmida Riaz, Adeel Hashmi, and many others actively participated in CLF as contributors and moderators. Adnan Siddiqui and Sharmila Farooqi gave exceptional story telling performances which the children thoroughly enjoyed.
Along with dramatic reading and storytelling sessions, other interesting sessions were also conducted at CLF. With ‘Khichri of Curriculum and Language’, experts looked at the presently taught and discussed how the curriculum can be made more relatable for the children. Sarwat Gillani conducted a session titled ‘Recycled Pakistan’ which featured a life size art piece created by students under her direction. While sessions such as ‘Superhero Me!’, ‘Amai and the Bird of Light’ and workshops such ‘Stop Motion Short Films’ generated a lot of interest from the students. Dheree Bolo also organized a concert for the children with Children’s songs in Urdu. Cheers and sound of clapping could be heard at the festival throughout the day.
CLF also hosted several book launches this year by CLF publications, including Rumana Hussain’s Tota Khan Aur Bakri Ara ka Safarnama; Literary Heritage Series for Young Readers by Fahmida Riaz and many others. The 8th Edition of CLF’s publication, Uran Tashtaree, was also launched at the event.
At the CLF, attendees also had a chance to learn about newly emerging media and technology that can be used to revolutionize the experience of classrooms for students, organized by Toffee TV and 3iLogic. Ilm Ideas, Dheree Bolo, HBL Money Club Money Maza, Sindh Reading Project, Sindh Education Foundation (SEF) and several other organizations set up multi-sensory stalls to introduce methodologies which can be used to make teaching a more interactive experience for children.
Several interactive and learning sessions such as Wings of Freedom by Zheela Ali Khan, Peace for Pakistan by Salma Habib and many others were also conducted to making CLF a wholesome experience. Students from schools from all over Karachi participated in the festival in large numbers to make CLF, day one, a huge success.
By Farhan Khan
KARACHI: Spirit of International Education & Careers (SIEC), a division of Times Consultant Private Limited, organized a consultancy event for the students intending to get admission in foreign education institutions. The event was held on February, 18th, 2015, here, at a local hotel. It gave college and university representatives the opportunity to meet students while providing ample time for one-on-one discussion between college representatives and potential students and even their parents.The event included respected and mainstream higher education institutes from US and the UK, as well emergent ones in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
At the venue, a sizeable number of students,aged between 15 and 24, came to the event.These colleges and university bound students seemed focused, ambitious and eager to climb the ladder to success. According to them,the first and most important rung of the ladder is a degree from a reputable foreign college or university.
Focused and driven, Pakistani students (and their parents) weremeticulously planning their higher educational careers; they looked committed to earn a degree from the best possible educational institution and to this end they looked willing to invest significant amounts of time and financial resources.
Kelvin John, Senior Manager for South Asia of University of East London while talking to the Live Rostrum in a message to the students aspiring to go to UK for studies said, “We want to borrow the students for a short time to raise their standard of education and return them back to Pakistan so they can further develop Pakistan. The British education system is not here to take students away from Pakistan and remove them from country and send them to other places of the world or keep them in UK”.
According to some media reports around 25,000 Pakistani students pursue their higher education at colleges and universities abroad each year; more than half of these students choose a university or college in the United Kingdom & Australia]. The remainders choose an educational institution in North America, Europe and/or the Far East & the Middle East.
South Australian schools and childcare centres may have served frozen berries contaminated with hepatitis A to children, the Education Department says.
The department said principals and directors at nine potentially affected sites were notifying parents.
One childcare centre, understood to be the McKay Children's Centre at Penola in the state's south-east, feared smoothies reportedly made with a frozen mixed berry pack were served to children as part of their afternoon snack.
Letters have been sent to parents of the children notifying them of the possible risk.
The centre's director declined to comment on the situation.
The department said the advice followed fromPatties Foods Limited recalling Nanna's Mixed Berries and Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries (frozen) from Coles, Woolworths, IGA and other independent supermarkets nationally due to a potential hepatitis A contamination.
Chief education officer Jayne Johnston said parents would be understandably concerned to get the letter.
"But I would like to emphasise that SA Health advises that the risk is considered to be quite low and the product recall was being undertaken as a precaution," she said.
"I also don't know how the berries were used, it may have just been with one class, it may have been put into muffins sold at the canteen so it's very hard to get a judgment, but all parents are being notified if the school has told us the berries might have been used."
She did not name the nine centres involved because some parents may not yet have got their letter, but gave broad details.
They are four primary schools, one secondary school, three children's centres and an out-of-hours school care facility.
The department said childcare staff had done a risk assessment aimed at preventing any further risk and would increase hygiene practices over the next two months during the incubation period for possible illnesses.
Symptoms of hepatitis A can be mild in children and Professor Paddy Phillips of SA Health said older people were most prone to problems.
SA Health's hepatitis A advice
- Risk is very low
- Symptoms to watch for are fever, abdominal pain, feeling generally unwell, dark tea-coloured urine, yellowing of skin or eyes
- Seek medical attention immediately if there are symptoms
- Professor Paddy Phillips
"While it's generally a disease that people recover from, there can be serious consequences in any age group," he said.
"Generally it's older people with other diseases, other hepatitis illnesses, that can get complications.
"Children are often asymptomatic, that means they have no symptoms, and they don't get unwell from the illness."
Professor Phillips said there was no specific treatment for hepatitis A but treatment options were possible.
"Occasionally people do need to be admitted to hospital where they get fluids and painkillers, but generally people recover, it can take some time, and lead a normal life," he said.
By Farhan Khan
KARACHI: Manzil Pakistan, a non-profit organization, launched an educational report with the title, “Access to Education- Sindh Districts’ Profiles and Rankings”; a report that begins the process to identify what lies behind Sindh’s consistently poor education performance. It was launched on January, 23rd, 2015, here, at a local hotel. The report reveals that approximately 95 per cent of the educational budget is spent on the staff salaries including ghost teachers, while only 05 per cent of the funds is consumed on the maintenance of the infrastructure of the schools.
Nisar Khuhro Senior Sindh Minister for Education and Literacy, the chief guest of the event, gave opening remarks on the report and the state of education in Sindh. Manzil Pakistan Board Member, Ameena Saiyid of OBE endorsed the report and stressed the need for the government to work with researchers and academia in improving the state of education in the province. Manzil CEO and co-author of the report, Naheed Memon moderated the session along with the author of the report Sidrat Asim.
The panel at the launch consisted of Shehnaz Wazir Ali President SZABIST, Shereen Nerejo Secretary Planning & Development, Rehan Iqbal Baloch Additional Secretary and Aasim Siddiqui, Vice Chairman Manzil Pakistan Board of Directors. Shehnaz stressed on the need of doing planning of education at the district-level like the other developed countries of the world. She was of the view that the poor management in the public sector schools was the biggest hurdle in improvement. “Even the low income families send their children to the private schools because of better management is those schools e.g. the teachers come regularly etc.” she added to reinforce his statement.
A review of the education policy in Pakistan since partition makes clear the intent on part of all governments to impact literacy and education. However, the prime reason stated for the consistent failure of eight 5-year plans and ten education policies is ineffective administration. It is commonly accepted in practice and theory that administrative failure is correlated with an absence of political will. The history of educational development in the world presents the presence of the latter as the dominant common factor in all successful transitions to mass education.
Manzil’s report is a summary of the condition of primary schooling ins Sindh and identifies factors that significantly affect the Education Score Index (ESI). The results established location of schools, percentage of schools with electricity, the number of functional schools, and the size of schools, as the most significant determinants of performance. These results also show that districts in upper Sindh have higher ESI’s and performs better than those in lower Sindh. The crippling effect of an energy crisis in the country is evident here, as well.
The significance of the size of schools endorses a paradigm shift amongst policy makers and donors in the wake of a school consolidation drive. The results in this report show that bigger schools with more classrooms are better suppliers of education and enrollment numbers in such schools are greater. The findings in this report substantiate the Government of Sindh’s current interest in collaborating with the World Bank on an ongoing school consolidation initiative.
This study establishes the need for data-informed budget making. The Government of Sindh currently prepares district and school specific budgets for the education department. These budgetary allocations must be based on administrative and infrastructure gaps identified through data. A failure to do so makes the annual census of schools in Sindh a futile activity. The report makes clear that the current process to allocate budgets needs a more meticulous approach that strongly considers a data informed ‘need-based’ allocation.
This report serves to inform government and presents indicative direction for policy makers. If the administrative structure has to be reformed and is to become a potent agent for implementation of education policy in order to deliver mass education, then students, parents, teachers, and managers should be motivated and incentivized effectively. Donor-led incentive programs have to be revisited and examples from other developing countries should not be indiscriminately replicated. Educationists should understand what really matters to all stakeholders and should broaden their perspectives beyond the realm of simple demand-supply economics. Socio-political factors cannot be dismissed as insignificant determinants of primary school enrollment and if mass education through public schools is to be delivered, policies have to be seamlessly interwoven into communities.
Manzil Pakistan’s report is an effort to engage policy makers and stakeholders to review and enhance their approach to education in Sindh. The private sector, non-government organizations (NGOs) and international donors are all add-ons to capacity and although some burden may be shifted to them, the government remains legally and ethically responsible for educating the seven million children who live in Sindh.
Millions to take part in Earth Hour 2015
Karachi, Friday, March 27: WWF-Pakistan will celebrate one of its world’s largest symbolic environmental movements, Earth Hour, on Saturday, 28 March 2015. Pakistan will join 172 countries and territories, and more than 7,000 cities in celebrating the hour by switching off unnecessary lights. Cities all across Pakistan including Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Quetta, Peshawar, Faisalabad, Multan, and Sheikhupura have pledged to conserve the country’s environment and natural treasures.
This will be the sixth year WWF-Pakistan will be spearheading Earth Hour celebrations in Pakistan. The Earth Hour campaign for 2015 is sponsored by Qarshi Industries, K-Electric, Tetra Pack and PEL.
A candle lighting ceremony will be held at Sindh Assembly, Karachi on Saturday to celebrate Earth Hour. Honorable Dr. Sikandar Ali Mandhro, Minister for Environment and Parliamentary Affairs, government of Sindh will be the chief guest at the event. Other prominent personalities participating in the event include Agha Siraj Khan Durrani, Speaker Sindh Assembly, Shehla Raza, Deputy Speaker Sindh Assembly, Naeem Ahmed Mughal, Director General, Environment Protection Agency, Sindh and others from the corporate sector. In addition, the veteran of our entertainment industry, Saba Hameed, and renowned designer Deepak Perwani will also speak on the occasion.
According to Anwar Naseem, Senior Director, Corporate Relations and Operations, WWF-Pakistan, “Use Your Power to Change Climate Change is the theme for this year’s Earth Hour which gives a strong message to reduce our carbon footprint and mitigate climate change so that the intensity of extreme weathering events can be reduced to a significant level”.
Earth Hour receives overwhelming support from the Federal Government, Government of Sindh and Pakistan the Government of Punjab. Moreover, the Federal Directorate of Education has also pledged support for Earth Hour and all educational institutes and offices under the directorate will participate to show support for the cause. Hundreds of private educational institutes have also joined the movement and celebrations for Earth Hour are in full swing. WWF-Pakistan has also achieved record participation from all quarters including media, hospitality, shopping malls, telecommunications, real estate and online sectors committing to participate in Earth Hour 2015.
Earth Hour is WWF's global environmental movement. As one of the first open-sourced climate change campaigns, Earth Hour has grown from a symbolic event in one city to the world's largest grassroots movement for the environment. It aims to harness the power of its millions of supporters worldwide to change climate change and unite and engage the public to conserve energy resources and lobby with policymakers to find alternative and clean energy solutions. Realizing the significance of the event, thousands of people, groups and iconic landmarks are preparing to come together to switch off their lights for one hour on Saturday to show their love for the country.
Pakistan has ranked amongst the top ten countries most affected by climate change for the last three years according to the German Watch Institute. Climate change is known to hamper developmental objectives and has implications on food security and other economic sectors, thereby, directly affecting the people dependent on them.
Famous landmarks switching off lights in Karachi include; Governor House, CM House, MCB Building, Dolmen Mall Group, Park Tower, Mazar-e-Quaid, Habib Bank Building, Sindh High Court, Karachi Airport, Atrium Mall, Arts Council of Pakistan, Expo Centre, Agha Khan University, Sui Southern Gas Building Marriot Hotel, PAF & Maritime Museums, US consulate and many others.
About WWF-Pakistan: WWF-Pakistan was formed in 1970 to address the growing environmental and conservation issues of the country that not only affected the flora and fauna, but were also affecting the human population. WWF-Pakistan is a non-profit organization, working to preserve, conserve and save our environment and natural resources. Today, WWF-Pakistan works through 26 offices with a team of approximately 300 dedicated staff members. With its head office in Lahore, regional offices in Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar, Gilgit, Muzaffarabad and Quetta, it has project offices wherever there is need and the potential to make a difference.
For Media Queries:-
Asif Ali Sandeelo |Sr. Communications Officer | WWF-Pakistan | 0332-2764483 | [email protected]
There Is A Village In India That Plants 111 Trees Every Time A Girl Is Born
It’s no secret men are valued more than women in India. However, there is one unique village that celebrates women by creating a healthier, sustainable world.
Piplantri Village in Rajasthan embraces their daughters, through an incredible tradition that is practiced every time a female is born. This tradition benefits both the planet and the locals.
In order to celebrate the new life and create a more positive planet, the community plants 111 trees every time a girl enters the world.
‘This brilliant exercise in eco-feminism no doubt will inspire the rest of India and the entire world,’ as artistically stated by Folomojo.
What inspired this tradition? The idea that a rising human population should never be a cost to the planet. It’s an extremely eco-friendly concept that it helping to preserve the future of our planet with every new generation.
Featured below are some brilliant photos of the community practicing their tradition!
The residents of the village gather together 21,000 Rupees between themselves and collect 10,000 Rupees from the parents of the child. The total 31,000 Rupees is about $500 USD and is converted into a 20-year fixed deposit for the child.
Parents have to sign an affidavit, stating that their daughter will receive a proper education. The affidavit also states that the girl should only be married once she reaches a legal age. Lastly, the trees planted after her birth must be properly taken care of as well. The parents are legally tied to this affidavit.
It is a community effort to ensure the trees survive.
The villagers don’t just plant trees and hope they survive…
The trees are meticulously cared for as well. They villagers plant aloe very near the trees to protect them from termites.
The trees, and even the aloe Vera plants, have no become a source of livelihood for the community as well.
Shyam Sundar Paliwal, the village’s past leader, first suggested this tradition in honour of his daughter who passed away at a young age. In the past 6 years, over a quarter of a million trees have been planted.
The villagers also say there have not been any police cases for the past 7-8 years!
This inspiring and heart-warming story needs to be share with everyone you know! Spread some good vibes into the world.
The gradual but accelerating melting of the Greenland ice-sheet, caused by man-made global warming, is a possible major contributor to the slowdown. Further weakening could impact marine ecosystems and sea level as well as weather systems in the US and Europe.
“It is conspicuous that one specific area in the North Atlantic has been cooling in the past hundred years while the rest of the world heats up,” said Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, lead author of the study to be published in Nature Climate Change. Previous research had already indicated that a slowdown of the so-called Atlantic meridional overturning circulation might be to blame for this.
“Now we have detected strong evidence that the global conveyor has indeed been weakening in the past hundred years, particularly since 1970,” said Rahmstorf.
Because long-term direct ocean current measurements are lacking, the scientists mainly used sea-surface and atmospheric temperature data to derive information about the ocean currents, exploiting the fact that ocean currents are the leading cause of temperature variations in the sub polar north Atlantic. From so-called proxy data – gathered from ice-cores, tree-rings, coral, and ocean and lake sediments – temperatures can be reconstructed for more than a millennium back in time. The recent changes found by the team are unprecedented since the year 900 AD, strongly suggesting they are caused by man-made global warming.
“The melting Greenland ice sheet is likely disturbing the circulation”
The Atlantic overturning is driven by differences in the density of the ocean water. From the south, the warm and hence lighter water flows northwards, where the cold and thus heavier water sinks to deeper ocean layers and flows southwards.
“Now freshwater coming off the melting Greenland ice sheet is likely disturbing the circulation,” said Jason Box of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. The freshwater is diluting the ocean water. Less saline water is less dense and has therefore less tendency to sink into the deep. “So the human-caused mass loss of the Greenland ice sheet appears to be slowing down the Atlantic overturning – and this effect might increase if temperatures are allowed to rise further,” explained Box.
The observed cooling in the North Atlantic, just south of Greenland, is stronger than what most computer simulations of the climate have predicted so far.
“Common climate models are underestimating the change we’re facing, either because the Atlantic overturning is too stable in the models or because they don’t properly account for Greenland ice sheet melt, or both,” said Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University in the US. “That is another example where observations suggest that climate model predictions are in some respects still overly conservative when it comes to the pace at which certain aspects of climate change are proceeding.”
No new ice-age – but major negative effects are possible
The cooling above the Northern Atlantic would only slightly reduce the continued warming of the continents. The scientists certainly do not expect a new ice age, thus the imagery of the ten-year-old Hollywood blockbuster ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ is far from reality. However, it is well established that a large, even gradual change in Atlantic Ocean circulation could have major negative effects.
“If the slowdown of the Atlantic overturning continues, the impacts might be substantial,” said Rahmstorf. “Disturbing the circulation will likely have a negative effect on the ocean ecosystem, and thereby fisheries and the associated livelihoods of many people in coastal areas. A slowdown also adds to the regional sea-level rise affecting cities like New York and Boston. Finally, temperature changes in that region can also influence weather systems on both sides of the Atlantic, in North America as well as Europe.”
If the circulation weakens too much it can even break down completely – the Atlantic overturning has for long been considered a possible tipping element in the Earth System. This would mean a relatively rapid and hard-to-reverse change.
The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates there to be an up to one-in-ten chance that this could happen as early as within this century. However, expert surveys indicate that many researchers assess the risk to be higher. The study now published by the international team of researchers around Rahmstorf provides information on which to base a new and better risk assessment.
By Farhan Khan
KARACHI: Shabbir Sulemanjee, Chairman All Pakistan CNG Association Sindh speaking at a press conference on Thursday, March, 19th, 2015 at Karachi Press Club said that the managing director SSGC insured the CNG association Sindh, through insurance letter on November, 15th, 2015 that CNG would be closed for 3 days per week in the winter period. However, the two-day closure schedule will be restored, immediately after the winter period. But surprisingly, instead of reverting back to the previous 2 days schedule the SSGC have started announcing 4 days closure while causing extreme low pressure in the remaining days.
All Pakistan CNG Association, Karachi Transport Ittehad, Sindh CNG Association and Consumer Rights Protection Council have strongly opposed this action of SSGC. They have presented the Charter of Demand which include an immediate restoration of the earlier two days CNG closure schedule per week, strict action against illegal CNG compressor and storage cascade being used other than CNG sector, CNG stations in the SITE area should be converted into dedicated gas pipeline network in order to avoid extreme low gas pressure in the locality and withdraw the proposal to increase gas tariff for the CNG sector.
All Pakistan CNG Association, Karachi Transport Ittehad, Sindh CNG Association and Consumer Rights Protection Council have appealed to the government to make necessary compliance on their demands within 10 days. If their demands not accepted during the period, they would peacefully protest on March, 30th, 2015 at the front of SSGC head office..
China will tackle air pollution with tough punishments that will make the costs for those behind illegal production and emission "too high to bear", Premier Li Keqiang said on Sunday.
The premier commented on strengthened efforts this year to tackle air pollution during a news conference at the end of the third session of the 12th National People's Congress, the country's top legislature. China has made tremendous efforts since declaring war on air pollution last year, Li said, "but we are determined to carry forward our efforts until we achieve our goal,"
Major cities are set to have improved air quality and great reduction in PM2.5－particulate matter with a diameter smaller than 2.5 microns that can penetrate the lungs and harm health－by 2017. For example, the concentration of PM2.5 in Beijing is targeted to be lowered to 60 micrograms per cubic meter by that time. While the PM2.5 concentration in the capital was reduced to 85.9 micrograms per cubic meter last year after a series of measures, a drop of nearly 4 percent, it failed to reach the annual goal of a 5 percent reduction.
In response, governments will focus their efforts this year on fully implementing the revised Environmental Protection Law, which took effect on Jan 1. "For all illegal production and emissions, all those responsible will be brought to justice and held accountable, and we need to make the cost for pollution too high to bear," the premier said.
Under the law, no one is allowed to meddle with law enforcement in curbing air pollution. Additionally, law enforcement will be supervised to prevent any relaxation in the performance of duties or abuse of powers. "We must ensure that the law will work as a powerful and effective tool in fighting pollution, instead of being soft as a cotton stick," Li said.
Chen Jining, minister of environmental protection, said last week that his ministry will conduct a thorough inspection of projects this year, with special emphasis on illegal projects that began construction before an environmental assessment could be conducted. In addition to stronger implementation of the revised law, regarded as the strictest version ever, China will also pay more attention to coordinated efforts to adjust the economic structure and improve the quality of fuel and measures to curb air pollution.
Premier Li said, "Our targets for energy conservation and emissions reduction are put together with all these major targets of economic and social development, which all come very early in the Government Work Report."
He also called for joint efforts of the whole society, including governments, companies and individuals, to fight air pollution. Chen said efforts to curb pollution will fuel economic growth.
He added that in the next few years, total investment in environmental protection from government and society will be at a high level, around 8 trillion yuan ($1.3 trillion) to 10 trillion yuan, which he described as a new and sustainable engine for the domestic market.
Sea levels along the northeast coast of the US rose by record levels during 2009-2010, a study has found. Sea levels north of New York City rose by 128mm in two years, according to a report in the journal, Nature Communications. Coastal areas will need to prepare for short term and extreme sea level events, say US scientists.
Climate models suggest extreme sea level rises will become more common this century. "The extreme sea level rise event during 2009-10 along the northeast coast of North America is unprecedented during the past century," Prof Jianjun Yin of the University of Arizona told BBC News. "Statistical analysis indicates that it is a 1-in-850 year event."
Scientists at the University of Arizona and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in New Jersey studied records of tidal levels along the east coast of the US and Canada.
They divided the coastline into three areas: north of New York City, New York City to Cape Hatteras on the coast of North Carolina, and south of Cape Hatteras. In addition to long-term and gradual sea level rise, coastal communities will need to prepare for short and extreme sea level rise events”
They identified what they call an extreme sea-level rise during 2009-10, when the coastal sea level north of New York City jumped by 128mm. "When coastal storms occur, extreme sea levels can lead to elevated storm surge," said Prof Jianjun Yin. "In addition to long-term and gradual sea level rise, coastal communities will need to prepare for short and extreme sea level rise events."
Commenting on the study, Prof Rowan Sutton, climate scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, University of Reading, said climate models suggest an increase in such events."This study identifies a record breaking high sea level event that occurred along part of the US east coast in 2009-10.
"There is strong evidence that the likelihood of such events has been increased by climate change, and that we should expect more such events in the future. "This example illustrates how individual extreme events are influenced by multiple factors - in this case the global rise of sea levels, regional changes in ocean circulation, and wind patterns."
Dr Dan Hodson, also from the University of Reading, said the analysis underlined the importance of understanding the connections between surges in sea levels and ocean currents. "Sea level change is a complex phenomenon, especially on the regional scale, where changes to the global ocean circulation can play a major role," he said.
"The east coast of North America is quite close to an area of active, fast ocean currents, and so is quite sensitive to changing ocean circulation." He said the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), a major current in the Atlantic Ocean, had implications for Europe and Africa as well as the US. Research at the University of Reading has shown how it could make British summers wetter and may influence rainfall patterns in parts of Africa.
By Marian Chiriac
--- Balkan Insight
Officials in Bucharest said that NATO missile interceptors planned to be installed at a military base in Romania are not a threat to Russia.
“The anti-missile system is only for self-defence, as defined by the UN charter, and has nothing to do with Russia,” Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu said on Saturday.
Aurescu was commenting after Russia’s ambassador to Denmark, Mikhail Vanin, warned the Scandinavian country not to join the NATO missile defence system.
Vanin said Danish warships could become targets for Russian nuclear missiles if it joins the system.
In August last year, Denmark agreed to contribute to NATO’s shield with at least one frigate with advanced radar capacity.
Aurescu said that “the threat to use force against a NATO state is inadmissible, so we are fully supporting Denmark, as a NATO ally of Romania”.
His statement was echoed by Defence Minister Mirce Dusa, who on Sunday said Romania doesn’t agree with Russia’s view, “as the anti-missile system is a defence system”.
Russia strongly opposes the missile defence system, which involves planned bases in the southern Romanian village of Deveselu and Poland.
The base in Deveselu will be the first to feature the Aegis Ashore ballistic missile system, a land-based version of the radar tracking system installed on US warships since 2004.
Scheduled to become operational by the end of 2015, the base will be staffed by 200 to 500 US military, civilian and contract employees. The work at Deveselu involves an estimated investment of $400 million in the base, which ironically was originally built by the Soviet Union in 1952.
Relations between Romania and Russia are already rocky. NATO member Romania has been among the strongest regional backers of the package of Western sanctions imposed on Russia in connection to the crisis in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
In recent months, Bucharest officials have urged the US and NATO to boost their military presence in Romania to ensure stability.
NATO member Romania is one of Washington’s strongest supporters among the ex-Communist countries of Eastern Europe. Mihail Kogalniceanu airport, near the Black Sea, became a major US military base in 2007.
*The Balkan Insight (former the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes.
BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention.
Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.
Fourteen dead in scaffolding collapse at Vietnam steel plant
A scaffolding collapse at Vung Ang Economic Zone in Ha Tinh Province late Tuesday has killed at least 16 construction workers and injured 27, officials said.
Nguyen Huy Tang of the Ha Tinh border guard said the accident occurred at around 8 p.m. when the workers were building the scaffold, which stood between 30 meters to 40 meters high, in the Ha Tinh Steel Complex & Son Duong Port, invested by Formosa Plastics Group.
The collapsed scaffold was part of a project contracted by a labor supply company based in the central city of Da Nang and invested by Samsung C&T, a subsidiary of Samsung.
“A tunnel below the scaffold structure has hindered rescue work,” Tang said. “All available resources have been mobilized to rescue around other 100 workers trapped under the rubble.”
At least 27 injured workers have been rushed to the Ha Tinh General Hospital for further treatment. All the victims are Vietnamese.
Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai and local leaders have arrived at the scene to instruct rescue work.
Last July, also in Vung Ang Economic Zone, two Vietnamese workers were killed and three others severely injured after a scaffold collapsed at the construction site of a water plant of a future steel mill owned by Formosa.
Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation, a unit of Formosa Plastics Group, has been building a huge steel complex in Vung Ang. The project recruits around 40,000 laborers, 5,659 of whom are Chinese.
The labourers were building concrete blocks as part of a seawall project when the accident took place late on Wednesday in the coastal province of Ha Tinh, said Le Minh Dao, office manager of the provincial People’s Committee. “We have pulled out 12 bodies. Two other bodies will soon be rescued from the rubble,” Dao said. He said that around 700 people were mobilised overnight to help rescue workers at the site, where at least 28 people were injured. State media reported that many of the injured were recovering at a local hospital, with some in critical condition. It was not immediately clear why the scaffolding had collapsed but an investigation would be launched, said Dao.
In early this month, the Government Inspectorate found that that managers at the Vung Ang Economic Zone went beyond their authority and broke quite a few rules when offering too many incentives to Formosa. Among the violations, according to the Government Inspectorate, the Formosa Plastics Group’s Ha Tinh Steel Complex & Son Duong Port was illegally licensed for a 70-year period.
Vietnam's Investment Law states that a foreign-invested project must not last more than 50 years, and if necessary, the government may extend the length of the project for 20 more years. The government, however, has not given any extension to the Formosa project yet.
The Formosa plant in Ha Tinh became the unlikely target of anti-China violence triggered by China's illegal deployment of a US$1-billion oil rig in Vietnamese waters on May 2, 2014.
Rioters torched, looted, and vandalized the construction site of the Taiwanese investor.
The incident on May 14 left three Chinese workers dead and 149 others, both Chinese and Vietnamese, injured.
وفا ق ایوانہا ئے تجا رت وصنعت پاکستان
ایف پی سی سی آئی ہیڈ آفس کرا چی ( 24 ما رچ 2015) سر کا ری ملا زمتو ں میں معذورں کے کو ٹہ میں میرٹ پر سختی سے عملدرآمد کیا جا ئے تا کہ معذروں کو روزگار کے مواقع میسر ہو ں اور یہ بھی ملکی معیشت میں اپنا بھر پو ر کردار ادا کر سکیں ۔ یہ با ت فیڈریشن چیمبر کے صدر میاں محمدادریس نے پاکستا ن وہیل چیئر کر کٹ ٹیم کی فیڈریشن میں استقبال کے موقع پر کہی جنھو ں نے اپنے با نی صدر ذیشان اور سر پر ست اعلیٰ عتیق الرحمان اور مر یم چوہدری کے ہمرا ہ فیڈریشن ہا ؤ س کا دور ہ کیا ۔ واضح رہے کہ پا کستا ن کی وہیل چیئر کر کٹ ٹیم کی نیپا لی وہیل چیئر کر کٹ ٹیم سے جیتنے کی خو شی اور ٹیم کی حو صلہ افزا ئی کے لیے فیڈریشن چیمبر کے نائب صدر اور سند ھ ریجن کے انچارج محمد اکرا م راجپو ت نے انہیں فیڈریشن ہا ؤس کے دور ہ کی دعوت دی ۔ اس موقع پر فیڈریشن چیمبر کے نائب صدور شاہنواز اشتیا ق، وسیم وہرا کے علا وہ بڑ ی تعدا د میں بز نس کمیونٹی کے لو گو ں نے شر کت کی ۔ میاں محمد ادریس نے کہا کہ بحیثیت ایک صنعتکار ملک بھر کے صنعتکا روں سے التجا کر تا ہو ں کہ وہ ملا زمتو ں کے لیے معذروں کو بھی موقع فرا ہم کر یں ۔ اور تمام بڑ ی قو می اور ملٹی نیشنل کمپنیاں اور ادارے پاکستا ن وہیل چیئر کر کٹ ٹیم کے کھلا ڑیوں کو روز گا ر فرا ہم کر یں اور سپا نسر بھی کر یں ۔ انہوں نے مزید کہا کہ یہ ہما رے ملک کے لیے ایک اعزاز کی بات ہے کہ دنیا کی پہلی وہیل چیئر کر کٹ ٹیم پاکستا ن میں بنی اور اسکے بعد دیگر ممالک نے یہ ٹیمیں بنا ئیں اور دوسرا اعزاز یہ ہے کہ ہما ری وہیل چیئر کر کٹ ٹیم نے دنیا کا پہلا انٹر نیشنل کر کٹ میچ نیپا ل میں کھیلا اور جیت کر آئے ۔ انہوں نے مزید کہا کہ ICC کے مو جودہ قو انین کے مطا بق پاکستان وہیل چیئر کر کٹ ٹیم کا کھیلنا قا بل ستا ئش ہےICC کو بھی اس طر ف تو جہ اور سر پر ستی کر نے کی ضرورت ہے ۔ پاکستان وہیل چیئر کر کٹ ٹیم ایسو سی ایشن کے بانی صدر اور سر پر ست اعلیٰ نے کہاکہ نیپال سے میچ جیتنے کے بعد سے اب تک پاکستانی پر چم اس گراونڈ پر لہرا رہا ہے اور مئی کے مہینے میں ہما ری ٹیم انڈیا کا دور ہ کر یگی ۔ اور اس سے قبل پہلی با ر پاکستان میں ڈومسٹیک ٹو رنمنٹ قائد اعظم ٹرفی منعقد ہو گی ۔ انہوں نے کہا کہ ہمیں سر کا ری سطح پر سر پر ستی کی ضرورت ہے بڑ ی ملٹی نیشنل کمپنیاں پاکستا نی کر کٹ ٹیم اور دیگر کھیلو ں کو اسپانسر کر تی ہیں تو پاکستان وہیل چیئر کر کٹ ٹیم کو کیوں نہیں ۔ انہیں آگے آنا چا ہیے اور اس ٹیم کے کھلا ڑیو ں کو روزگا ر کے مواقع بھی دینے چا ئیں تا کہ وہ اپنی معذ وری کو بھلا کر ملک وقو م کی خدمت کر سکیں ۔
کیپشن فوٹو :-فیڈریشن آف پاکستان چیمبر ز آف کامرس اینڈ انڈ سٹر ی کے صدر میاں محمد ادریس پا کستان وہیل چیئر کر کٹ ٹیم کے کیپٹن کو فیڈریشن کی شیلڈ پیش کر رہے ہے ۔ اس موقع پر ایف پی سی سی آئی کے نائب صدر اور سند ریجن کے انچارج اکرام راجپوت ، نائب صدور وسیم وہرا ، شاہنواز اشتیاق ،پاکستان وہیل چیئر کر کٹ ٹیم ایسو سی ایشن کے بانی صدر اور سر پر ست اعلیٰ عتیق الرحمان ، مر یم چوہدری اور دیگر کا گروپ فوٹو ۔
ایم ۔ اے ۔ لو دھی
سیکر یٹر ی جنرل ایف پی سی سی آئی
Oman: Sultan Returns After 8 Months Hospital Treatment Abroad
Oman’s Sultan Qabous Ben Saïd returned home Monday after spending more than eight months in Germany for medical treatment. The state TV showed the Sultan walking off a royal plane smiling, along a red carpet and onto a waiting car, reports MISNA.
According to an official statement released by the Mascate government, the medical treatment in Germany “was a total success”. Qabous Ben Said, 74, who has ruled Oman for 44 years, was suffering from colon cancer.
The 74-year-old returned to the capital, Muscat, on Monday after completing medical treatment in Germany, the state TV said.
Footage showed Qaboos walking unaided from a royal aircraft and across a red carpet on the tarmac.
Since Monday, Omanis have taken to the streets to celebrate the return of their leader.
His last public appearance was in November, when Qaboos announced on state television that his treatment was giving "good results" and that he would miss his country's national day.
The royal court did not say what kind of treatment was administered to the Sultan, who has ruled Oman since overthrowing his father in a bloodless coup in 1970.
Since assuming power, Qaboos transformed Oman from an isolated backwater, with little or no infrastructure, into a modern state.
Oman’s leadership remained in power through political and social uprisings of the so-called Arab Spring, due also to 2011 reforms that attributed major powers to a Consultative Council elected by universal suffrage.
But his prolonged absence for treatment has stirred questions over succession.
In October 2011, Qaboos, who has no children or brothers, amended the process of choosing his successor.
The sultan, whose closest relatives are cousins, appointed five top officials to a council that would be involved in confirming the new sultan in case of any royal family dispute.
The sultanate, which has a population estimated at around four million, derives 79 percent of its revenues from oil, of which it produces about one million barrels per day.
The non-OPEC member has projected a budget deficit this year of $6.47 billion, representing 8.0 percent of gross domestic product.
*MISNA, or the Missionary International Service News Agency, provides daily news ‘from, about and for’ the 'world’s Souths', not just in the geographical sense, since December 1997.
It might not be Hitler’s famous Wolfsschanze, but researchers are equally excited to study an apparent Nazi lair hidden in the Argentinian jungle. They believe it was proactively built to house top Nazi members in the case of their defeat in WWII.
Researchers from the University Of Buenos Aires (UBA), together with archaeologists from the Museum Andrés Guacurarí, stumbled upon ruins of a site that is believed to have been erected to house high-ranking former Nazi officials.
The team is studying the buildings laying in relatively inaccessible part of the Teyú Cuaré Park, southeast of Misiones, on the border with Paraguay.
The cluster consists of three stone structures, now covered by thick vines: Living quarters, a warehouse and a third structure that apparently served as a half-hidden lookout. The place is believed to be strategically sought by whoever built it, as it has a panoramic view and walls that are three feet thick. It also has an easy escape route to neighbouring Paraguay, in the case that someone might have to quickly flee the country.
The researchers found several objects that indicate that the constructions were carried out in the first half of the 1940s. Among the most significant findings are German coins from between 1938 and 1944 and porcelain from about the same period.
Although there was only circumstantial evidence to link the finding to Nazis, Schavelzon believes there could not be any other explanation as to why anyone else would have put so much effort and money into building in a place almost completely inaccessible at the time. The architecture and materials used were also atypical of this region.
CAU scientists doubt that the Nazi hierarchy ever used these shelters. The evidence of a Nazi presence there suggests that it was only used at the stage of construction.
“Apparently, halfway through the Second World War, the Nazis had a secret project of building shelters for top leaders in the event of defeat – inaccessible sites, in the middle of deserts, in the mountains, on a cliff or in the middle of the jungle like this,” Daniel Schavelzon, leader of the team who spent months exploring the site, told Argentine media.
Local legend, however, has it that Martin Bormann, one of Hitler’s close allies and the head of the Nazi Party Chancellery, used to seek refuge in this jungle.
After WWII, thousands of German Nazis, as well as Croatian and Italian fascists, were allowed to escape justice in Europe when President Juan Domingo Perón welcomed them with open arms. An estimated 5,000 Nazis eventually found safe haven in Argentina.
*MINA is the Macedonian International News Agency
Germanwings plane crash: Pilot 'locked out of cockpit'
One of the two pilots of the Germanwings plane that crashed in the French Alps was locked out of the cockpit, according to reports.
Early findings from the cockpit voice recorder suggest the pilot made desperate efforts to get back in, sources close to the investigation say.
The Airbus 320 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf hit a mountain on Tuesday after a rapid eight-minute descent.
Relatives of the 150 passengers and crew who died are to visit the area.
Lufthansa, which owns Germanwings, arranged two special flights for families and friends on Thursday - one from Barcelona and one from Duesseldorf - to Marseille, and both groups will travel on by road. Separately, some relatives who did not want to fly are travelling by bus from Barcelona.
Media caption "You get a sense of how secluded and remote the area is and how difficult it will be for rescue services"
Germanwings chief Thomas Winkelmann said 72 passengers on flight 4U 9525 were German citizens, including 16 pupils returning from an exchange trip. Spain's government said 51 of the dead were Spanish.
Other victims were from Australia, Argentina, Britain, Iran, Venezuela, the US, the Netherlands, Colombia, Mexico, Japan, Denmark and Israel.
On Wednesday, French officials said usable data had been extracted from the cockpit voice recorder but that it was too early to draw any conclusions.
Remi Jouty, director of the French aviation investigative agency, said he hoped investigators would have the "first rough ideas in a matter of days" but the full analysis could take weeks or even months.
However, the New York Times quoted an unnamed investigator as saying that one of the pilots - it is not clear if it is the captain or the first officer - left the cockpit and had been unable to get back in.
"The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door, and there is no answer," the investigator said, describing audio from the recorder.
"And then he hits the door stronger, and no answer. There is never an answer. You can hear he is trying to smash the door down."
A source close to the investigation gave a similar account to the AFP news agency.
An alarm indicating proximity to the ground can be heard before the moment of impact, the source adds.
Lufthansa has not named the pilots but it said the co-pilot joined Germanwings in September 2013, directly after training, and had flown 630 hours.
This latest revelation, if true, begins to paint a dramatic picture of the last moments in the cockpit.
But there are still plenty of questions to answer.
Why did the plane dive? Locked doors don't make planes crash.
Why couldn't the pilot open the door? There is an emergency procedure that should allow them to get back in.
Who was flying? We now know the co-pilot was relatively inexperienced. Was he trying to cope with an emergency on his own?
If there really was banging on the door, it might also suggest there was at least air in the cabin, because someone was clearly able to breathe. There had been talk of a depressurisation knocking everyone out.
I am surprised such sensitive information has leaked out - again, it's still not officially confirmed.
The rules governing who listens to black boxes are very tight. Only a handful of people are normally allowed into the room when they play the recording back.
How pilots operate the cockpit door
It said the captain had more than 6,000 hours of flying experience and had been with Germanwings since May 2014, having flown previously for Lufthansa and Condor.
Lufthansa has not commented on the reports surrounding the cockpit door, but said its cockpit protocols are in line with rules established by the German aviation safety authority.
These stipulate that when there are two crew, one can leave the cockpit but only for the absolute minimum time.
BBC business reporter Theo Leggett says some airlines have a "rule of two" where if a pilot leaves the cockpit for any length of time another crew member must replace them. However, this is not the case with Lufthansa or some other major airlines.
Media caption French Interior Ministry video shows wheels from the plane as well as the recovery operation
David Kaminski-Morrow, air transport editor of Flightglobal, said that normally a locked cockpit door could be opened with a code.
"But inside there is a simple switch on the control panel the pilot would turn to lock the door," he said.
He cited the crash of a Mozambican Airlines flight in Namibia in 2013 in which the pilot is believed to have locked himself in the cockpit and put the plane into a nose dive.
Mr Jouty said the second "black box" - the flight data recorder - had not been found and he could not confirm an earlier statement by President Francois Hollande that its casing had been recovered.
Relatives and friends of the victims are expected to arrive at the crash site later on Thursday
Media caption Emilien Cesarano: "Some colleagues on the next security post heard an engine sound, but nothing like an explosion"
*(Are you affected by this story? You can get in touch by emailing [email protected].
If you are available to speak to a BBC journalist, please include a telephone number.
‘Everything Is Pulverized': No Survivors Likely In Germanwings French Alps Crash
None of the 150 passengers and crew are thought to have survived the Germanwings A320 crash into a steep hillside in the French Alps.
“The plane is disintegrated. The largest debris is the size of a car,” Gilbert Sauvan, president of the general council of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, told France’s Les Echos newspaper, adding in a separate comment to AP: “Everything is pulverized.”
“It’s an apocalyptic sight,” said district MP Christophe Castaner, after surveying the crash site from the air.
More than 600 emergency staff and police are working at the crash site, which is spread over 20,000 square meters, after setting up an impromptu airfield, where over 10 helicopters are present.
“The first task for the police as soon as we reached the crash site was to try and find survivors. Unfortunately, as far as we can say at the moment, there are none,” a police representative said during a media conference staged at a local village hall.
Spanish authorities have said that of the 144 passengers and six crewmembers on the budget airline route, 67 were Spanish and 45 Germans. Turkey’s Dogan News Agency also reported that 39 of the passengers had Turkish surnames, but country’s foreign ministry later stated that only one of the passengers was a Turkish citizen.
The largest group of victims on Flight 4U9525, which was flying from Barcelona to Dusseldorf, is feared to comprise 16 teenagers from a school near Dusseldorf, who were in Barcelona on a weeklong exchange trip.
“We know that the school group boarded the plane,” said Sylvia Loerhmann, the education minister for Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia state.
There were also 2 infants of less than two years old registered for the flight.
*RT, previously known as Russia Today, is a global multilingual television news network based in Russia. RT was the first all-digital Russian TV network.
Why Facebook's Parse news is a big deal for the Internet-of-things
By Stacey Higginbotham
Facebook today made a major move into the world of connected devices.
Facebook FB 0.11% today launched a version of its Parse mobile development platform for the Internet-of-things and, in doing so, has joined the ranks of Apple AAPL 0.70%, Google (GOOG -0.65%) and Samsung as big companies to watch in the consumer IoT space.
Parse CEO Ilya Sukhar announced that Facebook would offer a software development kit for the Parse platform to developers building connected devices (just as it previously did for mobile app developers). He also said that the social network would put Parse SDKs on the Arduino Yún microcontroller board, will work to pre-install the SDK on other hardware platforms and is releasing an open source Embedded C version of the code aimed at both Linux (so you could load it on a Raspberry Pi) and other real time operating systems commonly used in the embedded world.
When Facebook bought Parse back in April 2013, it wanted to make mobile app-building easier by removing the complexity of figuring out how to architect complicated tasks like getting push notifications to work at scale or learning how to handle logging devices onto a cloud back-end. By creating a platform, Parse made building a mobile app more accessible and helped drive the creation of a more robust app ecosystem for mobile devices.
That’s also the play when it comes to the Internet-of-things, with the Parse platform able to solve two major problems:
First, many makers are struggling to create a marriage of devices and software that work together, especially when it comes to testing out an idea. For these makers and start-ups, the Parse platform will join several other competitors helping get makers off the ground.
And it may not only be makers. Even large companies are testing IoT devices and ideas, and are playingaround with development boards and apps in-house, before they build a connected product. At this level Facebook will compete with start-ups such as Ayla Networks, Electric Imp, Spark Labs and Technical Machine, which have collectively raised more than $41 million in venture capital.
The second problem that the Parse platform may solve is a little further out, and will depend on how the market matures. Currently there’s a one-to-one relationship between a device and its app, but that won’t necessarily be true forever. Already I’ve loaded apps on my phone that combine the data from several connected devices in my home, and I can see a role for apps that combine one element from many devices to offer me a single service. An example may be grabbing the contents of my fridge, the data from my food-tracking app and perhaps the speed at which I eat from my connected fork — and pulling all of that into some crazy weight loss app.
Parse might one day help a developer pull from the available data streams already on the platform, but even today could help build something even if there isn’t even a dedicated device associated with the app — or rather if there are several.
Facebook already has nabbed customers such as Chamberlain, which makes a connected garage door opener called the MyQ, and Roost, a start-up that makes a novel Wi-Fi battery that turns existing smoke detectors into connected smoke detectors.
For Roost CEO Roel Peeters, using the Parse platform was a no-brainer when he looked at the cost, “I did the calculations and I think I ended up paying my first penny to Facebook only after I reached 10 million devices.”
For Facebook, this could be the beginning of competing with other cloud providers for a role in the burgeoning Internet-of-things;ironically, it has yet to move the Parse platform over to its own infrastructure. Instead, most of the Parse platform is still hosted on the Amazon AMZN -0.97% cloud, where Parse originally built its platform.
So Facebook is competing to provide a cloud backend for the Internet-of-things — on someone else’s cloud. At least for now.
*Stacey Higginbotham (@gigastacey) is a freelance journalist covering technology in Austin, Texas.
Facebook wants to bring fast internet to the entire world, whether that means partnering with global telecoms or deploying drones to the most remote regions of the planet. But in the meantime, the company has to ensure that its social network runs as smoothly as possible, even on slow or unreliable networks.
To help do this, Facebook built a custom tool called Augmented Traffic Control to simulate various types of network connections, including old 2G and Edge mobile data networks, as well as networks that don’t stay connected. The company’s developers have used it to test Facebook’s site and apps and tweak them to perform better under slow conditions. The effort is crucial for Facebook’s business as it seeks to expand all over the world, especially into countries where the quality of available internet connections varies widely.
And now the rest of the world’s developers will get a chance to use that tool to improve their own sites and apps.
Today, Facebook open sourced its tool so that other people can not only use it in their own testing, but modify and improve upon it as well. Using Augmented Traffic Control, anyone will now be able modify their Wi-Fi connection to simulate different network speeds and choose how reliable they want those networks to be.
With any luck, other web giants will get a massive boost of empathy for people stuck on slow connections.
Facebook production engineering manager John Morrow, who spearheaded the project, thinks it could help improve the mobile internet experience in general—and not just on Facebook—for people stuck on slower networks.
“When people use their own products on slow networks and see how slow it is, it’s often an eye-opening experience,” Morrow says. “They think much harder and have more empathy with people after that.”
The move could also be a boon to burgeoning “Internet of Things” market. As a slew of new connected devices are created, companies will need to test them under a wide range of different network conditions.
Taking It Slow
Morrow and fellow Facebook engineer Andrew Pope came up with the idea in early 2013 after Mark Zuckerberg announced to the company that Facebook would make mobile experiences the company’s top priority.
At first Morrow and Pope thought this “mobile first” agenda wouldn’t affect them. As production engineers, their job is to keep Facebook’s infrastructure sailing along no matter how much traffic is thrown at it. In theory, it shouldn’t matter if that traffic is coming from mobile phones or desktop computers. But after reading an article in hacker magazine 2600 about a group that created a private cellular network at the computer security conference DEF CON, they started thinking about how much network quality affects the end-user experience. So they took it upon themselves to build their own slow, unreliable networks for testing.
The original version used open source software such as OpenBTS and used cellular antennae that Morrow and Pope purchased second-hand to create a private 2G mobile network that Facebook engineers could test the mobile version of the site as well as the company’s native apps.
But it was hard to build and maintain the gear they needed, and the tiny networks they built had a limited range. They didn’t even cover the whole of Facebook’s campus. “Telling people ‘If you want to do some testing come over to my desk’ is not sustainable,” Morrow says.
Teams are able to simulate the most common networks in many different countries, including Brazil, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, and the Philippines.
They decided to solve the problem by creating a tool that could change the speed and reliability of a standard Wi-Fi connection. That means that the phones they test have to be able to connect to Wi-Fi. But Morrow says that’s not a big limitation. “There aren’t too many feature phones that don’t have WiFi,” he says. “And for those that don’t, we can test with an equivalent class of device. That’s the kind of testing that would happen there.”
And though it narrowed the range of possible devices that could be tested, it expanded the number of developers who could use it. Augmented Traffic Control is now available across the Facebook campus and, using the tool; teams are able to simulate the most common networks in many different countries, including Brazil, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, and the Philippines. It’s already led to general improvements in how Facebook handled connectivity, Morrow says, such as the number of times a tool like Facebook Messenger will try to deliver a message before timing out. It also led to an overall decrease in the amount of data that the site and apps consumed.
Morrow hopes other companies will benefit from the tool as well. “I’ve spoken to people form similar companies, and I don’t see that most people do any testing,” he says. Now, with any luck, other web giants will get a massive boost of empathy for people stuck on slow connections.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Samsung's decision to start pre-installing Microsoft Office apps on some tablets would seem, at first glance, to be more of a short-term win for shareholders of the U.S. software giant than owners of the Korean mobile device maker.
Given the fatter profit margins in software, any market share growth that may come from the deal would boost the bottom line of Microsoft more than Samsung.
Yet the details of the agreement announced Monday shine a light on the biggest challenge Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella faces as he begins his second year at the helm: Trying to protect a market lead during a major technology transition, as productivity software programs used on workplace PCs are replaced by mobile applications.
These apps are typically sold for no more than a few dollars each or, as in this case, are given away to smartphone and tablet users.
That market reality is why Nadella, a veteran insider of the tech giant, is willing to distribute for free what the company has traditionally charged a hefty price for.
Namely, the Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications at the heart of its heretofore-lucrative Office suite.
The news follows Samsung's decision earlier this month to pre-install Microsoft's Skype video-calling software and several Internet-based business applications on the Galaxy S6, its latest smartphone.
Thanks to these agreements, Nadella will have Office apps and so-called cloud services on devices built by the 2014 global smartphone leader within a few months.
Given that Microsoft had no such presence when Nadella took over as CEO more than a year ago, that's a marketing win for the company.
For Samsung, the benefits of the partnership are less clear, unless the company believes consumers will buy more Samsung phones because they come with Microsoft Office.
While that could prove true someday, a more likely benefit in the near term is whatever amount of marketing dollars Microsoft may be willing to pay to get on the home screen of Samsung devices.
Other than the price, Nadella's Office app move is straight out of the Microsoft playbook.
He's partnering with the hardware maker whose biggest enemy in the mobile-device market is also Microsoft's arch-foe, Apple.
The bummer for Microsoft investors, though, is that the company is being forced into a so-called "freemium" model, where basic functions of the software are given away and users pay only for special features.
Nadella did the same thing in November, when Microsoft put a free mobile version of Office into Apple's App Store and Google's online Play store.
In porting Microsoft apps over to the two major smartphone platforms, Nadella has essentially blanketed the market for productivity-software apps sold (or given away) to mobile consumers.
It's a bold grab for the loyalty of business-minded users, yet it comes in a smartphone market where the dominant operating systems are Google's Android and Apple's iOS, not Windows.
That lack of market power – combined with the prevailing belief among mobile consumers that apps should be free or nearly so – helps explain Nadella's pricing strategy.
When a long-term market transition happens in a core market, profit margins are headed south, and the Office franchise has been a major cash cow for Microsoft for more than two decades.
Since its full-bore entry into the mobile apps market in November, investors have soured on Microsoft shares somewhat.
The stock is down 7% since then, while the NASDAQ is up 11%.
Yet they've also bounced off near-term lows, suggesting some Microsoft bulls have kept faith that Nadella can find a way to one day make a profit on software that he's now giving away.
*John Shinal has covered tech and financial markets for more than 15 years at Bloomberg, BusinessWeek, The San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch, Wall Street Journal Digital Network and others. Follow him on Twitter: @johnshinal.
By Jaikumar Vijayan
An internal FTC report showing staff wanted to sue Google for anti competitive practices was accidentally released to the Wall Street Journal.
Documents obtained by the Wall Street Journal under an open records request show that in 2012 several officials at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission wanted to sue Google Inc. for abusing its monopoly position in ways that hurt consumers and its competition.
But Google managed to avoid a federal antitrust lawsuit when the FTC’s Commissioners in January 2013 unanimously decided to drop a 19-month investigation of the company after Google voluntarily agreed to change some of its business practices.
According to the Journal, the 160-page document it obtained from the FTC reveals deep concern over Google’s business practices at several levels among members of the Commission’s Bureau of Competition.
The document was apparently supposed to remain private, but was accidentally released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Journal, the paper said.
Digital Media and Gaming Company Protects Cloud-based Apps and Services on AWS
It shows that officials at the commission felt that Google’s practices at the time of the investigation had the potential to cause “real harm to consumers and to innovation in the online search and advertising markets.”
In an emailed statement Google general counsel Kent Walker downplayed the concerns highlighted by the FTC in the report obtained by the Journal.
"After an exhaustive 19-month review, covering nine million pages of documents and many hours of testimony, the FTC staff and all five FTC Commissioners agreed that there was no need to take action on how we rank and display search results,” Walker said.
The speculation about potential harm being done to consumers and rivals has turned out to be completely wrong, Walker asserted in the statement. “Since the investigation closed two years ago, the ways people access information online have increased dramatically, giving consumers more choice than ever before,” he said.
Competitors such as Yelp and TripAdvisor that were referenced in the FTC report are thriving, he maintained. “For example, Yelp calls itself the ‘de facto local search engine’ and has seen revenue growth of over 350% in the last 4 years.” TripAdvisor meanwhile has nearly doubled its revenues in the last 4 years and calls itself the world’s largest travel brand, he said.
The FTC document shows that staff at the agency’s bureau of competition wanted the commission to file an antitrust lawsuit against Google over three separate issues, the Journal said.
One of them pertained to Google allegedly taking content from rival websites like Yelp, TripAdvisor and Amazon.com to improve its own websites, the Journal said quoting from the report. When competitors asked Google to stop taking their content, the search engine giant apparently threatened to remove the companies from its search rankings.
The second issue that FTC staff wanted to sue Google over was the company’s policy of restricting websites that publish its search results from also working with rivals like Bing and Yahoo. The third area where staff felt Google broke antitrust law was its restrictions on the ability of advertisers to use data gathered from Google’s ad campaigns in advertising run on other ad platforms, the Journal said.
FTC staff stopped short of recommending that Google be sued for practices involving its core search engine business. But they did find enough in the company’s actions to say that it caused “significant harm” to rivals.
FTC staff investigated several complaints by rivals about the company’s abuse of its position in the search engine market to promote its own interests while downplaying rival properties.
They concluded that the company did indeed adopt a strategy of demoting or refusing to display links to rival websites in highly commercial categories. Even so, they did not feel the abuses roses to a level where it warranted an antitrust lawsuit.
Google’s voluntary settlement with the FTC addressed some of these concerns, while leaving others unaddressed.
The contents of the FTC file appear to substantiate many of the concerns raised by rivals and regulatory bodies in Europe and elsewhere about the company’s practices.
Concerns over Google’s enormous influence and growing Internet presence have prompted calls for a breakup of the company in the EU. Critics want the company’s search business to be split up from the rest of its businesses in order to create what they claim would be a more level playing field for rivals.
The technology giant is in talks with programmers to offer a slimmed-down bundle of TV networks this fall, according to people familiar with the matter. The service would have about 25 channels, anchored by broadcasters such as ABC, CBS and Fox and would be available on Apple devices such as the Apple TV, they said.
For now, the talks don’t involve NBCUniversal, owner of the NBC broadcast network and cable channels like USA and Bravo, because of a falling-out between Apple and NBCUniversal parent company Comcast Corp., the people familiar with the matter said.
Apple and Comcast were in talks as recently as last year about working together on a streaming television platform that would combine Apple’s expertise in user interfaces with Comcast’s strength in broadband delivery. Apple came to believe that Comcast was stringing it along while the cable giant focused on its own X1 Web-enabled set-top box, the people said. One media executive said it may be difficult for Apple to launch a service without NBCUniversal channels.
Meanwhile, Apple has been talking to Walt Disney Co., CBS Corp., and 21st Century Fox Inc., among other media companies. The idea is to offer consumers a “skinny” bundle with well-known channels like CBS, ESPN and FX, while leaving out the many smaller networks in the standard cable TV package. 21st Century Fox and News Corp, owner of The Wall Street Journal, were until mid-2013 part of the same company.
Some media executives said they believed Apple was aiming to price the service at about $30 to $40 a month. The company is aiming to announce its new service in June and launch it in September, according to people familiar with the matter. The service would work across all devices powered by Apple’s iOS operating system, including iPhones, iPads and Apple TV set-top boxes.
Apple has had on-and-off talks with media companies for years in the hopes of creating a subscription TV service that would be delivered over the Internet. Many of its proposals were considered radical and failed to bear fruit. The latest round of talks could run into roadblocks that would throw off the company’s timeline.
But the company has some momentum. Last week, it signed up as the exclusive digital launch partner for HBO Now, the coming streaming service the Time Warner Inc. premium cable channel is launching in April. That deal was designed as a kind of appetizer for the main meal plans to be served later this year, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Apple’s TV service would enter the market at a moment of intensifying competition in Internet TV services. Several companies are looking for ways to target “cord cutters,” people who don’t want to pay the typical $90 price for a cable TV package with hundreds of channels and who tend to enjoy online video.
Sling TV, a streaming television package recently launched by Dish Network Corp., costs $20 a month but doesn’t include broadcast networks on its lowest tier. Sony Corp. also is launching a bundle of streaming channels soon that is widely expected to cost more than the figure discussed for Apple’s service.
The Wall Street Journal reported a year ago that Apple was in talks with Comcast to team up on a streaming TV service that would use an Apple set-top box and get special treatment on Comcast’s cable pipes to bypass congestion on the Web. Apple had discussions since at least mid-2012 with Time Warner Cable, but those talks came to a standstill when the company became a takeover target for rival operators. Time Warner Cable struck a deal—still awaiting regulatory approval—in February 2014 to sell itself to Comcast.
In the most recent talks, Apple is continuing to propose creating a live TV streaming service with a vast on-demand library that would be stored in the “cloud.” It may be hard for Apple to get rights to all the programming it is asking for, including full seasons of shows. Many media companies have deals to license such content to outlets like Netflix and Hulu.
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has the best evidence yet for an underground saltwater ocean on Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon. The subterranean ocean is thought to have more water than all the water on Earth’s surface.
Identifying liquid water is crucial in the search for habitable worlds beyond Earth and for the search of life as we know it.
“This discovery marks a significant milestone, highlighting what only Hubble can accomplish,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, Washington. “In its 25 years in orbit, Hubble has made many scientific discoveries in our own solar system. A deep ocean under the icy crust of Ganymede opens up further exciting possibilities for life beyond Earth.”
Ganymede is the largest moon in our solar system and the only moon with its own magnetic field. The magnetic field causes aurorae, which are ribbons of glowing, hot electrified gas, in regions circling the north and south poles of the moon. Because Ganymede is close to Jupiter, it is also embedded in Jupiter’s magnetic field. When Jupiter’s magnetic field changes, the aurorae on Ganymede also change, “rocking” back and forth.
By watching the rocking motion of the two aurorae, scientists were able to determine that a large amount of saltwater exists beneath Ganymede’s crust affecting its magnetic field.
A team of scientists led by Joachim Saur of the University of Cologne in Germany came up with the idea of using Hubble to learn more about the inside of the moon.
“I was always brainstorming how we could use a telescope in other ways,” said Saur. “Is there a way you could use a telescope to look inside a planetary body? Then I thought, the aurorae! Because aurorae are controlled by the magnetic field, if you observe the aurorae in an appropriate way, you learn something about the magnetic field. If you know the magnetic field, then you know something about the moon’s interior.”
If a saltwater ocean were present, Jupiter’s magnetic field would create a secondary magnetic field in the ocean that would counter Jupiter’s field. This “magnetic friction” would suppress the rocking of the aurorae. This ocean fights Jupiter’s magnetic field so strongly that it reduces the rocking of the aurorae to 2 degrees, instead of the 6 degrees, if the ocean was not present.
Scientists estimate the ocean is 60 miles (100 kilometers) thick – 10 times deeper than Earth’s oceans – and is buried under a 95-mile (150-kilometer) crust of mostly ice.
Scientists first suspected an ocean in Ganymede in the 1970s, based on models of the large moon. NASA’s Galileo mission measured Ganymede’s magnetic field in 2002, providing the first evidence supporting those suspicions. The Galileo spacecraft took brief “snapshot” measurements of the magnetic field in 20-minute intervals, but its observations were too brief to distinctly catch the cyclical rocking of the ocean’s secondary magnetic field.
The new observations were done in ultraviolet light and could only be accomplished with a space telescope high above the Earth’s atmosphere, which blocks most ultraviolet light.
By Shannon Tiezzi
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is in Beijing this week, evaluating the Chinese capital’s bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. If successful, Beijing would become the first city to host both the Summer and the Winter Olympics – and a mere 14 years apart, to boot.
Beijing is viewed by many as a heavy favourite to win the games. Its only rival in the bidding process, Almaty, Kazakhstan, has its own issues to sort through – including a question mark about the government’s capability to host a major global event.
However, China is also well aware of the factors working against its bid. Some of these potential stumbling blocks are out of Beijing’s control – including the fact that the IOC may be reluctant to schedule three games in a row in Northeast Asia (with the 2018 Winter Games already set for Pyeongchang, South Korea and the 2020 Summer Games to be held in Tokyo). There’s also the unavoidable fact that Beijing simply doesn’t receive much snow – and that some skiing areas will be by necessity 150 miles from Beijing.
But there’s one major issue that Beijing hopes to be able to deal with: smog. China’s air pollution was a major question mark leading into the 2008 Summer Olympics; the capital was able to ensure clean skies through a temporary fix, shutting down factories and removing cars from the roads (much like its strategy for ensuring “APEC Blue” last November).
The winter, however, is a far more challenging time for Beijing lungs. Smog from coal soars as buildings turn up the heat. February, when the Winter Olympics are normally held, is actually the worst month for air pollution in Beijing (August, the month of the 2008 games, actually sees some of the best air quality for Beijing).
It’s no surprise that Beijing is promising to (literally) clean up its acts before 2022. “Beijing’s odds of winning [the 2022 Games] have increased substantially, save one crucial detail — the notorious smog enveloping the city,” a commentary in Xinhua warned.
Promises of cleaner air will certainly help Beijing’s bid, but more importantly it also in well with promises made from the Chinese government to its own people, including during the recently concluded National People’s Congress. While many experts in China predict its megacities won’t see blue skies consistently until 2030, leaders are hinting they could speed up the timetable if the 2022 Olympic Games provided an extra incentive.
Lyu Xinhua, the spokesman for the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee, said Beijing would do its utmost to ensure “Olympic Blue” if its bid is successful. That, in turn, would “benefit the 100 million residents in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region,” Xinhua noted.
Wang Hui, the deputy secretary general of Beijing’s bid committee told journalists that the city would spend 40 billion RMB ($6.4 billion) to combat air pollution. “Bidding for the Olympics will help us tackle air pollution, while fighting air pollution can also help the bidding process,” Wang said.
Beijing’s major, Wang Anshun, even made the ambitious promise that Beijing’s “air quality will meet World Health Organization standards by the start of the winter of 2022.” The WHO considers anything over 25 micrograms per cubic meter unhealthy and recommends no more than 10 micrograms per cubic meter for “long-term exposure.” Currently, Beijing’s average level of PM2.5 pollution is 85.9 micrograms per cubic meter.
The IOC will determine the host of the 2022 games on July 31 of this year, at an election to be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
ISA TOWN (Bahrain): Pakistan’s football team is used to this. After every four years when the World Cup qualifiers come around, Pakistan exit at the first stage.
On Monday, in a rescheduled second leg of their first-round qualifier for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, a goalless draw against Yemen sent Mohammed Al Shamlan’s men crashing out 3-1 on aggregate.
It also extended Pakistan’s dismal record of never having won a World Cup qualifying match*.
Looking to overturn a 3-1 first-leg defeat to Yemen in the first leg two weeks ago, Pakistan needed a 2-0 win to advance to the second round here at the Khalifa Sports City Stadium — a match played at neutral venue after the suicide bombings in Lahore’s Youhanabad neighbourhood saw the second leg scheduled to be held at the Punjab Stadium last Tuesday postponed.
There was a sense of urgency early on as Pakistan dominated their ‘home leg’ with Mansoor Khan testing the Yemen goalkeeper Mohammed Ayash with a long-range shot 15 minutes in before Mohammad Riaz missed a one-on-one situation four minutes later.
Those missed chances saw Pakistan fizzle out as Yemen took over and although they never killed off the tie with a number of chances they created, they held out for a draw which takes them to the 40-team second round of qualifying, which merges qualifying for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
*With the defeat to Yemen, Pakistan's record in World Cup qualifying matches since 1989 stands as this.
Goals Scored: 12
Goals Conceded; 118
Goal Difference: -106
Admin of a supporter website http://www.footballpakistan.com/ comments on its Facebook: But hey on a positive note, we will qualify for 2022 World Cup as per PFF's Vision 2022. No one knows how but we will get there despite having nothing to play for in the coming 4years and having never won a WCQ game. We will just walkover everyone and go straight to World Cup.
Former Mr. Pakistan and one of the prominent body builders of Pakistan Atif Anwar secured a title at Arnold Classic Body Building competition on Sunday. Standing next to the legend Arnold Schwarzenegger in Melbourne on Sunday, Atif has surely inspired his brethren back home to chase their passion at all costs.
Years of training and body building finally bore fruit as Pakistan’s Atif Anwar won the ‘over 100 kg class’ title at the event named after former Mr. Olympia , Arnold Schwarzenegger*.
After beating one of the best body builders of the world in 100 kg class category, Atif was awarded the medal by the most renowned body builder of the world. The title meant the world to Atif Anwar who brought this rare honour for Pakistan in a sport mostly neglected in the country.
Other highlights at the annual event include Australia’s Strongest man, Arnold Weightlifting & Powerlifting and Arnold Arm-wrestling. The winners of title are called ‘Arnies’ after Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger, the Austrian-born American former professional bodybuilder, and politician.
Atif Anwar who hails from Karachi won the title of Mr. Pakistan in 2005 and has also held the titles of Mr. Sindh and Mr. Karachi. He had previously gathered a lot of honours including running fourth in Muscle Mania 2009. He represented Pakistan in Miami, USA at the Muscle Mania Mr. Universe competition in 2009. With over 100 countries participating at the event, Atif Anwar secured 4th place.
Schwarzenegger began weight training at the age of 15. He won the Mr. Universe title at age 20 and went on to win the Mr. Olympia contest seven times. Schwarzenegger has remained a prominent presence in bodybuilding and has written many books and articles on the sport.
Second Teradata Invitational Golf Championship held in ceremonial style.
By Farhan Khan
KARACHI: Teradata NYSE TDC, the leading analytic data solutions company, held its Second Teradata Invitational Golf Championship here at Defence Authority Country and Golf Club on March 14th, 2015. The event is a part of 17 years celebration of Teradata’s success in Pakistan.
Around 95 golfers from financial, government and energy sectors of Pakistan had participated in the event which was followed by a prize distribution ceremony. The Net winner was Tahir Zulfiqar and the Net runner-up was Kashif Shabir. The Gross winner position was taken by Tariq bin Ejaz while Nael Ahmed remained Gross runner-up.
Nasrullah Shaikh made the longest drive, while Humera Khalid reached nearest to the pin went. She also held the ladies’ net winner position.
The weather was very pleasant during the day, as the championship kicked off after moderate rain showers in the city. This second episode of the Teradata Golf Championship had more participation of the golfers; as 95 golfers had participated in this event in comparison to 72 in the first championship, held in 2012.
Khuram Rahat, Managing Director of Teradata Pakistan had welcomed the participants and ensured full support from Teradata for promoting similar activities in Pakistan. He announced that Teradata would hold such events on regular basis, keeping in view of an exuberant feedback from the corporate sector and local golfers in the activity. He emphasized the need to come together in informal settings to work out common problems that would contribute positively towards the economic growth of Pakistan.
He said that the idea behind this activity was to provide an opportunity to relax and enjoy along with friends to those people from corporate world, who led a very busy life, sparing no time for their own leisure.
He further added that the game of golf was getting popular day-by-day in Pakistan and surprisingly the young generation was taking interest in golf which was once considered the game of old-agers. “The Pakistani golfers are performing well at Asian level; which is really a great boast to the golf- loving community of the country”, he said in his concluding remarks.
Dutch FA chief Michael van Praag has become the latest FIFA presidential candidate to unveil his manifesto, parts of it perceptibly similar to that of the other European candidate vying for Sepp Blatter's crown, Luis Figo.
Just like Figo, van Praag says he wants to increase the number of World Cup finalists. Just like Figo he also wants to give more money to member federations - pledging an annual handout of $1 million, four times the current $250,000 - and make football's world governing body more transparent and accountable.
Van Praag disclosed his plans at a brief news conference in his home country on Monday before travelling to Paraguay to lobby for support at the Conmebol Congress where it is expected Figo and Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, the other two contenders endeavouring to unseat Blatter, will be doing likewise.
He says he would ensure full disclosure of Michael Garcia's report into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, rather than a redacted version, if he manages to beat Blatter in May though quite how is open to question given the fact that scores of witnesses will expect confidentiality to be respected.
Van Praag says he would publish Garcia's report "as soon as possible" even though that can only be done after the current ethics investigation against individuals for alleged wrongdoing are concluded. "When you act normally, you have nothing to hide," he said.
More innovative, perhaps, is van Praag's plan to open between six and eight regional FIFA "embassies" to assist with grassroots development while the 67-year-old reiterated his previous promise that he would only serve four years if elected.
Van Praag, whose campaign is being funded by the Dutch FA, spelled out exactly how the World Cup will be increased to 40 teams from the current 32. It will include an extra team from every confederation, a tactical manoeuvre he will hope gains backing from across the globe including regions like Africa where Blatter has bedrock of support.
Van Praag also wants a return to the old system whereby the winners automatically qualify for the subsequent finals. A place will also be given to a second joint host if there is one. Otherwise the last available slot will be decided via a playoff.
"The development of football throughout the world would be better served by a larger World Cup competition, with proportionally more countries from outside Europe (and South America)," says his manifesto. "When FIFA was founded in 1904, it was precisely for that reason - to boost the popularity and speed up the development of the game. So this step is just as logical as it is necessary."
With the Dutch playing a leading role in the development of technology, Van Praag said he wants to give referees more help where possible. When controversial incidents happen on the pitch, "we cannot expect our referees to be the only people in the stadium who can't replay that moment," he said.
FIFA has endured non-stop criticism in recent years and governance features strongly in van Praag's manifesto. "As president, I will set up a so-called 'presidents' board', with the presidents of all the confederations. This board will help take decisions on important matters and in doing so, give FIFA and its structure its credibility back," he said.
"Under my leadership, the ExCo will publish and explain decisions after every meeting." Van Praag also intends to limit the scope of agents and put a stop to signing players at too young an age. "I will do all I can to limit this practice of dragging children away from their homes."
But his main goal is to leave football in a better state for the next generation. "We see that the stream of negative reports about our FIFA continues. We see reports that are quashed. We see films by and about FIFA which cost €20 million to produce. And we see continuing stories around the allocation of World Cup. That's not my world football body, that's not the way the sport to which I owe so much, should be portrayed. Normalisation, that's the key word. The organisation must go back to being plain normal."
Staging the 2022 World Cup in November and December may be the "best thing that's ever happened" to England, says former international Phil Neville. A Fifa taskforce has recommended switching the event to winter because of hot summer temperatures in Qatar.
That move has provoked plenty of criticism but Neville thinks it could be hugely beneficial to England's hopes of winning the tournament. He believes players will be fresh and ready to take on the world's best. "We normally go into a World Cup at the end of a long, hard, nine-month season when our players are absolutely dead on their feet," Neville, who won 59 caps for his country, told BBC Sport.
"For an England team, this might be the best thing that's ever happened." The former Manchester United and Everton defender added that he would be "licking my lips" if he was England boss Roy Hodgson because "we'll have the freshest ever national team going to a World Cup". Tuesday's recommendation is expected to be ratified by Fifa's executive committee in Zurich in March.
The proposal has been backed by Uefa president Michel Platini, the Confederation of African Football and Concacaf - the confederation responsible for football in North America, Central America and the Caribbean. The Asian Football Confederation president is Sheikh Salman.
Serbian Football Association vice-president Savo Milosevic called it a "good decision" as it would coincide with their winter break. But it has prompted an angry response from a number of influential football figures, among them Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, who has accused Fifa of "damaging" the traditions of the English game by disrupting the Christmas schedule.
Neville, however, believes the positives outweigh the negatives for the English game and the national team, whose one and only World Cup success came in 1966."We've cried out for a long time for a mid-winter break," added Neville. "Maybe this will give us a great chance of winning a World Cup."England striker Wayne Rooney has played an average of 50 matches for club and country in the seasons preceding the last three World Cups.
In 2022, a typical England player at a club competing in the Champions League could expect to have played only 14 matches games between the start and the season and the end of October. "In this country, we are very traditionalist," added Neville, who played for England between 1996 and 2007 but never made a World Cup squad.
"We like to have our 10 weeks off over the summer, the games over Christmas, but the game is changing now. People don't like change, but they have to get used to it."Neville also thinks the summer heat in Qatar would have proved prohibitive had the tournament remained in its traditional slot. Temperatures in the Gulf state can exceed 40C in June and July, while those in November and December drop to around 25C.
"I visit Qatar two to three times a year and to play it in the summer months would be impossible," said BBC pundit Neville, who also works for Doha-based broadcaster Al Jazeera. Neville conceded that the process by which Qatar was awarded the World Cup in 2010 before the timing of the tournament had been agreed was "all wrong".
He is also concerned at how a winter World Cup will impact on the FA Cup, but has challenged English football bosses to come up with a schedule that will suit all parties."Maybe FA Cup replays will have to be sacrificed, which would be a shame because it's a fantastic competition," said Neville.
"It's up to the Premier League and the FA to work out the best possible plan so that nobody suffers, so that everybody - clubs, managers and owners - is getting everything they want in terms of the correct amount of fixtures, the correct amount of time with their players and amount of time afterwards so players can recover."
John Perkins is an American author. His best known book is Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (2004), in which Perkins claims to have played a role in an alleged process of economic colonization of Third World countries on behalf of what he portrays as a cabal of corporations,banks, and the United States government. Perkins has also written about mystical aspects of indigenous cultures, including shamanism.
Muniba Mazari is an artist and a writer. She believes in playing with vibrant colors and flawless portrayal of true emotions. Her work speaks her heart out and is all about people, their expressions, dreams and aspirations.
Although wheel chair bound, her spirit and artistry knows no bounds. In fact, she takes the agony of spinal cord injury as a challenge and is more determined to express her sentiments through her art work.
While doing her bachelor in fine arts she met a road accident which made her paraplegic. Currently, she is running her brand by the name ‘Muniba’s Canvas’ with the slogan ‘Let Your Walls Wear Colors’. She is a mix media artist and believes in depicting the ethnic jewels of her region in an abstract way. Some of her work is purely abstract which depicts the humans’ expressions, their thoughts and dreams. Her paintings give the message of living life and represent the real personality of the artist.