Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Messi under 23 players for world player award


ZÜRICH LIONEL MESSI is in the running for a fourth consecutive FIFA world player of the year award after being selected on Monday among the 23 candidates for the price of 2012.

Messi and Barcelona teammates Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique and Xavi Hernandez on the Ballon d'Or shortlist, while archrivals Real Madrid take the lead with six nominees, including the runner-up of last year Cristiano Ronaldo.

Earlier on Monday, was Messi presented with his second Golden Boot award in recognition for scoring the most goals in Europe's domestic leagues last season. A total of seven Spain internationals are in contention after the national team retained its European Championship title in July.

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney is the only English player on the list.

United teammate Robin van Persie is also included after the Premier League top scorer last season for Arsenal. Italian players feature for the first time in three years as Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli and Juventus duo Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon.

Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque will be favorite to win the world coach of the year award, while Roberto Di Matteo who only was an Assistant at the beginning of the year is also on the list of the 10 candidate after leading Chelsea the Champions League and FA Cup trophies.

No current Chelsea player was on the list, although former striker Didier Drogba was included.

Roberto Mancini is included among the managers after steering Manchester City to the Premier League title.

Prandelli, whose team Italy lost to Spain in the final Euro 2012, is also in the running.

Long-serving Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has been nominated despite not winning a trophy last season. The winner of 2011 Pep Guardiola ó that leaving Barcelona at the end of last season, ó is also on the list.

The leading three candidates from each list will be announced Nov. 29 in Brazil, with the winners presented at a televised ceremony in Zurich on 7 January
Voting is by national team coaches and captains and journalists invited by joint organizer "France Football" magazine.

Indian tour a challenge, says England captain


MUMBAI ENGLAND captain Alastair Cook on Monday described the forthcoming four-match series against India as a huge challenge as no team from his country has won a Test series here for three decades.

“It’s a huge challenge as history suggests. It is so hard for an English side to win in the sub-continent. We are just desperate to use the conditions in these three (warmup) games and change things around,” said the left-handed opener at his first post-arrival media conference.

“Clearly the history shows how hard it is (to win in India). It’s been 30 years (since England won a Test series in India). That’s the sort of challenge we have ahead of us.

“Nowhere is it going to be easy; there are going to be really tough hurdles on the way. We have to overcome those challenges. As players we put ourselves in that situation as to what we want to do.

If we want to be tested against the best in hard conditions then this tour is up there,” Cook elaborated.

The 2-1 Test series victory after coming from a match down in 1984-85 under David Gower was the last time England had beaten India at home. The England team, baring Kevin Pietersen, flew in early this morning from Dubai, where it practiced for a few days before reaching the Indian shores.

Pietersen arrived late last night by a separate flight after taking part in the Champions League T20 in South Africa for Delhi Daredevils.

“Both sides have world class players. It’s going to be a fantastic series to watch.

Whichever team handles the conditions better will win the series,” said the England skipper, who had made his Test debut with a half century and an unbeaten ton at Nagpur six years ago.

Cook was not too concerned about the nature of wickets that India would offer. “We can’t control the wickets. We have to adapt to whatever the conditions are. I am sure India will have to do the same job,” he said.

Cook said there was no quick fix to play spin bowling, perceived as his team’s biggest threat from the Indian ranks, in the sub continent and it has to be learnt gradually.

“(Graham) Gooch (former England captain and team batting coach) sent me here when I was 19. It’s never a single fix; it’s a gradual process to play spin in the sub-continent. I made my Test debut in India.

“I feel I have the experience to pass my experience to younger players. I have a fairly decent record here as well.

If we have to win the series all of us will have to stand up and score runs,” he said.

Cook rued the absence of his long-term opening partner Andrew Strauss, who has retired, but said this gave a chance to some one else to put his hand up and deliver.

“That will be one of the big changes; it will be strange to walk out and bat for England without Strauss. It was a pleasure to bat with him and it was great to know such a familiar face at the other end.

We are friends off the cricket field and that showed in our relationship when we were batting. It’s a shame that will never happen again,” he said.

Djokovic finishes the year as No.1


LONDON NOVAK DJOKOVIC has clinched the year-end world No. 1 ranking for a second straight year. The last player to accomplish the feat in consecutive seasons was Roger Federer, from 2004-07.

Djokovic, who lost the No. 1 ranking to Federer in July following a 53-week reign, will reclaim the top spot next week when Federer drops his points from his 2011 title wins at the Swiss Indoors, Paris Masters and ATP World Tour Finals.

Federer will then not be able to earn enough rankings points to finish the year ahead of Djokovic.

Last year, Djokovic became the first Serbian man to finish No. 1 in the history of the rankings (since 1973) with a 10-title effort, including three Grand Slam crowns. He first ascended to No. 1 on July 4 of last year, following his first Wimbledon triumph.

Only 16 different players have managed to finish as year-end No. 1 in the 40- year history of the world rankings.

Djokovic has enjoyed another stellar season in 2012, opening his campaign with a successful defense of his title at the Australian Open. He has compiled a circuit-best 70-11 match record going into this week’s Paris Masters, where he will be looking to reach his seventh ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final of the season and add to his titles at the Sony Open in Miami, Rogers Cup in Toronto and Shanghai Masters. Djokovic also lifted the China Open trophy in Beijing and was a finalist at Roland Garros and the U.S. Open.

Top-ranked Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams will open their 2013 campaigns at the World Tennis Invitation exhibition tournament starting Dec. 29 at the Thai resort town of Hua Hin.

Lawn Tennis Association of Thailand president Suwat Lipatapanlop said Monday he is “delighted” the pair have chosen to start their 2013 campaign in Thailand. Suwat said the tournament — used by many players as a warm up for the Australian Open — would be a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Thai fans to watch Serena play.” Williams will enter the new year after a dominating 2012 that included winning the Wimbledon, US Open and Olympic singles titles.

Azarenka is defending her Hua Hin title after beating Caroline Wozniacki in last year’s final, while Williams will play in Thailand for the first time.

Giants wins World Series title


DETROIT THE San Francisco Giants beats the Detroit Tigers 4-3 on Sunday to complete a four-game sweep and win its second World Series title in three years after Marco Scutaro singled home the tiebreaking run in the 10th inning.

Ryan Theriot, who went hitless for St Louis in Game 7 of last year’s Series, singled softly into right field off Phil Coke opening the 10th.

Brandon Crawford sacrificed, nearly bunting the ball past Coke.

Angel Pagan struck out and Scutaro singled into short centre field as Theriot slid home ahead of Austin Jackson’s throw.

Pablo Sandoval, who hit three homers in Game 1, was selected Series Most Valuable Player. He hit one of five pitches in Game 4, dropping his Series average to .500 (8 for 16).

Santiago Casilla got the final out of the ninth for the win, and Sergio Romo struck out the side in the 10th for his third save, freezing Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera with a called third strike to end it. The Giants ran out of the dugout and bullpen to celebrate between the mound and second base.

Of the 24 teams to take 3-0 Series leads, 21 swept and three won in five games.

Delmon Young hit a tying home run off Matt Cain in the sixth. Cabrera and San Francisco’s Buster Posey homered, marking the first time both reigning batting champions went deep in the same Series game.

San Francisco’s Brandon Belt hit an RBI triple off the right-field wall in the second inning following a ground-rule double by Hunter Pence. But on a night when the wind was gusting to right field at up to 25 mph, Cabrera put Detroit ahead for the first time in the Series with a wild-blown, two-run drive in the third.

Cabrera’s drive sailed over Pence, who thought he would catch it but ran out of room in front of the right-field wall on the cool, blustery night. It drove Jackson, who had walked with one out, and ended Detroit’s 20- inning scoreless streak.

San Francisco had not trailed since losing Game 4 of the National League championship series, when the Giants fell into a 3-1 series deficit against St. Louis.

With a light rain falling, Scutaro reached on a chopper to third leading off the sixth and, one out later, Max Scherzer hung an 82 mph (132 kph) breaking ball. Posey drove it down the leftfield line, where it stayed a few feet fair and landed a couple of rows over the wall for a 3-2 lead.

That advantage didn’t last long.

Young sent an opposite-field, nodoubt drive into the right-field stands in the bottom half, setting off cheers among the crowd of 42,152, with many fans waving white rally towels.

Andy Dirks followed with a single and Jhonny Peralta hit a drive that Gregor Blanco caught against the wall in left.

After watching Barry Zito, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong each allow one run or none in the first three games, Cain gave up three runs and five hits in seven innings with five strikeouts and two walks.

Scherzer, pitching on nine days’ rest, gave up three runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings, struck out eight and walked none. After he left with a runner on second and one out in the seventh, lefty Drew Smyly retired Brandon Crawford on a flyout and righty Octavio Dotel induced a groundout from Angel Pagan.

Smyly, Dotel and Coke combined for 2 2-3 innings of hitless relief before the 10th.

Jeremy Affeldt followed Cain and struck out four in a row before Peralta hit a ninth-inning drive to center that the wind carried and was caught by Pagan on the warning track Casilla relieved and hit Omar Infante with a pitch, breaking his left hand. Danny Worth ran for Infante and Gerald Laird hit into a forceout.

Sandoval was 1 for 5, dropping his Series average to .500 (8 for 16). He also made a nimble play to throw out Quintin Berry on a bunt to third.

Detroit’s Prince Fielder was hitless in four at-bats, dropping to 1 for 14 in the World Series (.071) and 1 for 25 (.040) against right-handers in the postseason.

Detroit has lost seven straight postseason games.

Indian rupee falls 52 paise against dollar



THE rupee fell to its lowest in over a month on Monday, weakening past the 54-level against the dollar, as caution prevailed ahead of the central bank’s policy review and as the euro was dragged lower by uncertainty over Greece and Spain.

Most analysts expect the Reserve Bank of India to keep interest rates on hold on Tuesday, although they remain open to a cut in the cash reserve ratio, or the amount of deposits lenders must keep as cash with the central bank.

A decision not to lower India’s repo rate would defy growing political pressure on the central bank.

Finance Minister P
Chidambaram on Monday said the country was aiming to keep the fiscal deficit for this financial year at 5.3 percent, higher than the official target of 5.1 percent, but much lower than the 5.8 percent pegged by market estimates.

Still, the absence of any specific measures failed to spark any gains in the rupee. After the close of markets, the RBI said the reform efforts were a move in the right direction but again warned inflation remains a risk.

“If the RBI delivers a rate cut, or hints at one, we may see some large gains towards the 53.50- 53.20 zone,” said Subramanian Sharma, director at Greenback Forex.

“However, if the RBI does not cut, the rupee weakness should not extend beyond 54.20.” The partially convertible rupee closed at 54.08/09 p er dollar versus its previous close of 53.56/57. It fell to a session low of 54.09, its lowest since September 21.

A rate cut would boost the rupee by raising confidence in India’s economic outlook, and by potentially leading to increased foreign flows into domestic stocks.

GCC states should reduce spending growth, says IMF



MOST Arab oil exporting countries in the Gulf should plan to reduce growth in government spending to make their budgets more sustainable, as their combined surplus could turn into a deficit around 2017, the International Monetary Fund said on Monday.

“While expansionary fiscal policies helped the region weather the global financial crisis, given the healthy economic expansion currently underway, the need for continued fiscal stimulus is diminishing,” the IMF said in a report.

“Most Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries should therefore plan to reduce the growth rate in government expenditure in the period ahead,” it said.

In 2011, total state spending in the six GCC economies — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain — jumped by some 20 percent in dollar terms, the IMF said. The governments were responding to unrest in the Middle East by boosting social spending.

The GCC’s combined fiscal surplus reached 13 percent of gross domestic product last year, the IMF estimated, and it is projected to remain at roughly that level this year.

But the leap in spending lifted the oil price levels needed to balance budgets to record highs, making the countries more vulnerable to a downturn.

Oil export receipts account for over 80 percent of government revenue in the region.

“Along with continued increases in government spending, fiscal and external surpluses are, with unchanged policies, projected to decline in 2013 and beyond, with the combined fiscal surplus turning to deficit around 2017,” the IMF said.

It noted that the outlook for oil prices was extremely uncertain.

“A rapid deterioration in the global economy could bring about developments similar to what the region experienced in 2009, including a sharp fall in oil prices and disruptions to capital flows,” the IMF said.

In a downside scenario, the IMF assumed a $30 oil price drop that started in 2013 and lasted through the medium term. “The GCC in aggregate would under the downside scenario go into deficit by 2014, and all GCC economies would run fiscal deficits by 2017,” it said.

Bahrain and Oman would stand out with budget deficits of 16 percent of GDP, but Saudi Arabia would also reach a double-digit deficit.

Most Gulf countries have used oil windfalls to build up their external assets, which would let them keep spending even if their budget balances turned negative.

“Although most GCC countries have sufficient savings to cushion even a sizeable shock, a prolonged drop in oil prices could test available buffers,” the IMF said.

Under its baseline scenario, the GCC’s combined, public external assets are projected to exceed $3 trillion by 2017; in the downside scenario, they would be $2.2 trillion but still above a projected $1.9 trillion at end-2012, the IMF said.

In 2011 those assets, which include sovereign wealth fund holdings and central bank reserves, were estimated at about $1.6 trillion or over 110 percent of GDP, the report showed.

The IMF also said further deleveraging and retrenchment by European banks, which have been hit by the sovereign debt crisis in their region, could lead to liquidity pressures in the GCC.

“A sharper scaling back of European banks from the GCC is likely to affect long maturity syndicated loans since they require more expensive long-term funding sources,” it said.

European bank claims on the GCC fell by about 2 percent from a year earlier in the first quarter of 2012. But the UAE and Qatar saw drops of 23 and 19 percent respectively in lending by euro area banks, the IMF said.

Verizon to sell Nokia’s Lumia phones



VERIZON Wireless will begin selling Nokia’s new Lumia smartphones this autumn, helping the Finnish company to fight back against Apple and Samsung in the United States.

The Nokia Lumia 822, which will run on Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 software, will include an 8 megapixel camera and allow for wireless charging, Nokia said on Monday. No details on pricing or exact sale dates were available.

AT&T will start selling Nokia’s high-end Lumia 820 and 920 phones in early November.

Once the world’s biggest mobile phone maker, the Finnish company has fallen far behind in the lucrative smartphone market, where Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy models dominate. The new Lumia line is key to Nokia’s hopes for recovery.

With its cash reserves falling, analysts have said that Nokia needs to show a turnaround in the next several months if it is to survive.

Microsoft is due to unveil its Windows Phone 8 software later on Monday.

Honda cuts profit forecast as sales slump in China



HONDA Motor Co cut its full-year net profit forecast by a fifth after sales in China were hit by a popular backlash against Japanese goods, and warned it could be February before business in the world’s biggest autos market returns to normal.

The cut, prompted by a slump in sales amid often violent protests in a dispute about ownership of islands in the East China Sea, makes it likely that bigger Japanese rival Nissan Motor, and possibly Toyota Motor, will follow suit when they report quarterly earnings early next week.

“It’s likely Toyota and Nissan are going to cut forecasts in the same way. A cut was to be expected because the problems with China weren’t factored into forecasts,” said Fujio Ando, managing director at Chibagin Asset Management.

Demand for Honda, Toyota and Nissan cars slumped in China in September as tempers flared in the territorial dispute, with South Korea’s Hyundai Motor and Germany’s BMW picking up market share. Toyota has said its China sales dropped 49 percent in September.

Sales by Honda and its China joint ventures dropped 40.5 percent last month.

China is Honda’s secondbiggest market after the United States, accounting for 17 percent of 2011 sales.

Honda said on Monday that its two biggest China plants would continue to run on one shift, rather than two, until at least the middle of next month, with output then gradually picking up ahead of Chinese New Year in February - a traditional buying season. It cut its full-year China sales forecast by 17 percent to 620,000 vehicles, but said there would be no change to its investment there. Honda plans to invest $880 million to expand capacity at its plants in Guangzhou and Wuhan over the next few years.

“China is the world’s biggest auto market and there’s no doubt it will continue to grow. We will continue our current (investment) plan,” Executive Vice President Tetsuo Iwamura told a results briefing.

Honda, whose models include the Accord, Fit/Jazz, Civic and CR-V, cut its net profit forecast for the year to March to 375 billion yen ($4.7 billion) from 470 billion yen. Last year, Honda reported net profit of 211.5 billion yen. It also cut its forecasts for annual operating profit and revenue, citing uncertain markets in China, Europe and India.

Shares in Honda - which fell 15 percent to near 9- month lows amid the China protests - ended 4.7 percent lower at 2,399 yen, their biggest one-day fall in nearly 5 weeks.

Honda released its quarterly earnings three hours earlier than planned, after accidentally posting the results on its website. It took down the numbers, but was told by the Tokyo Stock Exchange to bring forward the full announcement, a Honda spokeswoman said.

Net profit for July- September rose 36.1 percent to 82.2 billion yen ($1.03 billion), some way below the average estimate of 107.2 billion yen from six analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

A year ago, Japanese manufacturers were still reeling from the March earthquake and tsunami.

Honda’s quarterly profits were also dented by start-up and advertising costs for the new Accord sedan, which went on sale in the United States in September, but the refresh helped Japan’s thirdbiggest automaker increase its share of the US car and light truck market to 8.7 percent in September.

The fallout from the Japan-China dispute could run into the current and fourth quarters, analysts have warned. Takaki Nakanishi, an analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Tokyo, said the impact could, at best, last 3 months, and up to 6 months in a pessimistic scenario.

CEO Takanobu Ito, 59, an engineer who took charge three years ago, has set a demanding goal to nearly double global car sales to 6 million in four years.

Worldwide production jumped 69 percent in April- September to above 2 million vehicles.

The carmaker on Monday trimmed its full-year global sales forecast to 4.12 million vehicles from an earlier estimate of 4.3 million. It said vehicle sales in July- September rose 47 percent to 996,000.

Toyota and Nissan report their quarterly earnings on November 5 and November 6, respectively.

Last week, Hyundai increased its quarterly net profit by 13 percent to $2 billion, but several European automakers felt the squeeze of the region’s debt crisis, with Peugeot accepting state aid and even leader Volkswagen reporting lower profits.

Indian oil minister vows speedy decisions; RIL rises



NEW oil minister Veerappa Moily has promised to speed up decision making in an effort to attract foreign investment, and will push domestic oil companies to aggressively bid for foreign oil and gas assets to meet growing energy demand.

Moily was appointed as the country’s new Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister, replacing Jaipal Reddy, as part of a broader cabinet reshuffle unveiled on Sunday.

Moily said his ministry would create a roadmap to help the energy-starved nation improve its investment climate and increase oil and gas output and build downstream infrastructure, such as liquefied natural gas terminals and pipeline networks.

“We have to keep our doors and windows open for whosoever wants to invest here,” Moily told reporters on Monday.

“We have to create a level of confidence among investors.

The emphasis will be on quick decisions as delayed decisions cost the nation.” Shares in Reliance Industries rose nearly 2 percent on hopes the appointment of a new oil minister would improve what has been seen as a contentious relationship between the energy conglomerate and the government.

Moily’s appointment will be weclomed by investors, said one industry analyst at a large domestic brokerage, who declined to be identified.

“Sentiment-wise this would be positive, as with the earlier minister approvals were not coming on time. Talks between the company and the ministry may improve.” Moily may fast-track some approvals, said VK Vijayakumar, an investment strategist at Geojit BNP Paribas.

“Further approval regarding the joint application by Reliance Industries and BP for KG-D6 gas might get expedited, that is one possibility,” he said. Moily said India had attracted $13 billion worth of investment in the nine auctions held under its licensing policy since 1999.

India plans to relax rules for oil and gas exploration licences in time for the next bidding round, so as to attract global companies. In the past, regulatory uncertainty discouraged many of them from bidding for exploration blocks.

Moily said there was a need to boost investment in the exploration sector, adding that he would mobilise resources from every avenue, including getting the external affairs ministry to encourage local oil companies to buy assets abroad.

Without directly touching upon cutting fuel subsidies, he expressed concern over mounting revenue losses at state fuel retailers, adding, “There are inefficiencies in the system that have to be removed.” Many of India’s gas-based power plants are idle as domestic gas output has declined and infrastructure to import and supply gas is inadequate.

Mashreq Qatar introduces loan scheme to help small businesses


DOHA MASHREQ Qatar, a leading financial institution in the region, has expanded its bouquet of financial solutions to facilitate small business owners and self-employed individuals.

With the launch of the ‘Small Business Owner Loan’, self-employed small business owners can apply for loans to cover their personal expenses.

Speaking about the new offer, Head of Retail Banking at Mashreq-Qatar Niranjan Mendonca said, “Mashreq understands the needs of many small business owners who need to occasionally invest in personal events without compromising their business cash-flow. Running a small business can be challenging, and by offering the personal loan option, we are providing flexibility and peace of mind for successful business owners to balance their personal and professional expenses in one simple step.” “Our business banking solutions specifically tailormade for SME’s are designed to reach a larger number of small businesses in need of flexible funding. These businesses and SME’s form the backbone of Qatar’s economy and we believe that providing accessible credit facilities will enable these companies to grow, open new markets and deliver higher returns,” Mendonca added.

Mashreq business banking aims to develop the community of small businesses by offering a full suite of financial solutions that include a business current account, trade working capital facilities, built-in pre-approved credit lines and small business loans.

Business owners can transact with Mashreq’s award winning online business banking platform and can also avail themselves of wealth management and insurance solutions through certified financial professionals.

Mashreq is one of the UAE’s leading financial institutions in the region.

Founded in 1967 as Bank of Oman, the bank has played a pioneering role in the industry, particularly in retail banking. Among its many firsts, it was the first to launch such products as travellers’ cheques, credit cards and ATMs.

Mashreq has received numerous international awards such as the Best Bank in the UAE in 2008 from Euro money and various awards particularly for quality management.

150 mosques join climate change awareness drive


DOHA FAITH leaders in Qatar are joining community efforts in raising awareness about climate change as the COP18/CMP8 Conference to be held in Doha draws closer.

As part of the drive to raise awareness about environment issues among the public and to make the United Nations Climate Change Conference all-inclusive, more than 150 mosques in Qatar will deliver sermons on people’s responsibility towards the planet.

Islamic preachers will cite more than 1,500 Quranic verses focusing on the environment in their effort to drive home the point that everyone has an important role to play in saving the planet.

According to Mohamad al Missifri, administration affairs expert in the Minister’s Office at the Ministry of Awqaf (Religious Endowments) and Islamic Affairs, verses from the Holy Quran and the sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) will be used to urge people to abide by environment-friendly practices.

The sermons will also focus on promoting less water consumption and fight against tree felling.

On November 27, state mosques will host lectures about preservation of the environment and natural resources, as well as reducing energy consumption. On November 30, other mosques will host lectures about climate change. Advocacy groups will meet on December 4 to further convey the message.

The Ministry of Awqaf (Religious Endowments) and Islamic Affairs will also raise awareness among its employees about energy and water consumption at homes, offices and at the mosques.

Halqa-e-Ahbab Qatar holds ‘Eid Milan’ at Shamal


DOHA THE Halqa-e-Ahbab Qatar organised an “Eid Milan” party for community members at Abu Dhaluf Park in Shamal recently.

A number of activities were held to test the mettle of the participants.

Around 300 community members from various parts of Qatar took part in day-long socio-cultural, educational and awareness programmes.

They were given the chance to test their skills in publicspeaking.

The participants were asked to air their views as the head of state of Pakistan if elected to the post.

The speakers called for a simple living by leaders, elimination of VIP culture, introduction of presidential form of government, legislation for economic development plans, establishment of small and medium-size cottage industries, allocation of minimum of 25 percent of GDP for education, single education system and development of the national language.

They also suggested that the Holy Quran be taught as a compulsory subject in schools.

They stressed that all mosque leaders should have master’s degree.

The programme was conducted by Abdul Aleem and the community members who participated in brainstorming session included Ashraf Siddiqui, Zahid Hussain Awan, Nisar Ahmed Rana, Bashir Ahmad, Mohammad Khaled, Mohammad Bukhsh and Saeed Khan.

President Mohammad Aleem Paracha spoke about the activities of his forum established three decades ago.

He lauded the contributions of Maulana Abula’ala Moudodi, the renowned late Islamic scholar who had visited Qatar in 1972.

He said the annual gettogether provided an opportunity to all to meet at one place. Paracha, an engineer by profession with Oryx GTL, gave a demonstration of firstaid in case of emergency at home or in the event of road accident.

Women participants spent their time in separatelyarranged programmes including a walk on the beach.

Children participated in a quiz contest to test their general knowledge.

They also played cricket, volley ball and enjoyed sport facilities at the park.

Participants were served lunch, beverages and tea during the event.

BPS holds seminar on children’s mental disorders


DOHA AN educative seminar on learning disability and mental health of students was conducted at the Birla Public School (BPS) by Dr Aju Abraham, consultant psychiatrist, Doha.

During the session, the resource person enlightened the gathering on emotional and psychotic disorders, autism, teenage mood fluctuations, anxieties and aggressive behaviour.

Dr Aju cited case studies and presented statistics reflecting mental health status among teenagers.

He underscored the role of teachers in identifying students with learning disabilities and the need to provide timely assistance to them.

The faculty was informed about how to deal with students who have behavioural problems and the role of parents in bringing a change in their lives.

The seminar was attended by BPS Director Mohan Thomas, Principal AK Shrivastava, Vice-Principal Shirly Rappai, Administration Manager Joseph K. Headmistresses, academic supervisors and teachers of various wings of the school.

Professionals learn debating skills, courtesy of QatarDebate


DOHA QATARDEBATE, a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), recently organised Arabic training courses and workshops for professionals to learn the art of debate implying that development of debating skills is no longer confined to school students only, but it has become a necessity for all community members.

The training courses attracted a large number of professionals from various sectors of the country keen as the participants were to learn as much as they could from the courses provided by QatarDebate.

Abdullah Ahmed Salim al Bakri, projects engineer in Qatar Petroleum and one of the participants, said: “What prompted me to attend the debates training course is the important role debating skills play in one’s professional career as well as in life as a whole. Each of us needs it in his work and in his life.”

Khalid Saleh Menhali, university housing director at Hamad bin Khalifa University said, “The nature of my job requires me to deliver lectures for students. So I found the opportunity to learn the art of debates that I need in my work and in my life through appropriate courses and workshops organised by the Center.” Abdulaziz al Mulla, a researcher at Qatar Central Bank, stated, “My desire to be a judge in debate contest and acquire additional skills and develop myself led me to participate in the training course.”

Another participant in the workshop, Nasser Khalid Darwish, a financial affairs researcher at Civil Aviation Authority, opined that he could tell from his own experience that debate, dialogue and discussions must be part of one’s lifestyle; “we need this skill in our daily lives and at any place, not just inside the classroom. Each of us needs it in our work, whether as an engineer or a doctor, a policeman or a researcher, in any job we are engaged, good debating skills can stand us in good stead, helping us to do our job well.”

Dr Abid al Samey, head of the Arabic programme, stated that this workshop was the first in a series of training courses to be organised by the Center during the academic year 2012-2013, pointing out that there would be more of workshops in the coming days to cater to the novices as well professionals.

He stated that the number of participants from different sectors of the country speaks volumes about the good reputation the Centre has gained and the importance of debate in people’s lives and work.

The idea behind “Qatar Debate Centre” emanates from the vision of Chairperson of Qatar Foundation for Education, Sciences and Community Development HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser to develop people, our best resources, on two parallel lines: nourishing science and knowledge and innovative talent by strengthening skills that support self-expression, interaction with others’ opinion sans clashes with them.

Over 60 students take part in DYC’s language trip to UK and Canada


DOHA OVER 60 students, between the ages of 13 and 18, participated in Doha Youth Center’s (DYC) annual language trip to Britain and Canada recently.

The trip was organised under the patronage of the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage and sponsored by ConocoPhillips in Qatar.

The ‘language trip programme’ aims to enhance the students’ linguistic abilities by providing English-immersion courses and field practice in Anglo-Saxon countries.

The programme also includes technical and special skills’ development to enhance the students’ abilities in a conservative environment. It also teaches independence and promotes education that combines fun and knowledge. This year’s participants were divided into two groups of Britain and Canada based on their age.

A Doha Youth Center official stated that the combined support of the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage and ConocoPhillips made the trip possible and also added to the center’s credibility.

Qatar’s ConocoPhillips President Gary Sykes said, “We are very happy that through our sponsorship, many students were able to perfect their language abilities.

They were also given the opportunity to hear the English language spoken as the mother tongue in its country of origin, England, and in Canada. ConocoPhillips is dedicated to improving the youths’ skills and their linguistic fluency. We have faith that these youths will become future leaders of Qatar.” Talking about the trip, Abdulaziz Ali Fakhroo, a 14- year-old student at Oman Bin Al Khatab preparatory school said, “It was an extremely interesting visit to Britain. We were able to immerse ourselves in the history of the Anglo-Saxon linguistic tradition. We also made a stop at Torquay, a town located in the south of London. Twentyeight of us, aged 13-15, have English immersion courses at the Riviera and Kaplan School. It was indeed a very enriching experience.”

Dr Khalid Alkhanji, chairman of Doha Youth Center, said, “The participants studied for 20 hours a week at these institutes. The programme improved their ability to communicate with British people in English. Their mentors and supervisors took this opportunity to organise leadership and educational courses as well.”

“In addition to the two schools session, the participants also visited London, Plymouth and Exerter. In Torquay, they visited the Birds’ Park, the Model Village and Kents Cavern. All in all, we believe that they had a remarkable time,” he added.

The second part of the programme included a two-week trip to Canada’s capital Ottawa.

Thirty-two students participated in the trip, during which they gained additional selfconfidence and self-reliance in their English practice.

“In Ottawa, the youths participated in educational courses and gained more linguistic and communication skills,” Alkhanji said. Abdulaziz Omer al Mal, student of Tariq Bin Ziad secondary school, said, “We undertook a very intense language course at Interlangues Language School. The course provided a high-quality study programme for five days a week with five hours a day. It was gruelling and invigorating at the same time. After the course, we were able to speak English fluently and much more confidently than when we started.”

Similarly, the Canadian tour included a programme consisting of 8 to 10 hours a week of intensive courses that trained participants in leadership, volunteerism and civil culture.

Social interaction with Canadian students created opportunities for cultural exchange and dialogue.

Throughout the visit, mentors maintained strict monitoring of the participants’ efforts to acquire knowledge of the language and culture, their general behaviour, mutual support and cooperation, as well as their respect of moral and religious standings.

“The goals of the trips are developing the students’ individual assets as responsible and self-reliant youths, exploring and maximising their creative potential and talent, fostering positive behaviour and team spirit and finding enjoyment in pursuit of knowledge,” Alkhanji said.

Hajj pilgrimage ends without incident

AFP MAKKAH MUSLIM pilgrims completed their final hajj rituals in the Saudi city of Makkah on Monday as the annual pilgrimage came to a close without any major incidents.

The Saudi authorities congratulated the pilgrims, who officially numbered 3.1 million, on a “successful” hajj season, despite a large number having entered holy sites without proper permits.

“Everything went very well,” Makkah governor Prince Khaled al Faisal told reporters on Sunday, adding that this year’s pilgrimage was “the most successful hajj season ever.” Last year, nearly three million Muslim pilgrims went on the hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam which must be performed at least once in a lifetime by all Muslims who are able to do so.

Officials said about 120,000 police were deployed throughout the five-day pilgrimage, along with an equal number of health and sanitation employees, in what is considered the largest annual human gathering on earth.

According to Saudi Health Minister Abdullah al Rabia, the hajj passed without the spread of any major illness or epidemic. In September, the UN health agency confirmed a mystery illness from the same virus family as the deadly SARS had caused the death of a Saudi national, though Saudi health authorities at the time downplayed the chances of an outbreak of the illness at the hajj.

The last remaining hajj pilgrims performed the stonethrowing rituals on Monday in the Mina valley where they hurled rocks at three pillars representing Satan.

They then headed to Makkah to perform the farewell circumambulation of the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure at the Grand Mosque towards which Muslims worldwide pray, before leaving the kingdom. Though marred in the past by deadly incidents including floods, stampedes and fires, the hajj has become nearly incident-free in recent years because of multi-billion dollar projects.

This year alone, the kingdom spent more than 1.1 billion riyals ($293.3 million) on development projects in the holy sites of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah, all outside Mecca.

18 rockets hit Israel as Hamas seeks revenge

AFP JERUSALEM GAZA militants on Monday fired 18 rockets at southern Israel, ending several days of calm, with the armed wing of the ruling Hamas movement saying it was revenge after an air raid killed one of their men.

It was the second straight day in which militants had fired rockets at Israel in a confrontation which began early on Sunday, and effectively ended three days of calm after an Egyptian-brokered truce went into force at midnight on Wednesday.

“At least 18 rockets were fired at Israeli territory, without causing injuries or damage,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP, saying the count was from midnight.

Monday’s barrage of rocket fire followed hot on the heels of two late-night Israeli air strikes which did not cause any injuries, Palestinian security sources said. Although the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades did not say how many rockets it had fired, it named at least five areas in southern Israel where it had targeted “military sites” — Sufa, Kissufim, Beeri, Yad Mordechai and Nahal Oz.

And it posted a grainy video on their website which appeared to show militants launching nine rockets in the early morning. “This shelling was in response to the continuous Zionist bombing and terrorising of peaceful citizens, which most recently killed Suleiman Kamel al-Qara, as well as in response to the repeated incursions and attacks carried out by the occupation,” the group said referring to one of its own militants. The firing was the latest show of force from Hamas militants who have traditionally respected a de facto truce on firing at Israel, but who have in recent weeks, claimed several rocket attacks.

The latest round of tit-for-tat violence began early on Sunday when Israeli troops crossed the border into southern Gaza, prompting Hamas militants to begin firing mortars at them, Palestinian security sources and witnesses said.

Israel then carried out an air strike which killed Qara and injured another Hamas militant.

Throughout the day, militant groups then fired seven rockets at Israel, two of which struck the city of Beersheva, which is home to 194,000 people, causing schools to be cancelled for the day.

Gaza’s Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for firing at Beersheva.

Late on Sunday, Israel hit back with two strikes on northern and southern Gaza, causing damage but no injuries.

“In response to the incessant rocket fire at southern Israel, IAF aircraft targeted a rocket launching site and a terror activity site in the northern Gaza Strip as well as a terror activity site in the southern Gaza Strip,” the army said.

Palestinian witnesses and security sources confirmed the raids, saying one house was destroyed but no-one was injured. Army statistics say armed groups have fired more than 160 rockets at Israel since the start of October.

The Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, which went into force at midnight on Wednesday, was aimed at ending 72 hours of bloodshed in which Israeli air strikes killed eight militants, and armed groups fired more than 100 rockets at Israel, severely wounding two Thai workers. That round of violence, which began on October 22, also began when militants opened fire on troops who had crossed the border into northern Gaza, prompting several deadly air strikes.

Syrian jets target rebel bases with 60 airstrikes

AP BEIRUT SYRIAN warplanes launched 60 airstrikes against rebel targets around the country on Monday and conducted what activists said were the most intense air raids on the suburbs of Damascus since the uprising began 19 months ago.

A government official said a car bomb killed 10 people on the outskirts of the city. TV footage showed firemen fighting the blaze amid wide destruction after parts of balconies fell on cars parked on a residential street. As smoke billowed, a woman was seen running away with children from the area of the blast and electricity cables dangled from poles. Activists said the air raids were launched both before and after the car bomb and were still under way.

Monday was supposed to be the fourth and final day of a UN-backed cease-fire to coincide with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, one of the holiest periods on the Muslim calendar. But the truce was violated almost as soon as it was supposed to take effect on Friday and violence continued unabated over the holiday weekend. Activists said at least 150 people were killed Sunday, a toll similar to previous daily casualty tolls.

Monday was supposed to be the fourth and final day of a UN-backed cease-fire to coincide with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, one of the holiest periods on the Muslim calendar.

But the truce was violated almost as soon as it was supposed to take effect on Friday and violence continued unabated over the holiday weekend. Activists said at least 150 people were killed Sunday, a toll similar to previous daily casualty tolls.

The army warned late Sunday night that it will strike “remnants of terrorists with an iron fist” after they “repeatedly violated the cease-fire.” The regime of President Bashar Assad often refers to those waging the uprising as “terrorists.” Mohammed Saeed, an activist based in the Damascus suburb of Douma, said there were at least 15 air raids on the suburbs early Monday. The Britain-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said warplanes carried out at least six air raids on Damascus suburbs including Rankous and Harasta. It said there are intense clashes in those areas as troops try to regain control from the rebels.

“Members of the Free Syrian Army are shooting at the planes without succeeding in shooting them down,” said Saeed referring to the main rebel group fighting Assad’s forces. “The air raids are unusual in their intensity, although we have seen worse days.” A Syrian official said the car bomb in the Damascus suburb of Jaramana also wounded 41 people and heavily damaged shops and apartments in the area inhabited by Christians and members of the Druse minority sect.

The Observatory also reported clashes and shelling in other parts of the country including the northwestern province of Idlib that borders Turkey, where it said warplanes carried out 11 air raids on several villages.

Amateur videos showed warplanes in the skies, then giant mushroom clouds of smoke after the missiles hit. On Friday, at least 15 people were killed in a Damascus car bomb.

In Turkey, state-run Anadolu news agency said the Turkish forces fired artillery in response to a stray shell fired from Syria that landed across the northern border. The shell landed some 300 meters away from the Turkish border village of Besaslan. No one was injured, but a power line was destroyed. With the unraveling of the cease-fire, it’s unclear what the international community can do next. The holiday truce marked the first attempt in six months to reduce the bloodshed in Syria.

Qatar set to take control of Harrods’ banking arm


DOHA QATAR, owner of London’s famous Harrods department store, is set to take full control of the luxury store’s private banking arm, unwinding a trust structure set up under previous owner Mohamed al Fayed, British media has reported.

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) in London gave Qatar Holding the green light to purchase the controlling shares in the bank held by a trust, The Daily Mail said in a report on Monday.

Harrods Bank Limited is a private personalised banking service which operates from the Harrods store in Knightsbridge, London.

Harrods Bank was started in 1893.

“A new board has been appointed to support this exciting development,” a spokeswoman for the bank said, adding that she was delighted with FSA’s decision.

Al Fayed, who owned the bank until 2010, set up the structure, reportedly under pressure from the Bank of England over his fitness to run a bank.

Before Qatar’s acquisition of Harrods, the assets of the bank stood at £50,115,240 in 2010 while the liabilities stood at £42,560,840.

“Qatar is hoping to expand the bank, which racked up a £1.7million loss in the year to the end of January 2012 after losses on one bad loan,” the paper reported.

“The loss has been significantly increased this year as the result of the need for a large provision of £800,000 against an impaired loan”, it said.

“Overheads have increased as the bank has begun to make an investment in IT systems and people development to allow for future expansion,” it added.

Meanwhile, the luxury store’s airport arm reduced its losses in 2011.

Harrods Aviation posted a pre-tax loss of £20million, down from £2.90million the previous year, the paper said. Harrods Aviation, which operates from Stansted and Luton, provides an airport service for executives to board their private jets discreetly.

Clients can drive all the way to their planes or use helicopters provided by sister company Air Harrods to whisk them away from their aircraft and into the centre of London in ten minutes. The company also carries out maintenance on customers’ jets.

Heavy winds, rain lash US as Sandy moves in


NEW YORK/REHOBOTH BEACH (DELAWARE) HURRICANE SANDY, one of the biggest storms ever to hit the United States, began battering the densely populated East Coast on Monday, shutting down transportation, forcing evacuations in flood-prone areas and interrupting the presidential campaign.

Fierce winds and flooding were expected along hundreds of miles of Atlantic coast and heavy snows were forecast farther inland at higher elevations when the centre of the storm moves ashore Monday night near Atlantic City, New Jersey.

US stock markets closed for the first time since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the government in Washington shut down and school was cancelled up and down the East Coast. About 150,000 customers were without power by midday and millions more could lose electricity.

“This is going to be a big and powerful storm and all across the Eastern Seaboard I think everybody is taking the appropriate preparations,” President Barack Obama said at the White House.

State governors from Virginia to Massachusetts warned of the acute danger from the storm for the 60 million residents in its path. Nine states have declared a state of emergency. Experts said economic losses from the storm could reach $20 billion.

The hurricane has the potential to cause some of the largest losses the global insurance industry has faced this year. Disaster modelling company Eqecat, used by the industry to forecast storm exposure, said Monday there was no way to assess what kind of losses Sandy might ultimately cause until after landfall sometime early Tuesday.

Doha Bank plans share sale in UK to raise capital


DUBAI DOHA BANK, Qatar’s fifthlargest bank by market value, is considering selling shares in London as part of a plan to boost capital by up to $1.6 billion in 2013, four banking sources said.

The lender, part-owned by the Gulf state’s sovereign wealth fund, may raise about a quarter of the capital through an issue of global depository receipts (GDR) on the London Stock Exchange, with the remainder raised through a local rights issue, two of the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the matter has not been made public.

A GDR is a certificate represents a block of shares in a company. GDRs are often issued by firms in emerging market states to allow foreign investors to buy the stock more easily.

Doha Bank’s capital levels are lower than its Qatari peers and proceeds from the share issue are expected to be used mainly to help to plug that shortfall. “The bank needs to boost capital and that’s the main reason for the rights issue,” one Gulf-based banking source said. “If they end up raising more than a billion dollars comfortably, some of it could be used for expansion purposes.” Chief Executive R Seetharaman declined to comment on specific details of the bank’s plan but said that it is ultimately up to shareholders to decide on the capital increase.

The lender said last month that it could increase its capital 50 percent by the first quarter of 2013 to help to finance its expansion plans. It has a market value of about $3.2 billion. Arqaam Capital analyst Jaap Meijer last month said that Doha Bank’s capital base is “very tight”.

A rights issue with shares priced at a 30 percent discount will help to raise about 4.1 billion riyals ($1.13 billion), Meijer wrote in a research note, adding that the bank’s core Tier 1 capital ratio would fall to 9.6 percent by the end of 2013 without a capital increase.

At the end of March the bank’s Tier 1 ratio was 10.7 percent. Its capital adequacy ratio stood at 13.3 percent, against the Qatari central bank’s minimum requirement of 10 percent. Source said that a part-GDR offering by Doha Bank would make steep discounts unlikely.

Any plans to issue shares in London has to be approved by the Qatar central bank, sources said, adding that a previous plan to issue GDRs was put on hold by the regulator in 2009.

Doha Bank originally hired JP Morgan Chase for the 2009 issue, the four sources said.