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U.S. stocks were little changed at the open on Friday as investors awaited Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s speech, which could give more clarity on the odds of an interest rate hike this month.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was up 4.41 points, or 0.02 percent, at 21,007.38, the S&P 500 .SPX was down 1.89 points, or 0.07 percent, at 2,380.03 and the Nasdaq composite .IXIC was down 6.93 points, or 0.12 percent, at 5,854.29.

(Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

Reuters

U.S. stocks were little changed at the

Most experts advise against taking prescription drugs during pregnancy, if at all possible, especially in the first three months when the baby’s important organs are still developing.

Ironically, pregnancy is also a challenging time in which a woman experiences almost all sort of aches and pains in her body. There’s soreness of the breasts, nausea, cramping, and vomiting. The terrible triad of pregnancy pains, however, would arguably be heartburn, hemorrhoids, and back pain.

While it’s convenient to pop a pill whenever these pregnancy-related pains strike, learning about the natural ways to effectively prevent and manage them is still the best route to take.

Heartburn

Heartburn can be uncomfortable even for people who are not pregnant. Imagine stomach acid rising up the chest, leaving a burning feeling and an unpleasant taste in the mouth. It’s usually triggered by certain food, medications, and sometimes stress. During pregnancy, heartburn happens because of the presence of progesterone and the growing uterus forcing the acid out of the esophagus.

A pregnant woman can prevent heartburn naturally by watching what, when, and how she eats. Stick to small, frequent meals daily. Eat slowly. Get rid of spicy, oily, or highly acidic food. Identify trigger food, such as coffee, soda, chocolate, citrus fruits, tomatoes, and onions are notorious heartburn triggers.

Stand or sit in an upright position after meals. Don’t eat before hitting the hay, and always elevate the head using pillows when sleeping.

Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids, which are swollen veins in the rectum, can be extremely painful. They usually occur as a consequence of constipation, which is also an issue during pregnancy, and due to the increased pressure of the blood vessels in the pelvis.

To prevent any encounter with hemorrhoids during pregnancy: eat a high-fiber diet of fruits and vegetables and drink plenty of fluids to maintain a soft stool. Never delay going to the bathroom. Avoid sitting or standing for long periods.

To relieve itching, pain, swelling, or bleeding: have a warm sitz bath, apply a cloth soaked in ice or a witch hazel to the affected area, or apply baking soda on the affected area.

Back Pain

During pregnancy, the body produces relaxin, a hormone that relaxes and loosens up joints and ligaments in the pelvic area to make way for delivery. This hormonal change also messes up with the ligaments in the spine, leading to back pain, which can be unbearable at times.

As in all aspects of pregnancy, a healthy diet and exercise are essential. Weight gain can worsen back pain during pregnancy. Do not take painkillers; use a hot compress instead. Wear an elastic sling or a pregnancy girdle for back support, particularly during the last stages of pregnancy when the tummy becomes bigger and heavier. Take a swim to relieve the soreness and pressure in the body.




© 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

(Via TechTimes)

Most experts advise against taking prescription drugs


JOHANNESBURG South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma will not suspend the head of the prosecution service for laying and then withdrawing corruption charges against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, the presidency said on Friday.

“It is the President’s well considered view that there is no prima facie evidence pointing to the conduct of three prosecutors, constituting misconduct or lack of fitness,” the statement said.

(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Ed Cropley)

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-Reuters

Najib Razak says this will enable the airport to handle bigger aircraft, such as the Airbus 330, and more flights from China.

najib_sandakan_airport_600

SANDAKAN: Prime Minister Najib Razak today announced the extension of the Sandakan airport runway that would make direct and chartered flights from China possible.

The prime minister said the contract price was being determined at the moment.

“I have asked the transport minister (Liow Tiong Lai) to determine the contract price and to expedite the matter.

“I propose to launch the project on my next visit to Sandakan,” he told reporters after a tour of the Sandakan Harbour Square here.

Najib said the runway extension would enable the airport to handle bigger aircraft such as the Airbus 330 as well as direct or chartered flights from China.

“The terminal building will remain untouched. We will only focus on the runway extension,” he said.

Najib said the extension of the runway would make Sandakan more progressive and boost it’s economy as the district would be able to receive more tourists and other visitors.



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Najib Razak says this will enable

DUBAI // What was once a wide, empty terrace at Ranches Primary School has been transformed into a peaceful outdoor garden where children as young as five can meditate and grow fruits and vegetables.

Early years pupils visit the Rooftop Mindful Garden at least twice a day to calm their minds and nurture plants as part of a health awareness education programme the school is piloting with Sandy Seeds, a new company founded by three mothers in the UAE.

“It is important that we give the children a chance to relax, take some time out and refocus,” said Justine Bain, the company’s chief creative officer.

As the children file into the AstroTurf-lined patio, half of them migrate to box planters to water the herbs, eggplant, tomato, bean, watermelon, broccoli, radish and carrot plants they’ve been growing from seeds since the start of the academic year.

The others are led by their teacher to the opposite side of the garden where they lie on large, flat beanbag cushions to practise mindfulness exercises.

“Take a big breath up,” Helen Thompson, the foundation stage two teacher, said softly. As they inhale, the children use their left index fingers to trace the outline of their right hands. “One more time, trace it from the wrist to the top of your thumb, slowly, inhale, close your eyes and then you’re going to exhale down your thumb.”

Colourful wind chimes and dream catchers made in art class from recycled materials dance in the gentle breeze from the ceiling above the children.

A bright tepee wrapped in multicoloured ribbons is available for any child who wishes to sit in private. Go-kart tyres painted in pastel blue, green and yellow are arranged as seats around a stack of wood, like a campfire. Designing and decorating the area was a community effort involving parent volunteers, donated materials from nearby businesses and input from pupils and teachers, guided by Sandy Seeds consultancy, said principal of the Arabian Ranches school, Samantha Steed.

“We have to be inventive,” she said, noting much of the funding for the programme came from school bake and ice-cream sales. “The more you own it, the more proud you are. The more pride you get, the better your well-being is. It is this continuous circle. For us, we are seeing it as, it was once empty space and now we have birds in here and we would have never had birds before.”

Teachers receive mindfulness, gardening and nutrition training from Sandy Seeds, which also provides schools lesson plans to integrate into the curriculum, packets of organic seeds from Australia and planters.

A complete Sandy Seeds curriculum is expected to be ready by September.

“It’s flexible, that’s the whole point,” said founding partner Kamelia Zaal, an Emirati landscape designer. “Any school of any curriculum can choose different aspects of what Sandy Seeds does, whether it is teacher training or parent training or getting the kids involved in building a garden or the mindfulness aspect.”

Mrs Steed said the garden has helped to promote a culture of mindfulness and well-being among pupils and staff. Some teachers use the space for story time, while another plays his guitar for the class there.

“That is what schools used to be like; there used to be a time where your teacher could sing to you with a guitar,” said Mrs Steed. “Getting everybody on-board is the first thing, and we are lucky here because it is that kind of school. We want to have a calm school that is a happy and relaxed place to be.”

[email protected]

The National

DUBAI // What was once a wide,

In just six short months, the Dubai Opera has made a seismic contribution to the emirate’s cultural scene, living up to its early promise by staging dozens of diverse musical and stage spectacles.

But inside certain cultured camps, there may be the somewhat legitimate claim that, despite the name, we have not seen a whole load of opera. The opening weekend’s fleeting Rossini and Bizet productions forgotten in the slipstream of blockbuster musicals — Les Misérables, Cats and West Side Story — which ran for a combined six weeks. Is that an indignant tutting noise I hear?

Relax — the half-year anniversary was marked on Thursday by the arrival of Welsh National Opera (WNO).

The respected company perform Madama Butterfly again on Friday and Saturday, and return next weekend for another dose of Puccini, with La Bohème running March 9-11. Fittingly, the final night of the run will mark the 100th performance held at Dubai Opera — in some 190-odd days.

Premièred in 1904 — and revised considerably by Puccini up to 1907 — Madama Butterfly is one of the most strikingly modern operas in the oft-performed repertoire. There are few action scenes, no set changes and few show-stopping arias — instead this tragedy unravels as a series of dramatic conversations. The themes of interracial marriage, romantic exploitation and the surprise love child are more human — sadly human — than most standard opera repertoire, and may explain Madama Butterfly’s enduring place in contemporary audience’s hearts, ranking the sixth most-performed opera today.

WNO revive late German director Joachim Herz’s celebrated production. Deliciously rendered, the action — or rather talking — unfolds in a sparsely romantic hilltop retreat in 1890s Nagasaki, where American naval officer Pinkerton installs his 15-year-old geisha wife — a steal at 100 yen, we’re told.

On Thursday, Korean soprano Karah Son was impressively emotive in the titular lead roll — flailing but never over the top, strong of voice but fragile in poise — a notorious grind of 90 nearly uninterrupted minutes in the opera’s second and third acts. This may be why Linda Richardson takes the role on Friday night, before Karah Son returns for the Saturday performance.

If appetites are being whetted by WNO’s visit — and they squarely should be — it’s pleasing to report there will be more opera on the horizon. Dubai Opera has announced a six-night stay from Naples’s Teatro di San Carlo to perform special commissions of three of Mozart’s best-loved operas — The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni and Così Fan Tutte — over two weekends in September.

But that might not be all. Dubai Opera chief executive Jasper Hope recently hinted when speaking earlier this week with The National that more opera will be staged before those performances.

“You might get another surprise or two,” he added. “I wouldn’t rule out having more than seven operas in the first year. Something will be announced very soon.”

[email protected]

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In just six short months, the Dubai

The heads of the London Stock Exchange Group and Deutsche Börse went to Brussels at the start of February on the verge of clearing a major obstacle for their historic €29bn merger.

Xavier Rolet and Carsten Kengeter thought EU regulators were set to bless the deal they had been working on for more than a year.

But midway through the meeting, Mr Kengeter stepped out to take an emergency phone call.

The 49-year-old German was informed that the Frankfurt public prosecutor had raided his office and home: he was under investigation for insider trading in the period before his company’s talks with the LSE were unveiled.

It was the latest in a series of shocks that conspired to undermine a deal that was meant to link Europe’s two most powerful financial capitals, London and Frankfurt.

In the frantic four weeks that followed that call, their dream to create a European markets champion with a pool of capital that would rival US and fast-emerging Asian competitors has all but died.

On Sunday, the UK group delivered what is likely to be the fatal blow. The LSE decided it would not meet an unexpected demand from Brussels that it dispose of its Italian bond trading platform called MTS. That meant it was unlikely that European regulators, led by EU antitrust commissioner Margrethe Vestager, would approve the deal as it stood.


1. Feb 23 2016: D Börse lines up swoop for LSE
2. Jun 24 2016: UK votes for Brexit
3. Jan 3 2017: LSE sells French clearing unit for €510m
4. Feb 7 D Börse and LSE offer concessions to Brussels
5. Feb 16 LSE and D Börse set to offer more concessions
6. Feb 27 LSE-D Börse merger crumbles as tensions boil over


The breakdown in trust between the two men, who orchestrated the deal before the UK voted to leave the EU, became more apparent this week.

Mr Kengeter, an ambitious former banker who was set to run the combined company, said he regretted the LSE’s stance: “It would be futile for me to speculate on what the reasons were for this decision.”

People close to Mr Rolet, a Frenchman who masterminded the re-invention of the LSE, said the executive was immensely disappointed and spread the blame widely, including on those who backed Brexit.

“This was all about cementing London’s role . . . He feels that the Brexiters have blown it up,” said one of these people.

The merger that would have been the biggest shake-up in the industry for more than decade is now hanging by a thread and is expected to be formally blocked in a month’s time. It was the third attempt to bring the two exchanges together after failures in 2000 and 2005.

From the outset, both knew it would be a tricky task to steer the merger through. The combined company would have become the world’s largest exchange by total income. It would be one of the biggest for equities listings and would control more derivatives trades than any other entity in the world.

Breakdown in trust: LSE chief executive Xavier Rolet, left, and his Deutsche Börse counterpart Carsten Kengeter

When LSE and Deutsche Börse announced the merger last March, they chose London as the base for the combined entity’s holding company. They thought that reflected the City’s status and would balance the plan to install Mr Kengeter as chief executive. In truth Mr Kengeter always preferred London, where he lives with his family.

But after the UK’s referendum vote, the idea of the group being based outside the EU was too much for many German politicians and regulators, who called for a rethink.

Michael Fuchs, a politician from Angela Merkel’s ruling CDU party, backed the merger but said Frankfurt should host its headquarters. “Especially in view of the approaching Brexit, I think it would be a mistake to locate the group’s common headquarters in London,” he said.

To assuage concerns from its local regulator, Deutsche Börse repeatedly tried to put the headquarters decision on the agenda for the companies’ joint referendum committee. Its efforts were rebuffed by the LSE, which was steadfast that the terms of the deal were set. Any change meant another shareholder vote.

Tensions rose as the two companies fought over the terms of the sale of the LSE’s French clearing arm LCH to Euronext, their much smaller French rival, for €510m. The move was intended to appease Brussels’ concerns about their combined strength in fixed income clearing, the process through which trades are risk managed.

As the authorities began to test the effect of the disposal in the market last month, it was clear this was not going to be enough.

Euronext voiced concern that trades that normally flowed into the clearing house from LSE-Deutsche Börse businesses could be redirected back into operations owned by the combined group.

The relationship soured further after the allegations against Mr Kengeter.

In a private email to the Germans, chairman of the LSE, Donald Brydon, said some of his consultants had questioned whether Mr Kengeter was a fit and proper person for such a high-profile role, according to two people with knowledge of its contents. Joachim Faber, Deutsche Börse’s chairman, responded that a man was innocent until proven guilty.

Deutsche Börse, which strongly backs Mr Kengeter, said the dealings were related to a long-term incentive plan approved by the board and in which Mr Kengeter was required to participate.

This was all about cementing London’s role . . . [Rolet] feels that the Brexiters have blown it up

On February 16, the commission demanded the LSE sell its 60 per cent stake in MTS and gave the exchange a deadline of February 27. The request was unforeseen by either board or the army of banks and lawyers who stood to share a projected €340m if the deal completed — and the already rocky relationship between the two companies foundered.

For Deutsche Börse, it was a minor issue — “a baby step” said one senior executive — and its board viewed MTS as entirely divestible.

But that was not the perception at the LSE, whose Borsa Italiana operation accounts for around a quarter of adjusted profit.

The UK group felt the request was at the eleventh hour, had an extremely tight deadline and was disproportionate. “We had no idea,” said one adviser who worked on the deal. “It was a bolt out of the blue.”

In an intense week of discussions with the Italian regulators, advisers wrestled with their options. One possible remedy put forward by the LSE was rejected by the commission.

A letter from LSE’s lawyers, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, to the commission on February 23 raised concerns that there may be no legal basis for the divestment demand.

A senior official at the Italian finance ministry, who declined to be identified, said: “We were indeed surprised that the commission was asking for divestment of MTS. But we didn’t take a view. We never received a formal request to do so from the LSE.”

For some EU insiders there was a naivety from the LSE about the commission’s process. One Brussels lobbyist received a phone call for advice from an LSE representative only two weeks ago, who admitted to a lack of understanding of politics in the European capital.

The LSE made it clear it was highly unlikely that it could sell MTS, even if it committed to doing so. It warned that offering the remedy would jeopardise its relationship with Italian regulators and hit business.

Others dispute that interpretation. “It sounds to me ridiculous that they didn’t sell it to please the Italian regulators,” said Gianluca Garbi, chief executive of Banca Sistema and the former chief executive of MTS until 2007. “The Italian regulator would be very pleased for it to be sold back to Euronext.”

One Deutsche Börse executive said talks degenerated only in the final few days. “I think the political noise in the UK was a big factor,” he said.

Thomas Schäfer, finance minister of Hessen, the German state in which Deutsche Börse is based, agreed: “My impression is that in refusing to sell MTS the LSE was looking for, and found, an excuse to be able to get out of the deal without losing too much face and to put the blame on Brussels,” he said. He added that a headquarters switch to Frankfurt was “the more economically and legally sensible option.”

Mr Rolet, who had been due to step aside if the deal went ahead, said on Friday it was not a “nationalism-fuelled project”.

But he added: “It looks like my retirement has been postponed.”

Additional reporting by Arash Massoudi, James Shotter and Rochelle Toplensky

Via FT

The heads of the London Stock Exchange Group

While equity market euphoria at the prospect of President Donald Trump’s spendthrift, deregulatory agenda remains undimmed, bond investors are sending a very different message.

US equity gauges have continued to climb this year, propelled by hopes of deregulation, tax cuts, government spending and more business-friendly policies. This week all four of the biggest stock indices achieved yet another “Grand Slam” of fresh records in the wake of President Trump’s speech to Congress earlier this week.

In contrast, there are few signs that fixed income investors think the new administration will be able to jump-start the economy, leading to a durable growth spurt and ultimately much higher interest rates.

“The bond market is taking a totally different view from the equity market. Blowing raspberries is a good way to put it,” says Jim McCaughan, chief executive of Principal Global Investors. “There’s no belief that the growth agenda will be dramatic.”

The pessimism is longstanding and in part reflects structural challenges facing the US economy, such as falling productivity and ageing populations, as well as a global savings glut that subdues bond yields.

The elderly work less and tend to save more, and stash more of their money in safer assets like bonds. This saps an economy of its vim and helps pin down yields. Moreover, many countries and companies are also in savings mode, sustaining demand for ultra-safe assets like Treasuries.

The dour bond market view on the long-term outlook for the economy is best illustrated by the “natural” or “neutral” real interest rate, a steady-state level where rates neither stimulate nor constrict the economy.

This is a topic that has consumed some asset managers, economists and Federal Reserve officials in recent years, and many investors now simply refer to the natural real interest rate as “r*”, economics jargon where the “r” stands for interest rates and the star shows its long-term nature. “Real” means after it is adjusted for inflation.

As economists and markets became progressively glummer on the future prospects of the US economy, estimates of the natural interest rate were trimmed again and again, not least by the Fed itself.

The latest Fed forecasts indicate that most officials think r* is now 3 per cent (before inflation), compared with more than 4 per cent just a few years ago. But some officials are even glummer.

“There is a range of estimates for the current neutral real rate. Having looked at them, I tend to think it is around zero today, or perhaps slightly negative,” Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, wrote in a recent blog post.

The best gauge for where investors see the natural interest rate is the 10-year Treasury forward contract, a long-term bond derivative that shows what investors think the 10-year Treasury yield will be in a decade’s time.

Expressed as the 10y10y forward rate, it has climbed sharply since plumbing a record low of just 2.6 per cent last summer, especially in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential election. But lately the measure has flatlined at about 3.6 per cent, compared with its long-term average of about 5.5 per cent.

Assuming a long-run inflation rate of about 2 per cent, this indicates investors think the real neutral rate currently sits around 1.6 per cent.

This is not a mere academic discussion, as the natural interest rate is vital for the Fed in deciding how quickly and aggressively it can raise its own benchmark rate and trim its bloated balance sheet without slowing the economy and ushering a recession. A lower rate indicates a lack of economic optimism.

Shorter-term measures also underscore the glumness. The 10-year Treasury yield is expected to be just 2.6 per cent in a year’s time, even below the roughly 3 per cent level that most economists are forecasting. Moreover, almost the entire rise in forward yields can be accounted for by a rise in inflation expectations rather than rising economic expectations.

The yield curve — the relationship derived from the various maturities of Treasury bonds — also signals a subdued outlook. The difference between two- and 30-year Treasury yields stands at just 176 basis points, not far from the nine-year low of 140bp touched last August.

“I’m sceptical because the structural reasons that have driven yields down to the ground are still there, and if anything they will get more powerful,” says Edward Al-Hussainy, a senior global rates analyst at Columbia Threadneedle.

Japan could be a canary in the coal mine. Japanese bond yields headed south for decades despite strenuous, repeated attempts to reinvigorate growth and inflation. Improving productivity would be a boon to longer-term growth, and therefore lift the neutral rate but is easier said than done.

Mr Hussainy points out that while equity markets may be excited about the prospects of deregulation and tax cuts, there is relatively little so far in the new administration’s spending plans that would indicate measures to invigorate long-term US economic potential.

“We’re not building more schools, it seems we’re just building more nukes, so it’s hard to get excited about productivity then,” he says.

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While equity market euphoria at the prospect

3 March 2017, Dubai

Safwa Marine, Abu Dhabi Ship Building’s arm dedicated for yacht sales, service and management, has announced a partnership with Dutch marine communications specialist Radio Holland, on the sidelines of the Dubai International Boat Show.

Under the terms of the partnership, the two companies will offer yacht and leisure boat owners in the Middle East a one-stop-shop solution for all their retrofit, overhauling and ship-building requirements, as well as solutions and services for navigation and communication needs, at Safwa Marine’s high-end facilities in Abu Dhabi’s Mussafah area and Yas Marina.

The agreement augments Safwa Marine’s existing portfolio of services, reflecting its quick adaptation to the changing requirements of its customers.

“Clients in the Middle East have expressed a hard desire for quality, reliable navigation and communication solutions, which are supported and maintained by expert hands” said Francesco P. Lo Monaco, CEO of Safwa Marine. “We expect this demand to increase, so the agreement allows us to give our clients access to Radio Holland’s pool of experienced and skilled engineers and extensive network of service stations and a large portfolio of NavCom solutions.”

Radio Holland is a specialist in supplying, installing, and maintaining maritime communications, navigation and automation system. They currently operate the world’s largest network of service stations (75+).

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Commenting on the partnership, Joachim de Jenlis, Regional Director of Radio Holland Middle East, said: “With more than 100 years of experience, Radio Holland has always been a frontrunner in bringing the latest navigation and communication solutions to vessels and supporting changing customer requirements. As an experienced specialist of Navigation and Communication solutions and services, Radio Holland adds its competences and installation capacity to the leisure market of the UAE through this partnership with Safwa Marine. Furthermore, with our worldwide network, we are able to support Safwa Marine’s customers on a global level.”

-Ends-

About SAFWA Marine
Headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, SAFWA Marine is a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Ship Building. Providing high-end refit, repair, sales and service solutions, the company’s goal is to be the premier total yacht servicing company in the GCC. For more information, please visit www.safwamarine.com .

About Radio Holland 
Radio Holland is the renowned global NavCom, Connectivity, On Board ICT, and Service & Maintenance brand within the RH Marine Group. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, Radio Holland connects its customers to an unrivalled network of more than 80 offices and support locations around the world along the global shipping routes. Radio Holland delivers unique technical service expertise which helps customers run smarter, more profitable businesses with less downtime and lower operational expenditures. On 6th December 2016, Radio Holland celebrated its 100th anniversary, which was the kickoff of a special ‘anniversary year’.

For more information:
Safwa Marine
Francesco P. Lo Monaco, CEO
[email protected]

Radio Holland Middle East

Joachim de Jenlis
Regional Director
[email protected]

© Press Release 2017

© Copyright Zawya. All Rights Reserved.

Via Zawya

YANGIZABAR, Uzbekistan A newspaper editor jailed for 18 years in Uzbekistan says he was subjected to such harsh torture that he forgot the names of his daughters, but was kept alive by the support of human rights groups.

Muhammad Bekjanov, 63, was released in February, months after the death of president Islam Karimov who had run the Central Asian nation for 27 years.

Editor of the opposition newspaper Erk, Bekjanov was sentenced to 15 years in 1999 for publishing and distributing a banned paper, participating in a banned political protest and plotting a coup, charges he denied.

Bekjanov’s brother, Muhammad Salih, the leader of the Erk party, was a presidential candidate in 1991 and has lived in exile since 1993. In 1999 he was convicted in absentia on terrorism charges, which he denied.

Muhammad Bekjanov’s jail term was first reduced so that he could be freed in 2012, but then extended by another five years.

Karimov died from a stroke in September and was succeeded by his former prime minister, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who has overseen the release of several political prisoners.

“If the old leadership had stayed in place, I would certainly have had a new five-year extra term handed down to me,” Bekjanov told Reuters in an interview.

Shortly after Karimov’s death, he said: “Everyone started treating me differently. Even regular inmates (not political prisoners) approached and talked to me. Then I felt that there were some new directives from above.”

Bekjanov said he was tortured, physically and psychologically, in the first few years of his term, until the Red Cross resumed visits to Uzbek prisons in 2003. Uzbekistan has denied using torture against Bakjanov or any other prisoners.

“Once I was put in solitary confinement for more than six months,” he said. “I even forgot the names of my daughters then.”

“The most difficult time was when I had been extradited from Ukraine and put in the Jaslyk prison where my legs were broken, my ears became deaf.”

Bekjanov said international support kept him going.

“Lots of journalists from around the world and human rights organizations kept contacting me while I was in jail,” he said.

“After the first three years in prison I started receiving letters and postcards from them. My relatives told me what was going on around me out there when they visited me. These all gave me spiritual strength.”

Asked if he saw his release as a sign of a political thaw, Bakjanov said:

“There are other dissidents, journalists, rights defenders and opposition members still in prisons; we could talk about political changes if they are all set free.”

According to New York-based Human Rights Watch, at least nine journalists are currently jailed in Uzbekistan, a mostly Muslim former Soviet republic of 32 million, alongside opposition politicians, human rights defenders and civil society activists, as well as thousands of people accused of religious extremism.

(Reporting by the Almaty bureau; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

-Reuters

YANGIZABAR, Uzbekistan A newspaper editor jailed for

Souq.com, the Middle East’s largest online retailer, has announced the launch of a book store featuring more than six million books.

In a move similar to Kindle books on global e-commerce giant Amazon, Souq.com’s Global Bookstore will make books more accessible to the region and supports the UAE government’s Year of Reading initiative, a statement said.

The Global Bookstore features all book classifications including culture, children, family, education, and business, it added.

Ronaldo Mouchawar, Souq.com CEO and co-founder, said: “We are delighted to launch the books category to provide our customers with easy access to such a large assortment of books and we plan to grow further in future.

“We look forward to cooperating with national organisations concerned with reading and knowledge mainly Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation and Dubai e-Library. 

“We are aligned with the UAE’s National Reading initiative and this category expansion comes at an interesting time when we are witnessing new momentum in the culture of reading across the region. This initiative will make books more accessible to people in the region.”

According to a recent survey by the Arab Reading Index, people in the UAE read for around 51 hours a year, well above the average of 35 hours for the rest of the Arab world and read 24 books a year compared with the regional average of 16.

E-commerce in the Middle East is continuing to show robust growth, according to a recent report by global consultancy AT Kearney.

It said the e-commerce market in the GCC is expected to grow to $20 billion by 2020 from $5.3 billion in 2015.

“The books category is an exciting inclusion and a step further towards completing the purchase cart of a customer on Souq.com,” added Mouchawar.

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Souq.com, the Middle East’s largest online retailer,

A one-year seismic hazard model for 2017 from the US Geological Survey, forecasts lower damaging ground shaking levels in the central and eastern US compared to the previous forecast, in areas where there have been numerous earthquakes induced by wastewater disposal from industrial activities. Despite the recent drop in earthquake rates, Oklahoma and southern Kansas still face a significant risk of induced earthquake damage in 2017.

(via WSJ)

A one-year seismic hazard model for 2017


BENGHAZI, Libya East Libyan forces carried out air strikes and clashed with rival factions on Friday close to major oil terminals, eastern military officials said.

The strikes were carried out south of the coastal town of Nawfiliya against the Benghazi Defense Brigades, according to spokesmen for the eastern air force and for the local Petroleum Facilities Guard.

A military source said clashes were continuing on the ground between the two sides. Nawfiliya is about 50km west of the oil port Es Sider and 75 km west of another terminal, Ras Lanuf.

(Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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-Reuters

BENGHAZI, Libya East Libyan forces carried out

screen-shot-2017-03-03-at-11-30-17.jpg

Wikimedia Commons

Amazon chief Jeff Bezos has revealed aspirations to create a stable, frequent delivery service to the moon over four decades since a man last walked on the surface.

Bezos, who also owns private aerospace firm Blue Origin and The Washington Post, told the publication in an interview that in order to maintain a stable colony on the moon, a reliable delivery service is of paramount importance.

In a “propriety and confidential” white paper sent to NASA chiefs, Blue Origin urged scientists to consider a proposal to develop a lunar spacecraft for use as an Amazon-esque shipment service which could be used to deliver everything from equipment to food to moon settlers by mid-2020.

The delivery service could also be used to deliver inflatable ‘habitats’ for settlers, which would shelter equipment, resources, and human personnel. Robert Bigelow, founder of Bigelow Aerospace, says that such habitats could be ready for deployment within the next three years.

Blue Origin believes such craft — and services — will help enable “future human settlement” on the moon’s surface.

“It is time for America to return to the Moon — this time to stay,” Bezos told the publication. “A permanently inhabited lunar settlement is a difficult and worthy objective. I sense a lot of people are excited about this.”

The paper suggests that craft designed by Blue Origin could carry as much as 10,000 pounds of material, and would be able to fly atop of different rockets including NASA’s Space Launch System.

Bezos says that the first delivery attempt could be made as early as July 2020, but only if his private company has the support of NASA.

“Our liquid hydrogen expertise and experience with precision vertical landing offer the fastest path to a lunar lander mission,” Bezos says. “I’m excited about this and am ready to invest my own money alongside NASA to make it happen.”

NASA has not ventured back to the moon since Eugene Cernan stepped foot on the surface in 1972. However, the space agency has committed to encourage US companies to invest in spaceflight and develop sustainable business plans to commercialize space, and already works with Elon Musk’s SpaceX in providing support and advice to the startup’s ambitious plans to fly to Mars.

However, cargo has not really featured, and so Bezos has encouraged the US agency to provide “incentives to the private sector to demonstrate a commercial lunar cargo delivery service.”

“Blue Moon is all about cost-effective delivery of mass to the surface of the moon,” Bezos told the publication. “Any credible first lunar settlement will require that capability.”

See also: NASA opens doors to the public, offers free access to research

This isn’t the first ambitious dream of sending products to the moon we’ve heard of in recent times.

In January, a team of students from the University of California at San Diego revealed plans to brew beer on the moon to test how fermentation works in zero-gravity situations, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX wants to send private clients to the moon by 2018.

(via PCMag)

Alzheimer’s is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Globally, nearly 47 million people are affected by the degenerative disease and that is likely to reach 131 million by 2050.  

Hindustan Unilever (HUL) might not have considered these stats. Or perhaps, they did… before creating this ad for the Indian market. 

There are more than 4 million Alzheimer’s patients in India. And a lot of them, like the woman in this video, are neglected by their own families. 

Forgotten creates a touching narrative around Alzheimer’s, elderly loneliness in urban centers, and the country’s undying love for tea — a prime leveler in Indian society.

Incidentally, India is the second-largest tea producer in the world and over 70% of it is consumed within the nation itself. 

Now, watch the video. And… do not ‘forget’ to care.

Via ASDA Alltop

Alzheimer's is one of the leading causes

Poynter announced today that longtime national and foreign correspondent Indira Lakshmanan is joining the institute as its Craig Newmark Chair for Journalism Ethics.

Lakshmanan, currently The Boston Globe’s Washington columnist, has worked for newspapers, a wire service, digital and print magazines, TV and radio. The new position, which is funded by a $1 million gift from Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, will focus on best practices of verification, fact-checking and accountability in journalism.

On the eve of the announcement, I caught up with Lakshmanan to ask about the issues she’ll be tackling in her new role. Her answers are below.

Let’s start from the beginning. What’s your title at Poynter and what will you be doing, exactly?

The title may sound a bit exalted — “the Craig Newmark Chair for Journalism Ethics” — but my first mission is pretty basic: to try to understand the many ethical challenges facing our industry now — fake news, sponsored content, objectivity and access, low trust in journalism and media illiteracy, to name just a few. I’m looking forward to collaborating with others who are already working on solutions generated by newsrooms, civic education, and technology companies.

Today’s announcement said you’d be writing about media ethics. In your mind, what areas need examination? What are the major ethical issues facing journalists today — and have they changed over the years?

There are all the issues you see in headlines, from access and objectivity challenges facing reporters covering a White House that brands the so-called mainstream media the “enemy,” to local press struggling to find ways to stay in business and build audience loyalty.

The rise of hyper-partisan news has enabled consumers to live in ideological silos, which damages civil discourse and undermines trust in nonpartisan media. Of course there are evergreen problems like plagiarism, inaccuracy and lack of disclosure, and fixing those is fundamental to building and maintaining public trust, which feels more important than ever.

You’ll also be convening journalists and teaching them about ethics. In your mind, what do they need to learn?

I don’t want to prejudge what journalists “need” to learn about ethics; everyone’s needs are different, and I hope to begin to address an array of questions that journalists in different newsrooms will have.

You’ve spent decades in journalism as a reporter working in print, digital, radio and TV and more recently, as a columnist. In your mind, what are the biggest problems challenges to the industry now?

Well I’ve been in Washington for nine years, so I’ve been thinking a lot about press freedom, access, impartiality and truth-telling at a time when our president appears intolerant of critical media and has appropriated the term “fake news” to mean any coverage, even with undisputed facts, that he considers unfavorable.

The fact that the 20 most popular hoax stories about the 2016 campaign were shared and liked 1.3 million times more on Facebook than the 20 most popular real news stories is troubling, especially as more people consume their news through social media platforms. I think most journalists, newsrooms and tech companies are at least aware of the problems. Our challenge now is to find solutions. I’m so grateful to Craig and Poynter for creating this position at such a critical moment for the news business.

(via Poynter)

Poynter announced today that longtime national and


GENEVA Syrian peace talks are expected to conclude later on Friday with an “agreed agenda” and a plan to resume negotiations later this month in Geneva, Western diplomats said.

It was not immediately clear whether the issue of fighting terrorism would be part of the terms, as sought by the Damascus delegation led by Syrian Ambassador Bashar al-Ja’afari.

A third Western diplomat said there had been movement from both sides on the agenda, but that the opposition was still looking for reassurances that the government would not use terrorism as a pretext to derail the talks.

(Reporting by John Irish and Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Tom Miles)

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-Reuters

NEW YORK/SAN FRANCISCO Institutional investors anxious not to be left out of this year’s marquee initial public offering helped Snap Inc (SNAP.N) pull off the biggest U.S.-listed technology share sale this week since Chinese e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba Group Holding Inc (BABA.N) smashed records in 2014.

Keen to boost returns and with a dearth of new stocks to buy, the IPO of a buzzy social media group was a “must-have” for money managers despite concerns about the company’s strategy, slowing user growth and lack of voting rights for new investors, sources familiar with the offer said.

“Taking a piece of the company is almost a foregone conclusion,” said Evan Pondel, president of investor relations firm PondelWilkinson Inc.

Investors’ ardor for Snap shares – which rose almost 50 percent in its market debut on Thursday, giving it a market value of nearly $30 billion – bodes well for future tech IPOs.

Although blockbuster names such as Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] and Airbnb Inc are not expected to go public this year, there is a lineup of smaller technology companies preparing to list in the coming months that could benefit from residual investor enthusiasm, technology investors said.

To ensure a successful market launch, Snap’s bankers deployed a common tactic on big tech IPOs: they limited supply. Snap offered only 15 percent of the company to investors, including retail investors and short-term hedge funds, sources familiar with the IPO strategy told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity as the process is private.

“All this concern about the number of users slowing down – a tech IPO of this sort has nothing to do with the business, nothing,” said Philippe Collard, founding partner at Yabusame Partners, which advises technology startups. “It has everything to do with a financial transaction where you create artificial demand.”

Hedge funds are famous for buying into an IPO only to sell shortly after, but institutional investors are not above quickly “flipping” a stock if they see an opportunity.

However, a quarter of the new offer was subject to a one-year lockup, an unusual stipulation, limiting the amount of churn.

PENT-UP DEMAND

Large actively managed mutual funds are among the most sought-after IPO investors because of their size and their tendency to hold stocks for longer. They develop strong ties to IPO underwriters by virtue of being prolific IPO investors and providing the banks’ brokerage business with trading fees.

These funds are also under pressure to boost performance as investors redirect tens of billions of dollars each month into index-tracking funds, which cost less and over time have performed better.

Fidelity Investments, BlackRock, T. Rowe Price and Wellington Management began piling into pre-IPO tech companies in 2014, and both Fidelity and T. Rowe Price invested in Snap during a private funding round last year, positioning them to benefit from Thursday’s pop.

Fidelity and T. Rowe Price declined to comment on whether they had bought into the IPO this week.

There was significant pent-up demand for a new internet stock. Snap, the parent group of popular disappearing-messaging app Snapchat, went public after a long dry patch in the technology IPO market, with 2016 the slowest year for such launches since 2008.

In addition to the absence of new shares, acquisitions and buy-backs have zapped investors in public technology companies of places to park their cash. Technology mergers and acquisitions and buybacks outpaced technology IPOs last year by a ratio of 38 to 1, according to Thomson Reuters data.

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

In its IPO roadshow in New York, San Francisco, London and elsewhere, Snap Chief Executive Evan Spiegel brushed aside concerns of slowing user growth and stressed Snap’s potential to change “the way people live and communicate,” according to sources who attended.

Even though many funds felt compelled to invest in Snap, they still had questions for the company. But they asked the toughest ones – about the company’s corporate governance and slowing user growth – behind closed doors, in small meetings between management and the underwriters’ preferred clients, sources close to the situation said, asking not to be named because the process is confidential.

Such a dynamic is typical of such a high-profile IPO, when a full order book is all but guaranteed.

Those investors invited only to the roadshow lunches and keen for a decent allocation are more interested in impressing the IPO bankers – who take notes on who attends – with how closely they have read up on the company, and do not want to jeopardize their chances by rattling the company management, said investor relations experts, bankers and lawyers.

“It’s like going to do the college visit. When it’s time to decide who to admit, you look to see who put in the effort,” said Lise Buyer, a principal with the IPO advisory firm Class V Group.

On the roadshow, Snap largely deferred questions about its user growth in public sessions. In New York, not a single question was asked about the company’s first-of-its kind share structure that offers IPO investors no voting rights.

“It’s an exercise in diplomacy,” Pondel said. “You can’t be too chest-pounding, because that’s not someone they may want to have a piece of the company.”

(Reporting by Lauren Hirsch in New York and Heather Somerville and Liana B. Baker in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Ross Kerber in Boston; Editing by Carmel Crimmins and Bill Rigby)

Reuters

NEW YORK/SAN FRANCISCO Institutional investors anxious not

Fathers who consume cocaine before conceiving a child could be putting their sons in danger. A new study has shown that sons of fathers who used cocaine are more susceptible to memory loss and learning disabilities.

The research, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, was conducted by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. According to the researchers, drug abuse among fathers could negatively impact cognitive development in their children, provided these are males.

Sons Of Cocaine-Using Fathers At Risk

The study found evidence that sons whose fathers used cocaine prior to conception find it harder to make new memories. Unlike the daughters, the sons of male rats that were administered cocaine for a long period of time were unable to remember the location of different items around them. Additionally, they had an impaired synaptic plasticity in hippocampus, the brain area that is associated with spatial navigation and learning.

Epigenetics is the field of study responsible with heritable traits that are not caused by DNA sequence changes. The researchers have shown that cocaine use in dads causes epigenetic changes in their sons’ brains, which result in a change in the genes responsible with the formation of new memories.

The D-serine, a molecule that is strongly associated with memory, is depleted among male rats whose fathers consumed cocaine. Additionally, restoring the levels of this molecule was associated with improved learning ability among the male baby rats.

“Hippocampal administration of d-serine reversed both the memory formation and synaptic plasticity deficits. Collectively, these results demonstrate that paternal cocaine exposure produces epigenetic remodeling in the hippocampus leading to NMDA receptor-dependent memory formation and synaptic plasticity impairments only in male progeny, which has significant implications for the male descendants of chronic cocaine users,” noted the research.

According to the authors, cocaine abuse among dads had a massive contribution in altering the chemical marks on histones in their sons’ brains, although the children were never exposed to cocaine.

Prevalence Of Cocaine Use

In the United States, the prevalence of cocaine use among the general population dropped by 32 percent between 2006 and 2014. At the same time, cocaine-related deaths decreased by 34 percent between 2006 and 2013, according to the last data available published in the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2016 report.

“Reducing the number of heavy cocaine users can thus effectively reduce the cocaine market. A recent study in the United States showed that cocaine consumption and spending on cocaine fell by 50 percent between 2000 and 2010 (mostly between 2006 and 2010). The reduction in spending among a small group of high-frequency cocaine users accounted for around 75 per cent of the aggregate reduction in spending and thus in cocaine consumption over the period 2000-2010,” also noted the report.

The scientific community has made efforts to increase awareness when it comes to the dangers of cocaine use. Aside from the health issues pointed out by the current study, many other psychological and psychiatric problems have been associated with cocaine consumption.

“In addition to the increased risk for stroke and seizures, other neurological problems can occur with long-term cocaine use. There have been reports of intracerebral hemorrhage, or bleeding within the brain, and balloon-like bulges in the walls of cerebral blood vessels. Movement disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, may also occur after many years of cocaine use. Generally, studies suggest that a wide range of cognitive functions are impaired with long-term cocaine use-such as sustaining attention, impulse inhibition, memory, making decisions involving rewards or punishments, and performing motor tasks,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.




© 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

(Via TechTimes)

Fathers who consume cocaine before conceiving a child

People can now follow constriction updates at the Expo 2020 Dubai through Google Maps.

With construction at Expo 2020 Dubai’s site well under way, Expo 2020 Dubai has said people can see what’s happening at the Expo2020 site through the online mapping system.

Early works on the Dubai Expo 2020 site, located near Al Maktoum airport, site began in September 2015, with the first infrastructure works starting in September last year.

The design phase for aspects including the public realm, specialist site-wide elements, and the three thematic districts is well underway.

Ongoing planning and procurement of the construction and site-wide logistics continues to ensure the site will be ready for participants to begin work on their respective pavilions beginning in April 2018. All infrastructure work will be completed by October 2019.

Between October 2020 and April 2021, Expo 2020 Dubai is expected to welcome more than 180 nations and an international audience of 25 million visitors.

Over 80 percent of the 4.38-square-kilometre Expo 2020 site will be reused or repurposed after the event as part of a wide-ranging legacy plan, organisers have said.

UAE officials are expecting the event to create 277,000 jobs, most of which will be in the tourism industry.

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People can now follow constriction updates at

BEIJING China’s Foreign Ministry on Friday said it had expressed concern about a large-scale joint military exercise between South Korean and U.S. troops that began this week.

The exercise, called Foal Eagle, comes amid heightened tension following the latest test launch of a ballistic missile by North Korea on Feb. 12. Previous such exercises have prompted threats by Pyongyang to launch military action in retaliation.

“We have noted the reports and have already expressed serious concern via diplomatic channels to the relevant sides,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing.

“Maintaining the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia accords with the interests of all sides and is all parties’ responsibility,” he added.

“At present the situation on the Korean Peninsula is highly complex and sensitive. The relevant side should earnestly do more to help allay the situation on the Korean Peninsula and peace and stability in Northeast Asia, not the opposite.”

Geng also repeated China’s opposition to the deployment in South Korea of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defence system.

South Korea has said it and the United States aim to make the system operational by the end of the year. The two countries decided last year to deploy the system in response to the North Korean missile threat.

China says the system, with its long-range radar, is a threat to China’s own security and will do nothing to help resolve tensions with North Korea.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

-Reuters

BEIJING China's Foreign Ministry on Friday said

Oman is now getting attention for what’s hidden underneath its craggy peaks. Majlis Al Jinn has the world’s ninth largest cave chamber, while the pools and caverns of Wadi Bani Khalid and Wadi Shab attract a growing number of visitors every year.

Of the country’s many caves, Al Hootah is the only one with guided tours, and it reopened earlier this season four-years after severe floods in 2012. The 45-minute tour offers a small peek into this cave’s 4.5 kilo-metre network, following a paved 700-metre path up and around two chambers. It’s an easy walk.

The tour begins with a piece of local lore, told from the base of the cave’s first cavern, a sloping chamber that leads to a 150 metre by 30 metre hall and the cave’s underground lake.

“The story goes that a shepherd lost his goat and that’s when the cave was discovered in 1960,” our guide Yaqadan Al Hattali, 21, tells us.

There are eight of us on the tour and entering the cave is like walking into a cathedral. Encompassed by silence, we unconsciously shift to speaking in whispers. Stalagmites and stalactites on the edges of the cavern are lit by amber lights, casting shadows across the cave’s pockmarked ceiling. But we are not alone. The cave is home to water beetles, snails, hunting spiders and blind, semi-transparent fish called garra barreimiae. When Yaqadan stops speaking, the only noise is the chirping of mouse-tail bats.

The goatherd’s tale is the official story of the cave’s discovery. But Yaqadan, like all of the guides, is from one of the local villages, and knows that Al Hoota cave was once used long ago as short- cut and an escape route in troubled times. He knows men who have entered through its lake, swimming 950 metres to reach the cave’s main hall and scrambling over boulder patches in the darkness to the other side of the mountain.

We enter through a less adventurous route, a five-minute electric train ride on the mountainside that moves at Kodak speed over a shallow wadi.

Yaqadan, an engineering graduate who studied in Indiana, speaks and walks quickly, giving us a crash course in geology. The cavern around us is at least 2.2 million years old, formed at a time when Oman was a greener, wetter place. Rainwater dissolved carbon dioxide in the soil, making carbonic acid that seeped into the rock, dissolving it into vast caverns.

This cave’s geology is not unique in Oman, which is covered in unexplored cave networks. Al Hootah Cave was surveyed in 1995 and opened to tourists in 2006. Following renovations to the main centre and repairs from the 2012 floods, it reopened in September 2016.

The cave’s relaunch may be the beginning of Oman’s cave tourism. “People talked about it like it was lost for so many years,” says Yaqadan. “I think in the future there will be more caves like this for people in Oman because people say it’s fabulous, it’s amazing. You see what’s beneath the mountains.”

Part of the government’s economic diversification strategy includes new tourist sites promoting Oman’s unique geology, above ground and below it. The government plans to develop Majlis Al Jinn as a tourist destination and has done surveys in the 230-metre deep Tawi Attair sinkhole near Salalah to see if it has potential for cave tourism.

Those plans will take awhile to bear fruit. Al Hootah cave does not have the wow factor some other sites in Oman do, but it is perfect for families. Many of the best sites in Oman’s Hajar Mountains, like the trek at Balad Sayt village or the hike along Oman’s grand canyon, Wadi Ghul, are only for the sure-footed with a head for heights. Al Hoota offers a way to experience the region’s incredible limestone geology without the risk. While the short tour alone might not merit the two-hour drive from Muscat, it is a worthy stop on a visit to the Dakhiliya region.

The centre has a geology exhibition, gift shop and a restaurant. Al Hoota Cave is located near the town of Hamra, at the base of the Hajar Mountain’s highest summit, Jebel Shams. Spring is a perfect time to visit, after the winter frosts and before the humidity of summer. The weeks ahead are almond blossom and rose harvest season. Nizwa and Bahla, two old capitals of Oman’s interior, are 35 and 25 minutes from Al Hoota respectively, so you can get to know the Hajar Mountains from the inside-out.

• Al Hoota Cave tours run every half-hour from 9.30am to noon and 2pm to 5pm, Tuesday to Sunday, and should be booked in advance (00968 25 42 21 97). Tickets are 3.5 Omani rial (Dh33) and 1 rial for Omani adults and children, and 6.5 (Dh62) and 3 rial (Dh28) for other nationalities. There are discounted rates for educational groups.

[email protected]

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Oman is now getting attention for what’s

Beijing is banning Chinese tour groups from visiting South Korea, the latest retaliation against the planned Korean deployment of the US-built Thaad missile shield, according to two people with knowledge of the plans.

Wang Ki-young, a director at South Korea’s culture ministry, said on Friday that Chinese authorities had ordered tourism agencies in Beijing to halt tours to South Korea from mid-March. Mr Wang said the move would be expanded to other provinces.

Meanwhile, a salesman from online travel company Tuniu Corp told the Financial Times that it had on Friday “removed all tours to South Korea due to the Thaad issue”. A search for South Korean tours on the website returns the message: “Sorry, we have not found a relevant product.”

Written instructions apparently issued by China’s tourism administration, shown to the FT by one Beijing travel agent, order agencies to cancel group tours to South Korea booked for after March 15 and add that companies not in compliance could be fined or have their licences revoked. The tourism administration was not immediately available for comment.

However, five Beijing-based travel agents said they were still selling South Korea tours for March, as was China’s largest online travel company Ctrip.

Beijing has responded with increasing rancour against Seoul’s decision to deploy Thaad, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence platform. While South Korea insists the system is for defending itself against North Korean missiles, China fears the technology will allow an ally of the US to spy on its military developments.

“This could be just the beginning,” said Michael Na, a strategist in Seoul with Nomura. “They have so many options to punish Korean businesses.”

He added that “almost every major Korean company, including Hyundai Motor and AmorePacific, relies heavily on Chinese sales”.

Shares in Hyundai and AmorePacific slid on Friday, down 4.4 per cent and 12.5 per cent respectively in late afternoon trading in Seoul.

Several South Korea-linked entities have already felt Beijing’s wrath in response to the Thaad plans. Chinese state news agency Xinhua last month issued a stark warning to Lotte, one of South Korea’s biggest companies, for giving up land on which the Thaad platform will be hosted.

“Lotte will hurt the Chinese people and the consequences could be severe,” said the report, which followed a string of government probes into the company’s business interests in China.

This could be just the beginning. They have so many options to punish Korean businesses

Mr Na said that although South Korea had signed a trade agreement with China, there were plenty of other ways in which Beijing could punish Seoul.

“If they, say, delay a customary process for Korean imports and take other retaliatory measures on Korean products, there is nothing Korea can do about it,” he said.

Chinese tourism to South Korea has boomed in recent years, delighting retailers but irking domestic tourists who have found the country’s attractions swamped with visitors.

There were more than 8m Chinese tourist arrivals in the country last year — up 36 per cent year-on-year, said Mr Wang. The numbers had continued to increase even after Seoul announced the deployment of Thaad, he added.

China’s tourism administration issued a notice on Friday confirming reports that Chinese travellers had been denied entry to South Korea’s Jeju island in recent months for holding incomplete travel documentation. It reminded citizens to “select travel destinations with caution”.

Additional reporting by Tom Hancock in Shanghai

Via FT

Beijing is banning Chinese tour groups from

Friday 08:35 GMT

Overview

Stock markets are retreating as Wall Street equity futures dip further from this week’s record high as investors cash in some of their bullish bets on stronger growth following the election of US president Donald Trump.

The pullback comes amid heightened expectations that the improving economic scenario will encourage the Federal Reserve to increase borrowing costs this month, though the dollar and Treasury yields also are paring some of their recent gains.

Hot topic

US markets have been the focal point for investors this week. Major Wall Street measures closed at record highs on Wednesday, with investors taking heart from the relatively optimistic tone in Mr Trump’s address to Congress the night before.

Stocks appeared unfazed by a lack of clarity on fiscal policy as well as commentary from US central bank officials suggesting a rate rise was imminent.

But the swiftness and extent of the rally — US equities were up 12 per cent since Mr Trump’s election victory in November — left some analysts suggesting the market looked a bit over extended.

By the time the S&P 500 finished Wednesday’s session at 2,396, its best ever close, the benchmark’s 14-day relative strength index, a closely watched momentum gauge, was up to 81.7. That was way above the supposedly “overbought” threshold of 70 and it was the RSI’s highest mark in more than two decades.

Sure enough, Thursday saw the S&P 500 slip 0.6 per cent, and futures on Friday indicate it will ease a further 0.3 per when trading gets under way later in New York.

Equities

This Wall Street dip is weighing on those bourses that have been riding the US market’s coat tails.

The pan-European Stoxx 600, which on Thursday held its highest level since December 2015, is retreating 0.4 per cent as most sectors retreat.

London’s FTSE 100, which closed on Wednesday at a record 7,383, is shedding 27 points as miners suffer profit-taking.

In Asia, Japan’s Topix fell 0.4 per cent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.7 per cent, while materials and energy stocks pushed Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 0.8 per cent lower.

China’s Shanghai Composite was down 0.3 per cent, while the technology-focused Shenzhen Composite added 0.2 per cent.

Forex

Currency trading this week has been dominated by prospects for the US dollar after investors slashed the odds of a March interest rate rise by the Federal Reserve.

Fed chair Janet Yellen is due to make a speech later on Friday, and traders don’t expect her to say anything that would challenge the market’s pricing of there being a 77.5 per cent chance of a 25 basis point rate increase on March 15, according to CME FedWatch.

The dollar index, a measure of the currency against a basket of global peers, is down 0.1 per cent to 102.12, having risen more than 1 per cent over the previous two sessions.

The euro is up 0.1 per cent to $1.0515 and the Japanese yen is 0.1 per cent firmer at ¥114.24 per buck, breaking four straight days of decline after data released on Friday showed core inflation in Japan had turned positive for the first time since December 2015.

Fixed income

Expectations of a Fed rate hike have also been forcing government bond yields higher but here, too, the recent trend is being pared.

Yields on US 10-year Treasuries, which move inversely to price, are easing 1 basis point to 2.48 per cent. The more policy sensitive US 2-year yield, which on Thursday hit a seven-year intraday high of 1.34 per cent, is off 1bp to 1.31 per cent.

German 10-year Bund yields are dipping 1bp to 0.31 per cent but are still up 12bp over the week.

Commodities

The prospect of tighter US monetary policy has also led to a sell-off in gold. The yellow metal’s 1.2 per cent fall in the previous session was its largest one-day drop since mid-December and it is sliding a further 0.6 per cent on Friday to change hands at $1,228 an ounce.

Oil prices are recovering after a more than 2 per cent drop on Thursday, which followed news of record US stockpiles. Brent crude, the international benchmark, is up 0.5 per cent to $55.37 a barrel, while West Texas Intermediate is adding 0.5 per cent to $52.90.

Additional reporting by Peter Wells in Hong Kong

For market updates and comment follow us on Twitter @FTMarkets

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March 3, 2017 by: Jamie Chisholm, Global Markets

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) appeared on Fox’s First 100 Days Thursday evening after a closed door briefing earlier in the day by FBI director James Comey concerning the agency’s investigation into claims of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The interview begins with host Martha MacCallum mentioning that Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), who attended the same meeting, was “rattled” over the lack of information Comey gave concerning Russian involvement in the election.

Gowdy, on the other hand, seemed shocked at Schiff’s apparent lack of enlightenment:

Jim Comey did more today to update us than I have ever had done in the 6 years I have been there, and for Adam to treat it that way – that dismissively, clearly he and I were in two separate rooms this morning.

I have never heard a Federal law enforcement agent give, with that degree of particularity and detail, an update on an inquiry. As you may recall, I was a federal prosecutor for 6 years, so I have talked to lots of FBI agents. He went so far beyond what any other administration official has ever done, whether it’s Eric Holder, Loretta Lynch, or his predecessor Robert Muller – they never gave us this level of detail and specificity. He bent over backwards.

When pressed on whether or not FBI Director Comey revealed any new information in light of [former CIA Director] John Brennan and [former Director of National Intelligence] James Clapper finding no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, Gowdy deflected – citing the confidential nature of the briefing. He did, however, make a statement concerning the New York Times ($NYT) and Washington Post – publications included in what President Trump and top advisor Steve Bannon refer to as the media “opposition party”:

I will tell you this – to the extent people are relying on media reports, whether it’s the New York Times or the Washington Post, upon which to base their factual assertions, I would tell them to be very very careful. I’m not gonna say any more than that, other than to say that the person leading the investigation on behalf of the Untied States government, the head of the FBI, listen to what he has to saydon’t listen to anonymous sources who leak classified information which, oh by the way, is also against the law. Between Jim Comey and a reporter from the New York Times, give me Jim Comey.

Takeaways: Rep. Gowdy clearly heard a lot of things he liked during the closed door session, while deflated Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff did not. Second; FBI director Comey obviously discussed the dissemination of leaked classified information to the mainstream media – to the extent that Gowdy, an attorney and former prosecutor, is advising people who rely on the leaks to be “very, very careful” in doing so.

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Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) appeared on Fox's First

The National Australia Bank (NAB) faced the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics’ review of the performance of Australia’s banking and financial system on Friday, with CEO Andrew Thorburn probed again on the idea of opening up the bank’s application programming interfaces (API) to external parties.

By 2018, banks in the United Kingdom will be required to effectively open up APIs to enable consumer data to be accessed by competing banks, startups, and other financial institutions — providing the consumer consents. It’s a move the Economics Committee is eager to see implemented in Australia.

According to committee chair, Federal Member for Banks David Coleman, opening up access to consumer data will create a more competitive market as it will make it easier for people to switch banks, which will result in Australians getting better offers from other banks.

Coleman posed the question to Thorburn three times of whether it is in NAB’s commercial interests for currently proprietary data assets to become non-proprietary, to which the bank’s CEO finally responded with: “It could be”.

“We need to innovate, we need to improve, and we welcome competition,” Thorburn later elaborated.

“And on this one, we sir, are supportive of it. We’re supporting the thrust of what you’re saying. We’re just saying that the risks of it need to be clearly identified because if others have access to data, that is clients’ data in our bank, and if that got into the wrong hands, the bank is going to be suffer serious reputational damage with that.”

Antony Cahill, NAB chief operating officer, clarified Thorburn’s vagueness, saying there is “absolutely” commercial opportunity for NAB as opening up APIs will provide the bank with the ability to provide credit — for example — in a more appropriate fashion.

Cahill said he was recently in the United Kingdom speaking with a number of financial services providers, but noted that even though their legislation has been in place for a while, providers in the UK are still working through the commercial implications.

“I think at this stage it is not possible to say whether it’s in our interests or not,” he added. “Our view is if it happens then clearly we’ll think about the commercial implications and how we can adapt to that.”

NAB’s submission to the committee previously requested effectively leaving the process to the industry; however, Coleman said he was concerned that an industry-led model — given the big banks would have a large say in it — may not lead to a speedy implementation.

“We’re very supportive of taking this forward. We welcome the initiative, we think it’s good, but it just needs to be carefully managed with the risks identified and mitigated,” Thorburn added on Friday. “Otherwise we’re very concerned for clients’ data.”

When probed by the committee previously, Thorburn said he agreed with the concept of opening up APIs in principle, but cited a whole range of procedural hurdles.

“That is how this bank has survived and competed for 150 years. And now we have new competition — fintechs that are coming at us — and we welcome that, too,” Thorburn said at the time. “We have to lift and get better, and that is good for customers.”

“We’re happy to proceed with the conversations that are happening — the industry discussions — to open that up. And I would say that we have been a bank that has actually been leading in this space with our work on APIs and comprehensive credit reporting.”

Cahill also pointed to the recent announcement ANZ made surrounding opening up some of the bank’s APIs to third-party developers.

“We’ve done a huge amount of work in relation to APIs. We’re working with Xero, a number of other external parties at the moment in terms of data sharing, because we believe if we can provide better products and services to our customers then commercially we can be more successful and we can effectively provide a better proposition to customers,” Cahill added.

“I think when talking to some of the UK banks, their view is where it may not be commercially beneficial is quite simply if we don’t prepare for this, if we don’t start to think about what are the opportunities that would be created, how might we use the data, how may we adapt — I think that’s the key question.”

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), Westpac, and the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) are due to face the committee over the coming days, after telling the committee previously they would be in a position to support the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) if it were to be charged with developing a binding framework to facilitate the sharing of data, making use of APIs, and ensuring that appropriate privacy safeguards are in place to allow such a practice.

(via PCMag)

ERBIL, Iraq Rival Kurdish groups clashed in Iraq’s northwestern Sinjar region on Friday, two Kurdish security sources said, causing deaths on both sides.

The fighting erupted when Peshmerga Rojava forces deployed towards the border with Syria, encroaching on territory controlled by a local affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The unrest highlights the risk of conflict and turf wars between the multiple forces arrayed against Islamic State, many of which lean on regional patrons for political support or arms.

“There are martyrs and wounded on both sides,” one security source said.

The Peshmerga Rojava force is made up of Kurds from Syria and was formed and trained in Iraq with the backing of Masoud Barzani, the president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region who enjoys good relations with Turkey.

Turkey is at war with the PKK, which established a foothold in Sinjar after aiding Iraq’s Yazidi population when Islamic State overran the area in the summer of 2014, and set up a local franchise known as the YBS.

In a statement on Friday, the YBS said the fighting began when the Peshmerga Rojava tried to seize its positions in the town of Khanasor. The YBS accused Turkey of instigating the violence.

“It is a totally provocative initiative,” the YBS said.

Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, on Friday said the PKK posed “a threat against the legitimate regional government in Northern Iraq and they are used by some countries against the current administration there.”

“It’s our duty to destroy these terrorist organizations wherever they are,” the minister told reporters in Ankara.

(Reporting by Isabel Coles in Erbil and Tulay Karadeniz in Ankara; Editing by Robert Birsel and Richard Lough)

-Reuters

ERBIL, Iraq Rival Kurdish groups clashed in

The Elizabeth Tower containing Big Ben. Credit: Carl Vivianб University of Leicester

A team from the University of Leicester’s Department of Engineering has, for the first time ever, vibration-mapped the famous London bell Big Ben in order to reveal why it produces its distinct harmonious tone.


The group, from the Advanced Structural Dynamics Evaluation Centre (ASDEC) at the University of Leicester, measured four of Big Ben’s chimes, taking place at 9AM, 10AM, 11AM and 12 noon.

The ASDEC team used a measurement technique called ‘laser Doppler vibrometry’. This involved creating a 3D computer model of Big Ben and then using lasers to map the vibrations in the metal of the bell as it chimed.

ASDEC, working with the BBC, measured the of Big Ben in an unprecedented level of detail after being given exclusive access to the iconic structure.

Using two Scanning Laser Doppler Vibrometers, the team were able to characterise Big Ben without touching it providing high-density vibration measurements without any loss of accuracy or precision.

The findings of the mapping project will be revealed during a BBC documentary entitled ‘Sound Waves: The Symphony of Physics’, which will be broadcast at 9:00PM on Thursday 2 March on BBC4 and is hosted by Dr Helen Czerski.

Martin Cockrill, a Technical Specialist from the Department of Engineering at the University of Leicester, who leads ASDEC’s measurement team and appears in the documentary, said: “Aside from the technical aspects one of the most challenging parts of the job was carrying all of our equipment up the 334 steps of the spiral staircase to the belfry. Then to get everything set up before the first chime, we were literally working against the clock.

“Many of the vibrations in the metal of Big Ben are too tiny to be seen by the naked eye. But this is what we were able to map using the lasers and not just one or two points on the surface; we were able to get over 500 measurements across the surface which just wouldn’t have been possible with previous technologies.”

Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster.

The tower is officially known as Elizabeth Tower, renamed to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 2012.

According to the University of Leicester research team, Big Ben is thicker than other bells of a similar size, weighing more and as a result having a higher pitch than expected for its diameter.

When a bell is struck, the impact causes a number of different vibrations or modes.

The frequency and intensity of these modes are predominantly affected by the profile of the bell.

“This was such a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Martin Cockrill, “one which was perfectly matched to our skills and resources. You cannot just glue sensors to a national treasure such as Big Ben. Our ability to do the whole thing quickly without touching the bell was key to the whole project.”

Martin Cockrill and Max Chowanietz led the team from a technical point of view undertaking the measurements with two other members of the team, Chris Howe and Amy Stubbs doing the legwork.

Max is a graduate engineer with ASDEC who completed a General Engineering Degree at the University of Leicester in 2014 and has since followed his passion.

Max said: “It was a privilege to be part of such a unique project, especially so early in my career.”


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April 3, 2016

Panama Papers leaked; Sharif family under spotlight

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists made nearly 11.5 million secret documents public. The documents contained confidential attorney-client information for more than 214,488 offshore entities, with the source of these leaks being a Panamanian financial law firm, Mossack Fonseca. Eight offshore companies were reported to have links with the family of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. Opposition parties jumped at the opportunity to register their protests and mobilise supporters to rally against Mr Sharif.


April 5, 2016

Under-pressure PM announces probe

Realising that silence may deepen the crisis, PM Sharif went on PTV to address the nation and clear the air. The prime minister began his speech with a subtle acknowledgment of the fact that he was using state apparatus to address personal matters and excused himself for that. Visibly concerned by the potential unrest the leaks could cause in the given political climate, Mr Sharif said he was open to the formation of a judicial commission to probe his family’s alleged finances in offshore tax havens.


April 10, 2016

Imran wants CJP to head commission

PTI chief Imran Khan asked the government to form an inquiry commission led by the then serving Chief Justice of Pakistan, Anwar Zaheer Jamali. The government was keen on having former Supreme Court judges on the bench.


April 13, 2016

Five ex-SC judges refuse to lead inquiry

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan revealed that the former SC judges contacted by the government to head the inquiry commission had declined to do so. According to the minister, “all of these judges after taking the time to think over the matter refused to lead the commission without giving any reasons”.

Three days later, despite criticism from the press and political parties, Mr Sharif took off for London citing a medical check-up for five days.


April 16, 2016

PML-N proposes ToR

A government team headed by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar finalised the terms of reference (ToR) for the proposed inquiry commission — which would define the scope within which the investigation would take place. Maryam Nawaz expressed annoyance over PML-N’s response not being “robust” enough. The opposition parties, however, were still unclear on how to go about the investigation. Three days later, the PM returned to Pakistan, eyeing a difficult job ahead of him.


April 22, 2016

‘Will resign if proven guilty’, says Sharif in second state address

In another address to the nation, Mr Sharif announced that his government had decided to formally ask the then CJP to set up a judicial commission for investigations into the Panama Papers leaks.“If charges are proved against me, I will resign immediately,” vowed Mr Sharif.

On April 25, rejecting the inquiry commission proposed by the government, leaders from the PTI, PPP, MQM and PML-Q demanded that the ToR of any such commission be drafted in consultation with the opposition.


May 3, 2016

Opposition presents ToR

After a joint meeting between opposition parties, a set of ToR was presented to the government and the media. The ToR emphasised on initiating the inquiry into offshore holdings, starting with the Sharif family. Two days later, the government rejected the opposition’s draft of the ToR for an inquiry commission.


May 13, 2016

SC rejects inquiry commission

The Panamagate controversy took a new turn when the SC returned the federal government’s request to appoint an inquiry commission to investigate the leaked documents’ connection with the Sharif family.

Three days later, PM Sharif attempted to explain the ownership of his London flats. The money used to purchase the flats in Park Lane, he said, was linked to properties the Sharif family sold off in Pakistan decades ago. However, the PTI claimed that the PM had misled the National Assembly.


May 18, 2016

Consensus to form ToR committee

After much back and forth, the government and the opposition agreed to form a 12-member committee in order to draft joint ToR for the inquiry commission. After a meeting with opposition members, the then information minister, Pervaiz Rasheed, said the government and the opposition would name six legislators each to form the parliamentary committee.

Four days later, Nawaz flew to London for heart surgery scheduled to be performed on May 31.


June 4, 2016

The ToR stalemate

The 12-member bipartisan parliamentary committee seemed to have hit a dead end as both sides were not only refusing to budge from their positions on the issue of offshore companies but were also accusing each other of toughening their stance. Later that month, opposition parties said they would take to the streets if the government did not review its position on the ToR.


June 24, 2016

PTI files petition with ECP against Sharif

The PTI filed a reference with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) seeking disqualification of PM Sharif for allegedly concealing his assets. Three days later, the PPP also petitioned the ECP to disqualify the prime minister and his family members.


July 9, 2016

Nawaz returns to Pakistan after 48 days

Mr Sharif returned from London, kicking off discussions among analysts about what he should now do to secure his future as the chief executive of the country. As he returned to work and was updated on the economic, security and political situation, PM Sharif was also determined to devise a plan to counter the PTI chief’s ‘propaganda’.


Aug 29, 2016

Seeking PM’s disqualification, PTI files petition with SC

The PTI filed a petition with the SC seeking disqualification of PM Sharif from his office as well as from the NA. The petition was filed by PTI’s counsel Naeem Bukhari on behalf of party’s chairman Imran Khan. It was filed against 10 respondents, including Nawaz Sharif, his daughter, sons and government institutions.


Oct 7, 2016

PTI’s next plan: Islamabad lockdown

The PTI chairman called on party workers to lay siege to Islamabad on Oct 30, telling them to paralyse the capital until PM Sharif resigned or presented himself for accountability.

In a bid to increase pressure on the government, on Oct 10, the PTI asked the SC to hold an early hearing of its petition seeking disqualification of the PM, his son-in-law retired Capt Mohammad Safdar and Senator Ishaq Dar for their alleged involvement in the Panamagate scandal.


Oct 20, 2016

SC accepts petitions

The SC started accepting petitions filed by the PTI, JWP, JI and others to begin the proceedings. “I welcome the judicial proceedings in connection with Panama Papers,” said the prime minister in a reply.

Almost a week later, the SC formed a five-judge larger bench to hear petitions regarding Panamagate. Earlier, a three-member bench accepted petitions filed by the PTI and Sheikh Rashid asking for the prime minister’s disqualification.


Oct 31, 2016

Imran’s lockdown threat gets serious

The PTI chief called on supporters to gather in the capital, but the numbers weren’t impressive. The government placed shipping containers to block off routes from Punjab and KP into Islamabad.

Later on Nov 1, it was a win-win for all sides when the SC asked the government and the PTI to present their respective ToR, in case the court decided to constitute an inquiry commission. The order allowed Imran Khan to call off his plan to lock down the capital, while the PM accepted the formation of a judicial commission to investigate the Panama Papers scam, which had been a bone of contention between the two parties since the scandal broke in April.


Nov 7, 2016

Sharif children submit replies to SC

The counsel for PM Sharif, Salman Aslam Butt, informed the SC bench that Hassan Nawaz had been running a business lawfully for 22 years and Hussain for 16 years. He added that Maryam Nawaz was not dependent on her father. Denying allegations levelled in the petitions, Maryam said she was not the beneficial owner of Nielsen and Nescoll, but only a trustee.


Nov 14, 2016

PTI submits evidence, PML-N lawyer presents Qatari letter

The SC questioned the quality of the evidence presented by the PTI and deplored that their 680-page submission had almost nothing to do with the Sharif family’s London properties. The Sharif children’s newly engaged counsel, Mohammad Akram Sheikh, presented the court with an attested letter from a former Qatari prime minister, Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al Thani, with yet another explanation for the London flats. The SC was not pleased to hear another explanation for how the Sharif family paid for its London properties and said that both sides were doing their best to ensure that the court would eventually have to form a commission to decide the Panamagate case.


Dec 9, 2016

CJ Jamali’s retirement halts proceedings

Proceedings in the case ended on Dec 9, 2016, as CJ Zaheer Jamali was scheduled to retire. The SC said that arguments from both sides would start afresh when hearings resumed in January. A five-judge bench headed by Justice Asif Khosa had been constituted by the SC to resume the hearing from Jan 4.

On Dec 31, 2016, PM Sharif and his children submitted to the SC documents notifying a change of counsel. According to the documents, advocate Makhdoom Ali Khan would represent the PM and Salman Akram Raja would appear on behalf of his children.


Jan 4, 2017

New bench resumes hearing

The case hearing resumed when the five-judge bench, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, was informed about details of the offices held by PM Sharif during his political career. PTI’s counsel Naeem Bukhari sought the court’s permission to refer to a number of interviews of the PM, his spouse and children to highlight that every one took a different stand regarding ownership of the London properties.


Jan 6, 2017

Burden of proof becomes a sticking point

Members of the SC bench hearing the Panamagate case expressed divergent opinions over which side shouldered the burden of proof. While Justice Asif Khosa — who heads the bench — placed the burden of proof on Prime Minister Sharif’s family, Justice Azmat and Justice Ejaz differed

On Jan 12, 2017, the prime minister’s counsel was quizzed about a money trail for the London flats.


Jan 13, 2017

Sharif family’s flats purchased in 1990s, BBC report reveals

Properties owned by the Sharif family in London’s upscale Park Lane neighbourhood were purchased in the 1990s and there has been no change of ownership since then, BBC Urdu reported.

German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung on Jan 23 tweeted documents to ‘help’ Pakistanis form their own opinion on the role of Prime Minister Sharif’s daughter in the Panamagate case.

On Jan 26, a second letter was floated by Hussain Nawaz’s counsel, ‘clarifying’ Sharif’s investment in Gulf Steel Mills.


Feb 15, 2017

PTI presents ‘new evidence’

The bench postponed day-to-day proceedings after Justice Saeed had to be rushed to the Rawalpindi Institute of Cardiology following chest pains on Jan 31. The prime minister’s counsel argued that the petitioners had failed to link Mr Sharif to any wrongdoing. Since no serious charge could be established against the prime minister except general allegations, there was no possibility of holding his children accountable for the allegations levelled by petitioners.


Feb 18, 2017

Consider Qatari letters void, Imran asks SC

Imran Khan submitted an affidavit to the SC, asking it to ignore the two Qatari letters produced by the Sharif family as evidence of their stance in the case.

On Feb 22, the Attorney General of Pakistan told the bench that the case record in the Hudaibiya reference had been examined and that the company had obtained loans through foreign currency accounts. At this, Justice Saeed expressed the bench’s frustration by saying that the lawyers were issuing different statements each time which was confusing the bench.


Feb 23, 2017

Panamagate hearings conclude; judgement awaited

After both the defence and prosecution completed their arguments, the apex court said it would reserve its verdict on the Panamagate case and issue a detailed judgment. “We will decide this case only by the law…such that people will say 20 years down the line that this judgment was made by the book,” said Justice Khosa.


Reporting by Hasham Cheema, Nasir Iqbal, Irfan Raza, Amir Wasim, Naveed Siddiqui and Haseeb Bhatti. Illustration by Fahad Naveed. Creative Department: Xpert Services. Layout by Salman Khan. To read more, visit www.dawn.com

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2017

(via Google News)

April 3, 2016Panama Papers leaked; Sharif family